Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Matt 24 Watch, 20: Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal is deported to Jamaica -- and why

Over the just past weekend, much of Jamaica's news -- not to mention the BBC -- was taken up with the story of the return of Trevor William Forest (apparently of a Salvation Army-associated family), now known as Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal, from Britain, as the subject of a deportation order.

According to a current Gleaner report, "he [reportedly] converted to Islam at age 16 [an earlier article, several years ago now, said that this was under the influence of a teacher at his High School], and moved to Guyana. After leaving Guyana, he went to Saudi Arabia where he is believed to have spent eight years."

That means that his thought on Islam was shaped in strong centres of Islamic thought regionally and in the heartland of Islam, ie.e. Arabia. So, we can reasonably infer -- absent clear evidence to the contrary -- that his views and behaviour reflect some of the major streams of Islamic thought, regionally and globally.

So, the response of the local Islamic community to the developing case over the past few years is of particular interest, especially the remarks reported by Conrad Hamilton for BBC's regional news, that some Muslim spokesmen said that el-Faisal would be given a "platform."

For, we may track back an interesting pattern, e.g. this from a Gleaner article, of August 27, 2006:

CONVICTED IN Britain three years ago for inciting racial hatred through his doctrine, Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal, a son of Point, St. James, now faces deportation to the land he departed 26 years ago.

The Jamaican Government last week said British authorities have not contacted them about a possible deportation. However, it seems that the Jamaican expatriate will soon be forced to pack his luggage and head home.

The local Islamic community has said they may embrace Sheikh el-Faisal as a brother but that is the furthest they would go if the accusations against him are true.

"If it is true, every Muslim in Jamaica condemns it. We won't associate ourselves with anyone like that," Sheikh Musa Tijani, head of education and Dawah [which means calling people to the religion] at the Islamic Council of Jamaica said.

Sheikh Tijani, however, has asked for Sheikh el-Faisal's side of the story . . . .

"I want to hear the truth - his side, the other side." Sheikh Tinaji said he has never heard any of 'the brother's terror speeches. He said that what he has to rely on media, largely biased toward Christians, to present information on the case.

"If he said it is true then we are not going to accept him. In fact, we would demand a public apology because what he did was wrong."

Now, this makes for a quite interesting comparison with the latest Gleaner-reported comments from leaders of the same community, dated Tuesday May 29, 2007 (i.e today):

President of the [Islamic Council of Jamaica], Mustafa Muhammad, said yesterday that tapes regarding the preaching of el-Faisal are being sought in order to have a proper understanding of the charges that were levelled against him.

"We have spoken with the Muslim community in England who told us that he (el-Faisal) had a lot of tapes and gave lectures, and we are also trying to gather more information about him," said Mr. Muhammad . . . .

The local council had obtained tapes of el-Faisal's teachings and preaching. However, Mr. Muhammad noted that on these tapes there was no preaching of ill or death to another race or religion.

"All we heard from the tapes is what you would expect to hear from someone who is an Islamic, teachings of the religion," said Mr. Muhammad . . . .

"We are definitely trying to get some of those tapes which he was accused of," said Mr. Muhammad.

In the meantime, the president said plans were being made to speak with el-Faisal within a week's time.
Why is this an interesting comparison?

First, because of what the Aug 27, 2006 Gleaner article went on to say, by way of quoting from some of the taped sermons taught over the course of several years in Britain, tapes that according to a January 23, 2003 CNN report -- a media house that is not exactly biased towards Christianity! -- were reportedly on sale in the UK under titles such as""Jihad," "No Peace with Jews" and "Them Versus Us"."

These tapes, according to the Guardian on February 24, 2003 -- yet another secularist progressivist media house that is not exactly pro-Christian -- played a central role in el-Faisal's trial and conviction under the under the UK's "1861 Offences Against the Person Act of soliciting murder without a specific victim."

The taped remarks "on audio and video cassettes and DVDs" cited by the Gleaner last year are revealing (despite a local Muslim leader's attempt to soften the meaning of the term, Jihad, which was duly also reported):
el-Faisal urged Muslim women to "bring up your male children in the jihad mentality."

"So when you buy your toys for your boys you buy tanks and guns and helicopter gunships and so forth. The way forward can never be the ballot. The way forward is the bullet."

"How wonderful it is to kill the Kuffar [unbeliever]. You crawl on his back and while you push him down into hellfire you are going into paradise."

Another of his jihad tape contains the words: "So you go to India and if you see a Hindu walking down the road you are allowed to kill him and take his money, is that clear?" [According to another BBC report, they were sold "at specialist Islamic bookshops" (itself highly telling!)]

Other remarks from the tapes may be gleaned from other media sources, through even a simple web search. The already cited 2003 Guardian article is especially revealing:

[An] Old Bailey jury found El-Faisal guilty of three charges relating to inciting racial hatred as well as three charges of soliciting murder. He was remanded in custody for sentencing on March 7.

El-Faisal had denied five charges of soliciting the murder of non-believers, Jews, Americans and Hindus, and four charges relating to inciting racial hatred . . . .

