Jihad Jane: A Special Trip To Visit an Islamic Woman in Prison who Threatened Cartoonists of Prophet Muhammad, Pbuh.
On Saturday, May 7, 2016 I traveled to Tallahassee, Florida's Federal Correctional Institution to visit Colleen "Fatima" LaRose, also known as "Jihad Jane." She was sentenced to ten years for conspiracy to commit murder overseas, for her role in a 2009 failed plot to kill Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who mocked the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). She spent four years in solitary confinement but now resides in general population in a unit containing 60 women.
Fatima was very surprised to see me, as she has not been receiving any mail for two months, ever since I sent her the article I wrote about her for New Trend. Oddly enough, the prison counselor never received my visitor request form in the mail either. Thankfully, he was very kind and expedited the approval process after I overnighted him a second form. Fatima has not received a visitor in years. She greeted me warmly with a long, tight embrace. The 52 year old convert to Islam wore a khaki prison suit with a white hijab. She was in good spirits and seems to be well-liked by the guards and the co-prisoners. The guard had joked to her laughingly, "Are you gonna behead me?" She calls the other women, most of whom are much younger than herself, "my babies." "I never had children before I came to prison," she laughs.
We shared a delightful 1 ½ hour visit eating cookies and drinking soda from the vending machine in a visiting room full of families sitting at round tables. There were also tables outside in the courtyard, but Fatima preferred to stay in the air conditioning. She had me cracking up, telling me a lot of funny stories about life in prison. For example, she likes to sneak food from the kitchen. One time she had a bra full of eggs and another inmate came up to her and gave her a big hug! She was later caught bringing a tomato to a cellmate, and lost her kitchen job. She is now relegated to the dishroom but occasionally sneaks into the kitchen to help her friends cook.
She spoke of her admiration for Br. Osama bin Laden. "You can see from his face that there is a light about him." She does not believe the news about Osama being killed by US forces and dumped into the sea. She hopes that he is still alive somewhere. I mentioned to her that he is likely to have died from kidney failure. Regarding 9/11, she said, "Osama explained to the Jews and them that the Muslims don't want your western ways and you need to get your troops out of our lands. He told them again and again. They were forewarned." She listens to the news and continues to be very interested in ongoing developments such as ISIS.
"I want to support them," she said, "But I think they've gone too far, burning that guy alive." I explained to her what I had learned from New Trend, that the man was a fighter pilot whose plane had gone down after he had firebombed people. "Oh, I never knew that!" she exclaimed. "In that case, he deserved it."
She said there are about 15 Muslim sisters in her prison, who attend jummah prayers. She is the only one keeping hijab. "They all call it 'high-jab!'" she laughs in her charming southern accent. She wears a black hijab to work and the white one other times.
Fatima has a very sunny disposition, she is energetic and friendly to everyone and seems to be respected and loved by the women in her unit. She has found a way to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims by staunchly refusing to back down from her own beliefs and values at the same time as graciously and lovingly accepting other people for who they choose to be - one of her favorite people to socialize with is a Spanish-speaking religious Jew who is also transgender. She introduced me to a pretty young black woman passing by. "Her husband is my baby." The "husband," Fatima's cellmate, is injecting male hormones and growing a beard.
"There's a lot of that going on in here!" she whispers, laughing cheerfully at the juicy gossip.
Fatima, who is expected to be released in Pennsylvania in 2018, is looking forward to becoming a part of a real Muslim community. Her interaction with the Ummah was almost entirely online. Fatima had become obsessed with jihad after learning about the situation in Palestine.
Fatima said people often asked her if she will do anything jihad-related again, once she is released but she says no. "They are not going to ask me to do anything else. I have already proved myself," she said of her mentors, whom she believes to be with al Qaeda. "I was very honored as a woman to be chosen for a mission. Usually they give those kinds of jobs to the brothers. I don't like that I'm in prison, but it's not that bad." She has always been very patient with the decision of Allah, even when she was in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) in solitary.
Regardless of what one believes about her choice of action, it says a lot about her character that she was willing to sacrifice herself in order to stand up for her brothers and sisters around the world, that she had never met, who had done nothing for her. Fatima's future plan upon release is to grow flowers and vegetables. For now, she is looking forward to fasting for Ramadan.
[New Trend urges readers to write to the sister.]
Register Number: 61657-066
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
501 CAPITAL CIRCLE, NE
TALLAHASSEE, FL 32301