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Updated: 4 hours 38 min ago

Oklahoma School Film Blames Muslims For Oklahoma City Bombing

31 July, 2014 - 02:42

Oklahoma_City

By Mooneye

Jenks Freshman Academy, an Oklahoma school, has shown students in history class a “History Channel” film titled “Conspiracy: Oklahoma City Bombing.” Adam Soltani, director of CAIR-Oklahoma, was tipped off to the showing by a concerned parent.

Soltani viewed the “documentary” which largely blames Muslims for the 1995 bombing perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, Soltani writes,

Unfortunately, the film that is an approved selection in Jenks schools’ media library was little more than a hate-filled video that goes to extreme lengths to drag the blame for one of the most tragic events in Oklahoma history onto Islam and Muslims.

The video in question is currently being reviewed by Jenks’ school officials, however, by not immediately pulling the video from their shelves, the school administration is missing the point.

There is no question that this video should be pulled from the shelves. What kind of school in its right mind would air shows from the “History Channel?” The History Channel is well-known to be light on actual history and heavy on hearsay, UFO abductions, Bible codes and all around goofy/faulty history-telling.

The idea that Muslims were the real masterminds behind the Oklahoma City Bombing mirrors what disgraced journalist turned “terror expert” Steven Emerson claimed at the time, when he infamously stated that it had “a Middle Eastern trait.” Since then conspiracies claiming Iraqi secret agents covertly sent by Saddam Hussein used the easily duped, poor little McVeigh and Nichols for the attack have infested Far-Right Tea Party sites, such as Accuracy in Media and the ironically named American Thinker.

In the recent past we have seen concerted campaigns by right-wing, Islamophobic organizations such as ACT! For America, The Eagle Forum and Charles Jacobs’s Americans for Peace and Tolerance attempt to challenge, expunge and or edit-in their prejudiced views of Islam and Muslims into history and social studies texts.

The case in Oklahoma, while not directly related to those campaigns, highlights what may be a serious problem and requires further investigation. What exactly are schools teaching their children about Islam and Muslims? How many are teaching them, as in this instance, that Muslims are nefarious evil-doers who are behind all acts of terrorism?

Hopefully this glaring issue is resolved quickly and children can learn real, solid history and not be indoctrinated by just another sensationalist History Channel documentary that doesn’t deserve the dignity of being watched in a school classroom.

One last note is that there is an actual conspiracy revolving around the Oklahoma City Bombings that has recently been in the news and it has to do with the possible cover-up of evidence by the FBI, leading some to believe others were involved,

A Salt Lake City attorney is arguing in a lawsuit that the FBI has video of the Oklahoma City bombing that shows a second person was involved.

The case is at the heart of Jesse Trentadue’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago, which has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the deadly 1995 blast.

What some consider a far-flung conspiracy theory is at the forefront of his Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI that goes to trial Monday.

Trentadue says the agency won’t release security camera videos that show a second person was with Timothy McVeigh when he parked a truck outside the Oklahoma City federal building and detonated a bomb, killing 168 people. The government claims McVeigh was alone.

Unsatisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has ordered the agency to explain why it can’t find videos from the bombing that are mentioned in evidence logs, citing the public importance of the tapes.

Somewhat callously, the FBI has responded by saying it would be “burdensome” to search for the video,

The FBI says it can’t find anything to suggest the videos exist, and says it would be “unreasonably burdensome” to do a search that would take a single staff person more than 18 months to conduct.

This all sounds suspicious and raises many questions but the conspiracy about Iraqi involvement is a concoction from the fevered imagination of the right that has no relationship to these facts.

Hate Crime Cops Investigating Anti-Muslim Fliers Distributed In Bath Beach Apartment Building

30 July, 2014 - 20:19

muslim-flier Hate Crime Cops Investigating Anti-Muslim Fliers Distributed In Bath Beach Apartment Building

(Bensonhurst Bean)

The NYPD’s Hate Crimes unit is looking to identify the person who distributed anti-Muslim fliers in at least one of the Shore Haven apartment buildings near Cropsey Avenue and 21st Avenue in Bath Beach, according to Councilman Mark Treyger’s office.

The fliers were found throughout the building this week, showing a hateful message calling Muslims “the second holocaust” and claims “USA hates you”. There is what appears to be a woman in a burka inside a “No” symbol, and there is also an abundance of exclamation points.

“I am disgusted and saddened to hear of this hateful act in our community. There is absolutely no place for this type of hatred, especially in a city and borough as diverse and tolerant as ours. My thanks to the 62nd Precinct for their quick response and thorough investigation of this heinous act,” said Treyger in a statement. “I will continue to work closely with the NYPD and entire community so those responsible for spreading hate will held accountable and I urge anyone with information to come forward. It is my belief that an act of hate against one group is an act of hate against our entire community. The bottom line is there is no room in this day and age for these attacks against any member of our community.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website, or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

The above photo was shared by Twitter user @TakeOnHate.

Army rabbi exhorted “God’s army” before they massacred Palestinians in Shujaiya

30 July, 2014 - 05:33

Rontzki Army rabbi exhorted “God’s army” before they massacred Palestinians in Shujaiya

By Ben White (Electronic Intifada)

Prominent settler and former Israeli army chief rabbi Avichai Rontzki delivered a “messianic, fiery speech” to Israeli forces prior to the devastating massacre of the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya, it was revealed today.

An account of the speech appears in a new piece by Nahum Barnea, a prominent journalist at Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, and is based on remarks made by a soldier present at the time.

The soldier related that before their invasion of Shujaiya, troops were gathered to “listen to the words” of Rontzki, who “praised the miracle of God’s army.” According to an article last week in Kipa, a religious-Zionist oriented news site, Rontzki has been performing reserve duty and “encouraging the combatants on the ground.”

The Electronic Intifada has already reported on the phenomenon of groups of Jewish mystics offering support to the Israeli forces currently shelling Gaza, as well as the Israeli army commander who declared “holy war” on Palestinians.

“Damned”

The anonymous soldier in Barnea’s article also recounts a similar event prior to the Shujaiya massacre:

We got close to Kibbutz Nahal Oz and then they gathered us together. You know how it is in the army – when told to gather, you gather. Waiting for us was a bunch of Breslev Hasidic Jews singing “Messiah, Messiah,” dancing and bouncing around. We formed a circle around them, and a bunch of fighters danced with them in ecstasy

Israel’s ground assault on the Gaza Strip began late on Thursday 17 July, with tanks receiving orders “to open fire at anything that moved.”  Over the next few days, the Shujaiya district of Gaza City was subjected to intense and indiscriminate bombardment, including 600 shells fired by an artillery battalion and 100 one-ton bombs dropped from the air.

Rontzki’s speech to Israeli soldiers recalls his time as Israeli army chief rabbi, when, in 2009, he told religious students that troops who “show mercy” towards the enemy in wartime will be “damned.” During Israel’s so-called “Operation Cast Lead” massacre in 2008-09, the army rabbinate under his leadership distributed inflammatory publications that referred to the massacre as “a war on murderers.”

Rontzki was one of the founding members of Itamar, a fanatical Israeli settlement colony near Nablus, where has also led a yeshiva, or religious seminary.

Israel now, Ireland next: Dublin embassy in propaganda pics storm

29 July, 2014 - 23:41

Israeli-embassy-Twitter-images Israel now, Ireland next: Dublin embassy in propaganda pics storm

An Israeli spokesman has confirmed that offensive images featuring European national icons were sent from his embassy’s official social media accounts.

Dublin was not the only city to come into the Israeli propaganda sights. A montage of pictures also showed the Mona Lisa in Paris wearing a niqab and carrying a rocket launcher. Michaelangelo’s David was shown in Arab headgear and wired up as a suicide bomber with a warning to Italy, while Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid was shown holding a gun.

The Israel In Ireland Facebook and Twitter accounts have been blasted for sharing the series of controversial posts.

An embassy spokesman told the Irish Sun: “Yes they were sent from the official Facebook but they were taken down, I don’t know why. Often things get deleted for space reasons but it wasn’t taken down because of any complaints.”

But disgusted online viewers called on the Government to take decisive action.

One said: “Feckin’ Facebook has taken more action against Israel in Ireland than our own Govt! Useless, spineless cowards. Further disgusting imagery from the Israeli Embassy in Ireland @IsraelinIreland.” Another fumed: “A disgusting piece of propaganda incitement attempt by @IsraelinIreland – embassy in Dublin. Simply disgusting. #GazaUnderAttack.”

The Israeli Embassy in Ireland has been slammed for previous outrageous social network posts. In December 2012, it was forced to remove a Facebook update which suggested that if Jesus lived in the modern world he would “probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians”.

More than 1,050 Palestinians, 43 Israeli soldiers, two civilians and a Thai migrant worker have died as rockets and shells have flown across the Israeli Gaza border since July 8.

Sinn Fein foreign affairs spokesman Sean Crowe was shocked by the latest images. He said: “On one hand it’s childish and lacks maturity, but when you consider 1,050 people have been killed, it’s wrong to be making light of the situation.

“This is such a sensitive time, you would think an embassy would treat it as such and would send out messages of reconciliation, not fan the flames. I can’t understand why anyone would take time to post stuff like this.”

Irish Sun, 28 July 2014

Anger as Islamic charity with Bradford base has its bank account shut down

29 July, 2014 - 23:32

Ummah-Welfare-Trust-2

Muslim Americans have also been experiencing their bank accounts being shutdown without justification.

Anger as Islamic charity with Bradford base has its bank account shut down

An Islamic charity with a base in Bradford has been told that its bank account is being shut down, although it has yet to be told why. Now Bradford West MP George Galloway says he will “demand” to know the reason that HSBC has decided to shut the account of the Ummah Welfare Trust.

The registered charity, which has an office on Manningham Lane, believes HSBC has taken the action because some of the money it collects goes towards humanitarian projects in Palestine. It was this week given notice that its accounts were being shut in two months’ time. Although the account closure is not expected to hit the charity too hard, members feel it was morally wrong, and are calling for a boycott of the bank.

The trust had its account with Barclays bank shut in 2008.

Shoyeb Mayat, of the Bradford office, said: “We have no idea why they made this decision. We are in the middle of our busiest time for donations. During Ramadan we get 70 per cent of the donations we get each year.”

The group provides emergency relief in 20 countries across the world, including Pakistan, Palestine and India. It said the money goes towards providing medicine and grants to vulnerable people and children whose families have been killed or injured.

Mohammed Ahmed, one of the charity’s trustees, said: “From a commercial perspective it doesn’t make sense because charities like us are some of the most stable customers. We do have alternate banking in place, so this won’t effect our operations but we find it quite offensive that a bank would go out of its way to do this to a legitimate charity.”

Respect MP Mr Galloway said: “I will be contacting HSBC and asking them to reinstate the Ummah accounts and to demand to know the reasons why they want to terminate them. I’ll bet this doesn’t happen to any Jewish or Israeli charities. I will also be raising questions in the House about this and hopefully I all get together with the officers of Ummah over the weekend.”

A statement from HSBC said: “We are not able to comment on any customer relationship. In general terms, decisions to end a customer relationship are not taken lightly, but are absolutely not based on the race or religion of a customer. Discrimination against customers on grounds of race or religion is immoral, unacceptable and illegal, and HSBC has comprehensive rules and policies in place to ensure race or religion are never factors in banking decisions.”

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: “This is an independent business decision made by the bank. Neither the charity or the Charity Commission are aware of the reason for this action. The Charity Commission’s regulatory concern is ensuring that another provider is identified, the charity can still operate and funds are not at risk. We remain in contact with the charity.”

Telegraph & Argus, 28 July 2014

See also “HSBC issues notice to Ummah Welfare Trust to shut down account”, 5 Pillarz, 24 July 2014

“Concern at closure of Ummah Welfare Trust bank account”, Muslim Charities Forum, 25 July 2014

And “HSBC to close bank account of Muslim charity working in Gaza”, Civil Society, 25 July 2014

Crisis in Britain First – Dowson quits, Golding calls off mosque invasions

28 July, 2014 - 01:32

Britain-First-Thank-You-James Crisis in Britain First – Dowson quits, Golding calls off mosque invasions

Jim Dowson, the brains (and money) behind the far-right Britain First group, has resigned from the organisation and indeed from political life generally.

In a rambling resignation letter posted on the Britain First website, Dowson announces “my retirement from all political activities forthwith and my withdrawal from Britain First with immediate effect”, a decision that he attributes to “recent political and personal events and family health issues”.

In an accompanying statement, Britain First asserts that the state “persecution” Dowson has suffered in Northern Ireland has been exacerbated by a media campaign instigated by Hope Not Hate (described, bizarrely, as “the biggest far-Left group in the country”) that has sought to “portray James as the ‘evil genius’ behind the ‘far right’ in Britain”.

But another of Dowson’s motivations for leaving the organisation would appear to be his disapproval of the “mosque invasions” that Britain First has been carrying out over the past few months:

“The media have put him under enormous pressure recently regarding our invasions of mosques across Britain and understandably this has forced Jim to distance himself from these activities, notwithstanding the fact that these mosque invasions have cause considerable exposure of issues such as Muslim female genital mutilation, second class treatment of women, extremism and grooming gangs.”

Even Dowson, it seems, is embarrassed to be associated with a gang of thugs who think it’s brave to barge into places of worship and harass elderly Muslims.

Judging by his letter, Dowson regards such stunts as a poor substitute for addressing “the root cause of our Nation’s demise”, which he identifies as a declining birthrate that has “left indigenous Britain an aging and dying country”, along with the “destruction of the family unit”, all brought about by “the liberal secularization this nation has suffered through the rise of atheist socialism these past 50 years otherwise known as ‘cultural Marxism’”.

Dowson adds: “Of course militant Islam is a threat to our future, we know that but Britain First was set up to tackle ALL the major issues that affect our people not just militant Islam. Even if every single Muslim left the UK tomorrow we would still be utterly doomed as a nation and a people.”

Shortly after publishing Dowson’s resignation letter, Britain First chairman Paul Golding uploaded a video in which he declares that Britain First has suspended its “tremendously successful” mosque invasion campaign and will be moving on to other things, including a return to its so-called “Christian patrols“.

Golding concludes with the upbeat assurance that “we’re going to get bigger and more successful”. With Dowson no longer around to bankroll the organisation, you’d have to say that sounds over-optimistic.

Update:  See “Britain First founder quits over MOSQUE INVASIONS which attract ‘racists and extremists’”, Daily Mirror, 27 July 2014

Dowson told the Mirror: “No matter how many times I told him [Golding] I did not want decent Muslims intimidated, he just continued doing it. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I tried, you cannot escape from the fact that the group is being overrun with racists and extremists. I think he is fooling himself and lots of people that Britain First is a Christian group. Sadly, it has just become a violent front for people abusing the Bible. I think they’re becoming as much a problem as Anjem Choudary who they claim to oppose. They are just as bad as each other.”

Muslims should be treated the same as Hitler, DFer says

27 July, 2014 - 02:11

Mogens Camre Muslims should be treated the same as Hitler, DFer says

Mogens Camre, a Dansk Folkeparti politician who is a member of the Gladsaxe city council, tweeted recently that when it comes to persecuting Jews, Muslims in Europe have “picked up where Hitler left off, and only the same treatment that Hitler received will change the situation.”

Camre said that it is “obvious” that Muslims are persecuting Jews in Europe. “You also have an imam in Aarhus, calling for the killing of Jews and an extraordinary situation in Norway where the Norwegian police are armed to the teeth and patrolling the streets in front of parliament and at the borders,” Camre told DR Nyheder.

Camre said that he did not mean that every Muslim is persecuting Jews and that he didn’t have room to explain himself fully in his Tweet. “It is not every Muslim,” he said. “There is limited space in a tweet, but there are Muslims persecuting Jews in the major cities.”

Camre believes that Muslims pose a real threat. “People who attack democracy, must of course be defeated,” he said. “Those who repeatedly threaten holy war against the West must be defeated.”

Camre has been in hot water before because of anti-Muslim rhetoric. He was charged with racism in 2002 for saying that Muslims are just “waiting to kill us”.

Copenhagen Post, 25 July 2014

Camre has been backed by DF foreign affairs spokesman Søren Espersen, who stated that Camre “hasn’t said anything that isn’t right”.

Mogens Camre Hitler tweet

Right-wing rabbi’s ruling: Israel may totally destroy Gaza if necessary

25 July, 2014 - 00:25

Dov_Lior Right-wing rabbi’s ruling: Israel may totally destroy Gaza if necessary

(Haaretz)

Dov Lior, the rabbi of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, has issued a religious ruling permitting the total destruction of Gaza if Israel’s military leaders deem it necessary.

Lior is considered one of the more extreme rabbis on the religious right. In his ruling, he wrote that the Torah also teaches Jews how to act during wartime. In any war in which the people are under attack they are permitted to fight back against the nation from which the attackers come, he wrote.

“Therefore, in a time of war, the attacked nation is permitted to punish the enemy population with whatever measures it deems proper, like blocking supplies or electricity. It may bomb the entire area based on the judgment of the war minister and not wantonly put soldiers at risk,” Lior wrote, adding that “deterrent measures to exterminate the enemy” were allowed.

“The defense minister may even order the destruction of Gaza so that the south should no longer suffer, and to prevent harm to members of our people who have long been suffering from the enemies surrounding us,” he wrote.

After the ruling was published, the head of a left-wing party, Meretz’s Zahava Gal-On, asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to launch an investigation.

“Rabbi Dov Lior’s racist comments long ago lost the protection of the right to free expression,” Gal-On wrote to Weinstein. “These remarks follow his racist comments through the years, among them his many comments before the murder of [Yitzhak] Rabin and support for Baruch Goldstein,” the man who gunned down 29 Muslim worshippers in Hebron in 1994.

Middlesbrough football fans banned for life after Koran was used as confetti at away match

24 July, 2014 - 21:54

Love-Boro-Hate-Racism Middlesbrough football fans banned for life after Koran was used as confetti at away match

Boro have banned three fans for life for their part in a Koran ripping incident at an away match.

Six supporters were originally given temporary bans from The Riverside after the 2-2 draw at Birmingham City in December. West Midlands Police investigated claims pages of the Islamic text had been thrown in the air and three fans were later charged.

The club was unable to confirm which supporters it has banned for life.

A spokesman told The Gazette: “Middlesbrough Football Club has banned three fans for life following an incident at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s Stadium on December 7 2013 in which a copy of the Koran was ripped up. Another two supporters have been banned for 12 months and a sixth fan remains suspended while he remains out of the country.”

Julie Phillips, 50, and Gemma Parkin, 18, from Middlesbrough, were found guilty of committing a religiously aggravated public order offence by magistrates in May. Phillips, of Kenmore Road, Netherfields, and Parkin, of Kimberley Drive, Pallister Park, were both fined and ordered to pay costs. Boro season ticket holder Mark Stephenson, of Napoleon Drive, Shrewsbury, pleaded guilty to causing racial or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress and was fined £235.

The three were not issued with football banning orders by the court which would have prevented them from entering any ground in the country, but Boro have now taken their own action after reviewing evidence provided by Birmingham City.

Phillips, a Middlesbrough Council employee, told the court she only found out the book was the Koran when she was questioned by police after stewards saw what was happening. “I was mortified,” she said. “Very ashamed and disgusted in myself. It was just a book of some sort, I can’t remember if the cover was on. It was just white paper.”

Parkin said she took the Koran into St Andrew’s after she was handed it at Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market. She claimed not to have looked at the book, saying she had no idea it was the Koran. She said Stephenson, a purchasing manager, took the book from her bag before it was “turned into confetti”. “Everyone else was ripping it up so I just ripped it,” Parkin told the court.

Magistrates described her account as “unbelievable”.

A Birmingham steward told the court he heard chants about Muslims and the Koran as the book was passed around and ripped up. He later followed Phillips and Parkin and pointed them out to police officers after the match ended.

During his court case, Stephenson said he was “shocked and appalled” by his actions.

In the aftermath of the incident, Boro fans’ group Red Faction organised a Love Boro Hate Racism march.

Boro are next due to visit St Andrew’s on February 14.

Evening Gazette, 24 July 2014

India: Modi’s Ally in Shiv Sena Force Feed Fasting Muslim Staff

23 July, 2014 - 22:53

Shiv_Sena_Ramzan_Ramadan Anger, apology over Shiv Sena MPs’ Ramzan bullying

(HindustanTimes)

Video footage of a Shiv Sena MP forcing a fasting Muslim worker to eat at a state guest house triggered outrage in Parliament and social media on Wednesday, but the government said the allegations were unsubstantiated.

Opposition parties demanded action as television channels showed footage of the Thane MP, Rajan Vichare, apparently upset over the poor quality of food, thrusting a chapati into the Maharashtra Sadan catering supervisor’s mouth. The employee, who had his name tag on his shirt, was seen pleading with Vichare and 10 other Shiv Sena MPs to excuse him as he was fasting.

Two MPs almost came to blows in the Lok Sabha and parliament was adjourned over the incident, which is a huge political embarrassment for the ruling coalition as the Shiv Sena is a part of the National Democratic Alliance.

Read: Muslims say outraged by Shiv Sena MP’s action, demand his arrest

BJP member Ramesh Bidhuri and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi faced off as union heavy industries minister Anant Geete defended his party MPs. “Those who want to respect the month of Ramzan should not make false statements in the house … the Congress is trying to tarnish the image of the Narendra Modi government,” Geete said.

Pandemonium broke as South Delhi MP Bidhuri rushed to the well of the house, shouting at opposition members. Owaisi said Bidhuri charged at him shouting, “Muslims should go to Pakistan and even gestured to cut down them to pieces.”

Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu, who tried to calm frayed tempers, said the government did not approve of Bidhuri’s actions and asked him to apologise.

However, Naidu insisted the allegations against the Sena MP had to be verified. “We are dealing with a sensitive issue … Don’t try to raise communal passions. Nobody knows the truth. Whether the incident has happened or not, we are not sure,” Naidu said.

The BJP did not issue a formal statement condemning the allegations against its largest alliance partner. BJP patriarch LK Advani was the only senior party leader to comment on the controversy.  “It was wrong,” he said.

Sena MPs initially denied the incident which was reported by Indian Express. But as the video footage went viral, Vichare finally apologised. “I came to know that the employee was a Muslim only after seeing TV footage and I regret it,” he said. He added that he was only trying to draw the attention of authorities to the poor quality of food served at Maharashtra Sadan.

Several opposition members wrote to the Lok Sabha Speaker demanding an inquiry into the incident which they said was an “attack on secularism”.

“We would request you to uphold the dignity of the house by ordering an inquiry … so that such wanton behaviour is no longer repeated,” they wrote.

The National Commission for Minorities said it would probe the matter following a complaint by activist Shehzad Poonawala.

Angry Muslims demanded the suspension and arrest of the MPs. “What is more shocking is Parliament took the matter lightly. What can we expect in the Modi government,” said Zafarul Islam Khan of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat.

Read: Opposition MPs write to speaker Mahajan, seek probe

Read: I didn’t know he is a Muslim, says Shiv Sena MP

Human Rights Watch: US Counterterrorism Prosecutions Often an Allusion

22 July, 2014 - 23:04

James Cromitie, center, is escorted from Federal Plaza, headquarters of the FBI in New York, by federal agents and police, early Thursday

(Washington, DC) –The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

Many prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks, the groups found. But many others have targeted people who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them. And many of the cases involve due process violations and abusive conditions of confinement that have resulted in excessively long prison sentences.

The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

In the case of the “Newburgh Four,” for example, who were accused of planning to blow up synagogues and attack a US military base, a judge said the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”

The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent. The government, often acting through informants, then actively developed the plot, persuading and sometimes pressuring the targets to participate, and provided the resources to carry it out.

“The US government should stop treating American Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting,” Prasow said. “The bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove. Add that to law enforcement preying on the particularly vulnerable, such as those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and the very poor, and you have a recipe for rampant human rights abuses.”

Rezwan Ferdaus, for example, pled guilty to attempting to blow up a federal building and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Although an FBI agent even told Ferdaus’ father that his son “obviously” had mental health problems, the FBI targeted him for a sting operation, sending an informant into Ferdaus’ mosque. Together, the FBI informant and Ferdaus devised a plan to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol, with the FBI providing fake weaponry and funding Ferdaus’ travel. Yet Ferdaus was mentally and physically deteriorating as the fake plot unfolded, suffering depression and seizures so bad his father quit his job to care for him.

The US has also made overly broad use of material support charges, punishing behavior that did not demonstrate an intent to support terrorism. The courts have accepted prosecutorial tactics that may violate fair trial rights, such as introducing evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part – and asserting government secrecy claims to limit challenges to surveillance warrants.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is a US citizen who alleged that he was whipped and threatened with amputation while detained without charge in Saudi Arabia – after a roundup following the 2003 bombings of Western compounds in the Saudi capital of Riyadh – until he provided a confession to Saudi interrogators that he says was false. Later, when Ali went to trial in Virginia, the judge rejected Ali’s claims of torture and admitted his confession into evidence. He was convicted of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and conspiracy to assassinate the president. He received a life sentence, which he is serving in solitary confinement at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

The US has in terrorism cases used harsh and at times abusive conditions of confinement, which often appear excessive in relation to the security risk posed. This includes prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on communicating in pretrial detention, possibly impeding defendants’ ability to assist in their own defense and contributing to their decisions to plead guilty. Judges have imposed excessively lengthy sentences, and some prisoners suffer draconian conditions post-conviction, including prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on contact with families or others, sometimes without explanation or recourse.

Nine months after his arrest on charges of material support for terrorism and while he was refusing a plea deal, Uzair Paracha was moved to a harsh regime of solitary confinement. Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) – national security restrictions on his contact with others – permitted Paracha to speak only to prison guards.

“You could spend days to weeks without uttering anything significant beyond ‘Please cut my lights,’ ‘Can I get a legal call/toilet paper/a razor,’ etc., or just thanking them for shutting our light,” he wrote to the report’s researchers. After he was convicted, the SAMs were modified to permit him to communicate with other inmates. “I faced the harshest part of the SAMs while I was innocent in the eyes of American law,” he wrote.

These abuses have had an adverse impact on American Muslim communities. The government’s tactics to seek out terrorism suspects, at times before the target has demonstrated any intention to use violence, has undercut parallel efforts to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups that may be critical sources of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement. Some Muslim community members said that fears of government surveillance and informant infiltration have meant they must watch what they say, to whom, and how often they attend services.

“Far from protecting Americans, including American Muslims, from the threat of terrorism, the policies documented in this report have diverted law enforcement from pursuing real threats,” Prasow said. “It is possible to protect people’s rights and also prosecute terrorists, which increases the chances of catching genuine criminals.”

The Plain Racism of Our News: We Lost Some “Others”

22 July, 2014 - 02:00

On social media, posts, relating to the crass coverage and devaluing of Palestinian life versus Israeli life are being shared and commented upon.

In one such instance a pic. with the headline “Sharp Rise in Gaza deaths” is being shared, the by-line reads, “13 Israeli soldiers, 70 others killed…”

What is an other? Is it a human being? Is it so hard to type “PALESTINIANS?”

Others_Palestine

The others:

hard_working_others

My guess is that this has to do with latent racism and Islamophobia, in which one people’s blood is thought of as more precious than another.

The Terrorist That Wasn’t

21 July, 2014 - 23:28

BRITAIN-US-EGYPT-ATTACKS-COURT

(h/t: Fred)

The Terrorist That Wasn’t by JAMES RIDGEWAY and JEAN CASELLA

Talha Ahsan was today sentenced in a federal court in Connecticut for terrorist acts committed in and against the United States. This despite having never set foot on American soil until he was extradited from the UK in 2012. Federal District Judge Janet Hall sentenced Ahsan to time served, surprising family and friends who had gathered at the New Haven courthouse, and perhaps also the U.S. government, which had requested 15 years.

Time served is a significant sentence, however, since Ahsan has spent a full eight years without a trial in prisons on both sides of the Atlantic. He will be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported to London, where he will be free. His co-defendant, Babar Ahmad, received 12½ years, of which he has already served ten.

Ahsan, 34, a British citizen of Bengali descent, is an award-winning poet, a scholar and translator of medieval Arabic writing. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He was raised by immigrant parents who were practicing Muslims, but not unusually devout. As a young man he became engrossed in the history and teachings of Islam, including the concept of jihad—the religious duty of Muslims to “struggle in the way of Allah.”

In 1999, when he was 19 years old, Ahsan travelled to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where he was reportedly something of a washout in military training. He later briefly did administrative work for an Islamic fundamentalist website run by Babar Ahmad.

According to his family, Ahsan’s interests shifted toward Sufism, a mystical, contemplative aspect of Islam. He was planning on pursuing an advanced degree in philosophy and had applied for a job as a librarian in July 2006 when he was arrested at his family home in London by Scotland Yard, at the request of the United States government.

What happened next is a study in America’s ability to ride roughshod over Europe’s sovereign governments and its international human rights apparatus. It also showcases the U.S. justice system’s willingness, in its prosecution of terrorism cases, to rewrite history, distort Islam, inflate evidence, and manufacture threats where they quite clearly do not exist.

The Extradition

Although the fundamentalist web operation for which Ahsan worked, Azzam Publications, was based in London, it briefly utilized a server in Connecticut. This fact was key to the extradition of Talha Ahsan, who had never been to the United States.

Also key was the existence of a 2003 treaty between the U.S. and the UK, which made it possible to transport Britons to the United States to stand trial without any prima facie evidence. In fact, the UK apparently lacked enough evidence to convict Talha Ahsan of anything under British law. But it also ordered his extradition to America, where standards were likely to be less exacting.

The case was appealed to the High Court of England and Wales, to the House of Lords, and finally to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which simultaneously considered the extraditions of four other terrorism suspects, including the far more notorious Abu Hamza. Under consideration by the Court was whether conditions in the U.S. supermax prisons where the men were likely to be held, violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Convention clearly prohibits prisoners from being tortured or subjected to “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.” And the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, has stated that “indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement, in excess of fifteen days, should be subject to an absolute prohibition.” But despite considerable evidence to the contrary, the ECHR accepted a series of grotesque misrepresentations from the U.S. government claiming that life in an American supermax was not really solitary confinement, and not really all that bad.

