Tag Archives: Islam

Facebook Is Banning Women for Calling Men ‘Scum’

Women had accounts banned from Facebook for responding to male trolls with sentences like ‘men are trash,’ in part because the company classifies white men as a protected group.

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Jerusalem: Opposition to mooted Trump Israel announcement grows

Opposition is growing in the Arab world to an expected announcement by Donald Trump that the US will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Reports say the president will make the statement this week but will further delay acting on a campaign pledge to move the US embassy to the city.

The head of the Arab League, Jordan and the Palestinian president have warned of the consequences of a declaration.

The city’s fate is one of the thorniest issues between Israel and the Arabs.

Continue reading Jerusalem: Opposition to mooted Trump Israel announcement grows

NATO forces in Afghanistan apologize for ‘highly offensive’ propaganda leaflet

A senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan apologized on Wednesday for a “highly offensive” propaganda leaflet which contained a passage from the Quran used in the Taliban militants’ banner superimposed on to the image of a dog.

The dog is considered unclean in Islam and associating an image of the animal with one of the religion’s most sacred texts prompted indignation.

Continue reading NATO forces in Afghanistan apologize for ‘highly offensive’ propaganda leaflet

German satirical party humiliates AfD with Facebook prank

The satirical party Die Partei has taken over 31 private Facebook groups followed by supporters of the populist Alternative for Germany. They have now ordered the right-wingers “to face Mecca when attacking Islam.”

The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been humiliated on Facebook in the run-up to this month’s national election thanks to a prank pulled by the satirical political party Die Partei (The Party).

Continue reading German satirical party humiliates AfD with Facebook prank

The Belgium Question: Why Is a Small Country Producing So Many Jihadists?

Relative to its population, no other country in Europe sends as many young...

Relative to the size of its population, no other country in Europe sends as many young jihadists to Syria as Belgium does. But why? Some say one problem lies with the fractured nature of the country itself.

Chantal Lebon last saw her son at a bus stop in Brussels. That was two years ago in October “at exactly 10:25 p.m.,” she says. Abdel had driven his mother there in a car, stopped in a parking spot and lifted her suitcase onto the sidewalk.

“Au revoir, maman,” he said. “Au revoir, mon fils,” she replied. It was only months later that she would again see her son’s face — in a YouTube video. It showed him wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh and holding a Kalashnikov. The video was stamped with the flag used by the Islamic State in Syria.

Chantal Lebon is a small, energetic 64-year-old retired nursery school teacher with blue eyes and graying hair. She has come to a café to tell us the story of her son Abdel, the story of a Belgian child who became a radical Islamist fighter at the age of 23. Abdel had nothing to do with the attack plans in Belgium, his mother says. But, she confirms, her son is a jihadist.

On the way to the Brussels café, she saw the soldiers standing guard in front of police stations, court houses and the city hall. The Belgian government raised the country’s terror alert to the second highest level after officials were able to foil attacks targeting police and Jewish schools earlier this month.

At the European Parliament, events with more than 100 foreign guests have been banned and a military vehicle guards the entrance to the European Commission.

Since Jan. 15, the day two potential attackers died in Verviers during a police raid and the terror threat in the country became obvious to all, much has changed in Belgium.

Thirteen terror suspects have been arrested in the country this month, but the suspected ringleader of the alleged attack plans, a 27-year-old named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, remains at large and is thought to be in Greece. “I pray that Allah destroys all those who oppose Him,” he said in a video. Like Chantal Lebon’s son, Abaaoud also lived in Molenbeek, a district in western Brussels.

Because she is worried that her son Abdel could be behind the next terror plot in Belgium, she would rather remain anonymous and her name, as well as that of her son, has been changed for this story.

Belgian police block a street in central Verviers during the anti-terror raids...

Tiny Belgium and the Jihad

Up to 4,000 Europeans have joined the jihad in Syria, with 1,200 of them coming from France and between 500 and 600 each from Great Britain and Germany according to the most recent estimates by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization in London.

Tiny Belgium, with its population of 11 million, has sent fully 440 young men to the battlefields of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. Relative to population size, no other Western European country has sent more.

Abdel grew up with his family in the Arabic quarter of Molenbeek. The Brussels region provides home to people from over 100 different countries: from Congo and Morocco, but also increasingly from the Middle East or Chechnya.

New immigrants arrive in a traditionally Catholic country whose Jewish and Muslim communities are growing — and a state that has been suffering from extremely high sovereign debt levels since the mid-1980s.

