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June 23, 2016 0

13th U.S. Resident Linked to Islamic Extremism in 2016

Akram Musleh of Indiana, arrested for attempting to travel to join ISIS

Akram Musleh

Akram Musleh, an 18-year-old res­i­dent of Browns­burg, Indi­ana, was arrested on June 21 for attempt­ing to travel to join ISIS. Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Musleh had been engag­ing with ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda since at least 2013, when Musleh was a 15-year-old high school student.

Accord­ing to author­i­ties, the FBI first came into con­tact with Musleh after it was dis­cov­ered that he posted three videos of Anwar al-Awlaki to YouTube in August 2013. Awlaki, an Amer­i­can cleric and English-language pro­pa­gan­dist for Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, was killed in a drone strike in 2011, but his speeches and quotes remain pop­u­lar among extrem­ist indi­vid­u­als and those rad­i­cal­iz­ing today. Indeed, the major­ity of U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism since 2011 have allegedly down­loaded mate­r­ial cre­ated by Awlaki or shared his speeches and state­ments on social media.

Upon find­ing the Awlaki speeches, court doc­u­ments indi­cate that the FBI met with offi­cials at Musleh’s high school, and coor­di­nated with them to dis­cour­age Musleh from radicalizing.

Follow-up took place at Musleh’s school. It is unclear whether any mea­sures could have been effec­tive in Musleh’s case; he had allegedly obtained infor­ma­tion on Awlaki from a fam­ily mem­ber, and so appar­ently had at least one close per­sonal con­tact encour­ag­ing his rad­i­cal­iza­tion. In any event, the mea­sures unfor­tu­nately failed.

In April 2014, court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Musleh asked minors at a park if they wanted to join ISIS. In 2015, Musleh allegedly made mul­ti­ple attempts to travel to Turkey or Iraq, areas adja­cent to ISIS-controlled ter­ri­tory that are often used ini­tially as des­ti­na­tions for indi­vid­u­als attempt­ing to join the group. In 2016, he allegedly researched attack tar­gets and explo­sive mate­ri­als, and then tried again to travel to join ISIS, this time in Libya, where the group has an active fac­tion. He was arrested en route from Indi­ana to New York, where he allegedly intended to catch a plane from John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tional Airport.

Musleh is not the only U.S. res­i­dent to rad­i­cal­ize while still in high school. In 2015, 4 minors in the U.S. were linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy. They are among a total of 25 U.S. res­i­dents aged 21 or younger linked to such activ­ity that year. Seven U.S. teenagers were linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2014.

In recog­ni­tion of this dis­turb­ing trend, ADL has released a series of resources for edu­ca­tors and school admin­is­tra­tors that pro­vide back­ground infor­ma­tion about extrem­ism and mass vio­lence among school-aged indi­vid­u­als and mate­ri­als for cre­at­ing resilience among their stu­dents. Among the mate­ri­als pro­vided is a back­ground report on mass vio­lence and extrem­ism geared specif­i­cally to edu­ca­tors and pro­duced in coop­er­a­tion with START, the National Con­sor­tium for the Study of Ter­ror­ism and Response to Ter­ror­ism, at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land. This back­grounder pro­vides infor­ma­tion about pre­cur­sors to vio­lent activ­ity and estab­lish­ing appro­pri­ate sup­port and refer­ral net­works. A sec­ond resource is a unique les­son plan focused on enabling stu­dents to rec­og­nize pro­pa­ganda if and when they encounter it and to become more dis­crim­i­nat­ing con­sumers of online mate­ri­als. Par­al­lel resources for par­ents are avail­able as well.

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April 3, 2015 6

Arkansas’ and Indiana’s Fixes to “Religious Freedom” Laws are Illusory

Arkansas’ and Indiana’s pas­sage of dis­crim­i­na­tory “reli­gious free­dom” laws was met with national back­lash from civil rights groups, the busi­ness com­mu­nity, and oth­ers.  Under intense pub­lic pres­sure, both state leg­is­la­tures made “fixes” to these laws, which their respec­tive Gov­er­nors promptly signed.   But these revi­sions are illu­sory and do lit­tle to mit­i­gate the harms of these laws.

Nei­ther of the orig­i­nal Arkansas or Indi­ana mea­sures men­tioned sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or dis­crim­i­na­tion. Under the guise of reli­gious free­dom, how­ever, both allowed busi­nesses and employ­ers to dis­crim­i­nate against the LGBT com­mu­nity, as well as against reli­gious and eth­nic minori­ties, by pro­vid­ing them with a vir­tu­ally insur­mount­able religious-based legal defense.Arkansas-StateSeal.svg

Pro­po­nents of these laws erro­neously claimed that they were mod­eled on the 1993 fed­eral Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion (“RFRA”).  That RFRA, which the Anti-Defamation League sup­ported, was much nar­rower and explic­itly designed to pro­tect indi­vid­u­als and faith-based insti­tu­tions’ reli­gious exer­cise from gov­ern­ment infringe­ment.   It was never meant to apply to for-profit enti­ties or pri­vate dis­putes, or to enable enti­ties to dis­crim­i­nate against indi­vid­u­als in the name of “reli­gious freedom.”

Indiana’s fix to its law pro­hibits busi­nesses from deny­ing ser­vices to cus­tomers based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.  And Arkansas’ revi­sion now tracks the lan­guage of RFRA and states that it should be inter­preted con­sis­tent with the fed­eral law.  While these fixes may make good media sound bites, they are misleading.

The revised Indi­ana law does not pro­vide statewide civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity or pre­vent its use to harm oth­ers.  Because the state does not have an inclu­sive anti-discrimination statute, and because the vast major­ity of Indi­ana cities and towns lack local civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, busi­nesses and employ­ers remain free to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.   Even with this fix, the Indi­ana law still pro­vides a pow­er­ful religious-based defense to indi­vid­u­als and busi­nesses in civil and crim­i­nal actions, and infringes on the rights of oth­ers.  For exam­ple, a police offi­cer could refuse to pro­tect a casino, liquor store, phar­macy, butcher shop, lend­ing insti­tu­tion, or women’s health clinic.

Indiana-StateSeal.svg

The amended Arkansas law is per­haps more disin­gen­u­ous.  Although it is now con­sis­tent with RFRA, the U.S. Supreme Court’s deeply dis­turb­ing Hobby Lobby deci­sion expands RFRA’s pro­tec­tions to for-profit, closely held cor­po­ra­tions (rang­ing from small busi­nesses to nation­wide com­pa­nies like Hobby Lobby).  And a 1999 fed­eral U.S. Court of Appeals deci­sion applic­a­ble to Arkansas ruled that RFRA applies to pri­vate disputes.

So a fam­ily owned busi­ness, large or small, can invoke the new law’s pow­er­ful defense in vir­tu­ally any civil action, includ­ing claims of dis­crim­i­na­tion or wrong­ful denial of ser­vice, employ­ment or hous­ing.  Keep in mind, 96.6% of Arkansas’ employ­ers are small busi­nesses.  Trans­la­tion: the vast major­ity of Arkansas’ busi­nesses can use the law to deny ser­vices, employ­ment, and hous­ing to the LGBT com­mu­nity and other minori­ties.  Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Arkansas has no state-wide civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, and it recently enacted another law bar­ring local gov­ern­ments from pro­vid­ing such pro­tec­tions for their residents.

To truly rem­edy the harm­ful effects of their so-called “reli­gious free­dom” laws, Arkansas and Indi­ana must enact statewide anti-discrimination pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, insert addi­tional safe­guards against use of the laws to harm oth­ers, and limit their appli­ca­tion to indi­vid­u­als, reli­gious insti­tu­tions, and religiously-affiliated non-profits against gov­ern­ment action that sub­stan­tially bur­dens religion.

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April 2, 2015 9

AFA Radio Host Bryan Fischer Tweets Offensive Holocaust Analogy

Bryan Fis­cher, a radio host and blog­ger for the Amer­i­can Fam­ily Asso­ci­a­tion (AFA), tweeted an offen­sive Holo­caust anal­ogy on April 1. Fis­cher likened the tem­po­rary clo­sure of a restau­rant in Indi­ana, whose own­ers said they would refuse to cater a gay wed­ding, to Kristall­nacht, a vio­lent pogrom car­ried out by Nazi storm troop­ers in Ger­many and Aus­tria in 1938.  Kristall­nacht led to the destruc­tion of thou­sands of Jew­ish syn­a­gogues, homes and busi­nesses as well as arrests and the deaths of Jews and opened the door to the per­se­cu­tion and destruc­tion of Euro­pean Jewry. Fis­cher also blamed the restaurant’s deci­sion to close due to the public’s neg­a­tive reac­tion on the “Gay Gestapo.”

Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fis­cher

In Jan­u­ary 2015, the AFA dis­missed Fis­cher as a spokesper­son for the orga­ni­za­tion but he con­tin­ues to host a radio show for the AFA and to write blogs on the AFA web­site that demo­nize the LGBT community.

Fis­cher often invokes the Holo­caust to dis­cuss con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can polit­i­cal issues, par­tic­u­larly with regard to the LGBT com­mu­nity. He has made a num­ber of state­ments liken­ing LGBT activists to Nazis and con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians to Jews who were per­se­cuted under Hitler’s regime. He also com­pared the Supreme Court to Nazis after it struck down the Defense of Mar­riage Act in 2013.

There is no com­par­i­son between cur­rent polit­i­cal issues and the actions of Hitler’s regime dur­ing the Holo­caust. Such inap­pro­pri­ate analo­gies only serve to triv­i­al­ize the Holo­caust and are deeply offen­sive to Jews and other sur­vivors, as well as those Amer­i­cans who fought valiantly against the Nazis dur­ing World War II.

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