STERLING, Va. — As a Republican congressman prepares to open hearings on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser visited a mosque here Sunday to reassure Muslims that “we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few.”
The White House billed the speech by the adviser, Denis McDonough, as a chance for the administration to lay out its strategy for preventing violent extremism. But the timing was no accident; McDonough was in effect an emissary from the White House to pre-empt Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, who has promised a series of hearings beginning Thursday on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims.
“In the United States of America, we don’t practice guilt by association,” McDonough told an interfaith, but mostly Muslim, audience of about 200 at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, known locally as the Adams Center. “And let’s remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any one faith, the responsibility to oppose ignorance and violence rests with us all.”
McDonough made no explicit mention of the hearings or King. But his speech came on a day when the back-and-forth over King’s plans grew louder, from the airwaves of the Sunday morning talk shows to the streets of Manhattan to this Northern Virginia suburb, a region packed with Muslim professionals, many of whom are extremely wary of King and his plans.
In Washington, King, faced off on CNN with Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and the only Muslim in Congress. Ellison said he would testify at King’s hearing Thursday despite his deep conviction that it is wrong for Congress to investigate a particular religious minority.