Government crackdown on radicals ‘will lead to attacks on Muslims’

December 4, 2013


A fresh crackdown on Islamist extremism risks backfiring by fuelling anti-Muslim prejudice and driving hardliners underground, the Government was warned last night. A group that monitors attacks on Muslims said it was preparing for an upsurge of violence as a result of the moves being announced today by David Cameron.

Under the Prime Minister’s proposals, Islamist radicals face being expelled from mosques, Muslim community groups and universities in a fight-back against fundamentalism. The courts would be given new civil powers – similar to Asbos (Anti-social behaviour order) – to ban suspected extremists from preaching or indoctrinating others. At the same time internet companies have been asked to block terrorist material from overseas being accessed in this country.

Last night Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Tell Mama, which records anti-Muslim incidents, said he feared Mr Cameron’s announcements would reinforce negative perceptions of Muslims. Mr Mughal said he had asked extra staff to be on standby because of an anticipated surge in hate attacks. He added that the new rules should cover all forms of extremism, including the activities of the far right.

Isabella Sankey, the director of policy at Liberty, said it was important to confront “ugly ideologies across the spectrum”. But she added: “Driving those who despise diversity further underground does nothing to expose their beliefs and only acts as another recruitment tool. You cannot protect our democracy by shutting down the very freedoms that sustain it.”


The Independent:

A Mayor Who Puts Wall Street First

Mr. Bloomberg was keen to take on the impossible, or at least the seemingly so. And he did. A man whose public personality came in a plain brown wrapper presided during an era of radical change and rebirth in the city, much of it fostered by his administration.


On March 15 of last year, at a moment when many New Yorkers found themselves increasingly disturbed by revelations that the Police Department had conducted constitutionally suspect surveillance of Muslim communities, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made an unplanned visit to the offices of Goldman Sachs.


The mood had grown sour among some of the city’s most amply compensated plutocrats. The day before, Greg Smith, an executive director in the company’s equity derivatives business, announced his resignation, in an Op-Ed page article in The New York Times, declaring that the previous decade had left Goldman’s culture so steeped in avarice and self-interest, so utterly disdainful of its clients, that he no longer found it morally tenable to work there.


It was not simply that he was such an obvious champion of the financial industry, but also that in the city he ran he could barely brook any dissent of it.


The siren song of large numbers led the city to multiply the number of people that the police stopped and frisked. He was not naturally inclined to soaring oratory, so on his rare forays, the eloquence was indelible. Practically alone among elected officials in the United States, Mr. Bloomberg spoke in 2010 for the right of a Muslim group to open a mosque a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attacks, citing the founding principles of the nation. As he stood on Governors Island, with the Statue of Liberty visible over his shoulder, Mr. Bloomberg said: “We would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.”


Last week, during a news conference in City Hall, the same mayor snarled at a judge for ruling that in searching the pockets of millions of young black and Latino men who had done nothing wrong, the police and the city had violated their constitutional rights. The moment lacked even a whisper of the grace that had made his voice so powerful on Governors Island.


But the Constitution protects the rights of individuals and does not recognize the laws of large numbers. It requires that the more invasive an action the authorities take against a person, the greater the cause must be.


Asked on Monday about a judge’s order that the police wear body cameras in five precincts for a year, to document precisely what was happening in the streets, Mr. Bloomberg seemed especially angry. A “nightmare,” he said. He insisted the test would fail: a police officer might turn his or her head and the camera would miss the action.


The judge said it would be an experiment, a pilot project for a year, but Mr. Bloomberg wasn’t having it. “It is a solution that is not a solution,” he declared.

F.B.I. Arrests Second Suspect in Bomb Plot Against Bank

The Bangladeshi man who was arrested Wednesday on charges that he plotted to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had an accomplice in San Diego, who was arrested later on unrelated child-pornography charges, a law enforcement official said on Thursday.

The man described as the accomplice, Howard Willie Carter II, was arrested after an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation found 1,000 images and three video files containing child pornography on a laptop and hard drive in the trash near Mr. Carter’s apartment, according to a government document. Officials used material stored on the computer to trace it back to Mr. Carter.

The computer also contained e-mails addressed to “Yaqeen,” a name that Brooklyn prosecutors said Mr. Carter had used in the plot to bomb the Federal Reserve building.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged the Bangladeshi man, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and with providing material support to Al Qaeda. They said he had tried to detonate what he believed was a 1,000-pound bomb hidden in a van parked near the Federal Reserve building, on Liberty Street, in the financial district.

Malaysia charges Borders manager with selling Canadian’s banned book on Islam

News Agencies – June 19, 2012


A Borders bookstore manager in Malaysia has been charged with distributing a Canadian writer’s book that was banned as being against Islam. The government in the Muslim-majority country regularly bans books it considers threats to religious stability. “Allah, Liberty and Love” was banned in late May. The website for author Irshad Manji says it is about “how to reconcile faith and freedom in a world seething with repressive dogmas.” Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz could face a two-year prison sentence and fine if convicted of the charge that was filed Tuesday.

Canadian Irshad Manji book tour in Indonesia runs into trouble

News Agencies –  May 10, 2012


Police crackdowns and attacks by religious extremists have attempted to derail the book tour of famed Muslim Canadian author Irshad Manji through Indonesia, a country she previously described as a symbol of “meaningful moderation in Islam.” “Four years ago, I came to Indonesia and experienced a nation of tolerance, openness and pluralism,” said Ms. Manji. “Things have changed.”

Raised in Vancouver, Ms. Manji rose to prominence as an advocate for progressive Islam with her 2003 book The Trouble With Islam Today. Most controversially to many of her religious critics, she is openly lesbian. Ms. Manji was in the South Asian country to promote the Indonesian release of Allah, Liberty and Love. Amid laying out a blueprint for Muslim reformation modelled on the U.S. civil rights movement, the book singles out Indonesia as a model Muslim society.

Catholic bishops cry for religious freedom: This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue

The nation’s Catholic bishops are calling on the faithful to pray and mobilize in a “great national campaign” to confront what they see as a series of threats to religious freedom, and they are setting aside the two weeks before July 4 for their “Fortnight for Freedom” initiative.

The exhortation is contained in a 12-page statement released Wednesday (April 12) by the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, and its chief concern is the Obama administration’s proposal to provide contraception coverage to all employees with health insurance, including those who work for religious groups.

The statement represents the hierarchy’s latest effort to overturn that policy, and it includes an explicit threat of widespread civil disobedience by the nation’s 67 million Catholics.


“What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society — or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it,” the statement says. “This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.”

Muslims call for reforms 10 years after Patriot Act

A Muslim civil rights group is accusing the FBI and other federal agencies of “bad policing” and flaunting the Constitution in a 56-page report released to mark the 10th anniversary of the Patriot Act.

The Tuesday (Oct. 25) report by Muslim Advocates, “Losing Liberty: The State of Freedom 10 Years After The Patriot Act” recommends more than 40 legal and policy changes to enforcement of the anti-terrorism law.
The report accuses the FBI of religious profiling, using informants to spy on mosques, and asking Muslims prohibited questions about their religious beliefs and practices.

“FBI agents are instructed to view Muslims with suspicion by, for example, looking out for converts to Islam and those who wear ‘traditional Muslim attire,? attend mosques, and have strong religious beliefs,” the report said.

Canadian Irshad Manji releases new book

News Agencies – June 10, 2011


Canadian author Irshad Manji writes in her new work, Allah, Liberty & Love, that she has moved from “anger to aspiration.” A rallying cry to readers to question orthodoxy without fear, the book concludes with the suggestion they get together to trade ideas. Manji even includes a recipe for chai tea to fuel such discussions. Anger was at the centre of The Trouble with Islam, her 2003 worldwide bestseller decrying her own religion’s entrenched prejudice against Jews and injustice toward women. The book earned her many fans but also hate mail, pinched-face cranks calling her the daughter of Satan, and even a smiling man who leaned in to shake her hand but instead spat in her face.


Manji now lives in a book-filled apartment — she calls it her Manji cave — in New York’s Greenwich Village, where she moved in 2008 to launch the Moral Courage Project at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. In the course, she encourages students to “challenge intellectual conformity and self-censorship.” A regular on Bill Maher’s late-night HBO show — the audience cheers when she comes on the set — and on the networks MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Al Arabyia and, occasionally, FOX, she’s seen all over America and around the world. Manji writes twice monthly for The Globe and Mail, and contributes to The New York Times op-ed page and The Wall Street Journal.

Despite Manji’s wide audience in the U.S., her work has not resonated in parts of Canada’s mainstream Muslim community. “I don’t know why, but there seems to be little mention of Irshad in Muslim circles in Canada,” says Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.


British government anti-terrorism strategy “spies” on innocent Muslims

The government program aimed at preventing Muslims from being lured into violent extremism is being used to gather intelligence about innocent people who are not suspected of involvement in terrorism. The information the authorities are trying to find out includes political and religious views, information on mental health, sexual activity and associates, and other sensitive information. Other documents reveal that the intelligence and information can be stored until the people concerned reach the age of 100. This has been published in a report of the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) by Arun Kundnani, entitled “Spooked: How not to prevent violent extremism”.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, branded it the biggest spying program in Britain in modern times and an affront to civil liberties. The intelligence is being gathered as part of the strategy Preventing Violent Extremism — ‘Prevent’ for short. It was launched three years ago to stop people being lured to al-Qaeda ideology and committing acts of terrorism.

The government and police have repeatedly denied that the £140m program is a cover for spying on Muslims in Britain. But sources directly involved in running Prevent programs say it involves gathering intelligence about the thoughts and beliefs of Muslims who are not involved in criminal activity.

With 11-Part ‘Crossroads,’ PBS Looks Many Ways

CTION: STYLE; Pg. N01 DISTRIBUTION: Every Zone LENGTH: 958 words HEADLINE: With 11-Part ‘Crossroads,’ PBS Looks Many Ways; The Challenges of a Post-9/11 World Are Daunting. For the Next Six Nights, an Ambitious Series Resolutely Meets Them Head-On. BYLINE: Tom Shales; Washington Post Staff Writer BODY: “America at a Crossroads” answers the question “Is there still a purpose for public television?” And the 11-part PBS series replies in the affirmative, because it’s hard to imagine another national network that would attempt a project this ambitious, this challenging and this relatively esoteric. Starting tonight with two hours of “Jihad: The Men and Ideas Behind Al-Qaeda” and concluding Friday with “Security vs. Liberty: The Other War” and “The Brotherhood,” this magnum opus tackles some of the toughest subjects of our time. “Crossroads” asks plenty of salient, crucial questions — and works slavishly to find sane, satisfying answers. Even the format and length of the special series are on the gutsy side: 12 hours over six consecutive nights of prime time. Several decades ago, CBS News aired a landmark report on “The Defense of the United States” — five hours over five nights, although not all in prime time — but the focus of “Crossroads” is more specific, and that gives it added urgency. When you’re at a crossroads, you have to do something; you can’t just watch the world go by and hope there aren’t collisions. “Crossroads” puts the dominant issues in the cross hairs, its goal occasionally just to make sense of Islamic radicals and what they envision as their global “cause.” The series’s more ambitious purpose is to hold a seemingly insoluble conflict up to the light and study it from as many angles as possible. The approach is bound to strike some viewers are flagrantly one-sided. There doesn’t seem to be any attempt by the other side to “understand” us — only to obliterate us. If communists were won over, or undone, by the allure of American pop culture — by tight jeans, catchy ditties and such inspirations as a bug-eyed talking sponge who works at an underwater diner — such magnetic entities are viewed as poison by, for lack of a better term, The Enemy. When Muhammad bin Laden — father of 54 children, one them Osama — studied American culture, he came away “appalled” at suburban America’s obsession with lawns, of all things — the meticulous and fastidious care and feeding thereof. Perhaps taking spectators literally, he reportedly shrank in horror at cries of “Kill him!” during a professional boxing match, and he generally considered Americans to be corrupted by the sorts of things the rest of the world envies. Viewers who’ve oohed and aahed over the scenic and natural wonders captured in high-def for Discovery Channel HD Theater’s eye-boggling “Planet Earth” will find the visual approach of “Crossroads” to be naturally austere by comparison. But although various producers and different creative teams worked on the various “Crossroads” segments, there are striking consistencies — chief among them a way to zoom out from one spot on the globe and then zoom in, way in, on another. At their most basic level, these zooms, from a vantage point in space, give you a welcome perspective on just where things are in relation to one another. It’s also a gee-whiz effect for its own sake. “Gangs of Iraq,” the segment airing Tuesday night, was co-produced by the “Crossroads” team and the producers of “Frontline,” one of the last of the current-events topical series on public TV. “Gangs” looks at the massive U.S.-sponsored training effort to get Iraqis to stand up for themselves in the defense of their country and its moderate, or at least non-radical, citizens. According to the report, the coalition-trained forces have themselves been infiltrated by extremists — thus increasing the challenge facing additional U.S. troops on their way to Baghdad. Also on Tuesday, “The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom” is largely a profile of former assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle, a one-man campaign on behalf of the U.S. effort in Iraq and the mission as he sees it — sharply contrasted with the views of Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “Security vs. Liberty: The Other War,” one of the two concluding hour-long segments airing Friday night, was co-produced by ABC News, another sign of the magnitude of the production. Written, produced and directed by Edward Gray, “Security vs. Liberty” asks whether Americans have been “far too willing to sacrifice our basic liberties” in the name of “homeland” safety. Those basic liberties were in peril within hours after the airplanes hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and this part of the report gives the impression that only the ACLU is doing much to prevent the further erosion of rights. The hour includes case studies of Americans whose profiles, as compiled in FBI computers, seemed to indicate possible terrorist ties — among them a Muslim pizza shop owner suspected of peddling missiles as well as pizza pies. Brave and indignant librarians in Connecticut stood up and protested when they received so-called “national security letters” that requested patrons records. The FBI not only makes its accusations in secret, but also often imposes a “gag order” on those charged so that they can’t seek the legal protections that are supposedly the right of every U.S. citizen. So many issues and conundrums arise during these reports on the war and its effects that the question of “what the title should be” keeps rising from the complexities and confusion. What’s the plural of “crossroads”? The so-called war on terror has stranded us not at one crossroads but at many — interlinked, entwined, perplexed. Six nights of examining the intricate issues and maddening dilemmas of the conflict might not “solve” anything, but we ought to at least come away with a clarified sense of how confused it has all become. America at a Crossroads begins tonight at 9 on Channels 22 and 26.