Conversion to Islam in U.S. prisons
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Conversion to Islam in U.S. prisons refers to the contemporary high rate of conversion to Islam in American prisons, for which there are a number of factors. It is the fastest growing religion in U.S. prisons, where the population is 18 percent Muslim (compared to 1 percent for the general population); 80 percent of all prison religious conversion are to Islam.
Rate of conversion to Islam
In addition to immigration, the state, federal and local prisons of the United States may be a contributor to the growth of Islam in the United States. J. Michael Waller claims that Muslim inmates comprise 17–20% of the prison population in New York, or roughly 350,000 inmates in 2003. He also claims that 80% of the prisoners who "find faith" while in prison convert to Islam. These converted inmates are mostly African American, with a growing Hispanic minority. Waller also asserts that many converts are radicalized by outside Islamist groups linked to terrorism, but other experts suggest that when radicalization does occur, it has little to no connection with these outside interests.
According to a 2003 estimate by FBI, there are 350,000 Muslims in federal, state and local prison, about 30,000 - 40,000 more being converted every year.
Concern in United States
Concern over jailhouse conversions to Islam first rose in 2001 when Imam Warith Deen Umar, Islamic chaplain for the New York State prison system, was reported to have praised the September 11 attacks; in response members of Congress called for an investigation. In a 2004 report, the Justice Department faulted the prison system for failing to protect against “infiltration by religious extremists.” However, the report made clear that the problem was not chaplains, but rather unsupervised inmates.
In 2006, then FBI director Robert Mueller described the Islamist conversion movement operating throughout U.S. prisons, to a Senate committee. He said that prisons were a “fertile ground” for Islamic extremists, and that they targeted inmates for introduction to the militant Wahhabi and Salafist strains of Islam.
Mark S. Hamm, a criminologist at Indiana State University, describes a phenomenon he calls "prison Islam." This consists of "small gang-like cliques that use cut-and-paste versions of the Koran" to give a religious patina to violent and criminal activities. Hamm has identified five such examples since 2005, notably the 2005 Los Angeles bomb plot.
Notable converts to Islam in prison
- Malcolm X - A Civil Rights activist
- Abdul Alim Musa - Muslim-American activist
- B.G. Knocc Out - an African-American rapper
- Charles Brooks, Jr. - convicted murderer; converted to Islam before execution
- Flesh N Bone - A member of the award-winning rap group Bone Thugs N Harmony
- H. Rap Brown - former Black Panther; currently in prison for murdering a police officer
- Jeff Fort - former Chicago gang leader; convicted in 1987 of conspiring with Libya to perform acts of domestic terrorism
- Jeffrey Mark Deskovic - served 15-year wrongful imprisonment sentence; exonerated by DNA evidence
- José Padilla - convicted of aiding terrorists in the "Dirty Bomb" plot
- Kevin James - ringleader of the 2005 Los Angeles bomb plot
- Mike Tyson - former heavyweight boxing champion
- Bernard Hopkins - former middleweight and light heavyweight boxing champion
- Montel Vontavious Porter - professional wrestler known in WWE
- Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell - basketball player
- Tray Deee - American rapper
- Greg Noll - A Civil Rights activist (prosecution pending)
- Terry Holdbrooks - A GTMO guard, became autor and public speaker.
- Conversion to Islam in prisons
- Religion in United States prisons
- Islamic Missionary Activity
- Jihadist extremism in the United States#Prison
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- Why American prisoners convert to Islam, This is Life with Lisa Ling on CNN
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- The Tayba Foundation - a religious Muslim organization committed to promoting a better quality of life for the incarcerated, on "Islam And Muslims In The U.S. Prison System"