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Hearings open today on Islamic radicalization in U.S.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Under heightened security, Rep. Peter King opened hearings today into Islamic radicalization in America, dismissing what he called the "rage and hysteria" surrounding the hearings.

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The hearings inspired days of protests by critics who said the hearings were overbroad and anti-Muslim.

The New York Republican has reignited a national debate over how to combat a spate of homegrown terrorism. The Obama administration has tried to frame the discussion around radicalization in general, without singling out Muslims. King has said that's just political correctness since al-Qaida is the main threat to the U.S.

"Homegrown radicalization is part of al-Qaida's strategy to continue attacking the United States," King said as he opened the hearings.

The top Democrat on the committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, says he believes the hearings could be used to inspire terrorists.

"I cannot help but wonder how propaganda about this hearing's focus on the American Muslim Community will be used by those who seek to inspire a new generation of suicide bombers," Thompson said.

King told The Associated Press that he had larger security details for the past few months because of an overseas threat relayed in December. Since then, round-the-clock security has been provided by the New York Police Department and the Nassau County, N.Y., police.

On Thursday, at King's request, the Capitol Police secured the congressional hearing room and surrounding areas, as well as his office.

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