March 7th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

Muslims anxious, active ahead of radicalization hearings

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 Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Every day this week, American Muslim activists are working overtime to prepare for congressional hearings on "the radicalization of American Muslims" that open Thursday.

Sunday saw Muslim demonstrators gather in New York's rain-drenched Times Square to protest the hearings, standing with celebrities like Russell Simmons and other non-Muslims who held signs declaring "I am Muslim, too."

On Monday, representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations - a national Muslim advocacy group - met will sympathetic Capitol Hill staffers to discuss communications strategy and grassroots organizing to counter Islamophia.

On Tuesday, a coalition of major Muslim, interfaith and civil rights groups will announce a new campaign and website to push back against politicians and others they say are trafficking in anti-Muslim rhetoric.

And that's before the hearings even begin.

“The community is anxious, uncertain and even fearful in terms of what this could become in this environment,” says Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic studies professor at American University who has met with Capitol Hill aides in advance of the hearings.

“There is a generalized sense of Islamophobia floating around, and the hearings are not doing anything to assuage Muslim fears.”

Days before the first in what Rep. Peter King, the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, has said will be a series of hearings on American Muslim radicalization, many Muslims are deeply nervous at the specter of being demonized from such a highly visible platform as Capitol Hill. The hearings may stretch out for more than a year.

But King’s hearings also have galvanized American Muslims, perhaps as never before, in an attempt to counter what they call a rising tide of Islamophobia, to lobby Washington about their concerns and to help shape the national narrative about their community.

The efforts come a little more than six months after many Muslims were blindsided by a wave of national opposition to a proposed Islamic cultural center near New York’s ground zero last summer.

“There was this sense after last summer’s events of needing to be more proactive in stemming this activity that stokes anti-Muslim hate,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy group.

“That’s why, as soon as we heard Rep. King say he planned to hold these hearings, we started coming forward to express our concerns,” Khera said.

In February, Muslim Advocates spearheaded a letter to congressional leaders objecting to the hearings. It was signed by more than 50 organizations, including civil rights groups that had not previously been involved with the American Muslim community.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading Muslim advocacy group, used its annual lobbying day last month to visit 90 congressional offices to “start offering facts about American Muslims and their role in helping prevent attacks on our nation,” said Corey Saylor, the group’s national legislative director.

Two other groups - the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Arab American Institute - held a briefing, “Islamophobia: A Challenge to American Pluralism,” for Capitol Hill staffers last Wednesday.

The King hearings are also spurring mosques around the country to get more political.

“Muslim Americans make vital contributions every day,” said Hadi Nael, director of the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley in California, whose congregation is calling and writing Congress to voice opposition to the King hearings.

“They love this country just as every American does and should not be placed under suspicion of terrorism because of their religious beliefs or ethnic background,” he said. “King’s hearings would do just that.”

Muslims and non-Muslims demonstrated in New York

Many Muslim activists said that recent remarks from King, a New York Republican, including his support for a theory that 80% of American mosques are controlled by radical imams, are evidence that he intends to target the American Muslim community broadly with his hearings, rather than focus on Islamic radicals.

“Let’s not fall into the same ugly patterns that were prevalent in earlier years in America, when Jews were suspected of aiding communism and Catholics were suspected of supporting fascism,” said Eboo Patel, a leading Muslim activist, summing up his opposition to the hearings.

“Let’s not repeat that history by blaming all Muslims for the extremist actions of a range of people in this country.”

A White House official appeared at a Muslim community center Sunday to speak about the need to prevent violent extremism, saying U.S. Muslims are part of the solution.

"The bottom line is this - when it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, you're part of the solution," said Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser to President Obama. "Of course, the most effective voices against al Qaeda's warped worldview and interpretation of Islam are other Muslims."

McDonough also said, "We must resolve that, in our determination to protect the nation, we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few. In the United States of America, we don't practice guilt by association."

A White House source said McDonough's speech was not meant as a "prebuttal" to King's hearings, while a spokesman said the administration is finalizing its strategy to help stop violent extremism.

King called for the hearings on Muslim radicalization after Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in November's elections. He declined calls from some Democrats to broaden sessions to focus on extremists of all types, including neo-Nazis, radical environmentalists and anti-tax groups.

“Al Qaeda is actively attempting to recruit individuals living within the Muslim American community to commit acts of terror,” King wrote in a letter last month to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, who had suggested that King broaden the hearings’ scope.

“Pursuant to our mandate, the committee will continue to examine the threat of Islamic radicalization, and I will not allow political correctness to obscure a real and dangerous threat to the safety and security of the citizens of the United States,” King’s letter continued.

King told CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley on Sunday that "something from within" the Muslim community is a "threat" to America and needs to be explored.

