By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Times Square Sunday to protest an upcoming Congressional hearing on the radicalization of Muslim Americans, according to reports.
Long Island Congressman Peter King announced last week that he would begin the hearings, called "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response," on Thursday.
Responding to the announcement, an estimated 500 protesters weathered the rain on Sunday afternoon to hear speeches from religious and community leaders, including TriBeCa hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and Feisal Abdul Rauf, the former Imam of the planned mosque near Ground Zero, the New York Times reported.
A Facebook page for the event, called the "'Today, I Am a Muslim Too' Rally," also listed six rabbis, nine reverends and Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, among its speakers.
"Such hearings will send the wrong message, alienating American Muslims instead of partnering with them, and potentially put lives at risk by stirring up fear and hatred," rally organizers wrote on the website.
Rauf also emphasized the risk of further alienation in an interview with NY1, calling on King to broaden the hearings to investigate "radicalization and extremism" more generally.
But, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee dismissed the suggestion during a Sunday morning interview on CNN's State of the Union.
"To be having investigations into every type of violence would be suggesting an equivalency that's not there," King said.
Rep. King also argued there is precedent for focusing congressional investigations on a particular ethnic group, pointing to hearings on Italian and Irish organized crime rings as examples.
A handful of King supporters also turned up in Times Square on Sunday, according to the News.