German Muslim leaders react to the attacks in the UK

Muslim representatives in Germany have condemned the recent attacks in Manchester and London.

Especially the events of Manchester gave rise to expressions of shock and anger, as the targets of Salman Abedi’s suicide bombing that left 23 dead had been a pop concert by US singer Ariana Grande and its mostly very young audience.

Responses of the large associations

Germany’s largest Islamic association, Turkish-dominated DİTİB, issued a press release condemning the attack and any other form of terrorism, as well as expressing the organisation’s condolences to the families of the victims.

The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), Aiman Mazyek tweeted: “In deep sorrow I look to #Manchester. We pray for the bereaved, injured, their relatives. Many child victims to be feared – terrible.”

Bekir Altaş, secretary general of the Islamist-leaning Islamic Community Millî Görüş (IGMG) also took to twitter: “#PrayForManchester! Aghast and shocked! In our hearts we are with all victims and their relatives.” The chairman of the Islam Council (IR) issued a similar statement.(( http://www.islamiq.de/2017/05/23/religionsvertreter-trauern-mit-manchester/ ))

Rehashing a well-rehearsed ritual

Representatives of Germany’s Church communities also voiced their condemnation of suicide attack in Manchester. Shortly afterwards, on May 23, the leading Catholic and Protestant clergymen of Berlin held a private vigil with the Great Imam of Al-Ahzar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, commemorating the victims.(( http://www.bild.de/regional/aktuelles/berlin/grossimam-und-bischoefe-gedenken-der-terroropfer-51881922.bild.html ))

At the same time, these statements did not – and in some sense could not – go beyond the by now well-rehearsed tropes of outrage that are being used after every attack. The demand that Muslims and their representatives must dissociate themselves from the suicide bombing hung in the air, and they duly complied.

This is not to claim that these demands the corresponding statements of Muslim leaders were made in bad faith. Yet it does underline the fact that there is little by way of a genuinely meaningful public conversation on attacks such as the ones that occurred in Manchester and London. Instead, in an involuntary expression of their helplessness, all sides continue to shelter behind the familiar ritualistic assertions.

New string of terrorism arrests in Germany include high-level IS recruiter

Planned knife attack

In recent days German police have moved against a host of terrorism suspects, highlighting the threat of attacks linked to the so-called Islamic State in the country.

In Berlin, a refugee was arrested on November 2. While the man claimed to be a Syrian national, American intelligence described him as Tunisian Islamist Ashraf al-T. The man initially denied all charges and asserted that he was the victim of a mix-up.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/karlsruhe-festgenommener-fluechtling-spricht-von-verwechslung-1.3235619 )) The investigative judge at the Federal Court of Justice, responsible for all terrorism cases, refused to take up the case due to a lack of evidence.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/festnahme-in-berlin-terrorverdaechtiger-ashraf-al-t-in-haft-wegen-urkundenfaelschung-1.3234513 ))

Subsequently, however, it emerged that the suspect had apparently planned a knife attack in Berlin, akin in nature to the axe assault in a train near Würzburg in July 2016.((http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/terrorverdaechtiger-berlin-105.html ))  Moreover, like the train assailant, al-T. appears to have been in online contact with an IS middleman in Syria. And like in the case of the suicide bomber that targeted a festival in the Bavarian town of Ansbach in July, the investigation into Ahsraf al-T. paints a picture of a unstable individual with a history of mental health issues, including a suicide attempt. ((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/karlsruhe-festgenommener-fluechtling-spricht-von-verwechslung-1.3235619 ))

Target Berlin

The arrest of Ashraf al-T. comes as the latest foiled plot targeting the German capital. In March 2016, police had arrested Syrian Shaas al-M. After his arrival in Germany as a refugee in early 2015, al-M. had collected intelligence on potential targets for an IS attack in Berlin, including the lively Alexanderplatz, the Brandenburg Gate, and the Reichstag. At the time of his arrest, al-M. was poised to return to the IS’s ‘caliphate’, having joined the group for the first time in 2013. ((http://www.morgenpost.de/berlin/article208694887/Mutmasslicher-Terrorist-zielte-auf-das-Herz-Berlins.html ))

Jaber al-Bakr, whose protracted arrest and subsequent suicide in prison sent shockwaves through the German political scene as well as the Syrian community in early October, had equally prepared an attack in Berlin: his aim appears to have been a suicide bombing at the city’s main airport. ((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/17/manhunt-arrest-suicide-attacker-keep-germany-suspense/ )) All three cases highlight the extent to which the Islamic State has made use of the migratory flows to Europe in order to place its agents in Germany and elsewhere.

