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Quilliam and other analysts are downplaying Saudi-funded Salafists’ role in US Ambassador’s murder in Libya – by Abdul Nishapuri

Several think tanks and analysts e.g., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Quilliam Foundation, are busy in misinterpreting the tragic murder of the US ambassador to Libya and other diplomats by Takfiri Salafists in Benghazi.

In general, they are ignoring or hiding the following:

1. The institutional support by government and NGOs of Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to Salafist movements across the globe including but not limited to Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Mali, Chechenya and many Western countries;

2. The joint sponsorship and recruitment of Takfiri Salafists by the United States and Saudi Arabia in an opportunistic manner with little regard for war crimes and human rights, e.g., in Afghan Jihad against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, recruitment of Salafist Jihadis to liberate Syria from Bashar Al-Assad regime, removal and murder of Gaddafi from Libya etc.

3. Both Quilliam and Carnegie downplay the Salafist threat to international peace by hiding its increasing momentum and influence, thanks to generous support from Saudi Arabia and GCC countries while the US conveniently looks the other way as long as Saudi Arabia remains a lucrative financial partner and politically subservient state.

4. They hide the fact that Takfiri Salafis who killed US diplomats in Benghazi are the same lot who demolished Sufi shrines in Libya, committed Shia genocide in Pakistan, slaughtered postal workers and other government employees in Syria etc. They also hide that the USA and other Western countries are making similar investments in Syria, as they did in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Read Quilliam Foundation’s press release on the Libya attack and laugh. Do they really deserve wide publicity and financial support which they currently enjoy probably due to their connections with Western intelligence agencies?

Excerpts from Quilliam press release:

“We hope that NATO and the US, will continue their excellent work in Libya which began with the overthrow of dictator Gaddafi.”

“there were just a few peaceful protesters present at the event”

“we have reason to believe that the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi came to avenge the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi”

“These are acts committed by uncontrollable jihadist groups.” [Epic! It’s the Takfiri brand of Salafists, and the KSA is the main sponsor of it.]

“We hope Libya will seize this opportunity to revive its policy of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration (DDR)”

THE ATTACK ON THE US CONSULATE WAS A PLANNED TERRORIST ASSAULT AGAINST US AND LIBYAN INTERESTS

POSTED IN: 2012, PRESS RELEASES | SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 AT 14:37 NO COMMENTS

The military assault against the US Consulate in Benghazi should not be seen as part of a protest against a low budget film which was insulting Islam – there were just a few peaceful protesters present at the event. Indeed, there have been no other demonstrations regarding this film in Libya.

We at Quilliam believe the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was a well planned terrorist attack that would have occurred regardless of the demonstration, to serve another purpose. According to information obtained by Quilliam – from foreign sources and from within Benghazi – we have reason to believe that the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi came to avenge the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s second in command killed a few months ago.

The reasons for this are as follows:

24 hours before this attack, none other than the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a video on Jihadist forums to mark the anniversary of 9/11. In this video, Zawahiri acknowledged the death of his second in command Abu Yahya and urged Libyans to avenge his killing.
According to our sources, the attack was the work of roughly 20 militants, prepared for a military assault – it is rare that an RPG7 is present at a peaceful protest.
According to our sources, the attack against the Consulate had two waves. The first attack led to US officials being evacuated from the consulate by Libyan security forces, only for the second wave to be launched against US officials after they were kept in a secure location.
The weak security environment in Libya including in Benghazi and the failure of the government to project its power outside of the capital have been used as a cover for the attack.

The failure to rebuild the defence and security sector, in an accountable, professional and responsible manner will only further the likelihood of such attacks in the future. Attacks in Benghazi are not new – the Red Cross has been attacked multiple times in previous months, as have the US consulate and also the UK Ambassador, and such security lapses encourage attacks. The International Community must take the challenge of not allowing extremist elements to hijack the Arab Uprisings very seriously, by renewing their focus on civic and governance responses to check the efforts of Islamist extremists attempting to exploit the inevitable security vacuum.

Noman Benotman, President of Quilliam says:

“These are acts committed by uncontrollable jihadist groups. We hope Libya will seize this opportunity to revive its policy of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration (DDR) in order to facilitate an end to the spread of such attacks, with the help of the International Community. We hope that the International Community, including NATO member states and especially the US, will continue their excellent work in Libya which began with the overthrow of the dictator Gaddafi after 42 years in power.

http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/press-releases/the-attack-on-the-us-consulate-was-a-planned-terrorist-assault-against-us-and-libyan-interests/

Did you notice what was missing in Quilliam’s report on the Benghazi attack? It de-contextualized the increasing Salafist role in Libya!

