And yet it does matter. How can anyone work to prevent this kind of thing from happening again without knowing why it happened in this case? Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad’s father says: “I want to know how, who and why this happened to my son. And I say to you, if it happened to my son today, tomorrow it can be your son.” Indeed it can — but to get answers to his questions would entail investigating the Islamic faith and what is going on in mosques inside the United States as well as overseas. And neither Larry Jegley nor anyone else has the stomach for that.
Thus we can be sure: it will happen to more young American men. Because nothing whatsoever is being done to try to make sure that it won’t.
“A father grieves for his son — and the soldiers he’s accused of shooting,” by Kristina Goetz for the Commercial Appeal, March 28 (thanks to Axel):
Every other Saturday, Melvin Bledsoe makes a two-hour drive from Memphis to visit the son he still calls by his given name. […]
Bledsoe studies the face of this dark-haired, brown-eyed 24-year-old in blue prison scrubs and sometimes catches a glimpse of the happy-go-lucky Carlos he raised. Other times, it’s Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the Muslim convert charged in a shooting at a Little Rock Army recruiting center last summer that killed one soldier and injured another.
That day, two privates who’d recently completed basic training were taking a cigarette break outside when Muhammad drove in front of the building and allegedly opened fire.
Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 18, of Jacksonville, Ark., was wounded. Pvt. William A. Long, 23, of Conway, Ark., was shot dead. Long’s mother was in the parking lot and heard the shots. She looked around and saw her son lying on the ground.
Bledsoe wants to understand how his son turned from middle-class Memphis roots to become a self-described member of al-Qaida who waged what he has described as a “jihadi attack on infidel forces.”
“I want to know how, who and why this happened to my son,” Bledsoe said. “And I say to you, if it happened to my son today, tomorrow it can be your son. This is something the American people need to wake up to. Tomorrow they could be looking for someone with blond hair and blue eyes.”
Muhammad’s trial, which is set for June 7, won’t likely provide those answers. Pulaski County prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty in the case in which Muhammad is charged with capital murder, attempted capital murder and 10 counts of unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, won’t explore his religious beliefs or his claimed extremist ties.
“There’s just no need for me to worry about what he says or to try to understand his motivation or anything else,” said Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley. “All I care about is what he did and what I think I can prove that he did. Whether he claims to be a Martian who flew in here on a spaceship or whatever doesn’t matter.”
If we were under Martian attack, that would be a criminally stupid statement. But of course we are under Islamic jihad attack, and no one (except me) will say that Jegley is criminally stupid for ignoring that. Instead, most will hail his freedom from “bigotry” and “Islamophobia.”
Bledsoe, 54, says his heart “bleeds for the families of the victims.” But he believes the case has broader implications than authorities admit. In the months since the shooting, he has begun his own investigation.
Bledsoe says his son began to change about a year and a half into his studies at Tennessee State University in Nashville, shortly after his first brush with the law.
“He decided to go off to Knoxville one night with a group of other guys and got into some trouble,” Bledsoe said. “He was arrested for having illegal guns and a little marijuana.”
But the charges were dropped and expunged from his record, according to Bledsoe. The incident “scared him straight.” He wanted to change his life but didn’t think he was getting enough from the Baptist church. He checked out a synagogue, then a Nashville mosque.
His son started watching Malcolm X movies and read the teachings of Louis Farrakhan but soon became a Sunni Muslim. Bledsoe believes that foreign nationals his son met in Nashville led him to extremist ideas.
Over time, his son became deeply observant, and family members became concerned that he was too focused on religion. But they never heard him talk about extremist ideas or doing harm to anyone. He was “just someone trying to find his way in life,” Bledsoe said.
In 2007, Carlos Bledsoe legally changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. In September of that year, he traveled to Yemen to teach English and learn Arabic to better study the Quran. He told his family he wanted to find a wife.
“I did not like it,” Bledsoe said. “But, you have a year’s contract at this place where you’re going to teach. I’m saying to myself, ‘You aren’t going to like it. In a year’s time, you’ll be dying to get back.'”
Muhammad kept in touch every so often. Then one night after he’d been in Yemen about a year, Bledsoe got a late-night phone call from a woman whose English was so broken he could hardly understand her. It was Muhammad’s wife, Reena. They got disconnected. Bledsoe worried that something was terribly wrong.
A few days later, they reconnected. Reena told Bledsoe that his son was in prison because he’d overstayed his visa. He later learned that Muhammad also had a fake Somali passport. After more than three months in jail, Muhammad was deported.
About four months after his return, he was working at a new office of his father’s tour bus company in Little Rock. His family had no sense of what was to come.
On June 1, law enforcement officials say, Muhammad allegedly waged his attack with an assault rifle.
Not long after his arrest, Muhammad made a collect call from jail to The Associated Press to say the killing was justified because of U.S. military action in the Middle East. In January, he wrote a letter to the judge, saying he wanted to plead guilty to all charges and was affiliated with al-Qaida.
“I wasn’t insane or post-traumatic, nor was I forced to do this act, which I believe,” he wrote, “and it is justified according to Islamic laws and the Islamic religion. Jihad — to fight those who wage war on Islam and Muslims.”…
Bledsoe’s questions remain unanswered. He wants to know why his son’s case isn’t in federal court, and how he was able to buy a gun at a Walmart in Little Rock despite being interviewed previously by the FBI.
Bledsoe said Muhammad was interviewed by a Nashville-based FBI agent during his incarceration in Yemen and that the same agent interviewed him again in Nashville when he returned to the United States. Bledsoe says the FBI should be held accountable for what he believes is negligence in not preventing the attack.
“The FBI knew exactly what the hell was going on and they did nothing to stop it,” he said. “No, they did not pull the trigger, but they allowed it to happen.”…
Daris Long, father of the Army private killed in the shooting, has his own questions and criticisms. By classifying his son’s death as nonhostile, the federal government has, he said, “abandoned my son on the battlefield.”
“Being gunned down in uniform by a self-described Islamic warrior obviously does not rise to the level of a terrorist act as far as I can tell under this administration,” the retired Marine officer said. “… The failure to include the death of a serving U.S. soldier and the wounding of another outside an Army office in America’s heartland as a terrorist act by a home-grown jihadist who has ties to Yemen himself is beyond me.”…
Me too, Mr. Long.