In only three days, Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) controversial hearings into the threat of radical Islam will begin on Capitol Hill. Already, hundreds of faith leaders in King’s district and in California have asked him to cancel the hearings. Protests at his district office and in Times Square have drawn hundreds of demonstrators, and one member of Congress who spent time in a World War II-era Japanese-American internment camp has pleaded with King not to “divide or target Americans simply on the basis of their faith or ancestry.”
Now, more lawmakers on Capitol Hill are speaking out. Twenty-six House members have signed onto a letter being circulated by Reps. Pete Stark (D-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI) that expresses “[deep concern] that the stated narrow scope and underlying premises of these hearings unfairly stigmatizes and alienates Muslim Americans.” The letter, a copy of which was provided to ThinkProgress, asks King to “reconsider” the hearings:
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.
Signatures are still being collected until the close of business tomorrow. Current co-signers of the letter are Reps. Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenauer (D-OR), Chu (D-CA), Conyers (D-MI), Edwards (D-MD), Frank (D-MA), Fudge (D-OH), Grijalva (D-AZ), Gutierrez (D-IL), Hirono (D-HI), Holt (D-NJ), Honda (D-CA), Jackson (D-IL), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Kucinich (D-OH), Lee (D-CA), McCollum (D-MN), McDermott (D-WA), Meeks (D-FL), Moran (D-VA), Polis (D-CO), Rush (D-IL), Schakowsky (D-IL), Scott (D-VA), Serrano (D-NY), and Waters (D-CA).
Elsewhere, Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), one of two Muslim members of Congress, and who used to work in the anti-terrorism unit of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, told NPR that he also felt the hearings are too narrowly focused. “Are there Islamic bozos out there who really want to see harm done to Americans? Absolutely,” Carson said. “And we have to act and isolate the threat and deal with the threat effectively. However, there are other groups, particularly racial supremacist groups, who pose a greater threat to our internal security.”