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Posted at 05:24 PM ET, 03/22/2011

Senate Judiciary panel sets hearing for next week on protecting Muslims’ civil rights

Updated 7:30 p.m.

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee is planning to hold a hearing next week examining the issue of American Muslims’ civil rights, less than three weeks after a House committee hearing led by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on the radicalization of American Muslims drew widespread controversy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, Human Rights, and the Law will be hosting the hearing, which is on “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims,” at 10 a.m. March 29 in the Senate Dirksen building.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the subcommittee, will be presiding.

In a statement Tuesday night, Durbin emphasized that the Constitution “protects the free exercise of religion for all Americans.”

“During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance,” he said. “It is important for our generation to renew our founding charter’s commitment to religious diversity and to protect the liberties guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.”

Two Democratic Senate aides with knowledge of the hearing said that Durbin had been planning it since the start of the 112th Congress and that it was not a response to King’s hearing.

The hearing will “take a wider look in response to the uptick in anti-Muslim behavior around the country, including the Koran burnings from last year,” threats against mosques and hate crimes against American Muslims, according to an aide who was not authorized to speak publicly about the hearing.

The event will mark the first hearing held by the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, Human Rights, which was formed at the beginning of the 112th Congress by merging two previous Judiciary subcommittees. Durbin had previously served as chairman of the subcommittee on human rights and the law, while former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) had chaired the Constitution subcommittee.

The witness list includes Muslim civil rights leader Farhana Khera, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez and former assistant attorney general Alex Acosta. Perez is the top civil rights official in the Obama administration, while Acosta served as the Bush administration’s top civil rights official.

By  |  05:24 PM ET, 03/22/2011

 
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