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Boris Johnson's burqa remarks 'fan flames of Islamophobia', says MP

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 August, 2018 - 12:16

David Lammy condemns ex-foreign secretary over column in which he likened veiled Muslim women to bank robbers

Boris Johnson is facing calls to apologise after he said Muslim women in burqas look “like letter boxes”, with Labour demanding that Theresa May condemns “this blatant Islamophobia”.

The former foreign secretary went on to compare Muslim women in burqas to bank robbers and rebellious teenagers, and said he would expect his constituents to remove face coverings when talking to him at his MP’s surgery, in an article he wrote for the Daily Telegraph on Monday.

Muslim women are having their burkas pulled off by thugs in our streets & Boris Johnson's response is to mock them for "looking like letter boxes." Our pound-shop Donald Trump is fanning the flames of Islamophobia to propel his grubby electoral ambitions.https://t.co/51YTjIdT4x

Dear Tory leadership voters - one of the potential candidates thinks you want Bannon not Boris on the ballot paper. Make sure you tell him being a Buffoon not being a racist and misogynist more British and more your bag before he goes full morrissey… #21stcenturycalling https://t.co/3FfifuotUx

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Corbyn and Anti-Semitism versus Brexit

Indigo Jo Blogs - 5 August, 2018 - 20:18

 "This is the pig's ear Ed made of a bacon sarnie. In 48 hours he could be doing the same to Britain. SAVE OUR BACON. Don't swallow his porkies and keep him OUT."The Labour anti-Semitism crisis has not disappeared from the headlines after yet another week. It is noticeable now that the issue has moved on from any specific incident of anti-Semitism by any Labour politician or activist to the mere refusal of Jeremy Corbyn to accept the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism to the letter, including the problematic examples, despite the problems with it being clearly spelled out. On Friday evening the Guardian published a piece attributed to Corbyn, which some are suggesting he did not in fact write, that tried to reassure Jewish voters that anti-Semitism had no place in the party, but it was condemned for being released on the eve of the Sabbath on which observant Jews are not allowed to use electricity or buy or carry things (which would rule out reading it online or buying the paper until Saturday evening, at which point it is likely to have sold out). In today’s Observer, the deputy leader Tom Watson is interviewed and calls for the unaltered IHRA definition to be adopted without delay and to drop investigations of abuse or bullying into two MPs, Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin, who the article claims both lost family members in the Holocaust (Austin, in fact, was born in 1965; his father was a Jewish refugee as a result of the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia), or it might “disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment”.

As I’ve said before, I have a world of differences with Jeremy Corbyn and his fan club. The fans seem blind to his faults; many of them are the young people who will lose out most from Brexit, which he is committed to. They paint defeats as victories and small advances (such as local by-election victories) as great victories. They share stories from junk news sites such as Skwawkbox and The Canary which are often careless with the facts, as if the content was never at all problematic (I’ve dealt with this in a previous post). They are convinced that the last general election result was a victory for him, which it was not, and are convinced that with just a few more months to prepare, he might just win; in particular, they believe that fluke wins such as in Kensington and Canterbury indicate that he can overturn large Tory majorities elsewhere, even as the party loses heartland seats in places like the East Midlands and Yorkshire. Corbyn’s and his inner circle’s commitment to Brexit and their delusion of a “workers’ Brexit” are dangerous, because apart from the (rejected) Norway option, there is no such thing as a good Brexit deal and there is a strong danger of civil unrest if the economy collapses, or there are shortages or food price rises as a result of a bad-deal Brexit. His opponents should be treating this as an open goal, since Remainers were 48% of the vote at the referendum and that figure may have increased as the reality has set in. But they do not.

The attacks from inside and outside the party make me more sympathetic to Corbyn, not less. As a Muslim, I am torn between wanting to head off the ruin caused by Brexit and wanting to preserve the diversity of the Labour party, which it will not be if it outlaws the expression of the usual Muslim view of Israel, and of the racist, colonial attitudes behind its foundation. It will make the party one based on a white view of history, with a definition of racism based on white guilt about a genocide that only Europeans had any role in, and one in which everyone, including non-white members, will have to watch what they say around whites in case they turn out to be Jewish. Adopting this policy will mean muzzling all but the most polite criticism of Israeli policy (and as previously discussed, the “whataboutery” clause will make any such criticism difficult) and will legitimise attempts to silence pro-Palestinian rights activism on campuses where Labour students dominate (which they do in many places). We already have too little Muslim representation in the party which represents the seats where the majority of our community live; we have no visible Muslim MPs at all, only Asian ones, and this situation will get worse if this policy is adopted.

The rhetoric being used by his enemies is not that of a community that fears persecution. It is the language of threat, from a group of people confident enough in their power, or at least their connections, to make threats to an elected party leader. To give one example, a Jewish Chronicle journalist named Daniel Sugarman posted a thread on Twitter last Friday in which he claimed:

One never hears Muslim organisations talk of anything being “non-negotiable” in their dealings with the media or political parties; they do not have the ability to back up any such threat. How will they back this threat up? By using their media connections to make sure that smears are printed about Corbyn and the Labour party in the run-up to any forthcoming election, of course. They do not have to own papers to do this; they simply have to have friends and people sympathetic to their position — liberal editors with a definition of racism that is stuck in the past and right-wing editors who regard support for Israel as a pro-western standpoint. It’s worth noting that it was the Guardian’s decision to print Corbyn’s article on the eve of the Sabbath and in the Saturday edition; it would have been written some time last week and could have been delayed until today (for the Observer) or Monday. The Guardian’s editor could have spoken to any number of its own staff (Jonathan Freedland and Hadley Freeman, both of whom regularly appear in the Saturday edition, spring to mind) who could have pointed out this oversight; they chose not to, and it is Corbyn who takes the blame.

Of course, they and their allies still use the language of victimhood. Take this thread, posted by Victoria Freeman yesterday morning:

Gaslighting is when an abuser (usually a domestic abuser or bully of some sort) plays tricks on his victim with the intention of making them look silly, mad or otherwise less then credible; they back this up by telling the victim (or others) that they are imagining what they are seeing. It is commonly abused to mean disagreeing with someone who has been, or feels, wronged. An abuser is not, needless to say, someone who disagrees with you or calls your second cousin a racist thug if that is what he is. I am seeing the most ludicrous expressions of victimhood on Twitter, Jews talking as if the world is ending for them, complaining that the Labour leadership shows “no empathy” and should really hear what they say amongst themselves at their Shabbat meetings, all as if Corbyn was sanctioning open discrimination or violence rather than just not accepting demands; a Muslim friend said to me privately that “if Muslim families were raising their kids with such a massive persecution complex there would be social services involvement and PREVENT referrals”. My instinctive reaction in reading this is to tell the people concerned to get over themselves and stop being such crybabies; it is much less than what more visible minorities have had to put up with on a daily basis for years in this country.

It’s worth pointing out that the support among mainstream Jewish voters for Labour did not start declining when Corbyn became leader; it had been declining since Ed Miliband’s time as leader, during which support for Labour among Jewish voters slumped, according to polls, to just 14%. Turning points include his decision to whip Labour MPs in a vote to recognise Palestine and his statement to Labour’s National Policy Forum attacking Israel for “the horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, including children and innocent civilians” during “Operation Protective Edge” in mid-2014, which led to a former director of Labour Friends of Israel quitting the party and the Jewish Chronicle attacking him for “knee-jerk criticism of a nation defending itself from terrorism”. This should leave nobody in any doubt that treating the Palestinians’ claims to their own country and to basic human rights will cost Labour votes among north London’s Jews; it cannot secure the support of that community or the approval of its leadership without uncritical support for Israel. Many of the people attacking Corbyn from this camp do not care about the success of the Labour party; they care about ensuring that no British government takes a hostile stance towards Israel.

I have heard it alleged recently that Corbyn’s centrist Labour opponents have a single policy, namely remaining in the EU. (In fact, some of them, such as Chuka Umunna, have adopted a “respect the referendum” position, citing polls that found that immigration was a major motivating factor.) My opinion is that they are motivated by a contempt for Corbyn that pre-dates the emergence of the anti-Semitism issue and that their strategy is to continue throwing mud until he loses another general election, hopefully by a larger margin than in 2017, which they believe might persuade his supporters that he is toxic and cannot win. I suspect that some of them would rather form a new party (possibly a coalition with pro-Remain Conservatives and/or Lib Dems) but are put off by the enormous difficulties in setting up a new major party and by the example of the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s. Nonetheless, I think this is both an ineffective and immoral strategy; ineffective because his supporters will blame his loss on media bias and cannot be relied on to support someone other than (or at least opposed to) Corbyn, and immoral because it would condemn Britain to several more years of gutting of public services, the NHS and so on, allied to the ruinous Brexit of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove. Corbyn won in large part because neither Miliband nor his intending Blairite successors were willing to even defend Blair’s legacy, being cowed by the media’s obsession with the deficit during the 2010-15 term; their successors still fail to do that, only crowing about the importance of ‘power’ without explaining what they plan to do with it. They sell no policy to either the membership or the general public.

It’s significant that nobody today is talking about the incidents which led to the demands for the adoption of this definition of anti-Semitism as part of Labour policy. Most of the people involved have since left the party, been expelled or apologised and none of the incidents involved prejudice towards Jews living in this country or any threat to their well-being. It is all about the definition, the adoption of which would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech within the Labour party which already has a poor record on that (note how it expels members for even suggesting tactical voting in public). Corbyn needs to hold firm on this, regardless of the smears that might be directed his way in the mass media. This is not about racism, otherwise the people making the most fuss would have been outraged at the much more prejudicial anti-Muslim and anti-Gypsy front pages that have appeared on national tabloids; it is about shoring up a pro-western policy and silencing dissent to it. As for the Labour plotters, they need to stop throwing mud and show their hand before the Tories (remember them?) drag this country off the edge of a cliff.

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First woman fined in Denmark for wearing full-face veil

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 August, 2018 - 02:42

Woman fined 1,000 kroner (£120) and told to either remove her veil or leave the public space

A 28-year-old woman wearing a niqab on Friday became the first person in Denmark to be fined for violating a new law banning full-face Islamic veils in public places, media reported.

Police were called to a shopping centre in Horsholm, in the north-eastern region of Nordsjaelland, where the woman had become involved in a scuffle with another woman who had tried to tear her niqab off, police duty officer David Borchersen told the Ritzau news agency.

Related: Protests in Denmark as 'burqa ban' comes into effect

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English law applies to Islamic marriage, judge rules in divorce case

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2018 - 14:56

Husband tried to block divorce petition, arguing couple were married only under sharia law

A high court judge has decided that a couple’s Islamic marriage falls within the scope of English matrimonial law, in a ruling that could have implications for thousands of Muslims in the UK.

Nasreen Akhter wanted to divorce Mohammed Shabaz Khan, her husband of 20 years, but he blocked it, arguing that the couple were not married under English law.

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Danish burqa ban comes into effect amid protests

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 August, 2018 - 09:37

Opponents of new law to demonstrate against ‘discriminatory’ measure

Supporters and opponents of a ban in Denmark on garments covering the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa, are clashing verbally as the law takes effect.

Marcus Knuth of the ruling liberal party Venstre, said the dress worn by some conservative Muslim women was “strongly oppressive”.

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Why don’t they call it rape?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 29 July, 2018 - 20:47

 2018 report on child victims of trafficking and exploitation in Italy).Yesterday some of the papers reported that, according to a report by the charity Save the Children, child migrants mostly from sub-Saharan Africa were “being sexually exploited” or in earlier versions “selling sex” in order to finance their passage from Italy to France. According to the report (in Italian), titled Little Invisible Slaves: 2018 report on child victims of trafficking and exploitation in Italy, the minors were being asked to perform sex acts if they could not afford to pay drivers between €50 and €150 for a lift across the border. It also mentions that French police have been abusive to some of the children who cross the border, citing such acts as “detaining children as young as 12 in cells without food or water, cutting the soles off their shoes so they did not try to attempt the journey again, and stealing Sim cards from their mobile phones”. A lot of the Twitter responses consisted of complaints that the word ‘rape’ should have been used because the victims were children and thus should not be said to have “sold sex”. There are, in fact, good reasons why they do not, and should not.

It’s usually feminists (not just radical feminists, but often) who complain loudly when children (usually meaning people in their early teens or younger) are described as having sex; they will insist that it must be rape regardless of their apparent consent. In British law, since 2003, sex with someone aged 12 or younger is classed as rape, regardless of whether the older party claimed that they mistook them for someone older, a common defence when the younger (usually female) person involved is, say, 14 or 15. Many of them are under the mistaken impression that the threshold is in fact 13, which led to a lot of the wailing when the Guardian printed a letter from a man who said he had been falsely accused of rape when aged 15, after having consensual sex with a girl aged 13. Aged 13 to 15 is a window in which sex is not legal, but not rape, and having heard the debates at the time, the idea was that it would be overlooked where both parties were young and similar in age (as was the case here), but not when one party was much older. Perhaps the reasoning in setting the boundary at the 13th birthday was that a 12-year-old was much less likely to be genuinely mistaken for a 16-year-old than a 14-year-old would be. Having read the law, though, it does not appear to make any allowance for a similar age gap between a 12-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, if there is a prosecution.

Personally, I think making such laws accompanied by guidance towards tolerance in certain circumstances is a bad idea; the laws could be enforced if there is sensitivity as to whom the boy is and whom the girl is — if the girl’s father is powerful, for example, or the boy is from a despised minority (e.g. Travellers) and the girl is not. Sooner or later, someone in authority (possibly someone influenced by these feminists, or possibly a racist) will decide to prosecute in circumstances nobody has done for the many years this law has been active. If we don’t want people, especially children, prosecuted for something, it should be legal.

There is a commonly-understood definition of rape, which is when force or deception is used to gain sex from someone who has refused or would not otherwise have consented, or when one party does not know what is going on, usually because they are drunk (very drunk, not just a little bit drunk) or cognitively impaired. Some countries classify sex with someone below a legal age of consent as “statutory rape”, such as parts of the USA, others call it simply “sex with a minor” or something similar. A major newspaper publishes in many countries and reaches online to many others; it cannot afford to use a word like rape to describe something happening in another country which may not meet that country’s legal definition of rape. In this particular case, the legal consequences of doing so would likely have been negligible because the men involved were not rich or powerful and the moral difference would have been too little to make a viable libel case, but it would be dangerous to get into the habit of using emotive language because somebody eventually might sue.

On top of this, and the reason I do not believe newspapers should capitulate to demands to use emotive activist language, is that journalists should be reporting facts and separating facts from opinions. If we generally agree that certain newspapers using their front pages for propaganda which they present as news is a bad thing and has had negative consequences (such as the Brexit crisis), we need to understand that they should not echo our opinions as fact either and this includes using activist definitions, often based on misunderstandings of the law, rather than legal or commonly-understood ones. There are many other situations in which an act is seen by some as morally tantamount to a crime (e.g. murder) but is not legally the same thing or, indeed, factually the same thing. There are more appropriate ways of describing this phenomenon than saying the children are “selling sex”, but factual reporting does not mean calling something rape which might not be.

Admittedly, in this particular case this may be as tantamount to rape as it’s possible to get, and some incidences might actually be rape. But as a lot of the people clamouring to call all sex involving underage people ‘rape’ regardless of the facts would put away 15-year-old boys for having sex with their girl peers as well as men who exploit desperate refugee children, reporting this issue factually is very important.

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Does polygamy cause violence?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 28 July, 2018 - 18:55

A still from a video produced by the Economist, showing African child soldiers, one of them (a boy aged about 10 or 11) holding an assault rifle, with the words "Polygamy is practiced in all of the 20 most unstable countries in the world" in capital letters at the bottom, and the Economist's logo in the top left hand cornerA few months ago The Economist put out a video on its Facebook page which tried to make the case that polygamy made a society more violent and prone to civil war. I noticed at the time that the video was very weak in its arguments and relied on presenting correlation (and a dubious correlation at that) as causation and making generalisations about the cultures where polygamy occurs. Last week they reposted the video, titled What’s Wrong with Having More Than One Wife?, and have not changed it at all; there is no link to any article which would flesh out some of the claims made in the video, though the Economist did actually publish one last November, which hilariously claims:

This is one of the reasons why the Arab Spring erupted, why the jihadists of Boko Haram and Islamic State were able to conquer swathes of Nigeria, Iraq and Syria, and why the polygamous parts of Indonesia and Haiti are so turbulent. Polygamous societies are bloodier, more likely to invade their neighbours and more prone to collapse than others are. The taking of multiple wives is a feature of life in all of the 20 most unstable countries on the Fragile States Index compiled by the Fund for Peace, an NGO.

(Note: the Arab Spring started in Tunisia, where polygamy had been illegal since the 1950s, and was motivated by political corruption, tyranny and impoverishment in all the countries affected.)

The video starts out by claiming:

Countries in which men can have more than one wife are more violent. How does polygamy destabilise society? If the richest and most powerful 10% of men have four wives each, the bottom 30% of men cannot marry. Young men will take desperate measures to avoid this fate.

This claim makes enormous assumptions about societies in which polygamy is legal. It assumes that whenever polygamy is legal, most men will seek to marry polygamously, particularly the richest and most powerful. It assumes that women will not marry for love but simply for money and prestige, or that she will have no say in the matter at all but will be married off for these reasons by her family. In fact, not all men want the complications of having more than one wife; they do not want to deal with wives who are jealous of each other or families who resent what it means for their daughter or sister to be her husband’s number two, or be ‘replaced’ by a number two (or more). In some societies, polygamy is a social imperative for men and having more wives is a sign of social status and wealth; in others, it is not, even if it is legal.

The limit of four wives is specific to Islam; this video’s example of South Sudan (see below) is not a Muslim country and there are countries where chiefs and other powerful men have many more wives than that while polygamy is rare in wider society (e.g. Swaziland). In the most extreme example, the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints in the USA and Canada (where polygamy is illegal but tolerated if done unofficially) expelled young men from their community because they were a rival to them for wives. But these are rare, extreme examples.

Polygamy is banned in all western societies, but it’s common in the Islamic world, parts of Asia and Africa.

Polygamy was banned in Europe (before the notion of “the west”, including the Americas, became known of) well before it became a well-developed civilisation; when it was a set of impoverished, warring kingdoms dominated to one extent or another by the Pope where learning was restricted to the religious orders and thus most people could not read or write, polygamy was banned then as well. Many of the most vicious wars of the 20th century took place or had their origins in Europe or in other places where polygamy was banned.

In South Sudan, more than 40% of marriages are polygamous, so there is a shortage of brides. It can cost 100 cows to get married. Poor young men cannot afford this, so some of them are tempted to pick up a gun and steal cows from neighbouring villages. Thousands of people are killed in cattle raids every year. This is one reason why South Sudan is blighted by civil war. For many young men the alternative to war is celibacy.

South Sudan is also a country which lacks any cultural, linguistic or ethnic coherence. It has no major native language; the various groups which came together to secure independence from Sudan have only the fact that they are not Arabs and Muslims in common. The name of the country (which is of Arabic origin) rather gives this away. There being a large number of men unable to marry is of course a destabilising factor but there can be other causes for this in different countries — a shortage of women as a result of son preference, unreasonably high bride-prices or dowries — but polygamy features in societies with both these features and neither. The solution is to make marriage easier for young men so there are fewer of them hanging around and “sowing their wild oats” when they could be married and helping with their domestic responsibilities.

Polygamous societies are bloodier and more prone to collapse. Polygamy is practiced in all of the 20 most unstable countries in the world.

This claim is based on the Fragile States Index, published by the Fund for Peace; there is a map here and a table on Wikipedia here. The twenty most unstable countries from the most unstable are: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Sudan, Chad, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Haiti, Guinea, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Burundi, Eritrea and Pakistan. On the other hand, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait are all countries where polygamy is widely practised and are all in the ‘stable’ category although Qatar’s stability rating has worsened from 2017 as a result of the sanctions imposed by its neighbours.

It is very clear that polygamy is not a major cause of the instability in many of the most unstable countries. Many of them are former colonies whose borders were imposed on them by European powers in the 19th century and bear no relation to linguistic or cultural boundaries but were simply a way for European powers to divide up Africa’s resources between themselves. Anyone who has studied African politics will know that this has been a major cause of political strife and war since many of the former colonies became independent. In others, there are religious conflicts (Yemen, Afghanistan, CAR), strongmen who refuse to let go of power and who hold grudges (Syria, Zimbabwe, Eritrea), debts imposed by foreign powers (most of the list but particularly Haiti), and foreign interference, particularly as a result of the post-2001 “war on terror” and by powers that regard the countries concerned as part of their “sphere of influence” (Syria, Iraq). One cannot blame polygamy in Yemen for Saudis bombing the country with munitions brought from the UK and USA, or the fact that the United States invaded Iraq and was subsequently so incompetent and brutal that they allowed another violent Islamist movement to emerge out of the ashes of the one they had tried to destroy. Polygamy has nothing to do with the conflicts in most of these countries and in some of them there are whole groups that do not practise it.

This is not to say that as a Muslim I believe all men should have four wives if they can afford it, but it is ridiculous to blame polygamy for the instability in a number of countries which have suffered colonialism, the debt burden and foreign invasion. There are often good reasons to allow polygamy; when a society needs to rebuild itself after the death of a large number of marriageable young men after a war, plural marriage allows this to happen more quickly rather than does the western approach of leaving some women unmarried (which some would prefer, but others would not) while others were expected to spend their entire adult life pregnant or nursing children. There are some women who might not want to spend their most of their time in their husband’s house, or who are in a demanding profession that means their time for raising children is limited (e.g. medicine), or who do not want to have children but still want the companionship that marriage brings. So, it is not just about men enhancing their status or finding outlets for their sexual desires.

How can a respected magazine, read by people with university degrees who are upwardly mobile and work in big finance houses and have aspirations to run major British companies, put out a video with an argument totally based on a textbook logical fallacy and which completely ignores every other factor in the instability of the countries they are talking about, including western interference? It rather reminds me of something an old headmaster of a school I went to used to say in his morning assembly lectures: “so much for so-called intelligentsia”. Polygamy does not make societies prone to collapse and monogamy is not a great guarantor of stability.

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Go ahead, white Australia, eat your kebabs while you remind us of your 'values' | Randa Abdel-Fattah

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 July, 2018 - 03:17

When I think about white fragility and its moral pretensions I marvel at the great hoax of it all

• Being a good, quiet and assimilated ‘model minority’ is making me angry - Masako Fukui

I know who I am. Most racialised people do. History matters to us. We know that the answers to who we are as a nation lie in a story that did not start with the last election or 9/11 or Tampa or deaths in custody or the stolen generations. We know that if we were to approach the question of who we are as a nation the way we would a jigsaw puzzle then the most logical and coherent approach is to first assemble the pieces that make up the frame to see its shape and how the border determines the shape and fit of all the pieces inside.

We know that the frame of Australia is race. As a white-settler colonial outpost of the British empire, it could only ever be race. The dispossession, genocide and exploitation on which this country was founded; the legacy of its status as a British settler colony; past efforts to build a racially exclusionary nation via the White Australia policy; its evolution from “racial” to “cultural” dominance through the vehicle of a highly politicised policy of multicultural­ism; and, above all, the denial of Indigenous sovereignty – racialised people know that this is where any discussion of this nation’s identity must start.

Related: Being a good, quiet and assimilated 'model minority' is making me angry | Masako Fukui

Related: If language tells us who we are, then who am I? | Stan Grant

Whiteness is fascinating in the lies it tells itself and the moral contortions it insists upon

Related: Australia's immigration policy is meant to be blind to race, but is it?

Related: What are they so afraid of? I’m just a young brown Muslim woman speaking my mind | Yassmin Abdel-Magied

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Existential threat? What?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 26 July, 2018 - 16:09

A front page from the Jewish Chronicle, with the paper's logo ('The JC' in white on a blue background) in the top left corner, and underneath it the words "United We Stand", with the mastheads of the JC, Jewish Telegraph and Jewish News and the text of an article which is blurred, on the background of a black and white picture of a demonstration against Labour anti-Semitism in London.In the latest chapter of the Labour anti-Semitism row, three British Jewish newspapers have published a similar front page and editorial condemning the Labour leadership for refusing their demand to adopt an international definition of anti-Semitism that includes a clause that could be used to label any impolite criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. The three papers are the Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish News (whose website is part of the Times of Israel) and the Jewish Telegraph, and the leader threatens that if they do not adopt the IHRA definition in full at an emergency conference on 5th September they will “be seen by all decent people as an institutionally racist, antisemitic party”. The editorial in the JC claims that the papers have done this “because of the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government”.

This statement is something they should be pressed to explain. What on earth does it mean? An “existential threat to Jewish life” means that they fear Jews will no longer be able to live in the UK, or live freely, which means either a threat to Jewish life and limb or to the Jewish way of life. Nothing Corbyn or anyone around him has said or done suggests that they condone violent racism of any sort, that they propose any form of discrimination against Jews or that they support laws that would make normal Jewish customs (e.g. kosher slaughtering) illegal. We have seen various media commentators (e.g. Robert Peston) sanctimoniously condemn Corbyn and present this statement as both big news in itself and as proof in itself that Corbyn is wrong, but it contains an obvious falsehood that they should be questioning. It’s potentially libellous.

The JC alleges that Labour are reluctant to endorse the IHRA definition in full because “had the full IHRA definition with examples relating to Israel been approved, hundreds, if not thousands, of Labour and Momentum members would need to be expelled”. The fact is that it would not be Momentum members who would be the major target for expulsion but Muslims, who would be subject to an inquisition as to their opinions about Israel and to dirt-digging about any campaigning they had done if they became known as members of Labour, let alone sought to be selected as candidates in elections. They allege:

Under its adapted guidelines, a Labour Party member is free to claim Israel’s existence is a racist endeavour and compare Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany, unless “intent” — whatever that means — can be proved. “Dirty Jew” is wrong, “Zionist bitch” fair game?

In so doing, Labour makes a distinction between racial antisemitism targeting Jews (unacceptable) and political antisemitism targeting Israel (acceptable).

But it would go far beyond making rules against personal abuse which could be read as racist (like “Zionist bitch”); it allows Zionists to use “whataboutery”, drawing attention to the human rights abuses of Hamas or Arab rulers (or any other actor they might claim that Palestinian supporters could be campaigning against but aren’t) to not only deflect criticism of Israel but to brand it as anti-Semitic. This tactic is usually dismissed as a textbook logical fallacy; here it would enable them to shut down the debate and declare themselves the winners and have their opponents thrown out. The aim is to assure Israel that a future Labour government would not be able to recognise Palestine or to press for an end to the occupation and a solution that guarantees meaningful rights for Palestinians. Activism in support of Palestinian rights would be curtailed in places like universities as Labour-run student unions would be expected to enforce the doctrine that anti-Zionism was anti-Semitism; this is already starting to happen in some British universities, on the pretext of curbing ‘extremism’.

There is much on which I disagree with Jeremy Corbyn; he is not opposing the government’s dash to Brexit and is taking refuge in economic nationalism. However, the stance of the Labour ‘moderates’ who are taking the side of the Jewish leadership is not about anti-racism but about silencing dissent and using this as a pretext to bring down Corbyn, even though it will fatally damage Labour’s status as a “broad church” for both the moderate and activist Left and impair both the ethnic and the intellectual diversity of the party. The Jewish leadership must be pressed on what they mean by an ‘existential threat’ and their demands must be resisted, regardless of the outrage whipped up by their friends in the mainstream media.

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The death penalty is an abomination – Sajid Javid must not condone it | Gaby Hinsliff

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 July, 2018 - 13:52
The ‘Isis Beatles’ may be monsters, but the ‘string ‘em up for all we care’ position of the British government is genuinely shocking

If even half of what we think we know about Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh is true, they are monsters.

They stand accused of being two of the four so-called “Isis Beatles”, the notoriously cruel British-born jihadis responsible for beheading at least five hostages – the British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines, plus the US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and the US humanitarian worker Peter Kassig – alongside countless incidents of torture and degradation. Neither shows remorse, and neither is legally entitled to the protection of the British state any more since being stripped of their British citizenship. The Sun is probably right to argue that most people would happily see them dead. But for “string ‘em up, for all we care” to become the effective position of the British government is a genuinely shocking moment all the same.

Related: UK lawyers preparing to challenge Javid's decision over Isis pair

Related: True scale of UK role in torture and rendition after 9/11 revealed

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Indian police 'took tea break' before attending to lynching victim

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 July, 2018 - 15:08

Inquiry into response to fatal attack by Hindu cow vigilantes on Muslim man Akbar Khan

Indian police have begun an inquiry into officers alleged to have taken a tea break instead of taking a critically injured lynching victim to hospital.

Akbar Khan died of his injuries after being attacked by a gang of Hindu cow vigilantes in Alwar district, Rajasthan state, on Friday.

Related: 'WhatsApp murders': India struggles to combat crimes linked to messaging service

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Play shines light on Trojan Horse 'Islamist plot' to run schools

The Guardian World news: Islam - 23 July, 2018 - 07:00

Much-disputed events centring on Birmingham schools is subject of ambitious drama

The notorious Trojan Horse inquiry into an alleged Islamist takeover of a number of inner city schools in the east of Birmingham is the subject of a documentary play that explores the devastating impact of the affair on the city and those whose lives it touched.

Based on more than 200 hours of interviews with about 90 witnesses, including many of the teachers, pupils, parents and governors whose lives were turned upside down by the events four years ago, the play will have its premiere in Edinburgh next month.

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Standing with Trevor Noah: a World Cup for France is a win for Africa too

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 July, 2018 - 11:00

The Daily Show host was right: the official ‘colorblindness’ of the French state ignores the realities of race and racism

Last Sunday, France – and all its domestic racial and religious politics – was placed fully on display. Les Bleus had just claimed their second World Cup, besting a gritty Croatia 4-2.

Related: After this World Cup victory, can France finally throw off racism? | Myriam François

Dear France,

Congratulations on winning the #WorldCup.

The French ambassador to the U.S. @GerardAraud criticized Trevor for congratulating Africa on France’s World Cup victory. Trevor responds #BetweenTheScenes: pic.twitter.com/5nJklXRyY8

When they win, they’re black, white, Arab, and when they lose, they’re lowlifes from the ghetto

Related: Harmony, humility and respect: this World Cup was Deschamps’ triumph | Marcel Desailly

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Labour and the IHRA: Listening does not mean submitting

Indigo Jo Blogs - 21 July, 2018 - 18:05

 Furious Jewish MP confronts Corbyn amid hate code outrage".This past week, the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee adopted a modified version of a definition of anti-Semitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, modified in the sense that four ‘specific’ examples of anti-Semitism were excluded, including calling Israel a racist state, comparing its policies to those of the Nazis and “requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations”. This has led to condemnation from a whole lot of the usual suspects (i.e. right-wing Labour MPs who hate Jeremy Corbyn), including Margaret Hodge who called Corbyn a “f**king racist and an anti-Semite” in the Commons, about which Labour says it will “take action”, as well as a letter published in the Guardian earlier this week by a group of rabbis who accused the Labour party of having “chosen to act in the most insulting and arrogant way” and claiming that it was “not the Labour party’s place” to amend the IHRA’s definition when it was accepted by many other public bodies and other large organisations as well as “the vast majority of Jewish people in Britain and globally”. I wrote a letter to the Observer following a whinge from Nick Cohen, printed 8th July, and (needless to say) it wasn’t printed. I will expand on that letter here, in sha Allah.

