We frequently read in the media about Muslims who have been “radicalized.” Rarely is there an examination of what that means or how it happened.
We know that a high percentage of mosques in this country contain materials that promote political Islam, sharia law, hatred of Jews and “infidels,” and jihad. Not surprisingly, the number of homegrown jihadists in America is growing.
But another area that has been exploited by Islamists is our prison system, which is also contributing to the accelerating threat of homegrown jihadism.
Sep. 2, 2010, 4:01 AM
Converts to terror
By PATRICK DUNLEAVY
Reporting on the terrorism trial now under way in federal district court in Manhattan is focusing on defense attorneys' "entrapment" claim. But to me, the more interesting question is how the four accused were radicalized to the point where they'd even consider plotting to bomb synagogues in The Bronx and shoot down aircraft with missiles.
What stands out is the prison connection.
All four defendants were former inmates. More important, all three imams at the mosque in Newburgh that the defendants attended after being released from prison had a connection with the prison system.
Imams Salahuddin Muhammad, Hamin Rashada and Melody Rashada worked for the Department of Correctional Services. All had been hired by Warith Deen Umar -- who for years headed ministerial services for the New York state prison system.
Umar stated in a 2003 Wall Street Journal interview that prisons were a prime place to recruit homegrown terrorists. As recently as last year, at an Islamic Society of North American convention, he made disparaging remarks about Israel and Jews in 2009. He's an an avowed Salafist.
The Wahabbi/Salafist sect of Islam adheres to a strict interpretation of the Koran and aims to restore the caliphate form of government, functioning under Sharia law. It views Jews and other groups of nonbelievers as infidels and enemies of Islam.
And it has been the dominant Islamic theology in the prison Muslim community for decades -- thanks to generous Saudi funding for literature and training for the chaplains. It's been so dominant that Shia Muslim inmates in New York filed a class-action lawsuit against the prison administrators, claiming religious persecution, threats and overt acts of intimidation by other Muslim inmates at the behest of the civil-service chaplains.
Several years ago, authorities recorded conversations of convicts in Imam Salahuddin Muhammad's congregation. One claimed that both the governor and the president of the United States were "Zionist puppets." Another called Jews "pigs and dogs."
Is it any wonder that one of the defendants, alleged ringleader James Cromitie, was recorded making anti-Semitic remarks and stating that he wanted to destroy the Jews, seeing them as enemies of Islam.
Where and when were these seeds of hatred planted -- and where was the prison chaplain when all this was going on?
In an interview with The New York Times after the arrest of the four suspects in May 2009, Imam Salahuddin Muhammad insisted he'd seen little evidence of radicalization in prison, claiming, "I don't hear any of that wild stuff," he said, "and if I did hear it, I would stomp it out. It's totally un-Islamic."
Yet, during his time as chaplain in the Fishkill State Prison, he hired several inmates with known radical Islamic ties as clerks in the chaplain's office. One was a Palestinian Hamas member; another was a Yemeni inmate with ties to the Lackawanna Six -- a US-grown terrorist cell that attended al Qaeda training camps in the Middle East. He even allowed the inmates to use his office phone to call the Middle East and North Africa.
One need only look at the amount of money from inmate funds that were sent to the Newburgh mosque over the years to see a well-established connection. Inmates from the chaplains' prison congregations have also sent thousands of dollars to pseudo-Islamic charities, such as the Holy Land Foundation and others, which in turn provided material support for terrorist organizations.
Radical Islamic recruitment in the prison system is a reality. Years of sowing seeds among a captive audience are bearing fruit.
It was no coincidence that the authorities focused on this particular congregation.
Patrick Dunleavy, a former deputy inspector general of the state Department of Correctional Services, spent more than 26 years working in law enforcement. As head of the Criminal Intelligence Division, he probed the radical Islamic-recruitment movement inside and outside prison walls. A version of this article ran at investigativeproject.org.
Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.
"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."
In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.
"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."
Using data collected in 1929 by the Conference Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cole and Ohanian were able to establish average wages and prices across a range of industries just prior to the Depression. By adjusting for annual increases in productivity, they were able to use the 1929 benchmark to figure out what prices and wages would have been during every year of the Depression had Roosevelt's policies not gone into effect. They then compared those figures with actual prices and wages as reflected in the Conference Board data.
In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.
Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.
"High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns," Ohanian said. "As we've seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market's self-correcting forces."
The policies were contained in the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which exempted industries from antitrust prosecution if they agreed to enter into collective bargaining agreements that significantly raised wages. Because protection from antitrust prosecution all but ensured higher prices for goods and services, a wide range of industries took the bait, Cole and Ohanian found. By 1934 more than 500 industries, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of private, non-agricultural employment, had entered into the collective bargaining agreements called for under NIRA.
Cole and Ohanian calculate that NIRA and its aftermath account for 60 percent of the weak recovery. Without the policies, they contend that the Depression would have ended in 1936 instead of the year when they believe the slump actually ended: 1943.
Roosevelt's role in lifting the nation out of the Great Depression has been so revered that Time magazine readers cited it in 1999 when naming him the 20th century's second-most influential figure.
"This is exciting and valuable research," said Robert E. Lucas Jr., the 1995 Nobel Laureate in economics, and the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. "The prevention and cure of depressions is a central mission of macroeconomics, and if we can't understand what happened in the 1930s, how can we be sure it won't happen again?"
NIRA's role in prolonging the Depression has not been more closely scrutinized because the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional within two years of its passage.
"Historians have assumed that the policies didn't have an impact because they were too short-lived, but the proof is in the pudding," Ohanian said. "We show that they really did artificially inflate wages and prices."
Even after being deemed unconstitutional, Roosevelt's anti-competition policies persisted — albeit under a different guise, the scholars found. Ohanian and Cole painstakingly documented the extent to which the Roosevelt administration looked the other way as industries once protected by NIRA continued to engage in price-fixing practices for four more years.
The number of antitrust cases brought by the Department of Justice fell from an average of 12.5 cases per year during the 1920s to an average of 6.5 cases per year from 1935 to 1938, the scholars found. Collusion had become so widespread that one Department of Interior official complained of receiving identical bids from a protected industry (steel) on 257 different occasions between mid-1935 and mid-1936. The bids were not only identical but also 50 percent higher than foreign steel prices. Without competition, wholesale prices remained inflated, averaging 14 percent higher than they would have been without the troublesome practices, the UCLA economists calculate.
NIRA's labor provisions, meanwhile, were strengthened in the National Relations Act, signed into law in 1935. As union membership doubled, so did labor's bargaining power, rising from 14 million strike days in 1936 to about 28 million in 1937. By 1939 wages in protected industries remained 24 percent to 33 percent above where they should have been, based on 1929 figures, Cole and Ohanian calculate. Unemployment persisted. By 1939 the U.S. unemployment rate was 17.2 percent, down somewhat from its 1933 peak of 24.9 percent but still remarkably high. By comparison, in May 2003, the unemployment rate of 6.1 percent was the highest in nine years.
Recovery came only after the Department of Justice dramatically stepped enforcement of antitrust cases nearly four-fold and organized labor suffered a string of setbacks, the economists found.
"The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes," Cole said. "Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened."