Controversy Over Al-Amin Trial

February 17, 2002

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On February 17, 2002, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution featured an article on the trial of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. Formerly know as H. Rap Brown, he was "a combative man who attacked the racist political and economic system he saw as infecting America in the 1960s, first by registering voters and later by urging blacks to arm themselves... Then he... vanished for most of America after he took on a new name, new religion and new persona. As the soft-spoken Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, he joined a branch of Sunni Islam that focuses on community building... He became the imam --- prayer leader --- of his Community Masjid in West End and leader of about 30 mosques nationwide and rose in national Muslim leadership ranks. He advocated Islam --- not rioting and looting --- as the path to a better life and a better state... This week, testimony will begin in Fulton County Superior Court [in Georgia] as Al-Amin faces trial on 13 charges surrounding the killing of a lawman. It's a death penalty case in which his believers say he could not possibly be guilty and in which law enforcement says he clearly is. Both sides cite the evidence --- or lack of --- and both cite his character and past as proof they're right... The prosecution has what it would typically consider a solid case... But the defense has plenty of evidence and issues in its corner... In June 2000, another man confessed to the crime, claiming Al-Amin tried to stop him. But he recanted after speaking to FBI agents. The inconsistencies have led many of Al-Amin's supporters in Atlanta, around the country and on the Internet to believe the imam is being framed... Al-Amin has said authorities targeted him 30 years ago because he was a militant black voice. Today, he says the government targets him because it fears an Islamic voice spreading the religion in America and opposing the nation's policies abroad... Al-Amin entered Islam through the Dar-ul Islam movement, an orthodox black Muslim organization founded in New York that focused on community activism and had roots in the black power movement... Dar-ul Islam emphasized military skills... [but] fractured around 1980 ...[and] Al-Amin... started a movement called National Community. The group absorbed about 30 Dar-ul Islam mosques around the country and continued to press social activism... Al-Amin quickly rose in leadership ranks and became a founding member of the National Shura Council, which acts as an Islamic authority for many of America's estimated 3 million to 7 million Muslims... 'He was becoming one of the strong Muslim leaders in the United States,' said Naeem Baig, secretary-general of the Islamic Circle of North America. 'He is very popular among Muslim student associations. He comes out as a very strong person because of his past. Young people like somebody who can stand against powers'... Muslim organizations, however, have been careful in how they voice support for Al-Amin."