“At 10:56 on the first of June 2009 I became the father of a dead soldier. Nothing changes that…. He was a soldier wearing a uniform of his country who went to work that day and was attacked for it…. We are speaking not out of hate, but because our country needs to hear the truth. As long as this country doesn’t recognize what is going on, as long as they turn a blind eye to it when it’s just out there to see – I can’t bury my son.” – Daris Long
Reviewed by Susan Freis Falknor
Two families from the American heartland lost their sons when four 7.62 mm rounds rang out at an Army-Navy Career Center in a Little Rock shopping mall June 1, 2009. This is their story, narrated largely by the fathers of these soldiers through on-screen interviews.(Click here for trailer.)
One father is Melvin Bledsoe, a black citizen of Memphis, owner of a small business, the Blues City Tourist Company bus tours. His son, Carlos, who by 2009 was going by the name of Abdulhakim Muhammad, was arrested immediately for the Little Rock shooting. He testified to his Jihadist motives in a letter to the judge, and received a life sentence without possibility of parole.
How did it happen? In 2003 Carlos, a middle class Baptist youth, a “happy-go-lucky kid… young and impressionable” according to his father, headed toTennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville to study business administration.
Drawn to the near-campus Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN), he converted to Islam in 2004, then journeyed to Yemen supposedly to teach English, where he received Al Qaeda training. The FBI had reportedly kept tabs on Bledsoe for years and even interviewed him during his stay in Yemen.
Melvin Bledsoe relates that Carlos was “brainwashed” and “manipulated” in the Nashville mosques and then got the “hard approach” in Yemen.
Bledsoe returned home in 2009, and moved to Little Rock to expand the family business, but went on a Jihadist rampage.
He trolled for targets in several states, shot at one rabbi’s home, tried to fire-bomb another, and then sprayed two U.S. soldiers with rifle fire as they stood in front of the Little Rock recruiting center where they were stationed while waiting to ship out overseas.
Andy’s mother, waiting to pick him up after work, witnessed the shooting from the parking lot.
One of the soldiers, Quinton Ezeagwula survived. The other, 23-year-old William “Andy” Long of Little Rock, did not.
The other father, then, is Daris Long (U.S. Marine Corps retired).
He and Andy’s mother Janet kept silent for two years. But — although no stranger to military sacrifice and sudden death — something deeply rankled in the heart of the retired Marine: the refusal of the military and the commander in chief to honor Andy as a fallen foot soldier serving his country.
Although his son had been targeted by a confessed Jihadist solely because he was wearing the uniform of a U.S. soldier — Andy was not to receive the Purple Heart. The Department of Justice considered his death to be an ordinary crime, a drive-by shooting — much as the attack by American-born Muslim, Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 12 soldiers and a civilian at Fort Hood, Texas on November 5, 2009, was termed merely workplace violence.
The film depicts two powerful personal stories. But “Losing Our Sons” achieves also great value for the brilliance with which it sets the personal stories in a national-security context.
Because the flim does such an outstanding job of weaving in these layers of context, the film becomes a notable learning tool — a kind of The Outrage of Homegrown Jihad 101.
The Outrage of Homegrown Jihad 101
Context: When Carlos Bledsoe arrived in the country music capital of America in 2003 to go to college, “the city was already changing,” according to the film. Nashville was one of the American towns chosen under the 1980 Federal Refugee Act – which launched a program now grown to a billion-dollar budget with buy-ins from numerous nonprofit resettlement agencies — to receive flows of immigrants from war-torn areas such as Somalia, and the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Unlike most immigrants, refugees are entitled to welfare. They are supposed to receive employment assistance and other benefits from often-faith-labeled-but-government-funded nonprofits. As Don Barnett’s exhaustive analysis (CIS) says of the flawed refugee resettlement program:
“…The assimilation model has been completely abandoned in favor of an enforced multiculturalism. This missed opportunity may be the biggest tragedy of the irresponsibility of the contractors such as Catholic Charities . . . and its parent, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the leading resettlement contractor.”
Context: Nashville’s new Muslim community quickly developed mature institutions, under the guidance of imams granted special visas. As of 2008, there were six mosques, a Muslim graveyard, and a madrassa school in Nashville, according to Rebecca Bynum and Elizabeth Noble in their “Muslim Organization in Nashville, Tennessee: An Overview” (New English Review).
