A $100 million mosque under construction outside Washington, D.C. attracted a visit last week from Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Writer Ryan Mauro notes that Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough was on hand, along with representatives of two Islamist groups, for a ceremony at the mosque's construction site. "The Turkish American Culture and Civilization Center (TACC) is a project of the government of Turkey" which will serve as a religious center and a place to promote Turkish culture, an article in the Muslim Link said.
But Turkish culture and values under Erdoğan have skewed away from Western alliances and toward Islamists.
Erdoğan has been a consistent advocate for the Hamas government in Gaza and rebuffed Washington's requests that he cancel a planned visit to meet the Hamas officials next month. Although Hamas rejects any peaceful settlement with Israel, Erdoğan says Hamas must be part of any peace efforts. In making this demand, he has not publicly called on Hamas to renounce terror and accept Israel's right to exist. "Hamas has to be around the table for peace to emerge in the Middle East," he said.
In Maryland, Mauro reports, Erdoğan brought the father of a man killed in 2010 on a Turkish flotilla that tried to break Israel's blockade on Gaza, which was imposed to try to slow the flow of weapons to Hamas. Erdoğan's government helped facilitate a meeting with the man and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Videos from the confrontation show that violence broke out on the Mavi Marmara after the ship's passengers attacked Israeli commandos as they tried to enforce the blockade. The boarding followed repeated Israeli warnings to turn back due to the blockade, which even the United Nations determined is legal and proper to keep weapons from reaching Hamas.
"The Turkish government has been quietly spreading its influence in the U.S.," Mauro writes, and the prime minister's visit to the Lanham mosque site is a sign of his "desire to increase the Islamist influence in America."
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech to every American.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held there are very limited circumstances in which those rights can be restricted. The most significant among those restrictions includes speech that can incite violence and other crime.
So it's unusual to see the top FBI agent and federal prosecutor in Eastern Tennessee leading a special meeting June 4 in response to an offensive Internet posting.
According to a report Tuesday by the Tullahoma News, U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Kenneth Moore "will provide input on how civil rights can be violated by those who post inflammatory documents targeted at Muslims on social media." It was prompted by a Facebook posting made by Coffee County Commissioner Barry West that showed a picture of a man pointing a double-barreled shotgun at a camera lens with the caption saying, "How to Wink at a Muslim."
Call it inappropriate. Call it offensive. But don't call it a federal case unless, it was an actual threat that West intended to act upon, or, as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, it seeks to direct or incite imminent lawless action. Otherwise, such offense should be met with a rebuttal of better ideas and words, if met at all.
Otherwise, the scorning reaction from two senior government officials in the Eastern District of Tennessee can have a chilling effect on free speech – a chill imposed by the very people sworn to protect those Constitutional rights.
A British soldier is dead, and two suspected terrorists were shot in a shocking daylight attack outside London Wednesday.
Some accounts say the soldier was shot, while other witnesses described the attack as a "beheading," the London Telegraph reports, and ITV News obtained video of a man with bloody hands carrying knives and a meat cleaver and warning "you people will never be safe" and saying "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you."
He also said, "We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
Other witnesses reported hearing the attackers shout "Allahu Akhbar" – God is Great – as they attacked the soldier outside Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolich. The victim was not in uniform. Instead, he wore a T-shirt promoting a charity that serves wounded British troops.
The attackers left his body in the street and reportedly stayed nearby, "waving knives and a gun, and asked people to take pictures of them "as if they wanted to be on TV or something,'" the BBC reports.
Officials are calling it an Islamist terror attack.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the attack was "truly shocking" and called for an emergency meeting of security officials.
"Those meetings are not convened lightly," writes BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Dominic Casciani. "The fact is that all available accounts point towards this being a terrorist incident carried out by someone inspired by al-Qaeda's jihadist ideology. If that's the case it would be the first such incident leading to a death of someone other than the perpetrator since the London suicide bombings of 2005."
Writer Douglas Murray likens the attack to other Islamist murders, including the killing of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh. "Over recent years, those who have warned that such attacks would come here have been attacked as 'racists', 'fascists' and — most commonly — 'Islamophobes,' Murray writes. "A refusal to recognise the actual threat (a growingly radicalised Islam) has dominated most of our media and nearly all our political class.
"Watching this roll out has made me — and most other ordinary people — feel sick. It should always have been obvious where such idiocy and denial would lead. It leads to Woolwich. It leads to a British soldier being decapitated in our capital city in broad daylight."
