New York Conference Calls for Establishing Islamic-American Cultural Forum

Participants at the “Civilizational Interaction between the US and Muslim World” Conference, organized in New York by the Muslim World League

New York– An international conference organized in New York by the Muslim World League and entitled “Civilizational Interaction between the US and Muslim World”, called for the establishment of a forum for American-Islamic communication to promote intellectual, cultural and scientific interaction and consolidate ties between the Islamic world and the American people.
The conference, which kicked off on Sunday, gathered a group of academics, researchers and leaders of religious, political and social organizations from around the world.

Recommendations issued at the end of the meeting on Monday underlined the importance of developing a comprehensive methodology for coordination between organizations, centers, universities and media institutions to counter radical ideologies and protect societies from their effects and repercussions.

Participants have also suggested the adoption of a long-term strategy to activate cultural communication, promote tolerance and equality, cooperate in promoting sustainable development programs, and provide a secure, stable and prosperous environment that will protect young people from extremist ideas.

Highlighting plans of “civilizational cooperation” between Islamic nations and the US, the participants highly valued the establishment of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal), which was inaugurated in May by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, in the presence of US President Donald Trump.

Addressing the attendees during Sunday’s opening ceremony, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Dr. Mohammed al-Issa called for fighting Islamophobia, racism and hatred against foreigners through the adoption of a comprehensive methodology for dialogue between the US and Muslim nations.

“This distinguished civilized relationship over the years has revealed the grave error of the Clash of Civilizations theory that was based on stirring up hatred and racism and erecting imaginary barriers,” Issa said.

“What is important is our understanding of the need for coexistence and cooperation in the light of this understanding to serve not just mutual interests, but also humanity, to promote social peace and intellectual security and to defeat evil,” he added.

Conference in New York on Civilization Interaction between US, Muslim World

New York- Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Dr. Mohammed al-Issa called for fighting Islamophobia, racism and hatred against foreigners through the adoption of a comprehensive methodology for dialogue between the US and Muslim nations.

His speech was delivered during the opening ceremony of the international conference organized by the Muslim World League and titled “Civilization Interaction between the US and Muslim World.”

Issa said that civilized interaction between the Islamic world and the United States has a long history of exchange and cooperation of humanitarian, knowledge-based, economic and political issues. “This distinguished civilized relationship over the years has revealed the grave error of the Clash of Civilizations theory that was based on stirring up hatred and racism and erecting imaginary barriers,” Issa added.

“What is important is our understanding of the need for co-existence and cooperation in the light of this understanding to serve not just mutual interests, but to also serve humanity, to promote social peace and intellectual security and to defeat evil,” he continued.

Dr. Yousef al-Othaimeen, the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the OIC firmly believes in the importance of dialogue and communication in promoting mutual respect and understanding.

Chief Imam of the Two Holy Mosques Sheikh Abdul Rahman Sudais highlighted importance of activating channels aimed at spreading the good, and to face terrorism and extremism promoters.

For his part, Secretary-General for the World Council of Religious Leaders Dr. Bawa Jain said that the “process requires moving from a stage of accepting the other to respecting the other.”

Dr. William F. Vendley, UN Secretary General of the World Council of Religious Leaders, stated that great civilizations evolve from great religions and this is a mutual factor between the US and the Islamic world.

Chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments Dr. Mohammed Matar al-Kaabi also delivered a speech, stressing the importance of exchanging opinion and expertise on positive and effective communication between the US and the Islamic world.

UK Minister Urges Silicon Valley to Do More to Fight Online Extremism

Britain's Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, arrives in Downing Street for a cabinet meeting, in central London

Britain’s interior minister has warned Internet giants Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube to step up efforts to counter or remove content that incites militants.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd issued her challenge as she arrived in Silicon Valley in California on Tuesday.

After four militant attacks in Britain that killed 36 people this year, senior ministers have repeatedly demanded that internet companies do more to suppress extremist content and allow access to encrypted communications.

In the face of resistance from the industry, Prime Minister Theresa May – a former interior minister – proposed trying to regulate cyberspace after a deadly attack on London Bridge in June.

Rudd will meet executives of social media and internet service providers in San Francisco at the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, whose partners are Facebook (FB.O), Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O), Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Twitter (TWTR.N).

The forum was set up to coordinate the companies’ efforts on removing militant content.

“Terrorists and extremists have sought to misuse your platforms… This Forum is a crucial way to start turning the tide,” Rudd will say, according to a statement from the interior ministry.

“The responsibility for tackling this threat at every level lies with both governments and with industry.”

A source familiar with Rudd’s trip said she had scheduled a meeting with representatives of YouTube, Alphabet’s video sharing platform. She met Facebook, which owns messaging platform WhatsApp, on Monday, the company said.

The industry says it wants to help governments remove extremist or criminal material but also has to balance the demands of state security with the freedoms enshrined in democratic societies.

“Our mission is to substantially disrupt terrorists’ ability to use the Internet in furthering their causes, while also respecting human rights,” Twitter said in a statement.

End-to-End Encryption

While internet companies are eager to remove obviously extremist content posted on their platforms they face a logistical challenge in identifying and then swiftly removing such material.

Rudd said three quarters of ISIS propaganda was shared within three hours of publication, underscoring the need for speed in taking down extremist posts.

“Often, by the time we react, the terrorists have already reached their audience,” she wrote in an article in the Daily Telegraph, adding that end-to-end encrypted messages were hindering security services from stopping potential plotters.

End-to-end encryption on services such as WhatsApp ensures only the sender and receiver can read a message as the key is kept on the devices. Without access to the devices, security services cannot read the messages.

Britain’s MI5 security service has said it needs access to encrypted communications to foil attacks.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has pushed for full access to encrypted communications and devices but Congress has so far refused.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, told the BBC that the metadata of Whatsapp messages was not encrypted, allowing governments to collect details on who is messaging who, when and for how long. She said that if people moved off such messaging systems, that crucial metadata would not be available.

Shortly before his ouster by President Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey said that 46 percent of more than 6,000 electronic devices seized by the FBI since October 1 last year could not be opened due to challenges posed by encryption.

Iran: Armed Forces Chief of Staff Warns of Threats in Country’s East


London- Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, General Mohammad Bagheri warned on Monday of security threats against Balochistan, eastern Iran, a region of Sunnite’s popularity. He said that the enemies of Iran are seeking damage to it.

Commenting on the security tension in Balochistan during the past two years with ongoing armed conflict between Iranian military forces and Balochistan armed groups, Bagheri said that his forces have accomplished security in south eastern Iran.

As for the security tension on the Iranian-Pakistani border, resulting in the death of 10 from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Bagheri stated that the Pakistani Army will intensify its existence on the Iranian-Pakistani border and that Pakistan is currently considering suggestions presented by Iran to uphold security on the border.

In May, Islamabad summoned the Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost after Bagheri threatened to target Balochistan armed groups in the Pakistani territory.

“In the current delicate condition, some are trying to destabilize the country. Due to Balochistan’s location and its tribal and racial diversity, it is vulnerable to the danger and greed of enemies,” said Bagheri.

He added that the Baloch people are aware of the goals and priorities, and supports the regime despite the tough living conditions.

Sunnites residing in Balochistan – around 2.4 million – complain over intentional marginalizing and sectarian discrimination.

They also accuse Iranian security forces of provoking Sunnite tribes against each other for the purpose of laying hand over their region.

While Tehran accuses these groups of extremism, they say that they hold the weapon against the Iranian armed forces to defend national and religious rights of Balochistan residents.

Freed From ISIS, Yazidi Women Return in ‘Severe Shock’

Souhayla, a 16-year-old girl who escaped ISIS after three years of captivity, at her uncle’s home in Shariya Camp, Iraq.

SHARIYA CAMP, Iraq — The 16-year-old lies on her side on a mattress on the floor, unable to hold up her head. Her uncle props her up to drink water, but she can barely swallow. Her voice is so weak, he places his ear directly over her mouth to hear her.

The girl, Souhayla, walked out of the most destroyed section of Mosul this month, freed after three years of captivity and serial rape when her Islamic State captor was killed in an airstrike. Her uncle described her condition as “shock.” He had invited reporters to Souhayla’s bedside so they could document what the terror group’s system of sexual abuse had done to his niece.

“This is what they have done to our people,” said Khalid Taalo, her uncle.

Since the operation to take back Mosul began last year, approximately 180 women, girls and children from the Yazidi ethnic minority who were captured in 2014 by ISIS have been liberated, according to Iraq’s Bureau for the Rescue of Abductees.

Women rescued in the first two years after ISIS overran their ancestral homeland came home with infections, broken limbs and suicidal thoughts. But now, after three years of captivity, women like Souhayla and two others seen last week by reporters, are far more damaged, displaying extraordinary signs of psychological injury.

