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Extremism in the Carolinas: It ain’t just right-wing stuff, Janet

July 29, 2009


By Michael S. Smith II, SCHotline Contributing Editor

In the days ahead news readers will encounter news piece opener after opener that read something along the lines of:

“Caswell County, N.C. seemed like the last place one would expect to find a training center for Islamic extremists, but on the evening of July 27 SWAT and FBI teams raided the home of an alleged ringleader of a terrorist cell who has been accused of recruiting Americans and plotting attacks overseas.”

Having spent much time on two farms located in Caswell County, I can assure you of the accuracy of what’s suggested by such openers — Caswell County is the last place I expected to be included in headlines about a so-called “homegrown Islamic extremist cell.”


An ostensibly WASPy American who, according to the FBI, “received military-style training in terrorist training camps for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad,” and who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban was living in the Silver Queen Corn-fed community of Caswell County — and recruiting other Americans to his cause(s) — all these years?

Eerily, CaswellCounty is also home to two top training facilities for U.S. Special Forces and Anti-Terrorism teams.

Meantime, given what one finds in York, S.C., perhaps mention of rural Southeastern U.S. communities in news pieces about FBI raids on America’s radical Islamic enclaves will become more common in the months ahead.

If you’ve ever watched “A Mighty Heart,” the film starring Angelina Jolie which recounts the details of Wall Street Journal Correspondent Daniel Pearl’s abduction and subsequent murder in Pakistan at the hands of al Qaida-affiliated terrorists soon after 9/11, you may recall mention of Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Jilani El-Hashimi. Jilani (sometimes spelled Gilani) is the Hanafi Sufi cleric and leader of Jamaat ul-Fuqra — a paramilitary organization mostly comprised of African American Muslims based in both Pakistan and the U.S. — who Pearl was en route to interview when he disappeared.

According to one radical Islam and terrorism analyst, Jilani’s brand of Islam is so extreme it was literally banned by the Musharraf regime. When you consider that Musharraf did not mind too much that Pakistan’s intelligence community (ISI) was intermingling with the likes of the Taliban from Afghanistan, or that the general simply kept A.Q. Khan under house arrest when news broke that he was the leading black-market purveyor of nuclear technologies ever known to the world, it becomes clear that Jilani is a pretty bad guy.

While few in South Carolina may know of this terrorist — he hardly has the brand equity of a bin Laden or a Zawahiri – probably fewer are aware that he is the imam of a mosque based in York. That’s right:

A well-known Islamic extremist who is banned from entering the U.S. and whose brand of Islam is banned in Pakistan — who intelligence sources say has attended terrorist leadership meetings alongside people like Osama bin Laden (back before he was a household name in America) — is the spiritual leader of a York, S.C.-based Muslim community comprised of (word has it) mostly ex-cons who converted to Islam while in prison.

Isn’t it just wonderful that America’s prison systems still permit the distribution of the Royal Quran, the version of the Quran which emphasizes the importance of jihad!

Writing for The Weekly Standard in 2002, Mira L. Boland produced an expose of Jilani’s network in the U.S. In her report titled “Sheikh Gilani’s American Disciples,” Boland notes “half a dozen Fuqra residential compounds in rural hamlets across the country shelter hundreds of members, some of whom, according to intelligence sources, have been trained in the use of weapons and explosives in Pakistan.”

Describing the organization’s elusiveness, Boland explained: “Harder to document publicly but affirmed by several investigators and intelligence sources are the group’s continuing links with guerrilla training in Pakistan. But then elusiveness is the order of the day for an organization whose members are well versed in the use of aliases; whose structure, shrouded behind front groups, is a network of safe houses and cells; and whose founder and members consistently maintain that it doesn’t exist.”

The following summary concludes her 2002 report:

“There is no ironclad evidence that Fuqra’s American members today are part of the international conspiracy that threatens us. Rather, the ties are circumstantial and suggestive. What should be made, for example, of the fact that several weekend residents of Fuqra’s headquarters compound at Hancock work during the week as toll collectors at New York City bridges and tunnels — considering that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers had plans to blow up the George Washington Bridge and Hudson River tunnels? We also know that in the early 1990s Gilani’s U.S. recruits signed an oath saying, ‘I shall always hear and obey, and whenever given the command, I shall readily fight for Allah’s sake.’ At the least, it is clear that Daniel Pearl was digging into a very interesting story.”

The law enforcement communities of both Pakistan and the U.S. are currently investigating Jilani for his involvement in various money laundering schemes which funnel resources to terrorist organizations. While he is banned from entering the U.S., ironically, the Constitution of The United States of America, that document which makes America so unique and so great, has enabled his brand of Islam to survive here, literally here, after it was banned in Pakistan.

The JTTF’s agents in the Palmetto State are well aware of the situation in York, as is the S.C. Attorney General’s office, which advised me this is a federal issue when I presented its representatives information about my plans to produce a report on the matter last year (they did politely put me in touch with the JTTF). Still, it appears the matter is a sticky one for the FBI, particularly when it comes to satisfying residents of York who would prefer their new neighbors find someplace else to worship.

Hey, maybe Caswell County, N.C. is just the place for them.

Suggested reading: “Sheikh Gilani’s American Disciples” by Mira L. Boland, Link:


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