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.”
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.
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.
Show me one muslim who will speak out against the 9/11 victory mosque. Failing that, I say let the mass deportations begin.
Because that's not a completely bigoted statement.
you like to blame islam for any 911 attack but do you know how many muslims died at 911 attack?
I'm not necessarily against these hearings per se, but I also want fundamentalism in all churches and other places of worship investigated.
The christian religious nut-jobs here in America are as much of a threat to our freedoms as any other fundamentalist intolerant religions.
When was the last time you were threatened with death or a suicide bomb by the evangelists?
ok, here is the thing, yes there are some mosques(around the world) that say killing Americans is right. But this is called an extremist, and you have to know that the solution is to treat each other with respect and say that one group is responsible for terrorism. The definition of Terrorism is the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear. Nowhere in that definition does it say that Islam is the only religion that relates to Terrorism, and the thing is that we as Americans need to be United to win this war on terror. And we wouldn't get anywhere if we just point fingers at each other. In Conclusion, this War on Terror can only be won if we treat each other with respect and we don't only refer a terrorist to a Muslim. And the truth is that everybody, whether white, black, brown, Christian, Jew, Muslim, American, Arabia, or European has done a terrorist act in the past, we just can't say that everybody is a terrorist because a few did the terrorist acts.
Loose Jihad and I'll be more favorable to respecting Muslins. I can't in good faith respect the religion. There have been too many deaths caused by followers of this religion. True, they have been persecuted, but they have not been nearly as persecuted as Jews and Christians.
Why don't muslims want to stop the radicalization of their religion in the US? It seems that they that they don't care, not only that but they are trying to stop anything that would help prevent radicalization of muslims in the US. You would think that they would want to stop the radicalization as well so there would be a much sharper visible line of radicals and normal muslims. If they start turning radicals into the FBI/CIA from their communities they would be viewed in a different light but instead we get protesters that show us that they want to protect these radicals.
Correct me if I'm wrong;but are'nt a lot of terrorists acts committed by muslims?
You mean terrorist acts like invading another country?
Investigate the radicalization of all religions. The only difference between the Taliban and Christian evangelicals is how you spell it.
Have you been to Europe? When I was in the UK and Belgium I saw isolated Muslim populations not assimilated into those ideals that make their new home great. In the US generations of foreigners have left for improvement and have assimilated well into American society. To me, as an immigrant if you live and enjoy a free society you owe that country-BIG TIME!
Are we entering another McCarthy Era? God help us! NOT every Muslims is a terrorist, just like NOT every White man is a racist!
In the United States today we have a huge number of people joining White Supremacist & Neo-Nazi Groups are they going to hold hearings on this?
Leave it to the Republicans to continue to spread, Hate, Fear, Lies & Division!
I'm not afraid of them. They are just plain not welcome anymore. This is a country of religious tolerance, and they are the most intolerant around. Until they learn some tolerance, they will not be welcome.
I'm choking on the irony.
This country is not belong to any part or religion group we us muslim will be here either you like it or not we are not afraid you guys.
Hmm, Wonder where all these Muslims were after 9/11. They couldnt come out of their homes to decry the attacks but they can come out to protest this? Get a grip, maybe a little action after 9/11 would have prevented this. Thanks to the Muslim religion of peace i get felt up at airports now so now they can just....Deal with it!
Did you not know there were many Muslims including women and an unborn child killed on 9/11?
What is required is not visiting offices of senators and representatives but denouncing people like the colonel who killed 13 military members. People are forced to be scared of Muslims not based on what they are told but based on what they see happening.
I have no doubt that these muslims were dancing and celebrating when the twin towers fell.
In short. Boo hoo hoo...
A good litmus test to disprove the so called peaceful Muslims.....Peaceful Muslims would you rather live in a country like Iran or Pakistan that is governed by Islamic Law or a country that is governed by Christian principles like the US? If you are so devout, wouldn't you want to live in a country that is governed by your religious principles?????
Go away Muslims. I am sick to death of being 'politically correct'. How about honesty. Go back where you came from.
that's a slipper slope
Maybe if American Muslims had stood up 10 years ago to denounce the actions of the extremist Muslims responsible for the 9/11 attacks and many others over the years instead of burying their heads in the sand, this wouldn't be happening now. If they're not willing to openly deplore the acts of terrorists on their own country (which is the US in case they're in doubt), they have no one to blame but themselves.
Well so much for Americans and Freedom of Religion, guess this isnt the home of the free and brave anymore. Because we are not free to practice any faith that we want (and thats the reason this country started) nor are we the brave because we fear knowledge and understanding.
We are Rome, and Rome will fall.
People in Europe have started to realize what happens where there is an Islamic majority. All you have to do is look at all the 55 Islamic countries and without exception they are all corrupt, not Democratic in the true sense and have practically wiped out all non-Muslims. Even today over 100 churches are burned down every year in Islamic countries as the few minorities that are left are further terrorized and murdered. They expect tolerance and respect from others while showing intolerants and extreme abuse murder and damnation towards others.
Europe clearly has had enough of Jihad and Islamic coming there not as good citizens but to establish their culture with intent to dominate. They proudly proclaim that they will take over in 20-50 years. It has become clear that this culture and Democracy do not mix. They benefited greatly from the countries they inhabit yet proudly talk aloud how they will take them over and all that that will mean to their citizens.
Once upon a time, people like you said the same things about the Jews! And 6 million died!
Sickening. Look at them all, whining like they are bout to be round up into concentration camps.
And here we are addressing their own violent, slave, dominating code they injected into their own religion.
I honestly cannot believe this ignorance that so many Americans hold against Islam. Terrorist attacks are one of the most evil things that humanity has seen, and yes in recent years fundamental Muslims have been responsible for them, but these incidents BY NO MEANS reflect the intentions of the vast majority of Muslims. Western ideology simply does not understand Islam and, as a result, clumps all Muslims together. I, as someone to whom Christianity is incredibly important yet have studied other religions, would go as far as to argue that out of all the main religions in the world, Islam and Christianity as actually the most similar - its simply cultural differences that make the two seem so different from a blind perspective. The Virgin Mary is the most holy woman in Islam. Jesus is also extremely important and mentioned numerous times in the Quran. An average American Muslim has much more in common with an average Christian than an Islamic terrorist. We, as a Christian nation, cannot synthesize such polarization.
What is so wonderful about this country is the fact that we are made up of so many peoples, so many cultures, and so many walks of life. We are the leader of the free world, and proudly so, yet how can we preach such freedom abroad when we're judging a group out of complete ignorance here on our own shores?
Condemn and punish terrorists, whatever religion, and let justice be sought. Yet never label an entire religion as the cause of the tragedy.
Agreed. Its not like we held hearings about radical Christians following the Oklahoma City bombing, the Atlanta Olympics bombing, or the various murders commited by anti-abortion extremists..all of which were purpitrated by Christians. There are crazy, violent and dangerous people of all faiths..why pick on just one? Its UnAmerican.
Have you read the Quran? If they respect and honour Christ,, why do they have verses that tell believers to kill Christians.
After all, Christians follow Christ, so muslims should respect and honour Christians. What about the murder in Pakistan of the only Christian minister.. Did you see any muslim group standing at Times Square to protest the killing?
Or the killling of non believers in Indonesia. The irony is that after President Obama went to Indonesia praiising the tolerance of that country, there were burnings of churches and those who belonged to the Ahmadi sect. I welcome those Indonesians who went to stand at Times Square to protest these acts. Then only can I say that they are not looking after their back.
When the Chancellor of Germany and the PM of Great Britain say that "Multiculturalism has failed" these Americans who are worried about Muslims in their homeland America, have something of a justification. This isn't about racism, or anything else you can use to keep your foot in our door.
Actually, "In All Fairness", Christian is the next best thing you can be according to Muslims. That's how similar the two are. It's the same God, the God of Abraham. I highly doubt that you, who seem to be ignorant on the subject, have read an English translation of the Quran.
I'm a Christian but come on, seriously, understand what Islam ACTUALLY is before you make yourself look uneducated.
If the US Muslim community want's me to believe them as not radical. Then they need to stand up to the radical Muslims and their terrorist acts. I mean look at how Muslims act in general if you say of do anything they don't like. Make a cartoon and they place death threats, Burn a book and more death threats. You think others have to follow your rules. I don't for one. If you want tolerance then show some yourselves. A picture and a book aren't worth killing anyone over.
Show by your actions what you are.
Show me that you guys dont believe in KKK and admit that you supplied Osama the real terrorist with all those ak-47 and rocket launchers. You created your own enemy. We muslims love north america. We dont need to stand up to few fools who try to give us bad image, they dont even represent the whole community. So by your statements you want every1 to think that Whites are the same as all KKK memebers?
@Matt1234: What makes you think that U.S. Muslims don't speak up against terrorism????? Beware of making collective judgements! IF you are a Christian, leave Judgement to God.
