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.
certainly we are also seeing an increase in the number of radical xtians: westboro baptists, the nutty militia in michigan, etc. they all act in the name of god, so therefore no one can argue that they represent all xtians. just like king/rush/beck/oreilly/robertson paint all muslims as radicals. maybe we should just make the wall between church and state taller/thicker so that no religious group can gain control of our gov't.
So all government members should be... what? I hope not atheist because they are no more unbiased than any other religious person.
We bring these unwanted and uneeded people here and we get 911. You figure it out.
I'm not Muslim, therefore I shall be put to death. Earth to CNN ?
Just like the indians who let the unwanted and unneeded european puritans come here and got slaughered?
Many bring up the Cristian Crusades. The problem I have with that is that the Crusades happened a thousand years ago when people didn't know or understand life fanatical Muslims are on their Crusade now in 2011 when science and reason can explain much. People trapped in a time from a thousand years ago is pretty scary. Religious brainwashing controlling ones existence all based on a book of fiction, Silly humans.....
The Crusades are often used as a symbol of forces of Christian oppression. Do a search online about it.
The Muslims had invaded and taken over large parts of the middle east and the christians in europe had to get a path back to the holy land. It was a war against the muslim take over of the holy land.
So it was a response to the Islamists taking over.
Even back then, Islam was a world destroying problem, and the Christians had to act. I'm not saying the crusades were good. I'm saying UNDERSTAND what led to it, and the role ISLAM played in ut.
Thats it exactly.. Where do you think the legend of Dracula came from.. None other than Vlad the Impaler.. who defeated Muslims invading Romania.. He impaled their bodies upon posts and made fence out of their bodies..
The guy in the middle holding the flag in front of the white liberal is a sleeper terrorist.
I hope you have strong proof to make that statement because I think he could probably sue you for libel otherwise
ISLAM.. The biggest threat to the world.... like Nazism, Fascism..
Insane – Sadistic -Lying – Ape-minded -Murderers
Coptic Christian priest killed in southern Egypt"
The Coptic priest was found dead in his home. A fellow clergyman, Danoub Thabet, says his body had several stab wounds. He says neighbors reported seeing several masked men leaving the apartment and shouting "Allahu akbar,
obviously irish catholics impersonating muslims and using the famous victory cry as a ruse.............just sayin
If only Muslims would be this vocal and organized when one of their own MURDERS AN INNOCENT AMERICAN.
Just like how vocal americans were with that video showing the MURDER OF INNOCENT IRAQIS...you ignorant bigots are all the same.
Islam is a violent religion and it needs to be exposed. I was in Egypt last year and our tour guide was an archaeologist. He was Islamic but also a quasi-science person and said that the Islamic leaders in years past, wanted to grow Islam to overpower other religions. So they let their followers have multiple wives, and encouraged a lot of children so in a few decades the Islamic population would be much larger that others. They also told the natives, that if they converted to Islam, they would not pay tax, as opposed to Christian and Jewish. So they got more and more people converting to Islam. Fast forward hundreds of years later and you see the result of that cunning strategy.
Islam creates high population growth as a strategy to dominate, and because it has no freedoms the people live in poverty.. and then turn to extremism to take by force what they don't have. It is not a religion, but a movement/philosophy of domination and conquest for the leaders. The people are born into it, and essentially are slaves.
We cannot let this type of violent oppressive and proliferating ideology take root in the US and tear it open from within.
You hit the nail dead square on the head Merri. This really isnt brain surgery.
Wow, exactly the same as the catholics and other fundamentalist religions "Be fruitful and multiply", that line of thinking is only 5 thousand years old.
Our country is already polluted beyond repair. Freedom of religion was meant to be for legitimate religion.
Lol. Who gets to pick the list of legitimate religions? Do we vote on it? Does believing a certain book is holy and free of error get a religion onto the list or take it off?
REMEMBER WHEN WHITE CHRISTIAN TIED A BLACK MAN TO THE BACK OF A PICKUP AND DRAGED HIM TILL HE WAS DEAD.WAS THAT THE ONLY BRUTAL KILLING BY A CHRISTIAN. WHAT ABOUT THE DOCTOR KILLED IN HIS CHURCH
Were the perpetrators yelling 'Praise be to Jesus' in their acts of violence? These people were Racist and acting out of wanting to kill inferior races in their minds.
The same mentality exists in the Islamists. They believe Islam is superior, and all infidels must be killed.
