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.
Hi Guys ! I have a Question.......
1) How many people are converted from Islam to other religions and the opposite (vice versa)? which one is more? Ask yourself why?
Well I know that in Islamic countries that if you leave Islam and become a christian that you are considered a heretic and are killed. There are examples of this and are articles on this. It even happened to one girl in florida. By the way liberals what do you think about honor killings where girls are killed by there fathers for being to westernized this has happened in the united States.
King will be laughed out of the country.
get a grip muslim lovers. yes a lot of people under the name of Christianity and islam have done bad things...HOWEVER, lets look at the leaders of those religions. Jesus taught us to love each other ..including our enemies. mohammed preached hate, intolerance, and was a pedophile. now really...is that even a religion? it sounds more like a cult.
We are the Muslims and we know our religion more than you. Our prophet Mohammed (PBUH) never said we have to hate you or kill you unless you started. And for the SECOND time I would say take ur information from reliable resources and stop repeating things that are not true. If it is a part of our religion to hate you or kill you, we wouldn't hide that and keep it a secret and we would say it loudly.
And here is a question for you, why you only take some of Jesus's words and believe in? Did he say hate any other religions and nations or people from other races? He taught you to LOVE your enemies and here see what you and others are saying about Islam and Muslims!! You unfortunately, ignored things that you don't like from Bible(s) and contradict yourself. I'm in the US and you know I just hear about christianity and Bible(s), but never saw a real christian, except an old couple, to be honest. You don't follow ur religion and only few who go to the church on Sunday, and the rest of you are atheists. For this point, I would say stop talking about religions please cuz. you know nothing about how to be a religious person.
@Jeremy :reat that you quoted 2:190 ..Atleast should have double checked .
Quran 2:190 Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.
Quran 2:192 And if they cease, then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
And if any of the pagan (enemy) seeks your protection then grant it – in order that he may hear the Word of Allah – and escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men who know not. (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 9, Verse 6)
Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion, nor drove you out of your homes. Verily Allah loves those who deal with equity. (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 60, Verse 8)
Truth has come and vanquished falsehood. Truly, falsehood is bound to perish. We send down in the Qur’an that which is healing and a mercy to those who believe. (But) for the evil-doers, it increases them in nothing but loss. (Qur’an,17, Verse 81-2)
And yet protest goes on in times square same place that radical muslim tried to blow up last year.
@Utahsang : Because there are lunatics in every community who commit heinous crimes against humanity. People have wiped out entire villages and called it collateral damage . People have killed Martin Luther king , Lincoln , Kennedy and Gandhi and none of them happened to be Muslims . Try to differentiate between politics and religion .
CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case - so named by the Justice Department. CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups. Several former CAIR officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror. CAIR's co-founder and longtime Board chairman (Omar Ahmad), as well as its chief spokesman (Honest Ibe Hooper), have made Islamic supremacist statements.
Islam will be the first religion in the world without a doubt no matter what haters do or say. You will have to be fair to muslims if you want to do commerce and have access to much of the panet's wealth in the near future. muslims are closing the gap in education and wealth and christians and jews will have to treat muslims equally and stop considering them slaves and barbarians. muslims in North America will reach 50 million in 2050. what you gonna do deport us. I'd like to see you try. muslims have been here for generations and they are good in protecting themselves. we follow the law so stah the h... away. I am an African American Muslim and I dare you try to mess with me or my people. we are peaceful, but we dont take @$@! from nobody.
Spoken like a true terrorist...give me your name and address and I'll send the FBI and DHS over right away.
To leciat who said "and what should i study about islam? the stoning of people who commit adultery? the subjugation of women? the blind hatred of jews?"
