The Tennessean’s Bob Smietana has another blockbuster story, this time questioning the premise of one of Peter King’s star witnesses, Melvin Bledsoe.
Bledsoe testified yesterday that his “happy-go-lucky” son Carlos became a different person after converting to Islam. He claimed Carlos, who changed his name to Abdul Hakim Muhammad, was “brainwashed” by his conversion. Muhammad has admitted to attempting to burn a Nashville rabbi’s home and shooting an Army private at a recruiting station in Arkansas in 2009.
Bledsoe was just one one of just two witnesses called by King in his attempt to prove that young men are susceptible to recruitment, radicalization, and violence in their local Muslim communities. As was evident yesterday at the hearing, these individual stories were inadequate to prove any sort of broader phenomenon. But now Smietana’s piece demolishes King’s argument. Muhammad, it turns out, had quite a bit of trouble even before his conversion, and was not “radicalized” in mosques.
While the elder Bledsoe claimed his son was radicalized and made violent in mosques, local Muslim leaders in Tennessee don’t remember the young man. From Smietana’s piece:
“Something is wrong with the Muslim leadership in Nashville,” Melvin Bledsoe said, testifying in Washington. “What happened to Carlos at those Nashville mosques isn’t normal.”
But local Muslim leaders say they don’t tolerate any violent behavior or rhetoric in their communities. They say Muhammad attended prayers at two Nashville mosques — the Al-Farooq Islamic Center and the Islamic Center of Nashville — for a short period of time.
Then he disappeared.
What’s more, although Bledsoe blamed his son’s conversion to Islam for his mental health problems, records show those issues pre-dated his conversion:
On Feb. 24, 2004, according to police reports, Muhammad was arrested in Knoxville after police found a shotgun and a loaded assault rifle in his car. During a mental health evaluation to see if he was fit to stand trial for the Little Rock shooting, Muhammad said that he had been a gang member and had used alcohol heavily and marijuana regularly before converting to Islam in late 2004.
This is what King said yesterday, of Bledsoe and another witness who said his nephew was radicalized:
Their courage and spirit will put a human face on the horror which Islamist radicalization has inflicted and will continue to inflict on good families, especially those in the Muslim community, unless we put aside political correctness and define who our enemy truly is.
I’m not holding my breath on a correction from him.
UPDATE: My coverage of the hearing is over at the Nation, in which I report on how the proceedings were an effort to portray American Muslims as clueless and “not intellectually equipped.”