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Jewish groups criticize hearings on Muslims

JTA

March 10, 2011 | 10:29 am

A number of Jewish groups have expressed concern at congressional hearings on terrorism that focus on Islam.

“Homegrown Muslim extremists pose a real threat to the United States, but the issue is one that may be difficult to explore seriously in a hearing that has engendered an unfortunate atmosphere of blame and suspicion of the broader American Muslim community,” the Anti-Defamation League said in its statement on the hearings opening Thursday under the auspices of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). “We need to be careful not to single out an entire community for special scrutiny or suspicion.”

The Reform movement, J Street and the National Jewish Democratic Council also criticized the hearings for singling out Muslims.

Previous congressional hearings have more broadly addressed terrorism, noting that prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the most serious terrorist attacks on American soil were carried out by right-wing extremists.

“A wide-ranging exploration of radicalism writ-large is necessary, and we would welcome it,” Mark Pelavin, the associate director of Reform’s Religious Action Center, said in testimony submitted to the committee. “But today’s hearing is not that exploration. It is a narrow, myopic investigation into the American Muslim community which unfairly targets one group of citizens in congressional proceedings.”

King in the lead-up to the hearings, titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response,” has said there are “too many mosques” in America.

He also has suggested that Muslim leaders do not cooperate with authorities and that the vast majority of clerics are radicalized.

Experts have questioned King’s assertions, noting that Muslims have provided the tips that led to many of the arrests of putative terrorists in recent years.

Witnesses scheduled at the hearing include Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress; Zuhdi Jasser, an Arizona Muslim who has criticized insularism among Muslim Americans; and parents of American Muslims lured into terrorism.

Conspicuous by their absence are both representatives of major Muslim groups and those who maintain that much if not all of the Islamic world has been radicalized.

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