Babar Ahmad operated a chain of jihadi websites called "Azzam Publications" through a service provider based in Connecticut, court records show. The al-Qaida-tied websites sought to recruit individuals to be mujahideen as well as solicit funds for jihad, including for the Chechen Mujahideen and the Taliban.
Ahmad, a resident of the United Kingdom, was extradited to the United States last year after a protracted legal fight.
He used the Azzam websites to communicate with a U.S. naval enlistee Hassan Abujihaad who served as a signalman on the destroyer USS Benfold. Abujihaad disclosed to Ahmad "then-classified information about his battle group's itinerary, listing dates for anticipated port calls in Hawaii and Australia, and for the battle group's transit through the Strait of Hormuz." Abujihaad also "discussed the battle group's perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack."
Investigators found that secret Navy information on a floppy disk in the London apartment of one of the website's organizers during an investigation into Azzam Publications. Abujihaad was sentenced in 2009 to 10 years in prison for material support to terrorism and leaking classified information.
Ahmad's accomplice Syed Talha Ahsan, also charged in connection with the case, was scheduled to plead guilty today. Ahmad faces up to 30 years and Ahsan up to 15 years in prison during sentencing. Ahmad's sentencing is scheduled for March 2014.
A British court Monday heard yet another first-hand statement that jihadist terrorist attacks are motivated by radical Islamic religious beliefs.
Michael Adebolajo is one of the two men charged with hacking British soldier Lee Rigby to death in a brutal, daylight attack in London last May. He testified Monday, telling the court he did kill Rigby.
While Islamist groups and even the United States government argue religion should not be part of the conversation when it comes to terrorist attacks, Adebolajo – a convert to Islam – made it clear it was the driving force behind his actions.
"My religion is everything," he said. "When I came to Islam I realised that... real success is not just what you can acquire, but really is if you make it to paradise, because then you can relax."
'To fight Jihad for the sake of Allah, it's not something that is to be taken lightly, fun or something like this," Adebolajo said.
That is consistent with what he said moments after Rigby's murder. "But we are forced by the Qur'an, in Sura At-Tawba, through many ayah in the Qu'ran, we must fight them as they fight us," he said, still carrying the meat cleaver, his hands covered in Rigby's blood.
And it is consistent with what other killers and would-be terrorists have said for years.
Faisal Shahzad's car bomb parked in Times Square in May 2010 turned out to be a dud. But he told his sentencing judge that he had hoped to fire a salvo in "the war against people who believe in the book of Allah and follow the commandments, so this is a war against Allah ... which will only give rise to much awaited Muslim caliphate, which is the only true world order."
Naser Jason Abdo was caught before he could try to bomb a restaurant popular with personnel from Fort Hood, Texas in July 2011. "The reason is religion, Mom," he later said in a jailhouse visit with his mother.
Farooque Ahmed scouted Washington, D.C. area Metrorail stops, believing he was helping an al-Qaida terrorist plot.
"There's an incessant message that is delivered by radical followers of Islam," his own lawyer told the judge at Ahmed's sentencing, "that one cannot be true to the faith unless they take action, including violent action, most especially violent action … that is a message that can unfortunately take root in individuals who feel like if they don't do something, that they literally will not find salvation under their faith."
Too often, the reaction to such brutality is to say it has nothing to do with the terrorist's interpretation of Islam.
So whose message should we heed – the bureaucrats and activists promoting a politically correct ideal? Or the individuals who attempt to kill, or succeed in killing people because they believe Islam compels it?
An orthopedic surgeon of Pakistani origin pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to help hide $3.5 million the Pakistani government sent to the United States to covertly lobby lawmakers over the disputed Kashmir region.
KAC founder Ghulam Nabi Fai pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiracy and tax charges. Prosecutors say the KAC's actions were dictated by Pakistani intelligence.
Razaq, an orthopedic surgeon in La Plata, Md., transferred at least $250,000 to the KAC between 1994 and 2009, using a separate nonprofit, the Society for International Help (SIH). Razaq served on the society's board of directors and transferred another $90,655 to the SIH. Another board member, Zaheer Ahmed, helped facilitate the flow of the Pakistani money through straw donors like Razaq, court papers filed with the plea agreement said.
"Razaq asserted charitable deductions for his transfers to SIH as well as those to KAC, even though he was being reimbursed by Ahmad for at least a portion of his transfers to both organizations," court records said.
For example, Razaq once deducted $15,000 he sent to SIH as a charitable contribution, even though he was reimbursed for the amount in Pakistan.
Fai was sentenced to 24 months in prison in connection with the scheme. His sentence was reduced to 20 months due to his cooperation with the government on other investigations involving Pakistani intelligence money sent to the United States for the Kashmir campaign. "In essence, the information that Fai provided regarding the scheme to route money from the ISI to the KAC (Kashmiri American Council) through straw donors has substantially assisted in the prosecution of other cases that have not been completed," prosecutors wrote last month in a motion to reduce Fai's sentence.
Razaq, 67, faces a maximum of five years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for July 18.
Afghan officials say they are dropping proposed legislation bringing back public stoning for adultery after an international outcry.
The proposal came from a committee charged with proposing laws based on sharia. That committee is led by Afghanistan's justice minister, described by the Guardian as "an outspoken conservative who last year denounced the country's handful of shelters for battered women as brothels."
Writer Phyllis Chesler notes that the proposal itself is a sign of Afghanistan's looming descent as American forces prepare to complete their withdrawal. "I know that if Western boots on the ground leave Afghanistan, that every humanitarian project will disappear overnight and the country will become a Living Hell," she writes.
Chesler, a noted feminist and author, experienced some of Afghanistan's tribal misogyny first hand, as recounted in her new book An American Bride in Kabul. Already, she writes in a column last week, "Afghan men can marry female children, keep male children as sex-toys, maintain four wives, and visit prostitutes from dawn to dawn." But an Afghan woman faces arrest or honor violence from her family if she tries to escape an abusive family.
The stoning law may not come about now, but it shouldn't be considered a dead issue.
Chesler describes President Hamid Karzai as "a quintessentially wily Afghan who needs to posture against the infidel West in order to keep his conservative countrymen from assassinating him."
Human rights advocates may breathe a sigh of relief that the stoning law has been tabled. But few expect that to be a harbinger of a more progressive nation going forward.
The stoning proposal "is not an aberration that appeared out of the blue," Human Rights Watch's Heather Barr told the Guardian. Without the global community's "constant pressure" on the Afghan government, "there will be no women's rights."
Hate crimes in the United States decreased in 2012, data released Monday by the FBI shows.
The annual report, compiled through voluntary reporting from law enforcement agencies, further shows that crimes targeting Muslims remains flat and relatively uncommon. This contradicts claims by Islamist groups that hate crimes against Muslims are spiking, fueled in part by what the groups call an organized effort by groups pushing "Islamophobia."
There were 5,796 reported incidents involving hate crimes during 2012, the report shows. Of those, nearly half involved racial animus. More than 1,800 reported incidents targeted black people – by far the largest group attacked.
In bias crimes involving religion, Jews were targeted in 674 incidents – 62 percent of all religiously-motivated crimes. That's five times more than Muslim Americans, who were targeted in 130 incidents – or fewer than 12 percent of all religiously-motivated crimes. Estimates vary, but there are roughly twice as many Jews in the United States as Muslims.
Anti-Muslim crimes represented 13.3 percent of the religious attacks in 2011.
The number of incidents dropped for each group.
Occasionally, incidents originally touted as hate crimes turn out to be something quite different. In April 2012, a Muslim woman was bludgeoned to death in her home near San Diego. A note found near her body made it seem she was attacked because she was a Muslim woman who wore a hijab. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement saying the attack showed "the dangers of allowing hateful rhetoric and bigotry to go unpunished, and the fatal consequences that can result."
Shaima Alawadi's husband is scheduled to face trial next year after being charged with her murder.
