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Fact-check: Radicalism in American Mosques

January 26, 2011, 12:03 pm | By Nick Sementelli

peter_king.jpgScott Keyes at Think Progress had a good post yesterday outlining one of Rep. Peter King’s favorite “proofs” of radicalization in the American Muslim community that justify his upcoming hearings: the allegation that 80% of mosques in America are controlled by radical Imams.

As King identifies, the original source of the 80% figure was a 1999 address at a State Department open forum by an obscure scholar, Shaykh Hisham Kabbani.

What Kabbani revealed in a later interview, was that his figure was based on an entirely unscientific survey; his methodology involved him visiting a handful of mosques and making a personal judgment of whether they were radical. Of the over 2,000 Muslim places of worship in the U.S., Kabbani stopped in at 114, of which he decided ninety had been “mostly exposed…to extreme or radical ideology,” thus the 80%.

But this was only one of many dubious claims Kabbani made that day. In the same speech, he warned that Al-Qaeda had managed to obtain 20 nuclear warheads from the Central Asian mafia that would soon be smuggled into the U.S. in suitcases for attacks on major universities. He also alleged that major Muslim organizations advising the government were extremists, though he refused to identify the organizations when pressed.

Despite the obvious unreliability of the numbers or Kabbani’s expertise, it has served the purposes of right-wing activists eager to find support for their elaborate conspiracy theories about “creeping Sharia.” Rep. King made the smart decision not inviting these activists to testify at his hearings, but if he wants to be taken at his word that his hearings aren’t meant to cast suspicion on the entire Muslim community, he should start by not citing the work of suspect sources who use junk methodology to claim the vast majority of Muslim houses of worship foster extremism.

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Peter King’s Transformation

January 24, 2011, 4:45 pm | By Nick Sementelli

William Wan has a good story today in the Washington Post on Rep. Peter King’s upcoming hearings on the alleged “radicalization” of American Muslims. Wan tracks the evolution of Rep. King from friend and champion of the Muslim community to one of its biggest antagonists.

As Wan illuminates, King reacted strongly to a perceived betrayal by the Muslim community after the 9/11 attacks. But King’s perception seems to rest on a few isolated quotations from individuals affiliated with a mosque on Long Island that made it into a newspaper article in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

The day after the newspaper article appeared, the mosque’s founder, Faroque Khan, went to a neighboring synagogue in a largely unsuccessful attempt to retract and explain what members of his mosque had said.

In the weeks that followed, Khan and others issued progressively stronger statements condemning al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for the attacks. They forwarded these to King’s office, but the damage was already done.

To King, the fact that those words were ever uttered branded the mosque’s leaders as radicals.

King’s refusal, even nine years later, to accept the good-faith retraction and apology from the Long Island mosque leaders suggests a wide communication gap that has grown between the congressman and Muslim leaders in his district. It’s clear from their continued outreach to Rep. King that they want to restore their previous relationship; here’s hoping he accepts their invitation.

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Media Hit of the Week

January 21, 2011, 3:47 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Faith in Public Life’s blog is just one component of our communications and strategy work. Our work with partners on advocacy campaigns, grassroots mobilization and coalition building often earns coverage in news outlets across the country.

In what we hope will become a weekly feature, we’re introducing a “Media Hit of the Week” blog post to share our partners’ successes and highlight what we’ve been up to lately. You’ll also be able to find an archive of all these featured hits (along with many others) on the “FPL in the News” section of our website.

This week many in the faith community were focused on defending healthcare from repeal efforts. A Wednesday story in the Huffington Post picked up our report describing this activity:

The organization Faith in Public Life published a report on Tuesday, which summarized the efforts of people of faith to express their support for the health care law.

“Nearly 10,000 Americans of faith have signed petitions from PICO National Network and Faithful America to Members of Congress opposing repeal efforts and urging productive, bipartisan cooperation to make sure health reform legislation works for all American families.”

The report also outlined extensive efforts by clergy leaders across multiple denominations and in cities across the country to educate their congregants on the benefits of the new health care law.

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People of Faith Stand Up for Health Care

January 19, 2011, 5:23 pm | By Nick Sementelli

In anticipation of the House’s vote to repeal health care reform today, a coalition of over 150 groups America held a rally and press conference announcing their opposition to Congressional Republican leaders’ efforts to repeal health care reform.

People of faith were well-represented in the coalition, with members of Catholics United, Faithful Reform in Health Care, PICO National Network, and Faithful America joining.

The Catholic Health Association, whose tireless work for healthcare reform earned their president, Sr. Carol Keehan recognition as “Person of the Year” by National Catholic Reporter, was featured prominently. CHA Senior Vice President Mike Rogers spoke at the event and outlined the case against repeal.

Lamenting that “rather than working on implementing the valuable provisions of the law, we find ourselves defending it,” he went on to remind those in attendance of the moral imperative for keeping health care reform in place:

“For CHA and our over 2000 members, health care coverage for everyone, especially for the poor and the vulnerable in our society is a moral priority. It builds on the foundation of the common good. When individuals and families go without health care coverage it’s an affront to their human dignity.”

The message is clear: those who have worked hard for decades to ensure that all Americans have quality, affordable health care are not going to sit on the sidelines while opponents try to play political games with this issue and repeal the important benefits now being enjoyed by millions of Americans.

Today’s repeal vote in the House was largely symbolic, but the activism and commitment of the faith community was very real and will persist until the long-term effort to dismantle or de-fund reform is defeated.

Watch Mike Rogers’s full statement below:

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Anti-Islam Leader Describes His Omission From McCarthy-Like Hearings as McCarthyism

January 19, 2011, 5:01 pm | By Nick Sementelli

joseph_mccarthy.jpgSteve Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, has long come under fire for his unsubstantiated statements about Islam (like saying 80% of American mosques are controlled by Islamic extremists). Moreover, Emerson uses these fear-mongering tactics to make millions of dollars for his for-profit corporation, a process outlined in a report by the Tennessean last year.

While these shenanigans have discredited Emerson to most political leaders, one person still on his side has been Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who’s staff was meeting with Emerson in preparation for his coming hearings on the “threat” posed by American Muslims. King’s hearings have received significant pushback from observers who note their frightening similarity to those of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose politicized hearings on communism in the 1950s used faulty evidence, guilt-by-association, and paranoia to launch political attacks on opponents and amass personal power.

But in a surprising move yesterday, King announced that he would leave Emerson off the witness list for the hearing, a sign that the radical leader may have become too toxic for even the most extreme of Congressional leaders.

As Ben Smith tracked today, Emerson did not take the omission kindly, and wrote a letter to Rep. King bemoaning the slight. Most surprisingly, in the letter Emerson likens his fate to those of innocent writers in the 50′s who suffered blacklisting at the hands of…you guessed it…Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

During the days of Senator McCarthy, innocent writers were blacklisted and had to write under pseudonyms because of fear from the accusations of the dictatorial Senator. That you have caved in to the demands of radical Islamists in removing me as a witness, in light of the fact that no one in this country has done more empirical investigations about the attitudes and statements of the established Muslim leadership, shows me, to my utter horror, that McCarthyism is still alive today [emphasis added].

At least there’s one thing we can all agree upon?

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