NAACP to Pete King: Drop Your Effort to Stereotype Muslims

Greg Sargent, Washington Post, March 9, 2011

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is weighing in for the first time on Pete King’s hearings into the radicalization of Muslims, arguing that King’s plans {snip} risk stereotyping Muslims in a manner historically endured by African Americans.

In a letter to King that was not distributed widely to the press, the NAACP invokes the assassination of civil rights figures, and specifically invokes discrimination against blacks as a forerunner to what King is doing:

{snip}

The invocation of American domestic terrorism, and the comparison of King’s efforts to discrimination visited on African Americans, amount to a double-barreled shot at the very premise of his hearings, which is that the threat of Islamic terror is unique enough to justify the focus of high-profile Congressional hearings on just this one group of Americans. {snip}


Washington Bureau

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

1156 15th Street, Nw

Suite 915

Washington, DC 20005

P (202) 463-2940

F (202) 463-2953

E-Mail: [email protected]

Web Address www.Naacp.Org

March 8, 2011

The Honorable Peter King

Chairman

Committee on Homeland Security

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Bennie Thompson

Ranking Member Committee on Homeland Security

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman King and Ranking Member Thompson:

On behalf of the NAACP, our nation’s oldest, largest and most widely-recognized grassroots civil rights organization, I am writing to strongly urge you to reconsider holding the narrowly focused and reckless hearings planned by the Committee on Homeland Security, tentatively scheduled for March 10, 2011, on the “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” Such a hearing, as presently planned with it’s limited and skewed focus on one religious- ethnic group, would be not only counter-productive as it clearly does not provide a focus on so many of the other “homegrown terrorist” groups working to radicalize sectors of U.S. religious communities, but it is also divisive and potentially harmful to our nation’s security interests.

The NAACP is no stranger to domestic terrorism: as the surviving friends and family of Harry T. and Henrietta Moore, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, and Emmitt Till, not to mention the 168 killed and 450 injured in the Alfred T. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, and too many others can attest, we are all too familiar with the evil concept. We are also too familiar with the process of being ostracized and demonized because of who we are or what we look like. Finally, members of the NAACP also have a long history of working with and benefitting from the goodwill of people of all races and ethnicities regardless of their background. It is clear that the most effective means of identifying terrorists is through their behavior–not ethnicity, race or religion.

Factual history has clearly demonstrated that “homegrown domestic terrorism” cannot be relegated to one racial or ethnic group. To do so is to overlook actual historic and current events, which are both riddled with terrorist acts by extremists from a large variety of racial, ethnic, political, social and religious groups. Furthermore, by identifying one group as being largely responsible for current terror threats against our nation, you are promoting misinformation and stereotypes that can only build mistrust among members of that group. This in turn will make it more difficult for members of that group to cooperate with authorities in identifying or reporting genuine threats, and more unlikely that they will. On the other side of the equation, this approach creates misguided hostility towards or Muslims or perceived Muslims by perpetuating stereotypes which incite further misunderstandings or even violence against those groups.

So I must again urge you in the strongest terms possible to rethink the focus of your proposed hearings on domestic terrorism. The United States today clearly faces a wide variety of dangers, from both foreign and domestic sources, and to focus on one group presents not only a disservice to that group, but also to our Nation. I look forward to working with you in the upcoming Congress to help identify and eradicate threats against our Nation. Please feel free to contact me whenever you feel that the NAACP can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Hilary O. Shelton Director,

NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy

cc: The Honorable Keith Ellison

The Honorable Frank Wolf

Members, Committee on Homeland Security

U.S. House of Representatives

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