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Racism, not fascism

Indigo Jo Blogs - 15 July, 2018 - 19:29

A front page of the Daily Mail, with the headline "The pomp ... and the pygmy". There is a large picture showing Donald Trump and his wife, with the queen (much shorter and dressed in a bright blue dress) between them; at the bottom is a picture of Jeremy Corbyn with a crowd behind him in a London street, with a few banners with slogans such as "Dump Trump, fight bigotry".As the depredations of Donald Trump’s immigration forces continue in the USA and his visit to the UK is supported by nakedly mendacious propaganda in the Daily Mail (see right), it is fashionable to make dire warnings of the rise of fascism both here and there. There is a quote from George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier which I saw posted on Twitter yesterday:

When I speak of Fascism in England, I am not necessarily thinking of Mosley and his pimpled followers. English Fascism, when it arrives, is likely to be of a sedate and subtle kind (presumably, at any rate, it won’t be called Fascism), and it is doubtful whether a Gilbert and Sullivan heavy dragoon of Mosley’s stamp would ever be more than a joke to the majority of English.

Last month the Irish commentator Fintan O’Toole wrote in the Irish Times of the treatment of child detainees in American immigration detention as a “trial run” for fascism as, in an established democracy, “it is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility”; people’s moral scruples need to be worn down and their boundaries pushed back again and again.

I think it is dangerous to over-emphasise the danger of fascism as such in the rise of Trump or the machinations of Britain’s Brexiteers. It is a distraction from much more immediate dangers. Yes, one of the features of a fascist regime is the controlled media which is used as a vehicle for propaganda by the state and the ruling party, and seeing the Daily Mail use its front page to lionise the government and its widely loathed and ridiculed foreign guest while portraying the leader of the Opposition as a “pygmy”, using a crude bit of photo cropping to make Jeremy Corbyn look small, does rather look like the behaviour of a sycophantic newspaper in a dictatorial state rather than part of the free press in a democracy. But we are still a democracy, parliament is still active and still sovereign and there are no odd greetings, larger-than-life statues or pictures of Theresa May in every public place and no uniformed militias marching down streets.

When we speak of fascism, we generally mean an authoritarian or totalitarian state with a pervasive personality cult or state ideology, widespread censorship and propaganda, heavy government hand in the economy, no functioning democratic institutions (or none at all), a militaristic culture and a police state. The best examples of such states in recent times were the Baathist states (Iraq and Syria) and Iran, and to a lesser extent Egypt. The chief crime of fascism most people can name off the top of their head is the Holocaust, the genocide of the Jews of Europe through an apparatus of death and slave-labour camps before and during World War II. Yet there were other countries at the time with regimes that called themselves or could be called fascist — Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina — and none pursued policies of genocide. They were often racist, but they were principally authoriarian. While a genocide on the same scale as the Holocaust would probably take a dictatorship and a police state, it does not take a full-blown fascist state to perpetrate mass murder or extreme violence against people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion or any other aspect of their status or identity.

There have been cases throughout history of countries with representative systems of government denying rights to some of their subjects. Many US states denied Black people the vote for several decades in the late 19th and early 20th century, using such tricks as literacy tests (which could be manipulated to ensure they failed, if all else failed by asking an unanswerable question), grandfather clauses (such that only people descended from Confederate veterans could vote, which for obvious reasons almost no Black person was) and straightforward violence and intimidation. Members of the Ku Klux Klan occupied positions of state such as police officers, representatives and judges; Black people could find themselves thrown in jail or murdered as a result of any confrontation with a white person, or because a white person coveted their property; lynchings were public occasions and photographs were taken and some remain; areas of Black prosperity were destroyed by mob violence on numerous occasions.

Today, the largest democracy is India whose prime minister is Narendra Modi, who rose to power through a Hindu supremacist movement which is widely identified as fascist by its opponents and even some of its supporters will proudly call themselves that. During its time governing India, Muslims have been murdered on suspicion of such things as keeping or slaughtering cows, which are sacred according to the majority Hindus from whom the support for the supremacist party mostly comes. In 2002, while Modi was first minister of the state of Gujarat in north-western India, members and supporters of the same supremacist movement went on the rampage in the state, killing Muslims, raping Muslim women, destroying their homes, businesses and places of worship. While Modi was cleared of personal involvement in the attacks, he has been alleged to have made such remarks as that Hindus should be allowed to “vent their anger” (after an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, known for harassing other passengers and station vendors, which killed 58 people; Modi immediately pointed the finger at Pakistani intelligence, without evidence) and that Muslims needed to be “taught a lesson”. Modi went on to win two further elections and is now prime minister of India; in the decade or so after the violence, he was banned from visiting western countries but since becoming prime minister, he has been welcomed with open arms by politicians in Europe and the USA, with an audience at Wembley stadium for which a Labour MP, Keith Vaz, boasted of donating his bonus to help finance.