It wiped out that Sufi Sunnis and their shrines are being systematically attacked by Takfiri Salafis in Libya and other Arab countries.

It also wiped out the increasing cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia in sponsoring Takfir Salafist militants.

Did you notice how slavishly it appreciates the NATO and the US, asking them to continue their excellent work in Libya?

Will Quilliam Foundation be transparent about its “sources” in Libya, Syria and other countries?

Will it publish sources of its funding and also nature of contact with Saudi and Western intelligence agencies?

Will it also explain why it continues to misrepresent Shia genocide at the hands of Salafi-Deobandi Takfiris in Pakistan as Sunni-Shia sectarian violence?

There is not much difference in two ex-Jihadis: Saleem Safi of Pakistan and Majid Nawaz of Quilliam UK. Both grossly misinterpret and understate Takfiri Salafist threat.

It’s important to realize that Saudi Salafists (Takfiri Deobandis in Pakistan) and commercially driven think tanks are misleading USA and other Western countries to hell.

Video: U.S. Envoy’s message to Libyan people

Video: U.S. Envoy to Libya Christopher Stevens Killed in Attack – Libya 9/11

The Body of Ambassador Chris Stevens in a Benghazi Morgue

US ambassador Stephens app killed in Benghazi was US envoy with rebels b4 i.e. he was instrumental to Q overthrow. Nice way to say thanks (via Gert Van Langendonck)

We condemn murder of Ambassador JC Stevens in Libya and urge Obama Administration to cut all ties with evil Saudi Salafi Kingdom and take urgent steps to install a democratic regime in Saudi Arabia.

Lessons For US from Libya, Egypt and AfPak: Think again before sponsoring Takfiri militants.

US diplomats are being killed/attacked in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia etc. Common element: Takfiri Salafis sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

Obama Administration must realize they are fighting symptoms in Afghanistan while the root cause thrives in Saudi Arabia. More importantly, Obama should tell us when will he stop sponsoring Saudis, the key sponsors of Salafi Takfiri ideology.

Takfiri ideology came to Pakistan thanks to Arab Salafists. Takfir was institutionalized when Deobandi seminaries in Pakistan were misappropriated by Saudi-CIA-ISI trio during Afghan Jihad. Senator Kerry said that Wahabism creates terrorists but KSA remains their ally due to Saudi-lobby’s influence in White House. Saudi lobby remains a major financier of various think tanks and lobbyists.

Benazir Bhutto’s was the most powerful voice against Takfiri terrorists in Pakistan. They killed her and then water-hosed evidence.

Example of Takfiri Salafist Deobandis of Pakistan:

Pakistan: Shia genocide by Salafist Deobandis

Syria: Video exclusive: Inside Syria’s Farouk brigade: Salafists sponsored/financed by Saudi Arabia, GCC, USA

http://counterpsyops.com/2012/09/12/syria-video-exclusive-inside-syrias-farouk-brigade-salafists/

Pictures of Salafist protesters in Cairo

http://world.time.com/2012/09/11/protesters-scale-u-s-embassy-walls-tear-down-american-flag/#protesters-destroy-american-flag-pulled-down-from-us-embassy-in-cairo

Back in 1998, The world looked the other way when 9 Iranian diplomats were slaughtered by Saudi-backed Salafi Taliban in Afghanistan. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/11/world/iran-holds-taliban-responsible-for-9-diplomats-deaths.html

We cannot afford to show selective morality on attacks on diplomats. It serves no country, no religion.

What is happening in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia has its roots in evil Takfiri Salafist ideology.

Dig a bit further, the Slafists attackers in Benghazi might have been trained at an FSA base in Turkey under the watchful eyes of CIA.

“He was, he said, a “moderate Salafist”, but in the Turkish refugee camps had met a Libyan sheikh…”

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-syrias-road-from-jihad-to-prison-8100749.html

The above link (article by Robert Fisk) shows how CIA might have imported Takfiri Salafists from Libya to do the legwork in Syria via Turkey. Myopic strategies always backfire.

What happened in Libya is a friendly fire from Salafi Jihadists used in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. However, I have not read, so far, a single piece which seriously questions the joint US-Saudi sponsorship of Salafis.

Quilliam and other similar dubious organizations and individuals continue to obfuscate due to financial or political reasons.

