Anti-Jihad News Bulletin w/c May 28, 2007
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Shabana, A pretty Afghan teenager with a modern haircut,
was 12 years old when she was forced to marry a man 38
years her senior to settle her father's 600-dollar gambling
debt. Two years later, she is unhappy and angry. She doesn't
like her husband, 52-year-old farmer Mohammad Asef. He
is wild - he destroyed my hopes, she said in their
humble mud brick home in the northern province of Balkh,
speaking out only when Asef went into another room to
take a call. She doesn't get on with her husband's first
wife, who is aged 42 and lives with them. And she is disgusted
with her father. He sold me, she told AFP.
Her father and husband once farmed together, growing wheat
and opium poppies on a plot in neighbouring Jawzjan province.
Two years ago, after the harvest was in, Asef went to
Balkh's Mazar-i-Sharif city to visit his family. When
I came back, my father-in-law had gambled away all the
harvest, he said. He promised me to get my
money in one month but he couldn't find it. I knew he
wouldn't because he is a very poor man. It was about 600
dollars. When he couldn't find the money, I married his
12-year-old daughter in compensation. Shabana, who
likes to wear jeans and read novels and newspapers, was
taken out of school.
Now she spends most of her time doing chores in the simple
house for which Asef cannot yet afford doors. The illegal
practise of exchanging girls to settle debts, including
those owed to opium farmers, or to settle disputes between
clans persists around the country - with the latter more
common in the north. There are no statistics partly because
there are no resources for collecting such data, said
Ministry of Women's Affairs legal advisor Sayed Abdul
Wahab Rahmani. And in areas hit by the Taleban-led insurgency,
the precarious security situation would prevent such research,
he said. About 670 women went to the ministry in the capital
last year with complaints ranging from forced marriage
to domestic violence, Rahmani said, by way of offering
some sort of figure. The number is without doubt a fraction
of the total number of cases in largely rural and destitute
Afghanistan, where men hold sway and often break the law
with impunity, including by marrying underage girls or
using them to settle debts or feuds.
About 57 per cent of girls are married before the legal
age of 16, according to statistics from the women's ministry
and women's groups. Between 60 and 80 per cent of all
marriages are believed to be 'forced' - a term that covers
a range of practises including marrying off girls to repay
debts or without their consent, according to the Afghan
Independent Human Rights Commission. This is one of the
main factors behind girls and women running away from
home or committing suicide, including by setting themselves
alight by dousing themselves in fuel and igniting it with
a match. In Afghanistan, as in many Asian and African
cultures, men pay the family of their wives-to-be an agreed
sum, sometimes called the bride price, as well as the
cost of the wedding which can also run into thousands
of dollars - the average in Kabul is 4,000 dollars. This
can be an enormous sum in one of the poorest countries
in the world where a low-grade civil servant earns about
60 dollars a month. To be able to afford his own wife,
Abdul Raheem, also from Balkh province, says he wants
to marry off his 12-year-old sister as soon as he can.
The family of the woman he has set his heart on wants
6,000 dollars for her. Raheem, who earns 60 dollars a
month as a cleaner in a police station in Mazar, has saved
2,000 dollars. It's very difficult for me to find
4,000 dollars, he said. But if he could marry off
his sister, then I can marry my girlfriend,
he told AFP.
One of the Catholic Church's leading experts on Islam
says the Swiss authorities need to keep a closer eye on
the country's mosques. Pierre Bürcher, assistant
bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, tells swissinfo
it is what goes on inside mosques rather than the construction
of minarets that poses a greater threat to peace. His
comments come just weeks after a group of rightwing politicians
launched a nationwide campaign to ban the construction
of minarets. Bürcher is president of the Swiss Bishops
Conference's working group on Islam, which was set up
in 2001. He says meetings with Muslims both at home and
abroad the body has visited Iran and Syria
have led to improved relations and better understanding
between both religious communities. But he warns that
the road towards a truly peaceful co-existence remains
long and rocky. swissinfo: You say that relations are
improving at a religious level. But aren't they constantly
being undermined by global political events? P.B.: Inter-religious
and inter-cultural dialogue is a major challenge at the
start of the 21st century and in recent decades the Catholic
Church has made a priority of establishing contacts with
other religions. Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor
John Paul II have said this dialogue is vital for the
future of our society. At a political level, both at home
and abroad in Iran and Syria, we have always been well
received by the various authorities.