The country is still a parliamentary democracy and Muslims have not lost the vote. But politicians can openly justify or threaten violence against a minority and win; having been in power when three days of rioting killed hundreds or thousands of people should ensure that a politician is never elected again but in modern India is no black mark on a Hindu politician’s record. This is the thing we should be looking out for in the West and particularly in Trump’s America. There is not the support in the country for the outright suspension of the democratic process; why would they when they are already able to gerrymander electoral districts and suppress minority voters to ensure that their side wins key seats, when they can stack the Supreme Court with judges who will rule that their abuse of prisoners, immigration detainees or whoever is not cruel or unusual or torture (we are still seeing courts rule that using electric shocks on autistic people who are not even prisoners for various disability-related acts of trivial disobedience is not torture, for example; that hasn’t got to the Supreme Court yet), when pardons can be used to free their people on the off-chance that they are convicted, when police officers can kill unarmed Black civilians, even children, and know with 99% certainty that they will not be indicted, let alone convicted, and when the existing constitution (prior to amendment) sanctioned slavery and then the Jim Crow régime for nearly 200 years?

Fascism in the sense of a party committed to authoritarian rule and the destruction of democracy which is the actual hallmark of fascism is not a major threat in the western world now. In fact, in the entire period since World War II, parties commonly called fascist in the UK have been principally racist rather than fascist — yes, they praise or defend Hitler, deny the Holocaust and the thug outfits like Combat 18 use Nazi salutes, but they capitalised on public fears about mass immigration and were about keeping Britain white rather than attacking the idea of democracy. In countries that have known parliamentary rule for centuries, or since their foundation, the majority are unwilling to give up their democratic rights for the “glory of the Nation”, for a thousand-year Empire, or any other nationalist cause even if they will deny them to minorities.

Yes, the far-right or alt-right — the likes of Steve Bannon — have some things in common with fascists; their disregard for the truth when it suits their purposes (note his description of the serial criminal Steven Yaxley-Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson, as the “backbone of this country” today, as noted by the political editor of the mostly right-wing British radio station LBC) being an important one. However, the major danger we face from the White right is racist violence, both from below (mobs and possibly militias in the US) and from above (police, immigration services etc) as well as openly or covertly discriminatory policy and the legal and judicial persecution of prominent members of minorities, some of which, as already demonstrated both under Bush’s and Trump’s presidencies, courts will sanction and the popular media will justify. The US is further down that road than we are here, but the economic instability that will inevitably follow if Brexit goes ahead opens up the risk of racially-targeted violence as people look for others to blame when their jobs disappear and the prices of food, fuel and other essentials go up.

We need to stop pretending that there is a threat of fascism as such. We need to talk about the rise of racism and of intolerance and prejudice against any minority and under whatever pretext. A democracy can be oppressive — even liberal opinion in the west, to say nothing of white conservative opinion, continues to indulge Israel’s occupation and denial of rights to Palestinians two generations after the 1967 war, which in my opinion conditions westerners to accept such things here, especially when the minorities concerned here are linked in one way or another to the occupied there — and can tolerate mob violence, pogroms and other extreme violence, even when people with fascist heritage never win so much as 5% of the vote. So let’s not talk of the clothes English or American fascism will wear when it appears, or the manner of their marching. The more likely scenario is that it will wear the same flag as the state already uses, the one everyone swears allegiance to each morning in the American case, and there will be elections after the massacre, the party supported by the perpetrators will contest it and they will perform healthily or even win, while the press blames the victims for provoking it. Call this the 21st century version of fascism if you like but it will not be very familiar to anyone who experienced, or even studied, the original version.

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Defending The Values of The Enlightenment

Inayat's Corner - 14 July, 2018 - 20:00

Donald Trump’s visit to the UK has led to mass demonstrations in London, Scotland and elsewhere with protestors making clear that they oppose his anti-immigrant and anti-environment policies along with his appallingly misogynistic views.

On Monday 16th July, Trump is scheduled to meet the Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki. Many Europeans leaders are deeply concerned over Trump’s friendly overtures to the Russian leader. Klaus Scharioth, who served as Germany’s ambassador to the USA during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama sums up this concern in today’s New York Times:

“For me, the key thing is the Enlightenment. I think that keeps the E.U. together, the values of the Enlightenment — a free press, religious freedom, minority protection, free elections, democracy, a free judiciary independent of all the other branches of government, tolerance, respect for others. I’m afraid the United States might no longer be speaking out for these values. And that makes me very anxious.”

I am currently reading Stephen Pinker’s latest book, Enlightenment Now: The Case For Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress, and it is hard to overstate how much all of us in Europe owe to the values of the Enlightenment. It is why we instinctively recoil from Putin’s authoritarianism. It is also why we are rightly sceptical of religious movements, including Islamic ones, that strive to create religious states – we recognise that in practice those states will almost certainly lead to increased discrimination against minorities and greater intolerance.

It is deeply concerning that we are witnessing the rise of populist movements in Europe and policies advocating intolerance towards minorities. The thuggish supporters of the English Defence League and the bans we are now seeing being introduced in parts of Europe against women wearing the burqa or niqab are examples of this increased intolerance.

As Scharioth notes in the New York Times:

“Nobody thought in the early 1920s that Italy would become a dictatorship. Nobody thought that Germany, supposed a quite cultured nation, would get rid of democracy in a very short time.”

It is time to stand up for Enlightenment values and actively challenge those who seek to undermine them – whether they come in the shape of populists like Trump or whether they are advocates of utopian religious states.

 

Tory MP apologises for tweet of Sadiq Khan image with pig balloon

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 July, 2018 - 14:03

London mayor calls for Conservatives to take action over Michael Fabricant tweet

The Conservative MP Michael Fabricant has apologised for tweeting a cartoon image of Sadiq Khan being mounted by an inflatable pig, after he was accused of Islamophobia.

Khan, the mayor of London, called on the Tories to take action against the backbencher, and the Labour MP Wes Streeting said he had written to the Conservative chief whip, Julian Smith, asking what would be done.

Hi @Mike_Fabricant, what is this flag on your mantelpiece? @FactCheck pic.twitter.com/kS9SKDPNGi

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One big no, many small yeses

Indigo Jo Blogs - 13 July, 2018 - 12:42

 US deal is off!". Below that are the sub-headings "Boris would be a great PM, migration is killing Europe, terror is [Sadiq] Khan's fault".This week two cabinet ministers (David Davis, for Brexit, and Boris Johnson, foreign secretary) resigned, and a handful of junior ministers and parliamentary private secretaries also resigned over the government’s “Chequers” Brexit plan formulated last week at the prime minister’s country retreat in Buckinghamshire which the “hard Brexiteers” say is a proposal for a half-Brexit which still leaves us subject to a number of EU rules without a say in making them, or as Johnson says, with the status of a ‘colony’. There has been talk, according to the BBC’s Robert Peston, of a split in the Tory party over the issue (with some responding that it cannot come too soon, or words to that effect), while a number of right-wing Labour MPs have talked of supporting the prime minister, Theresa May, to achieve a ‘good’ Brexit deal (as if there could be such a thing) and even talk of some sort of government of national unity. This has angered a lot of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, which account for the bulk of Labour members but of only a minority of MPs, and amplified calls for the introduction of mandatory re-selection of parliamentary candidates.

To reiterate what I’ve said many times here and on Twitter: Boris Johnson should never have been appointed; he has a long history of racist remarks and inflammatory untruths about various minorities, particularly as editor of the Spectator, which were allowed to pass because of his status as a “figure of fun”, because of his wealth and because the people he demeaned were unfavoured minorities, particularly Muslims. Apart from his regular embarrassing gaffes, the position he expressed on Brexit in his resignation is inconsistent with the one he expressed in the run-up to the referendum in which he said he would vote for the UK to remain in the Single Market; he also made some false claims in his resignation letter about truck design and cycle safety, drawing attention to his campaigning while mayor of London for improvements in the design of trucks for that purpose, but conveniently omitting that the proposals were adopted by the European Parliament and later the European Council but opposed by the British government. It is alarming that so many articles have been published on Johnson’s shortcomings, usually mentioning his diplomatic gaffes and his better-known racist remarks, without mentioning his pages and pages of slurs on Muslims.

There have been some crass remarks made on Twitter by other Tory politicians indifferent to the ideas of either democracy or the public good. One Tory MP claimed that ‘democracy’ means that the people vote once — in other words, it’s against his version of democracy for there to be another referendum now that his wing of the Tory party appears to have the upper hand (however, despite the fact that general elections are supposed to be held every five years by law, his leader held one in 2017, just two years after the previous one). Meanwhile, the MP for Witham in Essex, Priti Patel, claimed:

This is no longer an argument about whether Brexit was a good idea but is about democracy & standing by the democratic decision made by the people. The public want to know that their political leaders will stay true to the promise made to them that Brexit means Brexit.

But actually, in a Parliamentary democracy, the matter of whether a policy which has enormous consequences for everyone, which could easily result in food and fuel shortages and economic ruin, is a good idea is something they should be debating regardless of whether one poll two years ago revealed that people want it, especially when they voted without knowing what it would mean; as noted earlier, many Brexiteers then favoured joining the European Economic Area, like Norway, while now they are talking about a bespoke deal which they still cannot agree on after two years and less than a year before we are due to leave.

So, Brexiteer Tories do not like the idea of the people having their say again. More depressing is the attitude of Labour MPs which stretches from defeatism on Brexit itself to collusion with the government and not even to the end of stopping Brexit but simply to defeat Jeremy Corbyn. From a number of them we have heard statements of mysterious and convenient ‘maturity’ and ‘statesmanlikeness’, calling for Labour not to oppose but to support the government on getting the “best Brexit deal” as if there could be such a thing. If the idea was a temporary alliance with Tory Remainers, that would be a good thing, but not to stick the knife into Corbyn while pushing forward a ‘deal’ which is a sub-Norway option fudge. I have a feeling that their defeatism stems more from the aggression of right-wing Brexiteers than from actual deference to the referendum result; they should know that any violence is more likely to be the result of the ill consequences of Brexit itself than of reneging on the referendum result, especially as there is large-scale popular support for the latter.

