Monday, September 29, 2014

Bloomberg News: Suspect in Chicago ATC fire says US deserves retribution from terrorists

Photo source: Business Week Bloomberg News reported on Saturday that Brian Howard, who is suspected of starting last week’s fire at the Aurora, IL air traffic control hub, posted a private Facebook message ranting against the US Government, calling government employees “lazy,” and citing their “immoral and unethical acts” as the reason “why terrorists and 3rd world nations hate us.” He added that the US deserves “retribution.”

The fire caused shutdowns at O’Hare and Midway airports, and disrupted air travel nationwide.

Regarding the message, Bloomberg said,

It was posted on the account of Brian Howard, 36, at about 5:36 a.m. local time yesterday, minutes before firefighters were called to the Federal Aviation Administration center in Aurora, Illinois.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation in a search-warrant affidavit yesterday quoted from the post, which it attributed to Howard, without mentioning the anti-government content. Bloomberg News received the complete message from a family member of one of Howard’s Facebook friends. The person who provided it asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to release it…

“WAKE UP!” said the message to those authorized to read what’s been identified as Howard’s Facebook page. “This is a gov’t by the people, for the people and of the people which right now equates to immoral and unethical acts. That’s why terrorists and 3rd world nations hate us, because our tax dollars go to more unrest than rest.”

“So we deserve the retribution from people who do not have the same ability for education, work and way of life,” the writer said.

In a related story, ABC News reported that Aurora police chief Greg Thomas informed the media, "It appears to be a fire set by a contract employee. There was no terrorist act."

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Thursday, September 25, 2014

ISIS murders human rights activist for critical Facebook posts

Samira Naimi The tragic murder of an Iraqi rights activist puts yet another human face on the victims of the Islamic State. In a press release today, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Nickolay Mladenov, condemned the murder of Samira Naimi by the terrorist group ISIS. According to the release,
Ms. Al-Nuaimy was seized from her home by the ISIL group on 17 September 2014, reportedly following posts on her Facebook page that were critical of their destruction of places of religious and cultural significance. She was convicted by a so-called “Shari’a court” for apostasy. She was then held for a further five days during which she was subjected to torture in an attempt to force her to ‘repent’, before she was executed in public.

“By torturing and executing a female human rights’ lawyer and activist, defending in particular the civil and human rights of her fellow citizens in Mosul, ISIL continues to attest to its infamous nature, combining hatred, nihilism and savagery, as well as its total disregard of human decency”, Mr. Mladenov underlined. “ISIL has repeatedly targeted the weak and defenseless in acts of brutality and cowardice that are beyond description, bringing about unfathomable suffering to all Iraqis regardless of their gender, age, religion, faith or ethnicity”, the SRSG continued.

“I call on the Government of Iraq and the international community to resolutely face the life-threatening danger to peace, safety and security of Iraq and the Iraqis from the ISIL and to do all they can to ensure the perpetrators of such crimes are held to account”, Mr. Mladenov concluded.

I join many in the Muslim world in grieving for Ms. Naimi.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Arab Tweet: Because Hezbollah entered Syria

The Lebanese militia group Hezbollah is one of the key combatants in the Syrian Civil War (on Assad’s side). Many problems are blamed on them – civilian deaths, car bombs, economic disloation; it’s gotten so that #Because_Hezbollah_entered_Syria is now trending in Lebanon. And while many of the tweets are quite serious, some Lebanese are having fun with it, in a darkly humorous way:

Crown Prince of Austria was assassinated

More old maids among Lebanese girls

Ebola may cause civil war in Liberia

Burned food

This last one is from a Saudi furniture store:

 Bedrooms at competitive prices

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Arab Tweet: US Bombing of Syria

Last night the United States and its coalition partners expanded their war against ISIS from Iraq into neighboring Syria, with an aerial attack that targeted both ISIS and the al-Qaeda-linked group Khorasan. The reaction from the Arab world is overwhelmingly negative, in spite of, or perhaps because of, participation by the governments of Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Here’s a sampling:

A number of tweeters observed that these attacks help a guy who we say we oppose. This tweet from “Urgent Arabia,” a news service that promises credible accounts of the Arab Street, is typical:

 Observers: the primary beneficiary from the Crusader Alliance is Bashar al-Assad in the beatings confronting ISIS and focusing on al-Nusra

Abd ur-Rahman responds to Urgent Arabia,


There are many attacks on the rulers of the coalition nations, such as this one from Qasim Yahya Khairuddin, whose profile identifies him as a newscaster with the Palestinian al-Quds satellite channel in Beirut:


Dalaa al-Mufti, from Kuwait, is no friend of ISIS, but…


Finally, Joelle Achkar has this message for the coalition:


Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Arab Tweet: Saudi National Day

Judging from today’s Twitter feed, the big story today in the Arab world is not the 130,000 refugees who crossed from Syria into Turkey over the weekend, the fall of the Yemeni prime minister in the wake of the occupation of government buildings by Shiite Houthi rebels, or even the Reuters story about the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, advertising for spies on its website.

