NEW YORK – The head Islamic chaplain for the New York City jail system was suspended yesterday after he claimed Muslims were being tortured in Manhattan lock-ups, and declared that the "greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House."
The action against Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil, the executive director of ministerial services for the Department of Correction, came in response to a story in yesterday's Post.
Mayor Bloomberg and City Correction Commissioner Martin Horn put Abdul-Jalil on paid administrative leave from his $76,602-a-year job, pending the outcome of an investigation into his remarks.
Outraged lawmakers demanded Abdul-Jalil be fired immediately, but Bloomberg said he is a civil service employee.
"We have to remove this cancer and make sure it is never allowed to spread again," fumed Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens), who chairs the City Council's Public Safety Committee.
Abdul-Jalil, 56, who is also imam of the Masjid Sabur mosque in Harlem, is one of the city's most prominent Muslim leaders and has participated in a number of high-profile events with major city and state political figures - including emotional 9/11 memorial services at Ground Zero.
He has been at the Correction Department since 1993 and was appointed head chaplain overseeing 40 chaplains of all faiths in the spring of 2004.
Last April, a counterterrorism organization, the Investigative Project, secretly recorded two speeches Abdul-Jalil gave at a conference sponsored by the Muslim Students Association in Tucson, Ariz. The group released the recording to The Post.
In remarks to two panels at the conference, Abdul-Jalil alleged that Muslims jailed after the 9/11 attacks were being "tortured" in the Manhattan Correctional Center, that "the greatest terrorists in world occupy the White House" and that Muslims should not allow "Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us."
Debra Burlingame of Westchester, whose brother Charles Burlingame was the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, said it was an "absolute outrage" that a religious leader who participated in 9/11 memorial ceremonies would make those remarks.
"It's beyond duplicitous. It's an insult to those who died on 9/11," she said.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) and several other New York area politicians called for Abdul-Jalil to be axed.
"A person with those views should not be allowed to serve in any government agency," King said.
"It is wholly inexcusable for a public servant wearing a New York City uniform to advance such a hateful and bigoted philosophy," Rep. Vito Fossella (R-S.I.) said in a letter to Horn yesterday.
Abdul-Jalil could not be reached for comment last night.
Earlier this week, he initially denied the remarks. Later, he conceded he probably made them but his words were being "taken out of context."
Abdul-Jalil said he has nothing against President Bush, whom he called a "spiritually oriented person" and said he was making a broader definition of terrorism to include "racism."