Long Island GOP Rep. Peter King’s plan to hold national hearings on the “radicalization” of U.S. Muslims was coolly dismissed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday, as New York Islamic groups decried what some see as the specter of McCarthyism.
King, the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, vowed to hold the hearings in an editorial published in Friday’s Newsday.
Bloomberg, responding to a question about the “McCarthy-type” hearings, said: “I don’t happen to agree with him that it’s necessary or appropriate.”
Later, a mayoral spokesperson said Bloomberg opposed McCarthy-style hearings, but did not indicate whether he thought the hearings themselves were a bad idea. Bloomberg was unavailable to clarify his statement, the spokesman said.
The Muslim American community, however, views the intended hearings as hate mongering with troubling historical precedents.
In the editorial, King said he knew of knowledge of imams advising young men not to cooperate in investigations into suicide bomber recruitment.
“I will do all I can to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization,” King wrote.
Sarab Al-Jijakli, a founder of the New York Arab American Network of Professionals, said security is important, but not through racial profiling.
“I would ask him to provide proof before he makes these statements and to show evidence of why these hearings are necessary,” Al-Jijakli said.
King did not respond to an amNewYork request for comment. King’s editorial has sparked a wider debate on blogs, including whether the hearings show strains of 1950s red-baiting. His call follows fresh concerns about homegrown Islamic terrorism in the aftermath of episodes such as the botched Times Square bombing in May.
Still, targeting a specific religious group “sets back legitimate efforts in the community to work with law enforcement to ensure the security of the country,” said Amina Rubin, spokeswoman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.
The hearings have “a very disturbing comparison to McCarthyism and what happened to Japanese Americans,” in World War II, said Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York.
Sarsour suspects that King’s comments are politically motivated to stir up a sector of the Republican base.
“He doesn’t represent much of a Muslim American constituency, which is why he has the chutzpah to do this,” she said.
With Erik Ortiz