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Trinidad’s Troubling Islamist Yasin Abu Bakr
Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor ^ | 6/30/2010 | Chris Zambelis

Posted on 07/03/2010 9:59:09 PM PDT by bruinbirdman

The twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago would seem to be the last place to raise alarm bells over the threat of radical Islam. Trinidad was briefly catapulted into the spotlight in June 2007 when reports surfaced that one of the suspects linked to an alleged plot to attack New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was a Trinidadian national and that the suspects reached out to Yasin Abu Bakr, the leader of Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM, Association of Muslims), for assistance in executing their plan. JAM is an enigmatic Trinidadian Muslim militant group that is implicated in violence, organized crime, and terrorism. While a JAM link to the alleged JFK plot was later refuted, questions still emerged about Muslim extremism in Trinidad and in the wider Latin American and Caribbean realm (see Terrorism Monitor, June 21, 2007; see Terrorism Monitor, July 30, 2009).

Yasin Abu Bakr

Aside from a few isolated cases over the years, there are no indications of a radical Islamist trend across the broader Americas anywhere near comparable to the situation in Western Europe or the greater Middle East. Trinidad does, however, hold the dubious distinction of having endured the lone attempt by a Muslim militant group—in this case JAM—to overthrow a sitting government in the Western Hemisphere through a violent coup d’etat on July 27, 1990. That bloody day in the country’s history continues to weigh heavily on Trinidadian society; legal proceedings against Abu Bakr for his role in leading the armed insurrection are still ongoing, a process that is beset by scandal and political intrigue (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, May 6, 2009; Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, July 11, 2009).

While a shell of its former self, JAM remains an active force in Trinidadian society and politics under Abu Bakr’s leadership. As a founding member of the group who continues to enjoy a following among a narrow but devoted segment of Trinidad’s Muslim minority, particularly Afro-Trinidadian Muslim converts residing in poor urban areas, Abu Bakr continues to astound Trinidad watchers with his ability to elude prosecution and lengthy prison terms. In spite of his lack of a formal religious education, JAM members refer to their charismatic leader as “the Imam.” As much as he is admired by his supporters, including those who choose to reside in a commune-like village organized by JAM in Port of Spain’s St. James section, he is both reviled and feared by much of the Trinidadian public and his most bitter rivals, including former JAM members who departed from Bakr’s movement over personal or ideological disputes. Abu Bakr is also widely regarded by many as a ruthless criminal kingpin who is only out to enrich himself and his followers. Based on his contacts in Trinidad’s dominant political parities—his ability to mobilize voters has also made him a crucial political ally during contentious election periods—and corrupt segments of the security forces, others see Abu Bakr as a symbol of the entrenched culture of corruption in Trinidad. Today, Abu Bakr remains one of the most polarizing figures in Trinidadian politics.

Abu Bakr’s foray into militant politics provides crucial insight into the nature of radical Islam in Trinidad and the underlying social and political currents in the Caribbean that gave rise to the group in the 1980s. Born as Lenox Phillip, Abu Bakr is an Afro-Trinidadian who converted to Islam while living in Canada in the 1970s. Abu Bakr also served in the Trinidadian military and later as a police officer. His worldview was shaped largely by the pan-African nationalist Black Power discourse popular in North America, the United Kingdom, and English-speaking Caribbean in the 1960s and 1970s. Because of the nature of the Muslim experience in the Americas, Islam always had a wide appeal among those who espoused an identity of Black Power. The first Muslims in the Americas arrived during the slave trade, only to eventually be stripped of their respective Muslim cultures and identities as they adopted the Christianity and customs of their owners. In this regard, many Afro-Trinidadian Muslim converts—and Afro-Muslim converts elsewhere in the Americas—see their conversion to Islam as an assertion of their lost identity. A consideration of Trinidad’s ethnic and sectarian character is also central to understanding JAM’s emergence on the scene. Trinidad is roughly divided between Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians (known locally as East Indians), the descendants of indentured laborers from South Asia, along with a range of other ethnic and racial minorities. Bitter rivalries between Afro-Trinidadians and East Indians played out in Trinidadian politics and society engendered a sense of resentment, particularly among poor Afro-Trinidadians residing in impoverished urban centers in and around Port of Spain. Moreover, Muslim converts in Trinidad represent a small fraction of Trinidad’s larger Muslim community, which is dominated by East Indian Muslims. Relations between JAM and the East Indian Muslim establishment have historically been fraught with tension.

In spite of his early reliance on an Islamist discourse, Abu Bakr has always seen himself as a revolutionary struggling on behalf of impoverished Afro-Trinidadians and other marginalized communities in Trinidad, including Muslims and non-Muslims—the latter constituting the vast majority of Trinidad’s population. In spite of JAM’s radical Islamist pedigree and allegations by his detractors of links to international terrorism and even al-Qaeda, Abu Bakr’s revolutionary anti-imperialist rhetoric is far more emblematic of his true worldview. Abu Bakr’s personal friendships with neighboring Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a self-styled champion of the poor in the Americas, and the perpetual Third World agitator Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, a relationship forged during a period when Tripoli actively supported radical revolutionary movements in the Caribbean, are two of myriad examples that showcase the image Abu Bakr seeks to portray among his followers (see Terrorism Monitor, July 30, 3009).

While acknowledging the social and political circumstances in Trinidad that gave rise to JAM, Abu Bakr’s critics paint a different picture of the militant leader that is reminiscent of a mafia don. Under the guise of his radical idealism and uplifting rhetoric is a man linked to drug trafficking, arms smuggling, extortion, money laundering, kidnapping for ransom, murder, and political corruption reaching the highest echelons of power in Trinidad (see Terrorism Monitor, July 30, 2009). JAM, in essence, represents an organized crime syndicate operating under the guise of a revolutionary movement. Many Trinidadians have also not forgiven JAM for its coup attempt two decades ago, which plunged the country in chaos for over five days, leaving scores of dead and injured in its wake, and millions of dollars in property damage in the capital. The events surrounding the coup and Abu Bakr’s role in the violence remain a heated topic of conversation in Trinidadian media to this day.

Notably, the indelible mark Abu Bakr has left on Trinidadian politics also extends through his immediate family. In Trinidad’s May 24, 2010 general elections, Fuad Abu Bakr, Yasin’s son, who, with the active endorsement of his father accompanying him on the campaign trail, competed for one of the 41 seats that were up for grabs under the banner of the New National Vision (NNV) party established by the senior Abu Bakr in the 1980s (Trinidad Express, April 26). Dubbed by the younger Abu Bakr as a party “for the people,” the NNV contested 12 seats in some of the country’s poorest areas on a platform that emphasized social justice, poverty reduction, and anti-corruption. Indrani Maharaj-Abu Bakr, one of Abu Bakr’s four wives, also competed for one of the seats (Trinidad and Tobago Express, May 4). While the NNV ultimately failed to secure a presence in parliament, NNV’s participation in the election was not without scandal. Trinidadian authorities arrested 5 people on May 16 in Carenage who they claimed were part of a violent plot to disrupt the 2010 vote. In addition to reportedly being caught with arms and ammunition, the suspects were also said to be in possession of t-shirts emblazoned with the NNV logo previously distributed by the party during its campaign. Fuad Abu Bakr scoffed at any suggestion that NNV was involved in a terrorist plot, labeling the affair a distracting ploy by the struggling prime minister Patrick Manning to call off the elections on the account of domestic security concerns (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, May 16; Trinidad and Tobago Express, May 23). As he approaches septuagenarian status, Abu Bakr does not appear to be slowing down. At the very least, Abu Bakr appears keen on supporting a new generation of his epigones asserting themselves in Trinidad’s public life.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 200706; abubakr; bakr; blacknationalism; blackpower; caribbean; chickenfarmplot; convertstoislam; fuadabubakr; globaljihad; imam; jam; jamaatalmuslimeen; jfkairport; latinamerica; lenoxphillip; muslimconverts; nnv; phillip; reverts; tobago; trinidad; yasinabubakr
"His worldview was shaped largely by the pan-African nationalist Black Power discourse popular in North America . . ."
1 posted on 07/03/2010 9:59:14 PM PDT by bruinbirdman
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To: bruinbirdman
Black Power discourse popular in North America . . ."

And of course what does the leader of our country seem to show in his past? Then there is this guy who does not seem to not bode well for the future of the Caribbean, let alone Trinidad and Tobago. We will be hearing from these people in the future, and it will not be favorably.
2 posted on 07/03/2010 10:47:12 PM PDT by JSteff ((It was ALL about SCOTUS. Most forget about that and HAVE DOOMED us for a generation or more.))
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To: bruinbirdman
There's a very interesting muslim group out of Jordan. Very forthright, because they're only speaking to muslims. A little while ago they published a map that was rather startling: all the known and established muslim countries, plus a little extra:


The islamification of South America and some of the carribbean is moving much faster than anyone thinks. Oh, and this thing is fairly accurate. You should be able to make out the established parts of the balkans.

3 posted on 07/03/2010 11:02:35 PM PDT by Hardraade (I want gigaton warheads now!!)
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To: JSteff

The Africans who arrived here as slaves may have been captured and sold by Muslims in Africa, but most of them were not Muslims themselves. They were mostly animists of various kinds, and the English colonists in some slave areas were actually very resistant to letting Christianity be preached to them, fearing that if they were baptized, they would have to be treated like human beings.

Blacks are completely misguided on their “Muslim past,” but heck, it makes a convenient recruiting tool for Islam.

4 posted on 07/04/2010 3:54:55 AM PDT by livius
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To: bruinbirdman

5 posted on 07/04/2010 4:00:32 AM PDT by raygun
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To: Hardraade

Looks like Guyana. The parts of Latin America that were formerly under British rule (some of the islands and that tiny patch of continental South America) received immigrants from other parts of the British empire, notably India. The majority of them were Hindu and there is a large Hindu population there that doesn’t seem to be causing any trouble to anybody.

But some, alas, were Muslims. They were mostly merchants and for a long time went about their business without molesting the rest of the world. But now that we have this resurgent Islamic power movement, they have metastasized and provide a way for more radical Islam to gain entry.

A lot of those same areas also had large numbers of people descended from African slaves brought in the 18th century, so the situation was just perfect for this fusion of “Black Power” and Islam.

Now there are also other places in Latin America, such as Venezuela and in fact all the newly Marxist Latin American states, falling under Iranian influence. I think this has added an even more dangerous element to it.

6 posted on 07/04/2010 4:15:43 AM PDT by livius
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To: bruinbirdman

I lived in Trinidad for many years. It still amazes me that that bastard, Bakr, wasn’t taken out and hanged or shot dead years ago! He is as worthless as a piece of crap!

7 posted on 07/04/2010 4:24:49 AM PDT by WellyP
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To: bruinbirdman

My first and only contact with Trinidadian muslims was when my wife worked at a summer camp in Maine. One of the counselors was a Muslim from Trinidad. Seemed like a nice guy, he and a local girl started dating. They got married, then almost immediately he pulled the “you will obey me, you are the inferior..”. Luckily the marriage only lasted a month and she was able to get out of it.
The real Muslim had come out after all.

8 posted on 07/04/2010 4:24:58 AM PDT by DeusExMachina05 (I will not go into Dhimmitude quietly.)
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To: livius

I wonder if any money is coming from Chavez to stir things up in Trinidad and Guyana. Trinidad now has an E. Indian government and Guyana has had a large E. Indian majority that keeps the Moozies in check.

9 posted on 07/04/2010 4:29:20 AM PDT by WellyP
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To: WellyP

I’m sure money is coming from Chavez for that purpose. He may not have enough money to keep his own country afloat, but he seems to have plenty of money to cause trouble. Plus Iran probably funnels money through VZ.

10 posted on 07/04/2010 4:41:25 AM PDT by livius
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To: livius
Now there are also other places in Latin America, such as Venezuela and in fact all the newly Marxist Latin American states, falling under Iranian influence.

Yeah, Venezuela and some of the other states have had a Hizbullah movement for a handful of years now, what that actually looks like is fighters in the woods. Like chechnya/pars of Russia. They used to have a recruitment director who was just a slip of a girl, really - but then there was rumored to have been some kind of fallout between these critters and Chavez. Anyway, their big population they recruited from was a native group. Should have a few pics laying around.

11 posted on 07/04/2010 10:03:38 AM PDT by Hardraade (I want gigaton warheads now!!)
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To: Hardraade

Hizbullah has been big in certain parts of Latin America for a long time. Wasn’t it Hizbullah that was behind the bombing of the Argentine Jewish center years ago?

12 posted on 07/04/2010 12:35:21 PM PDT by livius
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To: livius
Hizbullah has been big in certain parts of Latin America for a long time.


Venezuela. Remember I mentioned that girl?





In the woods



El Salvador:




13 posted on 07/04/2010 1:14:34 PM PDT by Hardraade (I want gigaton warheads now!!)
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To: Hardraade


14 posted on 07/04/2010 4:34:41 PM PDT by livius
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To: livius

Yeah and knowing that is what scares me.

15 posted on 07/05/2010 12:08:04 AM PDT by JSteff ((It was ALL about SCOTUS. Most forget about that and HAVE DOOMED us for a generation or more.))
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