British ex-jihadi recruiter denounces ISIS, al-Qaeda


Abu Muntasir in Deeyah Khan’s television documentary: 'If people want to call me a coward, fine – I’m a coward.' Photograph: ITV

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

‘Recruiter’ of UK jihadis: I regret opening the way to Isis

Abu Muntasir sobs on TV documentary as he tells of raising funds and recruiting fighters before turning his back on violence

Tracy McVeigh

Saturday 13 June 2015 22.03 BST

The “godfather” of the British jihadi movement, who recruited dozens of young men to fight in foreign wars, has said he now regrets opening the way for people to join terror groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida.

Abu Muntasir, 55, who lives in Suffolk, was one of the first influential propagandists in the UK for a radical Islamist message. Active in the 1980s and 1990s, he helped to radicalise “thousands” of young Muslims, encouraging many of them to travel to fight in wars in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Burma, Bosnia and Chechnya.

Among the first to invite speakers to the UK from abroad who preached violence and hatred to disaffected Muslims, he distributed speeches from hate preachers Ali al-Timimi, now serving a life sentence in the US for inciting terrorism, and the late Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a controversial CIA drone attack in Yemen that also left his children dead.

In a documentary by Emmy-winning film-maker Deeyah Khan to be shown on ITV this week, Muntasir and several former extremists speak of their deep regret at the decisions of hundreds of UK Muslims to travel to join Isis in Syria and Iraq, and of their efforts to educate young people away from the same paths they followed as angry young men.

Muntasir, who is seen sobbing in the film as he recounts the horrors of his own days on battlefields in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Burma, is described as one of the “founding fathers of western jihad” and admitted that he worked to “create the link and clear the paths. I came back [from war] and opened the door and the trickle turned to a flood. I inspired and recruited, I raised funds and bought weapons, not just a one-off but for 15 to 20 years. Why I have never been arrested I don’t know.”

A comment at the Observer site on this article says on this:

Good point. Why wasn’t he arrested? Has anyone from the security services been asked that question?

Maybe the answer is that at some stages, organisations like al-Qaeda were and are allies of secret services and armed forces of NATO countries.

The Observer article continues:

He said it was not until he realised, while fighting in the jungles of Burma with armed resistance groups, that what was going on was not a holy war, but nothing less than the butchery and exploitation of young Muslims, that he turned his back on violence. “If people want to call me a coward, fine – I’m a coward.”

Muntasir, founder and chief executive of Jimas, said it was time for people who supported Islamic extremism to ask why their sons and daughters were being blown up for false ideals in “unwinnable wars”. Hate, he said, is not what Islam or the prophet taught.

“It was a virus with which we infected a generation. Now it has proliferated,” said one of Muntasir’s former followers, Alyas Karmani, now a peace campaigner, youth worker and imam in Bradford. He said the psychology used by Isis to groom youngsters is similar to that which Muntasir used to bring in followers.

“He was a charismatic father figure. It was exciting and there was an energy. I was an activist, never an extremist. For me I always had an inner voice telling me that a lot of this is not right.

“But I was angry. I had a very violent dad. I had a lot of racism. I was angry and frustrated. So we planted this virus. And the kids today have caught it.

“It’s the same attraction then as it is for young people now. A range of factors that is the same for Muslims and non-Muslims. Young people want to change the world, to feel loved and have a sense of belonging, a sense of attachment. That might just be in a foreign field.”

Speaking to the Observer, Karmani said that to tackle the numbers of young people leaving the UK for Syria, Iraq and Libya, it was important that the debate should change to understanding the human elements at play.

“It’s not about ideals – 90% of them never subscribe to the ideals – it’s other factors that are a draw. This is the new rock and roll; jihad is sexy. The kid who was not very good-looking now looks good holding a gun. He can get a bride now, he’s powerful. The Isis gun is as much a penis extension as the stockbroker with his Ferrari.

“There is a fundamental disconnect with our young people. Youth work used to be a brilliant vehicle but that’s all gone in the cuts, so who connects with young people now?”

He said many first- and second-generation immigrants were forced to live double lives. “I do blame the parents. If their kids aren’t able to talk about what’s going on in their lives outside the house, that’s a massive problem.

“If they have to be repressed about sex, about their friendships, who are they going to talk to? It makes them exposed and vulnerable. We have to stop seeing Muslims as ‘other’. They’re not. See them as the same.”

In making the film, Khan, “born in the west to parents from the east” and forced to give up a singing career because of extremists’ threats to her and her family, said she had been shocked by many attitudes she found in talking to young people across the UK: “I was horrified to find so many people with backgrounds like mine turning to extremism.”

