Archive for category Islamic state

Inside the Islamic State ‘capital’: no end in sight to its grim rule

Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi
Observer
21 February 2015

US air strikes have damaged morale in Raqqa, Syria, but a local anti-Isis activist says no one is expecting the group to be driven out

When Isis took over Raqqa, a wave of black swept over the city. The group’s dark flags were raised where its members lived or worked, women were required to shroud themselves in black, and black paint was daubed on buildings and in public spaces.

When US air strikes started, though, activists warned families not to dry dark clothes outside or on their roofs, in case they were mistaken for Isis flags. Perhaps Isis was worried, too, as it has started repainting everything. One central square, where crucifixion and other gruesome punishments are carried out in public, has been decked out in candy colours – pink, green and white. Another is golden.

Apparently, the pressures of publicity and the mundane and expensive business of ruling a city have pushed even Isis to make some compromises.

Last summer, crimes like smoking or failing to shutter a shop during prayer time would have earned transgressors several dozen lashes, but some religious police have started to accept fines in place of punishment from those who can afford it. There are even reports that they have been forcing traders to stay open through prayers, so that they can collect more money from them – around 1,500 Syrian pounds (around £5) each time.

It is not just money that they are short of. They lack blood for fighters injured in air strikes or on the frontline. People don’t want to donate, so they compel them. Anyone with business at the Islamic court is told first to go to a certain hospital, donate a pint of blood, then return with the receipt. Only then will the case be processed.

You can’t pay your way out of that donation, even if you do have money, which not everyone does. They have shut down many companies, including legal firms, for instance. Isis doesn’t believe in the old legal system, claiming that it tries to replace Allah’s law with the law of men. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Islamic State is expanding its empire of terror

Emma Graham-Harrison
Observer
21 February 2015

Unlike the slow and careful rise of al-Qaida, Isis is extending its global reach far and fast – sometimes to groups with very different beliefs

Marched on to a Libyan beach in now gruesomely familiar orange jumpsuits, the last moments of 21 Coptic Christians carried the vicious jolt of previous Isis snuff videos, but with an added charge of fear.

The setting, in Libya, suggested that the group was spreading further and faster than even their dramatic early advances seem possible, and it came after vows of allegiance to Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by militants from Afghanistan to Yemen.

“With affiliates in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the group is beginning to assemble a growing international footprint,” Marine Corps Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, warned the US House of Representatives this month.

The beheading of a tourist in Algeria, a meticulously videoed attack on an Egyptian army base, including the casual murder of surviving soldiers, a suicide bombing in Tripoli’s smartest hotel – all were recently masterminded by militants publicly loyal to a group whose name once defined its geography: “Islamic state in Iraq and Syria”.

Affiliates are adopting their slick media production along with bloody tactics, amplifying the influence of the violence. The murder of the Egyptian Christians has already drawn bombing raids on Libya by Egyptian jets, which may suit some Isis commanders keen to draw enemies into an expensive and draining war.

There are echoes of al-Qaida’s global expansion, even as its leader shrank into hiding, through loyal but virtually autonomous units in Yemen, north and east Africa, and other areas. But al-Qaida expanded slowly and carefully, vetting would-be allies that wanted to use its terrifying brand in their own battles.

Isis by contrast has already welcomed several would-be supporters under what seems to be a looser umbrella, among them Afghan fighters whom analysts say have significant theological differences with the group. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jordan Executes Prisoners After ISIS Video of Pilot’s Death

By ROD NORDLAND and RANYA KADRI
New York Times
Feb. 3, 2015

AMMAN, Jordan — When relatives learned Tuesday night that the Islamic State had released a video showing the death of a Jordanian fighter pilot, First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, they tried to keep it from his mother, Issaf, and his wife, Anwar. They switched off the television and tried to wrest a smartphone out of his wife’s hand, but she had already seen a mobile news bulletin.

Anwar ran crying into the street, calling her husband’s name and saying, “Please, God, let it not be true.” Issaf fell to the floor screaming, pulled her head scarf off and started tearing at her hair.

That was even before they knew how he had been killed. No one dared let them know right away that Lieutenant Kasasbeh’s tormentors had apparently burned him alive inside a cage, a killing that was soon described as the most brutal in the group’s bloody history.

Jordan responded rapidly, executing Sajida al-Rishawi, who was convicted after attempting a suicide bombing, and Ziad al-Karbouli, a top lieutenant of Al Qaeda in Iraq, before dawn on Wednesday, according to the official news agency Petra. Read the rest of this entry »

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Four views on Islam and the state

Can Islam support a secular, democratic government?
Christian Science Monitor
August 30, 2007

I need a secular state

By Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im

ALTANTA – To be a Muslim by conviction and free choice – which is the only way one can be a Muslim – I need to live in a secular state. By a secular state, I mean one that is neutral regarding religious doctrine to facilitate genuine piety. The state should not enforce sharia (the religious law of Islam) because compliance should never be coerced by fear or faked to appease state officials. When observed voluntarily, sharia-based values can help shape laws and public policy through the democratic process. But if sharia principles are enacted as state law, the outcome will simply be the political will of the state.
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Many Muslims equate secularism with antireligious attitudes. Yet I believe that a secular state can promote genuine religious experience among believers and affirm the role of Islam in public life.

The so-called Islamic state is conceptually incoherent and historically unprecedented. There simply is no scriptural basis for an “Islamic state” to enforce sharia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islamic State shows burning of hostage, Jordan vows ‘earth-shaking’ response

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
Reuters
Feb 3, 2015

AMMAN (Reuters) – Islamic State militants released a video on Tuesday appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burnt alive, and Jordan vowed to avenge his death with an “earth-shaking” response.

A Jordanian official said the authorities would execute several militants jailed in Jordan in response, including a Iraqi woman who Amman had sought to swap for the pilot taken captive after his plane crashed in Syria in December.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the content of the video, which showed a man resembling airman Mouath al-Kasaesbeh standing in a black cage before being set ablaze. But the reaction of the Jordanian authorities made clear they treated it as genuine. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Secularism Is Compatible with the Quran and Sunnah — And an ‘Islamic State’ Is Not

Akbar Ganji
Dissident Iranian journalist; Intl. Press Association World Press Freedom Hero
World Post
01/27/2015

Introduction

Extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the al-Nusra Front in Syria, have transformed the holy Quran into a manifesto for war, terrorism and bloodshed. These groups use the most modern weaponry and technology, and their crimes have created worldwide concerns. Their goal is to return the Islamic world to the medieval age.

At the same time, the corrupt dictatorial Arab regimes in the Middle East, particularly the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, have transformed the democratic Arab Spring into a sectarian war between the Shiites and Sunnis, in order to prevent democracy from taking roots in their own nations.

Simultaneous with such developments, a Western-made “industry” called Islamophobia not only presents the Holy Quran as the manifesto of fundamentalist warmongers (that claim to represent Islam) and their rigid interpretation of its teachings, it also reduces Islam to its skewed “interpretations.” This reductionist approach has been popular among the Orientalists. The approach also claims that formation of an Islamic government is a necessary condition for a society to be Islamic.

As I will argue in this essay, these claims are false.

Islam and secularism are completely compatible. What I call “secular Islam” is thus the best antidote for Islamic terrorism. “Secular Islam” means that the collection of beliefs, moral values and teachings which comprise Islam do not confer on Muslims a mission to form a government or state. The idea of establishing an Islamic state based on the Quran and the Sunnah is incorrect, as neither presents a model for such a state. Read the rest of this entry »

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Muhyiddin’s faux pas claiming that extremism had never existed among Muslims in Malaysia is of the same class as Najib’s first praise and glorification of Islamic State terrorism

The Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin’s faux pas claiming that extremism had never existed among Muslims in Malaysia is of the same class as the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s faux pas giving praise and glorification of Islamic State terrorism last June.

Muhyiddin’s latest faux pas join’s the DPM’s host of infamous “quotes” like “I am Malay first, Malaysian second” and “Malaysian youngsters are receiving better education than children in the United States, Britain and Germany”.

If there are no extremists among Muslims in Malaysia, how come the Bukit Aman Special Counter Terrorism Division had arrested 51 persons suspected of being Malaysian militants.

Furthermore, why have the number of Muslim Malaysians fighting for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq gone up from 39 to 59 since October? Read the rest of this entry »

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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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