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Academic Study of Al-Qaeda Manual Stirs Debate in Britain

For $11.96 you can buy a copy of the Al-Qaeda Training Manual in paperback on Amazon.com.

One such order was recently placed by staff members at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom to make a point about academic freedom. Earlier this summer Rizwaan Sabir, a 22-year-old M.A. student at the university, and Hisham Yezza, an administrator, were arrested by British police for possession of the training manual and held for nearly a week under the sweeping powers of the U.K.'s 2006 Terrorism Act.

The manual, which contains fairly unimaginative prescriptions for terrorist warfare, first came to police attention almost a decade ago after a raid on the Manchester home of an al-Qaeda suspect. It has since made the rounds of various websites, including the U.S. Department of Justice's, from which Sabir downloaded it for his research thesis into terrorist tactics.

Despite it's widespread availability, the Terrorism Act makes possession of the manual a prosecutable offense. Sabir and Yezza's defenders say the indiscriminate use of the Terrorism Act is endangering academic freedom and the broad minded research that is needed to take on Islamic extremism (and which the government has made one its top research priorities).

"How can we attract scholars if they're threatened with arrest?" Bettina Renz, Sabir's personal tutor told me over the phone. She says the International Security and Terrorism Masters is the most popular course at Nottingham University, especially with overseas students.

At a recent protest over the fate of Yezza, who, due to visa irregularities, is now threatened with deportation, passages of the Al-Qaeda Training Manual were read in public.

But what may be more disturbing about such police tactics is their worrying ability to drive Muslims towards extremism.

According to a recent "Islam on Campus" survey of 1,400 students by the Centre for Social Cohesion, an independent think tank, just under a third of Muslim students said that killing in the name of religion can be justified. Sixty percent of the students who were active members of campus Islamic societies agreed with the statement, compared with 2% of non-Muslims.

The views of these students, are, I suspect, more moderate than those of many of their peers in the Middle East and Asia. But where the survey makes a notably different observation is in the isolation that many Muslim students feel.

Eight percent of Muslim students agree that "Most of my friends at university are Muslim because I have more in common with them than I do with non-Muslims." However, this rises to 25% when active members of campus Islamic Societies are asked.

Forty percent of Muslims said that they thought that it was unacceptable for Muslim men and women to mix freely.

The British government should probably have spent more time addressing these issues of social isolation, rather than the countless hours spent debating the Terrorism Act and recent extensions to the right to detain suspects without charge.

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Comments (15)

Fatima friend:

"Our best path to security is to attack the barriers of fear and ignorance."

PUHLEASE!!! Spend some time in Afghanistan, iraq or pakistan, and you will see how far we have to go to attacking the kind of ignorance that fuels muslim terrorist attacks against innocent westerners. unfortunately, there are people who hate the West, and always will, and a few liberal education program will not dilute their rage.

carrot and stick is needed. don't beat up on the british police for cracking down. I'd prefer they do so, then allow another 7/7 attack.

Fate:

Robert B wrote: "Yes, because of Bush's strong leadership in the War on Terror my family and I can "kick back" as you say and enjoy.....our only domestic enemies..are liberals. And don't be too sure of who is coming to power in the next election. Messiah-Obama is actually a false prophet."

Wow, I guess you forgot whose watch 911 happened on, or which president called terrorism America's number one problem and which ignored his own anti-terrorism chief right up until 911. Sorry Robert, 911 is Bush's fault just as the Cole was Clinton's. And consider that the Cole happened just as Clinton was about to leave office ( as he was being impeached for lying about an affair!), but he did not retaliate against AQ as he had done before since AQ had not been confirmed to be the cause. That confirmation came after Bush took office and he declined to retaliate, emboldening AQ as testimony from AQ suspects has shown.

Bush then attacked Afganistan as he should, but instead of using the full force and might of the US he used the Northern Alliance. He used warlords to attack bin Laden, who allowed him to escape. A bungled war against the weakest power in the world. But as though that was not enough, he decided Iraq was the real threat and made up WMD as an excuse and attacked them with no plan once Saddam was caught, since that was his only goal (Mission Accomplished).

