Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, held a hearing last week on radical Islam in the U.S. prison system, called “prislam” by one witness. The hearing was met with predictable accusations of discrimination and bigotry, but the name-calling failed to impede the exposure of the nexus between convicts and radical Islam.
Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson confronted King for singling out extremists within Islam, saying his hearing could “be deemed as racist and as discriminatory.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations likewise stated, “Congressman King has been shown very clearly to have made anti-Muslim statements and a number of false allegations toward the American-Muslim community.”
Rep. King defended himself. “If we find out that Neo-Nazis are allied with a foreign power and they come into this country…we will address it. The fact is we are not going to spread ourselves out and investigate everything, which means addressing nothing,” he said.
The content of the hearing shows why Rep. King is right to focus on the phenomenon that Michael Downing of Los Angeles Police’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau called “prislam.” One witness, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Smith, discussed a plot by prison converts to attack Los Angeles International Airport and Jewish sites around Los Angeles. “From the prison [the cell leader] was able to set up and set out an operation cell of would be jihadists on the streets of Southern California” Smith said. In 2009, four Muslims who met in prison were arrested for planning to bomb synagogues in the New York area and conspiring to shoot down a military plane with a Stinger missile. Three of the four involved converted while imprisoned.
There are other cases that have not received as much publicity. For example, in January 2010, a Senate report warned that up to three dozen Americans that have served time in prison are in Yemen, claiming to be studying Arabic. They were described as “blond-haired, blue-eyed types,” and are suspected of joining Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In April 2010, a prison convert named James Larry killed his pregnant wife, two nieces (one of which was pregnant) and his seven-year old son named Jihad. His brother said that he had become more devout leading up to the attack, and was furious with his wife for not wearing a hijab. His defense is that he is mentally ill.
In October 2009, another prison convert in Ohio named Abdullah Mohammed Muslim who spent time on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan was arrested with a large stockpile of weapons. The authorities immediately said there was no evidence of a link to terrorism. In September 2009, a convert to “prislam” named Michael C. Finton was arrested in Illinois who was a fan of Anwar al-Awlaki. He told an undercover FBI agent that he sought to go to the Gaza Strip, but also wanted to carry out an attack in the U.S. He was apprehended after planning to attack the Paul Findley Federal Building in Springfield using inert explosives provided in the FBI sting.
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