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
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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs