Muslim rocker wields guitar in rock’n’roll jihad

He is a long-haired rocker who plays a mean riff and cites Led Zeppelin among his influences — and now he has been unveiled as the government’s latest weapon in the fight against Al-Qaeda.

Salman Ahmad, a Pakistani musician whose band has sold more than 30m albums, is to urge Muslim students to choose an electric guitar over extremism.

The self-proclaimed “rock’n’roll jihadist” will take his message this week to students at Oxford University, Imperial College and the London School of Economics, which all have sizable Islamic societies.

“You counter radicalisation through telling the truth and if that comes from the power of a guitar then do that,” said Ahmad, who has worked with the Obama administration to tackle extremism on American college campuses.

White House quietly reaching out to Muslims

The Obama Administration has quietly engaged in a dialogue with American Muslims and Arab-Americans according to the NYT. Following Mr. Obama’s Cairo speech in last June, his administration have engaged American Muslim advocates in policy discussions and, among others, top White House aides have provided them with briefing in regards to the health care reform, foreign policy issues, economic reform, immigration issues and national security. The White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett, Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, and Attorney General, Eric Holder are among the people who have privately met with Muslim advocates according to the NYT.

US government refused to share Fort Hood evidence with senate

The Obama Administration has refused to share the evidence related to the last year’s Ft Hood shooting with the Senate. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates argues that sharing the evidence with the Senate could compromise the prosecution process. Two U.S. Senators have threatened the Administration to subpoena.

US authorizes the killing of an American radical Muslim cleric

The Obama Administration has authorized the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki is an American Muslim who is believed to be living in Yemen encouraging and recruiting for attacks against the US. Al-Awlaki has been linked to the 9/11 hijackers as well as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who unsuccessfully tried to explode himself in a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day. Al-Awlaki has been also linked by US intelligence to Major Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people last November at Fort Hood. He is now added to the CIA target list

New screening rules

The Obama Administration has replaced the extra screening procedures at the airports. Instead of focusing on passengers from 14 specific countries, the new regulations are intended to engage all intelligence available to law-enforcement agencies to identify potential threats. This new set of regulation replaced the emergency order that was put in place after the unsuccessful terrorist attack on Christmas day. According to officials, the new system treats all passengers flying into the US in the same manner regardless of their countries of origin.

US government assures the confidentiality of census data

On Thursday, the US government assured that all information provided in 2010 census will remain confidential. Some minority groups including Muslim Americans had raised questions regarding the confidentiality of their census data given the broad scope of national security federal laws such as the Patriot Act. In a note to Congress, the Obama administration ruled out the disclosure of 2010 census data under the Patriot Act assuring Americans and particularly minorities once again that their information will be kept confidential.

9/11 trial moved out of Manhattan

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was set to be tried in a civilian court in Lower Manhattan. But after an assessment on the costs, logistical and security measures that would be required, the Obama Administration has decided to move it. The new location has yet to be disclosed.

NYC is responding with mixed reactions: some don’t want a vivid reminder of the event, some are concerned about security. Some want him tried in a military tribunal, others want justice for victims in a federal courtroom where the attack occurred.

Mayor of the small upstate city of Newburgh says his community would be a perfect place for the trial. They have a new courthouse, security could be easily implemented, and it is only a 90 minute drive from Manhattan.

Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now Yemen

Before Abdulmutallab’s attempted attack, the Obama Administration had increased military aid to $70 million in Yemen to thwart growing al-Qaida terrorism operations: al-Qaida units that were dismantled after 9/11 have returned, along with new fighters from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia. Prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay are also involved.

But Yemen’s problems will require a broader approach that encompasses its political, social, and economic issues if the US is to contend with al-Qaida. Its government, repressive and failing, is reluctant to go after al-Qaida. A separatist movement is taking shape in the south, and an armed insurgency poses a threat from the north. Its unemployment rate is 40 percent, and it is running out of water and its economic mainstay, oil. Its central location and ethnic hospitability add to its attractiveness for al-Qaida: Middle Eastern operatives can move in and blend in easier there than South Asia or Africa.

The Obama Administration is working with the World Bank, Saudi Arabia, and Europe on a plan for Yemen and will meet to develop a framework in six weeks. Stabilizing Yemen is key in destabilizing al-Qaida. But a senior Yemeni official points out seeing any counterterrorism efforts materialize into results will take months, if not years.

Obama makes a positive impact for Muslims in America

Because of the Obama Administration’s bridge-building approach to relations with the Muslim world, Muslims in America are more engaged in society and politics to share in shaping the country and its foreign policies.

“Contrary to perception outside, Muslims in the US are completely free to express their views. They are interacting with academia. Islamic Studies is being made a subject of research in universities. They are also holding interfaith dialogues. This all is helping in removing misconception about Muslims and Islam in the US,” says Dr. Omar Khalidi, writer and staff member of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT in Cambridge, MA.

Federal government aquiring Illinois prison for 100 Guantanamo detainees

In its efforts to close Guantanamo, the federal government is aquring a portion of the Thompson Correctional Center, a supermax prison in northwestern Illinois, to house 100 detainees. The Obama Administration promised Illinois Governor Quinn the detainees will have no interaction with other inmates.

Minority congressional Republican leader John Boehner claims that two pieces of legislation must be passed at Congress before any transfer can occur, and that Republican leaders will attempt to block the bills. These bills would challenge current law stating the detainees cannot be brought to American soil unless they are prosecuted here.

As many as several dozen will be imprisoned indefinitely–deemed ineligible for prosecution but too dangerous to be released. Lawyers for inmates in this category have filed habeas corpus petitions challenging this status.

Critics are concerned that should the petitions succeed, terrorists could potentially be released into the free world in America. The Obama Administration addressed this by assuring the detainees would either be brought to trial or moved overseas.

Amnesty International is equally critical, claiming that the detainees have not been charged with criminal activity, and that the only change occurring to resolve the Guantanamo situation is location.

There are about 210 detainees in Guantanamo. Obama has transferred 30 to other countries, with hopes to send 100 more overseas.

Officials say they plan to prosecute 40 of the remaining individuals in military or civilan courts.