Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Blog

On Wednesday, September 21, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will discuss the text of S. 1546, the Department of Homeland Security Reauthorization Act. The bill, sponsored by Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) is ostensibly aimed at maintaining and expanding the powers of the Department of Homeland Security, and providing necessary tools to combat homegrown violence and extremism. However, the text of the bill reveals a more troublesome agenda, evidenced particularly in Section 213, which states that “the Secretary shall designate an official of the Department to coordinate efforts to counter violent extremism in the United States, particularly the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism” [emphasis mine].

Such language completely ignores the fact that domestic terror groups – including far-right militants, white supremacy groups, eco-terrorists and extreme animal rights activists – have historically been more wide-spread and more dangerous than domestic “Islamist” terrorist groups. The unwillingness of Sens. Lieberman and Collins to expand their purview to include such groups raises two alarming issues.

The first is of course the rampant anti-Muslim bigotry that has infected a significant number of politicians in recent years. Both Lieberman and Collins are feeding the fire of Islamophobia, regardless of their personal intentions.  The implication that Islam has any predilection toward terrorism is a completely baseless accusation, and is deeply offensive to the Muslim community.

Secondly, the irrational fear of American Muslims is diverting much-needed resources away from other very real threats to American safety and security, and the unwillingness of the bill’s authors to consider other forms of violent extremism is both irresponsible and dangerous. If one of your Senators is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, please take the time to let him/her know that you expect the committee to act appropriately and responsibly on Wednesday to change the language of Section 213 to include all forms of violent extremism.

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