Muslims criticise BBC interview with preacher linked to soldier’s killer

Muslim organisations are to ask the director general of the BBC to explain the decision to broadcast an interview with an extremist preacher with close links to one of Lee Rigby’s killers. In the latest criticism of the decision to give a prominent slot to Anjem Choudary on Radio 4’s Today programme, the organisations are to demand a meeting with Tony Hall to discuss the BBC’s editorial policies. The groups are furious that Choudary was interviewed the day after guilty verdicts were returned on Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale for the Woolwich soldier’s murder. They will be sentenced in January.

Shunned by the Muslim community, Choudary’s views are condemned by all of its leading organisations. Despite his extremist views, he was given the most high-profile slot on Today, shortly after the 8 o’clock news on Thursday morning. “It was a massive error of judgment and it does so much damage,” said Julie Siddiqui, vice-president of the Islamic Society of Britain. “Why him? He has no legitimacy in the Muslim community.” She said Choudary’s views would foster negative views that would harm faith relations and, as a result, a number of Muslim groups would be writing to the corporation in a bid to understand why it gave the preacher such prominence. “He’s not going to radicalise young Muslims, but what he is doing is reinforcing prejudices that are out there,” Siddiqui said.

Choudary pulled out of an interview with Panorama, which had gathered evidence of his close and recent links to Adebolajo. But he was not asked about this on Today. “We need to understand how this was allowed to happen,” Siddiqui said. “We need to articulate to the BBC the anger and disappointment that he was given this platform.” Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think-tank, said: “The BBC has an editorial responsibility to explain the choices it makes.”

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We believe it is important to reflect that such opinions exist and feel Choudary’s comments may offer some insight into how this crime came about.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/dec/22/bbc-interview-preacher-muslims

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/radical-preacher-anjem-choudary-not-deserving-of-bbc-time-9018878.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10529802/BBC-criticised-for-giving-extremist-preacher-Anjem-Choudary-airtime.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10530865/Weve-heard-enough-from-Anjem-Choudary.html

Lee Rigby murder: UK’s street gangs are the next breeding ground for new brand of extremist’

December 19, 2013

 

Young urban gang members have been targeted by charismatic preachers for conversion to a radical form of Islam, in a development not being properly addressed by the Government’s security programme, community leaders claimed in the wake of the Woolwich trial.

The case of two black Muslim converts, both from criminal backgrounds and with a highly tuned sense of grievance, has highlighted concerns that efforts to prevent radicals are focused too much on universities and so-called middle-class converts.

Michael Adebowale was a member of a gang at the time of his conversion at the age of 17, police confirmed, but his path to radicalisation remained unclear. MPs found that converts to Islam were at particular risk of radicalisation. In April, Richard Dart, a white security guard converted by Anjem Choudary – former leader of the now-banned al-Muhajiroun group – was jailed for six years for plotting to attack soldiers at Royal Wootton Bassett.

“In the urban environment, being Muslim carries a bit of street cred. It’s the urban religion of choice,” he said. “It’s about religion sticking two fingers up at the establishment. It’s an attractive mix. It validates criminality.”

“These kids’ constant experiences are of being victims, and then the radicalised movement comes along and offers them the opportunity to be heroic,” said Camilla Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company, which works with vulnerable children in the capital. “The radicalisers are identifying the most vulnerable kids…  They’re showing them videos that are getting progressively worse, alleged atrocities by the British. Then they’re sending them to training camps abroad.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/lee-rigby-murder-uks-street-gangs–are-the-next-breeding-ground-for-new-brand-of-extremist-9016698.html

Islamophobia and Racism in France: Shocking Indifference

November 27, 2013

 

Attacks on Muslim establishments are on the increase in France. Most recently, the Grand Mosquée in Paris was daubed with racist slogans. Islamophobia and xenophobia are also featuring more prominently in the public discourse. Bernhard Schmid reports

A shockwave – or just a ripple of surprise? On 23 November the French news agency AFP published a report stating that the number of “Islamophobic acts had risen again”. The report is based on data from the “National Monitoring Centre for Islamophobia” which claims that attacks on Muslims and Islamic establishments in the first nine months of this year have increased by 11.3 percent on the same period last year.

Attacks such as this one, among others: On 19 November, the walls of the Grande Mosquée de Paris – the capital’s oldest mosque established in 1927 – were sprayed with abusive statements. The warden of the mosque, Dalili Boubakeur, expressed his most profound regret at this expression of what he called “racist violence and hostility”.

This is no isolated incident: Recently in the southern French town of Lesparre-Médoc near Bordeaux, police arrested two men aged 24 and 39 alleged to have been responsible for daubing swastikas on the walls of the local mosque last summer. Both men confessed the following day.

New Quality of Racism

As though that were not enough: In early November the news broke that two mosques in Besançon had also been daubed with inflammatory slogans. The perpetrators had scrawled statements such as “Arabs Out!” and “France for the French!” on the walls, as well as swastikas. Similar slogans had been painted on the walls of a mosque in the southern French town of Carpentras two weeks previously – along a total length of 30 metres.

Racially motivated, anti-Islamic vandalism such as this is not the only cause for concern at the monitoring centre set up some time ago by the French “Representative Council of Muslims” (CFCM). An increase in physical attacks on Muslim women wearing a veil or other head covering is also “a new phenomenon”, as the centre ascertains in its latest report.

Attacks on Muslim women

The first incidences of this nature emerged in early 2013 in the satellite town of Argenteuil, northwest of Paris. There, unknown attackers beat up several Muslim women; a 19-year-old suffered a miscarriage in June as a direct result of her ordeal. Two protest rallies then took place in Argenteuil.

But because it was Salafist groups, among others, that tried to capitalize on the sense of outrage and took to the streets in protest, the demonstrations attracted little national interest. This meant that any sense of solidarity among elements of the population failed to emerge, to the chagrin of many of those affected, but also of anti-racist groups – even though the victim who had suffered a miscarriage was given the opportunity to present her complaint in person to the interior ministry in late June 2013, as a gesture of sympathy.

The monitoring centre has documented a total of 14 cases of physical violence against women wearing a Muslim headcovering in the Paris suburbs of Argenteuil, Trappes and Reims. The wave of attacks occurring in the Parisianbanlieus is probably attributable to rightwing extremist skinheads, although police have so far been unable to apprehend any perpetrators.

But in the meantime, cases are being observed of acts of violence committed against Muslim women by people with no rightwing extremist background. Last July, the trial began in Orléans of a motorist who attacked three Muslim women following a traffic dispute. The man was accused of hurling racist taunts at the three women – a woman from the Maghreb region, her 15-year-old daughter and her sister – and pulling them out of their car. He was eventually sentenced to two months in prison.

At the annual national rally against violence against women, held on 24 November, for the first time Muslim women wearing headscarves formed their own bloc. They said they were taking a stand against domestic violence perpetrated by men, as well as expressing their growing fear of being attacked in the public sphere.

Dashed hopes

Many believed that the waves of outrage connected to the public perception of Muslims had been primarily incited by campaigning in the run-up to the French parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2012. During the campaign, the rightwing extremist “Front National”, but also elements of the conservative camp, had voiced objections to the “increased presence of halal meat in school canteens”, sometimes openly portraying this as evidence of the fact that the nation was being overrun with foreigners. Many people believed that the public debate over Islam would die down after the elections. But they were very wrong.

But assertions that the racism prevalent in French society is first and foremost taking on “culturalising” forms and being mainly directed at symbols and expressions of the Islamic faith have not been borne out. This is because racism against Romany communities in France has increased, as well as racism against black politicians such as the French Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, who was repeatedly and publicly insulted by her political opponents who called her a “savage” and a “monkey”.

In the meantime, this increase in racist violence has triggered a counter movement: Large-scale protest events against racism and xenophobia are expected to be held in France at the end of this year. These are to mark the 30th anniversary of the spectacular “March for Equality and Against Racism”, when from October to December 1983, the sons and daughters of Maghreb immigrants marched on foot from Marseille via Lyon to Paris, to demonstrate for better rights and more foreigner-friendly policies.

 

Qantara.de – http://en.qantara.de/content/islamophobia-and-racism-in-france-shocking-indifference

French spies plotted to assassinate Abu Hamza on streets of London

November 25, 2013

 

French spies planned to assassinate the extremist preacher Abu Hamza on a London street after they grew frustrated with Britain’s failure to deal with him, it has been claimed. According to a major investigation by the organisation HOPE Not Hate, French intelligence services dubbed the UK capital “Londonistan” because of a growing reputation for harbouring Europe’s Muslim fundamentalists.

Seeking to take advantage of the fear surrounding the London nail bombings by the neo-Nazi militant David Copeland, security officials from Britain’s European neighbour hatched a plot to kill the cleric and blame it on the far-right extremist group Combat 18. Spies got as far as identifying the weapons they would use to mimic those favoured by the organisation, and would have sent Hamza faked death threats pretending to be from the group. It is not clear why the plans were not carried out.

In a completely separate earlier plot, the French spying network Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) contemplated kidnapping Hamza from his West London home, putting him in a ferry and moving him to France. Those plans came amid fears that Algerian terrorists were going to target the 1998 football World Cup in France.

Reports of the two plots come from the extensive investigation entitled “Gateway to Terror” and published today by the HOPE Not Hate group. It looks into the influence of the now-banned al-Muhajiroun group and its links to Hamza and the British Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/french-spies-plotted-to-assassinate-abu-hamza-on-streets-of-london-8961725.html

Council defends decision to stock extremist books in Woolwich library

A council has defended its decision to stock extremist books at Woolwich library – yards from where Lee Rigby died (The soldier who was killed in an attack in Woolwich on 22nd May 2013) – including one by a banned cleric claiming “every Muslim should be a terrorist”. Radical preacher Dr Zakir Naik was banned from entering Britain after his presence was deemed not conducive to the public good, yet three of his works are available in the public library. Greenwich Council has defended their right to stock the texts, written in Urdu, which contain controversial statements on women, Jews and terrorism in a library 200 metres from the spot where Lee Rigby was killed in May.

 

“We are not aware of any lists of books banned by the Home Secretary,” a spokesperson said. “Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf has been publicly available on the shelves of Britain’s public libraries for decades and remains available for any citizen in the UK to purchase.” The book is said to be available at libraries up and down the country.

 

In one of the texts Dr Naik states he is “proud to be a fundamentalist”, adding: “Every Muslim should be a terrorist. A terrorist is somebody who spreads terror and fear.” The statement was specifically examined by the Court of Appeal when it upheld Theresa May’s decision to ban the Islamic scholar from the UK.

 

Former Islamic extremist Dr Usama Hasan, of counter-extremist think tank Quilliam, said it was “strange” that such “niche” works should be available, warning that there was a small risk potential jihadist could use the text as “justification”. “It is difficult to see how the council justify it and defend their decision,” Dr Hasan said.

 

Two extremist groups including Nigeria-based Boko Haram face UK membership and support ban

The two extremist groups – UK-based Minbar Ansar Deen and Nigeria-based Boko Haram – are to be proscribed in the UK under terrorism laws, making membership and support for them a criminal offence. Home Secretary Theresa May is to lay an order which, if approved by Parliament, will ban both of the radical Islamist organisations from operating in the UK from midnight on Friday morning. Minbar Ansar Deen – also known as Ansar al-Sharia UK – promotes terrorism by distributing content through its online forum, which encourages individuals to travel overseas to engage in extremist activity, specifically fighting, the Home Office said. The Government said banning Boko Haram, which aspires to establish Islamic law in Nigeria, will prevent the group from operating in the UK and give the police powers to tackle any UK-based support for the group. Decisions to proscribe the organisations are understood to be unrelated to the murder of soldier Drummer Lee Rigby near Woolwich barracks in south-east London in May. The penalties for proscription offences can be a maximum of 10 years in prison or a £5,000 fine. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary can proscribe an organisation if it is believed to be concerned in terrorism. If approved by Parliament, it will be a criminal offence to belong to or back Minbar Ansar Deen or Boko Haram, as well arrange meetings or wear clothing in support of them. Other proscribed groups include al-Qa’ida, Al Shabaab and Islam4UK, which before it was banned was led by Anjem Choudary.

 

Somali American caught up in a shadowy Pentagon counterpropaganda campaign

In MINNEAPOLIS — Two days after he became a U.S. citizen, Abdiwali Warsame embraced the First Amendment by creating a raucous Web site about his native Somalia. Packed with news and controversial opinions, it rapidly became a magnet for Somalis dispersed around the world, including tens of thousands in Minnesota.