It is important to realize that Jews, Shias and Sufi Sunnis face common enemy: Takfiri Salafis-Deobandis. The following two videos are an evidence:

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/al-qaeda-releases-video-american-hostage/story?id=17221075

http://criticalppp.com/archives/224853

Appendix: Some relevant articles/excerpts that highlight the Takfiri Salafist network

If Muammar Gaddafi were still alive, he might give a bitter laugh at the news that the US ambassador to Libya has been killed in Benghazi. Hosni Mubarak, in his prison hospital, would growl a wry “I told you so” after the attack on the fortress-like American embassy in Cairo. Two onslaughts in two of the cities that witnessed the historic drama of the Arab spring last year do not an Islamist winter make. But both underline the glowering and dangerous presence of the sort of radical Muslim Salafist fundamentalists whom the old regimes kept at bay and are now free to pursue their agendas. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/12/us-consulate-attack-libya-gaddafi?CMP=twt_gu

The US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when local militia ass
aulted Washington’s consulate in Benghazi. Reports from various sources paint an unclear picture of the circumstances surrounding Ambassador John Christopher Steven’s death. A group of Takfiri Salafist militia members stormed Benghazi’s US consulate on Tuesday night. Stevens may not have been killed in the Tuesday night assault, however, but rather when a second mob attacked his motorcade as it was leaving Benghazi Wednesday morning, the Guardian said. Libyan officials alleged that Islamist militants fired rockets at Steven’s car, killing him and three other embassy staffers. Witnesses cited by local media claimed that members of the hardline Salafist group Ansar Al-Sharia were among the ranks of the attackers. Tunisian Salafis are now calling for an attack on their country’s US embassy, Tunisian media outlets said. Salafis militants had previously attempted to attack the embassy, but were repelled by security forces. Many in the region believe another attack is imminent.http://rt.com/news/us-ambassador-libya-killed-946/

THE murder of Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, along with three of his colleagues at his consulate in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, was not an isolated instance of violence directed against Westerners since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime nearly a year ago. In the past few months the British ambassador’s convoy on a visit to Benghazi has been attacked. So have the offices of the Red Cross and the UN in that city, the cradle of the Libyan revolution. The perpetrators of all those crimes were thought to be Salafists espousing an extreme fundamentalist version of Islam that harks back to the days of the Prophet Muhammad.

In the past few weeks Salafists have also attacked shrines in Tripoli, the capital, and elsewhere in Libya that have been venerated for centuries by Sufis, who practise a mystical form of Islam that many puritans consider idolatrous. One such shrine, honouring al-Shaab al-Dahmani, was in full view of the Radisson Blu Hotel, a favourite venue for visiting foreign bigwigs and prominent Libyans. What astonished them was that the destroyers of the shrine were allowed, over a period of 48 hours, to pillage and bulldoze the site without the ministry of interior or its police apparently lifting a finger to stop them.

This suggests either that the extreme Islamists typified by the Salafists have friends in high places protecting them… http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2012/09/libya

“One of the major features of the Arab uprisings is the emergence of ultraconservative Salafi groups,” says Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East specialist at the London School of Economics, contacted in Paris. “They are extremely hyper, extremely anti-American, extremely blinded by the sunshine of the open political atmosphere. The Salafis now are the wild card in Arab and Muslim politics, in Libya, in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia. In Syria, they are … becoming a major factor in the [antiregime] equation.” Still, the attack confirms the trend building over the past 1-1/2 years, the “rise of Salafi extremists who operate outside the legal and political arena, and they have their own rules,” says Hamid. “It’s been a problem in Tunisia, in Libya, and increasingly in Egypt as well, that with greater political freedoms Salafis have come out of the woodwork and have asserted themselves.” http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0912/Libya-attack-graphically-marks-rise-of-fundamentalist-Muslims

Libya – like other Arab countries grappling with instability – has seen radicalised Salafi and jihadi elements gain traction. They had a strong showing in recent elections, and some have managed to form militias capable of posing a threat to domestic foes or, in this case, a foreign embassy.
The security threat posed by such radicalised militias comes as no surprise to Libyans, It is important to note that Salafi Islamists represent a minority in the Arab world. Many have joined the transition process, either as rebels or as participants in electoral – and ultimately democratic – politics. Incidents like the reaction to the film whose anti-Muslim sentiments may have sparked the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi -reminiscent of the Danish cartoon controversy in 2005 – enable these radicalised elements of Arab society to project power and influence far beyond their numbers. And they will likely use this incident to characterise the rising Islamist parties in the Arab world – from both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups – as dangerous potential enemies of the United States. http://www.carnegieendowment.org/2012/09/13/us-arab-relations-will-be-defined-by-reaction-to-attack/dtan

More recently, Salafist groups have destroyed Sufi shrines throughout the country, sparking outrage and dismay but no forceful government reaction and leading some skeptical Libyans to think that elements of the Libyan government were in cahoots with Salafists or at least sympathetic to them.

