A Bosnian woman blazes a trail–becoming nation’s first hijab-wearing mayor

VISOKO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — When Amra Babic walks down the streets of the central Bosnian town of Visoko wearing her Muslim headscarf, men sitting in outdoor cafes instantly rise from their chairs, fix their clothes and put out their cigarettes.

The respect is only natural: Babic is their new mayor.

The 43 year-old economist has blazed a trail in this war-scarred Balkan nation by becoming its first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe. Her victory comes as governments elsewhere in Europe debate laws to ban the Muslim veil, and Turkey, another predominantly Islamic country seeking EU membership, maintains a strict policy of keeping religious symbols out of public life.

For Babic, the electoral triumph is proof that observance of Muslim tradition is compatible with Western democratic values.

“I am the East and I am the West,” she declares. “I am proud to be a Muslim and to be a European. I come from a country where religions and cultures live next to each other. All that together is my identity.”

Sixth Circuit: Michigan Can Ban Anti-Islam Ads from Buses

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a Michigan transit authority could bar from the side of its buses an advertisement that read: “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got Questions? Get Answers! RefugefromIslam.com”

The group behind the ads is the the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which describes its mission as acting “against the treason being committed by national, state, and local government officials, the mainstream media, and others in their capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism.”

The group had sought in 2010 to place the ads on the buses in Michigan’s four southeastern-most counties, but the authority refused, on the grounds that the ads violated a policy against political advertisements and offensive speech.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said Thursday said that the side of the bus, in this case, wasn’t a public forum because the transit authority – Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or SMART – rejected all political advertisements. The state never opened the space for discourse.

Police: Anti-Muslim bigot beat Sikh cab driver

A Federal Way man accused of viciously beating a Sikh cab driver while shouting anti-Muslim slurs now faces a hate crime charge.

King County prosecutors contend Jamie W. Larson attacked the cab driver during an Oct. 17 ride after commenting on the man’s turban.  According to charging documents, Larson, 48, tore out chunks of the man’s beard during the assault, which also loosened one of the driver’s teeth.

According to charging documents, the STITA Taxi driver arrived at the Auburn police station to retrieve Larson. During the drive to Larson’s Federal Way home, Larson began questioning the driver about his turban.

Larson then attacked the driver while making anti-Muslim comments, a Federal Way detective told the court. The driver was able to stop the car in the 1200 block of Southwest 301st Street, where police found him injured and Larson attempting to return to the parked taxi.

During the attack, Larson pulled out parts of the driver’s beard and punched him repeatedly, according to charging documents. Police report the attack left the driver dazed and with a loose tooth.

Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists

Editor’s note: This project, based on interviews with dozens of current and former national security officials, intelligence analysts and others, examines evolving U.S. counterterrorism policies and the practice of targeted killing. This is the first of three stories.

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.

Officials declined to disclose the identities of suspects on the matrix. They pointed, however, to the capture last year of alleged al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame off the coast of Yemen. Warsame was held for two months aboard a U.S. ship before being transferred to the custody of the Justice Department and charged in federal court in New York.

The issue resurfaced after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. Seeking to repair a rift with Pakistan, Panetta, the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left and would be able to wind down the drone campaign.

A senior aide to Panetta disputed this account, and said Panetta mentioned the shrinking target list during his trip to Islamabad but didn’t raise the prospect that drone strikes would end. Two former U.S. officials said the White House told Panetta to avoid even hinting at commitments the United States was not prepared to keep.

Farrakhan inspires crowd at Bowie State

Nearly two decades after the Million Man March, Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is still challenging African Americans to take responsibility for their lives.

“I am the change that I am looking for. Don’t look for someone else to make changes for you,” said Farrakhan during a 90-minute discussion Friday night at Bowie State University where he talked about several topics including the presidential race, gay relationships, colorism and the possible white backlash if President Obama is reelected.

He acknowledged supportive whites, but also noted the rise in racially charged rhetoric and voting suppression tactics.

While Farrakhan is considered a polarizing figure because of comments he has made about Jews, whites and gays he enjoys hero status among many in the black community. In October 1995, he convened the historic Million Man March where black men from across the country filled the Mall from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument, vowing to take responsibility for their lives, their families and their communities.

Pentagon: 9/11 ‘mastermind’ did not get henna or other dye to color his beard at Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The Pentagon has given a partial explanation to a Guantanamo mystery: How the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks managed to dye his beard.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s bushy grey beard has been colored a rusty orange during court appearances. Spectators had assumed he used henna, which is used by some Muslims as a hair dye.

A Pentagon spokesman says Mohammed used “natural means,” such as juice from berries that he receives in his meals. Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said Tuesday that Mohammed did not receive any “outside” means to color his beard.

Mohammed is kept under such heavy security that his lawyers can’t even reveal routine conversations with their client.

He is charged with four other prisoners with aiding and planning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Comedian Aasif Mandvi is compelling in new play about Islam and identity, past and present

NEW YORK — “Disgraced,” which opened on Monday night at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater in a sleek production directed by Kimberly Senior, is a continuously engaging, vitally engaged play about thorny questions of identity and religion in the contemporary world, with an accent on the incendiary topic of how radical Islam and the terrorism it inspires have affected the public discourse. In dialogue that bristles with wit and intelligence, Mr. Akhtar, a novelist and screenwriter, puts contemporary attitudes toward religion under a microscope, revealing how tenuous self-image can be for people born into one way of being who have embraced another.

