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Facing the stormy seas of Islamophobia with dignity

Photo credit: photodune

Photo credit: photodune

By Hina Khan-Mukhtar

Late night discussions with my high school senior son in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks have left me feeling anxious and exhausted these days. As a parent, I feel like I’m in uncharted waters, not knowing how best to guide him.

My normally easy-going, even-tempered son has been telling me more and more about high school friends and acquaintances who regularly ask him if he wants to kill all infidels, if he’s part of ISIS, if his local mosque harbors terrorists. He’s shared some witty comebacks that he’s used on annoying kids at school that have earned him their begrudging respect, but I worry about how much more he can continue to take before he snaps, before he says something illegal. My heart goes out to Palestinian mothers and African-American mothers who have been traveling much more hazardous roads than I have for decades and (in the case of blacks in this country) even centuries. I’m realizing for the first time what a weight and a scary responsibility it is to raise Muslim men in this society these days. We want our young men to have dignity and honor and the ability to stand up for themselves and their loved ones, but we still want them to keep their tempers in check and somehow find that sweet balance between (1) not putting up with $%&# and (2) maintaining peace — all without looking like an aggressor OR a “wuss” (polite term).

When I heard about some tough words he recently used on a classmate who finally pushed him too far, I told him, “Shaan, that’s not the sunnah (way of the Prophet). You’re supposed to either be silent or say that which benefits. We’re supposed to spread light, not darkness. What are you contributing to this world? What will that guy have to say about Muslims after his experience with you?”

“It’s the only language kids understand … and it works,” he quietly insisted. “It definitely shut him up. The guy totally chickened out.”

“I’m sure it did ‘work’, but it’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. This is just the beginning. It’s not going to get any easier. You’re going to be dealing with these kinds of comments for the rest of your life — in high school, in college, in the workplace. Your uncle is a doctor and a partner in a hospital, and he was telling me that even HE has to deal with ignorant comments/questions and racist jokes from fellow doctors. You’re going to have to be smarter than that. I don’t want you to lose your soul just because you’ve figured out how to put a jerk in his place.”

His jaw was set and I didn’t think I was getting through to him.

“Those kids are not your teachers, Shaan,” I reminded him. “They may talk to one another that way and that may be the language they understand. But they’re NOT your example.”

“Mama, talking ‘peace’ doesn’t work in these situations. A guy who doesn’t come off strong will either get laughed at or pummeled or called a ‘p—y’.”

“I’m not telling you to lecture people or to give sermons or to be holier-than-thou. I’m not even telling you to go out of your way to be nice to someone who’s being an a-hole,” I told him. “But I do worry that you think all of the stories of the prophets that we’ve taught you your whole life are just stories…that they’re fairy tales and they’re not applicable to your life. The whole point of learning about how the prophets dealt with torture and taunting and teasing and trials and tribulations — much worse than anything you’re experiencing — was for you to see how REAL MEN deal.”

I reiterated the hadith (saying of the Prophet) where a man asked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for advice, and he told him, “Don’t get angry.” He asked him again, and he replied, “Don’t get angry.” He asked for a third piece of advice, and the Prophet AGAIN responded, “Don’t get angry.”

“There are some scholars who say that that hadith means it’s actually haraam (prohibited) to EVER get angry, but thank God a majority of the scholars say that the actual prohibition is only for ACTING on anger. You have to remember that when you feel yourself starting to get angry … you CAN’T act on it.”

I went on to remind him about the time the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was stoned by children in Taif and the time people threw sheep’s entrails on his blessed back while he was praying in front of the Ka’aba and the time the Quraysh taunted him by distorting his name to “Mudhammam”, yet the Prophet’s only response was: “Doesn’t it astonish you how Allah protects me from the Quraysh’s abusing and cursing? They abuse Mudhammam and curse Mudhammam (“the blameworthy”) while I am Muhammad (‘the praiseworthy’).”

“Think about it, Shaan,” I told him. “Allah sent the Angel of the Mountains to the Prophet (peace be upon him), and he (the angel) told him that just one word from him (the Prophet) and he would crush the people of Taif between the mountains only because of how they had abused and insulted the Messenger of God. But, instead, the Prophet said he would rather that the people of Taif live and that their descendants should one day grow up to be Muslim. If he hadn’t made that choice to forgive, you and I wouldn’t be Muslim today … because it was Muslims from Taif who eventually took Islam to the Indian subcontinent (where our ancestors come from).”

Shaan’s face softened and he smiled. “I think the only way a kid could be Muslim these days is if he knew and loved the Prophet (salallaahu alaihi wasallam). I don’t know how ANYone could be Muslim and NOT know the Prophet. The only kids at my high school who are actually practicing Muslims are the ones who came to Islam through love, not ones who came through no-no-no and rules and regulations.”

I listened quietly.

He continued sharing what kids in high school are saying about Islam and Muslims these days. “The other day, a guy in my class was saying that he just wants to see all of Middle East get nuked. He thinks America should drop nuclear bombs ALL OVER the Middle East. I asked him, ‘Have you ever traveled to the Middle East?’ That threw him off and he just stammered, ‘Well … no … I haven’t had the privilege of traveling overseas just yet.’ And I told him, ‘It’ll be good for you. You should get out of San Ramon … get out of your bubble … leave your PlayStation behind and go see what the world is really about. …'”

I laughed, but then I said, “And it’s entirely possible that he WILL one day go out in the world and change his mind about things. You have to know that everyone is still a work in progress, Shaan. No one is static. You have to look at people with the eye of compassion and mercy, and you have to wish well for them. It’s a cliche, I know, but you should feel sorry for their ignorance and small-mindedness.”

Then Shaan said, “Y’know, Shaykh So-and-So told me something very interesting the other day. He told me that Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) said, ‘I can walk on water; I can raise people from the dead; but as for compound ignorance — I don’t know how to treat that.’ He was SO right. There’s regular ignorance when you say you don’t know something, and then there’s compound ignorance when you don’t even know that you don’t know something.

“I don’t know what to do with all the compound ignorance around me. In my Intro to Law/Mock Trial class, all these kids who think they’re ‘the real Americans’ don’t even know the basics about the Constitution. A girl from my high school is going to Oxford to study law and she’s desi (Indo-Pak origin), but she knows American law better than any of these kids who think they have more right to this country than anyone else. They don’t even know the foundations of what this country was built on and they think they’re patriots.”

Then he said something that made me feel a sense of pride along with a slight sense of apprehension for the future. “You do realize, Mama, that we kids are fighting for our rights as Americans, NOT as Muslims, right? We have every right to be here. My grandparents are American; my parents are American; and I’m American. This is my home and I’m not going anywhere.”

If only I could get Donald Trump to hear what my son has to say, but — then again — I guess it’s pointless since there’s nothing we can do about compound ignorance.

Editor’s Note: Hina Khan-Mukhtar is a mother of three boys and one of the founders of a homeschooling co-operative in Lafayette, California, which now serves over 35 homeschooling families in the East Bay. In addition to teaching Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she has written articles on parenting and spiritual traditions for children and is involved in interfaith dialogue. The views expressed here are her own.

 

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Sex, drugs and violence: what several terrorists have in common

mitchell_SAMA News_MEYBeGb

By Edward Mitchell
AtlantaMuslim.com

One of the men frequented strip clubs.

Another solicited a prostitute.

One spent years in-and-out of jail for theft, fighting, and other criminal activity.

Several used illegal drugs, particularly marijuana.

At least one went to jail for driving under the influence.

Who are these men? Inmates at your local jail? Registered sex offenders?

Nope.

All of these men are so-called “Islamic” terrorists. Several are Americans, several are Arabs, and a few are Europeans.

Because Islam forbids backbiting, I will not identify these men. However, you undoubtedly know their names. All were irreligious Muslims who later planned or executed acts of violent religious extremism.

Curious pattern, you might think.

After all, public polling indicates that Muslims are some of the most devoutly religious people walking the planet. Most pray several times a day, fast during the month of Ramadan, tithe annually and refrain from common secular habits such as drinking alcohol, having sex outside of marriage, and eating pork.

Yet most of those consistently religious Muslims do not engage in terrorism. They practice their faith peacefully. They observe its basic rituals. They avoid its flagrant sins. They are by no means perfect, but they generally color within the lines of Islam.

On the other hand, some of the world’s most infamous Muslim religious extremists were once irreligious. As young men, they engaged in blatantly un-Islamic activities, from gangs to drug use to alcohol to sexual deviance.

But eventually these young Muslims snapped and started killing people in the name of Islam. They swung from one extreme to the other: extreme irreligiosity to religious extremism.

Irony abounds.

These men once failed to master the “greater jihad”—struggling to control one’s own desires—yet they suddenly claimed the moral authority to engage in the “lesser jihad”—struggling against wrong in the world.

But they screwed that up, too, by killing innocent people in violation of Islamic law.

Why is this phenomenon so important for mainstream Muslims—and the non-Muslim world—to recognize?

Two reasons.

First, if previously irreligious Muslims do indeed engage in terrorism at a higher rate than consistently observant Muslims, this trend would indicate that Islam, as practiced and understood by over 1 billion people, does not inspire terrorism. (It’s also worth noting that educated Muslim scholars almost never speak out in support of terrorism. Quite the opposite. But uneducated, self-appointed “sheikhs” sometimes do).

Secondly, the phenomenon of irreligious Muslims transforming into religious extremists should give Muslim parents a clue as to which of their kids deserve particularly close attention.

Fox News commentator Juan Williams once said that the sight of Muslims wearing religious garb on airplanes scared him.
But I’d be much more concerned if I saw a clean-shaven young Muslim smoking a joint and partying with his girlfriend anywhere at all.

Why?

Because that young Muslim has already shown a weak understanding of his faith. What happens when he starts to feel guilty for his sins? What happens when he feels the urge to atone ASAP? What happens when he turns on the television, sees innocent Muslims suffering, and decides that he can make up for all his smoking and drinking and fornicating by “helping” them in a quick, lazy burst of violence?
Terrorism happens.

We see it every day: young members of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other militant groups engaging in horrific acts of un-Islamic violence, from burning a man alive to bombing civilians to kidnapping schoolgirls. This despite their lack of proper Islamic education and, for some, a history of irreligious behavior.

Of course, this does not mean that terrorism always, or even often, results from Bad Muslims Gone Wild. Nor does it mean that Muslim parents should panic if their irreligious son stops partying at the nightclub and starts praying at the mosque. That’s a good thing.

But when a young Muslim suddenly transforms from Mo’ the Beer-Chugging Ladies’ Man to Muhammad the Rigid Zealot Obsessed with Western Foreign Policy, it’s best to keep an eye on him.

Make sure he’s receiving a proper Islamic education as he seeks to draw closer to God, not just teaching himself via YouTube. Make sure he channels his desire to help Syrians, Palestinians and other suffering Muslims in the right direction: through charity for those in need, lobbying political leaders, or even organizing protests.

Indeed, if we want to protect our youth from religious extremism, Islam is not the problem.

Islam—learned, understood and practiced consistently from an early age—is the solution.

Editor’s note: Edward Mitchell is an Atlanta attorney who serves as News Editor of AtlantaMuslim.com and previously worked as a freelance reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Community Center of Atlanta and recently joined the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. Edward received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and his graduate degree from Georgetown University Law Center, where he served as president of the law school’s Muslim Students Association. Follow him on Twitter @edmovie. The views expressed in his article are solely his own.

Muslims raise funds for Chattanooga victims

OnIslam & News Agencies

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Cooperating with interfaith groups, leaders of the Muslim community in Chattanooga, Nashville, have launched a fundraising campaign for the victims of the latest attacks, sending an out loud message against these attacks as contradicting with Islam.

“The Chattanooga families lost fathers, brothers, and sons in a deplorable act of violence on July 16th.  We wish to send a powerful message of unity and compassion through action,” Faith and Culture Center | Our Muslim Neighbor initiative said in a post on the charity website Launchgood.com.

The group, in coordination with the Muslim community in Chattanooga, the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga and interfaith partners is leading effort to raise $20,000 for the families of the victims of July 16th attack.

The money will be used to cover college scholarships and educational expenses for the spouses and children.

The funds will be verified and dispersed through the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga 7-16 Freedom Fund.

“Faith and Culture Center | Our Muslim Neighbor will cover all administrative and processing fees associated in this effort, so your gift will have the maximum impact. We strongly urge you to take part in this action; give and help our community heal,” the group said.

Last July 16, a 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born gunman opened fire on a military recruiting station, then raced to a second military site where he killed four United States Marines.

The gunman, who also died Thursday, was identified as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, who became a naturalized United States citizen and went to high school and college in Chattanooga.

As the Muslim community rejected the attack, the family of Abdulazeez offered sympathy, condolences and prayers.

“There are no words to describe our shock, horror, and grief,” said a family statement, provided to the Associated Press by a lawyer representing the family of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who was killed by police.

“The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved. For many years, our son suffered from depression. It grieves us beyond belief to know that his pain found its expression in this heinous act of violence.”

Support

The web page announcing this also has several appeals from community and religious leaders.

“Our communities need to come together and support the victims’ families,” Sheikh Ossama Bahloul, Imam at Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, said.

“By coming together, no matter where you live or what religion you practice, you can be a part of something making our community a better place. Please give and support this important effort.”

Dr Naeem Baig, President Islamic Circle of North America and Moderator of Religions for Peace USA, echoed a similar message.

“It is at moments like these when all of us must come together to demonstrate unity over division. Let us stand in solidarity with the families of the victims in Chattanooga, and together create a culture that best embodies our deepest Islamic values of compassion and love for the neighbor. I urge all to support this cause,” he added.

The Muslim initiative won support of Christian and Jewish faith leaders as well.

“Our traditions and sacred texts instruct us not to stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds. We mourn the tragic loss of innocent human life in Chattanooga, the deranged shooting of five United States serviceman, those soldiers who sought to honor and defend our nation and its highest values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Rabbi Mark Schiftan, The Temple Nashville, said.

“Our hearts collectively compel us to support their families in their greatest time of need in tangible ways that will do something to ease their burdens, as they must first mourn their loved ones and then rebuild their lives as best as they can.”

Rev. Dr. Tony Richie, Bishop in the Church of God, Senior Pastor at New Harvest Church, added, “When communities of all faiths come together, it demonstrates that God is working in the face of evil.

“In these tough times, we can come together and turn the tables on the evil in our midst. Thus we overcome evil with good. In faith, common hope and love, we can minister to the Chattanooga families who are suffering.”

 

Photo credit:  Clipart.com

A new weapon of Islamist extremists is…poetry?

Photo credit:  Clipart.com

Photo credit: Clipart.com

By Asma Afsaruddin

Chair, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University, Bloomington

Militant Islamist groups have a number of strategies for recruiting vulnerable young men to their cause. They produce videos, tap into social media and write fiery pamphlets with overblown rhetoric.

But they’re also increasingly turning to poetry: with its rich vocabulary, the Arabic language lends itself easily to rhyme and rhythm, which can have a mesmerizing effect.

Poetry is also deeply ingrained in pre-Islamic and Islamic Arab culture, and it’s this literary tradition that contemporary militants hope to mine as they attempt to lure new members into their ranks.

Pre-Islamic tribes engaged in wars of words

The tone and tenor of militant poetry mirrors verses from the period known as theJahiliyya, in Arabic, which refers to the era before the rise of Islam in the seventh century.

Pre-Islamic tribes often had their own special poet – a sha‘ir, in Arabic – who was believed to be endowed with magical verbal powers, and whose poetic virtuosity could be used to defend tribal honor. Their poems sought to vilify the enemy, while praising and lifting the spirits of their own tribes. Often, these pagan Arab poets and poetesses would recite warmongering verses before crowds to rouse the passions of their own warriors.

Despite the Islamic terminology contemporary composers carefully deploy, today’s militant poetry often draws upon the same pre-Islamic vocabulary and themes, which included the glorification of violence to defend tribal or masculine honor.

Here are some fire-breathing verses penned by a poet connected with al-Qaeda who goes by the name of al-Shaykh al-Jaburi:

“Bid them farewell – with bullets, just as you received them
Bid them farewell with rockets, just as you received them…
Strike them and curse them and curse those who ally with them…
Destroy the palatial mansions and destroy them
Flog every wrong-doer, flog them –
Bid them farewell and scatter rose petals on the ground where you fought them”

Compare al-Jaburi’s verses to those of Shanfara, a pre-Islamic poet from the sixth century. Shanfara lived on the margins of society; he similarly exalted violence as a way of life, while boasting about his ability to impart fear:

“O how many a night of ill luck when the hunter burns his bow
For fuel, and his arrow wood,
Have I trodden through darkness and drizzle, on fire with hunger, Grinding inside, shivering, filled with dread
Then have I widowed women and orphaned children
Returning as I began, the night a blacker black”
(translation by Michael Sells)

Both poems are imbued with grandiose expressions of brutal power and destruction. Ironically, because the Jahiliyya was a period characterized by ignorance of Islam and tribal blood feuds, militant Islamists today often invoke this era as the very opposite of the pristine Islamic values for which they supposedly stand.

Poetic vitriol

Stinging satire – hija’ – directed against the enemy was another hallmark of pre-Islamic poetry, and poetic denigration of the opponent was meant to contribute to the demoralization of the enemy. Some pre-modern peoples in other parts of the world had such poet laureates. The Irish filid, for example, served a similar role for the Gaelic ruling elite and were feared particularly for their wounding satire.

The prophet Muhammad disapproved of the character defamation that the pre-Islamic poets indulged in, although he’s known to have allowed poetry that defended Islam against its critics.

The Qur’an also denounces tribal poets who used their linguistic talents for ignoble purposes. For this reason, satirical poetry was frowned upon and experienced a decline in popularity during the very early Islamic period.

But it began to make a gradual comeback during the Umayyad period (656–750 CE), when the worldly Umayyad rulers began celebrating some aspects of pre-Islamic Arab culture that were otherwise at odds with Islamic values. This included a revival of political, vitriolic poetry that delighted in lampooning one’s rival and openly proclaiming his faults. The famed Umayyad poets al-Farazdaq and Jarir traded poetic insults with considerable malevolent eloquence at the courts of the Umayyad rulers, even as the pious clucked their tongues in disapproval.

Despite the Islamicizing rhetoric of today’s militant versifiers, they also employ the satirical aspects of pre-Islamic poetry. The aforementioned al-Jaburi lampoons his perceived enemies, the Muslim majority:

“Most of the people are miserable wretches
They are those who sleep in the pockets of the rulers and sing their praises night and day…
Most of the people are miserable wretches,
They befriend the oppressor who takes food from the mouths of the poor… Even though they see the umma [Muslim community] grieving and lying prone…
Most of the people are miserable wretches, whether learned or ignorant”

It’s interesting that the Kharijites, a violence-prone, extremist minority in early Islamic history, were also fond of pillorying the majority of Muslims, whom they denounced as sinners for not joining their ranks.

If our 21st-century militants sound a lot like them, it’s because they’re very similar in this regard. Al-Qaeda members have been known to use Khariji poetry as part of their linguistic arsenal, while strenuously denying any genealogical connection between their ideology and that of the seventh-century Kharijites, who are regarded as a deviant, intolerant sect by the majority of Muslims.

The hypocrisy of militant poetry

Poetry – the lyrical, romantic kind, the type that extols the mystical life and that speaks to universal human concerns – remains very important within Arab-Islamic culture. Schoolchildren in Arab societies typically memorize extensive selections of the classics of pre-modern Arabic poetry. Recitation of the Qur’an is poetic in effect because of its rhyming prose.

Militants are therefore tapping into entrenched literary tastes among Arab populations and appropriating them for their own inglorious ends.

Like many of the pre-Islamic poets, they consider poetry a weapon, one used to actively promote their own ideological goals and simultaneously destroy their enemies. Contemporary extremist groups accuse mainstream Muslims of having lapsed into pre-Islamic paganism for not recognizing the “truth” of their bloody cause. At the same time, these groups cynically adopt and exploit certain practices that clearly hearken back to the pre-Islamic period.

Such irony would be amusing if it were not for the tragic consequences of such self-serving eclecticism.

Editor’s note: Asma Afsaruddin is chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her views are her own.

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My Tortured Journey With Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks

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David Hicks, author of “Guantanamo: My Journey.” (Image: Random House Australia)

I’ve been struggling these past few weeks.

I read a book written by a former Guantanamo detainee named David Hicks titled “Guantanamo: My Journey.” It’s a powerful and heartbreaking memoir and it made a profound impact on me emotionally.

I interviewed Hicks after I read his book. We spoke about a half-dozen times over the past two months. This is the first interview he’s granted since he was released from the “least worst place” in 2007.

Hicks is the Australian drifter who converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammed Dawood and ended up at training camps in Afghanistan the US government said was linked to al-Qaeda, one of which was visited by Osama bin Laden several times. Hicks was picked up at a taxi stand by the Northern Alliance in November 2001 and sold to US forces for about $1,500. Hicks was detainee 002, the second person processed into Guantanamo on January 11, 2002, the day the facility opened.

Hicks was brutally tortured. Psychologically and physically for four years, maybe longer. He was injected in the back of his neck with unknown drugs. He was sodomized with a foreign object. He spent nearly a year in solitary confinement. He was beaten once for ten hours. He was threatened with death. He was placed in painful stress positions. He was subjected to sleep deprivation. He was exposed to extremely cold temperatures, loud music and strobe lights designed to disorient his senses. He was interrogated on a near daily basis.

I’ve been obsessed with the torture and rendition program since details of it first surfaced nearly a decade ago. I’m not exactly sure why I’m so fascinated and outraged by every tiny detail, every new document dump or why I chase every new lead as if I were paparazzi trying to get a shot of Lindsay Lohan. What I do know is that there’s something about the crimes committed by the Bush administration in our name that haunts me.

I have never spoken to a former detainee before I phoned Hicks at his home in Sydney, Australia, a few days before the New Year. There was something surreal about listening to Hicks’ voice as he described his suffering in painstaking detail. Maybe it was the fact that there was a real person on the other end of the receiver and not just a name on a charge sheet. I found it incredibly difficult to separate the reporter from the human being once Hicks stopped speaking. Before I hung up the phone after our first conversation, I told Hicks I was sorry.

“I’m sorry my government tortured you, David,” I said.

“Thanks, mate,” Hicks said, his voice cracking.

What I’ve been grappling with was how to tell Hicks’ story. I’ve truly been at a loss for words. I had to dig deep to figure out why I felt it was too painful to sit in front of a blank computer screen to think about what I wanted to write. Here’s what I discovered: I empathized with Hicks and, perhaps more than anyone, I understood how the then-26-year-old ended up in Afghanistan associating with jihadists a decade ago.

Five years ago, I published my memoir, “News Junkie,” and, like Hicks, I too was brutally honest about my own feelings of alienation, my battle with drug and alcohol addiction, a desire for attention, a desperate need to belong and a terrible choice I made in my early 20s to ingratiate myself with a couple of made members of a New York City crime family.

Admitting that I share some things in common with Hicks scares me. It’s another reason I believe I felt paralyzed.

I wanted to approach this as a straight news story and simply report that Hicks was tortured, that he was abandoned by his country, used as a political pawn by Australia’s former Prime Minister John Howard in his bid for reelection and forced to plead guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism in order to finally be freed from Guantanamo. But I’ve written so many of those reports and all of them end with a shrug here, some outrage there and no one being held accountable.

So, I’ve made the decision that I would expose my own vulnerability and tell you how my interview with the man dubbed the “Australian Taliban” has weighed heavily on my mind. I still cannot comprehend what could drive a human being to torture another human being. Hicks said he knew the answer. At Guantanamo, “torture was driven by anger and frustration.”

“It seemed like a mad fruitless quest to pin crimes on detainees, to extract false confessions and produce so-called intelligence of value,” Hicks told me. “The guards were desensitized and detainees dehumanized. Soldiers were not allowed to engage us in conversation. They were told to address us by number only and not by name. They were constantly drilled with propaganda about how much we supposedly hated them and wanted them dead and how much they needed to hate us. On occasion, when some groups of soldiers jogged around the camp perimeters I heard them sing lyrics such as, ‘you hate us and we hate you.’ One time in the privacy of Camp Echo a male soldier broke down when we were alone repeating, ‘what have I become’ after having arrived from an interrogation of a detainee in another camp.”

Brandon Neely, a former Guantanamo Military Policeman (MP), who escorted Hicks off the bus at Camp X-Ray the day Guantanamo opened, said some soldiers tortured detainees because they wanted revenge for 9/11. He said that’s the message that was passed down from above.

“We were told (by superior officers) all of the detainees, including Hicks, were the ones who planned 9/11 or had something to do with it,” Neely said in an interview. “We were told over and over and over that all these guys were caught fighting Americans on the front lines and at any given time if we turned our back on them they would kill us in a heartbeat. We were told that everyday before we went to work inside the camps. After a while, the attitude was ‘who cares how we treated the detainees.’”

A day before he left Fort Hood, Texas, for Guantanamo, Neely said his unit was told “by the company commander, the colonel and platoon sergeant that these people were not Prisoners of War. They were detainees and the Geneva Conventions would not be in effect.”

George W. Bush did not formally rescind Geneva Conventions protections for “war on terror” detainees until February 7, 2002.

Neely told me a remarkable story about the hours before Hicks arrived at Camp X-Ray that underscores how impressionable he and his fellow soldiers were and how the US government conditioned its military personnel to view detainees as animals.

“When Hicks’ bus got to Camp X-Ray we were told this guy was a mercenary, he was fighting Americans and we had to be real careful around him, Neely said. “We were actually told Hicks tried to bite through the hydraulic cables on the C-130 en route to Guantanamo. So everyone was on edge.”

Neely was 21 when he was sent to Guantanamo. On June 2, 2002, his 22nd birthday, Neely received an “achievement medal” for “exceptional meritorious service while serving as a Military Policeman (MP) in support of Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

Nearly seven years later, Neely went public and revealed details about the abuses he witnessed and one that he participated in while he was at Guantanamo. Like Hicks, who Neely said reminded him “of a guy I would have just gone out and have a beer with,” he has been suffering all of these years. It was as if he was being tortured every time he saw or heard about a detainee being beaten or worse during the six months he worked at the prison facility. I can feel his pain.

Neely’s a cop in Houston now. He’s got a wife and three kids. He told me, “there has not been a day that goes by that I have not re-lived what I did or saw in Guantanamo.” Hicks reached out to Neely last year after he saw him on a BBC special. Neely had flown to London to meet a couple of former British detainees he used to guard and to apologize for the way they were treated. He and Hicks are pretty close now.

I asked Hicks if he could describe the facial expressions of his tormentors while he was being tortured and if he recalled how they reacted to his pain.

“Usually the guards seemed cold and indifferent,” Hicks said. “They deployed a just doing my job attitude, such as when they chained me to the floor in stress positions or made me sleep directly on a metal or concrete floor in a very cold air-conditioned room in only a pair of shorts. However some soldiers displayed discomfort and embarrassment. Usually guards were only used to restrain detainees, move them about, or help in the background with equipment. It was the interrogators who did the dirty work, expressing, hatred and frustration. At times soldiers did participate directly in beatings however, such the beatings I received before I arrived in GTMO (in Afghanistan, in transit, or when I was rendered to the two naval ships before being sent to Guantanamo). These soldiers made a sport of it.

“I was beaten by US forces the first time I saw them and realized straight away that torture was going to be a reality. It was very scary. As I say in my book, I could not help thinking of the saying, ‘like trying to get blood from a stone and I was afraid of becoming that stone.’”

There’s a harrowing section in Hicks’ book where he describes how he had given up all hope after years of detention and abuse and planned to commit suicide.

“I was desperate; there was no other way out,” Hicks wrote.

Those words. I’ve uttered them before. I’ve written them. I know what that kind of desperation feels like. I ask Hicks if we could talk about it, but there’s silence on the other end of the receiver.

“Hello? You still there, David?” I said.

“Yeah mate.”

I didn’t press him. Maybe he was having a flashback. Perhaps he didn’t want to talk about it. I decided to end our conversation.

“Let’s catch up later in the week. We covered a lot of ground.”

“Cheers, mate,” David said and hung up.

I had a knot in my stomach. I had a hard time sleeping for the next few nights. I could not focus on anything but the images in my mind of a helpless Hicks being tormented. It made me realize that one can never comprehend the extent of someone’s pain and suffering until we hear about it first hand. I would get out of bed during those sleepless nights and walk into my son’s room and just stare at him sleeping in his crib. There was something about that image of pure innocence that was soothing to me.

One afternoon, a couple of hours after another session on the phone with Hicks, I took my son to school. As I stood in the background and watched him interact with about 30 other two-year-old boys and girls, tears began streaming down my cheeks. I had not expected to be overcome with so much emotion. I’m embarrassed admitting that I was. Unsure of what was happening at first, I touched my eyes thinking that perhaps something else was coming out of the tear ducts. I didn’t spend much time thinking about what I was feeling at that moment. But, in hindsight, I believe I was coming to terms with how we all eventually lose our innocence. Something about that seems tragic to me. It reminds me of a passage in another memoir, “The Ticking Is the Bomb,” by Nick Flynn, who wrote about his own obsession with the Bush administration’s torture program.

“Here’s a secret: Everyone, if they live long enough, will lose their way at some point. You will lose your way, you will wake up one morning and find yourself lost. This is a hard, simple truth.”

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon has vehemently denied Hicks’ torture claims. In 2007, as a condition of his guilty plea and release from Guantanamo, the US government forced him to sign a document stating that he had “never been treated illegally.” Hicks, who was the first detainee sentenced under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, said he is also “not allowed to challenge or collaterally attack my conviction, seek compensation or other remedies, or sue anyone for my illegal imprisonment and treatment.”

What makes Hicks’ story all the more tragic is how badly he’s been vilified by Australian media since his book was published. Reporters doubt he’s being truthful and they have questioned the veracity of his claims about being tortured. But those same outfits treat Howard’s characterization of Hicks as gospel and refuse to acknowledge that their former prime minister actually urged the Bush administration to charge Hicks with a war crime, despite a lack of evidence, because Hicks “had unexpectedly become a political threat,” according [7] to Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman,

Gellman, author of a book on Dick Cheney titled “Angler,” wrote that Howard, “under pressure from home,” met with Cheney during the vice president’s trip to Sydney in February 2007, where the two discussed Iraq, and told Cheney, “there must be a trial ‘with no further delay’ for David Hicks who was beginning his sixth year at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay.”

“Five days later, Hicks was indicted as a war criminal,” Gellman wrote. “On March 26 [2007], he pleaded guilty to providing ‘material support’ for terrorism. Shortly after Cheney returned from Australia, the Hicks case died with a whimper. The U.S. government abruptly shifted its stance in plea negotiations, dropping the sentence it offered from 20 years in prison to nine months if Hicks would say that he was guilty.”

“Only the dramatic shift to lenience, said Joshua Dratel, one of three defense lawyers, resolved the case in time to return Hicks to Australia before Howard” faced re-election in 2007, Gellman reported.

Hicks’ plea deal prohibited him from speaking to the media for a year. That’s how Howard dealt with this “political threat.” But justice was poetic when Howard lost his bid for another term in office.
Hicks’ plea deal, “negotiated without the knowledge of the chief prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, was supervised by Susan J. Crawford, the convening authority over military commissions. Crawford received her three previous government jobs from then-Defense Secretary Cheney – she was appointed as his special adviser, Pentagon inspector general and then judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.”

Political interference in Hicks’ case, however, began even earlier. Davis, who resigned as chief prosecutor from military commissions at Guantanamo over the government’s handling of terrorism cases, revealed that a day after US officials met with the Australian ambassador to the United States in early January 2007, Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes called him up and asked, ‘how quickly can you charge David Hicks?’ even though at the time he had no regulations for trial by military commissions.”

Davis would later say that Hicks should not have been charged. Stephen Kenny, one of Hicks’ former attorneys, said that “it has always been my position that [Hicks] never committed any crime.”

“We looked at Australian law, international law and Afghani law and we were unable to identify any breach of those laws, Kenny said. The law that he eventually pleaded guilty to [material support for terrorism] was not actually an international war crime at all. In fact it was a crime that didn’t exist.”

Recently, the Australian government entered into a secret financial settlement with Mahmoud Habib, another Australian citizen abandoned by the Howard administration. Habib was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and rendered to Egypt where he said he was brutally tortured for seven months before being he ended up at Guantanamo. Habib was released in 2005 and was never charged with a crime, but he sued the Australian government after he got out, claiming it was complicit in his torture.

Hicks said if he were offered a similar financial settlement he wouldn’t turn it down. But what he really wants is the Australian government “to formally recognize that the 2006 Military Commissions Act was unfair” and designed simply to obtain guilty pleas.

“The Australian government has acknowledged that I have never hurt anyone or committed a crime under Australian law, so the least they can do is formally recognize my conviction as null and void,” Hicks said.

Although the Pentagon and the Australian government continue to deny Hicks was tortured, at least one former Guantanamo military guard said he was.

“David Hicks was tortured, no doubt,” said Albert Melise, who has never spoken publicly before, in several video chats we had via Skype. “Solitary confinement is torture and I think what it did to David’s mind is torture. Would you want to be in a windowless room 23 hours a day?”

But Melise said he didn’t witness any of Hicks’ physical torture or his interrogations. He only knows what Hicks told him. But, “being a cop and having experience separating what’s true and false,” he believes Hicks was being truthful.

“His [physcial] torture did not happen when I reached his camp,” Melise said. “He cut deals so [the torture] would stop. David is one of those people who was easily manipulated [into making false confessions]. He was an easy target for the interrogators. They knew they could break him mentally and physically and they did.”

Melise, 40, was a housing officer in the city of Boston when his Army reserve unit was activated and he was shipped off to Guantanamo to work as an MP.

Melise’s job duties called for him to escort detainees held in Camp Delta to their interrogations where he would “chain them down” to the floor or chair “knowing what [the detainees were] going to go through.”

The detainees sat there for hours in stressful positions while Melise stood behind a one-way mirror and watched their interrogations and waited for it to come to an end. He was present when detainees were slapped, when the temperature in the interrogation room was turned down real low and the volume on the music was turned up to excruciatingly loud levels and when the strobe lights were flicked on, part of the standard operating procedure designed to break the detainees and make them feel as uncomfortable as possible.

“That’s torture,” Melise said.

But I wanted Melise to tell me what happened in those rooms after the interrogators started questioning the detainees.

“Please don’t ask me about those things,” Melise said. “I saw a lot and I still have nightmares over it. I’ve seen these guys cry.”

I wondered if Melise bore witness to any of the horrific pictures my mind created during that split-second gap in our conversation.

“O.K. I understand,” I told Melise “I won’t go there. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m a good soul and I was put in a horrible place,” Albert said.

“I know you are,” I told him. “Well, how about this. Can you tell me what you saw in the detainees’ eyes?

“Sadness,” Melise said. “Like they could not believe the Americans are putting them through that. It was an emotional look. I’ll never forget it.”

Melise hated his job. He started drinking.

“Baccardi 151,” he said. “Two bottles a night.”

He said, “when you see people broken down so much you tend to drink a little to cope with what you’re seeing. I couldn’t deal with what they were putting me through.”

Melise said “fake” detainees were planted at Camp Delta to try and gather intelligence from the “real” detainees. He said he knew they were “fake” because they were “placed in cells for two or three months and then they would pretend to be going to another camp for interrogations.” But, “I would see them shopping, dancing or ordering a sandwich or hanging out at McDonald’s during that time.” Then the “fake” detainees would return to their cells.

He said detainees were also bribed with prostitutes as incentive to get them to work as agents for the US government. He said there was a camp at Guantanamo that just housed children, some of who were as “young as 12 and over 8” years old, called Camp Iguana.

“One of my buddies worked there,” Melise said. “Sick.”

There was also a camp where CIA interrogators worked out of called Secret Squirrel.

Eventually, Melise asked for a transfer.

“I begged them to get me out of there,” Melise said. “I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Albert, do you know what would make a human being torture another human being?” I asked him.

“I don’t have the answer,” he said, shaking his head. “It takes a really disturbed individual to torture someone. That’s not me. I didn’t sign up for that. I couldn’t live with myself and I couldn’t drink it away.”

So, Melise was transferred to Camp 4 for a few weeks and in December 2003 landed at Camp Echo. That’s where he met Hicks, who was being held in complete isolation, and detainees from the UK who have since been released like Mozaam Begg or “Mo,” which is how Melise referred to him.

“Mo once cried in front of me and said he should become Christian,” said Melise, who has frequent Skype chats with Begg now and said the ex-detainee taught him how to play chess. “I told him to tighten up and stay with your heart. Fuck what’s happening now. You’ll pull through. I said ‘don’t question your faith. Don’t think you need to change.’ He once told me I was not like the other soldiers, something shined in me that he could not explain.”

At Camp Echo, Melise said he “redeemed” himself.

“I let [the detainees] out of their cells and just let them talk and hang out,” he said. “I knew it would help them mentally. I knew it would help them cope with many things they had gone through. I also gave up what I had. I gave them normal food from my lunch to eat, cigarettes, protein bars, whatever was mine was theirs. I could have gone to prison myself for doing that, believe me. But I know I did the right thing.”

“Why did you do that?” I asked.

“For sympathetic reasons,” he said. “Because I sat in on interrogations. I wanted to give them a sense of humanity. Nobody deserves to be treated like that. They were not the ‘worst of the worst,’” a description placed upon the detainees by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I’m an ex-cop and I can tell whose a criminal and who isn’t and a lot of these detainees I met were not terrorists.”

Melise told me he “likes getting this stuff off my chest” and I wanted to tell him that listening to him gave me a sense of hope and made me feel like maybe the dearth of compassion is not as widespread as I originally thought. But I held back.

Melise wanted Hicks to feel like he was back home in Australia, so he would sneak his handheld DVD player into Hicks’ cell, lock the door, and watch movies with him, such as “Mad Max,” which starred Mel Gibson. For Begg and the other British detainees Melise played “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels,” directed by British filmmaker Guy Ritchie.

“I figured if [Hicks] heard Mel Gibson’s accent he would feel like he was back in Australia,” Melise said. “And if Mo heard a British accent he would feel like he was home too.”

Melise kept that up for six months. Until June 2004.

I sent an email to Hicks asking him if he remembered Melise.

“I remember him well because he did what he could in that controlled high security environment to help slow the deterioration of my sanity for the few months I spent with him,” Hicks said. “I hope to gather enough funds so I can fly [Melise and Neely] to Australia to thank them personally and show my gratitude for their friendship and trust. I would like to show them my hospitality and my country and to show them how much I appreciate their past kindness and current bravery.”

Melise, who is married with a wife and son, is now studying to be a nurse “so I can really help people in the future.” He recently re-enlisted in the Army reserves for another three years.

I was about to end my interview with Melise, but I had one last question.

“Do you think David is a terrorist?”

“No,” Melise said. “I don’t think he’s a terrorist. I plan on visiting him one day. Why would I do that if I thought he was a terrorist?”

Melise got up from his chair and walked out of sight. He shouted, “Sit tight!” He said he wanted to show me something. It was a letter. He held it up to the video camera on his computer so I could read it.

“I took this with me when I left Guantanamo in ‘04,” Melise said. “It’s a letter David wrote that he asked me to send to his father.”

Melise never sent it. It was too risky, he said.

“I was worried that if someone found out I mailed it I would have been arrested,” Melise said.

Melise faxed a copy of the letter to me. Letters to and from detainees were reviewed by military personnel and were often redacted to remove, for example, emotional phrases such as a “I love you” and any other information the military deemed “sensitive.”

But this six-page letter, written in April 2004 as Hicks’ legal team was challenging the legality of the military commissions, is clean. It clearly shows the psychological torture Hicks had endured and how he was being coerced into pleading guilty to crimes the US government knew he did not commit. The letter is addressed to Hicks’ father, Terry Hicks, who waged a campaign in Australia and the US to raise awareness about his son’s plight.

Hicks wrote that he owed his life to Melise. He said the letter he sent to his father “is very important because it’s the first and probably only time I will be able to tell you the truth of my situation.”

“Before I start I want you to know that the negative things I am going to say has nothing to do with the MP’s that are watching me,” Hicks wrote. “Some of them are marvelous people who have taken risks to help improve my day to day living. It’s because of such people that I have kept my sanity and still have some strength left. In the early days before I made it to Cuba I received some harsh treatment in transportation including mild beatings (about 4). One lasted for 10 hours. I have always cooperated with interrogators. For two years they had control of my life in the camps. If you talk and just agree with what their saying they give you real food, books and other special privileges. If not they can make your life hell. I’m angry these days at myself for being so weak during these last two years. But I’ve always been so desperate to get out and to try to live the best I can while I’m here …”

Hicks wrote that he was being pressured into pleading guilty to a wide-range of war crimes charges and he feared that if he didn’t comply he would be sent to “camp 5,” a “very bad place with complete isolation.”

“They know that this is my worst nightmare,” Hicks wrote about the threat of being transferred to camp 5. “If I end up in there I will probably lose my sanity or crack” and plead guilty. “That’s what they want … Being in my current situation the deal is tempting but only in the last week I’ve decided I’m going to call their bluff and say that I’m gonna fight them. Only know [sic] do I feel like being strong and standing up for myself … I’m sick of writing you letters saying how good it is here. I’ve always done that because I’m afraid of what the authority’s [sic] may do to me. If I told you the reality they wouldn’t give you the information. I want to be able to make as much noise as possible. To let people know of what’s really happening here.”

Hicks then predicted his own future.

“Know that if I make a deal it will be against my will,” he wrote. “I just couldn’t handle it any longer. I’m disappointed in our government. I’m an Australian citizen. If I’ve committed a crime I can be man enough to accept the consequences but I shouldn’t have to admit to things I haven’t done or listen to people falsely accuse me. We can’t let them get away with it.”

I sent Hicks the letter. He said he doesn’t recall what he wrote. But he intends on giving it to his father.

“How were you able to survive?” I asked Hicks.

“I survived because I had no choice, as many of us may unfortunately experience at some time in our lives,” he said. “It was a psychological battle, a serious and dangerous one. It was a constant struggle not to lose my sanity and go mad. It would have been so easy just to let go: it offered the only escape.”

Like Melise, however, Hicks said he, too, still suffers from nightmares.

“I see myself having to begin the long process of imprisonment again accompanied with vivid feelings of hopelessness and no knowledge of the future or how long it will last,” Hicks said, describing his dreams. “The other dreams consist of gruesome medical experimentations too horrible to describe. Losing my personality, my identity, memories and self is much more frightening to me than any physical harm. It is these dreams that are the most common and terrifying.”

Hicks isn’t a practicing Muslim anymore. A couple of years ago, he got married – to a human rights activist named Aloysia. He also has a job working as a landscaper.

He said counseling has helped him, “but the passing of time has been just as helpful.”

“Being exposed to such a consuming environment for five and a half years leaves a stain that cannot be removed overnight,” Hicks said. “It will take longer to reverse the consequences but even so, some experiences, especially one so prolonged, can never be entirely forgotten.”

I had no idea how this story would end or what I would discover when I finally sat down at the computer and started to type. I now know that torture not only permanently scars the torture victim, but it also leaves its mark on everyone who comes in contact with that person.

Editor’s Note: Hicks’ book is not available for sale in the US. However, it can be ordered from online bookshops in Australia.

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The Biggest Lie in the War on Terrorism

The Crime of Making Americans Aware of Their Own History

By William Blum

Is history getting too close for comfort for the fragile little American heart and mind? Their schools and their favorite media have done an excellent job of keeping them ignorant of what their favorite country has done to the rest of the world, but lately some discomforting points of view have managed to find their way into this well-defended American consciousness.

First, Congressman Ron Paul during a presidential debate last month expressed the belief that those who carried out the September 11 attack were retaliating for the many abuses perpetrated against Arab countries by the United States over the years. The audience booed him, loudly.

Then, popular-song icon Tony Bennett, in a radio interview, said the United States caused the 9/11 attacks because of its actions in the Persian Gulf, adding that President George W. Bush had told him in 2005 that the Iraq war was a mistake. Bennett of course came under some nasty fire. FOX News (September 24), carefully choosing its comments charmingly as usual, used words like “insane”, “twisted mind”, and “absurdities”. Bennett felt obliged to post a statement on Facebook saying that his experience in World War II had taught him that “war is the lowest form of human behavior.” He said there’s no excuse for terrorism, and he added, “I’m sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of love for my country.” (NBC September 21)

Then came the Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who for some time had been blaming US foreign policy in the Middle East as the cause of anti-American hatred and terrorist acts. So we killed him.

Ron Paul and Tony Bennett can count themselves lucky.

What, then, is the basis of all this? What has the United States actually been doing in the Middle East in the recent past?

The shooting down of two Libyan planes in 1981 the bombing of Lebanon in 1983 and 1984 the bombing of Libya in 1986 the bombing and sinking of an Iranian ship in 1987 the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 the shooting down of two more Libyan planes in 1989 the massive bombing of the Iraqi people in 1991 the continuing bombings and draconian sanctions against Iraq for the next 12 years the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998 the habitual support of Israel despite the routine devastation and torture it inflicts upon the Palestinian people the habitual condemnation of Palestinian resistance to this the abduction of “suspected terrorists” from Muslim countries, such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Albania, who were then taken to places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they were tortured the large military and hi-tech presence in Islam’s holiest land, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region the support of numerous undemocratic, authoritarian Middle East governments from the Shah of Iran to Mubarak of Egypt to the Saudi royal family the invasion, bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, 2001 to the present, and Iraq, 2003 to the present the bombings and continuous firing of missiles to assassinate individuals in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya during the period of 2006-2011.

It can’t be repeated or emphasized enough. The biggest lie of the “war on terrorism”, although weakening, is that the targets of America’s attacks have an irrational hatred of the United States and its way of life, based on religious and cultural misunderstandings and envy. The large body of evidence to the contrary includes a 2004 report from the Defense Science Board, “a Federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense.” The report states:

“Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies.

The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”

The report concludes: “No public relations campaign can save America from flawed policies.” (Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2004)

The Pentagon released the study after the New York Times ran a story about it on November 24, 2004. TheTimes reported that although the board’s report does not constitute official government policy, it captures “the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government.”

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

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Muslim Groups: FBI Response to Islamophobia Scandal Not Good Enough

The bureau has reached out to Muslim organizations in the wake of embarrassing revelations about its counterterrorism training materials. Critics say that’s not enough.

By Adam Serwer

After reports emerged last week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counterterrorism training included materials that depicted Muslims as inherently radical and violent, the bureau moved quickly to reach out to a number American Muslim groups in an effort to smooth over relations. FBI officials promised to take the problem seriously and vowed to conduct an internal review of the materials, which included assertions that mainstream American Muslims were sympathetic to terrorism and that the more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he is to be violent.

“There was acknowledgement that what happened is wrong and what happens needs to be addressed immediately,” says Abed Ayoub, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). “It was a good first step in rectifying this.”

But Ayoub and other Arab and Muslim leaders add that more still needs to be done to repair the damage caused by the FBI’s offensive training materials.

The problem, Muslim and Arab groups argue, is that this isn’t the first time they’ve complained about the FBI’s counterterrorism training. In August 2010, several organizations sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller after Islamophobic writer Robert Spencer, who believes “that there is no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists,” was invited to give two seminars to Virginia’s Tidewater Joint Terrorism Task Force in July. Spencer was also invited to give a presentation to the US Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, which is cohosted by the FBI in Norfolk.

The FBI didn’t take the outside groups’ complaints particularly seriously. In its response to the letter, the bureau defended Spencer’s appearance on the grounds that he was a “best-selling author.” A little over a year later, the FBI would try a similar tactic, dismissing the controversial elective training offered by FBI official William Gawthrop as an innocuous one-off. But Wired’s Spencer Ackerman soon revealed that recent FBI training materials depicted Muslims—not terrorists or extremists, but Muslims generally—as collectively bent on world domination.

The FBI’s previous efforts to dismiss the issue of anti-Muslim training materials, says Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates, are one reason the FBI’s promised “internal review” won’t be enough. “We’re pleased that this very serious issue is finally receiving the attention of the FBI leadership, but we still believe that an internal FBI review is insufficient at this stage,” Khera says.

On a conference call with several Muslim and Arab organizations, the FBI took pains to note that several agents had registered complaints about Gawthrop’s training materials, and others had walked out of a session in disgust. But the FBI’s excuses left many on the conference call with more questions: If FBI officials had raised concerns about Gawthrop’s work, why was the issue not addressed immediately? A report  from an independent inspector general “is the only way to ensure that the FBI is [addressing the issue],” Khera adds.

The FBI missed opportunities by not taking the potential for cooperation with Muslim groups more seriously, other critics say. If FBI officials had asked for the Muslim American community’s input, they could have stopped the scandal before it happened. “Why did they not ask for the community’s advice on the [training material]? Why didn’t they use the resources at their disposal?” asks the ADC’s Ayoub. “There was no outreach done. That’s disappointing.”

The revelations about the training materials also damaged existing relationships, argues Mohamed Elibiary of the Freedom and Justice Foundation. “You really need very substantive community relationships and partnerships if you want to get to the point where you have community-based interventions and lessening of violent extremism and radicalization,” Elibiary says. “They need to be able to feel like they can call the FBI when there’s a problem with their kids.”

In the future, Elibiary warns, FBI headquarters has to follow the example of its best field offices and do more to reach out to Muslim communities beyond the DC area. “There’s a difference between engaging with the leadership in DC and the leadership across the country,” he says. “You need to engage with both. For what you say in DC to have an impact in Des Moines, you need to be talking to someone there.”

Adam Serwer is a reporter at the Washington, DC bureau of Mother Jones.

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10 Years After 9/11

Despite Mistreatment, Muslims Still Loyal to USA

10th Anniversary of 9/11 and Muslim Americans: the Need for a New Narrative

By John L. Esposito, University Professor and Founding Director Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding

cultureclashmuslimWhile post-9/11 resulted in necessary Western government responses to counter international and domestic terrorism, this tragic event has been widely exploited by far-right neocons, hardline Christian Zionist Right and xenophobic forces. Islam and mainstream Muslims have been brush-stroked with “terrorism,” equated with the actions of a fraction of violent extremists. Major polls by Gallup, PEW and others reported the extent to which many Americans and Europeans had and have a problem not only with terrorists but also with Islam and all Muslims.
Islamophobia grew exponentially, as witnessed in America’s 2008 presidential and 2010 congressional elections, Park 51 and post-Park 51 anti-mosque and so-called anti-Shariah campaigns, as well as increased hate speech and violence. The massacre in Norway is a tragic signal of this metastasizing social cancer. Anders Behring Breivik’s 1500-page manifesto confirmed the influence of the hate speech spread by American anti-Muslim (Islamophobic) leaders, organizations and websites.

It is truly time for a new narrative, one that is informed by facts, and that is data-driven, to replace the shrill voices of militant Muslim bashers and opportunistic politicians chasing funds and votes.

Key findings from the recently released Abu Dhabi Gallup Report, Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future, offer data that provide a good starting point — a very different picture of Muslims in America today.

Far from the image of a fifth column of foreign, terrorist sympathizers and shariah-imposing boogeymen, data indicates that Muslim Americans are actually among the most integrated, optimistic, thriving, and loyal citizens of this country. Astonishingly, despite the hate speech, discrimination and erosion of their civil liberties, American Muslims remain optimistic about their status and future in America. Muslim Americans report being better off and more optimistic in 2011 than they were in 2008. Their life evaluation ratings have increased more than any other American religious group: 60% are thriving in 2011, up 19 percentage points from 2008. They are also more hopeful about their future than any other major religious group. They rate their lives in 5 years at 8.4 on a scale of 0 to 10, compared with 7.4 to 8.0 among other major religious groups and are more likely to see their standard of living getting better in 2011 (64%) than they were in 2008 (46%).

More than other groups, Muslim Americans believe the economy in 2011 vs. 2008 has improved more than that of other groups. They tend to vote Democrat and are happier with the political climate since the election of Obama (8 in 10 Muslim Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, the highest of any other major religious group).

In contrast to their critics who question their loyalty and charge that Muslim Americans do not reject terrorism, Muslim Americans (78%) are most likely to reject violent military attacks on civilians and are most likely (89%) to reject violent individual attacks on civilians versus other major U.S. religious groups. 92% say Muslims living in this country have no sympathy for Al Qaeda.

Yet, despite data that indicates Muslim Americans are loyal to the U.S., 10 years after 9/11 significant minorities of their fellow citizens continue to question their loyalty. Thus, while 93% of Muslim Americans believe they are loyal to America, 80% of Jews, 59% of Catholics, and 56% of Protestants believe this to be the case. Not surprisingly, 60% of Muslim Americans believe that most Americans are prejudiced toward Muslims and data shows that roughly half (between 47%-66%) among other religious groups agree. 48% of Muslims (by far the highest of any other group) say they have personally experienced religious or racial discrimination in the past year.

At the same time, 57% percent of Muslim Americans have confidence in the honesty of elections, the highest of all other major U.S. religious groups, and are among the most open group to other faith communities, with 44% classified as “integrated,” 48% as “tolerant,” and only 8% as “isolated.” For many, one of the most astonishing findings of the Gallup poll may well be the common ground that Muslims share with Jewish Americans in their political and social views. After Muslim Americans themselves (93%), Jewish Americans (80%) are more likely than Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons (59% or less) to see U.S. Muslims as loyal to America. They say that there is prejudice toward U.S.

Muslims in higher numbers (66%) than do Muslims (60%). Jews (74%) and Muslims (83%) in America are the most likely to say the Iraq war was a “mistake.” And perhaps most surprising, a substantial majority of Jewish Americans (78%) and Muslim Americans (81%) support a future in which an independent Palestinian state would coexist alongside of Israel. (DG: ????)

This September 11th provides an opportunity to remember the past but also to recognize that truth is stranger than fiction, the fiction constructed by preachers of hate whose fear-mongering has infected our popular culture and society. Now is the time to reassess and rebuild our national unity on the facts.

Posted at The Huffington Post: August 16, 2011 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-l-esposito/the-10th-anniversary-of-9_b_928683.html

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What a Difference a Decade Makes: Ten Years of “Homeland Security”

By Nancy Murray and Kade Crockford, “Ten Years Later: Surveillance in the ‘Homeland’”

090111tenOn August 5, 2002, President George Bush declared, “We’re fighting … to secure freedom in the homeland.” Strikingly, he did not use the word “nation,” or “republic,” but instead adopted a term, with its Germanic overtones of blood, roots and loyalty going back generations, for a country that is not the ancestral home of most of its citizens.

Soon after, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the massive Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an amalgam of 22 agencies and nearly 200,000 employees. The FBI and CIA remained outside the DHS, while the military, in October 2002, established its own Northern Command (NORTHCOM) to defend the “homeland.”

In the years since then, the full weight of government has been bent on ensuring “homeland security” – a term rarely heard before the 2001 attacks. Over the decade, the government’s powers of surveillance have expanded dramatically. They are directed not just at people suspected of wrongdoing, but at all of us. Our phone calls, our emails and web site visits, our financial records, our travel itineraries, and our digital images captured on powerful surveillance cameras are swelling the mountain of data that is being mined for suspicious patterns and associations. 

It doesn’t take much to come to the attention of the watchers, as 13-year-old Vito LaPinta discovered earlier this year. Members of the Secret Service came to his Tacoma, Washington, middle school to question him about his Facebook posting urging President Obama to be aware of the danger from suicide bombers in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s assassination.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee was no less surprised to find itself listed by the Tennessee Fusion Center on an Internet map of “Terrorism Events and other Suspicious Activity.” Why? The organization had carried out a “suspicious activity” by sending a letter to the state’s school superintendents encouraging them to be supportive of all religions during the holiday season. 

While the government has gained more and more power to watch us, we are being kept in the dark about what it is doing. Over the past decade, a new architecture of mass surveillance has been erected, and we know very little about it.

Surveillance in what we term the “age of Total Information Awareness” will be the subject of our Truthout postings throughout September. After providing an overview of 20th century surveillance, we will examine both the intelligence failures that opened the door to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the government’s response. Rather than fix the obvious problems and hold specific individuals and institutions accountable, the government embarked on a radical shift in how intelligence and law enforcement agencies interact and do their work and rapidly expanded their powers. 

Over the decade, we have seen the emergence of a national security surveillance state, in which some 800,000 local and state operatives file reports on the most common everyday behaviors and members of the public contribute hotline tips about “suspicious” people and activities. We will trace the contours of the new domestic intelligence architecture in terms of its nationwide and regional structures and its evolving technologies, drawing upon public sources and information obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and leaks. We will also describe the impact of the surveillance system on specific targets – Muslims, political activists, immigrants – as well as on the general public, and on what have long been assumed to be core American values.

It is our hope that this series will help stimulate a broader debate about whether we are on the right track in the “war against terrorism.” In the decade since 9/11, there has been no sustained national attempt to probe root causes behind the September 11 attacks and subsequent plots. The federal government has yet to come up with a single definition of “terrorism,” and there is not even a public agreement about what constitutes a ‘”terrorist” attack. So cowed was the DHS by the shrill denunciation of its April 2009 report on the danger of “right-wing extremism” that it has reportedly decided to focus its attention solely on “homegrown extremism” involving Muslims – despite the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center has compiled a long list of homegrown plots in its report, “Terror from the Right,” and that the DHS itself recognizes that Muslims have had nothing to do with the majority of terrorist plots and attacks within the United States in the 21st century.

Amid all these ambiguities, a new surveillance network has been steadily constructed in the shadows with the help of DHS grants. Among the questions that should be asked is this:  What happens to actual public safety when “homeland security” commands the lion’s share of federal funds to fight the “terrorist” threat?

The statistics suggest skewed priorities. According to the FBI, terrorist incidents in the United States accounted for 3,178 deaths in the period between 1980 and 2005. Apart from those killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11, 2001 attacks, 48 people lost their lives to terrorism in that 25-year period. Within the same time frame, 500,000 people were murdered in the United States. Being listed on a terrorist watch list might keep someone from getting on an airplane – and could conceivably land an American citizen on a government assassination list -  but it will not prevent that person from legally buying a weapon  – or several! – at a local gun store.

What kind of “homeland” will we become if we do not demand that secretive domestic surveillance operations are brought in line with longstanding principles of liberty and the Constitution?

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Still Painful, September 11 Has Few Rewards for Hollywood

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – It was a disastrous attack that played out live on television 10 years ago, riveting a horrified nation for days.

But the thought-provoking films and TV shows that followed, depicting the fiery attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath, have mostly been shunned by American audiences who favored escapist movies and almost-reality TV while wars raged in Iraq and Afghanistan in the decade that followed.

Culture watchers and media pundits say audiences are not yet ready to relive a memory that remains painful, and some experts note that this particular chapter of American history is still unfinished.
“Films about 9/11 run the risk of being exploitational because they deal with such an epic tragedy and they don’t have a resolution. One of the things Hollywood wants is a happy ending, and you are not going to get it,” said Wheeler Winston Dixon, author of “Film and Television after 9/11” and a professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Ten years on, the trauma of September 11 and the ongoing war against terrorism have left their mark on pop culture in subtle yet omnipresent ways. And perhaps surprisingly, Muslims have escaped the widespread demonization on screen that many feared when followers of Osama bin Laden crashed passenger planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
“After 9/11, I was terrified of the direction this country was going to go toward Muslims,” said Kamran Pasha, one of the few Muslim screenwriters in Hollywood.
“But in many ways, Hollywood is showing more sophistication and empathy toward the Muslim community than I think a lot of people in America are,” Pasha said.

BOX OFFICE FLOPS

Just two mainstream movies, “United 93” and “World Trade Center”, attempted to recreate the events of 9/11, both with strongly patriotic overtones. But the 2006 films together took in less than $250 million at global box offices — about the same as “Avatar” grossed on its opening weekend in 2009.

Stories dealing directly or indirectly with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fared even worse, despite sometimes boasting A-list stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Matt Damon and Reese Witherspoon.

Whether telling of heartbreak among troops and their families (“Brothers”, “Stop-Loss”), conspiracies and cover-ups (“Body of Lies”, “Rendition”) or politics (“Lions for Lambs”), Americans stayed away in droves. “Over There”, the first TV series to depict an ongoing war, was axed in 2005 after just four months.

“I don’t think audiences have wanted to relive one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s recent history. At least, not so soon,” said Claudia Puig, film critic for USA Today.

Even 2010 best picture Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker”, about a bomb disposal team in Iraq, brought in only $49 million at box offices worldwide — a decent sum for a low-budget picture but nowhere near blockbuster status.

Instead, one of Hollywood’s favorite genres, comic book flicks, soared with audiences in movies like “Iron Man”, “X-Men” and “Spider-Man”.

Television, with its quicker production times and lower budgets, was first off the mark on 9/11 with White House series “The West Wing” providing the perfect showcase in October 2001 for a discussion on terrorism, religion, race and intolerance.

Although created before September 11, counter terrorist agent Jack Bauer arrived in 2001 in TV thriller “24”. The series quickly embodied America’s post-September 11 state of mind, particularly in Bauer’s hard-hitting methods to get the bad guy and the show’s initially negative depiction of Muslims.

Yet “24” ended in 2010 with Bauer praying on his deathbed with a Muslim Imam. Pasha called that “a quantum leap from where the show started.”

WHO ARE THE BAD GUYS?

Screen villains have become more rounded and more diverse than pre-2001, when Arabs were already Hollywood’s go-to bad guys after the Middle Eastern plane hijackings of the 1980s.

Lawrence Wright, screenwriter for the 1998 movie “The Siege” about a radical Islamic group attack on New York, said that after September 11 “the world became a lot more complicated. It was indelicate to attack Muslims.”

Pasha said the 2005-06 Showtime TV drama “Sleeper Cell,” which he co-produced, was a “pivotal change” in the depiction of the Muslim community. It featured a Muslim American undercover agent who infiltrates a terrorist cell whose members include a white European woman, a gay Muslim and a Latino man.

“It tried to show the perspective of the al Qaeda guys, showing them as human beings and what could make them do these terrible things,” Pasha said.

Puig said Hollywood is now adapting its viewpoint, with villains in several recent movies being Russian or South American. “Some of that may be due to profiling concerns or political correctness, but it also reflects an expanded outlook on the terrorism genre in films,” she said.

Television also is moving forward.

New York firefighter drama “Rescue Me” began in 2004 and became the only long-running TV series to deal with the human toll of the attacks. The series ends on Sept 7, in what its co-creator and star Denis Leary calls a fitting conclusion.

Upcoming Showtime drama “Homeland” is a political thriller about a U.S. soldier who is suspected of having been turned militant by his captors in Iraq.

“Things have become deeper and more complex. And the heart of this show is really psychological — how America is dealing with the 10-year period post 9/11,” said “Homeland” executive producer Alex Gansa.

Yet, there remains at least one final look back. TV networks will revisit September 11 with numerous news specials and documentaries to mark the 10th anniversary.

Dixon doubts many Americans will be tuning in, even given the killing at U.S. hands in May of Osama bin Laden.

“I don’t think (the TV specials) are going to do well,” he said. “I lived through it once. I really don’t need to live through it again, because there is no happy ending in sight.”

(Additional reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and David Storey)

13-37

Pamela Geller, Unindicted Co-conspirator of the Oslo Massacre

The $43 Million Islamophobia Machine

by Julianne Hing

Thursday, September 1 2011, 10:05 AM EST Tags: Muslim

Is President Obama a secret Muslim? Is Sharia law the radical scourge that’s threatening the very fabric of U.S. democracy? Contrary to the saying, a lie repeated often enough won’t make it true. But that doesn’t mean anti-Muslim activists, armed with millions of dollars of foundation support, won’t stop trying.

It turns out a handful of seven donors have given nearly $43 million over the last decade to fund a close network of right-wing intellectuals and scholars who’ve concocted and fanned Islamophobic hysteria to push an anti-Muslim political agenda.

According to “Fear Inc.,” a new report released by the Center for American Progress, those millions have gone to a coordinated network of anti-Muslim thought leaders: Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy; David Yerushalmi at the Society of Americans for National Existence; Daniel Pipes at the Middle East Forum; Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America and Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

This network, with millions of dollars behind it, has moved an agenda that seeks to pit Islam against the West, that imagines Muslims as untrustworthy and dangerous, that has painted Muslims as a looming threat who are out to undermine American democracy and national security. And with the help of activists, right-wing bloggers and a platform from a more than obliging cable news system, these fringe ideas have become more and more mainstream.

“There is a coordinated, strategic, deliberate, interconnected agenda here, which has very detrimental effects on fellow Americans and our communities and which really poisons the well of civil discourse,” says Wajahat Ali, the lead author of the CAP report.

“We’re living in a post-9/11 environment so what the network does is very cynically exploits fear, hysteria and misinformation and ignorance for the sake of profit, and for the sake of pushing an anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of allegedly combating radical Islam and protecting our national security,” Ali said.

It’s in this post-9/11 climate that the most absurd statements have become commonplace in the mainstream political discourse.

“Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States,” Pam Geller wrote in February on her right-wing blog Atlas Shrugs. She is closely connected with David Horowitz, whose anti-Muslim group the David Horowitz Freedom Center has raked in $8.3 million in the last decade. Or, in the words of Bridgitte Gabriel: “[Muslims and Arabs] have no soul. They are dead set on killing and destruction.”

It’s the kind of extremist thought leadership that has paved the way for Rep. Peter King’s congressional hearings on the supposed Islamic radicalization of the country. They’re the authors whose anti-Muslim rants were cited dozens of times in the Oslo, Norway shooter Behring Breivik’s manifesto. These are the people who’ve singlehandedly brought anti-Sharia laws to over a dozen statehouses. They’re the machine that’s given rise to the idea that Obama might secretly be Muslim, and that were that true, it’d somehow be a terrible offense.

Ali says that the success of this messaging rests in part on the fact that 60 percent of Americans claim not to know any Muslim person, and so people rely for on mainstream media and the words of political leaders for information.

The anti-Muslim rhetoric firing across the airwaves and in congressional hearings has real-life impacts, too. It’s provided the political cover for a whole slew of policies that have targeted Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities. An AP investigation published last week uncovered a years long domestic surveillance program that the NYPD had undertaken to gather information on Muslim communities. The invasive surveillance measures meant that New York police had broad powers to monitor, harass and racially profile New York Muslims.

But the manufactured threat has been overblown, experts say. A 2010 study from Duke University found that the imagined threat of Muslim fundamentalists committing acts of terrorism was exaggerated. The study tracked 139 known radicalized Muslim-Americans who had attempted to carry out acts of terrorism or had been prosecuted in connection with suspected acts of terrorism—they are just a handful of the nation’s 2.6 million Muslims.*

“Muslim-American organizations and the vast majority of individuals that we interviewed firmly reject the radical extremist ideology that justifies the use of violence to achieve political ends,” David Schanzer, an associate professor at Duke and the director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said in a statement at the report’s release.

And this week a new report from the Pew Research Center found that American Muslims are concerned about the exact same things everyone else is: they take national security seriously and are distrustful of extremism in many forms, even as they report being unfairly seen as suspect themselves. American Muslims overwhelmingly have both, Pew reports, “mainstream and moderate” attitudes.

Nevertheless, in the last decade, Muslims, Arabs, Middle Easterners, South Asians and those who’ve been confused for any of the above, have been the targets of a marked rise in job-related discrimination, hate crimes and biased-based bullying.

“Fear is a two-way street,” said Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. “It’s created fear within the community too.”

Billoo said that since September 11, it’s not uncommon for American Muslims to be confronted by anti-Muslim incidents in their daily life, the the utter frequency of which have begun to normalize Islamophobic rhetoric in even her community members’ eyes.

“Some sort of hate is manifested but it doesn’t rise to the level of a hate crime,” Billoo explained, “where someone calls me a terrorist, or someone looks at me funny, or someone yells something from their car at me.”

“It’s happened for so long that many people have taken it in as their reality and stopped complaining when it’s not okay, whether it’s happening to them or anyone else.”

Ali urged people to put the current debates within a historical context. “What’s happening right now is simply a remake. The characters in the past were Jews, Irish Catholics, and Japanese Americans,” Ali said. “And the scapegoating of those minority communities represents in hindsight the worst of America.”

Ali said he hoped the report would give these funders an opportunity to assess their political priorities and distance themselves from the obvious fearmongering that they’ve funded. He said that the U.S. needs to learn from its past mistakes and regain its moral compass to bring some moderation back to the national discourse.

“What’s inspiring is that America usually does find its way back,” Ali said. “Sometimes grudgingly, and sometimes after making mistakes along the way. But we’re a resilient nation, eventually we find our way.”

* This article has been updated since publication.

Anders Breivik & Europe’s Blind Right Eye

By Praveen Swami

2011-07-26T181547Z_1238585719_GM1E77R06AP01_RTRMADP_3_NORWAY

A woman takes part in a march near Utoeya island to pay their respects for the victims of the killing spree and bomb attack in Norway, in the village of Sundvollen, northwest of Oslo, July 26, 2011. Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik is in all likelyhood "insane", his lawyer said after the anti-Islam radical admitted to bomb and shooting spree in Norway on Friday that killed 76 people. 

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

There are important lessons for India in the murderous violence in Norway: lessons it can ignore only at risk to its own survival.

In 2008, Hindutva leader B.L. Sharma ‘Prem’ held a secret meeting with key members of a terrorist group responsible for a nationwide bombing campaign targeting Muslims. “It has been a year since I sent some three lakh letters, distributed 20,000 maps of Akhand Bharat but these Brahmins and Banias have not done anything and neither will they [do anything],” he is recorded to have said in documents obtained by prosecutors. “It is not that physical power is the only way to make a difference,” he concluded, “but to awaken people mentally, I believe that you have to set fire to society.”
Last week, Anders Behring Breivik, armed with assault weapons and an improvised explosive device fabricated from the chemicals he used to fertilize the farm that had made him a millionaire in his mid-20s, set out to put Norway on fire.

Even though a spatial universe separated the blonde, blue-eyed Mr. Breivik from the saffron-clad neo-Sikh Mr. Sharma, their ideas rested on much the same intellectual firmament.

In much media reportage, Mr. Breivik has been characterised as a deranged loner: a Muslim-hating Christian fanatic whose ideas and actions placed him outside of society. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Breivik’s mode of praxis was, in fact, entirely consistent with the periodic acts of mass violence European fascists have carried out since World War II. More important, Mr. Breivik’s ideas, like those of Mr. Sharma, were firmly rooted in mainstream right-wing discourse.

Fascist terror

In the autumn of 1980, a wave of right-wing terrorist attacks tore through Europe. In August that year, 84 people were killed and 180 injured when a bomb ripped through the Bologna railway station. Eleven people were killed when the famous Munich Oktoberfest was targeted on September 26; four persons died when a bomb went off in front of a synagogue on the Rue Copernic in Paris on October 2.

Little attention, the scholar Bruce Hoffman noted in a 1984 paper, had been paid to right-wing terrorists by Europe’s police forces. Their eyes, firmly focussed on left-wing organisations, had characterised the right “as ‘kooks’, ‘clowns’, ‘little Fuhrers’, and, with regard to their young, ‘political punk rockers’.” Less than four months before the Oktoberfest bombing, Dr. Hoffman wrote, an official German Interior Ministry publication dismissed the threat from neo-Nazi groups, saying they were “most armed with self-made bats and chains.”

Earlier this year, the analysts who had authored the European Police organisation Europol’s Terrorism Situation Report made much the same mistake as they had before the 1984 bombings. Lack of cohesion and public threat, they claimed, “went a long way towards accounting for the diminished impact of right-wing terrorism and extremism in the European Union.”

Zero terrorist attacks might have been a persuasive empirical argument — if it was not for the fact that no EU member-state, bar Hungary, actually records acts of right-wing terrorism using those terms.

Europol’s 2010 report, in fact, presented a considerably less sanguine assessment of the situation. Noting the 2008 and 2009 arrests of British fascists for possession of explosives and toxins, the report flagged the danger from “individuals motivated by extreme right-wing views who act alone.”

The report also pointed to the heating-up of a climate of hatred: large attendances at white-supremacist rock concerts, the growing muscle of fascist groups like Blood and Honour and the English Defence League, fire-bomb attacks on members of the Roma minority in several countries, and military training to the cadre.

Yet, the authors of the 2011 Europol report saw little reason for alarm. In a thoughtful 2008 report, a consortium of Dutch organisations noted that “right-wing terrorism is not always labelled as such.”

Because “right-wing movements use the local traditions, values, and characteristics to define their own identity,” the report argued, “many non-rightist citizens recognize and even sympathize with some of the organization’s political opinions”— a formulation which will be familiar to Indians, where communal violence is almost never referred to as a form of mass terrorism.

Thomas Sheehan, who surveyed the Italian neo-fascist resurgence before the 1980 bombings, arrived at much the same conclusion decades ago. “In 1976 and again in 1978,” he wrote in the New York Review of Books, “judges in Rome, Turin and Milan fell over each other in their haste to absolve neo-fascists of crimes ranging from murdering a policeman to ‘reconstituting Fascism’ [a crime under post-war Italian law]”.

“When it comes to fascist terrorism,” Mr. Sheehan wryly concluded, “Italian authorities seem to be a bit blind in the right eye.”

Political crisis

Europe’s fascist parties have little electoral muscle today but reports suggest that a substantial renaissance is under way. The resurgence is linked to a larger political crisis. In 1995, commentator Ignacio Ramonet argued that the collapse of the Soviet Union had provoked a crisis for Europe’s great parties of the right, as for its left. The right’s failure to provide coherent answers to the crisis of identity provoked by a globalising world, and its support for a new economic order which engendered mass unemployment and growing income disparities, empowered neo-fascism.

“People feel,” Mr. Ramonet wrote in a commentary in the French newspaper, Le Monde, “that they have been abandoned by governments which they see as corrupt and in the hands of big business.”

In the mid-1990s, fascist groups reached an electoral peak: Jorg Haider’s Liberals won 22 per cent of the vote in Austria; Carl Igar Hagen’s Progress Party became the second-largest party in Norway; Gianfranco Fini’s National Alliance claimed 15 per cent of the vote in Italy; while the Belgian Vlaams Blok gained 12.3 per cent in Flanders, Belgium. In France, the centrist Union for French Democracy was compelled to accept support from the National Front in five provinces.

Europe’s mainstream right-wing leadership rapidly appropriated key elements of the fascist platform, and successfully whittled away at their electoral success: but ultimately failed to address the issues Mr. Ramonet had flagged.

Now, many are turning to new splinter groups, and online mobilisation.

Mr. Brevik’s comments on the website Document.no provide real insight into the frustration of the right’s rank and file. His central target was what he characterised as “cultural-Marxism”: “an anti-European hate-ideology,” he wrote in September 2009, “whose purpose is to destroy European culture, identity and Christianity in general.”

For Mr. Breivik, cultural Marxism’s central crime was to have de-masculinised European identity. In his view, “Muslim boys learn pride in their own religion, culture and cultural-conservative values at home, while Norwegian men have been feminized and taught excessive tolerance.”

He railed against the media’s supposed blackout of the supposed “100 racial / jihadi murder of Norwegians in the last 15 years.” “Many young people are apathetic as a result,” Mr. Brevik observed, “others are very racist. They repay what they perceive as racism with racism.”

Mr. Breivik, his writings suggest, would have been reluctant to describe himself as a fascist — a common feature of European far-right discourse. He wrote: “I equate multiculturalism with the other hate-ideologies: Nazism (anti-Jewish), communism (anti-individualism) and Islam (anti-Kaffir).”

These ideas, it is important to note, were echoes of ideas in mainstream European neo-conservatism. In 1978, the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, famously referred to popular fears that Britain “might be swamped by people of a different culture.” In 1989, Ms Thatcher asserted that “human rights did not begin with the French Revolution.” Instead, they “really stem from a mixture of Judaism and Christianity”— in other words, faith, not reason.

In recent years, key European politicians have also used language not dissimilar to Mr Brevik. Last year, Angela Merkel asserted that multikulti, or multiculturalism, had failed. David Cameron, too, assailed “the doctrine of state multiculturalism,” which he said had “encouraged different cultures to live separate lives.” France’s Nicolas Sarkozy was more blunt: “multiculturalism is a failure. The truth is that in our democracies, we cared too much about the identity of the migrant and not sufficiently about the identity of the country that welcomed him.”

Mr. Brevik’s grievance, like Mr. Sharma’s, was that these politicians were unwilling to act on their words — and that the people he claimed to love for cared too little to rebel.

The Norwegian terrorist’s 1,518-page pseudonymous testament, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, promises his new “Knights Templar” order will “seize political and military control of Western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda.” He threatens an apocalyptic war against “traitors” enabling a Muslim takeover of Europe: a war, he says, will claim up to “45,000 dead and 1 million wounded cultural Marxists/multiculturalists.”

For India, there are several important lessons. Like’s Europe’s mainstream right-wing parties, the BJP has condemned the terrorism of the right — but not the thought system which drives it. Its refusal to engage in serious introspection, or even to unequivocally condemn Hindutva violence, has been nothing short of disgraceful. Liberal parties, including the Congress, have been equally evasive in their critique of both Hindutva and Islamist terrorism.

Besieged as India is by multiple fundamentalisms, in the throes of a social crisis that runs far deeper than in Europe, with institutions far weaker, it must reflect carefully on Mr. Brevik’s story — or run real risks to its survival.

Posted by c-info at Sunday, July 24, 2011, The Hindu

13-31

Tax Dollars Used Against Islam and Muslims

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO

A few weeks ago, a former Palestinian Muslim, who is now an ultra conservative Christian equated Islam with terrorism describing the two inseparable. There is nothing new in what the so called former PLO terrorist said or says on a regular basis. In the last 10 years, several individuals claiming to speak on behalf of Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism have spoken openly against Islam and Muslim Americans in particular. Expressing one’s opinion is everyone’s right and that right must be preserved even if it is based on misconception or lies.

What is problematic is that the Homeland Security invited the so called terrorist-turned Christian to an official event attended by more than 300 law enforcement officials in South Dakota. This is a violation of our constitution that clearly indicates that the people’s tax dollars would not be spent in either promoting or targeting a particular religion. The so called expert was paid 5,000 plus other expenses.  In other word, the our tax dollars were spent on supporting someone whose anti-Islam agenda is well known. If the Homeland Security had invited a Muslim American to counter his argument, one could have argued that the purpose of the event was to have a balanced perspective. However, by giving money and podium to an avid anti-Islam fanatic, the Homeland Security has revealed its hatred of Islam, a crime which is in breach of the constitution and which deserves to be thoroughly investigated.

Ten after the September 11 attack, Muslim Americans are still deemed unfit by many law enforcement agencies or agents to be partners in the country’s fight against terrorism. This policy or attitude is hurting the country and wasting its tax dollars money. Seemingly, the Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies have wasted millions of dollars in rewarding anti-Muslim and anti-Islam experts on terrorism by giving them legitimacy and authenticity through invitation to officially organized events for state and federal agents.

Most of the so called experts on Islam belong to several religious groups who anti-Islam position is well known. They use the Tax payers money and resources to promote their religious agenda and to make money for themselves. The country does not benefit from their expertise.

One is entitled to his or her opinion on Islam or any other faith but when that opinion is given legitimacy by agencies that are meant to uphold the constitution and the citizens, then it deserves the attention of all those who are serious about the sanctity and supremacy of the constitution. As far as opinions against Islam are concerned, we Muslims must be aware of the task that we have at hand, i.e. challenging the misconception and informing the country and the world that there is another side of the explanation that can be offered only by those practice this faith and who understands its in and out better than those so called experts who have found a new opportunity to mint money from the new venture that we can term as “Islamic Threat to the West.”

13-30

US Assured of Action Against ‘Sanctuaries’

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: A flurry of activity of Monday provided hope that the Pak-US marriage of convenience was not over despite the recent bellowing and booming of the Pakistani leadership.

2011-05-16T133358Z_1323651652_GM1E75G1FO201_RTRMADP_3_BINLADEN

U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) (L) meets with Pakistan’s PM Yusuf Raza Gilani at the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad May 16, 2011.

REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

By the end of Senator John Kerry’s day-long stay in Islamabad it appeared that the US had convinced Pakistan to undertake several steps for proving its commitment to the fight against terrorism. These included returning the wreckage of the helicopter which had malfunctioned during the May 2 raid in Abbotabad and eliminating terrorist sanctuaries in tribal areas.

In exchange Washington has committed itself to a process, which if successful, will lead to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Islamabad for reviving the strategic dialogue which has been stalled since the arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis and subsequent events such as drone attacks and the unilateral US operation killing Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

John Kerry, who heads the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, extracted these promises from the Pakistani leadership; he warned them that “if the relationship is to fall apart …. US will always reserve the right to protect its national security”.

Senator Kerry’s tough love message was reinforced, Dawn has learnt, by the telephone calls Secretary Clinton made to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Ms Clinton rang up Mr Gilani when he, the president and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were meeting Senator Kerry. The call is reported to have lasted about 20 minutes.

The secretary of state had called Mr Zardari on Sunday.

“I think we made serious progress. Pakistan has agreed to do a number of things immediately to demonstrate its further seriousness of purpose and we agreed to have several officials from the US to come here in the middle of the week or sometime soon to carry on this discussion and prepare the ground for Secretary Clinton,” a visibly fatigued Kerry told a selected group of journalists after his meetings with Pakistani civil and military leaders.

Having met the army chief on Sunday night, Mr Kerry spent most of Monday in meetings. As he noted: “We worked harder today to talk about ways in which we can be better partners, work cooperatively and open doors to joint cooperation to fight terrorism.”

Senator Kerry met President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and Army Chief Gen Kayani, individually and collectively, before a joint declaration was issued by the two sides expressing the willingness to carry on with their relationship.

“In furtherance of its existing commitment to fight terrorism, Pakistan has agreed to take several immediate steps to underscore its seriousness in renewing the full cooperative effort with the United States,” the joint communiqué said.

Senator Kerry avoided divulging details of the steps agreed upon, but vaguely described it as including cooperation on counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and targeting terrorist sanctuaries. The latter is hardly surprising; having been high on the American wish list for a long time, action against the havens in tribal areas was one of the major demands Mr Kerry brought to Islamabad.

He said: “We need Pakistan’s cooperation, we need Pakistan’s help against sanctuaries in this country from where people are destabilising Afghanistan and frankly killing … all of (those who) are trying to provide for a stable Afghanistan.”

However, he stopped of claiming that Pakistani leaders had agreed to go after the Haqqani network, one of the core contentious issues in the rocky bilateral ties. He was only willing to say cryptically that both countries had agreed to target “some entity, which is engaged in terrorism … the entity that needs to be taken on one way or the other”.

He also said that other measures to be taken by Pakistan included returning the tail of the helicopter which was left behind by the Navy Seals during the Abbotabad raid.

After it malfunctioned, the Americans exploded the helicopter before they left; this was done, it was reported, to prevent the stealth technology from falling into Pakistani, and possibly other, hands.
However, distrust is still not a thing of the past. Despite Pakistan’s new commitments, which Mr Kerry himself described as “more detailed, more precise and clarified”, he made it clear that Washington was no longer going to be satisfied by mere promises.

“This road ahead will not be defined by words. It will be defined by actions,” he told journalists.

This is why Washington is going to follow a step-by-step approach before confirming that Secretary Clinton will be taking a flight to Islamabad.

Two US officials — Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and CIA Deputy Director Mark Morrel — will visit Islamabad to follow up on Mr Kerry’s talks and discuss the agreed measures in details and possibly gauge progress on the commitments made to the senator.

Secretary Clinton’s visit remains contingent on the outcome of Grossman’s discussions. “First a meeting will take place to try to lay the groundwork for that (Clinton’s meeting) and coming out of that meeting the secretary would set the date,” Senator Kerry said. However, in the midst of all the tough talk and the conditions he set, Mr Kerry also made an effort to soothe ruffled feathers, “we are committed to working together with Pakistan — not unilaterally, but together in joint efforts” — contingent once again on Pakistani cooperation.

“But, if we are cooperating and working together there is no reason (for acting unilaterally),” he said.           

From The Newspaper

13-21

Singh & Gilani Agree To “Normalize” Indo-Pak Ties

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI:  The much-awaited talks between Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani were held last week on sidelines of 16th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Thimpu, Bhutan (April 29). Though the two sides still retain differences over several issues, including Kashmir, the high-level talks are viewed as a “positive breakthrough.” The key point is their agreement to revive the Indo-Pak dialogue process, practically put on hold since Mumbai-blasts in 2008. Though the two prime ministers last met at Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt in July 2009, Indo-Pak dialogue has yet to be brought back on track. Till date, it has been held back because of terrorism, sources said. While concern about terrorism still remains high on agenda of both the countries, the positive outcome of talks in Thimpu is that they agreed to “normalize” Indo-Pak ties and decide on dates for talks to be held at various levels.

Briefing media persons on Singh-Gilani talks, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said: “They discussed all issues in a free and frank manner. They agreed that India-Pakistan cooperation is vital, if the people of South Asia are to realize their destiny and if SAARC is to become an effective and powerful instrument of regional cooperation. They agreed that relations between the two countries should be normalized, and channels of contact should work effectively to enlarge the constituency of peace in both countries.”

Singh voiced India’s concern about terrorism to Gilani. “India,” Singh told Gilani, “is willing to discuss all issues of concern with Pakistan and to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue, but that issue of terrorism is holding back progress,” Rao said. On his part, Gilani told Singh, “Pakistan would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activity directed against India.”

“The meeting was an exercise in mutual comprehension because there is a lack of mutual trust in the relationship impeding the process of normalization. The two sides have agreed on the need to assess the reasons underlying the current state of relations, or current state of affairs of the relationship and to think afresh on the way forward. They have agreed that the foreign ministers and the foreign secretaries will be charged with the responsibility of working out the modalities of restoring trust and confidence in the relationship and thus paving the way for a substantive dialogue on all issues of mutual concern,” Rao told media persons.

To a question on dates for taking forward the process of Indo-Pak talks, Rao replied: “The two sides have agreed to meet as soon as possible.” While dates have yet to be decided, Rao said: “The instructions of the prime ministers are that the foreign ministers and the foreign secretaries should meet as soon as possible.”

When asked on whether Pakistan gave any “commitment” to India regarding terrorism, Rao said: “Prime Minister (Singh) was very emphatic in mentioning that Pakistan has to act on the issue of terrorism, that the terror machine, as he termed it, that operates from Pakistan needs to be controlled, needs to be eliminated.” Gilani’s stand, according to Rao, was that Pakistan was “equally seized of these concerns, that terrorism has affected Pakistan’s well-being also, and that they want to address this issue comprehensively and effectively.”

In a separate press briefing, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the two prime ministers’ meeting had played a major role in improving the atmosphere between the two countries. The “outcome” of their meeting has been “more than expected,” Qureshi said. “It is a step in the right direction, a concrete development and we will build on it,” he stated. Dismissing prospects of any major breakthrough in immediate future, Qureshi said that “trust deficit” between India and Pakistan has to be bridged through “confidence-building measures.” “We have to be realistic and pragmatic. It (bridging trust deficit) will not happen in a day, it is a process. If we allow the process to continue, obviously with passage of time, the deficit will be narrowed down,” Qureshi said. “There was acknowledgment about deficit in both sides. The two prime ministers have to bridge that divergence and build confidence,” Qureshi said.

Islamabad will be hosting the SAARC home ministers’ meeting this year on July 26. On this, Qureshi said: “We welcome Indian home minister to take part in that meeting.”

Rao and Qureshi held separate press briefings in Thimpu soon after Singh-Gilani talks, which lasted for about an hour and a half. Both described Singh-Gilani meeting as comprehensive, cordial and friendly.

Notwithstanding the fact that diplomatic tension still prevails between India and Pakistan on issues such as Kashmir, their agreement to take forward the dialogue process and “fight terrorism” together is viewed as a major development in their bilateral ties. While in some quarters, this has been described as a “firm, strong step – finally taken,” others view it simply as a “thaw” in Indo-Pak ties which had been “frozen” since Mumbai-blasts.

United States has welcomed the decision of India and Pakistan to resume their dialogue. “Obviously there is a long way to go. But certainly, the de-escalation of tension between the two countries would help in fight against Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in Washington (April 30). Earlier, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said: “We always think that when leaders of countries, particularly countries with the unique history of India and Pakistan, anytime they can get together for high-level constructive dialogue, that is good for the region, and we support it.” On whether US had played any role in making Singh-Gilani meeting possible in Thimpu, Crowley replied: “We have encouraged the leaders of Pakistan and India to restore direct dialogue that has been characteristic of the relationship between those two countries within the last few years, and we’re encouraged that they are taking steps to do that.”

12-19

White House Quietly Courts Muslims in U.S.

By Andrea Elliott, NY Times

When President Obama took the stage in Cairo last June, promising a new relationship with the Islamic world, Muslims in America wondered only half-jokingly whether the overture included them. After all, Mr. Obama had kept his distance during the campaign, never visiting an American mosque and describing the false claim that he was Muslim as a “smear” on his Web site.

Nearly a year later, Mr. Obama has yet to set foot in an American mosque. And he still has not met with Muslim and Arab-American leaders. But less publicly, his administration has reached out to this politically isolated constituency in a sustained and widening effort that has left even skeptics surprised.

Muslim and Arab-American advocates have participated in policy discussions and received briefings from top White House aides and other officials on health care legislation, foreign policy, the economy, immigration and national security. They have met privately with a senior White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to discuss civil liberties concerns and counterterrorism strategy.

The impact of this continuing dialogue is difficult to measure, but White House officials cited several recent government actions that were influenced, in part, by the discussions. The meeting with Ms. Napolitano was among many factors that contributed to the government’s decision this month to end a policy subjecting passengers from 14 countries, most of them Muslim, to additional scrutiny at airports, the officials said.

That emergency directive, enacted after a failed Dec. 25 bombing plot, has been replaced with a new set of intelligence-based protocols that law enforcement officials consider more effective.

Also this month, Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim academic, visited the United States for the first time in six years after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reversed a decision by the Bush administration, which had barred Mr. Ramadan from entering the country, initially citing the U.S.A. Patriot Act. Mrs. Clinton also cleared the way for another well-known Muslim professor, Adam Habib, who had been denied entry under similar circumstances.

Arab-American and Muslim leaders said they had yet to see substantive changes on a variety of issues, including what they describe as excessive airport screening, policies that have chilled Muslim charitable giving and invasive F.B.I. surveillance guidelines. But they are encouraged by the extent of their consultation by the White House and governmental agencies.

“For the first time in eight years, we have the opportunity to meet, engage, discuss, disagree, but have an impact on policy,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington. “We’re being made to feel a part of that process and that there is somebody listening.”

In the post-9/11 era, Muslims and Arab-Americans have posed something of a conundrum for the government: they are seen as a political liability but also, increasingly, as an important partner in countering the threat of homegrown terrorism. Under President George W. Bush, leaders of these groups met with government representatives from time to time, but said they had limited interaction with senior officials. While Mr. Obama has yet to hold the kind of high-profile meeting that Muslims and Arab-Americans seek, there is a consensus among his policymakers that engagement is no longer optional.

The administration’s approach has been understated. Many meetings have been private; others were publicized only after the fact. A visit to New York University in February by John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, drew little news coverage, but caused a stir among Muslims around the country. Speaking to Muslim students, activists and others, Mr. Brennan acknowledged many of their grievances, including “surveillance that has been excessive,” “overinclusive no-fly lists” and “an unhelpful atmosphere around many Muslim charities.”

“These are challenges we face together as Americans,” said Mr. Brennan, who momentarily showed off his Arabic to hearty applause. He and other officials have made a point of disassociating Islam from terrorism in public comments, using the phrase “violent extremism” in place of words like “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism.”

While the administration’s solicitation of Muslims and Arab-Americans has drawn little fanfare, it has not escaped criticism. A small but vocal group of research analysts, bloggers and others complain that the government is reaching out to Muslim leaders and organizations with an Islamist agenda or ties to extremist groups abroad.

They point out that Ms. Jarrett gave the keynote address at the annual convention for the Islamic Society of North America. The group was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based charity whose leaders were convicted in 2008 of funneling money to Hamas. The society denies any links to terrorism.

“I think dialogue is good, but it has to be with genuine moderates,” said Steven Emerson, a terrorism analyst who advises government officials. “These are the wrong groups to legitimize.” Mr. Emerson and others have also objected to the political appointments of several American Muslims, including Rashad Hussain.

In February, the president chose Mr. Hussain, a 31-year-old White House lawyer, to become the United States’ special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The position, a kind of ambassador at large to Muslim countries, was created by Mr. Bush. In a video address, Mr. Obama highlighted Mr. Hussain’s status as a “close and trusted member of my White House staff” and “a hafiz,” a person who has memorized the Koran.

Within days of the announcement, news reports surfaced about comments Mr. Hussain had made on a panel in 2004, while he was a student at Yale Law School, in which he referred to several domestic terrorism prosecutions as “politically motivated.” Among the cases he criticized was that of Sami Al-Arian, a former computer-science professor in Florida who pleaded guilty to aiding members of a Palestinian terrorist group.

At first, the White House said Mr. Hussain did not recall making the comments, which had been removed from the Web version of a 2004 article published by a small Washington magazine. When Politico obtained a recording of the panel, Mr. Hussain acknowledged criticizing the prosecutions but said he believed the magazine quoted him inaccurately, prompting him to ask its editor to remove the comments. On Feb. 22, The Washington Examiner ran an editorial with the headline “Obama Selects a Voice of Radical Islam.”

Muslim leaders watched carefully as the story migrated to Fox News. They had grown accustomed to close scrutiny, many said in interviews, but were nonetheless surprised. In 2008, Mr. Hussain had co-authored a paper for the Brookings Institution arguing that the government should use the peaceful teachings of Islam to fight terrorism.

“Rashad Hussain is about as squeaky clean as you get,” said Representative Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who is Muslim. Mr. Ellison and others wondered whether the administration would buckle under the pressure and were relieved when the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, defended Mr. Hussain.

“The fact that the president and the administration have appointed Muslims to positions and have stood by them when they’ve been attacked is the best we can hope for,” said Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America.

It was notably different during Mr. Obama’s run for office. In June 2008, volunteers of his campaign barred two Muslim women in headscarves from appearing behind Mr. Obama at a rally in Detroit, eliciting widespread criticism. The campaign promptly recruited Mazen Asbahi, a 36-year-old corporate lawyer and popular Muslim activist from Chicago, to become its liaison to Muslims and Arab-Americans.

Bloggers began researching Mr. Asbahi’s background. For a brief time in 2000, he had sat on the board of an Islamic investment fund, along with Sheikh Jamal Said, a Chicago imam who was later named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land case. Mr. Asbahi said in an interview that he had left the board after three weeks because he wanted no association with the imam.

Shortly after his appointment to the Obama campaign, Mr. Asbahi said, a Wall Street Journal reporter began asking questions about his connection to the imam. Campaign officials became concerned that news coverage would give critics ammunition to link the imam to Mr. Obama, Mr. Asbahi recalled. On their recommendation, Mr. Asbahi agreed to resign from the campaign, he said.

He is still unsettled by the power of his detractors. “To be in the midst of this campaign of change and hope and to have it stripped away over nothing,” he said. “It hurts.”

From the moment Mr. Obama took office, he seemed eager to change the tenor of America’s relationship with Muslims worldwide. He gave his first interview to Al Arabiya, the Arabic-language television station based in Dubai. Muslims cautiously welcomed his ban on torture and his pledge to close Guantánamo within a year.

In his Cairo address, he laid out his vision for “a new beginning” with Muslims: while America would continue to fight terrorism, he said, terrorism would no longer define America’s approach to Muslims.

Back at home, Muslim and Arab-American leaders remained skeptical. But they took note when, a few weeks later, Mohamed Magid, a prominent imam from Sterling, Va., and Rami Nashashibi, a Muslim activist from Chicago, joined the president at a White-House meeting about fatherhood. Also that month, Dr. Faisal Qazi, a board member of American Muslim Health Professionals, began meeting with administration officials to discuss health care reform.

The invitations were aimed at expanding the government’s relationship with Muslims and Arab-Americans to areas beyond security, said Mr. Hussain, the White House’s special envoy. Mr. Hussain began advising the president on issues related to Islam after joining the White House counsel’s office in January 2009. He helped draft Mr. Obama’s Cairo speech and accompanied him on the trip. “The president realizes that you cannot engage one-fourth of the world’s population based on the erroneous beliefs of a fringe few,” Mr. Hussain said.

Other government offices followed the lead of the White House. In October, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with Arab-Americans and Muslims in Dearborn, Mich., to discuss challenges facing small-business owners. Also last fall, Farah Pandith was sworn in as the State Department’s first special representative to Muslim communities. While Ms. Pandith works mostly with Muslims abroad, she said she had also consulted with American Muslims because Mrs. Clinton believes “they can add value overseas.”

Despite this, American actions abroad — including civilian deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan and the failure to close Guantánamo — have drawn the anger of Muslims and Arab-Americans.

Even though their involvement with the administration has broadened, they remain most concerned about security-related policies. In January, when the Department of Homeland Security hosted a two-day meeting with Muslim, Arab-American, South Asian and Sikh leaders, the group expressed concern about the emergency directive subjecting passengers from a group of Muslim countries to additional screening.

Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, pointed out that the policy would never have caught the attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid, who is British. “It almost sends the signal that the government is going to treat nationals of powerless countries differently from countries that are powerful,” Ms. Khera recalled saying as community leaders around the table nodded their heads.

Ms. Napolitano, who sat with the group for more than an hour, committed to meeting with them more frequently. Ms. Khera said she left feeling somewhat hopeful.

“I think our message is finally starting to get through,” she said.

12-17

Jihad Jane is Media Catnip

By Dan Gardner, CanWest News Services

The name Colleen LaRose may not be world famous but the pseudonym LaRose allegedly used in an Internet-based terrorist plot certainly is. A Google search of Jihad Jane delivers 1,760,000 hits.

What makes that number especially impressive is that it was only last week that American prosecutors announced LaRose invariably described as a green-eyed blonde had been charged with conspiring to kill a Swedish cartoonist. To go from the obscurity to worldwide notoriety is no small feat. And Jihad Jane did it without actually committing a major act of terrorism. Or a minor act of terrorism. She did it, allegedly, by discussing a single murder.

Now contrast that with Andrew Joseph Stack. If you follow the news closely, the name probably rings a bell. He is the Texas man who became so enraged with the IRS and the American government that he climbed into the cockpit of his plane, flew to the IRS building in Austin, and nosedived. The building was mauled but, miraculously, only one person died along with Stack.

That was on Feb. 18. A Google search of Stacks name almost a month later came up with around 430,000 hits.

One person crashes a plane into a building in an attempt to commit mass slaughter and his crime gets some modest attention. Another expresses an intention to kill someone, is arrested, and gets vastly more reporting and discussion. That’s quite a discrepancy.

Is it because LaRose’s case is so much more important? Prosecutors suggested so. The arrest underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face, a U.S. Justice department official said. It shatters any lingering thought that we can spot a terrorist based on appearance, the chief prosecutor added.

But is that remotely true? Richard Reid, the bumbling shoe bomber, is half English and half Jamaican. John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, is a Caucasian Californian. So is Adam Gadahn, a longtime al-Qaeda spokesman who changed his name from Adam Pearlman.

So what exactly is new about Jihad Jane? That she’s a woman prepared to murder in the name of Islam? There are plenty of those, unfortunately. Thats shes blonde? Well, yes. That’s different. But somehow I don’t think her arrest means terrorists of the future will look like Jan Brady.

So if its not the intrinsic importance of the case that explains why Jihad Jane is walloping Joseph Stack on Google, what does? One might think its the fact that LaRoses views are shared by many others and so she represents something bigger than the crime she is alleged to have committed. Andrew Joseph Stack was just some nut with a grudge and a plane.

But that doesn’t work either. Stack left a suicide note which was essentially a long anti-government tirade that bore a striking similarity to warnings in a Department of Homeland Security report issued in 2009. Domestic anti-government extremism was on the rise, the report noted, and there were growing suggestions it could turn violent. The situation was similar to that of the early 1990s, the report concluded, when right-wing extremism culminated in the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.

In the months and years after the Oklahoma City bombing, an immense amount of attention was paid to anti-government militias and other extremists. The Sept. 11 attacks erased that threat and replaced it with that of Islamist terrorism, but the reality on the ground didn’t change a great deal. It just wasn’t talked about. It still isn’t.

And that, I think, is what explains why Jihad Jane is winning the battle of Google.

The human brain is compulsive about making sense of things. It orders, categorizes, and systematizes. And once it thinks it decides something is settled, it works hard to keep it settled: It eagerly grabs onto anything that supports the existing understanding while avoiding, or waving off, anything that contradicts that understanding. Psychologists call this confirmation bias.

Now, what is terrorism? Mention that word and certain images come to mind, certain ideas and beliefs. That is the settled understanding of what terrorism is and who terrorists are.

In 1995, the horror in Oklahoma City shattered that understanding and created something new. After Oklahoma City, terrorism was about right-wing crazies. And in the years that followed, media reporting bolstered that understanding by seeking any tidbit of information, no matter how small, that supported it.

But then came Sept. 11, 2001, and the frame changed again. Terrorism was about Islamic religious fanatics.

If Joseph Stack had done exactly what he did for the same reason in 1996, the news coverage would have been massive and everyone in the world would know his name. But he did it in 2010, when he and his motives didn’t fit the popular narrative of what terrorism is.

But Jihad Jane fit the frame. Better still, she was superficially different. Thus, her story confirmed our fundamental beliefs about what terrorism is while it simultaneously delivered a delightful sprinkle of novelty catnip for the media. And that combination just happens to be a perfect formula for grabbing popular attention.

This is of more than theoretical interest, of course. Media coverage, and popular attention, is constantly distorted by the interaction of underlying assumptions and psychology. What we hear, read, and talk about is not a complete and objective reflection of reality.

Put it like that and anyone would say, well, no kidding. But ask people why they believe something to be true and, often as not, youll hear something like, its happening all the time. Just look at the news. See the problem?

As always, a little more skepticism is in order.

12-13

Israeli politician Livni hails Dubai Hamas killing

BBC News

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh

Mr Mabhouh died in his hotel room in Dubai last month

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni has applauded the controversial killing of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel by suspected Israeli agents.

"The fact that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn’t matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news to those fighting terrorism," she said.

It is thought to be the first time a top Israeli has made such a comment.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in his room on 20 January, having been electrocuted and suffocated.

His alleged killers used fake British, Irish, German and French passports, according to the authorities in Dubai, which released pictures of the suspects, none of whom were caught.

Mr Mabhouh was one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing.

The Israeli secret service Mossad has been widely accused of carrying out the killing but Israel has repeatedly asserted there is no proof its agents were involved.

‘Fighting terrorism’

Mrs Livni, the former foreign minister who leads the parliamentary opposition for the Kadima party, did not indicate who was behind the killing.

"The entire world must support those fighting terrorism," she told a Jewish conference in Jerusalem.

"Any comparison between terrorism and those fighting it is immoral."

The current Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, responded to allegations of a Mossad plot last week by saying: "Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies."

Dubai security cameras picked up 18 members of what local police believe was a hit team.

Diplomatic tension between Western states and Israel has grown over the killing.

Shakh Tahir Qadri’s Detailed Fatwa Against Suicide Bombing and Terrorism

Leading Islamic Scholar’s Detailed Fatwa Against Suicide Bombing and All Forms of Terrorism – Shaykh Tahir Qadri

Shaykh-Tahir-Qadri A torturous spate of terrorism that continues unabated for last many years has brought Muslim Umma in general and Pakistan in particular into disrepute. There is no gainsaying the fact that the Muslims on the whole oppose and condemn terrorism in unequivocal terms and are not ready to accept it even as remotely related to Islam in any manner. However, a negligible minority amongst them seems to give it a tacit support. Instead of openly opposing and condemning terrorism, these people confuse the entire subject by resorting to misleading and perplexing discussions. Injustice being currently meted out to the Muslims in certain matters, double standards displayed by bigger powers and their open-ended and long-term military engagements in a number of countries, under the pretext of eliminating terror, form some of the fundamental local, national and international causes that underpin terrorism, and add a punch to the war cry of militants.

Similarly, the terrorists’ recourse to violence, indiscriminate massacre of humanity, suicide bombings against innocent and peaceful people, and bomb blasts on Mosques, shrines, educational institutions, Bazaars, governmental buildings, trade centers, markets, security installations, and other public places, which are heinous, anti-human and barbarous steps in their very essence, have become a routine affair. These people justify their actions of human destruction and mass killing of hundreds of innocent people in the name of Jihad and thus distort, deform and confuse the entire Islamic concept of Jihad (holy struggle against evil). This situation is causing Muslims in general and the Muslim youth in particular to fall prey to doubts and reservations besides muddling their minds in respect of Jihad because those perpetrating these atrocities are from amongst Muslims. They practice Islamic rituals, perform acts of worship and wear appearance delineated in Sharia. This has put not only the common Muslims but a dominating majority of religious scholars and intellectuals too into a paradox, bewildered to know truly the exact and precise Islamic injunctions about the way of workings, methods and measures these individuals and groups have adopted to cause the havoc.

Furthermore, the Western media is in wont of over-projecting the incidents and episodes of terrorism and extremism about the Muslim world, and does not at all highlight positive and constructive aspects of Islam, its peaceful teachings and anthropological philosophy and orientation. So much so, that it does not even reflect hatred, condemnation and opposition towards extremists, militants and terrorists that permeate the Muslim societies. The negative outcome of this attitude has appeared by way of bracketing both Islam and terrorism together. Consequently, the western mind starts conjuring up the picture of terrorism and extremism at a slight mention of the word ‘Islam’, putting the Western-bred and educated youth in a quandary, leaving them more beleaguered than before. The present generation of Muslim youth in the entire Islamic world is also falling victim to mental confusion and decadence intellectually, practically and in the domain of beliefs and religious tenets.

Because of this situation, two kinds of negative responses and destructive attitudes are forming up: one in the form of damage to Islam and the Muslim world, and second a threat to the Western world in particular and entire humanity in general. The damage to Islam and Muslim world is that the Muslim youth, not completely and comprehensively aware of Islamic teachings, regard terrorism and extremism as emanating from religious teachings and attitudes of religious people under the influence of media; hence, they are getting alienated from religion. This misplaced thinking is leading them to atheism, posing lethal dangers to the Muslim Umma in future. Contrary to this, the damage threatening the Western world in particular, and entire humanity in general, is that the above-mentioned policies and racial profiling of the Muslims is inciting negative response among some of the Muslim youths who regard these forays against Islam as an organized conspiracy and enmity by some influential circles in the western world. By way of reaction, they are either gradually becoming extremists, militants and terrorists, departing moderation and poised outlook on life, charged with hatred and revenge, or are being grown and groomed into the design. Thus, the Western policies are instrumental in producing and inducting new potential terrorist recruits and workforce, with no end in sight. In both the cases, the Muslim Umma as well as humanity are heading towards a catastrophe.

Moreover, these circumstances are heightening tension, creating larger trust deficits between the Islamic and the Western worlds. The increase in terrorism is paving the way for greater foreign interference in and pressure on the Muslim states. This widening gulf is not only pushing the humanity towards inter-faith antagonism at the global level but also reducing to nothingness the possibilities of peace, tolerance and mutual coexistence among different human societies on the globe. We thought it necessary, under these circumstances, to put the Islamic stance on terrorism precisely in its right perspective before the Western and Islamic worlds, in the light of the Holy Quran, Prophetic traditions and Books of Jurisprudence and Beliefs. We want to put across this point of view before all the significant institutions, valuable think tanks and influential opinion-making organizations in the world so that the Muslim and non-Muslim circles, entertaining doubts and reservations about Islam, are enabled to understand Islam’s standpoint on terrorism more clearly and unambiguously. The contents of this research work have been summarized here briefly.

The first chapter of this document, explaining and elaborating the meaning of Islam, discusses its three grades i.e. Islam (peace), Iman (faith) and Ehsan (Spiritual Excellence). These three words, both literally and metaphorically, represent peace, safety, mercy, tolerance, forbearance, love, affection, benevolence and respect for humanity. It has been proven in the second chapter of this document through dozens of Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions that the mass killing of Muslims and perpetration of terrorism are not only unlawful and forbidden in Islam but also denote the rejection of faith. Through reference to the expositions and opinions of jurists and experts of Exegeses and Hadith, it has been established that all the learned authorities have held the same opinion about terrorism in 1400-year-old history of Islam.

The third chapter of this edict describes the rights of non-Muslim citizens quite comprehensively. The opinions of all the leading jurists have also been listed in the light of various Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions.

In addition to that, the most important point this research study has undertaken to make revolves around the thought, ideology and mindset, which pits a Muslim against another and finally leads him to massacre innocent humanity. Such a mindset not only regards the killing of women shopping in markets and School-going girls permissible but also a means of earning rewards and spiritual benefits. What power or conviction rouses him to kill people gathered in the mosque, and earn Paradise through carnage? Why does a terrorist decide to end his own life, the greatest blessing of Allah Almighty, with his own hands through suicide bombings? How he comes to believe that, by killing innocent Muslims through suicide bombing, he would become a martyr and enter Paradise? These are the questions whirling in the mind of every person possessing common sense. While furnishing befitting answers to these emerging questions, we have resorted to those historical facts, besides scholarly arguments, which the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) himself identified. Undertaking the comprehensive analysis of signs, beliefs and ideologies of Khawarij through the Quranic Verses, Prophetic traditions and jurisprudential opinions of jurists, we have established that the terrorists are the Khawarij of the contemporary times.

After declaring this forbidden terrorist act rebellion, gory brutality on earth and an act of infidelity, we have drawn the attention of all the responsible powers and stakeholders under the topic, “Call to Reflect and Reform” to the need of eliminating all the factors that cause people to entertain doubts, and reinforce the hidden hands actively engaged in spreading the plague around. Another theme under discussion these days emphasizes that since foreign imperialist powers are making unwarranted and unjustified interference in Muslim countries including Pakistan, the so-called Jihadi groups have come in their way to launch the offensive, inflicting upon them a devastating blow. Their action though not right and justifiable, they should not be reviled and condemned because their intention is to defend Islam. In our view, this is an awful witticism and a deplorable stance. To remove the misconception, we have specified a brief portion of the treatise in the beginning to this subject as well, bringing to the fore the fact in the light of the Quran and Hadith that evil cannot become good under any circumstances, nor can oppression transform itself into virtuous deed due to goodness of intention.

After these explanatory submissions, we also regard it our fundamental duty to let everyone know without any grain of doubt that we are going ahead with the publication of this research work solely for the sake of respect and dignity of Islam and service of humanity. We do not mean to condone or approve the unpopular and unwise policies of global powers through this Edict, nor do we aim to justify the wrong policies of any government including that of Pakistan. We neither seek pleasure of any government, nor tribute or appreciation from any international power or organization. Like always, we have taken initiative and are performing this task as a part of our religious obligations. Our objective in doing so is to wash off the stain of terrorism from the fair face of Islam, familiarizing the Muslims with real teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunna and try to rid the suffering humanity of the raging fire of terrorism.

May Almighty Allah bless this endeavour with His benevolent acceptance through the holy means of His Beloved Messenger (s).

— to be continued —

Of India and Pakistan Talks Open Up Again

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

There are mixed feelings about the recent Pakistan India talks which were the first after the Mumbai attacks in 2008. The foreign secretary of the 2 countries discussed the current situation in New Delhi last Thursday, 25th February 2010. These talks worse received with a lot of criticism from the public of Pakistan and India. No agenda was announced for the discussions. The Indaian Foreign Sectretary Ms. Nirupama Rao said that the talks would focus on the core issue of terrorism. The Pakistani Foreign Secretary Mr. Salman Bashir said that he wanted to focus on the core issue of Kashmir.

Both sides entered the conversations with different ideas and in turn were expecting completely different results. Since the direction they wanted to take the discussions was so different the chances of this event being successful was a stretch.

Mr. Salman Bashir described his talks in Delhi as exploratory to reporters, “But unstructured talks for the sake of talks, though important, will not produce any long-term results. It is crucial that India agrees to restore Composite Dialogue to move forward,” he emphasized.

About the Kashmir Issue Bashir said: “Pakistan has made it clear to India that Kashmir is an international issue since the passage of the UN Security Council resolutions on it (in 1948) and international intervention is required for its settlement.

Ms. Rao said that in the discussion it was discussed that “the networks of terrorism in Pakistan be dismantled,”  “We have agreed to remain in touch,” Rao added.

While talking to the Pakistani press at the Pakistan High Commission in the evening Mr. Bashir said, the gap between Pakistan and India was widening and he did not see any substantial progress in the talks. He also added that there is no need for secretary level talks if India remains stuck to its stand on outstanding issues.
During these talks the water issue among others was brought up, which was discussed at the talks. According to Pakistani Foreign Secretary, Pakistan had informed the Indian side about the violations of Indus Basin Treaty, storage of water, Indian plan to build more dams, Kishenganaga hydel project, pollution in sources of water and the issue of glacier melting.

From the responses from both sides one cannot say for sure what issues were discussed and at what point the conversation was left but once can say for sure it doesn’t seem like nay significant results have come out of this venture. However it does not mean that talks were a complete failure and this act should not be repeatedly in the future. On the same token no time frame has been set for future discussions.

The issues that were discussed, including the Kashmir issue, are issues that have been under discussion and have been a problem for as long as the separate history of Pakistan and India has existed. From the reports that came in it looked like India and Pakitan had completely different agendas for this meeting and both sides are not really seeing eye to eye on what the real problem is.

India wants to eliminate terrorism from Pakistan and that is its only focus at this time. On the other hand Pakistan has many issues that it needs solved that have been put on the back burners for years for different reasons.

Every time the two countries start talks something takes place that halts the talks. The cold and hot history of the two nations makes it very hard for any peace or revolutionary discussions to take place. The recent halt in discussions came due to the Mumbai attacks because of which one can assume the Indian Foreign Secretary wants to focus on terrorism building within Pakistan according to India.

The Zardari government argued that peace with India would produce economic benefits that would strengthen Pakistan and allow the military to carry out its 15-year development plan.

In January 2007, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a comment to the similar affect when he said, “I dream of a day, while retaining our respective national identities, one can have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul.”

No one can be sure if such time will ever come, however we do know that as of right now just thinking about traveling frm one country to another strikes fear in the hearts of many who know what is going on in all of these countries. It would be safe to say that our leaders have yet to give us a world in which what Mr. Singh said would be possible.

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