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Michigan Raid Reveals a Mysterious Islamic Sect

Later today, federal authorities are expected to explain more details behind Wednesday's raid of a suburban Detroit warehouse that revealed a mysterious Islamic sect that apparently seeks to establish an independent state based on Sharia law on American soil.

Yesterday's raid targeted Detroit-area members of the Ummah, an Islamic sect comprised mainly of American-born blacks who converted to the religion while serving prison sentences. During the raid, four of the group's members surrendered to federal authorities and were swiftly arrested. The group's local iman, Luqman Ameen Abdullah, also known as Christopher Thomas, apparently directed a weapon at authorities, and was fatally shot. Some suspects remain at large. The authorities have charged at least 11 men with an assortment of alleged crimes, including possession of firearms by a convicted felon, mail fraud, and conspiring to receive and sell stolen goods.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court here earlier this week, Abdullah, 53, called his followers to an “offensive jihad,” rather than a “defensive jihad,” and urged them to carry, and use, firearms and swords. The documents note the group was evicted from its Detroit mosque earlier this year because it failed to pay property taxes.

The precise origins of the Ummahs are unclear. Its national leader is Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, a militant former civil rights activist also known as H. Rap Brown. In 2002, he was convicted of fatally shooting two Georgia police officers. He is serving a life sentence at a federal prison.

The raid is striking, on several fronts. Metropolitan Detroit, and particularly one of its suburbs, Dearborn, has one of America's largest populations of Muslims. Most, however, are of Middle Eastern origin, their families having been drawn here decades ago by relatively well-paying jobs at the region's auto industry plants. The largely black Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit in the 1930s. There has long been tension between American-born blacks of various faiths, and Muslims in this country.

Here's an excerpt from the earliest TIME story I can find about The Nation of Islam's origins, from June 1930, headlined, "Races: Call from Turkey":

At Istanbul last week one James Lummox, Negro, issued a call to U. S. Negroes to imitate him—embrace Islam, migrate to Anatolia where there are no race distinctions and where they could get farm land cheaply, turkicize their names (locally his is Ali Mehmed Bey). As evidence of his missionary work he reported that Detroit has 83 Moslem Negro families (names and addresses not given) waiting to follow him.

Here's a report on the ordeal from Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ.

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