Tariq Ramadan: Stigmatising Muslims is a counterproductive response to terror attacks

Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim thinker and a professor at the University of Oxford, first argues that “it is important for us to be consistent in our condemnation of these criminal acts, and to maintain our support for all the victims, whoever they are, wherever they live.”

He argues for bringing all people together against senseless violence in the UK and globally. He warns that “to portray criminal acts as part of an ideological battle between extremist, anti-western Muslims and western people and values” alienates Muslims and ignores Muslim victims.

In his opinion, the demonisation of Islam contributes to radicalisation. More security is not the answer to the problem of terrorism. Rather, domestic policy needs to be meaningfully pluralistic and foreign policy should be based in economic and social justice. This includes recognising the British role in promoting  oppression abroad, including the effects of the Balfour Declaration on Palestinians and the effects of the invasion of Iraq on both Iraqis and Syrians.

Marine Le Pen says Assad solution to Syria crisis

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Monday called Syrian President Bashar Assad “the most reassuring solution for France,” a major divergence with her nation’s official policy.

Le Pen, head of the National Front, spoke after meetings with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. They were among numerous officials, including the Christian Maronite patriarch, that Le Pen was meeting on her two-day visit to Lebanon, a former French protectorate.

The trip represented the first major foray into foreign policy for Le Pen, a leading candidate in France’s April 23 and May 7 election.

She said she told Hariri that there is “no viable and workable solution” to the Syrian civil war beyond choosing between Assad and the Islamic State group.

“I clearly explained that in the political picture the least bad option is the politically realistic. It appears that Bashar al Assad is evidently today the most reassuring solution for France.”

Le Pen has made known her preference for Assad in the past — a position that runs counter to the French government’s strong anti-Assad approach — but it carries extra weight being stated while on a foreign visit with a Syrian neighbor, and during unusual meetings with the nation’s top officials. The trip is Le Pen’s first real public foray into foreign policy.

Before meeting with the prime minister, Le Pen had a visit with Aoun, the leader of a Christian party allied with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia fighting on the side of Assad.

Le Pen said she and Hariri, who has longstanding ties to France, agreed on “the absolute necessity” for nations wanting to fight the Islamic State group tearing Syria and Iraq apart to come “to the table,” an apparent reference to formal talks. She noted the threat to France of the Islamic State group which has claimed deadly attacks in Paris, Nice and elsewhere, and has lured hundreds of French youths to the war zones in Syria and Iraq.

Le Pen was also using her two-day visit to the former French protectorate — and her unusual encounter with a foreign president — to appeal to the thousands of French voters in Lebanon.

World’s Muslim population more widespread than you might think

President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily freezing immigration from seven predominantly Islamic countries would affect only about 12% of the world’s Muslims, according to estimates from a 2015 Pew Research Center Report on the current and projected size of religious groups. In fact, of the seven countries named in the new immigration ban – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – only one, Iran, is among the ten countries with the largest Muslim populations.

As of 2010, there were an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, making Islam the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity. And although many people, especially in the United States, may associate Islam with countries in the Middle East or North Africa, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Pew Research Center analysis. In fact, more Muslims live in India and Pakistan (344 million combined) than in the entire Middle East-North Africa region (317 million).

Iranian Director Asghar Farhadi Won’t Attend Oscar Ceremony

The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film “The Salesman” is nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign-language movie, said on Sunday that he would not attend the Oscars ceremony next month even if he were granted an exception to President Trump’s visa ban for citizens from Iran and several other predominantly Muslim countries.

Mr. Farhadi said he had planned to attend the Feb. 26 ceremony in Los Angeles and while there bring attention to a decision he called “unjust.” But the executive order signed by President Trump on Friday presented “ifs and buts which are in no way acceptable to me even if exceptions were to be made for my trip,” he said in a statement to The New York Times.

The executive order blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely.

French jihadist sentenced to ten years in prison following return from Syria

Nicolas Moreau, a convicted French jihadist who returned from Syria, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for criminal association with a terrorist organization.

The 32-year-old Frenchman was not present at the Paris correctional court since he refused to leave the prison where he is being held for the hearing.

Prosecutors had argued that Moreau presented an “extremely dangerous threat” and warned that he risked returning to his “jihadist commitment” once released.

 

A former fisherman from Nantes, Moreau fell into a life of petty crime before he was radicalised in prison and left France to join the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq. He stayed in the region for nearly a year and a half, according to prosecutors, and even ran a restaurant in the IS group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, during the last three months.

At a hearing on December 14, 2016, Moreau warned the court that if he was sentenced to more than 18 months in jail he would “return to armed combat”.