Meanwhile, the extradition aroused controversy in the UK, where resistance was spearheaded by Talha Ahsan’s younger brother, Hamja. Some opponents saw it as evidence of the vilification of the British Muslim community—especially after the UK refused to extradite accused military hacker Gary McKinnon, who was also diagnosed with Asperger’s. Other opponents felt it threatened national sovereignty, and demanded “British justice for British citizens.” At one point, Parliament went so far as to debate the matter and the underlying extradition treaty.

But other Britons no doubt concurred with the Daily Mail, which described the Muslim terrorism suspects as “unwanted guests” despite the fact that several were British citizens. The Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron–and especially his Home Secretary, Theresa May, who signed the extradition order—apparently agreed. “Wasn’t it great to say goodbye – at long last – to Abu Hamza and those four other terror suspects?” May said at a Conservative Party Conference days after Ahsan left Britain for the United States.

At the time of his extradition in October 2012, Talha Ahsan had already been held for more than six years in high security prisons in England. He was closely watched, but was permitted to congregate with a small number of other prisoners, and had weekly visits from his parents and brother. He passed the time by reading mostly English literature, translating Tenth Century Arabic poetry, and writing poetry of his own—including a sonnet to Teresa May and a sestina called “Extradition,” which begins:

Five years ago they brought me to a cell

and ever since a waiting game plays here.

As they decide on sending me away,

my parents grow so grey and sad at home.

How will they manage visiting me there

or must they wait until the end of time?

In the United States, although a federal prisoner, Ahsan was housed in Northern State Prison in Connecticut—the state where the server that had housed Azzam.com was located, and where he would presumably be tried. He was in solitary confinement—23 hours in a cell alone, with one hour to exercise alone—but unlike many supermax prisoners, he was permitted to call his family. According to his brother, he has written another volume of poetry while in solitary.

Talha Ahsan was by no means the first Muslim terrorism suspect to be held in solitary confinement while awaiting trial. Opponents of the practice point to evidence that solitary is a form of torture that leads to psychological anguish and breakdown, and argue that it becomes a form of coercion, pressuring the accused to agree to a plea bargain.

The track record of terrorism trials in post-9/11 America—where the accused are virtually always convicted, and sentences are harsh—also weigh in favor of plea bargains. On December 10, 2013, Talha Ahsan pleaded guilty to offering “material support” to terrorists.

The Evidence

The sentencing memo provided by Talha Ahsan’s defense team also notes: “Throughout these proceedings, the government has insisted that Mr. Ahsan’s case is about ‘jihad’”—defined as “the use of violence including paramilitary action” against perceived enemies of Islam. Ahsan’s defenders assert that the broader definition of jihad, as simply a religious duty to struggle that takes many forms, applies in his case.

Ahsan came of age in the 1990s amid news of the genocide in Bosnia where Muslims were attacked and killed by foreigners on their own soil, right in Europe itself. He believed, according to the sentencing memo, that “Islam requires adherents to prepare oneself for the possibility of self-defense and the defense of others.” In pursuit of this goal, he joined several thousand British Muslims in traveling to Taliban-led Afghanistan for training—an act that was, at that time, not illegal under UK law.

Ahsan’s presence in Afghanistan—and that of many other “holiday jihadists”—was reported by an informant. But by all accounts he was a terrible military trainee, and returned home chastened, convinced that violence, even in self-defense, was “not his jihad.” Ahsan never had any contact with Al Qaeda on this or on a second trip to Afghanistan in mid-2001 for study, which was cut short when he became ill. And in fact, Ahsan was indicted for nothing having to do with the trips to Afghanistan.

Instead, all charges stem from Talha Ahsan’s work for Azzam Publications. The family of web sites was named for Abdullah Azzam, an Islamic scholar from Palestine and a major figure in the battle against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, which he considered a jihad. It was operated in large part by Babar Ahmad.

According to the sentencing memorandum, “Mr. Ahsan played a minor role in the operation of the website…Mr. Ahsan never edited, proofread or in any way contributed to the content placed on the websites.”

He was one of the website’s “mailmen” for only six months, between March and August of 2001. That was the beginning and the end of his involvement with the website. The website offered books and videos for purchase. Some of the books – like those written by Abdullah Azzam – were widely available in libraries and bookstores, including the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Some of the videos provided a perspective on the Second Chechen War that was not featured in mainstream media. Those accessing the website could print out an order form and mail it to a Post Office box. Mr. Ahsan’s sole job was filling the orders. He was provided with a box of Azzam Publications materials, envelopes, and postage, and provided instructions on how to proceed: send the customers what they ordered and save an electronic copy of any written correspondence sent to the mailbox.

Many other volunteers also worked for Azzam, and they were duly investigated, but never charged. “What separates Mr. Ahsan from the many known individuals with far greater responsibility for the website, its contents, and its message is that he—unlike any of them—received a letter sent to Azzam Publications post office box by a man calling himself ‘Hassan Abu-jihaad.’”

This was a letter that arrived out of the blue in the mail box which “purported to describe the port of call schedule of a group of US naval ships sailing from the United States to the Persian Gulf.” No one has claimed that the letter was solicited. It is clear that Ahsan received the letter “in the normal course of his limited duties as a mailman.” He typed it up and saved the file on a floppy disc, but “nothing was ever done with the electronic document. It was never, in any way, disseminated.”

According to the memo, “It is undisputed that Ahsan did not in any way aid or encourage Hassan Abu-Jihaad to break the law and, moreover, his actions were neither intended to nor led to any harm whatsoever.” Abu-Jihaad was a naval officer sending out classified material, and was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison—less than the 15 years the government sought for Talha Ahsan.

Beyond the handling of the naval letter, Talha Ahsan is supposed to have provided “material support”—a catchall charge that resurfaces again and again in federal terrorism cases. This took place through his clerical work at Azzam, which supported and encouraged other to support not only the Taliban, but also for Muslim independence fighters in the Second Chechen War.

Richard Haley, a British activist, points out in his introduction to a booklet of Ahsan’s poetry: “The British government has never branded the Chechen separatist forces as terrorists. No Chechen separatist group has been place on Britain’s list of proscribed organisations.” A Chechen resistance leader is based in Britain and the British have blocked his extradition demanded by the Russians. “If the leader of the Chechen resistance can operate from Britain, how can it be criminal for a British citizen to show support for the Chechen resistance?’’ asks Haley.

In fact, the Chechen separatists became something of a cause célèbre in the early 2000s among American neo-conservatives, who hoped support for the rebels might result in a further diminution of influence of the former Soviet Union.

As for Afghanistan, throughout the 1990s the Pakistani secret service, the ISI supported the Taliban, and the United States generously supported the ISI, providing Pakistan military aid and intelligence. As late as June 2001, unofficial representatives of the Taliban traveled freely about the United States, speaking in public and soliciting support from the State Department in return for which they promised to turn over Bin Laden.

Nothing that Talha Ahsan is accused of doing took place after September 11, 2001. Nothing he is accused of doing had anything to do with Al Qaeda or with any act of terrorism against the United States or U.S. citizens.

The Sentencing

Talha Ahsan seems to have encountered one piece of good fortune in his dealings with the U.S. justice system—a reasonable judge. In most similar cases where defendants are accused of providing “material support” to terrorists, judges have handed down the sentences requested by the government, or even longer ones. For example, Fahad Hashmi, an American college student who pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support, got 15 years. His crime consisted of allowing an acquaintance to stay in his apartment with suitcases containing socks and rain ponchos meant for Al Qaeda.

Judge Janet Hall, appointed by Bill Clinton, is Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in Connecticut. In a pre-sentencing hearing yesterday, she questioned both the U.S. attorney and the defense team sharply regarding the actual evidence that Ahsan, via Azzam Publications, had provided material support to terrorists. (At one point, the government pointed out that “Azzam.com published bin Laden’s declaration of war.” The judge replied, “So did the New York Times.”)

Hamja Ahsan, who has devoted the past eight years of his life to his brother, said after the sentencing, “the judge exposed both the U.S. and British governments as liars. There was no evidence of any terrorism.”

James Ridgeway and Jean Casella are co-editors of Solitary Watch (www.solitarywatch.com).

Democrat Eliot Engel appears at pro-Israel rally featuring anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller

21 July, 2014 - 20:14

Pamela_Geller_Elliot_Engel

Democrat Eliot Engel appears at pro-Israel rally featuring anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller

By Alex Kane (MondoWeiss)

Engel is a liberal Congressional Democrat, though he is a hawk on foreign policy issues. Geller is a far-right anti-Muslim blogger whose organization Stop Islamization of America was labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Geller has called President Barack Obama “a muhammadan” and floated theories that Obama is the child of Malcolm X and was involved with a “crack whore.” And she is allied with Tea Party groups.

But those stark political differences melt away when it comes to showing up to support Israel’s assault on Gaza. Engel’s and Geller’s speeches were delivered to a rally featuring hundreds of people chanting things like “Israel wants peace, Hamas wants war” and “We are the Jews and we are not afraid.” The show of support for the Israeli assault on Gaza, which has killed at least 375 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, was reportedly organized by local New York Jews.

Here’s more footage of the rally from VIN News:

“I urge you to stand with Israel today,” Geller said at the rally. “But if you don’t, the devil will be at your doorstep tomorrow. Am Yisrael Chai!”

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Geller is a staunch advocate for Israel, and has repeatedly created controversies by buying ad space in cities and putting up inflammatory anti-Muslim messages on them. One ad she has put up in New York and elsewhere reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” Below those words and in between two Stars of David, the advertisement read: “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” She repeated that message at the rally.

Engel’s ardent support for Israel has lead him to appear alongside right-wing figures in other venues. In 2008, Engel came under criticism from progressives for speaking at the Christians United for Israel conference.

Documentary: FBI “Informants”

21 July, 2014 - 00:41

AlJazeera_Informants

“As of 2008 the FBI had a roster of at least fifteen thousand informants–the number was disclosed in a budget authorization request that year for the $12.7 million needed to pay for software to track and manage them. The proportion who are assigned to infiltrate Muslim communities in the United States is unknown but likely to be substantial, given the the FBI’s prioritization of counterterrorism and its analysis of radicalization. There are also thought to be three tims as many unofficial community sources of information, known as ‘hip pockets.’” (Kundnani, Arun., “The Muslims Are Coming!,” p.198)

AlJazeera English: “Informants”

BNP links up with Infidels and NF in Bolton anti-mosque campaign

19 July, 2014 - 21:27

Stop-the-Astley-Bridge-Mosque-Bolton-with-NWI-protest-ad BNP links up with Infidels and NF in Bolton anti-mosque campaign

The far-right group the North West Infidels, which originated in a split in the English Defence League, will be holding a demonstration in Bolton next month against the planned so-called “super mosque” in Astley Bridge. There is an existing campaign based on the Facebook page Stop the Astley Bridge Mosque Bolton, which has already organised several anti-mosque protests, and as you can see they are now enthusiastically promoting the Infidels’ demonstration.

The Stop the Astley Bridge Mosque Bolton campaign is led by Bryn Morgan (aka Morgan Jones) who is an activist in the British National Party. It was also a bit of a giveaway that the campaign’s Facebook page originally featured the same banner that had appeared earlier on a BNP protest against the expansion of a mosque in Farnworth. The Bolton News went so far as to describe one of the Stop the Astley Bridge Mosque Bolton demonstrations, not inaccurately, as a “BNP rally”. In short, there is no question that the BNP has played a leading role in the campaign.

It might seem odd that the BNP is promoting an event organised by a white supremacist, neo-Nazi group like the Infidels. Central to Nick Griffin’s “modernisation” strategy, which he implemented after ousting John Tyndall as BNP leader in 1999, was a policy of hiding the party’s fascist ideology and presenting an “image of moderate reasonableness” to the public, with the aim of attracting electoral support. During the following period, and indeed until quite recently, the BNP would have steered clear of any public involvement with an organisation like the Infidels. But times have changed.

The European elections in 2009 represented the high water mark of the BNP’s political fortunes, with the party adding two MEPs to its fifty-odd councillors and London Assembly member. Although this fell well short of the achievements of the Front National in France, whose example had inspired Griffin’s “modernisation” strategy, the BNP’s electoral gains far exceeded anything previously accomplished by the extreme right in the UK. On top of this, Jim Dowson’s Belfast-based fundraising operation had provided the party with financial resources it had never enjoyed before.

Unfortunately for the BNP, success went to Griffin’s head. His arrogant and authoritarian behaviour antagonised political colleagues, provoking a spate of resignations, while serious financial problems also arose due to his reckless overspending. The result was the loss of many of the BNP’s leading figures, a mass exodus of members and the virtual collapse of the party’s organisation on the ground. With its difficulties compounded by an upsurge of support for UKIP, which siphoned off most of the racist vote, the BNP entered an extended crisis.

Even before the election results were announced on 25 May, it was clear that the party’s chances of retaining its seats in the European Parliament were non-existent, while it had already lost its seat on the London Assembly and its presence on local councils had been almost completely eradicated. The road to electoral success, which the “modernisation” strategy had been developed to pursue, was closed to the BNP for the foreseeable future.

Griffin’s solution would appear to be a retreat back to the sort of party Tyndall led – a smaller, more select organisation of fascists and hardcore racists, which will contest elections as a means of raising the party’s profile and winning new members but without any expectation of actually getting its candidates elected. Involvement with other far-right groupings of a more extreme character is therefore no longer to be avoided for fear of alienating voters. On the contrary, these organisations are now seen as a potential source of recruits to the BNP.

In line with this approach, when the BNP held an anti-mosque rally in Hemel Hempstead in May they billed it as a “unity demo” and extended an invitation to “all patriot groups” to participate. A week later, when Nick Griffin attended a BNP protest in Bolton against the Farnworth mosque, he happily stood alongside the National Front, who had turned out to support the demonstration, presumably at the invitation of the local BNP.

Within the BNP, Bryn Morgan has acted as an enthusiastic proponent of far-right unity. He gave a speech on that subject at a party meeting in St Helens in May, immediately following the BNP’s defeat in the European elections, in the course of which he helpfully provided some details about his own political background. “I’ve stood with various different factions prior to being involved with the BNP”, he told the audience. “It’s no secret that I stood with the English Defence League, I stood with the North West Infidels. I stood with various factions that tried to take a fight to the left wing, to the Muslims, out on the streets.”

(In addition, EDL News has reported on Morgan’s support for the National Front, who he urged to hold a demonstration in Bolton on the grounds that the town was “overrun with immigrant scum of every description”, and for the paramilitary British Counter Homeland Offensive group, whose declared aim is to organise “physical street resistance against anyone or anything that seeks to take or destroy our country”. If Morgan is well placed to argue for unity among the various fragments of the far right, it is because he seems to have been involved with most of them himself.)

Whereas association with groups like the Infidels had previously been rejected as damaging to the BNP’s electoral credibility, Morgan told the St Helens meeting that it was now necessary to actively engage with such “patriotic street movements” in order to persuade them that the BNP is the party that can provide them with a political voice. He continued:

“Unity is the only way forward. If we can’t get unity amongst the right wing, if we can’t get unity amongst ourselves, we’re absolutely wasting our time. Because that’s the one thing that the Muslims do have over us, that’s the one thing the Asian community does have over us, and even the blacks. At the end of the day they will all pull together, they will all fight as a united front against ourselves.”

