Durbin to host hearings on protecting Muslim civil rights

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) plans to hold hearings on protecting American Muslims' civil rights, his office announced Tuesday night.

The hearings come a few weeks after Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) held controversial hearings of his own on the radicalization of American Muslims. Those hearings were widely criticized by Democrats who worried that they unfairly singled out Muslim Americans.

But an official with knowledge of the matter said that Durbin's hearings are not meant to counter King's. Instead, it comes "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," according to a statement announcing the hearings.

“Our Constitution protects the free exercise of religion for all Americans,” Durbin said in the statement. “During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance. 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.”

The hearings, set to begin March 29, will be held by the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Right and Human Rights, which Durbin chairs.

Civil rights officials from the Bush and Obama administrations as well as Muslim civil rights leader Farhana Khera are scheduled to testify.

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