In the early days of the revolution in Libya, there were questions about whether al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group, would take advantage of the lawlessness in Libya. At the time, I argued that it was unlikely that AQIM would decamp from northwestern Mali to Libya, but instead it was likely that new radical Salafi groups would emerge in Libya. It now appears that there are at least two radical Salafi groups, if not more, that are either avowed allies of al-Qaeda or at least share al-Qaeda’s salafi jihadi ideology. The first, which carried out the attack on the US consulate in June, was called the Brigade for the Release of the Imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdulrahman, named after the alleged mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. The second group is Ansar al-Sharia, the Victors of Sharia. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/geoff-d-porter/libya-salafi-violence_b_1877462.html

Violent extremists have formed a number of small organizations under the umbrella of Salafism. One of those groups, called Ansar al-Sharia, is a likely suspect in the fatal attack on Tuesday. For Libya, the crux of this problem is not religious extremism so much as weak national security. These small groups of militants have infiltrated police networks and gained access to Libya’s admittedly abundant weaponry with disturbing ease.

And Tuesday was not an isolated incident; Salafists have carried out many attacks targeting both Libyans and foreigners in recent months. Sufi shrines have become frequent targets, as Salafists consider that branch of Islam to be idolatrous.http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/383649/20120912/benghazi-consulate-attack-salafist-libya-stevens.htm

Also worrisome is the link between Salafists (whose posters disturbingly appear in Cairo neighborhoods near Heliopolis populated by members of the military) and the more violently takfiri wing, which believes it’s permissible to kill apostate Muslims, and has links with al Qaeda. The takfiris hate the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, if that’s any consolation. The delicate political balance in Egypt and Libya makes the blunderbuss campaign rhetoric of Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, especially unfortunate. His comments make this crisis more “about America” than it needs to be.
Let’s return to the main trigger for these events: It’s the success of the tolerably non-extremist (I won’t say “moderate”) governments in Egypt and Libya in consolidating power, and the anger of the more radical Salafists at this success. Morsi, for example, has just won pledges of billions in financial support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Opportunism-by-Salafist-extremists-3861095.php#ixzz26KQPhzGX

Any number of other Libyan armed groups might have had a hand in the killings. But in truth, responsibility may also be traced back, directly or indirectly, to those in London, Paris, Brussels and Washington who launched last year’s Nato intervention in Libya with insouciant disregard for the consequences. It was clear then, or should have been, that toppling Muammar Gaddafi was the easy bit. Preventing an Iraq-style implosion, or some form of Afghan anarchy, would be much harder. Research published in June by the Small Arms Survey suggested that the emergence and influence of armed groups challenging national government and army was accelerating rapidly. The survey identified four distinct types including experienced revolutionary brigades accounting for up to 85% of all weapons not controlled by the state and myriad militias – loosely defined as armed gangs, criminal networks and religious extremists bent on exploiting post-revolution weakness. A power struggle is now under way between the Libyan army and these various groups, and while some play a constructive role, others threaten the future of the Libyan state, the survey said. In Misrata, for example, in addition to about 30,000 small arms, revolutionary brigades “control more than 820 tanks, dozens of heavy artillery pieces, and more than 2,300 vehicles equipped with machine-guns and anti-aircraft weapons.” Misrata, scene of some of the worst fighting last year, has become a state within a state.

In its weakened condition, politically and economically, Libya appears especially vulnerable to extremist ideology and foreign influence. In an echo of Taliban depredations, the Salafists who besieged the Benghazi consulate have also been involved in a wave of attacks on historic Sufi mosques and libraries and attempts to intimidate female university students who eschew the hijab.

