Fear of ISIS and warnings about ‘wide open’ U.S. borders fuels Islamophobia

Fox News reports: Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter said that law enforcement agencies along the “wide open” border have received alerts to be on the lookout for terrorists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria crossing into the United States.

Painter, who said he has worked along the border for “about eight years,” stated that alerts have been issued to border law enforcement to be on the lookout for suspicious terrorist activity, specifically involving ISIS cells being smuggled into the United States.

“I received an intelligence report that said that there was ISIS cells that were active in the Juarez area, which is the northern part of the Chihuahua state, and that they were moving around over there, that there was some activity…” Painter told Fox News. The report asked “for the sheriffs along the border to be on the alert, for all law enforcement to be on the alert, and to be on the lookout for these people maybe trying to come across.”

Painter sidestepped any direct knowledge that ISIS, specifically, is along the border, but he reiterated that the border “is wide open.” [Continue reading...]

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I am a Muslim-American leader, and the NSA spied on me

Nihad Awad writes: As a student at the University of Minnesota decades ago, the more I learned about America’s history, the more I was inspired by our Founding Fathers. They were initially voices of dissent, who stood up and spoke on issues they thought would advance this country, with the understanding that it would not endear them to the powers of the day. This was the foundation for the Bill of Rights and the ideals that every American remains proud to enjoy to this day.

I am saddened, but not surprised, by recent revelations that I am on the list of Muslim-American leaders who have been targets for NSA surveillance. My First Amendment rights have been compromised simply because, over the years, I have expressed my views on issues relevant to public discourse. The fact that I have been individually targeted puts me on a list with very good company.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was spied on, along with Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald and boxer Muhammad Ali. Earlier this year, it came to light that the CIA had spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee, a Congressional body charged with oversight of the CIA.

Senator Frank Church, who led investigations in the 1970s uncovering FBI, CIA and NSA surveillance and illegal activity targeting minority activists, was spied on. In 1975 Church warned, “If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny.” [Continue reading...]

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Exposed: FBI and NSA spying on law-abiding Muslim-American leaders

The Intercept reports: The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:

• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap” — short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens.

The spreadsheet shows 7,485 email addresses listed as monitored between 2002 and 2008. Many of the email addresses on the list appear to belong to foreigners whom the government believes are linked to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Among the Americans on the list are individuals long accused of terrorist activity, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

But a three-month investigation by The Intercept — including interviews with more than a dozen current and former federal law enforcement officials involved in the FISA process — reveals that in practice, the system for authorizing NSA surveillance affords the government wide latitude in spying on U.S. citizens. [Continue reading...]

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The attack at the Jewish museum in Belgium highlights what?

Following the arrest of Mehdi Nemmouche, a French citizen who is suspected of killing four people at a Jewish museum in Belgium two weeks, the “big eye-opener … is that he had recently returned from Syria,” writes Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com.

Seemingly, the oft-repeated predictions that Western Muslims, radicalized in Syria, are destined to come home and terrorize their fellow citizens, are coming true.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

French President François Hollande confirmed that a suspect had been arrested and repeated his country’s determination to do all it could to stop radicalized youths from carrying out attacks.

French media reports said Nemmouche was also suspected of having stayed with jihadist groups last year while in Syria, where Islamist insurgents have been playing a major part in the three-year uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Muhammad Merah, the Franco- Algerian who died in a police shootout in Toulouse in March 2012 after killing three soldiers and four Jews, three of them children, also had links with Islamist insurgents. His sister, Souad, has since disappeared and is believed to be in Syria with a companion and her four children.

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said that “there must be a lot of Merahs coming back [to France] from Syria.”

According to intelligence specialists, the largest number of European jihadists is in Belgium, a country with a sizable number of North African Arab immigrants.

It’s disturbing that the perspective of some members of the antiwar movement, the Western political mainstream, and the anti-immigrant European far right have come into such close alignment.

But buried in the Jerusalem Post report is a detail that should have garnered more attention: Nemmouche’s own attorney’s explanation about the radicalization of his client.

Salifa Badaoui said that Nemmouche “was not frequenting the mosque [and] was not talking about religion at all….He became radical only in jail, after falling into minor criminality during his adolescence.” Nemmouche served time in prison in 2009 and 2012.

In other words, if we are to understand the process of radicalization that may have led to the murders in Brussels, we should be giving as much if not more attention to Nemmouche’s experiences in France rather than those in Syria.

Last year, Reuters reported:

In France, the path to radical Islam often begins with a minor offence that throws a young man into an overcrowded, violent jail and produces a hardened convert ready for jihad.

With the country on heightened security alert since January when French troops began fighting al Qaeda-linked Islamists in Mali, authorities are increasingly worried about home-grown militants emerging from France’s own jails.

But despite government efforts to tackle the problem, conditions behind bars are still turning young Muslims into easy prey for jhadist recruiters, according to guards, prison directors, ex-inmates, chaplains and crime experts interviewed over the last few months by Reuters.

“I have parents who come to me and say: ‘My son went in a dealer and came out a fundamentalist’,” said Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the mosque in Drancy, a gritty suburb north of Paris.

As petty criminals become radicalized in jail, the society to which they return is inclined to reinforce their experience of alienation and solidify their ideological conclusions.
In 2012, France 24 reported:

French Muslims have become the target of a marked increase in Islamophobic violence and actions, as well as incendiary statements by politicians, over the last two years, according to a report by a leading anti-racism observatory.

The number of racist acts against Muslims in France is increasing “alarmingly”, according to the country’s National Observatory of Islamophobia, whose president has called for overt Islamophobia to be taken as seriously as anti-Semitism, which is a criminal offence in France.

According to a report by the Observatory, which claims to fight “all forms of racism and xenophobia”, “in 2011 the number [of anti-Muslim attacks] was up 34% on the previous year … but what is happening in 2012 is alarming. Between January and the end of October there were 175 reported Islamophobic acts, a 42% increase compared with the same period in 2011.”

The report highlighted the occupation of a building site of a new mosque in Poitiers, near Paris, by 74 members of the extreme-right splinter group “Generation Identity”, who chanted hostile “warlike” slogans against Islam and Muslims.

The Observatory’s President Abdallah Zekri told FRANCE 24 that the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in France could be partly explained by “the tense socio-political atmosphere in France being driven by a resurgence of the far right”.

The huge success of Le Pen’s National Front in this May’s elections suggests that European leaders have less reason to highlight the threat posed by jihadists returning from Syria than they should fear the huge wave of xenophobia now sweeping the continent.

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The hypocrisy of Tony Blair’s Middle East vision

Arun Kundnani writes: Tony Blair’s speech this week at Bloomberg in London reveals a growing support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. A decade ago, Blair was justifying wars in the Middle East on the grounds that they would launch a democratic revolution and sweep away Arab despots. In his latest speech he embraced Arab despots whose regimes, he says, are necessary bulwarks against Islamism. Blair’s change in emphasis reflects a wider shift in neoconservative thinking over the past decade, while the underlying analysis remains as flawed as ever.

At the heart of Blair’s argument is a single formula that he uses to explain the politics not only of the Middle East, but of Muslim populations around the world. Muslims everywhere, he says, are caught in an “essential battle” between two ways of thinking about Islam.

In this “Titanic struggle”, one side is modern, pluralistic, and supportive of religious freedom and open economies. On the other side are the “Islamists”, who reject the separation of religion from politics and, like communists and fascists before them, want to impose their particular interpretation on the rest of society.

It is, of course, a hopelessly simplistic formula. Yes, reactionary interpretations of religion must be opposed. But the revolutionary upheavals in the Middle East are ultimately about freedom from authoritarian political structures and the economic marginalisation generated by neoliberal economics (Blair’s “open economies”). [Continue reading...]

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NYPD shuts down worthless unit that spied on Muslims

The New York Times reports: The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped, the department said.

The decision by the nation’s largest police force to shutter the controversial surveillance program represents the first sign that William J. Bratton, the department’s new commissioner, is backing away from some of the post-9/11 intelligence-gathering practices of his predecessor. The Police Department’s tactics, which are the subject of two federal lawsuits, drew criticism from civil rights groups and a senior official with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who said they harmed national security by sowing mistrust for law enforcement in Muslim communities.

To many Muslims, the squad, known as the Demographics Unit, was a sign that the police viewed their every action with suspicion. The police mapped communities inside and outside the city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch-counter conversations. [Continue reading...]

There aren’t too many occasions on which we can celebrate the effectiveness of the Fourth Estate in identifying and thereby curtailing the abuse of state power, but hats off to the Associated Press for running their Pulitzer Prize-winning probe into the NYPD’s Islamophobic intelligence operations.

