Pouring rain did not stop hundreds of people from showing up in Times Square this past Sunday to stand in solidarity for the “Today, I Am a Muslim Too” rally, organized by a coalition of diverse religious communities and grassroots Rights groups.
The event was in opposition to the upcoming government hearings dubbed, “The Radicalization of Muslim communities in America” called by Congressman Peter King (R-NY).
For three hours, demonstrators cheered appearances by figures such as Faisal Abdul Rauf, his wife Daisy Khan, producer and activist Russell Simmons, rapper Jim Jones, Congressman André Carson, and Journalist Mona Eltahaway. Also present were a number of leaders from the nation’s Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist communities, all speaking out in support of pluralism, tolerance, and equal protection.
The speakers had a clear unifying message: the upcoming hearings will not only inspire intolerance and stoke the flames of Islamophobia in the United States, but will have the counterproductive effect of supporting the idea that Americans believe Muslims are “less American,” thereby reinforcing the worldview of the very extremists we seek to vanquish.
Indeed, the rally was defined by its denunciation of extremism, hate, and violence of all forms, along with its decidedly patriotic rhetoric. Against the backdrop of an enormous American flag, rabbis and priests alike cited the prior persecution of Irish, Catholic, Japanese, Jewish, and African-American communities to make the point that the federal government should under no circumstances single out entire cultures on the assumption of guilt by association.
In addition, many pointed to the irony that Peter King, who was also outspoken in his opposition to the Cordoba Initiative project in lower Manhattan, comes from an Irish-Catholic background himself.
The demonstration was generally upbeat however, punctuated by musical performances by Anam Chowdry, Shahid Buttar, Cyrus McGoldrick, and Salman Ahmad of Junoon.
Still, the gravity of the upcoming hearings was lost on no one. More than one speaker alluded to a “new McCarthyism” in American politics, an idea that the Obama administration has been consciously fighting amidst the run-up to King’s hearings.
On Sunday, Representative King sat down with Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, to debate the hearings with Candy Crowley on CNN. The two discussed their positions on the hearings and responded to a recent Duke University study called “Muslim-American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting,” which can be read here. The study suggests that not only is Muslim-American terrorism on the decline, but that Muslim-Americans themselves have frequently played central roles in foiling acts of violent extremism.
More information about the rally can be found on its Facebook page.By Will Roth, Aslan Media Contributor