Universities cancel Muslim cleric’s speaking tour over concerns about his anti-gay views

November 7, 2013

 

A Muslim cleric who preaches that gay people are worse than animals is at the centre of a fierce “free speech” row after being invited to speak at universities across the country. Mufti Ismail Menk was due to visit six universities – Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow – next week. But the speaking tour was cancelled after student unions and university officials expressed concern about his views. The Zimbabwean cleric, who studied in Saudi Arabia, has described same-sex acts as “filthy,” “wrong” and synonymous with “acts of immorality”. He has been recorded as saying: “With all due respect to the animals, [gay people] are worse than those animals.”

Mr Menk was believed to have been invited by the universities’ Muslim students’ associations, many of whom were still advertising the event on their Facebook pages this afternoon. Glasgow University Muslim Association described the event as a “wonderful opportunity” on social media.

Cardiff University Islamic Society changed its Facebook photo to a picture of Mr Menk. University of Leicester’s Islamic Society described him as “entertaining, yet very pious” on its social media page. Leeds University Union Islamic Society withdrew its invitation two days ago after realising his views.

The National Union of Students said Mr Menk’s “reported comments are very concerning”. Ruth Hunt of Stonewall said: “Universities should always remain mindful that they have a duty to protect all of their students and to ensure balance in university discourse.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/universities-cancel-muslim-clerics-speaking-tour-over-concerns-about-his-antigay-views-8927902.html

Florida imam sentenced to 25 years in prison for financially supporting Pakistani Taliban

MIAMI — An elderly Muslim cleric was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison following his convictions on terrorism support charges for sending tens of thousands of dollars overseas to finance the Pakistani Taliban, which has launched numerous violent attacks against both Pakistan’s government and U.S. targets.

Hafiz Khan, 78, had faced up to 60 years behind bars on four terrorism support-related charges. But U.S. District Judge Robert Scola opted for less than the maximum term, although it is 10 years more than the sentence recommended by federal prosecutors.

The case against Khan, who was imam at a Miami mosque prior to his 2011 arrest, was built on hundreds of FBI recordings of both telephone calls and Khan’s face-to-face conversations with an undercover informant. In the calls, Khan discusses details of numerous wire transfers to Pakistan over a three-year period that totaled about $50,000.

“I did not send one dollar to the terrorists or the fighting Taliban,” Khan said. “I am absolutely against the terrorists and the violence.”

Two of Khan’s sons, Izhar and Irfan, were initially charged along with their father but the charges against them were dismissed. Three others in the indictment, including Khan’s daughter, remain free in Pakistan, which will not allow them to be extradited to the U.S.

Yvette Cooper welcomes Abu Qatada’s pledge to leave UK

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper welcomes the news Abu Qatada could return to Jordan, saying: “We all agree he should stand fair trial there so justice can be done.” The Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada will return to Jordan voluntarily when the Jordanian parliament ratifies a deal with Britain that ensures he will receive a fair trial, the cleric’s lawyer told a London court on Friday. Abu Qatada’s pledge is a victory for the British government after nearly eight years of unsuccessful attempts to deport the cleric, who is accused of spreading radical ideas that once inspired one of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers.

 

Courts have repeatedly blocked deportation on the grounds that a trial in Jordan of Abu Qatada, whose real name is Mohammed Othman, risked being tainted by the use of evidence obtained using torture.

 

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This could be very good news if it means Abu Qatada returns to Jordan as soon as possible – as we all agree he should stand fair trial there so justice can be done. Abu Qatada should have made this decision a long time ago as this legal process has dragged on far too long. We will watch the next steps closely until he departs, but I hope this saga can now be brought to an end.”

Court Orders the C.I.A. to Disclose Drone Data

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court held Friday that the Central Intelligence Agency must disclose, at least to a judge, a description of its records on drone strikes in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The 19-page opinion by Judge Merrick B. Garland rejected an effort by the Obama administration to keep secret any aspect of the C.I.A.’s interest in the use of drone strikes to kill terrorism suspects abroad.

It does not necessarily mean the contents of any of those records will ever be made public, and it stopped short of ordering the government to acknowledge publicly that the C.I.A. actually uses drones to carry out “targeted killings” against specific terrorism suspects or groups of unknown people who appear to be militants in places like tribal Pakistan. The Obama administration continues to treat that fact as a classified secret, though it has been widely reported.

But the ruling was a chink in that stone wall. Judge Garland, citing the C.I.A. role in analyzing intelligence, as well as public remarks by a former director and other top officials about what they asserted was the precision and minimal civilian casualties caused by drone strikes, said it was a step too far to ask the judicial branch to give its “imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible.”

Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U. who argued the case before the appeals court in September, called the ruling “an important victory” that “requires the government to retire the absurd claim that the C.I.A.’s interest in the targeted killing program is a secret.”

Pressure has been mounting on the Obama administration to disclose more information to Congress and to the public about its use of drones generally, and its killing of three Americans in Yemen in the fall of 2011, including the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, in particular. Last week, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, led a nearly 13-hour filibuster before the Brennan vote in which he denounced the administration’s drone policies and the secrecy surrounding its understanding of the scope and limits of its power to kill.

Witness testifies from Pakistan that Florida imam’s money was not for Taliban terrorists

MIAMI — Testifying via video from Pakistan, a man accused by the U.S. of conspiring with an elderly Miami-based Muslim cleric to funnel thousands of dollars to Taliban terrorists insisted Monday the money was for innocent purposes, including a potato chip factory run by the cleric’s son-in-law.

Ali Rehman was the first of as many as 11 witnesses expected to testify from an Islamabad hotel in defense of 77-year-old Hafiz Khan, who faces four terrorism support and conspiracy counts. Rehman is named in the same indictment and refused to come to the U.S. Other witnesses were unable to get U.S. visas in time.

He spoke in Pashto that was translated into English for the 12-person jury watching him on flat-screen televisions.

Rehman kept a three-page ledger detailing most of the transactions, which jurors were shown. “I was just the middle man to give the money to him.”

Rehman said he and Khan disagreed with the Taliban’s tactics of using violence and force to impose their version of Muslim law. Rehman said he was personally threatened by Taliban fighters who ordered him to remove products containing women’s pictures from a cosmetics store he owns.

If convicted, Khan faces up to 15 years in prison on each of four charges. Two of Khan’s sons were originally accused as well, but prosecutors dropped the charges against one and U.S. District Judge Robert Scola dismissed the case against the other for lack of evidence.

Live video testimony from Pakistan planned for defense witnesses in Fla. terror support trial

MIAMI — Witnesses will testify live from Pakistan via video beamed to a federal courtroom as part of the defense case in the trial of a Muslim cleric accused of financially supporting the Pakistani Taliban.

 

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola approved the unusual testimony in the case of 77-year-old imam Hafiz Khan. The first five witnesses will be questioned beginning Feb. 11 at an Islamabad hotel, and jurors will watch on courtroom TV screens. Scola said Tuesday the arrangement is costing taxpayers about $130,000.

 

Khan is on trial for allegedly funneling at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida. Khan insists the money was for innocent purposes, and the Pakistani witnesses are expected to back that up. If convicted, Khan faces up to 15 years in prison on each of four counts.

 

Four of the witnesses that will begin testifying on Feb. 11 are alleged by prosecutors to be Taliban members or sympathizers, including Khan’s daughter Amina Khan. She and two of the others are charged in the same U.S. case as their father, but Pakistan has refused to arrest them, federal prosecutors say.

 

“We have no information that’s going to happen,” Sullivan said.

 

Earlier, prosecutors dropped charges against one of Khan’s sons, and Scola earlier this month dismissed the case against a second son because of insufficient evidence. Trial of the elder Khan is expected to last through most of February.

 

Judge dismisses terror charges against Fla. Muslim cleric, citing weak evidence

MIAMI — Citing a lack of evidence, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed terrorism support and conspiracy charges against the younger of two Muslim clerics accused of funneling thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola ruled that “no rational trier of fact” could convict 26-year-old Izhar Khan, who is imam at a mosque in suburban Margate north of Fort Lauderdale. Trial is continuing against his father, 77-year-old Hafiz Khan. Scola said the evidence against the older Khan is much stronger.

“This court will not allow the sins of the father to be visited upon the son,” Scola wrote in a seven-page order.

Federal prosecutors earlier dropped charges against another of Hafiz Khan’s sons who also had minimal involvement. Izhar Khan’s attorney, Joseph Rosenbaum, said a judge’s dismissal of charges is rare, particularly in a case linked to international terrorism.

Hafiz Khan, imam at a downtown Miami mosque, still faces four terrorism support-related charges that each carry maximum 15-year prison sentences. Prosecutors said Hafiz Khan orchestrated the sending of at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban between 2008 and 2010, money that was allegedly used to help mujahedeen fighters attack Pakistani and U.S. targets.

In his order, Scola noted that the older Khan was recorded by the FBI talking “openly and brazenly” about raising money to help overthrow the Pakistani government so that strict Islamic law could be imposed. The recordings showed Hafiz Khan praised suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan and the attempt in May 2010 by Faisal Shahzad to detonate a bomb in New York’s Times Square.

Trial begins for Muslim cleric, son accused of funneling thousands to Pakistani Taliban

MIAMI — An elderly Muslim cleric and his son funneled thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban to fund killings, kidnappings and suicide bombings “in the name of a perverted form of the Muslim faith,” a prosecutor said Friday.

That was the characterization of Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley Jr. while making his opening statement in the trial of Hafiz Khan, 77, and his 26-year old son, Izhar Khan. The elder Khan was imam at a Miami mosque, and his son held the same post at a mosque in suburban Margate.

Both have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and material support to terrorism. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. The trial is expected to last about two months.

A starkly different picture was painted by Khurrum Wahid, the elder Khan’s defense attorney, and Joseph Rosenbaum, who is representing the son. They argued prosecutors are misinterpreting thousands of phone conversations, intercepts and the bugged conversations of an informant.

Wahid told the jury that the elderly cleric’s words are filled with expressions of love for his madrassa, the school he founded in Pakistan’s Swat Valley decades ago.

 

Muslim delegates at Democratic convention quadrupled since 2004

The number of Muslim delegates attending the Democratic National Convention has quadrupled since 2004, according to a Muslim advocacy group.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations counts more than 100 Muslim delegates representing some 20 states at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week. That’s up from 25 delegates in 2004, according to CAIR.

CAIR government affairs coordinator Robert McCaw said the numbers were “a sign of the American Muslim community’s growing civic engagement and acceptance in the Democratic Party.” He also said that Democrats had targeted outreach to American Muslims.

A “handful” of Muslims were delegates at the Republic National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., McGraw said. Campaign officials for Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama’s GOP challenger, did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats invited a Muslim cleric to deliver a blessing during their conventions, even as Christian, Jewish and Sikh leaders received invitations.

Most Muslim Americans voted Republican through the 2000 presidential election, but switched allegiances after the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 security policies, which some Muslims believe unfairly target their community. And while former President George W. Bush called Islam a “religion of peace,” some conservative Republicans now push for state laws to ban Shariah, Islamic law. The national GOP platform approved last week declares that U.S. courts should not consider foreign laws in their decisions.

Chicagoan accused of plotting to be suicide bomber for al-Qaida, al-Shabab to plead guilty

CHICAGO — A 29-year-old Chicago man accused of plotting a suicide bombing overseas and claiming he was inspired by a radical Muslim cleric has agreed to change his plea to guilty, bringing to an end one of the last terrorism trials pending in the city’s federal court.

A lawyer for Shaker Masri — whose plea deal was announced Thursday at a status hearing — told reporters that the agreement hammered out with the U.S. Attorney’s Office was favorable to his client, though he declined to elaborate

Masri, who was born in Alabama and lived abroad before returning to the U.S. at age 18, was arrested in 2010 after the FBI exposed his alleged plot to attend a Somalia training camp to become a suicide bomber for terrorist groups al-Qaida and al-Shabab.

Attorneys left open the possibility that the plea deal could still unravel, but Durkin told U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman he was confident enough to have the Sept. 12 trial date cancelled. Coleman set July 20 as the day for Masri to change his plea.

None of the government attorneys spoke to reporters after the hearing.