COMMENT: The year was 2004 — Swofford - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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COMMENT: The year was 2004 — Swofford
Muslims can feel under siege and on the defensive. There is rarely a collective sigh of relief when terror plots are uncovered on our soil. The terror operatives usually share a distinct and undeniable bond. They are radicalised Muslims

Having just finished reading a lengthy statement given before the Sub-committee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, my eyes moved to my e-mail contact list. Clicking on the name of a Muslim scholar and self-taught Muhaddithun, this was no longer about shadowboxing but about connecting the punch. My scholarly antagonist was assisting me as I read through the Quran for the first time and had opened the world of the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). We exchanged hundreds of e-mails, many which surged with political fire. It was time to shake him up a bit. His name, public statements and organisational activities were on full display for committee hearings. He was not thrilled when receiving “the news”.

Fast forward to March 10, 2011. Representative (Rep) Peter King (Republican, New York), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee presides over a four-hour inquiry into the radicalisation of Muslims in the US. Rep Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota and the first Muslim elected to Congress gives critical voice against the proceedings in the days leading up to the inquiry. The stress hits Rep Ellison on this day of reckoning and he delivers a very public emotional display during his testimony to the committee.

Having already received an e-mail from a Palestinian lawyer in the DC area, and checking the emotional pulse of area Muslims prior to March 10, the mood is one of persecution as opposed to protection. The emotions also display in oscillating fashion during the hearings. The Democrats perform as expected, delivering the rhetoric that positions them to stand on the shoulders of the victim. Democrats have always considered themselves the voice of the downtrodden in the US. Republicans are cast as the underbelly of callous disregard. Rep Loretta Sanchez (Democrat, California) issues a startling revelation that she believes citizens should not speak to the FBI without dragging along a lawyer. Grandstanding is also best accomplished with a copy of the constitution held aloft and such was the case when Rep Sheila Jackson Lee (Democrat, Texas) declared the hearing an effort to “castigate” Muslims. Four hours of hearings. Three million American Muslims with a stake thrust into the heart.

The quieter emotions were those attached to expressions of grief. Melvin Bledsoe faces life with the knowledge that after his son converted to Islam he became radicalised and travelled to Yemen. There is little doubt the young adult’s path toward radicalisation began on American soil. Returning to the US bent on committing an act of extreme violence, he now faces capital murder charges for allegedly killing one military recruiter and wounding another in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2009. Carlos Bledsoe is a threat to society not because he is a Muslim, but because he became a radicalised Muslim. Mr Bledsoe issues a warning: “Our children are in danger.” Abdirizak Bihi testified on behalf of the family of his nephew, a radicalised youth who took off for Somalia with a few friends to pick up the cause of jihad. Life played out on a glorious personal stage is fine. We just will not allow the stage to be set for sedition in the US — not for native born, not for immigrant.

My own request to American Muslims in light of the hearing has been simple enough. This abbreviated hearing is an ember. Muslims harm themselves by adding the wood to create a bonfire. Month after month and year after year since 9/11 our Congressional leadership has considered a plethora of issues related to national security: training for first responders, port security, coordination of government and private sector industry against cyber attack, biological and chemical security, etc. This is government at work. This is work on behalf of the nation. It also includes work on behalf of American Muslims.

Muslims can feel under siege and on the defensive. There is rarely a collective sigh of relief when terror plots are uncovered on our soil. The terror operatives usually share a distinct and undeniable bond. They are radicalised Muslims.

Sure, there are oppositional political forces at work within the marketplace of ideas. Much of the anti-jihad industry is as useful as teats on a boar. Some function as little better than hometown police blotters. But it remains a thriving cottage industry with the best players developing conferences and symposiums useful to platform their thoughts and sell their books. Such activities do not drive policy. Policy regarding national security is driven by substantiated concerns and not the political writings of bloggers and pundits. I include my own writing.

A countering political force is the interfaith dialogue crowd. Concerned individuals interface with the academic community. These meetings are usually smaller and have a cosier feel to them. The Catholic community is highly engaged in this activity and I have been in attendance at two events where Christian-Muslim relations received active discussion.

Ideas are like tributaries. They move toward the common stream. When the tributaries all come together the collective force of the flow creates a place where filtration and fresh water can be found. It is when tributaries are blocked that stagnation can occur. So within the US we do not fear freedom of expression. It provides the means to tackle problems and make our country better.

Government hearings also identify problems and correct deficiencies. And in all the clamour and clashing of swords, the reality of the US is always much greater than any current political noise. The constitution and levers of governance work well for us. And in all of the current fuss I retain a secret smile. A man who has deep roots in the soil of Texas is a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). His name is Elibiary Mohamed. He is a Muslim.

The writer is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserves. She is a Nurse Corps officer who resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has written articles and book reviews for the Marine Corps Gazette, and Op-Ed commentary for the Dallas Morning News

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