Mehdi Hasan: sanctions for ‘dishonest, demonising press coverage’ of Muslims

Misrepresentative portrayals of Muslims and other minorities will not stop unless newspapers are threatened with sanctions, Mehdi Hasan said yesterday. The columnist and political director of the Huffington Post UK said the press has proven “singularly unable or unwilling to change the discourse, the tone or the approach” towards Muslims, immigrants and asylum seekers.

Hasan, who was speaking in a personal capacity at a media industry event hosted by Mindshare UK, said: “We’re not going to get change unless there is some sanction, there is some penalty. This is not just about Muslims; it is about all minorities.” He suggested advertisers would have boycotted newspapers over the publication of certain headlines about Muslims, had they been about other minorities. He said the practice was not just morally wrong, but also “dangerous and counter-productive […] because it increases alienation, […] and it also confirms the extremist narrative, the Islamist narrative that there is some kind of inevitable clash between the West and all of the Muslims living in the West, that there can never be any kind of reconciliation, that there is always going to be some kind of war between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

In addition to commercial pressure from advertisers and stricter press regulation, Hasan said a drive for greater diversity in the industry was essential to changing culture: “If you’re a Daily Express journalist writing some sort of anti-Muslim headline and the guy sitting opposite you is a Muslim it makes it much more difficult I would imagine.” Finally, Hasan called for “similar sized apologies for similar sized nonsense headlines”. He told the Guardian he is a proponent of front page apologies for incorrect front page stories.

In Washington, Muslims gather to get ‘Happy’ for the camera

April 22, 2014

 

A young man drummed on a bucket as a portable speaker played the uber-upbeat song “Happy,” Pharrell Williams’s anthem to joy and to the pure communal value of boogying in the street that has engendered countless copycat videos across the globe.

Because I’m happy — Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth . . .

Malik, 39, and Salma skipped through a gantlet of applause and cheering.

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you . . .

Jamal, wearing a thobe, and Kareem, in jeans, performed a high-stepping routine of their own. Behind them and in front of them, husbands and wives, parents and children, and total strangers bounced and shimmied and twirled as curious passersby stopped to watch and the camera rolled.

They were brought together by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which advocates for U.S. Muslims, and which last week announced a plan to help steer susceptible members of their communities away from radical Islamist ideology, and Make Space, a Washington-area organization for Muslim professionals and youth.

The video comes on the heels of a version depicting British Muslims that has garnered 1.2 million YouTube views. Like that one, this will show Muslims old and young, male and female, wearing headscarves or letting their hair flow freely — all embracing the concept of happiness.

“It sort of happened in a grass-roots sense — a couple of days ago I posted on Facebook and we put the word out yesterday,” Hasan Shah, Make Space’s board chairman, said Tuesday. “It was something that everyone wanted to do, because it could be done within the boundaries of our religion. It’s not provocative, it’s not risque in any sense.” After all, he said, happiness “is neither Eastern nor Western, it’s universal.”

Still, the British version, called “Happy British Muslims” has been controversial in some circles, underlining the challenges Muslims can face when trying to create art in a Western context.

While many Muslims were elated by the video and wanted to copy it immediately, some said it violated Islam’s law or at least its spirit of modesty, particularly with women dancing and singing in public. Others felt it was humiliating and unnecessary to prove that members of the planet’s second-largest religion are, in fact, happy.

But the 50 or so Muslims who gathered at McPherson Square were hardly encumbered by these concerns — though the organizers did remind them to limit their gyrations to the upper half of the body.

The song’s contagious popularity seemed like a perfect vehicle for that, said Haris Tarin, the D.C. director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Since this song has gone viral, we thought, why not take advantage of it? It may be a little wacky, a little out of the ordinary . . . but it gives that idea of the American Muslims in the public square.”

