Dresden: Commemoration for Young Egyptian Murder Victim

01.07.2011
Several politicians and local residents participated in a commemoration service for Marwa El-Sherbini, a 32-year-old Egyptian woman who was killed in a court in Dresden two years ago. El-Sherbini, who was a witness in a criminal case, was stabbed by the defendant, against whom she had testified, during an appeal hearing. During the commemoration service, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany described the murder as the “tip of the iceberg” and warned not to under-estimate Islamophobic tendencies in Germany.

Rep. King Finds a New Target

THE FURY surrounding New York Representative Peter King’s March hearing on the radicalization of Muslim-American communities was an embarrassment for the House and its Homeland Security Committee. Not a single meaningful recommendation came from the politically charged investigation. The only memorable moment was when Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, broke down as he spoke of a falsely accused Muslim New York City paramedic who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

Today, King will hold a second hearing that will look at the radicalization of Muslims in US prisons. It lacks the drama and emotion of the first. Indeed, the silence surrounding it is deafening. Likely, after the death of Osama bin Laden, it is more difficult for King to whip up fears that the Obama administration is going soft on terrorism.

But, as with King’s first hearing, there is a germ of truth in his concerns, if not his intensive focus on Muslim-Americans. Radicalization is clearly a growing problem in prisons. A 2008 study by the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice showed a link between prison gangs, radicalization, and violence. Many corrections officers are now trained to identify prisoners who adopt extreme views.

In a statement released after King’s hearing, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said:

“Reasonable people must question why no official with the Federal Bureau of Prisons testified today at Representative King’s agenda-driven hearing. This omission is yet another reason interest in King’s show trials of the American Muslim community diminished significantly after his first hearing.

“The one witness who has conducted extensive academic research on the issue was Professor Bert Useem of Purdue University, whose research was funded by institutions affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. In his written testimony, Useem concluded, ‘My core argument, then, is that U.S. prisons are not systematically generating a terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.’

King to hold second hearing on radicalization among American Muslims

Rep. Peter King announced Thursday that he has scheduled a Homeland Security Committee hearing for next week, examining “The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons.”

The hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, comes three months after King (R-N.Y.) convened a highly scrutinized meeting of his panel to examine the extent of radicalization among American Muslims. King said at the time that he planned to dedicate a June hearing to investigating radicalization among prisoners. The witness list for the upcoming hearing has yet to be released.

While King’s March hearing on radicalization has drawn the greatest attention, the panel also held a meeting last month examining the homeland security implications of Osama bin Laden’s death. And Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) held a hearing of his own in late March that focused on protecting the civil rights of American Muslims. Durbin maintained that the session was not a response to King’s hearing three weeks earlier.

Supreme Court: Ashcroft not liable in detention of American Muslim post-9/11

Former attorney general John D. Ashcroft cannot be sued for his role in detaining an American Muslim, even though the government did not charge the man with a crime or bring him as a witness in a terrorism investigation, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

By a 5-3 vote Tuesday, the court said Ashcroft did not violate the constitutional rights of Abdullah al-Kidd, who was arrested in 2003 under a federal law intended to make sure witnesses testify in criminal proceedings.
Justice Antonin Scalia said using the federal “material witness” statute to detain but not charge Abdullah al-Kidd in a terrorism investigation does not give al-Kidd a right to sue, because no court precedent had said such a use of the law was unlawful.

“Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions,” Scalia wrote. “When properly applied it protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.

“Ashcroft deserves neither label.”

Kidd has reached a settlement with the government for his treatment in detention. Ginsburg noted that the use of falsehoods and misrepresentations could negate any claim of immunity on the part of the federal agents, whom Kidd has sued in a separate case.

U.S. military tribunal rejects Khadr’s bid for clemency; sentence remains at 8 years

News Agencies – May 26, 2011

 

The U.S. military tribunal that oversaw Canadian Omar Khadr’s war crimes case has refused his bid for clemency, issuing a statement that simply confirms the eight-year sentence he received in a plea deal. Under it, Khadr pleaded guilty last October to five war crimes, among them the murder of a U.S. serviceman during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, when the Toronto native was 15. He received a sentence of eight years, with one more to be served in Guantanamo, and seven in a Canadian prison.

 

Khadr had sought to have the sentence reduced, arguing in part that the prosecution had been guilty of “misconduct” regarding the presentation of a key prosecution witness at the October sentencing hearing.

 

Special Coverage on Domestic Terrorism Hearings: The Contrasting Views

A Congressional hearing on Thursday addressing homegrown Islamic terrorism offered divergent portraits of Muslims in America: one as law-abiding people who are unfairly made targets, the other as a community ignoring radicalization among its own and failing to confront what one witness called “this cancer that’s within.”

