Iman: ‘I am the face of a refugee’

June 29, 2014 

Its 24 years since Iman retired from modelling, but you’d never know it. She’s a completely unlikely looking 58 and is sitting in front of a stark all-white backdrop simply dressed all in black – black jeans and a black jumper that emphasises her extraordinary swan-like neck – and she is completely focused it’s not an accident that she was the world’s first black supermodel. The first black model to make serious cash, the first to become the face of global cosmetics brand (Revlon). That she seamlessly segued from model to businesswoman when she set up her own highly successful cosmetics brand. Or even, possibly, that she married an international music legend, David Bowie, and became one half of a global super-couple. Iman, you get the feeling, does it Iman’s way. Not least in that she is one of the surnameless, Mohamed Abdulmajid has played no part in Iman the brand.

Every model has a sort of creation myth, the chance encounter that led to global fame. She was walking down a street in Nairobi in 1975 and she was a 20-year-old Somali refugee living and studying in Kenya. The spotter was a man called Peter Beard, a well-connected photographer and Africophile. He asked to photograph her, and when she hesitated he offered to pay her. “How much?” she asked. “How much do you want?” he said. “$8,000,” she replied, the total amount of her university fees. It’s a fair amount of money even today. Back then it must have been an extraordinary sum. “Well, what could have happened?” she says. “He could have said no.” She shrugs. “I mean, what’s going to happen if you don’t ask? My mother taught me this. She said: ‘If God says to you: “I will grant you any wish you want – what would you ask for?” And I went: ‘Er…’ And she said: ‘If you have to think about it, you’re not worth it!’ And I said: ‘Why?’ and she said: ‘Look. Ask for everything! Ask for everything!'”

In 1975 an editor said she was like a white woman ‘dipped in chocolate’. And she didn’t even realise it was insulting: Iman continues, “I didn’t even understand it. People called me ‘Iman the black model’. In my country we’re all black so nobody called somebody else black. It was foreign to my ears. I was doing the same job as them. Why would I get less money? It didn’t even occur to me that it had anything to do with racism. I learned that quite fast. I wasn’t a major in political science for nothing, so I understood the politics of beauty and the politics of race when it comes to the fashion industry.”

Nearly 40 years on, not all that much has changed, it seems. Last year she launched a campaign with Bethann Hardison and Naomi Campbell to urge brands to use black models. They commissioned original research and discovered that some brands, like Chloé, had never used a non-white model and others like YSL, Versace, Gucci, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein hadn’t for years. “It sends a message that our girls are not beautiful enough,” she says. She had no issue with pointing the finger and calling them racist and urging a boycott until they changed their ways. But then she remembers the magazine editor who exclaimed at her beauty and said she was like a white woman “dipped in chocolate”.

“And she didn’t even realise it was insulting! I said: ‘Don’t take credit for it. I don’t have a white drop in me.'”

Iman supports, the Hawa Abdi Foundation, a Somalia-based organisation, run by three Somali women focused on bringing basic human rights – healthcare, education, agriculture – to vast swathes of the Somali population who currently have none. The foundation focuses its efforts on women and children.

“What has happened to women in Somalia? When I was growing up women wore traditional clothes or regular western clothes. We went to school. But the schools don’t exist anymore. And women are not even allowed to drive any more. It’s run by extremists. Somalia was 100% a Muslim country, but it had its own culture before it adopted Islam. So you were a Muslim, but you were a Somali first.”

Set up by Dr Hawa Abdi, Somalia’s first female gynaecologist and a nominee for the Nobel Prize, the foundation has fearlessly defended the rights of ordinary Somalis, caring for up to 90,000 people at a time despite attacks on both the compound and the foundation’s hospital by Somali forces. Dr Hawa wrote in her book that it was only when she lost her first baby that she realised she had undergone female genital mutilation, girls cannot go to school and the country has not had any schools open since 1990. Dr Hawa has built up the first school in the south of Somalia. Last year a documentary was made of its work, Through the Fire. Afterwards she stated that she didn’t know if anyone can fathom it but the Somalia she grew up in doesn’t exist anymore.

Do you think about if you’d taken a different street on a different day, I ask, and never met Peter Beard? “Absolutely.” You think it could have been another street, another girl? “I absolutely believe that. It was just my luck. I could be in a refugee camp now. There are people who have been in refugee camps for 20 years, and I could be one of them. That’s one of the reasons I’m compelled to help. First because overnight my life changed from a diplomatic daughter to a refugee and my father could not fend for us. The only time I’ve ever seen my father cry is when he couldn’t pay for us to finish our education. And the NGOs looked after us. They found me a hostel, a job, a university.”

There’s a genuine humility to the way she views her success. “I am the face of a refugee. I was once a refugee. I was with my family in exile. “

“You Might Get Hit by a Car”: On Secret Tape, FBI Threatens American Muslim Refusing to be Informant

New details have emerged about the FBI’s efforts to turn Muslim Americans living abroad into government informants. An exposé in Mother Jones magazine chronicles the story of an American named named Naji Mansour who was living in Kenya. After he refused to become an informant, he saw his life, and his family’s life, turned upside down. He was detained, repeatedly interrogated and ultimately forced into exile in Sudan, unable to see his children for years. Mansour began recording his conversations with the FBI. During one call, an agent informs Mansour that he might get “hit by a car.” Mansour’s story is the focus of a new piece in Mother Jones titled “This American Refused to Become an FBI Informant. Then the Government Made His Family’s Life Hell.” We speak with Naji Mansour in Sudan and Nick Baumann, who investigated the story for Mother Jones.

Roberto Sandalo Dead, the Prima Linea terrorist responsible for anti-Islam bombs

January 9, 2014

 

The ex-terrorist died of natural causes in a prison in Parma, where he was sentenced to nine years. After collaborating with the Prima Linea, Sandalo joined a faction of the Northern League. In 2008, he was arrested for attacking mosques and Islamic Centers in Milan.

Roberto Sandalo, 56, former Prima Linea terrorist known as “the crazy Roby” and “Commander Franco.” Sandalo became involved xenophobic militancy. Until his arrest , in 2008, he was responsible for a series of attacks against mosques and Islamic centers in Milan. In Parma, Sandal was serving a 9-year sentence.

In Turin, his hometown, Sandalo met Marco Donat Cattin, his high school librarian. He was arrested in April 1980 and shortly after began working with investigators. He confessed his involvement in the murders of Charles Ghiglieno , Carmine Civitate and Bartholomew Mana and revealed the terrorist activities of his friend Marco, the son of the Democrat Carlo Donat Cattin. Sandalo was sentenced to eleven years and seven months in prison; he served only two years—and in the mid-eighties he moved to Kenya.

In 2002 he was arrested again for robbery and in 2008 he was arrested for being among the leaders of anti-Islamic attacks using fire and pipe bombs in Milan, Brescia and Abbategrasso.

 

Il Fatto Cronaca: http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2014/01/09/morto-roberto-sandalo-il-pentito-di-prima-linea-passato-alle-bombe-anti-islam/836912/

‘White widow’: Interpol arrest warrant issued for Samantha Lewthwaite

Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for Samantha Lewthwaite, the British woman dubbed the “white widow” who has been linked to the Kenyan shopping centre attack, in connection with suspected terrorist offences in 2011. The international police agency said its red notice had been issued at the request of Kenya and circulated to police authorities in 190 countries around the world, activating “a global tripwire” for the Briton.

 

The warrant does not relate to the terrorist attack at the weekend on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, despite intense speculation linking Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the July 7 London bombers, to the atrocity, for which the al-Qaida-linked Somali group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility. Instead, said Interpol, the 29-year-old is being sought on charges of possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011.

 

Lewthwaite, the daughter of a British soldier, grew up in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, and later in Aylesbury, where she converted to Islam as a teenager. She was married to July 7 bomber Germaine Lindsay at the time of the attacks, but insisted in their aftermath that she was horrified by them. But she later disappeared with the couple’s two children, only to re-emerge in Kenya as a committed jihadi who is believed to be working with al-Shabaab.

 

There has been intense speculation that Lewthwaite may have had a role in the Nairobi attack after Kenyan intelligence reports suggested that a British woman could have been involved and a number of witnesses described seeing a white woman among the gunmen.

 

At least 67 people died in the Westgate attack, and according to the latest figures from the Red Cross, 72 people are still missing and could be trapped under rubble in the mall.

