Abdullah al-Faisal

Abdullah al-Faisal, born Trevor William Forrest in Jamaica, is U.S.-designated“Treasury Sanctions Jamaica-based ISIS Recruiter for Terror Support,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 5, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0231.aspx?src=ilaw. Islamist propagandist and member of the Islamist propaganda group Authentic Tauheed.Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, ISIS: the State of Terror (New York: Harper Collins, 2015), 183. Faisal previously served as the imam of south London’s Brixton mosque, where he reportedly delivered radical speeches for crowds of up to 500 attendants.Shiv Malik, “Radical Cleric Urges Islamic State to Release British Hostage Alan Henning,” Guardian (London), September 24, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/24/radical-cleric-islamic-state-release-british-hostage-alan-henning. Today, he propagandizes for ISIS both in Jamaica and on his website and social media. The U.S. government has accused him of facilitating marriages of couples seeking to move to ISIS-controlled territory.“Treasury Sanctions Jamaica-based ISIS Recruiter for Terror Support,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 5, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0231.aspx?src=ilaw. Faisal was extradited to the United States in August 2020 to face terrorism charges in New York City.Ellen Nakashima, “Suspected ISIS cleric accused of inspiring American terrorists to stand trial in New York,” Washington Post, August 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/abdullah-faisal-arraignment-islamic-state/2020/08/14/7eae9372-ddc6-11ea-809e-b8be57ba616e_story.html; “Sheikh Abdullah El-Faisal Extradited To US On Terrorism Charges,” Gleaner (Kingston), August 13, 2020, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20200813/sheikh-abdullah-el-faisal-extradited-us-terrorism-charges. Nonetheless, Faisal’s sermons and propaganda remain online on various forums.Jamie Doward, “Preacher who inspired Streatham terror attack peddling jihad from behind bars,” Guardian, February 9, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/feb/09/preacher-abdullah-faisal-streatham-london-bridge-peddling-jihad-behind-bars; Authentic Tauheed Paltalk channel, accessed August 14, 2020, https://www.paltalk.com/g2/group/1347249153/DisplayGroupDetails.wmt; Authentic Tauheed, accessed August 14, 2020, https://authentictawheed.wordpress.com/.

Faisal was born to Christian parents who worked for the Salvation Army. In 1979 at age 16, he left his native Jamaica for Saudi Arabia, where he converted to Islam. During his eight years in the country, Faisal reportedly earned a degree in Islamic studies.“Profile: Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal,” BBC News, May 25, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6692243.stm.

In the mid-1990s, Faisal set up Islamic study circles in east London.“Profile: Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal,” BBC News, May 25, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6692243.stm. Faisal served as the imam of London’s Brixton mosque, which included shoe bomber Richard Reid and convicted 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui among its members.Reuben Kyama, “Airlines Refuse to Transport Radical Cleric,” New York Times, January 10, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/world/africa/11kenya.html. Faisal claims Reid and Moussaoui both attended the mosque two years after he left and that he never met either one.“Profile: Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal,” BBC News, May 25, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6692243.stm. Prior to and after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, Faisal reportedly encouraged Britons to join terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.“Muslim Cleric Guilty of Soliciting Murder,” Guardian (London), February 24, 2003, http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/feb/24/race.world. Faisal also reportedly said that the use of chemical weapons on non-believers is permissible.Hate preaching cleric jailed,” BBC News, March 7, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2829059.stm.

