Anjem Choudary convicted of supporting Islamic State

Anjem Choudary, one of the most notorious hate preachers living in Britain, is facing jail after being found guilty of supporting Islamic State.

Having avoided arrest for years despite his apparent sympathy for extremism and links to some of Britain’s most notorious terrorists, Choudary was convicted at the Old Bailey after jurors heard he had sworn an oath of allegiance to Isis.

The 49-year-old, who has links to one of Lee Rigby’s killers, Michael Adebolajo, and the Islamist militant Omar Bakri Muhammad, also urged followers to support Isis in a series of talks broadcast on YouTube.

Choudary and his co-defendant, Mohammed Rahman, 33, told their supporters to obey Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Isis leader, who is also known as a caliph, and travel to Syria to support Isis or “the caliphate”, the court heard.

They were convicted in July but details of the trial, including the verdict, could not be reported until now.

Choudary and Rahman face up to 10 years in jail for inviting support for a proscribed organisation. They will be sentenced on 6 September at the Old Bailey.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command, said: “These men have stayed just within the law for many years, but there is no one within the counter-terrorism world that has any doubts of the influence that they have had, the hate they have spread and the people that they have encouraged to join terrorist organisations.

“Over and over again we have seen people on trial for the most serious offences who have attended lectures or speeches given by these men. The oath of allegiance was a turning point for the police – at last we had the evidence that they had stepped over the line and we could prove they supported Isis.”

Haydon said 20 years’ worth of material was considered in the investigation, with 333 electronic devices containing 12.1 terabytes of storage data assessed.

It can now also be revealed that Choudary was encouraged to support Isis by a notorious British Isis fighter who fled to Syria while on police bail.

The court heard that shortly after Isis was described as a terror group Choudary was in contact with an individual name as Subject A. It can now be revealed Subject A was Siddartha Dhar – known on social media as Abu Rumaysah – who was arrested alongside Choudary before he fled to Syria to fight with Isis while on police bail.

Dhar encouraged Choudary to express support for Isis on social media. Following on from Dhar’s encouragement, both defendants made their position on the newly declared caliphate clear in the “oath of allegiance”.

British Muslims had complained about the media attention paid to Choudary and the impression sometimes given to audiences that he was representative of British Islamic thought.

Miqdaad Versi, of the Muslim Council of Britain, told the Guardian: “Mr Anjem Choudary has long been condemned by Muslim organisations and Muslims across the country, who consider him and his support for Daesh [Isis] to be despicable and contrary to the values of Islam and our nation.

“Many Muslims have long been puzzled why this man was regularly approached by the media to give outrageous statements that inflamed Islamophobia. We hope the judgment serves as a lesson for anyone who follows this path of advocating hate and division.”

 

French burkini ban sparks debate in UK

The ban on the burkini swimsuit on French beaches has triggered disdain in English-speaking countries, where outlawing religion-oriented clothing is viewed as hampering integration.

Commentators have condemned the ban as an absurdity, and one questioned how a burkini could be more offensive than “middle-aged bum crack” bursting out from Western beachwear.

Experts said the debate raised questions about the French one-size-fits-all model of integration.

In Britain, the full-face veil is not an uncommon sight in towns and districts with big Muslim populations, but does not stir as strong a reaction as in France.

Defenders of the policy say a common arena without religious connotations helps avoid sectarian conflicts and encourages equality.

As a result, the burkini — like the burqa before it — has come under fire in France. Some say it channels radical Islam and oppresses women.

“It is the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on enslavement of women,” French PM Manuel Valls said of the burkini.

Such views are contested in Britain on the grounds of tolerance.

Britain’s best-known example of burkini-wearing was not by a Muslim but by TV chef Nigella Lawson, who hit the headlines in 2011 when she wore a black version of it on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

A BBC look at the issue found women in Britain speaking in favour of the burkini and saying it aided integration.

“The burkini allows me the freedom to swim and go on the beach, and I don’t feel I am compromising my beliefs,” Aysha Ziauddin told the broadcaster.

Maryam Ouiles said: “It’s outrageous that you would effectively be asked to uncover some flesh or leave. People are always complaining that Muslims should integrate more, but when we join you for a swim that’s not right either.”

Commentator David Aaronovitch said only warped minds would impose a burkini ban.

“The idea that full-length clothing provokes attacks on the wearer displays a poisonous logic,” he said.

“No problems are solved by this French absurdity. Only new ones created.”

