By Jeremiah Marquez LOS ANGELES — An alleged plot targeting military facilities, synagogues and other Los Angeles-area sites has highlighted what experts say is a novel terrorist threat: homegrown American militants operating with little or no help from Islamic extremists abroad. Four suspects were charged last week with conspiring to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism. Named in the federal indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25; Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21; Hammad Riaz Samana, 21; and Kevin James, 29. All but Samana, a Pakistani national, are American-born and Muslim converts. Counterterrorism officials have found no evidence directly connecting the group–described as the cell of a California prison gang of radical Muslims–to Al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist networks. Law-enforcement officials and terrorism experts said it could represent one of the first Islamic terrorism cases involving U.S. natives without those connections. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, an international dragnet has broken up training camps, disrupted finances and sent terrorist leaders underground, making it all the more difficult for Al Qaeda to mount attacks. Yet despite tougher border control, a radical ideology shared by the terrorist network continues to seep into the United States through propaganda distributed via the Internet, books, pamphlets, DVDs and the media–a “passive recruiting strategy,” according to terrorism experts. That has helped transform Al Qaeda into a movement with disciples acting without funding, expertise or guidance from foreign handlers. “Al Qaeda can’t get their militants to the places they want to hit, so they rely on an ideology to gain converts who do it for them,” said professor Brian Levin, a terrorism researcher at California State University, San Bernardino. In the Southern California case, prosecutors say cell members largely supported themselves. Washington, Patterson and Samana allegedly robbed gas stations to finance their plans to target military sites, synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al airport counter in the Los Angeles area. Patterson purchased a .223-caliber rifle. Samana underwent “firearms training and physical training” at a local park, according to the indictment. They even conducted Internet research on potential targets and Jewish holidays–dates for which they allegedly planned the assaults to “maximize the number of casualties,” prosecutors said. Samana’s lawyer, Timothy Lannen, described his client in a statement as a “peace-loving, law-abiding member of our community” and said “he did not intend at any time to commit violence against anyone.” An attorney in Washington’s state robbery case had not reviewed the federal indictment and had no immediate comment. Patterson’s lawyer has said his client asked him not to comment. The plot’s suspected mastermind was James, a California State Prison, Sacramento, inmate who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, authorities said. Washington converted to Islam while imprisoned there for a previous robbery conviction. Self-made groups in the United States can be more difficult to root out because they’re smaller and have fewer financial resources to track, experts said. “They’re adopting the Al Qaeda agenda and philosophy and carrying out their own jihad,” said Oliver “Buck” Revell, a former FBI associate deputy director and counterterrorism chief. “Unfortunately, they may be successful because they’re extremely hard to detect.”
Female Muslim teachers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia will be banned from wearing hijab at schools from next summer, according to a German press report. Officials in the State told Wednesday’s edition of the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung that the hijab ban would take effect from August 2006, Reuters reported. “Female and male teachers are not allowed to express any world views or any religious beliefs, which could disturb or endanger the peace at school,” North Rhine-Westphalia schools minister Barbara Sommer said. “That’s why we want to forbid (female) Muslim teachers at state schools from wearing headscarves.” State officials maintained that the decision would be probed with the Muslim groups in the state. They denied that the hijab ban was targeting religious beliefs of the Muslim minority. Germany’s constitution obliges the states to maintain strict religious neutrality but it does not enshrine a formal separation of church and state. Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity. There are some 3.4 million Muslims in the country, including 220,000 in Berlin, and Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority. Controversy The hijab ban in schools has been a controversial issue in Germany for several years. The superior administrative court of Bremen ruled Monday, August 29, to ban a Muslim teacher from teaching in schools for her refusal to take off her hijab. Germany’s highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in 2003 that Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing hijab in the classroom. But it said Germany’s 16 regional states could issue new legislations to ban it if they believe hijab would influence children. The states of Hamburg, Mechlenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thuringen still allow teachers to wear hijab. The state of Hessen also made amendments to its school laws, banning teachers from wearing any symbols of religious or political nature while allowing them a limited right to put on Christian or western symbols. In Bavaria, laws were enforced in 2004 banning teachers from wearing religious symbols that are not harmonious with Christian cultural values. The state of Brandenburg made the same amendments in 2003. Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations – unlike the symbolic Christian crucifixes or Jewish Kappas. France spearheaded anti-hijab European countries with its lower house of parliament adopting the controversial bill on February 10 last year with an overwhelming majority. The text, put forward by President Jacques Chirac’s ruling center-right Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) party and supported by the left-wing opposition Socialists, was adopted by a vote of 494 to 36. Shortly afterwards, other European countries followed the French lead. The French ban, described by international rights watchdogs as amounting to religious discrimination, prompted demonstrations across Europe. International figures also stood behind the Muslim right, including London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Paris’s move is an anti-Muslim measure and accused Chirac plays a terribly, terribly dangerous game.
London: Scouts in Britain now no longer have to invoke ‘God’ or the ‘Queen’ in their pledges of allegiance. Muslims can swear by Allah, Hindu’s by Dharma and even Republican’s can dump the Monarch in favour of the State, keeping in mind the increasing ethnic membership of the body. According to The Sun, latest guideline state that,”Scouting is available to all faiths and, therefore, must take account of the different religious obligations of its members”. However, not all are impressed by the development, with Labour MP Stephen Pound, chairman of the parliamentary scout group of the opinion that it would prove to be contradictory to the basic idea of scouting.
Authors: Jocelyne Cesari and Peter DeWan
This first report presents the state of the art of the situation of Muslims in Europe. The socio-economic marginality, the legal status of religions, the recognition of multiculturalism, the immigration laws, all dimensions that shape the condition of Muslims in Europe have been modified by the security policies of post 9/11. We will also draw the outlines for the next steps in the research.
MARSEILLE, France (AFP) – In a major broadside, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin rejected a senior government minister’s idea of using state funds to build mosques and train Islamic religious leaders. Chirac obliquely accused his arch rival – Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to seek his job in the 2007 presidential election – of trying to “open up a new and pointless debate in France on topics that enjoy consensus.” Raffarin said for the government to get mixed up in religion in any way would undermine the very foundations of the French republic, which is based on a strict separation of church and state.
By Thomas Calinon It is perhaps the end of an old alarm. After two decades of reflection, including four years of impassioned debates, the first stone of the large mosque of Strasbourg was placed Friday, during Ramadan, in muddy ground near the downtown area. “It is time!” said the mayor of Strasbourg, Fabienne Keller, as the ceremony of more than 500 faithful Moslems concluded with “Allah Akbar!”. The event included representatives of the four faiths (Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran and Jew) recognized by the right of Alsace-Moselle, which excuses Alsace from the law on separation of Church and State since 1905.
PARIS: France’s Finance Minister, a presidential hopeful, says mosques need state funding and it is time to modernise a century-old law banning financing for religious groups, newspapers report. Nicolas Sarkozy, in a new book that hit the shelves yesterday, says extremism is festering in underground mosques and Islamic groups do not have money to build houses of worship, according to excerpts published in French newspapers. “What is dangerous is not minarets, but caves and garages that keep clandestine religious groups hidden,” he says in the book, The Republic, Religions, Hope, Le Monde newspaper reported. Unlike Jewish and Christian groups with a history in France, Islam is relatively new here and needs a helping hand, he says.
Sorbonne: Salle Louis Liard 17 rue de la Sorbonne, 75005 Paris
European Muslims and the Secular State in a Comparative Perspective
NOCRIME CONFERENCE – Organized with the Sponsorship of the European Commission (DG Research)
MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2003
I. Modes of Interaction in Non-Muslim Societies
President Patrick Michel CNRS/CERI, EHESS, France
Discussant: Tuula Sakaranaho University of Helsinki, Finland
II. Muslim Leadership and Institutional Constraints in Europe
President Jean-Paul Willaime EPHE, Director of GSRL (CNRS-EPHE), France
Discussant: Martin Van Bruinessen ISIM, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
TUESDAY, JULY 1, 2003
III. Religious Authorities in the Global Era: Ethnicity and Diasporas
President Sami Zemni University of Ghent, Belgium
Discussant: Jonathan Friedman EHESS, France
IV. Islam and European Urban Life
President: Tariq Ramadan University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Discussant: Jose Casanova New School University, USA