Jailed woman rejects u.s. authority, cites moorish science temple 9gag wiki

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The woman insists she is Zuri Akila Betiti Matawala Zurj-Bey, a "grand sheikess" in the Moorish Temple of Science of the World. She operates a branch of the temple in her Spring Hill home. She arrived from Columbia, S.C., over the summer to tell other black people that they are not really U.S. citizens or subject to its government. Instead, they are Moorish, with ancestral roots in Morocco.

Her argument has a familiar ring to experts who track the "sovereign citizen" movement, in which adherents argue the government has no authority over them. They often refuse to pay taxes and say they don’t need to obtain driver’s licenses — or, like Bey, they have such documents issued by their own order.

Many such sovereign citizen-type groups are associated with white supremacist ideology, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks extremist groups. But the ADL has noticed a trend: a growing African-American offshoot called "the Moorish movement" embraced by people like Bey.

The driver handed Pasco sheriff’s Deputy Charles Keppel what she said was her driver’s license: a piece of paper with a fuzzy photo from the Moorish Divine National Movement of the World issued to a Zuri Akila Betiti Matawala Zurj-Bey. That was her name, she said.

A search of the van turned up documents bearing the name Shanita Marie Burden. That’s the name entered in the computer when she was booked in the county jail. That’s the name on a mugshot of a 30-year-old woman who deputies said was a dead ringer for Bey.

During a Nov. 19 arraignment on the traffic charges, Bey, who identified herself only as "flesh and blood," told Circuit Judge Susan Gardner that Burden was dead and that she, Bey, was appearing as her personal representative. Gardner asked her to show proof she was an attorney. When she couldn’t, the judge told her to leave.

Eight days later, the woman came to the clerk’s office to file papers. The document, signed with the name of Bey, bore a Moorish logo. It ordered Gardner not to issue any more "unlawful warrants" against Burden, who had been declared dead. It said Bey represented her estate.

The sovereign citizen movement eschewing government authority began in the 1970s, but has experienced a resurgence since 2009. Followers refuse to pay taxes or obtain government-issued licenses. In some cases they commit violence against police or public officials. Recently, they began filing bogus lawsuits and liens against their adversaries, a tactic referred to as "paper terrorism."

Most adherents claim that there are two governments, an illegitimate one that everyone else believes is genuine and the true one that existed before the illegitimate one took over. They file paperwork in state government offices to appear legitimate, but the documents are meaningless, as most states don’t police the filings.

"It’s kind of like a big ‘get out of jail free’ card," said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League and who has testified in court cases that involve citizen sovereign adherents. He said people use it for various reasons: to run scams, to avoid paying debt, to flout the law.

Though once the domain of mostly white supremacist groups, the sovereign movement found black followers under the Moorish affiliation. The idea gained popularity in the 1990s when adherents of the Moorish Temple of Science of the World discovered the ideology of the sovereign citizen movement.

"We assertively declare that the Moorish Science Temple of America Inc. is in no form or fashion a Sovereign Citizen Movement or a Tax Protestor Movement, consequently our teachings are diametrically opposed to that ideology," the temple wrote last year on its website.