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February 10, 2016

The Marrakesh Declaration

By Rabbi David Fox Sandmel
ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs

As a professional in the Jewish community who works on interfaith relations, I am often asked “why aren’t Muslims speaking out against terrorism and ISIS?” The answer is that, in fact, many Muslims have done so. Equally important is for religious leaders to speak out and address the root causes of extremism in their community, and find ways of discouraging terrorist activity, particularly among youth who are considered among the most susceptible populations. In this regard, one of the most hopeful initiatives, something that has not gotten much attention in the mainstream media, is the “Marrakesh Declaration,” released at the end of last month.

The “Marrakesh Declaration” is the product of a gathering of Muslim leaders from more than 100 countries around the world sponsored by the Moroccan government and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.  At the meeting, Muslim leaders heard several testimonies about the grave situation of various religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

Marrakesh Declaration

At the end of the meeting, the Muslim scholars who gathered in Marrakesh released the “Marrakesh Declaration,” a brief statement that in which they:

  • Call upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of “citizenship” which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes.
  • Urge Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addresses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies;
  • Call upon politicians and decision makers to take the political and legal steps necessary to establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens, and to support all formulations and initiatives that aim to fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim World;
  • Call upon the educated, artistic, and creative members of our societies, as well as organizations of civil society, to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorities in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the success of these efforts.
  • Call upon the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land; we call upon them to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality, and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression;
  • Call upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, vilification, and denigration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promote hatred and bigotry; AND FINALLY,
  • AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.

Lest anyone think that this is a departure from “traditional” Islamic teaching, the Marrakesh Declaration explicitly traces its ancestry to the Charter (or Constitution) of Medina.  According to Muslim tradition, this Charter was written by the prophet Muhammad in 622 C.E. in an effort to end political strife in the city; it guarantees autonomy and freedom of religion to the residence of Medina, including, explicitly, its Jewish population.  While the Charter is not a modern document and reflects the historical setting in which it was created, the principle of religious freedom is found in the Quran itself and other classic Islamic sources.

The threat of Muslim extremism is real, dangerous, and must be taken seriously; even though it represents a small minority of Muslims, we have witnessed its tragic consequences.  The vast majority of Muslims (and let us not forget that it is Muslims themselves who are most often the target of these extremists) reject the terrorists and their ideology.  The Marrakesh Declaration is an important, but certainly not the only, example of Muslims speaking unequivocally, from their own tradition, against extremism, terror, and the infringement of religious freedom.  It is a pity that this and other efforts have not garnered the attention they deserve.

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December 3, 2015

Bonnie and Clydes Rare—But Not Unheard Of—In Violent Extremism

Syed Farook

Syed Farook

Background information on Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the married perpetrators of the tragic mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, is still sparse, as is clarity concerning the motive behind the vicious attack that left 14 dead and 21 wounded.

However, according to media reports from the in-progress investigation, there is growing concern among law enforcement officials that the shootings may have had a connection to Islamic extremism or that there might have been a mixed extremist/workplace motive behind them.  The FBI has said that it is now treating its investigation of the killings as a counter-terrorism investigation.

One thing that is exceedingly rare in traditional workplace shootings is for there to be multiple perpetrators, as there was in this case.  As one law enforcement official told The New York Times, “You don’t take your wife to a workplace shooting, and especially not as prepared as they were.  He could have been radicalized, ready to go with some type of attack, and then had a dispute at work and decided to do something.”

Multiple perpetrators are certainly common in extremist-related crimes, of course, despite the existence of the “lone wolf” phenomenon.  Women are also frequently involved in extremist-related criminal activity in almost every extremist movement in the United States.

However, when one examines recent criminal cases in the U.S. involving domestic Islamic extremists, one finds that female partners of male perpetrators—even when themselves involved in criminal activities—have not typically engaged in violence.  Overseas, women have sometimes taken on more violent roles, including as suicide bombers.

If an Islamic extremist motive is confirmed in the San Bernardino shootings, the fact of husband-and-wife shooters would be a new wrinkle in the history of the violent tactics of that movement in the United States.

Extremist-related violence involving husbands and wives—or non-married partners—is actually not unheard of in the United States, but it tends to come from a very different source:  right-wing extremism.  Though not what one could call a common phenomenon, such violent “Bonnie and Clyde” couples do emerge with regularity from within both the white supremacist and anti-government extremist movements in the United States.

In fact, right-wing extremism even produced an example of the exceedingly rare phenomenon of a married couple both of whom were on death row:  anti-government extremists Linda Lyon Block and George Sibley.  In 1993, the two sovereign citizens non-fatally stabbed Block’s ex-husband, then while on the run murdered an Alabama police officer in a shootout.  Both were executed in the 2000s.

In more recent years, extremist couples have been involved with everything from standoffs with police to hate crimes to terrorist conspiracies.  But some of the most shocking “Bonnie and Clyde” incidents have involved multiple homicides committed by white supremacists and anti-government extremists:

  • Jerad and Amanda Miller, a young married couple who adhered to the anti-government ideology of the militia movement, targeted two Las Vegas police officers for assassination in June 2014, killing them at a pizza restaurant as they ate their Sunday lunch.  The couple crossed the street to a Wal-mart in anticipation of a final shootout with first responders, where Amanda killed an armed civilian trying to stop them.  As they had intended, they did both die during a shootout with law enforcement at the store, with a wounded Amanda killing herself after Jerad was shot.
  • Jeremy and Christine Moody, white supremacists from Union County, South Carolina, killed a nearby married couple in July 2013 in a particularly grisly double homicide in which both victims were shot and stabbed.  The Moodys had targeted the victim because they wanted to kill a registered sex offender and found the male victim’s name and address on the Internet.  They killed his wife because she had married a sex offender.  Both pleaded guilty to murder in 2014, receiving life sentences with no parole, but were unrepentant, with Christine Moody calling the day of the murders “the best day of my life.”
  • Holly Grigsby and David Pedersen, a white supremacist couple from Oregon, embarked upon a multi-state murder spree in 2011 that totaled four killed before police could find and stop them.  The pair traveled to Washington to murder Pederson’s father and stepmother, each killing one victim, then killed a young man in Oregon to steal his car and because they thought he might be Jewish.  They killed an African-American man in northern California in another carjacking attempt, though they did not end up taking the vehicle, then were finally apprehended by the California Highway Patrol.  Grigsby told the arresting officers that they were to Sacramento to “kill more Jews” when they were stopped.  Both pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes and received life sentences.

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December 12, 2014

Anti-Semite Gordon Duff Discusses Israeli Control of U.S. In Syria

The Syr­ian government’s Coun­tert­er­ror­ism and Reli­gious Extrem­ism Con­fer­ence featured remarks by American anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Gordon Duff during which he described the U.S. as being controlled by Israel.

Gordon Duff speaking at conference

Gordon Duff speaking at the conference

Senior editor at Vet­er­ans Today, a web­site that presents anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries as news, Duff described himself as the “U.S. Keynote Speaker” at the conference. During his remarks, Duff told his audience that “I do believe there are areas of misunderstanding [about] how the United States works politically…It’s very difficult to understand what has happened as far as Israeli control of American politics, and I will, as succinctly as possible, I will explain this to you.”

Duff also elaborated on the Veterans Today delegation’s objective while in Syria, stating, “It’s our goal here while we are here to try to establish a method of communication that will allow Syria and other nations in the area to understand Israel’s control of the U.S., the control of the U.S. by organized crime, and how the U.S. government is subservient to a worldwide criminal organization.”

Duff also invoked conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the U.S. government, claiming that the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission “turned control of the Congress of the United States over to human traffickers, narcotics traffickers, and particular the most powerful individual in the United States today, a gambling boss named Sheldon Adelson, an Israeli citizen who fled the U.S. living in Macau.” Duff alleges that Adelson “spent over one billion dollars in the last election and bought control of both houses of Congress, now Senator John McCain, the father of al-Nusra, the father of ISIS, will be running U.S.  legislative and military foreign policy.”

Without specifying about whom he is speaking, Duff also states in his remarks that “their motivation is largely economic, they’re a criminal organization but they’re part of a worldwide criminal organization and they’re here in your territory taking your things, your factories, your lives, your people, for the enrichment of a very specific group of people who need to be held to account…”

Gordon Duff’s audience at the conference

Duff, who describes himself as “one of the top global intelligence specialists” and one who “regularly consults with governments” also claimed that Syrians have him to thank for preventing the U.S. from bombing Syria after “false-flag gas attacks near Aleppo.” He continued, “It was our organization here that supplied the intelligence that stopped those attacks.”

The con­fer­ence in Syria, held on Novem­ber 30 and Decem­ber 1, brought together rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 25 coun­tries with Syr­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials who report­edly harshly crit­i­cized the U.S. led anti-ISIS coali­tion and sug­gested an “Inter­na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Forum” be estab­lished in Dam­as­cus instead to deal with this issue. Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi and Justice Minister Najm al-Ahmad also spoke at the conference. Duff describes al-Ahmad as being “extremely helpful” in bringing the Veterans Today group to Syria.

Additionally, according to Syrian official media, Head of Hezbollah’s Arab Affairs Division, Sheik Hassan Ezzil Deen attended the conference.

Four of the eight Americans  who participated in the conference were from Veterans Today, including Jim Dean, a man­ag­ing edi­tor for Vet­er­ans Today who has made claims of Israeli con­trol of Amer­ica, Colonel Jim Hanke who claims to be a former military attaché to Israel, and Mike Har­ris, who has ties to mem­bers of the neo-Nazi National Social­ist Move­ment (NSM) and has claimed that Zion­ists are respon­si­ble for a num­ber of mass shoot­ings in Amer­ica.

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