Protesters rally in NY ahead of hearings on radical Islam

Religious leaders, community members and activists took to the streets Sunday in New York to protest upcoming congressional hearings, convened by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, on “the radicalization of American Muslims.”

Congress is scheduled to begin the hearings this Thursday.

According the CNN, many of the protesters say the hearing unfairly target Islam and warned they could stoke fear and fuel violence against the wider Muslim community.

One of the organizers of the protest rally, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, told CNN:

“Congressman’s King’s hearings have the danger of portraying all Muslims and Islam as the enemy. And this is absolutely wrong and false. Our common enemy is extremism.

While it is true that moderate Muslims reinterpret the Quran’s calls to violence against non-Muslims — and generally reject the violent jihad (holy war) tactics of extremist Muslims — King defended the hearings on CNN’s “State of the Union” program:

“We’re talking about al Qaeda,” he said. “We’re talking about the affiliates of al Qaeda, who have been radicalizing, and 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 compared the goal of the hearings to investigating the Mafia within the Italian community or going after the Russian mob.

Earlier CNN said:

But King’s hearings have also 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.

Islamophobia is prejudice against, hatred or fear of Islam or Muslims.

According to the British Runnymede Trust — a leading pro-multiculturalism think-tank — Islamophobia includes the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.

Yet, the prevalence of Islam-inspired terrorism and other extremist acts do underscore the need for the kind of hearings Peter King called for.

Apologetics Index, the parent site of Religion News Blog says the term Islamophobia is

often misused in reference to instances of legitimate concern regarding Islam’s tenets (particularly where, for instance, the Quran calls for the destruction of the enemies of Islam — including anyone who rejects Muhammad as the prophet), Islam-related security issues (e.g. the insistence on wearing a burqa or niqab), or large-scale immigration (resulting in demands that the host country changes its cultural views and practices in order to accomodate Islamic mores).

The prevalence of Islamic terrorism nearly 17,000 deadly terror attacks since 9/11 — does not help the matter.

According to CNN:

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,” ahead of King’s hearings, says 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 on Wednesday.

It should be noted that many Muslims reject the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for what they view as tacit support of Islamic extremism, including the suicide bombings carried out by Hamas.

At the same time the Washington Post notes that House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King in the mid-80s

was one of the most zealous American defenders of the militant IRA and its campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland. He argued that IRA violence was an inevitable response to British repression and that the organization had to be understood in the context of a centuries-long struggle for independence.

“The British government is a murder machine,” King said. He described the IRA, which mastered the car bomb as an instrument of urban terror, as a “legitimate force.” And he compared Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing, to George Washington.

The Post continues:

As King prepares to hold hearings Thursday on what he called “the extent of the radicalization” of American Muslims, his past as a defender of armed struggle has led critics to assert he is imposing a double standard.

“My problem with him is the hypocrisy,” said Tom Parker, a counter-terrorism specialist at Amnesty International who was injured by an IRA bomb that struck a birthday party at a military hall in London in 1990. “If you say that terrorist violence is acceptable in one setting because you happen to agree with the cause, then you lose the authority to condemn it in another setting.” […]

But King sees no parallel between the IRA and violent Islamist extremism, which he describes as a foreign enemy or a foreign-directed enemy. His preferred comparison for the IRA is with the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela; the IRA, no less than the ANC’s military wing, was fighting for community rights and freedom, he says.

Our view: the hearings are necessary in light of the real threat of Islamic extremism, including Islamism — a political, totalitarian ideology considered by most Muslims to be a distortion of Islam.

In and of themselves the hearings can not be considered an expression of Islamophobia. However, the hearings should be closely monitored to prevent — and when necessary respond to — Islamophic ideas or expressions.

The hearings should also acknowledge the efforts by America’s Muslim population to combat and prevent extremism.

Research resources on Islam

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 7, 2011.
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