Never in my entire career in Washington have I encountered the hype and scare tactics of those opposing the hearings into Islamic radicalization by Rep. Pete King. A classic example was a headline on MSNBC.com: "Inquiry by congressional committee looks like inquisition to many Muslims."
The line of attack is now familiar: If King (R-L.I.) were truly interested in violent extremism, his hearings would focus on a wide range of groups that wreak havoc on America, including neo-Nazis and others; by focusing solely on Muslim extremism, the argument goes, he is betraying his bias.
This is utterly ridiculous. Our organization, the Investigative Project on Terrorism, recently did an analysis of all terrorism convictions based on statistics released by the Justice Department. These stats show that more than 80% of all convictions tied to international terrorist groups and homegrown terrorism since 9/11 involve defendants driven by a radical Islamist agenda. Though Muslims represent less than 1% of the American population, they constitute defendants in 186 of the 228 cases the Justice Department lists.
The figures confirm that there is a disproportionate problem of Islamic militancy and terrorism among the American Muslim population.
This is not to say that, on a percentage basis, American Muslims tend to be violent or extremist. To the contrary. Those involved in terrorism are a tiny sliver of the overall Muslim American population.
But one ought to be able to focus on a very real problem - homegrown terrorism fueled by Muslim extremism - without being accused of painting the entire U.S. Muslim population with a broad brush.
The real underlying story here is how the self-anointed leadership of the Muslim community - groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim American Society - are the ones responsible for instilling panic into the Muslim community by suggesting that these hearings will lead to "hate crimes" against Muslims.
That canard has been used by these groups for years in their attempts to intimidate the media, commentators and critics of radical Islam from truly analyzing the role of these groups and others in radicalizing their constituents in the American Muslim community. The documents showing the creation of these groups with the assistance of the Muslim Brotherhood were introduced into evidence in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development several years ago. At the trial, the Council on American-Islamic Relations was described by an FBI expert as a front for Hamas, and was also listed, together with the Islamic Society of North America, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation indictments.
Groups such as these routinely play the "Islamophobia" card, and get attention for doing so in the mainstream media, in order to silence criticism of Islamic radicalism. In fact, these very same groups, just like the Obama administration, categorically refuse to even use the term "radical Islam" in order to excise the term from the American vernacular.
Critics have taken issue with King's focus on one religious minority. But, in fact, in previous years, Congress has held numerous hearings into various ethnic subcultures that have spawned illegalities - including the Italian mob, Hispanic drug cartels, black and white prison gangs, white racists and neo-Nazis.
Headlines about King producing "panic" in the rank-and-file Muslim community are nonsense. The only panic is that being strategically fomented by groups with an interest in spreading fear. They, together with their mainstream media friends, have falsely alleged that: one, there is a war against Islam by the United States, and two, the FBI is secretly instigating Islamic terrorism by use of informants.
These are dangerous fictions.
Steven Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.