By Reid J. Epstein
Rep. Peter King defended his planned "Muslim radicalization" hearings Sunday, repeating on CNN his assertion that he is seeking to investigate a perceived rise in homegrown terrorism.
"When we were going after the Mafia, we looked at the Italian community; the Westies, the Irish community," he said. "In New York, [when] they go after the Russian mob, they go into the Russian community in Brighton Beach and Coney Island."
King (R-Seaford), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, appeared with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the lone Muslim in Congress. Ellison, who plans to appear and testify at King's hearings, said he agrees with the concept of holding hearings to investigate domestic terrorism, but said the scope should be broadened beyond Muslims.
King's hearings are scheduled to begin Thursday.
The Obama administration Sunday responded to King - without mentioning the congressman by name - by sending Denis McDonough, the president's deputy national security adviser, to speak at a Muslim community center in Sterling, Va.
"The bottom line is this," McDonough said. "When it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim-Americans are not part of the problem, you're part of the solution."
Sunday also saw competing Times Square rallies that focused on King. About 300 people gathered to speak out against his planned hearings, according to The Associated Press.
People at the rally carried signs reading "Today I am a Muslim, too."
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the initial key supporter of the mosque near the Ground Zero site, said the nation's real enemy is not Muslims, but extremism.
A second group held a counterprotest in support of King's hearings.
King said it is "affiliates of al-Qaida" who have caused harm and threaten to cause more harm in the United States on a scale that far exceeds any other threats.
"There's been self-radicalization going on within the Muslim community, within a very small minority, but it's there and that's where the threat is coming from at this time," King said. "To be having investigations into every type of violence would be suggesting an equivalency that's not there."
When CNN anchor Candy Crowley asked King if the hearings would further spoil the nation's image in the Muslim world, King said the results will speak for themselves.
"Let people watch the hearing and decide," he said. "I think the hearing is going to be very productive; it's going to go forward and it's going to talk about something which is not being talked about publicly, which I think should be."