(Trinidad Guardian) Days before the Office of the Attorney General was given the green light to seize the assets of T&T national Kareem Ibrahim who was convicted of terrorism in the United States, a local Muslim leader has disclosed that one of his daughters, a son-in-law and three grandsons had gone to war-torn Syria, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) terror group operates.
Imam Nazim Mohammed of the Masjid Umar Ibn Khattab Jamaat was also adamant that he was not an Isis recruiter.
Mohammed, 74, could not say if the five family members had joined Isis as fighters, if they were alive, dead or injured.
The last time, Mohammed said, he spoke to his second daughter, whom he refused to name and whose age he did not know, was earlier this year.
Last month it was reported in the Trinidad Guardian that 89 T&T nationals had gone to Syria to become jihadists.
The Imam believes that whatever decision the family made was the “will of the Creator. That is just part of life. They choose to go so…I wish them well,” Mohammed said.
On Tuesday, Mohammed broke his silence about the family’s sudden departure while speaking at his Ecclesville Road, Rio Claro, mosque.
In relating the chain of events, Mohammed showed no hurt, pain, sadness or grief for his daughter whom he has not heard from in months.
Only on Wednesday it was reported internationally that couple Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, who had links to Islamist militants were gunned down by police after they killed 14 people at a holiday party in California.
Mohammed came under the radar in 2009 when he was interviewed by FBI agents prior to the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain.
The agents wanted to know if Mohammed was a threat to US President Barack Obama during his visit to Trinidad.
Thereafter, his 28-year-old mosque became a target by police.
He confessed that several times police searched the masjid for arms and ammunition, but came up empty-handed.
Though the police would regularly pass in front of his place of worship, Mohammed said they would not harass him.
Mohammed, however, feels his movements were being closely monitored by law enforcement officers.
“Our programme is not what these people (police) think. Maybe this is why they would watch around and pass here whole night. We have nothing to tell them. They are doing their job. I have no guns here. You think I would keep guns in this masjid and in my house to involve my family,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed: I would never encourage
criminals in the jamaat
Mohammed said he did not condone wrongdoing and would never encourage criminals elements in the jamaat although a few have passed through.
Last year, Mohammed was identified by national security as a possible local recruiter on behalf of extremist group Isis, a claim which he has vehemently denied.
“I am hearing that I am a recruiter. But I am not sending anyone there. That is not true,” Mohammed insisted.
He said it was unislamic to kill innocent people and he did not support the actions of Isis.
Mohammed’s denial came even though Shane Crawford, 29, and Milton John Algernon, 38, also known as Fareed Mustapha, who prayed at the mosque went to fight for Isis in 2013.
In 2011, Crawford was detained with 15 others during the state of emergency for being part of a plot to kill then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Pressing his index and middle fingers against his head, Mohammed recounted the last conversation he had with his daughter.
He said when he answered his phone, he heard his daughter’s voice.
“She told me she was in Syria with her husband and three grown sons. They went through Turkey. That was news to me,” he said.
Mohammed said he had no inkling that she would have done something like that because she frequented the mosque with her children to pray.
“She was a member of this masjid. She never told anyone in the mosque she was going there…not even me or her mother.”
Asked if he tried to encourage her to return home, Mohammed said no.
“If somebody chooses to go there and they choose not to tell you what can I say again? That’s the reason why they did not tell me. That is what I conclude. I have no problem with that. It does not worry me either,” the Imam said.
Mohammed said he did not ask his daughter why she left, where the family was staying and what they were doing there.
“They have their reasons why they went. I can’t answer for them.”
Lost all contact with his daughter
Since then, Mohammed said, his daughter has never contacted him again.
“I personally don’t have any links with her.”
Questioned if his daughter’s sudden departure was paining and grieving him or her mother, Mohammed responded, “No, this is a belief we share. This may sound strange to you, but this is not bothering us. Everything happens by the will of God. Whatever happened is what He has already willed. This makes an ease in your life. You don’t have to worry and stress. I don’t suffer from stress…nothing stresses me out. If the whole world falls on you just thank God.”
Mohammed said the life we were living was just a test.
“This life is not the real life…it is nothing. The real life is the life hereafter which is either paradise or hell. We have been given a time here to live and within that time frame you are given a choice to live good or not. On the day of judgement each person has to account to God for their deeds.”
Mohammed revealed that he married two women who produced seven children between them.
One wife has five offspring, while the other, two.
Two months ago, Mohammed lost one of his wives who had been ailing for some time.
Mohammed described the operations of Isis as “serious” since many nations have been joining forces to destroy them.
“They classified them (those who join Isis) as terrorists. And they have concluded that anyone who links up with them…that it is.”