News / USA

Congress Holds Hearing on Radicalization of US Muslims

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, begins hearings on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 10, 2011
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, begins hearings on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 10, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +
Cindy Saine

Emotions ran high at a congressional hearing Thursday on the extent of radicalization in the U.S. Muslim community.  The hearing has reignited a national debate on how best to fight domestic terrorism while respecting Americans' civil liberties and religious diversity in the country.  

Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, defended the hearing and its focus on the radicalization of the American Muslim community.

King, a Republican from New York, said there is nothing discriminatory about his approach, contrary to the objections of its many opponents.

"This committee cannot live in denial, which is what some of us would do when they suggest that this hearing dilute its focus by investigating threats unrelated to al-Qaida," said King. "The Department of Homeland Security and this committee were formed in response to the al-Qaida attacks of September 11th.  There is no equivalency of threat between al-Qaida and neo-Nazis, environmental extremists or other isolated madmen."

Related video report by Carolyn Presutti


Civil rights and Muslim advocacy groups as well as a coalition of Christian and Jewish leaders have strongly criticized the hearing for focusing on the community of some seven million American Muslims, instead of looking at the broad spectrum of domestic terrorist groups that would include violent anti-government activists and white supremacists.

Democratic Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim American elected to the U.S. Congress, was a witness at the hearing and an opponent of its format.

"As leaders, we need to be rigorous about our analysis of violent extremism," said Ellison. "Our responsibility includes doing no harm.  I am concerned that the focus of today's hearing may increase suspicion of the Muslim American community, ultimately making us all a little less safe."

Ellison sobbed when he related the story of a young Muslim American who gave his life as a first responder after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the Untied States, saying there were hateful and false rumors after his death that he might have been involved in the attacks because he was Muslim.

Two of the witnesses at the hearing had family members who were radicalized by Islamist extremists.  Melvin Bledsoe of Tennessee told the story of his son, Carlos Bledsoe, who converted to Islam at age 19 and was radicalized in the United States.  The young man traveled to Yemen and was trained in a terrorist training camp.  He later shot and killed a U.S. Army private and wounded another outside an army recruiting station.  Bledsoe is in jail, facing murder charges.  His father said he wants to warn other American parents that radicalization is a gradual process.

"If I can save one other child from going through what my family has gone through or the victim's family went through, then I think my trip here to this committee was worthwhile," said Bledsoe.

The subject of Islamic radicalization and terrorism divided the House committee largely along party lines.  Most Democratic members objected to the hearing's focus on one religious group.

Democratic Representative Laura Richardson of California was blunt in her assessment of Republican committee Chairman Peter King.

"It believe the narrow scope of this hearing is discriminatory and it is an abuse of power," said Richardson.

Most Republican members commended King for being steadfast in the face of opposition to the hearing.

Los Angeles Sheriff Leroy Baca, who testified before the committee, appeared at some points to be caught in the middle, with lawmakers from both major parties seeking his agreement with their position.

Baca spoke from a law enforcement perspective, saying it is his job to protect Americans of all faiths and from all walks of life, and that police need public participation from everyone.

"The Muslim community is no less or no more important than others as no one can predict with complete accuracy who and what will pose the next threat against our nation," said Baca.

Baca said his experience has been that American Muslims increasingly are gaining confidence in cooperating with law enforcement officials.

Senior Obama administration officials say that the threat of domestic terrorism is real, but they stress that the answer is to reach out to the Muslim American community and not to stigmatize an entire group because of the actions of a few.

Representative King vows to hold more hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims, saying he is driven by the desire to prevent another al-Qaida attack on the United States.

Radicalization in the U.S. Muslim Community, Organizations Panel Hearing

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid