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February 21st, 2011
06:00 AM ET

My Take: Cancel bigoted hearings targeting U.S. Muslims

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

According to a new poll, a slim majority - 56 percent - of Americans support upcoming congressional hearings into alleged extremism in the U.S. Muslim community. However, nearly three-quarters - 72 percent - think Congress should not look for religious extremism only among American Muslims.

These hearings on "the radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism” are being overseen by Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York and the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. They are slated to begin March 7.

On February 1, a group of 51 faith-based, human rights and civil rights organizations, led by Muslim Advocates, called on House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to urge King and his committee to address all forms of religious extremism rather than focusing on Islam.

After King refused to broaden the scope of his hearings, more than 80 religious leaders from Long Island - an area King represents - called on the congressman on February 17 to cancel his hearings, on the theory that “the singling out of the Muslim community undermines fundamental American values and is counterproductive to improving national security.”

Although King has refused to investigate other religious extremists in his hearings, he has seemed to moderate his anti-Islamic rhetoric, prompting Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America to complain that his lineup of possible witnesses includes too many people who are too soft on Islam. “It appears that this will be a show trial,” Geller writes.

I couldn’t agree more, but I disagree with Geller about what sort of farce the U.S. Congress will be putting on.

In their letter to King, Long Island’s religious leaders urged their representative to “remember the lessons of history”:

During World War II, Japanese Americans were deprived of their rights and forced into internment camps because of blanket distrust of their commitment to our country. The McCarthy hearings became a shameful national spectacle that falsely impugned the loyalty and destroyed the lives of many Americans. Catholics were once demonized as threats to democracy beholden to a foreign power. Jews and African Americans have faced centuries of suspicion and prejudice.

Given this history, American citizens should be vigilant about opposing any effort to target groups on the basis of their race or religion. And our elected representatives should be especially careful to avoid any appearance of using their power for similar attacks. King’s proposed hearings do not meet this test.

I have no problem with the U.S. Congress listening to testimony about the “radicalization” of Islam in America. As I have written repeatedly, I believe that the world's religions, Islam included, are both toxic and tonic, powerful forces for evil as well as good.

The problem with King's approach is his refusal to listen to testimony about, for example, the “radicalization” of American Christianity. Throughout America’s history Christian extremists (in the form of the Ku Klux Klan, for example) have posed a far greater threat to our nation’s health than extremists of any other religion.

Only time will tell whether we are living in the midst of a new McCarthyism. I certainly hope we are not. But the proposed hearings are bigoted in design, and should be either canceled or reworked to avoid the appearance that the U.S. Congress - whose members are 90 percent Christian - is using its power, contrary to clear meaning of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, to promote Christianity at the expense of other religions.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Islam • New York • Opinion • Politics • Polls

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soundoff (501 Responses)
  1. Iqbal Khan

    Wake up America why we are letting Peter King and people like him to waste time and money on non issues they should be working to solve the real problems facing this country
    JOBS LOSSES,OUT SOURCEING ,BUDGET DEFICIET, BANKS, INSURANCE COMPANIES, UN JUST FOREIGN POLICY, SOCIAL SECURITY, LABOUR UNION PROBLEMS, JOB SECURITY for those who have any jobs left, bringing our troops home from UNJUST and ILLEGAL WARS, KILLING OF INNOCENT PEOPLE, OIL COMPANIES making billions of unjust Profit and paying millions to their CEO's, INFRA STRUCTURES ROADS and BRIDGES and so many other Real issues that they have been elected to solve.
    No but these type of politicians play the game of fear mongring , controlling and restricting the Fredom and Liberties of American citizens, their actions have made us worried every day in our own most powerful country on earth.

    March 9, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  2. Lulu

    During the war people die indiscriminately. Anything can cause war between nations. However, in recent year we are looking wars from another point, radical Muslims point, whatever you call it, call it. It looks like they are acting similar with poisonous sneak pets all over the world. Anytime, the other group without expecting them they attack and killed. They are destroying people who trust them. The same time, my other surprise is they are taking other people’s freedom; and they are released to do whatever they like to do. Even many airports around the world are serving them to progress Muslim religion. One side they are exploiting our world system, on the other hand they are killing people except Muslims. What a freedom? I have not seen any Jews, or Christian prayer or worship place in any airports around the world. In recent years when I am traveling many airports are accommodating them to progress their religion. Still they are looking more, complaining more to get more. And as I read some of the comments describe Jews and Christian killed certain amount of Muslims. That is not true at all. Because during war people die; the same time remember Yugoslavia Christians fought against Christians because it was the righting to do. Iraq and Afghanistan Christians are dying for the country they do not know at all. What is going on? Where are we leading? It should be, Religion is personal, and country belongs to everyone.

