Abu Mansur: Former 9-Year Member Who Trained in Pakistan

Testimony by “Abu Mansur”: Former 9-Year Member

“Abu Mansur” is the pseudonym of a former member of Fuqra/Muslims of America (MOA) who belonged to the group for about nine years from 1993 to 2002. He traveled to Pakistan to meet Sheikh Gilani in 1999.

Abu Mansur agreed to provide his first-hand testimony for this website. His testimony has been verified and certain details have been removed out of safety concerns. Most MOA-affiliated contacts have asked us not to publish their stories.

Former members or current dissenters are encouraged to contact us to tell us their stories, privately or for publication. Below is his story:


Introduction

I was a member of Jamaat Al-Fuqra, the name that Muslims of America (MOA) used to go by, for nine years. Thank you for giving me this space and for your work in exposing these dangerous criminals. I am a Muslim and I want to say that MOA’s beliefs and actions contradict Islam and Sheikh Gilani is a fraud. They follow Gilanism, not Islam.

I want to expose and stop the group but my biggest motivation to talk is that they stole my kids from me. When I left, I was told I’d never see them again. And I haven’t. I want to be their father again.

I became a Muslim in 1993 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania at a small mosque. I was treated fairly well because I was new and given gifts like a Quran, prayer rug and cap. I was happy in my newly-found faith and brotherhood. I trusted the men who advised me and the month of Ramadan soon arrived.

I was told by my mentor, Bilal, that we are going to a village of all Muslims that has a mosque and I could choose what women to marry there. We drove all thru the Poconos up into New York, stopped in Binghamton. Then I was told that this is “our land” here and the people living there just didn’t know it yet. I didn’t understand what he meant then.

After hours in the car, we reached a huge property with a rough dirt road, holes and stones all over. As we drove slowly up the hill, I saw old, beat-up mobile homes and an old shack to my left. I asked if people were living there because the conditions were so bad. I was told that being poor is better than being rich. I then learned the name of this village: “Islamberg.”

I met brothers from all over the country there and was introduced to a man in a wheelchair who everyone was flocking to. I later on learned who it was and what a major role he was playing in taking advantage of these people. His name was Khalifa Jamil Abdul-Haqq, nicknamed “Iron Sides.”

After my first visit to Islamberg during Ramadan, I heard about something called “the boys’ summer retreat.” I was eager to attend it, thinking it would just be some time to spend with my new brothers in faith.

Little did I know that “retreat” was what they called their sessions with the paramilitary training that they claim doesn’t happen. I spent the next two years visiting Islamberg in upstate New York, “Islamville” in South Carolina and the two camps in Virginia named “Ahmadabad East” in Red House and the secretive “Ahmadabad West” in Meherrin.

I married one of the ladies in MOA and then became part of a security team that patrolled the villages and secret safehouses in nearby cities where “incognito” members, criminals and fugitives like Edward Flinton and James D. Williams hid. Those are two convicted MOA terrorists who the group helped hide from the police. They usually wouldn’t hide in the actual villages because then everyone would know that MOA’s relationship with them never ended.

Leadership

Sheikh Gilani ruled like a dictator but I think his control has loosened a little bit as he’s gotten older and sicker. I don’t know what will happen when he dies. There are divisions between hardcore members and there are lots of people who aren’t big believers in Fuqra anymore. I think the successor is probably his son Sultan who lives in America. His other son, Mudassir, was in Canada last I heard.

Sheikh Gilani always talked about his desire to come back to the country and live with his followers and to die here throughout the 1990s.

[MOA Chief Executive] Hussein Adams is put forward like the leader but he’s absolutely not. He’s the pretty face and the group is controlled from behind the scenes. Just like any other political movement, you put a young, energetic, nice looking, well-spoken leader in the forefront and real leaders pull strings from the back. Everyone knew Adams didn’t have the experience to be put in charge.

The khalifas who sit on the Council of Khalifas follow every word Gilani says. The khalifas even try to copy how he speaks. Its set up to make it appear like there’s some democratic process going on, but any decision that matters is just made by Gilani and the elders on the council implement it. I’ve been told that Gilani’s wife, the sister of [MOA Chief Executive Hussein Adams], is next in line in terms of power. Then Khadijah Smith and Hussein Adams are basically on the same level but Smith is more forceful. That’s what I’m told from being who are still in the group or recently left.

Some khalifas are more secretive than others and you’d never even see their face. Some khalifas and respected members would just disappear somewhere for a long period of time. For example, a top MOA member named Muhammad Jamal, known as MJ, disappeared for a while after Edward Flinton [a Fuqra terrorist fugitive] was caught in 1996 at Islamville. MOA believed he was going to be arrested because of his involvement in many crimes including murders and acts of terrorism. His nickname is “The Executioner” and he’s respected for never having been caught.

One of the khalifas I’d hear about but never saw was Khalifah Abu Bakr. He was the most powerful khalifa but we knew nothing about him. I didn’t know that was Barry Adams until you told me that you had other sources saying that. [Barry Adams, also known as Tyrone Junior Cole, was convicted of leading MOA’s 1991 bomb plot in Toronto and he is the father of MOA Chief Executive Hussein Adams]. I only knew Barry as “Junior.”

We were told that Khalifah Abu Bakr was on a “mission,” which is a term you hear when a member is doing a secretive work that you shouldn’t ask questions about. We were also told that Muhammad Jamal, M.J. and Salih Ghafur, the husband of Khadijah Ghafur, were missing. [Khadijah Ghafur was convicted of running a charter school scam in California].

Under the khalifas are the Naeebs, followed by the amirs (mayors) and the nazims.

Villages Across the Country

I don’t know where all of the 22 villages that MOA says it has in the U.S. are located and very few people in the group do.

Some of the camps are kept secret. The Meherrin, Virginia village was there since the early 1990s, maybe the late 1980s, and the public didn’t even know about it until a blogger discovered it in 2005. We didn’t have any kind of sign there, had very few visitors and most MOA members didn’t even know it existed.

Members who go undercover are described as being incognito and they do this when moving between camps, setting up new camps or doing a “mission.” Men even shave their beards and the incognitos drop their Muslim attire except the women usually still keep on the hijab. They might be incognito for years.

Here’s the ones I’ve heard about but certain camps may have moved or been disbanded.

The top village is Islamberg in Hancock, NY.  You told me about the second one next to it, Maryamville, but I never was told about that one.

South Carolina’s Islamville is the second most important one. The people there were really paranoid and told to make sure that no visitors were dropping electronic listening devices. I remember they were talking about buying property in the back of the compound but the neighbor refused to sell the land to them. They brought in an incognito from another place to try to buy the land by pretending the purchaser not to be part of the group. I think it worked. There was a lot of panic in 1996 when [Fuqra terrorist fugitive] Edward Flinton was arrested. There were orders to hide him and his family from the police at all costs. I saw letters where Sheikh Gilani said every effort had to be made to keep him safe. After he was arrested, the Islamville elders removed his wife from Islamville and cut off contact with her because they didn’t trust her. It hurt her and the children at the village who she helped take care of.

There are two villages in Virginia and two in Georgia.

There was one in Compton, California that was separate from the Baladullah camp that they left in 2002. They might still count Baladullah is a village if they still own the land.

I also heard about a spot in Alabama at some point but I don’t know anything else about it.

There was also one in Dover, Delaware; one in Dover, Tennessee; one in Michigan and one in Texas. We didn’t hear about the Michigan camp that much for some reason. It seemed like everyone who moved there didn’t stay. The one in Sweeny, Texas that you exposed–that was secret. Very few people including myself had never heard about it until a shooting happened there in 2002.

The one in Florida was led by Khalifa Yahya Abdul Karim. He died after I left so I don’t know if it’s still there. I knew people were in Oklahoma but not the location, so that may be the Talihina site that’s been reported about. I had also heard about Walker’s Trailer Park in Maryland but I don’t know if it was considered an actual village. I also heard about them having a village or starting a village in New Mexico.

Some leaders like Khalifa Carlton Dunston would go to Alaska and fly from there to Pakistan. It didn’t make sense then but you’ve reported on a village in Alaska that they said was established in 2009. Maybe they had presence there much earlier.

They also had spots in Washington State and Oregon. Sometimes a “jamaat” is just a building that they declare to be a Dawah Center. They might count them among the villages. The Philadelphia Dawah Center was a small place above a barber shop. The Atlantic City Dawah Center in New Jersey was there a long time and we always heard of trouble coming from there, like drugs and things like that.

Outside of America, they have Hassanville in Canada and I believe there was a second one. There’s also one in Mexico that Hispanic members of the group established. A leader we called “Julio” was going there.  And the one in Trinidad where Barry Adams was deported to from Canada.

So, I know of 22 or 23 places in America that MOA has had a “village” or dawah center, but I don’t know if they all still exist. Then there’s the three outside of America and there might be more.

Life Inside Fuqra

The members are brainwashed, especially the kids. When I was there, we were giving 30 percent of our income to the leadership. I know others say it is 10 percent.

They all see Gilani like a god who can leave his body and be everywhere all at once to spy on us, do miracles or judge us for violating his rules and teachings. They really thought that animals were actually him taking on a new form. Whenever there was something resembling a white hawk around, people would stare and say it was Gilani visiting.

They revered the white hawks because they play a big part in his teachings, which he lifted from other Sufi writers. His first book, Futujat-e-Mohammadia, has a lot of plagiarized material from Sufi writers, like the parts about the white hawk. I once talked to an influential Pakistani Sufi who talked about this.

The people lived in terrible conditions when I was there. Many didn’t have septic tanks or electricity but there have been upgrades in recent years. I wonder where that new money came from for that.

I know of two people who died from HIV and were buried on the camps. I saw a lot of kids who were abused and malnourished. I saw some of the kids whose faces went from being black to a brownish grey.

Most of the children are uneducated and many are illiterate. I can’t speak for all of the villages, but I repeatedly heard in Virginia that people were threatened with being expelled from the village if they enrolled their kids into public school.

Young girls are pressured or forced into marriage. There are girls who went to Pakistan, got married and didn’t come back. One girl around 15 years old, a daughter of Khadijah Smith, went to Pakistan and Sheikh Gilani, in total violation of Islamic customs, married her without telling her parents and they were devastated. They were so upset that Gilani gave them an all-expenses paid trip to Pakistan to meet him. This was somewhere between 2011 and 2013, I believe, from what people told me. She’s since tried to leave him multiple times, but he refuses to allow her, they say.

Most of the women are on welfare. Babies are often given the mother’s last name so they can say that there’s no father providing for them and so they get more welfare.  They have Islamic marriages so there are no legal documents to prove they are lying.  I know of one investigation where state police escorted welfare officers into a village, though.

A lot of people don’t believe in Gilani anymore but are too scared to leave, especially the women. They are scared for their safety, but they’ll also have to build a whole new life and lose their relationships with everyone they know. So, it’s too scary to leave because you’d have to start from nothing. Some people leave and come back because they can’t make it on their own, they can’t live in a normal society and feel lonely, can’t hold a job, etc.

Floggings, beatings and other punishment are common. I saw floggings in every village I went to.  I was personally flogged five times because of the music I played.  I know of another member name Sekou who was tied to a tree and whipped until he nearly passed out.   I know of whippings at Islamberg for supposedly being gay.

They’ll lock people up in a trailer for a certain among of time for an offense. They’d chain you up and put a bar over the window to stop you from escaping.  You’d get a bucket and gallon of water.  Three times a day, you’d get three pieces of bread in plastic and that’s it.

Some of the violence is done without Gilani’s direct approval but they wouldn’t do it if they thought he’d be upset by it. There was some vigilantism.  There were a few cases where one of the women had their hijabi scarf ripped off by someone and they’d find the guy and beat him up.

People mysteriously die and they have graveyards on most or all of the villages. The Tennessee camp was creepy.  One woman died mysteriously and then her husband died mysteriously after that.  There was no tombstone for them.  One top leader at the camp worked for local law enforcement.

Drug sales and all kinds of fraud with welfare and food stamps used to generate revenue and it was known that some of it goes to Pakistan for Gilani or wherever he said it should go to from Pakistan. I knew of big drug sales in Philadelphia, New York, and Virginia. Selling counterfeit items like clothing and DVDs brought in a ton of money.

