Third Round of King Hearings: Muslim Outreach Works
Today’s third round of Rep. Peter King’s hearings on Muslim-American radicalization were markedly less extreme than his previous two hearings, largely due to the quality of the witnesses testifying. Today’s testimonies were generally informed, nuanced and relevant to the specific topic in question. Even King’s most ideological witness, Thomas Joscelyn, avoided the kind of bombastic claims he’s made in the past.
The most important testimony came from St. Paul, Minnesota police chief Tom Smith, who spoke proudly of his police force’s efforts to partner with the Muslim-American community in their area — efforts that have successfully built a “climate of cooperation and trust” and led to greater law enforcement success solving crimes and preventing terrorist recruitment.
Chief Smith particularly highlighted the federally funded African Immigrant Muslim Community Outreach Program (AIMCOP). The program trains law enforcement officers to serve as community liaisons with a focus on engaging local Somali youth in activities like study programs, open gyms, arts and crafts programs and camping trips. From his written testimony:
I am sometimes asked if I believe that our community can actually benefit from the Somali Advisory Council or the Police Athletic Leagues. These efforts do look far different than our traditional notions of police work. To answer those questions I ask that they imagine, for a moment, that the police officer called to a housing complex to deal with a youth problem happens also to be those same young peoples’ football coach-or math tutor-or the leader of last weekend’s camping trip. And I ask them to further imagine that among those same youth are the sons or daughters of the Elders who regularly visit my office as part of the Somali Advisory Council. You don’t have to imagine those connections because in Saint Paul they actually exist. These connections run throughout AIMCOP and they represent the very foundation of our outreach work. And in my experience, these connections pay dividends.
This is the type of bridge-building that has led the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to be regarded as a model in community outreach and cooperation. And it stands in stark contrast to the false narrative that Muslim-Americans are harboring radicals and not cooperating with law enforcement — the narrative King has appeared to want to suggest by holding these hearings.
Photo: St. Paul Chief of Police Tom Smith, Courtesy St. Paul Police