Magazine article The Christian Century

Muslims Watch Warily as House Holds Hearing

Magazine article The Christian Century

Muslims Watch Warily as House Holds Hearing

Article excerpt

THEY WERE MOVED when the first Muslim elected to Congress shed tears discussing a Muslim who died trying to save others on 9/11. They were irked by accusations from House members and annoyed when fellow Muslims maligned their faith.

At times they constituted an Amen corner. At other moments, they jeered and glared at the images beamed live from Capitol Hill.

But for the most part, the dozen Muslims gathered in Sterling, Virginia, on March 10 at the home of a local grassroots activist sat silently as they watched the House Homeland Security Committee's hearing on "the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim Community."

The hearings, spearheaded by chairman Peter King (R., N.Y.), drew loud protests from many U.S. Muslims before they even started. Too many politicians are blaming too many Muslims for the heinous actions of a few, they said.

In Boston, Aatif Harden went to watch at New England's largest mosque, a facility that opened in 2009 after years of resistance from locals. Harden, active in the Muslim American Society, had anticipated that at least a few friends would join him at the mosque. But they were too busy with work or school, he said, to spend time watching Washington.

Malik Khan, president of the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, Massachusetts, was among those who skipped the viewing party. "Sometimes I think the hell with it," he said. "We do so many good things, and people still just want to demonize us."

So Harden watched the hearings alone. He didn't say much, until Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations of terrorist sympathies. "All of this stuff is old," he said. "What's an unindicted coconspirator anyway? What the hell is that?"

The feeling was much the same back in Virginia, where 28-year-old Salah Ayoubi called similar charges from King "ridiculous." Saba Baig, a 34-year-old homeschooling mother, called CAIR, a Muslim civil rights group with chapters across the country, "our biggest voice."

The gathering was hosted by attorney Hassan Ahmad and his wife, Rabiah Ahmad, an organizer with the grassroots Muslim group My Faith My Voice. One of their guests was Ayah Ibrahim, a 26-year-old graduate student in political science at George Mason University. Ibrahim wished Muslim leaders had been invited to testify at the hearing. …

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