Disbelief at Pontarlier mosque attended by Salhi

Naceur Benyahia was surprised to hear the name Yassin Salhi regarding the terror attack in Isère. The president of the local Islamic association in Pontarlier (Doubs) knew the man arrested by a fireman after the attack at the US owned factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier. “It’s a man that I’ve known for ten years. A calm man who played soccer,” remembers Benyahia.

At the beginning of 2000, radicalized youths attempted to take over the Philippe Grenier mosque, reported L’Est Républicain. “It was one person,” Naceur Benyahi corrects, “He tried to change the inner structure. He was done away with quickly, he was kicked out.”

Portarlier’s mayor Patrick Genre, elected in 1999, adds: “The religious association was very well run and knew how to stop a takeover of the mosque.” He added that there was no radicalization problem in the town of 20,000.

“There is no radical movement in our mosque,” Benyahi announced. “Our religion is based on a sound book and on the Prophet. If someone tries to change that, they leave the religion.”

The president noted that Salhi now lives in Besançon. “He left Pontarlier when his father died and his mother returned to live in Morocco. His brothers and sisters dispersed. I didn’t know he was married, that he had three children.”

France asks US Internet giants to “help fight terror”

The French government has requested that Google, Facebook and Twitter cooperate with French officials during investigations and asked that they immediately take down any extremist propaganda that is discovered, said minister of the interior Bernard Cazeneuve.

“We emphasized that when an investigation is under way we don’t want to go through the usual government to government channels, which can take so long,” said the interior minister after a meeting with representatives from the US tech giants while visiting Silicon Valley.
“It’s important to have full cooperation and quick reaction,” he added

Cazeneuve’s comments came after the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks which claimed 20 lives, including the three gunmen. Twitter and Facebook officials stated that they work to prevent radical propaganda but didn’t comment as to whether they would heed the minister’s request.

“We regularly host ministers and other governmental officials from across the world at Facebook, and were happy to welcome Mr. Cazeneuve today,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We work aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site, and we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism.”

When asked whether Twitter would comply with French investigators, a spokesperson stated: “We review all reported content against our rules, which prohibit direct, specific threats of violence against others.”

An email to Google requesting comment was not immediately answered. According to US intelligence officials the number of foreign fighters leaving to join ISIL has grown, with at least 3,400 coming from Western nations out of the 20,000 from around the world.
“I told them we can figure this out together, we can come up with counterterrorism speech and block these sites that are enticing the most vulnerable members of our society to commit terrorist acts,” said Cazeneuve.

France is also pushing to treat “jihadi material” on the internet like child pornography, a task that few had heard of before the attacks in Paris, but is now widely acknowledged by Europe’s top officials. Cazeneuve believed the meeting was a solid foundation for building a strong relationship between the tech companies and the French government.

He said he invited them to go to Paris in April to continue the conversation.

President Obama on James Foley, and Muslim Victims

August 20, 2014

The men who killed James Foley, the American journalist, belonged to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and claimed to be acting in the name of one of the great monotheistic religions of the world with the goal of establishing a caliphate.

But as Mr. Foley’s brutal beheading made clear,  ISIS, a Sunni Muslim group, practices a perverted, nihilistic version of Islam that does an extreme disservice to millions of Muslims, both Sunnis and Shiites, pursuing more peaceful and purposeful lives.

President Obama, who denounced the murder today from his vacation venue on Martha’s Vineyard, put it well when he said that ISIS “speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.”

His description of the group’s horrors was unsparing: “They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They have murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shi’a, by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion. They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people,” the Yazidis.

The point that the extremist group’s victims are overwhelmingly Muslim is worth repeating.

But whatever the United States does in the future, ISIS and its extremist brethren will never be defeated if Muslims themselves don’t make it a priority.

Even the Islamists of ISIS are obsessing over Ferguson

August 21, 2014

They’re hoping to use black disenchantment as a recruiting tool.

