Why 2 ‘Normal’ Teens Joined ISIS

Her room is empty: no pictures, posters or photos on the wall, just the Arabic symbol for “Allah” hanging over the bed. There’s nothing to suggest that until recently a 17-year-old girl lived here. The girl, Merve S., disappeared several weeks ago. She and her 18-year-old friend, Ece B., apparently traveled from northern Germany to Syria via Istanbul to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Then Ece’s father took his own life. Her sister found him hanged in the stairwell of their apartment building in Geesthacht, near Hamburg.

The search for clues about what happened leads to Merve’s hometown, the working-class Hamburg suburb of Billstedt. It has 70,000 residents and row upon row of high-rise blocks. Heavy traffic roars along its four-lane roads. Merve’s mother told the local news station that her daughter had started sleeping on the floor, and eating and drinking very little. In hindsight, she thinks her daughter was preparing herself for the harsh living conditions of an ISIS camp. Merve wasn’t considered anything out of the ordinary at the Öncü supermarket where she used to work. A sales assistant describes the teenager as a quiet girl who “barely said a word.”

So what made Merve give up her teen life to join ISIS, a terrorist group that carries out massacres and atrocities against so-called “infidels”? Why didn’t anyone see the signs? Everyone at the mosque directly opposite Merve’s parents’ house denies knowing her. “People come here to pray, but they don’t introduce themselves by name,” a community representative says.

But one young woman, an acquaintance from Ece’s hometown, says she and her cousins witnessed the girls’ transformation. Büşra, 22, has long, blond-highlighted hair, tattoos and pink glitter on her fake fingernails. She is positive the two teenagers wanted to join ISIS and are in Syria. “They’ve thrown away their cell phones and torn up their passports,” she says. “I’m sure of it.”

Büşra last saw Ece in 2014. She describes her as a homebody who liked listening to music and hanging out with her girlfriends. But that all started to change two years ago, says Büşra, when Ece began avoiding eye contact with guys on the street — and then wearing a headscarf and, later, a black veil. Büşra says Ece and Merve probably met via the Facebook or WhatsApp groups for “sisters,” the term Muslim women use for their friends. The girls also went together to Billstedt mosque where apparently nobody knew them.

“They were just religious at first,” explains Büşra. “Then they fell into the wrong hands.” She said Ece was in contact with an ISIS follower from Hamburg. The teenage girls listened to radical sermons and “were manipulated into thinking they had to help out in Syria.” Büşra says she tried to convince them that ISIS thinks of women as “birth machines.” It didn’t work: “Talking to Ece was like talking to a brick wall.”

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Ece was born outside Hamburg in Geesthacht, home to 30,000 residents and a deactivated nuclear power plant. She and her Turkish family lived in a first-floor apartment. Their building has a dirty white facade, rust-stained plasterwork, thin white drapes on the windows. The remains of an orchid decorate a windowsill.

Ece’s father, Ercan B., worked shifts for a brake-pad manufacturer for many years. The men he worked with call him a “good colleague” who would greet them on the street, sometimes exchange a few words. Otherwise, Ercan B. kept to himself and definitely did not discuss his daughter.

Ece first ran away to Istanbul in November 2014. The family managed to retrieve her after she was located using cell phone tracking and detained at the airport by Turkish police. Unfortunately, the local German state police did not notice her latest attempt to leave the country. In early June, she wrote her parents a note to say she’d gone on a school trip. She’d actually flown back to Turkey.

But her father knew the truth. And it was too much for him. Ercan B. ended his life in Germany in June, on a Sunday when his wife was away.

Germany’s intelligence service has logged nearly 700 departures to Syria since 2013, about 10 percent by women. Authorities don’t track minors. About 80 of the men who left Germany have already died in acts of jihad. No details have emerged about any female deaths.

“That’s not part of our faith,” says Mustafa Cakmak, the imam at Geesthacht mosque. “The Koran says: Anyone who kills a human kills the whole of humanity.” The girls found different interpretations online.

