It seems almost unthinkable, but Islamist groups are, as we speak, hard at work creating Muslim states-within-states in the U.S. Indeed, this process has been unfolding for a long time across the Western world, through the creation of isolated Muslim enclaves in both rural and urban areas, as well as through the designation of "no-go zones" where governments admit to having little authority over Muslims living there, essentially leaving them to function as autonomous regions.
Daniel Pipes has tracked numerous examples since 2004 of Muslim groups working to create communities based solely on Islam and run by Shari'a law. As discussed by David Kennedy Houck in 2006, "Although such concepts are antithetical to a free society, U.S. democracy allows the internal enclave to function beyond the established boundaries of our constitutional framework."
For example, one such community, Gwynn Oak, has been created in Baltimore, Maryland, consisting of Muslim immigrants and African-American converts. The project is led by John Yahya Cason, director of the Islamic Education and Community Development Initiative. Cason explained that the neighborhood is a response to the problem that "Muslim communities are ruled by Western societal tenets, many of which clash with Islamic norms." In his opinion, there is a need for communities with "the totality of the essential components of Muslim social, economic, and political structure." As such, the Gwynn Oak enclave follows specific moral rules based on Islam and people there speak Arabic. On September 13, 2009, the construction of its three-story mosque began. Approximately 400 Muslims now live in the vicinity.
Another example involves the Islamic Center for Human Excellence, which receives funding from the United Arab Emirates. In August 2004, it was granted permission to build a Muslim neighborhood in Little Rock, Arkansas, complete with a mosque, school, and 22 homes; it would not allow the presence of alcohol. The goal was for Muslims to find an area to escape the alleged crime and depravity of American life, although the imam behind the effort said that non-Muslims are welcome to join.
Far more radical groups than these are now taking the lead in promoting and creating Islamic enclaves on U.S. soil.
One such organization is As-Sabiqun, headed by Imam Abdul Alim Musa, who is very honest about his disturbing objectives. The group's website calls for installing Islamic law worldwide, fighting for "oppressed" Muslims, and "build[ing] model communities where Islam is lived." The website contains a point-by-point plan to assemble mini-states in America, beginning with the construction of a mosque and finishing with "establishing geographical integrity by encouraging Muslims of the community to live in close proximity to the masjid [mosque]" and "establishing social welfare institutions."
The ideology espoused by Musa and As-Sabiqun is undeniably radical. The website boasts about Musa's early endorsement of Ayatollah Khomeini and the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. It also is unafraid to say that As-Sabiqun members follow people like Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood; Maulana Mawdudi, who called on Muslims to wage jihad until Shari'a law is in place over the globe; and Sayyid Qutb, the Muslim Brotherhood member whose preaching inspired Osama bin Laden. Musa himself has argued that the CIA and Israel were behind the 9/11 attacks. He has admitted that he "like[s]" bin Laden, calls Hezbollah "a great organization," and says Hamas members are "very nice people."
Muslims of the Americas, led by Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani in Pakistan, is a very similar group with very similar aims, though its focus is more rural than urban. It admits to owning at least 22 "villages" around the country that are dozens of acres large and operate under names like "Islamberg," "Holy Islamville," and "Aliville." These Muslim-only lands are open to outsiders solely during planned outreach events and sometimes to journalists.
This group has received considerable media attention due to allegations that its isolated compounds are used for paramilitary training, an accusation bolstered by a videotape released by the Christian Action Network. On that tape, a speaker is seen declaring the U.S. a Muslim country and pledging that Muslims of the Americas will defend American Muslims from foreign and domestic enemies.
The ideology of Muslims of the Americas is comparable to that of As-Sabiqun, although it is more centered on following Gilani as a representative of God who is capable of creating miracles. Gilani is very anti-Semitic, describing Jews as "an example of human Satans"; like Musa, he insists that a Jewish-Zionist conspiracy is behind the attacks of September 11, 2001, and other schemes to harm Muslims. He calls bin Laden a "Saudi activist," while claiming to meet with Jesus and personally to have introduced the Mahdi to a select few.
The Department of Homeland Security says that Muslims of the Americas is linked to Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a Pakistani terrorist group. The State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism report in 1998 described ul-Fuqra as an "Islamic sect that seeks to purify Islam through violence." Other fronts for the group include the International Quranic Open University, the United Muslim-Christian Forum, the Islamic Post newspaper, the Muslim Scouts of America, the Hands to Hands charity, Muslim Vets, the American Muslim Medical and Relief Team, and the Islamic Naat Group.
Another collective aspiring to create autonomous Muslim regions in the U.S. is called the Ummah. On October 28, 2009, the FBI tried to arrest one of its leaders, Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, for his involvement in criminal activity alongside some of his followers. A shootout ensued that took the life of Abdullah and one police dog. Like Muslims of the Americas, Abdullah offered his flock martial arts training and, in some cases, firearms instruction. He also had his own armed security team and preached war against the U.S. government and solidarity with bin Laden, the Taliban, and Hezbollah.
The FBI describes the Ummah as a "nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group consisting mainly of African-Americans" and says that its goal is to create "a separate, sovereign Islamic state ('the Ummah') within the borders of the United States, governed by Shari'a law. The Ummah is to be ruled over by Jamil Abdullah al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown." The death of Luqman Ameen Abdullah did not destroy this aim.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood and its American affiliates are not directly trying to create Islam-based towns within the U.S., they are helpful to the efforts to do so. The Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan branch rushed to Abdullah's defense and the American Muslim Taskforce demanded an investigation into his death. In addition, various Brotherhood affiliates have given Musa speaking platforms, including at major universities.
Also involved is Kenny Gamble, a major music producer who now goes by the name of Luqman Abdul Haqq. Gamble has been accused of trying to create a "black Muslim enclave" in Philadelphia, closely following the plan put forth by As-Sabiqun. Notably, he has a leadership position with the Muslim Alliance in North America; Abdullah also served as a leader of MANA and Musa's name was once listed there, but has since been removed. This suggests some level of cooperation among these groups and individuals for their common goals.
The possibility that Muslim-only towns and urban enclaves could be created inside the U.S. seems like a fantasy to most Americans at the moment, but there is precedent in Europe. The French government actually has a website where it tabulates 751 "sensitive urban zones," which have been accurately described as "no-go zones." In these areas, which are mostly populated by Muslim immigrants, there is a high level of crime and hostility to any governing authority, including law enforcement. Police officers do not regularly patrol the areas and they are as close to being autonomous regions as possible without the erecting of an actual parallel government.
The construction of the building blocks for similar Muslim enclaves and "no-go zones" in the U.S. is one of the most disturbing programs of Islamist groups. If successful, these territories will be the first to establish Shari'a law in the country, thus offering a profound challenge to America's constitutional order.
Ryan Mauro is the founder of WorldThreats.com, national security advisor to the Christian Action Network, and an intelligence analyst with the Asymmetric Warfare and Intelligence Center (AWIC). This article was sponsored by Islamist Watch.