A Young Latino Arab American Throws His Hat in Congressional Ring

A young, American-born man of Latino and Arab heritage decided to throw his hat in the political ring after working as a community activist and in the Obama administration.

Ammar Campa-Najjar, 28, announced his candidacy Thursday in the hopes of unseating a long-term Republican representative in California’s District 50 in 2018.

Campa-Najjar, whose mother is Mexican American and whose father is Palestinian American, says he spent a lot of time speaking to Hispanic voters in his district to get them to the polls. Arab Americans have faced stereotyping and discrimination after the 9/11 attacks. But Campa-Najjar believes he can use his experience in Gaza and California to bridge divides and listen to voters’ anxieties about terrorism.


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.

INTERVIEW: Dutch professor Jean Tilly compares recent controversial student protests to Muslim radicalism

Background information:

The high ranking Dutch University of Amsterdam (UvA) had been occupied by unsatisfied students for months (since February 25th) before being violently cleared out by the riot police last week. Students were camping in the occupied “Maagdenhuis” which is the main administrative building of the university. Critical students and university professors unified themselves in a new movement called “De Nieuwe Universiteit” (English: The New University) criticizing the university management for their neo-liberal policies and focus on financial revenue. Some of the main demands of the occupiers are more democratization in the university and more influence in the decision making process and university policies for students and teachers. After the violent clearing out by riot police the movement’s latest demand is for the university management to vacate their positions. UvA professor of politics Jean Tillie was interviewed by the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. In the interview Tillie makes comparisons between radical students and Muslim radicals. What follows is a full translation of the Dutch interview. To read the interview in Dutch follow this link:


The interview:

Muslim radicals and radicalized students are almost the same

Jean Tillie, professor of politics at the UvA, expects a radical group will unify itself in the student protests. And he warns. In radicalism we can observe democratic phenomenon but it can also be innovative. If students radicalize we all [trans. i.e. prominent figures] visit them in order to profile ourselves. But when Muslims radicalize we view that as a security threat.

The joy over the “Maagdenhuis” started when Jean Tillie (54) saw a picture of parliamentary members Mei Li Vos (Partij van de Arbeid / Labour Party) and Jasper van Dijk (Socialistische Partij / Socialist Party) in conversation with students in the occupied administrative room of the UvA college-chairman Louise Gunning. On the picture you can see someone in the background looking at books about administrative thought.

Tille has been doing research on radicalism for years. When thinking of radicalism people mostly think of Muslim radicals. This is not fair, he thinks. Student who are occupying the “Maagdenhuis” should also be seen as radical. So what then is a radical? “A large amount of distrust towards established elites, combined with an interest in their thought.” This is symbolized by the person in the background of the picture studying the bookshelves.

Do politicians then associate with radicals?

“I can say so because I used to be a radical anarchist. Aside from that radicalism may exist in a democracy right? It is not the same as extremism. But behind radicalism may lurk potential innovative changes. If students radicalize we [i.e. prominent figures, trans.] all visit them because we want to profile ourselves. But if Muslims radicalize we view that as a security threat.”

You think that is hypocrite?

“Radicalism can have something in and of itself that can be revitalizing and innovative. But it also contains democratic phenomena, even if the persons involved claim to be autonomous. I have never experienced democratic people as with the anarchists.”

“The terminology that is used I also find embellishing. My colleague professor Ewald Engelen pleads for the establishment of a “commission of truth” at the UvA [‘waarheidscommissie’ in Dutch. A term used for the commission responsible for the research on the infringement on human rights during the Apartheid regime of South Africa, trans.]. ‘Exactly!’ I think at such a point. Because through that you are actually saying that the UvA college board – just like the regimes of South Africa and Uganda – should be taken to account for their past mistakes, should get out of their position as an elite with an us-and-them mentality, and should reconcile themselves with those who actually give them their worth. In that way you can also see the value of the radicalizing professor, dangerous for powerful elite that operates in the shadow!”

Must politicians always associate themselves with groups that are radical?

“The offices of the management board should always be open. Even for students. And especially for radical renewers. As a politician you should get excited by such means. You must be able to connect aims and means.”

How did such things happen in your time?

“I’ve been a squatter and an anarchist for eight years. I participated in the crowning riots [i.e. the riots during the crowning of the former Dutch Queen Beatrix in 1980, trans.]. When I became 24 years old I stopped. Now I am 54. So I have had thirty years to think about it. And this is my conclusion: leftist radicalism is the same as rightist radicalism is the same as Muslim radicalism. But if it is from the Muslim community, from low educated youth, we tend to act hypocritically and untrusting. If it is about right-radicalism it already becomes much more complicated – take the examples of Breivik and Hans Janmaat [a former extreme rightist Dutch politician, trans.] – and if it is from the leftist community then listening is suddenly seen as a value…

The reasoning of activists is: the elite does not want to listen. Sometimes more radical actions are necessary to be able to achieve something.

“In my time as an activist we also we also organized rather firm actions. And did it have a result? Yes. If we take a look to the anarchist movement – that got little money and support – the profits were not minor. We were against nuclear energy and a further development of nuclear power station did not come to pas. We were against cruise missiles but unfortunately we stumbled upon deff ears there. You could say the housing has improved but not that squatters have been stigmatized as extremists and isolated their public support and because of that their engagement has been lost.

The occupiers of the Maagdenhuis say that it has not been up until now that they are being heard. Before the protests there was no serious discussion going on at the universities.

“If you want to be really effective it takes a much longer process. Then you should have a look at educational programs and departments. And you should translate the radical movement into renewed and better politics. It is not until then that the movement becomes meaningful. So the students should above all be persistent.

Must the students leave the Maagdenhuis?

“No. My proposition is that if you can warrant your own sympathetic aims you don’t have to go away. It was not up until now that serious conversations took place with the college board. I expect a slow recuperation of the communicative trust between the elite who at first did not want a conversation and the group of radicals who are careful of an all-to-quick settlement without the political renewal I just spoke about. If they will leave de “Maagdenhuis” a new divide will come into existence between the elite and the people and a disappointed ever more radicalizing group of students.”

What will happen with such a hardened group?

“It is a very uncomfortable story. Such a hardcore group could be further stigmatized, which was already seen during the student demonstrations and for which a ritual from 1969 was criminalized. Then it becomes extreme. It remains attractive to fight for justice. It is the attraction of democracy, dissimilar to what the racist and aristocratic Le Bon claimed about the mass. Something you get from beautiful human things such as sex of dancing but also through commercial surrogates such as drugs and violence – opium of the people – to obstruct them from real democracy.”

You eschewed violence. Why did you yourself stop being an activist for peace?

“I became a father. But a few years before that another incident happened. We were at a big party in the squatting house “De Groote Keijser” and supporters of the extreme-rightist Hans Janmaat – who just won a seat in parliament – were also present. They celebrated this by beating up a black friend of mine. It became a huge fight and I almost died: I was hit in the face with an iron rod. When I was recovered and returned into the movement people reacted as if I was whining. I was simply the victim of an international struggle. Romanticism withers away in such an activist movement.”

Date: 02-04-2015

– Translated by Jeroen Vlug –

Dutch universities host study to ask: Why would you become a jihad activist? [PDF DOWNLOAD]

coverdawaactivism-207x300Why would you become a jihad activist? Three reasons.

A group researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen and the University of Amsterdam presented their study among radical Muslims and why they’re interested in extremist ideologies. Three conclusions can be drawn.

1. Democracy is hypocrisy: events and the way the USA and other western governments have responded after 9/11 have caused a lot of anger among (radical) Muslims. According to them, Muslim are not allowed to express their opinion, while they themselves and their religion are being insulted regularly in the name of ‘freedom of speech’, by for example Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirshi Ali, Geert Wilders and the Mohammed cartoon in Denmark. They also feel that Muslims have been treated very badly in the name of democracy, referring for instance to the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and drone attacks in Muslim countries.

2. Discrimination of Muslims: Muslims feel discriminated and get annoyed because of the ‘Islam debate’, (judgmental) questions about Islam and the ban on the burqa and the negative coverage of the topic in the media.

