CHICAGO — There is an advertising war being fought here — not over soda or car brands but over the true meaning of the word “jihad.”
Backing a continuing effort that has featured billboards on the sides of Chicago buses, the local chapter of a national Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has been promoting a nonviolent meaning of the word — “to struggle” — that applies to everyday life.
Supporters say jihad is a spiritual concept that has been misused by extremists and inaccurately linked to terrorism, and they are determined to reclaim that definition with the ad campaign, called My Jihad.
But last month another set of ads, with a far different message, started appearing on buses here.
Mimicking the My Jihad ads, they feature photos and quotations from figures like Osama bin Laden and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010. “Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah,” says one ad, attributing the quotation to a Hamas television station. They end with the statement: “That’s his jihad. What’s yours?”
The leader of the second ad campaign, Pamela Geller, executive director of the pro-Israel group American Freedom Defense Initiative, has criticized the original My Jihad ads as a “whitewashed version” of an idea that has been used to justify violent attacks around the world.
An Egyptian-American columnist, who rose to prominence on social media last year for her commentary during the revolution in Egypt, was arrested in the Times Square subway station on Tuesday for spraying pink paint on a pro-Israel poster that calls Islamist opponents of the Jewish state “savage.”
The poster was one of 10 placed in subway stations across the transit system this week, on the heels of violent and sometimes deadly protests across the Muslim world in response to an American-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
The columnist, Mona Eltahawy, is a former Reuters correspondent now based in New York who became a dual citizen of Egypt and the United States last year. Her Twitter feed, which has more than 160,000 followers, became popular last year as a source of information on the Egyptian revolution.
Ms. Eltahawy, initially known for her commentary on the Egyptian revolution from afar, became personally involved in the protest movement last November, when she used her Twitter feed to document her physical and sexual abuse by Egyptian police officers following a crackdown on a demonstration near Tahrir Square in Cairo.
In May, she earned the enmity of many Egyptians for writing a Foreign Policy cover story on women’s rights in the Middle East published with the headline “Why Do They Hate Us?”
News of Ms. Eltahawy’s arrest made headlines in Egypt and earned her praise from like-minded Internet activists. A Lebanese blogger, who was less impressed with the stunt, wrote a satirical blog post accusing Ms. Eltahawy of attention-seeking.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Four Pakistani men charged with terrorism-related offenses for allegedly helping failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad were acquitted in a Rawalpindi court Saturday, their lawyer said.
The men, Faisal Abbasi, Muhammad Shahid Husain, Muhammad Shoaib Mughal and Humbal Akhtar, had been accused of arranging meetings between Shahzad and top Pakistani Taliban leaders, and sending him money to help prepare the attack. Their lawyer, Malik Imran Safdar, said an antiterrorism court in Rawalpindi found that prosecutors failed to prove their case and released the men.
Two other men initially arrested along with the four others were released previously.
Shahzad, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty to attempting to detonate a sport utility vehicle filled with propane tanks and fertilizer in Times Square on May 1, 2010. The botched bombing marked the first time the Pakistani Taliban had tried to engineer an attack outside its strongholds in the tribal regions of western Pakistan along the Afghan border.
NEW YORK — A prosecutor told jurors Thursday that a U.S. citizen went to Pakistan in 2008 with two others determined to kill American troops in Afghanistan, but a defense lawyer said the men were “immature, naïve and clueless” and easily manipulated by both al-Qaida and U.S. investigators.
Both versions of Adis Medunjanin’s trip abroad were offered during closing arguments before a federal jury in Brooklyn begins deliberating the fate of the Bosnian-born Muslim who became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Medunjanin is charged with nine crimes, including conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaida by prosecutors who say he returned to New York weeks after he left to begin planning a martyrdom operation to set off explosives in the city’s subway.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Berit Berger said Medunjanin and the other two men quickly ditched their original plan to fight for the Taliban against Americans in Afghanistan when they connected with al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan who wanted them to return to America on a terrorism mission.
“This is Terrorism 101,” she said. “The goal of this conspiracy was to kill as many people as possible.”
Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty to charges he became an al-Qaida operative who discussed bombing movie theaters, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and the New York Stock Exchange before settling on the city’s subways.
In advance of Thursday’s Congressional hearings on homegrown terrorism, hundreds protested in Times Square on Sunday, as a Long Island congressman dealt with a political firestorm over his specific focus on Muslims for the hearings.
Many protesters held signs reading “Today I am a Muslim too” at a rainy protest to voice concerns that Representative Peter T. King, a Republican, is unfairly singling out Muslims in his hearings, as well as in interviews in Washington over the weekend.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a founder of a project to develop an Islamic community center near ground zero, spoke at the protests.
A new report says the number of U.S. Muslims accused in terror plots dropped by more than half in 2010.
The study was released Wednesday by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, which includes experts from Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Twenty American Muslims were suspects in terror plots last year, compared to 47 in 2009.
The 2009 spike was due mainly to a large number of Somali-Americans who tried to join the al-Shabab militant movement in Somalia.
Last year, five American Muslim terror suspects carried out their plans, including one who tried to set off a bomb in Times Square and others who joined militant movements overseas.
The original study (PDF) is viewable here.
Faisal Shahzad, the would be Time Square bomber, warned of more future attacks as he heard his fate in a New York district court. “This is but one life,” said Shahzad, upon hearing his life term sentence for the attempted Times Square bombing. “If I am given a thousand lives, I will sacrifice them all for the sake of Allah, fighting this cause, defending our lands, making the word of Allah supreme over any religion or system.”
Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum; interrupted Shahzad’s threatening soliloquy and condoned him for using skewed interpretations of the Koran to suite his justifications for attempting to kill people. “I do hope that you will spend some of the time in prison thinking carefully about whether the Koran wants you to kill lots of people.”
Shahzad continued; “Blessed be” Osama bin Laden, “who will be known as no less than Saladin of the 21st-century crusade, and blessed be those who give him asylum.” To which the judge responded; “How much do you know about Saladin, as you called him?” “He didn’t want to kill people…He was a very moderate man,” the judge told the defendant.
A video has emerged in which the man who attempted to set off a car bomb in New York defends his actions. Faisal Shahzad says in the tape he is carrying out the Times Square attack as revenge for Muslim fighters, “oppressed and weak Muslims”, and “martyrs”.
By Michelle Nichols
Islamist extremists similar to the Times Square bomber are living among New Yorkers and the threat of attack by “homegrown terrorists” is not diminishing, city Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. A failed attempt by a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen to blow up a car bomb in midtown Manhattan last month confirmed “the threat from radical Islam shows no sign of receding,” Kelly told the Association for a Better New York, a non-profit group.
By MATTHEW LEE
Four senators are seeking to force the Obama administration to blacklist the Pakistani Taliban, a day after the failed Times Square bomber pleaded guilty and admitted getting training from the group. The senators, all from New York and New Jersey, said Tuesday they would introduce a bill requiring the State Department to designate the Pakistani Taliban a “foreign terrorist organization.”