Spotlight on prison Jihadis

Jun 15, 2011 Issues: Domestic Radicalization / Radicalization Hearings

June 15, 2011 by NY Post

Rep. Pete King took a public beating when he held a key hearing on Islamic radicalization in America back in March.

Get set for Round Two.

This morning, King will preside over another hearing by his Homeland Security Committee, this time on indoctrination in US prisons.

It's surely as necessary as the first one -- if not more so.

Jailhouse converts often find penitence and purpose in religion -- but prisons have rapidly become a "radicalizing cauldron," according to a landmark NYPD study of homegrown terror threats.

New York is a case in point.

In 2009, four ex-cons attempted to blow up a pair of synagogues in Riverdale after converting in prison and radicalizing against the United States.

And long-time prison chaplain Warith Deen Umar spent years inciting prisoners against America and was banned from even entering state lockups after calling the 9/11 hijackers "martyrs" -- but not, alas, before he did untold damage on the inside.

As the NYPD report said, a prison can "create a 'captive audience' . . . and its large population of disaffected young men makes it an excellent breeding ground for radicalization."

But even ridding the prisons of poisonous imams isn't enough.

Just a few years ago, the federal Bureau of Prisons had only 10 imams for its 170,000 prisoners. And New York's Department of Corrections now has just 40 Islamic chaplains for its 67 prisons.

That's a problem of its own.

Lacking a sufficient number of well-intended Muslim clerics, inmates may fall under the spell of other prisoners, who extol violent strains of Islam or a warped catch-all that terror experts call "Prislam" -- which uses the pretense of the religion to justify gang violence.

What can be done?

There are no easy answers -- the US lacks a national standard for prison chaplains, and most Americans prefer to ignore what goes on behind bars.

Which is why any sunlight King can shine on the issue is so utterly vital, no matter what his critics say.

Kudos to King for bringing the problem to the fore.