Judge: Dutch news paper violated Muslim right to privacy

“De Volkskrant”, one of the main news papers in the Netherlands, has to pay a fine of 1.500 euro to Mohammed Rashid. Rashid’s picture featured in an article of the news paper on security at Schiphol Airport. According to the judge his right to privacy has been violated because of this act. But the judge did not conclude an official rectification was necessary.

The article called “Is Schiphol still safe?” featured a photo of Rashid that was taken without his consent as a visitor of the airport going through a stringent safety control by car. He did not accept what he perceived as a case of negative framing of Muslims and demanded a fine and rectification, demanding an expression of regret towards him, his family, and “the Islamic community of the Netherlands”.

The link below contains a video interviewing Mohammed Rashid and his lawyer for Dutch television about the court decision:

http://www.republiekallochtonie.nl/rechter-volkskrant-schond-met-foto-privacy-mohammed-rashid

A debate on the Quran between Mouhanad Khorchide and Hamad Abdel-Samad

Two controversial contributors

In a new book – Zur Freiheit gehört, den Koran zu kritisieren: Ein Streitgespräch (It is a part of freedom to criticise the Qur’an: A disputation) – two of the most prominent voices on Islam in Germany, Hamed Abdel-Samad and Mouhanad Khorchide, debate the nature of the Quran and of the Islamic faith. The publication has sparked considerable public interest, also because its two authors have been at loggerheads on many issues of theological and political significance.

In recent years, Abdel-Samad has emerged as a reformed former Muslim Brother and a self-styled critic of Islam, publishing a salvo of controversial popular books imputing a fascist predisposition to Islam and presenting the Prophet Muhammad as a maniacal proto-terrorist. While these books have earned Abdel-Samad public notoriety, journalistic and especially scholarly observers have widely dismissed his theses as exceedingly crude.

In contrast to that Mouhanad Khorchide, Professor for Islamic Theology at Münster University, has published widely on his understanding of Islam as a religion of mercy. His reliance on theological positions and historical-critical methodology have been ostracised by a range of Muslim associations in Germany; and after receiving death threats from conservative radicals, Khorchide has been under police protection.

Attempting a serious debate

In a discussion of the book and its theses on the ZDF’s Forum am Freitag TV show ((http://www.zdf.de/forum-am-freitag/forum-am-freitag-5989636.html)), the authors nevertheless manage to engage each other in a serious conversation beyond mere polemics. Both authors show themselves desirous of activating what they refer to as ‘Islam’s silent majority’ and to equip this majority with the necessary theological tools to defend their faith against the depravations of jihadist interpretations. Moreover, they decry the tendency of contemporary theological debate to degenerate into a shouting match in which the opposing sides bombard each other with competing quotations from the Quran, each party eager to have its preferred textual passage count as a piece of ‘evidence’ demonstrating the – peaceful or violent, democratic or authoritarian – essence of Islam.

Whilst viewers of the TV debate could be impressed by the willingness of Abdel-Samad and Khorchide to enter into such an ambitious dialogue, it was also difficult to avoid the feeling that, as their discussion wore on, they began to fall into the very trap they had sought to avoid: beginning with a series of Abdel-Samad’s interventions, both discussants gradually came to rely rather heavily on quotations from the Qur’an; and both sought to use shreds of the text to prove their respective arguments about the true nature of Islam as a religion.

Abdel-Samad, for instance, alleged that the term ‘man’ occurs 61 times in the Qur’an; “and in all of these 61 verses, ‘man’ comes away negatively”. From this assertion, Abdel-Samad derived the assertion that “young people who ask themselves: ‘what does God want from me?’ are ultimately led to death, not to life” by the Qur’anic text. In Abdel-Samad’s view, the only ray of hope is the fact that most Muslims don’t read the Qur’an, or (if they do read it) don’t understand its message – also because the Quran is, according to Abdel-Samad, not only a violent but also incomprehensible and primitive book.

Sustaining nuance in the current political climate

At least in the TV debate of the book’s theses, the rhetorical prowess of Abdel-Samad has a certain edge of the quiet Khorchide: the discussion has Khorchide struggling to defend his perspective on the Quran against Abdel-Samad’s assault. Khorchide manages to make a number of memorable points – presenting, for instance, his view of how the Quran as a text of ongoing divine communication might be read in a meaningful way by Muslims today. Yet the viewer is still left with an overall sense that nuance is difficult to sustain in a public debate that pits an eloquently presented black and white narrative à la Abdel-Samad against the more complex analysis that Khorchide seeks to put forward.

The book form of the debate might be somewhat more suited to Khorchide, insofar as it might enable him to deploy a well-thought out answer to Abdel-Samad’s stark attacks. Nevertheless, the difficulties in developing an ambitious and theologically serious argument about the Quran faced by Khorchide are emblematic of the current state of the public debate in Germany and Europe. In fact, as his critics have noted, Abdel-Samad shares the fundamentalist Salafi understanding of Islam that he claims to fight; the sole difference being that he castigates what the Salafis find admirable. Neither of them can actually accommodate a more nuanced understanding of Islam as a lived religion or of its foundational texts.

In this respect, one of Khorchide’s points from the TV discussion rings true: the message that readers derive from the Quran tell us far more about the nature of the interpreter in question than about the nature of the Quran. The fundamentalist “must ask himself: ‘with what eyes of hate do I actually read the Quran?’” Perhaps Hamed Abdel-Samad, too, ought to take this question seriously.

“Soldiers of Allah” Canal+ documentary (video)

May 5, 2016

A French Islamic State cell dismantled in the final stages of planning an attack has yielded a new secret this week, with the release of undercover footage showing how a group of disaffected petty criminals transformed into a terror network.

Link to Video: http://www.canalplus.fr/infos-documentaires/pid3357-special-investigation.html

 

French journalist infiltrated Islamic State armed group

May 2, 2016

The journalist, a Muslim using the pseudonym Said Ramzi, carried out the investigation for a documentary entitled “Allah’s Soldiers” which gives an insight into the minds of young jihadists, and will be shown in France on Monday night.

Ramzi describes himself as a Muslim “of the same generation as the killers” who carried out the November 13 terror attacks which left 130 people dead in Paris.

“My goal was to understand what was going on inside their heads,” he said.

“One of the main lessons was that I never saw any Islam in this affair. No will to improve the world. Only lost, frustrated, suicidal, easily manipulated youths. They had the misfortune of being born in the era that the Islamic State exists. It is very sad. They are youngsters who are looking for something and that is what they found.”

To make contact with the group, Ramzi said the first steps were easy, following and interacting with those preaching jihad on Facebook.

Then, he had to meet the person presented as the “emir” of the group of about a dozen youths, some of them born into Muslim families, and the others converts.

This took place in Chateauroux, a town in the centre-west of France, at an outdoor activities centre that was deserted in winter.

The “emir” was a young French-Turkish citizen named Oussama, and on their first meeting he tries to convince the journalist he knows as Abu Hamza, that paradise awaits him if he carries out a suicide mission.

“Towards paradise, that is the path,” Oussama says, a chilling smile on his face. “Come, brother, let’s go to paradise, our women are waiting for us there, with angels as servants.”

“You will have a palace, a winged horse of gold and rubies.”

During another meeting in front of a mosque in the Paris suburb of Stains, a member of the group points to an airplane approaching the nearby Bourget airport.

“With a little rocket-launcher, you can easily get one of them… you do something like that in the name of Dawla (Islamic State), and France will be traumatized for a century.”

Some of the gang, like Oussama, try and reach the Islamic State group in Syria. He was arrested by Turkish police and handed back to France where he spent five months in jail before being released.

While he had to show his face at the local police station once a day under his release conditions, he stayed in touch with the group via encrypted messaging application Telegram to organise meetings at which plans to launch an attack took form.

“We must hit a military base,” says Oussama. “When they are eating, they are all lined up … ta-ta-ta-ta-ta,” he added, mimicking the sound of automatic gunfire.

“Or journalists, BFM, iTele, they are at war against Islam,” he says of the prominent French television stations.

“Like they did to Charlie. You must strike them at the heart. Take them by surprise. What do you want them to do? They aren’t well protected. The French must die by the thousands.”

In January 2015 two brothers attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. Things accelerate when a certain Abu Suleiman returns from Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s capital in Syria and tells the journalist to meet him at a train station.

Once there, it is not Suleiman — who the journalist never meets — but a woman in a full-faced niqab veil who shows up and hands Ramzi a letter. The message lays out a plan of attack: target a night club, shoot ‘until death”,’ wait for security forces and set off an explosives vest.

However the security noose tightens around the group at this point, and several members of the group are arrested. One of them who avoided arrest sends a message to the journalist saying: “You’re done for man.”

“That is where my infiltration ended,” said Ramzi.

A Closer Look at Brussels Offers a More Nuanced View of Radicalization

BRUSSELS — Around the world, this city of great, if often ramshackle, charm has become Exhibit A in the case against immigration, particularly when it involves large numbers of Muslims.

Donald J. Trump called the Belgian capital “a hellhole,” while Lubomir Zaoralek, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, recently cited the city to explain why his and other Eastern European countries had steadfastly resisted a plan by the European Union to spread Syrian and other Muslim refugees around the Continent under a quota system.

“All the people in the Czech Republic and in other countries see what happened in Molenbeek,” he told a security conference in Slovakia over the weekend, referring to the Brussels borough where many of those involved in the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 and in Brussels on March 22 grew up.

A closer look at what has happened in Molenbeek and other heavily immigrant parts of Brussels, however, provides a far more nuanced picture than just a generation of badly integrated young Muslim immigrants running amok. In some ways, it debunks the view that Islam is a one-size-fits-all faith that fuels terrorism.

It is true that all those so far identified in connection with the Paris and Brussels carnage were young Muslims from immigrant families. But a more significant marker than their faith was their shared origin in North Africa, especially Morocco. None was from Brussels’ large community of Turks, who share the same religion and the same discrimination, as well as other hardships that are often cited as a root cause of jihadist rage against the West.

Brussels first became a magnet for Muslim immigrants in the 1960s, when the Belgian government eagerly invited workers from Morocco and Turkey to move to Belgium to take jobs in factories and mines. The two countries were regarded as generally pro-Western and full of poor and hard-working people eager for jobs in Europe, unlike many developing nations that at the time were frothing with rage at European colonialism and racked by conflict.

“You wish to come and work in Belgium? We Belgians are happy that you are coming to bring to our country the support of your strength and your intelligence,” read a message from the minister of labor posted at Belgium’s embassy and consulates in Morocco in 1964. Similar notices went up a year later in Turkey.

Together, Belgians of Moroccan and Turkish origin today account for the vast majority of the capital city’s Muslim population, and both groups are heir to a fairly relaxed form of Islam that has none of the reactionary dogmatism of Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states.

So how was it that some Moroccans became so angry, alienated and, in some cases, radicalized? “There is a malaise within the community of Moroccan origin,” the mayor of Molenbeek, Françoise Schepmans, said, dismissing arguments that terrorism is a byproduct of religious faith.

Left-wing politicians and community leaders, she said, had missed and amplified the trouble brewing in Molenbeek by treating young Belgian-Moroccans as victims who had no chance of succeeding. “There is a strong sentiment of victimhood,” she said, noting that “Turks have also endured discrimination but there is a force in their community.”

Much of this force comes from the Turkish state, which controls many of the mosques attended by Belgian-Turks and keeps a close eye on potentially wayward elements in the community through a well-established network of local leaders and imams who are trained in Turkey and then sent to Belgium at the government’s expense.

At a Turkish mosque in Molenbeek run by Diyanet, Turkey’s state-controlled religious affairs agency, the imam, who speaks only Turkish, expressed revulsion at the March attacks in Brussels and said that he and his worshipers never tolerate extremist views. He stressed that his congregants respect and follow the law.

Worshipers at a nearby Moroccan mosque angrily shooed away reporters, accusing them of fanning “Islamophobia” and stigmatizing their neighborhood as a haven of jihadists.

In contrast to Belgium’s Turks, the Moroccan community is far more divided and resistant to authority, in part because many of the early immigrants came from the Rif, a rebellious Berber-speaking region often at odds with the ruling monarchy in Morocco. “When emigration to Europe started, the king was happy to get rid of these people,” said Bachir M’Rabet, a youth worker of Moroccan descent in Molenbeek.

Another source of anger in his community, he added, is that many Turks often speak poor French and no Dutch, Belgium’s two main languages, and cling to their Turkish identity, while most Moroccans speak fluent French and aspire to be accepted fully as Belgians. This, he said, means that many Moroccans feel discrimination more acutely and, at least in the case of young men on the margins, tend to view even minor slights as proof that the entire system is against them.

Philippe Moureaux, who served for two decades as Molenbeek’s mayor, described this as “the paradox of integration.” A less-integrated Turkish community has resisted the promise of redemption through jihad offered by radical zealots. Yet, a Moroccan community that is more at home in French-speaking Brussels has seen some of its young fall prey to recruiters like Khalid Zerkani, a Moroccan-born petty criminal who became the Islamic State’s point man in Molenbeek.

“The Turks suffer much less from an identity crisis,” Mr. Moureaux said. “They are proud to be Turks and are much less tempted by extremism.”

Suspicion of and hostility toward authority, particularly the police force, run so deep among some North African immigrants in Molenbeek that when the police mobilized in the area this month to prevent a group of anti-immigrant right-wing hooligans from staging a rally, local youths, mostly young men of Moroccan descent, began hurling abuse and objects at the police.

