Fight McCarthyism 2.0

March 4, 2011

Human Rights First sent out a warning about the New McCarthyism. I’m copying and pasting below:

I’m writing to tell you that I strongly object to the hearings on violent extremism recently announced by the Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security, Congressman Peter King. I urge you to stand up against these hearings by signing onto the attached letter to Congressman King to express your concern about the hearings. This letter, sponsored by Congressmen Pete Stark and John Dingell, makes clear to Congressman King that focusing a set of hearings on American Muslims is misguided and contrary to American values.

Chairman King has characterized the hearings, scheduled to begin on March 10, 2011, as focusing exclusively on the “radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism.”

If Chairman King proceeds with these hearings, please sign onto this letter to urge him to address all forms of violence motivated by extremist beliefs and to do so in a full, fair, and objective way.

These hearings harken back to hearings held in the 1950s by then-U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy. That dark chapter in our history taught us that Congress has a solemn duty to wield its investigatory power responsibly.

In the course of justifying the focus of the hearings, Chairman King has made broad and unsubstantiated assertions about the American Muslim community. For example, he continues to perpetuate the myth that 80% of mosques in America are run by extremists, implying that they are hotbeds of extremism. To the contrary, experts have concluded that mosque attendance is a significant factor in preventing violence.

In addition, during a recent interview, Chairman King made a statement insinuating that American Muslims are not American:

“When a war begins, we’re all Americans. But in this case, this is not the situation. And whether it’s pressure, whether it’s cultural tradition, whatever, the fact is the Muslim community does not cooperate anywhere near to the extent that
it should. The irony is that we’re living in two different worlds.”

If Chairman King is suggesting that American Muslims are somehow less American – simply by virtue of their faith – then that is an affront to all Americans.

Providing a public, government-sanctioned platform for these erroneous and offensive views has consequences. The American public takes cues from government officials. These hearings will almost certainly increase widespread suspicion and mistrust of the American Muslim community and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

During 2010, we saw an increase in anti-Muslim hatred in public discourse, as well as hate crimes and violence targeting American Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim, including vandalism and arson of mosques, physical attacks, bullying of children in schools, and attempted murder.

No American should live in fear for his or her safety, and Congress should not help create a climate where it is acceptable to target a particular faith community for discrimination, harassment, and violence.

Furthermore, a hearing that demonizes the American Muslim community will not go unnoticed by Muslims around the world and will contribute to perceptions of how the U.S. government treats Muslims.

The Committee on Homeland Security should focus on keeping us safe, rather than engaging in fearmongering and divisive rhetoric that only weakens the fabric of our nation and distracts us from actual threats.

We strongly urge you to object to the hearings in their current form by signing onto the attached letter to Congressman King, which makes clear that his proposed hearings are misguided.

Thank you for your attention on this matter, and I look forward to
hearing from you.

Oppose the Stereotyping and Alienation of Muslim Americans

From: The Honorable Fortney Pete Stark
Sent By: Michele.Scarbrough@mail.house.gov
Date: 3/1/2011

Dear Colleague:

Next week, Chairman Peter King and the Homeland Security Committee will begin a series of troubling hearings that single out Muslim Americans as the source of “homegrown terrorism” and focus exclusively on the radicalization of Muslim Americans. Rather than examining all forms of violence motivated by extremist beliefs, these hearings unfairly stigmatize and alienate one religious group.

We represent diverse communities where Muslim Americans make vital contributions every day. They teach our children, work in hospitals, and protect the public safety as police officers and firefighters. They love this country just as we do and should not be placed under suspicion of terrorism because of their religious beliefs or ethnic background. Unfortunately, Chairman King’s hearings would do just that.

We urge you to join us in sending the attached letter to Chairman King asking that he reconsider holding these profoundly unfair hearings.

To sign the letter, please contact Michele Scarbrough in Rep. Stark’s office by email at Michele.Scarbrough@mail.house.gov or by phone at 5-5065, or Erica Fein in Rep. Dingell’s office by email at Erica.Fein@mail.house.gov or by phone at 5-4071.

Sincerely,

Pete Stark John Dingell
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Dear Chairman King:

We are writing regarding the Homeland Security Committee’s upcoming hearings, which you have stated will focus exclusively on radicalization among Muslim Americans and homegrown terrorism. We agree that Congress and all levels of government have a duty to protect America from terrorism, whether from abroad or homegrown. We are, however, deeply concerned that the stated narrow scope and underlying premises of these hearings unfairly stigmatizes and alienates Muslim Americans. We ask that you reconsider the scope of these hearings and instead examine all forms of violence motivated by extremist beliefs, rather than unfairly focusing on just one religious group.

We believe that the tone and focus of these hearings runs contrary to our nation’s values. Muslim Americans contribute to our nation’s wellbeing in many professions including as doctors, engineers, lawyers, firefighters, business entrepreneurs, teachers, police officers and Members of Congress. Their hard work helps to make our country exceptional.

Furthermore, casting a negative light on an entire community — rather than focusing on actual dangerous fringes will only strain community relationships and trust that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have worked hard to develop. Muslim Americans are an integral part of our larger American society and should be treated as such, not viewed with suspicion.

The choice between our values of inclusiveness and pluralism and our security is a false one.

If you wish to examine violent extremism, we ask that you do so by examining violence motivated by extremist beliefs in all its forms. Singling out one religious group and blaming the actions of individuals on an entire community is not only unfair, it is unwise– and it will not make our country any safer.

Sincerely,

Pete Stark John Dingell
Member of Congress Member of Congress

CC: Ranking Member Bennie Thompson

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Jewish Voice for Peace – Standing Against Islamophobia

September 5, 2010

Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace has written a powerful message to supporters warning against “the rising tide of manufactured bigotry against Muslims,” especially as Sept. 11 approaches. Read Levy’s Standing Against Islamophobia, Again and Always for a sensitive and passionate message.


“You are the new superpower”

March 1, 2007

After I signed the petition to Stop the Clash at avaaz.org, I received a confirmation email with the subject line, “You are the new superpower.” I like that. Global democracy.

Watch the video! Powerful use of images and music advocating our right to responsible and intelligent leaders willing to do the difficult work of building coalitions across east and west.


conflicts of politics and ignorance

September 25, 2006

I heard Philip Reeves’ report on the Aga Khan on “Morning Edition” this morning and was fasinated by the long excerpts from the Aga Khan’s speech. The first problem: education. He specifically mentioned the lack of knowledge about Islam in the west, and also in the east. He argued for pluralism, which I understood to mean a deeper familiarity with the complexities and differences of Islam. The Aga Khan spoke in a measured, highly-educated English, that was strangely neither British- nor American-accented. I was struck by his emphasis on education. He also said that the conflict today is not religious but political. And he urged nations to put those political issues on the “front-burner” and “press as hard as possible on the accelerator” (something like that). That is, political conflicts can only be resolved if they are discussed openly. And he mentioned that these conflicts have been around a long time, much longer than we had hoped they would be. He never mentioned Palestine and Israel, but I’m sure that was implied.