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/in-washington-muslims-gather-to-get-happy-for-the-camera/2014/04/22/c2dd9108-ca34-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html

Court order states man charged in Calif. terrorism case was headed to Pakistan

October 17, 2013:

A California man charged with attempting to join al-Qaida and lying on a U.S. passport application to aid international terrorism was planning to travel to Pakistan before he was arrested, a court document showed on Thursday.

A federal court order to detain Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove states that arresting agents said he was due to travel to Mexico City by bus and then board a flight to Pakistan.

The order, which was made available online Thursday, also states Nguyen was holding a fake passport and had recently traveled to Lebanon and Syria to help the Free Syrian Army.

Nguyen, who is a U.S. citizen, was arrested last week in Santa Ana while waiting to board a bus to Mexico. He has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court Monday.

Nguyen, who is also known as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, attempted to work under the direction of al-Qaida, according to an indictment returned last week. The four-page document provides no details about the alleged terrorism act.

 
The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/court-order-states-man-charged-in-calif-terrorism-case-was-headed-to-pakistan/2013/10/17/8d987df0-3795-11e3-89db-8002ba99b894_story.html

Fort Hood gunman who killed 13 forcibly shaved in military prison

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The Army psychiatrist sentenced to death for the Fort Hood shooting rampage has been forcibly shaved, an Army spokesman said Tuesday.

Maj. Nidal Hasan began growing a beard in the years after the November 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and 30 wounded. The beard prompted delays to his court-martial because it violated Army grooming regulations. He was convicted of all charges last month at his court-martial at the Central Texas Army post and sentenced to death.

Now, Hasan is an inmate at the U.S. Detention Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., home to the military death row. Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday that Hasan had been shaved. He did not specify when or provide details, however.

Officials at Fort Leavenworth previously had said Hasan would be subject to Army regulations.

Hasan said he grew the beard because his Muslim faith required it and was not meant as a show of disrespect. However, Col. Gregory Gross, the original judge presiding over Hasan’s court-martial, ordered Hasan to be clean-shaven or be forcibly shaved before his trial.

The dispute over that decision led to appeals that delayed the trial by more than three months before the appeals court ousted the judge. The appeals court ruled that Gross did not appear impartial while presiding over Hasan’s case and that the command, not a judge, is responsible for enforcing military grooming standards.

 

Military jury sentences Army psychiatrist to death for 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood

FORT HOOD, Texas — A military jury on Wednesday sentenced Maj. Nidal Hasan to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, handing the Army psychiatrist the ultimate punishment after a trial in which he seemed to be courting martyrdom by making almost no effort to defend himself.

 

The 13-member panel spent less than two hours deliberating privately, and the president — or forewoman– announced the finding in open court with a clear voice, that Hasan “be put to death.”

The rare military death sentence came nearly four years after the attack that stunned even an Army hardened by more than a decade of constant war. Hasan walked into a medical building where soldiers were getting medical checkups, shouted “Allahu akbar” — Arabic for “God is great!” — and opened fire with a laser-sighted handgun. Thirteen people were killed and 32 others were wounded.

 

The convicted killer said nothing as the decision was announced, and had appeared emotionless earlier in the morning when dramatic closing arguments in the sentencing phase were held without his participation.

 

The judge quickly accepted the verdict; the matter now goes to the “convening authority” — an Army general who will review the four-week court-martial proceedings and make the binding decision whether to accept the guilty verdict and capital sentence.

 

It is a process that could take a few more months, and only then will the verdicts become official.

The convening authority has the option of reducing the sentence to life in prison without parole. The defendant will then have the right to appeal through the military justice system.

 

Appeals could take years

 

If swift justice is the goal, history may not be on Hasan’s or the government’s side. The last military execution was in 1961, and only five servicemen face lethal injection. Three are African-American, two are white.

 

If Nidal Hasan plans to welcome a death sentence as a pathway to martyrdom, the rules of military justice won’t let him go down without a fight — whether he likes it or not.  But before an execution date is set, Hasan faces years, if not decades, of appeals. And this time, he won’t be allowed to represent himself.

