Rep. Peter King of New York defended on Sunday a congressional hearing
he will hold this week on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism that focuses on Muslim-Americans, calling it an issue "which is not being talked about publicly" and needs to be.
"People in this country are being self-radicalized, whether it's Major Hasan or whether it's Shahzad or whether it was Zazi in New York," King said on CNN's "State of the Union." "These were all people who were identifying, in one way or another, with al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. So it's an international movement with elements here in the United States."
King was referring to Army Major Nidal Malik Hassan
, a military psychiatrist whose shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009 claimed 13 lives; Najibullah Zazi
, an Afghan-born man living in Colorado charged in 2009 with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction; and Faisal Shahzad
, a Pakistani-born man living in suburban Connecticut, whose attempt to blow up a bomb in Times Square last June was foiled.
King said the hearing by his Homeland Security Committee, scheduled for Thursday, will "go forward; and it's going to talk about something which is not being talked about publicly, which I think should be."
Asked about a recent report
saying that 48 of 120 cases involving terrorist plots came from tips from the Muslim-American community, King said he did believed there has been "insufficient cooperation" and that this would be a key focus of the hearing.
"Certainly in my dealings with the police in New York and FBI and others say they do not believe -- they do not get the level of cooperation that they need, and even in Minneapolis we had occasions with Somali-Americans who felt that there were imams in their own community who were telling them not to cooperate with the FBI," he said.
Rep. Keith Ellison
, a Minnesota Democrat who was the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, said on the same program: "It's absolutely the right thing to do for the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee to investigate radicalization, but to say we're going to investigate a religious minority ... is the wrong course of action to take."
Ellison said King's hearing would play into the hands of terrorist leaders like Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki
, by enabling them to "stand up and claim, you know, 'See, we told you; America's at war with Islam.'"
"That's one of their main recruiting arguments," Ellison said. "That's why I think that we need to be careful about how we use the instrumentality of the government in investigative hearings."
"The strategy should be to engage the community, don't frighten the community, engage the community and help, and say 'Look, we embrace you as fellow Americans. Let's all together hold hands and meet the security challenge.'"