Archive for category Islamic state

If Europe is to overcome Islamist terror, it needs to fight for the values it holds dear

Paul Mason
The Guardian
11 January 2015

For many on the left, tolerance comes easily. But economic disarray has sapped the will to defend our principles of rationalism and individual liberty

There’s a map of Europe that was supposed to tell the main story. It shows the wealth created in every region in the European Union, colour coded: yellow for poor, green for average and purple for the rich areas that produce up to 125% more per head than the average.

The result looks as if somebody took a broad purple paintbrush, starting near Florence, and swiped upwards through the Alps, western Germany and the Netherlands, running out of paint a little around Denmark, but then colouring in most of Scandinavia.

The lifestyle in these rich regions is the outcome Europe aspired to when it adopted first the single market and then the euro. When the euro project was still working, it was assumed that around this highly developed central bloc of wealthy regions, crossing national borders, there might develop the paradigms of a transnational European culture. Think the high-spec family car, the regional opera house and the skiing holiday. It was, after all, along this geographic corridor connecting Florence with Flémalle that the Renaissance happened.

The eurozone crisis put an end to this conceit. But the current wave of revulsion against Islamist terrorism challenges us to ask, urgently, what the common European culture actually is. Austerity has drawn a horizontal line through the map of Europe, across which solidarity has not readily flowed. German unemployment this week hit an all-time low of 6.5%, while youth unemployment in Italy – even in the “purple zone” – stands at 43%. So if the Charlie Hebdo atrocity was aimed at sparking a culture war in Europe, it could not have been better timed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysians taking loans to join Isis, reports paper

The Malaysian Insider
11 January 2015

Some Malaysians have gone to the extent of taking personal loans from banks and moneylenders in order to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) in the Middle East.

The South China Morning Post quoted Malaysian counter-terrorism officials as saying the loans were taken to fund passage and living expenses in Syria and Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »

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Blasphemy and the law of fanatics

Fareed Zakaria
Washington Post
January 8 2015

As they went on their rampage, the men who killed 12 people in Paris this week yelled that they had “avenged the prophet.” They follow in the path of other terrorists who have bombed newspaper offices, stabbed a filmmaker and killed writers and translators, all to mete out what they believe is the proper Koranic punishment for blasphemy. But in fact, the Koran prescribes no punishment for blasphemy. Like so many of the most fanatical and violent aspects of Islamic terrorism today, the idea that Islam requires that insults against the prophet Muhammad be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda.

One holy book is deeply concerned with blasphemy: the Bible. In the Old Testament, blasphemy and blasphemers are condemned and prescribed harsh punishment. The best-known passage on this is Leviticus 24:16 : “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.”

By contrast, the word blasphemy appears nowhere in the Koran. (Nor, incidentally, does the Koran anywhere forbid creating images of Muhammad, though there are commentaries and traditions — “hadith” — that do, to guard against idol worship.) Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has pointed out that “there are more than 200 verses in the Koran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called ‘blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet’ . . . but nowhere does the Koran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.” On several occasions, Muhammad treated people who ridiculed him and his teachings with understanding and kindness. “In Islam,” Khan says, “blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Raising Questions Within Islam After France Shooting

by David D. Kirkpatrick
New York Times
Jan 8, 2015

CAIRO — Islamist extremists behead Western journalists in Syria, massacre thousands of Iraqis, murder 132 Pakistani schoolchildren, kill a Canadian soldier and take hostage cafe patrons in Australia. Now, two gunmen have massacred a dozen people in the office of a Paris newspaper.

The rash of horrific attacks in the name of Islam is spurring an anguished debate among Muslims here in the heart of the Islamic world about why their religion appears cited so often as a cause for violence and bloodshed.

The majority of scholars and the faithful say Islam is no more inherently violent than other religions. But some Muslims — most notably the president of Egypt — argue that the contemporary understanding of their religion is infected with justifications for violence, requiring the government and its official clerics to correct the teaching of Islam.

“It is unbelievable that the thought we hold holy pushes the Muslim community to be a source of worry, fear, danger, murder and destruction to all the world,” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt lamented last week in a speech to the clerics of the official religious establishment. “You need to stand sternly,” he told them, calling for no less than “a religious revolution.”