The local community made sure that Ercan B.’s body was washed and shrouded in white material within days of his death, in accordance with Muslim custom. Hundreds of mourners prayed for the deceased, and his family then flew to Turkey for his burial.

A group of men sits outside a snack bar the day after the funeral. Ece’s uncle is one of them. He’s dressed all in black and looks exhausted, even behind his sunglasses. The sister who discovered their dead father has been admitted for psychiatric care. Her uncle looks up briefly and says, “I don’t want to say any more.”

Dutch jihadis keep traveling abroad to join fight

Jihadis are still traveling out of the Netherlands to battle zones in Syria and Iraq despite attempts of the Dutch authorities to prevent this. According to the Dutch National Coordinator of Combatting Terrorism and Security (Dutch: ‘Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding en Veiligheid’ / NCTV) Dick Schoof about five people a month are traveling abroad.

According to the NCTV up until August 1 about 210 people have left the Netherlands. Approximately 35 people have returned. The amount of Dutch combatants that have perished is most probably 38. At this moment a total of 130 combatants from the Netherlands are present in Syria and Iraq.

The NCTV also stated that there is a group in the Netherlands that would like to leave the country to travel to battle zones and might become frustrated when they are obstructed to do so. From this group of people the threat of [terrorist] attacks might arise.

Schoof also takes note of the fact that a growing amount of Dutch people in Iraq and Syria are ascending within the groups they have joined. Two Dutch play a prominent role in the propaganda of the terrorist groups Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra. One of them most probably perished last August.

Dutch mosques bar radical Muslims

Dutch mosques are banning radical Muslims from their houses of prayer. Out of precaution suspect persons get a ‘mosque prohibition’ out of fear recruitment will take place in the mosques for the armed jihad. This was stated by mosque organizations in the Dutch newspaper ‘NRC Handelsblad’.

Rasit Bal – chairman of the Contact Organization Muslims and Government (Dutch: Contactorgaan Moslims en Overheid) – does not consider this an adequate way of handling this issue. ‘Mosques don’t have an effective response to radicalization. The mosque simply hopes is slowly fades away and if that does not work such a person most of the time is send about his business.’

He’s afraid youths that are banned from the mosque will isolate themselves and radicalize even more.

Major jihad lawsuit starts in The Hague

This month a major ‘jihad lawsuit’ starts in the Dutch city of The Hague (Den Haag). The most notorious suspects are Azzedine C. (33) alias About Moussa, Rudolph H. (25) and Oussama C. (19) but in total ten people are on trial for accusations related to terrorism.

Azzedine C. was the spokesperson of radical Muslims who demonstrated with the display of [Islamic] flags last year in the Dutch neighborhood called ‘Schilderswijk’ in The Hague. He, Rudolph H. alias About Souhayb and Oussama C. alias About Yazeed also gave lectures and expressed themselves on Facebook and through the website ‘dewarereligie.nl’ (English: ‘the true religion’) and their own radio station ‘Ghurabaa’.

According to the Public Prosecutor the three men are guilty of the incitement to sedition and – in the case of Azzedine C. and Oussama C. – of the recruitment for terroristic struggle. They are also supposed to be part of a criminal terroristic organization.

Their lawsuit at the court of The Hague is held in the extra secured courtroom called ‘de bunker’ (English: ‘the bunker’) in Amsterdam and will take three months. On December 3 the court will pronounce its verdict.

Anti-Muslim “Global Rally for Humanity” Stands in Contrast to Events Promoting Coexistence

Against the backdrop of increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric, a coalition of online activists is calling on “patriots” to organize protests in front of mosques across the United States. Dubbed the “Global Rally for Humanity,” events are planned in at least 20 cities nationwide on October 9th and 10th. Claiming that “[h]umanity is attacked daily by radical Islam,” the organizers’ Facebook page serves as a de facto headquarters for interested parties, and offers instructions forcitizens to start a rally in their own cities.

The Center for New Community has plotted the planned U.S. protests, which have their own respective Facebook pages, on this map.

