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.

France Security: Chechens arrested amid high alert

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack police in France have arrested five Chechens suspected of possessing explosives. Terrorism officials were not aware of the suspects prior to their arrest, although they were known to organized crime units.

Four men have also been charged with supporting Amedy Coulibaly and are due to appear in Paris court. Seventeen people were killed in three days of terror attacks in Paris.

The Chechens were apprehended during raids in Beziers and Saint-Jean-de-Vedas near Montpellier. Hidden explosives were found during the search and investigators are attempting to determine if they were planning an attack. Yvon Calvet said people “shouldn’t jump to conclusions” about the arrests. Chechnya has witnessed large demonstrations against the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo of the Prophet Muhammad.

V&A in row over self-censorship after Muhammad image is taken down

The Victoria and Albert museum has attempted to conceal its ownership of a devotional image of the prophet Muhammad, citing security concerns, in what is part of a wider pattern of apparent self-censorship by British institutions that scholars fear could undermine public understanding of Islamic art and the diversity of Muslim traditions.

Similar images have been shown in exhibitions across Europe and America without prompting outrage, much less protests or a violent response. Made by Muslim artists for fellow Muslims, they come from a long but often overlooked tradition.

There was not a single complaint when another contemporary Iranian image of Muhammad was included in a 2013 exhibition in the Tropen museum in Amsterdam, hung next to a Christian icon, as part of an exhibition on cross-cultural encounters.

“We knew it might be controversial, but decided to take the risk because the story is important to tell,” said Mirjam Shatanawi, an Islamic art specialist and the Tropen museum’s curator for the Middle East and North Africa. “These images are a real eye-opener, a powerful example of Islam being different and more diverse than many imagine.

“If Muslims feel offended by images made by other Muslims out of reverence for the prophet, I’m not sure if the museum should decide not to show them. It seems like choosing one interpretation of Islam over the other. These images are not made to disrespect but – on the contrary – to honour the prophet.”

The Victoria and Albert museum has attempted to conceal its ownership of a devotional image of the prophet Muhammad, citing security concerns, in what is part of a wider pattern of apparent self-censorship by British institutions that scholars fear could undermine public understanding of Islamic art and the diversity of Muslim traditions. (Photo: Panoramio.com)
The Victoria and Albert museum has attempted to conceal its ownership of a devotional image of the prophet Muhammad, citing security concerns, in what is part of a wider pattern of apparent self-censorship by British institutions that scholars fear could undermine public understanding of Islamic art and the diversity of Muslim traditions. (Photo: Panoramio.com)

10 Years for Plot to Murder Cartoonist

January 6, 2014

By Jon Hurdle

 

PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge on Monday sentenced a Pennsylvania woman to 10 years in prison for her part in a plan to murder a Swedish cartoonist whose images of the Prophet Muhammad offended Muslims.

The woman, Colleen R. LaRose, who used “Jihad Jane” as an online alias, pleaded guilty to four charges, including conspiring to aid terrorists and to kill a person in a foreign country, after she plotted with jihadists she encountered on the Internet to kill the cartoonist, Lars Vilks, who depicted the prophet atop the body of a dog.

Ms. LaRose, 50, of Pennsburg, Pa., near Philadelphia, went to Europe in 2008 with the intention of killing Mr. Vilks, but failed to meet up with the people who had encouraged the mission. She returned to the United States and was arrested after the plan was discovered.

Judge Petrese B. Tucker of United States District Court said Monday that she was satisfied that Ms. LaRose would have carried out the killing if she had made the right contacts.

The defendant, a slight woman of 4-foot-9 who wore green prison overalls and a black head scarf, made a six-minute statement to the court, admitting that she had been inspired to engage in jihad, or Islamic holy war, after seeing coverage of Palestinians “screaming and crying.”

 

NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/07/us/jihad-jane-given-10-year-prison-sentence.html

 

Most Muslims say they fast during Ramadan

A recent Pew Research Center survey of more than 38,000 Muslims around the world shows widespread observance of Ramadan. In the 39 countries and territories surveyed, a median of 93% say they fast during the holy month. Fasting is the second-most observed of the Five Pillars, behind only belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad (median of 97%).

 

By comparison, a median of 77% of Muslims in those 39 countries say they give zakat (an annual donation of a portion of one’s wealth to the needy). And a global median of 63% of Muslims surveyed say they perform five salat (prayers) a day. A median of just 9% of Muslims say they have already completed the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca), although this once-in-a-lifetime obligation applies only to those who are financially and physically capable.

 

Pew Research has not asked American Muslims whether they fast during Ramadan, but a 2007 survey found that three-quarters (77%) of Muslim Americans say fasting during Ramadan is very important to them.

SIDEBAR: Muslims embracing unbelief often face a lonely journey

NEW YORK — There was a time in his life when Ibrahim Abdallah thought he was the only Muslim-turned-atheist in the world. Then, at a party, he met a fellow Egyptian and former Muslim, and while the other guests danced, they sat and talked.

And talked and talked.

“I was so happy, and so shocked,” Abdallah, 33, said. “We both felt,’I am not the only one.’ It was huge.”  Now, several years later, Abdallah is on a mission to create the kind of safe space for questioning Islam and all matters of faith that he wishes he could have had.

Last May, he founded “Muslim-ish,” a support group for questioning and former Muslims that meets under the auspices of Manhattan’s Center For Inquiry, a humanist organization. The group has about 50 members, both cradle Muslims and converts, and meets twice a month in a secret location.

It’s support they very much need, Abdallah said, because Muslims who abandon their faith face challenges not faced by those who leave other religions. Divorce and disowning are common, as is the threat of physical violence. Some more conservative Muslims believe Islam sanctions the killing of apostates (those who abandon the faith) and blasphemers (those who belittle Islam, the Prophet Muhammad or other Muslims).

