About a couple of months ago, a comment appeared on this blog by a sister named Sayyidah Abdullah Rahman. She is the daughter of “Big Bilal” Abdullah Rahman, who along with brother Muhammad Ahmed was one of the two Muslims murdered in the now infamous 1974 shoot out at the Ya Sin Masjid in Brooklyn, NY. In retaliation, two other Muslims were also killed during the attack, bringing the total number dead that cold February night to four. Another brother who was also badly wounded did manage to survive, but would have to live out the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Miss Rahman asked that I share with her whatever information I may have on her father because my blog is the first time she has ever seen anything about her father in print.
She explained to me later in our conversations that she was only two years-old when her father was killed, and that the subject has always been strictly taboo in her family. Whenever Big Bilal or Muhammad Ahmed’s name would come up in conversation, the room would immediately go quiet and someone would change the subject. Information about this case has been so tightly held that there’s never been an arrest in it. It may also explain why Sayyidah Abdullah Rahman, an intelligent 36 year-old mother of six, has never been told the location of her father’s final remains. Even her mother refuses to tell her! As one can imagine, she is quite angry and demanding some answers.
This tragic episode came back into the public spotlight after it was included in my well received five part series, Why Blackamerican Muslims Don’t Stand For Justice, one of the first articles to appear on this blog. In part two of that series, I presented a brief analysis of why I believed the Black Islamic movements of the late 60’s and early 70’s failed to produce any kind of national, social justice agenda, and in the course of that discussion I referenced the Ya Sin shoot out. While most younger Muslims had never even heard of the tragedy, older “movement workers” were disturbed that I would even bring the thing up. What they found particularly troubling was its assertion that Ahmed Tawfiq, founding Imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood (M.I.B), was responsible for the blood bath.
This eventually evoked a response from Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Tawfiq’s successor at M.I.B and deputy Amir of MANA, where he seemed to suggest that culpability for what happened 35 years ago in Brooklyn was somehow unclear. In essence, he tried to challenge the judgment of history which squarely lays the blame for what happened on his mentor Ahmed Tawfiq, who along with his crew of Muslim goons, went to the Ya Sin masjid that night intending to kill its Imam, Yahyah Abdul-Kareem. What jarred me most about the Imam’s response was the remark that “those who say don’t know, and those who know don’t say”. I thought that was a morally indefensible and trite statement in reference to murder, and said so at the time.
That ongoing public dialogue led sister Sayyidah to start exploring questions of her father’s whereabouts once again. The story she shared with me of her life growing up in the Darul Islam Movement literally brought tears to my eyes. She was born in 1972, at the very height of the fratricidal warfare that characterized Black Islam at the time. Only a year later an entire Muslim family would be massacred in a Washington D.C. home purchased by the then new Muslim, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The slaughter resulted after the basketball champion’s Imam, Hamaas Abdul-Khalis, sent extremely incendiary letters to Nation of Islam ministers across the country insulting Elijah Muhammad and W.D. Fard. That killing would soon spill over into the beef between the M.I.B and the Dar, who at the time were accusing Ahmed Tawfiq and the M.I.B of collaborating with the N.O.I. To this day there are still many Muslims in New York who will swear that N.O.I. people were with Tawfiq that fateful night at the Ya Sin masjid. It was also around that period that the Nation of Islam minister in Newark, N.J, a man who had briefly replaced Malcolm X at Temple Number 7 in New York after his assassination, James Shabazz, was shot in the face outside of his home by a break-away faction. Not long after, at the instigation of Minister Louis Farrakhan, the alleged perpetrators of the killing were found decapitated in a park close to Shabazz’s home. This kind of madness continued. There was even some potentially murderous hostilities between the Washington, D.C based Islamic Party and the Darul Islam. In any event, these were the times Sayyidah was brought up in. Her mother knew her father (an older man at the time) as a youth, but later married Big Bilal (born Patrick Quince) and joined him in the Darul Islam. Sayyidah remembers her grandmother sharing with her mother concern’s that the group was really a cult and to stay clear of it, but out of love for her husband she ignored the advice. As a child born into the insular, secretive subculture of a group exhibiting all of the characteristics of a cult, dis-function took on the appearance of normalcy. She would be about 20 years-old before she began to see that things were not right. Multiple marriages and divorces were common place, and young girls were married off before having a chance at a real education. Some of what was pawned off as ‘Islamic teaching” was in her words, “strange”. Sayyidah was told not to worry about school too much “because I was pretty and would easily get a husband”, which is exactly what happened. At 14, she was married off to a much older man, and by the time she was 24 already had six children! She was 7 years-old before she would learn that her step-father, long time New York Imam Alamin Abdul-Latif, leader of the Iqamatul Deen movement, was not her biological father. This in turn led her to ask tough questions about her real father, which when not rebuffed outright, were answered with completely erroneous information. “I was told that non-Muslims did it after busting into the Masjid”.
She was also told that the killings happened in September when in fact they occurred in February. In short, everything was done to obstruct and obscure the facts of what took place the night her father was gunned down… by other Muslims. And until reading my post about this incident, she’d never even seen anything about it. One of those “strange teachings” she mentioned claimed that a widow had to remarry within five months, which Sayyidah’s mother followed to the letter. And what is unquestionably the most infuriating aspect to all of this for Miss Rahman, after losing a father at such an early age of course, was discovering later that you’d been taken to the very masjid of the man responsible for your father’s death and forced to listen to his rantings. Perhaps the most inexplicable, if indeed unforgivable thing for Sayyidah to accept is the sad fact that her parents would actually visit the M.I.B. masjid and listen to Ahmed Tawfiq give talks. “Why did they have to make me listen to that man (Tawfiq)? I remember hearing him speak many times, and my ummi would always become upset whenever he spoke, and I would say ‘ummi what’s wrong’?”
The Tragic Tale Of Yusef Abdullah Rahman
For me the most gut wrenching part of Miss Rahman’s story is the tragic tale of her older brother, Yusef Abdullah Rahman, a sweet young boy turned into a monster after being dragged into the dark, demented world of another dangerous and apocalyptic cult. 13 years before we ever heard the names John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the notorious “DC Snipers” who unleashed a three week reign of terror which left 10 people dead and 3 wounded, there was the “Riverhead Sniper” of Long Island. In 1989, a crazed killer shot and killed one person and badly wounded 3 others in a quiet community called Riverhead over a period of about a week. That sniper was 20 year-old Yusef Abdullah Rahman. Rahman later when on to confess to five other murders in Kansas City, Mo. How did this happen?
One of the sad consequences of Big Bilal’s death was that his large family, consisting of three wives and ten children, was completely broken apart. His widows found new husbands, which by itself created a degree of separation for the children. More devastating however was the dissolution of the Darul Islam movement in 1983, with roughly half its membership deciding to follow the radical Pakistani Sheikh Mubarak Jilani, and soon after began calling themselves “Jamaatul Fuqra”. The other half gave their allegiance to Imam Jamil Alamin, the former sixties militant otherwise known as H. Rap Brown (now serving a life sentence for murdering a black police officer). This dissolution and split of the Darul Islam for the children was both traumatic and tragic. Yusef’s mother and her husband went with the Fuqra, and from the tender age of 6 he found himself submerged in a world saturated with incessant rhetoric of Jihad and military preparedness. Whenever he tried to make unsupervised contact with his sister he was beaten. Much like the child soldiers of Rwanda or Sierra Leone, he was denied the innocence of youth, and received instead intensive military and ideological training. In essence, they made Yusef Abdullah Rahman into a killing machine. He was sentenced to life in prison.
The blows kept coming. In 1994 another of Sayyidah’s brothers, Shauib Latif, was gunned down by police in N.Y.
The lives of Bilal Abdullah Rahman and Muhammad Ahmed are rich and important parts of our history as African American Muslims, and not skeletons to be locked in a closet! They died defending the House of Allah and HAVE A RIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED HONORABLY. At the same time, we should no longer continue to lift up maniacal, psychopathic gangsters like Ahmed Tawfiq as great leaders.
Again, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid said “those who know won’t say, and those who say don’t know”. He also constantly promotes the notion of “healing and reconciliation” , which by that he means between African American and immigrant Muslims. But don’t we need “healing and reconciliation” among ourselves first. And for Imam Alamin to keep this knowledge from his step-daughter for so long is just plain heartless. Perhaps these two leaders could muster some compassion in their hearts and tell this young women where her father lies. All she and her children want to do is visit his grave and pray for him. Is that too much to ask?
If Anyone Out There Has Information Concerning The Gravesite Of Big Bilal Abdullah Rahman, Miss Rahman Would Greatly Appreciate It. Please Send It To this address