Relaxed photographs of ‘suicide bomber Briton’ emerge

February 14, 2014

 

Pictures of a man suspected to be Britain’s first suicide bomber in Syria have emerged showing him looking relaxed and smiling with local children. The images were sent by Abdul Waheed Majeed, 41, from Syria to his family in the Langley Green area of Crawley, West Sussex. In one picture, he is seen wearing pink Minnie Mouse-style ears while he cuddles a child. In another, he is pictured kneeling surrounded by children as they give the peace sign.

Married father-of-three Majeed is suspected of driving a lorry into a jail in Aleppo and detonating a bomb last week. Officials have not confirmed the identity of the bomber amid reports that a UK jihadi, who used the name Abu Suleiman al-Britani, carried out the bombing.

Counter-terrorism officers have searched Majeed’s home in Martyrs Avenue, which is also the ex-home of schoolgirl Sarah Payne’s killer Roy Whiting, according to neighbours. Majeed, known as Waheed, left Britain six months ago, telling his family he was going on a humanitarian mission to Syria. Majeed’s uncle, Mohammad Jamil, 65, said Majeed – who is a father of two boys and a girl aged 18, 16 and 12 – had never shown any sign of extremism.

But this week extremist preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed told the London Evening Standard that Majeed was ”a very dear brother”. He claimed Majeed had been an active student and valued member of the banned extremist Al-Muhajiroun organisation between 1996 and 2004 and had wanted to further the ”Muslim cause”. Bakri said Majeed would organise his sermons in Crawley and record the lectures and distribute them.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10638651/Relaxed-photographs-of-suicide-bomber-Briton-emerge.html

Last British Guantanamo prisoner pens powerful letter on twelfth anniversary of detention


February 14, 2014

 

The last remaining British prisoner held in Guantanamo Bay has penned a powerful letter to mark Valentine’s Day – the twelfth anniversary of his detention. Shaker Aamer has been held without charge or trial since his arrest in Afghanistan in November 2001. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay on 14 February 2002 where has been held since – despite being cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 and again by the Obama administration in 2009.

Conveying the desperation felt by prisoners at the US military run camp in Cuba, he wrote: “How do I feel with another year of my life gone unjustly and another year started? Truly, I feel numb. I can’t even think about it. Years are passing like months and months like weeks. Weeks pass like days and days like hours. Hours feel like minutes, minutes seconds, and seconds pass like years. And it goes around in a strange circle that makes no sense. It all takes an age, and yet an age of my life seems to pass too fast. On and on and on. Shaker Aamer with two of his children before his arrest Shaker Aamer with two of his children before his arrest

Mr Aamer, who is currently on hunger strike, added: “I feel lonely and lost. Not knowing my future is the worst torture. I am living just to die. I am confused about everything and everyone. It is not enough for them to leave us alone with all this pain we are suffering. It is not enough for us to live only with our memories, which bring more pain.”

He also captured some of the alleged mistreatment and humiliation the 160 current inmates suffer in the prison. He describes how ‘the National Anthem is playing so loudly’ at his time of writing and how a fellow inmate consistently misses his legal call because of the full body search he is threated with by the guards. Shaker Aamer: ‘I may have to die. I hope not. I want to see my family again’

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/last-british-guantanamo-prisoner-pens-powerful-letter-on-twelfth-anniversary-of-detention-9129745.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/shaker-aamer-i-may-have-to-die-i-hope-not-i-want-to-see-my-family-again-8581966.html

Ukip MEP says British Muslims should sign charter rejecting violence

February 4, 2014

 

A Ukip MEP believes that British Muslims should sign a special code of conduct and warns that it was a big mistake for Europe to allow “an explosion of mosques across their land”. Gerard Batten, who represents London and is member of the party’s executive, told the Guardian on Tuesday that he stood by a “charter of Muslim understanding“, which he commissioned in 2006.

The document asks Muslims to sign a declaration rejecting violence and says parts of the Qur’an that promote “violent physical Jihad” should be regarded as “inapplicable, invalid and non-Islamic”.

Asked on Tuesday about the charter, Batten told the Guardian he had written it with a friend, who is an Islamic scholar, and could not see why “any reasonable, normal person” would object to signing it.

Batten also repeated his view that some Muslim texts need updating, claiming some say “kill Jews wherever you find them and various things like that. If that represents the thinking of modern people, there’s something wrong, in which case maybe they need to revise their thinking. If they say they can’t revise their thinking on those issues, then who’s got the problem – us or them?”

Asked why Muslims have been singled out, rather than followers of other faiths, Batten said: “Christians aren’t blowing people up at the moment, are they? Are there any bombs going off round the world claimed by Christian organisations? I don’t think so.”

With Ukip hoping to top the polls in May’s European elections, Batten is top of the party’s MEP candidate list for London, having passed a round of psychometric testing to make sure his views were acceptable. However, Batten – Ukip’s spokesman on immigration and a former candidate for London mayor – appears to have held some controversial positions on Islam for some time. His “proposed charter of Muslim understanding” was written in 2006 by Sam Solomon, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, with a foreword by the MEP himself.

In a press release from the time, published on Ukip’s website, Batten calls on Muslims to sign a five-point affirmation, in which they would promise to accept equality, reject violence in the name of religion, and accept a need to “re-examine and address the meaning and application of certain Islamic texts and doctrines”.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/04/ukip-mep-gerard-batten-muslims-sign-charter-rejecting-violence

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/05/ukip-batten-muslims-halal-banned

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/05/tory-mp-ukip-muslim-code-conduct-frightening-halfon-batten

Nigel Farage distances himself from MEP over ‘Muslim code of conduct’

February 5, 2014

 

UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader Nigel Farage has disowned “insulting” proposals from one of his MEPs for Muslims to be asked to sign a peace charter. In a statement, Mr Farage said: “This was a private publication from Gerard Batten (Ukip MEP) in 2006 and its contents are not and never have been Ukip policy. No such policy proposals would have been accepted by Ukip in any case. Ukip believes in treating people equally.”

His reaction comes after, Gerard Batten, who sits on the party’s National Executive Committee, told The Guardian that he stood by the “charter of Muslim understanding” which he co-authored in 2006. It calls on Muslims to reject parts of the Koran which he claims promote “violent physical jihad”.

The Conservative leader in the European Parliament, Syed Kamall, left a letter on Mr Batten’s empty seat at the Parliament chamber in Strasbourg, offering him a guarantee that he had no intention to commit acts of violence or promote extremism. “Do you have a form I can sign already?” asked Mr Kamall. “I am anxious to assure you that I have no intention of mounting any attacks on unsuspecting infidels, nor of attempting to radicalise you or anyone else. If the forms aren’t ready yet, perhaps you would take this note as my guarantee? My wife and family would be most reassured to know you will allow me to stay in Britain, especially since I was born here. Please feel free to drop into my office to discuss this over a cup of tea. I promise you will be entirely safe.”

Mohammed Shafiq, the Chief Executive of Muslim think-tank the Ramadhan Foundation, said that suggesting that one particular community should be required to sign a “loyalty pledge” against violence was “offensive and an insult to all decent people”.

Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Ludford, who speaks for the party on justice and human rights, said: “Gerard Batten’s comments rip apart Ukip’s pretence to be Eurosceptic but not racist. His offensive blanket stereotyping of Muslims as jihadists speaks volumes about Ukip’s extremism and should warn voters that voting Ukip means associating with hatred and Islamophobia.”

Rehman Chishti, the Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, said Batten’s position was “shocking”, particularly the “charter of understanding” suggestion that parts of the Qur’an should be rendered “inapplicable”. “If Nigel Farage had any credibility, he would quite clearly not allow this individual to stand for office in Ukip,” he said.

Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow London minister, also said he was “appalled at the ignorance that Gerard Batten appears to have shown when speaking about the faith that I and hundreds of thousands of British Muslims practice”.

Mary Honeyball, a Labour MEP for London, said that Batten “represents the ugliest side of Ukip. Batten’s views overlap with the far-right. The idea that Muslims should be singled out in the way he suggests is a relic from a darker, more prejudiced time.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ukip-leader-nigel-farage-rejects-muslim-charter-9109806.html

The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/05/nigel-farage-ukip-mep-batten-muslim-code-conduct

How is Islamophobia measured in France?

January 28, 2014

 

The number of anti-Muslim acts committed in 2013 and recorded by the National Observatory Against Islamophobia has been published on Sunday, January 26. Last year, 226 anti-Muslim acts (164 threats and 62 actions) were registered with the police. This represents an increase of 11,3% from 2012, though a smaller increase from precedent years (+ 34% in 2011 and +28.2% in 2012).

Amongst such acts on the rise, officials at the Observatory are concerned with an increasing aggression against veiled women. According to the President of the Observatory, Abdallah Zakri, ‘this confirms the unsound climate existing in our country, which is favored by certain declarations made by politicians.’

The Observatory obtains its numbers from complaints filed to the authorities, which they get news of from sources on the ground, such as regional representatives of the Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman (CFCM), mosque leaders and the police. Mr. Zakri then compares their numbers with those obtained by the Ministry of Interior, and claims the findings are always very close. According to him, however, the numbers are always below the reality, as at least 20% of people are not pressing charges. Such an analysis is confirmed by the sociologist Marwan Mohammed who devoted a chapter of his book, Islamophoba: How the French Elite Fabricate the Muslim Problem, to measuring Islamophobia: Relying on the charges pressed by people to measure Islamophobia is a relatively fragile form of data.. We don’t have a viable study on the police reaction towards plaintiffs. Moreover, the complaint can sometimes be rebranded, for example as incitation to racial hatred.’

The findings of the Observatory are much inferior to those of the Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF) who chooses to record acts on the basis of citizen declarations or media findings. In 2012, the CCIF had identified a total of 469 Islamophobic acts, more than twice the amount of the Observatory’s numbers, which had a total of 201 that year.

These differences reflect the political divisions between the CCIF and the Observatory. The Observatory emerged from the Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman (CFCM) and was created a few months after a convention was signed between the then-Ministry of Interior, Brice Hortefeux, and the CFCM, ‘to keep better track of’ Islamophobic acts.

Although The Observatory eventually broke away to create its own organization, its’ proximity to the government is regularly denounced by the CCIF. The CCIF, which from the start was closer the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF), willingly adopts a more polemical tone.

The numbers of the Observatory remain then more consistent with the numbers recorded by the Ministry of Interior. Researcher Marwan Mohammad suggests that Islamophobia is measurable so long as data is cross-checked. As for him, he relies on the number of complaints, the CCIF’s data, and on official sociological studies that regularly point to an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment.

 

Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/01/28/la-difficile-mesure-de-l-islamophobie_4355742_3224.html

Expectations and reactions ahead of the German Islam Conference

January 30, 2014

 

Muslims associations and German State authorities will be meeting this year at the annual German Islam Conference to continue the debate about Muslim life in German society. The German Islam Conference was initiated in 2006 by former Minister of Interior Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU). One if the issues will be the implementation of an official Muslim holiday. The speaker of the Turkish community Kenan Kolat raised the importance of an official holiday as “an important signal to the Muslim population”. Kolat appreciated the openness of the designated Minister Thomas De Maizière (CDU) for dialogue, criticizing the conservative attitude of his predecessor Friedrich. The designated Minister of Interior is said to meet representatives of Muslims associations including the Turkish community, the Alevi community and Islamic cultural centers next week, discussing upcoming issues. 

