Politics & Policy

Radical Chaplains

Scrutinizing recruitment.

Recent hearings by my subcommittee on terrorism have exposed the growing dominance of a radical sect of Islam in the United States.

This sect, commonly referred to as Wahhabism, preaches jihad against Christian, Jews, and Muslims who don’t toe the Wahhabi line. All 19 of the September 11 hijackers were followers of Wahhabism, as is Osama bin Laden. This violent perversion of Islamic faith has been responsible for terrorist attacks against innocent civilians–both Muslim and non-Muslim–all over the world.

As a movement, Wahhabism has established publishing operations, schools, and charities in many countries. The self-labeled “educational outreach” of this movement–financed largely by the wealth of Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism is the official, and only state, religion–foments jihad and a fundamentalist theology to young people internationally, including in the United States.

And there have been a increasing number of instances in which Wahhabists have successfully penetrated key U.S. institutions, such as the military and our prison system. As several recent media reports have noted, the two groups that accredit and recommend Muslim chaplains to the military–the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences and an organization under the umbrella of the American Muslim Foundation–have long been suspected of links to terrorist organizations by the federal government. The Graduate School and another group accused of ties to Islamic extremists–the Islamic Society of North America–also refer Muslim clerics to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Just this week, one of the key architects of the U.S. military’s chaplain program, Abdurahman Alamoudi, was arrested and charged with an illegal relationship with Libya, long a state sponsor of terror. Federal investigators also have detained a Muslim clergymen who was once stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba–Captain James Yee–and is being investigated for potential ties to al Qaeda.

The New York State prison system promoted a Muslim cleric to a position that allowed him to supervise the hiring and firing of all prison chaplains. He was later removed from his job when officials discovered he was an al Qaeda sympathizer who incited prisoners against America. Jose Padilla, a terrorist accused of trying to build a “dirty bomb” to unleash in the United States, was exposed to radical Islam in the U.S. prison system. Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber,” was converted to fundamentalist Islam while serving time in a British prison.

On Tuesday, I chaired a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security that analyzed the procedures used by the military and prison system to recruit Muslims, particularly focusing on the cleric program. We also examined whether the instances of Wahhabi infiltration at key U.S. institutions may be part of a larger pattern. We heard from government witnesses on steps they are taking to confront these challenges and outside experts attesting to terrorists’ efforts to exploit a free society to conduct the wide range of activities necessary for effective terror operations.

In response to our Senate inquiry, groups whose terror-related activities are being scrutinized by my subcommittee as well as the federal government have been quick to accuse investigators of Muslim bias. Falsely charging “bigotry,” however, is simply not an acceptable response to serious allegations of criminal activity. Terrorists should not be allowed to disguise their hateful, violent activities under the banner of religious freedom. The fear of being falsely accused of prejudice, coupled with political correctness, may be part of the reason we got into the situation we’re in right now.

America is a welcoming nation, and Americans are respectful of all faiths. It’s time we confront the evil that has distorted and victimized the peace-loving, mainstream Muslim community. In the Senate, we intend to do just that.

Senator Jon Kyl is a Republican senator from Arizona.


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