In Bordeaux, Muslims fight radical Islam

Fouad Saanadi is preaching to the converted, but not the mainstream Muslim community he belongs to. In a discreet building near city hall, the Bordeaux imam meets with bewildered parents and fragile youngsters, some of whom have never set foot inside a mosque.

Many come from troubled families and neighborhoods. Some are mentally unstable. He and a small group of experts are fighting a powerful adversary: militant Islam.

“My role is not to tell people the ‘good’ or ‘true’ Islam, but to help awaken a critical approach,” Saanadi says of Bordeaux’s year-old CAPRI program aimed at preventing radicalization. “We are not here to confront but rather to awaken a critical awareness.”

Bordeaux counts among a growing number of communities across Europe searching for ways to counter extremism, following a wave of largely home-grown terrorist attacks. The question is all the more important for France, the target of three terror strikes in two years, and western Europe’s biggest exporter of extremist fighters.

Unlike countries like Germany and Britain, France is a relative newcomer to approaches beyond law-and-order ones, and new efforts to branch out have not always proved successful. Indeed, a recent Senate report characterized the state’s approach in tackling radicalization a failure.

 

Today, there is a new sense of urgency to finding answers. Hundreds of foreign fighters are beginning to return to Europe, authorities say, posing risks as potential terrorists and recruiters. Some end up in French prisons, already considered jihadist breeding grounds.

“The European system is not experienced with dealing with so many radicalized people,” Khosrokhavar says. “We need to invent a new way of dealing with this sort of problem.”

A partnership between Bordeaux’s city hall and the regional Muslim federation, the year-old CAPRI program may be one sign of changing times. While the initiative is local, it offers a religious dimension to fighting radicalization – one that is drawing interest from other municipalities.

“For the youngsters and the families, the fact we’re doing this program with the Muslim community is positive,” says Bordeaux’s Deputy Mayor Marik Fetouh, who is also CAPRI’s spokesman. “It shows we’re not confounding Islam and radicalization, and often the theologians will create links between the families and CAPRI.”

Imam Saanadi gathers with half-a-dozen therapists, psychiatrists and legal experts to evaluate each new case. Of the 36 youngsters now enrolled, roughly 40 percent are women. A number are converts, or “born again” Muslims from largely secular backgrounds. The average age is 22. “It’s a puzzle,” Saanadi tells DW. “When we put together the different pieces, we can see whether to intervene or not.”

As secretary-general of Bordeaux’s Muslim federation, Saanadi himself ascribes to a moderate, government-sanctioned brand of Islam that respects French secularism but is not always considered legitimate among more fundamentalist believers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, he does not personally know anyone who has joined a jihadi movement. “Terrorism is a question for national education,” he says. “We see children at the mosque two hours a week. The rest of their time is at school.”

Whatever the cause, most agree that France has a serious problem. Roughly 700 French jihadists are still fighting in Iraq and Syria, according to recent government figures; another 1,350 suspected radicals are in French prisons, including nearly 300 with direct ties to terrorist networks.

Nationwide, authorities classify another 15,000 as extremists and potential security threats, including an estimated 200 or more in the southwestern Gironde department that includes Bordeaux. The state’s traditional law-and-order response has not proved effective, critics say.

“The state took too much time and now it’s searching for miracle solutions,” sociologist Ouisa Kies, an expert on radicalization in prisons, told DW.

Last year, the center-left government adopted a softer approach with uncertain results so far. It earmarked more than $300 million (284 million euros) for de-radicalization programs over three years, and rolled out the first of a dozen voluntary centers planned across the country.

But in February, a French senate report deemed the de-radicalization center, in the Loire Valley, a “fiasco.” Only nine youngsters had been treated there, it said, and it was currently empty.

The new government funding windfall has also helped fuel some 80 local initiatives, some with dubious credentials. “It’s becoming a market,” says Bordeaux’s main imam, Tareq Oubrou, who provides theological advice to CAPRI. “Everyone is becoming a de-radicalization specialist in two seconds.”

