NEW YORK—A number of activities taking place next week are setting the stage for a confrontation between the Muslim American community and those who have reservations about its presence in the U.S. Congressman Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has scheduled a congressional hearing on the “radicalization” of Muslim Americans on March 10. In response, Muslims and Arab Americans in New York and Washington D.C. will be demonstrating about what they see as an attack on their civil rights. Meanwhile, opponents of Park51 are rolling out a “documentary” nationwide about the proposed project to build an Islamic Cultural Center in lower Manhattan.
From the outset, many Muslims and Arab Americans have opposed Rep. King’s plan to hold hearings on, “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” Over 80 people of different faiths from his district on Long Island, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and interfaith leaders sent a letter to King urging him to cancel the hearings.
“These diverse faith leaders believe the singling out of the Muslim community undermines fundamental American values and is counterproductive to improving national security,” the letter said.
After Rep. King turned rebuffed their calls, Muslim and Arab American communities decided to raise their voices on the streets of New York, Washington D.C. and other cities across the country.
On Sunday March 6, a broad coalition of over 75 interfaith, nonprofit, governmental, and civil liberties groups are scheduled to rally “in support of equitable civil rights for all Americans” in New York’s Times Square.
The Muslim Peace Coalition has also announced a rally and march scheduled for April 9 at Union Square in New York. The slogan of this demonstration will be “Standing Up Against Islamophobia, War and Terrorism.”
According to the House Homeland Security Committee’s chairman the hearing is needed to explore terror threats posed by radical American Muslims.
“[Due to] The measures taken after 9/11, al Qaeda has realized the difficulty it faces in launching attacks against our homeland from overseas. Thus it has adjusted its tactics and is now attempting to radicalize and recruit from within our country. In the last two years alone more than 50 Americans have been charged with terror related crimes,” Rep. King said in a letter responding to Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Minority Member of the committee on Homeland Security.
In its email to members of the Muslim American community, the Muslim Peace Coalition wrote, “Democracy is not a spectator sport and Muslims are not a football to be thrown around. We are people with rights and responsibility to speak up.”
Regarding homegrown terrorism, the Muslim Peace Coalition asked Rep. King to hold a hearing on the Arizona shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. They also suggested he ask the FBI for statistics on the profiles of the two million first time gun owners in the USA. “Who are these people and why are they buying guns. What is their faith?”
“The hearings will send the wrong message and alienate American Muslims instead of partnering with them, potentially putting their lives at risk by inciting fear and enmity against them,” the coalition stated in its statement about the Times Square rally. “Organizers of this rally believe one can be a loyal Muslim as well as a loyal American without conflict, and a great number of our fellow Americans support this view.”
Amidst the background of a growing controversy between the Muslim American community and the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, a new documentary produced by the leading opponents of the Park51 Islamic Cultural Center, often dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque,” is being shown around the country. At a recent screening in a church near the proposed site in downtown Manhattan, Pamela Geller, one of the producers of the documentary, vowed to continue her efforts to stop the project.
Watch Mohsin Zaheer’s video report about the documentary “The Ground Zero Mosque: The Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks.”
The documentary, which is titled “The Ground Zero Mosque: The Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks,” is produced by Geller, co-founder of the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America and Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Both are leading activists in the campaign against the Ground Zero Mosque.
Two groups, Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) underwrote the film. At the screening of the film in February, more than 100 people were in the audience, including some family members of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
The film not only discussed the 9/11 attacks, it also criticized Islam itself, as a faith. The producers, Ms. Geller and Mr. Spencer, disparaged Islam and its teachings while discussing Park51 and their efforts to stop the project.
The documentary’s publicity poster shows an image of the World Trade Center at the moment it was hit by the second airplane on September 11, 2001. The film warns that the Ground Zero Mosque is second wave of Islamic terrorism.
All those who were already against the Ground Zero Mosque reiterated their commitment after watching the documentary to continue efforts to stop the project.
At a time when the Muslim American community is confronted with challenges, most of them related to their faith one way or the other, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life is projecting that the Muslim population in the U.S. will more than double over the next two decades. Pew’s recent study showed the population rising from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030, in large part due to immigration and higher-than-average fertility among Muslims.
“The Muslim share of the U.S. population (adults and children) is projected to grow from 0.8% in 2010 to 1.7% in 2030, making Muslims roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the United States today,” the report said.
Mohsin Zaheer is the editor of Sada-e-Pakistan, an Urdu-language weekly in New York. His reporting for Feet in Two Worlds is supported by the New York Community Trust, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.