Of course, Corbyn’s allies indulge in vain talk about a “jobs-first Brexit” when a number of major employers have suggested that they might not be able to do business here if we do not get a deal that is very good for them — despite the British roots of some of the industries, they are now based overseas and have many other countries where they can make the things they make here. Party chair Ian Lavery claimed that his party was ready to take over negotiations now because “Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have a much higher standing in Europe than the Conservatives. The Conservative Party, Theresa May, David Davis, Boris Johnson, they are a laughing stock.” Yet Corbyn’s cabinet is likely to consist of people who have never held high office, even under a Labour government, while Labour in office were always known for a strongly pro-EU position (as were the Tories until recently) — this is the party which won a landslide in 1997 on a pro-Maastricht platform while the Tories were divided. They have no more credibility on this issue than the Tories and the EU27 leaders will know that they lack the support of many of their MPs.

Besides the fact that Brexit will have tremendous disadvantages for British citizens and none for European ones, who will still have the rest of Europe in which to travel, work, holiday without visa hassles and broaden their horizons, another thing we should consider is who our closest allies will be once we are out of the EU. The only other large countries in Europe outside the EU will be Russia, currently strongly suspected of an assassination attempt which killed a member of the public and may yet kill more, and Ukraine which is partly occupied by Russia; our so-called closest ally in the world is the United States whose president — as well as making some demonstrably untrue accusations against his NATO allies in mainland Europe — has given an interview to the Sun in which he endorses Boris Johnson for PM, blames Theresa May for “wrecking” Brexit, blames Sadiq Khan (mayor of London) for ‘terror’ and claims that migration is “killing Europe” and that’s just the blurbs on the front page. The EU right now remains a bloc of mostly stable democracies; outside it we will become more and more vulnerable to interference from both the already corrupt and authoritarian Russia and an increasingly violent, fascistic US ruled by a deranged ignoramus surrounded by liars.

I have said many times that politics cannot return to the pre-2016 status quo, whichever way the Brexit negotiations go (or stop). Regardless of whether people gave immigration as the reason for how they voted, the places most affected by Thatcherite industrial decline and subsequent Blairite neglect were among the places most likely to vote to leave, and the discontent will continue unless the areas affected receive substantial investment, and in proper industry rather than infrastructure projects, but right now, stopping the carnage that Brexit will lead us to is the most important thing that needs doing. 48% of people voted to remain in the EU; to paraphrase Paul Kingsnorth, that’s one big no and, as has been revealed since the vote, many small yeses. None of the unsatisfactory Brexit deals that have ever been suggested would in themselves attract 40%, let alone 52%, of the public vote. The Brexiteer Tories thump their chests and proclaim that they represent the “will of the people”, yet none of their factions commands a majority.

Let us look at the different camps on Brexit as parties in the tradition of British party politics; usually, the biggest single plurality wins. This may not (and usually is not) an outright majority or even as high as 48.2% — usually in the low 40s, sometimes much less as in 2005 — but it carries enough weight to gain a majority in Parliament because of the divisions among their opponents. This was the same reason why the vote to abolish the (British) monarchy in Australia was defeated; none of the options for a republic could attract a majority and this issue was debated before rather than after the vote. We need to look past the aggressive triumphalist rhetoric of the hard Brexiteers because their demands do not have the support of the majority of the population and supporters of the Norway option could be brought around by letting them know that it has all the disadvantages of full EU membership without a seat at the table when the rules are drawn up. Ultimately we cannot inflict enormous harm on both the economy and the constitution of this country just because some people think they want it. As everyone learns when they are a child, you cannot always get what you want, especially when this requires the sacrifice of others.

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Lancashire council bans non-stunned halal meat from schools

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 July, 2018 - 17:03

Move is Islamophobic, antisemitic and undemocratic, say Muslim leaders

A council has banned meat from animals that haven’t been stunned from coucil-supplied school meals, prompting accusations of Islamophobia and antisemitism.

Lancashire county council voted on Thursday to stop providing halal meat to council establishments unless animals are stunned before they are slaughtered.

Related: Morrissey denounces halal meat as 'evil', and attacks May, Khan, Abbott and more

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No expense spared as England prepares for World Cup semi-final

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 July, 2018 - 19:07

From private jets to M&S waistcoats, open mosques to closed supermarkets, football fever grips the nation

England fans are taking trains, planes and automobiles – often at exorbitant cost – in a desperate bid to get to Russia in time to see England play in the semi-final of the World Cup against Croatia, and maybe even the final on Sunday. The Football Association is expecting more than 10,000 fans to make the 3,600-mile trip to Moscow for Wednesday’s game.

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Denmark’s ‘anti-ghetto’ laws are a betrayal of our tolerant values | Michala Bendixen

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 July, 2018 - 11:07

From a niqab clampdown to circumcision debates, my country is becoming explicitly Islamophobic

Denmark has just passed a law called the “ghetto deal”. This awful word is used in all seriousness to describe 25 residential areas across Denmark, where a significant proportion of the inhabitants have an ethnic-minority background and/or low social status.

Related: They want a wolf-free Denmark. Will migrants be next? | Dorthe Nors

Related: The Guardian view on forcible integration in Denmark: this cannot end well | Editorial

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Malaysian man who married 11-year-old Thai girl fined $448 by sharia court

The Guardian World news: Islam - 10 July, 2018 - 07:53

Man who already had two wives also charged with polygamy in case that caused outrage in Malaysia

A Malaysian man who married an 11-year-old Thai girl has been fined 1,800 Malaysian Ringgit (US$450) after pleading guilty in a sharia court.

Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid, who already has two wives and six children, was charged with polygamy and conducting the marriage without the court’s permission.

Related: Muslim cleric accused of performing forced marriage of child bride sacked

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Imran Khan criticised for defence of Pakistan blasphemy laws

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 July, 2018 - 16:29

PTI leader accused of using blasphemy issue to win backing of religious right

Imran Khan has been accused of risking bloodshed for electoral gain after the former cricketer-turned-politician offered a full-throated defence of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws in the run-up to the general election on 25 July.

“We are standing with Article 295c and will defend it,” said the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at a gathering of Muslim leaders in Islamabad on Saturday, referring to the clause of the constitution that mandates the death penalty for any “imputation, insinuation or innuendo” against the prophet Muhammad.

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Ofsted chief accuses minority groups of 'entitlement' in hijab row

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 July, 2018 - 16:06

Amanda Spielman says school leaders must resist pressure on issues such as the headscarf

The head of Ofsted is to once again step into the fraught debate over the wearing of the hijab by primary school pupils, accusing minority groups with a “sense of religious or cultural entitlement” of attempting to exert an outsize influence on school policy.

In a speech on Monday evening, Amanda Spielman will urge school leaders to resist pressure on issues such as the wearing of the hijab or what is taught to pupils.

Related: New Ofsted chief: ‘I want everyone to see us as a force for improvement’

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Who’s Afraid of President Erdogan?

Inayat's Corner - 8 July, 2018 - 20:06


Last month, Turkey held both Presidential and parliamentary elections. They were – according to Al-Jazeera – the 14th elections that the incumbent President Erdogan has taken part in and “he has won them all”. It is a truly remarkable record. In a region where many leaders rule based on the principles of a police state and refuse to submit themselves to a free vote amongst their people, Erdogan’s record becomes even more impressive.

And yet…if we read much of the Western coverage of the elections we were provided with a somewhat different picture. We know that much of the UK press is quite bigoted in its coverage of Muslim affairs. A few years ago, I wrote about how the Daily Telegraph had to publicly apologise to President Erdogan after it published an entirely baseless story alleging that  Erdogan had accepted $25 million from the Iranian government for his AK Party. Interestingly, Erdogan had received quite a bit of favourable coverage in the West soon after he and his AK Party came to power in 2002. This changed some years later – particularly after Erdogan publicly scolded the former Israeli premier, Shimon Peres, at Davos for his defence of Israel’s genocidal behaviour in Gaza. You can watch the video here.

But what about the Guardian? The Guardian is generally held by many Muslims to be rather more balanced in its coverage of the Muslim world. In the run up to the elections, the Guardian printed two articles by its foreign affairs columnist and assistant editor, Simon Tisdall. You can get a flavour of their contents by looking at how they were headlined: “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: a dictator in all but name seeks complete control” and “Bully-boy Erdoğan is a threat to Turkey – and the world“.

Tisdall warned that “If he gets his way in Sunday’s polls, Erdoğan, a dictator in all but name, is likely to foment further instability in Syria and throughout the Middle East region.” Readers might raise their eyebrows that a journalist from the UK – a country which played such a key role in the illegal war against Iraq in 2003 which caused so much blood to be spilt and fomented no end of “instability” in the region in the years since – is not showing a bit more humility and a sense of introspection, but let’s carry on.

Tisdall then goes on to alert his readers about the following bit of crucial regional intelligence: “Prince Salman, the Saudi crown prince, says Turkey is part of a “triangle of evil” that includes Iran and Islamic extremists.” Yes, Prince Salman, that well known democrat belonging to the enlightened hand and head-chopping Saudi Royal family that is so well known for winning how many elections exactly? One wonders why on earth Tisdall thinks his readers would regard the words of the Prince as counting for anything. He then ended his column, just in case any readers had not got the message, by writing “Turkey’s voters have a duty to the world, not just to themselves. Kick him out.”

Alas, the people of Turkey voted rather differently.

