Our Swedish correspondent CB has compiled a report with the latest on the “Swedish” terrorists:
There has been a lot of news lately about the terror-Swedes. This gives us interesting insights into how these kinds of networks function and where the connections to the more respectable organizations in society go, not to mention the supporters and those turning a blind eye to it all.
Last Thursday morning on Swedish public radio the husband of Safia Benaouda, Munir Awad, could be heard in an old interview talking about his reasons for going to Somalia in 2007 to experience “a real Muslim country”. He had no idea of why people would think this was anything other than a vacation to a real Muslim country: “We just want to be Muslims. Why is everyone against that?” “We want to see Islam”.
This was at a time when the Islamic courts ruled Somalia and stonings were part of the religious dish of the day. That was the genuine Islam they went to see.
Awad also commended an “American” father of four who went to Somalia for Islam’s sake. What “going there for Islam’s sake” meant Awad never elaborated on, although the reporter asked in a shocked voice, “So you mean that he [the father] choose Islam over his children. Is that being a good father?” The reporter was obviously ignorant about what Islam is, or else she would not have been shocked and would have pressed Awad on his statement that the man was a good father.
In the same program the Islamic scholar Mattias Gardell was interviewed about why these young people travel to different parts of the world to do jihad. Gardell is famous for his book Bin laden I våra hjärtan (Bin Laden in our Hearts), and he is often heard to be ever so understanding of the jihadist leanings of Muslims — although it’s always the tiny minority. To him these three represented “young people with big hearts” having the spirit of “knights”, “wanting to save the world from injustices”. Gardell even compared the jihad-inspired youths with environmentalists struggling to save the planet from destruction, though they don’t use guns. Both are seen to be fighting the technological powers that destroy the world, in Gardell’s view.
The article below is from noted editorial and blogger Per Gudmundson, of the conservative Svenska Dagbladet. He asks whether it’s just bad judgment for the Benaoudas to end up with the likes of Ghezali, and to defend the now-convicted jihadist Osama Kassir, or if this is a meeting of the like-minded.
Perhaps Helena Benaouda doesn’t like the violent variety of Islamists, but she has in the past defended a Muslim in Sweden who promoted stoning for adultery, and is as good a representative of Swedish Muslims as anybody else.
According to sources on Swedish public radio, Safia Benaouda claims that she and her 2-year-old son were forced by her husband to accompany the group to Pakistan, and as a wife she had to comply. The Pakistani authorities think she might have been brought along to divert suspicions about the group. Apparently, information revealed in the apprehension of Ghezali has lead to several arrests of Islamists in Waziristan an in other places. One would guess that Ghezali will not be held in such a high esteem among Islamists after that.
Ghezali has claimed that he went to Pakistan to participate in a religious meeting with Tablighi Jamaat, but the imam at S:t Eriksplan mosque in Stockholm, who has extensive knowledge about Jamaat, says that Ghezali is unlikely to be an active member of the movement: “If Ghezali had been a very active member in the movement, I think I would have known about it.” Also, the imam describes how pilgrims travel to the area, and emphasizes that Ghezali and company followed an infamous smugglers’ route. Therefore the terror explanation is the more likely one.
Some good news in all this is that neither the Swedish Prime minister nor the Secretary of State seems to be in to big a hurry to come to these poor “victims” rescue. The Secretary of State formulated it in this way: “The former government did an enormous work to free Ghezali. I can’t really see that on the horizon at the moment”. And right he is! Remember, the former government was the Social Democratic government, the same party with ties to the Muslim Council of Sweden, which is headed by Helena Benaouda…
There is plenty here for the conspiracy theorist, but the different dots start to form a picture of bad judgment and unsavory allegiances. There will sooner or later be stronger light on these connections and things will change in Sweden. Whether for better or worse, it remains to be seen.
Connect the dots
Ghezali, Kassir, Benaouda. How does it all fit together?
One way of viewing it is to think about the environments where different interests can sometimes meet. In today’s SvD I write about one of those occasions where the three above-mentioned surnames were brought together.
Mehdi Ghezali made one of his few appearances on the 4th of July 2006. He gave a speech at a demonstration arranged by the small leftist group Eurocolors, which wanted to “use art as weapons against prejudices”. But the protest wasn’t just about Guantánamo. They also carried placards with portraits of Ousama Kassir, now sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for terror crimes in USA. Among the speakers was the president of the Muslim council of Sweden, Helena Benaouda. She is the mother of Safia Benaouda, who was previously incarcerated in Ethiopia and was recently apprehended with Ghezali in Pakistan.
Other speakers were Yvonne Ruwaida, a board member of Miljöpartiet [the left green party in Sweden], and Eva Björklund, at the time a board member of Vänsterpartiet [the Left Party].
Terrorism has never existed in a vacuum.
An innocent demonstration against Gitmo — yet an example of when judgment yields, or, when apparently differing interests turn out to be mutual. The one who is an opponent of Guantanamo of course isn’t automatically a terror sympathizer. But, those wondering how the Stockholm Benaouda family came into contact with the Örebro Ghezali family need look no further.
In SvD’s news section they posed that question the other day. But how did the trio meet? And why did they once again take the risk of traveling to a combat zone?
Judging by the facts, it depends on the hero status that Mehdi Ghezali’s long incarceration at Guantánamo has given him in some quarters. In those contexts the three met, after Ghezali’s return to Sweden in 2004.
I blogged a few years ago about the meeting that introduces my editorial today. The pictures and quotations are from the now closed site Eurocolors, an art and culture association that wanted to “use art as a weapon against prejudice, hate, discrimination, war, racism, extremism, fanaticism, destructiveness, violence, aggression, terrorism, crime, crimes against humanity, destruction and abuse of nature, and cruelty to animals.”
“On the fourth of July, 2006 (on America’s independence day), Eurocolors arranged a protest march against the existence of horrifying jails and the so called ‘Guantanamo-system’… Everyone in the protest march carried orange t-shirts, known as ‘Guantanamo shirts’“
“We also carried a picture of the Swedish citizen Usama Kassir whom the USA marked as a terror suspect, without showing evidence against him, simply because it didn’t exist. On those loose grounds the USA demanded his extradition, and by doing so, violated UN declarations, human rights and the Geneva Convention”.
“With us was also Mehdi Ghezali, a former prisoner in Guantanamo, who was able to speak publicly for the first time since he was released two years ago”.
“The following persons spoke outside the embassy: Eva Björklund (the Left party)”
“Helena Benaouda [the Muslim council of Sweden]”
“Yvonne Ruwaida… Gustav Hjertén (Miljöpartiet [the leftist greens])”
Perhaps the pictures show how difficult it is to choose the right company. Let’s hope that. The alternative — that there exist coinciding interests — isn’t good.
And a follow-up from CB:
Safia Benaouda might be released soon!
An update on the terror-three: now it seems that they might be the “terror-two” in the headlines.
According to the Swedish press service TT, a source with knowledge about the Pakistani security apparatus has said that Safia Benaouda isn’t suspected of any terrorism-related activity. That would mean that she and her son might be released in the near future.
As with many of the statements so far, this should be taken with a grain of salt. And it could also be an indication that her husband, who is ten years her senior, was actually the driving force behind her changed values and behavior, at least according to her brother.
At the same time, one has to wonder how naïve this woman can be, after going on the infamous trip to Somalia, with terrorists.
And by that token: how innocent is she really?
I just hope that if she’s released, she will be really ashamed of having put her two-year-old in harm’s way to help her husband and Mehdi Ghezali travel to Pakistan for their nefarious purposes. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath.