WASHINGTON - Muslims in the United States face ongoing discrimination and violence in actions that threaten basic freedoms in the nation, a US Senate hearing was told Tuesday.
The hearing was called to discuss protecting the civil rights of American Muslims, just weeks after another panel hotly debated the threat posed by homegrown Islamists.
Democratic Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, who called the hearing, said a "backlash" which began after the attacks of September 11, 2001, continues against "innocent Muslims, Arabs, south Asians and Sikhs."
"American Muslims are entitled to the same constitutional protections as other Americans," Durbin said, adding that this is an issue of "not just free exercise of religion but freedom of speech."
Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing: "We continue to see a steady stream of violence against Muslims... The good news is that with each wave of intolerance, our nation has responded by passing news laws."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the issue of Muslims and terrorism still needs to be addressed.
"Freedom of speech means we can disagree," Graham said, while adding that "there are efforts to recruit radical Muslims that must be dealt with."
Graham added, "To the American Muslim community I stand with you. But you're going to have to help your country. I'm asking you to get in this fight."