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Islam only community in Baltimore to show "totality of Muslim social, economic, and political structure" and for 'protection'

Did arrested Al Qaeda taxi driver live in Gwynn Oaks community ?
August 20, 2005

Why build a Jihad camp when an entire community in Baltimore is designed to cater to Muslim's 'special needs'?

Last month Maryland taxi driver's home was raided who lived on Gwynn Oaks street in Baltimore - one of the articles was ironically entitled: "Suspected Jihadi didn't stand out in neighborhood" (complete text below).

Muslim Community Development Initiatives

Sunday, April 25, 2004

By Marya Morris, AICP
APA Senior Research Associate

Muslims throughout the U.S. have worked for decades to peacefully merge into the American fabric. Their efforts have required them to preserve and maintain their religious and cultural heritage while assimilating economically and socially into Capitalist society. This session, moderated by Fatimah Al-Amin Hasan, AICP, of the Maryland Department of Transportation, presented examples of numerous efforts of Muslim community organizations to work within American planning and policy framework, while drawing on their belief system, to facilitate home ownership, urban redevelopment, and preservation of "ummat" (the Arabic for community).

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the need for Muslims to reach out to the broader public on became urgent. Muslim neighborhoods in Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and elsewhere - working through Muslim-based community organizations, schools, and economic development centers - quickly formulated strategies to both protect themselves from the racist backlash that occurred in the wake of the attacks and to reach out to educate the public on the moral and social framework that the vast majority of American Muslims abide by.

John Yahya Cason, director of the Islamic Education and Community Development initiative in Baltimore, explained that "there was no community in the U.S. that showed the totality of the essential components of Muslim social, economic, and political structure."

The Muslim population is composed of immigrants from Muslim communities and African Americans who have converted to Islam. According to Cason, "these two groups have cultural traits, but no cultural norms. The result is that Muslim communities are ruled by Western societal tenets, many of which clash with Islamic norms." Working through the community development center, Cason is in the process of developing Gwynn Oak, a Baltimore neighborhood with a defined geography, a standard religion (Islam), a clear set of moral norms and values, and a historical language (Arabic). The goal is to show Muslim children how to preserve Muslim religion and culture while living in a broader society.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks for Muslims to make economic gain in the U.S. is the financial system whereby money is borrowed and lent with interest, or in Arabic, "reba." Islamic faith promotes redistribution of wealth and prohibits either charging interest or paying interest on loans. In describing the efforts of Universal Companies, a Muslim-run community development corporation in Philadelphia to finance locally owned development and businesses, CEO Abdul Rahim Islam said, "Operating in a capitalist society without capital is like being in a hatchet fight armed only with a pencil." Working within their own community, Universal Companies (and other groups, including the Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul ), devised a "reba free" loan pool for fledgling Muslim businesses.

The tragedy of September 11 affected Muslim Americans deeply, and often in a different, painful way than it did other Americans, given that the terrorists were Muslim. The efforts of the people and organizations represented on this panel reflect the thoughtful, creative, and ultimately inclusive solutions that are progressing to better assimilate into Western culture while preserving their own ideals at the same time.


By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 6, 2005; B05

Mahmud Faruq Brent was unremarkable enough to his neighbors, a regular guy whom they knew, if they knew him at all, as a cabdriver in the District.

Brent shared a large house with another man and that man's wife on Gwynn Oak Avenue in northwest Baltimore, said neighbor JR Michael Rockstroh.

"We thought he was a regular worker," said Michael Taylor, another neighbor. "He had a job, he went to work and he came home."

This week, Brent, who was also known as Mahmud Al Mutazzim, was cast by federal authorities in a different role: aspiring jihadi, holy warrior schooled in terror camps in the mountains of Pakistan.

Federal authorities swept through the house in Maryland on Thursday as other agents arrested Brent, a U.S. citizen, at a relative's home near Newark. Charged with conspiring to support a terrorist organization, he appeared later at federal court in Manhattan and was ordered held without bond.

New details of his life emerged yesterday. Brent, 30, is a native of Akron, Ohio, and is believed to have lived in Maryland for about five years, said a law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation remains open.

Brent received a D.C. taxi license in October, according to Kimberly Lewis, an attorney with the D.C. Taxicab Commission. She said that he was also licensed as an ambulance driver, which records indicate was his primary job, Lewis said.

Lewis said he was employed by LifeStar Response Corp., which has a Washington office. Claire Ringham, a spokeswoman for LifeStar Response, an ambulance service in the District, said Brent resigned in November after working there for less than a year.

Officials at Greater Southeast Community Hospital in the District said they were checking into a man named Mahmud Al Mutazzim who works or worked at the hospital. "We're checking to see if that is one and the same individual," said Carolyn Graham, vice president for external affairs at the hospital.

According to a complaint filed in federal court, Brent said during a conversation secretly recorded by the FBI that he had attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Brent also said that he had trained with "the mujaheddin, the fighters" and that the decision to seek training was "one of the better decisions in my life."

Brent's attorney, Donald Yannella, said yesterday that the complaint does not allege plots to commit terrorism.

"There doesn't appear to be more than what's in the complaint, as far as any immediate plans for acts of violence," he said. "It has more to do with the historical fact that he allegedly was at a camp in 2002."

The complaint accuses Brent of supporting Lakshar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamic group that is active in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. The United States designated it a foreign terrorist organization in 2001 after the Indian government blamed it for an attack on its parliament, which killed 12.

Patrick Devenny, a national security fellow at the Center for Security Policy, said the group was founded in 1989 and is known to recruit internationally. Still, he said, Brent, an American-born U.S. citizen, would not be "your typical recruit."

Staff writer Mary Beth Sheridan and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

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