Many branches of government need to understand Islam, but probably none deal with Muslims and their religious practices in so practical and detailed a way as do the wardens of prisons. It is therefore particularly dismaying to see that the highest prison authority in the United States, the Bureau of Prisons (which oversees all federal correctional facilities), has bought the Islamist line.
My evidence for this comes from the Annual Refresher Training (ART) that all BOP staff must participate in. The 2005 course includes a lesson plan, "Islam in the Correctional Environment," designed by the Training and Staff Development Branch at BOP's Central Office in Washington, DC. This 18-page document has a general Islamist caste; and it contains two points of special interest.
- There is only one non-BOP reference in the lesson plan, that being to a pamphlet put out by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, "A Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practice" (p. 2). I presume this means that the BOP relies on that booklet.
- The lesson plan's Introduction (p. 3) asserts: "Since September 11, events have aroused significant media and public attention on our neighbors who represent Islam in America. The concept of ‘Jihad' has been exploited causing fear, anxiety, and confusion about the tenants [sic] of a religion centered in peace and obedience to God. Many have come to understand the concept of ‘Jihad' as a Holy War, but in reality, ‘Jihad' depicts the struggle one endures to be submissive to God."
Comment: Not only has some of the highest ranking staff in the BOP Central Office acquiesced to CAIR, but it proffers a la-la-land description of jihad that is unhistorical, inaccurate, and (given the prison environment) downright dangerous. (February 10, 2005)
Aug. 25, 2005 update: Perhaps the BOP should take a look at the materials circulating in American prisons to find out what jihad means to its inmates. In "Radical Indoctrination in the U.S. Prisons," Daveed Gartenstein-Ross documents some of the literature that has been circulating in the jails that deal specifically with jihad.
The Noble Qur'an, translated by Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, and distributed to 8-10,000 prisoners, Gartenstein-Ross writes, "uniquely advances a radical interpretation of the Muslim holy book through the use of footnotes and bracketed material that does not appear in the Arabic text." One footnote stresses the importance of jihad:
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 fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.
As Gartenstein-Ross notes, this rules out non-military interpretations of jihad.
In addition, jail editions of The Noble Qur'an often contain an appendix written by Saudi Arabia's former chief justice, Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid. Titled "The Call to Jihad (Holy Fighting in Allah's Cause) in the Qur'an," Gartenstein-Ross characterizes it as "an exhortation to violence."
Allah revealed . . . the order to discard (all) the obligations (covenants, etc.) and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the Mushrikun as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizyah (a tax levied on the non-Muslims who do not embrace Islam and are under the protection of an Islamic government) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.
Bin Humaid appeals to Muslims to volunteer for jihad:
Jihad is a great deed indeed and there is no deed whose reward or blessing is as that of it, and for this reason, it is the best thing that one can volunteer for. . . . [I]t (Jihad) shows one's patience, one's devotion to Islam, one's remembrance to Allah and there are other kinds of good deeds which are present in Jihad and are not present in any other act of worship.
Comment: We are only at the start of finding out the extent of Islamic extremism found in prisons throughout the West. When will the BOP and other agencies open their eyes to this problem?