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January 8, 2016 0

No Sign of Slowdown for Islamic Extremism Arrests in the U.S. in 2016

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Janab, arrested January 6

Aws Mohammed You­nis Al-Janab, arrested Jan­u­ary 6

Two U.S. res­i­dents were arrested on Islamic extrem­ism related ter­ror charges in the first week of 2016 and a third allegedly com­mit­ted a shoot­ing on Jan­u­ary 7 on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Fol­low­ing record-breaking num­bers of ter­ror related arrests in 2015, these new arrests por­tend sim­i­larly high lev­els of Amer­i­cans engag­ing in plots and other activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy in the com­ing year.

Aws Mohammed You­nis Al-Janab, a res­i­dent of Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, was arrested on Jan­u­ary 6, 2015. Al-Janab, an Iraqi-born man who had moved to Syria and then come to the U.S. as a refugee from Syria in 2012, is accused of mak­ing false state­ments in a terror-related inves­ti­ga­tion. Al-Janab had orig­i­nally left the U.S. to fight with Ansar al-Islam, a Syr­ian ter­ror­ist group, between 2013 and 2014. Ansar al-Islam had been affil­i­ated with Al Qaeda until August 2014, at which time it merged with ISIS.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, a res­i­dent of Hous­ton, Texas, was also arrested on Jan­u­ary 6, 2015. Al Hardan, who entered the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq in 2009 and is cur­rently a U.S. per­ma­nent res­i­dent, is charged with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion by attempt­ing to join the ISIS and with lying in his nat­u­ral­iza­tion application.

A third man, iden­ti­fied as Edward Archer of Penn­syl­va­nia, allegedly attempted to kill a law enforce­ment offi­cer in Philadel­phia on behalf of ISIS. There were at least four instances of Islamic extrem­ism inspired vio­lence against law enforce­ment offi­cers in 2015.

The two indi­vid­u­als arrested were Iraqi born men of Pales­tin­ian descent who entered the U.S. as refugees. They report­edly com­mu­ni­cated with each other regard­ing their extrem­ist aspirations.

The vast major­ity of U.S. res­i­dents engaged in ter­ror­ism related to Islamic extrem­ism are U.S. cit­i­zens.  Between 2009 and 2015, refugees accounted for only three per­cent of the U.S. res­i­dents linked to Islamic extremism.

In 2015, only 3 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism had entered the U.S. as refugees. One of the three, Harlem Suarez, entered the U.S. as a refugee when he was a child but appears to have con­verted to Islam and rad­i­cal­ized while in the U.S.; Suarez was a U.S. per­ma­nent res­i­dent when he was arrested for attempt­ing to bomb a Florida beach in sup­port of ISIS.

2015 also saw a spike in attempted domes­tic attacks. There were 18 plots dis­cussed in total in 2015, com­pared to 1 in all of 2014.

78 U.S. res­i­dents in total were linked to ter­ror­ist activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2015. A full list of the indi­vid­u­als, as well as exten­sive analy­sis, is avail­able in the ADL report, “2015 Sees Dra­matic Spike in Islamic Extrem­ism Arrests.”

In Octo­ber 2015, FBI Direc­tor James Comey indi­cated that there were 900 open inves­ti­ga­tions of sus­pected home­grown extrem­ists, the major­ity of which are related to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Since that time, there have been 12 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror, at least three of whom (San Bernardino shoot­ers Tafsheen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farooq and Farooq’s friend, Enrique Mar­quez) had not been mon­i­tored by law enforce­ment prior to the San Bernardino attack in Decem­ber 2015.


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January 3, 2016 3

Militia Standoff in Oregon: Expected and Unexpected

jonritzheimerhammondjustification (1)

