Peter King has called any criticism of his McCarthyite “Islamic radicalization” hearing “absolutely insane.” He claims that his hearing, which will look at the cooperation of Muslim-Americans with law enforcement, will expose a radical Muslim community that either looks the other way at or actively participates in terrorism and extremism. This has generated a fair amount of controversy, with everyone from members of Congress to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to faith leaders to columnists to the mayor of the city with the largest Muslim population in the US to a coalition of 50 progressive groups criticizing the hearings for unfairly singling out one religious sect, in contradiction to the American ideal of religious freedom. “We believe that the tone and focus of these hearings runs contrary to our nation’s values,” wrote Reps. John Dingell and Pete Stark in a letter.
If you look at the witness list, you see that the hearings only include one member of local law enforcement: Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. It turns out that Democrats added him to the panel, so in King’s world, a hearing on Muslim radicalization and law enforcement wouldn’t have any law enforcement perspective.
I saw Baca speak last night at the “People’s Hearing on Defending Religious Freedom,” an event put on by the Southern California chapter of the ACLU. Baca will head to DC today for the hearings. Baca said that the only way to focus on the problem of extremist violence is to look at the statistics. “Since 9/11, 77 extremist efforts or attacks have been carried out by non-Muslim extremists in the United States,” said Baca. In addition, of the last 10 terror plots attempted by Muslims, seven of them have been thwarted by Muslims coming forward. “This is not a Muslim problem, it’s a people problem.”
Baca discussed the strategies he uses in his sheriff’s department, the largest in the United States, to work with local communities of faith. “I have an interfaith council of 200,” including members of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i and more communities. “I believe that interfaith harmony eliminates intolerance,” Baca explained. He also has instituted a Muslim-American Homeland Security Congress, made up of members of the Muslim community from all walks of life. And there are Muslim-American deputy sheriffs that make up a public affairs strategy. “It’s extremely effective to have positive interactions with the community,” he said. “And what we’ve seen is that the Muslim community is as eager to help as anyone. It’s not about spying on the community but about building public trust.” [cont’d.]
Other panelists included Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord of the Christian-Muslim Consultative Group; Edina Lekovic, the Director of Policy & Planning of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; and Eric Greene, Regional Director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance. They all praised Baca’s work with communities of faith, including Muslims.
A recent study of mosques and the Muslim community shows that mosques help integrate Muslim-Americans and Islam into American politics and American life.
“I don’t believe religions preach hate,” Baca concluded, “individuals do under the guise of religion.”