Didsbury Mosque renounces actions of former attendee, Manchester bomber Salman Abedi

The Manchester Islamic Centre (more commonly known as the Didsbury Mosque) denounces the terrorist attack by Salman Abedi, who used to attend the mosque. Reportedly, Abedi once responded negatively to an anti-extremism sermon at the mosque, after which his possibly Islamist views were brought to the attention of the home office.

The mosque has a strong Libyan contingent of which the Abedi family was a part. However, the mosque is large and serves a diverse community of worshippers. The mosque emphasised that the attack was in no way representative of the religion of Islam.

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.

 

Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, first African American woman on New York’s top court, found dead in Hudson River

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first African American woman to serve on New York’s top court, was found dead in the Hudson River on April 12, police said. She was 65.

It is not yet known how Abdus-Salaam, who lived in Harlem, ended up in the river, or how long her body had been there. Her death shook the New York legal community, prompting responses from colleagues, judges, and state and local political leaders.

 

Minneapolis Muslims protest ‘sharia’ vigilante in Cedar-Riverside area

A man trying to impose what he calls “the civil part of the sharia law” in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis has sparked anger among local residents and Muslim leaders.

Minneapolis police received reports in February from concerned residents who saw Rashid in a dark green uniform that said “Muslim Defense Force” and “Religious Police” and had two flags associated with ISIS and other terrorist groups.

“We’ve had conversations with community members that live over there,” said Officer Corey Schmidt, a police spokesman. “Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to deal with it, but it’s something we’ve been monitoring.”

Gender Issues Are a National Problem, Not Just a Muslim Problem: A Response to Baroness Cox’s Statement

Hadeer Soliman counters Baroness Cox’s statement proposing Amernment 219(C) to the Policing and Crime Bill. This bill “would require celebrants of religious marriages to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the marriage complies with the marriage laws of England and Wales.

The full article can be read on SHARIAsource, a research venture of the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School.

Hadeer Soliman is a California-based attorney. She holds an LLM in Islamic Law, and her research interests include Islamic legal history, gender and Islamic law, and constitutional law.

Sources

Gender Issues Are a National Problem, Not Just a Muslim Problem: A Response to Baroness Cox’s Statement

Helsinki Grand Mosque’s rocky road

When it comes to building mosques, Finland is not any different from other European countries in terms of opposition that such projects receive either from the side of the officials or the public. The Helsinki Grand Mosque project has been on-going since 2015 and now once again, debates over funding have put a spanner in the works.

The mosque project has been previously endorsed by the deputy mayor of Helsinki and it is led jointly by the Forum for Culture and Religion “FOCUS”, local Muslim associations and the recently established “Oasis” foundation. Trying to fill a desideratum in facilities and services that would bring the Muslims together and away from the undersized prayer rooms, the objective of the central mosque project is to construct a building complex of 20.000 m2 in size, including prayer halls and a community center that would organize activities and events for Muslims and non-Muslims alike and thus contribute and promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue and social cohesion.

The concerns over funding have been directed especially at the involvement of Kingdom of Bahrain as the financial coordinator. In December, an event with international guests were organized in Helsinki to celebrate the Independence Day of Bahrain. In connection to the festivities, one of the nation-wide daily newspapers Helsingin Sanomat reported in January about the current concerns of the city representatives over possible extremist background of Bahrain and those instances that have shown interest to provide support in collecting the needed funds. Security officials insist now on an investigation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs based on fears of extremist readings of Islam spreading to the country through the cooperation with Bahrain. This despite continuous assurances from one of the project coordinators Pia Jardi that the help from Bahrain has no strings attached in any every-day matters of the mosque/community center and the fact that the board members in the Oasis-foundation which was established for the administrative purposes of the project are all based in Finland.

Concerns about the mosque’s ability to welcome Muslim worshipers from different backgrounds were also expressed in a radio show Horisontti broadcasted by YLE. The youth civil activist Anter Yasa, argued that the imams for the mosque should be educated in Finland, receiving an academic degree and thus following the example of the country’s practice in educating priests. With his statement, he was opposing the possibility of the future imams receiving their qualifications from Bahrain which would in his understanding cause segregation instead of integration. Moreover, he maintained that the Muslim communities should rather turn to bank loans in financial matters than help from abroad. However, any ability of the small Finnish Muslim community comprising of somewhat 60 000 individuals to meet such financial obligations for a project of over 100 million euros was not addressed.

