Debate Over Role of Islam in U.S. Prisons Continues

June 4, 2005

Source: The Associated Press

On June 4, 2005 The Associated Press reported, "across the United States, tens of thousands of Muslims are practicing their faith behind bars. Islam is most likely to win American converts there, according to U.S. Muslim leaders, and the religion has for decades been a regular part of prison culture. But the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have brought new scrutiny to Muslim inmates, many of whom are black men focused on surviving incarceration. While prison chaplains of various denominations argue that Islam offers a spiritual path to rehabilitation, others say it has the potential to turn felons into terrorists. The FBI calls prisons 'fertile ground for extremists.' The reality is harder to read: Those on opposing sides have such divergent views they seem irreconcilable. Who's right matters not only for national security, but for the development of American Islam itself, which is struggling to be accepted alongside the major faiths in the United States. Ever since the 2002 arrest of Jose Padilla, a felon and American Muslim convert who authorities say planned a 'dirty bomb' radiological attack after he left jail, law enforcement officials, politicians and even a few evangelical leaders have warned that Muslim inmates are ripe for terrorist recruitment."

See also: Islam, Military