WASHINGTON With the US Muslim community branding Thursday's Congressional hearings into Islamic radicalization a "witch hunt", the Republican congressman who has organized the inquiry has softened his rhetoric, saying Muslims are "part of the mosaic" of America, and that they shouldn't feel threatened or intimidated by his move. "If there is going to be animosity, I would blame it on my opponents," Congressman King, who has in the past supported Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) - a group branded as terrorist - said in a nationally broadcast interview. King, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee, has come under withering criticism for the controversial hearings scheduled to begin Thursday. Protests have already started, and comparisons to McCarthyism and the era of communist witch hunts are being heard. But amid the uproar, one Islamic scholar has backed Congressman King's move "as as an opportunity to educate Americans about our communitys diversity and faith." "The topic is urgent, and the hearings overdue. It is undeniable that the phenomenon of homegrown terrorists appears to be increasing in frequency," Akbar S. Ahmed, a former Pakistan ambassador to Britain who is now professor of Islamic studies at American University, wrote in NYTimes. "A successful attack would set back relations between Muslims and non-Muslims for many years. The backlash would effectively sweep away the slow but steady progress in interfaith dialogue that has been achieved since 9/11," he added. "Muslim leaders must acknowledge that many Americans are fearful of religiously motivated terrorism. Simply to protest the hearings and call for them to be cancelled, as some have done, strikes many non-Muslims as uncooperative, or as intended to conceal dark secrets or un-American behaviour. "Instead, Muslims should embrace the chance to explain their beliefs fully and clearly. We have nothing to hide. But members of Congress also need to act responsibly. They should avoid broad accusations, and be aware that the hearings will be closely followed worldwide. The actions of both groups will shape America s relationship with Islam, and the relationship of American Muslims with their country," Prof Ahmed wrote. Meanwhile, in one appearance on morning television, King was asked if he was singling out the Muslim community rather than focusing on a more generalized terror threat against America. "It might be politically correct, but it makes no sense to talk about other types of extremism, when the main threat to the United States today is talking about al Qaeda," King said. He noted that Attorney General Eric Holder has said there have been some 50 homegrown terrorists arrested in this country and that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the threat has never been higher. "It would diffuse and water down the hearings" to broaden the line of inquiry, King said. The congressman said the hearings are aimed at protecting Muslims from being pressured to commit terrorist acts. Before coming to Congress, King had been an outspoken supporter of the I.R.A. At a 1982 pro-IRA rally on Long Island, a New York Suburb, that he supported the IRA's "struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry," The New York Times reported in Wednesday's editions. Three years later, it said, King declared, "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it." King on Wednesday called the article distorted said he wasn't worried that his actions "were wrong." King told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that the IRA and al-Qaida are very different and that the IRA never attacked America. Of the hearings this week, Congressman Keith Ellison on Wednesday faulted his colleague for inviting only a single law enforcement witness. Ellison, a democrat and lone Muslim member of Congress, also accused King of prejudging his committee's inquiry, saying the controversy surrounding the hearings are setting "a tone of blame" even before the inquiry is gaveled to order. "What we want to do is build cooperation and trust and open lines of communication," Ellison said. King is making disturbing use of a congressional hearing, Ellison said Monday night on MSNBC. Theres awesome power associated with being chairman of a committee, and able to investigate and do oversight and to use it to essentially go after a religious minority group, I think its a scary proposition, he said. King promised to "run a good hearing. I will run an honest and fair hearing." "As an example of my good faith, I invited Congressman Ellison to testify at this hearing," King said. "If I was somehow trying to ram the hearing through, I certainly wouldn't have invited Keith Ellison."