The difficulties stem from a very small extremist fringe,
which poses enormous problems but does not represent true
Islam. swissinfo: Christians in some Middle East countries
do not enjoy anything like the same religious freedoms
as Muslims in Switzerland. Was there any indication during
your visits to the region that this might eventually change?
P.B.: Fortunately in Switzerland we have freedom of religion
and worship; in other countries the situation is somewhat
different. If you take some Gulf states, Qatar and the
United Arab Emirates, Christians are free to worship and
it is often the emirs themselves who provide land for
the construction of a church. But in Saudi Arabia there
is neither freedom of religion nor worship, yet there
are many Christians who live and work there. I hope the
day will come when it will be possible for Christians
to worship in Saudi Arabia. We need to continue to put
pressure on the Muslim authorities and the Saudi government
for this to change.
At the same time we now have this initiative in Switzerland
against the construction of minarets, which shows there
is a certain amount of extremism here as well. swissinfo:
Indeed, this initiative is clearly a reaction to the spread
of Islam and Islamic law in Switzerland. Where does the
Catholic Church stand on this issue? P.B.: It is essential
that we respect the laws laid down in Switzerland and
we cannot allow them to be fundamentally undermined by
another way of thinking, such as sharia law. It's true
that the minaret is a symbol for Muslims but it is not
an essential part of a mosque and we should not get fixated
on it. What goes on inside a mosque is much more important,
because it's there that the Koran is taught and where
you can have people stepping out of line. It is in this
place of worship that the khutba [Islamic sermon], which
is often politicised, and all the anti-Western or even
terrorist teaching can take place. Do the authorities
really know what is going on and whether it is legal?
This seems far more important to me than whether you can
build a minaret or not. swissinfo: So you're saying the
authorities need to keep a closer eye on what's going
on inside mosques in Switzerland? P.B.: Yes, because one
needs to be aware that in Muslim tradition, politics,
culture, society and religion are all entwined.
We are touching here on a fundamental difference between
two religious concepts and the slightest tolerance in
this domain will be extremely damaging for peace and co-existence.
It is because of this that mosques in many Muslim countries
are coming under increased surveillance and the khutba
is always monitored. swissinfo: It is clear that there
is a fear of Islam, not just in Switzerland but also in
other Western countries. How can this be overcome? P.B.:
One of the reasons for this fear is that our two religions
are different and we still lack a sense of mutual understanding.
Secondly, newcomers can often create unease or even fear
because they may upset the balance. Therefore we need
to learn how to live with each other, otherwise we will
run into major problems. swissinfo: But centuries have
passed and we have yet to find a solution. What makes
you think we can do so now? P.B.: The most fervent believer,
whether they be Christian, Jew or Muslim, will never attain
perfection and we are on a similar path when it comes
to inter-cultural and inter-religious relations. The human
being has its limits; unfortunately we are not perfect
and neither are our societies.
Another incident confirms Muslims don't have respect for
our way of life.
Twenty-three-year-old journalist Latika Bourke was verbally
attacked bya group of Muslim men outside a Sydney mosque
because of her dress.
This young man approached me and said: 'You should
be wearing more clothes. You need to cover up, you mutt',''
Ms Bourke, who works for 2UE Radio, recounted. Ms Bourke,
who was wearing a black trenchcoat, knee-high boots and
gloves, said she was shocked and humiliated. I'm
just incredulous as to why they would say that ... what
else is there to cover up? They are doing themselves no
favours by behaving like this.'' Ms Bourke was waiting
to interview controversial mufti Sheik Taj Eldeen Alhilaly
at Lakemba mosque when a man aged about 20 confronted
her. His friends stood nearby, supporting him, as he verbally
attacked her. He said: Are you aware that this is
our Friday prayers? Do you know you're disrespecting our
religion.'' Ms Bourke said she replied: I'm sorry,
how?'' He then advised her to cover up and called her
a mutt''. Ms Bourke, a Christian, said she was very
conscious of the need to respect other people's religions.
I knew it was important to cover up when you go
to a mosque and that's why I wore a long coat and gloves.
As soon as it happened I looked at myself and thought,
'What am I wearing that is offensive?' The incident
sparked a flurry of calls to talkback radio on Friday
-- mostly criticising the Muslim man and his friends for
what they described as being offensive behaviour'.
Today I intend, as much as time permits, to highlight
a few of the findings from the Pew Research Center poll
of American Muslims. Here is the first: 47% of what Pew
says are 2.35 million Muslims in America, or a little
more than one million Muslims, consider themselves to
be Muslims first, Americans second. The other bars in
the graph above show that to be a much lower percentage
than in Britain, Germany, and Spain: 81% of Muslims in
Britain consider themselves to be Muslims first; 66% in
Germany, and 69% in Spain. In France, as under fire as
it is for not assimilating its Muslim immigrants (although
they have resisted assimilation at every step), it's 46%.
Anyway, all religions make absolute claims, so this is
not really unusual or unexpected. Most serious Christians
in America probably consider themselves Christians first
and Americans second. But given the nature of Islam as
a political and social system as well as a religious faith,
this finding has important implications for whether these
one million Muslims would like to see Islamic law, Sharia,
in the United States, and will be working to that end.
I haven't read it all yet, but I doubt that the Pew poll
asks pointed questions like that. To read the full report
The article below is interesting, but this fellows
attempt to distinguish between Islam and Islamism is fraudulent,
as the Koran commands Muslims to impose Islamic law, by
force if need be, and thats what Islamism means.
Ed Husain used to be an Islamic fundamentalist. When his
fathera devout Muslim opposed to fanaticismtold
him to leave the radical groups he had joined in London,
Husain left home instead. But by the mid-1990s, Husain
had become disillusioned with British Islamic organizations.
A stint working in Saudi Arabia disenchanted him still
further, when he discovered that women on the street face
routine harassment and that black Muslims are discriminated
against by local Arabs. Racism was an integral part
of Saudi society, says Husain. Even dark-skinned
Arabs were considered inferior to their lighter-skinned
cousins. I was living in the world's most avowedly Muslim
country, yet I found it anything but. Husain makes
his comments in his memoir, The Islamist: Why I
Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and
Why I Left (Penguin)a work that has drawn
widespread interest and controversy in a country still
agonizing over how home-grown terrorists could
have been behind the 2005 mass-transit bombings and the
so-called fertilizer bomb plot that last month saw five
British Muslims jailed for life. Husain, 32, spoke to
Karla Adam at a coffee shop near the University of London,
where he is currently studying for a Ph.D. in politics,
about sleeper Islamists, why he turned his
back on radical groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and how American
Muslims differ from those in Britain. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: In your new book you offer a very personal account
of your time as a fundamental Islamist. What has the reaction
Ed Husain: I received a threat last night. I can't go
into details, but I'm not supposed to be going to certain
parts of London because if I am identified then I will
be attacked. The issue is so important, though, that it
requires courage to confront it head on.
Why write the book?
To put clear blue water between Muslims and Islamiststhat
has been blurred. I also wanted to open up the debate.
One reason I left and lost my extremism was by having
more and more non-Muslim friends, so if this book helps
inform ordinary non-Muslims about what's going on with
Islamists inside the Muslim community, it will only help
bring about a better dialogue.
You say that your father, a moderate Muslim, would have
been more accepting if he caught you snorting cocaine
than he was of you mixing with extreme Islamic groups.
What were some of the first signs you were headed on that
I had a serious sense of a lack of belonging in Britain.
I was born here, raised here, but in school people were
very monocultural, particularly from the Indian Subcontinent
[from where Husain's parents had emigrated to Britain],
predominantly male, predominantly Muslim. When I was 16
in the East End [of London], it was a different world,
and in that world there were two choices: I either became
the member of a street gang, or I looked to what were
then increasingly powerful local Muslim organizations.
Ed is not your real name.
No, it's Mohamed. When I was in Damascus, they wouldn't
call me Mohamed, that's the level of love they have for
the Prophet. So I decided on Ed, the last
syllable of Mohamed.
You became an influential Islamic leader, especially on
college campuses in the 1990s. How did you recruit people
into your groups?
We first generated interest through talking. [Attacks
on Muslims in] Bosnia really helped us. Muslims here in
Britain, my generation, came of age and didn't really
know where they belonged, whether it was here, or what
we used to call back home. It was quite easy
to recruit people, to expose them to the [idea that the]
solution to the problem in Bosnia was to have an Islamic
army that would take on the Serbs. We targeted mostly
teenagers. We would lavish them with lunch, dinner, friendly
treatment, and then expose them to the literature, especially
with Hizb [ut-Tahrir]. They are very keen on recruiting
intelligent people. When my contact proved him or herselfmostly
him at the timeto be solid and [to] understand what
we called the concepts, we would invite them
on to the secret cell structure. I recruited between 15
and 20 peoplekey people who are still working in
Whitechapel [east London]. I feel guilty.
