Today, Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) convened a hearing on “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims” — the “first of its kind for Congress.” A counterweight to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King’s (R-NY) anti-Muslim hearings earlier this month, Durbin’s hearing sought to counter increasing number of bigoted attacks like the Quran burnings, hate crimes, and restrictions on mosque construction by reinforcing “the Constitution’s ‘First Freedom’ — the freedom of religion.”
Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) provided a counter-approach to many in his own party. Graham took the opportunity to declare “I will do my part as a Republican to let my party and anyone listening that I totally get it when it comes to religion.” After the Justice Department’s Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez testified to the “steady stream of violence and discrimination” targeting Muslim, Sikh, and South Asians, Graham responded, “one case is too many.” He went further to admonish those who unleash hate speech against Muslims are “putting our soldiers at risk”:
GRAHAM: I guess my opinion about such matters is that one case is too many. You have an example in America where somebody is being abused because of their faith, I think all of us should join in and push back as the Bush administration did, as you’re doing. So that’s my baseline here — I don’t know what the numbers are but one for me is too many. And to those who have freedom of speech, it’s a gift given to you by a lot of people risking their own lives. So when you say things here at home or you do things here at home that create tension based on religious differences, particularly when its the Muslim community involved, your putting our soldiers at risk.
We have soldiers all over the world of a variety of religions fighting in the name of America trying to help moderate Muslims defeat radical Islam. And my view is that there are plenty of moderate Muslims out there who need our help and we should be helping because its better to fight the war over there than it is here. But at the end of the day, we’re all in this together….there are plenty of Muslims who wear our uniform and we need to understand that, again, we’re all in this together.
Graham’s enlightened stance stands in stark contrast to the entrenched anti-Muslim position adopted by the hard right. Indeed, directly following Graham’s opening statement, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said that if this hearing “is part of a narrative that says its improper to point out the obvious” about radical Muslims and errs on the side of “political correctness,” then “count me out.” “All bigotry is to be condemned but we’re only credible if we’re principled in our condemnation. Selective indignation is not healthy,” he said — without a hint of irony or mention of King’s hearings.
It appears, however, that many high-profile Republicans relish in their “selective” condemnation of Muslims. GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain recently insisted all Muslims “have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.” Fellow candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has used Muslims and Nazis interchangeably and advocated for “explicit profiling and explicit discrimination for behavior” of Muslims.
Taking the exact opposite view of Graham, King said Muslims aren’t “American” when it comes to war and “do not cooperate” to combat terrorism. Today, he condemned Durbin and Graham’s hearing as one that “perpetuates the myth that somehow Muslims are the victim of September 11” and that “create[s] the illusion that there’s a violation of civil rights of Muslims in this country. It’s absolutely untrue, and to me it makes no sense.”