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June 30, 2015 0

ISIS-Related Arrests in June Emphasize Ongoing Security Concerns

Four­teen U.S. res­i­dents from 7 states have been linked to ter­ror­ist activ­ity inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) this month alone.

Nicholas Rovinski of Rhode Island was allegedly part of a Boston-area plot and hoped to travel to join ISIS.

Nicholas Rovin­ski of Rhode Island was allegedly part of a Boston-area plot and hoped to travel to join ISIS.

Of the 14, five pri­mar­ily were arrested for attempt­ing join ISIS (some of them also dis­cussed pos­si­ble attacks in the event that their travel plans failed), one for recruit­ing for ISIS and eight for their roles in domes­tic plots that included a plot to behead Boston area law enforce­ment offi­cers, one to bomb New York City land­marks, the shoot­ing in Gar­land and another to shoot peo­ple and det­o­nate a bomb in North Carolina.

Three of the indi­vid­u­als allegedly used knives in con­fronta­tions with law enforce­ment offi­cials who were mon­i­tor­ing or attempt­ing to ques­tion them (Fareed Mumuni, Munther Omar Saleh, and Usaama Rahim; see below). A fourth indi­vid­ual, Amir Said Abdul Rah­man Al-Ghazi, had also pur­chased a knife but did not use it.

ISIS has pop­u­lar­ized the use of knives in its pro­pa­ganda, both through its use of knives in behead­ing videos and through direct calls for sup­port­ers to arm them­selves with knives or any other weapons avail­able. A speech pur­port­edly by ISIS spokesman Abu Moham­mad Al Adnani in Sep­tem­ber 2014, for exam­ple, told sup­port­ers, “If you are not able to find an IED or a bul­let, then sin­gle out the dis­be­liev­ing Amer­i­can, French­man, or any of his allies.  Smash his head with a rock, or slaugh­ter him with a knife, or run him over with your car.…” That same speech also directly encour­aged tar­get­ing law enforce­ment offi­cials, stat­ing, “Strike their police, secu­rity and intel­li­gence members….”

A Jan­u­ary 2015 speech pur­port­edly by Adnani called for attacks, “whether with an explo­sive device, a bul­let, a knife, a car, a rock or even a boot or a fist,” and a video released in April 2015 stated, “Your neigh­bor is a kaf­fir (apos­tate)… take a big knife and give him what he rightly deserves.”

Munther Omar Saleh allegedly conspired to bomb a New York landmark.

Munther Omar Saleh allegedly con­spired to bomb a New York landmark.

All 14 of the indi­vid­u­als linked to ter­ror in June appear to be moti­vated by ISIS and nearly all appear to have been influ­enced by ISIS’s online pro­pa­ganda and social media presence.

Since ISIS announced its inde­pen­dence from Al Qaeda in 2014, 86% of U.S. res­i­dents engag­ing in activ­ity on behalf of for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions since 2014 have been linked to ISIS.

A total of 54 U.S. res­i­dents have been linked to Islamic extrem­ist activ­ity in the first half of 2015 – more than dou­ble the num­ber of indi­vid­u­als in 2014.

The FBI, which has indi­cated that it has ongo­ing ISIS-related inves­ti­ga­tions in all 50 states, has issued a warn­ing regard­ing increased secu­rity con­cerns over the July 4th weekend.

The activ­i­ties of the 14 U.S. res­i­dents arrested in June, as described in court doc­u­ments, are detailed below.

  • Usaama Rahim, a 26-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Mass­a­chu­setts, was killed on June 2, 2015, when he drew a knife after being approached by law enforce­ment offi­cials. Rahim had allegedly con­spired with David Wright, a 25-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Mass­a­chu­setts arrested later that day on a charge of con­spir­acy to behead Pamela Geller, head of the anti-Muslim orga­ni­za­tion Stop Islam­i­ciza­tion of Amer­ica. The two later shifted their plans and dis­cussed behead­ing police offi­cers. Alleged co-conspirator Nicholas Rovin­ski, a 24-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Rhode Island, was arrested June 12. Rovin­ski had also allegedly hoped to travel to join ISIS.
  • Reza Nikne­jad, an 18-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Vir­ginia, was charged in absen­tia on June 10, 2015 with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port for ISIS. Nikne­jad, who is pre­sumed to have joined ISIS, had allegedly been encour­aged to travel by Ali Shukri Amin, a 17-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Vir­ginia who had been arrested in February.

