Islamic extremists in the United States have traditionally set up shop in big cities with large Muslim populations: places like New York City, Dearborn, Michigan and even Washington, DC. But one secretive group is doing just the opposite.
They call themselves Muslims of America. They've established compounds throughout the rural U.S. Members say they moved to the countryside to lead peaceful lives free of "Western decadence." But others say that doesn't tell the whole story.
CBN News visited the group's 45-acre site in Red House, Virginia - a town so small you can barely find it on a map. There are no traffic lights, and the only signs of industry are a pair of convenience stores. So when a street sign popped up named after a radical Pakistani sheikh-along with men and women dressed in traditional Islamic garb- the locals took notice.
Sheikh Gilani has been on U.S. intelligence agencies' radar for years. He's currently under investigation for possible ties to al-Qaeda. He also trained jihadists to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
In addition, Gilani attended a 1993 jihadist conference in Sudan along with members of Hamas, Hezbollah and Osama bin Laden himself.
American journalist Daniel Pearl was on his way to interview Gilani in 2002 when he was murdered. The sheikh denies any involvement in Pearl's killing.
CBN News spoke to a former member of Muslims of America who wishes to remain anonymous. 'Mustafa' says Gilani runs the group from Lahore, Pakistan.
"He's the leader of the group. He's a former member of the Pakistani military. His father was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. He has great connections to Pakistani intelligence, the ISI," he said.
Mustafa says Muslims of America serves as a cash cow for Gilani and Jamaat Al-Fuqra. Each member is required to send 30 percent of their income to Gilani. The group even had a treasurer that checked members' pay stubs.
Sheikh Gilani uses these American dollars to help fund the Taliban and other terrorist groups, according to Mustafa.
Muslims of America compounds are filled with ex-cons from rough backgrounds. Many converted to Islam in prison. Mustafa says there's at least one semi-automatic weapon in every home.