Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem

Qur’an 4:135 “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.”


 James Coates had learned of a plot involving the WhyIslam-Houston Media ‘in-charge’ and producer of ‘Ïslamic Perspectives’ cable public access television show (Kobie Williams) and the ICNA Relief-Houston ‘in-charge’ and general Whyislam associate (Adnan Mirza) to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight against US and coalition forces along-side of local insurgents as well as to send money to the Taliban via their families using local clinic in Pakistan.


James and his family had been living in Houston since 1998 and became an active part of the local Muslim community.  He participated in organizing community events, fundraisers and community outreach and soon became a leader among his peers.  Shortly after the tragedy of 9/11, James met Kobie Williams, now one of the defendants in the Houston Taliban case during one of these community events. They quickly became friends and worked on outreach projects together for the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).

On the way back from a holiday camping trip to Big Bend National Park around 2002, James and Kobie were stopped by US Customs and Border Patrol as part of a routine border check.  The border patrol noticed a copy of the Qur’an on the dashboard of the car and performed a detailed check of their vehicle where they noticed firearms (legal) which belonged to the men.  Therefore, due to the heightened security issues at the time they notified the local FBI field office.

The FBI visited both James and Kobie to inquire about their activities during the camping trip at Big Bend.  James assured the FBI that there was no use of the firearms and that it had been an innocent camping trip.  This was accepted by the FBI.  After that time, the FBI periodically called on James, due to his interaction with the community to see if there is anything of concern in which they should be aware.

When the FBI made contact with Kobie at his home, he initially shut the door in their face.  James encouraged Kobie to cooperate with the FBI as it was causing a lot of undue suspicion as they had not been doing anything illegal.  Whereas, Kobie and his wife opposed cooperation with the federal government in any capacity and in fact had demanded to be formally interviewed with a lawyer present about the Big Bend incident.

Several months later at one of their regular WhyIslam planning meetings, James and Kobie discussed general topics about the WhyIslam campaign as they had done ever since the following months after the September 11, 2001 attacks when the group was formed.  After the agenda was discussed, as often, they began to talk about non-related and more personal topics.  Kobie took the conversation into a new direction as he mentioned that he hatched a plan to go to Iraq to join insurgents in the fight against US and coalition forces.  He stated that he felt that this was part of his Islamic duty to defend Muslims from US aggression.

A few weeks later at another Whyislam meeting, this time with Adnan Mirza attending, Kobie and Adnan brought up the topic again.  This was the first time James realized they had spoken among themselves privately prior to the meeting and the plan had developed further.  Kobie had asked Adnan for help in making contacts in Canada that may help with a stay over prior to traveling to the Middle East and eventually on to Iraq, ideas of where to go, who to meet and ideas for how to train.  The stop-over in Canada was intended to help avoid travel suspicions by US authorities.  Adnan began engaging in the conversation with ideas to use ICNA Relief, which Adnan had control over in Houston, as a possible reason for travel and made contacts in Canada for Kobie who eventually did travel to Canada to meet them.

That night James discussed with his wife as to how serious the conversation had become and the implications of ignoring it.  If it was ignored and something did happen, he and his wife were concerned about the possibility of the government shutting down ICNA and WhyIslam if it came to light that this was done using ICNA via ICNA Relief or WhyIslam as a cover to do it or as a recruitment tool.  It would jeopardize ICNA’s future in the US and the plight of all Muslims in the greater Houston area.  It would jeopardize the very people and organizations that James had worked very hard to defend and advocate for in the media when difficult times came as a result of extremist Muslims actions (such as Al Qaida and the Taliban) worldwide.  Groups like Holy Land Foundation and others have been shut down entirely for alleged links to terror groups even though the allegations seemed convoluted at the time.  James was also concerned that if they had succeeded in getting to Iraq or Afghanistan they would have been drawn into the conflicts that were flaring up there and ultimately killing fellow Muslims or other innocent people.

James considered going to the ICNA leadership with his concerns, but was convinced based on previous experience with ICNA’s leadership that the situation would not be able to be handled from within the organization and it would simply cause the activity to go further underground. [See Note A]

Since 2002, prior to even first contact with the FBI, James spent countless hours trying to convince Adnan and Kobie that the Taliban were not good people, distorted Islam and were bad for the population of Afghanistan.  It became clear that the two were determined to support the Taliban with discussions often well into the early hours of the morning after regular Whyislam meetings.