Abdel didn’t grow up in poverty — his father was a teacher — nor did he have any problems in school. But because his father is from Africa, he is dark skinned and his mother said he never really felt like he belonged as a result. Furthermore, other children made fun of him.

In the aftermath of the terror raids, Belgium raised its terror threat level...

Once he got his high school diploma, he moved into an apartment of his own, though his mother came by regularly to clean. It was then that he told her that he had converted to Islam and she noticed he had begun learning Arabic. His room was suddenly full of books and his mother was initially pleased because it seemed as though her son was pursuing something worthwhile.

But Abdel’s changes became increasingly pronounced. Before long, he began wearing a djellaba, the robe traditionally worn in the Maghreb, and when visiting his mother, he would use the bathroom carpet for praying. He no longer touched his favorite food, lasagna, because the meat wasn’t halal.

On Saturdays, he would take to the streets to hand out food to the poor. “Mother, please convert to Islam too,” he often asked, she says, “so that we will meet again in paradise.”

Never Complained

His mother pulls a tablet out of her bag to show the YouTube video. Five men with the black Islamic State flag are seen standing in a parched landscape.

One of the fighters says: “God willing, we will carry the flag of victory to Jerusalem and into the White House. God willing, this man from Belgium will show us what a good Muslim is.” Abdel looks happy in the video.

Abdel’s mother says he would call from time to time, saying that he was engaged in humanitarian aid in Syria. He also told her of friends who had been killed, but he never complained, she says.

Eventually, Abdel’s mother stopped asking when he planned on returning. Her son also told her about air strikes carried out by the US. And at the end of December, he said: “Because the telephone is being monitored, it is too dangerous to talk, mama.” He then hung up and they haven’t spoken since.

In Molenbeek, where Abdel used to live, the streets are full on this evening. Groups of men stand in front of the cafés and a vegetable seller is packing up his tomatoes. Here, on the fourth floor of a narrow row house, Montasser AlDe’emeh opens the door. AlDe’emeh has become a popular interview partner of late for those wanting to know why Belgium is losing its youth to the jihad.

Twenty-six years old, AlDe’emeh was born to Palestinian parents in a refugee camp in Jordan, but grew up in Molenbeek. He majored in Islamic studies in college and is currently writing his dissertation: “Western Fighters in the Context of International Jihadism.” There is likely no other academic in Belgium who is closer to the scene than he is.

“We are living in a divided country,” AlDe’emeh says. Many young Muslims lack an identity, he says, adding that they don’t feel Belgian because Belgium as a country doesn’t really exist. Flemish, Walloons and the German minority live side-by-side, he says, carefully segregated in regions and language communities following myriad state reform efforts. “The clear structures of an Islamic theocracy are thus more attractive for many,” he says.

Belgium has been in the spotlight this month after raids on Jan. 15 broke up an...

Nutella in Turkey

Furthermore, most Muslims in the country don’t really feel as though they are represented politically. They used to vote for the Flemish Social Democrats, AlDe’emeh says, but then the government implemented a ban on wearing the burqa and niqab in public.

Today, the influx of radical Islamists is particularly significant in Flemish cities like Antwerp, Mechelen and Vilvoorde in addition to Brussels. It is precisely the same region where the right-wing populist party Vlaams Belang has spent years hounding the Muslim population.

Islam, as practiced in Belgium, is also failing to reach young people, AlDe’emeh says. There are 150 mosques in Flanders, but Arabic is spoken in almost all of them, he says, a language that second-generation immigrant youth can’t understand. Instead, they stumble across hate preachers on YouTube and see the suffering of people in Syria. “They travel to Syria to heal themselves,” AlDe’emeh says.

In June 2013, he visited a group of Belgian jihadists in Syria; a middleman brought him to the western part of Aleppo. The Belgians were living there in a villa belonging to Syrians who had fled the country. AlDe’emeh spent 15 days with the fighters, who belonged to the Islamist group al-Nusra Front.

During the day, they patrolled the front lines and afterwards they would sit on pillows holding their AK-47s and talk about the fight against Bashar Assad. In the evenings, they went swimming or snuck across the border into Turkey to buy Nutella.

The structures inside the al-Nusra Front, AlDe’emeh says, are hierarchical. There is an emir who grants permission to those, like AlDe’emeh himself, who wish to visit. Beneath him are the regional heads who are responsible for specific provinces. They, in turn, control commanders who are responsible for Syrian and Western fighters.

“Everyone knew exactly what he was supposed to do,” AlDe’emeh says. “The Belgians were in good spirits. They liked the structures.” Likely also because al-Nusra, similar to Islamic State, made young men like Abdel full-fledged members of a nation, fictional though it may be.

One of the suspects in the Sharia4Belgium trial arrives in the courthouse in...

Dreaming of Lasagna

In the search for a sense of belonging, many Muslims joined Sharia4Belgium, a terror group that is currently the target of judicial proceedings in Antwerp. Forty-six alleged members of the organization have been charged, all suspected of having recruited fighters in Belgium for the jihad in Syria or of fighting there themselves.

They also stand accused of having kept the US journalist James Foley prisoner. He was later decapitated by Islamic State. A verdict in the case is expected to come in February.

SPIEGEL was able to speak with one of the group’s members by telephone. His name is Younes Delefortrie, a 26-year-old who was born in Belgium and who speaks perfect English.

He says he spent two months in Homs, but insists that he didn’t kill anybody. He says he joined Sharia4Belgium because he was uninterested in an Islam that didn’t take its own rules seriously.

In Belgium, Delefortrie says, he felt discriminated against, specifically complaining that he hadn’t been allowed to pray at work.

He also said that there were so many regulations pertaining to the construction of mosques that when they were finished, they looked like garages. “If you spend years pounding on someone, it is only logical that he fights back,” Delefortrie says.

Abdel’s mother says that she now regularly meets in Brussels with 15 other mothers whose sons are also fighting in Syria. They met on the day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Abdel’s mother told the gathered women of a dream she had had after seeing so much blood on the television. “I saw my son walking on a street in Paris. He wasn’t carrying a weapon. He was peaceful.” In the dream, Abdel then came home. He sat down silently in the kitchen and put his hands on the table. She went over to the stove and cooked him his favorite meal. Lasagna.

Sir Winston Churchill ‘s family feared he might convert to Islam

The discovery of a letter to Sir Winston Churchill from his future sister-in-law has thrown new light on his fascination with Islam and Muslim culture

He is indelibly associated with the fight to preserve Britain and its Empire from Nazi invasion and his subsequent denouncement of Soviet totalitarianism’s Iron Curtain.

In the public eye, Sir Winston Churchill’s long political career earned him a place among the greatest of Britons.

But what may come as a surprise is that he was a strong admirer of Islam and the culture of the Orient — such was his regard for the Muslim faith that relatives feared he might convert.

The revelation comes with the discovery of a letter to Churchill from his future sister-in-law, Lady Gwendoline Bertie, written in August 1907, in which she urges him to rein in his enthusiasm.

In the letter, discovered by Warren Dockter, a history research fellow at Cambridge University, she pleads: “Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to orientalise [fascination with the Orient and Islam], Pasha-like tendencies, I really have.”

Lady Gwendoline, who married Churchill’s brother Jack, adds: “If you come into contact with Islam your conversion might be effected with greater ease than you might have supposed, call of the blood, don’t you know what I mean, do fight against it.”

In a letter to Lady Lytton in the same year Churchill wrote: “You will think me a pasha [rank of distinction in the Ottoman Empire]. I wish I were.”

Churchill’s fascination led him and his close friend Wilfrid S. Blunt, the poet and radical supporter of Muslim causes, to dressing in Arab clothes in private while in each other’s company. Dr Dockter said of the letter from Lady Gwendoline: “Churchill had fought in Sudan and on the North West frontier of India so had much experience on being in ‘Islamic areas’.

“But during this period Churchill was in the Liberal phase of his career, having switched to the Liberals in 1904.

“He often came to loggerheads on imperial policies with hard-line imperialists such as Frederick Lugard, the High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria. Churchill was opposed to Lugard’s punitive expeditions against Islamic tribes in northern Nigeria.”

In a letter to Lady Lytton in the same year Churchill wrote: “You will think me a pasha [rank of distinction in the Ottoman Empire]. I wish I were.” The Sir Winston Churchill Archive Trust

The letter was discovered by Dr Dockter while researching his forthcoming book, Winston Churchill and the Islamic World: Orientalism, Empire and Diplomacy in the Middle East.

