Protesting King's witch-hunt

NEW YORK--Several hundred people rallied in Times Square on March 6 to protest the upcoming Islamophobic hearings led by Peter King, the Republican member of Congress from Long Island.

The hearings, scheduled to begin this week, are supposed to focus on "radicalization among American Muslims" and are centered on the theory that Muslims living in the U.S. form a base for a terrorist "enemy within."

The main slogan for Sunday's protest was "Today, I am a Muslim, Too," a gesture of solidarity with the targets of the right wing's racism. It was called by a coalition of Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups, and endorsed by civil liberties and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, as well as anti-racist groups like the NYC Coalition to Stop Islamophobia.

The diverse, majority Muslim crowd of 500 to 600 people carried signs calling out King as a bigot and a liar, as well as a number of signs saying simply "American Muslim" or "I am a Muslim, Too." The organizers of the protest also presented themselves as outspoken patriots, opening the rally with the national anthem and hanging a giant American flag over the stage.

Protesters were mostly New Yorkers, but some came from around the region. Muttaqui from Baltimore said that Muslims are only the latest group to be targeted for racist hate, after many others through U.S. history, but that if "it's our time to be targeted," it's also "our time to stand up."

For Afreen from New York, the rally demonstrated both the diversity and the peacefulness of American Muslims. She also noted that King, a past supporter of the Irish Republican Army, is not really concerned about political violence. He's "offering Muslims as a scapegoat for votes, and because people need something to blame" for the state of the country, in place of conservative politicians like King himself.

Earlier this year, King was forced by public outcry to drop the professional Islamophobe Steve Emerson from his witness list. Even if the hearings go ahead, as is likely, public protest will decrease their power to spread fear and paralyze Muslim activists in the way that King's predecessor, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, did in the 1950s.

Unfortunately, some Muslims, most notably Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, currently plan to participate as witnesses in the hearings, which will only give the right's racist paranoia unwarranted legitimacy.