Imam Feisal Rauf, who is nationally known for his association with the planned Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan, said the Muslim hearings chaired by Long Island Rep. Peter King will only fuel radicalism.
"The fear I have is the banner headline in the Muslim world ... that Muslims are under attack which radicalizes people even further," said Rauf, chairman of the Cordoba Initiative.
Rauf said he was disappointed to see headlines in Muslim countries painting the U.S. as "anti-Muslim" because of the hearings, which aim to discuss the Muslim community and its willingness to prevent radical Islamic terrorism.
"Our common enemy is extremism and the radicalism that fuels extremism,” added Rauf. “Whether it's a pastor in Florida who threatens to burn Korans ... whether it's people who attack an embassy and kill people ... all that has no place in civil society today."
But King, who called for the hearings now being streamed live on NBCNewYork.com, said he stands against what he calls “political correctness” and believes the focus of the hearings needs to be on al-Qaida.
The hearings should focus on “how serious the radicalization threat is, what it does to devastate families and how insidious it is,” said King.
But Rauf believes these hearings and how they are being perceived abroad only contribute to a vicious cycle of misunderstanding.
Rauf believes the only way to truly end radicalism is to change the discourse.
“The real battlefront is not between America and Islam. It is between the moderates of all religions of all ethnicity against extremists of all religions,” he said.
Rauf said Park 51, the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan, is supposed to help foster understanding and improve discourse. He said it may be years before they can raise enough money to start construction.