    Decarus Thomas of Arizona allegedly aided the Garland shooters

    Decarus Thomas of Ari­zona allegedly aided the Gar­land shooters

  • Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem (Decarus Thomas), a 43-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Ari­zona and a con­vert to Islam, was arrested on June 10, 2015, for allegedly aid­ing Gar­land shoot­ers Elton Simp­son and Nadir Soofi. Soofi and Simp­son were killed when they shot at a Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter in May. Kareem is believed to have opened his home to Soofi and Simp­son to dis­cuss their plot and to have sup­plied the rifles they used in their shooting.
  • Akmal Zakirov, a 29-year-old U.S. res­i­dent from New York, was arrested on June 11, 2015, for fund­ing travel plans for Abdura­sul Juraboev and Akhror Saidakhme­tov, New York res­i­dents arrested in Feb­ru­ary for attempt­ing to join ISIS. Juraboev and Said­khme­tov had also allegedly dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of shoot­ing police offi­cers and shoot­ing the FBI head­quar­ters. Juraboev had also allegedly sug­gested that he would attempt to shoot Pres­i­dent Obama on behalf of ISIS.
  • Munther Omar Saleh, a 20-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New York, was arrested on June 13, 2015, for allegedly con­spir­ing to bomb an unspec­i­fied land­mark in New York City. Accord­ing to reports, Saleh had researched how to acquire mate­ri­als for and build a pres­sure cooker bomb online. Saleh was arrested when he attempted to attack a law enforce­ment offi­cer who had been mon­i­tor­ing him. Salah was arrested together with an unnamed 17-year-old co-conspirator. Saleh’s other alleged co-conspirator,  Fareed Mumuni, a 21-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New York, was arrested on June 17, 2015. Mumuni also attempted to attack a law enforce­ment offi­cer who had come to his res­i­dence to ques­tion him.
  • Samuel Rahamin Topaz, a 20-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New Jer­sey and a con­vert to Islam, was arrested on June 18, 2015, for allegedly attempt­ing to travel to join ISIS. Topaz had engaged in con­ver­sa­tions with Saleh and Mumuni, who allegedly encour­aged his plans. Topaz had also been in con­tact with Alaa Saadeh, a 23-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from New Jer­sey arrested on June 29 and Saadeh’s brother, a U.S. cit­i­zen and for­mer New Jer­sey res­i­dent who was arrested in June in Jor­dan, allegedly on his way to join ISIS. Topaz and Saadeh had both report­edly planned to meet Saadeh’s brother in ISIS con­trolled ter­ri­tory together with Munther Saleh

    Justin Sullivan of North Carolina allegedly planned a domestic attack.

    Justin Sul­li­van of North Car­olina allegedly planned a domes­tic attack.

  • Amir Said Abdul Rah­man Al-Ghazi (for­merly Robert McCul­lum), a 38-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen and a con­vert to Islam from Ohio, was arrested on June 19, 2015, on charges of pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to ISIS, being a felon in pos­ses­sion of a weapon and dis­tri­b­u­tion of mar­i­juana. Al-Ghazi had attempted to recruit for ISIS by cre­at­ing pro-ISIS pro­pa­ganda videos. He had pur­chased the gun for which he was charged as well as a machete for his pro­pa­ganda videos. Al-Ghazi had also expressed inter­est in under­tak­ing a domes­tic attack involv­ing the derail­ing of a train.
  • Justin Nojan Sul­li­van, a 19-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen and con­vert to Islam from North Car­olina, was arrested on June 22, 2015, on charges of pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to ISIS. Sul­li­van allegedly planned to attack local estab­lish­ments, allegedly for train­ing, and fol­low them up with a bomb­ing. Although the tar­get for his bomb­ing was unspec­i­fied, Sul­li­van expressed intent to kill 1,000 people.

