A recent hearing focused on the extent of radicalization among members of the American Muslim community has created a stir among that group.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who conducted the March 10 hearing, said that the threat of Islamic radicalization is growing in the U.S. and he thinks it’s time to address the issue.
“This committee cannot live in denial, which is what some of us would do when they suggest that we investigate threats that are unrelated to al-Qaeda,” King said.
“Only al-Qaeda and its Islamic affiliates in this country are a part of an international threat to our nation,” he continued.”
The four-hour session of the House Homeland Security Committee played on emotions. Some Democratic legislators thought the hearing unfairly portrayed all Muslims as guilty for the acts of a few.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn), who is a Muslim and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, became very emotional in his testimony before the committee. He said that violent extremism must be addressed, but that focusing on one group could bring increased, unwarranted scrutiny on all Muslims.
“As policy leaders, we need to be rigorous about our analysis of violent extremism,” Ellison said. “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 all of us less safe.”
The hearing also featured speakers who sought to back up King’s claims. Melvin Bledsoe, whose son, Carlos Bledsoe, was charged in a shooting at a Little Rock, Ark. military recruiting center, testified that Islam changed his son’s entire outlook in a negative manner.
Bledsoe said his son was “brainwashed” by Muslim extremists who convinced him to only respect Islamic culture. Bledsoe said his son was tricked into going to Yemen where trained at a school that was a front for a terrorist camp.
However, some American Islamic groups say the number of Islamic extremists is too small to warrant a congressional hearing on the subject. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said that, instead of holding a hearing, the government should invest in organizations that would protect American-Islamic youth from extremism.
“Muslim organizations that have connections to and the trust of the Muslim community are best placed to ensure that people of vile intent are denied the space to seduce individuals into opting for violent extremism,” CAIR said in a letter to the committee.
“CAIR recommends that Congress enact legislation that would provide funds to reputable Muslim community organizations and scholars to produce such materials and programs,” it continued.