By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 7/27/2005 | 3:47 pm
Dutch prosecutors said Wednesday they will charge Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutchman of Moroccan descent who was sentenced to life prison for killing controversial film maker Theo van Gogh, as a member of an Islamic terror network, the Hofstad, believed to have plotted attacks against politicians.
Bouyeri, 27, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday for van Gogh's murder, which judges ruled was an act of terrorism since it was motivated by a radical Islamic cause.
Prosecutors said he would now be tried alongside about a dozen other alleged Hofstad members, a network rounded up in the weeks following Van Gogh's assassination. Prosecutors say the group was plotting to kill Parliament members Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, both fierce critics of radical Islam.
The trial of the Hofstad suspects arrested after Van Gogh's death is not expected to start until the end of the year.
During his trial, Bouyeri refused to recognize the court, telling judges only that he wanted the maximum sentence and would do "exactly the same again" if freed.
The killing has been linked to the short film "Submission" made by Van Gogh with the collaboration of Hirsi Ali, in which violence against women in Muslim society is highlighted.
The film, which shows a near-naked woman with Koranic texts on her body, outraged many Muslims around the world. Hirsi Ali, a Muslim 'apostate', has also drawn the wrath of the Muslim community for her outspoken criticism of Muslim society.
Van Gogh's murder set off a chain of arson attacks on mosques and tit-for-tat attacks on churches in the Netherlands. It also brought new life to a debate over the assimilation of some million Muslims from Morocco and Turkey into Dutch society.
A Dutch MP called on the Ministry of Justice to put El Bouyeri in an individual cell to make sure he wouldn't spread his fundamentalist ideas among the prisoners.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Amsterdam said he hoped that stability and security would prevail again in the city.
However, Khadija Arib, a Dutch MP of Moroccan descent, told Morocco Times that the life sentence against El Bouyeri will not change the bad situation of Moroccan and Muslim communities in Holland.
“Coexistence between the Dutch and Muslim communities living in Holland needs some time before getting back to normal,” said Arib.
Arib added that Dutch Moroccan Muslims were expecting this kind of sentence against El Bouyeri, because they considered it a crime, and that Islam has nothing to do with it. She also added that the Moroccan community has suffered from what El Bouyeri did because it has negatively affected the community.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 7/22/2005 | 1:01 pm
An Asian man was shot dead today by police at a London's Stockwell Tube station, Scotland Yard confirmed. Meanwhile, a statement posted today on an Islamic website in the name of an al Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for the latest blasts.
"We can confirm that just after 10 am armed officers entered Stockwell Tube station. A man was challenged by officers and subsequently shot," Scotland Yard said.
Tube services on Victoria and Northern lines have been suspended following a request by the police, London Underground said.
British media reported that about 20 police officers, some of them armed, rushed into the station before a man jumped over the barriers with police giving chase.
The young Asian man, according to witnesses, was shot five times at close range after he had jumped on a train. The train was standing in the station with its doors open when the Asian man ran on, pursued by three plainclothes officers.
There were unconfirmed reports that police believe the suspect was one of the attackers involved in yesterday's incidents.
Thursday's attacks in London bore similarities to the July 7 blasts in that they were also implemented by suicide bombers, but in the fresh attacks, the terrorists ran away when the explosives failed to ignite, said the Guardian on Friday.
Yesterday, police launched a manhunt for the four bombers behind the failed attempt to cause carnage in the capital.
They were scouring CCTV footage from the scene in an attempt to identify the attackers and using the accounts of witnesses - some of whom tried to tackle the bombers as they fled - to build up a picture of what happened.
Officers also stepped up their presence on the London transport system as commuters made their way to work by bus, Tube and train this morning.
Investigators also searched, on Friday, for fingerprints, DNA and other forensic evidence collected from attacks on three subway trains and a double-decker bus that were hauntingly reminiscent of suicide bombings only two weeks before.
What if I was carrying a rucksack?
Muslim leaders called on the police to explain why an Asian man was shot dead at Stockwell station this morning, reported the Guardian. The Muslim Council of Britain said Muslims were concerned there was a "shoot-to-kill" policy in operation.
A spokesman said Muslims he had spoken to this morning were "jumpy and nervous". Inayat Bunglawala said: "I have just had one phone call saying 'What if I was carrying a rucksack?'.
"We are getting phone calls from quite a lot of Muslims who are distressed about what may be a shoot-to-kill policy," said MCB's spokesman.
He added that in the current atmosphere, Muslims were very afraid and other people were looking at them in a very suspicious manner."
A statement posted today on an Islamic website in the name of an al Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for the latest blasts.
