WASHINGTON — Sen. Dick Durbin will conduct a congressional hearing Tuesday on the civil rights of American Muslims, in response to a spike in anti-Muslim bigotry, he said.
The hearing is aimed at considering measures to protect the civil rights of Muslim Americans, he said.
“Our Constitution protects the free exercise of religion for all Americans,” said Durbin, a Springfield Democrat. “During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance. It is important for our generation to renew our founding charter’s commitment to religious diversity and to protect the liberties guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.”
Durbin cites instances of Quran burnings, restrictions on mosque construction, hate crimes, hate speech and other forms of discrimination as justifications for the hearing.
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Chicago, sees a big portion of this discrimination coming via the Internet, television and radio. He’s glad to see that something is being done.
“It’s a very timely and much needed initiative,” Rehab said. “There has been a very one-sided conversation from Congress on Muslim rights and the Durbin hearing promises to balance the conversation… There have been a lot of politicians who are in denial as to the growing threat of Islamaphobians to the U.S. itself, this fear mongering, paranoid approach to anything Muslim.”
The upcoming hearing follows a series of hearings held by Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, on the dangers of Muslim radicalization. King said he planned the hearings in response to reports from American officials claiming increased Muslim radicalization in the U.S. and concerns over “homegrown” Muslim terrorism. He has cited, for example, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-American Muslim who attempted a terror attack during a Christmas tree lighting celebration in Portland, Ore., in December.
Durbin’s committee hearing will take place before the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, which he chairs. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over constitutional issues and legislation and policy related to civil rights, civil liberties and human rights.
A panel of witnesses will testify including Muslim civil rights leader Farhana Khera; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick; Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the Obama administration’s top civil rights official; and former Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta, the Bush Administration’s top civil rights official.
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