France on edge day after 2nd terror attack in 6 months

A day after a man was decapitated at a gas factory in France’s second terror attack in six months, residents questioned whether the nation is doing enough to stop terrorists.

“It feels that these attacks are now happening back to back,” said Ilan Cohn, 21, a student in Paris. “I am afraid that there will be more and more, just recently Charlie Hebdo and now this?

Yaccine Salhi, 35, a man once placed on a “radicalization list” drove his truck into a U.S.-owned gas factory in the southeastern French city Lyon on Friday, triggering an explosion as his boss’ severed head was found at the entrance, authorities said.

Two people were injured in the explosion of gas canisters. “Islamist terrorism has again struck France,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. He warned Saturday that France faces even more attacks.

Officials told the Associated Press and AFP on Saturday that Salhi took a selfie with the slain victim and sent the image to at least one recipient.

French security forces had been on high alert since Islamic extremist gunmen targeted the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, setting off several days of attacks in the city that left 20 people dead.

“These were the actions of a few isolated men but what if it’s not the case next time — we could have a mass attack by an organized network of fundamentalists,” Cohn said. “That’s really scary. It doesn’t feel like the authorities are able to prevent anything.”

Salhi — who remained in custody Saturday along with his wife and sister — was known to intelligence services but had not been actively monitored by security officers since 2008.

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No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack at U.S.-based Air Products’ factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier. It happened the same day as Islamic State-claimed attacks at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait and a beach resort in Tunisia. Overall, at least 66 people died across the three countries.

Several hundred people gathered in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier on Saturday to remember slain businessman Herve Cornara, 54, and denounce the violence, the Associated Press reported. Cornara was the manager of a transportation company in the region that had employed Salhi since March.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Salhi is believed to have been under the influence of the extreme Salafist branch of Islam that calls for the faithful to return to the religion’s roots. Arabic inscriptions were found scrawled on the victim and Islamic flags were discovered at the plant.

“Now we are not safe at all. If everything was under strict surveillance, we wouldn’t have this in France,” said Madeline Siloe, 33, a health coach from the French capital. “It doesn’t seem to me that there is a serious surveillance, that anyone is watching.”

But analysts say France has doubled its efforts to counter terrorism since the attack onCharlie Hebdo in January, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Since then, thousands of extra police and military forces have been posted at “sensitive sites,” such as tourist attractions and transport hubs, around the country. The parliament passed a sweeping surveillance bill this week giving vast powers to intelligence services. Opponents of the controversial legislation say it grants powers with little oversight and is broader than the much-maligned U.S. Patriot Act.

“It would be inaccurate to say that the French government hasn’t done enough to counter the terrorist threat in recent months and years,” said Benoît Gomis, an international security and terrorism expert at think tank Chatham House.

“If anything some of what has been put in place might have gone too far in terms of creating opportunity costs, grievances, and infringing on privacy and other civil liberties,” Gomis said. “It will never be possible to stop every single terrorist attack.”

About 1,700 French citizens are believe to be involved in “jihadist networks” as of last month. France also has one of the highest numbers of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq per capita in Europe, Gomis said.

Any measures to tackle the problem could be ineffective if France ignores the context in which people are attracted to radical causes, he added.

“More needs to be done to address some of the conducive factors to extremism of all sorts in France, especially on the social and political fronts,” Gomis said. “The government needs to ensure that this terrorist attack does not serve as a pretext to victimize the Muslim population, create tensions between communities or spread disproportionate levels of fear about terrorism.”

The number of terrorist attacks worldwide increased 35% last year. More than 78% of all terror-related fatalities took place in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, according to the U.S. Bureau of Counterterrorism. With France on high alert and bracing itself for what comes next, Paris resident Siloe says fear is not the answer.

“I am not afraid but I am worried, if said I am afraid it would mean they have won,” she said. “I think we have to be extremely vigilant and keep in mind what happened. We mustn’t forget about it tomorrow.”

Teens, Young Adults, and Digital Discrimination

The prevalence of digital communications and networking through social media for teens and young adults raises questions about young people’s online behavior. A growing body of research suggests that young people frequently encounter discriminatory language online. Are young people emboldened to say hurtful or discriminatory things online that they would never say face-to-face?

Seeking to contribute rigorous research on this issue, MTV and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a national survey of 1,297 teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 to track the exposure of young people in the United States to discriminatory and hurtful language online and to better understand where on the internet young people encounter these messages. This survey updates previous estimates from

The Associated Press (AP) and MTV on the exposure of teens and young adults to discriminatory language online. The key findings are summarized below.

Growing Numbers of Young People View the Use of Discriminatory language as Inappropriate Even When Joking Around with Friends

Young people perceive the intent of discriminatory language online to be mostly hurtful for some groups, including transgender people and Muslims, and mostly “a joke” for other groups, including Asian Americans, Jews, and women.

Teenagers and young adults are most likely to perceive discriminatory language or images directed at transgender people (63 percent); Muslims (60 percent); gay, lesbian, or bisexual people (54 percent); men who dress or carry themselves in a feminine way (53 percent); and those who are overweight (53 percent) to be meant as hurtful.

Teenagers and young adults are most likely to perceive as a joke discriminatory language or images that are directed at Asian Americans (73 percent), Jews (73 percent), women (71 percent), those with mental disabilities (68 percent), Latinos (67 percent), those with physical disabilities (65 percent), African Americans (64 percent), and women who dress or carry themselves in a masculine way (55 percent).

Young people are divided on their perception of discriminatory language or images directed at immigrants and Christians. Forty-nine percent say discriminatory language or images directed at immigrants is most often meant as a joke, and 51 percent say it is most often meant to be hurtful.

Forty-nine percent say discriminatory language or images directed at Christians is most often meant as a joke, and 50 percent say it is most often meant to be hurtful. Of the groups that were asked about in 2011, only the perception of discriminatory language or images directed at Muslims and immigrants had a significant shift in how teenagers and young adults view the intent. Sixty percent of teenagers and young adults say the discriminatory language or images they see directed toward Muslims are most often meant to be hurtful, a significant increase of 13 points from 47 percent in 2011. Fifty-one percent of teenagers and young adults say the discriminatory language or images they see directed toward immigrants are most often meant to be hurtful, a significant increase of 12 points from 39 percent in 2011.

 

AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research: http://www.apnorc.org/PDFs/Digital%20Discrimination/AP-NORC-MTV%20Discrimination%20Report_FINAL.pdf

Marvel Comics introduces 16-year-old Muslim girl as new superhero

November 6, 2013

 

Comic-book connoisseurs will recognise the name Ms Marvel as the superhero alter ego of a blonde, blue-eyed and busty former US Air Force Major named Carol Danvers. But following her removal from the role by Marvel Comics last year, a more progressive successor has been found: Kamala Khan is the 16-year-old Muslim daughter of Pakistani immigrants from Jersey City, New Jersey.

The character of Khan will star in a new Ms Marvel series starting in February, making her one of few female Muslim comic-book characters, let alone series protagonists. Her introduction indicates Marvel has an eye on contemporary cultural relevance, even as the company maintains its A-list roster of white, male superheroes such as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America.

The teenager’s creators say she will be forced to deal not only with her developing superpowers and the day-to-day struggles of adolescence, but also with the strict demands placed on her by her family. Marvel editor Sana Amanat told The New York Times, “Her brother is extremely conservative. Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.”

Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso emphasised that Khan’s religion is just one facet of her character, and that she has much in common with Marvel’s existing protagonists, not least Spider-Man. “Kamala is not unlike Peter Parker,” Mr Alonso told the Associated Press. “She’s a 16-year-old girl from the suburbs who is trying to figure out who she is and trying to forge an identity when she suddenly bestows great power and learns the great responsibility that comes with it.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/marvel-comics-introduces-16yearold-muslim-girl-as-new-superhero-8924509.html

 

Rihanna Asked to Leave Mosque in Abu Dhabi

October 21, 2013

 

Rihanna was asked to leave the site of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi after posing for photographs there over the weekend that the shrine’s overseers said had violated the “sanctity” of the site.

In photos that Rihanna posted on her Instagram and Twitter accounts, she is seen posing at the mosque site, in the United Arab Emirates capital city. Though she is fully covered in the photographs, with only her face, hands and painted fingernails visible in some of the shots, these images drew some negative responses from online commenters, like one who responded with an obscene word, adding: “Leave our holy place and keep your filth away from it. We don’t need you.”

The Associated Press, citing a statement from the overseers of the mosque that was published in local newspapers, said Rihanna was in a part of the mosque that is not open to visitors and that the photo shoot was not in accordance with the “status and sanctity of the mosque.” A press representative for Rihanna said on Monday morning that she did not have any other information on the incident.

 

The New York Times: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/rihanna-asked-to-leave-mosque-in-abu-dhabi/

Spying on Muslims

The New York City Police Department’s indefensible program of spying on law-abiding Muslims in their neighborhoods and houses of worship has turned out to be even more aggressive than earlier reports had shown.

According to a recent Associated Press report by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, the surveillance operation designated at least a dozen mosques as terrorist organizations. The designation was used to justify open-ended “terrorism enterprise investigations,” circumventing court-imposed limitations on police investigations of constitutionally protected activities. The report is based largely on leaked police documents and interviews; though most of the documents date back a few years, recent court filings suggest such activities are continuing.

 

In a move reminiscent of discredited police efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to spy on black activists and antiwar protesters, attempts were made to plant informants on the boards of mosques and a prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn that helps new immigrants.

 

Va. cabbie pursues charges after anti-Muslim bashing

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — For the second time in as many months, a Muslim civil rights group is pursuing criminal charges on behalf of a taxicab driver who was subjected to an anti-Islamic rant caught on tape.

A civil rights organization is asking the Fairfax County, Va., prosecutor to pursue a case involving a Virginia taxi driver who was subjected to an anti-Muslim rant by a passenger.

In the most recent case, an Ashburn, Va., woman unleashed a string of expletives and called 911 to report that she was afraid for her life because she said her cabbie, Abdikar Aden of Alexandria, was “very Muslim.”

Aden says the woman also poked him repeatedly in the back of his shoulder, though that part of the confrontation was not captured in a recording provided to The Associated Press.

The Council on American Islamic Relations, which is representing Aden, wrote Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh on Tuesday asking his office to prosecute the case.

Va. woman says faith prompted her efforts to help get Boston Marathon bombing suspect buried

DOSWELL, Va. — The Virginia woman whose actions led to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev being buried about 30 miles north of her Richmond home said the angry backlash from local officials, some cemetery neighbors and online critics has been unpleasant, but she has no regrets.

 

“I can’t pretend it’s not difficult to be reviled and maligned,” Martha Mullen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. “But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people that are not like you, that’s what God calls us to do.”

 

Tsarnaev, 26, was quietly buried Thursday at a small Islamic cemetery in rural Caroline County. His body had remained at a Worcester, Mass., funeral parlor since he was killed April 19 in a gunfight with police, days after the bombings that killed three and injured more than 260 in downtown Boston. Cemeteries in Massachusetts and several other states refused to accept the remains. With costs to protect the funeral home mounting, Worcester police appealed for help finding a place to bury Tsarnaev.

 

Mullen said she was at a Starbucks when she heard a radio news report about the difficulty finding a burial spot for Tsarnaev.

“My first thought was Jesus said love your enemies,” she said.

Then she had an epiphany.

“I thought someone ought to do something about this — and I am someone,” Mullen said.

So Mullen, a mental health counselor in private practice and a graduate of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, sent emails to various faith organizations to see what could be done. She heard back from Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which arranged for a funeral plot at the Al-Barzakh cemetery. “It was an interfaith effort,” she said.

Caroline County Sheriff Tony Lippa was concerned, too, that the grave site could become a target for vandals and a shrine for those who sympathize with Tsarnaev.

Bomber burial: Tsarnaev funeral planned after widow releases body

The uncle of the two men authorities say were behind the Boston Marathon bombing contacted a mosque to arrange a funeral for the older suspect killed shortly after the incident, the Islamic Society of Boston said.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body has been at the medical examiner’s office in Massachusetts since he died after a gunfight with authorities more than a week ago.
Amato DeLuca, the Rhode Island attorney for his widow, Katherine Russell, said Tuesday that his client had just learned that the medical examiner was ready to release Tsarnaev’s body and that she wants it released to his side of the family.
In addition to declining to claim the body herself, which is her right as his spouse, Russell has taken other steps to distance herself from Tsarnaev since taking refuge at her family’s home on April 19, hours after her husband was killed. Her family released a statement shortly after she was escorted home by federal agents that day saying they “never really knew” Tsarnaev. Russell has also reverted to using her maiden name instead of the name listed on her marriage certificate, Tsarnaeva.

“Of course, family members will take possession of the body,” uncle Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. “We’ll do it. We will do it. A family is a family.”
Tsarnaev has been dead for nearly two weeks, with his body unclaimed at the medical examiner’s office. Sharia, or Islamic law, requires the dead to be buried as soon after death as possible after a funeral ritual that includes bathing and shrouding of the body, followed by prayers. Cremation is prohibited.
Security officials suspected ties between Tsarnaev and the Canadian – an ethnic Russian named William Plotnikov – according to the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which is known for its independence and investigative reporting and cited an unnamed official with the Anti-Extremism Center, which tracks militants. The newspaper said the men had social networking ties that brought Tsarnaev to the attention of Russian security services for the first time in late 2010.

Boston suspects’ father postpones trip to US MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP)

The father of the two Boston bombing suspects said Sunday that he has postponed a trip from Russia to the United States because of poor health. ‘‘I am really sick,’’ Anzor Tsarnaev, 46, told The Associated Press. He said his blood pressure had spiked to dangerous levels. Tsarnaev said at a news conference Thursday that he planned to leave that day or the next for the U.S. with the hope of seeing his younger son, who is under arrest, and burying his elder son, who was killed. His family, however, indicated later Thursday that the trip could be pushed back because he was not feeling well. During the past week, they were both questioned extensively by U.S. investigators who had traveled to Makhachkala from Moscow. They also were besieged by journalists who staked out their home. Tsarnaev’s family said last week that he intended to get to the U.S. by flying from Grozny, the Chechen capital, to Moscow. He and Tsarnaeva left Dagestan on Friday, but their whereabouts were unclear

Aunt: Boston bombings suspect struggled with Islam MAKHACHKALA, Russia (AP)

The elder suspect in the Boston bombings regularly attended a mosque and spent time learning to read the Quran, but he struggled to fit in during a trip to his ancestral homeland in southern Russia last year, his aunt said. Tamerlan Tsarnaev seemed more American than Chechen and ‘‘did not fit into the Muslim life’’ in Russia’s Caucasus, Patimat Suleimanova told The Associated Press. She said when Tsarnaev arrived in January 2012, he wore a winter hat with a little pompom, something no local man would wear, and ‘‘we made him take it off.’’ After returning from Russia, Tsarnaev made his presence known at a Boston-area mosque, where his outbursts interrupted two sermons that encouraged Muslims to celebrate American institutions such as the July 4 Independence Day and figures like Martin Luther King Jr., according to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. During one incident congregants shouted at him, telling him to leave, the center said in a statement released Monday. His mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, told the AP that her son greatly enjoyed his time with her relatives, but never traveled to her native village in a mountainous region of Dagestan, which is a hotbed of an ultraconservative strain of Islam known as Wahabbism. Wahabbism was introduced to the Caucasus in the 1990s by preachers and teachers from Saudi Arabia. The mother said her relatives now all live in Makhachkala and the town of Kaspiisk. She refused to say which mosque her son frequented, but Tsarnaev’s parents and aunt firmly denied that he met with militants or fell under the sway of religious extremists.