Human Rights Watch criticizes France’s counterterrorism bill

Counter-terrorism legislation proposed by the French government will “normalize abusive practices,” undermine personal freedoms, and may fuel prejudice against the Muslim minority, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

A bill presented last week would enshrine curbs on fundamental rights in law if approved by parliament, the rights group said.

Newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron wants the legislation to replace temporary emergency powers in place since Islamist militants attacked Paris in 2015.

 “Instead of truly ending France’s 19-month temporary state of emergency, the government is making some of its far-reaching powers permanent, but with little effective court oversight,” HRW’s Kartik Raj said.

“France needs to find a way to end its state of emergency without normalizing abusive practices.”

France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority, has grappled with a response to homegrown jihadists and foreign militants following attacks that have killed more than 230 people since early 2015.

The draft bill envisages extending police powers to stop and search people or conduct house searches. The law would also give officials more discretion in deciding when to invoke a risk of terrorism as justification for curbs on freedoms.

Mr. Macron has assured the European Court of Human Rights the legislation would respect public freedoms.

“As the text stands, it [the law] could, for instance, be used arbitrarily to prohibit any meeting at which ideas or theological concepts associated with conservative interpretations of Islam, such as Salafism, are expressed regardless of whether there is any demonstrable connection to criminal activity,” HRW said.

“Poorly worded laws that are likely to lead to closing solely Muslim places of worship may also help feed anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice prevalent in wider society,” it said.

Several mosques have been shut temporarily under the state of emergency, imposed after Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in a concert hall and restaurants and bars in Paris in November 2015.

IS and its media: Calling all suicide bombers

The media is playing its part in today’s horror as “Islamic State” showcases its terrorists in magazines, videos and on the Internet to recruit new members. Joseph Croitoru examines how IS strategy has developed and evolved

The radio station operated by the terrorist militia “Islamic State”, which has been broadcasting regularly for the past few months in English, French, Russian, Turkish and Kurdish, is called “Al-Bayan”. The Arabic term succinctly reveals the group’s agenda, conjoining modernity and tradition to connote both an “announcement” and also spreading the word of the Koran.

The daily Arabic news programme, around seven minutes long and consisting mostly of war reporting, has followed the same pattern for months. A brief rendition of a jihadist song (nasheed), which praises the Islamic Umma (world community) and continues in the background as the news is read, is followed by reports of “successful” suicide attacks by IS members.

The radical Sunni station refers to them by the term “amaliya istishhadiya” (martyrdom operations), originally popularised by the Shia arch-enemies who are today at war with the IS: the pro-Iranian Hezbollah introduced the term in the 1980s.

The IS terrorist militia lets it be known that its suicide martyrs – “Istishhadiyin” – are deployed both offensively and defensively. Sometimes their bombs clear the way for combat troops to follow, or the bombers detonate armoured vehicles laden with explosives to slow down the advancing enemy.

To make sure daily messages from “Al-Bayan” like these do not get lost in the constant stream of information, the IS website periodically features a special report on its suicide bombings – a diagram for example shows 65 such attacks during October in Iraq and Syria.

Twenty-minute “martyr” farewells

Checking the veracity of such information is not easy, not least because the Arab media use various names for the suicide operations of the IS, which are in fact very numerous. What is striking is that the term “suicide” is always included, in pointed emphasis of the fact that this form of terrorism violates Islam′s prohibition of suicide, something Islamists like to gloss over.

For the media staging of its suicide bombers, the IS likes to make use of a genre already established three decades ago, perpetuating their deeds individually on video or at least in an extended photo sequence. But the competition is watching: rival terrorist militias, in particular the Syrian “Nusra Front”, which is linked to al-Qaida, is also very productive in this respect.

Farewell image of an IS suicide bomber (source:donotgothere.org)

The macabre and the mundane: “suicide attackers should raise their right hand with a pointing index finger at some point during the farewell video – signalling the number one, a symbol for the unity of Islamic faith and the unity of the jihadists. The Palestinian Hamas popularised this gesture years ago, but not wanting to be linked with the IS under any circumstances, they have now reverted to the traditional victory sign,” writes Croitoru

Such rivalry has occasionally prompted farewell videos to swell to lengths of up to twenty minutes. Usually, the reading of the “will”, which often segues into a hate sermon, is followed by a farewell scene as the perpetrator climbs into the vehicle and drives off to launch the attack.  The final chord is then struck with the explosion scene, which is often shown repeatedly.

The pointing index finger is mandatory

Lately, however, the videos bidding farewell to IS suicide bombers have become noticeably shorter, probably due to their great proliferation. The bombers are still permitted to appear before the camera as individuals wearing their own, very diverse, clothing. But they are clearly asked to play it up a bit.

An underage Arab, for example, holding a small Koran in his hand on his way to blowing himself up with belt full of explosives, acts the role of the devout and contemplative believer before uttering a torrent of jihadist slogans and threats. For a Tajik car bomber, by contrast, two sentences in broken Arabic must suffice, muttered out of the window of his prepared tank car, before he proceeds to his death.

Recently it has apparently been decided that suicide attackers should raise their right hand with a pointing index finger at some point during the farewell video – signalling the number one, a symbol for the unity of Islamic faith and the unity of the jihadists. The Palestinian Hamas popularised this gesture years ago, but not wanting to be linked with the IS under any circumstances, they have now reverted to the traditional victory sign.

Welcome to the “caliphate”

The IS also glorifies its death terrorists in four non-Arabic magazines. Probably the best known among them is the English “Dabiq”, named for a town in northern Syria where the doomsday battle will ostensibly take place against the “infidels”. The magazine evokes apocalyptic themes and a supposed global war of civilisations, which the IS claims to be spearheading on the Muslim side.

Again and again, the suicide attack is highlighted as the preferred weapon, as it also is in the French counterpart “Dar Al-Islam” (House or Dominion of Islam), a magazine designed to teach Francophone Muslims where they supposedly truly belong. They are especially welcome to take part in the IS “caliphate” as suicide soldiers: by the third of six issues of “Dar al-Islam” currently published, a death driver from France was already being extolled, sitting at the wheel of his vehicle and smiling.

Similar to “Dar Al-Islam”, the latest, third issue of the Turkish IS magazine, “Konstantinyye”, features on its cover a massive explosion, under the heading “Martyrdom operations are allowed and legitimate”.

Cover of the IS Turkish magazine "Konstantiniyye"

Dead end: IS also glorifies the role played by its suicide bombers in four non-Arabic publications. “Konstantiniyyee”, published for the Turkish market, emphasises that “martyrdom operations are allowed and legitimate”

Ataturk denigrated as an idol

The magazine’s title was chosen cleverly, because “Konstantiniyye” is the Ottoman name for Istanbul, thus recalling the Islamic conquest of Byzantine Constantinople and its conversion into the capital of the Ottoman Caliphate. The publishers thus echo the way Erdogan’s AKP has glorified this victory over the East Roman Christian Byzantine Empire in its neo-Ottoman discourse for the past several years. Ataturk is however consistently vilified in “Konstantiniyye” as a “kafir” (infidel) and “tagut” (idol).

This division between good and evil also colours the rhetoric of the Russian IS periodical, “Istok” (source, origin), in which suicide attacks are likewise a featured theme. The decision by Russian, Caucasian and Central Asian sympathisers to carry out an “Istishhad Operacja” is not only exalted here as the culmination of an almost mystical enlightenment – to dispel any last doubts, it is interwoven with the narrative of an intimate camaraderie, which these non-Arab mujahedeen then believe to be typical of IS.

Joseph Croitoru

© Qantara.de 2015

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

Suicide Bomber in Syria Was U.S. Citizen, Officials Say

May 29, 2014

WASHINGTON — A United States citizen working in Syria with a militant group backed by Al Qaeda conducted a suicide bombing there Sunday, in what is believed to be the first time an American has been involved in such an attack, American officials said Wednesday.

The suicide attack first surfaced on Tuesday in Twitter messages from the Nusra Front, an Islamist extremist group in Syria aligned with Al Qaeda in the fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because intelligence matters were involved, declined to identify the American or provide any information about him. NBC News first reported that American government officials had confirmed the bomber was an American.

