U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5) on June 15, 2011 offered a statement on a Homeland Security Committee’s Hearing – calling it an unproductive attempt to stigmatize groups of people rather than looking into root concerns and solutions to distinguish between perceived and actual threats to Americans.
“Violent radicalism is the concern of every American and people from all walks of life have stepped up to serve this country and protect us from those who would do us harm. From police officers and firefighters, to emergency medical technicians and military service members, Americans have pulled together to enhance our security.
“We are also blessed with individuals from the faith-based communities who have come forward to help members of our society who have made dreadful mistakes that led to their incarceration. The United States was founded on the principle of religious freedom, which applies in all settings including prisons.
“Unfortunately, today’s hearing ignored this principle these facts and stigmatized Muslim-Americans for their faith tradition. As someone with 16 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, I know that religious instruction, including Islamic instruction, has had a beneficial impact on many inmates. Churches and mosques run prison-outreach programs, and prisons have generally been supportive of such initiatives. Many inmates report that studying Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, or Judaism has helped them become law-abiding and more productive citizens.
“This hearing casts suspicion on Islamic outreach programs, which is sad. It also interferes with the right of freedom of worship and could compromise outreach programs that have demonstrated a positive impact on rehabilitation.”