Now that we have the names of the six witnesses who will appear at Peter King's hearings this week on radicalization within the American Muslim community, a few observations can be made.
First, the people on the list -- and more specifically the people not on it -- embody a chronicle of sorts of the collapse of King's grandiose plans. Araan Hirsi Ali and Walid Phares were both added to and then summarily dumped from the hearings after both individuals were tagged for bringing an anti-Islamic slant. On top of all that, King has not been able to find one official willing to testify publicly in support of his claim that Muslim communities and leaders do not sufficiently cooperate with law enforcement. Contrast this with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who has repeatedly defended the Muslim community on those grounds, and will be appearing at the hearing.
Second, King has not done a stellar job of sticking to his commitment to rely on Muslims themselves to flesh out his concerns. Only three of the six witnesses are Muslim -- including Rep. Keith Ellison, who is attending in order to critic the hearings from within. More tellingly, Hirsi Ali is a Muslim convert to atheism and Walid Phares is a Maronite Christian, and as Adam observed they may very well have only made it onto King's list in the first place because he was not aware they were not actually Muslim.
Third, the list shows a striking lack of expertise. This is no slight to Rep. Ellison or Sheriff Baca, who bring a wealth of on-the-job experience to the issue. Nor to the two family members of radical converts who will be testifying -- anecdotal and personal testimony has its place and value. But the relevance of the experiences of at least one of the family members is already turning out to be highly questionable, which simply highlights how much a highly public inquiry into territory this fraught and emotional cries out for rigorous and data-driven contributions. Witnesses who could provide that are nowhere to be found on the list. To give three easy-to-reach examples: Neither David Schanzer nor Charles Kurzman nor Ebrahim Moosa -- authors of the Duke University and University of North Carolina studies which found that 48 of 120 domestic terror plots had been foiled with assistance from Muslims, and that mosques are a deterrent to radicalism -- will be at the hearing. (It's possible this was for political reasons: Being unable to call the "experts" preferred by the hardcore Islamophobic right, King could not call experts who have defended Muslims without undermining his credibility with other conservatives.)
As for Zuhdi Jasser, Heather Hurlbert reacted to his inclusion with the simple and sardonic observation that, "These aren't people who we normally expect the policy process to produce."
These failures of both rigor and moral imagination are recognizably human, but no less egregious as such, and suggest the hearings are much more about assuaging King's own grievances than conducting an objective inquiry. Hopefully, the pushback has minimized their potential damage, and King has rethought his position. But even if he has, the fact remains that he wields great power -- politically, socially and morally -- as chairman of a House committee. And, if he continues to press his anti-Muslim agenda, the costs will not be born by him but by the millions of everyday Muslims in America.