Rep. Keith Ellison: Being a Muslim in Congress Has Gotten Better

February 10, 2014

 

Ellison called Muslims in America the “scapegoat du jour.”

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., was the first Muslim elected to Congress and it’s not always been an easy ride. Monday, on book tour duty for his new tome, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” he spoke at the Center for American Progress about being a member of a religion that’s often treated as the “scapegoat du jour.”

For instance, even before he won election, Ellison became the ire of the far-right when he said, on a late night Somali-language program in his district, that he would be sworn in on the Quran.

“It set off a firestorm,” Ellison recalled.

Ellison won his race and found out early on that he had allies in his own party on Capitol Hill. On swearing-in day, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Ellison to give the prayer before the freshmen class.

“I didn’t know her from a can of paint, but I knew all that I needed to know about her from that moment on,” Ellison said.

Several more of Ellison’s Democratic colleagues bonded with him over their own swearing-in tomes.

“Later in the day of the swearing in, a little lady, about 5-foot-2, curly blonde hair – Debbie Wasserman Schultz – you all know her,’” Ellison said. “[She said], ‘Welcome to Congress and by the way, I want you to know when I swore in, I swore in with a copy of the Tanakh, which is Jewish scripture.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., also approached Ellison to tell the Minnesota Democrat he had used a Bible written in the Gullah dialect.

Another memorable moment came when Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called a Muslim “radicalization” hearing in March 2011 before the House Homeland Security Committee. Ellison tried to dissuade King from holding the hearing, but when that didn’t work Ellison decided to testify instead. He made a piece of his testimony about Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old American Muslim, who perished on 9/11 trying to save his fellow citizens.

“I started talking about this boy and his heroism and my throat started to get thick, my tongue started to thicken up, I could feel warm tears start rolling down my face,” Ellison said. (Basically, he pulled a House Speaker John Boehner, who has a penchant for crying.)

US News: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2014/02/10/rep-keith-ellison-being-a-muslim-in-congress-has-gotten-better

Feds charge New York home improvement store clerk with trying to join al-Qaida-related group

October 19, 2013

 

For 25 years Marcos Alonso Zea lived in America, working most recently as a clerk at a home improvement store on New York’s Long Island.

But federal authorities have arrested the U.S.-born man, charging him with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, attempting to support terrorists and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and obstruction of justice.
Zea, who nodded at his parents as he was escorted into the court room at his arraignment Friday, pleaded not guilty and was detained without bail.

“Despite being born and raised in the United States, Zea allegedly betrayed his country and attempted to travel to Yemen to join a terrorist organization and commit murder,” U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said.

Federal prosecutors accused Zea of planning to travel overseas to wage violent jihad on the perceived enemies of Islam, including Yemen’s secular government.

They said he flew to London en route to Yemen in January to join Ansar al-Sharia, which the U.S. has declared an alias for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. But he was rejected by customs officials in the United Kingdom and returned to the United States.

Zea was inspired by terrorist propaganda, said George Venizelos, head of the FBI’s New York office.

Among violent Islamic extremist materials found on Zea’s computer, authorities said, were issues of an al-Qaida publication that promotes violent jihad. The publication contained articles such as “Which is Better: Martyrdom or Victory?” “’Why did I choose al Qaeda?” and “What to Expect in Jihad?”

Investigators said they also found an al-Qaida-produced video depicting detonation of an explosive device on a vehicle carrying western military personnel.

After learning he was under investigation, Zea directed an associate to erase a hard drive on his home computer and gave an associate two more hard drives to destroy, though investigators recovered them anyway, authorities said.

Lynch said once investigators were on his trail, “he engaged in a desperate effort to cover his tracks by attempting to destroy evidence — a tactic that only confirmed his violent aims.”

Kaliebe, who was arrested in January as he tried to board a plane in New York to go to Yemen, has pleaded guilty to attempting to provide support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support.

He told a judge at his plea hearing that he had brought money to give to the al-Qaida group and he had discussed with others his desire to support the group by “providing money, equipment and ourselves.” A prosecutor said the government had audio recordings of Kaliebe expressing his desire to join al-Qaida in Yemen.

He awaits sentencing in December.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called the arrest “a vivid reminder of the threat we continue to face from domestic Islamic terrorists.”
Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/feds-charge-new-york-home-improvement-store-clerk-with-trying-to-join-al-qaida-related-group/2013/10/19/71ba7e32-387e-11e3-89db-8002ba99b894_story.html

Boston Bombing Gives Pause to Immigration Reform

Two Republican lawmakers urged greater scrutiny of U.S. Muslims and the shelving of immigration reform during the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said Sunday the FBI should intensify its efforts to ferret out radical Muslim terrorists who may be living in the United States while Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said he favored holding off on immigration legislation until more is learned about the two natives of Chechnya who were accused of planting the deadly bombings.

King and Coats were among the members of Congress who called Sunday for a close look at the potential reasons the Tsarnaev brothers were apparently not under law-enforcement scrutiny despite a lengthy visit Tamerlan Tsarnaev made to Russia and Dagestan in 2011.

GOP Rep. King defends hearings on Muslim radicalization, terrorism ties

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers split along party lines at a hearing Wednesday (June 20) meant to gauge Muslim responses to earlier hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims.

Testimony by four witnesses was overshadowed by Republicans who defended the four prior hearings and Democrats who questioned whether they were misguided or actually harmful to Muslim Americans.

Short on new data but long on rhetoric, lawmakers argued both sides of the same statistics and relied heavily on anecdotes.

“The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans, yet the reality is that the Islamist terror threat comes from the community,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the ranking Democratic member, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said he hoped the hearings did not increase hate crimes or religious profiling, and worried that America’s image abroad is of a nation at war with Islam.

