This week, a judge in Jamaica ordered for veteran Al-Qa’ida and ISIS recruiter, Sheikh Abdullah El Faisal, to be extradited to the United States to stand trial on terrorism related charges giving him and his legal team only 15 days to challenge the judge’s order. This comes on the heels of over two decades of Islamist extremist proselytization efforts carried out by El-Faisal, in which he has vocalized his extremist rhetoric to young men, women and various demographics while crisscrossing the globe from the Caribbean, to the United Kingdom, and with a long standing global internet presence.
Sheikh Abdullah El Faisal is one of the world’s leading extremist English ideologues carrying a similar appeal to the now deceased ideologue, Anwar al Aulaqi. El Faisal’s ascendancy to fame emerged after he left Jamaica, the country of his birth to study Islam and Arabic in Saudia Arabia at the ripe age of 17 and was indoctrinated into a strict, narrow and conservative interpretation of Islam. From this time, he made his way into the United Kingdom where he began preaching a conservative interpretation of Islam throughout England, and was in close contact with, and was a spiritual mentor to, a number of now deceased extremist Islamists including a fellow Jamaican, Germaine Lindsay who blew himself up in the London train bombings in 2005 and also the British citizen, Richard Reid, who in 2001 sought to detonate his shoe onboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami. Reid too was radicalized under the auspices of El Faisal at the Brixton Mosque in London.
Under United Kingdom law, El-Faisal was arrested and sentenced to prison in 2003, for advocating for the killing and murder of non-Muslims, specifically Jews, Hindus and Americans, but served just under five years for this crime. El-Faisal re-emerged on the global scene after regaining a global footprint on the online stage and adjusting his rhetoric as he evolved into supporting both al-Qa’ida and, eventually, the Islamic State.
In America, El Faisal’s name has popped up in some of the most high profile terrorism related cases, associated with both al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State, and his recordings and lectures were used as ideological indoctrination that acted as inspiration for several terror attacks. This includes the terrorists who attempted to carry out a terror attack in 2015 against those who were depicting the prophet Muhammad in a cartoon in a negative light; Faisal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber in New York City, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber who attempted to down a US airliner over Detroit, Michigan in 2009 to name a few.
According to the indictment in New York and sanctions by the Treasury department, El-Faisal advocated for recruitment to the Islamic State and was named as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224 for “assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, ISIS.”
This recent announcement possibly extraditing El Faisal to the United States will be an important message to veteran extremists throughout the world, and the pursuit to bring them to justice. Considering current global efforts to find ways to stop online recruitment, and the appeal of ideological influencers seeking to stay relevant, taking the Jamaican-born cleric off the extremist battlefield is an important win against a constantly adapting and metastasizing violent Islamist movement.
Dr. Muhammad Fraser-Rahim is the Executive Director, North America for Quilliam International, the world’s oldest and first counter extremism organization with HQ’s in London and offices in Washington, DC.