3. Together against the rest: they feel safe within their own network, where they won’t feel judged by their opinions and where the kafir outer world won’t distract them from their ‘pure’ interpretation of the Islam. They enunciate however also their message outside this network, for example online.

A copy of the report (in Dutch) is available for download here.

Equality in the name of Islam: Portrait of the theologian Rabeya Müller

August 6, 2014

The women’s movement within Islam is gaining momentum worldwide. One of the most influential German Muslim women in this respect is the theologian Rabeya Müller. With her clear views and breaks with taboo, she is pushing for change within the Muslim community in Germany

“Historically, the women’s movement in Islam emerged around the mid-twentieth century,” says Amina Wadud, perhaps the most prominent representative of Islamic feminism in the world today. At that time, the women involved did not focus specifically on Islam; they were Muslim women who campaigned for the political participation of women in public life. Their efforts centred on general female suffrage, participation in education and the safeguarding of human rights.

Today, Islamic feminists are dealing directly with their own religion. “Islamic feminism is a gender-neutral approach oriented to religion. We take the impetus needed to implement this gender-neutral view from religion, from the Koran itself,” says Rabeya Müller, one of the Muslim women pioneering Islamic feminism in Germany.

Alice Schwarzer’s generalisations about Islam

Born in the German town of Mayen in 1957, the young Catholic began her particular search after finishing secondary school. In the late 1970s, following detailed forays into the study of Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, she converted to Islam. “I felt it was the start of a path that I should continue to follow,” she says. She then took courses in educational theory, Islamic studies and ethnology both in Germany and abroad before publishing her first writings on the status of women in Islam.

Even before she became a Muslim, Rabeya Müller was active in the women’s movement. Right from the word go, she was critical of the prominent and at times controversial German feminist Alice Schwarzer. “I simply have a problem with Alice Schwarzer’s generalisations with respect to Islam, and her highly undifferentiated view of it,” she says.

Rabeya Müller, who is 57, is quick to point out that she has no issue with the concept of “feminism” per se. “Feminism is something that you shouldn’t leave to people like Alice Schwarzer,” she says, adding that it is a subject for all women. But doesn’t Islamic feminism also profit from the achievements of the former icon of the women’s movement? Müller disagrees: “I would say that we Muslim feminist theologians gain more from women within the Christian feminist ideology.”

A gender-neutral reading of the Koran

“The Centre for Islamic Women’s Studies (ZIF) in Cologne established the Islamic women’s movement in Germany in the late 1990s,” says Müller, one of the centre’s co-founders, who goes on to say that it is thus far the only women’s centre in Germany that implements this form of theology. The focus of its endeavours, adds Müller, is the development of a gender-neutral perspective on the Koran. By establishing links with other Islamic-feminist theologians worldwide, the centre ascertained that similar efforts are being made in this regard in many places.

Müller goes on to say that the first steps towards a gender-neutral perspective within Islam would consist of verbalising injustice, in other words highlighting everyday injustices that occur regarding gender difference, referring to them as such and resisting them. “If I assume that God is just, then I must also be allowed to read the texts attributed to him in this light. And that means I’m allowed to ask questions,” she says.

Highlighting injustice and referring to it as such also means opposing patriarchy if necessary. Rabeya Müller is also known for doing this. But what grievances are Islamic women’s rights activists in Germany addressing? Müller explains that above all, there are very few women within academia and in senior positions. Another major irritation is the current regulation that is often used to prohibit Muslim women who are married to non-Muslim men from providing denominational Islamic religious education. What’s more, says Müller, the time has come to finally publicly address the question of the female Imamate.

Representatives of the associations that are organised within the Co-ordination Council of Muslims (KRM) repeatedly point out that a theological education open to both sexes at universities is possible. “But we shouldn’t forget one thing: imams are not educated at universities. This is where theologians receive their education, who then later become imams in the community – or in the Turkish community, hojas.” In this respect, she says, it would certainly be important to reach agreement with the associations on a common position on the issue of the female Imamate.

