CNN's Velshi: Rep. Peter King Has 'Strange Obsession with Islam'

On Thursday's Newsroom, CNN's Ali Velshi claimed that Rep. Peter King has a "seemingly strange obsession with Islam and Islamists, or whatever you want to call it," given the lead up and the first day of hearings looking into the radicalization of American Muslims. Velshi also bizarrely stated that "I don't quite understand how when you put an -ist at the end of it [Islamism], it changes the subject."

The anchor discussed the hearings with former FBI agent Foria Younis, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, and former Catholic turned Episcopal priest Rev. Alberto Cutie during the last segment of the 2 pm Eastern hour. Midway through the panel discussion, Velshi turned to Cutie and made his claim about the New York congressman, along with his doubt about the validity of "Islamist" as a term:


VELSHI: Let's put aside Peter King's seemingly strange obsession with Islam and Islamists, or whatever you want to call it. I don't quite understand how when you put an -ist at the end of it, it changes the subject. But let's just say, putting that aside, should Muslims be looking more carefully at themselves? Is there something that law-abiding American Muslims should be doing simply- to be doing to satisfy this call to action that Peter King has put out?

Perhaps he doesn't understand that Islamist is a synonym for a radical Muslim, and that the term, in its current usage, has been around for decades, and has its origin in French academia.

As you might expect, Cutie spouted the liberal talking point about not singling out one community and the need to examine extremism outside the Muslim population:

CUTIE: Well, listen, in my conversations with the ecumenical community, with rabbis, with imams, with pastors, and then priests, everybody agrees that the big problem for some people is that Muslims have not come out in thousands and thousands of numbers marching down the street, maybe in New York City or other places, and saying, we are against terrorism. This is what some people need and want. I'm not sure that that's going to do anything. I think that the sheriff said it right. My concern is the radicalization of people in all faith groups. I think we have to be very careful when we single out one group. Certainly, when are you in charge of Homeland Security, you are worried about terrorism. We're all worried about terrorism. But how are we going to end this stigma of Muslim equals terrorist?

Earlier, the CNN anchor asked Younis, "Are Muslims in America and mosques and imams, are they reluctant and not cooperative with the U.S. government, when it comes to ferreting out radicals and terrorists?" The ex-law enforcement officer contended that "over the last ten years, many, many more Muslims are communicating with law enforcement, and I think that's really in part due to a lot of the law enforcement activity in trying to bring all members of the community into their fold, so that they can all work together to deal with any issues in the community."

Bergen reenforced Younis's point and disputed one of Rep. King's points about the Muslim community:

BERGEN: One of the principal claims that he's made in the run-up to this hearing is that the American Muslim community isn't cooperating with law enforcement, and, in fact, that is simply a false assertion. The New America Foundation, where I work, and also, Syracuse University, has just released a study, which is on CNN's website, and we looked at 175 jihadi terrorism cases since 9/11. We found, using a conservative methodology, that one in five of those cases had originated because of a tip of the Muslim community, all because of the cooperation of a family member turning in someone they thought was becoming increasingly militant or radical. So, just one of the principal, kind of underlying ideas of this hearing is just factually incorrect.

Whether the American Muslim community is actually cooperative is actually debatable, as the New York Daily News (which is no conservative publication) reported on Tuesday that "cops and federal agents agree with Rep. Pete King that they don't get a lot of tipsters from the Muslim community - but they say that's true of many other communities."

Velshi followed up with Younis on this subject later in the segment: "If you are trying to gain the cooperation or greater cooperation of an identifiable group, like Muslims in America, is this a good step in the right direction, or are there more effective ways for law enforcement to do this?"

The former FBI agent sided with those on the left who claim that the hearings may actually end up causing further radicalization in the Islamic community:

YOUNIS: ...The fact of the matter is, Ali, there may be some radicalization issues out there. They may be very minor. They may be larger than we think. But these type of hearings, all they produce is alienation even further. I think there's proper ways to do this. There's proper ways to collect this information. Peter Bergen just quoted some of his research and his statistics. Those are the ways to do it. By producing a hearing like this, you are actually doing probably more harm than good, and that is pushing people from communities further away, because they feel they are being judged as a whole...if there is any radicalization in the community, which I believe there may be minor pockets, what we need to do as a larger community is work with these parents, work with these community leaders and try to identify these issues with the assistance of the community, not pushing them up against the wall where you almost are going to have a counter-effect.

In his last question to Bergen, the CNN anchor asked, "Aside from the fact we're discovering that American Islam seems to need a better PR effort, is there some degree of apologism going on for Islam in America in this debate? Do Muslims need to come out and say, maybe there is a greater instance of radicalization or extremism in the community, or is it not the responsibility of American Muslims to do that?"

The analyst took a more balanced approach than he did earlier in his answer:

BERGEN: There is a problem. I mean, to pretend that there isn't would be equally wrong to say as, you know, to say that the sky is falling. You know, certainly, there's been an uptick in cases in 2009 and 2010, and the Muslim American community is well aware of that. At the end of the day, if there is an attack, they're going to suffer the most. So, they have the highest possible motivation to make sure that, if there are militants in their midst, to basically raise their hands, and they're doing that.

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.