RALEIGH, N.C. — Two men were sentenced Friday to long prison terms for their roles in a North Carolina-based terror ring that aspired to kill U.S. military personnel.
A federal judge in New Bern sentenced accused ringleader Daniel Patrick Boyd to 18 years. Boyd is a 42-year-old Muslim convert who lived near Raleigh and pleaded guilty in 2011 to charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and plotting to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad.
In June, a jury found 36-year-old Anes Subasic guilty of the same charges. The Bosnian native got a 30-year sentence.
Prosecutors said the men were members of a terrorist cell that raised money, stockpiled weapons and trained for jihadist attacks against those they considered enemies of Islam. All seven men convicted as members of the plot, including two of Boyd’s sons, were either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. An eighth indicted man is believed to be in Pakistan.
Dylan Boyd was sentenced in December to eight years in federal prison and Zakariya Boyd was sentenced to nine years.
Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi were convicted after a month-long trial held last year around the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, each receiving prison terms of between 15 and 45 years.
The men were convicted following testimony by two FBI informants that members of the group plotted to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., and earlier attempted to travel to Israel with the intent of creating mayhem.
A recent study by the Swiss National Sciences Foundation has found that religious pluralism in Swiss prisons does not lead to the same kind of conflicts that occur in French and British prisons. Catholic and Protestant prison chaplains have long been integrated into the Swiss institutional framework; however, given that the number of Muslim prisoners has risen significantly over the last years, prisons have been facing increasingly diversified challenges to respond to Muslim concerns.
Certain practices have led to more difficulties than others: halal meat (sometimes only provided if the prisoners can pay for it themselves); fasting during the month of Ramadan; appropriate spaces for daily prayers; and the organization of regular religious services. In the latter case, in a number of prisons imams do come to deliver sermons, however they are not integrated into the prison system. For example, in one prison in the canton of Vaud, one third of the prisoners are Muslims and two imams come to deliver sermons on Fridays. However, neither of them is officially recognized and their work is entirely voluntary.
Furthermore, the study found that although religious diversity might not lead to interfaith conflicts, Muslims remain stigmatized. This was found to be the case especially among the prison personnel, who would frequently bring up stereotypes concerning Islam and Muslims without having been explicitly asked a question on the subject.
The study concludes by recommending greater religious understanding on the part of the personnel; an adaptation of the legal framework to better reflect the current demographic reality; and finally conceptualizing the role of prison chaplains so as to encourage more interreligious capacities. The latter would benefit greatly from encouraging special prison chaplain courses of study at universities, such as the Master’s program that exists at the University of Bern.
Swiss National Science Foundation – National Research Program 58:
• Report on the Sociological Challenges of Religious Plurality in Swiss Prisons (French)
November 1-9, 2010
Following Bern, Lucerne and Zurich, the city of Winterthur will soon become the latest Swiss city to have a Muslim section in the local cemetery. The project has been planned since 2008, and following a unanimous vote in the city council it will also receive a loan of 1.53 million Swiss francs. If, as expected, the project passes the communal council, Muslim burials could begin as soon as 2011.
12 per cent of the population of Winterthur is Muslim, and the new 380 graves were supported by all except one member of the Christian Democrats (CVP) who argued that it would symbolize yet another form of separation. Nevertheless, even the far-right Swiss People’s Party came out in support of the project, stating that “we don’t always have to be against everything.”
21 September 2010
The canton of Bern has confirmed the construction permit for a minaret in Langenthal. Despite the minaret ban that exists in Switzerland since the referendum of 29 November 2009, local officials stated that the project had been approved before the referendum took place, and thus the prior legal situation should take precedence. The president of the Langenthal Islamic Religious Community, Mutalip Karaademi, has called a “victory for the rule of law.”
However, canton officials also judged valid complaints by neighbors with regard to the expansion of the Islamic center, namely a lack of parking spaces, an overuse of the land, and wheelchair inaccessibility. Consequently, the expansion of the center will not be allowed, leaving the Langenthal Islamic Religious Community with doubts over whether they will continue with the project in its current location, or whether they will attempt to move it somewhere else.
No matter what the religious community decides, local activists from the “Stop the Minarets” movement have announced that they are ready to fight the decision to allow the minaret in Langenthal, and will take the issue to the constitutional court if necessary.
The president of the Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland, Farhad Afshar, has called for a legal solution on the federal level with respect to the question of separate burial grounds for Muslims. This comes following the rejection by authorities in Köniz, a suburb of Bern, to create separate cemetery plots for Muslims. Afshar has said goes against freedom of religion, and is now supporting the creation of separate Muslim cemeteries throughout the country
However, his initiative has met with criticism from both scholars and representatives from the Swiss Muslim community. Stéphane Lathion, head of a research group on Islam in Switzerland at the University of Lausanne, stated that in almost all cases where discussions concerning Islamic cemeteries had taken place, solutions had been found at the local level. Lathion also raised the point that a large number of Muslims are also repatriated, while Afshar was more generally criticised by experts for not being representative of Switzerland’s mostly Turkish and Bosnian Muslim community.
Some Muslim leaders such as Abdel Lamhanger, a Socialist councillor in the canton of Fribourg, agree that the issue is relevant; however, it should be the object of negotiation and consensus, rather than federally-imposed legal rulings. In an interview with the French-speaking national radio show Forum, Lamhanger said: “when things are imposed by the judicial system it’s the rule of law, but when they are imposed by negotiation it’s adhesion and the building of a future.”
In some special cases, such as in Geneva, Muslim and Jewish communities have fought together for separate plots. However, according to Nicole Poëll, deputy president of the Platform of Liberal Jews in Switzerland, “the issue of religious cemeteries is not an issue – it’s been resolved.”
A newly-founded Islamic Central Council of Switzerland says it aims to be the main grassroots Muslim organization in the country. The group currently has about 500 members and hopes to win a total of 10,000 participants by the end of 2011, according to spokesman Qaasim Illi. The group represents the orthodox Sunni Muslims and has launched a public information campaign to help re-shape the image of Muslims in Switzerland. It seeks to win broad recognition among the Muslim community and help institutionalize the Islamic religion in Switzerland, officials said.
In the wake of the anti-minaret vote the group organized a rally in Bern which was attended by an estimated 700 people but did not have the support of any of Switzerland’s main Muslim groups. The event was supposed to host German radical preacher Pierre Vogel, but he was denied entry to Switzerland. The justice ministry did not invite the Islamic Central Council to roundtable talks with Muslim organizations in December. The Swiss Council of Religions, a platform for the main Christian churches as well as the Muslim and the Jewish communities said that it would continue to cooperate with the two established Muslim organizations.
The vote to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland has been a wake-up call to both the government and Swiss Muslims, round table talks have shown. Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf met six representatives of Islamic organisations in Bern on Monday, to discuss the situation of Muslims in the light of the anti-minaret vote passed by the Swiss public on November 29.
It was the third such meeting since the anti-minaret initiative was launched, but the first since it was passed. Follow-up meetings are planned where specific proposals will be discussed. Topics discussed included mosque construction, Islamic cemeteries and growing Islamophobia.
Around 700 Muslims on Saturday held a peaceful demonstration in Switzerland’s capital to protest the result of a vote banning the construction of new minarets. Speakers at the afternoon rally outside the parliament in Bern denounced the ban, approved in a referendum two weeks ago, as a “smear campaign”. The protest was not supported by the country’s main Muslim organizations.
“We have shown exactly what we wanted to,” said Nicolas Blancho, an organizer.
Blancho said he believed the 57.5 percent of people who voted to ban minarets, the spires attached to mosques, did not hate Islam but were frightened by propaganda.
He said that no Muslims in Switzerland had ever demanded the introduction of shari’a law. The Swiss right had made radical Islam and shari’a law one of the central issues in the campaign to ban minarets.
The Swiss authorities have barred a controversial Islamic preacher from Germany from attending a planned demonstration against the minaret ban in Bern on Saturday. Pierre Vogel was not allowed to enter Switzerland because his presence is considered a danger for public law and order, according to the Federal Migration Office. He was scheduled to give a speech at the rally. The convert and former professional boxer is known for his strongly conservative and Salafist views.
Vogel wanted to encourage Muslims in Switzerland to come out of their social isolation and help reduce mistrust, he told Swiss newspapers. In an interview with the Swiss SonntagsBlick after his entry ban, Vogel said that he was against the construction of minarets as they are no necessary part of Islam but rather a decoration. The money should instead be used for social work on deliquent Muslim youths.
The Swiss Federal Court acquitted coalition partner the Democratic Union of the Center (UDC), a right-wing political party, from charges of its election campaign poster inciting hatred between communities. In the poster, Swiss Muslim citizens are seen worshipping. The superscript over the photo reads “Use your heads,” urging non-Muslim citizens to vote for the party in the face of the “Muslim threat.” The Muslims, photographed whilst prostrating themselves in prayer, came together in Bern in a show of solidarity when the cartoon crisis erupted in Denmark in 2005. Ali Ihsan Aydin reports.