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Medill Belief and Public Life

Islam and Moral Rebirth

Stories of Former Offenders Whose Muslim Faith Has Led Them Down a New Path
By Matthew Streib, August 24, 2007

Islam is spreading through the American prison system at a rapid pace. In today's political climate, some have warned that this could lead to increased radicalism. But in these three stories, former offenders describe how Islam led them to a righteous life, allowing them to start anew.

Kurt Cargle, 42, was released from prison two years ago and has since made a good living working numerous jobs. His Muslim community is small, but he holds on to his faith as an anchor of morality, stability, and strength.

Leon Dread, 63, has spent the last two decades since he left prison reaching out to inmates, children, and anyone who will listen, warning them of the dangers of violence, drugs, and AIDS. He is also working to improve himself, and recently earned a master's degree in political science. He says Allah meant for him to effect positive change in the world.

Hassan Wasi, 48, spent more than half of his life in prison. Now, he is one of the first inhabitants at a new transitional housing program on Chicago's South Side. He is using his faith to rebuild his career and his social network.

Click on the images below to see videos.

Kurt Cargle
Leon Dread
Hassan Wasi

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Students from Medill School at Northwestern University spent eight months examining the connection between belief and public life in the United States, a pursuit that carried them everywhere from tattoo parlors to much more traditional venues and yielded an abundance of revealing stories.

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