Born in South Korea and adopted by a French family at the age of four, Moreau lived in the western French city of Nantes and fell into delinquency after his adoptive parents divorced. He was sentenced to five years in jail for violent robbery and converted to Islam while in prison.

It was a trajectory of radicalization similar to his younger brother, Flavien Moreau, who became the first French jihadist to be tried upon his return from Syria. In November 2014, Flavien was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Both the brothers were born in South Korea before they were adopted as infants. But Flavien, the younger brother, spent only a few weeks in IS group-held territory since he was unable to cope with the jihadist group’s no-smoking policy. He entered Syria in November 2012, but returned to France weeks later to pick up an electronic cigarette. He was arrested in Turkey on his way back to Syria. Flavien is currently serving a seven-year term.

During his trial, Nicolas Moreau, the older brother, told the court he left the caliphate because he “became aware of the excesses of Daesh. He told judges he wanted to get married and return to normal life. But he also warned judges that: “If you put a heavy penalty on me, it will be harder to reintegrate me [into society]. I will take up arms again.”

Prosecutors however argued that Nicolas Moreau required a 10-year sentence since “he would return to his jihadist commitment” if released.

New French documentary on radical Islam sparks controversy

A new documentary on the rise of radical Islam in France has sparked controversy among the French public, with viewers’ opinions ranging from praise to outrage. The filmmaker has been slammed as ‘sensationalist’ and ‘provocateur’ by the head of the town in which part of it was filmed.

The first episode of new show “Dossier Tabou” titled “Islam in France: the failure of the Republic” was aired on Wednesday, September 28 on the M6 channel. Watched by some 2.4 million viewers, it immediately grabbed public attention, topping of Twitter discussion trends.

The documentary revolved around the financing of Islamism by foreign powers, such as Saudi Arabia, its organization and its internal divisions, as well as the training of imams. In a manner of illustration, it showed excerpts from sermons by a confirmed radical cleric named Mohamed Khattabi, who had been under house arrest for nearly three months after the attacks in France in November 2015.

A part of the documentary was filmed in the northern French city of Sevran, in the department of Seine Saint Denis. The city has been regarded as a place of widespread Islamist recruitment, after at least 15 young men left it to go and fight within the ranks of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and Iraq since 2014. Six are known to have died there.

Bernard de La Villardiere, the French journalist, radio and television presenter who authored the documentary, could be seen getting into a heated argument with local youths outside the town’s mosque which is suspected of links to Islamism and is currently being probed by authorities. The argument ended in a brawl.

Number of French jihadists in Syria and Iraq decreases

The number of French citizens traveling to join Islamic State in 2016 has dropped drastically from last year, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Tuesday, putting the fall down to military reverses suffered by the militant group.

Speaking to security agents at the ministry, Cazeneuve said there had been a “fourfold decrease” with just 18 French people recorded traveling to the area in the first six months of the year compared with 69 in the corresponding period in 2015.

The depletion, he said, was explained by the group’s recent losses on the ground but also by France’s “enhanced anti-terrorism efforts.”

According to interior ministry figures released on Tuesday, 689 French citizens are still in the region, including 275 women and 17 underage fighters.

More than 900 people have been identified as having either attempted to travel to the region or expressed a desire to go there, the ministry’s figures showed.

U.K. Should Do More to Block Islamic State Funding, Report Says

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-11/u-k-should-do-more-to-block-islamic-state-funding-report-says

 

The U.K. needs to do more to block funding sources for Islamic State, Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Sub-committee said in a report on Tuesday.

A coalition including the U.K. and U.S. has been targeting IS cash reserves, as well as conducting airstrikes against oil infrastructure controlled by the group, which faces “an increasingly desperate struggle to raise money,” the committee said. Even so, Britain’s contribution is “under-powered compared to our potential,” it said.

 

The U.K. has seen fresh wrangling over its role in creating the current instability in Iraq, that allowed Islamic State to prosper, following the publication of the Chilcot report last week. The inquiry, which took seven years to complete, concluded that Britain’s involvement in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a failure and was carried out before peaceful options had been exhausted.

 

“The U.K. government is in a position to help Iraq develop effective abilities of its own to counter ISIL finances,” committee chair and MP John Baron said in the report, using an alternative name for Islamic State. “Much depends on blocking access to local and international money-making activities,” he said.

 

Extremism in Luton: Mosque launches anti-ISIS classes for Muslim children to combat online grooming

British Muslim children as young as 11 are being given classes to prevent them

being radicalised by violent Islamic State (Daesh) jihadists. This comes after

community leaders feared they were being targeted by extremist online

propaganda.

Imams and Islamic teachers warned a war of ideologies is currently being fought

in their own mosques, communities, and on social media following the rise of

terror groups in Syria and Iraq.

IBTimes UK visited one Islamic school in Luton – a town infamous for both far-

right and Islamic extremist groups – as it taught a new syllabus to tackle children

being groomed by IS fighters.

The Al-Hira mosque, home to one of the largest madrassas in Luton, is in its first

year of giving anti-Daesh classes for pupils aged 11 to 16.

Started eight months ago, the classes are described by the mosques leaders as

part of a new grassroots strategy which they say has become more effective than

the governments own anti-extremism programme.

Most of the young people from aged nine are on social media and they know

what Isis are – its very easy for them to go down the wrong path, Dawood

Masood, senior manager of Al-Hira, tells IBTimes UK.

http://www.ibtimes.co.in/extremism-in- luton-mosque- launches-anti- isis-

classes-for- muslim-children- to-combat- online-grooming- 682898

Little-known law stops some Muslims from obtaining US citizenship

Mohammad Al-Falahi had just gotten home from work and was about to take a shower when two detectives showed up at his door.

At least one of them was on the Southern Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force with the FBI in Las Vegas.

Al-Falahi claimed one of the detectives wanted him to inform on another man who lived in the same apartment complex. Both men were from Iraq.

This happened in early 2014, about a week after Al-Falahi had his first U.S. citizenship interview, which lasted about 90 minutes, three times longer than most.

The now 30-year-old aviation student from Las Vegas was confounded by the sudden mysterious activity surrounding him.

And that was just the beginning.

His citizenship case was delayed and he couldn’t get answers as to why. Al-Falahi hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit in federal court. He and his attorney say he was asked by immigration officials to drop the lawsuit in return for another interview.

After he did so, his second interview lasted about two hours, but still nothing happened.

Al-Falahi was notified in mid-January his U.S. citizenship had been denied after his attorney, M. Edwin Prudhomme, appealed an intent to deny notice in November.

“They were harassing me for two years with no reason just because my name is Mohammad and I’m from Iraq and I’m Muslim,” said Al-Falahi, who claims the treatment is a result of his refusal to be an informant. “Is it a crime that I’m from Iraq and my name is Mohammad?”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was able to confirm that one of the two detectives who visited Al-Falahi is on the Southern Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force, but he declined to comment.

Al-Falahi’s case is not unusual in the Las Vegas area, where other Muslims have similar experiences but never learn why they were treated differently.

Many believe they’re caught up in a little-known program called Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program, or CARRP. It was established in 2008 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to “ensure that immigration benefits or services are not granted to individuals who pose a threat to national security and or public safety, or who seek to defraud” the immigration system, according to Immigration Services officials.

A total of 41,805 CARRP cases nationwide have been opened since the program’s implementation, according to records obtained by the newspaper through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The top five countries of birth for individuals affected by CARRP since 2008 are Pakistan, Iraq, India, Iran and Yemen, according to the records.

UNUSUAL TREATMENT

A typical process to become a U.S. citizen takes 90 to 100 days, said Prudhomme, who has been handling immigration cases for more than 50 years. It’s also rare for interviews to last more than 30 minutes, or for multiple interviews.

“I think only once in the 50-plus years have I had more than one interview,” Prudhomme said.

But Prudhomme said he has been seeing a string of delays in cases involving Muslims, with several exceeding 18 months. He said he didn’t understand why until learned about the Immigration Services program.

CARRP’s methods of identifying “national security concerns” are flawed and sometimes based on religion, national origin and profiling by association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a 2013 report based on Immigration Services documents it obtained through a series of Freedom of Information Act requests.

“Predictably, the … program not only catches far too many harmless applications in its net, but it has overwhelmingly affected applicants who are Muslims or perceived to be Muslim,” the report says.

Citizenship applications are flagged as threats without informing the individuals, whose applications are delayed and sometimes denied, the organization found.

Little else is known about the program, said Tod Story, executive director of the Nevada ACLU.

“This is one of those programs that has been kept in secret,” he said in January.

The ACLU considers the program a civil rights violation, and says the program shifts authority mostly reserved for Immigration Services to federal law enforcement, in particular the FBI.

“The FBI is not required to tell them they are on the list,” he said. “They basically don’t hear anything from the Immigration Services. They don’t know why their application is in limbo, and nobody has to tell them why.”

Maria Elena Upson, an Immigration Services regional spokeswoman, said her agency is unable to discuss individual cases, and she wouldn’t be able to confirm or deny if local cases had been flagged under the program.

A request to interview Jeanne M. Kent, Immigration Services director in Las Vegas, was denied.

Al Gallmann, director of the agency’s Western District, did not respond to requests for comment.

The FBI did respond, but said only that it “does not originally confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.”

GROUNDS FOR DENIAL

Al-Falahi, at least, was able to find out why his application was denied: Immigration Services officials said records show he gave false testimony about membership in the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq before the 2003 invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, and his explanation of why he fled his country conflicted with his refugee interview.

During his citizenship interviews, Al-Falahi was asked if he was a member or sympathizer of the Baath Party or any other organization in Iraq.

A transcript of the interview shows he answered, “No, but I have an addition. If you went to (go to) school in Iraq, you must sign for Baath. It’s like a mandatory thing to sign for it.”

He wrote the same thing in a 2008 refugee application he filed in Beirut, and explained that he left because of the war and he needed to provide for his family. Records related to that application say Al-Falahi “states that during his intermediate studies it was required that he join the Baath Party in order to continue his studies.” And although he “registered, he never attended any meetings nor did he make any payments towards the Baath Party.”

That was about 15 years ago, he said, when he was still under his parents’ guardianship in Baghdad.

But Immigration Services said Al-Falahi failed to disclose “previously claimed ties to the Baath Party” during his first citizenship interview. “Failure to disclose your Baath Party membership and provide credible explanation for such was considered false testimony” the denial letter reads.

Story said officials are using Al-Falahi’s owns words to punish him since he disclosed the information, but should instead focus on finding evidence such as donations or records that indicate his client was ever active in the Baath Party.

“I think it’s illustrated as to why the program is problematic,” he said. “That’s why the program has to be reformed; whether it’s reformed by (Immigration Services) or Congress intercedes or the executive branch, somebody needs to do something.”

HE’S NOT ALONE

Nasser Karouni, 45, a Lebanese Muslim who lives in Las Vegas, didn’t know why his citizenship process was different than most people’s until he found out about CARRP.

“That pretty much cleared up many questions,” he said.

He applied in 2011 and passed his citizenship test in 2012, but then went through a three-year nightmare that included a 2012 FBI polygraph interrogation, extra security checks, questioning at airports and no answers. A few weeks after the test, he received a summons to meet the FBI the following day. After an hour of questioning, he agreed to the agent’s request that he sit for a polygraph examination.

“I am clear, I sit down, no problem for me,” he said in broken English.

The Review-Journal obtained a partial transcript of the interview, which is normally considered confidential, that was declassified in 2014. The transcript shows that agents sought information about Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group operating in Lebanon, and Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic political party with an armed wing, and Islamic Jihad.

“No, God forbid,” he responded.

His case languished for two more years, but on Aug. 8, 2014, he became a U.S. citizen.

But his son, Haidar Karouni, 20, is now seeing the same stalling action. He applied to become a U.S. citizen almost a year ago and was fingerprinted in spring 2015, but his case has stalled since.

Under CARRP, applicants are to be labeled a security concern based on national origin or if they have traveled through or resided in areas of “known terrorist activity,” according to the ACLU report.

But for the Karouni family, that means automatic designation even for routine travel such as a family visit to Lebanon last summer or Nasser Karouni’s 2011 pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is required at least once in the life of all able Muslims.

Applicants also make the security list based on their profession, if they wire money to families in their home countries, if their names appear on an FBI file related to a national security investigation even if they were not the subject of the investigation, or if they have voluntarily given interviews to the FBI, according to the ACLU report.

The Karouni family has lived in Las Vegas since 2006. In April 2009, Nasser Karouni opened Afandi Market and Restaurant on West Charleston Boulevard with his friend Ghazwan Salem, an Iraqi Christian. Karouni’s family had a butcher shop in Lebanon. He met Salem while working at another butcher shop in Las Vegas before the pair decided to open their business.

Salem, who became a U.S. citizen in 1999, said he didn’t experience any issues during the process, has been there for the Karounis through their struggles.

“The story that we lived with his (Karouni’s) situation, we are reliving it with his son,” Salem said. “With his situation we didn’t know what was going on.”

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said she’s aware there is a lack of public access to CARRP data for national security reasons.

Federal officials have said the agency doesn’t track reasons for the delay or denial of an application associated with CARRP; monitor the program on a state-by-state basis; or track religious affiliation of people under review.

“That’s why my office looks at everyone on a case-by-case basis,” Titus said. “We are available to review instances where constituents think they were not given full consideration for legal residency status by (Immigration Services) or other federal agencies.”

Story, the Nevada ACLU official, questioned whether immigration officials can know if CARRP is working if key information isn’t tracked.

“If they can demonstrate that it has worked, it needs to be brought to light,” he said.

Prudhomme said he’s preparing to take Al-Falahi’s case to federal court. His office met with Nevada ACLU officials last week to discuss the case.

The ACLU of Southern California says it might file a class-action suit of which Al-Falahi would be a plaintiff this year.