Jonathan Sacks writes: have been in New York these past few days to give a talk at the 9/11 Museum that has been erected on the site where once the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood. It is a place of collective grief and remembrance, where the exhibits are fragments of twisted wreckage and the debris of destruction.
Most moving are the memorial fountains that occupy the footprint of the original buildings. Around the side, engraved in bronze, are the names of the almost 3,000 victims. Unlike most other fountains, though, here the water flows downward and in the centre disappears into a black hole, an abyss. The intention was to symbolise lives lost that can never be recovered. No matter how much water flows, the emptiness is never filled.
After the tragedies of the past few days and weeks, however, the memorial seems to have another message also. The violence never ends. Innocent blood continues to flow. Every few days there are more newly bereaved families and yet more tears.
A story is beginning to emerge that becomes clearer over time. Asad Shah, the 40-year-old shopkeeper in Glasgow, was a deeply-loved man who represented all that is good in religious faith. His crime was to wish his Christian friends and customers a happy Easter. He wanted to express gratitude to a Christian nation that had given him and his family a home where he could practise his faith without fear. He was an Amaddiya, member of an Islamic sect regarded by some Muslims as heretical. He was murdered, it seems, not just to silence him but to intimidate others who might have followed him on the path to religious tolerance. One must not forget that of the hundreds of Muslims dying daily, the majority are at the hands of fellow Muslims.
The suicide bombings in Lahore are part of a pattern in which Christians have been terrorised across an ever widening swathe of countries across the world. To be sure, the attack was not on a Christian site but a park open to people of all faiths. But the bombers chose to attack at Easter, knowing that many victims would be Christians on their way to or from prayer.
Christians are being persecuted in some 50 countries, among them North Korea, Syria, Somalia and Sudan. In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; today a few thousand. In Mosul, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, Christians were forced to flee by Islamic State (Isil) in the summer of 2014. In Afghanistan the last church was burned to the ground in 2010. In Gaza in 2007, after the rise of Hamas, the last Christian bookshop was destroyed and its owner murdered. In Yemen, on Good Friday, Father Tom Uzhunnallil, an Indian Catholic priest, was crucified by Isil. The ethnic cleansing of Christians throughout the Middle East is one of the crimes against humanity of our time, and I am appalled that there has been little serious international protest.
But the real target is not Christianity but freedom. Nor is this a war. Wars are fought between nations, by armies, and the intended victims are combatants. Terrorists wear no uniforms, and their intended victims are innocent civilians. I for one will never forget the episode two weeks ago on the Ivory Coast where terrorists gunned down a five-year-old child begging for his life.
There have been ages of terror before, but never on this scale, and never with the kind of technology that has given the jihadists the ability to radicalise individuals throughout the world, some acting as lone wolves, others, like the attackers in Paris and Brussels, working in small groups, often involving family members. Read the rest of this entry »
‘I flew the flag in London’s gay pride parade because Isis is deserving of mockery and disrespect. I never thought CNN would think it was real’
Paul Coombs writes: I spent the morning of London’s Pride parade hand-stitching dildos onto a flag.
I’d been using the sex-toy motif in my work before I made a flag of Isis out of them and brought it to the march. Previously, I’ve attached dildos onto postcards from each country where homosexuality is still illegal to point out that the laws of these places regards its gay residents as mere sex objects.
The decision to make the flag was a simple one: a sense of outrage at Isis’s brutal advance across North Africa, Libya, Syria and Iraq. Medieval ideologies and barbarism were being spread and recorded
through that most modern of expressions, social media, with that flag ever-present. It has become a potent symbol of brutality, fear and sexual oppression. If I wanted to try and stimulate a dialogue about
the ridiculousness of this ideology, the flag was key.
It was important that I didn’t try to replicate the writing on the flag, because the words and their subject – Islam – are not the target. But if I showed as little respect to this flag as Isis shows to the religion and people they claim to represent so that when people saw it they would think, “dildos”? Would that be a crazy idea?
The Pride festival is a pure celebration of the finest aspects of humanity: of tolerance, togetherness, acceptance and liberation, the polar opposite of what Isis stands for. If there was anywhere where my flag had a voice, it was there. And I had an invitation to march in the parade with a friend involved with “Alien Sex Club”, an art project exploring the HIV syndemic by John Walter. Read the rest of this entry »
A senior Islamist militant who ordered the deadly attack on an Algerian gas plant two years ago has been killed in a US air strike, Libyan officials say
However, there have been several false reports of his death in the past.
