• A first: PA, PLO on trial in New York for supporting terrorism

    On Tuesday, a New York federal court opened a trialwhich will decide whether the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) should be held responsible for seven shootings and bombings that killed thirty-three people and wounded more than 450, some of them Americans, in Jerusalem between 2002 and 2004. The lawsuit was launched in 2004 by victims and families of victims, and was filed under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991. It seeks up to $1 billion from the PA and the PLO.

  • Understanding Muhammad: we need a more informed approach

    In any terrorist attack by Muslim extremists perpetrated in the name of Islam — such as the recent Charlie Hebdo atrocity — discussions about the Prophet Muhammad, his life, and his teachings come to the fore in Western societies. From the “prophet of peace” to a kind of terrorist antichrist, ideas about who Muhammad was and what he means vary among both Muslims and non-Muslims. There is no similarity between al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Muhammad and the Muhammad of a Sufi Muslim. But how much of this discussion is relevant to understanding the motivations behind Islamic extremism? How can the West understand Muhammad impartially, and what is Muslims’ relationship with Muhammad?

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  • What drives killers like the Ottawa or Paris attackers?

    Zehaf-Bibeau, the Islamist convert who recently killed a Canadian military reservist on duty in Ottawa, Canada, represents a type of attacker rarely discussed — a person so obsessed with an overvalued idea that it defines their identity and leads them to commit violence without regard for the consequences. Although it appears that the assailants in Paris had more ties with terrorist organizations, the individuals still fit the description of people acting on overvalued ideas.

  • U.S. fight against extremism, terrorism hobbled by Obama’s qualms about using the term “Islamist”: Critics

    On 18 February the White House will host a global summit on “Countering Violent Extremism.” Critics say that the title of the summit captures a disturbing aspect of the administration’s efforts to counter terrorism: The preference for using anodyne language about the nature of the challenge rather than calling it for what it is – terrorism carried out by Islamic extremists, or, even more sweepingly, Islamist-fueled terrorism.The administration’s reluctance is not merely a problem of nomenclature, a refusal to employ terminology which may be overly broad or which might be offensive to some, says one critic. Rather, it evinces a lack of strategic focus, weakening the U.S. hand in the fight and undermining efforts to counter Islamist extremists and their supporters.

  • Delicate balance: Fighting extremist Islamists while guarding against anti-Muslim backlash

    The terror attack on Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris has shed more light on the problem France is facing dealing with extremist elements in its Muslim population. As is the case with many young Muslims who have recently joined militant groups, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, the two brothers involved in the Charlie Hebdo attack, were French-born, leaving many in France to wonder how fellow Europeans could have become violent extremists. Many Muslim immigrants to France live in the grimy banlieues, the ugly and impersonal “suburbs” consisting of exposed-concrete housing projects on the outskirts of large French cities, and these shantytowns are also where the most radical elements of the Muslim population effectively market their ideology to young, vulnerable, and largely under-educated and unemployed Muslim men.

  • U.K. anti-radicalization strategy is not working: Critics

    The surge in young Britons flocking to Syria and the Middle East to join radical Islamist groups is a result of failed policies and inadequate funding for anti-radicalization efforts, according to counterterrorism experts. In 2007 the Labor government established Prevent, a counterterrorism strategy aiming to deter individuals from becoming radicalized. Critics say that Prevent, especially as it is being carried out under the current government, is failing to tackle radicalism at its roots.The current strategy is “focusing only on people who have already been radicalized,” but she warns, “prevention is better than cure,” says Labor MP Hazel Blears who introduced the Prevent program when she was a member of the cabinet.

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  • Controversial French comedian Dieudonné investigated over “Charlie Coulibaly” post

    The anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is in hot water again. The Paris prosecutor’s office has said it has opened an investigation into the comedian’s Facebook post, in which he mocked Sunday’s mass rallies against Jihadist terrorism in France. “Know that tonight, for me, I feel CharlieCoulibaly,” Dieudonné wrote in his post, merging the names of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper where two gunmen massacred twelve people, with that of Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four Jewish hostages at a kosher supermarket.

  • Sisi calls for “revolutionizing” Islam

    In an important speech delivered to Islamic scholars at Al Azhar University, Egyptian president Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi calls for revolutionizing Islam. “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing, and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!” he said. “That thinking — I am not saying “religion” but “thinking” — that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!” adding: “I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution.”

  • Boko Haram's deadliest massacre yet: 2,000 dead

    Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist insurgency, has been gaining ground in the face of what Western security analysts consider an ineffective, even counterproductive, campaign by an incompetent Nigerian military weakened by corruption and lack of professionalism. The number of victims of Bomo Haram’s brutal campaign is mounting exponentially, with the latest tally reaching 2,000 dead in and around the northeastern town of Baga, on the border of the Nigerian border with Chad. Amnesty International described the attack on Baga as the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram. The Baga campaign also saw the first use by Boko Haram of a child suicide bomber: A 10-years old girl detonated powerful explosives concealed under her veil at a crowded Monday Market in Maiduguri, the shopping hub in a city which is at the heart of the Boko Haram insurgency.

  • Gunmen, holding hostages, surrounded by police in small town outside of Paris

    As we put today’s HSNW issue to bed (06:00 EST), the French security forces are surrounding a printing facility in Dammartin-en-Goële , Seine- et-Marne, where the two brothers who shot and killed twelve people in and around the offices of Charlie Hebdo Wednesday are holed up, holding one or more hostages. We will continue to update the story as events unfold.

  • The ICC may be asked to classify IS's actions against the Yazidis as genocide

    Genocide is defined as the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnical, racial, or religious group. Proving such a case against IS might seem easy enough, but doing so would require complex investigative, analytical, and legal work that Iraq may not have the resources for. Last August, Islamic State (IS) militants seized control of villages in Sinjar, northern Iraq, home to thousands of Yazidis, a minority group who IS has attempted to wipe out due to the group’s religious beliefs. Women and children were raped and sold as slaves, and thousands of Yasidi men were shot or imprisoned. Many were given an ultimatum to convert to Islam or be executed. A new campaign is underway to get the International Criminal Court(ICC) to classify IS’s actions as genocide.

  • Terrorists develop tactics to evade U.S. drones

    The CIA’s use of Predator drones against Islamic militants in the Middle East began shortly after the 9/11 attacks and has increased dramatically during the Obama administration. As the number of drone strikes in Yemen increased, AQAP militants began to develop tactics to hide themselves from a drone’s sensors.

  • Islam, blasphemy and free speech: a surprisingly modern conflict

    From the fatwa on author Salman Rushdie to the attack on the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the phenomenon of anti-blasphemy actions continues to be prominent in the Muslim world. The reality is, however, that the persecution of blasphemers as it is done currently is a very recent phenomenon. Generally, one could say that the Rushdie fatwa was the beginning of this trend, and the founders of Political Islam are the innovators of this trend. A long distance has passed to see Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in place of the thirteenth-century Muslim scholar Jalal ad-Din al-Rumi, who stood for openness and pluralism in Muslim thought and practice, but this underscores the argument that mainstream Muslims remain against the barbaric actions of fundamentalists. It must not be forgotten that many Muslims are suppressed in their countries for the same reasons that Charlie Hebdo was attacked.

  • What we know about the attack on Charlie Hebdo

    The two gunmen who attacked the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo — Cherif Kouachi, 32, and his brother Said, 34 — are French citizens of Algerian origin. Cherif Kouachi has been involved in radical Islamic activities in France for over a decade, and served time in jail for his 2005 attempt to go to Iraq to join the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda. In the last three years he was active in facilitating the travel of French Muslims to Syria to fight the Assad regime. The third man believed to have been involved in the attack, 18-year old high school student Hamyd Mourad, was allegedly the driver of the car in which the attacker arrived at the magazine’s office and then escaped. He turned himself in to the police, and is now being interrogated. Thousands of police officers and security services personnel have been conducting a massive manhunt for the two brothers, focusing on the city of Reims – a city of about 200,000 located eighty miles northeast of Paris, in the Champagne-Ardenne region.

  • Charlie Hebdo offends – and we must defend its right to do so

    Now we must reaffirm the importance of absolute freedom of expression in an open society — regardless of how offensive it might be to some and, on occasion, how puerile it may become. Freedom of expression is absolute or it is nothing at all. It cannot be parceled out so that we are only free at particular times or in specific circumstances. That’s how it becomes a privilege rather than a right. That’s how the self-appointed guardians get to decide what is and isn’t acceptable. Unpalatable as it may be on occasion, we all have the responsibility to engage robustly with those we dislike, or even despise. We have to do it in a manner that excludes violence and encourages discourse, debate, and clarification. We must recognize and face the problem: An over-sensitive culture has emerged — not in some far-away place but right here in the West. Violent attacks like those in Paris are still rare but this is a culture that will engender many future acts of conflict unless we regain the real sense of what tolerance means. It is not indifference to others or turning a blind eye but healthy, pointed and, on occasion, offensive engagement.