Sen. Dick Durbin claimed Tuesday that American Muslims face charges today that they are "not real Americans," as he convened a hearing on Muslim civil rights to counter a hearing held earlier in the month on Islamic radicalization.
Durbin, along with several other senators, expressed concern that U.S. Muslims are facing widespread discrimination in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., claimed Muslims are the victim of "demonization." Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., claimed hate groups increasingly are targeting Muslims in the United States.
"It's wrong to blame an entire community for the wrongdoing of a few," Durbin said. "Guilt by association is not the American way."
The hearing, though, was criticized as a sideshow by the congressman who organized the high-profile congressional inquiry three weeks ago into the threat posed by homegrown extremism.
"This just perpetuates the myth that somehow Muslims are the victim of September 11," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News.
While critics of King's hearing questioned why he didn't examine other domestic threats like the KKK, King likewise questioned why Durbin wouldn't examine civil rights violations of other religious groups.
"The best they can do is come back with these hearings by Senator Durbin, which is somehow trying to create the illusion that there's a violation of civil rights of Muslims in this country. It's absolutely untrue, and to me it makes no sense," King said.
Durbin, who announced his hearing shortly after King's concluded, acknowledged Tuesday that other religious groups face discrimination. But he earlier said he called the hearing so that Congress could examine potential civil rights violations particular to Muslims, like Koran burnings and restrictions on mosque construction, as well as hate speech and other forms of discrimination.
Among the witnesses, Durbin planned to call Muslim Advocates President Farhana Khera and Thomas Perez, a top official in the Justice Department's civil rights division.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Tuesday he supported Durbin's decision to hold the hearing on civil rights. But he also echoed King's call for American Muslims to do more to combat efforts to radicalize members of their community.
"I am asking you to get in this fight," Graham said. "We're at war with an ideology."