So while you sit back worry free I wondered what incompetence Bush will unleash on us next. Katrina, torture, lies about torture, the SEC's hands off approach to regulation and Bush's snide remarks about how Wall Street having "a hangover" while Americans are being kicked out of their homes, though no mention of that from this man who advocates helping Wall Street with its hangover but nothing for Americans since its their own fault in his little mind.

It will take decades to fix what this man and the republicans have done in 8 short years. Enjoy your $4/gal gas, your high food prices and the coming sky rocketing inflation as we ship our money to oil countries and China with Bush's blessings.

But you probably want to blame it all on Clinton. So sad that Fox News can delude the mind. You probably believe Libby was aquitted of one count but never heard he was convicted of 4 counts, and is not spending a day in jail. That is your republican party at work, outing CIA agents for spite and taking care of their own while Americans are suffering, hated by the world and ready to leave the republicans behind in droves looking for a new start.

Obama will win because there is no other choice. McCain is just more of the same, and even republicans don't want more of that, except a few like yourself who cannot see the destruction through of all the dust still settling.

If this had all happened under an Al Gore administration I wonder what your tune would be today. Would you be supporting Gore leading our country to the same ruin Bush has, or does the party affiliation make the destruction look like a good thing to you?


Garak:

Robert B: You say that "we have liberated 50 millions Muslims from dictatorship in Iraq and Afghanistan." We "liberated" Afghanistan from the Soviets and their puppets only to turn them over to the truly and devoutly religious Taliban and then walk away until the blowback from our actions returned to us in the form of 9/11. We "liberated" Kuwait only to return a feudal monarchy to power. That their policies with regards to their vast oil reserves we favorable to us was of no consequence, of course. Merely coincidental. We "liberated" the Iraqis from a dictatorship we previously supported when it was convenient for us, after punishing the Iraqi people--not their dictators--with sanctions that led to the deaths of up to 500,000 Iraqi children. Our "liberation" of Iraq has led to ethnic cleansing of Iraq into separate Sunni and Shiite areas, each with their own militias. Our "liberation" has led to religious militias enforcing medieval rules of behavior--such as reducing women to the status of property--throughout Iraq. Our "liberation" has led to sectarian militias controlling most of Iraq, each imposing its own medieval version of Islam on the populace. Do you actually believe the Afghan and Iraqi people are so ignorant of their own recent history that they fail to understand this? Do you think that the Muslim world gets its news from Fox and Rush?

Quagmire? Then why does McCain say we may have to stay in Iraq for 100 years? We've already been in Iraq for 5 years--longer than any war in US history other than--you guessed it!--Vietnam. And the end is not in sight. Draw down troops? To zero? Even Obama says we may have station some troops in Iraq for years to come. As for US deaths declining, what about Iraqi deaths? If we're really there to liberate them, we should have to consider what happens to them. Our "liberation" has already led to over 500,000 Iraqi deaths. Further, you imply that because US deaths are down for now. But that may well be the lull before the storm. US casualty rates have dropped before, only to rise again. Does your crystal ball tell you that this decline is permanent? Your "light at the end of the tunnel" argument is a bit old--by 40 years.

You ask how would I know that Muslims hate us because of specific actions, not because of our values. From the Cato Institute (http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9568):

"A March 2008 University of Maryland/Zogby International poll of public attitudes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates found that 83 percent of those surveyed have an unfavorable view of the United States. Critically, the poll found attitudes toward the United States are based more on American policy in the Middle East (80 percent) than on American values (12 percent)...Data also exists to address Muslim views of American culture. Political scientist Mark Tessler's analysis of a 2002 Zogby poll noted that favorable attitudes were expressed by substantial numbers of respondents when asked about American education, science, movies, television, and the American people in general. Tessler contends that "antipathy toward the U.S....does not flow from cultural dissonance."

Do you have any evidence this poll is not correct? Has any real, legitimate study debunked it? And spare us any Faux News talking points. And don't bother telling us that the Cato Institute is a bunch America-hating liberal elitists.

Are the Muslims up to the challenge of entering the 21st century and the modern world? Even if they are, please tell us how supporting dictatorships, monarchies, and religious dictatorships helps them? We support the Mubarak regime (soon to be monarchy once his son takes over), giving him billion$$ in aid without demanding free elections. We support the Algerian military dictatorship and, again, without demanding free elections. We did pressure the Palestinian Authority to hold free elections--and then renounced them as soon as the "wrong" side won. And then promptly supported military repression of the duly elected gov't by the losers. Do you think the Muslims are not fully aware of this?

Islamo-Fascism? My, my! At last you reveal your true self. Islamophobic would be a better term.

You state that you "I agree with Churchill--Democracy is the worst form of government...except for all others!" You really mean that it's great--for us. And not for people with oil reserves.

Observer:

The Center of Social Cohesion survey clearly indicates that what I call “Terrorist Factor” correlates with the degree of embrace of the Muslim faith. Furthermore the leaders of their organizations, which are multiplying like mushrooms, are now openly calling for the replacement of the US constitution with their Sharia laws. This is a natural outcome to their ideology which happens to be anathema to all what civilized societies hold dear. Freedom of conscience, equality of genders, human rights and pluralism are not in their dictionaries. They are taking advantage of the tolerant and pluralistic societies to work toward changing the host society’s character and make it look more like the ones they had left behind.
Their mosques are spreading like brush fire and most are funded by the oil rich Wahabis of Saudi Arabia. The Wahabis strain of Islam is more extreme than most other Muslim denominations, and most of the imams of those mosques are, off course, from them. Their Friday sermons are for the most part, incitement against all those others who do not subscribe to their interpretations of their books of religion . It seems that according to the above cited survey they are succeeding.

Lynn:

The Muslim countries practice their religion more than the West. Imagine Israel if it were all Haredi Jews? Secondly, there is no separation between religion and government. "Mohammed is Ceasar." It is harder to export the philosophy of laws before religion. Muslims are Muslims first; not Iranian or Afganistani. We can point out the many flawed aspects of Muslim regimes.There is little tolerance, broadly speaking for nonconformity of none Muslim priciples. For many the mosque is the only place of freedom from government 24/7. Most Muslim countries jumped quickly not gradually into the 21st century. There is also a justifiable anger at the west for thinking of Muslims in terms of something less than them. We have coddled their dictators and put a few new ones in ourselves. Israel is front page news all the time with her bad track record. By the same token, the west cringes at the Muslim track record of women's rights, gay bashing, and intolerance for other religions. I spent a few summers in the Middle East. I never encountered any animosity. I hate some of their religious laws, but I like them as a people. There are only two choices to make about Iran and neither are satisfactory. I will gamble on negotiations, because I see the other as creating more groups like Hezbollah in the case of Israel since the 1982 war. There are other factors like cost, exit strategy, and fighting on 3 fronts. However, I think the costliest would be Muslim terrorism on a different measuring stick altogether that would be felt for many generations.

Lynn:

The Muslim countries practice their religion more than the West. Imagine Israel if it were all Haredi Jews? Secondly, there is no separation between religion and government. "Mohammed is Ceasar." It is harder to export the philosophy of laws before religion. Muslims are Muslims first; not Iranian or Afganistani. We can point out the many flawed aspects of Muslim regimes.There is little tolerance, broadly speaking for nonconformity of none Muslim priciples. For many the mosque is the only place of freedom from government 24/7. Most Muslim countries jumped quickly not gradually into the 21st century. There is also a justifiable anger at the west for thinking of Muslims in terms of something less than them. We have coddled their dictators and put a few new ones in ourselves. Israel is front page news all the time with her bad track record. By the same token, the west cringes at the Muslim track record of women's rights, gay bashing, and intolerance for other religions. I spent a few summers in the Middle East. I never encountered any animosity. I hate some of their religious laws, but I like them as a people. There are only two choices to make about Iran and neither are satisfactory. I will gamble on negotiations, because I see the other as creating more groups like Hezbollah in the case of Israel since the 1982 war. There are other factors like cost, exit strategy, and fighting on 3 fronts. However, I think the costliest would be Muslim terrorism on a different measuring stick altogether that would be felt for many generations.

Robert B:

Fate: "the peace this nation normally enjoys"...like the "peace" of the 90's. You know, like when we had the first World Trade Center bombing, the African embassy bombings, the U.S. military training center bombing in Saudi Arabia, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole and culminating in the 9/11 attacks. I see, so you like the "peace" where we're asleep at the switch and do basically nothing to look out for our interests and fight a growing terrorist threat. Yes Clinton was good at that. And I can imagine you having to catch yourself as you typed "this world is more at peace than at any time in history" and then realizing that you need to hurry up and say that Bush has nothing to do with it. Ha! Try asking our vanquished enemies. And the liberal media nonsense that other govts can't stand Bush ignores realities of more conservative govts that have come to power in Germany, France, Italy, Canada and soon, Britain. The real measure, though, is how much peace has there been here in the U.S. And there have been no 9-11's since 9-11 here on U.S. soil. Oh, I'm sure you don't give Bush credit for anything...but you'll whine over "phone taps" and "torture" of Gitmo prisoners.

Yes, because of Bush's strong leadership in the War on Terror my family and I can "kick back" as you say and enjoy.....our only domestic enemies..are liberals. And don't be too sure of who is coming to power in the next election. Messiah-Obama is actually a false prophet.

Hey, that latest McCain ad ('The One') is hysterical!!! "Behold his Mighty Hand!!!"

ZZim:

Hello Watcher.

I didn’t threaten Islam anywhere. I said that we are threatened by Islamic extremists. I said that we can either submit to the will of the Islamic extremists of we can fight them.

There are only two choices: (A) Submit, (B) Fight.

Garak posits the existence of a third choice. He says that we can ally ourselves with the billions of moderate Muslims who reject the calls of their co-religionists to subjugate or kill us. I suppose our new allies could violently oppose their more-fanatical brethren on our behalf. I’m not holding my breath, let’s see if they will.

For your enlightenment, Tribalism 101:

By the way, our military does target killers, not a people or faith. Muslims in general believe otherwise because they don’t understand why we would act that way. You see, if an Arab suffers a crime, then he himself is not the only victim, all members of his tribe are. And by extension, all members of the criminal’s tribe are equally responsible. So if a Bin Laden tribesman is shot by a Al Garak tribesman, then a bunch of Bin Ladens will chase down the nearest random male Al Garak and shoot him. So the Arab assumption when they see Arabs blow up a building full of Americans is that Americans will come to their country and attack random Arabs. After all, that’s what they would have done in our place.

By the way, Watcher, the Arab population of your “city in the Midwest” is 80% Christian. The surviving Christian population of the Middle East has dropped by about 80-90% over the past 100 years. There’s a reason for that. Perhaps you can think of it if you spend some time on it.

Fate:

Robert B>,

I find it interesting that you talk about the worst leaders in history (Hitler, Caesar, Genghis Khan, Napoleon) and how they would react with an iron fist to Muslim attitudes, and then you propose a "demonstration..or two..of what we could do to them".

How little some learn from history. Take a break Robert. The neocons are leaving power and normal people will be running the country soon enough. Kick back, have a beer and enjoy the peace this nation normally loves.

And consider that this world is more at peace today that at almost any other time in history, and no thanks to those you seem to admire from the past, including GWB, who caused so much anguish by demonstrating just what they could do to their percieved enemies but instead inflicted so much suffering not only on their enemies but on their own people as well.

Watcher:

Many Muslim students, particularly in Muslim associations, believe it is acceptable to kill in the name of religion.

We have in the comments evidence of a parallel belief: it is acceptable to kill in the name oif the nation.

Is it possible that Muslim students who join these associations see Islam as their nation?

ZZIM and Robert B. explicitly threaten Islam. They do seem to prefer holy war to the reconciliation of Islamic and Christian or secular nations to co-existence.

Robert says "Garak, we have liberated 50 millions Muslims from dictatorship in Iraq and Afghanistan". Did we ask for their consent first?

Further, he says "Where in the Middle East can the people express their will for anything?" Turkey, for one. There are other Islamic democracies outside of the Middle East.

A big problem in the Middle East is oil. Oil as the basis of an economy doesn't require a widespread base of skilled workers or many linkages across sectors of an economy. It is easily controlled by a small political elite, and it's profits provide funds for police and military sufficient to surpress the public. Weaning ourself of oil and the desire to intervene in the Middle East would do more to bring reform and development than any attack on Islam.

ZZIM shows his ability to twist the actual content of the article to fit preconceived notions: "If we do nothing, millions of Muslims think it's OK to kill members of other faiths in order to spread Islam. If we react to the un-provoked killing, commentators like Mr. Fairweather worry that we might "drive Muslims towards extremism"."

It is not whether we react to un-provoked killing, it is how we react - do we target the killers, or do we target a people and a faith? (And some might deny that the attacks were unprovoked after 80 years of Anglo, American, and French meddling in the Middle East.) Further note that none of the statments in the article claim that "it's OK to kill members of other faiths in order to spread Islam", and the author doesn't call on us to "do nothing".

I come from a city in the Midwest which has had a Muslim population for over 100 years, and no noticeble strife. They are thoroughly Americans. Our best path to security is to attack the barriers of fear and ignorance.

Robert B:

Garak, we have liberated 50 millions Muslims from dictatorship in Iraq and Afghanistan. You call for support of dissident groups but write off what we're trying to do in "Vietraq". What an utter contradiction!!! By the way, it's pretty much conventional wisdom now that the situation in Iraq is well in hand for the good guys (that's us!-and the new govt there). July saw the lowest level of American deaths there yet. So trying to peddle it as a quagmire is a little old, Garak. Not to mention false. You say the Muslims hate us for our hypocrisy. How would you know? Where is there a free press to take authentic polls? Where in the Middle East can the people express their will for anything? There is no freedom of speech/press/religion/no right to vote for their leaders. But you can Divine their attitudes toward us? I will concede that they likely have been brainwashed to hate us. And there is real the danger there. But I can't understand your cynicism toward our efforts. We have liberated Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 18 years. Now, let's see what the Arab/Muslim people do with their freedom. That's the real question. Are they up to the challenge? I do have my doubts. But the effort must be made. And I stand by my earlier remark that some "Demonstrations" should be made to all of the despots and supporters of Islamo-Fascism that we will demolish them should they spread and support Terror.

I agree with Churchill--Democracy is the worst form of government...except for all others!

Garak:

ZZIM omits the third choice: Ally ourselves with the billion moderate Muslims who reject the millions of fanatical extremists.

But we insist on supporting brutal dictators while mouthing platitudes about democracy. We say we have no issue with Islam, all while kow-towing to Wahabbi Saudi Arabia and looking the other way while it spreads its perverted version of Islam with its oil wealth. We do nothing to help Saudi dissidents fighting for their own rights. Hey, wait a minute, maybe the Muslims really do hate us for our values--hypocrisy first among them.

The knee-jerk reaction of using force has failed utterly in Vietraq. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Looks like we have that here in spades.

Robert B:

ZZim, I say we get it on now with our enemies. Can you imagine any other Great Power in history having such overwhelming military power yet not using it (our nukes, air force, navy, etc). That enough is proof of the benevolence and goodness of the American people and our lack of interest for Empire. Hitler, Caesar, Genghis Khan, Napoleon...and any current Middle East despot/king/mullah/whatever would salivate at having our all- powerful and world dominating capabilities. If Saudi Arabia had our arsenal, for example (and we had none), there'd be hundreds of millions dead in the West and we'd (those left alive!) be perpetually kow-towing to them.

So, what am I advocating? A demonstration..or two..of what we could do to them.

I'm confident they'd "get the message."

NEO:

Perhaps you should consider the possibility that they hold these opinions out of conviction that their religion holds these views rather than out of response to reactions of the police to their acts of violence.

ZZim:

Interesting quote here:

"But what may be more disturbing about such police tactics is their worrying ability to drive Muslims towards extremism."

I guess that sort of leaves us on the horns of a dilemna, doesn't it? If we do nothing, millions of Muslims think it's OK to kill members of other faiths in order to spread Islam. If we react to the un-provoked killing, commentators like Mr. Fairweather worry that we might "drive Muslims towards extremism".

So, choice one: Passively allow ourselves to be violently converted (subjugated if Christian, killed or converted if otherwise). Choice two: Violently escalate the conflict and stand our ground.

Choose.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.