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.

Book review: Youth Tsunami in Arab World: ‘The New Arabs,’ by Juan Cole

July 8, 2014

These days, alarming news continues to spill out of the Middle East. Syria’s continuing civil war has claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives. Iraq — where the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, has stoked sectarian conflict by refusing to form an inclusive government — is hurtling toward civil war, as Sunni militants, led by the Qaeda splinter group ISIS, have moved close to Baghdad. Farther east, the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.

In his book “The New Arabs,” however, the Middle East scholar Juan Cole provides an optimistic assessment of a new generation coming of age in the region. Mr. Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, gained recognition in the prelude to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and in its wake, with his “Informed Comment” blog, which was not only highly critical of Bush administration policies but also provided illuminating historical and social context for the war and its devastating aftermath.

“The New Arabs” focuses not on Iraq, but on the Arab Spring, and in particular on the role that youth movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya played in bringing down the authoritarian regimes in those countries. “Young people are the key to the rapid political and social change in the Arab countries that have been in turmoil since 2011,” Mr. Cole writes, arguing that members of this “Arab Generation Y” are more literate than their elders, more urban and cosmopolitan, more technologically savvy and less religiously observant than those over 35. Echoing what the veteran Middle East reporter Robin Wright wrote in her 2011 book, “Rock the Casbah,” Mr. Cole contends that “a new generation has been awakened” and that a positive new historical dynamic is taking hold.

Mr. Cole’s book is at its most illuminating when it takes the reader inside the youth movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, showing us how activists used technology and social media to amplify their message and connect with like-minded citizens across the region. Although this phenomenon has already been widely covered by Western media, Mr. Cole chronicles it in fascinating detail here, recounting the stories of prominent dissidents and their often pioneering use of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and cellphone technology to network and organize.

The creation of YouTube in 2005 and the growing reach of satellite television (most notably Al Jazeera) also gave dissidents important tools. In 2006, the blogger Wael Abbas began posting graphic videos, taken secretly, of Egyptian police brutalizing their prisoners, which provoked public outrage. And in Tunisia, videos of the police opening fire on young protesters — who had turned out in the streets after a fruit vendor burned himself to death (in December 2010) in response to being humiliated by government officials — received thousands of views and fueled the spread of demonstrations across the country.

In Egypt (where, according to The C.I.A. World Factbook, 49.9 percent of the population is 24 or younger), disgust with the Mubarak government had been building for years. Among the events that created “links and networks among a diverse group of leftist and Muslim fundamentalist organizations” opposed to Mr. Mubarak as an agent of the West, Mr. Cole says, were demonstrations in early 2003 against the coming United States invasion of Iraq and the Gaza war of late 2008 and early 2009.

Mr. Cole’s conclusion to this book is a hopeful one. He writes: “The youth revolutionaries of the Middle East inspired their peers throughout the globe by their ideals of liberty and social justice and their collective action techniques. Fundamentalist movements seeking to take advantage of the political opening to impose new forms of theocratic authoritarianism suffered severe setbacks at the hands of the same youth activists.”

Allen West: Muslim Brotherhood ‘Infiltrated’ Obama Administration

Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) claimed individuals tied to the Muslim Brotherhood have “infiltrated” President Barack Obama’s administration.

 

“[W]e do have Muslim Brotherhood affiliated groups and individuals infiltrated into this current Obama administration,” West wrote on his Facebook page. “This is serious.”

West slammed Obama’s Middle East policies, criticizing his “very conciliatory speech”in Cairo in 2009 and his stance on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in 2011.

“Many warned of the rise of the ‘granddaddy of Islamic terrorism,’ the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt as the only viable and organized political entity,” West wrote. “We were castigated as alarmists and Islamophobes. The Muslim Brotherhood even lied about running a candidate for President. We are now witnessing the result of our blindness.”

This isn’t the first time West has suggested the Muslim Brotherhood has influence in American government. In April 2012, West said “we should not allow the Muslim Brotherhood-associated groups to be influencing our national security strategy” in response to the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ decision to scrap nearly 900 pages of training materials that had been determined offensive, culturally insensitive and in some cases entirely misleading or incorrect.

 

West also called on Obama to “repudiate the Muslim Brotherhood” in June 2012, calling the Arab Spring “nothing more than a radical Islamic nightmare.”

Children of Irish Imam arrested during Ramses Square mosque siege

Four children of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, the imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Dublin, Ireland’s largest mosque, were arrested on Saturday, 17 August 2013, following the overnight siege of the Al-Fath Mosque near Ramses Square in central Cairo. Three of the imam’s daughters and his teenage son took part in the march leading to Ramses Square on Friday, 16 August 2013, after participating at the pro-Mursi sit-in near the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Mosque.

They are held in military detention at the Tora prison in Cairo and are due to appear at court on Monday, 19 August 2013. As all four hold Irish citizenship, the Irish government has been asked to intervene with the Egyptian authorities in their behalf. Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Joe Costello, could confirm that they were “in good health” and that a Turkish diplomat had visited them.

The four siblings are among a growing number of young Irish of Arab background have been caught up in the events and turmoil around the Arab Spring for the last two years, undertaking online campaigns, setting up charities or joining rebel forces to fight initially in Libya and later in Syria.

Sheikh Hussein Halawa has been living in Ireland for the last 18 years. He heads the largest mosque in Ireland and is also the secretary of the European Council for Fatwa and Research which is based at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland. Both the Islamic Cultural Centre and the European Council for Fatwa and Research are funded by the Maktoum Foundation, led by Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai and Minister for Finance and Industry of the United Arab Emirates.

Arab Spring Adds to Global Restrictions on Religion

pew restrictionsIVAt the onset of the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011, many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, expressed hope that the political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa would lead to greater freedoms for the people of the region, including fewer restrictions on religious beliefs and practices. But a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that the region’s already high overall level of restrictions on religion – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – continued to increase in 2011.

 

Before the Arab Spring, government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion were higher in the Middle East and North Africa than in any other region of the world.1 Government restrictions in the region remained high in 2011, while social hostilities markedly increased. For instance, the number of countries in the region experiencing sectarian or communal violence between religious groups doubled from five to 10. (See sidebar on the Middle East-North Africa region.)

The Americas, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region all had increases in overall restrictions on religion in 2011. Government restrictions declined slightly in Europe, but social hostilities increased. Asia and the Pacific had the sharpest increase in government restrictions, though the level of social hostilities remained roughly the same. By contrast, social hostilities edged up in sub-Saharan Africa, but government restrictions stayed about the same. Both government restrictions and social hostilities increased slightly in the Americas.

The new study also finds that reports of harassment or intimidation of Muslims increased worldwide during 2011. Muslims were harassed by national, provincial or local governments or by individuals or groups in society in 101 countries, up from 90 countries the year before. Christians continued to be harassed in the largest number of countries (105), although this represented a decrease from the previous year (111 countries). Jews were harassed in 69 countries, about the same as the year before (68). (For details, see Number of Countries Where Religious Groups Were Harassed, by Year chart.)

The number of countries with overall increases in restrictions compared with the previous year outnumbered those with decreases. However, a larger share of countries (35%) had a decrease in at least one of the 20 types of government restrictions or 13 types of social hostilities measured by the study compared with the previous year (28%). Examples include a relaxation of registration requirements for religious groups in Austria; efforts to overturn a centuries-old law barring the British monarch from marrying a Catholic; and elimination of a requirement in Jordan that groups, including religious groups, obtain prior permission from the government before holding public meetings or demonstrations.6 (See sidebar on initiatives aimed at reducing religious restrictions.)

In the four countries with decreases of 1.0 to 1.9 points (Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the United States), some hostilities that occurred in the year ending in mid-2010 did not reoccur in 2011. In the United States, for instance, multiple religion-related terrorist attacks occurred in the year ending in mid-2010, but none occurred in 2011.15

Among countries with small changes on the Social Hostilities Index (less than 1.0 point), 69 had increases (35%) and 59 had decreases (30%).

Considering all changes in social hostilities from mid-2010 to the end of 2011, regardless of magnitude, 49% of countries had increases and 32% of countries had decreases. The level of increase in social hostilities during the latest year studied remained unchanged from the previous year (from mid-2009 to mid-2010).

RestrictionsIV-web

Salam, Islam: a Trip inside the Muslim Community

June 6, 2013

Salam_Islam_book_cover[1]

After success with his first novel, Pasquale Nuccio Franco goes back to the library this time with another book.

 

“Salam, Islam” is a travel through the Muslim community, through a number of interviews and articles that have given life to an understanding of spiritual matters, politics and social issues of a religion very often viewed with suspicion if not bitterness.

 

With this work, the author hoped to illustrate the truth essence of Islam and open a window to little known aspects that are often misinterpreted. In fact, many include anecdotes, and stories told in library book pages little known to many.

From the social point of view, the author insists that the collective followers denounce those who now seem to be synonymous with the religion i.e. Islam and radical Islamism.

There are, however, also insights pertaining to market expansion as fashion, food, forms of tourism – including new tourists to the Islamic religion – search engines and the internet and the presence of women no the net and in the economy.

In this respect, the author delves into a topic that in a situation like the present, of the economic downturn, could make it a resource for international markets, namely Islamic Finance, focusing to the rules of Shari’a which is still little known in our country.

From the past, some considerations related to the so-called “Arab Spring”, the role played by the media as a sounding board of this movement and the struggle for greater freedom of information and the effect on the proliferation of newspapers, satellite channels and Internet.

Not the usual book, Salam, Islam’s purpose is to tell the reality as much as possible with objectivity and consistency in a framework that places the Islamic community as a pivotal player of our society.

Tauran: Interreligious dialogue: “we are not competing rather; we are pilgrims of the truth”

“Believers know that ‘man does not live by bread alone’, they are aware that they have to make a specific contribution in their daily lives and that they must do so together, not as competitors, but as pilgrims of the truth.” Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue explained, speaking last night in London at the third meeting of the bishops and delegates from the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe regarding relations with Muslims. The meeting was sponsored by the CCEE, which will end tomorrow.

Speaking at the opening session, the cardinal recalled the importance of continuing a dialogue between Christians and Muslims, he also supported the visit of Benedict XVI to Lebanon, with a meeting with Muslim religious leaders and the creation Inter-faith Centre in Vienna “which may be a new channel to denounce the violation of religious freedom and at the same time encourage and share positive experiences.”

The Archbishop of Bordeaux, Jean-Pierre Ricard, also in attendance, said “the international landscape was extensively modified as a result of the` Arab Spring ‘ in Egypt and Tunisia, the war in Libya and separatist movements in Syria have repercussions throughout the Middle East.”

Al-Jazeera hopes Current TV purchase will give it access to more American homes

Since its launch in 2006, al-Jazeera TV’s English-language news channel has racked up prestigious journalism awards for its reporting on international issues, including the Arab Spring uprisings. The problem: Hardly anyone sees al-Jazeera English (AJE) because few cable TV operators carry it.

On Wednesday, al-Jazeera’s owner — the emir of the oil- and natural gas-rich Persian Gulf state of Qatar — sought to change that.

Al-Jazeera will pay an undisclosed sum — unconfirmed reports said $500 million — for Current TV, the little-watched but widely distributed cable network co-founded by former vice president Al Gore. Al-Jazeera doesn’t want Current for its name or programming; it wants Current’s entree into American households. Al-Jazeera will start a new channel called al-Jazeera America that will produce news for and about Americans. It will instantly have access to about 50 million cable homes that Current reaches, more than 10 times AJE’s distribution.

 

The deal could mark a new era in a new hemisphere for a news organization that helped smash government control of information in the Arab world. Al-Jazeera — the name means “the peninsula” in Arabic — transcended national censors when it began broadcasting across the Middle East via satellite in 1996.

But its attempts to enter the rich media markets of the West haven’t been quite as revolutionary.

 

Waiting for an Arab Spring of Ideas

By Tariq Ramadan

DURING a recent visit to the United States, I was asked by intellectuals and journalists: Were we misled, during the Arab awakening, into thinking that Muslims could actually embrace democratic ideals?

The short answer is no. Participants in the recent violent demonstrations over an Islamophobic video were a tiny minority. Their violence was unacceptable. They do not represent the millions of Muslims who have taken to the streets since 2010 in a disciplined, nonviolent manner to bring down dictatorships.

Many Americans were nonetheless shocked by the chaos and bloodshed across Muslim countries, believing that they had come generously to the aid of the Arab peoples during the uprisings. But Arabs, and Muslims in general, have a longer memory and a broader view. Their mistrust is fueled by America’s decades-long support for dictators who accommodated its economic and security interests; by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; by the humiliating treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay; and by America’s seemingly permanent and unconditional support for Israel.

The timeworn dichotomy of “Islam versus the West” is giving way to an era of multipolar relations. The world’s economic center of gravity is shifting eastward. But the growing prominence of China, India and Russia, and of emerging powers like Brazil, South Africa and Turkey, does not automatically guarantee more justice and more democracy. Some Muslims are too quick to rejoice at the decline of American power. They seem unaware that what might replace it could well lead to a regression in social and human rights and to new forms of international dependency.

The Arab world has shaken itself out of its lethargy after decades of apparent resignation and silence. But the uprisings do not yet amount to a revolution. The Arab world must confront its historical demons and tackle its infirmities and its contradictions: when it turns to the task, the awakening will truly have begun.