A Question of Appearances: Obama Will Bypass Sikh Temple on Visit to India Question of Appearances: Obama Will Bypass Sikh Temple on Visit to India

Mr. Obama was expected to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, next month, but there were questions about how he would cover his head. Sikh tradition requires that men tie a piece of cloth on their heads before entering the spiritual center. The president, who is Christian, has fought the perception that he is Muslim. Sikhs are regularly mistaken for Muslims. A Pew Research center survey in August found that nearly one in five Americans say Mr. Obama is a Muslim.

“We have worked so hard to establish in America that Sikhs have a very different identity than Muslims,” said H. S. Phoolka, a prominent Sikh lawyer in New Delhi. “It is very unfortunate that even the White House is conveying the message that there is no difference between Muslims and Sikhs.”

After Fort Hood, the Christmas Day plot and others, terrorism is Obama’s newest political minefield

Critics say Obama’s response to the Christmas Day plot by Abdulmutallab was late and trepid, and analysts believe terrorism has become the Democrats’ and Obama’s central political vulnerability.

A senior GOP strategist says the current focus on national security is a challenge for the administration because terrorists are so unpredictable. “It’s driven by events,” he says, “and there’s a lot of volatility among voters. The issue rises or dissipates depending on whether there are other attacks. The biggest problem for the president is under­reacting versus overreacting.”

Charges filed against Abdulmutallab

A Michigan grand jury has charged Abdulmutalab with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in a terror attack, attempted murder, attempting to destroy an aircraft, willfully placing a bomb on an aircraft, use of a bomb during a violent crime, and possession of a bomb during a violent crime. He faces life in prison.

Obama has also demanded immediate repairs to airline security.

US authorities failed to connect Abdulmutallab with al-Qaida’s attack plans, Obama criticizes

Authorities say the National Security Agency (NSA) knew in August 2009 that a branch of al-Qaida in Yemen might try to use a Nigerian for a terrorist attack on Christmas Day. Had the information been examined together with information the State Department, the CIA, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) put together in October 2009 based on conversations with Abdulmutallab’s father, it may have provided what was needed to uncover the pending attack.

The terrorist’s father gave the US Embassy in Nigeria, including the CIA and the State Department, text messages from his son that indicated his radicalization. “Look at the texts he’s sending. He’s a security threat,” his cousin quoted him as saying. He never directly accused his son of planning to bomb a plane.

In November 2009 upon the warnings, the CIA alerted NCTC, who put his name on the half-million large terrorism watch list. The CIA also compiled biographical data on Abdulmutallab but did not share it with other security agencies. They also decided there was not enough information about him to pursue moving him to smaller, more refined lists of people who require extra scrutiny at airports.

Routine procedure also had an e-notice of Abdulmutallab’s purchase of a plane ticket sent to homeland security officials on December 16.

“The right information did not get to the right people—there’s no question about that,” a senior intelligence official said. “If all known information had been provided, we would have been down a different path.”

Some blame the NCTC for the failure, which was created in 2004 collate information from across the US’s national security system. Others blame the CIA.

Some officials feel information is being shared, and that isn’t the problem. It’s the volume of information collected. Setting thresholds of what’s pointing to impending violence amidst huge amounts of data can be tricky.

Obama calls it a systematic failure that is totally unacceptable.

Republicans are using the failure as ammunition against democrats, positioning Obama as a president who won’t take security seriously enough. Democrats are accusing Republicans of blocking needed resource increases while exploiting public fear.

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.

CAIR asks President to address rise in anti-Islam hate Islamophobic incidents, rhetoric target ordinary American Muslims

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on President Obama to address what it called an “alarming level of anti-Islam hate in our nation.”

In a letter to President Obama, CAIR cited recent incidents in Florida in which a cross with the message “Christian nation, Christian community” was planted at the site of a planned mosque and an anti-Islam Christmas display was set up by a local church.

Note: this summary was taken directly from CAIR’s news update.

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.

Fort Hood presents challenges to Obama’s bridge-building efforts

This article questions whether President Obama’s efforts of friendship and peace-building with the Muslim world will be criticized because of the Fort Hood incident. Given rising casulities in Afghanistan, the recent string of foiled US terror plots and Major Hasan’s act, author Jacob Weisberg asks, is Obama’s strategy achieving what he claims it can achieve: a more secure America?