Its not the same as Christianity, or Buddhism for that matter.
Aww, are the Muslims anxious that their faith may actually be held up to the same type of scrutiny that all other religions are in a free society? Well, boo hoo. Peter King has already barred the attendance of any experts of Islam who have a contrary view to CAIR (which is an unindicted co-conspirator in the first WTC bombing, which is an offshoot of the Islamic Association of Palestine, which was co-founded by the current leaders of CAIR along with Mousa Marzook, leader of Hamas, and which is a front group for the Ikhwan). These hearings are already politically correct; King said that these hearings are in response to the Islamic community refusing to work with law enforcement against terrorism threats but those attending this hearing have been dictated by that very same Islamic community! These hearings are a red herring and if anything are a boon to CAIR and other such radical pseudo-moderates.
CAIR was also quoted and just a few weeks ago on their website they told muslims if questioned by the FBI to not cooperate.
If the Muslim community has nothing to hide, then they should not be trying to stop open hearings on the issue. To protest against the existence of a Congressional hearing, without even waiting to see the details its contents, is a clear sign that they don't even want to discuss the issue of radical Islam in the US. All the more reason investigate it deeply. Radical Islam is at war against the US and Western civilization. If we have enemies among us, we need to know who they are, how they got there, how to stop them, and how to prevent more of them from turning against our country. There may come a day when Muslims in American will have to choose between being Muslim and being American, because you can't fight on both sides of a war.
May I suggest that each citizen heavily arm themselves? We have learned from Israel that muslims only respect superior firepower.
All religion, Christianity, Islam, whatever, is all based on myths and stories that were created to explain the unexplainable. If a guy walked up to a group of people today and said "I am a messenger from God" would anyone believe him? Not likely. That guy would probably be laughed at and told he was crazy. Why do people keep up with all this fantasy from books written a thousand years ago? Why do many Americans believe Islam is bad and Christianity is good? Here's reality: Christians are no better than Muslims. You Christians should remember your history. Remember the Crusades were used to wipe out all Muslims from the Holy Land; the Inquisition that was used torture and kill millions for heresy (not believing in the Church). Just because it's not in your Bible doesn't mean it never happened. Religion has done nothing more than see to the slaugther of millions upon millions of people who didn't agree with the other groups believes. If everyone faced reality, realized religion makes for some interesting story-telling, and that there is no God, the prophets in each religion (Jesus, Muhammad, ect) were probably, real or not, just people who told some wild stories, we would all see every human being on earth equally, no different than what you make them out to be. Enjoy life because there is no God; we only have each other in this world.
Just as my white race took over North America from the North Americian Indians so can Islam take North America.And if you have not noticed almost the entire world already.Even Libya leader Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi has stated this that no war is needed that the spread of the religion itself is conquering the entire world.Wake up.For Gods sakes wake up and put this human populated religious revolution down while we still have some time.We must all hang together on this or we will all hang separately by them eventually,or in their case beheaded for not being Muslim as their religious book clearly states ! Why cannot people,even Muslims see this.BAN IT ! It`s a form of world conquest ! ˆ®®ˆ
When we as Americans are quick to claim our Christianity then why are we so filled with hate. I refuse to defile Christianity with hate, it's a sin but we see it everyday even in our politicians.
There's a lot of Christian phobia in muslim countries especially ones with sharia law and there's a lot of western phobia about by muslims who live in the West and who fail to integrate even after third fourth generations , get over your selves and dont be so precious and sneaky about the way you go bout your business .
You are absolutely correct, but they don't like it when it's back in their face.
The extremists are using the acts of a few to paint the whole canvas black. They have done the same thing with every new group that arrived in America since the 1800's.
Those discriminated against must take the same path the others did, assimilate. The extremists fear change and use that fear to drive discrimination. They can't fear what they can't see as being different.
NO, Maroon!!! They fear people who will kill innocent babies in support of their religion.
How many American citizens have been killed by radical Christians who murder doctors and others who support a woman's legal right to choose? Now, who kills in the name of religion? Can we revisit that question?
I prefer to do my killing just for the pure joy of killing! I think ALL women should have abortions! No one is right in the religion war! But everyone is to stupid to see that...until they are dead, and then it is too late. Me, I dig where I am at right now!
Muslims do Betty if you havent noticed and they are not merciful in the way they do it. As you may have noticed they have a penchant for slowly sawing off peoples heads. You did hear all the gurgling in the Daniel Pearl video didnt you? You do now that was blood running down Daniels throat dont you?
1 doctor Betty.
You forgot to mention Timothy McVeigh Betty.
The US-founded on small pox laden blankets, forced family separation, stolen lands, forced conversion to Christianity, the cavalry and liquor all used on and against the Native American peoples. In the name of God and manifest destiny no less. A house built on an evil foundation will rot from within. It has already started. Just read all the bigoted and hateful posts herein.
Ellen, if you hate the Euros that much, you should change your Euro first name. Your tribes were trounced by a superior culture. Yes, Custer died, but those Euros kept coming. The Euro DNA that came here is dominant and aggressive and can't be easily overlooked. Besides, everyone knows the Vikings found this country first and didn't walk over a wimpy land bridge.
I agree with you almost entirely. Having grown up literally next to two reservations, where my first real girlfriend was Native American, the lie that is American-history-as-pure-glory sickens me. But Americans could change that TODAY if we collectively decided to admit the mistakes of the past, take responsibility for them, undo the unjustices of the past and implement true justice from here on out, the rot you speak of would dissipate and be replaced by a strong moral fiber on which to build our future.
That said, Islam is a global threat, has been for at least the last 40 years. Islam is going through it's "Crusades" and like the murderous Christians before them, are wreaking horrible death and destruction on every continent. Shia murder Sunni. Sunni murder Shia. And both murder the "infidels". From Munich in '72 to the murder of Theo Van Gogh on the streets of his own country, from the decapitaiton of journalist Daniel Pearl to the indiscriminate suicide bombings of innocent women and children. And let's not forget the million dead in the Iran-Iraq conflict. There is an elephant in the room, and it is the inherent poison that is the Islam of today. Maybe 200 years form now, Muslims will be able to look back to now as a dark period in their history. But now, Islam is indeed a dark mark on humanity.
Extremely well said Ellen!
I apologize for the jerk's comments before. To claim any one race's DNA is superior is,well – ignorant.
This country was founded partially on violence, bloodshed and conquering, but there were other things – justice, equality, liberty, freedom to speak and worship, and democracy. We can still honor those qualities while realizing our mistakes – and work to correct them.
That's the ONLY way to an enlightened, healthy society. All else is folly.
Eric: Please check out a few of Scott Atran's talks posted on YouTube. Better yet, read his book: Talking To The Enemy, Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)making of Terrorists, 2010. We have massive Islamophobia and misinformation re: both the terrorists and Islam in this country (as many of the posts here demonstrate).
Eric, your statements about islam are really ignorant. The vast majority of violence on earth is not because of islam trying to expand. Such a miniscule amount of violence is done for this reason that it is ridiculous to consider islam any different then other religions.
@EuroGuy. How can you find something that was never lost. The people who were already here did not feel lost. It was only absent form the Euro flat-earth thinking. Unfortunately, when the Euros 'found" it, they claimed that its was their own not the native population; as if the indigenous inhabitants did not matter. Just like they did in Africa, the middle-East, Asia and Indonesia.
Congresman King is a bigot and want to gain politically among extreme right wings.
The fact is even in most muslim countries sharia law does not exist and terrorists have killed more muslims than non muslims.
Yeah, okay, let's see if you still say that after Muslims begin blowing themselves up in crowded American buses like they've already done in other countrys.
OK, Wes... In precisely how many countries does it exist out of how many countries are Muslim?
Wes, shariah is central to the law in every muslim country. Even Indonesia which is called a model Muslim democracy recently condemned a young Christian man to 5 years in prison for blasphemy against mohammed – while more radical elements were demanding his execution.
TDiddy I think you mean they blow.... get it...
Wes is 100% right.
Actually, sharia is NOT part of jurisprudence in the vast majority of states where Islam is the majority religion. In fact, it's actually applied in very few states. The bigger issue with the comments is the unquestioned association between Islam and terrorism. Anyone want to blame the catholic church for the ETA or IRA?
>catholic church for the ETA or IRA
ETA, IRA are _political_ organisations that indulge in violence. Do they yell ' PRAISE BE TO JESUS !' when committing violence?? There's the difference. Mohammed was a warlord, who beheaded captives. And the Koran encourages this.. Hence you have beheadings in Afghanistan, Iraq.. The terrorists are just emulating their idol Mohammed.