In light of the Sept. 11 the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department recommended steps that prisons should take to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. It has directed prison chaplains to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources and Chaplains are carrying out a systematic purge.
Some inmates are outraged. Two of them, a Christian and an Orthodox Jew, in a federal prison camp in upstate New York, filed a class-action lawsuit last month claiming the bureau’s actions violate their rights to the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
STOP WATCHING MOVIES OR LEAVE THE CHURCH
Harsh rejection of ‘evil’ is not an exclusive Muslim domain. In the US a polygamist group is unwilling to make any compromise with what they believe is “deviant” behaviour.
Woodrow Johnson liked to watch movies. He was 15, and by the rules of his polygamous sect this was a vice that could condemn him to hell. When his parents discovered his stash of DVDs, they burned them and gave him an ultimatum. Stop watching movies or leave the church for good.
The group also brands television and the Internet wicked, along with short-sleeve shirts – a sign of immodesty – and staring at girls, let alone dating them. Over the last six years, hundreds of teenage boys like Johnson have been expelled from the polygamous settlements.
‘SKIMPY’ OUTFIT OUTRAGEOUS
Kyla Ebbert, a 23-year-old woman boarded a Southwest Airlines plane in a short skirt for a flight to Arizona but she was led off the plane for wearing an outfit that was too skimpy. A Southwest employee asked her to leave her seat while the plane was preparing to leave. Ebbert was told: “You’re dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly.” Eventually, she was allowed back on the plane after offering to adjust her sweater.
SURGE BROUGHT MORE DESTRUCTION
Seven months after the American “surge” began, President Bush claims Baghdad has experienced modest security gains. But ask any Iraqi and he would tell what Haidar Minathar, an Iraqi actor said: “These improvements in the face of the general devastation look small and insignificant because the devastation is so much bigger.”
An opinion poll suggests about 70% of Iraqis believe security has deteriorated in the area covered by the US military “surge”. A survey by the BBC, ABC and NHK of more than 2,000 people across Iraq also suggests that nearly 60% see attacks on US-led forces as justified. Many lament that Americans count only their losses; the losses Iraqis suffer create no guilt feelings in Americans.
FBI DATA MINING REACHED FAR BEYOND
In terrorism investigations, the F.B.I. obtained data not only on the person it was targeting but also details on his or her contacts. The documents indicate that the FBI obtained details on their “community of interest” — the network of people that the target was in contact with. Intelligence officials claim link analysis identifies suspects who may not have any other known links to extremists. The concept has strong government proponents as the National Security Agency identifies targets for its domestic eavesdropping programme.
Civil rights leaders and some counterterrorism officials warn that “link analysis” can be misused to establish tenuous links to people who have no real connection to terrorism but may be drawn into an investigation nonetheless with horrendous consequences.
US OFFICIALS HELPED GERMANS FOIL BOMBING PLOT
The discovery of a terror plot in Germany was a result of close cooperation between American and German security officials. American intelligence intercepted e-mail messages and telephone calls between Germany and both Pakistan and Turkey. Intercepted messages consisted of the aliases of two men, “Muaz” and “Zafer,” who were said to have visited a training camp in Pakistan. The nicknames were linked to two members of the Islamic Jihad Union, operating in Germany.
According to a confidential report Atilla Selek who scouted American military barracks goes by the alias Muaz. Zafer appeared to refer to Zafer Sari, a 22-year-old from Neuenkirchen, the same town as Daniel Martin Schneider, one of the three men accused of planning. A German police official involved in the investigations of Islamic terrorism in southern Germany for several years said: “Since 9/11, any information that had to do with the Islamic scene has been sent to the Americans.”
FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT
The US government’s ability to eavesdrop on terrorism suspects overseas allowed the United States to obtain information on anyone suspected for links with anti-American groups. The information could be obtained under a newly updated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the intercepts could be recovered last year under the old law. The previous law required warrants to monitor at least some phone calls and e-mail messages between foreign locations when they were collected from fibre-optic cable in the United States; the new law waived that requirement.
25 YEARS OF FLAG WAVING
Milwaukee Islamic Centre celebrates 25 years of its achievements by hoisting American flags. Hadi Abulughod, 12 (Kuwaiti parents), and Miriam Jaber, 12, daughter of a Palestinian father helped raise an American flag on the tallest of three new flagpoles at the Islamic Centre. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, they are as much American citizens as other Wisconsin seventh-graders. That is the point the area’s Muslim community wished to make at the centre’s 25th anniversary.
I CHOSE TO BE MUSLIM
The Pullman Islamic Centre was built in 1982 and is named after Umar al-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam. It celebrated its 25th anniversary recently.
As a part of the celebration Edina Lekovic spoke about the role of Muslim women. In her speech “Muslim Women: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today” she said: “I chose to be Muslim when I was about 19.” She said she is not the exception of her community – she is the product of her community. Lekovic is the communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council and has been featured on CNN, BBC, MSNBC and the History Channel.
MUSLIMS PARADE FOR PEACE
Sharida McKenzie, an Austin area Muslim heard on a cable news show that Muslims in the US rarely stand to denounce terrorism. The 29-year-old Round Rock accountant soon began to recruit Muslims to join her in a Muslim Peace March. About 130 Muslims rallied at the Capitol to declare themselves peaceful and denounce acts of violence committed by extremists in the name of Islam. “We as Muslims are responsible for making it known that Islam does not condone terrorism,” McKenzie told the crowd. “This is about Muslims taking a stand for peace.”
MUSLIMS CONDEMN BIN LADEN PRAISE FOR 9/11 HIJACKER
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned a new video by Bin Laden in which the terror leader eulogises a 9/11 hijacker. Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said: “The despicable actions of the 9/11 hijackers should be repudiated by all Muslims, not praised as examples to follow. There can be no moral, ethical or religious justification for such cowardly attacks on innocent civilians.”
WAR ON TERROR OR A CRUSADE
The belief is widespread. In the Muslim world almost all believe President Bush, under the guise of war against terrorism, is in fact waging a latter-day Crusade against Islam and Muslims. In the waning days of this administration, it is becoming more and more evident that there is some truth to that assumption.
An article in the Los Angeles Times outlined a disturbing relationship between the US Department of Defence and Christian evangelists. The DoD has been delivering “Freedom Packages” to U.S. soldiers in Iraq containing proselytising material both in English and Arabic as well as the apocalyptic video game “Left Behind: Eternal Forces.” In the video, the soldiers of Christ hunt down enemies. The packages were supplied by “Operation Straight Up” – a fundamentalist Christian group that was also planning “Military Crusade”, a series of entertainment programmes for the troops in Iraq.
CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES SENT ABROAD
The United States leads in the number of Christian missionaries sent abroad each year. Many of these missionaries try to make converts in Muslim countries. The First Amendment is said to prohibit any government action to restrict missionary activities abroad. However, last year, the Bush administration placed heavy pressure on the Afghan government for the release of a Muslim convert to Christianity who potentially faced the death penalty under Afghan law.
Many Christians deny that most non-Christian societies (not only Muslims) see their conversion efforts as a patronising insult. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Chitrita Banerji noted that Mother Teresa’s charity toward the dying in Calcutta was often accompanied by last-minute pressure to convert to Christianity. Are such efforts really an expression of our cherished freedom of conscience, or are they a form of religious imperialism directed toward those who are so poor in this world that their only hope lies in the next world?
WIESENTHAL CENTRE SPYING ON MUSLIM WEBS
Wiesenthal Centre in Washington DC is very closely watching the Muslim web sites world over. Jewish organisation’s associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper has authored the recently released report titled “Digital Terrorism.” According to him, radical Muslims have mastered the use of the Internet as a tool for propaganda, organisation and education. “They are way ahead of the curve in terms of using Internet technologies. Right now it’s a clear field for the bad guys.”
The Centre closely monitors more than 7,000 websites, blogs and chat rooms of Islamic groups. Cooper accuses these websites for showing video footage of snipers aiming at US targets and suicide bombers preparing and carrying out their attacks that is recorded and posted directly from cell phones. He calls radical Islamist websites a “virtual university of terror,” that is promoting the creation of cells without requiring their members to travel to Afghanistan or Pakistan for training, as in the past.