    March 7, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  3. Julie

    I do think CNN needs to understand the people (majority) at least in Texas are conservative and we have the votes to prove it come election of the new President of the US. We have had enough of this liberalism. They had their chance. Our world has gone nuts and liberals have no stops. The conservatives will get us back on track and they won't apologize for our country to anyone. Foreign countries should be so glad we are not a selfish country. We are going broke because we are trying to live like they do and please them. NOT!!!

    March 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  4. Julie

    Jesus is Lord and the only way to heaven. Never will I change my mind. I don't mind any muslim speaking out what they may. I do mind killing innocent people in the name of your God. That is NOT okay EVER!!. In your heart you should know that is not what God would want. He gives free will. I call that radical and hope the hearings go forward

    March 7, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  5. Gregory Alexson

    Jews have murdered 2 million Palestinians since 1948. Christians have murdered 100,000 Iraqis since 2003. Christians have murdered 27,000 Afghanis since 2001. Where's the hearing on that, Peter King?

    March 7, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  6. Traded

    I would like to thank the happy-loving Christians for always doing the right thing. Especially the Germans in World War I and II, the Serbs massacring over 100000 Bosnian Muslims from 1992-1995, the mass killings of Albanian Muslims in Kosovo during the late 1990s etc etc..
    Of course, there is one major rule in the Western world when it comes to killings. If its done by a Christian – we call him a murdered, a psychopath etc etc When a Muslim kills – me make sure to point out that he was a Muslim jihadist.
    The retards who believe that there is some sort of Islamization of America is the most ignorant statement made in the last 50 years – and lets be honest – George W Bush has made many retarded statements, but these people are the champs when it comes to it!

    March 6, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  7. Altee11

    We are getting caught up in something other than solving the religious supremacism problem. What is the current primary religious supremacist problem causing the most damage to lives and nations around the world? Should that not be the problem we are focused on?
    This does not mean make yourself blind to all other similar matters, but where is the strongest evidence of hate coming from?

    March 6, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  8. Jim in Florida

    "According to a new poll, a slim majority – 56 percent ..."

    A slim majority? 56 per cent? Goodness, son, you may be a religious scholar but math isn't a strong point. Supposedly Obama was elected with a mandate – what percentage of the popular vote did he get, what is that number you say?

    Sounds like you get your talking points directly from CAIR.

    Let the Congress, specifically the House Commitee on Homeland Security, do what they are elected to do – serve the people and protect this country. Guess Peter King is a little sensitive, being from New York and everything – gosh, wonder why?

    The author chimes in witht he old and tired 99% of Muslims are decent law abiding folk thing. Let;'s see, 1.5 BILLIONN Muslims worldwide, 1% very bad folk. That is 15,000,000 very bad throat slitting folks roaming the face of the earth – some of which live next door to you in America.

    Do we have a problem, ya think?

    Obviously CNN is part of the problem. This network continues to deny a problem with radical Islamict fundamantalist terrorism – ask the parents of the slain servivemen in Germany if they think there is a world wide problem or not.

    Goodness....

    March 5, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  9. Muneef

    Very interesting and informative;
    Kindly visit the link, it answers most of what we been discussing on CNN religion blogs; 
    [Divisions in our world – Not the Result of Religion-Karen Armstrong talks German journalist, Andrea Bistrich]  .
    Western people have a responsibility for everybody who is suffering in
    the world.
    The divisions in our world are not the result of religion or of
    culture, but are politically based.
    The three religions of Abraham - Judaism, Christianity and Islam -
    can and should be viewed as one religious tradition that went in three
    different directions.  
    (http://www.just-international.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4081:divisions-in-our-world-are-not-the-result-of-religion&catid=45:recent-articles&Itemid=123) 

    February 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  10. Muneef

    Al-Isra sura 17:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And say: My Lord! Cause me to come in with a firm incoming and to go out with a firm outgoing. And give me from Thy presence a sustaining Power. (80) And say: Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished away. Lo! falsehood is ever bound to vanish. (81) And We reveal of the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy for believers though it increase the evil-doers in naught save ruin. (82) And when We make life pleasant unto man, he turneth away and is averse; and when ill toucheth him he is in despair. (83) Say: Each one doth according to his rule of conduct, and thy Lord is best aware of him whose way is right. (84) They will ask thee concerning the Spirit. Say: The Spirit is by command of my Lord, and of knowledge ye have been vouchsafed but little. (85) And if We willed We could withdraw that which We have revealed unto thee, then wouldst thou find no guardian for thee against Us in respect thereof. (86) (It is naught) save mercy from thy Lord. Lo! His kindness unto thee was ever great. (87) Say: Verily, though mankind and the jinn should assemble to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof though they were helpers one of another. (88) And verily We have displayed for mankind in this Qur'an all kinds of similitudes, but most of mankind refuse aught save disbelief. (89).