You can understand if President Obama would rather talk about the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq, where he has scored some victories, than talk about the unholy mess in Ferguson, Mo. Surprisingly, though, ISIS militants are following developments in the St. Louis suburb, and some of them would rather focus on that. According to interviews and social media, members of the group and sympathizers with its jihadist ideology are closely tracking the events in the St. Louis suburb, where protesters and police have clashed. In it, they see opportunity.

Partly, the focus is strategic: Officers in Ferguson have used military transports and weapons similar to those used by U.S. troops in Iraq. But militants are also claiming vindication — that their arguments about American oppression were right all along. “Well this clearly shows that all this talk about democracy and equality of people in the west is just hypocrisy,” said Abu Sameer after a private autopsy sought by the family of Michael Brown showed that the 18-year-old had been shot at least six times. Abu Sameer lives in France and identifies himself as a member of the Islamic State, a group that has conducted a campaign of mass killings and other atrocities in northern Iraq.

The Islamic State and other jihadist movements are using the events outside St. Louis as propaganda against the West. One argument they’ve been making for years is that racism and discrimination are rampant in some parts of the West, and they’re hoping the Ferguson riots could help recruit black Americans. “In Islam there is no racism, and we think black people will wake up and follow the example of Malcolm X and others who understood that this way is the only way to justice,” said Abu Mansour, who lives in Germany and is also a follower of the Islamic State.

All of the jihadists interviewed said Brown’s death confirms their beliefs that blacks are seen as second-class citizens by whites and especially by the police. “I think that blacks in the U.S. will look more towards Islam,” said Anjem Choudary from Great Britain, co-founder of the banned “al-Muhajiroun” group. (Choudary’s teacher, Omar Bakri Muhammad, was barred from Britain and is currently in a Lebanese jail for his alleged support of jihadist movements in Syria and Iraq.) “The only way of life today that does not look at race is in fact Islam. Islam only distinguished people by whether they are Muslim or not. The color of their skin does not play a role,” Choudary said in a phone interview.

Muslim Leaders Worldwide Condemn ISIS

Many Americans Want to Know Why Muslims Aren’t Condemning ISIS

ABC News’ Laura Ingraham, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Fox & Friends and other U.S. media commentators say that Muslims are silent and complicit in the barbarian crimes of ISIS.  Fox News host Andrea Tantaros said that all Muslims are the same as ISIS, and implied that all Muslims should be met “with a bullet to the head”.

Why don’t we hear Muslims condemning the barbarian ISIS terrorists?

Turns out they are loudly condemning ISIS … but our press isn’t covering it.

Father Elias Mallon of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association explains:

“Why aren’t Muslims speaking out against these atrocities?” The answer is: Muslims have been speaking out in the strongest terms, condemning the crimes against humanity committed by ISIS (or, as it is increasingly called, IS) and others in the name of Islam.

Father Mallon is right …

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – the largest Muslim group in the U.S. – called ISIS un-Islamic and morally repugnant,” noted that the Islamic State’s “human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented,” called the Islamic State “both un-Islamic and morally repugnant” and called the killing of American journalist James Foley “gruesome and barbaric”.  See this, this and this.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) – the largest Muslim organization on the continent – released a statement denouncing the Islamic State “for its attacks on Iraq’s religious minorities and the destruction of their places of worship.” ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid said, “ISIS actions against religious minorities in Iraq violate the Quranic teaching, ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’  … ” adding, “Their actions are to be denounced and are in no way representative of what Islam actually teaches.”  INSA condemned the vicious execution of Foley at the hands of the terrorist group ISIS, terming it as “un-Islamic behaviour”, and said:

ISIS actions have never been representative nor in accordance to the mainstream teachings of Islam. This act of murder cannot be justified according to the faith practiced by over 1.6 billion people

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) released a statement condemning “the barbaric execution of American Journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” MPAC urged “all people of conscience to take a stand against extremism” and offered condolences to Foley’s family. MPAC also noted the importance of countering ISIS and other extremist groups by working “to empower the mainstream and relegate extremists to the irrelevance they deserve.”

Narrating Islam in Black America: Philadelphia Museum Preserves Story of Islam in Black America

August 1, 2014

For many Muslims born to immigrant parents in this country, our first encounters with an indigenous American Muslim tradition allowed us to see pieces of ourselves in the cultural life and history of the United States. Whether it was watching slaves carry their religion to Southern plantations in the TV series “Roots,” poring over the prison conversion story in “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” sifting through old footage of Muhammad Ali citing his religious beliefs as his rationale for refusing his Vietnam draft notice, or deciphering Islamic references in the lyrics of hip-hop artists such as Lauryn Hill or A Tribe Called Quest, each moment illuminated a rich archive of American Muslim history that we had never been exposed to in our homes, schools, or even in our mosques.

The New Africa Center on Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia is a small museum dedicated to preserving what Abdul Rahim Muhammad, the Center’s director, calls the “lost and found history of American Islam.” The Center features items donated largely from Abdul Rahim’s own personal journey as a convert to the Nation of Islam during the 1950s when it was under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad to the Nation’s transformation and transition under Warith Deen Muhammad, Elijah’s son.

“A lot of people, even Muslims themselves, don’t know about the Muslim experience in America, particularly the African-American Muslim experience,” said Abdul Rahim. “When I grew up, we were the voice of the community. Now we’re barely heard.”

Rahim claims that Warith Deen Muhammad continued to face criticism from Muslim leaders who had recently immigrated to the United States for speaking too much about racial issues and not enough about the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad.

“They thought he was trying to create a new Islamic movement. But he was really trying to help black people solve an identity crisis and help us reconnect with our roots as African Muslims and the sunnah of the Prophet and the story of his companion Bilal. But people would tell Warith Deen that he needed to talk more about Abu Bakr and the other main companions. No, he stuck with Bilal because Bilal spoke to us.”

US must ‘destroy’ Islamic State, say religious conservatives

August 13, 2014

(RNS) A coalition of more than 50 religious leaders, led by mostly conservative Catholic, evangelical and Jewish activists, is calling on President Obama to sharply escalate military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq. They say “nothing short of the destruction” of the Islamic State can protect Christians and religious minorities now being subjected to “a campaign of genocide.”

“We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief,” the petition reads. “None of us glorifies war or underestimates the risks entailed by the use of military force.”

But they say the situation is so dire that relief for these religious communities “cannot be achieved apart from the use of military force to degrade and disable” the Islamic State forces.

The petition was organized by Robert P. George, a prominent Catholic conservative and Republican activist, and he was joined by a range of other leaders, many of whom are known for their hawkish views on foreign policy.

The Vatican on Wednesday (Aug. 13) released a letter that Pope Francis wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealing to the world community “to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.”

While Francis called for “concrete acts of solidarity” by the U.N. and included security forces as part of the solution, he was careful not to promote a military response as the chief means for resolving the tragedy. Other Catholic officials in Rome and Iraq have said the U.S. airstrikes are viewed as necessary and morally justified but they are leery of actions that could lead to another U.S.-led military campaign.

The letter from the religious activists, mainly Americans, was much more forceful in calling for military action.

Tariq Ramadan: Why I will not attend the ISNA (August 2014) and RIS (December 2014) conferences

August 10, 2014

In recent years I have been a faithful participant in two major events of the North American Muslim calendar. As a regular attendee at these annual gatherings, I wish to express my warmest thanks to the institutions, and to the women and men who made them the success they undoubtedly were.

This year, however, I have decided not to attend or participate in the conferences organized by ISNA from August 29 to September 1 in Detroit, and by RIS, from December 26-28 2014, in Toronto. The reasons are different, but point to similar causes.

