Hearing on radical Islam in prisons on tap

June 15, 2011 at 10:23 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. congressman, saying Congress could be briefed on the radicalization of American Muslims in prisons, questioned whether the matter warrants a hearing.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, told The Hill a briefing for background purposes would be good, but "I'm not certain about having a hearing," scheduled for Wednesday.

"I'm not certain if the testimony will reflect any nexus to terrorism in prisons," Thompson said. "I'm convinced that there are very bad people in prisons, but in terms of an organized effort, with either domestic or international affiliations, beyond the Aryan Brotherhood and a few more, I don't see a Muslim or an Islamic conflict in the prison system."

Committee Chairman Pete King, R-N.Y., drew fire in March with his first hearing on the issue of radicalization, as nearly 100 of his Democratic House colleagues urged him to cancel it. Critics said the hearing would further polarize Muslim Americans and government officials.

King defended Wednesday's hearing, saying the witness panel would explain why the issue is one worthy of a hearing.

"We have really done a good job of stopping [al-Qaida] from coming in from overseas, so al-Qaida has now adjusted and is recruiting from within the United States," King told Fox News Tuesday.

"Now, as far as the prisons -- that is literally a captive audience," he said. "And historically, there have been conversions to Islam, which is very good. But the fact is there are also radical imams [and] radical chaplains in the prisons who are converting people not just to Islam, but to radical Islam [and] to jihadism."

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