It is right to carefully scrutinise those who hold executive power. Far too few Muslim leaders and their policies are subject to proper criticism in their countries. In many Muslim countries – including Turkey sadly –  insulting the leader is deemed to be a criminal offence. That is appalling. There desperately needs to be more freedom allowed in Muslim countries. It will be interesting to see how Turkey fares in this regard in the coming months and years. Will Turkey opt for strengthening the institutions of democracy and civil society or will it follow the sorry example of the Middle Eastern regimes? Time will tell.

Yet, behind much of the Western criticism of Turkey, one can’t help but sense that perhaps rather different agendas are at work. Just after President Erdogan’s victory in the elections, the US member of the House of Representatives, Adam Schiff, issued a tweet deriding Erdogan for  winning by “decimating the opposition through arrests, violence and squashing freedom of the press.” The same Schiff had earlier in June issued a press statement defending Israel after it killed over 60 unarmed Palestinians in cold blood. He said: “These terrorist attacks are outrageous and unacceptable, and Israel appropriately defended itself with airstrikes against militant targets in Gaza. I support Israel’s absolute right to self-defense, and condemn these terrorist attacks by Hamas.” Yes, Schiff’s response to the murder of 60 Palestinians and the deaths of, erm, no Israelis, was to condemn Hamas. That’s right – defend the strong occupying power and condemn the occupied.

Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s senior adviser, immediately fired back with this message telling Schiff “You need to shut up.”

Can you imagine a senior advisor to any of the Gulf states having the courage to respond like that to a US politician? And perhaps therein lies part of the reason of why President Erdogan and his AK Party continue to be so popular, not just in Turkey, but in much of the Muslim world.

Erdoğan flies into northern Cyprus to wary welcome

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 July, 2018 - 15:48

Turkish Cypriots fear secular traditions could be threatened by president’s autocratic style

Related: Turkey fires thousands of state employees in anti-terrorism purge

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his powers newly enhanced, flies into northern Cyprus this week for an official visit that is likely to be met with trepidation by Turkish Cypriots who pride themselves on a secular lifestyle at odds with the strongman leader’s Islamist outlook.

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German author sues Random House for not releasing book on Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 July, 2018 - 11:37

Munich court to hear dispute between ex-central banker Thilo Sarrazin and publisher

A German author is taking Random House to court over the publisher’s decision not to release his latest book on Islam.

The dispute between the publishing group and Thilo Sarrazin, a former central banker and Berlin state finance minister, will be heard before a court in Munich on Monday.

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Look at art for the deep connection between Europe and Islam | Kenan Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 July, 2018 - 09:00

While politicians present it as alien, a new exhibition in Florence reveals historic exchange and dialogue with the east

The Adoration of the Magi is an early 15th-century altarpiece painting by the Italian painter Gentile da Fabriano. Housed in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, it is considered by many art historians as Fabriano’s finest work and as the culmination of the International Gothic style of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

Look closely at figures of the Virgin Mary and Joseph, and you will notice something odd. Their halos feature Arabic script. That might seem sacrilege in a Christian religious painting. Yet as a new exhibition in Florence, at the Uffizi and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, sets out to show, such cultural and religious cross-dressing was common at the time. Entitled “Islamic Art and Florence from the Medici to the 20th Century”, the show explores “the knowledge, exchange, dialogue and mutual influence that existed between the arts of east and west”.

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Steps towards defining antisemitism | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 July, 2018 - 16:30
The fight against antisemitism is not enhanced by any conflation of it and legitimate criticism of Israel’s laws or the policies of its government, write parliamentarians and public figures including Caroline Lucas MP, Stephen Kinnock MP and Jarvis Cocker

We welcome the statement published last week by prominent academics and other figures from the Jewish community (Letters, 16 June). We endorse their clarity on the need for all public bodies and other organisations to be robust in addressing antisemitism within their own organisations and challenging it within wider society.

We agree that this requires clarity about what antisemitism is. We welcome their contribution to establishing such clarity. This is particularly important in addressing what type of speech about Israel may be antisemitic and what is not. We believe that the fight against antisemitism is not enhanced by any conflation of antisemitism and legitimate criticism of Israel’s laws or the policies of its government.

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The Guardian view on Islamophobia: time for the Tories to act | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 July, 2018 - 18:27
The former Conservative chair Sayeeda Warsi is right to call for an independent inquiry into what she calls the party’s ‘Muslim problem’

Institutions can promise to tackle their problems because they grasp that there really is a problem. Or they can promise to do so because they begin to discern – often very tardily – that others, including their own members and supporters, believe there is a problem. On the surface, at least, the difference between these approaches cannot always be easily defined. Yet people usually have a gut sense of which has been adopted. They also know which will lead to real solutions.

