The Hijacking of British Islam

An authoritative new report by Policy Exchange, the UK’s leading centre-right thinktank, entitled The Hijacking of British Islam: How extremist literature is subverting Britain’s mosques, reveals the worrying extent of extremist penetration of mosques and other key institutions of the British Muslim community. The report is the most comprehensive academic survey of its kind ever produced in the UK and is based on a year-long investigation by several teams of specialist researchers into the availability of extremist literature and covers more than a hundred mosques and Islamic centres throughout the UK.

European court overturns decision to add Iranian resistance movement to terror list

The European Court of Justice on Tuesday overturned an EU decision to put the People’s Mujahadeen of Iran, an exiled Iranian resistance movement, on the bloc’s terror blacklist. The ruling annuls a 2002 decision to freeze European assets of the Paris-based group. The United States lists the People’s Mujahedeen as a terrorist organization. However, the group founded in the 1960s by students at Tehran University says it advocates the overthrow of Iran’s hard-line clerical regime by peaceful means. In its ruling, the European court said the group was not given a fair hearing to defend itself. “Certain fundamental rights and safeguards, including the right to a fair hearing, the obligation to state reasons and the right to effective judicial protection are, as a matter of principle, fully applicable,” the court said. Iranian resistance leader Maryam Rajavi called for the immediate lifting of all restrictions on the group and described the ruling as “proof of the resistance’s legitimacy over the religious fascism in Iran and victory of justice over economic interests.” “Today, one of the highest judicial authorities in Europe confirmed the Iranian resistance’s claim that the terrorist label, from the beginning, was a political issue which was meant to appease the mullahs,” she said in a statement issued in Paris. The group previously operated a military wing but since June 2001 has renounced military activity. Based in Auvers-Sur-Oise, near Paris, it serves as an umbrella movement for exiled Iranian opponents of the Islamic Republic. In 2003, French police arrested dozens of members of the group. Seventeen people, including Rajavi, were placed under investigation on suspicion of associating with or financing terrorist groups. She was held for two weeks before being released. In June, the Paris Appeals Court lifted a series of restrictions on the 17, including a ban on them leaving French territory and another preventing them from associating with one another.

80% of Spanish Muslims Feel Accepted

Almost 80% of the Muslims living in Spain affirm that they feel accepted by the Spanish people; this is the result of the first enquiry to the community directed by the Catholic magazine, ’21rs. According with the gathered information, presented in Madrid by Luis Fernando Vilchez, the director of the investigation and Professor of the Universidad Complutense, integration in Spanish society is not free of difficulties; for 38,7% of the Muslims surveyed, two out of three felt totally accepted; 50% said they felt partially accepted and one out of ten felt very marginalised. Muslim women feel less integrated than the men; although younger women and those with more education disagree with this statement. Concerning democracy, almost 2/3 of the answers were in favour of the compatibility between Islam and Democracy.

Les musulmans français sont plus tolérants que leurs voisins européens

Criticized by the American press to the moment of the riots of the fall 2005 in the suburbs, the French model of integration is rehabilitated by an investigation published by the Pew Research Center, the one of the opinion institutes the most renowned ones of the United States. According to this investigation, realized in the spring with Muslims of four European countries and of which the complete results were published August 17, the France Muslims have not any integration lesson to receive of their European neighbors.

Muslims Gather For Terror Raid Protest

LONDON – More than 1000 Muslim protesters have gathered in east London to demonstrate against an anti-terror raid in which a man was shot. Demonstrators waved placards emblazoned with a variety of anti-government and anti-police slogans, including: “Tony Blair terrorist”, “Stop police brutality”, and “Blair: shoot first ask questions later”. But the family of the two brothers arrested during last Friday’s raid in Lansdown Road expressed their opposition to the demonstration today, urging the local community not to give it their support. Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman said it is not the time for “conflict and anger” and urged all communities to “pull together”. His words came after he apologised directly for the “disruption and inconvenience” when a house was raided in the hunt for a suspected chemical bomb last Friday. Mohammed Abdul Kahar was shot in the struggle with armed police. Police have yet to disclose what their intelligence suggested they would discover in the house – believed to be a chemical-based explosive device. But Mr Hayman said the investigation was ongoing and if police did not find it there, the search could continue elsewhere to prove or disprove the intelligence. This could mean more raids linked to the investigation. The Assistant Commissioner insisted the raid in Lansdown Road, which involved close to 250 officers – some wearing chemical protection suits – and led to a suspect being shot in the shoulder, was “necessary and proportionate”. He accepted that there had been concerns about the “visual impact” of the Forest Gate operation, saying that had led police “to reflect as to whether or not we can do it differently”. Police now have until Saturday to question Kahar and Abul Koyair, who are being held at London’s high security Paddington Green Police Station.

Bank agrees to review its closing of accounts that belong to Muslim charity

A campaign by Muslim activists against Wachovia Corp. to protest the unexplained closing of bank accounts belonging to a Herndon-based Muslim charity is on hold pending an investigation by the bank. Any actions against the North Carolina-based bank, which has branches on the East Coast and in Texas, Mississippi and Tennessee, could include protests and boycotts, the activists said. That depends on what it ends up doing and saying.

Madrid And London Bombs Shape French Anti-Terror Plans

PARIS (Reuters) – France has overhauled the way it combats terrorism in the light of attacks on neighbours Britain and Spain, part of a broader response to the growing threat it sees from Islamist extremists. The first ever French strategic review on terrorism and domestic security says “Islamist-inspired world terrorism” threatens France, with disaffected home-grown youths and converts to Islam heightening the threat of attack. A key focus of the document is how to communicate with traumatised citizens to ensure criminal inquiries are not derailed by a public witch hunt against people or communities thought linked to the perpetrators. It draws heavily on the British experience, reflecting the admiration of France’s security and political establishment for London’s measured response to the July 7, 2005 suicide bomb attacks that killed 52 people. “In terms of lessons learnt, the way the British handled themselves in July 2005 was immensely important…There are so many things the Brits did right, it would have been rather stupid of us not to take some leaves from their book,” said Francois Heisbourg, one of the prime movers behind the new French doctrine agreed last month. The doctrine sets the ground rules for anti-terror laws. Central to the British success, he said, was the “Two Blairs” communication strategy: Prime Minister Tony Blair gave the political reaction while London police chief Sir Ian Blair updated the public at key points in the investigation. “It sounds very banal, but people have greater trust when politicians do politics and operational guys do operations,” Heisbourg told Reuters. Top UK anti-terrorist policeman Peter Clarke stressed in a speech last week that police had deliberately refused to give a “running commentary” on their findings, and had tried to give a “reassuring, consistent message” to the public. He said they had chosen to issue detailed statements at intervals, but without taking press questions that could have made them appear evasive or compromised the investigation. “There are some areas where you simply cannot go,” Clarke said. REACH OUT TO MUSLIMS Heisbourg said the British strategy was underpinned by the aim of establishing a national consensus, with police reaching out not just to the Muslim community but the families of the bombing suspects. “If you’re not clear about that sort of objective, you’re not going to be able to implement it when the time comes around,” said Heisbourg. “If you don’t, then you’re on the road to Guantanamo,” he said, referring to the U.S.-run detention centre on Cuba where hundreds of terrorism suspects are being held without trial, drawing widespread international criticism. “You’ll have no problem finding 70-80 percent of the population to say ‘bash the bastards’. And in a time of tension and crisis, that temptation is one that is very difficult to resist if you haven’t thought it through before.” The French review follows an update of anti-terrorism laws earlier this year, boosting phone and video surveillance and imposing longer detention periods and sentences. It also draws lessons from the Spanish government’s handling of the Madrid train bombings on March 11, 2004, which took place three days before a parliamentary election. Spain’s rightwing government, apparently heading for an election victory, initially blamed Basque separatist group ETA for the Madrid attacks. But when it emerged Islamist militants were behind the 191 deaths, angry voters threw it out of office. “When a government starts losing the trust of the people in the heat of a crisis, anything can go wrong. And this is what happened in Madrid,” Heisbourg said. The strategic review concludes: “The unity and cohesion of our country will save us from the ‘clash of civilisations’ that terrorism wants to drag us into.”

