France fears Iran’s Revolutionary Guard terror listing would fuel crisis

France said on Monday it was worried that designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist group could exacerbate tensions in the region, and appeared to urge Tehran to show restraint.

“In the context of regional instability, France is vigilant on any actions that could exacerbate the current crises,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne told a daily briefing, when asked if Paris backed putting the IRGC on a terrorism list.

“With this in mind, regional states have a specific role to play and must show restraint and a sense of responsibility,” she said.

Trump is to unveil his strategy on how he wants to contain Tehran in the region next week and is expected to decertify a landmark 2015 international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, in a step that potentially could cause the accord to unravel.

Moroccan, French FMs discuss economic, security ties

The foreign ministers of Morocco and France met in Rabat on October 9 to discuss means of promoting bilateral cooperation in the economic, security and cultural arenas.

“Talks focused on means of enhancing the relationship between our two countries,” Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said in a joint press conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who arrived in Morocco on Monday for a two-day visit.

According to Bourita, the meeting provided an opportunity to discuss a range of pressing issues, including an upcoming visit to Morocco by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

Le Drian’s current visit to Morocco, Bourita said, came within the context of ongoing efforts to enhance bilateral ties — including stepped-up strategic cooperation — between Morocco and France.

“The fight against extremism and terrorism is a key component of the continued cooperation between Rabat and Paris,” the Moroccan minister asserted, pointing in particular to what he described as “exemplary cooperation” in the security field.

Morocco, he went on to note, had recently helped train dozens of French imams as part of a bilateral agreement aimed at combatting extremist rhetoric.

In September of 2015, then French President Francois Hollande and Moroccan King Mohammed VI signed an agreement to train French imams with a view to bringing their rhetoric into line with the values ​​of “moderate” Islam.

At the press conference, Le Drian described the cooperation between the two friendly countries as “important and serious”.

Monday’s talks, he added, had focused largely on economic and security cooperation, along with the issues of migration and environment.

Manchester bomber’s Libyan experiences and radicalisation

Manchester bomber Salman Abedi, 22, may have been radicalised through his connections to Libya. His father fled Libya to escape Ghadafi because Abedi senior was connected to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which had tried to assassinate Ghadafi. LIFG was prominently represented at the Muslim-Brotherhood-affiliated Didsbury Mosque which the Abedi family attended. After 9/11, the LIFG was declared an Al Qaeda affiliate and its funding was cut off. The Abedi family’s escape of Libya occurred before the birth of Salman Abedi; however, when Salman was 16, Abedi senior returned to Libya after the Arab Spring when the opportunity to finally overthrow Ghadafi presented itself.

As a result, Salman Abedi moved often between war-torn Tripoli and Manchester. At some point, it is suspected that he went with other Libyans to fight in Syria, where he saw American bombs killing Muslim children. He was full of contradictions, as he drank and used drugs but was violent towards women who adhered to Western sexuality norms.

Salman Abedi was radicalised into a different form of violence than his father. While his father abhorred ISIS, Abedi embraced it after his experiences with cultural clash and violence in Syria. This led to the tragic events last week.

France to invest $47 million in Sahel counterterrorism training program

France plans to invest 42 million euros ($47 million) to help countries of Africa’s Sahel region prepare to face jihadist attacks similar to those that killed dozens in Paris in 2015, an interior ministry official said on Friday.

The Sahel, a politically fragile region whose remote desert spaces host a medley of jihadist groups, is seen as vulnerable to further attacks after strikes on soft targets in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast earlier this year.

Nearby Senegal, a Western security partner with a long history of stability, has so far been spared.

“In future we will train all the countries of the G5 Sahel and Senegal with 42 million Euros in financing, including 24 million Euros for equipment,” said a spokeswoman for Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve during his visit to Dakar on Friday.

G5 Sahel is a regional security organisation composed of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. The investment period is 2017-2022, the spokeswoman added.

French riot control officers from the CRS are currently in Senegal for a month training Senegalese police forces to combat urban attacks on soft targets ahead of the broader programme.

In the simulation exercise watched by Cazeneuve as well as army elites and foreign diplomats, Senegalese police arrived swiftly on the scene after masked jihadists killed three students before holing up with hostages inside a university bus.

The jihadists were killed and the remaining hostages released and given medical treatment in the drill.

“We have reinforced police cooperation so that the first ones on the scene, the specialized forces, can intervene in case of mass murder with a highly efficient response,” said Cazeneuve in a speech shortly after the demonstration.

Former colonial power France retains a military presence in Senegal with 350 soldiers. A much larger force of 3,500 is spread across Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso to hunt down jihadists.

Senegal’s ally the United States has also boosted military cooperation with the country and this year signed a cooperation agreement to ease the deployment of American troops there.

 

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.

Saudi funded mosque opens in Nice after 15-year struggle

A Saudi-funded mosque in Nice opened its doors for the first time on Saturday, after a 15-year struggle with the local town hall.

The Nicois En-nour Institute mosque received authorization to open early on Saturday from the local prefect, substituting for town mayor Philippe Pradal, who recently took over from Christian Estrosi.

Estrosi was opposed to the construction of the mosque and in April had secured the green light to sue the French state in a bid to block its opening in the southern city.

He had accused the building’s owner, Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulaziz, of “advocating sharia” and wanting to “destroy all of the churches on the Arabian peninsula”.

