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Former Head New York Islamic Prison Chaplain Pleads Guilty in Gun Case

Until he retired in 2000, Imam Warith Deen Umar, 61, made $67,919 a year as the head Islamic chaplain for the New York state prison system. On June 7, 2006, Umar pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal district court to illegally possessing a Winchester shotgun, a .22-caliber Ruger rifle and four shotgun shells in his Bronx apartment. The weapons were illegal for Umar to posses because he had been convicted of felony possession of a dangerous weapon on May 13, 1971.

Umar told federal judge Robert Patterson that he notified prison officials when he purchased the weapons in 1983. The judge is scheduled to sentence Umar to up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing.

Umar is best known for a February 2003 Wall Street Journal article in which he was quoted as saying even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud the 9-11 hijackers. Umar now says that what he meant was that some Muslims view the hijackers as martyrs, not that he personally agreed with that viewpoint. Umar has since called the 9-11 attacks a terrible thing to happen, saying he felt saddened for the victims.

The police went to the Bronx apartment building Umar owns after he called them following a dispute with one of his tenants. The police also searched his Glenmont, New York, house pursuant to a search warrant that said they were seeking notes, memos, correspondence and periodicals that had references to holy war, jihad and/or acts of violence against Jews, U.S. military personnel, gays, lesbians or infidels.

I feel like they are persecuting me because I'm Muslim and I'm black and I speak out and because I was the Muslim chaplain in the state prison system for 25 years, said Umar.

PLN has provided extensive coverage of the persecution of Muslim prison chaplains. [PLN, July 2004, pp. 8-10 and Sept. 2003, pp. 20-21.]

Sources: New York Post, Associated Press,

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