Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) asked a representative of the group Muslim Advocates on Tuesday why the organization’s website didn’t specifically condemn violent rhetoric.
At the first Senate panel on the civil rights of Muslim-Americans, Kyl asked a representative of the group Muslim Advocates why their website didn’t condemn rhetoric aimed at other religious groups.“I wonder if you’ve made any public pronouncement or statement condemning those religious leaders who employed violent or hateful rhetoric or promoted hateful views of other religious groups. Have you done that or has your website done that?” Kyl asked Farhana Khera, the executive director of the group.
“So you haven’t condemned the hateful speech of those who have criticized others in the way that I mentioned?” Kyl asked Khera. “Let me ask you this. Would you, today, criticize threats of death or physical harm directed at writers or commentators who criticized Islamic extremism — you would condemn that today, would you not?”
“Those who threaten to kill somebody because of their political views, religious views, that’s inappropriate,” Khera said in response.
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The hearing on the civil rights of Muslim-Americans came just a few weeks after a hearing on Muslim radicalization called by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Kyl defended the focus on Muslim radicalization, stating that political correctness “cannot stand in the way of identifying those who would do us harm.” Kyl’s line of questioning fit into a broader theme that many of the Republicans who appeared at the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing also touched on.
Kyl also questioned a statement on the website of Muslim Advocates which encouraged Muslims to have a lawyer on hand when they speak with the FBI.
“I was stunned that you would issue that kind of instruction to people who would read your site since obviously cooperation from Muslim-Americans is one of the best ways that law enforcement can uncover terrorist plots like the ones that I described,” Kyl said.
“Seems to me that it’s the civic obligation of all Americans to assist in preventing these heinous crimes, especially given the participation of Muslims in all of the attempted attacks that I mentioned, I would think that Muslim-Americans would feel a special obligation to help intelligence agencies root this out,” Kyl continued.
“Do you think it’s wrong to investigate and prosecute the individuals that I mentioned and do you stand by the Muslim advocates community alert instructing Muslim Americans not to cooperate with the FBI and other law enforcement investigating potential acts of terrorism or at least not without having a lawyer present?” Kyl asked.
Khera responded that she “fully understands the threat that we are facing.”
“On September 11, I was working right here in the Capitol and I ran from the Capitol with my colleagues as we thought planes were approaching,” Khera said. “Those who engage in criminal acts must be stopped and brought to justice and every American has a civic duty to report criminal activity to law enforcement.”
“At the same time, every American has the right to seek legal advice and that’s a right that’s guaranteed to every American. I know you’re a lawyer. We’re both lawyers. I think we both know that our legal system is quite complex, so encouraging community members to seek legal advice as they interact with law enforcement is something that every American has a right to do,” Khera said.