She has agreed to anonymously come forward with her heartbreaking story. We have removed details for her safety. She provided photographs and specific facts that are unavailable in the public sphere that we subsequently confirmed.
The following is her testimony provided to Clarion Project national security analyst Ryan Mauro. It is one of the very few first-hand testimonies from someone who was inside Jamaat ul-Fuqra when it committed terrorism under that name:
I still know many Muslims and I know that Jamaat ul-Fuqra is nothing like them, but there are violent ones who will take issue with what I say and do. They believe you should be killed if you decide not to be Muslim or practice Islam the way they do because, to them, it’s “apostasy,” and that’s a capital offense under Islam. I do believe some of those violent Muslims may attempt to kill me.
From my point of view as a kid in Michigan, everything was great even though my mom and dad got a divorce and I was living with my mom. My first introduction to X [a Fuqra member] was when he hit me for breaking rules I knew nothing about. My name was also changed to be Islamic.
We lived at 52 Ferris Street in Highland Park, Michigan, a three-story building with six apartments on each floor. The entire building was occupied by black Muslims, some who came from Detroit. Non-Muslims were not allowed to move in. Armed guards were at the front entrance.
Living in the building was like living in a Muslim country. We didn’t go outside much because they didn’t want us to be influenced by non-Muslims. Us kids didn’t have any friends outside of the building. We were very poor and slept on the bare floor with no beds. Sometimes we didn’t have heat or hot water. We didn’t have any furniture whatsoever. We ate on the floor out of large platters with our fingers. Food was also sometimes scarce.
Once my mother was making the only food we had in the house: Beans and rice. As she was seasoning, she mistakenly poured the entire bottle of salt in it. I watched her break down crying because this was the only food she had to feed her children. Someone told her to use a potato to suck the salt out of the food so we could eat it.
The building was like a house of horrors. Some of the kids were tortured by their parents or beaten by the “brothers” in the building. There was one kid in particular I remember who was treated really badly. He would be beaten severely for little things like taking food from the refrigerator for himself. He and some others would sometimes not be allowed to stand up and forced to hop around like a bunny for days on end. They’d make him run errands throughout the building, hopping up three flights of stairs.
He was also starving and I remember him coming to our door begging for food. There was a fire set by one girl who was also known to be beaten badly and kept separate from the rest of the kids. Years later, I met the boy again and he just broke down crying. It was heart-wrenching. He wanted to know why no one helped him.
There were exercise classes in the basement. The brothers were training for whatever Muslim war they continuously told us was coming. Our schooling was irregular and not formal. There were no science classes and math was deficient. Mostly we learned to read and write English and Arabic. I learned later about the gaping holes in our education. Sometimes there was class once a week, sometimes not at all.
We were not allowed to listen to music or watch commercials. They didn’t want us to be influenced by them. There were some odd rules like the children couldn’t have cabbage patch dolls. They were called “evil.” The Smurfs were considered demonic.
This was true of my entire time with Fuqra. There was a tape recorder that I’d use to secretly record kids shows on the TV like Kids Incorporated. I only learned the pop songs from that time by hearing them sung on that show. I didn’t even hear Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” until much later in life. I’d try to memorize the songs in a closet because I couldn’t be caught listening to them.
Growing up, I thought all Muslims were like us. Later, I realized these were just the odd rules of our Muslim cult and that most Muslims did not follow most of the same rules as we did. Just like most Muslims are not terrorists and some Muslims don’t wear full coverings, every sect is different.
We would hear all kinds of fearful messages. I was told that in my lifetime the Muslims would have to fight the kafiroons (non-believers) and I would have to make sure I was on the right side of the war.
The females, including myself, wore what we called jilabias; a head-to-ankle length traditional Muslim garment. We usually made them ourselves. We sewed our own clothes when I was a kid, which was fun. We had different colored jilabias.
It was also common for men to have several wives. I was molested by one man, who I know also molested another girl. It causes feelings of shame that can affect you the rest of your life. It changes your brain chemistry.
The leader of our community was a man known as “Imam Musa.” It’s important to note that we were not Nation of Islam Muslims. In fact, we were taught that the Nation of Islam members aren’t really Muslims.
One day, there was a lot of commotion and we were told that a sheikh from Pakistan was coming to visit our little community inside the building. His name was Sheikh Mubarik Ali Gilani. They said he was a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. It was all anyone talked about and some said he was coming to the U.S. seeking recruits for jihad in Afghanistan.
Everyone in the building was about the sheikh. Every disagreement was deferred to the Sheikh. The Sheikh and his wife would even name his followers’ babies.
When the sheikh arrived, I met him very briefly because I had a weird dream about the Prophet Mohammed. I couldn’t really remember the details. It was supposed to be a big honor to meet the sheikh. The leaders of our community met with him and some changes were made.
One of the first things that happened is that the sheikh married one of the girls who was around 14 years old and he was probably in his 40s. The marriage was supposed to combine our community with the sheikh’s community in Pakistan. It was the kind of marriage that reminds me of ancient times where a father would marry his daughter off to someone important in order to have a treaty with that community. She left to live with him in Pakistan and her father became the new leader of the community.
