As a U.S. House committee prepares for a controversial hearing tomorrow on "radical Muslims" in the United States, Rep. Shelley Berkley is expressing uneasiness.
Berkley said she is concerned the session of the Homeland Security Committee could turn into a platform for racism against Muslims generally.
"Members of the Islamic faith are our neighbors, our friends and our colleagues," Berkley, D-Nev., said in a statement issued by her office. "Instead of singling out this particular community for investigation, our focus should remain on the many sources of terrorism and violence that threaten our nation and its residents."
The hearing on radical Islam to be convened by committee chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., has touched off protests and renewed debate on how to combat terrorism threats to the nation.
King said this week that Muslims shouldn’t feel threatened. But Berkley said she fears the hearing will paint them with a broad brush.
"If this hearing were focused on the Jewish community, Japanese community or the African American community, or any other community, would we not be justifiably outraged?" she said.
Berkley spokesman David Cherry said Muslim leaders in Las Vegas asked her to weigh in on the controversy. Berkley has spoken out in the past on issues she believes infringe on religious freedom, attributing her sensibility on the matter to her Jewish heritage.
Last August, she defended Muslims planning to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, saying they should not be victimized by "religious intolerance."
In the statement, Berkley insisted she was not naive nor soft on terrorism. The Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by adherents to radical Islam, and they continue to threaten the United States and its allies, she said.
"But I believe the solution is working closely with the Muslim community in Las Vegas and across our nation to root out terrorist cells and radical actors, not distancing ourselves or stereotyping an entire community of people," she said.