Terrorism and Guerilla Training

I never once heard, over my entire nine years there, Sheikh Gilani take a total stand against violence or fighting jihad. Actually, he said the money that we raised and sent to him—usually using couriers bringing cash to Pakistan—was going to “mujhideen” in Kashmir who are fighting Indians.  He never said exactly who they were. Gilani knew he shouldn’t say certain things, especially over communications that might be listened to or recorded by someone there.

I’m sure he kept a lot of the money for himself. He lives like a rich man while his people struggle to afford food.  He got fatter and fatter over the years.  I saw the lifestyle he lives and how he constantly has lavish meals.

Loyal MOA members hate the U.S. government and think it is constantly planning to harm innocent Muslims. Any time a car breaks down near a village they assume it was a spy for the government.  This is one of the reasons that I started to fall away from the group.  I’ve never been mistreated, and I am clearly a Muslim by the way I dress. To this day, I’ve never felt mistreated by police.

They think Jews are the human appearance of Satanic beings. Gilani and his followers love the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the fake book about a giant Jewish conspiracy.  They talked about it more than they talked about the Quran.

We were banned from having televisions because of concerns about what information we’d get and people watching pornography and entertainment that violates Islam. But Gilani had huge televisions.

In America, Ihsan, known as “The Enforcer,” led raids on people’s homes to confiscate TVs. The Quran was supposed to be sacred, but they’d tip a bookcase to check for prohibited material and the Quran would fall on the floor with things landing on top of it and they wouldn’t even react.

Pretty much every member learned how to shoot when I was there and there was basic guerilla training at the retreats. The video you got of the women training at Islamberg is something that goes on at a retreat.

Everybody had guns. Members who were felons would have other members buy their guns for them.  We were told to get 100 rounds of ammo a week.  I had a SKS with 700 rounds in my trailer. I don’t know of anything with explosives. I never saw any.

Kids are taught to shoot at a young age. I remember when we’d have security meetings and kids would ask when they are allowed to shoot and if they can shoot a police officer who enters. They sounded like they wanted it to happen.

The treatment of the kids is something I still think about. In Virginia, there were a bunch of kids I saw who were malnourished and really indoctrinated and beaten. It was so bad that the government even heard about it and came to talk to the kids.

Some of the boys are trained in what’s called the Jawala Scouts. It’s the same kind of training but it isn’t run by MOA.  It’s basically open to all Muslims.  I know of MOA boys who joined in the Philadelphia area.

Gilani leads a cult that looks down on every Muslim outside of it, to different degrees. But he always taught us to be open to working with other Muslims as long they were radical enough. I saw Imam Siraj Wahhaj at the camp in Red House, Virginia once and the MOA guys in Brooklyn sometimes went to his mosque and had dealings with members of Wahhaj’s group, especially the security and martial arts teams.

The “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman was admired by Gilani and the group and there were secret ties between the two. The Fuqra camps and network were at his disposal in the early 1990s. Fuqra had a big camp in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where the people lived. Then there was a nearby secret camp where access was very limited and many MOA members didn’t even know it existed. The owners were part of Fuqra and the Blind Sheikh’s supporters would go train there. This was smart on Fuqra’s part because it’d look like the Blind Sheikh’s land and program since it didn’t happen on the main camp where it was known to be a Fuqra community.

There’s also training in Pakistan for some members and they bring their knowledge back to the camps. I went on one trip to Pakistan in 1999 and that’s when I met Sheikh Gilani.

Traveling Via Tablighi Jamaat

MOA members travel to Pakistan saying they are students, journalists and humanitarian workers. I was with a group of about 25 people. We all carried cash for Sheikh Gilani and I had $5,000 on me for him. We had to raise the money ourselves and then MOA warned everyone that they’d check to make sure that none of the money was missing after we got it. Other people brought various kinds of gifts for Gilani. It was like a contest to see who could give him the most stuff.

When we traveled to Pakistan, we identified ourselves as members of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), a movement that’s from the Deobandi radicals. The Tablighi Jamaat have their Darul Uloom mosques and schools around the world that they operate through. We actually referred to TJ as “Jamaatul Tabligh.”

We were told that Gilani instructed MOA to always identify as TJ followers when traveling overseas. I believe that’s how Gilani first came to America–through TJ because they were funded by the Pakistani government.

TJ has their own trips around the world, but you have to pass their courses to go on those trips. My group didn’t take those classes or go on an official TJ trip, though. We just claimed to be a part of them.  When we arrived in Lahore, Pakistan, we told security at the airport that we are TJ and the Pakistanis then gave us first class treatment with no scrutiny. Joining TJ guarantees ease of travel and if you go on one of their trips, sometimes they pay for things. So, a member of a jihadist group can contact a TJ amir in their city, and go on one of their trips to get to where they need to be and also have a place to stay if they want.

I’m not sure if there was a formal arrangement between TJ leaders and Gilani and Fuqra, but I don’t think there was in 1999. At that time, Gilani instructed us not to even sit in their classes. If a MOA member needed to go to a mosque to pray, he could go to a TJ mosque for prayer and leave but that was it. Gilani criticized TJ as being shallow and for not preaching about going to fight. It’s possible that this has changed and some MOA members working undercover (“incognito” is what they call it) would enter the TJ network to travel, I just didn’t see it or hear about it when I was there.

I heard that MOA had used TJ in the earlier days somehow, but I didn’t see MOA work with TJ in Pakistan. Gilani had criticized them because he felt they should be more involved in the fighting. However, in the early 2000s, we did hear that one of the TJ schools was bombed by India and then TJ wanted to use its network to fight back. TJ’s preaching became more focused on fighting and then they went to Gilani and Fuqra and other jihadists in Pakistan for cooperation. From what I was told, Fuqra helped TJ with tactical training and introducing them to bomb-makers. The younger TJ were fed up left the movement to join Kashmiri jihadists.

Secret Training in Pakistan

After we identified ourselves as members of TJ to airport personnel, special guards came over and walked us through the airport. We were later told that those guards were part of Pakistani intelligence.

We went from the airport to the Mian Mir village in Lahore where Gilani is headquartered. Gilani hosted us. We didn’t stay in hotels or with TJ.

Grown men cried as they laid eyes upon Gilani and literally kissed his ring. He was obese and clearly unhealthy.   He had a big boil on his leg that he dismissed as a test from God.  He eats this stuff called paan that makes your teeth orange.

There was a welcome ceremony that had members of the Pakistani military and intelligence, including Gilani’s right-hand man, Khalid Khawaja, a supposedly “former” ISI operative known for having contact with all kinds of terrorists including Usama Bin Laden.

Khawaja is a Pakistani ISI intelligence guy and he was married to someone close to Gilani, so they were family. Khawaja had ties to all of these groups backed by Pakistan, but he swore his allegiance—called bayat—to Gilani.  He was sometimes referred to as “Uncle Khalid” when we were with him.  His kids lived in Main Mir village where Gilani is and went to Gilani’s school.

We saw Gilani’s giant home. He had homes in Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad, Northwest Frontier Province, Rawalpindi and Azad (Free) Kashmir.

Gilani had two Pakistani khalifas serving him in Pakistan, the Deen brothers from Mian Mir village, Riazudeen and Fiazudeen.

Security was very tight and paranoid. At one point, an English-speaking beggar approached us near the Mian Mir shrine.  He was assumed to be an agent of Israeli intelligence.  We were told that his corpse was found hours later.

Even in Pakistan, Gilani was careful not to get his hands dirty. Instead of being with us the entire time, he had henchman who would travel with us.

The bulk of training was heavy religious indoctrination. We went into the mountains with armed guards and met Stephen Paul Paster and Chris Childs, both Fuqra fugitives linked to bombings and various crimes.  The elders nicknamed Paster as “nubs” because of his damaged hand.  Most of is fingers on his one hand were missing from a bomb that accidentally went off when he set off a bomb at the Hotel Rajneesh in Portland, Oregon.  Paster went by the name of “Javad” and was previously called “Atif.”

We went to military installations for training that involved combat techniques and guns. At these bases, there were also trainees who were from “the mujahideen,” as they were generally called. We met Muslims from Ireland, England, Bosnia, Russia and other European countries. We also learned ancient martial arts.

