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Monday, March 7, 2011
Congress to Investigate Islamic Radicalization in the US
By IPT News @ 4:29 PM :: 6748 Views :: National News, Ethics

Witness List Set for King Hearing

IPT News March 7, 2011

Two members of Congress, two men whose families were devastated by a relative's radicalization and two civic leaders with opposing views on Muslim community support for law enforcement will testify Thursday at the first hearing on Islamic radicalization in America.

According to the National Review, the father of a man accused of gunning down an Army recruiter and the uncle of a Minneapolis man killed after joining the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab will testify about their relatives' path to violence. Also testifying are U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Frank Wolf, R-Va., along with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Muslim political activist M. Zuhdi Jasser.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called the hearing in December, saying Congress needed to study new and effective methods used by al-Qaida and its affiliates to recruit terrorists from among Muslims in America. That includes English-language Internet video postings and several issues of a new magazine issued by al-Qaida's Yemeni branch.

In addition, King has said, more needs to be done to get community support for terrorism-related investigations. "When I meet with law enforcement," he told the New York Times, "they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders."

Last week, for example, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed two lawsuits against the FBI, accusing the agency of allowing unchecked, wholesale investigations into Muslims because of their faith.

Baca has been a staunch CAIR defender, while Jasser has been a persistent critic. The Investigative Project on Terrorism compiled brief profiles of all the witnesses.

M. Zuhdi Jasser

Physician, Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy

The American-born son of Syrian immigrants, Jasser spent 11 years in the U.S. Navy as a medical officer, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. He practices internal medicine in Phoenix, Ariz.
A devout Muslim who advocates the "separation of mosque and state," Jasser is among the most prominent voices challenging Islamist ideology in the United States.

He founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy after 9/11, believing that "the root cause of Islamist terrorism is the ideology of political Islam and a belief in the preference for and supremacy of the Islamic state."

A debate among Muslims is the best way to stem that radical ideology, Jasser says. "[J]ihadism is a natural by-product of a political Islam that is incompatible with Western secular democracies based in liberty. America is at war with theocratic Muslim despots who seek the imposition of sharia and don't believe in the equality of all before the law, blind to faith."

Jasser debated fellow witness Keith Ellison in October 2009, emphasizing that Muslims are a diverse group and no one voice can speak for them. "I think if Muslims want credibility and we want to be respected equally, we need to stand for reform within our faith of laws that are still in the 15th and 16th century," Jasser said. "I think Muslims need to also stop collectivizing our community as one unit."

Lee Baca

Los Angeles County Sheriff

Lee Baca, who has served as Los Angeles County sheriff since 1998, dismisses King's concerns about Muslim non-cooperation with law enforcement. "I don't know what King is hearing or who he is hearing from," Baca said last month at a forum sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "We're with these people {Muslim Americans[ all the time," he said. If King "has evidence of noncooperation, he should bring it forward."

Despite frequent attacks on law enforcement by CAIR, Baca has strongly defended the group.

During a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing last year, Baca angrily denied that CAIR supported terrorism or had connections with Hamas. Meeting with Muslim groups one week later, Baca struck a defiant tone. He ridiculed FBI official statements about CAIR officials' participation in a Hamas terrorist support network called the Palestine committee, dismissing those who consider the group untrustworthy as "amateur intelligence officer]s[."

Baca, who has appeared at CAIR fundraisers, takes a different view from Jasser about the Muslim community's diverse voices. "When you attack CAIR," Baca said, "you attack virtually every Muslim in America." Despite the prominent role of the preaching of Anwar al-Awlaki in a spate of recent terror attacks, Baca has decried what he calls "this constant uninformed chatter about religion being a factor in terrorism."

Melvin Bledsoe

President, Blues City Tours

Memphis, Tenn.

Melvin Bledsoe has operated Blues City Tours since opening the business in 1987. Its tours go to local attractions ranging from casinos to the National Civil Rights Museum.

He has been on a search for answers since June 2009, when his son was arrested and charged with shooting two U.S. Army recruiters – killing one – in what some consider a domestic terrorist attack.

Carlos Bledsoe had changed his name to Abdulhakeem Muhammad shortly after converting to Islam while a college student. He traveled to Yemen to study Islam and spent four months in a Yemeni jail "with known terrorists" after being arrested for overstaying his visa, his father said.

In a handwritten letter to an Arkansas state judge, Muhammad said he was part of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and that the shooting was "a Jihadi attack on infidel forces."

