Judge challenges prosecutors on terror case claim

July 11, 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A federal judge preparing to sentence a British citizen for supporting terrorists in Afghanistan challenged U.S. prosecutors Friday on their claim that the defendant supported al-Qaida.

Babar Ahmad’s support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan didn’t necessarily mean he supported al-Qaida, Judge Janet Hall said during a hearing in New Haven. She cited the testimony of a government cooperating witness who denied Ahmad supported al-Qaida.

Prosecutor Stephen Reynolds said Ahmad was not a member of al-Qaida but became sympathetic to the terrorist group and sent people to its training camps.

Ahmad and a co-defendant, Syed Talha Ahsan, pleaded guilty in December to supporting terrorists through websites that sought to raise cash, recruit fighters and solicit items such as gas masks for the Taliban.

The two men, who were extradited from Britain in 2012, faced charges in Connecticut because authorities said they used an Internet service provider in the state to run one of the websites.

The cooperating witness said Ahmad urged him to try to meet al-Qaida’s then-leader, Osama bin Laden, prosecutors said. That witness testified in a recent deposition that while he and Ahmad were in Afghanistan in January 2001, the witness saw bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders, though Ahmad denied going to Afghanistan, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they have not claimed Ahmad or Ahsan were involved in any operational terrorist plots or attacks.

Al-Qaida says US colluded with Egypt in coup

Al-Qaida’s American spokesman has accused the United States of colluding with military leaders in Egypt to topple the democratically-elected president last summer, saying the U.S. supports the Egyptian army because it “protects the borders of the Jewish state.”

In a video posted on militant websites on Friday, Adam Gadahn, a former Osama bin Laden spokesman, also criticized Egypt’s current rulers, saying the regime has been unchanged for 60 years.

He described the army-backed overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July as a “bloody secular and fascist coup.”

He also urged Muslims around the world to fight the United States to diminish its power and influence so they can choose their own governments.

Gadahn uses the name “Azzam the American.”

French man arrested for abetting terrorism

Liberation

19 September 2013

A 26-year Muslim convert who lived in the Normandie was arrested and charged with abetting terrorism and  promoting acts of terrorism. The man is named as the translator of the Al Qaida’s English language online magazine, Inspire. His arrest marks the first time that the anti-terror law that was passed in 2012 was used.

The Alarm went off when the 33-year old did not return home

July 15, 2012

 

The suspected Norwegian al-Qaida 33 years old affiliate is seemingly an ordinary man holding some unusual political ideas. According to the Norwegian Intelligence Services (PET) his most likely present location is somewhere between the Yemen’s Abyan och Shabwah provinces. Other speculations suggest that he has been trained as an operative for the Al-Qaida network. Having Scandinavian appearance it is thought that he would play a major role in future attacks. However, (un)probable this sounds the man is not charged for any crimes. All he seems to be “guilty” of is perhaps holding extreme political opinions. This is the reason no arrest warrant has been issues by the Norwegian authorities.

 

He calls himself Muslim Abu ‘Abd Ar-Rahman and he converted to Islam in 2008. He has never been charged with a crime; however, several states’ intelligence services view him as a major operative within Al-Qaida. He grew up in a community just outside of Oslo, seemingly shy and loyal towards his friends. In his teenage years he was a fan of grunge music groups such as Nirvana etc. Was there anything which would lead him towards extremism? Nothing, one could argue. Multiple suggestions have also been developed in relation to the case of Breivik and the radicalization process that turned him into a mass-murderer. Such processes are obviously complex and often nonlinear regardless of our desire to understand such phenomena. For instance, the judge in the Breivik trial noted that he was not particularly interested in Islam or Muslims before discovering the counter-jihad ideology and rhetoric. In these circles Breivik found an “appropriate” place to express his latent hate. It is here that he could project his developing worldview where all things are either black or white.

 

For the 33 year-old Norwegian from Oslo politics was never a big issue, according to some of his old friends. His growing anti-American views and general suspicion towards his government were sparked around 2001 attacks on the U.S. buildings. This was the period when a massive number of conspiracy stories developed and this attracted him. At the same time, his spiritual quest seemed drawing him away from his everyday life. He sought to get away from the mainstream mode of life and after having fallen in love with a Muslim woman he converted in 2008.

 

Moved by a convert’s zealousness he dedicated himself to spiritual and physical purity where religion became central in all aspects of life. The few steps toward extreme interpretation of religious principles were not far away and he began to view reality in terms of black and white. His search for the ultimate truth played pivotal role after some time. One of his friends narrated Abu ‘Abd Ar-Rahman started to dislike his teachers, school, even Oslo and Norway. In the end he moved away to Yemen in 2009. All traces go cold after that. He did not contact his relatives or friends of his whereabouts, and that seemed to spark all kinds of speculations. The PET agent claimed that he studied Arabic and most likely had close relation to many radical Muslims. This in turn raised many questions among people back in Oslo. At the same time one needs to be aware that there are no evidences that he have been involved in any attack against Yemenite government or any other state for that matter.

 

Norwegian politician Mohammed Abulahoum argues that the whole thing has been blown out of proportions by the media. “Until now we have not seen any proper evidence that could confirm these stories about the Norwegian man (Abu ‘Abd Ar-Rahman). I have no reliable information from any source about the issue.”

«Without a doubt, Jihad has Spain as a target»

16 July 2012

 

Interview of Ignacio Cosidó, General Director of Spanish Police about the jihadi threat in Spain

 

-Spain remains the focus of international jihad?
-No doubt the international jihad has Spain as a target. But it is a shared threat across Europe and the Western world.
– Is the risk of attack higher or controlled?
-Jihadist terrorism is the threat that concerns us the most at medium and long term. Recent events in the Sahel and the strength of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb are very obvious risk factors, especially by our geographical location. The police are on constant alert, to avoid either the recruitment of terrorists or funds in Spanish territory or the departing of Spanish Jihadis to training camps.
– Is Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb the biggest risk or are there others?
-Yes, but mainly by geographical proximity, but again, the risk of Al-Qaida is shared in all Western European countries. It is also true that references to Spain by this group in their communications and their web sites are quite recurrent. The problem to combat jihadism is that its members are not grouped into organized structures. Sometimes they are just individuals who, as happened in Toulouse last March, decide to commit terrorist acts on their own.
-These are called ‘lone wolves’. Are there in Spain?
-So far they have not appeared in our country but it is certainly a threat that we take into consideration, especially after what happened in France. It is not a hypothetical threat it is a real threat.
– Are there more or less radical Islamist activities since 11-M?
-Al-Qaida as a centralized organization is weaker than a decade ago, but it is true that the increased presence of jihadi terrorism in the Sahel is greater. The threat persists with different methods.

Wife, children of American slain in Yemen return home safely to US, relative says

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The father of slain American Joel Shrum says Shrum’s wife and children have returned home safely to the U.S. from Yemen.

Al-Qaida’s Yemen branch claimed responsibility for Shrum’s death last Sunday, saying he was trying to spread Christianity in the mainly Muslim Arab nation.

The 29-year-old Shrum, of Mount Joy, Pa., was gunned down in Taiz, where he had been living with his wife and two sons. He was studying Arabic and teaching English at a language institute. Shrum’s parents, of Harrisburg, Pa., said he went to Yemen to learn Arabic, not to proselytize.

Shrum’s father, James Shrum, said Saturday in an email that he does not know yet when his son’s body will arrive home. He said a PNC Bank fund has been set up for his son’s family.

Islamic Studies Scholar Talks about Al-Qaida and Islamophobia

30.08.2011

10 years after the attacks of 9/11, süddeutsche online interviewed Lamya Kaddor, a scholar of Islamic studies of Syrian origins and actively involved in introducing Islamic education in German public schools. Kaddor talked about her fear of Al Qaida, Islamophobia, and what Muslims could contribute to improve inter-faith dialogue. In light of the many questions about Islam, Al Qaida, and terrorism that currently dominate many of her conversations, Kaddor stresses that Islam itself does not justify the acts of religious terrorists and that she, as a Muslim, is as afraid of terrorist acts as anyone else. Kaddor also notes that the events of 9/11 have significantly contributed to feelings of Islamophobia, which now reaches all levels of German (and European) society. It is this general sense of prejudice against Muslims that allows people such as Thilo Sarrazin (with his controversial book published in the fall of 2010 (as reported)) to construct Muslims more generally as scapegoats for current social circumstances. She then criticizes that, since 9/11, many Muslims are simply reduced to their religion and not recognised for who they actually are. According to Kaddor, it is now important to address these issues and fears and improve inter-faith interaction and dialogue. To achieve this, it is vital for Muslims to openly condemn acts of terror in their communities, as remaining silent can be misunderstood.

“Full Equality before the Law for All Religions”

French political scientist Olivier Roy is one of the foremost European experts on Islam. His new book, “Holy Ignorance. When Religion and Culture Diverge”, will soon be published in English. Eren Güvercin spoke with Roy about the current Islam debate in Europe

In Switzerland, a majority votes for a ban on minarets; in France and in Belgium, Islamic headscarves are heavily debated; in Italy, crucifixes are under fire. And also here in Germany, the debate about the Muslims is often very hysterical. Why do Europeans fear religious symbols or “foreign” religions so much?

