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Rep. Keith Ellison cautioned Sunday against singling out American Muslims for investigation by the House Homeland Security Committee. The panel's chairman, meanwhile, criticized cuts to security spending proposed by House Republicans as "dangerous."
Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) has scheduled a hearing Thursday about radicalization among the American Muslim community, and Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, is expected to testify.
"It's absolutely the right thing to do for the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee to investigate radicalization," Ellison said on CNN's "State of the Union." "But to say we're going to investigate a religious minority, and a particular one, I think is the wrong course of action to take."
King, who also appeared on the show, said he believes that "the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans," but that the "radicalization in this country, which is linked to an overseas enemy" — al Qaeda — must be examined.
"It's an international movement with elements here in the United States. And to me, that is a real distinction" from acts like the deadly shooting in January that gravely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-Ariz.), King said. "There's always going to be isolated incidents, isolated fanatics, isolated terrorists, even. But an organized terrorist effort, to me, is different, which requires an investigation unto itself."
Ellison was asked to explain his participation in a hearing that he believes will send a negative message to American Muslims.
"I believe in engaging the process," he responded. "I think you've got to be involved in the conversation; you've got to offer an alternative view. And I do plan on saying that I challenge the basic premise of the hearings. That I do agree that we should deal with radicalization and violent radicalization, but that singling out one community is the wrong thing to do."
Ellison worries that al Qaeda and other groups will use the hearing to make the argument that America is at war with Islam. "That's one of their main recruiting arguments," he said. "That's why I think that we need to be careful about how we use the instrumentality of the government in investigative hearings."
On the matter of security spending, King said he was in agreement with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's statement that if the fiscal 2012 budget is based on cuts being proposed by House Republican for fiscal 2011, the department will suffer.
"Let me shock Keith by saying that I think that a number of the cuts Republicans have made in the continuing resolution are wrong," King said. "They cut port security by two-thirds, they cut transit security by two-thirds. That's one example right there. We cannot afford those cuts, they are too dangerous. And one attack on subway train or one attack in one port will cost us more money going into the future years than any amount, any small amount they're saving."