Molenbeek immigrants of Turkish or other backgrounds generally have a less hostile view of the police. A Turkish shopkeeper who runs a general store near the police station said he feared not the police but aggressive North African youths who accuse him of being a bad Muslim because he sells alcohol. He noted that the youths steal, which is also forbidden.

Emir Kir, the Belgian-Turkish mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, a heavily immigrant Brussels borough that is worse off economically than Molenbeek, said the only Turk he knew about who had tried to go to Syria was a young man who had fallen in love with a girl of Moroccan descent. He got as far as Istanbul before being sent back. “This was a love affair, not an act of extremism,” he said.

Who Will Become a Terrorist? Research Yields Few Clues

WASHINGTON — The brothers who carried out suicide bombings in Brussels last week had long, violent criminal records and had been regarded internationally as potential terrorists. But in San Bernardino, Calif., last year, one of the attackers was a county health inspector who lived a life of apparent suburban normality.

And then there are the dozens of other young American men and women who have been arrested over the past year for trying to help the Islamic State. Their backgrounds are so diverse that they defy a single profile.

When researchers do come up with possible answers, the government often disregards them. Not long after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for instance, Alan B. Krueger, the Princeton economist, tested the widespread assumption that poverty was a key factor in the making of a terrorist. Mr. Krueger’s analysis of economic figures, polls, and data on suicide bombers and hate groups found no link between economic distress and terrorism.

More than a decade later, law enforcement officials and government-funded community groups still regard money problems as an indicator of radicalization.

Mississippi Woman Tied to Islamic State Group Pleads Guilty

In her farewell letter as she was leaving to join the Islamic State group, Jaelyn Young told her family she was guilty.

“I found the contacts, made arrangements, planned the departure,” prosecutors say she wrote last August. “I am guilty of what you soon will find out.”

Tuesday, she admitted the same to a federal judge in Aberdeen, Mississippi, pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock will sentence the 20-year-old Young at a later date. The former Mississippi State University student faces up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and lifetime probation.

Her fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla, pleaded guilty March 11 to a similar charge and also awaits sentencing.

Campaign Rhetoric on Muslims Harms U.S. Security Efforts: Homeland Security Chief

WASHINGTON — Harsh rhetoric about Muslims by Republican candidates in the U.S. presidential election campaign is undermining national security efforts, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday.

Asked about comments by Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Johnson told MSNBC in an interview that singling out a specific community hampers government efforts to build the connections needed to thwart possible attacks.

“Inflammatory comments about patrolling and securing Muslim neighbors or barring Muslims from entering this country, having an immigration policy based on religion, is counterproductive to our homeland security and national security interests,” he said.

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, called for police to patrol American Muslim neighborhoods following the Brussels bombings. Billionaire businessman Trump has continued his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The rhetoric has polarized the U.S. electorate and prompted criticism, particularly from Democrats, including President Barack Obama.

To catch a terrorist; no more waterboarding — period; a war on the Pentagon’s chief cost-cutter

CIA Director John Brennan told NBC News in an exclusive interview that his agency will not engage in harsh “enhanced interrogation” practices, including waterboarding, which critics call torture — even if ordered to by a future president.

“I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I’ve heard bandied about because this institution needs to endure,” Brennan said.

Dutch anti-terrorism police arrest suspect at France’s request

March 27, 2016

Dutch anti-terrorism police on Sunday arrested a 32-year-old man in Rotterdam on suspicion of preparing an attack on France and also detained three other people, national prosecutors said.

“French authorities on Friday requested the arrest of the French citizen, who had been identified in a terrorism investigation,” prosecutors said in a statement. He was suspected of “involvement in preparing a terrorist attack.”

The arrests were carried out by a specialized anti-terrorism police squad, and the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD and prosecutors also took part in the operation, prosecutors said. Two of the others detained were described as aged 43 and 47 and “having an Algerian background,” while the third had not yet been identified.

Police were searching two addresses in western Rotterdam associated with the suspect, and people living in nearby buildings had been evacuated as a precautionary measure, the prosecutors said. The suspect will be extradited to France as quickly as possible, they said.

The arrests came with Europe on heightened alert after Tuesday’s suicide bomb attacks at Brussels Airport and on a rush-hour metro train that killed 31 people, including three attackers, and injured hundreds more. Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve congratulated intelligence services’ work and the cooperation among European countries that he said helped thwart a potential attack in France.

Cazeneuve said their work helped result in a first arrest outside of Paris on Thursday, then another in Brussels on Saturday and a third in the Netherlands. “Intelligence services work relentlessly to protect our territory in a context of high threat,” Cazeneuve said in a statement.