Paris attacks: French police arrest suspect

Police have arrested a man in the Paris region as part of the investigation into the 13 November attacks in the city, sources say.

Some 2,700 raids have been conducted since the attacks, with 360 people placed under house arrest across France, the AFP news agency reports.

Police have also arrested two people in northern France suspected of supplying weapons to one of the gunmen in earlier attacks on Paris, reports say.

They were taken in for questioning.

The 29-year-old man arrested on Tuesday was planning to travel to Syria, according to one French media report.

The Paris prosecutor’s office says the two people arrested in northern France were held on suspicion of helping to provide guns to Amedy Coulibaly, who attacked a kosher supermarket in January.

The prosecutor’s office confirmed that the man arrested was Claude Hermant, who is known to have links to far-right groups, while the other is his partner.

Coulibaly killed four people inside the supermarket, and separately a policewoman, before dying in a shootout with police.

Meanwhile, a prominent Islamist preacher, Sven Lau, has been arrested in Moenchengladbach, western Germany, on suspicion of supporting a group linked to Islamic State militants, and recruiting fighters for it.

Lau – a convert to Islam – is known for a series of controversial initiatives, like setting up so-called sharia police controls, to enforce Islamic rules in the western city of Wuppertal.

The state interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, Ralf Jaeger, said the state authorities were trying to monitor hundreds of Islamists they believed were willing to use violence. He said Sven Lau played an important role in trying to radicalize people:

“He is one of the leading figures of the Salafist scene. He is someone who is trying to infect other young people with this extremism. He openly campaigns for terrorist organisations. That’s clearly dangerous because more and more people slip into this scene.”

Two independent eyewitnesses have told the BBC that they saw the ringleader of November’s Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, on the Greek island of Leros in October, placing him there at the same time as two Stade de France suicide bombers travelled through.

These sightings support French newspaper reports on Monday, quoting French and Moroccan security officials, who said this was highly likely.

It is known that the two Stade de France bombers arrived on Leros aboard smugglers’ boats on 3 October, then left for Athens with four other men, who have not been seen since.

A travel agent in Leros, who unwittingly sold the two bombers ferry tickets to Athens, says he is reasonably sure he also served Abaaoud, who stood out from hundreds of other migrants because he spoke French.

A trustee at the main island hospital also claims Abaaoud came to the hospital to be treated for a minor leg wound. He claims Abaaoud appeared nervous and suspicious, and offered a $110 bribe to jump the treatment queue.

Belgian and French officials say Abaaoud, a Belgian Islamist of Moroccan descent, organized November’s attacks which killed 130 people.

He was known to have been living in Athens in January this year, but fled to Syria after a failed attempt by Belgian police to catch him.

French teacher admits to fabricating IS, is suspended

A French nursery school teacher admitted on Monday that he had fabricated a story about being attacked by a hooded man claiming to be acting on behalf of the Islamic State (IS) group, according to the local prosecutor’s office.

The 45-year-old teacher was rushed to hospital with minor stab wounds to the side and throat shortly after the alleged assault at a school in the northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers on Monday morning.

He initially told authorities that he had been preparing for class when a man wearing overalls and a balaclava grabbed a knife-like object and attacked him.

The teacher further claimed that the alleged assailant had shouted, “This is Daesh. This is a warning.”

Daech is another name for the IS group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Prosecutors were questioning the teacher, whose injuries were not considered life-threatening, over why he lied.

He has since been sent for psychological testing, prosecutors said Tuesday.

With France still on edge a month after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, killed 130 people and were claimed by the IS group, the investigation had been immediately taken over by anti-terrorism prosecutors.

The case even prompted a visit by Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who vowed to boost security at France’s schools.

Just last month, the IS group’s French-language magazine Dar-al-Islam called on its followers to kill teachers in the French education system, describing them as “enemies of Allah.”

“This education, in the case of France in particular, is a means of propaganda used to impose the corrupt way of thought established by the Judeo-masonry,” it said.

“Muslims must know the French education system is built against religion and Islam as the only religion of truth cannot cohabit with this fanatic secularism.”

Last month’s attacks in Paris saw France impose a three-month state of emergency and led to a Europe-wide manhunt for suspects.

“We will continue to reinforce security measures at schools in a context where schools feel threatened,” said Vallaud-Belkacem on Monday.

Rachel Schneider of the main primary school teachers’ union SNUipp said the IS group threats had alarmed faculty members.

“We have received many calls from colleagues, who are very worried. They don’t necessarily think there will be an organized attack, but they fear this message of murderous madness will inspire unstable people to action,” she said.