German Authorities Close Islamic Center

By STEPHEN GRAHAM BERLIN – Authorities on Wednesday shut down an Islamic center once attended by a man who accuses the CIA of kidnapping him and sending him to a secret Afghan prison to be abused and interrogated. The man’s lawyer has linked the alleged kidnapping to the investigation of extremist activity at the center. The state government of Bavaria said Wednesday it was shutting down the Multi-Kultur-Haus association in the southern town of Neu-Ulm after it seized material urging Muslims to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. Khaled al-Masri, a Kuwait-born German citizen who is suing the CIA for allegedly spiriting him to Afghanistan for interrogation, has said he visited the center several times before he was snatched. Al-Masri said he was taken while trying to enter Macedonia on New Year’s Eve 2003 and flown to Afghanistan, where he was subjected to “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” during five months in captivity, according to a lawsuit filed in a Virginia federal court. He was flown to Albania in late May 2004 and put on a plane back to Germany, he has said. Al-Masri has said his captors told him he was seized in a case of mistaken identity. His lawyer, however, has suggested that al-Masri was abducted because of his links to the Islamic association, which provided meetings, prayer rooms and other services for local Muslims. “In all interrogations, in Macedonia and Afghanistan, Khaled al-Masri was asked only about the Multi-Kultur-Haus in Ulm, about the people he knew there,” Manfred Gnjidic told Munich’s Abendzeitung newspaper last month. Al-Masri’s case has stoked debate in Germany about how to prevent terrorist attacks while safeguarding civil liberties. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, for instance, is calling for tougher laws so that anyone who has trained in camps in Afghanistan can be prosecuted. In remarks published Wednesday, Uwe Schuenemann, the interior minister of Lower Saxony state, floated a new idea: placing electronic tags on foreign extremists who cannot be deported to their countries of origin because they might be tortured. “That would allow the observation of many of the roughly 3,000 potentially violent Islamists, hate preachers and fighters trained in foreign camps,” Schuenemann was quoted as saying in the daily Die Welt. It was unclear whether federal officials would take up the suggestion. Electronic tags were used in 2000 on a trial basis in one German state with prisoners on parole, but have not been adopted more widely. Al-Masri claims U.S. agents questioned him about associates including his friend Reda Seyam, an Egypt-born German citizen under investigation by German federal prosecutors on suspicion of supporting al-Qaida. Al-Masri has denied any connection to terrorism. Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein told The Associated Press on Wednesday that investigators had noticed al-Masri visiting the Multi-Kultur-Haus but called him “rather a marginal figure.” Beckstein’s ministry said the association was promoting extremist ideas and armed “holy war.” Security officials confiscated and searched the association’s premises in Neu-Ulm Wednesday and froze its bank account. There was no mention of arrests or the results of the search.

Us Muslims Not Involved In Aiding Terrorism: Senate Probe Report

WASHINGTON, Nov 20: The US Senate has wrapped up a high-profile investigation into US Muslim organizations and terrorism financing, saying it found no evidence to suggest a link between the two. The finance committee of the Senate, which went to a two-week break this weekend, concluded that none of nearly two dozen Muslim groups investigated raised funds for terrorist activities. This highly unusual inquiry took two years to complete the investigation during which the Senate committee was allowed to go through private financial information held by the government. The US Internal Revenue Service had provided the panel with financial records and donor lists of Muslim charities, think tanks and other organizations. Nine were based in the Washington area. We did not find anything alarming enough that required additional follow-up beyond what law-enforcement agencies are already doing, said Sen Charles E. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa who headed the inquiry. Since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, the US government has frozen millions of dollars in assets allegedly linked to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups and shut down some of the biggest US-based Islamic charities. Even mainstream Muslim organizations, like the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Circle of North America, were investigated but have now been absolved of any involvement with terrorist activities. In September, when ISNA was still under investigation, Karen Hughes, the US undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, attended its annual convention. Some charities, such as the Illinois-based Global Relief Foundation, had their assets frozen. In 2002, the GRF was also designated a terrorist-financing entity by the US Treasury Department. In launching their inquiry in December 2003, Senators Grassley and Max Baucus, the committee’s ranking Democrat, had expressed concerns that charities and foundations play a crucial role in terror financing. Some Muslims, however, protested that the Senate investigation unfairly cast a cloud over many groups. It was really just a fishing expedition, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman at the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They didn’t catch any fish. ISNA’s executive director, Louay Safi, said the group always knew there was nothing wrong with its finances. But it is good to see that they have come to that conclusion as well. Mr Safi regretted that many innocent Muslim groups have been smeared in the investigation. In August 2003, US President George Bush froze the assets of five pro-Palestinian charities abroad, depriving Palestinian orphans of their much-needed aid. Thousands of Palestinian orphans and destitute families took to the streets the same month to protest President Bush’s decision. We’re very pleased but not surprised, as there’s never been any funding of anything remotely related to terrorist activities, said Nancy Luque, an attorney for Muslim charities and institutes in Herndon, near Washington. Wendell Belew, an attorney for a Muslim charity association, said: We’re very pleased that their examination uncovered no problems on the part of our members. His group includes two Falls Church nonprofits: the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the Muslim World League. Several of the organizations targeted in the inquiry remain under investigation by the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security.

Taking The Taint Out Of GivingIslamic Charities Are Trying To Win Back Donors Spooked By Fears Of Fed Scrutiny

Last January the board of Dallas charity KinderUSA made an unusual request to its 6,800 donors: Please don’t send gifts. The Islamic charity, which delivers food and aid to children in war zones, had just received a federal grand jury subpoena asking its officials to turn over all meeting minutes, tax returns, and other documents. It feared that the government could freeze its assets or seize its list of donors at any moment. After four months with no word from the FBI about whether KinderUSA was being investigated, the board resumed fund-raising. But board chair Dr. Laila Al-Marayati worries for her donors, who want to support charity but fear being caught up in a terrorism investigation. “Charities are in the position of being guilty until proven innocent,” she says. “Our donors are afraid. They don’t know what to do.” (The FBI would not confirm or deny an ongoing KinderUSA investigation when contacted by BusinessWeek.) Donors and charities alike have reason to be on guard. Since September 11 federal authorities have frozen the assets of five Islamic charities in the U.S., including three of the largest, for alleged links to terrorist groups — in effect, shutting the groups down. The U.S. Treasury Dept., which is charged with cutting off monetary support for terrorists, has frozen the assets of 41 aid organizations globally for alleged connections to terrorism. This spotlight on the Muslim charitable sector may well be warranted in the name of national security. September 11 forced an awakening to the reality that “Al Qaeda, Hamas, and like-minded terrorist groups have abused charities to support hate-filled agendas,” according to a speech by Juan Carlos Zarate, who was recently appointed deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism after a stint monitoring terrorism financing at the Treasury. Nevertheless, as the U.S. marks the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, none of the investigations has been resolved. The charities’ assets remain frozen. Meanwhile, these inquiries resonate powerfully across the Islamic charity sector, shifting the direction of millions of dollars as donors fret that giving to organized Islamic charities could lead them into a legal morass. Muslim Americans are now looking for methods beyond traditional charitable giving to fulfill Zakat, a pillar of Islam, which requires Muslims to give 2.5% of their income to the poor. More Muslim Americans are deciding to bypass charities entirely in favor of giving directly to those in need. Consider Mark Mohammadi, who started a Middle Eastern restaurant in Dallas. Out of fear that he’ll unwittingly contribute to a group that is linked to terrorist activity, he’s decided to stop giving money to charities. To fulfill his charitable obligation, he serves about 30 meals monthly to homeless people. Says Mohammadi: “After 9/11, I don’t trust anyone.” Ahmed Syed, a Pakistani immigrant and a retired quality control manager for the Defense Dept.. (HON ), takes a different approach. “My family abroad donates on my behalf to causes in Pakistan, like hospitals and general education,” says the Walnut Creek (Calif.), resident. To bring donors back, charities are employing new measures to prove that their work is legitimate. KinderUSA has gained a reputation among Islamic charities for good governance and transparency and posts audited financials on its Web site. But such measures did little to prevent a formal inquiry, and Al-Marayati remains frustrated by how little she knows about the inquiry’s status. Such situations have led Muslim-American leaders from more than 20 Islamic charities to unite to find a solution. Last March they launched an umbrella organization called The National Council of American Muslim Nonprofits that will offer a seal of approval to charities that meet their criteria, which are still being developed. The council is working closely with the Treasury Dept. to ensure rigorous standards that will offer some protection to donors and charities. UNDUE BURDEN But some say the council, with its rigorous application process, could put an undue burden on charities without offering them much in return — such as the assurance that if they meet all the standards they won’t be pulled into a probe. Treasury Dept. spokesperson Molly Millerwise says the seal won’t shield charities from the possibility of investigation. “Donors want a vetted list of charities. We can’t provide that,” she says. “Who is to say if charities engage in terrorism-related activities after they’re put on the list?” Tiny nonprofits also may find it costly to comply with the reporting required by the council, which will likely address issues such as transparency, audit triggers, and board makeup. Karen Keyworth directs the Islamic Schools’ League, which represents the U.S.’s 215 Islamic schools. She worries that the financial strain of meeting tough transparency measures might force schools, many of which have minuscule budgets, to cut operations. Still, Keyworth says that efforts such as the council’s are needed to persuade donors to keep giving. Unfortunately for Muslim Americans anxious to see the legitimate groups that serve their communities thrive, greatly increased scrutiny — and the bureaucratic hoops that come with it — may be the new order in a post-September 11 world.