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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alliance for Justice Submits Testimony on Muslim Civil Rights

The following testimony was submitted to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights:
Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 100 organizations dedicated to advancing justice and democracy. We have an unshakable belief in the right of all Americans to practice their religion without interference and that no citizen should ever be afraid to worship, establish religious communities, or speak openly about their religious precepts. Efforts to broadly demonize the Muslim religion or its adherents are contrary to the most fundamental principles that undergird our nation’s values and our Constitution, which guarantees to all Americans an inalienable right to freedom of religion, speech, and peaceable assembly.

It is deeply disturbing to see individuals, organizations, and members of the media intentionally advance bigotry and promote intolerant acts against Muslims, but it is unconscionable for those holding public office to participate in such efforts. Recent efforts by members of Congress to denigrate an entire group of citizens by tarring them as radicals, extremists, or terrorist sympathizers, should not go unanswered and today’s hearings are a welcome and hopeful sign that our nation has not forgotten its foundational principles.

When any group is singled out for persecution or investigation, based on nothing more than its religious affiliation, we all lose a measure of our own liberty. The fabric of our free society is eroded when all Muslims are painted as terrorists or potential criminals, despite clear evidence to the contrary, and in spite of the unambiguous message from law enforcement agencies that American Muslims have been active and willing partners in the effort to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. The notion of collective guilt is utterly anathema to American principles and must be rejected without equivocation.

Nothing could do more damage to our ability to protect ourselves from violence than to cut off from American life the very people whose cooperation is desired to help identify those who mean us harm. Our strength as a nation comes from our diversity and from a belief in a common destiny. Scapegoating the entire Muslim community for the acts of a few and directing unremitting hate speech at Muslim beliefs and institutions only serves to create a gulf that divides neighbor from neighbor and weakens the fabric of our society at a time when unity is essential.

The subcommittee and Chairman Durbin are to be commended for standing forthrightly for religious freedom, and reminding us that we are one people untied by a shared belief in tolerance, diversity, and liberty.

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