In December 2001, London police arrested Richard Chinyoka on charges of raping and torturing teenage girls. Police found in Chinyoka’s car recordings of Faisal’s lectures calling for the murder of Jews, Hindus, and other so-called nonbelievers.“Cleric supporter jailed for rape,” BBC News, July 4, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/3045904.stm; “Muslim ‘called for holy war on non-believers,’” Yorkshire Post, January 22, 2003, https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/muslim-called-for-holy-war-on-non-believers-1-2447809. On February 23, 2003, a U.K. court convicted Faisal of soliciting murder, using threatening and insulting words, and using threatening and insulting recordings under the country’s 1861 “Offences Against the Person Act.”“Muslim Cleric Guilty of Soliciting Murder,” Guardian (London), February 24, 2003, http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/feb/24/race.world. The court found Faisal guilty of inciting hatred and soliciting murder against an array of religious and ethnic groups as well as nationalities, including Jews, Hindus, and Americans. It was the first trial of a Muslim cleric in the United Kingdom. Faisal’s conviction is the first under the 1861 act without a specific victim in more than 100 years in the United Kingdom.“Muslim Cleric Guilty of Soliciting Murder,” Guardian (London), February 24, 2003, http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/feb/24/race.world.

Faisal was sentenced to nine years in prison, but Old Bailey Judge Peter Beaumont recommended that he serve at least half that term and then face deportation.Hate preaching cleric jailed,” BBC News, March 7, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2829059.stm.

Faisal argued that his statements had originated from the Quran and had been misconstrued.Hate preaching cleric jailed,” BBC News, March 7, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2829059.stm. Following Faisal’s sentencing, his wife, Zubaida Khan, defended Faisal in an interview with the British Telegraph newspaper. Khan defended her husband’s remarks against Hindus, Jews, and others, telling the Telegraph that Faisal meant it is permitted to attack them during wartime. In what the Telegraph described as a twist of irony, Khan said that she could never work in a tall building after the 9/11 terror attacks.Rajeev Syal, “I wouldn't work in a tall building, says wife of jailed Islamic extremist,” Telegraph (London), March 16, 2003, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1424744/I-wouldnt-work-in-a-tall-building-says-wife-of-jailed-Islamic-extremist.html.

Following the U.K. conviction, Faisal served four years in prison. In May 2007, Faisal was deported to Jamaica and placed on an international terrorist watch list. Between 2007 and 2009, Faisal managed to travel by road through Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Tanzania, arriving in Kenya in late December of 2009.Associated Press, “Radical Jamaican Cleric Stuck in Kenya After Visa Denials,” Jamaica Observer (Kingston), January 5, 2010, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/results/Radical-Jamaican-cleric-stuck-in-Kenya-after-visa-denials--. There, Kenyan authorities arrested him and attempted to deport Faisal. The attempt proved both difficult and costly, as South America, the United Kingdom, Tanzania, Gambia, and Nigeria denied Faisal transit visas that would enable him to return to Jamaica.Reuben Kyama, “Airlines Refuse to Transport Radical Cleric,” New York Times, January 10, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/world/africa/11kenya.html; Associated Press, “Radical Jamaican Cleric Stuck in Kenya After Visa Denials,” Jamaica Observer (Kingston), January 5, 2010, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/results/Radical-Jamaican-cleric-stuck-in-Kenya-after-visa-denials--; Alan Boswell, “Kenya Unable to Rid Itself of Unwanted Muslim Cleric,” Voice of America, January 10, 2010, http://www.voanews.com/content/kenya-unable-to-rid-itself-of-unwanted-muslim-cleric-81160127/152787.html. Meanwhile, the Kenyan deportation attempt resulted in violent, pro-Faisal protests. At least five Faisal supporters were killed in January 2010 as Kenyan police released tear gas and opened fire on the protesters, some of whom had turned violent.“Kenya Police Shoot Hate Cleric Al-Faisal Supporters,” BBC News, January 15, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8461425.stm. Kenya successfully deported Faisal to Jamaica on January 22, 2010.“Faisal deportation ‘cost Kenya $500,000,’” BBC News, January 26, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8480639.stm.

Upon Faisal’s arrival in Jamaica, the Islamic Council of Jamaica banned him from preaching but said allowed him to visit any of the country’s 12 mosques. Jamaican police said they would monitor Faisal.Jamaica Observer, “Al-Faisal Welcome to Attend Mosque — Islamic Council,” Islamic Council of Jamaica, January 31, 2010, http://archive.li/E6s2N.

