Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the second-ranked Democrat in the US Senate, announced plans yesterday to hold congressional hearings on threats to the civil rights of Muslims in the United States. The announcement follows approximately two weeks after controversial congressional hearings on the threat of domestic Muslim radicalization sponsored by Chairman of the United States House Homeland Security Committee Rep. Peter King (R-NY).
Via the Huffington Post:
Durbin cited a spike "in anti-Muslim bigotry," including the burning of Qurans and an increase in hate crimes and hate speech toward Muslims [as rationale for the hearings]. Durbin will convene the hearings on March 29 as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.
"During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance," said Durbin, the assistant Senate majority leader, in announcing the hearings on Tuesday (March 22).
"It is important for our generation to renew our founding charter's commitment to religious diversity and to protect the liberties guaranteed by our Bill of Rights."
The move has been hailed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, with CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper calling the hearings "a very positive development," and describing the civil rights of Muslims in the US as "a necessary topic to discuss."
The only real substance of Rep. King's bigoted congressional dog and pony show was to be found in its many and nuanced critiques, and the hearings demonstrated to anyone paying the least bit of attention that there is absolutely no morally or empirically justifiable rationale for singling out Muslims communities in the US for investigation. Many of Rep. King's critics consider his hearings an extension of (or capitalization on) precisely the sort of dangerous Islamophobia described above by Sen. Durbin. The only surefire way to combat the ignorance that fuels such intolerance is through education and awareness-raising. To this end, Sen. Durbin's hearings seem like one potentially effective way to to reaffirm our nation's core values of religious tolerance and freedom, and to demonstrate to the general populace that despite demonization from folks like Rep. King, Muslims in the US are full and equal partners in our great democratic experiment.