The Danger We Face From Prison Converts To Radical Islam

Originally published at The Minority Report

Or Why We Want To Keep Al-Qaeda Terrorists Out Of American Prisons

Prison systems around the world have become a breeding ground for radical Islam — a place of recruitment for Jihad. Last week, once again this danger was brought home with the arrest of Talib Islam, aka Michael Finton, as he attempted to blow up a Federal Building in Springfield, IL. Finton turned to radical Islam while in prison.

In 2001, in the days following the attacks of 9-11 President Bush was quick to point out that the United States was not at war with Islam — the religion — but with radical ideological elements within that movement.

“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war,” President Bush said in a visit to The Islam Center of Washington, DC on Sept 17, 2001.

But that radical element — that perversion of Islam — that ideology that demands death to anyone who fails to believe and adhere to their strict interpretation of Islam — is growing around the world, including our prison system. The growth of that radicalism threatens world peace as never before.

From France there is a 2005 study found that prisoners were being converted to a radical Salafism in 68 of that nation’s prisons — almost all in large urban centers.

The progression of proselytism appears to be linked to the rise of Salafism, a brand of Islam that preaches a strict observance of 7th century rules and a strong rejection of Western values. Even though the Tablighi movement—which is hostile to violence—remains the dominant Islamic movement in French prisons, an unnamed RG official told Le Figaro on January 13 that “we observe a steady increase of Salafism, with two particularities: a strong rejection of Western values and the legitimacy of violence” to achieve their goals.

A definition of Salafism as it is practiced today can be found here:

The Salafi strand of Islam espouses that Islam was in its purest form during the days of the Prophet Muhammad. Salafism is a term that is often used interchangeably with Wahhabism, which holds to the purging of all things non-Islamic from the world, and the common goal of creating a world Islamic state.

The French study found that the imprisonment of terrorists associated with the Algerian GIA in the 1990’s is now bringing forth the fruits of radical recruitment to Jihad today — as a result of their proselytism within the French penal system.

Prisoners, already with a grievance against the authorities who have imprisoned them, are a natural breeding ground for malcontents.

American prisons are likewise a source of this radicalism, and have been for a long time. Abdul Rahman, aka James Cromitie, converted to radical Islam in a New York prison, and was arrested last May with three other men for attempting to blow up two Synagogues in that state.

The four men all attended the Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque, which has not been implicated in support of terrorism.

The mosque’s head imam, Salahuddin Mustafa Mohammad, an ex-con himself who has worked as an Islamic cleric at the Fishkill correctional facility, said he remembered seeing Cromitie around the mosque only a handful of times, and had no recollection of either Williams ever being there.

Part of the problem in the United States is that the government is either unable, or unwilling to fully vet those Imams allowed to preach in the prison system. Take the case, for instance, of Warith Deen Umar, Director of Ministerial Services for the New York State Department of Correctional Services.

Umar, aka Wallace Gene Marks before his conversion to Islam, was convicted in 1971 of conspiracy to murder New York city policemen. In 1976 he was granted parole, and was hired by the State of New York as a Muslim Prison Chaplain.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February 2003 Umar’s thoughts about the attack on 9-11.

The hijackers should be honored as martyrs, he said. The U.S. risks further terrorism attacks because it oppresses Muslims around the world. “Without justice, there will be warfare, and it can come to this country, too,” he said. The natural candidates to help press such an attack, in his view: African-Americans who embraced Islam in prison.

Much of this prison outreach is paid for by our ally, the government of Saudi Arabia, which has embraced the Wahhabi sect of Islam for more than a century.

Prison dawa, or the spreading of the faith, has become a priority for many Muslim groups in the U.S. and the Saudi Arabian government, which runs what spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir calls a “prison outreach” program. The Islamic Affairs Department of its Washington embassy ships out hundreds of copies of the Quran each month, as well as religious pamphlets and videos, to prison chaplains and Islamic groups who then pass them along to inmates.

In his position with the state of New York, Umar was able to place many radical Salafists in positions controlling the Islamic messages heard in prisons throughout the New York prison system.

And through their proselytism they have converted hundreds, if not thousands of malcontents into radical Islam — and this is a process taking place in prisons all over the world.

“There are very few legitimate imams serving in prisons in places like France, and self-made characters are free to operate – and these are radicals,” said terrorism expert Michael Radu of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

“Every (terrorist) attack has converts, and most of them have criminal records and were converted within prisons,” he said, noting the cases of British “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid and José Emilio Suárez Trashorras, the Spaniard who supplied the explosives used in the 2004 Madrid bombings — both of whom converted while incarcerated.

At least two of the terrorists involved in the Madrid Bombings were converted to radical Islam in this way.

Incarcerated for petty crimes, Trashorras, who was a nominal Christian, and Jamal Ahmidan, a nonobservant Muslim, were both indoctrinated into radical Islam in prison and joined an al-Qaida linked Moroccan group that used drug trafficking to fund terrorist activities before taking lead roles in the deadly train bombings.

The United States should think long and hard before we willingly bring the Guantanamo Bay terrorists onto American soil. There is already a very real threat from the radicalization of our prison population.