Congressional resolution opposing anti-Muslim behavior is dropped

Backers call political maneuvering an example of such intolerance


WASHINGTON -- The resolution seemed innocuous enough.

A bipartisan group of members of Congress, hoping to show goodwill to Arab-Americans and the nearly 5 million Muslims in the United States, sponsored a resolution condemning "anti-Muslim intolerance and discrimination."

It called on Americans to acknowledge that "organizations that foster such intolerance create an atmosphere of hatred." Law enforcement agencies, it said, should avoid the sort of "rush to judgment" that followed the 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, when Arab-Americans were initially singled out for suspicion.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, an Orthodox Jew who was among the resolution's Democratic sponsors, said it was time to guarantee "the promise of our nation's ideals" to Muslims.

But in the final days before Congress adjourned last week, at least two Republican lawmakers decided the resolution had to be rewritten -- gutted, its Arab-American supporters say. Then the resolution, seemingly on the verge of passage in the House, was pulled off the calendar, killing it at least for this year.

Among the revisions: The reference to Oklahoma City was removed, as was a clause calling on lawmakers to "uphold a level of political discourse that does not involve making a scapegoat of an entire religion."

The phrase condemning "organizations" that promote intolerance was cut out, as well as a phrase condemning "hate-inspired violence." Also removed was a sentence expressing regret that American Muslims "have been portrayed in a negative light in some discussions of policy issues" relating to terrorism.

Arab-American groups say they are outraged by the events of last week on Capitol Hill, which they describe as further proof of the stereotyping and discrimination the resolution was supposed to condemn.

James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, which helped draft the bill, said the resolution had been rewritten to render it "meaningless."

"Instead of becoming a salve to heal the wounds of the Muslim community," he said, "this has become evidence of the problems that created the wounds in the first place."

The two Republican lawmakers -- Reps. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, one of the resolution's original sponsors -- insist the changes were not intended to water down the resolution.

They say the revisions were instead supposed to remove what they described as unnecessarily inflammatory phrases that might have doomed the resolution if there had been a House vote, and to bring the wording into line with the vocabulary commonly used in congressional resolutions.

Arab-American advocates say the decision to eliminate the reference to the Oklahoma City bombing was especially galling.

In the weeks after the April 1995 bombing, Arab-Americans across the nation reported a wave of harassment and intimidation by law enforcement officers, who initially suspected Muslim terrorists were responsible for the attack.

In Oklahoma City, a mosque was fired upon and a young Iraqi refugee in the final stages of pregnancy reportedly suffered a miscarriage after the windows of her house were shattered by men shouting anti-Muslim epithets.

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