The FBI recommended new recruits read anti-Islam books

The FBI was teaching new recruits about Muslims with a PowerPoint presentation that recommended they read anti-Islam books, according to a grainy copy of the PowerPoint obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California chapter and the Asian Law Caucus, a San Francisco-based civil rights group.

The two groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year inquiring about government surveillance of American Muslim communities. The 62-page document, first reported by the Danger Room, was designed to help agents perform “successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the Middle East.”

Spencer Ackerman of the Danger Room says as recently as January 2009, the FBI thought its agents ought to know the following crucial information about Muslims: (1) They engage in a “circumcision ritual.” (2) More than 9,000 of them are in the U.S. military (3) Their religion “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.”


The Growth of Islamophobia: Can Careless Talk Cost Lives?

FOR a few hours after the killings in Norway, when many people guessed that the perpetrators were Muslims, the blogosphere buzzed with told-you-so indignation from those who argue that the threat to the Western world from political Islam has been underestimated. Surely now, it was said, people would see the need for vigilance, not only against Islamically inspired violence but against any Muslim talk that abets such violence.

Soon after, as it emerged that the killer was a self-appointed warrior for the white Christian West, the boot was on the other foot: defenders of Muslim rights began arguing that xenophobic violence, even by the unhinged, was abetted by any language that demonised Islam and all those who practise it. Then it came to light that many of the best-known critics of Islam in Britain and the United States were cited in Anders Breivik’s rambling 1,500-page manifesto. To some this seemed like proof that Islamophobic talk, even of the most cerebral kind, could have a cost in blood.


Norway, Islam and the Threat of the West

A few years ago, the respected Cambridge scholar T J Winter, also known by his Muslim name of Abdal Hakim Murad, gave a fascinating lecture to Humanities staff and students at the University of Leicester. The title was “Islam and the threat of the West”, turning on its head the more usual – then and now – “Islam and the threat to the West”.

It was a novel approach which, in a nutshell, illustrated that, historically, aggression has been directed more from Europe to the Muslim world than the other way round. His evidence for such a view was impeccably sourced.

I thought about Abdal Hakim’s talk this morning as I read the reports coming in of the dreadful bombing and shooting in Norway wherein, of course, there was speculation that these two events were “Islamic-terror related”. No doubt we will learn more over the coming days, but the early signs are, in fact, that the perpetrator was a “blond, blue-eyed Norwegian” with “political traits towards the right, and anti-Muslim views”. Not surprisingly, the man’s intentions were neither linked to these “traits”, nor to his postings on “websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies”. Any influence “remains to be seen”; echoes of Oklahoma 1995.

Interestingly, this criminal is described by one unnamed Norwegian official as a “madman”. He may well be, but this is one way that the motivations for heinous crimes can be airbrushed out of the story before they have the chance to take hold in the popular imagination.


Norway Attacks: Muslims Feel the Sting of Initial Blame

In the immediate wake of the bombing and mass shooting inNorway that left at least 92 people dead Friday, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg declared that it was too early to say whether terrorism was involved.

Some interpreted the statement to mean it was unclear whether Muslim extremists were behind the attack.

Right-wing websites quickly pointed the finger at “jihadis,” and Pamela Geller, publisher of the website Atlas Shrugs and executive director of Stop Islamization of America, wrote on her site: “You can ignore jihad, but you cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring jihad.”

Counter-terrorism experts soon weighed in, implicating Al Qaeda.

Then Anders Behring Breivik, described by police as a “right-wing Christian fundamentalist,” was arrested in connection with the attacks.


TLC Announces Islam Reality Show: The Muslims of Dearborn

For a while now, people have batted around the idea of whether and when TV would give us a Muslim Cosby Show: that is, a TV series that would take a mass audience inside the family life of this cultural group for the first time, the way that the Huxtables were the first black family that millions of white viewers tuned to on a regular basis. TLC’s All-American Muslim, debuting in November, is not a sitcom, but it’s something: a reality show about the lives of five Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. (The city, just outside Detroit, has one of the highest concentrations of Muslim citizens in the U.S.)

As with any reality project, this will all be about the execution; it could be done very well or very poorly, but I wouldn’t assume one or the other just because it’s a TLC reality show. But the premise is encouraging for a simple reason. If there a particular cultural group that has been the focus of intense discussion and sometimes hysteria—from 9/11 to the Ground Zero controversy to Herman Cain’s campaign—it should get to be a subject as well as an object. This can’t be as bad as Toddlers and Tiaras, can it?


Malaysia’s PM Establishes Ties with Vatican, Despite Religious Turmoil

Malaysia, where Muslims make up 60 percent of the population, has long been cited as an example and model of a progressive multiracial and multiracial Muslim country. However, its peaceful coexistence has been strained by interreligious tensions and conflicts between the Malay majority and the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities who are mostly Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. Decisions taken by the prime minister’s Department Religious Affairs have exacerbated the situation. A leading example is the ruling that Christians stop using “Allah, the Malay term for God, despite the fact that this has been an accepted practice in Malaysia as it is in Indonesia and the Middle East. Malaysia’s Home Ministry prohibited Catholics from using the word in their Malay-language publications since 2007. Customs officials seized 15,000 Bibles from Indonesia because they used the word “Allah” as a translation for God. However, Malaysia’s High Court overturned a government ban, ruling that the word Allah is not exclusive to Muslims and that others, including Catholics, who had been prohibited by the Home Ministry from using the word in the Malay-language edition of the Catholic monthly the Herald, can now use the term. Incensed by the decision, militants attacked several churches and pledged to prevent Christians from using the word “Allah.” In the aftermath of the attacks, the Malaysian High Court in response to a government appeals granted a stay order on Jan. 7; the government appealed to the higher Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling.


How Muslim Bashing Loses Elections

By Stephan Salisbury

During the 2010 mid-term election campaign, virtually every hard-charging candidate on the far right took a moment to trash a Muslim, a mosque, or Islamic pieties. In the wake of those elections, with 85 new Republican House members and a surging Tea Party movement, the political virtues of anti-Muslim rhetoric as a means of rousing voters and alarming the general electorate have gone largely unchallenged.

It has become an article of faith that a successful 2010 candidate on the right should treat Islam with revulsion, drawing a line between America the Beautiful and the destructive impurities of Islamic cultists and radicals.

“Americans are learning what Europeans have known for years: Islam-bashing wins votes,” wrote journalist Michael Scott Moore in the wake of the 2010 election. His assumption was shared by many then and is still widely accepted today. 


The Rise of Moderate Islam in the Middle East

As we wait for the Salafi leader Kamal Habib at the Cairo Journalists’ Union, a sudden panic comes over me. I’ve just noticed that my translator, Shahira Amin, an Egyptian journalist, is wearing a sleeveless top and that her hair is uncovered. In my experience, Salafis, adherents of a very strict school of Islam, take a dim view of such displays of femininity. I recall a time in Baghdad when a Salafi preacher cursed me for bringing a female photographer to our interview, and an occasion in the Jordanian city of Salt when another Salafi leaped from his chair and thwacked his teenage daughter on the arm when she accidentally entered the room without covering her face from my infidel eyes.

I’ve heard reports that Habib is not the hard-liner he was in the 1970s, when he co-founded the radical Egyptian Islamic Jihad, or the 1980s, when he was jailed in connection with the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. He gave up politics after a decade in prison, but in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, he has reinvented himself as a leader of a more moderate party. He’s held press conferences at the union, so presumably he’s had to make his peace with women who don’t cover their hair.(See pictures of a jihadist’s journey.)

But I fear he may draw the line at a sleeveless top.

I needn’t have worried. When Habib arrives, he shouts a jolly greeting from across the room and then bounds over.

Texas Inmate Set to Die for Hate Crimes: Muslim Victim Pleads for His Life

Washington (CNN) — “I cannot tell you that I am an innocent man. I am not asking you to feel sorry for me, and I won’t hide the truth,” Mark Anthony Stroman said from Texas death row at the Polunsky Correctional Unit in Livingston. “I am a human being and made a terrible mistake out of love, grief and anger, and believe me, I am paying for it every single minute of the day.”

The 41-year-old prisoner is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for a murder he once said was fueled by “patriotism,” but which the state argued was motivated by pure hatred.

The admitted white supremacist was convicted in the deadly shooting of an Indian man, part of a killing spree that began just after the September 11 terror attacks. His target: those he believed were of Middle Eastern background, in revenge and retaliation for the worst domestic terror incident in U.S. history. . . .

One of Stroman’s biggest supporters is the man who survived his ordeal and testified against the defendant. Rais Bhuiyan is a devout Muslim who came to the United States to pursue his education. A decade ago, he was about to be married and was working an extra job. . .

Bhuiyan believes that his attacker does not deserve to die and has created a website,, to urge Texas to spare Stroman’s life.

“In order to live in a better and peaceful world, we need to break the cycle of hate and violence. I believe forgiveness is the best policy, which helps to break this cycle,” he said, calling himself a victim of a hate crime. “I forgave Mark Stroman many years ago. I believe he was ignorant and not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Otherwise he wouldn’t have done what he did.”


Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over “Ground Zero” Mosque

A New York City State Supreme Court justice has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former firefighter against the developers of an Islamic community center near the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan.

Justice Paul G. Feinman in his decision Friday wrote that Timothy Brown lacked any legal standing over the project site, located on Park Place.

Brown had sought to have the site, a former Burlington Coat Factory store, declared a New York City landmark. If Justice Feinman had ruled in Brown’s favor, he would have overturned the local landmark commission’s refusal to have the site declared a landmark.

Brown argued that the site is worthy of landmark status because so many firefighters and police officers died during the attacks in an effort to rescue people.