Now the two had become disillusioned with the war in Iraq and soon began discussing their intention to go to Iraq to join insurgents in the fight against US and coalition forces. James knew the discussion to try to deter Kobie and Adnan from joining insurgents would be a pointless exercise and cause suspicion now that the two were talking about participating in armed jihad in Iraq and also sending money to support the cause in Afghanistan.

James deliberated for two months after Kobie mentioned his intention to go to Iraq. James considered Islamic and practical justifications for bringing the matter to the attention of the FBI and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to go away without external help.  The next time James met with the FBI he mentioned it thinking that the FBI would talk to them about it and it would discourage them from taking it any further and endangering the entire community.

The FBI became keenly interested in it but could not get anyone in place in time for Kobie’s visit to Canada. There wasn’t time to interview them because Kobie had acted on his plan by securing tickets.  The FBI scheduled more interviews with James thereafter.  James was encouraged to assist with the investigation, promising that his name would not be released publicly which would destroy his local Islamic work and credibility with the community.  As he got more deeply involved and his FBI case handlers changed it turned out it was a promise that later would not be kept.

Kobie and Adnan continued having discussions among themselves often only informing James afterwards, typically revealing more details during WhyIslam meetings when the whole group would discuss Whyislam matters.  It became apparent that the plan had morphed from Kobie going to Iraq on his own to one where he would put together a Jamaat (group) instead.  They were concerned that they needed to learn to fight prior to leaving and in the meantime they decided that they could help in the cause by sending money to insurgents.  Since James owned and was experienced with firearms from years of hunting trips they decided that they would task him with conducting weapons training camps.  Adnan was tasked by Kobie to recruit additional members and send money to insurgents through the contacts he claimed that he had.

The group arranged to use a property partially owned by the Islamic Society of Greater Houston who were not aware of the group’s plans.  The training camp had a written agenda and was called the Khalid bin Waleed Camp, after a renowned figure in Islamic history Kobie had read about.

The group initially discussed traveling to Iraq and financially supporting Iraq insurgents through Adnan’s contacts in Kuwait.  After Adnan had determined that it was too dangerous to go through his Kuwait contacts, instead he decided to research the options for Afghanistan.

The group discussed recruiting a few trusted people for the purpose of going on armed jihad against US forces using word of mouth and the WhyIslam telephone campaign that Adnan had been maintaining for the Texas area.

An undercover FBI agent was then introduced to the group as a potential member.   Kobie and Adnan were deeply committed to fighting abroad did not show any signs of changing their mind, so James felt bound to continue to assist in the investigation.

Kobie and Adnan also went to a number of local scholars to see if they would act as spiritual support for the group including the ICNA Whyislam Coordinator West, Northwest Chapter (name withheld) and an Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) scholar at the Mission Bend Mosque.  Although there may have been some sympathy for the plight of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan under occupation by the US, the scholars refused to be involved.

Approximately five combat training camps were held over the course of the year.  Attendees paid for supplies to attend and sometimes brought their own weapons.   Many people invited by Adnan attended the camps and practiced firearms training, but only two others were actually recruited by Adnan (and subsequently held to charges in connection with intent to violate federal laws).

With the evidence from the training camps and recorded conversations between Adnan, Kobie and the others in late 2006 the FBI had enough evidence to move forward with arrests.  The total number of people arrested were four including Adnan and Kobie.

One of the four was a young man recruited by Adnan into the group that James had tried hard to dissuade Adnan from recruiting him into the group due to his youth and James’ friendship with the family. However, Adnan insisted on bringing him in.

Ultimately, Kobie Williams plead guilty to the charges, while Adnan Mirza and his family claimed that he was entrapped.  All of the juries (and Kobie’s admission) in connection with the cases rejected the entrapment defence.

