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K Street Files: Muslim Defenders Question Hearing

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Homeland Security Chairman Peter King is holding a hearing Thursday on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.”

A coalition of civil rights activists, Muslim groups and other organizations launched a high-tech grass-roots and social media campaign Tuesday in the hopes of canceling an upcoming Congressional hearing on Islamic radicalization.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to probe “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.”

It already has caused quite a backlash, including protests.

“This is a campaign to push back against anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate that divide us and make us less safe,” said Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates. “We are coming together to make our voices heard.”

The effort does not include an advertising campaign, but it is relying on a new website, whatunites.us, Facebook and other social media outlets to encourage Americans to reach out to their Members of Congress. Several organizations have signed the coalition’s pledge to stand together, including September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the Arab American Institute, the Interfaith Alliance, South Asian Americans Leading Together and the North Carolina Council of Churches.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said he’s not certain of King’s intentions for the hearing.

“Obviously, you presume the chairman of the committee is pursuing a legitimate course, but to single out one religious community for focus ... seems to us to be wrongheaded.”

Henderson, whose group is part of the coalition and opposes racial profiling, added that the FBI has said the American Muslim community has contributed to law enforcement efforts “to curtail homegrown terrorism. ... I can only hope that Chairman King, assessing the reaction he’s getting, will at least rethink future hearings and temper what he does in this one.”

Khera said the hearing is more evidence that the U.S. has reached a tipping point. “On one side, there are growing pressures of fear and divisions; on the other side, our common values as Americans: freedom, truth, fairness and justice.”

The coalition  said King’s witnesses “offer a distorted and deeply harmful interpretation of the Islamic faith, reminiscent of similar distortions in American history of the views of Catholics and Jews.” 

According to the committee’s website, the witnesses include M. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy; Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center; and Sheriff Leroy Baca of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim, and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) are also listed.

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