House Republicans Hint (Again) at More Scrutiny of Islam

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 26 2013 2:16 PM

House Republicans Hint (Again) at More Scrutiny of Islam

It was scheduled quickly, and without the cooperation of the State Department. Republicans on the (deep breath) Joint Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasaia and Emerging Threats started their hearing on "Islamic Extremism in Chechnya" by pointing out that State didn't send anyone, even as the Russians had been so helpful.

"Obviously, some Chechens have had their worldviews radicalized," said the Joint Committee's chairman, Dana Rohrabacher, "as was the case with the two Boston terrorists, who have turned from two young people being raised here to a jihadist mentality of global conflict against infidels -- meaning us."

Of all the Republicans who might work with Russians to investigate extremism, Rohrabacher is just perfect. Before he got to Congress, he traveled to the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, hoping that the country's king would return after resisters ousted the Soviets. That didn't happen. When the Taliban took power, Rohrabacher started investigating them. His interest in central Asia and jihad long, long pre-dates the Obama administration, so he was in a good position to ask if the administration was being naive.

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Every other Republican on the panel was ready to agree. "We don't know about the suspects' connections to al Qaeda," said Texas Rep. Ted Poe, "but we do know that they were connected to Al Qaeda's magazine, Inspire." Rohrabacher and the rest prodded the witnesses to ask why the approach of central Asian states to Islamists couldn't be repeated here.

"They didn't permit, in Uzbekistan, the Saudis to come in and build their mosques," said Rohrabacher. "They were criticized here, as that's a violation of heir human rights. But we know that the Saudi purpose of doing this is to develop a brand of Islam that will target and kill children!

After the hearing, Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman put a little distance between the GOP's theories and what was known. "These were people who at least went online and read radical material, and that definitely couldn't have happened 20 years ago," he said. "But if they took the intro course, they didn't take the advanced studies -- they didn't know what to do next." And about the Russians: "The Russian security state was not able or didn't have the resources to track this guy in his six months in Chechnya or Dagestan, and yet they asked us to keep an eye on him!"

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.