The group, Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade, also claimed responsibility for the July 7 bombings which killed 52 people and four suicide bombers.
The statement's authenticity could not be immediately verified.
"Our strikes in the depths of the capital of the British infidels our only a message to other European governments that we will not relent and sit idle before the infidel soldiers will leave the land of the two rivers," said the statement.
The "two rivers" in the statement refer to Iraq's Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
On Tuesday, another statement was issued in the name of the same group threatening to launch "a bloody war" on the capitals of European countries that do not remove their troops from Iraq within a month.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 7/21/2005 | 2:13 pm
Two men have been arrested by armed police in London after four small blasts or attempts at blasts which have disrupted the capital but brought no significant casualties. One man was held near Downing Street and taken away by car. The other was arrested at Great Scotland Yard, a side street nearby.
London endured another smack in the face today, when three Underground stations were evacuated at midday following reports of smoke and explosions.
The incident happened just two weeks after the July 7 attacks that took the lives of more than 54 people in a morning rush hour. Police are also investigating a report of an incident on a bus in east London.
British media have reported that three tube stations including Warren Street, Oval and Shepherd's Bush were evacuated.
Smoke has been seen coming from Oval station, which crews are investigating. There are unconfirmed reports of some kind of explosion at Warren Street station.
Emergency services are attending all three stations. The Hammersmith & City, Victoria and Northern tube lines have been closed.
BBC reported that minor explosions using detonators only have sparked the evacuation of the three tube stations and the closure of three lines.
A route 26 bus in Hackney Road in Bethnal Green had its windows blown out by a blast with no reported casualties, added the newspaper.
However, Andrew Winstanley, the BBC correspondent, said that one person was injured at Warren Street, although the person's condition is unknown.
Police in London say they are not treating the explosions as "a major incident yet".
At Shepherd's Bush station, police told reporters that a man had threatened to blow himself up and then ran off.
Some witnesses said they heard gunshots at Warren Street and saw an assailant running from the scene, but Scotland Yard sources said it was unclear if the noise was from gunfire or detonating caps.
Downing Street said that, given the uncertainty surrounding events, the prime minister, Tony Blair, had cancelled a visit to a school in east London this afternoon. He had been due to meet security chiefs to discuss the July 7 attacks later today.
The Metropolitan police had warned of a risk of further attacks, following the July 7 bombings.
Hunt for third suspect
Police are probing clues among the remains of explosive materials after the blasts.
A police van believed to contain a third suspect has driven off from University College Hospital in central London, near to Warren Street.
But Tony Blair revealed that the arrests made this afternoon are not connected with the bomb attacks.
He did confirm that some forensic material has been recovered from the scene of the blasts.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 8/28/2005 | 6:48 pm
Spain has officially asked Serbia to extradite Abdelmajid Bouchar, a Moroccan suspect in Madrid attacks, who was arrested in Serbia two weeks ago, said a release of the Spanish Prime Minister's Cabinet.
The Spanish Prime Minister's Cabinet approved the extradition request for Moroccan-born Abdelmajid Bouchar, 22, whom prosecutors suspect of a "decisive role" in the coordinated attacks against four morning rush-hour commuter trains on March 11, 2004.
“The government, with full confidence in international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, has decided to seek the extradition of Bouchar for his presumed link to the train bombings," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told a nationally televised news conference after the Cabinet meeting.
Spain's National Court, which is investigating the bombings, wants Bouchar on 191 charges of murder, 1,500 charges of attempted murder, and charges of possession of explosives, Spanish officials said.
A total of 109 people, many of them Moroccan-born, have been charged in the case, and about 20 remain in jail. Charges against Madrid bombing terrorist suspects will be brought after counter-terrorism judges have concluded their investigation, with a trial expected around April 2006.
Abdelmajid Bouchar was one of the last 'outstanding' suspects in the Madrid train bombings. He was arrested two weeks ago by Serbian police for immigration violations and for carrying false Iraqi identification papers, using the name Midhat Salah.
Bouchar refused to cooperate with Serbian authorities, who sent his fingerprints to the international police agency, Interpol.
The Moroccan suspect fled from a Madrid suburban apartment three weeks after the March 11, 2004 train bombings, as police closed in to make arrests there. The National Court said Bouchar's fingerprints were found at two key locations: a rural home near Madrid where the bombs were thought to have been assembled, and a suburban Madrid apartment where seven key suspects blew themselves.
Spanish news reports said Serbian authorities would have 40 days to decide on the extradition but that they have indicated a willingness to send Bouchar to Spain soon.