It's not your business darling, we are HAPPY with our lives and we like the way we are. We didn't complain. And by the way, are you a lawyer or something so that you are defending Muslim's women? hhhh
should we all be adulterers and adulteress to prove that we live a GREAT life?? As you have your beliefs we have ours and no one has the right to dictate what we should or shouldn't do. Do you know whether jews LOVE muslims or not? I think they would die for muslims @_@. For God's sake who are killing children and raping women in Palestine ? Who are killing women's husbands, sons and fathers in front of their eyes?? Do you know who do inject AIDS to prisoners and then release them to infect others?? Muslims or jews??
May God give some knowledge
Susan – you are an idiot if you believe what you posted – who's telling who to believe what – looks like your M o s l em friends are – but you consider it a choice to convert or die... Please leave the tired lies of the sufferings of Palestine at home – who closed the amusement park for kids there in Gaza – of that's right, the M o s l e m government – no fun in I s l a m is there?
Ok, let’s kill each other, and you rednecks go join the army or go ride a cow. and let’s see who wins and then whoever wins kills himself ok, so we all die, daaaaaah love this country, we have all kind of people, nice, bad, rednecks, racist, gay, republicans, and you .
Think of the logic – over 1 billion Muslims in the world. If only 1% is radical and interpret the Quran has converting nonbelievers by the sword this makes over 10 million radicals who believe that jihad is OK.
All of you like Javed and J Ahmed who say please read the Koran... It's really a beautiful book, all about peace...
Let me ask you something: do you really believe that? If you do, fellas, why are you so strangely silent when your
beloved Koran is trampled on by your radical cousins? How could you not rise up in defense of that precious book and publically denounce your boys in the Taliban who cut off the hands of teenage girls simply because they want to go to school? How do you not show your outrage when a Muslim father guns down his daughter in an "honor killing"? Why do you stick your head in the sand when the "good Muslim mujahadeen" blows up 30 people in a bank? Where is your voice? Why have I never heard you Javed, screaming to all the world, "this is not acceptable!". I'll tell you why. Because in the midnight of your soul you are not against it. You want universal Sharia Law. You long for the Caliphate to return. You are a believer, and as a believer you say... what's a few casualties if the end is achieved? You think you can fool us. But it is your very silence that condemns you my friend. It is your silence which reveals your true intentions. I hope and pray the day comes soon when my countrymen awake from their slumber and cast you out, back to the desolate wastes of your homeland.
@Hamlet :If your messages are anything to go by – you are the one peddling hate .
Of course they're never active when it comes to muslim brutality to the West. Always about what they want. And by the way American is not preceded by another word.
I find it hilarious people claim that by reading the Koran that they know all of Islam. If you were raised by another religion and read the Bible and thought all Christians took that literally you'd be just as scared. We're talking about a book that says stoning to death is a just punishment for a disrespectful son. Not all muslims are the same or believe the same things about their religion just as surely as not all Christians do the same, just look at all the differences between Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, and etc. Yeah, just keep painting everyone with a broad stroke and convince yourself you're not a bigot. Screw Timothy McVeigh, have you people forgotten it wasn't a complete holiday season until the IRA or somebody set a bomb off at Harrod's in London? Ireland, Basque Seperatists, The Shining Path, South American Drug Cartels, or any other group with nary a muslim to be found in their ranks. All your misplaced anger does in the end is help fuel the fire.
Yeah – but you miss the point that devout Moslems are behind recent (and many) attacks... I'm just saying... open your eyes and limit your desire for idealistic but naive pluralism to see the truth of the evil amongst us...
Since when is having a hearing to discuss Islamic radicalization a projection on all muslims?? Shouldn't the muslim community be smart enough to realize they are discussing the radical fringe and not their community as a whole? When these morons start marching in the streets crying about being marginalized, they only make themselves look like fools. Get a clue Mr. Muslim and stop being so defensive, save your anger for those in your midst who wish to blow up Times Square, buses and airplanes.