Link to a map that shows all the sites of protest: 

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zXxO3Yqo7g9Q.koDPESjosDU0

Muslims prepare for weekend of anti-Islam protest

Muslim leaders and anti-bigotry activists are girding for a weekend of protests — some billed as open-carry events” — by groups known for their anti-Muslim views.
“We’ve never had this many events at once targeting mosques in this kind of national way,” said Heidi Beirich, who tracks hate groups at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Organizers, who are calling for protests on Friday and Saturday (Oct. 9 and 10), are billing the events as the “Global Rally for Humanity.” Beirich describes the protesters as a loose affiliation of anti-Muslim extremists who do not seem to be organized by larger, better-known anti-Muslim groups, such as Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative.

A Gay Muslim Filmmaker Goes Inside the Hajj

In the film, Mr. Sharma, 41, struggles visibly with his fear, even as he prays. He also explores the enduring grief he felt after being rebuked by his late mother, a poet, for not finding a “nice girl” to marry.
The documentary, largely recorded on an iPhone strapped to Mr. Sharma’s neck with rubber bands, shows the pilgrimage in unflinching detail. The result is a religious reality film, but also a piercing indictment of Saudi Arabia, which influences, Mr. Sharma said, millions of pilgrims annually.
His new documentary, “A Sinner in Mecca,” about his 2011 hajj, or journey to Islam’s most sacred sites in Saudi Arabia, put him at even greater risk. Saudi religious police allow selfies or short videos, Mr. Sharma said, but they forbid pilgrims from taking extensive footage of the hajj, which attracts up to three million faithful a year. While Mr. Sharma said there were government-sanctioned videos of the ritual, his documentary shows images of the annual pilgrimage that Saudi officials do not want others to see.
Mr. Sharma’s discretion is no doubt borne of his experience growing up gay in a conservative city in India, but it has deepened since the release of his 2007 documentary, “A Jihad for Love,” which depicted the struggle of gay Muslims around the world to reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation. (Homosexuality is generally condemned in modern Islamic societies, said Everett Rowson, an associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University.) After “Jihad,” Mr. Sharma was labeled an infidel, and in the intervening years, he has gotten more death threats than he cares to recall.

New York City Adds 2 Muslim Holy Days to Public School Calendar

New York will become the nation’s first major metropolis to close its public schools in observance of the two most sacred Muslim holy days, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday, a watershed moment for a group that has endured suspicion and hostility since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Several municipalities across the country — including in Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey — have moved in recent years to include the holy days, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, in their school calendars. But New York City, with its 1.1 millionschoolchildren, dwarfs the others in its size and symbolism.

Shaker Aamer fears he won’t leave Gitmo alive, despite promised release

The last remaining British resident held at the Guantanamo Bay prison, Shaker Aamer, fears he will die in captivity, despite US authorities having promised to free him within weeks, his lawyer has revealed.
Shaker Aamer, 46, who spent 14 years in detention without charge and is set to be released from the notorious prison, has warned his wife and children in London he may die in captivity since there are people “who do not want me ever to see the sun again.” 
Aamer has been on a hunger strike since August after allegedly being assaulted by prison guards who forcefully took his blood samples. 
Among other infringements of his rights, he cited torture and physical mistreatment which he said had been employed by prison personnel in order to obtain evidence.

Worshipers celebrating Eid at Ohio mosque threatened by man with ax in possible hate crime

Between prayers on the morning of Eid-al-Adha yesterday, worshipers at the Islamic Center of Cleveland welcomed a stranger into their mosque.
A middle-aged white man clad in a T-shirt and jeans had approached the congregation gathered outside their stately place of worship in Parma, Ohio and asked about registration. He was told, “There’s no need for registration — you’re more than welcome to come in.”
But the man soon started calling the mosque members “pedophiles” and “terrorists.” After he was asked to leave, he ran to his car and started rummaging under his seat. Recounting the scene to Fox 8 Cleveland, Hasan Saleh said they chased the man’s vehicle a short distance before he drove straight into police officers directing traffic on a nearby block.
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on state and federal law enforcement to consider prosecuting the man for a hate crime.