March 10th, 2011
05:32 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Clergy from across the nation's religious spectrum condemned Muslim radicalization hearings by Rep. Peter King, R-New York, which they said unfairly targeted Muslims. The clergy spoke at a press conference Thursday in the Cannon Congressional office building, one floor below the radicalization hearings.
The clergy group called Shoulder-to-Shoulder came from Protestant, Catholic, and Evangelical churches; Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox temples; and mosques. Group members said violent extremism was a threat to national security, but it was morally wrong to lump all Muslims into the category of violent extremists.
"We also stand shoulder-to-shoulder in opposing the singling out of any one religious community in a way that would cast unwarranted suspicion on that part of the American population," the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said.
"Wherever a religious group is singled out because of it's faith we will be there. We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder wherever, whenever is necessary," said Mark Pelavin the director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism.
Kinnamon said their opposition to the hearings stemmed from several reasons. He said the hearings were based on a flawed premise, were counter-productive, were contrary to American principles, and were "counter to central teachings of the Christian faith."
Specially, he and the other faith leaders said the hearings would "bear false witness" against Muslims, something many of religious traditions represented cited as wrong.
"If the committee wants to investigate violent extremism please do so," Kinnamon continued. "But don't imply that it's associated with one part of the American mosaic."
"As I sat this morning in the hearing room, I was witness to an injustice. I was witness to an injustice that the underlying tone of these hearings is to stigmatize, stereotype, and to profile Muslim-Americans," said Rabbi Mark Schneier. He said he feared the hearing would exacerbate, "anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia in our country. "
"It is the belief of all of us people of faith that we stand together shoulder-to-shoulder against hate," said Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, president of the Islamic Society of North America.
"If we're going to move forward in this nation and to address radicalism and to make ourselves secure, one of the places to begin is to heal the partisan divide," James Zogby president of the Arab American Institute, said. "This issue was not just used as an issue to divide Muslims and the rest of America but between Democrats and Republicans. It was exploited rather, I think, callously for partisan purposes and was shameful."
Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, also joined the clergy at the press conference. Carson is the second Muslim to serve in Congress. The first, Rep Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, testified at the hearings.
"I am deeply concerned by Representative King's hearings," Carson said. "These hearings weaken the very foundation upon which this country was built. Our nation was founded under the principle we have the right to practice our religion freely and without persecution."
But it was that free exercise that came up during the hearings that were troubling for King and his supporters. Two witnesses testified about their relatives who fell victim to the lure of extremism while worshiping in U.S. mosques.
"Muslims are not saying there is no problem. We do believe that elements are targeting our youth and our community. But we're saying Muslims are really engaging in this fight against violent extremism," Ali said. "The impression was given in the hearing all mosques are not doing anything. That's what I think is unfair."
About this blog
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.