Syrian activists and jihadist social media sites reported that the American went by the name Abu Huraira al-Amriki and carried out the suicide truck bombing in the northern province of Idlib.

Islamic extremist groups in Syria with ties to Al Qaeda have been trying to identify, recruit and train Americans and other Westerners who have traveled there to get them to carry out attacks when they return home, according to senior American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

These efforts, which the officials say are in the early stages, are the latest challenge that the conflict in Syria has created, not just for Europe but for the United States. The civil war has become a magnet for Westerners seeking to fight with the rebels against the Assad government.

American intelligence and counterterrorism officials say more than 70 Americans have traveled to Syria, mainly to fight for one of the hundreds of rebel groups combating the Assad government. The F.B.I., C.I.A., National Counterterrorism Center and Homeland Security Department recently created a special team of analysts to try to prevent the American jihadists from returning home undetected.

An American suicide bomber in Syria is a “potential game changer,” said Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.

Last year, another American, Eric G. Harroun, a former Army soldier from Phoenix, was indicted in Virginia by a federal grand jury on charges related to allegations that he had fought alongside members of the Nusra Front. In September, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge involving conspiracy to transfer defense articles and services, and was released from custody.  Mr. Harroun’s family posted a notice on his Facebook page last month saying that he had died, apparently from an accidental overdose.

Other American citizens or residents have been detained before they arrived in Syria.  Basit Javed Sheikh, 29, of Cary, N.C., was arrested in November 2013 for trying to provide material support to the Nusra Front as he was trying to board a series of flights to join the group, American authorities said.

Canadian woman runs safe house for Al Qaeda suicide bombers

The Toronto Star – July 12, 2012

 

A Canadian woman at the centre of Somalia’s Al Qaeda is known among the intelligence agencies that track her and the foreign militants who praise her simply as “Mama Shabab.” It is an honorific title for former Toronto resident Fadumo Jama, who intelligence agencies allege is the den mother of al Shabab who runs a safe house for Western fighters recruited into the militant Islamic organization.

While she moves frequently, using forged passports from African countries, it is believed she has operated a home in the Somali town of Merca for at least four years and has supported American and European recruits in the weeks before their suicide bombing missions. Jama is a well-known figure to intelligence agencies in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Somalia, yet her name does not appear in any public documents and she has not been charged. Her role facilitating Western recruits exemplifies the increasing importance of women to the Shabab — although her position of authority is rare, as most females are recruited only as wives for the fighters or suicide bombers. Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Richard Fadden told a Senate committee earlier this year that this was an emerging trend.

Two young Toronto women raised in Canada after their parents fled Somalia when the government collapsed two decades ago were among those reportedly lured into the group last year, defying their families and flying to Kenya’s capital before crossing the border.

Book – Europe’s Angry Muslims: The Revolt of The Second Generation

Bombings in London, riots in Paris, terrorists in Germany, fury over mosques, veils and cartoons–such headlines underscore the tensions between Muslims and their European hosts. Did too much immigration, or too little integration, produce Muslim second-generation anger? Is that rage imported or spawned inside Europe itself? What do the conflicts between Muslims and their European hosts portend for an America encountering its own angry Muslims?
Europe’s Angry Muslims traces the routes, expectations and destinies of immigrant parents and the plight of their children, transporting both the general reader and specialist from immigrants’ ancestral villages to their strange new-fangled enclaves in Europe. It guides readers through Islamic nomenclature, chronicles the motive force of the Islamist narrative, offers them lively portraits of jihadists (a convict, a convert, and a community organizer) takes them inside radical mosques and into the minds of suicide bombers. The author interviews former radicals and security agents, examines court records and the sermons of radical imams and draws on a lifetime of personal experience with militant movements to present an account of the explosive fusion of Muslim immigration, Islamist grievance and second-generation alienation.
Robert Leiken shines an unsentimental and yet compassionate light on Islam’s growing presence in the West, combining in-depth reporting with cutting-edge and far-ranging scholarship in an engaging narrative that is both moving and mordant. Leiken’s nuanced and authoritative analysis–historical, sociological, theological and anthropological–warns that “conflating rioters and Islamists, folk and fundamentalist Muslims, pietists and jihadis, immigrants and their children is the method of strategic incoherence–‘in the night all cats are black.'”

