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Asian American bodies denounce hearings targeting Muslims

Saturday March 12, 2011 01:54:49 PM, Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington: As a US Congressional panel began a controversial hearing on the radicalisation of Muslim Americans, several organizations representing South Asian, Chinese, Japanese and other Asian American communities denounced the move.

"We have grave concerns with the tenor and scope of the hearing," they said as Peter King, Republican Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, convened a hearing Thursday on "The Extent of Radicalisation in the American Muslim Community."

"As we had anticipated, the hearing did not produce any significant contributions to the crucial issue of national security," South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) stated.

"Rather, they continued to scapegoat a single religious community," they said adding, "As Asian Americans, we are extremely disappointed with the targeting of a particular community within the halls of Congress."

Along with Asian American communities, South Asian, Arab, Sikh and Muslim Americans share a long history in this country and have played an invaluable part in building this nation, the community organisations said.

"Yet our communities have also faced discrimination and alienation in America," they said calling "upon Congress to engage in an objective dialogue about national security that focuses on constructive solutions."

On the Capitol Hill, the four-hour session of the House panel heard calls from moderate Muslims for support in overcoming extremists seeking to indoctrinate their children, as well as protests from Democratic legislators who complained the hearing unfairly implicated all Muslims for the criminal acts of a small minority.

In the end, King said the hearing that generated widespread media coverage "actually went a lot easier than it could have."

He blamed what he called the "mindless, baseless hysteria in the media" in preceding weeks for the controversy, and promised additional hearings in coming months, with the next perhaps focusing on the radicalisation of Muslims in US prisons.

Despite strong criticism from Muslim Americans and accusations of a McCarthyist revival, King started the hearing by defending it as neither "radical or un-American."

Witnesses stressed to the panel the need for more understanding of the issue, with a father describing how his son was radicalised by Islamic extremists, and a moderate Muslim activist advocating an American form of Islam that believes in "separation of mosque and state."

Democrats on the panel sharply criticised King for focusing the hearing only on the Muslim-American community, with some expressing outrage and other making emotional pleas.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at





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