Army looks to entice Muslims

British Muslims will be wooed to join the fight against the Taliban in a new Army recruitment drive. Military bosses plan to send serving Muslims back into their communities to encourage others to join the fight in Afghanistan. General Sir David Richards, Commander-in-Chief of Land Forces, revealed the move in an interview with an internal Ministry of Defence journal. He said: “There is an appreciation on our part that the Army would be better getting more Muslims into our ranks.” He added: “I am looking to see if some of our Muslim troops can go back into their communities to act as extra recruiters.” An MoD source revealed Bradford, West Yorks, would be the first area targeted.

He said: “We already know there are many young men and women in Bradford very keen to join up.”

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July 7 plot accused tell of times with Taliban: After training in Kashmir, pair went to Afghan camp / Court hears how bomber became boyhood friend

A British Muslim accused of helping the July 7 bombers plot their attacks on London told a court yesterday how he and ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan spent time at a Taliban camp in Afghanistan as part of a jihad training trip. Taking the stand for the first time, Waheed Ali, 25, denied participating in the attacks but admitted travelling with Khan on a “gallivant” in the summer of 2001, shortly before the September 11 attacks, and after attending a camp on the Kashmir border where they learned to shoot Kalashnikovs. They hoped to go to the frontline near Bagram airbase where the Taliban were fighting the Northern Alliance, but were deemed too inexperienced to fight and stayed at a camp about a mile behind the frontline, where they became so ill with diarrhoea that they were put on drips for three or four days. Rachel Williams reports.

Taliban claims attack on Dutch chief’s son is retaliation for ‘Fitna’

Lieutenant Dennis van Uhm he son of the Netherlands’ new military chief was one of two Dutch NATO soldiers killed in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan on Friday. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack, and said that the attack was in retaliation for the anti-Islam film _Fitna’ released by a Dutch MP. “We knew that the son of Dutch chief of staff was in the vehicle” said rebel spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi – changing his account from a previous statement that the militant group did not know the identities of those in the car. “This [attack] was part of our operation against the Dutch. First it was because they have occupied our country and secondly it was in retaliation to the Dutch insult to our great prophet Mohammed,” said Ahmadi.

Taliban Threat Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan to Impede Mrs. Sarkozy`s Visit

A Taliban spokesperson contacting IslamOnline.net by satellite phone claimed that the Taliban will attack in Afghanistan to impede the planned visit by French First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. The spokesman said, “In Afghan society, an attack on a woman is considered a cowardly act. Therefore, we will not hurt her but we may carry out suicide attacks on French troops“. Mrs. Sarkozy had planned to join French artists in a concert to be held at a NATO airbase near Kandahar. It is unclear whether Sarkozy will change her travel plans.

Bavarian Taliban’ Video: The Smiling Suicide Bomber

C_neyt Ciftci, a young man from Bavaria, blew himself up outside a government building in Afghanistan, killing two US soldiers and two Afghanis. SPIEGEL ONLINE has obtained a video documenting the final minutes in the life of the first German-born suicide bomber. It’s the perpetual grin that is most disturbing. The young man looks directly into the camera. He seems cheerful in his small cap and white shalwar kameez, the traditional Afghan dress. He smiles as he hoists the heavy bags of chemicals on to his shoulders. Grinning, he points skyward to Allah. Matthias Gebauer reports.

Pronk wants to talk with Taliban

UTRECHT – Jan Pronk, candidate for chairmanship of the Labour PvdA, has urged for negotiation with the Afghan Taliban insurgents. Only in this way can the Dutch mission in the province of Uruzgan be successful, Pronk said at the opening of the 41st Peace Week in Utrecht on Saturday. Pronk said that the West must sometimes negotiate with parties that have acted atrociously because otherwise there is no prospect of a lasting solution to a situation of repression and violence. He has experience with war situations. Last year the former minister for Development cooperation was forced to leave his post as UN special envoy in Sudan because he had voiced harsh criticism of the country’s government and military.

Afghans again seek permission for center; Fliers labeled them terrorists

A local Afghan group will be back before a San Diego community planning committee tomorrow seeking approval for a religious and cultural center — and hoping this time not to be branded as terrorists. That’s what happened in June, when the Afghani Community Islamic Center first proposed moving into a former bank building in Serra Mesa. A near-record crowd of more than 100 turned out for an informational hearing, many alarmed by anonymous fliers they had found on lampposts and in their mailboxes exclaiming, “No Terrorists in Our Community!” Planning group leaders say the fliers were circulated by a small handful of opponents, at least one of whom apologized afterward. “We’re Americans. We’re not terrorists,” said Akbar Sadat, a board member for the center. “We live here. Our kids grow up here.” The county is home to about 10,000 Afghans, Sadat said. Many live in San Diego, but just as many are in outlying cities such as El Cajon and Vista. The majority have been in the United States at least 10 to 20 years and are U.S. citizens, he said. Sadat, 48, a microchip design engineer who has lived in San Diego for 26 years, said the Afghan center was chartered in 1994. It has operated out of a series of leased spaces in Kearny Mesa and Miramar, offering prayer services and cultural programs to its 400 to 500 members. The center bought the 7,300-square-foot bank building on Sandrock Road near Gramercy Drive for $1.5 million in January 2006 because of its central location. Members donated and raised the $500,000 down payment, abandoning their Miramar lease to pay the $10,000 mortgage in Serra Mesa, Sadat said. But the proposed relocation has been delayed months by building and code upgrades insisted upon by city officials. Serra Mesa Community Planning Group chairman Doug Wescott said projects like this go through two steps with his group — an informational presentation at one monthly meeting, then a vote of the 14-member board at another. Sadat said it has taken until now to be ready to ask the planning group for an up-or-down vote. It’s on the agenda for tomorrow’s 7 p.m. meeting at the Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa Library, 9005 Aero Drive. Sadat said the center would be used mostly for Islamic prayer services on Friday afternoons and for small, informal gatherings on other days of the week. He said it would have a library and other resources to help researchers and the public learn about Afghan culture and Islam. Part of its goal will be to reassure neighbors that local Afghans do not support the Taliban, Sadat said. “Everybody in Afghanistan hates these people,” he said. “Al-Qaeda and (the) Taliban, they’re destroying Afghanistan. They’re destroying my relatives.”

After Last Week’s Raid, Yvonne Ridley Says Muslims ‘Should Stop Helping Police’

LONDON – Yvonne Ridley, the former journalist who was kidnapped by the Taliban, has said that Muslims in east London should stop co-operating with the police after last week’s terror raid in which a man was shot. Miss Ridley, who is now an activist with George Galloway’s Respect Party, said the community was being “terrorised” by the Metropolitan Police and should end all contact with the force. But a senior officer said good relations on the ground were vital to ensuring difficult issues were handled in a sensitive way. Miss Ridley was held hostage by the Taliban during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She had snuck into the country to cover the war for Express Newspapers. She was released and later converted to Islam, and has been outspoken about the treatment of Muslims in Britain. “I don’t think the Muslim community should communicate with the police any more until they start showing some respect to the community,” she said. “There are Muslim community leaders – largely self-appointed – who regularly hold meetings with the police. “I’m afraid these leaders are confusing access to the top brass with influence. The reality is that they have neither. What we are witnessing now is the terrorisation of one community.” At a meeting of the Respect Party last night in the area of the raid, she suggested non-co-operation “goes from asking the community copper for directions to passing the time of the day with the beat officers”. But Commander Steve Allen, who heads territorial policing, said co-operation between communities was vital. “What is more likely to deliver effective police and community and responses to situations like this?” he asked. “Is it when we talk to each other, when we spend time trying to understand each other’s perspective or is it when we call for complete disengagement?”

