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'Pray-In' Held Outside Rep. King's Office Ahead Of Hearings On Radical Islam

MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York Congressman Peter King wants to investigate why Muslims are becoming more radical here in the United States.

But as CBS 2's Demetra Ganias found out Muslims say those controversial hearings will give them a bad name.

Muslims, Jews and Christians gathered outside Rep. King's office Tuesday to ask him to stop targeting Muslims and cancel hearings on what King calls the radicalization of Muslim-Americans.

"A bomb doesn't differentiate between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. We are just as afraid of extremists as anybody else," Seemi Ahmed said.

1010 WINS' Mona Rivera hears arguments from both sides


Demonstrations Outside Peter King's Office
Demonstrators for and against hearings into Islamic radicalization showed up at Massapequa, L.I. district office of Congressman Peter King (Photo/Mona Rivera)

About 200 noisy but peaceful protesters -- split about evenly "for'' and "against'' -- were watched by at least 30 police officers in Massapequa Park.

Opponents of the hearings -- from all different faiths -- had billed their event Tuesday as an interfaith "pray-in.''

"We stand here outside Peter King's office because we believe that singling out an entire community, such as Muslim-Americans, is un-American," one demonstrator said.

Muslims fear the hearings will demonize peaceful members of their faith, those clearly against terrorism.

"If you want to talk about terrorism or extremism it should be about everyone. Muslims are a part of the fabric of society," said Saad Sheik of Valley Stream.

They're urging the House Committee on Homeland Security chairman not to hold controversial hearings on what he calls the "radicalization'' of some American Muslims.

Congressman King has said he's obligated to investigate. He has also added the overwhelming majority of Muslim-Americans are outstanding Americans.

He told 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera that the hearings will go on as scheduled.

"I'm not going to cave in. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding people. But the fact is there is a real threat coming from that community," King said.

"But the fact is there was an element in that community that as in all communities is threatening the U.S. The difference is with this they are allied with an overseas enemy – al Qaeda."

King points to homegrown terrorists like Faisal Shahzad, the man behind the failed Times Square bombing in May 2010, believed to have been financed by the Pakistani Taliban.

In November 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas, American-born Muslim Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly killed 13 people in a shooting spree.

But King's rationale is not sitting well with Muslims.

"The nature of the investigation that representative King's committee seeks to pursue has the potential of holding the Muslim community hostage to suspicion and fear mongering," Rabbi Jerome Davidson said.

Protesters said the hearings, due to begin March 7, are nothing more than a witch hunt against Muslims.

"We need to heal divisions not create more separation," Sister Jean Clark said.

Some protesters held up crosses or Muslim crescent symbols.

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs in Massapequa Park


King supporters carried signs that read, "Don't Tread on Me'' and said the hearings will root out homegrown terrorists.

"This war on terror is not some campaign overseas. It goes on today right here," said Andy Sullivan of the group the "9/11 Hard Hats."

"Congressman King is taking action on this. For people to call him Islama-phobe or bigot is ridiculous," retired NYC firefighter Tim Brown added.

King was at his office Tuesday but did not come outside during the demonstrations.

Which group do you side with? Let us know below

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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