The thorny subject of polygamy

Within the Muslim community of the Rhineland, Rabeya Müller’s spiritual home, women and men take it in turns to lead prayers – a break with taboo in the eyes of many Muslims. “I see nothing in what is for me the relevant text, the Koran, that says this should not be done” says Müller. As long as the congregation that follows the prayers of the female preacher also supports her too, this is completely acceptable, she says. Nevertheless, she does understand that there are communities that do not want this and feels that they are perfectly entitled to hold this view.

The Cologne-based theologian is well-known within the Islamic community for breaches of taboo. For example, Rabeya Müller also oversees Islamic weddings. She serves as a witness of the marriage before God and conducts preliminary briefings with respect to the contract under civil law, where she also advises couples on regulations that apply in the event of a separation.

As far as Müller is concerned, there is nothing to say that Muslim women should not be allowed to marry non-Muslim men. Again, her view is not shared by many. But the feminist has her limits: “I do not want to be a witness at a wedding where a man wants to marry a second wife. I have personal difficulties with that,” she says. The practice may be essentially permitted by Islam, but there are also male theologians who interpret the relevant part of the Koran as saying that polygamy is unfeasible in practice, she continues.

A stronger voice within mosque communities

Müller is convinced of the need to act on the issue of emancipation and gender equality within mosque communities: women themselves must learn that they are not just assistants but co-authors of everyday Islamic life, she says. “If I participate in work, then I must also participate in the rights applicable to that work,” says Müller. Female Muslims should fight on their own initiative to secure greater involvement in decision-making and more respect. “And if it is decided that men and women should pray separately, then it is not ideal that the women’s room often looks like a box room.”

Rabeya Müller’s conceptual approaches and self-perception make her one of the very few German theologians campaigning for feminism within Islam. She is involved in the composition of textbooks, trains teachers of religion and is responsible for numerous publications.

She is currently active as deputy director of the Centre for Islamic Women’s Studies. Rabeya Müller pursues interreligious dialogue in many associations, and her commitment in this area has been outstanding. One of her latest projects is editorial work on a new interfaith women’s magazine that focuses on feminist-theological issues.

5 years later, Fla.-Va. terrorism case in limbo

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — For five years, a federal judge upset with the prosecution of a Florida professor once accused of being a leading terrorist has simply refused to rule on his case. It’s left the government unable to deport him, unable to prosecute him, and flummoxed on how to move forward.

In April 2009, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema told lawyers she would rule “soon” on whether to dismiss criminal contempt charges filed in Virginia against former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, a longtime prominent Palestinian activist, who refused to testify in a separate terror-related investigation.

The ruling hasn’t come, and nothing has happened in the case. The delay is unusual for Alexandria’s federal courthouse, known in legal circles as the Rocket Docket for its swift disposition of cases. Legal experts say they can’t think of a similar case elsewhere that has languished for so long.

On the surface at least, Al-Arian — who has declined to invoke his speedy trial rights — benefits from his silence and the standoff. If the Virginia case were dropped, Al-Arian, 56, born in Kuwait to Palestinian refugees before coming to the U.S. in 1975, would be deported under the terms of a Florida plea.

Al-Arian’s critics said he was a leader of one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the world — the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — and that he used his position as a computer science professor as a base to quietly raise money for attacks. His supporters saw a man who was trapped by anti-Muslim hysteria, unfairly snared in a vague, amorphous web of guilt-by-association when his real goal was to help his native people in the Palestinian territories.

In 2003, federal prosecutors in Florida filed an indictment alleging Al-Arian was a leader of the terrorist group and complicit in the murder of innocent civilians. A jury acquitted him on numerous counts, and was hung on others. A mistrial was declared.

Pete White, a former prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia who is now a defense attorney, said it is rare for a criminal case to sit this long under these circumstances, especially in the Rocket Docket. There are no official statistics that document the rarity of a criminal case sitting in limbo for such a long time, but White and others said they could not think of a similar case, especially one that grew out of a terror-related investigation.

White said the only option prosecutors have to propel the case forward would be to file something called a writ of mandamus against Brinkema — basically asking another judge to order her to take action.