Without waiting for explanations, the teacher has been suspended.

Shaker Aamer says Islamic extremists living in UK should ‘get the hell out’

The last detainee at Guantanamo Bay from the UK, who was released after 14 years in detention, has said that Islamic extremists living in the country should “get the hell out”. Shaker Aamer, 48, was held at the US military facility in Cuba on suspicion of terrorist activities but was never charged or tried. He was finally let go in October.

“How can you give yourself the right to be living here in this country, and living with the people and acting like you are a normal person, and then you just walk in the street and try to kill people?” Aamer asked in an interview with The Daily Mail.

“Even if there is a war you cannot kill just anybody, you cannot kill kids, you cannot kill chaplains, you cannot just go in the street and get a knife and start stabbing people. If you are that angry about this country, you can get the hell out,” Aamer, a father of four, said.

Aamer was never charged with any crime nor given a trial, despite being detained for 14 years.

White Supremacists More Dangerous To America Than Foreign Terrorists, Study Says

Nine people were added to a long list of lives taken by domestic terrorism when Dylann Roof allegedly began shooting inside a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17.
 
At least 48 people have been killed stateside by right-wing extremists in the 14 years since since the September 11 attacks — almost twice as many as were killed by self-identified jihadists in that time, according to a study released Wednesday by the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., research center. The study found that radical anti-government groups or white supremacists were responsible for most of the terror attacks.
 
The data counters many conventional thoughts on what terrorism is and isn’t. Since Sept. 11many Americans attribute terror attacks to Islamic extremists instead of those in the right wing. But the numbers don’t back up this popular conception, said Charles Kurzman, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kurzman is co-authoring a study with David Schanzer of Duke University, set to be published Thursday, that asks police departments to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction.

Number of Incidents Targeting U.S. Mosques in 2015 Highest Ever Recorded

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/17/15) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today released a preliminary report on incidents targeting American mosques and religious institutions in 2015 that shows a greater frequency of damage, destruction, vandalism, and intimidation than in any other year since CAIR started tracking such cases in 2009.

VIEW GRAPHIC OF 2015 MOSQUE INCIDENTS

Of the total of 71 incidents to date in 2015, 29 occurred since the November 13 terror attacks in Paris. Of those 29 incidents, 15 occurred prior to the December 3 San Bernardino killings and 14 took place after that attack.

CAIR’s preliminary data is being issued in advance of a soon-to-be-released comprehensive report on Islamophobia in the United States.

[Report Located Here]

Islam should have a ‘quintessentially British’ version with minoret-less mosques and no burqas, Warsi says

British mosques should be built without minarets, former Conservative party chairwoman Baroness Warsi said yesterday, in a speech outlining her vision for a “quintessentially British” form of Islam.

Speaking at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, where she was giving her inaugural lecture as a Visiting Professor, Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi called on Muslims to develop “a very British Islam” in line with Islamic tradition.

The former Minister for Faiths, who resigned from the Government last year over its failure to condemn Israeli strikes on Gaza, said: “Islam is different whenever and wherever it is found. If Islam always takes its cultural references from where it finds itself, British Islam must take cultural reference points from where it grows.”

Part of this, she said, meant building quintessentially British mosques. She argued that minarets, towers built alongside mosques from which the call to prayer is broadcast, were not culturally necessary in modern Britain.

“There is no need for a minaret. There is no need for a mosque to look like it doesn’t fit into its environment. It doesn’t need to be like that. I would love for there to be English-designed mosques.”

She also denied that Muslim women were obliged to wear full Islamic dress, such as the burqa, the full body covering, where it was not part of their social cultural tradition.

“I defend my right to dress modestly – but that doesn’t have to look like it would in Yemen. I cannot understand why you would want to look like someone who walked out of Yemen, unless your parents lived there,” she said. She called on the Government to reach out to Muslim groups from across the spectrum.

The Islam debate: The dual consciousness of Muslims

Muslims today can no longer think, or ultimately exist, outside the widespread lore about Islam, which links them to discussions about terror, violence and the separation of religion and society. They can never be free of the neverending stream of projections about Islam. An essay by Farid Hafez

Has anything changed for Muslims, since the latest in a long line of so-called jihadist terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 130 people on 13 November 2015? As in the aftermath of any terrorist act, there have been debates on Islam as a religion and on ″its″ role in the attacks. Europe has responded not only with tighter security measures, including calling a state of emergency in France, but also by declaring war.

The attack in Paris was probably not the last: European societies must now face the kind of day-to-day life that has long since become normal elsewhere, complete with attacks and dead civilians. In future, European societies in general and their Muslims in particular will have to deal with issues such as trade-offs between security and freedom. Muslims will continue to discuss what reaction is the most sensible and expedient. Distancing themselves from the attacks? Or condemning them? Do we need the umpteenth fatwa against terrorism in general and Daesh in particular? And if so, who actually needs it?

The European citizens who ascribe to Islam a fundamental affinity for violence? Or the young Muslims who are seeking religious orientation in the face of racial exclusion and the piecemeal return to their Islam? Presumably we will be revisiting these questions again and again in the near future.

What’s the impact on Muslims?

In this article, though, I would like to touch on something else that is in reality ubiquitous but scarcely ever addressed explicitly. Namely: what impact does such debate have on Muslims? What traces does it leave behind, what scars are inflicted on the Muslim self-image as a result of this discussion about Islam and terrorism? To illustrate, let′s start with a Facebook post. Recently, a well-educated, politically active adult Muslim woman posted on the occasion of the birth of her child:

“I gave birth to a boy in the Christian hospital XY, with nuns as nurses and a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf at the reception desk; I named him for the most beautiful person and prophet XY, with the most beautiful character and an exemplary life story. Above my bed hung a cross and a picture of the Virgin Mary and her son, the prophet Jesus. Religious symbols? For me, it was the perfect accompaniment for a wonderful new life!”

Farid Hafez accepts the Bruno Kreisky Recognition Prize 2010 (photo: cc-by/Fatih Ozturk)

Farid Hafez is a doctor of political science and currently does research at the University of Salzburg. He is the editor of the Yearbook for Islamophobia Research and of the European Islamophobia Report, which will be published for the first time in 2016

The post was probably prompted by the announcement by the editor-in-chief of an Austrian newspaper just a few days before that he was considering reviving the headscarf ban debate, at the suggestion of a representative of the Christian Democratic Party.

The post raises many questions: what causes a woman who is giving birth to new life for the first time and is likely to feel emotions of indescribable happiness to cast this unique experience in a political context? What is happening in the mind of this person? The answer to this question may lead us to one of the biggest challenges faced by Muslims today all over the world and especially in the West: Muslims are trapped in the discursive spider web of a pervasive discourse on Islam.

By this, I mean that it is no longer conceivable for Muslims today to think, or ultimately to exist, outside the widespread lore about Islam, which links them to discussions about terror, violence and the separation of religion and society. Simply to exist. To be a human being. To experience a birth without having to interpret the cross, the nuns and Muslim nurses apart from their humanity. To experience and live through a birth. To be free of everything that is constantly projected onto them.

Dual consciousness

In ″The Souls of Black Folk″, the pre-eminent African-American thinker W.E.B. DuBois (1868–1963) describes a condition he dubs “double consciousness”, by which blacks are only able to see themselves through the eyes of others (whites). They can thus never regard themselves as fully fledged human beings because they are always caught up in a dichotomy, wanting to be human – i.e. normal – but being black – and thus outside the norm.

Many passed down this inferiority complex to their children, encouraging them to make life easier for themselves by becoming invisible, as Jean-Paul Sartre shows in his preface to Fanon’s ″The Wretched of the Earth″. Today there are many Muslims who try to make themselves invisible because they want to be humans, in other words, normal.

And then there are those who publicly avow Islam and thus take on all the challenges and discursive conflicts that this entails. In their effort to counter the hegemonic discourse, they overlook how trapped they are in exactly this discursive web. They have to take a stand. They cannot remain silent. Because silence could be taken as tacit consent to this or that terrorist attack.

Trend towards self-discipline

Recently, a former class representative wrote on the Facebook wall of a Muslim girl who used to be a pupil of his: “To remain silent on the terror in Paris (and elsewhere) means to accept or even to endorse it”. If Muslims avow their faith, they are then compelled to answer for it. If they make themselves invisible, they escape that pressure.

In a second stage, this discursive pressure leads to Muslims beginning to discipline themselves. Parents avoid giving their children toy guns in order not to be perceived as radical. Mothers and in particular fathers do not allow their young daughters to wear a headscarf on the way to the mosque, so as not to attract disparaging glances from those who regard this as a sign of subjugation.

Parents begin to bring up their children according to standards that attempt to counter the negative stereotypes, conspiracy theories and horrific imaginings that are part of the discourse.

Caught in the discursive web, it would seem difficult to breathe the air of freedom, to be human, to live a life apart from all the allegations, innuendo and suspicion. And yet it is this very freedom that is the first and most fundamental condition for thinking and living as a human being. In dignity.

Farid Hafez

© Qantara.de 2015

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

The submissive subject tries to evade this discursive pressure by making himself invisible. Psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon spoke in relation to Algeria of the desire of the formerly colonised subjects to be white.

IS and its media: Calling all suicide bombers

The media is playing its part in today’s horror as “Islamic State” showcases its terrorists in magazines, videos and on the Internet to recruit new members. Joseph Croitoru examines how IS strategy has developed and evolved

The radio station operated by the terrorist militia “Islamic State”, which has been broadcasting regularly for the past few months in English, French, Russian, Turkish and Kurdish, is called “Al-Bayan”. The Arabic term succinctly reveals the group’s agenda, conjoining modernity and tradition to connote both an “announcement” and also spreading the word of the Koran.

The daily Arabic news programme, around seven minutes long and consisting mostly of war reporting, has followed the same pattern for months. A brief rendition of a jihadist song (nasheed), which praises the Islamic Umma (world community) and continues in the background as the news is read, is followed by reports of “successful” suicide attacks by IS members.

The radical Sunni station refers to them by the term “amaliya istishhadiya” (martyrdom operations), originally popularised by the Shia arch-enemies who are today at war with the IS: the pro-Iranian Hezbollah introduced the term in the 1980s.

The IS terrorist militia lets it be known that its suicide martyrs – “Istishhadiyin” – are deployed both offensively and defensively. Sometimes their bombs clear the way for combat troops to follow, or the bombers detonate armoured vehicles laden with explosives to slow down the advancing enemy.

To make sure daily messages from “Al-Bayan” like these do not get lost in the constant stream of information, the IS website periodically features a special report on its suicide bombings – a diagram for example shows 65 such attacks during October in Iraq and Syria.

Twenty-minute “martyr” farewells

Checking the veracity of such information is not easy, not least because the Arab media use various names for the suicide operations of the IS, which are in fact very numerous. What is striking is that the term “suicide” is always included, in pointed emphasis of the fact that this form of terrorism violates Islam′s prohibition of suicide, something Islamists like to gloss over.

For the media staging of its suicide bombers, the IS likes to make use of a genre already established three decades ago, perpetuating their deeds individually on video or at least in an extended photo sequence. But the competition is watching: rival terrorist militias, in particular the Syrian “Nusra Front”, which is linked to al-Qaida, is also very productive in this respect.

Farewell image of an IS suicide bomber (source:donotgothere.org)

The macabre and the mundane: “suicide attackers should raise their right hand with a pointing index finger at some point during the farewell video – signalling the number one, a symbol for the unity of Islamic faith and the unity of the jihadists. The Palestinian Hamas popularised this gesture years ago, but not wanting to be linked with the IS under any circumstances, they have now reverted to the traditional victory sign,” writes Croitoru

Such rivalry has occasionally prompted farewell videos to swell to lengths of up to twenty minutes. Usually, the reading of the “will”, which often segues into a hate sermon, is followed by a farewell scene as the perpetrator climbs into the vehicle and drives off to launch the attack.  The final chord is then struck with the explosion scene, which is often shown repeatedly.

The pointing index finger is mandatory

Lately, however, the videos bidding farewell to IS suicide bombers have become noticeably shorter, probably due to their great proliferation. The bombers are still permitted to appear before the camera as individuals wearing their own, very diverse, clothing. But they are clearly asked to play it up a bit.

An underage Arab, for example, holding a small Koran in his hand on his way to blowing himself up with belt full of explosives, acts the role of the devout and contemplative believer before uttering a torrent of jihadist slogans and threats. For a Tajik car bomber, by contrast, two sentences in broken Arabic must suffice, muttered out of the window of his prepared tank car, before he proceeds to his death.

Recently it has apparently been decided that suicide attackers should raise their right hand with a pointing index finger at some point during the farewell video – signalling the number one, a symbol for the unity of Islamic faith and the unity of the jihadists. The Palestinian Hamas popularised this gesture years ago, but not wanting to be linked with the IS under any circumstances, they have now reverted to the traditional victory sign.

Welcome to the “caliphate”

The IS also glorifies its death terrorists in four non-Arabic magazines. Probably the best known among them is the English “Dabiq”, named for a town in northern Syria where the doomsday battle will ostensibly take place against the “infidels”. The magazine evokes apocalyptic themes and a supposed global war of civilisations, which the IS claims to be spearheading on the Muslim side.