 

Sefi Ögütlü, General-Secretary of the Islamic cultural centers underlined the relevance to open a new chapter. Bekir Alboga, representative of the Turkish Islamic Union Institute for Islamic religion (DITIB) emphasized his optimism. The new Minister would show an appropriate attitude towards the Islamic communities.  Yilmaz Kahraman, representative of the Alevi community in Germany criticized the ineffectiveness of former conferences, which would have left no concrete results but brochures and leaflets. Kahraman called Muslims not to ask what the State may be able to do for them, but look at ways for Muslims to contribute to society and avoid parallel structures.

 

 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/vor-treffen-zu-islamkonferenz-tuerkische-gemeinde-will-gesetzlichen-muslimfeiertag-12768940.html

 

Central council of Muslims: http://islam.de/23250

U.S. Public Opinion Toward Arabs and Islam: How “The Video Incident” May Affect U.S.-Muslim Relations

A provocatively offensive film and violent demonstrations protesting it have once again roiled the relationships between Americans, Arabs and Muslims. In both the United States and the volatile transition states of North Africa, popular reactions have been swift, severe and complicated by domestic politics. But beyond the partisan scorekeeping and the loudly raised voices, how have these recent events changed the way the American public views Arab and Muslim communities? Within the emerging democratic Arab states, how has the furor over the video altered the public debate regarding freedom of speech, civil liberties and other constitutional rights? Finally, how are these issues examined within the context of religious expression, pluralism and tolerance—values that are central to American identity?

On October 8, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings hosted a discussion on these questions and unveiled a new University of Maryland public opinion poll examining attitudes just days after violence erupted in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The poll, conducted by Nonresident Senior Fellow Shibley Telhami, gauges American public attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims and toward U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Highlights of key findings from the poll include:

1. Most Americans believe that the the recent violent attacks against the American embassies in Libya and Egypt are the work of extremist minorities, not majorities, but most are dissatisfied with the reactions of the Libyan and Egyptian governments.

2. There is support for decreasing aid to Egypt, but not for stopping it.

3. A majority of Americans believes that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would result in a drastic oil price increase, Iranian attacks on American bases, and a worsened American strategic position in the Middle East.

4. Majorities of the American public support increasing sanctions on Syria and imposing an international no-fly zone, but overwhelmingly oppose bombing Syria, arming rebels, or sending troops to Syria.

Veoislam an Islamic version of “youtube” in Spanish Public Opinion and the Media

“Veoislam” has been launched last January 3rd. This new website aims to be the Islamic version of the popular Youtube. According to their promoters, the goal of Veoislam is spread Islamic videos in Spanish language. The website will have the contribution of different Islamic centers from the Spanish-speaking world.

Fears of an Islamic revolt in Europe begin to fade

A district of derelict warehouses, red-brick terraces, and vibrant street life on the canals near the centre of Brussels, Molenbeek was once known as Belgium’s “Little Manchester”. These days it is better known as “Little Morocco” since the population is overwhelmingly Muslim and of North African origin. By day, the scene is one of children kicking balls on busy streets, of very fast, very small cars with very large sound systems. By night, the cafes and tea houses are no strangers to drug-dealers and mafia from the Maghreb. For the politically active extreme right, and the anti-Islamic bloggers, Molenbeek is the nightmare shape of things to come: an incubator of tension and terrorism in Europe’s capital, part of a wave of “Islamisation” supposedly sweeping Europe, from the great North Sea cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam to Marseille and the Mediterranean. The dire predictions of religious and identity-based mayhem reached their peak between 2004 and 2006, when bombs exploded in Madrid and London, a controversial film director was shot and stabbed to death in Amsterdam, and angry demonstrators marched against publication of satirical cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad. For Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept, the continent’s future was to “tamely resign itself to a gradual transition to absolute sharia law”. By the end of the century, warned Bernard Lewis, the famous American historian of Islam, “Europe will be Islamic”. The Daily Telegraph asked: “Is France on the way to becoming an Islamic state?” The Daily Mail described the riots that shook the nation in the autumn of 2005 as a “Muslim intifada”. Jason Burke and Ian Traynor report.