The Wall Street Journal reports this week that U.S. investigators are discovering that more and more young Muslims are vanishing from mosques, madrassahs, and Islamic centers.
The disappearances, the Journal notes, are raising grave concerns among FBI and Homeland Security officials who fear that an onset of jahadi activity will take place on American soil in the near future.
Hundreds of Muslim men are also missing from Islamberg and this is not a propitious omen.
The sentry post is gone and no guards are in sight at the entrance to the 70 acre Islamic settlement located in the dense forest between Deposit and Hancock in upper New York State.
Young men in Islamic garb no longer congregate before the makeshift mosque, and no students are in attendance at the one room shack that serves as Sheikh Gilani’s “International Quranic Open University”.
Gunfire no longer can be heard from the firing ranges along the eastern parameter of the property – - and no grunts come from new recruits at the obstacle course.
A new sign at the entranceway reads, “Welcome to Holy Islamberg: The International Quranic Open University.” Next to this sign, which features the image of a mosque emerging from the mountains, is a pot of plastic carnations. Another sign proclaims that the community is home to the “United Muslim – Christian Forum.”
Such statements of welcome are offset by the “No Trespassing” signs that have been nailed to trees throughout the compound.
On the opposite side of the road leading into the community is a rack of metal mailboxes bearing such names as Abdul-Haqq, Abdul Jalil, Mumim Roberts, Abdullah Simonds, and Salam Insan.
What has happened to this once bustling complex of radical Islamists – - a place where the cries of muezzins were accompanied by the incessant rat-tat-tat of machine gunfire? Where are the Arab dignitaries that used to visit this remote community in chauffeur-driven limousines? Where are the armed sentries who warded away all intruders?
A handful of children play in the mud and muck before rows of rusty old trailers, and a few women in full burqas walk along the rutty dirt road that leads to the heart of the squalid Muslim compound.
The few residents who remain in the settlement are not environmentalists. Sewage seeps from septic tanks and outhouses into the creek that flows at the base of the settlement. Bags of rotting garbage remain stacked between the trailers. And the once pristine countryside is now littered with junk cars, moldy mattresses, empty tanks of propane, and old appliances.
Where are the men?
What has happened to this bustling center of jihadi training?
Why has Islamberg become a ghost town?
The same phenomenon of vanishing Muslim men is taking place at mosques, madrassahs, and other Islamic communities throughout the country.
And U.S. investigators have now discovered that the missing men are showing up in the killing fields of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
Five American Muslims recently were recently arrested in Pakistan following a raid at the home of a member of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Pakistani movement designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2001.
The five American Muslims – - identified as Ahmed Abdullah, Waqar Hassan Khan, Eman Hassan, Yasir and Rami Zamzam – - were planning to join forces with the Taliban to fight the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Zamzam is a graduate dental student at Howard University, where he served as president of the Muslim Student Association.
David Coleman Headley, another Muslim who disappeared, is a native of Chicago who attended Lashkar-e-Toiba-operated terrorism training camps in Pakistan and helped Lashker-e-Toiba members and others plan and execute the attacks in Denmark against the newspaper which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, which Muslims found offensive, as well as the violent attack in Mumbai, in about 170 people died.
At the same time Headley was taken into custody, U.S. investigators discovered that 20 Somali immigrants, who were reported missing from a mosque in Minnesota, had joined the Islamist insurgent group, al Shabaab, and were engaged in fighting Somalia’s U.S.-backed government.
And there is the case of Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old resident of Denver, who made a trip to Peshawar, Pakistan, in 2008 for the stated purpose of visiting his wife only to show up at an al Qaeda training camp where he received instruction in making and detonating explosives. In September, Zazi was collared by federal officials as he made his way to New York City to carry out attacks with the same back-pack bombs that were used to blow up a train station in Madrid and several subway stations in London.
Where are the Muslim men from Islamberg?
The answer comes from a heavy-set woman in a long black burqa who stops to check her mail box. “The men – - all gone,” she says in halting English. “All – - in Pakistan.”
Islamberg was established in 1980 by Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, a Pakistani cleric who served as the imam of the Yasin Masjid in Brooklyn. A quack practitioner of something called “Quranic psychiatry, Sheikh Gilani presented himself to the Brooklyn congregation as “the sixth Sultan ul Faqr,” with a lineage that dates back to the prophet Mohammed. He claimed to have supernatural powers that came from his regular reception of visits by jinn and “non-human beings.”
Sporting ammunition belts, Gilani called upon members of a Black Muslim street gang known as Dar al-Islam (DAR) to take part in the holy war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Hundreds answered the call and headed off to training camps in Pakistan, which had been established by Osama bin Laden, and other members of the mujahadeen.
Under Gilani’s direction, the DAR transformed into Jamaat ul-Fuqra (“the community of the impoverished”) and continued its prison ministry under Muslims of the Americas, a new, non-profit corporation. The sheikh soon came to realize that it would be financially advantageous to train new recruits for the holy war on American soil rather than shelling out the freight of sending them to Lahore and Peshawar. He purchased a seventy acre parcel of land near Green Haven, set up a firing range and an obstacle course, purchased a slew of old single-wide trailers, and created a paramilitary compound called Islamberg.
When released from the federal prison, former convicts now received not only the customary $10 and a suit of clothes but also a one-way ticket to Gilani’s compound.
What took place at Islamberg and the International Quranic Open University?
The answers came from Sheikh Gilani in his recruitment videos: “We give [students] specialized training in guerilla warfare. We are at present establishing training camps. You can easily reach us at Open Quranic offices in upstate New York or in Canada or in South Carolina or in Pakistan.”
Similarly, in a handbook, published by the university, Gilani wrote that the foremost duty of all students is to wage war against “the oppressors of Muslims.” The students are expected to sign an oath that reads: “I shall always hear and obey, and whenever given the command, I shall readily fight for Allah’s sake.”
Now that the recruits at Islamberg have been trained in the basics of guerilla warfare, they have been deployed to Pakistan for advanced courses in explosives and weapons of mass destruction.
They will be returning home soon.