Tareq Oubrou’s argument for why Islam belongs in France

Tareq Oubrou is the leader of the Muslim community in a city famous for the earthy red wines that have made this region a household name — and that his followers are forbidden from sampling.

But after three major terrorist attacks in two years and recent controversy over the “burkini” swimsuit, Oubrou has become France’s leading advocate for an Islam that is progressive, inclusive and, most of all, French.

In a series of articles, television interviews and now a popular book, Oubrou has publicly criticized the headscarf, argued for welcoming homosexual Muslims into the faith and equated the essence of Islam with the basic French idea of human emancipation.

For this imam, the two are one and the same — and entirely unrelated to the frequent public debate over what Muslim women wear, either on the street or on the beach.

“I don’t care what people put on their heads,” he said during an interview in his office in Bordeaux’s grand mosque. The room was piled with books from floor to ceiling. “I find that a shameful debate.”

In his recent book, “What You Don’t Know About Islam,” published in February, Oubrou calls for an “Islam of France,” which he defines as “the reconciliation of a spiritual Islam that expresses itself in the language of the Republican values already in place.” Namely, France’s holy triumvirate of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Largely for ideas like these, Oubrou has become a darling of the French political elite. In 2013, he was named a chevalier of the Legion of Honor, the country’s highest award for civil and military merit; in January 2015, he was chosen by the Interior Ministry as a special adviser to the government after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. There are even rumors that he could become a government minister if Bordeaux’s mayor, the popular Alain Juppé, wins the country’s presidential election next year.

But his ideas have also earned Oubrou many detractors, including a number of ordinary French Muslims, who feel that his views often parrot those of the government. After all, the same people who decorated Oubrou with the Legion of Honor ultimately condoned the burkini ban, on the grounds that it was an affront to republican equality.

“It’s coming from a good intention, I think,” Marwan Muhammad, director of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, said in an interview. “But many see his vision of Islam — that Muslims should be discreet, should be less visible than they are today — as basically validating Islamophobic stereotypes, that basically Muslims should prove their loyalty to the state by assimilating.”

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has issued several fatwas against Oubrou, whom its leaders regularly call the “imam of debauchery.” “He should be killed without hesitation,” insisted Dar al-Islam, its French-language magazine, in its spring issue. Oubrou says he has not lost any sleep over this latest threat — and still refuses the government’s offer of police protection. “If I were afraid, it would be a defeat,” he said.

To Oubrou, France has been since the French Revolution less of a country and more of a concept, committed to human rights and universal equality. And these, he argues, are the same lofty aspirations as those of Islam and any true religion.

“The Muslim faith is in the service of all humanity in general — as is the nation,” he said. “That’s what religion is: how to serve man, how to transform him, to make man as perfect as possible in thought, in sensibility, in spirituality, in relation to the mysteries of God.”

Born in Morocco to Francophone parents in 1959, Oubrou was naturalized as a French citizen in the late 1980s. It was a watershed moment in his life and his development as a thinker. As he put it: “I adopted French nationality, and so I should be loyal, quite simply. I should respect the law, contribute to the economy of this country and its prosperity as much as any other citizen.”

In France, as elsewhere in Europe, there is a long tradition of religions perceived as “foreign” working tirelessly to demonstrate that their teachings are more than compatible with society at large.

Throughout the 19th century, for instance, France’s Jewish leaders, facing constant anti-Semitism, argued that the Hebrew Bible stressed the same values as the nation. They proudly sent their sons and brothers to serve in the French military in World War I.

In the face of rising Islamophobia, Oubrou’s sermons and teachings show a similar patriotic impulse. For instance, he has insisted that the Bordeaux mosque use the French language in addition to Arabic. Children in the mosque’s school learn about Islam in French, as do those enrolled in its seminary.

“Our third and fourth generations dream in French,” Oubrou said. “They should speak to God in French.”

Besides, he says, French citizenship is an identity distinct from other national affiliations: It is a “moral contract,” a commitment to lofty, abstract ideals that make more sense when individuals can connect them with their private faiths.

These days, what primarily interests Oubrou are those who feel excluded from that moral contract, especially the young French and Francophone Muslims who, for a variety of reasons, have been pushed toward radicalization in recent years. In each of France’s recent terrorist attacks, the perpetrators came from this loose demographic, a fact that Oubrou has begun confronting on a local level.

Along with Bordeaux’s City Hall, he has helped create a pilot program for “deradicalizing” young people suspected of showing violent tendencies at an early age. Called the Center of Action and Prevention Against the Radicalization of Individuals (CAPRI), it was formally launched announced in January.

