Muslims targeted in U.S. terrorism cases, report says

U.S. government tactics in pursuing domestic terrorism cases target and entrap Muslim community members and fail to enhance public safety, according to a report released Wednesday by a human rights center at New York University’s law school.

The government’s use of surveillance, paid informants and invented terrorism plots prompts human rights concerns, according to the report by NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. The authors examined three high-profile cases in New York and New Jersey that they said raised questions about the role of the FBI and New York Police Department in creating the perception of a homegrown terrorism threat.
The report focused on specific cases, but similar allegations have been made in other domestic terrorism cases, in what the researchers said was “illustrative of larger patterns of law enforcement activities targeting Muslim communities.”

5 Muslim immigrants appeal NJ terrorism convictions in deadly Fort Dix plot

PHILADELPHIA — Wiretaps obtained under a Patriot Act provision aimed at gathering foreign intelligence wrongly helped convict Muslim immigrants in a domestic criminal case, defense lawyers argued Monday in U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia.

The lawyers represent five young men convicted of plotting a deadly strike at a New Jersey military base. Prosecutors call evidence in the three-month trial overwhelming and the two wiretaps in question incidental to the conviction.

Prosecutors charged that the Philadelphia-area residents, inspired by al-Qaida, had taken training trips to the Pocono Mountains and scouted out Fort Dix, an Army base in New Jersey used primarily to train reservists for duty in Iraq, and other sites.

2012 candidates stake out positions on sharia

Sharia law is quickly becoming a hot-button topic on the campaign trial, as conservatives debate the role of Islam in the United States and the conservative movement. The exact mechanics of how sharia, or Islamic jurisprudence, is threatening the United States are unclear, but some conservatives point to cases in New Jersey and Florida that they say underscores the need for a blanket ban on using foreign law in the United States.

The issue resonates with many GOP primary voters and legislators in the early primary state of South Carolina is considering a ban on sharia law that might force some more 2012 contenders engage on the issue. Here is how the various 2012 candidates have positioned themselves on the issue so far.

Koran Burner Derek Fenton Booted From His Job at NJ Transit

New Jersey Transit fired an employee, Derek Fenton, for burning a Koran in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 in his off-duty hours. Derek Fenton’s 11-year career at the agency came to an abrupt halt Monday after photographs of him ripping pages from the Muslim holy book and setting them ablaze appeared in newspapers. Fenton was apparently inspired by Pastor Terry Jones (the Florida clergyman who threatened to burn the Koran that day who later changed his mind) did indeed burn the book during a protest on the ninth anniversary of Sept 11 outside of Park 51, where the controversial mosque slated to build near Ground Zero.

The incidence has sparked a debate on free speech and if public workers are limited to express such rights.

Lawmakers: Pakistan taliban must be blacklisted

By MATTHEW LEE

Four senators are seeking to force the Obama administration to blacklist the Pakistani Taliban, a day after the failed Times Square bomber pleaded guilty and admitted getting training from the group. The senators, all from New York and New Jersey, said Tuesday they would introduce a bill requiring the State Department to designate the Pakistani Taliban a “foreign terrorist organization.”

US Muslim charity leaders get 65 years in jail for Hamas support

Two former leaders of the Texas-based Holy Land foundation were sentenced to 65 years in jail for supporting Palestinian militants. Jurors returned guilty verdicts on 108 charges of providing material support to terrorists, money laundering, and tax fraud. “These sentences should serve as a strong warning to anyone who knowingly provides financial support to terrorists under the guise of humanitarian relief,” said David Kris, assistant US attorney general for national security. Holy Land CEO Shukri Abu Baker and chairman and co-founder Ghassan Elashi, were both sentenced to 65 years in jail. Holy Land cofounder Mohammad El-Mezain, and Abdulrahman Odeh, the charity’s New Jersey representative, both received lesser sentences of 15 years. The Justice Department vowed in October 2007 to retry the five Holy Land leaders after jurors could not agree on verdicts on nearly 200 charges, and a new jury was seated in mid-September. Holy Land was one of several Muslim organizations the Bush administration shut down in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for allegedly raising money for Islamic extremists overseas. Muslim charities that remained open suffered significant drops I contributions because of fears of prosecution.

Tough economy forces many US Muslims delay hajj

Tough economic times in the United States is having an effect on American Muslims looking to perform the pilgrimage of Hajj. Many report that saving up money to make the trip is becoming difficult, as some have even weighed taking out loans – but Hajj is not supposed to be a huge financial burden for the faithful. Nair Al-Jubeir, spokesperson for the Saudi Arabian embassy said that 11,801 visas have bee issued this year for those wishing to make the pilgrimage – down nearly 2,000 from last year. Travel agents also report that the economy has taken a toll. An agent in New Jersey specializing in Hajj packages says that the economic crisis has resulted in a nearly 40 percent drop this year.

Revered New Jersey Imam, Facing Deportation, Has Interfaith Suppor

Mohammad Qatanani, the imam of the mosque at the Islamic Center of Passic County, has been barred by federal immigration authorities from renewing his driver’s license, and faces deportation because of detention in Israel decades ago and questions about whether or not he lied on his 1999 application for permanent residency, which he has denied. Qatanani has served as a spiritual and community leader for a dozen years for the Muslim community in Passic County, speaking at funerals, visiting the sick in hospitals, and opening his home to domestic-violence victims at a moment’s notice. Qatanani is receiving support from his community, including fund-raisers for him at the mosque. His case has galvanized a diverse group of community figures, across different faiths including Christian and Jewish leaders, who fear they may lose a leader they see as the model of Muslim moderation. Imam Qatanani’s lawyer, Claudia Slovinsky, said that immigration officials are accusing him of lying on his residency application, that he made no mention of time he spent in detention in Israel hear the end of the first intifada in 1993, when Palestinians are routinely held by Israelis for questioning. Slovinsky said the imam never received word of any charges or convictions against him, and thus was not lying on the immigration form.

Feds Say N.J. Terror Attack Was at Hand

Federal authorities say they arrested six Muslim men suspected of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix because they feared the group was on the verge of carrying out the attack. “I think they were in the last stage of planning,” U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said Wednesday. “They had training, they had maps, and I think they were very close to moving on this. “Our view was they had pretty much gotten to concluding the planning phase of this and were looking to obtain heavy weaponry _ and if not from us, they were going to try to obtain it elsewhere.” Though it was not clear when the alleged attack was to take place, members of the group were arrested Monday night as they tried to buy AK-47 assault weapons, M-16s and other weapons from an FBI informant, authorities said. The men _ four born in the former Yugoslavia, one from Jordan and one from Turkey _ lived in Philadelphia and its suburbs with their immediate and extended families. Three were roofers, one drove a cab, and the two others worked at food stores. One of the six used his pizza delivery job to gain access to the Army base and scout it out, exposing what may be a security vulnerability, a congressman said Wednesday. Serdar Tatar was on the fort’s approved list of delivery people and given access to the base as part of his job with a nearby pizzeria run by his father, according to a Fort Dix spokeswoman. Tatar’s father, Muslim Tatar, 54, denied that his son had made deliveries to Fort Dix. However, Christie said the younger Tatar spoke of delivering pizzas on tapes made by informants. Another susect, Agron Abdullahu, was familiar with the base because it was the first place he landed when arriving in the United States as a refugee from Kosovo, according to a law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The United States allowed thousands of refugees into the United States after it intervened in the 1998-99 Kosovo war. Abdullahu arrived at Fort Dix as a teenager in 1999 as part of a group of about 4,400 refugees from Kosovo, officials said. The six _ Tatar, 23; Abdullahu, 24; Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22; Dritan “Anthony” or “Tony” Duka, 28; Shain Duka, 26; and Eljvir “Elvis” Duka, 23 _ appeared in federal court Tuesday in Camden and were ordered held without bail for a hearing Friday. Three were in the United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to stay in the country permanently; and one is a U.S. citizen. The investigation began more than a year ago after a New Jersey store clerk was asked to transfer a videotape onto a DVD. The tape showed 10 men shooting weapons at a firing range and calling for jihad, prosecutors said. The 10 included the six men under arrest, authorities said. Christie would not comment on the identities of the four other men in the video or say whether they were considered suspects. But he said the investigation was still going on. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, whose district includes Fort Dix, said he has long been concerned about who has access to the sprawling 31,000-acre Army installation located in the Pinelands region of New Jersey, about 20 miles east of Philadelphia. “This whole affair just underscores the vulnerability,” Smith said. “You don’t know who’s on your base. What the pizza delivery man tells me is that when you have access, when you have frequent access, you get the lay of the land, so that if you do a terror attack it will cause that much more damage and loss of life.” The fort considers its policy for screening delivery people adequate for now, but said it could be reviewed in the future, base spokeswoman Carolee Nesbit said. Before they are cleared to make deliveries at Fort Dix, drivers must register in advance, undergo a criminal background check, and obtain an access pass that has to be reviewed every 30 days. Drivers who arrive at the military installation’s gate are greeted by armed guards, who check their identification and issue a pass. The delivery people are not followed or monitored once they clear security, Nesbit said. “There are 16,000 people that come through the gates every day,” she said. “It’s practically impossible to follow everyone.” Nisbet said security is present wherever military personnel are gathered at the fort, even if it is not visible from the road. In addition to the weapons each individual soldier may carry, she said, “There is security on these ranges.”

Terror Arrests in New Jersey; 6 Men Arrested In a Terror Plot Against Ft. Dix

Six Muslim men from New Jersey and Philadelphia are charged with plotting to attack Fort Dix with automatic weapons and possible rocket-propelled grenades; taped conversations show plan was to kill as many soldiers as possible; arrests follow 15-month investigation during which Federal Bureau of Investigation and two informers taped group training with automatic weapons, conducting surveillance of military bases in Northeast, watching videos of Osama bin Laden and and trying to buy AK-47 assault rifles; authorities describe suspects as Islamic extremists and say they represent newest breed of threat: loosely organized domestic militants unconnected to–but inspired by–Al Qaeda or other international terror groups; complaint describes effort that was alternately ambitious and clumsy, with men eager to sacrifice their lives in name of Allah; suspects include ethnic Albanian brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka, whose immigration path is not known, but who may have fled after US-led NATO air attacks against Yugoslav forces in Kosovo; coordinator of plot is Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, Jordanian-born US citizen; other suspects include Agron Abdullahu, born in former Yugoslavia, and Serdar Tatar, legal resident of US born in Turkey; it is unclear when attack was to take place, because in taped conversation suspects say there were waiting for fatwa.