Countering extremism in Indonesia and beyond

Religious Freedom Institute (https://bit.ly/2KP2a1O) – Between May 8 and May 14, 2018 Indonesia was hit by a wave of ISIS terrorist attacks, including bombings carried out by families–fathers, mothers, and children together. The principal targets were churches and police stations, including the headquarters of the paramilitary Police Mobile Brigade (which is also where Ahok, the former Governor of Jakarta and a Christian, is serving a sentence for blasphemy). In the wave of attacks, thirteen terrorists and fourteen others were killed, and more than 40 were injured.

The Indonesian government’s security forces responded strongly. There were some early arrests and then, on May 31, in a series of raids, anti-terrorist squads arrested 41 terror suspects and killed 4 others. These raids came less than a week after the May 25 passage of a new anti-terrorism law that criminalized overseas terror attacks and allowed for longer detention of suspects. The bill had been languishing in parliament for two years amid controversies over how strict it should be and how to define terrorism, but this the wave of deadly suicide attacks persuaded lawmakers the bill should be passed.

But a much more low-key event may signal broader changes in how Indonesia is approaching its effort to combat extremism.

On May 31, Indonesian President Joko Widodo appointed Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf (Pak Yahya) as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council. Pak Yahya is from one of Indonesia’s most distinguished Muslim families, is the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the world’s largest Muslim organization, and is the head of Gerkan Pemuda Ansor (ANSOR), NU’s young-adult wing, which has some 5 million members. He is also among the Muslim world’s most incisive and outspoken reformers.

NU has long been engaged in ideological combat with Islamist extremism. In May 2017, Ansor called together more than 300 international religious scholars to consider the “obsolete tenets of classical Islamic law” that call for “perpetual conflict with those who do not embrace or submit to Islam.” This gathering issued the Ansor “Declaration on Humanitarian Islam,” that built on the May 16, 2016, NU-hosted International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders (ISOMIL).

The “Declaration on Humanitarian Islam,” is far more self-critical than declarations that have come from the Middle East. It argues that there are elements within classical Islam that are problematic and need to be changed. At the press conference announcing the Declaration, Ansor Chairman Yaqut Qoumas stated “It is false and counterproductive to claim that the actions of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and other such groups have nothing to do with Islam, or merely represent a perversion of Islamic teachings. They are, in fact, outgrowths of Wahhabism and other fundamentalist streams of Sunni Islam.”

Pak Yahya reemphasized these themes and expressed them in an even more radical fashion in a July 18, 2017, address to the Council of the European Union Terrorism Working Party, many of whose members would have accused the speaker of Islamophobia if he had been anyone else. He stressed:

“Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam.”

“Within the classical tradition, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity.”

“Why, no matter how many [terrorists] we kill or put in jail, new recruits are always coming to join them? Here is the fact: the problem lies within Islam itself. Jihadist doctrine, goals and strategy can be readily traced to specific elements of orthodox, authoritative Islam and its historic practice, including those portions of fiqh-classical Islamic law or shari‘ah-that enjoin Islamic supremacy.”

While NU as a whole has not endorsed the “Declaration on Humanitarian Islam,” Pak Yahya told me they are discussing it and he has suffered little criticism for his statements. The arguments that he and Ansor are making are radical, and crucial in the battle with extremism. And they are gaining increasing attention in Indonesia and around the world.

On May 17, 2018, Pak Yahya met with Vice President Pence for the second time. And the fact that Indonesian President Jokowi has now appointed him to his Advisory Council sends a strong signal about Jokowi’s own attitudes.
________________________________________
Paul Marshall is Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom at Baylor University, Senior Fellow of the Religious Freedom Institute and member of the South and Southeast Asia (SSEA) Action Team, and Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom




RUSSIA: 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses behind bars as of 8 June

HRWF (08.06.2018) – The number of Jehovah’s Witnesses deprived of their freedom has been dramatically and rapidly increasing in Russia since the ban of their religion in April 2017.

It can unfortunately be expected that the situation will worsen day after day and that young Jehovah’s Witnesses will also be targeted for their conscientious objection to military service, as members of a banned extremist religious organization (!).

Here is an updated list of 16 prisoners as of 8 June 2018. Their pre-trial detention is systematically prolonged until their trial starts.

See below the region they are from, followed by the name of the detainee and birthdate, the date of the arrest, the article of the criminal code and the dates of their pre-trial detention.

Charges

Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1: Organisation of the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity.

Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2: Participation in the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity.

List of Prisoners

Oryol Region Oryol
Dennis CHRISTENSEN (18-Dec-72)
25-May-17
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 26-May-18 / 1-Aug-18

Republic of Tatarstan Naberezhniye Chelny
Ilkham Shamilevich Karimov (9-Feb-81)
27-Mar-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 29-May-18/ 25-Jul-18

Vladimir Nikolayevich Myakushin (6-Nov-87)
27-Mar-18
Article 282.2(1), (1.1) and (2)
Pre-trial detention: 29-May-18/ 25-Jul-18

Konstantin Matrashov (1983)
27-Mar-18
Article 282.2(1), (1.1) and (2)
Pre-trial detention: 29-May-18/ 25-Jul-18

Aydar Maratoviсh Yulmetyev (Aug-93)
27-Mar-18
Article 282.2(1), (1.1) and (2)
Pre-trial detention: 31-May-18/ 25-Jul-18

Republic of Bashkortostan Ufa
Anatoliy Sergeyevich Vilitevich (15-Sep-86)
10-Apr-18
Article 282.2(2)
Pre-trial detention: 12-Apr-18/ 2-Jul-18

Murmansk Region Polyarny
Roman Nikolayevich Markin (18-Mar-74)
18-Apr-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 23-Apr-18/ 11-Jun-18

Viktor Fedorovich Trofimov (26-Mar-57)
18-Apr-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 23-Apr-18/ 12-Jun-18

Vladivostok Region Vladivostok
Valentin Pavlovich Osadchuk (15-Mar-78)
19-Apr-18
Article 282.2(2)
Pre-trial detention: 23-Apr-18/ 20-Jun-18

Orenburg Region Orenburg
Aleksandr Gennadyevich Suvorov (20-Apr-80)
16-May-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 19-May-18/ 14-Jul-18

Vladimir Yuryevich Kochnev (15-Oct-79)
16-May-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 19-May-18/ 14-Jul-18

Magadan Region Magadan
Konstantin Nikolayevich Petrov (9-Aug-86)
30-May-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 01-Jun-18/ 29-Jul-18

Ivan Grigoryevich Puyda (C.O.)(5-Nov-78)
30-May-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 01-Jun-18 30/-Jul-18

Yevgeniy Anatolyevich Zyablov (9-Mar-77)
30-May-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 01-Jun-18/ 29-Jul-18

Sergey Liviyevich Yerkin (23-Jun-53)
30-May-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention: 01-Jun-18/ 29-Jul-18

Tomsk Region Tomsk
Sergey Gennadyevich Klimov (C.O.) (26-Mar-70)
3-Jun-18
Article 282.2(1)
Pre-trial detention 05-Jun-18 04-Aug-18




RUSSIA: Open Letter from 10 of the wives of 16 imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses to President Putin’s adviser Mikhail Fedotov

 

HRWF (08.06.2018) – On 7 June, ten of the wives of the 16 imprisoned JWs in Russia sent an open letter (Russian version: https://jw-russia.org/news/18060718-345.html) plea to Mikhail Fedotov—advisor to President Putin and chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights.

Human Rights Without Frontiers has a pdf of the full list of names of JWs with open criminal cases against them, as a result of the home arrests that began in April. In addition to the prisoners, dozens of believers in 11 regions are under house arrest and/or are not permitted to leave the region.

Text of the Open Letter in English

To the Russian Federation Presidential Council
For the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights

Honorable Mr. Fedotov! Honorable members of the Human Rights Council!

This open letter to you is a cry of desperation. People who are very dear to us, our husbands, those who feed us, the fathers of our children, peaceable, honest people, who are always ready to help others, are being thrown behind bars for being suspected of reading Bible commandments and praying together with us and our children to the God whose name, as recorded in the Bible, is Jehovah.

