Saturday, February 20, 2010

Radical Muslim leader has past in swinging London ~ Yeah Baby!

Ian Dallas converted to Islam and took the name Abdalqadir

Oh Behave!

He converted in the late 60's and he has become a radical ~ and we wonder how the young can be radicalized today.

As part of the bohemian scene in swinging sixties London, Ian Dallas inspired Eric Clapton to write Layla and counted George Harrison and Edith Piaf among his friends.

Born into a landowning clan in Ayr, south-west Scotland, he had left the family estate for London and quickly fell in with a host of stars after writing and directing a series of television hits.

He directed a play starring Albert Finney, wrote versions of the classics Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair for the BBC and even acted in the Federico Fellini classic 8½.

Ian Dallas inspired Eric Clapton, left, to write Layla and counted George Harrison, right, and Edith Piaf, centre, among his friends

But these days Mr Dallas is famed for very different reasons as the leader of an extreme Islamic group with thousands of followers across the world.

He has called for Britain to be run by a Muslim council and likened the war in Afghanistan to the Holocaust.

During the Sixties, he became increasingly disillusioned with his London life and began exploring Islam. In 1967 he met Shaykh Abdalkarim Daudi in Fes, Morocco, converted to Islam and took the name Abdalqadir.

He spent years travelling north Africa, learning from various leading Muslim scholars before founding the orthodox Murabitun Worldwide Movement in the early 1980s.

It now has more than 10,000 committed followers across the world – spread from Denmark to Indonesia – and thousands more who support the movement.

Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi, as he is now known, believes the Islam world will conquer the "Jewish dominated" West with an hardline interpretation of Islamic law.

"(Israel) knows that without its massive defence subsidy from the USA it could not last one financial year," he states.

Abdalqadir's teachings range from the claim that movies and football "degrade the proletariat" to calls for Middle Eastern-style monarchical rule in Britain supported by a moral body of Muslims.

Now based in Cape Town, Abdalqadir, 79, claims Western governments stage terrorist acts to detract from the fact that capitalism has failed. He says both Richard Reid – the "shoe bomber" who tried to blow up a plane in 2001 – and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – the man behind the attempted bombing of a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day – were both "planted" by the CIA.

"It is time for the enslaved billions of our world today to fear no more the exploding shoes and underpants of the idiot agents of capitalism and to learn what Islam really is," he states.
He says Britain is on "the edge of terminal decline and it is the "British Muslim population that alone can revitalise this ancient realm."

However, before his conversion to Islam, Abdalqadir led a bohemian life in London. He studied at Rada and wrote and directed The Face of Love starring Albert Finney which was also made into a television play.

A host of writing credits followed, including Conrad's Secret Agent, starring Sir Alan Bates. He lived in Tite Street, Chelsea – Oscar's Wilde's London address and a fashionable location for artists and writers.

Dallas was friends with both George Harrison and Eric Clapton, who he gave a copy of the ancient Persian Sufi parable of Layla – the story of a princess who was married to the wrong man. It struck a chord with his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend and fellow musician George Harrison.

Abdalqadir has not been back to Scotland for ten years, but is still in touch with several friends and family in Ayr who are, according to his media manager, very supportive of what he is doing.


Going Radical: Officials: Cleric Had Role In Christmas Bomb Attempt [Audio]


Radical American-Yemeni Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, suspected of ties to al-Qaida, has said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was his student, but that he didn't tell him to carry out the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner, Al-Jazeera television reported on its Web site on Feb. 2.

An American-born imam has emerged as a key figure in the story of the Christmas Day bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The Muslim cleric's name is Anwar al-Awlaki.

He has admitted to knowing Abdulmutallab, but the relationship is much deeper, intelligence officials say. They suspect he may have directed Abdulmutallab to Yemen for training by al-Qaida operatives before the young Nigerian tried to bring down a Detroit-bound trans-Atlantic airliner on Dec. 25.


In the 1990s, London's Finsbury Park neighborhood had the nickname "Londonistan." The name is thought to have originated with French security officials. They claimed that the British government was turning a blind eye to Islamic extremists who were settling in the neighborhood and other parts of London in exchange for tacit agreement that they would not attack Britain.

After a series of bombings in Paris in 1995, French police raided the homes of suspected terrorists in France. They found phone numbers and addresses that led to the Finsbury Park Mosque.


Intelligence officials say the mosque figures in the Abdulmutallab case, too. In tracing the path of Abdulmutallab, intelligence officials say he apparently attended a sermon at the Finsbury Park Mosque in the fall of 2006 or 2007. He went to listen to the man who would become his mentor and perhaps his al-Qaida recruiter: Awlaki.

The cleric is the same radical imam who was implicated in the Fort Hood shootings last year. He was in e-mail contact with the suspected shooter in that case, Maj. Nidal Hasan. In e-mail messages to Hasan, he apparently blessed the attack, and afterward he called Hasan a hero.

Muslim scholars say that they don't understand why Awlaki is so popular. Aside from the fact that he speaks English and can reach an audience that doesn't speak Arabic, he has no formal Islamic training or study. But he has thousands of followers on Facebook and his sermons are popular on the Internet.

'An Al-Qaida-Affiliate Nut Case'

"They will routinely describe Awlaki as a vital and highly respected scholar, who is actually an al-Qaida-affiliate nut case," says Douglas Murray, executive director of The Center for Social Cohesion, a think tank that studies radicalization in Britain.

Murray says Abdulmutallab may have been seduced by all the hype. "It is very easy to see how someone like Abdulmutallab would have thought that Awlaki was what his supporters claim he is. And from that you could see why he wanted something to do with him. He wouldn't have had to go out of his way to get this contact," he says.

The Finsbury Park Mosque is not the only place in Britain that has ties to Awlaki.

He is often a guest speaker at Muslim organizations in Britain. Typically, he speaks by video link. He isn't allowed to travel to the U.K. because of his radical views.

U.S. officials have been trying to bring him in for questioning for years. After the Fort Hood shooting rampage in November, the U.S. even launched a missile strike on one of his houses in Yemen. But he survived the attack.

Despite all this, until recently his followers could still reach him.

Shiraz Maher, a former Islamist who now tracks radicalization in Britain, says people all over the U.K. have Awlaki's contact numbers. "It's incredibly easy to get a hold of him," Maher says. "In fact British universities are even now still promoting Anwar Awlaki."

"Until the Abdulmutallab plot, most university Web sites in London had links to Awlaki's Web site and work and examples of his work. And I believe just in September-October time, there were attempts to get him to do video broadcasting at universities in the U.K. So it shows how significant he remains," Maher says.

Awlaki's Growing Significance

Intelligence officials don't know precisely how Abdulmutallab ended up in Yemen, but they think it was at Awlaki's invitation.

If true, it would represent a significant change in Awlaki's role with al-Qaida. Awlaki has always been a propagandist. If he actually mentored Abdulmutallab while the young man allegedly trained in Yemen to bomb a U.S. airliner it would mean Awlaki had moved into an operational role in al-Qaida's affiliate there.

Officials tell NPR that they believe Awlaki was put in charge of more people than just Abdulmutallab. They believe he trained and mentored an entire cell of English-speaking recruits.

In U.S. custody in a federal prison in Michigan and talking to investigators, Abdulmutallab apparently named names and provided locations to authorities. Law enforcement officials are looking for those young men now. Officials say they do not believe the young men are in the United States. British officials declined to comment on whether the young men they are looking for are in the United Kingdom.


Going Radical: Faith, Family Strife Drove Christmas Bomb Suspect [Audio]


The religious school where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied the Quran. The school was named after Abdulmutallab's grandparents and financed by his father, a respected and wealthy banker.

In this series, "Going Radical," NPR News investigates what turned a young Nigerian student into a would-be terrorist aboard a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, the man accused of attempting to blow up a U.S. passenger plane on Christmas Day, was raised in Kaduna, a cosmopolitan city in northern Nigeria located in a region imbued with Islam. He is one of more than a dozen siblings in a well-to-do family headed by Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, one of Nigeria's most respected bankers.

Mutallab's friend and brother-in-law, Mahmoon Baba-Ahmed, called the father a "puritan."

"[He] inculcated self-discipline in a puritan manner to his children," Baba-Ahmed says, "to never create any situation that will warrant or allow his children to go astray or to behave indecently."

Abdulmutallab Always Known As Pious

Abdulmutallab studied the Quran at the Rabiatu Mutallab Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Kaduna, a religious school named after his grandparents and funded by his father. By all accounts, he was a pious fellow. His neighbors say he was the first to arrive at the mosque for prayers and the last to leave. He kept to himself, says Shehu Sani, who lives down the road from the Mutallabs.


In an undated photo, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab poses for a picture at The British School of Lome in Togo.

Sani, the author of books about religious violence and terrorism in Nigeria, says it is important to remember the backdrop to Abdulmutallab's privileged childhood in Kaduna: Between 1979 and 2009, he says, there were more than 200 incidents of religious violence and killings in the area — including deadly clashes between Christians and Muslims. And there have also been violent protests in northern Nigeria against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sani says Muslim youngsters like Abdulmutallab were absorbing this reality as they grew up, and some of them were most likely radicalized without even realizing it.

"People who are indoctrinated are those who already have the seed of violence in them, who have the seed of hate, the seed of their perception that things are wrong and must be addressed drastically," Sani says. "Farouk Mutallab came from a society that has not embraced tolerance. He came from a society that has a history of violence, of extremism, and that is a fact."

As Abdulmutallab began demonstrating more devotion to his religion, he also reportedly resented his father's career as a banker, considering it un-Islamic, because banks charge interest. Stories circulate in the family's upscale Kaduna neighborhood about a young Umar Farouk openly challenging his parents about waste and excess, chiding them to give more to the poor.

Abdulmutallab More Conflicted After Leaving Home

But it was when he was sent to a coed boarding school in the nearby country of Togo that Abdulmutallab seemed to manifest a growing feeling of detachment, confusion and isolation, according to his own Internet postings.

The head teacher at the British School of Lome, Helen Brocklesby, declined an interview with NPR, saying that the school doesn't talk about former students or staff. The school posted a statement on its Web site. A portion of it read: "The school has been helping the relevant authorities in their investigations and ... our thoughts and sympathy reaches out to everyone who has been affected by these events."


Abdulmutallab attended boarding school at The British School of Lome in Togo.

While he was at the school, Abdulmutallab became increasingly alienated and conflicted about the Western lifestyle he lived being in opposition to his quest to become a better Muslim. Evidence of this internal conflict comes from writings, intelligence officials say. Abdulmutallab posted to a chat site called the Islamic Forum. He called himself Farouk1986 (Farouk is his name and 1986 is the year of his birth) and began posting in late January 2005, shortly before he graduated from high school.

One post read, "First of all, I have no friend. Not because I do not socialize, etc., but because either people do not want to get too close to me, as they go partying and stuff while I don't. Or they are bad people who befriend me and influence me to do bad things."

His singular focus was Islam: He voiced radical jihadist fantasies, as well as a desire to study Arabic in Yemen, which he did a few months later. He also dwelt on the subject of temptation and how to avoid it.

"I think this loneliness leads me to other problems," another posting read. "As I get lonely, the natural sex drive awakens and I struggle to control it — sometimes leading to minor sinful activities, like not lowering the gaze."

The last sentence refers to his failure to avert his gaze around unveiled women, as Islam dictates. He concluded that early marriage was the only solution.

"This problem makes me want to get married to avoid getting aroused," he continues. "The Prophet advised young men to fast if they can't get married, but it has not been helping me much and I seriously don't want to wait for years before I get married. But I am only 18."

Tension Within The Family Grows

Abdulmutallab's uncle by marriage, Mahmoon Baba-Ahmed, says his preoccupation with getting married caused tension within the family and may have masked deeper problems. He said his own son, Aminu, noticed his friend's character changing as Farouk expressed a desire to "learn the religion better, better and better."

"My son has always been telling me how well-behaved Farouk is. In fact he is telling me about the dramatic transformation from the Western way of life to the Islamic way of life," Baba-Ahmed says. "My son had mentioned that Farouk [Abdul] Mutallab had been chiding him for going to parties, and he exhorted him to break with that style of life he is living and embrace Islam, firmly."

After graduating from University College London in 2008, and abandoning a master's degree course in Dubai, Abdulmutallab traveled to Yemen, against his parents' wishes, to learn Arabic and deepen his knowledge of Islam.

That's where he apparently cut ties with his family. After he sent a text message to his father to say he had found real Islam, Alhaji Mutallab alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and the local security agencies to report his son's alarming behavior and increasingly hard-line views.

Mutallab woke up on Dec. 26, 2009, to see Abdulmutallab's image on the television. His son had been arrested in the U.S. for allegedly trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day.


Going Radical: Bomb Bid Throws Nigeria Into Terrorism Debate [Audio]


In this series, "Going Radical," NPR News investigates what turned a young Nigerian student into a would-be terrorist aboard a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

The allegations against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a plane on Christmas Day, have placed a spotlight on predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria.

Nigerian and American analysts say Abdulmutallab's home region could be an incubator for extremism and would-be terrorists. Underprivileged young people facing social inequality, religious violence and lack of education could be vulnerable to recruitment, they say.

But the special adviser to the governor of Abdulmutallab's home state of Kaduna, Alhaja Zula'atu Shehu Bello, is skeptical that the region is a breeding ground for radicals.

"The average Nigerian person doesn't know what al-Qaida is," Bello says. "They've never heard of any group called al-Qaida. They don't know what they do, where they are. They've never heard of them."

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for Abdulmutallab's failed alleged attempt on the Detroit-bound airliner.

Abdulmutallab grew up in an affluent family in Kaduna. But Bello says many Nigerians lack the resources to get involved with terrorism.

"Because of the poverty here, you're trying to find what you can eat with your family, so you don't have time to start training terrorists," she says. "You don't have the time. You don't have the resources, you don't have the money."

Young boys receive orders from their monitor (right) at a Quranic boarding school in Zaria, Nigeria.

Government Corruption, Neglect

Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Nigeria's leaders had failed to respond to the needs of young people. Clinton warned that Nigeria faced the threat of radicalization and extremism, and pointed to lamentable living standards and "unbelievable" corruption, as she put it, in a country that supplies the U.S. with crude oil.

Others also express concern about the inequalities that alienate Nigeria's underprivileged majority, including the large, impoverished population in the Muslim-dominated north. Analysts warn of a potentially combustible cocktail: inequality coupled with local opposition to American policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other Muslim countries, as well as U.S. support for Israel.

Some prominent northern Nigerians, including former Kaduna governor and local sage Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, have put Washington on notice that Islamic fundamentalism is growing.

"America is misusing its power dangerously for the world peace," Musa says. "But let me tell you, Islamic bond in northern Nigeria, and even Islamic solidarity, is as high and sound as it can be in any Muslim country in the world. That is very, very important."

He adds: "What America sees as Islamic fundamentalism exists to a very large extent in the north — even larger than in Pakistan. If America sees this development of Islamic learning and Islamic consciousness in the north here as evidence of the existence of al-Qaida, they are making a terrible mistake — which will eventually create al-Qaida here in Nigeria."

There have been no known al-Qaida attacks in Nigeria, though the north has witnessed violent anti-government uprisings by local radical Muslim sects and periodic eruptions of religious violence.

Teaching A Peaceful Islam

Islamic education is important in northern Nigeria, where children begin learning the Quran from an early age. Women are taught how to bring up their children in Islam

Young children, from as far away as neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad, attend Quranic classes. They live far away from parental guidance — nominally under the care of an imam.

Vigilance is key, says Alhaji Sambo Idris Sambo, the district head of Funtua, the ancestral hometown of Abdulmutallab.

"We really monitor most of the goings-on," Sambo says. "And if there is any teaching that is un-Islamic, we wouldn't have allowed it to continue. We are always [telling] our imams, our preachers, to be directing their sermons to the parents, so that at least they monitor their children and the youth closely — that Islam does not preach violence. Islam is for peace."

Writer and Kaduna-based human rights campaigner Shehu Sani sees the problem from a different angle.

As children head home from a nearby Quranic school, he points down the road from his house to a forlorn-looking compound where he says an active American consulate was housed until it closed its doors about 15 years ago.

Sani says Washington made a big mistake in abandoning its northern Nigeria post — as it left others to step in.

"As such, that vacuum has now been filled by countries from the Middle East that are coming here, giving scholarships to groups and individuals to study in Yemen, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan," Sani says. "[They are] making a very strong presence in the northern part of Nigeria, in terms of opening affiliate offices, and engaging organizations and groups here. And I believe that U.S. can win the hearts of people here by restoring such programs as it used to do in the '70s and '80s."

Sani says such a move would likely reduce the anti-American foreign policy sentiment in northern Nigeria that is currently fueled by the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Going Radical: Yemen A Turning Point For Christmas Bomb Suspect [Audio]


The building housing the San'a Institute for the Arabic Language in Yemen's capital, where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, traveled twice in recent years to Yemen, a poor, barely governed country with a growing hard-line Islamist influence that spread from neighboring Saudi Arabia.

There, he studied Arabic and, investigators say, received training and explosives from al-Qaida operatives. Sources tell NPR that the seeds of his radicalization were sprouting during his first visit to Yemen in 2005.

By June of that year, Abdulmutallab had arrived. But Western and Yemeni officials have not offered much information about the visit. A Western diplomat says: "I think he was germinating when he was here in 2005," adding, "He probably became more full-blown in London after that."

Abdulmutallab spent three years as a university student in London, from 2005-2008, where he came in contact with Islamic extremists. He then returned to Yemen in 2009.

Radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki told a Yemeni journalist that he "had contact" with Abdulmutallab and supported his failed airliner attack. U.S. and Yemeni officials say the two probably met in the Yemeni countryside last fall, before the Nigerian set off on his potentially deadly mission.


First Contact With Awlaki?

Al-Iman University, on the outskirts of the Yemeni capital of San'a, has been training Sunni religious scholars since 1995. The school has drawn suspicion in the West as a place that has inspired violent radicals or their supporters. The man known as the "American Taliban," John Walker Lindh, studied here.

The head of the school, the conservative and popular Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, has been listed as a supporter of terrorism by the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. Treasury Department.

School officials say they are being unfairly demonized over a few isolated examples, and they insist that Abdulmutallab was not a student there.

Al-Iman political science professor Ismail Soheily denies that Abdulmutallab was ever at the school.

But he uses more careful language when asked about the cleric Awlaki. Soheily says Awlaki was never on the teaching staff, but when pressed about claims that Awlaki lectured at the school in 2005, Soheily says he can't rule out the possibility.

"Maybe he has attended the mosque of the university," Soheily says. "It's open to the public, and anyone who says he is an Islamic preacher and would like to preach on some topic, he is allowed."

Others, however, say Awlaki definitely did spread his message of jihad, or Islamic holy war, at Al-Iman.

Saeedd Obaid al-Jamhi, who has studied radical Islam and is the author of a book on al-Qaida in Yemen, says he can't confirm any relationship between Abdulmutallab and Awlaki.

"But it is true that Awlaki lectured that year at Al-Iman University," Jamhi says. "And, of course, school leaders denied that, because they know the Americans are looking for evidence that the school was involved with terrorist groups."

Arabic Studies As A Way Back To Yemen

Abdulmutallab spent time on both his visits to Yemen at the San'a Institute for the Arabic Language, which sits on the edge of the capital's bustling and beautiful old city.

A number of media accounts place Abdulmutallab in Yemen from the fall of 2004, but the Nigerian's own Web postings claim he didn't arrive in Yemen until June 2005. The school's records appear to confirm this. They include a photocopy of Abdulmutallab's entry visa, dated June 10, 2005.

The director of the school, Mohammed al-Anisi, says he recalls a quiet, devout young man who studied with remarkable focus and discipline. Anisi says Abdulmutallab left the school in 2005 speaking Arabic at an intermediate-to-advanced level. He heard nothing more of the young man until the summer of 2009, when Abdulmutallab sent an e-mail saying he was in Dubai and needed a one-month refresher course.

"So we helped him, we got him an entry visa, his passport showed that he had a multiple visa in the USA, and also it showed that he was also in England for four years," Anisi says. "So they felt it is OK to bring this guy."

Abdulmutallab was put in the school's most advanced class, but was clearly ahead of the other students. At the time, Anisi says, he had no reason to doubt the student's sincerity, but with the benefit of hindsight, he can't help feeling that the school was simply a means to get back into Yemen.

"I think he needed the school to have a break," he says. "To have a nice time before dying," Anisi adds, then laughs. "Maybe. Because I think he loved Yemen, he liked Yemen very much. And he lied to us, and he deceived us."

Abdulmutallab continued deceiving Anisi, who believed the Nigerian left Yemen on Sept. 21 last year.

But Canadian student Matthew Salmon, a housemate of Abdulmutallab's, says the Nigerian stayed in student housing well into early October, without attending classes. Salmon was a student of religion, so he says the two talked about their beliefs frequently.

"Yeah, we actually talked about religion quite often — but it was always for very short periods of time because one of us always had to go somewhere," Salmon says. "But whenever we'd talk about it, it was more about, for him, it was how it's made his life better, how he's happier because of it, how he doesn't have the same struggles that he had before he took it seriously."

Salmon says that when he first heard of the attempted airliner attack on Christmas Day, he didn't know who the suspect was.

"When I found out it was Umar, I was slightly devastated," he says. "I felt fear, just because we lived with him and that he was willing to do this. I was incredibly disappointed with the lack of respect for life and for family, and for the faith that he professed to like."

Accounts of Abdulmutallab's journey still contain several gaps. The most crucial one includes the final three months of his time in Yemen last year, when investigators say he was trained and armed by al-Qaida operatives in the remote area southeast of the capital.

But as Yemeni officials put it, U.S. investigators already have the "black box" for this information: Abdulmutallab himself, in custody and awaiting trial in the U.S.


Going Radical: Wooing Recruits To Radical Islam Like 'Dating' [Audio]

Regent's Park Mosque, also known as London Central Mosque, where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab worshiped while he was living in London from 2005 to 2008. An ex-member of a radical Islamist group says gatherings at the mosque, and others like it, are used to identify potential recruits.

In this series, "Going Radical," NPR News investigates what turned a young Nigerian student into a would-be terrorist aboard a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

Shiraz Maher stands outside the Regent's Park Mosque in central London trying to look inconspicuous. Young men brush by him on the way to midday prayers.

