»» WNYC's Arun Venugopal is live-blogging the hearings from Washington DC Thursday morning
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is set to hold a long-awaited (and for some, long-lamented) hearing on Muslim extremism in the United States Thursday. Specifically, the hearing will focus on what relationship, if any, exists between radical Islamists, American mosques and other domestic Muslim organizations.
Leading up to this week's hearings, a pro-Muslim demonstration was held in New York City on Sunday, where King was vilified for his insistence on such a hearing. However, another demonstration in favor of King's hearing was held at the same time, during which protesters said it was time for an inquiry into the activities of Muslim Americans.
The list of attendees for the Thursday hearing was released to the public on Monday. Here's a look at who is slated to speak.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Ellison is the lone Muslim member of Congress, and has publicly questioned the validity and motive of King's hearing.
"If you take a hearing like this, and use a congressional investigative committee to investigate a community with the allegation — before we've even had testimony — the allegation that there's no cooperation, I think you're setting a tone of blame and collective guilt, and you're thwarting the very thing you say you want to achieve, which is greater public safety." [CBS News, 3/9/2011]
Watch Rep. Ellison debate Rep. King on CBS News»»
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Wolf has long had his focus on the FBI, the Justice Department and their policies regarding Muslim Americans. He has railed against the Obama administration's proposals to release certain Guantanamo detainees, and in 2009 appeared before Congress to raise questions about the Council of American Islamic Relations and their relationship with HAMAS.
Jasser has criticized other Muslim organizations for supporting "political Islam," an ideology that Jasser blames for terrorist activity.
"We need to focus our efforts more transparently on teaching Muslim youth that the American concepts of liberty and freedom are preferable to sharia and the Islamic state. American Muslims represent the best opportunity to fight Islamist radicalization not because we understand Islam but because we have experienced and understood what American liberty provides to the Muslim experience." [New York Post, 5/24/2010]
Bihi is also the uncle of Burhan Hassan, who was allegedly recruited by Somali radicals to return to Africa and commit acts of terrorism. Hassan was found murdered in Somalia in 2009.
"We believe [Hassan] was killed because he would have been a key person in the investigation into the recruitment (of young Somali men) here in Minneapolis." [Associated Press, 6/9/2009]
Mr. Melvin Bledsoe, Private Citizen
Bledsoe is the father of Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a converted Muslim who claims to be a member of al-Qaida. Muhammad is in prison for allegedly shooting two Army recruiting officers during what he calls a "jihadi attack on infidel forces."
"I want to know how, who and why this happened to my son. And I say to you, if it happened to my son today, tomorrow it can be your son. This is something the American people need to wake up to. Tomorrow they could be looking for someone with blond hair and blue eyes." [The Commercial Appeal, 3/28/2010]
Sheriff Leroy Baca, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
Baca has recognized the assistance Muslim communities have provided to law enforcement in the wake of prior terrorist attacks, but also welcomes the hearing chaired by King.
"The Muslim American community, shortly after 9/11, came together within two days and rallied, and were helpful at that point of confusion that the United States was experiencing.
"I think the hearings provide an opportunity for us to talk about a serious subject in the United States. It's 10 years since 9/11 ... and I think that all of us need to realize that even Muslims were shocked — and Muslims were killed – as victims of the 9/11 attacks. What I believe is that we have to go forward and update ourselves with all the effort that's being made by local law enforcement to reach out and bring public trust policing into the lives of Muslim Americans."