For The Record: Sleeper Cells Inside Our Nation?

A well-established American Islamic group with direct ties to a radical Islamic leader in Pakistan has been investigated by FBI counterterrorism officials who said the group “extols membership to pursue a policy of jihad or holy war against individuals or groups it considers enemies of Islam, which includes the U.S. government,” according to recently declassified FBI documents obtained by a nonprofit organization investigating the group.

Still, Muslims of America operates with impunity in the United States. Since 1982, members of the organization have been constructing living and training compounds in multiple states on large swaths of land. The group’s headquarters sits on 70 acres in rural upstate New York in what’s known as “Holy Islamberg.”  Their leader, Pakistani Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, whose group Jamaat al-Fuqra is the Pakistani sister group of Muslims of America, has continued to work to expand his influence in North America.

This photograph was a composite of three images from the Colorado Attorney General's office investigation into Muslims of America in the early 1990s. The left photograph is of bomb-making equipment seized from a storage locker by police, the middle photo is of Sheikh Mubarak Gilani and the photo to the right is of weapons seized from the raid in Colorado. Photo obtained by For The Record  from the original report.
This photograph, a composite of three images from the Colorado attorney general’s investigation into Muslims of America in the early 1990s, shows bomb-making equipment seized from a storage locker by police on the left; Sheikh Mubarak Gilani in the center; and weapons seized during the raid in Colorado at the right. (Photo obtained by “For The Record”)

Wednesday’s all-new episode of TheBlaze TV’s For The Record, “Sleeper Cell” (8 p.m. ET) will reveal the story behind Muslims of America in interviews with U.S. law enforcement officials and counterterrorism experts. FBI documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Clarion Project, a nonprofit research and investigative group, reveal the concern about the group’s possible ties to terror and the threat it presents to U.S. security both at home and overseas.

For The Record will also reveal law enforcement documents showing how Jamaat-Al Fuqra, which means “community of the impoverished,” is responsible for at least 17 bombings or arson fires, and at least 10 killings in the United States. Although the neither the U.S. or Europe currently list the organization as a terrorist group, For The Record will also expose how federal law enforcement’s failure to properly investigate the group is putting the nation at risk.

“The documented propensity for violence by this organization supports the belief the leadership of [Muslims of America] extols membership to pursue a policy of jihad or holy war against individuals or groups it considers enemies of Islam, which includes the U.S. government. Members of the MOA are encouraged to travel to Pakistan to receive religious and military/terrorist training from Sheikh Gilani,” a 2007 FBI document obtained by the Clarion Project states.

“The MOA is now an autonomous organization which possesses an infrastructure capable of planning and mounting terrorist campaigns overseas and within the U.S,” the document states.

Muslims of America’s website calls itself “the only indigenous American Muslim organization based in the United States of America. Founded in 1980 by Imam of The Muslims of America, El Sheikh Syed Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, TMOA is dedicated to establishing and maintaining Islamic principles to be practiced in both letter and spirit while fulfilling and embracing obligations as American citizens.”

The group did not speak with TheBlaze during a visit to its compound in upstate New York, and numerous requests for phone and email interviews were not returned.

In the early 199os, the FBI abandoned a case in Colorado against members of Muslims of America. Susan Fenger, a fraud specialist formerly with the state’s Department of Labor who was asked by the FBI to look into the case, told TheBlaze she was stunned when the agency called off their investigation. Fenger, however, did not stop investigating. At the request of then-Colorado Governor Roy Romer, she was able to achieve a number of felony convictions against Muslims of America, without the help of the federal government.

She said investigators not only uncovered money laundering but weapons caches; bomb-making material; target lists of potential sites in Los Angeles, Colorado and Arizona of military installations, oil and gas installations and electrical facilities; and evidence showing the group’s involvement in money laundering to Gilani’s operations overseas.

“We ended up charging murder, arson, money laundering, the workers compensation fraud and we also incorporated tax evasion,” Fenger told For The Record. “And so we had quite a number of felonies involved.”

Since the early 1980s, Gilani has established more than 20 Islamic compounds across the United States with key sites in New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas. Members of Muslims of America pay “zakat” or alms, to him as part of their duties to the group, said Alix Levine, owner of WEBehavior LLC, a security consulting firm that specializes in the online behavior and mobilization tendencies of extremists.

Why has federal law enforcement failed to thoroughly investigate Muslims of America? The answers are not so easy.

Tim Clemente, a former FBI special agent who conducted terrorism and counter-narcotics investigations throughout the world, told TheBlaze the reason may be that the FBI does not want to be perceived as trampling on religious freedom. He said Jamaat-al-Fuqra and other groups like it continue to operate in the U.S. is because of the “perception of religious scrutiny or persecution if the government or FBI look too closely at Muslims of America and their activities.”

“Groups such as this ordinarily cloak their illicit activities behind the veil of religious and charitable causes, so they can remain under the radar, especially when political correctness gets in the way of actually calling a spade a spade,” Clemente told TheBlaze. “I think it has gotten far worse as of late under [Attorney General Eric]Holder, as he has publicly pronounced that the FBI will not take religion into consideration when initiating investigations. Since radical Islamic extremists are at war with us, I don’t see such a pronouncement as very practical or intelligent.”

Clemente noted that MOA’s  training camps and compounds “have lots of overt, mundane activities going on there, so when anyone tries to look too closely and see what their nefarious deeds might be, the group can cry foul and say the FBI is trying to stop them from feeding starving children or some other nonsense.”

He said Jamaat al-Fuqra is no different, hiding “their bad activities among good ones, so if the government tries to surveil them, or investigate further, the government looks like the bad guys for persecuting these people just trying to live out their religious lives.”

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson would not comment on the FBI documents to TheBlaze.

John Guandolo, another former FBI special agent and counterterrorism expert who now runs a strategic security group, told TheBlaze that to understand Jamaat al Fuqra, you need to understand the broader network in the U.S. to include the Muslim Brotherhood. After Sept. 11, Guandolo was assigned to the counterterrorism division of the FBI’s Washington field office, where he developed expertise about terrorist organizations and created and implemented in the FBI’s first counterterrorism training and education program, focusing on the Muslim Brotherhood and their movement in the United States.

Guandolo said the strategy of Islamic terrorist organizations “is no secret and in fact it is referenced in their own documents.”

The goal of Islamic extremist groups is to have jihadi camps established in the United States and sleeper cells ready to act when called upon, Guandolo said.

“Right now it seems like that Islamic terrorist organizations are focused on Islamic countries and that’s where they are continue to keep their focus at the present time,” said Guandolo, referring to recent uprisings in North Africa, Syria and areas in the Middle East. “Extremists are establishing themselves in these regions and then, as soon as they’re done with that, they’re going to turn to us. The call for individual jihad is still there and I don’t think we take them seriously enough. In fact, I know we don’t.”

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