On Wednesday, June, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled “Ideology and Terror: Understanding the Tools, Tactics, and Techniques of Violent Extremism.” Defending Rights and Dissent has issued the following statement of concern over the participation of three of the witnesses:
If the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) is interested in learning more about terrorism and effective strategies to protect against it, they should call as witnesses experts on terrorism, not purveyors of half-truths and innuendo.
The HSGAC hearing is a thinly veiled attempt to bring the anti-Muslim protests staged in various cities over the past weekend into the Senate. HSGAC Chair, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), has invited Ayann Hirsi Ali, Asra Nomani, and John Lenczowski to spew their oft-debunked theories of “creeping Sharia” and a “clash of civilizations” narrative that are the staple of the Islamophobia industry. Their written testimony submitted for the record does not address crime, violence, or terrorism, instead, all three assert that the real threat is law-abiding Muslims in our society.
In giving a platform to these three, HSGAC is helping to fuel fear and suspicion of Muslims at a time when hate crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim are increasing.
“These witnesses are unreliable to say the least,” Sue Udry, Executive Director of Defending Rights and Dissent, a national civil liberty organization. “They traffic in innuendo and conspiracy theories, and offer appallingly anti-Constitutional “solutions” to an imaginary problem. They promote the notion that the First Amendment is a source of weakness, America’s Achilles heel, rather than the solid rock upon which our democracy rests. They are wrong.”
It is deeply troubling that all three witnesses focus their attention on activity that is legal and protected by the Constitution, and cast it as a threat to our society. In their eyes, Muslims giving to charity or banding together to protect their civil rights is somehow sinister.
“In the 1950’s, another Senator from Wisconsin helped to promote wild conspiracy theories about the danger of Communists in our midst, leading our nation into the dark nightmare of McCarthyism that ruined so many lives,” Udry said. “We remind Senator Johnson of that ignoble history, and encourage him not to repeat it.”
Testimony submitted for the record is available here.
Defending Rights and Dissent is a national civil liberty group founded in 1960. Its mission is to secure the promise of the Bill of Rights for everyone.