As of this day in Russia already 17 individuals are being held in pre-trial detention. One of our fellow believers has been in custody for over a year. Dozens more believers, in 11 regions of Russia, are under house arrest or are forbidden to leave their cities of residence. With each passing day, their number is increasing. Taking into account that in Russia there are 175,000 professing the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we wonder how many more dozens, hundreds or thousands of victims of conscience will it take before the unjust criminal persecution of people for their faith in God is brought to an end.

Under the guise of fighting extremism, many of us, and even our children, have been threatened with weapons by agents of the special forces and ordered to lie face down. Our homes have been raided and searched, our telephones and computers have been seized, so we can’t work or live a normal life. Our family photographs, our passports and other personal documents, and Bibles have been confiscated. They are trying to force us to live in fear and shake every time there’s a knock at the door or the sound of a siren on the street, as we await arrest merely for our faith. Some believers have already been dismissed from their places of work after many years of faultless work just because the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is banned in Russia. We cannot find the answers to the questions of why we are being subjected to such harassment in our country, and which religion will be the next to fall victim after us?

The law-enforcement agencies that are persecuting our husbands for their faith in God explain that it is because of the April 20, 2017, decision of the Russian Federation Supreme Court to liquidate all legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.

However, both the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice, during the hearing at the Supreme Court, and the Russian Federation Government, after the decision was handed down, officially stated that the court’s decision would not result in any violations of the rights of citizens to freedom of worship.

The aforementioned decision of the Supreme Court did not ban the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. It only involved legal entities. So why are the law-enforcement agents acting in contravention of the will of the government of our country? Who in our country benefits from the mass repression of religious believers? Why are our relatives being accused of a serious crime with the prospect of imprisonment from 6 to 10 years for fictitious extremist activity (Article 282.2 of the RF Criminal Code)? Why are the law-enforcement agents mistakenly interpreting peaceful expression of faith on God for participation in an extremist organization?

Honorable members of the Council, please help us to receive answers to these questions.

In the face of such monstrous circumstances, we are afraid for our children’s future. The ground has been laid for children to be torn away from parents, whose faith in God has been declared “wrong.” News that information on children whose parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses is being gathered in educational and medical facilities is very worrying. It is not surprising that virtually every week whole families of our fellow believers are abandoning everything and fleeing abroad to seek political asylum for the protection of their children.

In return for freedom and a quiet life, we are being invited to disown our faith. This is not just a figure of speech—investigators have directly invited us to sign documents in order to avoid punishment for “extremism.” If not, in their words, no attorney will be able to save us. But we cannot stop believing in God. It is a right that every individual has from birth. The Russian Federation is a multi-confessional state, and we, as citizens of Russia, have the right to expect that our rights will be respected by the state. We are not asking for any special privileges. We are asking for just one thing—please, defend our rights.

Honorable members of the Council! A campaign of terror has been unleashed against an entire religion, one of the largest Christian religions in Russia. Fundamental human rights are being trampled on: the right to freedom of worship and personal inviolability, the right to personal dignity, the right to privacy, the right to the inviolability of the home, to freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of worship, the right to private property.

If the Russian government does not quickly put an end to this growing campaign of terror, the administration will be faced with a nation-wide human rights catastrophe. We are certain that you have the power to take action now! We ask that you please pass this information on to the President of the Russian Federation, and use all possible legal means to restore the rights of religious believers.

With respect, the wives of men who are being held in custody:

Alyona Vilitkevich (Republic of Bashkortostan)
Anna Zyablova (Magadan Region)
Yulia Klimova (Tomsk Region)
Galina Kochneva (Orenburg Region)
Irina Christensen (Oryol Region)
Svetlana Markina (Murmansk Region)
Tatyana Petrova (Magadan Region)
Anastasia Puyda (Khabarovsk Territory)
Natalia Suvorova (Orenburg Region)
Trofimova Ulyana (Murmansk Region)




France expels controversial Salafist preacher to Algeria

France24 (19.04.2018) – https://bit.ly/2F7IvpU – Controversial Salafist preacher, Imam El Hadi Doudi, who was based in the southern French city of Marseille, was expelled to Algeria Friday morning following a lengthy legal process, according to a French media report.

