Friends With ISIS: How To Tell One Young Woman’s Story

Like most developing stories, nothing was for certain. Earlier this year I went to rural Washington State to meet a young woman who had befriended Islamic State sympathizers over the Internet.  Rukmini Callimachi, the reporter on the story, received a tip about “Alex” from an online activist. In February, we spoke to the 23-year-old woman and her grandmother by phone and discussed protecting their identities in exchange for telling her story.

France: Islamophobic attacks increase by 23.5 %

Islamophobic acts in France have increased by 23.5 percent in the first six months of 2015 compared with the same period last year, a French nongovernmental organization has said in a new report.

The figure was released Thursday in a report titled “Islamophobia in France six months after the January 2015 terrorist attacks” by the Paris-based Collective against Islamophobia in France organization.

“Attacks against mosques, death threats against veiled women, school kids humiliated by their teachers, female students prohibited from wearing long skirts, religious profiling of Muslim children, propagation of hate speeches and even declarations of war on Muslims whom are portrayed as a fifth column… the consequences have been and still are dire for Muslims,” the report said.

Moreover, physical assaults increased by 500 percent and verbal attacks by 100 percent during the initial months of 2015, the report said, adding that women were among the first victims of Islamophobia.

“Discrimination and violence against adults are now joined by the humiliations inflicted on numerous Muslim children that have been blamed for the terrorist attacks,” it said.

However, few people were making complaints about the Islamophobic acts because of apparently two main reasons: “Agents refuse to take my complaint,” and secondly: “Perpetrators are rarely convicted and if they are, justice is very lenient.”

The report also referred to a recent dialogue between Muslim representatives and the French Ministry of Interior, noting that the ministry had “urged police officials to accept complaints from victims of Islamophobia”.

After the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks in France last January, Islamophobia is believed to have increased manifolds in France, which is home to nearly five million Muslims, most of whom are from North Africa.Graffiti

Muslims call for ‘combatting extremism and terrorism’

“France is experiencing its second shock in six months,” said Kamel Kabtane (rector of the Grand mosque of Lyon), Laid Bendidi (president of the regional Muslim council), and Azzedine Gaci (rector of the Villeurbanne mosque), in a joint statement following the attack in Isere. They “wish to express their condemnation of the diabolical attack carried out during the month of Ramadan at the Air Products of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier factory.”

The three religious leaders called on “all mosques in the Rhône-Alpes region to use Friday prayer to call on Muslims to unambiguously fight and condemn all extremism and terrorism.” They added that no one should “tolerate that which the messengers of hatred do in the name of Islam,” and hope for a mobilization “all together, everyone together, to combat these criminals who want to weaken our country.”

© Tim Douet
© Tim Douet

After attack, French Council of the Muslim Faith launches appeal

“The CFCM condemns with the greatest vigor the terror attack that struck the Air Products of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier factory in Isere,” wrote the former president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith Dalil Boubakeur. “The CFCM expresses its deepest outrage following the unspeakable acts that cannot be claimed by any religion or cause,” he added, before calling on “the entire national community to awareness, unity, and to solidarity.”

The president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, Abdallah Zekri, “condemned with force this barbaric and blind terrorism that claims religious roots but is in complete contradiction with the Islam’s values and more particularly during the month of Ramadan, a month of piety, brotherhood, and of sharing.

“A decapitation in Isere! The peak of the despicable and of the abominable has been reached,” said M. Zekri, who is also a part of the CFCM. “It is time for the great powers to react effectively and to stop countries from financing this terrorism,” he said.

© AFP Dalil Boubaker
© AFP Dalil Boubaker

Collective Against Islamophobia in France Statement

“The CCIF is profoundly shocked by the latest unspeakable act of violence. We send our condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

In an already difficult environment, where French society is plagued by a rise in racism and intolerance as well as by a recrudescence in Islamophobic acts, we warn against any attempt at amalgamations and ask that security for places of worship be reinforced, especially during the month of Ramadan where mosques are frequently attended.

We ask the leaders of places of worship to remain vigilant, and to report any hostile act to the authorities while alerting the CCIF (contact@islamophobie.net).

Danger does not lie in the vain attempts of armed groups to weaken the Republic. Its principles are anchored in the French spirit, as our country’s History has shown.

The real danger lies with those who use these events to unleash their hate against a segment of the population which is, in fact, the one who pays the highest price in the face of terrorism.”

France Deporting Radical Muslim Imams

Are some mosques brewing militant Islam and terrorism? France thinks so, and they are doing something about it.

Over the past three years, France has deported 40 foreign imams for “preaching hatred.” A quarter of those have taken place since the January terror attacks in Paris, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday.

The minister vowed to clamp down on mosques and preachers inciting hatred after a suspected Islamist beheaded his boss during an attack on a gas factory last week, according to Radio France International.
Any “foreign preacher of hate will be deported,” said Cazeneuve, adding that several mosques were being investigated for inciting terrorism and if found to be doing so, “will be shut down.”

Yassin Salhi, 35, on Sunday confessed during interrogation to killing his boss and pinning his head to a fence of the Air Products factory near the eastern city of Lyon.

The severed head was discovered flanked by two Islamic flags and it later emerged Salhi had sent a selfie of himself with the head to a number believed to belong to a French jihadist currently in Syria.

After the attack French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French television, “We cannot lose this war because it’s fundamentally a war of civilization. It’s our society, our civilization that we are defending.”

AP Photo/Patrick Gardin
AP Photo/Patrick Gardin

Bernard Cazeneuve’s call to Muslims against radical Islam

While attending the break-fast at the Grand Mosque of Paris, Bernard Cazeneuve called on Muslims to combat radical Islam, less than a week after the attack in Isere.

“The best fortification against terrorism is French Muslims themselves, and the Republic, with all of its abilities and Republican values,” declared the interior minister.

Addressing religious leaders, among which was rector of the mosque Dalil Boubakeur and the new president of the CFCM Anouar Kbibech. Cazeneuve said he “completely [understands] your indignation and horror when you know it is in the name of Islam, relying on misguided texts, that terrorists commit their atrocities.”

The minister of religion’s remarks followed: “It all comes back to you, French Muslims, religious authorities, because only you can [combat terrorism] with knowledge, continue to denounce the duplicity of such discourse, to critique their beliefs, to never leave room for radicalization and hate.”

Cazeneuve continued: “I want to applaud the efforts that you use in order to uphold an Islam of peace to enlightenment.”

Several minutes before, Boubakeur welcomed the minister, discussing the “war of civilization that threatens our country.”

“Rest assured that all French Muslims support your decisions and hope that order is restored to our places of worship, in our mosques, which likely to host radicals or suspects that threaten our security,” stated the rector.

© AFP MIGUEL MEDINA
© AFP MIGUEL MEDINA

In Algeria, Islam seen as an enemy in France

Abdou Semmar, editor of Algerie Focus, discussed Islam in France and the latter’s difficulty taking responsibility and its need to be “better armed against extremist Salafism.”

Q: What do you think of Manuel Valls’s remarks on the “war of civilization”?

A: “I’m not surprised that a prime minister, no matter their political affiliation, holds this type of belief. France is not intellectually armed to fight extremist Salafism, which thrives in social areas that escape state control. France is divided in half. A wall separates it. There is the France that Manuel Valls knows, and the poor banlieues. In these areas, the dream of integration failed and a communitarian Islam, that of basements and stairwellsPoliticians, has developed. The youths declare themselves Muslims to annoy the white people that reject them. They practice Islam as a resistance method. Salafists work in these areas. In the absence of political support, Manuel Valls is forced to adopt a rightist discourse in order to leave no room for the National Front.

Q: Do you feel there is an anti-Islam sentiment in France?

A: “Islam is seen as an enemy. We don’t see it as an element with which we can live in peace. Secularism has become a dogma. And secularism’s missteps have brought about significant unease. It pushes young people to feel discriminated against and to radicalize. We see, for example, the veil as a backward step for feminism. We refuse to see Muslims as an integral part of French society. There are around 5 million Muslims in France, that’s 8% of the population. For example, unlike in Germany, there are no public holidays for Muslims. For Aid, the French Muslim is obligated to take the day off or lie, while he pays his taxes just like everyone else. In my opinion, before anything can improve France needs to accept its cosmopolitanism. We have Versailles, beautiful neighborhoods on one side and Barbès on the other. It’s easier to get from Algiers to its suburbs than to get to the northern districts of Marseille. Once assumed, this cosmopolitanism must become a political tool. And finally, the development of a folkloric and outlandish Islam must be stopped, this communitarian Islam of the banlieues.”

Muslims in Spain condemn the extremist assassinations

“We are shocked and awed by the cruel slaughter perpetrated by terrorists in the headquarters of the satirical weekly journal, Charlie Hebdo in Paris, a heartless criminal action, with total disregard for human life that deserves our strongest condemnation and conviction.

From the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain and the Islamic Commission of Spain, we strongly condemn this murderous action, feeling solidarity with the French people, with whom we are in dismayed, feeling their pain as ours, together in whatever are our religious beliefs or humanistic views we adhere to the condemnation expressed by our Government of Spain and express our condolences and solidarity for the victims, on behalf of the Spanish people.

We reiterate once again, from the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain, our firm condemnation of the violence that is no way to solve anything but only to deepen a conflict and to deepen the wounds and resentments, especially with these heinous murders, which we condemn and reject with disgust.

We hope that the ongoing research will succeed so that all citizens can continue to build a future of peace, safe from criminal threats, and we pray to God Almighty for it.”