Guesswork on Abdulmutallab’s potential radicalization in London

From December 25, 2009, there has been ample news coverage in the UK on the attempted terrorist attack on a flight to Detroit, as the alleged bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had formerly been a student at University College in London. News reports try to uncover whether Abdulmutallab had always held fundamentalist views or whether he adopted them in London, during his studies 2005-2008 or only afterwards while in Yemen.

Some claim that Abdulmutallab had reached out to extremists that were under MI5 surveillance during his studies. On the other hand he served as president to the Islamic Society of University College, with the majority of such societies being very mainstream, cooperative and pursuing inter-faith dialogue. Then again, this particular Islamic Society organized some events with controversial speakers during Abdulmutallab’s presidency, for instance a strong homophobic speaker, and had disputes with the university’s Jewish society over the definition of anti-Semitism. The Federation of Islamic Societies has expressed their shock about the incidence, but also demanded that Islamic Societies at universities not be condemned across-the-board.

In London, Abdulmutallab also attended a mosque in central London, Goodge Street. This is run by the Saudi-based organisation Muslim World League, which promulgates a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, but has repeatedly condemned terrorism. It is most probable that a variety of sources for Abdulmutallab’s radicalisation will be found, and that some of them are British, while their actual influence has been underestimated by security services.

Canadian gay Muslim scholar claims shunning from community

Junaid Bin Jahangir, PhD student at the University of Alberta, claims he is shunned from the Canadian Muslim community because of his homosexuality.

Jahangir has spent two years studying the teachings of Islam on homosexuality and has begun to be recognized internationally for his research.

He argues Muslims misinterpret the Qur’an if they consider the ban on homosexuality to be as firm as bans on alcohol or pork. The common story from which most Muslims draw their teaching is about violent homosexual rape, he says, and it’s time to rethink the possibility of consensual, supportive relationships.

Although his PhD in economics is incomplete, Mr. Jahangir has contributed to a new anthology on homosexuality, Islam and Homosexuality, edited by Samar Habib and published by Praeger Publishers. Jahangir avoids the Muslim community in Edmonton, and any local mosque, too, he says. “I’m a pariah.”

Sweden gets its first Muslim folk high school

After three years as a branch of a Baptist folk high school, Kista Muslim Folk High School became Swedens first Muslim folk high school January 8. The schools principle Abdulkader Habib says the school is an answer to the needs of the neighborhood, in the northwest of Stockholm, with its large immigrant population. He explains the school to be a produce of a close collaboration between Muslims and Christians in Kista, with the intention to have a positive effect on the educational development on the local community, using ideas and tools of the peoples education era fifty years ago.

The school is to be open to everyone, not only to Muslims. “This can help integration – or development, as I rather want to call it”, Abdulkader Habib says.

Embassies close in Yemen, America reviews its security approaches

Threats from al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula caused the British and American Embassies in Sana’a to close their doors. Intelligence indicated impending attacks beginning three weeks ago.

The American Embassy is no stranger to terrorist threats. Al-Qaida set off a car bomb in September 2008 that killed 19 people, and shootout occurred in January 2009 between police and men in a car near the embassy. The American military has since increased security aid to Yemen. General Petraeus suggests increasing it to $150 millon in 2010.

There are clashes between Obama’s security team and members of the Bush Administration’s team, with Vice Presidenty Cheney accusing Obama of neglecting terrorism issues. Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan accused Cheney of being ignorant of Obama’s plans for handling al-Qaida.

Swedish artist receives threat from Somalia

The Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who in the autumn of 2007 published a drawing of Muhammad as a “roundabout dog”, received a threat over the phone January 4. The caller, who was later tracked to Somalia, spoke in broken Swedish and said that after Kurt Westergaard Vilks was next. Lars Vilks says he gets many threats, but this time chose to notify the police because of the assault on the Danish cartoonist.

Islamic banking enters the Austrian market

After several years of success in the UK and first attempts in continental Europe, Islamic banking is now about to enter the Austrian market. Islamic financing is said to be highly profitable: growth rates of 30 percent are predicted. So far, the roughly 400, 000 Austrian Muslims have no opportunity to invest their money in a “halal” way, but now the Austrian Standards Organisation has started to develop common standards for Islamic banking on behalf of the Islamic Information and Documentation Centre (IIDZ).

The process should be completed by summer 2010, when the first Islamic financial products are supposed to be available at Austrian banks.

European Muslims call for peace in Pakistan

Led by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, high Muslim authorities in Europe – shaykh Naim Ternava, Grand Mufti of Kosovo, Selim Muqaj, Grand Mufti of Albania, Sulejman Rexhepi, Grand Mufti of Macedonia, Dr. Mansur Escudero, President of the Junta Islamica of Spain, shaykha Halima Krausen, Germany, Mr. Hasan Le Gai Eaton, UK, shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, UK and Jusuf Islam, UK, with shaykh Dr. Mustafa Ceric, have sent the ulema (Islamic scholars) in Pakistan a letter for peace, dialogue and understanding.

This call has been announced in Urdu, Arabic and English languages across the world, as a sign of European Muslims’ concern of everyday violence on Pakistani streets and mosques.

Controversial celebration of Reconquest Day in Granada

The “Toma day” is a traditional festival in Granada that commemorates the end of the Spanish Reconquest of Spain. This celebration takes place in the Town Hall square on January 2 and commemorates the entry of the Catholic Kings into the City, and the end of Islamic presence in Spain.

In the crowd there are usually fascist groups that use the occasion to publicize their racist and xenophobic claims against the immigrant and Muslim population. Different civic organizations are against this practice and, every year, organize an alternative event in sign of protest. These organizations are collecting signatures against the celebration of the Reconquest.

Abdulmutallab and Hasan linked to Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, full body scanners go unused at Nigerian airports

Abdulmutallab is believed to have met with al-Qaida operatives in a house used by extremist Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He has also been linked to Major Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter.

Yemeni’s deputy prime minister believes the cleric is alive, although Obama officials believed he was killed December 24 on an air strike on a house in Yemen.
The US gave Nigeria full body scanners to use at their 4 international airports, but the machine in Lagos is only used sporadically and only for people suspected of drug smuggling.

Albdulmutallab told classmates after the Islamic course they were enrolled in together was over, he was going to study Shari’a law in Hadhramout Province, but may have lied to cover up travel to Shabwa.

Abdulmutallab’s double life

Fellow students at the Arabic language school in Yemen saw Abdulmutallab as a pleasant, respectful person who enjoyed children and non-Muslims. Some were shocked to learn he was harboring a hidden desire to attack the US in a suicide bombing for al-Qaida. But Alexander Ali, a tour guide in Sana’a who socializes with students at the school claims he was friendly on the surface but was always sure never to let anyone get to close.

Ali says Abdulmutallab mentioned “talked a bit about Israel and America; said the Americans, not Muslims, are very bad.”

Some who knew him in Yemen maintain it was impossible to know he was associated with al-Qaida: his visas for the US were in order, and school officials arranged his exit visa and transport to the airport after the class was finished.

Abdulmutallab reported to the FBI that he had been in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-Yemeni cleric connected to Major Hasan who allegedly recruits violent jihadists from the West.