WASHINGTON, March 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A coalition of civil rights and Muslim organizations held a press conference this morning in Washington, D.C., to challenge misinformation that may be repeated in the first of a series of hearings on Muslim "radicalization" to be held tomorrow by Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
[MEDIA NOTE: Separately, CAIR called on the Obama administration and Congress today to provide oversight for what a new report says is widespread anti-Muslim bias in the training of law enforcement and security personnel nationwide. The report, titled "Manufacturing the Muslim Menace: Private Firms, Public Servants, & the Threat to Rights and Security," released today by Political Research Associates (PRA) details a systemic failure to regulate content in counterterrorism training.]
SEE: CAIR Seeks Oversight of Anti-Islam Bias in Law Enforcement Training
At the packed news conference (more than 30 television cameras), a representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged "fellow Americans not to succumb to Rep. King's fear-mongering."
SEE: Video: King Hearings May Serve to Demonize Islam (CAIR) (ABC)
U.S. Muslim Groups Slam Radicalization Hearings (CNN)
CAIR, Muslim Groups Label King's Hearing a 'Political Stunt' (ABC News)
Civil Rights Groups Protest Upcoming Congressional Hearing (NY1)
Groups: US Lawmaker Probing Islam is New 'McCarthy' (AFP)
Since Representative Peter King announced his plan to hold hearings on the "radicalization" of American Muslims, more than 250 organizations have written to him questioning his statements and allegations. Hundreds of leaders from across the nation, including more than 80 interfaith representatives from King's home of Long Island, New York, have similarly expressed concerns.
Speakers at the press conference included CAIR's National Executive Director Nihad Awad, Michael Macleod-Ball of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Alejandro Beutel of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Naeem Baig of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Council of Muslim Organizations, Rafi Uddin Ahmed of the Virginia Muslim Civic Coalition, Muhammad Salim Akhtar of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), Mohammad Dawood of the Muslim American Society (MAS), and Nagla Fetouh representing My Faith, My Voice. CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor moderated the news conference.
The speakers challenged Rep. King to offer facts to back up his false claims that "80 percent" of mosques in his state and nationwide are run by "extremist leadership" and that law enforcement officials receive little cooperation from American Muslim leaders.
SEE: Has Rep. Peter King Met His Terrorist Sympathizing Past Self?
In his statement, CAIR's Nihad Awad said: [Note: These quotes are from a prepared statement. The spoken comments may have differed slightly.]
"There is no denying that people of evil intent covet the opportunity to recruit Americans, including those of the Islamic faith, and to pull them away from the straight path of Islam to the deviated path of violent extremism.
"CAIR and the mainstream Muslim community are natural enemies of those who promote violent extremism.
"There is also no denying that – except for a tiny minority -- violent extremists have not found fertile ground in America. Many individuals and institutions, including law enforcement, homeland security personnel, and the leaders and members of the American Muslim community, deserve a share of the credit for this. …
"Tomorrow, Congressman King will have the spotlight. We sincerely hope that he and his witnesses abandon false allegations, personal agendas and irresponsible rhetoric in favor of a sober and objective hearing.
"A disturbing number of religious, ethnic and racial minorities – including African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Jewish Americans, Catholics, Mormons, and many others -- have been singled out for discrimination at various times in our history. American Muslims would be doing a disservice to the sacrifices of minorities before us if we do not stand up for ourselves now.
"We ask our fellow Americans not to succumb to Rep. King's fear-mongering. We ask our fellow Americans to reject his false and unsubstantiated allegations. And we thank the many political and religious leaders who have spoken against King's divisive hearing.
"America was not built for any one religion, race or ethnicity. It was built on a set of principles. One of those principles is respect for pluralism. We hope Congressman King will remember that and work to unite, not divide our nation. "
CAIR will be monitoring Thursday's hearing and will be available to respond upon its conclusion. CAIR will also provide real-time Twitter commentary on the hearing at @CAIRNational. Tune in to the conversation at #KingHearings. The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern) on March 10.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, or 202-488-8787, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: email@example.com
SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations