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Al-Faisal’s arrest surprises his mom

BY MARK CUMMINGS Sunday Observer reporter cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 03, 2010    

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POINT, St James -- Merylene Forrest, the mother of Jamaican-born Islamic cleric, Abdulla al-Faisal, last night reacted with surprise at the arrest of her son by anti-terror police in Mombasa for allegedly violating his Kenyan visitor's visa.

"I am very surprised to hear about it; I didn't even know that he was in Kenya," Forrest reacted when she was told by this reporter of al-Faisal's arrest.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that al-Faisal was arrested by Kenyan anti-terror police on New Year's Day after he left a mosque. He was accused of violating the terms of his tourist visa by preaching in mosques.

The cleric was sentenced to nine years in a British Court in 2003 after he was found guilty of incitement to murder and stirring racial hatred by urging followers to kill Hindus, Jews and Americans.

Al-Faisal had his sentence reduced to seven years on appeal and became eligible for parole after serving half his term. He was deported from Britain to Jamaica upon his release in May 2007.

A few weeks after he arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston al-Faisal visited family members and friends in his native Point -- a small farming village in upper St James.

Al-Faisal's 71-year-old mother told the Sunday Observer last night that upon his return to the island, he visited the district occasionally, opting instead to stay with his Muslim colleagues in Kingston.

She noted, however, that more than a year has passed since she heard from him.

"I haven't heard from him since 2008, but he called my daughter Yvonne sometime about in the middle of 2008 saying that he was in South Africa and that he would call back. But we have not heard from him since then," she recalled.

Expressing disappointment at her son's latest brush with the law, Forrest argued that the 45-year-old al-Faisal "is sensible and is not a fool and so he should know that he was not supposed to preach in Kenya".

An outstanding student at the Maldon Secondary School (now Maldon Comprehensive High) where he was called 'Dictionary' because of his fondness for big words, al-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 England 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, al-Faisal eventually took up residence in London where he shared his Muslim beliefs with anyone who would listen.

He has written books on the Muslim faith and distributed video and audio tapes of his sermons.

Last night, his sister, Yvonne, expressed hope that the charge levelled against the Islamic cleric was not "too serious" and would not attract a heavy penalty, similar to the one he got in Britain.

Meanwhile, several residents in the Point community told the Sunday Observer that they were unaware of al-Faisal's arrest.

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