The German Muslim Council (Islamrat) has criticized the surveillance of the Muslim organization Milli Gurus by the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Ali Kizilkaya, chairman of the council, accuses the Federal Office to construct a concept of the Muslim enemy in order to maintain jobs.
A union of British academics voted unanimously to reject a government plan to tackle Islamic extremism in universities, likening the initiative to “witch hunts” that would single out Muslim students. The University and College Union, which represents more than 120,000 British academics, agreed to the motion Wednesday at its inaugural conference in Bournemouth in southern England. The motion calls for members to “resist attempts by government to engage colleges and universities in activities which amount to increased surveillance of Muslim or other minority students and to the use of members of staff for such witch hunts.” (…)
On February 22 the Supreme Court decided in favor of a school that had expelled a 12-year-old Muslim student who exercized her right to wear the niqab, the full face veil, during class. In other news, in the trial of those accused of the July 21, 2005 attacks in London, a surveillance video showed that one of them was disguised, hidden in an islamic robe.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Nabil Amen wrote it off as mistaken identity the first time U.S. border agents handcuffed him as he returned home from Canada. When he had border-crossing troubles a third time, he decided to never leave the United States again. Amen, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Lebanon, is among a growing number of Muslim-and Arab-Americans who say they feel singled out by federal security practices that have chilled that community’s carefully nurtured relationship with the government. Federal authorities insist they do not target Muslims or Arabs because of their religion or race, and stress their commitment to building ties with those groups, partly to help with terrorism investigations. Yet recent disclosures of Bush administration domestic surveillance programs have put new strains on those communities’ ties with the federal government. “There are several incidents and policies that are unfairly targeting Muslims because of who they are – not because of what they did,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Washington. Awad said the rapport built up with the government since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “is at its lowest point because of these programs.” Federal authorities say their tactics are vital to preventing further attacks. “All investigations conducted by the FBI are based either in intelligence or criminal information,” FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said. “We do this in our efforts to prevent or detect an act of terrorism on the country, which is the FBI’s No. 1 priority.” Security experts say the government has to walk a fine line between protecting against terrorism and respecting people’s rights. Community leaders estimate that up to eight million Muslims live in the United States, two-thirds of whom are U.S. citizens. “The 9/11 hijackers were from the Middle East, they were Muslim, they were between 20 and 40 years old,” said David Heyman, homeland security director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Law enforcement can’t ignore this – they’ve got an obligation to protect the public. But they must do so with care.” Amen said he was told to step out of his car and was handcuffed the first time he was stopped, in December 2004, as he returned to his Dearborn, Mich., home after visiting relatives in Windsor, Ont. “The looks on my kids’ faces and my wife’s face – it was unbelievable,” said Amen, 47. “It’s changed my whole concept of life in this country.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials would not comment on the specifics of Amen’s case. “To take that type of action, we have got to have good reason,” said Kristi Clemens, the agency’s assistant commissioner. After detaining and deporting hundreds of Muslims and Arabs immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, federal officials have tried to repair the relationship through dialogues with community leaders and sensitivity training for investigators. But the rapport has been badly strained, the leaders say, by recent revelations of surveillance programs that target Muslim homes, businesses and mosques for terrorist links. The monitoring is in addition to policies that Muslim-and Arab-Americans believe target them for extra scrutiny at airports and border crossings. Another irritant was the FBI’s cancelling a program for helping agents relate better with the groups by teaching the investigators about their culture. Since Sept. 11, 417 people have been charged in federal terrorism-related cases, resulting in 228 convictions or guilty pleas, according to the most recent Justice Department data. Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra said the department does not categorize arrests by ethnicity or religion. Immigration data underscores the extra attention the government has paid to immigrants from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries since the attacks. Between October 1, 2000, and September 30, 2001, the U.S. deported 589 immigrants to 20 countries around the Middle East and Central Asia. In the next 12-month period, beginning weeks after Sept. 11, deportations to those nations rose to 1,674 and peaked at 1,759 in 2003. By last year, the number of deported immigrants to those countries had fallen to 1,167, according to Homeland Security Department data. Still, counterterrorism officials say they try to alleviate Muslim and Arab community concerns by meeting regularly with local leaders. “Over time, you get to know the people that you meet with,” said Brian Moskowitz, Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement top agent in Detroit, which has one of the largest Muslim and Arab communities in the United States. “It’s helped, in some cases, reduce the level of anxiety and fear in the community so that people will talk to us.” Added Dan Sutherland, the department’s civil rights and liberties officer: “I know that there are peaks and valleys in the government’s relationship with these particular communities, but I really am convinced that we’re seeing a level of engagement that is going to grow over time.” But a fresh chill has taken hold. “We thought we had established a constructive working relationship with them,” said Kareem Shora, legal adviser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. “We definitely took a couple of steps back.”