Exposure: Jihad – A British Story will be on ITV at 10.40pm on 15 June.

Al Qaeda massacre of Syrian Druze


This 2008 video is called The Druze Religion.

From daily The Morning Star in Britan:

Syria: Jihadists slaughter 30 Druze villagers

Friday 12th June 2015

SYRIAN anti-government militants linked to al-Qaida have massacred some 30 Druze villagers.

The killings happened on Wednesday in the Druze village of Qalb Lawzeh in the Jabal al-Summaq region after the Nusra Front tried to seize the home of a Druze government official.

The militants shot a villager dead, prompting another to grab one of the fighters’ rifles and kill a member of the jihadist group.

The Nusra Front group later returned with reinforcements and opened fire, killing dozens of residents.

Syrian news agency Sana said that 30 died in the “horrible massacre,” including five members of the same family, adding that the Nusra Front burned down several homes.

Lebanese Druze leader Sheikh Naim Hassan condemned the killings and said that efforts were being made to “contain this regrettable and painful incident.”

Syrian civil war: Jabhat al-Nusra’s massacre of Druze villagers shows the group is just as nasty as Isis. The incident last week suggests that the US have let the al-Qaeda affiliate off lightly: here.

Trial collapses after threatened exposure of UK backing of Syrian terror groups: here.

Sexual abuse among Buddhists in the Netherlands, update


This video from the Netherlands is called The Memorial Ceremony 2555 (2012) for Luang Poh Mettavihari – Amsterdam.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Alarms about abuse among Buddhists ignored

Today, 15:55

Followers of the Thai monk Mettavihari are shocked at the extent of the sexual abuse of which their teacher was guilty. They say they are overwhelmed by the news and the extent of the abuse.

But how surprising can the news actually be for them? A reconstruction by the NOS shows that leaders of Buddhism in the early 1980s were informed about the abuse. Also in a major abuse case in Middelburg prominent Dutch Buddhists were warned at an early stage, in 2004.

Main outline in these two cases: the warned executive officials and others downplayed the abuse, looked away and neglected to take adequate measures, which meant that the responsible monks could continue to make victims.

1. Mettavihari (abuse from 1974 to at least 1992)

In late 1980 or early 1981, the police called the Buddharama temple in Waalwijk. Board member Patrick Franssen answered the phone. The police told him that a message had been received of sexual abuse of a minor by head monk Mettavihari.

For Franssen this was the straw that broke the camel´s back. He also had particularly bad experiences with Mettavihari in this. In 1974, as a 19-year-old “labile” boy, he had already been forced to have sex with the monk. In the at least two years that followed from there, that happened again, according to Franssen, still some forty to fifty times. As a 19-year-old one was at that time legally underage.

Franssen decided: this guy has to go. He flew to Chicago to talk about Mettavihari’s conduct with a high priest, who in his words represented the Thai “Ministry of Religious Affairs.” The high priest, according to Franssen, decided to replace Mettavihari by another head monk without further discussion. In June 1981 Mettavihari was deposed as president of the temple administration, to be replaced by Henk Barendregt. This eminent mathematician who later would win the most important scientific award in the Netherlands, the Spinoza Prize, had been a board member since its inception in 1975.

Second chance

To Franssen’s amazement, Barendregt returned his teacher a few months later to the temple administration, supported by another loyal follower of Mettavihari: Aad Verboom, president of the Foundation of Young Buddhists in the Netherlands. Franssen knew that the new head monk wanted to grant Mettavihari a second opportunity. That he accepted, but having Mettavihari back in the temple administration? That would really be too much of a rehabilitation.

There arose a fierce debate. How bad is it in modern times if a monk has sex? Franssen thought that the Thai Dutch, for whom the temple was intended primarily, would be cheated if their monk secretly would break his vow of celibacy. Barendregt, according to Franssen, argued that this was an old-fashioned view: most Dutch still even now think that a parish priest should not be judged if he falls in love with his housekeeper?

Involuntary sex

That in this case it was involuntary sex with minors who are not on an equal footing with the teacher played for Franssen in that discussion no decisive role. It’s the early 1980s, the era of ‘anything goes’ in the progressive Netherlands. Aad Verboom admits in 2015 that he also had not believed Patrick Franssen’s story about the abuse he had suffered. For that, he has meanwhile apologized to Franssen via the Boeddhistisch Dagblad.

Eventually Barendregt got what he wanted, after which Franssen drew his conclusions. He left the temple administration in December 1981 disconcertedly, to emigrate to Thailand four years later, dismayed by in his eyes “amateurish” Dutch Buddhism. He was replaced on the board by Mettavihari, the man against whom he had tried to take action.

New incidents

There may then have been further incidents, because in 1983 the monk had to disappear definitively from the temple in Waalwijk. Anyway Barendregt and Verboom neglected to find out how often Mettavihari had misbehaved and how bad his misdemeanors were. According to the Thai monastic rules, a monk should take off his habit when he has had sex, but Mettavihari’s prominent students do not think that is necessary. They cover up why their teacher had to leave the temple in Waalwijk. In an introduction to a book he published later that year, Aad Verboom explained the break with the temple as because of “significant differences in views on Buddhism and the practice thereof.” This Verboom was from 1990 to 1998 board member and president of the Buddhist Union in the Netherlands (BUN).

With the help of Barendregt and Verboom Mettavihari got the chance to leave the Thai tradition in which he had got in a jam, to continue as the revered spiritual leader of a group of Dutch Buddhists. The boards of other Buddhist centers meanwhile exchanged only rumors about what happened in Waalwijk. A concrete consequence of this was that for nine years Mettavihari unhinderedly could abuse young adult men in other places, including in Groningen.

Overstep the mark

In 1995, according to some of his students, he was at last confronted because of his behaviour. Mettavihari admitted that he had crossed the line, but also said that he had since stopped the abuse. This apparently was enough for those followers; in 2006, fourteen of them accepted consecrations as teachers by him. A year later Mettavihari died.

Only in May 2015 there is a rupture between “the fourteen”. The immediate causes are the alarming findings of their own investigation into the extent of the abuse that two people in the group have conducted at last. Some of the teachers feel that the scandal must become known, name included, while Barendregt, Verboom and five other teachers think that this is not necessary. Their reasoning is that Mettavihari can no longer defend himself. The mention of his name would supposedly be offensive to the Thai community.

Ignorance

Barendregt claims also to have contacted the Thai spiritual authorities in the early 1980s. But Barendregt now also admits: “With the knowledge we have now, more should have been done to avoid repetition. In my ignorance I thought that the actions at administrative and spiritual levels were adequate.”

Verboom also notes that he had “been asleep at the wheel. I have accepted being lied to. And I have always given Mettavihari the benefit of the doubt. I must note now that there is much more pain and suffering for the victims than I thought possible.”

2. Gerhard Mattioli (2001-2007)

Frans de Reeper had visited for over a year a Buddhist center in Middelburg when he heard something disturbing in the summer of 2004. One of the women in the group told him, crying on the phone, that the monk who led the group had expelled her from the center. According to her, it happened because this Gerhard Mattioli, who told his students to call him ‘Lama Kelsang Chöpel’, for years had a relationship with her. During their vacation that broke up and then he also expelled her from the group.

De Reeper is stunned. To be sure, he immersed himself once more in the rules for monks: surely, this is absolutely unacceptable? He consults literature and hears evidence from an experienced monk and a Buddhist institute. He also asks in a letter to Mattioli what is going on. Mattioli refuses to answer the questions. “I am not subordinate or dependent on other Buddhist organizations or lamas or rinpoche, not even to His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” he writes.

Action

De Reeper subsequently decided to take action. He writes a long letter to the other members of the group, in which he says what he has found out. And he also informs among others Jean Charles Hylkema, at that time director of the Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation (BOS) and also treasurer of the Buddhist Union (BUN). The BUN also receives a separate letter, like the editors of the magazine Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme (later renamed Vorm en Leegte).

The message of the letters is clear: “We believe that we have sufficient evidence that the people who visit the center get in touch with Buddhism in a way which is ultimately harmful for them.” The broadcaster and the magazine according to the letter’s authors should at least stop having commercials and ads for Mattioli’s center.

Not responsible

It does not have many consequences. The often very vulnerable followers of Mattioli are so spellbound that they ignore the warnings by De Reeper. An employee of the Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme / Vorm en Leegte calls De Reeper, but says that they are not responsible for what happens in the centers that are advertised in the magazine. The editors refuse to stop the ads.

A new letter to Vorm en Leegte in the spring of 2005 also did not yield anything, just like a personal request to the aforementioned employee of Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme / Vorm en Leegte during a lecture. BOS director Hylkema writes back that the broadcaster will stop paying attention to Mattioli’s center. The BUN announces there is nothing they can do because the center is not a member.

Bomb explodes

In late 2007, the issue exploded in Middelburg, as Mattioli’s group learns that their teacher had started sexual relationships with four women simultaneously. One of them has become even pregnant. Several people involved go to the police (according to Mattioli himself “under threat of violence from their partners’), but they eventually do not complain officially. In a letter Mattioli threatened his students inter alia with ‘reincarnation in hell‘ if they would break up with him.

