Jewish World Review June 14, 2002 / 4 Tamuz, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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U.S.'s Own Powder Keg --- Convicts & Converts | With the arrest in Chicago of Abdullah Al Muhajir for being part of a terrorist plot, we have another domestic variation on what John Walker Lindh represents. But instead of a confused white guy looking for a crusade and converting to Islam, we have a Puerto Rican thug who seems to have converted to a radical form of Islam that would allow him to murder in the name of Allah and righteousness.

Lindh is the West Coast white kid who passed himself off as black in Internet chat rooms, converted to Islam and was captured in Afghanistan, where he fought in the Taliban army. Muhajir was born Jose Padilla of Puerto Rican parents in 1970 in Brooklyn. He was reared in Chicago and became such a knucklehead early in his life that he was convicted at age 15 in an armed robbery that left a man dead. He apparently converted to Islam in the early 1990s while awaiting trial in Florida for aggravated assault.

After traveling to Chicago from Pakistan, he was charged as a combatant involved in a plot to build a dirty bomb and set if off somewhere in the U.S.

There is an ugly irony to all of this, which is most clearly traceable back to the Nation of Islam and its converting convicts in the nation's prisons to "the black man's true religion," a distorted version of Islam, which in its most radical forms teaches racism and hatred of America and predicts this country's oncoming destruction.

While the Nation of Islam seemed to never harm anyone other than those within its ranks - or defectors like Malcolm X - it did a lot of influential saber-rattling. One group the Nation of Islam influenced was Jeff Fort and the Blackstone Rangers, a Chicago gang that took on smatterings of Islam but remained, while changing its name a few times, hustlers and murderers at heart.

Fort and the thugs behind him were embraced by Louis Farrakhan as his "angels of death." Farrakhan put them in touch with the Libyan government, according to an Internet article by Lance Williams, who teaches "The Sociology of Violence" for the Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University (

A plot by Fort involving terrorist acts for Libya was foiled by the FBI during the 1980s, Williams says. At that time, the plot just seemed some wild and crazy stuff concocted by organized street thugs willing to kill anyone for money.

Now we should think about it differently. We know that our jails and prisons breed a fringe of radical loons, most of whom cool down or die doing something dumb or return to prison, say amen, and try to convert others.

We have to realize there is another theater in this unprecedented war, one headquartered in our jails and prisons.

Padilla should make it clear that we are in the middle of something far beyond a debate in a civics class.

We are in a war that becomes more complex by the day.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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