STERLING, Va. -- Muslim Americans are not part of the terrorism problem facing the United States -- they are part of the solution, a top White House official said Sunday at a Washington-area mosque.
Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser, set the Obama Administration's tone for discussions as tensions escalate before the first in a series of congressional hearings on Islamic radicalization.
The hearings, to be presided over by Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, will focus on the level of cooperation from the Muslim community to help law enforcement combat radicalization.
The majority of the recent terrorism plots and attempts against the United States have involved people espousing a radical and violent view of Islam.
Just a few weeks ago, a college student from Saudi Arabia who studied chemical engineering in Texas was arrested after he bought explosive chemicals online.
It was part of a plan to hide bomb materials inside dolls and baby carriages and blow up dams, nuclear plants, or the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush.
Ms. King said the Muslim community could and should do more to work with law enforcement to stop recruitment to commit violence.
"I don't believe there is sufficient cooperation" by American Muslims with law enforcement, Mr. King said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union. "Certainly my dealings with the police in New York and FBI and others say they do not believe they get the same -- they do not give the level of cooperation that they need."
In New York City Sunday, about 300 protesters gathered in Times Square to speak out against Mr. King's hearing, criticizing it as xenophobic and saying that singling out Muslims, rather than extremists, is unfair.
Mr. McDonough said that instead of condemning whole communities, the United States needs to protect them from intimidation.
He spoke to an interfaith forum at a Northern Virginia mosque known for its longtime relationship and cooperation with the FBI. The executive director of the center, Imam Mohamed Magid, also spoke, as did representatives of a local synagogue and a Presbyterian church.
After Mr. McDonough's remarks, Mr. King told the Associated Press he agreed with what the deputy national security adviser said.
"I think it's a validation of everything I've been trying to do," Mr. King said.
"There is a real threat, it's a serious threat."
Earlier, on the CNN program, Mr. King said Thursday's hearing will focus on the extent of the problem and the Muslim community's response.
"The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans, but at this stage in our history there's an effort ... to radicalize elements within the Muslim community." Mr. King said. "It's there and that's where the threat is coming from at this time."
The administration has tried to strike a balance on the thorny issue, working to go after homegrown Islamic extremists without appearing to be at war with the Muslim world. There has been an effort to build stronger relationships with Muslims -- internationally and in the United States.
During his remarks Sunday, Mr. McDonough called the mosque a "typically American place" and said it reminded him of his Catholic parish where he grew up in Minnesota.
"Being religious is never un-American. Being religious is quintessentially American," he said.
He commended the mosque's members for taking "an unequivocal stand against terrorism."