Estrosi, mayor since 2008, said that the project, which was initiated under his predecessor in 2002, was unauthorized.

People in Nice had shown their support for the mosque, with a petition for it garnering over 2,000 signatures.

It’s no surprise that the mosque is popular. Practicing Muslims in the Riviera city have so far only had one smallish downtown option at which to pray, where worshippers can spill out on the street at peak praying times.

The mosque’s opening was described as “a real joy” by Ouassini Mebarek, lawyer and head of a local religious association.

“But there is no smug triumphalism,” he said. “This is recognition of the law, and a right to freely practise one’s religion in France in accordance with the values of French Republic.”

Ten Muslim faithful entered the mosque’s basement, which can hold 880 worshippers, for evening prayers.

“A Muslim prefers the house of God to his own home, provided it is beautiful,” said Abdelaziz, one of the worshippers who came to pray with his son Mohamed.

In the room reserved for women, Amaria, a mother from neighboring Moulins said: “Today we are happy. Happy and relieved to have found this place. … We are tired of hiding ourselves, we aren’t mice.”

The construction of the mosque began in 2003 in a building in an office district.

July 2, 2016

Original Source: http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2016/07/02/la-mosquee-de-nice-ouvre-apres-15-ans-d-une-gestation-douloureuse_1463633

Senators critique an ‘Islam of France’ under foreign influence

The Senate report is concerned with France’s dependence on Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, and Tunisia for certain religious affairs. It lists the domains where their influence remains strong: financing mosques, providing and sending imams overseas to France, and determining the structure of the Islamic federations. However, according to the figures provided in the report, the funds from foreign countries are less than we might think: six  million each year from Morocco and no more than 4 million from Saudi Arabia.

The report argues that the resources exist in France, notably from donations from worshippers. “An imam confirmed…that zakat received during Ramadan increased more than 1 million,” said senator Nathalie Goulet. The report is not opposed to foreign funding but rather hopes to increase transparency. To do that the senators hope to relaunch the Foundation for Islam in France, created in the mid 2000s but never truly inaugurated. It would collect and redistribute funds.

July 6, 2016

Source: http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2016/07/06/01016-201607-en-france-un-rapport-denonce-l-ambiguite-de-l-etat.php

 

 

Islamophobia Threatens Democracy in Europe, Report Says

In a report on the health of democracy in the post-Soviet world, Freedom House painted a bleak picture of the state of liberal values in parts of Europe. The Washington-based human rights advocacy organization, which publishes a global freedom index every year, highlighted a number of worrying trends in 29 countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia.

Chief among them was the strengthening of authoritarian politics in a number of countries, as well as the rise of “illiberal nationalism” in others, particular European Union democracies like Poland and Hungary. The European struggle to come to grips with the migrant crisis on its borders, as well as ongoing economic turmoil, are the leading causes of this democratic malaise, according to Freedom House.

The new assessments were published this week in Freedom House’s annual Nations In Transit report, focused on the countries that started transitioning toward democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. It usesthe organization’s specific ratings that evaluate nations across a range of criteria, from corruption to the strength of electoral institutions to the independence of the media. Weighted for population, the average Democracy Score in the 29 countries profiled by Freedom House has declined for 12 years in a row.

“The biggest challenge to democracy in Europe is the spread of deeply illiberal politics,” details Freedom House’s press release. This, as WorldViews has charted over the past year, has been very much on display in the response to an influx of refugees and migrants from Syria and other countries. Right-wing politicians, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, fanned populist flames by grandstanding over the threat of Muslim migration.

Their rhetoric, garbed in ominous declarations of a clash of civilizations, played to domestic audiences and, in a few cases, boosted the political prospects of some ruling parties. Governments from Poland to Slovakia to Hungary rejected E.U. proposals to accommodate tiny numbers of refugees.

Leaders in these countries, the report states, “exploited the crisis to strengthen their populist appeal, disregarding fundamental humanitarian principles and the ideals of democratic pluralism for short-term partisan gain.”

The mood exacerbated wider strains within the European Union, whichfaces an existential moment in June as Britain votes in a referendum on its membership in Europe.

“Claiming that Europe faces a Muslim invasion has become standard fare for a range of politicians and political parties in Europe,” Nate Schenkkan, project director of Nations in Transit, said in a statement. “This kind of speech undermines democracy by rejecting one of its fundamental principles—equality before the law. There is a danger that this kind of hateful, paranoid speech will lead to violence against minorities and refugees.”

The report also digs into various social and political crises in Eurasia sparked by the drop in global oil prices, the scourge of corruption in Ukraine and the deepening dictatorships of Central Asia. You can read it in full here.

World Hijab Day celebrated on February 1st

world-hijabOn February 1st, millions of women, either Muslim or non-Muslim, prepared their headscarf to don hijab for a day, showing solidarity and respect to Muslim women’s choice to cover.

“I think it is important today to try to understand and experience other cultures and belief system,” Elizabeth Croucher, a non-Muslim Londoner, told OnIslam.net.

Muslim and non-Muslim women wearing a traditional Islamic head scarf will march on the streets of 116 countries to mark the third anniversary of World Hijab Day.

The World Hijab Day, held for the third consecutive year, is the brain child of a New York resident, Nazma Khan, who came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding. Suggesting the event, Khan wanted to encourage non-Muslim women to don the hijab and experience it before judging Muslim women.