WASHINGTON: Notwithstanding protests from the Muslim community here both in terms of demonstrations and open criticism, a key Congressional committee today kicked off a series of hearing on radicalisation of American Muslims.
“I have repeatedly said that the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans and make enormous contributions to our country. But there are realities we can’t ignore,” said the Congressman, Mr Peter King, the chairperson of the powerful House Committee on Homeland Security.
“Al-Qaeda realizes that the measures we have put in place over the past nine and a half years make it very difficult to launch a large-scale attack against our homeland from outside the country which is why they have altered their strategy and are using people living legally in the United States,” he said.
Mr King said the plotters include New York City subway bomber Najibullah Azazi, US Army Major Nidal Hasan, Colleen LaRose known as “Jihad Jane”, Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, Little Rock Recruiting Center shooter, Carlos Bledsoe, whose father was a witness today; and dozens of individuals in Minneapolis associated with the Somali terrorist organisation al-Shabaab, and the uncle of one of those young men who was radicalized in Minneapolis, sent to Somalia and eventually killed is also with us here today.
“And then there’s also the Mumbai plotter, David Headley,” King said listing out some of the high profile recent terrorist cases in the US.
“The US is accused of engaging in a modern day crusade against Islam. We cannot give this lie a place to live. I cannot help but wonder how propaganda about this hearing, focuses on American Muslim community, will be used by those who speak to inspire a new generation of suicide bombers,” the Ranking Democrat, Mr Bennie Thompson said.
The Congressman, Mr Keith Ellison argued that ascribing evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community is wrong, it is ineffective and it risks making our country less safe.
“It’s true that specific individuals, including some who are Muslims, are violent extremists. However, these are individuals, not entire communities. Individuals like Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Faisel Shazad, and Nidal Hasan do not represent the Muslim community,” he said.
Testifying before the committee, Mr Zuhdi Jasser, the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said he believe there are small elements with significant elements of ideology within our community that is radicalizing based on the identification, the lack of identification and the separatism, and the disenfranchisement of certain Muslims from this society that makes them not bond, makes them not trust the government, makes them distrust the FBI and creates a culture of a lack of cooperation.
Mr Melvin Bledsoe, the father of Carlos Leon Bledsoe also known as Mr Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, said some Muslim leader had taken advantage of his son, but he is not the only one being taken advantage of.
“It seems to be to me that Americans are sitting around doing nothing about radical extremists as Carlos’ story and other stories at these hearings aren’t true. This is a big elephant in the room. Our society continues not to see it,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Muslim Somali American community, Mr Abdirizak Bihi, the director of Somali Education at a Somali Social Advocacy Centre in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said they are isolated by Islamic organizations and leaders who support them.
However, the Congressperson, Ms Sheila Jackson Lee disagreed.
“Muslims are here cooperating. They are doing what this hearing has suggested that they do not do!” she said.
“It is an irony and an outrage that we are wasting time when Muslims are sitting before us, a Muslim is on this panel, a Muslim has testified. And so I question, where are the uncooperative Muslims?”.
While the hearing was going at the Capitol Hill, a large number of people protested outside against the hearing.
“These hearings, we believe, are counterproductive because they run the risk of alienating members of the Muslim community, as members of this committee heard this morning in the hearings. Violent extremists want Muslim youth to think that this country is anti-Muslim, that Americans now view Muslim neighbours with suspicion, as something not quite part of us,” said Mr Rev Michael Kinnamon, the general secretary National Council of Churches.
“I do believe that by isolating and singling out the community, we’re really feeding into the stereotyping and discrimination against the community,” said Mr Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali at a news conference.
The White House Press Secretary, Mr Jay Carney has said that the Obama Administration believes that Muslim Americans are very much part of the solution here and not the problem.
“It is because of the cooperation with the Muslim American community that we are able to do the things we are able to do to prevent attacks and it is that very cooperation that we seek going forward and that has been so helpful,” Mr Carney said.