Did time in London radicalize Abdulmutallab?

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent 2005-08 living in a 3-bedroom apartment in London’s West End as an engineering and business finance student at University College London. Experts wonder whether those years, characterized by anger over the Iraq War and the 2005 London subway/bus bombing, could have played a role in radicalizing Abdulmutallab.

While London is an exciting city for Muslims from other countries with its higher education options, jobs, and distance from family home, it is also described by Mamoun Fandy, International Institute for Strategic Studies as “a mecca of jihad.” The years Abdulmutallab spent there saw a spike in the spread of radical Islamic ideas.

Today, Muslims still have access to many different interpretations of Islam in London, including “intense Koranic views.”

“I’ve felt for a long time that if radical Sharia law comes to the rest of the world it will start on the streets of London,” says a Pakistani expert on militant Islam. “Too many clerics today, even moderate ones, don’t talk on Muslim life in a secular state. Young Muslims are smart, raised as British citizens. If they come from abroad, many have great hope and are often disillusioned. They live between worlds, in the cracks. When they go home to their families they are often more radical than their friends.”

“There remains in London a problem of assimilation for outsiders. The society is closed. The city is open, but the people are not,” Fandy said.

At this point in the investigation, his background and path to violent jihad is still unclear. One source claims he was recruited to militant Islam while living in London. Another claims he was already espousing radical views while still in boarding school in West Africa, before he ever went to college. But the US is now questioning whether Britain is posing a major threat to national security.

“Saifullah” allegedly recruited Americans for jihad training in Pakistan

As Pakistani law enforcement officials began questioning the group from a multiethnic, working-class enclave in Virginia, investigators sought more information about a suspected Pakistani militant they knew only as Saifullah.

Investigators believe that Saifullah recruited the Americans, some of whom were college students, through an exchange of emails in late summer and the fall. Saifullah then tried to arrange for them to head to Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border, sanctuaries for the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida.

Note: this summary was taken directly from the article (linked to above) in the Los Angeles Times.

Pakistan seeking information on Americans seeking to train for jihad; no plans to deport

Police raided a hotel where the five American would-be jihadists stayed upon arrival in Pakistan. They recovered a mobile phone and five bags, but no major clues were discovered.

There has been speculation about Pakistan deporting the men, but no plans to send them back the US are currently in place. They cannot be handed over to the FBI without permission of the Lahore High Court.

The Americans attempted to contact a jihad group in Pakistan through the internet, and traveled to the country to train for jihad. They have not been charged.

Swiss websites have been hacked by Islamists

Islamists, some of them from Turkey, have hacked over 2,000 Swiss websites and sabotaged them by putting up Swastikas and other fascist symbols, equating the Swiss to fascists after the vote on the minaret ban. They also left a message, saying “Our war against the enemies of the true religion of Islam will go on”. Other websites showed a mosque when loading.

Arrests of Americans in Pakistan raise concerns about possible trends of homegrown terrorism and radicalization abroad

In the years since 9/11 no further terrorist attacks have occurred, and the American war on terror was partly predicated upon the idea that fighting terrorism abroad will prevent fighting it at home. But a recent string of terrorism arrests is challenging the idea that American soil is immune to homegrown radicalism. The Obama Administration this week conceded that the US now faces a rising threat of homegrown radicalism.

This raises a new question: are Muslims in the US really more assimilated and less prone to extremism than European Muslims?

Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University terrorism expert says “it is myopic to believe we could insulate ourselves from the currents affecting Muslims everywhere else.”

Minaret demonstration ends peacefully

Around 700 Muslims on Saturday held a peaceful demonstration in Switzerland’s capital to protest the result of a vote banning the construction of new minarets. Speakers at the afternoon rally outside the parliament in Bern denounced the ban, approved in a referendum two weeks ago, as a “smear campaign”. The protest was not supported by the country’s main Muslim organizations.

“We have shown exactly what we wanted to,” said Nicolas Blancho, an organizer.

Blancho said he believed the 57.5 percent of people who voted to ban minarets, the spires attached to mosques, did not hate Islam but were frightened by propaganda.

He said that no Muslims in Switzerland had ever demanded the introduction of shari’a law. The Swiss right had made radical Islam and shari’a law one of the central issues in the campaign to ban minarets.

Radical German Muslim preacher Pierre Vogel barred from Swiss rally

The Swiss authorities have barred a controversial Islamic preacher from Germany from attending a planned demonstration against the minaret ban in Bern on Saturday. Pierre Vogel was not allowed to enter Switzerland because his presence is considered a danger for public law and order, according to the Federal Migration Office. He was scheduled to give a speech at the rally. The convert and former professional boxer is known for his strongly conservative and Salafist views.

Vogel wanted to encourage Muslims in Switzerland to come out of their social isolation and help reduce mistrust, he told Swiss newspapers. In an interview with the Swiss SonntagsBlick after his entry ban, Vogel said that he was against the construction of minarets as they are no necessary part of Islam but rather a decoration. The money should instead be used for social work on deliquent Muslim youths.

Interview with Avi Primor: fighting the causes of Islamist terrorism

Avi Primor, Israel’s former ambassador to Germany and Director of the Center for European Studies at the private university IDC Herzliya, explains in conversation with Eren Güvercin how best to tackle the root causes of Islamic extremism.
He argues that the war on terrorism must be conducted together with Muslims, rather than against them.

The extreme forms of Islamism and terrorism, he claims, are not necessarily linked to the Islamic religion and its ideals, and it is important to highlight this. Furthermore, it must be understood where the terror comes from, perhaps not even by trying to convince the key figures of terrorism, but by solving the social problems of their many supporters.

Avi Primor has also published a book on this topic, “Mit dem Islam gegen den Terror” (With Islam against Terror).

Americans detained in Pakistan, suspected of joining violent jihad

Five US nationals from the Washington DC area were detained in Pakistan; officials believe the men had hoped to receive training at a jihadist camp and launch attacks against US forces. The men are in their early 20s and went missing in November.

The men told interrogators that they were “for jihad” and that they were planning to launch jihad “against infidel US forces, wherever they are.”

The FBI is working with Pakistani authorities to determine the activities of the men. Investigations are underway.

Following information given to them by the FBI, Pakistani authorities began tracking the men in November as they traveled in Pakistan. They allegedly went to Hyderabad and then to Sargodha, where they were apprehended.

The men have suspected ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, an al-Qaida-funded group associated with the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl and assasination attempts of Pervez Musharraf.

Police believe they made contact with Jaish-e-Mohammed via YouTube.