Police raids on Islamic schools may shake up fundamentalist cells, but officials agree that the right teachers are the best way to root out radical Islamic leanings among Germany’s Muslim youth. Weeks separated news of a police raid on an Islamic school in Frankfurt and the announcement that the University of M_nster had set up a department dedicated to educating Islamic teachers. But the two items reveal the two-pronged approach taken in Germany on what is becoming an increasingly important front in the country’s fight against terrorism: the battle for young Muslim minds. After being tipped off by a 9-year-old student, police in Frankfurt seized Jihadist literature and videos, among them one showing a beheading, from the school hosted in a Moroccan cultural center. The news follows efforts by officials in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia to shut down a private Saudi-financed school after fundamentalist leanings were detected in the textbooks. “The state has absolutely no authority in these schools, they can do what they want and that is very troubling,” Lutz Irrgang, who heads the Hesse State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told DW-WORLD. Educating The Next Generation Of Islam Teachers Officials know that raids alone can’t root out radicalism in pockets of Germany’s 3.2 million-strong Muslim community. One of the best hopes remains ending the monopoly on Islamic teachings held by dubious Imams and teachers in courtyard mosques, and bringing Muslim children back into the educational mainstream. This week, the University of M_nster took a step in that direction when it announced the appointment of Mohammed Sven Kalisch, a Muslim theologian who converted to Islam as a teen, to head the university’s new department dedicated to educating future generations of Islamic teachers. The department, the first of its kind in Germany, is designed to bridge the mistrust between German educational authorities and the country’s myriad Muslim organizations. Kalisch, a favorite of both German educators and Muslim leaders, said he is fully aware of the way fundamentalist Imams use the Koran to send the wrong message. “By educating Islamic teachers we, of course, hope to work against extremist tendencies,” Kalisch said. Problems Begin After School School authorities in Berlin, Bremen, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia have already added Islam religion classes as an option to similar course offerings in Judaism and Catholicism. Lower Saxony recently announced similar plans to test out Islam religion courses. The classes, taught by teachers who are practicing Muslims, offer Germany’s estimated 800,000 Muslim students the possibility of learning about their religion in a way that officials can keep tabs on. “It’s like our classes on Catholicism and Protestantism,” said spokeswoman Nina Schmidt. “By doing it in our school we can make sure that it’s taught from an academic point of view, that no fundamentalist teachings slip in.” The problems begin after school is over for the day, when many parents send their children to private Koran lessons. It is at these schools that the seeds of fundamentalism are planted, say law enforcement officials. Raids by police across Germany routinely turn up the type of videos and literature found at the Frankfurt school. Jihadis “rely more on indirect communication nowadays, like videos and tapes,” said Kai Hirschmann, co-director of the Essen-based Institute for Terrorism Research and Policy. “That communication often takes place through the Koran schools. Holy War At The School’s Friday Prayers But not only there. School officials in North-Rhine Westphalia were appalled at the material found in textbooks seized at the King Fahd Academy in Bonn. The academy, funded by the Saudi Arabian government, caters to the sons and daughters of diplomats, Arabic families who stay in Germany for long periods as well as children with German citizenship or permanent resident status. More than 300 textbooks were confiscated as part of a police investigation into the school’s fundamentalist tendencies in October 2003. The academy (photo), which opened in the quiet Bonn neighborhood of Bad Godesberg in 1995, had already suspended one teacher after he had allegedly called for Holy War against the West in Friday prayers. Bonn school officials reviewing the teaching material found in a study that students were taught that “the Muslim people’s existence has been threatened by Jews and Christians since the crusades and it is the first duty of every Muslim to prepare to fight against these enemies.” Though powerless to close the school, school officials were able to force at least 53 children with German citizenship or permanent residency status to leave the academy based on what they study. The cooperation between law enforcement and school authorities is by no means typical, but can sometimes be useful. Still, investigators say that the best methods are not frequent raids but education. “One of the best tools,” said Irrgang, “remains enlightenment.”
COPENHAGEN – A group of Muslims has reported a Danish broadcaster to the police for repeatedly airing a controversial film about Muslim oppression of women, Danish media reported on Sunday. Some 20 Muslims are pressing charges against Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) for airing recently-murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh’s film Submission in its entirety, as well as for repeatedly showing clips from the film in newscasts.
