For all their claims to be cleaning up Philadelphia, members of the Muslim Mob did just the opposite; they distributed heroin, extorted business owners, and murdered scores of Philadelphians. They shocked the city in 1971 when several Mosque No. 12 members (Fowler was not among them) filed into DuBrow’s furniture store on South Street, pulled guns, bound the employees with electrical cord, and beat many of them. The men doused one employee with gasoline and set him alight, shot another to death, and then set the building on fire. The intruders were, of course, not particularly interested in furniture; the store’s owner had refused to pay them protection money.
Mosque No. 12’s most famous crime unfolded a couple of years later, at one of basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s homes in the Washington, D.C., area. An orthodox Muslim leader there had done an audacious thing: Hamaas Khaalis had written a letter to several Nation of Islam mosques, accusing them of misappropriating Islam and using it as a cover for criminal action. So a team of Muslim Mob hit men traveled to D.C. and found Abdul-Jabbar’s home, which he had lent to the local religious leader. Khaalis wasn’t home, but his family was. So the Philadelphia men exacted the worst sort of revenge, killing two adults and five children, including an infant nine days old. It was the worst mass murder in D.C.’s history.
A few years later — and the current relevance of this episode will become clear shortly — “Captain” Clarence Fowler’s murder conviction was overturned because police had used a flawed photo lineup. But during the six years Fowler spent in Holmesburg, he pioneered a new style of recruitment.
Instead of merely studying his Koran in his cell, he converted his fellow inmates to his brand of radical Islam, trained them in the marching drills employed by the Fruit of Islam, and taught them hand-to-hand combat.
CLARENCE FOWLER AND the Fruit of Islam, of course, only define their own, narrow version of the religion. It’s worth dwelling a moment, then, on a broader view. There are several variations of Islam, similar in some aspects and vastly dissimilar in others. Some may blend into others. All hold a monotheistic belief in Allah and his prophet Muhammad, and hold to the Five Pillars: shahadah, or profession of faith; salah, or prayer five times daily; zakat, charity to the poor; sawm, fasting during Ramadan; and the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. The similarities end there.
Orthodox Islam adheres to those basic tenets, to the Koran, and to the writings of Muhammad’s companions. It maintains that the Koran is the literal word of God, and is only fully valid in the Arabic language.
Radical Islam interprets orthodoxy in an extreme sense. It isn’t synonymous with terrorism, although the two are plainly linked.
Orthodox Islamic teachings have little in common with what some imams call “jailhouse Islam.” It’s an undisciplined form that prisoners stitch together from bits of knowledge, along with other beliefs and motivations that may have no base in true Islam.