There is a big difference between listening to the Jewish community and accepting the word of representatives of mainstream religious Jewry without question. Jews are both an ethnicity and a religious group; not everyone who is of Jewish origin is Jewish by faith. So, anyone who is saying that (ethnic) Jewish groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians are not Jewish enough, not representative or whatever is deploying the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, because the fact is that not everyone of Jewish origin agrees with what rabbis have to say on this matter or any other. Much as some people will assume that anyone with a Muslim name is a supporter of terrorism, whether or not he is even a believer or indeed whether his name actually is a Muslim name or, say, a Hindu one, if you have a Jewish name or Jewish grandparents, you are Jewish enough for some racists so your view on what anti-Semitism is or isn’t cannot be lightly dismissed. Many people who are this Jewish have no connection to or sympathy with Israel and are appalled at the idea that calls to boycott Israel because of the stranglehold of settlements and the wall on native Palestinian communities is in any way equivalent to what they understand as anti-Semitism, which is hatred of Jews because they are Jews. (There are more letters published in Thursday’s edition, including one questioning the use of the “Macpherson principle” by the Jewish Labour Movement and one criticising the IHRA defintion itself as a “clumsily drafted and ambiguous effort” which is being treated “with the reverence more usually accorded a religious text”.)

If a group of imams published or endorsed a definition of Islamophobia and a quick Google search for the imams’ names revealed that many of them had links to the Muslim Brotherhood or Jama’at-e-Islami, or that one of them had ever made disparaging remarks about white people, non-Muslims or any other group or shared a platform with anyone deemed “linked to terrorism” or branded an “unindicted co-conspirator” by the FBI, the definition would not be taken the least bit seriously. A definition of anti-Semitism endorsed by supporters of Israel which includes the rather subjective and unspecific demand that Israel not be held to a higher standard than other nations should not be adopted lock, stock and barrel either: when Israel’s closest ally and biggest donor of military aid signed a treaty with a native people that allowed them their land as long as the buffalo roam, then dealt with that inconvenience by slaughtering all the buffalo, and expelled twelve other nations from their lands in direct defiance of its own supreme court, pretty much any condemnation of Israeli policy could be deemed anti-Semitic by that standard.

The fact is that Israel’s actions — monopolising Palestine’s water supply, destroying natives’ farmlands, settling its own population in their lands, imposing curfews on natives to ‘protect’ settlers as in Hebron, building walls to obstruct natives’ passage across their own lands, throwing children into prison for months for throwing stones, among numerous other abuses — inspire hatred; oppression does that, not only against the perpetrators but also against their supporters and those who blame victims. It’s only natural. No other minority demands a definition of racism that includes condemning violence and oppression abroad that they have sympathy with. Many of us want to see a comprehensive solution to the situation in Palestine, one which gives Palestinians a voice in the government of the country which dominates their lives, which is Israel and will, for the foreseeable future (permanently if the likes of Trump and Netanyahu have their way), remain Israel.

 relocate Israel into United States". Underneath are 'highlights' such as that Israelis are well-loved by Americans, that America has enough land to accommodate it, that "Israel can have a safe Jewish state surrounded by friendly states".Israel and its apologists prefer the status quo; their response is to cite historical details such as the 1967 war (two of whose participants have since signed peace treaties with Israel and others have shown no hostilities for years) which become less and less relevant as the occupation continues for decade after decade, to blame Palestinians, other Arab states or anyone but Israel and their ‘solution’ involves total surrender by the natives to permanent Israeli domination. For many years I have seen western Palestinian sympathisers bend over backwards to avoid implicating Jews in general in Israeli abuses while the right-wing Zionist blogosphere (which includes some columnists published in the mainstream media both here and in the US) has for years included some of the worst racism in the whole of the western media. The (private) Facebook status that led to the Bradford Labour MP Naz Shah being suspended and then expected to make a grovelling apology (the one with the graphic that suggested that Israel be relocated to Missouri) echoes something Zionists have been saying for decades: that “the Arabs” have all this land from Morocco to Muscat; why can’t the Palestinians just go and live somewhere else in that land?

To accept a definition of anti-Semitism which includes such vague ‘examples’ as “holding Israel to a higher standard” risks establishing a test for party activists and aspiring MPs that they have to accept the right of Israel to do what they deem necessary in the name of ‘security’, and such a test would be put to any party entrant from certain minorities and particularly, of course, Muslims; anything they had previously said in public would be scrutinised for breaches of this rule. This would mean Muslims are frozen out of the party which has been the main political representative of visible minorities for most of the post-Windrush era. The Labour party does not exist purely — or indeed at all — to represent fashionable white middle-class opinion. And one must ask why the Labour party are under pressure to accept a definition of anti-Semitism now when they did not do so before, including during the 13 years they were in power; there have always been stirrings of anti-Semitism within the small factions of the far left (usually in the form of conspiracy theories about Jewish or Zionist power or control of the media), though they have never approached the violent intensity of the anti-Semitism of the far right.

Some of the people professing to be disgusted by Labour’s failure to accept the dictates of Israel’s supporters on the definition of anti-Semitism clearly display tolerance towards other prejudices. Yesterday, the Times columnist Jane Merrick published a column saying she was broken-heartedly leaving the Labour party because she could not tolerate the anti-Semitism. A quick look through her Twitter back pages revealed that she had in fact only joined in 2016 so as to support Angela Eagle’s leadership bid; when these things were revealed, she accused the people who revealed them of … being men (she has since made her account private). More incriminating, though, is the fact that she did not let the malicious story the Times published about a Muslim foster carer refusing to let a child eat pork under her roof (something an observant Jew would also have done), a story containing several other claims subsequently debunked in a court ruling, motivate her to seek another publisher for her writings. Obviously you pay for Labour membership while you get paid for writing for the Times, but it’s very clear that some middle-class white people think some people are more deserving of racist treatment than others — so when you hear people complain that Jeremy Corbyn will not condemn anti-Semitism without mentioning other prejudices, this is why.

If you think some ethnic or religious groups are more or less worthy of racist or prejudiced treatment than others, this does not mean you are not racist, much less anti-racist; it just makes you a different kind of racist. Similarly, if you think one nation should have to suffer so that another (that it has not harmed) does not have to, you are also a racist. Generally Labour is expected to rise above racism and not pander to racist sentiment in places like Stoke-on-Trent or Barking; it should not do so when the racism is found among white middle-class people in Barnet (or their sympathisers in the media) either. Of course, the Labour leadership should listen to the Jewish religious community’s representatives, but it should listen to all the groups traditionally represented by the party and this does not mean accepting pro-Israel religious leaders’ demands in their entirety.

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India: suspected vigilantes kill Muslim man transporting cows

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 July, 2018 - 12:50

Five to seven people beat man to death on suspicion of cow smuggling, police say

Suspected vigilantes killed a Muslim man transporting two cows in India on Saturday, just over a year after a similar attack highlighted the growing influence of pro-Hindu fringe groups.

Police in the north-western state of Rajasthan said a group of five to seven people surrounded the man, identified only as Akbar, as he led the cows to his village in nearby Haryana state and thrashed him to death on suspicion of smuggling the animals.

Related: Indian ‘cow protectors’ jailed for life over murder of Muslim man

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There is no honour in ‘honour killings’, only male shame | Naz Shah

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2018 - 15:32

The global scale of gendered violence, FGM or forced marriage is staggering. The Honour Her campaign deserves your support

Saturday 14 July marked the National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Honour Based Violence, a day established to commemorate the birthday of Bradford-born Shafilea Ahmed, murdered by her parents in a so-called honour killing in 2003. It took nine years to bring her killers to justice. And today marks the second anniversary of the brutal rape and murder of my constituent Samia Shahid. Another senseless death, another “honour killing” and another woman denied justice.

Looking at these and other recent cases, it’s hard to imagine that in this modern world women and girls still suffer such appalling violence based solely on the outdated notion of “honour”. Despite the global media coverage, education and campaigning around Shafilea’s murder, Samia was still killed. We must address what this tells us. If there’s one thing that more than 25 years of involvement in campaigns to end violence against women has taught me, it is this: the chain of violence can only be broken when survivors are empowered to break their silence, and communities accept their responsibility to address difficult truths and make changes to the dynamics within them.

Related: Metal spoon technique to alert authorities to 'honour'-based abuse

Related: Samia Shahid's father allegedly hoped to use blood money laws to get away with murder

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Record number of anti-Muslim attacks reported in UK last year

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2018 - 15:23

Report by monitor group Tell Mama finds women are being disproportionately targeted

A record number of anti-Muslim attacks and incidents of abuse were reported last year, with women disproportionately targeted by mostly male teenage perpetrators, the monitoring group Tell Mama has said.

In its annual report, the group noted a surge in Islamophobic attacks, with 1,201 verified reports submitted in 2017, a rise of 26% on the year before and the highest number since it began recording incidents.

Related: Brexit will trigger rise in hate crimes, warns police watchdog

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White fright: the plot to massacre Muslims the US media 'ignored'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2018 - 12:29

The Guardian visits Islamberg in New York, against which a Tennessee man plotted a deadly attack. Why have most Americans never heard of him?

In 2015, the Muslim community of Islamberg, in upstate New York, discovered that a Tennessee minister, Robert Doggart, was plotting the deadliest attack on US soil since 9/11 against their village. Yet many Americans have never even heard of him, and the community feels its fears over safety have been ignored.

No terrorism charges were brought against Doggart. No national news outlets covered his arrest. One month after he was taken into custody, a judge released him on bail. As Doggart’s case went before an all-white jury, the Guardian’s new documentary, White Fright, dissects the US’s segregated system of national security, the media’s role in exacerbating terrorist threats, and the failure of society to protect vulnerable communities from racist attacks.

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White Fright: the plot to attack Muslims that the US media ignored

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 July, 2018 - 12:00

On 10 April 2015, the FBI quietly arrested Robert Doggart, a white, 63-year-old Christian minister after they discovered he was plotting an attack against Islamberg, a small African American Muslim community in upstate New York. Inspired by claims on Fox News that the community was a terrorist training camp, Doggart discussed firebombing a mosque and a school in the village and using assault rifles and a machete to murder the residents.

No terrorism charges were brought against Doggart. No national news outlets covered his arrest. One month after he was taken into custody, a judge released him on bail. As Doggart’s case went before an all-white jury, White Fright examined the US’s segregated system of national security, the media’s role in exacerbating terrorist threats, and the failure of society to protect vulnerable communities from racist attacks.

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