Rep. Keith Ellison's request to testify at Wednesday's House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on Islamic radicalization was denied by Rep. Peter King, the committee chairman.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, sent a letter to King on Monday asking that he could testify at Wednesday's hearing, which will address Al-Shabaab, a Somali terror group.
King, a New York Republican, responded that Wednesday's hearing is an extension of the March hearing on Islamic radicalization where Ellison did testify. King wrote in a letter to Ellison that Al-Shabaab was a focus of the March hearing, and he asked that Ellison submit written testimony for the record instead of testifying.
Ellison spokeswoman Jennifer Gore said “a typical courtesy has been denied” to the Minnesota Democrat. “It's very unheard of to have witnesses coming in from a congressional district that is the subject matter of a hearing and the representative from that district is not allowed to testify or participate,” she said.
In his letter to King, Ellison noted that the Fifth District has the largest Somali community in the country, and said wanted to share the work he's done with the community and local and federal law enforcement.
Two Minnesotans will testify at Wednesday's hearing: William Anders Folk, a former federal prosecutor in the Twin Cities, and St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith.
Folk, who was called by King, was the lead prosecutor in more than a dozen Al-Shabaab terrorism cases that originated in Minnesota, where more than 20 Somali youths disappeared and later turned up in Somalia fighting with the terrorist group. Folk is expected to testify about Al-Shabaab recruiting in the U.S.
Smith was invited as the Democratic witness.
Ellison will submit a written statement for the hearing, Gore said, because he believes the full story will not be covered at the hearing.
UPDATE: Here's a short statement Ellison's office sent in a press release Wednesday morning:
“Violent radicalization and domestic terrorism are significant threats to our national security. As the Representative of a Congressional District that is home to the largest Somali community in the United States, I am keenly aware of the threat posed by terrorist organizations such as al Shabaab. As a result, in 2007 I strongly supported The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.
“However, by stereotyping the broader Somali community, we risk losing the trust of our strongest allies in the fight against violent extremism. Somali-American parents want the same protection for their children that all parents want. Policymakers and law enforcement officials must work in partnership with Somali-Americans to combat terrorist organizations like al Shabaab. My hometown of Minneapolis is a model of successful partnerships between law enforcement and the Somali community and we should learn from them. This hearing threatens to undo vital work done by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and local officials to build trust with the community.”
Read the letters Ellison and King sent below: