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Poppycock

Well, well, well. Such a big fuss over a little flower. A reaction so depressingly predictable. For the record, I honestly don’t care whether the England or any other football team displays the Remembrance Poppy or not. My personal choice is not to wear one. But I have given my daughter money to purchase one in school, and my wife may also buy one. Both of my grandfathers fought the Nazis in WWII, and I remember holding a dagger my dad’s dad had ‘acquired’ from an enemy soldier in complete awe, imagining the heroism and horror it had been witness to. So I’m aware of the sacrifices made and the symbolism of the poppy. In the First World War 22,477,500 allied troops were killed, wounded or went missing in action. The Second World War saw 61,000,000 allied troops perish. Only the coldest hearted individual would see the veterans huddled together on Armistice Day remembering their friends and not feel at least some emotion for them. We should always remember these men and women, what they did, and those that died doing it. It’s part of our national and cultural heritage, and when the last veteran leaves this Earth, they deserve to be immortalised for future generations. If this was where the symbolism of the poppy ended I would happily sport one with pride every year. But it has become much more than a symbol that commemorates brave freedom fighters.

As a supporter of the anti-war movement, whilst I feel for the bereaved, dead and wounded, I refuse to validate how our governments have employed our troops since 1945. Also, I reject the red poppy on the grounds that it does not represent the victims of our wars. Of which there are many, men, women and children. As well as this, the remembrance poppy has been adopted as a political tool by right wing nationalists. It is no longer a symbol simply worn to honour noble soldiers who defeated German imperialism or the evils of Nazism, but as a display of a brand of patriotism that celebrates aggressive military conquests without remorse for innocent victims. An unquestioning loyalty to the British military complex without regard for the morality, ethics or motives of our government for sending them to war. Much the same as the Union flag, the poppy has come to represent an unhealthy nostalgia for colonialism and romanticism for an Empire that’s viewed through Western tinted lenses.

This hijacking of the red poppy coupled with urban mythology and tabloid misinformation with regards to political correctness has created a culture of poppy fascism. Anyone choosing not to wear the red poppy, or who shy away from overt displays of patriotism are accused of disrespecting the dead or of being traitorous. It’s therefore no surprise that the FIFA ruling that prohibits religious or political symbolism on football kits, has been criticised as a decision made so as not to offend ‘zee Germans’. It’s only a matter of time before one of the usual suspects blames it all on those pesky Muslims.

For once though, I think FIFA have this right, as long as it’s applied evenly. The fact that there is a perception of anti-FA or anti-Premier League bias at FIFA, coupled with the factors outlined above has created a siege mentality among a large percentage of the population. But I think they’re overreacting. We need to put things into perspective and be a bit more objective about this. The remembrance poppy is largely a British phenomenon, despite it originating in the US and having support in other Commonwealth states, and as I’ve stated it was intended to commemorate only Allied Forces. I think, in an age when the modern day ‘allies’ are involved in official and unofficial wars in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, an emblem that venerates our troops at the expense of other victims of war would isolate us from the wider international community. I don’t think people truly appreciate, some probably don’t really care, the extent of the ill-feeling that our persistent military interventions create. We are kept blissfully unaware of most of what happens during our invasions, and what we leave behind when our troops withdraw. I won’t go into it at length here but I’ve written about it in detail previously here.

In my opinion we need to keep the red poppy out of international sport. I’m not totally against political statements in sport, as I believe a global game like football has the power and influence to bring people together in solidarity, highlight injustices & inequality and raise awareness of just causes. But football also has the ability to divide and polarise almost as much as religion and politics, so all three combined is a potentially explosive cocktail. If causes involving wars are to be commemorated, it should be in the guise of a united remembrance of ALL victims, and a call for an END to wars. Such a gesture would go much further in the battle for hearts and minds than the occupation and decimation of foreign populations in illegal, misguided and unwinnable wars.

But apparently, this way of thinking is unpatriotic and disrespectful to our fallen heroes. Don’t I support our troops? I’d like to pose a couple of questions to the people who claim this. Who is paying most respect to our troops? Me, for wanting them withdrawn from the firing line so no more of our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters or friends are killed fighting battles that our government deem just. Or you, who are content for them to continue dying for a lost, and probably non-existent, cause? Who is the traitor? Me, for not being able to bring myself to wear the red poppy, but will bow my head in contemplation, hope for an end to the killing and respectfully observe the silence? Or the politicians, who will wear the poppy, stand stony faced and contemplative on our TV screens, only to consider sending our troops to Iran for yet another suspect invasion with selfish and dishonest motives, on flimsy evidence?

It transpires that England (as well as the other Home Nations, which has barely been mentioned in the national media) will be allowed to wear the poppy on an arm band, instead of on the actual shirt. I have absolutely no idea why this is deemed an acceptable compromise by FIFA, as surely it’s the displaying of the poppy which is the issue, not that it is printed on the garment. But this is FIFA we’re talking about. If FIFA’s capitulation to pressure from David Cameron, Prince William (not forgetting the considerable efforts of attention seeking racists Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll of the EDL), sets a precedence, can we expect other teams to test the resolve of FIFA in the future? Does this also signal the willingness of the British public to allow other wars or political causes to be commemorated that we may find distasteful? I doubt this very much. We seem to possess an arrogance and sense of superiority that convinces us that the rest of the world should be falling over each other to be thankful for our warmongering  liberating endeavours. That our cause is the most righteous. A pomposity that shows such a lack of self awareness and humility, desperately clinging to memories of our imperial past.

To summarise, my feeling is that wearing a poppy should be entirely personal, as should how one interprets its meaning. But for me, there are too many connotations that make me uncomfortable. I would be compromising everything I stand for and validating all that shames me about our foreign policy and our colonial history. You may choose to wear a poppy, yet still share my feelings on our recent and current military activities. That’s your choice. But allow me mine. The same soldiers who fought for our freedom against the Nazis, fought for my right to choose not to wear a poppy.

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The Other Terrorists

 

The Islamophobes have a number of default positions they revert to when being challenged by facts, or if they feel that they may appear discriminatory when they become aware that their generalising has inadvertently slipped into the realms of bigotry.

Critics of western foreign policy, racial profiling, or the prevalence of anti-Arab and anti-Asian suspicion that is being milked by the right wing, will sooner or later be faced with the 9/11 fallback. Remind them that we’re implementing a collective punishment across a whole faith group unfairly and you might hear the classic, but underused canard, ‘not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims’. When you hear this coming from FOX anchors and Tea Party Republicans one could be forgiven for thinking that they may actually believe this. Conservative America is not generally renowned for its extensive knowledge of international current affairs, or indeed historical affairs. When you hear it emanating from the little Englanders of the British far right, it’s safe to say ignorance plays a significant part.