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The Muslims are coming!

Robin Yassin-Kassab just reviewed Arun Kundnani’s new book, The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, for The Guardian. He knew that some of his observations would be challenging for a section of the paper’s readership — and its editors and columnists.

He writes: I like the Guardian’s books section and its G2 section, not least because they sometimes pay me to write. I also like some of their brave correspondents, such as Martin Chulov. What I don’t like at all is the idiotic, orientalist, conspiratorial, fact-free, and sometimes racist narrative against the revolutions in Syria and Libya which is so common in the Guardian’s comment sections. Blanket-thinking statist leftists like Seamus Milne and Jonathan Steele dominate, alongside ignorant polemicists like Tariq Ali. The last lines of my review target people like them, who are unfortunately influential in ‘liberal’ Britain. I am not at all surprised that the Guardian cut these lines from the review, although I name no names. These lines: “….the new Islamophobia of sections of the left, the notion that US imperialism and ‘al-Qa’ida’ are in league to destabilise imagined ‘secular’, ‘resistance’ regimes. Those who defended Iraqi Islamists in the Blair years now point to the Allahu Akbar chant as evidence of an agenda far more benighted than that of the genocidal neo-liberal dictatorships.” (I just spoke to the good man who commissioned the piece. He says the issue was space in the print edition. Fair enough. But why cut the lines which apply to Guardianistas?)

Arun Kundnani’s “The Muslims Are Coming”, vastly more intelligent than the usual ‘war on terror’ verbiage, focusses on the war’s domestic edge in Britain and America.

Kundnani’s starting point is this: “Terrorism is not the product of radical politics but a symptom of political impotence.” The antidote therefore seems self-evident: “A strong, active, and confident Muslim community enjoying its civic rights to the full.” Yet policy on both sides of the Atlantic has ended by criminalising Muslim opinion, silencing speech, and increasing social division. These results may make political violence more, not less, likely.

The assumptions and silences of the counter-radicalisation industry end up telling us far more about particular ideological subsections of Anglo-American culture than they do about the Muslims targetted. The two dominant security approaches to Muslim citizens described by Kundnani – ‘culturalist’ and ‘reformist’ –focus on ideology rather than socio-political grievances.

Culturalism’s best-known proponent is Bernard Lewis, Dick Cheney’s favourite historian, who locates the problem as Islam itself, a totalitarian ideology-culture incompatible with democratic modernity. So Mitt Romney explains the vast divergence between Israeli and Palestinian economies thus: “Culture makes all the difference” – and decades of occupation, ethnic cleansing and war make none. Writer Christopher Caldwell believes residents of the Paris Banlieu rioted in 2005 because they were Muslims (although many weren’t), and not because of unemployment, poor housing, and police violence. Perhaps the silliest culturalist intervention was Martin Amis’s “The Second Plane”, where Amis breezily admitted he knew nothing of geopolitics but claimed authority nevertheless from his expertise in ‘masculinity’ – 9/11 was explained by Islamic sexual frustration. Such discourses are part of an influential tradition of silliness. [Continue reading...]

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No NSA reform can fix the American Islamophobic surveillance complex

o13-iconArun Kundnani writes: Better oversight of the sprawling American national security apparatus may finally be coming: President Obama and the House Intelligence Committee unveiled plans this week to reduce bulk collection of telephone records. The debate opened up by Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing is about to get even more legalistic than all the parsing of hops and stores and metadata.

These reforms may be reassuring, if sketchy. But for those living in so-called “suspect communities” – Muslim Americans, left-wing campaigners, “radical” journalists – the days of living on the receiving end of excessive spying won’t end there.

How come when we talk about spying we don’t talk about the lives of ordinary people being spied upon? While we have been rightly outraged at the government’s warehousing of troves of data, we have been less interested in the consequences of mass surveillance for those most affected by it – such as Muslim Americans. [Continue reading...]

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Judge tosses Muslim spying suit against NYPD, says any damage was caused by reporters who exposed it

n13-iconDan Froomkin reports: A federal judge in Newark has thrown out a lawsuit against the New York Police Department for spying on New Jersey Muslims, saying if anyone was at fault, it was the Associated Press for telling people about it.

In his ruling Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini simultaneously demonstrated the willingness of the judiciary to give law enforcement alarming latitude in the name of fighting terror, greenlighted the targeting of Muslims based solely on their religious beliefs, and blamed the media for upsetting people by telling them what their government was doing.

