AIFD demands an immediate retraction: Roger Anghis’ messy misspeak is defamatory – and dangerous

UPDATE, September 12, 2012, 2:00 pm: Following a phone call from our office, Pastor Anghis has corrected the side-bar quote on his original piece. We thank him for making this correction. We ask Pastor Anghis to follow up with correcting this piece in the other places where it was published. (Here is an example.) A full retraction would also be appreciated, given the gravity of the error.

UPDATE, September 10, 2012, 1:00 pm: Pastor Roger Anghis has amended his article on “News With Views.” As of this update, he has corrected the body of the article, removing Dr. Jasser’s name. Unfortunately, the sidebar on the right-hand side of the News With Views article still attributes a treasonous quote to Dr. Jasser. Pastor Roger has also not corrected this article in the other locations where it is published, nor has he issued a public retraction and apology. We ask Pastor Roger to please make every effort to thoroughly correct this error.


AIFD is alarmed by a serious and dangerous error in a recent blog published by Paster Roger Anghis. In this blog, Pastor Anghis alleges that our founder, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, is the imam who was slated to appear at “Jumah at the DNC.” In what we hope is an unfortunate (though no less defamatory) misprint, Pastor Anghis attributes treasonous, anti-American sentiments to Dr. Jasser:

Screencap of comments on Pastor Anghlis' blog

“What is disturbing is one of the imams that was slated to speak, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. He has called for the overthrow of the ‘filthy’ Unites[sic] States government and the installation of shariah law and for the replacing the United States Constitution with the Quran.” – Pastor Roger Anghis, here.

Pastor Anghis goes on to say that, in an effort to promote Islam, Dr. Jasser has asserted that “Muslims are indigenous to America.” Dr. Jasser has said no such thing.

Dr. Jasser and AIFD actually broke the story on Jumah at the DNC. We draw Pastor Anghis’ attention to the following videos:

Dr. Jasser on Fox and Friends on August 5, 2012, discussing who the organizers of “Jumah on the DNC” are and why we should be concerned, including Imam Siraj Wahhaj’s statement that the Constitution should be replaced with the Quran;

Dr. Jasser on Varney & Co. on August 29, 2012, about why the DNC should disassociate itself as much as possible from the radical figures spearheading “Jumah at the DNC”;

Dr. Jasser on Fox and Friends on September 2, 2012, discussing the DNC’s last-minute distancing from this event, and Jibril Hough’s anti-American, Nidal Hasan-esque comments;

Dr. Jasser on GBTV on September 3, 2012, speaking with Glenn Beck about how all Americans, especially Muslims, must speak out against the radical views of those who organized “Jumah at the DNC” and all Islamist theocrats.

Perhaps Pastor Anghis simply made a terrible mistake in his article. However, as an individual publishing articles he knows are made available globally, Pastor Anghis has a responsibility to be more cautious. Indeed, all those publishing on matters of such grave public concern run the risk of endangering others when they are as sloppy as Pastor Anghis has been here. Even if retracted immediately, damage may already be done.

Dr. Jasser has been a consistent voice against Islamism, and has been a vocal advocate for the protection of the United States Constitution through the separation of mosque and state. He has served the United States as a lieutenant commander in the Navy, and has been a leading voice against efforts to implement Sharia law in the West and even in Muslim-majority nations.

Pastor Anghis’ comments amount to accusing Dr. Jasser of treason and radicalism. These accusations are dangerous and, because they are patently false, illegal. This is deeply hurtful and as harmful to Dr. Jasser as well as the many liberty-minded Muslims who work with him. Dr. Jasser leads a team of liberty-minded Muslims who combat radical ideologies at great personal risk. We ask that those who claim to speak against Islamism not further compromise us with defamatory and dangerous rhetoric.

We further ask that Pastor Anghis retract his comments about Dr. Jasser immediately, and issue a retraction and public apology in each location where his article may have been published.

Deadly embassy attacks were days in the making

Deadly embassy attacks were days in the making
by Sara Lynch and Oren Dorell, USA TODAY, Detroit Free Press, September 12, 2012

CAIRO — Days of planning and online promotion by hard-line Islamist leaders helped whip up the mobs that stormed the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and launched a deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya that killed an ambassador and three others.

As the U.S. tightened security worldwide at embassies and Libya’s president apologized for the attack, details emerged of how the violence began, according to experts who monitor Egyptian media.

Christopher Stevens, 52, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed, along with three other Americans, on Tuesday night when a mob of protesters and gunmen stormed the embassy in the eastern city of Benghazi.

In response, the Obama administration sent an anti-terrorism detail of Marines to reinforce security at U.S. diplomatic facilities, and the Pentagon said two warships were moving toward the Libyan coast.

The killings in Libya followed demonstrations in front of Cairo’s U.S. Embassy, where protesters tore down the U.S. flag and scaled the embassy’s wall.

The protest was planned by Salafists well before news circulated of an objectionable video ridiculing Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, said Eric Trager, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was announced Aug. 30 by Jamaa Islamiya, a State Department-designated terrorist group, to protest the ongoing imprisonment of its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman. He is serving a life sentence in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

When the video started circulating, Nader Bakkar, the spokesman for the Egyptian Salafist Noor party, which holds about 25% of the seats in parliament, called on people to go to the embassy. He also called on non-Islamist soccer hooligans, known as Ultras, to join the protest.

On Monday, the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri, Mohamed al Zawahiri, tweeted that people should go to the embassy and “defend the prophet,” Trager said.

Zawahiri justified al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks in an interview with Al Jazeera last month.

“If America attacks the Arab peoples and their regimes do not defend them, somebody who does defend the Arab and Muslim peoples should not be considered a criminal,” Zawahiri told the television network, according to a translation by MEMRI. “We have done nothing wrong.”

A U.S. official, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly, said the Obama administration is investigating whether the assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya was planned to mark the anniversary of 9/11.

The State Department identified one of the other Americans as Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer. The identities of the others were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

A senior administrations official — who briefed reporters on the details but requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly — describe the assault as an intense hours-long firefight between heavily armed gunmen and U.S. and Libyan security personnel attempting to defend the diplomatic mission.

This is the official’s story:

Stevens was on a routine visit to the consulate in Benghazi when the compound came under fire from unidentified gunmen. In 15 minutes the gunmen gained access to the compound.

Stevens was in the building with Smith. About 45 minutes into the battle U.S. security personnel assigned to a nearby security annex attempted unsuccessfully to fight their way into the building but were driven off. More than 30 minutes later U.S. and Libyan security personnel tried again and were able to get into the main building. They rescued the remaining staff and hustled them to the nearby annex.

Soon after, the annex came under fire in a battle that lasted two hours. After the fighting died down, Stevens was brought to a Benghazi hospital. His body was later turned over to the Americans at Benghazi airport.

The Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday condemned the violence.

“Just because you are against something doesn’t mean you have to kill,” she said. “I think it’s really a disaster.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), condemned the film in a statement Tuesday.

“The party considers the film a racist crime and a failed attempt to provoke sectarian strife between the two elements of the nation: Muslims and Christians,” a statement said on the FJP’s English-language website. “Moreover, the FJP considers this movie totally unacceptable, from the moral and religious perspectives, and finds that it excessively goes far beyond all reasonable boundaries of the freedoms of opinion and expression.”

President Obama on Wednesday condemned the attack and ordered stepped-up security at diplomatic installations around the world.

“There is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence. None,” the president said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the government” or the people of Libya. She said it should “shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world.”

“Violence like this is no way to honor religions or faith, and as long as there are those who will take innocent lives in the name of God, the world will never know true and everlasting peace,” she said.

Clinton said that Americans and Libyan security personnel fought alongside each other in an effort to defend the compound. She said Libyans brought Stevens’ body to the hospital.

Clinton earlier called on Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya.

El-Megarif described the attack as “cowardly” and offered his condolences on the death of Stevens and the three other Americans. Speaking to reporters, he vowed to bring the culprits to justice and maintain his country’s close relations with the United States. He said the three Americans were security guards. “We extend our apology to America, the American people and the whole world,” el-Megarif said.

Stevens was killed when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try and evacuate staff as the building came under attack by a mob with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

By the end of the assault, much of the building was burned out and trashed. On Wednesday, Libyans wandered freely around the burned-out building, taking photos of rooms where furniture was covered in soot and overturned. Walls were scrawled with graffiti.

The State Department identified one of the other Americans as Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer. The identities of the others were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Ziad Abu Zeid, the Libyan doctor who treated Stevens, said he had “severe asphyxia,” apparently from smoke inhalation, causing stomach bleeding, but had no other injuries. Stevens was practically dead when he arrived before 1 a.m. Wednesday, and “we tried to revive him for an hour and a half, but with no success,” Abu Zeid said.

Stevens was a career diplomat who spoke Arabic and French and had already served two tours in Libya, including running the office in Benghazi during the revolt against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He was confirmed as ambassador to Libya by the Senate this year.

His State Department biography, posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy to Libya, says he “considers himself fortunate to participate in this incredible period of change and hope for Libya.”

Clinton said Stevens had a “passion for service, for diplomacy and for the Libyan people.”

He “risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation. He spent every day since helping to finish the work that he started,” she said.

Sam Bacile, a 56-year-old California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew and who said he produced, directed and wrote the two-hour film, Innocence of Muslims, said he had not anticipated such a furious reaction.

Video excerpts posted on YouTube depict the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a madman in an overtly ridiculing way, showing him having sex and calling for massacres.

Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, Bacile, who went into hiding Tuesday, remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that he intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.

“Islam is a cancer, period,” he repeatedly said.

Florida pastor Terry Jones, the Gainesville-area pastor known for his virulent opposition to Islam, issued a statement on his website defending the film.

“The film is not intended to insult the Muslim community, but it is intended to reveal truths about Muhammad that are possibly not widely known,” Jones said in statement.

Wednesday morning the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin E. Dempsey, called Jones.

“In the brief call, Gen. Dempsey expressed his concerns over the nature of the film, the tensions it will inflame and the violence it will cause,” said Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “He asked Mr Jones to consider withdrawing his support for the film.”

Some Muslims believe that any depiction of the prophet Mohammed, positive or negative, is not allowed.

“Depicting the prophet Mohammed isn’t forbidden but it is discouraged because deifying a human being can distract the faithful from worshiping god,” said M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and author of the book A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith.

Those who believe that you can commit violence against those who depict the prophet are considered radical groups, Jasser said. He said that the attacks in Libya are “nothing short of pure evil and in no way representative of the teachings and practices of the faith of Islam.”

“These crowds are using the movie as an excuse to wreak violence on Americans in Libya and Egypt,” Jasser said. “To most Muslims, these excuses for violence that ultimately, even if they are offending or violating a tradition of the prophet, in no way justify any of these types of activities.”

The Muslim Brotherhood burgeoned in popularity and presence after Mubarak was ousted in February 2011 and Morsi formerly headed its political party.

“Some people in the Middle East don’t understand the relationship between government and media and think the (U.S.) government controls the media like they do here,” said Said Sadek, political sociologist and affiliate professor at the American University in Cairo. “They are putting the blame on the U.S. government, which has nothing to do with it.”

Anti-American sentiments are so deep in much of the Arab world that the film that angered Egyptian and Libyan protesters should be seen “not as a cause of the protests, but a pretext,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research for the Brookings Doha Center.

In Egypt, especially, the U.S. government is seen as slow to support the uprising that felled Mubarak in February 2011, and supportive of a military-led transition, Hamid says. Egyptians know that U.S. administrations supported Egyptian dictators since the late 1970s, and supported other Arab ruling families and Israel for many decades more, he says.

Anti-American sentiments are less strong in Libya, where the U.S. helped oust Gadhafi, but unlike in Egypt, the Salafis in Libya are armed, which contributed to the level of violence, Hamid said.

Arab Muslims also “are not comfortable with the idea that freedom of speech can be used to attack religion,” he said.

Although Arab liberals rarely feel the need to join the outcry, ultra-conservative Salafists view themselves as defenders of the faith and use religion to mobilize grass-roots support, Hamid said.

“Rather than rally around the flag they rally around religion, and it works,” he said.

Dorell reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Carolyn Pesce in McLean, Va.; the Associated Press

After attacks in Egypt and Libya, U.S. asks: Why?

After attacks in Egypt and Libya, U.S. asks: Why?

By Sarah Lynch, Oren Dorell and David Jackson, USA TODAY, Detroit Free Press, September 13, 2012

CAIRO — Emad El-Tohamy was lifted onto the shoulders of other Egyptian protesters Wednesday outside the U.S. Embassy here and denounced America for allowing a film that depicts the Islam prophet Mohammed in a vulgar, insulting manner.

“I see the U.S. government allowed the Web to spread this link all over the world without limiting freedom, without banning it,” said Mohammad Umma, who like many in the crowd believes that because America is a democratic nation it should censor media that insult any religion.

“America tells us they are the country of freedom, democracy and tolerance,” Umma said. “We considered America democratic, but now with what happened, we hate America.”

Attacks in Libya that left four U.S. diplomats dead — including Ambassador Christopher Stevens — and a mob invasion of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, in which the U.S. flag was torn to shreds, have left many to wonder: How can people the U.S. helped free from murderous dictators treat it in such a way?

“Many Americans are asking — indeed, I asked myself — how could this happen?” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? ”

The Arab Spring was lauded in the West for bringing in rapid succession the ouster of dictators like Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Moammar Gadhafi in Libya and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen.

Although the revolutions brought democracy, they have also empowered leaders of a stringent brand of political Islam to push for changes not always in line with Western values such as freedom of expression.

And they are using anti-Islamic material from the West to stir up opposition to the West. The latest example is the use of a previously unnoticed film produced in California that depicted Mohammed as a child molester and murderer.

“The growth of democracy in the Middle East is going to bring forward a lot of anti-American sentiment that has been suppressed for a long time by dictators who were seeking friendly relations with America,” said Joshua Landis, head of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Oklahoma.

“There are a lot of people who are very resentful towards the West and believe that the West is anti-Islamic so forth,” he said. “I think we are going to see a lot more of this. They are remaking their identities, and America, the West and Islam are at the very center of how different factions are going to position themselves.”

‘A deliberate attack’

It remains unclear who was behind the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, which came on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. In 2001, members of the Islamist terror group al-Qaeda hijacked four planes and killed nearly 3,000 people.

U.S. officials investigating the Benghazi killings believe it was a deliberate attack and not the result of a spontaneous riot.

Two senior administrations officials who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to discuss details of the incident, described a harrowing, hours-long firefight between heavily armed gunmen and U.S. and Libyan security personnel attempting to defend the diplomatic mission.

Stevens, 52, a career diplomat who Clinton said fell in love with the Middle East as a young man when he traveled to Morocco as a Peace Corps volunteer, was on a routine visit to the consulate in Benghazi when the compound came under fire.

Within 15 minutes, the gunmen were in the compound. Stevens was in the building with Sean Smith, a foreign service officer and Air Force veteran who was on assignment in Benghazi. Smith also was killed.

Stevens was taken later to a Benghazi hospital. It is not clear whether he was dead at the time.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon dispatched a team of Marines to secure the embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Two warships were sent to the region.

Bacile said that his movie — which claims that the Mohammed is a fraud who approved of child abuse — was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors.

Steve Klein, who said he was a consultant to the film, said Bacile is using a pseudonym to protect his life and is proud of his film but frightened for his safety. “I don’t care if people call me names,” Klein said. “I’m not politically correct. I tell the truth. If they don’t like it, I don’t care. If they want to kill me, I don’t care.”

Terry Jones, a Florida pastor known for his virulent opposition to Islam, issued a statement on his website defending the film. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones on Wednesday and asked him to withdraw support for the video.

Two years ago, then-Defense secretary Robert Gates asked Jones not to go through with a public burning of the Quran, the threat of which had triggered violence in Afghanistan; the public burning did not take place.

Stephen Prothero, a religion professor at Boston University, says extremists in the West and the Muslim world deserve blame. “You have people essentially shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. They know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Some in Egypt blame their own. “The movie is ridiculous; it’s an insult to one of the world’s major religions,” said Belal Farouk, 28, a poet in Cairo. “But I blame the violent reaction, too. The film doesn’t represent the views of the American people either, just a few fanatics.”

Many believe that the extremists are drowning out the voices of the majority in the region, most of whom are moderate.

“It’s extremists on both sides playing with each other,” said Said Sadek, a professor at the American University in Cairo, referring to those who made the film and the hardliners who protested. “And the victims are usually the moderates and the majority of people.”

Contributing: Jim Michaels, Aamer Madhani in Washington, D.C.; Jabeen Bhatti and Louise Osborne in Berlin; Natalie DiBlasio in McLean, Va.; and Bryan Alexander in Los Angeles.

Why is the Arab world so easily offended?

Why is the Arab world so easily offended?

By Fouad Ajami, Published: September 14, The Washington Post

Modernity requires the willingness to be offended. And as anti-American violence across the Middle East and beyond shows, that willingness is something the Arab world, the heartland of Islam, still lacks.

