These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 17, 2012.
Friday, 17 February 2012
FBI Purges Hundreds of Terrorism Documents in Islamophobia Probe
Muslim advocacy groups are apparently allowed to purge information they don't like. Spencer Ackerman writes in Wired:
An internal FBI investigation into its counterterrorism training has purged hundreds of bureau documents of instructional material about Muslims, some of which characterized them as prone to violence or terrorism.
The bureau disclosed initial findings from its months-long review during a meeting at FBI headquarters on Wednesday with several Arab and Muslim advocacy groups, attended by Director Robert Mueller. So far, the inquiry has uncovered and purged over 700 pages of documentation from approximately 300 presentations given to agents since 9/11 — some of which were similar to briefings published by Danger Room last year describing “mainstream” Muslims as “violent.” And more disclosures may be forthcoming, as the FBI continues its inquiry and responds to Freedom of Information Act requests for the documents themselves.
FBI spokesman Christopher Allen confirms to Danger Room that the bureau found some of the documents to be objectionable because they were inaccurate or over-broad, others because they were offensive. Allen explains that the documents represent “less than 1 percent” of over 160,000 documents reviewed by the inquiry, which was prompted by a Danger Room investigation in September. The FBI purged documents according to four criteria: “factual errors”; “poor taste”; employment of “stereotypes” about Arabs or Muslims; or presenting information that “lacked precision.”
Salam al-Marayati, the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, attended the FBI meeting. He came away worried that the volume of anti-Muslim training documents hands al-Qaida an unnecessary win.
“People will report criminal activity to the authorities, that’s been proven time and again,” Marayati tells Danger Room. “But if we are giving propaganda to al-Qaida, resuscitating this dying ideology that al-Qaida is promoting, by continually exposing anti-Muslim propaganda published by the government, that undermines our pluralism, which is the best defense against any transnational ideological threat.”
Others think that the FBI can’t stop at purging internal documents. “It’s a bit hard to avoid the conclusion there isn’t a problem of culture in the [FBI] training division,” says Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab-American Institute, whose subordinates also attended the meeting. “It’s one that appears to have some built-in biases when it comes to the Arab-American and Muslim-American communities.” Allen declined to respond.
But the FBI isn’t finished. The bureau plans to publish a “touchstone document” in the coming weeks that explains its criteria to ensure new anti-Islam documents won’t enter counterterrorism training in the future. Similarly, the Justice Department plans on March 21 to release “Cultural Competency” guidelines for dealing with Arab and Muslim communities on counterterrorism, according to Xochitl Hinojosa, a department spokeswoman.
Several civil-rights advocates said they appreciated Mueller’s personal attention. The Wednesday meeting had been scheduled by the FBI’s public-affairs arm, whose deputy assistant director, Jeff Mazanec, briefed the groups for about 40 minutes before Mueller unexpectedly joined.
“Director Mueller acknowledged the seriousness of our concerns and expressed a commitment to maintaining contact with the inter-religious community,” says Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, another attendee at the meeting. Mueller “seemed to understand the hurt and pain as well as the fear, engendered by the offensive, inappropriate and insensitive materials.”
But the worst may not have passed. Allen acknowledged that the internal review, assisted by the Army’s counterterrorism specialists at West Point, hasn’t yet concluded. Several additional organizations have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the specific offending documents; attendees came away with the impression that their disclosure will be ugly.
The White House ordered a government-wide review of counterterrorism training late last year. A Pentagon document responding to the order cited Danger Room’s series as an impetus for the effort.
Berry says she could “see the seriousness with which [the FBI] has approached this.” But she calls the problem a “systemic” one, with urgent implications for U.S. domestic counterterrorism — a concern voiced by Attorney General Eric Holder as well.
“They’ve never owned this problem. It’s not a problem of outside contractors,” she tells Danger Room. “They’re producing these kind of documents that inhibit our counterterrorism efforts. We need our communities engaged, and these have done nothing but alienate us.”
On Wednesday evening I had the honor to meet the leader of the newly formed British Freedom Party, Paul Weston, at a private gathering here in Nashville. Now, if you look at the British Freedom Party’s wikipedia page, you will see that it was originally formed by splitting with the BNP, but unreported is the fact that the old BNP leadership has completely stepped down and under Weston’s hand, there is no place for racism or antisemitism in the BFP. The advantage for Weston was simply that the organizational structure was already in place so that the British Freedom Party can hit the ground running. And they need to, because time is a luxury they have run out of in Britian.
Weston’s message was sobering. Like Geert Wilders, he is trying to “warn America not to go down the same Islamic road” as has Europe and Great Britain. He quoted Samuel Huntington saying that when civilizations are in the process of dying, their inhabitants nevertheless remain under the “illusion of permanency,” even during the kind of massive demographic transformation England has experienced in the last 50 years. In the 1960’s Muslim immigrants numbered in the tens of thousands, but today, thanks to intentional Labour policy to “rub the noses of right-wing in diversity,” they number anywhere from 3 to 8 million in a population of around 65 million. The exact figure is unknown due to the open door immigration policies of those who were trying to further the “revolution” by making the indigenous Britons a powerless minority in their own country. And this is already happening in many areas which have been transformed into Sharia zones. Of course these new immigrants create a bloc vote for the Labour Party.
Weston maintains that this open door immigration policy is treasonous. The British embassy in Pakistan has even been passing out literature urging Pakistanis to immigrate to Britain. This literature emphasizes the generous welfare benefits available (in which Muslims can claim benefits for up to four wives just as is allowed by Shariah law). The native British are also leaving Britain at the rate of 250,000 a year and those who remain are a rapidly aging population. The non-indigenous population under age 40 is growing at ten times the rate of native Britons and Weston estimates that the tipping point, when the non-indigenous under 40 population becomes the majority is just 18 years in the future, in 2030. He openly warns of the possibility of civil war unless something is done right away.
Weston’s British Freedom Party proposes the following:
1. Introduce a US style First Amendment guaranteeing Free Speech.
2. Leave the profoundly undemocratic European Union.
3. Abolish the Human Rights Act, which benefits only foreign criminals/terrorists.
4. Halt any further immigration for a period of five years.
6. Abolish all multicultural and equality quangos.
7. Halt and turn back all aspects of the Islamisation of Britain, including Sharia finance.
8. Drastically reduce crime – criminals should fear the consequences of their behaviour.
9. Repair the damage wreaked by the progressive educational establishment.
10. Promote British values and assimilation, rather than multiculturalism and division.
11. Rebuild Britain’s Armed Forces to 1980 levels.
12. Diminish the public sector and government interference in the private sector.
13. Withdraw troops from all areas where we are not directly threatened.
14. Cancel foreign aid to countries which do not deserve or need it.
15. End welfare payments to immigrants; they must pay for their housing and children.
16. Ensure no elderly person lives in fear, and can afford both heat and food in the winter.
17. Ensure that a no class-A drugs policy is enforced.
18. Promote morality, marriage, the family, the community and the nation state.
19. Allow pubs the choice of operating as smoking or non-smoking establishments.
20. Live by Christianity’s Golden Rule: “Do unto others as thou wouldst be done by.”
All this seems perfectly reasonable and we hope the British Freedom Party can grow and gain public office in numbers sufficient to implement these proposals before Britain slides into real chaos, which certainly could happen given the demographic trends and the growing militancy of the young Muslim population.
The unappealing geographic term "Af-Pak" (Afghanistan-Pakistan) was coined to describe the theatre of war of the American "War on Terrorism" (as it was once comically known), that theatre a few thousand miles east of Iraq.
In that other theatre of the war, "Af-Pak," the Americans have spent one trillion dollars on Afghanistan alone, with other tens of billions going to Pakistan, but at least that is only half the sums spent, or committed, to the war in Iraq. This money has provided the res for the trust fund that the Americans have unwittingly set up for the corrupt rulers, and their courtiers, in Afghanistan (where Karzai's family has shown the way, provided the model), and for the corrupt generals, and military establishment, and zamindars, in Pakistan.
What, so far, have the Americans gotten for all of this money, and men sacrificed, and effort?
Today's news provides an answer.
The most tenacious and aggressive of America's enemies, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is headed by Mahmoud Ahmedinajad. The most treacherous of America's pseudo-allies among the Muslim lands, Pakistan, is headed by, or its rulers fronted by, the civilian Zardari. And the most corrupt and ungrateful of America's aid recipients, along with Egypt and "the Palestinian territories," certainly include Afghanistan, whose head is the berobed and bipolar Hamid Karzai.
The news today is that Karzai will meet with Ahmedinajad and Zardari to fashion some kind of alliance, based on furthering general prosperity in the area.
That's what the trillion dollars has bought the United States.
How much of that money already lavished upon Afghanistan, or the money still being budgeted this coming year for Afghanistan, will actually go to trade with Iran, thereby helping to vitiate the American effort to impose crippling sanctions on that country, in order to force the Islamic Republic to give up its nuclear weapons project?
Afghanistan -- On Which America Has Spent One Trillion Dollars -- And Its Muslim Friends
From The Washington Post:
February 17, 2012
At Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan summit, a show of unity
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put on a display of unity Friday at a trilateral summit in Islamabad
And in the middle was Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, whose country’s complex relationship with Washington swings from pole to pole.
If there existed any conflict among the chief executives of the three neighboring Islamic nations, they certainly weren’t showing it Friday at the close of a trilateral summit in Pakistan’s capital. At a news conference Zardari hosted in his splendid official residence, the theme was fraternal unity as the trio pledged to work for peace and prosperity in a region raging with war and terrorism.
“When brothers [clasp] their hands together, certainly the hands of God will assist them,” Ahmadinejad said at the post-summit news conference that he dominated with windy disquisitions against “outside powers,” the United States presumably among them.
“There are countries that are determined to dominate our region ... with their hegemony,” he said. “All problems are coming from the outside.”
His government is under severe sanctions and threat of attack from Israel for its nuclear program, but Ahmadinejad played down the importance of a nation’s having the Bomb. That, he said, “is not going to bring about superiority.”
Evidently referring to nuclear-armed Pakistan, he added, “The foundation of our political relationship is humanitarian and is based on common cultural values.”
The only public evidence of friction at the summit arose over the long-alleged ties between Islamist militants and Pakistan’s military and intelligence service. Afghan officials have pointed to Pakistan as an impediment to a negotiated peace with the Taliban because the country harbors insurgents who are at war with Karzai’s government. Separate bilateral talks between Karzai and Zardari were meant to smooth tensions, but no declarations of progress emerged.
Karzai’s comments at the news conference reflected the sense that cloudy goals and overall uncertainty have dogged the nascent peace talks.
“What we need now is to formulate a policy that is actionable and implementable, and actually act upon it,” Karzai said.
Surrounded by reporters after the presidents spoke, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said it would be “unrealistic” and “preposterous” for Afghanistan to expect that her nation could somehow arrange for Taliban leader Mohammad Omar to join the peace negotiations.
Minutes earlier, the moderator of the news conference had cut off questions after one reporter tried to inquire about the Taliban. But in the back of the conference hall, the cameramen were not satisfied. “Shake hands, shake hands,” some shouted at the presidents.
And, quite dutifully, the leaders of the embattled nations of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan did just that.
Professor John Louis Esposito of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. is one of the most outspoken and prolific defenders of radical Islamist ideology in Western academia. But in addition to his tenured employment in Middle East Studies, Esposito has found a second calling -- as a court expert in the trials of accused Muslim radicals.
According to the Washington-based website Politico, Esposito has been tapped as a defense witness in the case of Khalid Ali Aldawsari, a twenty-one-year-old Saudi Arabian subject arrested in February 2011 in Lubbock, Texas.
Aldawsari is charged with one count of attempting to fabricate a weapon of mass destruction -- i.e., a bomb. If he is found guilty, he may be sentenced to life imprisonment. A mental competency hearing, according to Politico, is scheduled to begin in the third week of February, with a trial set for April 30.
In a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding his detention, reported soon after he was arrested, Aldawsari's conspiratorial efforts were detailed as they appeared in a federal criminal complaint and accompanying affidavit. The DOJ stated that Aldawsari entered the U.S. legally and was enrolled at South Plains College near Lubbock. Aldawsari had "purchase[d] chemicals and equipment necessary to make an improvised explosive device (IED)" and had "research[ed] potential U.S. targets." Aldawsari expressed his commitment to armed jihad and to "martyrdom" in a blog, titled "From Far Away," and a personal journal.
The Justice Department outlined Aldawsari's attempts to make trinitrophenol (TNP), or picric acid, a well-known component in explosives. He failed to obtain concentrated phenol, a toxic chemical that may be employed for legal purposes but also may be used in producing picric acid. A chemical vendor completed his order for the item and sent it to a freight shipping company, which Aldawsari had asked to hold the chemical for him. The freight shipper reported the transaction to federal authorities, and the hazardous commodity was returned to the seller. Aldawsari told the freight company he was affiliated with a university and needed the concentrated phenol for "off-campus, personal research." But Aldawsari then canceled the order.
Aldawsari was, however, successful in buying concentrated nitric and sulfuric acid, which are combined with concentrated phenol to produce picric acid. As revealed in legally authorized electronic surveillance disclosed by DOJ, Aldawsari researched construction of an IED online, and sent himself e-mails on the production of concentrated phenol and of picric acid, labeling the latter a "military explosive."
In other e-mails, Aldawsari wrote information to himself on the chemical requirements for production of nitro urea, a "blowing agent" created by adding urea nitrate to concentrated sulfuric acid. Urea is a chemical found in the urine of animals and may be produced artificially; it is a source of nitrogen included in fertilizers. Aldawsari also used e-mails to himself to archive instructions on conversion of cell phones to become remote detonators, and attachment of explosives to vehicles "using items available in every home." Aldawsari purchased a gas mask, a hazardous materials protective suit, a soldering iron kit, glass chemical apparatuses, clocks, a battery tester, wiring, and a stun gun.
When Federal Bureau of Investigation agents searched Aldawsari's apartment in February 2011, they found the concentrated sulfuric and nitric acids, chemistry equipment, wiring and the hazardous material suit, and clocks. But they also retrieved a "diary or journal" in which Aldawsari averred that he had been planning a terrorist attack for years. The notebook entries showed that he had sought and received an American college scholarship because it would assist his travel to the U.S. and provide him with financial means "I need for Jihad." The commentary by Aldawsari continued, "And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad."
Aldawsari's notes included "a synopsis of important steps" for completion of his homicidal mission: obtaining a forged U.S. birth certificate, renting a car, using different driver's licenses each time he rented a car, and placing bombs in vehicles and leaving them in different locations during rush hours.
But the Saudi suspect was not, it seems, hungry for martyrdom: he included the need to leave the city chosen for his spree of violence "for a safe place."
Targets for his extremist violence ranged from names and addresses of three U.S. military veterans who had been assigned to the prison at Abu Ghraib in Iraq to a list headed "NICE TARGETS 01," with the names of twelve reservoir dams in Colorado and California. A second message titled "NICE TARGETS" specified hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants as objects of attack. On February 6, 2011, as alleged by the federal affidavit, Aldawsari e-mailed himself the Dallas address of former president George W. Bush, headed "Tyrant's House." Aldawsari additionally expressed interest in concealing explosives in infant dolls and targeting a nightclub using a backpack bomb.
Aldawsari apparently acted alone in his preparations for massacre. The New York Times reported when he was apprehended that he intended to place car bombs in New York. The Times further said that Aldawsari's first place of study in the U.S. was Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he learned English. But the scholarship for which he expressed gratitude as enabling jihad came from Texas Tech University in Lubbock. In the Times, Aldawsari was portrayed by other Saudi students in the area as "extremely antisocial." He lived with three roommates but "kept his door locked and seldom talked with them," and he "spent most of his time "working out in a student gym or listening to Arabic television broadcasts on his laptop in his room, his former roommates said."
While at Vanderbilt, in diary jottings that appeared benevolent, Aldawsari expressed his desire to work in epidemiology, preventing disease through government programs, or to find a job with Google. But in 2009, after a summer visit to the Saudi kingdom, his aspirations changed, and he moved to Lubbock to study chemical engineering. In spring 2010, he commenced posting jihadist messages and cut himself off from his roommates.
As a criminal defendant in the U.S., Aldawsari must be considered innocent until proven guilty. Nevertheless, the accumulation of credible evidence by the federal authorities indicates strongly that Aldawsari presented a serious terrorist threat to the public.
Why, we may ask, should Esposito involve himself on behalf of such an individual? According to the defense witness roster accessible via Politico, Esposito will be called to testify as:
An expert in Islamic and Arabic culture, [who] will analyze the writings found on the blog 'From Far Away,' which the Government attributes to Mr. Aldawsari, writings allegedly found in Mr. Aldawsari's notebooks, and certain videos allegedly found on Mr. Aldawsari's computer that the Government has characterized as extremist propaganda. At trial, Dr. Esposito will testify to the cultural bias and isolation experienced by Mr. Aldawsari as part [sic] explanation for his conduct (i.e., alleged blog postings, 'extremist' writings, and watching 'extremist' videos) and to support the defense of free speech.
Additionally, Dr. Esposito will testify concerning the following general subject matters:
• The meaning of jihad in the context of Islam
• The context of Islamic religious thought and expression
• Islam's affect on Mr. Aldawsari's cultural and political beliefs
Expert witnesses in criminal trials typically are well-paid. Politico writer Josh Gerstein states that Aldawsari has hired "three of the most prominent criminal defense attorneys in the Dallas area." The lawyers listed on the defense witness roster, however, are Dan Cogdell and Paul Doyle, of Houston, and Roderique S. Hobson, of Lubbock. A gag order has been imposed on the case, but Gerstein speculated that the funding outlay to assist an obscure Saudi student arrested in Texas may have come from the Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington. If such is the case, the choice of Esposito for his "cultural expertise" may have come about because of his long and warm relationship with the Saudi authorities.
Esposito declined to be interviewed by Politico on the matter. But the Georgetown professor is also described in the defense roster of prospective witnesses as having "testified as a defense expert in United States v. Holy Land Foundation ... (2008), and opined that Arabicspeeches made by defendants had different[,] more benign meanings than their literaltranslations." In the 2008 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) proceeding, Esposito's testimony was notably unhelpful to the defendants. Academic acrobatics did not prevent the conviction of five HLF leaders -- Shukri Abu Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulrahman Odeh -- on charges of serving as a front for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
The HLF defendants were found guilty of ten counts of conspiracy to provide, and the provision of, material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization; eleven counts of conspiracy to provide, and the provision of, funds, goods, and services to a Specially Designated Terrorist; and ten counts of conspiracy to commit, and the commission of, money-laundering. Abu Baker and Elashi were each sentenced to sixty-five years in prison, Abdulqader to twenty years, and El-Mezain and Odeh to fifteen years each.
Esposito's intellectual exercises in "explanation" of jihad may well take second place in the Aldawsari case to evocation of the defendant's alleged "victimization" -- i.e., "cultural bias and isolation" -- during his life in a non-Saudi environment. In this manner, Esposito would seem to substitute for psychiatric expertise in the Aldawsari trial by attempting to justify Aldawsari's conduct as an effect of psychological stress. The weight of evidence in the Aldawsari case may prove too great for Aldawsari to be found mentally incompetent, since he was monitored by the FBI making rational decisions and recording his intentions articulately.
But American legal authorities have argued for years over the limits of admissible "scientific" testimony. In such a case, Esposito's "cultural expertise" may be admitted, as it was in the 2008 HLF trial. But it is hard to imagine that if Aldawsari is found competent to be tried, Esposito's excuses for jihadism will ameliorate the defendant's situation. The Georgetown luminary may also have it in mind, as noted in the defense witness list, to absolve Aldawsari's jihadist commentaries on "free speech" grounds. Perhaps Esposito does all this for money, or he may believe sincerely in the extremist worldview he so assiduously defends.
The State Department Continues To Run Wild -- Will Congress Stop It?
Hundreds of billions have been transferred from non-Muslim taxpayers to Muslim states and societies. And the Muslim bloc is the only remaining bloc at the U.N., and its succursales, such as UNESCO. And the "Palestianians" conducting their diplomatic Jihad were warned that there would be consequences if they went ahead at the U.N.
