Sen. Dick Durbin said Tuesday that statements from a “chorus of harsh voices” — specifically Rep. Peter King (R-NY), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Rev. Franklin Graham — create “a fertile climate for discrimination” against American Muslims.
Durbin is chairing the first-ever congressional hearing on the civil rights of American Muslims, which the Illinois Democrat’s office said was held in response to the “rise in anti-Muslim bigotry over the last year including Quran burnings, restrictions on mosque construction, hate crimes, hate speech, and other forms of discrimination.”
“We should all agree that it is wrong to blame an entire community for the wrongdoing of a few. Guilt by association is not the American way,” Durbin said in his opening remarks. “And American Muslims are entitled to the same constitutional protections as every other American.”
Durbin’s statement didn’t mention King, Gingrich or Graham by name, but he referred to them broadly by their titles and quoted recent remarks made by each of them.
Thomas Perez, the top civil rights official in the federal government, said in his testimony that the Justice Department continues to “see a steady stream of violence and discrimination targeting Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South-Asian communities.”
“In my outreach I consistently hear complaints that children face harassment in school, that they are called ‘terrorists’ and told by their peers to ‘go home,’ even though America is their home,” Perez said.
Perez said that the Justice Department has seen an increase in Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) cases and investigations involving mosques — 14 investigations have been opened since May 2010. “We believe this reflects a regrettable increase in anti-Muslim sentiment,” Perez said.
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said to Muslims that he will “stand with you as you practice your religion and practice your First Amendment rights, but I am asking you to get in this fight as a community.”
“I will try to do my part as a Republican to let my party and anyone listening know that I totally get it when it comes to freedom of religion and the ability to practice different faiths,” Graham said. “But I would like everyone in the country to know, including Muslim-Americans, that the agenda being set by people who are trying to radicalize young Muslims here in America and throughout the world, is just as bad for the Muslim-American community as it is for anyone else.”
Late Update: Here’s the video of Graham’s remarks: