Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Triumph of the East

A YEAR ago I had lunch with an eminent figure who asked if I thought she was mad. "No," I said politely, while thinking: "Yup". She had said she thought there was a secret plot by Muslims to take over the West.I have never been into conspiracy theories, and this one was definitely of the little-green-men variety. Obviously, we all know about Osama bin Laden's ambitions. And we are all aware of the loonies of al-Muhajiroun waving placards saying: "Islam is the future of Britain". But these are all on the extremist fringe, representative of no one but themselves. Surely no one in Islam takes this sort of thing seriously?

I started surfing the Islamic media. Take Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the controversial Egyptian imam who was recently fawned over by the Mayor of London even though he promotes the execution of homosexuals, the right of men to indulge in domestic violence, and the murder of innocent Jews.

During the brouhaha it went unnoticed that he also wants to conquer Europe. Don't take my word for it, just listen to him on his popular al-Jazeera TV show, Sharia and Life.

"Islam will return to Europe. The conquest need not necessarily be by the sword. Perhaps we will conquer these lands without armies. We want an army of preachers and teachers who will present Islam in all languages and in all dialects," he broadcast in 1999, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, which translates his programs.

On another program he declared: "Europe will see that it suffers from a materialist culture, and it will seek a way out, it will seek a lifeboat. It will seek no lifesaver but the message of Islam."
Far from being on the fringe, his immensely popular programs are watched by millions across the Middle East and Europe. The British Broadcasting Corporation cooed that he has "star" status among the world's Muslims.

Dr al-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar, is also the spiritual guide of the hardline Muslim Brotherhood, which is growing across Europe, and whose leader Muhammad Mahdi Othman Akef declared recently: "I have complete faith that Islam will invade Europe and America, because Islam has logic and a mission."

In the most sacred mosque in Islam, Sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Sudais of the Grand Mosque in Mecca uses his sermons to call for Jews to be "annihilated" and to urge the overthrow of Western civilisation.

"The most noble civilisation ever known to mankind is our Islamic civilisation. Today, Western civilisation is nothing more than the product of its encounter with our Islamic civilisation in Andalusia (medieval Spain). The reason for (Western civilisation's) bankruptcy is its reliance on the materialistic approach and its detachment from religion and values. (This approach) has been one reason for the misery of the human race, for the proliferation of suicide, mental problems and for moral perversion. Only one nation is capable of resuscitating global civilisation, and that is the nation (of Islam)."

Al-Sudais is the highest imam appointed by our all, the Saudi Government, and his sermons are widely listened-to across the Middle East. When he came to the UK in June to open the London Islamic Centre, thousands of British Muslims flocked to see him. Race Relations Minister Fiona Mactaggart shared the platform and Prince Charles sent a video message.

Al-Sudais is probably the closest thing in Islam to the Pope, but I haven't recently heard the Pope call for the overthrow of all other faiths. Saudi Arabia, whose flag shows a sword, seems unabashed about its desire for Islam to take over the world. Its embassy in Washington recommends the home page of its Islamic affairs department, where it declares: "The Muslims are required to raise the banner of jihad in order to make the World of Allah supreme in this world."

Saudi Arabia has used billions of its petrodollars to export its particularly harsh form of Islam – Wahabism – by paying for mosques and Islamic schools across the West. About 80 per cent of the US's mosques are thought to be under Wahabi control.

Saudi Arabia's Education Ministry encourages schoolchildren to despise Christianity and Judaism. A new schoolbook in the kingdom's curriculum tells six-year-olds: "All religion other than Islam are false." A note for teachers says they should "ensure to explain" this point. In Egypt, the schoolbook Studies in Theology: Traditions and Morals explains that a particularly "noble" bit of the Koran is "encouraging the faithful to perform jihad in God's cause, to behead the infidels, take them prisoner, break their power – all that in a style which contains the highest examples of urging to fight".

A popular topic for discussion on Arabic TV channels is the best strategy for conquering the West. It seems to be agreed that since the West has overwhelming economic, military and scientific power, it could take some time, and a full frontal assault could prove counterproductive.

