Ball defends controversial speakers invited to hearing

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Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Committee Chairman Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, is defending a public hearing the panel is holding in New York City Friday to discuss New York’s preparedness for another potential attack, natural disaster or other emergency. Ball said he wants to look at New York City’s and the state’s preparedness as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches.

But a group of Democratic senators object to the the committee’s inviting the controversial Nonie Darwish, director of Former Muslims United, to testify Friday, and Frank Gaffney, head of the conservative Center for Security Policy, who will speak at a subsequent hearing in Albany. The Democratic senators said in a letter to Ball yesterday that the hearings “will provide a venue to unqualified individuals who profit from maligning Muslims.” They said Ball is including Islamic law as a topic of discussion, and by doing this “you conflate the religious observations and practices of a faith into a security matter.” The letter was signed by Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, and 10 other senators, including Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, Westchester County, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers.

Ball said today that Parker and the other senators “are really just playing political games. I bent over backwards to include their input in the hearing, actually asking that they give a suggestion on who should be in the hearing.” He said they should respond “productively” and not “antagonistically.” Those lawmakers should focus on the topic of homeland security and “leave the political hysteria behind.”

Ball defended Darwish. “We have got to understand at the core level that New York state and New York City are terrorist targets No. 1 outside of Jerusalem, and in order to defend ourselves, we have got to be able to get inside the minds of our enemy. Nonie grew up in Egypt,” he said. “Her father was a martyr…started the fedayeen operations against Israel, and she has seen first-hand sharia (Islamic) law in a culture that teaches small schoolchildren to hate all non-Muslims, Israelis and Americans, and to the extent that that is an affront to any public official boggles my mind.”

The purpose of the hearings are to show where the state and New York City have made progress and where more progress needs to be made, “and to make those areas where we have a soft underbelly, or a weakness, a state priority as well as a priority for the state to secure federal funding.”

Ball said about 25 people will testify at Friday’s hearing, including a representative from Entergy, which owns the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, Westchester County.

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