Given the torrent of discussion Rep. Peter King's planned Thursday hearing on the radicalization of some U.S. Muslims has already unleashed, the hearing could turn out to be somewhat anti-climatic.
Rare is the congressional hearing that gets as much attention before the actual session occurs as this one has. For weeks, tt's been the source of plenty of rhetorical heat, and maybe some light.
Depending on who's doing the defining, the New York Republican is either bringing the congressional spotlight to a legitimate topic or is stage-managing the latest confrontation in the clash of civilizations.
NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty examined the competing views of King's hearing for All Things Considered.
BARBARA: The good news, Congressman Peter King says, is that al Qaeda has been thwarted from flying any more planes into buildings or attacking the US from overseas. The bad news, he told Fox News, is that some Muslims in the US are picking up the slack.
KING: We are under siege by Muslim terrorists and yet there are Muslim leaders in this country that do not cooperate with law enforcement. We have the reality that al Qaeda is trying to recruit Muslim Americans and yet we have people in the Muslim community who refuse to face up to this.
BARBARA: And so King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is investigating homegrown terrorism. That might be a valid topic, says Corey Saylor at the Council on American Islamic Relations, except that he believes King has an agenda.
And that agenda, as Saylor frames it, is prosecutorial. More from Barbara's piece:
SAYLOR: So (King's) said things like, there are too many mosques in America. He's alleged that 80 percent of American Muslim leadership is extremist, yet never given any evidence to back that up. That's the kind of thing that leads you to the Salem witch trials, the Inquisition, and frankly, McCarthyistic hearings.
But there are Muslims who disagree with Saylor. Both Barbara and NPR's Michel Martin, host of Tell Me More, spoke recently with M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser is scheduled to testify at Thursday's House hearing.
He told Michel:
I think the best way to melt away any bigotry that may exist out there towards Muslims is for Americans to see that we're taking ownership, that we want to fix it, that we recognize that violence is just a symptom and we want to begin the hard work of reform...
... What I would consider radical ideas, again, is not necessarily violence. I see a bigger problem of imams who have held up pictures of American soldiers in Iraq and said that these soldiers... are raping and killing our children in Iraq and saying that America is in a war against Islam.
I've seen American Muslim organizations tell Muslims to only talk to the FBI if they have an attorney. I see groups like the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, it's a consortium of many imams at mosques around the country, that gives Muslims fatwas or religious rulings on what to do.
They've told fatwas to Muslims "Don't do the Pledge of Allegiance. Don't work with Homeland Security because it's an infidel type military that's not yours."
Is that a majority? Absolutely not. Most Muslims don't believe that. And yet, these ideas are not just a psychiatric issue. It's a theo-political movement that's still in the 15th and 16th centuries and they talk about reform. And yet the ideology still hasn't gone through the intellectual reformation.
King's planned hearing has caused his own past support for the Irish Republican Army to come under scrutiny, with the Washington Post running a story on that part of his background over the weekend.
As NPR's Mark Memmott posted on The Two-Way blog, King defended himself Wednesday from charges of hypocrisy and that he has a double standard, one for himself and another for American Muslims.