Jihadist Tactics 101 – Going on the Dole

imamby Patrick Dunleavy
IPT News
October 17, 2016

Milking the system for all they can get now appears to be a strategy employed by radical Islamic extremists. While counter terrorism investigators were busy searching for the funding terrorist organizations used to plan attacks and get out their message of violence against all non-believers, there is one place nobody thought to look: the social welfare line.

We now know that some of the individuals involved in the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels were supported by benefits supplied by Europe’s social welfare net.

Some of the money came from unemployment claims and some came from student assistance claims submitted by the terrorists while they were planning the attacks.

“We’ve identified that the benefit system is vulnerable to abuse for terrorist financing purposes,” Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London said. And then he posed the question, “What are we going to do about that?”

One of those who received benefits was Anjem Choudary, the radical Islamic preacher who for more than 20 years proselytized and recruited people to a radical form of Islam that encourages jihad as a necessary tenet of the faith. He did it on street corners, mosques, and in front of television cameras.

Choudary received more than £25,000, or roughly $40,000 a year, in social benefits.  He had the audacity to call those payments “Jihad Seeker’s Allowance.”  He described it to his flock of potential jihadists as a form of jizya.

According to the Quran and the Hadiths, the jizya is a per capita yearly tax historically levied by Islamic states on certain non-Muslim subjects permanently residing in Muslim lands under Islamic law. Choudary taught that milking the social welfare system was another form of collecting the payment that was owed to Muslims.

Sly like a fox, he avoided prosecution for years because no direct contact between him and a terrorist organization could be proven. But then British authorities uncovered a video of Choudary pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. He was convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization and was sentenced to a mere 5½ years in a specialized maximum security unit.

A similar case is taking place right here in the United States. Suleiman Anwar Bengharsa has been an Islamic cleric in the Baltimore area for more than 10 years. During that time he has drawn FBI attention for his fiery sermons, which, like Choudary’s, walk right up to the legal line of incitement. But it has yet to be proven that he crossed it.

1871Bengharsa founded the Islamic Jurisprudence Center, which calls for the death of homosexuals. He has also been implicated in the case of Sebastian Gregerson, a Muslim convert who was arrested in July for possessing explosive devices. According to the New York Times, an FBI affidavit from last year that was mistakenly filed publicly said that Bengharsa gave Gregerson $1,300 in June 2015. Gregerson, who also goes by the name Abdurrahaman Bin Mikaayl, then used the money to buy grenades and other weapons.

The reason for them, according to the agent who wrote the affidavit was clear: “Based on the totality of the aforementioned information and evidence, there is reason to believe that Bengharsa and Gregerson are engaged in discussions and preparations for some violent act on behalf of the Islamic State.”

And yet Bengharsa, like Choudary did for so many years, has avoided being charged with any crime.

Bengharsa is a former civil servant employed by both the federal government and the state of Maryland. He worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce as an international trade specialist, a position that paid over $80,000 a year.

Bengharsa resigned in 2006 after admitting to plagiarism, records show. He filed for unemployment compensation, which was contested by the Department of Commerce and upheld by a D.C. administrative judge. From there Bengharsa applied to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to be a prison chaplain. He worked in the state prison system until 2009 when he filed for worker’s compensation, alleging he was hurt lifting a box of books.

The more alarming fact is that someone like Bengharsa, who holds radical Islamic views and preaches a message of hate, was even considered to work in the prison environment.

Authorities have known for quite some time that prisons are fertile soil for recruiting potential Islamic terrorists, and that one of the catalysts in the radicalization process is the presence of clergy or religious volunteers holding extremist views. Bengharsa’s dismissal from that sensitive position should have occurred before he was able to apply for a financial benefit from Maryland taxpayers. The social safety net was designed to help those in our society who truly need a hand up. Not a radial Islamist who wants a handout.

IPT Senior Fellow Patrick Dunleavy is the former Deputy Inspector General for New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil of Jihad. He currently teaches a class on terrorism for the United States Military Special Operations School

Soros Money, Muslim Advocates Leader, Helped Weaken Homeland Security Policies

osfby John Rossomando
IPT News
October 7, 2016

A Muslim legal group, girded with $1.8 million in grant money from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF), has helped influence major policy changes in the war on terror, including the Department of Homeland Security’s screening of individuals with suspected terror ties and the FBI’s training program for its agents working in counterterrorism.

Internal records, made public by the hacking group DC Leaks, show OSF spent $40 million between 2008 and 2010 on programs aimed at weakening U.S. counterterrorism policy.

Muslim Advocates’ Executive Director Farhana Khera played a key role in shaping the foundations’ spending. Khera co-authored a 2007 memo that “informed” the foundations’ U.S. Programs Board’s decision to create the National Security and Human Rights Campaign (NSHRC), a Sept. 14, 2010 OSF document discussing the program’s reauthorization, shows.

The NSHRC’s goals included:

  • Closing Guantanamo Bay, eliminating torture and methods such as the extraordinary rendition of prisoners, and ending the use of secret prisons;
  • Ending warrantless and “unchecked” surveillance;
  • Ensuring that anti-terrorism laws and law enforcement activities do not target freedom of speech, association or religious expression;
  • Reducing ethnic and religious profiling of people of Muslim, Arab or South Asian extraction;
  • Decreasing secrecy and increasing oversight of executive actions, and expose U.S. government or private individuals who abuse or violate the law.

Some of these policies, such as closing Guantanamo and ending enhanced interrogation techniques, already were also advocated by Obama administration. OSFclaimed its work laid the groundwork for implementing those policies. The Edward Snowden leaks cast light on the depth of the government’s warrantless surveillance activity. The other goals are more difficult to assess.

Muslim Advocates was founded in 2005 as an offshoot of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers. It often criticizes U.S. counterterrorism strategies that use sting operations and informants as discriminatory.

Papers released by the anonymous hacker group DC Leaks show that OSF budgeted $21 million for the NSHRC from 2008-2010. OSF spent an additional $1.5 million in 2010. The NSHRC also received a matching $20 million contribution from Atlantic Philanthropies, a private foundation established in 1982 by Irish-American Chuck Feeney billionaire businessman.

OSF made 105 grants totaling $20,052, 784 to 63 organizations under the NSHRC program. An Investigative Project on Terrorism tally shows Muslim Advocates received at least $1.84 million in OSF grants between 2008 and 2015.

A funders’ roundtable created by OSF in 2008 helped coordinate the grant making among several left-leaning foundations, ” in order to “dismantle the flawed ‘war on terror’ paradigm on which national security policy is now based.” At least “two dozen” foundations participated in the roundtable’s strategy sessions as of the end of 2008.

Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, called the Soros foundations’ $40 million program both hypocritical and ironic. He noted that the 2011 OSF-funded Center for American Progress report “Fear, Inc.” complained that seven conservative foundations donated $42.6 million to so-called “Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009.” The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other major Islamist groups routinely use the $42.6 million funding number to portray their opponents as being pawns of dark forces.

“It’s amazing that one foundation donated an amount that CAIR and [Muslim] Advocates say is the huge sum of money that funds the entire anti-jihad campaign,” Jasser said. “… That wasn’t from one foundation. That was an addition of [the money given to] everybody that they threw under the bus.”

By contrast, OSF and Atlantic Philanthropies spent $41.5 million in just three years. OSF dedicated another $26 million to the NSHRC program from 2011-2014.

OSF additionally funded a study by the New America Foundation equating the terror threat posed right-wing extremists with al-Qaida. An Oct. 17, 2011 memo discussing NSHRC grants notes that New America received $250,000, partly to write two reports. The first aimed at creating a “‘safe space’ in which Muslims in America feel free to hold controversial political dialogues, organize without fear of unwarranted government surveillance.” The second aimed to “correct mistaken public beliefs that Al-Qaeda’s brand of terrorism is unique to Islam and that most terrorists are Muslim.”

The paper promised “to show how adherents of each extremist ideology use different language to justify very similar political means and goals. By demonstrating parallels among militant groups, this paper will aim to separate politically focused terrorism from the religion of Islam.”

Arguments from this report continue to help frame how Democrats and their allies talk about the jihadist threat. New America’s statistics and arguments recently came up in a House hearing about the threat from homegrown Islamic terrorists.

“According to the New America Foundation, there have been more incidents of right-wing extremist attacks in the United States than violent jihadist attacks since 9/11. I’m not minimizing jihadist attacks. In that light, can you explain what your office plans to do with respect to domestic right-wing extremism?” Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., asked Department of Homeland Security Office of Community Partnerships Director George Selim during a House subcommittee hearing last month.

New America’s effort to conflate right-wing extremists with al-Qaida glossed over a major difference – namely al-Qaida’s reliance on mass casualty attacks and suicide bombings.

New America’s latest data shows that jihadists have killed more people since 9/11 than right-wing extremists.

“What you’ve uncovered is the fact … that the Soros foundation works to obfuscate on national security,” Jasser said. “Muslim Advocates clearly is a prime example of the sickness in Washington related to dealing with the central reforms necessary to make within the House of Islam.

“You’ll see that the Soros foundation is spending money on organizations that deny the very principles they are defenders of, which are feminism, gay rights, individual rights. Muslim Advocates’ entire bandwidth is spent on attacking the government and blocking any efforts at counterterrorism.”

Muslim Advocates also opposes discussion on reform within the Muslim community and supports those who have theocratic tendencies, Jasser said.

“You have evidence here that the Soros foundation is part and parcel of the reason for the suffocation of moderation voices – reformist voices – in Islam,” Jasser said. “Muslim Advocates really ought to change their name to Islamist Advocates, and what the Soros foundation really is doing is just advocating for Islamists.”

OSF also contributed $150,000 in 2011 and $185,000 in 2012 to a donor advised fund run by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. It used this money to pay Hattaway Communications, a consulting firm run by former Hillary Clinton adviser Doug Hattaway, to develop a messaging strategy for Muslim Advocates and similar organizations. Hattaway’s message strategy painted Muslims as victims of American national security policies.

Khera used Hattaway’s strategy to paint the New York Police Department’s mosque surveillance strategy as “discriminatory.”

OSF funded groups, including Muslim Advocates, the ACLU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed lawsuits challenging the NYPD’s surveillance program as unconstitutional. Police Commissioner William Bratton ended the policy in 2014.”Their only ‘crime’ is that they are Muslim in America,” Khera wrote in a June 6, 2012 op-ed posted on CNN.com.

The NYPD monitored almost all aspects of Muslim life ranging from mosques and student associations, to halal butcher shops and restaurants to private citizens.  A federal district court dismissed the suit, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals revived it in October 2015. New York settled the lawsuit in January, placing the NYPD under supervision of an independent observer appointed by City Hall.

Downplaying Radicalization and the Jihadist Threat

OSF accused conservative opponents of “borrowing liberally from Joe McCarthy’s guilt by association tactics.” It complained in a Sept. 14, 2010 memo to its U.S. Programs Board that the “homegrown terrorism narrative” resulted in “discriminatory” targeting of Muslims by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI.

Khera often expresses similar sentiments. She accused the FBI of engaging in “entrapment operations” to target “innocent” Muslims after former Attorney General Eric Holder called sting operations an “essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing terror attacks.”

Khera likewise characterized law enforcement training materials discussing the Islamic extremist ideology as “bigoted, false, and inflammatory” in her June 28 testimony before a Senate Judiciary  Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights, Federal Courts.

She and her organization played a central role in late 2011 when Muslim groups called on the Obama administration to purge FBI training materials that they deemed offensive. FBI counterterrorism training materials about Islam contained “woefully misinformed statements about Islam and bigoted stereotypes about Muslims,” she complained in a Sept. 15, 2011 letter. She objected to describing zakat – the almsgiving tax mandate on all Muslims – as a “funding mechanism for combat.”

Yet numerous Muslim commentators describe zakat as a funding mechanism for jihad. A footnote for Surah 9:60 found in “The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an,” says that zakat can be used to help “those who are struggling and striving in Allah’s Cause by teaching or fighting or in duties assigned to them by the righteous Imam, who are thus unable to earn their ordinary living.”

The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America issued a 2011 fatwa saying zakat could be used to “support legitimate Jihad activities.”

Following Khera’s letter, then-White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan announced a review of “CVE-related instruction across all levels of government.” This review resulted in a purge of 700 pages of material from 300 presentations. This included PowerPoints and articles describing jihad as “holy war” and portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as group bent on world domination.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s bylaws describe these ultimate ambitions and imply the need for violence: “The Islamic nation must be fully prepared to fight the tyrants and the enemies of Allah as a prelude to establishing an Islamic state.”

Khera’s influence with the Obama administration

Khera enjoys close connections with the Obama White House. Visitor logs show that Khera went to the White House at least 11 times.

Khera played a central role persuading the Obama administration to purge Department of Homeland Security records related to individuals and groups with terror ties, former Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) Agent Phil Haney told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

His superiors ordered him to “modify” 820 CPB TECS records about the Muslim Brotherhood network in America, Haney said. Irrefutable evidence from the 2008 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) Hamas financing trial proved that many of these groups and individuals assisted Hamas, Haney said.

The HLF trial substantiated deep connections between American Islamist groups such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a Hamas-support network created by the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.

A 2009 OSF funding document claims credit for helping persuade then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to order a review of border screening procedures. It also reveals that Muslim Advocates worked with “DHS staff to develop a revised border policy.”

The Muslim Advocates’ report recommended the “review and reform of … [Customs and Border Patrol policies and practices that target Muslim, Arab and South Asian Americans for their First Amendment protected activities, beliefs and associations; and … law enforcement and intelligence activities that impose disparate impacts on Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities.” It also asked DHS to prevent CPB agents from probing about political beliefs, religious practices, and contributions to “lawful” charitable organizations.

Muslim Advocates claimed a pivotal role in getting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to reverse a new 2010 policy enhancing the screening on travelers from 14 countries, many of them predominately Muslim. The rule was proposed in the wake of the attempt by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Detroit-bound plane weeks earlier.

Muslim Advocates and several OSF grantees met with Napolitano and other top DHS officials, and the policy was canceled three months later. Muslim Advocates claimedthat the Obama administration “made special mention” of its role in reversing the TSA policy.

“This broke into the open with the great purge of 2011 and 2012,” Haney said, recalling Brennan’s letter to Khera announcing that materials she complained about would be removed.

The purge accompanied a practice of meeting with Islamist groups as community partners, Haney said.

In addition to the purge of training material, documents related to people and groups with terrorism ties such as Canadian Muslim Brotherhood leader Jamal Badawi and the Pakistan-based Tablighi Jamaat movement also disappeared from CPB records. (Tablighi Jamaat often serves as a de facto recruiting conduit for groups such as al-Qaida and the Taliban.)

Investigators might have had a better chance of thwarting the San Bernardino and the June Orlando shootings had those Tablighi Jamaat records remained available, Haney said, because the shooters’ respective mosques appeared in the deleted 2012 Tablighi Jamaat case report.

The Obama administration’s “absolute refusal to acknowledge that individuals who are affiliated with networks operating here in the United States, and their deliberate deletion of any evidentiary pieces of information in the system, has made us blind and handcuffed,” Haney said. “The proof of it is San Bernardino and Orlando.

“They obliterated the entire [Tablighi Jamaat] case as if it never existed.”

Haney’s claims have met with some skepticism. Haney stands by his claims and says critics “made a lot of factual errors.”

Still, Muslim Advocates’ success reversing the TSA policy was among the accomplishments showing that it “has proved itself to be an effective advocate on the national stage,” an April 25, 2011 OSF document said. It recommended renewing a $440,000 grant to “support the core operating costs of Muslim Advocates.”

In doing so, the Soros-funded OSF weakened U.S. national security and potentially left it vulnerable to the jihadi attacks we have been seeing in the homeland since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

No Sacred Cows? The Washington Post Continues Carrying CAIR’s Water

cair23by Steven Emerson
IPT News
July 5, 2016

Let’s say the Church of Scientology launched a program it said was aimed at creating healthy work environments and bridging family divides, even those involving church critics.

What would the news stories read like? After all, there are ever-expanding accounts of former Scientologists who say they were physically abused, or who werecut off from loved ones deemed hostile to the church.

Virtually any news story about the new program would cover this context in detail. It’s reasonable to expect major news outlets would devote entire stories comparing the new claims to the church’s history. It would be inconceivable to omit that background even if the new program proved to be a smashing success.

This is what makes the Washington Post‘s coverage of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) so confounding. The newspaper, which rarely hesitates to investigate the backgrounds of politicians, companies and more, has never seen fit to delve into CAIR’s checkered history.

Independence Day brought yet another story casting CAIR as a reliable partner in the fight against terrorism and Islamist extremism. CAIR’s Florida chapter, the headline says, “is doing what the government has so far failed to do.” It tells the story of “intervention teams” on alert in South Florida to help cases of radicalized Muslims who might be thinking of committing violence. Some of the seven individuals identified so far have been referred to law enforcement, the story says.

There’s no way to know if that assertion is true. It is a claim taken at face value.

There’s also no way – short of doing their own independent searches – for readers to know that CAIR itself has direct, court-acknowledged connections to a terrorist group. They don’t know because the Post didn’t mention it in this, or any other story, since the information came to light in 2007.

From its first days, CAIR was a cog in a Hamas-support network called the Palestine Committee, records show. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood created the committee to help Hamas “with what it needs of media, money, men and all of that.”

1675At least three original CAIR officials, Nihad Awad, Omar Ahmad and Nabil Sadoun, are on the Palestine Committee’s telephone list. Mousa Abu Marzook, a longtime Hamas political leader, is the first name listed. Ahmad, who sometimes was identified as “Omar Yehya,” also is listed on the Palestine Committee’s executive board.

Eyewitnesses told federal investigators that Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood connections shared by CAIR founders were widely known when the organization was founded.

Bylaws establish that the Muslim Brotherhood executive office created the Palestine Committee “to serve the Palestinian cause on the U.S. front.” A 1991 document repeatedly refers to the Brotherhood’s role directing Palestine Committee activities. Among the instructions that year: “Collecting of donations for the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] from the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] and others.”

Another report from around that time explicitly states that the committee sees its charge as “defending the Islamic cause in Palestine and support for the emerging movement, the Hamas Movement.”

This is the mission into which CAIR was born.

Omar Ahmad, a co-founder and longtime CAIR national chairman, was described as “a leader within the Palestine Committee” in testimony by FBI Special Agent Lara Burns.

Nihad Awad, the only executive director in CAIR’s history, joined Palestine Committee colleagues during a weekend-long emergency meeting in 1993 to discuss ways to “derail” the U.S.-brokered Oslo Accords. The deal was hailed as a potential peace breakthrough and created an autonomous Palestinian Authority.

That was unacceptable to the Palestine Committee because it sidelined the Islamists in Hamas, and because it included Palestinian acceptance of Israel’s existence. Concerned that the American public would see them as terror supporters, the group’s officials instructed members never to mention Hamas by name, instead choosing to reverse the spelling and talk about “Samah.” Awad, in this FBI transcript, did just that.

The group also discussed creating “a new organization for activism” which might be better received publicly because “we are marked.”

CAIR was created the following summer, where it promptly appeared on the Palestine Committee’s next meeting agenda.

The exhibits described above have never been reported in the Post.

When the Post has written about CAIR’s background, it has been at the most superficial of levels: CAIR minimizes its status as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Texas Hamas-financing trial in which these documents became public record; a “fact-check” which concludes that the unindicted co-conspirator label “is one of those true facts that ultimately gives a false impression.”

Would the Scientologists receive similar kid-glove treatment? Would a candidate for office?

This is not a case of differing perspectives. The documents were seized from the participants and reflect real-time Palestine Committee activities.

While CAIR was never charged, prosecutors made it clear in court filings that they had evidence showing CAIR was part “of the conspiracy” and acted “in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

“CAIR has been identified by the Government at trial as a participant in an ongoing and ultimately unlawful conspiracy to support a designated terrorist organization, a conspiracy from which CAIR never withdrew,” they wrote.

The Post is led by Marty Baron, a man who has demonstrated the tenacity to take on religious organizations as mighty as the Catholic Church when they might be engaged in improper activity. So far, however, that same gritty determination has not been focused on the Islamists who run CAIR, despite their profile and their organization’s checkered history.

That is a shame.

Also see:

How Radicalization Was Allowed to Fester in Belgium

belgiumby Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
April 19, 2016

These are the numbers, the hard facts: Twenty months. Three terrorist attacks. One hundred seventy dead. And almost all the killers grew up in or at one time lived in Belgium.

Squeezed into a corner bounded by France, Germany and the Netherlands, tiny Belgium has produced more jihadists than any other Western country (relative to its population) since 9/11. The most recent attacks, at the Brussels Maalbeek metro station and Zaventem Airport on March 22, killed at least 32 people and wounded dozens more. On Nov. 13, gunmen from the Brussels district of Molenbeek killed 130 men and women in Paris at a soccer stadium, a restaurant, and concert hall. And in May 2014, Mehdi Nemmouche, a returnee from Syria, shot and killed four people at the entrance to Brussels’ Jewish Museum. Since then, the media has been filled with reports on Belgium as a “new hotbed of terrorism,” while politicians have looked at one another blankly, asking “why?”

But the other hard fact is that there is nothing especially new about any of this. Belgium has been a center for Islamic terrorism for more than 20 years, most notably in the aftermath of a series of 1995 and 1998 bombings in France. Those attacks, which targeted, among others, the Paris Metro and the Arc de Triomphe, were committed by the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, an Algerian militant group affiliated with al-Qaida, many of whose members lived in Belgium.

Indeed, most of the earlier Islamist terror attacks in Belgium and France were committed by Algerian GIA members, including Farid Melouk, who plotted, among other targets, to bomb the 1998 Paris World Cup. Sentenced to nine years in 1998 for his involvement in terrorism, Melouk is believed to have known and influenced Chérif Kouachi, one of the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris last January.

Only later, with the growth of al-Qaida after 9/11, did recruiters turn more to Moroccan immigrants like Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the mastermind of the Nov. 13 strikes, andKhalid Zerkani, believed to have served as a mentor to the current generation of Belgian jihadists.

But not all these 1990s jihadists were strictly GIA: in the aftermath of the 1995 Paris attacks, for instance, during a raid on the home of one Belgian GIA member, policediscovered among the weapons a “training manual,” dedicated to Osama bin Laden. There have also been reports of computer disks containing al-Qaida manuals found in Belgium around this time, but they remain unconfirmed.

But most notable is a report that Belgium repeatedly did little to combat the threat. Rather, according to journalist Paul Belien, Belgian authorities “made a deal with the GIA terrorists, agreeing to turn a blind eye to conspiracies hatched on Belgian soil in exchange for immunity from attack.”

If the deal was real, it did nothing to protect Belgian Muslims from radicalization. Those include converts like Muriel Degauque, who in 2005 earned the dubious distinction of being Belgium’s first female suicide bomber when she blew herself up in Baghdad, killing five.

Moreover, the radicalization of Belgian Muslims has become nearly a local institution, through national political groups like Sharia4Belgium and, previously, the Arab European League (AEL). Founded In 2000 by Lebanese immigrant Dyab Abou Jahjah, the AEL spread briefly beyond Belgium to France and the Netherlands before eventually petering out around 2006. But in its short life, it stirred pro-Islamist sentiment among many Belgian Muslim youth, helping to pave the way for Sharia4Belgium, and its recruiting of warriors for ISIS.

Alongside both of these movements has been the one-man operation of Khalid Zerkani, who is known to his followers as “The Santa Claus of jihad,” the New York Times reports. Zerkani, Belgian federal prosecutor Bernard Michel told the Times, “has perverted an entire generation of youngsters,” including various Molenbeek residents who were involved in the Zaventem killings, and Abdelhamid Abbaaoud, the Paris attack leader. Other Zerkani disciples have joined the Islamic State in Syria. On April 14, Zerkani, who was arrested in 2014, was sentenced to 15 years in Belgian prison for jihad recruiting. But – despite ongoing arrests in Molenbeek and other regions throughout Belgium – his influence, like that of Sharia4Belgium and the relics of Belgium’s terrorist past, continues to walk free on Europe’s streets.

Timeline of Jihadist Events in Belgium

1990s – Armed Islamic Group (GIA), an Algerian terrorist group, forms cells in Belgium and France.

1995

July 25 – GIA sets off bombs at the Saint-Michel station of Paris RER, killing eight and wounding 80

August 17 – bombs set by GIA at the Arc de Triomphe wound 17

August 26 – GIA bomb found on railroad tracks near Lyon

September 3– car bomb at Lyon Jewish school wounds 14

October 6– explosion in Paris Metro wounds 13

October 17– gas bottle explodes between Musee d’Orsay and Notre Dame stations of Paris metro, wounding 29

1998

March 6 – Belgian officials storm a Brussels residence, arresting Farid Melouk, suspected leader of Belgian GIA and organizer of Paris attacks.

Six other GIA operatives are also arrested, all linked to various Paris bombings.

March 22 – Belgian police uncover GIA plot to bomb the World Cup soccer event in France that June. During a raid in Brussels, police uncover explosives, detonators, Kalashnikovs, and thousands of dollars in cash. Again, Farid Melouk is believed to be associated.

May 26 – Police raid homes in Brussels and Charleroi based on evidence found in a GIA safe house in Brussels earlier. Ten people are detained.

1999

May 15 – Farid Melouk sentenced to nine years in Brussels court.

2000

February – Dyab Abou Jahjah establishes the Arab-European League in Antwerp, declaring that “assimilation is cultural rape,” and calling for Islamic schools, Arab-language education, and recognition of Islamic holidays. His goal is to create what he calls a “sharocracy” – a sharia-based democracy.

2001

September 11 – Al-Qaida hijackers plow commercial jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; a fourth jet, believed to be headed for the White House, is downed by passengers who overtake control. About 3,000 people are killed. The event marks a turning point for Muslim extremism and the rise of Muslim terrorism throughout the West.

September 13 – Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian, is arrested in Belgium and charged with plans to bomb a US-NATO military base.

September 30 – Sixteen additional suspects are also arrested in what prosecutors call a “spider’s web of radicals.”

2003

October 1 – Belgian courts convict 18 accused terrorists with suspected ties to al-Qaida, including Trabelsi, who receives a 10-year sentence.

2005

November 9 – Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert, blows herself up in Baghdad near a group of policemen, killing five.

2009

December – After uncovering believable plans for an attack in Belgium, Antwerp police arrest 10 men, charging them with membership in a terrorist organization. Most members of the alleged terror cell are believed to live in Antwerp. Some are Dutch nationals.

2010

March – Fouad Belkacem establishes Sharia4Belgium.

November – Belgian officials arrest 10 members of a local terrorist cell suspected of planning attacks locally. Counterterrorism officials admit they are facing growing radicalization among the country’s Muslim youth, in part through the work of Sharia4Belgium, which seeks to transform Belgium into an Islamic state.

2012

September 15 – 230 radicalized Muslim members of Sharia4Belgium are arrested during anti-American riots in protest against the film “Innocence of Muslims.” In 2015, officials would discover that 70 of those arrested had joined the jihad in Syria. “The list [of those arrested then] reads today like a passenger list for the Syria-Express,” one investigator told Dutch TV program Een Vandaag.

2013

October 3 – Nizar Trabelsi, having served out his term in the 2001 bombing plot , is extradited to the United States. He is charged “with conspiracy to kill U.S Nationals outside of the United States; conspiracy and attempt to use weapons of mass destruction” and providing material support to terrorists.

2015

January 7-9 – In Paris, a rash of terrorist attacks take the lives of 17 people, including most of the staff of controversial satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and four Jews at a kosher market outside the city. Cherif Kouachi, responsible for the Charlie Hebdokillings, had had earlier contact with Farid Melouk. The attackers all claim to be sworn to the Islamic State.

November 13 – Further terrorist attacks in Paris – at the Stade de France stadium, Bataclan concert hall, and several restaurants – kill 130 people and injure more than 350. Most of the perpetrators come from (or have lived in) the Molenbeek region of Brussels, including suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Abaaoud is also suspected of having been radicalized by Zerkani. ISIS claims responsibility.

November 14-early 2016 – ongoing arrests and investigations in Molenbeek lead to several additional arrests.

2016

March 15 – Police sweep down on a residence in Vorst, a section of Brussels, arresting four suspects believed to be planning an attack. A fifth, Algerian Mohamed Melkaid, is shot and killed while firing his Kalashnikov at the police. An ISIS flag is found at the scene.

March 18 – Saleh Abdeslam, the sole surviving member of the terrorist team that attacked Paris in November, is arrested in Molenbeek following a shootout. Evidence found in the house in Vorst helped lead them to Abdeslam, who had been in hiding for 120 days, mostly in plain sight in Molenbeek.

His arrest leads to riots among Muslim youth in the district.

March 22 – Coordinated attacks at Brussels-Zaventem airport and the Brussels Maarbeek metro stop kill 32. Two of the suicide bombers, brothers Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, had been involved in planning the November Paris attacks; a third, Najim Laachraoui, is suspected as having made the bombs for both Paris and Brussels attacks. Laachraoui is also suspected of having had connections with Melkaid.

March 23-ongoing – Belgian and French police and counterterrorism forces continue to arrest terrorist suspects connected to either the Paris or Brussels attacks, all of them linked with Belgium-based terror cells. One suspect, Osama Krayem (aka Naim Hamed), a Swedish national, admits having backed out of plans to bomb a second metro station, and agrees to cooperate with Brussels police.

April 14 – Kahlid Zerkani receives the maximum 15-year sentence in Brussels courts. The sentence, delivered on appeal, is an increase over the previous sentence of 12 years.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.

Report Suggests Radical Islamists Infiltrating German Military to Receive Training

Soldiers of the German Bundeswehr's mountain hunters battalion stand to attention with their weapons at military training in Bavaria. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa

Soldiers of the German Bundeswehr’s mountain hunters battalion stand to attention with their weapons at military training in Bavaria. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa

by IPT News  •  Apr 13, 2016

A growing number of Islamist radicals are infiltrating Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, with an estimated 30 former soldiers later joining international terrorist organizations, reports German press agency DPA International.

Germany’s military counterintelligence service (MAD) says 65 active soldiers are under investigation for suspected Islamist tendencies. Since 2007, 22 soldiers designated as Islamists have been discharged or left the military. Moreover, 29 former soldiers have left for Syria and Iraq to join Islamist terrorist organizations.

“We perceive a risk that the Bundeswehr may be used as a training ground for potentially violent Islamists,” says MAD leader Christof Gramm.

German intelligence believes that the Islamic State is actively recruiting operatives with a military background. Moreover, Germany’s Ministry of Defense expressed concern that no background checks are required for soldiers in unclassified positions.

“Like all armies, the Bundeswehr can be attractive to Islamists seeking weapons training…,” Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the military, told the DPA. Bartels added that Islamists in the German army pose “a real danger that needs to be taken seriously.”

Following the January 2015 Paris attacks targeting the Charlie Hebdo satirical publication, Gramm became increasingly concerned since the terrorists appeared to have professional military training.

“It would be negligent of a MAD president not to ask what would happen if a Bundeswehr-trained Islamist did something like this, and we had failed to notice anything,” Gramm said.

In one case, a German convert to Islam, called Sascha B for anonymity, gradually began exhibiting signs of increased religiosity and extremism. He began growing his beard, wearing Middle Eastern attire, and even going AWOL at times.

Sascha B eventually refused to train reservists after soldiers in his unit were deployed to Afghanistan. He justified his position by arguing that weapons could be used against other Muslims. During interrogation by MAD officials, Sascha B proclaimed that sharia law should override Germany’s constitution.

Several prominent examples of Islamist infiltration within the U.S. military also have caused immense concern.

A Muslim army soldier killed two comrades and injured 14 others after throwing a live grenade in a tent in Kuwait prior to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. In 2009, U.S. Army major and psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hassan shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood because he believed that no Muslim could faithfully serve in the U.S. military.

Hassan exhibited signs of increased radicalism for a significant period of time prior to the terrorist attack. “It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims,” Hasan said during a 2007 presentation at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Three years later, Army Pvt. Naser Jason Abdo was arrested for planning an attack on a popular restaurant frequented by Fort Hood troops. He plotted to set off an explosives device in the restaurant, then shoot and kill as many survivors as possible.

When his mother asked her son why he would commit the terrorist attack, Abdo replied: “The reason is religion, Mom.”

Islamic University of Minnesota a Hotbed of Extremism

radical Imamby John Rossomando
IPT News
April 8, 2016

The Minneapolis-based Islamic University of Minnesota (IUM) has an extremism problem.

It is run by a man who used a recent sermon to invoke a Hadith commonly espoused by Muslim terrorists to kill Jews for causing “corruption in the land.” Waleed Idris al-Meneesey also has written that Muslims should place sharia law above “man-made” law.

During a November sermon, al-Meneesy referred to the Hadith, a saying from Islam’s prophet Muhammad, describing how Jews had been punished by God repeatedly for “corruption.”

“When the Children of Israel returned to cause corruption in the time of our Prophet Muhammad,” al-Meneesy said in a translation by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, “and they disbelieved him, God destroyed him at his hand. In any case, God Almighty has promised them destruction whenever they cause corruption.”

History will repeat itself, he said.

“The Prophet related that in the Last Days his Umma [people] would fight the Jews, the Muslims East of the Jordan River, and they [the Jews] west of [the Jordan River] … Even trees and stones will say: O Muslim, this is a Jew behind me, kill him, except for Gharqad trees, the trees of the Jews. Because of this they plant many of them…”

Jerusalem “remained in the hands of the Muslims until it fell into the hands of the Jews in 1387 AH [1967 AD], and has been a prisoner in their hands for 34 years [sic], but the victory of God is coming inevitably.”

Al-Meneesy, the IUM’s president and chancellor, also serves as an imam at a Bloomington, Minn. mosque where at least five young men left the United States to fight with terrorist groups al-Shabaab and ISIS.

IUM opened in 2007, claiming 160 students registered for classes, which cost $150 each. Current enrollment figures could not be found. IUM’s website describes programs ranging from two year associates degrees to full doctorates. A bachelor’s program helps students “acquire all essential Islamic knowledge.” The Ph.D. program costs $3,000, including thesis review, and is structured “along the lines of Universities in the Middle East and Africa.”

The university’s website cites recognition by Holy Quran University in the Sudan,founded in 1990 by the regime of Sudanese war criminal and President Omar al-Bashir. Holy Quran University’s leaders signed a 2002 declaration saying it was forbidden for Muslims to buy American and Israeli goods.

IUM also professes to serve as the official representative of Sunni Islam’s most important institution – Al-Azhar University, which has grown increasingly radical – in the U.S. and Canada. Al-Azhar officials have refused to condemn the Islamic State (ISIS) as apostates and heretics. According to Egypt’s Youm 7, IUM’s curriculum, offered to American students, endorses many practices used by ISIS. These include: “[K]illing a Muslim who does not pray, one who leaves Islam, prisoners and infidels within Islam [those who do not have a clearly specified creed or sect]. [It also allows] gouging their eyes and chopping off their hands and feet, as well as banning the construction of churches and discriminating between Muslims and Ahl al-Kitab [Christians and Jews], and insulting them at times.”

1478Al-Meneesy’s extremism goes further back than his anti-Semitic sermon. In 2007, he authored a paper for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists Association of America (AMJA), where he sits on the fatwa committee. Muslims should refrain from participating in non-Islamic courts that do not follow Islamic shariah law, particularly those in the West guided by “man-made” law, al-Meneesey wrote.

“The authority to legislate rests with Allah alone,” al-Meneesey wrote.

Anyone who uses law other than shariah, such as civil law, is a “corrupt tyrant,” the paper said. Judging by something other than shariah equals disbelief in Allah, injustice and sinfulness, he wrote.

Muslims should be forbidden from serving as judges in non-Muslim countries, except if they are able to rule “according to the judgments of Allah,” al-Meneesey wrote. Muslims who adhere to secular law and refuse to follow the shariah are infidels. Classical interpretations of the shariah say that apostates should be killed.

In 2008, the AMJA issued a declaration telling Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement “in countries which do not rule by Allah’s dictates.” That includes the FBI. The declaration invoked many of the same arguments as al-Meneesey’s 2007 paper.

Meanwhile, al-Meneesey’s own Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center and Al-Farooq Youth & Family Center have produced at least five young members who left to fight for ISIS or al-Shabaab in Somalia. They include:

It does not appear that al-Meneesy has addressed these cases publicly.

His radical views are not aberrations at IUM.

Instructor Sheikh Jamel Ben Ameur refused to denounce ISIS in the fall of 2014 amid stories about its brutality because news reports were “confusing” and “complicated,” the website MinnPost reported.

“We don’t need to accuse people of something we don’t know about. We don’t have to jump into judgment,” Ben Ameur told about 100 congregants at his Masjid al-Tawba in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Ben Ameur disputed the authenticity of the ISIS propaganda videos showing the beheadings of American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, suggesting he didn’t know whether ISIS was responsible or not.

Another IUM instructor, Hasan Ali Mohamud, offered condolences after Israel killed Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004.

Writing under the name Sheikh Xasan Jaamici on the Minneapolis Somali community news website SomaliTalk, Mohamud said that Yassin had achieved martyrdom and that the “Hamas mujahideen” were fighting for the liberation of the Al-Aqsa mosque from Israeli control. His Facebook page suggests that Jaamici is his middle name.

Jews will face Muhammad’s wrath. Muslims who adhere to civil law over Islamic sharia are infidels. These are ideas supported by Waleed Idris al-Meneesey, who is responsible for a “university” teaching Muslims about their faith. Where will Islamic University of Minnesota students get a more modern and accepting education?

Europe’s Young ISIS Recruits: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

map1by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
April 6, 2016

For weeks, Farid Bouamran, a Dutch-Moroccan immigrant who has lived 30 years in Amsterdam, watched as his son Achraf becameincreasingly radicalized, tuning in to videos and Twitter accounts online. Within two months, Achraf had traded in his jeans for a dishdasha, or robe, grown a beard, and begun spending time online with Belgian youth his father once called “men with long Arabic names: Abou this and Abou that.”

Panicked, Bouamran took every measure he could think of to intervene: he brought Achraf to his own mosque to hear the imam speak of a peaceful Islam. He canceled his son’s Internet account, forbid him to see his radical Muslim friends, and even followed him when he went out at night.

It was no use. Just after Christmas 2013, Farid Bouamran sat in his living room with officers from Dutch intelligence agency AIVD and told them he believed Achraf was about to leave for Syria to join in the jihad. Please, he begged them. Take his passport. Stop him.

Not to worry, the officers assured him, he won’t get past our borders.

But he did get past, flying out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport the next night to Turkey, and from there, making his way to the Islamic State.

A year later, disillusioned by the realities of the life he found there, Achraf determined to return home. But en route to the Netherlands in January 2015, a U.S. missile attack on Raqqa took his life. He was 17 years old.

This is not just his story. This is Europe’s story, and the quandary Europe’s governments are confronting in the face of the thousands of its Muslims who have gone to join the jihad in Syria – and the ones hoping to make the trip.

“These people come into your house uninvited,” Farid said in an interview with the Dutch press last year, referring to ISIS recruiters. “They enter through the internet, and you cannot stop them.”

A year ago, Bouamran and the parents of several other young men and women who have joined ISIS began preparing a lawsuit against the Dutch government for its failure to keep their children home. The government, they say, should be doing more to prevent radicalization, and keeping a closer eye on young people who travel abroad – particularly when they leave European airports for countries bordering on Syria and Iraq, and without their parents.

But some see it differently. “Just for godsakes, pack your bags and go” – and never try to return, declared Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb (himself a Muslim) just after the January 2015 attacks in Paris  that targeted a kosher market and the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The government, in his view should “get out of the way.”

From a security standpoint, he has a strong argument: that if these would-be jihadists were to stay in Europe, they would likely just wage their jihad at home.

On the other hand, can a government justify sending someone to another country when you know he’s going there to kill?

Between these two views is a host of legal complications that all of Europe has struggled with since the crisis of ISIS recruiting first emerged. What do you do about those who left and want to return home? Can a country block its own citizens at the border, when there is no hard evidence of terrorist activity? The Netherlands nowrevokes the citizenship of dual-nationals suspected of having joined ISIS or of planning to make the trip (known as “making hijrah“). Other countries revoke suspects’ passports so that they cannot leave, or cancel passports of those who have already left, theoretically making it impossible for them to return.

In response, ISIS has spun a lucrative business in false passports, which it supplies freely. One Dutch journalist, in fact, was able to arrange a Syrian passport for the prime minister of the Netherlands as part of an investigative report.

These issues demonstrate how far the battle against radical Muslim extremism goes beyond the reach of intelligence agencies and law enforcement. Aboutaleb’s suggestion that would-be jihadists be encouraged to leave and blocked from returning may have merit for those over the age of 21. But how to handle people like Achraf, who was still just 15 when he left home? What can or should governments do about young girls like the 17-year-old Austrian Samra Kesinovic, who was beaten to death trying to escape ISIS a year after she’d joined them, traveling with her 15-year-old best friend? How does a government explain to the parents of such children that they could have stopped them from going, could have saved their lives – but didn’t?

These are unprecedented questions, for which there are no simple answers. They emerge from a terrorist threat that is unlike any we have seen. But while Europe busies itself in the wake of the most recent terrorist attacks in Brussels with re-examining its intelligence and counterterrorism policies, its governments may want to ponder these questions as well. Because the threat of jihadists in the homeland will continue, even worsen, if they don’t.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.

The Terror Threat To Europe Is America’s, Too

1429by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
March 25, 2016

Some weeks after the attacks of 9/11, a Dutch journalist spoke at a panel discussion in Amsterdam, describing his experience of the events. Faced with the task of writing up what had occurred in New York that day – the devastation, the terror, the unanswered questions that remained – he said he found himself completely overwhelmed. And then at a certain point, he recalled, clarity came. “I realized it was just about America,” he said. “It had nothing to do with me.”

I’ve told this story before, and likely will many times again, but it came to me as I read an op-ed by Daniel Benjamin in response to Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels. Benjamin served as the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator from 2009-12. What happened in Brussels, he essentially declares, is really just about Europe. It has nothing to do with us. And it can’t happen here.

I respectfully, but emphatically, disagree.

To be sure, Benjamin makes some important points. The background and immigration history of most European Muslims is not the same as that of Americans. Europe’s Muslims largely arrived as guest workers in the 1960s and 70s from rural areas of the Middle East and North Africa (mostly Turkey, Algeria and Morocco). They were not educated; many were even illiterate. Because they were not expected to stay, their host countries did little to help them integrate, including teaching them the language.

But they did stay, and they brought family members from back home to live with them. They had children – many of them. And their children often suffered in school, where they were confronted with different values than their parents had, and with homework with which their parents could not help them. Many failed. Some had trouble getting jobs, and still do; Muslim unemployment all across Europe is significantly higher than the rate for non-Muslims.

By contrast, Benjamin notes American Muslim immigrants are largely well-off. Except for recent refugees, they come largely from the educated classes of their homelands, and have been therefore able to provide more support to their children.

Benjamin also correctly notes that significantly fewer American than European Muslims have made hijrah, or traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS and other jihadist groups. This is largely a consequence of geography. It is far easier to make the trip from Germany or Belgium to Turkey, and from there to Syria, than it is to make the same trip from, say, Michigan or New Jersey (both of which have large Muslim populations).

But those facts are not necessarily relevant to the threat of serious Islamic terrorism in America, or – as Benjamin would argue – the lack of one. Indeed, it is long past time to retire the old saw that says Muslims radicalize because of poverty, alienation, or disadvantage. American Muslims have, in fact, conducted plenty of terrorist attacks since 9/11 – among them, Nidal Hassan (of the Fort Hood shootings); Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook (of the San Bernardino massacre); and the Tsarnaev brothers, who committed the Boston Marathon attack. Not one of them was impoverished or socially alienated. In fact, all were relatively comfortable financially, and well-integrated within their communities.

Similarly, Fouad Belkacem, the leader of Sharia4Belgium, an organization responsible for helping radicalize many Belgian Muslims, even laughed at a journalist once for assuming he must have come from a struggling background. His father was a car salesman and he once planned to take over the business, but his father retired early. And Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged leader of the Paris attacks, reportedly attended a “posh” school, where, his former classmates recalled, “he was one of us.”

Moreover, the demographics of Muslims in Europe are pretty much the same across the board; so if poverty and discrimination are the issue, why have there been no mass deaths from attacks in the Netherlands, say, or Germany – both of which border Belgium?

All of which may be why the Wall Street Journal once referred to the notion of “poverty as cause of terrorism” a bad idea that refuses to die, confirming the position expressed by Harvard economist Robert J. Barro and others.

As for the argument about geography, this is precisely the genius of Islamic State leaders. It matters not that U.S. Muslims have a harder time traveling to Syria than do their European brothers and sisters. They are radicalized just the same way the Europeans are, on the Internet. In prisons. By recruiters already on the ground. Nor do they need military training in Raqqa; the instructions for bomb-making are online, freely available to anyone who wants them. Not to mention the easy availability of assault rifles.

But it is something else, deep at the core of Benjamin’s argument, that is so disturbing: that the fact that fewer people have died in post-9/11 attacks in the U.S. than in Europe somehow suggests that America is less at risk, that Americans should not fear an attack like the ones in Paris in November, or Brussels on Tuesday.

He is wrong. Americans should fear exactly that.

It is insulting, this argument that because fewer people died in Boston than in Paris, say, the effect or the threat of the Marathon bombings somehow wasn’t “quite so bad,” that somehow it’s okay, as if those killed and injured in America didn’t matter quite as much, or as if the number of dead and maimed was the issue, and not the effort at killing and maiming in itself. And if it were, we may as well include 9/11, in which case America is way ahead in the body count game.

What is true, and Benjamin calls this one right, is that American counter-intelligence and security actions have been far superior to Europe’s since 2001. American officials have foiled dozens of plots to date; but let’s not forget that James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Sira nearly bombed the New York Subway system a day before the Republican National Convention in 2004; that Faisal Shahzad came frighteningly close to blowing up Times Square in 2010; and that Mohamed Osman Mohamud had been spotted by the FBI well before he attempted to detonate bombs during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon one month later.

After all, if your neighbor’s husband beats her up twice a day, and your husband beats you only once, does that make the beatings any better? Does it take away the horror or the pain? Does it make you any safer?

So yes, terrorists have killed fewer Americans than Europeans since that bright September morning. But to suggest that Americans are somehow any safer is simply irresponsible.

How Recent European Terror Wins Led to Abdeslam’s Capture

1417by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
March 20, 2016

It took just over four months, but Belgian police on Friday tracked down an unexpected lead and captured Europe’s most wanted terrorist: Saleh Abdeslam, the mastermind of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured nearly 400.

Trapped in a standoff in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, Abdeslam reportedly was shot before being arrested. Police found his fingerprints in an apartment they had raided earlier in the week – a week in which counterterrorist forces across Europe scored a number of victories against the growing threat of Islamist terror.

With much of Europe on high alert even four months after the Paris attacks, investigations throughout the continent and the U.K. have been heightened, leading to a rash of arrests and convictions in several countries. In addition, and perhaps even more important, has been the extensive information leaked by an ISIS defector to Britain’s Sky News. That information, stored on a memory stick the ISIS defector had stolen from ISIS leaders, provided a virtual treasure trove of intelligence – including the identities of over 20,000 jihadists, many of them Europe’s own.

But for all the successes of European counter-terrorism forces, the news is not entirely good. More arrests suggest more terrorists, and in fact, much data indicates that the number of European jihadists is on the rise. For example, the UK Home Office announced last week that terrorism-related arrests declined 3 percent in 2015. But that decrease, to 28 arrests, resulted from fewer separatist, domestic terrorist arrests.

Moreover, the number of women arrested increased 50 percent over 2014, to 45. And a record 16 of those arrested were under the age of 18. In total, since late 2014, British authorities interrupted seven terror plots; and notably, 79 percent of all terror-based arrests in the UK since 9/11have involved British or dual-British nationals, not immigrants.

What is particularly shocking is the number of young women who are becoming involved in terrorist plots – until recently a role principally filled by young men in their 20s. Women who did get involved in the past tended to be in their 30s and older, mostly widows of “martyred” terrorists or those who had been killed in Western air strikes. But the March 11 arrest in Paris of two teenage girls, aged 15 and 17, for plotting an attack on a concert hall demonstrates how rapidly the face of terrorism is changing across the West.

In fact, European girls that age who radicalize more often go (or attempt to go) to Syria to join the Islamic State – though they are barred from taking part in military activities, a fact most of them know before they make the trip. Theirs is a supporting role, aimed at providing a loving home for their jihadist husbands (whom they are often forced to marry) and raising future-jihadist sons. But that young, Western Muslim girls, barely having put away their Barbies, would plot a “Bataclan-style” attack in Paris, reveals the growing influence and reach of ISIS and its recruiters. It is worth noting that the two young girls were also French nationals, again pointing to the strong homegrown contribution to those threats.

Take, for instance, the brothers Hatim and Suleymaan R., raised in the Netherlands. Hatim, has been on the Dutch terrorist list since 2014 but is believed to have been in Syria since 2013. He was sentenced to six years in prison in absentia in December for terrorist activity. On March 15, a Rotterdam court found Suleymaan guilty of sending €17,000 to his brother, which the judge determined constituted financial support to a terrorist. His 18-month sentence marked the first conviction in the Netherlands based on a newly-sharpened law against terror financing.

Yet even as Suleymaan R. attempted to defend himself in Rotterdam Tuesday, police just across the Dutch border in Brussels, Belgium, swarmed the streets of the Vorst district in the ongoing search for Salah Abdeslam, alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks, who has been traced to the nearby Brussels district of Molenbeek. Ongoing police investigations led to numerous arrests of other suspected ISIS sympathizers, some alleged to have known Abdeslam, though no trace had yet been found of the terrorist leader himself.

But in Vorst, during a raid that lasted several hours and in which one suspect was killed and four policemen injured, investigators uncovered an ISIS flag, a book about Salafism, a sizable cache of weapons, and more importantly, Salah Abdeslam’s fingerprints. Three days later, on March 18, Abdeslam was picked up with two other suspects in a flat in Molenbeek.

“We’ve got him,” Belgian minister Théo Francken wrote on his Twitter feed.

Even before Abdeslam was found, counterterrorism expert Claude Moniquet told Belgian news agency Belga that he expected more attacks like those of Nov. 13 in Paris. As spring approaches, he warned, ground and air attacks against ISIS will increase, weakening their military. Consequently, he expects the terrorists to seek a distraction through European attacks.

“It is not clear whether many counter-terrorism measures, such as those in Vorst, will really affect that,” he told Belga. “The incident in Forest shows that the jihadists are very determined. These are people who pull the trigger even before they think or talk. One cannot negotiate with them. There is no discussion. They are there to kill or be killed.”

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.

Also see:

Assessing Obama’s Mosque Speech on Islam

1350By Daniel Pipes
Special to IPT News
February 8, 2016

Wishing to address growing anti-Islamic sentiments among the American public, Barack Obama ventured on Feb. 3 to the Islamic Society of Baltimore (sadly, a mosque with unsavory Islamist associations) to talk about Islam and Muslims. The 5,000-word speech contains much of interest. Here’s an in-depth assessment of its key points:

OBAMA: a lot of Americans have never visited a mosque. To the folks watching this today who haven’t — think of your own church, or synagogue, or temple, and a mosque like this will be very familiar. This is where families come to worship and express their love for God and each other. There’s a school where teachers open young minds. Kids play baseball and football and basketball — boys and girls — I hear they’re pretty good. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts meet, recite the Pledge of Allegiance here.

PIPES: All true, but what about the dark side, the unique and repeated role of mosques in parlaying totalitarian ideas and fomenting violence? That goes unsaid in the president’s rose-colored presentation.

as Muslim Americans, you [worry that] your entire community so often is targeted or blamed for the violent acts of the very few.

Obama makes Muslims sound like innocent bystanders when there’s a perfectly reasonable fear of them due to (1) so much violence emanating from this 1 percent of the U.S. population and (2) non-violent Muslims showing sympathy for the violent ones.

The Muslim American community remains relatively small—several million people in this country.

This is a coy way for Obama to walk back his exaggerated 7 million figure of 2009 without explicitly saying so.

recently, we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country.

A veiled critique of Donald Trump that Trump deserves.

No surprise, then, that threats and harassment of Muslim Americans have surged.

That’s ridiculous. In so far as there has been a surge of threats and harassment – and this is open to doubt given the disreputable nature of the reporting – this is due to Muslim violence. Reasonably, non-Muslims worry that a co-worker will behead them or attack them at a party, that they’ll be bombed attending a sporting event, or rammed into by planes when working at their offices. To blame non-Muslims for this commonsensical, life-preserving fear is to confuse symptom with cause.

For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace.

Some converts, to be sure, have been attracted to the peaceable side of Islam but many others have seen it as a militant force and converting as joining a winning team. Look at the Western converts who have gone to ISIS as one subset of these. Again, Obama just focuses on the cheery dimension and ignores the unpleasant one.

the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam — peace.

How can a person in a position of responsibility say something so patently wrong? Islam means submission, and does not derive from peace. As I explained in 2005, “There is no connection in meaning between salām and islām, peace and submission. These are two distinct words with unrelated meetings.” Shame on Obama.

For Christians like myself …

Standing in a mosque, Obama presumably feels a need to remind his audience that he’s not a Muslim. He would be more convincing if he could get his autobiography straight. For example, he sometimes declares he has “always been a Christian” and at other times that he “didn’t become a Christian” until after college. It would also help if he could date this important milestone rather than offer, in the view of Jason Kissner, an associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno, there are “two completely contradictory accounts” regarding its time frame.

Muslim Americans keep us safe. They’re our police and our firefighters. They’re in homeland security, in our intelligence community. They serve honorably in our armed forces.

Again true, but again not mentioning the other side – the persistent penetration of American security and military services by Islamist enemies.

it is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam.

Here we go again, Imam Obama declaiming on what the proper and the perverted interpretation of Islam are. He’s done this before, as have many other non-Muslim leaders, including prior U.S. presidents. It’s silly and embarrassing.

right now, there is a organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts, twists them in an attempt to justify their killing and their terror.

It would be more accurate to replace this with “right now, there is a organized extremist element that draws on medieval Islamic texts and interprets them in medieval ways to justify their killing and their terror.”

Part of what’s happened in the Middle East and North Africa and other places where we see sectarian violence is religion being a tool for another agenda — for power, for control.

This is typical left-wing materialism, which sees religion as a vehicle for something else, usually connected with economic benefit. No, the Islamists are true believers who engage in violence to pursue their vision, not for power as an end in itself, as Obama insists.

Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim – so I was not the first. No, it’s true, it’s true. Look it up. I’m in good company.

I did look it up – in Jefferson’s Religion, a 2007 book by Stephen J. Vicchio, and found no evidence that Jefferson was called a Muslim. His opponents called him names such as “French infidel,” “confirmed infidel,” “howling atheist,” and “fanatic,” but never “Mahometan.”

just as faith leaders, including Muslims, must speak out when Christians are persecuted around the world – or when anti-Semitism is on the rise – because the fact is, is that there are Christians who are targeted now in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries, and there are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave because they feel themselves under assault — sometimes by Muslims.

It’s not a complete or coherent sentence but it does correctly demand that Muslims speak out against religious persecution and it does note that Jews in Europe are “sometimes” (really, nearly always) attacked by Muslims. It’s a relief to see the dark side peek through for an instant.

the suggestion is somehow that if I would simply say, these are all “Islamic terrorists,” then we would actually have solved the problem by now, apparently. (Laughter.)

This is a cheap laugh line. No one thinks the problem of Islamist violence would be solved by Obama using the right wording; many, including me, however, say that he can’t properly address the problem unless he accurately identifies it.

Groups like ISIL are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders and holy warriors who speak for Islam. I refuse to give them legitimacy.

In fact, ISIL (or ISIS, Islamic State, Daesh) could not care less what Obama or other non-Muslims think of it. It cares only about the views of Sunni Muslims. So, Obama can deny it legitimacy all he wants; ISIS won’t notice or care.

the notion that America is at war with Islam ignores the fact that the world’s religions are a part of who we are. We can’t be at war with any other religion because the world’s religions are a part of the very fabric of the United States, our national character.

By this infantile logic, Hitler could not have been at war with Judaism because Jews were part of the very fabric of Germany.

the best way for us to fight terrorism is to deny these organizations legitimacy and to show that here in the United States of America, we do not suppress Islam; we celebrate and lift up the success of Muslim Americans.

No, the best way to fight Muslim violence is by (1) getting out of the way of law enforcement and others on the front line and (2) helping anti-Islamist Muslims find their voice.

we can’t suggest that Islam itself is at the root of the problem. That betrays our values. It alienates Muslim Americans. It’s hurtful to those kids who are trying to go to school and are members of the Boy Scouts, and are thinking about joining our military.

This nicely summarizes the Establishment mentality that one must not publicly connect Islam to violence; just whisper this behind closed doors.

Muslims around the world have a responsibility to reject extremist ideologies that are trying to penetrate within Muslim communities. Here at this mosque, and across our country and around the world, Muslim leaders are roundly and repeatedly and consistently condemning terrorism.

The equation of “reject[ing] extremist ideologies” and “condemning terrorism” reveals Obama’s facile understanding of the Islamist challenge, reducing it merely to wanton political violence. Stop that violence and the problem is solved. Hardly; for lawful Islamism poses a deeper threat than some bomb-totting fanatics.

this is not a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam. This is a struggle between the peace-loving, overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world and a radical, tiny minority. And ultimately, I’m confident that the overwhelming majority will win that battle. Muslims will decide the future of your faith. And I’m confident in the direction that it will go.

I would phrase it quite differently but I endorse these sentiments.

If you’re ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the United States: You fit in here – right here. You’re right where you belong. You’re part of America, too. You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.

I endorse this as well.

We are blessed to live in a nation where even if we sometimes stumble, even if we sometimes fall short, we never stop striving for our ideals. We keep moving closer to that more perfect union. We’re a country where, if you work hard and if you play by the rules, you can ultimately make it, no matter who you are or how you pray. It may not always start off even in the race, but here, more than any place else, there’s the opportunity to run that race. …

After more than 200 years, our blended heritage, the patchwork quilt which is America, that is not a weakness, that is one of our greatest strengths. It’s what makes us a beacon to the world.

These are unusually patriotic and warm words for the United States from a leftist who rarely has much good to say about his own country. Good to hear them.

In all, this speech gets much more wrong than it gets right, from factual mistakes to evasions to distortions. It does get a few points right, especially toward the end, but as a whole, it’s a typically shoddy Obama production.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2016 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

***

Frank Gaffney discusses the President’s rhetoric while visiting a Jihadist mosque in America on Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler:

Also see:

Video: Katie Gorka on Counterterrorism and Homeland Security

katie g

Click on the image above to hear Council on Global Security President Katie Gorka speaking for a counterterrorism and Homeland Security panel at the Heritage Foundation.

Main points:

  • Stop politicizing counterterrorism threat assessments and downplaying the problem. The 2011 purge of CT training has left law enforcement ill prepared to deal with today’s threats.
  • Stop asking what “radicalizes” terrorists. Pshychology, sociology (social movement theory) are not the answer. Terrorists are not victims. They choose to follow jihadism. For more on this see The Flawed Science Behind America’s Counterterrorism Strategy (.pdf)
  • Focus on jihadist ideology.
  • Stop treating terrorism as a crime. We are at war.

 

Council on Global Security President Katie Gorka on the San Bernardino shooting, ISIS threats and President Obama’s strategy for fighting the terror organization. With Deirdre Bolton on Risk And Reward.


 

Watch Katie Gorka (at 34.30 min. in) this video: Town Hall: The New Normal: Security vs FreedomKG


And on Fox and Friends:

Terror Slipping Through – Visa Security Gaps Causing Threat – The Rise Of Islamic Extremism

Stopping the Visa Waiver Program is like gun control….it won’t slow down the bad guys and would only constrain the good guys. Much more effective would be to get DHS and DOJ to focus more on terrorism and stop worrying so much about offending civil liberties. – Katie Gorka

 

Belgian Breeding Ground Fuels New Terror Wave

belgiumby Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
November 23, 2015

Time was, thoughts of Belgium led to thoughts of rich, dark chocolate, of Old Master painters and delicate, handmade lace.

Now it brings a different image: of Islamic jihad and men armed with Kalashnikovs, and of secret meetings of Muslim youth plotting a new attack against the West. The country is in lockdown today, facing what authorities believe is an “imminent attack.” On Sunday, police raided 19 homes in and around Brussels, and made 16 arrests. Brussels continues to be the focus of their action.

There is good reason for this. The Nov. 13 massacres in Paris, we’ve since learned, were planned in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, sometimes called “little Morocco” for its large Moroccan immigrant population. The attack on Charlie Hebdo also was planned there, along with the foiled attack on a Thalys high-speed train between Brussels and Amsterdam. Mehdi Nemmouche, who killed four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014, spent time there.

But it isn’t only Molenbeek, and it isn’t only recently. Belgium has been a hotbed of radical Islam for more than a decade, breeding organizations like Sharia4Belgium – one of the most influential “Sharia4” groups globally – and the now-defunct Arab European League (AEL). The goal of the AEL, founded by the Lebanese-Belgian Dyab Abou Jahjah in 2001, was to form a “sharocracy” in which sharia and democracy ruled together across the West. The organization was based in Antwerp, where Jahjah and his friends also celebrated the attacks of 9/11 with laughter. “We couldn’t hold our joy,” he recalled later in his autobiography.

Other signs of radicalism, also connected to Jahjah, soon followed; in 2002, Jahjah helped orchestrate riots in Borgenhout, outside of Antwerp. And in 2004, after establishing a Dutch arm of the AEL, he declared, “I consider every death of an American, British, and Dutch soldier a victory.”

Jahjah was hardly alone. By 2006, Belgian journalist Hind Fraihi, herself a Muslim, discovered that books teaching Muslims to fight infidels were being freely distributed by radical imams who preached jihad in local mosques. Other books she found in Belgium included Guide For Muslims, a Dutch publication that encourages Muslims to throw homosexuals from tall buildings and to beat their wives. A Washington Post profile of Fraihi cited other books she found, including some that “advised readers to learn to communicate in symbols and secret code, and offered tips on how to do that.”

But the largest influence on Belgian Muslims, and the source of much of their extremism, was the creation of Sharia4Belgium in 2010. Thanks to that group, Belgium boasts the largest number of Muslims per capita who have joined the Islamic State and its jihad. According to the Wall Street Journal and others, “dozens” of Sharia4Belgium members have made the pilgrimage to Syria, and dozens more have been detained before they could make the trip. Three of them, all women, were arrested in May 2014, around the time of the Jewish Museum shooting. They were part of a larger group of 40 Belgians planning to join the jihad, and most of them had Sharia4Belgium ties.

This should not have been surprising. By 2012, Belgium’s security service director Alain Winants determined that “radical Islam forms the greatest threat” to the country. Salafism, he told Belgian daily de Morgen, is gaining followers who have built up a parallel community with its own values, its own banks, justice system, and educational program.

Sharia4Belgium’s founder, Fouad Belkacem, was tried and convicted in September 2014 for supporting terrorism, along with dozens of other Sharia4Belgium members, some of whom are still on the Syrian battlefields. But by then it was too late. The group, with its active Dutch- and French-speaking recruiters in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and – most of all – the Internet, had already infiltrated the minds of untold numbers of other Belgian youth.

And still, no one seems to be watching.

This is due in part to limits of Belgium’s intelligence facilities. While German intelligence, for instance, is currently stretched to its limits trying to track potential terrorists, Der Spiegel reports that Belgium’s threat has long since exceeded the its own intelligence capabilities.

Indeed, according to Dutch NOS TV, “the central counterterrorism unit of the [Belgian] police department has only one employee tracking radical [Islamic] activity on the Internet. And she only works part time.” The result, notes Der Spiegel, is that “many Muslims who have become radicalized or received military training and may even have been traumatized are returning home from Syria without anyone checking on them whatsoever.”

Moreover, Belgium’s disorganized police system – with six authorities for 19 districts in Brussels alone – coupled with a chaotic government and the European capital’s convenient location at the midway point between Amsterdam and Paris –combine to help French and Dutch Islamists take refuge there. Two of the Paris attackers, the French-born Bilal Hafdi and Brahim Abdelslam, were among them.

As recently as last month, an exploratory committee determined that Belgian police had failed to notice, let alone monitor, a “jihad camp” set up by Kurdish PKK members and Sharia4Belgium in the Ardennes.

But the truth is, the country’s “capabilities” are only part of the problem: political timidity and correctness carry a good share of the blame. Suspicious behaviors are too often overlooked for fear of being called “racist,” Alain Winants told de Morgen in 2012. That viewpoint has since been echoed in Belgian editorials since the Paris attacks, with journalist Luckas Vander Taelen noting that Molenbeek’s mayor had once called a journalist “Islamophobic” for reporting on the radical Islamic books being distributed there. “There are no problems here,” the mayor insisted at the time.

Since the Nov. 13 attacks, however, Belgium has rounded up dozens of jihadists, with nine raids leading to nine arrests on Thursday preceding Sunday’s additional raids. The speed with which these terrorists were located suggests that authorities were aware of them prior to the events in Paris. So why weren’t they captured earlier? Was it a matter of incompetence? Or a kind of narcissistic concern over image, a fear, as Winants suggests, of being seen as “racist?”

Hopefully, Belgium has now learned its lesson. The fight against terrorism is not a popularity contest. It’s a contest we fight for our lives.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.

Foreign Money Promotes Radical Islamist Agenda in Canada

Richard Fadden, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, appears at Senate national security and defence committee hearing witnesses on Bill C-51 in Ottawa on Monday, April 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Richard Fadden, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, appears at Senate national security and defence committee hearing witnesses on Bill C-51 in Ottawa on Monday, April 27, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

by IPT News  •  Apr 30, 2015 

Millions of dollars are flooding into Canada from Gulf states to promote a radical Islamist agenda, according to testimony by the prime minister’s national security adviser, the National Post reports.

“I think it’s fair to say, without commenting on the particular country of origin, there are monies coming into this country which are advocating this kind of [Islamist extremist] approach to life,” Richard Fadden said Monday during a national security hearing concerning a new counter-terrorism bill.

Fadden, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said that large sums of money are sent to religious-affiliated institutions in Canada to promote an “extreme Islamic jihadist interpretation of the Qur’an.”

He also described the obstacles to tracking how the money is spent because of Canada’s respect for religious freedom.

“The difficulty is in most cases the monies are not coming from governments; they’re coming from fairly wealthy institutions or individuals within some of these countries. It makes it doubly difficult to track,” Fadden said. It is “quite difficult” to determine where they money ends up.

Last year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raided the offices of the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN-Canada) after federal auditors accused the Muslim charity for transferring $15 million to Hamas. The Canadian government subsequently added IRFAN-Canada to its list of banned terrorist organizations.

IRFAN-Canada lost its charity status in 2011 following a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audit that exposed the organization as an “integral part” in Hamas’ international fundraising infrastructure.

The issue of foreign Islamist financing has been the subject of previous Canadian Senate committee hearings. In February, Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association in Winnipeg, testified that her organization refused $3 million dollars in donations from overseas “because there are strings attached to it, and we want to be a Canadian Muslim organization.”

A 2004 report by the Council on Foreign Relations revealed that Saudi Arabia is promoting its brand of radical Islamist ideology in Canada by funding certain Islamic institutions. The Saudi government acknowledged that it funds Muslim institutions in Canada, including mosques in Ottawa and Calgary and an Islamic center in Quebec.

The task force said that Saudi Arabia spent hundreds of millions of dollars to finance 1,359 mosques and 210 Islamic centers around the world.

“This massive spending is helping to create the next generation of terrorists and therefore constitutes a paramount strategic threat to the United States … This massive spending is an integral part of the terrorist financing problem. It fosters virulence and intolerance directly at the United States, Christians, Jews and even other Muslims,” the report said.

Also see:

***

Trudeau calls warnings about Muslim radicalization “fear mongering”

Hussein Hamdani suspended from National Security position

Taking Jihad to School – French Programs Emphasize Secularism

by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
April 22, 2015

1147On a street in Paris’s popular 6th Arrondissement, men in camouflage wielding Famas assault rifles patiently stand guard throughout the day. It is an unexpected sight amidst the chic designer boutiques and crowded restaurants, but one a hotel attendant nearby explains with a knowing glance: the building they guard houses an organization for Jews.

This is life now in Paris after the terrorist attacks that took 17 lives in January – including four Jews, massacred at the kosher Hyper Cacher market in the hours before the Sabbath.

And it isn’t only here: in the Marais, long known for its Jewish population, a heavily-armed military presence has become commonplace, as France’s government struggles to protect its Jews – and the rest of its population – from the murderous violence of Islamic terrorism in its streets.

Fear of impending terrorist attacks has gripped most of Europe since the outbreak of war in Syria, and particularly since the rise of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS). Of the several thousand European Muslims who have joined the IS and other jihadist groups there, hundreds have died in battle. But hundreds more have returned home, and of these, dozens have been arrested for planning to wage domestic attacks in Europe. (Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman in the Hyper Cacher attacks, did not join the jihad in Syria, but did pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State before the killings.)

In response, European officials have wrestled to find solutions to the threat, both punitive and preventive – from immediate imprisonment of those who return from Syria and Iraq to confiscating the passports of those suspected of planning to join the IS and its jihad.

But France is now instituting an additional approach, recognizing that the “war on terror” – and especially the war against Islamic terrorism – is not merely a traditional fight about nations and territory and power. It is a war about ideology. And so it cannot be fought, or won, simply with bombs and armies, with Kalashnikovs and beheadings and the capturing of combatants, but with ideas and propaganda and the capturing of minds.

Since 2012, for instance, the Catholic University of Lyon has offered classes on secularism for imams and other Muslims working in the civic sphere. In the wake of the January attacks, according to recent reports by Elisabeth Bryant, France plans to make such education mandatory across the country, enrolling “hundreds of imams,” along with “chaplains working in prisons or the military.” Prisons are known to be hotbeds for radical Islam and recruiting for jihad; Coulibaly converted to radical Islam while serving time in Fleury-Mérogis Prison, as did Cherif Kouachi, one of the two brothers who carried out the Jan. 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Even more significant, France now is taking its war against radical Islam and racism to the schools, from teacher training to the addition of courses in secularism and ethics to the standard school curriculum. It is an initiative the rest of Europe – and the United States – would be well-advised to consider as well.

Such measures mark a major departure from the policies that European governments followed in dealing with their Muslim populations since the arrival of Muslim guest workers from the Middle East and North Africa in the 1970s. For the first several decades, the Muslim communities of Europe operated in something of their own universe, often ignoring European secular traditions as they established and pursued highly religious traditions of their own. In turn, Europe cast a blind eye on their activities, the mixed result of residual guilt over religious discrimination during the Holocaust and the belief – long-since abandoned – that Muslim guest workers would eventually return to their home countries anyway.

But they didn’t; and as the European Muslim community grew, makeshift prayer spaces in vacant storefronts and cafes became too small to house their congregations. Mosques needed to be built. Yet the communities themselves could not afford to build them, and secular governments refused to provide funds, leaving the way open for (largely) Saudi-sponsored mosques across Europe, where Saudi-sponsored imams preaching a strict, fundamentalist and often violent version of Islam gained influence over Europe’s rapidly-growing population of Muslim youth. Even in the past four years, according to Bryant, who cites figures from Le Figaro, “the number of mosques controlled by fundamentalist Salafi preachers [in France] has doubled from 44 to 89.”

The result: radicalization.

Coupled with this has been a similar approach in public schools, where Muslim students have been able to alter curricula to suit their own religious demands. Muslim girls frequently have been permitted to miss co-ed school field trips, for instance, or skip mixed-sex gym classes; and teachers are often threatened so severely by Muslim students when attempting to teach classes about the Holocaust that some have given up the lessons altogether. In such an environment, the powerful reach of recruiters for radical Islam – and for jihadist groups like the Islamic State – find easy prey. Essentially, Europe’s current system has opened all the doors for them already. They only have to step through.

France’s new initiative could begin to change all of this. While some accuse France of trying to replace Islamic fundamentalism with “secular fundamentalism,” defenders of the program like Prime Minister Manuel Valls argue rightly that, “Secularism must be applied everywhere, because that is how everyone will be able to live in peace with one another.”

Whether this will work in the face of the vicious Hydra of Islamic terrorism remains to be seen. Certainly, any change will take time – perhaps as long as a generation, or even more. But if it is idealistic in its aims, it is no less an ideal worth striving for; it was no less a warrior than Napoleon who once observed, “There are but two forces in the world: the sword and the spirit. In the long run, the sword is always vanquished by the spirit.”

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.

Islamist Panel Approaches Self-Parody in Hebdo/Radicalization Talk

IPT News
January 23, 2015

1118A panel discussion Thursday hosted by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) promised to plumb the “the root causes of radicalization” in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher market.

It turns out the problem is not Islamic theology or radical Muslim ideology. It’s all the things the West does wrong. Fix those problems, panelists said, and things get better.

During the 90-minute program at the National Press Club, no speaker discussed the Quranic verses invoked by terrorists in the Islamic State or al-Qaida to justify their actions. Instead, speakers emphasized a host of grievances that they say lead young Muslims to believe that peace and democracy will not lead to the changes they desire.

Muslim immigrants must be treated with more dignity and equality, said CSID founder Radwan Masmoudi. “Basically you must end all forms of racism, discrimination and hatred directed against Europeans of Arab descent or of the Islamic faith.” The West also must end the war in Syria and denounce the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood regime by Egypt’s military in July 2013.

Dalia Mogahed, a pollster and former White House adviser, took issue with the public reaction to the attacks. Defending the right to offend people as part of free expression plays into the terrorists’ agenda, she said. There is such a right, but society normally polices “incredibly offensive depiction(s)” of minorities. She wasn’t offended by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons as a Muslim, but she was “disgusted” by them as an American.

"All is forgiven"

“All is forgiven”

“The correct question isn’t, ‘can we?'” she said, “the correct question is ‘should we?'”

Mogahed called the attack on Charlie Hebdo “a very strange event” because it came at a time in which there were no protests. “The shooting literally came out of nowhere. It was a calculated act of provocation on the part of terrorist organizations. This was not an organic, or even fanatical, response of just rage and anger against cartoons.” This ignores the magazine’s history of satirizing all faiths, generating no violence from Christians or Jews. Last week, 10 people were killed in Niger when protesters angry at the latest Charlie Hebdo cover torched churches.

The assertion is puzzling because, as a pollster, Mogahed has monitored attitudes in the Muslim world for years. As such, she is well aware that the Paris attacks did not happen in a vacuum. In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered on an Amsterdam street by a radical Muslim angered by van Gogh’s film, Submission, which focused on Islam’s treatment of women. In 2010, Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard survived a home invasion attack by an ax-wielding Somali with ties to the Islamist terrorist group Al-Shabaab.

American Colleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane,” is serving a 10-year prison sentence in part due to her plotting to travel to Sweden to kill another cartoonist, Lars Vilks. That murder, she wrote in an email obtained by federal investigators, would be “my goal till i achieve it or die trying.”

There are numerous other examples of plots and attacks targeting people for their depictions of Islam’s prophet.

But the intent behind the attacks, Mogahed said, “was for Europe to respond essentially exactly as it did – to assert the right to offend by reprinting the cartoons.”

That certainly is a point of view. Another is that the terrorists hoped to intimidate others from showing images of Muhammad under any circumstance. Given that major American news outlets, including the New York Times, CNN and Fox and others have refused to show the Charlie Hebdo images, the attacks succeeded.

The focus on radical Islam and defense of free speech that resulted from the Paris attacks gave the terrorists “the rhetorical victory they desired,” she said. A better response would have been “to reassert the place of French citizens of Muslim faith in the republic.”

Mogahed and others repeatedly expressed resentment that the terrorists’ beliefs were being conflated with the beliefs held by 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide. They provided no examples to show this is what people mean when they talk about Islamic extremism.

Whatever the merits of Mogahed’s argument, it seems to have little connection to the causes of radicalization, which is what the panel was supposed to discuss.

In a podcast Wednesday, atheist writer Sam Harris slammed an emphasis on the West’s flaws in analyzing the Paris terrorist attacks as “completely insane.” After slaughtering the Charlie Hebdo staffers, Harris notes, Cherif and Said Kouachi yelled, “We have avenged the prophet.” They did not lament racism, disenfranchisement or any other grievance.

“That’s what causes someone to grab an AK 47 and murder 12 cartoonists and then scream ‘Allahu Akhbar’ in the streets,” Harris said facetiously. “It is a completely insane analysis. Even if you grant everything that’s wrong with capitalism and the history of colonialism, you should not be able to deny that these religious maniacs are motivated by concerns about blasphemy and the depiction of the prophet Muhammad, and consider their behavior entirely ethical in light of specific religious doctrines. And it’s a kind of masochism and moral cowardice and lack of intelligence, frankly, at this point, that is allowing people to deny this fact.”

Harris argued that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were not racist. But even if they were, emphasizing the offensive nature of the images shows someone “has completely lost the plot here.”

“[P]rotecting this speech becomes important when you have one group of people – ‘radical Muslims’ – who are responding to this offense with credible threats of murder in every country on earth. We can’t give in to this.”

“People have been murdered over cartoons,” he added. “End of moral analysis.”

Not for Nihad Awad, co-founder and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). His prepared remarks at the radicalization forum focused on the frustration he said Muslim American youth feel for constantly having to condemn the actions of others and for drawing disproportionate law enforcement attention.

“Islam has been blamed for the recent events, not the terrorists themselves,” Awad said. The media’s focus on the religious motivation inspiring terrorists and references to a war of ideas within Islam “is very offensive to me, to implicate the entire Islamic faith and the 1.7 billion people into accusing them of being inherently violent and warring among themselves. I believe this is dishonest discourse.”

Awad’s assertion is contradicted by other Muslims who believe the only way to stem radicalization is by modernizing and reforming Islam, steering away from strict, literalist interpretations. In addition, those most offended by cartoons or commentaries need to learn more peaceful ways to express their frustration.

Read more (with video)