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 Saturday, Oct. 26, 2002 2:38 p.m. EDT


Civil Rights Chief Warns White House

of Al-Qaeda-U.S. Muslim Threat


The head of one of the nation's most prominent civil rights organizations has warned the White House that the rise of radical Islam within America's black community could provide a breeding ground for the perpetrators of the next wave of terror attacks against the U.S.


In a letter sent to the Bush administration on Friday, Congress of Racial Equality Chairman Roy Innis requested a meeting with Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge, Attorney General John Ashcroft and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to discuss what he sees as the "clear and present danger" posed to U.S. race relations by the rising tide of "non-spiritual" Muslim conversions.


Innis fears that the trend has left too many sympathetic to al-Qaeda and its anti-American agenda, providing a waiting pool of potential terrorist recruits.


"Even before the Beltway sniper attacks," Innis told NewsMax in an exclusive interview, "I anticipated a real problem for our country and for black Americans in particular. And that is the large number of non-spiritually based conversions to Islam - both inside and outside of jail.


"It's not going to take long for al-Qaeda to begin capitalizing on this, if they haven't already," the CORE chief warned.


"Osama bin Laden was able to sneak 19 guys into the country with visas and attack the country on Sept. 11. That won't be so easy to do anymore," Innis noted.


"But the guys coming out of jail, the recent converts, the angry guys floating around the country who are looking for a framework to express their hostility - they don't need visas."


The longtime civil rights leader fears that if the next terrorist attack has black fingerprints on it, it could destroy decades worth of progress in American race relations.


"Al-Qaeda is going to figure this out soon enough and start using it - and there goes all the years of civil rights improvement in America. All the revolutionary gains of Dr. Martin Luther King, of CORE and the NAACP and the others could be washed away overnight if the phenomenon continues unchecked."


Innis pointed to the recent arrest of six al-Qaeda suspects in Oregon, noting, "Already we see this trend being played out. ... Three of them were black Muslims."


The fact that Beltway sniper John Muhammed was also a Muslim convert who was sympathetic to the Sept. 11 attacks only heightens his concern, the CORE chief told NewsMax.


He also zeroed in on Nation of Islam chief Louis Farrakhan, who, Innis said, needs to clean house of people like Mr. Muhammed, who worked as a security guard for the NOI's 1995 Million Man March.


"He needs to clean his own house and examine his own house to make sure that he doesn't have sociopaths and psychopaths and haters of other sorts and al-Qaeda adherents floating into his organization."


He called on Farrakhan to "weed out his non-spiritually based followers" and to take care that "his rhetoric doesn't give aid and comfort and nurture" [to] al-Qaeda sympathizers.


Innis stressed that he is not questioning anybody's genuinely held religious beliefs.


"I'm not challenging a person's right to change from Catholic to Protestant, from Christian to Muslim to Jewish - I'm not challenging that," he told NewsMax. "But I am challenging whether these are in fact spiritually based conversions - or are they just convenient vehicles to express hostilities and sociopathic behavior."


He noted that "it's stranger than usual, the large amount of young black men who go to jail and come out as Muslims," adding, "I don't believe for one moment that they go to jail and then have an epiphany like Paul on the road to Damascus."


Prisoners become Muslims, he said, "Because it is safer to become Muslim in jail. They're able to join the gang."


But beyond protection from physical violence, converting to Islam gives alienated prisoners something else, Innis contended. "They're able to express their hostility using a religious cover. They're able to express their anti-Americanism in a religious framework."


The pressure to convert can be overwhelming, Innis contended, noting that "even a fierce and ferocious boxing champion like Mike Tyson goes to jail and becomes a Muslim."


The civil rights leader said the first item he'd like to discuss with Attorney General Ashcroft is the potential national security threat posed by al-Qaeda sympathizers who will one day be released from prison.


Noting that both confessed al-Qaeda shoe bomber Richard Reid and dirty-bomb suspect Jose Padilla were jailhouse converts to Islam, the CORE chief urged, "That's the prime target to deal with right now. Do something about those prisons."


Innis said it's imperative that the Bush administration send the message to youthful al-Qaeda prospects now in jail: "You don't have to become a Muslim to survive in prison. The government will protect you."


He also wants to win the Bush administration's support for prison-based instruction on the history of the relationship between blacks and Islam, which, he noted, began with the slave trade.


"When these prisoners give up their Christian 'slave name' for a Muslim pre-Christian 'slave name' - if they knew the history, they wouldn't be so inclined," he observed.





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