Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca spoke of his department's congenial relationship with the Muslim American community at a Washington congressional hearing Thursday morning.
The hearing, “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response,” was led by chairman Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).
As the only law enforcement official to testify, Baca said in his opening remarks, "I would caution that to comment only on the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim Community may be viewed as singling out a particular section of our nation. This makes a false assumption that any particular religion or group is more prone to radicalization than others."
Baca's appearance included an exchange with a congressman who said a Muslim group the sheriff supports was "using" him. Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) was referring to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
From the LA Times:
"You are aware" that CAIR is affiliated with Hamas, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) said.
"No I'm not aware," Baca interrupted.
"Let me bring this to your attention ... I'm trying to get you to understand that they might be using you," Cravaack said.
Baca, noticeably irritated, told the congressman that he is aware of no criminal allegations have been made against CAIR. If there were any such allegations, he said, "bring them to court."
"We don't play around with criminals in my world," Baca said before the packed hearing.
This isn't the first time Baca has been asked to appear before the committee. In 2010, in response to growing sentiment among some Washington leaders that followers of Islam in the United States are becoming increasingly radical, Baca defended his choice to attend fundraisers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Baca meets with The Muslim American Homeland Security Congress several times a year -- a group his department set up in 2005 to combat "this constant uninformed chatter about religion being a factor in terrorism," he told the Los Angeles Times last year. He also established the Muslim Community Affairs unit in 2007.
While Baca said it is inappropriate to single out a particular group, others cite domestic attacks as reason to explore the issue further without fear of political correctness.
In a letter dated Feb. 8 to Mississippi congressman Bennie Thompson, King wrote, "This threat is real, and we can hardly afford to ignore the motivating ideology behind nearly every recent homegrown attack, such as the Zazi plot, the Times Square Attack, Fort Hood, the Portland Christmas bombing attempt, and numerous others. In short, the homeland has become a major front in the war with Islamic terrorism and it is our responsibility to fully examine this significant change in A1 Qaeda tactics and strategy."