He compared the goal of the hearings to investigating the Mafia within the Italian community or going after the Russian mob in "the Russian community in Brighton Beach and Coney Island."

"We're talking about al Qaeda," King said. "There's been self-radicalization going on within the Muslim community, within a very small minority, but it's there, and that's where the threat is coming from at this time."

King has yet to release a full witness list for this week’s hearing, exacerbating Muslim anxiety. The sole witness whose name King has released is Zuhdi Jasser, an Arizona doctor who is Muslim but who has criticized his religion.

King has also invited Rep Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota - the first Muslim elected to Congress - to testify.

Ellison also appeared on "State of the Union" on Sunday, saying, "I challenge the basic premise of the hearings."

"We should deal with radicalization and violent radicalization, but ... singling out one community is the wrong thing to do," he said.

Democrats have invited Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca, who has praised Muslim leaders for building relationships with law enforcement authorities, to testify.

A recent survey showed that 56% of Americans support the upcoming hearings, compared with 29% who think they’re a bad idea.

The February survey, conducted by Public Opinion Research and the Religion News Service, found that seven in 10 Americans think Congress should refrain from singling out Muslims and should investigate all religious extremism.

Not all Muslims object to the hearings. American University's Ahmed says that many first-generation American Muslims, feeling rejected both by their parents' culture and by their American peers, are at risk of being radicalized.

"There's a new generation of Muslim Americans who are born here or have grown up here and are no longer fully accepted as Egyptians or Pakistanis, as their parents are," he says. "But America is also rejecting them, day and night Islam is being demonized… they’re suspended between two cultures.”

"Whey you are 18, that can push you into a dangerous situation," Ahmed says. "You can go online and some idiot in the Middle East can push you in a dangerous direction. It has little to do with theology and a lot to do with anthropology."

Other American Muslims interpret King’s hearings as the culmination of years of growing domestic suspicions of their community, dating back to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“For the last 10 years, there has been a movement of intolerance against Muslim Americans, but it hasn’t been above the surface,” says Patel, who leads the Interfaith Youth Corps.

“It’s now clear, from everything from the discussion around the Cordoba House (one name for the proposed New York Islamic center) to the way King has framed the hearings that there is an anti-Muslim sentiment in America that is reminiscent of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism,” he said.

“But I’d rather it be out in the open like it is now,” Patel continued.

According to the Justice Department, there were 107 anti-Muslim hate-crime incidents in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, up from 28 such incidents in 2000.

With the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the horizon and some likely contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination talking up the threat of Islamic law, or sharia, taking hold in the United States, many Muslims said they fear the worst is to come.

But many are also feeling that their community is finally preparing itself to take on those challenges.

“This is a very American thing, congressional hearings,” said Ahmed of this week’s King session. “Let’s present the complexity and sophistication of Islam so Americans understand it better. It’s a teaching moment.”

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Bonney Kapp and Rebecca Stewart contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • 9/11 • Islam • Politics

soundoff (1,742 Responses)
  1. Ames Wolff

    There is no Islamophobia. All who call themselves muslim are not hated. What is hated is the religion of Islam. Not all adherents are 100% devoted. You must take the person as they are....and understand, but never accept, the religion for what it is.

    March 6, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  2. Terry P

    They should be worried – we don't want them, and their nasty hate-filled relgion here. They blow up children, innocent people, all in the name of thir god. Either you believe in Islam or they want you dead. Now they are coing out of the woodwork, but when terrible things are done in the name of their POS Allah, practically all of them keep quiet. Send them back to where they came from, death is a way of life in the Mid-East, not here.

    March 6, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  3. Dr Dave

    This professor they interviewed says “There is a generalized sense of Islamophobia floating around, and the hearings are not doing anything to assuage Muslim fears.”. If I go to a Muslim country, I guarantee you that there will is generalized sense of Americanophobia floating around. Perhaps if the way Muslims felt toward western society changed then the way Americans felt obout them would follow suit........think about it. Practice what you preach.

    March 6, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  4. Doc

    I gave up beleiving any Muslim is peaceful when all 50 orgainzations failed to speak out after 9/11 or any other terrorist incident. Why are they not in the streets condemning the jihadists? They bring most of the hate on themselves by not standing up for America.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  5. KD Haque

    Islam = Terrorism

    March 5, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  6. Rabid Rabbit

    I have never seen such a display of bigotry, stereotyping, hatred, ignorance and intolerance as I have been reading in this comment section, and y'all seem so PROUD of it. All directed toward six million AMERICAN CITIZENS. And most of you call yourselves PATRIOTS? Gawd, I feel like I've wandered into a KKK social hour. I'm gone...y'all can put your robes and hoods back on and chat amongst yourselves.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:45 pm |


    MR> KING IS RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PERIOD.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  8. Lee Oates

    Looks like we are repeating a cycle of racial and religious hatred in the states. Senator Macarthy would be pround of America. We can repress Muslums in the states, feed into Islamophobia, and create a restance movement to oppose us. America needs people to hate, to repress, and to blame all our failures on.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  9. Abu Hamzah

    Muslims are out there speaking against Al-Qeada: Yasir Qadhi, Muhammad Al-Shareef, Kamal El-Makki, Waleed Basyouni, etc. All of these men and a dozen others who hold prominant positions in the Muslim community throughout the world have denounced Al-Qaeda. The only thing is that the news agencies do not put it on air. With so many people speaking up everyday why is it that CNN can only show you Anwar Alawlaki all the time?

    Moreover, Muslims are not responsible for most of the autrocities in the world. To say this is absurd and shows lack of knowledge about history. America has bombed and killed more people in the last 60 years than any other nation. Also, American politicians are very crude people. During the 1990s, Madaline Albright was aked about the millions of children and women that were killed as a direct result of the sanctions put on Iraq. She replied it was worth it to contain the Iraqi government.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Upperhand

      What??? The Liberal media not paying attention to Muslim moderates, say it isn't so!! Pffft!!

      March 5, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  10. Upperhand

    Liberal definition of Islamophobia: Is prejudice against, hatred or fear of Islam or Muslims. (Liberals tend to make race, hate and fear an issue)

    Conservative definition of Islamophobia:
    The fear of speaking out against the rapidly growing religion/ideology that is out to repress all who do not follow its doctrine.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  11. NightShadow1

    http://www . liveleak . com/view?i=9f6_1299131696

    children playing the Suicide Bomb Game in Pakistan.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  12. rodriga

    Muslim Mafia uncovers how CAIR is just a barnch of the Muslim Brotherhood, very good read. Also, everyone here needs to youtube "3 Things You Need to Know about Islam." No good Muslim reply to the arguments on that video so far, or to questions about CAIR's true stance against terrorism. I love tolerance and freedom of religion, and it was in my attempt to understnad the psychology of terrorists that I found these sources that have led me to conclude that (although there are obvoiusly many peaceful Muslums) there is a trend towards recentment and anger towards the west in Muslim communities that perhaps serves as an obstacle to full assimilation. That and the fact that I strongly question Islam's views on the meaning of freedom of religion/speech and the separation of church and state.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  13. wyciwyg

    TO ASB re: BHO ... a newspaper article IS NOT a notorized, certified, BIRTH CERTIFICATE! Anyone can call up a newspaper and pay the fee to publish anything.
    my personal issues with that man go much deeper than the birth certificate altho that is very telling, that he refuses to release it when doing so would stop ALL cntroversy. BHO has also sealed all educational records and transcripts which might, just might contain info like applications for grants, student status (citzen or foreign,student), such simple things as pass-fail history. Why has no one stepped up to say "I knew him when we attended xyz class." then there's the from-the-waist bow to the Saudi prince, the USA-backstabbing comments to MiddleEast officials, the slighting of traditonal allies, the 14.3 TRILLION $$$ future debt he's promoted and pushed thru in 2 years.
    Finally, and frankly, I dn't think BHO is any where near qualified for the job in any aspect. A charismatic speaker needs to back up the flash and sparkle wikth substance. IMHO BHO cant.
    this is my honest opinion, and as far as I know, it's still legal to question the qualifications of ANYONE inpublic office.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • jo an

      Not sure where you live...I live in Honolulu and people on MY STREET went to school with Obama...many of them worked for his Grandmother in a local bank. You cannot buy space in our newspapers to put births in that didn't happen. Every day I pass the apt building he lived in and see the Baskin Robbins ice cream shop where he worked. I fee very sad for your ignorance. This country has been 'dumbed down' by people like you. That is the SAD STORY...

      March 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  14. Reality

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:

    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.
    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    For those interested, analogous step programs for deprogramming centuries of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Pagan myths are available upon request.--–............

    March 5, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • harry

      Why go through all this...there is a simpler way.

      Close your eyes .......... and imagine a world without any religion..... it is peaceful, isn't it.

      March 5, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  15. Steve Powers

    All I have to say is Major Malik Nadal Hasan,and 911

    March 5, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  16. cynicalme

    Islamaphobia, huh? So why is it wrong to hate your enemy? An enemy who has attacked us many times. An enemy who has vowed to destroy us. An enemy whose evil book calls us all infidels and give Muslims a sacred duty to kill us all. How can these "peaceful / tolerant "moderate"" Muslims expect us to ignore headlines from around the world?

    March 5, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Sean

      I guess that a perverted reading of the Christian bible could lead to the very same thing means nothing to you huh? Or that the numerous and continous attacks are things we have done as well to them? Your post takes the position that we are some how above the law and are Polliana's here

      March 5, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Bob

      Over a billion people are Muslims. Do you think they are all terrorists? If they were, you'd be really screwed. Equating Islam and Muslims to terrorists is just as silly as equating all Christians to Nazis (Hitler's religion). Your next response will predictably be "But Hitler perverted the Bible to his own twisted views. He wasn't a true Christian!" Exactly.

      March 6, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  17. Sundowner

    Conservative christians, born-agains and all their ilt are no different from Muslims. There are all intolerant and want to takeover America with their selfish self serving doctrine. I say go on with the hearings but talk about the radicalization of the conservative right as well.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Upperhand

      So says the atheist with faith to believe no God exists. Pffft!!!

      March 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  18. Texas Girl

    I think having a hearing about this is a good idea. For one thing, I haven't heard any Islamic denunciation of terrorists acts performed by Islamic radicals on innocent people. Maybe the public hearing will awaken some of the American Muslims and get them moving. What I see from American Muslims when a terrorist act or criminal act occurs is nothing. They should be out there condemning these acts just as many of the rest of us are doing to the crazy "Christian" people protesting at military funerals.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Will

      Great idea Hermann Goering! And where shall we set up the death camps? Texas? You people are twisted.

      March 5, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Abu Hamzah

      In reality, Muslims are out there speaking against Al-Qeada: Yasir Qadhi, Muhammad Al-Shareef, Kamal El-Makki, Waleed Basyouni, etc. All of these men and a dozen others who hold prominant positions in the Muslim community throughout the world have denounced Al-Qaeda. The only thing is that the news agencies do not put it on air. With so many people speaking up everyday why is it that CNN can only show you Anwar Alawlaki all the time?

      March 5, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

      Have you looked?
      see http://www.unc.edu/~kurzman/terror.htm

      March 5, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Umer

      Hey.. I totally Agree. There is one Muslim organization that is taking an active role in denouncing all forms of Islamic terrorism. They are going door-to-door handing out fliers and telling their fellow Americans that terrorism has nothing to do with their religion. Their campaign is called "Muslims for Peace." Search them on youtube, or visit muslimsforpeace.org. It is groups like these that we as Americans need to promote.

      March 5, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Bob

      Do 99% of crimes in this country are committed by Christian. Every time a Christian commits a crime, do you immediately denounce it to all the non-Christians?

      March 6, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Noor Oueslati

      I am an American and Muslim and proud to be both. I do not come out and apoligize for terrorist attacks because I nor anyone I know or anyone that I know knows had anything to do with it. If i or anyone else says that was really bad what happened and I am sorry.... thats me saying that I had something to do with it. Why should I apoligize for something I had nothing to do with or agree with. The overwhelming majority of Muslims will denounce terrorism because it is against Islam and we hate it just as much as everyone else... it is destroying the name of my faith that I love so much. We do hate terrorism, but good luck getting CNN or MSNBC to air us denoucing it. Good TV is mad by drama and Muslims saying they hate terrorism is not good tv.

      March 6, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  19. Will

    Seems like not too long ago we were fighting against the Nazi's fascist regime. Now it seems that the U.S. is becoming it's own Weimar Republic, and we have the Neo-cons to thank for that. Muslims in America are to the Neo-cons as Jews were to Hitler. We are repeating one of the ugliest eras in world history, and many are too stupid to see that. Sots. This is dangerous. It must be stopped.

    March 5, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Upperhand

      You're an idiot, comparing Americans to Nazis proves it!! Now go to bed moron.

      March 5, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Will

      "Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, IT IS THE LEADERS of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. IT WORKS THE SAME IN ANY COUNTRY." Hermann Goering, Hitler's right-hand man.

      Based on the "level" of your response, I'd say you are exactly the kind of sot Goering was talking about.

      March 5, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • MsMac

      Will..A voice of reason in the madness, and Texasgirl if you have heard no denunciation, it is because you have selective hearing.
      Texas produced Bush...and Bush gave birth to more terrorist.
      Palins Pentecostal denomination is as much a cult as any extremist of any religion.
      There is a reason for seperation of church and state.
      If I believed..I would pray to be saved from the followers of god..no matter what they call him/her.

      March 6, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • David

      Islamic fundamentalist/radicals are targeting Americans and Jews, very simliar to the Nazis. I don't trust any of them and they don't trust me-"The Infadel". Contrary to what our President says we are at war with Islam.

      March 6, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  20. Upperhand

    Watch on Youtube:

    Muslim Mafia: CAIR's Ties to Terrorism

    March 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • mike kerns

      @upper hand you are suffering from fear induced phsycosis and a lack of respect for youre fellow americans. Try to ignore the glenn beck.hannity.limpbo crowd for one month and you should revert back to a decent human being.

      March 6, 2011 at 12:17 am |
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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.