March 3, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The Illinois State Police Department currently has 37 chaplains or volunteer clergy who provide spiritual support for troopers, other employees and their families. Most are Christian; some are Jewish; and until last December, none was Muslim. That is when a Chicago Islamic leader named Kifah Mustapha went through the training and became the department's first Muslim chaplain, its 'pillar of the state police.'
Police work can be stressful and sometimes traumatic. Chaplains are there to take the edge off.
"If there is any crisis, we do crisis intervention, very often we're involved in critical incident debriefing," said Father Johnpaul Cafiero, Illinois State Police chaplain. Watch an extended interview with Fr. Cafiero
Last December at Illinois State Police headquarters, Sheikh Kifah Mustapha became the department's first and only Muslim chaplain. Mustapha was one of seven ministers who went through chaplain orientation training.
At the end of the training that Mustapha paid for himself, he was among those who received their Illinois State Police ID cards, and bulletproof vests they are required to wear on ride-alongs and at crime scenes.
"He was admitted to the post. He went through the training and the vetting and the selection process. Everything was hunky dory," said Ahmed Rehab, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
At the Mosque Foundation of Chicago, where Mustapha is the top religious leader known as an 'imam' and one of the best known Islamic leaders in America, his appointment as a state police chaplain was heralded as good news to more than 500,000 metro Chicago Muslims.
"He is a man of great integrity...He's looking to truly serve his country and his community. Muslims who serve every day in the Illinois State Police deserve a chaplain of their own faith," said Rehab.
But not everyone welcomed Mustapha's new position with the state police.
"First I thought there was another Kifah Mustapha. I could not believe that it could have been the same Kifah Mustapha who was associated with a terrorist organization and who was listed a year just a year and a half ago and was an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorist case that the government won," said Steve Emerson, Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Early this year, Steve Emerson's terrorism research project Web site began posting videos and documents critical of Mustapha and questioning his appointment as an Illinois State Police chaplain.
"His appointment in Illinois is one of the most shocking developments and demonstrations of government ineptitude that I have ever seen," said Emerson.
When that criticism of Mustapha trickled back to Illinois State Police, things changed.
According to apolice statement, "in early January, the ISP became aware that Mr. Mustapha was potentially identified as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee. An immediate review of our background process began."
"Our concern is that the Illinois State Police is kowtowing to articles online published by notorious anti-Muslims who have been in the business of smearing Muslim activists leaders and Imams for the longest time," said Rehab.
Emerson, an oft quoted, self-styled national security expert who has testified before Congress, posted public Justice Department documents on his Web site that cite Mustapha as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee, an organization that federal prosecutors say raises money for Hamas and is "committed to the globalization of Islam and violent jihad."
Such membership resulted in Mustapha being named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the holy land foundation case, the "largest terrorism financing prosecution in American history."
"The unindicted co-conspirator list-which by the way is not usually made public by the Dept. of Justice and in this case for some inexplicable reason was. It is not a conviction," said Christina Abraham, CAIR civil rights director.
During the deposition in a 2001 civil terrorism suit, Mustapha admitted being the "registered agent for Holy Land Foundation in Illinois...soliciting money" for Holy Land programs until the group was frozen by U.S. Authorities.
"It is essentially guilt by association," said Abraham.
CAIR's civil right's director says Illinois State Police have no legal basis to deny Mustapha the chaplain position.
Now, even tough all seven new chaplains have been told to refrain from any state police work it was only Sheikh Mustapha's background that raised alarms here in Springfield.
"The fact that a man who has been fully associated with an Islamic terrorist organization that specialized in suicide bombing is made chaplain of the state police in Illinois is absolutely horrifying," said Emerson.
"It is very important to us that the relationship between law enforcement and the Muslim community be based on mutual trust where the accepted leaders of this community do not have to be second guessed as a result of some notorious, dubious individual on the Internet," said Rehab.
A state police official says the re-submitted background checks are underway and they don't know when or whether Sheikh Mustapha or the others will past muster. As for Mustapha himself, despite being a very public figure on radio and TV, he asked CAIR to speak for him until the state police determine whether to allow him as a chaplain.