Three Britons fight extradition on terror charges

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 14:33

Isis-related group sought to set up caliphate in Iraqi Kurdistan and establish cells in Europe to wage jihad, says prosecutor

Three men alleged to be key members of an Isis-affiliated terror group that plotted to execute attacks across Europe and kidnap diplomats are fighting extradition from Britain.

Bakr Hamad, Zana Rahim and Awat Hamasalih held senior positions in Rawti Shax, a “transnational, radical and fundamentalist group” whose purpose was to carry out violent acts in the west, it is claimed.

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'The media have failed us': British Muslims on coverage of the Paris attacks

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 13:33

One week after Isis-affiliated jihadi killed 129 people in coordinated attacks, British Muslims tell us how their lives have changed

Islamic leaders and the Muslim population have been quick to show solidarity with France and condemn last Friday’s terror attacks.

On social media, people used the hashtags #IamMuslim and #PrayforParis in a show of unity. But what effect have the attacks had on Muslims and do they feel public sentiment towards them has changed?

Being ostracised for being a Muslim isn’t great. It makes me feel impure, vulnerable and worst of all, a victim

We were born and bred in this country and now fear a simple walk to the shop

I'm the 9/11 generation … now is the first time I’m worried to travel on public transport

Related: It’s time the media treated Muslims fairly | Miqdaad Versi

We shouldn’t change because of how other people perceive us – and we shouldn’t have to

I try to avoid sitting by myself in empty train carriages to avoid being harassed or targeted

I wish people would just put humanity before anything else​. We need to teach the ignorant how it’s meant to be

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Sadiq Khan's words on Islamists and Britain were authentic and shrewd

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 12:17

The Labour mayoral candidate’s speech about the Paris attacks, his family and his fellow Muslims combined political know-how and true conviction

The stakes were pretty high for Labour’s London mayor candidate Sadiq Khan when he addressed parliament’s press gang on the subject of Islamist fanatics on Thursday. A Muslim who, as a civil rights lawyer, had represented fellow Muslims beguiled by fundamentalist visions, Khan would have known that political foes, not least among journalists, had already been sniffing for ways to hang the “extremist” tag on him prior to next May’s election. In the wake of Paris, one perceived equivocation, one word out of place, and he’d have been paying for it until polling day.

Judging by the coverage of his words so far, Khan has emerged from the occasion not only undamaged but fortified. The London Evening Standard majored on his appeal to fellow British Muslims to recognise the threat extremism poses here and to embrace the “special role” they can play in combatting it “not because we are more responsible than others, as some have wrongly claimed, but because we can be more effective at tackling extremism than anyone else.”

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As an FBI agent, I know communities hold the key to fighting terrorism| Kaiser Gill

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 09:57
And as a Muslim, I know the best chance of stopping young people joining jihadi groups is to give them a sense of acceptance in their adopted countries.

When the Paris attackers struck, my first feeling was of empathy for the French law enforcement and intelligence officers. As a special agent in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation who investigated international terrorism for many years, I remember getting that same feeling of despair and self-doubt when I heard of the London bombings on 21 July 2005: how could we have missed something, since an attack had just occurred two weeks before?

With attacks in France and a cell being disrupted in Belgium earlier this year, this is a question many have on their minds. But the hope of stopping the next attack will provide a sense of purpose that will drive these men and women to work tirelessly.

Related: The Guardian view on defeating Isis: winning hearts and minds | Editorial

Related: Now we're at war? We've been at war since 9/11, from Paris to Peshawar | Stan Grant

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Far-right activist charged with illegally possessing weapons and bomb-making manual

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 November, 2015 - 20:37

Police arrest Phillip Galea, active in the United Patriots Front, as tensions rise over weekend anti-mosque protest in Melton, Victoria

A Melbourne man active in the far-right United Patriots Front has been charged with illegally possessing weapons and a bomb-making manual days before an anti-mosque rally in Victoria.

Phillip Galea, 31, of Braybrook, was due to appear before Melbourne magistrates court on Friday charged with possession of a prohibited weapon and one count of possessing a prescribed chemical.

Related: United Patriots Front head Shermon Burgess resigns over video mocking him

Related: The UPF and Reclaim Australia aren't 'concerned parents' or a bad joke | Andy Fleming

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Interview with Comedian Eman El Husseini

Muslimah Media Watch - 19 November, 2015 - 19:38
Guest contributor Stéphanie Renée Roy (@LGD_Stephy) interviews Eman El Husseini.    It was 2 years ago that I first saw Eman El Husseini’s stand-up comedy. I was then a fairly new convert and Eman impressed me when she spoke so honestly about Canadian experience as a Palestinian Muslim. She began professional comedy in 2006 because she [Read More...]

Trump won't rule out special ID for Muslim Americans noting their religion

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 November, 2015 - 19:07

‘Some people are going to be upset’ Republican frontrunner says, adding he would consider warrantless searches of Muslims and surveillance on mosques

Donald Trump would not rule out tracking Muslim Americans in a database or giving them “a special form of identification that noted their religion”, Yahoo news reports in a long interview with the Republican presidential candidate.

Related: Bernie Sanders defines democratic socialism and details Isis plan – live

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The Dark Business of the Journey of Light – Hajj Fraud

Muslim Matters - 19 November, 2015 - 05:39

Last year I wrote the following story for The Muslim Link newspaper. There has been an update on the case. The Civil Rights team at CAIR- Chicago worked with the victims in collecting evidence of the fraud and with their permission, reported it to law enforcement. “The defendant, Rashid Minhas, perpetuated two separate schemes against victims in the United States, Canada, Pakistan and around the world. He was prosecuted and convicted in both cases for scamming victims through his fraudulent companies: City Travel and Light Star Hajj.  In February 2015, Judge Feinerman found Minhas guilty after a bench trial in the City Travel fraud case, and in June 2015, Minhas plead guilty in the Light Start Hajj case. He is scheduled to be sentenced by the court for both cases before Judge Feinerman. If you are victim of these Hajj fraud scams, or if you know of any victims, please inform them, and they may attend the court sentencing date next Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 10:15 a.m. at the U.S. District Courthouse in Chicago, 219 South Dearborn, in Courtroom 2125 (21stfloor).” 




In September 2014, Virginia resident Shazia K. Farook flew to California to see off her parents who were headed off on the trip of a lifetime— Hajj.

They had suitcases packed and ready in their Southern California home and airline confirmations in their hands. Their passports with visas were 'in the mail'. Then a packet arrived from the Hajj travel agency, informing them that their visas were not approved. Devastated, Farook's parents — the Kamals— didn't know what to do. They called her uncle in Chicago who was supposed to leave with them, travelling with the same company.

Unfortunately, the uncle had received the same news about his own visa and was trying to get in touch with their agent, Rashid Minhas of Light Star Hajj Group. Farook's uncle had chosen the travel package, which at that time looked like quite the deal. The travel agent was not picking up the phone or returning text messages.

A quick trip to the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles revealed that Minhas was not registered as an authorized Hajj agent. The Kamals did not even have electronic reference numbers filed for their names. In short, Minhas had never applied for their visas. When her parents finally reached Minhas and demanded an explanation, the agent became agitated and rudely told them there was nothing he could do, said Farook .

News media in the Chicago area picked up the story of the man who perpetuated injustice towards the Kamals and 48 others hoping to complete a religious tenet and word spread through the American Muslim community of his arrest and charges of mail fraud of over $500, 000.

Farook and her family think about the warning signs. Minhas had insisted on receiving a money order, which they had sent out right after Ramadan. The materials sent by Minhas's agency were subpar and unprofessional, says Farook. She gave him the benefit of doubt yet the odd font and folder prophesied things to come.

“If my parents had just shared the information with us before they send the money, we would have Googled him and found out about his previous [illegal activity],” says Farook. Looking back, she says she should have paid closer attention and investigated further on behalf of her aging parents.

Minhaj had done this before. A Facebook page dedicated to victims of VIP Travels– the agency that Minhas ran before he started Light Star – has dozens of anguished messages from victims of the fraud. Three years ago, ABC news 'exposed Minhas as he was facing an angry crowd of travel agency clients who had paid thousands of dollars for trips to Mecca that never happened.'



From October 2008 to March 2009, he operated a travel agency by the name of City Travel and Tours. On Nov. 21, 2013, Minhas, who previously went by the name Rashid Faridi, was charged with seven counts of mail and wire fraud, according to a complaint filed in local courts in Chicago. According to Chicago Tribune, the indictment against Minhas alleges that he sold or helped sell about '$340,000 in airline tickets that were voided, resulting in losses of $293,000 to Emirates Airlines and others.'

Minhas found a loophole in the electronic payment system for paper airline tickets. He voided tickets “without notifying the customer or the airline and fraudulently retained customers' funds for his personal use.”

Hajj Business in America

An estimated twelve to fifteen thousand pilgrims travel every year from America for hajj, with numbers increasing every year. Only 40 agencies in the United States are licensed with the Ministry of Hajj to arrange groups. All other agencies, branches, or partners do business with these authorized agencies directly or indirectly.

“Some people want to save money and go for good deals,” says Maqsood Ibrahim Fareed, of Royal Travels in Houston, TX. He warns about fly by night or 'boiler room' operations and random brothers in the masjid who are taking people on hajj.

Dealing with companies from other states can also be an issue as it is harder to assess if the company is legitimate, he says. He mentioned a story of a rogue agent from New York who absconded with half a million dollars from people wanting to make the Hajj trip from Houston.

“[T]he main points are that one must be in good standing with the [Saudi] Hajj Ministry and have a contract with a Hajj/Umrah company within Saudi Arabia,” says Muhammad Aslam of Metro International Travel Inc. The Saudi Embassy requires that travel agents provide the consulate with residence, transportation and general services contracts. According to the Ministry of Hajj this contract must include the name of the organizer, the code given to them by the Ministry of Hajj, and the number of visas they are allowed to get. Prior to the issuance of any hajj visas, they must also provide the consulate with a letter from the Ministry of Hajj office in Mecca. If any of the pieces of the puzzle are missing then a visa can be rejected, often due to the inexperience of a 'boiler room' travel agent.

Akila S. and her family were set to go for Hajj in 2014. Akila's father had seen a flyer in local masjid in Chicago, Ill. The cheaper rates promised a saving for the family of six. They submitted all their paperwork, she says. She reflects on the expense of Hajj and wonders why prices are tripled during the Hajj season. Maqsood from the Texas travel agency says that during Hajj season the cost factors go up in Saudi Arabia for everything from catering to accommodations. His company makes payments to the airlines and hotels 6 to 8 months in advance.

A local imam, who did not have the experience or resources to fulfill the commitments the company had made in their fliers, led her hajj group. The entire group was unable to obtain visas and so never made it for Hajj.

Some pilgrims will arrive in Saudi Arabia to discover the accommodations they booked do not exist, while others will find that their whole trip is in fact a scam. Minhas did manage to send a few travellers to Jeddah but once they were there they were left to fend for themselves. Farid says a legitimate company will have contacts in Saudi Arabia who arrange accommodations, transportation, food and various other support services.

Pilgrims are urged to get everything in writing. “Always get written terms and conditions as this details your contract with the travel company. Make sure your flight details, accommodations and Hajj visa are valid. Establish an auditable paper trail and keep records of financial transactions,” suggests a national awareness campaign on Hajj fraud that ran in the United Kingdom where Hajj fraud is so common that there is a special police division for it.

Don't send cash or checks to individuals. Most legitimate companies will have facilities with a bank to accept credit or debit cards. Fareed from Royal Travels said that travel agents can accept credit cards for airline tickets but in his experience hotel packages have to be paid by wire transfers by the agent for the whole group.

Marsin Travels Intl. refunded $30,000 to Akila's family; they are still waiting for the remaining $10,000. “If I don't get my refund then I will file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau,” says Akila S.

“We trust too easily, we think it is Hajj and no one will commit fraud on a Hajji. We can't be blind and have to do our research,” says Akila S. who looked up the website of the travel group after submitting payment and found it very rudimentary.

“The number of pilgrims performing Hajj each year from around the world is increasing very rapidly. [The] government of Saudi Arabia is trying their best to keep up with the influx. Unfortunately until the planned expansion of Haramain and areas surrounding is completed, it will be difficult to manage these huge numbers,” says Shahzad Ahmad of ZamZam Travel, which is listed on, an official web portal for information about authorized Hajj agencies.

“If there is a problem with any arrangement in Saudi Arabia, the authorized agency can contact the Ministry of Hajj for intervention and resolution. Sub-agents or sub-groups are not recognized by the Ministry of Hajj and so cannot deal with the Ministry of Hajj directly. Also, if pilgrims face any trouble with their arrangements, they can hold the authorized agency accountable in front of the Ministry of Hajj. On the other hand, if a sub-group or sub-agency doesn't deliver on its promises, there is usually not much pilgrims can do.”

Ask for references and a second opinion, says Farook. “As a community, we have to talk about a more efficient method for hajjis—we have to lead to good.”

This year the Saudi Embassy will not enter passport information manually.  “You must use a passport reader,” says Ayman Ali. He runs Haj On Soft, a software solution for agents that he says allows submitted passport data, finances, tickets and required paperwork to interface seamlessly with the Ministry of Hajj's requirements. This requires passports to be scannable. “Companies must know which reader is required and how to order it. Some old passports may not be able to be scanned by the reader. Travelers should update themselves about new developments.”

Filing a Complaint

Some Muslims don't want to file complaints because they want to be able to go to Hajj and think that complaining will flag their names on a list and their visas may be denied in the future. This makes little sense as the Saudi Ministry of Hajj has an easy portal on their website to file complaints to minimize fraud. is also a website where Hujjaj write reviews of Hajj companies after their trips.

