King Hearing on Somali Radicalization Struggles to Stay on Track

Rep. Peter King conducted the third in his series of hearings examining radicalization in the Muslim American community, this one focusing on the recruitment of Somali-American youth by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. But the hearing frequently went off-track, with Democrats using the occasion to attack the very premise of the hearing and King pushing back against criticism from the media in recent days, namely The New York Times.

"I note that certain elements of the politically correct media," said King in his opening remarks, "most egregiously the vacuous ideologues at the New York Times—are shamelessly attempting to exploit the horrific tragedy in Norway to cause me to refocus these hearings away from Muslim-American radicalization."

"Let me make this clear to the New York Times and their acolytes in the politically correct, moral equivalency media," he continued. "I will not back down from holding these hearings."

The hearing featured just one Somali witness, Canadian Ahmed Hussen. He said that low employment within the Somali diaspora allowed some to become alienated “and fall victim to a narrative that turns them against Canada and the United States.”

"This dangerous and constant anti-western narrative is fed to them by radicals in our community," said Hussen, "who do not hesitate to use these vulnerable youth as gun fodder in their desire to establish a base for the Al Qaeda terrorist group in Somalia."

Additional testimony came from Saint Paul, MN police chief Tom Smith, whose outreach to the Somali community garnered attention from the British and Danish governments.

But subsequent questioning from Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee rarely probed the substance of the testimony and instead challenged Rep. King for continuing the hearings. Rep. Yvette Clark of Brooklyn said the hearings should've expanded from Muslim radicalization to all forms of radicalization, including gang activity in inner cities.

"When we become fixated on one type of people, we take our eyes off the prize," Clark said to King, adding, "I love you."

At another point, Rep. Al Green of Texas spent several minutes asking the witnesses to confirm, in so many ways, that they did not believe all Muslims are extremists. That provoked a rebuke from Rep. King.

For some observers, the interactions  proved distracting.

Solomon Kleinsmith, who participated in WNYC's live blog of the hearing, said he lived "a few miles" from King's district and didn't agree with him politically.

"But when four experts come to congress to answer questions, they should be taken seriously and the time should be used for substantive inquiry."