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Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, an American Muslim martyr honoured by General Powell

WASHINGTON: Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, an American Muslim martyr honoured by General Powell

Kabul: Afghan journalism student sentenced to 20 years for insulting Islam

JORDAN: Poet arrested for insulting Islam

West Midlands: Father defends terror-arrest son

WASHINGTON: Project Nur Co-sponsors Panel at George Washington University on Islam and Homosexuality

CHICAGO: Sour note for American Muslims in election campaign

The Taliban have perpetrated another barbaric act in the name of Islam – and all Muslims have a duty to condemn them By Ziauddin Sardar

Riyadh: Hundreds face Saudi terror trials

MADRID, Spain: Spanish court frees terror suspects

Beijing: China calling for international help to arrest eight “Muslim” terrorists

Muslims for Obama, Muslims for McCain By Umar Lee

California: Muslim author Nonie Darwish to speak on peace and human rights: Appearance provokes debate among student groups by POOJA KUMAR

Time for a Political Solution in Afghanistan? By Edward C. Corrigan

Chertoff Says Change in Presidency Fuels Terror `Vulnerability' By Jeff Bliss

URL :,-an-american-muslim-martyr-honoured-by-general-powell--/d/913



Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, an American Muslim martyr honoured by General Powell

October 22, 2008

    WASHINGTON — “Joe the Plumber” was only one of two Americans injected into the presidential election this past week. The other was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, whom former Secretary of State Colin Powell invoked in his endorsement Sunday of Barack Obama.

    Khan was a 20-year-old soldier from Manahawkin, N.J., who wanted to enlist in the Army from the time he was 10. He was an all-American boy who visited Disney World after he completed his training at Fort Benning, Ga., and made his comrades in Iraq watch “Saving Private Ryan” every week.

He was also a Muslim who joined the military, his father said, in part to show his countrymen that not all Muslims are terrorists.

 “He was an American soldier first,” said his father, Feroze Khan. “But he also looked at fighting in this war as fighting for his faith. He was fighting radicalism.”

Khan was killed by an improvised explosive device in August 2007 along with four other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter while searching a house in Baqouba, Iraq. He’s one of four Muslims who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where 512 troops from those wars now rest.

About 3,700 of the U.S. military’s 1.4 million troops are Muslims, according to Defence Department estimates.

Khan, a child of immigrant parents from Trinidad, was 14 when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. Feroze Khan said he remembered his son watching in stunned silence: “I could tell that inside a lot of things were going through his head.”

Three years later, Feroze honoured his son’s request and allowed him to enlist him in the Army. “I told him: ‘You are going to the Army.’ I never said there is a war going on in a Muslim country. I didn’t want him to get any ideas that he was fighting (against) his religion.” Feroze kept his fears for his son’s safety to himself.

His son was assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Lewis, Wash., deployed to Iraq in 2006 and fought on Baghdad’s Haifa Street, a Sunni insurgent stronghold.

His tour was extended as part of the surge of additional U.S. forces to Iraq , and he called or messaged home often until he was deployed to restive Diyala province, where he was under fire too often to contact home regularly.

But he prayed every day, his father said.

One Sunday morning, his son sent an instant message: “Hey Dad. Are you there?” Feroze Khan was out, and he saw the message when he returned.

A few hours later, his ex-wife called. Soldiers had knocked on her door in Maryland. Their only child was dead.

A few minutes later, soldiers appeared at Khan’s door. “I guess it helped that I knew beforehand,” he said. “There are no words to describe it.”

Kareem Khan was a month from finishing his tour when he was killed.

On Sunday, Powell said that Khan’s sacrifice and service had swayed him to discuss the way that Muslims have been portrayed in the presidential campaign, and the contention that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Obama “is a Christian,” Powell said. “He has always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is?’ Is there something wrong with being Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That is not America.” He added: “I am troubled that within the (Republican) Party we have these kinds of expressions” suggesting that Obama is a Muslim, and that if he is, he likely associates with terrorists.

 Powell said that he felt strongly about the issue after he saw a photo of Khan’s tombstone in the New Yorker magazine. In the black-and-white picture, Khan’s mother is resting her head on her son’s tombstone. On each side of the stone are flowers, and in between is a copy of the Quran. On the face of the tombstone is a crescent and star, indicating that the soldier buried there is a Muslim.


Afghan journalism student sentenced to 20 years for insulting Islam

From Times Online

October 21, 2008 (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

Tom Coghlan in Kabul

An Afghan journalism student sentenced to death for allegedly ’insulting Islam’ had his conviction upheld but his sentence reduced to 20 years in prison by an Afghan central appeal court today.

The prosecution alleged that Sayed Perwez Kambashkh, 24, downloaded from the internet and distributed an article by an Iranian writer questioning some of the tenets of Islam relating women’s rights. He has always denied the charges.

He is alleged to have added three paragraphs to the offending article himself, one of which read: “This is the real face of Islam... the prophet Mohammad wrote verses of the Holy Quran just for his own benefit.”

At his appeal court trial today five professors of Balkh University, where the defendant was a student, claimed that Kambakhsh disrupted classes by asking “anti-Islam and insulting questions.”

Kambakhsh was originally sentenced to death by a local court in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif following his arrest in October 2007.

Following today’s hearing defence lawyer, Mohammad Afzal Shormach Nuristani, said his client would appeal to Afghanistan’s Supreme Court. Mr Nuristani has faced repeated death threats, as has his client.

The case has drawn widespread criticism from human rights organisations and Western governments. Kambakhsh claimed he made a confession after being tortured by officials from the Afghan security services. He claims his accusers were motivated by personal enmities to bring the charges against him.

The proceedings of the original trial were criticised by the European Union amongst others, after it emerged that the trial was held in closed session with only three judges, a court clerk and prosecutor present. Kambakhsh was given only three minutes to defend himself before being sentenced to death.

International observers and human rights groups also attacked today’s appeal proceedings, held in open court.

“We are much concerned about the legal process of the trial,” said Nader Nadery, commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. “The reaction of the judge seems to be one sided. Kambakhsh’s defence lawyer wasn’t given enough chance to speak.”

One of the witnesses in yesterday’s trial, a student identified only as Hamid, told the court that he made his original statement after he was threatened with expulsion from Balkh University and faced intimidation from members of the Afghan intelligence service. “There is a big reform process for criminal procedure in Afghanistan, but if you don’t enforce those procedure laws they are not worth anything,” said John Dempsey, an American lawyer who attended the trial on behalf of the Washington think-tank, The United States Institute of Peace. “In this case the procedures were routinely ignored to the detriment of Kambakhsh.”

The trial has aroused similarly strong passions among conservative Afghans.

Mohammad Jawed, a lawyer from Mazar-e-Sharif who also attended today’s trial said: “This judge is against Muslims, this is a very low sentence. He should be hanged. Five teachers from the University of Balkh bore witness that he was against Islam. They saw him downloading and distributing it.”

Afghanistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines freedom of speech, expression and religion. However, it is widely held among Afghan lawmakers that the third article of the Afghan Constitution, which forbids anything contrary to the ’beliefs and provisions of Islam’, takes precedence over all other articles.

There have been a number of other recent blasphemy trials in the country.

Dan McNorton, a UN Spokesman, told the Times: “We are closely monitoring the Kambakhsh case. We remain concerned about whether fair trial standards were followed at all stages as well as possible implications of this case for freedom of expression issues.”



JORDAN: Poet arrested for insulting Islam

Maghribi_script_sura_5 A Jordanian poet who published a collection of his works has found himself in hot water. He's been accused of apostasy, a crime that could carry the death penalty in some parts of the Islamic world.

Islam Samhan, 27, was arrested by authorities today. He could be sentenced to up to three years in prison. The specific charge?  Harming Islam by incorporating Koranic imagery into his love poems.

According to The National, the Abu Dhabi daily, Samhan's work, "Slim Shadows," caught the attention of Jordanian clerics, including Jordan's Grand Mufti Noah Alqdah Samas, who called him an enemy of religion for comparing his loneliness to that of the prophet Youssef in the Koran.

Suddenly, Samhan's nightmare began. His book was banned and he began receiving death threats. Next came today's arrest. According to a report by the Associated Press, authorities have charged him with harming Islam by violating the press and publication law "for combining the sacred words of the Koran with sexual themes."

The law in Jordan bans insults to religion. But in the heady world of literature, who decides when something is insulting faith or inspired by it? Samhan says he grew up around religion. He can't help but let it influence his work.

Editors and writers in the Muslim world must constantly police their publications for fear of insulting clerics. Even if the government approves a work, sometimes individual clerics weigh in against it afterward and pressure authorities into punishing the offender.

Even on the streets of Jordan these days, people are afraid to curse God or religion. Using God's name in vain might mean three months in the slammer.

Another Jordanian poet was arrested eight years ago and charged with apostasy because Islamists said one of his pieces contradicted the Koran.

He was acquitted.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut



Father defends terror-arrest son

Oct 21, 2008

The father of one of five men arrested under the Terrorism Act protested his son's innocence as officers continued to search eight properties.

Police swooped on five homes in Birmingham; taking five men aged 29 to 36 into custody.

The men were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism, West Midlands Police said.

A police spokeswoman said the arrests took place in the Sparkhill, Ward End, Hodge Hill, Bordesley Green and Aston areas of Birmingham.

Speaking outside his home in Sparkhill, Sobat Khan, 66, told how he awoke to find six police officers arresting his son, 29-year-old Mohammed Shabir.

The father-of-four said: "My son is not bad, he is a good boy.

"They (the police) knocked on the front door and came in, two lady police officers and four men. They arrested my son and told me I had to get out so they could search. They are still searching but they haven't taken anything from the house.

"I don't know when I can go back in. I was shocked. I had been asleep. My son didn't say anything, he just went with them. He is not bad, he has never been bad. All his life, I have had no trouble from him. He just goes to work, that is all. I said to the police, 'you think I make bombs in my house? You look'."

Mr Khan said his son had a wife and an eight-year-old son who also live with him at the terraced home in Benton Road. He said his son, who works in a steel factory in West Bromwich, came to Birmingham from Pakistan as a six-month-old baby and had not left the country since.

A police spokeswoman said: "This action comes as a result of a long and complex investigation by the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit. It is not related to any immediate plot or threat to public safety and police are not currently seeking anyone else in relation to these arrests. The families of the men are being supported by specially trained officers and key community leaders in the relevant areas have been contacted."



Project Nur Co-sponsors Panel at George Washington University on Islam and Homosexuality

Oct. 21, 2008

WASHINGTON, Oct 21, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Project Nur (PN), of the American Islamic Congress (AIC), is co-sponsoring a panel this Sunday, October 26, 2008, entitled "Islam and Homosexuality: Muslim Perspectives." The event, hosted by George Washington University's LGBT and ally student group, Allied in Pride, will feature a diverse panel of prominent Muslims to engage in a discussion on the controversial topic of Islam and homosexuality.

"This panel will help shed some light on the issue by providing an opportunity for the topic to be brought into the open," said Anita Iyer, Project Nur Vice President, American University. "Project Nur is founded on the principles of understanding and tolerance and, moreover, the belief that every human being deserves to live his/her life with dignity. This issue deserves a platform within the Muslim community, and as a community we cannot simply ignore and leave alienated an entire class of individuals," expressed Shabana Stationwala, Project Nur Director. The event features a number of activists and experts on the topic. It is free to attend and refreshments will be served.

When: 7 p.m., Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where: Marvin Centre Continental Ballroom, George Washington University, 800 21st St. NW, Washington, DC

Imam Johari Abdul Malik, Director of Outreach, Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center

Dr. Amal Amireh, Professor of Women and Gender Studies, George Mason University

Hisham Mahmoud, Lecturer, Princeton University, and Executive Editor, Zaytuna Curriculum Series

Imam Daayiee Abdullah, Al-Fatiha Foundation and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Religious Roundtable


Zahir Janmohamed, Director of Advocacy for the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International USA

"There are various taboo issues that sharply cut across many societies, cultures, and faiths, homosexuality being one of the sharpest and most controversial," remarked Stationwala. According to Amir Zarif Anwar, Project Nur Treasurer at GW, "If there is an issue that is viewed as controversial, the community is better served if we enlighten ourselves about it, rather than cringe from it and ignore it. This event is a grand opportunity for us to once and for all dispel the controversy surrounding homosexuality and seek to deconstruct the issue on a just level."

Project Nur ( is a "new light on campus" that creates a distinct and alternative Muslim voice: a civic identity grounded in pluralism and moderate thinking and action, one that dispels the perception of a monolithic Muslim voice. It emphasizes civic action with the goal of forging a cohesive and mutually respectful multicultural community of university students who are committed towards the advancement of human rights, civil rights, social justice, tolerance, understanding, and coexistence. Project Nur is a student-led initiative of the American Islamic Congress (

The panel's sponsors include: GW Allied in Pride, Campus Progress, Amnesty International USA, the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Al-Fatiha Foundation, GW Student Association, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, KHUSHDC, Project Nur-GW & -AU Chapters, GW Program Board, GW Multicultural Student Services Center, GMU Pride Alliance, GW Women's Studies Department, GMU Women and Gender Studies Program and AU Queers & Allies.



Sour note for American Muslims in election campaign

Tue Oct 21, 2008

By Michael Conlon, Religion Writer

CHICAGO (Reuters) - These are uneasy times for America's Muslims, caught in a backwash from a presidential election campaign where the false notion that Barack Obama is Muslim has been seized on by some who link Islam with terrorism.

The Democratic White House candidate, who would be the first black U.S. president and whose middle name is Hussein, is a Christian. Son of a Kenyan father and white American mother, he spent part of his childhood in largely Muslim Indonesia.

The idea Obama is Muslim has circulated on the Internet for months, presented by some as a fact to reinforce the position that Obama is not a suitable candidate for the White House.

Not since the election of John Kennedy as the first Catholic U.S. president in 1960 has the faith of a White House hopeful generated so much distortion, said about 100 "concerned scholars" and others who have signed an Oct. 7 proclamation aimed at countering Islamophobia they say is on the rise.

In recent weeks:

-- More than 20 million video disc copies of a film called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" were included as advertising supplements in newspapers across the country, many in battleground states where Obama is in a close fight with Republican candidate John McCain. The film, distributed by a private group unaffiliated with the McCain campaign, features suicide bombers, children being trained with guns, and a Christian church said to have been defiled by Muslims.

-- A city council candidate in Irvine, California, who is Muslim convert, said he got a telephone call saying "I want to cut your head off just like all the other Muslims deserve," the Los Angeles Times reported.

-- A mosque in a suburb of Chicago, Obama's home city, was vandalized four times in less than two months, with anti-Islamic messages left on its outer walls, and windows and doors broken.

-- An account of an Ohio rally for McCain running mate Sarah Palin, filed by Al Jazeera and posted on YouTube, shows a woman saying "he is not Christian, and this is a Christian nation," and a second woman saying she opposes Obama because of "the whole Muslim thing. A lot of people have forgotten about 9/11 (the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks). It's a little unnerving."

"It is frightening to see at this point the label 'Arab' or 'Muslim' being used de facto as an insult," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (C.A.I.R).

There is a feeling, he said, that hate crimes increase as Islamophobia rises in public discourse, including that going on peripherally in this election campaign. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican crossing party lines to endorse Obama on Sunday, made a demand for tolerance when he referred to Obama-is-a-Muslim rumours.

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" he asked on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion 'he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America," Powell said, while making clear such sentiment was not coming from McCain himself.

Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population of 305 million, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, though some believe that number is low. About a third of the world's population is Christian, another 21 percent Muslim.

Daniel Varisco, anthropology chair at Hofstra University, said he wrote the "statement of concerned scholars" after seeing Islamophobia on the rise.

"The attempts to label Senator Obama a terrorist or rhyme his name with Osama (bin Laden) or accent his middle name (Hussein), as well as false claims about his being sworn into (U.S. Senate) office on a Koran, demonstrate how near to the surface anti-Islamic sentiment is in the United States," he said.

Circulating such falsehoods "avoids playing the race card directly but at the expense of Muslims," he said.

The Clarion Fund, which distributed the film "Obsession," through a huge newspaper advertising buy, says it is an independent education group focused "on the most urgent threat of radical Islam" and that placing the film in the hands of readers in battleground election states was an attempt to grab attention.

Spokesman Gregory Ross said, "we have no political or religious affiliations to any group whatsoever."

The Islamic Circle of North America has meanwhile opened an offensive of sorts -- a campaign promoting Islam and seeking converts. It said it placed advertising signs inside 1,000 cars in New York's subway network.

In Chicago the group had a number of city buses adorned top to bottom with pro-Islam advertising, headlined "Islam: The Way of Life of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad."

Rehab of the Chicago C.A.I.R. office said that kind of approach may work to a limited degree, "but really the crux of the issue is not learning about the details of a religion but rather interacting with and understanding that the average Muslim is no different than yourself."

(Editing by Andrew Stern and Frances Kerry)

© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved



The Taliban have perpetrated another barbaric act in the name of Islam – and all Muslims have a duty to condemn them

           By Ziauddin Sardar

          Tuesday October 21 2008 15.30 BST

The murder of aid worker Gayle Williams is an atrocious act. The fact that it has been justified on religious grounds is an abomination. As a Muslim I feel ashamed that such a barbarity has been perpetrated in the name of Islam.

Williams, who worked for the Christian charity Serve, was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle as she walked to her office in Kabul. For over two decades, motorcycle assassinations have been a regular feature of the Afghani and Pakistani landscape. And the murderers have, more often than not, turned out to be religious fanatics. The responsibility for this particular shooting was readily claimed by the Taliban.

Williams was killed simply for being a Christian. "Our leaders issued a decree to kill this woman", said a Taliban spokesman, because she "came to Afghanistan to teach Christianity". The fact that "this woman" was a woman was also clearly held against her. As such, her cold-blooded murder was legitimate and had religious sanction in the mental universe that the Taliban inhabit.

Who and what are the Taliban? The majority of their members are young students groomed in seminaries that operated in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation and hard-fought Afghan guerrilla war. The seminaries, financed by Saudi dollars, expounded a particular interpretation and approach to Islam – the totality of dogma as necessary detail, prescriptive dos and don'ts. The objective of the Taliban is to institute an Islamic utopia in Muslim Afghanistan. Like all utopias, religious or secular, it is a restrictive, totalitarian, nightmarish vision.

This vision of Islam, like any utopian project, must clear away imperfections, the unacceptable, the intolerable, the distracting, and create ground zero, the purified territory on which, alone, true righteousness can exist. The fact that Islam has existed in Afghanistan for over a thousand years does not make it Islamic in the eyes of the Taliban. To become truly Islamic, Afghanistan has to be forced to return to an idealised history when Islamic time began and all was perfect. Nothing can be allowed to stand against this endeavour. And all actions, however murderous and criminal, are justified in the pursuit of this goal.

This is why the Taliban hate everything that does not fit their criteria for being Islamic. They execute women who do not cover their hair without a qualm. They behead those who do not support an Islamic beard, which should sprawl unconfined and not be neat and trim. So far this year, they have killed 29 aid workers for simply being foreigners, Christians, or different.

Every act, however barbaric and evil, is celebrated and seen as a step forward towards their ultimate goal. The Taliban see themselves as heroes, engaged in a life and death struggle to recreate an imagined Medina in the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Their disaffection with everything that exists today is zealous to the minutest detail. Oh, and it is certain, unquestioningly certain of the rectitude of all its answers to any and all problems.

      That is why Gayle Williams will not be the last innocent person to be brutally killed simply for being different or for serving humanity. There will be many more as long as the Taliban exist. For the Taliban have no notion of humanity, nor do they subscribe to anything that can be remotely described as humane. Such a notion of Islam can only be condemned, in the strongest terms possible, by all people of faith. Muslims need to do much more than simply distance themselves from the inhumanity of the Taliban. We need to take positive steps to do something about this evil.



Hundreds face Saudi terror trials

21Oct 2008

 (CNN) -- Saudi Arabia has announced that nearly 1,000 suspects accused of having ties to al Qaeda will soon be tried for carrying out dozens of "acts of war" against the Arab kingdom, according to Saudi media reports on Tuesday.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif Bin Abdel-Aziz Interior Minister Prince Naif Bin Abdel-Aziz says Al Qaeda has carried out attacks on Saudi soil.

The 991 suspects were rounded up in anti-terror raids across the country in recent years.

Human Rights Watch said it has asked the Saudi government for permission to send observers to the trials of 70 defendants who were in court for the first time on Monday to face charges of carrying out acts of "domestic rebellion."

"For justice to be done, it has to be fair and to be seen as fair," HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said. "Neutral observers should monitor trials of such national and international importance."

The suspects have been linked to al Qaeda, which Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif Bin Abdel-Aziz said has carried out more than 30 attacks in the kingdom against government buildings, oil refineries, and Saudi citizens.

Al Qaeda remains a real threat in Saudi Arabia, despite the successes that Saudi authorities have had since their campaign against the group began in 2003, said CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Since 2004, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden -- himself a Saudi -- has made it al Qaeda's policy to attack the oil industry in his native country, which has the largest oil reserves in the world.

In June, Saudi authorities announced a massive anti-terror sweep that netted more than 500 members of a purported al Qaeda-linked terrorist cell allegedly planning attacks on Saudi targets, including major oil installations.

It was the largest number of arrests of terror suspects announced by Saudi authorities.

Don't Miss

In November 2007, Saudi authorities announced they had recently netted more than 200 Saudi and foreign militants involved in six terrorist cells that were plotting to attack an oil support facility, to assassinate clerics and security forces and to smuggle weapons into the country.

The detainees have "direct connections" to the cells and bombings over the past five years -- since the 2003 bombings at a compound where Western contractors lived in Riyadh, said Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Some of those detained over the years have provided leads to other members of the cells, he said. Many others haven't been cooperative, often refusing to talk to investigators, he added.

"When you arrest someone from one cell, you want to keep them until you have all members of the cell," al-Turki told CNN.

He said the suspects in the 2003 bombings are likely to be the first to face trial. "We believe that we have arrested all living members in that original cell," he said.

According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia has held about 3,000 suspected militants for years without charge or access to legal counsel.

Christoph Wilcke, a senior researcher on Saudi Arabia for Human Rights Watch, said some of those arrested in past anti-terror sweeps have had little or no ties to terrorist groups.

"I have been in touch with the families of those who have been detained," Wilcke told CNN. "One woman said, 'My husband is a nurse, he brought this wanted terrorist to a hospital and they arrested him, too.' Another said, 'My son went to a neighbor's house to say hello or borrow a knife' and a month later they found out he was on the wanted list.

"I don't know if these are innocent stories, but we should have an open and fair trial to find out," Wilcke said.

Those picked up as terrorist suspects have no legal rights, and are sometimes never heard from again, he said.

"Effectively, Saudi Arabia operates its own Guantanamo," he said. "Saudi security services operate a string of prisons where these kind of people go in, along with your ordinary dissident, and nobody will ever hear from them again."

Saudi Arabia does not have written criminal law to deal with terrorism offences, and many terror suspects are never tried in court, he said.

"Their best bet of coming out is to go through a religious re-education program," he said. "The Saudis like this (program), but we're more sceptical.

"Telling a detainee that he's all wrong about religion can't take the place of any judicial hearing."



Spanish court frees terror suspects

From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A judge in Spain has freed most of 12 suspected Islamic terrorists he ordered to be arrested a week earlier, saying there was not enough evidence to hold them, an official said Tuesday.

Police seized the mainly Moroccan men last Thursday -- including four already in prison on other charges -- for allegedly aiding five fugitives from the 2004 Madrid train bombings, and for helping finance and recruit Islamic terrorists.

Two were released shortly afterwards and on Monday, during a court appearance for the remaining 10, judge Baltasar Garzon found insufficient evidence to continue holding the others, a court spokeswoman told CNN.

Six suspects were released Monday, although reports said they were required to appear regularly before authorities so their whereabouts are known. The four had already been in jail, remain in custody facing other charges, she said.

Garzon ordered the arrests last week on the advice of police investigators. But without sufficient evidence, he was unable to hold the suspects any longer on the charges, the spokeswoman said.

The Madrid train bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800 in coordinated attacks against four commuter trains on March 11, 2004.

Since then, Spanish police have arrested dozens of Islamic terror suspects, accusing them of activities ranging from plotting attacks to providing financing to recruitment.



Saudi Arabia to Try Nearly 1,000 on Terror Charges

By VOA News

21 October 2008

Saudi Arabia says it will try nearly 1,000 people suspected of involvement in a campaign of terror in the kingdom.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz issued a statement Monday saying 991 suspects will face charges related to 30 attacks since 2003 that claimed more than 160 lives.

He said security forces had stopped 160 other attacks planned by the suspects, who he said had links to al Qaida.

Prince Nayef said the suspects targeted Saudi Arabia's society, way of life, and economy.

The statement did not say when the trials would start. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says it has asked Saudi Arabia for permission to observe the hearings.

The organization says the kingdom, which has no formal penal code, has been holding up to 3,000 people in detention for years, with many of them sent through so-called re-education programs.

Prince Nayef said authorities discovered three tons of explosives during their crackdown, as well as thousands of missiles, automatic weapons and cyanide.

The targets of the attacks included oil installations, government buildings and other facilities.

The strikes killed 90 Saudi and foreign civilians, and 74 members of the Saudi security forces.

More than 430 civilians and 650 security officers were wounded in the attacks.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



Muslims for Obama, Muslims for McCain

The Muslim Vote in the US Presidential Race

By Umar Lee

One can hardly walk into a Masjid in America these days without seeing information on how to register to vote or meeting someone eager to help you to register. Perhaps it is due to the sense of disfranchisement many Muslims in America have felt over the last seven years or maybe it is due to the fact that American Muslims are a maturing community and along with numerical growth and age comes political sophistication.

"It is time for Muslims to step up to the plate in 2008 and take their souls to the polls," Imam Mahdi Bray, the Executive Director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation (MAS), has said repeatedly throughout the year.

Towards that effort, the "MAS Voting is Power" program has launched Muslim voter registration drives all throughout the nation putting thousands of new Muslims on the rolls in swing-states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Michigan. MAS VIP is joined in this effort by an assortment of Muslim organizations all pledged to bring out a record Muslim voter turnout in 2008. This effort hoped to build upon the 2004 Muslim vote (which exit polls show going solidly for the Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry) and the famous 2000 bloc-vote which many Muslims feel tipped the scales towards George W. Bush.

More Active than Ever

70 percent of the eight million Muslim Americans are expected to actively vote in this election.

At a town hall forum earlier this year for Muslim voters in Philadelphia, Imam Bray stated "this is not going to be like 2000 … a handful of Muslims on top are not going to select and give an endorsement in the name of the entire Muslim community … we are looking for an endorsement from the grassroots." Already, out of the eight million Muslim in the US, 86 percent are registered to vote while 70 percent are expected to actively vote according to Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad.

A popular consensus has arisen in the Muslim community that a majority of American Muslims support the candidacy of the Democratic Senator Barack Obama. Obama bumper stickers can be seen at masjid parking lots across the country with a high level of frequency along with a high level of enthusiasm for his candidacy in a number of Muslim Student Association chapters and countless Muslim volunteers for his campaign. However, Muslim support in this election is not one-sided, as there is sure to be a significant percentage of American Muslims supporting the candidacy of the Republican Sen. John McCain.

Omair Ahmed of Chicago has warm feelings towards McCain. "I have high regard and respect for John McCain. He is a straight talker. He has made personal sacrifices for this nation (as a veteran and then as a POW). This level of service and sacrifice is unparalleled."

Responding to charges that the GOP, considering that it is full of Islamophobes and conservative talk-radio and blogs — such as Free Republic — is rife with anti-Muslim rhetoric, Ahmed says "Both parties have animosity against Muslims. In this matter, I prefer the honesty of the GOP to the deceit and hypocrisy of the Democrats. In case people have forgotten, Obama is on record for being in favor of invading Pakistan in pursuit of terrorists."

Voting for Moral Values

"John McCain is a strong leader and … posses the capability to reform the political dynamics and roll back much of the xenophobic wing of the fundamentalist evangelical movement" — Mohammad Elibiary

Mohammad Elibiary, a long-time activist in Texas, gave this endorsement of McCain: "John McCain is a strong leader and on issues like comprehensive immigration reform posses the capability to reform the political dynamics and roll back much of the xenophobic wing of the fundamentalist evangelical (Christian Dominionist) movement. That kind of cultural reform will unleash much political room for new immigrant communities, which includes Muslims; and can only be delivered by a Republican in today's political environment."

Both Ahmed and Elibiary sounded off on two key points that many Muslims supporters of the GOP and McCain in this election often bring up; the cultural and moral values of conservatives, opposition to abortion and homosexuality, and support of other family values and gun-rights, (at least some facets of that movement) are closer to the Islamic ideal than that of liberals, thus making a more natural alliance for Muslims with conservatives. However, referring to a Jan. 2008 CAIR survey, only eight percent of Muslims are expected to vote for Republican in the upcoming presidential elections.

In this particular election, many South Asian Muslims have been angered by the assertion of Obama that he will go into Pakistan if necessary to challenge Al-Qaeda and find Osama bin Laden (a policy the Bush Administration has began to implement over the last several weeks).

Revising "Disastrous Political Moves"

"The right has used rhetoric to talk about values and morality, [yet] they have chosen policies that keep wealth in the hands of the few while the majority bear the burden" — Margari Aziza Hill

"Nonsense," says Abdullah Hussein of St. Louis; "what will all those family values mean when we are all rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo Bay and having our mushafs [another word for Quran] desecrated by good ole' boys after the fears of Islam the public has have been stoked by the right-wing media and a McCain-Palin administration? Palin has already said that she believes that the war in Iraq was payback for 9/11; in case Iraq was guilty, what other Muslim nations could she possibly assign such guilt too [and thus ratify their attack]?"

Margari Aziza Hill, a PHD candidate in Islamic History from the Bay Area in California agrees "I think one of the most disastrous political moves Muslims made was to try to align themselves with the Christian right because of our shared conservative social values. I believe that the right has used rhetoric to talk about values and morality, but when it comes to caring about the suffering of others, they have chosen policies that keep wealth in the hands of the few while the majority bear the burden … I believe Obama and Biden are far more capable of leading America in a positive direction. They are the best choice we have and we need to take this opportunity to steer this ship around."

Hill and Hussein tend to support Obama for the same reasons that are common amongst his Muslim supporters in America (mounting to 49 percent of American Muslims, as Mr. Awad mentioned); they believe the GOP has promoted a climate of fear and distrust of Muslims, they believe elements of the conservative base are fundamentally exclusionary in nature, and they are concerned with the erosion of civil-liberties of American Muslims, and warfare abroad. Mr. Awad agrees, yet added some more factors expected to determine the Muslim vote; along with the war being fought abroad and civil rights challenges at home, he added education and health care.

Major Muslim organizations in America agree that what is more important than who Muslims would vote for is that they exercise their rights as citizens and cast ballots in this historical election.

Umar Lee is an American-Muslim writer, blogger, and documentary filmmaker specializing in political and social issues related to Muslims in America. He spends his time between St. Louis, MO and the East Coast.


Muslim author Nonie Darwish to speak on peace and human rights

Written by POOJA KUMAR

Published October 21, 2008

Nonie Darwish, author and public speaker, will be visiting UC Davis on Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 8:30 p.m. in 1100 Social Sciences. Hosted by the Davis College Republicans, the title of her presentation is "Searching for Peace Within."

"From the side of my culture, the Middle East, I will start by saying every culture has challenges with peace and we might end the finger-pointing," she said.

Darwish, author of Now They Call Me Infidel, will begin her speech by delving into her upbringing and introducing her perspective on peace between cultures. She will also discuss women's rights in the Middle East and her belief that American Muslims need to speak up.

Darwish was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Gaza. In 1978, she moved to America and became a Christian.

"I don't consider [that] I left Islam," she said. "Islam left me. When I went to mosques in America the atmosphere was very anti-Semitic. I was told, don't assimilate in America. I lived with that religion for a long time I didn't want to go anymore. The way Islam is brought today is very anti-women and very anti-minority. Islam law is very oppressive of women and minorities. I could not reconcile that and stay a Muslim."

After the events of 9/11, Darwish started speaking out against radicalism, hate speech and violence.

"The human rights of 3,000 were taken by people whose religion told them to do so," she said. "They are following the words of their religion literally. And unfortunately I don't just blame them; I blame their teachers and religious leaders. There is a lot of literal education of religion in the Muslim world going on right now. If the Koran says strike the hearts of unbelievers they go strike the hearts of unbelievers."

Sept. 11 prompted Darwish to begin an online forum called Arabs for Israel that is for Arabs and Muslims who support the state of Israel and the cause of peace in the Middle East, according to the organization's website. She soon started receiving e-mails of support from Arab readers, but the senders always told her to refrain from publishing their names.

"I thought there was a need for good and free-loving Arabs to speak out for their wish of peace for Israel but they are still afraid because it's a taboo," she said. "I created this as a forum to speak freely."

Allison Daley, Immediate Past Chair for the Davis College Republicans said DCR invited Darwish to speak because she will be an interesting and different speaker who has a unique experience to share.

"People will be more open and aware that this going on. We want everyone to come with open hearts and open minds," Daley said. "We believe that peace comes from the heart, from the individual. We hope that people take away that peace in the Middle East can be achieved and women's right in the Middle East as well is a big issue. We want a message of peace and love and for everyone to be able to get along in the Middle East without killing."

President of the Muslim Student Association Yussuf Abdel-aleem said Darwish takes examples from certain instances related to Islam and attributes them to the whole Muslim population.

"We don't like people like Darwish to come because we feel they misrepresent and misconstrue Islam," said Abdel-aleem, a senior political science major. "For example, she generally shows Islam as misogynist and chauvinistic, which is the case sometimes, but she can't make the distinctions between cultural differences between the religion of the Islam and the reality of Islam, which 2 billion people of the world are practicing today.

"And she is part of what the Davis College Republicans are trying to do - to tarnish the image of Islam," Abdel-aleem said. "I feel like half of what she says is for shock value."

In response, members of DCR said all student groups are welcome to listen to Darwish and her experiences. DCR encourages people to come with open minds, Daley said.

"Obviously on a campus such as UC Davis the Republicans don't have a great reputation," Daley said. "We want people to understand that whatever the stereotype of Republicans might be, they should form their own opinion and meet us. We work towards peace and having people like Darwish who have a message of peace and hope."

Darwish also said she is trying to speak out against only those who are radical.

"I know the majority of Muslims are good and peace-loving people and those are not the people I'm talking about," she said. "I criticized Islam and I have the right to."

"In my culture they are very sensitive to self-criticism and it is time to get over such views because I consider it a virtue [to criticize one owns culture]" she said. "How did we produce so many people who are ready to kill others? Not all Muslims but quite a few of them. Why did this happen? What did we do to produce them? There is something in our education or way we teach our religion."

POOJA KUMAR can be reached at

Copyright © 2008 California Aggie.



China calling for international help to arrest eight “Muslim” terrorists

21 Oct 2008

An eight-name list of alleged Xingjian terrorists is released. They are accused with carrying out attacks during the Olympics. But for experts Beijing has failed so far to come with any evidence. The Uyghurs living in the oil- and mineral-rich region have been victims of a virtual cultural genocide.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In an unprecedented move Chinese authorities today released a wanted list of eight Xingjian “terrorists” it said had carried out attacks aimed at the Beijing Olympics, calling on the international community for help in capturing them.

“The eight are all key members of the ETIM, and all participated in the planning, deployment and execution of all kinds of violent terrorist activities targeting the Beijing Olympics” and foreign objectives, said Wu Heping, a spokesman with the Ministry of Public Security, who did not however go into details about they are supposed to have done. The ETIM stands for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and, according to Beijing, is linked to al-Qaeda.

One of the suspects, Memetiming Memeti, is considered the ETIM leader. A police statement said that he received help from “certain western Asian countries”, including explosives to carry out terror attacks on targets in China and overseas. The other suspects were involved in attacks as well as training and recruiting terrorists.

Strategically located resource-rich Xingjian has been rocked by attacks this year, including the killing of 16 armed police just before the August Olympics. Beijing blames Islamic militants for the incident.

In April mainland authorities also arrested tens of alleged terrorists accusing them of being involved in terror plots targeting the Olympics, including suicide bomb attacks and the kidnapping of athletes. None of these claims could be independently verified.

China has in turn been accused of carrying out cultural genocide in the region by trying to eliminate the language and culture of indigenous Uyghur to the benefit of ethnic Han immigrants who hold positions of power and privilege. The end result of this policy has turned the Uyghurs into a minority, eight million of the region’s 19 million people or 46 per cent.

Beijing has also issued a series of edicts that have made life difficult for Muslim Uyghurs. For example, sermons at Friday prayers cannot run longer than a half-hour. Prayers in public areas outside the mosque are forbidden. Government workers and non-religious people cannot be "forced" to attend mosque services—a generous wording of a law that prohibits government workers and Communist Party members from going at all. Imams may not teach the Qur’an in private. Studying Arabic is allowed only at special government schools. Students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan. Passports have been confiscated to force Uyghurs to join government-run hajj tours rather than travelling illegally to Makkah. And when they can travel official trips can cost US$ 3,700. And last but not least, anyone applying for Hajj must be vetted by police and show that they have the means to go.

For Dilxat Raxit, spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, the terrorist “list has political motives [. . .].  They [Chinese authorities] have produced no evidence to support these claims.”

For the same reason the United States has refused to repatriate about 255 Chinese Muslim Uyghur who fled Afghanistan to Pakistan after the US attacked it in October 2001.

After their capture they were sent to Guantanamo where they have been held for years. But now they are on the verge of being freed but will not be repatriated for fear that China might jail them without cause.



Time for a Political Solution in Afghanistan?

By Edward C. Corrigan

(Sunday, October 19, 2008)

"Canada once had the respect of the World as peace loving and fair-minded country. Gone is the legacy of Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Jean Chretien when Canada’s soldiers were almost universally welcomed as peace keepers and Canada was respected internationally."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that he will end Canada’s military participation in the Occupation of Afghanistan in 2011. The fact that we had an election and that the majority of Canadians are opposed to the War no doubt had some bearing on this election promise.

We have been told that we are bringing “democracy and freedom” to Afghanistan and fighting “a war on terror.” However, if a fair and democratic election was held in Afghanistan those opposed to the American and NATO occupation of their country would win a landslide victory. Afghans are like any other people on Earth they do not like being bombed, shot at and militarily occupied by foreigners who have little or no understanding or respect for their culture, history and religion. From the Afghan perspective they are resisting foreign invaders and fighting for their independence and freedom.

A poll published in the Globe and Mail last year showed that Afghans want the fighting to end, and they support negotiations with the Taliban. The Globe and Mail said; “Despite the enmity toward the Taliban, 74 per cent [of Afghans] said they supported negotiations between the Karzai government and Taliban representatives as a way of reducing conflict. In Kandahar, support for talks jumped to 85 per cent."

Afghans are no different from us when it comes to desire for peace, freedom and independence. If Canada was invaded and our government overthrown, our infrastructure destroyed, our land poisoned with depleted uranium, with tens of thousands being killed, hundreds of thousand’s wounded we would resist the invader. We would fight the invading army even if they claimed that they were bringing “democracy to Canada” and said they were “fighting terrorism.”

Afghans are fiercely independent. They defeated the British Empire at the height of its power. They defeated the Soviet Empire. And now they are defeating the American Empire and its allies, or should I say vassals. It clearly is a war that we cannot decisively win.

Just recently Britain's most senior military commander in Afghanistan has warned that the war against the Taliban cannot be won. Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said the British public should not expect a “decisive military victory” but should be prepared for a possible deal with the Taliban.

His assessment followed the leaking of a memo from a French diplomat who claimed that Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador in Kabul, had told him the current strategy was “doomed to fail.”

France's military chief, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, has echoed suggestions by a senior British military officer that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won.

General Georgelin said that he interpreted British Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith's comments as "saying that one cannot win this war militarily, that there is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and I totally share this feeling."

The top US commander in Afghanistan also recently said he backed a "political solution" to the country's dragging conflict with Taliban-led extremists.

It was up to the government to decide with whom it wanted to reconcile and how, General David McKiernan told AFP on the sidelines of a change-of-command ceremony at the main NATO force base in the western province of Herat.

"But I do believe that ultimately the solution here in this country will be a political solution and not a military one," the general said.

The United Nations also agrees with this view. The war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily and success is only possible through political means including dialogue among all relevant parties, the United Nations' top official in the country said.

"I've always said to those that talk about the military surge ... what we need most of all is a political surge, more political energy," Kai Eide, the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, told a news conference in Kabul.

"We all know that we cannot win it militarily. It has to be won through political means. That means political engagement."

Eide said success depended on speaking with all sides in the conflict. "If you want to have relevant results, you must speak to those who are relevant. If you want to have results that matter, you must speak to those who matter," he said.

Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper has admitted publicly that “Afghanistan will never be completely free of an insurgency,” echoing the top British commander who said western forces could not defeat the Taliban.

"I don't think that's a realistic objective. The realistic objective is to build up the Afghan forces so they can manage their own security situation," Harper said.

In 2007 Lord Ashdown stated, “NATO has ‘lost in Afghanistan’ and its failure to bring stability there could provoke a regional sectarian war ‘on a grand scale." Lord Ashdown is the former leader of the British Liberal Democrats and a highly respected British political figure. He is also the former United Nations High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ashdown delivered his dire prediction after being proposed as a new "super envoy" for Afghanistan.

Lord Ashdown’s pessimistic assessment of the war in Afghanistan was also shared by Great Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff, Sir Jock Stirrup. He said the military cannot resolve the situation in Afghanistan alone. The Chief of Britain’s Armed Forces warned “that British troops could remain in Afghanistan for "decades." He also said that even then the conflict will only be resolved by a political deal - after talks with Taliban leaders.”

Gwynne Dyer, a respected Canadian and international foreign policy expert, recently wrote, “ .... a negotiated peace deal must give the Pashtuns a fair share of power at the centre, and that means giving the Taliban a share of the power. This is still seen as unthinkable in most western capitals, but it is a thoroughly traditional Afghan way of ending the periodic ethnic bust-ups that have always plagued the country, and it will happen sooner or later.”

According to Dyer, “The reason neither side can win is that they are too evenly balanced, and each can hold its own territory indefinitely. The United States allied itself with the main northern ethnic groups, Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara, who together account for about 60 per cent of the population, in order to drive the Taliban from power in 2001. But the Taliban were and still are the major political vehicle for the Pashtuns, who are about 40 per cent of the population.”

“The Pashtuns were traditionally the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan, but in 2001 they were effectively driven from power by the other ethnic groups and their western allies. That is why they are in revolt: the area where western troops are fighting "the Taliban" are all the areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan where Pashtuns are in the majority, and nowhere else. In practice, the foreigners are fighting Pashtun nationalism. That is why they cannot win.”

Eric Margolis, a Toronto Sun columnist and a well known conservative commentator, writes that “Startlingly, Gen. McKiernan appeared to break with Bush administration policy by proposing political talks with Taliban and admitting the war had to be ended by diplomacy. The military men know this war cannot be won on the battlefield. McKiernan’s predecessor told Congress that 400,000 US troops would be needed to pacify Afghanistan. There are currently 80,000 western troops in Afghanistan, many of them unwilling to enter combat.”

Margolis also writes that “Let us remember that Taliban is not a `terrorist movement,’ as claimed by western war propaganda, but was founded as an Islamic religious movement dedicated to fighting Communism and the drug trade.” They also fought against the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan with American support.

Margolis notes that the “Taliban received US funding until May, 2001. In fact, CIA kept close contacts with Taliban, many of whose members were US-backed mujahidin from the anti-Soviet war of the 1980’s, for possible future use against the Communist regimes of Central Asia and against China. The 9/11 attacks made CIA immediately cut its links to Taliban and burn the associated files.”

More recently, Margolis writes, “Western war propaganda has so demonized Taliban that few politicians have the courage to propose the obvious and inevitable: a negotiated settlement to this pointless seven-year war. A noteworthy exception came last April when NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who admitted the war could only be ended by negotiations, not military means.”

The problem according to Margolis is that “The Karzai government cannot extend its authority beyond Kabul because that would mean overthrowing the very same Uzbek and Tajik drug-dealing warlords and Communists chiefs that are its base of power. There is no real Afghan national army, just a bunch of unenthusiastic mercenaries who pretend to fight.”

Margolis also argues that “The current war in Afghanistan is not really about al-Qaida and `terrorism,’ but about opening a secure corridor through Pashtun tribal territory to export the oil and gas riches of the Caspian Basin of Central Asia to the West. The US and NATO forces in Afghanistan are essentially pipeline protection troops fighting off the hostile natives.”

Margolis who has a great deal of expertise in foreign affairs and Afghanistan, writes this war “is not a `good’ fight against `terrorism,’ but a classic, 19th century colonial war to advance western geopolitical power into resource-rich Central Asia. The Pashtun Afghans who live there are ready to fight for another 100 years. The western powers certainly are not.”

It is time to deal with political realities in Afghanistan. It is also time for Canada and other Western countries to realize that they cannot impose their will at the point of a gun.

Canada once had the respect of the World as peace loving and fair-minded country. Gone is the legacy of Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Jean Chretien when Canada’s soldiers were almost universally welcomed as peace keepers and Canada was respected internationally.

It is not in Canada’s interests to be seen as an appendage of the George W. Bush’s reviled foreign policy. It is time to restore Canada’s reputation in the international community, restore our independent foreign policy and assist legitimate United Nations peace keeping operations.

Delusional thinking and aggressive miliary posturing and military action is not the Canadian way and is opposed by the vast majority of Canadians. It also does not serve any rational purpose and certainly does not benefit Canada in any way.

It is time that Stephen Harper, Stephane Dion and the other Canadian political leaders use common sense and follow the wishes of the majority of Canadians who see no-good purpose in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is time to work towards a political solution and to help rebuild Afghanistan for the Afghan people.


Chertoff Says Change in Presidency Fuels Terror `Vulnerability'

By Jeff Bliss

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the U.S. may be vulnerable to a terrorist attack during the next six months, with violent groups more likely to try to take advantage of a new president and administration.

``Any period of transition creates a greater vulnerability, meaning there's more likelihood of distraction,'' Chertoff said in an interview. ``You have to be concerned it will create an operational opportunity for terrorists.''

He said that would be true whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain is elected president on Nov. 4. That comment undercuts McCain's argument that the U.S. would be more in danger of an attack if Obama, 47, wins.

McCain, 72, has been citing remarks by Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden on Oct. 19 that ``it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy,'' should Obama win the White House.

``We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars,'' McCain said today at a rally in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

Chertoff, 54, stressed he didn't know of any specific threat to the country tied to the election or transition, and said terrorist groups are likeliest to attack when their preparations are complete.

``The general experience has been that they strike when they're operationally ready to strike,'' Chertoff said. The Bush administration has been making security preparations for the transition for more than 18 months, he said.

Worrisome Tone

Still, he said, he's concerned about the effect of rhetoric from some hate groups or individuals during the campaign.

``There's a general level of intemperateness in the discussion as we approach the election,'' he said. ``Do I worry that it could trigger in a disturbed individual a desire to do something? Absolutely, I worry about it.''

On March 11, 2004, an al-Qaeda cell set off 10 bombs targeting passenger trains in Madrid, killing more than 190 and injuring more than 1,400. The attack came three days before Spain's general elections.

Former CIA Director George Tenet said in his memoir that his intelligence agency went on higher alert that year, with the U.S. presidential election taking place in November. ``We believed that bin Laden has himself assessed that a logical time to attack the United States was just before the U.S. election,'' Tenet wrote.

Chertoff, who has overseen responses to hurricanes and cooperated in uncovering plots to blow up airliners during his three and a half years as Homeland Security chief, said the country is safer than it was after the Sept. 11 attacks.

More Secure Ports

He cited the nation's ports, among other areas, which are ``a hell of a lot more secure than they were seven years ago.''

Chertoff said he remained concerned about ``ungoverned space'' in Somalia, Yemen and tribal regions of Pakistan that could provide safe havens for militant organizations.

``These are spaces where terrorists can insert themselves,'' he said.

The Department of Homeland Security and other law- enforcement agencies are also monitoring cells of terrorist sympathizers already on U.S. soil, he said.

``We do have sleepers or people here who are connected back to terrorists,'' he said.

Chertoff said not all threats the U.S. faces are physical. As head of the administration's effort to secure the government's computer networks, Chertoff said technicians are upgrading the so-called Einstein protection system to detect and disrupt cyber attacks. Currently, the system can detect hacking only after it has occurred.

Illegal Immigrants

He also said his department had clamped down on illegal immigration to the point of deterring people from crossing the Mexican border.

Chertoff said the faltering U.S. economy has slowed illegal immigration, as well.

Fewer jobs also may make it more difficult for the next administration to push an immigration measure through Congress that allows temporary workers from other countries.

``My hunch is it's going to make it harder to get comprehensive immigration reform,'' said Chertoff, who led the administration's failed effort to pass legislation that included a temporary-worker program.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington

Last Updated: October 21, 2008 14:16 EDT Source:

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