Washington – The American Civil Liberties Union submitted testimony today for Representative Peter King's congressional "radicalization" hearing objecting to the House Homeland Security Committee's scrutiny of the American Muslim community and its level of cooperation with government anti-terrorism efforts.
The ACLU, along with over 40 human rights and civil rights groups, sent a letter to Rep. King and his committee this week urging them not to conflate First Amendment-protected practices with involvement in terrorism. The letter also criticized the hearing's false premise that the Muslim community and its leaders are uncooperative with law enforcement.
"Hearings that focus on American Muslims threaten to burden the free exercise of religion, give the appearance of official endorsement of one set of religious beliefs over another, and chill free association and free speech," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, and Michael Macleod-Ball, Chief of Staff and First Amendment Counsel, in their testimony. "Moreover, the rhetoric by some in advance of this hearing has targeted the American Muslim community for special attention even though the rhetoric is factually inaccurate and counterproductive to shared homeland security goals."
The ACLU's testimony challenged the premise of Rep. King's hearing and pointed out that law enforcement officials across the spectrum – including Attorney General Eric Holder and hearing witness Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca – have lauded the Muslim community for its cooperation and role in stopping anti-government and terrorism plots. Many in the community meet regularly with law enforcement and actively contribute to creating fair and effective policies that improve security while protecting civil rights, and many Muslims in the U.S. and around the world have clearly and repeatedly denounced extremist violence of all kinds.
The ACLU said in its testimony, "We will steadfastly oppose any effort to examine, and thus cast official disapproval upon, any religious or political belief system. Any such effort would chill the First Amendment rights of those involved and be an unfair slap at untold numbers of wholly innocent Americans … Protecting our First Amendment freedoms will both honor our values and keep us safe."