Others are spiritually abused into silence; scared to commit gheebah (backbiting), scared that they are not practicing sabr (being patient) or that filing a complaint would be tantamount to dishonoring another Muslim. “If someone has been wronged [they] need to speak up because who knows how many Muslims may be defrauded by this process,” says Akila.

It's a balancing act to keep hujjaj from North America happy. The biggest challenge for legitimate travel agents is the high expectations of pilgrims and how they adapt to foreign rules and culture, say travel agents. “During Hajj many pilgrims expect buses to arrive on time and all the processes involved to happen in a quick and timely fashion. However, there are millions of other pilgrims waiting to be transferred from location to location along with us. Therefore not everything is fast during Hajj and often times we must wait for buses and hotels for hours. This is all apart of the process and some pilgrims find this hard to deal with,” said one travel agent.  Some return and file complaints based on these experiences. “We prepare our Hajjis ahead of time and emphasize the need for patience. Most of these logistical setbacks are not in our control, however the bottom line is we perform all the rites and rituals of Hajj as prescribed,” says Aslam, who is a veteran in the field.

“The best experience is du'a received from other Hajjis. If they are satisfied, then I am satisfied. I want to make sure people enjoy their time,” says Aslam of Metro Travel.

This journey of a lifetime should start with du'a and research. As the Prophet recommended: Trust in Allah but tie your camel.

Here is an excellent new resource for rating  your hajj experience if you have been to Hajj in the past five years. Please share other resources.

French-born man charged over allegedly threatening two Muslims

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 November, 2015 - 04:11

The 37-year-old faced a Queensland court on Thursday after he allegedly assaulted a man and woman and yelled at them ‘we’re going to bomb you all’

A charge against a French-born man accused of threatening two Muslims in Queensland has been described as “wrong” by a magistrate.

Francky Yann Guise, 37, faced Southport magistrates court in the Gold Coast on Thursday charged with two counts of common assault and one count of making threats to cause detriment.

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Conservatives' yearning for Islam is the love that dare not speak its name | Jeff Sparrow

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 November, 2015 - 02:54

Why don’t westerners stand up for their nation? For their traditions? For their religion and morals? Why aren’t they more well ... Islamic?

This week, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph published a cover portraying the African-born Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed as a monkey: a predictable manifestation of the Islamophobia unleashed since the atrocities in Paris.

But there’s a complementary phenomenon that’s less obvious – a wave of conservative Islamophilia. Yes, Islamophilia.

Related: We accept that Russian bombs can provoke a terror backlash. Ours can too | Mehdi Hasan

The portrait of the Islamic regime is quite fond; [Houllebecq] likes the fundamentalists’ suavity and sureness. Ben Abbes’s reform of the educational system is wholesome, and his ambitions to rebuild France are almost a form of neo-Gaullism. (He succeeds in integrating Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Turkey into the European Union, creating a power bloc greater than the American one.) The reform of education, the reinforcement of the family, even the re-domestication of women are all held up for admiration.

He cannot help a sneaking envy for Isis’s willingness, unlike the “pussified” US, to massacre civilians.

We must immediately recognize that our enemy is not ‘violent extremism’. It is the radical Islamism that has declared jihad against the west. It will not be appeased by outreach or declarations of tolerance. It will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties, when the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent life.

Related: Christian refugees are fine, Muslims aren't. In a post-racist world, of course that's not racist | Yassir Morsi

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The News Corp columnist and the case of the missing Grand Mufti | First Dog on the Moon

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 November, 2015 - 01:27

All those Muslims who are not condemny enough need to take a long hard look at how they are perpetrating fear and loathing in this country

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R4 Moral Maze on ‘Islamic Terrorism’

Inayat's Corner - 18 November, 2015 - 22:22

Moral Maze

In the wake of last week’s killings in Paris, I was on Radio 4’s Moral Maze programme this evening on the topic of “Islamic Terrorism” (yes, I don’t like the title either).

Those of you who have listened to Moral Maze previously will know that each guest faces a grilling from two of the four regular panellists. I faced a grilling from Anne McElvoy of the Economist (she was previously at the Evening Standard) and Michael Portillo.

I used the encounter to criticise the nihilists of ISIS and also the Western warmongers who keep insisting on dropping bombs on the people of the Middle East and then expect no response in return.


Muslim Council of Britain takes out advert denouncing Paris attack

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 November, 2015 - 22:13

Council places advert in Daily Telegraph and Mail Online condemning the terrorist attacks ‘unreservedly’

Hundreds of British Muslims have taken out an advert to highlight their “united condemnation” of terrorism after the attacks in Paris.

The advert, issued by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and endorsed by more than 300 of the body’s affiliates, features an image of the Eiffel Tower and the words: “With one voice, British Muslims condemn the Paris attacks unreservedly.

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