Attacked by critics as a revival of McCarthyism, and lauded by supporters as a courageous stand against political correctness, the hearing — four hours of sometimes emotional testimony — revealed a deep partisan split in lawmakers’ approach to terror investigations and their views on the role of mosques in America.
Democrats sought to put the spotlight on the lone law enforcement witness, Sheriff Leroy D. Baca of Los Angeles, who testified that Muslims do cooperate, and they cited a Duke University study that found that 40 percent of foiled domestic terror plots had been thwarted with the help of Muslims. Opponents to the committee’s ‘narrowly focused witch hunt’ believe that the efforts are futile and will not make the nation safer.

Democratic congresswoman, Judy Chu from Los Angeles and the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, writes: “Americans [must] remember a time when freedom was not something you took for granted. Over the past century, minority groups have seen their freedoms curtailed for political purposes. Let us not forget that the words “national security” were used to send 120,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps in desolate parts of the country, causing them to lose everything they had. They were convicted in the trial of the public arena and put into prison camps with guns pointed at them. This is despite the fact that three-quarters of them were U.S. citizens. To this day, not a single act of espionage was proven.”

While, Representative Peter T. King, a conservative Republican from Long Island, has convened hearings into what he says is the radicalization of American Muslims and the supposed refusal to cooperate with law enforcement officials. King is also the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, labels these hearings as “necessary.”

CAIR, a Muslim civil rights group also found themselves in the hot seat–again. King described CAIR “discredited” and congratulating the Federal Bureau of Investigation for cutting off high-level cooperation with the group. Representative Frank R. Wolf of Virginia accused CAIR of “an attempt to stifle debate and obstruct cooperation with law enforcement.” Representative Chip Cravaack of Minnesota went further, telling a witness, Leroy D. Baca, the Los Angeles County sheriff, “Basically, you’re dealing with a terrorist organization.”

CAIR cited the hearings as “political theater” intended to score points, not to elucidate facts which results in ‘just dividing us further.’ “We are the answer to violent extremism,” said Nihad Awad, a Palestinian-American who is the executive director of CAIR, noting the group’s longstanding campaign against religious violence, called “Not in the Name of Islam.”

Even within the Muslim community there seems to be opposing views: some Muslim Americans view the Congressional hearings on Islamic radicalism as a mere provocation meant to incite bigotry. While scholars such as Akbar Ahmad (amongst others), view the hearings as an opportunity to educate Americans about the Muslim American community’s diversity and faith.

In his Op Ed piece for the NY Times, Akbar Ahmad writes:

Muslim leaders must acknowledge that many Americans are fearful of religiously motivated terrorism. Simply to protest the hearings and call for them to be canceled, as some have done, strikes many non-Muslims as uncooperative, or as intended to conceal dark secrets or un-American behavior.

Instead, Muslims should embrace the chance to explain their beliefs fully and clearly. We have nothing to hide. But members of Congress also need to act responsibly. They should avoid broad accusations, and be aware that the hearings will be closely followed worldwide. The actions of both groups will shape America’s relationship with Islam, and the relationship of American Muslims with their country.

The Muslim community in America is not a monolith. Very broadly, it comprises three groups: African-Americans (many of them converts), immigrants (largely from the Middle East and South Asia) and white converts. And Muslims from every part of the world study and work in the United States.

Yet the diversity of the Muslim community is frequently obscured by ignorance and mistrust. We were often asked by non-Muslims whether Muslims could be “good” Americans. The frequency with which this question was asked indicated the doubts that many harbored. Too many Americans acknowledged that they knew virtually nothing about Islam and said they had never met a Muslim.

Ahmad faulted CAIR for its energetic attacks on Mr. King and his hearing, saying that like the Republican congressman, the group used the conflict over the hearing to rally its own political base. “My criticism is that CAIR could have helped bring down the temperature,” Mr. Ahmed said. “It shouldn’t present such a starkly polarized picture. That just widens the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

In advance of Thursday’s Congressional hearings on homegrown terrorism, hundreds protested in Times Square on Sunday. Many protesters held signs reading “Today I am a Muslim too,” voicing their concerns that Representative Peter T. King, was 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.

On the heels of the Congressional Hearings, several research publications offered data to help understand the phenomena of Radicalization and integration.

1) Rethinking Radicalization:

Summary: Radicalization is complex. Yet a thinly-sourced, reductionist view of how people become terrorists has gained unwarranted legitimacy in some counterterrorism circles. This view corresponds with—and seems to legitimize—“counter-radicalization” measures that rely heavily on non-threat-based intelligence collection, a tactic that may be ineffective or even counterproductive. Only by analyzing what we know about radicalization and the government’s response to it can we be sure that these reactions are grounded in fact rather than stereotypes and truly advance our efforts to combat terrorism.

2) National Survey of American Muslims Finds Mosques Help Muslims Integrate into American Political Life
Summary:

Despite the popularized idea that Muslims are radicalized around the country in mosques, we find that mosques help Muslims integrate into US society, and in fact have a very productive role in bridging the differences between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States. This is a finding in social science that is consistent with decades of research on other religious groups such as Jews, Protestants and Catholics where church attendance and religiosity has been proven to result in higher civic engagement and support for core values of the American political system. Likewise, mosques are institutions that should be encouraged to function as centers of social and political integration in America.

Supreme Court considers former attorney general Ashcroft’s liability in lawsuit

On Wednesday the Supreme Court justices considered whether former attorney general John D. Ashcroft could be held personally liable for the detention of an American Muslim.

Abdullah al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in 2003 and held as a material witness. But Kidd contends that he was not detained because he had information about terrorism. Instead, he says, he was detained as part of a plan approved by Ashcroft to sweep up Muslim men the government suspected but could not prove had ties to terrorism.

Ashcroft, President George W. Bush’s attorney general from 2001 to 2005, claims legal immunity from the lawsuit, and the Obama administration is defending him.

Kidd is a onetime University of Idaho football star, born Lavoni T. Kidd. He converted to Islam in college. He was arrested at Dulles International Airport in 2003 as he was boarding a plane for Saudi Arabia, where he planned to study.

Kidd maintains that in his more than two weeks of detention, he was strip-searched, shackled, interrogated without an attorney present and treated as a terrorist.

Prosecutors defend Islamic charity case conviction

Federal prosecutors acknowledged that the government blundered in the prosecution of Pete Seda, an Oregon man convicted of helping to smuggle money through an Islamic charity, but said Friday that the errors weren’t serious enough for a new trial. Court documents filed late Friday contain the government’s first accounting for its failure to tell defense lawyers for Seda that the FBI paid a Southern Oregon man for information and discussed paying the informant’s wife, who was a witness against Seda.

Seda, born in Iran, is a U.S. citizen convicted in September of tax fraud and conspiracy. He was accused of helping to smuggle $150,000 out of the country 11 years ago through the arm of the Al-Haramain charity he operated in Ashland—the charity was declared a terrorist organization by the government. The government said the money was meant for Muslims fighting the Russians in Chechnya.

Forensic Psychiatrist Reflects Canadian Omar Khadr and Islamic Fundamentalism in Guantanamo Bay

The National Post – February 19, 2011
This article reflects the opinion of Dr. Michael Welner, an expert forensic psychiatrist witness in numerous high profile civil and criminal proceedings in the United States. Here he reflects on the impact of prison relating to the fundamentalism of Omar Khadr:
Against the backdrop of these competing forces, the United States Department of Defense asked me as a veteran of highly sensitive forensic psychiatric assessments to appraise the risk of one such Guantanamo detainee, Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr, by his own statements in 2002 and most recently in October 2010, admitted to throwing a grenade that killed Sfc. Christopher Speer as he inspected the scene of a recently completed battle. Khadr was 15 at the time that he killed Speer.
When I interviewed Khadr last June in my capacity as a forensic psychiatrist, he was an English-speaking, socially agile 23-year-old with the kind of easy smile that so similarly warms those who encounter the Dalai Lama and Bin Laden alike. Anticipating his eventual release, the military commission asked me to go beyond the natural tendency of advocates and adversaries to see what they want to see in Omar the man.
In American as well as Canadian facilities, tens of thousands of inmates are converting to Islam every year. Yielding to the notion that they are respecting religion, corrections officials have failed to make a committed effort to staff prisons with devout, forceful but peaceful-minded Muslim imams. As a result, the more charismatic, Machiavellian, and aggressive leaders within North American corrections facilities dominate and influence vulnerable and often alienated Muslim prisoners. These influences remain after prisoners are released and have been implicated in American terror attacks by American-born ex-cons.

Dutch Politician Faces Re- Trial for Inciting Hatred

October 22 2010

A special committee of Amsterdam’s district court has ordered a retrial for Geert Wilders, the MP facing charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims with his inflammatory comments The retrial ruling comes after Wilders’ lawyer accused judges of bias and attempting to influence expert witness Hans Jansen. The court’s special review panel ruled that judges had created an appearance of bias in the trial and it therefore has to be repeated. Meanwhile, ANP reports that the president of the high court in the country has commented that Wilders’ is undermining the legal system, that as a member of parliament he is supposed to contribute to the stability of law.