NEW YORK — The city's top jail chaplain, an imam who has denounced "Zionists of the media" and referred to "terrorists" in the White House, is being allowed to keep his job, the mayor said this week.
Umar Abdul-Jalil, who oversees a group of jail chaplains for the Department of Correction, had been on paid leave since The New York Post reported his remarks last week, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on March 14 he would not be fired.
The Republican mayor cited the First Amendment, saying the "great dangers that we are facing are not people saying things, it is our reaction in this country to when people say something that we don't like."
"We are forgetting what distinguishes America from every place else, and it's something that I have felt very strongly about and get more and more worried about with time," Bloomberg said.
The mayor said the chaplain would be suspended for two weeks without pay from the $76,000-a-year job because he did not follow policy and make it clear to his audience that he was not speaking on behalf of the city.
Abdul-Jalil apologized and said he respected "people of all faiths."
"I'm sorry the statement was quoted out of context and was offensive to anyone," he said in a response issued by his attorney.
Abdul-Jalil had made the comments last April at a Muslim Students Association conference in Tucson, Ariz.
"We know that the greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House, without a doubt," he said, according to a transcript provided to the Associated Press by the Investigative Project, a counterterrorism group that obtained a recording of the speeches.
Abdul-Jalil also made several references to the ways Muslims are viewed and portrayed, in one case saying Muslims have to stop allowing "the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us."
His attorney, Norman Siegel, said Abdul-Jalil was considering challenging the suspension.
"Any reasonable person would have known he was not there on behalf of the city and was there as an individual," Siegel said.