Hearings are scheduled to commence in the State Senate office building in lower Manhattan on Friday on the subject of terrorism preparedness in New York City.
Muslim and Interfaith Groups Critical of Hearing’s Witnesses
The day-long hearing is attracting controversy, however, due to several of the proposed speakers who will testify about the threat of radical Islam, in addition to others who will present their opinions concerning law enforcement, counter terrorism and emergency response.
Interfaith and Muslim groups are criticizing the hearing as being anti-Muslim and contentious, saying that it is just New York’s version of the angry session which took place last month in Washington, DC, organized by Long Island Representative Peter T. King.
Mr. King will in fact be one of the witnesses at New York’s hearing. He has said that he intends on having more Congressional hearings on what he believes is the ‘radicalization of American Muslims.’
Gregory R. Ball, New York state Republican senator from Putnam County, is the force behind the hearing. He is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs and asserted that his intention was not to focus unfairly on any one group.
“But there are people who seek to hurt and destroy us” Mr. Ball said. “We have to move beyond political correctness.”
Egyptian-born Witness to Testify on Islam’s Message of Hate
One of the witnesses who has spawned much of the criticism is Nonie Darwish. She is an American citizen who was born in Egypt and is president of an organization called Former Muslims United. Mr. Ball explained that Ms. Darwish will testify on Muslim, or Shariah law, as well as on the fact that Islamic schools that she attended as a child taught “hatred of Israelis and Americans.”
One of the critics protesting the hearing is Adem Carroll of the New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform. He said that having such witnesses like Ms. Darwish and Frank Gaffney, another person who frequently criticizes Islam who is a former Defense Department official, Mr. Ball was trying to create an atmosphere of fear of Muslims as a group by using the specter of terrorism.
“None of us are condemning the hearings’ stated purpose” Mr. Carroll said. “The issue of terrorism is of concern to all Americans. But hate speech and defamation can and do perpetuate a cycle of violence.”
As proof of the danger of incitement Mr. Carroll pointed to the murder of UN workers in Afghanistan by Muslims which was a response to the burning of a Koran by a pastor in in Florida.
Democrats Sign Protest Letter
Eight state Senators, all Democrats, have signed a protest letter expressing their disapproval of Mr. Ball’s choice of witnesses. The letter was written by State Senator Kevin S. Parker who represents a district in Brooklyn which is home to one of the city’s largest populations of Pakistani immigrants who are also mostly Muslim.
“By including Islamic law as a topic of the hearing” Mr. Parker wrote, “you conflate the religious observances and practices of a faith into a security matter. Some opportunists and political leaders have sought to create hostility against Muslims by raising the specter of the Shariah ‘bogeyman’ as a threat to America.”