French morality police enforce laws controlling culturally acceptable beachwear

The Guardian reports: Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the Burkini, which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the town’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

After they arrive, she appears to remove a blue long-sleeved tunic, although one of the officers appears to take notes or issue an on-the-spot fine.

The photographs emerged as a mother of two also told on Tuesday how she had been fined on the beach in nearby Cannes wearing leggings, a tunic and a headscarf.

Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.

“I was sitting on a beach with my family,” said the 34-year-old who gave only her first name, Siam. “I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming.”

A witness to the scene, Mathilde Cousin, confirmed the incident. “The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, some were applauding the police,” she said. “Her daughter was crying.” [Continue reading…]


Racism and talk of religious war: Trump staff’s online posts

The Associated Press reports: Donald Trump’s paid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war, according to a review by The Associated Press of their postings.

The AP examined the social media feeds of more than 50 current and former campaign employees who helped propel Trump through the primary elections. The campaign has employed a mix of veteran political operatives and outsiders. Most come across as dedicated, enthusiastic partisans, but at least seven expressed views that were overtly racially charged, supportive of violent actions or broadly hostile to Muslims.

A graphic designer for Trump’s advance team approvingly posted video of a black man eating fried chicken and criticizing fellow blacks for ignorance, irresponsibility and having too many children. A Trump field organizer in Virginia declared that Muslims were seeking to impose Sharia law in America and that “those who understand Islam for what it is are gearing up for the fight.”

The AP’s findings come at a time when Trump is showing new interest in appealing to minority voters, insisting he will be fair in dealing with the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally and explicitly pitching himself to African-Americans, saying “what do you have to lose?” [Continue reading…]


France’s ‘burkini’ bans are about more than religion or clothing

The New York Times reports: There is something inherently head-spinning about the so-called burkini bans that are popping up in coastal France. The obviousness of the contradiction — imposing rules on what women can wear on the grounds that it’s wrong for women to have to obey rules about what women can wear — makes it clear that there must be something deeper going on.

“Burkinis” are, essentially, full-body swimsuits that comply with Islamic modesty standards, and on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France waded into the raging debate over the bans in some of the country’s beach towns, denouncing the rarely seen garb as part of the “enslavement of women.”

This, of course, is not really about swimwear. Social scientists say it is also not primarily about protecting Muslim women from patriarchy, but about protecting France’s non-Muslim majority from having to confront a changing world: one that requires them to widen their sense of identity when many would prefer to keep it as it was.

“These sorts of statements are a way to police what is French and what is not French,” said Terrence G. Peterson, a professor at Florida International University who studies France’s relationship with Muslim immigrants and the Muslim world.

While this battle over identity is rising now in the wake of terrorist attacks, it has been raging in one form or another in French society for decades, Professor Peterson said. What seems to be a struggle over the narrow issue of Islamic dress is really about what it means to be French. [Continue reading…]


Was it hate? Tulsa murder case shines light on lack of bias crime data


McClatchy reports: Stanley Vernon Majors was a neighbor from hell.

For five years, according to witness accounts and court papers, Majors terrorized the Jabara family living next door to him in suburban Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He disrupted their family gatherings. He hassled visitors if they parked in front of his house. He hurled racial slurs at a black friend of the family. He even made false claims to health inspectors, the Jabaras said, sabotaging their lucrative catering contract providing hummus to Whole Foods stores.

Majors often mentioned the family’s Arab roots in his tirades; one police report quoted him as calling them “filthy Lebanese.” He also used “Ay-rabs” and “Mooslems,” recalled the Jabaras, who are Christians.

The harassment took a violent turn last September, when Majors was charged with ramming his car into the Jabara family’s 65-year-old matriarch, Haifa, who suffered a collapsed lung, head trauma and broken bones from her nose to her ankle. Majors was awaiting trial on charges from that incident when, last Friday, according to the authorities, he walked next door and fired four shots at 37-year-old Khalid Jabara, killing him on his front porch.

Among Arab and Muslim Americans, the case immediately was viewed as a hate crime, with Jabara portrayed as the latest victim in a bloody wave of attacks against people perceived as foreigners or Muslims. “Hate was definitely part of it. This guy did hate our family,” said Jabara’s brother, Rami, speaking by phone to McClatchy this week.