The chairwoman of the Young Muslims’ Union Helsinki chapter (Nuoret Muslimit ry), Nahla Hewidy was in turn pinpointing in the discussion the aspect of such mosque and especially its services as a community center being a necessity that would put Muslims and the youth in particular to equal footing with other major religious communities who already have such facilities. She maintained, that the project would enhance the welfare and spiritual development of those generations that struggle with identities between cultures and offer a them safe space where they would find recognition and acceptance.

‘He tainted Islam’: Muslim community refuses to bury French priest killer

The Muslim community in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in northern France, where two jihadists slit Father Jacques Hamel’s throat, is refusing to bury one of the attackers, saying that he put a stain on Islam, the French media reported.

Algerian-born 19-year-old Adel Kermiche was one of the two attackers who killed the 85-year-old priest and seriously injured an elderly parishioner. A French citizen, he was living in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and attempted to join Islamic jihadists in Syria back in 2015.

“We’re not going to taint Islam with this person,” Mohammed Karabila, a leader at a local mosque, told Le Parisien, “We won’t participate in preparing the body [for the burial] or the burial.”

A Muslim worshiper, Khalid El Amrani, supported the move, saying that the refusal to bury the terrorist is “normal.”

“What this young man did is sinful,” the 25-year-old engineer said, “He is no longer part of our community.”

Now it is up to the local authorities to decide how to issue the burial permit for Kermiche.

Father Hamel was killed on Tuesday after having his throat slit during a hostage situation at the local church. French police killed the attackers, Kermiche and 19-year-old Abdel Malik Petitjean, as they tried to flee the 17th century Catholic Church.

A Muslim worshiper, Khalid El Amrani, supported the move, saying that the refusal to bury the terrorist is “normal.”

“What this young man did is sinful,” the 25-year-old engineer said, “He is no longer part of our community.” Now it is up to the local authorities to decide how to issue the burial permit for Kermiche.

Father Hamel was killed on Tuesday after having his throat slit during a hostage situation at the local church. French police killed the attackers, Kermiche and 19-year-old Abdel Malik Petitjean, as they tried to flee the 17th century Catholic Church.

The pair had previously pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group, who subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack.

Following the tragedy French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he was considering a temporary ban on the foreign financing of mosques. Valls said France needed to re-think its relationship with Islam. On Sunday Muslims attended Catholic Mass in churches across France and abroad. Up to 200 Muslims gathered at the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few kilometers from Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

“We’re very touched,” Archbishop Dominique Lebrun told broadcaster BFMTV.

“It’s an important gesture of fraternity. They’ve told us, and I think they’re sincere, that it’s not Islam which killed Jacques Hamel.”

At Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Paris Mosque, said that Muslims want to live in peace.

“The situation is serious,” he said. “The time has come, to come together, so as not to be divided.” The move to attend the Catholic services was made by the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), which dubbed the attack as a “cowardly assassination.”

The Muslims should “show our Christian brothers the solidarity and compassion of France’s Muslims in the wake of this new tragedy that has struck our country through an attack on a place of worship,” the group said.

France has been on high alert following a deadly attack in Nice on July 14. At least 84 people were killed when a truck plowed through a crowd during Bastille Day celebrations. Weapons and grenades were found in the vehicle following the rampage. Several days later a news agency linked to IS released a statement in which the group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Tensions between supporters of Erdoğan and partisans of Gülen on the rise in Germany

Strong support for Erdoğan among German Turks

In the aftermath of the attempted putsch in Turkey, Erdoğan’s critics are increasingly feeling the heat. While Erdoğan has proceeded to purge the military, the judiciary, and the educational sector under the state of emergency provisions, those presumed to be opponents of the ruling AKP government have been faced with the ire of Erdoğan’s supporters not just within Turkey but also within the large Turkish community in Germany.

There are more than 2.7 million people with at least one Turkish parent in the country; more than 1.5 million of them hold Turkish citizenship.((https://ergebnisse.zensus2011.de/#dynTable:statUnit=PERSON;absRel=ANZAHL;ags=00,02,01,13,03,05,09,14,16,08,15,12,11,10,07,06,04;agsAxis=X;yAxis=MHGLAND_HLND)) Among this community, Erdoğan’s base is strong: in the November 2015 Turkish elections, 59.7 per cent of German Turks who went to the ballot box gave their vote to the party of current Turkish president – compared to the 49.5 per cent the AKP received in Turkey itself.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/tuerken-in-deutschland-waehlten-erdogan-partei-akp-a-1060661.html))

Hatred on social media and beyond

Since the failed coup attempt, those affiliated with the Gülen movement and its associated institutions, as well as Kurdish and Alevi individuals, have complained about growing animosities. The Federal Criminal Police Office has observed a massive increase in hostilities towards members of the Gülen movement online and in social networks.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/deutschland-hetzen-drohen-denunzieren-1.3088817))

Apparently, many German Turks received notifications on social media encouraging them to name and denounce members of the Gülen movement by calling a newly created Turkish government hotline. The originator of these notifications is supposed to have been the AKP-linked Union of European-Turkish Democrats (UETD).((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/ankaras-rachefeldzug-gegen-guelen-anhaenger-erreicht-deutschland-14347999.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2)) Other sources dispute the existence of such a hotline.

Similarly, in a mosque run by DITIB, a subsidiary of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs and still the largest and most financially strong Muslim association in Germany, flyers reading “Out with the traitors of the fatherland” have reportedly been put up.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/ankaras-rachefeldzug-gegen-guelen-anhaenger-erreicht-deutschland-14347999.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2)) Pictures of this flyer, as well as of signs posted in Turkish shops asking Gülenists to stay out have been published by the yellow press.((http://www.bild.de/politik/inland/militaer-putsch-tuerkei/boese-hetze-gegen-tuerken-in-deutschland-46878454.bild.html))

Attacks on Gülenist schools and institutions

However, assaults have not remained confined to the online or the purely verbal realm. In several German cities, buildings of educational institutions that are part of the Gülen movement have been defaced or damaged. In Stuttgart, a school that organises its curriculum in accordance with Gülenist thought is receiving increased police protection after numerous threats were made.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/ankaras-rachefeldzug-gegen-guelen-anhaenger-erreicht-deutschland-14347999.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2))

Video material has appeared online showing an attack by an angry crowd on a youth club in the city of Gelsenkirchen in North-Rhine Westphalia. Windows were smashed and significant damage was caused in the incident. The youth club is part of Gülen’s hizmet movement.((http://www.spiegel.de/video/gelsenkirchen-erdogan-anhaenger-greifen-jugendclub-an-video-1690598.html))

The Gülenist online journal ‘Deutsch-Türkisches Journal’ has consequently complained of a “pogrom mood also in Germany”.((http://dtj-online.de/tuerkische-pogromstimmung-auch-in-deutschland-wir-werden-in-eurem-blut-baden-77556)) The chairman of the Gülen-linked ‘Foundation Dialogue and Education’, Ercan Karakoyun, has reiterated these accusations in interviews.((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/guelen-bewegung-in-deutschland-erdogan-hat-einen.694.de.html?dram:article_id=360824, http://www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.angriffe-auf-guelen-bewegung-der-kampf-ist-in-deutschland-angekommen.1f291dbf-9e09-43e4-ab28-f135cc1af219.html))

DITIB’s reaction

DITIB spokesperson Ayse Aydin denied the allegation that DITIB was participating in a government-orchestrated witch hunt on Gülen sympathisers: “We are are Muslim religious community and we do not reject anyone who wishes to pray in a mosque”, Aydin asserted.  Similarly, the UETD ostentatiously sought to dissociate itself from violence and hatred against Gülenists, implying that the UETD name and logo had been misused on social media.((http://www.dw.com/de/erdogan-gegen-g%C3%BClen-auch-in-deutschland/a-19415216))

Going further, however, a DITIB press release noted that “our mosques are not places of provocation or agitation. If necessary, mosque leaders may, in accordance with the statutes, limit but also prohibit activities in the mosques that go beyond prayer – right up until a ban to enter. This serves the protection of the spiritual atmosphere, of the sacred space and of community peace.” Needless to say, the vagueness of this statement also allows for the banning of (suspected) Gülenists from DITIB mosques, if they are deemed to disturb sacred space and community peace.

Just like the Gülen movement, DITIB went on to criticise the media for its allegedly “widely spread and enduringly tendentious reporting that does not even spare kids’ programmes”.((http://www.ditib.de/detail1.php?id=530&lang=de)) Irrespective of the question of tendentiousness, it is indeed true that many German media outlets and public voices have grown critical enough of Erdoğan so as to hold a certain degree of sympathy towards the hizmet movement – a movement that not long ago they would have regarded with a much greater degree of suspicion.

Enduring political faultlines between German Muslim associations

Events in Turkey have also revealed anew the faultlines between German Muslim associations. The three largest predominantly Turkish associations -DITIB((http://www.ditib.de/detail1.php?id=528&lang=de)), as well as the Sufi-tinged VIKZ((http://www.vikz.de/index.php/pressemitteilungen/items/putschversuch-in-der-tuerkei-gescheitert.html)) and the Islamist-leaning IGMG((https://www.igmg.org/uneingeschraenkte-solidaritaet-mit-dem-tuerkischen-volk-und-der-tuerkei/)) – all lauded the Turkish people for helping defeat the coup by defying the military’s orders. These associations’ press releases present the failure of the putsch as a victory for democracy.

Conversely, the Turkish Alevi community in Germany (AABF) criticised DITIB, VIKZ, and IGMG for simply siding with Erdoğan against the putschists. The Alevi association’s press release demanded genuine democratisation in Turkey and deemed neither Erdoğan nor military rule to be desirable. ((http://alevi.com/de/?p=8555))

The only peak association that is not dominated by Turkish Muslims and Turkish questions, the ZMD, strove to take a pointedly neutral stance and to sharpen its profile by doing so: ZMD chairman Aiman Mazyek announced that “from the position of German Muslims we will continue to advocate for democracy in Turkey […] and not let us get entangled in turf battles.”((http://www.zentralrat.de/27788.php))

To a certain extent such ostentatious neutrality is an easier choice for the ZMD, since it is less embroiled in the Turkish political scene. Yet it is also part and parcel of the ZMD’s and especially Mazyek’s quest to present his persona and organisation as the politically preferable and most reliable voice in the Muslim spectrum.

Muslim and LGBTQ communities stand together against hatred and prejudice after Orlando shooting

Muslim and LGBTQ leaders came together at The 519 community centre, in the gay village, to denounce Islamophobia and homophobia.
Muslims and LGBTQ people both know how it feels to be treated badly or even hated sometimes because of who they are.
Mostly, these groups have suffered separately. But the tragedy in Orlando brought some members of both communities together on Friday night to end the daily Ramadan fast together in an expression of solidarity.
More than 150 people gathered at The 519 community centre, on Church St. in the gay village, to break bread and denounce Islamophobia and homophobia in the wake of the June 12 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Outside, candles burned in a shrine for the 49 victims of the massacre, the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

“I reported Omar Mateen to the FBI. Trump is wrong that Muslims don’t do our part.”

Non-Muslim members of the community watch a special prayer at the American Muslim Community Center Monday, June 13, 2016, in Longwood, Fla., after the mass-shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub.

Donald Trump believes American Muslims are hiding something.

“They know what’s going on. They know that [Omar Mateen] was bad,” he said after the Orlando massacre. “They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. … But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction.”

This is a common idea in the United States. It’s also a lie. First, Muslims like me can’t see into the hearts of other worshipers. (Do you know the hidden depths of everyone in yourcommunity?) Second, he’s also wrong that we don’t speak up when we’re able.

I know this firsthand: I was the one who told the FBI about Omar Mateen.

I met Omar for the first time in 2006 at an iftar meal at my brother-in-law’s house. As the women, including his mother and sisters, chatted in the living room, I sat with the men on the patio and got to know him and his father. Omar broke his Ramadan fast with a protein shake. He was quiet — then and always — and let his dad do the talking.

[Rep. Jim Himes: Why I walked out of the House’s moment of silence for Orlando.]

I’d seen them before at the oldest mosque in the area, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce. We have a lot of immigrants in our community. They grew up in other countries, often with different sensibilities. A few don’t understand American culture, and they struggle to connect with their American-born or American-raised kids.

I came here from Pakistan in 1979 when I was 6 years old, grew up in Queens (like Omar) and Fort Lauderdale, went through the American education system, and assimilated well. So I was able to make better inroads with young people in our community, including that introverted teenager I met at the iftar. I tried to stay in touch with the younger generation, acting as a mentor when I could.

I saw Omar from time to time over the next decade, and we developed a relationship because most of the other Muslim kids in his age group went elsewhere for college, and he stayed behind. We mostly spoke over the phone or texted with one another a half-dozen times per year. We talked about the lack of social programs at the mosque, especially for teens and young adults like him. I often played pranks on him. Once, around 2009, I attached LED lights to the tires of his car, so when he drove the wheels glowed neon. He laughed when he figured it out a few days later.

Soon after Omar married and moved to his own home, he began to come to the mosque more often. Then he went on a religious trip to Saudi Arabia. There was nothing to indicate that he had a dark side, even when he and his first wife divorced.

