An alleged plot by Muslim extremists to subvert state schools in Birmingham, England and run them according to a rigid interpretation of Islam has angered members of the British Parliament.
A purported letter which surfaced in March detailed a plot to take over the schools, using dirty tricks to drive out headmasters and replace their staffs with people who supported the plot. Britain's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) is investigating the rumored plot and plans to release a report in May.
Khalid Mahmoud, a Muslim Labour MP who represents Birmingham charged that "a small group of individuals" was trying to change the ethos of the schools under the cloak of secrecy. Mahmoud also claimed that that radical Salafists were attempting to impose their views on the majority of the city's Muslims.
A mother of one student who attends an affected school told the Daily Express newspaper that her daughter had been harassed by older boys who were denouncing girls who refused to wear veils and stay separate from the boys.
"My daughter tried to bring in an Easter egg for a friend and one boy grabbed it and smashed it against a wall," the mother said. "Another girl of about 11 brought in a little Easter bunny toy that she wanted to show her friends. They grabbed that off her too."
Such reports disturbed former British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, who said Muslim school leaders "must respect British values." He denounced what he called an effort to proselytize Islam in "an exclusive way and claim that those who are not of the Muslim faith are infidel and have fewer rights."
The Park View Educational Trust that runs the schools that have come under scrutiny said the reports have generated hate mail and were "causing unwarranted and unnecessary alarm" among affected families.
A senior source with the U.K.'s Department of Education told the Sunday Telegraph that an "overlapping web of connections" has been discovered and that the driving force appeared to be "explicitly Islamist."
The Ofsted reports are likely to result in Alam's ouster as chairman of the Park View Educational Trust and as chairman of Park View Academy – one of the affected schools, according to the Telegraph.
A separate Department of Education report found that girls at Park View and Golden Hillock, a sister school, were forced to sit in the back of the class, while five Christian students in a high school level religion class at Golden Hillock were left to "teach themselves." An al-Qaida supporter was invited to speak at Park View.
Members of Birmingham's city council were informed of these problems in six months ago but took no action until the letter became public.
American victims of Iranian-sponsored terror may soon realize some degree of financial compensation as the result of a legal settlement announced in New York Thursday. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the agreement covers judgments in 20 cases, and fully resolves 19 of them.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan filed suit in 2008 against the Alavi Foundation, alleging the foundation was a money laundering front for the Iranian government. Certain properties within the U.S., including a skyscraper at 650 Fifth Avenue that may be worth more than $500 million, were subject to seizure and forfeiture by the U.S. government, the lawsuit claimed. Last September, the federal judge hearing the case ruled the Alavi Foundation and a collateral corporation knowingly served as fronts for the Iranian government.
On March 28, the judge ruled that several properties, including 650 Fifth Avenue, and bank accounts linked to the Alavi Foundation were subject to forfeiture. The other properties are Islamic centers in Queens, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, and California. They include the Islamic Institute of New York, Islamic Education Center of Washington, Islamic Education Center of Houston and the Qoba Foundation in Carmichael, Cal.
In the March 28 ruling, the court found that the Alavi Foundation's claim that several of its properties were used for religious and educational purposes were without merit. the government sought to recover expenditures linked to the Alavi Foundation which took place from 1996 to 2008. The forfeiture amounts for each listed property group:
Queens - $5,337,336.23
Maryland - $ 995,119.68
Texas - $ 186,900.00
Virginia - $ 74,478.17
California - $ 14,801.57
The Islamic Education Center of Houston filed a separate "innocent owner" motion before the court, presumably seeking to preserve some degree of control and ownership over the institution. A hearing on that matter is scheduled next month.
The court ordered full forfeiture of the building at 650 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
A murder case once touted as a hate crime, and a Muslim Trayvon Martin, ended with dramatic courtroom outbursts in El Cajon, Cal. late Thursday.
The victim's husband, Kassim Alhimidi, was convicted of bludgeoning his wife Shaima Alawadi to death inside their home. Alhimidi, who wept loudly throughout his trial, spoke loudly in Arabic after wagging his finger at the jury, the San Diego Union Tribune reports.
Then, in a sign of how the case divided the family, Alawadi's mother screamed at Alhimidi, "you killed my daughter," while one of his teenage sons cursed about the verdict before being removed from the courtroom.
"This is bulls---!" This is f---ing bulls---!" he said. "My dad is innocent. He was tried unfairly."
Alawadi was found in a pool of blood in her home. Investigators say she was struck in the head six times with a blunt object. A note found near her called the family terrorists and said they should leave the country. That prompted speculation that Alawadi was attacked because she was a Muslim woman who wore a hijab.