High-profile arrest of Abu Walaa

These developments coincide with a more high-profile arrest on November 8: after years of surveillance by the German domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, police arrested hard-line preacher Abu Walaa and four of his associates on terrorism charges. In his sermons and on social media, the Iraqi preacher had openly supported and celebrated the IS’s project and methods and encouraged believers to participate in the Syrian jihad.

The preacher had been active in the city of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony, whence he organised the travel of fighters to the Syrian battlefields. Founded in 2012, his Islamic centre had quickly emerged as one of the major hubs of jihadism in Germany. At least 20 members of the congregation have already made their way to the IS’s territory. This led German security insiders to assert that, of all extremist players on the German scene, “he [Abu Walaa] is the worst.”((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/eil-wichtiger-anwerber-des-is-in-deutschland-verhaftet-1.3239523 ))

According to the Federal Prosecutor, Abu Walaa handpicked sympathisers ‘ready’ to join the IS and organised the basic travel arrangements, while his accomplices implemented his commands.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/islamischer-staat-festnahme-von-abu-walaa-ist-schlag-gegen-die-salafistenszene-a-1120283.html )) The Federal Prosecutor asserted that Abu Walaa functioned as the intellectual and spiritual father of a wide-ranging network of IS supporters in Germany.((http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/niedersachsen/hannover_weser-leinegebiet/Schlag-gegen-deutsches-IS-Netzwerk,abuwalaa104.html ))

Returnee’s testimony

After a rushed search of Abu Walaa’s Hildesheim premises in July 2016, at which time evidence was insufficient to allow for the preacher’s arrest,(( http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/niedersachsen/hannover_weser-leinegebiet/Polizei-durchsucht-Hotspot-der-Salafisten-Szene,salafisten340.html )) the testimony of a returnee from Syria appears to have solidified the case against Abu Walaa. The statements of 22-year-old Anil O., a former foreign jihadist fighter, were among the most important pieces of evidence to emerge.

Already in July 2016 when he met with German journalists in Turkey, Anil O. claimed that Abu Walaa was “the highest representative of the IS in Germany”. Anil O., a German national of Turkish extraction and top-grade medicine student at Aachen University, asserted that he himself had come under Abu Walaa’s influence at his Hildesheim centre.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/islamisten-in-deutschland-das-ist-der-schlimmste-1.3239861-2 ))

Anil O.’s case is among the growing number of judicial proceedings against foreign fighters returning from the Syrian theatre of war.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/30/german-courts-seek-move-beyond-counter-terrorism-measures-path-breaking-trials-fighters-syrian-battlefields/ )) Of the more than 750 German nationals and residents that have travelled to the Levant, 250 have already made their way back. Anil O. asserted that he had been disgusted by the IS’s atrocities he witnessed in Syria and wanted to prevent others from making the mistake of joining the group.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/islamisten-in-deutschland-das-ist-der-schlimmste-1.3239861-2 )) His cooperation with German authorities also constitutes a way for the former fighter to reduce his prison time.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/islamischer-staat-festnahme-von-abu-walaa-ist-schlag-gegen-die-salafistenszene-a-1120283.html ))

Strong media presence

Abu Walaa’s nimbus significantly derives from his strong online presence. On social media and on his website, he presents himself as ‘the preacher without a face’, due to the fact that in the majority of his videos he only appears as a shadow or in shots showing his head from the back. In order to spread his message, he even markets his own smartphone app.

In this respect, the arrest of Abu Walaa is an important step forward in German counter-terrorism efforts: the more than 1,000 judicial proceedings on terrorism charges that have been brought to court so far were nearly always directed against little fry. Suspects were mostly individuals who had actively joined or passively been sucked into radical networks; yet the networks themselves and their high-level organisers were hardly ever targeted.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/islamisten-in-deutschland-das-ist-der-schlimmste-1.3239861 ))

Reactions

The Federal Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas (SPD), consequently hailed the arrest of Abu Walaa and his associates as “an important step against the extremist scene in Germany”. Yilmaz Kilic, head of the Lower-Saxon branch of Turkish-dominated DITIB, Germany’s largest Muslim association, equally lauded the police action: “when someone abuses our religion for extremism, then the police should step in.”((http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/niedersachsen/hannover_weser-leinegebiet/Schlag-gegen-deutsches-IS-Netzwerk,abuwalaa104.html ))

On a slightly different note, influential radical Salafi preacher Pierre Vogel, with whom Abu Walaa had often clashed – mainly over Vogel’s rejection of the Islamic State – exhibited a good deal of schadenfreude at his rival’s arrest.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/islamischer-staat-festnahme-von-abu-walaa-ist-schlag-gegen-die-salafistenszene-a-1120283.html ))

Seeking Clues in Man’s Arc From Life in Florida to Fatal Blast in Syria

June 4, 2014

Friends of Moner Mohammad Abusalha Saw No Indications of Radicalization

VERO BEACH, Fla. — The storefront Islamic center tucked in a nondescript shopping center here has no imam, so the task of leading the small group of men and boys gathered to pray usually falls to the eldest, or the one who knows the Quran the best.

