One of the more worrying ongoing stories is the arrest of several men for involvement in a conspiracy, hatched in California's Folsom prison to attack Jewish sites and synagogues around the state. What's worrying is that one of the men apparently converted to a radical form of Islam while in prison.
For obvious reasons, some attention has been focused on the California Penal system's system for vetting clergy. The LA Times carried two stories on the subject yesterday, and as usual, the story is the dog that didn't bark. In this case, the dog that didn't ask questions about who was speaking to it.
The first story is about the general threat of radical Islamic recruiting in American prisons, and the tenor of the story is that there's really nothing to worry about:
Recent arrests have focused attention on a potential terrorism danger that federal officials have been warning about -- that inmates in state prison systems are particularly susceptible to radical Islamist ideology.
But prison officials across the nation say they so far have seen more potential for recruitment than real threats.
Then, the last three paragraphs:
The California prison system has 30 full- and part-time Muslim chaplains, civil service employees who undergo background checks and must adhere to mainstream Islam, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Shakeel Syed, a contract chaplain for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, disagreed that prisons are turning out Islamic radicals. He joined representatives of Muslim groups Friday at a news conference in Los Angeles to say that chaplains can be part of the solution by steering inmates away from radical ideology.
"Those of us who are on the front lines battling extremism are not being utilized by law enforcement," said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
So, here's what an "adherant to mainstream Islam means" writes, in the case of Mr. Syed:
Nine Eleven "changed everything" has become a popular saying among some. In fact, nothing has changed since 1775. The imperialist mindset remains unchanged. The then founders killed the Native American Indians and believed that they are giving themselves a free America. The current (hopefully outgoing) President apologized to a powerless King, instead to the victims. Their pain is only compounded when the President distances himself from the rhetoric that that behavior was merely the "wrongdoing of a few". Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, however, indicates that the torture was cleared with lawyers. Al-Jazeera, May 30, 2004
Sooner than we think the old footage of blind folded American hostages and the Islamic government of Iran (more democratically elected than the US President) will overwhelm the airwaves. And the global dissent of good people will be ignored to yet another preemptive invasion of Iran and they will be made to forget the bigger monster, Israel from the very discourse of “axis of evil.” Al-Jazeera, November 27, 2004
The United States of America tends to glorify, simplify and sanitize more than two and a quarter centuries of its horrid past. The Declaration of Independence states "all men are created equal," but that was not the case in 1776. Two hundred twenty eight years later, the Declaration still could not home itself in the hearts of all Americans. The 228th year of freedom must see beyond the mundane rituals of afternoon barbecues and evening fireworks.
The lonely Native American female warrior as the statue of freedom atop the Capitol Dome was casted in bronze by a Foundry that housed enslaved labor. Slaves who were paid only in the coins of pain in fact built the house that claims to now home the lady liberty. The Milli Gazette, July 31, 2004
Mr. Syed also holds another official position within the LA Muslim community. He represents that community in discussions with the FBI. I'm sorry he's not being further utilized by law enforcement. As for Mr. Al-Marayati, here's what Daniel Pipes has to say about him:
Trouble is, Mr. Al-Marayati, like so many other American Muslim leaders, purveys an extremist political agenda that few people seem to notice or care about.
Mr. Pipes goes on to provide some disturbing examples of Mr. Al-Marayati's rhetoric. CAMERA provides further examples. The other LA Times article focuses on activities in the California prison system, and the checks (or lack thereof) on who gets to be the voice of Islam on the Inside:
The federal study also found that an aggressive brand of Islam often took root in prisons that lacked professional Muslim clerics, where inmate believers took on leadership roles despite having little training or knowledge of Islam's tenets.
"Sometimes the Muslims within the prisons lead prayers," said Imam Abdul Karim Hasan, a member of the committee that recommends Muslim clerics to the state prison system. "But we don't recommend inmate leadership of Muslim groups inside these institutions."
As the wider American Muslim community has grown and diversified along ethnic and national lines, competition for Muslim chaplaincies has increased as well. Hasan said he was less familiar with the views of these newcomers.
"We don't ascribe to Wahhabism or any other ism," Hasan said, referring to the Saudi-based, ultra-orthodox version of Islam, "but the state does use other endorsing agencies. We can't vouch for them. We don't believe they teach extremism, but we don't know."
Joel Mowbray has done a little spadework on Imam Hasan, who runs the mosque attended by the US soldier convicted of a fragging attack on the eve of the Iraqi invasion.
Now, I want to be very careful here. It's likely that Imam Hasan is one of the good guys. He doesn't try to vouch for anyone else, and I aboslutely do not want to claim that he in any way encouraged the fragging attack, or encouraged the soldier who did it to enter the military. I happen to be a good personal friend of a former camp counseler of Baruch Goldstein, and his connection with that mindset or that attack was less than nothing.
Still, Imam Hasan takes money from Saudis, and has close ties with a Saudi-funded King Fahd Center in LA. He may well not approve of Saudi extremism. But such ties would, in a corporate setting, constitute a conflict of interest, and the Times has an obligation to point them out.
In his case, and in the case of Mr. Al-Marayati and Mr. Syed, the Times and the AP are extremely negligent in how they identify the players in these stories.
Cross-Posted at View From a Height.