SEATTLE – About three dozen religious leaders gathered at the Islamic School of Seattle Wednesday, calling for a stop to Congressional hearings on the possible threat of American Muslims becoming radicalized and launching terror attacks on the public.
"We are here today to show our solidarity against the growing waves of Islamophobia that are threatening to swamp this nation," Jeff Siddiqui of the American Muslims of Puget Sound said.
He was followed by speaker after speaker, invoking images of Nazism, white-on-black lynching in America, apartheid in South Africa and McCarthyism. They were trying to make the point that they feel King's hearings are "the politics of fear," "punitive and xenophobic," "misguided" and "counter-productive".
The hearings were called by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. King said Muslims should not feel threatened by the hearings.
Rep. King himself was accused of "hate-mongering" and of believing that all Muslims are "radicals."
"It seems like every generation there is a new target," Cantor David Serkin-Poole of the Temple B'Nai Torah said. "It was the Irish, the Blacks, the Jews, the Socialists. Take your pick. Gays. There's always a group that's a target, this country loves to have a target."
In another part of the school, students were taking aim at a different kind of target, some complicated vocabulary.
Words like tolerance, acceptance, radicalism and radicalization were written on the whiteboard in Sado Gulet's classroom.
What does "tolerance" mean to an 11-year old girl named Hibaq?
"It means that I can accept people even though they are different from me. They
can still be my friends. We wouldn't be a nation and we wouldn't have a world without accepting each other," she said.
Did anything from the press conference surprise 12-year-old Abdulah Danso?
"It was surprising to see all those people from different religions, like Jews, Roman Catholics, all working together and standing together as one nation. It made me think that there's hope," he said.