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City of Brass

City of Brass

Pakistan arrests Mumbai suspects; Malaysia lets some go

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The Mumbai terror attacks were arguably India’s 9-11 – an attack on the nation as a whole instead of just isolated targets of opportunity. That makes these two stories an interesting pair – first, Pakistan has arrested suspects accused of being masterminds of the Mumbai attack:

Pakistan’s prime minister has confirmed the arrest of two men that India says had a role in last month’s attacks in Mumbai that left at least 171 people dead.

Yousuf Raza Gilani said in Multan city on Wednesday that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah, members of armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba, are being questioned by Pakistani investigators.

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“They have been detained for investigation,” Gilani said.

Confirmation of Lakhvi and Shah’s arrest came a day after Indian police released the names or aliases of nine suspected attackers killed during the Mumbai assaults.

Police said all the men named were from Pakistan.

meanwhile, Malaysia has released several suspected terrorists, including one who may have briefly housed the 9-11 NYC hijackers:

The Malaysian government has released three “terror suspects” from a detention camp, including one accused of abetting the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.

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Syed Hamid Albar, the Malaysian home minister, confirmed on Wednesday that the alleged members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) regional group were released from the Kamunting detention centre in the northern state of Perak over the last two weeks.

The most prominent among them is Yazid Sufaat, a JI member, who was arrested in December 2002.

“He was considered as a threat to public security in Malaysia because he was part of Jemaah Islamiyah, trying to establish an Islamic government within the region,” Syed Hamid.

“I think after holding him for so long, he can be brought back into society but at the same time we will follow closely everyone that may have ideology [of] militancy or extremism.”

[…]

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Yazid, a former army captain, allegedly let several senior al-Qaeda operatives use his apartment for meetings in Malaysia, including two eventual hijackers in the September 11 suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre.

The United States’ 9/11 Commission report says Yazid, a US-trained biochemist, would “spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al-Qaeda” in a laboratory he helped set up near Kandahar airport.

The US had sought Yazid’s extradition after he was detained.

Nalini Elumalai, an activist with human rights group Suaram, said the three men were released on condition that they remain within their home districts and report regularly to police.

Security detainees undergo intensive counselling while in detention and will be freed if authorities are convinced that they have been “rehabilitated”.

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It’s easy to be alarmed by this but it is important to remember that religious de-programming and rehabilitation of jihadis is not only possible but in fact quite successful. These suspects were being held without trial (akin to the detainees at Guantanamo) and so if the Malaysian government had no actual evidence to tie these men to their alleged actions, then releasing them is the right thing to do. 

Meanwhile, in Guantanamo itself, several of the detainees (including high profile Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept 11th mastermind) actually offered to plead guilty with full confession, hoping to get the death penalty. Far from simplifying things, the offer to plead guilty caused tremendous legal confusion:

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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Dec. 8 — Five of the men accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said Monday that they wanted to plead guilty to murder and war crimes but withdrew the offer when a military judge raised questions about whether it would prevent them from fulfilling their desire to receive the death penalty.

“Are you saying if we plead guilty we will not be able to be sentenced to death?” Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed operational mastermind of the attacks, asked at a pretrial hearing here.

The seesaw proceedings Monday raised and then postponed the prospect of a conviction in a case that has become the centerpiece of the system of military justice created by the Bush administration. A conviction would have capped a seven-year quest for justice after the 2001 attacks, but the delay in entering pleas will probably extend the process beyond the end of the Bush presidency.

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mcjoan at DailyKos comments,

the military commissions process has been so haphazardly slapped together that even the judge didn’t know how to proceed with a guilty plea, whether a death sentence could be imposed if the case wasn’t heard by a “jury.”

Guantanamo not only makes a mockery of our principles and justice system, but also has caused immense harm to us as a nation – as evidenced by comments of an (anonymous) Air Force intelligence agent involved with interogations in Iraq:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans….

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My experiences have landed me in the middle of another war — one even more important than the Iraq conflict. The war after the war is a fight about who we are as Americans. Murderers like Zarqawi can kill us, but they can’t force us to change who we are. We can only do that to ourselves. One day, when my grandkids sit on my knee and ask me about the war, I’ll say to them, “Which one?”
[…]

I’m actually quite optimistic these days, in no small measure because President-elect Barack Obama has promised to outlaw the practice of torture throughout our government. But until we renounce the sorts of abuses that have stained our national honor, al-Qaeda will be winning. Zarqawi is dead, but he has still forced us to show the world that we do not adhere to the principles we say we cherish. We’re better than that. We’re smarter, too.

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If we are to win against these people who threaten us, we must do so without conceding to them our principles and our honor. The same goes for all civilized nations under attack, including India and Malaysia. To that end I hope that the accused of the Mumbai attacks are indeed given a real, honest trial – and why I find Malaysia’s actions to be hopeful instead of worrying.

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Action for a Progressive Pakistan: Vigil in NYC on Saturday

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

via sepoy at Chapati Mystery:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: progpak@gmail.com / 917.922.9836

Pakistanis Hold Vigil for Mumbai Victims
Call Upon India and Pakistan to Work Towards Peace

When: Saturday, December 13th, 4:00 pm
Where: Union Square NORTH (16th Street) – across the street from Barnes and Noble

(New York, December 8, 2008) – Action for a Progressive Pakistan (APP) condemns the violence of Nov 26th which claimed the lives of over 180 people in Mumbai, and expresses solidarity with the people of India. The group calls upon the democratically elected governments of India and Pakistan to work together in bringing the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice.

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APP will hold a vigil this Saturday, December 13th at 4pm in Union Square to express sorrow at the loss of innocent life and call for peace and stability in the region. It demands that measured and deliberate steps be taken to ensure the safety and security of all the citizens of India and Pakistan, who remain the true targets of these extreme agendas. The group also calls upon the governments of India and Pakistan to work for a peaceful resolution of the current crisis, and asks that the world community support the two countries in this endeavor.

“The people of Pakistan stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in India because we also bear deeply the scars of terrorism,” said Assistant Professor of Sociology Saadia Toor who’s also a founding member of APP. In 2007 alone, 1500 people were killed in terror attacks in Pakistan. This year, forty people were killed and as many as 350 injured including school children when bombs destroyed a federal government building in the heart of Lahore on March 11th. Another fifty were killed by a terror attack on the Islamabad Marriott hotel in September. These acts of violence, whether in India or Pakistan, are a backlash to the global War on Terror by non-state forces seeking to destabilize the region and derail long-overdue peace initiatives being pursued by the two countries.

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The only defense against terrorism is a prosperous democracy. Pakistan has just elected its first civilian government in over a decade after a protracted struggle against the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. The civilian government has already taken several key steps towards de-militarizing the domestic political sphere, and has made overtures towards trying to solve the issue of Kashmir. The civilian regime has managed to impose some limitations on the military but it must do more. To ensure peace and security in the region, the world community must support Pakistan’s democratic institutions. This support must include development assistance geared towards addressing the needs of Pakistan’s poor. APP calls for an immediate end to US airstrikes inside Pakistan’s borders, as they are contributing greatly to the destabilization of the region and causing hardships for innocent civilians.

Action for a Progressive Pakistan stands with the people of South Asia in their struggle for peace in the region. The group, comprised of concerned Pakistani professionals and academics, is committed to ensuring peace, democracy and development in South Asia.

If you are in NYC, please consider attending!

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Eid ul Adha mubarak – ??? ?????

