Representative Peter King, R-N.Y. got it partly wrong when he stated, “You get radical chaplains who then radicalize them and turn them toward terrorism or turn them toward violence.” He was referring to how prisons in America, in imitation of a trend in the UK for example, are becoming breeding grounds for radical islamic terrorists. The part he got wrong of course is the that they get “turned toward violence.” It might seem like nitpicking on a topic that Peter King is clearly informed on and very much involved with, but it bears reminding of the simple fact that prisoners are targeted by radical islamic clerics and other crazed militants precisely because they have proven to be violent. From the world of closed cells of terrorists, radical islam, like ISIS, now are trying to go viral by using social media to convert and incite lone wolves or anyone they can to their bloodthirsty cause. And prisons are one place they seem to be targeting.

This brings us to the case of Alton Nolen, an ex-con who had converted to Islam, and the horrifying attack he perpetrated at Vaughn Foods in Oklahoma. Shortly after being fired from his job at the company, Nolen returned with a knife and beheaded one of his co-workers – attacking her from behind – and fatally stabbed another. It was only when company owner Mark Vaughn shot him in the arm and abdomen that the attack ended. He reportedly shouted Koranic verses as he carried out the attack. Was this a planned act of terrorism or a violent revenge, another case of a fired worker going postal? Wrong question according to Patrick Dunleavy, former inspector general of NY State Police’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, and author of a book on radical islam and prisoners. It can be both things he argues. The need for violent revenge is framed within the context of a call to violence by islamic groups who are even calling for a caliphate in America. It is a case of using social media – Nolen apparently viewed the beheadings carried out by ISIS, perhaps repeatedly – to produce human time bombs that are targeted to go off and perpetrate horrifying crimes like the one at Vaughn Foods. It may be that to fight this emerging phenomenon, islamic clerics should be carefully screened before gaining access to any prison, and be denied that access if any reasonable suspicion arises as to whether they sponsor radical violence. As to social media and ex-cons already out of jail who risk being converted to violent causes like that of ISIS, it’s a problem of whose dimensions little is still known, but much needs to be found out. We need to listen to people like Patrick Dunleavy. Right now.

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