Monday, March 21, 2011

Front Lines in the War on Terror: The King Hearings on Islamic Radicalization

“There are no redeeming factual information [sic] that we will receive today that can add to the abhorrence that all of us have on terrorism in the United States of America.” – Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) during House Homeland Security Committee hearings about Radicalization in the U.S. Muslim Community, 10 March 2011

Recently the House Homeland Security Committee, under the leadership of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), held hearings on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response”. Although the name is a mouthful, and the hearings have since been overshadowed by the civil war in Libya, there was some controversy surrounding them and it’s worth taking a closer look.

The controversy concerned whether the proceedings were a legitimate part of the government’s Constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense, as the Republicans on the committee claimed, or whether they violated the First Amendment by singling out the Muslim community for scrutiny, as claimed by the Democrats. I was delighted to see, for the first time, Representatives on both sides of the aisle waving pocket Constitutions. No doubt the Tea Party is having some influence on Capitol Hill.

I learned at the time of the 1987 Bork nomination not to rely on the media for coverage of Congressional hearings; get the play-by-play by watching them yourself. I did that for the King hearings and was rewarded with many stories from the front lines of the War on Terror:

I heard the testimony of Abdirizak Bihi of Minneapolis, MN. Mr. Bihi is a refugee from the civil war in Somalia, where the insurgent group al-Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the government and establish Sharia law. Many Somali-Americans in the Minneapolis area, including Mr. Bihi’s sister, sent their children to the Abu Bakr mosque for religious education. Late in 2008, Mr. Bihi’s nephew disappeared, along with some twenty other members of the community. According to Mr. Bihi, they had been recruited by the mosque to return to the Horn of Africa and join al-Shabaab. When the parents spoke out about it and sought help from the F.B.I, the imam and other leaders of Abu Bakr denounced them as “tools of the infidel” and threatened them with hellfire. Mr. Bihi’s nephew, and many other children of the Minneapolis community, died in combat.

I heard the testimony of Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). According to its website, its “mission is to advocate for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state.” AIFD seeks to teach young Muslims the ideology of freedom as an antidote to the theology of Jihad.

I heard the testimony of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) about Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a medical research technician, EMT, and NYPD cadet. After he went missing on September 11, 2001, Mr. Hamdani was sought by the police and the FBI for questioning about possible involvement in attacks. His remains were eventually found next to his medical bag in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Not only was he apparently not involved in the attacks; he had rushed to the site to provide medical assistance to the victims.

I heard the testimony of Melvin Bledsoe, a Memphis, Tennessee businessman. His son Carlos converted to Islam while attending Tennessee State University. Mr. Bledsoe watched helplessly as Carlos sank deeper into Islamist culture and became distant from the family. The younger Bledsoe even abandoned his dog in the woods (dogs are considered unclean by Muslims). Especially hurtful to Mr. Bledsoe, an African-American, was the removal by Carlos of a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King from his room. In 2009, Carlos attacked a U.S. Military Recruiting Office in Little Rock, Arkansas with an SKS rifle, killing one soldier and wounding another. “Our dreams about his future,” said his heartbroken father, “ended up in a nightmare.”

The King hearings introduced us to law-abiding Americans, Muslim and non-Muslim, struggling to prevent the destruction of their children by radical Islam. There is nothing in the First Amendment that prohibits Congress from singling out patriots for heroism. Rep. King provided a valuable service to the American people by publicizing their stories. I can only speculate why their stories added nothing to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s understanding of terrorism. They certainly added to mine.

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