Confidential to ABLC readers: If you’re a different manner of geek than me, you might be unaware that New York Congressman Pete King is planning a series of hearings into the “radicalization” of the American-Muslim community. For folks like me — Mideast geeks, interfaith activists, and your various whatnot — these hearings have been a source of some strum und dang, not to mention panties in a twist, since they were first announced (King’s decision to slap all Mooslins with the terrorist label is made especially — um — interesting by the fact that he was once a card-carrying member of the I <3 The IRA Fanclub – click here for details about how much King looooved Irish terrorists back in the day).
It’s my thought that Americans who are NOT twisted by bigotry might want to tell King* a thing or two about just how twisted his bigotry is, and so I present to you: A few humble ideas.
I’ve called US Rep. Pete King’s (R-NY) office a couple of times recently to try to determine exactly when he’s planning on launching these abhorrent hearings of his into the “radicalization of the Muslim community” in America. My hope was to act on the ideas that I floated here, or help others with possible responses that they were working on, and though I’ve reached out to a couple of Muslim-American organizations for leads and ideas, I’ve heard nothing back (I’ve decided to chalk up this up to people being very, very busy, because, you know: Bottom line, my credentials for this sort of thing are fairly well established, both in terms of work experience in the communication and PR industries, and my own writing skills and background).
A few weeks ago, I was told the hearings would start “in late February or early March,” but when I couldn’t figure a way into efforts to respond to this rather vivid attack on American values (I have this funny notion that “We the people” means all the people, “liberty and justice for all” means for all-all, the First Amendment means what it says, so on and so forth) and other, equally worthy work came up (not to mention: Worthy work for which I was being paid!), I let it slide.
Well, I called again on Friday, and lo and behold, it looks like the fun’s starting in “the second week of March,” last the folks in the office heard. (A good place to keep tabs is the Homeland Security Committee website, but that will only tell you what’s already scheduled, not what might-be-happening-soon).
In the meantime, I’ve learned of the “Today I’m a Muslim Too” rally in New York City on March 6 — to which I would totally fly out if I hadn’t just flown east and back this past weekend — and I will confess: I don’t know much about it, other than the statement made by the Imam organizing it:
According to Imam Shamsi Ali, this Times Square rally will join Muslims and Non-Muslims alike,”shoulder to shoulder, making our collective voice heard. We will show that in our friendship we are united, we stand together, and the goals and mutual trust that we share will not and cannot be divided. The hearings Representative King is planning will alienate American Muslims instead of partnering with them, and potentially put their lives at risk by stirring up fear and hatred against them. We want to honor the United States’ pluralistic and multicultural tapestry, declaring a unified stance against Islamophobia in America; one people, all children of God, joined together against the bigotry caused by anxiety, misinformation, and ignorance.”
But you know, that’s pretty good stuff.
So, since I don’t run PR for the American Muslim community, and haven’t found a way to wedge myself into whatever efforts are already being made, I’ll at least do this:
If you believe that Rep. Pete King’s decision to hold hearings on the so-called radicalization of the American Muslim community is wrong-headed, divisive, and potentially dangerous, here are some steps you can take (Note: these are all especially important if you’re not Muslim. Everyone expects Muslims to defend themselves — what’s important is that non-Muslims choose to stand by their fellow Americans):
- If you’re in or near NYC on March 6, please make a sign and head on over to the rally! Times Square, 42nd St and 7th Ave, 2:30-5:30. (If you do this and you’re not Muslim, make sure to identify yourself as such).
- Organize a remote rally in your own town for the same day — a rally, an interfaith prayer meeting, a sit-in, a study group, whatever. If you have the time and can make it happen, do it, man!
- Write a letter (snail-mail) to Rep. King and the members of the Homeland Security Committee – the post takes an egregious amount of time to wend its way into the offices of our elected representatives because of security nowadays (thanks, al-Qaeda!), but it is by far the most powerful medium. Here’s a list of the committee members, and here’s contact information for Rep. King. While you’re at it, send letters to your Senators and Representative, regardless of committee position. You can find those addresses at house.gov and senate.gov
- If you’re worried your letter won’t get there in time, or want to do more than a single letter, make calls to the committee and your own Representative and Senators, and/or send emails (you can’t really send them to anyone not from your district, but it’s important to let your own people know how you feel, too). Once again: house.gov and senate.gov
- Write to your local papers — I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that the people who live in your area — not least the Muslims! — now that you do not support bigotry and xenophobia.
- And finally, if any of the following (the ideas I was playing around with in my earlier post) appeals to you, and you can figure out a way to make it happen, please do! (And if you can figure out a way that I can help, let me know!): How about sending Muslim veterans in uniform to the hearings (possibly from among the more than 200 Muslim Americans to be awarded combat action ribbons)? Or newspaper commentary by those who knew Muslims killed in action? How about interfaith prayer vigils across the country? Or maybe just Muslims declaring themselves in some public place outside the hearings, ala the Rally to Restore Sanity: “I’m a Muslim doctor,” “I’m a Muslim teacher,” “I’m a Muslim dad.” (I’d love it if country singer Kareem Salama** [no-really] would chime in with his own sign: “I’m a Muslim country/western singer” — Kareem, call me!).
And of course, if you have any ideas you’d like to share or some way to get me into the action, leave a comment or shoot me an email! Contact deets for me are here.
*Just how much does it suck that this man shares a surname with Dr. King? It sucks a lot, and it sucks hard, that’s how much. I mean, honestly.
** Here’s my favorite Kareem Salama song to date (doubt a dude with the name “Kareen” can be country? Just listen to how he says “angels”…!):