Moner Mohammad Abusalha was only a teenager, but the honor would sometimes go to him.

“They would encourage him because he was so enthusiastic,” said Brandon Blanchard, who attended the center and knew Mr. Abusalha for eight years.

Now Mr. Abusalha’s friends and family are trying to piece together how — and where — that passion for Islam and teaching children about the Quran turned into something more disturbing. Mr. Abusalha, 22, died last week in Syria when he drove a truck loaded with 16 tons of explosives to a mountaintop restaurant where government forces often gathered. It was one of four suicide bombings in Idlib Province that day, in which a total of 37 people died.

Mr. Abusalha was born in West Palm Beach to an American mother and Palestinian father. The parents had lost touch with their son over a year ago and were distraught when they saw his photo in the news on Friday, Taher Husainy, the leader of the community Islamic center, told TCPalm, a local news site.

Mr. Abusalha’s friends believe that he was recruited after he left Florida. “When he left, that was the furthest thing in his mind,” Mr. Blanchard said. “He just wanted to be a good nurse and help people out. None of this was even in his vocabulary. If he did lie, he did a good job, because I certainly did not expect this. He wasn’t supposed to do that. We were supposed to go to college, pray and study the Quran.”

Veronica Monroy, a friend of Mr. Abusalha’s, said she last heard from him about two years ago. “He deplored any kind of negativity, and was always the first to lend a hand if you needed one. He was religious, but definitely not an extremist,” she said in an email. “He was loving and caring, and I know he came from a strong, loving, supportive home. Nothing hurts more than not being able to have been there for him, to try to stop him, or to at least just say goodbye.”

The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society

worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-full-reportA new Pew Research Center survey of Muslims around the globe finds that most adherents of the world’s second-largest religion are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. In all but a handful of the 39 countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims say that Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. Many also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters. And many express a desire for sharia – traditional Islamic law – to be recognized as the official law of their country.

 

The survey – which involved more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages with Muslims across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa – shows that Muslims tend to be most comfortable with using sharia in the domestic sphere, to settle family or property disputes. In most countries surveyed, there is considerably less support for severe punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves or executing people who convert from Islam to another faith. And even in the domestic sphere, Muslims differ widely on such questions as whether polygamy, divorce and family planning are morally acceptable and whether daughters should be able to receive the same inheritance as sons.

 

In most countries surveyed, majorities of Muslim women as well as men agree that a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. Indeed, more than nine-in-ten Muslims in Iraq (92%), Morocco (92%), Tunisia (93%), Indonesia (93%), Afghanistan (94%) and Malaysia (96%) express this view. At the same time, majorities in many countries surveyed say a woman should be able to decide for herself whether to wear a veil.

Overall, the survey finds that most Muslims see no inherent tension between being religiously devout and living in a modern society. Nor do they see any conflict between religion and science. Many favor democracy over authoritarian rule, believe that humans and other living things have evolved over time and say they personally enjoy Western movies, music and television – even though most think Western popular culture undermines public morality.

 

The new survey also allows some comparisons with prior Pew Research Center surveys of Muslims in the United States. Like most Muslims worldwide, U.S. Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society. But American Muslims are much more likely than Muslims in other countries to have close friends who do not share their faith, and they are much more open to the idea that many religions – not only Islam – can lead to eternal life in heaven. At the same time, U.S. Muslims are less inclined than their co-religionists around the globe to believe in evolution; on this subject, they are closer to U.S. Christians.

 

Few U.S. Muslims voice support for suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam; 81% say such acts are never justified, while fewer than one-in-ten say violence against civilians either is often justified (1%) or is sometimes justified (7%) to defend Islam. Around the world, most Muslims also reject suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians. However, substantial minorities in several countries say such acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 26% of Muslims in Bangladesh, 29% in Egypt, 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories.

worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-full-report

Three British Muslims accused of plotting a suicide bombing campaign appear before court

22 October 2012

 

The suspects Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali were arrested last September in Birmingham on the suspicion of planning to cause “mass deaths and casualties” in Britain.  All three deny charges of preparing acts of terrorism in the UK.

 

The trial continues.

Chicagoan accused of plotting to be suicide bomber for al-Qaida, al-Shabab to plead guilty

CHICAGO — A 29-year-old Chicago man accused of plotting a suicide bombing overseas and claiming he was inspired by a radical Muslim cleric has agreed to change his plea to guilty, bringing to an end one of the last terrorism trials pending in the city’s federal court.

A lawyer for Shaker Masri — whose plea deal was announced Thursday at a status hearing — told reporters that the agreement hammered out with the U.S. Attorney’s Office was favorable to his client, though he declined to elaborate

Masri, who was born in Alabama and lived abroad before returning to the U.S. at age 18, was arrested in 2010 after the FBI exposed his alleged plot to attend a Somalia training camp to become a suicide bomber for terrorist groups al-Qaida and al-Shabab.

Attorneys left open the possibility that the plea deal could still unravel, but Durkin told U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman he was confident enough to have the Sept. 12 trial date cancelled. Coleman set July 20 as the day for Masri to change his plea.

None of the government attorneys spoke to reporters after the hearing.

Federal agents arrest Amine El Khalifi; he allegedly planned to bomb Capitol

Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.

For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

The gun and vest were provided not by al-Qaeda, as Khalifi had been told, but by undercover FBI agents who rendered them inoperable, authorities said.

Partner of alleged Canadian terrorist grapples with competing realities

The Globe and Mail – February 7, 2012

Sayfildin (Sayf) Tahir Sharif, 39, is the contractor who Ms. Rain, a first nations woman, quickly fell in love with after they met in the summer of 2009. She converted to Islam to be with the man, an Iraqi Kurd who was granted Canadian citizenship in 2005. He became a father figure to her four children.

The picket-fence image is at odds with the portrait of Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a man the U.S. Department of Justice alleges is a terrorist. The Justice Department alleges that a few months before meeting Ms. Rain, Mr. Sharif helped co-ordinate a suicide bombing attack in Iraq that killed five American soldiers; that he pledged his support for a war on America “1,000,000 per cent;” that he sent terrorists money.

Mr. Sharif has sat in an Edmonton jail since his arrest a year ago as the United States attempts to have him extradited to face seven terrorism-related charges in New York state. On Jan. 30, his extradition hearing was delayed until May. If he’s indeed sent south, an overwhelming likelihood in such cases, he’ll spend his life in prison if found guilty – or, potentially, without a trial.Canada doesn’t extradite people if they’ll face the death penalty. Indefinite detention, however, is new ground.

Five young Somali Canadians allegedly fighting for al-Shabab

Five friends, in their early to mid-20s, grew up and attended schools in Toronto, Canada. They spoke English and Somali. At least two of them were university students.The Star has learned Canadian intelligence officials were watching at least one of the young men several months before he mysteriously left home.

Mahad Dhorre, Mustafa Mohamed, Mohamed Abscir and a fourth we know only as Ahmed vanished the first week of November. A fifth, Ahmed Elmi, left his home in Scarborough about three months ago. A sixth man, an Afghan, who worshipped at the same mosque, is also reportedly missing.

Online propaganda – a mix of nationalist sentiment, religious ideology and tough talk – is enough to recruit young Somali men looking for a purpose and willing to take up arms in their homeland, say community leaders in Canada and the US RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers are investigating the disappearances, canvassing areas in Little Mogadishu and questioning families. Of the 20 or so Somali-Americans who have gone missing, at least five have been killed in Somalia. One died in a suicide bombing in October 2008, part of coordinated attacks that killed 20 people.

Woman wearing burka expelled from national court

A witness called before the National Court in Spain has been expelled from the court after she refused to lift or remove her burka. The woman, the sister of an Islamic radical killed in a suicide bombing in 2005, was called as a witness in a case where nine alleged Islamists were in the dock, facing allegations of sending Mujahidin to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. She explained that her religion forbade her from appearing in public without her burka.

Judge Javier Gómez Bermúdez expelled her from the court, but the two later reached a compromise, AFP reports. She agreed to testify on Monday without the part of her burka which normally covers the face “between the chin and the eyebrows” and with her back turned to the public in the courtroom.

The judge commented that “seeing her face I can see if she is lying or not, or if any question surprises her or not”. He said that he did not want to charge her with disobedience, but underlined that religious beliefs cannot be above civil law.