National Security Network

Counterterrorism Experts Reject Peter King’s Targeting of Muslims

Print this page
Report 28 January 2011

Terrorism & National Security Terrorism & National Security Domestic Terrorism King Hearings Muslim Hearings Peter King Radicalization terrorism


As Representative Peter King (R-NY), the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, prepares to hold hearings on Muslim Americans and their cooperation with law enforcement in combating extremism, it's time to set the record straight:  counterterrorism and law enforcement experts agree that King's facts are wrong and his approach will damage our security and even more important, our national unity. The real story is how Muslim-Americans are building and securing our society as neighbors, business owners, first responders, FBI investigators and members of our armed forces. Targeting an entire group - as these hearings do - is bad for America's people, its values and its security.

It's time to correct the record: Law enforcement finds strong partnerships with the Muslim-American community and mosques - like churches and synagogues - draw communities together and help deter alienation and radicalization. Rep. King has made wild and unfounded assertions about Muslims in America, including, "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." And that "80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams." But the facts tell a different story:

Citizens are key to preventing attacks. As ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote yesterday, "When I served as the committee chairman in the 111th Congress, the panel regularly heard testimony from top law enforcement and intelligence officials. None of these officials has backed King's assertions that the Muslim community has not been helpful in thwarting terrorist attacks." A recent study by the Muslim Public Affairs Council found that: "Muslim communities helped U.S. security officials to prevent over 1 out of every 3 Al-Qaeda plots threatening the United States since 9/11. Muslim communities have helped law enforcement prevent 7 out of the last 11 Al-Qaeda related plots. This is an important counter-trend to the recent spike of arrests. It also highlights the importance of partnering with average people through good relations and community oriented policing." [Bennie Thomson, 1/27/11. MPAC, 1/11]

Mosques promote engagement, deter alienation. Homeland Security expert Scott Bates of the Center for National Policy points out the false connection between religion and terrorism: "The folks who are most knowledgeable of the religion are the least likely to get recruited. It's those who have almost a voyeuristic attraction to it [the religion] that get drawn in." This is also backed by a study performed by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, who found that mosques actually serve as a deterrent to terrorism. According to the study, many mosque leaders have put significant effort into countering extremism by building youth programs, sponsoring antiviolence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts. [Scott Bates, 9/8/10. David Schanzer et al, 1/6/10]

[Peter King, NY Daily News, 12/19/10. Peter King, via Think Progress, 1/25/11]

Counterterrorism experts agree that King's approach is not only ineffective, but counterproductive.

Find terrorists based on actions, not ethnicity. As Rep. Thompson wrote yesterday, "Today's terrorists do not share a particular ethnic, educational or socioeconomic background. Recently, when state law enforcement agencies were asked to identify terror groups in their states, Muslim extremist groups ranked 11th on a list of 18. Law enforcement agencies identified neo-Nazis, environmental extremists and anti-tax groups as more prevalent than Muslim terrorist organizations. The sophisticated explosive device found along a parade route in Washington on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an act of domestic terrorism clearly motivated by racist ideology, should prove that other groups are just as willing and able to carry out horrific attacks on Americans." A report from the Chairmen of the 9/11 Commission this past fall, pointed out the dangers - from a counterterrorism perspective - of profiling, saying that it overloads the "intelligence and law enforcement agencies, already over-stressed and inundated with information and leads." [Bennie Thompson, 1/27/11. Peter Bergen and Bruce Hoffman, 9/11 Commissioners , 9/10/10]

Effective policing is based on trust, not isolation. William Bratton, who served as police chief in both New York and Los Angeles, says, "If we are going to prevent terrorism, radicalization from taking hold, we need to, one, know each other. We need to understand each other - police, government, Muslim community, the Muslim religion." Speaking about his experiences in Los Angeles, Bratton said, "We knew very little about the Muslim community - any aspect of it - in Los Angeles, because they're an extraordinarily law-abiding community."  Bratton points out that the community approach is based on a two-way conversation: "My most recent experience in which we were able to reach out, fairly quickly, to a community - in this case, the Muslim community - that we'd had almost no interaction with... But that police community forum among many forums that we have - African-American, Latino, gay and lesbian, has very quickly become one of the most active forums in Los Angeles in the sense of trying to build understanding, trying to embrace the idea that we are in this together." [William Bratton, 7/14/10]

Isolation and demonization of communities is counterproductive in intelligence  gathering and policing.  Homeland security expert  David Schanzer explains, "Law enforcement officials occasionally receive information about a suspicious person from a fertilizer vendor or some other person in a position to observe potential terrorists. But authorities agree such tips are most likely to come from the community in which the homegrown terrorist lives, which in this day and age is frequently the Muslim-American community." [David Schanzer, 8/17/10]

Hate-filled rhetoric feeds into our enemies' propaganda. Brian Fishman, a terrorism analyst at the New America Foundation and an associate at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, warns that anti-Islamic rhetoric feeds into the message of propagandists like that Anwar al-Awlaki who has made claims that American Muslims face a dark future of ever-worsening discrimination and vilification.  Around the anti-Islamic rhetoric around this past election, Fishman said, "I know people in this debate don't intend it, but there are consequences for these kinds of remarks... When the rhetoric is so inflammatory that it serves the interests of a jihadi recruiter like Awlaki, politicians need to be called on it." [Brian Fishman, via NY Times, 8/20/10]

Muslims Americans are a vital part of a united America.  Muslim Americans are doctors, nurses and first responders; serve in the FBI as investigators and translators; and serve and sacrifice in our armed forces.  General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretary of state for George W. Bush, and national security advisor for Ronald Reagan, reminds us: "Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America.  Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? ... I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine.  It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave.  And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone.  And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death.  He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith.  And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey.  He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life." [Colin Powell, 10/19/08]

What We're Reading

Egyptian military units deployed in the streets of Cairo, and protesters targeted offices of the ruling party, as massive crowds of anti-government demonstrators defied an overnight curfew.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is accusing Congress of dumping a "crisis on my doorstep" by holding the Pentagon to last year's spending levels and creating a potential $23 billion gap that could weaken a wartime military.

Lebanon's Hezbollah-backed prime minister designate Najib Mikati finished consultations on forming a new government set to be boycotted by his Sunni rival Saad Hariri.

China approved property tax trials on some homes in Shanghai and Chongqing, adding to measures announced earlier this week in its campaign to curb real-estate speculation and asset bubbles.

Somalia's government decided to cancel an agreement with a private security company linked to the founder of Blackwater Worldwide to train Somali forces to go after pirates and insurgents.

The Tunisian prime minister has reshuffled the interim government, dropping key ministers from the heavily criticized government of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

A Chilean judge opened the first official investigation into the death of former President Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist leader who died during the 1973 military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

An American official shot and killed two men on a motorcycle who apparently threatened to rob him at gunpoint while he was driving his car in the city of Lahore.

The German lower house of parliament approved the government's new Afghanistan mandate, which proposes that the withdrawal of German troops should begin by the end of 2011 and be completed by 2014.

The Russia-U.S. New START nuclear disarmament treaty will enter into force on February 5 during an official ceremony in Munich attended by the two country's top diplomats.

Commentary of the Day

Emad Shahin, Mona Eltahawy, Shadi Hamid, Rime Allaf, Amr Hamzawy, Bahey eldin Hassan and Steven A. Cook weigh in on the possibilities for what the protests in Egypt can achieve.

Nicholas Noe contends that a Syrian-Israeli deal on the Golan Heights could stop Hezbollah's rise.

Peter L. Berger and Ann Bernstein write the decline of faith in democratic capitalism is more pronounced among chattering classes in the West than among economic elites in much of the non-West.