Britain Sets Ground Rules For Banning Foreign Extremists

By Alan Cowell LONDON Charles Clarke, the British home secretary, published a catalogue of terrorism-related offenses on Wednesday, setting the ground rules for Britain to ban or deport foreigners accused of fomenting hatred, violence and extremism. The list is directed primarily at firebrand Muslim clerics and scholars suspected by the government of inspiring violence among British Muslims, like those who carried out the London bombings in July. The announcement by Clarke, Britain’s most senior law enforcement official, followed a promise from the British prime minister, Tony Blair, earlier this month to take action, including closing mosques and barring clerics, to forestall future terrorist attacks. The measures announced Wednesday seemed slightly less sweeping than first promised by Blair. A Home Office statement said Clarke had decided not to include a catchall definition of unacceptable behavior as being “the expression of views that the government considers to be extreme and that conflict with the U.K.’s culture of tolerance.” In a statement, Clarke said the new regulations covered the expression of views which “foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs” or which “seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.” The list also banned actions to “foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts” or to “foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence” in Britain. The new regulations cover several means of expression “including writing, producing, publishing or distributing material; public speaking including preaching; running a Web site; or using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader,” the statement said. It was not immediately known who was most likely to be affected by the measures. Clarke said a “database of individuals around the world who have demonstrated these unacceptable behaviors will be developed.” Since Blair threatened to expel foreign-born militants earlier this month, the government has rounded up 10 men it plans to deport, including Abu Qatada, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian descent accused by European investigators of being a spiritual guide to Al Qaeda. Britain also barred Omar Bakri Mohammed, born in Syria, from returning to Britain from a visit to Lebanon. The government said it was negotiating with various nations, including Jordan, for guarantees that militants sent back to their own countries would not be tortured or abused. “Individuals who seek to create fear, distrust and division in order to stir up terrorist activity will not be tolerated by the government or by our communities,” Clarke said. By publishing the list, “I make it absolutely clear that these are unacceptable behaviors, and will be the grounds for deporting and excluding such individuals” from Britain. Some civil rights groups challenged the measures. The “announcement fails to answer the fundamental question; will the government’s deportation plans result in suspects being sent to countries with a known record of torture?,” said James Welch, the legal director of a civil rights group called Liberty. “What has always separated us from the terrorists is that we do not torture people or send them to be tortured – that is the standard we need to maintain.” But the regulations drew a broad welcome from the opposition Liberal Democrats because it included provisions for appeal. “It is good that the home secretary has seen sense on the deportation rules,” said Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs. “We broadly welcome the use of powers to deport people, as long as the individuals involved have a right to appeal and the case for deportation is reasonable.” Clarke said the measures would not limit free speech. “These powers are not intended to stifle free speech or legitimate debate about religions or other issues,” he said. “Britain is rightly proud of its openness and diversity and we must not allow those driven by extremism of any sort to destroy that tradition.”

U.S. Muslim Scholars’ Edict Denouncing Terrorism Stirs Debate

By RACHEL ZOLL As they issued an edict condemning religious extremism, American Muslims hoped to silence complaints from outsiders dating back to the Sept. 11 attacks that the community has done too little to confront terrorism. But as soon as the statement was released, sharp criticism came from another source — within the U.S. Muslim community itself. Several American Muslim academics now say the edict, or fatwa, was so broad it was meaningless, and should have denounced specific terrorist groups including al-Qaida. Critics also said the declaration seemed geared more toward improving the faith’s image rather than starting an honest discussion about Islamic teaching. “The bulk of the Islamic tradition as it exists does stand against these lunatic, savage attacks on civilians,” said Omid Safi, a Colgate University religion professor and chairman of the Progressive Muslim Union, an American reform group. “But I would be more inclined to say there are elements of extremism in many parts of our tradition. Rather than simply saying these are not a part of Islam, I would acknowledge that these trends are there and do away with them.” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights group which endorsed the fatwa, said no specific groups were named because “it would have been a laundry list.” “I think you can safely regard anyone listed on the State Department list (of terrorist groups) as included,” Hooper said. That list includes the Islamic militant group Hamas, which many Palestinians believe is waging a legitimate fight against Israel. “It’s not likely that someone who is already considering some act of terrorism would be dissuaded by this, but you never know if you’re going to prevent someone from going on the ideological road that would lead them to this activity,” Hooper said. Muslims around the world have been under renewed pressure to denounce terrorism following July’s deadly bombings in Britain and Egypt, along with the drumbeat of insurgent attacks on civilians and coalition troops in Iraq. The U.S. fatwa, written by the Fiqh Council of North America, an advisory committee on Islamic law, said nothing in Islam justifies religious extremism or terrorism targeting civilians. The council further declared that Muslims were obligated to help law enforcement protect civilians anywhere from attacks. Fiqh Council chairman Muzammil Siddiqi said the edict applied even when a Muslim country has been taken over by a foreign power. In Britain, two groups of Muslim leaders separately denounced the July 7 London attacks, but one said suicide bombing could still be justified against an occupying power, while another said it could not. “Occupation is wrong, of course, but at the same time this is not the way,” Siddiqi said. But Abdullahi An-Na’im, who specializes in Islamic law and human rights at Emory University, said the American fatwa was misleading. He said the scholars could not say “in good faith” that Islamic law, called Shariah, required Muslims to assist an invader. “What is Shariah’s position on an invasion or occupation of a Muslim country by a non-Muslim country? Put bluntly in those terms, I don’t think that any credible scholar could say this is legitimate,” An-Na’im said. “If the same group of scholars were asked to issue a fatwa over the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which is the underlying thing, what would that fatwa be and how would Americans feel about it?” The debate is complicated by the fact that Islam has no ordained clergy or central authority, like a pope, who can hand down definitive teaching. Islamic leaders with conflicting views regularly claim they are authorized to issue the edicts. An-Na’im pointed out that Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued fatwas promoting violence against what he saw as Muslim oppressors; An-Na’im wondered why any Muslim would feel bound, then, to follow the American declaration denouncing it. Muqtedar Khan, a political scientist at the University of Delaware and author of American Muslims, said it appeared the main aim of the U.S. fatwa was protecting U.S. Muslim leaders and organizations from criticism. And the edict may have fallen short of even that goal, he said. Disagreement over the declaration was inevitable – American Islam is a diverse mix of millions of immigrants and U.S.-born converts. Also, there is no major centre of Islamic learning in the United States. Yet even critics acknowledged something constructive could develop from the fatwa, despite its shortcomings. Said Safi: “There should be a follow-up conversation about what you do with the medieval legacy of how jihad (struggle) is undertaken, rather than saying these things are never a part of Islam.”