Muslim immigration and conversion are seen as the best path. Saudi Professor Nasser bin Suleiman al-Omar declared on al-Majd TV in July: "Islam is advancing according to a steady plan, to the point that tens of thousands of Muslims have joined the American army and Islam is the second largest religion in America. America will be destroyed. But we must be patient."
Islam is now the second religion not just in the US but in Europe and Australia. Europe has 15 million Muslims, accounting for one in 10 of the population in France, where the Government now estimates 50,000 Christians are converting to Islam every year.

In Brussels, Mohammed has been the most popular name for boy babies for the past four years. In Britain, attendance at mosques is now higher than it is in the Church of England.
Al-Qaida is criticised for being impatient, and waking the West up. Saudi preacher Sheikh Said al-Qahtani said on the Iqraa TV satellite channel: "We did not occupy the US, with eight million Muslims, using bombings.

"Had we been patient and let time take its course, instead of the eight million there could have been 80 million (Muslims), and 50 years later perhaps the US would have been Muslim."
It is difficult to brush this off as an aberration of Islam, which is normally content to let the rest of the world indulge in its false beliefs. Dr Zaki Badawi, the moderate former director of the Islamic Cultural Centre in London, admitted: "Islam endeavours to expand in Britain. Islam is a universal religion. It aims to bring its message to all corners of the Earth. It hopes that one day the whole of humanity will be one Muslim community."

In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into Dar al-Islam, where Muslims rule, and Dar al-Harb, the "field of war" where the infidels live. "The presumption is that the duty of jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces, until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule," wrote Professor Bernard Lewis in his best seller The Crisis of Islam.
The first jihad was in AD 630, when Mohammed led his army to conquer Mecca.
He made a prediction that Islam would conquer the two most powerful Christian centres at the time, Constantinople and Rome.

Within 100 years of his death, Muslim armies had conquered the previously Christian provinces of Syria, Palestine, Egypt and the rest of north Africa, as well as Spain, Portugal and southern Italy, until they were stopped at Poitiers in central France in AD 732.

Muslim armies overthrew the ancient Zoroastrian empire of Persia, and conquered much of central Asia and Hindu India.

Ibn Warraq, a Pakistani who lost his Islamic faith, wrote in his book Why I am not a Muslim : "Although Europeans are constantly castigated for having imposed their insidious decadent values, culture and language on the Third World, no one cares to point out that Islam colonised lands that were the homes of advanced and ancient civilisations."

It took 700 years for the Spanish to get their country back in the prolonged "Reconquista". In the meantime the Turks, a central Asian people, had been converted to Islam and had conquered the ancient Christian land of Anatolia (now called Turkey).

In 1453 they captured Constantinople – fulfilling Mohammed's first prediction – which was the centre of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The glorious Hagia Sophia, which had been one of the most important churches in Christendom for nearly 1000 years after it was built in AD 537, was turned into a mosque, and minarets were added.

The Turks went on to occupy Greece and much of the Balkans for four centuries, turning the Parthenon into a mosque and besieging Vienna, before retreating as their power waned.
In the Middle East, there are regular calls for Mohammed's second prediction to come true.
Sheikh Muhammad bin Abd al-Rahman al-Arifi, imam of the mosque of the Saudi Government's King Fahd Defence Academy, wrote recently: "We will control the land of the Vatican; we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it."

Not all conversion has been by the sword. Muslim traders peaceably converted Indonesia, now the most populous Islamic nation. But nor have the conquests stopped. Islam has continued spreading in sub-Saharan Africa, most notably in Nigeria and Sudan.
Ethiopia is an ancient Christian land where Muslims have come to outnumber Christians only in the past 100 years.

Just 50 years ago, Lebanon was still predominantly Christian; it is now predominantly Muslim.
Of course, Christianity has been just as much a conquering religion. Spanish armies ruthlessly destroyed ancient civilisations in Central and South America to spread the message of love. Christians colonised the Americas and Australia, and missionaries such as David Livingstone converted most of Africa.

But the difference is that Christendom has – by and large – stopped conquering and converting, and indeed in Europe simply stopped believing.

Even President George Bush's most trenchant critics don't believe he conquered Afghanistan and Iraq to spread the world of Jesus.

It is ironic that by deposing Saddam, who ran the most secular of Arab regimes, the US actually transferred power to the imams.

I believe in a free market in religions, and it is inevitable that if you believe your religion is true, then you believe others are false. But this market is seriously rigged. In Saudi Arabia the Government bans all churches, while in Europe governments pay to build Islamic cultural centres.

While in many Islamic countries the preaching of Christianity is banned, in Western Christian countries the right to preach Islam is enshrined in law. Christians are free to convert to Islam, while Muslims who convert to Christianity can expect either death threats or a death sentence.
The Pope keeps apologising for the Crusades (even though they were just attempts to get back former Christian lands) while his opposite numbers call for the overthrow of Christendom.
In Christian countries, those who warn about Islamification, such as the film star Brigitte Bardot, are prosecuted, while in Muslim countries those who call for the Islamification of the world become celebrities.

In the West, schools teach comparative religion, while in Muslim countries schools teach that Islam is the only true faith.

In the last century, some Christians justified the persecution and mass murder of Jews by claiming that Jews wanted to take over the world. But these fascist fantasies were based on deliberate lies, such as the notorious fake book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Now many Muslims are open about their desire for Islam to conquer the West.

The West Is the Land of Conquest

ROMA – A Muslim intellectual has achieved star status in French-speaking Europe. He draws crowds of young immigrants and speaks to them with charismatic fervor. He enchants the anti-globalization left and the readers of “Le Monde Diplomatique.” He cites with equal mastery the Koran and Nietzsche, Heidegger and the sayings of the Prophet. He is admired by Fr. Michel Lelong, the leading Islam’s scholar of the Church in France. He sells thousands of cassette recordings of his sermons. His name is Tariq Ramadan.

Ramadan lives in Geneva, where he was born 42 years ago. He studied as imam in Cairo and, back in Switzerland, took an undergraduate degree in French literature and two doctorates, in Islamic studies and the philosophical thought of Friedrich Nietzsche. He teaches at the universities of Geneva and Fribourg and has for years taken his students into Third World countries to get field experience and meet Catholic exponents of Liberation Theology and the Dalai Lama. Since 1993, he has dedicated himself with growing intensity to preaching in Switzerland, France, and Belgium, with frequent engagements in the United States. He is the author of over a dozen books: the one entitled “To Be a European Muslim,” published in 1999, has been translated into 14 languages. He is listened to as an expert at the European Parliament. He is married, with four children.

In recent months he has been accused of anti-Semitism. He has had harsh confrontations with influential Jewish intellectuals such as Bernard-Henri Levy, André Glucksmann, and Bernard Kouchner. “Le Monde” and other important newspapers have published critical reviews about him. But for Ramadan, this is all proof of the rightness of his position and of the West’s innate hostility toward Islam.

The phenomenon of Tariq Ramadan wasn’t born in a vacuum. His maternal grandfather, an Egyptian, is Hassan Al-Banna, who in 1929 founded the Muslim Brotherhood, the most important Islamist movement of the twentieth century. His father, an exile in Geneva, was one of its most active promoters. And his brother Hani – with whom Tariq denies having connections – directs, also in Geneva, an Islamic center accused of contact with the terrorist network of Al-Qaeda.

But his ideological allegiances are more important than his ancestry. Tariq Ramadan – working within the very heart of the West – weaves together Islamic politics and the radical criticisms of Western rationalism made by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Cioran, Guénon, and neo-Marxist and anti-global currents.

Other twentieth-century Muslim intellectuals went down this road ahead of him, frequently studying in European universities. One of these is the Indian Muhammed Iqbal, another the Iranian Ahmad Fardid. One of the latter’s important followers, Djalal Al-e Ahmad, published in Tehran in 1962 an essay that, as implied by the title of the French translation, “L’occidentalite,” locates Islam’s deadly malady in the West, against the backdrop of an apocalyptic and nihilistic vision that seems to presage the emergence of the universalist radical terrorism of an Osama bin Laden.

But a path even more similar to that of Tariq Ramadan is that of another Egyptian, Hassan Hanafi. He too frequented the Muslim Brotherhood; he too studied the European philosophers; he too traveled between Cairo and Paris, where he spent ten years at the Sorbonne; he too visited and investigated the United States. As the dean of the philosophy department at the University of Cairo, he clashed with the ulema of Al-Azhar, who did not share his radicalism.
And for Hanafi, the absolute enemy of Islam is the West. Sometimes it is dominated, as during the first seven centuries after Mohammed, the period of Muslim world supremacy; sometimes it is dominant, as during the following seven centuries. But for him the 21st century is the century of the reversal, and the beginning of another period of seven centuries in which the roles will be inverted again: “The West will begin its new decline, and the Arab-Islamic world, its renewal.”

Tariq Ramadan also sees the West in decline. And into the spiritual void left by Judaism and Christianity, Islam can enter and overcome, no longer enduring modernity, but islamicizing it. The Western public likes Ramadan because his vision includes elements of democracy, equal citizenship, and free expression. He debates both secularized Muslims and those who separate themselves in closed communities. He announces the birth of a fully European Islam. And he ventures on this long journey armed with the doctrine of the taqiyya, or the art of dissimulation, a typical Islamic practice on enemy soil.

In Italy, the most acute analysis of this anti-Western soul from a Muslim point of view is found in the book “Global Islam” by Khaled Fouad Allam, an Algerian, professor of Islamic studies at the universities of Trieste and Urbino.

In the Christian camp, one critical voice raised against Tariq Ramadan is that of Olivier Clément, an Orthodox theologian and intellectual who lives in Paris. What follows is a part of an article that Clément published in the December, 2003 edition of “Vita e Pensiero,” the magazine of the Catholic University of Milan:

Be careful of Ramadan’s model of Islam
by Olivier Clément


The question of school girls wearing veils in France and the debate about the crucifix in an Italian school room are, in spite of appearances, strictly connected, and pose the problem of the behavior of Muslims in these two countries. [...]

We must emphasize immediately that the two cases, French and Italian, are provocations launched by intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals recently converted to Islam. [...] They are thus exceptions, but they were provoked intentionally and are doubtless revealing.
In France, the two sisters expelled from school, not only because of the veil but more generally for their way of dressing and their behavior, are the daughters of an agnostic lawyer of a Jewish background, named Lévy. He was the one who encouraged them, to demonstrate the intolerance of our society.

In Italy, the father of the two children who said he was scandalized by the crucifix hung on the wall of their school is named Adel Smith, and converted to Islam in 1982. [...]
These isolated provocations seem to me clear testimonies of a new course within the ideological motivations of the Muslim communities. There have certainly always been in France, and there still are, fundamentalist currents of complete hatred and refusal toward Western culture. But these instances from other times have never been able to demolish or even exploit the juridical and mental structures of our society.

The new ideology is now well defined. Its spokesman, at least in France and all of Western Europe, is Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan does not hide himself or devise conspiracies. While affirming his Muslim faith, he presents himself as a great Western intellectual. Young and handsome, he speaks with mastery and clarity the language of the intelligentsia of Western Europe. He teaches philosophy, French literature, and Islamic studies at the University of Geneva. At the same time, he works for Muslim groups like “Young Muslims of France,” and has assured himself of a role as an expert among the commissions that revolve around the European parliament. His media presence does not cease growing. He is author of more than a dozen works, including “Les musulmans dans la laïcité,” “Aux sources du renouveau musulman,” and “Les musulmans d’occident et l’avenir de l’islam.” He is a frequent guest on television and radio, and he circulates pamphlets in French or Arabic among young Muslims.
He proposes a “reformist” and “all-encompassing” Islam. His aim would seem to be that of bringing forth a body of values beginning from Islamic sources, an embodiment of the universal vocation that would take the place of the values of Western civilization. What matters to him is affirming Muslim identity and presenting it as the source of true universality.

Beginning from the statement that the fulcrum of historical movement is now constituted by the Europe-North America combination, with the Muslim countries relegated to the periphery, Ramadan notes how there are nonetheless many Muslims, especially intellectuals, who have succeeded in becoming part of the nucleus. He thus invites them to refashion it and, little by little, islamicize it: “References to Judaism and Christianity are being diluted, if not disappearing altogether” (“Les musulmans d’occident e l’avenir de l’islam,” Actes Sud-Sinbad, 2003). “Only Islam can achieve the synthesis between Christianity and humanism, and fill the spiritual void that afflicts the West” (“Islam, le face à face des civilisations,” Tawhid, 2001).
And again: “The Koran confirms, completes, and corrects the messages that preceded it” (“Les messages musulmans d’occident”). Some Christian personalities whose charitable works cannot be misconstrued – Mother Teresa, Sister Emanuelle, Abbé Pierre, Fr. Helder Camara – are exceptions who show only that all good people are implicitly Muslims, because true humanism is founded in Koranic revelation. Thus, both directly and through this humanism, the “Muslim City” can be founded upon the earth. “Today the Muslims who live in the West must unite themselves to the revolution of the antiestablishment groups from the moment when the neoliberal capitalist system becomes, for Islam, a theater of war […] The revelation of the Koran is explicit: whoever engages in speculation or cultivates financial interests eneters into war against the transcendent” (“Pouvoirs,” 2003, n. 164).

Tariq Ramadan then insists – justly – on the long-neglected intellectual riches of the great Muslim thinkers like Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, but he forgets to situate them in their relation to Greek, Jewish, and Christian thought, and presents them as the true originators of humanism.

Jacques Jomier has efficiently summed up the goal that drives Tariq Ramadan: “His problem is not the modernization of Islam, but the islamification of modernity” (“Esprit et Vie,” February 17, 2000). We must not forget that Ramadan is the nephew of Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the Islamic movement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a man Ramadan considers an eminent representative of “reformist” Islam, capable of bringing about an endogenous alternative culture from within modernity (“Peut-on vivre avec l’islam?”, Favre, 1990).
In his opinion, all forms of contrast must be avoided: around 1995, Ramadan praised Hassan Al-Turabi’s activities in Sudan. He’s not like that anymore (but his brother Hani, who finances the publishing house Tawhid, doesn’t share his reservations, particularly regarding the trials and sentences against adulterous women in Nigeria). Tariq Ramadan prefers to appeal to the freedom of conscience guided by the judgment imparted by Koranic revelation. “Some Muslim scholars, using arguments taken from the Koran and the Sunna, have prohibited music and even drawing and photography (and thus television and cinema). It is one opinion among many, and as such it must be respected […]. But others, like ourselves, should determine a selective approach in these matters, as in others” (“Les musulmans d’occident e l’avenir de l’islam”). The same can be said about the veil: we must leave this choice to women, while revealing to them its true significance.

What can be done in the face of this new situation? [...] In France, where the Muslim community is very numerous and the debates rage on both the right and the left, the parliament is close to voting on a law that would ban the display of religious signs in school buildings. This prospect disturbs the Catholics, according to whom this sort of law would seem to the Muslims like a form of stigmatization and rejection on the part of the national community. [...] But it seems that the more intelligent Muslims are secretly hoping for a law that would favor this exclusion, which would be open proof of the innate islamophobia of French society. [...] Tariq Ramadan’s thought confers an unexpected scope upon the current provocations. For our part, we are called to a more profound and lucid Christianity, one able, at the same time, to both welcome and illuminate everything.
__________
Note 1. On Hassan Al-Turabi

Among the twentieth-century Muslim thinkers admired by Tariq Ramadan, Olivier Clément cites the Sudanese Hassan Al-Turabi.

Al-Turabi was also close to the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth. He studied philosophy in Europe, at the Sorbonne in Paris. He speaks a language very familiar to European culture. He sees in the West a post-Christian society, and in Islam the fulfillment of Christianity. He says he is a supporter of religious dialogue.

But throughout the 1990’s Al Turabi was much more than an intellectual. He was the éminence grise of the military rulers in Sudan. He tried to create a new Islamic state that would be a model for the entire Muslim world. He hosted Osama bin Laden and was the mentor of Al-Qaeda’s strategist, the Egyptian Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Until his fall from grace with the military regime in 2000, he was the Islamic ideologue most seen on the Al-Jazeera television channel.
In 1994, he managed to be received in a private audience by an unsuspecting John Paul II, in the Vatican.

Here is a link to a long interview with Al-Turabi conducted in 1994 by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach for Lyndon LaRouche’s “Executive Intelligence Review”:
__________
Note 2. On Giacomo Cardinal Biffi
The alarm for an islamicization of Europe, that Olivier Clément attributes to Tariq Ramadan, has much in common with what Giacomo Cardinal Biffi, the archbishop of Bologna, said at the conclusion of one of his famous – and debated – conferences, on September 30, 2000. Here are the last three paragraphs:

“In an interview about ten years ago, I was asked candidly and with enviable optimism: ‘Do you also hold that Europe will either be Christian or not be?’ It seems to me that the reply I made then is well suited to the conclusion of my statements today.

“I think – I said then – that Europe will either become Christian again or become Muslim. What seems to me to be without a future is the ‘culture of nothing’, of freedom without limits or content, of scepticism hailed as an intellectual conquest, which seems to be the attitude mainly dominant among the European peoples, more or less rich in means and poor in truth. This ‘culture of nothing’ (supported by hedonism and libertine insatiability) will not be able to bear the ideological assault of Islam, which will not be lacking. Only the rediscovery of the Christian drama as the only salvation for man – and thus only a decisive resurrection of the ancient spirit of Europe – can offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.

“Unfortunately, neither the secularists nor the Catholics seem to be aware of the drama that is approaching. The secularists, hammering at the Church in every way possible, do not realize that they are fighting the strongest source of inspiration and the most valid defense of Western civilization and its values of rationality and freedom: perhaps they will realize it too late. The Catholics, allowing their awareness of the truth they possess to fade and substituting for apostolic zeal pure and simple dialogue at any cost, are unknowingly preparing (humanly speaking) their own extinction. The hope is that the gravity of the situation can, at some moment, bring about an effective reawakening of both reason and the ancient faith.”
(c) Sandro Magister, www.chiesa.espressonline.it/english , All Rights Reserved.

Far-right growing in UK

The BNP won 750,000 votes in the recent European and local elections after claiming to have shed its extremist past and become a more mainstream political party.

British far-right leader repeats Islam attack

British National Party leader Nick Griffin was unrepentant after being filmed by the BBC attacking Islam as a "vicious wicked faith".

In an interview, he refused to say sorry and said the "Islamification" of the West had partly happened by rape.

But he did apologise for comments made by other BNP activists shown on BBC documentary The Secret Agent, broadcast on Thursday, confessing to race crimes. Three of them have been expelled from the party, Mr Griffin said.

Reporter Jason Gwynne spent six months infiltrating the BNP's West Yorkshire branch with the help of a former local organiser.

In the documentary, footage recorded at a meeting in Keighley shows Mr Griffin warning the audience to "stand up" to Muslims.

"We have a monster in our midst."

Nick GriffinBNP leader

He said Islam "has expanded through a handful of cranky lunatics" and "is now sweeping country after country".

Speaking to BBC's Newsnight, he refused to apologise for his comments and continued to attack Islam.

Asked whether he thought Islam had expanded due to rape, a theory he had previously stated, he said: "It's one of the ways in which it's expanded, it's also expanded as the Koran tells its followers to do so - it's expanded at the point of the sword."

He added: "You give me 20 minutes or an hour - a special programme to dissect the Koran and I will show you that we have a monster in our midst."
Faeces attack

Mr Griffin accused the BBC of selective editing in the documentary and said his full speech had discouraged attacks on communities.

West Yorkshire Police said a number of issues raised in the programme would be investigated and they would review tapes on Friday.
"Working with our colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service, we will be reviewing the material to identify what, if any, information of evidential value it contains and decide on the appropriate action," police said.

In the film, one BNP member told Mr Gwynne how he kicked and punched a man during the 2001 Bradford riots.

Another member said he wanted to "blow up" Bradford's mosques with a rocket launcher.
This is a statement of the vilest kind by a vile party of Nazis and thugs
Peter HainLeader of the Commons And BNP council candidate Dave Midgley is shown saying he squirted dog faeces through the letterbox of an Asian takeaway.
Mr Griffin told Newsnight he was appalled by the comments and said: "There's no defence at all for what those people said."

Three party members have been expelled and a fourth is facing an internal disciplinary tribunal, he said.

Shock

But he accused Mr Gwynne of provoking the men into saying these things - a claim denied by the programme makers.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) commended the BBC investigation.
Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the MCB, said: "The BNP have long been exploiting a loophole in our current legislation which outlaws incitement to racial hatred but does not forbid incitement to religious hatred.

"This documentary provides additional evidence of the immense harm this is doing to community relations in our country."
Earlier this month, Home Secretary David Blunkett unveiled plans to make inciting religious hatred a criminal offence.

In parliament the BNP was dubbed a party of "vile Nazis and thugs" by Commons Leader Peter Hain, amid condemnation from all parties.

Europe Fears Converts May Aid Extremism

(Source: New York Times)
Published: July 19, 2004

T.-PIERRE-EN-FAUCIGNY, France — The Courtailler brothers grew up in this medieval Alpine town, children of a butcher who went broke, who divorced his wife and moved to a job in a meatpacking plant far away. Two of the three brothers, David and Jérôme, educated in Catholic schools, foundered in drugs until they found religion: Islam.

Within five years of David's initial conversion at a mosque in the British seaside resort of Brighton in 1996, the brothers embraced many of the leading lights of Europe's Islamic terror network. David, 28, is now in jail, and in late June, Jérôme, 29, turned himself in to the police in the Netherlands, days after he was convicted by a court there of belonging to an international terrorist group.

The Courtaillers are part of a growing group of people who found a home in Islam and then veered into extremism, raising concerns among antiterrorism officials on both sides of the Atlantic that the new recruits could provide foreign-born Islamic militants with invisibility and cover, by escaping the scrutiny often reserved for young men of Arab descent.
A handful of Westerners have already been arrested on terrorism charges. Their experiences, the authorities fear, could foreshadow a deepening problem.

"Converts will be used for striking more and more by jihadist circles," said Jean-Luc Marret, a terrorism expert at the Strategic Research Foundation, in Paris. "They have been used in the past for proselytism, logistics or support, and they are operationally useful now."

Islam is Europe's fastest-growing religion, and many experts say that while there are no reliable statistics, they believe that the number of converts has grown since Sept. 11, 2001, in many ways because of the campaign against terrorism.

Antoine Sfeir, a French scholar who is writing a book on the trend, said a small number of converts, many of them disaffected and often troubled young people, saw the current wave of Islamic terrorism as "a kind of combat against the rich, powerful, by the poor men of the planet."

Only a small fraction of Western Islamic converts sympathize with terrorism, and even fewer become engaged in terrorist activity. A few dozen militant converts have been identified so far. A report by France's domestic intelligence agency, published by Le Figaro, estimated last year that there were 30,000 to 50,000 converts in France.

However small the number of them drawn to terrorism, the police are focusing on this subset as a serious and growing threat.

"The conversion to Islam of fragile individuals undoubtedly leads to the risk of diversion to terrorism," the intelligence agency's report said, adding that radical groups have recruited converts because they could cross borders easily or serve as front men for renting accommodations or providing other logistical support.

A Transnational Trend

The trend is not only happening in Europe.

Jack Roche, a British-born Australian taxi driver, converted to Islam, trained in Afghanistan and returned to Australia, where he was recently sentenced to nine years in prison for trying to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Canberra. While planning the attack and videotaping the embassy, he was questioned by a guard, whom he told that he was interested in the district's architecture.

"Is that what it is?" the guard, clearly believing him, casually replied in a conversation recorded on the video and later presented at Mr. Roche's trial. "I didn't think you were going to bomb the joint or anything."

In the United States, Jose Padilla, held by the government on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks, converted to Islam in 1992 while in a Florida jail.

Both David and Jérôme Courtailler, the French brothers, moved freely through Europe without attracting the kind of attention focused on Arab men, even after the French authorities were notified when David was spotted leaving Afghanistan.

In an interview, one French anti-terrorism official said many recent converts were women, further complicating the standard profile.

EU envoy: Anti-Muslim sentiment on rise

(source: Jerusalem Post)

European Union Ambassador Giancarlo Chevallard said Monday that while he can't say whether there has been an increase in European anti-Semitism, there has definitely been an increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab feeling.

Speaking at a press briefing in Tel Aviv, Chevallard said there is often "some confusion in Israel of criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism."

He admitted there is "anti-Israeli policy" in Europe. "There is a lot of difficulty comprehending the route of the [security] fence and expansion of settlements," he said.

But when asked whether he believes there has been an increase in anti-Semitism, or whether it is just anti-Israel expression, Chevallard said, "I have no answer for you."

He said that while he is not "ready to agree" that there has been an increase in anti-Semitism, anyone who goes to Europe can feel that there has been an increase in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feeling.

The increase of the Muslim population in Europe is seen by some as a challenge to their way of life, he said, adding that the much smaller Jewish population is not seen as a similar threat.Emanuele Giaufret, counselor in the delegation of the European Commission, said the reason the recent EU-commissioned study on anti-Semitism was shelved was because "it did not meet" professional standards.

The study was carried out by the Berlin Center for Research on Anti-Semitism at the city's Technical University.

It was decided, Giaufret said, to launch a new study, and those preparing it will meet with representatives of the European Jewish community. The issue, he said, is very much on the EU's agenda.

Chevallard called the briefing prior to Tuesday's meeting of the foreign ministers of the countries involved in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (the Barcelona Process) in Naples. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom will attend, as will the foreign ministers of Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Chevallard said that an assembly of parliamentarians from EU and Mediterranean countries will be established at the meeting.On another issue, he said the European Commission was "pleasantly surprised" by Israel's decision to clearly label where products are manufactured on export certificates to Europe.

This is a "welcome initiative" that needs further study, he said, adding that now the technical details of this new policy must be thrashed out.For instance, it is not clear whether Israel will voluntarily send all its products to Europe bearing this information, or whether Israeli customs officials will now be willing to make this information known when asked by the EU.
Furthermore, how places of manufacture will be named will also have to be worked out.
For instance, since the Europeans view east Jerusalem as outside the Green Line, one question that will have to be dealt with is whether Israel will have to name where in Jerusalem products were manufactured. For instance, will it have to specify Ramot, Gilo, or Har Hahotzvim on products made in these post-1967 Jerusalem neighborhoods?In addition to the rules-of- origin issue, Chevallard said that Israel's recent decision to soften its boycott of the EU's special Middle East envoy Marc Otte because of a meeting he had with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat was also a "step in the right direction."

While Israel now has given senior officials in various government ministries the okay to meet Otte, this does not extend to the political level, and cabinet ministers still are not to meet with him. "This is a step in the right direction, but not a resolution to the problem," Chevallard said.In general, he said, EU wants a "better hearing from Israel to our political concerns. We feel that they do not listen enough, and we are determined to make the political dialogue.

One way this might be done is through the "action plan" governing Israel's participation in the Wider Europe agenda that is to be drawn up by the end of 2004. The ultimate goal of Wider Europe is to allow free access to and from the EU of goods, services, capital, and people from the countries involved.