Why does Uzbekistan export so many terrorists?

Julia Ioffe writes: The most striking thing about Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old Uzbek man who allegedly drove a pickup truck into a crowd in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people, was his big, black, bushy beard: He wouldn’t have been able to grow one in his native Uzbekistan.

A beard would be considered a sign of religious extremism in Uzbekistan, which has a long and notorious record of restricting the religious practices of its majority Muslim population. All clerics are government vetted; all madrassas are government controlled and infiltrated by undercover informants. Pilgrims to Mecca have to go through a rigorous government vetting process and are then accompanied on the journey by government minders. The communal marking of the end of each day of fasting during the month of Ramadan is banned, as is the celebration of Eid al Fitr, the feast marking the end of Ramadan. Until recently, children under 18 were banned from attending mosques. The authoritarian regime of Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s post-Soviet ruler who died last year, outlawed Islamist political parties and imprisoned and tortured dozens of religious activists. The government keeps a “black list” of people it has decided are religious extremists. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, “Those on the list are barred from obtaining various jobs and travel, and must report regularly for police interrogations.” Until the new president shortened the list in August, it contained some 18,000 names.

The ostensible point of all these restrictions was to fight the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, a jihadist movement that emerged just after the collapse of the Soviet Union—Uzbekistan was, until 1991, a Soviet republic. The IMU wanted to impose Islamic law in Uzbekistan, and was quickly banned by the new Karimov government. IMU fighters scattered throughout the region—to Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and, after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, to the tribal areas of Pakistan—from where they have launched multiple raids into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In 2014, the IMU pledged its allegiance to ISIS.

And yet the draconian measures implemented by the Karimov regime have not solved the problem of Islamist extremism in Uzbekistan. They have only pushed problem underground and, ultimately, abroad. [Continue reading…]

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Neo-Nazi quits movement, opens up about Jewish heritage and comes out as gay

 

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When 20,000 American Nazis descended upon New York City

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Disengaged boys grow up to become disillusioned men

Amanda Ripley writes: Jordan has never had a female minister of education, women make up less than a fifth of its workforce, and women hold just 4 percent of board seats at public companies there. But, in school, Jordanian girls are crushing their male peers. The nation’s girls outperform its boys in just about every subject and at every age level. At the University of Jordan, the country’s largest university, women outnumber men by a ratio of two to one—and earn higher grades in math, engineering, computer-information systems, and a range of other subjects.

In fact, across the Arab world, women now earn more science degrees on a percentage basis than women in the United States. In Saudi Arabia alone, women earn half of all science degrees. And yet, most of those women are unlikely to put their degrees to paid use for very long.

This is baffling on the most obvious levels. In the West, researchers have long believed that future prospects incentivize students to invest in school. The conventional wisdom is that girls do better in school as women acquire more legal and political rights in society. But many Middle Eastern women do not go on to have long professional careers after graduating; they spend much of their lives working at home as wives and mothers. Fewer than one in every five workers is female in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

This spring, I went to the Middle East to try to understand why girls are doing so much better in school, despite living in quintessentially patriarchal societies. Or, put another way, why boys are doing so badly.

It’s part of a pattern that is creeping across the globe: Wherever girls have access to school, they seem to eventually do better than boys. In 2015, teenage girls outperformed boys on a sophisticated reading test in 69 countries—every place in which the test was administered. In America, girls are more likely to take Advanced Placement tests, to graduate from high school, and to go to college, and women continue their education over a year longer than men. These are all glaring disparities in a world that values higher-order skills more than ever before. Natasha Ridge, the executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in the United Arab Emirates, has studied gender and education around the world. In the United Kingdom and the United States, Ridge believes she can draw a dotted line between the failure of boys to thrive in school and votes for Brexit and for Donald Trump. Disengaged boys grow up to become disillusioned men, Ridge says, left out of the progress they see around them.

And the gender gap in the Middle East represents a particularly extreme version of this trend.

“If you give girls a quality education, they will mostly run with it and do amazing things. It propels them,” says Ridge, one of the few researchers to have written extensively about the gender gap in the Arab world. But for boys, especially low-income boys, access to school has not had the same effect. “These boys struggle to find a connection between school and life,” she says, “and school is increasingly seen as a waste of time.”

Motivation is the dark matter of education. It’s everywhere but impossible to see. Motivation helps explain why some countries get impressive education results despite child poverty and lackluster teaching, while others get mediocre results despite universal health care and free iPads. When kids believe in school, as any teacher will tell you, everything gets easier. So it’s crucial to understand the motivation to learn and how it works in the lives of real boys and girls. Because the slow slipping away of boys’ interest in education represents a profound failure of schools and society. And the implications are universally terrible. All over the world, poorly educated men are more likely to be unemployed, to have physical- and mental-health problems, to commit acts of violence against their families, and to go to prison. They are less likely to marry but quite likely to father children. [Continue reading…]

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Echoes of Charlottsville are hard to miss as truck driver threatens antifa protesters in Vancouver WA

Willamette Week reports: Police in Vancouver this afternoon arrested a man after a Patriot Prayer rally when he nearly ran his truck into a crowd of antifascist counter-protesters.

After a rally organized by the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, antifascist protesters marched north into downtown Vancouver along Columbia Avenue.

A black Chevy Silverado with Oregon plates and two large American flags and several small flags hanging from its windows (along with a Confederate flag decal displayed on the back window of the cab) drove up to the marchers. It was driving slowly down a street flanked by people dressed in black bloc clothing.

As the crowd parted to clear the way for the truck to move forward, protesters filled the street behind it and started throwing rocks and water bottles at the truck.

The driver suddenly put his vehicle in reverse and accelerated toward the protesters. As he sped up, people jumped out of the street. [Continue reading…]

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Seeds of right-wing terrorism

A new study on the psychological processes common to social conservatism and terrorism, by Lazar Stankov, identifies one trait in particular of rising concern. Tom Jacobs writes: He calls this “grudge,” which he defines as “a generalized belief in a vile world.” One obvious example: Radical Islamists view the world as having been polluted by immorality. “Without grudge,” Stankov writes, “the militant extremist mindset is incomplete.”

Thus it is hugely concerning that there are “suggestions in the political climate” that this mindset may be on the rise in Western nations. Stankov points to “the emergence of Donald Trump in the U.S.” and the success of right-wing populist parties in some European countries, including Hungary.

As the right becomes more radicalized, “Political correctness may be interpreted as the implementation of morally rotten policies in our social lives,” he warns. “As a consequence, social institutions—including universities, which are perceived to promote or tolerate such dissenting views—might become targets of terrorist attacks.”

Nastiness and religiosity are believed to be genetically influenced, and thus difficult to modify. But Stankov argues that the “grudge” mindset can potentially be reduced through “the engagement of media, community groups, and education.” Religious leaders, he writes, need to spend more time “debunking the proposition that the West is evil, and promoting the value of life.” [Continue reading…]

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Pro-Trump/anti-Muslim/alt-right rallies in 36 states cancelled

Patch reports: ACT for America, the so-called “national security agency” known most recently for organizing anti-Sharia law rallies across the United States, has canceled 67 pro-Trump “America First” rallies in 36 states, citing “the recent violence in America and in Europe.” Instead the group said the 67 rallies planned for Sept. 9 will be replaced with an online “Day of ACTion.”

The group made the announcement in a statement given exclusively to Breitbart News, which it shared on its website and social media pages. While the group says the rallies were canceled “out of an abundance of caution,” the cancellation also comes at the heels of a “Free Speech” rally in Boston where thousands of counter-protesters drowned out a small group of rally-goers. [Continue reading…]

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Extremism is surging. To beat it, we need young hearts and minds

Scott Atran writes: The last of the shellshocked were being evacuated as I headed back toward Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s famed tourist-filled walkway where another disgruntled “soldier of Islamic State” had ploughed a van into the crowd, killing at least 13 and injuring more than 120 from 34 nations. Minutes before the attack I had dropped my wife’s niece near where the rampage began. It was deja vu and dread again, as with the Paris massacre at the Bataclan theatre in 2015, next door to where my daughter lived.

At a seafront promenade south of Barcelona, a car of five knife-wielding kamikaze mowed down a woman before police killed them all. One teenage attacker had posted on the web two years before that “on my first day as king of the world” he would “kill the unbelievers and leave only Muslims who follow their religion”.

Mariano Rajoy, the president of Spain, declared that “our values and way of life will triumph” – just as Theresa May had proclaimed “our values will prevail” in March when yet another petty criminal “born again” into radical Islam drove his vehicle across Westminster Bridge to kill and wound pedestrians.

In Charlottesville the week before, the white supremacist attacker who killed civil rights activist Heather Heyer mimicked Isis-inspired killings using vehicles. “This was something that was growing in him,” the alleged attacker’s former history teacher told a newspaper. “He had this fascination with nazism [and] white supremacist views … I admit I failed. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”

The values of liberal and open democracy increasingly appear to be losing ground around the world to those of narrow, xenophobic ethno-nationalisms and radical Islam. This is not a “clash of civilisations”, but a collapse of communities, for ethno-nationalist violent extremism and transnational jihadi terrorism represent not the resurgence of traditional cultures, but their unravelling. [Continue reading…]

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What Germany can teach the U.S. about remembering an ugly past without glorifying it

Fred Kaplan writes: President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that he’s “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments”—thus furnishing further proof that he knows nothing about history or culture or beauty, much less the reason why monuments are built in the first place.

As many have pointed out, the statues of Confederate officers that scar the cities of the South (and too many spots in the North as well) were erected not in the immediate wake of the Civil War but rather decades later, during the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, as a show of force—from the rulers to the ruled—that the old guard, though defeated in battle, was still in charge.

Trump and all those who find his appeals to historical preservation persuasive should go to Berlin, a city of vast and multiple horrors throughout its history, yet also a city that is facing those horrors head-on, unflinchingly. The city memorializes not its discarded leaders but rather their victims. And instead of mounting old warlords on pedestals (there is nothing “beautiful” about a man on horseback, whether Confederate, Nazi, or Communist), the city displays the full record of their crimes against humanity. [Continue reading…]

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‘Donald Trump brought me here today’: Counterprotesters rout neo-Nazi rally in Berlin

The Washington Post reports: “There is only one side — the good side,” cried Eva Kese, mustering a smile as she fought back tears. “Your hate has no place here.”

Kese, 30, stood Saturday facing a crowd of about 500 neo-Nazis. They were gathered on the outskirts of the German capital to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of Rudolf Hess, a deputy to Adolf Hitler. The demonstration marked another, more recent anniversary: one week since a march by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Virginia left one counterprotester dead.

Kese held up a sign with a hand-drawn pink heart to the neo-Nazis, who countered with a giant banner of their own, reading, “I regret nothing.”

Choosing her words carefully, she repeated: “There is only one side.”

President Trump, she said, had drawn her to the streets of the German capital to counter the demonstration. She was incensed by his reaction to the violence in Charlottesville last weekend, in which he blamed “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” [Continue reading…]

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ACLU will no longer defend hate groups protesting with firearms

The Wall Street Journal reports: The American Civil Liberties Union, taking a tougher stance on armed protests, will no longer defend hate groups seeking to march with firearms, the group’s executive director said.

Following clashes over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., the civil-rights group also will screen clients more closely for the potential of violence at their rallies, said Anthony Romero, who has been the ACLU’s executive director since 2001.

The ACLU’s Virginia branch defended the right of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other groups under the banner “Unite the Right” to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” said Mr. Romero.

The revised policy marries the 97-year-old civil-rights group’s First Amendment work with the organization’s stance on firearms, which aligns with many municipalities and states that bar protesters from carrying weapons.

“If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else,” Mr. Romero said, adding that the decision was in keeping with a 2015 policy adopted by the ACLU’s national board in support of “reasonable” firearm regulation. [Continue reading…]

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White supremacists in the U.S. military

Andrew Exum writes: White supremacist groups and their sympathizers were especially present in the ranks of the U.S. Army’s combat arms units and the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1986, an exasperated Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, ordered the military to crack down on these groups, and another purge was ordered after U.S. Army veteran Timothy McVeigh planted a bomb that almost leveled the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168 people. 1995 was the same year a paratrooper from the Army’s 82d Airborne Division murdered a black couple outside Fort Bragg.

When I arrived in my first infantry unit in 2000, I remember encountering non-commissioned officers who were by then quite adept at interpreting the tattoos on the young white men arriving to the unit fresh from basic infantry training. By that point, though, recruiters were already weeding out most of the men who showed up with any sign of affiliations with white supremacist groups. [Continue reading…]

Military Times reports: A Marine veteran has been identified as the leader of a white supremacist group whose members marched at Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protester was killed.

The news site Splinter first reported on Monday that former Marine recruiter Dillon Ulysses Hopper is the leader of white supremacist group Vanguard America.

Hopper served in the Marine Corps from July 2006 until Jan. 30, leaving the Corps as a staff sergeant, according to Manpower & Reserve Affairs. He deployed to Iraq from January 2008 to January 2009 and to Afghanistan from July 2010 to February 2011.

James Alex Fields Jr. was arrested Saturday after allegedly killing a woman by ramming a car into counter-protesters.

Fields, 20, was charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bail. At the rally he was photographed behind a shield bearing the emblem of Vanguard America, according to The Associated Press. The group has denied Fields was a member. [Continue reading…]

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The trials and tribulations facing an American neo-Nazi leader

 

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The road to radicalism in Charlottesville

Julia Ioffe writes: “Of course, it was terrorism,” said General H.R. McMaster on Sunday morning, the day after James Alex Fields, Jr. allegedly plowed his gray 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-white supremacist protestors, then reversed and, bumper dangling by a thread, hit still more people on the way back. When he was done, one person, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was dead and 19 more were injured. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday that the attack was an act of “domestic terrorism” and that the Department of Justice was investigating him. Fields is being held without bail on a second-degree murder charge.

In being an act of violence with an apparent political motive, Fields’s alleged actions clearly “count” as terrorism according to most definitions of the term. But there are also parallels between Fields and other terrorists in aspects of his route to Charlottesville.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Fields, but there is evidence that he was an adherent of a violent and extremist ideology. Just hours before he allegedly drove his car into that crowd, he was seen marching with and carrying a shield featuring the insignia of Vanguard America, a known white-supremacist group. According to Fields’s former high-school teacher Derek Weimer, Fields was also infatuated with the Nazis. “It was obvious that he had this fascination with Nazism and a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler,” Weimer told The Washington Post. “He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff.” A paper Fields wrote in high school, according to the teacher, was a “big lovefest for the German military and the Waffen-SS.”

In American political discourse, terrorism is a label often reserved for followers of a violent interpretation of Islam, whereas people who commit violence in the name of extremist far-right ideology based on race are sometimes portrayed as troubled young men, or criminals. The actions of the Trump administration have only deepened that gap. As one of its first acts, the administration reoriented the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism program away from combatting white-supremacist groups. Life After Hate, an organization which helps people leave such groups, says it never received a promised $400,000 grant, even as the Southern Poverty Law Center received increased reports of hate crimes and threats in the period immediately after the election. In the months after the election, Life After Hate reported getting a 20-fold uptick in calls from family members, begging for help to pull their loved ones out of violent white supremacist groups. [Continue reading…]

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What Trump gets wrong about antifa

Peter Beinart writes: Antifa activists are sincere. They genuinely believe that their actions protect vulnerable people from harm. Cornel West claims they did so in Charlottesville. But for all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists—who no one elected—can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed. That kind of undemocratic, illegitimate power corrupts. It leads to what happened this April in Portland, Oregon, where antifa activists threatened to disrupt the city’s Rose Festival parade if people wearing “red maga hats” marched alongside the local Republican Party. Because of antifa, Republican officials in Portland claim they can’t even conduct voter registration in the city without being physically threatened or harassed.

So, yes, antifa is not a figment of the conservative imagination. It’s a moral problem that liberals need to confront.

But saying it’s a problem is vastly different than implying, as Trump did, that it’s a problem equal to white supremacism. Using the phrase “alt-left” suggests a moral equivalence that simply doesn’t exist.

For starters, while antifa perpetrates violence, it doesn’t perpetrate it on anything like the scale that white nationalists do. It’s no coincidence that it was a Nazi sympathizer—and not an antifa activist—who committed murder in Charlottesville. According to the Anti-Defamation League, right-wing extremists committed 74 percent of the 372 politically motivated murders recorded in the United States between 2007 and 2016. Left-wing extremists committed less than 2 percent. [Continue reading…]

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Charlottesville attack shows homegrown terror on the right is on the rise

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James Alex Fields Jr., second from left, holds a black shield in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist rally took place.
Alan Goffinski via AP

By Arie Perliger, University of Massachusetts Lowell

The attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a man named James Alex Fields Jr. used his Dodge Challenger as a weapon against a crowd of protesters, underscores the growing violence of America’s far-right wing.

According to reports, Fields was a active member of an online far-right community. Like many other far-right activists, he believes that he represents a wider ideological community, even though he acted alone.

My 15 years experience of studying violent extremism in Western societies has taught me that dealing effectively with far-right violence requires treating its manifestations as domestic terrorism.

In the wake of the Charlottesville attack, the Department of Justice announced it would launch a federal investigation:

“…that kind of violence, committed for seeming political ends, is the very definition of domestic terrorism.”

This acknowledgment may signal that a growing domestic menace may finally get the attention it deserves. While attacks by outsider Jihadist groups will probably continue, domestic terrorism still deserves more attention than it’s getting.

[Read more…]

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Why the Nazis came to Charlottesville

Siva Vaidhyanathan writes: “Should we go downtown?” my wife asked over breakfast on Thursday. “Remember, after the election, when we said we would stand with our neighbors when they were threatened? Are we being true to our commitments?”

For weeks, we had read reports from white supremacist groups that they were coming here by the hundreds or thousands to start a fight. They promised to come armed. The racist Daily Stormer website has been calling 2017 the “Summer of Hate,” and Charlottesville would be ground zero.

How should we respond? All summer, we and the other residents of this college town have been discussing our choices across tables, on Facebook, on local radio shows, in church groups and at community meetings.

We could join many of our neighbors for teach-ins at the university, discussing racial history, prospects for diversity and paths toward justice. The University of Virginia had arranged a slate of public programs to give people a safe place to convene, commune and debate while armed, angry white supremacists invaded our downtown, just a mile and a half from the university.

Or we could join thousands of our neighbors who had pledged to confront the Nazis, risking broken bones, pepper-sprayed eyes, arrest or worse. We had friends and neighbors on both sides of this choice. And we saw virtue in both actions.

One school of thought says we should deny these extremists attention, as if attention were the oxygen that feeds their flaming torches. The other calls for direct confrontation: Show them they are unwelcome, outnumbered, and that the community is bravely united in disgust.

Denying hate groups attention might work if everyone agreed to do so. But as long as television cameras — or even just regular people streaming on Facebook Live and posting to YouTube — were going to witness the events, and as long as others were committed to confronting the white supremacists, there would be oxygen.

Plus, as we had learned from previous such assaults on our community, the hate groups were not just after attention. They wanted conflict. They came to hear the sound of flesh being struck, bones being broken. So the idea of denying them attention seemed less significant as the event drew closer. Still, there were compelling reasons to avoid confrontation.

“They will have guns,” I said to my wife. “That’s the defining issue for me.” She agreed. The fact that we have a child who is committed to social justice and curious about politics tipped the balance. For her sake, we could not risk putting ourselves in danger, especially when we had an opportunity to enrich her experience with peaceful community engagement.

I now believe we made the wrong choice. [Continue reading…]

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