Congressional Hearings on Islam Draw Hundreds of Protesters, Some Supporters

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Hundreds of demonstrators stood in the rain in Times Square on Sunday to protest Congressman Peter King's hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims.

The theme of the event, "Today I am a Muslim, Too," was emblazoned on placards and T-shirts, as protesters huddled under umbrellas. The rally was held at the same time as another, smaller gathering of demonstrators held a counter-rally, in support of King, just four blocks away.

King said his hearings, set for Thursday, are intended to examine what American Muslims are doing to cooperate with law enforcement. But the hearings have been widely condemned, with many critics comparing them to Congressman Joseph McCarthy's inquiries into communism in the 1950s.

One opponent, Lawrence Rockwood, said he expects nothing substantive to emerge from the hearings and that they'll serve to marginalize Muslims.

"Congressman King thinks this is a fact-finding hearing," said Rockwood, a historian attending the protest. "It's not. He knows that. It's a political hearing to stir up animosity between one group of Americans and another group of Americans."

The protest was organized by a broad coalition of groups including interfaith and civil liberties organizations and was backed by music executive Russell Simmons and Rev. Al Sharpton. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man most closely associated with Park 51, the Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero, was among the speakers who took the stage.

Among the several Christian clergy in attendance was the Rev. Justin Myers, of the Reform Church of America, in Flushing, Queens. He said King was wrong to "single out" Muslims.

"It's not a matter of Islam or the Muslim faith being bad," said Myers. "There are plenty of Christians that I don't think are acting like Christians just like I think there's plenty of Muslims who aren't acting like Muslims."

The counter-protest, down the street, drew about 35 demonstrators, some of whom wore T-shirts opposing Park 51. Several of the speakers warned against the threat of sharia law in the United States. Bill Byrne, a member of 9/11 Hardhats, argued that many Muslims aren’t patriotic or willing to integrate.

"We let our guard down," said Byrne. "We thought that we were so nice and people would come here and just become like us but you know what, people hate us for what we have."

"What Congressman King is doing is phenomenal. That he has the guts, the fortitude to stand up and do this. He's not against Islam. He's not against Muslims. He's against radicals," said Byrne, including those immigrants "coming in quietly and breeding up and implementing laws here and there," while pledging allegiance to the Koran, rather than the American Constitution.

Like King, another speaker, Arish Sahani, argued that Muslims aren't cooperating with the government to fight terrorism.

"And we're requesting all Muslims -- if you don't help us we have no other option: we have to stop immigration of all Muslims. That should be our ultimate solution," he added, drawing cheers from the crowd before signing off, "God bless America!"

Young demonstrators at a protest against Rep. Peter King's hearings in Times Square
Arun Venugopal/WNYC
Young demonstrators at a protest against Rep. Peter King's hearings in Times Square
Christian clergy came to show solidarity with Muslims
A supporter of Rep. King
Opponents of Congressman King
Congressman King's supporters included Tea Party activists


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Comments [11]

Karen Blake

Who would protest against radical Islam? Doesn't everyone see what is wrong here? I would investigate anyone who is for radical Islam. King is looking at radical Islam. Not Islam. This means those protestors are for radical Islam/terrorism. Very scary!!

Jun. 19 2011 12:10 PM
Jimbob from Manhattan

Why do Muslims have to "prove" themselves? What is the "threat" from Muslims rooted in? Is it just propaganda or is it just political rhetoric from the right? Why don't the accusers prove their case instead of fear-mongering?

Enlighten me, please.

Mar. 08 2011 03:36 PM
oguz atay from NYC

Herb, you don't click.
you need to copy and paste the website address in your internet browser.

Now just think about it! Who else would have provided you that technical assistance other than an immigrant Muslim.

Mar. 07 2011 11:47 PM
K Webster from NYC

In the 1920s anti-Catholicism was key to building the Ku Klux Klan. Catholics were viewed with suspicion and our loyalty questioned even up to John F. Kennedy's election. The exact same rhetoric we now hear used against all Muslims was used against all Catholics.

Don't confuse a politically opportunistic ploy with a real plan to end terrorism. This is a smear campaign led by a guy who was a zealous supporter of the Irish Republican Army.

A real plan to end terrorism would categorically denounce its use- whether by individuals or governments - and would not weaken the effort by targeting entire communities.

Mar. 07 2011 12:42 PM
Emma from DC from DC

When I see things like this, I fear for my former students in NYC (some of whom wear hijab, attend mosque, and are involved in community groups). They are mostly 1st gen and immigrants standing up for their rights, participating in the democratic process. They are just like "typical" American kids, but happen to follow Islam. America is better that this, people!

Mar. 07 2011 10:46 AM
Herb from NYC

Your against torror. Your sites dont click.
Name the torror gruops. Srart with sept. 11

Mar. 07 2011 10:37 AM
Herb from NYC

To: Shana from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Give me the facts. I don't listen to traditional News. Give me dates & facts not rhetoric,nebulas answers.

Mar. 07 2011 10:31 AM
Maggie from from Rockland NY

nothing wrong with looking for facts ....we cannot defend ourselves if we remain ignorant about a radicalized anything in our midst -what did we do with the1993 deaths and the attack at World trade Ct?

Mar. 07 2011 09:41 AM
Shana from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Herb, does this work for you?

There are lots of Muslim leaders, organizations, charities and intellectuals that have spoken out against terrorism, but that kind of stuff doesn't make the evening news. The same way a Republican and a Democrat saying "we all just need to get along" does not make the evening news. It's not juicy.

After the Oklahoma City Bombing, no one said that a commission needed to be put together to discuss preventing angry white men from blowing up buildings. The idea certainly was not brought up again after Andrew Joseph Stack flew a helicopter into an IRS building or when James W. von Brunn went on a shooting rampage in the Holocaust Museum killing a guard. But hey, that would just be silly, right?

A vast majority of domestic terrorism in the U.S. has not come from Muslims, but in fact groups like ELF and ALF. The majority of people dying because of the acts of Muslim extremists are Muslims in poorer countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mar. 07 2011 09:39 AM
Herb from NYC

How come the Moslems did not demonstrate after Sept. 11 & Fort Hood etc.? They can not act neutral. They have done nothing or very little to prove themselves. Do we ignore the threat because it is politically correct? That is suicide. There is a threat from Moslem communities here & everywhere. Prove me wrong without rhetoric; give me real substantial examples.

Mar. 07 2011 09:06 AM
mercedes from ny

What I am most frightened of in this United States of America is the ignorance of some of my fellow citizens (and congressmen). I can only assume that Representative Peter King is using a nose-twisting, emotional startegy that tugs at the strings of some of his consitituancy. This only allows both congress and the American people to not only ignore all of the other more important issues, but continues to blind them in their ignorance of the muslim faith. I am agnostic, so therefore have no investment in any religion, but believe that people should be able to practice their religious faith as long as they are not impacting others negatively.
Bill Byrne is forgetting about the religious based Ku Klux Klan, a christian-based, violent organization that has no respect for anyone's constitutional rights. It's things like this that scare me.

Mar. 07 2011 08:27 AM

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