The National Association of Muslim Chaplains (NAMC) was established in 1978 to lobby for the rights and religious education of Islamic prisoners in U.S. penitentiaries. The religious instruction provided by this organization was largely rooted in the fundamentalist teachings of Islam's Wahhabist sect.
NAMC's founder was Imam Warith-Deen Umar, a Muslim chaplain in the New York State prison system. Umar's extremism was made plain when he said, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, that “the hijackers should be honored as martyrs”; that “Osama bin Laden probably will go down in history as a hero to Muslims”; and that Muslims “who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud” bin Laden's mass murderers. Asserting that the Koran does not forbid terrorism even against the innocent, Umar added: “This is the sort of teaching they don't want in prison. But this is what I'm doing.” These sentiments alarmed authorities and caused Umar to be fired from the prison system in 2003.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, New York State prison officials saw evidence of extreme militancy not only in Imam Umar, but also in some of the spiritual leaders whom he had helped to hire and train. On the very afternoon of September 11, for example, 31-year-old Muslim chaplain Sufwan El Hadi, who had worked for the corrections department for more than five years, addressed about 90 inmates in a prison gymnasium and said that Allah had inflicted his just punishment on the wicked; that the 9/11 victims themselves (and America generally) deserved what had happened to them earlier that day. Some six weeks later, veteran female chaplain Aminah Akbar told an audience of approximately 100 women inmates at the Albion Correctional Facility (in western New York State) that Osama bin Laden “is a soldier of Allah.” “I am not an American,” she added. “I just live here.”
Also certified by NAMC was a protege of Warith-Deen Umar, Salahuddin M. Muhammad, whom Umar originally hired to serve as chaplain of the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York. Today, Muhammad is the senior imam at the Masjid Al-Ikhlas in Newburgh, New York—the same mosque where homegrown jihadist James Cromitie had his first conversation (in June 2008) with an FBI informant. In that conversation, Cromitie, a Brooklyn resident who was incensed by U.S. military killings of Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan, expressed his desire to “do something” to America. Over the ensuing 11 months, he and three other conspirators hatched a plot that included planting bombs outside of two Bronx-area synagogues and firing Stinger missiles at military transport planes at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh.
Not long after Warith-Deen Umar was fired from his position with the New York prison system in 2003, NAMC permanently shut down its operations.
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