March 8th, 2011
01:13 PM ET
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
A Muslim advocacy group launched a website Tuesday aimed at tracking what it calls anti-Muslim rhetoric, particularly among elected officials, two days before a congressional hearing that focuses on the American Muslim community.
“One of the first items we’re going to be highlighting is the King hearings,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national group that launched the site.
New York Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, convened Thursday's hearing, which he says will focus on “radicalization in the American Muslim community."
“Our concern is that the King hearings are going to sow fear and mistrust of the Muslim community at a time when the nation needs to be coming together,” Khera said. "It’s essentially a congressional stamp of approval for anti-Muslim hate.”
King, a Republican, has rejected such characterizations of the hearings.
“Al Qaeda is actively attempting to recruit individuals living within the Muslim American community to commit acts of terror,” he wrote in a recent letter defending the hearings. "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.”
"We're talking about al Qaeda," King told CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley on Sunday. “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."
The new website, called WhatUnites.US, allows users to contact their members of Congress via the Web and encourages users to urge elected representatives to speak out against Thursday’s hearing and to try to prevent future hearings.
King has said that Thursday’s session will be the first in a series of hearings focusing on the American Muslim community.
The site, part of a broader campaign by progressive religious and civil rights groups to denounce the King hearing, says it “brings together Americans from all walks of life to push back against anti-Muslim rhetoric and make it unacceptable for public figures of any kind, but especially elected officials, to espouse anti-Muslim hate.”
“The campaign is built around the American values of freedom, truth, fairness, justice and diversity. The site features video testimonials, blog content, campaign actions and more,” a message on the site says.
Not all Muslims object to the hearings. Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic studies professor at American University, 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 said. "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."
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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.