Others, though, insist that the sources of the violence are alienation and resentment, not theology. They argue that the authoritarian rulers of Arab states — who have tried for decades to control Muslim teaching and the application of Islamic law — have set off a violent backlash expressed in religious ideas and language. Promoted by groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, that discourse echoes through Muslim communities as far away as New York or Paris, whose influence and culture still loom over much of the Muslim world.

“Some people who feel crushed or ignored will go toward extremism, and they use religion because that is what they have at hand,” said Said Ferjani, an official of Tunisia’s mainstream Islamist party, Ennahda, speaking about the broader phenomenon of violence in the name of Islam. “If you are attacked and you have a fork in your hand, you will fight back with a fork.” Read the rest of this entry »

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After the Charlie Hebdo attack, we must resist the clash-of-civilisations narrative

Homa Khaleeli
Guardian
7 January 2015

Terrorism feeds on society’s fears – and the relentless questioning of Muslims’ loyalty plays into its hands

It’s hard to admit to a reaction other than sadness to the murder of 12 people, especially when it takes place in a city that feels so close by. The images of sprawling bodies and masked assailants on familiar-looking streets gives the tragedy an extra edge of horror.

Yet in the moments after the news broke about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, I found it impossible to ignore a sinking feeling: the recognition that we were being pulled further into a cycle of distrust and division.

It grew as I read through the responses online. The straightforward reaction from far-right extremists was the hashtag #killallmuslims, which would have been easy to ignore as empty words if it hadn’t reminded me of the firebombing of mosques after the Lee Rigby murder. Read the rest of this entry »

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Charlie Hebdo: We cannot let the Paris murderers define Islam

Ed Husain
Guardian
January 7, 2015

Today’s fanatics are blind to the compassion and care in the prophet’s life. Their ignorance must be tackled head on

The killing of journalists in Paris on Wednesday was not only an attack on France but also an assault on Islam and the very freedoms that allow 30 million Muslims to prosper in the west.

Free speech is not a western concept: it is a universal craving of the human soul. The gunmen ran away shouting that they were “avenging the prophet Muhammad”. How dare they? We cannot let the murderers define Islam.

In seventh-century Mecca, it was the prophet Muhammad who fought for free speech to proclaim one God as the creator of life and worthy of worship. The city’s pagans were his violent persecutors.

Today Muslims live freely in every European country because of the very freedoms that the terrorists struck at. Without the freedom to blaspheme and believe, Muslims would be seen as heretics and would be unable to flourish as faith communities in the west. The pogroms and wars of religion in Europe’s history bear testament to European life without freedom. Read the rest of this entry »

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Charlie Hebdo: The ‘them and us’ narrative is a dangerous downward spiral

Nesrine Malik
Guardian
January 8, 2015

It may suit cynical politicians to push the ‘clash of civilisations’ line, but such polarised thinking is simplistic and can be deadly

It has already started – the talk of a clash of civilisations. After the horrific Paris attack in which 12 people were killed, there is a palpable sense of a Europe on the edge, teetering between righteous anger and tense restraint. Many of the subsequent reactions have fallen along the predictable lines of reasserting the difference between “us” and “them”.

But the Paris attack was not yet another front in the “clash of civilisations”. The term civilisation in itself is meaningless in this context. What civilisation do the terrorists represent? It is understandable that, on the face of it, the attack highlights the perpetrators’ and the victims’ starkly opposed values, one barbaric and silencing, and the other enlightened and freedom loving.

But this is a false dichotomy. It omits a far more uncomfortable and complicated truth about racial tension in France, immigration, and how Muslims are settling in an increasingly secular Europe where the resurgence of rightwing parties has further racialised religion. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Guardian view on Charlie Hebdo: those guns were trained on free speech

Editorial
The Guardian
7 January 2015

Jihadi Kalashnikovs murdered journalists in Paris, but their aim was at stifling liberty of expression everywhere. The condemnation must be unequivocal

Events in Paris today were beyond belief, indeed beyond words. The adjectives are simply not there to capture the horror unleashed by weapons of war in a civilian office. But the murder of at least a dozen French citizens, including 10 journalists on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was beyond belief in another sense too.