“Very tired,” “unconscious” and “in severe shock and psychological upset” were the descriptions used by Dr. Nagham Nawzat Hasan, a Yazidi gynecologist who has treated over 1,000 of the rape victims.

“We thought the first cases were difficult,” Dr. Hasan said. “But those after the liberation of Mosul, they are very difficult.”

The shock expresses itself in women and girls who sleep for days on end, seemingly unable to wake up, said Hussein Qaidi, the director of the abductee rescue bureau. “Ninety percent of the women coming out are like this,” he said, for at least part of the time after their return.

Both Souhayla and her family asked that she be identified as well as photographed, in an effort to shed light on their community’s suffering. Her uncle posted her image on Facebook immediately after her release with a description of what ISIS had done to her.

For over a year, Mr. Taalo said, he had known his niece’s location, as well as the name of the ISIS fighter holding her. He enlisted the help of a smuggler who at great risk photographed Souhayla through the window of the house where she was being held and sent the images to her family.

But it was too perilous to try a rescue.

Souhayla escaped on July 9, two days after an airstrike collapsed a wall in the building where she was being held, burying another Yazidi girl who had been held alongside her and killing the captor who had abused them, her uncle said.

At that point, she was strong enough to clamber through the rubble and make her way to the first Iraqi checkpoint.

When her family drove to pick her up, she ran to embrace them.

“I ran to her and she ran to me and we started crying and then we started laughing as well,” said Mr. Taalo, the brother of Souhayla’s father, who remains missing after ISIS took over their hometown. “We stayed like that holding each other, and we kept crying and laughing, until we fell to the ground.”

But within hours, she stopped speaking, he said.

By the time they reached the camp where her mother and extended family had found refuge after ISIS overran their village, Souhayla slipped into what appeared to be unconsciousness. The doctors who examined her have prescribed antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.

She also shows signs of malnutrition.

Neither explain her extreme symptoms, said her family and one of the doctors who examined her.

“I’m happy to be home,” she whispered with difficulty into her uncle’s ear, in response to a reporter’s question, “but I’m sick.”

ISIS had been ruling Mosul for two months in 2014 when the group’s leaders set their sights on Sinjar, a 60-mile-long, yellow massif to the north. Its foothills and mountain villages have long been the bedrock of life for the Yazidi, a tiny minority who account for less than 2 percent of Iraq’s population of 38 million.

The centuries-old religion of the Yazidi revolves around worship of a single God, who in turn created seven sacred angels. These beliefs led ISIS to label the Yazidi as polytheists, a perilous category in the terrorist group’s nomenclature. ISIS argued that the minority’s religious standing rendered them eligible for enslavement.

On Aug. 3, 2014, convoys of fighters sped up the escarpment, fanning out across the adjoining valleys. Among the first towns they passed on their way up the mountain was Til Qasab, with its low-slung concrete buildings surrounded by plains of blond grass.

That’s where Souhayla, then 13, lived.

A total of 6,470 Yazidis on the mountain were abducted, according to Iraqi officials, including Souhayla. Three years later, 3,410 remain in captivity or unaccounted for, Mr. Qaidi of the abductee rescue bureau said.

For the first two years of her captivity, Souhayla made her way through ISIS’ system of sexual slavery, raped by a total of seven men, she and her uncle said.

When the push for Mosul began, she was moved progressively deeper into the area hardest hit by the conflict, as security forces squeezed the terrorist group into a sliver of land near the Tigris River. The area was pummeled by artillery, airstrikes and car bombs, and strafed by helicopter-gunship fire.

As ISIS began losing its grip on the city, Souhayla’s captor cut her hair short, like a boy’s. She understood he was planning to try to slip past Iraqi security forces, disguised as a refugee, and take her with him, her uncle said.

Mr. Taalo now spends his days nursing his niece back to health. To sit up, she grasped one of the metal ribs holding up her family’s tent and pulled herself into a sitting position, as her uncle pushed from behind. But soon her strength was sapped, and she flopped back down.

He used a washcloth to dab her forehead, as she lay in his lap. Her mouth fell open and her eyes rolled back.

After her escape, almost two weeks passed before she was able to stand for more than a few minutes, her legs unsteady.

Officials say recent escapees are also showing an unusual degree of indoctrination.