The Army psychiatrist accused in the Fort Hood shooting rampage has been paid more than $278,000 since the November 5, 2009 shootings that killed 13 people and wounded 32 others, Dallas television station KXAS reports.
Maj. Nidal M. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder in connection with the shootings. Civilians worked among soldiers at the Fort Hood processing center where the shooting took place. But Hasan targeted only those in uniform.
Since Hasan is a military employee, the Army is bound by the Military Code of Justice not to suspend Hasan's salary unless he is found guilty. If Hasan had been a civilian defense department employee, his salary could have been suspended as early as a week after the shooting incident, the station, also known as NBC5 reports.
Defense Department personnel rules allow for "indefinite suspensions" of civilian employees "when the agency has reasonable cause to believe that the employee has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed."
In contrast, soldiers injured in the attack still have not received monetary and medical benefits similar to what soldiers wounded in combat receive.
Hasan shouted "Allahu Akbar" – God is great – as he opened fire. He espoused a radical Islamist ideology and communicated with now-deceased Yemeni al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He also made statements in support of jihad, including a 2007 PowerPoint presentation he made at Walter Reed Army Medical Center entitled "Why the War on Terror is a War on Islam."
Yet the Pentagon has refused to label the shootings a "terrorist attack" and the wounds of victims injured in the attacks are not regarded as "combat related." The Army, in fact, refers to the shootings as "workplace violence."As a result, the shooting victims are not given the pay provided to individuals injured in combat. The victims are also "not eligible for Purple Heart retirement or medical benefits given to other soldiers wounded either at war or during the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon," the report said.
U.S. Rep. Thomas Rooney, R-Fla., a former Fort Hood prosecutor, called the shooting spree "an attack on our military by a terrorist element specifically targeting our military." Rooney recently signed a bi-partisan letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to "urging him to re-classify the injuries and deaths resulting from the terrorist attack on Ft. Hood – currently designated by the Department as 'workplace violence' – as 'combat-related.'" The letter stated that the status quo has "…resulted in an embarrassing lack of care and treatment for the victims and their families."
A Senate committee report blasted the Pentagon's response, saying it appears the issue of Islamist extremism is "taboo," guaranteeing "inefficient and ineffective" responses.
Iraq threatens to split apart amid sectarian tensions and increasing violence. Sunni tribal leaders in the primarily Sunni western provinces of Iraq are demanding the division of the country into a federation amid rising sectarian violence.
Their demands are the latest in an increasingly volatile situation.
Last week, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported the tribes and political parties in northern Iraq's Kirkuk province stated that electing a replacement for ailing Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would send Iraq back into "endless" crisis.
The Iraqi president, an ethnic Kurd, has been respected for his non-sectarian approach, but Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr has been noteworthy in his call for replacement. Sunnis have felt alienated by the Shiite majority since U.S. troops overthrew Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led government in 2003.
Bombings across Iraq left over 70 people dead and more than 248 others injured on Monday. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the al-Qaida affiliated Islamic State of Iraq has been targeting Shiites in hopes of stoking a wider sectarian conflict.
This marks the worst sectarian violence since U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011.
During 2006-2007, at the height of Sunni-Shiite fighting, Iraq's al-Anbar province was largely controlled by al-Qaida's Iraqi affiliate, but the Sunni tribes banded together with U.S. troops, forming the Awakening (Sahwa) militia, to beat them back.
The militia is now paid by the Iraqi government and has been targeted by militants for co-operating with the Shiite-led government. Three militia members were killed in a car bomb explosion as they collected their salaries Monday, and a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Sahwa checkpoint in Bahji, about 100 miles north of Baghdad.
Late last month, Sunni protesters in al-Anbar announced their formation of a militia called the Army of Pride and Dignity amid escalating sectarian tensions, causing some to say Iraq was becoming like neighboring Syria.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has indicated a willingness to contemplate granting autonomy to the Sunni majority western provinces. Sunnis began demonstrating against al-Maliki in December, accusing him of marginalizing them.
Maliki responded to the violence, saying that the militants were trying to "bring back the atmosphere of the sectarian war."
The European Union is poised to designate Hizballah as a terrorist group, media reports indicate.
