In Hancock, NY an Islamic community that sits on 80 acres of land has decided to form its own government. They call their community: The Town of Islamberg. They have their own mayor, deputy mayor and five town council members. None of them are elected, of course.
They even boast that their “town” provides departments of education, medical, finance and land development services.
This Islamic compound has truly become a city-state. Though not recognized as a legitimate township by the City of Hancock, this Islamic community nevertheless enforces its own laws on the “citizens” within its borders. They do so by using the iron fist of Sharia law.
I interviewed a member of this camp, which sits deep in the Catskills Mountains of upstate New York. The Islamic group that has established this camp is part a network known as Muslims of the Americas (MOA), which has documented links to Al Qaeda.
MOA has established similar villages in nearly three-dozen locations nationwide, with other prominent camps found in Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, California and Tennessee.
The man I interviewed, Ali Aziz, painted a shocking picture of what life is like to live inside these camps and how many of their members engage in terrorist training activities. Aziz, an Egyptian Muslim, worked as an undercover informant for eight years for the New York Police Department (NYPD). During that time, he lived on MOA camps and worked closely with MOA leadership, all the time supplying the NYPD with information about illegal activity on the camps—including guerilla combat training.
Aziz was drawn into the life of an informant after police arrested him years ago on a passport violation. Aziz was fluent in both English and Arabic, and he had been an Olympic Judo athlete.
“I knew the martial arts,” he said, “which (MOA) liked. I could teach them Arabic. I could teach them how to read the Quran.” He was welcome with open arms by MOA members and its leaders.
I have visited the outside of the Hancock compound a couple times and flown over it once. It’s typical of virtually every other MOA camp. It’s in a heavily wooded area off the beaten path, with mostly battered trailers and homes and a couple of newly constructed buildings thrown into the mix. It has dirt roads lined with old cars, new cars and junk cars. Wooded debris, discarded scrapings and demolished buildings can be seen throughout the area, giving it an unsightly appearance from above.
It has its own graveyard, similar to those found on other camps. And the property has a couple of small lakes which have been used as “open areas” to shoot their weapons across. Not surprisingly, Hancock also has a guard shack to intercept unwanted visitors.
By all accounts, Hancock—which now calls itself “The Town of Islamberg”—is the camp that houses the leaders of MOA and makes decisions for the rest of the camps throughout the United States.
Aziz provided this shocking information: MOA has created a secret jihadist army, similar to a guerilla-trained militia, that is ready to attack American citizens “at one word” from their leader, Sheikh Gilani.
One of the main purposes of the camps is to provide guerilla training for the young men—and in some cases the women—to be prepared for jihad. A videotape that I obtained exclusively shows MOA members being trained on the Hancock camp, shooting guns, pretending to attack with knives, practicing slitting throats, and strangling victims. This chilling video is proof that MOA compounds have been used to train Islamic terrorists for combat.
Aziz confirmed that the camps have stockpiles of illegal weapons.
Aziz also confirmed what my research had already shown: That the MOA’s policy was to encourage members to collect as much public assistance as possible, and the more children they had the more assistance they received, much of which is returned to Sheikh Gilani in Pakistan.
Aziz explained that the residents of the MOA believe that their top leader, Sheikh Gilani, is able to travel through space and time, and that he spies on them at all times. This fear helps keep them from disobeying the strict laws of MOA and the “town” leaders.
“They think Gilani will turn them into a monkey,” he said.
MOA members are to follow Gilani’s orders blindly and without questioning. Gilani teaches his followers that “jihad” is their purpose in life. Aziz confirms that four generations of MOA members have been brought up on these camps—taught from birth to distrust Americans and to prepare for jihad. The young men are trained to be criminals. Aziz calls them “modern warrior slaves.”
For some in the MOA camps, they’ve never known any other life, said Aziz. Their schooling, where there is schooling, is laughable, possibly even criminal. In the York, South Carolina, MOA compound children are taught in a storage shed. Local authorities are fearful of even discussing how these children are taught and what they are being taught.
The most vulnerable and emotionally abused on the camps are women. “They are insecure,” Aziz said of the women. “They don’t know anything. They don’t know about the outside world. They depend on everything from a man.”
Many of the women are forced into polygamous marriages at very early ages, marriages that take place inside the camps. Aziz calls them “silent” weddings. Though such “silent” weddings are standard throughout all the villages, not all marriages are illegal.
More than 90 percent of the women are on state benefits, Aziz claims, with a portion of this money going back to Sheikh Gilani in Pakistan. “They have so many kids,” he said of the women. “Eight kids. Nine kids. They have to raise them and they don’t have a lot.”
Not a lot of money. Not a lot of housing. Frequent brutality from their husbands. And a lot of kids. That’s a woman’s fate on the camps.
Because of their seclusion, lack of education, forced marriages, fear of beatings, dependency on men and their religious slavery to Sheikh Gilani and his male lieutenants, women in the camps are stripped of any independent desire to flee. “After four generations,” Aziz said, “they are living in their comfort zone.”
Discipline on the camps is ruthless, and is executed as both punishment and to intimidate followers from ever leaving.
“This is one thing I want you to really believe,” Aziz told me in one of his most distressed moments during the interview. “If somebody breaks a command, you could be tied to a tree and hit with sticks. This is crazy.”
Members are beaten for such violations as cursing, disobedience to the leaders, lying, using birth control or even watching programs on TV they’re not supposed to watch.
“Sometimes they do a crime,” Aziz said, explaining that a “crime” is doing something forbidden by Sheikh Gilani. “Sometimes they do a crime like that and they lash you. I gave the NYPD some tapes of evidence of kids getting beat, women tied to trees, stuff like that. That put me in a bad situation because I exposed these abuses.”
“I saw a 50-year-old woman tied to a tree and getting beaten … This is what I think is the biggest disgrace, the abuse. The only thing is, nobody on the camps says anything. Of course they’re afraid.”
“Some people are there because they’re scared,” Aziz said. “They don’t know what to do. They have their children there. They’re scared of the wrath of Gilani. … They are so controlled, so brainwashed. It’s crazy.”
Welfare fraud is rampant. Aziz said that children on the Hancock compound learn at an early age that it’s OK to commit crimes against non-Muslims and engage in scams. “A lot of them do welfare fraud. They do all kind of scams.”
Drug dealing is also common and is used as a source of income for MOA. “The drug money goes back to Gilani,” Aziz said, referring to their terrorist leader who rules them from Pakistan.
“I gave the NYPD enough information to shut the camps down,” he said.
That evidence included: The sexual abuse of women. The physical abuse of children. The failure to educate girls. Such criminal activity as drug running, welfare fraud and illegal weapons. And worse.
Ali said, “I would get into trouble if I told you everything I was providing the NYPD. It would violate my immunity. I was providing information to the NYPD about people who committed some very serious crimes. I’m talking about…” And then he stopped and asked, “What is worse crime you can commit?”
Ali never answered that open-ended question, riffed with imaginative answers. But he left no question about the goal of MOA and their city-states that they are forming across America.
“The ultimate purpose,” Ali said, “is to be ready when the time is right.”
“You walk up to them and ask them, ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘I want to fight for Gilani.’ That’s what they want,” Ali said. “It’s not good.”