Us Latinas Seek Answers In Islam

By Christine Armario UNION CITY, N.J. – Jasmine Pinet sits on the steps outside a mosque here, tucking in strands of her burgundy hair beneath a white head scarf, and explaining why she, a young Latina, feels that she has found greater respect as a woman by converting to Islam. “They’re not gonna say, ‘Hey mami, how are you?’ ” Ms. Pinet says of Muslim men. “Usually they say, ‘Hello, sister.’ And they don’t look at you like a sex object.” While some Latinas her age try to emulate the tight clothes and wiggling hips of stars like Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera, Ms. Pinet and others are adopting a more conservative lifestyle and converting to Islam. At this Union City, N.J., mosque, women account for more than half of the Latino Muslims who attend services here. Nationwide, there are about 40,000 Latino Muslims in the United States, according to the Islamic Society of North America. Many of the Latina converts say that their belief that women are treated better in Islam was a significant factor in converting. Critics may protest that wearing the veil marks a woman as property, but some Latina converts say they welcome the fact that they are no longer whistled at walking down a street. “People have an innate response that I’m a religious person, and they give [me] more respect,” says Jenny Yanez, another Latina Muslim. “You’re not judged if you’re in fashion or out of fashion.” Other Latina Muslims say they also like the religion’s emphasis on fidelity to one’s spouse and family. But for many family members and friends, these conversions come as a surprise – often an unwelcome one. They may know little of Islam other than what they have heard of the Taliban and other extremist groups. That creates an inaccurate image, insists Leila Ahmed, a professor of women’s studies and religion at Harvard University. “It astounds me, the extent to which people think Afghanistan and the Taliban represent women and Islam.” What’s really going on, she says, is a reshaping of the relationship between women and Islam. “We’re in the early stages of a major rethinking of Islam that will open Islam for women. [Muslim scholars] are rereading the core texts of Islam – from the Koran to legal texts – in every possible way.” New views of women and Islam may be more prevalent in countries like the US, where women read the Koran themselves and rely less on patriarchal interpretations. “I think the women here are asserting more their rights and their privileges,” says Zahid Bukhari, director of the American-Muslim Studies Program at George- town University. ” Some Latina Muslims say they harbored stereotypes about Muslim women before deciding to convert, but changed their minds once becoming close friends with a Muslim. “I always thought, geez, I feel sorry for women who have to wear those veils,” says Pinet. Then she met her Muslim boyfriend and began studying the Koran with a group of Muslim women. She says she was impressed with the respect they received. “A women is respected because she is the mother, she takes care of the children, and she’s the one that enforces the rules,” Pinet says. “They’re the ones who are sacred.” Critics of the decisions of Latinas to convert to Islam say they are adopting a religion just as patriarchical as the Roman Catholic faith that many are leaving behind. “While it’s true the Latino culture tends to be more male-dominated, and there’s a tendency toward more machismo, I would venture to say it exists [in Islam] as well,” says Edwin Hernandez, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Religion at the University of Notre Dame. Latinos account for six percent of the 20,000 Muslim conversions in the United States each year, according to a report published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Anecdotal evidence suggests this number may be rising. But that doesn’t mean it’s getting any easier for the women who make this choice. “At first it was anger and then more like sadness,” Nylka Vargas says of her parents’ reaction when she told them she was converting to Islam and began dressing more conservatively. “They would sometimes feel strange being around me.” Pinet’s family has been more accepting, but she too has encountered some resistance in her community. It’s as if you’ve betrayed your own kind,” she says. For some, the cultural differences are the most trying. “I can’t eat pork, I can’t wear [form- fitting] clothing, I can’t dance in the clubs, I’m not gonna attend church,” says Ms. Yanez, who is of Cuban and Spanish descent. “But I keep my language, and there’s still things that we do as Latinos that they don’t have to change.” Within the Islamic community, Latina Muslims report being warmly received, although language barriers sometimes exist for Latinas who only speak Spanish. There are few Spanish services at mosques and a limited number of Islamic texts in Spanish. Grassroots organizations specifically for Latino Muslims have been created in recent years. They function in part as an informational resource for new converts and but also as a support group for those who encounter difficulties at home. Ultimately, Latina Muslims say that time heals the divisions and angst their conversion sometimes causes among friends and family. “What I had to learn was patience,” says Vargas, whose family came to accept her religious beliefs after several years. “Sometimes things are not as we want them.”

