Muslim McCarthyism

A Miramar family gets the full suspect treatment

In the Middle East, he met Zuhrah and they married. In 1975, when Zuhrah was only sixteen years old, Adnan was born. Gulshair, then 47, finished his studies in 1978. Three more children would be born in Saudi Arabia before the family moved to Trinidad, where Gulshair received a $1500-per-month stipend to work as a missionary in the Caribbean.

When Zuhrah's parents became ill in 1982, she returned to Saudi Arabia with the children. "She was the only daughter," Gulshair explained. "They needed her." Adnan, he says, was happy to be back in Arabia. "Adnan is a nice boy, not an extremist. After a few years passed, he used to go to the mosques to train people just like I do."

In 1986 Gulshair moved to Brooklyn. He worked as imam of Masjid Nur Al-islam, a mosque on Church Avenue where the Sun-Sentinel last week reported that terrorist Abdul Rasheed had worshipped. Rasheed was convicted in 1996 of plotting to blow up the Holland Tunnel and United Nations building.

Gulshair's Long Journey: From Guyana to Cairo to Medina to Trinidad to Brooklyn to Miami
Gulshair's Long Journey: From Guyana to Cairo to Medina to Trinidad to Brooklyn to Miami

In 1995 Gulshair retired and moved to South Florida, buying the small house where he now lives, for $78,000. A naturalized American citizen, he brought his family here from Saudi Arabia and worked at several South Florida religious institutions before settling at the tiny mosque next door.

His son helped him to raise the family. As the Miami Herald pointed out, cops were called once in 1997. A neighbor dialed 911 after Adnan scolded a sister for leaving the house a mess. No charges were filed. And the boy raised money for Bosnian refugees through a charity, Global Relief Fund, that has been linked to terrorism. But there doesn't appear to be any evidence that Adnan knew of a connection.

Soon after graduating from Broward Community College with an associate's degree in computer engineering in May 2001, the young man left for Trinidad. He was selling Islamic vestments, his father said. Press reports say he moved on to the Middle East.

After September 11, FBI agents came to the El'Shukri-Jumah house. They showed Gulshair a photo album of possible terrorists. "I hadn't seen any of them," Gulshair recalled. "Three months later they returned and said they wanted to know the whereabouts of my son." He couldn't tell them. His son calls irregularly, he said.

Gone but unforgotten

The agents kept coming back, once in 2002, then again just before announcing that they were looking for Adnan in March. "The FBI and the media are trying to link him with these wicked guys," Gulshair said. "He knew some of them, yes, but this is not just. He did nothing."

When the press barrage began, threatening messages started to pour into a Website that Adnan set up for his father to sell Arabic-language tapes, There were dozens of them.

It was soon after that Al Hijrah elders decided to fire Gulshair. "The mosque leaders said I must step down; I didn't want to," he told me. "They said my son's name is published in all of the papers. I said I am accused of no wrongdoing, but they said that didn't matter.

"Now I can't sleep at night."

Bizarrely, though Gulshair enjoys virtually universal respect in the Muslim community, even moderates support the move. "He was there a long time," says Shamikh Sahadat, a student at Darul Uloom, one of the area's largest mosques. "But if we were in a situation like that, it would be the best thing."

Shades of McCarthyism. Virtually no proof. No charges. Not much practical evidence. Yet this war is causing American Muslims to turn on one another just as it has caused our nation's allies to assail us. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the bloodletting in Iraq has only begun. Less obvious is the degree to which Americans, including Muslims, will start to suspect and punish one another, as was the case in the political and entertainment worlds of the 1950s.

One way to reduce the collateral damage of Bush's jihad is for the FBI to make its investigations less public. Fewer press conferences. More cooperation with the American Muslim population. "They need to gain the confidence of the community," CAIR's Parvez Ahmed says. "The whole community feels it is under siege now, possibly by elements inside itself, and outside as well."

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