Sayeeda Warsi, formerly the chair of the Conservative party, has demanded that it launch a full and independent inquiry into Islamophobia (or, as she put it, a “fuck the Muslims” tendency) within the party, echoing a call from the Muslim Council of Britain. Lady Warsi, the MCB and other critics point to cases including the Conservative councillor suspended after sharing an article calling Muslims “parasites” and Tory MP Bob Blackman, who retweeted a message from the founder of the English Defence League (by mistake, he says) and was a member of an Islamophobic Facebook group (to which he says he was added without his knowledge). Most damaging of all – because it was a matter of party strategy, not just the action or words of an individual – was the London mayoral campaign of Zac Goldsmith, which sought to tar Sadiq Khan as an extremist, and the subsequent attempts to justify those tactics.

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'Our community is terrorised': Muslims abused as men invade Brisbane mosque

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 July, 2018 - 05:48

Group of men threaten elderly man and call 15-year-old boy ‘bloody terrorist’ at Kuraby mosque

Islamic leaders say rightwing extremists are behind an offensive act of intimidation at a Brisbane mosque, where a teenager was called a terrorist and Islam a cult.

A group of men went to the Kuraby mosque in southern Brisbane on Wednesday, and abused and threatened worshippers after asking to be let inside to film what was going on, the Islamic Council of Queensland said.

Related: Far-right activists who invaded mass would be charged with terrorism if Muslim, rector says

Related: Fascism is coming | First Dog on the Moon

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Who says the Left hates the white working class?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 July, 2018 - 23:45

 Snob Labour MP's Twitter dig at White Van Man's England flags"I saw a post on Medium last weekend, “Burning Down the House: Identity Politics and its Discontents”, which posited that white working-class voters who had voted for politicians like Donald Trump had faced “a double-bind”, a choice between a left-wing party that believes that they are ‘privileged’ for having white skin and which sometimes appears to love everyone but them, or a right-wing party that holds that they are poor because they deserve to be. It also gives a few examples of progressive hostility to expressions of white working-class culture or whiteness itself (e.g. ‘snobbish’ bans or sneers about displays of British or English flags, reference to whiteness as a pathology or ‘psychosis’ or to white people as evil) as if to demonstrate why white people might not choose to vote for the party which was historically based on their vote. The article, however, fails to acknowledge the reason for why white working-class voters may perceive the progressive left as despising them: there is simply no mention of the words ‘media’, ‘press’ or ‘tabloid’ anywhere in the article and I believe more people in that demographic read tabloid newspapers and listen to radio phone-ins than have any exposure to the sort of activism that portrays white people or whiteness as evil, other than what the media chooses to tell them.

To begin with: the displaying of flags and similar trappings of patriotism is not part of working-class culture in the UK. It is something the tabloid press encourages from time to time and which comes and goes around the time of international football tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championships. Similar is the case with poppies: they have always been ubiquitous in the media but there have always been adults who are not in any public-facing role who do not buy or wear them, but it was only when the Sun started preaching to everyone that they should wear them that they started to be seen as a marker of who is really British. There are many expressions of indigenous culture such as music and cuisine which is not generally regarded as ‘white’ even if most of the people who enjoy them are. By and large, white people enjoy foreign food, whether of European or other origin, because they want something more appetising and varied than native food — the “Sunday roast” served at the many carvery restaurants being really the only type of native food we take pride in. I’ve never heard it suggested that someone is racist for liking any of these things, instead of or as well as music or cuisine of overseas origin. It’s not generally accepted that, say, English folk music is an expression of “white pride” and when fascists periodically try to reclaim them as such, the musicians rebuff them.

The author quotes a few examples of (mostly American) Black activists making arguments for such things as Black-only spaces, and questioning whether their children can be friends with White (American) people. He does not question why they may be doing this, and given that he is British, he does not really examine the differences between the American situation and the British one in which there is much greater integration, particularly in the cities. Personally, I have a number of (mostly if not all Muslim) Black American contacts on social media, some of whom formerly took a very conservative position on issues such as the family and attitudes to the law and so on, who have increasingly taken withdrawn from ideas of integration, even with other Muslims, in the few years since the spate of unjust killings that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and then the Trump campaign ramped up. They have become increasingly convinced that Whites hate or despise them and (in the case of the Muslims I know) that immigrant Muslims identify as White or aspire to do so and despise them, and aware that the State does not regard the lives of their Black sons, brothers and husbands as sacred, that they can be killed in short order for no reason, and that some of their white ‘friends’ will assume that they must have done something to provoke that. They are increasingly aware that their White (especially middle-class) friends have no idea what their lives are like, that they are aggressive when reminded of the fact, and expect extreme gratitude for small favours (the “ain’t I always been good to you people?” response as seen in The Color Purple).

“Post-Liberal Bot” does not seem to question whether the White vote for Trump is a cause or an effect of the increasing turning-away of Black people from integration and friendship with Whites. Besides the fact that Republicans have always, since the days of Richard Nixon, relied on racially-coded appeals to White resentment and on tactics aimed at suppressing or corralling the minority vote (gerrymandering, felony disenfranchisement accompanied by over-policing, and so on), Trump combined this with open associations with the white Far Right, with violence at his rallies, with openly racist generalisations about Mexicans being rapists, with threatening rhetoric about “law and order” along with a few vague promises to White voters in the Rust Belt that he might bring jobs back. The sight of people voting for an open, aggressive racist who made promises to restore law and order and economic certainties reminds a lot of people of the rise of Hitler; we have seen a similar thing recently with Narendra Modi’s rise to power in India. People who will not be the main victims of the gas chambers or the machete mobs will feel safe voting for a fascist.

I’ve seen some of the rhetoric about ‘whiteness’ but in all honesty, I doubt that the average White voter in the street, either here or in the USA, has much exposure to it. As a number of White Liberal commentators have abundantly demonstrated, the right-wing media have sought over many years to persuade the provincial White voter that the Democratic party is dominated by the “metropolitan elite” which is only at home on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts and treats the interior as a ‘flyover’, and additionally is in hock to the inner-city welfare-dependent population (i.e. Blacks) and does not care for the self-reliant real American. A less extreme variant of this message is given out by the Tory party and press here; right now, they cannot persuade anyone that getting rid of the NHS is a good thing, but they can persuade people that all manner of undeserving people are getting treatment they aren’t entitled to, or isn’t really necessary, on their readers’ taxes. Really, the people who come into contact at first hand with the rhetoric described in PLB’s article, and are at risk of accusations of inadvertent racism, are activists themselves.

That’s not to say that all of these accusations are justified. There is a tendency in many activist circles for people to claim to be offended on the basis of a theory when the language used (as it is usually about language) could not possibly have hurt them; I call these sorts of people “pro-flakes”, people who make a career, or at least a hobby, of finding things to get offended at. The most recent example was last week in which a number of Black activists on Twitter took umbrage at the use of the term “poorface”, meaning wealthy people trying on poverty for size, in an article for the Independent by the cookery writer Jack Monroe. The term is a reference to “blackface”, in which white performers “blacked up” to perform parodies of Black culture and music to white audiences, and the terms “cripface” and “cripping up” have been used by disabled people to refer to non-disabled actors playing disabled roles in films, TV etc in preference to disabled actors who are passed over for roles they could play. Monroe of course apologised and had the Independent remove the offending language from the piece, but how much could it really have offended anyone? All the people I saw complaining were much too young to remember the Black and White Minstrel Show which ended in the late 70s on British TV, much less the American heyday of the practice. It was not a question of the language causing widespread, genuine offence, but of it triggering a learned offendedness reaction in a small group of people.

Racial activists often do not regard themselves as part of the “progressive left” anyway; they regard it with some degree of suspicion, because they have come across race-blindness and behaviour influenced by white privilege in liberal and left-wing circles as much as anywhere else — but in any case they are one part of a large coalition. They vote Labour or Democrat, including when the candidate is white and relies on but does not reward their vote, often because the alternative is worse. However, I do not see why they should be expected to keep quiet about the way they see the world when they suffer discrimination on a regular basis and risks of violence that white people do not even think of because it might hurt white people’s feelings, or be twisted by people with a hostile agenda. In short, the idea of the progressive left as “hating working-class white culture” is a right-wing commercial media trope which has no real basis in reality; progressives despise the attitudes encouraged and fostered by the vulgar right-wing media rather than actual indigenous culture; the media translates this into hatred or contempt of ordinary working people.

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No more excuses. Time for an inquiry into Tory Islamophobia | Sayeeda Warsi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 July, 2018 - 06:00
Criticism of antisemitism in the Labour party isn’t credible as long as we’ve failed to root out hatred in our own backyard
• Sayeeda Warsi is the former co-chairman of the Conservative party

I’ve been warning my party of its “Muslim problem” for far too long. Which is why I can only welcome a change in tone from some senior members of the party in recent weeks. Theresa May condemned anti-Muslim prejudice in the House of Commons. The Conservative party chairman, Brandon Lewis, wrote that it was “utterly unacceptable that anyone should suffer abuse because of their faith”, and at a recent event to celebrate Eid, the communities secretary, James Brokenshire, was clear about the need to tackle Islamophobia. I welcome this language, but it’s not enough.

Related: The Tories have an Islamophobia problem. Will they tackle it? | Miqdaad Versi

Related: Sayeeda Warsi calls for inquiry into Islamophobia within Tory party

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Sayeeda Warsi calls for inquiry into Islamophobia within Tory party

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 July, 2018 - 06:00

Former party chair claims Tories are in denial about the problem within their ranks
Sayeeda Warsi: No more excuses on Tory Islamophobia

Sayeeda Warsi has called on the Conservatives to launch a “full independent inquiry” into Islamophobia in the party and warned the Tories were pursuing a politically damaging policy of denial about the problem in its own ranks.

The former Conservative party chair accused incumbent Brandon Lewis of a “woefully inept” response to recent complaints and added that MP Zac Goldsmith should receive “mandatory diversity training” following his unsuccessful attempt to beat Sadiq Khan to the London mayoralty.

Related: Muslim group accuses Tories of turning blind eye to Islamophobia claims

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