Thursday, February 19, 2015

UK: Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill receives “Royal Assent” to seize passports, assets, and children of Muslim citizens

Even before the UK’s draconian new Counter-Terrorism bill has been passed into law, the British government has started taking Muslim children away from their parents in order to “prevent radicalization.” The Prime Minister also announced an additional £130 million which will be made available over the next two years to strengthen counter-terrorism capabilities.

This new policy has a lot of problems, starting with an extremely vague definition of “extremism,” which has already been used to target people with strong opinions, social justice activists, people returning from non-violent activities overseas, and even those who went to Syria or Iraq to join a resistance movement but then decided against it and came home. None of these people are seriously considered to be planning attacks on British soil. Rather, their advocation of Islamic ideology is being touted as a threat to “British values.”

“We must be firm to the point of ruthlessness in opposing behaviour that undermines our values. Paedophilia, FGM, Islamic radicalisation – to some extent, at some stage, we have tiptoed round them all for fear of offending this or that minority,” wrote London mayor Boris Johnson in the Telegraph, claiming that “Radicalisation is a form of child abuse” and that Muslim children who risk radicalisation by their parents should be taken into foster care.

An essential weakness of the mayor’s argument is that paedophilia and Female Genital Mutilation are both tangible crimes, while “Islamic radicalisation” is a term so vague that it could include anyone merely philosophically opposed to British participation in foreign wars.

Another serious flaw with the soon-to-be law is that non-Muslim extremists are unlikely to be targeted under the new terrorism law, even if they clearly present a danger to society.

British soldier Ryan McGee, a supporter of the far right English Defence League (EDL), only got a two-year sentence after it was discovered that he had made nail bombs filled with 187 pieces of shrapnel to maximize damage. McGee was also found in possession of knives, axes and imitation guns. He had watched videos of victims being beheaded and shot in the head under a Nazi swastika flag. He had an EDL "No Surrender" flag in his room. He was prosecuted and convicted under the Explosive Substances Act (1883). Instead of being prosecuted as a terrorist, the government prosecutor himself argued that McGee was just an immature teenager.

“Yet paradoxically, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the government seek to portray Muslim returnees from Syria as the greatest threat this country has ever faced, charging them and seeking convictions for terrorism offences not connected to Britain in any way,” wrote Moazzam Begg, who argued that “the UK's terrorism legislation is not being applied evenly and should be scrapped in favour of a more common sense approach.”

Another serious double standard, is that no arrests have been made of “British mercenaries (non-Muslims of course) who have joined Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga units who fight alongside  banned terrorist organisations like the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and Iraqi militias who fight next to the Assad regime alongside proscribed terrorist group Hezbollah.”

The most emotionally disturbing part of the government’s assault on its largest religious minority is that day care centers and schools are now being told they have to report any evidence of “Islamic radicalization” to a government social worker, whose decision making power is almost absolute.

“The nurseries should insure proper training of their staff to... challenge extremist ideas which can be used to legitimize terrorism and are shared by terrorist groups,” the government document tagged “Prevent” stated.

There is no due process to determine the veracity or context of any such accusation. The government simply takes the children by force. Domestic violence organizations and other groups that should provide free legal help to mothers in such cases, have been instructed not to provide attorneys to mothers reported to the government as being suspiciously passionate about Islamic causes or religious practices.

“As a parent I may have to prove many things in order to get my child back, my question is why does a social worker and Channel officer have to prove absolutely NOTHING in order to remove her in the first place. I can’t disprove something that hasn’t ever made it to anyones sight!” protested a British mother, whose 7 year old was taken away after her twitter name raised eyebrows. The government questioned her about her plan to attend an Islamic Unity conference, her letters to Tarek Mehanna, and a passing comment she made online more than a year ago, regarding the Lee Rigby incident. She had just mentioned “that soldiers aren’t innocent fighting in a heavily opposed and morally deplorable war.”

In an earlier case last December the Daily Mail reported, “Two toddlers were snatched by the British police from their mother who had returned from war-torn Syria with them, via Turkey.

The UK’s large Muslim population is being screened for Islamic "Jihadi" style influences as “the British government tries to find effective ways to deal with the threat posed by ISIS.”

In fact, ISIS poses no direct threat to Britain. It would be wise to dig deeper into which groups would lobby England’s elected officials to enact such laws, which essentially prohibit Muslim citizens from enjoying equal rights at home and inhibit them from travelling internationally.

Syria: Let Us Be Steered Towards Mercy

February 2 marked the 33rd anniversary of the Hama Massacre, which took place in the city of Hama, Syria in 1982. A year earlier, in April 1981, Syrian security forces randomly executed 350 residents of the city, who were chosen among the male population over the age of 14. This event caused the majority of people in this area to turn against the Ba’athist, socialist government.

“Back then, the city of Hama was the stronghold of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and the center of an anti-regime uprising that had been targeting government buildings and minority Alawite military officers for years,” wrote Azmat Khan for PBS.

“In 1982, the regime basically said, ‘That’s it. That’s enough. We have to deal with this once and for all. We have to show that we’re in control,'” David Lesch told FRONTLINE.

Hafez al Assad, then president of Syria, sent the army to lay siege upon the population for 27 days, during which 45,000 people were killed. About 1,000 Syrian soldiers were also killed during the operation. Large parts of the old city were destroyed.

“Assad's troops pounded Hama with artillery fire for several days and, with the city in ruins, his bulldozers moved in and flattened neighbourhoods,” reported the Guardian. Syrian forces, flown in by helicopter, searched the rubble in order to kill any remaining rebels.

This was one of "the single deadliest acts by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East."

My friend described the situation there in the 80s, which was very similar to what is going on today. The people were demonstrating against the Assad regime and the Syrian government opened fire on them. As a result, some people started firing back. Secret police came to his home looking for his brother, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Finding him not at home, they killed two brothers and a sister. They shot his sister in the stomach so many times that her body was in two pieces. I am a moderate person by nature and I try to see all sides. I understand some people’s fear of Islamism due to its predictable excesses and even the desire for secularism. However, if this government represents them, then I cannot agree. Because any government that comes into someone’s home and shoots a family down is pure evil.

A Syrian ex-patriot gave Voice of America many gruesome examples of atrocities.

A wealthy old woman lived in a beautiful mansion with her son. “After the soldiers looted the house they poured gasoline on both of them and burned the house.”

“And in the same neighborhood, two buildings down the street, a family owned a place for wood chipping. They took the whole family down and they shot them all.  About 25 of them.”

Another woman had “many gold bracelets on her wrists, so they cut off both of her hands and let her bleed to die.”

She quickly followed up with another story about a father who was pleading with a  soldier.
“I have a 14-month-old baby,” the man said. “Please don’t make him an orphan.”

The officer said, “Oh, you don’t want him to be an orphan?

“Now your son won’t be an orphan,” the officer said.  Then he shot dead the child, the father and the rest of his family.

She said she learned about what happened to this family from a soldier, who defected from the army. He said, “I’m not going to be with an army like that.”

In a suburb of the city called New Hama, soldiers stood in the street while an officer used a bullhorn to call residents out of their homes.

“You all come down to the street.  Women, children, everybody,” the voice announced… And after that they went and raided the homes and whoever stayed in there they took them out and they dug a big ditch and shot them and threw them in the big ditch. They say in the neighborhood about 1500 people got shot.”

This actually reminds me of Dachau, Germany, where I took a tour of the concentration camp. While the “gas chambers” story never happened, at least not in Dachau, unwanted persons were told to dig a ditch, then lined up and shot. The Hollywood version of the Holocaust is a fabrication, but the behavior of socialist governments, whether of the Nazis or Assad’s tyranny, draws many parallels.

The problem resides in the ego-based concept of “unwanted persons.” Once a person becomes “unwanted,” almost anything can be justified against him, even in the name of religion. Those of us who desire to attain spiritual excellence need to learn to temper this particular passion. Like all passions, this destructive desire serves only to swerve away from the Middle Path towards the gutter. Whatever we do in life, we need to ask our Creator for personal permission first. Even when we eat a meal involving an animal who gave its life, we say grace first.

There was a moment when Hazrat Ali (ra) was dueling with an opponent, and he had got him beat to the ground. However the man spit at Ali. It was such an offensive moment that Ali let the man go free because if he had killed him now, which he could have easily done, it would have been committed in an act of anger, which Ali knew could send himself straight to the hellfire.

