Accuracy in Media

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) got some headlines for breaking down in tears during the Homeland Security Committee hearing on Thursday, but another witness, Abdirizak Bihi, Director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, offered something more newsworthy—an indictment of Ellison himself.

Although he didn’t identify Ellison by name, Bihi’s criticism of local leaders, religious and political, was seen as partly a reference to Ellison being an obstacle to finding out what happened to 20 Somali young people who had disappeared from Ellison’s congressional district and showed up in Somalia as terrorists.

No wonder Ellison had called the hearing a “witch-hunt.” He was the witch.

As noted in advance by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “Bihi has been publicly critical of Ellison’s handling of the disappearance of some 20 Somali youths recruited by a Jihadist group in their native country.” Bihi’s nephew Burhan Hassan was killed in Somalia after traveling there to join Al-Shabbab, a terrorist organization working to overthrow the Somali government.

But it wasn’t just Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. The Star-Tribune previously reported that Bihi had “accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Minnesota chapter of discouraging local Somalis from cooperating with the FBI” in trying to find out what happened.

The FBI had cited CAIR’s links to terrorist groups. But Ellison has worked with CAIR and has spoken at their events.

In his opening statement, chairman Peter King (R-NY) called on the media to tell the truth about CAIR. He noted that CAIR “was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorist financing case involving the Holy Land Foundation” and that “In the lead-up to this hearing I found it shocking and sad that the mainstream media accepted CAIR’s accusations as if it were a legitimate organization.”

King added, “Thankfully, FBI Director Mueller has ordered the FBI to cease all dealings and contact with CAIR. I would hope that all law enforcement officials would follow the lead of the FBI Director.”

The witness invited by the Democratic members of the committee was Sheriff Leroy Baca of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He said, in response to questions from the Republican side, that he was not familiar with CAIR’s terrorist links.

Bihi was restricted, like other witnesses, to five minutes in his opening remarks. In his prepared testimony, Bihi went into detail about how the leadership of his local mosque, as well as CAIR, obstructed the search for the missing youth. He said, “the mosque leadership was always in the mode of ‘double-speak,’ claiming to the larger community in English that they were victims of our efforts to find our ‘fake’ missing children and creating open house events in the mosque where big organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) would stand beside the mosque leaders and support them blindly, without having ever met with the families of the missing Somali youths (even though we had requested several times to meet with CAIR, but never did as we were left without a response).”

As he began making progress in the inquiry, he said, “powerful organizations such as CAIR stepped into our community and stifled whatever progress we had made by trying to tell our Somali American community not to cooperate with law enforcement. CAIR held meetings for some members of the community and told them not to talk to the FBI, which was a slap in the face for the Somali American Muslim mothers who were knocking on doors day and night with pictures of their missing children and asking for the community to talk to law enforcement about what they know of the missing kids. It was a slap in the face for community activists who had invested time and personal resources to educate the community about forging a good relationship with law enforcement in order to stop the radicalization and recruitment of our children. We held three different demonstrations against CAIR, in order to get them to leave us alone so we can solve our community’s problems, since we don’t know CAIR and they don’t speak for us. We wanted to stop them from dividing our community by stepping into issues that don’t belong to them.”

He said that CAIR and other Islamic organizations had ignored problems “such as the radicalization of our vulnerable youth, a growing trend of human trafficking and increasing youth violence. We regret the silencing and intimidation faced by leaders and activists who dare to speak out on the real challenges that keep our youth and community vulnerable to radicalization. Burying our heads in the sand will not make this problem go away.”

In his testimony, however, Ellison rebutted the charges, saying, “Unfortunately, some leaders continue to misrepresent events in my own community of Minneapolis. For example, this week the Chairman [Peter King] was on the Morning Joe TV show and said, ‘how about the number of young Somali men who went to Somalia and the Imams and the leaders in the Minneapolis Muslim community refused to cooperate [with them] at all. They were denying for a long time that they even left.’”

King’s statement was based on what Bihi had been saying about the lack of cooperation he was getting from some local Muslim leaders, including Ellison.

Ellison claimed, “This sweeping statement regarding the community I represent is simply not true.” But Bihi’s testimony was proof of the claim.

Ellison testified that he had made a presentation, sponsored by the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress (CAP), called “Strengthening America’s Security: Identifying, Preventing and Responding to Domestic Terrorism.”

He explained, “My presentation addressed causes of violent extremism and solutions for prevention and intervention.”

Ellison should know something about domestic terrorism, having been a vocal supporter of communist terrorists such as Sara Jane Olson, a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), and Bernardine Dohrn, the former leader of the communist terrorist Weather Underground. In a speech, Ellison had also praised cop-killers Mumia Abu-Jamal, on death row in Pennsylvania, and Joanne Chesimard (aka Assata Shakur), who escaped the U.S. and is now living under the protection of the Castro dictatorship.

His advice to the CAP audience was for Congress to introduce and pass a bill to end racial profiling. In an interview afterward with CAP’s Think Progress blog, he attacked the use of Predator drones to assassinate suspected terrorists.

Ironically, he declared in this July 14, 2010 event that “Congress should also empanel a commission to study the roots of radicalization. Now, such a proposal was made in the recent past. I supported it, received some criticism from some friends. But I think the real problem is not that we would study the roots of radicalization, but that we don’t know nearly enough about it.”

He went on, “We need to know more about violent radicalization. What turns people towards this? Why? When? Where? Who is susceptible; who’s not? And we need to use that information not to violate civil and human rights, but to promote conditions where people feel integrated, a part and trusting of their government.”

Yet, when Rep. King convenes a hearing on this very topic, Ellison leads the opposition and asks to be included as a critical witness. Perhaps his turnaround had to do with the fact that he had anticipated that one of the other witnesses would be critical of his performance in finding out what happened to the Somali youth and how they were turned into terrorists.

Ellison’s tears in his testimony came in discussing a Muslim-American who died while working as a paramedic during the 9/11 attacks. “As he concluded his testimony, Ellison knocked his glasses to wipe away tears, and briefly covered his face with the papers from which he had been reading,” noted the Star-Tribune.

Ellison did not weep for the Somali young people from his own district who were killed in Somalia. They included Bihi’s 18-year-old nephew, who was shot and killed.

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