Jamaica: A Breeding Ground for Islamic Extremism?

Rampant poverty, unemployed youths, drugs, state wide corruption and gang violence are just some of the social ills that can lead to people searching for alternatives.  One such alternative, as recently exposed by document released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, could be Islamist extremism for frustrated Jamaican youths.  According to the leaked documents from Jamaica’s U.S. embassy, deported Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal (aka “al-Jamaikee,” or “the Jamaican”), could help to foster extreme Islamist sentiments and the development of terrorist cells in the Caribbean island.

Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal was deported from England back to his birthplace Jamaica in January 2010 after being convicted of stirring up racial hatred among Muslim converts in Britain. The leaked documents from February 2010 cautioned that the return of “extremist Jamaican-born cleric Sheikh el-Faisal raises serious concerns regarding the propensity for Islamist extremism in the Caribbean at the hands of Jamaican born nationals.” Furthermore, “given the right motivation, it is conceivable that Jamaica’s disaffected youth could be swayed towards organized crime of a different nature through the teachings of radical Islam.”

Taking heed of these concerns, Jamaican authorities have taken to monitoring el-Faisal, however, they note that he has no criminal record in the country and as a result, they are limited in their actions. While Jamaica is not known for having a large Muslim population, the small island is home to about 5000 Muslims. While many doubt that el-Faisal will be a dominant force in the Jamaican Islamic community, he is well known for his charm, charisma and personable skills.  While he might not be able to swag the majority, the fact that he has the ability to influence a young impressionable few is enough to warrant concern.

Knowing that poverty, corruption and disenchantment among young people are major contributing factors to the spread of extremist ideas, why are most of the money designated to combating Islamist extremism and terrorism being spent on wars and arms as opposed to addressing the root causes of the problem? Instead of warning authorities about the potential threat posed by Faisal’s return, U.S. and Jamaican authorities should invest in developmental programs that will ensure these vulnerable youths are not susceptible to his messages.

Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal


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