NEVER-BEFORE SEEN CLIPS of Jamaican Islamist Cleric, Who Was Convicted in New York of Supporting Terrorism
Jamaican cleric Abdullah el-Faisal, who was accused of recruiting for the militant group Islamic State, was convicted Thursday in New York for supporting terrorism. He was the first person to have been tried under the state’s anti-terror laws that were passed in the wake of Sept. 11., offenses that took place without him setting foot in the city or planning an attack there, according to The New York Times.
In an interview with 18⁰ North in Kingston in 2014, el-Faisal spoke candidly about his support for ISIS and his extremist views.
At the time, we were investigating Caribbean nationals, particularly from Trinidad & Tobago, who were leaving their island homes to join ISIS in the Middle East —an episode that aired in 2015.
El-Faisal told 18º North that some of the Trinidadians came to spend time with him in Jamaica before migrating there. He said he, himself, wanted to go, and that, through his sermons, he was encouraging others to join ISIS.
Though he felt like he was being watched by the Jamaican government, el-Faisal didn’t seem overly concerned about being prosecuted locally. “I don’t mind being watched because I’m not building a bomb. I have strong views but, then again, it’s not illegal in Jamaica to have strong views,” he had said.
Prior to this New York conviction, el-Faisal had also been convicted in the U.K. in 2003 for using speech that incited murder and racial hate, after which he was deported to Jamaica. He ended up going to Africa to preach but was subsequently deported again to Jamaica in 2010, this time from Kenya.
His sermons are said to have inspired the Times Square bomber in 2010 and the underwear bomber who tried to blow up a plane in 2009. He was extradited in 2020 to New York after prosecutors said he began communicating remotely from Jamaica with an undercover NYPD officer and offered to help him travel to the Middle East to fight for ISIS.
Because of this latest conviction, 18º North is releasing an extended version of our interview with him. Only about a minute of this interview had been seen before now. Please keep in mind that some of el-Faisal’s views promote violence, are antisemitic, and homophobic. We are including some of his statements not to offend, but to offer a clearer understanding of who el-Faisal is and the extreme messages, like this one, that he continued to share even after being previously punished for his speech: