King is a long-time supporter of the IRA, and in the 1980s proclaimed: “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it.”

On Muslims, King has reached his own fact-less conclusion

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, will begin holding hearings Thursday on “the extent of the radicalization of American Muslims.” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has characterized the hearings as “a witch hunt.” Are they?

King also has said he believes the “self-radicalization” of American Muslims represents “a very small minority” of the overall community. What are the potential consequences of singling out one religious group?

All one needs to know about what is behind the King hearings can be gleaned by Peter King’s own statements regarding Muslims in the US.

How does Rep. King feel about Islam in the United States?

“Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country. There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate [them].

How does King know so much about radicalization in the US? From a single source more than decade ago.

“The only real testimony we have on it is from Sheikh Kabbani who was a Muslim leader during the Clinton Administration, he testified back in 1999 and 2000 before the State Department that he thought over 80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams. Certainly from what I’ve seen and dealings I’ve had, that number seems accurate.”

King’s single source, Sheikh Kabbani, is a Sufi Muslim who has advocated for peace and tolerance in Islam but who by his own admission is not an authority on Islam in America and who has admitted to simply stating his personal opinion – an opinion that has been contradicted by both the FBI and by every scholar who has studied the matter. Oh, and by the way, Sheikh Kabbani has also claimed that any Muslim who advises the US government is also “an extremist.” But King is not interested in facts. He just feels like it must be at least 80%.

“It was 80 percent back in 2000. Based on the radicalization since then, it has to be — I have no doubt, I have problem at all in saying it’s 85 percent. If it’s not 85, it’s still 80.”

And King has reliable sources to back up his feeling.

“I can get you the documentation on that from experts in the field. Talk to a Steve Emerson… It’s a real issue … I’ll stand by that number of 85 percent. This is an enemy living amongst us.”

That’s Steve Emerson, the “expert in the field” who has turned Islamophobia into a multi-million dollar career. Emerson has been caught in so many lies and distortions that the media watchdog group Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting (FAIR) has devoted an entire page to debunking his wild and exaggerated accusations. In an in-depth report of his writings, FAIR concludes that, “Emerson’s willingness to push an extremely thin story–with potentially explosive consequences–is… consistent with the lengthy list of mistakes and distortions that mar his credentials as an expert on terrorism.”

Of course, King could try to speak to American Muslims himself. But it seems he has already reached his own, fact-less conclusions.

“I think there’s been a lack of full cooperation from too many people in the Muslim community. And it’s a real threat here in this country.” … They won’t turn in their own. They won’t tell what’s going on in the mosques. They won’t come forward and cooperate with the police.”

That comes as a surprise to the authorities King claims to be assisting with these hearings. “If he has evidence of non-cooperation, he should bring it forward,” says Los Angeles County’s Sheriff Lee Baca. “We have as much cooperation as we are capable of acquiring through public trust relationships.”

Perhaps all of this explains why even conservative outlets like the National Interest have criticized King’s hearings. The National Interest wrote, “The hearings should never take place, but if they do, the real promoter of anti-Americanism at home and abroad will be Rep. King.”

The bottom line is that King’s hearings were not about making Americans safer. They are about promoting his personal views about Islam and Muslims in the U.S. As such they lend false legitimacy to the anti-Islam hate groups that have flourished in the U.S. since 9/11. We saw a glimpse of this zealotry and hatred recently, when a large group of tea party protesters in Orange County surrounded a Muslim group’s fundraiser yelling obscenities and shouting “Go Back Home!” to the Muslims walking to and from the event. The scene looked much like a chapter of American history that most Americans reflect on with shame. The fact that a representative of Congress held hearings that could lend legitimacy to this type of bigotry is shocking.

Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is a contributing editor at The Daily Beast

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