Spewing Poison in America's Prisons

by Mark Earley

Not long ago, an ex-con named Umar Abdul-Jalil gave a speech in which he said the "greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House," and that the "Zionists of the media" should not be dictating "what Islam is to us."

That was bad enough, but what was worse was the fact that Jalil is the chief Islamic chaplain in the New York City Department of Corrections.

After his comments became public, he was suspended from his job. But New York's Mayor Bloomberg refused to dismiss him, claiming that his right to free speech covered such explosive comments.

Jalil is far from being the only radical imam in America's prison system. Stephen Schwartz, writing last week in the Weekly Standard, believes 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."

Moderate Muslim prisoners are complaining that radical chaplains subject them to humiliation, discrimination, and even physical threats. "Imagine," he says, "each prison Islamic [prison] community as a little Saudi kingdom behind prison walls, without the amenities. They have effectively induced American authorities to establish a form of state Islam'" in correctional systems, Schwartz says.

Over the years at Prison Fellowship, Chuck has asked many inmates, chaplains, and officers why Islam is growing so fast. First, they say that inmates consider Christianity a white man's religion, and Islam a black man's religion. Second, they say the brotherhood of Islam appeals to them because it invites them into a whole way of living that is different. They talk about Islam as a whole life system-which, by the way, points out that as Christians we must do a better job of presenting Christianity as a whole way of life.

We've already seen some frightening examples of what can happen when radical Muslims play on the sensibilities of prisoners who feel isolated and vulnerable. Muktar Said Ibrahim, who is believed to be the ringleader in the attempted bombing of London's subway system last summer, converted to Islam in prison. So did "shoe bomber" Richard Reid.

We need to heed the warnings of Patrick Sookhdeo, a Muslim convert to Christianity. Sookhdeo is the author of a book titled Islam: The Challenge to the Church. In it, he warns that Islam, "alone among world faiths, has very clear-cut aims for reorganizing society to conform to its teaching. Because of this, Muslim minorities are impacting their host societies in the West in a way which no other faith is doing"-and that's including in America's prisons.

Clearly, prison authorities must be more vigilant and adopt strict measures to guard against the spread of radical Islam that teaches violence and hate. In particular, they must remove radical imam chaplains who incite terrorism. But as Christians we must do our job, as well. We need to increase our own loving presence among prisoners-people who are often lonely and desperate.

In prison, like everywhere else, the surest antidote to the poison of hatred is the message of love-the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


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