Olivier Roy: The debate in Europe has shifted in some 25 years from immigration to the visible symbols of Islam. Which means a paradoxical thing: even people who opposed immigration acknowledge now that the second and third generations of migrants are here to stay and that Islam has rooted itself in Europe. So now the debate is about the status of Islam. And here we have a strange phenomenon: while anti-immigration feelings were mainly associated with the conservative right, anti-Islam feelings are to be found both on the left and on the right, but on two very different grounds.

For the right, Europe is Christian and Islam should be treated as a tolerated but inferior religion. There is – unfortunately – no way to ban it, because of the principle of “freedom of religion”, inscribed in our constitutions, international treaties and UN chart, but there are means to limit its visibility without necessarily going against the principle of freedom of religion – for instance the European court of human rights did not condemn the banning of the scarf in French schools.

For the left, the issue is more generally secularism, women’s rights and fundamentalism: it opposes the veil not so much because it is Islamic but because it seems to contradict women’s rights. Hence the debate on Islam hides a far more complicated issue: What does a European identity mean, and what is the role of religion in Europe; and of course on these two issues the left and the right have very different positions. But we see the rise of a new populist movement – like Geert Wilders in Holland – mixing both approaches, basically siding with the right but using leftist arguments.
In your book you say that fundamentalists like Al Qaida have nothing to do with the tradition of Islam. But for the people in Europe they appear very traditional … Are Al Qaida and similar organizations and movements a modern phenomenon?

Olivier Roy: The kind of terrorism perpetrated by Al Qaida is unknown in Muslim history as well as in Christian history. So in any case it is a recent phenomenon. If we consider some of its main characteristics – suicide attacks, execution of hostages, targeting civilians – they all have been put into practice recently, before Al Qaida, by other organizations: the Tamil Tigers for suicide attacks, the Italian extreme right in Bologna bombing in August 1980, and the Italian Red Brigades. If you look at the video of the execution of foreign hostages by Al Qaida in Iraq, it follows exactly the “staging” of the execution of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades: banner and logo of the organization, hostage hand-cuffed and blindfolded, a group of “militants” staging a mock trial, the reading of a “sentence” and execution.

By its modus operandi, its form of organization, its target: US imperialism, and recruitment: young Western-educated Muslims or converts to Islam, it is obvious that Al Qaida is not the expression of a traditional or even fundamentalist Islam, but of a recast of Islam under the cloak of Western revolutionary ideology.

Are there similar Christian organizations? Can we find similar developments in Christianity?

Olivier Roy: It depends what you call “Christian”, and that is the same issue for Islam, too. Is violence motivated by faith or by a political ideology? I argue that in both cases the motivation is driven far more by ideology, even claiming a religious legitimacy, than by faith. There has certainly been a “white” Western terrorism, for instance at the Oklahoma bombing in 1995. But in fact there is no real symmetry: the present struggle looks more like asymmetrical warfare; Islamic radicals have no air force or air carrier. A radical Christian crusader who wants to fight Muslims does not need to enter a terrorist organization: he can just enlist in the US Air Force and become the pilot of a fighter-bomber. The US media have closely documented the fact that the US Air Force Academy of Colorado Springs is a hotbed of Christian evangelicalism, at the expense, by the way, of Jewish or atheist cadets.

How do you explain the success of such radical movements or ideologies? Are poverty and exclusion really the reasons?

Olivier Roy: No. All studies show that there is no correlation between poverty and radicalization: there are far more Saudis than Bangladeshis (in fact almost no Bangladeshis) among radicals. I think that the present struggle is a continuation of the old fault-line of anti-imperialist, third-worldist movements against the West and specifically the USA. Bin Laden says little about religion, but mentions Che Guevara, colonialism, climate change etc. It is also clearly a generational movement: Al Qaida is a “youth” movement of young people who split with their families and their social milieus and are not interested even in the home country of their family.

Also, there is an astonishing number of converts among Al Qaida, which is now acknowledged but not taken into account. The converts are rebels without a cause who would have joined the Red Army Faction or the Red Brigades thirty years ago but now go to the most successful movement on the anti-imperialist market. We are still in the midst of a mostly Western revolutionary millennialism that has turned away from the concept of establishing a new and just society. The new movements are profoundly sceptical about building a good society, hence their suicidal dimension.

Today some Europeans maintain that European culture is essentially a Christian culture, and hence that everything Islamic is problematic and alien for Europe. What do you think of this position?

Olivier Roy: They say that at the same time that Pope Benedict, following John Paul II, is saying that Europe is rejecting and ignoring its Christian roots. The debate on sexual freedom, abortion, gay rights is not one of Europeans versus Muslims, but rather of secularists on the one hand – and there are Muslim secularists – and conservative believers on the other, who could be Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox Jews. In fact, Europe is highly divided about its own culture, between secularists who consider the Enlightenment with human rights, freedom, democracy as the real birth certificate of Europe, and the “Christian culturalists” who believe that the Enlightenment also led to Communism, atheism and even Nazism.

Is there a real risk of Islamophobia in Europe?

Olivier Roy: The problem is how we define Islamophobia: Is it just another term for racism, and specifically racism against people with a Muslim name, whatever their real degree of belonging to a faith community, or is it the rejection of a religion? There are anti-racist militants who cannot stand the veil – that is the case among feminists. There are racist people who do not oppose the veil – because they think that anyway these people are too different from us. The issue is complex because we do not try to disentangle two issues: ethnicity and religion.

Of course in Europe most Muslims have a foreign ethnic background, but the disconnect between ethnicity and religion is increasing: there are converts both ways; there are atheist “Arabs” and “Turks”; and more and more Muslims want to be acknowledged as believers belonging to a faith community, but not necessarily as members of a different cultural community. We need to distinguish between “ethnic communities” and “faith communities”, because both suppose a different approach, and because “ethnicity” is less and less meaningful in terms of culture, but is more and more linked with skin colour.

In an interview you say that for example the biggest campaign against Darwin in Europe is being conducted by a Turkish Muslim, on the basis of translations of books written by evangelical Americans, and that there is then a convergence of values and norms, but also of the manner in which those religions translate their convictions into political action and intervention. How can the political world find a way to deal with this “drifting, deculturalized and globalized religion”?

Olivier Roy: I think that the “successful” religions are the global and deculturated religions like evangelicalism, Salafism, cults etc., not the traditional churches like the Catholic Church. This trend is dominant now. It does not make sense to fight against it, particularly in countries where constitutions prevent the State from interfering with beliefs. On the contrary, I think we should accentuate the separation of Church and State by implementing full equality between religions, but not on a basis of “multi-culturalism”; we should consider religions as “mere religions”, whatever they say about themselves.

The issue is not ‘what does Islam say’, ‘what does the Pope say’, but under which conditions a faith community can freely exercise its rights. Government should contribute to the unlinking of religion and culture, but rejecting the multi-culturalist approach to religion in favour of a neutral and strict freedom of religion within the framework of existing laws.

In the media we often have a dialectic of “liberal” vs. “radical” Islam. Is there a “liberal” or “radical” Islam? When we look at the five pillars, is it possible to do the prayer “liberally” or “radically”? Is this terminology actually applicable on this matter?

Olivier Roy: No. I think the mistake is to consider that to be a good citizen in society, a believer has to choose a “liberal” theology. The debate on the “reformation” of Islam is irrelevant. People who advocate a Muslim Luther never read Luther: he was not a liberal, and quite anti-Semitic by the way. The “formatting” of Muslims into a Western environment has nothing to do with theology. It is done by the individual practices and endeavours of the Muslims themselves. They try to reconcile their practices with the Western environment, and they find in this environment tools to do that, rethinking norms in terms of values for instance. In the long run these changes will certainly translate into a theological rethinking, but anyway it does not make sense to associate modernity with theological liberalism: to think like that means either distorting history or relying on wishful thinking.

Interview: Eren Güvercin

© Qantara.de 2010

Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de

Bin Laden claims work of Abdulmutallab

An audio tape allegedly created by Osama bin Laden says he came up with the idea for the Christmas Day attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

In the tape he claims the attack was meant to reiterate earlier messages he has sent to the US, such as those delivered on 9/11, and that attacks will continue as long as America continues to support Israel.

US officials and researchers say the claim lacks hard evidence, and that big Laden is just trying to appear relevant. Still, he does have a history of connections to al-Qaida in Yemen, where Abdulmutallab was allegedly trained for the attack.

Britain’s terrorism issue

According to US intelligence, al-Qaida has restructured its network, gained support in Britain, and increased its capability to carry out attacks on the West.

The US now believes major threats pervade the UK as a result of this increased support. Two years ago an estimated 2000 sympathizers operated in Britain. Experts say the number is growing all the time. They refer to it as “Londonistan.”