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Republicans Flirt With Stepped Up Monitoring of Muslim Mosques After Terror Incidents

"We have to find out what people are thinking..."

House Republican lawmakers are beginning to talk about whether and how to increase surveillance of mosques, in order to more quickly spot radicalized Muslims who might conduct terrorist acts against Americans on U.S. soil.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) started the discussion last week, in an interview with NewsMax TV in which he said the country needs to go "all out" to monitor mosques. His comments came just days after Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, an Islamic convert, shot and killed a guard at a Canadian war memorial and stormed the Canadian Parliament before he was shot and killed.

"We have to find out what people are thinking and what's going on in the mosques, which often are incubators of this type of terrorism," King said last week. "We have to go all out with surveillance and be quick to call it terrorism."

King also criticized "those morons at the New York Times Editorial Board and the American Civil Liberties Union" for criticizing the New York Police Department for trying to keep closer tabs on mosque activities.

On Sunday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) took a step back from King's remarks, but still suggested that mosques might report members to local authorities if they have become radicalized.

"Surveillance of mosques is a very sensitive issue," McCaul said on ABC News. "But what I would urge would be that we have greater community involvement within the mosques."

McCaul noted that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston bombers, had been kicked out of a local mosque, but said that information never made it to police or others who might have been able to increase monitoring of his activities.

"There was no reporting of that at the time," McCaul said. "And had there been, just maybe we could have stopped that particular bombing from happening."

"We worry a lot about ISIS traveling overseas from Syria to the United States, but I think one of the greatest fears are those already within the United States who are being radicalized and inspired by the ISIS propaganda that's out there on the Internet," he added.

McCaul's proposal would likely be seen as less objectionable to Muslims in the United States, since it's based on the idea of cooperation between Muslims and law enforcement. But even McCaul's idea could prove controversial, as it raises the issue of how much information the government should be able to know about the inner workings of a religious organization.

Earlier this month, a controversy erupted over the news that Houston, Texas has subpoenaed the sermons of a church, to investigate whether preachers are giving sermons in which they oppose same-sex marriage.

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