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Stabroek News

'Terrorist' preacher was a quiet boy - mother
published: Sunday | August 27, 2006

Nagra Plunkett, Staff Reporter


Merlyn Forrest, mother of Jamaican-born Islamic cleric Abdullah el-Faisal, who British authorities have linked to several terror suspects. El-Faisal faces deportation to the island from Britain. - Herbert Mckenis Photo

WESTERN BUREAU:

The British government has labelled him a terrorist preacher, but in the eyes of his mother, Jamaican-born Islamic cleric Abdullah el-Faisal, is the same child whom his friends called 'Dictionary' because of his early academic brilliance.

"I am not afraid of welcoming him because I have never been in the position to be afraid of him for anything, so I don't think he is much different," said 68 year-old retired early childhood teacher Merlyn Forrest.

"Knowing him as I did when he was with me as a child ... I did not have any problem I didn't know him as anybody to be giving any trouble."

The 42-year-old father of three, christened Trevor William Forrest, grew up in the farming district of Point in St. James where his family, Salvation Army worshipers, relocated from Westmoreland. His mother still resides in the four-bedroom family home with his older sibling Yvonne and several of his nieces and nephews.

Jail time

He was jailed in Britain for nine years, reduced to seven on appeal, in 2003 when he was convicted of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

The Maldon High School past student is facing deportation to Jamaica, a part of the ruling handed down by the judge during his sentencing that he return home after serving his prison time.

Britain's Observer newspaper reported last week that the mullah is believed to have influenced at least one of the July 7 bombers in London and that his videos have been seen by several of the terror suspects arrested earlier this month.

Incarceration

Mrs. Forrest last saw el-Faisal, the third of her four children, in 1990 when her eldest son, Orelle, was getting married. Incidentally, he was not in Jamaica when his father, Lorenzo, passed away in February 2004 from prostate cancer.

Since his incarceration they have been communicating through letters, the last of which she received in June.

"In his letters he always say I must not fret for him but I don't know," she said softly.

"He sent to say he wasn't told what time would be his release. I believe the parole started February and I was expecting him home at that time but the parole didn't go through. They (the authorities) say they couldn't find some papers."

Mrs. Forrest continued: "He wrote again in June saying he doesn't know when again would be his release, so all that I am hearing now is from the radio."

Converted to Islam

El-Faisal converted to Islam at age 16 after he was introduced to the faith by one of his high school teachers. He later migrated to Britain in the 1980s, and then headed to Saudi Arabia for seven years to train in Islamic studies. He later returned to Britain.

"It is not a matter of being anxious to see him but if he comes I cannot turn him out ... I am not really making any plans special for him because he is a man and I don't known what he is going to do when he comes," the mother stressed. "If they're sending him home, this is where he has to come.

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