Two Yazidi sisters, ages 20 and 26, arrived at the Hamam Ali 1 refugee camp, where they drew the attention of camp officials because they wore face-covering niqabs and refused to take them off, despite the fact that Yazidi women do not cover their faces.

They described ISIS fighters who raped them as their “husbands” and as “martyrs,” said Muntajab Ibraheem, a camp official and director of the Iraqi Salvation Humanitarian Organization.

In their arms were the three toddlers they had given birth to in captivity, the children of their rapists. But they refused to nurse them, said the smuggler sent by their family to fetch them.

He and camp officials filled out paperwork so that the children could be given to the state, he said.

A video recorded on the smuggler’s phone shows what happened when the sisters saw their family for the first time after their return. Their relatives rushed to embrace the gaunt women. They cried.

Their mother, distraught, stepped behind the tent, trying to steady herself.

A day after the video was taken, reporters went to see the women, and they could no longer stand. They lay on mattresses inside the plastic walls of their tent.

Despite the loud voices around them and the flow of visitors, despite their mother’s wail, they did not budge.

Cars pulled up outside, bringing relatives carrying pallets of orange soda. They left the tent, hands over their mouths, trying to hold back sobs.

Family members said that except for a few brief moments, the women have not awakened since then, over a week ago.

(The New York Times)

Egypt: Between ‘Lone Wolves’ against Copts and Foreigners, Targeting Police


Cairo- During past days, the frequency of terrorist attacks witnessed a remarkable increase in Egypt from armed-attacks against the Egyptian police to attacks against Copts and foreigners with knives and razors.

Observers attributed the increase of terrorist activities to the possibility of some individuals – unfamiliar to security bodies- joining terrorist groups whether those known as “lone wolves” or those returning from regions where extremist groups were struck in Libya.

“The recent increase of extremism in Egypt serves the purpose of distracting Egyptian authorities through targeting several locations simultaneously, and as a response to Egypt’s latest stance towards terrorism and extremist organizations,” security experts told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and a number of states have cut ties with Qatar– Egypt says that the decision to boycott Doha was taken after the latter insisted on adopting a stance that opposes that of Arab states.

These attacks coincide with some challenges facing Egypt in the field of tourism, that was influenced by security threats and years of political turbulence since 2011.

Most terrorist groups communicate with the youths through the social network (Facebook, Twitter,..) to conduct terrorist operations individually in a strategy known as the “lone wolves”.

ISIS previously called on its followers through internet to carry out individual operations in their states without having to refer to the group’s leadership.

Observers see that risks of cyber crimes are represented in exchanging information on disturbing security, calling for acts of terrorism, violence and chaos as well as targeting policemen, army, justice and incitement against them in addition to training over making bombs.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Receives Honorary Doctorate Degree in Service of Holy Quran, its Sciences


Jeddah- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received the honorary doctorate degree in the field of the service of the Holy Quran and its sciences from Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University.

The degree was handed over to the King by the University’s Director and Member of Senior Scholars Council Sheikh Dr. Sulaiman Aba Al-Khail when the King received him and the accompanying delegation of the University at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Wednesday.

Aba Al-Khail delivered a speech in which he addressed the King, saying that this degree came as a culmination and appreciation for his great efforts, his continuing support for all matters concerning the Holy Quran and its service, and for his keenness to enhance the values of moderation, citing in this regard the “Global Center for Combating Extremism”.

Son of Moroccan Preacher Admits Plotting to Attack Belgian Police


Brussels- The son of a Dutch preacher residing in Belgium has plotted to carry out an attack that was supposed to target police officers in Verviers, near the borders between Belgium and Netherlands, according to what was revealed by the investigation conducted by the Belgian authorities with a 17 year-old, who was arrested in 2016 after posting a video on social media and encouraging on killing Christians.

According to the Belgian TV station “RTL,” which said it was able to review one of the documents related to the detainee’s statements during the investigation last year.

An order was issued back then to place the son of Imam El Alami Amaouch, who is described by the Belgian media as an advocate of hatred, in detention center for young people.

Investigators analyzed the boy’s e-mails and found contacts with people who had gone to fight in Syria.

In the course of the investigations with the teenage, he said that he was in contact with one of the extremists in Verviers and his name was Tariq. He also told the investigators that talks were made about the possibility of carrying out attacks targeting police and killing them.

“In brief, we were about to carry out an attack, and I was under the influence of that man at that time,” the detainee said.