Whatever faith-based or other objections there may once have been to the publication’s provocative editorial judgments are now entirely beside the point. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” runs the famous formulation. When men and women have gone to their deaths for nothing more than what they have said, or drawn, there is only one side to be on. The hooded thugs trained their Kalashnikovs on free speech everywhere. If they are allowed to force a loss of nerve, conversation will become inhibited, and liberty of thought itself will falter too. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reforming Islam – Where change comes from

Erasmus
Economist
Jan 7th 2015

WHEN news came of today’s appalling terrorist attack in Paris, I was in the middle of drafting an Erasmus post with some thoughts on the question: can we expect Islam to undergo its own version of the Reformation, or to produce its own Martin Luther? The subject is addressed, in quite an intelligent way, in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, an American journal, and it is a topical one because various modern figures, from the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen to Egypt’s military ruler Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have been described, however improbably, as Muslim answers to Martin Luther.

Today’s ghastly events in France make the question even more pressing, because some people will undoubtedly say: this is proof, if proof were needed, that Islam is incorrigibly and by its very nature violent, intolerant and incapable of accepting the liberal ideal of free speech. And if that view gains traction, many Muslims will in turn conclude that in the face of such unremitting hostility, there is no point in even trying to explain their faith to others or seeking accommodation with their neighbours. So the stakes are very high. Read the rest of this entry »

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Liberty and laughter will live on

Simon Schama
Financial Times
January 7, 2015

It was a bloody attempt to wipe away a smile. But they will never kill satire, writes Simon Schama

The murder of satire is no laughing matter. The horrifying carnage at Charlie Hebdo is a reminder, if ever we needed it, that irreverence is the lifeblood of freedom. I suppose it is some sort of backhanded compliment that the monsters behind the slaughter are so fearful of the lance of mirth that the only voice they have to muffle it is the sound of bullets. Magazines such as Charlie Hebdo are in the business of taking liberties, even outrageous ones, but they exist so that we never take the gift of disrespect for granted.

Liberty and laughter have been twinned in the European tradition for more than three centuries and have together proclaimed as precious the right to ridicule. Graphic satire first arose as a weapon in the atrocious and prolonged religious wars that divided Catholics and Protestants. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paris Attack Underscores a Deeper Malaise

Geopolitical Diary
Stratfor Global Intelligence
January 8, 2015

Wednesday’s deadly attack against a French satirical publication has the potential to upset relations between European states and their Muslim citizenries. The strategic intent behind such attacks is precisely to sow this kind of crisis, as well as to influence French policy and recruit more jihadists. Even though Islamist extremism is, at its core, an intra-Muslim conflict, such incidents will draw in non-Muslims, exacerbating matters.

Three suspected Islamist militants attacked the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with high-powered assault rifles, killing 12 people. Among the dead are the editor and cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier, who was on a hit list appearing in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine for “insulting the Prophet Mohammed.” Eyewitness said they heard the attackers shouting, “We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed,” and chanting, “God is Great” in Arabic. This is the third such attack in a Western country in less than three months. The Paris incident involves perpetrators who displayed sophisticated small arms and small unit training.

Whether or not these attacks are the handiwork of self-motivated grassroots jihadists and cells or of individuals tied to international jihadist entities, such incidents aggravate tense relations between the Western and Muslim worlds. This is all the more significant in Europe, where states are experiencing the rise of right-wing nationalism and Muslim communities have long experienced disaffection. The jihadist objective is to get the states to crack down harder on Muslim communities in order to further their narrative that the West is waging war on Islam and Muslims. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pentagon: We’re gaining on ISIS

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
January 7, 2015

Pentagon: ISIS momentum stalled but threat remains

Washington (CNN)—It’s not yet “mission accomplished,” but the Pentagon may be edging closer to its goal of stopping ISIS.

“We very much see ISIL largely in a defensive posture inside Iraq, that whatever momentum they had been enjoying has been halted, has been blunted. That has stayed steady over the last couple of weeks,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Briefing reporters on Tuesday, Kirby said the change is occurring mainly in Iraq for now.

“We know we have destroyed hundreds and hundreds of vehicles, artillery positions, checkpoints. We know that we have killed hundreds of their forces,” he said, though he could not say specifically how many had been killed. “We don’t have the ability to count every nose that we schwack.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Police storm Sydney cafe to end hostage siege, three dead

By Lincoln Feast and Colin Packham
Reuters
Dec 16, 2014

SYDNEY – Heavily armed Australian police stormed a Sydney cafe on Tuesday and freed a number of hostages being held there at gunpoint, in a dramatic end to a 16-hour siege in which three people were killed and four wounded.

New South Wales police said two men, aged 34 and 50, and a 38-year-old woman died. The attacker was among the fatalities.

Heavy gunfire and blasts from stun grenades filled the air shortly after 2 a.m. local time (1500 GMT on Monday).

Moments earlier at least six people believed to have been held captive managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from the cafe, and police later confirmed that they made their move in response.

So far 17 hostages have been accounted for.

Medics tried to resuscitate at least one person after the raid and took away several wounded people on stretchers, said a Reuters witness at the scene in downtown Sydney. Bomb squad members moved in to search for explosives, but none were found.

The operation began shortly after a police source named the gunman as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh facing multiple charges of sexual assault as well as being an accessory to murder. Read the rest of this entry »

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Inside the battle for Ask.fm, the site where Islamic State recruited three American teens

By Caitlin Dewey
Washington Post
December 12, 2014

When three teenage girls from Denver left their homes for an Islamic State camp in Syria two months ago, their parents — and the FBI — were quick to search social media for clues to their escape. And in the weeks since the girls were intercepted in Frankfurt and returned home, it’s become pretty clear that they were indeed radicalized and recruited online.

But while accounts of similar Western recruits have fingered major social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, or popular messaging platforms like Kik, a report out from NPR claims another social network, Ask.fm, was actually the major force at play.

Which means Ask.fm — late of several recent cyberbullying and teen suicide scandals — may now officially qualify as the worst-reputed social network on earth. But don’t tell that to the site’s new owner, the blue-chip Internet company IAC: Ask.fm’s new owners are confident they can save the site, trolls and terrorists be damned.

“I absolutely believe rehabilitation is possible if you do the right thing,” said Doug Leeds, the site’s CEO. “There is that perception that [Ask.fm] is a parent’s worst nightmare … but safety is our first priority.”

Unfortunately for Leeds, that reputation has dogged Ask.fm since its beginning. The anonymous question-and-answer site — both a pioneer and an early warning, in the anonymous networking space — was founded in Latvia in 2010, and quickly grew to more than 100 million users in 150 countries. Its premise, both simple and mind-numbingly self-involved, is perfect for the teenage set: Essentially, when you log into Ask.fm, you’re greeted by a series of personal questions other users have left for you, with no indication of who wrote them or how they know you in real life.

You, in turn, get to pontificate to the anonymous masses on topics like “what do you do to fall asleep?” and “what’s the most delicious fruit?” — as well as, naturally, ask anonymous questions, yourself. Read the rest of this entry »

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India-based Twitter account hailing Islamic State jihadists shut down

Chris Johnston
The Guardian
11 December 2014

Owner of the ShamiWitness account, with almost 18,000 followers, was an executive at a company in Bangalore

A Twitter account followed by supporters of Islamic State (Isis) has been shut down after a reporter exposed the Indian man who had sent thousands of tweets about the jihadist group.

Channel 4 News revealed on Thursday night that the owner of the ShamiWitness account was an executive at a company in Bangalore called Medhi. It did not reveal his full name because he said his life would be in danger if he was identified.

However, after being tracked down he agreed to shut down the account, which hailed foreign Isis fighters who were killed as martyrs.

ShamiWitness had almost 18,000 followers and the tweets were seen an estimated 2 million times a month. They were mostly sent from his smartphone.

Mehdi said he would have joined Isis, but that he could not leave his family: “If I had a chance to leave everything and join them I might have … my family needs me here.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Germany jails Islamic State jihadist Kreshnik Berisha

BBC News
5 December 2014

A German man has been jailed for three years and nine months for joining Islamic State (IS) militants, in the first trial of its kind in Germany.

A court in Frankfurt convicted Kreshnik Berisha of membership of a foreign terrorist organisation.

Berisha avoided the heaviest sentence of 10 years after admitting he spent six months with IS in Syria last year.

German authorities believe more than 500 German citizens have travelled to fight for IS in Iraq and Syria.

The domestic intelligence agency estimates that 60 have died there in combat or suicide attacks, and 180 have returned to Germany, according to the AFP news agency. Read the rest of this entry »

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ISIS in Gaza

by Khaled Abu Toameh
Gatestone Institute
December 5, 2014

When One Radical Group Believes Another Is Not Radical Enough

It is always dreamlike to see one Islamist terror group accuse the other of being too “lenient” when it comes to enforcing sharia laws. But it is not dreamlike when a terrorist group starts threatening writers and women.

That is what is happening these days in the Gaza Strip, where supporters of the Islamic State are accusing Hamas of failing to impose strict Islamic laws on the Palestinian population — as if Hamas has thus far endorsed a liberal and open-minded approach toward those who violate sharia laws.

Until this week, the only topic Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were talking about was how to rebuild homes and buildings that were destroyed during the last war between Hamas and Israel.

Now, however, almost everyone is talking about the Islamic State threats against poets, writers and women. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kurds Defend Kobani From Islamic State

Huffington Post/AP
12/04/2014

KOBANI, Syria (AP) — The men and women of Kobani call one another “heval” — Kurdish for ‘comrade’ — and fight with revolutionary conviction, vowing to liberate what they regard as Kurdish land from Islamic State group militants.

Amid the wasteland and destroyed buildings, a sense of camaraderie has developed among the town’s defenders who have for more than two months doggedly fought off the advances by the extremists.

Often, members of the same family can be found on the front lines.

Nineteen-year-old Shida’s father was a fighter before her. After he was killed, she gave up hopes of becoming an artist and decided she must follow in his footsteps to honor his example. She says her mother supports her decision. One of her six brothers is also fighting, the rest of her siblings are living in Turkey. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islamic State crisis: UK gives £20m to keep Lebanon safe

By Paul Wood
BBC
1 December 2014

The Lebanese army’s Brig Gen Ali Mourad got a WhatsApp message from the Islamic State (IS). It was short and to the point. “We are the heroes of Qalamoun,” it said, referring to the mountains on Syria’s border with Lebanon, “and we’re going to kill you.”

Gen Mourad has a robust attitude to this threat.

“We want them to come, these terrorists,” he told me, at one of the heavily fortified positions paid for by the British government.

“We are waiting for them [here].

“When we see them, we shoot them, all the time.”

We were at Tango Ten, the 10th of 12 new posts built so far with UK money and expertise along Lebanon’s border with Syria. It looked down over a dusty plain to the snow-covered mountain that is controlled by various jihadist groups and used by them as a base to launch attacks.

The Lebanese soldiers at Tango Ten say they come under fire almost every night. They used to crouch behind a few tyres filled with concrete, “eyes like saucers, gripping the 50-cal [heavy machine gun,” said one of the former British army officers advising the Lebanese. Now they have proper defences, and morale is good.

Tango Ten had shades of Northern Ireland in the guard tower and Afghanistan in the Hesco barriers – which are earth-filled defensive walls. There was even a fleet of Land Rovers parked inside.

The UK has spent some £20m to stop the jihadists from invading Lebanon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Iran Bombing Islamic State In Iraq, U.S. Official Confirms

Akbar Shahid Ahmed
Huffington Post
12/01/2014

WASHINGTON — The list of countries bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq has thus far featured a host of classic United States partners — Canada, the U.K., France. Now, it looks like the U.S. has a new quasi-partner in the air: Iran.

The U.S. is aware of Iranian bombing activity in the same national airspace where planes aligned with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State are operating, a defense official told The Huffington Post Monday evening.

The official said he believes the Iranian bombing is unlikely to end as long as the Shiite-dominated nation feels threatened by the Sunni extremist group, also called ISIS. The bombing will not require a U.S. response unless Iran presents an immediate threat to U.S. forces in the air, he said.

“We are aware of that. I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily concerned with it — we kind of have our eyes on it,” the official said. He noted that the Iranian bombing has been taking place near the Iranian border, in a different part of Iraq than most U.S. and coalition activity. The official said he could only confirm reports of the bombing on the condition of anonymity. Read the rest of this entry »

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