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el-Faisal wants mom to meet wife and kids, says friend

BY MARK CUMMINGS Senior Sunday Observer reporter cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 27, 2007    

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POINT, St James - Merlyne Forrest can hardly wait to give her son Abdullah el-Faisal a big hug and a kiss. After all, she has not seen him since 1990; and at 69, one of her wishes before she departs this life is to see her son again.

So, when she was told by this reporter early Friday morning that el-Faisal was scheduled to arrive in the island later that day, she was elated and could hardly contain her joy.

"I would really be glad to see him," Forrest said, admitting that it would be a pleasant surprise. "I want to welcome him in a special way. just like the prodigal," she added with a broad grin.

Her wish became even closer to reality late Friday, when media reports confirmed that el-Faisal had arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston on a British Airways flight from England.

But up to yesterday afternoon, Forrest said el-Faisal still had not communicated with her. She was, however, hopeful that he would do so soon.

"I haven't heard anything from him as yet, but I believe he will make contact soon," she said.

Yusuf, el-Faisal's friend of 27 years, told the Sunday Observer yesterday that the Muslim cleric had not yet met with his mother because he was waiting for his wife and children to arrive to Jamaica. Yusuf said he was planning a family visit.

An outstanding student at the Maldon Secondary School (now Maldon Comprehensive High), where he was called 'Dictionary' because of his fondness for big words, el-Faisal was converted to Islam at the age of 16, after he was introduced to the faith by one of his school teachers.

He emigrated to Britain in the 1980s, and later headed to Saudi Arabia where he spent seven years studying the Islamic doctrine.

An eloquent speaker, who is fluent in Arabic, el-Faisal eventually took up residence in London where he shared his Muslim beliefs with anyone who would listen. He became imam of the mosque in Brixton, a South London neighbourhood with a heavy black population.

He wrote books on the Muslim faith, distributed video and audio tapes of his sermons.

In 2003, el-Faisal was sentenced in a British Court after he was accused of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred under an 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

Forrest told the Sunday Observer that she last saw el-Faisal, the third of four children, in 1990 when her eldest son, Orelle, was getting married.

But since his incarceration, the two have been corresponding through letters, the last of which she received in March.

At that time, el-Faisal told his mother that he was expecting to be out of prison this year.

"Life in custody is fine, I will be out anytime now, by the latest April," he said in his most recent letter to her.

During several of his frequent handwritten letters to his mother, el-Faisal, inquired about several of his relatives, and consistently wished his mother "good health and prosperity".

He also wanted to know if Forrest's house, located in the rural farming community of Point, St James, was equipped with flush toilets, electricity and a constant supply of running water.

Despite receiving assurances that those amenities were intact, el-Faisal made it clear that he would not return to live in Point, but would instead, visit there occasionally.

"At one point, I thought that when he's back [to Jamaica] he would live here (Point) so I went ahead and fix up his grandmother's [now deceased] house for him to stay, but he said that he is going to live in Kingston," said Forrest, a retired early childhood school principal.

"... so because he said that he would not live here (Point), I rent out the house, but when he visits he can stay at our house," she said, pointing to the four- bedroom family house which lies in close proximity to the renovated dwelling.

Meanwhile, as news of el-Faisal's arrival in Jamaica circulated in Point yesterday, several of his relatives, as well as area residents, said they were looking forward to seeing him again.

"I am really looking forward to seeing him," said el-Faisal's sister Yvonne, who lives at the family house at Point. "I am hoping that he will call soon and tell us when we are going to see him."

Wellesley Kellier, a prominent farmer in the community, who attended school with el-Faisal, said apart from being anxious to welcome him, he was interested in finding out if el-Faisal was "guilty" of the crimes that he served time for.

"I am wondering if him really guilty," said Kellier. " I don't know him as a violent man; he was a very good boy and come from a nice family," Kellie added.

Olive, another of el-Faisal's schoolmates echoed similar sentiments.

"It's really hard to believe what them say him did because he wasn't that type," she said.

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