In early December 2016, the Moroccan-Dutch imam left Belgium and went to Morocco just few days before the deadline given to him by the Belgian authorities to leave the country voluntarily instead of forcing him to return to the Netherlands.

Amaouch was accused by the authorities of inciting hatred in his religious sermons and having an impact on people involved in terrorist acts. Earlier, the Dutch authorities said they would monitor his movements if he returned.

Theo Francken, Belgium’s Minister for Asylum and Migration, said the authorities had repeatedly tried to extradite Amaouch to the Netherlands but his appeal had delayed proceedings.

“We have been trying to get him out of the country for the past year but he has appealed. I can only hope that the Aliens’ Council deports him quickly”, Francken said.

Francken says that the imam was the “spiritual father” of a terrorist cell in Verviers, adding, “It seems that it runs in the family”.

French Army Spies Learn Arabic in a Center in Strasbourg


Strasbourg, London- In a center to rehabilitate the “spies” in Strasbourg, 20 students, dressed in military uniform and sitting behind computers, speak their first Arabic words, hoping to master this language within 24 months before they head to the work field.

They will be sent somewhere in the Coast or the Middle East, according to French military operations, to intercept the intelligence. They must decrypt encoded messages during phone calls, help locate targets, thwart ambushes and warn of attacks.

Meanwhile, Pierre, Antoine and Catherine are trained along with their colleagues at the Joint Military Intelligence Training Center (JMITC) in Strasbourg.

“What the fighter needs is to learn at a rapid pace a new working language, Arabic or Russian within 24 months, and Chinese in 36 months, while others are training to monitor social networks,” said Catherine, 22, with enthusiasm.

“What attracts me is to learn rare languages very quickly and to know that we will hold many responsibilities later, and this is a key role in the intelligence network,” she added.

With training for six hours on daily basis, without counting the personal work in the evening or at the end of the week, these students discover grammar rules and various dialects and then go to learn the language in Estonia, Egypt or Tajikistan.

“So far, we learn through hearing, by listening using devices through repeating the recited words,” their coach said.

“Trainees are only provided with voice and the translation into French; whereas we learn the rules of writing later,” the coach added.

In this mysterious world, family names, personal relationships and training are not revealed to the few visitors who are allowed into the 19th century “Stirn” building.

“In the 1990s, the school trained linguist teams in Serbian- Croatian and Albanian,” said Head of Training and Second Officer at the Center Lt. Col. Gill as quoted by AFP in a report on Sunday.

In the new geopolitical scene, Arabic language is at the forefront, and the Russian language is not losing its importance. The Cold War has ended, but since 2014 the Russians have been making a strong return to the Mediterranean and knocking the doors of the European Union.

Extremist networks are recruiting a large number of Russian speakers from the Caucasus or Central Asia.
This is the actual military school, which plays a leading role in the fight against terrorism and trains an increasing number of “spies” for “future wars.”

“The query is to preempt until you have time to take an advanced step against the opposing forces,” says Col. Emanuel, the center’s commander.

British Prison for Fundamentalists to Evade Spreading Extremist Intellect among Inmates

London- British interior ministry sources have revealed that some highly dangerous fundamentalist members in British prisons were transferred last week to what has become known as the “British Guantanamo” in Durham, a step that falls under the government efforts to eradicate the extremist intellect in prisons.

This new prison is known among terrorism experts and the British media as the “British Guantanamo” for being the first of three centers established inside prisons to incarcerate 28 inmates accused of committing violent extremist crimes.

Michael Adebolajo, who is accused of killing Lee Rigby, and extremist preacher Anjem Choudary are among those isolated in the new prison.

A British court had issued a life-imprisonment sentence in the case of Islamists for killing British soldier Rigby in one of London’s streets in 2014.

“Those who spread views that might incite others to commit terrorist offenses, or whose extremist views are purposely undermining good order and security in jails, could also be shifted to one of the facilities,” said the British Ministry of Justice in a statement.

Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah declared that the isolation centers were “an absolutely crucial element of our wider strategy to tackle extremism in prisons and ensure the safety of the wider public.”

More than 4,500 frontline prison officers have been trained to identify and challenge extremist views and new recruits will receive the training as standard.

“Extremism must be defeated wherever it is found. The most dangerous and subversive offenders are now being separated from those they seek to influence and convert,” Gyimah added.

However, the justice ministry refused to confirm whether the decision to transfer the inmates has other security reasons.