Local Dems weigh in domestic terror hearing

Bay Area members of Congress are speaking out against what they see as bias in today’s House Homeland Community Committee hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”

Reps. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and John Dingell, D-Mich., led 55 of their colleagues in sending a letter to committee chairman Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., to refocus the upcoming hearings on Muslim Americans and homegrown terrorism in order to examine all forms of violence motivated by any sort of extremism.

Congress and the government do have a duty to protect America from foreign or domestic terrorism, they agreed, but they’re concerned that King’s hearing’s “narrow scope and underlying premises” will unfairly stigmatize and alienate Muslim Americans.

“We believe that the tone and focus of these hearings runs contrary to our nation’s values,” the lawmakers wrote. “Muslim Americans contribute to our nation’s wellbeing in many professions including as doctors, engineers, lawyers, firefighters, business entrepreneurs, teachers, police officers and Members of Congress. Their hard work helps to make our country exceptional.”

“Furthermore, casting a negative light on an entire community— rather than focusing on actual dangerous fringes will only strain community relationships and trust that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have worked hard to develop,” they continued. “Muslim Americans are an integral part of our larger American society and should be treated as such, not viewed with suspicion.”

“The choice between our values of inclusiveness and pluralism and our security is a false one.”

Among those signing the letter were Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, posted a similar sentiment to her Facebook page this morning.

“Today’s Homeland Security Committee hearing, which will profile and demonize an entire community of people based on their faith, undermines the values we stand for as Americans,” Speier wrote. “Radicalization and homegrown terrorism are serious and legitimate concerns that deserve thoughtful examination, not an ideologically motivated charade.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Common Tater
  • Elwood

    Pete Stark and John Dingell.

    Now THERE’S a pair to draw to.

    Plus the usual Bay Area suspects (Bobbie Lee, Georgie Porgie etc.)

  • John W

    A letter to the editor of the CC Times from a Danville resident yesterday asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood is out to establish Sharia law in the U.S. Perhaps Rep. King should call the writer as an expert witness. I fear we have sleeper cells all around CoCo County.

  • Elwood

    Re: #3

    Ibrahim Hooper, spokesmullah for CAIR (Council of American Islamic Relations) makes it no secret that their goal is to make this country a Muslim nation.

    “I fear we have sleeper cells all around CoCo County.”

    Stranger things have happened.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    The only Member who displayed any courage in signing the letter is Barney Frank, who isn’t on CAIR’s dance card. The others display a knee-jerk reaction to anything that smacks of civil liberties, whether it’s a justified complaint or not. I’m sure Garamendi is proud to share a letter with Dennis the Menace from Cleveland.

  • John W

    Re: #4

    I’ll count on those guys with the open-carry guns to save me. I’m sure they’ll be brave.

  • Elwood

    Re: #6

    non sequitur

  • Josh Richman

    Re: #4 — I assume you’re referring to Ibrahim Hooper’s oft-quoted interview with his then-hometown newspaper, Minneapolis Star Tribune, in April 1993 (more than a year before CAIR was formed):

    “Most non-Muslims believe in the separation between church and state. To have an Islamic society you must have Islamic rulers. We aren’t allowed to take over (the United States and) other governments. What we fight for here and in the remainder of the world is to practice our beliefs.”

    “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future,” Hooper says. “But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education.”

    I offer this not as an defense of Hooper or CAIR – as I’d rather not live in any kind of theocracy, be it Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or otherwise – but rather only as context.

  • Elwood

    Re: #8

    Seems pretty clear to me.

  • Josh Richman

    Does it, Elwood? He repudiates violence in the same statement. And contrary to his assertion that most non-Muslims believe in separation of church and state, I know I’ve seen, heard or read of many more Christians actively proselytizing and intent on imposing Biblical laws and values in this country than I have of Muslims doing the same.

    Yet I don’t go around accusing all Christians of believing this, because I see it’s the mindset of a small, fundamentalist minority. To stereotype that way, I think, would be akin to defining all Baptists by those odious Westboro Baptist Church “God hates fags” cretins (whom, as I recall, Elwood, you detest as well).

  • publius

    Memo to Josh and all other seperation of church and state liberals: AMERICA IS A CHRISTIAN COUNTRY. This Christian country is governed by a charter that gaurantees certain rights given to us by our creator. What ever creator you worship, Christian or not your rights are clearly spelled out in the founding document and are protected. Our laws and rights mimic the message of Jesus. Equality, Liberty, and above all Tolerance of others. You can’t disregard or refute the Christian influence on the civil make up of this nation. Do you think a Muslim Country could establish a charter like ours? Protecting the rights of minorities is one of our corner stones, even Muslim extremist and Fundi Christians have the right to spew mis-interpreted hate filled thoughts.
    Josh when was the last time the Westboro “God hates fags” group beheaded a homosexual, or flew a commercial airliner into a high rise in San Francisco? I know the comparison of home grown Christian Terrorism will be thrown out, but when was the last time one of these groups was supported philosophically and financially by a foreign organization? To compare a Muslim extremist and a Bible thumper wack job is dangerous and confuses the issue the commission is trying to address. Believe it or not there are forces in the world that want to destroy America.
    Investigating Muslim howngrown terrorism is not an affront to our values. Our leaders have the duty to investigate this issue. Those who probe and ask the questions do not hate all Muslims. I believe the problem is real and should be discussed.

    Remember what we are up against. Remember 9-11. There are those that will send thier children strapped with a backpack filled with explosives to do Allah’s will and kill the infidel. A sensitive, blind America cannot defend itself against such a faith.

  • Josh Richman

    Publius: I remember 9/11 perfectly well, thanks, and I know there are radical, militant Islamic fundamentalists out there working to hurt our nation. I also believe they could be trying to recruit followers here in America, and that we must do what we can to nip that in the bud. That includes investigation and public consideration, in the proper contexts and forms.

    But I also believe radical, militant Islamic fundamentalists ultimately will have much less of an impact upon our American way of life than will some of the admittedly law-abiding Christian fundamentalists who want to impose their values upon everyone here. If anything, 9/11 sensitized America to radical Islam to the extent that it’s much harder now for it to make any substantial ideological inroads here.

    Meanwhile, Christian fundamentalists have had far more success through lobbying, campaign spending and other legal means in shaping our public debate toward curtailing freedoms of those with whom they don’t agree. I emphasize legal because it is so, though I think we all should be vigilant about the eventual price. Christians undeniably are a vast majority in America – and in any nation it’s usually the majority that must be watched most carefully, lest it impose its will upon all the minorities.

    I’m not going to get into the age-old scrap about the founding fathers’ intent on whether this would be a “Christian country.” I’ll just say: I have no problem with Christians but I am not one, and I’ll not accept anybody trying to force me to be one – or anything else I don’t freely choose to be.

    Given your screen name, Publius, I’d trust you recall that James Madison was intent upon ensuring this country had checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority. Madison wrote:

    “The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.”

    So: Yes, I’d be more concerned about violence from radical, militant Islamic fundamentalist terrorism than of violence from radical, militant, Christian fundamentalist terrorism. But as for maintaining our freedoms, I don’t trust fundamentalists of any stripe who harbor socio-political motives at others’ expense.

  • John W

    Re #12

    Well said, Josh. By the way, Ibrahim Hooper’s real name is Doug. Probably a loser in search of meaning in his life. Muslims make up 25% of the world’s population. If a large share of them were out to destroy us, they would have made more progress by now. The Muslim population in the U.S. is projected to be about 6 million, less than 2%, by the end of the decade. So, if they manage to impose Sharia Law (assuming that’s what they wanted), what does that say about the other 98% of us who are non-Muslim? I’ve had the opportunity to know devout Arab-American Muslims and members of their family. Nothing extreme about them. Not out to convert me. Didn’t call me an infidel. Don’t believe 75 virgins await them in the next life. No interst in living in a Islamic Republic under Sharia law. Had no interest in strapping explosives to their kids. Great work ethic. Totally nice people. Wanted the same things out of life the rest of us want — family, friends, good jobs, baseball, good schools for their kids etc.

  • publius

    Josh, Your response was well recieved. I cherish religious freedom and strongly believe in protecting it also. No where in the Constitution does it say you have to be Christian to be an American. I also believe in protecting our country and the American way of life.
    America needs to have a tougher skin when it comes to dealing with minority issues. This commission is not trying to demonize the 98% of good Muslims in America or trying to take away the basic right for one to worship the way he or she wants to.

    You are correct; I am aware of James Madison and his view on the seperation of Church and State. Madison was fearful of the “Religious Shackles” that cloud reason. The same shackles that bonded Muslim countries in his day, just as they do today. Due to the vision of our founders America is enlightened and the wall of seperation is in tact. Most Muslim Nations do not have that wall.

    As you are aware there was more than one Publius in those days and I would like to quote the other Publius to better portray my point that our over sensitive and ever tolerant culture is sometimes dangerous to our National Security.

    “Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others.” – Alexander Hamilton

    “Foreign influence is truly the Grecian horse to a republic. We cannot be too careful to exclude its influence.” – Alexander Hamilton

    Thank you for the healthy debate.

  • John W

    As far as I can tell, the King hearing served no purpose other than to scare the horses about “the Muslims are coming, the Muslims are coming!” I didn’t watch, but my understanding is that King did not call any expert witnesses from Homeland Security, the FBI, intellegency agencies, or the Muslim community. There was a letter in the Times today from a Brentwood resident, complaining about a Mosque being built there. His complaint wasn’t that a church would create traffic problems, harm endangered species or disrupt native American remains. The complaint was about it being a Muslim place of worship, a matter which he thought should be put up to a public vote.

  • Elwood

    Unfortunately, the CCTimes does not edit letters to the editor.

    Any fool may take pen in hand and usually does.

  • Kyle M

    I never thought I’d miss Ellen Tauscher but Garamendi is ten times further to the left than her. How did we get stuck with this career politician hack? The 11th deserves a moderate Democrat or moderate Republican, not a knee jerk ladder climber.

  • Elwood

    Garamendi doesn’t live in the 11th, but he says he can see it from his house!