The 63-year-old preacher — who was born in Algeria and does not have French citizenship — was expelled on Friday, the AFP reported quoting an unnamed French interior ministry source.

The expulsion followed a deportation order issued by the French interior ministry on Tuesday.

But Doudi’s expulsion application was suspended pending a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which finally ruled in favour of the deportation on Thursday.

The ruling followed an appeal by the Salafist cleric’s lawyer, Nabil Boudi, who argued that his client would be tortured or suffer “inhuman or degrading treatment” if he was returned to Algeria.

The court granted the French government 72 hours “to gather the additional information necessary to make an informed decision”. Doudi was held in an administrative detention center pending the court’s final ruling.

Sermons targeting women, Jews, Shiites

The imam of the as-Sounna mosque, in the heart of Marseille, was one of the most high profile cases in the French government’s effort to combat radicalisation.

The new de-radicalisation plan announced by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government includes increased surveillance of Muslim clerics accused of hate speech and incitement to violence.

The as-Sounna mosque was closed in December following allegations that Doudi was provoking discrimination, hatred and violence toward an individual or group.

A confidential government investigative report, seen by the New York Times, cited numerous sermons by Doudi, where he preached that Jews are “unclean, the brothers of monkeys and pigs”. Women, the preacher stressed, could not leave their homes without authorisation, and an apostate “needs to be eliminated by the death penalty to protect Muslims”.

In its expulsion application, the French Interior Ministry cited the radical imam’s “deliberate incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence against a particular person or group of persons”, notably women, Jews, Shiites and people committing adultery.

Radical clerics under scrutiny

Following a spate of deadly terrorist incidents since the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks, France has tightened its anti-terror laws while attempting to tackle the spread of Islamist extremism particularly in French prisons, schools, mosques and Islamic centres.

Between 2012 and 2015, the French Interior Ministry expelled 40 Muslim clerics while another 52 people – including clerics – were expelled over the past 28 months, according to the New York Times.

In 2017, 20 radicalised foreign nationals were expelled from French territory, according to French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb.

Last month, France expelled Mohammed Tlaghi, a substitute imam at a mosque in Torcy, an eastern Parisian suburb, due to radical sermons, under an expulsion order issued on March 2.

The as-Sounna mosque, where Doudi preached, has been closed since December 11, 2017, when the Marseille police department issued a six-month closure order, which was ratified by France’s top administrative court earlier this year.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)




IRAN: ‘Returnees’ from Al Mustafa Int’l University for foreigners pose a danger to human and state security abroad

HRWF (19.02.2018) – Foreign forms of controversial Islamic teachings introduced in various ways in Muslim majority countries threaten their traditional culture of tolerance and the peaceful relations between their various religious communities.

Iran attracts and trains foreign Shia theologians to export its theocratic model and Sharia practices which are incompatible with UN human rights standards.

Salafists and Wahhabis backed by Saudi Arabia and other states of the Arabic Peninsula are increasingly disturbing the homegrown peaceful Islam in Indonesia, the Maldives, and other countries in Central Asia.

The implantation of their Islamic universities and other educational institutions in such countries, in addition to the granting of scholarships for foreign education of imams and young students in theology, are part of their diversified strategies to export forms of Islam that are alien to local Islam, challenge the secular nature of some states and the separation of state and religion.

‘Returnees’ from universities such as Al Mustafa University in Iran pose a real danger to human and state security in their respective countries of origin.

Sentencing ‘returnees’ to prison terms, as it is the case in Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan, because they have been educated abroad in ‘suspicious universities’ is a violation of human rights. However it is the right of a state to protect its population against radicalization and foreign ideologies that promote segregation between Muslims and non-Muslims as well as between men and women, discrimination on such a basis, physical punishments, degrading and inhumane treatments, as it is the case in Iran, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

Hassan Dai’s study entitled by “Iran’s global network of Islamic schools public” published by the Iranian American Forum in 2016 highlights the extent of the strategy used by Tehran to export its theocratic system. In his paper, the author addresses the following issues:
• Foreign clerics in Iran and the creation of Al Mustafa
• Al Mustafa’s network: Africa – Al Mustafa School in Congo
• Tuition and support for students and their families
• Number of students and graduates
• Al Mustafa’s goal: export of Revolution
• Shiism
• Promoting hatred against Israel
• Al Mustafa, a recruiting pool of Quds force

Human Rights Without Frontiers is presenting below several excerpts from this paper that is available at http://iranian-americans.com/irans-export-of-islamic-fundamentalism-al-mustafa-global-training-centers-2/.

Summary

In February 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini and a group of clergymen attached to him, seized the power in Iran. From the onset, Khomeini’s regime utilized all the means and tools in its disposal to establish and fortify its brand of fundamentalism in Iran and export it throughout the Islamic world.

For the past 37 years, the Iranian regime has pursued a two-faceted strategy to export its revolution; in one hand, it has created and supported radical armed groups across the Middle East, on top of them the Lebanese Hezbollah. On the other hand, various “Cultural” and “religious” organizations were created in Iran to disseminate the regime’s ideology in the Islamic world.

Al Mustafa international university founded in 2007 is one of the most important among these organizations. Funded and controlled by the Iranian regime, Al Mustafa trains foreign Shia clerics, scholars and missionaries. Its main campuses are in Iran and has more than one hundred seminaries, Islamic schools and religious centers around the world. The Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the highest authority of Al Mustafa University.

Al Mustafa has currently over 40.000 students, half of them studying in University campuses in Iran. There are nearly 10.000 female students and 3500 teaching staff.

Since 2007, nearly 30.000 clerics and Islamic scholars have graduated from Al Mustafa branches, a good portion of them have been hired by the university as teaching staff or missionaries sent to different countries around the globe.

Al Mustafa’s vast global network and its growing army of clerics and missionaries is a formidable tool to generate grassroots support in foreign countries for the Iranian regime’s ideology, its foreign policy, its position in the Islamic world and its quest to dominate the Middle East. Al Mustafa is also a recruiting pool for the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force or other Iranian Institutions responsible for terrorism or military activities abroad.

Number of students and graduates

Al Mustafa does not report the exact number of its students in Iran or in foreign branches. However, by examining Al Mustafa’s current and old website available in web archives, news reports or the declarations by the University’s executives, we reach the approximate numbers of 40.000 current students of which 10.000 are women. Half of Al Mustafa’s students are in Iran campuses. The University has had 30.000 graduates and employs 3500 teaching staff.

For example, Alireza Aarafi, Al Mustafa’s President declared in August 2014 that 40.000 people study at the University. In February 2016, the head of “Information Science” department at Shiraz University gave an interview and detailed the number of foreign clerics studying in Iran and declared that 20.000 foreigners study at Al Mustafa campuses in Iran. In a speech on February 2015, President of Al Mustafa declared that 30.000 students had graduated since 2007.

Al-Mustafa has a distinct department for its female students called “Bent-ol-Hoda High Education Institution” with campuses in Ghom, Isfahan and Mashhad. According to an August 2013 report 9000 female students were studying in Al Mustafa, of which 6500 students in foreign branches. According to Hojatoleslam Safouraei, president of Bent-ol-Hoda, the new campus under construction in Ghom will open in the summer of 2016 with a capacity for 2000 female students.

Al Mustafa’s goal: export of Revolution

Al Mustafa’s vast global network and its growing army of clerics and missionaries is a formidable tool for the Iranian regime to export its brand of Islam and generate grassroots support for the Iranian regime’s ideology and assist its quest to dominate the Islamic world.

In his speech to Al Mustafa students and staff on October 25, 2010 in Qom, the Supreme Leader explained the Iranian mandate to spread “pure Islamic thoughts” and liberate the Islamic nation from the jug of global arrogance led by the United States. He emphasized the role that Al Mustafa plays in carrying out this mission: (English translation by Khamenei’s official website)

“The first lesson that the Islamic Revolution and the auspicious Islamic Republic taught us was that we should think beyond our borders and turn our attention to the vast arena of the Islamic Ummah. Our magnanimous Imam taught us that our attention should be focused on the great Islamic Ummah. Although Iran was extremely frustrated under the pressure of tyranny and colonialism during the rule of Shah, was being crushed by the pressure, and it needed to be saved but, the essential pressure and historical aggression was focused on the Islamic Ummah.

For several centuries, the great Islamic Ummah, which has been in one of the most strategic locations in the world, was suffering from weakness, defeat, backwardness, colonialism and material and scientific poverty due to the interference of superpowers, greed of powerful governments and belligerence of the arrogant powers. The attention of our Islamic Revolution was focused on the Islamic world. Its attention was focused on helping the Islamic Ummah get rid of the arrogant powers’ hand of oppression and aggression. We learned this from our Imam, and this has been the clear path of the Islamic Republic up until now. Part of the great work is what you are doing. You have gathered here from nearly one hundred countries in order to become familiar with the pure teachings of Islam.”

On February 8, 2016, Al Mustafa’s vice President declared: “Export of revolution has always been one of the most important goals for the Islamic Republic. Al Mustafa plays a role in preparing the ground and attain this goal. Al Mustafa has used the Islamic soft power in the region and prepare the ground for Iran’s hard power (military) to be present in the Middle East and successfully oppose the global arrogance.”

Similarly, the dean of language and culture department at Al Mustafa has also declared that “our goal is the export of revolution.” In February 2015, the Supreme Leader’s representative in Isfahan emphasized that “Al Mustafa has taken effective steps for the export of our revolution.”

Al Mustafa, a recruiting pool for Quds force

Since the start of civil war in Syria and the Iranian military intervention to save the Bashar Assad regime, there have been numerous reports about Al Mustafa’s students killed in Syria funerals held in Iran for them In March 2016, one of Al Mustafa’s directors declared that “some of the fighters deployed to Syria are the University’s students and clerics.”

Alireza Tavassoli, the chief commander of Fatemiyon, the Afghanis division of revolutionary guards fighting in Syria who was killed in 2014, was one of Al Mustafa’s clerics.

The Iranian revolutionary Guards employs different tactics to recruit new members or fighters for Syrian war. Each years, hundreds of thousands of very young Iranian students are organized in tours labeled as “Caravans of light” (Rahian -e- Noor) and sent to the old Iran-Iraq war battle field where the martyrs are venerated and the cult of martyrdom is promoted. The preachers remind the visitors that the war with Iraq was in fact part of the fight against global arrogance, a fight that continues today. The visitors are told that the martyrs are alive and watching them and asking them to join this holly war against the US and its surrogates.

Iranian regime uses the same tactic to recruit among Al Mustafa students or graduates. Each year thousands of Al Mustafa students from Iran campuses or branches outside Iran are sent to these battle field. This is a report on 700 Al Mustafa students visiting the battle fields and, another report about a 250 students and families. In this report by Iranian press, an Argentinian graduate of Al Mustafa who is teaching at the University branches, is taking a group of Latin American students to the battle fields to “venerate the Martyrs of war between Islam and global arrogance”.

As a result of Al Mustafa’s ideological teaching and financial incentives provided to the students, a good part of Al Mustafa clerics gradually become unconditional supporters of Iranian regime. It is not surprising that many of them are sent to Syria and other places to assist the Quds force. Al Mustafa students in Iran are also ordered to participate in state-organized rallies such as the protest against Charlie Hebdo magazine for drawing Muhammad cartoon or the rally against Bahrain government.




Sufi sites in Libya under attack

Al Monitor (28.12.2017) – http://bit.ly/2CbZLhs –  Attacks on Sufi Islamic sites in Libya have left the religious group feeling targeted, as instability in parts of the fragile nation continues following the 2011 revolution that deposed longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi. Sufis often come under criticism from hard-line Salafi Muslims, who oppose their interpretation of Islam for supposedly not comporting with “true” Islam. 

“Successive interim authorities since the 2011 uprising and across Libya have failed to protect Libya’s Sufi religious sites from attacks and destruction by extremist militias,” Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, noted in an HRW press release on Dec. 7. “The unpunished attacks on Sufi mosques are endangering one of Libya’s historic minority communities.” 

