The FBI has been examining Philadelphia musician Kenny Gamble aka Luqman Abdul Haqq and his Universal Companies' involvement in corruption and bribery scandal involving Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson allegedly . according to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The FBI's findings seem to indicate that two Universal executives between 2014 and 2016 bribed a former president of the Milwaukee School Board Michael Bonds who plead guilty to federal charges of accepted nearly $6,000 in bribes. The FBI also found Universal's former CEO Rahim Islam and Dawan Chavous, (Johnson's wife), the ex-CFO, were seeking Johnson's support in a deal to defer $1 million in rent payments Universal owed the school district for two charter campuses it operates. Gamble sits on the board of Universal Family of Schools which oversees a total of seven charter schools.
Gamble has faced questions about his real estate practices before, including concerns Gamble was using redevelopment efforts to prepare a "Muslim only enclave" in South Philadelphia according to a Philadelphia Magazine piece entitled "King Kenny". As David Rusin quotes Gamble in his piece, "Legendary Songwriter Now Marches to an Islamist Tune,":
Indeed, Gamble explicitly outlined his aims in a recent interview: "One of the intentions that we had from the beginning was to create a model," he told Saudi TV, "so that, in the coming years, Muslims would be able to live close to each other, that they would live closer to the masjid [mosque], that they would eventually be able to open up businesses so that they would be able to employ each other and develop community life."
Gamble's involvement in South Philadelphia redevelopment has previously attracted questions of corruption, following allegations that federal HUD officials threatened a loss of funding to Philadelphia if a valuable $2 million property was not turned over to Gamble's company. Then HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson was known as a friend of Gamble's.
And in June 1975 Gamble and 18 others were indicted in a payola scandal, in which the Justice Department accused Gamble's record label of offering bribes in return for airplay. In the end, he was fined $2500.
About a week before the most recent scandal surrounding Gamble's company broke in the Inquirer, Nation of Islam magazine Final Call republished leader Louis Farrakhan's 2011 speech on the 15th anniversary of the Million Man March where he praised Gamble in a speech before issuing apparent calls for violence. The black separatist leader is quoted as saying, "The loss of life has to take place. Blood must flow in order for people who are enslaved to be free." Farrakhan ended the speech by noting the significance of Philadelphia as the birthplace of a new nation before invoking Gamble again:
"If we are guided by Allah (God), then there is nothing that we cannot do. We are more than qualified to erect a New Nation on the foundation of the old...My question to us is: After we leave here, are we willing to stay in the condition that we're in, or should we challenge The Forces that oppress us? Whether they're from within ourselves, or from outside of ourselves, The Forces that hold us down must be challenged. And that is why Brother Luqman (Kenny Gamble) said, when he opened and closed: "No excuses."
Gamble converted to Islam after expressing interest in the Nation of Islam, and Gamble and Farrakhan apparently remain close. In 2015, Gamble called Nation of Islam "a vehicle that came to the need of African-Americans." In 2016, Gamble was an associate producer on Farrakhan's musical album "Let's Change the World."
The re-publication of Farrakhan's praise of Gamble is a reminder that Gamble remains controversial not just for the manner in which his property has been acquired, but also for his questionable motivations. As Gamble as himself has said, "We are not just here for Universal; we are down here for Islam."
That view of Gamble's organization is shared by The Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), a national network of masjids, and Muslim organizations, on whose board Gamble sits. MANA recognized and praised the Islamic influence on Kenny Gamble's Universal Companies for the same real estate development and charter schools now under investigation:
On the Islamic side, the complimentary entity to Universal Companies is the United Muslim Movement. We ask Allah (SWT) to increase the good efforts of Universal Companies, United Muslim Movement, and MANA. By the Blessing and Mercy of Allah (SWT), the efforts of Universal Companies serve as a national model for what can be done with commitment, compassion, focus and careful planning and execution. Just another proof positive of the words of the Qur'an where Allah (SWT) states: Let there arise from among you a small group of people, inviting to all that is good.
MANA, founded by Imam Jamil Abdullah Al Amin, a former Black Panther now in prison for killing a sheriff's deputy. Amin is the leader of an African American Islamist group known as the National Ummah, which the FBI described as engaging in criminal activity in order to prepare for the creation of separatist Sharia-ruled state.
MANA's leader Siraj Wahhaj is the notorious leader of the Brooklyn At-Taqwa mosque. At an event in New Jersey in 1992 Wahhaj told his audience, that with sufficient unity and effort, it could impose a caliphate in America. Wahhaj has since made numerous other statements in support of imposing an Islamist vision on America. Other MANA leaders include: Asmim Abdur-Rashid, the Imam of Masjid Mujahidin of Philadelphia, whose mosque was attended by Edward Archer, the jihadist who fired thirteen shots at a Philadelphia police officer, Talib Abdur Rashid, who compared the founding of the United States to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Jihad Abdul Mumit a former Black Panther who served 23 years in prison for bank robbery. Gamble can certainly be known for the company he keeps.
It remains to be seen whether the FBI's probe will ultimately touch Gamble himself. The FBI is unlikely to inquire as to Gamble's Islamist motivations, and Universal's lawyers say they are cooperating with the investigation. Ultimately the probe provides another reminder of Gamble's long-term pursuit of dominion in South Philadelphia, and the lengths to which Islamists are willing to go to achieve their ends.
Leonard Getz, CPA, is a Counter-Islamist Grid associate in Philadelphia.