Mohammad Asha is charged

This is a quick update to my previous post about Mohammad Asha. According to the Associated Press:

A Jordanian doctor has been charged in connection with foiled car bomb plots in London and Glasgow, police said Thursday. Dr. Mohammed Jamil Asha, 26, was charged with conspiracy to cause explosions, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said on condition of anonymity, in line with department policy.
Source: [AP]

As a Jordanian, all I can say is that I’m really disappointed to see a fellow citizen involved in such a heinous act. What a waste of life for this young doctor.

Reactions to alleged involvement of Jordanian doctor in UK plot

Mohammad Asha before The Jordanian blogosphere is filled with reactions to the alleged involvement of Jordanian doctor Mohammad Asha in the UK terror plot. Blogger and journalist Batir Wardam is hoping that Asha is innocent, saying:

I am deeply in hope that Dr. Mohammad Asha (27) who is a Jordanian will turn out to be innocent from the suspicions of an alleged role in the planning of terror attacks in London and [Glasgow]. Not only because he is Jordanian but I feel very alarmed that the profile of Dr Asha is very far away from the typical terrorist, in fact he can be a replica of thousands of Arabs and Muslims trying to seek a career of excellence in Europe.

The story of Asha is all over the news here in the US. The Today program is showing a picture of him with Queen Noor. Nothing has been confirmed so far and he may turn out to be innocent as his family claims. But I think harm has already been done. Jordan’s name is now linked to this terror plot. What a shame! I do disagree with Batir on the issue of Asha’s profile. I’m of the opinion that the current "profile of a terrorist" is not that of the disenchanted and the unemployed. On the contrary, many of those involved in terrorism are highly educated. Here is an excerpt from today’s Washington Post:

Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy leader of the network, is an Egyptian-trained physician. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking plot, earned a degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina A&T University. The lead hijacker, Mohamed Atta, studied architecture. Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was educated as a civil engineer.

Meanwhile, blogger Firas is not surprised by the possible radicalization of Asha. Firas showed a more recent picture than above of Asha with him fully-bearded, something that could be interpreted by some as a shift towards extremism. He says:

Mohammad Asha afterIf he is truly involved, there might be some explanation, and I’ve personally witnessed this: What happens is that Arab students go to study abroad in countries where political and religious freedoms are granted for all, say countries like: US,UK,Canada and Australia. Now these students get to know other Muslim students usually Pakistanis who got some extremists among them, and that’s when they are fed with all this crap. And this is out of personal experience (a close friend would stop talking to you, because you are a Christian,the guy was transformed in 5 months). As in Pakistan extremist groups and parties are deeply rooted in that country, and for an Arab student who finds him/herself in an alien culture and lately a hostile culture to Islam (think of post 9/11,the Danish cartoons,the Pope’s lecture,etc) these guys would have some affect.

Regardless of whether Asha is innocent or not, it is a shame to see Jordan’s name dragged into this. As if the effect of Zaraqwi on Jordan’s reputation was not enough!

UPDATE: The International Herald Tribune is running a story that highlights comments from Asha’s colleagues who are saying that he was "absorbed in his studies and had no ties to terrorism." The story quotes a Jordanian government source saying that British authorities described Asha as a "possible subject" not charged with any crime. The same source called connections to the physician "very sketchy."

Azmi Mahafzah, Mohammed Asha’s instructor at the University of Jordan medical school, said he knew Mohammed Asha during his studies and training from 1998 to 2004 and did not have the impression that he was religious. "He interacted with others, both boys and girls. He has no prejudices. He is not a fanatic type of person," he said. "I wouldn’t believe that he would risk a very, very bright future in medicine for going into such things. He’s very smart," Mahafzah said. He said Mohammed Asha graduated with top honors from his medical class.

Another colleague of Asha’s in Amman, Aseel al-Omari, described herself as a "close friend" of the Jordanian doctor. She said she knew him for the past decade since they attended a school for gifted students. The school, founded 14 years ago by Jordan’s Queen Noor to promote religious tolerance, is mixed — a rarity in this conservative Muslim society, which often separates the sexes.

‘I would do it again if I had to’

The UN news agency, IRIN, has a new feature about honor crimes in Jordan. According to the article:

"Jordanian law continues to be lenient on those who kill their female relatives in the name of protecting family honor. Last year, between 15 and 20 women were stabbed, beaten or strangled to death by family members, sometimes women themselves."