Henry K. Lee, Demian Bulwa and Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writers Oakland police arrested two men on felony charges of vandalizing two West Oakland corner markets in attacks in which several men in suits and bow ties demanded that the outlets stop selling liquor to African Americans. Both suspects are affiliated with a local religious sect long suspected of using violence and intimidation in its business dealings, police said. The men were identified as Yusuf Bey IV, 19, the son of the late Black Muslim leader Yusuf Bey, founder of Your Black Muslim Bakery in North Oakland, and Donald Eugene Cunningham, 73, a bakery associate. Bey and Cunningham surrendered Tuesday at Oakland police headquarters after meeting with police and attorneys. The younger Bey was described by a law-enforcement source Tuesday as a rising leader in the independent Black Muslim group, which operates four bakeries, a Muslim school, a security business and an apartment building. He took over after his father’s death from colon cancer in 2003. The two men were arrested on suspicion of making terrorist threats, felony vandalism, conspiracy and robbery in the attacks Nov. 23 at San Pablo Liquor on San Pablo Avenue and New York Market on Market Street about 12 blocks away, authorities said. Yusuf Bey IV was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail at an Oakland jail. Cunningham was being interviewed by police late Tuesday, said Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan. Four other men are being sought on arrest warrants in connection with the vandalism at the two stores, Jordan said. He said authorities had been in contact with the men through intermediaries and urged them to surrender. Their names have not been released. Jordan said police were still investigating whether the vandalism was connected to an arson fire that destroyed New York Market early Monday and the reported kidnapping of store owner Abdel “Tony” Hamdan around the time of the blaze. Police found Hamdan in the trunk of a car at 1:40 p.m. Monday in the parking lot of a Safeway store in El Cerrito. Reached by phone Tuesday, Hamdan said, “Please, right now I want nobody calling. Sir, I got nothing else to say.” The San Pablo store’s surveillance camera caught a group of about a dozen men in suits and bow ties trashing the store. The group took a shotgun belonging to a store clerk. Jordan said the suspects were not affiliated with the Nation of Islam, a national organization led by Louis Farrakhan. Police earlier indicated that the suspects were wearing suits and bow ties consistent with Nation of Islam dress. The surveillance video played a key role in the arrests, police said. “The video is very important,” said Sgt. Dom Arotzarena. When he turned himself in Tuesday afternoon, Yusuf Bey IV was accompanied by his mother, Daulet Bey, who said, “We don’t condone what happened. We want to resolve this as quickly as possible.” The suspect had denied any involvement, telling a local newspaper that he had learned of the vandalism through media reports. At the main bakery on San Pablo Avenue on Tuesday, the younger Bey’s sister, Jannah Bey, 25, proclaimed the suspects’ innocence. She also said she understood the anger toward stores selling liquor to African Americans. “The idea was good, but the way it was carried out could have been different,” she said, referring to the Nov. 23 vandalism. She said she didn’t recognize her brother or anyone else from the surveillance tape. She added, “Maybe this will be a wake-up call to the community” with residents realizing that liquor stores in Oakland were “not there to help them.” She said Bey’s group had nothing to do with the arson fire or kidnapping. “Anyone who knows our history … we don’t handle things like that,” she said. A relative of Cunningham’s who would not give her name declined comment when reached by phone Tuesday. The leader of a local grocer’s group reacted cautiously to the arrests. “We’re happy that they made these arrests,” said Mohamed Saleh Mohamed, president of the Yemenie American Grocers Association, which represents more than 250 liquor stores in Oakland. “It shows a little progress, but we still don’t know what’s next.” Mohamed said, “We feel pretty frustrated. We feel very vulnerable right now. The video shows 12 guys. ” The arrests come amid a power struggle within Yusuf Bey’s organization after he died. Three members of the group have been victims of violence since his death, including Bey’s 23-year-old-son, Antar, who was shot to death Oct. 25 in an attempted carjacking. Antar Bey had been serving as chief executive officer of the Oakland group.