Time and again in recent years, as the outside world has battered the walls of Muslim lands and as Muslims have left their places of birth in search of greater opportunities in the Western world, modernity — with its sometimes distasteful but ultimately benign criticism of Islam — has sparked fatal protests. To understand why violence keeps erupting and to seek to prevent it, we must discern what fuels this sense of grievance.

There is an Arab pain and a volatility in the face of judgment by outsiders that stem from a deep and enduring sense of humiliation. A vast chasm separates the poor standing of Arabs in the world today from their history of greatness. In this context, their injured pride is easy to understand.

In the narrative of history transmitted to schoolchildren throughout the Arab world and reinforced by the media, religious scholars and laymen alike, Arabs were favored by divine providence. They had come out of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century, carrying Islam from Morocco to faraway Indonesia. In the process, they overran the Byzantine and Persian empires, then crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to Iberia, and there they fashioned a brilliant civilization that stood as a rebuke to the intolerance of the European states to the north. Cordoba and Granada were adorned and exalted in the Arab imagination. Andalusia brought together all that the Arabs favored — poetry, glamorous courts, philosophers who debated the great issues of the day.

If Islam’s rise was spectacular, its fall was swift and unsparing. This is the world that the great historian Bernard Lewis explored in his 2002 book “What Went Wrong?”The blessing of God, seen at work in the ascent of the Muslims, now appeared to desert them. The ruling caliphate, with its base in Baghdad, was torn asunder by a Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Soldiers of fortune from the Turkic Steppes sacked cities and left a legacy of military seizures of power that is still the bane of the Arabs. Little remained of their philosophy and literature, and after the Ottoman Turks overran Arab countries to their south in the 16th century, the Arabs seemed to exit history; they were now subjects of others.

The coming of the West to their world brought superior military, administrative and intellectual achievement into their midst — and the outsiders were unsparing in their judgments. They belittled the military prowess of the Arabs, and they were scandalized by the traditional treatment of women and the separation of the sexes that crippled Arab society.

Even as Arabs insist that their defects were inflicted on them by outsiders, they know their weaknesses. Younger Arabs today can be brittle and proud about their culture, yet deeply ashamed of what they see around them. They know that more than 300 million Arabs have fallen to economic stagnation and cultural decline. They know that the standing of Arab states along the measures that matter — political freedom, status of women, economic growth — is low. In the privacy of their own language, in daily chatter on the street, on blogs and in the media, and in works of art and fiction, they probe endlessly what befell them.

But woe to the outsider who ventures onto that explosive terrain. The assumption is that Westerners bear Arabs malice, that Western judgments are always slanted and cruel.

In the past half-century, Arabs, as well as Muslims in non-Arab lands, have felt the threat of an encircling civilization they can neither master nor reject. Migrants have left the burning grounds of Karachi, Cairo and Casablanca but have taken the fire of their faith with them. “Dish cities” have sprouted in the Muslim diasporas of Western Europe and North America. You can live in Stockholm and be sustained by a diet of al-Jazeera television.

We know the celebrated cases when modernity has agitated the pious. A little more than two decades ago, it was a writer of Muslim and Indian birth, Salman Rushdie, whose irreverent work of fiction, “The Satanic Verses,” offended believers with its portrayal of Islam. That crisis began with book-burnings in Britain, later saw protests in Pakistan and culminated in Iran’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issuing a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989. The protesters were not necessarily critics of fiction; all it took to offend was that Islam, the prophet Muhammad and his wives had become a writer’s material. The confrontation laid bare the unease of Islam in the modern world.

The floodgates had opened. The clashes that followed defined the new terms of encounters between a politicized version of Islam — awakened to both power and vulnerability — and the West’s culture of protecting and nurturing free speech. In 2004, a Moroccan Dutchman in his mid-20s, Mohammed Bouyeri, murdered filmmaker Theo van Goghon a busy Amsterdam street after van Gogh and a Somali-born politician made a short film about the abuse of women in Islamic culture.

Shortly afterward, trouble came to Denmark when a newspaper there published a dozencartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad; in one he wears a bomb-shaped turban, and another shows him as an assassin. The newspaper’s culture editor had thought the exercise would merely draw attention to the restrictions on cultural freedom in Europe — but perhaps that was naive. After all, Muslim activists are on the lookout for such material. And Arab governments are eager to defend Islam. The Egyptian ambassador to Denmark encouraged a radical preacher of Palestinian birth living in Denmark and a young Lebanese agitator to fan the flames of the controversy.