Now the State Department, which has a record of insensate support for the U.N., that most corrupt and corrupting, of institutions, and that always describes that support, implausibly, as merely a matter of "constructive engagement," now wants to undo those consequences and ignore the will of Congress. This is of a piece with continuing to give Afghanistan, and its corrupt ruling elite, money, to continuing to supply treacherous Pakistan with money, to continue to give Egypt military aid -- which aid can only be used to keep the military able to make its deals with the Ikhwan and suppress the tiny liberal element within Egypt (and also better prepare for a conflict, sometime in the future, with Israel, thus lessening the deterrent effect of the IDF).
Less than four months after the U.S. cut off funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for granting full membership to the Palestinian Authority, the State Department has quietly put nearly $79 million in its 2013 budget in hopes that Congress will grant a legal waiver allowing UNESCO funding to be restored.
That permission is unlikely to be granted soon, and is already opposed by one of the more influential members of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
“Resuming U.S. funding would give a green light for other U.N. bodies to follow in UNESCO’s footsteps and support the Palestinian statehood push,” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, declared yesterday, in the wake of the State Department move.
It “sends a disastrous message that the U.S. will fund U.N. bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make.”
The UNESCO funding was cut off automatically under U.S. legislation dating back to the ‘90s, which mandated the spending freeze for any grant of full membership to Palestine by a U.N. agency before an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. The logic behind the measure was that anything giving the Palestinian Authority such a boost in status would work against the peace process rather than for it.
Currently, only an explicit waiver of the law can free the funding once the line has been crossed, as UNESCO did last October by a 107-14 vote of its membership, despite strenuous U.S. lobbying to prevent the move.
Support for UNESCO is part of the Obama administration’s policy of overall support for the U.N., which has included such moves as joining the controversial U.N. Human Rights Council, which currently includes major human rights violators such as China and Cuba among its members.
The policy still includes UNESCO, as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides made clear at a press briefing Monday, where he acknowledged the earmarking of the funds.
“UNESCO does a lot of enormously good work,” Nides declared, and we’d like to make sure that we have a contribution commensurate with their work.” The $79 million would cover the U.S.’s normal 22 percent of UNESCO’s regular budget.
“We have put the money in the budget, realizing that we’re not going to be able to spend the money unless we get the waiver, and we have made it clear to the Congress we’d like a waiver,” Nides said.
Ros-Lehtinen’s view, on the other hand, is that “any effort to walk back this funding cutoff will pave the way for the Palestinian leadership’s unilateral statehood scheme to drive on.
Whether all U.S. legislators will agree with the State Department’s assessment of Paris-based UNESCO’s value may also be debatable. The U.S. only restored its own membership in the U.N. body in 2003, after a nearly 20-year absence. That was caused initially, the U.S. said, by UNESCO’s "excessive politicization, long-term lack of budgetary restraint, and poor management." Britain quit at the same time, but returned in 1997.
Nowadays, the Obama administration apparently has few problems with the organization, which says its mission is “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.”
The British aid agency berated UNESCO for “long-lasting historic underperformance and rated it as “unsatisfactory” in its organizational strengths, though the review had a few kind words for the agency’s top management, led by Director General Irina Bokova.
But when it came to UNESCO’s actual mission, the review said, “UNESCO’s significant under-performance in leadership means it is rarely critical in education and development.”
His 20-point manifesto -- sucks boo to Woodrow Wilson, with his paltry 14 -- goes deep. Yet as a shallow person, I would draw attention to the one that might be overlooked, viz number 19:
Allow pubs the choice of operating as smoking or non-smoking establishments..
First of all there is the question-begging (in the true sense of the term) assumption that there are, and ever shall be, pubs. There'll always be an England where there's a country (or city) pub. Even if it's called The Spaniards. Second of all, as a non-smoker, I urge the (profligate, bloated, polypragmonic) State to butt out (geddit?) on the subject of smoking, or indeed on most other subjects.
Does number 19 go from the sublime to the ridiculous? No, and no. The right to smoke -- to do what the bloody hell you like as long as it harms nobody else -- is not ridiculous. But even if it were, England reserves the right to be ridiculous. The sublime and the ridiculous are of equal merit. And equally un-Islamic, for Islam has no sense of the ridiculous and therefore no sense of the sublime.
Anthony Shadid, Whose Human-Interest Reporting Was Vitiated By His Failure To Analyze The Effect Of Islam
The New York Times published his last column today:
Islamists’ Ideas on Democracy and Faith Face Test in Tunisia
By ANTHONY SHADID
This article was written before Mr. Shadid died on Thursday on a reporting trip in Syria.
TUNIS — The epiphany of Said Ferjani came after his poor childhood in a pious town in Tunisia, after a religious renaissance a generation ago awakened his intellect, after he plotted a coup and a torturer broke his back, and after he fled to Britain to join other Islamists seeking asylum on a passport he had borrowed from a friend.
Twenty-two years later, when Mr. Ferjani returned home, he understood the task at hand: building a democracy, led by Islamists, that would be a model for the Arab world.
“This is our test,” he said.
If the revolts that swept the Middle East a year ago were the coming of age of youths determined to imagine another future for the Arab world, the aftermath that has brought elections in Egypt and Tunisia and the prospect of decisive Islamist influence in Morocco, Libya and, perhaps, Syria is the moment of another, older generation.
No one knows how one of the most critical chapters in the history of the modern Arab world will end, as the region pivots from a movement against dictatorship toward a movement for something that is proving far more ambiguous. But the generation embodied by Mr. Ferjani, shaped by jail, exile and repression and bound by faith and alliances years in the making, will have the greatest say in determining what emerges.
Their ascent to the forefront of Arab politics charts the lingering intellectual and organizational prowess of the Muslim Brotherhood, a revivalist movement founded by an Egyptian schoolteacher in a Suez Canal town in 1928. But intellectual currents that once radiated from Egypt now just as often flow in the other direction, as scholars and activists in Morocco and Tunisia, perched on the Arab world’s periphery and often influenced by the West, export ideas that seek a synthesis of what the most radical Islamists, along with their many critics here and in the West, still deem irreconcilable: faith and democracy.
More often than not, they are asking societies for trust that, given the experiences of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution or the Islamist-led coup in Sudan in 1989, authoritarian leaders and secular forces are reluctant to offer.
Mr. Ferjani, a 57-year-old self-taught intellectual as exuberant as he is pious, acknowledges the doubts. In one of several interviews, he declared that history — a word he uses often — would judge his generation not on its ability to take power but rather on what it did with power, which has come after four decades of activism.
“I can tell you one thing, we now have a golden opportunity,” he said, smiling. “And in this golden opportunity, I’m not interested in control. I’m interested in delivering the best charismatic system, a charismatic, democratic system. This is my dream.”
A Chance Encounter
Nothing in Mr. Ferjani’s childhood really set him on the path to realize this ambition. Born in Kairouan, a town reputed by some Muslims to be Islam’s fourth holiest city, he was not especially pious as a child. His father, a shopkeeper, never managed to provide enough for his family. He remembered going three days without food once, and wearing cheap sandals to school. “Poverty, we tasted it,” he recalled.
By his own account, he was unruly and rambunctious until he turned 16. That year, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, an Arab nationalist turned Islamist who had studied in Egypt and Syria before returning to Tunisia, took a job teaching Arabic in Kairouan. Mr. Ghannouchi would stay only a year before setting out to eventually form the Islamic Tendency Movement, then the Ennahda Party, but he left a legacy with his students.
“He was always talking about the world and politics,” Mr. Ferjani said. “Why as Muslims are we backwards? What makes us backwards? Is it our destiny to be so?”
The questions posed by Mr. Ghannouchi have shaped successive generations of Islamists, a term that never captures their diversity. The theme was examined in the work of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose notion of missionary work proved so successful over 50 years. It was there, too, in the works of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian thinker whose writings resonated long after he was hanged in 1966, helping give rise to a militant Islamism that bloodied the Middle East. Later, “The Hidden Duty,” a text that laid the groundwork for the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, tried to resolve the issue. So did Mr. Ghannouchi, who endorsed pluralism and democracy, even as revolution raged in Iran.
In Kairouan’s colonial-era Negra Mosque, Mr. Ferjani and a hundred other youths gathered to study them all. “Read, read, read, read,” he recalled. “Even when I walked, I read.”
Mr. Ferjani eventually made his way to Tunis, the capital, where he joined his old Arabic teacher’s group. “Politics was there from the beginning,” he said in the interview.
Tunisia was ruled at the time by Habib Bourguiba, who was so secular that he once made it a point to drink orange juice on television during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Mr. Bourguiba, in power since 1957, cracked down on Mr. Ghannouchi’s followers, and with the prospect of many of them being executed, Mr. Ferjani said he helped in plotting a coup d’état. He met many of the organizers at a video store he ran in a low-slung building of white stucco and blue shutters, across the street from Parliament.
Seventeen hours before they were to carry it out, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Mr. Bourguiba’s interior minister, led his own coup. Ten days later, on Nov. 17, 1987, Mr. Ferjani was arrested. He spent 18 months in jail, where his interrogators strapped him to a bar in what he called “the roasted chicken” position and fractured his vertebra with an iron rod. Unable to walk, the pain searing, he would be carried by prisoners on their backs whenever he had to move.
“They were extreme experts in how to make the torture felt in every part of the body,” Mr. Ferjani recalled. “I would stay awake until 5 a.m. in the morning. I’d pray till dawn, then I’d sleep, and I’d only fall asleep because there was nothing left in me.”
Five months after his release, still in a wheelchair, he trained himself to walk 50 yards so that security would not notice him at the airport. He shaved his beard and borrowed a friend’s passport. Then he caught a flight to London and sought asylum.
Crucible of Exile
Islamists of Mr. Ferjani’s generation wear prison time like a badge of honor. But exile, especially for the Tunisians, was often no less formative.
The London where Mr. Ferjani traveled became a hub of sorts for Islamist politics in the 1990s. Mr. Ghannouchi soon arrived there, joining Mr. Ferjani. Salafis from Saudi Arabia mixed with their frequent adversaries, Shiites from Bahrain, finding more common ground in London than at home.
Ahmed Yousef, a scholar and Hamas leader ["scholar" misleads; he is an "Islamic scholar," which means he knows and transmits the contents, as fixed, of Qur'an and Hadith] n the Gaza Strip, recalled a similar environment in the United States, where he made lifelong contacts at conferences in Washington. Among the connections: Saadeddine Othmani, a Moroccan scholar and politician; Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni, a Syrian Brotherhood leader; Abdul Latif Arabiyat, an Islamist leader from Jordan; and Abdelilah Benkirane, a Moroccan who is now the prime minister.
The environment became less permissive after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, Mr. Yousef said, but until then, “it was like paradise.”
“In exile, people feel they need each other,” said Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian scholar [again the word "scholar" hardly does Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas apologist, justice. See Tamimii in action here] and activist in London, who has written a biography of Mr. Ghannouchi. “Back home, the national environment imposes itself on you. Priorities become different.”
Mr. Ferjani compared his years in London to the intellectual awakening he underwent in Kairouan in the 1970s. Settling with his wife and five children in the neighborhood of Ealing, he remained in Islamist circles, soon embroiled in the debates over Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but broadening his horizons into civil society. He took classes on the history of Europe, democracy, the environment and social change.
He said he understood what Mr. Tamimi called the “common roots and common ground” of Islamist activists, many of whom never expected to return home.
“We know each other,” he said. “But knowing is one thing, doing things together in every sense — as many may think — is another. In politics, it’s not that we all agree.”
Through Mr. Ferjani’s years in exile, the dominant image of political Islam was the bloody record of Egypt’s insurgency in the 1990s, the Algerian civil war and the ascent of Bin Laden, whose Manichaean view of the world mirrored the most vitriolic statements of the Bush administration.
But no less dramatic was the shift under way within various currents inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Ghannouchi, his own thoughts evolving in exile, became an early proponent of a more inclusive and tolerant Islamism, arguing a generation ago that notions of elections and majority rule were universal and did not contradict Islam. Early on, he supported affirmative action to increase women’s participation in Parliament, a break with the unrelenting notion of missionary work that so long defined the Brotherhood.
“Frankly, the guy who brought democracy into the Islamic movement is Ghannouchi,” Mr. Ferjani said. As Mr. Ghannouchi himself put it in an interview late last year, at a conference in Istanbul attended by Islamist activists from Tunisia to the Palestinian territories, “Rulers benefit from violence more than their opponents do.”
In debates that played out across the Arab world, though often ignored by the West, the questions of reconciling democracy and Islam raged from the 1990s on. In the middle of that decade, a young Egyptian Islamist named Aboul-Ela Maadi broke from the Brotherhood and formed the Center Party, declaring its support for elections and the alternation of power and, as important, dissent and coalitions with non-Islamic parties.
Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an enormously influential Egyptian cleric based in Doha, Qatar, often sided with the progressives. (In 2005, he turned heads by declaring on Al Jazeera satellite television that “freedom comes before Islamic law.”) Though the Brotherhood still resents Mr. Maadi for his defection, it has largely adopted his ideas, which had seemed so novel in 1996.
Those debates reverberated across the region. Mr. Yousef, the Palestinian, remembered the impact of reading Mr. Ghannouchi’s monthly magazine, Al Maarifa, as a student in Egypt. In Libya, Ali Sallabi, who once debated politics with jihadists in the prisons of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, cited Mr. Ghannouchi and Sheik Qaradawi as inspirations.
Critics view the shifts as tactical, even rhetorical. But the very essence of the debates has marked a fulcrum in the intellectual currents of today’s political Islam.
“Al-sama’ wa’l-ta’a,” went the old Brotherhood ideal, which translates as “hearing and obeying.”
“That’s over,” said Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar based in London and a grandson of Mr. Banna, the Brotherhood founder. “The new generation is saying if it’s going to be this, then we’re leaving. You have a new understanding and a new energy.”
He noted that in contrast to Mr. Ferjani’s earlier years, when Egypt was the source of new Islamist thought, the influences are now more pronounced of exiles in Europe, scholars in North Africa like Mr. Ghannouchi and Ahmed Raysouni, and Islamist parties like Ennahda in Tunisia and Mr. Benkirane’s Justice and Development Party in Morocco.
“It’s not coming just from the Middle East anymore,” Mr. Ramadan said. “It’s coming from North African countries and from the West. There are new visions and there are new ways of understanding. Now they are bringing these thoughts back to the Middle East.”
From his perch in London, Mr. Ferjani incorporated talk of Westminster when formulating his idea of a charismatic state, whether led by Islamists or others. After vehemently rejecting the left, he now embraces Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism.
Exile, he said, “changed me a lot, profoundly.”
On a brisk winter day, Mr. Ferjani sat in Ennahda’s offices in Tunisia, a five-story building whose plastic sign inscribed with its name lent a sense of the unfinished.
Nearly a year had passed since he had returned to Tunis, draped in the red national flag and walking effortlessly through the airport. He carried a passport that was his. His beard had gone gray, save for a mustache that served as a reminder of his youth in Kairouan. About 200 people met him at the terminal.
“No place for traitors in Tunisia, only for those who defend her!” he sang, joining the crowd as it recited the national anthem. “We live and die loyal to Tunisia.”
