In what is likely a response to Rep. Peter King's relatively tame hearings on Muslim extremism and homeland security earlier this month, Senator Dick Durbin will be holding a hearing this Tuesday to investigate the supposedly growing problem of anti-Muslim bigotry in America. USA Today reports:
"Our Constitution protects the free exercise of religion for all Americans," said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who will chair the hearing. He said it follows a spike in anti-Muslim bigotry over the past year.
Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy organization based in San Francisco, said the incidents of bigotry stem from a number of things, including media attention to a proposed community center and mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center and attempts to score "political points" by saying President Obama is a Muslim. He is a Christian.
"Muslim-bashing gets traction in politics," Khera said.
An August study by the Pew Research Center found that 54% of Republicans, 27% of Democrats and 40% of independents feel unfavorably toward Islam.
The problem is, beyond a few isolated groups and people like the would-be Koran-burning preacher Terry Jones, there's no proof of any significant "spike" in anti-Muslim bigotry among the American population in the last year. It's true many Americans didn't want a mosque built near Ground Zero -- but numerous polls also showed that most Americans thought they had the right to build it. Their opposition doesn't equate to a dangerous trend.
While most Republicans and many independents may have "unfavorable" feelings about Islam, that doesn't necessarily mean a wave of anti-Muslim violence or discrimination is or will be happening. In fact, according to the same Pew poll cited by USA Today, 62 percent of those asked said they believe Muslims should "have the same rights as other groups" to build their own houses of worship in America. Under our laws and the Constitution, the people cannot deny rights to one particular religious group or sect; there's nothing in our laws that says the people have to like everyone.
Moreover, what makes Durbin believe the solution to solving anti-Muslim bigotry is a congressional hearing? If eradicating bigotry toward Muslims is the goal, perhaps we ought to look more toward our religious and cultural leaders than our political ones.