The Islamic State spy who betrayed al-Baghdadi was an insider motivated by revenge

By Richard Engel and Marc Smith

191030-mazloum-abdi-al-1212_df949716b3ce2e2e5c69f34d8071b01a.fit-2000wNORTHERN SYRIA — ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was betrayed by a member of his inner circle who helped lead American troops to his compound in Northern Syria.

The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Gen. Mazloum Abdi, gave NBC News a detailed account of how he spent months running a spy inside ISIS who followed al-Baghdadi as he moved from one safehouse to another, until he was finally trapped in a tunnel beneath one of them.

Abdi did not identify the source, but Kurdish intelligence officials described him as an Arab who had many relatives in ISIS.

Abdi said the informant’s main motivation was revenge.

“I think he was under a lot of pressure from his family,” the general said. “His relatives were subjected to harsh treatment by ISIS and he no longer believed in the future of ISIS. He wanted to take revenge on ISIS and al-Baghdadi himself.”

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The spy was in a unique and extremely rare position to exact his revenge.

“He was, you could say, a security official,” the general said. “A personal security official for al-Baghdadi himself, in charge of al-Baghdadi’s movements. “

FULL ARTICLE FROM NBC NEWS 

Christianity grows in Syrian town once besieged by Islamic State

syriaThe converts say the experience of war and the onslaught of a group claiming to fight for Islam pushed them toward their new faith. After a number of families converted, the Syrian-Turkish border town’s first evangelical church opened last year.

Islamic State militants were beaten back by U.S. air strikes and Kurdish fighters at Kobani in early 2015, in a reversal of fortune after taking over swaths of Iraq and Syria. After years of fighting, U.S.-backed forces fully ended the group’s control over populated territory last month.

Though Islamic State’s ultra-radical interpretation of Sunni Islam has been repudiated by the Islamic mainstream, the legacy of its violence has affected perceptions of faith.

Many in the mostly Kurdish areas of northern Syria, whose urban centers are often secular, say agnosticism has strengthened and in the case of Kobani, Christianity.

Christianity is one of the region’s minority faiths that was persecuted by Islamic State.

Critics view the new converts with suspicion, accusing them of seeking personal gain such as financial help from Christian organizations working in the region, jobs and enhanced prospects of emigration to European countries.

The newly-converted Christians of Kobani deny those accusations. They say their conversion was a matter of faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS 

 

Are Muslims and Christians at war? The data says no

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(CNN)The bombings on Easter Sunday of eight sites in Sri Lanka, including three churches, seemed designed not only to inflict mass casualties but also to send a message.

Initial investigations showed the chain of bombings was carried out by “a radical Islam group,” perhaps as retaliation for mass shootings in March at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sri Lanka’s state defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardana, said Tuesday.
ISIS has reportedly taken credit for the slaughter in Sri Lanka but did not immediately offer proof of its involvement.
To some, the bombings, carried out on the holiest day in the Christian calendar, has fed a narrative of religious war. Christians and Muslims, this theory goes, are increasingly at odds and willing to strike at each other’s spiritual hearts — sanctuaries.
To be utterly clear: Any attack on any house of worship is heinous and should be unequivocally condemned. In too many parts of the world, Christians are attacked by Muslims and vice versa.
But taking the long view, the data on terrorist attacks does not support a narrative of incipient religious war or sanctuaries facing increasing threats.
From 1970 to 2017, attacks at houses of worship comprised just 1.45% of all terrorist attacks worldwide, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism(START) at the University of Maryland.

Life under ISIS led these Muslims to Christianity

190201-syria-church-mc-451_d751479b6750bbbdaa140bb3e7ebd1b6.fit-2000w.JPGBy Yuliya Talmazan

Four years have passed since the Islamic State group’s fighters were run out of Kobani, a strategic city on the Syrian-Turkish border, but the militants’ violent and extreme interpretation of Islam has left some questioning their faith.

A new church is attracting converts. It is the first local Christian place of worship for decades.

“If ISIS represents Islam, I don’t want to be a Muslim anymore,” Farhad Jasim, 23, who attends the Church of the Brethren, told NBC News. “Their God is not my God.”

Religious conversions are rare and taboo in Syria, with those who abandon Islam often ostracized by their families and communities.

“Even under the Syrian regime before the revolution, it was strictly forbidden to change religion from Islam to Christianity or the opposite,” said Omar, 38, who serves as an administrator at the Protestant church. (He asked for his last name not to be revealed for safety reasons. The church’s priest declined to be interviewed.)

“Changing your religion under ISIS wasn’t even imaginable. ISIS would kill you immediately,” he added.

While residents are still dealing with the emotional scars left by the brutality of ISIS, Omar says many people in Kobani have been open-minded about Christianity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NBC NEWS 

Seventeen years after 9/11, Muslims are still “presumed guilty”

5b97d42ba597b.imageWhen people ask Todd Green why Muslims don’t condemn terrorism — and they do ask, often — he has a quick response: “Have you ever Googled ‘Muslims condemning terrorism’?”

One of the top search results is MuslimsCondemn.com, an online database created almost two years ago by a 19-year-old college student. “You could spend all day on that site reading Muslims’ condemnations,” Green said.

The site lists statements from organizations like the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Islamic Society of North America; religious leaders like Imam Omar Suleiman and Imam Suhaib Webb; and political leaders and civil activists like London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Linda Sarour, former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.

Fatwas have been declared, campaigns have been launched, memorials and prayer vigils have been held — all in the name of standing up against extremism.

Todd Green
Todd Green is the author of “Presumed Guilty.” Courtesy Todd Green

But somehow, Green says, some people seem to have missed out on how vocally most Muslims stand against terrorism, extremism and violence. In his new book “Presumed Guilty: Why We Shouldn’t Ask Muslims to Condemn Terrorism,” the associate professor of religion at Iowa’s Luther College cautions fellow non-Muslim Americans against what he calls not only a “troubling and unethical” double standard, but also “a form of racist scapegoating.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE OAKLAND PRESS 

Study links anti-Muslim discrimination with radicalization

AP17304740112134-e1509493936211-640x400Every time a domestic terrorist kills innocent bystanders or heads abroad to join the Islamic State group, experts and pundits try to explain the inexplicable: Why would a person do that?

A new study takes a novel approach to studying radicalization. The findings suggest that it may be the outgrowth of ethnic, racial or religious discrimination.

The study, published in Science Advances, finds an association between anti-Muslim hate and susceptibility to Muslim radicalization in regions of the United States that are poorest and most homogeneous. And it suggests the ethnic diversity of the U.S. may protect against radicalization because people are less prone to pit one group against the other.

The study, done by sociologists at Duke University and a statistician from the University of California, Berkeley, examined internet search data provided by Google in 3,099 counties across the U.S. Specifically, the researchers looked at average monthly search data to see if people in the same geographical areas searched for phrases such as “Muslims are violent” and “How to join ISIS.”

The findings, collected between August 2014 and July 2016, suggest pro-ISIS sympathy is most prevalent in communities with high levels of anti-Muslim sentiment.

“One interpretation of this finding is that violent extremism results from the failure of ethnic integration,” said Chris Bail, a sociologist at Duke and the study’s lead researcher. “People of immigrant background experience a disconnect between their family heritage and their receiving society’s culture and thus become vulnerable to extremist narratives.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

False Assumptions About Muslims in the Age of ISIS

By Todd Green 3-28-2016

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In the aftermath of the Brussels and Pakistan attacks, we once again find ourselves in a heightened climate of panic and anxiety. The widespread fears emanating from these attacks, while understandable, nonetheless can get the best of us, tempting us to buy into deceitful propaganda that views all Muslims as enemies.

The Christian tradition calls its followers not to bear false witness. So how do we live out this calling? What does it mean not to bear false witness against Muslims in the age of ISIS? Here are three false assumptions, if not outright lies, often repeated about Muslims and terrorism, along with some facts that can help us have more honest conversations about our Muslim neighbors and about the violence we encounter in western nations.

1. Muslims do not condemn ISIS or terrorism.

The problem with these calls is that they ignore the many instances in which Muslims have condemned ISIS and terrorism. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Al-Azhar’s Grand Mufti, the Arab League, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim Council of Britain have all condemned ISIS in no uncertain terms. More than 100 Muslims scholars signed an open letter to al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliph, to condemn his interpretations of Islam.