Archive for March, 2012

News and Analysis (3/31/12)

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

As Israel violently suppresses peaceful demonstrations protesting Israel’s discriminatory land policy observed over the past 36 years …

.. Danny Ayelon, sounding like Bashar al-Assad, defends state lethal repression by calling annual Land Day demonstrations  “political terrorism”:

Physical fights broke out between legislators during debate overthe law giving parents more freedom of school choice, but Erdogan, who says his commitment to secularism is “not at the expense of Turks who want to express their religious beliefs more openly,” calls the law’s passage on a 295-91 vote “a victory for democracy”:

The government thinks siding with the Sufis against the Wahabis is a way to fight terrorism, but “analysts warn that any security strategy that fails to tackle the root causes of anger among Muslims would be counterproductive”:

Poll shows most New Jersey residents are fine with being spied on by New Yorkers because most American “are often willing to overlook its potential conflict with the Bill of Rights” if they think an unconstitutional “surveillance effort will help keep them safe”:

With local Afghan security forces who are supposed to take over responsibility from the U.S. are under attack from withn their own, Afghanistan’s rulers demand to know just what the residual U.S. presence will be after its nominal withdrawal:

At the time, “Argentina blamed the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah for the 1994 bombing, which killed 85 people” but no one was ever convicted for the attack on the Jewish cultural center and now prosecutors accuse “Argentine intelligence services and security forces” of covering up for locals involved in the crime:

“[I]n order for Christians to truly experience the stinging rebuke in Jesus’ parable, we have to find a group that Christians today view with as much abhorrence as the Jews had for the Samaritans in the 1st century. There might be several candidates, but Muslims probably top the list”:

News and Analysis (3/29/12)

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

“This important historical, cultural and religious site has witnessed a terrible offense, which appears to be continuing as Israeli Antiquities Authority excavations persist. Rabbi Hier must realize the grave precedent he is setting by building in a historic Muslim cemetery, and agree to a different location in the interest of mutual respect and tolerance in the Holy Land”:

In Tunisia, the political platform offers two opposing pulls Salafi and Secular that leaves al-Nahda stranded in the middle:
“Fewer than half the leaders of the Arab world showed up at an Arab summit in Baghdad on Thursday, a snub to the Iraqi government, but the leaders agreed on an appeal to Syria‘s regime to stop its bloody crackdown on opponents.
The “God is Great” Brigade has joined the lines of the Syrian rebels. “They swore allegiance to the Free Syrian Army and vowed to topple President Bashar Assad. But unlike many other rebel bands, they wrapped their proclamation in hard-line Islamic language, declaring their fight to be a “jihad,’’ or holy war, and urging others to do the same.”

“Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament began drawing up a no-confidence motion against the military-appointed government Thursday, further escalating the Islamists’ increasingly public power struggle with the country’s ruling generals”:

Bahraini Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa pledged to take strong actions against political societies that promote sectarianism and any “serious violations” made by clergymen:

Turkey continues trade with Iran despite international sanctions:

“While the total number of mosques in America has climbed 74 percent over the past decade, to more than 2,100, Muslims for Progressive Values has a significant presence in only a dozen cities”:

Held without charge the woman will be “exiled to the Gaza Strip”:

News and Analysis (3/28/12)

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Though the federal government says [that the FBI spying and recruitment] … efforts are completely separate, civil rights lawyers and some Muslims have complained that the FBI uses one to accomplish the other”:

The Wall Street Journal refused to publish a letter from a Christian group blaming ” Israeli policy for driving away Christians after their “survey of Christians who live in the occupied Palestinian territories” showed emigration was driven by “the lack of security and stability they feel under Israeli rule” rather than fear of Muslims:

“Ghannouchi said the Islamist party would not “introduce ambiguous definitions into the constitution that risk dividing the people”, adding that “many Tunisians do not have a clear image of sharia and erroneous practices in certain countries have aroused fear”:

“The authors advocate that the Afghan government stop imprisoning women who run away from home to escape abusive situations. Putting woman in jail for this is not supported by the Afghan penal code or Islamic law, say HRW officials”:

The funerals of Muslim volunteers to an elite corps in the French army recently killed by a terrorist who may or may not have acted alone “revealed to France its own changing face, and have made Ms Le Pen’s comments look not just wrongheaded but out of touch”:

As her widower calls for the public to report any knowledge they may have of his wife’s murder to the police, expect no million hijabi march …

