'Muslims in America' hearings: Lawmaker calls proceeding 'an outrage'
Hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Americans is being held Monday in a small room at the capital.
March 10th, 2011
02:25 PM ET

'Muslims in America' hearings: Lawmaker calls proceeding 'an outrage'

At 9:30 a.m. ET Thursday, the House Homeland Security Committee opened the first in a series of hearings looking into alleged radicalization in the Muslim community in the United States. Below, you'll find a running account of some of the highlights of Thursday's hearing, which ended shortly before 2 p.m. 

The hearings, titled "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response," were called by the committee's chairman, Rep. Peter King, a nine-term Republican from Long Island, New York. On Monday, CNN reported that his personal security had been beefed up because of controversy over the impending hearings. Some have said they fear the hearings will stoke bigotry. Others say they will foster fear of Muslims in general, and suggest that anyone who practices Islam could be radicalized. One of those critics is Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, the sole Muslim member of Congress, who will testify. "This hearing actually could set us back because it reinforces the al Qaeda narrative, which is that America is at war with Islam. ... This hearing seems kind of like a targeted persecution," Ellison said.

King has responded by saying, "To back down (from holding the hearings) would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee - to protect America from a terrorist attack."

CNN's Peter Bergen examined cases since 9/11 of so-call homegrown terrorist threats. Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar, wrote that the hearings could promote the idea that America is really at war with Islam and would actually help terrorists appeal and recruit more fighters. Check out Prothero's thoughts on CNN.com's Belief Blog.

There are no federal investigators testifying in the hearings. The only law enforcement witness is Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. Ellison faulted King for arranging anecdotal testimony rather than inviting more law-enforcement authorities or experts in terrorism, including FBI or CIA agents.

9:45 a.m. ET: King opened the hearings with the statement, "Despite what passes for conventional wisdom, there is nothing radical or un-American about holding these hearings. ... This committee cannot live in denial of (radicalization of Muslims)." Watch King explain the intent of the hearings.

10 a.m. ET: Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, said that the hearings are misguided because they are about the Muslim "community." Congress should be addressing individuals and discussing their unique motivations in order for officials to conduct a "thorough, fair analysis" of the problem of domestically stoked terrorism, he said. "I share the chairman's concerns (about home-grown terror)," Ellison said. "It's true that specific individuals, including some who are Muslim, are violent extremists. However, these are individuals, not communities. When you assign (individuals' actions) to the entire community, you assign blame to the whole group."

10:15 a.m. ET: Ellison broke down in tears as he told the story of a Muslim American who tried to save lives on 9/11 and died. Watch Ellison's emotional testimony. "After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his (Muslim) faith," Ellison said, his voice breaking. "Some speculated that he was helping the attackers. ... He was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans."

10:30 a.m. ET: The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a prominent Muslim advocacy group, is "counter-productive and it is hurting the Muslim American community," Republican Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia testified. He accused the group of "a campaign to intimidate and silence anyone who raises concerns about Muslim radicalization." Wolf said Thursday's hearings were important and necessary. "We cannot afford to be silent. We cannot disregard the issue of radicalization in our country."

10:35 a.m. ET: The radicalization of Muslim Americans is a "significant" problem that only the Muslim community can address and they must not claim victimization when concerns are raised, the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy testified. "We can close our eyes and pretend it doesn't exist," said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, who is Muslim. "You're not going to solve the problem and the problem is increasing exponentially." Jasser called radicalization "a moral corruption within a certain segment" of Muslims in the U.S. which is manipulating Islam. Countering such efforts would require teaching Muslim Americans about American principles of liberty and "separation of mosque and state," he said.

Jasser said he supported having the hearings. "We can call everybody a bigot or an Islamophobe if they even talk about it, but radicalization is a problem that's increasing exponentially," he said. Jasser testified that his parents came to the U.S. from Syria because they believed they could worship freely as Muslims in America.

10:44 a.m. ET: Melvin Bledsoe, of Tennessee, gave testimony about his son Carlos Bledsoe who the father said was radicalized at a state college. Carlos Bledsoe changed his name to Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, and prosecutors say that in 2009, the young man shot and killed a soldier at a military recruiting center in Arkansas. Melvin Bledsoe talked about the confusion and anguish he and his wife experienced when their son came home for a visit from college and began acting odd. For example, he got into a heated argument about Islam with a relative, Bledsoe said, and his son removed all the pictures in his bedroom, including a photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. Carlos Bledsoe told his family that he had converted to Islam and that everything he would do would be to honor Allah, his father said. Melvin Bledsoe described his son's further indoctrination during the young man's experiences at a terror training camp in Yemen. Bledsoe blamed radical Muslim leaders in Tennessee for "brainwashing" his son, but that they were not the only people to be held responsible.

"We are losing American babies. Our children are in danger. We must stand up and do something about the problem," Bledsoe said. "I'd like to see something change that no other family in this great country of ours has to go through what our family is facing today."

11:30 a.m. ET: Sheriff Baca was asked what he would like to happen from an organized standpoint to better facilitate flow of information to law enforcement. He responded that he would like better coordination among law enforcement between local and federal entities. He said there must be a "best-practices" approach. "If you could look at a sub-committee that would allow for my colleagues to come in and talk," he suggested, referring to inviting federal investigators to testify.

11:40 a.m. ET: The hearings are "an outrage" because there is no factual basis for them, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said. She said the hearings were unfairly targeting a group of Americans for their religious beliefs.

12:20 p.m. ET: Rep. Laura Richardson, D-California, called the hearings "discriminatory" and "an abuse of power." She questioned why other House committees weren't holding hearings on threats to American children involving other religions, a veiled but some say clear reference to the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

1:45 p.m. ET: Rep. Thomas Marino, R-Pennsylvania, before asking a question to those testifying, says the hearings are not about religion, but terrorism. "It's about people who kill men women and children in the name of religion," Marino said.

Marino, speaking of his experience as a U.S. attorney, said he once prosecuted a "home-grown terrorist" who is now serving a 30-year prison sentence, adding that it was the right thing to do. He then asked this question: "What do you expect from us - Congress? What should we be doing to promote the fact that this is not about religion, because I have many friends who are Muslims."

One testifier, a Muslim, said he hoped that Congress would "develop the political will to deal with this problem."

"As a Muslim, that's not offensive," he said.

Bledsoe answered that Congress should "call terrorism what it is."

1:50 p.m. ET: King has adjourned Thursday's hearing, telling those who testified that the committee may reach out to them later for additional questions, and if so, the testifiers would be asked to respond in writing.

2:12 p.m. ET: Speaking to reporters after the hearing, King says it was an "extremely productive and worthwhile hearing," and he is "more convinced than ever" that it was an appropriate hearing to hold.

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-California, tells reporters that the hearing helped "get facts out on the table" regarding what Muslim Americans go through when they want to fight radicalization and promote moderation. 

2:25 p.m. ET: Jasser, the Muslim doctor who testified at Thursday's hearing, tells reporters at the post-hearing news conference with King and Lungren that he hopes this is a beginning of a conversation, and that as someone who loves his faith, he believes there is "nothing more Islamic, nothing more Muslim" than figuring out radicalization. He said a pathology exists among a small minority of Muslims, and that the United States needs a political will to deal with it, and a thoughtful communication process in which people refrain from calling the examination "Islamophobia." He said there are people in the Muslim American community who want to address radicalization but who have not had the resources and opportunity to do so.

 Added Bledsoe, also at the news conference: "I don’t understand why we have so much fear about talking about what its real. … It came to my doorstep. We need to talk about it."

soundoff (237 Responses)
  1. pw

    We have terrorists in america; they are the klu klux klan, the nazi party and inbred teabaggers. HeyIs Congressman king going to investigate them?.

    March 11, 2011 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. markjuliansmith

    There is an erroneous perception Muslims become terrorist because of trigger moments i.e. Radical Cleric(s) come riding into town, or intense whispering in Prison cubicles, etc

    If this were the case we non-Muslims would all be aware of neighbors and distant relatives suddenly turning into terrorists.

    This simply does not occur for the reason we have not already textually constructed other as evil via the text we base our beliefs on.

    The reason for the terror is instruction from birth. This is the trigger which lends itself to the opportunity for terrorism when it arises.

    To simply say all of a sudden a perfectly normal good Muslim boy turned to terror without the foundation in place already to accept such diabolical notions is absurd.

    Plato thousands of years ago gave humanity some good advice for harmonious societies delete text purported to be from Gods which informs evil action.

    Everyone of us base our lives on less than perfect text. To target one without the other is rather hypocritical.

    It should be about all text which vilifies other Religious or Secular not persons.

    Change the text forming our new citizen’s change the outcomes otherwise more of the same.

    The fact is Muslims are already radicalized the reason being from the Islamic texts Quran foundation chapter "THE COW" onwards vilification of and justification of 'grevious harm' against other is the main theme.

    This is why terrorists are good boys and girls coming from good Muslim families. It is that simple.

    The radical Muslim clerics are not triggering anything they are simply providing the opportunity. The trigger has already been created by the basic Islamic text which forms all Muslims.

    The fact all Muslims do not act on it is irrelevant for as we see enough Muslims do from generation to generation to perpetuate the terror against other.