The lead character, a Pakistani-American corporate lawyer in New York, is played by Aasif Mandvi, the very funny correspondent on Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Here Mandvi shows a dramatic depth and perceptiveness his TV fans likely never have seen before. (But he’s not new to the stage; he’s also the writer of the Obie Award-winning play “Sakina’s Restaurant.”)

Every exchange, however innocent, seems to reflect the uneasy state of Amir’s identity. He and Emily are serving pork tenderloin and chorizo for dinner, along with a fabulous fennel-anchovy salad. He disses Islam while Isaac defends it. Amir: “Islam is a backward way of thinking.” Isaac: “It happens to be one of the world’s great spiritual traditions.”

But then there’s a sudden turn. Talk of 9/11, of Israel and Iran, of terrorism and airport security, all evokes uncomfortable truths. Add a liberal flow of alcohol and a couple of major secrets suddenly revealed, and you’ve got yourself one dangerous dinner party.

In the end, one can debate what the message of the play really is. Is it that we cannot escape our roots, or perhaps simply that we don’t ever really know who we are, deep down, until something forces us to confront it?

Experts at panel discussion examine whether NYPD should have inspector general

NEW YORK — The city police department should have an inspector general to examine its conduct, but the monitor would need independence and a broad mandate to be effective, a panel of criminal justice and legal experts said Wednesday.

The City Council is weighing a proposal to put the nation’s largest police force under the scrutiny of an inspector general. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there’s no need for one, but the idea has gained currency among civil liberties advocates and others troubled by some New York Police Department practices, including widespread spying on Muslims.

Proponents say an inspector general could build public confidence by looking at issues such as the surveillance and the department’s extensive use of a tactic known as stop and frisk — questioning and sometimes patting down people whose behavior is deemed suspicious but doesn’t necessarily meet the legal bar for an arrest.

The NYPD has said its surveillance is legal.

Inspectors general — officials with investigative powers — are a common feature of government agencies, including in law enforcement and intelligence. The FBI and the CIA have such inspectors, as do police forces including the Los Angeles Police Department.

In New York City, allegations of police misconduct are explored by a civilian complaint board, a police corruption commission and the department’s 700-person Internal Affairs Bureau — plus, at times, local and federal prosecutors and judges.

That’s enough, the administration says.

Judge calls Minn. terror defendant who recently worked at a school a ‘danger’ to the community

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota man who has been accused of using his knowledge of the Quran to persuade young men to leave the state in 2007 and fight with the terror group al-Shabab in Somalia has been working in a position of authority at an Islamic school, authorities said Wednesday.

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis called Omer Abdi Mohamed a “danger to the community,” and ordered that he remain in custody until he is sentenced on one terror-related count in the government’s ongoing investigation into the recruiting of more than 20 young men who authorities say left Minnesota to join the al-Qaida-linked group.

Mohamed, 27, pleaded guilty last year. He was free, pending sentencing, but was arrested last week after authorities said he violated conditions of his release by not disclosing the nature of his employment.

Prosecutors said Mohamed had been working at Essential Learning of Minnesota Institute, a nonprofit program that offers after-school homework help, recreation activities and religious classes to children. Mohamed told his probation officer he was a volunteer teacher’s assistant, but some parents told the FBI that he was a manager or director.

AP Exclusive: Informant says NYPD paid him to ‘bait’ Muslims, take photos inside mosques

NEW YORK — A paid informant for the New York Police Department’s intelligence unit was under orders to “bait” Muslims into saying inflammatory things as he lived a double life, snapping pictures inside mosques and collecting the names of innocent people attending study groups on Islam, he told The Associated Press.

Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bangladeshi descent who has now denounced his work as an informant, said police told him to embrace a strategy called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD. For his work, he earned as much as $1,000 a month and goodwill from the police after a string of minor marijuana arrests.

“We need you to pretend to be one of them,” Rahman recalled the police telling him. “It’s street theater.”

Rahman said he now believes his work as an informant against Muslims in New York was “detrimental to the Constitution.” After he disclosed to friends details about his work for the police — and after he told the police that he had been contacted by the AP — he stopped receiving text messages from his NYPD handler, “Steve,” and his handler’s NYPD phone number was disconnected.

Rahman’s account shows how the NYPD unleashed informants on Muslim neighborhoods, often without specific targets or criminal leads. Much of what Rahman said represents a tactic the NYPD has denied using.

The AP corroborated Rahman’s account through arrest records and weeks of text messages between Rahman and his police handler. The AP also reviewed the photos Rahman sent to police. Friends confirmed Rahman was at certain events when he said he was there, and former NYPD officials, while not personally familiar with Rahman, said the tactics he described were used by informants.

Rahman said he eventually tired of spying on his friends, noting that at times they delivered food to needy Muslim families. He said he once identified another NYPD informant spying on him. He took $200 more from the NYPD and told them he was done as an informant. He said the NYPD offered him more money, which he declined. He told friends on Facebook in early October that he had been a police spy but had quit. He also traded Facebook messages with Shahbaz, admitting he had spied on students at John Jay.