After that visit, Fai left Kashmir and never returned to India. He said he heard he would be arrested for treason. Several family members said they hadn't heard from him since.
"No phone, no letter, nothing, no correspondence right from 1980 until now," said Syed Ghulam Mohiuddin Habib, Fai's half-brother.
"Ghulam Nabi never wrote to me, never sent any money," said Peera Bano, his first wife.
Fai said he didn't write or call because he didn't want to endanger his family. He also said he divorced his first wife, which she denies.
By the end of 1980, Fai landed in the U.S. Through the King Faisal Foundation, the Saudis agreed to pay for his schooling and living expenses, at least $50,000 a year. The Saudis even chose where he studied.
"They told me that you should to go to Temple University, because one of the giants of Islamic scholarship was there, in fact two giants," Fai recalled.
Ismail al-Faruqi had founded the Islamic studies program at Temple and would soon help found the International Institute of Islamic Thought. (The Institute later came under investigation in a federal probe into funding of anti-Israel terrorism, although no charges were filed.) Another professor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a respected Shia Islamic scholar, was trying to "Islamicize" the social sciences, Fai said.
At Temple, Fai became president of the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. & Canada, an organization started in part by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had spread from Egypt through the Middle East. Some branches of the Brotherhood were hardline; others, more moderate.
Fai also started working for the ISI in about 1985, while at Temple, according to correspondence cited by the FBI, although the affidavit does not make it clear what he was doing.
After earning his doctorate in 1988, Fai joined the advisory council for the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, an umbrella Islamic group started by the Muslim Students Association that also received Saudi funding.
Soon, violence bloomed again in Kashmir. The Indian military cracked down on indigenous groups. Pakistan's ISI was blamed for sponsoring insurgent groups across the border in Kashmir.
A confidential witness allegedly told FBI agents that in 1989, the ISI picked Fai to run the Kashmiri American Council because he had no overt ties to Pakistan. Similar groups were set up in London and Brussels, the FBI said.
Incorporation documents filed in Maryland in April 1990 show Fai was one of three people who established the Kashmir center. A second founder was Rafia Syeed, the wife of Sayyid Syeed, one of the organizers of ISNA. The third founder's father, who retired from the Pakistani military, also held a key post in a charity run by Fai's alleged accomplice, Zaheer Ahmad. None replied to requests for comment.
IRS filings show the group got start-up funds from two board members and a $20,000 loan from the North American Islamic Trust, an ISNA-linked group that hold titles to about 300 U.S. mosques, Islamic centers and schools.
Fai rented an office suite about three blocks from the White House, IRS records show. The Kashmiri American Council was open for business.
Within weeks of establishing the group, Fai made his first campaign contribution, $500 to Burton. Neither man would say how they met, but Burton--who later gained fame for investigating the Clintons as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee--was a natural friend for Fai. The congressman had just sponsored a bill aiming to curtail aid to India until human rights abuse investigations were allowed, particularly in Punjab and Kashmir. "Not even the Red Cross has been allowed access to Kashmir," Burton announced on the House floor.
Over the next 20 years, Fai became the face of the separatist Kashmiri cause in the U.S. He never advocated publicly for Kashmir to join Pakistan, calling instead for "self-determination."
At first, Hafiz Mohammad Sabir--now an imam of one of the largest Pakistani mosques in Brooklyn--said he doubted Fai's commitment to Kashmir. "On that time, believe you me, he was alone," recalled Sabir, from the Pakistan side of Kashmir. "He cannot even come to the Kashmiri community and gather 10 Kashmiris."
But in about 1994, when Sabir was working as a cabdriver, he spotted Fai in midtown Manhattan, lugging a large bag through more than a foot of snow. Fai was handing out fliers about Kashmir, Sabir realized. He grabbed the bag, put it in his taxi and drove Fai wherever he wanted to go. After that, Sabir said, he helped Fai however he could, bringing busloads of mosque members to conferences in Washington and helping to spearhead protests in New York.
At about the same time, Fai was making inroads with U.S. politicians. In 1993, Fai wrote President Bill Clinton about the suffering of Kashmiris, winning news coverage when Clinton wrote back. In 1996, Fai met Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole at the Republican National Convention. In 2000, he met Clinton in Chicago, just before Clinton visited India.
Fai grew particularly close to a handful of House Republicans. In 2002, an ally of Fai's, Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts, helped form a congressional forum on Kashmir. In an interview, Pitts said he met Fai after becoming interested in Kashmir, and felt that Fai wanted Kashmiris, Indians and Pakistanis to come up with a peaceful solution together. "Dr. Fai is an old gentleman, an American citizen interested in giving back to his homeland, interested in peace and peace talks," Pitts said.
Fai's most significant relationship was with Dan Burton. In 2004, Fai testified in front of Burton's subcommittee hearing on human-rights abuses in Kashmir. Burton introduced him personally, saying, "I've known Dr. Fai for a long time."
In 2007, Fai was given the American Spirit Medal, the highest award from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for being committed to conservative principles.
Fai also leapt onto the world stage. He traveled to more than 40 countries, from Indonesia to Spain. Fai said he met with more than 1,000 ambassadors from around the world.
In Pakistan, Fai was treated like a visiting dignitary. In June 2009, Fai stayed at the best hotel in Islamabad and met the president, the prime minister and the foreign minister. A video from the trip showed Fai and President Asif Ali Zardari sitting in white armchairs, flanking a photo of Zardari's late wife, Benazir Bhutto.