Al-Qaeda: France is “Number one enemy” according to Islamist group leader

Following the wave of attacks in France at the beginning of 2015, it seems the worst should be expected. Recently, an online message clip was published by the media branch of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on YouTube. Ibrahim al-Rubaish, one of the group’s leaders, indicated that France is his “number one enemy.”

With the “weakening” of the United States in the last several years, “France has replaced America in its war against Islam,” declared the group’s leader. Washington considers the branch directed by Ibrahim al-Rubaish to be the most active and dangerous branch of Al-Qaeda. It claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which resulted in the loss of 12 lives. Several days ago the leader called to “avenge” the Prophet Muhammad. Ibrahim al-Rubaish called for attacks against the “infidels” in the West, France in particular, and to attack “without consultation” those who mock the Prophet Muhammad.

French anti-jihad video reaches nearly one million views

Launched at the end of January, the online government clip, which is meant to counter jihadist propaganda on social media, has received nearly 1 million views on YouTube and Dailymotion. According to The Parisien, including Twitter and Facebook, the video has garnered more than 1.9 million views. This is a success for the campaign, which uses the hashtag #Stopdjihadisme.

“The idea is to provide a counter-discourse that corrects sectarianism and provides correct information,” explained Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve. Almost 80 French jihadists have been killed during terrorist operations in Syria and Iraq, and close to 1,400 have been identified as having links to these networks.

Video of Lotfi S. appears online after attack

Lotfi S. previously appeared in the news demonstrating in the city of The Hague, supporting IS and calling for violent attacks against Jews. (Photo: anp)
Lotfi S. previously appeared in the news demonstrating in the city of The Hague, supporting IS and calling for violent attacks against Jews. (Photo: anp)

Last week it became clear that Lotfi S. from Amsterdam is responsible for a suicide attack in Fallujah, Iraq. Now a video of him appeared online, wherein he speaks about his so-called martyrs-act. He calls it an effective weapon and calls upon others to follow his example. ‘Don’t stay behind’. In the video, Sultan B. appears next to Lotfi S. He died in a previous suicide attack in Baghdad, Iraq.

Lotfi S. previously appeared in the news demonstrating in the city of The Hague, supporting IS and calling for violent attacks against Jews.

In the Netherlands, no use in stricter punishment of people going to Syria

Omar H. learned through internet how to make bombs, had put inciting writings and video’s online and prepared himself for going to Syria. He was sentenced to a year imprisonment, four years, four months probation. But he was not convicted of terrorism. This is why he wasn’t sentenced to three years imprisonment as public prosecution (OM) had demanded.

Terrorism expert Bibi van Ginkel doubts if stricter punishments will have the desired effects. Research made clear that people that want to leave for Syria are not held back easily. They are, as a matter of fact, willing to give their own life. It might be that potential jihadi’s will only get angry and thus more radicalized because of stricter punishments.

Islamic State launches online magazine in French

15 pages of jihadist propaganda in color and in French can now be found on the Internet. The new magazine entitled Dar al-Islam has been available online since December 22. Previously the other major foreign language magazine was “Daqib,” a publication in English. (Photo: Twitter/Figaro)
15 pages of jihadist propaganda in color and in French can now be found on the Internet. The new magazine entitled Dar al-Islam has been available online since December 22. Previously the other major foreign language magazine was “Daqib,” a publication in English. (Photo: Twitter/Le Figaro)

15 pages of jihadist propaganda in color and in French can now be found on the Internet. The new magazine entitled Dar al-Islam has been available online since December 22. Previously the other major foreign language magazine was “Daqib,” a publication in English. The two magazines are released by the media communications branch of ISIL, Al-Hayat, which was founded in May 2014. The communication arm of ISIL often uses Twitter as its main platform. A recent Twitter post reads:

#Al-Hayat presents the first edition of the magazine “Dar Al-Islam”
— fr-alhayat (@fralhayat) 22 Décembre 2014

The magazine’s first edition is entitled “The Islamic state extends its territory.” In the introduction, the authors celebrate being “witnesses to a new era,” that of the restoration of the caliphate, which would allow Muslims to live according to Islamic law.
The magazine’s title translates to “abode of Islam.” One of its article’s reads: “It’s why the magazine is named Dar al-Islam, to remember the immense blessing it is to live under Allah’s law, among believers.”

The magazine is filled with grammatical errors, passages from the Qur’an and words in Arabic, and seeks to convince French Muslims to pledge allegiance to the caliphate. The authors denounce the “idolatrous”: “those who change the law of Allah,” and “the crusaders who love the cross and call a child the Lord of heaven.”

For Mathieu Slama, specialist in “crisis communication,” the magazine serves two purposes. The first is as a recruitment method. The last page of the magazine shows a French passport being burned. The second purpose is to show ISIL’s a willingness to institutionalize. The magazine uses Western journalistic methods: catchy titles, photos and summaries, shows the West that ISIL is becoming a legitimate institution.

Manuel Valls said he could not definitively ban this type of propaganda. The Cazeneuve law of November 2014 hardened provisions that punish the glorification of terrorism, especially on the Internet. However the European Commission must meet to discuss if the magazine can be banned, and the decision would not take effect until late February or early March 2015.

Millions of Muslims join online dating

In the last decade online dating became a mainstream activity, in Europe and North America at least. It is therefore not surprising that Western Muslims adapted the idea to their needs. For many, online dating offers a low-stress solution to the daunting challenge of finding a partner for marriage in countries where few share their faith, and in communities where matchmaking is considered a family affair.

Adeem Younis, founder of the matchmaking site SingleMuslim.com, which he created above a fast-food shop in Wakefield while still a lowly undergraduate, now boasts more than a million members. However, the young entrepreneur stresses that the term “Muslim online dating” would be inaccurate. The goal of such sites is often far more ambitious than the average hook-up website. Instead of hazy morning-after memories and hopes of receiving a follow-through text message, sites like SingleMuslim.com aim to provide clients with a partner for life. It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. “In Islam, marriage is equal to half of your religion,” he says, quoting a saying thought to have been uttered by the Prophet Mohammed, “so you can imagine how important it is… Islam teaches us that marriage is the cornerstone of society as a whole.”

SingleMuslim.com now claims a success rate of about four matches per day. But the site is just one example of a booming market serving Muslims of all ages and degrees of religiosity.

VIDEO: Single Muslim Celebrates 1,000,000 Members

Online dating services are increasingly popular with Muslims in Europe and North America. SingleMuslim.com recently celebrated its 1,000,000th member.
Online dating services are increasingly popular with Muslims in Europe and North America. SingleMuslim.com recently celebrated its 1,000,000th member.

Jihad, justice and the American way: is this a model for fair terrorism trials?

The government stokes fear and fails to understand the Muslim world. But inside at least one courtroom remains an unusual precedent: context can be served

July 17, 2014

Sitting and waiting in US District Court here on Wednesday, you got the undeniable sense that something unusual was about to happen.

Here was the end of a terrorism trial with two men who had already pled guilty – the British citizen Babar Ahmad to providing material support for terrorism by way of administering a website that called on Muslims to devote themselves to jihad, which he did, and the British-born Talha Ahsan to helping him, despite being a mailman for the site for five months in 2001 – but both of whom still looked nervous in that familiar shackle-and-jumpsuit uniform of so many Muslim foreigners in this country over the past 13 years.

Here was the final hearing for two men who had already spent two years in a US supermax prison – under the kind of no-contact conditions Edward Snowden refuses to come home for, in what Ahsan’s brother described to me as “solitary confinement torture” – before they even got a fair trial. By the time they arrived for sentencing on Wednesday, Ahmad and Ahsan had already sat and waited in prison for 10 and eight years, respectively.

Yet here was a terrorism trial about non-operational terrorism – about a website, and Ahmad’s visit to an Afghan training camp in 1999, and ultimately about over-aggressive prosecutors seeking 25 and 15 years, respectively – and here it was coming to a close not under the specter of xenophobia so much as all-American common sense.

No, Judge Janet Hall was not willing to entertain the Fox News-ification of terrorism. “There is no way to rationalize the sentences” the government had recommended, she said, at least not based on claims that two men promoted “violent jihad” and provided what is known as “material support” for terrorists. “In my view,” the judge said, “jihad does not equal terrorism. In a perversion of what Islam teaches, terrorists have misappropriated the concept of jihad from its true meaning – struggle. But jihad is not what happened on 9/11.”

But allegations of terrorist activity almost always lead to perceptions of guilt rather than even partial innocence, and too often it’s the government stoking that perversion of such a basic principle of justice. In this case, the judge found that extensive research by government lawyers ultimately led them to make little more than connections that didn’t exist. She gave Ahmad 12 years and handed Ahsan eight years, for time served.

“I’ve had to witness the agony in my mother’s voice every day,” Ahsan’s brother, Hamja, told me moments after learning the verdict, which will leave Talha in the custody of US immigration officials with the prospect of returning home to Tooting in London. (With time served and good-time credits, Ahmad has approximately 13 more months left on his sentence, at least some of which he will serve back in the UK. ) “I’m going to fight for the rest of my life to ensure that no other family goes through what we have gone through.”

I’ve written about the grueling extradition process of these two men and the uniquely American extreme conditions of detention they faced once they arrived, two years ago, at Connecticut’s Northern Correctional Institute, the notoriously harsh facility that also houses death-row inmates. On Wednesday, after a decade of incomplete justice and what Ahsen called “the best possible outcome”, context was served.

Of course, Dick Cheney and lawmakers like Congressman Peter King would rather forget, but in the mid- to late ’90s, around the time a 19-year-old Ahsan made his pilgrimage to Afghanistan, thousands of British Muslims were making similar journeys to fulfill religious obligations. Those obligations were made more urgent by the Bosnian War, and so an 18-year-old Ahmad traveled to Bosnia to assist Muslims who were being slaughtered in Srebenica while the international community looked the other way.

The vast majority of these “holiday jihadists” did not become radicalized. They just got trained in the real meaning of jihad – “struggle”, not “holy war” – and returned home.

Now Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan finally face the prospect of going home earlier than jingoist prosecutors wanted them to – much earlier. Next time, let’s understand the broader context of the Muslim world – and the basics of our own justice system – much, much sooner than that.

Briton Babar Ahmad given 12-year US prison term for aiding Taliban

Ahmad, who could be freed in a year because of time served, pleaded guilty to providing material support to the Taliban

July 16, 2014

Babar Ahmad, the British citizen who was extradited to the US two years ago, has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for providing material support to the Taliban at a time when they were harbouring the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Ahmad, 40, will be returning to the UK to serve the remainder of his sentence, which was issued by a federal court in New Haven, Connecticut. The 150-month sentence was substantially less severe than the 25 years US prosecutors had been seeking for him.

Judge Janet Hall also gave the Briton credit for the eight years he already spent in detention without trial in the UK, and the additional two years he has been held in solitary confinement in Supermax facilities in the US. The reduction for time served means that with good behaviour he stands to be released in 13 months.

He will now be sent to the metropolitan correctional center in Manhattan, before being eventually sent back to the UK, from where he was extradited in 2012.

Stephen Reynolds, addressing the court on behalf of the US government, had tried to secure a lengthy prison term for the defendant, on the grounds that he might reoffend. He alleged that Ahmad, through jihadist websites, had actively supported Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, and had shown no remorse.

But the judge pushed back on the accusations, pointing out in earlier hearings that even the government’s main co-operating witness had denied that Ahmad had helped al-Qaida. “Your own witness doesn’t support that. Fighting against US forces doesn’t necessarily equate to support of al-Qaida,” Hall said last week.

Ahmad pleaded guilty last December to providing material support to the Taliban and Chechen mujahideen by using websites to raise money, recruit fighters and provide equipment for the movements.

But his defence lawyer, Terence Ward, told the judge that only a few of the 4,000 articles he had posted mentioned the al-Qaida leader. The defendant was “horrified” by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he said.

The case was heard in Connecticut because Ahmad, and his co-defendant Syed Talha Ahsan, who has been released into the custody of US immigration officials pending possible deportation, used an internet service provider in the state to base one of their websites.

The sentencing follows the protracted battle Ahmad fought to avoid extradition to the US. In an article in the Guardian in October 2012, he argued that “as a British citizen who has lived since birth in Britain, studied, worked full-time and paid taxes, if I am accused of any offence here in Britain I expect at the very least to face trial here in Britain.”

He was awarded £60,000 in March 2009 as compensation for having been physically abused by Metropolitan police officers at the time of his initial arrest in December 2003.

Interview with designer Belkis Baharcieva

February 24, 2014

 

Belkis Baharcieva came to Germany as a refugee in 2001. At the age of 30, she began studying fashion design in Trier. Baharcieva recently set up an online fashion shop, selling her own designs to Muslim women who want to wear high-quality, beautiful Islamic clothing.

 

Qantara: http://en.qantara.de/content/interview-with-designer-belkis-baharcieva-fashion-for-the-modern-muslim-woman

Muslim mothers should be trained in computing ‘to help to spot radicalisation’

January 6, 2013

 

The mothers of Muslims should be trained in basic computing skills so they can spot online radicalisation of their children, a report says.

The study of 350 Muslim women, conducted between last June and October, found that 92 per cent did not understand the term “online radicalisation”, nor that their children could be radicalised online. It said three-quarters of all mothers surveyed had seen or heard their children accessing Islamic lectures, yet 90 per cent were unaware of their content.

“We believe that mothers are trusted anchors within many homes which means, if equipped with the right skills, they have a unique capacity to safeguard their children against internet radicalisation,” the report from women’s charity JAN Trust concluded.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/muslim-mothers-should-be-trained-in-computing-to-help-to-spot-radicalisation-9040289.html