The Muslims of the Americas, as I have said before, are the American front organization for Pakistani Islamic cleric Sheikh Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani. It is designed to put a friendly face on the the organization as a group of simple, flag-waving, well-mannered Muslims seeking a rural lifestyle away from the distractions of Western urban life. It is an attempt to claim legitimacy.
While there may be some degree of accuracy to this claim for some of the group's members, the deeper criminal operatives that belong to the group have used the seclusion of these communities as cover to operate "off the grid". The group's compounds have been used as launching pads for bombings and murders; as safe houses for criminal fugitives; and as indoctrination and training grounds. The compounds in Colorado and California had to be virtually abandoned after members were implicated in extensive white-collar criminal schemes as well as violent crimes. The Department of Homeland Security has said that they are a threat.
One of the other known locations of Sheikh Gilani's followers is a rural hilltop in Stewart County, TN near the town of Dover. The group has lived here since at least the early '90s. It is home to approximately 17 families. As their counterparts in other settlements do, they live in mobile homes in a very rural wooded area. A black and white sign indicates the entrance. A white guardhouse stands nearby.
One of the male residents works for the TN Department of Transportation in Nashville. One of the females operates a home-based business called "Mecca Cosmetics".
The village was the focus of a news story ("Muslim village shares rural life in Tennessee," Feb. 20, 2002) by a Nashville reporter writing for The Tennessean. He wrote:
The Stewart County Muslims refused to discuss with The Tennessean any links between their village and other Muslims of the Americas sites in the United States. Nor would they discuss Gilani or the Pearl kidnapping.The reporter went to the compound, or at least the entrance, and spoke with one of the residents.
The general manager of the local newspaper points out that the group had an open community meeting last year specifically to allay fears that Stewart Countians might have had about Islam and the Muslims in their midst, especially in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
[...] "We've had no trouble with them whatsoever,'' said Sheriff John Vinson.
Doug Wamsley, an assistant district attorney in Jefferson County, Colo., prosecuted members of the Muslims of the Americas and al-Fuqra.
"My belief is that the groups are one and the same,'' Wamsley said.
"I've been asked a number of times, 'Well, do you think they're dangerous?' And I have to go back and say, based on everything we found, I can't come to any other conclusion.''
[...] asked later about whether the Dover Muslims are tied to other Muslims of the Americas enclaves, he shook his head dismissively.My research has shown, however, that MOA members do visit other MOA locations. The reporter's encounter ended this way:
At the mention of Pearl or al-Fuqra, [he] grew silent.Now, the location of this compound is somewhat concerning because of its proximity to a couple of other places nearby. I have written previously about the curious location of Fuqra compounds and/or surveillance near significant infrastructure targets. (See here, here, and here) This one is no different.
"It would do me no good to talk to you,'' he said, almost laughing. He made it clear he considered such inquiries disparaging and unfair. It was not the kind of attention he wanted. He smiled, shook hands and waved goodbye.
The property seems to lie right along a powerline easement. If you follow the easement for a little over 7 miles east, you'll find yourself at the TVA's Cumberland Fossil Plant, a plant that produces more power than any other plant in the TVA system. (click image to enlarge - courtesy of MSN Virtual Earth)
Go 12 miles northeast from the encampment and you'll run into Fort Campbell, home of the Army's 101st Airborne Division as well as a couple of Special Forces units. [click image to enlarge - courtesy of the TN DOT]
Finally, you can click here to see an aerial view of the place. (Courtesy of Flash Earth, a mashup of aerials from Google Maps and MSN Virtual Earth) There are a number of trailers visible. The road they are on is not labled, but all of the addresses I found were located on Dreamwood Lane which is the next road over, which just has one structure. Maybe it's their mosque, I don't know.
Perhaps that is where all of their mail is delivered.
For now, that is the bulk of what I have discovered about this place. As you can see, these encampments deserve a closer look.
Feel free to discuss it or add anything else in the comments, or email me if you prefer.