WASHINGTON – Slammed as “racist and discriminatory”, US lawmakers decried a congressional hearing on “Islamic radicalization” inside US prisons, accusing the organizer of the probe of targeting the Muslim community in the country.
"Prisons have not served as a major source of jihad radicalization," Bert Useem, a Purdue University sociology professor, told the hearing cited by CNN.
US Congress held a second hearing on Thursday, June 15, on what Representative Peter King says as Islamic ‘radicalization” in US prisons.
King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, claims that the danger of “Islamic radicalization” inside US prisons is seriously growing.
But the claim is rejected by Useem, who said that since the 9/11 attacks, only 178 Muslims have been prosecuted for terrorism or related charges.
But in only 12 cases prison radicalization was a factor, he said.
"If prisons were a major cause of jihadist radicalization, we would expect to see a lot of it, but we don't," Useem added.
The figures drove the ranking Democrat on the committee, Bennie Thompson to say that judging from the information he's seen, "the risk of terrorism originating from Muslim converts in US prisons is small."
King has already stirred uproar earlier this year by holding a probe into what he called “radicalization” of American Muslims.
King accused Muslim leaders of not cooperating with law enforcement authorities in fighting terrorism, drawing fire from several Muslim and non-Muslim Americans.
The hearing drew fire from US officials and Muslims for stigmatizing the whole Muslim community in the country.
Congressmen accused King of targeting US Muslims by his hearings.
“Limiting this committee’s oversight of radicalization to one religion ignores threats posed by violent extremists of all stripes,” Thompson told the hearing.
California Democrat Laura Richardson was also critical.
"I actually believe that the focus on one particular group on the basis of race or religion can be deemed as racist and discriminatory," Richardson said, adding that members of other groups could pose threats as well.
Richardson said Latino, Asian and African American gangs often leave prison more violent.
"These groups kill people, individuals in these groups kill people," Richardson said, citing letters from 14 gang-affiliated prisoners who threatened more violence once they were released, The Los Angeles Times reported.
She said blaming "one particular group on the basis of race or religion is flawed, and should not be done in the House of Representatives."
During the hearing, several Democrats asked to review accounts of all radical ethnic and religious groups that are present in the US prison system and pose a threat to homeland security.
“Information is welcome but condemnation is not,” said Senator Sheila Jackson.
“If we look to the informational, we should also include an analysis of how Christian militants are intending to undermine the laws of this nation.”
Democrat lawmaker Hansen Clarke talked about his childhood friends who went to jail but were never able to get their lives back to normal, blaming wrong policies and inefficient prison system.
"We are spending too much money incarcerating young men, young black men whose lives can be saved," Clarke said.
"It's not about Islam. It's about the sentencing policy. It's about this prison system."
June 16, 2011, On islam