Tuesday, 13 September 2011

US congressman in charge of hearings on Muslim radicalisation to testify in UK parliament

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Republican congressman Peter King will testify before a parliamentary
inquiry into violent radicalisation
Scanning the news this morning, I was interested to see that US congressman Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is in London today to testify before the House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs, as part of its inquiry into the "Roots of Violent Radicalisation".

King, who will become the first member of Congress to testify before Parliament, has headed a similar inquiry in the US into the radicalisation of American Muslims, and the Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz has welcomed his appearance, describing it as "a unique opportunity to create an unbreakable bond between Westminster and Washington".

However, it's worth noting that King's inquiry in the US has proven highly controversial, with some likening it to Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigations into "un-American activities" in the 1950s. While King has stressed that "the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding citizens", an open letter [PDF] from US Muslim groups to Congressional leaders earlier this year, which was also signed by human rights groups including Amnesty International, argued that it was a violation of religious freedom to single out one religious group for investigation in such a way, particularly against a backdrop of hostility towards US Muslims exacerbated by the extreme reactions to the construction of the Park51 Islamic centre in New York, which has been dubbed the "Ground Zero Mosque" by opponents. King himself is a controversial chairman, having made outspoken comments about Muslim extremism in recent years, and he has been subject to accusations of hypocrisy on account of his past support for the IRA.

It will be interesting to see what he has to say before Parliament today – while an inquiry into radicalisation could prove worthwhile, the discourse around Islamic extremism in the US, exemplified by the "Ground Zero Mosque" debate, is not necessarily something we would benefit from replicating in the UK.
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