WALTER EDMUND BOND (37096013)
1/27/2016 3:21:31 PM
Becoming Muslim in the CMU
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the one who Sustains the Heavens and the Earths, Director of all that is created, who sent messengers (peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them) to rational beings, to guide them and explain the religious laws to them with clear proofs and undeniable arguments’. I praise Him for all his bounties. I ask Him to increase His grace and generosity. I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, alone, who has no partner, no equal, and there is non like, or comparable to Him. And I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant, messenger and final prophet.
My interest in world religions, mythology, the occult and various facets of spirituality began the moment I could read of such things. Although for much of my life I remained agnostic and borderline atheist. In the back of my mind I always had the notion that one day I would devout myself to a higher power in one form or another. I studied, as a hobby the scriptures of world religions. The Bahagavad Gita, Mahabrata, the Upanishads, the Vedas, The Holy Bible (various translations), the Guru Granth, Santeria, Witchcraft, Vodun, Divination, Asatru, Shamanism, etc. Always in the back of my mind waiting and hoping to find the one that spoke to me. As years past I became weary and skeptical of all beliefs and began studying the contemporary works of atheist thought.
In the summer of 2008 I read for the first time, an English translation of the meaning of the Holy Qur’an. I immediately felt different about this book than I had about the rest. It spoke to my sense of justice and had a consistency and coherence I found lacking in all other scriptures. And so it was that I took my Shahada (the testimony of faith that enters one into the fold of Islam) after having received Dawah (knowledge of the practice and basic principles of Islam) in a small Masjid in Denver, Colorado. I remember stumbling through the words of the Shahada for the first time. Arabic was very foreign to my ears and the words of the Shahada sounded like a series of la la la la’s. I remember struggling to learn Salah (the 5 daily prayers that are obligatory upon every true Muslim) from a packet of transliterated words and pedestrian style graphics demonstrating the the proper stances that coincide with the prayer. I was shy to attend Masjid and learn from anyone else and because of that pride I soon gave up and without the power of the prayer on my side I quickly fell back into Kufr (unbelief), although I did continue to read English translations of the Qur’an and found solace in doing so. The Deen (Islamic religion of pure monotheism) Had entered my head but had not yet entered my heart.
In the summer of 2010 I was arrested for a series of arsons I had committed under the moniker of the Animal Liberation Front. A clandestine disorganization that breaks the law to save the lives of Animals and publicize the suffering they endure in the slaughterhouse industry, medical science and research, as well as entertainment and fashion. By the Summer of 2010 the ATF, FBI and Department of Homeland security as well as other local authorities across Colorado and Utah were closing in on me. I had spent the previous decade working peacefully and legally for Animal Rights but had lost patience with a system that will never care about Life in the same way it cares about production, economy and consumption. I took the law into my own hands and was about to reap the consequences.
It was in county jail in Golden, Colorado That I made an earnest prayer in my cell. I guess I should preface this by saying that it was not out of desperation that I made that prayer. My situation was definitely dire as my court cases became a circus of activity. On one side the activist communities were divided about their feelings over me, my crimes of arson and my personal views. And on the other side was the news media, United States government and victims of burnt out businesses pooling together to make me look as ghoulish and sinister as possible.
In spite of this all, I had that familiar feeling I had experienced as a young boy, an incompleteness, a spiritual void. Although I had had the beginnings of an Islamic awakening a couple years before, I began doing a summary of research into world religions once again and turned up with the same confounding feelings of confusion. It all seemed equally possible and impossible. So I prayed something to the effect of: ‘Oh God, I know I am supposed to put you at the center of my life but I do not know in what capacity or which path I should follow please guide me to the correct way with certainty’. My first sincere Du’a (prayer) was for correct guidance.
The next day when the book cart came around there was a Qur’an on it. The first and only time I had seen one in that jail! I took it as a sign and I kept that Qur’an and read it in my cell off and on for the time I remained in Golden. But again my skeptical nature won out. I eventually surmised that it was coincidence, that I was reading into things because I had to much time and stress in my life. for the following 18 months I focused on my writings and my court cases primarily but did find solace and strength in the pages of that Qur’an.
About 18 months and 2 federal court cases later I found myself in solitary confinement in a county jail in Davis County just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. It was the day after sentencing and I had received a total of 12 years and 4 months. it was in that cell that I wrote the last pages of my book an article entitled “The Importance of Straight Edge”. I remember the fatigue and drain that I felt in that cell. I had given everything that I had and I felt like a dead battery laying on a concrete slab. I was still receiving a lot of support mail, my latest court statement was generating a buzz in in the Animal Rights community and I remember for the first time begrudging my fan mail. While strangers flooded my prison cell with letters speaking of solidarity and resistance and commending me for my sacrifices and struggle. I was looking at my prison walls trying to come to terms with the fact that this was my life for the next decade.
I made Du’a again, I prayed: “Oh Allah, I believe in the Qur’an and I think I am supposed to be a Muslim but I am skeptical to change my life over a book on a book cart. Please send me an unequivocal sign and I swear I will follow it”. 4 months later I was on my way to the CMU (Communications Management Unit), A semi-secret prison unit of which there are only 2 in the entire Federal Bureau of Prisons. One in Terre Haute, Indiana and the one that I was to reside in for the next 3 and a half years in Marion, Illinois. The overwhelming number of men housed in the CMU were Arab Muslims.
