Muslim lawmaker: Violence 'doesn't represent' religion

Rep. Andre Carson discusses Belgian raids
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  • Rep. Andre Carson said violence from Islamic radicals "doesn't represent" the Muslim religion
  • Carson is the first Muslim appointed to the House Intelligence Committee
  • Conservative publications have raised questions about his position on the committee in part because of his religion

(CNN)The first Muslim lawmaker to serve on the House Intelligence Committee said Friday that the violence perpetrated by Islamic radicals in the name of their religion "certainly doesn't represent the [Muslim] religion" and encouraged those of all faiths to come together to stop it.

"It's not any different than those who claim to be Christians or Jews or Hindus and commit atrocious acts," Democratic Rep. Andre Carson said on CNN's New Day of the attacks.
"I think it's clear that we will never win the war on national terrorism, or even global terrorism for that matter, without getting help from Muslims, getting help from Sikhs, getting help from non-theists — those who are committed to keeping our country safer and making the world a better place to live," he added.
    Carson's religion has become a flashpoint for criticism from conservatives following his appointment to the House Intelligence Committee this week.
    Conservative publications have raised questions about his ties to Islamist groups that have been investigated for allegedly supporting terrorism, and his comments during a 2012 speech that U.S. public schools should look to Islamic schools as a model.
    But a top Democrat came to his defense this week, with New York Rep. Joseph Crowley, vice-chairman of the Democratic caucus, saying the comments "offended" him in a letter to members.
    "These comments deeply offend me, as I'm sure they offend all of you, which is why I hope all of us will take every opportunity to renounce these kinds of comments and discourage this kind of harmful talk," he wrote.
    On Friday, Carson thanked Crowley for his support and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for her "boldness" in appointing him to the Intelligence Committee, and said that "for the most part, folks have been very excited about this opportunity on both sides of the aisle."
    He also weighed in on the elevated terror threat in France and the 10,000 troops the French government deployed across the country this week as a precautionary measure, following a week of violent attacks from individuals who've claimed ties to ISIS and other terrorist groups.
    Carson said he believes there is "more to unearth and discover" about the threat facing France, and was supportive of the troop deployment, which he said was "a start" — but cautioned against the government overstepping its bounds.
    "I know they certainly don't want to become a totalitarian state, but in protecting the rights of citizens there's a delicate balance between keeping people safe and surveilling the citizens to the point where we are targeting people specifically — not because of race, not because of religion, but making sure we are targeting the right people and eliminating the threat to make people safer," he said.
    He would not endorse a further commitment of troops from the U.S. to fight the growing threat posed by ISIS in the Middle East, saying "we don't want to have what we had in Iraq," but said while the administration has done a "fantastic job" addressing the threat, "there's more to be done."
    "We cannot win this war unless we get help from our friends in the Arab League and the international community. It's very clear," he said.