March 7th, 2011
01:36 PM ET

Muslim hearings: Shining a light or turning up the heat?

Editor's Note: CNN’s Soledad O’Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt. “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door”, airs Sunday, March 27 at 8 p.m. E.T.

By Dave Schechter, CNN Senior National Editor

The inference in the rabbi’s question could not be missed.

“I know that, at the Olympics, when I see the American get a gold medal and they play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ I cry,” the rabbi said. “So my question is, if an American Muslim sees somebody getting a gold medal for the United States and they play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ do they cry?”

The rabbi was one of 200 or so people who came to an Atlanta temple for an event titled “Understanding the Quran,” sponsored by the Southeast Branch of the Anti-Defamation League and the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. The question was directed to the guest speaker, an American Muslim professor who teaches about Islam at a highly regarded university near Boston.

Looking around the sanctuary, I saw more than one person among the 200 or so present had arched an eyebrow and displayed a look of amazement that such a question would be asked; some with the particular knowledge that American Jews have faced questions of whether their loyalty is divided between the United States and Israel.

The American Muslim answered politely, telling the rabbi that, yes, he roots for the American athletes to win at the Olympics. “I cry,” the visiting scholar assured him.

I recalled witnessing this exchange back when thinking about the upcoming hearings organized by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on whether American Muslims pose a threat to the United States.

“My first goal is just to have people even acknowledge this as a real issue," King told The Washington Post. "This politically correct nonsense has kept us from debating and discussing what is one of this country's most vital issues. We are under siege by Muslim terrorists."

“Siege” is a strong word. The American Religious Identification Survey conducted in 2008 estimated there to be nearly 1.35 million Muslims in the United States. Community activists believe this figure too low. Nonetheless, out of a population this large, the number of Muslim Americans who either perpetrated or were arrested for terrorist crimes in 2010 was . . . 20, according to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (a consortium of Duke University, the University of North Carolina and RTI International, a think tank).

American Muslims are concerned about the tenor and direction of these hearings. Since 9/11, they have felt a heavy gaze directed at them even as they go about their daily lives. At the extreme, they have been the victims of violence, ranging from physical attacks to vandalism at the mosques where they worship. On the margins, there has been verbal abuse, some of it directed at their children. Consider for a moment, what it must feel like to a Muslim born in the United States, particularly to a child, to bear the brunt of this abuse. So, what good can come to our lives from these hearings, they ask.

On the other side, those who feel that American Muslims constitute a fifth column within the larger American population see these hearings as shining a spotlight where light is needed.

Further evidence of the heat the issue provokes was on display recently at a forum in South Florida hosted by Rep. Allen West, R-Fla.

Among those who took a turn at the microphone was Nezar Hamze, South Florida executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, viewed as a leading activist organization by the Muslim community and as an arm of militant Islam by its critics.

Hamze went to confront West about the congressman’s previous statements that the Quran directs Muslims to kill non-Muslims and that this is what lies behind radical Islam’s hatred of the United States.

In their exchange, West cited several incidents over the history of Islam, including 9/11 and the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. For good measure, he told Hamze, “Don’t blow sunshine up my butt,” to cheers from the audience.

“Congressman, I am ashamed. I am ashamed to be here with all these people when you attack Islam,” Hamze said. Catcalls already directed at Hamze from the audience only grew louder.

West, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, a decorated soldier who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, retorted, “You attacked us. You attacked us,” in effect making Hamze the embodiment of the Islamic terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001. “I went to Muslim countries to defend the freedom of Muslim people. Don’t come up here and try to criticize me.”

Hamze, with something of a bemused smile on his face, turned and walked away from the microphone.

Writing about the experience later, Hamze, a native of Fort Lauderdale, said: "Mr. West, you have brought great shame to the United States House of Representatives. Your behavior that evening represents the antithesis of our democratic republic. We look to our leaders to answer difficult questions with dignity and composure. Your behavior represented that of a military commander barking orders at a soldier. Mr. West, you are no longer a military commander, and I am not your enemy. You looked at me and said, 'You attacked us, you attacked us.' I didn't attack anything, and for you to accuse me of such horrific events is just as baseless as your knowledge of Islam. Terrorists attacked us on 9/11, Mr. West. Terrorists attacked us!”

Whether it is a rabbi questioning the loyalty of American Muslims to the U.S. Olympic teams, epithets shouted at Muslims by protesters outside a community event, or the director of an American Muslim organization questioning a congressman and, in turn, being rebuked, it is clear that what another congressman sees as hearings that will shine light, the targeted community is worried about the heat that will be turned on as a result.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Afghanistan • Iraq • Islam • Muslim • Quran

soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. Muneef

    Do you know why exactly Muslims are hated for? It is for Reading & Reciting the Quran & follow its Religion of Islam which should have to take in to faith & Belief in the words of the following verses;    

    Al-Baqara sura 02:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And they say: Allah hath taken unto Himself a son. Be He glorified! Nay, but whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth is His. All are subservient unto Him. (116) The Originator of the heavens and the earth! When He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. (117) And those who have no knowledge say: Why doth not Allah speak unto us, or some sign come unto us? Even thus, as they now speak, spake those (who were) before them. Their hearts are all alike. We have made clear the revelations for people who are sure. (118) Lo! We have sent thee (O Muhammad) with the truth, a bringer of glad tidings and a warner. And thou wilt not be asked about the owners of hell-fire. (119) And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah (Himself) is Guidance. And if thou shouldst follow their desires after the knowledge which hath come unto thee, then wouldst thou have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper. (120) Those unto whom We have given the Scripture, who read it with the right reading, those believe in it. And whoso disbelieveth in it, those are they who are the losers. (121) O Children of Israel! Remember My favour wherewith I favoured you and how I preferred you to (all) creatures. (122) And guard (yourselves) against a day when no soul will in aught avail another, nor will compensation be accepted from it, nor will intercession be of use to it; nor will they be helped. (123).

    An-Nisa sura 04:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    O mankind! The messenger hath come unto you with the Truth from your Lord. Therefor believe; (it is) better for you. But if ye disbelieve, still, lo! unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth. Allah is ever Knower, Wise. (170) O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not "Three" – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender. (171).

    Al-Maeda sura 05:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers. (72) They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. (73) Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (74) The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! (75) Say: Serve ye in place of Allah that which possesseth for you neither hurt nor use? Allah it is Who is the Hearer, the Knower. (76) Say: O People of the Scripture! Stress not in your religion other than the truth, and follow not the vain desires of folk who erred of old and led many astray, and erred from a plain road. (77).

    Al-Tawba sura 09:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger nor, acknowledge the Religion of Truth from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission and feel themselves subdued. (29) The Jews call Uzayr a son of Allah and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouths; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (30) They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; Yet they were commanded to worship but one Allah: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to him: (far is He) from having the parents they associate (with him). (31) Fain would they extinguish Allah's light with their mouths but Allah will not allow but that His light should be perfected, even though the unbelievers may detest (it). (32) It is He who hath sent His Messenger with Guidance and Religion of Truth to proclaim it over all religion, even though the pagans may detest (it). (33).

    Yunus sura 10:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And thou (Muhammad) art not occupied with any business and thou recitest not a Lecture from this (Scripture), and ye (mankind) perform no act, but We are Witness of you when ye are engaged therein. And not an atom's weight in the earth or in the sky escapeth your Lord, nor what is less than that or greater than that, but it is (written) in a clear Book. (61) Lo! verily the friends of Allah are (those) on whom fear (cometh) not, nor do they grieve? (62) Those who believe and keep their duty (to Allah). (63) Theirs are good tidings in the life of the world and in the Hereafter – There is no changing the Words of Allah – that is the Supreme Triumph. (64) And let not their speech grieve thee (O Muhammad). Lo! power belongeth wholly to Allah. He is the Hearer, the Knower. (65) Beware ! To Allah belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth Those who follow aught instead of Allah follow not (His) partners. They follow only a conjecture, and they do but guess. (66) He it is Who hath appointed for you the night that ye should rest therein and the day giving sight. Lo! herein verily are portents for a folk that heed. (67) They say: Allah hath taken (unto Him) a son – Glorified be He! He hath no needs! His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. Ye have no warrant for this. Tell ye concerning Allah that which ye know not? (68) Say: Verily those who invent a lie concerning Allah will not succeed. (69) This world's portion (will be theirs), then unto Us is their return. Then We make them taste a dreadful doom because they used to disbelieve. (70).

