Hearing on American Muslims’ civil rights

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee plans to hold a hearing next week examining the issue of American Muslims’ civil rights, less than three weeks after the controversial House committee hearing, led by Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), on the radicalization of American Muslims.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights, human rights and the law will host the hearing, “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims,” at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the subcommittee’s chairman, will preside.

In a statement Tuesday, Durbin said 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.

According to a release from the subcommittee, the hearing will examine measures to protect American Muslims’ civil rights and “is in response to the spike in anti-Muslim bigotry in the last year including Quran burnings, restrictions on mosque construction, hate crimes, hate speech, and other forms of discrimination.”

The event will mark the first hearing held by the subcommittee, 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, and then-Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) was the Constitution subcommittee chairman.

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