The American and European prison systems have become prime recruitment centers for radical Islam. Al Qaeda training manuals found by U.S. troops in Afghanistan reveal that America’s black prisoners, who constitute nearly half of the nation’s two million inmates, are viewed by terrorists as a potentially bountiful source of new jihadi recruits. Some 135,000 inmates convert to Islam annually, and almost all of these converts are African Americans.
The Saudi government, which has made the propagation of radical Islam in America a top priority, has shipped tens of thousands of Korans to U.S. jails in recent years. Through the National Islamic Prison Foundation, Saudi money finances an extensive “prison outreach” program that seeks to convert inmates to Islam and to anti-Americanism. Prison chaplains are typically Wahhabis (practitioners of Saudi Arabia’s most extreme, fundamentalist form of Islam) who have been certified and trained as religious officials by either the Islamic Society of North America or the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, both of which are currently under federal investigation for ties to terrorism. Islam expert Stephen Schwartz states that “radical Muslim chaplains … acting in coordination to impose an extremist agenda … have gained a monopoly over Islamic religious activities in American state, federal, and city prisons and jails.”
Islamic groups have placed in many prison libraries books by a thirteenth-century Islamic writer, Ibn Taymiyya, a favorite scholar of Osama bin Laden and other latter-day jihadists. Ibn Taymiyya enunciates jihad violence as a central principle of Islam.
The seeds of such indoctrination have taken root in the minds of many who convert to Islam while in prison:
- In 2005, Bush administration officials busted a terrorist plot to attack non-Muslims at military and Jewish sites in Los Angeles on the fourth anniversary of 9/11. The plot was devised by militant Muslim converts of Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (Arabic for "Assembly of Authentic Islam") who had sworn allegiance to violent jihad while incarcerated at California's New Folsom State Prison.
- Convicted terror conspirator Jose Padilla converted to Islam during a stint in a Florida jail and reportedly joined forces with terrorist recruiters after his release.
- Convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid converted to Islam with the help of an extremist imam in a British prison.
- Aqil Collins, a self-confessed jihadist-turned-FBI informant, converted to Islam while doing time in a California juvenile detention center. At a terrorist camp in Afghanistan, he went on to train with one of the men accused of kidnapping and beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
- In an East Texas prison, inmates were recruited with a half-hour videotape featuring the anti-Semitic rants of California-based Imam Muhammad Abdullah, who claims that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were actually carried out by the Israeli and U.S. governments.
- Federal corrections officials told congressional investigators during the Bush administration "that convicted terrorists from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing were put into their prisons' general population, where they radicalized inmates and told them that terrorism was part of Islam."
This section of DiscoverTheNetworks examines the infiltration of American and European prisons by jihadist imams and jihadist literature.
Adapted, in part, from "The Jihadi Virus in Our Jails," by Michelle Malkin (May 22, 2009); and "Jailhouse Jihad," by Robert Spencer (May 28, 2009).