He points out that Lady Gwendoline’s concerns may not have been so wide of the mark. Not only did Churchill appear to regard Islam and Christianity as equals – a surprisingly progressive notion for the time – but he also admired the military prowess and history of expansion of the Ottoman Empire.

In October 1940, as Britain faced its darkest hour against Nazi Germany, Churchill approved plans to build a mosque in central London and set aside £100,000 for the project.

He continued to back the building of what became the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park – which he hoped would win support for Britain in the Muslim world at a crucial moment – even in the face of public criticism.

In December 1941, he told the House of Commons: “Many of our friends in Muslim countries all over the East have already expressed great appreciation of this gift.”

Churchill’s attitude may appear hypocritical, given his forthright defence of the British Empire – which at its height ruled over millions of Muslims across India, Egypt and the Middle East.

In his book The River War (1899) – his account of the frontier wars of India and Sudan – he was scathing of the fundamentalist, ultra conservative Mahdiyya form of Islam adopted by the Dervish population of North Africa.

He states: “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries … Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce … The influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.”

Lady Gwendeline Spencer Churchill (National Portrait Gallery London)

But Dr Dockter says a closer examination of Churchill’s attitude to the wider Muslim world reveals it to be “in stark contrast to the purely imperialistic and orientalist perspective of many of his contemporaries”.

In his book, he states: “His views of Islamic people and culture were an often paradoxical and complex combination of imperialist perceptions composed of typical orientalist ideals fused with the respect, understanding and magnanimity he had gained from his experiences in his early military career, creating a perspective that was uniquely Churchillian.”

The revelation that Churchill had a close affinity for Muslim culture comes at a time when tensions between the three great monotheistic faiths, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are greater than they have been for centuries.

Ironically, many of the fault lines between Islam and the West have their roots in the world Churchill helped shape after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the redrawing of the Middle East at the end of the First World War.

The settlements between the region’s colonial powers, brokered by Churchill, with T E Lawrence – “Lawrence of Arabia” – as an adviser, gave birth, in Dr Dockter’s words, to “the Middle East we know, warts and all”.

Sir Winston Churchill in Bangalore, India in 1897

Dr Dockter, who assisted Boris Johnson on his book The Churchill Factor, said: “Not many people are aware that Churchill and T E Lawrence were friends or that they worked together to solve the riddles of the Middle Eastern settlements. Understanding these settlements is paramount to understanding the legacy of Britain in the Middle East.”

Of course, Churchill did not convert to Islam, and Dr Dockter concludes that his fascination was “largely predicated on Victorian notions, which heavily romanticised the nomadic lifestyle and honour culture of the Bedouin tribes”.

Such was his limited understanding of Islam that as colonial secretary during the early 1920s he had to ask what the difference was between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the two major groupings whose long-standing animosity is currently playing out in Syria and Iraq.

As Dr Dockter points out, at least he had the good sense to ask the question in the first place, regarding an issue which bedevils the West’s involvement in the region to this day.

Leader of French extremist group jailed for nine years

PARIS – A French court on Friday jailed the leader of a local Islamist group for nine years for “criminal association with a terrorist group.”

Mohamed Achamlane, 37, the leader of Forsane Alizza, also called the “knights of pride”, was one of 15 members of the group on trial for plotting terrorist attacks.

The accused were arrested in 2012 during a crackdown on radical Islamists shortly after gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead seven people, including three Jewish children.

Achamlane insisted throughout the trial that the group, formed in 2010, had no “terrorist inspiration” and only wanted to defend Muslims against mounting Islamophobia in France.

Asked during the trial about internet chats where he said he wanted to “slash France” he said many people used his computer.

As for files explaining how to build explosives, “all sorts of people sent me all sorts of files”, he told the court during his June trial.

Achamlane also said that he was only calling for the “legitimate defence” of his community, adding “I am not racist, I am not an anti-Semite.”

But prosecutors put forward evidence including a list of “targets” that highlighted Jewish shops in the Paris region.

“We wanted to make a provocative video with a wall of Kalashnikovs and my bearded head to redress the balance,” he said, specifying that he felt Muslims were “excluded” from French society.

“There is no radical or moderate Islam,” he added. “There is only authentic Islam.”

The group – which gained attention for its protests against a decision to ban veils in public – was disbanded in 2012 by the government, which described it as a “private militia”.

After it was disbanded, the group put a message on its website demanding that French forces leave all Muslim-majority countries.

“If our demands are ignored, we will consider the government to be at war against Muslims,” the message said.