Remember how Philadelphia’s Mayor Street handily won reelection after an FBI bug was found in his office last year? Prominent national Democrats like Terry McAuliffe swooped in with war whoops of “Watergate” and evil Bush racism, and what would have been defeat was transformed into victory.
I thought readers might enjoy another glimpse into local Philadelphia politics. The bugging of Street’s office sprang from an investigation into Imam Shamsud-din Ali. A local mover and shaker, vote deliverer extraordinaire, Ali is a Street crony with a very colorful background:

His supporters and those who attend Ali’s mosque see him as a religious leader who transformed his life and the lives of those around him after serving 51/2 years in prison for the 1970 murder of a Baptist minister. That conviction was later overturned.
[ED. NOTE: More HERE on the legal details.]
A founder of Philadelphia Masjid and the Sister Clara Muhammad School, Ali, 65, fashioned himself into a leading voice in the city’s Muslim community.
He adeptly maneuvered city politics, while building a large and devoted congregation in West Philadelphia. He could deliver votes from an untapped constituency, politicians believed.
To the federal authorities on his trail, Ali, once known as Clarence Fowler, is a former member of the city’s Black Mafia who has never cut his ties to the drug underworld.
In seeking permission to tap his phone, the FBI told a federal judge Ali was part of a network involved in “the distribution of illegal drugs… extortion and kidnapping schemes… money laundering… acts of violence… and a scheme involving bribery of a public official.”
A defense lawyer has said, in a court filing, that information tying Ali to any of this was thin and that reels of wiretap tape captured little, if any, evidence that Ali was immersed in the drug world.
Still, his detractors say Ali’s $250,000 home inside a gated Cheltenham community and the expensive cars he and his wife drive – two Mercedes-Benz sedans – belie the image of a humble servant of Allah.
Even the drug dealers who have told authorities they made payments to Ali through the school and his mosque could see the irony.
In a conversation recorded by the FBI and confirmed by a federal prosecutor, one reputed kingpin expressed his frustration: “He’s walking with kings, and we’re out here on the streets hustling.”
After hearing Ali talk with an alleged major drug dealer in the bugged conversations, the FBI won permission to tap the imam’s home and cell phones. The conversations yielded something unexpected – discussions of allegedly corrupt dealings with City Hall.

And so on.
For his part, Ali maintains he is an innocent man of God, persecuted for his race and religion:

“What they can do to an African American is unbelievable,” he said. “America has a problem that surely will get the attention of God.”
He says he is under attack because he is Muslim.
“A person like myself might say they hate Islam – and they probably do – but they are ignorant to Islam,” Ali said of federal investigators.
“What the government doesn’t know is Satan rules it,” he said in sermon-like fashion.

Satan? I knew that Watergate was behind everything evil, and I’ve been getting used to Hitler.
But until today, I never suspected Satan.
Makes a lot of sense, though. America has been the Great Satan since the late 70s. (I really should do a better job of catching up with my religious reading.)
With bumperstickers like this, should I have been surprised?