Maher, 28, used to be a member of a radical Islamist organization called Hizb ut-Tahrir. HuT, as it is known, has been agitating for a Muslim superstate for decades.

Maher joined when he was in college and was part of the organization for four years. He was in charge of its operations in northeast England. These days, he looks more like a graduate student than a radical Islamist. He has a trimmed goatee, a stylish haircut, dark-rimmed glasses, and is wearing a blazer.

The Christmas Day bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, used to attend Regent's Park Mosque for evening prayer when he lived in London as a university student from 2005 to 2008.

While it is unclear exactly where and when Abdulmutallab embraced radical Islam, law enforcement officials agree that he didn't do so alone. Someone indoctrinated him, they say.

That was one of the things Maher used to do when he was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir — bring in recruits.

Maher and Abdulmutallab never met. But as a recruiter, Maher knew — and wooed — people like him.

How To Find And Cultivate An Extremist

He offered NPR his insights into how a recruiter might convince a young man like Abdulmutallab to embrace radical Islam.

"You can move from being a very ordinary Muslim or even a non-practicing Muslim and still be radicalized," Maher says. "That was certainly the case with myself. When I was in my first year at university, I didn't pray at all. In fact, I would describe myself as an atheist at times. It was after Sept. 11 that I wanted to go and speak to people, and find out what Islam had to say about this. That journey, meeting all these radical people, led to me being sucked into that."

There is a guard at the front gate of the mosque. He motions to any women wanting to enter that they must cover their hair before going farther. The mosque complex is enormous. There is a large courtyard in front, surrounded on three sides by low buildings. An enormous gold dome and minaret loom overhead.

Abdulmutallab used to come to this mosque for evening prayers, starting in late 2005, according to his posting on an Islam-oriented Web chat room. He said this mosque, also known as the Central London mosque, is his favorite in London.

Identifying Potential Recruits

A year before Abdulmutallab arrived, Maher was at the Regent's Park Mosque on a very important night in the Muslim calendar — the night Muslims believe the Quran was revealed. He remembers that the mosque was packed that evening. Worshippers were flowing out of the mosque and into the courtyard.

It happened to be the same night that U.S. forces launched the Fallujah offensive in Iraq. It was 2004. As the crowd grew, members of Maher's group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, began making fiery, anti-American speeches.

"There was a lot of anger, a lot of chanting and sloganing, and essentially a lot of recruiting, as well," Maher says. "On an event like that, what you would do is you would have your speakers giving their talks, but the crowd would be filled with your members. They would be speaking to other people assessing who is there to just listen but doesn't agree, and those who are listening and getting increasingly interested."

That is the initial step in the recruiting process: identifying possible recruits. They would be people who are joining in the chanting; people who seem angry.

"Once you identify people who are interested, you take their numbers, you find out where they live, and you begin a very strong one-to-one cultivation," Maher says. "Usually we would turn people around in three to four weeks and then assess where they were at."

The Assessment

Maher says recruiters look for people who not only embrace the ideas of political Islam, but also show an eagerness to act on them. For someone like Abdulmutallab, for example, simply knowing a great deal about the Quran would not have been enough, he says. There has to be that political component — a small ember of activism that recruiters can fan to flame.


Another view of London's Regent's Park mosque.

Maher walks into the mosque's main prayer hall. The men's section is about the size of a high-school gymnasium. The walls are white. The carpeting is blue. The women pray in a slightly smaller space upstairs, decorated in the same way.

Every Saturday after midday prayers, Maher says, members of Hizb ut-Tahrir used to call people over to the left-hand side of the prayer hall, and would make a public speech.

"When I was part of the organization in 2003 and 2004, on a Saturday you could get 300-odd people turning up," Maher says. "And the talks were political, always political, nothing else. You would talk to people and take details down; and after you get details, you talk to these people away from the mosque."

Maher adds: "It is almost like the Western equivalent of going to the nightclub, getting the girl's number, then dating her away from the nightclub so no one can move in on your turf, basically."

The Indoctrination

Generally, new recruits aren't indoctrinated in mosques — a trend that the FBI and intelligence officials in the U.K. have known for some time.

Recruiters may find people who want to embrace a more radical form of Islam there, but they take them elsewhere to actually indoctrinate them. That's why intelligence officials are less worried about people who continue to attend prayers at a mosque. Their concern ramps up when people leave the mosque and set up their own prayer meetings elsewhere.

"I always say it is very seductive," says Maher, trying to put his finger on why Abdulmutallab got swept up in radical Islam. "When I was running the north [of England], I was 21 or 22. I was youngest guy there. There were guys in their 40s, and I would tell them what to do, and they would listen. That's hugely powerful."

Abdulmutallab's friends in London say he was quiet and isolated. Maher says that is a combination that is attractive to recruiters. It plays into their hands.

"When you are starting to feel alienated from society, radical Islam gives you a great outlet and release from it," he says. "Radical Islam says, 'Yes, that is fine that you feel isolated. Islam can never be at home and comfortable within the West.' So therefore, the more upset you feel, the better Muslim you are becoming because, as they see it, these things will never mix."

Crossing The Line

Maher says his former group doesn't get involved with terrorist attacks. He said Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political arm in the Islamist movement. It advocates setting up a Muslim caliphate, but says it doesn't want to achieve that through violence.

At graduate school for Islamic studies, Maher came to the conclusion that HuT's interpretation of the Quran was wrong, and that led him to quit, he says.

But some of its former members — even people Maher knew — have been linked to violence. Maher was at Regent's Park Mosque recruiting that night in 2004 with one of them.

"The guy who attempted to bomb Glasgow Airport three years later was here that evening with me," he says. "We drove down from Cambridge together."

That guy was Bilal Abdullah. He was one of two men who drove a Jeep Cherokee filled with propane tanks into the airport terminal at Glasgow in 2007. Abdullah survived the attack. He is currently in Belmarsh prison, in southeast London, serving 32 years after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder and cause explosions. Maher testified against him at trial.

Officials aren't certain when Abdulmutallab actually crossed that same line and decided to mix Islam and violence. But he has allegedly told the FBI that he saw himself as a warrior for God.


US: Islam envoy retreats on terror talk

President Barack Obama’s new Islamic envoy, Rashad Hussain, changed course Friday – admitting he made sharply critical statements about a U.S. terror prosecution against a Muslim professor after initially saying he had no recollection of making such comments.

“I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated,” Hussain said, referring to a 2004 conference where he discussed the case.

Hussain’s reversal came after POLITICO obtained a recording of his presentation to a Muslim students’ conference in Chicago, where he can be heard portraying the government’s cases towards professor Sami Al-Arian, as well as other Muslim terrorism suspects, as “politically motivated persecutions.” Al-Arian later pled guilty to aiding terrorists.

The comments touched off criticism from conservative commentators, who questioned whether someone who held those views should represent the United States in the Muslim world.

Initially, Hussain, 31, said through a White House spokesman that he didn’t recall making the statements. Hussain also suggested that another speaker on the panel, Al-Arian’s daughter Laila, made the comments about her father.

But after POLITICO provided the quotes and others from the recording to the White House Friday, Hussain said in a statement: “As a law student six years ago, I spoke on the topic of civil liberties on a panel during which I responded to comments made about the al-Arian case by Laila al-Arian who was visibly saddened by charges against her father. I made clear at the time that I was not commenting on the allegations themselves. The judicial process has now concluded, and I have full faith in its outcome.”

The White House declined to say Friday whether the statements or the controversy affected Obama’s confidence in Hussain.

Hussain also answered another question surrounding his comments – why they were removed from the website of a magazine on Middle East issues that published a brief account of the panel back in 2004, attributing the statement about “politically motivated persecutions” to Hussain.

It was Hussain himself, he said Friday, who contacted the publication to complain about the story.

“When I saw the article that attributed comments to me without context, leaving a misimpression, I contacted the publication to raise concerns about it. Eventually, of their own accord, they modified the article,” Hussain said of the article in the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.

During the panel discussion on civil rights at a Muslim Students Association conference in Chicago, Hussain asserted that Al-Arian’s prosecution involved significant abuses.

“The case that Laila just reminded us of is truly a sad commentary on our legal system. It is a travesty of justice, not just from the perspective of the allegations that are made against Dr. Al-Arian. Without passing any comment on those specific allegations or the statements [that] have been made against him, the process that has been used has been atrocious,” Hussain said, according to the recording.

In his presentation, Hussain, then a student at Yale Law School, was careful to insist that he was not offering a view on Al-Arian’s innocence or guilt on charges that he served as a top leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the U.S. But Hussain said the treatment of Al-Arian fit a “common pattern….of politically-motivated prosecutions where you have huge Justice Department press conferences announcing that a certain person is a grave threat to American security.”

In the recording, Hussain’s indictment of the government’s legal practices toward Muslims goes further than Al-Arian’s case, leveling a detailed critique of more than a half-dozen prominent anti-terrorism cases and several key provisions of the Patriot Act.

Hussain refers to some provisions of the Patriot Act as “horrible” and called “dangerous” an aspect of that law that allows intelligence-related surveillance to be used in criminal cases. Most lawmakers, including many Democrats critical of the Patriot Act, have said the provision has proven valuable, because it removed a wall that made it difficult for those pursuing investigations of international terror or spying operations to share information with criminal investigators. Hussain did express support for other aspects of the law, including a provision permitting so-called roving wiretaps.

An Indian-American Muslim raised in Texas, Hussain is a deputy associate White House counsel who was also closely involved in shaping the major address the president delivered in Cairo last June, explaining Obama’s views to the Muslim world. In announcing Hussain’s appointment last week as the U.S. envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the president called Hussain “an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff.” Hussain traveled to Saudi Arabia and Qatar earlier this week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Hussain’s allies have defended him against claims he is soft on terror by pointing to a think tank study he co-wrote arguing that U.S. policy should emphasize that terrorism is antithetical to the teachings of Islam.

At the time Hussain spoke in 2004, the government's treatment of Sami Al-Arian was a cause celebre among Arab-American and Muslim activists, as well as many civil libertarians generally. Al-Arian was accused of raising funds for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but his trial in 2005 ended with some acquittals and a hung jury on other counts. The former University of South Florida computer science professor later pleaded guilty to one count of aiding a terrorist group and was sentenced to 57 months in prison.

Adding to the controversy about Hussain’s comments on “political motivated persecutions” is that they were deleted from a report on the conference that first appeared in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a magazine on the region with articles from the Arab and Muslim perspectives.

In the current version of the story on the Washington Report’s website, there is no reference to Hussain’s comments, or even that he appeared at the 2004 conference. But earlier, cached versions of the same story do include the comments – initially adding to the mystery of why they were taken out and at whose request. The discrepancy was first noted in a story last Sunday in the Web-based Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report.

A Washington Report editor initially said the author of its article requested the change because Laila Al-Arian’s comments had been misattributed to Hussain. However, in an email to POLITICO, the author, Shereen Kandil, stood by her reporting and denied she ever made such a request.

In addition, both Laila Al-Arian and Kandil, who now works in the Obama administration at the Environmental Protection Agency, said they were never consulted before the passages referring to Hussain were deleted. The deletion took place sometime between October 2007 and this year, according to the Internet Archive, although the version available in Nexis was never modified.

The changes made some three years or more after his speech have led to speculation that Hussain was sanitizing his record to smooth his path to a White House legal post. However, the strident criticism he offered of the Justice Department’s handling of various alleged terrorism cases raises the possibility that his remarks could have posed a problem when he was applying for work at Justice in 2008. He joined the agency in the last year of the Bush administration as a trial attorney handling civil cases against the government, a Justice spokeswoman said.

While the audio shows that Hussain did utter the phrase “politically motivated persecutions” in the midst of his discussion about Sami Al-Arian, another comment Kandil attributed to Hussain, describing Al-Arian as being “used politically to squash dissent,” is not audible in the recording POLITICO obtained, which cuts off before any question-and-answer period.

Hussain’s remarks about Al-Arian appear to have been extemporaneous, but he seemed to have prepared in advance his denunciation of the Bush administration’s handling of other terrorism-related detentions and prosecutions.

Hussain cited:

--The court martial of Capt. James Yee, a Guantanamo chaplain initially suspected of treason and later charged with adultery. All charges were eventually dropped.

--The case of Jose Padilla, who was held without charge for more than three years as an enemy combatant on suspicions of trying to detonate a radiation-laced “dirty bomb” in the U.S. In 2006, more than a year after Hussain spoke, Padilla was charged in a terrorist plot unrelated to the dirty bomb allegations. He was convicted by a jury in 2007 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

--The imprisonment of Yaser Hamdi, who was captured in Afghanistan, held as an enemy combatant and released to Saudi Arabia weeks after Hussain spoke.

--The prosecution of an imam and a pizzeria owner in Albany, N.Y., for conspiring with an informant in a fictitious plot to use a missile launcher to attack a Pakistani diplomat. The men were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, thought their lawyers claimed the pair were entrapped.

--The prosecution of a Somali man, Nuradin Abdi, in 2004 for plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio. He pled guilty in 2007 to conspiring to support terrorism and was sentenced to ten years in prison.

--The imprisonment of an Oregon lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, who was jailed for more than two weeks in 2004 as a material witness on suspicion of involvement in the Madrid train bombings that year. He was never charged with a crime, received an apology from the FBI which said it misidentified his fingerprints, and brought a lawsuit which led to a reported $2 million settlement from the government in 2006.

--The prosecution of four men as alleged members of a Detroit-based Al-Qaeda “sleeper cell” plotting an attack. Two of the men were convicted on terror charges in 2003, but the convictions were thrown out at the government’s request after evidence emerged of prosecutorial misconduct and an unreliable informant. The prosecutor was charged criminally with concealing exculpatory evidence, but later acquitted.

Hussain went on to tell the audience at the event, held roughly two months before the 2004 election, that electing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as president could stem the tide of such cases.

“The Attorney General and the President have the complete discretion to bring these cases. If they decide that these cases shouldn’t be brought, these cases will not be brought,” Hussain said.

“When people ask me what is the difference between George Bush and John Kerry, John Kerry may not be the most popular candidate amongst Muslims but there’s a fairly strong possibility that the politically motivated prosecutions that are brought forth by the Justice Department” would cease, Hussain said.

While some evidence of Al-Arian's connections to Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been public since 1995, the strongest proof of Al-Arian's ties to PIJ emerged from surveillance that first became public during the trial that took place in 2005, after Hussain spoke.

At the end of that six-month trial, Al-Arian’s backers celebrated after jurors acquitted him on eight counts and could not reach a unanimous verdict on nine others. As the government geared up for a possible retrial, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to a single count of providing support to a terrorist group. The judge in the case branded Al-Arian as a "liar" and a "master manipulator" who had tricked many in his Florida community.

Al-Arian later undertook a hunger strike over demands that he testify before a grand jury in Virginia. He was eventually indicted again in a federal court there for his refusal to testify. He is now in home detention awaiting trial on contempt-of-court charges.

In his speech, Hussain revealed another link that may have left him sympathetic for Al-Arian. Hussain indicated he was acquainted with Al-Arian’s son Abdullah, while both were college students in North Carolina.

Hussain told the audience that he was on hand when Abdullah Al-Arian was abruptly removed by the Secret Service from a White House meeting in June 2001, prompting a walkout by Muslim leaders. President George W. Bush later apologized for the incident, which a spokesman called “wrong and inappropriate.”

Islam envoy retreats on terror talk - Josh Gerstein -

Dutch government falls over Afghanistan mission

The Dutch government has collapsed over a rift between coalition parties about extending Dutch military participation in Afghanistan.

"Later today, I will will offer to her majesty the Queen the resignations of the ministers and deputy ministers of the PvdA (Labour Party)," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told journalists.

News of the collapse came in the early hours of Saturday morning following 16 hours of crisis meetings and days of speculation that the differences between the coalition parties had simply become too great to bridge.

The stand-off began after Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos, leader of the Labour Party, drew a line in the sand over extending the Dutch mission in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan - coalition partners wanted to consider this option after a specific request from NATO to do so.

This was Mr Balkenende's fourth cabinet. It was also the fourth time he failed to carry a coalition to the end of the full four-year term.

Video: Jan Peter Balkenende announces the government's fall at a press conference

Uneasy coalition
Uneasy compromise typified the coalition from the beginning. The centre-right Christian Democrats (and its predecessors) had governed with the centre-left Labour Party before. But the two parties have trouble forming a stable coalition.

Balkenende IV was no exception. Difficulties were already apparent during the negotiations to form the government in the winter of 2007. All three coalition partners, the two larger parties plus the smaller Christian Union, had to compromise on major issues.

During three years of government, many decisions were made only after long disagreements inside the cabinet. These included plans to raise the government pension age, how long to try to keep government expenditures up in the wake of the economic downturn, and whether or not to keep investing in the development of a new fighter plane, the Joint Strike Fighter.

The issue where a compromise could not be found – whether or not to extend the military mission in the unruly Afghan province of Uruzgan - was itself not new. The cabinet decided back in the autumn of 2007 to extend the mission to Uruzgan by two years.

But the Labour Party felt it could not compromise again on an extension of the military mission. The criticism of Dutch support for the invasion of Iraq, presented by the independent Davids Commission in early January, only reinforced the Labour Party's resolve.

Save face abroad
The fall of the government may, paradoxically, help the Netherlands save face abroad. At NATO headquarters, as well as in the United States, there is little sympathy for the Labour Party's veto of an extension of the Uruzgan mission. The Netherlands pulling out of Uruzgan is a source of irritation both in Brussels and Washington. The Netherlands even risks losing its hard-earned seat at the G20 meetings.

But a cabinet crisis is seen as a reasonable excuse, even if the end result - pulling out of Uruzgan - remains the same.

Of perhaps greater consequence is what the fall of the cabinet means for Dutch politics. Nearly ten years ago, this country was shocked by the sudden rise of the populist politician, Pim Fortuyn, and even more shocked by his murder. More recently, the right-wing politician Geert Wilders underscores a long-term trend in Dutch politics: instability.

The Dutch electorate is famously fractured - no one party can ever hope to form a majority, and eight or more parties typically gain seats in parliament (there are currently eleven parties in the Dutch parliament). Plus, Dutch voters no longer identify very strongly with the traditional political parties.

This combination makes it possible for a Pim Fortuyn, or a Geert Wilders, to suddenly rise to prominence with the support of as little as ten percent of the population.

The Wilders factor
Geert Wilders has profited from the current political climate. And he will play a major role in the upcoming election, even if his Freedom Party does not become the largest party. Mr Wilders is a polarising figure, and the campaign is likely to feature a camp on the right that will consider governing in a coalition with Mr Wilders, and a camp on the left that rules it out.

But the major parties will not likely make up much of the ground they've been losing, and the next coalition could need four or more parties (in place of the usual two or three) to form a majority. During a time of economic recovery, the Netherlands is entering a period of political instability.

Radio Netherlands

Police Investigating Possible Aids in Rifqa Bary Case

To hear an interview with the Pastor who helped Rifqa click here.

Ohio police say they are investigating whether laws were broken by anyone helping Rifqa Bary, the Christian convert who fled to Florida in fear of her Muslim parents.

The Columbus Police Department is investigating "any criminal wrongdoing with anyone involved in getting her from one location to another," Sgt. Rich Weiner said Friday.

No charges have been filed, but Ohio minister Brian Williams is accused of driving Rifqa to a bus station after she ran away last July.

Williams has since gotten a lawyer "in the event he's contacted by police authorities," said attorney Keith Corbett of the Thomas More Law Center.

Rifqa, 17, said she ran away to Florida because her parents threatened to kill her for converting to Christianity. After a long court battle, Rifqa and her parents, Aysha and Mohamed, agreed she could remain in foster care until she's 18.

However, the Barys allege the Franklin Country Children Services is permitting their daughter to communicate with the pastor she lived with in Florida and his wife.

It's unclear whether there will be another court date, considering the new accusations.

Rifqa, her parents, and both their attorneys have all been placed under a gag order.


The top QC, his vanished sister and the mystery of Mossad's first British hitwoman

Erika Chambers (left): Named as a Mossad assassin. One of the alleged Dubai team who posed as 'Gail Folliard' (right)

To her neighbours in the nearby Rue Verdun, Penelope was just another eccentric foreigner living her life as best she could in the heart of war-torn west Beirut.

The attractive 30-year-old Englishwoman passed her days seemingly doing nothing more than looking after stray cats and sketching from her window.

Then came January 22, 1979. At 3.35pm the street was rocked by a huge explosion as a 100lb car bomb was detonated. Nine people lost their lives in the blast but it was the death of Ali Hassan Salameh, ripped apart in the back of his Chevrolet station wagon, that would send shockwaves around the world.

Dubbed the Red Prince, he had been the chief planner for the terrorist organisation Black September and was behind the raid at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed.

Ever since, assassination squads from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, had been set loose on the world hell-bent on revenge. And on that January day, their hunt for Salameh finally came to an end.

Of course, amid all the chaos and the confusion, nobody would have noticed Penelope slipping quietly out of her flat.

She had first taken the trouble to fill the cats' dishes with food and had told a neighbour that the commotion had upset her so much she intended to rest in a hotel nearby.

But in fact she would never return and, to this day, her whereabouts remain a mystery.

What has, however, become apparent is that far from being an innocent Englishwoman abroad, Penelope was a Mossad spy trained to use her feminine wiles to inveigle her way into the life of one of the world's most feared terrorists - and then help kill him.

Indeed, the evidence strongly suggests that it was she, a modern-day Mata Hari, who activated the detonator that blew up Salamah and his bodyguards.

Hers is an extraordinary story and this week it gained a grim new fascination. The murder in Dubai of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh by an 11-strong team of assassins has parallels to the murder of Salameh.

Not only is Mossad widely believed to be behind al-Mabhouh's execution but, as with the killing of Salameh, a woman played a central role on the hit squad.

While doubts remain about the actual identities of the Dubai assassins, the years have provided some intriguing clues as to who 'Penelope' really was.

Evidence that has emerged over the years suggests that she was in fact a British woman by the name of Erika Maria Chambers, and she was born and brought up in London as part of a wealthy Anglo-Jewish family.

The first female assassin: The woman pretending to be Irish citizen Gail Folliard smiles as she passes under a CCTV camera during surveillance of the hotel

Living in Notting Hill, her early life, including stints of babysitting for the family of near-neighbour Labour MP Tony Benn, never hinted at the drama to come.

But having travelled to Israel to further her studies at a Hebrew university she was targeted by Mossad and persuaded to become an agent after learning more about the Holocaust, and how many of her relatives had died in it.

Having spent years as a 'sleeper' in Germany, she was activated and sent to Beirut for her one and only mission. After that, she was smuggled into Israel, where it is believed she has been in hiding ever since.

Such was her fear of PLO reprisals her only contact with her parents, both now dead, was the occasional Christmas card bearing an Israeli postage stamp.

But there is one further, extraordinary, twist to the story. Erika Maria Chambers, 'Mossad assassin', has a brother. His name is Nicholas Chambers - and he is a QC and leading civil court judge who is a pillar of the British judicial establishment.

Operation 'Wrath of God' was set up to take revenge

With six days of the 1972 Olympics left to run, at 4.30am on September 5, five Palestinian gunmen, dressed in tracksuits and carrying sports bags scaled the 6ft 6in fence surrounding the Olympic Village.

Armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenades they headed for the building housing the Israeli team.

Within an hour nine hostages had been taken and two athletes were dead. A list of demands was issued and, after 21 hours of negotiations, the German authorities agreed to fly the gunmen and their captives to a nearby airfield.

There, live on television, a botched rescue attempt was staged. It resulted in the death of all the hostages, five of the Palestinians and a policeman.

Determined to wreak their revenge for the Munich massacre, Mossad almost immediately embarked upon a clinically executed programme of assassinations.

Known as 'Operation Wrath of God', its targets were Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Black September guerillas believed to be behind Munich.

Within 41 days of the athletes' kidnap, Mossad chalked up its first kill. Their target was Wael Zwaiter, the suspected leader of Black September, who was shot in Rome by a hit squad as he returned to his flat one evening.

The day after his death, Israeli radio proudly reported the 'liquidation' of the first of those involved in the planning of the Munich massacre.

A woman posing as Gail Folliard stakes out the hallway

Next, in December, was the execution of Mahmoud Hamshiri, the PLO's top man in France. The hit was carried out in Paris and involved a table in Hamshiri's flat being switched with one built by Mossad that was packed with plastic explosives.

A telephone call lured him to the table and the bomb was detonated.

As the months passed, the missions got increasingly daring. A raid into the heart of Beirut involving special forces dressed as women claimed the lives of three high-ranking targets, while in Cyprus a woman agent lured a man to his death on an exploding mattress.

But then, in the small Norwegian town of Lillehammer things started to go wrong. Targetting Ali Hassan Salameh, second in the hit list only to Arafat himself, a case of mistaken identity led to the death of an innocent Moroccan waiter.

Arrests swiftly followed with the result that that five-strong team of assassins were jailed for murder. Israel was directly linked to the killing and others around Europe, forcing the cancellation of Operation Wrath of God.

But Mossad wasn't about to forget the unfinished business with Salameh.

Five times they would try to kill him, but every time the poster-boy of Arab terrorism escaped.

By 1979 he was chief of security of Al Fatah, the guerilla arm of the PLO and was directly responsible for Arafat's safety. Combined with his fondness for silk shirts and elegant Western suits, it earned him the nickname of the ' playboy cop' - a reputation enhanced by the fact that his second wife was Lebanon's 1972 Miss Universe.

But behind all this, Salameh was a deadly serious player and was widely regarded as Arafat's anointed heir. For this reason - and for his involvement in planning the Munich Massacre - the Israelis were determined to continue with their policy of international assassination.

With this in mind, they put together a plan to recruit an international team to facilitate his liquidation. And it was here that their English recruit - 'Penelope' - would come into play.

Following Salameh's murder, a British passport was discovered in Penelope's apartment in the Rue Verdun. It was in the name of Erika Maria Chambers and gave her date of birth as February 10, 1948.

From this document alone it is, of course, impossible to be sure that this was her true identity. Today, following the 'hit' in Dubai, it has emerged that the killers were almost certainly travelling on false British passports, using details taken from the identities of individuals born in this country but now living in Israel.

The same could, of course, be true in the case of Erika Chambers. But the evidence suggests otherwise.

Her birth certificate reveals that her parents were Marcus and Lona, who had married in London during the war.

The five-star Al-Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai where the murder took place

Marcus, a winner of the Le Mans 24 hour race and successful motor sport manager, came from a well-to-do English background (his father was an admiral).

His wife Lona, whose maiden name was Gross, came from a Jewish family from Czechoslovakia and had fled to Britain to escape the Nazis.

Erika and her older brother Nicholas, who was three years older, were brought up in comfortable surroundings in Holland Park, West London, and both were privately educated.

But their parents separated as they were growing up, with Erika living with her mother. She would go on to study geography at Southampton, where tutors remember her as dedicated to her work but at the same time something of a daredevil, owning a Mini Cooper that she would drive around the city at high speed.

After university she travelled briefly to Australia before moving to Israel to study. She arrived at much the same time as the Munich massacre and soon after, according to intelligence sources in Israel and Germany, she was targeted by Mossad as they 'talent-spotted' for an agent to help them kill Salameh.

Erika was perfect. Thanks to her mother she spoke German fluently (a talent cleverly exploited by Mossad's masterplan) and her allegiance to the Israeli cause was cemented after Mossad supplied her with harrowing details of how some of her maternal relatives had died in Nazi gas chambers.

'She was like a good, ordinary English girl,' explains Wilhelm Dietl, a German expert on Mossad who has written a book on the assassination of Salameh, and has had access to intelligence file on the hit. 'As far as Mossad was concerned she was clean and, crucially, didn't look Jewish.'

Several years of intensive training followed, after which she moved to Germany in 1975. She lived there for three years. The purpose was two-fold. First, it distanced her from her time in Israel. Second, following the assassination, it would suggest that the German security services were behind the killing - not Mossad.

At the end of 1978, having been given a visa for Lebanon by the Lebanese Embassy in Bonn, Erika travelled to Beirut. Using the name Penelope, she rented a flat overlooking the Rue Verdun, close to where Salameh lived, posing as an eccentric painter and PLO supporter.

After several months she penetrated the welfare organisation of the Palestinians and from there on to reach Salameh was not a problem,' one of the Mossad agents involved in planning the hit has since revealed. 'So she went to the same swimming pool as him and later on they got friendly.'

Whether or not she slept with him is unclear, but what we do know, according to sources, is that having established Salameh's daily routine another Mossad agent flew into Beirut two weeks before the hit.

Also using a British passport, he used the name Peter Scriver (both the name and the passport have been shown to be fake) and after checking into a hotel rented a Volkswagen from the Lenacar agency.

Some time on January 17, the two met up, after which Scriver drove the VW to a secret garage where it was equipped with a 100lb payload of explosives. Shortly afterwards, his work done, the mysterious Scriver left the country, with a third agent parking the VW in the Rue Verdun 100 yards from Salameh's apartment, and in view of Penelope's flat, on January 22 at 2.30pm.

An hour later, Salameh left his home in his Chevrolet, in the company of four bodyguards. As they passed the VW the bomb was detonated, mortally wounding the occupants of the station wagon as well as killing four passers-by - including a German nun and an English student. A further 18 bystanders were injured.

Although some reports suggest the bomb was set off by a timing device, the Mossad agent involved in the hit claims that it was detonated by Erika.

'Her role was only to press the button at the right time when his car was passing the Volkswagen,' he said. 'Co-ordinating it was very difficult and she was trained to do it. But she managed so well that when he passed she pressed the button and got a direct hit.'

Even as the smoke settled, there was little doubt as to what had happened. Israel - and Wrath of God - had finally got their man.

The Palestinians were furious. When Arafat learned of Salameh's death he said: 'We have lost a lion.' And he ordered those responsible to be hunted down.

But by then it was already too late. Like the hit, the Mossad agents' escape had been meticulously planned. By the time the PLO was beginning to understand the role played by 'Penelope' she was in Israel, having driven to the Christian port of Jounieh before being spirited out of Lebanon on an Israeli gunboat.

In her flat she had left a British passport - sowing the seeds of a mystery that would last to this day.

At the time it was widely assumed that the Erika Chambers's identity must have been a Mossad creation. After all, not only was it a tried and tested espionage technique but checks on her accomplice, Scriver, showed that he did not exist. Could the same be said of Erika Chambers? It would seem not.

Respected author Aaron J. Klein says the passport was genuine and that Erika had been able to use her own identity, as this was a one-off hit.

'Erika Chambers was a nice British lady who even used her own passport,' explains Klein, whose book Striking Back details the Israeli response to Munich. 'She was an ad hoc operative recruited for a specific mission. She was used and no longer needed after the operation. A common procedure.'

Wilhelm Dietl, the German Mossad expert, has further confirmed her identity. He travelled to Britain in the early 1990s and spoke with Erika's father.

'They didn't have a great relationship, but he said there was the odd Christmas card with an Israeli postmark on it,' he says. 'What was clear, however, was that she did remain in touch with her brother.'

He is Oxford-educated Nicholas Mordaunt Chambers, a QC since 1985 and civil court judge. The Mail contacted him on two occasions to discuss the alleged involvement of his sister in the killing of Salameh.

Asked if the Erika Maria Chambers named as a Mossad agent was in fact his sister, Mr Chambers replied: 'You are pursuing from your own point of view a very proper line of inquiry but you will understand that it's not something I can help you with.'

The conversation continued thus: Reporter: 'You appear to be her brother and I am intrigued to know if that is accurate and what indeed has happened to your sister.'

Mr Chambers: 'The answer is you probably are intrigued' (laughs).

Reporter: 'I am writing an article about her. I hope if the Israeli intelligence services had assumed someone's identity, your sister's, you might be able to guide me on that.'

Mr Chambers: 'It's a very fair line, but, there one is - well - it's probably really best I don't say anything.'

Contacted a second time he would only say that he hoped that 'time has moved on'.

An intriguing response, indeed. But, then, in the world inhabited by 'Penelope', a world of international espionage, of Mossad-trained death squads, and of life-long glances over one's shoulder, what else should we expect?

Daily Mail

Friday, February 19, 2010

Polygamy on the rise in Malaysia

We are just waiting for the stoning legislation.

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Rohaya Mohamad, a 44-year-old Malaysian doctor, chats happily about her plans for the evening, a romantic dinner for five with her husband -- and his three other wives.

Rohaya and her family, which has produced 17 children aged between seven and 21, are among growing numbers of Malaysians entering into polygamous marriages, a phenomenon that observers say is linked to rising "Islamisation".

Critics say that the practice, legal for Muslims who make up 60 percent of the multi-ethnic population, is out of step with modern times and that it degrades the lives of women and children.

But Rohaya and her fellow wives say the arrangement works just fine for them, allowing them to easily juggle childcare, domestic duties and careers in their busy households.

The undisputed head of the family, 43-year-old husband Mohamad Ikram Ashaari, shuttles between the women's separate homes, spending a night with each in rotation before they join up on the weekends for family time.

He has taken a new wife every five years, starting with Juhaidah Yusof, a softly spoken 41-year-old who takes care of all the youngsters, and concluding with pretty 30-year-old Rubaizah Rejab, an Arabic language teacher.

His second wife, divorce lawyer Kartini Maarof, introduced him to number-three Rohaya -- who had sought the lawyer's services while divorcing her first husband, with whom she had seven children.

"She could see how busy I was so she offered me her husband. Initially I said no as I didn't want to hurt her... and my dad was really against it because polygamy has never been seen in a positive light," she says.

The family, part of the controversial Ikhwan Polygamy Club which says its mission is to improve the reputation of multiple marriage, believes it is a cure for social ills like adultery and pornography.

"Men by nature are polygamous, they have girlfriends and mistresses, they visit prostitutes -- it is normal," says Rohaya. "God has made men like that."

"But in Islam there is a way out which means you must be responsible for the women you want to be involved with."

They shrug off criticism that the club has its roots in Al-Arqam, a group banned by the Malaysian government which called it an illegal Islamic sect.

Sharing the love in a Malay polygamy club

There has been particular controversy over plans to spread the club abroad, with branches in Indonesia to add to its network of 1,000 members across Southeast Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.

Mohamad Ikram is a director with Global Ikhwan, a company whose diverse activities include restaurants and noodle manufacturing and which also manages the club.

"We want to say that polygamy works if you follow the rules of God. We don't expect people to follow but we want to change the mindset," says Rohaya.

The women say that in such a big household, friction is inevitable but they have learned to resolve their problems.

"It's a big family so it's normal that sometimes we argue, sometimes we get on, sometimes we get jealous," says Kartini.

The four wives seem to have an easy rapport with each other and their offspring, who troop in from school dressed in traditional flowing outfits before touching their foreheads to the hand of a visitor in a polite greeting.

But sociologist Norani Othman from pressure group Sisters in Islam says that these educated women and thriving children are not the typical polygamous family.

She says the practice's original purpose has been warped, and that the strict conditions to ensure women are fairly treated are routinely ignored.

"The Koran speaks of polygamy under certain circumstances -- for example, a war where you have lots of war widows and orphans. Historically a kind of emergency or welfare measure," she says.

These days, men can rarely afford to properly care for multiple wives and hordes of children, particularly in Malaysia's urban areas where the practice is becoming increasingly popular.

Her research has found that first wives, who often refuse to sanction the new marriage, are cut off financially and emotionally -- plunging them into poverty and depression.

Noraini says that up to five percent of marriages in Malaysia are polygamous, a figure that has risen as rules limiting multiple marriage have been watered down over the years.

"Over the past 15 years you can see a gradual increase... coinciding with the rise of Islamic revivalism, of Islamic fundamentalism," she said, adding it was likely there had been a further steep rise in the past few years.

"The impact of conservative Islam is that it gives an impression to ordinary faithful Muslims to just practice polygamy without seriously thinking of its repercussions."

But Mohamad Ikram and his family insist that polygamy can work well if those involved adhere to the rules laid out in the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

"I consider myself lucky that I have four wives, it reduces the temptation to commit sin," he says.

"Even though it's already enough, there's always the desire to have more -- one isn't satisfied with just four," he adds with a smile.

Islamic imperialism and the clash of civilizations ~ Jihad's origins [Video]

This is not the few hijacking Islam ~ it is Islam.

There are 6 parts ~ when the video finishes look for the other parts.

95 percent of Pak truckers ‘indulge in sex with `boy helpers’

The same attitude towards young boys in Afghanistan seems to be prevalent in Pakistan.

Islamabad, February 19: At least 95 percent of truck drivers in Pakistan consider indulging in sexual activities during their rest time as their main entertainment.

According to The News, transportation terminals and bus stands are the main hubs for such activity, as truck drivers are away from home for an average of 21.5 days in a month.

Sahil, an NGO working for child rights, shared these deplorable findings at the launch of a report titled ‘A Situational Analysis of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Transport Industry of Pakistan’.

The survey was conducted with 505 persons, including 170 drivers, 169 helper boys and 166 driver hotel owners.

To determine the status of the issue and unveil the reality, the working group conducted a research in six major cities, including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Sukkur, Karachi and Quetta, where transportation hubs exist.

Zopag, Religion of Peace