    Al-Isra sura 17:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Say (unto mankind): Cry unto Allah, or cry unto the Beneficent, unto whichsoever ye cry (it is the same). His are the most beautiful names. And thou (Muhammad), be not loud-voiced in thy worship nor yet silent therein, but follow a way between. (110) And say: Praise be to Allah, Who hath not taken unto Himself a son, and Who hath no partner in the Sovereignty, nor hath He any protecting friend through dependence. And magnify Him with all magnificence. (111).

    Al-Kahf sura 18:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Praise be to Allah Who hath revealed the Scripture unto His slave, and hath not placed therein any crookedness, (1) (But hath made it) straight, to give warning of stern punishment from Him, and to bring unto the believers who do good works the news that theirs will be a fair reward, (2) Wherein they will abide for ever; (3) And to warn those who say: Allah hath chosen a son, (4) (A thing) whereof they have no knowledge, nor (had) their fathers, Dreadful is the word that cometh out of their mouths. They speak naught but a lie. (5) Yet it may be, if they believe not in this statement, that thou (Muhammad) wilt torment thy soul with grief over their footsteps. (6) Lo! We have placed all that is in the earth as an ornament thereof that We may try them: which of them is best in conduct. (7) And lo! We shall make all that is therein a barren mound. (8).

    Maryam sura 19:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. (88) Assuredly ye utter a disastrous thing (89) Whereby almost the heavens are torn, and the earth is split asunder and the mountains fall in ruins, (90) That ye ascribe unto the Beneficent a son, (91) When it is not meet for (the Majesty of) the Beneficent that He should choose a son. (92) There is none in the heavens and the earth but cometh unto the Beneficent as a slave. (93) Verily He knoweth them and numbereth them with (right) numbering. (94) And each one of them will come unto Him on the Day of Resurrection, alone. (95) Lo! those who believe and do good works, the Beneficent will appoint for them love. (96) And We make (this Scripture) easy in thy tongue, (O Muhammad) only that thou mayst bear good tidings therewith unto those who ward off (evil), and warn therewith the froward folk. (97) And how many a generation before them have We destroyed! Canst thou (Muhammad) see a single man of them, or hear from them the slightest sound? (98).

    Al-Anbiya sura 21:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    We created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between them in play. (16) If We had wished to find a pastime, We could have found it in Our presence – if We ever did. (17) Nay, but We hurl the true against the false, and it doth break its head and lo! it vanisheth. And yours will be woe for that which ye ascribe (unto Him). (18) Unto Him belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and the earth. And those who dwell in His presence are not too proud to worship Him, nor do they weary; (19) They glorify (Him) night and day; they flag not. (20) Or have they chosen Gods from the earth who raise the dead? (21) If there were therein Gods beside Allah, then verily both (the heavens and the earth) had been disordered. Glorified be Allah, the Lord of the Throne, from all that they ascribe (unto Him). (22) He will not be questioned as to that which He doeth, but they will be questioned. (23) Or have they chosen other gods beside Him? say: Bring your proof (of their godhead). This is the Reminder of those with me and those before me, but most of them know not the Truth and so they are averse. (24) And We sent no messenger before thee but We inspired him, (saying): There is no God save Me (Allah), so worship Me. (25) And they say: The Beneficent hath taken unto Himself a son. Be He glorified! Nay, but (those whom they call sons) are honoured slaves; (26) They speak not until He hath spoken, and they act by His command. (27) He knoweth what is before them and what is behind them, and they cannot intercede except for him whom He accepteth, and they quake for awe of Him. (28).

    Al-Furqan sura 25: 
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Blessed is He Who hath revealed unto His slave the Criterion (of right and wrong), that he may be a warner to the people. (1) He unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, He hath chosen no son nor hath He any partner in the Sovereignty. He hath created everything and hath meted out for it a measure. (2) Yet they choose beside Him other gods who create naught but are themselves created, and possess not hurt nor profit for themselves, and possess not death nor life, nor power to raise the dead. (3) Those who disbelieve say: This is naught but a lie that he hath invented, and other folk have helped him with it, so that they have produced a slander and a lie. (4) And they say: Fables of the men of old which he hath had written down so that they are dictated to him morn and evening. (5) Say (unto them, O Muhammad): He who knoweth the secret of the heavens and the earth hath revealed it. Lo! He ever is Forgiving, Merciful. (6).

    As-Saaffat 37:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Now ask them (O Muhammad): Hath thy Lord daughters whereas they have sons? (149) Or created We the angels females while they were present? (150) Lo! it is of their falsehood that they say: (151) Allah hath begotten. Allah! verily they tell a lie. (152) (And again of their falsehood): He hath preferred daughters to sons. (153) What aileth you? How judge ye? (154) Will ye not then reflect? (155) Or have ye a clear warrant? (156) Then produce your writ, if ye are truthful. (157) And they imagine kinship between him and the jinn, whereas the jinn know well that they will be brought before (Him). (158) Glorified be Allah from that which they attribute (unto Him), (159).

    Az-Zumar sura 39:
    n the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    If Allah had willed to choose a son, He could have chosen what He would of that which He hath created. Be He glorified! He is Allah, the One, the Absolute. (4).

    Al-Jinn sura 72:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Say (O Muhammad): It is revealed unto me that a company of the Jinn gave ear, and they said: Lo! we have heard a marvellous Qur'an, (1) Which guideth unto righteousness, so we believe in it and we ascribe unto our Lord no partner. (2) And (we believe) that He – exalted be the glory of our Lord! – hath taken neither wife nor son, (3) And that the foolish one among us used to speak concerning Allah an atrocious lie. (4) And lo! we had supposed that humankind and jinn would not speak a lie concerning Allah – (5).

    #Among those above of idolators,pagans and non believers of God....what can you expect the followers of Islam of the Quran  would be treated by the majority ? 

    March 13, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Al-Naml sura 27:
    She said: Lo! kings, when they enter a township, ruin it and make the honour of its people shame. Thus will they do. (34).

    March 10, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  3. Muneef

    America does not want to admit that this redicalization hearing is only meant to target Shiaa's in their fears of Iran regime.

    March 10, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  4. Muneef

    The more pressure is applied the more negative results will appear....over pressure drive things to explode...and that is the purpose this man drives to in favor of payees...
    At the moment your dangers are from out side but if American Muslims were humiliated by the actions of such a man then I feel your dangers would be coming from outside and inside...
    Thought Slavery was over in America but such act is as Slavery to call and humiliate a whole nation of faith....isn't in that some sort of terror.....Action&Reaction....

    March 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  5. 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 5:36 pm |
  6. Phaethor

    Really people? If you don’t "Truly" understand something, then stop copying and pasting it and posting it all over the internet. If you want to Understand Islam, go to a Masjid and ask anyone to inform you about Islam. They will be glad to. Have no Fear. They won't hurt you. They won't try to convert you. They may even give you a free study guide or copy of the Qur'an.

    Love and Peace within Islam is something you have to witness. If you don't even look and keep your eye blinded to it then yes, you will not see. As far as Jesus' status within Islam: Before the Prophet Muhammad left Makkah for Medina the original Shahada was "La 'ilaha 'illa Allah, 'Isa rasul Allah" which means: There is no god except Allah and Jesus is the messenger of God. Jesus is revered in Islam as a mighty prophet, the last miracle worker, and as the Messiah (savior) to the Jews. After the Prophethood of Muhammad, the Shahada was changed to "La 'ilaha 'illa Allah, Muhammad rasulu-llah" meaning: There is no god except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of God. The term "La 'ilaha 'illa Allah" was first uttered by Abraham (Ibrahim). Telling all people they should worship only God, the One, True God. This has been the premise of Islam since the beginning. There is only One God. Adam, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad ALL tell us there is Only One God, and we should worship none but Him.

    Allah is the Arabic word for God. The Syriac word "Aloha" (I love it when I go to Hawaii and hear this.) is the basis for "Eloah" the Hebrew word for God. And the Semitic terms (El and Ilum) are the sources for llah. Hence Allah = "The God". Meaning: The One True God and no other god. It's really not rocket science, nor do you need a History or Religious Studies Masters or PHD.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  7. NewMalthus

    Good for King. Hold the hearings. Common Sense instead of Political Correct BS. Notice Obama is staying out of this, what with having seen the light with his new Gitmo decision.
    CNN and its liberal buddies are the ones on a witch hunt.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Alverant

      People who whine about "political correctness" are those who are looking for an excuse to act like jerks. This isn't about being PC. This about blaming a whole group of people for the actions of a few. King was OK with IRA terrorists and other christian terror organizations, yet singles out muslims as being the only source of terrorism.

      If King was serious into stopping terrorism, he would include all religious conservatives since that would encompass more terrorists. But then he'd have to include groups he likes as well.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
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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.