EU and Arab states to meet over foreign fighters in Syria

February 7, 2014

 

Experts from the European Union and eight Arab countries plus Turkey will hold a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, February 11th to discuss threats posed by foreign fighters in Syria, according to a source at Al Arabiya News Channel.

The source said EU countries are increasingly worried about hundreds of young European Muslims who have travelled to Syria to carry out jihad. Many of them, he said, have joined al-Qaeda affiliated groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or al-Nusra Front.

The Arab countries invited to the meeting are Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Irann, Libya, and Tunisia.

French President Francois Hollande said last month that 700 people had left France to join the fighting in Syria in what he called a “worrying” trend.

“A certain number of young Frenchmen and young foreigners living in France… are fighting in Syria – 700 are listed, that’s a lot. Some are dead,” Hollande told a press conference in Paris.

Hollande said young people needed to be warned about the dangers of going to Syria and that France needed to “fight against a certain number of networks and havens that sustain terrorism.”

French officials have warned of the dangers from French citizens fighting with extremist and al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said this week that more than 400 people were either ready to go to Syria, were in the country or had been and returned.

Western security officials have raised fears that foreign fighters trained in Syria could carry out attacks on home soil. Officials say about 20 French citizens have died in the Syria conflict. The country was unsettled last week when reports emerged of two brothers who had converted to Islam dying within four months of each other in the conflict.

Source: http://www.albawaba.com/conflict-syria/eu-syria-552919

Sundance premiere ‘Camp X-Ray’ explores Gitmo life

January 18, 2014

 

Kristen Stewart takes a lot of abuse in her latest film, a gritty drama about detainees at Guantanamo Bay. “Camp X-Ray,” which premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival to boisterous applause, features Stewart as Amy Cole, a guard stationed at the controversial U.S. prison in Cuba, where suspected terrorists are being detained. Stewart’s character takes an elbow to the face, is spit on and splattered with excrement, but learns her treatment is nothing compared to the detainees.

The movie is sympathetic to the prisoners’ plight; Stewart’s character eventually forms a bond with innocent inmate Ali Amir, played by Peyman Moaadi. In an interview with The Associated Press, Stewart said she relished playing such a strong character.The film originally intended Stewart’s role for a male, but he shifted to a female lead because he felt it created more conflict between the two. “And Muslims’ extremist relationship toward women also complicated (the story),” he said. “So I clicked into that.”

Lane Garrison, who also plays a guard in the movie, told the audience that working on “Camp X-Ray” shifted his thinking of Guantanamo Bay, which has been the center of a battle over whether it should close. President Barack Obama has said he would like to see it shut down. “I had a belief that everyone down there was responsible for 9/11,” said Garrison. “After doing this film I started asking questions about Guantanamo Bay and come to find out that there are still men down there that no country wants and I started thinking ‘What if there is a guy down there that is innocent that’s not a terrorist — does he deserve that day in court? It changed me to start asking questions and not just go along with the flow.”

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/sundance-premiere-camp-x-ray-explores-gitmo-life/2014/01/18/bb060d92-8048-11e3-97d3-b9925ce2c57b_story.html

Number of foreign fighters in Syria nearly doubles

December 17, 2013

 

Up to 11,000 fighters from more than 70 nations have joined the struggle in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, almost doubling estimates made earlier this year.

The number of individuals from western Europe taking up arms has tripled to up to 1,900 and includes up to 366 from Britain, according to research by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ISCR) at King’s College, London. The number reported from France has quadrupled while Belgium has the highest per capita rate.

Syria is becoming as big a magnet for Muslim fighters as Afghanistan was in the 1980s when an estimated 35,000 foreigners joined the mujahedeen ranks against Soviet invaders.

But the greater cause was more probably the deepening involvement in the war of Shia fighters from Lebanon and Iraq on the side of Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shia Islam and who is backed by Iran, the major Shia power. “For radical Sunnis, if you see this Syrian government supported by Shia Iran and Hezbollah, it becomes almost a civilizational conflict, almost as if America has intervened in the Middle East,” said Prof Neumann.

The ISCR said that from late 2011 to December 2013 between 3,300 and 11,000 individuals had gone to Syria to fight against the Assad government. It estimated that the likeliest number was 8,500. By that estimate, foreigners make up about ten per cent of the forces ranged against Assad, though other reporting has said they are among the most active in combat.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10523203/Number-of-foreign-fighters-in-Syria-nearly-doubles.html

Four British nationals killed fighting alongside al-Qa’ida in Syria

November 21, 2013

 

Four British nationals have died while fighting for a rebel extremist group against the forces of president Bashar al-Assad in Syria, reports say. Their deaths highlight the increasing international scale of the conflict, and come amid fears of the threat posed by extremists returning to the UK once their part in the war is over.

Security officials and experts say there is a real danger that the Islamists will look to pass on the skills and experience learned in Syria, radicalising and training up more recruits back in Britain. Among the four British fighters killed in recent months was Mohammed el-Araj, 23, from Ladbroke Grove in West London, according to reports. He died while his group in the al-Nusra front, a rebel force linked to al-Qa’ida, was attempting to ambush Assad’s troops in August. He reportedly went by the name “Abu Khalid”, and appears armed with an AK-47 and dressed in rebel uniform in photographs taken in Syria.

Security concerns over what might happen if fighters like Araj survive the conflict and are allowed to re-enter the UK were raised last month when two men who had returned from Syria were arrested on suspicion of hatching a terrorist plot.

The Foreign Office said it was looking into the report that four British nationals had been killed in recent weeks in the conflict.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/four-british-nationals-killed-fighting-alongside-alqaida-in-syria-8953596.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10464423/Four-British-jihadists-killed-fighting-for-al-Qaeda-in-Syria.html

Twelfth Ecumenical Day of the Christian-Islamic dialogue

October 24, 2013

 

On the occasion of the XII Ecumenical Day of the Christian-Islamic dialogue, celebrated throughout Italy on October 27, the national organizing committee wrote an appeal to all of Italy. The committee consists of a series of pacifist and nonviolent associations, which are representative of the Christian and Muslim world. The appeal this year is entitled: “Religious freedom, the basis of civil society. One God, one humanity, human rights for all and all.”

To define this issue, the Committee started with a reflection on the “endless war,” which started on 11 September 2001 and  is still in progress. The text of the stresses that “the war, with the related issue of unclean production of armaments, is the dramatic emergency of our time, as seen by the recent events in Syria. Religions still provide cultural – religious motivations in an event, especially war, which can not be defined as solely political and economic.”

For the promoters of the Day there is no doubt that peace is a valuable asset and must be safeguarded at all costs. Many who celebrate the day participated in a day of prayer and fasting for peace, which was supported on September 7 by Pope Francis.

Also urgent is the issue of religious freedom on which little attention is given, and despite the provisions of our Constitution it is still largely unimplemented. “Freedom of religion” says the appeal “is the subject of conflict in many regions of our country, especially in the north, and not just for Muslims who are systematically denied permission to erect their own places of worship. Missing is a law implementing the constitutional rules.

Hence the need to reflect on these urgent issues. The hope is that this appeal can be widely distributed so that October 27, 2013 may continue, as has already happened in the last eleven years, a positive encounter between Christians and Muslims but also with other religions and with civil society more generally.

targatocn.it: http://www.targatocn.it/2013/10/24/leggi-notizia/articolo/dodicesima-giornata-ecumenica-del-dialogo-cristiano-islamico.html#.UmvMeBa50jE

Muslim Community of Mollet evicted after illegally occupying a public space.

02 October 013

This Wednesday the Local Police of Mollet following a court order have evicted the local Muslim community from the property they were occupying for the last two months as a sign of protest.

The conflict between the Muslim community and the local government started when the first tried to buy a property in the center of town to use it as a Mosque even though they had been warn by the authorities that would not be allowed.

To aggravate the situation, the  Partido Popular (Popular Party) councilors distributed yesterday leaflets against the mosque. The town mayor condemned this action that according to him only instigates even more the conflict between the parts.

Sixth Dutch Muslim Dies in Syria

20 September 2013

 

An 18 year old man fighting with rebel forces in Syria has become the sixth Dutch person to be killed in the conflict. Soufyan el H, who told his parents he was going to work in a hospital, was shot in the head during a gun battle with government forces.

According to the Volkskrant newspaper, officials estimate between 50 and 100 Dutch Muslims have travelled to Syria to join the conflict, but Muslim community sources place the number higher.

Milwaukee Syrians divided on U.S. intervention over chemical weapons

Members of Milwaukee’s Syrian community will be watching intently as the U.S. Congress debates this week whether to take military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his suspected use of chemical weapons on his own people last month.

It is a debate of grave consequence, a life and death decision for this community, many of whose members still have family and friends living in that war-torn country.

“The situation is terrible; they hear the bombs falling around them,” said a Brookfield woman whose parents and siblings live near the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs.

“They go to work,” she said, “under fear of death.”

Syrian Muslims generally support a limited strike that would weaken Assad’s power, saying that ignoring the August attack would invite Assad and every other despot to use chemical weapons on their own people.

Syrian Christians appear staunchly opposed, insisting that an attack will only inflame hostilities in the region and drag the United States into a long-term conflict.

That same divide is evident in Milwaukee’s Syrian communities, whose members laid out their concerns after religious services last week — Muslims at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee on Friday and Christians at St. George Melkite Catholic Church on Sunday. Most asked not to be identified, fearing reprisals against loved ones in Syria.

Nashville rabbi offers Murfreesboro mosque trip on Yom Kippur

The rabbi of Nashville’s largest and longest-practicing synagogue used the most holy night of the Jewish year to invite his congregation on an unusual trip.

Going to the beleaguered mosque in Murfreesboro, he told them Friday, is part of Yom Kippur’s call to introspection.

“It’s the day that we look into our most honest selves and we have to wrestle with ourselves — not just to do what is the easy or comfortabl thing — but that which is courageous and filled with strength of conscience,” said Rabbi Mark Schiftan of The Temple-Congregation Ohabai Sholom.

The congregation will load up on buses Oct. 27 and travel to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro for food and conversation, Schiftan said Saturday. While Jews and Muslims are often in conflict overseas, they’re both religious minorities in the U.S. The meeting gives both congregations the opportunity to ask questions and affirm their appreciation of the First Amendment right to practice their religions.

While Muslims have been meeting in Murfreesboro for decades, their newly opened mosque faced a number of tribulations, from burning of equipment on the construction site to a legal effort to prevent the building’s use.

Many Fort Hood victims believe shooter wants death to be martyrdom, but still back punishment

Maj. Nidal Hasan and many of his victims in the Fort Hood shooting seem to want the same thing — his death. But while survivors and relatives of the dead view lethal injection as justice, the Army psychiatrist appears to see it as something else — martyrdom.

As the sentencing phase begins Monday following Hasan’s conviction for killing 13 people in the 2009 attack, the conflict has not gone unnoticed.

Autumn Manning, whose husband, Shawn Manning, survived being shot six times, views the death penalty as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Hasan would get what he deserves. On the other, it also gives him exactly what he wants.

In the end, she said, it makes little difference because the military has not executed anyone since the 1960s.

The attorneys protested, telling the judge he had a death wish and was paving the way for his own execution. The judge rejected their request to take over the case or to leave Hasan on his own.

Hasan, a U.S.-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, has indicated that martyrdom is a goal.

Martyrdom manifests itself in the Islamic holy book, the Quran, in two ways, said Emran El-Badawi, director of the Arab studies program at the University of Houston.

The shahid — or martyr — is adopted in one sense from Christianity and other early religions as someone who dies for the faith and goes to paradise alongside prophets and saints. Martyrs also appear in the Quran as fallen soldiers or those who died in battle, he said.

This modern concept of a martyr “is incoherent. It is unstandardized, and it is messy,” El-Badawi said, but it has been exploited by extremist groups like al-Qaida to encourage suicide attacks, even though some of Islam’s most prominent religious leaders have condemned this type of warfare.

Hasan apparently communicated with some al-Qaida leaders prior to the attack on the Army post and has repeatedly stated that the rampage was designed to prevent U.S. soldiers from going to fight in unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hasan was to be deployed with some of the troops he killed.