According to Marik Fetouh, the Bordeaux municipal officer for equality and citizenship who oversees the program, CAPRI receives referrals from local authorities about individuals they suspect may be susceptible to radicalization: typically young men in relative social isolation whose social-media profiles suggest an affinity with the Islamic State or the rhetoric of other extremist groups.

Fetouh added that since the announcement of the program, local families — entirely independent of the authorities — have also begun approaching the organization about their children. They feel comfortable doing so, he said, because CAPRI is not meant as incarceration: It is primarily designed as a mental-health initiative, staffed with trained professionals who help troubled youths identify and confront the sources of their anger.

Since it began, Fetouh said, CAPRI has worked with roughly 30 individuals. While a success rate will be difficult to ascertain, the hope is that the program will serve as a humane template for what other communities across France might do as the country confronts the issue collectively. This year, for instance, France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, announced the establishment of other deradicalization centers, although those will focus on individuals at a later stage.

For Oubrou, a key factor in the fight against radicalization lies in acknowledging the shortcomings of the same nation he has devoted his life to upholding.

“To be honest, radicalization is a symptom of the malaise of the republic. Our notion of equality is never applied on the level of schools or on the level of work. Equality is important between women and men, and everyone must dress the same,” he said, referring to the rationale of those who opposed the burkini. “But not on the level of salary.”

This, in his mind, is the eternal riddle of the French Republic, at times as elusive and equivocal as the religions its staunch secularism nominally opposes. “France is perhaps the most utopian country in the world,” Oubrou said. “But it’s a utopia that’s not achievable.”

Frenchman ‘planned attacks during euro 2016’

Source: http://www.liberation.fr/france/2016/06/06/un-francais-interpelle-avec-un-arsenal-en-ukraine_1457616

June 6, 2016

 

A Frenchman detained last month with a large cache of arms was planning mass attacks during the Euro 2016 football tournament, which starts on Friday, Ukrainian officials say.

 

The man, identified by French media as Gregoire Moutaux, 25, was arrested on the Ukrainian border with Poland.

Intelligence chief Vasyl Hrytsak said the man had planned 15 attacks and was driven by ultra-nationalist views.

 

He had amassed guns, detonators and 125kg of TNT, Hrytsak said.

 

Hrytsak listed bridges, motorways, a mosque and a synagogue among the suspect’s potential targets. He was being prosecuted for arms smuggling and terrorism, he said.

It was not clear if the tournament itself was being targeted and Paris police prefect Michel Cadot told reporters there was “no specific threat against any [Euro 2016] site.”

 

News of the man’s arrest on 21 May first emerged in a recent report. The suspect was described as a worker at a farming co-operative from the Lorraine area of eastern France. He had no previous criminal record, reports said. French authorities have been on high security alert ahead of the European championships, amid fears that the tournament could be targeted by Islamist militants.

 

President Francois Hollande said on Sunday that “the threat exists” but that France should not be daunted. Ukraine’s SBU security service said it had been watching the suspect since December last year and that he had picked up five Kalashnikovs, two anti-tank grenade launchers, some 5,000 rounds of ammunition and 100 detonators, as well as a large quantity of explosives.

 

An SBU video was shown of the dramatic moment of the suspect’s arrest along with the weapons that intelligence officials said they had found. The arrest was said to have taken place at a border crossing close to the Ukrainian town of Yahodyn.

 

The footage also revealed a second person being wrestled to the ground on the passenger side of the car.

 

The SBU chief said the French suspect had been in touch “with military units fighting in Donbass”, a reference to the eastern areas of Luhansk and Donetsk, where pro-Russian rebels have seized large areas of Ukrainian territory.

 

“The Frenchman spoke negatively of the activities of his government on mass migration of foreigners to France, the spread of Islam and globalization. He also said he wished to stage a number of terrorist attacks in protest,” Hrytsak said.

 

A search was carried out at the suspect’s home in the tiny village of Nant-le-Petit and police sources told French media that explosive material and balaclavas were recovered.

An inquiry has been launched by France’s organized crime agency, OCLCO, and by regional authorities in Nancy.

 

However, French police sources told AFP news agency that Ukrainian officials had yet to send them any details. There was some skepticism that the suspect could have been anything more than an arms trafficker.

Karim Benzema says he is victim of racism

Source: http://fr.reuters.com/article/idFRKCN0YN3J7

 

June 2, 2016

 

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema said he was denied the chance to play for France in the Euro 2016 this month because of his Algerian origins.

