Groups Oppose Dangerous Anti-Islamic Hearings

Groups Oppose Dangerous Anti-Islamic Hearings

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WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)—House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King's plans to kick off hearings next month on the “radicalization” of millions of American Muslims is generating significant opposition, as civil rights and human rights organizations urge congressional leaders to object to what they consider “divisive” McCarthy era-like activity.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the 51 signing organizations wrote, “The essence of our country is e pluribus unum: out of many, practicing their faith freely and contributing each in their own way, comes a strong, unified one. The hearings planned by Chairman King, however, are inconsistent with this vision of America. Singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith is divisive and wrong.”

“These hearings will inevitably examine activities protected by the First Amendment, an affront to fundamental freedoms upon which our country was founded. It harkens back to hearings held in the 1950s by then-U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy. That dark chapter in our history taught us that Congress has a solemn duty to wield its investigatory power responsibly.”

The McCarthy hearings were initially touted as efforts to root out Communism but became notorious for politically motivated allegations and innuendo that destroyed reputations and lives with little factual evidence.

Rep. King responded to criticism about the hearings by saying, “It's not just people who are involved with the terrorists and extremists, it is people who are in mainstream Islam, leaders of mosques, leaders of Muslim organizations who do not come forward and denounce, officially denounce, officially cooperate with the police against those extremists and terrorists. So, it goes beyond the terrorists and the extremists and also includes those in what others call mainstream Muslim leadership.”

He also told reporters, “When a war begins, we're all Americans. But in this case, this is not the situation. And whether it's pressure, whether it's cultural tradition, whatever, the fact is the Muslim community does not cooperate anywhere near to the extent that it should. The irony is that we're living in two different worlds.”

The Republican legislator from New York has said the hearings would be held the first or second week in March and would be the first in a series of hearings that would last a year and a half. He also told FoxNew.Com in a Feb. 8 story that the hearings would not be expanded to include “extreme environmentalists and white supremacists.”

Rep. King's allegations paint the Muslim community with a wide brush but don't jibe with remarks by FBI Director Robert Mueller, who testified to the Muslim community's patriotism, cooperation and support before House and Senate committees in 2008 and 2009.

Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee the Muslim community “has been tremendously supportive and worked very closely with (the FBI) in a number of instances around the country.”

The organizations supporting the anti-hearings letter warned, “Providing a public, government platform for these erroneous and offensive views has consequences. The American public takes cues from government officials. These hearings will almost certainly increase widespread suspicion and mistrust of the American Muslim community and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.”

“During 2010, we saw an increase in anti-Muslim hatred in public discourse, as well as hate crimes and violence targeting American Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim, vandalism and arson of mosques, physical attacks, bullying of children in schools, and attempted murder. No American should live in fear for his or her safety, and Congress should not help create a climate where it is acceptable to target a particular faith community for discrimination, harassment, aincludingnd violence.”

It added, ”Furthermore, a hearing that demonizes the American Muslim community will not go unnoticed by Muslims around the world and will contribute to perceptions of how the U.S. government treats Muslims. Equal treatment and respect for all faiths are among our nation's greatest strengths and are essential to a free and just society.”

Among the signatories on the letter are Amnesty International USA, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Japanese American Citizens League, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Muslim Advocates, American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.