NPR logo California Imam Responds To King's Hearings On Muslim Radicals


California Imam Responds To King's Hearings On Muslim Radicals

A California imam has offered his own response to Thursday's House Committee on Homeland Security's hearing titled "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response."

The hearings, led by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), brought forth several personal stories Thursday, including one from Melvin Bledsoe, a father who said his son had been programmed to hate Americans after he converted to Islam.

And Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) gave an emotional account of the death of a Muslim first responder who died trying to save victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City.

At the end of the hearings, King pledged that he would not back down to political correctness, saying that there was "nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings," as we reported earlier.

Asked what he thought of the hearings, Imam Mahmoud Harmoush said that the event's title presupposes radicalization is taking place among American Muslims — something he does not concede.

Harmoush told the Multiamerican blog at Southern California Public Radio that the hearing's title puts him in the position of having to defending all Muslims, and proving they are not radicals.

"It is very disappointing to have a legislator instigating doubt and hatred instead of harmony and respect among our citizens of different religious convictions," he said.

Asked what his response would be to any radicals within his congregation, Harmoush reiterated that there were none — but that if there were, he would try to educate them, to "provide a true and correct guidance."

Harmoush, who spoke about the Homeland Security hearings with Leslie Berestein Rojas of KPCC, also discussed the resistance his congregation faced when it sought to build a larger Islamic Center near a Baptist Church in Temecula Valley.

The mosque was approved in January. And things have gotten better since that dispute was settled, Harmoush said.

People in the area have "come to know that we are just as good citizen(s) like any others regardless of our faith," he said. "So far, our experience has been getting better and improving since 9/11."

As for Thursday's hearing's, King has said that the event was the first in a series of sessions on the "radicalization of Muslims in America."