In response, Morgan argued, the BNP should build its own united front, by engaging in joint activity with groups like the Infidels and the National Front, whose political objectives it shared: “We may be under a different banner but we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet at the end of the day. We all do have a common goal. The sooner we can put aside the petty differences, the petty squabbles, the history that’s gone on, the better.”

Read the rest…

The Death Toll In The Central African Republic Is Worse Than Previously Thought

19 July, 2014 - 20:50

Muslims_CAR

A Muslim family seeks refuge in a church in the Central African Republic.

(h/t: S. Kadri)

The Death Toll In The Central African Republic Is Worse Than Previously Thought

By Will Freeman (ThinkProgress)

Last winter, thousands of Muslim families living in the Central African Republic abandoned their homes and fled across the border into neighboring Chad and Cameroon in just one month. According to a new report by Doctors Without Borders released on Wednesday, one in three didn’t make the crossing intact.

Instead, they lost family members in a severe bout of anti-Muslim violence that engulfed the nation last December when predominately Christian militias launched what they viewed as reprisal attacks against Muslims living in the capital of Bangui last December. With the death toll now far exceeding past estimates and militants on both sides continuing to terrorize the civilian population with impunity, the country’s civil war is continuing to spiral out of control.

Families living in a refugee camp in Sido, Chad told Doctors Without Borders — also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) — about the 2,599 relatives they had to leave behind. Nearly eight percent of their total numbers never had the chance to complete the route of tens of thousands of Muslims who fled Bangui under the protection of a Chadian military convoy in January. 250 were killed while trying to complete the escape.

For refugees who cross the border today, the situation is even more bleak. Chad officially closed its borders to refugees in May, forcing those still fleeing violence in the CAR to search for poorly guarded spots to cross over. Others, after trekking for weeks without sufficient food or water, come under fire when they attempt to leave persecution in their home country behind. Still, for many Muslims, taking such a risk may be the only option. According to Doctors Without Borders, 1,700 took the risk of crossing the border into Sido in June alone.

Muslims who remain in western the CAR are now trapped in isolated ghettos protected only by international forces. Largely cut off from the outside world and continually harassed by armed bandits, living conditions in these communities are rapidly deteriorating. Most are too afraid to even go outside. While the border with Cameroon remains open, its government is lagging on supplying enough aid to accommodate the new arrivals, many of whom suffer malnourishment after enduring weeks of displacement.

CAR’s current crisis began after the predominately Muslim rebel coalition known as the Seleka swept into Bangui and overthrew the CAR’s longstanding president, Francois Bozize, in April 2013. While the Seleka initially promised democratic reform, their practice of granting supporters a blank check to loot and pillage ushered in months of destruction and terror for civilians. Local militias known as the anti-balaka — or anti-machete — began retaliating against the Seleka’s abuses, but their self defense quickly devolved into a situation that has been called “ethnic cleansing” campaign against CAR’s Muslims. Over the past year, the tide turned against the Seleka and the anti-balaka militias gained the upper hand. With the CAR’s weak interim government lacking any real power, anti-Muslim violence and reprisals from the remaining Muslims has become the norm. Some 390,000 people have now fled the CAR and over one million have been driven from their homes.

“The shocking levels of violence documented in our study should not leave the impression that the worst is over,” said MSF’s president Dr. Mego Terzian. While the international agency has been working in the CAR for over a decade to combat disease and improve public health, since the civil war teams of medics have been working in the capital and across the country to treat thousands of wounded. MSF Doctors continue to work in communities even as anti-Muslim violence walls off the few thousand who remain.

“The bare minimum that can be done for this population that has suffered incredible violence, lost family members, and been uprooted from their homes, is to provide them with humanitarian assistance” added Dr. Terzian. But food shortages continue to affect refugees of the conflict, and according to the U.N., 2.2 million people within the cou ntry remain in dire need of aid.

Not all recent developments spell disaster. The U.N. announced Thursday that a 2,500-strong peacekeeping force with join French and African forces working to limit sectarian violence in two months. While the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, said the international deployment will ensure “significantly superior” levels of security, for the time being perpetrators of atrocities on both sides still go unchecked by the law. Last week, Amnesty International demanded that those guilty of human abuses be punished in a report detailing the most notorious offenders.

“Those responsible for leaving hundreds of thousands of innocent people with nowhere to hide from their murderous violence must be given nowhere to hide from justice,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Central African Republic researcher. “Only by ending impunity can the cycle of violence that has gripped CAR be stemmed.”

Will Freeman is an intern with Think Progress.

Canadian Muslims Attacked After Leaving Mosque

19 July, 2014 - 00:59

Hamilton_Police Police investigating attack as possible hate crime

(Inside Halton)

Two McMaster engineering graduates were attacked on their way home from a late prayer session at the Downtown Mosque early Thursday morning.

Hamilton police are probing the incident as a possible hate crime.

The Muslim community is “shaken” by the attack, especially since it happened during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) said in a press release Thursday night.

“Such hateful and cowardly acts are abhorrent to all Canadians who stand united in condemning all crimes motivated by xenophobia and hatred,” said Ihsaan Gardeen, NCCM executive director.

Twin brothers Moustafa and Mahmoud Elgamal were riding their bikes along Bay Street North, near Cannon Street West around 12:30 a.m., said Sayed Tora, the mosque’s imam. He spoke to the 20-year-olds shortly after the incident happened.

A group of about 10 to 12 people gathered at a corner began yelling and mocking them, Tora said.

He said the brothers didn’t respond and kept riding. That’s when three of the men ran toward them and hit them from behind.

Detective Carmen Pietroniro said one suspect pulled out a pocket knife and another yelled a “racial epithet.”

Pietroniro said he was still trying to sort through exactly what was said, but the remarks targeted a particular race.

Mahmoud suffered a severe wound on the right side of his face and lower lip, as well as cuts on his right foot, Tora said.

Moustafa fell off his bike and has a concussion and deep wound on his left knee.

Both victims were taken to hospital as a precaution and released.

Pietroniro said police have identified two suspects — males in their late teens. No charges have been laid. The investigation is ongoing.

The suspects and victims were not known to each other.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 905-546-5678 or Crime Stoppers at 905-522-8477.

sbeattie@thespec.com

905-526-3294

noreilly@thespec.com

905-526-3199 | @NicoleatTheSpec

France bans pro-Palestinian protests

19 July, 2014 - 00:04

French Palestine Rally

Anyone caught defying a French ban on pro-Palestinian protests is subject to stiff penalties, including steep fines and up to three years in prison.

French officials cited security concerns as a justification, after thugs from the French Jewish Defense League (LDJ) violently attacked pro-Palestinian protesters in an apparent attempt to silence them. Instead of safeguarding the democratic rights of protesters, the French government has rewarded LDJ violence with a decisive victory, using the law as a vehicle to achieve what street violence could not.

France bans pro-Palestinian protests

Cross post from Mideast Eye

PARIS – France’s socialist government provoked outrage on Friday by banning protests against Israeli action in Palestine. It is the only government in the western world to enact such a restriction and one of the few in the world to stop public outcries of support for the cause.

In what is viewed as an outrageous attack on democracy, Socialist Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said mass demonstrations planned for the weekend should be halted.

Cazeneuve said there was a “threat to public order”, while opponents said he was “criminalising” popular support for the Palestinian people.

Thousands were set to march against the ongoing slaughter in Gaza, calling for an immediate end to hostilities in which civilians including many children have been killed.

But Cazeneuve said that he feared that there might be a repeat of the fights between “ultra” Jewish vigilantes and pro-Palestinians, which broke out after a demonstration last Sunday.

Referring to the main Paris march, Cazeneuve said: “I consider that the conditions are not right to guarantee security.”

He welcomed a legal procedure instigated by the Paris police to ban the march, despite it already being widely advertised.

Cazeneuve also advised other prefects across France to examine planned marches on a “case by case” basis, and to ban “if appropriate”.

But Michele Sibony, of the Jewish Union for Peace, said: “By outlawing free speech by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, France puts itself in a unique position in the world and Europe.”

And Youssef Boussoumah, of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) said: “France is criminalising any show of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

“This is an absolute outrage, it is a continuation of attempts to muzzle the Palestinian people and to get them and their supporters in France to surrender absolutely to Israel’s oppression.”

Sylvie Perrot, another pro-Palestine activist from Paris, said: “Fascist states stop people demonstrating against wars – it is beyond belief that French Socialists are following their example.”

There has been a similar reaction on Twitter, where people expressed their anger with the decision.

Translation: “I am under shock demonstrating for Palestine in France is forbidden !!!!!! Where are we? Where is democracy????”

Anyone who turns up for what will amount to an illegal demonstration faces up to a year in prison, and a 15,000 euro fine.

If they hide their faces to avoid being identified, this sentence can be increased to three years, and a 45,000 fine.

Even those who publish details of an illegal rally on social media face up to a year in prison, and a 15,000 euro fine. This can be increased to seven years and a 100,000 fine if the postings lead to violence.

On Friday night lawyers for a number of groups hoping to campaign on behalf of Palestine on Saturday lodged an appeal against the ban in a Paris court.

There were false claims made last week that synagogues in Paris had been targeted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, with worshipers trapped inside by the protesters. However, videos subsequently came to light showing armed vigilantes from a group called the Jewish Defence League (LDJ) baiting demonstrators into fights.

No LDJ members were arrests, despite evidence emerging that they were fighting and smashing up property in full view of the police.

Six pro-Palestine protestors were arrested for a variety of public order offences, although controversy has marred the arrests as the protesters insist they were nowhere near the Paris synagogues in question. 

A judicial enquiry is set to be launched into the false allegations made about the synagogue attacks. The synagogues were undamaged in the clashes.

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Poll: Americans Like Jews Most, Muslims Least

18 July, 2014 - 12:27

Anti-Muslim Hate USA

A recent Pew Poll revealed that Jews are viewed most warmly by Americans. Muslims hit rock bottom, just below atheists.

How Americans Feel About Religious Groups

Cross posted from Pew Forum

Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are viewed warmly by the American public. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher).

Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons receive neutral ratings on average, ranging from 48 for Mormons to 53 for Buddhists. The public views atheists and Muslims more coldly; atheists receive an average rating of 41, and Muslims an average rating of 40. Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part.

These are some of the key findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted May 30-June 30, 2014, among 3,217 adults who are part of Pew Research’s new American Trends Panel, a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults.

Both Jews and Atheists Rate Evangelicals Negatively, but Evangelicals Rate Jews Highly

Attitudes among religious groups toward each other range from mutual regard to unrequited positive feelings to mutual coldness. Catholics and evangelicals, the two largest Christian groups measured here, generally view each other warmly. White evangelical Protestants give Catholics an average thermometer rating of 63; Catholics rate evangelicals at 57. Evangelicals also hold very positive views of Jews, with white evangelical Protestants giving Jews an average thermometer rating of 69. Only Jews themselves rate Jews more positively. But that warmth is not mutual: despite evangelicals’ warm feelings toward Jews, Jews tend to give evangelicals a much cooler rating (34 on average).

Christians and Jews Are Rated More Favorably by Older Americans Than by Younger People; Other Non-Christian Faiths Are Rated More Positively by Younger People

Christian groups and Jews receive higher ratings from older Americans (those ages 65 and older) than from younger Americans. By contrast, other non-Christian groups receive their highest ratings from younger Americans. Adults under the age of 30, for instance, give Muslims a neutral rating of 49, on average, whereas older adults give Muslims significantly more negative ratings (42 among those ages 30-49, 36 on average among those 50-64, and 32 among those 65 and older).

These patterns may partly reflect that there are more Christians among older Americans than among younger people. In Pew Research surveys conducted this year, fully 85% of Americans ages 65 and older describe themselves as Christians, compared with just 59% among adults under 30 (32% of whom identify as religious “nones”).

Jews Rated Most Positively by Whites; Evangelicals and Muslims Viewed More Favorably by Blacks than Whites

Jews receive their most positive ratings from whites, who give them an average rating of 66. Jews also are rated favorably by blacks and Hispanics (with each group giving Jews an average rating of 58). Evangelicals also are rated positively by all three groups, with their highest average rating coming from blacks (68). Muslims receive a neutral rating from blacks (49 on average), but they are rated more negatively by whites (38). Hispanics’ ratings of Muslims fall in between (43).

These findings may reflect the racial and ethnic composition of religious groups. Many blacks describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, for instance, and 23% of Muslims in the U.S. are black, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2011 survey of Muslim Americans. Fully 94% of U.S. Jews are white, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey of U.S. Jews.

Politics and Religion: Partisans’ Views of Religious Groups
Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party tend to rate evangelicals very positively (71 on average). They also express warm feelings toward Jews (67 on average) and Catholics (66). The warmth Republicans feel for evangelicals may reflect the fact that many Republicans and Republican leaners are themselves evangelicals. Among those who are not evangelical Christians, evangelicals receive an average rating of 62. Mormons receive a neutral rating from Republicans and Republican leaners (52 on average), while Buddhists receive a rating of 49 and Hindus a rating of 47. Republicans and Republican leaners view atheists and Muslims much more negatively than they view other religious groups.

Democrats and Democratic leaners express warm feelings toward Jews (average rating of 62) and Catholics (61). Buddhists also are rated favorably (57 on average) by Democrats. Evangelicals receive an average rating of 53 from all Democrats and Democratic leaners, but this drops to 45 among those who are not evangelicals themselves. With the exception of Jews, all of the non-Christian groups asked about receive warmer ratings from Democrats and Democratic leaners than they do from Republicans.

Familiarity With People of Different Faiths

Fully 87% of U.S. adults (including 85% of non-Catholics) say they personally know someone who is Catholic. And seven-in-ten people (including 63% of non-evangelicals) say they know someone who is an evangelical Christian. Because Catholics and evangelical Christians are such large groups, it is to be expected that most people would know someone from these groups.

Most Americans also say they know someone who is Jewish (61%) or an atheist (59%), even though these groups are much smaller than Catholics and evangelical Christians; roughly 2% of U.S. adults identify religiously as Jewish, and a little more than 2% identify as atheists. Other small groups are less familiar to most Americans. For example, 44% of Americans say they know someone who is Mormon, and 38% say they know someone who is Muslim. Mormons constitute about 2% of the U.S. adult population, and Muslims roughly 1%. Roughly one-in-four adults or fewer say they know a Buddhist (23%) or Hindu (22%); these groups each account for roughly 1% or less of the overall population.
Knowing someone from a religious group is linked with having relatively more positive views of that group. Those who say they know someone who is Jewish, for example, give Jews an average thermometer rating of 69, compared with a rating of 55 among those who say they do not know anyone who is Jewish. Atheists receive a neutral rating of 50, on average, from people who say they personally know an atheist, but they receive a cold rating of 29 from those who do not know an atheist. Similarly, Muslims get a neutral rating (49 on average) from those who know a Muslim, and a cooler rating (35) from those who do not know a Muslim.

Read the full report here.

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