French Army Asks Citizens To Enlist–But No Muslim Headscarves

After the July 14 terrorist attack in Nice, the French interior minister called on “all willing French patriots” to help defend the country by volunteering for the military’s reserves.

Two sisters, Majda and Amina Belaroui, French Muslims of Moroccan heritage, heeded the call in the aftermath of the Bastille Day attack, when a Tunisian truck driver mowed down crowds of spectators, killing 84 and wounding hundreds.

Majda, 21, and Amina, 24, are both university students who live in Nice, on the French Riviera. They pair French fashion with traditional Muslim dress, sporting wide-brimmed sun hat and headscarf ensembles.

The Monday morning following the attack, the third major terrorist rampage in the past 18 months, young men and high school boys trickled through the gates of Nice’s military recruitment center. So did Majda. Wearing a hat and headscarf, she walked past soldiers guarding the gate with weapons across their chests.

She was there to sign up for the “operational reserves,” comprising both former soldiers and civilians with no military background. She wasn’t interested in holding a gun. She just wanted to see how she could help, and set an example as a Muslim amid the growing fears over radical Islam.

“I want to show,” she said, “that I am not like that.”

The receptionist told her she must take off her hijab to enter the recruitment center.

French law prohibits people from displaying their religion in government-run buildings, including public schools, to maintain secularism in the public sphere. It’s a fundamental tenet of the country, stretching back more than a century as part of an effort to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church. But the old concept of secularism is now rubbing up against France’s new efforts to integrate its Muslim population, the largest in Europe.

France has succeeded, in many cases. In Nice, Muslims are an integral part of the landscape. They, too, were on the promenade watching fireworks along with their French compatriots on Bastille Day, the most French day of the year, when the crowd came under attack. Nearly a third of the victims of the attack were Muslims, according to a Muslim community group.

But some Muslims in France believe prohibitions against wearing religious clothing in government venues are actually targeted specifically at them, sending a message that Muslim culture is unwelcome in France.

“Although France has managed to integrate many immigrants and their descendants, those it has left on the sidelines are more embittered than their British or German peers, and many feel insulted in their Muslim or Arab identity,” sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar wrote recently in The New York Times. “Laïcité, France’s staunch version of secularism, is so inflexible it can appear to rob them of dignity.”

It poses a dilemma for people like the Belaroui sisters, who want to stay true to both flag and faith.

Minutes after entering the recruitment center, Majda walked out, unwilling to remove her hijab when asked.

“If I weren’t Muslim, I think I would be so afraid of these people,” she said, referring to Muslims. That’s precisely why she came to volunteer, hijab proudly wrapped around her head.

“For me, it’s discouraging. We want to show that we are against this violence,” she said, adding, “We are demotivated.”

Her sister, Amina, a third-year engineering student, faced the same difficult decision.

Amina had already been to the recruitment center a week prior to the Nice attack and went back again, by herself, more determined following the attack.

Both times, she agreed to take off her hijab in front of the uniformed men, though she really didn’t want to. She said it felt like undressing in public.

“I think the ends justify the means. That’s why I took it off,” Amina said in her flawless English. “I really want to commit and help people, and also try to give another image of Muslim girls, and Muslims in general.”

Anger is boiling over in Nice, which leans conservative. At the memorial ceremony for the victims, some residents argued with Muslim citizens. In the days after the attack, some in the city voiced their support for the National Front, France’s far-right political party, which has used anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Amina hopes joining the military reserves while she finishes her engineering degree can help change minds in France. Or, at the very least, it can help change the minds of French Muslim girls like her.

“Maybe it will encourage other girls to do something they didn’t think they could do before,” she said. “Maybe it will change things.”

NYPD working to increase ranks of Muslims in department

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department is working to recruit more Muslims, and is asking for help within the community to better refine outreach aimed at stifling the lure of overseas terror groups, officials said Monday.
Right now, there are about 800 Muslim uniformed police officers out of about 35,000, according to the NYPD Muslim Officers Society. Of those, only about 20 are higher ranked officials. Lt. Adeel Rana, commanding officer of the community affairs immigration outreach unit, said there has been a slow increase over the past decade, but it has been rapidly changing in the past year and a half.

ISIS Recruitments shifts from online to the ground networks

Sources from the Guardian claim that the counter-terror police’s strategy in severing online networks has led to recruitment being shifted to the ground. Extremist preachers in mosques, particularly from Cardiff and Birmingham where men have travelled to Syria to fight, are a growing concern inside the Muslim community.

A 19 year-old ISIS supporter – who states that he is not based in the UK but still within Europe – has said to the Guardian, “We’re really excited to come in and join the khilafah. I know many brothers who have said the recruitment has been booming ever since the announcement [of the caliphate’s establishment] was made because this is what all these groups fought for years and years.” He argues that the UK in particular has been targeted due to its large minority of Salafis.

Update: Coverage of Dutch Citizens’ Traveling to Fight in Syria

July 7, 2014

The head of the Hague-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism has recommended that the Dutch security service provide more information to local authorities and civil servants, increasing transparency to build trust within families and with authorities. He discourages the use of “tough talk” from politicians and families for its potential to intensify matters. The recommendations come as mayors of eight Dutch cities and three Belgian cities meet with the Dutch counter-terrorism service to discuss how to deal with citizens returning from Syria.

Also in the news, the Mayor of the Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, announced that seven people from the city have been killed in Syria. 33 people have travelled to Syria from the city so far: of them six have returned, four have been arrested, three minors have been prevented from travel and three passports have been confiscated.

And the Volkskrant has updated coverage on the 15 year old girl from the Netherlands who was stopped in Germany last month on her way to Syria, reporting she was one of four or five minors from the country planning to make the trip together. She is currently being questioned – police spokesman Thomas Aling notes, “She is not in a cell and she is not a suspect. She is a witness and has been given a lawyer via the child protection council.”

Spanish Police Break Up Alleged Jihadist Recruitment Network: Suspected Leader is Former Detainee at Guantanamo Bay

June 16, 2014

Spanish police broke up what they said was a jihadist recruitment network in Madrid, led by a former detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, that sent volunteers to fight in Syria and Iraq with al Qaeda-inspired rebels.

Police detained nine people who allegedly fought alongside the Sunni militia Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, officials said. A person familiar with the probe said the suspected leader of the network is Lahcen Ikassrien, Moroccan by birth and nationalized Spanish. He spent four years at Guantanamo after he was captured in 2001 in Afghanistan, where he allegedly fought with the Taliban. He has denied being a Taliban member.

In Spain, Mr. Ikassrien has been a prominent voice for the closure of the Guantanamo camp, giving numerous interviews with local media and taking part in human-rights events organized by Amnesty International, according to Fernando Reinares, an expert in terrorism at Spain’s Elcano Royal Institute, a think tank.

“This detention comes to show that the idea many had, that the jihadists in Syria and elsewhere are a new generation that has no connection with the previous 9/11 generation, is completely false,” Mr. Reinares said. “What we see in fact, is that many of that older generation are now in leading positions all over the jihadist movement.”

Several dozen Islamist operatives have been arrested in Spain over the past two years, many of whom were recruited online.

The “hawala” a method of financing terrorism moves 300 million Euros in Spain

April 4, 2014

 

The ‘ hawala ‘ is an opaque and easy way to send money to any corner of the world. A system that can move 100,000 USD per day and is based on the relationship of trust between the partners in the chain of money delivery. Confidentiality and opacity have made it one of the methods of financing terrorist Jihadi groups. In fact, the ‘ hawala ‘ has been linked to the recruitment or movement of funds from organizations linked to Al Qaeda, such as the Al Qaeda for the Islamic Maghreb.
In Spain and Portugal an organization that allegedly laundered funds for this transfer system was dismantled resulting in at least 18 detainees linked to an organization that allegedly provided services to drug traffickers.

 

La informacion: http://noticias.lainformacion.com/policia-y-justicia/narcotrafico/detenidas-18-personas-de-una-organizacion-que-blanqueaba-dinero-de-otras-redes-criminales-con-metodo-hawala_8rgbrocLCshl7OjavOk9F5/

http://noticias.lainformacion.com/policia-y-justicia/terrorismo/el-hawala-que-mueve-300-millones-en-espana-una-forma-de-financiar-el-terrorismo_Ejl198nENXuetUwnjoshw4/

French parents alone against Syria jihad recruiters

March 21, 2014

 

When Dominique Bons’ timid son stopped smoking overnight and started praying frequently at his home in the southern French city of Toulouse, she alerted the authorities.

They did nothing because Nicolas was not suspected of any crime. One day last year he disappeared. Then Bons was sent a text message saying the 30-year-old had been “martyred” on December 22 driving a truck bomb in the Syrian city of Homs.

He grew up in a middle class suburb to atheist parents but converted to Islam in 2009. Like his younger half-brother who died in Syria months earlier, he joined the al Qaeda splinter group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

They are among a growing number of people, an estimated 2,000 so far, who have left Europeans states to fight alongside Islamist rebels in Syria to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Europe’s authorities are struggling to stem the flow.

Bons is angry that her efforts to alert the government to a potential problem were ignored and is also convinced that the strategy of France and other European countries of jailing those caught trying to get to Syria makes the situation worse.

“It’s crazy,” said Bons, a retired military secretary who has set up a support group for parents of children who have been radicalized. “In jail they will be reinforced in their desire to go back to Syria… It seems like they (the government) are doing whatever they can to ensure that this continues.”

In March, three men aged 21 to 26 were arrested at an airport in eastern France for sentenced to between two and six years for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts.

The population of French prisons is estimated to be up to 70 percent Muslim. Moderate preachers employed by the state are lacking, so a void is filled by untrained imams who preach a Salafist or hardline form of Islam and hatred of the West.

 

THERAPY OVER JAIL

For Europeans, travelling to Syria is a cheap flight to Turkey and a quick trip over the border, so the problem is one faced by many countries.

Most Europeans fighting in Syria join the Nusra Front or ISIL, the two militant opposition groups that are closest to al Qaeda and considered most dangerous by the West.

French volunteers have formed a fighting brigade within the Nusra Front, radio station RFI reported, made up of more than one hundred soldiers with the main rallying point the fact they can communicate in French and not in Arabic.

Between 600 and 700 French nationals or residents are believed to have volunteered for fighting or were involved in recruitment for Syria.

As in France, many European governments take a tough line, sending suspects to jail or making it more difficult to come home. Britain has said it would consider stripping the citizenship of dual nationals who tried to return after fighting in Syria.

Bons wants to see softer touches involving therapy to stop them becoming radicalized but this is rare.

“The problem is that the government thinks all these kids are potential Merahs,” Bons said. “What’s needed is some way to treat them in advance, to do preventative work with the help of psychiatrists and experts in the problem.”

France has said it will set up a hotline for families to alert local authorities if they detect signs their children are becoming radical.

 

RECRUITMENT

A French judge said last month when the first wave of volunteers returns home they step up recruitment and that is partly why the numbers are growing.

Bons does not know who persuaded her sons to go and fight but suspects it was through someone Nicolas met in Les Izards, the suburb where Merah spent much of his childhood, an overwhelmingly immigrant area unlike where they grew up.

Toulouse, as well as Nice, Strasbourg and Paris, are thought to be fertile recruiting grounds. Two teenagers from the city were placed under formal investigation for conspiracy to commit terrorism in late January for trying to get to Syria, and several others have been arrested.

After a video was published where Nicolas appeared clutching a Koran and Kalashnikov rifle in July 2013, calling on President Francois Hollande to convert to Islam and urging others to join the fight, Bons instantly became the face of jihadism in France. He and his brother were on the front page of several newspapers. Dominique said her son looked like a different person in the video “like someone possessed”, whereas before he had been timid.

 

UNSYMPATHETIC

Bons said despite alerting the authorities of her concerns, she has had very little help from the state.

After Nicolas left for Syria in early 2013, Bons wrote to Hollande asking for help to bring him home. The presidency told her it had transferred her request to the interior and justice ministries, but no action was taken.

“At this point, as a parent, you are totally on your own, you have no idea where to turn,” she said.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said in January that the government planned to set up a hotline for families.

“Families must be on alert for certain behaviors,” he told parliament in January. “We’ll need to come up with ways involving local officials and mayors for these families to alert our services.”

For Bons the worst part is that it is proving difficult to bring the body back for burial in France. She says the French authorities have been unsympathetic and the situation is complex because France has broken off diplomatic relations with Syria.

A few other parents have reached out but most are ashamed. In the absence of support from the authorities, Bons and others parents have set up support groups. Hers is called “Syrien ne bouge, agissons” a play on the word “Syrian” in French which translates to “If nothing is changing, let’s act”.

In Belgium the “Concerned Parents Collective” aims to stop teens leaving the country. In the eastern French town of Strasbourg a loose-knit group of moderate Muslim associations protested in January under the banner “Hands off our children”.

As part of its counter-terrorism strategy, Britain runs a program called “Channel”, which is designed to provide support to “individuals vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremists”, involving police, schools, social workers and other figures from local communities.

Other non-governmental community organizations, such as London-based Active Change Foundation, also run projects to deal with violent extremism and terrorist recruitment.

Bons said she had been contacted by other parents of young jihadis, including a mother in Nice and the group in Belgium. They agree that European governments needed to find better ways to fight radicalism of their children.

“The mothers are on the front line,” Bons said. “There are fathers, too, of course. But mothers will stop at nothing.”

 

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-france-syria-20140321,0,2183507,full.story

Seven-year sentence for Laurel man who tried to join up with al-Shabab terrorist group

January13, 2014

 

A 26-year-old Laurel man was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison after he admitted traveling to Africa to try to join the terrorist group al-Shabab and trashing his home computer so federal investigators could not track him, authorities said.
Craig Baxam was arrested by Kenyan authorities in December 2011, and he soon told FBI agents of his haphazard plan to elude them and connect with al-Shabab because he wanted to live somewhere that rigorously adhered to sharia, or Islamic, law, court papers say. He pleaded guilty to a charge of destroying records that might be used in a terrorism investigation and received the seven-year sentence as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, authorities said.

Federal investigators have long worked to root out so-called homegrown terror suspects, and Special Agent Stephen E. Vogt, who heads the FBI’s Baltimore division, said in a statement that Baxam’s case “highlights the FBI’s highest investigative priority, the prevention of terrorist acts.” But the resolution of the case seems to demonstrate that Baxam did not precisely fit the bill of a would-be terrorist.

Baxam was not convicted of the initial charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, and his attorney, Linda Moreno, said he never advocated specific violence, nor did he procure weapons or attend any terrorist training camps.
A 2005 graduate of Laurel High School who was born in Takoma Park, Baxam had experience in the Army and admitted to investigators that he was willing to commit violence, according to the criminal complaint against him. But he said that he felt offensive jihad was questionable, and his main use for violence would be to defend al-Shabab’s Somali territories from potential invaders, according to the complaint.

Moreno said that the violence he spoke of was only hypothetical, “based on interviews with the FBI where the FBI asked him what if this happened, what if that happened, what if the following.”

“Craig wanted to live and practice his religion in a country where he felt that Muslims were not oppressed,” Moreno said. “This was not a terrorism case.”

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/seven-year-sentence-for-laurel-man-who-tried-to-join-up-with-al-shabaab-terrorist-group/2014/01/13/539c5d8a-7c80-11e3-95c6-0a7aa80874bc_story.html

The sons of Muslim immigrants are targets for Jihadist recruitment in Spain

November 28, 2013

 

“They live in a permanent schizophrenia. At home they are criticized because they are westernized and on the street they do not feel integrated. ” It ‘s the definition that Army Captain Julian Holguin applies to the second generation of Muslims that are socially vulnerable and in danger of falling into jihadi networks.

He describes the frustration of these teenagers after the study he carried out in Murcia on the risk of radicalization of children of Moroccan immigrants.

The result of this survey, which has sampled 92 young people from 18 years , is that 6.5 % of respondents showed high risk of jihadist radicalization by a number of factors: social frustration, identity crisis, impulse, school failure and the lack of job prospects. When these circumstances occur there is a high risk of being recruited by Islamist groups. “They have experienced school failure, can not find a job and a sense of creeping political alienation . If you are captured by recruiters, they will come with the message that the West is against Islam and they see the war on terrorism as a battle against their religion.

 

Te Interessa: http://www.teinteresa.es/espana/inmigrantes-caldo-cultivo-yihad-Espana_0_1037897574.html

Dutch Woman Arrested for “Recruiting Syria Jihadists”

media_xll_177628822 July 2013

 

A 19 year old woman suspected of recruiting individuals to fight in Syria has been arrested in the Netherlands. Police arrested the woman in the city of Zoetermeer, and she is to be remanded for two weeks while an investigation is underway.

Oum Usama is a Dutch national of Somali origin. The arrest appears to be in part precipitated by complaints of several parents of Dutch Muslims who have traveled to Syria. The complaints name those who are allegedly enlisting fighters, whom AD alleges hold ideological motivations. The woman remains in custody and has not commented through a lawyer, and the Public Prosecutor declines to offer further information regarding the charges or alleged recruitment activities.

Oum Usama’s arrest led to protest online and small demonstrations outside of Dutch embassies in the UK and Germany. The website “True Religion” published a letter warning of potential consequences for the arrest. It remains unclear who is behind the campaign. The National Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the Netherlands says that it remains aware of the situation but as yet sees no reason to take action.

There is growing concern in the Netherlands about Dutch Muslims being enlisted to fight in Syria. A study by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London stated that at least 107 Dutch nationals were fighting in Syria. Public prosecutors have said that while authorities cannot stop would be fighters from leaving the country, they can combat recruitment, which is against the law and carries a sentence of up to four years in jail or a fine of 78,000 Euros.

Amsterdam lawyer Bart Nooitgedagt says such cases are difficult to prove and there have been no successful prosecutions of Muslims on recruitment charges to date.