French Army Asks Citizens To Enlist–But No Muslim Headscarves

After the July 14 terrorist attack in Nice, the French interior minister called on “all willing French patriots” to help defend the country by volunteering for the military’s reserves.

Two sisters, Majda and Amina Belaroui, French Muslims of Moroccan heritage, heeded the call in the aftermath of the Bastille Day attack, when a Tunisian truck driver mowed down crowds of spectators, killing 84 and wounding hundreds.

Majda, 21, and Amina, 24, are both university students who live in Nice, on the French Riviera. They pair French fashion with traditional Muslim dress, sporting wide-brimmed sun hat and headscarf ensembles.

The Monday morning following the attack, the third major terrorist rampage in the past 18 months, young men and high school boys trickled through the gates of Nice’s military recruitment center. So did Majda. Wearing a hat and headscarf, she walked past soldiers guarding the gate with weapons across their chests.

She was there to sign up for the “operational reserves,” comprising both former soldiers and civilians with no military background. She wasn’t interested in holding a gun. She just wanted to see how she could help, and set an example as a Muslim amid the growing fears over radical Islam.

“I want to show,” she said, “that I am not like that.”

The receptionist told her she must take off her hijab to enter the recruitment center.

French law prohibits people from displaying their religion in government-run buildings, including public schools, to maintain secularism in the public sphere. It’s a fundamental tenet of the country, stretching back more than a century as part of an effort to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church. But the old concept of secularism is now rubbing up against France’s new efforts to integrate its Muslim population, the largest in Europe.

France has succeeded, in many cases. In Nice, Muslims are an integral part of the landscape. They, too, were on the promenade watching fireworks along with their French compatriots on Bastille Day, the most French day of the year, when the crowd came under attack. Nearly a third of the victims of the attack were Muslims, according to a Muslim community group.

But some Muslims in France believe prohibitions against wearing religious clothing in government venues are actually targeted specifically at them, sending a message that Muslim culture is unwelcome in France.

“Although France has managed to integrate many immigrants and their descendants, those it has left on the sidelines are more embittered than their British or German peers, and many feel insulted in their Muslim or Arab identity,” sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar wrote recently in The New York Times. “Laïcité, France’s staunch version of secularism, is so inflexible it can appear to rob them of dignity.”

It poses a dilemma for people like the Belaroui sisters, who want to stay true to both flag and faith.

Minutes after entering the recruitment center, Majda walked out, unwilling to remove her hijab when asked.

“If I weren’t Muslim, I think I would be so afraid of these people,” she said, referring to Muslims. That’s precisely why she came to volunteer, hijab proudly wrapped around her head.

“For me, it’s discouraging. We want to show that we are against this violence,” she said, adding, “We are demotivated.”

Her sister, Amina, a third-year engineering student, faced the same difficult decision.

Amina had already been to the recruitment center a week prior to the Nice attack and went back again, by herself, more determined following the attack.

Both times, she agreed to take off her hijab in front of the uniformed men, though she really didn’t want to. She said it felt like undressing in public.

“I think the ends justify the means. That’s why I took it off,” Amina said in her flawless English. “I really want to commit and help people, and also try to give another image of Muslim girls, and Muslims in general.”

Anger is boiling over in Nice, which leans conservative. At the memorial ceremony for the victims, some residents argued with Muslim citizens. In the days after the attack, some in the city voiced their support for the National Front, France’s far-right political party, which has used anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Amina hopes joining the military reserves while she finishes her engineering degree can help change minds in France. Or, at the very least, it can help change the minds of French Muslim girls like her.

“Maybe it will encourage other girls to do something they didn’t think they could do before,” she said. “Maybe it will change things.”

French Islam: ‘imam formation must be appropriate and independent’

Following the recent attacks on French soil the rector of the mosque in Bordeaux, Tareq Oubrou, judged that the gathering of Muslims and Catholics constituted “a first in the history of Islamo-Christian relations in France. It’s thanks to the Church’s position regarding its declarations [following the attack], and thanks to the Catholic Church’s open doors in its parishes,” he said.

The religious representative believes that “a complete reworking of the Muslim ideology” is necessary, as it is “still medieval” and contains “a canon law that was formulated in the Middle Ages and should be reworded.” He also stated that “the training of imams should be appropriate and [must benefit] from both a theological and political independence regarding the countries of origin that, unfortunately, still have a dominance over Islam.”

