by Lisa Piraneo, Director of Government Relations
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Yesterday, the U.S House of Representatives took another giant step forward in addressing the threat radical Islam poses to America. Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter T. King (R-NY), held his second in a series of hearings on Muslim-American radicalization; this one entitled “The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons.”
As I watched the discussion during the hearing, I Tweeted about it too, so that our ACT! for America members—as well as others who are concerned about this threat—could see what Members of the U.S. Congress are saying and doing about it. While there certainly were not as many “rabble rousers” as there had been for Chairman King’s first hearing on Muslim radicalization, there was some political drama, nonetheless.
For example, Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) alleged that the focus of Chairman King’s hearing “can be deemed as racist and as discriminatory.” The Chairman immediately fired back by saying that “the purpose of this Committee is to combat Islamic terrorism because that is the terrorist threat to this country.” Watch the exchange HERE.
In response to Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) commenting that “the political correctness in this room is astounding,” Rep. Shiela Jackson-Lee (D-TX) held up a copy of the Constitution replying that the document is where she finds her “version of political correctness.” She went on further to state that there is a parallel between Christian militants and jihadists when it comes to bringing down the Constitution.
Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) ranted on for several-minutes about the real problem being the overcrowding of prisons due to unfair sentencing guidelines and claimed that prisoners were turning to Islam to “protect themselves.”
All that said, and as I remarked in my hearing Tweets, the discussion about Islamic radicalization by the House Homeland Security Committee was one of the most productive I have seen, not only during the 112th Congress, but for years. Aside from the ludicrous statements uttered by some on the Committee (a few noted above), most of the comments focused on important issues about who is being radicalized within our prison system, and who is doing the radicalization.
There was ample discussion about very pertinent issues, such as the rise of Islamic ideology in the U.S. prison system; sharia law and its incompatibility with the U.S. Constitution; the groups who are certifying prison chaplains; and the threat of ex-inmates from America traveling overseas to locations such as Yemen to receive militant training.
While I felt that two of the witnesses spoke eloquently and accurately about the matter, two were a big disappointment to me:
Deputy Chief Michael Downing, Commanding Officer of the LA Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, and
Professor Bert Useem of Purdue University.
Chief Downing repeatedly tried to distinguish “Islam” from what he referred to as “Prislam,” and said that all jihadis had “hijacked” the Islamic faith. As I listened to him, I wondered if he has taken the time to read sharia law, the Qur’an and the hadiths? If he did, I think he would understand that what the “radicalized” Muslims are adhering to is an ideology that is clearly enunciated within Islam’s holy books and has been practiced for 14 centuries. His statements reminded me that a great deal of educating at local, state and federal levels still needs to be done.
Professor Useem made several amazingly naïve assertions, one of which was that “correctional leadership (at both the agency and prison-level) has consciously and successfully infused the mission of observing signs of inmate radicalization into organizational practices. Rather than being sitting ducks, waiting for their facilities to be penetrated by radicalizing groups, correctional leaders have fashioned, staffed, and energized the effort to defeat radicalization.”
Successfully? Energized? Hardly. This was clearly demonstrated when Chairman King had his turn to question the witnesses and asked Retired Deputy Inspector of the NY Dept. of Correctional Services, Patrick Dunleavy how a convicted murderer got certified by the Islamic Leadership Council to serve as a prison “Chaplain.” See that exchange and others between Chairman King and the witnesses HERE.
It was also refreshing to see so many freshmen Members of Congress ask excellent, pointed questions of the witnesses and demonstrate a clear understanding the issue. We saw this also during Chairman King’s first hearing. There is not much “getting up to speed” that these folks need to do. They have obviously already done their homework and are ready to go.
A few examples:
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) asked if Shariah law would supersede the U.S. Constitution for radicalized Muslims. A chorus of “Yes” was heard from most of the witnesses.
Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) remarked that he was disappointed to see some members of the committee question why a hearing of this nature needed to take place. That the threat of Islamic radicalization in our prisons is clear.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) commented how remarkable it is that a discussion about the threat of radical Islam appeared to be “off limits.” He also expressed concerns about literature found in U.S. prisons, such as writings by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, that ask: Which do you choose, the flag of Islam or the flag of America?
At ACT! for America, we’ve been encouraging our members to reach out to elected officials who clearly have taken the time to educate themselves about the threat radical Islam and sharia law pose to our nation. The outreach is to encourage them to continue doing so. It is evident by the comments made by so many members of the House Homeland Security Committee yesterday that this grassroots contact is making a difference.
Action by our grassroots is the fuel that makes the ACT! for America engine run. As we wait for Chairman King’s third hearing on Islamic radicalization (date and topic still to be determined), it’s nice to see that the engine is roaring loud and strong.
Please keep it up.