The New York Times reports that, according to a Senate report, some American ex-prisoners who converted to Islam are heading to (or have already arrived in Yemen) to be part of terrorist forces against the U.S.:
Some American former convicts who converted to Islam in prison have moved to Yemen and a few may have joined extremist groups there, according to a new Senate report.
The report, from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says that as many as 36 American Muslims who were prisoners have moved to Yemen in recent months, ostensibly to study Arabic, and that several of them have “dropped off the radar” and may have connected to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The report warns that Americans recruited in Yemen or Somalia may pose a particular threat, since they can operate freely inside the United States.
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials, though, said they thought the report’s claim about former prisoners was exaggerated. A law enforcement official confirmed that some of them had traveled to Yemen — perhaps one or two dozen over the past several years — intending to study Arabic or Islam. The official said the former convicts did not appear to be part of any organized recruitment effort, however, and few are known to have connections with extremists.
The Senate report, written by the committee’s Democratic staff, said the government was “on heightened alert because of the potential threat from extremists carrying American passports and the related challenges involved in detecting and stopping homegrown operatives.”
The possibility that American prisons could become an incubator for radical Islam has long been raised by experts on terrorism, and a few Muslim prison chaplains in United States prisons have been accused of having extremist views. To date, only a handful of alleged terrorist plots, none of them successful, have involved American Muslims who are former prisoners.
A. J. Sabree, a corrections official in Georgia and a Muslim, who worked for years as a prison chaplain, said he had never heard of Muslim former prisoners moving to Yemen. Erik Kriss, a spokesman for the New York State prison system, which employs about 40 imams to counsel inmates, said officials there were not aware of the phenomenon.
Mr. Kriss cautioned against equating conversion in prison to Islam, which is relatively common, to radicalization.
“We do not have any evidence of anything resembling widespread terrorist-inspired radicalization or recruiting,” he said. “But we recognize the potential and therefore remain vigilant in guarding against it.”
Does it make you feel better that “only a handful of alleged terrorist plots” originated amongst Islamic converts in American prisons? As even the Times concedes, these were not small scale plots. All of them contemplated terrorist activities on a mass scale, with the military, the government and Jews as the intended targets:
Three American Muslims were convicted for a 2005 plot to attack Jewish institutions and military bases around Los Angeles that was said to have been concocted inside New Folsom Prison, near Sacramento. Michael Finton, who converted to Islam while imprisoned in Illinois from 1999 to 2005, was charged last year with trying to blow up the federal courthouse in Springfield, Ill.
And four former New York state prisoners, at least two of whom converted to Islam in prison, were accused last year of plotting to attack synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes.
I’ve repeatedly quoted my cousin, the prison chaplain (Christian), on this subject, and I’ll quote him again:
It is not a contradiction to be a Muslim and a murderer, even a mass murderer. That is one reason why criminals “convert” to Islam in prison. They don’t convert at all; they similarly remain the angry judgmental vicious beings they always have been. They simply add “religious” diatribes to their personal invective. Islam does not inspire a crisis of conscience, just inspirations to outrage.
We, as a nation, are too PC, too kind, and too unaware to be appropriately worried about the problem of prison conversions. These are not treks to a redeeming faith; these are justifications for continued violence against an ever expanding number of people.
Hat tip: Steve Schippert