French Muslim intellectuals critique current organization of Islam in France

“Following the killings of cartoonists, after the murders of young people listening to music, after the assassination of a police couple, after the murders of children, women, and men assisting at the celebration of the fete nationale, and today the murder of a priest conducting mass…There is horror, still more horror and a clear commitment to pit Frenchmen against one another. To destroy the national harmony which still stands. We Muslims were silent because we learned that in France religion is a private affair. We must now speak out because Islam has become a public affair and the current situation can no longer be tolerated.

As Muslims, of faith or culture, we are concerned by the powerlessness of the current Muslim organization of France, which has no control over events. Despite the efforts of those engaged, French Islam is badly managed by the representatives of countries where many French Muslims originate. This organization likely made sense when Muslims were immigrants. Today, the Muslims of France are 75% French. The majority is young, very young. Many among them are the prey not only of ideologues of radical Islam but also of political Islam. The traditional representatives no longer understand simply because they no longer know them.

So, it is necessary to change generations, with a clearly organized project: provide sustainable sources of financing and ensure transparent and open mosques, train and employ imams, engage in historical, anthropological, and theological endeavors which allow and will allow more people to be French and Muslim in the secular Republic. And finally, to lead the cultural battle against radical Islamism which concerns younger and younger youths, with the most modern means and techniques drawing on the most effective ideas and information. We must act as Muslims.

But also as Frenchmen. We must respond to French society’s questions, which ask us: ‘But who are you? What are you doing?’

Certainly this question is paradoxical: we have learned to make religion a private affair. Then why speak as Muslims? Because the risk of fracture becomes more pressing every day. So, before it is too late, before violence pits one against the other—this is Daech’s objective—we must act and assume responsibility. And we must move beyond the paradox: ‘Rid yourselves of difference; condemn because you are different.’ Through hard work and self-denial but also because the Republic has done its work, we have, as other citizens have as well, taken our place in French society. And today, this generation is ready to assume its responsibilities, notably the organization of French Islam.

A Foundation for French Islam was created more than ten years ago. It never functioned. It is time to reactivate it, to give it the ability to collect resources. The French of Muslim faith are ready to re-launch it, to give it life, to contribute to its financing. This foundation, at the national level as well as the regional level, could be the institution that will allow for the organization of French Islam. Beyond that, it is a pursuit of perspective, of social and cultural action, which we are ready to harness.

As Frenchmen, as well as Muslims. Because France needs it.”

The signatories: Kaci Ait Yala, chef d’entreprise ; Najoua El Atfani, cadre entreprise BTP, administratice club XXIe siècle ; Rahmene Azzouzi, chef du service urologie, CHU d’Angers ; Linda Belaidi, dirigeante EASI (European Agency for Strategic Intelligence) ; Tayeb Belmihoub, auteur, comédien ; Sadek Beloucif, chef du service anesthésie réanimation, hôpital Avicenne, ex-membre du Comité national d’éthique ; Amine Benyamina, professeur de psychiatrie et d’addictologie ; Nadia Bey, journaliste ; Abdennour Bidar, philosophe, inspecteur général de l’éducation nationale ; Antar Boudiaf ; Hamou Bouakkaz, conseiller d’arrondissement, ancien adjoint au maire de Paris ; Marc Chebsun, auteur, éditorialiste ; Abdelnor Chehlaoui, banquier d’affaires ; Fatiha Gas, directrice d’un établissement d’enseignement supérieur ; Mohamed Ghannem, chef du service cardiologie, Fondation Léopold-Bellan ; M’jid El Guerrab, ancien conseiller du président du Sénat ; Kamel Haddar, entrepreneur (éducation et média) ; Abderrahim Hafidi, universitaire, islamologue ; Sofiène Haj Taieb, DG Finances, fonds d’investissement ; Khalid Hamdani, chef d’entreprise, membre du Cese ; Majid Si Hocine, médecin ; Mehdi Houas, président Talan (conseil informatique), ancien ministre ; Elyès Jouini, professeur d’université, vice-président d’université, ancien ministre ; Hakim El Karoui, ancien conseiller du Premier ministre, chef d’entreprise ; Bariza Khiari, sénatrice de Paris ; Saadallah Khiari, cinéaste, auteur ; Shiraz Latiri, cadre, société d’assurance ; Kamel Maouche, avocat au barreau de Paris ; Kaouthar Mehrez, ingénieur ; Malika Menner, directeur des Relations externes d’un grand groupe télécom ; Louisa Mezreb, PDG Facem management ; Naima M’Faddel, adjointe au maire de Dreux, chargée de l’action sociale ; Pap’Amadou Ngom, PDG Des systèmes et des hommes ; Bouchra Rejani, directrice générale d’une société de production audiovisuelle ; Mahamadou Lamine Sagna, sociologue, chercheur à Paris-VII ; Nadir Saïfi, juriste ; Yasmine Seghirate, responsable de la communication pour une organisation internationale ; Mohsen Souissi, ingénieur ; François-Aïssa Touazi, fondateur CAPmena, ancien conseiller du ministère des Affaires étrangères ; Farid Yaker, président forum France Algérie ; Faiez Zannad, professeur de thérapeutique-­cardiologie, CHU Nancy, université de Lorraine.