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Eid is by tradition a happy affair, but in India it is muted this year, in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. In addition to forgoing the slaughter of cows for the sacrifice (out of respect for the sentiments of the Hindu majority), Indian muslims are wearing black armbands this week as a mark of loyalty and mourning.

best_eid_ever.jpgThough it doesn’t get as much press or festivity, Eid ul Adha is arguably the more important Eid, from a spiritual perspective, than Eid al-Fitr after Ramadan. Eid ul Adha is an introspective affair, coming after the Hajj which is a season of spiritual renewal. Eid al-Fitr, in contrast, comes after an entire month of fasting, so on a purely human level the sense of accomplishment seems higher. Those who have actually performed the Hajj will forever after have a special appreciation for Eid ul Adha, of course, but for the rest of us it is sometimes a challenge to remember that this Eid is more than just an opportunity to eat a big meal. Last year, ReligionWriter.com interviewed Asma Mobi-Uddin, the author of a children’s book on Eid ul Adha, which touched upon the same general topic – the book, The Best Eid Ever, is definitely worth checking out and makes a great gift.

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And what would Eid be without the usual confusion about when, exactly, it occurs? I previously blogged on the diversity of interpretations and methods used to find Eid al Fitr, and Eid ul Adha is subject to much the same (though since many muslims observe Eid ul Adha over a span of a few days, the impact is lessened). Mr. Moo, one of my favorite blogs in the Islamsphere, has brilliantly satirized the perennial Eid confusion in an awesome, hysterical little video entitled, Hitler wants a united Eid:

That needs to be required viewing for everyone on Eid ul Adha. Given all the fabric used to make the tent city at Mina, surely they could set up a big screen somewhere near the Jamrah for public viewings?

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Also, I found today’s Garfield Minus Garfield to be kind of relevant:

fSymsOGXOhbqonueBWvOdCZ4o1_500.pngOn that note, Eid ul Adha Mubarak to everyone, and a special mubarak to all who completed the Hajj this year!

Related – a picture of Eid in China; Preparing for Eid in Damascus;  struggling with Eid in Gaza; a poem about Hajj then and now; and a childhood memory about two goats named Ateeq and Irfan (whose not-quite-happy ending you can probably predict :)

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Hajj ends – Zabihat and Jamarat

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Eid is by tradition a happy affair, but in India it is muted this year, in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. In addition to forgoing the slaughter of cows for the sacrifice (out of respect for the sentiments of the Hindu majority), Indian muslims are wearing black armbands this week as a mark of loyalty and mourning.

best_eid_ever.jpg

Though it doesn’t get as much press or festivity, Eid ul Adha is arguably the more important Eid, from a spiritual perspective, than Eid al-Fitr after Ramadan. Eid ul Adha is an introspective affair, coming after the Hajj which is a season of spiritual renewal. Eid al-Fitr, in contrast, comes after an entire month of fasting, so on a purely human level the sense of accomplishment seems higher. Those who have actually performed the Hajj will forever after have a special appreciation for Eid ul Adha, of course, but for the rest of us it is sometimes a challenge to remember that this Eid is more than just an opportunity to eat a big meal. Last year, ReligionWriter.com interviewed Asma Mobi-Uddin, the author of a children’s book on Eid ul Adha, which touched upon the same general topic – the book, The Best Eid Ever, is definitely worth checking out and makes a great gift.

Advertisement

And what would Eid be without the usual confusion about when, exactly, it occurs? I previously blogged on the diversity of interpretations and methods used to find Eid al Fitr, and Eid ul Adha is subject to much the same (though since many muslims observe Eid ul Adha over a span of a few days, the impact is lessened). Mr. Moo, one of my favorite blogs in the Islamsphere, has brilliantly satirized the perennial Eid confusion in an awesome, hysterical little video entitled, Hitler wants a united Eid:

Advertisement

That needs to be required viewing for everyone on Eid ul Adha. Given all the fabric used to make the tent city at Mina, surely they could set up a big screen somewhere near the Jamrah for public viewings?

Also, I found today’s Garfield Minus Garfield to be kind of relevant:

fSymsOGXOhbqonueBWvOdCZ4o1_500.png

On that note, Eid ul Adha Mubarak to everyone, and a special mubarak to all who completed the Hajj this year!

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Related – a picture of Eid in China; Preparing for Eid in Damascus;  struggling with Eid in Gaza; a poem about Hajj then and now; and a childhood memory about two goats named Ateeq and Irfan (whose not-quite-happy ending you can probably predict :)

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