Jon Ritzheimer video jus­ti­fy­ing his actions

Armed anti-government activists asso­ci­ated with mili­tia groups and other right-wing extrem­ist move­ments seized con­trol of the head­quar­ters build­ing for the Mal­heur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan­u­ary 2, 2016, pre­cip­i­tat­ing what is, in effect, an armed stand­off with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. 
Though some sort of con­fronta­tion between mili­tia activists and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in the Pacific North­west has been brew­ing for months, the seizure itself is unusual and a new depar­ture for anti-government extrem­ists.
The action was taken because of anger over the sit­u­a­tion of father and son ranch­ers in Har­ney County in south­east Ore­gon.  The ranch­ers, Dwight Ham­mond, Jr., and Steven Ham­mond, were con­victed of arson for set­ting fire to around 130 acres of fed­eral land, but were given light sen­tences.  An appel­late court ruled that their sen­tences were too short and man­dated new sen­tences of 4–5 years.  They were ordered to report to fed­eral prison on Jan­u­ary 4.
Many peo­ple were sym­pa­thetic to the per­ceived plight of the Ham­monds, but it was right-wing anti-government extrem­ists in par­tic­u­lar who adopted the ranch­ers as a cause célèbre, using them to mobi­lize anger at the gov­ern­ment.  Their “adop­tion” of the Ham­monds was hardly sur­pris­ing, as mili­tia groups, Oath Keep­ers, Three Per­centers and other anti-government extrem­ists have actively been seek­ing con­fronta­tions with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for more than a year now, thanks to the Cliven Bundy stand­off of 2014.
Cliven Bundy is a Nevada rancher who got into trou­ble with the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment for graz­ing his cat­tle on fed­eral land with­out proper per­mits.  In March 2014, the BLM began to remove Bundy’s cat­tle from fed­eral land but were stopped by a group of armed pro­test­ers.  This pre­cip­i­tated the stand­off, in which right-wing extrem­ists from around the coun­try made their way to the Bundy ranch to “pro­tect” Cliven Bundy and his prop­erty from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.  Bundy, who shared some of their anti-government views, wel­comed the sup­port.  Dur­ing the stand­off, armed extrem­ists allegedly pointed weapons at fed­eral and local law enforce­ment offi­cers. 
In the end, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment backed down and stopped the con­fis­ca­tion oper­a­tion, leav­ing Bundy and his mili­tia sup­port­ers to declare vic­tory.  The inci­dent was viewed by the mili­tia move­ment and related groups as a huge suc­cess and one that should be repli­cated else­where if pos­si­ble. 
Since the Bundy stand­off, anti-government extrem­ists have actively been seek­ing other future “Bundys” around which they could rally.  Sev­eral of the prime can­di­dates for future con­fronta­tions have been located in the Pacific North­west.  In par­tic­u­lar, anti-government extrem­ists have ral­lied in 2015 to “help” mine own­ers in Ore­gon (the Sugar Pine Mine near Mer­lin) and Mon­tana (the White Hope Mine near Lin­coln) who each had dis­putes with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, caus­ing many to fear the pos­si­bil­ity of some sort of armed clash.
In the end, how­ever, it was the Ham­monds who ended up being the new “Bundys,” though they them­selves do not appear to have sup­ported or con­doned the seizure of the fed­eral build­ing and have said they will report to prison as ordered.  This does not seem to have deterred the activists, sev­eral of whom have direct ties to the Bundy stand­off.  Indeed, two of the peo­ple involved, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are in fact sons of Cliven Bundy.  Mili­tia activist Ryan Payne of Mon­tana is another vet­eran of the Bundy stand­off allegedly involved in the seizure.  Also promi­nent is Ari­zona extrem­ist Jon Ritzheimer, who has recently orga­nized anti-Muslim events and threat­ened to arrest elected offi­cials.
But if some sort of clash was expected and if many of the play­ers involved are famil­iar faces, what is def­i­nitely new is the spe­cific tac­tic of seiz­ing and hold­ing the wildlife refuge head­quar­ters. 
Right-wing stand­offs and con­fronta­tions with gov­ern­ment or law enforce­ment over­whelm­ingly take one of two forms.  The first is when extrem­ists rally to “pro­tect” per­ceived vic­tims of gov­ern­ment, such as peo­ple who face their home or land being seized for non-payment of taxes.  The Bundy stand­off is an exam­ple of such a con­fronta­tion, which takes place at the loca­tion of the per­ceived vic­tim.  The sec­ond is the typ­i­cal “bar­ri­caded felon” sit­u­a­tion in which an extrem­ist who has com­mit­ted a crime or is a fugi­tive has holed up some­where and will not sur­ren­der.  The Mon­tana Free­man stand­off of 1996 was such a con­fronta­tion. 
In this case, how­ever, right-wing extrem­ists proac­tively seized and are hold­ing a gov­ern­ment building—a sym­bolic tar­get.  Such a tac­tic has his­tor­i­cally been far more com­mon with left-wing activists or extrem­ists, includ­ing the seizure of many uni­ver­sity build­ings in the 1960s and 70s, as well as other loca­tions or places, such as the takeover of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973.
Because this is a new tac­tic for anti-government extrem­ists, it remains unclear how the sce­nario is likely to play itself out.  But since the build­ing they seized was empty at the time and there is no hostage sit­u­a­tion, it is likely that fed­eral author­i­ties will be slow and delib­er­ate in their response in order to min­i­mize the pos­si­bil­ity of violence.

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December 22, 2015 0

Condemning Islamic Terrorism, Defending Muslims

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Jerusalem Post.

