Rep. André Carson To Become First Muslim On House Committee On Intelligence : The Two-Way In a 2014 interview, Carson said it's impossible to combat the threat of global terror without help from Muslims.

Rep. André Carson To Become First Muslim On House Committee On Intelligence

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Earlier this month, Congressman Andre Carson, a Democrat from Indiana's 7th district, became the first Muslim representative to serve on the House intelligence committee. Conservative pundits have raised quite a few concerns about Carson since came to Capitol Hill seven years ago. NPR's Jasmine Garsd has this profile.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Congressman Andre Carson believes in the law. But as a young black man, he didn't always have faith in the system.

ANDRE CARSON: I can remember being a teenager, being stopped every weekend, being harassed walking to the grocery store for no reason. Me and my friends - stop. Get on the car.

GARSD: This was the early '90s, around the same time as the Rodney King riots.


GARSD: There was a similar distrust of the police in the rundown area of Indianapolis where he grew up. Carson remembers the music that expressed so much anger.

CARSON: During that time, Public Enemy was popular. NWA - you had all these different groups who were highlighting police brutality. And I shared their sentiment at the time, even though I had seen a few good police officers.

GARSD: Carson, who was raised a Baptist, says the Muslim groups in his community caught his attention.

CARSON: These groups were bold in terms of wanting to take back their communities. And it was that sense of righteous indignation that really had an impact on me.

GARSD: Politics wasn't new for Carson. His grandmother, who raised him, was U.S. Congresswoman Julia Carson.

MATTHEW TULLY: People loved her or hated her. There was really no middle ground.

GARSD: That's Matthew Tully, a reporter with the Indianapolis Star. He says Julia Carson was known for two things.

TULLY: I mean, she played hardball politics. But also - just a very outspoken, liberal politician at a time where that was, you know, still pretty rare.

GARSD: Andre Carson says he didn't want to go into politics. Instead, he became a policeman and then went into counterterrorism at the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. In 2007, when his grandmother passed away, he was elected to fill her seat. He became the second Muslim to serve in Congress. Since coming to Washington in 2008, Carson has repeatedly won reelection. Yet early on in his political career, he sparked controversy with some of his comments.


SEAN HANNITY: Democratic Congressman Andre Carson is coming under heavy fire for a speech that he delivered.

GARSD: Fox News host Sean Hannity is referring to this speech Carson gave to the Islamic Circle of North America in 2012.


CARSON: America will never tap into educational innovation and ingenuity without looking at the model that we have in our madrasas, in our schools, where innovation is encouraged, where the foundation is the Quran.


HANNITY: This is very simple for me. I mean, you don't believe in his backtracking. He was very clear that ingenuity we have in our madrasa and where the foundation is the Quran. He wasn't talking about all faiths there. He was talking about madrasas. Aren't madrasas where the radicalism is taught?

GARSD: Carson says the attacks were not justified.

CARSON: There are huge successes that are happening in our schools. We have a country where a significant population of our kids are graduating in our schools who are functionally illiterate. My wife's a school principal. And so I was simply saying be proud of the innovations that are taking place.

GARSD: Several conservative pundits were in uproar when Carson, a Muslim, was appointed to the intelligence committee. Carson says he believes only an approach that includes the Muslim community can combat terrorism.

CARSON: We can't win the war against terrorism without getting help from Muslims. Congress should reflect the diversity of our nation, and our committee should reflect that same diversity, particularly the intelligence committee.

GARSD: Congressman Carson believes the us-versus-them approach isn't working. And he feels as a member of the intelligence committee, he's in a position to help shape the conversation. Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, Washington.

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