And here is the most disturbing part:

Mohammad Rai — from Salt, 30km west of the capital, Amman — killed his cousin a few years ago to uphold his family’s honor. He was 17 years old at the time and said he did it under pressure from family elders. But a few years later, he has no regrets.

"I would do it again if I had to. People here would have stigmatized my entire family if I had not killed her and shame would have followed us wherever we went," said Rai, who is now a bus driver. He served just six months in prison because the victim’s father dropped the charges.

The only crime Rai’s cousin committed was that she told her conservative father that she was in love with a man from another family and that he wanted to ask for her hand in marriage. "We are prisoners of our own social habits, there is nothing we can do about it," said a defiant Rai.

The fact that Mohammad Rai says he would do it again is extremely and utterly disturbing. It should give those that support honor crimes something to think about. Since Rai got away with committing such a heinous crime, why should he fear doing it again? Since Rai is a free man after murdering another human being in cold blood, what would stop him next time? The answer is nothing. He’ll do it again if and when he wishes. This is just horrendous. Read the whole article here.

Anti-Jordan ad runs in The Washington Post

Anti-Jordan advert in the Washington Post

While the world’s eyes are focused on Jordan these days, I was shocked to find a quarter page anti-Jordan ad in The Washington Post yesterday [image enlarges on click]. The ad, entitled Highlighting intimidation by the Jordanian authorities was signed by a New York-based businessman named Omar Karsou.

In the ad, Karsou alleges that his son was intimated and harassed by the Jordanian authorities due to the father’s dealings with some Jordanian businessmen. Karsou concluded his ad with the following:

This to me looks more like a move away from basic human values towards a police state more akin to those hated regimes that exist in certain parts of the Middle East.

I never heard of this case or this businessman before reading this ad. Karsou obviously has a grudge, as he was wailing to pay big money to broadcast his case to the world and try to put Jordanian authorities to shame.

Of course, we are only hearing one side of the story. We really do not know what happened. Nor do we know if his allegations are accurate. Regardless, I believe Jordanian authorities should reply to his ad and publish a rebuttal ad — one that offers some explanations — in the same spot in the Post, if possible. Those, like myself, that read the ad yesterday, need to hear an official Jordanian response to such serious allegations, ones which seemed primarily aimed at tarnishing the image of Jordan.

Update: Omar Karsou left a comment on this blog with a bit more detail, saying:

I do not have a personal grudge against Jordan, or the majority of
Jordanians. I love that country, I spent the better part of life in it.
But I happen to love my Son just as much, if not more.. Anyway, before
I placed the ad, I contacted the Jordanian Embassy in Washington,
pleaded with them to help out, even sent them a draft of the ad, to no
avail. Again, I am pleading with the Jordanian authorities to let
justice take it’s course, clamp down on corrupt officials. Only then
will I have achieved my "objective", which I believe, is yours too.

Meanwhile, honor crimes are here to stay

So while the situation in the middle east rages, going from bad to worse as the violence spirals on by the day, honor crimes in Jordan do not appear to be coming to an end anytime soon. Now how depressing is that!

The criminal prosecutor on Saturday charged a 19-year-old youth with the premeditated murder of his sister, official sources said. The victim, a 22-year-old divorcee, was shot six times at the family home at around midnight on Thursday, the source told The Jordan Times. The suspect allegedly shot his sister in front of his parents and siblings following and argument concerning her alleged "immoral behavior," the source added.

"The suspect then headed to the nearest police station and turned himself in and handed the pistol allegedly used in the murder to officers on duty," said the source, adding that the youth claimed to have killed his sister for reasons of family honor. Source: [The Jordan Times]

Can things get any worse, really! When will people in this region have peace and enjoy basic human rights!

Killing the messenger


Layal NajibLebanese photojournalist, Layal Najib was killed by an Israeli strike on Sunday. She was only 23. This is just horrendous. Najib is yet another innocent victim of the Israeli collective punishment of Lebanon. Why did she have to perish at such a young age? This is an image Layal took while covering the invasion. It was published on Friday by AFP. The caption read: "A destroyed residential building in one of Beirut’s southern suburbs.
Israel was amassing thousands more reservists on the Lebanese border to
stage ground incursions aimed at destroying Hezbollah positions,
warning it would not rule out a full-scale invasion despite mounting
calls for a ceasefire.(AFP/Layal Najib)"