By: Jennifer Epstein
Rep. Peter King is defending his controversial hearings on the growing "radicalization" of American Muslims as the House Homeland Security Committee prepares to hold its second forum on the issue this week - focusing on what's happening inside the prison system.
"I thought the first hearing was very successful in alerting America to the threat we face from domestic radicalization of Muslim Americans," said King, the chairman of the committee, in a Monday morning interview on Fox News.
While congressional Democrats have opposed his hearings, the Long Island Republican reiterated what he said months ago, that the White House supports them.
"It's really ironic that myself as a Republican, I'm really doing what the Obama administration wants done. They called me before the hearings and told me to go ahead with them," King said.
Though "it's made out by some of the media that I'm on this crazy singular effort on this," King said, but "the fact is the White House has said that the radicalization of the American Muslim community is a serious issue. Every law enforcement person you speak to."
King's first hearing, held in March, was an introduction to the overall problem and now he's moving on to hearings targeting more specific issues. His hearing on Wednesday will focus on the threat posed by people who convert to Islam and are radicalized in U.S. prisons.
"Prisoners in jail often are looking for a new alternative. Being converted to Islam, there's actually nothing wrong with that. In fact in many cases it's ideal for prisoners,
it's the religion they are looking for," King said. "The problem is you get radical Muslims, radical chaplains who then radicalize them and turn them toward terrorism, turn them toward violence. It's not only in the prison itself. It's when they get out of prison and go to the so-called rehab programs, often they are also radical."
Heading into Wednesday's hearing, King said he hopes for less Democratic resistance than he got a few months ago when "every Democrat that spoke on the panel was following the party line, they attacked the witnesses."
"I've never gotten more of a positive reaction from the American people on this, who realize it just makes common sense to realize that 99 percent of Muslims are outstanding Americans," he said. "That one percent or one-half of one percent that could be radicalized is enough to cause tremendous death and destruction."