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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Tuesday, 4, 2014.
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Award winning Author, Dr. Phyllis Chesler will be filmed at a C-Span2 Book TV interview in Coral Gables, Florida.


In mid-January, Dr. Chesler, a Fellow at the Middle East Forum,  received  the National Jewish  Book Award for  her memoir, An American Bride in Kabul.  Dr. Chesler is a renowned feminist,  psychotherapist and author of 15 acclaimed works. She has  published academic studies on honor killings. The NJBA award to Dr. Chesler and winners in other categories  will be  on March 5h in Manhattan at the Center for Jewish  History.

 The C-Span2  Book TV filmed interview will be held at 8pm ET at Books and Books,  265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables,  Florida 33134.  The filmed interview will last approximately 25 minutes followed by a Q+A  at which time the audience may pose questions.  Those of you in South Florida concerned about Jihad, terrorism, and the treatment of women, dissidents, and homosexuals under Islam both in the West and in Muslim countries--might come to discuss possible remedies, including  the pending  Florida Senate bill SB 386: Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases.   We urge those of you who can to attend this event and ask questions  for her response that will part of the filmed record to be subsequently broadcast when scheduled. 

 See our Iconoclast post : An "American Bride in Kabul" Wins National Jewish Book Award ...  We reviewed American Bride in Kabul and interviewed Dr. Chesler in the January edition of the New English Review; An American Feminist Fighting Sharia: an Interview with Dr. Phyllis Chesler (January 2014) and Flight from an Afghan Seraglio (January 2014).

Posted on 02/04/2014 5:20 PM by Jerry Gordon
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
A Musical Interlude: You Must Be Losing Your Mind (Fats Waller)
Listen here.
Posted on 02/04/2014 8:30 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Just Another Day In Wretched Pakistan

The latest bombing, here.

Any Pakistani who has been allowed to live in the Western world -- in Great Britain, or Canada, or the United States, or Australia -- should mentally be down on his knees, every day, thanking the Infidels for letting him in, and being forever grateful and determined to show his gratitude. At the very least.

Posted on 02/04/2014 8:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Coca-Cola And An America That Is No Longer A Real Country But, Rather, The Whole Wide World

By their ads shall ye know them. The propaganda campagaign on behalf of Diversity -- apparently something that is not self-evidently wonderful because otherwise why would its putative wonderfulness have to be brought up on every conceivable occasion? -- was distinctly noticeable in several of  the Superbowl ads. There was that cute-as-a-button little girl, biracial as all get out, pushing her Cheerios and asking her black father and white mother, who have just let her know she's going to have a little brother, if she can also have a puppy. It's not just the Cheerios that are being pushed.

Of greater note was this ad for Coca-Cola. The hijabbed sweet-faced presumably guileless and friendly girls who are on display are, according to Coke's unstated premise, a new and welcome addition to our American quilt. But is that true? When you live in a Western country and are not in fear for your life should you choose not to be hijabbed, the wearing of a hijab  can reasonably be taken, by the time you are in your teens, as a conscious sign of submission to Islam, or to the male relatives to whom you must listen (and even be persuaded that Slavery is Freedom), a pledge of allegiance not to America, but to Islam. And the tenets of Islam flatly contradict what is in the American Constitution, including the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. In Islam women are not equal to men, and non-Muslims are not considered equal to Muslims, and at best must be treated as dhimmis, enduring a host of legal and social disabilities. That's what Coca-Cola was casually celebrating, out of an ignorance that rises to the level of criminal negligence.

Posted on 02/04/2014 9:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
In Tunisia, Not Everyone Approves Of The New Constitution
Posted on 02/04/2014 9:53 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Algeria And Morocco, As Usual, At Odds

Here are Morocco and Algeria, trading insults. This time the subject is not the Sahrawi Liberation Front or some such, but people who have left Syria for North Africa -- how exactly do they do it? -- no doubt hoping eventuallyto smuggle themselves into Europe. That would no doubt be good for them, but as they bring Islam with them, and all of its distempebers, it would be very bad for European schools, hospitals, welfare systems, and the physical security of Europeans themselves. The slow steady degrading of European society, the unravelling of its everything, because governments refuse to listen to the will of their people, and halt -- and then reverse -- such a dangerous migration.