But much of this ignorance stems from the perception of what terrorism and terrorists look like. It’s vital that the western media reserves the label terrorism for the ‘enemy’, to feed the need for an evil bogeyman, to justify the war on terror and legitimise the ‘Muslim threat’. There is a tangible reluctance to label any domestic or non-Muslim incidents as terrorist related. The likes of Jared Loughner and Timothy Mcvey are considered lone psychopaths, paramilitary activity in Ireland is called ‘sectarian violence’, and civilian deaths in Afghanistan are just collateral damage. Leftist conspiracy talk, I hear you say. But is it?

Thankfully not much research is needed to debunk the notion that Muslims have cornered the market in terror.

http://www.europol.europa.eu/publications/EU_Terrorism_Situation_and_Trend_Report_TE-SAT/Tesat2010.pdf

http://www.europol.europa.eu/publications/EU_Terrorism_Situation_and_Trend_Report_TE-SAT/TE-SAT2011.pdf

If we take the EU from 2006 – 2010, there have been a total of 2139 failed, foiled or successful terrorist attacks. Of these only 7 were attributed to Islamic terrorists, which accounts for 0.32%. In other words, 99.68% of failed, foiled or successful terrorist attacks over the past 5 years have been non-Muslim.

http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/terrorism-2002-2005/terror02_05

Stateside, the FBI has statistics available which show that between 1980 – 2005 only 6% of terrorist attacks were down to Islamic extremists.

That didn’t take long did it? So how come we don’t hear about the other 90 odd % of the incidents? We probably do, but as they don’t fit the profile of what we’re told terrorism is they pass us by. You also have to remember that Islamic terrorism is big news, so will occupy more column inches, more airtime and generate more hysteria. Still don’t believe it? To give some idea of the reality I want to list some of the more notable incidents that have occurred since 2001. The criteria must match those of Islamic terrorism i.e. non-governmental groups or individuals acting on political, religious or racial motivation. Or more precisely:

Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians), and are committed by non-government agencies.


Right Wing/Christian – USA

 

Jim D. Adkisson opened fire in the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville TN killing two and injuring seven (a note found in his SUV indicated this was intended as a suicide attack and said the church was apparently targeted because of its support of liberal social policies).

Alabama Free Militia, five members of anti-immigration militia were arrested for planning a machine gun attack on Mexicans.  During raids by federal agents, authorities seized 130 hand grenades, two machine guns and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition

Chad Altman and Sergio Baca were arrested for the arson of Dr. Curtis Boyd’s clinic in Albuquerque NM.

Daniel L. Barefoot, Sharon Renee Barefoot, Jonathan A. Avery, Jonathan Maynard, Marvin G. Gautier and Rossie Lynwood Strickland , six members of the Nation’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan pleaded guilty to a variety of weapons and conspiracy charges in connection with an illegal gun trading scheme in the early 2000s to finance a plan to blow up the Johnston County, North Carolina, courthouse.

Kody Brittingham, a Marine is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.

 

Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman, two white power skinheads plot to target an African American High School and kill 88 blacks and decapitate 14 more (the numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic to white supremacists) and although expecting to fail try to assassinate Barack Obama.
 

Demetrius Van Crocker a white supremacist from rural TN attempted to acquire Sarin nerve gas and C-4 explosives that he planned to use to destroy government buildings.

 

James Cummings dirty bomb plot, Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear “dirty bomb” in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.
 

Matthew L. Derosia rammed a SUV into the front entrance of a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota.
 

John Earl, a Catholic priest drove his car into the Northern Illinois Health Clinic and pulled out an axe before being shot at by a security guard.

 

David Anthony Fuselier and 4 other members of the American Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan were convicted in federal court in Louisiana on conspiracy and intimidation charges for burning a cross at the residence of three African-American men in Longville, Louisiana. The five men, who all pleaded guilty, had burned the cross in an attempt to coerce the victims into leaving the community.
 

Matt Hale of the World Church of the Creator was convicted in 2004 of soliciting the murder of Chicago federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow.

 

Jeffrey Harbin who has ties to the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) and was formerly a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, arrested for transporting 12 grenade-like improvised explosive devices.

 

Kevin William Hardham has been charged with illegal possession of an explosive device and attempting to use a “weapon of mass destruction,”  after leaving a backpack bomb with the potential of killing or injuring dozens of people along the route of a Martin Luther King Day “unity march” in downtown Spokane, Wash

 

Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe threw a Molotov cocktail at a clinic in Shreveport, LA.
 

David Hull, Pennsylvania Klan leader was convicted of a variety of illegal weapons charges in connection with an alleged plot to use hand grenades to attack abortion clinics; he also allegedly told an informant that he had turned his car into a “suicide bomb on wheels.”
 

Hutaree “Christian warrior” militia.  Seven militiamen from the Hutaree Militia in Michigan and Ohio are arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate local police officers with the intent of sparking a new civil war.

 

Vadim Ignatov shooting attack on Muslim home in Oregon.

 

William Krar is charged for his part in the Tyler poison gas plot, a white supremacist related plan, his weapons cache included a half a million rounds of ammunition, more than 60 pipe bombs, machine guns, silencers, and remote-controlled bombs disguised as briefcases.

 

Thomas Hayward Lewis, a white power skinhead arrested in Mobile Alabama for vandalism and cache of explosives found in his home.

January 2009: A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.

Dennis & Daniel Mahon send mail bombs to a diversity office in Scottsdale AZ that injure three.

David McMenemy of Rochester Hills, Michigan crashed his car into the Edgerton Women’s Care Center in Davenport, Iowa. He then doused the lobby in gasoline and then started a fire. McMenemy committed these acts in the belief that the center was performing abortions.
Justin Carl Moose plot to bomb abortion clinics.  The FBI alleges he referred to himself as the “Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden”.
 

 Donny Eugene Mower was arrested on federal charges of attacking a reproductive health clinic in Madera CA, and authorities said he also is responsible for vandalism and menacing signs left at the city’s Islamic center.

 

Robert Pickett discharged a number of shots from a weapon in the direction of the White House.
 

Richard Andrew Poplawski – Three Pittsburgh police officers are fatally shot and a fourth wounded by Richard Andrew Poplawski, who had posted his racist and anti-Semitic views on white supremacist websites.
 

Daniel James Schertz, N GA White Knights member pleaded guilty to building pipe bombs designed to blow up buses carrying Mexican and Haitian migrant workers from Tennessee to Florida

 

Roger Stockham was arrested in a car laden with explosives outside one of the nation’s largest mosques in Dearborn MI.

Texas Militia former leaders plot to attack the Federal Building in Houston.

Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, a pair of “Patriot” movement radicals who wanted “to attack the political infrastructure”—threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting by James Wenneker von Brunn.

Clayton Waagner, claiming to act on the part of the “Virginia Dare Chapter” of the Army Of God mailed hoax letters containing a white powder to 554 clinics.