… instead, concerns are aired over the impact on the Muslim community should the case prove to be a matter of domestic violence rather than a hate crime, despite the fact that domestic violence is no more prevalent among Muslims than among other Americans:

Christians are significantly underrepresented and women are sorely underrepresented in the constitutional panel, but the walk-out by secularists, leftists, and so-called “liberals” because overwhelmingly Islamist parliament “named nearly 60 of their supporters to the committee” of 100 is a distinctly undemocratic complaint:

The appointment of a man “who lauded a controversial New York City police surveillance program that targeted Muslims and helped lead the opposition to an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero” has Muslims complaining of the appointee’s lack of credibility in the Muslim and civil liberties communities:

The Muslim “Brotherhood’s emergence has helped draw Sunni Palestinian group Hamas out of the orbit of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah” and opened the door for engagement with Turkey, where ” AK Party, with its Islamist roots, has delivered stellar economic growth that Arab states faced with sky-high popular aspirations are keen to emulate”:

News and Analysis (3/26/12)

Monday, March 26th, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood’s complaints about the military should not be over-interpreted; they are well aware that for the time being they will continue to rule only as long as the military allows them to do so:

Noting that today it has become common for young women to choose mates without parental consent even apart from issues of religious conflict, Justice Tariq Parvez wisely orders the girls caught in the cross-fire of pressure between the Hindu and Muslim communities to “have some time to think over their future in a free atmosphere”:

Reaffirming its status as a rogue state, Israel “has reportedly told its envoy in Geneva not to co-operate with the council or with UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay” and “will also prevent a UN team entering Israel to assess the effects of settlements on Palestinian rights”:

Turkey’s assistance to the Syrian opposition includes hosting a conference at which they try to resolve differences that threaten the movement against the Assad dictatorship:

“As we have undertaken together a joint study of Torah, Koran and the oral traditions of our two faiths, we have discovered profound commonalities between our beliefs. We have come to understand that just as we share a common faith — dating back to our common patriarch, Abraham/Ibrahim — we also share a common fate”:

The situation continues to fray in both Iraq and Afghanistan:

Memo to Ambassador Feltman: How do you think U.S. voters would react if the Taliban took sides in American elections as you take sides Lebanon’s? Engage brain before putting mouth in gear:

News and Analysis (3/25/12)

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Her husband came to the U.S. to help the army “U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East” and now she has been beaten to do death by someone who left a note telling her to go back to her own country:

He keeps no prayer rug in his office but ” the principal architect of the CIA’s drone campaign and the leader of the hunt for Osama bin Laden” calls himself a Muslim:

Muslim businesses are blooming in  the “Arab Spring,” but to be really free Egypt will have to rid itself of its militarized version of socialism:

“The Brotherhood leader … told a press conference in Istanbul that his group was committed to “a civil and democratic republican state with a parliamentary system, in which all the people are treated equal regardless of faith or ethnicity … [and] to a state that respects human rights, including ‘the freedom of belief, thought, and of expression’”:

The Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria’s enlightenment program, in collaboration with their Catholic counterpart, declares “Most of the killings affect both Christians and Muslims, an indication that it has nothing to do with religion” and that “those who refused to submit their children for vaccination did not have knowledge of Islam”:

Liberalization by the Olympic Committee and by two Muslim countries provides new opportunities for female Muslim athletes:

A nuclear free Middle East is the only sure alternative to Mutually Assured Destruction:

From Nusayba bint Ka’b Al-Ansariyah in 7th century Arabia to several heads of state in recent years, the Muslim world has a long and proud history of prominent women in public life:

Lebanon’s Muslims and Christians join to call for national coexistence and the Palestinians’ right of return:

 

News and Analysis (3/23/12)

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

The Muslim targets are the canaries in the coal mine; “in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies” …

… and it’s getting worse. “The U.S. intelligence community will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines”:

The man accused of the massacre Afghan civilians will be tried without autopsies or eye-witnesses and against a background suggesting a cover-up:

As blowback from U.S. Foreign policy continues, the Taliban are now operational in Paistan’s largest city, where ithey are”generating funds through bank robberies, protection rackets and kidnappings”:

is killed in a shoot-out, but under criticism for his security failure to realize the threat posed by a man with a long criminal record but no contacts to terrorists, Sarkozi’s perverse remedy is to jail anyone who visits a terrorist website:

