The history of the United States runs through Philadelphia. It is there that the American Revolution was born. However, a new revolution threatens to take hold of Philly, a Muslim one. It is led by one of Philadelphia’s favorite sons, singer/songwriter/producer Kenny Gamble (a.k.a. Luqman Abdul Haqq), who has a master plan to renovate a once great part of the city using taxpayers’ money. While on face value his intentions appear to be worthy, Gamble’s revitalization plan for Philadelphia has sinister implications, leading to the question: Will Philadelphia remain “the City of Brotherly Love” or will it become a city of Muslim Brotherly hate?
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) or Ikhwan in America exists, in large part, within two immigrant populations. One is the Arab Muslim community, falling under the aegis of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and to a smaller extent the Muslim American Society (MAS). The other is the South Asian Muslim community, positioned under the umbrella of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a subsidiary of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in Pakistan. These groups form the core of MB America.
Still, there is a third U.S. Muslim population of much less acclaim/notoriety. It is the African American Muslim community, and it consists mainly of converts who fall within a number of categories, many of which overlap, including black power advocates, racial separatists, ex-felons, anti-Semites and hate America firsters. There are two organizations that encompass all of the above: the Nation of Islam (NOI), a black supremacist group that is built upon the hatred of whites and Jews, and the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), the African American version of ISNA and ICNA.
MANA was founded in May of 2000, in response to the arrest of cop killer H. Rap Brown, a.k.a. Jamil Al-Amin. According to the group, it was officially formed on January 27, 2001. Today, MANA coordinates a vast network of mosques and Islamic organizations.
While MANA is almost entirely an African-American-based entity, the group has aligned itself most closely with Arab and South Asian “Brotherhood” organizations. In fact, MANA’s Amir (President), Siraj Wahhaj, is the former Vice President of ISNA U.S., and MANA’s General Secretary, Ihsan Bagby, is a national board member of both ISNA and the Hamas-related Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
One of the functions of MANA is to hold yearly conferences. The group’s most recent event took place this past November in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, entitled ‘The State of the Black American Muslim Community.’ At the affair, certain outside organizations, such as CAIR, were permitted to set up shop to showcase their materials. One of the groups, the Philadelphia-based International Islamic Information Network (IIIN), propagates lectures given by Saleh as-Suhaimi, who stated during one of his speeches that a wife needs to practice “obedience” to her husband and cannot go “outside the house without his permission,” and if “it comes to a point where he has to hit her, that it does not break the skin or does not break a bone or does not leave a mark or a bruise...”
Most of those attending the conference were people unknown to the non-Muslim world. But one in particular has been in the public eye for decades.
Kenneth Gamble is an icon within the music business, in part responsible for over 170 platinum and gold albums and songs, including “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Love Train,” and “Me and Mrs. Jones.” As stated by John A. Jackson, in his A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul, by the end of 1974, Gamble along with his partners Leon Huff and Thom Bell “were the top three soul producers in the pop music industry.”
According to Jackson, though, things started to unravel for Gamble, when, in 1975, the record company he helped create, Philadelphia International, became embroiled in a payola scandal. That, the demanding workload placed upon him, his heavily mortgaged business headquarters, and his failing marriage, all led up to a nervous breakdown. It was around this time that Gamble began to turn to Islam.
The first group that had an impact on his newfound religion was the Nation of Islam, a black supremacist movement that was founded in the ‘30s. About NOI, Gamble stated during an interview on Saudi TV Channel 2, “[T]he Nation of Islam... was a tremendous brotherhood that promoted self-help and ‘do for self.’ And being a conscious person, I looked at our communities and I looked at us as a people, and I thought that that was something that the African American community really needed to think about and to get involved in...” [Currently, Gamble is involved in the NOI-associated “10,000 Men.”]
But Gamble – now, Luqman Abdul Haqq – was not to reach the true Brotherhood, until April 21, 2001, when he was chosen to be on the first Executive Committee (Diwan) of MANA. The following day, almost a year after its founding, the establishment of MANA was announced. The event took place at the Philadelphia Masjid, which was at the time headed by Shamsud-din Ali (a.k.a. Clarence Fowler), who is rumored to be a friend of Gamble. Ali, an ex-leader of the notorious Black Mafia, had previously been incarcerated for murder and is presently serving out an 87 month jail sentence for charges that include racketeering.
Today, Gamble sits on MANA’s Majlis Ash Shura, the ruling body which sets the policy and agenda for the group. Others sitting on the Majlis with him include:
- Johari Abdul Malik, imam of the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, labeled by investigative journalist Paul Sperry as “The Most Dangerous Mosque in America.” Malik, in November of 2004, stated that it was better to be a Muslim under poor conditions than to be a “kaffir under any conditions” and warned that Islam, one day, would overtake Christianity as the “first religion in America.”
- Talib Abdur-Rashid, imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood (MIB) and member of the Advisory Board of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), a controversial Arabic language school in New York City. Abdur-Rashid, in January of 2007, on a Tampa, Florida radio program stated that many black churches are controlled by white churches and that “usually when you’ll find an African American pastor speaking in that negative kind of way, there’s a hidden devil, so to speak, somewhere in the background egging him on.”
- Altaf Husain, former President of the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Husain is the U.S. Correspondent for Islam Online, a site that issues religious rulings (Fatwas) in support of: Palestinian suicide bombings, terrorist attacks against American troops, and the death penalty for homosexuals, including the throwing of homosexuals from tall buildings (“Death Falls”).
Gamble’s interaction with MANA goes far beyond the organization and well into his community. Within the “ACTIVISM” section of MANA’s website, MANA discusses Universal Companies (UC), its recovery plan for a part of Philadelphia that has been ravaged by drugs and violence. The effort, which is being led by Gamble, consists of children’s schools, a social services department, an entertainment foundation, and real estate holdings, which include low-income residential properties.
According to MANA, Universal Companies is “one of the best-kept secrets in Muslim America.” While this may or may not be so, the fact that UC is a Muslim institution is no secret at all, and this has some concerned that the effort is being done for the sole purpose of creating an all Muslim enclave within the heart of Philadelphia.
Gamble, providing a reason for this unease, stated the following to Saudi television: “One of the intentions that we had from the beginning was to create a model, so that, in the coming years, Muslims would be able to live close to each other, that they would live closer to the masjid (mosque), that they would eventually be able to open up businesses so that they would be able to employ each other and develop community life.”
The UC “masjid” that Gamble is referring to is the United Muslim Masjid, whose website’s homepage currently features pictures from MANA’s November conference. The address of UMM is 810 South 15th Street, which places it on the same block as Universal Companies, located at 800 South 15th Street, and Salaam Enterprises, a social services organization run by Gamble’s wife, Faatimah, at 814 South 15th Street.
Of interest is another group, the United Muslim Movement (UMM), found at the same address as UC. According to UC’s website, it (UC) has been in operation since 1993, yet it was incorporated only in June of 2002. On the other hand, UMM was incorporated in June of 1994. In addition, the website for UC began in May of 2001, while UMM’s site was shut down just after, in July of 2001.
As well, the missions of the two groups are nearly identical. As stated by Gamble, along with having Muslims “living closer to the masjid,” “Universal Companies goal and objective is to be involved in the political, the social, the economic, educational activities that go on that make up all those systems that make up a community.” According to the former website of UMM, “Our goal is to build both a central Masjid in the City of Philadelphia and a strong organization responding to social, economical, political, educational, and religious needs facing our communities.”
Question: When Universal Companies states that it started in 1993, does it really mean that the United Muslim Movement started then? And if the answer is yes, does that then mean that the two groups are really one and the same? This leads to concern number two, that not only is Universal Companies in existence to form an all Muslim Philly enclave, but that it is being done with the blessings and money of the city and the state of Pennsylvania.
On the ex-UMM site, one could read that it was part of the group’s mission to “establish the religion of Islam with the clear representation of the Quran and the Sunnah...” If the group wished to receive funds from the government, surely it would not be able to do so with this type of rhetoric, not to mention the religious significance of the group’s name. As well, the UMM site listed its member organizations as including ICNA, ISNA and the American Muslim Council (AMC), three groups tied to terror. Therefore, a name change was in order, and what could be more innocuous sounding than “Universal Companies”?
There are two further corporations that share the address of UC and UMM. They are Universal Community Homes (UCH) and the Universal Institute Charter School (UICS). Both of these entities play a large role within Universal Companies; the President of the Board of Trustees of the school is UC’s President and CEO, Abdur-Raheem Islam. As well, both UCH and UICS are financed via the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.
About the role the city and state play, with respect to UC, Gamble stated: “The city of Philadelphia has been an intrical part of what we’ve been doing, and they have participated in economic growth, as far as our real estate ventures. We’ve gotten tremendous recognition from them – as much as they can do – and I think you couldn’t do a project like this without having a public/private partnership. You need not only the city of Philadelphia, but we also have a great relationship with the state of Pennsylvania. And that is the way business is done here in America...”
In fact, the participation and recognition from the city and state towards Gamble’s organization has been worth millions of dollars. In April of 2003, the city of Philadelphia issued a press release announcing a $100 million revitalization plan, whereby Universal Companies would build or renovate nearly 400 homes in South Philadelphia, through the local government’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI).
Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street is quoted in the release as saying, “NTI has provided us with a unique opportunity to rethink our neighborhoods and develop well thought out solutions to 50 years of decay and neglect; it was intended to be a catalyst, to help foster change, to spur development, to forge much needed partnerships with great organizations such as Universal Companies. Kenny and I have been talking about this Philadelphia renaissance for more than two decades.”
In February of 2003, a report came out discussing how Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was providing $250,000 towards Gamble’s plan to move New York City’s R & B Foundation to Philadelphia, to become part of Universal Companies’ “Entertainment and Economic Development Strategy.” Gamble now sits on the board of the foundation.
One can say that Mayor Street and Governor Rendell have been kind to Gamble because of what they believe he offers to his community. However, one cannot overlook the kindness that Gamble has provided both of them. According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, between June of 2001 and April of 2006, Kenneth Gamble has contributed $44,000 and $27,000, respectively, to Street’s and Rendell’s campaigns for Mayor and Governor.
In June of 1975, Gamble and 18 others were indicted in a payola scandal, in which the Justice Department accused Gamble’s record label of offering bribes in return for airplay. In the end, he was fined $2500. Today, while he is still tied to the music business – he will be inducted into the 2008 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Gamble has sought out new avenues to deal in. Unlike before, though, his present ventures are tied to a radical form of religion, one that puts a Muslim Brotherhood organization, MANA; a black supremacist group, NOI; and his own Islamic organization, the United Muslim Movement (Universal Companies), on center stage.
Why would the local and state government get so involved in something that could prove potentially dangerous for its citizens? Is it blind ambition or is it money for money? Has Kenny Gamble learned from the past or is this 1975 all over again? Regardless of the answers, if things continue as they are going, very soon the city of Philadelphia will be experiencing its first taste of Sharia law – a sad note indeed for America’s birthplace.
Beila Rabinowitz, the Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.