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February 13, 2015 0

A French Leader Speaks for His Nation’s Jews and His Nation

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

The hor­rific ter­ror­ism that took place in Paris at the offices of Char­lie Hebdo and at the Hyper Cacher mar­ket last month still res­onates with all of us.

When we real­ize that Ahmed Coulibaly delib­er­ately chose to attack a small and vul­ner­a­ble unguarded kosher mar­ket on a Fri­day after­noon just before the Sab­bath as his tar­get to take Jew­ish hostages, we are eerily drawn to con­tem­plate ques­tions such as: Do Jews Have a Future in France? Is it hap­pen­ing all over again in Europe? What is the rela­tion­ship between the old and the new anti-Semitism? How can this evil best be com­bat­ted, in all its forms, and hope and lib­erty restored?

As the events at the kosher mar­ket unfolded, I couldn’t help but remind myself of Pas­tor Mar­tin Niemoller’s now famous com­ments as Nazi Germany’s ter­ror spread: “First, they came for the social­ists, and I did not speak out because I was not a social­ist. Then they came for the trade union­ists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade union­ist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The real­ity is that, since 1980, 17 French Jews have been mur­dered by vio­lent ter­ror­ists and the wave of attacks on Jews in France has inten­si­fied dur­ing the past ten years. Each and every one is an abom­i­na­tion, and we have always said that they are not only a threat to Jew­ish life in France, but to France itself.

This con­nec­tion between anti-Semitism and threats to demo­c­ra­tic life has a long and tragic his­tory. Unfor­tu­nately, it all too often takes ter­ri­ble events such as what recently occurred in Paris to wake peo­ple up to that real­ity. One can’t help but won­der, then, just how much the world has really learned from Niemoller’s reflection.

For­tu­nately, the Prime Min­is­ter of France, Manuel Valls, gets it more than most. In a recent inter­view with The Atlantic, Valls stated that “if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Repub­lic will be judged a failure.”

In a dra­matic speech before the National Assem­bly, he went on to rein­force that truth:

“With­out its Jews France would not be France, this is the mes­sage we have to com­mu­ni­cate loud and clear. We haven’t done so. We haven’t shown enough out­rage. How can we accept that in cer­tain schools and col­leges the Holo­caust can’t be taught? How can we accept that when a child is asked ‘Who is your enemy,’ the response is ‘the Jew?’ When the Jews of France are attacked France is attacked, the con­science of human­ity is attacked. Let us never for­get it.”

Why the reluc­tance of many demo­c­ra­tic soci­eties, in Europe and beyond, to rec­og­nize that anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine, alert­ing them to the exis­ten­tial threat they face? Why does Prime Min­is­ter Valls seem more like an excep­tion than like the rule, espe­cially when he bluntly and truth­fully sources the present threat as com­ing mainly from “ter­ror­ism and rad­i­cal Islam,” as he told the French peo­ple just days after the attacks?

Partly, this hes­i­ta­tion comes out of a desire to live with illu­sions, to con­vince our­selves that things are not so bad. “Attacks on Jews are one thing, but that doesn’t mean that we all are at risk.” And, partly, it’s a rem­nant of the deeply embed­ded stereo­types about Jews that held sway for cen­turies: the Jews are the ‘other’ and the Jews “bring their vic­tim­hood upon themselves.”

This is a time for all of us to stand firmly with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity of France; rather than telling them what they should do, urg­ing them to leave or stay, we should reas­sure them that there is Jew­ish sol­i­dar­ity, that Israel and the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity will do all we can to assure their safety and security.

The sim­ple, yet pro­found, act of thank­ing Prime Min­is­ter Valls for speak­ing up, for not wait­ing until they come for the non-Jews of France before tak­ing an unequiv­o­cal stand for decency and democ­racy, plays no small part in that effort.

We hope our thanks, and yours, will rein­force the resolve of France’s lead­ers and its peo­ple to take the steps nec­es­sary to ensure a safe, secure and vibrant Jew­ish life for the Jews of France.

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January 20, 2015 0

Calling Radical Islam What It Is

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

If we want to win the war against rad­i­cal Islam — and in my view it should be the num­ber one pri­or­ity of the West­ern and Mus­lim worlds — we need to call it what it is. Too often, out of a mis­placed sense of polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, polit­i­cal lead­ers, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and French Pres­i­dent Fran­coise Hol­lande, avoid iden­ti­fy­ing the extrem­ists as pro­po­nents of a rad­i­cal Islamic ideology.

The solu­tion to the threat lies pri­mar­ily within the Mus­lim world itself. Main­stream Mus­lims must on every level, start­ing with edu­ca­tion, dis­cour­age young peo­ple from tak­ing the extrem­ist path. But if we in the West are reluc­tant to explic­itly say what it is, why should Mus­lim mod­er­ates speak and act?

I address this as some­one who rep­re­sents an orga­ni­za­tion that stands up against defam­ing of Mus­lims in gen­eral or Islam as a reli­gion. When indi­vid­u­als try to show their bona fides in sup­port of Israel by claim­ing that Islam as a reli­gion is ter­ror­ist or that most Mus­lims are, we stand up to say no.

In Europe, the hes­i­tancy to say the words “rad­i­cal Islam” may largely be the prod­uct of intim­i­da­tion or the fear of vio­lent retal­i­a­tion. That is why the com­ments by French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls before the French Par­lia­ment and in an inter­view with Jef­frey Gold­berg of the Atlantic are so important.

He pulled no punches and told it like it is. The enemy is rad­i­cal Islam. French soci­ety must stand up against the out­rage com­mit­ted by jihadists against France and against the Jews of France. The jihadist ide­ol­ogy surely does not rep­re­sent most Mus­lims and it is a hijack­ing of Islam, but the incite­ment to vio­lence and the acts of ter­ror are done in the name of Islam and influ­enced by teach­ers of fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam in schools and other insti­tu­tions through­out the Mus­lim world.

As Michael Walzer has writ­ten, it is not prej­u­dice but ratio­nal to fear Islamism, as opposed to Islam. When ele­ments within a reli­gious com­mu­nity pro­mote anti-democratic atti­tudes and anti-Semitism, and turn to ter­ror, anti-democratic atti­tudes, and anti-Semitism, it is not racist to oppose it forcefully.

There is noth­ing sim­ple about try­ing to fig­ure out how to defeat the rise of this rad­i­cal­ism within the Mus­lim world.  Social, eco­nomic and polit­i­cal forces within Mus­lim coun­tries and in rela­tions between the west and the Mus­lim world all con­tribute to it.

But what we know from past strug­gles against total­i­tar­ian move­ments, whether Nazism or Com­mu­nism, is that they require clear and prin­ci­pled think­ing to directly engage the danger.

That starts with say­ing that Islam and Mus­lims are not the enemy, they are part of the solu­tion.  We need to empha­size and acknowl­edge that there is prej­u­dice against Mus­lims because of recent events and to emphat­i­cally oppose it.

But we also must not hes­i­tate to point out that those who suf­fer the most from rad­i­cal Islam are Mus­lims them­selves. Just think of the recent news in Pak­istan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Nige­ria: Mus­lims being mur­dered, mosques being attacked by extrem­ist Muslims.

The basic mes­sage from polit­i­cal, reli­gious and civic lead­ers must be that all good peo­ple are in this strug­gle together. The Islamic extrem­ists are a threat to Mus­lims, a threat to Jews, a threat to civilization.

Just like the strug­gle against Nazism and Com­mu­nism were defeated by a col­lec­tive effort and by a set of clear ideas, this 21st cen­tury strug­gle can be won as well.

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January 16, 2015 1

Ohio Arrest Is First Islamic Extremism Related Plot Since 2013

Christopher Lee Cornell

Christo­pher Lee Cornell

Wednesday’s arrest of Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell, a 20-year-old U.S. cit­i­zen from Ohio, marked the first Islamic extremism-related arrest of 2015 and the first inci­dent of an attempted domes­tic ter­ror attack moti­vated by a rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of Islam since 2013.

Cor­nell is accused of attempt­ing to attack the U.S. Capi­tol build­ing by plant­ing and det­o­nat­ing pipe bombs at and near the build­ing and then using a semi-automatic rifle to increase casu­alty counts. The plot was the first since Decem­ber 2013, when Kansas res­i­dent Terry Lee Loewen allegedly attempted to bomb the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Cornell’s alleged plot comes at a time of increas­ing calls for vio­lence and home­grown extrem­ism by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS), as well as the con­tin­ued influ­ence of Al Qaeda pro­pa­gan­dists includ­ing Anwar al-Awlaki and the power of social media in the mod­ern rad­i­cal­iza­tion process.  Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011, was an English-language spokesman for Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula (AQAP).

Cor­nell was report­edly hop­ing to under­take his attack as a way to sup­port ISIS. This fits with cur­rent trends in extrem­ism: The vast major­ity of the iden­ti­fied Amer­i­cans known to have engaged with extrem­ism in 2014 sought to join or aid ISIS.

Cor­nell, who used the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubay­dah, Tweeted ISIS pro­pa­ganda and Awlaki quotes and appar­ently found jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for his alleged plot in the pro­pa­ganda mate­ri­als he accessed from ISIS and Anwar al-Awlaki.

Although ISIS lead­er­ship is cur­rently at odds with Al Qaeda lead­er­ship, the group still cites Awlaki as an ide­o­log­i­cal leader. It is not uncom­mon for appar­ent ter­ror­ist sup­ports online to share mate­ri­als from both includ­ing ISIS and AQAP despite fight­ing between the groups’ leadership.

Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Cor­nell claimed to have con­tacted mem­bers of ISIS in hopes that they would assist him in his efforts to attack the U.S. He also watched extrem­ist videos and used his com­puter to research bomb mak­ing instruc­tions and infor­ma­tion about how to pur­chase firearms, and he com­mu­ni­cated with an under­cover infor­mant he believed to be a co-conspirator using instant mes­sag­ing ser­vices. He told the infor­mant “I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks,” accord­ing to court documents.

Some of his appar­ent Tweets indi­cated sup­port for lone wolf attacks, includ­ing one that praised attacks in Canada by Mar­tin Rouleau Cou­ture and Michael Zehaf Bibeau stat­ing, “May Allah reward the broth­ers who fought and received Sha­hada (mar­tyr­dom) in Canada! May these recent attacks send ter­ror into the hearts of the kufr (disbelievers)!

Accord­ing to fam­ily mem­bers, Cor­nell had con­verted to Islam less than a year prior to his arrest.

Accord­ing to FBI Direc­tor James Comey, the FBI is cur­rently track­ing nearly 150 Amer­i­cans who trav­eled to Syria, “a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber” of whom went there to fight. Other reports have indi­cated that close to 90 addi­tional Amer­i­cans are believed to have died fight­ing or attempted to travel abroad to join extrem­ist groups but failed.

17 of the 22 indi­vid­u­als who have been pub­licly iden­ti­fied as engag­ing in ter­ror­ism in 2014 sought to join or aid ISIS.

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