Faisal remained active on social media, where he is accused of helping to radicalize several extremists. Faisal is believed to have communicated with Jesse Morton, a U.S. citizen who worked alongside Zachary Chesser to solicit the murder of the writers of the South Park television show.“Leader of Revolution Muslim Pleads Guilty to Using Internet to Solicit Murder and Encourage Violent Extremism,” FBI, February 9, 2012, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/washingtondc/press-releases/2012/leader-of-revolution-muslim-pleads-guilty-to-using-internet-to-solicit-murder-and-encourage-violent-extremism; Mark Hosenball, “US Islamist Militants Jailed For Internet Threats Are Now Posting From Prison,” International Business Times, June 1, 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/islamist-militants-posting-from-prison-2013-6. According to then-U.K. Home Secretary John Reid, Faisal also radicalized Germaine Lindsay, one of the four British suicide bombers who killed 52 people in the July 7, 2005, bombings of the London underground.“Profile: Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal,” BBC News, May 25, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6692243.stm; “7 July Bombings,” BBC News, accessed June 2, 2015, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/uk/05/london_blasts/what_happened/html/. In September 2014, Faisal joined Mohammed Mizanur Rahman and other Islamist propagandists in an online news conference on the Paltalk platform, during which he encouraged his followers to join ISIS. Faisal called women captured by ISIS “spoils of war” and condemned those who “slander the mujahideen.”Shiv Malik, “Radical preachers praise Isis in online conference,” Guardian (London), September 8, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/08/radical-preachers-isis-islamic-state-online-conference. The U.S. government has also linked Faisal to underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and several terror attacks, including the November 28, 2016, Ohio State University car ramming and stabbing attack, the May 3, 2015, attack at a Draw Mohammed contest in Garland, Texas, and the attempted Times Square bomber in New York City on May 1, 2010.“Treasury Sanctions Jamaica-based ISIS Recruiter for Terror Support,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 5, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0231.aspx?src=ilaw.

Faisal is also a featured cleric on the Islamist website Authentic Tauheed, which maintained a Blogspot blog at www.authentictauheed.com and a Twitter account, @AuthenticTauhid. Online since 2010, the Twitter account has more than 1,000 followers as of December 2017. The account advertised a twice daily lecture by Faisal.Twitter account, Authentic Tauheed, accessed December 6, 2017, https://twitter.com/authentictauhid?lang=en. The site had blog posts dating back to 2008. The site also featured al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki and jailed British propagandist Omar Bakri Muhammad.Authentic Tauheed, accessed December 6, 2017, http://www.authentictauheed.com/2008/. Authentic Tauheed also maintained a Facebook page, which had more than 11,300 followers as of December 2017.Authentic Tauheed Facebook page, accessed December 6, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/authentictawheed.plc/; Authentic Tauheed Facebook page, accessed August 14, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/authentictawheed.plc/. The Authentic Tauheed channel on Paltalk has 1,749 followers as of December 6, 2017.Authentic Tauheed Paltalk channel, accessed December 6, 2017, http://www.paltalk.com/g2/group/1347249153/DisplayGroupDetails.wmt. Authentic Tauheed’s YouTube channel, ATmovement2000, hosts 48 videos mostly featuring Faisal.Authentic Tauheed YouTube channel, accessed December 6, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/user/ATmovement2000/videos. The Authentic Tauheed Blogspot site and accounts on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have since been suspended, but Authentic Tauheed remains online on a WordPress site hosting its archive.Authentic Tauheed, accessed August 14, 2020, https://authentictawheed.wordpress.com/. The PalTalk channel remains active and had 1,745 followers as of August 14, 2020.Authentic Tauheed Paltalk channel, accessed August 14, 2020, http://www.paltalk.com/g2/group/1347249153/DisplayGroupDetails.wmt.

