WASHINGTON - In a packed room on Capitol Hill Wednesday, sparks flew as the House Homeland Security Committee held its fifth hearing on radical Islam.
Members of the committee tried to address the problem without appearing anti-Muslim.
From the beginning, critics have compared Republican chairman Rep. Peter King to former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who sought to rout out communists within the United States during the late 1940s and 1950s.
Citing poll numbers that show 63 percent of Americans approve of the hearings, King convened this one to gauge Muslim reaction.
"For me this is a lifelong mission to confront the problem within my faith community that are a threat to both my country and my religion," Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said.
The panel included practicing Muslims, who mostly validated the hearings and warned that radicalization in the Muslim community is a real threat.
But one panelist suggested the hearings are counterproductive and not based on facts.
That prompted a strong rebuke from Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who attended the Fort Hood memorial where a Muslim Army psychiatrist shot and killed 13 people.
"This is real. This is real stuff," McCaul said. "...For you to say that these hearing (are) not based on firm factual basis, I'd say you talk with those families."
The real emotion came from sharp exchanges between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats charged that witnesses were not experts.
"This committee, we're not a talk show, this isn't Oprah; this isn't entertainment. This isn't radio," Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., said. "This is the the United States Congress."
Chairman King said members of the committee often attend classified briefings and that the purpose of the hearing was to hear from Muslims.
"I would suggest that you go to a few of those and then blend it in with what you hear from real people," King said.
"Mr. Chairman, I'm offended by your reference to classified briefing, and I think it's very inappropriate for you to say this in a public forum," Richardson responded.
"I'd say it's more inappropriate for you to compare us to Oprah Winfrey," King shot back.
Republicans went to great lengths to state that radicalization can happen in any faith. They insist these hearings aren't about religion, but rather how faith can be distorted to cause harm.