WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — Sheriff Lee Baca told a Congressional panel on Thursday that Muslim-Americans in Los Angeles County regularly cooperate with law enforcement officials during an emotional hearing on the rise of radical Islam inside the U.S.
Baca warned that Americans make a “false assumption” when they blame the roots of terrorism on one particular group or ideology.
“To comment only on the extent of radicalization in the Muslim-American community may be viewed as singling out a particular section of our nation. This makes a false assumption that any particular religion or group is more prone to radicalization than others,” Baca said.
Republican Peter King presided over a hearing that saw sharp divisions over how to frame the discussion and avoid stigmatizing Muslims.
King says al-Qaida is trying to recruit young Americans to attack the United States, and the American Muslim community isn’t doing enough to speak out or help police.
While his comments have offended some Muslims, King’s criticism may not be entirely unfounded.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, for instance, has launched one the most aggressive media campaigns in the country, often making itself the public face of the Muslim community when talking about fighting terrorism.
The group — which has an extremely strained relationship with law enforcement after the Justice Department has linked the group to a terror financing case — recently saw its California chapter put up a poster reading, “Build a wall of resistance. Don’t talk to the FBI.”
Bennie Thompson of Misssissippi, the top Democrat on the panel, said he thinks the hearing’s focus on Muslims could be used to inspire terrorists.
Melvin Bledsoe, whose son, Carlos, is charged with killing an Army private at a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., testified about his son’s conversion to Islam and isolation from his family.
Bledsoe said he didn’t fully understand what was happening as his son became increasingly distant, stopped coming home for holidays and changed his name. He said the United State is not being aggressive enough about rooting radical elements from the Islamic community.
“We’re talking about stepping on their toes, and they’re talking about stamping us out,” Bledsoe said. “Why don’t people take their blinders off?”
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