The top chaplain for New York's Department of Correction was placed
on administrative leave this week while city officials investigate a speech
he gave last year in which he allegedly said that the "greatest terrorists
in the world occupy the White House."
Umar Abdul-Jalil, director of the city jails' ministerial services unit and
the well-known imam of a Harlem mosque, is prohibited from having contact with
inmates pending a review of his comments, Department of Correction spokesman
Tom Antenen said.
In an April speech to a group of Islamic leaders in Tucson, Abdul-Jalil
allegedly said that Jews controlled the media and that Muslims were being tortured
in Manhattan jails, according to excerpts published by the New York Post. The
speech was taped by the Investigative Project, a counter-terrorism organization.
At one point, Abdul-Jalil urged American Muslims to stop allowing "the
Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us," according to the
Abdul-Jalil could not be reached for comment Friday, but told reporters earlier
in the week that his statements had been taken out of context.
On Friday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he would examine the speech and
meet with other city officials to determine whether Abdul-Jalil had violated
any department policies or city rules. "We've got to look at what he said
on the job, and how what he says away from the job impacts that, and what his
rights are," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show.
Abdul-Jalil's alleged remarks came as a surprise to officials with the Department
of Correction, where the imam is well-liked, one jail official said. Abdul-Jalil
has worked as a chaplain in the city jails since 1993. In April 2004, he was
promoted to run the department's ministerial services unit, overseeing 40 chaplains
of various faiths who work in the 14,000-inmate system.
The investigation into his speech comes a year after the city fire department
forced its Muslim chaplain to resign after he publicly expressed doubt that
Al Qaeda hijackers had brought down the World Trade Center.