- IS “Jamaican cleric” Shaikh Abdullah Faisal is on trial in a Manhattan state court on terrorism charges.
- He was “one of the most influential English-speaking terrorists of our time,” said a prosecutor on Monday.
- The defense counters that Faisal’s hate speech and matchmaking for ISIS brides are not the same as terrorism.
Jamaican-born Islamist cleric Shaikh Abdullah Faisal never blew up a building or planned to do so. Instead, in London and beyond, he delivered impassioned speeches about violent jihad and played the matchmaker for would-be ISIS brides.
Faisal advised women who dream of traveling to the Islamic State and marrying a jihadist to buy return tickets and remove their headscarves to avoid the attention of “infidels,” authorities say.
Two of those “brides” turned out to be undercover New York City police officers, and Faisal is now on trial on terrorism charges in a Manhattan state court.
The jury will be asked to determine whether Faisal is indeed “one of the most influential English-speaking terrorists of our time,” according to lead prosecutor Gary Galperin in his opening statement on Monday.
They are also asked how the defense countered in openings as to whether recruitment and placement alone reach the level of terror under New York State law.
“Focus on the substance of this case,” not all the “noise” about ISIS and terror, defense attorney Alex Grosshtern told jurors.
“Focus on what Mr. Faisal actually did and not what he said,” the attorney said.
Born into an Evangelical Christian family in Jamaica, Faisal converted to Islam in high school and had instigated violence against “infidels” since the late 1990s – even calling for slashings and beheadings.
“The real culprit was ISIS before ISIS,” which did not declare a global state or “caliphate” until 2014, Galperin told jurors.
His teachings were circulated via cassette tapes and later his website, radicalizing countless terrorists, according to prosecutors and terrorism experts.
The police officers, who have been portraying undercover “brides” pretending to be sisters “Rojin” and “Mavish,” will both testify in court about the conversations they had with Faisal via email, WhatsApp and Skype, he said The prosecutor.
Faisal faces five counts of conspiracy and aiding terrorists.