The NYPD’s clandestine spying on daily life in Muslim communities in the region — with no probable cause, and nothing to show for it — was exposed in a Pulitzer-Prize winning series of stories by the AP. The stories described infiltration and surveillance of at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey alone.

In a cursory, 10-page ruling issued before even hearing oral arguments, Martini essentially said that what the targets didn’t know didn’t hurt them: [Continue reading...]

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UK anti-Muslim hate crime soars, police figures show

The Press Association reports: Hate crimes against Muslims have soared in the UK this year, figures show.

Hundreds of anti-Muslim offences were carried out across the country in 2013, with Britain’s biggest force, the Metropolitan police, recording 500 Islamophobic crimes.

Many forces reported a surge in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by two Islamic extremists in Woolwich, south-east London, in May.

But the figures could be much higher as nearly half of the 43 forces in England and Wales did not reveal how many hate crimes had targeted Muslims. Some forces admitted they did not always record the faith of a religious hate-crime victim.

Freedom of Information requests were sent by the Press Association to every police force in England and Wales. Of the 43 forces, 24 provided figures on the number of anti-Muslim crimes and incidents recorded.

Tell Mama, a group which monitors anti-Muslim incidents, said it had dealt with 840 cases since April, with the number expected to rise to more than 1,000 by the end of March. This compared with 582 anti-Muslim cases it dealt with from March 2012 to March 2013. [Continue reading...]

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Video — Aid to Syria: ‘If us two can do it, anyone can!’

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Islamophobia, surveillance-targeting, and the NYPD’s secret spying unit

Alex Kane writes: The Islamic Society of Bay Ridge sits on a bustling avenue steps away from the subway in the southwest corner of Brooklyn. Walk by the white building on a Friday afternoon, and nothing seems out of the ordinary. There are men waiting outside to enter the building to pray, while life goes on as usual around the building. Like any other mosque in New York City, the call to prayer blares out of loudspeakers five times a day; it’s the Islamic Society’s normality that makes its designation as a front for extremism and violence all the more jarring.

On August 28, the Associated Press disclosed that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) had been labeled the Bay Ridge institution — and 11 other mosques — “terrorism enterprises.” The designation, which allows the NYPD to infiltrate the mosque and record religious sermons normally protected under the First Amendment, evinced no expressions of shock from Zein Rimawi, the 59-year-old Palestinian-American co-founder of the mosque. The place where he goes to pray has been under the watchful eye of the police since at least 2003. He’s used to it by now, though he’s still angry that the surveillance exists.

A week after the AP story, we sat in an office at the mosque, surrounded by Qur’ans and a shirt reading “Free Egypt” in protest of the July 3 coup in that country. Rimawi calmly explained to me the presence of NYPD informants inside his mosque that day — “at least three of them,” he noted. I asked him how he could tell who was an informant, and he told me that in a tight-knit Muslim community like Bay Ridge, everyone knows each other. It’s easy to spot who’s out of place — especially if they’re asking a ton of questions.

His experience is by no means unique. Across New York City’s 800,000-person strong Muslim community, police infiltration by way of undercover officers or informants — usually people with criminal backgrounds who strike a deal with the NYPD — has become routine. The September 11 attacks sparked the NYPD’s transformation from municipal law enforcement agency to domestic intelligence service. Talk to Muslim leaders and activists, and stories of encounters with informants pour out. What emerges from these tales is a portrait of a police force that has tentacles reaching into every nook and cranny of New York City’s Muslim world, chilling activism, speech and association. [Continue reading...]

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How France’s burqa ban is promoting deadly intolerance

Nabila Ramdani writes: Join me in a criminal court in suburban Paris on almost any weekday and I’ll show you exactly where national debates about female face coverings end up.

Ever since France introduced its “burqa ban” in 2011, there has been a constant stream of wretched cases involving the handful of Muslims who choose to wear such garments. Not only are perfectly upstanding women being fined for their choice of dress, principally the full-body niqab, which leaves a slit for the eyes, but an increasing number of defendants are being tried for attacking them.

One case involves two self-styled “patriotic vigilantes” who targeted a pregnant 21-year-old in the commuter town of Argenteuil, north-west of Paris, in June. The new law persuaded the men to shout racist insults before putting the woman in hospital, where she lost her baby. Another three reported cases on the same council estate over the course of just one month this summer saw full-veil wearers assaulted as their attackers shouted: “Dirty Arab, dirty Muslim.”

Those calling for a veil ban in Britain have clearly ignored such depressingly routine cases. They do not realise how the legislation introduced by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government has not only stigmatised Muslim women, but somehow legitimised physical attacks on them. The ban in France is a hateful assault on basic freedoms, one that has been seized on by an unlikely alliance of rightwing politicians and feminists. [Continue reading...]

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NYPD designates mosques as terrorism organizations

The Associated Press reports: The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.

The strategy has allowed the NYPD to send undercover officers into mosques and attempt to plant informants on the boards of mosques and at least one prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn, whose executive director has worked with city officials, including Bill de Blasio, a front-runner for mayor. [Continue reading...]

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Yes, Richard Dawkins, your statements on Islam are racist

Alex Gabriel writes: A state which halts immigration from so-called Muslim countries, which deports and criminalises citizens specifically for being Muslims, which imposes exceptional limitations on the exercise of Islam, alone among other religions, and assigns all Muslims collective guilt for Islamists’ religious atrocities is not one any secularist should wish to establish. (We want neutrality, not persecution rivaling that of Europe’s anti-Semitic, theocratic past.) And yes, Richard, it’s racist.


Asserting that because Islam is a religion and not a race, one can never discuss it (or treat its followers) in racist ways makes about as much sense as saying that because ballet is an art form not a sexual identity, it’s impossible to say anything homophobic about male ballet dancers. Hip-hop musicians and immigrants aren’t races either, but commentary on both is very often racist – or at least, informed and inflected to a serious degree by racial biases.

I’m an atheist and a secularist. Within the context of a broader critique of religion, I have no problem saying the architecture of public space, as a prerequisite for democracy and human rights, must be secular; that it’s absurd to think violent, inhumane ancient texts provide superior moral guidance to everyone else’s; that if you claim religious morality based on those texts should be enforced in the public sphere, you deserve to have their contents thrown at you; that the God idea is a bad idea; that Islamism is a regressive, oppressive political movement; that non-Islamist, non-fundamentalist, mainstream Islamic beliefs deserve as much scrutiny and criticism as any others; that they can and should be indicted for promoting sexual ethics based on the whims of an imagined being; that Mehdi Hasan deserved evisceration, not praise, for his article on homosexuality; that cutting apart infants’ genitals is violence and abuse; that subjecting animals to drawn-out, agonising slaughter is unspeakably cruel and religion no excuse; that going eighteen hours in July without eating or drinking is more likely to endanger your health than bring spiritual enrichment; that blasphemy is a victimless crime, and public prohibitions of it antediluvian. I am not ‘soft on religion’; I am not softer on Islam than any other.

But there are still ways to say these things that have racist subtexts and ways that don’t. There is nothing inevitable in facing a barrage of indignation from sensible people when you talk about Islam-related things.

There’s nothing racist about critiquing misogyny in popular music, including in hip-hop, a prominent genre. But if you’re singling hip-hop out as the sexist genre, or talking disproportionately about rap lyrics rather than songs outside traditionally black genres by the Beatles, Lady Gaga, the Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift or One Direction – particularly if you’re also essentialising hip-hop as misogynous by definition, ignoring all female and feminist hip-hop – you need to examine your motivations and consider where that bias is coming from.


If you’re singling out Islamic theocracies as countries with repressive laws about sex, you likewise need to think about why. In the civically secular, socially Christian U.S., it was only ten years ago that sodomy laws (used against unmarried heterosexual couples as well as gay sex) were struck down in Texas, and it was only in 2005 that the state of Virginia legalised premarital sex. In civically Christian, socially secular Britain, HIV-positive and transgender people are criminalised for having sex; in mainly Christian Uganda, gay sex is illegal. All over the Western world and the planet generally, sex workers face state violence, harassment and imprisonment. What sorts of countries have terrible, oppressive, violent laws about sex? All sorts. Of course we can attack Islamic theocracies, but if you’re not attacking them within a broader context – if you’re not discussing other nations with oppressive laws, and not talking about non-Islamic religious law’s use in policing consensual sexuality – you need to ask yourself why you’re driven to attack the religion especially and disproportionately whose image is most strongly racialised. [Continue reading...]

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The Islamophobia of the New Atheists

Nathan Lean reviews some of the latest Islamophobic rants from Richard Dawkins and fellow militant atheists: Dawkins’ quest to “liberate” Muslim women and smack them with a big ol’ heaping dose of George W. Bush freedom caused him to go berzerk over news that a University College of London debate, hosted by an Islamic group, offered a separate seating option for conservative, practicing Muslims. Without researching the facts, Dawkins assumed that gendered seating was compulsory, not voluntary, and quickly fired off this about the “gender apartheid” of the supposedly suppressed Muslims: “At UC London debate between a Muslim and Lawrence Krauss, males and females had to sit separately. Krauss threatened to leave.” And then this: “Sexual apartheid. Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance?”

Of course, the fact that the Barclays Center in New York recently offered gender-separate seating options for Orthodox Jews during a recent concert by Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman didn’t compute in Dawkins’ reasoning. Neither did the case of El Al Airlines, the flag carrier of Israel, when, in August of 2012, a stewardess forced a Florida woman to swap seats to accommodate the religious practice of a haredi Orthodox man. Even if Dawkins were aware of these episodes, he likely wouldn’t have made a fuss about them. They undermine the conclusion he has already reached, that is, that only Muslims are freedom-haters, gender-separating “thugs.”

Where exactly Dawkins gets his information about Islam is unclear (perhaps Fox News?). What is clear, though, is that his unique brand of secular fundamentalism cozies up next to that screeched out by bloggers on the pages of some of the Web’s most vicious anti-Muslim hate sites. In a recent comment he posted on his own Web site, Dawkins references a site called Islam Watch, placing him in eerily close proximity to the likes of one of the page’s founders, Ali Sina, an activist who describes himself as “probably the biggest anti-Islam person alive.” Sina is a board member for the hate group, Stop the Islamization of Nations, which was founded by anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and which has designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Dawkins is also on record praising the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a man who says that he “hates Islam” and that Muslims who desire to remain in the Netherlands should “rip out half of the Koran” (Later, he blabbed that the Muslim holy book should be banned entirely). The peroxide-blonde leader of the Party of Freedom, who faced trial in 2009 for hate speech, produced an amateurish flick called “Fitna” the year before. The 17-minute film was chockablock with racist images such as Muhammad’s head attached to a ticking time bomb and juxtapositions of Muslims and Nazis. For Dawkins, it was pure bliss. “On the strength of ‘Fitna’ alone, I salute you as a man of courage who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy,” he wrote. [Continue reading...]

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Settlers tell EU MPs: ‘Israel is the dam protecting Europe from fundamentalist Islam’

The pro-settler Israel National News reports: In yet another success for Samaria’s advocacy initiatives, a group of European parliamentarians agreed to take a 36-hour trip to the area this week. The European Union generally views Samaria (Shomron) [the Israeli occupied West Bank] as Arab land and condemns Israeli construction in the area.

The parliamentarians came as guests of Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika.

They began their tour with a trip to the Barkan industrial zone. Many were surprised to see that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Authority Arabs were employed side-by-side in the factories.

Regional Council staff noted that boycotts of Israeli businesses in Judea and Samaria, including a threatened EU boycott, would primarily hurt industrial zones such as Barkan which provide a major source of employment for PA residents.

The tour then continued to a nearby lookout point from which the visitors could see the Tel Aviv region and Israel’s coastline. “We are in the heart of the land of the Bible and the center of Jewish heritage,” said Yossi Dagan. “From here we can see the ‘narrow waist’ of the State of Israel. Tel Aviv, the coastline and the Ben Gurion Airport are below us.”

“The State of Israel is the dam protecting Europe from fundamentalist Islam,” he added. “As you see with your own eyes, without Samaria the State of Israel is unlikely to survive.”

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New report on impact of NYPD surveillance on American Muslims

American Muslim civil liberties groups released a new report today, Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and Its Impact on American Muslims, documenting the devastating impacts of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) extensive surveillance program that targeted American Muslims throughout the Northeast and spread outrage throughout the nation.

Since 2002, the NYPD embarked on a covert domestic surveillance program that monitored American Muslims throughout the Northeast, from spying on neighborhood cafes and places of worship to infiltrating student whitewater-rafting trips — a program that continued despite the NYPD’s own acknowledgment that, over the course of six years, these efforts had not generated a single lead. The report is an unprecedented collection of voices from affected community members reflecting how the NYPD spying and infiltration creates a pervasive climate of fear and suspicion that encroaches upon every aspect of their religious, political, and community lives.

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