King, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, promised to further investigate radical Muslims in America, and he delivered Wednesday when he convened a hearing entitled “The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons.” In a brief interview off the House floor Wednesday, Ellison called it “an unfortunate use of the gavel.”
“He keeps using it to whip up hate and hysteria against a minority religious group,” Ellison said.
King’s hearing focused on the prevalence of radical Islam in the prison system, illustrating the urgency by telling stories of Muslims who committed terrorism after their time in prison. One of them was Farah Mohamed Beledi, a Minnesotan who allegedly tried to kill himself in a suicide attack in Somalia in 2009.
The committee heard testimony on the issue from law enforcement, counterterrorism officials and academics, who had varying opinions on the prevalence and degree of radicalization in the prison system. But their testimony took a backseat to the hearing itself, with Democrats on the committee questioning its need.
In an exchange with one Democrat, King defended the hearing as narrowly focused on an important national security issue.
“We are not going to spread ourselves out, investigate everything, which means investigate nothing,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We’re going to focus on a target which threatens the security of this nation.”
But Ellison said the hearing only succeeded in highlighting a divisive wedge issue.
Repeating a tone he’d used earlier Wednesday in criticizing Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, Ellison said the hearings single out Muslims when other religious, racial and social groups represent similar types of threats.
“White supremacists get radicalized in prison, come out and do bank robberies, and even threaten to overthrow the country,” Ellison said. “People come out of prison, get radicalized from all walks of life, and all Americans of all colors and cultures and faiths … what [King] wants to do is give people the false impression that it’s just one religion that’s the problem.”