On this day, his mood was more somber. In protests, secular activists were denouncing the caliphate that they believed was sure to rise from the victory of Ennahda in elections in October. Newspapers opposed to the party were full of stories of abuses by puritanical Islamists and Ennahda’s supposed tolerance of extreme practices. In well-to-do cafes, some Tunisians viewed Ennahda’s success in existential terms, talking of an inevitable intolerance sanctioned by religion that would extinguish Tunisia’s cosmopolitanism. The cultural debates seemed to overshadow what everyone agreed was more pressing: an ailing economy.
“Frankly, we’re on top of things,” Mr. Ferjani said.
But in a less guarded moment, he asked, “Can you really solve problems of 50 years in less than one month with a government that is less than one month old?”
In an interview, Mr. Ferjani had once quipped, “You know, power corrupts.” As he sat at the party headquarters on this day, he wrestled with those questions of power. Next to him were stacks of the party’s newspaper, The Dawn. One column railed against “counterrevolutionary media”; another darkly hinted at conspiracies. The front page declared, “Parliament is against sit-ins and for listening to the demands of the people.”
“We don’t fear freedom of expression, but we cannot allow disorder,” he said. “People have to be responsible. They have to know there is law and order.”
He suggested that protesters should obtain permission from police. He worried that the news media was too reckless. He hinted that the forces of the ancien régime were still plotting. In the cramped room, his exuberance had turned stern, and his words were hesitant.
“Everybody has to be careful not to be dragged into a dictatorial instinct, no matter what happens,” he said. “We can’t lose the soul of our revolution.”
Moroccan Illegal Alien Apprehended in an FBI Sting Capitol Hill Bombing Attempt
A hat tip to Jonna B and Tom R.
The FBI arrested Amine El-Kahlifi, a 29 year old Moroccan illegal alien and resident of Alexandria, Virginia in an attempted Capitol Hill bombing attempt using an improvised I.E.D. with inert explosives El-Khalifi was caught in an FBI counterterrorism sting. Of concern was his long term stay in the US, 12 years, without detection after he had overstayed his tourist visa and the array of potential targets that El-Khalifi had surveilled in his attempt that included a synagogue, military personnel and a restaurant frequented by them. Morocco and other Muslim countries of origin and not included in the 36 countries covered under the State Department Visa Waiver program for ease of entry. The fact remains that El-Khalifi and other potential terrorists may have slipped through the watch list after applying and receiving tourist visas. With a 12 year stay in the US, El-Khalifi’s example raises serious questions about monitoring, reporting and apprehension of tourists who go illegal over staying their visas and obtaining employment in the underground economy.
Here are excerpts from the FBI/Department of Homeland Security release about the circumstances behind the apprehension of El-Kahlifi:
On 17 February 2012, the FBI Washington Field Office JTTF arrested Amine El Khalifi, 29, of Alexandria, Virginia as part of a planned law enforcement operation after he took possession of explosives and an automatic firearm, which he planned to use in an attack against the US Capitol, according to the criminal complaint.
In December 2011, El Khalifi, a Moroccan citizen who has lived in the United States for over 12 years, told an undercover law enforcement officer that he had a plan to explode a bomb at a building in Alexandria, Virginia containing offices occupied by the US military. According to the undercover employee, El Khalifi stated he also wanted to use a gun and kill people “face to face.”
In subsequent conversations with the undercover officer, El Khalifi identified other potential targets for attack including a synagogue, US military personnel, and a restaurant in Washington, DC that he believed was frequented by US military officials. El Khalifi stated his desire was to leave a bomb in his jacket behind a chair at the restaurant, and while conducting reconnaissance had questioned a waiter about the restaurant’s busiest hours of service. At a later date, El Khalifi stated that he no longer desired to bomb the restaurant, but rather wanted to blow himself up in the US Capitol and would be happy killing 30 people, according to the criminal complaint.
In preparation for the intended attack, El Khalifi purchased materials to be used in an IED, including cellular telephones, jackets, nails, and glue. El Khalifi also traveled to a quarry to participate in an IED test demonstration, during which he dialed a cell phone number in an attempt to detonate a bomb placed in the quarry, according to the same document.
El Khalifi later conducted surveillance on the US Capitol and identified a method of entering the building he believed would not attract the attention of law enforcement. He also chose a date and time for his intended attack when he believed the building would be crowded. Additionally, El Khalifi stated that he intended to use an automatic firearm to shoot the US Capitol Police officer stationed at the door and any police officers who attempted to stop him from detonating the bomb inside of the building, according to the criminal complaint.
El Khalifi indicated that he decided not to make a martyrdom video because he did not want people to know who had conducted the attack. Shortly before his intended attack date, he stated if al-Qaida commemorated the attack in a video he desired to be referred to as “al Maghrbi,” a likely reference to his Moroccan heritage, according to the court documents.
What "Transformation Sweeping The Middle East" Is That?
In an e-mail to the staff of The Times, executive editor Jill Abramson wrote that "Anthony died as he lived -- determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the Middle East and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces."
What Could Possibly Explain Why He Wanted To Blow Up The Capital?
The first reports on the man who wanted to blow up the Capitol included the expression of puzzlement about his possible motivation. What could it have been?
Now that his name has been publicized, perhaps some are still wondering, waiting for the FBI to solemnly explain what it is. And if he wasn't part of Al Qaeda, then what could in heaven's name could explain his behavior?
The best commentary, on this and on thousands of other similar plots and plans, can be found here.