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Undoubtedly, Peter King’s staff realized that criticism for holding hearings on radical Islam would be inevitable. They knew too, that there are people on both sides of this issue whose positions are fixed and cannot be swayed by congressional hearings. Their target audience should have been those in the middle who are uninformed but open-minded. Their goal should have been to educate the public and raise awareness, to present testimony that would rightly demonstrate why the Chairman’s concerns are founded. Ideally, the three witnesses selected by the Republicans would have provided facts within a framework that could have served as the basis for concurring with the Chairman’s conclusions.
The selected witnesses should have incorporated the following information into their initial presentations:
- What is the definition of radical? Is it just violence or the underlying ideology?
- Is there a difference between prisoners who might become “radical Christians” or “radical Jews” and those who become radical Muslims? Which is the largest national security threat and why?
- Is Islamic radicalism a religion as the west understands it or is it more of a political ideology? Does it make sense to single out the radicalization of Muslims as opposed to other religions?
- Can you be specific about how radical Islamist ideology is a threat to national security and freedom including freedom of religion?
- How is Islamist radicalism different from gangs and thugs? Can you place this in a national security context and tie it to the War on Terror?
- Is it possible that “credentialed Imams” are radicals as they are in the military program, established by now-jailed Alamoudi?
- Why did the 9/11 Commission single out Imams as problematic rather than all jail clergy?
- Though the number of radicalized Muslims in jail might be small, as were the 19 hijackers from 9/11, what is the risk of ignoring this problem?
- What is the process of radicalization and what can be done to prevent it?
- Is the radical Islamic ideology a problem when prisoners are released from jail?
- Can the problems that the EU is having with radical Muslims happen here in the U.S.?
Little of this was confronted in the original testimony. Of course it was appropriate for the Democrats to have a witness who does not believe that the radicalization of Muslims in prison is prevalent enough to pose a national security threat. After all, reasonable minds can differ. However, it was imperative for the Republican panel to include witnesses who would explain the dangers of radical Islam as a political ideology and to identify this underlying ideology as a threat to national security and American freedom. It was a mistake to allow Democrats to frame the issue as a prison problem rather than a national security threat. The Chairman pointed this out, but in order to have any impact, the witnesses needed to present facts and analysis that would lead the audience to the same conclusion.
Congressman Peter King should be commended for raising issues critical to the national dialogue and for having the fortitude to withstand the onslaught of criticism that he bears.
Let’s hope that in preparation for the next hearing in this series, Peter King’s staff does a better job in witness selection, obtaining subject matter expertise, and drawing out testimony that explains why Islamism is a problem in the U.S. Chairman King and the American public deserve no less.
Deborah Weiss, Esq. works for Vigilance and is a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine and the American Security Council.
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