POTENTIAL FOR RADICALIZATION
OF U.S. MUSLIM PRISON INMATES
Richard Reid (a.k.a. Abdel Raheem and Tariq Raja), became a radical Islamist
while incarcerated in a UK prison. He attempted to ignite explosives in his
shoes and thereby blow up an American Airlines plane in mid-flight during
Christmastime in 2001.
Jose Padilla, a former Chicago IL street gang member also became a radical
Islamist while in prison. He was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of planning to
explode a "dirty bomb."
Some American Muslim groups and law enforcement organizations are concerned that one or
more radical, Fundamentalist and potentially violent religious group in some U.S. prisons may be radicalizing Muslim inmates
and gaining terrorist recruits. 1
The LA Times reported in 2005-AUG that:
"The possibility of connections between prison gangs and potential
terrorists has been a worry for U.S. officials for some time."
"There are at least several significant investigations into the alleged use
of federal and state prisons as bases for recruiting potential Islamic
terrorists, according to a senior FBI counter-terrorism official in
Earlier in 2005, Robert Mueller, Director of the F.B.I. told the Senate
Intelligence Committee that "prisons continue to be fertile ground for
extremists who exploit both a prisoner's conversion to Islam while still in
prison, as well as their socioeconomic status and placement in the community
upon their release."
However, some investigators reject the concept that prisons in the U.S. are
breeding grounds for terrorists.
|One questioned why a terrorist group would select prisoners, knowing
that their fingerprints and full personal data is recorded in government
|The LA times mentioned that: "David Shwartz, retired religious
services administrator for the federal Bureau of Prisons,...argues that
Islam is a positive force in the rehabilitation of inmates."
California armed robberies which may be linked to terrorism:
Three male Muslim suspects in their early to mid 20's -- one Pakistani
citizen and two U.S. citizens -- were arrested during 2005-JUL and AUG in
connection with a series of gas station robberies which had occurred during
the spring of 2005. As of 2005-AUG-18, the three were being held in jail on
ten counts of robbery and attempted robbery.
While investigating the apartment of one of the American suspects, police
found bulletproof vests, what they described as radical jihadist literature,
and the addresses of almost two dozen locations in Southern California that
might have been selected for future terrorist attacks. These sites included
a National Guard recruitment center, the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles,
several synagogues, and the El Al ticket counter at the LAX Airport in Los
Angeles. Investigators suspect that the group might possibly be members of a
terrorist cell who may have planned to attack these locations either on or
about 2005-SEP-11, the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World
Trade Center and Pentagon, or later during the Jewish High Holidays which
fall during 2005 on OCT-04 to 13. Investigators speculate that the armed
robberies may have been motivated by the need for money to finance these
terrorist attacks. 2
The potential prison link:
The F.B.I. has linked the three men to a group "Jamiyyat Ul Islam Is Saheeh,"
(a.k.a. JIS; Assembly of Authentic Islam) which is active in the California
prison system. Rod Hickman, the Corrections Secretary, said at a press
conference that "JIS is a disruptive group ... within the institutions of
California." Hickman said: "The reality is that disruptive groups in
prisons have been doing this for years" He compared the JIS to the
Black Panther Party in the 1960s and the Symbionese Liberation Army
in the 1970s as well as to the more traditional and less politically
oriented prison gangs such as the Mexican Mafia, the Nuestra Familia and the
Aryan Brotherhood. He said: "No matter what the name is, they all have
the same objective - to commit crimes and victimize the citizens of this
state and our nation."
Press conference by Muslim advocacy groups:
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the Islamic Shura Council
of Southern California and the Southern California chapter of the Council
on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a joint news conference on
2005-AUG-19. Their goal was to persuade the Federal Bureau of Prisons to
hire more Muslim chaplains to combat the possibility of radicalization among
Shakeel Syed, a contractor chaplain with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said:
"The suggestion by the Rand Corporation, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task
Force, and several legislators that federal prisons are being used as bases for
recruiting what they call Islamic terrorists is not true and is unsubstantiated.
I have not come across even one instance where such a suggestion is true in the
course of my 15 years with the Bureau of Prisons as a volunteer or contractor."
Syed and Salam Al-Marayati, the Executive Director of MPAC, described
the content of a federal report on the selection of Muslim chaplains. According
"The report found that radicalization took place when inmates followed
Islam without direction or analysis – allowing inmates to distort Islam to
encompass prison values such as gangs and loyalty to other inmates. In these
institutions, Muslim inmates often lead Friday prayer services, and inmates
who engage in radicalization have the opportunity to teach and lead other
inmates without the countervailing influence of a mainstream Muslim
chaplain, contractor, or volunteer." 4
The report states:
"We believe that the Muslim chaplains are a valuable resource within the
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for preventing inmate radicalization and can
assist with the recruitment and selection of Muslims who have mainstream
Islamic beliefs. No other group of BOP employees has as much expertise and
experience with Islam as the chaplains." 5
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Dorothy Korber and Andy Furillo, "Terror case eyes Folsom
prisoners. Officials say plot targeted sites in L.A. area,"
Sacramento Bee, 2005-AUG-18, at:
- Greg Krikorian and Jenifer Warren, "Terror Probe Targets Prison in olsom. Alleged plot to attack Southland sites may have been conceived
inside the facility." LA Times, 2005-AUG-17, at:
- John Broder, "F.B.I. Hunts Terror Clues in California," New York Times, 2005-AUG-18, at:
- "Outraged by government leaks, Muslim leaders underscore value of Chaplains," Muslim Public Affairs Council, 2005-AUG-19, at:
- "A Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Selection of Muslim
Religious Services Providers," Department of Justice, 2004-APR, at:
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2005-AUG-20
Latest update: 2005-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson