A battle in the war against radical Islam in Detroit was briefly waged on October 28 when the FBI engaged in a deadly shootout with an extremist imam refusing to be arrested. The imam was a leader in “Ummah,” meaning “the brotherhood,” a group said to consist of mostly African-Americans, many of whom converted in prison. This group isn’t the only one trying to create an Islamic state within the borders of the U.S., and this shoot-out should be expected, unfortunately, to be a sign of more violent conflict coming down the line in this country with Islamic militant groups.
The gunfire began when the FBI tried to arrest Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, whose original name was Christopher Thomas, for his involvement in a crime ring along with followers of his. Abdullah violently resisted, and managed to shoot and kill one of the FBI’s dogs before falling to gunfire. The spiritual leader of Ummah is Jamil Abdullah al-Amin, a former Black Panther who is in jail for killing two police officers in Georgia that tried to arrest him. To Abdullah, he was just following in his leader’s footsteps and carrying out the “offensive jihad” against the U.S. government he had long preached about.
The government also indicted 11 of Abdullah’s followers on charges including illegal possession and sale of firearms, conspiracy and theft of interstate shipments, mail fraud to obtain the proceeds of arson, and tampering with vehicle identification numbers. Some fled to Canada, including Abdullah’s oldest son, who was arrested in Ontario. His son trained about 60 youth in martial arts at the mosque and was part of what was called the “Sura team,” a group that carried guns to protect the mosque.
Martial arts instruction isn’t the only form of paramilitary training that Ummah gave its members. The FBI affidavit said that “many” of the followers were armed and were encouraged to have guns. Some of the members were provided with firearms training.
The group is very similar to Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a group led by Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, a radical cleric based in Pakistan. The group has a branch in North America called “Muslims of the Americas” with dozens of sites and several closed-off communities in rural areas used as paramilitary training sites, some as large as 70 acres. Like Ummah, the group is almost entirely African-American, has many prison converts, many of its members engage in criminal activity, and is actively trying to create miniature Islamic states inside the U.S.
Jamaat ul-Fuqra seems to share everything in common with Ummah, although no reports have come out to show that Muslims of America-affiliated mosques and communities are explicitly calling for war against the U.S. government. However, few, if any reports came out before the Detroit shootout about the Ummah’s preaching of jihad, either. The close parallels warrant an investigation by the FBI into whether Ummah has ties to Jamaat ul-Fuqra, given their common objective, type of recruits, and desire for their followers to receive guerilla warfare training. “Muslims of America” compounds would seem to be the natural destination of Ummah members seeking such instruction and camaraderie.
There is no evidence out of a link yet, but at this early stage in the investigation into Ummah it should be noticed that Jamaat ul-Fuqra has an isolated community in Combermere in Ontario, Canada, the same province where Abdullah’s oldest son was arrested. And according to a federally-funded 2004 report by the National White Collar Crime Center, Jamaat ul-Fuqra had a training compound in Coldwater, M.I., about two hours from Detroit at the time of the report’s publication. The report also described Jamaat ul-Fuqra as having had “activity” in Detroit including murders and bombings, and having had operations elsewhere in the state.
The Ummah has also had friends in the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the prominent Muslim advocacy group that claims to be moderate but was formed originally as part of Muslim Brotherhood’s networks. The organization was also listed as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity found to have acted as a covert fundraiser for Hamas.
The American-Muslim Taskforce, an umbrella organization counts CAIR among its members, is demanding an investigation into the killing of Abdullah. One thousand people attended his funeral. The head of CAIR’s branch in Michigan, Dawud Walid, has also gone to bat for Abdullah, saying he was “chartiable.”
“He would open up the mosque to homeless people. He used to run a soup kitchen and feed indigent people…I knew nothing of him that as related to any nefarious or criminal behavior,” he said.
Internal CAIR documents show that CAIR helped fundraise for the legal appeal of Jamil Abdullah al-Amin. Imam Abdullah’s rage against the U.S. government was also triggered in part by CAIR’s campaign to paint the War on Terror as a War on Islam. The complaint against him quotes him as saying, “CAIR and everybody send me all of this stuff. I get sick…I got some soldiers with me. … Brothers that I know would, you know, if I say ‘Let’s go, we going to go and do something.’”
The threat from Ummah is not over. It is described by the FBI as a “nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group,” and the death of Abdullah will not end their spreading of radical Islam and the skills to turn that ideology into deadly action. With Jamaat ul-Fuqra potentially available to provide the training, a match between the two would create a force capable of waging guerilla war, inside or outside the U.S. as part of their goal to create a miniature Islamic state inside America. The FBI must make sure that such an alliance is not formed.