 

The French Football Federation denied the accusation, but Benzema’s comments, published just nine days before France hosts the tournament, have deepened a row about alleged racism in a national team once seen as a model for ethnic integration.

 

Last week, Eric Cantona accused coach Didier Deschamps of omitting Benzema and another French-born football player of North African descent, Hatem Ben Arfa, because of their foreign roots.

 

Deschamps’ lawyer said he planned to sue Cantona for slander. The two have a longstanding rivalry since the mid-1990s when Deschamps replaced Cantona as France’s captain and led the team to World Cup and Euro successes in 1998 and 2000. Benzema is under investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a teammate, something Prime Minister Manuel Valls said made him unfit to play for the national team. Benzema said his legal problems were being used as an excuse to drop him from the squad.

 

“They said I couldn’t be picked, but on a sporting level I don’t understand and, on a legal level, I’ve not been convicted and I’m presumed innocent,” he told Spanish sports magazine Marca.

“Deschamps succumbed to pressure from a racist part of France,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s only Didier’s decision, because I get on well with him, the president (of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet) and everybody.”

 

Deschamps was not immediately available for comment. Le Graet said Deschamps was neither for nor against Benzema and had previously picked the forward even when he was not in good form.

 

“I think he has got carried away a little bit,” Le Graet told reporters at the French team’s training camp in Austria.

 

“I would have liked him to have been a bit more kind. These are words that don’t correspond with the realities.”

 

The racism row has added to tensions in a country hit by widespread strikes over proposed changes to work contracts and fears about terrorist attacks.

Ahead of the European Championship’s June 10 kick-off, the French team has also been hit by a spate of injuries.

 

The squad has players from various ethnicities. Deschamps last week called up Adil Rami, who is of Moroccan origin. But memories of 1998, when France’s “black-blanc-beur” (black-white-Arab) team won the World Cup, have faded, especially since the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa when the players fell out with the team’s managers.

 

At the time, the far-right National Front party complained that the team did not fully reflect France, where the vast majority are still white.

 

Sports Minister Thierry Braillard dismissed Benzema’s comments as “unjustified” and “unacceptable.”

 

“The French team is selected only on technical criteria and ability. There is not an inch of racism in this federation. The time has come to stand by our team,” Braillard told BFM TV.

 

A successful striker for Real Madrid, Benzema has often failed to excel for the national team, scoring 27 goals in 81 games at international level

Lawyer: NYC hopes surveillance deal alters image of police

NEW YORK — A New York City lawyer said Wednesday that the city hoped to improve the image of its police department when it reached a deal with civil rights advocates to allow a civilian to serve on a committee of high-ranking police officials as they discuss investigations relating to surveillance of political activities.

City attorney Peter Farrell made the comment as he urged a federal judge in Manhattan to approve a deal settling lawsuits contending that the police department had violated constitutional rights in its infiltration and surveillance of Muslim communities after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As part of the deal, an attorney chosen by the city’s mayor and police commissioner would serve for five years on a committee along with a dozen New York Police Department officials to discuss the initiation, continuation and closing of investigations pertaining to political activities.

The deal grew in part from a 2013 lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court by mosques, a charity and community leaders alleging that the department was discriminating against Muslims.

Several years ago, The Associated Press revealed that New York City police spied on Muslims, infiltrated student groups and sent informants to mosques.

The Islam debate: The dual consciousness of Muslims

Muslims today can no longer think, or ultimately exist, outside the widespread lore about Islam, which links them to discussions about terror, violence and the separation of religion and society. They can never be free of the neverending stream of projections about Islam. An essay by Farid Hafez

Has anything changed for Muslims, since the latest in a long line of so-called jihadist terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 130 people on 13 November 2015? As in the aftermath of any terrorist act, there have been debates on Islam as a religion and on ″its″ role in the attacks. Europe has responded not only with tighter security measures, including calling a state of emergency in France, but also by declaring war.

The attack in Paris was probably not the last: European societies must now face the kind of day-to-day life that has long since become normal elsewhere, complete with attacks and dead civilians. In future, European societies in general and their Muslims in particular will have to deal with issues such as trade-offs between security and freedom. Muslims will continue to discuss what reaction is the most sensible and expedient. Distancing themselves from the attacks? Or condemning them? Do we need the umpteenth fatwa against terrorism in general and Daesh in particular? And if so, who actually needs it?

The European citizens who ascribe to Islam a fundamental affinity for violence? Or the young Muslims who are seeking religious orientation in the face of racial exclusion and the piecemeal return to their Islam? Presumably we will be revisiting these questions again and again in the near future.

What’s the impact on Muslims?

In this article, though, I would like to touch on something else that is in reality ubiquitous but scarcely ever addressed explicitly. Namely: what impact does such debate have on Muslims? What traces does it leave behind, what scars are inflicted on the Muslim self-image as a result of this discussion about Islam and terrorism? To illustrate, let′s start with a Facebook post. Recently, a well-educated, politically active adult Muslim woman posted on the occasion of the birth of her child:

“I gave birth to a boy in the Christian hospital XY, with nuns as nurses and a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf at the reception desk; I named him for the most beautiful person and prophet XY, with the most beautiful character and an exemplary life story. Above my bed hung a cross and a picture of the Virgin Mary and her son, the prophet Jesus. Religious symbols? For me, it was the perfect accompaniment for a wonderful new life!”

Farid Hafez accepts the Bruno Kreisky Recognition Prize 2010 (photo: cc-by/Fatih Ozturk)

Farid Hafez is a doctor of political science and currently does research at the University of Salzburg. He is the editor of the Yearbook for Islamophobia Research and of the European Islamophobia Report, which will be published for the first time in 2016

The post was probably prompted by the announcement by the editor-in-chief of an Austrian newspaper just a few days before that he was considering reviving the headscarf ban debate, at the suggestion of a representative of the Christian Democratic Party.

The post raises many questions: what causes a woman who is giving birth to new life for the first time and is likely to feel emotions of indescribable happiness to cast this unique experience in a political context? What is happening in the mind of this person? The answer to this question may lead us to one of the biggest challenges faced by Muslims today all over the world and especially in the West: Muslims are trapped in the discursive spider web of a pervasive discourse on Islam.

By this, I mean that it is no longer conceivable for Muslims today to think, or ultimately to exist, outside the widespread lore about Islam, which links them to discussions about terror, violence and the separation of religion and society. Simply to exist. To be a human being. To experience a birth without having to interpret the cross, the nuns and Muslim nurses apart from their humanity. To experience and live through a birth. To be free of everything that is constantly projected onto them.

Dual consciousness

In ″The Souls of Black Folk″, the pre-eminent African-American thinker W.E.B. DuBois (1868–1963) describes a condition he dubs “double consciousness”, by which blacks are only able to see themselves through the eyes of others (whites). They can thus never regard themselves as fully fledged human beings because they are always caught up in a dichotomy, wanting to be human – i.e. normal – but being black – and thus outside the norm.

Many passed down this inferiority complex to their children, encouraging them to make life easier for themselves by becoming invisible, as Jean-Paul Sartre shows in his preface to Fanon’s ″The Wretched of the Earth″. Today there are many Muslims who try to make themselves invisible because they want to be humans, in other words, normal.

And then there are those who publicly avow Islam and thus take on all the challenges and discursive conflicts that this entails. In their effort to counter the hegemonic discourse, they overlook how trapped they are in exactly this discursive web. They have to take a stand. They cannot remain silent. Because silence could be taken as tacit consent to this or that terrorist attack.

Trend towards self-discipline

Recently, a former class representative wrote on the Facebook wall of a Muslim girl who used to be a pupil of his: “To remain silent on the terror in Paris (and elsewhere) means to accept or even to endorse it”. If Muslims avow their faith, they are then compelled to answer for it. If they make themselves invisible, they escape that pressure.

In a second stage, this discursive pressure leads to Muslims beginning to discipline themselves. Parents avoid giving their children toy guns in order not to be perceived as radical. Mothers and in particular fathers do not allow their young daughters to wear a headscarf on the way to the mosque, so as not to attract disparaging glances from those who regard this as a sign of subjugation.

Parents begin to bring up their children according to standards that attempt to counter the negative stereotypes, conspiracy theories and horrific imaginings that are part of the discourse.

Caught in the discursive web, it would seem difficult to breathe the air of freedom, to be human, to live a life apart from all the allegations, innuendo and suspicion. And yet it is this very freedom that is the first and most fundamental condition for thinking and living as a human being. In dignity.

Farid Hafez

© Qantara.de 2015

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

The submissive subject tries to evade this discursive pressure by making himself invisible. Psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon spoke in relation to Algeria of the desire of the formerly colonised subjects to be white.

Hollande’s hesitation on Muslim integration

On Jan. 17, 2015, roughly 10 days after the attacks by homegrown Islamic terrorists against Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher market, François Hollande went to Tulle, a town in central France, to talk to the folks. He told them, “Life goes on. The sales are on now, so go and buy. Nothing has to change.”

The president chose the no-news-today approach because he saw no gain in addressing the question of Islam in France, an area where frankness and willingness to act have been virtual taboos for him and others for a decade.

Mr. Hollande did ask parliamentary leaders to look into “forms of engagement and the reinforcement of affiliation with the Republic.” That grotesque convolution was meant to mask an attempt at measuring where the country’s Muslims stood in terms of respect for the supremacy of French law, and the national ethos of liberty, equality and brotherhood.

“Nobody knew what to do,” Françoise Fressoz of Le Monde later wrote in describing the circumstances. “Habits and conformity take over. It’s a historic opportunity, but the country missed it.”

The same situation pertains now.

After the 130 murders committed in Paris last month by jihadists mostly with French backgrounds, Mr. Hollande was able to declare war on Islamic State, send an aircraft carrier to the Middle East to fight it, and order a three-month state of emergency in France, which accounted for 1,233 searches and 266 assignments to house arrest during its first 10 days—while ignoring polling over the past three months that shows a clear majority of voters want to send French ground troops to Syria.

Strikingly, the president has turned away from another kind of determination at home. He is showing no signs of listening to the large segments of French society—60% to 70% at intervals over the past five years—that see French Islam as unwilling to commit to the rule of law and French Muslims as responsible for their own failed integration.

The circumstances are more tortured now than ever. The intelligent notion of a potential trade-off between France and its largely Arab Muslim population of five-plus million died with November’s attacks.

The idea was that France could offer an affirmative-action program of jobs, educational advantages and antidiscrimination measures to the Muslim community in exchange for its acceptance of an official charter for Islamic assimilation. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy had once argued in that direction but abandoned the issue. Mr. Hollande has never touched it.

Challenged as a wrong-minded giveaway, recommending a trade-off would be poison in the coming elections for the democratic right and left, and pure delight for Marine Le Pen’s right-wing extremists of the National Front.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls now says Islam must “stand up” and “cut out all excuses” for jihadism and terror, but the president hasn’t endorsed the statement. Mr. Hollande’s silence also met Mr. Valls’s remark, coming well before the recent terrorist attacks, that France faced “a war of civilization.”

With a considerable slice of Muslim voters having backed him in the past, the president may be trying to avoid accusations of Islamophobia. His approach certainly isn’t one that deals with what Alain Minc, a French intellectual of stature, writes is an “Islam that resembles a subterranean territory within French society.”

How can Mr. Hollande and France deal with the problem at the lowest level of possible confrontation or conflict?

Mr. Minc and others (notably a high-level French civil servant writing under the pen-name of Camille Desmoulins about French Islam’s lack of responsible governance) have talked of the state consulting representative Muslims about granting Islam the unique status of a consistory or religious council. That would give Islam a binding, official role equal to that of French Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews, while requiring its allegiance to the primacy of French law. For Islam in everyday French life, that signifies the Civil Code superseding the Koran.

En route, in the manner of Napoleon in 1806 when he began a process extending official status to the Jews, the Muslims would likely be asked to affirm an obligation to defend France ahead of any other consideration. Importantly, Islam’s French representatives could be required to take responsibility for those misusing its name. The obstacles are more than vast, but Mr. Minc says “the results of a delicate truth-operation are predictable”: firm adherence among Muslims to the principles of the Republic.

Then there’s reality.

Accused throughout his years in office of coming up short on authority, a newly hang-out-more-flags Mr. Hollande, aiming at re-election in 2017, has recast himself as a war president battling Islamic State in the Middle East.

And as a president of deconfliction at home? On that front, Mr. Hollande has given no indication about when, or how hard, he is willing to fight.

Call to arms in France amid hunt for Belgian suspect in Paris attacks

President Francois Hollande of France called on Monday for constitutional amendments to fight potential terrorists at home and for an aggressive effort to “eradicate” the Islamic State abroad.

 

His call to arms — “France is at war,” he said at the opening of his remarks to a joint session of Parliament — came as security forces in France and Belgium zeroed in on a suspect they said was the architect of the assault that killed 129 people Friday night in Paris. The suspect, a 27-year-old Belgian, has fought for the Islamic State in Syria and has been linked to other terrorist attacks.

 

Mr. Hollande spoke after the French police raided homes and other sites across the country in an effort to head off possible further attacks and as the authorities in Belgium hunted for a suspected assailant in Friday’s attacks. Mr. Hollande called for quick action by Parliament on new legislation that would give the government more flexibility to conduct police raids without a warrant and place people under house arrest. He said he would seek court advice on broader surveillance powers. And he called for amendments that would enable the state to take exceptional security measures without having to resort to the most drastic options currently in the Constitution. r. Hollande is also seeking to extend the current state of emergency for three months and let the government strip the citizenship of French natives who are convicted of terrorism and hold a second passport.

“Our democracy has prevailed over much more formidable opponents than these cowardly assassins,” Mr. Hollande said a day after France conducted airstrikes against the Syrian city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State. It was the country’s most intense military strike yet against the radical group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris.

 

The French leader said he would meet soon with President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in an effort to settle on a united campaign to wipe out the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

 

“Terrorism will not destroy the republic, because it is the republic that will destroy it,” he said. Three days after the attacks on a soccer stadium, a concert hall and numerous bars and cafes, French and Belgian security services were focused on the radical jihadist they believe was the leader of the plot, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. He is among the most prominent Islamic State fighters to have come out of Belgium. A French official briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss operational details, said Mr. Abaaoud had mentioned plans to attack “a concert hall” to a French citizen who returned from Syria.

 

Mr. Abaaoud, this official said, had also been in contact with Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, one of the Paris attackers. Mr. Abaaoud also knew another attacker, Ibrahim Abdeslam; they were tried together in 2010 in Belgium for a minor offense.

 

Mr. Hollande said the attacks had been “planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.” The French authorities said Monday that they had conducted 168 raids across the country in an effort to root out possible terrorist threats. The raids extended from the Paris region to the major cities of Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse, they said. They also said they had arrested 23 people and detained 104 others under house arrest.

 

But a Frenchman believed to be involved in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, 26, a brother of Ibrahim Abdeslam, remained at large, eluding a series of raids conducted by the authorities in Molenbeek, the working-class Brussels neighborhood where the brothers lived.

 

A third brother, Mohamed, and four other men who had been detained in Belgium were released on Monday. At a news conference in Brussels, Mohamed said he did not know Salah’s whereabouts and added, “My parents are under shock and have not yet grasped what has happened.” The man believed to be the architect of the plot, Mr. Abaaoud, who traveled to Syria last year and even persuaded his 13-year-old brother to join him there, is from the same neighborhood, Molenbeek, as the Abdeslam brothers. Mr. Abaaoud was already a suspect, according to officials and local news reports, in a failed terrorist plot in Belgium in January and an attempt in August to gun down passengers on a high-speed train to Paris from Brussels. An intelligence official said the authorities feared he might be in Europe.

 

In Washington, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said some American officials suspected that Mr. Abaaoud might still be in Syria. Mr. Abaaoud was most likely part of an Islamic State cell that has developed over the past year to help plan, organize and execute terrorist attacks in Europe, particularly in France, Mr. Schiff said in a telephone interview.

 

The cell is believed to be led by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who serves as an official spokesman for the Islamic State, a Defense Department official said Monday.

Mr. Schiff warned that much was still unknown about how much of the plot had been directed from Syria and how much autonomy had been left to conspirators.

Continue reading the main story

 

At noon, France observed a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the attack, which wounded about 350 people, in addition to the 129 killed. The Métro and cars stopped and crowds gathered at a makeshift memorial at the Place de la République and at the Eiffel Tower. Mr. Hollande stood with students at the Sorbonne. Many recited the national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” after the moment passed. In other cities — Delhi; Doha, Qatar; and Dublin — crowds gathered at French embassies to pay their respects.

As France observed its second of three days of national mourning, the authorities in France and Belgium raced to track down suspects and chase leads.

 

At one house in the Rhône department in the southeast, around Lyon, the police found a Kalashnikov rifle, three pistols, ammunition and bulletproof vests. Officers then obtained a warrant to search the home of the parents of a man who lived in the house, where they found several automatic pistols, ammunition, police armbands, military clothing and a rocket launcher.

 

Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve promised to keep up the search. “We are using all the possibilities given to us by the state of emergency, that is to say administrative raids, 24 hours a day,” Mr. Valls said. He vowed to keep intense pressure on “radical Islamism, Salafist groups, all those who preach hatred of the Republic.” The authorities also confirmed on Monday that one of the attackers entered Europe through Greece on a Syrian passport last month, posing as a migrant. The man was identified on his passport — found at the soccer stadium north of Paris where he blew himself up Friday night — as Ahmad al-Mohammad, 25, a native of Idlib, Syria. The holder of the passport passed through the Greek island of Leros on Oct. 3 and the Serbian border town of Presovo on Oct. 7, according to Greek and Serbian officials. It remained unclear whether the passport was authentic.