She died three days later. At the hospital, prosecutors said, Alhimidi touched his wife and asked for forgiveness. He told a relative that if she recovered, she might say he was the one who attacked her.
But the investigation uncovered a family in turmoil. Alawadi had obtained divorce papers and talked of moving out of state to live with her sister.
Through an attorney, the Alhimidi children issued a statement which offered a unified front. "We agree with the jury's decision and although we love our father, we hate what we also believe he did."
Outside the courtroom, Alawadi's mother said her son-in-law "deserve[s] to be killed as well. My daughter was home, as you probably all know. He's the one."
Alhimidi, 49, faces 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced.
While the civil war in Syria is between Bashar al-Assad's Alwaite regime and the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels, the neutral Christian and Druze minorities in Damascus are paying a high price. Regime forces are using Christians and Druze neighborhoods as a base to launch their attacks against rebel-controlled areas, and in return, the rebels are retaliating by launching mortars against neighborhoods packed with civilian residents.
More than 140,000 Syrians have been killed in the three-year civil war and 1 million refugees have fled to Lebanon alone.
The regime uses ground and aerial bombing to target the rebel areas, while the rebels use premature mortar guns that are fired indiscriminately and target civilians in the first place.
Wednesday, a Christian primary school in the city of Damascus called Al Manar was shelled by mortars. A 9-year-old pupil named Senar was killed, and more than 90 others were injured. Photos of the children's blood on school grounds have been published on the social media in Arabic.
The neighborhoods being targeted by rebel forces are Babtouma, which is known as the Christian quarter in old Damascus; Dwellaa, a Christian area near to old Damascus; and Jaramana, a Druze and Christian inhabited suburb of Damascus.
The mortar campaign has been active since a month. A group called Faylak Al Ruhman has claimed responsibility for the shelling. It claims to be targeting Assad forces and the Shia Iraqi militia that is allied with Assad, both of which are using the Christian and Druze neighborhood as a base. The Youtube channel of Faylak Al Rahman has posted a video showing rebels while firing the mortars against the city of Jaramana.
It is difficult to believe that these mortars are being fired at military targets. They are not guided missiles, but very crude rockets. Christians and Druze in Syria are not only blaming the rebels, but the regime, too, for putting them on the front line of its battle against the rebel forces.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh praised a deadly West Bank shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded his wife and son as they drove on their way to celebrate the start of Passover.
The attack outside the city of Hebron "brought back life to the path of resistance" against Israel, Haniyeh said. Though no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Haniyeh warned of more attacks against Israel.
"We tell the enemy and anyone who thinks he is able to tame the West Bank … the West Bank will be the future point of our struggle with the enemy," Haniyeh said.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "holds the Palestinian Authority responsible" for the shooting, stating that PA incitement of violence and hatred towards Israel inspired the attack.
"The Palestinian Authority keeps broadcasting on its official channels messages which incite against the existence of the state of Israel," Netanyahu said. "Last night, this incitement translated into a murder of a father who was driving with his family to celebrate the Seder."
The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack Wednesday, but made the statement a veiled criticism of Israel. "The principle of killing and violence is completely unacceptable," said religious affairs minister Mahmoud al-Habash. "I expect to hear a condemnation from the Israeli side after a Palestinian is killed, but that won't happen," he added.
The victim, Baruch Mizrahi, was a chief superintendent in the Israel Police's signal communications intelligence unit.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said that Palestinians have killed 17 Israeli civilians in the West Bank since 2009, not including Monday's murder.
During that same period, 76 Palestinians were killed during. Even though the human rights group is critical of these deaths, spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli distinguished between the two death tolls. Palestinian terrorists purposely target civilians, she noted, whereas most of the Palestinian civilians were killed during violent altercations and arrest raids against terrorists.
"Contrary to certain Palestinian claims, attacks against civilians within Israel's border are no different from attacks against settlers living in the West Bank. In both cases, the targets are civilians who must not be attacked and who must be protected from attacks, " said Michaeli.
"The argument that there is justification for killing settlers as part of the struggle against Israeli occupation is both legally and morally groundless," Michaeli said.
Palestinians have been demanding Israel release a promised group of prisoners, many of whom were involved in similar attacks as the latest Passover shooting.
Prisoner releases are among the issues that have brought U.S.-led peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians to the brink of collapse. The sides were supposed to meet Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to keep the talks alive. That was postponed in part because of the attack on Mizrahi's family.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to incite hatred by glorifying terrorists as national heroes. Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) is reporting that the PA and Fatah dedicated a forest to arch-terrorist Abu Jihad, a Fatah founder and deputy to Yasser Arafat. Abu Jihad led the PLO's military wing, planning ruthless attacks. The PA's daily newspaper credited him with killing at least 125 Israelis.
Late last year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas posthumously awarded Abu Jihad, with the "Star of Honor," calling him "the model of a true fighter and devoted leader."
Abu Jihad, whose real name was Khalil al-Wazir, was killed in Tunisia in 1988, planned the most lethal terrorist attack in Israeli history, the Coastal Road Massacre. Terrorists hijacked of a bus and murdered of 37 civilians, including 12 children. Several PA officials, including the Minister of Agriculture and several mayors from the Hebron district, attended the inauguration ceremony.
"Abu Jihad remained [active] on the ground from the start of his Jihadist activity in 1955 until his Martyrdom in 1988. He was the spearhead of the bullets of the true resistors, and the first truly upright rock," a column in the PA's daily newspaper said.
The PA has glorified terrorists in the past. A summer camp in Bethlehem was named after Dalal Mughrabi, who led the terrorists in the Coastal Road Massacre. More than a dozen West Bank institutions are named for Mughrabi, including a girl's high school, another PMW report said. The same report cited 46 different terrorists glorified in PA institutions, including Abu Iyad who was responsible for the Munich Olympics massacre.
Many argue that Palestinian official incitement is directly linked to surges in terror activity. Despite professed PA commitments to the peace process, Palestinian officials continue to institutionalize the glorification of terrorists and murderers as national heroes that future generations should admire and emulate.
A Moroccan national living in Bridgeport, Conn. was arrested Monday after allegedly plotting to bomb a university and federal building using a remote-controlled toy airplane.
A complaint charges El Mehdi Semlali Fathi with making a series of false statements in an asylum claim. In it, however, an FBI agent details his effort to target the public buildings.
In recorded conversations, Fathi "claimed that he has been 'studying' the bomb attack operation for months." He added that "everything available [to make the bomb] was available in Southern California on the border."
Fathi claimed that he made a chemical bomb while attending high school in Morocco, adding "there are three things that scare people in the United States: causing harm to schools, the economy, and their sense of security."
Fathi was ordered deported from the U.S. in 2009 after his student visa expired. He later won asylum in after claiming he faced persecution if sent back to Morocco.
The story was a lie, the affidavit alleges. His claims that he was "repeatedly arrested by the Moroccan government and assaulted by government officials" were fabricated. In a recording, Fathi said a fellow inmate suggested the asylum ploy while he was in custody. He laughed about it, saying he could not believe it worked.
Fathi was admitted to Virginia International University in Fairfax in January 2008. His student visa was "after he failed all of his classes during the Fall 2008 semester and he failed to register for classes for the Spring 2009 semester," the affidavit said.
In December 2010, Fathi was arrested on charges of trespassing in Virginia. The charges were subsequently dismissed. He was also arrested and imprisoned for theft in California.
The affidavit does not go into detail about his motivation for plotting the attacks.
The use of remote-controlled explosives to launch attacks is not new. In 2007, a University of South Florida student arrested on terrorism-related charges was found to have produced a video that he uploaded online showing how to use a remote-controlled car as a detonation device. In a commentary accompanying the video, the graduate student said, the device would help "to save one who wants to be a martyr for another battle."
In a 2011 case, a Massachusetts man sought to use remote-controlled planes to bomb the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.
Last week's electoral wins for Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) prompted celebration among Palestinians in Gaza, Al-Monitor reports. Hamas officials made numerous congratulatory calls and sent cables to the Turkish party's leadership.
Turkey is the only NATO country that officially embraces Hamas leaders and supports the terrorist organization politically.
Thousands of Hamas members in the Jabaliya refugee camp participated in a mass rally celebrating Turkey's municipal election, which strengthened Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power. Candy and sweets were handed out in the streets. Hamas activists flooded social networking pages with congratulatory statements and pictures of Hamas leaders with Erdogan.
Hamas calls for all nations to severe ties with Israel and advocates for the complete destruction of the Jewish state. Turkey provides financial support, training and consulting to Hamas officials.
A Hamas source said that Turkey and Israel's potential restoration of ties will not affect Turkey's support for Hamas.
"There are constant calls between Hamas leaders and the Turkish prime minister and his foreign minister regarding the progress of dialogues. The last of these calls was between [Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh and Erdogan after the latter won the municipal elections, and Erdogan filled Haniyeh in on the details of the dialogues with Israel," the unnamed source said.
The electoral gains enhance Turkey's role as a potential mediator in a future conflict, the Hamas source said. "This also strengthens Turkey's relations with European countries, when it supports Hamas' stances, demands opening dialogue with Hamas and supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt."
Turkey helped Hamas and its leadership open lines of communication with Western officials in an effort to remove the group from the list of terrorist organizations, the source said.
