France, Britain to jointly combat online terror threat

The UK and France are moving ahead with a joint plan to fight terrorism, online hate speech, and to crack encrypted data.

Speaking together in Paris on Tuesday, President Macron and UK prime minister Theresa May said the two countries were renewing their counter-terrorism cooperation.

The plan includes possibly imposing fines on social media giants for not taking down flagged online hate speech quickly enough. They also spoke about prying apart encrypted messages, which posed broader questions on civil liberty and cyber security.

But Macron said they first wanted to make sure internet operators “delete any content promoting hatred and terrorism in any way.”

May echoed Macron’s views and said that while cooperation between their intelligence agencies was strong, more should be done to tackle the online threat.

“We are launching a joint UK-French campaign to ensure that the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists and criminals,” she said.

May said the plan was to get companies to develop tools to identify and automatically remove the offending material. “Our campaign will also include exploring creating a legal liability for tech companies if they fail to take the necessary action to remove unacceptable content,” she said.

France currently has no laws for mandatory encryption backdoors, but instead allows for government hacking to access pre-encrypted data.

A 2015 Intelligence Act gives French intelligence officers blanket immunity to hack computers abroad and also enables them to break into systems at home. In 2016, the French version of a French-German joint statement on counter-terrorism also called for a ban on unbreakable encryption. The German version did not. The UK can already compel the removal of encryption via its 2016 investigatory powers act. The British government also has the power to hack anyone’s computer.

Pressure has been mounting for EU legislation on granting police forces access to encrypted data, with French and German ministers calling for an EU bill before the end of the year.

 

Islamist “mole” exposed at German domestic intelligence agency

Arrest on November 16

A 51-year-old man working at the German domestic intelligence agency – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) – has been exposed as an alleged sympathiser of the jihadist cause.

He was arrested on November 16, after he had been placed under surveillance by his own employer for the preceding weeks.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html )) The 51-year-old had been part of the agency’s office tasked with monitoring the country’s Islamist scene.

His employer appears to have been alerted to the man’s questionable role when he offered advice to a fellow jihadist during an online chat session. The agent noted that he could supply access to the Verfassungsschutz buildings in Cologne in order to facilitate an attack on “unbelievers”. He asserted that he was “ready to do anything to help the brothers”. What he did not know was that his counterpart during the chat was himself working for the Verfassungsschutz.((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html ))

Actions “in the name of Allah”

No clear picture of the man and his potential motivations has emerged so far. Following his arrest, he claimed that he had sought to use his position at the agency to warn his brothers in faith of any potential investigations against them. His actions were, according to him, in accordance with Allah’s will.

Yet while he had mentioned internal matters from the Verfassungsschutz during the abovementioned online conversation, he does not appear to have leaked further information on the agency’s ongoing investigations.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html )) The man nevertheless presented himself as part of a large-scale plan to “infiltrate” the intelligence office.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html ))

Mental health questions

More than two weeks after the arrest, however, there are ongoing questions as to whether the man is a ‘Salafist’ or ‘jihadist’ or in fact an unstable individual. While in custody, the man has made a range of “mystical allusions” that appear to raise questions about his mental health.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html ))

He claims to have converted to Islam following a “spontaneous inspiration” in 2014 while on the phone with an unidentifiable “Mohamed” from Austria. Neither his wife nor his four children were aware of his alleged conversion.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html )) The man’s work as an actor in homosexual pornographic movies also at least casts doubt on his hard-line Islamist credentials.((http://www.dw.com/de/islamisten-pornos-und-der-verfassungsschutz-das-r%C3%A4tsel-um-maulwurf-m/a-36596498 ))

Keeping apart investigators and investigated

This cases comes as a renewed blow to Germany’s much-criticised domestic intelligence agency. In recent years, the Verfassungsschutz has been rocked by successive revelations about its role in the series of murders and attacks by the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a far-right terrorist cell.

There have been worrisome questions about the agency’s knowledge and thus de facto complicity in the NSU’s activities: the German neo-Nazi scene is densely populated by the agency’s informants – so densely, in fact, that the Constitutional Court rejected a motion to ban the far-right NPD party in 2005 because it noted that it could not distinguish between party leadership and Verfassungsschutz personnel.

In the present case, the Verfassungsschutz once again appears to be rather too close to the people it seeks to monitor. Indeed, on facebook the suspect not only expressed regret about the recent arrest of Abu Walaa – reported by Euro-Islam – but was also friends not just with a number of Islamists but also with several functionaries from a far-right political party.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html ))

Renewed criticism of the Verfassungsschutz

The agency’s president, Hans-Georg Maaßen, stressed that all necessary security preconditions had been taken when the man was hired. Nevertheless, the fact that an individual who joined the Verfassungsschutz as a lateral entrant in April 2016 – after he had lost his previous job as a bank clerk((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html )) – could gain access to sensitive information so quickly raises considerable questions about the agency’s professionalism.

German parliamentarians also criticised Maassen and his office for failing to notify them immediately: news of the case broke only nearly two weeks after the arrest through revelations by Der Spiegel magazine.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/geheimdienst-islamist-schleicht-sich-bei-verfassungsschutz-ein-a-1123676.html ))

The threat of “infiltration”

The call for consequences has been swift: parliamentarians demanded, among other things, that the security checks of all Verfassungsschutz employees be conducted more often. Others called for a more dramatic restructuring of the agency itself.

Beyond these immediate reactions, however, what is likely to stick in the public’s perception is the threat of “infiltration”. As Euro-Islam reported, a recent survey found that 40 per cent of Germans believe that the country and its institutions are already “infiltrated” by Islam.

The media reaction to the suspected mole, at the Verfassungsschutz has most likely not dampened this anxiety. It was noteworthy, for instance, how many news outlets quickly focused on the man’s “conversion”—an act that, after all, seems to have occurred on the phone to an obscure contact in Austria if it occurred at all. ((See e.g. https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html, https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article159849913/Islamist-beim-Verfassungsschutz-enttarnt.html )) Conversion, as the ultimate act of infiltration, thus serves as the measuring stick for dangerousness.

French government under pressure from mayors to release watch list

The French government is resisting pressure from conservative mayors who are demanding access to a confidential list of security suspects, including thousands suspected of Islamist radicalization.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said this week he would not provide the information to mayors who want to act against – presumably by trying to expel – residents of their cities and towns who appear on the so-called S File or S List.

Cazeneuve in a newspaper interview pointed out that people on the list, while they are monitored, are not subject to an arrest warrants “because there is no proof that they are really dangerous. They are only suspects.”

“The need for confidentiality in the investigations is essential,” he added. “Thanks to the confidentiality in the investigations, we have arrested 355 people linked to terrorist networks since January.”

Cazeneuve said the government should find a way to involve mayors in the process of preventing radicalization, but without hampering the efficiency of the intelligence agencies and their work.

Last month Guy Lefrand, the conservative mayor of Evreux, a small town in Normandy, asked intelligence and police agencies to provide him with names of people on the S List living in his city and suspected of being radicalized.

“France is under a state of emergency, and it is the duty of the state to give us access to the S List,” he told reporters at the time. “If the state won’t provide this information, I demand that they take the responsibility for removing these people from my town.”

Several other mayors joined their voices to Lefrand’s. The Association of Mayors of France plans to meet with Cazeneuve in the coming weeks to discuss the issue.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president who is running for a fresh term in elections next year, has promised that if he is elected he will immediately organize a referendum to ask whether citizens agree those listed in the S List should be subject to administrative detention.

First created in 1969, the S (the S stands for State Security) List includes the names of people considered potentially dangerous and therefore subject to surveillance by police and intelligence agencies.

Those listed include gangsters, anarchists, unionists, anti-nuclear campaigners and suspected Islamist radicals or Muslims in the process of radicalization. It includes people who have visited jihadist websites, met with radicals outside mosques in France, or traveled – or tried to travel – to Syria to join the jihad.

Today some 20,000 people are listed, of whom around 10,500 are suspected radicals or individuals in the process of becoming radicalized, according to numbers published at the beginning of 2016. The individuals are under physical and phone surveillance but are only subject to arrest if they commit a crime, or are suspected to be ready to do so.

The list is overseen by France’s internal and external security agencies, and only their staffers, along with senior government officials, have access. Even where police are instructed to monitor someone listed, the agencies do not generally give reasons.

Nathalie Goulet, a center-right senator and vice-chairwoman of the foreign affairs committee, initially supported divulging the names of listed people, but has changed her position.

“I agree with Interior Minister Cazeneuve not to give names to mayors or to anyone else,” she said in a phone interview. “I think it is important that intelligence agencies work in confidentiality. And don’t forget that not only does the list encompass a lot of different people, not all linked to terrorism or radicalization, but that they have not been prosecuted.”

Goulet said some of the mayors who are pressuring Cazeneuve are motivated by the upcoming elections.

“They know that there are only presumptions against the listed people, and nothing else,” she added.

 

Funding Islamophobia: $206m went to promoting ‘hatred’ of American Muslims

Council on American-Islamic Relations and University of California Berkeley report names 74 groups they say contributed to Islamophobia in the US
Inciting hate toward American Muslims and Islam has become a multimillion-dollar business, according to a report released on Monday.
Released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) and University of California Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender, the report names 74 groups it says contribute in some way to Islamophobia in the US. Of those groups, it says, the primary purpose of 33 “is to promote prejudice against, or hatred of, Islam and Muslims”.
The core group, which includes the Abstraction FundClarion ProjectDavid Horowitz Freedom CenterMiddle East ForumAmerican Freedom Law Center, Center for Security PolicyInvestigative Project on TerrorismJihad Watch and Act! for America, had access to almost $206m of funding between 2008 and 2013, the report said.

BBC Current Affairs Programmes failing to address radical Islam

The BBC is failing to address the “awesomely difficult questions” facing Britain, including the economy and the threat of radical Islam, according to the corporation’s former chief.
The BBC is failing to address the “awesomely difficult questions” facing Britain, including the economy and the threat of radical Islam, according to the corporation’s former chief.

The BBC is failing to address the “awesomely difficult questions” facing Britain, including the economy and the threat of radical Islam, according to the corporation’s former chief.

John Birt, director-general of the BBC from 1992-2000, said its current affairs analysis was falling short. He was not referring to Newsnight, which he described as “a programme of the day, about issues of the moment.” But he said he was “talking about a much more strategic need on all the big questions we face. Every economy bar one in the G7 is more productive than the UK – these are the big issues that go undiscussed,” he told a media conference at London’s City University.

Digital journalism is giving people access to more information than before. “What it is not creating is more quality journalism,” Lord Birt said. “We get more knowledge of things happening around the world but pulling it all together and addressing the big policy questions – what should we be doing in respect of radical Islam, the National Health Service – that’s what we’re not doing very well and nobody’s doing very much.”

He added that the BBC must “get back to those very high purposes which are appropriate to a publicly funded broadcaster”.

 

 

A report in Le Monde on the 10th anniversary of French headscarf ban: ‘Ten Years After the Headscarf Ban: New Tensions’

March 15, 2014

 

A report in Le Monde on the 10th anniversary of French headscarf ban: ‘Ten Years After the Headscarf Ban: New Tensions’

 

Source: http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/03/15/voile-apres-dix-ans-d-interdiction-de-nouvelles-tensions_4383602_3224.html

 

(Note: needs a subscription to Le Monde to access full article)

Federal Court Orders YouTube to Take Down Controversial Anti-Islam Video

February 28, 2014

 

A federal appeals court ordered YouTube to take down a controversial anti-Islam video in an unusual copyright decision that Google, which owns YouTube, said raised questions about freedom of speech.

The video, “Innocence of Muslims,” was briefly blamed in 2012 for inciting violence across the Middle East that killed four American diplomatic personnel in Libya and was the topic of a debate over free speech at the time.

Many countries, including the United States, asked YouTube to consider taking down the video. YouTube refused because it said the video did not violate its guidelines governing hate speech, though it put the video behind a warning page. (It temporarily restricted access to the video in Egypt and Libya, which it called an extraordinary measure. It also restricted access in countries where the video is illegal, including Saudi Arabia, India and Indonesia, in response to court orders.)

But the latest court order is about an entirely different legal issue: copyright.

The case was brought by an actress in the film, Cindy Lee Garcia, who had a minor role for which she was paid $500. The California Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, overturning an earlier federal court decision, ordered YouTube to remove the video because it said that Ms. Garcia had a copyright claim to the work and that the infringement of the copyright had led to death threats against Ms. Garcia by critics of the film.

Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the majority opinion that the filmmaker had lied to Ms. Garcia about the movie, which turned out to be very different from the one in which she agreed to perform. He also said her performance could be copyrighted.

NY Times: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/federal-court-orders-youtube-to-take-down-controversial-anti-islam-video/?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults%234&version=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry714%23%2Fmuslim%2F30days%2Fallresults%2F5%2Fallauthors%2Fnewest%2F

Muslim students pray in the rain after Queen Mary University denies them access to facilities

November 1, 2013

 

Hundreds of students at Queen Mary University in London, braved the rain today to pray outside, in protest against what they claim is inadequate resources for Muslims on their Mile End campus. It was their second ‘prayer protest’ in two weeks, with the student union counting 350 demonstrators last Friday.

Previously, the college’s 20-year-old Islamic Society had been able to book several large communal spaces for congregational Friday prayers. But from the start of this academic year, students have been told the rooms are unavailable. Principal Professor Simon Gaskell suggested students attend local mosques for the mass prayer, and denied any change in policy adding that the facilities are unavailable due to demand.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/muslim-students-pray-in-the-rain-after-queen-mary-university-denies-them-access-to-facilities-8918293.html

Protest Against Lambs Killed for the Islam Festival

October 15, 2013

In Massa Carrara, animal rights groups blocked access to a barn that housed 80 lambs, which will be used for the slaughter ritual planned by Muslims on the occasion of the feast of sacrifice. A group of people tried to prevent the transfer of the lambs to slaughter and police had to intervene.

ANSA.it: http://www.ansa.it/web/notizie/regioni/toscana/2013/10/15/Blitz-contro-agnelli-uccisi-festa-islam_9466079.html

Muslims ask for Mosque in Conegliano

We ask for help from the city of Conegliano, we would like a mosque”

The Islamic community Conegliano met these days the marabouts Bodian, who made ​​the request to the mayor

 

“We ask for help to the Municipality of Conegliano, we would like a mosque.” This is the request of the Islamic community that already has access to a room in the city, provided by Caritas, to study the Koran.

 

If you visit the province of Treviso you will likely come across marabout El Hadji Fansou Bodian, a kind of cardinal who will need to meet with the Mayor Floriano Zambon. On Sunday, as stated in the Tribuna di Treviso, Muslims will gather from all over the Treviso area. It is a harsh attack by Bodian who hides behind religion to commit acts of violence: “He who kills has denounced God, and cannot be part of Islam,” he says.