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Standing on the Side of Love with American Muslims

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Mar 15, 2011

Report by Kat Liu, UUA Witness Ministries Program Associate

On Thursday, March 10th, Representative Peter King (R-NY) used his authority as the Chair of the House subcommittee on Immigration and Enforcement to hold the first in a series of hearings investigating what he calls “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community.” Rather than investigate the radicalization of American groups in general, or even American religious groups in general, Rep. King chose to single out an already marginalized group for particular scrutiny. For those of us who value equality and freedom from religious and ethnic prejudice, the hearing was a stain on our national conscience.

However, even as some in our society seek to marginalize American Muslims within our communities, others have strongly resisted these efforts. Representatives Pete Stark (D-CA) and Dingell (D-MI) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter objecting to the hearings that was signed by 57 Representatives. And on the same day as Rep. King’s hearing, a new interfaith coalition called “Shoulder to Shoulder” held a press conference announcing our alliance to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans whom we recognize to be an integral part of the U.S.American tapestry. The UUA is a member of Shoulder to Shoulder, and it was my honor to represent the UUA during the day’s events.

Shoulder to Shoulder” has organizational members from across the religious (and political) spectrum, from Jewish to Muslims to Christian to Unitarian Universalist. All four main branches of Judaism are represented as well as the full spectrum of Christianity, from Catholic to Mainline Protestant to Evangelical. Catholics and Jews in our coalition spoke on how they know what it’s like to be the target of religious discrimination, and all of us involved agreed that we would oppose any attempt to target people based on their faith (or lack thereof).

Representatives from an interfaith coaltion called
The day started off with a meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who had spoken out against the hearing in a statement released the day before. Pelosi’s personal appearance, meeting with us for a full hour, speaks to her commitment to the issue. While we were there we looked up at the television screen to see Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the the first Muslim American elected to Congress, break into tears as he testified at the hearing. Our hearts ached knowing that our government was causing him and other Muslim Americans such unjust pain.

Next on the agenda was our press conference, which had been timed to occur right after the end of the Peter King hearing. Much to our delight/relief, the room was packed as we issued our statement condemning the hearing.

Later in the afternoon we met with members of the Obama administration staff, who like Pelosi had also released a statement on the eve of the hearing. Lastly, at 5:30pm in the afternoon, we met with staff from Senate Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell’s office (R-KY).

It was a very full and emotional day but by far the most gratifying part was when an imam from our group said that his wife and daughters would be “less afraid tonight” as the result of what we did. To me, that’s what Standing on the Side of Love is all about – standing with people who are being targeted because of their identity and letting them know that they are not alone.

While Thursday’s events caused much pain, there is also reason to be hopeful. Please take a moment to thank the Representatives who stood on the side of love and against these hearings.

8 Responses to “Standing on the Side of Love with American Muslims”

  1. Bill Baar says:

    Read Asra Q. Nomani in the Daily Beast,

    “…from my vantage point in the fourth row of the packed hearing room, sitting next to my eight-year-old son, Shibli, (on a special field trip to Capitol Hill with mom), I was left with a very different lasting memory, after Ellison wiped his face, gathered up his papers and swept quickly out of the room. The hearing didn’t amount to the much-anticipated slam against Muslims but rather it devolved, ironically, into a figurative lynch mob by leading liberals on civil rights and women’s rights against truth-tellers on radicalization within the Muslim community. It was horrifying to witness.”

    And consider few UUs other than those at the UU UN office are saying anything about standing on the side of Libyan Muslims fighting a Tyrant and likely to lose without aid.

    It’s a false concern for Islam shown here, and Muslims see through it. It’s our pacificity in the face of slaughter first in the Marshs of Iraq, and now Bahrain, Libyan and Yemen that will be remembered. G-d help us for our hypocracy here.

  2. Montana says:

    Why doesn’t this Peter T. King investigate the “Home Grown” radicalization of Irish Americans, who support the tradition wing of the IRA (Irish Republican Army), or Noraid (The Irish Northern Aid Committee), and being recruited by “Enemy Overseas” or worse “Enemy Overseas” the “Catholic Church ”, where they radicalize the priests into raping our young American boys, what about that you hypocrite scumbag.

    Peter King is a hypocrite, he supported the terrorist group IRA, who killed innocent British people, but hey I guess that was OK, right? Killing innocent people is OK, as long as they are not born is the United States, yup that sounds about right. I guess Jesus Christ would give all you extra points for that, NOT!

    No, there are no dancing in the street when Catholics hear about a pedophile priest, but there has been a concerted effort to Deny, Deflect, Defend this “Enemy Overseas” the “Catholic Church ”, I don’t even think you could deny that fact. What would Jesus Christ, say about this so called Church, I have a few thoughts myself.

  3. Karen Franks says:

    Thank you all for standing shoulder to shoulder to stop unjust (and un-American) acts of religious discrimination. Our country is supposed to be a haven for freedom of religious beliefs and for holding no religious beliefs. Thank you for condemning the hearing and for all the good work you do on behalf of those who are discriminated against and for standing on the side of love with American Muslims.

  4. Connie Cross says:

    Thank you for standing up against this latter day MacCarthy-ism.

  5. Leon and Evalyn Bennet-Alder says:

    Thank all who participated and know that we are with you also. Freedom of religion implies appreciation of those who subscribe to that religion. We do appreciate your contribution to the religious conversation.
    The hearings are worse than rediculous. They are a disaster.

    Evalyn and Leon

  6. Kat Liu says:

    Bill – What is happening in Libya and other countries is indeed a concern but the issue here is that Muslim Americans are being singled out for particular scrutiny and their loyalties to the U.S. called into question, emphasis on the fact that they are Americans.

  7. Leon and Evalyn Bennet-Alder says:

    Do we believe in freedom of religion?
    Some day we will elect a Muslim president.

  8. Bill Baar says:

    @Kat Lui.. well, Asra Q. Nomani certainly didn’t feel any love out of this hearing. The glaring phobia at the moment is the indifference towards the slaughter of demonstrators in places like Dara’a, Syria; Yemen, and Libya at the hands of the oppressors. The best example of such phobia the notion that these demonstrators have to some how “earn” on their own the kind of democracy and freedom we live in the United States. That’s the sort of phobia I see, and I can hear it in Church.

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