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Who’s Speaking at Rep. Peter King’s Hearings on Hearings Today?

June 20, 2012, 9:26 am | Posted by Nick Sementelli

Zuhdi Jasser

Today, Rep. Peter King is holding yet another round of his infamous hearings on “Muslim radicalization,” this time on the American Muslim response to his earlier hearings.

The problem, as usual, is that the central premise of King’s hearings remains untrue: Muslim Americans are neither particularly radicalized, nor are they uncooperative with law enforcement. Expert witnesses have even made a point of telling King this at the hearings themselves.

Faced with this problem, King has taken to ignoring the experts in favor of witnesses who will tell him what he already wants to hear, and this most recent round is no different. Testifying today are three people whose primary qualifications appear to be their willingness to confirm King’s conspiracy theories and falsely implicate their fellow Muslim Americans as contributing to radicalism.

Here’s a quick background on the three witnesses:

Zuhdi Jasser

Jasser, who testified at a previous round of King’s hearings, is a physician and former Navy medical officer who has become the go-to spokesman of anti-Muslim extremists looking for Muslim allies to baptize their views. Media Matters has compiled information on Jasser here, and he was prominently featured in the Center for American Progress’s Fear Inc. report as one of the Muslim “validators” for Islamaphobic activists.

Jasser most recently came under scrutiny for serving as the narrator for the documentary The Third Jihad, an anti-Islamic movie produced by the right-wing Clarion Fund (whose board Jasser also sits on). The film prompted a major scandal earlier this year after NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly admitted to voluntarily appearing in it and showing it in training sessions for officers.

Asra Nomani

Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal writer most notable for her support of the misleading and dangerous tactic of profiling people who appear to be Muslims at airports, her defense of NYPD’s illegal spying and religious profiling program, and, of course, her support for King’s original hearings.

Writing in The Guardian today, Nomani previews her testimony at today’s hearing, reiterating these extreme views and attacking critics of the hearings.

Qanta Ahmed

A British doctor who grew up in London, Ahmed wrote mostly about international issues and her experience practicing medicine in Saudi Arabia before penning two op-eds in support of King’s initial hearings and another one the following year defending NYPD.

Ahmed’s invitation to speak appears to be the result of a chance meeting with King at her hospital. She also seems to have connected with the Clarion Fund, which published an interview with her earlier this month in which she attacks Muslim-American organizations despite admitting she has no contact with them.

Faiza Patel

The minority witness is an actual expert on human rights and the legal issues related to counterterrorism, serving as Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center. She has specifically written about King’s previous hearings and the deficiencies of his and his witnesses arguments.

Photo source: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

2 Responses to “Who’s Speaking at Rep. Peter King’s Hearings on Hearings Today?”

  1. Asra Nomani says:

    Dear Nick, Thank you for writing about the hearing. I understand that you’re opposed to the hearing and have a point of view. I would gently offer as a response to your blog this point: I think that you engage in the same tactics of “demonization” that I talk about as a strategy by the Muslim community and others to deflect from a serious discussion of issues of extremism in our community.

    For example, you state that my views in the Guardian article are “extreme,” when the most extreme notion I suggest is that Muslims are “wound collectors,” more intent on arguing their grievances than owning up to their internal problems, just as many communities fixated on their wounds tend to do.

    And then, indeed, you state about myself and the two other witnesses that our “primary qualifications appear to be their willingness to confirm King’s conspiracy theories and falsely implicate their fellow Muslim Americans as contributing to radicalism.”

    In fact, for 10 year, as a journalist and an academic, I have been researching the issue of terrorism and militancy in our Muslim communities. I know that Dr. Jasser had done the same in his work, and Dr. Ahmed has separately done her own research, each of us separately coming to the conclusion that we have a radicalization problem in our communities.

    Our agreement with the merits of the hearings does not, thus, become our qualifications.

    Nonetheless, thank you for commenting. One of my laments, as a liberal, is that liberals in the world don’t recognize the dangerous implications of extremist Muslim principles to liberal values, such as women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights and other values.

    The battle of many Catholic nuns and Catholic feminism against the Vatican is not much unlike our battle within our faith against extremism in Islam.

    Best, Asra

    • Nick Sementelli says:

      Asra,

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think we both stand united to fighting radicalism both within and outside the Muslim community and preventing violent attacks of any sort in our communities.

      The difference I think is in our approaches. I think that when it comes to national security threats of this seriousness, we can’t afford to let anecdotes, biases or assumptions get in the way of facts and evidence.

      The reality is that Rep. King has consistently chosen to take up with some very worst proponents of anti-Muslim bigotry in this country and used his hearings to propagate wild conspiracy theories, all while ignoring the findings of actual research that disputes his central claims.

      This latest hearing was his chance to continue his story of victimization and try to demonstrate political support for his rejected theories. Your views about the merits of the hearings may not be your actual qualifications, but they were the reason he invited you to testify.

      I do think there are important conversations happening within the Muslim community about theology, social issues and other important questions — as they are in many different faith traditions right now.

      I think, however, that national security and law enforcement personnel need to respond to threat indicators that are backed by comprehensive, evidence-based analysis, not assumptions — no matter how true they feel to us.

      Thanks again for your comment.