Since the shooting, Melvin Bledsoe has warned people that his son's radicalization, what he calls "brainwashing," can happen to anyone.

"I want to know how, who and why this happened to my son," Bledsoe told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "And I say to you, if it happened to my son today, tomorrow it can be your son. This is something the American people need to wake up to. Tomorrow they could be looking for someone with blond hair and blue eyes."

Read more about Melvin Bledsoe's views here and here and see an interview here.

Abdirizak Bihi

Minneapolis Community Activist

Founder of the Somali Education and Advocacy Center

Abdirizak Bihi knows firsthand the devastating human toll that jihadist recruitment has on families. In November 2008, his teenage nephew joined a group of Somali-American youth who sneaked out of their Minnesota homes and went to Somalia to fight for the al-Shabaab terrorist organization. Burhan Hassan had a promising future before that, and had planned to go to Harvard. Instead, he was killed in Mogadishu in June 2009.

Bihi has spoken out against the radicalization of Somali youth ever since.

Since 2007, more than 20 teenagers and young men from the Minneapolis area disappeared and went to Somalia to fight for al-Shabaab. At least four of them have been killed. Bihi says the indictment in August of 14 people charged with providing money, services and personnel confirm what many local Somalis have long suspected – that al-Shabaab operatives have been raising money from them under false pretenses.

Like many of the others who went to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, Burhan Hassan had been spending a great deal of time in local mosques before leaving the United States. Bihi believes that the leadership of a local mosque, the Abubakar as-Saddique Mosque in Minneapolis, has been less than forthcoming about who his nephew was meeting with there.

Instead, the mosque has sought to ridicule and discredit anyone who questioned fundraising practices there, Bihi charges. He said mosque leaders tried to discourage parents from speaking out when young Somalis began disappearing in 2007 – warning them that if they talked to the FBI, they would be incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. He claims that CAIR also worked actively to discourage Somalis from talking to the FBI.

A group of about 50 Somalis picketed outside a CAIR social event in 2009 saying the group was interfering with an investigation into the men's disappearances.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
Representative of Minnesota's 5th Congressional District

Ellison, 47, was born and raised in Detroit. He converted to Islam while a student at Wayne State University over "the social circumstances of the country, issues of justice, issues of change." He received his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School, where he also raised some controversy in the school newspaper for attacking "white barbarism on American college campuses" and "America's genocidal crimes." He also called the U.S. Constitution "the best evidence of a white racist conspiracy to subjugate other peoples." After law school, Ellison worked as a litigator specializing in civil rights, employment, and criminal defense law, and became the executive director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis.

Ellison served two terms in Minnesota's state House of Representatives before becoming the first Muslim congressman in 2006. During the election, there was some controversy over donations to his campaign from leaders of CAIR as well as claims of campaign finance violations. Later, more allegations arose over his participation in a Hajj pilgrimage trip sponsored by MAS, an MB group in America. Ideologically, Ellison has also maintained an active relationship with CAIR, ISNA, or other Islamist groups, by appearing at their events and fundraisers.

He has criticized the premise of the hearings, saying they should not focus solely on Muslim Americans, but on the issue of radicalization.

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.
Representative of Virginia's 10th Congressional District

Wolf, 72, was born in Philadelphia, Pa. He received his B.A. from Penn State in 1961 and his law degree from Georgetown University in 1965. Currently in his 16th term in the House of Representatives, Wolf first assumed office in 1981 after serving as a legislative assistant for U.S. Rep. Edward Biester in the late 1960s and as an assistant to the secretary of the Interior from 1971 to 1975. Although Wolf has been particularly active in transportation, human rights, and gambling, he also authored a 1998 bill creating the National Commission on Terrorism ]NCT[.

He serves as co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Congress and has spoken out against genocide and human rights abuses throughout the world.

He also calls out extremist rhetoric at home. In June 2009, Wolf spent 40 minutes on the House floor detailing links to terrorists involving CAIR and what he called the group's intimidation of critics. It is a mistake, he said, to "look to CAIR to speak for mainstream Muslim Americans."

He also has pushed for the Islamic Saudi Academy, a private school in Northern Virginia, to purge its textbooks of extremism and intolerance, including a book which states the killing an apostate or an adulterer is acceptable under Islamic law.

In 2008, he asked Georgetown University whether it conducted any critical study of Saudi Arabia's human rights record, or its ties to extremist groups, while accepting $20 million from a Saudi prince.


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