Hundreds protest hearings on Muslim extremism

Muhammad Tahir stood tall over the sea of umbrellas and patterned headscarves, his face solemn as he held a soggy sign high above the crowd.

Hundreds of others flashed similar posters, all with the same six words printed in bold, black and white letters: “Today, I am a Muslim Too.”

Nearly 1,000 protesters gathered yesterday in Times Square to rally against the upcoming congressional hearings on “radicalization” of Muslims in America. The hearings, proposed by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) last year, are slated to begin this Thursday.

Tahir, 35, of Queens, who has lived in New York for 16 years, said it was only recently that he told his son—who was born four days after Sept. 11, 2001— about the World Trade Center attacks.

Still, Tahir said it did not prevent his son from feeling their effects.

“There was graffiti on the subway that said, ‘kill all Muslims,’” he said. “I was walking with my son and he said, “Dad, but I’m an American Muslim. It’s almost impossible to explain something like that to a child.”

According to a February Public Religion Research Institute survey, 56 percent of Americans consider the hearings “a good idea.”

Yet Cyrus McGoldrick, civil rights manager at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York (CAIR), said the hearings have also prompted a backlash from Muslims and other religious groups calling for King to reconsider.

McGoldrick added that so far, the senator plans to proceed as scheduled.

“We don’t expect our pressure will change his mind,” he said. “What we’re most concerned about is how the rhetoric will spread and perpetuate hate on the ground. By offsetting that rhetoric with a display of positive energy, our voice will be heard more clearly no matter what Peter King does in congress.”

The senator did not respond to requests for comment.

Ciara Ulloa, 19, of Queens, said she has been “harassed on the streets” for adorning a hijab, the traditional head covering worn by Muslim women.

“People have actually cursed me out when I wear these clothes,” she said, pointing at the purple paisley scarf wrapped around her hair.

Ulloa said that many times, it is her peers who launch the verbal attacks.

“At a tutoring center two years ago a kid called me a terrorist,” she said. “He told me Arabs weren’t welcomed there, that I probably had bombs in my backpack. I was born and raised in this country as were my parents I shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other non-Muslim American.”