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June 30, 2015 3

Texas’ “Pastor Protection Act” Is Far From Innocuous

In antic­i­pa­tion of the U.S. Supreme Court sanc­tion­ing mar­riage equal­ity, Texas Gov­er­nor Greg Abbott recently signed into law “the Pas­tor Pro­tec­tion Act.”  At the sign­ing cer­e­mony, the Gov­er­nor stated “I am proud to sign into law SB 2065 … to ensure that clergy in Texas can­not be forced to vio­late their reli­gious beliefs.”   Based on the governor’s state­ments, the law appears to be noth­ing more than a mere cod­i­fi­ca­tion of exist­ing First Amend­ment rights.  But on closer exam­i­na­tion, this overly broad law likely sanc­tions dis­crim­i­na­tion in the mar­ket­place against les­bian, gay, bisex­ual, and trans­gen­der (LGBT) peo­ple, as well as other groups.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Texas Gov­er­nor Greg Abbott

The new law applies to clergy, reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions and their employ­ees, and “… an orga­ni­za­tion super­vised or con­trolled by or in con­nec­tion with a reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion. “  It pro­hibits sanc­tions against any of these indi­vid­u­als or enti­ties that refuse to “sol­em­nize any mar­riage or pro­vide ser­vices, accom­mo­da­tions, facil­i­ties, goods, or priv­i­leges for a pur­pose related to the sol­em­niza­tion, for­ma­tion, cel­e­bra­tion of any mar­riage” based on a vio­la­tion of their “… sin­cerely held reli­gious beliefs.”

The right of clergy, houses of wor­ship and their employ­ees to only sol­em­nize, par­tic­i­pate in or rec­og­nize mar­riages that adhere to their faith has always been the law of the land.  Just as the First Amend­ment allows a rabbi to refuse mar­riage of an inter­faith cou­ple or a priest to sim­i­larly refuse the mar­riage of a divorced per­son, noth­ing in Supreme Court’s mar­riage deci­sion abridges that right in the con­text of mar­riage equal­ity.   Indeed, those rights were explic­itly acknowl­edged in the Court’s opin­ion and at the oral argu­ment in Oberge­fell v. Hodges.

How­ever, the Pas­tor Pro­tec­tion Act goes well beyond these sacro­sanct First Amend­ment rights.  The new law likely applies to religiously-affiliated orga­ni­za­tions and schools.  Fur­ther­more, it makes no dis­tinc­tion among enti­ties that are run for-profit or open them­selves to the pub­lic.  So under the law a religiously-affiliated uni­ver­sity  that rents a ban­quet hall to the pub­lic for wed­dings could legally refuse a same-sex cou­ple or other reli­gious minori­ties.  The same would be true for a com­mer­cial wed­ding chapel.   That’s not reli­gious free­dom, but rather government-sanctioned dis­crim­i­na­tion.  And unlike reli­gious or racial minori­ties, same-sex cou­ples in Texas have no fed­eral recourse against such discrimination.

The mar­riage equal­ity deci­sion strictly con­cerned the right to civil mar­riage.  But cloaked in slo­gans such as “free­dom to wor­ship,” “sacred rights” or “pas­tor pro­tec­tion,” oppo­nents of civil mar­riage equal­ity are using the Supreme Court’s deci­sion as an oppor­tu­nity to impose their reli­gious views about mar­riage on our nation’s plu­ral­is­tic mar­ket­place.   Regret­tably the Pas­tor Pro­tec­tion Act is only the begin­ning of a tor­rent of state leg­is­la­tion that is sure to come.

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June 30, 2015 1

The Time Is Now: Bringing LGBT Topics into the Classroom

Wikicommons/InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA

Wikicommons/InSapphoWeTrust from Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia, USA

Over the past few years, our coun­try has made enor­mous strides on mar­riage equal­ity and as of June 26, 2015, mar­riage equal­ity is the law of the land in all 50 states. On that day, the Supreme Court of the United States held that that the 14th Amend­ment requires a state to license a mar­riage between two peo­ple of the same sex and to rec­og­nize mar­riages law­fully per­formed in other juris­dic­tions. Sixty-one per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­port mar­riage equality.

Has our coun­try reached the tip­ping point?  Are we ready to bring LGBT top­ics into our cur­ricu­lum and classrooms?

Con­sider the num­bers. Accord­ing to the 2010 Cen­sus, there are approx­i­mately 594,000 same-sex cou­ple house­holds liv­ing in the U.S. and more than 125,000 of those house­holds include nearly 220,000 chil­dren under age 18.  Fur­ther, there are as many as 6 mil­lion Amer­i­can chil­dren and adults who have an LGBT par­ent. With the Supreme Court rul­ing, all U.S. res­i­dents live in a state with mar­riage equality.

In addi­tion to the chil­dren of same-sex cou­ples attend­ing our schools, there are stu­dents who them­selves iden­tify as les­bian, gay, trans­gen­der and bisex­ual and/or who don’t con­form to tra­di­tional gen­der norms. Many of these stu­dents suf­fer teas­ing, bul­ly­ing, harass­ment, vio­lence and inter­nal­ized oppres­sion that can lead to risky behav­ior and even sui­cide. Almost half of all ele­men­tary stu­dents say they hear com­ments like “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” from other kids at school and 75% of LGBT mid­dle and high school stu­dents report being ver­bally harassed because of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. The good news is that these stu­dents also report bet­ter school expe­ri­ences when pro-active sup­ports and resources are in place.

There are gay and les­bian edu­ca­tors in our schools but many don’t feel safe to be “out” to their stu­dents and the school com­mu­nity. LGBT teach­ers do not have the same priv­i­lege that het­ero­sex­ual teach­ers have to talk about their partners/spouses and other core aspects of their lives and the school cli­mate can be down­right hos­tile towards them. There have been recent cases of teach­ers get­ting fired because of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. Some states have laws that pro­hibit dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity but most do not. Fed­eral leg­is­la­tion (ENDA) has been pro­posed to address this prob­lem but it has stalled in Con­gress. Even teach­ers in states with legal pro­tec­tions aren’t nec­es­sar­ily com­fort­able com­ing out because admin­is­tra­tors can find ways to fire them.

For chil­dren and teenagers, just know­ing a gay teacher can be a pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence; it gives them the oppor­tu­nity to know, admire and care about some­one who is LGBT.

Given that our schools are pop­u­lated with chil­dren of same-sex fam­ily house­holds, LGBT stu­dents and gay and les­bian teach­ers, it is time to bring this topic into our nation’s schools and class­rooms in a com­pre­hen­sive way.  It is an oppor­tu­nity to expand young people’s con­cepts of fam­ily, dis­cuss mar­riage equal­ity, infuse the cur­ricu­lum with LGBT peo­ple and their his­tory and accom­plish­ments and address bias-based bul­ly­ing for kids who iden­tify as LGBT or are per­ceived as such.

For young chil­dren, fam­ily is cen­tral to the cur­ricu­lum; there­fore, dis­cussing same-sex house­hold fam­i­lies should be inte­gral to the con­ver­sa­tion. This “nor­mal­izes” instead of mar­gin­al­izes chil­dren in same-sex house­holds.  Chil­dren in those fam­i­lies need to feel com­fort­able talk­ing about their own fam­i­lies and when those fam­i­lies are not rep­re­sented in class­rooms, teach­ers can share their sto­ries through children’s books and discussions.

As chil­dren move into upper ele­men­tary and mid­dle school, teach­ers can incor­po­rate con­ver­sa­tions about gen­der, gen­der norms, kinds of fam­i­lies and LGBT peo­ple and iden­tity. Stu­dents can be taught about mar­riage equal­ity and the road to the Supreme Court ruling.

Bul­ly­ing, espe­cially identity-based bul­ly­ing for LGBT or gen­der non-conforming stu­dents, should be dis­cussed not only when an inci­dent occurs but reg­u­larly. Children’s lit­er­a­ture con­tin­ues to be a pos­i­tive way to under­stand and empathize with LGBT peo­ple and families.

In the mid­dle and high school years as stu­dents emerge into ado­les­cence, the con­ver­sa­tions about iden­tity can con­tinue and sto­ries of LGBT peo­ple can be explored and infused into the every­day teach­ing and learn­ing. Read­ing young adult books with LGBT char­ac­ters and inte­grat­ing the accom­plish­ments of LGBT peo­ple into social stud­ies are encour­aged. Dur­ing the teen years, bul­ly­ing around sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion can be bru­tal and teach­ers should max­i­mize oppor­tu­ni­ties to dis­cuss it directly.

In 2011 Cal­i­for­nia passed a law requir­ing edu­ca­tors to teach gay and les­bian his­tory. On the other side, eight states cur­rently have “no promo homo” laws which for­bid teach­ers from dis­cussing LGBT peo­ple and issues in a pos­i­tive light and some pro­hibit dis­cussing the topic at all. Because schools are cen­tral to any com­mu­nity, address­ing LGBT top­ics will make our schools safer and more inclu­sive and will begin to curb the mar­gin­al­iza­tion of LGBT peo­ple for the present and for future generations.

 

 

 

 

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