Bangladesh: New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen ‘spiritual leader’ Kashem on fresh remand

Police’s counter-terrorism unit has been granted five days to interrogate New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)’s alleged “spiritual leader” Maulana Abul Kashem in a case filed over the busting of the militant group’s den at Kallyanpur.

The group eyes establishing Shariah Law in the country, and spreading its jihad to Myanmar’s Rakhine State and parts of India. It has claimed responsibilities for 26 attacks – on a Gulshan restaurant, Shia and Ahmadiyya mosques, and non-Muslims preachers – since 2015 that killed around 45 people.

Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Waez Kuruni Khan gave the remand order after CTTC Inspector Jahangir Alam produced him before the court Saturday.

He was arrested from Senpara Parbata of Mirpur on March 2 and produced before a court the following day.

New JMB’s military and operations commander Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury was killed in a raid on August 27 last year. Tamim used to visit the Kallyanpur flat where nine of its members were killed and another arrested during a raid on July 26 last year.

USA: ‘Meet a Muslim Day’ in Seattle a chance to display true face of Islam, young men say

Ahmad Bilal, Faiez Ahmad and Luqman Munir couldn’t have been better positioned to talk about being Muslims than the cultural crossroads of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle on Saturday.

The trio, all members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, took part in the organization’s “Meet a Muslim Day,” an effort in cities around the country to dispel myths about Islam and put a human face on a population that’s been the subject of stereotypes, public suspicion and in extreme cases, threats and violence.

For three hours on a showery Saturday, the men stood among the throngs of tourists and St. Patrick’s Day parade spectators at a corner of Fourth and Pine with a sign that read, “I am a Muslim: Ask me anything.”

Young Muslims with similar signs fielded questions at Seattle’s Green Lake, University District and Pike Place Market, too.

At Westlake, 30 or 40 people stopped by to speak with Bilal, Ahmad and Munir, including people who’d come for the parade, making for a vivid, impromptu cultural exchange.

The men showed off mobile-phone pictures of them posing with smiling, green-clad parade revelers.

They said they even had a productive discussion about Islam and Christianity with a man standing a few feet away holding a sign imploring onlookers to “repent and believe the gospel” of Jesus Christ.

“He gave us some knowledge and we gave him some knowledge,” said Bilal, a 20-year-old student at South Seattle College.

They invited the man to visit their mosque. He agreed to come, Bilal said.

While concerns about Islamophobia and the need for greater Muslim outreach have run high since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the controversy over President Donald Trump’s original and recently revised restrictions on certain Muslim immigrants and refugees gave those issues new urgency.

Violence and threats with religious overtones have become a pressing issue for other faiths, too. A spike in threats and incidents involving Jewish community centers, synagogues and cemeteries has put the nation’s Jewish community on edge.

In Kent, police are searching for a suspect who shot a Sikh man in what’s being investigated as a possible bias or hate crime, and in Kansas, two Indian computer engineers were shot by a gunman who yelled “get out of my country.” One of the victims in that shooting died.

Recent studies by the Pew Research Center show that most Americans don’t personally know a Muslim and that Americans are generally “cooler” toward Islam than other religious faiths. But getting to know someone who is Muslim leads to warmer feelings and more positive attitudes, their research suggests.

For Bilal, Ahmad and Munir, participating in Saturday’s event served as an opportunity to show that true Islam is about people like them, not the violent extremists who tend to capture headlines.

“I’m here to say that our religion is for peace; Islam is for peace,” Bilal said.

The men’s bold act comes on the heels of a visit to that very intersection in February by U.S. Marine and Muslim-American Mansoor Shams, who traveled the country with his own “Ask me anything” sign to encourage conversation about Islam with non-Muslims.

Bilal, who is Pakistani, said he lives with a host family in Seattle that once harbored negative attitudes about Islam, but having contact with him has changed their views.

The men know they won’t be able to end Islamophobia by themselves, but Munir is optimistic that events like Meet a Muslim Day will make a difference.

“Time heals,” he said. “We’ve just got to stick with our message.”

The men’s provocative sign asked passers-by to “ask me anything,” which might have led to some pretty awkward conversations. But most people simply expressed support rather than take them up on that offer.

“One lady asked me, ‘Do you want a hug?’” said Munir, a 25-year-old recent engineering grad. He said yes and the woman gave him a warm embrace.

Earlier, as Bilal walked to Westlake, a different woman who noticed the sign called out “I love you,” so Bilal shouted “I love you back.”

“Most people don’t care about religion,” Bilal said, recalling the encounter. “They care about peace.”

USA: Ahmadiyya Muslim group builds understanding over coffee in Austin, Round Rock

Seated in a booth at a Round Rock cafe on a recent Wednesday, Susan Sneller asked the question she’d always wondered about the headscarf, or hijab, that some women wear.

“Don’t you get hot in the summer wearing something on your head all day?” Sneller, who had never met anyone of the Muslim faith, asked Nadia Ahmad. “I want to take everything off and fan myself in summer in Texas.”

But Ahmad welcomed the question. In the summer, Ahmad explained, she wears clothing made of lighter weight material with good ventilation. “Don’t worry; we’re fine. We’re not forcing ourselves,” she said with a laugh.

It’s exactly this kind of learning and relationship-building that Ahmad and other members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Austin had in mind when the group began holding “Coffee, Cake and True Islam” events on Wednesdays at coffee shops in Austin and Round Rock. The events, which have been featured by KUT and other media outlets, and others like them are being held by chapters throughout the country.

Their message? “We are here to stay and we are your neighbors; come talk to us,” Ahmad said.

Arif Mirza is director of outreach for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Austin, which has a mosque in Round Rock and draws members from as far away as San Antonio. He points to a recent statistic: Just 38 percent of Americans say they know someone who is Muslim, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. And even if they do, he said, they might not feel comfortable sharing their curiosities with that person.

“The idea is to give Americans who otherwise do not know a Muslim a chance to come in and ask any questions they might have about Islam,” Mirza said. “We’re hoping that in the long term we can bring about a change in attitude that is going to last.”

The same Pew survey showed that 41 percent of Americans view Muslims more coldly than warmly. And hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise. Last year, the number of physical assaults against Muslims in the United States reached 9/11-era levels, according to hate crimes statistics from the FBI.

At first, Mirza said, he worried about the potential backlash of putting on such an event, but he turned out to be “pleasantly surprised” by its positive reception.

Mirza recalled that once, a woman who was offended by the event accidentally called him to complain, thinking she was contacting the owner of the coffee shop. Once he told her who he was, however, the two ended up talking for 20 minutes, and the woman changed her tune, saying she’d like to meet him for coffee some time.

“Having that one-on-one conversation with somebody and getting to know that they have similar struggles in life and they probably feel the same way about things that you do, it has a way of affecting people that watching something on TV or somebody giving a lecture just doesn’t,” Mirza said.

In one of Wednesday’s small group conversations, Deborah Harris asked Touba Khurshid and Aziza Faruqi why they wanted to participate in the event. Khurshid, who had spent years living in London, told a story about going to South Dakota for the first time and noticing that people were staring at her.

“I remember all the looks that I was getting, and that was the first time I was like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I had never thought that I would get such curious looks as if they hadn’t seen a woman with a scarf,” Khurshid said. “It kind of made me realize there’s a big need for people to know about Islam.”

Contrary to that experience, Faruqi said she has never felt out of place during her 25 years in the U.S. because embracing differences is what America is about.

“That’s the America that we live in. That’s what we cherish,” Faruqi said. “So what disturbs us is the fact that living in such a multicultural, multireligion country, how can people still have fear of one faith or unwillingness to learn about other faiths?”

Faruqi said she wished more people outside of these events would feel free to ask her questions about Islam.

At the events, Mirza said questions range from personal (“How did you learn about Islam?”) to theological (“What does Islam say about God?”) to political (“How do you feel about President Donald Trump’s travel ban?”).

Politics and the new administration are what drew Sneller and Austin couple Jack and Barbara Bresette-Mills to recent coffee shop events. All are part of Indivisible, a national anti-Trump network with Austin origins.

“Because of this election, we both feel we have to stand up for people of color and minorities,” Jack Bresette-Mills said. “It seems to be a racist move in our government.”

“A lot of people have been cut down, and horrible things were said the whole campaign about all different kinds of people, be it women, be it Muslims, be it African-Americans, be it indigenous,” Barbara Bresette-Mills said.

“It’s simply wrong. It’s not American. (To be) American (means) everybody’s welcome,” Jack Bresette-Mills said.

On a basic level, he said, just as the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community came to show them that not all Muslims are terrorists, he and his wife came to show them that not all non-Muslims are Islamophobic.

“We also just like to meet people,” Barbara Bresette-Mills said. “And I feel like that’s the best way to change things is to have human interaction. Talk to each other.”

At one point in the conversation with Ahmad and another woman, Maliah Ahmed, Sneller asked them what they would say if they could talk to Trump.

“We would invite him to ‘Coffee, Cake and True Islam,’” Ahmad said. The group laughed.

If you go

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Austin hosts “Coffee, Cake and True Islam” events from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays at two locations:

• Caffe Medici at 2222 Guadalupe St. in Austin

• Corner Bakery Cafe at 110 N. Interstate 35 in Round Rock

Source :

USA: Declare Pakistan state terror sponsor, demands U.S. lawmaker

The bill titled the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act was introduced at a time when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was in the USA to address the United Nations General Assembly.

Sponsored by Congressman Ted Poe, the Bill requires the President to issue a report within 90 days on whether Pakistan has provided support for worldwide terrorism. It is time we stop paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: “a State Sponsor of Terrorism”, Poe said while introducing the bill, the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Act of 2015, in Congress on Thursday.

Congressman Poe served as the co-chair for the bipartisan “Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus” during the 114th congress and was replaced by his Republican colleague Congressman Pete King for the 115th Congress. Thirty days after that, the secretary of state is supposed to submit a report confirming that Pakistan is in fact a State sponsored terrorist country and if not, then the justification of that decision.

They say the USA is in “a toxic relationship” with Pakistan and needs to “to finally set limits on its indulgence” towards Islamabad.

Congressman Poe chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism, non-proliferation and trade, while Clad was a deputy assistant secretary of defence for Asia in the George W Bush administration.

Whatever method the USA chooses, “something must change in our dealings with a terrorist-supporting, irresponsible nuclear-weapons state”, Poe and Clad conclude.

Asking Washington to set the “limits of its indulgence” towards Pakistan, Poe and Clad commented: “Don’t let the next crisis in South or Southwest Asia deflect our focus”.

Pakistani, they argued, had become a “quasi-adversary, receiving hundreds of billions through the years in direct and indirect United States support”. “Acquiescing in the current trends is not an option”, they concluded. “And they have done things against the principal concerns we have; the Haqqani network and Taliban” Gen Votel said on Thursday.

However, contrary to the common perception, the commander of US Central Command has commended the Pakistan Army’s cooperation with the US military in recent counter-terrorism operations along the border of Afghanistan.

Here’s what they suggested in balancing “toxic terms” with Pakistan.

According to him, as long as these groups “maintain safe havens in Pakistan, they threaten long-term stability in Afghanistan”.

He said despite challenges with respect to the US-Pakistani relationship, there is a substantial level of engagement of the US troops with their Pakistani military counterparts. “It poses the greatest threat to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan”.

The Haqqani Network was formed in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani.

The US designated the group as a terrorist organisation on September 7, 2012.

UK: Inside Britain’s largest mosque, Baitul Futuh, in Morden

The Standard has gained exclusive access inside Britain’s largest mosque to find out why security has been stepped up, how the mosque is recovering after fire damage, and who prepares behind the scenes for the arrival of 6,000 Muslims during Friday prayers.

The Baitul Futuh Mosque in south London belongs to the capital’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which believes the “promised messiah has come”, explains National President Rafiq Ahmad Hayat.

“We believe he came in India over 100 years ago, and he came really – not to bring a new faith or a new teaching – to re-establish the true teaching of Islam. He actually promoted the message of peace to the people of the world and he wanted to bring the communities together under a peaceful umbrella.”

Vice President Naseer Khan, who is highly involved the everyday runnings of Baitul Futuh Mosque, says it’s a safe refuge for Ahmadiyya Muslims.

“In Pakistan, our community has been persecuted. The laws were brought in that considered us non-Muslim in Pakistan and for us to declare ourselves Muslims or use any of the Muslim literature or declaration of faith – that there is only one God and Muhammad is messenger – carries a three-year prison sentence for any of our members.

“So most of our mosques have been closed down, our members can’t practice their faith and in fact, that seems to be spreading around some of the extremists around the world.”

Also known as Morden Mosque, it was damaged in a large fire in 2015, which left one building in total disrepair. Reconstruction has begun, and volunteers arrive early on site to ensure Friday prayers don’t cause a traffic pile up for local residents.

As Naseer tells the Standard, it’s a busy operation running a mosque which serves several thousand people every day.

“Today is a school holiday so we’re expecting about six, maybe seven, thousand people here today. We’ve got lots of car parks covered by our stewards to make sure they don’t come here and cause traffic jams,” says Naseer.

“Demolition is going on at the moment because we had that fire back in September 2015 and, of course, we’re now in a massive rebuilding programme to build something quite spectacular.”

Besides being a space for prayer, Baitul Futuh Mosque also has its own 24-hour radio station, TV studio providing a live feed of Friday prayers, and space for the wider community to meet.

Upstairs in the kitchen, a team of chefs prepare meals for everyone who visits – today 250 people have been for lunch.

“There’s been a constant feeding of people as they come in. Every time they come here, they know they’re going to get served a meal,” Naseer tells the Standard.

“On the Friday and Tuesday nights, they prepare meals and package them and take them to feed the homeless in London. That’s been going on for many years now.”

On the other side of the site, visitors are queuing to get into the overflow prayer hall – but first they must walk through a body scanner.

“Because of the persecution of our community and attack on our mosques, in Pakistan in particular, security has been heightened,” Naseer explains.

“Generally it’s the same people who create havoc around the world are creating havoc for us – either extremists on the Muslim side, or extremists on the other side. So we get it from both ends and therefore we have to doubly careful.

“For us, it’s not just a perceived threat, it is a real threat and therefore we take security very, very seriously.”

The mosque also provides spaces for local schools to take exams and police officers to meet, and has its own library.

“We want to make ourselves as open as possible – as a mosque, as a complex, as a library – and we have some four thousand school children visiting the mosque every year,” explains librarian Waleed Ahmed.

“It’s something that we find the wider community being able to benefit from.”

Watch the video below to see inside the Baitful Futuh Mosque.