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King's hearing on U.S. Muslims compared to McCarthyism

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This is only the beginning, vowed Long Island Congressman Peter King following Thursday’s polarizing hearing on the “radicalization” of U.S. Muslims.

And that’s worrying many observers.

Congress, they said, is heading down a “dangerous” path if more inquisitions into Muslims and the threat of homegrown terrorism appear to brand the community as potentially dangerous.

King “cannot indict an entire religion because of random acts of terror by individuals. To be tarred with that brush is horrifying,” said Rabbi Burt Visotzky, a professor at The Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan.

Michael Macleod-Ball, a First Amendment specialist at the ACLU, compared King’s Homeland Security Committee session to the infamous hearings that Sen. Joseph McCarthy held in the 1950s to root out suspected communists.

“It was using the power of government to make a political point and make a strong negative impact on a particular group,” Macleod-Ball said. “Our view is that looking at ideology of any kind, whether it’s radical or moderate, is not an appropriate subject of a congressional investigation.”

Daniel Soyer, who chairs the history department at Fordham University, said that likening King to McCarthy isn’t the same because McCarthy was going after an ideology as opposed to a specific ethnic group.

“The danger with (King’s hearing) is that it easily spills over into viewing a certain group as an outsider,” Soyer said. These hearings evoke a sense of “xenophobia," he added.

Still, the four-hour congressional hearing wasn’t quite the shakedown of U.S. Muslims that some critics feared.

Macleod-Ball said he was “heartened” to hear Democratic members of the committee stress that Muslims aren’t the only types of terrorists.

Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York, added that it was important that law enforcement officials at the hearing noted that Muslims are cooperative partners.

“My real hope is that the fear mongering of the Muslim community does not translate into any sort of national security policy aimed at Muslims,” McGoldrick said.

(With Tim Herrera)

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