‘We’ve Surrendered the Constitution to the Jihadists,’ Muslim Witness Says at Hearing on Radicalization of U.S. Muslims

By Penny Starr | March 11, 2011 | 4:01 AM EST

M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee on March 10, 2011 that American Muslims are being radicalized by not by the religion of Islam, but by Islam with the political goal of creating an Islamic state. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - The radicalization of American Muslims is driven not by the religion of Islam but by a political Islam that promotes theocracy and rallies against the United States and its secular democracy, a self-described “devout” Muslim, said at a congressional hearing on Thursday.

M. Zudhi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said that the failure to address this brand of Islam and to encourage American Muslims to embrace the rights and liberties guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution is affecting those individuals who not only turn against their country but commit acts of violence against their fellow citizens.

“We’ve surrendered the Constitution to the jihadists,” Jasser told the House Homeland Security Committee, focusing on the causes of radicalization of American Muslims and the response of Muslim communities to that radicalization.

“Our founding principle is that I, as a Muslim, am able to best practice my faith in a society like the United States that guarantees the rights of every individual blind to faith, with no governmental intermediary stepping between the individual and the creator to interpret the will of God,” Jasser said in his opening statement.

“Because of this, our mission is to advocate for the principles of the Constitution of the United States of America – liberty and freedom and the separation of mosque and state,” Jasser said.

“We believe that this mission from within the ‘House of Islam’ is the only way to inoculate Muslim youth and young adults against radicalization,” he said. “The ‘liberty narrative’ is the only effective counter to the ‘Islamist narrative.’”

The hearing, which was denounced by some Muslim groups and Democrats on the committee, also presented the testimony of Abdirizak Bihi, whose nephew Burhan Hassan, was radicalized in Minneapolis, sent to Somalia to train with the terrorist group al Shabaab, and was eventually shot and killed there.

“We regret the silencing and intimidation faced by leaders and activists who dare to speak out on the real challenges that keep our youth and community vulnerable to radicalization,” Bihi said. “Burying our heads in the sand will not make this problem go away.”

Melvin Bledsoe, whose nametag identified him as “private citizen,” testified about how his son, Carlos, was recruited by Islamic extremists who took him to train in Yemen. In 2009, the son, who by then called himself Abdulhakim Mujahi Muhammad, shot and killed a soldier at a Little Rock, Ark., recruiting center and was later charged with first-degree murder and 15 counts of engaging in a terrorist act.

“Carlos grew up a happy-go-lucky kid,” Bledsoe said. “He always had a big smile on his face, and loved to crack a joke or two. Everyone liked him. He loved to play team sports like basketball and football. He loved swimming, dancing, and listening to music.”

Bledsoe said his son’s fate could have been prevented and he was at the hearing to try to prevent another tragedy.

“I would like to see something change so that no other family in this great country of ours has to go through what our family is facing now,” Bledsoe said.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the committee, noted at the start of the almost six-hour hearing that he was aware of the debate surrounding the hearing – the first in a series – and the importance of the hearings.

“Let me make it clear today that I remain convinced that these hearings must go forward,” King said. “And they will.”

“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.

King further said that the Obama administration has warned about the radicalization of American Muslims by Islamic extremists, including al Qaeda.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) holds up a copy of the U.S. Constitution at the March 10, 2011 hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee. She said the hearing singled out American Muslims for scrutiny and that it would have been more productive to explore other terrorist threats in the U.S. such as the Ku Klux Klan. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was one of the harshest critics of the hearing, and she also referred to the Constitution, calling it a “living and breathing” document that suffered because of a hearing that she said singled out a group of people because of their religious beliefs.

“But I will tell you today that this breathing document is in pain,” Jackson Lee said.

Jackson Lee also said the hearing should have also focused on other kinds of terrorism in the United States.

“We might have tried to understand where the Klansmen still roam today and terrorize individuals in parts of this country,” she said.

Several other Democrats on the committee mentioned the Ku Klux Klan, including Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who called the Klan “the oldest terrorist organization” in the United States.

King ticked off a list of examples of American-Muslim radicalization, including the New York City subway bomber Najibullah Zazi; U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan who killed 13 at Ft. Hood; Colleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane”; Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad; and Mumbai plotter David Headley.

As stated earlier, the relatives of men involved in two other radicalization cases were witnesses at the hearing.

“As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we cannot allow the memories of that tragic day to fade away,” King said. “We must remember that in the days immediately following the attack, we are all united in our dedication to fight back against al Qaeda and its ideology.”

“Today, we must be fully aware that homegrown radicalization is part of al Qaeda’s strategy to continue attacking the United States,” the congressman said. “Al Qaeda is actively targeting the American Muslim community for recruitment.”

At a press conference after the hearing, King said the next hearing will probably take place in several months and that it could focus on Islamic radicalization in the U.S. prison system.