The female Islamic guerrilla deemed unworthy of Jihad: The Debate

In the aftermath of the Moscow events, a debate on the role of Muslim women as suicide bombers is taking place on the Internet. Many religious authorities around the world have been interrogated on the matter, giving different and interesting answers. Some, although recognizing the possibility at a theoretical level, end up denying woman’s participation to such activities for practical reasons, as it would imply promiscuity which is forbidden in the Quran: women should only offer financial support to mujaheddin or send their brothers, sons or husbands instead. Others accept female suicide bombers but specify the differences in terms of the heavenly recompense. A woman, in fact, won’t receive the 72 brides promised to male martyrs; rather, if married, she will wait the reunion with her husband and if unmarried, she will be assigned to a man already in Heaven. With the blessing of gender equality!!

British Muslim organization rules suicide bombings un-Islamic through Fatwa

The British Muslim organisation Minhaj ul-Qur’an has released the globally first fatwa ruling
suicide bombings and terrorism prohibited and entirely un-Islamic. The author of the fatwa, Muslim scholar Dr Muhammed Tahir ul-Qadri, is the founder of the increasingly influential Minhaj ul-Quran movement. It is based on Sufi principles and in Britain, it advises the government on combating the radicalization of Muslim youth, while the organisation is not government funded.

The fatwa condemns terrorist acts in the name of Islam and uses evidence from the Qur’an and other Islamic writings to prove that suicide bombers are destined for hell, countering the Islamist view that they would enter heaven, as suggested in many Saudi-Arabian fatwas. It leaves no room for interpretation and does away with the myth of martyrdom of suicide bombers.

In December, the 600-page Urdu-language fatwa has already been publicised in Pakistan, but this week it was launched in London, along with an English summary. A translation of the full version into English will also be available soon. While the fatwa may not have much direct influence on Sunni or Wahhabi Islamist thought, it is believed to strengthen the general influence of Minhaj ul-Quran and their engagement against violent Islam, and in the long run contribute to dismantling al-Qaida ideology.

British film satire on suicide bombers launched in US

Chris Morris, a humorist whose past TV programs have triggered controversy, has made a film about a group of British suicide bombers.

Four Lions, which was partially funded by Film4, was screened last night at the Sundance film festival in Utah. The film culminates in scenes in which four young suicide bombers dressed in bird costumes question their motives at the last minute, causing chaos at the London marathon.

Morris is known to have worked on little else over the last five years, during which he rejected the opportunity to pursue other TV and film projects. The 44-year-old satirist does not appear in the film, but provides a voiceover at its conclusion.

“Chris has spent an incredible amount of time immersing himself in Islam, terror and counter-terror,” a friend said. “He has toured Britain and met dozens of radicals, ex-radicals, academics, journalists and British Asians. He sat in on high-profile terror trials for weeks, read the key texts and recent books, has gone to innumerable ­public meetings, met community groups, and made it his business to educate himself on the nature of fundamentalism.”

Italy holds five on terror charge

Police in Bologna have arrested four Tunisians and one Moroccan, in the investigation of an alleged international terrorist ring, and are seeking a sixth. The ring of men is allegedly responsible for recruiting suicide bombers for attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Police raided residences of the men in Bologna, Ravenna, and Como. Investigators gathered information on the activities of the men through phone taps.

Website hailing suicide attacks gets 35,000-pound grant from British govt!

Ahead of the third anniversary of the 7/7 London attacks in which four suicide bombers killed 52 people, an Islamic website ‘muslimyouth.net’ backing suicide bombers has reportedly received a 35,000-pound grant from the British Government. The website carries dozens of hate messages by fanatics on its ‘support group” site. One of the members wrote of suicide missions: “If you can blow dozens of people up at the same time, great, absolutely great.” And, in another similar message a member praised a beheading video of British hostage Ken Bigley, saying: “I like the beheading videos of the prisoners of war ” especially the Daniel Pearl and Ken Bigley one,” reported The Sun.