Analysis: New Anti-Terror Measures In Italy

By Roland Flamini WASHINGTON — Arab women in Italy are no longer allowed to wear the full-face veil — the burqa — because of a ban on face coverings as a security measure. This is one of a series of new regulations introduced in the aftermath of the July 7 London bombings as Italians become increasingly convinced their country is next on the terrorist hit list. Alarm bells rang when one of the men wanted in the July 21 failed bombings in the British capital — Hussain Osman aka Hamdi Issac — was captured in Italy where, it turned out, several members of his family also lived. In addition, the Italian internal security agency warned Monday Islamist fighters who had gone to Iraq to join the insurgency were beginning to trickle back to Europe bent on doing mischief, especially in Italy. The no-veil ban has offended the sensibilities of Italy’s 1 million Muslims; but it’s been a crime since Italy’s struggle against the Red Brigades terrorists almost 30 years ago to conceal the face to avoid being identified, but the fine has now been doubled. This week the Rome government introduced new security measures. Users of Internet centers and cafes throughout the country have to show proof of identity. Under the new rules, center operators must store electronically all messages until Dec. 30, 2007, and make the data on the sender and recipient available to the police on request. The actual texts of the messages will remain protected. This measure was first proposed to the European Union by British Prime Minister Tony Blair following 7/7, but some EU countries rejected them as an invasion of privacy. Public telephone centers are now required to demand proof of identity from callers, and to keep details of all calls. With Sept 11, 2001, in mind, when two hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers at New York’s World Trade Center, the Italians also introduced mandatory screening for flying school applicants. Mohamed Atta, believed to have been the leader of the 9/11 group, learned to fly, unchallenged, at a pilots’ school in Venice, Fla. The Italians are hoping to filter out would-be terrorists by requiring students to provide proof from the police where they live that they have no criminal record; and this is only to be issued after a nationwide security check. New regulations virtually limit possession and use of most types of detonators and high explosives exclusively to the Italian armed forces and the police, and imposes strict restrictions on their importation, export and transportation. The mining and engineering industries can acquire low-grade explosives with special permits. The main Italian cities are meanwhile putting in place security measures of their own. Rome has doubled security in its many museums and historic sites. Work has started on protective barriers surrounding the Colosseum as well as on installing security cameras. The use of monitoring devices is a significant step in a country that previously showed little enthusiasm for them. But the network of security cameras all over London played a significant part in identifying the suicide bombers in the July 7 terrorist attacks that claimed 56 lives, and the lesson is slowing sinking in elsewhere in Europe. On Friday, Turin announced it had scheduled a series of simulated terrorist attacks on a train station, a shopping mall and Turin International Airport.

‘Muslims In Britain Won’t Face Police Discrimination’

LONDON – Muslims in Britain will not suffer discrimination at the hands of the police in the wake of the London bombings, Home Office minister Hazel Blears said on Tuesday. Counter-terrorism powers are not targeting any community in particular, but are targeting terrorists, said Blears during a day of talks with Muslim community leaders in northwest England. That is why they have got to be intelligence-led and used proportionally, fairly, and in a non-discriminatory way. Blears travelled to Oldham, a mill town near Manchester with a large Muslim community of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, on a bridge-building mission nearly a month after the July 7 attacks on London’s transport system killed 56 people including four suicide bombers. Her message followed the admission by British Transport Police that its officers would carry out anti-terrorist spot-checks on minority groups, rather than waste time searching old white ladies. The specialised force polices London’s Underground subway — the target of three of the four July 7 bombings, plus as many attempted bombings two weeks later — as well as the national rail network. Blears, echoing a message issued by Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the 1.6 million strong Muslim community in Britain could play a vital role in tackling terrorism. These people who are extremists are a tiny, tiny minority, said the junior minister, in charge of public security while Home Secretary Charles Clarke is away on a summer break. We have got to make sure that the mainstream feel strong enough to take them on, and as a government we will work with them to do that, she said. These people are criminals, they are terrorists, they are extremists, but they are seeking to justify what they do in a perverted interpretation of Islam. What we have discussed today is the need to teach the true nature of Islam, which is about peace and love.

