KINGSTON –– The Islamic Council of Jamaica yesterday called on local authorities to implement stricter measures to monitor the Internet usage of controversial Muslim cleric Abdullah al-Faisal, following an international media report that an American woman, who is now facing terrorism charges, sought advice from him before finalizing plans to travel to Syria.
The woman, Keonna Thomas, was arrested last month for trying to travel to Syria to join the militant group Islamic State.
On April 3, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a news release stating that Thomas had been charged with “knowingly attempting to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization”. But last night, al-Faisal said that he had done nothing wrong.
“The report is in no way true,” said the Jamaican convert to Islam, who was deported from Britain in 2007 after spending four years in prison there for inciting racial hatred and soliciting the murder of Jews and Hindus.
He said that the Philadelphia woman was invited to Syria by her fiancé to get married.
Al-Faisal, however, admitted that the woman made contact with him via social media.
“She only contacted me via social media that she was leaving the country,” he said.
He also said he did not have any involvement with the militant group known for beheading their prisoners, but said he was aware that they monitored and admired his work.
“I don’t have any involvement with the Islamic State except that the Islamic State, they admire my work.
I go on the Internet and preach every day,” said al-Faisal.
He said while he did not condone the group’s actions, he was however happy that they admired his work because jihad was in the Holy Qur’an.
Reuters had reported that Thomas had asked al-Faisal about getting assistance from an Islamic State fighter overseas to help her travel.
The report triggered a reaction from the Islamic Council of Jamaica, which said that it was concerned that developments had again placed Jamaica under the glare of international media for the wrong reasons.
“In the wake of the Philadelphia mother of two, Keonna Thomas, who has been charged with providing material support to a terrorist group, our beloved and peaceful island of Jamaica has once again been brought under the shadow of suspicion and doubt as to its involvement in terrorist activity, and that is because of the immaturity and reckless statement of a single individual,” Al Hajj Mekaeel Maknoon, acting president of the organization that represents local Muslims, told the Jamaica Observer.
“It is part of the prosecution’s case against Keonna Thomas that she was in communication with a Jamaican Muslim cleric.
That individual, who has now been identified as Abdullah al-Faisal, has the right to practise the faith he accepts and has labelled as Islam,” said Maknoon.
However, the Islamic Council distanced itself from al-Faisal, saying that his activities were his personal responsibility, but stated that nothing that emanated directly or indirectly from his thinking or behaviour was to be treated as involving the Islamic Council and the Muslim community generally.
Maknoon said that while the Islamic Council would limit its comments pending the outcome of the court proceedings, checks should be made as to how communication was made between Thomas and al-Faisal.
“If the mode of communication between Keonna Thomas and Mohammad al-Faisal is through the Internet, perhaps the time has come for the service providers to reconsider the extent to which its obligations and duty that are owed to the people of Jamaica need to be reviewed,” said Maknoon.
He also suggested that measures be put in place to alert local authorities about possible criminal activities being carried out over the Internet by specific individuals, or to ban known persons who have been convicted of terror activities from using services provided by local Internet providers.
“The authorities need to ensure that if they know a particular individual to be involved in any kinds of activities of a particular nature, that they ensure that his access to information technology — that would assist in whatever he or she is doing — that this is restricted or curtailed in order to prevent this country from being drawn down a particular road,” said Maknoon.
Yesterday, when contacted, the police high command said while it was following the case it would not comment at this time as the matter was still before the courts.
The Islamic Council said it was constantly monitoring al-Faisal’s movements throughout the country and also limited the number of times he was able to visit mosques across the island.
The council also said that fewer than two months ago al-Faisal was asked to leave a mosque in the western end of the island.