Senate to hold hearing on Muslim civil rights

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A Senate hearing on anti-Muslim bigotry set for next week drew praise from American Muslims who see it as a “counterweight” to a congressional probe into Muslim radicalization.

Senator Dick Durbin, who will chair the March 29 hearing, said it was being held in response to recent incidents targeting Muslims such as Koran burnings and restrictions on mosque construction.

Representative Peter King, who convened hearings on March 10, said Muslim Americans must do more to combat Islamic radicalization as al Qaeda targets them to help carry out terrorism plots.

The New York Republican has accused the Muslim community of refusing to cooperate with law enforcement and charged that preaching in some U.S. mosques was leading to radicalization.

“We view the upcoming hearing as a very positive development and a counterweight to the very biased hearing put on by Representative King recently,” Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said on Thursday.

“Unfortunately there’s a rising level of anti-Muslim sentiment in our society that a hearing like that put on by Representative King seeks to exploit and promote,” Hooper said.

Durbin, a senior Democrat from Illinois, did not mention King’s hearing in a statement announcing his plans.

“During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance,” Durbin said. “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.”

Witnesses slated to testify included Muslim civil rights lawyer Farhana Khera, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, former Justice Department official Alexander Acosta, and former Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

It will be the first hearing held by the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Senate to hold hearing on Muslim civil rights