Pressure Is Growing On Muslims In Italy

By Elisabeth Rosenthal ROME As a second wave of London bomb attacks hit the news Thursday, Imam Khaldi Samir clicked nervously at his office computer, next to the prayer hall at the Alhuda Islamic Cultural Association on the outskirts of Rome. Bombs in London, he has seen, produce fallout for him. Just two days earlier, with Italy stepping up surveillance after the first round of London attacks, 10 plainclothes police officers with a search warrant turned up at 7 a.m. at the imam’s home in Latina, 70 kilometers, or 40 miles, south of Rome. During a three-hour raid, while his children slept, they scoured the home he shares with his Italian wife, and then downloaded numbers from his cellphone. The police explained that they were looking for clues related to the London bombings, although they found nothing, said the imam, who preaches to up to 800 mostly poor immigrant worshipers each week. The search warrant did not indicate that the imam himself was suspected of a crime. Instead, the police politely explained, the search was “preventive” – the warrant stating he might have “unknowingly” had contact with people connected to terrorism. Five other leaders of the Italy’s Muslims were searched the same day, he said. “The state is punishing its best links to the Muslim community – we never expected that the Italian state would do something like this,” said Samir, a soft-spoken man in a shirt and slacks, clearly shaken by the course of events. “Every day I stress the need for moderation and integration,” Samir said, “but these searches bring into question my credibility in our community. People will say, ‘This is your payback for your moderation.'” He said such events served to radicalize young people. As antiterrorism officials across Europe are intensifying their hunt to root out sleeper cells, they walk a delicate line between thwarting terrorists and radicalizing innocent Muslims who are already largely isolated and marginalized in many European nations. The challenge of controlling terrorism without creating new terrorists, is particularly acute in countries like France and Italy. In those two countries, large and growing Muslim populations are kept by law and by custom on the fringes of mainstream society. There are an estimated 1.5 million Muslims in Italy, a country of about 58 million people. The vast majority of the Muslims are immigrants, who have little chance of getting citizenship. Less than 10 percent have an Italian passport. An official at Italy’s law enforcement agency, the Ministry of the Interior, said that he did not know specifics of recent raids, but that he was “not surprised” that such searches were occurring. “This is an ongoing process,” he said. On Friday, Italy’s Council of Ministers adopted a series of new antiterrorism provisions, which are likely to take effect soon. These include new registration requirements for Internet caf_s and cellphone users, new limits on pilots licenses, and quick expulsions for foreigners considered a danger to national security or who assist in terrorist activities. But the search on the imam’s house occurred legally under the current rules, which give judges wide leeway in issuing warrants. “What if I had reason to believe that a terrorist had gone to your house and was worried he left something – some documents or even a suitcase?” said a senior Italian antiterrorism official, explaining the search. In 2001, the police searched the Alhuda center, which includes a prayer hall and a cultural center and where Arabic and Islamic culture are taught to children. Last year, they searched the home of Ben Mohamed Mohamed, the center’s president. But since the attacks in London, the Italian government has beefed up security measures and has also attempted to reach out to Muslims. In Michelangelo’s beautiful Campidoglio, on the afternoon of the second London bombings, the city of Rome invited prominent Muslims to convey a message of coexistence. “Rome is a city that it open to everybody,” said Giuseppe Mannino, chairman of the City Council. “You are our brothers.” He shared the podium with Mahmoud Hammad Sheweita, imam of Rome’s only official mosque, the Grand Mosque – an architectural masterpiece filled with light and soaring arches, which operates with the permission and cooperation of the Ministry of the Interior. Samir and Mohamed listened from the back row. Unlike the Alhuda center, a subterranean former warehouse where young men wander in and out all day, the luxurious official mosque is open to worshipers only on Friday. For the rest of the week, its primary function is to serve as a sort of liaison between Islam and the Italian government. From here, Mario Scialoja, a former Italian diplomat and convert to Islam, who is head of the Italian branch of the World Muslim League, meets with Islamic ambassadors and lobbies Italian politicians, pushing them to allow Muslims better access to citizenship, and religious education for Muslim children. Scialoja said that the worshipers in his mosque, filled on Fridays, were typical Italian Muslims – poor immigrants who come to Italy for a better existence. He said that “99.7 percent of them couldn’t care less about fundamentalism” and that only 4 percent of Italy’s Muslims attend mosque on a regular basis. While he has noted some acts of intolerance since the London bombings, he praised Giuseppe Pisanu, the interior minister, whom he meets with regularly, and he called Italy’s new antiterrorism proposals “very responsible.” And though he blames the U.S. invasion of Iraq for creating terrorism, he does not support an immediate withdrawal. Italy has troops in Iraq in support of the U.S.-led invasion. “To stay is to feed this anger, but to leave now would create a mess,” he said. But his official version of Islam seems to have little resonance or even connection with Samir’s prayer hall, where many worshipers speak halting Italian and the lingua franca is Arabic. When Scialoja tried to form a national association of Muslim groups five years ago, “the experiment was a failure,” he said, “since some groups had views I couldn’t support.” In 2003, when the Grand Mosque expelled its new Imam for a fiery sermon that justified Palestinian bombings in Israel (though not in Italy), Alhuda’s Web site posted an article defending his right to free speech. In part because Italy does not recognize Islam as a religion, Samir’s flock does not have a real mosque. Italian Muslims must work on their religion’s holy days. As aliens, the vast majority have no right to vote. “Now, with the increasing security, they search our houses – this is a very bad sign,” Samir said. “We hear all about the policies on integration, but we never seen any concrete measures.” They remain largely outsiders and, especially now, visitors to the Alhuda center and the surrounding Islamic shops were greeted with intense suspicion. Requests to interview the Imam were met with deflections and questions: Where are you from? Why do you want him? Samir, a Tunisian who has lived in Italy for 15 years, insists that he would report suspicious activity to the police. Asked if anyone from the Alhuda had attended the religious schools in Pakistan that have been a breeding ground for terrorists, he said: “Not that I know of, but they certainly wouldn’t tell me if they had.”