When Yigal Amir assas­si­nated Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin, surely one of the low moments in Israeli his­tory, there were those who blamed Ortho­dox Jews because he was an Ortho­dox Jew and was edu­cated in that sec­tor of Israeli society.

Shortly after the tragic event, the Ortho­dox Union, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive body of mod­ern Amer­i­can Ortho­dox Jews, con­vened a large gath­er­ing at a promi­nent Ortho­dox synagogue.

The keynote speaker was Rabbi Nor­man Lamm, then Pres­i­dent of Yeshiva University.

Speak­ing to the issue of accu­sa­tions against the Ortho­dox com­mu­nity, Lamm said: “Yigal Amir was a weed, but he was a weed in our garden.”

As Amer­i­can soci­ety and, indeed, the world con­front the chal­lenge of Islamic ter­ror­ism while avoid­ing the destruc­tive think­ing that blames all Mus­lims and Islam itself for the ter­ror, Rabbi Lamm’s com­ment seems more rel­e­vant than ever.

What Lamm was say­ing about the role of Ortho­doxy was that it is a false and dan­ger­ous accu­sa­tion to blame all Ortho­dox and the reli­gion itself for what Yigal Amir did. He was a weed, a per­son who behaved in a way that does not rep­re­sent the Ortho­dox phi­los­o­phy and world­view. So stop these accu­sa­tions and stereotypes.

Hav­ing said that, Rabbi Lamm went on, still the Ortho­dox world needed to look at itself and ask tough and pen­e­trat­ing ques­tions about the way it’s tend­ing to its beau­ti­ful gar­den, that too many of these weeds are appearing.

It was a call for seri­ous intro­spec­tion and a will­ing­ness to say there is an ele­ment of respon­si­bil­ity that demands examination.

In my view, that is the miss­ing piece in the cur­rent dis­cus­sion about Islamic ter­ror­ism. The pres­i­dent of the United States con­demns the ter­ror and calls on all Amer­i­cans not to fall into the trap of stereo­typ­ing Mus­lims or Islam, both admirable reac­tions. But he can­not bring him­self to refer to the hor­ror that is tak­ing place as rad­i­cal Islamic ter­ror­ism, as if were he to do so he would be encour­ag­ing anti-Islamic sen­ti­ment and behavior.

Mean­while, other politi­cians and influ­en­tials blame Mus­lims in gen­eral for the ter­ror, even to the point, as in the case of Don­ald Trump, to exclude Mus­lims from entry into the U.S. and to have them bear ID cards as Muslim.

The truth is these two approaches are not the only choices that could be made. Rabbi Lamm’s per­spec­tive is far more suitable.

The fact that the San Bernardino and Paris ter­ror­ists were rad­i­cal Islamic extrem­ists in no way jus­ti­fies the hor­ren­dous anti-Muslim behav­ior and rhetoric that has emerged in the United States in recent weeks.

ADL has indi­cated that there has been an upsurge in anti-Muslim inci­dents over the past month. Every effort must be made to denounce such activ­ity, par­tic­u­larly when it is incen­tivized by rhetoric such as that com­ing from Trump.

There can be no equiv­o­ca­tion: All Mus­lims should not be blamed for the actions of the few.

But that should not lead to the con­clu­sion that all this ter­ror­ist activ­ity bears no rela­tion­ship to the Islamic world. Not only is this inac­cu­rate, but the reluc­tance to spell out Islamic extrem­ism as the source of the vio­lence actu­ally plays into the hands of those who want to stereo­type all Muslims.

It sounds arti­fi­cial and strained when the pres­i­dent does any­thing to avoid using the term Islamic ter­ror­ism to the point that peo­ple are more, rather than less, will­ing to blame all Muslims.

“He was a weed in our gar­den.” What is it that is going on in the Islamic world that is pro­duc­ing the most vir­u­lent and wide­spread man­i­fes­ta­tion of ter­ror that the world has seen?

Ulti­mately, it is up to Mus­lim lead­ers around the world to ask this ques­tion and to ask what it is that they can do to cre­ate a dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment less con­ducive to the emer­gence of terror.

We do not help them in this nec­es­sary process when we shy away from call­ing it what it is.

Iron­i­cally, it was Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, still vil­i­fied for his mis­guided war in Iraq, who set the stan­dard for how to deal with problem.

Fol­low­ing 9/11 and the trauma that it was for our nation, the pres­i­dent spoke at a Mosque in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. and made an elo­quent plea not to blame all Mus­lims or Islam itself for the hor­ror that befell our nation.

This impor­tant step in lead­er­ship, how­ever, did not in the least pre­vent him from say­ing clearly and loudly: We are in a war with rad­i­cal Islam and we must win that war for the sake of civ­i­liza­tion itself and for the sake of Mus­lims as well.

A weed, but a weed in our garden.


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