Fatwa Stirs Debate Among U.S. Muslims Some Contend Anti-Terror Edict Meaningless

By RACHEL ZOLL AP religion writer As they issued an edict condemning religious extremism, American Muslims hoped to silence complaints from outsiders dating back to the Sept. 11 attacks that the community has done too little to confront terrorism. But as soon as last week’s statement was released, sharp criticism came from another source – within the U.S. Muslim community itself. Several American Muslim academics now say that the edict, or fatwa, was so broad it was meaningless, and should have denounced specific terrorist groups including al-Qaida. Critics also said the declaration seemed geared more toward improving the faith’s image rather than starting an honest discussion about Islamic teaching. “The bulk of the Islamic tradition as it exists does stand against these lunatic, savage attacks on civilians,” said Omid Safi, a Colgate University religion professor and chairman of the Progressive Muslim Union, an American reform group. “But I would be more inclined to say there are elements of extremism in many parts of our tradition. Rather than simply saying these are not a part of Islam, I would acknowledge that these trends are there and do away with them.” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights group which endorsed the fatwa, said no specific groups were named because “it would have been a laundry list.” “I think you can safely regard anyone listed on the State Department list (of terrorist groups) as included,” Hooper said. That list includes the Islamic militant group Hamas, which many Palestinians believe is waging a legitimate fight against Israel. “It’s not likely that someone who is already considering some act of terrorism would be dissuaded by this, but you never know if you’re going to prevent someone from going on the ideological road that would lead them to this activity,” Hooper said. Muslims around the world have been under renewed pressure to denounce terrorism following last month’s deadly bombings in Britain and Egypt, along with the drumbeat of insurgent attacks on civilians and coalition troops in Iraq. The U.S. fatwa, written by the Fiqh Council of North America, an advisory committee on Islamic law, said nothing in Islam justifies religious extremism or terrorism targeting civilians. The council further declared that Muslims were obligated to help law enforcement protect civilians anywhere from attacks. Fiqh Council chairman Muzammil H. Siddiqi said the edict applied even when a Muslim country has been taken over by a foreign power. In Britain last month, two groups of Muslim leaders separately denounced the July 7 London attacks, but one said suicide bombing could still be justified against an occupying power, while another said it could not. “Occupation is wrong, of course, but at the same time this is not the way,” Siddiqi said. But Abdullahi An-Na’im, who specializes in Islamic law and human rights at Emory University, said the American fatwa was misleading. He said the scholars could not say “in good faith” that Islamic law, called Shariah, required Muslims to assist an invader. “What is Shariah’s position on an invasion or occupation of a Muslim country by a non-Muslim country? Put bluntly in those terms, I don’t think that any credible scholar could say this is legitimate,” An-Na’im said. “If the same group of scholars were asked to issue a fatwa over the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, which is the underlying thing, what would that fatwa be and how would Americans feel about it?” The debate is complicated by the fact that Islam has no ordained clergy or central authority, like a pope, who can hand down definitive teaching. Islamic leaders with conflicting views regularly claim they are authorized to issue the edicts. An-Na’im pointed out that Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has issued fatwas promoting violence against what he sees as Muslim oppressors; An-Na’im wondered why any Muslim would feel bound, then, to follow the American declaration denouncing it. Muqtedar Khan, a political scientist at the University of Delaware and author of “American Muslims,” said it appeared the main aim of the U.S. fatwa was protecting U.S. Muslim leaders and organizations from criticism. And the edict may have fallen short of even that goal, he said. “They should have been at least specific about events, if not individuals or organizations. They did not condemn al-Qaida or (Osama) bin laden. It would have had more punch to end all these claims that American Muslims are not doing enough to end terrorism if they had,” Khan said. Disagreement over the declaration was inevitable – American Islam is a diverse mix of millions of immigrants and U.S.-born converts. Also, there is no major center of Islamic learning in the United States, and some Muslims even questioned whether the 18 scholars who issued the fatwa had the classical training required to interpret Islamic law, Safi said. Yet even critics acknowledged something constructive could develop from the fatwa, despite its shortcomings. They hoped it would prompt Muslims to undertake a thorough examination of Islamic teachings and traditions to make a convincing case against terrorism. Said Safi: “There should be a follow-up conversation about what you do with the medieval legacy of how jihad (struggle) is undertaken, rather than saying these things are never a part of Islam.”

The Fiqh Council Of North America Wishes To Reaffirm Islam’s Absolute Condemnation Of Terrorism And Religious Extremism

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.” The Qur’an, Islam’s revealed text, states: “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32) Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi) God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur’an: “We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.” (Qur’an, 2:143) In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: “Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbid evil.” (Qur’an, 3:104) Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God’s creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur’an as “a mercy to the worlds” said: “All creation is the family of God, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family.” {In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state}: 1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam. 2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence. 3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians. We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners. We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.

How Well Are American Muslims Fitting In? The Suicide Bombings In London Raise Questions Of Assimilation For The 3 Million Muslims In The US