The leaders of ISNA can boast a proud record of service to American Muslims, for which they must be thanked and congratulated. The annual ISNA convention is an important gathering, featuring a multiplicity of participants and a broad cross-section of activities. In recent years, however, the political positions taken by the organization’s leadership have not always been clear-cut. Though it is essential, I believe, to remain open to dialogue with the authorities, it is likewise essential that positions of principle must be maintained, re-affirmed and defended. Not simply for the good of the Muslims, but in the name of the contribution of American Muslims to their society. Criticism of the domestic policy of the current administration, like those that preceded it, is a moral obligation. Summary arrests, arbitrary prison terms, inhuman psychological torture and solitary confinement, the shadowy role of informers and the deeply troubling and unacceptable methods used by the FBI, which has provoked young people to engage in extremist actions, must be unconditionally condemned. Not in the name of Islam, but in the name of the values proclaimed by the United States. However, the ISNA leadership is too often silent, as if paralyzed by fear. It fares no better with respect to American foreign policy. Its silence over American support for the outlaw and inhuman policies of Israel cannot be justified, even less so after attending an iftar organized by the White House during which President Obama defended Israel while the Israeli ambassador tweeted his delight! We cannot be forever silent: what kind of active and responsible citizenship does the ISNA leadership offer young American Muslims? What kind of example? That of silent, fearful sycophants–or of free, public-spirited citizens who, while defending the values of human dignity and justice, serve their country in the most sincere and critical way? That of the unconditional loyalty of the timorous, or the critical loyalty of free individuals? To attend the ISNA convention would be to endorse their silence.

Nor will I be attending RIS this year. The reasons are different, the causes similar. The organizers have long demonstrated their effectiveness; they wish to convey the impression of favoring a plurality of voices. But in fact, it is the so-called “Sufi” and “apolitical” trend that lies at the core of the RIS convention. I do not have the slightest problem with this trend (on the contrary), or its underlying structures and aims. The problem is that some of the participants, scholars or preachers, under the guise of Sufism or in the name of avoiding partisan politics, defend highly politicized positions of support for states and dictatorships. Their silence and their inferences in the heart of the West, in Toronto or elsewhere, constitute visible support for the Gulf petro-monarchies or for despots such as al-Sissi in Egypt. This while dictators from Syria to Iraq by way of Egypt are imprisoning, torturing and killing innocents by the thousands. They cast themselves as above the conflict, while the “Sufism” they offer is highly politicized and too well adjusted to the boots of the State. But I will have none of this. When some speakers boast in public of their openness but refuse to participate in panel discussions to avoid being exposed, openness goes by the board. When the same people support dictatorial governments, coherence flies out the window. I cannot, by my presence, lend implicit approval to such positions.

Spare me please any talk of my family background: I have sufficiently criticized the Islamist movements—all of them, without exception–and their choices that my approach cannot be reduced to anything resembling even implicit support. My position is that all dictators must be confronted, all injustices must be fought; we cannot be silent, or feign silence while supporting the worst regimes.

I have said it once and I will say it again: Western Muslims will in the future assume a critical role. Educated and living in free societies, they must acquire greater knowledge of their religion and become free, active and outspoken citizens, fully aware of their duties and dedicated to the defense of their rights. In the United States, just as in Canada and in Europe, they must defend everyone’s human dignity, and refuse to keep silent in the face of intimidation by the state. Drawing on their spirituality and their values, their commitment will be their finest contribution, the best possible example of the contribution of Muslim citizens to the future of the West. The leaders of the previous generation are too cautious, too fearful; they dare not speak freely.

I am also a member of a generation that is passing on. It is up to the new generation to produce leaders who have understood that in bending over backwards, in saying “Yes sir!” they sacrifice not only their dignity, but forget and betray their duty. I dream of a new feminine and masculine leadership, educated, free and bold, a leadership that does not confuse the concept of dialogue with the authorities with unacceptable compromise and intellectual surrender, a leadership that does not transform Sufism, the historical underpinning of so many liberation movements, into a school of silence and cowardly calculation. As I look around me, I see the first premises of a dream come true, alhamdulLilah.

