Imam Nizam Mohammed, grandfather-in-law of a TT-born American and his son charged in the US for links with the international terrorist group ISIS, has distanced himself from them.
Mohammed, 79, told Newsday on Friday at his Ecclesville Road, Rio Claro home that he was unaware that his grandson-in-law Emraan Ali and son Jihad Ali were charged by a Florida court with providing material support to ISIS.
A hesitant Mohammed said, “I am unaware of what was taking place and was only informed by a neighbour this morning (Friday). I am now hearing the details from you (the reporter) of the situation.
“I never had communication with them, so I do not know if any of this is true or the circumstances surrounding it. All I know is that they left TT to go to Syria.
“I have had visits from the police on many occasions. I have nothing to hide. They can visit the mosque and inspect at any time. I have no guns or anything or hide.”
Emraan Ali, 53, and son Jihad, 19, are the first TT nationals to have been charged with terrorism offences related to ISIS.
In 2018 the US Department of the Treasury named and sanctioned Ali, along with fellow Trinidadian Eddie Aleong, for organising money transfers from TT to support Syria-based Trini ISIS fighters. Other TT nationals such as Shane Crawford and Sean Parson, were killed in targeted US drone strikes; while Zaid Abdul Hamid, Safraz Ali, Nicholas Joseph Lee and Ziyad Mohammed survived and are now in detention in Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Syria. Others died on the battlefield or in bombings.
Mohammed, who is the Imam in charge of the Boos Hill Settlement Mosque in Rio Claro, said over the years he was interviewed by many media houses after it was discovered that TT nationals enrolled in ISIS and some of them were linked to his family.
He claimed all the interviews twisted his words and sought to connect him with ISIS, which was far from the truth. Articles, Mohammed said, most published by British criminologist Dr Simon Cottee, has been misleading.
“My position is not to have any discussions about this matter. I have done so in the past and they (media) seem to want to set me up. So, the less I could talk, better for me. I had enough of the press. I had enough with BBC, Al Jazeera and the local media.
“Some of things they wrote about me, I did not say it. I have no communication with Emraan, his wife or children. I really have no opinion of what is reported in the media. I just have to wait and see what happens like everyone else.”
Mohammed noted that all his information about his family is only known when and if it is reported in the media
“My purpose here is just to do Allah’s work, so I do not bother myself with all these other things. Although 15 of them have chosen to go to Syria, their path is different from mine.”
Asked whether he fears for the fate of his relatives, Mohammed responded, “Their deeds are in the hands of Allah. He will decide.
“The US system has been designed so that one cannot escape it. People differentiate terrorism in different ways, and I cannot say what definition they (US) are using. The superpowers can bomb an entire country and that is not terrorism, but if someone else does something similar for the same cause then that is terrorism.”
Mohammed said the community has supported the mosque and vice-versa, so they have chosen to ignore any type of ill-repute against his name and his work.
“We are a tightly-knit community. We have our economic system and schools for instance. It is not much, and we try to adhere to everything within the State. We see about Muslims and non-Muslims. We are of service to mankind and not of destruction.”