The radicals Muslims have captured the Islam faith. All peaceful Muslims need to stand up against the radicals. Fortunately, many Muslims have. Many are the front soldiers in the Iraq and Afganistan battle. We must not forget they are the ones as translators and helping identify insurgents. Although I am leery of Muslims in general I do salute and thank you for your efforts.
jeffd, Muslims need to keep up their victim status so they can claim victimhood anytime someone asks them uncomfortable questions about their belief system.
give up your radical leaders like luis farrakhan,amadinejad, like we gave up bush perhaps we can find common peace
The silence of American Muslims since 9/11 has been DEAFENING! These evil hypocrites need to be watched.
Your comment is awaiting moderation
Take your fingers out of your ears
@useyourbrain Americans just love censorship.
Un educated, ignorant, know nothing about Islam, i am 100% sure media like Fox News made you hate Muslims, we Americans so dumm sometimes,
Racist talk, Islam is the most growing religion in America, and this fact scares them allot, nothing you will say or do will change that, Muslims are Americans just like you, and love USA, you heaters go to your dark hole somewhere in the mid west and play with Bush and Palin. Republicans or whats called tea cup party or mug party 🙂 will take this country down.
Ha ha ha ha. If you are going to talk about the uneducated, perhaps you should learn to spell or at least how to use a spell checker.
One of my closest friends in high school was a Muslim. We sat up one night, me and him and one of my other friends, and just kept talking about what faith really means. We took a trip down to a lake and went out fishing for our senior trip, one of my fonder memories of high school.
He was my friend. He made it clear to me that he didn't support killing me or anyone. I cannot believe that every Muslim reads the Koran in a way that commands them to kill people. Christians, including me, seem to have the same problem, because we have so many churches divided over what one or two verses could mean.
There will always be radicals no matter the faith or lack thereof anyways. This is what it means to have freedom of religion; I'm willing to bet that there are more Muslims out there like my friend than there are like those in the terrorist organizations. Trying to get rid of or labeling all Muslims will not solve the problem.
Why is it that liberals don't want to face reality. Nobody is saying get rid of all muslims but the radical muslims who are killing people around the world on a daily basis should not be tolerated or make excuses for they are the ones who are intollerant if you don't believe like they do they feel justified in killing you.
Anumi, Certainly not every Muslim follows every tenet of Islam but Muslims believe the Qur'an to be the exact words of Allah and thus are not open to interpretation.
I noticed that most of you are judging Islam and muslims. But I have some questions for you
How many ones of you read the Holy Qura'n or tried to read about it from reliable sources not the ones written by Islams' enemies!! I bet NO ONE. 🙂
Another point: Have you read your history and seen how your ancestors killed and betrayed native americans to take their land ? Have you read about slavery? Do you know how many innocent people were killed and launched just 'cuz your ancestors didn't like BLACK's colour!!! WHat about the GREAT law (seperate but equal)?!!!
I am not against any nation or religion and I know your points of view don't represent all americans', but I just wanted to give you hints and tell you that every nation has extremists but they do not represent the majority or the religion(and in so many cases they use the religion to achieve their dirty goals.) For example, in US you have some christian people call themselves KKK and they are extremists,too. They kill blacks in the US and do so many crimes that we all read in the newspapers and watch on the TV. Is christianity a religion of terrorism??!! Just calm down guys and don't be an example of extreme thought. No one in the middle east applauded what happend in 9/11, and just for ur information those groups of killers also killed innocent people in our countries and they are still against the governments. Albeit I didn't like your ex-president (George Bush) but he openly praised what middle-eastern countries did to eliminate terrorism and that probably the only right thing he has ever done.
As usual you and other apologists go off on a tangent and bring up items designed to avert the blame. Well guess what? We know where the blame belongs.
Susan – Actually CNN showed tv footage of the children being giving candy by the elders in Jordan and then dancing in the streets for the victory of 9/11. When the horror of that was shown and the bad negative reaction was seen around the world Yasser Arafat put the pressure on the networks to pull that footage.
I bet a bunch of virgins that your name isn't Susan.
Susan I have no problem with good peaceful muslim americans . Are You at all aware that two american soldiers were killed at german airport last week by radical muslim shouting Allah Akbar now surely you don't support that do you? And Susan the protest in times square is the same place another radical muslim tried to blow up last year. Again american people are the most generous and inviting people in the world but we do not have to put up with or embrace radical Islam.
Why is it wrong to look at the tenets of a belief system? Christianity did not teach the KKK to do what they did. Islam, however, does teach Muslims to subjugate non-Muslims.
Actually, and I quote "According to the Center for the Study of Political Islam (CSPI), this has led to the killing through Jihad of around 270 million non-Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia over the last 1400 years." Religion is not the cause of death and bloodshed, mankind is. Regardless of your belief, I would prefer to believe in Jesus Christ and his message of tolerance and love....man has adulterated his message.
A Christian American
and according to the same Center for the Study of Political Christians (CSPC) Christians killed 400 million non-Christians in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia over the last 1400 years." dudeeeeeeeeeee who the hell is CSPI, they are good man 1400 years ago and they have the numbers, i need to hire them for analyst work about dumms in America, i need the numbers right.
Deport the non American Muslim horde...no need for their 7th century cave dwelling 3rd wolrd intolerant religion here in America.
I guess the first Muslims who came to US shore were the black slaves from Africa .. I guess you would also like to deport Mohammad Ali and Karim Abdel Jabber out of US
very mature i c:)
it amazes me how pple LOOK so mautre but yet they act like 5 year olds,
jst grow up and use ur minds will you?
ya and we should deport you also, this land belong to the indians, read history daaaaaahhhhh this is funny
What religion are you, because frankly, you sound pretty intolerant to me.
@ Javed – You guess?? You don't sound to sure of yourself.
@ Muslimah – Sure, just as soon as you Muzzies face the facts and take responsibility for your jihadist brethren. Americans don't see the so called "moderate" Muslims doing anything.
@ Christ – I'm not Caucasian but am of American Indian decent, so make sure leave as well.
@ Useyourbrain – I'm exhausted of being tolerant towards those who are intolerant towards America. You have to give respect to get it.
@Upperhand: "Muzzies" huh? Go back to your sofa. Get your Keystone Ale and your banjo. Tune into Fox. Await further instructions.
Dear "useyourbrain," really? I mean really? Were the 911 victims playing their banjos or watching Fox News waiting for further instructions when their lives were cut short? Please answer this post quickly b/c I am curious as to what you meant. thanks
dear "useyourbrain" still waiting....hoping that you're actually using yours...
Dear "useyourbrain" still waiting...
@Hoosierdog: OK, if you want to keep this discussion adult, then I would love to discuss. Our friend Upperhand has a propensity for the dramatic, and using the term "Muzzies" is simply immature, inlfammatory, and has nothing to do with anything other than an immature necessity to be mean and counterproductive.
As far as your comments, 1) You are implying that 9/11 is a Muslim problem. Sadly, it is not a Muslim problem. It is a problem brought on by a radical group of non-Americans that were horribly misguided by their actions. I guarantee you, no American Muslims were a part of this horrible action, and the implication is simply misquided. 2) "Using your brain" implies that you are not going to generalize your reaction. For example, blowing up abortion clinics is not a Christian problem. It is the actions of misquided people who happen to be Christian. Therefore, your comments show that you are not using your brain. 3) The hearings of Rep King are simply an extension of the above arguments. Mr. King is implying that American Muslims are not trustworthy by simply holding these hearings. This is an insult to approximately 5 million Americans who happen to be Muslim. And for his efforts, Mr. King is going to further alienate and disenfranchise these Americans, and provoke a reaction from them, hopefully nonviolent.
Sadly, people like you who blame the 9/11 tragedy on the 6M Americans who happen to be Muslim, are never going to understand that these Americans are just as hurt as you are over the 9/11 tragedy, and people like you are further rubbing salt in their wounds by 1) blaming them, 2) asking them for an apology and never hearing it, and 3) supporting misguided politicicians like King.
So I beg you, use your brain.