While living in Jamaica, Faisal began communicating online and through text messages with an undercover New York Police Department officer. According to the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Faisal began sending the undercover officer propaganda from an ISIS news agency and offered to help send the officer to the Middle East to support foreign fighters. Faisal also allegedly offered to arrange a marriage with somebody in ISIS for the undercover officer. In early 2017, members of the NYPD intelligence traveled to Raqqa, Syria, and met with an ISIS contact whom Faisal had referred.“Radical Cleric Shaikh Faisal Indicted For Recruiting Supporters and Facilitating Efforts To Join Islamic State,” New York County District Attorney’s Office, August 25, 2017, http://manhattanda.org/press-release/radical-cleric-shaikh-faisal-indicted-recruiting-supporters-and-facilitating-efforts-j.

On August 25, 2017, the New York County District Attorney’s Office charged Faisal with five counts of recruiting and providing support to those seeking to commit acts of violence and terrorism in connection with ISIS. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. accused Faisal of using his lectures, website, and videos to incite “untold numbers of people around the world to take up the cause of jihad.”“Radical Cleric Shaikh Faisal Indicted For Recruiting Supporters and Facilitating Efforts To Join Islamic State,” New York County District Attorney’s Office, August 25, 2017, http://manhattanda.org/press-release/radical-cleric-shaikh-faisal-indicted-recruiting-supporters-and-facilitating-efforts-j. Jamaican authorities subsequently arrested Faisal per a U.S. extradition warrant.“Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal arrested in Kingston,” RJR News, August 25, 2017, http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/sheikh-abdullah-al-faisal-arrested-in-kingston. Two days after Faisal’s arrest, a Facebook group called “Committee for the Defense of Sheikh Abdullah el Faisal on Facebook” formed to call for his release.“Social Media Group Formed In Defense Of Radical Jamaican Cleric – A NAN First,” News Americas, August 29, 2017, http://www.newsamericasnow.com/social-media-group-formed-in-defense-of-radical-jamaican-cleric-a-nan-first/. By December 2017, the group appeared to have been deleted.Facebook search, December 6, 2017.

On December 5, 2017, the U.S Department of the Treasury sanction-designated Faisal as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.“Counter Terrorism Designation,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 5, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20171205.aspx. Faisal fought extradition with legal filings arguing that his rights to a fair trial and due process had been breached.Nickoy Wilson, “El-Faisal To Be Extradited,” Gleaner (Kingston), June 7, 2019, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20190607/el-faisal-be-extradited. In July 2020, Jamaica’s Court of Appeal ruled the extradition could proceed.“Sheikh Abdullah El-Faisal Extradited To US On Terrorism Charges,” Gleaner (Kingston), August 13, 2020, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20200813/sheikh-abdullah-el-faisal-extradited-us-terrorism-charges; Livern Barrett, “Appeal Court Strikes Out El-Faisal Case, Way Now Clear For Extradition,” Gleaner (Kingston), July 29, 2020, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20200729/appeal-court-strikes-out-el-faisal-case-way-now-clear-extradition. The United States successfully extradited Faisal on August 13, 2020. The New York City district attorney assumed prosecution of the case and Faisal’s trial is moving forward in a New York City district court on five charges of terrorism.Ellen Nakashima, “Suspected ISIS cleric accused of inspiring American terrorists to stand trial in New York,” Washington Post, August 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/abdullah-faisal-arraignment-islamic-state/2020/08/14/7eae9372-ddc6-11ea-809e-b8be57ba616e_story.html; “Sheikh Abdullah El-Faisal Extradited To US On Terrorism Charges,” Gleaner (Kingston), August 13, 2020, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20200813/sheikh-abdullah-el-faisal-extradited-us-terrorism-charges.

United States

December 5, 2017

The Department of the Treasury sanction-designated Abdullah Ibrahim al-Faisal as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on December 5, 2017.“Counter Terrorism Designation,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 5, 2017, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20171205.aspx.

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