President Varamitra (Theo Alkemade) of the Buddhist Union announced in April 2008 during a meeting that “a self-styled lama” in Middelburg “in a terrible way has wreaked havoc.” He also revealed that women in Middelburg now have been helped by the BUN: Varamitra and a Buddhist nun went to Zeeland to talk to the women and to offer them perspectives again. “A good example of tradition-borders crossing cooperation”, is said satisfiedly during the BUN meeting of April 2008.

The issue is not brought into the open. Buddhist and researcher Rob Hogendoorn finds out in 2013 and publishes about it in the web magazine Open Boeddhisme, which he runs together with his colleague Theo Dik. Hogendoorn and Dik also report the matter to the police. Because of that action, they are fiercely attacked by an editor of another Buddhist site, Joop Hoek. He points out in a column that Mattioli denies the allegations and has never been convicted by a court. He calls them inter alia “fake prosecutors, the fake Thomson and Thompson of our society.” Hoek was in 2004 an employee of Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme, so the magazine which was warned about the practices of Mattioli.

Hylkema also thinks that he did not have to do more to prevent worse things, after he had been warned about the activities of ‘monk’ Mattioli. To Open Boeddhisme he downplayed the seriousness of the situation, “Lamas impregnating women, that undoubtedly happens sometimes. There are women who wish to be more than just students, and who want a sexual relationship. Some lamas go along with that, and sometimes that leads to pregnancy.”

Buddhist monk in Purmerend accused of abuse: here.

Stop sexism at universities


This video from the USA says about itself:

Sexism is Alive and Well at the University of Texas!

4 June 2014

The UT Austin Nursing School has a new dress code, and it sucks. Not cool, Longhorns.

From the Athena’s Angels site at Leiden university in the Netherlands:

4 women in academia

Many people assume that men and women have equal opportunities to be successful in an academic career. Yet women continue to be approached and treated differently than men, in ways that impact on their scientific career prospects. This website is designed to elucidate the specific challenges women have to overcome to realize their scientific ambitions, and where possible eliminate these.

Four female full professors have united under the name Athena’s Angels, to defend the interests of women academics. The mission of Athena’s Angels is to offer men and women truly equal opportunities to advance in their scientific career. What is needed to achieve this?

Know the facts   –   Report maltreatment   –   Ask for advice   –   Recognize sexism   –   Join forces 

Pallas Athena

The Greek goddess Pallas Athena is the feisty goddess of wisdom. The owl is her symbol. It is true: she was born, fully armed, from the head of her father Zeus, and can be pretty male-identified at times. The first women in academia did sometimes show this trait. But we are happy to carry out our missions under Athena’s aegis.

After banning long skirts, shorts banned for girls


Israeli girls protest in shorts at a school. Photo  Facebook / mafsikot

After banning women for not wearing high heels … after banning women from wearing miniskirts, and banning women from wearing maxiskirts, and banning women from wearing any type of skirts, and banning women from wearing trousers … now banning women from wearing shorts.

Long or short, repressive authorities will always find stupid ways to punish women for their clothes.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Girls of Israel want bare legs in the classroom

Today, 14:23

Schoolgirls in Israel think they should be allowed to sit in shorts in the classroom. Now in many schools only boys are allowed to wear shorts, but for the girls that is not accepted, write Israeli media.

In Israel it is around 30 degrees centigrade and therefore also the girls would prefer to wear shorts. Most schools prohibit it because they say that girls in shorts will supposedly be more often victims of sexual harassment or even of rape.

Many girls think that is nonsense and in recent days they went to school still wearing shorts. They tell Israeli newspapers they are sent home for that reason.

Call on minister

On social media similar messages appear from students from different cities in the country. The debate has also been noticed by members of the Knesset – Israel’s parliament.

Naftali Bennett, the Minister of Education, was asked to put an end to the discrimination. His ministry has only responded by saying that students and teachers should dress appropriately for school and that schools are allowed to have dress codes in collaboration with parents and students.

Israeli school students protest against repressive dress codes, photo Haaretz

High school girls defy school ban on shorts. Teachers tell the girls that the discriminatory dress code protects them, but the girls believe this is a ‘blame the victim’ approach: here.

According to Dutch daily De Volkskrant, temperature has risen to forty degrees centigrade in Israel. The girls have called for a big demonstration on 16 June, at the Knesset building in Jerusalem.

Israeli journalist Allison Kaplan Sommer writes in Haaretz that if the girls would give in on this, then the next steps of the Israeli government, which includes ultra-orthodox politicians, might be mandatory covering of arms and hair for women.