On June 1, 2009, William “Andy” Long was murdered at an Army recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas by an Islamist terrorist named Carlos Bledsoe. In a new, heart-wrenching and jaw-dropping film titled Losing Our Sons by Americans for Peace and Tolerance, you see the real story of how this happened. The bottom line is this: The Islamists are operating in our midst, we’re refusing to recognize it, radicalization is no accident and any family can be victimized by it.
The process of Islamist radicalization unfolds before the viewer as the story is told through the eyes of Melvin Beldsoe and Daris Long, the father of the Islamist terrorist and the father of his victim, making the film a powerful emotional journey. Both of them lost their sons at the exact same moment, they explain. The attack wasn’t the result of statistics. Beldsoe wasn’t the inevitable “bad apple” in a large group. This was the fruition of a jihadist process that continues in Nashville and around the world today.
Beldsoe was exposed to radical Islam at Tennessee State University. The school allowed an organization called the Olive Tree Education to host lectures about Islam on campus. The organization’s website promoted sermons by Anwar al-Awlaki and its leader teaches that Muslims must oppose “progressive Islam” that believes Islam isn’t a “state matter.” Muslims are not allowed to have opinions and must form a “reaction to Westernization” that involves implementing Sharia Law. In one clip, the leader is asked whether homosexuality is punishable by death under Islam. He replies in the affirmative.
Bledsoe began going to the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN). He began following the medieval rules of Sharia Law in his own life, viewing them as applicable to today. He was a dog-lover but abandoned his dog in the woods. He loved hip-hop but stopped listening to it. He took down his picture of Martin Luther King, lest Allah view that as a sign of idolatry.
It’s easy to see why that happened when you see the clips of the ICM’s imam in the film. He preaches that the U.S. is the “worst country on earth,” that “the greatest lie of all time” is that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, that Jews believe everyone was solely created to serve them and that Islamic prophecy about a “mass battle and war against the Jews” is coming to pass. The mosque’s library has pro-jihad hate literature funded by the Saudis.
He also attended the Al-Farooq Mosque. Its leadership preached similar extremism to its congregation consisting of mostly Somali refugees. In 2009, I broke a story about counter-terrorism expert Dave Gaubatz’s research into child abuse at the mosque. The former imam of the mosque is the one who provided the required recommendation for Bledsoe to go to Yemen where he was further radicalized and joined Al-Qaeda.
Over 40 Muslim-Americans, almost entirely Somalis, have been recruited by Al-Qaeda. In places like Shelbyville, T.N., where there is a large Somali refugee population, there is tremendous resistance to assimilation. A former CIA case officer’s study of terrorist profiles found that exclusion from society is one of the largest factors in Islamist radicalization. Bledsoe likewise became reclusive and rejected Western society. The film takes aim at the State Department’s $1 billion refugee program and granting of visas to visiting extremist clergy as facilitating the problem.
One part of the film that will enrage viewers is when it shows how government officials are refusing to recognize the Islamist ideology as the problem. The two fathers were excited to speak at Rep. Peter King’s hearings on Islamic radicalization but were condescendingly talked to by several members of Congress. Bledsoe, frustrated with the political correctness in dealing with the Islamist issue, says, “We’re worried about stepping on their toes and they are worried about stamping us out.”
The part of the film that made me shake my head in bewilderment was about how interfaith leaders are embracing the Islamist networks in the Nashville area. One rabbi stood with them against a counter-terrorism law and said Muslim-Americans are in the same position now as Jewish-Germans were when Hitler first came to power.
Shockingly, an interfaith group including a Jewish Federation official attended a speech by the imam of ICN where he legitimized attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq. He said that “If people fight you, you have to fight back” and “defending your country is taken as jihad.” This same imam advises the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security and frequently speaks at churches and synagogues.
In 2010, these same Islamist leaders started the Islamic Center of Tennessee, referred to as a “mega-mosque” in the film. Audio is played of its imam preaching, “He [Allah] told us to fight the Jews and Christians” and “If true Islam…does not rule, there will never be justice.”
Daris Long wants the Army to grant his son a Purple Heart, but his quest and that of Melvin Bledsoe is bigger than that. “I can’t bury my son” until America wakes up, Long says. Bledsoe likewise feels that his son has been taken away from him. No loving and proud father can ever find closure after losing his son, especially when it comes about in this way. But hopefully this film and its viewers’ reaction to it will bring them one step closer.
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.