    If you read the Quran – Chapter "THE COW" which sets up the framework by which the Islamic text will be challenged, vilifies the perpetrators sets them as less and then informs the remedy 'grevious harm' with the ultimate authority God authorizing all within, given this is an old recipe for genocide against other and the terror we clearly are experiencing would it not be rational to be rightfully concerned?

    Also more importantly as we are all formed by textual constructs such as the Islamic text, there may just exist evil text informing evil action and we should seek it out be it secular or religious so we can change the future for humanity?

    Change the text forming our new citizen’s change the outcomes otherwise more of the same.

    This means not just looking at Islamic text but other texts within our communities which are used to form new citizens and accept the fact finally ‘Freedom of Religion’ has been a curse on society because we are not able to easily challenge such Religious text which generates real evil against other without being erroneously labeled and censured.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ernie

    I don't think that these hearings are an outrage.....u c u nutball.....u r trying to b politically correct cause that is all u politicians know how to do......I think the hearings r like way overdue.

    March 11, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Akhter

    To me this is state terrorism in America as well media terrorism through out western world.


    March 11, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joseph

    Does the good representative know the meaning of two words that all politicians should be required to understand in order to enter politics

    Counterproductive and Hypocrisy

    the counter productive is to be so over generalized in looking at the entirety of a very diverse group Like Muslims
    that is like talking about all protestant Christians
    you want to look for radicals don’t look in almost mosques
    look online
    in prisons
    and some colleges

    or is REP king looking to get campaign contributions from al Qaida for his recruiting efforts
    You paint with two broad a brush you get paint on everyone

    Use a more précised question than the one your using Rep king

    and they came for they came for the Muslims and I wasn’t one so I didnot say anything

    and they came for the Irish Catholics and I wasn’t one so I did not say anything

    The quote is from Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984), a Pastor in the Confessing Church,

    The quote appears in the Congressional Record 14 October 1968, page 31636:

    When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church - and there was nobody left to be concerned.

    speaking of counter productive is Rep king working at getting Obama reelected by alienating a significant minority of the electorate it is those significant minorities than win or lose elections

    March 12, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joseph

    "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response,"

    please get a more precise question OMG OMA OMJ OMK
    Unitarians ? ( among foundng fathers but a theologically unique peasful and enviornmentallists amd small these days
    Heavymetal worshipers especially those pernicious death metal



    March 12, 2011 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. Norm

    Mr. King obviously has let his name go to his head. He obviously thinks he is KING. In reality, he is an imbecile that invokes hate-mongering, racist slurs, demeaning of the Muslim religion and people and there should be some technicality of the law that they could name him for aiding and abeiting the enemy. He is definitely playing right into the hands of al Quada by giving them ammo to use for their radical purposes of indoctrinating the "so called" Muslims that he thinks are being radicalized. How do such people get voted into Congress? Are the people of New York so desperate to have anyone that they would put this nitwit into a position of power that empowers our opposition? It is time for Mr. King to GO, JUST GO. Resign while you still have some dignity left at all.

    March 14, 2011 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • AJ

      Hey Norm, why dont you haul a.... and just move over there?

      March 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Edward Putulik

    I just want to share my thoughts about muslims and islams.
    As an 'North American' (canadian), through respects, lawful, democracy and most of all, calmly living.
    In such a short time, the Arabic nations had been causing attentions throughout the world. They are in the news everyday violently.
    The arabics are too erratic, hysterical, extremists, and dangerously violent to other world nations.
    Watching the news, (eg), suicide bombing, when the victims require medical assistant, they seem to have not authority. I see all kind of people running, jumping around hysterically. They seem to have no common sense.
    Mobs of arabic people roughly carry their dead. The body roughly moves around a lot. They should respect the deceased and calmly, quitely, to give a proper burial.
    Arabics in north america should leave their religion, egos and have no authority to do their extreme religion. I feel discriminated when I see an arabic woman covering her whole body that only her hands and eyes are showing. I do not have see her body. It's not that I want to but with north american women, we see them with normal cloths and faces we see and then go on.
    I wonder if they know about our Christian bible, Moses. The ten commandments say 'thou shalt not kill'. They kill people and themselves that God made all human beings. When comiting suicide, you kill the body that God had made you through lovingly miracle. What a waste.
    I say, through it all, we are just spending too much financially due to nonsense unicessary events cause by erratic people. The resources should be stablized by UN. Those arabics, (unfortunately living with resources) are causing heavy living to the north americans due to their erratic behaviors.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Apple6

      Ur Canadian? Then march on over to parliament and tell your people to support ALL our efforts. like nuclear weapons or not, it's the US keeping you safe. Think I'm being unfair? Hopefully you think like my dad ( who was born and raised in Montreal ) and agree with America. Still dislike this comment? I have a dual citizenship with Canada, sorry that Im ranting. I love Canada like I love France, it's the politics that drive me insane.

      April 5, 2011 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
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