MPAC Executive Director Testifies Before US House Committee on Homeland Security

June 14, 2007

MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati testified today before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment about "Assessing and Addressing the Threat: Defining the Role of a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism". Al-Marayati testified alongside counterterrorism experts Frank Cilluffo, Director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, and Brian Jenkins of the RAND Corporation.

SEE: Video from Hearing (approximately two hours)

Presiding over the hearing was Chairwoman of the Subcommittee, Jane Harman (D-CA) and present were Congressman Dicks (D-Washington), Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA), Congressman Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA). 

Congresswoman Harman began the hearing by emphasizing the importance of creating a National Commission on the Prevention of Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and stated "while it is important for the committee to address the issue of radicalization, we are not talking about one particular ethnic, political or religious group". 

While all the members of Congress addressed the importance of this commission, Congressman Reichert stated that "radicalization is a complex phenomenon but we must understand it in order to mitigate problems before they occur."

Al-Marayati, who was the only Muslim American expert on the panel, addressed the issue from the community perspective.

"Islam is the antidote to violent radicalization and the empowerment of the mainstream Muslim American community is the most effective but underutilized resource in creating effective counterterrorism strategies," Al-Marayati said. "The role of community-based organizations like MPAC is critical to bridging the governmental and non-governmental agencies in any policy initiative.

"To do so, there must be an environment of mutual trust and respect. Muslim Americans want to be treated as partners in making America safe and secure, not suspects," Al-Marayati added. "Treating them as suspects by advocating for policies that single out and hence isolate the entire community undermines and impedes efforts for homeland security."

SEE: Full Text of Salam Al-Marayati's Testimony (pdf file)

Al-Marayati also referred members of Congress to MPAC's Counterterrorism Policy Paper, a 2002 report which reviewed the Federal Government's policy and practices dealing with counterterrorism, identified significant policy failures, and pinpointed constructive actions that need to be taken to strengthen our government's capacity to ensure our private freedoms and public safety.

"The commission must address a broad range of questions such as whether radicalization and recruitment can be framed as an immigration and assimilation problem as well as understanding what we currently know about radicalization and recruitment in the United States," said Brian Jenkins, senior adviser to the RAND Corporation.

"Radicalization is not a well understood phenomenon, hence greater study of the life cycle of a terrorist - specifically, the process by which an individual becomes motivated to listen to radical ideas, read about them, self-enlist or respond to terrorist recruiting efforts, and ultimately, undertake terrorist activity - is needed in part to identify trigger points and possible points of intervention," said Frank Cilluffo, Director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Over an hour of questions addressed to the witnesses from the members of the Subcommittee included issues of language, community policing and the difference between free speech and the incitement of radicalization. In closing, Congresswoman Harman stated that "this was one of the best panels we have ever had."  Several other members also agreed that the hearing was one of the most substantive discussions within the Subcommittee on this issue.



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