By Howard LaFranchi Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor WASHINGTON – It’s called the “Virginia Jihad” case: Iraqi-American medical researcher Ali al-Yimimi, who preached in northern Virginia mosques and disseminated his radical thinking on the Web, was sentenced to life imprisonment last week. His crime: inciting followers, many of them young American-born Muslims, to a violent defense of Islam and war against the United States and its intervention in Islamic countries. Mr. Timimi’s sentencing in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom came against the backdrop of the London bombings, which British police now say were carried out by young British Muslims – and not foreign terrorists as in the case of the Sept. 11 attacks. They also say that the mastermind may have been a US-educated Egyptian chemist arrested Friday in Cairo. The London blasts not only brought the phenomenon of terrorists blowing themselves up to Western soil, but they raise new concerns of home-grown terrorism – not to mention a sense of dread about consequences among Britain’s predominately peaceful and moderate Muslim population of approximately 1.6 million. In the US, the attacks and events like the Virginia Jihad case are raising anxieties about immigrants and their allegiances in the midst of a rapidly expanding immigrant population. With a new report finding that births to foreign-born women in the US are at their highest level ever – nearly 1 in 4 – some experts are warning that the traditional rapid assimilation of immigrants risks breaking down – with potentially worrisome consequences. “Traditionally you had in the US an immigrant child learning to swim in a sea of native children, but increasingly it is the children of natives lost in a sea of children of immigrants,” says Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. His research of US Census figures shows that in 2002, 23 percent of US births were to immigrant mothers – up from 15 percent in 1990. The figure is closer to 25 percent today, Mr. Camarota adds, and could approach 30 percent by 2010. The vast majority of those children are born to Mexican and other immigrant Spanish-speaking women – a fact that prominent experts like Harvard’s Samuel Huntington, of “clash of civilizations” fame, say presents its own special challenges. Camarota estimates that the US Muslim population is about 3 million, including converts. Other organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, put the overall number much higher, at perhaps 6 million. Based on a 2002 study of US immigrants from the broader Middle East, Camarota estimates around 600,000 children of Muslim immigrants in the US. These facts, set in the context of new twists in Islamic terrorism, are raising questions about how well the children of Muslim immigrants are being assimilated. In California, the issue arose last month in the Central Valley town of Lodi – with a community of some 3,000 Muslims, mostly Pakistani immigrants or their descendants – where federal agents arrested two residents, a father and a son, for allegedly lying about links to terrorist-training camps in Pakistan, and two local imams. The Lodi case roiled the city’s Muslim community, raising worries about the sudden national spotlight, and drawing professions of allegiance and love for America from the local Muslim residents. Such cases appear to be feeding a growing sense of concern among Americans about immigration, and about Muslim immigrants in particular. In a new survey published last week by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, Americans joined other Westerners in the perception that Muslims have a strong and growing sense of Islamic identity, and want to remain distinct from the mainstream culture. “What we’re seeing is a relationship between a perception of separatism among Muslims living in these [North American and European] countries and serious concerns about extremism,” says Carolyn Funk, senior project director for the international survey of Islamic extremism. The survey of 17 countries did find that approval of terrorist acts such as suicide bombings is falling in many Muslim countries, with more Muslims expressing concerns about the threat posed by Islamic extremism to their own country. Even Osama bin Laden is losing some of the shine he enjoyed in some countries, such as Morocco and Indonesia, although the survey shows esteem for him actually rising in Jordan and Pakistan. In Western countries with sizable Muslim minorities, the survey shows, concerns about unassimilating populations run parallelel to worries about extremist violence. In the US, where 70 percent said they worried about Islamic extremism in their country, half said they sensed an increasing interest in Islamic identity, and generally saw that as a bad thing. “The US is on the lower end [when compared to European countries],” says Ms. Funk, “but the same trend is there.” Americans seem to be of two minds about immigration, with a new Gallup poll confirming that ambivalence: It finds that a large majority of Americans think immigration is good for the country, while at the same time feeling that current levels of immigration are too high. For experts like CIS’s Camarota and others, those misgivings reflect a concern about the ability – or desire – of some groups to assimilate. At the same time, many Muslim community representatives say assimilation has become more difficult as Islamic extremism has risen to have an impact on the West. And they add that addressing the isolation and fanaticism that can feed homegrown extremism has to be the work of both the Islamic community and the broader society. “The challenges for immigrants, and in particular for Muslims, are more formidable in the post-9/11 era; the assimilation process is a much more difficult mountain to climb,” says Salam al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. Comparing the assimilation process to something of a two-way street, he says there are essential roles for both the minority Muslim community and the majority society “to make sure that Islam and Muslims play a positive role in American pluralism.” He also says that public officials must do more to acknowledge the cooperation they are getting from and relationships they are building with the Muslim community. He notes for example that his organization is working with the Department of Justice and the FBI on an antiterrorism campaign that has resulted in community forums and training in 20 cities. But he says officials have never held the press conference acknowledging the program as promised. “All I can think is that there are political calculations that keep them from doing it,” Mr. Marayati says. If true, that would run counter to what many experts say is a key factor in preventing another attack on US soil: the cooperation and allegiance of American Muslims. Clearly many have played key roles in cases where law enforcement has been able to target activities with potentially violent designs. But some Muslims say more encouragement is needed. “There’s a lack of space for Muslims to contribute to the political and social spheres,” Marayati says, “and you end up with an exclusion of the American Muslim voice.”