I spoke by phone this week with Ali Randall, who is a member of Jamaat al Muslimeen, about his life, and his experiences dealing with government surveillance and questioning. He is a self-employed diesel mechanic. He married his wife Aisha in 2011.
Since government spying agencies prefer to operate in the shadows and specialize in intimidating people into silence, my observation in various cases has been that a person is safer when their situation is made public.Therefore, Br. Ali agreed to speak with New Trend about these disturbing, personal matters.
Ali told me that at age 19, he committed a bank robbery for which he received a ten year prison sentence, which he served in Louisberg, Kentucky. His actions were not politically motivated. The money he got was immediately squandered for his own personal pleasure. The beauty of the unfortunate situation, however humiliating, was that while in prison he got to meet several high profile Muslim long term prisoners, including Jihad Abdulmumit, whom I interviewed a couple years ago at the Jericho Conference [http://karinfriedemann.blogspot.com/2013/06/exclusive-interiew-with-jihad.html].
He also met Sheikh Omar Abdurrahman's co-defendant, Tariq al-Hassan of Sudan in prison, as well as Al-Sayed Nuseer, who had killed a rabbi. Life behind bars and learning about Islam was not without its moments. In 1996, white prisoners stabbed to death, 30 times, a white man who took shahada at the Kentucky federal prison.
Ali met Imam Luqman in the 1990's, who was leading group study sessions in the prison. Imam Luqman is the brother from Detroit who was murdered by a team of FBI and police. Being from there myself, I knew one of Imam Luqman's wives, who went by Sister Malika. I was there when she came to the masjid as a homeless woman with two kids. I watched, astonished, as sisters competed with each other trying to convince their husbands to marry her. The sister told me she was so overwhelmed by proposals she didn't know which one to choose, so the imam seemed like the safest choice to provide a stable situation for her. His death was a huge shock.
Ali also met Dr. Kaukab Siddique in prison. Brother Kaukab was serving as a visiting minister to federal prisons. The resulting friendship has now become interesting to the FBI as a result of the media attacks on the professor, drawing attention to his personal opinions.
In February 2015 the FBI started following Ali around with 1-5 vehicles. In May, they surrounded his house but they didn't come in. They knocked on the door and asked questions about "Who do we listen to?" They also asked if he had any plans to go to Iraq or Syria to join ISIS. The answer was no. Ali's parents in law were also being followed and visited at their home.
Br. Ali was questioned again and again in May, June and July. They asked him if he knew certain people, about whom he had no idea. "Someone told them I was a terrorist," he said.
The FBI wanted to know why he was sending Imam Badi and Kaukab articles on ISIS, which he had forwarded from the internet by private message on Facebook. When Br. Ali went to Baltimore after the riots, he and also his wife and a friend were being followed 24 hours a day.
"They need to investigate more before harassing people," Ali told New Trend. "I thought they would kill me."
February 2015 the FBI started following him. He started noticing it for sure by March. By April and May they were openly parking outside his window. He contacted ACLU, but they couldn't help. Ali would approach vehicle and ask, "Why are you following me?" and the man would always say, "I'm not following you." He said he would never see that person again but another one would replace him.
At one time he heard the FBI agent say, "Subject approaching" on his walkie-talkie.
As recently as last week, Br. Ali was interviewed for 3 hours by the FBI, who told him, "We need your help."
"They asked if I knew someone who would do an act of terror," Ali told New Trend. He said they were asking about the entire Muslim community.
In June 2015, Ali was arrested for Xanex and spent 55 days in a city jail. While he was in there, the prison got a call from the FBI asking for information about ISIS and why Kaukab was representing them. The whole thing has been extremely stressful for Ali and his wife, whose health problems are flaring up probably as a result of the relentless political harassment.
"I lost money (on lawyers). I couldn't sleep in my house except with the lights on. After they surrounded my house I could never sleep there again, I couldn't even sleep at my mother's house," he admitted. Ali's mother in law continues to have problems with her job now.
I asked him, "If you were to disappear, what would you want to tell everyone?"
Br. Ali said, "Don't give up the fight of standing up against injustice. Speak out. You don't have to commit violence but speak out."
When he went to Baltimore he went there not representing any organization, and without any protection. He just wanted to see what was going on. He walked through areas inhabited by what he called "the scum of the scum." People on drugs, walking and nodding off at the same time. Gangs, abandoned buildings. The people living in these areas are tired of being beat up and harassed by the police. They are trying to speak out.
He spoke of the HIV rate in Baltimore. He also noticed that, compared to the 90's after Rodney King, when people were smashing store windows to steal TVs, the more recent social upheaval in Baltimore saw people looting toilet paper and soap. Things they really must need.