But as news reports this week have made clear, Omar did have a dark outlook on life. Partly, he was upset at what he saw as racism in the United States – against Muslims and others. When he worked as a security guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, he told me visitors often made nasty or bigoted remarks to him about Islam. He overheard people saying ugly things about African Americans, too. Since Sept. 11, I’ve thought the only way to answer Islamophobia was to be polite and kind; the best way to counter all the negativity people were seeing on TV about Islam was by showing them the opposite. I urged Omar to volunteer and help people in need – Muslim or otherwise (charity is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always very worked up about this injustice.

[Trump’s new favorite slogan was invented for Nazi sympathizers.]

Then, during the summer of 2014, something traumatic happened for our community. A boy from our local mosque, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, was 22 when he became the first American-born suicide bomber, driving a truck full of explosives into a government office in Syria. He’d traveled there and joined a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the previous year. We had all known Moner; he was jovial and easygoing, the opposite of Omar. According to a posthumous video released that summer, he had clearly self-radicalized – and had also done so by listening to the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic Yemen-based imam who helped radicalize several Muslims, including the Fort Hood shooter. Everyone in the area was shocked and upset. We hate violence and were horrified that one of our number could have killed so many. (After an earlier training mission to Syria, he’d tried to recruit a few Florida friends to the cause. They told the FBI about him.)

Immediately after Moner’s attack, news reports said that American officials didn’t know anything about him; I read that they were looking for people to give them some background. So I called the FBI and offered to tell investigators a bit about the young man. It wasn’t much – we hadn’t been close – but I’m an American Muslim, and I wanted to do my part. I didn’t want another act like that to happen. I didn’t want more innocent people to die. Agents asked me if there were any other local kids who might resort to violence in the name of Islam. No names sprang to mind.

After my talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, abut Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.

After speaking with Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let them know that Omar had been watching Awlaki’s tapes. He hadn’t committed any acts of violence and wasn’t planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn’t, because he didn’t fit the profile: He already had a second wife and a son. But it was something agents should keep their eyes on. I never heard from them about Omar again, but apparently they did their job: They looked into him and, finding nothing to go on, they closed the file.

[Glenn Greenwald: The FBI was right not to arrest Omar Mateen before the shooting.]

Omar and I continued to have infrequent conversations over the next few years. I last saw him at a dinner at his father’s house in January. We talked about the presidential election and debated our views of the candidates that were running – he liked Hillary Clinton and I liked Bernie Sanders. This banter continued through texts and phone calls for several months. My last conversation with Omar was by phone in mid-May. He called me while he was at the beach with his son to tell me about a vacation he’d taken with his father to Orlando the previous weekend. He’d been impressed by the local mosque.

What happened next is well-known. We’re still in shock. We’re totally against what he did, and we feel the deepest sadness for the victims and their families. If you don’t agree with someone, you don’t have the right to kill them. We are taught to be kind to all of God’s creation. Islam is very strict about killing: Even in war – to say nothing of peace – you cannot harm women, children, the elderly, the sick, clergymen, or even plants. You can’t mutilate dead bodies. You can’t destroy buildings, especially churches or temples. You can’t force anyone to accept Islam. “If anyone slew one person, it would be as if he killed the whole of humanity,” says the Koran.

I had told the FBI about Omar because my community, and Muslims generally, have nothing to hide. I love this country, like most Muslims that I know. I don’t agree with every government policy (I think there’s too much money in politics, for instance), but I’m proud to be an American. I vote. I volunteer. I teach my children to treat all people kindly. Our families came here because it is full of opportunity – a place where getting a job is about what you know, not who you know. It’s a better country to raise children than someplace where the electricity is out for 18 hours a day, where politicians are totally corrupt, or where the leader is a dictator.

But there’s so much suspicion of Islam here. The local paper published an unsigned editorial called “Leave our peaceful Muslim neighbors alone,” and the comments were full of hateful lies – that the Boston bombers had visited the area, that the Sept. 11 bombers came from here, that we were a hotbed of violent ideology. None of this is true. Donald Trump didn’t create these attitudes, but he plays on them and amplifies them.

I am not the first American Muslim to report on someone; people who do that simply don’t like to announce themselves in to the media. For my part, I’m not looking for personal accolades. I’m just tired of negative rhetoric and ignorant comments about my faith. Trump’s assertions about our community – that we have the ability to help our country but have simply declined to do so – are tragic, ugly and wrong.

[Editor’s note: A federal law enforcement official confirmed the author’s cooperation to The Washington Post.]