They’re Back: Third Round of King Hearings Announced
Earlier today, Representative Peter King (R-NY) announced the third round of hearings on ‘radicalization in the Muslim-American community.’ As Adam Serwer notes, “for the first time however, he’s decided to focus on an actual problem,” the recruitment of Muslim youth by Somalian terrorist group al-Shabaab, particularly in Minnesota.
While this issue has been a real problem in the Minneapolis community, prompting an FBI investigation that has led to multiple arrests, King’s focus on it in his hearing still misses the mark. Despite his spin that this is an example of the Muslim-American community not providing “sufficient cooperation,” law enforcement officials have actually singled out this case as a model of community partnership.
A Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial described FBI Special Agent Ralph Boelter, who led the investigation, as saying “Muslim-Americans couldn’t have been more helpful” and the National Journal reported that “the strategy of community outreach developed by Boelter and B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, is now cited as a model that builds on past FBI and Justice Department efforts.”
The tactics Boelter and Jones used — building relationships with the community ahead of time, showing respect for Islamic religious traditions and practices, reaching out to communicate the public steps of the investigation before talking to the press, etc. — are similar to the ones profiled in an NPR report today on a similar investigation and arrest in Miami:
This may all sound like common sense, but these kinds of arrests rarely happen this way. The Muslim community is usually left to sort through rumor and innuendo. It is caught flat-footed when the media call for comment. The worst-case scenarios are often embraced as fact, and it often takes weeks to sort fact from fiction.
As 40% of foiled terrorist plots involving Muslim-Americans have come from community tips, this outreach and trust-building is clearly a key ingredient to fighting terrorism. When Rep. King uses his national platform to spread false information about Muslim-Americans and creates perceptions of division and hostility, it undermines that trust and detracts from our national security.