News

Deported cleric to preach here

BY INGRID BROWN Sunday Observer staff reporter browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 27, 2007    

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A confidante of Sheik Abdullah el-Faisal says that the Islamic cleric, who was deported from Britain on Friday after spending four years in prison for inciting racial hatred against non-Muslims, will be allowed to teach in Jamaica.

"We will give him a platform for teaching, because there are many persons waiting to hear from him," el-Faisal's friend of 27 years, who gave his name only as Yusuf, told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

According to Yusuf, one of two Muslims who met el-Faisal on his arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, the cleric should be visiting the mosque at South Camp Road in Kingston in another couple of days.

He said that while a lot of the Muslims there do not know el-Faisal, they will soon be benefiting from his teachings, which will be taken directly from the Koran.

Born Trevor William Forrest, the second of four children in a Christian family in St James, el-Faisal left Jamaica in 1983 for Guyana, where he took a course in Arabic. He later left to study at the Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud Mohammed University in the Suadi capital, Riyadh.

el-Faisal arrived in the UK in 1992 and married a British Biology graduate, Zubeida Khan, soon afterwards. Over the following years he taught at Brixton Mosque, at the time one of London's most controversial mosques, and started touring the country, giving talks to crowds of up to 500.

The British press have labelled el-Faisal a dangerous man.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper described him as someone who poisoned the young drip by drip. The article, written in 2003 when el-Faisal was first arrested, quoted police officials as saying he used his cloak of piousness to urge his followers to kill non-Muslims.

The article said that when police raided his east London home they found video tapes with titles such as "No Peace with the Jews" and "Declaration of War".

The cover of one £2 cassette was said to have had a picture of the World Trade Centre in flames, while another included a translation of an Osama bin Laden speech instructing young extremists to wage a holy war against Jews and the West.

The newspaper quoted the prosecution at his trial as saying el-Faisal even suggested fuelling nuclear power stations with the bodies of Hindus slaughtered for their "oppression" of Muslims in Kashmir.

The report further said that listeners to his sermons were told to wage war on "unbelievers" and mothers were encouraged to bring up their sons, not as "wimps" but with a jihad mentality and to give them toy guns, tanks and helicopter gunships as presents.

In one lecture, the Telegraph said el-Faisal advanced "19 reasons why there can never be peace with the Jews", accusing them of being racist, rotten to the core, sexually perverse and experts in temptation and sedition.

This led to the jury unanimously convicting him of three charges of soliciting murder and three of stirring up racial hatred.

But on Friday, Yusuf said those allegations against his friend were all lies - lies, which he said, were perpetrated by the British Government who wanted to use el-Faisal as a scapegoat in stifling the teachings of the Koran and the growth of the Muslim religion in England.

"The people who would spread those lies about the sheik obviously don't know the man because he is just such a quiet and jovial person," Yusuf told the Sunday Observer as he waited patiently at the airport for el-Faisal's arrival.

During the almost three-hour wait, while el-Faisal was being processed by police and immigration officials, Yusuf told the Sunday Observer that he was sent from his home in Brixton, England to meet the sheik and to see to his well-being.

He said he wanted to take his friend to have a good meal and help him readjust to the island home he left nearly 25 years ago.

The other Muslim who was present declined to speak with the Sunday Observer, saying he was under instructions not to make any comment regarding el-Faisal's deportation.

Yusuf, who said he was under similar instructions, however, could not help but defend his friend.

At minutes after 6:00 pm, el-Faisal emerged through the doorway wearing a boyish grin and squinting in the sunshine, as he clutched an oversized shopping bag containing the only possessions the English authorities allowed him to leave Britain with.

el-Faisal told the Sunday Observer that he was unable to leave with the money he had in a bank in England before his arrest.

"He hasn't worked for such a long time and the Government won't allow him to get his money," explained Yusuf.

The fact that only two members of the Muslim community were at the airport to meet el-Faisal was not indicative of a lack of support for him, said Yusuf. The "fanfare", he said, would be left for another day.

"He will soon be on television and all over in the media talking to everybody," said Yusuf.

At first, el-Faisal appeared willing to speak to journalists at the airport, but had a change of heart after Yusuf encouraged him not to.

"The media is not your friend. They are down here spreading propaganda against you," Yusuf told the cleric.

However, when the Sunday Observer spoke with el-Faisal shortly after he left the airport, he again expressed an interest in talking to the media, but said that he was a bit jet-lagged and would do so later in the week when he was rested.

"You can talk to my manager [Yusuf] and he will set up a time for us to speak," he said.

His voice is gentle, and his smile disarming, making it difficult to associate him with the charges levelled at him.

Earlier, Yusuf questioned why, if el-Faisal was such a danger to society, he was allowed to return to Jamaica and not extradited to the United States as was the case with another Muslim who was charged with a similar crime.

"You think if he was such a danger they would have sent him back here?" asked Yusuf. "The United States would say that they want him."

He said that while the British authorities did find some tapes with el-Faisal's lectures, most of his teachings were misinterpreted.

"I know they might start surveillance on him while he is here, but we are not afraid of them," he said.

Yusuf also expressed confidence that the local Muslims who might not readily accept el-Faisal would come around once he gets back to teaching in the mosque.

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