A substantial number of women were numbered among the jurists of early Islam, while none were included in the founding of Pakistan’s constitution. If Egypt wants to avoid ending up with a constitution that engenders a legal system insensitive to women, they will include a substantial number of women in the panel that will write it:

“While the anti-Shariah movement may be losing momentum, it certainly hasn’t gone away”:

Al-Qaida’s murder of a beloved American teacher on the pretext he was proslytizing is symptomatic of local grievances that cold spark a regional crisis …

“Despite a UN statement yesterday calling for an end to the violence, which was backed even by Syria ally Russia, 82 people were killed yesterday in clashes around the country”:

News and Analysis (3/22/2012)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Some three-fourths of the Arab respondents to an opinion poll reportedly believe the Turkish political system would be “a right model” for the “new Arab states” to emulate. The “Saudi model” barely polled in the double digits, although it is still ahead of the U.S. model:
After a secularist quits the Syrian National Council, calling it “”a liberal front for the Muslim Brotherhood,” the U.N. Security Council, including Russia and China, threw its weight on Wednesday behind efforts by Kofi Annan to end the bloody conflict in Syria, providing a rare moment of global unity in the face of the year-long crisis:

“[N]ot religion …, but the sense of alienation and frustration that inevitably comes from being a second-generation immigrant” leads “[c]onfused and angry young men [to] attach themselves to something greater than themselves, especially a strong, confident inter-national identity historically opposed to the West from which they feel so rejected”:

“The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan left for war without paying a $1.5 million judgment for defrauding an elderly client in a stock scheme, and remains shielded from the obligation as long as he remains in the military, legal experts said”:
Egyptian Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said the group’s governing body has found none of the hundreds of declared candidates worthy of its support and is weighing the possibility of nominating a Brotherhood member to run in the election thus reneging on its pledge not to put forward a candidate from its ranks:
In fear of the spread of rebellious sentiments in Zimbabwe, the country’s court sentences activists watching Arab Spring videos to pay $500 and serve 420 hours of community service:

After Rep. Peter King calls on NJ Governor Christie to show “gratitude” to the NYPD for spying on his constituents, Christie asks, “If I ever sent New Jersey law enforcement over there and we didn’t share the information with the NYPD, can you imagine the screaming and yelling that would be going on from New York City about that?”

“Ali Vyacheslav Polosin, a former Orthodox priest and politician …was once at the forefront of a campaign to make Orthodox Christmas a public holiday in Russia. But 12 years ago he converted and today he runs a Muslim support centre in Moscow”:

News and Analysis (3/21/12)

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
The FBI arrested a Muslim merchant “the day before he was to participate in a press conference to detail what he charges are efforts to entrap him into some kind of terrorist-type activity and for introducing into his life a dangerous individual linked to fraud and murder”:

“There are three key sources of tension that all need to be addressed: government-funded training that casts Islam as encouraging violence, surveillance of individuals and communities without a criminal predicate and the use of informants to goad individuals into criminal activities”:

Palestinian Christians fed up with Israeli propaganda blaming  Muslims  for the plight Israel  has inflicted upon them:

Muslims and Christians pray together in Egypt in mourning of Coptic Pope Shenouda. “He was a man inviting peace and love and brotherhood.  We send our condolences to our brothers the Copts on the loss of Pope Shenouda”:

“The attacks on Tuesday struck Shiite pilgrims in the holy city of Karbala, set cars on fire near a police headquarters in Kirkuk and targeted security forces and government officials in Baghdad. In all, insurgents struck eight cities in just under six hours, killing 46 and wounding 200 people”:

The United Nations calls on Bahrain  to investigate reports of protesters and bystanders killed by security forces. The Bahrain regime continues to speak softly and carry a big stick:

Mrs, Clinton says that “Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Britain … made tough decisions to restrict oil sales [from Iran]. The European Union as a whole banned new purchases from Iran in January and is moving toward a complete ban by July 1”:

France submitted to the Security Council on Monday a Western-drafted statement supporting U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace efforts in Syria and sending a strong message to Damascus to end violence against protesters, European diplomats said. And Damascus receives some of its toughest criticism from Russia yet:

FBI Entrapment and Preemptive Prosecution: The Case of Khalifah Al-Akili

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

(Washington, DC, March 21, 2012) — At a press conference at the National Press Club yesterday called by the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF). NCPCF Executive Director, attorney Stephen F. Downs provided details about how, on the pretext of an old gun violation, the FBI abruptly arrested Kalifah Al-Akili the day before he was to participate in a press conference to detail what he charges are efforts to entrap him into some kind of terrorist-type activity and for introducing into his life a dangerous individual linked to fraud and murder.

