US: Two sentenced to prison for foiled terrorist plot on Muslims

The defendants showed remorse as the judge declared them a “threat to everyone in our democratic society.” The two men planned to use homemade explosives in a terrorist plot on a Muslim community in upstate New York.

50060299_303Two men were sentenced to between four and 12 years in prison on Friday after threatening to bomb a Muslim community in the United States.

Defendants Brian Colaneri, 20, and Andrew Crysel, 19, had both entered guilty pleas. Monroe County Court Judge Samuel Valleriani told the pair: “Your terrorist threat was not only an invidious threat to the way of life of your victims, but also a threat to everyone in our democratic society.”

Both defendants expressed remorse, including for conversations they conducted between themselves via an online chat room as part of the plot. The two men had previously pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy in June.

“I never wanted it to go that far,” Colaneri said, according to local media outlet WHEC.

They and two others from the Rochester area were accused of planning to attack Islamberg, a rural religious community in the area of Tompkins, 150 miles (240 kilometers) to the north of New York City. Authorities arrested the individuals in January and said they had access to 23 rifles and shotguns, as well as three homemade explosives.


Western civilisation’s immense debt to Islam

The Alhambra Palace in Granada. ‘The Tory contender should surely acknowledge the outstanding examples of high Arabic society and culture,’ writes Paul Dolan. Photograph: Chris Warren/Alamy

Boris Johnson is painfully ignorant of the immense cultural, economic, and scientific contributions of Muslims (Islam kept Muslim world centuries behind the west, Johnson claimed, 16 July). Western civilisation owes an immense debt to Islam, whether in the form of algebra, the saving of ancient Greek heritage or the free-market economics of Ibn Khaldun.

Johnson is correct that many Muslim-majority nations are beset by social and political problems. Yet the same holds true for numerous Christian-majority nations such as Russia, Honduras, Haiti and South Africa. He also makes a “false equivalence” argument in comparing stable western democracies to war-ravaged countries like Bosnia, seemingly blaming Muslims there for being attacked. Curiously, Muslim extremists promote the same arguments as Johnson, albeit for different aims. Neither depiction is true nor helpful.

Another pathetic observation by the next British PM concerns the Ottoman empire. Johnson takes one oddity of the Turkish dawlah – the resistance to the printing press – and passes over achievements of the sultans such as religious tolerance and the architectural feats of Sinan. He claims this one act of backwardness negates the entire history of Islam, although resistance to technology is apparent even in British history, the luddites a classic case in point.

Johnson’s authority for his ignorance is Winston Churchill. If Churchill said it, it must be true. However, Churchill was neither a historian nor a sociologist. He was a myth-maker whose literary skills were devoted to “demonstrating” the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race over all others. To achieve this sleight of hand, Churchill had to simultaneously denigrate other cultures, including Islam. It seems that Great Britain under Johnson will be beset by similar doses of myth, fantasy and supremacist doctrines.
Dr Colm Gillis
Hethersett, Norfolk


Pop culture got Islam wrong for years. ‘Ramy’ made getting it right look easy.

V2VFDMDV7UI6TJ57ZCSDXBHOGEWhen “Ramy,” comedian Ramy Youssef’s Hulu show about a Muslim Egyptian American millennial debuted in April, it was facing down a lot of pop-culture history. Instead of being a terrorist or a nameless victim, Ramy is the show’s main character. Instead of presenting Islam as a brooding, world-historical force, “Ramy” made religion one of its major subjects, taking audiences inside one person’s spiritual journey. And “Ramy” took on these tasks as the first show on a mainstream, U.S. outlet that centers around Arab and Muslim experiences. That’s a lot of pressure to place on a freshman series, especially one that runs only 10 roughly 25-minute episodes.

But “Ramy” works because it embraces those challenges. Youssef has made it clear that this show is based on his experience as a first-generation American and that he does not expect every viewer to recognize themselves in the show. Instead of driving away viewers with different life stories, the specificity of “Ramy” is what makes it such a pleasure, whether you’re Muslim, Egyptian American, millennial or none of those things at all.

When I moved to the United States in 2010, I was struck by shows such as “Homeland” and “24,” in which the portrayals of Muslims and Arabs were based on negative stereotypes and tropes that are downright wrong and harmful to the Muslim community. We’re constantly portrayed as terrorists or barbaric villains, the women as exotic and oppressed, or caricatures with no depth or nuance. I was confused when I constantly saw a plethora of praise for these types of shows when I felt their representations of Arabs and Muslims were downright wrong. Why were they just ignoring what seemed obvious to me? And it wasn’t just the characters. It was the incorrect translations, the whitewashing of story lines, and the exaggeration of sets, accents and attire. The fact that such simple things were overlooked made me feel as though my culture didn’t matter. I was upset, but I quickly turned that anger into what I felt would be more useful: I wanted to be informative to others and to let people know that some of their favorite shows contain harmful errors.

Watching “Ramy,” by contrast, was refreshing. Instead of presenting Islam as nothing more than a spur to — or a check on — terrorism, “Ramy” explores a more familiar dilemma: Ramy fully embraces his religion but is torn by the temptations life has to offer“Master of None” tackled these tensions in a single second-season episode about the almost-magical allure of barbecued pork that struck me as simultaneously exaggerated and underdeveloped. “Ramy” has over-the-top elements, too, such as Ramy’s affair with a married woman, but the series treats temptation as a theme worth exploring at much greater length.