 

American Jihadist Is Believed to Have Been Killed by His Former Allies in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya — A young man from Alabama who traveled to Somalia and became an infamous Islamist militant, commanding guerrilla forces and earning a $5 million American bounty on his head, was believed to have been killed by his former extremist allies on Thursday, according to news reports and Islamist Web sites.

The jihadist, Omar Hammami, known for his rap-infused propaganda videos for the Shabab, a brutal Islamist group in Somalia, was reported killed in an ambush on Thursday morning. If true, his death would bring to a close one of the more unusual chapters in more than two decades of fighting in the Horn of Africa.

 

But Mr. Hammami, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, “the American,” has been declared dead before, only to resurface alive.

There is little question that Mr. Hammami has been on the run from his former comrades. His recent troubles brought to the surface rifts within militant circles in Somalia, particularly between foreign fighters and Somalis. In a Twitter message in April, Mr. Hammami said the group’s leader had “gone mad” and was “starting a civil war.”

J. M. Berger, the editor of the Web site Intelwire.com and author of the book “Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam,” said that it appeared this time that Mr. Hammami had indeed been killed.

Mr. Berger, who has been monitoring hundreds of Shabab-related social media accounts for over a year, cited a death notice on a Jihadi Web site that had supported the American militant and posted interviews with him in the past.

 

The son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian Muslim father, Mr. Hammami was raised in Daphne, Ala., where he was a gifted student and high school class president. He later embraced the ultraconservative form of Islam known as Salafism before ultimately moving to Somalia in 2006 to fight for the Shabab.

 

The charismatic American fighter was a propaganda coup for the Somali militants. He worked on recruitment and handled financial affairs for the group. But Mr. Hammami was more than just a YouTube sensation and back-office militant. He is believed to have personally commanded forces in the field and organized guerrilla attacks.

 

He did not consider his native land off limits. “It’s quite obvious that I believe America is a target,” he wrote in an e-mail to The New York Times in 2010.

 

Growing up in Daphne, a city of 23,000 on Mobile Bay, Mr. Hammami loved Kurt Cobain and Nintendo and dabbled in drugs. But he also attended Bible camp. His decision to join a violent group responsible for beheadings and forced amputations was especially bewildering to family and friends.

 

Woolwich murder probe: suspect Michael Adebolajo held in Kenya in 2010

One of the suspects in the Woolwich murder case was arrested in Kenya in 2010, the Foreign Office has confirmed. It said Michael Adebolajo was arrested there and it gave consular assistance “as normal” in the circumstances. He was believed to have been preparing to fight with Somali militant group al-Shabab, a Kenyan government spokesman told the BBC, and was later deported. Confirmation of Michael Adebolajo’s arrest in Kenya in 2010 -preparing, according to the Kenyan authorities, to train and fight in Somalia – raises troubling questions. British security officials have had long-standing concerns about the risk of young men travelling to join the militant group, al-Shabab, and returning to pose a danger on the streets of the UK.

Earlier this month, when David Cameron hosted a conference on Somalia he said the challenges of terrorism and extremism “matter to Britain – and to the whole international community.”

So you might have expected Michael Adebolajo to have been firmly on the radar of the security services when he returned to the UK. They will now be under renewed pressure over exactly what they knew about him, and whether more could have been done to prevent the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby.

Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab is affiliated to al-Qaeda and is thought to have 7,000 to 9,000 fighters. It killed 76 people in a double bomb attack in Uganda as they watched the 2010 World Cup.

Who loves and hates America: A revealing map of global opinion toward the U.S.

One of the most common answers I hear when I ask foreigners what they think about the U.S. is some variation of this: “You Americans are all so obsessed with how you’re perceived overseas.” In that spirit, even if it means reinforcing a stereotype, I’ve mapped some new data on global opinion of the United States, as part of a series of posts on Pew’s fascinating and just-out “global attitudes” study.

The map at the top of the post shows positive and negative opinions of the U.S. across the world. The poll works just like a presidential poll: Pew called people up and asked them if they had a favorable opinion of the U.S. or an unfavorable opinion (there was also a choice for no answer). Countries with a more favorable opinion are in blue (the darker the blue, the more favorable); red shows more unfavorable attitudes. A quick note about the data: most of it is from 2012, but I also pulled the 2011 numbers for Kenya, Ukraine, Indonesia and Lithuania; as well as the 2010 numbers for Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea; these countries were not included in the most recent survey.

The harshest views of America are in, no surprises, the Middle East and South Asia. Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks and Pakistanis all seem to see the United States in an overwhelmingly unfavorable light. As Turkey’s economy grows, its foreign policy becomes more assertive and democratization gives the Turkish people a stronger role in government, the negative view of the U.S. there could become more important for the world.

Still, it’s important not to make the mistake of confusing these four anti-American countries, which have their own reasons for disliking the U.S. (drones in Pakistan, perceived support for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt), with the entire Middle East or “Muslim world.” Indonesia and India, which have two of the largest Muslim populations in the world, both returned mildly positive views of America. Views vary even in the Arab Middle East; Tunisians and Lebanese seemed ambivalent, reporting roughly equivalent favorable and unfavorable numbers. And Nigerians, half of whom are Muslim, positively beam pro-Americanism: They report a more favorable view of the U.S. than Americans themselves do.

The U.S. is most popular in continental Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the northeast Asian countries of South Korea and Japan.

Extradited Muslim Cleric and 4 Other Terrorism Suspects Appear in American Courts after being extradited from Britain.

NEW YORK — A radical Muslim cleric whose fiery sermons at a London mosque were blamed for influencing followers to embrace a holy war against the United States arrived in New York on Saturday along with other terrorism suspects after losing a battle to fight extradition from Britain.

Abu Hamza Masri, also known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa; Adel Abdel Bary; and Khaled Fawwaz appeared in federal court in Manhattan hours after their arrival in the U.S. to face multiple terrorism-related charges. Two other suspects were sent to Connecticut.

After a protracted battle in the British and European courts, Abu Hamza al-Masri, an incendiary Muslim preacher with links to Al Qaeda, and four other terrorism suspects implicated in an array of terrorist plots were extradited to the United States on Saturday to face federal charges in Manhattan and New Haven.

The two other defendants in Manhattan, Adel Abdul Bary, 52, and Khaled al-Fawwaz, 50, were arraigned on charges including murder and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in connection with the 1998 bombings of the American Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and in Nairobi, Kenya, in which more than 200 people died. They pleaded not guilty.

In New Haven on Saturday, the final two defendants, Seyla Talha Ahsan, 33, and Babar Ahmad, 38, pleaded not guilty to charges that included conspiring to recruit fighters, raise money and gather equipment for terrorists on Web sites hosted out of Connecticut.

Federal authorities in the United States had long been seeking the extradition of Mr. Masri, an Egyptian-born cleric, for his involvement in a 1998 kidnapping of American citizens in Yemen, supporting the establishment of a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., and “facilitating violent jihad in Afghanistan,” according to a statement by the United States attorney in Manhattan. If convicted, Mr. Masri could face life in prison.

Controversial Canadian Muslim preacher deported from Kenya over security concerns

The National Post – Feb 24, 2012

Controversial Canadian Muslim preacher Bilal Philips has been deported from Kenya due to security concerns, hours after he landed in the country for a speaking tour, Nairobi newspapers have reported. “We had to turn him away because he easily mobilizes people using his controversial teachings wherever he goes,” said Njiru Mwaniki, chief of the Anti-Terrorism Police. “This is dangerous to our country.”

A Jamaican-Canadian and now a resident of Qatar, Bilal Philips is a contemporary Islamic scholar, teacher, speaker, and author. Philips founded the Islamic Online University as a completely tuition-free institution that is offering an online intensive, undergraduate, and graduate courses in Islamic Studies. The university offers a four year bachelor of arts degree in Islamic studies program.

Former soldier from Md. ordered held on charges that he tried to join terrorist group

GREENBELT, Md. — A former U.S. Army soldier accused of trying to provide support to a terrorist organization in Somalia after he left the military will remain locked up until his trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Connelly rejected defense arguments that Craig Baxam was naïve and impulsive and simply exploring his religion when he left the United States for Somalia last month with the goal of joining al-Shabaab, a group designated as a foreign terrorist organization. He was picked up in neighboring Kenya before he could reach Somalia and was questioned by FBI agents.