White supremacists planned to bomb a series of institutions associated with the black and Jewish communities including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

July 2008: A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how “liberals” are “destroying America,” walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.

April 2009: Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama’s purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.

May 2009: A “sovereign citizen” named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

February 2010: An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one “domestic terrorism” too.)

March 2010: An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.

May 2010: A “sovereign citizen” from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.

May 2010: A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a pipe bomb.

May 2010: Two “sovereign citizens” named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.

July 2010: An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.

As well as the above incidents there have been over  40 cases, that I would classify as terrorism, directed at mosques in the USA since 2001. I haven’t included incidents labelled vandalism, graffiti, or assault. These are arson, bombings and shootings.

Far Right – UK 

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article626697.ece

The films show balaclava-clad white British men brandishing guns, knives and clubs, calling on all Muslims to leave the United Kingdom or be killed. One appears to be a soldier who has served in the Gulf.

In one film a man tells Muslims to “go home” or risk being burnt alive. He threatens: “I’ll cut your head off,” and claims to have “comrades” across Britain who have “had enough”.

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/2105392.bishop_was_sent_death_threat/

The Bishop of Oxford was sent a death threat calling for his beheading after backing a plan to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer.

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2009/winter/britain

A British neo-Nazi who sought to emulate Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was convicted in July of plotting a racist terror campaign targeting Asians and Muslims with sophisticated homemade explosives.

Prosecutors established that Neil Lewington, 44, an unemployed electrician, operated a bomb factory in his bedroom, where police found nine pounds of weedkiller, pyrotechnic powders and dozens of fuses and igniters. They also seized a copy of the Waffen SS UK Members’ Handbook, filled with schematics of electronic detonators and chemical weapons devices.

David Copeland, who in April 1999 conducted a 13-day bombing campaign against London’s black, Bangladeshi and gay communities.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6638139.ece

A network of suspected far-right extremists with access to 300 weapons and 80 bombs has been uncovered by counter-terrorism detectives. Thirty-two people have been questioned in a police operation that raises the prospect of a right-wing bombing campaign against mosques.

Several alleged right-wing extremists have been charged with terrorism offences in the UK in the past year. In one case, a jury convicted Martyn Gilleard, 31, a neo-Nazi forklift truck driver, who wanted to “secure a future for white children” and kept explosives at his flat in Goole, East Yorkshire. He built small hand-held bombs, and among the material seized were membership cards for the National Front, the British People’s party and the White Nationalist party. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

As well as these cases there have been in excess of 60 terroristic attacks on mosques in Europe, Canada and Australia since 2001. Again, these are incidents of arson, bombings and shootings. Including vandalism, assaults, grave desecrations would take the figure well into triple digits.

Ireland

 

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) 1969 – 2001 – 481 killed (401 civilian)

Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) 1969 – 1997 – 1824 killed (621 civilian)

Irish National Liberation Army 1969 – 2001 – 113 killed (46 civilian)

Orange Volunteer Force (OVF) 1999 – 2011 – 36 threats, bombings, shootings & arsons. One of the group’s first actions was a synchronized attack on 11 Catholic churches. Peeples defended the attack on the grounds that the churches were “bastions of the Antichrist”. In 2001 he was jailed for ten years for possession of the weapons. He was released in 2004 and became the minister of a Pentecostal church on the Shankill Road in Belfast.

Ulster Defence Association (UDA) 1969 – 2001 – 260 killed (197 civilian)

Totals for conflict:

Injury: 47,541

Shootings: 36,923

People charged with paramilitary offences: 19,605

Bombings & Attempted bombings: 16,209

Deaths: 3,526

Civilian Deaths: 1,857

2011 has seen the return of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland with the murder of a police officer using a booby trap bomb planted in his car.

On 20th of June, 2011, the UVF invaded the nationalist area of the Short Strandand began attacking nationalist homes, the men were dressed in balaclavas and full camoflage gear. Republicans (Allegedly the Provisional IRA) opened fire, shooting 2 loyalists in the legs. Riots continued for hours, and a nationalist resident of the short strand was seriously injured when a breezeblock was dropped on his head by loyalists. A second night of rioting followed, with a press photographer being shot in the leg by Republicans.

June and July has witnessed rioting in Belfast lasting up to three nights at a time, involving up to 700 people, with petrol bombings and shootings taking place.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. It doesn’t take into account Basque seperatists ETA who between 1968 and 2011 have carried out up to 3,500 attacks killing up to 952, including 343 civilians. It also ignores eco-terrorists Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front and Puerto Rican nationalist groups who between them carried out 66% of all terrorist attacks in the USA from 1985 – 2005.

I have no doubt some will wish to expand the debate to prove that globally, Islamic terrorism is more prolific and devastating than any other form. This may, or may not be the case depending on how terrorism is defined and is something I will address in a future post.

The Preachers of Hate Series: Pt. 1 – Walid Shoebat

It gets depressing wading through the hateful anti-Muslim propaganda on various networking sites, so I’ve started my own little game to lighten things up. When I click on the shortened URL I have a little bet with myself as to which particular hate site will be revealed. The usual suspects crop up with tedious regularity. Pointing out the inaccuracies, and discrediting each individual source has no impact at all. Banging my head against a brick wall would be less painful and frustrating. They keep on coming, the same old sites and the same old names.

I’ve mentioned previously how the Islamophobic gravy train is particularly lucrative and well funded. Certain individuals have found a particular niche for themselves and exploit the Islamophobia to line their pockets and to further their own agendas. Some even fabricate entire back stories to provide an air of authenticity. Their supposed expert insight and inside knowledge of the Muslim threat has been lapped up eagerly by the right-wing media, conservative Christians, Tea Party and GOP candidates, the Zionist lobby and even government departments Stateside and their influence has seeped into the UK anti-Muslim movement. Unfortunately the anti-Islamophobia and anti-racism movement in the UK have been slow to recognise the threat these hatemongers pose.

I want to bring these people to the attention of a wider audience to ensure that they are exposed for the frauds that they are, despite their superficial credibility. The first of these people is Walid Shoebat, one of the Three Stooges of the Christian right. They are a triumvirate of self-confessed former Muslim terrorists who supposedly saw the light, converted to Christianity and want to inform the world how evil Islam is.

The bio on Shoebat’s website claims:

For the record, my name is Walid Shoebat. I used to be a radicalized Muslim willing to die for the cause of Jihad until I converted to Christianity in 1994. As a member of the PLO I was involved in terror activity, and was imprisoned in Jerusalem for three weeks. In prison, I was recruited to plant a bomb in Bethlehem as a result of which, thank God, no one was injured. My mother was an American and my father a Palestinian Arab. My parents sent me in 1978 to the United States to study at Loop College in Chicago Illinois.

Instantly, by revealing that he is Palestinian and claiming to have been a member of the PLO, he gains credibility as a poacher turned gamekeeper. But it doesn’t take long to unravel his story.

Shoebat the Terrorist

From Counterpunch:
He describes openly his past crimes and his jailing by the Israeli authorities. He admits to stoning Jewish worshipers at the Kotel (the western wall), having “worked with Fatah bomb makers in Jerusalem,” and even going on a bombing mission to destroy a branch of Bank Leumi. Shoebat abandoned it after noticing that Palestinian children were nearby. He speaks of the time he and other rioters mauled an Israeli officer. They “clubbed and pounded his head with a nail-studded stick, until the officer became a bloody gore.”

From the Jerusalem Post:
When he was 16, says Walid Shoebat, he was recruited by a PLO operative by the name of Mahmoud al-Mughrabi to carry out an attack on a branch of Bank Leumi in Bethlehem. At six in the evening he was supposed to detonate a bomb in the doorway of the bank. But when he saw a group of Arab children playing nearby, he says, his conscience was pricked and he threw the bomb onto the roof of the bank instead, where it exploded causing no fatalities. However, Shoebat’s claim to have bombed Bank Leumi in Bethlehem is rejected by members of his family who still live in the area, and Bank Leumi says it has no record of such an attack ever taking place. Shoebat’s claim to have been a terrorist rests on his account of the purported bombing of Bank Leumi. But after checking its files, the bank said it had no record of an attack on its Bethlehem branch anywhere in the relevant 1977-79 period.

Shoebat told The Jerusalem Post that this could be because the bank building was robustly protected with steel and that the attack may have caused little damage. Asked whether word of the bombing made the news at the time, he said, “I don’t know. I didn’t read the papers because I was in hiding for the next three days.” (In 2004, he had told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph: “I was terribly relieved when I heard on the news later that evening that no one had been hurt or killed by my bomb.”) Shoebat could not immediately recall the year, or even the time of year, of the purported bombing when talking to the Post by phone from the US.

From the Huffington Post:

The claims of the three ex-terrorists about their exploits as Muslim terrorists have long been questioned by academics and terrorism experts who have found a plethora of unlikelihoods and outright impossibilities in their stories. The most obvious question, of course, is why, if their stories are true, haven’t these three self-proclaimed terrorists, who have been traveling the country for years admitting to numerous killings and other terrorist acts, not been deported or jailed. Well, apparently, even our government’s terrorist hunters don’t believe these guys. According to a New York Times article about the trio’s appearance at the Air Force Academy, “A spokesman for the F.B.I. said there were no warrants for their arrest.”

“The question is if the three were actually terrorists then why they weren’t jailed or deported? Robert Birach, an immigration law attorney in Detroit, says the men would have had to have disclosed their affiliation with the PLO on their applications to become U.S. citizens if what they claim is true. “Failure to list the affiliation on the citizenship application is enough to go back and open the file and charge them with fraud and perjury,” Birach said. “And now they are admitting to being former terrorists. So under the Real ID Act, that’s enough for their removal from the United States.”

From We Hold These Truths:

In 2004, a gullible BBC correspondent quoting Shoebat:

“My whole dream was to die as a shaheed [martyr].  I would open my shirt hoping to be shot- but the Israelis would never shoot at the body, so I never succeeded, he said.” 

But the Intifada (uprising) did not start until 4 or more years after the 16-year old Walid went to America.  Also his statement that Israelis “never shoot the body” can only have been written by a Zionist, for hospital records prove Palestinians suffer head wounds most often, followed by body shots.

BBC News:  “One day, in the middle of a riot, Walid was part of a group which snatched an Israeli soldier who was trying to quell the violence.  They beat him senseless and tried to lynch him, before he was rescued by troops and the group fled. Walid was eventually caught and imprisoned in the Muscovite Prison in Jerusalem, but was released after a few weeks. He returned to violence straight away, bombing an Israeli bank in Bethlehem.”

The idea that he was arrested, then turned loose, is also quite unlike Israel, where many youths have been held without charges in prison for years. It is a land where torture is approved by the Supreme Court, and anyone suspected of beating a soldier would probably never see the light of day.

Walid confirms that his mother was an American, not a Muslim, and he left Beit Sahour for the USA on her arm when he was only 16. Had he had a criminal record, as he claims, he would not have gotten out ofIsrael, nor into the USA.

Shoebat the Muslim

But an uncle and a cousin of Shoebat, who still live in Beit Sahur in the Bethlehem area, where Shoebat grew up, said that Shoebat’s education was rather mild ideologically, and that religion did not play a dominant role.

This civilian journalist spoke with one of Walid’s many Palestinian American relatives, Kamal Younis. Kamal had checked his facts with other relatives and every one of them agreed that, “Walid’s entire biography is a manufactured fabrication. His handlers have taken one point and have twisted it and built up a fictional story.” Kamal clued me in, “His bio claims that his grandfather was the Muslim Mukhtar (chieftain) of Beit Sahour-Bethlehem. It neglects to mention that Beit Sahour is adjacent to Bethlehem, not a part of Bethlehem and also ignores the fact that in Beit Sahour at that time there were eight tribes; two Muslim and six Christian. Walid’s grandfather was only the Mukhtar for one of the Muslim tribes. Walid’s bio claims his grandfather was a friend of Haj-Ameen Al-Husseni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and notorious friend of Adolf Hitler. Walid’s grandfather never even met him and was a peaceful man.

The NY Times:

“They also question how three middle-aged men who claim they were recruited as teenagers or younger could have been steeped in the violent religious ideology that only became prevalent in the late 1980s.”

It seems strange that Shoebat is so insistent on his jihadist past when the PLO wasn’t an Islamist movement, but a secular political and paramilitary organisation.

Shoebat the Christian

He claims to have converted after his then wife challenged him to find a ‘mistake’ in the Bible. He decided it was perfect, and saw the light. But he didn’t become just an everyday, moderate Christian, he went the whole hog, from alleged Muslim extremist to Christian Zionist.

Former friend and colleague Simon Altaf:

This man may be a convert but is not a convert from terrorism or an ex-terrorist background.  It is clear he embellished his testimony because he knew he was going to make money out of it.  His actions speak louder than words.  He was converted by his American Christian mother who told him about the saviour while she lived in Israel with the family.

From Counterpunch:

Taking the word of the Bible as literal, he subscribed to the view that “the Jews have the Biblical right to the Holy Land, Israel.” In his public campaign he not only defends Israel across the board, on every account, but espouses positions widely held as extreme. His ultimate expectation is that Jewish control of Israel-Palestine is essential for Armageddon. Then, rapture will come. The Messiah will destroy the enemies of Israel, but the “many countries who confess Jesus as their saviour will be amongst God’s people, called as his people, and will all personally know the Lord Jesus Christ.” In short, the Jews will be forced to accept Christ or perish in hell ­ a deeply and traditionally Anti-Semitic view. His goals are deadly. Clearly, he seeks to further polarize Palestinians and Jews with his extremist positions. As with the overall influence of Christian fundamentalism, his theological tenets make reconciliation in this conflict less likely. Peace forestalls the End of Times ­ the end of the World, which some Christian fundamentalists such as Shoebat look forward to enthusiastically. His personal and religious stake is in helping speed along Armageddon.

From Eileen Flemming:

Walid’s relatives aren’t the only one’s doubting his integrity, Rev. Alex Awad, president of the Council of Evangelical Churches in Palestine, has denied large portions of Walid’s spin also. In a letter answering allegations made by Shoebat, Awad shows problems with his timeline and his poor knowledge of the Christian leaders in Palestine. “We urge God’s people everywhere not to jump on this sensational bandwagon,” said Awad. “Christians are called by God to prayerfully use the gift of discernment.”

Walid’s brand of Christianity has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus who promised it is the peacemakers who are the children of God and not those that bomb, torture, starve or occupy others.

Walid’s brand of Christianity thrives on fear and Jesus said: “FEAR NOT! You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Walid’s brand of Christianity leaves behind all the non-negotiables for those who claim to be a Christian; which is you must forgive, bless and love your enemies.

Shoebat is closely connected to prominent evangelists Pat Robertson and Pastor John Hagee. His lectures at the Air Force Academies have been accused of being nothing more than evangelical proselytizing.

From the NY Times:

Members of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group suing the federal government to combat what it calls creeping evangelism in the armed forces, said it was typical of the Air Force Academy to invite born-again Christians to address cadets on terrorism rather than experts who could teach students about the Middle East.

“This stuff going on at the academy today is part of the endemic evangelical infiltration that continues,” said David Antoon, a 1970 academy graduate and a foundation member.

The three men were invited to talk about being recruited and trained as terrorists, not religion, although one of them, Zak Anani, did tell students that converting to Christianity from Islam saved his life, said John Van Winkle, another spokesman for the academy.

Prof. Douglas Howard, who teaches the history of the modern Middle East at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.:

“It was just an old time gospel hour — ‘Jesus can change your life, he changed mine’. That is mixed in with ‘Watch out America, wake up America, the danger of Islam is here.’ ”

Shoebat the Hatemonger and Conspiracy Theorist

Richard Bartholemew:

He uses his Arabic background to promote a bizarre re-interpretation of the Book of Revelation which purports to prove that the Bible predicts a Muslim Anti-Christ.

(1) Shoebat explains why Obama is pro-choice: Of course, because there’s nothing better Islamists want to do than have Americans kill their own children, so it’s not a problem for him.

(2) Shoebat explains Islam’s plan for Obama: Islam could not defeat us by destroying the twin towers. But they are able to defeat us by sneaking in their man.

From Media Matters:

Shoebat: “[I]f Islam is not the Antichrist system, why do you think the devil wants to put a ‘cultural Muslim’ in the White House?”

From the Huffington Post:

Our source had turned around after Shoebat’s speech and asked the woman in the chair behind them at the conference what she thought was the solution offered by Shoebat.

“Kill them…including the children…you heard him,” was the full response.

Shoebat’s Las Vegas speech was described by our source as “frightening.”

Shoebat has said that “Islam is not the religion of God — Islam is the devil.”

From Crooks & Liars:

According to religion writer Richard Bartholomew, “Shoebat is a pseudo-expert on terrorism, Islamic extremism, and Biblical prophecy, and he teaches that Obama is a secret Muslim and that the Bible has prophesised a Muslim anti-Christ.” This means for some apocalyptic Christians that Muslims then would be allies of Satan in the End Times battle between good and evil. This battle ends when Jesus returns and with a vengeful God kills all these deemed to be non-believers in Christianity. This bloody and bigoted version of apocalyptic prophesies is rejected and condemned by the Catholic and Orthodox churches and every major Protestant denomination.

The Walid Shoebat Foundation

The Jerusalem Post:

[T]he Walid Shoebat Foundation’s working process is less than transparent, with Shoebat’s claim that it is registered as a charity in the state of Pennsylvania being denied by the Pennsylvania State Attorney’s Office.

[…]

Visitors to Shoebat’s Internet site are encouraged to make a donation to his foundation to enable him to disseminate his message. However, a notice on the page states that for “security reasons,” the money will not be debited to his foundation, but rather to a company called Top Executive Media. The name Top Executive Media is used by a greetings card firm from Pennsylvania called Top Executive Greetings, a company with an annual turnover of $500,000. When one makes a donation through the Shoebat Internet site, the Web address changes to topexecutivegreetings.com/shoebat.

This seems to be the only active page for the company; its homepage is blank.

Asked by the Post whether the Walid Shoebat Foundation is a registered charity, Shoebat replied that it is registered in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania State Attorney’s office said it had no record of a charity registered under this name.

Questioned further, Shoebat said it was registered under a different name, but that he was not aware of the details, which are handled by his manager.

“I remain separate to the running of the charity so that I am not constrained by church rules,” he explained, adding that the organization’s connection to certain churches meant it would be difficult for him to speak to secular audiences if he became too involved in running it.

Dr. Joel Fishman, of the Allegany County Law Library in Pennsylvania, expressed doubts about this donation process. If the money were being given to a registered charity, the charity would have to make annual reports to the state and federal government on how it was being spent, he noted.

Shoebat on Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of Park 51

SHOEBAT: His support of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic jihad movement has been expressed by him in the Arabic language. His manifesto ha s been expressed by – in Al-Ghad newspaper, and hadielislam.com, in several news media. In fact, Americans should listen to this. He says that the trend toward Islamic law and justice begins by religious movements like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic resistance. This is a straight support for terrorism.

Fox News didn’t fact check Shoebat’s inflammatory accusation that Rauf preaches peace in the United States while announcing his “support for terrorism” in the Arabic press.

We asked Ahmad Moussalli, a widely quoted expert on Islamic movements and professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut, to read the Arabic sources Shoebat cited on August 18  and to evaluate his claim that they show “a straight support for terrorism” and for “Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic jihad movement.” Moussalli responded that Shoebat’s remarks are a “blatant misrepresentation of the denotation and connotation of Mr. Rauf’s statements in Hadielislam and Al-Ghad newspaper. Rauf never expressed his support for the three organizations.”

Omid Safi, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina and expert on Sufism, also reviewed the Arabic articles and concluded that “they do not show any support for terrorism.” Safi added that “the accusation of ‘Muslim double-speak’ is one of the common accusations used by Islamaphobes like Shoebat” and said: “I would simply suggest dismissing what comes out of his mouth as much as I would dismiss anything David Duke would have to say about the essential nature of Judaism.”

To summarise, Shoebat’s claims of being a radicalised Muslim jihadist have been scrutinised by several analysts with testimony from friends and family, and appear to be a work of fiction. Even a claim of being any sort of Muslim would seem to be highly debatable.  Shoebat’s brand of Christianity is an extreme, apocalyptic interpretation, which relies on Zionism and a bloody Middle Eastern end-of-times scenario to realise it’s prophecy.  He believes that the bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ, and that killing Muslim children is permissible as it prevents future generations of potential enemies.  The fact that he and his cohorts are permitted to evangelise to American troops should be cause for great concern. Even if his life story was accurate, the sheer lunacy that fuels his rhetoric, and the bilious views he espouses about Muslims should be enough to convince anyone that he’s a dangerous extremist who hasn’t changed his spots.

Full articles containing the extracts used and more Shoebat madness can be found in the links below.

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/9/28/13035/0736

http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/walid_shoebat_kamal_saleem_zacharia_anani/

http://www.islamophobiatoday.com/2010/11/21/chip-berlet-fanatics-defame-murdered-u-s-soldiers/
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080211_the_war_against_tolerance/
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2006/7/27/174342.shtml

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/02/08/452610/-USAF-Pays-Fake-Terrorism-Experts-Speakers-To-Bash-Islam-

http://www.abrahamic-faith.com/False%20Christians/Walid.html

http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/12/walid-shoebat-kill-them-including-the-children/

http://www.loonwatch.com/2009/09/right-wing-nuts-obama-is-a-mooslim-convert-mooslims/

Crashing to Conclusions

Yet again the anti-Muslim blogosphere was awash with reports of creeping sharia yesterday. One story was of a Ukrainian girl who was tragically murdered in the Crimea region of the country. The killing was widely described as a stoning and attributed to sharia law in headlines. The Telegraph and Daily Mail were the first UK papers to jump on this story.

The Mail opened with:

“A teenage Muslim girl was stoned to death under ‘Sharia law’ after taking part in a beauty contest in Ukraine.”

and report:

“Police have opened a murder investigation and are looking into claims that three Muslim youths killed her, claiming her death was justified under Islam.

The Telegraph went with:

“Muslim teenage beauty queen ‘stoned to death’.”

To be fair to the Telegraph, their story go on to explain the conflicting reports regarding the murder.

“There were conflicting reports of how and why she was murdered. Some local newspapers claimed she had been stoned to death by hardline Muslims upset by her participation in the beauty contest and that police had three suspects in their sights.

But the police said her killing had nothing to do with sectarian violence and that the girl had been killed by a psychologically troubled classmate who had given her a lift on his moped and then robbed and possibly raped her before battering her to death with a rock.

“A student did it, killing his classmate. There is no other underlying reason, neither religious nor linked with inter-ethnic conflicts,” said Sergei Reznikov, a senior policeman involved in the case.

The area is home to more than 250,000 Muslim Crimean Tatars, and although there has been mob violence in the past sparked by perceived historical injustices, cases of Sharia punishment being meted out by stoning are unheard of.

Police said the main suspect, 16-year-old Bihal Gaziev, had a long history of mental health problems and was already in custody. He is understood to have confessed amid reports from his village suggesting he had developed an unhealthy and unrequited obsession with Miss Koren.”

Unfortunately, the headlines already say everything the Islamophobes want to hear, and the comments on the Mail article attest to the fact that most readers have neglected to read the full story. The usual suspects have also been quick to hijack this tragedy to further their anti-Muslim agenda.

Ignoring the fact that this murder was not only extrajudicial, but the punishment of stoning to death is not prescribed for anything resembling whatever this girl was supposed to have been guilty of in the Qur’an or Hadith. Had these news outlets resisted the knee jerk reaction and let the dust settle to discover the facts, they would probably not even have run the story. As much as three days ago there were Ukrainian reports available explaining the circumstances fully.

Was she ‘stoned to death’? Not in the sense one would consider an ‘Islamic’ stoning. She was killed by a blow from a blunt object, possibly a stone.

Was the murder due to her being a Muslimah acting immodestly? Firstly her name, Katya Koren, is not an Islamic name, and all reports from the Ukraine state that she was an Orthodox Christian. So the claim that she was Muslim appear to be totally false.

In that case it was a Muslim killing an immoral infidel? It doesn’t look like this was the case either. Bilyal Gaziev is a Russian who was orphaned and adopted by a mixed Ukrainian/Tartar couple as a 2 month old baby. His father is Muslim and his mother a Slavic Orthodox Christian. He was circumcised according to Islamic tradition and was technically a Muslim through patriarchal precedence. At 6 years old though, he asked to follow his mothers faith and was baptised as a Christian. Note that neither he or his parents were punished for apostasy. It looks therefore as though he wasn’t even a practicing Muslim at any point in his life. Reports suggest that his father was largely secular and wasn’t a regular mosque attendee.

It has also been revealed that he has been under psychiatric supervision since receiving a head injury at birth. Reports claim that Gaziev had developed a deeply “unhealthy” and “unrequited obsession” with Koren and lashed out when his advances were rejected. In some reports he claims to have fulfilled ‘sharia’, in others he is only able to explain that he just ‘wanted to kill her’.  The police psychiatrist described him as ‘a real wolf, the beast’.

To summarise, this murder has absolutely nothing connecting it to Islam other than it being the religion the killers adoptive father was born into. This isn’t the first, or will it be the last time the Islamophobes make assumptions and jump to the wrong conclusions, and as per usual they will either ignore the truth or spin it to suit their narrative. How many other inaccurate stories have fanned the flames of bigotry when there has been little smoke, let alone fire? I’ve copied an extract of a recent blog post below for starters:

Well there was that time when a series of bomb attacks hit India in 2007 & 2008. Without hesitation or a shred of evidence, Spencer claimed it was the work of a Bangladeshi jihadist group. Lo and behold, it then transpires that the attacks were carried out by a Hindu group, with no retraction or correction on Jihadwatch.

Then there was the case of the Muslim terrorist on a Maltese flight last year, who was praying in the aisle with a suspect packageExcept it turns out he was a Christian. A West Indian, dreadlocked Christian with a funny accent, but a Christian all the same. This particular story was deleted from Jihadwatch.

What about the infamous Gaza mass child bride extravaganza? Who could forget that? A field day for Islamophobes and Zionists. A photograph emerged in which numerous grooms were accompanied by primary school age girls dressed as brides. You can imagine the headlines. Yet again, this myth was busted by someone who was actually present. The young girls were the cousins and nieces of the grooms. But hey, they’re Muslims, you wouldn’t put it past them would you?

There’s the fact that Spencer uses a bogus translator to manipulate Arabic texts to suit his agenda. In one instance he reported a Fatwa giving Muslims permission to have sex with pre-pubescent girls, when in fact the true translation showed that the Fatwa was intended to do the exact opposite. The full read is absolutely ‘you couldn’t make it up’, facepalm material.

