WASHINGTON – Family members of two young men who were inspired to terrorism, with deadly consequences, plan to tell Congress that the men were victims of brainwashing by radical elements in local Muslim communities, according to prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press.
The remarks are scheduled to be delivered as part of the House Homeland Security Committee's hearing on Islamic radicalization Thursday. Plans for the hearing touched off days of protests from critics who liken it to McCarthyism and the era of communist witch hunts.
But at least in the prepared testimony, there's nothing that indiscriminately labels Muslims as terrorists, as critics had feared.
The hearing has re-ignited a national debate over how to combat a spate of homegrown terrorism. The Obama administration has tried to frame the debate around radicalization in general, without singling out Muslims. Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican who called the hearing, said that's just political correctness, since al-Qaida is the main threat to the U.S.
Melvin Bledsoe, whose son, Carlos, is charged with killing an Army private at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., is scheduled to testify about his son's conversion to Islam and his isolation from his family.
"Carlos was captured by people best described as hunters. He was manipulated and lied to," Bledsoe says in his prepared remarks.
"I have other family members who are Muslims, and they are modern, peaceful, law abiding people," Bledsoe's remarks say.
He blames "the Islamic radicals who programmed and trained my son Carlos to kill."
The committee is also scheduled to hear from Abdirizak Bihi, the uncle of a young Somali-American who was recruited by the terrorist group al-Shabab and was killed shortly after returning to Somalia.
Bihi says "99.9 percent of Muslim Somali-Americans are good citizens who are very grateful for the opportunities they have and are very busy in chasing their American dream."
King said Muslims should not feel threatened by the hearings.
"If there is going to be animosity, I would blame it on my opponents," King said Wednesday in a nationally broadcast interview.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said, "We welcome congressional involvement in this issue."
"In the United States, we don't practice guilt by association," Carney added. "We believe Muslim-Americans are part of the solution."
Elsewhere at the Capitol, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was also scheduled to address the threat of homegrown terrorism Thursday. In his prepared remarks, Clapper says 2010 saw more plots involving homegrown Sunni extremists — those ideologically aligned with al-Qaida — than in the previous year.
"Key to this trend has been the development of a U.S.-specific narrative that motivates individuals to violence," Clapper's remarks say.