Say Goodbye to Freedom: The King Hearings in Context by Rebecca Tweneboah

Say Goodbye to Freedom, blog posted by Rebecca Tweneboah, Legal Intern, UNITED SIKHS, NYC

What do you call it when an entire group of people are singled out based on their religion?  According to the laws of the United States of America, such action is considered Unconstitutional.  However, Representative Peter King claims thatby singling out Muslims and accusing a whole community of being unwilling to work with law enforcement to thwart terrorism does not racially profile this distinct group because that, of course, would be Unconstitutional.

It is difficult to see elected government officials abuse their power on such a regular and consistent basis.  What is even more unsettling is how these Representatives and Senators continue to mislead the public, into believing an entire religious/racial group is single-handedly responsible and in some way involved in terrorism.  This top down method of othering minority groups has dire consequences throughout the nation. Sikhs, because of their external religious identity, are often victims of such governmental religious profiling, societal discrimination, and hate crimes. Government officials need to see their negative actions towards minorities as having direct consequences in the public sphere. Discriminatory speech can lead to violent acts, and the Sikh community has recently seen this happen.

Two elderly Sikh men were walking around their neighborhood several days ago, part of their daily routine, when they were gunned down, in what is being called a hate crime.  Hate begets hate, we all know that, and the hate speech put out there by our country’s leaders does nothing but exacerbate the ignorant ideologies circulating at dinner tables and in work places around the country.

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, a powerful speaker, spoke at the hearings.  She believes the First Amendment of the Constitution gives everyone the right to freedom of religion and what these hearings are suggesting takes those rights away from a minority group.  She asked how many Muslims were at the hearing that day testifying, in order to make the point that Muslims are in fact cooperating, “a Muslim is on the panel, a Muslim is testifying,” so she asked, where are the non-cooperating Muslims?  There was no response.  She was infuriated by the lack of factual basis for these hearings, how it diminishes the sacrifices made by Muslim soldiers on the front lines, and how pointing the finger at our own plays directly into the hands of Al Qaeda.

All in all, the hearings are likely to have the opposite effect of what it claims is the purpose of having these hearings in the first place.  It will cause even more of a disconnect between Muslims and law enforcement.  Demonizing a group in the eyes of society does not create a trusting environment and inevitably undermines our security.

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