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

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

Ethnic Minority Voters Deserting Labour

Poll: Blow For The Government Labour’s support among Britain’s ethnic minority voters has fallen, according to a new survey. It now stands at 58 per cent, down from 75 per cent in 2001. The Guardian/ICM poll published on Monday confirms earlier polls showing that Muslim voters in particular have defected from Labour in the wake of the Iraq war. Labour’s support has halved among Muslims, declining from 75 per cent to 38 per cent since 2001. The poll finds some ethnic groups have stayed loyal to Labour with 74 per cent of black people and 61 per cent of those of Indian-origin saying they will vote for the party. Support for Labour is lowest among people of mixed race, at 42 per cent it is more in line with the wider electorate. The Liberal Democrats, on 23 per cent, firmly push the Conservatives into third place as far as support from Britain’s ethnic minority groups is concerned. The Tories only register backing from 14 per cent of ethnic minority voters. Wider Findings The poll found that only 39 per cent of ethnic minority voters see themselves as “fully British”, regardless of how long they have lived here, and more than half say they have been a victim of name-calling or verbal abuse. One in five ethnic minority voters say they have considered leaving Britain because of racial intolerance. Nearly half say that when they hear people talking about immigrants they think they mean them, regardless of how long they have been in Britain. On a more positive note, the survey found higher than expected levels of trust in the police, health and education authorities to treat them fairly. The poll was undertaken to highlight the needs and experiences of Britain’s ethnic minority voters, and their relevance to the coming election campaign as Labour seeks a third term.

France Deports Algerian Imam For Anti-Women Statements

Paris (AFP) – Wegen islamisch-fundamentalistischer und frauenfeindlicher _u_erungen schiebt Frankreich einen algerischen Imam ab. Wie die Profektur in Lyon mitteilte, wurde der Vorbeter Abdelkader Bouziane am Dienstagmorgen festgenommen. Nach Angaben seines Anwaltes sollte der Imam noch am Nachmittag mit einem Linienflug von Lyon nach Algerien gebracht werden. Der Pariser Staatsrat als h_chstes franz_sisches Verwaltungsgericht hatte die Ausweisung am Vortag endg_ltig f_r gerechtfertigt erkl_rt. Bouziane war am 21. April ein erstes Mal des Landes verwiesen worden, nach einer Entscheidung des Verwaltungsgerichts Lyon jedoch kurz darauf zur_ckgekehrt.

Towards A British Islam

Several details about the eight young men arrested in raids across the home counties this week stir much thought. They are all British born. They do not live in areas of high deprivation, but in places like Crawley, Ilford and Slough. Some have young families. None of them fits the conventional profile of Islamist terrorists as alienated, isolated immigrants. If this is suburban Islamism, it poses difficult questions about Britain’s record in integrating the Muslim community and in fostering a secure, strong sense of a British Islamic identity. There are many in the Muslim community whose warnings, through the early 1990s, of a radicalised generation fell on deaf ears. They would argue that Britain has not so much failed to integrate Muslims, as failed even to try. As they saw the traditional authority structures of their community undermined in the urban west, they saw the dangers of a disorientated youth, vulnerable both to drugs and Islamism. Organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain at the interface of state and Islam struggled to establish and maintain their credibility with both. The state’s apparatus of multi-culturalism, with its emphasis on ethnicity rather than religious identity, served Muslim needs ill, they claimed. They would point to a catalogue of neglect towards the Muslim community, evident in high unemployment and high educational underachievement, particularly among Pakistani and Bangladeshi males. They argue that the response to setting up Muslim schools was too slow, and that boys’ vital religious instruction in mosques on Saturdays has remained in the cultural clutches of religious authorities back in Pakistan or Bangladesh. The resources were inadequate to promote a vibrant Islam of which these British youngsters could be proud. The crucial ingredient which radicalises this kind of community disaffection into some individuals undertaking acts of extreme violence is the international context. It began with the slow international response in Bosnia, but now spans the globe from Chechnya and Palestine to France where the sisters cannot wear the hijab. The perception everywhere is that the proud, expansionary faith of Islam is under attack. That makes a faith in which the ummah (international community of believers) is central and, when combined with modern mass communications, quite literally explosive. Worryingly, this international context – in particular the war on Iraq – is now sapping the will of the British Muslim community to integrate, as a recent Guardian-ICM poll found. Britain faces a pressing task of mapping an effective strategy of engagement with Islam, one that spans both the global and local contexts. It is about when and why we embark on wars with Muslim nations; but it is also about the kinds of schools and estates which are built and the methods used by police against Muslims. This may take the British state into new territory – funding the training of imams, supporting mosques which run Arabic and scripture classes – and it is vital to listen to those who have been closest to the development of the Islamist threat over the last two decades. This includes a fundamental re-examination of our understanding of integration that does not simply entail minorities conforming to a British prescription; it challenges secular liberalism to offer more than polite distaste. It is helpful, given the current sense of fear, to bear in mind a useful precedent. In 1795, in the midst of war with France, Britain began to fund the Catholic Maynooth seminary in Ireland to stop students going to France to be trained. The example may seem arcane, but at the time it was contrary to all the principles of a protestant state. National emergency dictated that piece of British pragmatism – and it may do so again.

Muslim ‘Hate’ Preacher Loses Appeal

By Adam Blenford A Muslim preacher jailed for nine years after he urged his followers to rise up and kill the “enemies of Islam” lost an appeal against his conviction today, but had his sentence cut by two years. Jamaican-born Abdullah el-Faisal, 39, a former preacher at Brixton mosque in south London, encouraged his followers to kill Jews, Americans and non-believers in a series of inflammatory speeches and recordings. He told schoolboys that they would spend eternity in paradise with 72 virgins if they fought and died in a jihad, or holy war. El-Faisal was sentenced to seven years for soliciting murder and a further two years for inciting racial hatred at the Old Bailey last March. His sentences were to run concurrently. The judge recommended that el-Faisal, of Stratford, east London, be deported at the end of his sentence. The ground-breaking trial was the first prosecution of a Muslim cleric in this country.