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Jews supporting torched Tampa mosque $18 at a time

The Muslim man who started a crowdfunding page to help repair a mosque in Tampa damaged in an arson attack realized that many of the donors were Jewish after noticing the gifts came in multiples of 18.

Adeel Karim set up the Stand With New Tampa Muslims Against Hate crowdfunding page on the Launchgood website on Feb. 24, the day of the attack in the wee hours of the morning. The fire was put out quickly, but the sprinkler system caused a great deal of water damage.

Karim’s campaign raised nearly $60,000 in less than a week, surpassing its $40,000 goal.

“I couldn’t understand why people were donating in what seemed like weird amounts to the cause. There are sums of 18, 36, 72.00 dollars etc. then I figured out after clicking on the names Avi, Cohen, Gold-stein, Rubin, Fisher…. Jews donate in multiples of 18 as a form of what is called “Chai”. It wishes the recipient a long life,” Karim wrote Monday in a Facebook post.

“You learn something new every day. The Jewish faith has shown up in force to support our New Tampa Islamic community. I’m floored,” the post continued. It concluded with the hashtag #chaidelieverd.

The Islamic Society of New Tampa mosque hosts interfaith events.

A quote on its website reads: “Let us not forget that we are all members of the same human fraternity; our differences are meant to be embraced; our diversity should become our strength if we wholeheartedly commit ourselves to get to know each other because, as Allah has made clear, we are all descendants of one man and one woman.”

Earlier this month, a crowdfunding campaign launched by two Muslim Americans raised over $100,000 for a vandalized Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis.

German neo-Nazis go hipster

Most people don’t picture the typical neo-Nazi cooking vegan food or wearing skinny jeans. But as the neo-Nazi movement in Germany continues to decline in numbers and influence, some Germans are trying to shed their intimidating skinhead image to appeal to a younger generation. That means trading black combat boots for Converse sneakers and Tumblr blogs.

Rolling Stone and NBC News have reported on the neo-Nazi movement’s embrace of digital culture, from its ubiquitous social media presence to its “nipster” (yes, a real slang term used in German media for Nazi hipster) tastes in clothing and music. Nipsters have made their own Harlem Shake video (complete with a sign holder urging viewers to have unprotected sex with Nazis), run a YouTube channel featuring young Nazis demonstrated vegan kitchen techniques, and are even championing environmental issues and women’s rights to court a wider base of followers.

Rolling Stone noted that experts first noted the nipster trend last winter, when people dressed “like Brooklyn hipsters” began showing up at Nazi events:

Experts have noted that the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize. There’s even a vegan Nazi cooking show.

These are not the clever Brooklynites of the Hipster Hitler website, with their Death Camp for Cutie T-shirts and ironic Hitler mustaches. Hipster Hitler makes makes clear they are not in the business of offending people (though it’s hard to believe they’ve succeeded on that front).

The Germans, on the other hand, are all about offending. Patrick Schroeder, the host of a popular neo-Nazi web series and Exhibit A in the Rolling Stone piece, wears a bandana that reads “H8” across his face to go with his tee shirt and jeans.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency estimates there are only 22,000 far-right sympathizers left in the country, far less than the 1990s. The National Democratic Party of Germany, the country’s largest and oldest far-right political party, is running out of money and its public demonstrations have been blocked in recent months by protestors.

However, the dwindling group is still considered dangerous and unapologetically racist. In response to Germany’s high intake of Muslim immigrants in 2014 (the country’s largest influx of immigrants in 17 years, with many coming from Syria and other perilous areas), neo-Nazis have teamed up with anti-Islamic groups like PEGIDA, or the “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamizations of the West.” In October, 5,000 far-right extremists clashed with police to protest what they called the “Islamization” of Germany.

“The right-wing scene in Germany is militant, radical and dangerous,” Felix Benneckenstein, a former neo-Nazi, told NBC News. “And it is now experiencing an upsurge.”


Obama to address unrest over video, Iran at U.N., the White House said

President Barack Obama will address Muslim unrest related to an anti-Islamic video and underscore his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon in his speech to the United Nations this week, the White House said on Monday.

“I would expect the president to address the recent unrest in the Muslim world and the broader context of the democratic transitions of the Arab world,” said Press Secretary Jay Carney about the speech scheduled for Tuesday.

“The United Nations General Assembly presents another opportunity for him to underscore that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon,” Carney added.

Iran to boycott 2013 Oscars over anti-Islamic film

Iran said on Monday it would boycott the 2013 Oscars to protest against the making of a crude anti-Islam video in the United States that has caused outrage throughout the Muslim world.

