Combating Islamophobia & responding to Rep. Pete King – some ideas.

UPDATE, March 4, 2011 : I wrote a much more detailed list of ideas, including sample scripts and letters today: How to support Muslims. It’s a better place to start on this, I assure you!

I’ve called US Rep. Pete King’s (R-NY) office a couple of times in the past two weeks to try to determine when he’s planning on launching these abhorrent hearings of his into the “radicalization of the Muslim community” in America. My hope was to act on the ideas that I floated here, or help others with possible responses that they were working on, and though I’ve reached out to a couple of Muslim-American organizations for leads and ideas, I’ve heard nothing back (I’ve decided to chalk up this up to people being very, very busy, because, you know: Bottom line, my credentials for this sort of thing are fairly well established, both in terms of work experience in the communication and PR industries, and my own writing skills and background).

Two weeks ago or so, I was told the hearings would start “in late February or early March,” but when I couldn’t figure a way into efforts to respond to this rather vivid attack on American values (I have this funny notion that “We the people” means all the people, “liberty and justice for all” means for all-all, the First Amendment means what it says, so on and so forth) and other, equally worthy work came up (not to mention: Worthy work for which I was being paid!), I let it slide.

Well, today, I called again, and lo and behold, it looks like the fun’s starting in “the second week of March,” last the folks in the office heard. (A good place to keep tabs is the Homeland Security Committee website, but that will only tell you what’s already scheduled, not what might-be-happening-soon).

In the meantime, I’ve learned of the “Today I’m a Muslim Too” rally in New York City on March 6 — to which I would totally fly out if I weren’t already flying east and back this very weekend — and I will confess: I don’t know much about it, other than the statement made by the Imam organizing it:

According to Imam Shamsi Ali, this Times Square rally will join Muslims and Non-Muslims alike,”shoulder to shoulder, making our collective voice heard. We will show that in our friendship we are united, we stand together, and the goals and mutual trust that we share will not and cannot be divided. The hearings Representative King is planning will alienate American Muslims instead of partnering with them, and potentially put their lives at risk by stirring up fear and hatred against them. We want to honor the United States’ pluralistic and multicultural tapestry, declaring a unified stance against Islamophobia in America; one people, all children of God, joined together against the bigotry caused by anxiety, misinformation, and ignorance.”

And you know, that’s pretty good stuff.

So, since I don’t run PR for the American Muslim community, and haven’t found a way to wedge myself into whatever efforts are already being made, I’ll at least do this:

If you believe that Rep. Pete King’s decision to hold hearings on the so-called radicalization of the American Muslim community is wrong-headed, divisive, and potentially dangerous, here are some steps you can take (Note: these are all especially important if you’re not Muslim. Everyone expects Muslims to defend themselves — what’s important is that non-Muslims choose to stand by their fellow Americans):

  1. If you’re in or near NYC on March 6, please make a sign and head on over to the rally! Times Square, 42nd St and 7th Ave, 2:30-5:30.
  2. Organize a remote rally in your own town for the same day — a rally, an interfaith prayer meeting, a sit-in, a study group, whatever. If you have the time and can make it happen, do it, man!
  3. Write a letter (snail-mail) to Rep. King and the members of the Homeland Security Committee – the post takes an egregious amount of time to wend its way into the offices of our elected representatives because of security nowadays (thanks, al-Qaeda!), but it is by far the most powerful medium. Here’s a list of the committee members, and here’s contact information for Rep. King. While you’re at it, send letters to your Senators and Representative, regardless of committee position. You can find those addresses at house.gov and senate.gov
  4. If you’re worried your letter won’t get there in time, or want to do more than a single letter, make calls to the committee and your own Representative and Senators, and/or send emails (you can’t really send them to anyone not from your district, but it’s important to let your own people know how you feel, too). Once again: house.gov and senate.gov
  5. Write to your local papers — I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that the people who live in your area — not least the Muslims! — now that you do not support bigotry and xenophobia.
  6. And finally, if any of the following (the ideas I was playing around with in my earlier post) appeals to you, and you can figure out a way to make it happen, please do! (And if you can figure out a way that I can help, let me know!): How about sending Muslim veterans in uniform to the hearings (possibly from among the more than 200 Muslim Americans to be awarded combat action ribbons)? Or newspaper commentary by those who knew Muslims killed in action? How about interfaith prayer vigils across the country? Or maybe just Muslims declaring themselves in some public place outside the hearings, ala the Rally to Restore Sanity: “I’m a Muslim doctor,” “I’m a Muslim teacher,” “I’m a Muslim dad.” (I’d love it if singer Kareem Salama would chime in with his own sign: “I’m a Muslim country/western singer” — Kareem, call me!).

And of course, if you have any ideas you’d like to share or some way to get me into the action, leave a comment or shoot me an email! Contact deets for me on the About page.

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3 Comments

  1. More ideas? Try this. Turn up at the rally wearing a tallis/prayer shawl, or a big cross, along with a big sign saying I Am a Muslim Too. Make it clear that you’re Christian or Jewish or whatever other faith, and in the face of the Peter Kings of this world, Muslim too.

  2. dmf

     /  February 26, 2011

    I say give King and all as much exposure/sunlight as possible, if people are exposed to them and are taken by what they see than they were lost-causers already, give these clowns the rope they need and the accused the right to face their accusers.

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