Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee's top Democrat, pointed to the Norway tragedy as one reason the hearings should not solely focus on Muslim extremists. "This lone wolf extremist killed nearly 80 people in his anti-Islamic fervor," said Thompson. "It is too early to say what the people of Norway will take from this horrific national tragedy. But for me, this incident makes plain that the madness of terrorism cannot be neatly confined to any one religion, one people or one nation," Thompson said.King rejected the criticism, saying the tragedy in Norway had nothing to do with the focus of the hearings. "I will not back down from holding these hearings," he said. "I will continue to hold these hearings so long as I am the chairman of this committee."
Committee Democrats, as they have previously, said King's hearings unfairly single out the religious group, and called on him to hold no more.
"Before these hearings began, I requested that their focus be broadened to include a look at the real and present threat of domestic violent extremism," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the committee's top Democrat.
Thompson also questioned the danger posed by al-Shabab, which landed on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations in February 2008. "Al-Shabab does not appear to present any danger to this homeland," Thompson said, citing vigorous law enforcement efforts to track the group.
Bennie Thompson, said that so far, al-Shabaab has not targeted the United States or U.S. interests abroad, and that most of those recruited in North America carried out terrorist attacks against other Muslims in Somalia.
Other committee Democrats used recent events to protest the hearings' focus on Muslims. Several mentioned the anti-Muslim gunman's bloody rampage in Norway Friday to argue that extremists come from a variety of backgrounds.
Another held up a front-page newspaper story about the victims of the famine in Somalia, and asked if it might not be more constructive to focus on that tragedy.
Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee thought domestic "hate groups" should be of concern to the country and should be included in the Committee's investigation.
Jackson Lee argued:
"I would add to that, that I would like to have a hearing on right-wing extremists, ideologues who advocate violence and advocate, in essence, the terrorizing of certain groups. . . . My concern with the focus of the hearings that we have had is the isolation of certain groups."
Mediatite pointed out that it might seem that Jackson Lee's request comes only in light of the recent Norway attacks, however it turns out this isn't the first time she brought up alleged non-Muslim threats at one of King's hearings.
During last month's hearings, turned the spotlight on "Christian militants" as she noted that one witness who wrote a letter to the committee about the dangers of radical Islam in prisons had been arrested for bombing an abortion clinic.
"Are you familiar with the Christian militants?" she asked former New York Dept. of Correctional Services official Patrick Dunleavy. "Can one might say that they might possibly want to undermine this country because right now the right for women to choose is a Constitutional right but people disagree with it but here is an individual trying to undermine the protections that are given to women? Would you suggest that might be compared to trying to undermine this country? That's a possibility, is it not?"
"Well, I think that anyone that goes about killing in the name of God is an ideologue," Dunleavy admitted.
Peter King: Al-Shabab recruits 40 Americans
In his opening remarks King said: "I note that certain elements of the politically correct media, most egregiously the vacuous ideologues at the New York Times--are shamelessly attempting to exploit the horrific tragedy in Norway to cause me to refocus these hearings away from Muslim-American radicalization." "Let me make this clear to the New York Times and their acolytes in the politically correct, moral equivalency media, I will not back down from holding these hearings," he added.