Sufwan El Hadi

  • Radical Muslim cleric and prison chaplain
  • The day after 9/11, he proclaimed that America deserved what it got.

Sufwan El Hadi was the Muslim chaplain at Cape Vincent, a medium-security prison in upstate New York. He stirred controversy when, on the very day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he addressed about 90 inmates and a group of officials in the prison gymnasium. Spicing his English delivery with Arabic prayer, the then-31-year-old Imam El Hadi said, in a loud and angry voice, that God had inflicted his punishment on the wicked. The victims deserved what they got, he said, and America deserved what it got. Some inmates became visibly agitated. But “many people, inmates, came up to him and said, ‘good job, good job,’” according to the imam’s attorney, Amin Khalil Hussain-El.The next day, Sept. 12, Imam El Hadi ran out into the prison yard, pumping his arms above his head and chanting, while a group of black Muslim inmates crowded around him, smiling and laughing and patting each other on the back, according to a guard’s account cited in arbitrator Paul S. Zonderman’s ruling. On Sept. 13, officials told the imam he was a security risk and put him on leave. He later was fired from his $55,000-a-year job. Though Imam El Hadi contested the dismissal, the arbitrator concluded that El Hadi “has no place within a correctional facility” and deserved to be fired.