House Democrats have introduced legislation condemning violence, bigotry and “hateful rhetoric” towards Muslims in the United States.
Reps. Don Beyer, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Joe Crowley, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, and Andre Carson, along with 67 original cosponsors, introduced the legislation this month following “weeks of anti-Muslim bigotry and acts of hatred” in the wake of the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack that left 14 people dead.
“We must show that we will not tolerate this anti-Muslim discrimination and that those who propagate it do not represent the melting-pot America that we celebrate,” Mr. Beyer said in a statement. “These harmful words eventually lead to the very acts of violence many came to our country to escape in the first place. It’s time Congress stood up to condemn these attacks which run contrary to American values.”
“As we see many Americans expressing their fears, their leaders at every level have a special obligation to lead,” Ms. Holmes Norton said in a statement. “The concerns of the American people about terrorism in civil society after Paris and San Bernardino are understandable, but embracing Islamophobia as a way to cope with those fears is not only unacceptable, but dangerous. The main purpose of terrorism is to provoke division. Terrorists lose when, instead, we embrace our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
House Resolution 569 claims that victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes and rhetoric have faced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse because they were Muslim or believed to be Muslim.
“Whereas Muslim women who wear hijabs, headscarves, or other religious articles of clothing have been disproportionately targeted because of their religious clothing, articles, or observances,” it reads. “Whereas the rise of hateful and anti-Muslim speech, violence, and cultural ignorance plays into the false narrative spread by terrorist groups of Western hatred of Islam, and can encourage certain individuals to react in extreme and violent ways.”
The resolution calls on the House to express its condolences for the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes, recognize that the U.S. Muslim community has made “countless positive contributions to our society,” and denounce “in the strongest terms” the increase of intimidation, violence, vandalism, arson, and other hate crimes targeted against mosques, Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim.
The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
“The United States was built by the belief in liberty, freedom, and equality for every person. These are the values we hold most dear – the truths we hold to be self-evident. When elected officials and political leaders build their platforms on hatred and bigotry, they do so at our country’s expense,” Mr. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, said in a statement. “Their rhetoric is not merely ignorant – it’s dangerous. And it is fundamentally un-American. Scapegoating a religious community shouldn’t be part of a candidate’s stump speech. Not in this country. This bill is a reminder to Americans of all faiths: the demagogues do not speak for everyone. That is not who we are.”
The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s largest Muslim advocacy organization, welcomed the move.
Two days after the San Bernardino attack, Mr. Beyer, Mr. Ellison, Mr. Crowley, Ms. McCollum, and Ms. Holmes Norton, among several other Democrats, publicly attended Muslim prayer services in solidarity with the community after two Muslim terrorists gunned down 14 people at a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health holiday party on Dec. 2.
A handful of the Democrats attended the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, where Anwar al-Awlaki, an accused recruiter for al Qaeda who was killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike, was an imam at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Some of the 9/11 hijackers and Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan were also reported to have worshipped there.
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