By John Deane, Chief Political Correspondent Britain’s most high profile police officer has called for the rapid introduction of a national identity card scheme as a tool in the struggle against terrorism. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens said there was an urgent need to enhance the authorities’ ability to check identities – and ID cards should be introduced “the sooner, the better.” At his monthly press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Tony Blair indicated that ID cards were moving up the political agenda rapidly. Mr Blair said: “I think that the whole issue of identity cards, which a few years ago were not on anyone’s agenda, are very much on the political agenda here, probably more quickly even than we anticipated.” In an interview for GMTV’s Sunday Programme, Sir John was asked whether the security of Britain’s borders is a problem. He said: “It is a problem. I think it is a recognised problem. This is why I think identification cards would be of great assistance. “Up to a year-and-a-half ago I would have been against identification cards because we had no certainty that the documentation used for identification cards could actually prove with certainty the identification of someone. “Biometrics, the use of eyes, the use of fingerprints is now a certainty in a way that never was before, so therefore identification, either whether it be on border controls or whether we have to deal with stop and search in the street, anti-terrorism kind of activity … would give a certainty we need. “And I’m very much in favour of that as is the Association of Chief Police Officers.” Reminded that last week Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt suggested that compulsory ID cards were “many, many years away”, Sir John replied: “Well, I disagree with her totally. “I think the sooner they’re brought in the better and as a professional police officer I have to tell you we need them … I’m afraid the minister is wrong. I have to say that we do need those ID cards now.” Sir John stressed that “proper border controls” were needed to help combat terrorism and crime. “We do need proper border controls, we do need proper immigration controls in this country. “The borders of this country have been porous and we can prove that with a number of cases which have had high profile recently. “I think that the drive towards ensuring that immigration, customs and the police are working together and on occasions working together with some of the excellent work done by MI5 in particular and MI6 is the way forward. “You’ve got to have some border controls which are there, which are obvious and which work.” Sir John was asked about Islamic fundamentalist preachers living in Britain who make provocative remarks about relations between the Muslim community and the rest of society. Sir John said: “We monitor what people say on a regular basis. If they in fact obviously break the law then we will do something about it there and then. “But a lot of these cases are on the very edge of the law in terms of breaking the law and in those cases we submit these comments to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Crown Prosecution Service to see whether people have breached the law. If they have breached the law we will take action.” Asked if the police were keeping a close eye on controversial London-based Muslim cleric Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, Sir John replied: “Very much”. Sir John was also asked about Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, leader of the London-based group Al-Muhajiroun, who this week said Muslims should not cooperate with their local authorities against other members of the faith. Sir John said: “I think any comments that talk about not assisting the police – because we’re there for the public, we’re there to ensure their safety – is not helpful.” Asked whether Sheik Omar should be deported, Sir John said: “Well again you can only deport people if they’re breached the law.” Sir John was also asked about this week’s major anti-terrorism operation in south east England. He said: “Well I can’t talk about the specific arrests because that would be totally wrong. But I think what we have to acknowledge is that we have to look at the reasons why people do want to come to this country – or are in this country – and do want to bomb people. “I think we’ve got to try and understand it more because unlike the IRA there is no kind of political head, no political people that we can negotiate with – this Al Qaida.”
