Muslim convert part of the Michigan militia warned authorities about the Hutaree Christian terrorist group.
ADRIAN, Mich. — The Stone family, and the fiercely militant Christian group that revolved around them at a ramshackle homestead outside of town here, were best known by their neighbors for their active use of guns and their increasingly heated talk about fighting back violently against the government.
But their biggest and most surprising adversary was practically next door: the local branch of the Michigan Militia.
From a distance, the two might seem like peas in a pod: both wear fatigues or camouflage, train in the woods with heavy weaponry and believe in threats to liberty from Washington.
But here on the ground the distinctions were crucial. The Michigan Militia, which in past years had links to extremist groups with neo-Nazi flavorings, has moderated over the years, according to members and experts who track the organizations. Meanwhile, the Hutaree (pronounced Hu-TAR-ay), as the Stone group was called, was going the other direction, with increasing talk of violence.
The crucial moment of that tension came Saturday night when one of the Stone family members — desperate and on the run from the law — called the local militia commander, Matt Savino, and begged for help in getting guns or shelter. Mr. Savino offered neither, not only refusing to help but in fact calling the State Police, who passed the call to the F.B.I.
“This was a new situation for us, and we did what we thought was right,” Mr. Savino said.
Led by a former high school marching band member, nine people in the Hutaree group have been arrested in raids since Saturday, linked to what federal law enforcement officials said was a plot to kill a police officer and then foment violence at the ensuing funeral. Eight pleaded not guilty at a court hearing in Detroit on Wednesday.
The decision to help the police corner the Hutaree — though Mr. Savino said he was not sure his tip made any difference — has drawn flak from some other militia members in Michigan and around the country, but Mr. Savino remains comfortable with his call.
“Some people have said, ‘Those are your brothers,’ stuff like that,” said Mr. Savino, 34, a former assistant manager at a GNC nutrition and health products store, who is currently unemployed. “The problem is, most of those people aren’t here, they don’t know those people, and they don’t know what that group is.”
A spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Detroit, Sandra R. Berchtold, confirmed that agents spoke to Mr. Savino, but she declined to say what sort of information he provided.
The context of Hutaree life in and around Adrian, where guns and resentment of federal authority is fairly common, is crucial to understanding the Hutaree and the Stones, many people in the area say. Yes, they shot guns, did skirmish exercises on their land and hosted regular monthly meetings of people in militaristic clothing, said one neighbor. But they also kept to themselves, and their talk was deemed by many people to be just that.
“We never thought they were dangerous,” said Jane Ream, 68, who lives just up the road with her husband, Dick. “And lots of people shoot guns — that’s normal around here so you don’t pay any attention to it.”
Several people who have known the Stones for years said they were unsure what, if anything, might have transformed angry rhetoric into what the indictment released on Monday by the Department of Justice on Monday called an active conspiracy against law enforcement.
The retired principal at the school that David B. Stone Sr., 45, the patriarch and leader of the group, attended in this town of 21,000 people about 60 miles southwest of Detroit, remembered the young Mr. Stone as a child who “stayed in the middle and didn’t get noticed,” or in trouble either.
The principal, Richard G. Butler, 79, who worked his whole career in Adrian schools, said Mr. Stone — pictured in a yearbook in the early 1980s with short hair and a flamboyant vest — loved motorcycle dirt bikes and played in the band all through high school, marching on the field and playing on stage as well.
Squinting at an old yearbook on a recent evening here on his porch overlooking the woods, Mr. Butler could not remember what instrument Mr. Stone played, and the band picture did not help since the young man stood in the back. But never, he added, did Mr. Stone seem like a person headed for trouble.
“Whatever happened to him happened after high school,” Mr. Butler said.
The Michigan Militia also changed over the years, Mr. Savino and other militia members said, especially since the early 1990s, when the name became associated with an earlier wave of antigovernment angst after the election of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in 1992.
Some militia groups in Michigan then had a strain of vehement anti-Semitism, in particular, that has mostly faded over the years as more radical members left, said Mark Potok, who tracks extremist groups at the Southern Poverty Law Center. People like Mr. Savino and his father, Jim Gulliksen, who is the local chapter’s chief executive officer — and like his son, a Navy veteran — said they have worked since then to distinguish the group from its past. Estimates of statewide Michigan militia membership range from several hundred people to 500 or more.
