Rep. Peter King's Anecdotal Witnesses Undermine His Case

March 07, 2011 4:24 pm ET — Matt Gertz

As we've previously noted, Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) upcoming hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims represents the triumph of anecdotes over data, featuring the testimony of individuals who have relatives that were radicalized rather than testimony from experts. Now it appears that those anecdotes may actually serve to undermine the thesis of King's hearings.

Rep. Peter King

King will reportedly be calling Melvin Bledsoe, the father of Muslim convert and alleged Little Rock recruiting facility shooter Abdulhakim Muhammad.

But Muhammad's case is not consistent with King's theory. While Bledsoe has said that unnamed "foreign nationals" in Nashville, Tennessee's Muslim community led him to extremism, the FBI, Muhammad's lawyer, and Muhammad himself have all said that he was actually radicalized when he was exposed to "hardened terrorists" while imprisoned in a Yemeni jail.

It is difficult to blame the Muslim American community for not telling law enforcement about Muhammad before his alleged shooting spree. First, law enforcement was already aware that he could be a threat: he was repeatedly interrogated by the FBI following his return from Yemen. Second, according to Muslim leaders, Muhammad rarely attended the local Nashville mosque before his Yemen trip, and never attended the Little Rock mosque after it. Third, those leaders said they do encourage their communities to tell law enforcement about potential terrorist threats.

Muhammad was also repeatedly in legal trouble before his conversion to Islam, prompting one expert to say that he was at risk for violence regardless of his ideology.

King will also reportedly call Abdirizak Bihi, the uncle of Burhan Hassan, one of a number of Somali American youths who were recruited from Minneapolis by the Al-Shabaab terror group to fight in Somalia.

The resulting investigation is considered a remarkable success story that provides law enforcement with a model for how to interact with a Muslim community that the FBI is reportedly "now trying to replicate nationwide":

The strategy of community outreach developed by [FBI Special Agent In Charge Ralph] Boelter and B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, is now cited as a model that builds on past FBI and Justice Department efforts. To overcome deep suspicion of government agents among the clannish émigré community, Boelter and Jones established regular consultations with local elders and religious leaders. Both men made themselves available to Somali newspapers and television stations in the region. They formed a council of Somali youth, where they learned of the frustrations and sense of split identity among young Somali-American men that made them such inviting targets for terrorist recruiters.

Note how this strategy diverges from the shame-and-scold method King's hearing represents.

If these are the best case studies King has to offer, his hearing is not going to go very far.