Despite tough censorship and the repression of leading film makers, Iranian art cinema has earned international acclaim over the past 20 years.

Asghar Farhadi's “A Separation” won the Oscar for best foreign language film in February, the first Iranian film to do so.

Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini said Iran would boycott the next Academy Awards “to protest against the making of a film insulting the Prophet and because of the organisers' failure to take an official position (against the film),” the Iranian Students' News Agency reported.

He also urged other Islamic countries to boycott the Oscars.

The amateurish video, made in California with private financing and posted on YouTube, portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a womaniser and a fool. It has ignited weeks of violent protests across the Muslim world in which dozens of people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been killed.

Iranian officials have demanded that the United States apologise to Muslims, saying the video is only the latest in a series of Western insults aimed at Islam. Washington has condemned the content of the film while defending the right to free speech.

“The position that Western politicians have adopted on these great insults are no different from a position of enmity,” Iranian media quoted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying on Monday.

Reza Mirkarimi's dramatic comedy “A Cube of Sugar” had been chosen as Iran's submission for the 2013 foreign-language Oscar, Hosseini said. (Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Germany wants to ban screening of anti-Muslim movie in Berlin

The German government wants to ban a right-wing group from showing the controversial anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” in the nation's capital.

The right-populist Burgerbewegung pro Deutschland, which reportedly has only a few hundred members, claims it has a full-length copy of the film and wants to show it in a Berlin movie theater or warehouse in November. The party did show the scenes from the film on its website briefly on Monday. Parties in the far-right and right-populist camps share a vehement anti-Islam platform.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that the government must first check to see whether a public screening would endanger public safety, according to reports. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said he expected that the screening would be prohibited for that reason, since it could be seen as a provocation. The release online of a 14-minute trailer dubbed in Arabic has sparked deadly riots and attacks on Western institutions, primarily in Islamic states.

At issue in Germany is whether a ban would amount to an attack on free speech. Merkel and Friedrich have both said that they are not seeking to ban the film outright, but rather its public screening in the capital. Others have argued for a total ban and accused the rightist party with aiming to incite violence. German law prohibits public abuse of religious beliefs with the aim to disturb the peace.

The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Nurhan Soykan, expressed concern that a screening might spark violent attacks there from right-wing and Islamic extremists, and generate racist abuse against Muslims in Germany.

Meanwhile, the German news agency dpa reported that Germany has officially banned right-wing American pastor Terry Jones from entering the country. Jones had been invited by the Pro Deutschland party to show the film in Germany. His act of burning copies of the Koran in 2010 spurred violent protests.

In 2006, Merkel backed the Deutsche Opera in Berlin when it decided, despite warnings from a German law enforcement agency, to go ahead with a staging of  Mozart's “Idomeneo” that included the beheading of Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad and the handing out of the heads to the audience. The performances went off without a problem.

The current controversy involves neither art nor political cartoons, which German law would protect, but a film with the apparent intent to incite fear of Islam and Muslims.

Iran’s supreme leader blames ‘evil Zionists’ for anti-Islam film

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed “evil Zionists” and the U.S. government for the anti-Islam film that has sparked violent protests in Muslim countries.

In a statement issued Thursday, Khamenei said that the film “showed the fury of the evil Zionists at the daily-increasing radiance of Islam and Holy Qur’an in the present world.”

He added that the “prime suspects in this crime are Zionism and the US government” and demanded that American politicians make those behind the film “face a punishment proportionate to this great crime.”

Khamenei’s statement made no mention of the killings in Libya of four U.S. diplomatic personnel, including the American ambassador to the country.

The statement also made no direct mention of false claims by the film’s producer that he was Israeli and that the film was funded by 100 Jews. These claims, initially reported by media outlets that had interviewed the producer via phone, were quickly shown to be false.

An unnamed federal law enforcement official said Thursday that authorities had identified Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Coptic Christian from Southern California who has a criminal record, as the key figure behind the movie.

As of Friday, the English-language website of Iran’s Press TV was continuing to repeat the false reports that Jews were behind the film.

Opinion: Islam navigates the shoals of extremism

Which is the more serious problem today: Islamic extremism or anti-Islamic bigotry?

The latest contribution to this debate comes from The Nation, the leading magazine of America’s left, in its current special edition on “Islamophobia: Anatomy of an American Panic.” Its articles address a real and serious issue — but they also illustrate the pitfalls of ignoring its other side.

There’s no doubt that virulent rhetoric depicting all Islam as inherently evil and violent, and virtually all Muslims as potential jihadists, has gained alarming currency on the right. Such Muslim-bashing is not simply demeaning but also can lead to violence, harassment and infringements on the fundamental liberties of American Muslims. The New York Police Department has been criticized for overly broad surveillance of ordinary Muslims. Recent years have seen a wave of attempts to block construction of mosques and Islamic centers across the country. Bills seeking to outlaw the use of Sharia law in American courts — already illegal if it infringes on citizens’ constitutional rights — could interfere with private contracts rooted in religious law.

Yet nowhere in The Nation will one find recognition that extremism in Islam is a particularly serious problem. One author dismisses the issue by stating that “every group has its loonies.” Another writes that while misogyny and religious repression in some Muslim countries should be denounced, it can be done without generalizing about Islam.

Of course all religions have fringe groups and ideas. But for complex historical and cultural reasons, radicalism in Islam is far closer to the mainstream than in other major religions right now. There is no country today where a Christian government executes people for blasphemy, apostasy or illicit sex; several Muslim states do, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Some supposedly moderate Muslim clerics, such as Qatar-born Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, defend executions of gays, sanction “light” wife beating and peddle hatred of Jews.

Most American Muslims do not share such repugnant views; the Muslim community here is far more integrated into the mainstream than it is in Europe. Yet the problem of radicalization is real. Freedom House, an esteemed human rights organization, reports that many U.S. mosques carry extremist literature. Supposedly moderate Muslim groups such as the Islamic Circle of North America have hosted speakers with extreme ideas. A 2007 Pew poll found that 27 percent of American Muslim men younger than 30 believe suicide terrorism in defense of Islam is at least sometimes justified.

Many American Muslims stress the importance of combating not only anti-Muslim bigotry but also extremism in Muslim ranks. The modernization of Islam is an essential priority for the world. Right-wing Islamophobes such as bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are hostile to this effort, insisting that Islam is beyond reform and any talk of moderation is a deceptive smoke screen.

But where do left-wing defenders of Muslims’ civil rights stand? One of The Nation’s articles attacks philanthropist Nina Rosenwald for bankrolling supposedly Islamophobic causes. Some groups Rosenwald has funded deserve the criticism, but the article also singles out her support for the work of “dissident” Muslims such as Irshad Manji, an openly gay Canadian journalist who argues that Islam must overcome the still-powerful legacy of sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. When a progressive leftist magazine goes after a gay Muslim feminist because she is too outspoken against religious reactionaries, something’s wrong.

Concerns about bigotry are justified. But they should not deter legitimate debate about problems in modern Islam.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine and a columnist at The Boston Globe. She is the author of “Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood.”

Anti-Islam Petition Fails to Sway UCLA

“Islam is NOT a religion.”

“Please understand the danger that Islam poses to our society.”


These and many other similar comments appear alongside the names of more than 1,000 signatories to a petition calling for the Muslim Student Association (MSA) to be banned from the UCLA campus.

The effort, begun in early February, was led by the Calabasas-West Valley chapter of ACT! for America. Spurred by reports on conservative blogs about the 13th annual MSA Western Conference, which took place Jan. 14-16 on UCLA’s campus, the Calabasas group demanded the MSA be prohibited from gathering on campus on the grounds that the group was “advocating the overriding of the authority of the government of the United States.”

“Under the guise of free speech,” Shari Goodman, the Calabasas chapter’s leader, wrote to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, “they [MSA] have for years conducted a campaign to not only delegitimize the state of Israel at numerous campuses throughout the country, but they have also engaged in unprecedented anti-Semitism directed at Jewish students on American college

UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton said the university had been monitoring the petition and would not accede to the request to ban the MSA. “We believe the MSA and its leaders demonstrated exemplary leadership leading up to and during the conference,” Hampton said. “UCLA has a rich tradition of facilitating the free and open exchange of ideas. We do that in an environment that respects differences of opinions.”

Even allies in the fight against Islam have come out against the Calabasas chapter’s petition. David Horowitz, a conservative writer with little love for Islam (and even less for the free speech practiced at many American universities) slammed the petition on his Front Page Mag blog. Calling it “misguided,” even as he reiterated the basic claims on which it was based — namely that the MSA “is a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood” and a “sister organization of the terrorist group Hamas.”

Horowitz also reported that Brigitte Gabriel, the founder, president and CEO of ACT! for America, did not support the campaign by the Calabasas-West Valley chapter, one of 501 individual and autonomous chapters across the country. Gabriel could not be reached for comment.