Marvin Bledsoe said in today's House Homeland Security Committee hearings on Islamic extremism that Bledsoe had been sent to a terrorist training camp in Yemen by the former imam of Al-Farooq Mosque. "What happened to Carlos at those Nashville mosques isn't normal."
Yet so far, there's been no evidence that the assertion is at all true. The prevailing theory at the FBI — and of Bledsoe's own lawyer — has been that he was radicalized in Yemen. Born and raised in the Baptist Church, he converted to Islam while attending TSU and worshiped regularly at the Islamic Center. In 2007, he decided to visit Mecca and learn Arabic. He got a job teaching English in the port city of Aden in Yemen and married a student. Some of his students, his lawyer once claimed, were Afghans who'd been maimed in the war, souring the young man on the U.S. and its military.
Much about Bledsoe's life in that country remains unknown, but just months after his wedding he was picked up for overstaying his visa. Authorities discovered he was carrying a fake Somali ID — an immediate red flag because the failed state is known as a terrorist training ground. Bledsoe was interviewed by FBI officials soon after and was deported roughly two-and-a-half months later. It was that time spent in Yemeni lock-up, however, that likely radicalized Bledsoe, the FBI believes, not some Nashville imam. Nor, as Bledsoe has claimed, was he a member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. All indications so far point to a troubled young man acting on his own.
At the outset, critics have worried that the hearings held by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Peter King (R-NY) would do little more than inflame hostility against Muslims — particularly at a time when nearly half of those responding to a Washington Post/ABC poll report unfavorable views of Islam. At least one committee member said today that the hearings were taking the country "down a dangerous path" — and one not without its antecedent when minorities are singled out in a climate of fear and anger.