“My goal is to get the militia name clean,” said Mr. Gulliksen, 60, who works as a manager in the paint and hardware department at the local Wal-Mart.
The strict Christian dogma espoused by the Hutaree does not fly as well these days either, at least in Adrian militia circles. Mr. Savino said that he converted to Islam in the late 1990s after a soul-searching separation from the Lutheran faith he had grown up with, and that he believed that he was the only Muslim in the militia.
But people across the militia world, and people like Mr. Potok who study it, agree that anxiety within that world is rising — from economic frustrations growing out of the recession, or fear of the Democratic Party leadership in Washington, or both — and that small, outlier groups like the Hutaree are probably the ones to keep on eye on.
One longtime friend of the Stones who also got a call for help last weekend from a Hutaree leader did say yes.
The friend, Robert C. M. Dudley, 80, said he met Mr. Stone 10 or 15 years ago at a weekly dinner for people to talk about “what’s wrong with the country.”
When Mr. Stone’s son Joshua knocked on Mr. Dudley’s door on Saturday night, seeking help, Mr. Dudley said he let him and the group of people he was with sleep in their van. But he said he thought it wise not to ask too many questions. “I figured it was none of my business,” he said.
Joshua Stone was ultimately tracked to the property and arrested on Monday.
Source: New York Times
My Heart Shook In New Zealand
One would imagine that a person would be dead-tired and ready to crash in his bed after a grueling, 36-hour journey from Christchurch, New Zealand to Washington, DC. And I will admit, that was the way I felt. Yet somehow, all my somnolence vanished as soon as my head rested on my pillow and I closed my eyes to rest. A wave of recollections fell over me: memories of the survivors, the emotions they expressed, and their feelings of an uncertain future as they planned their lives after the loss of their family members. These feelings instantly took away all the desire to get rest and sleep. I sit upright now and begin writing this reflection of a once in a lifetime experience- a voyage of grief and hope to Aotearoa- land of the white cloud as the indigenous people call New Zealand.
With lost baggage, long flights and too many connections, at times it seemed unlikely that my eldest son Moaz and I would make it to Jumm’ah and Janazah prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. But Allah accepted our prayers so that we could fulfill the guidelines set by our beloved, the Prophet Muhammad . We were able to fulfill one of the rights of a Muslim over the others; that when he is sick visit him, and when she dies, offer her funeral and be part of her burial.
Hagley Cricket Ground was supposed to have a cricket test match between Bangladesh and New Zealand that Friday. Commentators reckon that it would have been the final day of that test match. But the 22nd of March 2019, brought a much bigger crowd to this world-famous cricket ground than what anyone would have seen on the final day of that test match.
Officials and security directed us towards the VIP area as they wanted to pay respect to the guests who traveled all the way from the USA, Canada, and Australia. The environment of love, solidarity, and respect, coupled with the hijab-clad women standing in solidarity with Muslims in that enormous crowd, created an impact which cannot be articulated by mere words. Every single uniformed female officer was carrying their firearm while donning a hijab; creating a welcoming gesture in a rather somber and gloomy atmosphere.
I do not have the words to thank the leadership of Charity Australia and the Islamic Forum of Australian Muslims (IFAM) for providing us with logistics, facilitating meeting the families of the “shuhudaa” (martyrs) and arranging to visit those injured in the tragedy. ICNA, Helping Hand, and Charity Australia banners highlighting the slogans of “American Muslims stand in solidarity with Victims of Christchurch New Zealand” were the center of attention for thousands of local New Zealanders gathered in solidarity that day. Their hugs, sincere prayers and tearful eyes were the greatest gift that I want to share with everyone reading these reflections.
Right after Jumm’ah, the majority of the crowd attended the collective Janazah prayer of 27 of the martyrs. In those emotional moments, I met with the most courageous woman on earth, the wife of 51-year-old Shaheed Naeem and the mother of 21-year-old Talha Naeem, the two spirited souls who gave their lives to save others in the mosque that day. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She mentioned that her husband, Naeem, was a person who lived the life of a man of service, always ready to help others. She described Talha as an angel who was too pious and too noble to be away from Jannah too long. We heard similar feelings from Naeem’s mother (grandmother of Talha) the next day when we visited their home.
