2 US terror militia members admit role in attack on Minnesota mosque

The Dar Al-Farooq Youth and Family Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Courtesy: Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center via Facebook)
Updated 25 January 2019

2 US terror militia members admit role in attack on Minnesota mosque

  • Suspects confess to being members of an Illinois militia group whose aim is to scare Muslims into leaving the US
  • The suspects were behind the fire-bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Hoping to scare Muslims into leaving the US, members of an Illinois militia group rented a truck and drove more than 500 miles (805 kilometers) to bomb a Minnesota mosque, two men admitted Thursday.
Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris said that when they arrived at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington on Aug. 5, 2017, they broke a window and threw a lit pipe bomb and a gasoline mixture inside, causing an explosion, fire and extensive damage. No one was injured in the attack, which happened just as morning prayers were about to begin, shaking members of the local Muslim community.
McWhorter, 29, and Morris, 23, of Clarence, Illinois, each pleaded guilty Thursday to five counts in connection with the mosque attack, the attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic, armed robberies and other crimes.
A third defendant, 47-year-old Michael Hari, whom prosecutors said directed the bombing, remains in federal custody in Illinois.
The plea agreements portray Hari as the ringleader of a militia group called the White Rabbits, which included Hari, McWhorter, Morris and at least five other people. Hari’s trial is set for July.
The guilty pleas of McWhorter and Morris came a day before three members of another militia were set to be sentenced for a foiled plot to massacre Muslims in southwest Kansas by blowing up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants. That attack, planned for the day after the November 2016 election, was thwarted after another member of the group tipped off authorities.
In the Minnesota mosque bombing, Hari allegedly picked Dar Al-Farooq because it was far enough away from the White Rabbits’ central Illinois hometown that he thought they wouldn’t be suspected. He also allegedly believed it was a focal point for terror recruiting, a claim that law enforcement has not substantiated.

This undated photo provided by the Sherburne County Jail shows Illinois miligtia member Joe Morris. (Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

Morris’ attorney, Robert Richman, said Morris merely followed the lead of Hari, a man he’d known as a father figure since he was 9.
“Hari essentially weaponized Joe Morris,” Richman said.
McWhorter’s attorney, Chris Madel, said: “Human beings are a lot more complicated than what some people believe, and Michael McWhorter’s story has yet to be told.”
Morris and McWhorter could each face at least 35 years in prison.
Neither attorney would say whether his client would cooperate or testify against Hari. Messages left with Hari’s attorneys in Illinois and Minnesota were not immediately returned.
The plea agreements say the men targeted the mosque to interfere with the free exercise of religion by Muslims and to let Muslims know they were not welcome in the United States.
It’s not clear how the White Rabbits became aware of Dar Al-Farooq, but the mosque was in headlines in recent years: Some young people from Minnesota who traveled to Syria to join the Daesh group had worshipped there. Mosque leaders were never accused of any wrongdoing.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, said McWhorter and Morris wanted the Muslim community to be fearful and run away.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said.
According to the plea agreements, the men were headed toward Minnesota when Hari told McWhorter and Morris that he had a pipe bomb in the vehicle and they were going to bomb a mosque.
When the three arrived at Dar Al-Farooq, Hari gave Morris a sledgehammer and told him to break a window, the plea agreements say. McWhorter then lit the fuse on the pipe bomb and threw it inside; Morris threw the gasoline mixture.
McWhorter and Morris also pleaded guilty to their roles in a failed attack on a Champaign, Illinois, abortion clinic in November 2017. A pipe bomb that Morris said he and Hari threw into the clinic did not explode.
The plea agreements say Hari, McWhorter, Morris and others also participated in an armed home invasion in Ambia, Indiana, and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.
Morris and McWhorter also admitted to attempting to extort Canadian National Railway by threatening to damage tracks if the railroad didn’t pay them money.
A fourth man, Ellis Mack of Clarence, already pleaded guilty to two counts in Illinois. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in April.

Jakarta literary festival aims to give a voice to the voiceless

Updated 8 min 34 sec ago

Jakarta literary festival aims to give a voice to the voiceless

  • The four-day festival features authors from the Middle East and Africa
  • The festival unites international authors with dozens of fellow writers from Indonesia

JAKARTA: The inaugural Jakarta International Literary Festival commenced on Tuesday evening with a focus on bringing together writers and literary works from the Global South. 

Festival Director Yusi Avianto Pareanom said that the organizer, the Literary Committee of the Jakarta Arts Council, wanted to emphasize the importance of creating balance in a discourse that has been dominated by work from the Global North.

The four-day festival features authors from the Middle East and Africa, such as Legodle Seganabeng from Botswana, Adania Shibli from Palestine, Bejan Matur from Turkey, Zainab Priya Dala from South Africa, Shenaz Patel from Mauritius, Momtaza Mehri from Somalia and many authors from Southeast Asian countries.

The festival unites international authors with dozens of fellow writers from Indonesia at the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts and cultural center in Jakarta between Aug. 20 and 24.  

“Our theme ‘Fence’ highlights that we want to unlock and deconstruct the barriers that separate us, so that these writers can get to know each other,” Yusi told Arab News. 

“From authors like Adania Shibli, we can enrich our knowledge about Palestine and its literary scene. There are plenty of ways to portray a situation. Through Shibli, we can get understand Palestine through its literary side.

“By featuring Bejan Matur, we know that there is another prominent Turk author apart from the world-renowned Orhan Pamuk,” he added. 

Shibli delivered her keynote speech titled “I am not to speak my language” at the opening of the festival, in which she described how the Israeli occupation has silenced Arabic-speaking Palestinians.

“The phenomenon of Palestinians taking refuge in silence whenever they are around Hebrew speakers in Palestine or Israel is not unfamiliar,” Shibli said.

She added that decades of military occupation had made speaking in Arabic a fraught experience. 

“Colonialism, however, does not only show contempt toward the colonized, their history and their culture by silencing them, but also toward their language,” she said.  

Shibli described how the nationality law, which the Israeli government passed in July 2018, strips Arabic of its designation as an official language and downgrades it to a special status. 

“Arabic was downgraded from a language into a threat a long time ago,” she added. 

Yusi said that what Shibli described in her speech is relevant to similar situations in other countries, including Indonesia. 

Multilingual Indonesia has more than 700 actively spoken local dialects, with 652 of them verified by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Many of the remaining dialects are in danger of dying out due to diminishing speakers, especially among the younger generation.