The shadowy leader of an American Muslim organization accused of running terror training camps in the U.S. could find himself being questioned under oath if his outfit follows through on its $30 million defamation suit against the Christian group that leveled the charges in a best-selling book.
Muslims of the Americas, a group founded in the 1980s by elusive Pakistani Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, is suing the Christian Action Network for defamation and libel following CAN’s recent publication of the book “Twilight in America: The Untold Story of Islamist Terrorist Training Camps Inside America.” Co-authored by CAN founder Martin Mawyer and Patti Pierucci, the book accuses MOA of “acting as a front for the radical Islamist group Jamaat al-Fuqra.”
In the suit, filed this year in federal court in Albany, N.Y., the Muslim group accuses Mawyer, Pierucci and CAN of "malicious, repetitious and continuous pronouncements and publication of defamatory statements against plaintiff."
"We're calling their bluff," said Mawyer. "I would have thought this would have been dropped a while ago, but I guess they feel they have to defend themselves to their own members."
Many of the book’s allegations are based on the claims of a former NYPD undercover informant who spent eight years posing as a member of the Muslim group, which has secretive bases in rural areas around the country, including Hancock, N.Y., and York County, S.C.
The book alleges organized criminal activity on the part of MOA and claims profits from “street crimes, drugs, brothels, unemployment fraud and other offenses” have been funneled to Jamaat al-Fuqra. Part of the money has been used to establish a series of Jihadi training camps on American soil, according to the book.
Both Muslims of the Americas -- made up primarily of African-American converts to Islam -- and the Pakistan-based Jamaat al-Fuqra, are guided by Sheikh Mubarik Ali Gilani, a highly controversial cleric who lived in the U.S. during the 1980s and who was the subject of an investigation by the late Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl.
In 2002, Pearl was in Pakistan on his way to a pre-arranged interview with Gilani when he was kidnapped by Al Qaeda and eventually beheaded in a brutal case that shocked the world. Gilani was questioned in relation to the investigation but released without being charged.
“Twilight in America” highlights some 17 purported terrorist training camps inside the U.S. Mawyer said he learned of the camps from NYPD informant Ali Aziz, who said one of the camps – often attended by 100 or more followers -- was only 30 miles away from the CAN office in Forest, Va.
Aziz allegedly passed on vital information to authorities about MOA’s plans, its activities across the U.S., and the powerful presence of Gilani.
“If Gilani told everyone, ‘Set yourselves on fire,’ everybody would burn themselves,” Aziz told www.christianaction.org. “This has been going on for 30 years. And people praise him. They give him money. They kiss his feet. It’s crazy.”
Despite the evidence presented in the book, neither MOA nor Jamaat al-Fuqra is currently designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization.
"The chapters on the former undercover agent really put them over the edge, as their members knew who Ali Aziz was,” Mawyer told FoxNews.com. “It then became very difficult for the leadership to continue to convince the women and children on the compounds that they weren’t associated with terrorists. They had to sue us to protect the wealth that they derive from the thousands of members they have in the U.S. I fully expect us to win this lawsuit.”
Mawyer and Pierucci say in the book that MOA has been linked to 10 unsolved assassinations and 17 bombings since the 1980s, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Gilani, who describes himself as “Vice Chancellor of the International Qur’anic Open University, Imam of the Muslims of the Americas and a direct Descendant of the Holy Last Messenger [the Prophet Muhammed],” has previously been accused of inspiring so-called “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid and John Allen Mohammed, the Beltway sniper attacker who, with a young accomplice, killed 10 people during a brief reign of terror in October 2002.
Mawyer said if the civil suit goes to trial, he will move to bring Gilani to the U.S. and put him on the stand. For an organization that so jealously guards its privacy, that may be enough to drop the suit.
“I think they hoped that we would not have the money to fight it and it would serve the purpose of telling their own members, ‘See, we took care of that Martin Mawyer fellow,’” Mawyer said. “They say we have declared war on Islam, but I can tell you that is definitely not the case. This group is against Christians, Hindus, Hari Krishna, Jews, and any Imams who do not preach their strict view of Islam.”
MOA officials could not be reached, and the group's attorney, Tahirah Clark, did not return calls. But in a January statement on The Islamic Post website, the group’s official mouthpiece, Gilani denied claims he is a radical. He said he has weeded out militant Muslims who had infiltrated his inner circle, including a man he said was a hitman for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mawyer and the CAN have no intention of backing out of the legal fight with Muslims of the Americas, a group described by the Anti-Defamation League as “virulently anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers.”
“People’s concerns about home-grown terrorism have obviously been raised by the recent events in Boston,” said Mawyer. “They should know that this is the group that has led the way in the U.S. for 30 years.”
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist who blogs at www.paulalster.com and can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster