Extremist remarks made by the head imam of the city’s jail system are generating alarm about whether inmates are being recruited as Islamic fundamentalists.
Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday that the city has suspended Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil of the city’s Department of Correction until officials can get more information about his remarks and determine whether he violated any regulations.
“We can’t prejudge but we are going to look at it this afternoon,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters yesterday. “Having said that, this morning, so that he would not go back into the jails, we put him on paid administrative leave at least for the day.”
The move by the city came after the New York Post reported that Mr. Abdul-Jalil declared in a speech that the White House is run by terrorists and that Muslims were tortured in Manhattan prisons after the World Trade Center attacks.
He also reportedly urged Muslims in America to stop letting “the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us.” The Investigative Project on Terrorism obtained a recording of his speech, a senior researcher with the organization, Tamar Tesler, confirmed yesterday.
The imam, who has been with the department since 1993 and has been overseeing all clergy members at the agency since 2004, could not be reached yesterday. He did, however, publicly deny that he was promoting extremist views and said his comments were taken out of context.
The director of Simon Wiesenthal’s New York Tolerance Center, Mark Weitzman, said, if true, the statements are cause for worry about possible recruitment of Islamic fundamentalists in city jails.