The mandatory appellate process could take years, even if Hasan voluntarily foregoes many of the procedural steps available to any defense.

 

John Galligan, a retired Army colonel who was Hasan’s former lead civilian counsel, said he doesn’t believe Hasan is seeking execution, as his appointed standby lawyers at trial have suggested. He has met with Hasan frequently during the trial and said several civilian attorneys — including anti-death penalty activists — have offered to take on his appeal. Galligan estimates the military has already spent more than $6 million on Hasan’s trial. He said that will triple during appeals, which he believes will take longer than Hasan’s remaining life expectancy.

 

Fort Hood Gunman Told His Superiors of Concerns

KILLEEN, Tex. — Days before he opened fire inside a medical processing building at Fort Hood here in 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan sent two e-mails to his Army superiors expressing concern about the actions of some of the soldiers he was evaluating as a military psychiatrist.

In the e-mails, one sent 13 days before the attack and the second three days prior, Major Hasan asked his supervisors and Army legal advisers how to handle three cases that disturbed him. In one case, a soldier reported to him that American troops had poured 50 gallons of fuel into the Iraqi water supply as revenge; the second case involved another soldier who told him about a mercy killing of a severely injured insurgent by medics; and in the third, a soldier spoke of killing an Iraqi woman because he was following orders to shoot anything that approached a specific site.

 

The Army never fully investigated his concerns. On Nov. 5, 2009, Major Hasan walked into a medical deployment center to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect Muslims and Taliban leaders from troops heading to Afghanistan, he has said.

In 2007, when Major Hasan was a resident in the psychiatric program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, the academic presentation he made that was required for graduation — known as his grand rounds presentation — stated that a risk of having American Muslims in the military was the possibility that they would murder their fellow troops.

 

He had also asked a supervisor at Walter Reed whether he qualified for conscientious objector status, told classmates during a fellowship that his religion took precedence over the Constitution, and in an academic paper defended Osama bin Laden.

 

Major Hasan’s radical beliefs and his correspondence with his Army superiors have played a limited role in his military trial, now in its third week at Fort Hood.

 

 

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.

Military Jury Convicts Army Psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik, on All 45 Counts in Fort Hood Rampage

KILLEEN, Tex. — A military jury on Friday found Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan guilty of carrying out the largest mass murder at a military installation in American history.

The verdict, delivered by 13 senior Army officers, came 17 days after Major Hasan’s court-martial trial began on Aug. 6, and nearly four years after the day in November 2009 that he killed or wounded dozens of unarmed soldiers at a medical deployment center at Fort Hood here.

Hasan, a Virginia-born Muslim, said the attack was a jihad against U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of his few displays of emotion during the trial came when he bristled after Osborn suggested the shooting rampage could have been avoided were it not for a spontaneous flash of anger.

For months and even years before the attack, his views of Islam had turned extreme. In December 2008, 10 months before the shooting, he sent the first of 16 messages and e-mails to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric who encouraged several terrorist plots. He asked Mr. Awlaki whether Muslim American troops who killed other American soldiers in the name of Islam would be considered “fighting jihad and if they did die would you consider them shaheeds,” an Arabic term for martyrs.

Mr. Awlaki never replied to that message. But in 2010, in an interview with the mental health panel that evaluated him, Major Hasan appeared to answer his own question. He told the panel if he died by lethal injection, “I would still be a martyr.”

 

The jury of nine colonels, three lieutenant colonels and one major deliberated for about six hours over two days before finding him guilty of 45 counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder, one count for each of the 13 people he killed and the 32 he wounded or shot at.

John Galligan, Hasan’s former lead attorney, said the jury did not hear all the facts because the judge refused to allow evidence that helped explain Hasan’s actions.

“Right or wrong, strong or weak, the facts are the facts,” he said. “The jury we heard from only got half the facts.”

