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A Fifth Column in the Prisons?

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At City Journal, Paul Howard looks at the disturbing presence of radical Islamic ideology in US prisons: A Fifth Column in the Prisons?

Last April, according to the New York Post, Gotham’s top jails chaplain, Imam Umar Abdul Jalil, told a Muslim student conference in Tucson that Muslims were undergoing torture in a New York City correctional facility, that the world’s “biggest terrorists” occupied the White House, that Muslims cannot allow “the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us,” and that the Koran commands Muslims to be compassionate with one another but “hard against the kufr [unbeliever].” After briefly suspending Jalil—with pay—Mayor Michael Bloomberg reinstated him, saying, “As Americans we should never pander to xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, or convention. We must never be afraid of free speech or multiculturalism—the genesis of America’s founding. And we must never use the war on terror, or political correctness, as the pretext for stifling political speech.”

[Ed. note: LGF has an audio recording of Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil’s speech here.]

Multiculturalism? Stifling political speech? The mayor seems to be confusing an academic First Amendment debate with a critical security issue—keeping America’s jails and prisons free of radical Islamic ideologues. Radical Islam is a real and growing presence behind bars; officials shouldn’t help expand its influence.

Jalil is the second New York Muslim prisoners’ chaplain to come under fire for voicing extremist opinions. Three years ago, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the former chief imam of the New York State prison system thought that the 9/11 hijackers were holy martyrs. “Even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud [the September 11 attackers],” he told the Journal. He also argued that the Koran doesn’t forbid terrorism against enemies of Islam and that “this is the sort of teaching they don’t want in prison… . But this is what I’m doing.” (In 2005, in another case, the Fire Department asked for, and got, the resignation of department chaplain Intikab Habib after he expressed doubts that al-Qaida was responsible for destroying the World Trade Center, hinting that a “conspiracy” was to blame.)

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