Tarek Megerisi, a Libyan political analyst and researcher, told Al-Monitor, “Libya’s Sufi community has been under siege ever since the end of the revolution, mainly from Salafi groups who have correspondingly risen in prominence since the revolution.” He noted that Salafi preachers took over a number of mosques in Libya in the immediate aftermath of the revolution and later, as Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s Libyan National Army made gains in Benghazi. 

“Salafi militias have destroyed ancient Sufi mosques, which contain shrines, libraries and which are generally considered landmarks of Libya’s Sufi community,” Megerisi said. “Given that Salafi militias are continuing to grow in power across the country, and the constituency of Salafists in Libya is also steadily climbing, the persecution of Libya’s Salafists seems likely to worsen in the near-term future.” 

Sufis have become an easy target for hard-line Muslim militias. Dozens of Sufi religious sites — “including mosques, shrines, tombs, and libraries containing ancient scriptures” — have been destroyed since 2011, according to HRW. Followers of Sufism have also been kidnapped and killed, but their killers have gone unpunished. 

Some 20 adherents of Sufism went missing in eastern Libya in August. The daily Al-Wasat reported in September that the missing were victims of kidnapping. 

The latest attack on Sufis, which took place on Nov. 28, occurred the day before a feast to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. In that episode, unidentified attackers torched the Zawiyat Sheikha Radiya Mosque in Tripoli. No casualties were reported. 

Sufism is a religious practice, tradition, or approach to Islam that varies by region, as opposed to being a branch or sect with universal practices.

“Over the decades, Sunnis in the Maghreb region never even noticed that Sufism was seen as separate [from mainstream Islam],” Jalel Harchaoui, a doctoral candidate in geopolitics at Paris 8 University and a frequent commentator on Libyan affairs, told Al-Monitor. “The distinction came into view recently, mostly as a result of the spread of Salafi groups.” 

He added, “The latter being ultra-conservative and eager to judge other Muslims, see the stylistic tradition of Sufism as a perversion of ‘true’ Islam. The [Sufis’] celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birth, for instance, has long been a perfectly innocuous holiday across the Maghreb. However, Salafists — whether they are of the rigorist or jihadi kind — designate the tradition as a sinful departure from ‘true’ monotheism.”

Libya’s minorities came under increasing threat from Salafists in recent years, as Libya became a hub for jihadists seeking to join the Islamic State (IS) in 2015 after the extremist group faced numerous military defeats in Syria and Iraq. That year, IS took over the city of Sirte. A bombing campaign by the US-led coalition eventually pushed its fighters out of the city in December 2016. They have since moved to desert valleys and inland hills to the southeast of Tripoli. 

IS is not the only group posing a threat to Sufis. In fact, the security apparatus of the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord is a prime suspect in some of the attacks against them. The Special Deterrence Force (SDF) — a radical Islamist military police unit under the Interior Ministry that nonetheless acts independently — is led by Abd al-Rauf Kara, a man described by Daily Beast contributor Jamie Dettmer as an “Islamic fanatic.

“He quickly took it upon himself after Gaddafi’s toppling to hunt down former regime security officials and to police an unruly Tripoli according to ultra-orthodox interpretations of Islamic principles,” Dettmer wrote in 2015. “His Nawasi Battalion [later refashioned as the SDF] became notorious for targeting alleged alcohol traders and drinkers and drug dealers as well as gays and also single women unaccompanied by male relatives or husbands, even those frequenting the more up-market coffee houses in affluent districts of Tripoli.” 

The current government has not denounced any of the attacks on Sufi sites, which some locals believe the SDF to have been behind. In October in Tripoli, a Sufi mosque was attacked in the Ghararat neighborhood during a clash between the SDF and armed militias that had been accused of drug trafficking. 

“A religious scholar with ties to the Sufi community in Tripoli said it was the SDF, which had gained control of the neighborhood, that intentionally damaged the 16th-century Sidi Abu Gharara Sufi mosque,” HRW reported. The SDF released a statement denying that they had attacked the mosque, saying they would deal with those responsible

“It is very possible that Abd al-Rauf Kara’s group is responsible,” Harchaoui said, “but nobody has any proof backing such an accusation.” 

See as well: New waves of attacks against Sufi sites (Human Rights Watch, 7 December 2017)

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/12/07/libya-new-wave-attacks-against-sufi-sites