    February 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  11. Muneef

    Az-Zumar sura 39:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Is he whose bosom Allah hath expanded for the surrender (unto Him), so that he followeth a light from his Lord, (as he who disbelieveth)? Then woe unto those whose hearts are hardened against remembrance of Allah. Such are in plain error. (22) Allah hath (now) revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, (wherein promises of reward are) paired (with threats of punishment), whereat doth creep the flesh of those who fear their Lord, so that their flesh and their hearts soften to Allah's reminder. Such is Allah's guidance, wherewith He guideth whom He will. And him whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no guide. (23).

    Az-Zumar sura 39:
    Lo! We have revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture for mankind with truth. Then whosoever goeth right it is for his soul, and whosoever strayeth, strayeth only to its hurt. And thou art not a warder over them. (41) Allah receiveth (men's) souls at the time of their death, and that (soul) which dieth not (yet) in its sleep. He keepeth that (soul) for which He hath ordained death and dismisseth the rest till an appointed term. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who take thought. (42) Or choose they intercessors other than Allah? Say: What! Even though they have power over nothing and have no intelligence? (43) Say: Unto Allah belongeth all intercession. His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. And afterward unto Him ye will be brought back. (44) And when Allah alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are repelled, and when those (whom they worship) beside Him are mentioned, behold! they are glad. (45) Say: O Allah! Creator of the heavens and the earth! Knower of the Invisible and the Visible! Thou wilt judge between Thy slaves concerning that wherein they used to differ. (46).

    February 24, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  12. Muneef

    Libya's civilians are being butchered. My prayers for all the honest Libyans and ask of God to give them the whole strength to overthrow this tyrant bloody regime...

    February 24, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • Muneef

      Dedicated to the Libyan President;

      Al-Qasas sura 28:
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      Now Korah was of Moses' folk, but he oppressed them; and We gave him so much treasure that the stores thereof would verily have been a burden for a troop of mighty men. When his own folk said unto him: Exult not; lo! Allah loveth not the exultant; (76) But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the world, and be thou kind even as Allah hath been kind to thee, and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loveth not corrupters, (77) He said: I have been given it only on account of knowledge I possess. Knew he not that Allah had destroyed already of the generations before him men who were mightier than him in strength and greater in respect of following? The guilty are not questioned of their sins. (78) Then went he forth before his people in his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of the world said: Ah, would that unto us had been give like of what hath been given unto Korah! Lo! he is lord of rare good fortune. (79) But those who had been given knowledge said: Woe unto you! The reward of Allah for him who believeth and doeth right is better, and only the steadfast will obtain it. (80) So We caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling-place. Then he had no host to help him against Allah, nor was he of those who can save themselves. (81) And morning found those who had coveted his place but yesterday crying: Ah, welladay! Allah enlargeth the provision for whom He will of His slaves and straiteneth it (for whom He will). If Allah had not been gracious unto us He would have caused it to swallow us (also). Ah, welladay! the disbelievers never prosper. (82) As for that Abode of the Hereafter We assign it unto those who seek not oppression in the earth, nor yet corruption. The sequel is for those who ward off (evil). (83) Whoso bringeth a good deed, he will have better than the same; while as for him who bringeth an ill-deed, those who do ill-deeds will be requited only what they did. (84).

      February 24, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • Muneef

      Search for more with googling (Consciousness of Responsibility – Ismail Hakki Unal
      Consciousness of Responsibility ... the importance of the consciousness of responsibility is emphasized; while attributing responsibility to all sane and ...)lastprophet.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Muneef

      Imam Bukhari
      consciousness of responsibility
      108. A man is the shepherd of his family
      212. Ibn 'Umar reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, "All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of the people of his house and he is responsible. A woman is the shepherd of the house of her husband and she is responsible. Each of you is a shepherd and each is responsible for his flock.
      (Bukhari, Nikah, 91)
      In a hadith reported by Abdullah b. Omar Prophet Muhammad said: "We are all shepherds and we are all responsible for those who are under our hands (i.e. in our flocks). An administrator is a shepherd. The man is the shepherd of the family. A woman is the shepherd of her husband's home and children. We are all shepherds and we all are responsible for our duties as such.
      Search for more with googling (Consciousness of Responsibility – Ismail Hakki Unal
      Consciousness of Responsibility ... the importance of the consciousness of responsibility is emphasized; while attributing responsibility to all sane and ...)lastprophet.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  13. Big Bob

    2 out of 3, Black Jackel!!

    But I didn't make that up. I read that only recently. Just one of many points, cuz someone brought up Uganda, among other things. If that's the case, than I'm truly happy for sub-sahara. Now if they can only get past the FMG.
    If you don't know, look it up.

    Take care!

    Big Bob

    February 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  14. Iqbal Khan

    Peter King is an ego meniac working for we all know who!

    February 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • HarshReality

      Oh, yeah, we don't want to look at the folks who are doing a majority of the religious killings and violence, now do we?? That would make us feel bad and we might be "racists" for looking there.
      Just like the guilty child who points at everyone else when they break the cookie jar, these naysayers want you all to look the other way or be deemed haters. Well, I guess that makes reality into hate. Bummer.

      February 24, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.