There are volumes upon volumes of work, comprehensively debunking Spencer’s dishonesty. Here is a start.

Robert Spencer and the disappearing articles

Robert Spencer’s “Scholarly” Credentials

On Spencer’s Credentials and Methodology

Understanding Jihad – Answers to Spencer’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)

“Fascist-Islamophobia”: A Case Study in Totalitarian Demonization – Five part series debunking Spencer’s written work.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Robert Spencer – A huge resource of responses and rebuttals of Spencer’s statements.

More on this here:

http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/05/katya-koren-ukrainian-beauty-queen-killed-by-disturbed-classmate-not-sharia-law/comment-page-1/#comment-76206

http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-watch/2011/6/1/muslim-girl-stoned-to-death-under-sharia-law-claims-daily-ma.html

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fkp.ua%2Fdaily%2F280511%2F282578%2F

The Obligatory Osama’s Dead Post

So, Bin Laden swims with the fishes. Am I happy? It certainly won’t give me sleepless nights, but I can’t say happiness is an emotion I feel when anyone dies, no matter what they’ve done. There’s no dignity in celebrating the ending of someone’s life. I don’t want to judge the crowds partying in New York and Washington too harshly, but seeing that kind of joy being expressed at the murder of another human being makes me feel uneasy. I can appreciate it might have been a cathartic experience and maybe a release of emotion that some people needed to exorcise any residual demons. I’m also happy for any people bereaved on 9/11 that feel some sort of closure, and are able to move on. I listened to a NY Fireman on the radio yesterday morning that had been to the funerals of over 300 colleagues. He said they weren’t dancing in the streets but were happy that justice had been done for the friends they’d lost. From what I have seen and heard, the people who lost loved ones on 9/11 conducted themselves with reflective dignity, and a perspective not shown by others.

We learn today that contrary to initial reports Bin Laden was unarmed when killed, although he was ‘resisting’. I’m trying extremely hard to be objective and reasoned about this, because even as someone who extols pacifism, justice and respect, I’m tempted to say ‘Fuck it, he got what he deserved let’s move on’. But I want to explore the options that were open and their implications, assuming what we’re being told is the whole truth. Even if it’s just for my own benefit, I want to establish how outraged or relieved I should be.

Firstly there’s the question of resistance. We now know he was unarmed, although apparently others were. According to reports the raid was carried out by up to 25 Navy Seals at 1am on a night chosen due to the lack of moonlight, and lasted for 40 minutes. The 3 floor building was housing around 22 people including women and children. The compound walls were breached using explosives, guards (possibly only 2) opened fire but were overwhelmed and killed on the first floor, and a woman was also killed in the crossfire. On the second floor women and children were encountered and restrained. The third floor was home to the Bin Laden family and was reached in the final 5 – 10 minutes of the operation. Bin Laden and his brother were killed. Reports state that Bin Laden’s wife rushed the soldiers and was shot in the calf. Not a great deal has been revealed about the level of resistance put up by Bin Laden, but one US official states that he “didn’t put his hands up to surrender”. CIA Director Leon Panetta told PBS he didn’t think bin Laden said anything to U.S. forces before he was killed.
“To be frank, I don’t think he had a lot of time to say anything. It was a firefight going up that compound and by the time they got to the third floor and found bin Laden, I think this was all split second action on the part of the SEALs,” he said.

Now I’m in no position to second guess the actions of the SEALs, they’re under pressure, full of adrenaline and acting under orders. But if they’re able to subdue an oncoming assailant with a non-lethal shot as with Bin Laden’s wife, why not with him? There is no mention on or off the record of him attacking the soldiers, and resisting could merely mean trying to escape. They had already ascertained by now that he was unarmed. Bin Laden was a big man, standing at 6ft 5ins, but we’re talking 25 of the most highly trained soldiers in the American armed forces. The team had also been rehearsing the operation in an exact replica of the compound, so were as prepared as they possible could be. Was it a rush of blood when faced with the most wanted man in the world, the architect of 9/11, the iconic bogeyman, the face of the War on Terror? No one would blame him, in fact if his identity is revealed he’d surely have the freedom of every city in the USA and never have to buy a drink again in his life.

But let’s assume that there was a clear order to kill Bin Laden. This is what was first reported in the media. A political assassination. What would the reasons for this be? Could it be as simple as revenge? Barack Obama would have had plenty of time to decide on Bin Laden’s fate and the consequences of each scenario. He obviously knew that killing him would be hugely symbolic, and win him popularity. But he also would have recognised that martyring Bin Laden would potentially be a catalyst for reprisals and possibly give rise to more resentment towards the West. Then there are the liberals and human rights advocates who would be arguing that justice is not served with a bullet to the head, and that he should have stood trial in a court of law. I have a certain amount of sympathy with this view. In an ideal world he would be brought to justice according to the standards of a democratic and civilised society, but I can fully understand, if not agree, with those who think an eye for an eye is morally acceptable.

I want to continue with the possibility of Bin Laden being captured and prosecuted as some think should have been the case. It’s not as if there isn’t a precedent for mass murderers, terrorists, war criminals and evil dictators standing trial. From Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg, to Radovan Karadzic in The Hague, and Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Isn’t there a greater sense of satisfaction in seeing dangerous, powerful men humiliated and made to answer for their crimes? In removing their aura and forcing them to face the reality of their future? Whether that’s a life in solitary confinement or facing the death penalty. But would a captive Bin Laden cause more problems than a dead one? There are enough theories to suggest it’s possible, even if some border on the conspiracy category. First of all where would he be detained? Guantanamo Bay? What are the chances he might ‘pass away’ in suspicious circumstances during ‘enhanced interrogation’? Where would he stand trial? Washington? The Hague? A secret location? Would the leader of Al-Qaeda being on American soil increase the risk of attacks? Would giving a voice to the charismatic ideologue further damage the reputation and perception of Muslims and Islam? Is there even the possibility that what he has to say might resonate with people previously unaffected?

There is also then the theory that he was killed to be silenced. We’ve all heard the stories of his CIA training, his family ties with the Bushes, the allegations that the Saudi Royal family have funded Al-Qaeda in the past. Would this expose the hypocrisy and double standards of the War on Terror? Did he know too much? Would we discover the extent to which Pakistan were or were not complicit in his concelment? How much damage would that do to a fragile situation on the sub-continent and to their relationship with the West? Then there is the fact that Bin Laden has never admitted responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. In fact his entry on the FBI Most Wanted list has never indicated he was wanted for the WTC atrocity. Is it provable that he was directly responsible? Would his prolonged detention and trial keep the spotlight on how tragically unnecessary and pointless the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been?

We can query why he was disposed of at sea with no independent autopsy, or how uninformed the claim of not wanting to create a shrine was. If they had someone knowledgeable enough to read his rites in Arabic and wash his body in compliance with Sharia, wouldn’t they know Salafis frown upon visiting graves? Why the sudden regard and respect for his religious or human rights after you’ve shot him in the head in front of his 12 year-old daughter?

