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Modi cannot escape responsibility for communal violence | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 April, 2014 - 21:00

Meghnad Desai (Letters, 15 April) plays down the crimes committed by Narendra Modi and suggests that others, too, are sinners in the realm of communal violence. The Indian electorate, he says, knows all of this and should be allowed to choose without external critical comment. Desai sits as a Labour peer and in the past has not been so restrained, recording his willingness to go to war against human rights violations. Now he seems not to wish to speak out against them.
Gurminder K Bhambra
University of Warwick
John Holmwood
University of Nottingham

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Anti-Muslim suspicion in Britain has a whiff of McCarthyism about it | Salma Yaqoob

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 April, 2014 - 14:06
Allegations of an Islamic takeover plot of Birmingham schools are just the latest in a string of slurs against Muslims

Allegations that 25 schools in Birmingham are at risk of an "Islamic takeover plot" reached new levels of hysteria recently. An announcement was made that a counter-terrorism expert has been drafted in to conduct yet another investigation. The minister responsible, Michael Gove, has managed at a stroke to increase fear and suspicion between Muslim and non-Muslim in the city. The fact that the chief constable of West Midlands police, Chris Sims, has denounced the decision as "desperately unfortunate", itself an extraordinary move, gives an indication of the scale of the concern.

So what was the evidence that provoked such a serious intervention and the accompanying media frenzy? A four-page document in which "plotters" outlined their dastardly plans to oust a headteacher for not being "open to our suggestions of adhering to strict Muslim guidelines".

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Muslim students divided on sharia-compliant loans

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 April, 2014 - 09:42
The government is consulting on student loans that will not involve paying interest but some young Muslims don't see the point

Muslim students are divided about government moves to introduce student loans that comply with sharia law. While some have welcomed university minister David Willetts' recent announcement of an open consultation on the issue, others feel indifferent or oppose it altogether.

Muslim groups have been pressing hard for reform because the rise in tuition fees in 2012 brought with it the expectation that students would take out loans and pay them back, with interest, once they had well-paid jobs.

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Facebook removes page of preacher using social media to back jihadists

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 April, 2014 - 08:07
Muslim cleric Musa Cerantonio, the third most liked person by western jihadists in Syria, called for assassination of US politicians

A radical Australian preacher revealed to be using social media to encourage acts of terrorism has had his Facebook page taken down following a Guardian investigation.

The California company confirmed it took action to remove the page following revelations that Musa Cerantonio, an Islamic preacher from west Melbourne, was urging some 12,000 subscribers to "assassinate" US politicians.

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Book Review: I Am the Beggar of the World

Muslimah Media Watch - 17 April, 2014 - 07:00
Last month, I looked at Eliza Griswold and Seamus Murphy’s work profiling Afghan women poets particular form of poetry, the landay. Their work, as they presented it in an article on Slate, came across as nuanced and reflective (my own words) of Afghan women’s experiences. I was eager to review their book, I Am the [Read More...]

Fog over Birmingham 'schools plot' | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 April, 2014 - 20:59

One thing emerges clearly from the fog surrounding the alleged plot to take over Birmingham schools: the lack of accountability of academies (City steps up 'Islamist plot' inquiry in schools, 14 April). In fact, the problem goes deeper than that. The truth is that when things go wrong it is next to impossible to hold anybody to account in any kind of school, whether academies, free schools or community schools. That is why there is a good case for establishing democratic accountability for local education as a whole.

Schools (and colleges, for that matter) it is worth recalling are not private property; they are funded by the taxpayer. It is only right that they and other local education institutions should be subject to oversight by democratically elected councillors and the representatives of those who have a legitimate stake in education: parents, students, trade unions, employers, as well as those who work in our schools and colleges. That is why Compass is proposing the creation of local education boards within local councils. These would be analogous to planning committees, able to take an objective view of services and proposals, including those of the local authority itself. The boards would oversee and review the implementation of local education plans and priorities and be able to intervene when there was local concern about the quality of education on offer. Compass fully supports local management of schools and colleges but that needs to be tempered with effective community oversight and an entitlement to redress for parents and students.
Martin Yarnit
Worcester

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New York Drops Unit That Spied on Muslims

Loon Watch - 16 April, 2014 - 19:23

MUSLIMweb1-master675

About time isn’t it?

New York Drops Unit That Spied on Muslims

(The NewYork Times)

The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped, the department said.

The decision by the nation’s largest police force to shutter the controversial surveillance program represents the first sign that William J. Bratton, the department’s new commissioner, is backing away from some of the post-9/11 intelligence-gathering practices of his predecessor. The Police Department’s tactics, which are the subject of two federal lawsuits, drew criticism from civil rights groups and a senior official with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who said they harmed national security by sowing mistrust for law enforcement in Muslim communities.

To many Muslims, the squad, known as the Demographics Unit, was a sign that the police viewed their every action with suspicion. The police mapped communities inside and outside the city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch-counter conversations.

“The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York. “Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

Ms. Sarsour was one of several advocates who met last Wednesday with Mr. Bratton and some of his senior staff members at Police Headquarters. She and others in attendance said the department’s new intelligence chief, John Miller, told them that the police did not need to work covertly to find out where Muslims gather and indicated the department was shutting the unit down.

The Demographics Unit, which was renamed the Zone Assessment Unit in recent years, has been largely inactive since Mr. Bratton took over in January, the department’s chief spokesman, Stephen Davis, said. The unit’s detectives were recently reassigned, he said.

“Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing the threat information that comes into New York City virtually on a daily basis,” Mr. Davis said. “In the future, we will gather that information, if necessary, through direct contact between the police precincts and the representatives of the communities they serve.”

The department’s change in approach comes as the federal government reconsiders and re-evaluates some of its own post-9/11 policies. Although the police department’s surveillance program was far smaller in scope than, say, the bulk data collection by the National Security Agency, a similar recalibration seems to be unfolding.

The Demographics Unit was the brainchild of the Central Intelligence Agency officer Lawrence Sanchez, who helped establish it in 2003 while working at the Police Department and while he was still on the spy agency’s payroll.

The goal was to identify the mundane locations where a would-be terrorist could blend into society. Plainclothes detectives looked for “hot spots” of radicalization that might give the police an early warning about terrorist plots. The squad, which typically consisted of about a dozen members, focused on 28 “ancestries of interest.”

Detectives were told to chat up the employees at Muslim-owned businesses and “gauge sentiment” about America and foreign policy. Through maps and photographs, the police noted where Albanian men played chess in the afternoon, where Egyptians watched soccer and where South Asians played cricket.

After years of collecting information, however, the police acknowledged that it never generated a lead. Since The Associated Press published documentsdescribing the program in 2011, Muslims and civil rights groups have called for its closing.

Mr. Bratton has said that he intends to try to heal rifts between the Police Department and minority communities that have felt alienated as a result of policies pursued during the Bloomberg administration. The meeting last week put Mr. Bratton in the room with some of his department’s harshest critics.

“This is the first time we’ve felt that comfort sitting with them,” said Ahmad Jaber, who resigned from the Police Department’s Muslim advisory board last year to protest the surveillance tactics. “It’s a new administration, and they are willing to sit with the community and listen to their concerns.”

The Demographics Unit was one aspect of a broad intelligence-gathering effort. In addition, informants infiltrated Muslim student groups on college campuses and collected the names, phone numbers and addresses of those who attended. Analysts trawled college websites and email groups to keep tabs on Muslim scholars and who attended their lectures.

The police also designated entire mosques as suspected “terrorism enterprises,” a label that the police claimed allowed them to collect the license plate numbers of every car in mosque parking lots, videotape worshipers coming and going, and record sermons using informants wearing hidden microphones.

As a candidate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “deeply troubled” by the tactic of surveilling mosques. Despite investigations that stretched for years, the Police Department’s efforts never led to charges that a mosque or an Islamic organization was itself a terrorist enterprise.

The future of those programs remains unclear. The former police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, has said his efforts were lawful and helped protect the city from terrorist attacks. Last month, a federal judge in New Jersey dismissed a lawsuit over the department’s surveillance there, saying Muslims could not prove they were harmed by the tactics.

Two other federal lawsuits continue to challenge the department’s tactics. One legal claim has been brought under a civil rights case that dates back to the Police Department’s surveillance of student groups and protesters in the 1960s and 1970s. Martin Stolar, one of the lawyers who brought that claim, maintains that the post-9/11 surveillance programs violate the court order in that case. A judge has not yet ruled on that question.

Like Muslim community leaders, Mr. Stolar said he wanted to see exactly what the department had planned. Police officials have changed the name of the program before, he said.

“I want them to say that they’re getting rid of not just the unit, but the kind of policing that the unit did,” Mr. Stolar said. “Is it still going to be blanket surveillance of where Muslims hang out? Are they going to stop this massive surveillance?”

Based on Mr. Davis’s remarks, the Police Department appears to be moving its policies closer to those of the F.B.I. Both agencies are allowed to use census data, public information and government data to create detailed maps of ethnic communities.

NYPD pressured to eliminate all traces of Muslim surveillance practice

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 April, 2014 - 18:45

Police department closing the hub of controversial programme but Muslim leaders want to know if similar units still exist

Civil rights groups are calling on the New York police department to eliminate all traces of indiscriminate mass surveillance of Muslims from its operations, following the closure of the unit that spearheaded the controversial techniques.

The NYPD announced on Tuesday night that it was closing the hub of its Muslim surveillance programme, the Demographics Unit (also known as the Zone Assessment Unit) following widespread criticism. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the reform was a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.

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Negotiating Muslim Steampunk

Muslimah Media Watch - 16 April, 2014 - 07:00
Goggles and gears, corsets adorned with brass and lace brocade, Victorian aesthetics meshed with clockwork, artisans selling creative curios, side show fancies and handmade wares — all came together seamlessly for an imagined moment in time that transformed the historic Gladstone Hotel in Toronto for an annual steampunk street festival. With my feathered top hat pinned [Read More...]

U.S. Right Wing Extremists More Deadly Than Jihadists

Loon Watch - 15 April, 2014 - 21:02

Frazier_Glenn_Cross

The following article by Peter Bergen is pretty good though it fails to explicitly describe the attack on the Jewish Community Centers as ‘terrorist attacks.’

U.S. right wing extremists more deadly than jihadists

(CNN) – On Sunday, a man shot and killed a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and then drove to a nearby Jewish retirement community where he shot and killed a third person. Police arrested a suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, who shouted “Heil Hitler” after he was taken into custody.

Cross, who also goes by Frazier Glenn Miller, is a well-known right wing extremist who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Now let’s do the thought experiment in which instead of shouting “Heil Hitler” after he was arrested, the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar.” Only two days before the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, this simple switch of words would surely have greatly increased the extent and type of coverage the incident received.

Yet the death toll in the shootings in Kansas is similar to that of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, where three people were killed and the suspects later killed a police officer as they tried to evade capture. (Many more, of course, were also wounded in the Boston attacks; 16 men, women and children lost limbs.)

In fact, since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11. (The total includes the latest shootings in Kansas, which are being classified as a hate crime).

Further consolation for Narendra Modi's critics | @guardianletters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 April, 2014 - 21:00

Priyamvada Gopal (Modi can't be shrugged off, 14 April) is indeed right to direct our attention to Narendra Modi and the riots in Gujarat during 2002. The Gujarat riots of 12 years ago were horrible. Yet it is legitimate to ask whether this was the only or even the most horrific episode in recent Indian history, albeit the first one to be recorded on live television. The Delhi massacre of 3,000 Sikhs took place over three days in October 1984 while Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister.

Narasimha Rao, subsequently prime minister, was then the home minister and in charge of the police, who were told not to intervene. No one has been punished for that episode as yet after 30 years. Even prior to that, Sanjay Gandhi, though unelected, unleashed a pogrom of sterilisation on Muslim adults in 1976 as a population control measure to speed up development. This was while Indira Gandhi, his mother, had imposed the Emergency, the sole episode of fascism in India. Muslims resisting sterilisation were fired upon and killed in Delhi. In Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, the killings were so many that the event was called mini-Jallianwala Bagh, recalling the worst atrocity under British rule 95 years ago in Amritsar.

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KKK: We Aren’t Hatefilled Terrorists, We Are Peaceful Christians

Loon Watch - 15 April, 2014 - 18:59

KKK_Virginia

Just last month the KKK (which has seen an increase in membership) was dropping off leaflets in Virginia on peoples lawns, claiming they aren’t hate-filled terrorists but peaceful Christians.

Now with the horrific and saddening terrorist attack on Jewish centers in Kansas the hoodies have been torn off and once again we see what kind of terrorist threat they still pose to the USA. One wonders why the FBI didn’t catch this one? Why is their a continued  focus on Muslims that only feeds anti-Muslim hysteria?

KKK: We Aren’t Hateful, We’re Christians:

Police chief condemns appointment of terror officer over 'Islamic schools plot'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 April, 2014 - 12:53
West Midlands police chief Chris Sims says appointment of Peter Clarke could stir up community tensions in Birmingham

The chief constable of West Midlands police has condemned as "desperately unfortunate" the appointment of an anti-terror officer to investigate allegations of Islamic fundamentalists infiltrating schools in Birmingham.

Peter Clarke, who served as the head of the Metropolitan police's counter-terrorism unit, has been made an education commissioner by Michael Gove, the education secretary, the Department for Education (DfE) said on Monday.

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