None of this is to justify or excuse real crimes targeting people because of their faith or to minimize the real threat to innocent life when a mosque is targeted for arson or someone is assaulted because of how they look or how they dress. It's simply an acknowledgement of reality. "Crying wolf" over false hate crimes only compounds the damage done to real victims.
There are hate crimes and they are bad. If the FBI data is accurate, however, the threat facing Muslim Americans is not growing and remains dramatically lower than that facing black people, gays and Jews.
New York Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio says he wants his newly-announced transition committee to help "assemble a team that's devoted to building one great city where everyone shares in our prosperity."
Let's hope free speech isn't one of the subjects for which De Blasio seeks input.
New York University Muslim Chaplain Khalid Latif is among the 60 people chosen for what is largely a symbolic advisory appointment. In 2006, when deadly protests broke out in the Muslim world over cartoons depicting Islam's Prophet Muhammad, Latif led a campaign to stop the cartoons from being displayed at an NYU student discussion. He urged students to write to NYU administrators, and wrote to the university's president, ominously warning that the school could make itself a target for violence if the program included the drawings.
"(T)he potential of what might happen after they (the cartoons) are shown is something else that should be considered and not taken lightly," Latif wrote.
"NYU has facilities all over the world and Muslims also live all over the world," he added. People won't distinguish between the student group organizing the discussion panel and the university. "Rather, at that time all people will be thinking about is New York University and the decision it made…"
As a chaplain with influence over Muslim students, Latif could have used the opportunity to show that people can be offended but still defend free expression. He could have taken a clear stand against the violence and encouraged debate. He chose to stifle it instead.
The university capitulated and four blank pedestals were placed on the stage in protest.
Latif also is listed as a board member for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) New York chapter in the group's 2008 annual report. The FBI cut off all non-investigative communication with CAIR that year after evidence gathered in a terror-financing trial placed CAIR and two of its founders within a Hamas-support network in the United States.
De Blasio becomes mayor Jan. 1.
Iraq's Christian population has diminished rapidly since the fall of Saddam Hussein, shrinking from more than 1 million in 2003 to about 400,000 today, an Agence France Presse report says. A major reason for the mass exodus has been violence against Christians. More than 60 churches have been attacked. In 2010, al-Qaida massacred 44 worshippers and two priests, leading to a spike in the flow of Christians out of Iraq. Although Christians have not been specifically targeted in the last few years, the ongoing violence still impels many to emigrate.
Louis Sako, patriarch of the Iraq-based Chaldean Church, recently urged Christians to stay in the country, and has gone so far as to criticize Western countries for issuing priority visa to members of the community. The Patriarch is in Rome to meet Pope Francis along with other leaders of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church. Sako told Vatican Radio that Iraqi authorities will issue exit visas as part of "a whole strategy to help Christians leave Iraq."
"The Middle East, he said, "is going to empty of Christians."
Pope Francis said after meeting with the patriarchs that the Catholic Church will not accept a Middle East without Christians, calling for "the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practice one's own faith to be respected."
Updated 4:15 p.m. Nov. 20: The Georgetown conference has been postponed, with a statement blaming visa delays.
A daylong Georgetown University conference on Egypt's political state in the wake of July's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was to include a member of Egypt's Nazi Party.
Hosted and organized by the school's Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal Center for Christian Muslim Understanding, the Dec. 5 program is entitled "Egypt and the Struggle for Democracy." The lone Coptic Christian invited, Ramy Jan, is part of Egypt's small Nazi Party and sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Washington Free Beacon reports.
Jan is listed representing "Christians Against the Coup" in a promotional flier for the event posted by Georgetown Tuesday morning. He is omitted from an updated flier posted six hours later. In between the two, Jan's Nazi ideology was exposed in a Twitter post by Hudson Institute Fellow Samuel Tadros.
"It's remarkable to find such a guy," Tadros told the Beacon. "Just by inviting him that tells us something about the nature of the conference and those organizing it."
In addition, Eric Trager, a Washington Institute on Near East Policy fellow who specializes in Egyptian politics and the Muslim Brotherhood, wrote that it also was odd to see the only Coptic speaker on the program be someone opposed to Morsi's ouster. This "suggests [the conference's] goal is advocacy, not analysis," he wrote.
Egyptian Copts overwhelmingly supported Morsi's removal after he sought to entrench Islamist political power and failed to protect minority rights. The Christian minority has been targeted for a barrage of attacks by Islamists since the government was toppled.
Dalia Mogahed, a former White House advisor and protégé of the Georgetown center's director John Esposito, wrote that Jan's invitation "had already been handled" before the Twitter attention and that he would not be attending the event. Mogahed is scheduled to speak at the event.
The decision to change the program appears to be limited to Jan's inclusion. The rest of the speakers, the Beacon reported, are all pro-Muslim Brotherhood. That includes a senior member of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice political party and a former senior adviser to Morsi. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who has enjoyed close relationships with American Islamist groups, is scheduled to give the keynote address.
A federal judge in San Diego sentenced three Somali immigrants for providing financial and logistical support to the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. Basaaly Saeed Moalin, a cab driver, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, an imam at a local mosque patronized by the Somali immigrant community, and Issa Doreh, who worked in a money transmitting business known as a hawala, received prison sentences ranging from 10-18 years.
Evidence presented during a three-week trial that ended in February showed the defendants conspired to transfer funds from San Diego to Somalia through a now-defunct hawala called the Shidaal Express.
"These men willfully sent money to a terrorist organization, knowing al Shabaab's extremely violent methods and knowing the U.S. had designated it as a foreign terrorist organization," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a Justice Department press release. "Months of intercepted phone conversations included discussion of suicide bombing, assassinations, and jihad."
Prosecutors played dozens of intercepted phone calls during trial. In one, a prominent al-Shabaab leader, Aden Hashi Ayrow, appealed to Moalin to send money to the terrorist group, saying it was "time to finance the jihad." Ayrow also told Moalin, "You are running late with the stuff. Send some and something will happen."
Ayrow was killed in a missile strike on May 1, 2008.
Moalin received the longest sentence because of his close collaboration with al-Shabaab and Ayrow. Moalin even offered his house in Mogadishu to enable al-Shabaab to hide weapons and aid its broader terrorist agenda. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller described this act as "an offense of a different magnitude" and said it "went beyond financial support and entered a different realm." Moalin's significant standing in the immigrant Somali community and his philanthropic efforts as a naturalized American were "substantially offset" by his close dealings with al-Shabaab and Ayrow, Miller said.
Ahmed Nasiri Taalil Mohamud, a cab driver from Anaheim who also conspired to transfer money to al-Shabaab, is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
This story has been updated to correct a date error.
Brandeis University suspended a 15-year-old cooperative relationship with the West Bank-based Al-Quds University this week, after the Palestinian university president's "unacceptable and inflammatory" response to a student demonstration which invoked Nazi imagery.
Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence demanded that his counterpart at Al-Quds, Sari Nusseibeh, "issue an unequivocal condemnation" of the demonstration in both Arabic and English. The Nov. 5 demonstration was held by a student group tied to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Images posted by journalist Tom Gross show students dressed all in black making the Nazi salute. Some carried flags bearing the Islamic Jihad logo and posters of the terrorist group's martyrs.
Nusseibeh did publish a letter in response. But it blamed "Jewish extremists" for taking advantage of the situation in order to cast "the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies" and Palestinians "as a people who must be kept under coercive control and occupation."
That prompted Brandeis to suspend its relationship with Al-Quds, which dated back to 1998.
"While Brandeis has an unwavering commitment to open dialogue on difficult issues," a university statement released Monday said, "we are also obliged to recognize intolerance when we see it, and we cannot – and will not – turn a blind eye to intolerance."
The decision may be revisited later, the statement said.
Nusseibeh could have played the academic freedom card and still condemned the demonstration's message. If universities are about the free exchange of ideas, even objectionable ones, a truly moderate institution would have pushed back, explaining why the terrorist message has only brought death and suffering to the debate. But that's not what happened.
That Al-Quds opted for obfuscation and somehow made a point to find "extremist Jews" at fault is a lesson in its own right for Brandeis.