Muslim-ish is growing beyond its New York birthplace. A new group was recently established in Dearborn, Mich. — home to the largest population of Muslims in the U.S. — and other groups are forming in Chicago and Washington, D.C. An online version now meets via Google+ and is drawing people from Alabama, Florida and overseas.

From Man Who Insulted Muhammad, No Regret

LOS ANGELES — Fuming for two months in a jail cell here, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has had plenty of time to reconsider the wisdom of making “Innocence of Muslims,” his crude YouTube movie trailer depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a bloodthirsty, philandering thug.

Does Mr. Nakoula now regret the footage? After all, it fueled deadly protests across the Islamic world and led the unlikely filmmaker to his own arrest for violating his supervised release on a fraud conviction.

Not at all. In his first public comments since his incarceration soon after the video gained international attention in September, Mr. Nakoula told The New York Times that he would go to great lengths to convey what he called “the actual truth” about Muhammad. “I thought, before I wrote this script,” he said, “that I should burn myself in a public square to let the American people and the people of the world know this message that I believe in.”

In explaining his reasons for the film, Mr. Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian born in Egypt, cited the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Tex., as a prime example of the violence committed “under the sign of Allah.” His anger seemed so intense over the years that even from a federal prison in 2010, he followed the protests against the building of an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York as he continued to work on his movie script.

Lupe Fiasco on His New Album, Romney vs. Obama, ‘Muslim Rage’ & More

Lupe Fiasco has no filter. It’s pretty damn refreshing in an industry bursting at the seams with image-conscious rappers and manufactured pop divas. A practicing Muslim, he’s called President Obama “a terrorist,” does not vote in U.S. elections, was a regular fixture at Occupy Wall Street, and had an infamous on-air tussle with the irascible Bill O’Reilly.

The artist formerly known as Wasalu Muhammad Jaco sat down with The Daily Beast for an in-depth interview to promote his new album, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1. Released on Sept. 25, it’s his fourth studio LP and an anticipated follow-up to last year’s Lasers, which made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. Pt. II, meanwhile, will see the light of day in early 2013.

Food & Liquor II is equal parts searing indictment of American politics, urban history lesson, and demystification of hip-hop culture. On the standout track “Lamborghini Angels,” the rapper riffs on everything from MK-Ultra programming and pedophilia in the Catholic Church to human-rights abuses during the war in Afghanistan.

“This is Lupe’s history,” he says with a grin. “It came from America. Howard Zinn is definitely the inspiration for it. Zinn was the person who gave you an alternative view of American history, and people beat the shit out of him for it. It took decades for people to grasp it.”

Born a Sunni Muslim, Lupe says he fully embraced Islam when his cousin, who had just converted, moved in with the family when he was 13.

“I’ve always felt I’m going to be Muslim till the day I die because I fully understand it and have never wanted to be anything else,” he says.

The subject eventually turns to Innocence of Muslims, the incendiary, anti-Islam amateur film that’s helped fuel rioting in the Middle East. Says Lupe: “They should fight for the dude’s right to make that movie. Unfortunately, we also live in a world with everyone else. America is not its own planet. You can say whatever you want, but have some class.” He adds, “It’s a provocation, but I think that at the same time, the Muslim world is taking it a little too seriously. If you want to battle and protest against it, this is the opportunity to talk about all the great things the Prophet Muhammad has done and the ways he’s inspired people.”

How Are American Muslims Responding To The Anti-Islam Film?

Muslims have been demonstrating from North Africa to Southeast Asia, often violently, over the film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. But, in America, Muslims have been virtually silent over the video Innocence Of Muslims.

Why the subdued response in the U.S.?

Jonathan Brown, an assistant professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, offers one theory. He thinks some American Muslims are too scared to protest.

“In a post 9/11 world, they’re absolutely frightened to stick their heads out in any way, shape or form,” he says. “They are still apologizing for attacks they didn’t do.”

Many American Muslims are fearful of appearing suspicious, voicing discontent with government or showing any solidarity with Muslims overseas, he argues. And if they do express their opinions, Brown says, they are absolutely tripping over themselves to show how truly moderate and civil they are.

U.S. Muslim groups have come out and condemned the violence abroad, including the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. But aside from that, Muslims in America have stayed on the peripheries, not wanting to be drawn into a fire burning overseas.

Commentator Arrested for Defacing Anti-Jihad Subway Poster

An Egyptian-American columnist, who rose to prominence on social media last year for her commentary during the revolution in Egypt, was arrested in the Times Square subway station on Tuesday for spraying pink paint on a pro-Israel poster that calls Islamist opponents of the Jewish state “savage.”

The poster was one of 10 placed in subway stations across the transit system this week, on the heels of violent and sometimes deadly protests across the Muslim world in response to an American-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

The columnist, Mona Eltahawy, is a former Reuters correspondent now based in New York who became a dual citizen of Egypt and the United States last year. Her Twitter feed, which has more than 160,000 followers, became popular last year as a source of information on the Egyptian revolution.

Ms. Eltahawy, initially known for her commentary on the Egyptian revolution from afar, became personally involved in the protest movement last November, when she used her Twitter feed to document her physical and sexual abuse by Egyptian police officers following a crackdown on a demonstration near Tahrir Square in Cairo.

In May, she earned the enmity of many Egyptians for writing a Foreign Policy cover story on women’s rights in the Middle East published with the headline “Why Do They Hate Us?

News of Ms. Eltahawy’s arrest made headlines in Egypt and earned her praise from like-minded Internet activists. A Lebanese blogger, who was less impressed with the stunt, wrote a satirical blog post accusing Ms. Eltahawy of attention-seeking.