U.S. Case Against Muslim Scholar Is Religious Attack: Defense

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The government’s prosecution of a prominent Islamic scholar accused of recruiting for the Taliban in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks is an assault on religious freedom, a defense lawyer said Monday during the trial’s closing arguments. “The government wants you to think Islam is your enemy,” said Edward MacMahon, who represents Ali al-Timimi, 41, of Fairfax. “They want you to dislike him so much because of what he said that you’ll ignore the lack of evidence.” Prosecutors, on the other hand, said al-Timimi is on trial not because of unpopular political or religious views but because he specifically urged his followers to take up arms against U.S. troops just five days after the 9-11 attacks, and because several of them traveled half way around the world with just that intent. “When Tony Soprano says ‘Go whack that guy,’ it’s not protected speech,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, drawing a comparison between al-Timimi and the fictional mob boss. Al-Timimi, a native-born U.S. citizen who has an international reputation in some Islamic circles, is facing a 10-count indictment that includes charges of soliciting others to levy war against the United States and attempting to aid the Taliban. The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon after hearing two weeks of testimony. If convicted, al-Timimi faces up to life in prison. The government contends that al-Timimi told his followers during a secret meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, that they were obliged as Muslims to defend the Taliban against a looming U.S. invasion. Just days after that meeting, four of those in attendance flew to Pakistan and joined a militant group called Lashkar-e-Taiba. Three of the four testified at al-Timimi’s trial that their goal had been to obtain military training at the Lashkar camp and then cross the border to Afghanistan and join the Taliban. It was al-Timimi who inspired them to do so, the men testified. None Of The Men Actually Made It To Afghanistan. Kromberg said at the trial’s outset that al-Timimi enjoyed “rock star” status among his followers. On Monday he said al-Timimi knew that the men at the Sept. 16 meeting–many of whom had played paintball games in 2000 and 2001 as a means to train for holy war around the globe–would do as he instructed them. “These guys couldn’t figure out how to tie their shoelaces without al-Timimi,” Kromberg said. But MacMahon said that al-Timimi merely counseled the men to leave the United States because it might be difficult to practice their religion in America in a post-Sept. 11 environment. The three men who testified against al-Timimi at trial, he said, are all lying because they struck plea bargains with the government and are hoping to get their sentences reduced in exchange for helping the government. MacMahon said it was two other men, Yong Ki Kwon and Randall Royer, who were the ones recruiting paintball members to join Lashkar-e-Taiba. Kwon, for instance, admitted that he and Royer had met a LET recruiter in the spring of 2001 on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Kwon also acknowledged that Royer had previously trained in Pakistan with Lashkar and that he had frequently encouraged others to join LET well before Sept. 11 and well before the government alleges al-Timimi’s criminal conduct. MacMahon pointed out to jurors that Kwon–one of the four who allegedly traveled to Pakistan at al-Timimi’s urging–had placed 25 phone calls to the other three in the three days before al-Timimi allegedly made his first exhortation on the Taliban’s behalf. The government’s case, MacMahon said, is built on a misperception that Islam is a sinister religion and its practitioners deserve strict scrutiny. “Are you appalled that the federal government is reading the Quran to you” at this trial? MacMahon asked the jurors. The prosecution of al-Timimi “is a fundamental assault on the liberties we all hold so dear. … If you don’t believe our freedoms are under attack by this prosecution, you haven’t been sitting here.” Kromberg disputed the notion that the government was casting aspersions on all Muslims. “Ali Timimi does not speak for all Muslims. Ali Timimi speaks for his sect of Salafi Muslims,” Kromberg said, referring to a sect of the religion often equated to Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Islam practiced by many of the leading clerics in Saudi Arabia, where al-Timimi once studied.