The sheikh renamed our community at this point to be “Jamaat ul-Fuqra,” which means “community of the impoverished.”
His followers in America are primarily African-American converts to Islam, but I believe our community was the first, or one of the first, he visited in the United States. Several of the “brothers” from the building went to Pakistan to meet with the sheikh, and when they returned, they were even more militant and religious than before. It was as if they had been hypnotized.
We were told that they prayed a lot and had mysticism circles. I vaguely remember something about them praying and going up to see Prophet Mohammed. They carried out small “missions.” Various sources on the Internet said that Fuqra carried out various terrorist attacks in the 1980s and early 1990s across the U.S. I heard about one of them.
There are press reports about Fuqra members bombing a building that housed a cleric. I knew one of them and that he had gone to visit the sheikh in Pakistan. Somehow, during the attack, the door to the basement got locked behind them and they died in the ensuing fire. The rumor in our community was that the CIA locked the door and trapped them inside. The men who died were considered “martyrs for the cause of Allah” in our community.
When we were there, one day I overheard people saying something about the FBI watching the building in navy blue cars outside. I looked out the window and, sure enough, there was a navy blue four-door sedan sitting out there. After that day, I noticed it was out there all the time.
In the 1990s, I heard several rumors. I heard that Sheikh Gilani was barred from entering the U.S. because he was suspected of being involved in a terrorist attack involving an airplane. I heard that Sheikh Gilani lives in a luxurious compound in Pakistan and that his family is extremely wealthy. His wives have expensive jewelry and servants and even their own seamstress.
I don’t know if these rumors are true first-hand, but supposedly there is a big dichotomy between how luxurious the sheikh and his family live and how poor his followers in the United States live.
Not long after the sedan was noticed, the sheikh sent an order from Pakistan that all Muslims in the building had to disperse across the country. This was devastating for me because I couldn’t see my friends anymore. I was very lonely. The community members went to California, Washington D.C., South Carolina, Georgia, New York and maybe other places.
I knew that Fuqra had bought land in rural areas of New York and Georgia for followers to settle at where they could follow strict religious codes. A group of us went to New Orleans in Louisiana and we didn’t have to wear our jalabias because we had to be incognito.
We lived in a two room shack behind someone’s house. The leader drove a cab. We moved frequently. I suspect that when they couldn’t pay the rent, they’d get evicted and move. In between moves, we’d live with other families and that was fun because we could play with other kids. I remember seeing scary and loud fights between the women married to the leader. A knife was pulled one time and another time a pregnant woman was kicked.
We drove to Brooklyn to hear the sheikh speak in a large mosque during one of his trips to America. His wife was there in a private room and she was revered in the community. I’ll always remember the shoes she wore. They looked like shoes that a genie would wear; gold and curled at the tip.
During that visit, I saw something that left a lasting impression on me. All the females were called to the basement of the mosque. There had to be 30-40 of us in a circle on the floor. They brought a chair out and put it in the middle of us. Then they brought out Y [a Fuqra member] and she had to sit backwards in the chair with her back facing the crowd. A woman came out with a big stick and gave her 10 lashes while the crowd of women said “shame on you!” with each lash.
At first, she just winced in agony. Eventually she was crying pretty hard. The entire scene was traumatizing for me and I felt bad for the children seeing it. She didn’t immediately go back to New Orleans, but did after some time.
The leader of the New Orleans community continued to be abusive and beat kids. I remember him beating one boy for peeing standing up. I guess Muslim men are supposed to sit down when they used the restroom. It really upset me.
One time I walked into the living room and saw one of the boys getting beaten. He looked at me with pain and fear in his eyes. I immediately screamed for the leader to stop hitting him and then I started shaking with fear. No one talked back to him. He told me to leave a room and continued the beating with a belt as the boy hunched and crawled into a corner. I felt helpless. It was the catalyst for me deciding to leave.
I took some pocket change and ran away. I didn’t know where to go, so I just walked up and down random neighborhoods and ended up at an outdoor mall. Eventually, I was falling asleep and had to go back home. My mom was crying when I walked in and I told her I wanted to go live with my dad.
I ran away again only days later and was hit with a belt when I came home. This time, I fought back and began screaming for someone to call the police. It made him give up and walk away in a huff. I later ran away again and got to a pay phone where I called my dad in Michigan. He had tried to take me away when I was growing up but was stopped by guys with guns. I knew he’d rescue me.
He called a cab to bring me to the airport and I sat there and waited for hours. Then I saw my grandpa come out of the airport and he paid the taxi that had been waiting forever. We flew back to Michigan.
After I left, most of the Muslims left the New Orleans site and went to other Fuqra places. I know some did not move to other Fuqra communities and I suspect that some of them stopped being a part of Jamaat ul-Fuqra.
It was time to start my life over in Michigan but I still suffer a lot from all I experienced to this day.