“As soon as there’s an initiative by a Muslim leader or members of the community there’s always suspicion,” says Kies, who believes the Muslim leadership nonetheless has a narrow but necessary role to play in countering radicalization.

In Bordeaux, Saanadi is the first to acknowledge the limits of his intervention. “There are no miracle solutions,” he says. “It’s very easy to destroy, but very difficult to reconstruct.”

Terrorism: Valls and Urvoas definitively exclude detention centers

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2016/06/15/terrorisme-valls-urvoas-centres-retention-_n_10474368.html

 

June 15, 2016

French authorities have ruled out creating Guantanamo Bay-style detention centers for suspected Islamic radicals, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday. The announcement comes as the nation contends with a growing domestic terror problem, particularly in the wake of a fatal stabbing of two Paris-area police officers Monday night.

 

“Our first weapon is criminal law, and it is the legitimacy of the rule of law: to pursue, detain and put out of harm’s way all those who engage in these [jihadist] networks,” Valls said. “[It is] dangerous to confuse measures of surveillance with those of confinement,” he added.

 

Valls’ statement comes just two days after a French police officer and his partner, who also worked for law enforcement, were stabbed to death at their home west of Paris. They are survived by their 3-year-old son. The perpetrator of the murders had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group terrorist organization.

 

France had been considering the idea of creating detention centers — dubbed “French Guantanamos” — for people who are suspected of being potential terrorists or are being monitored by intelligence officials. More than 10,000 people throughout the country are categorized as “Fiche S,” or a potential security threat. Their offenses range from banditry all the way to terrorism, and not all are being actively monitored by intelligence officials.

 

The system has faced criticism, particularly after coordinated terror attacks in November killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more in Paris. Those attacks came just three months after a foiled attack on a high-speed train and 10 months after a pair of ISIS-inspired brothers stormed the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, killing 12.

A system of detention for suspected Islamic radicals already exists in several French prisons. A few dozen of the most radical prisoners are determined by using a set of questions, and they are then confined with each other with the goal of preventing their philosophies from spreading. That system has faced much scrutiny as well, with critics arguing that it only facilitates communication among would-be jihadists.

 

Lawsuit claims Muslims including a 4-year-old are unfairly on terrorist watch list

A lawsuit filed last week claims that thousands of Muslim Americans, among them a 4-year old, have been unfairly put on a federal watch list designed to screen potential terrorists.

The class-action complaint criticizes the Terrorist Screening Database, a list of about 1.5 million people overseen by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. It’s one of several lawsuits that have been filed in recent years challenging the list, saying that it’s unconstitutional in how it’s compiled and used.

The lawsuit was filed by the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic two Michigan lawyers and an attorney in Washington against the FBI center and other federal agencies. More than half the 18 plaintiffs listed in the complaint live in southeastern Michigan.

“Our federal government is imposing an injustice of historic proportions upon … thousands,” says the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, which is where the list is compiled. “Through extra-judicial and secret means, the federal government is ensnaring individuals. … The secret federal watch list is the product of bigotry and misguided, counterproductive zeal.”

In addition to being unable to fly in some cases, Muslims are being jailed, interrogated and threatened by federal agents, the lawsuit alleges. In other cases, FBI agents pressure people on the list to become informants if they want to get off the list, the complaint says. Another problem is the lack of redress, with many Muslims unable to get off the list and unsure how they got on it, plaintiffs said.

The Terrorist Screening Center was established in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Since then, the “watch list has swelled,” with more than 1.5 million nominations to the watch list submitted by federal agencies since 2009, 99 percent of which have been approved, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said such a list is too broad, targeting Muslims because of their faith, and ends up being ineffective in protecting the U.S.

“The federal watch list diminishes, rather than enhances, our national security because the number of innocent Americans on the list is becoming so voluminous that the purpose of having a list is significantly undermined as all are being treated as the same,” says the complaint.

