By S.A. Miller
A heartbroken father, whose son was converted to radical Islam and is now jailed for killing an Army recruiter, yesterday warned a congressional committee ominously, "Tomorrow, it could be your son, your daughter."
"Carlos was captured by people best described as 'hunters,' " Melvin Bledsoe said of the Muslim religious leaders who "brainwashed" his son while he attended college in Nashville, Tenn.
"He was manipulated and lied to," he said.
Bledsoe gave his emotional testimony at a controversial House Homeland Security Committee hearing on radicalization in the Muslim American community. It was the first in a series of hearings planned by Rep. Pete King (R-LI), the committee chairman.
Carlos Bledsoe, who changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad after converting, is charged in a 2009 shooting at an Army recruiting office in Little Rock, Ark., that killed Pvt. William Long and wounded Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula.
"Some Muslim leader had taken advantage of my son, but he is not the only one being taken advantage of," Melvin Bledsoe told the panel. "This is an ongoing thing in Nashville and many other cities in America."
He also said "political correctness" was keeping American leaders from taking on the radicalization threat.
In contrast to the outrage and protests against the hearing in recent days -- including threats and accusations of "Islamophobia" against King, the more-than-four-hour hearing was mostly conducted with the utmost decorum.
King said his critics had been spreading unnecessary "rage and hysteria" -- noting that even Kim Kardashian had weighed in with criticism -- since he had announced the hearing more than a month ago.
"To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee -- to protect America from a terrorist attack," King said in opening remarks.
"This committee cannot live in denial," he said. "Only al Qaeda and its Islamist affiliates in this country are part of an international threat to our nation."
Bledsoe told the panel: "You can even call it political fear. Fear of stepping on special minority population's toes even as a segment of that population wants to stamp out America and everything we stand for."
Abdirizak Bihi, whose nephew joined jihad in Somalia and was killed in 2008, testified that mosques and prominent Muslim American organizations did nothing to help when his nephew and scores of other Muslim youths went missing in Minneapolis.
"That was more hurtful than missing our children because now we have to deal with our own community as terrorists to destroy our community," Bihi said.
"We never got help from our leaders, from our organizations, from our big Islamic organizations," he said. "We are isolated by Islamic organizations and leaders who support them . . . We have been kidnapped by leadership that we have never seen."
M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim physician from Arizona, told the panel that the "separatism" preached in many mosques makes Muslim American youth ripe for radicalization.
"It is a problem that we can only solve. Christians, Jews -- non-Muslims -- cannot solve Muslim radicalization," Jasser said. "We can close our eyes and pretend it doesn't exist. We can call everybody a bigot or an Islamophobe if they even talk about it, but you're not going to solve the problem, and the problem is increasing exponentially."
"The US has a significant problem with Muslim radicalization . . . I'm Muslim, and I realize it's my problem and I need to fix it."
Several Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, spoke at the hearings about how they thought it was wrong to single out Muslims for scrutiny.
Ellison got choked up citing Mohammad Salman Hamdani, an American Muslim firefighter who died on 9/11 and was wrongly implicated in conspiracy theories.
"After the tragedy, some people tried to smear his character," a sobbing Ellison said.
"Mohammad Salman Hamdani was a fellow American, who gave his life for other Americans," he said. "He should not be identified as just another member of an ethnic group or just another religion, but as an American who gave everything to his fellow Americans."
At a press conference afterward, King said the hearing "broke down a wall of political correctness on an issue that has to be addressed."
He said the next hearing will be held in a couple of months and likely focus on Muslim radicalization in the US prison system.