In an interview by Adnan Mirza from prison with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, he used his charity work to justify his claim of innocence and garner public sympathy. He further claimed that he was merely going hunting.  He went on to claim that he believes that he has been defrauded by Kobie.  He digresses further to state that he believes Kobie has an intellectual disability and should be diagnosed as having Aspergers or High Functioning Autism.  Adnan is not qualified to make such claims and Kobie is not mentally handicapped.  His claim is dubious at best.  Adnan also blames poor public defending on behalf of his counsel, but he has changed lawyers numerous times and is currently serving fifteen years because he would not accept a plea deal.  All of the other defendants have served their time and have been released.

A campaign by supporters of Adnan Mirza within ICNA has encouraged the leadership to ban James’ account, BrJimC, from the Whyislam.org website forum where he spent years defending and promoting Islamic topics.  He also served as a moderator at the forum for some time.  Other members (Muslim and non-Muslim) who supported James during this event and people who since discussed the topic on the website have since been banned by the ICNA National Shurah Council in conjunction with the website’s Shurah Council that governs the administration of the website.  Many others have quit the forum in disgust.

A new position of “Forum Cop” has since been created in the wake of these events and members have reported a heavy hand against people who defended James during the organization’s crisis.  The website forum has since archived all of the posts leading up to these events and saved them for SEO purposes and can still be found on the website.  One of the easiest to find is the Story of BrJimC which lists first on google in a search for “Whyislam BrJimC”.

ICNA continues to condemn terrorism. However, as a result of his involvement in bringing this plot to the authorities, ICNA-National in consultation with ICNA’s Houston chapter expelled James from membership in the organization and all of the organization’s community services.

The plot topic and what happened to BrJimC is still a banned topic on their forums.

James maintains that these were not evil individuals and were at one time his friends who he liked and respected very much.  However, James felt very strongly that what they were doing was misguided and would put not only themselves into danger but other Muslims and perhaps non-Muslims as well.  James remains a committed follower of Islam and supporter of his local community.


Note A:  As an example, on an earlier occasion, James organized an event on behalf of ICNA Relief-Houston and WhyIslam-Houston to raise funds for a joint project to purchase property in the Third Ward area along side of the I-45/US 288 freeways.  The property was to dub as a soup kitchen for ICNA Relief-Houston and WhyIslam dawah activities.  It would also build and house a large WhyIslam campaign billboard seen by the highway.  At the fundraiser, Imam Siraj Wahaj was brought in to support the event that would be a grand effort to help local non-Muslims as well as the local Islamic community.  The event raised roughly $67,000 from local Muslims.  Soon afterwards, the money disappeared and the organizers learned that the person handling finances (Manzoor… lastname omitted) had stolen the money and sent it to one of his businesses in Pakistan.  After some many months, James had pushed the ICNA Houston chapter leadership to take the matter to the police and/or FBI.  Incredible effort was made and eventually the President of ICNA Houston (Abu Ahmad Hanif Harris) did go to the local FBI office with James to discuss how to proceed with such a case.  The decision was made by the ICNA-Houston Board of Directors that the President of ICNA Houston would not press criminal charges and involve the authorities.  Instead, they would try to beg the individual for the money back.  After some months, the individual agreed.  Instead of taking the money out of Pakistan, the individual used ICNA’s name (unauthorized) to go to many ISGH Mosques and raise money from them and individuals, under false pretence, claiming it was for a new ICNA Relief project.  He used this money to repay his personal debt to ICNA’s Houston chapter.  It was after this debt was repayed that the ICNA Relief/Whyislam joint effort was able to purchase the two properties on the I-45/US 288 corridor where they planned to eventually build what they named the “Charles Freeman Center” which would house the soup kitchen, ICNA Relief and Whyislam dawah projects.


Resources:

http://forum.whyislam.org/forum_posts.asp?TID=6734

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/10/27/convicted_student_adnan_mirza_maintains_innocence

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/05/24/jury-selection-begins-texas-trial-pakistani-student-accused-aiding-taliban/

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/05/27/pakistani-national-guilty-conspiring-taliban-unlawful-firearms-possession/

http://tx.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.20120329_0000456.STX.htm/qx

http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions%5Cunpub%5C10/10-20725.0.wpd.pdf

http://www.justice.gov/usao/txs/1News/Archives/Archived%20Releases/2009%20August/080709Williams.htm

 

Reaching back into history a bit here, but as posted on my facebook page detailing my work in Houston, Texas.  The rally was held in 2003 outside of Congressman John Colberson’s office.  It was a huge success turning people out to exercise their democratic rights and show support for justice of the Palestinian people.  It was sponsored by the WhyIslam and it’s parent organization the Islamic Circle of North America and with the support of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

Please feel free to visit my page on facebook to see more information about me and my work with the Islamic Circle of North America and Whyislam.

Interacting with the American Muslim Community is a program that I designed, managed and taught. It was a highly successful program that received rave reviews from attendees and was in the news media multiple times.  It was approved by two prominent scholars in Houston, the leadership at the Islamic Circle of North America and the Islamic Society of Greater Houston. Houston police officers were invited to attend these monthly Houston Police Academy accredited classes to further department elective ongoing education at the Islamic Dawah Center founded by Houston Rockets basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon in downtown Houston.

The video contains two news clips resulting from press releases that I sent out telling about my police department program. The first interview was held a couple months after the success of our pilot program. The pilot was held with members of the Houston community including leaders from the Jewish community, the Houston mayor’s office, the US Department of Justice and many more attending. Shortly after, a second press release was sent and I invited Hakeem Olajuwon to attend to help publicize the program. The interview with Hakeem Olajuwon on Fox News is seen in the second half of the video.

The newspaper clipping below is a second appearance by Hakeem Olajuwan to visit the officers attending the program.

The article below that (Badge & Gun) is one of two articles by the Houston Police Officers Union to discuss the groundbreaking program.

Law enforcement program designed and implemented by James Coates
Hakeem Olajuwon kicks off the pilot program for us. Houston Chronicle City & State Apr 17 2003

 

Badge & Gun: April 2003

 

HPD is working with the Jewish and Muslim communities to educate a growing number of officers about hate crime causes and methods of prevention

BY TOM KENNEDY

Susan Llanes-Myers put into words what every police officer must have figured out a long time ago.

“Police officers,” she said, “are the first responders to hate crimes.”

Llanes-Myers, the daughter of a Texas Ranger, deals with hate education every workday. She is executive director of the Holocaust Museum Houston, where exhibits and educational programs are dedicated to teaching each visitor how hate can intensify and destroy millions of human beings.

The Houston Police Department has been taking a very productive advantage of the Museum’s educational program and continues to use the police-friendly facility to teach officers more and more about hate and hate crimes.

Several years ago, the Houston Police Academy’s Bill Hoffman saw the need to develop a partnership with the Holocaust Museum to teach Houston police officers more about hate. He figured, correctly, that officers were open to an off-site location for such an educational opportunity.

 

The Subject of Hate

Llanes-Myers worked with him and the HPD to set up an eight-hour course entitled Hate Crimes and Hate Groups – a Holocaust Perspective. Now the once-a-month elective usually draws a capacity crowd (60 persons).

Llanes-Myers is the lead teacher and includes a student session with a Holocaust survivor and concludes with a Museum tour.

“Our mission is to use the Holocaust Museum as a backdrop to hate in society,” the former public school teacher explained. She describes the course as “a marriage of past historical events and current events that uses the Holocaust to branch out to the hate groups of today.”

Adolph Hitler strongly pounded home hate on European soil 60-something years ago. Today, Llanes-Myers contends hate goes a long way and will intensify if more people are not educated on the subject.

Her course, for example, produces facts showing that there are at least 3,000 hate sites on the Internet.

Hate also is an educational subject that has drawn the intense interest of HPD Officer Steve Smith, assigned to the human relations unit at the Houston Police Academy since 1993.

Smith, a primary believer, supporter and encourager in the HPD/Holocaust Museum courses, said the course inspired him to envision a similar concept. Instead of just focusing on educating officers about the Jewish targets of hate over the centuries, Smith successfully sought to set up a course featuring the Muslim community.

Muslims everywhere have been targets of hate ever since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. Although Osama Bin Laden’s ruthless band of 5,000 Al-Qaeda followers in no way represent the Muslim faith, sincere believers bore the brunt of often violent and hateful reactions.

“In November of last year,” Smith recalled, “it came to mind that maybe we need to do some training with the Muslim community.”

 

Smith’s Productive Efforts

He contacted the Islamic Circle of North America, a local group, and the Islamic Da’wah and soon got strong support from none other than Houston basketball legend Akeem Olajuwon. The Da’wah is located in an historic bank building in the 200 block of Main Street and receives strong financial backing from Akeem.

“Officer Roman Chavez, who works at the academy, told me about Akeem,” Smith said. “I visited with Akeem and asked if he would be interested. He said it would be a great thing to do. He wants to do more education about the Muslim community.

“It took the efforts of both Akeem and the HPD to develop this training.”

Smith also had the support and dedication of Llanes-Myers and the Holocaust Museum, as well as local Muslim spokesman Jim Coates.

Coates is a former Baptist Christian married to a woman who has been a Muslim since birth. He reverted to Islam when he met Fatimah Bhutan in his hometown of Chicago and the couple moved to Houston, which had been Fatimah’s home in past years.

Coates became a spokesman for the local Muslim community several months after 9/11 when hate crimes against Muslims were rampant because what American society didn’t know was unjustly hurting a religion.

He said Houston’s Muslim leaders decided to launch an unprecedented education campaign. Part of the ensuing process included a billboard on the North Freeway advertising a telephone number to call for information about Islam.

Smith saw the billboard, called the number and got to know Coates. After meeting with Coates and Llanes-Myers to develop the course, Smith followed their advice.

“We had the Muslim and Jewish communities kind of assisting each other in the development of this training, both having the same concerns about hate crimes or hate in the community,” Smith explained, “and you’ve got HPD in the middle facilitating, trying to bring these two communities together.”

 

A Success Story

It worked. Today’s story is a success, with HPD developing stronger ties to both communities as well as an improved understanding of the hate crimes that affect them.

Llanes-Myers said, “When HPD realized there was a problem, they turned to us to see how they could do it.”

She and the Museum were gracious about providing start-up help. She monitored the first class in January, led by Coates at Akeem’s Da’wah.

Coates, a truck driver for a Houston Chronicle contractor, quickly tried to clarify basic myths. Muslims, for instance, don’t meet in “mosques,” but rather in masjids.

By far his highest priority was – and still is – to stress that Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda followers do not represent the Muslim faith at all but use Muslims to further their terrorist goals.

As far as the course, Coates said, “We didn’t want to be teaching religion. We geared it to teaching law enforcement officers how to react to Muslims and understanding their culture, which is directly linked to their religion.

“Steve helped refine it and our pilot took place in January.”

Smith said the course teaches many basic lessons and could provide many suggestions of ways to better deal with the cultural ramifications.

Example?

Muslims are required to pray at least specified five times every day. They are not always the exact time each and every day.

There have been reports of Muslims acting suspiciously, such as kneeling on small carpets in a parking lot near a vehicle – a situation that seems suspicious. They are not planning to bomb a building; they are praying.

“HPD must work to have a stronger relationship with the Muslim community,” Smith said. “If Dispatch knows the prayer times, they (dispatchers) will know and the officers will know (the reason for kneeling on carpets in parking lots) and have a better understanding.

 

The Benefits

“As we have classes we’re learning more things that might be of use,” he said.

Coates sees the course as one very effective method to prevent hateful acts against an often-misunderstood religion. He is optimistic about Houston overall, calling it “different.”

“Muslim communities around the country have undergone great harassment,” he explained. “But here we have had a lot of good support from communities, particularly the Jewish community, and we haven’t had that many hate crimes.

“It is very important to get this course up and running at this time in order to help solve the problem of terrorism. Our relationship with law enforcement will be better and I think that’s very important to both sides.

“If you decided to isolate the Muslims, you will always have a problem trying to police that community. You will always be looked upon as an outsider.”

But for police officers to reach out to them and learn about them in places like the Da’wah is a step in the opposite direction – a positive direction, not a hateful one.

 

http://www.hpou.org/badgeandgun/index.cfm?fuseaction=view_news&NewsID=71

http://www.hpou.org/badgeandgun/index.cfm?fuseaction=view_news&NewsID=72