 

All told, at least four French citizens were among the seven attackers: Ibrahim Abdeslam; Mr. Mostefaï, who met with the man suspected of planning the attacks; and two men identified on Monday as Samy Amimour, 28, a Paris native who lived in the suburb of Drancy, and Bilal Hadfi, 20, who lived in Brussels.

 

Mr. Amimour was known to the French authorities, having been charged in October 2012 with terrorist conspiracy, according to the authorities. He was placed under judicial supervision but violated the terms of that supervision in 2013, prompting the authorities to put out an international arrest warrant. Last December, the French newspaper Le Monde interviewed Mr. Amimour’s father — it did not identify him by name at the time — who had gone to Syria to try to bring back his son. Three members of the Amimour family were detained on Monday.

 

Turkey confirmed on Monday that Mr. Mostefaï, 29, entered Turkey in 2013, but it said that “there is no record of him leaving the country.”

 

A Turkish official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the government flagged Mr. Mostefaï twice — in December and in June — but that “we have, however, not heard back from France on the matter.”

 

He continued, “It was only after the Paris attacks that the Turkish authorities received an information request about Ismaël Omar Mostefaï from France.” The official added that “this is not a time to play the blame game,” but that governments needed to do better at sharing intelligence to prevent terrorism. The United States has provided logistical support for the French airstrikes in Syria, but Mr. Obama on Monday again ruled out a ground intervention.

 

“Let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria,” he said at a gathering of leaders of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging-market economies in Antalya, Turkey. “What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps?”

 

Elsewhere in Europe, the authorities tightened security. Britain announced Monday that it would pay for an additional 1,900 intelligence officers, and review aviation security.

In Washington, John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said Monday that the Paris attacks and the crash of a Russian jet over the Sinai Peninsula bore the “hallmarks” of the Islamic State.

 

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Brennan called the group an “association of murderous sociopaths” that is “not going to content itself with violence inside the Syrian and Iraqi borders.”

 

Wading into the debate over surveillance, privacy and encryption, Mr. Brennan said he hoped the Paris attacks would be a “wake-up call,” adding that “hand-wringing” had weakened the ability of Western intelligence services to prevent attacks.

 

France on edge day after 2nd terror attack in 6 months

A day after a man was decapitated at a gas factory in France’s second terror attack in six months, residents questioned whether the nation is doing enough to stop terrorists.

“It feels that these attacks are now happening back to back,” said Ilan Cohn, 21, a student in Paris. “I am afraid that there will be more and more, just recently Charlie Hebdo and now this?

Yaccine Salhi, 35, a man once placed on a “radicalization list” drove his truck into a U.S.-owned gas factory in the southeastern French city Lyon on Friday, triggering an explosion as his boss’ severed head was found at the entrance, authorities said.

Two people were injured in the explosion of gas canisters. “Islamist terrorism has again struck France,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. He warned Saturday that France faces even more attacks.

Officials told the Associated Press and AFP on Saturday that Salhi took a selfie with the slain victim and sent the image to at least one recipient.

French security forces had been on high alert since Islamic extremist gunmen targeted the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, setting off several days of attacks in the city that left 20 people dead.

“These were the actions of a few isolated men but what if it’s not the case next time — we could have a mass attack by an organized network of fundamentalists,” Cohn said. “That’s really scary. It doesn’t feel like the authorities are able to prevent anything.”

Salhi — who remained in custody Saturday along with his wife and sister — was known to intelligence services but had not been actively monitored by security officers since 2008.

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No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack at U.S.-based Air Products’ factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier. It happened the same day as Islamic State-claimed attacks at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait and a beach resort in Tunisia. Overall, at least 66 people died across the three countries.

Several hundred people gathered in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier on Saturday to remember slain businessman Herve Cornara, 54, and denounce the violence, the Associated Press reported. Cornara was the manager of a transportation company in the region that had employed Salhi since March.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Salhi is believed to have been under the influence of the extreme Salafist branch of Islam that calls for the faithful to return to the religion’s roots. Arabic inscriptions were found scrawled on the victim and Islamic flags were discovered at the plant.

“Now we are not safe at all. If everything was under strict surveillance, we wouldn’t have this in France,” said Madeline Siloe, 33, a health coach from the French capital. “It doesn’t seem to me that there is a serious surveillance, that anyone is watching.”

