Most are OK with Muslim hearings
By Alan Gomez
A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds most Americans do not believe U.S. Muslims are too extreme in their religious beliefs, yet a majority also find it appropriate that Congress examines the radicalization of some members of the Muslim community.
A hearing today before Rep. Pete King's House Homeland Security Committee will look at the threat posed by U.S. Muslims being radicalized by terrorist groups, and whether the Muslim-American community is doing enough to help law enforcement capture those who are becoming radicalized.
The hearing has prompted angry reactions from some of the 2.6 million Muslims living in the USA and a host of civil rights groups, including the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who say the community is being unfairly singled out.
The new poll finds that 52% of Americans say the hearing is appropriate, and 38% believe the hearing is inappropriate. Ten percent have no opinion.
The poll also found that more Americans think Muslims living in America are committed to their religion than think they are supportive of the United States. A majority of Americans do not believe, however, that Muslims in America are too extreme in their religious beliefs or sympathetic to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
Rep. Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim members of Congress, said the poll's findings show that Americans still harbor inaccurate, suspicious views of their Muslim neighbors — a problem that can only be worsened by King's hearing.
"People's civil rights cannot be a popularity contest," said Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota. "What percentage of Americans would say it's OK to intern Japanese people in 1941?"
Others believe hiding from Muslim radicalization amounts to political correctness run amok. Debra Burlingame's brother, Charles "Chic" Burlingame, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which was taken over by hijackers and crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. She said the hijackers on her brother's plane were supported by 14 Muslims in seven different U.S. mosques.
"That's something we can't ignore," she said. "The American people are not buying the politically correct line that Washington is trying to put out, as if what we suffer from is extremism in general."
King, a Republican from New York, said in an editorial response in today's USA TODAY (8A) that three top U.S. national security officials have said the nation faces a significant terrorist threat from radicalization inside the USA.
"The administration is saying it: Al-Qaeda is targeting and attempting to radicalize Muslims within the U.S. — and it is focusing its efforts on the American Muslim community. This is the most significant homeland security issue we face."
Muslim Americans wonder why members of other religions aren't being investigated as well since they also participate in terrorist acts.
"This country's come a long way in race relations, and Rep. King is taking us back," said Abed Ayoub, legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.