Radical Islam & Prisons

Radical Islam & Prisons


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 40,000 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 have been 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.”

In many prison libraries, Islamic groups have placed books by a thirteenth-century Islamic writer, Ibn Taymiyya, a favorite scholar of Osama bin Laden and other latter-day jihadists. 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).

Additional Resources:

Black America, Prisons, and Radical Islam
By the Center for Islamic Pluralism
September 2008

Radicalization or Rehabilitation: Understanding the Challenge of Extremist and Radicalized Prisoners
By Greg Hannah, et al. (Rand Corporation)

Islam in the Big House
By Stephen Schwartz

Muslim Prison Ministry: Hindering the Spread of the Radical, Militant, Violent and Irreconcilable Wing of Islam
By James Doogan
May 25, 2006

Islam and Prison: Why Are So Many Inmates Converting?
By The Clarion Project
June 3, 2019

The Jihadi Virus in Our Jails
By Michelle Malkin
May 22, 2009

Finding Jihad in Jail: The Growing Number of Radicals Recruited in Western Prisons
By Benjamin Welton

Radical Recruiting in America’s Prisons
By Cal Thomas
June 20, 2002


From Jail to Jihad
By Kitman TV

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