Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
King's Hearings on Radical Islam Draw Rival Protest Groups
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 01:23 PM
About 130 protestors demonstrated in front of Rep. Peter King's office in Massapequa Park on Tuesday, some in support and others against the Long Island politician's proposed Congressional hearings meant to examine the threat of radical Islam in the U.S.
The Catholic non-profit charity group Pax Christi, the Interfaith Alliance of Long Island and other groups organized the anti-King rally — or "pray-in" — when they learned of the proposed hearing. The pray-in was part of a broader effort Tuesday, including a national call-in encouraging opponents of the hearings to call King's office. When supporters of King learned of the demonstration, they organized a counter-protest.
The two simultaneous events, held in a small parking lot in the shadow of the Long Island Rail Road, made for a study in contrasts. Opponents of the hearings performed classic '60s peace songs such as "This Land is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome" even as they came under attack from King's supporters.
"I'm shocked, and I'm embarrassed for you. You call yourselves Americans!" one woman shouted. "What are you afraid of, that he might find something out?"
King, who is Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, was recently asked to focus his inquiry on "examine extreme environmentalists and neo-Nazis," but King declined, saying, "the Committee will continue to examine the threat of Islamic radicalization, and I will not allow political correctness to obscure a real and dangerous threat to the safety and security of the citizens of the United States."
"Mr. King's hearings are discriminatory and self-defeating," said one demonstrator, Dr. Shaik Ubaid, of the Muslim Peace Coalition USA. "If Rep. Peter King is sincere about the home-grown terrorist threat, as we all are, including American Muslims, for they have the most to lose, then he must invite the director of the FBI and other top law enforcement agencies. He has not done so."
Ubaid added: "[King] must hold hearings on all terrorist groups including the ones who pose the biggest threat such as the armed militias who, according to news reports, are arming for a war and threatening even the President of the United States. He has not done so."
Some supporters of King argued that if most Muslims are not extremists, they shouldn't be afraid of what the hearings will bring out. Others suggested some important revelations could emerge.
"I’d like to see a solid hearing, where they look throughout the allegations in the American community that there’s a lot of radical Islamists who are ready to take action against this country, whether they be natural born citizens, whether they come from other countries," said Jim Duffy, a member of the Conservative Party of Suffolk County.
Pax Christi's Long Island coordinator, Sister Jeanne Clark, said she hopes King can find a "better way" to address the issue. "We too are for national security. We're not opposed to that, of course, but we don't think the whole Muslim community should bear the brunt of, and be called terrorists."