Posted on 02/04/2014 10:46 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Hitchcock's Suppressed Movie On The German Murders
Posted on 02/04/2014 1:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Douglas Murray On The Endless Muslim Death Threats

From The Gatestone Institute:

Free Speech Wars: The Blasphemy Fashion Police

Subsequently, Nawaz began to receive serious death-treats. Then the same figures who had appeared to organize a lynch-mob against Nawaz complained that they themselves had also been subject to death-threats -- a hit-list of British targets issued by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Is anyone ever going to concentrate what the problem is here?

Meet the latest victim of the "Cartoon Wars": Maajid Nawaz, head of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation and prospective parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrat party. He was on a BBC program discussing free speech and the right to offend, when two students from a London Atheists and Secular Society were present. They were wearing T-shirts with a cartoon strip on them called "Jesus and Mo." The wearing of such T-shirts has become a matter of principle for them since students manning the stall of the Atheists and Secularists society at the London School of Economics freshers' fair last October were asked either to cover their T-shirts up or be physically removed. No prizes for guessing who complained about the T-shirts, but it was not the LSE Christian Society.

This local infringement on freedom of speech caused some embarrassment for the LSE, and the debate over the dreaded T-shirts of hate rumbled on until December when the university authorities apologized for becoming the blasphemy fashion police.

But as everybody who remembers the Danish cartoons affair will remember, these things are never contained. Indeed so fevered is this debate that there are endless Hydra-headed spin-offs each time the cartoon wars crops up. Each time someone tries to chop its metaphorical head off, another cartoon affair pops up somewhere else.

In any event, this time the spin-off was the BBC Sunday morning discussion show on which the students turned up, again with their T-shirts. The BBC refused to show the T-shirts and some artful filming protected the audience from the full horror of having to see a stick-figure called "Mo" saying "How ya doin?" to Jesus, who is saying "Hey."

During the debate, a number of Muslims pointed out how offensive they found this outrageous image, and how against the feelings of all Muslims it was. And Nawaz was the only one to point out that he, as a Muslim, did not find this offensive at all. Rightly amazed at the BBC's genuflection to a new blasphemy law, when the program had finished, he sent the cartoon out to his twitter followers with a message saying that he thought his God was bigger than to find offense at something like this.

Cue the latest deluge of utter souped-up outrage. Prominent "moderate Muslims" immediately started to pass word around that a great offense had been committed. All around one could hear the sound of old scores being settled. One such figure – who runs an outfit called the "Ramadhan Foundation" announced that he was going to notify not just all Muslim groups but also Islamic countries of the "offense." Subsequently Nawaz began to receive serious death-threats. So serious have they become, in fact, that the UK police appear to have advised him to keep his head down and not make public appearances for a while.

Then emerged the backlash to the backlash. The same figures who had appeared to organize (in the words of one BBC journalist) a lynch-mob against Nawaz complained that they themselves had also been subject to death threats. In some instances this may be true. Two of those who whipped up outrage against Nawaz for tweeting out the cartoon of "Jesus and Mo" were recently on a hit-list of British targets issued by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Their offense, in the eyes of Al-Shabaab, was that they had spoken out against the decapitation of Drummer Lee Rigby by two jihadist maniacs in London last year.

All of which is certainly a new riff, but it is on an old tune. Round and round we go in the cartoon wars. And all the time, the underlying problem goes unaddressed. When Nawaz and I debated whether Islam is a "religion of peace" in New York, the scales-falling-from-eyes moment from the audience occurred when it became clear that everybody on all sides of the debate – Muslim and non-Muslim, believers that Islam is a religion of peace and those who believe that it is not – were all the subject to some degree of threat to their lives.

It is the same in the latest round of the cartoon wars. Nawaz rightly said he was not offended by a cartoon. But a bunch of individuals thought he should be and helped whip up a storm against him. In their defense, they then pointed out that their lives were in danger too. All of which reminds us, is anyone ever going to concentrate on what the problem is here?

Posted on 02/04/2014 1:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Muslim War On Christians In Central Africa
Wielding the Seleka (machete), here.
Posted on 02/04/2014 2:23 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Negotiator Wendy Sherman And Senators' Amazement And Disgust
Wendy Sherman / AP

Wendy Sherman / AP


The U.S.’s top nuclear negotiator admitted on Tuesday that Iran could continue developing ballistic missiles under the recently inked nuclear accord meant to scale back Tehran’s nuclear program.

Under pressure from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman conceded that the U.S. failed to “shut down” Iran’s ongoing development of ballistic missiles, which have long range capabilities and are the preferred weapon for delivering a nuclear payload.

“It is true that in these first six months we’ve not shut down all of their production of any ballistic missile that could have anything to do with delivery of a nuclear weapon,” Sherman told lawmakers during a hearing on the nuclear deal. “But that is indeed something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement.”

This comprehensive agreement will not be agreed upon for at least six months, Sherman admitted, giving Tehran a lengthy window in which to perfect its weapons systems.

Iran plans to launch three new satellites into space in the coming weeks, according to regional reports. The technology used to conduct such a launch is similar to those used for ballistic missiles, leading experts to label Iran’s space program a cover for its ballistic missile work.

The “satellites are ready for launch and it is anticipated that one of them will be sent into orbit by the end of the current Iranian year,” which ends of March 20, the deputy head of Iran’s Space Agency was quoted as saying on Monday by the semi-official Fars News Agency.

Senators on the SFRC criticized Sherman, the State Department’s under secretary of state for political affairs, for inking a deal that they said leaves gaping “loopholes” on which Iran can capitalize.

“Why did you all not in this agreement in any way address the delivery mechanisms, the militarizing of nuclear arms, why was that left off since they [Iran] breached a threshold everyone acknowledges. They can build a bomb. We know that,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), the committee’s ranking member. “They know that. They have advanced centrifuges. We have a major loophole in the research and development area that everyone acknowledges.”

“We are going to allow them over this next year to continue to perfect the other piece of this, which is the [nuclear] delivery mechanism,” Corker added. “Why did we do that?”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) pointed out that “few countries” in the world possess both the ability to enrich uranium to high levels and an advanced ballistic missile program.

If Iran is awarded right to continue its enrichment, and continue its missile program, all it would have to do is ramp up uranium production “and now they’re a nuclear power,” Rubio warned.

Sherman responded by stating that the ballistic missile program is secondary to its bomb-making capabilities.

“If we can get—and I don’t know whether yet if we will be successful—but if we can get to the verifiable assurance that they cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, if we know they cannot have a nuke weapon, then a delivery mechanism, as important as it is, is less important,” she said.

Sen. James Risch (R., Idaho) said he has been “disgusted” by the interim deal.

“I do not support what has been done,” he told Sherman. “I think this thing’s a disaster. I was stunned when I saw what the agreement was. I’ve been disgusted as we’ve gone forward.”

Sherman promised that Iran’s ballistic missile work would be addressed at a later time in a final agreement.

“We see this as a first step,” she said. “We don’t consider the gaps that exist loopholes because this is not a final agreement. This is a first step.”

Sherman said that the ballistic missile program would be rendered ineffective if the U.S. can successfully convince Iran to give up its nuclear program.

“If we are successful in assuring ourselves and the world community that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, then them not having a nuclear weapon makes delivery systems almost, not entirely, but almost irrelevant,” she said.

Sherman went on during the hearing to explicitly lay out some of the concessions that the U.S. hopes to win in a final deal.

Iran, she said, does not need to continue its work at the highly fortified Fordow facility. It also has no need for the partially constructed heavy water reactor at Arak.

She also said there is “no doubt” that Iran will have to scale back the number of nuclear centrifuges it is operating.

Posted on 02/04/2014 3:21 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
The Administration That Treats Israel With Contumely And Casual Cruelty

Obama treats enemy dictatorships better than ally Israel

Israel is expected to do things neither the US nor its other allies would do.

PM Netanyahu and US President Obama tour a technology expo at the Israel Museum, March 21, 2013.
Photo by: REUTERS/Jason Reed
Last week, it leaked that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, had privately described US Secretary of State John Kerry as “obsessive and messianic” in his quest to broker an Israeli/Palestinian peace settlement. The Obama Administration angrily rejected Ya’alon’s words as “offensive and inappropriate,” demanding and receiving an apology.
Yet, only weeks earlier, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a close adviser to Fatah/Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, also excoriated John Kerry as possessed of “dangerous” proposals and seeking to “appease Israel by fulfilling its expansionist demands in the Jordan Valley under the pretext of security. He wants to buy Israeli silence over the Iran deal.” But for these grave, personal PA allegations against Kerry, the Obama Administration has said nothing.
Why this startling discrepancy in the Administration’s response? Why has it ignored blatant anti-peace statements from the PA, such as the call by the PA Minister of Religious Affairs, Mahmoud Al-Habbash  for Syrian jihadists to cease murdering each other and wage war against Israel? Or the PA’s Abbas Zaki reaffirming that the PA’s public demand for a state alongside Israel is merely a device aimed at eventually removing Israel from the map –– a policy supposedly repudiated over 20 years ago?
Because the Administration will not assimilate evidence that invalidates its public formula that the Palestinians are willing to conclude a genuine peace with Israel. So it ignores or finesses PA anti-peace words and deeds, while stridently criticizing Israel on disagreements and reluctance to make unilateral concessions.
Under Obama’s pressure, Israel’s Netanyahu government accepted in-principle a Palestinian state and unprecedentedly froze Jewish construction in the West Bank for 10 months in a bid to bring the PA to the negotiating table. The PA refused to come until the very end and broke off talks shortly after, but it was Israel whom Obama singled out in a January 2010 TIME interview for failing to make any “bold gestures” for peace.
When in March 2010, during a visit to the region by Vice-President Joseph Biden, the PA named a public square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, the leader of the 1978 coastal road bus hijacking, in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were slaughtered, the Obama Administration was silent for days. When Clinton belatedly criticized the Mughrabi event, it was only to whitewash the PA by falsely claiming “a Hamas-controlled municipality” had initiated it.
In contrast, a mere Israeli announcement of a building program in a Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem that also occurred during the Biden visit led the Obama Administration to immediately condemn it and describe it as “destructive,” an “insult” and an “affront.”
No other state, let alone ally, attracts the same ire, even when policy divergence is massive. When in April 2010, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in the words of journalist Joel Brinkley, made “delusional criticism of the United States and its allies” and threatened to “join the Taliban” –– this, in the midst of US soldiers fighting and dying shoring up his regime –– the Administration found it merely “troubling” and “frustrating” and asserted that Karzai needed to be “treated with respect.”
When in June 2010, Turkey voted against a new US-supported UN Security Council sanctions bill on Iran, there was no talk of destructiveness, insults or affronts –– the US was merely “disappointed.” And when in October 2011, the Abbas’ Fatah brazenly demanded US taxpayer aid as “a political and moral right,” Obama took no notice, let alone curtail or withhold aid to the ingrate PA.
When Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a mass rally, called the US a “Great Satan” and an “enemy who smiles,” and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani boasted that “the US and world powers surrendered to the Iranian nation’s will,” Obama said nothing. Only when the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, laid a wreath at the tomb of a Hezbollah terrorist leader, who in 1983 murdered 242 US marines in Lebanon, did the Administration permit a low-level National Security Council official to condemn it is a short statement.
Israel is expected to do things neither the US nor its other allies would do. This month, the Obama Administration was critical of Afghanistan’s Karzai releasing of scores of Islamist “dangerous criminals against whom there is strong evidence linking them to terror-related crimes.” But last year, the Administration pressured Israel into releasing scores of convicted Palestinian killers of Israeli civilians –– although it did express concern when one of those released, Al Haj Othman Amar Mustafa, turned out have also murdered an American. Actions unacceptable elsewhere were positively demanded of Israel.
The Obama pattern is clear. The respect for sovereign decisions and deference to security concerns that apply to other US allies are absent when it comes to Israel. Israel is expected to bow to the Administration’s policy without demur, run security risks the US itself would not abide, and ignore the extremism, non-acceptance and bad faith of its Palestinian interlocutor, just as the Obama Administration does. This is just the unseemly underside of the disconnect between the Administration’s public words of support for Israel and the reality of its coolness and indifference to the realities it faces.

