CAIR is fuming over remarks made by Congressman Peter King (R-NY), but refreshingly, he is not backing down. From Newsday, with thanks to Nicolei:
Rep. Peter King said Wednesday he continues to believe that 85 percent of the mosques in the United States have "extremist leadership," and that while most Muslims are "loyal Americans," they are reluctant to come forward to cooperate with law enforcement when they hear anti-American rhetoric or plots.
King's comments, first made on the Sean Hannity radio show Tuesday, prompted outrage from the American Muslim community. Ghazi Khankan, director of the Westbury-based Islamic Center of Long Island, called King "out of touch with the Muslim community" and said he was particularly offended because King has visited the center many times.
King (R-Seaford) said Wednesday he based his belief on extensive conversations he has had with law enforcement officials, both in New York and Washington, D.C.. He said the issue crystallized for him in the weeks following Sept. 11, 2001. At a community "solidarity" meeting at Temple Beth-El in Great Neck, Dr. Faroque Kahn of the Islamic Center criticized America's foreign policy toward Arab and Palestinian communities, prompting some Jewish attendees to walk out.
King said he used the information he got on Muslim leaders from law enforcement officials for a plot line in his new novel "Vale of Tears." In the book, a Muslim extremist group cooperates with remnants of the Irish Republican Army to plan a terrorist attack on the United States.
King also could have referred to the 1999 testimony before a State Department Open Forum of Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a Sufi Muslim. As I detail in Onward Muslim Soldiers, Kabbani investigated American mosques (visiting them personally) and concluded that 80% were controlled by extremists. He has been similarly vilified by American Muslim advocacy groups since then, but he has them somewhat wrongfooted: they have to depart from their usual playbook, since it's hard to call him an anti-Muslim hatemonger.
"Most of the Muslim community is cooperating with police and local authorities," King said Wednesday . "But 85 percent of the mosques have extremist leadership in this country. Most Muslims, the overwhelming majority of Muslims, are loyal Americans but they seem unwilling to come forward."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim umbrella group based in Washington, D.C., and the Islamic Center both accused King of making the comments to sell his book.
"If he wrote about Muslim extremists in Nassau County, it is very much in poor taste, because extremists do not have a religion," said Khankan, adding that his mosque has offered cooperation in the fight against terrorism to Nassau, Suffolk and New York City police officials and FBI agents. "Would King write another fiction and say that some Catholic extremists would do a terrorist act, or that some Jewish terrorist would do some violent acts on Long Island? He wouldn't dare, but he thinks that because we are small in number, he could try to sell books on our backs."
This retort proceeds, of course, from the assumption that the Islamic identity of the terrorists is incidental and accidental. But if you read the actual words of the terrorists themselves (as you can do in Onward Muslim Soldiers), you will find that that is far from the case.
Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Nihad Awad said that the council was among the first organizations to condemn the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Since then American Muslim leaders have frequently worked with law enforcement officials on the national, state and local levels, he said. Awad invited King to meet with local and national Islamic leaders to "learn more about Muslims in America and their contributions to society."
King said he would meet with them, but "on my terms. I'm not going to listen to propaganda. The purpose of the meeting will be to detail the cooperation they are giving to law enforcement and what they are doing to work against al-Qaida in this country."
He said criticizing American foreign policy is fine, but "not in the wake of the largest tragedy ever to strike this country."
"If the IRA had blown up lower Manhattan, I wouldn't be up defending the IRA the next week," said King, who has a long history working with the Irish peace process under former President Bill Clinton.