By Arthur Neslen in London A controversial letter sent out by the Muslim Council of Britain to more than 1000 mosques has split the country’s Muslim community, with some communal leaders saying it will increase Islamophobia. The letter urges congregations to report any suspicions they might have about other worshippers to the police. “Islam categorically forbids violence and killing of innocents, let alone indulging in violence which can cause death and mayhem,” it says. “We therefore urge you to observe the utmost vigilance against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community and provoking any unlawful activity.” The MCB’s appeal to the UK’s two million Muslims will be made through imams, chairmen and secretaries of mosques. Hundreds of thousands of booklets will also be sent out. But Masoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told Aljazeera.net that the letter’s assumptions are false. “As Muslims, we need to challenge stereotyping and injustices, rather than becoming party to them,” he said. “I’m not questioning the MCB’s intentions but it seems that they are reacting without thinking. “I know that they have been put under a lot of pressure but this sort of action is pointless, reactionary and actually creates the very Islamophobia that we are trying to fight. I can’t put it more strongly than that.” Number of arrests Iqbal Sacranie, the director of the Muslim Council of Britain, dismissed the charge as “utterly nonsensical”. “The only response some elements have to a positive and constructive initiative is to try to undermine it,” he told Aljazeera.net. “How can this letter be Islamophobic? “It is facing the reality that there are a large number of arrests taking place in the community. Although, by the grace of God, most are released without charge, some are convicted. One Muslim conviction is one too many.” In fact there have been two Muslim convictions for terrorism offences since the September 11 attacks. But there have also been more than 500 arrests and a dramatic shift in police “stop and search” policies. Last year, police made 32,100 searches under the Terrorism Act, an increase of 30,000 on the figure for 2000. Community leaders say that the vast majority of those targeted have been young Muslims. Not unexpected For Abd al-Bari Atwan, the influential editor of the al-Quds newspaper, the MCB’s decision was not unexpected. “The Muslim community in Britain is facing a critical time because the media have launched a hate campaign against them since the Madrid bombings,” he told Aljazeera.net. “Every Muslim is now a suspect and everyone is being watched by the police and intelligence services in one way or another.” The controversy over the MCB letter closely followed the arrest of eight British Muslims on Monday, for their part in an alleged al-Qaida bomb plot. On Wednesday a judge granted police a further three days to question the men. Police said that half a ton of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser?that can be used to make explosives, was recovered during the operation. Dr Sacranie denied that the MCB’s letter was a panic response to subsequent media headlines such as the Daily Telegraph’s “Islamic bomb attack foiled” which proved offensive to so many in the Muslim community. “This initiative is part of our long-term action plan,” he said. “We feel the pressure day in and day out to do something for the community and for the country.” “To talk about ‘Islamic terrorism’ is a contradiction in terms, as Islam is a religion of humanity that utterly and totally condemns acts of violence and terrorism. Yet we are the only community that is being linked with terrorists.” But he singled out extremist groups such as al-Muhajiroun, for targeting alienated Muslim youths. “Within our community, there are elements who try to create hatred against people of other faiths,” he said. “We are telling the youth we share their concerns about the atrocities being committed in Palestine but it is unacceptable to use violent means in the UK.” ‘No platform’ Shortly after the letter was released, the UK’s National Union of Students moved to “no platform” or ban al-Muhajiroun, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and Hizb al-Tahrir from speaking at any campus in the country. The three groups have been associated with anti-Semitic propaganda. But Atwan said al-Muhajiroun were “a very small group and a tabloid creation,” while Usama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain described them as “an empty drum, they make a lot of noise, but in reality there is nothing much happening there.” Saeed told Aljazeera.net that he did not know whether the MCB letter would have a positive effect on the press hysteria. “There has to be vigilance in the community,” he said, “But we also have to have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.” “I have never seen any terrorists recruiting or organising in mosques. If someone told me to weed these people out, I wouldn’t know where to start. What is needed is a debate about the root cause of terrorism, which is our country’s foreign policy.” The row over the letter, he added, was being taken out of context by the press. One story the British media did not report the week before the alleged al-Qaida bomb ring was smashed, was cited by many Muslim leaders as an example of the animus they are now facing. A 17-year-old Muslim girl was kidnapped in Ilford, East London by a Christian fundamentalist who slashed a crucifix into her upper arms and side and tried to force her to recite the holy trinity. When she refused, he repeatedly told her that “Christianity is the right religion” and slashed her every time he did so. However, the tabloids did at least turn their attention to Ilford the following week. It was the home town of one of the alleged al-Qaida bombers.
A number of mosques across the UK have appealed to worshippers at Friday prayers to co-operate with the police in the fight against terrorism. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) urged imams to make the appeal but some are thought to be angry their religion has been linked with terrorism. Meanwhile, police are questioning a ninth man following anti-terror raids in the South East. Tony Blair welcomed the appeal and said new anti-terror laws could be drawn up. At Regent’s Park Mosque, the largest in the country, spokesman Abdesselam Daoud said although the MCB’s letter would not be read out in full, its sentiments and concerns would be reflected in the day’s sermon. “It’s not practical to read a letter to a large audience but the sermon will focus on concerns of brotherhood and security of the community,” he said. But as several thousand prayer-goers left the London mosque, fringe radical group Al Muhajiroun staged a protest and burning of the union flag. The overwhelming majority ignored the protest, while some of the prayer-goers shouted abuse at the radicals. Others complained that the media at the scene were hyping the situation. During his Downing Street briefing to press on Thursday, Mr Blair indicated identity cards would be brought in soon and further anti-terrorist legislation was being drawn up. The MCB drew up a letter to mosques in the wake of the Madrid bombings, although news of its unprecedented step came at the same time as the raids in the South East, which led to the seizure of half a ton of fertiliser used in bombings. Police have until Saturday to question the first eight men – thought to be Britons of Pakistani descent – arrested over an alleged bomb plot. The latest man to be arrested was a 27-year-old Briton held in Crawley, West Sussex – the fourth in the town. He was held on Thursday evening on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. A man has also been detained by police in Canada in connection with alleged terrorist offences in London, although police have not indicated whether the arrest is linked to the British raids. Mohammed Momin Khawaja is due to appear via video link before a court in Ottawa on Friday. ‘Major crisis’ The Muslim Council of Britain said there had been an “overwhelmingly positive” reaction to its calls for mosques to help in the fight against terror. And it dismissed the comments of Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, a cleric who on Thursday said the MCB was being unfair and advised Muslims not to co-operate. MCB general secretary Iqbal Sacranie said: “The message that is going out is not in any way associating mosques with terrorism.” Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he said: “Mosques are an important institution in the country. “The imams and chairmen and secretaries are playing a very important role in society. “We are facing a major crisis in the country and world over. We have to exercise our duty, an Islamic duty, which is to convey the message to the community that they have responsibilities as well.” As well as Friday’s sermons, booklets are being printed that will remind Muslims of their obligation to help safeguard Britain’s security.
LONDON, March 21 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – British universities are helping intelligence agencies listen to Muslim and foreign students’ phone calls and intercept e-mails, another proof that the world has become a different place for Muslims after September 11 attacks, a British newspaper report uncovered on Sunday, March 21. The report revealed by the Sunday Telegraph said that most of the country’s universities co-operate with the Special Branch, Britain’s police unit concerned with national security, and the domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5 in the surveillance, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Sunday, March 21. Unnamed security sources and university officials admitted that the scheme was set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. “Since September 11, we are co-operating with the security services in a much deeper way than before. We take it very seriously,” one senior university official said. Red Flag An official connected to British and American security declared that details of students’ telephone numbers, email and home addresses are being passed by universities to the police, MI5 and the Foreign Office, the AFP said. A particularly close eye is kept on students from so-called “red flag” countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Libya and Syria. “They are helping the security services look at students from the red flag countries. It’s pretty well known that it’s happening,” said the official who also has links to a leading university. “With all the forms students fill in it is not difficult to get their mobile phone numbers or emails, or find out what kind of activities they are doing or where they hang out.” The paper added that MI5 and MI6 have also used academics to recruit British students. Criticism The declaration interrogated criticism for the British policies as considered a violation of the students’ human rights. Ian Gibson, the Labour chairman of the Commons science and technology committee, said that his committee had heard evidence that foreign students were being spied on, something he considered against the principle of freedom in academia, the Telegraph said. “I think there will be a number of universities that are doing this,” Gibson said. “It goes absolutely against the principle of freedom in academia and allowing people to associate with whom they like or think what they like,” he added. Chris Weavers, a vice-president of the National Union of Students, criticized the security assumption that individuals from certain countries might form risk. “I think there needs to be very strong justification for any such surveillance. Just assuming that any individual from a certain country might be a risk is utterly unrealistic,” Weavers said. However, he admitted: “We’ve seen many people from the United Kingdom who have been involved in terrorists attacks.” Meanwhile, the paper clarified that it is illegal for the police or security service to intercept directly e-mails or telephone calls without a warrant or permission from the Home Secretary. Both, however, are exempt from the Data Protection Act. On the other hand, Robert Key, the MP for Salisbury and a Conservative member of the select committee, welcomed the surveillance. “Given the current security situation I wouldn’t be against it as long as the Government was in complete control of the situation,” Key said. Now, Scotland Yard Special Branch officers monitor e-mails and mobile telephones and universities are expected to pass on suspicious meetings, activities or absences. Several students are believed to have been ordered to leave Britain as a result of such monitoring under the pretext they had links to extremist groups. Since September 11, the international student community in both the U.S. and Britain has greatly changed. On a press release on 22 February, 2002 obtained by IslamOnline.net, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the HR 3077 bill which is currently awaiting a vote by the U.S. Senate which would endanger freedom in academia. The bill proposes amendments to parts of the Higher Education Act of 1965 dealing with international studies programs at universities nationwide. One of the prime changes to the legislation includes establishing a federal advisory board, which would oversee all of these international studies programs.
Belgian police raided 20 houses in Antwerp, Brussels and Tongres and arrested a number of men suspected of links with Islamic extremist terror groups, the federal prosecutor’s office has confirmed. The men are all suspected of having links with an organisation called the Moroccan Islamic Combatants’ Group (MICG) In a statement, the prosecutor’s office said there was “serious evidence” that north Africans linked to the MICG had received paramilitary training in camps in Afghanistan and were now living in Belgium, several of them with no official residence papers.
Spanish police are reported to have identified six Moroccans who they believe carried out the Madrid bomb attacks that have killed 201 people. Five of the suspects are still at large but one is in custody, the Spanish newspaper El Pais quotes security sources as saying. The man, named as Jamal Zougam, is reported to have been identified by people who survived Thursday’s blasts. Mr Zougam was arrested on Saturday with two other Moroccans and two Indians. The number killed in the attacks has risen with the death of a 45-year woman. The figure is one short of the 202 people killed in Bali in October 2002 when a nightclub was bombed. Moroccans in Spain Moroccans are the largest immigrant group in Spain In 2003 there were 333,000, 20% of all legal immigrants The number of illegal immigrants is unknown Thousands cross the 13km (8 miles) Straits of Gibraltar every year on rafts or small boats In 2003 24,146 people were repatriated to Morocco Many work as cleaners, farm labourers or building workers Polls show that Moroccans are Spain’s least-liked immigrants Security sources told El Pais that the six Moroccans might have formed only part of the group behind the attacks and that militants from other countries might also have been involved. An interior ministry spokesman Juan de Dios Colmenero told the Associated Press that he could not confirm the reports in El Pais. The BBC’s Chris Morris in Madrid says the investigation is still in its infancy but there are already suspicions that the blasts could be linked to the leading Islamic militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is wanted by the United States for a series of attacks in Iraq and elsewhere. Meanwhile, police in the Basque city of San Sebastian have arrested an Algerian man who in January allegedly threatened to massacre people in Madrid, but initial reports suggest he is not a prime suspect. Solidarity The focus is falling increasingly on Morocco; Moroccan security officials are helping Spanish police. The BBC’s Pascale Harter in Tangier says there is great anger among Moroccans as the Spanish investigation seems to be leading back to their country. A state-organised demonstration is due to take place in Tangier later on Tuesday, which is expected to be well attended. People want a chance to express their solidarity with Spain, our correspondent says, especially after the funerals of a 13-year-old girl and a 24-year-old man from Tangier who were killed by the blasts. As Spaniards also continue to bury their dead, a memorial service is to take place in Madrid’s cathedral on Tuesday evening at 1900 GMT. Officials have also announced that a state funeral for the victims will be held in Mardrid on 24 March. The Spanish people are also continuing to digest Sunday’s shock election result that saw the Popular Party turfed out of office. The Socialists, who won the biggest bloc of seats, are now trying to form a coalition with smaller parties to form a government. ‘Al-Qaeda links’ Survivors of the attacks are reported to have identified Mr Zougam from photographs but police sources have said they are treating the witnesses’ statements with caution. One of the allegations against 30-year-old Mr Zougam is that he has links with the Salafia Jihadia group, held responsible for attacks in the Moroccan city of Casablanca last May that killed 45 people. He is also said to have connections with Imad Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah, the alleged leader of an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, who is awaiting trial in Spain on charges of taking part in the 11 September plot. Mr Zougam was detained with Mohamed Bekkali, 31, and Mohamed Chaoui, 34, all from Morocco. Two Indians, named as Vinay Kohly and Suresh Kumar, were also arrested. These five men were arrested in connection with a mobile phone which was found inside a bag containing explosives that failed to go off. Investigators believe mobile phones were used to detonate 10 bombs hidden in backpacks on the four trains which were targeted. Formal charges have not yet been presented.