Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) suggested this week that Muslim Americans should keep a keen eye on their own community during the July 4 weekend amid heightened security concerns.
Speaking Wednesday morning on Long Island MacArthur Airport-based LI News Radio, King, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, urged Muslim Americans in the region to be proactive and to contact local police if they notice something—or someone—suspicious.
“I am addressing it largely—or certainly to a large extent—to the Muslim community in this region because if there is a threat, if there is going to be something happening, it’s going to come from the Muslim community,” he said. The audio of his remarks was posted online by Buzzfeed.
“They, among all others, if they see something, if they see someone who is new to their neighborhood, who they don’t think belongs there or is unusual for him to be there or her to be there, if they hear of any talk of anything happening, if they see different groups gathering—tell that to the police,” King continued.
King’s remarks were in response to a question from the radio host who asked what the community could do to aid law enforcement.
Homeland Security officials in recent days have urged law enforcement to remain vigilant over the holiday weekend due to recent attacks on the other side of the world by such groups as ISIS. But according to many news outlets, unnamed officials were quoted as saying, “There is no specific, credible intelligence to indicate” a threat over the holiday.
At least one Muslim group was not thrilled with King’s advice.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national group based in Washington, D.C., issued an email newsletter likening King’s comments to “bigoted advice.”
Muslim advocacy groups have been critical of government officials and law enforcement authorities enlisting citizens to monitor their own communities. The White House itself has promoted such a concept as part of its Countering Violent Extremism strategy.
“That approach to American Muslim communities—or any belief community—reproduces the same harm as government surveillance and monitoring,” a coalition of Muslim advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a letter to the White House last December. “The result of generalized monitoring—whether conducted by the government or by community ‘partners’—is a climate of fear and self-censorship, where people must watch what they say and with whom they speak, lest they be reported for engaging in lawful behavior vaguely defined as suspicious.”
In an interview last week with the Press, King said he disagreed with a recent nationwide survey of law enforcement officials that found their chief concern was right-wing extremism, not Islamic terrorism. The Congressman insisted the threat of Islamic terrorism is “thousands” of times greater. The survey’s impending release was reported days after nine people were killed inside a historic black church in South Carolina. The alleged shooter purportedly espoused racist views toward blacks and was shown in photos wearing South African apartheid-era patches on his clothes and holding the Confederate flag.
During his radio appearance on Long Island, King referenced arrests this year of alleged ISIS supporters in New York and speculated as to whether they had been working together. The most recent arrest came this week when a New Jersey man was accused of providing material support to ISIS.
“I would just say that if you have five ISIS supporters arrested in New York in the lead up to the Fourth of July, that’s not a coincidence,” King said. “This wouldn’t be lone wolves; there has to be a level of coordination.”
King’s advice for “the rest of us, would be: If you see anything—anything that looks suspicious—and or if you get a request from police to comply…like if the police say, ‘Go this way rather than that way,’ don’t be giving the cops a hard time. There will be a reaon for that over the next several days.”