You later turn your back on extremism. Was there a particular
There was a serious lack of spirituality [in the Hizb],
and because I was raised in an observant Muslim house,
I knew what it meant to be a God-conscious Muslim, a person
of faith. I knew you could be a Muslim without having
to be an extremist.
And you also cite an altercation involving members of
the Hizb that results in the murder of a Christian Nigerian
Yes, I remember seeing his dead body there, blood flowing,
and thinking at that point, my God, what have I created.
And that's when I thought to myself, our talk of jihad
is not in the abstract, it had an impact. They had created
an atmosphere where it was legitimate to talk and do these
things. That's when I slowly started to withdraw.
You withdrew from the Hizb, but you say it took you years
before you were mentally free from it. On the evening
of September 11, 2001, for instance, you asked friends
what all of you were doing to celebrate.
It was that Islamist influence in my mind that the loss
of non-Muslim life, that a blow to America, was always
a good thing. It doesn't matter who did it, as long as
America was struck. I still look back and think, how did
I respond that way?
You believe there are tens of thousands of sleeper
Islamists in the world. Can you explain? I seriously
believe in that. That's a real problem in that. Yes, they
have left the operational side. Yes, they no longer attend
weekly meetings. Yes, they may no longer read these books,
but those ideas that were implanted in their minds when
they were undergraduatesthat hatred of Jewish people,
that hatred of America, that desire to see confrontation.
Those ideas are still in lots of people's minds. Yes,
there are young Muslims out there who fail to see the
difference between Islam the religion and
Islamism, the ideology set up in its name.
And, yes, there are lots of people out there that haven't
made that clear break. I was one of them for six years.
Do you think the radical Muslim experience in Britain
is similar to that in America?
No. Americans are lucky in that they have a very strong
national identity. I have met hundreds of Muslims who
are very proud Americans. Here in Britain, native Brits
squirm about Britishness, no one can define what it means.
When natives can't define it, for the children of immigrants
it becomes extremely difficult to enter into mainstream
Britain. Also, Americans were also very blunt post 9/11.
There are very few centers now in the States that will
openly call for an Islamist state or a jihad or openly
distribute [extremist] Wahhabi literature. They have clamped
down heavily, maybe too much, but they have kept the lid
on the problem. Here we are too sensitive, we are too
liberal, we are too politically correct, and that's our
Should Muslims report on their own community?
If a fellow Muslim knows there are extremist activities
or terrorist atrocities, then it's their human responsibility,
before their religious responsibility, to prevent carnage.
I also want to highlight it is time for Western Muslims
to give back. The West has changed and given much over
the last 200 years; it is now the turn of Muslims to reciprocate.
If you knew of something would you tell the authorities?
Me? I have recently been telling the authorities about
Hizb rhetoric on campus, and I have been ignored: be quiet,
let it happen, they say. Of course I would [tell them],
no question about it.
Have you been approached by the government to work for
Yes, but I am not signing on the dotted line because I
think it's important that this voice, this work, carries
on from the outside, is more effective. I don't rule out
working for the government. Yes, governments make mistakes,
but I am not keen on [the idea that] you must rule out
working for the government ever. If I was approached I
would definitely consider it on its individual merits.
I left being antigovernment when I left Hizb.
Are you hoping to reach out to people who are currently
members of radical Muslim groups?
To some extent, yes. I also think that there are hundreds
of people out there who are beyond call, they have gone
to an extent where you can't change their minds. You just
have to let those individuals be handled by the security
forces. But there are lots of people in the middle groundthat
group I think we can call back.
What can you do differently so that your children don't
make your same mistakes?
The first thing is to make sure they have a very clear
sense of belonging as to who they are and what they are.
They are children of this soil, they belong here in Britain,
with all its problems, with all its racism, with all its
binge drinking, this is our country. The second thing
is to have a clear understanding of religion ,which is
flexible, which is pluralistic. And to have children who
grow up knowing that being different isn't a problem.
Is there something about Britain that makes it a good
breeding ground for extremist Muslims?
Britain's meekness in the face of extremists. Blair once
said, the rules of the game are changing.
Well, I don't believe the game should be played at all.
There is a problem with multiculturalism and letting everyone
do what they want to do. Our teachers aren't keen to confront,
challenge or debate expressions of radicalism. So in the
name of multiculturalism we have these monocultural ghettos,
this underworld where none of this is ever questioned.
You can walk into certain parts of London and quite easily
advocate a jihad and destroying Israel and ultimately
confronting Britain, and nobody would raise an eyelid.
As long as that's there, Britain faces problems.