Man Shot Dead ‘Not Connected To Terror Attacks’

The man shot dead on an Underground train in south London on Friday was not connected to attempted terror attacks on the capital, said police. The statement came as it emerged that police have been given secret new shoot-to-kill guidelines in recent weeks. The dead man was named as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year old electrician from Brazil. Mr Menezes, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been working legally in Britain for three years. This is a tragedy. The Metropolitan Police accepts full responsibility for this. To the family I can only express my deep regrets, Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, told Sky News on Sunday. The shooting happened in Stockwell on Friday morning when armed plain clothes police officers shot a man as he tried to board a train at the Underground station. He had emerged from a house under surveillance following Thursday’s attempted bomb attacks on three Tube trains and a bus. New shoot-to-kill guidelines for armed police and surveillance officers confronting suspected suicide terrorists advise them to shoot to the head and not the body in case the suspect has a bomb. Sir Ian on Sunday admitted the police had a shoot-to-kill policy to deal with suicide bombers and that it would continue. Somebody else could be shot. But everything is done to make it right,” he said. Friday morning’s shooting at Stockwell came as the hunt continued for terrorists behind bomb attacks that have killed more than 50 people. Over the weekend police questioned two men arrested in connection with the attacks. The admission by the police that the dead man was not connected to the terror attacks will stoke debate over counter-terrorism tactics and the implication that police were operating a so-called shoot-to-kill policy against suspected terrorists. On Friday night the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission called for a public enquiry into the shooting in Stockwell. This is an extra-judicial killing by police who have been trained in shoot-to-kill, it said. The police now face inquiries into their actions that could hit morale, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating the Stockwell shooting. Sir Ian said the force was confronting what he called its greatest operational challenge ever. They faced previously unknown threats and great danger, he added as he appealed for the understanding of all communities. Sir Ian said the dead man had been challenged and refused to obey police instructions. Police raided at least three addresses in London on Friday and made two arrests. Police Issue Pictures Of Four Bomb Suspects Police released closed circuit TV pictures of the four suspects and sought public assistance as forensic work continued on what appeared to be home-made explosive devices used on Thursday. A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said on Friday night a special project group had developed operational tactics to help police respond swiftly and effectively to such threats. The guidelines were secretly developed in consultation with police forces including Israel, Russia and the US.

Us Muslims Launch Ad Campaign Against Terror

WASHINGTON: American Muslims have launched an advertising campaign to denounce acts of terrorism after bombers believed to be British Muslims killed at least 54 people in attacks on London. Any effort by terrorists to hide their criminal activities under the mask of religious piety is being categorically and unequivocally rejected by mainstream Muslims, said Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He said the television ad, which will air nationwide by July 19, is an attempt to detach Islam from the heinous acts of a few Muslims. Police believe the attacks are linked to Al Qaeda, the Islamic militant group behind the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the Madrid train bombings last year. Backlash is a concern … but it’s not our main motive, said CAIR spokeswoman Rabiah Ahmed. Our main motivation lies with making sure our position is clear where Islam stands on terrorism. The 30-second public service spot, called Not in the Name of Islam, features two American Muslim women and religious leader Imam Johari Abdul-Malik. We often hear claims Muslims don’t condemn terrorism and that Islam condones violence, they say. As Muslims, we want to state clearly that those who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam are betraying the teachings of the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed. We reject anyone – of any faith – who commits such brutal acts and will not allow our faith to be hijacked by criminals. Islam is not about hatred and violence. It’s about peace and justice. The director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, John Voll, welcomed the campaign. I think Americans, especially these days … are justified in being fearful of the suicidal violence attempts by extremist fanatics in many different traditions, he said. It is counterproductive for Americans to then focus their fear on the people who are probably their closest allies, and that is average, mainstream Muslims.

UK Fatwa To Call Bombers Unbelievers, If Proved Muslims

Britain’s top Muslim scholars are drafting a fatwa stripping those behind the grisly London blasts, if proved Muslims, from the right to call themselves Muslims, a leading British newspaper said Sunday, July 10. Signed by dozens of prominent Muslim bodies, mosques, Islamic scholars and community groups, the religious edict will brand the attacks as a breach of the most basic tenets of Islam, reported The Independent. “If these bombers are found to be Muslims, we will make it clear we utterly dissociate ourselves from them – even if they claim to be Muslims or are acting under the mantle of the Islamic faith. We reject that utterly,” said the official spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Two different groups purporting to be Al-Qaeda affiliated claimed responsibility for the bloody blasts which killed at least 49 people and wounded 700 others. The Independent said police and intelligence agents are investigating the theory that a gang of white “mercenary terrorists” was hired by Al-Qaeda to carry out the attacks. Commander Brian Paddick of the London Metropolitan Police told reporters Sunday no arrests have been made yet and that they were not focusing on any specific suspects. The fatwa will also make clear that Muslims have a moral duty to help the police catch the perpetrators. The move follows a decision taken Friday, July 8, at an emergency meeting attended by about 100 of the country’s most prominent Muslim leaders, held in private at East London Mosque, said the daily. Imams across Britain were united in condemning the attacks in their weekly Friday sermons, encouraging Muslims to offer all possible assistance to the victims and authorities. Enemies Of Islam Senior minority leaders believe they must undermine the religious basis of the terrorists’ actions, said the British daily. “Those behind this atrocity aren’t just enemies of humanity but enemies of Islam and Muslims”, said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the MCB, the main representative Muslim body in Britain. “The people at the receiving end of this, both as some of the victims of the bombing and victims of the backlash, are Muslims,” he stressed. Murad Qureshi, the only Muslim member of the Greater London Assembly and a former Labour councilor in Westminster, backs such a fatwa. “It is about time we put clear distance between ourselves and so-called Muslim leaders like Osama bin Laden, who has been able to dictate the whole agenda with his video nasties,” he said. “We’re not talking about Muslims here. We’re talking about a bunch of nutters. The time has come to debunk the idea they are sanctioned by Islam.” The London blasts have drawn immediate condemnation from prominent scholars across the Muslim world, who said that such black actions run in the face of Islam which strictly forbids killing civilians. Dividing Line Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said there should be a “dividing line” between terrorists and Muslims. “There’s not a dividing line between Muslims and Londoners. The dividing line is between those who commit these acts and those who don’t,” he said. While saying that the perpetrators acted “in the name of Islam,” Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained that “the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law abiding people who abhor terrorism every bit as much as we do.” He also admitted there can be no security solution to terrorist attacks, urging the world to address the underlying causes of terrorism. David Clark, a former Labour government adviser, wrote in the Guardian Saturday there can be no hope of defeating terrorism until the world community is ready to take legitimate Arab grievances seriously.

Police Reveal Attacks On British Muslims

By James Blitz and Jimmy Burns in London Senior police officers on Sunday revealed that they had recorded several incidents of “hate crime” following the London bombings – including one that had led to “serious injury”. As one of Britain’s leading Islamic figures insisted the London bomb attacks had been “contrary to Islam”, the police acknowledged that the terrorism had triggered reprisals against Muslims in recent days. “We have had some incidents of hate crime – racially and religiously motivated offences – and we take those kinds of offences very seriously,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick said in London. “But thankfully none of these has been the cause of major damage, although there was a serious injury reported in one of those incidents.” Senior government figures have been concerned about the possibility of reprisals against ethnic minority groups because of the London bomb attacks. However, leading religious figures from across the faiths on Sunday met in London to stress their common values and to condemn the attacks. Sheikh Zaki Badawi, head of the Council of Mosques and Imams, said the attacks were “totally contrary to Islam”, adding: “Anyone claiming to commit a crime in the name of religion does not necessarily justify his position in the name of that religion.” Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said the fact that Britons were worried about reprisals after the bombings was a sign of the “normality” of inter-faith relations in the country. Some senior government officials expressed concern about the possible impact on community relations after Sir John Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner, warned that the London bombers were “almost certainly” British and that there were many more born and bred in the UK willing to attack. Sir John said last Thursday’s bombers were “totally aware of British life and values” and although international terrorists might have provided the expertise, it was “wishful thinking” to suspect the perpetrators came from abroad. In an article entitled “Young, clever . . . and British” written in the News of the World newspaper on Sunday, he said: “I’m afraid there’s a sufficient number of people in this country willing to be Islamic terrorists that they don’t have to be drafted in from abroad.” Such a warning, while privately shared by some security officials, is condemned by others as politically dangerous when uttered in these terms and publicly. “The British police and government are very worried about community tensions getting out of control. These kind of comments risk being counter-productive,” said one European police insider. Senior police officers and security chiefs believe the support of British Muslims could be critical in finding those responsible for last Thursday’s bombings. They believe that information provided from within the Muslim community could provide intelligence on the bombers’ movements since the explosions. But police are also appealing for information on individuals who might have been acting suspiciously in recent weeks, including those arriving from abroad. While MI5, the security service, is thought to have boosted its recruitment of individuals with specialist cultural and language skills since the 9/11 attacks on the US, the current search for the bombers – thought to be supporters of the aims of al-Qaeda – is likely to be aided if they are not provided with safe havens.

Former Imam Of Finsbury Park Mosque Has Lost Appeal

The Former Imam Of The Finsbury Park Mosque, London, Has Lost His Appeal Against Detention Without Trial. Abu Qatada, described as an “inspiration” for terrorists both here and abroad, has been held for more than a year under emergency powers introduced after the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.