The EU has hesitated to make the designation, which the United States did 12 years ago. The Gulf state Bahrain made a similar designation in March. Now, Britain has filed papers to initiate a process that could be complete in a few weeks, the AFP News Service reports.
"We hope to have an agreement by the end of June," an unnamed diplomat said, saying the British request would be discussed in a few weeks.
Last summer's bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria gave the EU drive new impetus. A Bulgarian investigation blamed Hizballah, which also is suspected in a series of other plots targeting Israeli officials in Europe and Asia.
The EU designation should help curb Hizballah business and banking interactions.
Meanwhile, the Iranian-backed terrorist group is suffering significant casualties in Syria, where it is helping dictator Bashar al-Assad push back against a popular rebellion. A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports 31 Hizballah deaths since Sunday in the fight to retake the town of Qusair, which has been rebel-controlled for the past year.
Hizballah's role is raising concerns about increased sectarian violence in Syria and in Lebanon, where Hizballah is a powerful political entity. Syrian rebels fired rockets at Hizballah targets in Lebanon in retaliation. No casualties were reported, but CNN noted that "the rockets underscored fears that bordering nations -- such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan -- will be sucked into the conflict, now in its third year."
The New York Times cites a statement from Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Mekdad who told Al-Arabiya television that the group considers Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah "a killer of the Syrian people."
The Syrian civil war largely pits Shia fighters from Hizballah and the Syrian military against Sunni opposition fighters, including jihadist groups.
"[I]ts new struggle against fellow Muslims has proved controversial at home," the Washington Post reported Tuesday, saying Hizballah wasn't talking about its Syrian casualties, "but the group's deepening role in the conflict is difficult to hide."
In the past, Hizballah has enjoyed strong support from American Islamist groups which defended the group as a "legitimate resistance" movement against Israel. Those same groups have been quiet about Hizballah's role in helping Assad kill thousands of Syrian citizens.
Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie used anti-Semitic language in a statement commemorating Israel's independence – what Palestinian's call the Nakba (catastrophe).
Muslims must liberate Palestine from Israeli control and purge the "holy places of the filth and pollution of the Zionists," Brotherhood General Guide Mohamed Badie said Thursday in a statement posted on the Brotherhood's website, Ikhwan Online.
Badie, regarded by many in Egypt as the power behind Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, has a long history of inflammatory anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric. He notably called for jihad against Israel during the November Gaza conflict, saying that "jihad is obligatory for Muslims" and has repeatedly referred to Jews as "pigs."
"It is the land of jihad and linked to the Day of Judgment … The Messenger of God … said: 'A group of my ummah [nation] will not cease to fight at the gates of Damascus and its surroundings and at the gates of Jerusalem and its surroundings,'" Badie said in the new statement. "Because of this, Palestine is the spirit of the Islamic ummah, and liberating it and preserving it is the responsibility of every Muslim.
"The Islamic world and the Arab world and Egypt are to sacrifice for their homeland, 'Palestine' with their wealth and their children and their lives and all they possess."
The Brotherhood leader described Palestine as the "beating heart" of the Arab world, which the Arab and Islamic worlds must sacrifice to recover from the Jews no matter what the cost.
Recapturing Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque from the Jews kindles a fire in the hearts of Muslims everywhere that will only be extinguished when Muslims regain sovereignty over Palestine.
"We call on the people of Palestine to fear God and to reconcile themselves, and unite with each other the greatest target, which is the liberation of the homeland and the return of the refugees and purging the holy places of the filth and pollution of the Zionists and to agree that every road that does not lead them to this goal they should put behind and not follow the ways of the devil," Badie said.
A 30-year-old Uzbekistan national living in Boise, Idaho, was arrested Thursday morning as part of a wide scale federal terrorism investigation.
Fazliddin Kurbanov is charged in separate indictments in Idaho and Utah for conspiring to support the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and distributing information related to the manufacture and use of an explosive or weapon of mass destruction.
Kurbanov had a combination of parts to make a bomb, including a hollow hand grenade, hobby fuse, aluminum powder, potassium nitrate, and sulfur, a three-count indictment filed in Boise said. Kurbanov is charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists knowing that the support was to be used for carrying out an attack involving a weapon of mass destruction, and possession of an unregistered destructive device.
A second indictment filed in Salt Lake City charged Kurbanov with distributing information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction. Kurbamov allegedly "showed internet videos, conducted instructional shopping trips, provided written recipes and gave verbal instructions on where to obtain the necessary components to construct and use improvised explosive devices." The indictment further alleged that Kurbanov sought to use the explosive devices to bomb public places, transportation, and other infrastructural facilities.
"Today's arrest and these indictments underscore our commitment to aggressively and thoroughly investigate those who conspire to engage in unlawful terrorist activities," Wendy J. Olson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho, said is a Department of Justice press release announcing the charges.A detention motion filed in the case described Kubarnov as a serious flight risk. Kurbanov faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted on the Idaho charges. The Utah charge carries a longer prison sentence of 20 years.
Eleven shots ring out – plus two more for good measure – leaving 11 Syrian soldiers dead or dying in the sand. Moments earlier, flanked by the black flags of Jhabat al-Nusra, an unidentified man invokes the "name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate" and reads a condemnation:
"The Sharia Court of the Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) in the Eastern Region in Deir al-Zour has decreed killing upon these apostate soldiers for the massacres they have committed against our brothers and our people in Syria." With that, the grisly video plays on bullet by bullet as the man deals out a perverted form of justice in the name of God. (Note: Due to the extremely graphic and disturbing nature of the video, The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) has decided not to post it or link to it.)
Hot on the heels of a similarly grotesque video depicting the leader of the Syrian rebel Independent Omar al-Farouq brigade, Abu Sakkar, mutilating a dead Syrian soldier's body and taking a bite out of his heart, this latest video highlights the increasingly-gruesome war-crimes playing out on all sides of this multi-faceted Syrian civil war.
Thanks in large part to their battle-hardened capabilities, al-Qaida-tied Jhabat al-Nusra is becoming increasingly popular among the opposition forces. With members of the more secular Free Syrian Army (FSA) defecting to join its ranks, al-Nusra's power and influence are increasing – adding to the concern about proposals for the United States to arm Syrian rebels.
While the Assad regime's primary focus seems limited to quelling the rebellion, Jhabat al-Nusra and its parent group al-Qaida in Iraq see Assad's overthrow as the first step in a far grander plan to create an Islamic state in Syria under Sharia law. Then they can use the more advanced weapon systems they hope to gain against Israel.
The border with Syria – the Golan Heights – has been relatively peaceful since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. This region, now the site of Syrian rocket attacks and threats of re-entry by Syrian forces, stands as the most likely target for Jhabat al-Nusra's aggression and "justice."
Recent assessments cast Assad in a position of renewed strength, and although Jhabat al-Nusra appears to hold both Israel and Iranian-supported Hizballah with equal disdain, al-Nusra's advances indicate a peaceful era is a long way off.
One can only begin to imagine the moment; huddled beneath a tarp, severely wounded from a shootout with police, his brother and accomplice dead potentially by his own hand, hiding from one of the largest manhunts in American history, and all but certain that death was imminent. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scribbled what he likely believed to be his last words.
As the administration and media work to increase the distance between Islam and terrorism, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's note seems to paint a vastly different picture. CBS News reports:
The note -- scrawled with a marker on the interior wall of the cabin -- said the bombings were retribution for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the Boston victims "collateral damage" in the same way Muslims have been in the American-led wars. "When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims," Tsarnaev wrote.
Dzhokar said he didn't mourn older brother Tamerlan, the other suspect in the bombings, writing that by that point, Tamerlan was a martyr in paradise -- and that he expected to join him there soon.
Meanwhile, Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), released an article last week entitled "A Word of Truth on Jihad and Islam" wherein he states, "There is a growing attempt by some commentators to label the recent bombings in Boston as 'jihad' and to blame the deadly blasts on a non-existent concept they call 'radical Islam.'" Radical Islam doesn't exist, he wrote, "because radicalism or extremism is not permissible in Islam." That's a bit like saying there are no murderers in the United States because murder is illegal.
Given the suspect's own admission, it is a gross mischaracterization to classify this brutal attack on American soil as anything but a product of radical Islam. Tsarnaev seems to disagree with Awad by addressing not only what he believed to be the universality and singularity of the Muslim faith but also by his firm belief that he and his brother would be shuhada (martyrs) for that faith.
Awad is free to explain why Tsarnaev may be mistaken, or to make it plain that Tsarnaev's views are not shared by the vast majority of Muslim Americans. But don't tell us it doesn't exist. It's scrawled on the inside of a boat in Watertown, Mass.