I am well aware that the position I am taking will sound off sharp criticism; others may simply decide not to invite me. For years I have dealt with criticisms of my person, my training, my credibility. I have no time to waste with these low blows and refer readers to my résumé, which can be found on my website (http://tariqramadan.com/english/biography/). These are the same individuals who attack my character to avoid responding to the content of my critical thought. I know their methods all too well, but I refuse to waste my time by answering their attacks, which are nothing but a manoeuvre to sidestep the true subject. It is impossible for me to attend such events when my presence alone would imply support for positions that stand in total contradiction to my vision of the role of Western Muslims in their society, now and in the future. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. It is imperative that we educate ourselves, and that we display good judgement and fortitude. If those around us are silent in the face of the unacceptable, the conscience of Muslims must not remain silent, neither in the name of wisdom betrayed, nor of Sufism perverted.

Sudan ‘apostasy’ woman Meriam Ibrahim arrives in US

August 1, 2014

A Sudanese woman who fled to Italy after being spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam has arrived in the US. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag arrived in New Hampshire on Thursday evening with her American husband and her children. Welcoming her on a brief stopover in Philadelphia, the city’s mayor, Michael Nutter, described her as a “world freedom fighter”.

He compared her to Rosa Parks, who became a symbol of the civil rights movement in the US when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Alabama.

When in Rome, she met the Pope, who “thanked her for her witness to faith”, according to a Vatican spokesman.

Babar Ahmad: The godfather of internet jihad?

July 17, 2014

If you wanted to find the face – and voice – of Generation Jihad, it would be Babar Ahmad. A decade in jail fighting against conviction, he finally accepted last year that he had committed terrorist offences in 1990s London. Ahmad pleaded guilty in an American courtroom to providing support for terrorism. The US authorities say that he ran a support network in south London which had near-unprecedented global reach. But his story is more complicated than that – the judge sentencing him concluded he was no international terrorist. And at the heart of his network was a website – the first in English to spread jihad. The US says his network not only spread a dangerous ideology – it encouraged young Muslims to join al-Qaeda and turn their face against the West.

So why did the US Department of Justice spend a decade trying to bring this earnest young man to justice? They say it’s about how his ideology changed and what he did with it – and to understand that it is necessary to go back to a terrible moment in modern European history.

The Bosnian War that began in 1992 shocked the world. TV pictures showed Serbian soldiers killing white-skinned European Muslims. Living and being brought up in an increasingly secular post-religious Western British environment. Many decided to solve this identity crisis by firmly adopting political Islam and becoming not only devout Muslims but highly politicised Muslims and connecting with that resurgence of political Islam around the world. Babar Ahmad adopted that identity. And now, in talks across London and other cities, he and others applied it to the horrors of Bosnia. He split from the mainstream, frustrated by inaction, and said there was one priority – armed jihad. And aged just 18, this student at Imperial College London – one of the world’s finest Universities – went to fight.

In 1996, he launched Azzam Publications. This was the first English language website dedicated to jihad. It has now long since disappeared from the web, but the site declared that its purpose was to propagate a call to arms “among the Muslims who are sitting down ignorant of this vital duty”. “Fight in the cause of Allah,” it said, “incite the believers to fight along with you.”

One of the tapes produced by Azzam Publications was called In the Hearts of Green Birds – more stories of martyrs and battles in Bosnia. Babar Ahmad was the narrator, and this tape – and the ideas in it – took on a life of their own. The 7/7 London suicide attackers had this tape and others from Azzam – and today quotes from it can still be found on social media posts by British fighters in Syria.

“I actually find it extremely offensive to be called a terrorist supporter because there is no allegation that is more serious than the allegation of terrorism. And in my life I have never supported terrorism, I have never financed terrorism. I believe that the targeting and killing of innocent people I believe that to be wrong, whatever the circumstances, whatever the justification, whoever does it” Babar Ahmad says.

Ahmad’s former friend Usama Hasan now works for the Quilliam Foundation which advises governments on how to combat extremism. He says the intellectual and religious struggle that Babar Ahmad faced is being repeated today over Syria. He says today’s militants need to hear from Babar Ahmad. “He can help in peace and reconciliation – in guiding the next generation of British Muslims in a positive direction, just as IRA terrorists have done that – served their time in prison and realised that violence is not the ultimate path.”