In this they are reportedly encouraged by a Saudi-based scholar, Sheik Mohamed Al-Madkhalee, who issued a fatwa praising the desecration of Sufi graves and urging Libyan Salafists to do more to clear the country of the taint of Sufi worship. According to author Jamie Dettmer writing in the Daily Beast, the Libyan government has complained to Riyadh about al-Madkhalee, but to no avail.http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/12/libyan-attack-fire-cannot-extinguish

Another Libyan official told CNN at the same time that five radical Islamist militant commanders were operating in the Derna area, with 200 to 300 men under their command in camps in the area. Ironically, Christopher Stevens — the U.S. ambassador killed in Tuesday’s attack — had written extensively about the rise of Salafist factions in and around Derna in a 2008 diplomatic cable. factions in and around Derna in a 2008 diplomatic cable.
As CNN has previously reported, one of militant commanders, according to several sources, is Abdulbasit Azuz, a long-time associate of al-Zawahiri. Azuz was dispatched by al-Zawahiri to Libya from Pakistan’s tribal areas in the spring of 2011 to create a foothold for al Qaeda in Libya, the sources say.

Azuz is a veteran jihadist who fought the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, according to several sources. He later moved to the United Kingdom, where he increasingly came on the radar screen of British security services for his radical recruitment efforts in Manchester.

In the period after the July 2005 London bombings, he was detained in the Belmarsh high-security prison and placed under a control order, according to the sources. He left the United Kingdom in 2009 and traveled to the tribal areas of Pakistan, according to the sources. According to one source, Azuz has dispatched men as far west as Ajdabiya and Brega in his attempt to build up al Qaeda operations in eastern Libya. According to Libyan security sources, within the militant ranks in Derna there are 20 to 30 hardcore jihadist fighters who are cause for most concern. One source said a number of Egyptian jihadists are also present in the Derna area, as well as fighters belonging to al Qaeda’s North African affiliate, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Another militant whose activities have caused concern in eastern Libya is Sufian bin Qumu, a released Guantanamo detainee who is believed to be operating a camp in a remote area outside Derna. His detainee assessment at the prison camp described him as having a “long-term association with Islamist extremist Jihad and members of Al-Qaida and other extremist groups.” Collectively, some of the Salafist and jihadist elements in eastern Libya began to become known as Ansar al Sharia, or “Partisans of Sharia.” According to reports, eyewitnesses have claimed Ansar al Sharia was responsible for organizing the demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate.

But Benotman (of Quilliam Foundation UK) told CNN Ansar al Sharia is not really a grouping at all but rather a term applied to an amorphous coalition of Islamist and Salafist groups in eastern Libya with no leadership structure. Despite concerns over the growing audacity of Salafist-jihadist groups, the victory of secular parties in elections in July had created a measure of optimism about Libya’s future. Benotman tells CNN the reality is that a large majority of Libyans, including the majority of Islamists, are opposed to al Qaeda’s ideology of global jihad. He predicts a backlash against the perpetrators of the attack. “People will curse them for this,” he told CNN.http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/12/world/africa/libya-attack-jihadists/index.html

Unesco urges end to attacks on Libyan Sufi mosques, graves
Aug 30, 2012

PARIS: The United Nations cultural agency Unesco has urged Libyan authorities to protect Sufi mosques and shrines under repeated attack by hardline Islamists who consider the traditional mystical school of Islam heretical. Unesco director-general Irina Bokova said late on Tuesday the attacks, which have wrecked mosques in at least three cities and desecrated many graves of revered Sufi scholars, “must be halted if Libyan society is to complete its transition to democracy”.

Libya’s interior minister said on Tuesday he would not risk a clash with the armed men carrying out the sectarian assaults, in an unusually candid admission of the scale of the security challenge facing the country.

The League of Libyan Ulema, a group of more than 200 Muslim scholars, on Tuesday evening blamed the attacks on Libyan Salafi militants inspired by radical Saudi preachers. “This group has repeatedly attempted to undermine the stability of our country,” it said. Niger, where Saadi Gaddafi took refuge after his father was overthrown, has refused to extradite him despite requests from Tripoli. Sufi theologian Aref Ali Nayed said Libya had not seen such attacks for centuries. “Even Mussolini’s fascists did not treat our spiritual heritage with such contempt,” he said, referring to Italy’s occupation of Libya from 1911 until World War II.

After destroying shrines in Zlitan, Tripoli and Misrata at the weekend, crews of armed men desecrated graves at a mosque and madrasa in the capital’s old city on Monday and Tuesday. Militant Salafis, kept in check under the dictators overthrown in the Arab Spring, have campaigned over the past year to stamp out what they see as idolatry in traditional Sufi mosques and shrines in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.

The destruction in Libya mirrors the 2001 dynamiting of two giant Buddha statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the sacking of Sufi tombs in Timbuktu in July after the hardline Ansar Dine group seized power in northern Mali.