 

He and prosecutors said his mission was to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect “my Muslim brothers” from American soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. A year after the shooting, he told a military mental health panel that he wished he had died in the attack so he could have become a martyr. He expressed no remorse for his actions, only regret that he was paralyzed by police officers who shot him in ending the attack.

The start of the court-martial trial was delayed several times, largely because of Major Hasan’s efforts to keep the beard he had grown for religious reasons, in violation of Army rules. In contrast, Hasan Akbar, the Army sergeant who was sentenced to death in a grenade attack on his own camp in Kuwait in 2003, was convicted just two years after his attack. In Major Hasan’s case, three years and nine months have elapsed since the shooting.

His has also become one of the most expensive cases in military history, costing the government more than $5 million, including $8,000 a month to rent a trailer near the courthouse where Major Hasan, who acted as his own lawyer, could work on his case with access to a computer, printer and law books.

Fort Hood prosecutors hope to address motive in worst mass shooting ever on US military base

FORT HOOD, Texas — The prosecutors pursuing the death penalty against the Army psychiatrist accused in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage will soon begin trying to answer a difficult but key question: Why did Maj. Nidal Hasan attack his fellow soldiers in the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base?

 

Both sides offered a few hints so far. Although he’s been mostly silent in the courtroom, Hasan used his brief opening statement to tell jurors he had “switched sides” in what he called America’s war with Islam; he later leaked documents to the media showing he believed he could be a martyr.

Military prosecutors opened the trial by saying they would show that Hasan felt he had a “jihad duty,” referring to a Muslim term for a religious war or struggle. After calling almost 80 witnesses over two weeks, prosecutors said Friday they would begin tackling the question this week.

Hasan — who is acting as his own attorney — told jurors during a barely one-minute opening statement that evidence “will clearly show that I am the shooter,” but he said it wouldn’t tell the whole story.

 

Since then, his defense has been nearly non-existent. He questioned only two of prosecutors’ witnesses and didn’t object to hundreds of pieces of evidence.

 

Among those likely to pay especially close attention are victims pressing the federal government to formally acknowledge the Fort Hood shootings as an act of terror, not workplace violence, and provide more benefits.

 

“We’re very interested to see whether and to what extent the government pursues Hasan’s jihadism,” said Reed Rubinstein, an attorney for the victims. “It would be welcome if the prosecutor would make very explicit the fact that this was a jihadist attack. This was terrorism.”

 

Rubinstein is much less interested in what Hasan has to say.

 

“He’s certainly said and done enough, thank you,” he said.

Judge Denies Ex-Defense Team’s Bid to Limit Role in Fort Hood Suspect’s Trial

KILLEEN, Tex. — The judge overseeing the military trial of the Army psychiatrist charged in a deadly shooting rampage at the Fort Hood base denied on Thursday his former lawyers’ request to limit their role in the case. The ruling came a day after the lawyers said they could no longer assist him because he was seeking the same goal as prosecutors — to be sentenced to death.

 

The psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, released his court-appointed Army defense lawyers so he could represent himself, a rare if not unprecedented move in a military capital-punishment case. His three former lawyers remain by his side in the courtroom as standby counsel.

 

After Major Hasan gave an opening statement on Tuesday and admitted being the gunman, his former lead Army lawyer asked the judge to cut back the lawyers’ involvement, saying that helping him achieve his goal of getting the death sentence violates their ethics as defense lawyers. They were not seeking to withdraw from the case, but to have their roles modified.

On Thursday, the judge said the dispute amounted to a disagreement over strategy between Major Hasan and his standby counsel. She said that he was competent to represent himself, and that the Constitution gives him the right to do so. The judge, Col. Tara A. Osborn, ordered the lawyers to continue to assist him.

 

Military law experts said the appeal — to be filed with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals — would not have a major impact on the trial. But the colonel has filed appeals in the case that have been upheld by military appellate courts, altering the trial’s course.