The popularity of the site, Somalimidnimo.com, or United Somalia, also attracted the attention of the Defense Department. A military contractor, working for U.S. Special Operations forces to “counter nefarious influences” in Africa, began monitoring the Web site and compiled a confidential research dossier about its founder and its content.

In a May 2012 report, the contractor, the Northern Virginia-based Navanti Group, branded the Web site “extremist” and asserted that its “chief goal is to disseminate propaganda supportive” of al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that the U.S. government considers a terrorist group. The contractor then delivered a copy of its dossier — including Warsame’s Minnesota home address and phone number — to the FBI. A few days later, federal agents knocked on the webmaster’s door.

Although he did not know it, Warsame had been caught up in a shadowy Defense Department counterpropaganda operation, according to public records and interviews.

 

Sunni vs. Shia in Gerrard’s Cross: New mosque highlights growing tensions among British Muslims

In Fulmer, Buckinghamshire a village close to Gerrard’s Cross it was announced that a former church in the village had been bought for £2m, with a plan to turn it into one of Britain’s leading Shia mosques, assurances were sought about traffic and increased noise. But otherwise the new arrivals have been made welcome. The Muslim community faces an increasing threat from polarising clerics on both sides of Islam’s principal rival sects. The concern is rooted in increasingly vociferous opinions being expressed on both sides of Britain’s three million-strong Muslim community.

 

A leading mainstream Muslim group told The Independent yesterday it was concerned at the presence of “divisive and sectarian personalities” in Britain after it emerged that a controversial Saudi Sunni cleric, who was banned from entering Switzerland because of his extremist views and has frequently preached against “evil Shiites”, has been in London for the past week.

 

The respected Al Khoei Foundation, a mainstream Shia organisation which has drawn up a code of conduct to fight against Muslim sectarianism in Britain, said: “The Muslim communities remain concerned but vigilant about the possibilities of divisive and sectarian personalities being given the air of publicity in the UK. But we remain equally confident of our commitment to unity in the face of any hate speeches or crimes against us or against any community.”

 

Police were called to a demonstration in London’s Edgware Road last month led by Anjem Choudary, the former leader of the banned Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun. Participants in the protest held placards condemning the continued bloodshed in Syria and “the Shia enemies of Allah”. The violence at the heart of one of London’s most diverse Arab and Muslim areas has caused alarm in the wider community and was swiftly condemned by a coalition of Muslim groups, including the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), amid growing concern that extremist preachers are finding fertile ground in sectarian tensions generated by the conflict in Syria.

 

In a joint statement, which singled out the “antics” of Mr Choudary, the MCB said: “Sunnis and Shias remain united in the UK and have a long-established history of intra-faith co-operation. We are acutely aware that the complex situation in the Middle East and Muslim world has the possibility of threatening that tradition… We should avoid hate and condescending speech and literature in our midst.”

 

David Cameron hinted last week that mosques seeking to ban extremist preachers could have their legal fees paid from public funds as part of a raft of measures being drawn up by a ministerial task force, which is also considering direct bans on so-called “preachers of hate” being given public platforms.

Italian Islam convert killed fighting for Syrian rebels [in English]

By Christopher Livesay

 

TAGS: radicalization, youth and pop culture, public opinion and Islam in the media

 

