The father of the former Chicagoan accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower remembers his son, Narseal Batiste, coming under the spell of a man who wore a black robe and walked with a black staff.
“We went to dinner with this old guy in Chicago about six years ago,” said the Rev. Narcisse Batiste, a nondenominational Christian pastor. “He was teaching Narseal the Holy Quran bible. He said, ‘Dad, I would like to study this, and he is teaching me.’ I think the old guy has probably misdirected him or gave him bad advice.”
The identity of the man is a mystery.
But an acquaintance of Narseal Batiste told the Miami Herald that Batiste and his six co-defendants followed the religious teachings of the Moorish Science Temple of America.
Religion experts were puzzled, saying the group is not known for advocating violence.
They also noted that Narseal Batiste allegedly referred to his group as an “Islamic army,” yet the Moorish Science Temple of America does not follow an orthodox Islamic theology.
‘They are not Muslims’
Aminah Beverly McCloud, professor of Islamic studies at DePaul University, said the theology of the Moorish Science Temple of America is a “kind of re-appropriation of Christianity.”
“They are not Muslims,” she said. “They trace their black heritage to Morocco. This is not an Islamic faith. Over half their book, The Holy Quran of the Moorish Science Temple of America, is devoted to the life and works of Jesus.”
Willie Bey, divine minister of the Moorish Science Temple of America No. 1 at 3810 S. Wabash, said he was surprised when the group was mentioned in connection with the alleged terror plot in Miami.
“I heard these brothers were using our name,” said Bey, who wore a medallion bearing the word “Justice” and a red star and crescent on his neck. “I have no idea who these people are. We are law-abiders, not lawbreakers. This is home. We are not fighting against the U.S.A.”
In the past, others have identified themselves as members of the Moorish Science Temple of America when they did not share the group’s ideals, Bey said.
For instance, in the late 1970s, Jeff Fort, the head of the El Rukn street gang in Chicago, reportedly founded the Moorish Science Temple of America, El Rukn Tribe, hoping such an affiliation would deter law enforcement. Fort is now serving a 75-year sentence for murder.
Narseal Batiste, 32, and his co-defendants were charged in Miami with working with a government informant they thought was a member of the al-Qaida terror network to blow up Sears Tower and government buildings in the Miami area.
But the men did not have explosives and were not close to carrying out their plan, which Batiste allegedly described as killing “all the devils we can,” prosecutors said.
Narseal Batiste grew up in Chicago but moved back and forth between here and Louisiana after his parents moved there in 2000 to found a church, the Morning Star Worship Center, in their native town of Marksville, La. He is married with four children.
‘He is definitely out of his mind’
Narcisse Batiste said he last saw his son after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon — when they shared their disgust at the loss of life. He said he has not spoken to his son since.
“I want to ask my son if he could have possibly did something like they are saying he did,” said Narcisse Batiste, 72. “It’s not in him, unless someone led him on the wrong path.”
In Chicago, Narseal Batiste had attended a Catholic elementary school and Brother Rice High School — and he won awards for his photography, his father said.
Narcisse Batiste said his son later drove a Federal Express truck during the day and rode CTA buses at night as a volunteer member of the Guardian Angels.
“He was on the right path,” he said. “My son needs psychiatric treatment. He is definitely out of his mind. He was not raised that way.”