Skip to comments.Breeding Grounds of Terror, Part 1
Posted on 09/25/2003 9:23:50 AM PDT by SLB
CBN.com WASHINGTON, D.C. Islam may be the fastest-growing faith in America today, and it is finding eager converts in prison cellblocks nationwide. But with the increase in jailhouse conversions, some see a sinister threat growing evidence that extremist Muslim chaplains, hired by the U.S. government, are preaching a hate-filled agenda in the name of Allah, and possibly turning American prisons into breeding grounds for future terrorists.
The startling scenario appears more likely with revelations that federal and state governments are hiring radical Muslim chaplains to minister behind bars.
The rising concern involves U.S. government-paid clerics who practice a militant Wahhabi ideology, a strain of Sunni Islam rooted in Saudi Arabia, and favored by Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers.
Stephen Schwartz, author of The Two Faces of Islam, said, "They dominate Islam in the prisons in a very intimidating way. They prevent Muslim prisoners from getting access to traditions in Islam that would be more beneficial for prisoners, that would stress meditation, self-discipline and non-violence."
Schwartz says extremists who masquerade as moderates are preaching a hate-filled agenda. "If you have prisoners who themselves have a propensity for violence and extremism... you have Wahhabi imams ministering to those prisoners and giving them constant doses of extremist ideology then there is propensity and the probability that those prisoners upon their release, or within the prisons, will become involved in illegal or terrorist activity."
Chuck Colson, founder of the Christian ministry Prison Fellowship, said, "It isn't just a wacky, fringe group of Al Qaeda. It's a pretty widespread movement among radical Islamists. And the particular strain of Islam that is being fed into American prisons comes from the most radical wing."
Colson calls Wahhabism a vicious movement that preys on the anger and alienation of inmates.
"Most of them feel racial oppression, and along comes a group that says, 'Brothers unite! We stand against the culture that has put you in prison,' and they can offer an appealing message. The brotherhood is the appealing message of Islam," he explained.
What better place than jail, says Colson, to recruit those who the Al Qaeda handbook described as "disillusioned with their country's policies."
Colson believes that radical influence could spawn more militants like accused dirty bomber Jose Padilla, who reportedly converted to Islam in a Florida jail, and shoe-bomber suspect Richard Reid whose conversion allegedly came in a British prison.
Reid's prison imam was suspended by British authorities for praising Osama bin Laden and describing America as "the great evil which must be wiped out."
The spread of Wahhabism is raising alarms in Congress. In recent hearings, New York Senator Chuck Schumer said Wahhabis "have wreaked some degree of havoc" in his home state. He continued, "Wahhabism is an extremist exclusionary form of Islam."
Schumer cites New York's top Muslim prison cleric, Warith Dean Umar, an extremist who for decades hired and trained jailhouse imams. "Last year, Mr. Umar was banned from entering any New York state prison after he incited prisoners against America, preaching to inmates that the 9/11 hijackers should be remembered as martyrs," Schumer said.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons fired Umar after he told The Wall Street Journal that prison "is the perfect recruitment and training grounds for radicalism and the Islamic religion."
Sen. Schumer said, "I'm terribly worried that his minions may have exposed members of the New York prison population to his extremist and toxic anti-American views."
Those views are familiar to Shia Muslims, a minority sect who have historically suffered at the hands of Wahhabis. Sheik Fadhel al-Sahalani, imam of the nation's largest Shia congregation in Queens, New York, says Wahhabis dominate the state prison chaplain program. In fact, he says there are no imams from his Shia sect working in the prison system now.
Of the more than 40 imams currently in the New York prison system, Sahlahni says most share the Wahhabi ideology, and that Shia clerics who have tried to break in are systematically shut out.
"Definitely there is a resistance from the Wahhabis, since they are in the prison system now and don't allow anybody to take a part of it because they would be kicked out, because then the truth would show," Sahlahni said.
He says Wahhabis threaten Shia inmates and control what they see and hear. "They don't allow the Shia even to talk about their belief, or to discuss about their belief."
Sahlani says Shia inmates who write him say that, behind the backs of prison guards, Wahhabi clerics pass out literature, much of it published in Saudi Arabia, that is often anti-Jewish and intolerant of other Muslim sects.
"They call non-Wahhabi groups like those, deviants, heretics, idolaters, sometimes using English terms, sometimes using Arabic terms making it hard for the prison officials to understand what's going on, but for the inmates they know exactly what they mean," said attorney Andrew Kent. He represents nine Shia inmates suing New York's prison system for the right to a non-Wahhabi chaplain.
Kent blames Wahhabi clerics for encouraging death threats against one of his clients. "When they're preaching violence and hate, I think it's not surprising especially in a prison with some people who obviously have been anti-social and criminal in the past, and some extremely violent or criminal it's a real tinderbox," he said.
Shia lobbyist Agha Jaffrey with the Universal Muslim Association of America believes the prisons are just a link in the Wahhabi monopoly of the media, the military and the U.S. government.
"This what is fomenting in their mind and being taught to them could have extremely dangerous consequences, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to project that. It's obvious," Jafri said.
In response to calls by Congress, the Justice Department has launched a review of how the Federal Prison Bureau screens its Muslim chaplains. The focus of the probe is the prison bureau's sole reliance on two Muslim groups who hold the monopoly as government advisors in the selection of imams.
It is an inquiry that may only begin to resolve the question of whether militant Muslim Wahhabis are infiltrating America's institutions under the guise of religion.
Very, very dangerous; and very insidious. Islam is a combined religious and political cult in the worst sense of the word. That is why it should be viewed with suspicion, and not accorded the same presumption of innocence we generally accord religions, which are with this exception almost universally non-aggressive and inwardly directed.
Breeding Grounds of Terror, Part 2
Speculation that radical Muslim chaplains are infiltrating America's military and prisons has been fueled by the arrest of Abdurahman Alamoudi, the man credited with placing the first Muslim chaplain in the U.S. military.
Alamoudi, charged with violating sanctions against Libya, is a consultant with the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council, one of only three U.S. Muslim groups that advise the Pentagon on hiring Muslim chaplains.
That group recommended the Pentagon hire Capt. James Yee, the Muslim Army chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arrested in September for suspected espionage.
Alamoudi, an influential Muslim activist, has had frequent visits to the White House, starting during the Clinton Administration and continuing through the current Bush Administration.
Though never charged, Alamoudi was linked to at least two Muslim groups raided in March 2002 in the federal terrorist financing investigation, Operation Green Quest. That's a multi-agency effort that involves agents from the U.S. Customs Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Secret Service, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In the 2000 election cycle, both the Hillary Clinton and Bush campaigns returned donations from Alamoudi because of controversial remarks he made at a pro-Palestinian rally outside the White House, where he shouted support for two known terrorist groups.
His remarks included, "Hear that, Bill Clinton? We are all supporters of Hamas," and "Anybody supporter of Hezbollah here? Anybody supporter of Hezbollah here? We all support Hezbollah!"
Alamoudi's attorney said Alamoudi was exercising his free speech rights; that at the time neither group was a designated terrorist organization; and Alamoudi has since retracted his statements. She had no comment on the arrest, but says her client vehemently denies any association with terrorist organizations.
Two other Muslim groups that are involved in the endorsement of military imams, ISNA and GSISS, also recommend imams for federal prisons. In hearings this summer, New York Senator Charles Schumer demanded investigations into all three groups for what he called their "disturbing ties to terrorism."
Schumer said, "My worry is, by not heeding those signs, we are letting those who hate freedom recruit disciples in this country who might do us harm."
CBN News investigated Schumer's claims and found the Graduate School for Islamic and Social Sciences, GSISS, located in Leesburg, Virginia, was raided last year as part of Operation Green Quest.
Also raided was the home of school president, Taha Jabir al-Alwani. An attorney for Alwani and GSISS told CBN News that 18 months have passed since the raids, and no charges have been filed against her clients.
Yet, according to recently released federal documents from Operation Green Quest, suspicions linger around Alwani and his relationship to Sami al Arian, the former Florida professor indicted this year as an alleged fund-raiser for the terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or PIJ.
Al Alwani also founded the group, International Institute of Islamic Thought," or IIIT, which according to federal documents, funded Sami al Arian front groups, and possibly the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Nancy Luque, attorney for IIIT, al Alwani, and the Graduate School for Islamic and Social Sciences told CBN News:
"It is absolutely false that IIIT contributed to the PIJ. It's important to remember this affidavit has never been tested by cross-examination, and should not be taken as fact."
She continued, "No money has ever gone from anyone associated with GSISS to Palestinian Islamic Jihad or al Arian's group, WISE, for the purpose of sponsoring terrorism."
And what about the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, another organization involved in the endorsement of military and prison imams?
Questions are swirling around some current members of ISNA's board of advisors.
One advisor, Siraj Wahhaj, though never charged, was alleged to be an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of blind Sheik Abdul Rahman, convicted mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Another advisor, ISNA founder and former president Muzammil Siddiqi, was tapped to lead the 9-11 National Cathedral prayer service, and was later invited to the White House where he gave President Bush a Koran.
But critics say Siddiqi has questionable ties with the Saudi government and radical Wahhabism.
They criticize Siddiqi for participating in the same pro-Palestinian rally where Alamoudi praised Hamas and Hezbollah, saying Siddiqi joined in by denouncing America's support of Israel.
Siddiqi said, "America has to learn that if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come. Allah is watching everyone. God is watching everyone. If you continue doing injustice and tolerating injustice, the wrath of God will come."
Some critics are concerned that groups like ISNA, whose members have shown sympathy with extremist or militant doctrine, now hold the monopoly on choosing chaplains for Uncle Sam.
The Islamic Society of North America's secretary general dismisses such claims, telling CBN News, "Some officials might have made statements that were taken out of context, but extremists would never associate with ISNA." He called Schumer's accusations "groundless," dismissed charges of Wahhabism, and said ISNA has no affiliation to Saudi Arabia. He also said, "If there is a chaplain somewhere that is extremist, we ourselves would expose him."
With increasing congressional scrutiny, Pentagon and prison officials are being called to account about their plans to improve chaplain-screening policies.
The Pentagon has changed some regulations on chaplain appointments, and says it plans to end its exclusive reliance on a few endorsing agencies. Instead it plans to seek new groups to recruit Muslim chaplains, but it continues to recognize its current advisors and the clerics they've endorsed.
Charles Abell of the Department of Defense, said,
"Recognizing they are under investigation, we are seeking others. And should these organizations be determined to have violated their principles, or somehow be indicted, then the members of those -- the chaplains who were endorsed by those folks -- would have to find another endorsing agency."
At the Federal Prison Bureau, current advisors also remain in place.
But Director Harley Lappin is reviewing his bureau's selection process.
Lappin said, "If we received that type of information about an endorsing agency, we certainly would change our position about using them as an endorsing agency in the future. And as I said, we do not plan to hire any Muslim chaplains at this time referred by an endorsing agency under investigation."
The Senate is continuing hearings into whether radical Muslims are infiltrating America's institutions. And if claims about Wahhabi influence on government chaplaincy programs prove true, lawmakers say that's a national security threat that cannot be ignored.