Unesco’s Bokova said the Paris-based organisation “stands ready to provide assistance to protect and rehabilitate” the Libyan sites destroyed or now under threat. “Destroying places of religious and cultural significance cannot be tolerated,” she said in a statement. Many of the Ottoman-era Sufi shrines and lodges in Libya have a room or yard with graves of revered saints, scholars or benefactors. Attackers usually dig up these graves and dump the bodies elsewhere, infuriating the shocked Sufis.

The League of Libyan Ulema (Muslim scholars) urged Tripoli “to pressure the government of Saudi Arabia to restrain its clerics who meddle in our affairs” by training young Libyans in Salafism and spreading the ideology through books and tapes. It also urged Libyans to protect Sufi sites by force. Nayed, who lectures at the old Uthman Pasha madrasa that was desecrated on Tuesday evening, said the attackers were “Wahhabi hooligans (and) all sorts of pseudo-Salafi elements” while government security officials were “complacent and impotent”. “Libya has to make a clear choice – either a Taliban/Shabaab-style religious fanaticism or a true Muslim moral and spiritual civility,” he told Reuters. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-30/middle-east/33498070_1_muslim-scholars-libyan-sites-misrata

The attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt exposed how rising hard-line Islamist movements have cowed and frustrated security forces in the nascent democracies of the so-called Arab Spring.

An ultraconservative Salafi Islamist group is a target of U.S. and Libyan inquiries into the deadly strike on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Salafis, once hidden, have stormed onto the political scenes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya—three North African countries that sparked the wave of pro-democracy protests that have upended the Arab world.

The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed when suspected Libyan religious extremists stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday night, according to Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagour.

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney issues a statement on the attack of the American Embassy in Libya, saying that America must strive to ensure the ‘Arab Spring’ doesn’t become the ‘Arab Winter.’

While many have run for office and joined the political mainstream, ragtag groups of unaffiliated Salafis have taken to the streets to intimidate, and in some cases attack, people they regard as sinful.

Most worrying for liberals in all three countries is that the Salafis appear to them to be acting with impunity. Secular-minded activists complain that when it comes to policing religious extremists, police consistently arrive late, hold few perpetrators to account and avoid direct confrontation. Police reluctance comes as Islamist forces are gaining political power, the activists say

At the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday night, hundreds of police in riot gear were unable to block a handful of protesters from breaching the embassy walls. After Salafi leaders convinced the demonstrators to leave the compound, security forces sat by as protesters waved Islamist banners from atop the embassy’s security wall. Prosecutors on Wednesday released the four people who were detained during the demonstration, saying investigations would continue.

In Libya, a mob of hundreds of men, some of whom identified themselves as members of a Salafi fighting group called Ansar al Sharia, overwhelmed the handful of Libyan security guards outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday night.

Libyan and U.S. security officials exchanged fire with the armed mob, but none of the attackers were detained, though Libyan forces helped evacuate civilians in the area and, later, the U.S. Consulate personnel.

“This shows the erosion of state authority,” said Amna Guellali, a researcher on Tunisia for the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch. “It’s quite systematic in all these incidents: The state reaction is either late or doesn’t come at all.”

Ms. Guellali and other analysts blame the inaction on a toxic mix of weakness, fear and complicity.

The chaotic aftermaths of the pro-democracy revolutions nearly broke the security forces in all three countries. But police officers’ tendency to give way to Islamist groups may point to a lingering fear of blowback.

“This is an apparatus, both here and Libya, that were at war with the Islamists,” said Omar Ashour, an expert on political Islam and the director of the Middle East program at Exeter University in the U.K. “Now the ones who were victimized by the police are either in power or about to be in power. Therefore the police are quite hesitant to do brutal crackdowns.”

In Egypt and Tunisia, police have used tear gas, truncheons and bullets to subdue demonstrations by left-wing protesters and secular activists. Five people were injured last week when police deployed tear gas to keep activists from invading the Syrian Embassy to hoist the Free Syrian Army flag.

“This follows a pattern formed under [Hosni] Mubarak, that force can be used on stigmatize-able groups: Youth, Coptic Christians—the cast of characters we’ve seen clamped down on,” said Michael Hanna, an Egypt expert at the New York-based Century Foundation. “But demonstrating Islamists have free rein.”

Though Egypt’s security personnel were historically vetted and purged to exclude Islamists, some security chiefs and rank-and-file personnel may be siding with Islamist protesters, said Mohamed Ali Bilal, a former Egyptian general and a security expert. “Undoubtedly, there was sympathy,” Mr. Bilal said.The police “knew these protesters were right.”

Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, has yet to condemn the invasion of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Gehad al-Haddad, an adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said he was in touch with the president’s office throughout Tuesday, and that every care was taken to protect U.S. Embassy staff. The executive office ordered police reinforcements and later, a small military deployment, Mr. Haddad said.

Whereas the Brotherhood is seen as a more practical, moderate group whose members adhere to an institutional hierarchy, Salafis conform to conservative styles of dress, believing that mimicking the life of the Prophet Muhammad and his contemporaries will lead them to salvation. Aiming to achieve the earthly moral paradise promised in the Quran, Salafis take an uncompromising view toward enforcing their view of good behavior in others.

Tunisia and Libya in particular have seen an abrupt increase in the Salafis’ sanctimonious torment, though it has rarely reached the level of violence seen Tuesday night in Cairo and Benghazi, where four U.S. diplomats were killed.

Over the past month, Salafi groups have smashed, burned and destroyed several of Libya’s historic shrines that they believed to be blasphemous, and demolished the graves of revered Islamic holy men whose beliefs contravened Salafi strictures. Libyan officials denounced the destruction, but no one has been arrested for the vandalism.

In Tunisia, police have done little to stop groups of Salafi youth armed with truncheons from policing beaches, art galleries and theaters to stop what they consider philanderers and inappropriate media.

In Egypt, many observers blame Salafis for an uptick in tension between Muslims and Christians. Salafi leaders and television preachers have stoked violence by accusing Egypt’s Coptic Christians of kidnapping Christian women to prevent them from converting to Islam.

In Syria, too, Salafi groups are among the wide-ranging elements of rebel fighters and have sometimes have had tensions with other groups.

In several incidents over the past year, local Salafi leaders and well-known television preachers have stoked violence by accusing members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority of kidnapping Christian women to prevent them from converting to Islam.

Though dozens of people have died in attacks on Christian homes and churches, Christians note that almost no perpetrators have been held to account. Police normally try to resolve the tensions through a kind of extrajudicial community mediation that rarely leads to punishment.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443696604577647753055958144.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

The crowds in both Cairo and Benghazi included not only radical Islamists, but also groups such as Egypt’s Ultras, the soccer fan club that played an important role in the 2011 revolution. The media has concentrated on the presence of bearded men and black flags to paint these protests as the work of Salafis, and to point the finger at Ansar al-Shariah and other fringe groups. The black flag (the banner of the eagle) does not, of course, belong solely to al-Qaeda or even to Islamic radicalism. It has become a commonplace symbol used by those who want a more robust Islamic presence in the public sphere as well as by those who want to live under an Islamic theocracy. Both claim the flag, so its presence is not conclusive about the currents that took part in this, and other such events. It will take time to fully understand the roots of such violent acts, after careful forensic reporting on those who came to the protests. Nevertheless, some preliminary observations can be made regarding the ongoing social convulsions, at least in the Libyan case.

This is not the first such protest in Benghazi, the eastern city of Libya. Over the course of this year, tumult has been the order of the day. In January, a crowd stormed the headquarters of the National Transitional Council. In April, a bomb was thrown at a convoy that included the head of the UN Mission to Libya, and another bomb exploded at a courthouse. In May, a rocket was fired at the Red Cross office. A convoy carrying the head of the British consulate was attacked in June, and since then the consulate has been abandoned. In August, a pipe bomb exploded in front of the US consulate building.http://www.eurasiareview.com/13092012-humiliation-and-rage-in-libya-oped/

The Salafi Moment
As the death of a U.S. ambassador in Libya demonstrates, the ultraconservative Salafi movement is pushing to the forefront in the politics of the Middle East. The West should be careful how it reacts.
BY CHRISTIAN CARYL | SEPTEMBER 12, 2012

By now you’ve probably heard. Just a few hours after an angry mob of ultraconservative Muslimsstormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed during a protest in the city of Benghazi. Both riots were provoked by the news that an anti-Muslim group in the United States has released a film that insults the Prophet Mohammed. In Egypt, the protestors hauled down the U.S. flag and replaced it with the same black banner sometimes used by Al Qaeda. Shades of Iran, 1979. Scary stuff.

Both attacks are utterly outrageous. But perhaps the United States shouldn’t have been caught completely off guard. The rioters in both cases come from the region’s burgeoning Salafi movement, and the Salafis have been in the headlines a lot lately. In Libya, over the past few months, they’ve been challenging the recently elected government by demolishing ancient Sufi shrines, which they deem to be insufficiently Islamic. In Tunisia, they’ve been attacking businesses that sell alcohol and instigating nasty social media campaigns about the country’s female competitors in the Olympics. In Syria’s civil war, there are increasingreports that the opposition’s wealthy Gulf financiers have been channeling cash to Salafi groups, whose strict interpretation of Islam is considered close to the puritanical Wahhabism of the Saudis and others. Lately Salafi groups have been gaining fresh prominence in parts of the Islamic world — from Mali to Lebanon, from Kashmir to Russia’s North Caucasus.

Some — like journalist Robin Wright, who recently wrote a New York Times op-ed on the subject — say that this means we should be really, really worried. Painting a picture of a new “Salafi crescent” ranging from the Persian Gulf to North Africa, she worries that this bodes ill for newly won freedoms after the revolutions of 2011. Calling the rise of the new Salafi groups “one of the most underappreciated and disturbing byproducts of the Arab revolts,” Wright says that they’re now “moving into the political space once occupied by jihadi militants, who are now less in vogue.” “[S]ome Islamists are more hazardous to Western interests and values than others,” she writes. “The Salafis are most averse to minority and women’s rights.”[[LATEST]]

” The only thing that unites them, he argues, is their interest in returning to the beliefs and practices of the original Islamic community founded by the Prophet Mohammed — a desire that, in itself, is shared by quite a few mainstream Muslims. (The Arabic word salaf, meaning “predecessors” or “ancestors,” refers to the original companions of the Prophet.)

If the first death of a U.S. ambassador in two decades is any indication, it’s probably time that the world starts paying attention to this debate. I think there are several points worth mentioning.

First of all, however we define them, these new “populist puritans” (as Wright aptly refers to them) are enjoying an extraordinary boom. Though solid numbers are hard to come by, they’re routinely described as the fastest-growing movement in modern-day Islam. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s Salafis barely figured in the political landscape during the Mubarak years — then stormed onto the scene to capture a quarter of the vote in the country’s first democratic election last year. Their share of the vote could well increase, given that the new Brotherhood-led government is likely to have problems making good on the ambitious promises it’s made to Egyptian voters over the past year. Their rapid rise in Tunisia is especially startling, given that country’s relatively relaxed atmosphere toward religion.

The Salafi notion of returning to the purity of 7th-century Islam can have the same kind of draw for some Muslims exasperated by everyday corruption and abusive rule. Syria offers a good example. If you’re going up against Bashar al-Assad’s helicopter gunships armed with an antique rifle and a few rusty bullets, you’ll probably prefer to go into battle with a simple slogan on your lips. “Power sharing for all ethnic groups in a liberal parliamentary democracy” might not cut it — especially if you happen to be a Sunni who’s seen your relatives cut down by Assad’s murderous militias. This isn’t to say that the opposition is now dominated by Salafis; far from it. But it’s safe to assume that the longer the war goes on, the more pronounced the extremes will become.

At the same time, the Sunni Salafis are a major factor in the growing global polarization of the Islamic community between Shiites and Sunnis. (The French scholar of Islam Olivier Roy arguesthat the intra-Muslim rivalry between the two groups has now become even more important than the presumed confrontation between Islam and the West.) The fact that many Salafis in various parts of the world get their financing from similarly conservative elements in Saudi Arabia doesn’t help. Perversely enough, Iranian propaganda is already trying to portray the West as backers of Salafi extremism in order to destabilize Tehran and its allies. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this sort of thing in the future, I’m afraid.

In short, no one should count on the Salafis to go away any time soon. Don’t allow radicals to dictate the rules for everyone else. This is why the outcome of the current political conflicts in Tunisia and Libya are extremely important for the region as a whole. In both countries, voters have now had the opportunity to declare their political preferences in free elections, and they have delivered pretty clear messages. Libyans voted overwhelmingly for secular politicians, while Tunisians chose a mix of moderate Islamists and secularists. But the Salafis in both places don’t seem content to leave it at that, and are trying to foment instability by instigating a culture war. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/12/the_salafi_moment?page=0,2

Ambassador Steven’s death is a collateral damage in the US-Saudi joint project to spread Salafism in the world. The project will go on as long as there is enough oil in the KSA. The collateral damage is regretted.

Source : http://criticalppp.com/archives/228031

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