Instead, today is a day of celebration: Saudi National Day, the anniversary of the day in 1932 when Hejaz and Nejd merged to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This tweet from @abdulrahmanoham is typical:

God preserve the nation and God preserve our leaders

Note the hashtags. This is quite common: when I searched on the Arabic acronym for ISIS, I got a flood of National Day tweets. I’m not sure if the intent is to express solidarity with ISIS and al-Nusra, or defiance. The generally patriotic tone of the photos makes me suspect the latter.

@M__eh86 is dubious about the holiday. He writes.

 It will not be a real holiday. Millions suffer and are denied their worth and dignity in their own land.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A woman may drive a car in the Islamic State – under one condition

Some Arabs are using every weapon at their disposal to fight ISIS – including satire.

I’m a woman!This skit from the Lebanese TV station LBC shows a woman driving a car (with Islamic State plates) when she is stopped at a Jihadi checkpoint. The sentry asks her if she’s a man or a woman (he’s not the sharpest scimitar in the armory). After she proves to his satisfaction that she’s a woman, he gets mad that she’s driving a car. But she tells him it’s ok – she’s driving a car bomb. The sentry apologizes. “The Caliph Abu Bakr Baghdadi says a woman may drive, but only a car bomb." I couldn’t make out his next words, but what happens after that requires no translation.

LBC LogoNote the station logo in the upper left. They turned the C in LBC on its side, turning it into the Arabic letter nun, to show solidarity with the Christians persecuted by ISIS.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Monday, September 15, 2014

Religion of Peace?

On a Facebook thread today, a friend asked, “Was Islam founded on war and forceful conversion?” Here’s my reply:

Saladin Islam was obviously founded on war: Muhammad's battles with the Quraysh are documented in the Quran, and after his death the Muslims burst the seams of Arabia and made war on the surrounding peoples.

However forced conversion, although it existed, was rare. For the first five centuries or so, with some exceptions, the Muslims didn't care that the Jews and Christians living among them were unbelievers, as long as they submitted to the government and paid the Jizya tax. Indeed, there is some evidence that in the early years, the intent was that the Muslims would be an elite warrior caste, living off everyone else. They'd just as soon the others remained unbelievers and continue paying the Jizya. There were even incidents of Jewish and Christian communities wanting to convert, and the Muslims not wanting them to.

Around 1100, things started to change - we see more of an effort to convert non-believers to Islam, but it was accomplished mainly by economic pressure and not the sword - they made it difficult to get a job if you weren't Muslim. There were incidents of forced conversion, such as when Alp Arslan and his son Malik Shah invaded Georgia, or among the Templars and Hospitallers that Saladin captured in the wake of the Battle of Hattin (1187). Many refused and a massacre followed. But like I said, these were the exception rather than the rule.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thirteen Years Later They Still Hate Us

Today is September 11 and I hope everyone has had a chance to take a moment and remember the victims of that horrible day 13 years ago.

I was curious what they were saying in the Arab world, so I went to Twitter and searched on “September 11” in Arabic. I expected to find a mixed bag – some tweets celebrating the attack and expressing solidarity with Osama bin Laden, others condemning it and expressing solidarity with America. So it surprised me that what I found was overwhelmingly the former: anti-American, pro-terrorist, and pro-hatred.

Here’s a sampling:

@jijbnt, who calls himself "We are all Osama", describes the image of the plane crashing into the second tower as "a beautiful memory":

A Beautiful Memory

Muhannad echoes the sentiment:

Oh hello America today September 11 I know he terrifying day, but you remain a beautiful memory for us #11sep

Persho from Egypt sends his love:

Happy Valentine's Day

Algelaud Hussein, whose profile says he dreams of being a pilot, tweets:

Happy Crismas

Abdullah al-Ali from Kuwait, who runs an IT security firm, accuses President Obama of secretly planning an Arab holocaust.

In remembrance of September 11, President Obama announces a new war in the Middle East. Outward meaning is war on the &quot Islamic State. $quot Hidden meaning Arab holocaust.

Abu Amoam prays for Osama bin Laden:

&#35 September11Events This day is joyful and glorious to us…God bless you, bin Laden.

@7AZ1M accuses the American military of killing millions of Iraqi and Afghan children:

The September 11 attacks killed fewer than 8 children, while the attacks of the American military killed millions of Iraqi and Afghan children.

Not sure what khabor is, but eating it doesn’t sound like a good thing.

#September11Events On this day America ate khabor. Hahahahahahahahah

Of course no September 11 post is complete without the obligatory Truther:

#Remember_September_11 MADE BY AMERICA GOVERNMENT , then assign it to the Muslim.

I really did set out to write a balanced piece and make today a day about healing, but all I found on Twitter was extremism. We keep hearing about moderate Muslims, but they weren't speaking up today. If any of my Arabic-reading friends come across their tweets, tweets that condemn the attacks and are sympathetic to the victims, please comment with links, and I'll pull them together in a future entry.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on