Earlier this month, I was elected by the House Republican Conference to be chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. I've made it clear that I'll focus the committee on counterterrorism and hold hearings on a wide range of issues, including radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism.
I've received many expressions of support and congratulations from government leaders, police and fire officials, and ordinary citizens. But my selection has not been received with universal acclaim. This is nothing new - the unwarranted criticisms go back years.
To some in the strata of political correctness, I'm a pretty bad guy. To be blunt, this crowd sees me as an anti-Muslim bigot. A spokesman for the Committee on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced me last year for making "bigoted remarks . . . about Muslims and mosques (that) have no place in national security discussions."
This, after a Newsday editorial assailed me for "playing with fire" and conducting a "holy war." Newsday has since moved from moralistic condemnation to sorrowful rebuke, writing this fall: "We wish King was less given to bellicose broadsides about Muslims. Alienating loyal Muslim Americans won't make us safer."
So what's the story that CAIR and the mainstream media aren't telling you?
Before 9/11, few if any American politicians had a closer relationship with the Muslim community and its leadership than I did. During my first months in Congress in 1993, I traveled to the Balkans - including Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo - to support that region's Muslims from aggression by Serbian Orthodox Christians. I was one of a bare handful of Republicans who supported President Bill Clinton's military offensives in Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1998.
I attended the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) in Westbury on a regular basis, visited socially with local Muslim leaders, had Muslim students intern in my office, and advocated for Pakistan's position against India in Kashmir. Indeed, in 1995 the ICLI honored me for my "support of the Muslim community in general" and my "advocacy of human rights in Bosnia and Kashmir."
In the days following 9/11, I made several television and radio appearances supporting American Muslims, saying that they had nothing to do with the attacks and were as loyal and patriotic as any Americans. I particularly warned that we could not do to Muslims what was done to Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor.
Even today I cannot begin to describe the disappointment, anger and outrage I felt when, barely a month after those attacks that killed so many hundreds of Long Islanders, prominent Long Island Muslim leaders were insisting there was no evidence that al-Qaida was responsible for the attacks - even saying it could have been the CIA, the FBI or the Zionists!
Even more troubling is that to this day, no Muslim leader has denounced those vile remarks. Nor did Newsday say a word about these slanders - no moral outrage or condemnation. No demand for an apology or even an explanation.
As I became more immersed in attempting to unravel the radical Islamic threat to our nation and our civilization, it became more and more obvious to me that the moral myopia of Long Island's Muslim leaders and their apologists in the media was the rule - and that there were few exceptions.
Federal and local law enforcement officials throughout the country told me they received little or - in most cases - no cooperation from Muslim leaders and imams.
This noncooperation was perilous enough in the years following 9/11, when the main Islamist threat to the homeland emanated from overseas. Fortunately, that aspect of the jihadist threat has subsided because of the effective counterterrorism infrastructure constructed by the Bush administration. Some Bush policies, such as sharing and receiving intelligence with and from our allies, were relatively non-controversial. Others such as enhanced interrogations, wiretapping foreign terrorists phoning into the United States, the prison at Guantánamo, and monitoring terrorist financial transactions were routinely condemned - but all were necessary and effective.
Al-Qaida has adjusted to this new reality and is recruiting Muslims living legally in the United States - homegrown terrorists who have managed to stay under the anti-terror radar screen. This is why the hearings I will hold next year are so critical.
In the past 15 months we saw Najibullah Zazi, who was raised and educated in Queens, attempt to attack the New York City subway system with liquid explosives, using skills he learned in terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. We learned about Zazi by chance when his name came up on a wiretap. The case was almost compromised when a Queens imam - ostensibly cooperating with the New York City Police Department - tipped off Zazi.
Then there was Nidal Hasan, the Army major accused in the murder of 13 innocent people at Fort Hood last year. And Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen trained in Pakistan, who attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May. There have also been the recent arrests of homegrown Muslim terrorists in Texas, Chicago, Virginia, Riverdale, North Jersey, San Diego and Portland, Ore.
The great majority of Muslims in our country are hardworking, dedicated Americans. Yet a Pew Poll showed that 15 percent of Muslim Americans between 18 and 29 say suicide bombing is justified. I also know of imams instructing members of their mosques not to cooperate with law enforcement officials investigating the recruiting of young men in their mosques as suicide bombers. We need to find the reasons for this alienation.
There's a disconnect between outstanding Muslims who contribute so much to the future of our country and those leaders who - for whatever reason - acquiesce in terror or ignore the threat. It is this disconnect that threatens the security of us all.
As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I will do all I can to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization. These hearings will be a step in that direction. It's what democracy is all about.