No doubt there will be questions raised, more theories constructed, more facts will come to light and we may be no nearer knowing the exact details, or whether killing him was ‘the right thing’ to do. Do I care that he’s dead? No, not really. But I’m not celebrating. I see this as a symbolic moment, but far from a conclusion of any description. I’m hoping this is just the start of a process. Muslims and Muslim organisations across the world have welcomed the demise of Bin Laden. Positive statements have been issued by the governments of Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia, Bosnia, Turkey, Iraq, Somalia, Morocco, Libya and UAE. We need to strike while the iron his hot and harness this one issue we can all agree on as a basis to further understanding and co-operation.

I have blogged previously about what fuels radicalisation and terrorism, and until there is an admission and a genuine attempt to address them nothing will change. A situation has been created that can’t be rectified without further damage. It’s akin to stabbing someone with a knife. Leave it in and the pain is unbearable, take it out and they could bleed to death. The West has many knives buried in the hearts of Muslim countries. Withdraw or remain the suffering doesn’t end. With Bin Laden no more, there is no reason for our troops to inflict further misery on innocent civilians in Afghanistan or Iraq. But with incidents such as the attack on the UN building in Mazar-i-Sharif, the Taliban prison break, the announcement of a spring offensive by the Taliban, and vows to avenge the death of Bin Laden, this is a precarious situation to leave the Afghan government to deal with. There are already reports of a Pakistani Taliban attack on the Afghan border and pro Bin Laden demonstrations in Pakistan. Events in Afghanistan and Pakistan will come under the microscope in the coming months, as will NATO responses in Libya, their lack of response in Bahrain and Syria and the Hamas/Fatah deal in Palestine. Let’s not allow the extremists on either side to hijack this opportunity for their divisive, destructive purposes.

Leagues Apart

I don’t really remember the exact moment the foul stench of the EDL’s particular brand of bigotry wafted into my consciousness. But I vaguely recall learning of their links to football hooliganism, and that they had formed to oppose Islamic extremists. In trying to pin down the precise time that proved the catalyst to my interest, I discovered that the watershed moment was probably due to a series of ‘anti-extremist’ marches held from April to August 2009, organised by a group called ‘March for England’. But there was no mention of the EDL at this point.

On the 10th of March 2009 the Royal Anglian Regiment, on their return from Afghanistan, were welcomed with a home coming parade in Luton. The march was marred by a demonstration by a hand full of Muslim men wielding offensive and inflammatory placards. This wasn’t an anti-war protest as such, but an intentionally tasteless piece of opportunism carried out by the Al-Muhajiroun group led by Anjem Choudary. Who were also unknown to me at the time. The first march took place in Luton under the guise of the ‘United People of Luton’ as a direct response to the disrespectful display from Choudary and his cohorts.

Learning that a man by the name of Tommy Robinson, who claimed to be the founder, was a Luton resident seemed to make sense. But knowing of the historic links between football firms and far right organisations, along with a natural leftist gut feeling of discomfort when minorities are targeted, my suspicion was aroused.

The spate of demonstrations continued with events in Birmingham and London. It appears that it’s around this time that the moniker ‘English Defence League’ was adopted, and picked up on. Further events took place in Birmingham (twice), London, Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham before the end of the year, all under the banner of the EDL.

The media coverage had been steadily increasing since the first article was published in April, with inevitable attention being drawn to possible links to the racist BNP, and due to the hooligan element, violent neo-Nazi organisations like Combat 18 and the National Front. In an attempt to distance themselves from this image, they held a press conference ahead of their Manchester demonstration, and proceeded to symbolically burn a Nazi flag. This is the first vivid memory I have of the EDL. Balaclava-clad men, burning a flag, in a sparse and dingy room.

It didn’t take a great deal of investigation to realise that my reluctance to give them the benefit of my doubt was justified. Not that it required a sixth sense, as a Google search at that time would have revealed images of men baring more than a passing resemblance to the sinister paramilitary terrorists of the IRA & UDA.

It was at this point I made a discovery that was to cement a special place in my life for the EDL. Being a Cardiff City supporter I’m no stranger to terrace culture and all that goes with it. Despite not taking part in football violence, it’s impossible to follow a club like Cardiff City and not be exposed to it at some stage. Even if you’re not a hooligan, you either know someone who is, have seen them in action, or read one of their inevitable biographies. The names of individuals, rival firms and infamous battles become part of club folklore.

I’d seen it mentioned on a Cardiff City message board, that one of the founding members of the EDL was a City fan and Soul Crew member. Whilst reading a blog post about one of the EDL marches, I followed a link that took me to an article on the Hope not Hate website that profiled the hooligan leaders. My heart sank when reading about Jeff Marsh, Casuals Utd and the part he’d played in forming a movement of this nature.

Cardiff City fans have had a bad reputation that’s followed us around ever since I can remember, and genuine, law abiding supporters have always suffered from guilt by association. Telling someone you were a Cardiff City supporter when meeting people usually elicited one of two responses. Aggression. Or fear. Neither particularly welcome when on holiday or a night out. It’s a stigma we’ve had to endure as fans and a club, and have made huge strides in eradicating. Seeing a convicted Cardiff hooligan playing a lead role in the group I was already developing an unhealthy hatred for was depressing. I was angry at them for the bigotry and hatred they were spreading, I was angry that they were using the beautiful game to spread their message and recruit, and angry that the name of my club and hometown was going to be part of it’s history.

That was over a year ago now, and a lot has happened in the meantime. Unfortunately we’ve seen a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, and even more unfortunately, actions, due to the English Defence League and affiliated splinter groups. The right wing, mainstream media are doing their best to fan the flames with their anti-Muslim and anti-immigration scaremongering, whether they intend to or not.

Unfortunately they are tapping into a disillusioned and angry white working class, which now has a scapegoat to blame and a vent for their anger. How many of these are gullible kids being manipulated, or genuine racists playing the ‘Islam is not a race’ card, and hiding behind the ‘I’m not against all Muslims just the extremists’ fallacy, it’s impossible to tell. But my hope is that by exposing the lies for what they are, we can go some way to stemming the tide.

Even if convincing existing members and sympathisers that they are misguided is being optimistic, and a little naive. By challenging their misconceptions, prejudices and general bigotry, these racist organisations will realise they will not go unopposed.

The more scrutiny the EDL comes under, the more dirt gets uncovered, and their true motives will be laid bare for all to see. This, coupled with a clearer understanding between communities is what the anti-fascist and anti-racism movements in Britain are striving for, and what most decent people want.

The EDL has grown, but so has the opposition. I’m hoping maybe, even in just a small way, my hometown will be part of EDL history for another reason.

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