The news is really not new.
Up to 40 inmates had established an internal organisational structure to maintain morale, resist interrogation and recruit members to Islam.
The prisoners had set up leadership groups in several maximum-security jails, with their activities governed by the code outlined in the al-Qaeda manual for incarcerated followers.
A number of Corrective Services staff have been targeted, some with violent threats by inmate groups. Other staff have been singled out for conversion to Islam.
NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said an undisclosed number of inmates had been transferred to other jails in an attempt to disrupt the leadership groups.
Mr Hatzistergos said he was extremely concerned about the broader attempts to infiltrate the jail system, which were uncovered after sweeping changes to prison regulations allowed 24-hour monitoring of Muslim inmates.
The latest crackdown followed the disclosure this year that a third of the state's most dangerous criminals held in the highest-security jail in Australia, the Super Max facility inside Goulburn jail, were Muslim fundamentalists or converts to Islam.
As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2003:
Over a quiet dinner at an Indian restaurant in upstate New York, Warith Deen Umar offered his views of Islam and the Sept. 11 attacks. The hijackers should be honored as martyrs, he said. The U.S. risks further terrorism attacks because it oppresses Muslims around the world. "Without justice, there will be warfare, and it can come to this country, too," he said. The natural candidates to help press such an attack, in his view: African-Americans who embraced Islam in prison.
During a long and extraordinary career, he has had an unusual opportunity to spread these ideas. For about 20 years until he retired in 2000, Imam Umar -- the title means prayer leader -- helped run New York's growing Islamic prison program, recruiting and training dozens of chaplains, and ministering to thousands of inmates himself. With help from the Saudi government, he traveled to Saudi Arabia and brought that country's harsh form of Islam to New York's expanding ranks of Muslim prisoners.
The 58-year-old cleric remains influential with many of the chaplains he helped select as well as the inmates they work with. He continues to visit New York state prisons as a volunteer chaplain. Until Tuesday, he also worked part-time counseling inmates for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
"Even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud" the hijackers, he wrote in an unpublished memoir. The Quran, he said, does not condemn terrorism against oppressors of Muslims, even if innocent people die. "This is the sort of teaching they don't want in prison," he said. "But this is what I'm doing."
Prison officials in New York and many other states long have welcomed Muslim imams and clergy of other faiths. Religion provides structured activity that reduces security problems in prison, they say. It encourages inmates to accept responsibility for their actions and turn their backs on crime upon their release.
But there is another side to Islam behind bars. While Imam Umar says the focus of his preaching usually "is on work, family and getting an education," he also says that prison "is the perfect recruitment and training grounds for radicalism and the Islamic religion."
Prison inmates are ideal converts for jihadists. They are inured to violence, and as sociopaths and psychopaths, they are accustomed to forcing their will on other people. Providing them with a religious and intellectual framework within which to justify and channel their inner hatreds, extremist jihadism is a natural.
In 2006, a similar problem was uncovered in the New York City jails. As reported by the New York Sun:
Did you take note of what I highlighted? This fanatic jihadist was put in charge of all clergy members for the New York City Department of Corrections. This is how, by its politically correct and willful denial of even the existence of the jihad, the West is committing suicide.
Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday that the city has suspended Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil of the city's Department of Correction until officials can get more information about his remarks and determine whether he violated any regulations.
"We can't prejudge but we are going to look at it this afternoon," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters yesterday. "Having said that, this morning, so that he would not go back into the jails, we put him on paid administrative leave at least for the day."
The move by the city came after the New York Post reported that Mr. Abdul-Jalil declared in a speech that the White House is run by terrorists and that Muslims were tortured in Manhattan prisons after the World Trade Center attacks.
He also reportedly urged Muslims in America to stop letting "the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us." The Investigative Project on Terrorism obtained a recording of his speech, a senior researcher with the organization, Tamar Tesler, confirmed yesterday.
The imam, who has been with the department since 1993 and has been overseeing all clergy members at the agency since 2004, could not be reached yesterday. He did, however, publicly deny that he was promoting extremist views and said his comments were taken out of context.