by Rep. Bobby Rush
Congressman from Illinois
Yesterday was a sad chapter in the annals of Congress.
It was sad for so many reasons. Whether you were moved by the heartfelt sentiments shared by my friend and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, or the star chamber quality of the whole setting convened by my House colleague from the great state of New York, U.S. Rep. Peter King, there was enough shock and awe in yesterday's hearing room that the pundit class will have much to analyze for quite some time. Given the rampant misinformation that continues to swirl around House Republicans' penchant for investigating alleged terrorist plots within an entire religious community, the fact that Rep. King would not alter the rules to allow other House members to deliver their statements in an unfiltered climate where much of the world's media was watching was another opportunity lost by those who value free speech and fair play.
Today, I'm taking the added step to post, below, an expanded statement similar to the one I entered on the Congressional Record, yesterday, that I hope will shed light on yesterday's hearing for future generations. As an African American man who rose to leadership positions in our country by working hard and playing by the rules, I want my Muslim brothers and sisters to know that yesterday was not a day that brought honor to the U. S. House of Representatives. I hope that my colleague from New York will reconsider his intent to hold further hearings on this subject as I agree with the heartfelt statement shared at yesterday's hearing by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca that the spectacle of yesterday's hearing, "...plays directly into terrorist propaganda that the West's war on terror is actually a war on Islam."
I urge Rep. King to let yesterday's hearing be the beginning and the end of this malicious exercise that serves no useful purpose. My extended statement, for the record, is posted here in its entirety:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my opposition to a hearing being held by our colleagues on the Homeland Security Committee. For those who may not be aware, the House Committee on Homeland Security is currently holding a hearing entitled "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response."
I applaud my colleagues' diligence in ensuring that our Nation is safe. However, I am saddened to see that members of this body feel the only way to do this is by singling out their fellow citizens, most of whom have done nothing wrong.
Mr. Speaker, I was especially saddened to read a quote from the Gentleman from New York, Mr. King, who is quoted in the New York Times as stating, "The threat is coming from the Muslim community." This is a prime example of history repeating itself. I would like to remind my colleagues of the abysmal treatment our nation subjected Japanese-Americans to during World War II. I encourage those who are not familiar with this shameful period in our history to speak to those who had to live through that degradation and humiliation. Here, in Congress, they don't have to go far as our very own Mr. Honda of California can speak first-hand as to what he endured at an internment camp in Colorado - and this despite the fact that his father proudly served in the U.S. Military Intelligence Service.
More recently, Mr. Speaker, civil rights groups in the 1960's were subjected to espionage and charges of sedition and subversion.
Examples such as this go to show us that time and time again this government has seen fit to exclude its own citizens and treat them as an internal threat. Mr. Speaker, these actions were without foundation when applied to Japanese-Americans in the 1940s and they're without foundation, today, with respect to the vast majority of Muslim-Americans.
This Nation, Mr. Speaker, has always been a rich, diverse landscape of different ethnicities, religions, and cultures. So much so that our founding fathers saw fit to include on our Great Seal the phrase "E pluribus unum," out of many, one. One. One people, one country, one identity.
To single out a subgroup out of the greater American identity is blatantly un-American. Our recent history has far too many examples of domestic terrorism that did not stem from the Muslim community. Names such as Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, The Weather Underground and the Ku Klux Klan have, unfortunately, become all too familiar in our national dialogue. And while all of these groups and individuals were responsible for reprehensible acts of terrorism on their fellow Americans, there were never wholesale attempts to vilify, harass, or investigate peace-loving Americans who shared these terrorists' cultural backgrounds.
It must be noted, Mr. Speaker, that there's an important message that's been lost in the hysteria of Rep. King's hearing and that is that the Muslim-American community has been incredibly helpful to law enforcement officials in catching suspected terrorists, including the attempted Times Square bomber.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is also important that we remember that Muslim-Americans have served our country honorably. Whether in the battlefield, as members of our Armed Forces, or on the home front, as first responders, Muslim-Americans, like their non-Muslim colleagues, have borne the burden that we, their fellow Americans, have placed upon them. For those who may question this statement, I urge them to visit any of our National Cemeteries, from Hawaii to New York, from California to Maryland or right here, just beyond the border of our Capitol, in Virginia, at our Nation's most hallowed ground in Arlington National Cemetery. There you'll see heroic Americans, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and now rest in eternal glory, as brothers and sisters, in the greater American family.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleagues and our constituents of the words of Deputy National Security Advisor, Denis McDonough. Mr. McDonough, this past Sunday, reminded Americans that "In the United States of America, we don't practice guilt by association. And let's remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any one faith, the responsibility to oppose ignorance and violence rests with us all." Amen.
Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time