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Stabroek News

From church boy to militant Muslim
published: Wednesday | June 6, 2007

Muslim cleric, Abdullah el-Faisal. - file

Mark Titus, Freelance Writer


There is no animosity between the residents of Point and deported Muslim cleric, Abdullah el-Faisal (Trevor Harris Forrest), as most still remember him as Teacher Forrest's son, a top student at school who attended church every Sunday.

Located in the hills of St. James, about 14 miles from the city of Montego Bay, this sleepy community was seemingly uninhabited until we met Tony coming from his farm.

"When him a little boy him haffi go a church every Sunday," Tony said when we told him what we wanted to know. "Him grow up inna mi hand."

He added: "Dem used to go down a di Salvation Army church little below where him mother live now."

Media report wrong

Tony pointed out that the media report that stated that Forrest's family lived in a one-room board house was false.

He said el-Faisal, along with his parents and three siblings (two brothers and a sister), lived in a large board house in an area of the community called Thorpe Level, before relocating to their present place of residence.

Tony then beckoned to a man standing nearby who came over and introduced himself as Basil Wright.

"Anything that they have accused him (el-Faisal) of, I am certain he did not learn it out here," he said.

"His mother is a God-fearing woman and all I can remember of Trevor is him at Miss Merlin's side going to church. How him coulda want to kill Christian now? Him a go kill him mother too? A that you must ask you England friend them."

The Gleaner's arrival at Maldon Comprehensive and Junior High School, el-Faisal's alma mater, wasmet with less enthusiasm. Most of the teachers at the educational institution are past students and knew the preacher well, but they refused to divulge any information to The Gleaner.

Our quest seemed to have ended there until, on leaving the school premises, we met Conrad, a former classmate of the Muslim cleric.

"Abdullah el-Faisal? Who name so?" he asked laughing. "You mean Trevor Forrest?"

He said: "Trevor and I were classmates up to grade eight. I then went to Knockalva. I never heard anything about him again until I saw him on the front page of The Gleaner with his market bag."

Top student

The Salvation Army church at Point, St. James, that Muslim cleric Abdullah el-Faisal (Trevor Forrest) attended as a child. - photo by Mark Titus

Conrad added: "Trevor was a top student in class, he knew his work and he had most of us boys playing catch-up."

He said he could not remember el-Faisal participating in sports, but that he was very good with the congo drums and was a part of the congo drum band.

Conrad told The Gleaner he could not recall Trevor being in any confrontational situation at school and believed that this was a result of the respect the community had for his family, especially his mother.

"You must understand that his mother taught most of the members of the community that are in the 40-50 age group," he said.

"She is well respected and has been an example for us over the years. I am sure if you ask community members, most only recall Trevor going to church, because that is all they did."

Conrad then showed The Gleaner a group of men playing domino who he said were also past classmates of the cleric.

"We nuh know that man like that," snapped one of the gamblers who appeared to be the eldest.

"To me, a different man dem a talk 'bout from who we know."

Two wives

The gambler added with a grin: "From Trevor leave here I never hear a thing about him until me hear that him have two wife ... And right now every yardie (Jamaican) have three, four woman, so that a nuh nutten."

Abdullah el-Faisal came to international attention when, in February 2003, he was convicted of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred in English and Arabic-language tapes of speeches urging people to kill Hindus, Christians, Jews and American citizens.

El-Faisal arrived in the United Kingdom in 1992 and married a British biology graduate, Zubeida Khan, soon afterwards.

Over the following years, he set himself up as a lay preacher at Brixton Mosque, at the time one of London's most controversial mosques, and started touring the country, delivering explosive sermons to crowds of up to 500 persons.

His preaching came to the attention of police by accident, when tapes of his sermons were found in the car of a suspected rapist in Dorset in late 2001.

Recordings found

During subsequent searches of specialist Islamic bookshops and el-Faisal's rented house in Stratford, East London, police found recordings of him saying: "This is how wonderful it is to kill a kuffar (a non-believer) ... You crawl on his back and while you are pushing him into the hellfire you are going into paradise."

On leaving Jamaica in 1983, he travelled first to Guyana, where he took a course in Arabic, before studying at the Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud Mohammed University in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where it is believed he first heard the teachings of Osama bin Laden and other practitioners of militant Wahhabi Islam.

El-Faisal was ordered deported to Jamaica after serving about half of his nine-year sentence on charges of using threatening words to stir up racial hatred.

The 43-year-old Muslim arrived in Jamaica on Friday, May 25.

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