Bledsoe frequented the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) and the ethnically Somali Al-Farook mosques. In 2010 the Islamic Center of Tennesseeopened, a mega-mosque built in the shell of a 10-theater Cineplex. Nashville also established a strong Muslim Student Association (MSA) and outreach organizations such as the Olive Tree Educational Foundation, which offered classes on the TSU campus.
Context: “By their fruits ye shall know them”—Matthew 7:10. After his conversion in 2004, Carlos took down from the wall in his room his childhood posters and even that of the family hero, Martin Luther King. Although Carlos had “all his life had a dog,” he now took the animal out to a wooded area and abandoned it. “He no longer wanted to listen to the music that he always loved and only wanted to read his Koran.”
Context: Although “mostly a moderate and peaceful people” acknowledges the film, the new Muslim-American community undoubtedly had, and has, a radical leadership. Leaders include: ICN Imam and volunteer chaplain at Vanderbilt University Ahwad Binhazam; Islamic Center spokesman Amir Arain; Imam Ahmedulhadi Sharif Ibrahimand of the new Islamic Center of Tennessee; Homeland Security consultant and ICN cleric Mohamed Ahmed; and ICN’s Abdulhakim Mohamed (Carlos would take his name).
Context: The film shows Binhazam speaking at an MSA forum at Vanderbilton the duty to enforce Shariah law around the world. He preaches contempt for Jews and Christians. According to Binhaden, Christianity is the “greatest lie of all time,” a religion that produces “stunted and contorted hypocrites instead of full grown human beings.” Part of the doctrine is that Bible texts were altered by early “corrupt priests” to mask the “truth” that Abraham, Moses, and Jesus were actually Muslims. Literature defending this perspective is to be found in the ICN library.
In answer to a question in a 2010 MSA forum, Binhazim acknowledges that homosexuals are “to be killed” under Islam. The film shows ICN’s Imam Ahmed Mohammed in the spring of 2011 giving a lecture in Nashville in which he defended the Egyptian police’s forced “virginity tests” reportedly performed on female protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo.
The film shows Binhazim putting forth the chilling proposition, antithetical to American culture, that “Islam is not about personal opinion… I don’t have a choice whether or not to accept or reject certain teachings.”
Context: Throughout the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks, national Islamist institutions such as the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have carried out a highly disingenuous “anti-Islamophobia” campaign to discredit anyone who drew attention to this dangerous ideology.
Context: The film sets out the “systemic failure of key institutions in our society” to rightly assess and defend against domestic Jihadism. Tennessee State and Vanderbilt University “knowingly allowed radical Islamists on campus” while the “well-intentioned” and credulous community leaders of Nashville, taken in hand by the Olive Tree Foundation, kept a “silence.”
At the national level, the Department of Defense purged descriptive phrases such as “radical Islam” or “jihad” from their training manuals, thereby surrendering the power to clearly name the enemy. The film showcases Paul N. Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, defending the government’s policy of verbal appeasement as the wisest approach. Meanwhile, there have been more than 30 threats and plots against U.S. military installations since 9/11, according to the film.
Context: The film explains that Nashville’s leading newspaper, The Tennessean, gave, and continues to give, upbeat coverage to the activities of the local imams while attacking and distorting the motives of critics of radical Islam.
Context: In May 2011 Sen. Bill Ketron educated his fellow Tennessee state senators with an earlier version of this video. The counter-terrorism bill he sponsored, which updates the Tennessee Terrorism Prevention Act of 2002, although vigorously attacked, passed 26-3 and went into effect July 1.
On December 7 of last year, chairman King, and Joe Lieberman chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee heard Daris Long testify at their “Joint House-Senate Hearing on Homegrown Terror Threat to Military Communities.”
Dismissive if not hostile reactions from House Committee members such as Representatives Laura Richardson, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Jackie Speier — revealed in the film — illustrate the deep divide among politicians over the perils of Islamic radicalization.
Governor Mike Huckabee Weighs In
With a heart-felt endorsement of “Losing Our Sons” on the Huckabee program this month, the story that these two fathers want to tell is finally getting a long-overdue airing.
Melvin Bledsoe goes to the root of the matter:
“I want to be able to say to the American people and to the world. It happened to my son today. Tomorrow … your son.”