Of the U.S. communities where Islamic extremists might recruit people to join the Islamic State militant group, the majority African-American city of Baltimore might seem an unlikely target. After all, news reports have mostly focused on Minneapolis -- and its large Somali immigrant population -- as the main U.S. recruitment hotbed for the group that is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
But as civil unrest and violence over the death of a young black man continued in Baltimore this week, ISIS reportedly has its eyes set on dissatisfied Muslims among the American black population, including in Baltimore.
Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadiya Salafiya, an Islamist militant group in the Gaza Strip that has made pro-ISIS statements, told WorldNetDaily that ISIS was taking advantage of a “growing movement within the black community toward Islam and the racist policies of the U.S. government.” Saqer also said he did not know if ISIS had successfully recruited black American Muslims or if any jihadist cells had been established.
Since Monday, hundreds in Baltimore have been arrested, buildings have been looted and burned and police officers have been injured during civil unrest sparked by the April 19 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American who suffered a fatal spinal injury after his April 12 arrest. Monday was the day of Gray's funeral. City officials and civil rights leaders have called for calm, as a curfew was imposed Tuesday night to quell violence.
While it is unclear how large the black Muslim community is in Baltimore, its adherents are typically not members of traditional Islam -- which dates to 7th-century Saudi Arabia and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad -- but the Nation of Islam, a religious movement founded in the United States in 1930, and popularized by the late leader Elijah Muhammad, mentor of Malcolm X, the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore says.
Rumblings of an ISIS recruitment effort among black Muslims were first heard on an Arabic Internet forums supportive of the Islamic State group, Saqer said. Forum users were “encouraged” by what Saqer claimed was a pro-ISIS T-shirt worn by an activist in Ferguson, Missouri, during the unrest over Michael Brown's fatal shooting by a police officer in August 2014.
WND reported that ISIS supporters have misunderstood or misinterpreted the message written on the shirt, which read: “I rather get stopped by ISIS terrorist than Ferguson PD.” The London Daily Mail reported last November that ISIS jihadists had pledged on Twitter to help Ferguson residents fight police, if protesters committed to Islam.