Most of the training we had was a lot of hand-to-hand combat with knives, bats, or rods. We didn’t do a ton of shooting like you see in the “Soldiers of Allah” tape,[1] but it definitely went on and involved RPGs. Our group was divided up so its possible that the others had more intense training.  Its hard to find out because everyone knows you aren’t supposed to talk about the training or any instructions Gilani gives you and you aren’t supposed to ask people about it.  If you start asking, they’ll immediately assume you’re a spy and report you to MOA’s authorities.  I was accused by some of being a spy just because I had a full-time job and wanted to go to college.

We heard story after story from fighters from Kashmir and Afghanistan about how the Jews, Hindus and Russians were our enemies and we should never have sympathy for them. I remember clearly how Sheikh Gilani always referred to Indians as “Hindu dogs.”  He was infatuated with obliterating the Indian Hindus out of Kashmir.  His family spends a lot of money, time and effort into supporting operations in Kashmir. His properties were also used by different factions fighting in Kashmir.

After meeting Gilani, Khalid Khawaja, Gilani’s right-hand man, brought us to meet up with other jihadists from Hizbul Mujahideen, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. These 4 groups and Fuqra are separate but they all work under the Pakistani ISI umbrella and I saw them become one group in Kashmir. They have different ideologies but had no problem coming together under ISI leadership when I saw them. Actually, having different kinds of groups makes sense, because then the ISI can recruit people from all kinds of backgrounds–different kinds of jihadists, different nationalities, different tribes–Fuqra can bring in black American Sufis, Lashkar can bring in Salafists, etc.

We even trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba at a Pakistani military base in Sialkot. It was here that I actually saw stickers that showed the Capitol building in Washington DC in flames. Although publicly Sheikh Gilani did not have ties with Lashkar-e-Taiba, these groups all operate in the same area with the same cause and know each other.

Fuqra is a Sufi group so it won’t be fully accepted by these groups but the attitude at the time was that we were not enemies but not allies either.

These groups operated in the same area as Fuqra and had the same mission of supporting mujahideen fighting in Kashmir. And these groups fight in other places, too, but Kashmir is where I saw them really unite.

I saw, first-hand when we went to the Kashmiri border, six of Gilani’s recruits traveled with Lashkar-e-Taiba to go fight in Kashmir to kill Indians. Lashkar-e-Taiba works with Al-Qaeda but Bin Laden and his group weren’t mentioned when we met them.

We also met members of Guldbuddin Hekmatyar’s group in Northwest Frontier Province.  It was known off-the-record that they knew each other and they cooperated with each operation in operations related to Kashmir.

They cooperate in supporting militants in Kashmir and Gilani acts like a sub-contractor, raising a ton of money and distributing it out. We were told not to mention Gilani to people we talked to and to just describe ourselves as American students. .

The leaders kept telling us that Gilani had a lot of believers in Pakistan. Even people who went tp Pakistan and returned back had told the rest of us that he basically runs the country. Let me tell you, practically no one knew who he was. Those that did thought he was a joke; a fraud who may not even be really religious.

The 1999 Coup

During my trip to Pakistan in 1999, we were in Mian Mir village—where the Gilani family oversees a Sufi shrine—and there was a constant parade of military and government officials who came in and out of Sheikh Gilani’s corner of the village. The village is quite big. The Mian Mir shrine is only a part of it.

Sheikh Gilani and his family and inner circle always had close ties to the Pakistani military and intelligence services that were involved in the 1990 coup. Gilani always bragged about how he served in the military. A lot of people in America suspected Gilani of being an ISI agent from the beginning.

Around August, something was different. The military was seen off their bases more often and were posted around the specific section of the Mian Mir village that we were in, the actual area where the great saint Mian Mir was laid to rest. It was common for officials coming in and out of the village and shrine area to see Gilani, but now there was a presence hanging around all the time.

Military and government officials were coming to see Gilani for some reason and meeting in Mian Mir village. We knew by the cars they drove and because they had security. Gilani’s personal guards, who I think were Kashmiri, were reinforced by guards from the Pakistani military.

