Jewish scholar prosecuted for anti-Muslim remarks in France

One of the world’s leading historians on the Jewish communities in Arab countries is being prosecuted in France for alleged hate speech against Muslims.

The Morocco-born French-Jewish scholar Georges Bensoussan, 64, is due to appear before a Paris criminal court over a complaint filed against him for incitement to racial hatred by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, the group recently announced on its website.

The complaint, which leading French scholars dismissed as attempt at “intimidation” in a statement Friday, was over remarks about anti-Semitism by Muslims that Bensoussan, author of a definitive 2012 work entitled “Jews in Arab Lands,” made last year during an interview aired by the France Culture radio station, the Collective said.

The Collective based its complaint on two remarks by Bensoussan.

“Today, we are witnessing a different people in the midst of the French nation, who are effecting a return on a certain number of democratic values to which we adhere,” read the first quote flagged.

The second quote cited read: “This visceral anti-Semitism proven by the Fondapol survey by Dominique Reynié last year cannot remain under a cover of silence.” Conducted in 2014 among 1,580 French respondents, of whom one third were Muslim, the survey found that they were two times and even three times more anti-Jewish than French people as a whole.

“Besides, with the animosity toward the French nation, there will be no integration as long as we will not be rid of this ancestral anti-Semitism that is kept secret (…) as an Algerian sociologist, Smain Laacher, very bravely said in a film that will be aired on France 3, ‘it’s disgraceful to keep in place this taboo, knowing that in Arab families in France and beyond everybody knows but will not say that anti-Semitism is transmitted with mother’s milk,” the quote continued.

At least 12 people have been murdered in three attacks by suspected jihadists from France on Jewish targets in that country and in Belgium since 2012.

The anti-Islamophobia collective called Bensoussan’s statements “dangerous and in line with far-right rhetoric” targeting Muslims.

But three prominent French writers and historians — Jacques Tarnero, Yves Ternon and Michel Zaoui – disputed the allegations, calling the complaint against Bensoussan “scandalous.”

The cautions taken against Bensoussan “are part of a strategy of intimidation intended to censure any lucid statement, any form of criticism,” they wrote in a statement they published online last week.

The Collective Against Islamophobia in France wrote in its statement that Paris prosecutors initiated the prosecution against Bensoussan “in light of the gravity of his remarks.”

 

Sarkozy wants special jails, courts for terrorism suspects

Paris was once again put on high alert last Sunday after a car loaded with gas cylinders was found near Notre Dame cathedral in an incident that could have been an attack on a Paris railway station.

Security is a key topic in the presidential elections in 2017, as more than 230 people have been killed in militant Islamist attacks on French soil since January 2015.

Sarkozy’s comments come after French President Francois Hollande, a Socialist, took a swipe at his opponents this week, saying their hardline reactions to a wave of militant attacks demonstrated an intent to destroy France’s social model.

Sarkozy took an even tougher approach on Sunday by proposing to systematically place French citizens, suspected of having militant links, in special detention facilities in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) 

“Every Frenchman suspected of being linked to terrorism, because he regularly consults a jihadist website, or his behavior shows signs of radicalization or because is in close contact with radicalized people, must by preventively placed in a detention center,” Sarkozy said in the interview.

 

Sarkozy, who announced last month his candidacy for the April 2017 presidential election, has said there is no place for “legal niceties” in the fight against terrorism.

According to French Institute for Public Opinion, Ifop, voters turned out to have most confidence in former Prime Minister Alain Juppe to guarantee security, with Sarkozy in second place, Prime Minister Manuel Valls in third, and Hollande a distant 8th.

French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said in a separate interview with the French newspaper on Sunday he planned to make proposals next week to Valls to ease prison overcrowding.

“I do not advocate creation of facilities dedicated to terrorists…The real challenge is to prepare the release of those who are sentenced for a short or medium term,” Urvoas said.

Founder of group ‘Muslims for Progressive Values’ discusses homopobia in the Islamic community

In response to the Orlando shooting, a group called Muslims for Progressive Values is calling on mosques to come out against homophobia and violence against the LGBT community.
Ani Zonneveld is the founder and president of the organization. She talked about the issue of homophobia in the Islamic community. For more information, go to the website mpvusa.org

Foxla.com: http://www.foxla.com/news/161227936-story

A report launched on ethnic and religious discrimination against Somalis in Finland

The mission of Finnish Somali League held a press conference on May 27th to launch their newly published report on discrimination. The report is based on a survey directed at residents and citizens of Finland of Somali origin and tackled issues of verbal harassment, violent attacks and discrimination in the public sector. The aim of the survey was not to offer generalizing figures but to identify and investigate diverse discrimination experiences.

Out of 105 participants 80% had experienced discrimination and 80% reported having witnessed discriminative behavior towards other individuals of Somali origin. Moreover, 61% reported that the discrimination had been due to their Islamic religion and 31% reported their clothing to be the cause of discrimination. The survey’s narratives in open-end questions provide accounts of everyday struggles that residents and citizens of Finland with Somali origin experience. Especially racist accusations and verbal harassment were frequently reported. Yet, accounts on discrimination in public spaces such as denying access to services, being barred from entry to supermarkets and explicitly rejecting a job application due to the applicants head cover depict a detrimental picture of the current situation.

The full report in Finnish language can be downloaded from the official website of the League:

http://somaliliitto.fi/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Selvitysraportti.pdf

Trump’s proposal to keep out Muslims crosses a line for many in both parties

Republican and Democratic leaders leveled their most forceful criticism yet against Donald Trump on Tuesday, widely denouncing the GOP presidential front-runner’s call to bar Muslims from entering the United States and signaling that Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic rhetoric has agitated both parties more than ever.
At the White House, President Obama’s top spokesman said Trump’s proposal “disqualifies him” from the presidency, marking a rare administration foray into the 2016 race. On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the idea was at odds with the values of their party and the United States as a whole.
In working to tamp down anti-Muslim sentiment that erupted after the attacks, Bush repeatedly talked about Islam as a peaceful religion and said the terrorists did not represent Muslims around the world.

Islamic community to fight against radicalisation of Irish Muslims

luck-of-the-irish-run-dry-islam-sharia
(Image: Craig Considine)

 

Ireland’s Islamic community is to spearhead the fightback against radical fundamentalism after a top Imam admitted there has been a surge in Islamophobia nationwide in the wake of recent terror attacks.

Shaykh Dr Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri launched a website for Irish Muslims aimed at helping youngsters to avoid radicalisation and to allow those concerned about so-called ‘Jihad messages’ from radical preachers at Irish mosques to raise the alarm.

The website – www.jihad.info – was launched at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) where Dr Al-Qadri warned that Irish people needed to realise that Islam was a religion of peace and tolerance and not violence. He admitted it was a particularly difficult time for Irish Muslims who were fast becoming a target of hate attacks.

“People feel very isolated and very worried,” he told the Irish Independent.

IS Tweet: Dutchman commits suicide attack

According to information from the website Intelligence Group, an online jihadmonitor, a Dutch jihadi committed a bombing attack. The attack is said to be committed at the entrance of a police head quarter in Syria or Iraq and to have caused tens of victims.

The National Coordinator counter-Terrorism and Safety (NCTV) cannot confirm the news and the identity of attacker remains unknown.

Imams from Amsterdam start website for youth, against radicalism

Five imams from Amsterdam are starting a ‘peaceful jihad’, consisting of a website and meetings where youth can ask questions, to prevent them from radicalizing. They say they want to make clear what the correct meaning of jihad is. Not ‘war’, as many people in general and Muslim youth think, but: ‘striving.’

According to Mohammed Ercharrouti, chairman of the Board of Moroccan Mosques in North-Holland’, radicalized youth have weak theological knowledge, which makes them amenable to the ideas of radical organizations.

Jihad, justice and the American way: is this a model for fair terrorism trials?

The government stokes fear and fails to understand the Muslim world. But inside at least one courtroom remains an unusual precedent: context can be served

July 17, 2014

Sitting and waiting in US District Court here on Wednesday, you got the undeniable sense that something unusual was about to happen.

Here was the end of a terrorism trial with two men who had already pled guilty – the British citizen Babar Ahmad to providing material support for terrorism by way of administering a website that called on Muslims to devote themselves to jihad, which he did, and the British-born Talha Ahsan to helping him, despite being a mailman for the site for five months in 2001 – but both of whom still looked nervous in that familiar shackle-and-jumpsuit uniform of so many Muslim foreigners in this country over the past 13 years.

Here was the final hearing for two men who had already spent two years in a US supermax prison – under the kind of no-contact conditions Edward Snowden refuses to come home for, in what Ahsan’s brother described to me as “solitary confinement torture” – before they even got a fair trial. By the time they arrived for sentencing on Wednesday, Ahmad and Ahsan had already sat and waited in prison for 10 and eight years, respectively.

Yet here was a terrorism trial about non-operational terrorism – about a website, and Ahmad’s visit to an Afghan training camp in 1999, and ultimately about over-aggressive prosecutors seeking 25 and 15 years, respectively – and here it was coming to a close not under the specter of xenophobia so much as all-American common sense.