A spokesman for the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, Dave Joly, said it couldn’t comment on pending litigation, and can’t comment on who’s on the list. On its website, the FBI defended the list, saying it doesn’t target people solely because of their religion or ethnicity.

“Generally, individuals are included in the Terrorist Screening Database when there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist,” says the Terrorist Screening Center. “Individuals must not be watch-listed based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, or First Amendment-protected activities such as free speech, the exercise or religion, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances.”

Plaintiffs said they often see a “SSSS” designation on their boarding passes, which signifies to the airlines and federal officials they are suspected terrorists. The designation is shared with state and local agencies, making it difficult for the plaintiffs in other areas of life, such as interactions with local police, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says many are either placed on what’s called a Selectee List, which subjects them to extra scrutiny, or the more stringent No-Fly List, which prevents the traveler from flying.

One of the plaintiffs is a 4-year-old boy from California, listed in the lawsuit as “Baby Doe.”

“He was 7 months old when his boarding pass was first stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation, indicating that he had been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist,'” said the lawsuit. “While passing through airport security, he was subjected to extensive searches, pat-downs and chemical testing.”

“Every item in his mother’s baby bag was searched, including every one of his diapers.”

Another plaintiff, Anas Elhady, 22, of Dearborn, Mich., said he “is routinely referred to secondary inspection, handcuffed and detained by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) at land border crossings when he attempts to re-enter the United States from Canada.”

“CBP officers routinely subject him to a prolonged detention and questioning for approximately four to twelve hours each time. Moreover, he is routinely asked questions about his religious beliefs and practices, what sect of Islam he belongs to, what mosque he prays in, among other things.”

Elhady said he filed a request with the agency to get off the list, but the problems persisted.

In 2015, as he was trying to cross back into Detroit over the Ambassador Bridge after a vacation in Canada, he was thrown into a “small, freezing cold holding cell with bright lights” without his jacket and shoes, said the lawsuit.

“After several hours, Mr. Elhady knocked on the door repeatedly and begged for someone to help him. His pleas for help were ignored. Afterward, his body began shaking uncontrollably and he fell unconscious.”

Elhady said he was then taken to a hospital. Later, on Dec. 2, an FBI agent contacted “Elhady and informed him that his phone was being tapped and that all his calls were being listened to by the FBI,” reads the complaint.

“Elhady’s boarding pass continues to be stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation when (he) travels by air, indicating that he has been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist.'”

Akeel, the Troy attorney helped file the lawsuit, said: “Americans young and old are being placed on the list without proper accountability. There is a swelling group of second-class American citizens being formed here at an alarming rate.”

Thousands Flee the Tunisian Crisis

After the recent uprisings in Tunisia, thousands (more than 5.000) of people are fleeing the country and have landed in the Isle of Lampedusa. The situation of humanitarian emergency has been declared by the Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and by the Council of Ministers. Maroni has asked the European Union to help Italy tackling this difficult situation.

There has been a bit of an argument between the Italian Interior Minister, who accused Europe to be unresponsive and ineffective, and the European Commissioner for the Interior Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom, who expressed a sincere concern for the situation and offered to allocate funds to tackle the emergence. So far, Maroni has noticed, nothing concrete has followed such promising statements.

In the meantime, Maroni has warned against the risks of terrorism and expressed a deep worry for public order and security in Lampedusa. The Tunisian government, in fact, does not have the control of its territory, especially of the coasts from where people leave on board of boats (people pay around 1/1.500 Euro for the journey). Tunisia, in other words, is unable to comply with the bilateral agreement with Italy concerning immigration. As a consequence, among those who reach Italy, there are dangerous criminals and potential terrorists. In order to address this problem, Maroni has asked the Tunisian Prime Minister the permission for the Italian police to monitor at least the major ports of the Northafrican country. After the strong refusal expressed by the Tunisian executive, Italy has turned to the EU asking for the intervention of FRONTEX, the European agency for borders. EU institutions, however, recognize that the issue concerns all Europe and requires a participated commitment.

The Interior Minister has convened the National Committee for Order and Security and has appointed the major of Lampedusa as the Commissioner for the Emergency, endowed with special power. Maroni and Berlusconi have also decided to devolve new buildings to Asylum seekers.

The situation in Lampedusa is serious. The reception centre in the Island is hosting the majority of the newcomers whose number, however, exceeds the actual capacity of the structure. Some refugees have been sent to other centers in Sicily and in the south of Italy. In the last few days, however, the arrivals seem decreased. The situation remains critical. Moreover, many have died in the sea since mid January, trying to reach Italy. The Church is pressing politicians to tackle the situation not only through legal tools but also showing human solidarity toward a tragedy of biblical proportions.

Juan Williams, Islamophobia, and Journalistic Fairness

By Jamil Khader
Stetson University, Florida

Should Juan Williams have been forced to resign after his unfortunate remarks about “Muslim garb”? Although I believe that something should have been done, I’m not sure firing him was the right answer. NPR could have taken him at his own word, demanding that he lives up to his “I’m not a bigot, but . . . ” remark. Instead of turning this into an opportunity to confront the mostly irrational fears many Americans have about Islam and Muslims, NPR perhaps inadvertently fueled that fear even more. While he could have been easily turned into an ally in the fight against prejudice in all its forms, Williams is now instead basking with a 2 million dollar contract with Fox news.

First of all, we have to acknowledge the existence of this visceral fear that many Americans have about Islam and Muslims after 9/11, while at
the same time insist that public discourse must remain rational and devoid of absurd statement like the ones Mr. Williams has made. Mr. Williams is entitled to his own emotional visceral response, but he could have found a more productive way of articulating that fear. As a Muslim myself, I’m not really sure what Williams means by “Muslim garb” especially, since none of the 9/11 terrorists was wearing anything remotely close to the stereotypical Islamic garb Mr. Williams had in mind. In fact, from what I clearly remember of the security feed, these terrorists looked completely western. Nothing about their clothes was Islamic. Moreover, I have not come across any criminologist or sociologist who has made a link between clothing and criminal behavior, not even among Goth teens and tattooed bikers. Mr. Williams’ bias against Arabs and Muslims is clearly irrational, making it, in the words of the conservative republican commentator, Andrew Sullivan, “anti-religious bigotry in its purest, clearest form.”

By pandering to O’Reilly, Mr. Williams has unfortunately contributed to the demonization of all Muslims, those who are for him total strangers—they do not look like us and, therefore, they terrify us just by their looks. What makes this dangerous and irresponsible on his part is that Muslims are the most maligned ethnic/religious groups in the US today, and that his comments, or most of the bigoted comments that are continuously streamed in the media and public culture, could not have been made about any other ethnic or religious group in the country. It would be instructive to examine the reaction of those who came to Williams’ defense with and against the firestorm of condemnation and protest following the bigoted comments recently made by other journalists such as Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, and Octavia Nasr. As salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald states, “If we’re going to fire or otherwise punish people for expressing prohibited ideas against various groups, it’s long overdue that those standards be applied equally to anti-Muslim animus, now easily one of the most — if not the single most — pervasive, tolerated and dangerous forms of blatant bigotry in America.” It is not really difficult to understand the reason why Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Pam Geller, Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich, among others, stayed silent when Thomas, Sanchez, and Nasr, but not Williams, were forced to resign. Again, our culture today condones racist and insensitive comments about Muslims, but not about other groups. Muslims, it seems, have not been granted entry into the gates of PC culture.

Unlike other recent cases of conspicuous journalistic bigotry, Williams’ remarks subtly condoned and legitimized prejudice against Muslims. What he seems to say to O’Reilly, in fact, is that the latter is certainly justified in his view of all Muslims as potential terrorists. Having publicly expressed such bigotry, Williams has lost all the credibility, fairness and objectivity that are the foundations of his profession (but obviously in some news outlets like Fox news this does not matter). Should he have been forced to resign over one comment? He clearly violated his employer’s ethical code, but he should have been at least given a chance to explain himself. More importantly, NPR like all other power institutions in the country cannot just demand from American citizens to be sensitive to diversity without providing them with the necessary training and the tools to deal with such touchy topics with the sensitivity and cross-cultural competence needed. Such an educational effort requires the continuous planning, cooperation and investment of everyone not through one diversity training session or day, but throughout the year. As one educator said, “Diversity is everybody’s everyday work.”

Two former Guantanamo inmates arrive in Germany

16 September 2010
After months of negotiations between Berlin and Washington, two former inmates of the Guantanamo prison arrived in Germany on Thursday. German officials hope to swiftly integrate them into society. A spokesman for the Hamburg government confirmed that Ahmed Mohammed al-Shurfa, a stateless man of Palestinian descent born in Saudi Arabia, had arrived in the northern German port city.
Later on Thursday, a second former Guantanamo prisoner — 36-year-old Mahmoud Salim al-Ali of Syria — arrived in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in central-western Germany, an official with the state’s Interior Ministry said. “According to our knowledge, he does not pose any threat,2 a spokesman said. “We haven’t brought a sleeper into our country,” he said, referring to the phenomenon of potential terrorists like the 9/11 cell that infiltrate society and appear to be normal residents before they are activated.
Earlier this year, Germany said it was prepared to host two former inmates from the Guantanamo prison. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said the decision had been made for “humanitarian reasons.” “I’m not only the federal interior minister, but also a human being and a Christian,” the politician, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said as he announced his decision in July.

Prison staff treat muslims as “potential terrorists”

Muslim prisoners could be driven to extremism by a crude security-led approach that treats them all as potential terrorists, the chief inspector of prisons warns today. Dame Anne Owers said the treatment of Muslim prisoners as potential or actual terrorists is common despite the fact that fewer than 1% are in prison for terrorist-related offences.

Her report is based on interviews with 164 Muslim prisoners in eight prisons and young offender institutions. “It would be naive to deny that there are, within the prison population, Muslims who hold radical extremist views, or who may be attracted to them for a variety of reasons,” she said. “But that does not argue for a blanket, security-led approach to Muslim prisoners in general.”

She called on the National Offender Management Service (Noms) to develop a strategy “for effective staff engagement with Muslims as individual prisoners with specific risks and needs, rather than as part of a separate and troubling group”.

Hundreds of potential terrorists live in Germany, official says

There are roughly 700 people in Germany who the interior ministry believes may be involved in extremist Islam circles, the ministry’s deputy head said. Of the some 700 people in Germany suspected of being Islamic terrorists, a “double digit” number of them have been classified by the country’s 16 states as dangerous and are “under especially intense surveillance,” Hanning said. Radical Islamists in Germany have also taken part in terror training camps in the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, added Hanning, who previously served as the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency.

Terrorists’ targets tend to be crowded, public areas that are difficult to secure, Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning told the Sunday, Nov. 2, edition of Berlin’s BZ am Sonntag. “Suspects plan inhuman forms of attacks against so-called soft targets,” he told the paper in comments made available ahead of publication.

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Met scheme aims to identify Muslim extremists: Foundation is brainchild of senior Muslim officer: Project to encourage ‘self-reporting’

Scotland Yard has drawn up plans for a “safety foundation” which would identify extremists within Muslim communities across the UK and which could be up and running within six months. The project is the brainchild of Tarique Ghaffur, Britain’s most senior Muslim officer, who is an assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard. He suggests the foundation will identify and combat extremism and act as a thinktank analysing “the dynamics of disaffection”. The foundation would encourage greater Muslim “self-reporting” of potential terrorists and remove what Mr Ghaffur calls “the vulnerabilities around religious institutions”. It would also ask countries such as Pakistan to monitor young British Muslims travelling in groups. One aim would to be to “debrief some of these young people academically or theologically”.