STERLING, Va. — Days before congressional hearings into Islamic radicalization begin, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser said the administration also is taking the threat seriously but is working in "partnership" with Muslim-American community groups.
"Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, you're part of the solution," Denis McDonough's told members of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS). He said the administration would make an announcement about its approach toward combating radicalization in "the coming weeks."
His appearance came days before Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., is to begin hearings on Islamic radicalization. King's plans have drawn controversy from critics who say King is singling out one religious group and could stigmatize ordinary Muslim Americans.
King on Sunday defended his hearings, telling CNN that al Qaida is "attempting to recruit within the United States. People in this country are being self-radicalized . . . it's an international movement with elements here in the United States" and that the matter deserved investigation. ADAMS Center Imam Mohamed Magid and board member Rizwan Jaka said they oppose terrorism and radicalization but are concerned King will marginalize the Muslim-American community.
McDonough did not mention King or his hearings directly in his remarks. He declined interview requests after his remarks.
Pressed by reporters for the administration's stance on King's plans, McDonough said, "We welcome congressional involvement in the issue. It's a very important issue."
But Sunday's event was geared toward projecting an inclusive message. The program began with a flag and pledge of allegiance ceremony by local Boy Scouts and remarks from Christian and Jewish leaders as well as Imam Mohamed Magid.
"Preventing radicalization that leads to violence here in America is part of our larger strategy to decisively defeat al Qaeda," McDonough said.
He said: "Al Qaida and its adherents are constantly trying to exploit any vulnerability in our open society. Of course, the most effective voices against al Qaida's warped worldview and interpretation of Islam are other Muslims."
McDonough said radicalization efforts prey on people who feel disillusioned or marginalized and that it is important not to inadvertently fuel radicalization by stigmatizing Muslim Americans. "We can send the message that we're all Americans," he said.
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