Friday, January 29, 2010

Advancing Bigotry on Capitol Hill

Liliana Segura over at alternet has published a worthy piece titled
“How Members of Congress Are Advancing Anti-Muslim Hysteria to Push a Radical Legal Agenda”

Here is an excerpt, but I recommend clicking on the link and reading the whole thing:
Beyond Congressional hearings that push the "homegrown Islamic terrorist" narrative -- or even repressive pieces of legislation like the [Stop Terrorists Entry Program (STEP)] -- CAIR's Corey Saylor says the alliances formed by members of Congress like Barrett with members of the anti-Muslim right are far more dangerous.

"It's less the legislation and more the legitimacy that's offered to some of the anti-Muslim bigots by members of Congress," he says.

One example Saylor cites is Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican member of the House from Georgia. Broun recently invited a man named David Yerushalmi to testify at a hearing on Capitol Hill. "Yerushalmi belongs to an organization that once called for adherence to Islam to be punishable by 20 years in prison," says Saylor.

Yerushalmi is the president and founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), which, in addition to seeking to criminalize Islam, has statements on its Web site such as: "There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote."

"This man has the right to free speech, he has the right to believe what he believes," says Saylor. "But he gets legitimized because someone like Paul Broun invites him to Capitol Hill and gives him a platform … That allows him to go out and push his hate speech."

Two days before Christmas, CAIR sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to address what it described as a "rise in Anti-Islam hate, Islamophobic incidents, and rhetoric targeting ordinary American Muslims." Among these incidents was "an attack on a Sikh youth in Texas who was mistaken for a Muslim," "a Colorado sheriff who called the U.S. Marines 'Travel agents to Allah,'" and "a spate of vandalism incidents at mosques nationwide." It also listed a disturbing number of anti-Muslim incidents among supporters of and aspiring elected officials, as well as elected officials themselves.

Most memorable, perhaps, was the attempt last year by right-wing members of Congress to convince the public that CAIR itself was engaged in a sinister conspiracy to infiltrate and take over Congress, by dispatching interns to Capitol Hill. Last October, U.S. Representatives Sue Myrick, R-South Carolina, was joined by Rep. Broun as well as Arizona Republicans John Shadegg and Trent Franks in issuing a call for a federal investigation into CAIR's attempts to place interns in the Committees on the Judiciary, Intelligence and Homeland Security. The accusation was inspired by a book titled Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that's Conspiring to Islamize America, written by Dave Gaubatz, an anti-Islamic activist who posed as an intern for CAIR in an attempt to prove that the group is trying to infiltrate Congress. (Rep. Myrick wrote the introduction to the book.)

The backlash against Myrick and her co-conspirators was swift. "These charges smack of an America of sixty years ago where lists of 'un-American' agitators were identified,"wrote Reps. Michael Honda, D-CA, Barbara Lee, D-CA and Nydia Velazquez, D-NY in a letter on behalf of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, and signed by 87 members of Congress.

"The idea that we should investigate Muslim interns as spies is a blow to the very principle of religious freedom that our founding fathers cherished so dearly. If anything, we should be encouraging all Americans to engage in the U.S. political process; to take part in, and to contribute to, the great democratic experiment that is America."

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