The Pentagon said it had targeted a “mid-level” al-Qaeda operative, giving few details.
It said Saturday’s operation had been successful but did not name the target, saying officials were still assessing whether it had been successful.
The message, which was not verified, was posted on Boko Haram’s Twitter account and appeared to be by the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Boko Haram began a military campaign to impose Islamic rule in northern Nigeria in 2009. The conflict has since spread to neighbouring states.
It would be the latest in a series of groups to swear allegiance to IS.
In the past Boko Haram is thought to have had links with al-Qaeda.
IS took control of large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq last year.
The group aims to establish a “caliphate”, a state ruled by a single political and religious leader according to Islamic law, or Sharia. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is known to his followers as Caliph Ibrahim. Read the rest of this entry »
Noah Rothman writes:
On December 28, 2013, The New York Times published a thoroughly researched review of the September 11, 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic and CIA facilities in the city of Benghazi. David Kirkpatrick, The Times’ Cairo bureau chief, traveled to Libya and personally conducted a series of interviews with witnesses and even the relatives of suspects in that attack. His exhaustive account of the events on that night was illuminating, but his conclusions about what sparked that deadly attack made the most waves.
Kirkpatrick found that there was “no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.” The Times reporter added that he found more evidence that the attack on a CIA compound and a diplomatic outpost “was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”
Though he gave credit to The Times for performing this investigation into the Benghazi attack, The Weekly Standard’s Stephen F. Hayes made short work of Kirkpatrick’s conclusions:
There is, in fact, evidence that terrorists linked to al Qaeda had a role in the Benghazi attacks. Indeed, there’s a fair amount of that kind of evidence. As Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence put it on Sunday when asked about the Times report: “The intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was involved, but there were also plenty of people and militias that were unaffiliated with al Qaeda involved.” Schiff who has defended the Obama administration on Benghazi and praised the Times piece as adding “valuable insights,” nonetheless pronounced it incomplete and hinted that signals intelligence contradicted the claims in the piece.…(read more in NYT)
It is a wonder that The Times did not credit Hayes or his Weekly Standard colleague Tom Joscelyn when The Grey Lady issued a report on Friday headlined, “Militants in Benghazi attack tied to a Qaeda affiliate.” Read the rest of this entry »
In the video posted by his killers, he is shown on his knees with his hands behind his back in front of four masked, armed militants.
BBC reports: France has confirmed that an Algerian jihadist group linked to Islamic State (IS) militants has beheaded tourist Herve Gourdel, seized on Sunday.
“Four Frenchmen kidnapped in Niger were freed in October 2013 amid reports of a 20m-euro (£16m; £25m) ransom being paid. The government in Paris denied that was the case.”
Jund al-Khilafa killed Mr Gourdel, 55, after its deadline for France to halt air strikes on IS in Iraq ran out.
“As grave as this situation is, we will not give into any blackmail, any pressure, any ultimatum no matter how odious, how despicable.”
— French President Francois Hollande
He said that French air strikes which began on IS targets in Iraq last week would continue.
Jund al-Khilafa posted a video of Mr Gourdel being killed which was entitled “Message of blood for the French government”.
IS itself has beheaded three Western hostages since August: US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid worker David Haines. Their deaths were all filmed and posted online.
Who are Jund al-Khilafa?
- Previously part of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which grew out of Algerian Islamist groups involved in 1990s civil war
- Carried out numerous attacks in Kabylie region – in April, ambushed an army convoy, leaving 11 soldiers dead
- Many residents have fled the region’s forests and mountains in recent years because of insecurity
- Group said to be led by Abdelmalek Gouri, known as Khaled Abou Slimane, 37
- On 14 September, pledged allegiance to Islamic State
The group has also threatened to kill Alan Henning, a taxi driver from the UK, who was seized while on an aid mission to Syria in December.
On Sunday, it warned it would target Americans and other Western citizens, “especially the spiteful and filthy French”.
Police have been guarding Mr Gourdel’s home in the French city of Nice. He worked as a mountain guide in the Mercantour national park north of the city. Read the rest of this entry »