Rep. Mike Honda Has Been There for American Muslims, We Need to Stand With Him
by Sheila Musaji
Who is Rep. Mike Honda? He was born in California, but spent his early childhood with family in an internment camp in Colorado during World War II. Mike’s father served in the Military Intelligence Service. He served in the Peace Corps for two years, was an educator for 30-years, and has represented the 15th Congressional Dist. of California in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12-years. Rep. Honda’s website
About the time spent in the internment camp, he wrote
“I remember the Japanese-American internment camp through my parents’ stories. We were in and out of the camp for four years. Between the ages of one and almost five, I lived at Camp Amache, a Japanese-American internment camp in southeast Colorado during World War II, ironic given my father’s service in the US Military Intelligence Service. One of the first lessons I learned was that being Japanese carried a negative connotation in America. My parents raised me talking about the injustices of camp, how it was a violation of the Constitution, and how Japanese Americans had been mistreated. I’ve since followed in their footsteps by advocating for social justice and publicly serving communities that do not have a voice. The reason we were sent to camp is because no one in Washington said no. I’m here in Congress to make sure that never happens again to any community in America.”
And, Rep. Honda has consistently been true to that commitment to do whatever he could to make sure that no other minority community suffered the same fate as the Japanese-American community suffered during WWII. He has been a voice in Washington saying no to bigotry and injustice.
This week, when the AFDI/SIOA hate groups put up their anti-Muslim ads in the Metro Washington D.C. subway system, Rep. Honda spoke out. The Huffington Post reported that Rep. Honda issued this statement:
““The right to free speech is a right I will defend to my grave. I understand why the US District Court is forcing Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, against their will, to run the ad equating Muslims to savages. These are rights, however, that come with great responsibility and I hope that Americans will always use them responsibly. The right to not support hate speech is also a right, which is why I encourage people to boycott, if possible, WMATA (and in other places, like NYC, where the ad is running) until the ad buys are finished. We do not have to support hate speech.”
“Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have been a staunch proponent of civil rights and the right to free speech. I am also an unwavering opponent of hate speech and bullying perpetrated against all communities, regardless of creed, race, gender, sexuality, disability, country of origin, and immigration status. This is why I founded, and now chair, the first-ever Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus, exercising my first amendment duty to speak out against bullying. The Metro ad’s timing is particularly poignant as October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.”
“I take hate speech very personally. During WWII, my family and I were interned with more than 120,000 other Japanese Americans. We experienced overwhelming racial discrimination, and hateful billboards and caricatures that equated Japanese Americans to savages were commonplace. We learn from history that hate speech and hysteria have dire consequences, the result of societal complacency, failed political leadership, and the lack of courage to stand up and speak out against hate.”
“If we allow hate speech to penetrate public discourse and become normalized, we are creating an incredibly hostile and discriminatory environment for Muslim Americans – an environment that allows for discriminatory and questionable surveillance, much like I experienced. The American Freedom Defense Initiative, who sponsors the ad, is hiding behind their constitutional right to free speech, only to spread hate and disseminate ads that only serve to heighten tension and incite violence between Muslims and non-Muslims. The time to speak up, and to boycott, is now – because I know we can do better.”
This is not the first time that Rep. Honda has stood up in defense of the American Muslim community.
At the heart of this issue is whether or not diverse populations are given a fair shot at representing their legitimate political interests in Congress, either as interns, as staff or as Members. The climate in Congress is clearly not as conducive as it should be in encouraging democratic representation, as exemplified by recent fear-rousing antics.As a result of the innumerous obstacles facing Muslim-Americans in this post-9/11 environment, their political participation is stifled and often stymied. More channels for Muslim participation are sorely needed, as well as a friendlier climate that embraces, not discourages, diversity. These fallacious allegations implicate the existence of a society still struggling with anti-Muslim sentiment. My Muslim colleagues in the House of Representatives, along with the highly qualified, patriotic and committed Muslim staffers and interns that have worked with my office and with CAPAC, contribute mightily to our democratic process. Any slander against these fellow patriots is slander against democracy and religious freedom.
When Rep. Virgil Goode called Rep. Keith Ellison’s decision to use the Qur’an for the photo op following his swearing in as the first American Muslim Congressperson “a threat to “the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America”, and further said “I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies”, Rep. Honda wrote to Goode:
I was surprised and offended to hear about a constituent letter you wrote in response to Representative-elect Keith Ellison’s intention to use a Koran during his ceremonial swearing in ceremony… it is outrageous to cast aspersions on Representative-elect Ellison purely because of his religious background. Following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, Muslims have been the subject of profoundly warped stereotypes in this country; stereotypes that are largely derived from a small percentage of extremist practitioners. An entire religious group has become scapegoats for the actions of a few fanatics whose beliefs they do not subscribe to. As one of the many Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II because of war hysteria and racial prejudice, I find it particularly offensive that you are equating Representative-elect Ellison’s beliefs with those of radical extremists and condemning him based on their actions. In your letter, you suggested that all Muslims in this country are immigrants and that immigration laws must be changed to “preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America” by stopping Muslims from entering. Representative-elect Ellison was born in the United States, and his family has lived here since 1742. He was raised Catholic before becoming a Muslim during college. The spread of ideas and philosophies cannot be stopped by barricading our borders, nor should it be…. Instead of fearing our diversity, Americans, and Members of Congress in particular, must embrace it. America became a great nation through the collaboration of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other religious and ethnic groups working together to advance our culture and economy.”
Rep. Hondo also wrote an article on Rep. Peter Kings Muslim hearings in which he said:
My father loved this country and proudly served in the U.S. Military Intelligence Service. Yet when I was a young child during World War II, we were confined for several years at Camp Amache, an internment camp in southeast Colorado, simply because we were of Japanese ancestry. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans were unjustly placed under scrutiny and suspicion because few in Washington were brave enough to say “no.” The decision to incarcerate, according to a report by the congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
Now, decades later, something similarly sinister is returning to our country. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is organizing congressional hearings on Muslim Americans. These hearings are scheduled to take place within the House Homeland Security Committee.
Rep. King’s intent seems clear: To cast suspicion upon all Muslim Americans and to stoke the fires of anti-Muslim prejudice and Islamophobia. By framing his hearings as an investigation of the American Muslim community, the implication is that we should be suspicious of our Muslim neighbors, co-workers or classmates solely on the basis of their religion.
This should be deeply troubling to Americans of all races and religions. An investigation specifically targeting a single religion implies, erroneously, a dangerous disloyalty, with one broad sweep of the discriminatory brush.
In building the pretext for the hearings, King has repeatedly said that American Muslim community leaders have failed to cooperate with law enforcement officials in the effort to disrupt terrorism plots—a claim that has been refuted by U.S. counter-terrorism experts and top law enforcement officials. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, for example, who works with a large Muslim American population, has countered King’s allegation by asserting, unequivocally, that cooperation with the community is active and aggressive. (Incidentally, Rep. King will not be calling any law enforcement professionals to testify during his hearings.)
While protecting our homeland from acts of violence should be a top priority for policymakers, we must remember that no entire community can be held responsible for the acts of a few people. A “presumption of guilt” should never be applied collectively. We must aggressively investigate criminal behavior, watch for patterns that point to emerging threats, and stay constantly vigilant as citizens, but we must also not divide or target Americans simply on the basis of their faith or ancestry.
When Lowe’s and other advertisers were pressured to remove advertising from the TLC program All-American Muslim, Rep. Honda responded:
“Muslim-Americans currently face a proverbial catch-22. When they serve in our military, failed leaders and fear mongers accuse them of being insurgents – a religious enemy within. Such is the case with Rep. Peter King during his recent “homegrown terrorism hearing” on Capitol Hill. When Muslim-Americans are shown to have traditional all-American family values, as depicted on the reality T.V. show All-American Muslim, they are attacked for misrepresenting the “dangerous and radical truth” of their religion. Such is the case with the Florida Family Association’s coercion of a major American company, Lowe’s Home Improvement, to pull advertisements from All American Muslim. These misguided actions perpetuate a culture of fear and hysteria that tragically tears America’s social fabric and precipitously damages our national security.
Placing value judgments on the morality and patriotism of a large group of people, based on the actions of a few, is a nonsensical juxtaposition. Not only is Rep. King and Florida Family’s anti-Muslim Islamophobic sentiment laughable, it is also a backwards, narrow-minded assault on basic American values. Rather than learning from our nation’s past mistakes, from the exclusion of people of color and women from voting rights, to the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, we now have companies such as Lowe’s undermining our nation’s core, cherished value of inclusion by rubber-stamping hatred. It’s tragic that the words of a radical, right-wing Florida group are being used to darken the faith, contribution, dedication and patriotism of all Muslim-Americans.
Most worrisome is the fact that Rep. Peter King and Florida family’s ignorance and hatred are spreading. Most, recently, Kayak.com, the online travel site, pulled their advertisements from All American Muslim. The fear mongering and hatred must stop now. Fair-minded Americans everywhere must stand up for the immutable truth that the protection and promotion of all cultures and religious beliefs is a precious cornerstone of the American way of life. We must fight intolerance and ignorance wherever and whenever it appears. Doing so is the most American thing any one of us can do.”
Rep. Honda was also one of the ten House Democrats to speak out criticizing NY Mayor Bloomberg for his response to the NYPD program spying on American Muslims.
And, now, American Muslims need to speak up for Rep. Honda. Because of his unwavering stand on behalf of minority communities, and particularly the American Muslim community, he is coming under attack from the Islamophobia Industry.
Because of his statement about the AFDI/SIOA ads, Pamela Geller has written an article Investigate elected officials who work for our enemies, foreign and domestic: Mike Honda, Democrat, California. In this article, Geller says: Fringe, uber-left Representative Mike Honda, a Democrat from California, is calling for a boycott of mass transportation systems in NY and DC. Another subversive tool working to undermine our most very basic freedoms. You may call his Campbell District office toll-free at (888) 643-4715 and politely read him the first amendment followed by the Constitution. Tell him there will be a pop quiz at the end of the call. We ought to have a look at Honda’s financing. How much comes from Musim Brotherhood groups?
In the course of a lengthy ramble attempting to defend the indefensible, she also says about Rep. Honda “We are facing opposition from elected officials who have aligned themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., and with those who would undermine national security. I hope Honda’s constituents realize on election day how he is carrying water for Islamic supremacist enemies of free speech.”
I request that American Muslims, and any Americans who value maintaining a civil society, contact Rep. Honda and let him know that his stand is appreciated. All too often, the only people whose voices are heard are the loud voices of the haters. Please write a brief note and mail or fax it to Rep. Honda, or call his office and thank him for speaking out against bigotry.
Rep. Mike Honda
1999 S. Bascom Ave. Suite 815
Campbell, CA 95008
Phone: (408) 558-8085
Fax: (408) 558-8086
1713 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2631
Fax: (202) 225-2699
All of Geller’s claims about these ads have been answered in a series of articles published on TAM. These articles include many sources and references regarding discussion of different aspects of this controversy:
- Pamela Geller: A Tale of Two Bus Ads
- A Tale of Three Bigoted Ads
- AFDI/SIOA Bus Ads Inspired by Ayn Rand’s Racist Views of Arabs and Muslims?
- Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer announce new “Islamorealism” anti-Islam ad
- 17,000+ “Islamic terrorist” attacks exist only in fevered Islamophobic brains
- The origins of the term “Islamophobia”
- Bus Ads: Of Savages and Idiots
- 17,000+ “Islamic terrorist” attacks exist only in fevered Islamophobic brains
- Freedom of speech does not include freedom from condemnation of that speech
- Pamela Geller Does Not Understand Freedom of Speech
- American Muslims and Arabs respond to the ads.
- All extremists are “savages” and “civilized men” need to counter the hate
- How Muslims understand the term “jihad”
- Terrorism is not jihad
- Is vandalism an appropriate free speech response to hate speech? .
- The legal battle over AFDI/SIOA Anti-Muslim Ads
- American Jews Are Speaking Out Against Anti-Muslim Ads
- AFDI/SIOA Roll Out 9 More Anti-Muslim Ads
- Americans support tolerance and reject hate about the ads being placed by Rabbis for Human Rights, Sojourners, and United Methodist Women.
- Could a boycott of public transport carrying AFDI/SIOA ads be effective?
- Pamela Geller: Love or pathological hatred towards Muslims?