Conservative German politicians Thursday called for increased surveillance of Germany’s Muslim community following the revelations that the London terrorist attacks last week were likely carried out by British Muslims. “We have to know what’s going on in every mosque,” Bavaria’s interior minister, G_nter Beckstein, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. “We have to have an intelligence presence there where extremist ideas are being preached.” Beckstein, who is tipped as a potential federal interior minister if the conservative opposition wins this fall’s possible early election, said greater efforts were needed to watch Germany’s Muslims amid the unsettling realization that the bombing attacks in London were the work of British citizens of Pakistani origin. “Accordingly we have increase surveillance of religious fanatics,” he said, calling on the German Muslim community to increase their cooperation with the authorities. “We need the help of tolerant Muslims.” Beckstein’s sentiment was echoed by other conservative politicians. Wolfgang Bosbach, the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary spokesman for interior issues, said suicide attackers could not be scared off by heightened security, making it more important to recruit informants from the local Muslim community for the intelligence services. Uwe Sch_nemann, the conservative interior minister of Lower Saxony, even called for increasing the frequency of random control checks at German mosques. “We need this instrument and we must make greater use of it,” he said. Sch_nemann also called for a special sitting of parliament during the summer recess to pass measure creating a proposed national terror suspect index. “This has to be done quickly since we’ll need it before the World Cup,” he told the paper. Boosting Video Surveillance Beckstein also said more closed-circuit cameras to help secure soccer’s largest sporting spectacle, which Germany will host next summer. Officials in Berlin have already decided to boost security on public transport in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg with the installation of more video surveillance. “Following the attacks on the British capital, we don’t want to be accused of not doing everything we can,” the head of the company responsible for the public transport in Berlin (BVG), Thomas Necker, told the Berliner Zeitung. The BVG will also keep all video footage recorded for three days instead of the current 24 hours. Brandenburg’s interior minister, J_rg Sch_nbohm, has also outlined plans to install closed-circuit cameras in various public areas including train stations and airports. “The swift success of Britain’s police investigations just goes to show how important closed-circuit cameras are,” Sch_nbohm told the tabloid Bild. In London, video footage of the four suspected bombers was able to be retrieved just five days after the attacks took place.
LONDON, March 21 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – British universities are helping intelligence agencies listen to Muslim and foreign students’ phone calls and intercept e-mails, another proof that the world has become a different place for Muslims after September 11 attacks, a British newspaper report uncovered on Sunday, March 21. The report revealed by the Sunday Telegraph said that most of the country’s universities co-operate with the Special Branch, Britain’s police unit concerned with national security, and the domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5 in the surveillance, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Sunday, March 21. Unnamed security sources and university officials admitted that the scheme was set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. “Since September 11, we are co-operating with the security services in a much deeper way than before. We take it very seriously,” one senior university official said. Red Flag An official connected to British and American security declared that details of students’ telephone numbers, email and home addresses are being passed by universities to the police, MI5 and the Foreign Office, the AFP said. A particularly close eye is kept on students from so-called “red flag” countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Libya and Syria. “They are helping the security services look at students from the red flag countries. It’s pretty well known that it’s happening,” said the official who also has links to a leading university. “With all the forms students fill in it is not difficult to get their mobile phone numbers or emails, or find out what kind of activities they are doing or where they hang out.” The paper added that MI5 and MI6 have also used academics to recruit British students. Criticism The declaration interrogated criticism for the British policies as considered a violation of the students’ human rights. Ian Gibson, the Labour chairman of the Commons science and technology committee, said that his committee had heard evidence that foreign students were being spied on, something he considered against the principle of freedom in academia, the Telegraph said. “I think there will be a number of universities that are doing this,” Gibson said. “It goes absolutely against the principle of freedom in academia and allowing people to associate with whom they like or think what they like,” he added. Chris Weavers, a vice-president of the National Union of Students, criticized the security assumption that individuals from certain countries might form risk. “I think there needs to be very strong justification for any such surveillance. Just assuming that any individual from a certain country might be a risk is utterly unrealistic,” Weavers said. However, he admitted: “We’ve seen many people from the United Kingdom who have been involved in terrorists attacks.” Meanwhile, the paper clarified that it is illegal for the police or security service to intercept directly e-mails or telephone calls without a warrant or permission from the Home Secretary. Both, however, are exempt from the Data Protection Act. On the other hand, Robert Key, the MP for Salisbury and a Conservative member of the select committee, welcomed the surveillance. “Given the current security situation I wouldn’t be against it as long as the Government was in complete control of the situation,” Key said. Now, Scotland Yard Special Branch officers monitor e-mails and mobile telephones and universities are expected to pass on suspicious meetings, activities or absences. Several students are believed to have been ordered to leave Britain as a result of such monitoring under the pretext they had links to extremist groups. Since September 11, the international student community in both the U.S. and Britain has greatly changed. On a press release on 22 February, 2002 obtained by IslamOnline.net, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the HR 3077 bill which is currently awaiting a vote by the U.S. Senate which would endanger freedom in academia. The bill proposes amendments to parts of the Higher Education Act of 1965 dealing with international studies programs at universities nationwide. One of the prime changes to the legislation includes establishing a federal advisory board, which would oversee all of these international studies programs.