America's image slightly improved in the Muslim world
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 7/17/2005 | 6:19 pm
A new poll shows that public support for Osama bin Laden and terrorism has sharply declined in several Muslim countries, including Morocco.The Pew Global Attitudes Project research, however, shows that this support remains substantial overall, and has risen slightly in two countries – Pakistan and Jordan.
Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, said the results suggested that "people are tiring of terrorism in these places," perhaps because most of the countries have themselves suffered such attacks. In Morocco, just 26% of the public now say they have a lot or some confidence in Bin Laden, down sharply from 49% in May 2003. In Indonesia, the public is now about evenly split, with 35% saying they place at least some confidence in bin Laden and 37% saying they have little or none; that represents a major shift since 2003, when 58% expressed confidence in bin Laden.
In Lebanon, just 2% report some or a lot of confidence in bin Laden, and in Turkey only 7% do so. However, in Pakistan, a narrow majority (51%) places some measure of confidence in bin Laden, a slight increase from 45% in 2003. And in Jordan, support for the Al Qaeda leader has risen over the last two years from 55% to a current 60%, including 25% who say they have a lot of confidence in him.
Declining support for terror in a number of the Muslim countries surveyed tracks with previously reported dramatic increases in favorable views of the United States.
US image improved
The US is viewed more favorably by people under age 35 than by older people in Morocco, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. As America's image has improved in Morocco over the past year, more young people are giving the US favorable marks (53%) than Moroccans ages 35 and older (45%).
A similar generational gap is seen in Lebanon, where the percentage rating the US favorably has increased from 27% to 42% since 2003. A sizable generational difference is also seen in both Pakistan and Turkey, where overall views of America remain predominantly negative, with younger people 10-to-12 points more likely to give a favorable rating than their seniors.
The polling also found that in most Muslim countries women were less likely to express an opinion of the US than were men, but when they did, they held a somewhat more positive view.
Support for suicide bombers declined
The polling found that in most majority-Muslim countries surveyed, support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence in defense of Islam has declined significantly.
In Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia, 15% or fewer now say such actions are justifiable. In Pakistan, only one-in-four now take that view (25%), a sharp drop from 41% in March 2004. In Lebanon, 39% now regard acts of terrorism as often or sometimes justified, again a sharp drop from the 73% who shared that view in 2002. A notable exception to this trend is Jordan, where a majority (57%) now says suicide bombings and other violent actions are justifiable in defense of Islam.
When it comes to suicide bombings in Iraq, however, Muslims in the surveyed countries are divided. Nearly half of Muslims in Lebanon and Jordan, and 56% in Morocco, say suicide bombings against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable. However, substantial majorities in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia take the opposite view.
Causes of extremism
The latest survey, conducted among more than 17,000 people in 17 countries this spring, finds that while many Muslims believe that radical Islam poses a threat, there are differing opinions as to its causes. Sizable minorities in most predominantly Muslim countries, including Morocco and Pakistan point to poverty, joblessness and a lack of education, but pluralities in Jordan and Lebanon cite U.S. policies as the most important cause of Islamic extremism.
Fear of Islamic extremism
In non-Muslim countries, fears of Islamic extremism are closely associated with worries about Muslim minorities. Western publics believe that Muslims in their countries want to remain distinct from society, rather than adopt their nation's customs and way of life.
According to the research, there is a widespread perception in countries with significant Muslim minorities, including the US, that resident Muslims have a strong and growing sense of Islamic identity. For the most part, this development is viewed negatively, particularly in Western Europe. In France, Germany and the Netherlands, those who see a growing sense of Islamic identity among resident Muslims overwhelmingly say this is a bad thing.
Overall, in Muslim countries, the sense that Islamic extremism poses a major national threat is strongest in Morocco, the site of a devastating terrorist attack two years ago, where nearly three-quarters of the public (73%) hold that view. In Pakistan, 52% believe Islamic extremism presents a very or fairly great threat to the country, as do 47% in Turkey. In Lebanon, opinions are divided, with Christians much more likely to see Islamic extremism as a threat than Muslims. And just 10% of Jordanians view Islamic extremism as at least a fairly great threat.
Outside the Muslim world, the Pew survey finds that in countries such as India, Russia, Germany and the Netherlands, concerns about Islamic extremism – both within their own borders and around the world – are running high. Worries over Islamic extremism are nearly as high in France and Spain. Concerns about terrorism at home and around the world run parallel in only three countries, Russia, India and Spain. Before the London terrorist attacks, Americans and Britons expressed more concern about extremism around the world than they did at home.
Nonetheless, favorable views of Muslims outpace negative views in most countries of North America and Europe. Hostility toward Muslims is much lower in Great Britain, the United States and Canada than in other Western countries surveyed. And while worries about Islamic extremism are substantial in these three English speaking countries, the survey found somewhat less concern about rising Islamic identity among their resident Muslim populations.
Islam in Politics
Most people surveyed in predominantly Muslim countries identify themselves first as Muslims, rather than as citizens of their country. Moreover, except in Jordan, there is considerable acknowledgement that Islam is playing a significant role in the political life of these countries.
Substantial majorities in all but one of countries surveyed – including as many as 85% in Indonesia and 75% in Morocco – say that Islam plays a very large or fairly large role in the political life of their countries.
The major exception is Jordan; just 30% of Jordanians now see Islam playing a large political role in that country, a sharp decline from the 73% who said so in the summer of 2002. In Pakistan as well, those seeing substantial Islamic influence in political life have also declined in number – from 86% in 2002 – but remain in the majority (62%). Only in Turkey has the proportion of those seeing a large Islamic political influence increased substantially, from 41% in 2002 to 62% currently.
Views of Religious Groups
Majorities in Great Britain, France, Canada, the U.S. and Russia, as well as pluralities in Spain and Poland, say they have a somewhat or very favorable view of Muslims. In the West, only among the Dutch and Germans does a majority or plurality hold unfavorable views of Muslims (51% and 47%, respectively).
For their part, people in predominantly Muslim countries have mixed views of Christians and strongly negative views of Jews. In Lebanon, which has a large Christian minority, 91% of the public thinks favorably of Christians. Smaller majorities in Jordan and Indonesia also have positive views of Christians.
However, in Turkey (63%), Morocco (61%) and Pakistan (58%), solid majorities express negative opinions of Christians. Anti-Jewish sentiment is prevalent in the Muslim world. In Lebanon, all Muslims and 99% of Christians say they have a very unfavorable view of Jews. Similarly, 99% of Jordanians also think the same. Large majorities of Moroccans, Indonesians, Pakistanis and six-in-ten Turks also view Jews unfavorably.
Is banning Muslim Head Scarves a good idea?
On another controversial issue, the prohibition on wearing head scarves by Muslim women in public places including schools, attitudes are uniformly negative in the Muslim world but differ sharply among non-Muslim countries.
Majorities in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, as well as pluralities in Spain, Russia and Poland, view such bans as a bad idea. However, in France, a large majority (78%) favors such prohibitions. They are joined in this view by smaller majorities in Germany (54%), the Netherlands (51%) and by two-thirds of the Indian public (66%).
In Turkey, 64% of the public calls such a ban a bad idea, as do large majorities in Jordan (97%), Indonesia (95%), Morocco (90%) and Pakistan (77%). In Lebanon, nearly all Lebanese Muslims (99%) disapprove of a ban on head scarves, but 71% of Lebanese Christians approve.
The report said that in most non-Muslim countries, opinions on policies that bar Muslim women from publicly wearing head scarves are related to perceptions of Islamic separatism and concerns about Islamic extremism. Religions and Violence
Majorities or pluralities in the US, Canada, and every European country, other than France, judge that some religions are more prone to violence than others. And when those taking this view are asked which religion they think of as more violent, Islam is designated by large majorities in each of these countries.
For the most part, people in predominantly Muslim countries are less likely to express the view that some religions are more prone to violence. Only in Jordan does a large majority (75%) say that some religions are more violence prone than others, with 98% of those holding this view pointing to Judaism as most violent. Similarly in Morocco, a 40% plurality views some religions as more violent than others, with most (83%) pointing to Judaism as most violent. In Pakistan, a 40% plurality views some religions as more violent, but while half (51%) choose Judaism as most violent, 31% designate Hinduism.
Fewer than 20% of Lebanese and Indonesians deem some religions more prone to violence than others; among these respondents more than six-in-ten in both countries (66% and 63%) select Judaism as most violent, with the rest split about evenly between Christianity and Islam. In Turkey, however, about a quarter (26%) of the population subscribes to the view that some religions tend to violence more than others; a plurality (46%) points to Christianity as the most violent.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project is a series of worldwide public opinion surveys encompassing a broad array of subjects ranging from people's assessments of their own lives to their views about the current state of the world and important issues of the day. The Pew Global Attitudes Project is co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, currently principal, the Albright Group LLC, and by former Senator John C. Danforth, currently partner, Bryan Cave LLP.
The project is directed by Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" in Washington, DC, that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. The Pew Global Attitudes Project is principally funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provided a supplemental grant for the 2002 survey.