20-year-old was under investigation for terrorist recruitment Genoa – A 20-year-old from the northwestern port city of Genoa who had converted to Islam has died in Syria while fighting with rebels against the government of Bashar al-Assad. The death of Giuliano Ibrahim Delnevo, a student, was first reported by Milan daily Il Giornale on Tuesday and subsequently confirmed by ANSA sources. Delnevo, who had taken the name Ibrahim along with his new faith, had posted passages of the Koran on his Facebook page along with a photograph of Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, known as the ‘Father of Global Jihad’ who inspired Osama bin Laden to take up fundamentalist offensive jihad. His family reportedly had no ties to Islam. According to Il Giornale he taken up with the “most extremist Syrian rebels”. Prosecutors later revealed Delnevo was under investigation in Genoa for terrorist recruitment at the time of his death. According to sources, the probe had been ongoing for months. Authorities said he went to Syria towards the end of 2012, though he had already made contact with extremist groups there in mid-2012. Investigators are looking into whether Delnevo was trained in Italy. Prosecutors said “there are other suspects who are not from Genova”. But Italy’s Security Intelligence Department (DIS) was quick to assure there was no major risk of widespread terrorist recruitment in the country. “There is not a concentration of recruitment, just a few individuals,” said DIS Director Giampiero Massolo. The imam of Genoa told ANSA he remembers seeing Delnevo. “He didn’t come to pray in our center, but I remember seeing him at some of our events, because he was dressed like a sufi,” Salah Hussein said, noting a long white tunic and a Qizilbash, a traditional crimson hat. The head of the Italian Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations (UCOI) on Tuesday distanced his group from the young radical, which the media has dubbed “the Italian jihadist”. “Our role as men and women of faith, just as other faiths, is to work together to send a message of co-existence and not to leave space for personal interpretations of divine messages,” said Ezzedine Elzir. “I don’t know this boy, and I know that (the Muslim community) in Genoa didn’t know him… “I don’t believe he was converted here in Italy”. Delnevo is not the first Italian citizen to be linked to extremist Islam. But the fact that he was born and raised in a Catholic country to Italian parents and not to parents from a majority-Muslim country makes him stand out. Less surprising was the arrest last week of a 21-year-old Italian of Moroccan descent in Brescia for allegedly running the Italian branch of a Belgium-based Islamist organisation under suspicion of planning attacks in Italy.

Anti-fascists fuel the fire of hate

Last weekend, Tony Brett, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Oxford and the city’s deputy lord mayor, found what he called a “disgraceful rabble” of people climbing on the city’s main war memorial — squashing, he said, the flowers that mourners had placed there, then trying to remove half of them altogether and “jeering” other visitors as they paid their respects. That day, the memorial was supposed to be the scene of a wreath-laying by the far-Right, racist English Defence League. But neither Mr Brett, nor a local newspaper reporter on the scene, saw any sign of any EDL presence. All the hate Mr Brett said came from the self-appointed opponents of bigotry, a group called Unite Against Fascism (UAF). “It seemed to me they were doing exactly the kind of thing they were supposed to be protesting against,” said Mr Brett. “I will absolutely not support any hint of racism, Islamophobia or any other form of hate, be it from the EDL or any other group. That day I saw it from another group.” The Oxford branch of UAF said its members climbed on the memorial at the request of a photographer. “The EDL’s use of war memorials is an offence to all those who died fighting fascism,” it said in a statement. Since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby last month, there have reportedly been at least 107 arrests during BNP, EDL and UAF demonstrations. At least 69 of those arrested, just under two thirds, were anti-fascist demonstrators, at least 58 of them UAF.

 

Prominent campaigners such as the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell accuse UAF of a selective approach to bigotry. “UAF commendably opposes the BNP and EDL but it is silent about Islamist fascists who promote anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and sectarian attacks on non-extremist Muslims,” said Mr Tatchell. “It is time the UAF campaigned against the Islamist far Right as well as against the EDL and BNP far Right.”

 

One reason why UAF will not campaign against Islamist extremists is that one of its own vice-chairmen, Azad Ali, is one. Mr Ali is also community affairs coordinator of the Islamic Forum of Europe, a Muslim supremacist group dedicated to changing “the very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed from ignorance to Islam”. Mr Ali has written on his blog of his “love” for Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda cleric closely linked to many terrorist plots, including the September 11 attacks, and used to attend talks by Abu Qatada, the extremist cleric whom Britain is seeking to deport. He has described al-Qaeda as a “myth” and denied that the Mumbai attacks were terrorism. On his blog, he also advocated the killing of British troops in Iraq. He sued a newspaper for reporting that he had said this, and lost.

 

The racist Right thrives on two things: publicity and the politics of victimhood. The mob outrage practised by UAF gets the fascists more of both. Mr Brett added: “It just antagonises the situation. The way to deal with this stuff is not to fight it aggressively. That’s exactly what they want you to do.” Nobody has denied that there has been an increase in tensions since the murder of Drummer Rigby. The danger is that by exaggerating it, and by the politics of confrontation, supposedly anti-racist groups fuel the very division, polarisation and tension they are supposed to counter.