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Dueling Capitol Hill Hearings on Muslims in America

In what is sure to be perceived as dueling views over the role of Muslims in this country, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has announced he'll hold a Senate subcommittee hearing next week titled, "Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims."

Durbin's hearing will take place nearly three weeks after Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., ruffled the feathers of civil rights and Muslim-American organizations with his own hearing titled, "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response."

Critics compared the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on March 10 to the infamous anti-Communist hearings held by Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy back in the 1950s, but King said at the hearing that its purpose was to determine the extent to which radical Islam has infiltrated the United States.

"Despite what passes for conventional wisdom in certain circles, there is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings," King said. Not holding them, he argued, would've been "a craven surrender to political correctness."

Asked whether next week's Senate hearing is a response to Congressman King's House hearing, a Durbin aide said, "It's not a response to King. It's a response to the spike in anti-Muslim bigotry in the last year, including the Quran burning, restrictions on mosque construction, hate crimes, hate speech, and other forms of discrimination."

The Senate Constitution, Civil Rights, Human Rights, and the Law Subcommittee hearing will take place on March 29. The subcommittee plans to release a witness list Wednesday.

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