But analysts say France has doubled its efforts to counter terrorism since the attack onCharlie Hebdo in January, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Since then, thousands of extra police and military forces have been posted at “sensitive sites,” such as tourist attractions and transport hubs, around the country. The parliament passed a sweeping surveillance bill this week giving vast powers to intelligence services. Opponents of the controversial legislation say it grants powers with little oversight and is broader than the much-maligned U.S. Patriot Act.

“It would be inaccurate to say that the French government hasn’t done enough to counter the terrorist threat in recent months and years,” said Benoît Gomis, an international security and terrorism expert at think tank Chatham House.

“If anything some of what has been put in place might have gone too far in terms of creating opportunity costs, grievances, and infringing on privacy and other civil liberties,” Gomis said. “It will never be possible to stop every single terrorist attack.”

About 1,700 French citizens are believe to be involved in “jihadist networks” as of last month. France also has one of the highest numbers of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq per capita in Europe, Gomis said.

Any measures to tackle the problem could be ineffective if France ignores the context in which people are attracted to radical causes, he added.

“More needs to be done to address some of the conducive factors to extremism of all sorts in France, especially on the social and political fronts,” Gomis said. “The government needs to ensure that this terrorist attack does not serve as a pretext to victimize the Muslim population, create tensions between communities or spread disproportionate levels of fear about terrorism.”

The number of terrorist attacks worldwide increased 35% last year. More than 78% of all terror-related fatalities took place in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, according to the U.S. Bureau of Counterterrorism. With France on high alert and bracing itself for what comes next, Paris resident Siloe says fear is not the answer.

“I am not afraid but I am worried, if said I am afraid it would mean they have won,” she said. “I think we have to be extremely vigilant and keep in mind what happened. We mustn’t forget about it tomorrow.”

Security measures taken in the Netherlands after attacks in France

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has stated that Dutch police and security services have taken measures to prevent terrorist attacks in the Netherlands. During the weekly meeting of the Counsel of Ministers (Ministerraad) Rutte called for alertness. The Dutch Prime Minister also stated that while being alert is necessary the best reaction is to “continue to live as we are used to do: open and plural.”

Minister of Defense Jeanine Hennis stated earlier that the level of threat for terrorist attacks in the Netherlands is substantial. But while the chances of attacks are real no concrete evidences have been found for any planned assault. Secretary of State Fred Teeven stated the Netherlands is in a state of enhanced focus. Part of the Dutch cabinet convened a meeting on Friday with the Dutch secret services (the AIVD and MIVD) about the current situation.

Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten has stated that currently about 180 Dutch jihadists have travelled to Syria and Iraq. 35 of those have returned to the Netherlands. 21 Dutch jihadists have been killed in Syria or Iraq. Returning jihadist are severely observed by the AIVD or police.

Concerns over online Qur’an teaching as ex-Pakistan militants instruct pupils

With his track record as a member of the political arm of a banned terrorist organisation, Mian Shahzib is unlikely to ever be given a visa to enter Britain. But that does not stop the jovial 33-year-old from giving British children religious instruction every day from the comfort of his home in Pakistan. He spends hours each night sitting under a fluorescent light in the courtyard of a small mosque in Lahore, peering into a laptop as children first from the Middle East, then Europe and North America spend half an hour after school talking to him over a faltering Skype line. The fact that a hardcore Islamist and long-term follower of the UN-proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) has daily access to children in the west is likely to fuel concerns about religious radicals spreading their message. The organisation is on the UN’s list of sanctioned organisations because of its alleged association with al-Qaida and is considered a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

 

Shahzib’s website, Easy Qur’an Memorising, makes no mention of his history and is one of hundreds of such online companies, some of which advertise on satellite channels broadcasting to the Pakistani diaspora. They are part of a little-known outsourcing boom fuelled by parents of Pakistani origin turning to Qur’an teachers in Pakistan.

The Guardian was told of other online tutors with radical backgrounds or who are members of extreme or sectarian organisations, but it is impossible to know how widespread the phenomenon is in a completely unregulated industry.

 

Sultan Chaudri, the owner of Faiz-e-Quran, said his company is at pains to scrutinise all 13 teachers who work for him to ensure radicals are not employed. “All the problems we are seeing in Pakistan and Afghanistan is because these young children get sent to madrasas where no one knows what sort of education they are getting or what kind of indoctrination is taking place.” Outsourced Qur’an teaching started about six years ago and there are now a handful of big players. Although there are no reliable figures on how many children around the world are being taught by Pakistan-based teachers everyone seems to think it is growing fast.