Again and again, the suicide attack is highlighted as the preferred weapon, as it also is in the French counterpart “Dar Al-Islam” (House or Dominion of Islam), a magazine designed to teach Francophone Muslims where they supposedly truly belong. They are especially welcome to take part in the IS “caliphate” as suicide soldiers: by the third of six issues of “Dar al-Islam” currently published, a death driver from France was already being extolled, sitting at the wheel of his vehicle and smiling.

Similar to “Dar Al-Islam”, the latest, third issue of the Turkish IS magazine, “Konstantinyye”, features on its cover a massive explosion, under the heading “Martyrdom operations are allowed and legitimate”.

Cover of the IS Turkish magazine "Konstantiniyye"

Dead end: IS also glorifies the role played by its suicide bombers in four non-Arabic publications. “Konstantiniyyee”, published for the Turkish market, emphasises that “martyrdom operations are allowed and legitimate”

Ataturk denigrated as an idol

The magazine’s title was chosen cleverly, because “Konstantiniyye” is the Ottoman name for Istanbul, thus recalling the Islamic conquest of Byzantine Constantinople and its conversion into the capital of the Ottoman Caliphate. The publishers thus echo the way Erdogan’s AKP has glorified this victory over the East Roman Christian Byzantine Empire in its neo-Ottoman discourse for the past several years. Ataturk is however consistently vilified in “Konstantiniyye” as a “kafir” (infidel) and “tagut” (idol).

This division between good and evil also colours the rhetoric of the Russian IS periodical, “Istok” (source, origin), in which suicide attacks are likewise a featured theme. The decision by Russian, Caucasian and Central Asian sympathisers to carry out an “Istishhad Operacja” is not only exalted here as the culmination of an almost mystical enlightenment – to dispel any last doubts, it is interwoven with the narrative of an intimate camaraderie, which these non-Arab mujahedeen then believe to be typical of IS.

Joseph Croitoru

© Qantara.de 2015

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

Worried Muslim parents in France want their kids to dress less like Muslims

Some Muslim parents in Paris who are worried about discrimination have started asking their daughters to remove their religious headscarves in the wake of the deadly attacks on the French capital on Friday.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks that took place at a stadium, concert hall and eateries throughout Paris and left 129 people dead. French President Francois Hollande described the attacks as “an act of war.”  

In the aftermath, some Muslims are feeling uneasy in France, fearing retaliation. According to the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, in the six months following the terrorist attack against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, cases of physical assault against Muslims in France rose by 500 percent.

A silent solidarity vigil held in Lille on Saturday was stormed by far-right protesters carrying an Islamophobic banner. Graffiti calling for “death to Muslims” has popped up on a wall in Normandy, in northern France, while the words “France, wake up!” were spray-painted on a mosque in southern France.   This emerging anxiety has moved some Muslim families to revisit their Islamic traditions and rituals, and to avoid the risks they might face as a result of looking like Muslims.  

Seham, a student at the Sorbonne University in Paris, is currently under pressure from her parents and relatives to remove her headscarf, she tells HuffPost Arabi. Her mom told her she’ll be angry with her if she refuses to take it off.

Refusing to remove her headscarf, and burdened with her family’s concerns, Seham has been spending most of her time at home since Friday. “All the calls I receive are from people asking if I have given up my veil yet.”

Other Muslim parents in France have instructed their sons and daughters to dress in black or dark colors and to light candles to mourn the victims.

An Algerian graduate student, Hussein, says his mom has ordered him to refrain from “speaking about religion” with any of his friends or colleagues. She worries about him every time he steps out of the house, he says. Hussein says advice of this kind annoys him — he thinks it’s over the top. Still, he understands his mom’s concerns in light of the recent attacks. He said he stands in “solidarity with victims across the world,” but that he doesn’t feel obligated to constantly prove his innocence “just for being a Muslim.”

In a blog published on HuffPost France, Marwen Belkaid, a business school student who grew up on the outskirts of Marseille, admitted that he was afraid that ISIS’s “unspeakable acts” would “manage to divide my country.” He continued: “I’m afraid that you will achieve the ultimate goal behind your attacks, behind the murders of innocents: to cast a shadow on Muslims in the West, so that they might all be regarded as potential terrorists.”

Muslim youth in other parts of Europe share similar concerns. In a blog for HuffPost Spain, Imane Rachidi, a journalist specializing in the Middle East and North Africa, wrote, “I’m frightened by the idea of being rejected or mistreated because of my appearance, my origins, my name or my family, for speaking Arabic, or because some terrorists decided to kill in the name of Islam.”