Middle East Eye reports: More than 300 Muslim organisers and leaders across the United States issued an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump, urging him to protect freedom of religion and revise some of his proposed policies, including creating a Muslim registry.
Amid a rise in attacks targeting Muslims, the authors of the letter called on Trump “to clearly and strongly condemn bigotry, hate crimes and bias-based school bullying directed at any American, including American Muslims”.
Bias attacks against Muslims have increased throughout the election season; Trump’s victory last month further intensified the issue.
Two Muslim women were attacked in New York City over the past two days.
A uniformed city transit employee was pushed down the stairs at Grand Central, the busy rail hub in Manhattan. The victim was taken to the hospital with injuries to her knee and ankle.
The suspect called the station agent a “terrorist”, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
On Saturday evening, an off-duty Muslim police officer was harassed in Brooklyn while out with her 16-year-old son, prosecutors said. The suspect in the incident is facing hate crime charges.
In their message to Trump, Muslim activists reference FBI statistics that point to a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: The United States has a higher tolerance for torture than any other country on the U.N. Security Council, and Americans are more comfortable with torture than citizens of war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine.
Those are two key findings reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday, in a new report highlighting global perspectives on war.
The American willingness to use torture was part of a worrying trend identified by the ICRC — a growing belief globally that enemy combatants can be tortured for information. When researchers asked that question in 1999, just 28 percent of respondents said enemy combatants could be tortured. This year, 36 percent said it was justified.
That finding has raised concern, ICRC researchers said, about the role of international law in the world’s numerous armed conflicts. The report said the rules of armed conflict, like the Geneva Conventions, “are being questioned perhaps more than at any time in recent history.”
But there’s also a shocking lack of awareness that those rules exist — 39 percent of the Americans who supported torture told the ICRC they “didn’t realize my country had agreed to ban torture” as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. [Continue reading…]
Christopher Suprun writes: I am a Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. Since the election, people have asked me to change my vote based on policy disagreements with Donald J. Trump. In some cases, they cite the popular vote difference. I do not think president-elects should be disqualified for policy disagreements. I do not think they should be disqualified because they won the Electoral College instead of the popular vote. However, now I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.
Fifteen years ago, as a firefighter, I was part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks against our nation. That attack and this year’s election may seem unrelated, but for me the relationship becomes clearer every day.
George W. Bush is an imperfect man, but he led us through the tragic days following the attacks. His leadership showed that America was a great nation. That was also the last time I remember the nation united. I watch Mr. Trump fail to unite America and drive a wedge between us. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Heaving on a huge, scorched metal door and covered in engine oil, Sgt Hussein Mahmoud was deep into a morning’s work. Twisted hulks of wrecked army vehicles sat incongruously in the coarse dust that was kicked up by still-moving trucks as they crept around Mosul’s urban fringe.
Two other soldiers with industrial wrenches joined in, trying in vain to dislodge the door from its hinges. “We need it for humvees that still work,” said one of them. “We’re under pressure to provide them with parts.”
Impromptu salvage yards have appeared all around the Gogali neighbourhood in Mosul’s outer east, the immediate hinterland of the war with Islamic State and the most visible reminder of how destructive, difficult – and long – this fight is likely to be.
The startling progress of the first few weeks of the campaign to take Iraq’s second city, the terror group’s last urban stronghold in Iraq, has given way to a numbing reality: Isis will not surrender Mosul, and Iraq’s battered military will struggle to take it. [Continue reading…]
Roy Gutman reports: In the spring of 2012, hundreds of militant Islamists crossed into eastern Syria from Iraq under the eyes of the Assad regime’s extensive security apparatus. As they arrived, Syrian intelligence services received two sets of instructions.
One was in writing, and contained the names and details of the jihadists, along with the instruction to “arrest and kill them.”
But that was the cover story. Even as it circulated a “kill” order, the regime sent out official messengers to convey the opposite message.
“They came from command headquarters and held meetings of the intelligence offices,” said Mahmoud al Nasr, a former intelligence official in northern Syria who defected in October 2012. ‘They told us: ‘stay away from them. Don’t touch them.’”
The jihadists arrived in groups of three, sometimes five, then it became hundreds, he said. “Everyone of them started to bring his friends,” al Nasr said. The majority joined Jabhat al Nusra, a group that publicly declared its affiliation with al Qaeda in April 2013 and then split into two groups, Nusra and the Islamic State. Some of the infiltrated jihadists joined Ahrar al Sham, a third and seemingly more moderate Islamist group.
The conflicting instructions sheds light on the little-known relationship between the Assad regime and the Islamic State. Assad claims that his domestic political opposition are all terrorists intent on destroying the Syrian state and regularly appeals to the international community for help in battling terrorism. But the regime in fact facilitated the buildup and expansion of the real terror group in Syria. [Continue reading…]
Charles Leadbeater writes: Heidegger detested René Descartes’s dictum ‘I think, therefore I am’ which located the search for identity in our brains. There, it was secured by a rational process of thought, detached from a physical world that presented itself to the knowing subject as a puzzle to be solved. Descartes’s ideas launched a great inward turn in philosophy with the subject at the centre of the drama confronting the objective world about which he tries to gain knowledge.
Had Heidegger ever come up with a saying to sum up his philosophy it would have been: ‘I dwell, therefore I am.’ For him, identity is bound up with being in the world, which in turn means having a place in it. We don’t live in the abstract space favoured by philosophers, but in a particular place, with specific features and history. We arrive already entangled with the world, not detached from it. Our identity is not secured just in our heads but through our bodies too, how we feel and how we are moved, literally and emotionally.
Instead of presenting it as a puzzle to be solved, Heidegger’s world is one we should immerse ourselves in and care for: it is part of the larger ‘being’ where we all belong. As [Jeff] Malpas puts it, Heidegger argues that we should release ourselves to the world, to find our part in its larger ebb and flow, rather than seek to detach ourselves from it in order to dominate it. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: Donald Trump’s protocol-breaking telephone call with Taiwan’s leader was an intentionally provocative move that establishes the incoming president as a break with the past, according to interviews with people involved in the planning.
The historic communication — the first between leaders of the United States and Taiwan since 1979 — was the product of months of quiet preparations and deliberations among Trump’s advisers about a new strategy for engagement with Taiwan that began even before he became the Republican presidential nominee, according to people involved in or briefed on the talks.
The call also reflects the views of hard-line advisers urging Trump to take a tough opening line with China, said others familiar with the months of discussion about Taiwan and China. [Continue reading…]
The No vote in the Italian referendum had nothing to do with populism and everything to do with Matteo Renzi
James Newell writes: Like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the outcome of the Italian referendum has been a great surprise, but for the opposite reason: polls suggested that the result would be very close and instead there has been a decisive and unequivocal result: on a very high 68 per cent turnout, Italians have turned their backs on the proposed constitutional reforms by 60 per cent to 40 per cent.
Let us be clear: this has been no “anti-establishment, populist revolt”. The division between Yes and No cross-cut the usual political and social divisions. The No side mobilised people on the left and the right; populists and anti-populists; members of the liberal elite and those in less exalted circumstances. Renzi was no establishment figure, to the contrary: he sought to sell his proposed reforms as part of a campaign to sweep away vested interests. His appeals – to reduce the powers of the Senate, to reduce the costs of politics, to cut the number of parliamentarians – were all couched in classic populist terms.
The sheer size of the No vote discredits simplistic interpretations of the outcome as yet another expression of populist fervour. Rather, the vote was the expression of a range of different types of No: a No to the specific constitutional reforms being proposed; a No to the political elites in general; a No to the current economic and social malaise; above all a No to the Renzi government. For Renzi some months ago had staked his entire future on the outcome by framing the vote as a plebiscite on him and his executive. [Continue reading…]
Italian voters have rejected plans for constitutional reform supported by the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. This result means more political and economic uncertainty for the time being.
The aim of the reform was to end Italian’s “perfect bicameralism”; that is, the institutional arrangement whereby the house of representatives and senate have exactly the same powers and the government needs to receive a vote of confidence in both Houses. Perfect bicameralism was introduced in the first Republican Constitution, right after the end of Fascism, as a way to prevent the possible rise of a new dictator.
Over time, however, this system also reduced the efficiency and effectiveness of legislation while also increasing government instability. Matteo Renzi invested his entire political capital in the reform, to the point that the referendum itself was seen as a vote for or against the prime minister. Approximately 60% of Italians voted against the reform (and the prime minister).