An Orthodox rabbi in New York is leading a coordinated public relations campaign against a House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee hearing on the "radicalization of the Muslim community in the U.S." that commenced on Thursday.
The controversial hearing that has stirred public debate in the pages of newspapers and television talk shows is the initiative of Congressman Peter King, a Republican that represents Long Island, New York and chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.
Rabbi Marc Schneier spoke to Haaretz about his objections to the hearing. "As I attended the hearing in Washington, I witnessed injustice, Muslims were singled out as the source of home-grown terrorism."
Schneier says that in principle he supports investigating extremists in order to protect American citizens from internal terror threats. But he notes that Congressman King has refused to carry out an "examination of all forms of violence motivated by extremist beliefs" that would include racist and anti-Semitic groups active in the U.S.
Schnieier characterized the committee's decision to focus only on Muslim groups as contradicting the American tradition of objective, impartial legal processes.
"I share [first-ever Muslim Congressman] Keith Ellison's pain. The underlying tone of these hearings stigmatizes and profiles Muslim Americans." Ellison, the Congressman from Minnesota's 5th district, broke down crying when he told the hearing on Thursday of the contributions made by a 9/11 first responder who happened to be Muslim.
Schneier regrets that the hearing brands Muslim Americans in a negative light, "instead of broadening an awareness that Muslim Americans have made great contributions to the U.S. and are as dedicated to America's preservation and improvement as any other ethnic or religious community."
Schneier, 52, established the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding in 1989 and serves as its current president. In the past, the group worked to improve relations between American Blacks and Jews. In recent years, the group has organized a number of events and conferences to bring Jews and Muslims together.
The organization's successful track record to bridge the gaps between the Jewish American community and the African American community should serve as a model for cooperation between Jews and Muslims in America, Schneier says.
The Anti-Defamation League also published a press release on Thursday which expressed reservations over the Congressional hearing on the 'radicalization' of the Muslim American community.
Peter King, the Congressman who initiated the hearings, told the press that the adults and especially the youth of the Muslim community are exposed to poisonous propaganda against America and are being lobbied by radical groups and recruited to commit domestic terror attacks.
King spoke of terrorists that have been captured in the last two years on U.S. territory, accused of planning terror attacks.
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