The visit to the home of New Zealand’s national soccer team player, Atta Elayyan (33), was not only emotional but also deeply inspiring. Atta lost his life and his father (the founder of Al-Noor Masjid) was severely injured during this brutal and hateful attack. There were several scholars from the United States, including Sheikh Omer Suleiman, in the visit to Atta’s home. We could offer nothing to console the brave mother of this shaheed, who greeted us with words of courage and wisdom. We had no words to accompany the tears in our eyes, except prayers for the most noble young man who helped so many in coming close to Allah .
Our visits to Al-Noor Masjid and the Linwood Islamic Center were also filled with memories of love, harmony, and reverence. There was a continuous influx of hundreds of visitors, not only from New Zealand, but also from different countries including, but not limited to, Australia, Fiji, and Canada. Thousands and thousands of flower bouquets and other items of love were left by these visitors. I was really thrilled to see that local Muslims left many Qur’ans and flyers with basic concepts of Islam and addressing the common misconceptions about Islam for those visiting. I witnessed many people visiting these mosques were taking those Qur’ans and other books with them in order to learn more about Islam.
We also met Mr. Aziz, the unsung hero who repeatedly attacked the killer with different objects including an empty gun —which the killer had discarded. The terrorist fired on Aziz multiple times, but Allah not only saved him, but he also forced the killer to flee from the Linwood Islamic Center. Mr. Aziz was one of the reasons why the number of casualties in this mosque was only seven, compared to the 43 martyrs in Masjid Al-Noor. We also met certain individuals whom Allah saved miraculously. A young man showed his trousers fenestrated with holes of bullets but had no signs of injury. The husband and wife who entered the premises of the mosque and only to be showered with a burst of 26 bullets while in their car, leaving it completely destroyed. Yet Allah saved both of them while they took shelter in their vehicle.
The visit to the hospital’s ICU was simply heartbreaking but at the same time increased our resolve and commitment to help these families as much as possible. We encountered a Turkish brother who was in a coma for nine days and met his elderly parents, who spoke to us in the very little English they knew. The only thing which we could understand from their hushed voices was the request for du’a and tears of helplessness in their eyes. The 71-year-old father of a local Pakistani from Hafizabad, who had arrived two weeks ago to visit his son, was now on a ventilator fighting for his life. As a physician who has worked in ICU settings for a long time, I simply did not have enough medical reasoning which could have provided him any words of hope!! Similarly, I was not able to provide any glimmer of hope to a brother from Bangladesh whose wife will never be able to walk again and will be paralyzed for the rest of her life.
While I saw hope and felt resilience from every victim in that hospital, this hospital visit was brutally heartbreaking.
Lastly, I cannot imagine the pain, agony, and helplessness that the father of Mucad Ibrahim must feel after losing his 3-year-old son in his own arms. I gave him the longest hug possible, as he taught the whole world the meaning of Beautiful Sabr (Patience).
After seeing the devastation caused by the terrorist attack, and the work that must still be done to heal the community, Helping Hand USA, ICNA Relief Canada, and Charity Australia have formed an organization called the “Christchurch Family Support Network”. The operations have already begun, and our team is on the ground. The first group of mental health professionals with a background in Islamic Integrated counseling are set to leave to provide victims and their families immediate psychological assistance.
We ask Allah to accept our work, bring healing to the community, protect our brothers and sisters, and accept the shuhadaa’ in the highest level of Paradise.
Because Muslims Matter | Honoring The Martyrs Of #Christchurch
As the days go by, it is easy to forget the names and faces of the people who passed away. The horror of the act eclipses their memories. We do not want that to happen to our brothers and sisters in New Zealand.
اللهُـمِّ اغْفِـرْ لِحَيِّـنا وَمَيِّتِـنا وَشـاهِدِنا ، وَغائِبِـنا ، وَصَغيـرِنا وَكَبيـرِنا ، وَذَكَـرِنا وَأُنْثـانا. اللهُـمِّ مَنْ أَحْيَيْـتَهُ مِنّا فَأَحْيِـهِ عَلى الإِسْلام ،وَمَنْ تَوَفَّـيْتَهُ مِنّا فَتَوَفَّـهُ عَلى الإِيـمان ، اللهُـمِّ لا تَحْـرِمْنـا أَجْـرَه ، وَلا تُضِـلَّنا بَعْـدَه
Allaahum-maghfir lihayyinaa, wa mayyitinaa, wa shaahidinaa, wa ghaa’ibinaa, wa sagheerinaa wa kabeerinaa, wa thakarinaa wa ‘unthaanaa..
O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk…