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Prison Jihad?

How radical Islamic charities exploit their access to the prison system.

12:00 AM, Oct 12, 2006 • By DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS
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AL HARAMAIN had a prison dawa program that was ideally structured for terrorist recruitment. Dawa is Islamic evangelism. And although the program wasn't used to recruit terrorists, it had enough potential for terrorist recruitment that federal investigators were immediately intrigued when they learned about it.

Prisoners would initiate contact with the U.S. branch of Al Haramain by writing to request Islamic literature. Afterwards, they were sent a number of pamphlets and a questionnaire. The questionnaire asked a variety of informational questions, including the inmates' names, prisoner numbers, release dates, and address outside of prison. It also included questions designed to determine the inmates' level of Islamic knowledge. When the prisoners returned the questionnaires, they were graded on their answers.

It is what happened next that caught investigators' interest. All of the information--the inmates' names, their prisoner numbers, the facilities where they were held, their release date, the address they would be released to--was entered into a massive database that contained over 15,000 names.

The contours of the database are significant because of the potential for terrorist recruitment. Several individuals involved in past terrorist plots experienced critical religious development while imprisoned. The most dramatic example is the plot hatched in a California state prison by Kevin James, the inmate who founded the Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, a secretive organization designed to promote his radical interpretation of Islam. On August 31, 2005, a six-count indictment charged Kevin James and his co-conspirators with plotting to attack military and Jewish targets in the Los Angeles area. Richard Reid, who was arrested in December 2001 after attempting to blow up an airplane with explosives hidden in his shoe, grew in his faith under the tutelage of a radical imam in a British prison.

So a database such as the one boasted by Al Haramain caught the interest of investigators because it was perfectly designed to allow follow-up with prisoners--and potentially to allow for terrorist recruitment. Prisoners' release dates were known, as were the addresses to which they planned to return. Al Haramain could have worked with ideologically sympathetic organizations to make sure inmates stayed in touch with radical groups after their release.

THE CORNERSTONE of Al Haramain's prison dawa program was the literature the group distributed to inmates. At the heart of any concerted Islamic literature program is distribution of the Koran. Al Haramain distributed a Wahhabi/Salafi translation, known as the Noble Koran, that was translated into English by Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan. This version was known for containing numerous interpolations not present in the original Arabic. Although ostensibly designed to explain the verses, these interpolations pushed the meaning in a radical direction suffused with contempt for non-Muslims, and which was dedicated to fostering the global jihad.

A representative example is found in an early footnote in the translation, which states:

Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah's Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established, Allah's Word is made superior, . . . and His Religion (Islam) is propagated. By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfill this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.

This passage thus rules out nonmilitary interpretations of jihad by insisting on "full force of numbers and weaponry." It also endorses jihad as a means of propagating Islam, and specifies that it is required of "every Muslim."

Most chilling is a 22-page appendix that was included in the translation that Al Haramain distributed to prisons. This appendix, written by former Saudi Arabian chief justice Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, was entitled "The Call to Jihad (Holy Fighting in Allah's Cause) in the Koran." It is little more than an exhortation to violence.

Bin Humaid argues at length that Muslims are obligated to wage war against non-Muslims who have not submitted to Islamic rule. He explains,