Several hundred people gathered in Times Square to protest against the planned congressional hearings on the “radicalisation” of American Muslims, which have been convened by Republican Congressman Peter King.
Battling heavy rain, some 300 people, led by religious and community leaders, on Sunday demonstrated and held up placards saying, “Today I am a Muslim too” and “Mr King: Lies & Distortions do not make us more secure“.
The hearings start from Thursday.
King, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, had told The Jewish Week that the objective of these hearings, “Is not to demonise the Muslim community but to attempt to find out the extent to which the enemy has infiltrated the community.”
He said that al-Qaeda was recruiting Muslims in the U.S.. “They can’t attack from outside, so they are recruiting people under the radar screen.”
Deborah Maurice, who is part of the group called ‘NYC Coalition to Stop Islamophobia’, said, “As a non-Muslim, I’m offended that some people are being targeted because of their religion.... it is offensive.”
Maurice noted that Muslims were being “demonised” so that the U.S. could justify its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. .
“And now maybe Libya too,” she said.
Anti-Muslim feelings have also spiked after a proposal last year to set up an Islamic centre near Ground Zero.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, who are behind the proposed Islamic Centre, were also among the organisers of the rally.
Across the street, people supporting the hearings staged a smaller rally. They held up placards saying, “No Shariah Compliance” and “9/11 -- Connect The Dots Against Radical Islam.”
Responding to critics who said that hearings should be held for all faiths, King said if al-Qaeda were recruiting any other group -- be they Jews, Hindus or Irish Catholics -- he would have the “same hearings for those groups.”
Esmat Mahmoud, a Muslim engineer, who joined the protest, slammed King’s recent remarks for “generalising Muslims.”
“These remarks do not distinguish between radicals and people who practice the faith peacefully,” she said.
Mahmoud added that the rise in anti-Muslim sentiments was because of “ignorance” among the people and politicians who wanted to play on people’s fears to further their own agenda.
King said that American-Muslims were not cooperating enough with the police and FBI in New York to prevent radicalisation of young Muslims. “They do not give the level of cooperation that they need,” he said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’.
Last week, two New Jersey men, who planned to travel to Somalia to join an al-Qaeda linked group and attack American troops, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.
In 2010, Ahmed Sharif, a cab driver in New York, originally from Bangladesh, was stabbed by a passenger.
“There is a lot of propaganda and manipulation of the way Muslims are portrayed in the media,” Maggie Jarry, who described herself as a ‘roaming catholic,’ said, stressing the need for more “interfaith dialogue” to dispel fears about Muslims.