But it was Syria that made the most of this opportunity. The regime asked the highest clerics to preach against the Danish government. The Danish embassies in Damascus and Beirut were sacked; there was a call to boycott Danish products. Denmark had been on the outer margins of Europe’s Muslim diaspora. Now its peace and relative seclusion were punctured.

The storm that erupted this past week at the gates of American diplomatic outposts across the Muslim world is a piece of this history. As usual, it was easily ignited. The offending work, a 14-minute film trailer posted on YouTube in July, is offensive indeed. Billed as a trailer for “The Innocence of Muslims,” a longer movie to come, it is at once vulgar and laughable. Its primitiveness should have consigned it to oblivion.

It was hard to track down the identities of those who made it. A Sam Bacile claimed authorship, said that he was an Israeli American and added that 100Jewish businessmen had backed the venture. This alone made it rankle even more — offending Muslims and implicating Jews at the same time. (In the meantime, no records could be found of Bacile, and the precise origins of the video remain murky.)

It is never hard to assemble a crowd of young protesters in the teeming cities of the Muslim world. American embassies and consulates are magnets for the disgruntled. It is inside those fortresses, the gullible believe, that rulers are made and unmade. Yet these same diplomatic outposts dispense coveted visas and a way out to the possibilities of the Western world. The young men who turned up at the U.S. Embassies this week came out of this deadly mix of attraction to American power and resentment of it. The attack in Benghazi, Libya, that took the lives of four American diplomats, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, appeared to be premeditated and unconnected to the film protests.

The ambivalence toward modernity that torments Muslims is unlikely to abate. The temptations of the West have alienated a younger generation from its elders. Men and women insist that they revere the faith as they seek to break out of its restrictions. Freedom of speech, granting license and protection to the irreverent, is cherished, protected and canonical in the Western tradition. Now Muslims who quarrel with offensive art are using their newfound freedoms to lash out against it.

These cultural contradictions do not lend themselves to the touch of outsiders. President George W. Bush believed that America’s proximity to Arab dictatorships had begotten us the jihadists’ enmity. His military campaign in Iraq became an attempt to reform that country and beyond. But Arabs rejected his interventionism and dismissed his “freedom agenda” as a cover for an unpopular war and for domination.

President Obama has taken a different approach. He was sure that his biography — the years he spent in Indonesia and his sympathy for the aspirations of Muslim lands — would help repair relations between America and the Islamic world. But he’s been caught in the middle, conciliating the rulers while making grand promises to ordinary people. The revolt of the Iranian opposition in the summer of 2009 exposed the flaws of his approach. Then the Arab Spring played havoc with American policy. Since then, the Obama administration has not been able to decide whether it defends the status quo or the young people hell-bent on toppling the old order.

Cultural freedom is never absolute, of course, and the Western tradition itself, from the Athenians to the present, struggles mightily with the line between freedom and order. In the Muslim world, that struggle is more fierce and lasting, and it will show itself in far more than burnt flags and overrun embassies.

Al Qaeda, ex-Gitmo detainee involved in consulate attack, intelligence sources say

September 20, 2012

Read the story at

Intelligence sources tell Fox News they are convinced the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was directly tied to Al Qaeda — with a former Guantanamo detainee involved.

That revelation comes on the same day a top Obama administration official called last week’s deadly assault a “terrorist attack” — the first time the attack has been described that way by the administration after claims it had been a “spontaneous” act.

“Yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,” Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said during a Senate hearing Wednesday.

Olsen echoed administration colleagues in saying U.S. officials have no specific intelligence about “significant advanced planning or coordination” for the attack.

However, his statement goes beyond White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, saying the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate was spontaneous. He is the first top administration official to call the strike an act of terrorism.

Sufyan Ben Qumu is thought to have been involved and even may have led the attack, Fox News’ intelligence sources said. Qumu, a Libyan, was released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007 and transferred into Libyan custody on the condition he be kept in jail. He was released by the Qaddafi regime as part of its reconciliation effort with Islamists in 2008.

His Guantanamo files also show he has ties to the financiers behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The declassified files also point to ties with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a known Al Qaeda affiliate.

Olson, repeating Wednesday that the FBI is handling the Benghazi investigation, also acknowledged the attack could lead back to Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

“We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda’s affiliates, in particular Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” he said at the Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing.

Still, Olsen said “the facts that we have now indicate that this was an opportunistic attack on our embassy, the attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours,” Olson said.

Carney said hours earlier that there still is “no evidence of a preplanned or pre-meditated attack,” which occurred on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

“I made that clear last week, Ambassador Rice made that clear Sunday,” Carney said at the daily White House press briefing.

Rice appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and four other morning talk shows to say the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was “spontaneous” and sparked by an early protest that day outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, over an anti-Islamic video.

“It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States,” Rice told Fox News. “The best information and the best assessment we have today is that this was not a pre-planned, pre-meditated attack. What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo.”

However, that account clashed with claims by the Libyan president that the attack was in fact premeditated. Other sources, including an intelligence source in Libya who spoke to Fox News, have echoed those claims. The intelligence source even said that, contrary to the suggestion by the Obama administration, there was no major protest in Benghazi before the deadly attack which killed four Americans. A U.S. official did not dispute the claim.

In the face of these conflicting accounts, Carney on Tuesday deferred to the ongoing investigation and opened the door to the possibility of other explanations.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called Wednesday for an independent review of the attack.

“A State Department Accountability Review Board to look into the Benghazi attack is not sufficient,” Collins said. “Given the loss of the lives of four Americans who were serving their country and the serious questions that have been raised about the security at our Consulate in Benghazi, it is imperative that a non-political, no-holds-barred examination be conducted.”

Fox News’ Bret Baier contributed to this report.


SWETT AND JASSER: No human rights without religious freedom

For U.N., 1948 declaration a practical imperative

The Washington Times, 9/27/12

Member states of the United Nations should ponder an alarming statistic: According to a just-released Pew Research Center study, 75 percent of people live in countries where a bedrock human right is endangered. Not all people enjoy the right to think as they please, believe or not believe as their conscience leads and live out their convictions openly and peacefully.

As members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, we can attest that a number of United Nations member countries often perpetrate or tolerate atrocious violations — including torture and murder — against the rights of their people to freedom of religion or belief.

In 1948, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by a 48-0 vote. The Declaration includes Article 18, which states the following:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.”

Ironically, some of today’s most brutal violators voted for the declaration when it was first proposed.

Iran is one of them. In addresses before the General Assembly, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has condemned other countries while ignoring his own hideous human rights and religious freedom record. Notwithstanding the recent release of Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, whom Iran had sentenced to death for apostasy, conditions have sunk to a level not seen since the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s reign. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s regime has ramped up the detainment, torture and execution of its citizens based on religion. It targets reformers among Iran’s Shi’a Muslim majority, as well as religious minorities, including Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Baha’is and Christians, while its senior officials, including Mr. Ahmadinejad, promote Holocaust denial and other forms of hatred against Jews.

Another supporter of the 1948 declaration and religious freedom abuser is the world’s most populous country, China.

China’s government continues to persecute people for conducting religious activities it can’t control or expressing religious ideas it doesn’t like. Conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims remain especially dire. Falun Gong practitioners are jailed, tortured and subjected to inhuman psychiatric tests, and hundreds of Protestant and Catholic leaders are detained each year for refusing to join the state-approved church. Not content to persecute the faithful, China imprisons, tortures and denies legal licenses to human rights defenders who accept their cases.

A third example is Burma. Despite Burma’s transition to civilian rule, its democratic reforms are threatened by appalling ethnic and sectarian violence. Burma continues to imprison Buddhist monks and fails to protect non-Buddhist minorities, from Chin Christians to Rohingya Muslims. One of the world’s most persecuted groups, the Rohingya have recently endured arrests, rapes and mass displacements by mobs and security forces, leaving more than 700 dead and 80,000 homeless.

While the 1948 declaration isn’t legally binding, it represents a concrete statement of principles, a clear standard for every nation. It’s time that fellow member states hold flagrant violators accountable.

It’s not just about individual freedom. Society’s well-being is also at stake. Across the globe, religious freedom is tied to robust democracy, diminished violence and greater prosperity and stability. Nations that abuse religious liberty often are incubators of intolerance, extremism, poverty, insecurity, violence and repression.

In other words, standing for religious freedom is not just a legal or moral obligation, but a practical imperative.

It’s time for members of the General Assembly to take this imperative to heart, embracing the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights.

Katrina Lantos Swett serves as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). M. Zuhdi Jasser serves as a USCIRF commissioner.