Manchester terrorist turned from drug-user to suicide bomber

Salman Abedi, the Manchester terrorist attacker, smoked cannabis and dropped out of the University of Salford (where he was studying for a business degree). Some  of his friends say he may have been involved in gangs before he became radicalised. After quitting university, he worked at a bakery.

Some experts are seeing this trajectory  as a  somewhat typical  shift from crime to  terrorism. Because criminals are accustomed to violence, according to some, there is a smaller jump to political violence.

At one point, Abedi flew an  ISIS flag from his Manchester home but the police did not interview.

Abedi attended the Burnage Academy for Boys between 2009 and 2011 but the school did not make a statement because of the status of the investigation.

Neighbours were not very familiar with Abedi but noticed a recent increase in the religiosity of his appearance. Friends from school said that he was ‘fun’ until he went to Libya in 2011. Abedi reportedly had just returned from a trip to Libya a few days before the attack.

Abedi’s cousins were arrested as well and two of them were recently released.

Manchester bomber’s Libyan experiences and radicalisation

Manchester bomber Salman Abedi, 22, may have been radicalised through his connections to Libya. His father fled Libya to escape Ghadafi because Abedi senior was connected to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which had tried to assassinate Ghadafi. LIFG was prominently represented at the Muslim-Brotherhood-affiliated Didsbury Mosque which the Abedi family attended. After 9/11, the LIFG was declared an Al Qaeda affiliate and its funding was cut off. The Abedi family’s escape of Libya occurred before the birth of Salman Abedi; however, when Salman was 16, Abedi senior returned to Libya after the Arab Spring when the opportunity to finally overthrow Ghadafi presented itself.

As a result, Salman Abedi moved often between war-torn Tripoli and Manchester. At some point, it is suspected that he went with other Libyans to fight in Syria, where he saw American bombs killing Muslim children. He was full of contradictions, as he drank and used drugs but was violent towards women who adhered to Western sexuality norms.

Salman Abedi was radicalised into a different form of violence than his father. While his father abhorred ISIS, Abedi embraced it after his experiences with cultural clash and violence in Syria. This led to the tragic events last week.

Surveys allow new insights into Europeans’ rejection of Muslim immigration

Official condemnation of the ban

In the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, the liberal media has often looked for European moral leadership in an age of Trumpism.

Many of the continent’s politicians struck a similar tone, arguing for the need to uphold European values in the face of xenophobia and racism. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, as well as the leaders of the largest factions in the European Parliament, emphasised the EU’s willingness to stand up for “European legal culture and fundamental values”.(( http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170131IPR60380/meps-firmly-condemn-us-travel-ban-in-debate-with-federica-mogherini ))

Similarly, the Bloc’s national leaders seemed to develop a common position against the Trump administration and its ‘Muslim ban’. At the gathering of the Union’s 28 heads of government in Malta earlier this month, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was rebuffed for what the continent’s leaders deemed her too concessionary stance vis-à-vis the incoming US administration.(( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-malta-summit-european-leaders-rebuff-theresa-may-bridge-donald-trump-us-angela-merkel-francois-a7561106.html ))

Sobering survey results

Against this backdrop, the results of a survey commissioned by Chatham House are sobering. Carried out between December 12, 2016, and January 11, 2017, the survey interviewed 10,195 participants from 10 EU countries, asking them about their preferences regarding Muslim immigration.

Across the continent, an absolute majority of 54.6 per cent agreed to the statement that “All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped”. The strongest rejection of Muslim migration came from Poland (71 per cent), as well as Austria, Hungary, Belgium, and France (all above 60 per cent).

Only in Spain and the United Kingdom does the share of those supporting drastic immigration restrictions fall below the 50 per cent threshold. And in no country does the proportion of those actively disagreeing with the statement that “All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped” rise above 32 per cent.

(Moderate) cleavages according to gender, age, and rural/urban divide

The survey results highlight that men are slightly more likely than women to favour shutting the door to Muslim immigrants (57 to 52 per cent). Among the 18 to 29 year-olds, the share of those supportive of a restrictive policy is lowest (at 44 per cent), while it is highest among senior citizens above the age of 60 (63 per cent).

Higher education levels correlate with decreased anxiety about Muslims: 59 per cent of respondents with only secondary education or less supported preventing further Muslim immigration, compared to 48 per cent of respondents holding a university degree. Finally, the rural population is slightly more critical of Muslim immigration than its urban counterpart.

While these factors are of interest, they nevertheless do little to change the overall picture. Across all groups and cleavages, there are solid majorities favouring a restrictive attitude to the immigration of Muslims, with only few categories falling below the 50 per cent threshold.

Comparison with the US

At first sight, these figures strongly mirror the opinions of the American public. In a Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted on 30 and 31 of January – i.e. shortly after the executive order was signed – 48 per cent of Americans asserted that they ‘agreed’ with the Executive order blocking refugees and banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.(( https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/02/polls-widespread-backing-trump-travel-ban ))

It is worth noting, however, that the Chatham House poll was conducted prior to President Trump’s inauguration and thus did not explicitly reference a ‘Muslim ban’. Rather, it spoke of curbing Muslim immigration in more general terms.

European support for the Muslim ban?

These differences in timing and in the question asked might have important repercussions for the interpretation of the survey data. Most notably, a position generally supportive of curbs on Muslim immigration does not necessarily translate into support for the US administration’s Muslim ban.

In Germany, for instance, 53 per cent of respondents expressed desire for a stop to the arrival of Muslims when questioned for the Chatham House survey. In an Ipsos poll conducted in early February, 2017, however, only 26.2 per cent of German respondents supported strict rules governing Muslim immigration on the model of President Trump’s executive order.(( http://www.wiwo.de/politik/deutschland/umfrage-deutsche-wuenschen-sich-mehr-trump-politik-in-berlin/19239790.html ))

This striking discrepancy might point to the fact that it is easier for some respondents to advocate for a blanket restriction on Muslim immigration as long as this remains a somewhat abstract policy. The concretisation of such restrictions in the form of the presidential executive order might drive home the starkness and injustice involved in such a ban. The recent events in the United States also provided powerful images of demonstrators and of families torn apart at American airports that might have swayed German public opinion.

Outsourcing the dirty work

Does this mean that the claim to moral superiority voiced by European leaders criticising the new American administration is justified, after all? Are Europeans and their governments true to their self-styled image of the upholders of ‘Western values’? – Arguably not.

Instead of stopping immigration at European airports – and thereby creating a media stir comparable to the aftermath of the US President’s executive order – the EU has relied upon agreements that outsource the ‘dirty work’ to third states removed from European shores and out of the sight of European citizens.

This is the substance of the EU-Turkey deal that closed the Balkans route; an approach that the EU now seeks to replicate with a second agreement involving Libya. Although the officially recognised government controls only a small sliver of the Republic of Libya, it has been identified as a suitable partner by the Europeans.

Nor have European leaders been deterred by the conditions reigning in the migrant camps in Libya, which a leaked report by German diplomats described as comparable to “concentration camps” in which daily executions are used “to make room for new arrivals”.(( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/eu-malta-summit-leaders-warn-strand-thousands-refugees-libya-deal-concentration-camps-crisis-a7560956.html )) The European anti-immigration policies might be less eye-catching than Donald Trump’s showmanship; yet this does not make them any less deadly.

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.

Manuel Valls preaches unity to combat “Islamo-fascism”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls launched an appeal on February 16 for unity in order to combat “Islamo-fascism.” Following the deadly attacks in Copenhagen, Valls stated: “We must not give in to fear nor to division. But at the same time we must also deal with the problems: combating terrorism, mobilizing society in support of secularism, combating anti-Semitism…Islam of France must take full responsibility, this is what is demanded of the large majority of our Muslim compatriots.”

Valls felt it was necessary to conduct “a war” against Islamo-fascism,” “outside, but also inside,” of the country, to combat jihadism. He stressed that every country in the region should act, militarily and financially, including Qatar and Turkey. Monday morning the Egyptian army bombed several ISIL locations in Libya.

Foreign Affair – ‘My Accidental Jihad,’ by Krista Bremer

May 23, 2014

There’s a scene in “My Accidental Jihad” in which Krista Bremer visits her husband’s relatives in Libya and sees a wheezing, skeletal old woman lying on a hospital bed in their living room.

In America, someone so fragile would be in intensive care. Here, relatives greet the woman warmly and lean against her bed as they eat dinner. “Dying was apparently as much a part of a busy Libyan household as all the other chaos of family,” Bremer writes.

“My Accidental Jihad: A Love Story” tells how Bremer — an exercise-obsessed, well-off Californian — adapts to being the wife of a Libyan émigré, and flirts with Islam. The memoir, Bremer’s first book, grew out of a prizewinning essay she wrote for The Sun, a North Carolina-based magazine where she is associate publisher.

Bremer herself eventually experiments with Islam and grapples with her daughter’s decision to wear a head scarf. She’s eager to dispel the stereotype of Islam as intrinsically violent. But in backing away from that caricature, she falls into another: that of the noble savage. Ismail, in her telling, is the exasperating but enlightened foreigner with the power to see luxury cars as mere “metal boxes on wheels.”

The book also suffers from an unusual problem for a contemporary memoir: not enough personal information. How did Ismail get from his village to an American doctoral program? (There’s a passing reference to a scholarship late in the book.) What’s this middle-aged man’s job and romantic history? How does Bremer’s nominally Christian family react to her marriage? The book lacks crucial connective tissue, and makes confusing chronological jumps.

Its highlight is Bremer’s trip to Libya, where there’s no need to overstate the contrasts. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s policy on breast-feeding looks surprisingly appealing next to Bremer’s experience pumping breast milk in the toilet stall of an American office. Among Ismail’s fleshy female relatives, she finally understands why he keeps pressing her to gain weight. And it’s in Libya that Bremer has a key insight about bicultural marriages: Not all differences are cultural; Ismail may be “maddening on both sides of the world.”

“My Accidental Jihad” is maddening at times too, though it’s punctuated with moving moments. Krista Bremer has a very good story, but she doesn’t always tell it.

Federal Court Orders YouTube to Take Down Controversial Anti-Islam Video

February 28, 2014

 

A federal appeals court ordered YouTube to take down a controversial anti-Islam video in an unusual copyright decision that Google, which owns YouTube, said raised questions about freedom of speech.

The video, “Innocence of Muslims,” was briefly blamed in 2012 for inciting violence across the Middle East that killed four American diplomatic personnel in Libya and was the topic of a debate over free speech at the time.

Many countries, including the United States, asked YouTube to consider taking down the video. YouTube refused because it said the video did not violate its guidelines governing hate speech, though it put the video behind a warning page. (It temporarily restricted access to the video in Egypt and Libya, which it called an extraordinary measure. It also restricted access in countries where the video is illegal, including Saudi Arabia, India and Indonesia, in response to court orders.)

But the latest court order is about an entirely different legal issue: copyright.

The case was brought by an actress in the film, Cindy Lee Garcia, who had a minor role for which she was paid $500. The California Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, overturning an earlier federal court decision, ordered YouTube to remove the video because it said that Ms. Garcia had a copyright claim to the work and that the infringement of the copyright had led to death threats against Ms. Garcia by critics of the film.

Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the majority opinion that the filmmaker had lied to Ms. Garcia about the movie, which turned out to be very different from the one in which she agreed to perform. He also said her performance could be copyrighted.

NY Times: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/federal-court-orders-youtube-to-take-down-controversial-anti-islam-video/?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults%234&version=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry714%23%2Fmuslim%2F30days%2Fallresults%2F5%2Fallauthors%2Fnewest%2F

EU and Arab states to meet over foreign fighters in Syria

February 7, 2014

 

Experts from the European Union and eight Arab countries plus Turkey will hold a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, February 11th to discuss threats posed by foreign fighters in Syria, according to a source at Al Arabiya News Channel.

The source said EU countries are increasingly worried about hundreds of young European Muslims who have travelled to Syria to carry out jihad. Many of them, he said, have joined al-Qaeda affiliated groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or al-Nusra Front.

The Arab countries invited to the meeting are Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Irann, Libya, and Tunisia.

French President Francois Hollande said last month that 700 people had left France to join the fighting in Syria in what he called a “worrying” trend.

“A certain number of young Frenchmen and young foreigners living in France… are fighting in Syria – 700 are listed, that’s a lot. Some are dead,” Hollande told a press conference in Paris.

Hollande said young people needed to be warned about the dangers of going to Syria and that France needed to “fight against a certain number of networks and havens that sustain terrorism.”

French officials have warned of the dangers from French citizens fighting with extremist and al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said this week that more than 400 people were either ready to go to Syria, were in the country or had been and returned.

Western security officials have raised fears that foreign fighters trained in Syria could carry out attacks on home soil. Officials say about 20 French citizens have died in the Syria conflict. The country was unsettled last week when reports emerged of two brothers who had converted to Islam dying within four months of each other in the conflict.

Source: http://www.albawaba.com/conflict-syria/eu-syria-552919

Lockerbie bombing police to visit Libya for first time

December 21, 2013

 

Following talks in Tripoli with Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan, David Cameron said officers from the Dumfries and Galloway force had been granted permission to travel to the country. “I am delighted that the Dumfries and Galloway Police team will be able to visit your country to look into the issues around the Lockerbie bombing,” he told a joint news conference.

Although police investigating the murder of WPc Yvonne Fletcher – who was killed by shots fired from the Libyan People’s Bureau in London in 1984 – have visited three times since the revolution in 2011, similar access had not previously been given to the Lockerbie team. The only person to have been convicted of the attack, Libyan agent Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, died last year of prostate cancer, having been released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds after serving eight years of a life sentence.

Dumfries and Galloway Police want to investigate whether anyone else was involved in the attack, while the families of some of the victims remain convinced that it was nothing to do with Megrahi and he was an innocent man.

Two hundred and seventy people died when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on December 21 1988 – including all 259 people on board and 11 town residents – in what remains the UK’s worst terrorist atrocity.

In December last year, the Libyan administration said it was preparing to release all files relating to the bombing.

But Robert Forrester, secretary of the Justice for Megrahi campaign group, which wants an independent inquiry to look again at the conviction, dismissed the prospect of further investigations. “As far as I am concerned, the conviction was a gross miscarriage of justice and the efforts the police and Crown Office are making to locate other Libyans who may have colluded in the bringing down of Pan Am flight 103 amounts to little more than eye-wash,” he said.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/independentplus/indyplus-more-lockerbie-bombing-police-to-visit-libya-for-first-time-9020156.html