No, Judge Janet Hall was not willing to entertain the Fox News-ification of terrorism. “There is no way to rationalize the sentences” the government had recommended, she said, at least not based on claims that two men promoted “violent jihad” and provided what is known as “material support” for terrorists. “In my view,” the judge said, “jihad does not equal terrorism. In a perversion of what Islam teaches, terrorists have misappropriated the concept of jihad from its true meaning – struggle. But jihad is not what happened on 9/11.”

But allegations of terrorist activity almost always lead to perceptions of guilt rather than even partial innocence, and too often it’s the government stoking that perversion of such a basic principle of justice. In this case, the judge found that extensive research by government lawyers ultimately led them to make little more than connections that didn’t exist. She gave Ahmad 12 years and handed Ahsan eight years, for time served.

“I’ve had to witness the agony in my mother’s voice every day,” Ahsan’s brother, Hamja, told me moments after learning the verdict, which will leave Talha in the custody of US immigration officials with the prospect of returning home to Tooting in London. (With time served and good-time credits, Ahmad has approximately 13 more months left on his sentence, at least some of which he will serve back in the UK. ) “I’m going to fight for the rest of my life to ensure that no other family goes through what we have gone through.”

I’ve written about the grueling extradition process of these two men and the uniquely American extreme conditions of detention they faced once they arrived, two years ago, at Connecticut’s Northern Correctional Institute, the notoriously harsh facility that also houses death-row inmates. On Wednesday, after a decade of incomplete justice and what Ahsen called “the best possible outcome”, context was served.

Of course, Dick Cheney and lawmakers like Congressman Peter King would rather forget, but in the mid- to late ’90s, around the time a 19-year-old Ahsan made his pilgrimage to Afghanistan, thousands of British Muslims were making similar journeys to fulfill religious obligations. Those obligations were made more urgent by the Bosnian War, and so an 18-year-old Ahmad traveled to Bosnia to assist Muslims who were being slaughtered in Srebenica while the international community looked the other way.

The vast majority of these “holiday jihadists” did not become radicalized. They just got trained in the real meaning of jihad – “struggle”, not “holy war” – and returned home.

Now Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan finally face the prospect of going home earlier than jingoist prosecutors wanted them to – much earlier. Next time, let’s understand the broader context of the Muslim world – and the basics of our own justice system – much, much sooner than that.

Briton Babar Ahmad given 12-year US prison term for aiding Taliban

Ahmad, who could be freed in a year because of time served, pleaded guilty to providing material support to the Taliban

July 16, 2014

Babar Ahmad, the British citizen who was extradited to the US two years ago, has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for providing material support to the Taliban at a time when they were harbouring the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Ahmad, 40, will be returning to the UK to serve the remainder of his sentence, which was issued by a federal court in New Haven, Connecticut. The 150-month sentence was substantially less severe than the 25 years US prosecutors had been seeking for him.

Judge Janet Hall also gave the Briton credit for the eight years he already spent in detention without trial in the UK, and the additional two years he has been held in solitary confinement in Supermax facilities in the US. The reduction for time served means that with good behaviour he stands to be released in 13 months.

He will now be sent to the metropolitan correctional center in Manhattan, before being eventually sent back to the UK, from where he was extradited in 2012.

Stephen Reynolds, addressing the court on behalf of the US government, had tried to secure a lengthy prison term for the defendant, on the grounds that he might reoffend. He alleged that Ahmad, through jihadist websites, had actively supported Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, and had shown no remorse.

But the judge pushed back on the accusations, pointing out in earlier hearings that even the government’s main co-operating witness had denied that Ahmad had helped al-Qaida. “Your own witness doesn’t support that. Fighting against US forces doesn’t necessarily equate to support of al-Qaida,” Hall said last week.

Ahmad pleaded guilty last December to providing material support to the Taliban and Chechen mujahideen by using websites to raise money, recruit fighters and provide equipment for the movements.

But his defence lawyer, Terence Ward, told the judge that only a few of the 4,000 articles he had posted mentioned the al-Qaida leader. The defendant was “horrified” by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he said.

The case was heard in Connecticut because Ahmad, and his co-defendant Syed Talha Ahsan, who has been released into the custody of US immigration officials pending possible deportation, used an internet service provider in the state to base one of their websites.

The sentencing follows the protracted battle Ahmad fought to avoid extradition to the US. In an article in the Guardian in October 2012, he argued that “as a British citizen who has lived since birth in Britain, studied, worked full-time and paid taxes, if I am accused of any offence here in Britain I expect at the very least to face trial here in Britain.”

He was awarded £60,000 in March 2009 as compensation for having been physically abused by Metropolitan police officers at the time of his initial arrest in December 2003.