Friday, February 26, 2010

US Rep. Myrick meets NC Muslims, warns of dangers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After months of warning that Islamic radicals are infiltrating mainstream groups, U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick was to meet Thursday with Muslim constituents to explain her position.

Myrick, R-N.C., has said Islamic extremists are working their way into U.S. Muslim communities, infiltrating government institutions and influencing American citizens to attack their own country, The Charlotte Observer reported.

"I want people to be aware of the fact that it does exist and it is a threat to our national security," said Myrick, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. "It could be an American citizen that could be radicalized by one way or another." Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, said he hopes Thursday night's town hall meeting is the first of many between Myrick and the Muslim community.

Myrick said she wants constituents to understand that her concerns aren't about the rising visibility of the Islamic faith.

"We live in the United States of America, where we have freedom of religion for everybody," Myrick said.

Instead, the former Charlotte mayor said her view was strengthened by top-secret briefings from U.S. intelligence officials that she said she could not discuss.

"There's a threat out there to our security," Myrick said. "It's worse than I thought."

She has proposed fighting Islamic radicalization by cutting off exchange programs and weapons sales with Saudi Arabia, passing legislation that would make it a treasonous offense to call for the death of American citizens and investigating the selection of Arabic translators.

Some conservatives have applauded her views, but some Muslims said they fear Myrick's tone endangers their community.

"It's looking like she's taking on a tinge of McCarthyism, and this is dangerous," said state Sen. Larry Shaw, D-Cumberland. "She's becoming a hatemonger. And that's sad. This is an intelligent woman, and I think she's a good woman."

Shaw is national chairman for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group Myrick has accused of planting spies on Capitol Hill by trying to get Muslim interns hired in congressional offices.

Last fall she wrote the foreword to a new book, "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Seeking to Islamize America," which accuses CAIR of conspiring to support international jihad against the United States.

Myrick has said her fears about infiltration were realized in November, when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan, a psychiatrist, had trained colleagues on how to handle Muslims in the military. The FBI had been monitoring contact between Hasan and a radical Yemeni-American cleric.

Some experts disagree with Myrick's view that radicalized Islamic Americans present a growing terrorism threat. A study released last month by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found 139 Muslim-Americans involved in alleged or confirmed terrorism incidents since Sept. 11, 2001, out of a national Muslim-American population of more than 3 million.

"We have a problem," said David Schanzer, lead author of the study and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. "It's important to keep it in perspective in its size and dangerousness, which I think are generally overblown."

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