Nadhira Al-Khalili, legal counsel for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) explained such incidents have had a chilling effect on the Muslim community, making them fearful of cooperating with law enforcement officials lest they end up targets of an investigation. Shahid Buttar, Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, noted that this case is not unique and that such tactics undermine the credibility of law enforcement agencies and keenly illustrate the need for accountability. The press conference moderator, NCPCF spokesperson Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad noted that there is an important distinction between a sting operation that seeks to trap someone who would engage in an illegal activity into showing his hand and the active recruitment of people into committing a serious criminal activity in which they have never previously engaged or have any intention of engaging.

After the press conference concluded, Attorney Downs delivered a letter from the coalition calling on Attorney-General Eric Holder to open an investigation into the alleged abuses and letters to eight members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives calling for Congressional hearings. These letters state, in part, “These ‘fake terrorism investigations’ create ‘crimes’ where none exist and divert resources from actual threats; improperly target innocent communities and discriminate against whole communities by raising the specter of ‘terrorism’ where no such plots exist, except those created by the FBI and agents provocateur the FBI rewards; and, put the civil liberties of all in jeopardy by turning every new ‘friend’ at church, or at the mosque, into a possible informant.”

Here follows the text of the briefing distributed at the press conference:

 

 

FBI Entrapment and Preemptive Prosecution:

The Case of Khalifah Al-Akili

(Washington D.C. – March 20, 2012) The National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) planned a press conference for Friday, March 16, in Washington, DC featuring Khalifah Al-Akili, a Pittsburgh man names who sought to sue the FBI for what he charges are efforts to entrap him into some kind of terrorist-type activity and for introducing into his life a dangerous individual who has been linked to fraud and murder. The press conference was not held because at 6 a.m. on the preceding day Al-Akili was arrested on weapons possession charge. As the suspiciously-timed arrest has prevented him from telling his own story, the details as he reported them to the NCPCF, and as they have been confirmed by his friends and publicly available records, are reported here.

Khalifah Al-Akili, 34, is an online merchant who converted to Islam about twenty years ago. Six years ago he started religious classes for Somali refugees in his home. He says he had received visits from open FBI agents as well as persons he suspects of being covert agents as far back as 2005. About six months ago, a man introduced himself to Al-Akili as “Shareef” in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. Subsequently, “Shareef” would insinuate himself into conversations after the dawn prayers among some of the worshippers at a local mosque and offered Al-Akili rides home and to the mosque. Al-Akili reports that, before long, he became suspicious of “Shareef” who with increasing frequency turned the conversation to fighting, and boasted that “he knew people that were ‘real’ and ‘had a lot of resources’ at [their] disposal,” all the while assuring Al-Akili that he could trust him if he shared similar views. Soon, “Shareef” tried to get Al-Akili to procure a gun for him, claiming that he needed it for personal protection. When Al-Akili, who, having served time on drug charges a decade ago cannot possess a firearm, refused, “Shareef” persisted, asking if there were anyone else he could get to obtain one for him.

Learning of Al-Akili’s  desire to open a “halal” restaurant (one serving food consistent with Islamic dietary laws), “Shareef” told Al-Akili that he could help with the financing, but only if Al-Akili would do something for him—which Al-Akili understood to mean some “act of violence against others.”  After this, Al-Akili tried to avoid Shareef, but he was living only two blocks away. When “Shareef” offered to introduce Al-Akili to a man he called his “brother,” Al-Akili tried to avoid the meeting, but as he was walking back to his apartment from the store one night, “Shareef” pulled his vehicle up to Al-Akili. A man got out of the passenger side, introduced himself  as “Mohammed,” and said that he wanted to talk to Al-Akili over coffee. Al-Akili made excuses, but when he got home the phone began to ring; it was “Shareef” and “Mohammed” downstairs, wanting to come in. Al-Akili pretended not to be at home.

The next morning, as Al-Akili and his friend Daoud Carter were walking back from the post office, “Mohammed” appeared from “out of nowhere,” again insisting over Al-Akili’s objections that they have coffee together. “Mohammed” said that he was from Pakistan near the Afghani border and began talking about his concept of “jihad.” Changing the subject, Al-Akili asked “Mohammed,” who professed to be an importer, if he had advice as to how he could take up a former teacher’s offer to send him a large number of religious books from South Africa. “Mohammed” offered to arrange and pay for delivery of the books in his company’s name and they exchanged numbers, but “Mohammed” did not call back. Failing to find the alleged import business on the Internet, Al-Akili instead discovered that the telephone number “Mohammed” had given him belonged to an FBI informant named Shahed Hussain. Hussain had been used by the FBI in a plot to implicate an Albany pizza parlor owner and an Albany imam in an imaginary plot to kill the Pakistani ambassador in New York with a surface-to-air-missile.

Al-Akili’s concern turned to fear for himself and his family when he learned that prior to working for the FBI, Hussain had been arrested on charges of murder in Pakistan and convicted of  fraud in the U.S. Hussain had been profiled in Mother Jones magazine for his role as informant in the Newburgh Four case, in which US District Judge Colleen McMahon said the FBI “created acts of terrorism out of [a defendant’s] fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true.” Carter, who would have appeared with Al-Akili at the press conference, confirms that Internet photos of Hussain reveal him to be the man who called himself “Mohammed.”

Al-Akili had hoped legal action against the FBI for what he calls “their continuous harassment and attempts to set” him up might protect others from tactics that critics consider to be illegal entrapment. As precedent for such a case, the NCPCF points to a case in which the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California got a restraining order against FBI informant Craig Monteilh. Later the ACLU filed a lawsuit on the mosque’s behalf and the judge granted sanctions against the government for lying to the court about its activities, and Monteilh also sued the FBI. The NCPCF is calling on the FBI to stop such dangerous practices that do not enhance our national security but rather provoke greater divisions within our society, disgrace our image in the world and erode the rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.

 

List of Additional Background Articles

Trevor Aaronson, “The Making of an FBI Superinformant,” Mother Jones (Sept.-Oct. 2011)

Petra Bartosiewicz, “To Catch a Terrorist: The FBI hunts for the enemy within,” Harpers (August 2011) 37-44.

Paul Harris, “Newburgh Four: poor, black, and jailed under FBI ‘entrapment’ tactics,” The Guardian (Dec. 12, 2011)

Paul Harris, “Fort Dix Five: ‘They don’t want our side, our view, our words’,” The Guardian (Feb. 13, 2012)

Brendon J. Lyons, “Informant for FBI is freed,” Albany Times Union (October 28, 2006)

Brendon J. Lyons, “FBI informant in upstate stings, including Albany, surfaces in Pittsburgh case,” Albany Times-Union (March 17, 2012)

Brendon J. Lyons, “Google Search Tips Off Target of FBI Probe,” Albany Times Union (March 18, 2012)

News and Analysis (3/17/12)

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings of government buildings in Damascus that have killed 27, but the escalating instability is having global consequences from “rekindling US-Russia rivalry in the Middle East” to “jeopardizing the Iran-led ‘axis of resistance’ to Western interests in the region”:

The parliament has given itself half of the seats on the panel that will write the new constitution and will appoint the other half from outsiders “likely to be legal experts, academics and Muslim and Christian scholars”:

“For the first time in the history of the cathedral, it is packed with all types of Islamist leaders in Egypt…. “They all agree … on the stability of this country and in loving it, and working for it and to work with the Copts as one hand for the sake of Egypt” — Coptic Pope Shenouda III at his last Christmas service:

The disasters in Afghanistan continue …

… and although “very few believe Karzai when he says it’s time for the US to go, this may be the last straw for Afghanistan. The world has seen this type of thing before”:

The confusion in Moroccan law between rape (a crime of aggression under Islamic law) with consensual pre-marital sex (which can be resolved by the marriage of the consenting adults) leads to a tragic death:

A photographic exhibit shows why “Albania is the only European country that had a post-war Jewish population greater than its pre-war population” with stories and photographs depicting Albanians who sheltered and hid Jews, in accordance with the Muslim teachings of Besa, or moral code of honor” to keep one’s word and be someone to whom others can entrust their lives and the lives of their families:

“[T]he announcement appears to have taken everyone by surprise, including the US”:

In announcing his support for Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh’s candidacy in he upcoming presidential election, “Hassan Gouda, a key figure in the Muslim Brotherhood,” has flagrantly defied the Muslim Brotherhood’s pledge to expel “anyone who supported Aboul-Fotouh,” himself expelled for running: