U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, will be hosting the first-ever Congressional hearing on the civil rights of American Muslims next week.

The hearing, set for March 29 in Washington, D.C., will be the first hearing before the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

Durbin, assistant majority leader in the Senate, is the subcommittee's chairman.

"Our Constitution protects the free exercise of religion for all Americans," Durbin said. "During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance. It is important for our generation to renew our founding charter's commitment to religious diversity and to protect the liberties guaranteed by our Bill of Rights."

The hearing is in response to the spike in anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.S. in the last year, including Quran burnings, restrictions on mosque construction, hate crimes, hate speech, and other forms of discrimination.

Next week's hearing will consider measures to protect the civil rights of American Muslims, Durbin said.

A panel of witnesses will testify before the subcommittee, including Muslim civil rights leader Farhana Khera; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick; Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, the Obama Administration's top civil rights official; and former Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta, the Bush Administration's top civil rights official.

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights was formed by merging the Constitution Subcommittee and the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee, which Durbin previously chaired.  It has jurisdiction over all constitutional issues, and all legislation and policy related to civil rights, civil liberties and human rights. The Ranking Member of the Subcommittee is Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.

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