King Hearings Will Lead to Further Discrimination and Rights Violations: Over a Hundred Organizations Call for Hearings to be Cancelled

Washington DC -- February 23, 2011-- Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, announced his intention to hold hearings on “radicalization” and “homegrown terrorism.” These hearings single out the Muslim community in America for public scrutiny.  Although King insists that the goal of his hearings is not to stigmatize American Muslims, by selecting only members of that faith for scrutiny, he puts an entire community under suspicion.  In a letter sent to Mr. King yesterday, a coalition of a hundred and eight civil and human rights organizations call on him to cancel the hearings.

The letter expressed deep concerns that the hearings will send the message that people of certain faiths deserve less protection under the law.  Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Rights Working Group comments, “Broadly targeting any community on the basis of religion creates a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of every person in the U.S. Ours is a nation of religious freedom. Targeting people for government scrutiny based on their faith is wrong and is an affront to all Americans, challenging our most fundamental constitutional principles.  Such discriminatory actions echo other politically expedient but unconstitutional measures taken in the name of national security, such as the conduct of the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Historians today view those experiences as two of the darkest chapters in American history.”

Mr. King’s hearings will also undermine public safety by further eroding the Muslim community’s trust in law enforcement and government.  Law enforcement officers and community members agree that diminished trust in law enforcement is the principal barrier to cooperation.  Policies or practices that target Muslims leave community members so afraid of law enforcement that they do not report crimes such as domestic violence or even seek medical treatment.   Additionally, Mr. King’s hearings will create further suspicion of the Muslim community and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment. Such resentment may lead to hate crimes and violence directed toward Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim.

Rights Working Group urges Chairman King, Ranking Member Thompson, and other members of the Committee on Homeland Security to place the focus on security measures that target individual behavior, not whole communities of faith. “If Mr. King is sincere in his stated belief that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans, he will ensure that Muslims in America can continue to enjoy religious freedom, civil liberties, and their human rights.  Mr. King should therefore engage with the Muslim community rather than encourage divisive rhetoric that distracts us from actual threats of violence,” says Sameera Hafiz, Policy Director of Rights Working Group.

To download the full text of the letter please go to: www.rightsworkinggroup.org/sites/default/files/CoalitionLetter_PeterKing...

For more information on the letter contact Nadine Wahab at nwahab@rightsworkinggroup.org.

 

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ormed in the aftermath of 9/11, the Rights Working Group is a coalition of more than 290 community-based grassroots groups and national organizations working to restore civil liberties and human rights protections for all people living in the U.S.