Hostility to Islam has disguised a host of other prejudices

Erhard_Reuwich_Sarazenen_1486.pngIn 2011, when the editor of Charlie Hebdo put Muhammad on the cover, he did so as the heir to more than 200 years of a peculiarly French brand of anti-clericalism. Just as radicals in the Revolution had desecrated churches and smashed icons, so did cartoonists at France’s most scabrous magazine delight in satirising religion. Although Catholicism was their principal target, they were perfectly happy to ridicule Islam too. If Jesus could be caricatured, then why not Muhammad?

Sure enough, one year after the prophet’s first appearance on the cover of Charlie Hebdo, he was portrayed again, this time crouching on all fours and with his genitals bared. The mockery would not cease, so the magazine’s editor vowed, until ‘Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism’. This would be, in a secular society, for Muslims to be treated as equals.

Except that they were not being treated as equals. The scorning of Islam was a tradition in France that reached back far beyond the time of Voltaire and Diderot. The earliest European caricature of Muhammad served to illustrate a work by Peter the Venerable, a 12th-century abbot in Burgundy. Peter’s Summa totius haeresis Saracenorum — ‘A Summary of the Entire Heresy of the Saracens’ — did what it said on the tin. Islam was a monstrous perversion of Christian teachings. Not merely a heresy, it was the sump of all heresies. Muhammad, its founder, was ‘the chosen disciple of the Devil’. The caricature of him which accompanied Peter’s text duly showed him as a siren: a monstrous compound of the human and the bestial, luring the unwary to their doom.

This portrayal of Muhammad as a heresiarch, a charlatan who had thrived by twisting the truths of Christianity to his own pestilential ends, was in turn heir to an even older tradition. As John Tolan points out in his new book, condemnation of Islam as a heresy did at least derive from a recognition on the part of Latin Christians that it was not an entirely alien faith: that it honoured the biblical prophets; that it laid claim to a divine law; that it was monotheistic.


Unique museum informs Australians about Islam


The Islamic Museum of Australia in Melbourne provides information on the history, life and identity of Muslims in the country. Founded by Australian Muslim businessman Moustafa Fahour with the support of the Australian federal government, the museum is the first and only Islamic museum in the country.

Since opening in 2014, it has hosted more than 50,000 visitors. Open six days a week, the museum organizes various conferences and events in different fields such as calligraphy, historical art, miniature painting, handicrafts and current events. “We want them to experience and learn about the beauty of Islam,” said the museum director, Maryum Chaudhry.


How Islam shaped the West

2019_20_ottomanEarly modern Europe and the “shame-praising” of the Muslim world.

 by Rowan Williams 

St Augustine was probably the first major thinker to discuss at length how states use enemies for their own internal purposes. He traces with acid clarity the way in which the Roman Republic begins to collapse from its inner tensions and conflicts once Carthage, the great historic enemy, has been destroyed, and concludes that if you have no means of generating coherence and justice within your own polity, you will always be on the lookout for new enemies on to whom you can displace the threats arising from your own political failures.

It is an analysis that applies with uncanny accuracy to a range of modern political phenomena, from the insanity of the nuclear arms race in the Cold War to various more recent mythologies, including some popular characterisations of “the West” against “the Muslim world”. Noel Malcolm’s brilliant study looks at a period not wholly unlike the Cold War: the three centuries during which the Ottoman empire was the unsettling Other to the Western Europe of early modernity. It was a period of sporadic (sometimes very extreme) military collision and long stretches of uneasy stand-off, complicated by the fact that the empire could be and was drawn into the diplomatic and military conflicts between Western states. Malcolm has some wry and intriguing pages on the theological gymnastics required to justify the fairly consistent pro-Ottoman diplomatic policies and strategic alliances of the “Most Christian” kings of France.


Islam And Environmentalism

shutterstock_686756524By Austin Bodetti

Across the Global South, community leaders, politicians, and scientists are wrestling with how to rally their compatriots to combat climate change and prepare their countries for the dangers of environmental degradation. In several corners of the Muslim world, academics and environmentalists have looked for inspiration from a source that has mobilized countless past social movements: Islam itself.

“Islam views humans as trustees and guardians of the natural environment,” says Odeh Rashid al-Jayyousi, chairman of the Innovation and Technology Management Department at Arabian Gulf University and author of Islam and Sustainable Development. “Caring for any living organism is rewarded. Every species is in a state of prayer, and hence disturbing or hurting any species is simply silencing a community of worshippers or disrupting the symphony of life.”

The Quran and the Hadith, a collection of religious texts that recount the actions and sayings of Mohammad, emphasize the importance of environmental protection. Many Muslim environmentalists like to cite the famous Quranic directive, “Do not commit abuse on the Earth, spreading corruption.”

“Islam instills a sense of hope and optimism about the role of humans in creating balance,” al-Jayyousi tells LobeLog. “Reflecting on the destiny of past civilizations is key, as it deepens the meaning of cycles of life and the impact of humans on the environment. Celebrating diversity and beauty is a form of worship. The signs in nature and the cosmos are sources for reflection and deep learning.”