NEW YORK (WCBS 880/1010 WINS/AP) -- The incoming chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security said Sunday that he will hold hearings on the "radicalization of the American Muslim community."
Rep. Peter King said such hearings are critical because al-Qaida was recruiting Muslims living legally in the United States.
The Long Island Republican said in a telephone interview with WCBS 880 that the leadership of the Muslim community "somehow want to live in their own world and they are not cooperating, they are not coming forward."
King also singled out the group CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) saying "they go out of their way to attack anyone who wants to bring this issue out."
"The best way to help Muslim Americans, to help all Americans is to have an open hearing on this especially since we know al-Qaida is actively attempting to recruit Muslims in this country," King said.
The Long Island congressman also spoke with 1010 WINS Sunday and said that it was "more important than ever that we have cooperation from the [Muslim] community."
1010 WINS' Kyle McMorrow talks to King
King said not having cooperation from Muslim leaders made it "very difficult to stop the threat to the country."
A spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based CAIR said he fears King's hearings will become an anti-Muslim witch hunt.
"We're concerned that it'll become a new McCarthy-type hearing," said the spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper.
Hooper said members of the Muslim community helped foil several recent terrorist plots by cooperating with law enforcement. And he questioned King's assertion that law-enforcement officials have complained about a lack of cooperation from Muslim leaders.
"Which officials are these?" he asked. "Which leaders are not cooperating?"
King said in a Newsday Op-Ed piece that prior to the 2001 terrorist attacks, he had a close relationship with the Muslim community.
"I attended the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) in Westbury on a regular basis, visited socially with local Muslim leaders, had Muslim students intern in my office, and advocated for Pakistan's position against India in Kashmir," he said.
But after the attacks, King said, he was outraged that some Muslim leaders "were insisting there was no evidence that al-Qaida was responsible for the attacks -- even saying it could have been the CIA, the FBI or the Zionists!"
Habeeb Ahmed, the chairman of the board of the Islamic center, confirmed that King was formerly a frequent visitor there.
"He was very close to the Muslim community," Ahmed said. "He never really explained to us what really happened."
Ahmed said he hopes that if King holds hearings he invites Muslims to participate and not just "the so-called Muslim experts who have their own agenda."
King, 66, is in line to chair the Homeland Security Committee with the Republican takeover of the House.
He vowed do all he can "to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization."
King said he knows of imams "instructing members of their mosques not to cooperate with law enforcement officials investigating the recruiting of young men in their mosques as suicide bombers. We need to find the reasons for this alienation."
(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 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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