Muslim News : Key air bomb suspect claims innocence

Friday, January 26, 2007

Key air bomb suspect claims innocence

Brief news rest of the World | Issue 213, 26 January 2007 | 6 Muharram 1428

A “key suspect” in the alleged terror plot to blow up transatlantic airliners was escorted to a court in Pakistan on December 21.

Rashid Rauf, 25 was arrested by Pakistani police in August, sparking a massive anti-terror operation across Britain. Rauf, from Birmingham, claimed he had been framed by the authorities.

Police in the Midlands want to question him about the murder of his uncle, Mohammed Saeed, in April 2002. Rauf, who has dual citizenship, disappeared shortly afterwards.

His arrest in Pakistan last August triggered raids by police across Britain that ended in the arrest of 24 suspects. Seven others, including two Britons, were held in Pakistan.

This led to a crackdown on security in the UK and US airports, with all liquids banned from hand luggage.

Prosecutors alleged Rauf was in possession of 29 bottles of hydrogen peroxide, intended to be used to blow up jets. He claimed they were for the treatment of wounds.

He faces civil charges of possessing explosives and forging travel and identity documents.

Officials say Rauf admits to having visited Afghanistan, attended militant training camps and to have met an aide of Ayman, Al Qa’ida’s al-Zawahiri.

Pakistani officials claim he admitted during questioning to meeting Al Qa’ida’s number three, Abu Faraj al-Libbi.

Pakistani human rights groups say he was tortured.

IHT : Suspect in London airliner terror plot detained illegally in Pakistan, lawyer says

Friday, January 19, 2007

Suspect in London airliner terror plot detained illegally in Pakistan, lawyer says

The Associated Press | January 19, 2007

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: The lawyer for a Briton suspected in an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic jetliners claimed Pakistan's government is holding him illegally after jail authorities failed to produce him before a court on Friday.

Rashid Rauf, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, had been due to appear at an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad, since the period of detention earlier ordered by that same court had expired.

But a prison official informed the judge, Kalim Khan, that Rauf's detention had already been extended by a review board of Pakistan's Supreme Court for 90 days so he was not produced before the anti-terrorism court Friday.

Hashmat Habib, the defense lawyer, told the judge that authorities had not given him a copy of the order.

At the lawyer's request, the judge ruled Rauf must be produced before the anti-terrorism court on Jan. 26.

Habib claimed that authorities were avoiding producing Rauf before the court.

"We know that the government has a weak case. This is the only reason that it did not produce him before the judge today," he told reporters later. "Rashid Rauf is in the illegal custody of the government."

Rauf was arrested by Pakistani agents in August on a tip from their British counterparts.

Pakistan has described him as a key suspect in the alleged terror plot to blow up jetliners flying from Britain to the United States that prompted a massive security alert at airports in the summer and increased restrictions on carryon items.

Yet the judge dropped terror charges against Rauf on Dec. 13 and transferred the case to a regular court for hearing criminal cases. He is charged with living in Pakistan without valid travel documents and possessing a chemical for making explosives.

The hearing in the anti-terrorism court on Friday was just intended to review Rauf's detention.

Pakistan says Britain has asked it to extradite Rauf in connection with a murder inquiry in Britain. Pakistan and Britain don't have an extradition treaty, and Islamabad has said it hasn't decided yet on the extradition request.

Albany Times-Union : History will remember Albany terrorism sting as a witch hunt

Friday, January 12, 2007

History will remember Albany terrorism sting as a witch hunt
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By Fred LeBrun | January 12, 2007

Someday we'll look back on the present national paranoia over terrorism and the excesses done in its name with the same national embarrassment that Americans feel for Sen. Joe McCarthy's communist witch hunts of the 1950s and our appalling treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.


But not anytime soon, and certainly not before Yassin M. Aref, the former imam at an Albany mosque, and Mohammed M. Hossain, a pizza shop owner, are sentenced on Feb. 12.

A federal jury convicted the pair of a varying number of counts in an FBI money laundering sting operation with terrorist overtones involving a phony missile launcher. They each face 25 years in jail.

There are motions before the court to throw out the conviction, but since the judge tipped his pro-prosecution hand during the trial, they will come to naught. And the inevitable appeal will stutter along. But given the dismal times for due process in our vaunted system of justice, the chances of reason, of common sense, prevailing over hysteria and hellbent ideology are slim.

History will see these two as victims. Not innocents, but victims. Of this I am utterly convinced. Small comfort for them, or their families. They have 10 children between, all under the age of 13.

This case should never have seen a courtroom. Because once the mesmerizing ingredients were brought into a trial -- the convoluted and selective translations, a glib informant avoiding 15 years in jail and the exploitation of our fears and anxieties over global terrorism by prosecutors, -- the results were predictable. The trial had remarkably little to do with Aref and Hossain. This was not our federal court system's finest hour, or the FBI's, either.

From the beginning, the feds knew better. Up front, the Justice Department in Washington admitted that this case was not all that strong or the defendants all that dangerous. But the FBI put a lot of resources and a lot of money, time and ego into a complicated sting that took months and months and leaps of faith to swallow. So the feds wanted a couple of scalps for all their efforts. They got them.

But that still begs the question of why the feds pursued this prosecution with such zealousness, even after recognizing as they must have that Aref and Hossain never posed any threat to our national security.

It seems there was an ulterior motive, also reflective of our times. Sending a chilling message through the American immigrant Muslim community.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Pericak, the lead prosecutor, told our reporter Brendan Lyons after the trial, that he was convinced that if a real terrorist showed up in Albany, "I am convinced they both would have helped him." Strange, since there is not a shred of evidence to support that.

"It's not just these guys, it's what happens tomorrow when a guy is somewhere and overhears someone talking about an attack," Pericak said. "We want that person to call the FBI. If they call the FBI because they're a good citizen that's great, but if they call the FBI because they think this is a sting and they might get caught up in it, that's OK, too."

Well, according to the Muslim Solidarity Committee, a local support group for Aref and Hossain, the government has been dazzlingly successful in spreading fear and distrust in the local immigrant Muslim community. However, that would be a fear of the FBI and our government.

Looking up from a warm seat somewhere, Senator Joe must be viewing all this with a knowing smile.

LeBrun can be reached at 454-5453 or by e-mail at

Edmonton Sun : Bush to acknowledge mistakes in Iraq: Will send more troops, money

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush to acknowledge mistakes in Iraq: Will send more troops, money

By CP | January 10, 2007

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush will tell Americans on Wednesday night that he will send 21,500 additional American troops to Iraq, acknowledging that it was a mistake earlier not to have more American and Iraqi troops fighting the war.

Seeking support for a retooled strategy to win support for the unpopular conflict, the president will acknowledge that the rules of engagement were flawed because certain neighbourhoods in Baghdad were put off limits by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, White House counsellor Dan Bartlett said.

“Military operations sometimes were handcuffed by political interference by the Iraqi leadership,” he said.

Bartlett also said the Iraqis had failed to deliver on earlier pledges to commit more of their troops.

“They (the Iraqis) are going to have more boots on the ground,” he said. “They’re going to be the ones doing the knocking on the door.”

However, Al-Maliki has assured Bush the offensive in the capital will treat both Sunnis and Shiites, on whom the prime minister depends for political support, the same, Bartlett said.

Even before Bush spoke, Democrats were laying plans to register their opposition to the troop buildup. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged to hold a vote on the increase, trying to isolate Bush on his handling of the war.

Democratic leaders in the Senate, saying they hoped to win some Republican support, said they planned to have their chamber debate a symbolic measure next week also expressing opposition to troop increases.

A breakdown of the additional troops was provided by a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the increase has not been officially announced:

* Bush is committing 4,000 more marines to Anbar province.
* He is also committing 17,500 U.S. combat troops to Baghdad, equivalent to five combat brigades. The first brigade will arrive by next Monday. The next brigade is to arrive by Feb. 15. The reminder will arrive there in 30-day increments.
* The Iraqis are committing three brigades for Baghdad, the first to be delivered on Feb. 1. Two more will arrive Feb. 15th.

For a little over 20 minutes Wednesday night, Bush is to explain why he believes the buildup of American troops, along with other steps expected to include pumping US$1 billion into Iraq’s economy, is the answer for a more than 3 1/2-year-old war that has only got deadlier with no end in sight.

The administration plans to expand an existing program to decentralize reconstruction efforts. Ten units known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams will be expanded to 19, with the additional units based in Baghdad and in Anbar province, seats of most of the worst violence.

The teams, under State Department control, will administer some of the economic aid, including an effort to provide small loans to start or expand businesses.

Bartlett did a round of interviews on television morning shows to set the stage for the president’s address.

“A vast majority of the American people are not satisfied with the progress in Iraq,” Bartlett said. “President Bush is in their camp. He’s not satisfied, he’s going to say the strategy was not working, he’s going to tell them specifically how we’re going to fix the strategy.”

Bush will say that the infusion of additional American forces will depend on Iraq taking specific steps to curb sectarian violence and making other moves to deal with political and economic problems.

Bartlett also said that Bush will “make very clear that America’s commitment is not open-ended, that benchmarks have to be met, that milestones have to be reached both on the security side but just as importantly on the political side and the economic side. It will be unequivocal in President Bush’s speech tonight that the Iraqis have to step up.”

In his speech, Bush was to acknowledge that mistakes have been made, Bartlett added.

“The president will say very clearly tonight that there were mistakes with the earlier operations, that it did not have enough Iraqi troops or U.S. troops, that the rules of engagement — the terms in which our troops would actually conduct these operations — were flawed,” Bartlett said.

After nearly four years of fighting, $400 billion and thousands of American and Iraqi lives lost, the White House calls the president’s prime-time address from the White House library just the start of a debate over Iraq’s many problems.

Salon : Would-Be NY Subway Bomber Gets 30 Years

Monday, January 08, 2007

Would-Be NY Subway Bomber Gets 30 Years

By TOM HAYS | Associated Press Writer | January 8, 2007

NEW YORK -- A Pakistani immigrant was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for hatching an unsuccessful plot to blow up a busy Manhattan subway station as revenge for wartime abuses of Iraqis.

Shahawar Matin Siraj, 24, was arrested on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention. Though there was no proof he ever obtained explosives or was linked to any terror organizations, prosecutors said his intentions were ominous: He wanted to blow up the Herald Square subway station, a bustling transportation hub located beneath Macy's flagship department store.

Defense attorneys had sought to convince U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon that Siraj's sentence should not exceed 10 years, arguing in recent court filings that their client was "not a dangerous psychopath but more of a confused and misguided youngster." Prosecutors countered that the defendant deserved at least 30 years behind bars as the "driving force" behind a "workable terrorist plot."

Siraj was convicted of conspiracy last year based partly on the testimony of a police informant, Osama Eldawoody, who was recruited to monitor radical Muslims at mosques and elsewhere following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Inside an Islamic bookstore near a Brooklyn mosque, Eldawoody wore a wire and chatted up an employee who lived with his parents in Queens -- Siraj. When the topic turned to the war in Iraq, Siraj ranted about rumors among radicals that U.S. soldiers were sexually abusing Iraqi girls.

Sunday Times : Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran

Uzi Mahnaimi, New York and Sarah Baxter, Washington | The Sunday Times | January 7, 2007

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

“As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Some analysts warned that Iranian retaliation for such a strike could range from disruption of oil supplies to the West to terrorist attacks against Jewish targets around the world.

Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme:

# Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment

# A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan where, according to a statement by an Iranian vice-president last week, 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels

# A heavy water reactor at Arak, which may in future produce enough plutonium for a bomb

Israeli officials believe that destroying all three sites would delay Iran’s nuclear programme indefinitely and prevent them from having to live in fear of a “second Holocaust”.

The Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map”.

Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a “last resort”, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike.

Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey.

Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.

Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released.

The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel.

However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West.

Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.

Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”

Spero News : Radical Islam and British Universities

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Radical Islam and British Universities: Part One: Leading Muslim terrorists have been educated at Britain's universities

Radical Islam and British Universities: Part Two: The London School of Economics was a locus for Islamist terror recruitment yet universities are now rife with individuals who do not seek to share common values of liberty and democracy

by Adrian Morgan | January 5, 2007

British Universities have long been centers of radicalism, usually of the brand of amateur socialism espoused by the Socialist Workers Party or its ugly sisters Militant and the Worker's Revolutionary Party. Pretending to understand Dialectical Marxism and Trotskyite "permanent revolution", the leftist radicals infested, and still infest, campuses across Britain.

Since the 1970s, these activists have promoted the myth of Palestinian perpetual martyrdom, and portrayed Israel as a bogeyman. During the 1980s, they supported the women who camped rough outside RAF Greenham Common, a US-linked air base in Bedfordshire, Britain. Though ignored by most students, activists promoted an agenda of anti-Americanism and anti-semitism that has infected at least two generations of post-graduates.

Ultimately they contributed to British media's fawning over the notion of Palestinian, and by extension all Muslims', victimhood. Now grown up, the former student union activists are the first to hurl the term "Islamophobe" at anyone who questions the spread of radical Islam. In such a climate, it has been easy for Islamic radicalism to flourish, and even to be welcomed on Britain's campuses.

On September 26, 2005, Britain's Social Affairs Unit published a report by Professor Anthony Glees and Chris Pope from Brunel University. This report, entitled "When Students Turn To Terror", listed 24 universities where radicalism flourished, including Birmingham, Brunel, Durham, Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan, Luton, Leicester, Manchester Metropolitan, Newcastle, Nottingham, Reading, Swansea, and Wolverhampton.

Coming out while Britain was still reeling from the horrors of 7/7, when 52 people died on London Transport, Professor Glees' report galvanized the UK media. Already mosques and radical preachers had been named as contributing factors to the bombings of July 7, 2005. Universities had thitherto been ignored. Yet Britain's campuses had long been the playgrounds of amateur radicals and Islamists.

Many leading Muslim terrorists have been educated at Britain's universities. Azahari bin Husin, the senior bomb-maker from Jemaah Islamiyah who masterminded the Bali bombings of October 12, 2002 (killing 202 people) and October 1, 2005 (killing 20), studied at Reading University in the 1990s. He gained a doctorate in engineering before going off to join Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

On February 26, 1993, Ramzi Yousef drove a truck carrying a 1,200 pound bomb laced with cyanide into the car park beneath the World Trade Center. The ensuing blast killed six and injured 1,000. Four years before he committed this atrocity, Yousef completed a degree in engineering at West Glamorgan Institute (now Swansea Institute of Higher Education).

Dr Rihab Rashid Taha al-Azawi, Saddam Hussein's "Doctor Germ", responsible for his biological warfare programs, learned her trade in Britain. In 1984, she gained a PhD in plant toxins at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

Individuals such as the above did not flaunt their Islamist credentials at college. Other individuals in British universities linked to terrorism have been allowed to lecture. One such person is 52-year old Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi, (pictured) who is alleged to be a founder of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Like Sami al-Arian, who formerly lectured at the University of South Florida, Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi was, as recently as 2003, an occasional lecturer at Birkbeck College at the University of London. Here, he taught Islamic studies. In the 1990s, Nafi collaborated with al-Arian in Florida. Accused by the US of being the UK leader of PIJ, Nafi has denied the claims.

In 2004, Professor Anthony Glees claimed that academics in Britain's universities were actively hampering attempts by security services to defend the nation against Islamist threats. He claimed that many academics were "hostile to the idea of intervention in international affairs and have, since 1980, harbored strong suspicions of American motives."

In July 2004, the Times reported that two UK universities, the University of Wales and the University of Loughborough, had given official approval to two Islamic colleges which supported both the Taliban and terror-group Hamas. The rector of the Markfield Institute of Higher Education is a member of the extremist party in Pakistan, the Jamaat-e-Islami, who was said to have praised the Taliban. Markfield was supported by Loughborough University and has been praised by the pro-Islamic Prince Charles.

The European Institute of Human Sciences in Llanybydder, West Wales, was validated by the University of Wales. It teaches Arabic courses inspired by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Times claimed.

During the 1990s, a new phenomenon emerged on campuses and colleges in Britain - that of open radicals who loudly proclaimed their contempt for Western values, and unequivocally pronouncing their jihadist intentions.

Bizarrely, as Melanie Phillips reported in her book "Londonistan", the department of MI5 which dealt with radical Islamism was closed in 1994, while they considered the issue of the IRA to be more important. With the cat put away, the rats come out to play, in full force. During this hiatus in surveillance, two groups came to the fore, both connected with the Syrian-born Islamist preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed.

Bakri had arrived in Britain in 1985 as an "asylum-seeker", after he was deported from Saudi Arabia for belonging to a group classed as too "extreme" even for the center of Wahhabism. This group was called "Al-Muhajiroun", or "the emigrants". Bakri, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood had founded this group in Saudi Arabia in 1983 as a front for Hizb ut-Tahrir, the "revolutionary" Islamist group which is banned in most Middle Eastern countries.

When he arrived in Britain, Bakri founded the British branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir. In 1996, he also established Al-Muhajiroun in Britain. These two groups have the aim of establishing Britain as an Islamist state, and yearn for the restoration of the Caliphate, a system of Islamic central government. The last Caliphate, that of the Ottomans, was dissolved in 1924.

On Britain's campuses, the two groups established their influence during the latter half of the 1990s, particularly after MI5 stopped treating Islam seriously. Hizb ut-Tahrir members regularly threatened to kill Peter Tatchell, a homosexual rights campaigner, and Al-Muhajiroun openly pronounced their hatred of Jews. In the fall of 2000, they hung posters at university campuses which proclaimed: "The last hour will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill the Jews."

Threats and slogans aside, both groups had a more real danger inherent in their activities. The presence of Al-Muhajiroun on campuses in various universities led MI5 to set up a unit to monitor student Islamism at the dawn of the millennium. In early 2001, Russian authorities urged Britain to ban Al-Muhajiroun, as their intelligence showed that students from the London School of Economics had been recruited by the group to become terrorists in Chechnya.

In December 2000 Mohammed Bilal, a young British Muslim, who had been studying his "A-levels" at a sixth form college in Birmingham, went to India. Bilal had links to Al-Muhajiroun. He blew himself up in a stolen car. This suicide attack at an army barracks in Kashmir killed six soldiers and three civilians.

In October 2001, Al-Muhajiroun claimed that three British Muslims were killed by a US rocket attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. The group claimed that 1,000 British Muslims had gone to Afghanistan since 9/11.

In November 2001, Hassan Butt of Al-Muhajiroun announced that five British Muslims had died in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan. Butt said: "They all died as martyrs fighting the so-called coalition against terrorism. They went out there to fight for the Taliban and were prepared to give their lives."

On January 7, 2002, Butt told the BBC's Today program from his base in Lahore, Pakistan, that many of the British Muslims in Afghanistan would, upon their return, launch terror attacks which would "strike at the heart" of Britain. Butt boasted of personally recruiting 200 people to fight the coalition.

Bakri cannily denounced Butt's claims, saying that Al-Muhajiroun did not support military actions. He also said that Butt was no longer a member of the group and was no longer its spokesman.

Bakri was lying. At a meeting in Sparkbrook in Birmingham, held less than a week after 9/11, Al Muhajiroun urged listeners to join the armed jihad against coalition troops. One speaker said that Muslims who supported the invasion of Afghanistan were to be urged not to do so. "But if they do not listen, they are Kufr (unbelievers) too and so it is our duty to fight and even kill them." Leaflets at the meetings proclaimed: "The final hour will not come until the Muslims conquer the White House."

In Derby, Bakri used to regularly visit Al-Muhajiroun members, who had a strong following in the town. In 2000, he told a meeting there that Muslims must send armies "to fight the aggressors and occupiers and establish the Khilafah (Caliphate)." He issued a fatwa saying that "the Israeli cancer in Palestine must be uprooted."

While Al-Muhajiroun targeted students with an attempt to inspire them to jihad, the other group headed by Omar Bakri Mohammed was making inroads at universities and colleges throughout Britain. Hizb ut-Tahrir began to infiltrate student unions and Islamic societies, and its message was equally uncompromising.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's approach was similarly supportive of violence, and used intimidation to achieve its ends. Its most notable influence was to force Muslim women students to wear the hijab or Muslim headscarf. This item had been only used by the older generation of Muslim women until the 1990s. Before the campaigns from Hizb ut-Tahrir, the item had hardly been seen on a campus.

During this decade, while the British government downplayed the seriousness of Islamic radicalism as part of a global movement towards dominance, the behavior of Hizb ut-Tahrir should have raised alarm bells. Britain's Channel 4 even made a documentary of Omar Bakri Mohammed, filmed over a year in and around his base in Tottenham, north London. Screened on April 8, 1997, this show, entitled "Tottenham Ayatollah" portrayed Bakri as a clownish buffoon.

The documentary's approach was almost consciously misleading. In 1996, Bakri had tried to invite Osama bin Laden to Britain, to attend an "Islamic Revival Rally". Though the show supplied evidence of Bakri's preaching of hatred towards Jews, it was condemned by various Muslim groups. Makbool Javaid, chair of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, tried to prevent the broadcast going out.

There was nothing funny about Omar Bakri Mohammed. Before the documentary was shown, Bakri had addressed 200 students at the Newham College of Further Education, on Thursday, February 23, 1995. Bakri had a core group of supporters at this college in east London. The following day an African student, Ayotunde Obanubi, was stabbed in the arm at the college by a Hizb ut-Tahrir supporter. On Monday February 27, a group of several Hizb ut-Tahrir supporting students, led by Saeed Nur, again attacked Mr Obanubi. The Nigerian student was accused of "insulting Islam". The group was armed with hammers and knives. Struck on the head with a hammer and stabbed through the heart, Ayotunde Obanubi died on the steps of the college. Bakri's followers had claimed their first victim.

Part II of a two-part article. Read Part I.

In 1994, the Indian High Commissioner, L. M. Singhvi, claimed that Muslim students at British colleges and universities were being recruited by Islamist terror groups in India. The London School of Economics and the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies were claimed to be places where students were particularly susceptible to such recruitment.

After followers of Hizb ut-Tahrir murdered Ayotunde Obanubi on Monday February 27, 1995, at Newham College of Further Education, repercussions ensued. The National Union of Students banned the group from its meetings in the same year. In 1996, Omar Bakri Mohammed either resigned or was expelled from the British Hizb ut-Tahrir group which he had founded.

Hizb ut-Tahrir continued to campaign on campuses, intimidating Muslim women into wearing veils, but it was not allowed to speak publicly or hold meetings in student union buildings. With Bakri no longer an active member, the group promoted itself as a "non-violent" organization, even though it remained virulently anti-semitic and opposed to democracy.

Bakri took his most violent and extremist members from Hizb ut-Tahrir and officially founded British Al-Muhajiroun in February 1996. Bakri took on the role of "Emir" or "spiritual leader", while his deputy was Anjem Choudary, a former lawyer.

The Institute for Counter-Terrorism last month reported on a recent conversation (in Arabic) between Bakri and the newspaper Asharq Alawsat. Here he said that Al Muhajiroun targeted more than 48 different universities in Britain, including Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, the LSE, Imperial College, Westminster University, and King's College. This figure is twice the amount claimed by Professor Anthony Glees in his 2005 study "When Students Turn To Terror".

The London School of Economics, according to a 2002 report, was certainly a locus for Islamist terror recruitment. In a report by UK intelligence, it was claimed that Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who had became a student at the LSE in 1992, went to Bosnia in 1993 and the following year became involved in Kashmiri terrorist groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed. He was arrested in 1994 after a police shoot-out following the kidnapping of three British backpackers. He escaped from jail in 1999, and was captured by Pakistani police on February 12, 2002. Omar Sheikh was captured for his involvement in the kidnapping and beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl, and given a death sentence on July 15, 2002.

Bizarrely, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan states in his recent book "In The Line Of Fire" that Omar Sheikh had been originally recruited by Britain's international intelligence agency, MI6. Omar Sheikh admits to meeting Osama bin Laden twice, but claims his allegiance is more to Mullah Omar of the Taliban. Omar Sheikh is said to have financed the 9/11 terrorist, Mohammed Atta.

The 2002 intelligence report claims that another student from the LSE recruited for Jaish-e-Mohammed, and a third man who was arrested for involvement in the 2001 attack upon the Indian parliament (killing seven) actually lectured to Muslim students at the LSE in 1999.

An official at the LSE claimed: "There was some activity in the mid-1990s. Together with the students' union we checked that only bona fide students were actually linked to the Islamic society." In 2000, members of Al-Muhajiroun were physically expelled from a freshers' fair at the LSE after trying to recruit students.

Al-Muhajiroun declared that there was a "covenant of security" between British Muslims and the UK, which meant that while Muslims were allowed to operate there would be no terrorist attacks on British soil. In 2005, the Sunday Times stated that more than a dozen Al-Muhajiroun members had gone on to become suicide bombers abroad. These included Asif Hanif, who had been one of two Britains involved in the April 2003 attack upon Mike's Bar on the Tel Aviv sea front, which killed three and wounded sixty.

In October 2004, Omar Bakri Mohammed announced that Al-Muhajiroun would be disbanding. In February 2005, he declared that the "covenant of security" had ended. Four months later, 52 people died when four Muslims, two of whom had been university-educated, decided to enact "jihad" in London.

Though Al-Muhajiroun was disbanded, it nonetheless continued under other names, with exactly the same membership. It became the Saviour Sect and Al Ghurabaa. These groups were still led by the "Emir", Omar Bakri Mohammed. The Saviour Sect soon changed its name to become the Saved Sect.

Changing of names is a tactic also employed by Hizb ut-Tahrir in its recruitment drives, where its activists hide behind groups with innocuous titles - East London Youth Forum, the Debate Society, the Muslim Women's Cultural Forum, the Islamic Society, the One Nation Society, the Millennium Society, the Pakistan Society and the 1924 Committee.

After the July 7, 2005 bombings Tony Blair announced in August that he intended to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir. When Blair made this announcement, the Islamist group which professed "non-violence" threatened to create riots. To this day Hizb ut-Tahrir has still not been banned in Britain.

The UK home secretary, John Reid, banned the former Al-Muhajiroun groups in July 2006. This ban has done nothing to stop Omar Bakri's followers, as in November 2005 the same core membership of Al-Muhajiroun had founded Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, under the leadership of Anjem Choudary.

When Bakri fled to Lebanon in August 2005, he was banned from returning. For two decades he had controlled young Muslims, urging them to claim welfare benefits, to refuse to work and to never vote. But he continued to use the internet to inspire his followers.

In July 2005, it was reported by the National Union of Students that Al-Muhajiroun and Hizb ut-Tahrir members were still trying to recruit members from Scottish universities, using "front" names to avoid detection. Imran Waheed, the head spokesperson of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain, said: "We are an intellectual and political movement and we work in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh. Universities should be a forum for debate and we are trying to overturn the NUS ban which we believe is completely unjustified."

In October 2005, it was revealed that Hizb ut-Tahrir, under another name, was recruiting at University College London, London University's School of Oriental Studies, Luton University and others. Capitalizing on the leftist students' love of the term "Islamophobia" to stifle rational debate about Islamism, Hizb ut-Tahrir were operating under the title "Stop Islamophobia".

Anjem Choudary followed his "Emir" to Lebanon, but was deported in November 2005. Unable to speak or recruit at British universities, Choudary was within a week addressing students at the historic Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Choudary said that because Ireland supported the US (with its planes refueling at Shannon Airport), it was a potential target for terrorism.

On November 1, 2005 Ann Cryer, a Labour politician, MP for Keighley, claimed that one university in West Yorkshire was being targeted by members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, who were threatening students. She did not mention the name of the university, for fear it would affect enrollment, but it is believed to be the University of Bradford. She said: "When I went to the university a few weeks ago I was told that Hizb ut-Tahrir has taken over the Islamic society and was preparing to take over the students union."

On August 10, 2006, it was revealed that a massive plot, involving about twenty British Muslims, had been halted. This plot had involved a plan to smuggle liquid explosives onto several US-bound airlines. These were to be reassembled into bombs on board flights, in the manner first outlined by Ramzi Yousef in 1995, in his notorious "Operation Bojinka".

One of the suspects in this plot was 22-year old Waheed Zaman from Walthamstow, north-east London, who was head of the Islamic Society at London Metropolitan University. Zaman was later charged under Section 1 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977, as he had "conspired with other persons to murder other persons". In relation to this conspiracy he was charged under Section 5 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2006. - "preparing to smuggle parts of improvised explosive devices on to aircraft and assemble and detonate them on board."

Zaman was a member of the extremist group Tablighi Jamaat. The Sunday Telegraph visited the two portable cabins which served as London Metropolitan University's Islamic Society, based on the campus at Hornsey Road, north London. Here, they found literature and audio cassettes from Omar Bakri Mohammed and Al-Muhajiroun. A newsletter found in the Islamic Society called freedom of speech "undeniably one of the most central deviated forms of moral decline that non-believers have developed."

The problem of radical Islam on British university campuses is entrenched, and any attempts to address the problem are met with whines of "Islamophobia" from Muslims and leftists. Professor Anthony Glees received hostility from Muslims and others for his 2005 report. The vice-chancellor of his university, Steven Schwartz, wrote him a letter stating: "I have been receiving some surprising letters from other v-cs (vice-chancellors) complaining about your report. Some complain about your research methods. Others seem to resent being lumped in with universities that might be inadvertent homes to people bent on terrorism. One v-c seems to think that I should (or could) shut you up."

Glees runs the Brunel Center for Intelligence and Security Studies at Brunel University. As he himself admitted in his 2005 report, Brunel was not immune from the specter of jihadist recruitment. One individual who became targeted for recruitment at Brunel was Jawad Syed.

In his first year, Syed knew no-one but was befriended by Muslim students. Gradually, they encouraged him to isolate himself from other students, including Muslims. He said: "They were very much anti-western with anti-western sentiments. And I clearly saw and experienced that they would use any means to achieve their aims, including violence.... Once they've established that basis of hatred they have you. And then you start working closely with them, under their political agenda, in achieving their greater aim."

Jawad Syed is the protege of an imam who tries to "deprogram" young Muslims who have been indoctrinated by radical Islamists. This man, Sheikh Musa Adami, has been chaplain of London Metropolitan University since 2002. Adami's group is called the Luqman Institute of Education and Development. Despite his concerns about Islamic extremism, Adami failed to recognize the extremist literature which proliferated in Waheed Zaman's Islamic Society, at his own university.

In November 2006, Adami's charity reported that Islamist activists were operating at Brunel University, Bedfordshire University, Sheffield Hallam University and Manchester Metropolitan University. The Luqman institute was deprogramming up to ten students from Brunel University.

The Sunday Times reported that at Sheffield Hallam University in 2006, the Islamic Society hosted a lecture by Sheikh Khalid Yasin. This US preacher is a convert from Christianity, who has said: "There's no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend." Yasin interprets literally the injunction in the Koran (Sura 4:34) that men should be able to beat their wives.

The Muslim chaplain at London's Goldsmith's College is Shakeel Begg, who is also the imam at Lewisham & Kent Mosque in Ladywell, south London. In late 2006, he gave a lecture to Muslim students at Kingston University. Here, he encouraged his audience to fight jihad. He said: "You want to make jihad? Very good... Take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists."

In October 2006, a lecture was held at Staffordshire University, entitled "The true word of God - the Koran or the Bible." The lecture was given by a former member of Al-Muhajiroun.

Access to universities is still fairly easy for those who are not registered students. On November 7, 2006, Dhiren Barot (pictured) was sentenced to a minimum of forty years' jail for his plots to commit terrorist atrocities in New York, Washington, Newark and Britain. Among his plans, the convert from Hinduism, had included a plan to create a "dirty bomb" or "radiological dispersion device. His plans involved the radioactive substance Americium-241 and, as revealed by the Metropolitan Police Press Bureau, they were not idle fantasies. They contained clear details (which have been blacked out for security purposes) based on scientific information. To gather data for his plans, Barot had used a forged pass to enter Brunel University.

Imperial College is a prestigious university in west London, with a good reputation for nuclear research. In November 2005, it introduced a ban on Muslim face-veils, as a security procedure. However, despite its vigilance, this university is not without risk. On December 27, 2006, it was revealed that investigators from Scotland Yard's Counterterrorism Command made an extensive inspection of the university's security. They focused particularly on the nuclear research facilities.

The university has its own nuclear reactor, and with inspectors from the Environment Agency and the Health Protection, Scotland Yard officers checked the nuclear facilities, and took stock of radioactive isotopes. They also did extensive inspection at Harefield Hospital, which has combined its research facilities with Imperial College.

The reason for the inspection has resulted from intelligence which suggests that Islamic extremists have targeted Imperial College.

Though the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir seem to involve mentally "preparing" students for the arrival of jihadist recruiters, in 2005, Mustafa Arif, president of Imperial College's student union, which is not affiliated to the National Union of Students, said of the group: "The culture here would never have been to bar them. They were very small and died out about five years ago. They are nothing compared with some hotheads you read about. As a Muslim I find Hizb a nonsense. Physically they are harmless..."

With such attitudes abounding, it is perhaps no wonder that Imperial College has now been highlighted as a security risk.

Britain's politicians and security services have not always been as vigilant as they should be in rooting out Islamist extremism from either communities or educational establishments. The leftists at Britain's universities have not helped in the attempts to protect against terrorism.

In November 2006, when the Department of Education and Skills urged university lecturers were urged to inform police Special Branch of any Muslim students who appeared to be extremist, Muslims, student unions and universities condemned the suggestion.

Preachers such as Omar Bakri Mohammed are still influencing British Muslims to engage in jihad. From his base in Lebanon, Bakri uses the internet to preach on an almost nightly basis. He recently said about terrorist attacks upon Dublin's Shannon Airport: "Hit the target and hit it very hard, that issue should be understood."

Bakri explained his position clearly in 2004, when he said: ""We don't make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has no value. It has no sanctity."

The British authorities failed to act against radical preachers such as Bakri when they began their campaigns of indoctrination. Such negligence has ultimately led to homegrown suicide bombings and a climate of fear and tension.

Universities are for education. Because of Britain's complacent climate of multicultural tolerance, universities are now rife with individuals who do not seek to share common values of liberty and democracy. It is ironic that in Britain's establishments of education, there are so many politically naive activists who still need, more than anyone else, to be educated about the dangers of Muslim extremism.

Adrian Morgan is a British based writer and artist who has written for Western Resistance since its inception. He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society.

Reuters : Pakistan court remands London plot suspect

Friday, January 05, 2007

Pakistan court remands London plot suspect

SLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani judge ordered on Friday that a Pakistani-British man suspected of involvement in an al Qaeda plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners be remanded in custody for two more weeks.

The decision by a civil court judge in Rawalpindi will make little difference to Rashid Rauf, as he is already subject to a detention order from a higher court.

Last month the Supreme Court extended his detention under a law which allows authorities to detain a person for up to 90 days without charge.

Arrested in Pakistan last August, Rauf was identified by Pakistani officials as a key figure in a plot to carry out suicide bombings on airliners travelling from London to the United States.

But his case has run into a legal quagmire and is being dealt with by higher and lower courts simultaneously.

An anti-terrorism court dropped terrorism charges against Rauf on December 13, citing a lack of evidence, and referred lesser charges, including the possession of explosives, to the civil court.

But a high court in Lahore, acting on a plea from the government, later suspended the trial in a move aimed at getting the case referred back to the anti-terrorism court.

The high court would decide on the jurisdiction of the trial on January 15.

Handcuffed, wrapped in a shawl and wearing a cap, the bearded Rauf appeared on Friday before the civil court in Rawalpindi, a garrison town adjoining the capital, Islamabad.

Police did not allow Rauf to speak to journalists, but he chatted with a sobbing aunt and other relatives inside the court after Judge Mohammad Kaleem Khan remanded him in custody until January 19.

Hashmat Habib, Rauf's lawyer, said the judge had also ordered that Rauf should not be handcuffed when he next appears in court.

Pakistani officials said Rauf had been in contact with an al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan planning the attacks on U.S.-bound airliners.

In brief comments to reporters when he appeared in court last month, Rauf said the charges against him were unjust.

According to reports, Rauf left Britain and travelled to Pakistan in 2002 after the murder in Britain of an uncle. Britain has sought Rauf's extradition in connection with that murder investigation. Pakistan said it was considering the request.

FT : Concern as spy chief quits to join Rice

Friday, January 05, 2007

Concern as spy chief quits to join Rice

John Negroponte's abrupt shift from being the first US director of national intelligence to number two at the State Department reflects continued troubles in the intelligence community and a further concentration of power around Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state.

Analysts see the return of the career diplomat to the State Department as part of a broader and somewhat confused reshuffle of the Bush administration that began with the sacking of Donald Rumsfeld as defence secretary and has Iraq and the wider Middle East as its focus.

Mr Negroponte's expected replacement by a retired admiral, Mike McConnell, would also mean that key intelligence posts would all be filled by active or former military personnel – an issue of concern to civilians in the community.

Officials said President George W. Bush would announce the changes on Friday, possibly including his nomination of Zalmay Khalilzad, ambassador to Baghdad, as the new US envoy to the UN.

There was also speculation on Thursday night that Ryan Crocker, US ambassador to Pakistan, would replace Mr Khalilzad in Baghdad, and that David Petraeus would replace George Casey, the senior US general in Iraq. Gen Petraeus's appointment would be taken as a signal that the US military could change course in Iraq to emphasise a "hearts and minds" approach, designed to isolate the insurgents and reduce support for sectarian groups.

According to leaks put out by Reuters and ABC on Thursday night, Mr Bush is also expected to replace John Abizaid with Admiral William Fallon as head of central command, which oversees the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

With a week to go before Mr Bush is expected to announce his "new way forward in Iraq", the president spoke on Thursday for nearly two hours by video conference with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister.

Less than two years ago, Mr Negroponte was elevated to co-ordinate all 16 distinct spy agencies following the 9/11 commission probe into the intelligence failures surrounding al-Qaeda's attacks. However, former intelligence officials say that the overhaul only succeeded in creating another layer of bureaucracy with inadequate powers.

Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA analyst who has accused the Bush administration of ignoring the agency's findings before invading Iraq, said Mr Negroponte had been unfairly criticised by some in Congress and that he did not have enough control over the defence department's intelligence operations.

Reuel Gerecht, a former CIA officer and a critic of the agency, called the creation of the director of national intelligence (DNI) a "lame idea".

"It has only made an overstaffed intelligence establishment even fatter," he said.

Another former CIA operative who asked not to be named said Mr Negroponte had never wanted the job and had clashed with Mr Rumsfeld, who controlled more than 80 per cent of the intelligence budget. "Negroponte gave in," he said.

Tensions between the DNI and the Pentagon may ease with the replacement of Mr Rumsfeld by Robert Gates, a former CIA director who has said he wants to yield important Pentagon intelligence activities.

Mr Gates is expected to appoint Lt-Gen James Clapper, who had fallen out of favour with Mr Rumsfeld, as his top intelligence official.

Former intelligence officials said Mr Negroponte was tired of bureaucratic turf wars and wanted to return to his diplomatic career.

Mr McConnell, a former head of the National Security Agency, is tipped to leave his consulting job to replace Mr Negroponte.

Members of Congress expressed dismay at Mr Negroponte's early departure, concerned at the apparent disarray at the top of the intelligence apparatus.

Mr Negroponte, who was the first post-occupation ambassador to Iraq, brings his experience to the State Department at a time when Ms Rice is focused on shoring up Iraq's government while building alliances among Arab allies to contain Iran and moderate the Palestinian leadership.

At a press conference, Tony Snow, White House spokesman, rolled his eyes at a suggestion that Ms Rice, perhaps the closest in the cabinet to the president and now no longer challenged by Mr Rumsfeld, was set to move on.

Additional reporting by Edward Luce in Washington

Copyright 2007 Financial Times

Metroland : Prosecution or Persecution?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Prosecution or Persecution?

Facing charges from money laundering to aiding terrorists, local Muslims say they are victims of a government witch hunt

By Chet Hardin

After evening prayer, an Afghani-born American citizen, a cab driver, comes outside into the light fall drizzle to smoke a cigarette. Crouching on the sidewalk in front of Masjid As-Salam mosque, he points out the parking lot across Albany’s Central Avenue. He says that he has seen federal agents standing in that lot peering at the mosque through binoculars.

Typical behavior these days, he says. Muslims are scrutinized. It is nothing for a member of his mosque to be contacted by the FBI. He himself has been interrogated multiple times, and the last time, he says, one of the agents asked him if he knew Osama bin Laden.

“Can you believe that?” he asks, obviously pissed. “I have lived my entire life in this country, and he asks me that?” So he told the agent that, yeah, he knows bin Laden, and the last time he saw him he was doing something unholy with the agent’s mom.

Of course, he didn’t use those words. And the agents, he says, didn’t practice much restraint.

Three members of Albany’s Masjid As-Salam have been arrested in connection to terrorism investigations over the past four years. The first man arrested was one of the mosque’s founders, Ali Yaghi, a Jordanian immigrant who had lived in the Albany area for about 15 years. He was one of the roughly 1,200 Muslims, mostly men, who were rounded up in the now-notorious nationwide sweeps of 2002.

Yaghi was arrested on an alleged tip claiming that he had been overheard making anti-American comments following the 9/11 attacks. He was held in solitary confinement for roughly 10 months without charge, before deportation. Even his wife, Shokriea Yaghi, had no idea what had happened to him.

On Aug. 5, 2004, Mohammed Hossain, another of the mosque’s founders, and Yassin Aref, the mosque’s imam, were arrested after a yearlong FBI sting. Hossain is being tried for 27 counts including money laundering and knowingly providing aid to terrorist groups. Aref faces the same 27 charges, as well as three other counts. These allege that Aref lied about his affiliation with the political group Islamic Movement of Kurdistan and that he also lied about his knowing Mullah Krekar, the founder of Ansar Al-Islam, a U.S.-designated terrorist group. Both men face 400 years in prison.

The government claims that Hossain knowingly assisted a self-professed Islamic fundamentalist named “Malik” (actually, an FBI informant with a felony conviction) in a money-laundering scheme to hide the profits from Malik’s (fictitious) gun- smuggling racket. Malik set up a deal with Hossain in which he would give Hossain $50,000; Hossain would then pay the money back to Malik in small increments, around $2,000, thus “cleaning” the money, keeping $5,000 for himself. Further, Malik allegedly showed Hossain one of the weapons that earned him his ill-gotten boodle—a Chinese-built, shoulder-fired missile. Malik, the government claims, made it clear to Hossain that one such weapon was to be used in New York City in a (again, fictitious) plot to assassinate the Pakistani ambassador.
May Saffar

Aref was brought in by Hossain to observe the money-lending transaction, in accordance with Islamic tradition.

Hossain contends, through his defense attorney, that he thought the money was a loan, and that Malik had led him to believe that what they were doing was legal. Also, he claims that he has never supported terrorism nor spoken in favor of terrorist activities. His lawyers argue that he was not predisposed to criminal activity, potentially establishing the argument of entrapment.

Aref’s defense claims that he had no idea what the business deal involved, and that he was just performing his duties as an imam.

Critics see the government’s case as flimsy at best, the product of the overzealous pursuit of terrorists. But for some members of Albany’s tight-knit Muslim community, this case represents, with chilling effect, the dangerous bias directed toward people of their faith. Hossain and Aref, they argue, were targeted solely because they are proud Muslims, unafraid to voice their opinions about faith and foreign policy.

The case, which came to trial on Sept. 12, is currently in federal court.

To build its case against Aref and Hossain, the FBI surreptitiously recorded and videotaped many of Malik’s meetings with the two men. In an Aug. 7, 2003, meeting, Malik drew Hossain into a discussion about the attacks of 9/11.

According to court documents, this is what was said:

“What the Saudis did with the World Trade Center,” Malik asked, “in your opinion, was it good or bad?”

“This . . . this was bad,” Hossain replied, unaware that he was being recorded. “This was bad. Do you understand that?” He went on to explain that a true Muslim wants to spread Islam. And the best way for that to occur is to abandon violence and lead exemplary lives.

“We should have a good relationship with the unbelievers,” he told Malik. “Then, because of our goodness, Islam will spread and continue to spread.”

Later in the conversation, Hossain continued illustrating his point.

“I am a true citizen of this country. I am one of the best citizen of this country. I am teaching my children behave. I am a businessman. I am a house owner, I have nothing to do with anything else. And this is my country. Other, why I’m doing all of these things? . . . I am paying tax. I am praying. I never harm anybody. People like me society get benefit.”

“Why would I do anything to hurt this country?” Mohammad Hossain asks three years later. He is sitting in his pizzeria, Little Italy, at the corner of Lark Street and Central Avenue in Albany. There are few customers tonight, and his wife, Mossamat, is busy behind the counter.

“I have spent years investing in this country,” he says. “I have five house. I have six children. I have a wife and a business. Why would I hurt? Hurting this country would be like hurting myself.”

“I came to this country with dream that one day I be rich,” he continues. “I will not struggle for a piece of bread. In childhood, I was programmed by the tales of America.”

He remembers when he was a child, he had heard that Americans had went to the moon. What an amazing country, he thought to himself. In his tiny village in Bangladesh, the children would show off their knowledge of America. “Do you know the light bulb was made in America?” he would ask his friends. “Do you know who made the engine?”

He wore his hair styled like Elvis Presley.

His father was a police officer enlisted by the British, but even that didn’t protect his family from the crushing poverty of his village. Every few years, he says, devastating storms would hit. The wind would tear through the holes in the walls of his family’s bamboo house, threatening to rip the whole house away.

“It was so scary,” he recalls. “My mother would gather us in her arms.” He stops and covers his face. It is an overwhelming memory for the 51-year-old man. His youngest son sets napkins down in front of him. Hossain rips one in half and dries his eyes. All six of his children gather near him. His daughters sit staid and alert, his sons with their chins resting on the backs of the booths, all solemn, watching their father.

When he became a teenager, Hossain continues, he realized that he would have to leave his village in order to survive. He set to convincing his mother to let him go. She cried, and he pleaded with her. “Please, so I can help you.” Eventually, she sold jewelry that his father had given her, a cow, and a tree.

With that money, the young Hossain was able to purchase a passport with 200 rupees ($25) left over. In Bombay, he found part-time work on a Greek cargo ship, scooping tons of rust and silt from the hulls of the ship’s ballast tanks. It was a miserable job, he says, but a necessary one to keep the ship’s counterbalancing system operating. After a few days, his hard work attracted the attention of the ship’s captain, he says, who decided to take him on as permanent crew.

“That was awesome,” Hossain says. “It was one of the golden moments of my life.”

That boat took him all over the world, he says, eventually docking in Houston. In 1990, he became an American citizen.

“American citizenship is too deep for me,” Hossain says. “This is the land I fell in love with. I found America with so much sacrifice. I have such a deep love for this nation. My English is broken, but my love is not broken.”

He doesn’t look much like the man who was arrested two years ago. Back then, Hossain wore a long, thick beard, his closely-cropped hair covered with a Kufi. Now, his beard is short. His hair is longer and parted, styled with a blown-dried affect. It is difficult for Hossain to understand, he says, why he was singled out.

“When they arrested me, I couldn’t understand what happened to me. Why? Was it my ethnic background? My beard?” he asks. “My religion? Did God say you can’t love America? Where? Is America not a part of God’s love?”

“There is sometimes children sleep,” Hossain says, “but husband and wife can’t sleep. We talk. I say, ‘What will happen, we have no knowledge.’ She [Mossamat, his wife] will have to give up the shop. She is a woman, six children . . . “ he trails off. There is nothing he can say, and his voice is starting to break. He is contemplating those 400 years.

“But in the morning,” he continues, his youngest son crowding close to him, “we have to get up, get ready, drop students at school. And we open shop at 9:30.”

‘It is very pure and simple,” says May Saffar on why she has become so involved in Yassin Aref’s case. “He is a Kurd. He is an Iraqi. I am also an Iraqi.”
Assaulted mosque: A press conference is held outside Masjid As-Salam following the arrests.

When Saffar saw on CNN that Aref had been arrested, she said to herself, “ ‘Wow, wait a minute. This is somebody I know. I know his wife.’ ”

And she was furious, she says, with Aref.

“I was thinking, ‘This is ridiculous. This man is crazy.’ I was really against him,” she recalls, and she felt that it was her responsibility as an Iraqi-American to speak out against him. She began to call anyone who would listen. “I wanted to say something against not just him, but against all Muslims who are not saying anything about terrorism and all those ideas. I was so heated up by what I had heard in the media.”

She decided to attend the trial, to find out for herself what exactly was going on. And when she did, by attending the first and second hearing, she realized that the case wasn’t what the media had made it seem.

“It was very different,” she says. “It was very different from what I was hearing in the media.”

She noticed serious mistakes in the case almost immediately. First, there was the accusation that Aref was involved with terrorist groups in Iraq. It didn’t make sense to her, she remembers, that they had found Aref’s name in a book that belonged to a leader of a terrorist group in Iraq.

“No,” she demands. “I have family in Baghdad. And they assured me over and over again that there were no terrorist groups at that time in Iraq. Saddam had no connections with any terrorism groups in Iraq.”

At the second hearing, Saffar noticed the government’s mistranslation of a crucial term.

“The word ‘kakeh.’ It does not mean ‘commander’ by any means,” Saffar says. “Kakeh is a Kurd word, it is not Arabic. Any male Kurd can be a kakeh. It means ‘older brother.’ ”

The word is so common, how could they mess that up? she asked herself.

“The difference between kakeh and commander is the difference between night and day,” she continues. “Why would the government mistranslate like that? It matters a lot in this case. To mistranslate such a common word, part of me wonders if this is an oversight or deliberate.”

Saffar is a teacher of English as a second language, as well as a professor of Arabic, and as a professional, she says, she has certain standards. The government’s case simply hasn’t measured up.

“If you don’t meet criteria there’s an A, there’s a B, there’s a C, there’s a D and an F,” she says. “And you can allow a mistake or two. But when you continue those mistakes and you show consistency, that fails you. I don’t care what the justification is. As a professional, I can only give you an F.”

“Who is holding the government accountable in this case? For making such big mistakes?” Saffar asks. “These fatal mistakes mean the end of Yassin’s life.”

Just last week, she continues, the government brought in an Urdu expert. Urdu was the language used in much of the discussion between the FBI’s informant and Hossain. Urdu is spoken in Pakistan. Hossain has a working knowledge of Urdu. Aref, a Kurd, speaks Kurdish, and his conversations with Malik were mostly in English.

“She was a witness for the government, and the government asks her what the word ‘jihad’ meant. And she said, ‘holy war.’ Wait a minute,” Saffar says, raising her voice. “Jihad is an Arabic word. It does not mean ‘holy war.’ Jihad means to strive or struggle. She is an Urdu translator. And she had no right, whatsoever, to translate such a word in this case.”

These are dangerous times, Saffar says. Being an Iraqi, having lived under a dictatorship, she has seen firsthand what happens when people surrender to their government, when they blindly go along with whatever a government says.

“We, as Iraqis, allowed Saddam to become the monster he became,” Saffar says. “We never questioned him. We let go. Look at what he did to us. After he gained our trust, he crushed us, one after the other. He basically destroyed us. He fed on our blood, and that is what kept him in power. I am not saying this is what I foresee here, but this is the lesson that I learned. I question the government. I don’t trust the government to do the right thing.”

Since becoming involved in the case, Saffar has visited Aref two times. Unlike Hossain, who was released on a $250,000 bond, Aref, a 36-year-old father of three, was denied bail. He is being held in near-solitary confinement in Rensselaer County Jail.

“When I saw him in jail,” Saffar says, “my first impression was, ‘Wow, this man really fits the stereotypes of a Muslim, a Middle Eastern.’ Perhaps you can dovetail a terrorist with that. The dark hair, the dark complexion, the dark eyes, the thick beard, OK?”

Aref was eager to talk to her, she says, and he was desperate for help.

“He told me, ‘May, of course I had no idea that this man was an FBI informant, but I remember vividly when he brought up terrorism, questions about bombing places and suicide bombers, and I told him that this is against Islam. This is barbaric.’ You know, he was basically being an imam. A leader of a Muslim community.”

“When I visited him,” she continues, “he said to me, ‘I can’t understand how I became such an important person all of a sudden. The first time I walked into court, I looked around and I saw all these people from the media, and I asked myself, How did I become such an important person?’ ”

“He is a true Muslim,” Saffar says. “Do you know what the word Muslim means? It means to submit to God. You submit to God, you surrender to God. That is the state Yassin is at.”

In the small backroom of Masjid As-Salam where children’s lessons are taught, the marker board still poses its questions, printed in clean, steady letters, from the previous Sunday studies.

“How many times a day do we pray? We pray 5 times a day.”

“Who do we worship? We worship Allah.”

“Who am I? I am a Muslim.”

Dr. Shamshad Ahmad, president of the mosque, sits uncomfortably in a child’s desk. He says it has been very difficult for everyone at the mosque since they lost their imam. Especially now, during the holy month of Ramadan.

He points to the door of the cramped room. It still bears damage from the FBI raid that captured Aref as he prepared for morning prayer two years ago.

“All the doors were kicked in, even though they heard the keys in their hands, they kicked in all the doors in the mosque,” Ahmad says. “The mosque was assaulted.”

“Mosque is a place where people come and worship,” he continues, “where they connect with God, and they fear God, and they obey the laws. They have nothing to do with violence.”

Why did the FBI have to invade the mosque? Ahmad asks. They obviously knew where Aref lived. Was it, perhaps, he wonders, to send a message?

“Two days later, we had the Friday meeting,” Ahmad says. “Only two-thirds of our regular congregation showed up. Two hundred out of the 300. One hundred people were not even willing to come to pray, they were so frightened.”

Will all the stories about wiretapping, about innocent men being accused of terrible crimes, “like our case here, no Muslims feel comfortable,” he says. “They want to avoid. My understanding is that everyone who is visible in the Muslim community of this area has been contacted by the FBI, whether interviewed or not. But many people were called by the FBI and went to their offices.”

He says that people used to come to him and mention that they had seen people writing the license-plate numbers down of the cars parked in the back of the mosque.

“The bulk of Muslim people don’t want to express themselves,” Ahmad says. “They don’t want to expose themselves. But I want this expression. From the very earliest stages, I have been appreciative of the Western society, of the laws, of the legalities, of the court system. But, it is eroding. We see it.”

But so what? We are in a war on terrorism, right? Many of these terrorists have been Muslims. Shouldn’t the Muslim community just learn to deal with this inconvenience? These are all arguments that Ahmad has heard.

“This is the attitude of the Bush-supporting people,” he says. “ ‘If my telephone is tapped, so what? I am not a terrorist. If my privacy is invaded, so what? It doesn’t matter much. If I am stopped on Central Avenue and two policeman come and search my car, what’s the big deal?’ It is a big deal. You are a private citizen. Perhaps this is how you are treated in a Third World country or by dictators. This is what we call privacy. This is what we call freedom. Freedom means I can criticize President Bush. I can oppose President Bush. Without any punishment or fear.”

Aref, Ahmad believes, was targeted because he was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration.

“It was nothing to do with terrorism” Ahmad says. “It was a phony case. It was a fabricated case. It was a manipulated case. If there are really terrorists, you go and catch them. Everyone will appreciate. So here, people feel that it was specifically targeted. Everyone in the Muslim community is scared that I am the next target.”

“He tried to take advantage of the freedom of this country,” Ahmad continues. “And everyone says . . . that he never talked about violence, never supported violence, always he talked about religious values. But he criticized the government and the Bush administration. . . . If he could have kept his mouth shut and not talked about the many evils of society perhaps he would not have been targeted.”

“The image here that we are living in a free society,” Ahmad says, “and that we can practice religion freely, is very much on the line.”