GOP Rep. Peter King on Wednesday defended hearings on the so-called radicalization of American Muslims and how that potentially leads to terrorism – amid continued arguments about the need and appropriateness of such hearings.

The meeting was the fifth such for the House Committee on Homeland Security — led by the New York congressman and created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Cain’s lapse into Islamophobic bigotry, again

In an interview with GQ, Herman Cain goes back to an early theme of his campaign: suggesting American Muslims pose a creeping threat to society. From the transcript:

Devin Gordon: Do you think that there is a greater tendency among the Muslim faith for that kind of extremism?

Herman Cain: That would be a judgment call that I’m probably not qualified to make, because I can’t speak on behalf of the entire Muslim community. I have talked with Muslims that are peaceful Muslims. And I have had one very well known Muslim voice say to me directly that a majority of Muslims share the extremist views.

Devin Gordon: Do you think he’s right?

Herman Cain: Yes, because that’s his community. That’s his community. I can’t tell you his name, but he is a very prominent voice in the Muslim community, and he said that.

Moreover, Cain does immense damage to those focused on a narrow, discrete problem: The radicalization of some Muslims in the United States. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has enough problems beating down the allegations of discrimination and trying to conduct a thoughtful inquiry into how we can intercede in the process of radicalization. King and others trying to cultivate useful strategies against jihadist elements are undermined — and will inevitably be lumped in — with Cain’s know-nothing attacks on all Muslim Americans.

Do critics actually read the Koran?

Ramadan is upon us – a time of fasting, charity, prayer…and fighting off Islamophobia. Norweigian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik killed 76 innocent people in a demented campaign to destroy Islam. Comedian Bill Maher recently called the Koran a “hate-filled holy book.” Evangelical atheist Sam Harris insists, “on almost every page the Koran instructs observant Muslims to despise non-believers .” And Peter King continues his anti-Muslim campaign to become the 21st century Senator McCarthy.

So here’s the $1 million question: Do critics actually read the Koran?

Well, consider our American leaders as an example. On the surface, Thomas Jefferson, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama might seem vastly different in policy. But, these presidents have each read the Koran.

Jefferson, a Founding Father, valued his personal Koran. Bush, a conservative Republican, called the Koran “a very thoughtful gift.” Obama, a Democrat who is not a Muslim, studied the Koran, even as a child. Jefferson, Bush, Obama—why not follow their example?

Rep. Jackson Lee During Muslim Radicalization Hearings: I Want A ‘Hearing On Right-Wing Extremists’

Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee raised some eyebrows at Republican Congressman Peter King’s Muslim Radicalization hearings. While King and the other members of the House Committee were focused on the threat of the potential radicalization of American Muslims, Jackson Lee thought other groups were just as dangerous and should be included in the Committee’s investigation.

Jackson Lee argued:

“I would add to that, that I would like to have a hearing on right-wing extremists, ideologues who advocate violence and advocate, in essence, the terrorizing of certain groups. . . . My concern with the focus of the hearings that we have had is the isolation of certain groups.”

NY groups gather to oppose King’s Muslim hearing

WESTBURY, N.Y. — Members of several New York organizations Tuesday decried the next round of hearings by Rep. Peter King on what he calls the radicalization of the Muslim-American community.

King, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee, has scheduled a Wednesday hearing in Washington focusing on radicalization in U.S. prisons. He said he plans to call several law enforcement experts to testify on recent examples of terrorist recruitment among inmates.

“This is a real concern; this is a real issue,” the lawmaker from New York’s Long Island said in a telephone interview following a news conference by a group called Long island Neighbors for American Values. The group is a coalition of religious leaders and civic groups who contend King’s hearings are fostering negative stereotypes.

“Unfortunately, these people are living in denial,” King said of his foes. “Al-Qaida is attempting to recruit in our country and it is a reality we cannot afford to hide from.”

Jewish Dems blast GOP for singling out Muslims

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The National Jewish Democratic Council blasted what it said was a Republican “obsession” with Muslims.

An NJDC statement termed as “utterly unnecessary” a second hearing convened Wednesday by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Commitee, on Muslim radicalization.

“Taken together with examples such as Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s and Herman Cain’s deeply disturbing comments in Monday night’s debate, these hearings are a manifestation of an upsetting GOP obsession with American Muslims,” the statement said.

In the GOP presidential debate Monday, Gingrich defended proposed loyalty tests for Muslims by likening them to past loyalty tests aimed at ferreting out communists and Nazis. Cain attempted to explain past comments in which he said he would not be comfortable with including a Muslim in his Cabinet.

“Once again, King has singled out the adherents of the Muslim faith, calling into question the loyalty of an entire community,” NJDC said. “All Americans who treasure the freedom of religion should be concerned with the growing suspicion of Muslim Americans by the Republican Party, which seems to be a requirement among its 2012 contenders.”

Republicans pointed out that King’s hearing Wednesday focused specifically on Muslim radicalization among prisoners, a topic that congressional Democrats have addressed in the past.

King to hold second hearing on radicalization among American Muslims

Rep. Peter King announced Thursday that he has scheduled a Homeland Security Committee hearing for next week, examining “The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons.”

The hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, comes three months after King (R-N.Y.) convened a highly scrutinized meeting of his panel to examine the extent of radicalization among American Muslims. King said at the time that he planned to dedicate a June hearing to investigating radicalization among prisoners. The witness list for the upcoming hearing has yet to be released.

While King’s March hearing on radicalization has drawn the greatest attention, the panel also held a meeting last month examining the homeland security implications of Osama bin Laden’s death. And Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) held a hearing of his own in late March that focused on protecting the civil rights of American Muslims. Durbin maintained that the session was not a response to King’s hearing three weeks earlier.