Durbin’s hearing on the civil rights of U.S. Muslims

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[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) chaired the first-ever Congressional hearing on the civil rights of American Muslims today where he highlighted the “First Freedom” – the freedom of religion – and the rights the Constitution affords all Americans.

“Many of our nation’s founders fled religious persecution, which is why our Constitution puts great importance on religious freedom.”Durbin said. “Today, addressing anti-Muslim discrimination is an important civil rights issue of our time. It is important for our generation to renew our founding charter’s commitment to religious diversity and to protect the liberties guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.”

Today’s hearing was in response to the rise in anti-Muslim bigotry over the last year including Quran burnings, restrictions on mosque construction, hate crimes, hate speech, and other forms of discrimination.

Durbin highlighted a number of cases of harsh language directed against Muslims including a leading member of Congress who bluntly said “There are too many mosques in this country;” a former House Speaker falsely claimed, “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization;” a prominent religious leader said Islam is, “wicked” and “evil;” and the publisher of a prominent magazine who said, “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims.”

“Those who use this type of rhetoric, who burn Qurans and who engage in other forms of bigotry and discrimination may be few in number, but their bigoted conduct and remarks violate the spirit of our Bill of Rights,” Durbin said.

A distinguished panel of witnesses will testify, including Muslim civil rights leader Farhana Khera; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick; Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the Obama Administration’s top civil rights official; and former Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta, the Bush Administration’s top civil rights official.

Copies of the prepared testimony of today’s witnesses and Senator Durbin’s opening statement are attached. Video of the hearing is available at www.judicary.senate.gov.

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights was formed by merging the Constitution Subcommittee and the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee, which Durbin previously chaired. The Subcommittee has jurisdiction over all constitutional issues, and all legislation and policy related to civil rights, civil liberties and human rights. The Ranking Member of the Subcommittee is Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).


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