Sheikh Gilani’s school for girls and boys became filled with kids whose parents were government or military officials. They were almost the only ones who could afford the tuition in Pakistan. We were told that General Musharraf’s daughter was attending Gilani’s school.

One morning in October, we heard women yelling and men who never worked were frantically running around, so we knew something big happened. I laughed because I had never seen grown men panic like that; it was like a lady who saw a snake in her garden.

Finally, someone told us that the “General’s plane is going to crash.” We didn’t know who they meant. Then once the men got their wits back, one said that Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time, wouldn’t allow General Pervez Musharraf’s plane to land. They claimed that Shariz wanted Musharraf’s plane to run out of fuel in mid-air so that it would crash.

Only minutes later, the military took over just about every government building in the country. The plane landed safely and the coup had begun. Musharraf then came on national TV and spoke, but Americans and others who didn’t speak the language didn’t understand a word of it.

I’m absolutely confident that Sheikh Gilani at least knew about the coup in advance. He probably played some role in it.

We then realized that the military presence we had been seeing was part of the coup. They were protecting members of the government, like intelligence and military officials. They didn’t protect all the known Sufi leaders—but, for some strange reason, they did protect Sheikh Gilani, who only has a small following of mostly Americans. Not many Pakistanis even know of him and of those that do know of him, all but a few think he’s a total joke.

It was clear then that Sheikh Gilani was still part of Pakistani intelligence community. The rumors that he was an ISI agent had to be true. It didn’t make any sense otherwise. I then came to the belief that this sheikh and his group—and his words, his supposed visions and miracles—was all part of a cover for Pakistani intelligence that he also got rich off of.

We were sent home days after the coup with no hassle at the airport. No one was questioned or anything. The path was cleared for us.

In October, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by the army and intelligence services. Then General Musharraf was made the President, who Sheikh Gilani and the other ISI-backed groups was close to.

The Defection

What really enraged me was Gilani’s lifestyle.  I went from seeing his followers suffer in poverty in America as they sent 30 percent of whatever little money they made to him and he was there in Pakistan living rich and obese. And here we are delivering him cash.

He had three cell phones. Those were really expensive back then, especially in Pakistan.  His home was giant.  He had a Mercedes and a land cruiser, with the latter being his favorite.  He and his wives had tailored clothing and servants who cooked and cleaned for them and their guests.  We lived like kings during the last week especially.

One funny story about Gilani is that one of his sons in Pakistan had an uneven haircut, which Gilani hates and views as un-Islamic, so they had to drive back town ours to get him a haircut before he could see Gilani.

After landing in JFK Airport, my thoughts were 100% different about the Sheikh. Local Pakistanis considered him a fraud and not even an impressive one.

That’s why he had mostly American followers and not Pakistani ones. I was hurt and confused.  I felt deceived, taken advantage of and angry.

They actually tried to physically stop me from leaving. When I started having family issues because I no longer believed in Gilani and some people found out, MOA members accused me of being a spy.  They said they were locking me up in one of their jails and I wouldn’t know how long I’d been in there for.

After the first day, they gave me an opportunity to get what I needed out of my trailer so that I wouldn’t live with my family anymore and influence them. It was then, on the second day, that I escaped.  I heard a gunshot as I left but I don’t know if my escort was trying to hit me or just scare me or sound an alarm.

I later went to CNN and a local NBC News station to tell my story. They never contacted me back.  I called CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] to ask for help in getting my kids back.  They said they only did civil liberties work and didn’t handle family disputes.  They wouldn’t lift a finger to tell my story, expose MOA or help me in any way.

I briefly had a blog in the name “Fuqra Hater.” I’ve been suffering ever since I left.  I lost my job.  I lost my family.  I lost my children.  I can’t get back those years I lost.  But it is worth it.  I hope more people talk to you and wake up and leave.

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[1] He is referring to the “Soldiers of Allah” tape where Sheikh Gilani shows the Islamist guerilla warfare training he offers in Pakistan and tells viewers that he has formed a new international militant force named “Soldiers of Allah” that is recruiting in North America. It is dated to about 1991/1992. You can learn more about it in the section of the website about guerilla training.

 

in First-Hand Testimony