Muslims need to know that even in war, every act of mercy could go recorded for generations. Laura Ingalls, author of “Little House on the Prairie,” married a farmer named Almanzo. His name dates back to the Crusades, when his ancestor’s life was spared by a man who was in the position to kill him, named Al-Mansour. The Wilder family thenceforth dedicated one male in each generation to be named after this true Muslim. Laura and Almanzo’s daughter Rose Wilder later wrote some of the most beautiful statements about Islamic culture that have ever been written.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tsarnaev Friend Changes Plea to “Guilty”

Khairullozhon Matanov, 25 year old Kyrgyzstani immigrant and friend of the deceased Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who is accused of the Boston Marathon bombings, told me during a recent prison visit that he decided to plead guilty to concealing evidence and lying to the FBI, even though he is absolutely innocent. The government is now only going to be asking for him to serve 2 1/2 years due to changing his plea to guilty, though the judge could possibly give him an even shorter sentence. 

However, the Patriot Ledger reported that under the new charge, he would face “no more than five to eight years in prison, depending on whether the offense is considered to involve terrorism.” So it sounds like the situation is very much hanging in the balance.

Matanov’s attorney requested a hearing earlier this month after Matanov agreed to be interrogated by the government; however, he doesn’t have any incriminating information to give.

Matanov was looking at 15 years for deleting files off his computer (all of which were public information) and for downplaying his relationship with the Tsarnaev brothers, even though he actually went to the police station first thing in the morning to identify them after the FBI put their photo on the TV, thinking he was doing his duty by telling them, “I don’t think they did it but I know who they are.” 

Prosecutors said Matanov called Tamerlan Tsarnaev about 40 minutes after the bombings and invited him to dinner. He is accused of lying to the FBI about whether he met them at the restaurant or whether he drove them there. He is guilty of knowing the brothers, liking them, and even worshiping at the same mosque. He is not accused of knowing anything about the bombs.

Matanov was originally facing 40 years of imprisonment due to “suspicious” wire transfers of money, some of which were made using aliases, which the FBI insinuated could have been terror related. He had wired money to people in many different countries. However, the feds backed off that charge pretty quickly after it was shown that Matanov could account for all of these money transfers, most of which were sent to needy relatives.

The God-loving kid worked 80 hours a week driving a cab in order to pay for his father’s heart surgery as well as his family’s other living expenses. It would be hard to find a more decent human being than this brother. 

Matanov was a subject of dirty journalist Michelle McPhee, who wrote about him and Tamerlan in a seriously ridiculous smear piece called “Inside the Mind of a Killer.” McPhee has been criticized repeatedly for writing apparently bogus news articles calculated to sway the trial against the accused. For example, she was the source of the “note in the boat” based on “anonymous law enforcement” statements. (The government is NOT going to use the boat confession as part of their case, as it is not legally considered as admissible evidence). 

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys attempted repeatedly to convince Judge O’Toole to find out which FBI agents have been talking to the press, circumventing legal procedure. O’Toole continues to say he’s “concerned” about media links but does nothing about it. 

The judge in Matanov’s case, Judge William Young, however, has a reputation for being tough on media leaks. Matanov filed a motion last month regarding media leaks and Young responded by demanding a list from both the defense and prosecution of anyone who had ever seen the FBI transcript that mysteriously appeared online, or any other documents related to the case. This may be the reason that the government is suddenly willing to negotiate.

Unfortunately, the government put Matanov’s lawyer under a lot of pressure, so in order to get this plea deal he now has to file a motion to withdraw the motion regarding leaks to the media. This is very disappointing. That information about the government agent who is making up stories for the media, is pretty darn important and Young is the only judge who might find out. But I guess Khair has to do what he has to do. 

He said of the government prosecutors:  "They are very powerful people." 

The issue of whether he will be deported after time served is undecided.

Matanov has many loving supporters who write to him. In a letter to a supporter, which was circulated on Facebook, he stated: "I know you guys support me, and I always claim I am innocent. I still say I am innocent, but in this tough environment I can't imagine getting a fair trial so that is why I am accepting a plea deal. I hope you guys support me and I thank you for everything you guys have done, for your support. I mean it is unimaginable good to get tonnes of support from people I have never met."

The young man has received many letters begging him not to testify negatively against Jahar and advising him not to drop the media leaks issue. It is not clear if all these pending issues played a role or not, but on January 24, 2015 it was announced that Judge Young moved the hearing regarding the potential plea deal to February 25, 2015. 

