The arrests of three Rochester-area men and a 16-year-old who had access to homemade explosives and firearms sent shockwaves through the community, The Muslims of America said in a prepared statement. The small community has been dogged by allegations on right-wing websites that it is a terrorist training camp, and it was the target of a similar plot in 2015.
“It is beyond tragic that our nation continues to fester with Islamophobia, hate and religious intolerance,” the group said in a prepared statement. “To bring justice and properly deter similar terrorist plots against our community, we are calling for the individuals charged, as well as their accomplices, to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Authorities in suburban Rochester on Tuesday announced weapons possession and conspiracy charges against Brian Colaneri, 20; Andrew Crysel, 18; and Vincent Vetromile, 19. A 16-year-old student at Odyssey Academy in Greece, a Rochester suburb, was charged as an adolescent offender.
Films and television programmes are powerful mediums that are often taken for granted. They are major sources of entertainment and escapism, as well as often offering educational commentary on society, informing us about ideas and cultures we aren’t familiar with. We are often excited to watch the latest blockbuster summer releases, but if you are Muslim, that excitement also comes with a dose of apprehension.
Muslims see time and time again how carelessly or intentionally film and television makers bandy around stereotypes about Muslim communities. The ways in which Muslims are represented in films and in television are shocking. And this is why we need the Riz Test.
The Riz Test is defined by five criteria: If the film stars at least one character who is identifiably Muslim (by ethnicity, language or clothing) – is the character…
1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of Islamist terrorism?
2. Presented as irrationally angry?
3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern?
4. Presented as a threat to a Western way of life?
5. If the character is male, is he presented as misogynistic? Or if female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts? If the answer for any of the above is yes, then the film/show fails the test. Simple.
It should be easy for most films to pass, right? Wrong.
Prosecutors announced recently that Alexandre Bissonnette will go straight to trial on a slew of charges arising from his attack on a Mosque in Quebec City earlier this year. Despite killing six and wounding 19 in the brazen assault on worshippers, he is not charged with terrorism.
The announcement came on the heels of the Las Vegas massacre where 59 were killed and 527 injured. No terrorism charges there either, even though it meets the Nevada state definition.
No doubt that in both cases people were terrorized. Yet, the terrorism label is sparsely used.
Technically, because there no universally accepted definition, authorities can selectively apply it. Indeed, one person’s terrorist may be another’s criminal or freedom fighter. To many observers, the term appears to be reserved for “others.”
Stephen Paddock was not a terrorist, according to Las Vegas Sheriff, Joe Lombardo, who immediately labelled him a “local individual” and a “lone wolf.” Similarly, Bissonnette may have been “disturbed.” And of course, they were both “sick” and “demented.”
If they were Muslims, they would be “homegrown” terrorists committing “jihad” or “Islamic terrorism.” Mental health or personal issues would not have factored as much.
The Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed, entirely or in part, for political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause that has “the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public with regard to its security.”
There are plenty of reports documenting the Laval political science student’s journey from a moderate conservative to someone with far-right sympathies and connections, though this may not satisfy strict evidentiary requirements.
Wajahat Ali is a political commentator, Emmy-nominated producer, playwright and attorney.
“Children, if you’re a Nazi or a white nationalist, your president will stand up for you. If you’re Muslim? Immigrant? Black? Female? Sorry, you’re on your own. Perhaps work at Trump Towers or compete in Miss Universe in order to make it. Good luck!”
I never considered saying this to my two babies, but then again I never thought a president would make moral equivalences and excuses for white supremacist terrorism. After Tuesday’s news conference, we know that President Trump believes thereare “both sides” to the tragic violence in Charlottesville that left one woman dead and 19 injured. There are apparently “many sides” to the conflict, but only one man, James Alex Fields, a Nazi sympathizer, who was charged with deliberately plowing his car into a crowd killing Heather Heyer, an anti-racism advocate. In reviewing his response to the Charlottesville tragedy, it seems Trump has different standards for different Americans: one for his base, the alt-right, and another for Muslims and people of color.
According to Trump, there were “very fine people” in the weekend rally assembled by members of the alt-right. Some of these “very fine people” included white men and women in Old Navy and Gap clothes carrying Tiki torches bought at Walmart, many armed to the teeth, shouting anti-Semitic and racist slogans and lifting their arms in Nazi salutes. Even though they chanted, “The Jews will not replace us!”, I’m sure they’ll give a pass to the president’s Jewish grandchildren. These misunderstood men are nuanced, sophisticated and generous. They deserve careful restraint in denouncing them.
Muslim leaders have reacted to the attack in Finsbury Park, north London, with shock, condemnation and calls for security at mosques to be stepped up. Many also said the backdrop of the attack was rising Islamophobia.
Support also came from Christian, Jewish and Sikh leaders.
The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack near the Muslim Welfare House. Harun Khan, the MCB’s secretary general, said: “It appears from eyewitness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia. Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date.
“Given we are approaching the end of the month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid, with many Muslims going to local mosques, we expect the authorities to increase security outside mosques as a matter of urgency.”
Muslim communities wanted “transformative action … to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia”, he added.
The Muslim Association of Britain said it unreservedly condemned “this evil terror attack” and called on police to increase security in mosques.
It demanded politicians “treat this major incident no less than a terrorist attack. We call on the government to do more to tackle this hateful evil ideology which has spread over these past years and resulted in an increase of Islamophobic attacks and division of our society, as well as spreading of hate.”
I am the same age as Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber, and almost the same age as the recently named London Bridge terrorists; I also profess to be of the same faith. Thankfully, these are the only two things we have in common. As well as studying medicine at university, I currently serve as the president of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association. I spend a lot of my time working to organize interfaith dialogues and peace conferences. So how exactly did we turn out so different? And could knowing the answer to this help reduce the numbers of young people being brainwashed into extremism?
The primary answer to this is education. Even in childhood, I always asked questions about my religion – and as I grew up, I had access to imams and elders ready to answer them. I was free to challenge them, to ask the toughest and most sensitive questions about the most “controversial” aspects of Islam.
Through this process I learnt that Islam teaches there is no compulsion in religion, that taking even a single life is equivalent to killing to the whole of mankind, and that saving a life is equivalent to saving the whole of humanity. I learnt that the concept of jihad is not about spreading religion through force, but about struggling against one’s own evil desires in order to reform oneself and become a pure-hearted, decent individual.
I learnt that the Prophet Mohammed taught that loyalty to one’s nation of residence is part of one’s faith, reinforced by the fact that at least once a year at our religious functions we publicly make the pledge to serve our country whenever required. I learnt about the role of charity in Islam, and what the Qur’an calls the “steep ascent” – the true means of attaining nearness to God: “It is the freeing of a slave, or feeding in a day of hunger, an orphan near of kin, or a poor man lying in the dust.”
Just this week we saw another young British Muslim, 22-year-old Salman Abedi disgracefully murdering young children, those of whom were his own peers, in an arena in Manchester.
This is not the first time that young people have turned to violence and terrorism. Whether it has been 17-year old Talha Asmal in Dewsbury or the young girls from Bethnal Green who, unbeknown to their parents and peers, concocted a plan to join Isis in Syria. It has all been seen before: “loving, kind, caring” teenagers who all of a sudden become murderers and members of a death cult. Young people that, in the end, vowed to evil methods to express their grievances.
Yet, how many ordinary young British Muslims have we consulted about this issue? Have their voices really been heard on this issue that primarily affects them? Of course, many of those groomed by radicalisation have accepted an ideological pathway that pits themselves against the rest, no matter how inhumane it might be. But could Salman Abedi’s Libyan heritage have been a grievance, caused by a failed British intervention destroying Libya and leaving a power vacuum filled by extremists, as claimed by one of his friends on Radio 4? Could an open dialogue have prevented such a drastic conversion?