Jamaican-born El-Faisal, who converted to Islam at the age of 16, was arrested by police investigating British links with al-Qaida. He had been acquainted with James Ujaama, who is accused of setting up a terrorist training camp in America. Mr Ujaama was heard asking questions at two lectures.

Tapes of El-Faisal's study circle lectures, given around the country, went on sale at specialist bookshops. In them, he was heard calling for the death of nonbelievers, and making references to training schoolboys to shoot Kalashnikovs.

He was heard quoting the words of Osama bin Laden and backed the use of nuclear and chemical weapons. On the cover of one recording was a picture of the burning World Trade Centre.

El-Faisal, a father of three from Stratford, east London, said he was interpreting and updating the words of the Koran. He said his references to killing were limited to the religious battlefield.

But David Perry, prosecuting, denied his claim that the Koran was on trial and accused the preacher of hiding behind a "cloak of religion" to mask his hatred.

"This is not some crank in Speaker's Corner," Mr Perry told the jury. El-Faisal was addressing young, impressionable Muslims "from a position of authority" and was a "fanatic and extremist".

Mr Perry said El-Faisal was encouraging Britons to go to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan before and after September 11.

El-Faisal told his audiences: "You have to learn to fly planes, drive tanks and you have to learn how to load your guns and to use missiles."

In another reference, he said boys of 15 were soldiers and asked them: "Is it sensible for you to be a soldier and you don't know how to shoot a Kalashnikov?"

El-Faisal promised that those who died during a holy war would not feel pain and would go to heaven, where they would be given 72 virgins.

"We believe in the bullet not the ballot," he told them. In another speech, El-Faisal told youngsters: "People with British passports, if you fly into Israel, it is easy ... Fly into Israel and do whatever you can. If you die, you are up in paradise.

"How do you fight a Jew? You kill a Jew. In the case of Hindus, by bombing their businesses."

Such remarks, of course, give pointed force to el-Faisal's term "the religious battlefield." Nor, was such plainly violent jihadi teaching, without apparent effect. For instance, a recent UK Sun, reports:
ONE of the [recent] bomb-plot suspects made a weekly trip to the mosque where caged Islamic preacher Abdullah el-Faisal delivered his hateful sermons, it was revealed last night.

Car salesman Shazad Khuram Ali, 27, would travel from High Wycombe, Bucks, to the East London Mosque in Whitechapel every Sunday.

Cleric el-Faisal, who had close links to hook-handed Abu Hamza, would tell British Muslims it was their duty to kill non-believers. He was jailed in February 2003 for nine years — reduced to seven on appeal — for inciting murder and stirring race hatred.

Abid Zaman, a close pal of Ali and a former driver of Hamza, said: “He’d be there most Sundays. It must be a 100-mile round trip.

So, while regional Islamic leaders such as Mr Muhammed as cited above in today's Gleaner, may be in what we have to in all fair comment term denial, we cannot afford such luxuries. For, we must never forget the bloody 1990 Abu Bakr coup attempt in Trinidad. (Cf. also the troubling opinion piece here, and note the issues it raises on links onward to Venezuela and Libya.)

Nor, can we ignore the force of certain classic Quranic texts and the associated history of repeated surges of conquest in the name of Islam, starting with the life, teachings and example set by the founding prophet of Islam himself. For instance, here are two key cites from Surah 9, which have played a key role in the long -- and, sadly, as yet unfinished -- history of Islamist militancy from the days of Muhammed to today:

The Sword verse [Q9:5, Yussuf Ali, a "standard" version in English]: “. . . when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war). But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them. [translator: “When war becomes inevitable, it must be prosecuted with vigour … The fighting may take the form of slaughter, or capture, or siege, or ambush and other stratagems. But even then there is room for repentance and amendment on the part of the guilty party, and if that takes place, our duty is forgiveness and the establishment of peace. “] For God is oft-forgiving, most merciful.”

The Verse of Tribute [Q 9:29]: “”Fight those who believe not in God nor the last day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, (even if they are) of the people of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. [Translator's comment: “Jizya = the root meaning is compensation. The derived meaning, which became the technical meaning, was a poll tax levied from those who did not accept Islam, but were willing to live under the protection of Islam, and were thus tacitly willing to submit to its ideals being enforced in the Muslim State, saving only their personal liberty of conscience as regarded themselves … It was an acknowledgment that those whose religion was tolerated would in their turn not interfere with the preaching and progress of Islam … there were exemptions for the poor, for females and children, for slaves and for monks and hermits. Being a tax on able-bodied males of military age, it was in a sense a commutation for military service.”]” [Cf discussions here and here for far more on this.]

These titles, of course, are not mine -- they are "standard."

So, while indeed the militants of today are a minority of Muslims, and indeed many Muslims are decent, law-abiding, peaceful people, the militant ten percent are a serious problem, and one that we must face realistically, including when they make the step over into advocating or carrying our violence. That especially holds in a Jamaica and wider Caribbean in which we have many thousands of angry young black men, looking for a spokesman and leader to give focus to their inner volcanoes of rage.

The Jamaican and regional security forces would therefore be well advised to take this sign of our times seriously indeed, or we may pay a bitter price in both blood and treasure for our negligence. END

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