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Prisons, Radical Islam's New Recruiting Ground?: Patterns of recruitment in US, and comparison with the UK, Spain and France
Unformatted Document Text:  construct and detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” somewhere within the United States. The actual evidence against Padilla, at best, is tenuous. Despite this technicality, however, he has been held in a brig at Charleston Naval Air Station since President Bush declared him an “enemy combatant.” As an enemy combatant, Padilla has no Constitutional rights, and as such, may be held indefinitely without representation, due process, etc. While Padilla’s legal standing and the government’s case against him are very much in dispute, there is no contesting that Padilla, a radical Islamic fundamentalist, did have connections to al-Qaeda. So then, how exactly did a former Chicago gangbanger end up as an al-Qaeda terrorist? As we shall see, the journey started in prison. Jose Padilla was born on October 18, 1970, in New York City. After the death of his father when he was four, Padilla’s mother, relocated the family to Chicago. By his early teens, according to Seamus McGraw’s 2005 article “The Enemy Within,” Padilla “…was running with the Latin Kings, a notorious Chicago street gang, and using a half-dozen aliases, among them Jose Rivera, Jose Alicea, Jose Hernandez and Jose Ortiz. Padilla’s first “major scrape with the law” occurred when he was fourteen. He and six other gang members robbed, beat and stabbed two members of a rival gang. One of the victims died and Padilla was convicted of the juvenile equivalent of aggravated assault and armed robbery for his roll in the attack (McGraw 2005). After serving his sentence, Padilla made his way south from Chicago to Florida, the law ever at his heels. October 8, 1991, he was again arrested, this time for brandishing a weapon in a road rage incident. Less than a year later, Padilla was release from jail and, according to McGraw, “…it seemed that Padilla had put his life of street crime behind him, according to published reports” (McGraw 2005). It is speculated by a number of authors, including Kushner and McGraw, that it was during this stint in prison that Padilla had been initially exposed and converted to Islam. Padilla found employment at a Taco Bell in Broward County, Florida, after he had been released from jail. It was there that the recently converted Padilla met Mohammed Javed Qureshi, a Muslim fundamentalist and co-founder of the Sunrise School of Islamic Studies (Kushner 2004). He began studying at the school’s mosque in Sunrise, Florida. It was here that Padilla’s true radicalization began. He was taken in by the mosque’s imam, Raed Awad. A reputed fund-raiser for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Awad and his organization were suspected of having ties to Hamas and other terror organizations (Kushner 2004). By 1998, Padilla had left the country, heading to the Middle East to learn Arabic and to study the Koran. He then headed to Pakistan and Afghanistan to train at al-Qaeda’s camps. The rest is history. Padilla, like Reid, had been a disillusioned, disadvantaged minority struggling to make his way in the world. And, as so often happens, he made a number of poor choices that ultimately resulted in his incarceration. It was during his stay in prison that he had first been exposed to Islam. Upon release, Padilla, like Reid, sought out other like-minded Muslims, gravitating towards extremist individuals willing and able to nurture the seeds of hatred that had been planted while imprisoned. Fortunately, Padilla had been identified early on and was intercepted by federal authorities before he could carry out his plan to utilize a 11

Authors: Rupp, Eric. and Erickson, Christian.
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construct and detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” somewhere within the United
States. The actual evidence against Padilla, at best, is tenuous. Despite this
technicality, however, he has been held in a brig at Charleston Naval Air Station
since President Bush declared him an “enemy combatant.” As an enemy
combatant, Padilla has no Constitutional rights, and as such, may be held
indefinitely without representation, due process, etc.
While Padilla’s legal standing and the government’s case against him are
very much in dispute, there is no contesting that Padilla, a radical Islamic
fundamentalist, did have connections to al-Qaeda. So then, how exactly did a
former Chicago gangbanger end up as an al-Qaeda terrorist? As we shall see,
the journey started in prison.
Jose Padilla was born on October 18, 1970, in New York City. After the
death of his father when he was four, Padilla’s mother, relocated the family to
Chicago. By his early teens, according to Seamus McGraw’s 2005 article “The
Enemy Within,” Padilla “…was running with the Latin Kings, a notorious Chicago
street gang, and using a half-dozen aliases, among them Jose Rivera, Jose
Alicea, Jose Hernandez and Jose Ortiz. Padilla’s first “major scrape with the law”
occurred when he was fourteen. He and six other gang members robbed, beat
and stabbed two members of a rival gang. One of the victims died and Padilla
was convicted of the juvenile equivalent of aggravated assault and armed
robbery for his roll in the attack (McGraw 2005).
After serving his sentence, Padilla made his way south from Chicago to
Florida, the law ever at his heels. October 8, 1991, he was again arrested, this
time for brandishing a weapon in a road rage incident. Less than a year later,
Padilla was release from jail and, according to McGraw, “…it seemed that Padilla
had put his life of street crime behind him, according to published reports”
(McGraw 2005). It is speculated by a number of authors, including Kushner and
McGraw, that it was during this stint in prison that Padilla had been initially
exposed and converted to Islam.
Padilla found employment at a Taco Bell in Broward County, Florida, after
he had been released from jail. It was there that the recently converted Padilla
met Mohammed Javed Qureshi, a Muslim fundamentalist and co-founder of the
Sunrise School of Islamic Studies (Kushner 2004). He began studying at the
school’s mosque in Sunrise, Florida. It was here that Padilla’s true radicalization
began. He was taken in by the mosque’s imam, Raed Awad. A reputed fund-
raiser for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Awad and his
organization were suspected of having ties to Hamas and other terror
organizations (Kushner 2004). By 1998, Padilla had left the country, heading to
the Middle East to learn Arabic and to study the Koran. He then headed to
Pakistan and Afghanistan to train at al-Qaeda’s camps. The rest is history.
Padilla, like Reid, had been a disillusioned, disadvantaged minority
struggling to make his way in the world. And, as so often happens, he made a
number of poor choices that ultimately resulted in his incarceration. It was during
his stay in prison that he had first been exposed to Islam. Upon release, Padilla,
like Reid, sought out other like-minded Muslims, gravitating towards extremist
individuals willing and able to nurture the seeds of hatred that had been planted
while imprisoned. Fortunately, Padilla had been identified early on and was
intercepted by federal authorities before he could carry out his plan to utilize a
11


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