Valls considers ban on foreign funding for mosques

The French government is considering banning the foreign financing of mosques as it reshapes its counter-extremism strategy following a fresh wave of terror attacks.

Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister, told Le Monde the prohibition would be for an indefinite period but gave no further detail on the policy.

“There needs to be a thorough review to form a new relationship with French Islam,” he added. “We live in a changed era and we must change our behaviour. This is a revolution in our security culture…the fight against radicalisation will be the task of a generation.”

Following the murder of a priest by teenage ISIS supporters at a church in Normandy and the Nice attack, Valls said France was “at war” and predicted further atrocities.

“This war, which does not only concern France, will be long and we will see more attacks,” he added.

“But we will win, because France has a strategy to win this war. First we must crush the external enemy.”

The French government has come under increasing criticism for failing to prevent atrocities, including the latest attack in Normandy.

Security services were tipped off that Abdel Malik Petitjean, 19, was planning an attack but police were reportedly unable to identify him from photos and a video showing him declaring allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

He was already on country’s “fiche S” terror watchlist for attempting to travel to Syria in June but slipped through the net to re-enter France after being stopped by Turkish authorities. Petitjean and 19-year-old Adel Kermiche took six people hostage at a church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray and slit the throat of its priest, Father Jacques Hamel, before being shot dead by police.

Kermiche was also known to security services and was wearing an electronic surveillance tag while on bail as he awaited trial for membership of a terror organisation at the time.

It came less than a fortnight after the Nice attack, when a Tunisian man killed 84 people and injured 300 more when he ploughed a lorry into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.

Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was not among the 10,000 names on the “fiche S” but the inclusion of terrorists including several of the Paris attackers, the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen and their accomplice Amedy Coulibaly, as well as a lorry driver who beheaded his manager and attempted to blow up a chemical plant has shown the system to be ineffective.

Intelligence officials have admitted that they are under-resourced to deal with the potential threat from each individual, who would need up to 20 people monitoring them every day.

France’s continuing state of emergency has drastically expanded detention powers, sparking a wave of controversial house arrests since November.

Responding to criticism, Mr Valls said his government would not create a “French Guantanamo” or be swayed by populism.

Valls explains ‘pact’ he wants to build with Islam in France

Prime Minister Manuel Valls advocated the construction of a pact with the Islam of France aimed to join forces to combat the phenomenon of radicalization. In an interview with the weekly Journal de Dimanche, Valls estimated that “Islam has found its place within the Republic”, but with the rise of extremism we have the urgency to “build a true covenant.”

Referring to radicalization, he said that “this infernal mechanical pushes individuals, sometimes very young- men, women, Muslim or converted recently- to take up weapons and use them against their countries.”

The French authorities have been concerned for months about the increasing level of radicalization in a part of the population, especially the youths, a phenomenon that is evident in the increasing travels to the Middle East to join terrorist groups like IS.

However, other analysts draw attention to the socio-economic conditions leading to radicalization, since there is a large group of socially marginalized youths in France and Europe.

Life Sentences Upheld for Brothers Convicted in Terror Plot

CAMDEN, N.J. — Three immigrant brothers sentenced to life in prison for plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix will not have their life sentences overturned.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler said in his ruling made public Tuesday that he didn’t buy the arguments from Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka that they were wrongly convicted in 2008 because their lawyers kept them from testifying.

Kugler ruled Friday that he found testimony from their defense attorneys at a January hearing more credible.

ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/life-sentences-upheld-brothers-convicted-terror-plot-39523260

Unsettling U.S. Political Climate Galvanizes Muslims to Vote

These are unsettling times for many American Muslims. “People are losing their sleep,” said Naeem Baig, the president of the Islamic Circle of North America. “The political environment is creating a divide in America” by race, language, gender and religion.

But it has also had an unintended consequence: galvanizing Muslims to vote.

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/02/us/unsettling-political-climate-galvanizes-muslims-to-vote.html

Nathalie Goulet discusses foreign financing and recent Senate report (pdf)

Following the recent attacks on French soil several politicians have proposed measures to reform Islam’s structure and the financing of Islam in France. For Nathalie Goulet, UDI senator from Orne who recently published a report on foreign financing, the priority should be to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams and to establish a foundation to centralize Islam’s financing in France.

Le Monde: Foreign countries are often criticized for their influence on Islam in France. Is it true?

Nathalie Goulet: The influence of certain countries came as a great surprise to many when our report was published. But it’s not always those that we think that have the greatest presence. The Gulf countries are much less influential than the ‘countries of origin,’ Algeria, Morocco, and Turkey. These three states exercise a real influence by financing the construction of buildings and schools, imam training, and supplying imams for France’s mosques—who are paid by their countries of origin—and through the governance of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

Le Monde: Manuel Valls said he was in favor of a temporary suspension of financing from foreign countries. Do you agree?

Goulet: The Prime Minister speaks of suspending foreign financing, but who will be their replacements? While one could hope that there would be no more foreign financing, it would be a mistake to think that the problem could be solved just like that. The question of foreign financing is ancillary. The Louvre or the Arab World Institute also receive foreign funding, in a transparent manner. Before anything, we must work to end the practice of ‘supplied’ imams who are trained in Morocco.

Le Monde: According to the report there are 301 imams sent from other countries for around 2,500 places of worship. Where is the problem?

There are 301 opportunities, for French citizens of Muslim faith, to assist with sermons led by imams who are not French and from foreign countries. It’s more problematic than foreign funding of mosques. Imams sent from Turkey, for example, arrive under the title of “social workers” and not as imams. They barely speak French, have never seen an Armenian in their life, and don’t know that in France we recognize the Armenian Genocide. The majority of supplied imams have never received an education on the Holocaust, the death penalty, homophobia…they don’t know these important contextual references, but they play a role in communities.

Le Monde: Why is the question of financing critical?

Goulet: We consider Islam to be a religion like any other, but we don’t provide it with the means to be. Islam is a recent religion in our territory. There is a need for catch-up compared to other religions. The Muslim communities need structure, schools, mosques, and associations. Muslims need to be able to practice their religion decently.

Today, if a 14 year-old girl wants to wear the veil, she is going to find an Islamic school, but there are few. A Jewish child who wants to keep Kosher and wear a kippa will find a Jewish school. The tensions are more pronounced in Muslim communities because they don’t have all the tools to practice their religion.

Le Monde: What are the paths for financing Islam in France? What do you think about the idea of re-launching a ‘foundation of French Islam’ discussed by Manuel Valls?

Goulet: We must revive the Foundation for Islamic Works to monitor foreign funds. This foundation must have a joint government with a representative from the State Council and an accountant from the Treasury. We must also implement cost accounting so that Algerian money is used for Algerian places of worship, money from Morocco is used for Moroccan places of worship…it’s necessary if we want the communities to agree to this foundation. Algerians don’t want to pay for Turks, and vice versa, even if the idea of an Algerian place of worship makes no sense in France.

Le Monde: Julien Dray, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Francois Bayrou support instituting a “halal tax” to finance Islam in France.

Goulet: Legally, it’s impossible to institute a tax on a religious item…and technically, a ‘halal tax’ would also be impossible to institute in practice, because there is no consensus on the notion of halal.

What could be possible is that religious representatives themselves institute a private fee for services relating to slaughter, which would be set by the community, collected, and sent to the Foundation.

Le Monde: Aside from financing, is there a representation problem?

Goulet: Establishing the CFCM was necessary, there needs to be an interlocutor with the State. But throughout the years, this body has never succeeded in being representative. If I was president of the CFCM, I would open up a debate, I would establish constituent assembly to review the statutes, I would call on youths and members of associations, who may feel excluded, I would institute the principle of one man, one woman, one vote…But that must come from Muslims themselves. Maybe one day, young Muslims will launch an online petition and create a concurrent association.