Matanov’s lawyer, Paul Glickman, would not comment when asked if the expected guilty plea means Matanov has an agreement with prosecutors and plans to testify against the only surviving brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at his trial. Matanov assured supporters that he would not. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In Defense of Mutah

The Detroit Free Press recently reported that a Dearborn imam was publicly humiliated by members of his congregation, who disagreed over how donation money should be spent. A series of anonymous letters were circulated to homes, accusing the imam of diverting money and of having a scandalous “extramarital relationship” with a woman through mutah, or temporary marriage, under Shia Islam. The letter sent out this week accused him of turning his Islamic Center into a "House of Mutah."

These anonymous mailings insinuated that mosque funds were being used to pay for the imam’s illicit activity as with a prostitute. It is deeply unfortunate that people who call themselves Muslims would engage in such trash talk. Direct mail is a great way to promote a political position but it was deeply irresponsible for these people to air the community’s gossip to the public to the point where the newspaper reported on their mosque’s internal problems!

Did they really need to give the haters something else to talk about? Do they not realize that many non-Muslims view all Islamic marriages, because a dowry is paid, as a form of prostitution and subsequent servitude? The very thing that makes every Islamic marriage legal is that the man gives the woman something of monetary value!

“ (them in marriage) with gifts from your property” (Quran 4:24).

So if the people are so upset that he contracted mutah with donation money, would they prefer that he use their money to buy the woman a house? Or perhaps he should use their money to divorce his wife, buy his ex-wife a house, and then buy a new house for his bride? Some decisions and discussions are the family's business, nobody else’s! This kind of gossip is what causes people to keep their marriages secret, even though the Prophet (pbuh) advised against secret marriages.

I consulted with a Shia scholar, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Marriages, even mutah should really be open and known... But there are circumstances where mutah needs to be private, so [determine] each case on its merits.”

There is no dispute about whether or not Muslim men may marry more than one woman. Polygyny is on the rise in Britain, because today’s modern Muslim career women simply don’t have the time or patience for the duties of a full time wife, reports Jamie Dettmer in the Daily Beast.

So the only dispute between Muslims on the legality of marriage is whether or not it has to be considered “permanent” or if it is permissible to contract a marriage for a specified amount of time. Since divorce is permitted in Islam, this argument does not make a huge amount of sense. 

How many times have we seen a man promise a woman “forever,” only to dump her? This happens for many reasons, including family pressure, immigration issues, and culture clash. Would it not be more kind for a man to simply be honest with the woman about what he is realistically able to offer her? Whether it’s three days or three years, if he gave her what he promised - how is it better to trick a woman into making a permanent commitment, based on empty promises of a future home life, which never pan out?

“Marriage is a tradition of the Prophet and has been emphasized as an act of piety. Celibacy, on the other hand, is considered evil and unnatural,” writes Shahla Haeri in “Law of Desire,” a study of temporary marriage in Iran.

While the more educated urban secularized middle class Shi’ites often perceive mutah as legalized prostitution, the more religiously inclined view it as a divinely rewarded activity. Historically, many mutah marriages indeed have been contracted by women soliciting strangers in public, in particular, at certain holy shrines, but after the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, Shia scholars and ayatollahs openly promoted mutah as “preferable to the ‘decadent’ Western style of ‘free’ male-female associations.”

Mutah is now promoted as an Islamic way to legalize dating in order to get to know someone before marriage, as a way to avoid sin and fornication especially during the college years, and later in life, as a way to deal with marital separation and divorce, when finances prevent a man from setting up a second household, or to protect women’s chastity and relieve their suffering.

“I married a man for one night when he was going for Hajj, so I could get the blessings from the Hajj. When he came back he wanted to marry again but I said no. We stayed in touch and helped each other out for years. Since I wouldn’t marry him, he asked me to help choose his wife,” Sophia, an American convert to Islam stated.

The most commendable thing about mutah in the modern world is that there is no divorce. The sexual relationship ends with no hard feelings and no broken promises. It is the norm between former mutah spouses to maintain a deep friendship and reverence for each other for the rest of their lives, knowing that remarriage is always an option. This can be a huge, huge blessing and security that is worth even more in the 21st Century, when there are so few stable relationships and even family members move far away.