NYC man sentenced to 13 years for lying about his plans to join al-Qaida

NEW YORK — An American citizen was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Friday for lying to the FBI about his attempts to wage violent jihad against U.S. forces by joining the Taliban or al-Qaida.

Prosecutors in federal court in Brooklyn had sought the maximum 21 years behind bars for Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, arguing that he was following a proven formula of other would-be, homegrown terrorists who succeeded in aligning themselves with extremist groups by traveling to Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

 

 

But U.S. District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano imposed the lesser term after suggesting the defendant proved too immature and inept to pull it off.

Shehadeh, 23, appeared in court with his long hair pulled back in a ponytail. He spoke only briefly, telling the judge a letter he had written asking for leniency expressed his position.

His outlook on jihad “has matured over time,” he wrote. “Jihad and terrorism are not synonymous, they are conflicting in my view.” The letter portrayed a failed attempt to get to Pakistan as “an impulsive move” by a misguided young man.

Catsimatidis: Campaign Commercial Star’s Anti-Muslim Rants ‘Wrong’

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — John Catsimatidis says the anti-Muslim rants that reportedly appear on the Facebook page of a retired Port Authority cop featured in one of his TV commercials are wrong, but the Republican mayoral candidate is standing behind the ad’s message.

 

The commercial attacks Joe Lhota, the Republican front-runner, for likening Port Authority officers to “mall cops” during a May forum. Lhota later apologized for the remark.

 

In the Catsimatidis ad, retired Port Authority Detective John Kassimatis delivers the now-famous line: “Mr. Lhota, I’m no mall cop.”

 

Police: Man Menaced After Leaving Queens Mosque

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police are asking for the public’s help in finding a suspect who allegedly menaced a man as he left a Queens mosque.

The incident occurred after the victim left a mosque on Kissena Boulevard around 8 p.m. last Friday.

The suspect followed the victim for several blocks and pulled his SUV next to the victim’s vehicle at a traffic light at Union Turnpike and 199th Street, police said.

The suspect then displayed a firearm, threatened to kill the victim and made anti-Muslim statements before fleeing, police said.

SIDEBAR: Muslims embracing unbelief often face a lonely journey

NEW YORK — There was a time in his life when Ibrahim Abdallah thought he was the only Muslim-turned-atheist in the world. Then, at a party, he met a fellow Egyptian and former Muslim, and while the other guests danced, they sat and talked.

And talked and talked.

“I was so happy, and so shocked,” Abdallah, 33, said. “We both felt,’I am not the only one.’ It was huge.”  Now, several years later, Abdallah is on a mission to create the kind of safe space for questioning Islam and all matters of faith that he wishes he could have had.

Last May, he founded “Muslim-ish,” a support group for questioning and former Muslims that meets under the auspices of Manhattan’s Center For Inquiry, a humanist organization. The group has about 50 members, both cradle Muslims and converts, and meets twice a month in a secret location.

It’s support they very much need, Abdallah said, because Muslims who abandon their faith face challenges not faced by those who leave other religions. Divorce and disowning are common, as is the threat of physical violence. Some more conservative Muslims believe Islam sanctions the killing of apostates (those who abandon the faith) and blasphemers (those who belittle Islam, the Prophet Muhammad or other Muslims).

Muslim-ish is growing beyond its New York birthplace. A new group was recently established in Dearborn, Mich. — home to the largest population of Muslims in the U.S. — and other groups are forming in Chicago and Washington, D.C. An online version now meets via Google+ and is drawing people from Alabama, Florida and overseas.

More provocative ads go up in NYC subways from group that equated Muslims with ‘savages’

NEW YORK — The group that equated Muslim radicals with savages in advertisements last year has put up another set of provocative ads in dozens of New York City subway stations.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative purchased space next to 228 clocks in 39 stations for ads with an image of the burning World Trade Center and a quote attributed to the Quran saying: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the ads went up Monday and will run for a month.

The same group paid for ads to be displayed in 10 stations in September. Those ads implied enemies of Israel are “savages.”

The MTA also sold space last year to competing advertisements that urged tolerance.

Suspect in death of man shoved in front of NYC subway train once arrested for random assault

NEW YORK — The family of a woman accused of shoving a man to his death in front of a subway train called police several times in the past five years because she had not been taking prescribed medication and was difficult to deal with, authorities said Monday.

 

Erika Menendez, 31, was being held without bail on a murder charge in the death of Sunando Sen. She told police she pushed the 46-year-old India native because she thought he was Muslim, and she hates them, according to prosecutors.

 

They had never met before she suddenly shoved him off the subway platform because she “thought it would be cool,” prosecutors said. The victim was Hindu, not Muslim.

It wasn’t clear whether Menendez had a diagnosed mental condition. But her previous arrests and legal troubles paint a portrait of a troubled woman.

 

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly would not say what medication she was taking or whether she had a psychiatric history. Authorities were called to her home five times since 2005 on reports of an emotionally disturbed person.

 

In one instance, police said, she threw a radio at the responding officers.

Menendez was spotted by a passer-by who called 911 and said she resembled the wanted suspect. When she was arrested, she told police she shoved Sen because she blamed Muslims and Hindus for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and had been “beating them up” ever since, according to authorities. She said she thought Sen was Muslim.

 

NYPD: Suspects Savagely Attacked Elderly Man In Queens After Asking If He Was Muslim

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A brutal beating left a beloved grandfather in the hospital Friday night and police want to know if it was an act of hate.

The whole incident apparently started with a simple question and answer, but it ended with the victim bloody and bruised from head to toe. It happened just before 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 24 in Queens.

Ali Akmal laid in his hospital bed in critical condition with wounds and bruises covering most of his body.  The 72-year-old was savagely beaten after he went out for his early morning walk on 46 Avenue in Corona last Saturday.

They pretty much tried to kill him, with their hands, their own bare hands and maybe a bat, too. But they pretty much had the mentality that ‘Yeah we have to kill this person,’” the victim’s granddaughter told CBS 2′s Dick Brennan.

Akmal’s tongue was so badly swollen that he couldn’t talk for two days. When he finally could, he told police that when he first encountered the two men, they asked him, “are you Muslim or Hindu?”  He responded “I’m Muslim,” and that’s when they attacked.

“Just because we’re Muslim, just because we’re another religion or culture I don’t see why you have to beat that person up. They didn’t do anything to you, they didn’t hurt you,” the victim’s granddaughter said. The crime has been assigned to detectives with the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

Comedian Aasif Mandvi is compelling in new play about Islam and identity, past and present

NEW YORK — “Disgraced,” which opened on Monday night at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater in a sleek production directed by Kimberly Senior, is a continuously engaging, vitally engaged play about thorny questions of identity and religion in the contemporary world, with an accent on the incendiary topic of how radical Islam and the terrorism it inspires have affected the public discourse. In dialogue that bristles with wit and intelligence, Mr. Akhtar, a novelist and screenwriter, puts contemporary attitudes toward religion under a microscope, revealing how tenuous self-image can be for people born into one way of being who have embraced another.

The lead character, a Pakistani-American corporate lawyer in New York, is played by Aasif Mandvi, the very funny correspondent on Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Here Mandvi shows a dramatic depth and perceptiveness his TV fans likely never have seen before. (But he’s not new to the stage; he’s also the writer of the Obie Award-winning play “Sakina’s Restaurant.”)

Every exchange, however innocent, seems to reflect the uneasy state of Amir’s identity. He and Emily are serving pork tenderloin and chorizo for dinner, along with a fabulous fennel-anchovy salad. He disses Islam while Isaac defends it. Amir: “Islam is a backward way of thinking.” Isaac: “It happens to be one of the world’s great spiritual traditions.”

But then there’s a sudden turn. Talk of 9/11, of Israel and Iran, of terrorism and airport security, all evokes uncomfortable truths. Add a liberal flow of alcohol and a couple of major secrets suddenly revealed, and you’ve got yourself one dangerous dinner party.

In the end, one can debate what the message of the play really is. Is it that we cannot escape our roots, or perhaps simply that we don’t ever really know who we are, deep down, until something forces us to confront it?

Experts at panel discussion examine whether NYPD should have inspector general

NEW YORK — The city police department should have an inspector general to examine its conduct, but the monitor would need independence and a broad mandate to be effective, a panel of criminal justice and legal experts said Wednesday.

The City Council is weighing a proposal to put the nation’s largest police force under the scrutiny of an inspector general. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there’s no need for one, but the idea has gained currency among civil liberties advocates and others troubled by some New York Police Department practices, including widespread spying on Muslims.

Proponents say an inspector general could build public confidence by looking at issues such as the surveillance and the department’s extensive use of a tactic known as stop and frisk — questioning and sometimes patting down people whose behavior is deemed suspicious but doesn’t necessarily meet the legal bar for an arrest.

The NYPD has said its surveillance is legal.

Inspectors general — officials with investigative powers — are a common feature of government agencies, including in law enforcement and intelligence. The FBI and the CIA have such inspectors, as do police forces including the Los Angeles Police Department.

In New York City, allegations of police misconduct are explored by a civilian complaint board, a police corruption commission and the department’s 700-person Internal Affairs Bureau — plus, at times, local and federal prosecutors and judges.

That’s enough, the administration says.

NYC criminal justice college president says he is troubled by NYPD monitoring of campus group

NEW YORK — The president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice said he is “deeply troubled” about reports that the New York Police Department sent a paid informant to spy on the school’s club for Muslim students.

School President Jeremy Travis sent a letter to students and professors Thursday reacting to an Associated Press report on the 19-year-old informant, Shamiur Rahman, who said he quit working for the NYPD at the end of the summer after growing uncomfortable with the job.

Rahman said his assignments included attending lectures hosted by John Jay’s Muslim Student Association, photographing people attending its events, and identifying its members and leaders.

In the letter, Travis said he was unaware of the spying, and expressed concerns about using informants for surveillance where there was no evidence of a crime.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the department’s intelligence-gathering operation as necessary to root out any potential terrorist plots.