(CNSNews.com) – The American Civil Liberties Union says it is “erroneous” to draw a connection between American Muslims and domestic terrorism.
By holding a congressional hearing on radicalization in the American-Muslim community, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is “perilously close” to making that connection, said Michael Macleod-Ball, a First Amendment specialist at the ACLU.
Macleod-Ball said although the ACLU supports freedom speech – including Rep. King’s, “no matter how misguided” – it rejects congressional inquiries that “entrench” on First Amendment rights.
Macleod-Ball made the comments Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, where almost a dozen Muslim advocacy groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), spoke disparagingly of King, accusing him of “irresponsible rhetoric” and calling the planned House hearing a “political stunt.”
King chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. Thursday’s hearing is titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.”
Naeem Baig of the Islamic Circle of North America said King is “capitalizing on the rise of Islamophobia and xenophobia,” fueling anti-Islamic rhetoric that is being spewed across the country and within the GOP.”
Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Council called King “the Eugene McCarthy of the 21st Century.” In fact, Buttar was referring to the late U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who held hearings into the spread of communism in the United States in the 1950s. Eugene McCarthy – the name mentioned by Buttar -- was an anti-war liberal from Minnesota who served in both the U.S. House and Senate and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1968 campaign.
When CNSNews.com asked if the majority of cases of domestic terrorism plots, both those that succeeded and those that were thwarted, were perpetrated by people with links to radical Islam, MacLeod-Ball said that was not a documented fact.
“I think nobody has done a good job at actually quantifying that,” Macleod-Ball said. “There’s been so much focus on the American Muslim community and the American Muslim community’s cooperation in routing out Muslim-connected acts of terrorism, that we haven’t gotten to an answer of whether there have been many more acts of terrorism committed by other extremists or those who are not motivated by ideology.”
Macleod-Ball and Shahid Buttar noted that noted that many domestic terrorism plots have been staged by non-Muslim extremists. They specifically mentioned Andrew Joseph Stack III, who in February 2010 flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin, killing himself and another man; and the shooting death in May 2009 of abortionist George Tiller by Scott Roeder, who was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
Alejandro Beutel of the Muslim Public Affairs Council told CNSNews.com that his group’s database of post-9/11 terrorism incidents counts a total of 80 plots against the U.S. by domestic, non-Muslim perpetrators. In comparison, that database counts a total of 45 plots by U.S. and foreign-originated Muslim perpetrators since 9/11.
Beutel said his group’s database is an “objective-driven analysis on domestic terrorism issues.” But that database appears to encompass a broad definition of terrorism.
For example, among the non-Muslim perpetrators, Beutel’s database counts Jared Lee Loughner, the Arizona man who shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in January. While it’s not clear that Loughner was politically motivated, his mental health was immediately raised as an issue in that shooting.
Although none of the groups that spoke Wednesday at the National Press Club have been invited to testify at King’s hearing on Thursday, CAIR has submitted a lengthy statement to be added into the congressional record.
Rep. King told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he would "run a good hearing. I will run an honest and fair hearing."
He said his decision to invite the only Muslim member of Congress to testify at the hearing was proof of that intent. “I invited Congressman Ellison (D-Minn.) to testify at this hearing," King said. "If I was somehow trying to ram the hearing through, I certainly wouldn't have invited Keith Ellison."
Ellison told CBS News that while he is not personally offended by King calling a hearing on radicalization, he believes that King is “going about it in the wrong way.”
Ellison told CBS that radicalization is something “we see across our society” and across religions. He also mentioned “people who bomb abortion clinics – are these not people who are radicalized? Are they not using violence? Are they not motivated by religious devotion?"