Posted on 02/04/2014 2:14 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Death toll rises as suspects charged after Mombasa Mosque violence

From the Digital Standard of Kenya. MOMBASA, KENYA: As 125 suspects captured in Sunday's violence were hauled to the court on Monday, The Standard has established that no less than six militant youths could have been killed in the storming of the controversial Musa Mosque.

The government has though only acknowledged just two deaths.

One of the dead was a male youth from Kwale or Mombasa who police and independent accounts indicate was shot at close range after he had stabbed and wrested away a G-3 rifle from a police during the storming of the mosque.

One civilian who wrested a gun from the police officer who was injured was shot and killed, said Mombasa County Commissioner Nelson Marwa who claimed that one other civilian died from unknown causes as he claimed that police who camped outside the mosque since 10.30 am decided to storm only after they were fired on from inside the mosque. These people were prepared for war . . .

On Monday police held four suspects captured from the mosque under armed guard at the Coast General Hospital as they applied at Shanzu Law Courts to detain the 125, including three women for five days to enable detectives complete investigations to level terrorist charges, take their DNA samples for filing and complete prosecution documents

Although government officials were cagey on why it allowed a convention it had outlawed to take place on Sunday. The Standard has also learnt that the Mombasa County Security Committee hatched a meticulous plan to lure wanted Al Shabaab and Al Qaida suspects into a trap at the mosque.

And we have also established that all the detainees will be profiled for links to extremist groups and that all aged 15 years and above will be charged.

Although most officials on the committee favored preventing the now ill fated Jihad Convention from taking place, the Anti-Terror Police Unit ATPU, which brought the suspects to court on Monday convinced the committee to allow it to proceed anticipating that known hardcore jihadists would attend it.

Save for one militant who fled after being detained, intelligence sources told The Standard that this was one of the most successful operations launched by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit because Al Shabaab made a great mistake by congregating in one place at the same time and now we have captured them  said a top security official who asked not to be named.

Posted on 02/04/2014 4:49 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Condell: Boycott Halal

Thanks to Enza Ferreri.

Posted on 02/04/2014 6:32 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Tuesday, 4 February 2014
The Few Crazed Kurds Whose "Religion Comes Before Their Kurdishness"

Kurds from Iraq wage holy war in Syria with one eye on home

By Isabel Coles

HALABJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Twenty-five year old Ako Abd al-Qadir went to wage holy war in Syria vowing to return and conquer all of Iraqi Kurdistan in the name of Islam on the way back to his home town of Halabja.

"God willing, we will come back and trample over your dead bodies until we reach Halabja," he said, threatening the region's "infidel" ruling parties in a video made en route to Syria and posted on social media sites. "Just wait and see".

Ako is one of around 200 young Iraqi Kurds who have joined the ranks of militant Islamists in a conflict that has become a clarion call for home-grown jihadists across the world, keen to prove themselves amid fundamentalist fervour and war.

The trend is alarming for Iraqi Kurdistan, a region that has managed to shield itself from the violence afflicting the rest of Iraq and nearby Syria, and to attract investment from some of the world's largest oil companies.

"Definitely, it's a big concern," said a senior official with knowledge of security issues in the Kurdish capital Arbil, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The danger is that they will be used as cells to mount attacks on targets here."

Kurdistan is not alone in worrying about jihadi backlash; the roll call of those drawn to the cause of Sunni Islamist rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is long and diverse - from veterans of Iraq and Chechnya to young men from London and immigrants from Stockholm.

But the autonomous region's proximity to Syria makes it especially vulnerable. And whilst Kurdistan is used to dealing with external threats, not least along its tightly controlled border with majority Arab Iraq, this one is posed from within.

The region suffered its first major bombing in six years last September, which was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - a Sunni group also active in Syria.

Publicly, officials in Kurdistan play down the threat and insist that the region will remain safe, but oil companies operating here are taking extra precautions.

"We decided to restrict movements to shopping malls and other high-visibility target areas," said a source at an oil company in Kurdistan. "We're just going to lower our profile a little bit."


Famed for its poets and pomegranates, Halabja lies near the mountainous border area between Iraq and Iran, which was once a haven for Sunni militants who formed a group there in 2001 that came to be called Ansar al-Islam.

Ansar al-Islam banned music and forced men to grow their beards in the enclave, named "little Tora Bora" after the Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden once sheltered.

Many of the young Kurds who have gone to Syria come from this area, including Ako, who joined Ansar al-Islam as a teenager.

One of the first targets of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was Ansar al-Islam. By that time, Ako had left the group and handed himself in to the security services because he felt the game was up, according to his friends.

Surviving members of Ansar al-Islam retreated into Iran, but continued to carry out attacks including a twin suicide bombing against Kurdistan's two ruling parties in 2004 that left more than 100 people dead.

Ako served time because authorities considered him to be a danger to national security. After being released from jail, he married and had a daughter. He got a job at an electricity generating plant and was working at a tea house in Halabja until the day he vanished last November.

The rest is played out on Facebook. On December 8, he wrote that he had joined ISIL in Syria and posted the group's black banner on his page. Earlier pictures show him smiling at Halabja's sports club, and he also posted a whole album of photographs of Barcelona football player Lionel Messi.

Despite Ako's history with militant Islam, his friends were shocked when they heard he was in Syria.

"I was very surprised because when he left Ansar al-Islam his views changed dramatically," said a friend of Ako's from school. "Maybe he still had contact with them, or perhaps there is a cell that persuades these youths to go."


It is not clear whether the young men go to Syria on their own initiative or have been recruited and sent there. Mainstream Islamist parties deny involvement. A committee has been set up by the government to investigate the matter.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs said preachers at the region's more than 5,000 mosques, who are on the government payroll, were forbidden to incite violence and would be punished if found doing so.

"There is no evidence that any imam has incited people - directly or indirectly - to go to Syria," Mariwan Naqshbandi said. "We have asked the imams to advise worshippers not to go, but unfortunately they haven't managed to discourage everyone."

Kurdish security services however raided 11 mosques one night last December in the city of Sulaimaniyah on suspicion they were being used as recruitment centres, seizing identity papers and laptops. They have not disclosed what evidence they found.

Although Kurdistan shares a border with Syria, most of the young men travel there through Turkey, some via Lebanon, and others southern Iraq. Around 40 have come back to Kurdistan and are now either behind bars because they are considered a threat to national security, or are under close surveillance.

"I went there to be killed following the path of Allah," said one young Iraqi Kurd who returned from Syria because he was convinced the conflict was a western conspiracy to exterminate the world's Muslims.

But many believe these aspiring Kurdish jihadists are driven as much by the hardships of life as by their faith.

Asked why they thought Ako had gone to Syria, his friends and acquaintances all cited economic pressures, and the fact he grew up an orphan in Halabja, better known as the site of a 1988 chemical weapons attack under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Kurds' fortunes have since changed, and their region is now Iraq's most stable and prosperous, but the people of Halabja often complain of neglect.

"The KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) will need to focus on using its oil wealth to increase opportunities for employment and to reduce corruption if it is to address this threat effectively," IHS Jane's said in a recent report about militancy in Kurdistan, assessing the risk as "serious".


Ako's jihad lasted less than two months. ISIL announced his "martyrdom" early this year in Syria, killed fighting not Assad's forces but fellow Kurds, who have taken advantage of the civil war to assert control in the country's northeast.

Kurds are predominantly Sunni Muslim, but identify overwhelmingly with their ethnicity - the defining factor in a long history of struggle in the four countries across which they are spread: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

ISIL and other Sunni armed groups in Syria have turned their weapons against a Marxist-inspired Kurdish militia that stands in the way of their vision of an Islamic state spanning from Iraq to the Mediterranean.

Wearing a black leather jacket over his Kurdish clothes, the young man who did return from Syria said he would have no qualms about fighting his ethnic kin in the name of Islam: "My religion comes before my Kurdishness - I make decisions based on my religion."

Posted on 02/04/2014 9:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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