"With Turkish mediation, we met many current and former diplomats and officials in Ankara and Istanbul, and used our meetings with them to make our case for the removal of Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations, which would help bolster security and stability in the region. And Turkey offered clear support for our position."
A man who ran a Kashmiri lobbying effort directed and funded by the Pakistani government still can advocate for his cause, but cannot have any contact with Pakistan's government or its intelligence service, the ISI.
A recent amended judgment clarifies conditions of supervised release for Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax violations in December 2011. Fai served as director of the Kashmir American Council, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that advocates self-determination for the disputed region.
That campaign was funded and directed by Pakistan's powerful military intelligence service, the ISI, an affidavit in Fai's original complaint said. The ISI contributed $3.5 million that Fai used for "campaign contributions to members of Congress" and public relations efforts through a network of straw donors.
Originally, the court prohibited Fai from communicating with co-conspirators who helped him in previous crime. Now, that restriction extends to "contact with any agent, employee, or representative of the ISI or the Government of Pakistan or any individual that the defendant has identified to the FBI as supported by or in regular contact with the Government of Pakistan."
Prosecutors asked for the change, noting that Fai "has admitted that he has every intention of continuing to meet with persons involved with Pakistan's intelligence service." In court filings, Fai indicated his renewed advocacy would extend to "officials of Pakistan, members of the Kashmiri resistance, and representatives of major think tanks who are in contact with the Pakistani government..."
Fai resumed advocating the cause of an Azad ("Free") Kashmir immediately after completing a two-year prison sentence. In February, he was a featured speaker at an event organized by the Kashmir Forum. Sponsors included the KAC, leading Kashmiri separatist groups, and the People's Party of Pakistan. Asad Choudhary, a member of Pakistan's ruling Muslim League (PMLN) party spoke in support of freedom for the Kashmiris. "[W]e feel honored to help our brethren in Jammu & Kashmir. We believe that it is only fair that the Kashmir dispute must be decided in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. We must accept whatever the people of Kashmir decide," Choudhary said.
Fai was also a keynote speaker at a seminar, Kashmir: A Reminder to the American Policy Makers," last month in Fremont, Cal. Highlights from the event were broadcast in a newsletter sent from Fai's personal e-mail account (NewsLetter@gnfai.com) on March 30. Representatives from leading Islamist groups in the U.S., including the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) participated. Fai said "that the sentiments of the people of Kashmir are for Azadi ["Freedom"]."
In yet another attempt to silence debate, Islamists are making strident accusations of "Islamophobia" to try to halt planned screenings of Honor Diaries, a documentary highlighting the issue of honor violence among Muslims. Screenings at the University of Michigan in Dearborn and the University of Illinois in Chicago were canceled.
"Crying Islamophobia, and thus slandering the movie's backers, Muslim groups have demanded that universities cancel these screenings," New York-based physician Qanta Ahmed wrote today in the National Review Online.
The film's critics seem to take greater issue with its funding sources than its content, including one who had a problem that "Jews produced the film."
Ahmed, a passionate critic of radical Islam, provided expert commentary in the Honor Diaries. In her column, she contrasted the incident with President Obama's honoring of activist Maha Al-Muneef during a visit to Saudi Arabia last month. Al-Muneef, a physician, was presented the U.S. Secretary of State's International Woman of Courage Award for her role in advancing a law that that protects Saudi women from abuse and domestic violence.
"If a country as religiously restrictive and theocratic as Saudi Arabia can tolerate educational and social campaigns exposing the violence against women and girls, why in a country as robust as the United States are women groups permitted to stifle public discourse in the academic sphere?" Ahmed asked.
She described political Islamism as a "variety of totalitarianism" that is different from mainstream Islam in that it seeks to push for the "supremacy of Islamist beliefs over all others." She decried political Islamists for seeking to "dominate public space" at the expense of mainstream Muslims.
"Americans must understand that these rabidly political Islamists do not represent most Muslims. Failing to acknowledge this reality not only silences victims of honor violence globally, but emboldens the increasingly aggressive political Islamists in our midst, whose ultimate goal is to silence us all," Ahmed wrote.
Honor killings among diaspora Muslim communities, murders committed after a family member shames or dishonors a family's reputation, have been on the rise in the West. In December, the FBI offered a reward for information related to Yaser Abdel Said, an Egyptian-born Texas Muslim accused in the "honor killing" of his two daughters for dating non-Muslim men.
Ahmed called on lawmakers and academics to support free and open debate on the issue instead of "abandoning difficult debate for fear of offending believers." The film may offend some Muslims, "but, if we are to have any hope of ending these abuses, the victims of honor violence need us to take the risk," she said.