Congress will begin to hold hearings Thursday on the danger posed by radical Islam in the United States has inspired protest, counterprotests, debate, editorials, petitions and even pray-ins, before the first witness takes the stand.
According to Rep. Peter King, the goal of the hearings is “to establish and show the American people who there is a real threat of al-Qaeda recruiting and of homegrown terrorists being self-radicalized within the Muslim community”. King a republican from New York is the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
He also charges that Muslim Americans are not doing enough to discourage extremists in their midst. King got an endorsement Wednesday from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who suggested King is on solid ground in calling the hearing. “It’s obvious where there have been problems with terrorist activity,” Cantor said. “We in this country are threatened by the spread of radical Islam.”
Other high visibility Republicans have criticized Islam or aspects of the religion or the Muslim community. Mike Huckabee, likely a 2012 presidential candidate, last month called Islam “the antithesis of the gospel of Christ” and criticized congregations that allow mosques to use their churches for prayers.
There are disagreements about what has caused such critiques to become an increasingly important part of GOP messaging and policy efforts. But with the Republican presidential primary on the horizon, as well as the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, political analysts say the trend is likely to accelerate.
Current census puts the population between 2.5 to 7 million Muslims living in the United States.