Culture Shock- Marion, while technically in Illinois is in the southernmost part of the state near the northern border of Tennessee. The twang in the voices of staff definitely rings more southern than Midwestern. When I entered the prison all inmate movement ceased and the entire prison went on lockdown as me and another inmate were escorted to I-Unit (the CMU). Once you step through the door of the CMU you go from being in the midwest to the middle east. In 2012 when I arrived there were Muslim men from all over the Arabian peninsula and beyond. Like most Americans I had barely even seen an Arab that wasn’t on a television screen. Ironically many of the men I saw there looked familiar from recent news articles and broadcasts.
The first impression I had was very positive. Prison is not the most hospitable of places. Often it is a place with a warped value system where violence and fear are considered admirable and the gang mentality prevails, but not in the CMU. The Muslim brothers I met, the ones the American government deems terrorists were kind, considerate, generous, well-mannered, clean, courteous and well-educated. Even though I was a total stranger they seemed generally concerned with my well being and genuinely enjoyed being of assistance. That first night in my cell I remember marveling at the fact that my prayer had been answered in exactly the terms I had asked. I resolved to make good on my promise, I began studying sincerely and daily and within my first couple months there I took Shahada again, however this time after being well informed and with love of Allah and his final Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) in my heart.
I realized quickly that the correctional staff in the CMU including the prison chaplains were not at all happy with my reversion to Islam. The whole push of the CMU was to target and cut off Muslims from the outside world. Communications, be they by phone, visits or mail are made cumbersome to say the least. All visits are no contact though plexiglass and live monitored (I have never been allowed a visit since my arrest in 2010). All telephone calls are also live monitored and must be signed up for a week in advance. You must sign up for whatever languages you will be speaking and you are allowed 2 fifteen minute phone calls per week.
Many of the rules in the CMU are elusive and not posted anywhere nor are they explained. I’ve seen brothers thrown into solitary confinement for asking where another Muslim has been transferred too. I received an incident report for talking to my father for 10 minutes and then calling a friend for the remaining 5 minutes, even though both were approved contacts. For that infraction I lost my phone privileges as well as the prison commissary for 3 months.
However one of the favorite rule infractions that staff enforced was “praying in congregation”. If two or more brothers were caught praying together (which all Muslims are expected to do if the opportunity presents itself) it was a punishable rule infraction. Certain C.O.’s (Correctional Officers) would keep an Islamic prayer schedule in the office just to make the rounds at those particular times. The funny thing was that during the holy month of Ramadan we were allowed to pray all 5 daily prayers in congregation for the entire month. I guess the Federal Bureau of Prisons really does recognize the sacred properties of Ramadan because the prayer which to them was a “safety and security concern” the other 11 months of the year all of the sudden became perfectly harmless that month!
Even after John Walker Lynn won the right to congregational prayer in the CMU at Terre Haute, they refused to let the ruling apply to us in Marion even though they are both governed and monitored by the same counter terrorist unit and are the same program. Indeed many of the men got bounced back and forth between the 2 units over and over again. So adamant were they against the prayer that I witnessed brothers get sent to the ADX (the supermax penitentiary in Florence, Colorado) or otherwise immediately released from the CMU the moment they would get close to winning the right to congregational prayer, or any Judge was ruling in their favor against the CMU because most of the criteria for housing inmates there is unconstitutional (even as a prisoner you have the right to religious practice, freedom of speech and your political views, but practicing these is exactly what landed most of us there). I did not have one incident report in the Federal Bureau of Prisons before my arrival in the CMU. I had never even been in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I went straight from county jail to little Gitmo.
But Alhamdulilah! Allah placed me there for good reason, mainly to learn the Deen (Islamic religion of pure monotheism). I also learned Tajweed (recitation of the Qur’an), Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and much more. I met some of the finest men I’ve ever known. Men like Sayyid Nosair, Ghassan Elashi, Abu Khabab, Tariq Mehanna and many, many more. After being there for 3 and a half years I was released. I left behind many brothers and I keep them all in my prayers to this day. And I am happy to report that many of them were released from the CMU after me. I wish them all the best and a speedy return to their loved ones. And if I do not see them again in this life, then InshAllah we will meet again in Jennah (Heaven).
Since my conversion to Islam many friends, family and supporters have been less than receptive. Which of course is there prerogative. I have found in Islam a holistic way of life and a salvation plan for all mankind based on Allah and the mutual rights of all (Humans, Animals and the Earth). Not single issue causes or the laundry bag of activist issues. I remain a staunch supporter of Animal Rights and the Straight Edge (drug free) lifestyle. However, I no longer ask Allah for signs. Instead I strive to have faith, enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil. And keep Taqwah (fear and Love of Allah) in my heart always.
Abdul Haqq is currently incarcerated, has no access to the internet or Facebook. He is scheduled to be released April 2021. You can contact him by U.S. mail:
PO Box 5000
Greenville IL 62246