On Feb. 7, 2011, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) hosted a forum on Capitol Hill about the Muslim American community's role in countering domestic violent extremism. A similarily themed event about the partnership between Muslim Americans and law enforcement was sponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) on Feb. 2.
MPAC’s "Muslim Americans, Law Enforcement and National Security” forum featured national security experts and law enforcement officials discussing the partnership between Muslim communities and law enforcement and ways policymakers can facilitate continued cooperation. The forum took place one month before Peter King (R-NY) and the House Homeland Security Committee is expected to hold hearings about the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism.
"This briefing was extremely timely, given the national conversation taking place about Muslim Americans and their partnership with law enforcement," said MPAC’s Washington Director Haris Tarin. "Trust between law enforcement and Muslim communities is crucial in order to deal with the challenge of violent extremism.”
While the event was intended to be a direct response to King's upcoming hearings, speakers questioned King’s statements about alleging Muslim Americans lack of cooperation with law enforcement and other underlying issues that motivated him to schedule the hearings. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca shared his experiences of working with mosque officials and challenged the notion that Muslim Americans are not cooperative with law enforcement. “I don't know what King is hearing or who he is hearing from,” Baca said. If King "has evidence of noncooperation, he should bring it forward,” he added.
MPAC’s Government and Policy Analyst, Alejandro Beutal, who has written a report about Muslim American contributions to counterterrorism policy, said he understands that the “threat clearly exists, but I also want to put it in perspective. The threat exists, but it is not a pandemic.” Beutel highlighted a February 2011 report by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (a consortium between Duke University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and RTI International) that found the number of Muslim Americans named as suspects or convicted of committing terrorist acts domestically or abroad fell from 47 in 2009 to 20 in 2010.
Other speakers at the forum included National security expert Peter Bergen , Roger Cressey, former Director for Transnational Threats at the National Security Council (NSC) and professor at Georgetown University, and Michael Downing, Deputy Chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau of Los Angeles Police Department.
A similar theme was emphasized at a Capitol Hill briefing hosted by the ADC on Feb. 2. The event featured security and legal experts who said King’s hearings are based on inaccurate and exaggerated information and are counterproductive to continued cooperation between the Muslim American community and law enforcement. ADC’s legal director Abed E. Ayoub said, “It is important that Rep. King understand that the community has been cooperating with law enforcement for a number of years. His proposed hearings are aimed at painting the Arab and Muslim American communities as "suspect communities," which is not only bigoted, but it also undermines years of efforts between the community and law enforcement agencies on a local, state and federal level.”
Another speaker, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, said relationships between local authorities and Muslim American communities “help law enforcement more effectively combat radical extremism on both sides of the equation” in her home district of Eastern Michigan.
Other speakers at the briefing included Mike German, policy counsel of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office and Sahar Aziz, legal fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law Center.