Well said Matt1234. Shagadalic, you have no clue. Every American looks an an younger looking Arab, and sees terrorist. This is because most terrorists are young Arab men. Instead of blaiming America, either stick up for beheading the terrorists (see Saddam), or get the hell out of Ameirca.
many have gone against radical muslims quite a few went to Iraq as part of the military are you in the military?
Order the movie, ISLAM RISING. Please open your mind to the truth. Muslims especially, you have been brain washed. Nobody in their right mind beheads anyone or cuts their hand off or kills their daughter to save the family's honor! This is no religion! It's misery and death. If you don't like blood, choose another belief system.
There are several ironic parts of your statement.
Let me start with the last one: "Show by your actions what you are". I'm assuming you're American... America, which stands for freedom and acceptance and tolerance. You're action of hating Muslims is, if you should "show by actions", making you extremely un-American? Are you not, thus, being very hypocritical?
Yes, burning the Quran is extremely offensive in Islam because the Quran is thought to be direct word of God, as opposed to the Bible which Christians, myself included as an Episcopalian, believe to be a translation. However this Islamic belief obviously doesn't condone death threats. But the fact is that it wasn't the majority of the Muslim community making these threats! Anyway why burn the Quran? Is that not an incredibly intolerant and ignorant gesture?
"You think others should follow your rules". well, it looks like you think everyone should follow your rules doesn't it. What makes you any different from what you're claiming Muslims are?
I think you should try to practice what you preach. Tolerance has to come from both ends.
If you look at them that way then you also need to look in the mirror. The right wing radicals are just as nuts as their radicals. Bush lied us to a war that killed over a 100,000 people and you felt proud of that when you follow Bush, am I right. So we have our share of radicals too. The Tea Party Regime should never be trusted when they tell you they want to reload against their own people. So look inside first and find out what you are so afraid of. Christians don't have a good track record when it comes to attacking people but then the real reason is always for money and power. To steal from other in the name of God.
Let's have a hearing about the republican and tea party role in inciting violence which lead to the massacare at Tucson, Ariz instead of cornering a minority community.
When the Chancellor of Germany and the PM of Great Britian say that "Multiculturalism has failed" these Americans who are worried about Muslims in their homeland America, have something of a justification. This isn't about racism, or anything else you can use to keep your foot in our door.
You can't say you want to kill cartoonists.. and at the same time want to be an American.
It's one or the other, but not both.
I am a Marine Iraq War veteran soon to be Ohio State graduate. Matt you obviously are very uneducated. Was the IRA representative of all Catholics? Was Timothy Mcvay who was involved in Oklahoma City representative of all military personel? Are neo-nazi's representative of all caucasians? Is the KKK representative of all Southernors? Are columbian rebels labelled as terrorists represntative of all Columbians? Are gang members representative of all African-Americans? Here is a fact for you most terrorists in America have beeen white males angry with the government, fact. Most domestic born, fact. Another fact, most Muslims, 99% are not radical, another fact. Is that to say I agree with the religion, not by any means. But they are not demons, they are not terrorists. Gangs are gangs, terrorists are terrorists. A radical group never represents the whole. Get educated, stop buying into Republican propaganda
Too often you muslims blame others for your own problems. It is always Israel's fault. Its someone's problem there are radicals that are killing and blowing up. Yes it IS your problem because they do this in the name of islam and your god. People are not born hating, it must be learned. Your radical imams are poisoning your minds with an interpretation of hatred. People don't trust muslims because they have shown that they can't be trusted.
I'm going to answer a few question here.
First of all I lived near a Muslim school for over 14 years and knew a few of it's leaders. We got along just fine. After 9/11 they were scared, yet no one in the area caused any trouble for them as they were known in the area as good people. We talked about terrorist and radical Muslims and they would privately condemn the acts, yet many had trouble condemning the people and what I call "Dark Ulama and clerics" those that teach Radical Islam. Some admitted fear for family members still in the Middle East.
Go to Dearborn, Michigan and see for yourselves. Preaching Christianity in that city can get you hurt. FACT
To me what it comes down to is my Neighbor can be Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or even Wiccan. As long as they don't force me in any way to follow their rules I have no problem with them.
I saw the KKK mentioned here. Don't recall anyone being killed by the KKK lately. Don't recall the KKK bombing children almost daily even other KKK members. The radicals are out of control as they kill even other Muslims in horrible ways.
Remember the past and fix the future. Jihad is for fools and I believe most in America would say so.
I also want to say murder for making a picture or burning a book is stupid as if that can hurt
god then it isn't God.
The Murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, in Pakistan for being a moderate shows much of the truth about the radicals. Agree or Die is their motto.
Hope I answered most questions put to me. If not well sorry.