Founder of Islamberg also co-founder of terrorist group Jamaat al-Fuqra
HANCOCK, N.Y. — Â If you didn’t know where to look, you’d probably never find Islamberg, a private Muslim community in the woods of the western Catskills, 150 miles northwest of New York City.
The town, sitting on a quiet dirt road past a gate marked with No Trespassing signs, is home to an estimated 100 residents. There are small houses and other buildings visible from the outside, but it is what can’t be seen from beyond the gate that has some watchers worried.FOX News report
Islamberg was founded in 1980 by Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani, a Pakistani cleric who purchased a 70-acre plot and invited followers, mostly Muslim converts living in New York City, to settle there.
The town has its own mosque, grocery store and schoolhouse. It also reportedly has a firing range where residents take regular target practice. Gilani established similar rural enclaves across the country — at least six, including the Red House community in southern Virginia — though some believe there are dozens of them, all operating under the umbrella of the “Muslims of the Americas” group founded by Gilani.
Federal authorities say Gilani was also one of the founders of Jamaat al-Fuqra, a terrorist organization believed responsible for dozens of bombings and murders across the U.S. and abroad. The group was linked to the planning of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and 10 years earlier a member was arrested and later convicted for bombing a hotel in Portland, Ore.
Shoe bomber Richard Reid has been linked to the group, along with convicted D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammad. But it is Sheikh Gilani who creates the most controversy and concern.
Gilani has told his followers that “Zionist plotters” plan to rule the world, and he encourates them to leave America’s cities and avoid the “decadence of a godless society.” Gilani is the man American reporter Daniel Pearl was trying to interview in Pakistan when he was kidnapped and beheaded. The Sheikh was taken into custody and later released by Pakistani authorities; he denies any involvement in Pearl’s murder.
Gilani also denies any connection to Jamaat al-Fuqra, as do residents of the MOA compounds, who say the “terrorist” group doesn’t exist and was created by enemies of Islam hoping to destroy their communities. Members also deny sending a portion of their earnings to the Sheikh, but a former resident told FOX News that 10 to 30 percent of their income is regularly delivered to Gilani in the form of cash donations.
FOX News attempted to visit Islamberg after earlier efforts to set up on-camera interviews were rebuffed. A spokesman said by phone that residents typically shy away from interviews since they worry their words will be manipulated and turned against them. He accused FOX News of misrepresenting the group and suggested covering an Islamic festival in Binghamton later in the month to celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. Then he hung up.
Local police told FOX News there has been plenty of rumor and innuendo over the years but very little trouble. The FBI’s Albany Division said the agency has an open discourse with the residents of Islamberg. They’ve visited the compound but won’t discuss whether there are any ongoing investigations.
That has not dispelled the worries of some watchdogs. Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, says the group is making a concerted public relations effort to present a benign face and hide its violent past.
“I think we need to be very much on guard about every member of these compounds,” he said. Though Spencer admits there is nothing inherently wrong with living in isolation, he stressed that “they’re not at all open to visitors, they’re not at all open to scrutiny and there’s an abundance of evidence of sinister goings-on.”
Spencer offered no evidence to back his misgivings, but suggested political correctness may be hampering investigations. He says the group’s connection to Sheikh Gilani is reason enough to be concerned that they’re planning for “something on a larger scale and longer term,” to “further the causes of the global Islamic Jihad”, something MOA has repeatedly denied and scoffed at in the past.
We appreciate your support
One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.