Yet despite the well-documented history of Majors’ targeting the family, there’s no guarantee that prosecutors will seek hate crime charges in addition to the murder charge against him. Legal specialists who track hate-crime prosecutions nationwide say the Jabara case is likely to run into the same hurdles that civil rights advocates have warned about in numerous studies: Hate crime laws can be prohibitively difficult to use, narrow as to what offenses are covered, and dependent on police who often have no obligation to report – or lack training in how to respond to – crimes involving bias.

That disconnect – having laws on the books but problems using them – is a source of growing frustration for Arab-American, Muslim and other civil rights activists who have seen numerous attacks that appear to have been motivated by racial or religious hatred, but weren’t considered that way under the law. The result, activists say, is the loss of confidence in the justice system just as a nasty political climate deepens fears of bias-motivated attacks. [Continue reading…]


Human rights groups vow to challenge burkini ban on Cannes beaches

The Guardian reports: A French human rights association and Muslim groups have said they will take legal action against the mayor of Cannes for issuing a decree banning burkinis from the resort’s beaches.

David Lisnard signed off on a ruling last month preventing women from wearing the full-body swimsuits in the Côte d’Azur town. The decree was introduced shortly after the Bastille day attack in Nice in July, where a delivery driver killed 85 people when he ploughed into crowds celebrating the French national holiday on the seafront.

The decree states that Muslim women wearing burkinis could be a threat to public order and will be cautioned and fined €38 (£33).

“Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc), which it is necessary to prevent,” it says.

Thierry Migoule, the head of Cannes municipal services, said: “We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach … but ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us.”

Lawyers, human rights groups and Muslim associations have described the decree as illegal and preposterous. [Continue reading…]


Trump’s core supporters don’t like the way he treated the Khans — but they’re still afraid of Muslims

Greg Sargent writes: Trump’s attacks on the Khan family appear to have gone too far even for his core supporters. American voters overall disapprove of his handling of the exchange with the Khans by 74-13, and Trump-leaning groups agree: Non-college whites disapprove by 67-14; non-college white men disapprove by 64-19; and white evangelicals disapprove by 63-20. (By the way, Republicans and GOP-leaners disapprove by 58-23, and conservatives disapprove by 62-18.)

The overwhelming public disapproval of Trump’s battle with the Khan family is encouraging to see. It’s looking increasingly like Trump, by engaging the Khans, helpfully reinforced many of the messages coming out of the Democratic convention about Trump’s demagogic scapegoating by religion and his overall hostility towards diversifying America. If the Dem convention brought a sledgehammer down on Trump’s worldview, he basically picked up that sledgehammer and continued to hit himself over the head with it — especially in the eyes of the college educated white voters who appear increasingly repulsed by Trumpism.

And yet, even after the battle over the Khans forced a national debate over Trump’s fearmongering about Muslims, his core voting groups are still sticking by the temporary ban on their entry into the United States — which, after all, is a core tenet of the story he’s telling about America. [Continue reading…]


What’s missing from the Trump vs Khan debate

Peter Beinart writes: What has happened in the days since [Khizr] Khan’s speech has been inspiring and disturbing too. Trump has attacked Khan, and been roundly repudiated for doing so. But most of the outrage, from both politicians and pundits, has centered on Trump’s criticism of a Gold Star family. That misses the point. There’s nothing inherently wrong with openly disagreeing with someone who has lost a child in battle. If a Gold Star father became a prominent crusader against gay marriage, those of us who support gay marriage would have every right to publicly challenge him, the magnitude of his personal loss notwithstanding.

What made Trump’s attack odious was not that he criticized a father and mother who have lost a son in war. It’s that by suggesting that Ghazala Khan was not “allowed” to speak, he recapitulated the anti-Muslim bigotry that made her convention appearance necessary in the first place. The reason politicians and pundits should embrace the Khans and repudiate Trump is not because they are Gold Star parents and he is not. It’s because they are defending religious liberty while he is menacing it.

Celebrating Khizr Khan as a Gold Star father is easy because it’s apolitical. Every American politician and pundit, no matter their ideological bent, pays homage to military families. Celebrating Khizr Khan as a champion of Muslim rights, by contrast, is harder. After all, some of the same conservatives who salute the Khans for their wartime sacrifice simultaneously demand a ban on Muslim refugees and warn about the imposition of Sharia law in the United States. [Continue reading…]


Capt. Humayun Khan, whose grieving parents have been criticized by Trump, was ‘a soldier’s officer’

The Washington Post reports: Capt. Humayun Khan didn’t need to be out there that day.

Not all officers at Forward Operating Base Warhorse would choose to spend that kind of time outside the gates of their fortified compound, checking on lower-ranking soldiers pulling security detail, said Marie Legros, a staff sergeant posted at the facility in eastern Iraq in 2004.

But Khan, a Army reserve officer and naturalized American on his first deployment to Iraq, was a hands-on supervisor who wanted to know what was going on with the men and women under his command. It was early summer 2004, and conditions in Iraq — including in the restive eastern province of Diyala — were growing more dangerous by the day.

“That’s the thing,” Legros said. “He went just to check on his troops.”

What’s more, June 8 was Khan’s day off, said Crystal Selby, a sergeant at the time, who like Khan worked the midnight-to-noon force protection shift. Selby said she had tried to convince the 27-year-old captain that he needed his rest, but he was adamant that she drive him to the base’s gate so he could see how the guard personnel were doing.

“I dropped him off there, and it wasn’t five minutes after that it happened,” Selby said in a phone interview, her voice choked with emotion.

Khan was standing with other troops outside Warhorse that morning when an orange taxi came speeding toward them. Instructing his soldiers to get down, Khan moved toward the vehicle, motioning for it to stop. Before he could reach the car, an improvised bomb went off, killing Khan and two Iraqi civilians in addition to the two suicide bombers. A dozen more people were wounded.

For fellow members of the 1st Infantry Division’s 201st Forward Support Battalion, the loss of an officer who, according to his comrades, was universally liked and respected was a devastating moment relatively early in their deployment in Iraq.

“He was just that type of person, wanting to make sure his soldiers were okay,” Legros said. He was a “soldier’s officer,” she said, personally invested in those serving under him. [Continue reading…]


French politicians are using terrorism to score points ahead of election

By Jocelyn Evans, University of Leeds and Gilles Ivaldi, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis

Until recently, France’s politicians had largely presented a united front against terrorist attacks. Rarely did they use tragedy to score points off each other. But that has started to change over the past year. Now a political controversy has erupted in the wake of the massacre in Nice on Bastille Day 2016. It will no doubt be further fuelled by the killing of a Catholic priest near Rouen.

Within hours of the incident at a fireworks display in Nice, opposition politicians were rounding on the government. How was it that Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was able to kill 84 people and wound hundreds by driving a truck into a festive crowd, even as the country lived under a state of emergency?

One was Christian Estrosi, the former mayor of Nice and a Republican right winger who supports former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Estrosi is currently leading the offensive against the government. “Lies are fuelling the controversy,” he said, referencing the contested number of national police and soldiers in Nice on the night of the attack. “If the state stops lying, there will no longer be a controversy.”

[Read more…]


In Germany, anti-Muslim extremists may pose as big a threat as Islamist militants

The Washington Post reports: When an 18-year old German Iranian killed nine people and then shot himself on Friday in Munich, speculation that it was an Islamist attack circulated for hours.

But doubts arose when a video was uploaded in which the attacker can be heard shouting: “I am German.”

On Wednesday, German media cited police sources as saying that they now had credible information that the attacker was a right-wing extremist who hated Arabs and Turks. Although he was not thought to have been associated with any right-wing groups, according to those media reports, the sources called him a “racist.” His victims were mostly foreigners.

It would not be the first time an anti-Muslim attacker has been mistaken for an Islamist extremist in Germany.

Germany is still wrestling with the anti-Muslim terror group National Socialist Underground (NSU), which killed 10 people — most of them Turks — between 2000 and 2007. Investigators had initially blamed Germany’s immigrant community for most of the deaths, characterizing them as the result of infighting and organized-gang activity.

Two of the NSU suspects later killed themselves; a third, Beate Zschäpe, is on trial in Munich. The attacks have fostered deep mistrust between Germany’s large immigrant community and authorities: The country’s intelligence services stand accused of having deliberately ignored clues that right-wing extremists had carried out the killings. [Continue reading…]


Austria: The lesson of the far right

Jan-Werner Müller writes: Could Austria become the first Western European country since World War II to have a far-right president? Amid the shock over the Brexit vote, few have noted the extraordinary sequence of events that have played out in this wealthy social democracy. On May 22, Norbert Hofer of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party lost the race for the Austrian presidency by around 31,000 votes to Alexander Van der Bellen of the Green Party. On June 8, the Freedom Party contested that result, alleging several irregularities, among them the premature opening of mail ballots and the release of election data to the media too early. In fact, there was no evidence of manipulations having changed the outcome. But on July 1 Austria’s Constitutional Court nevertheless ruled that the election would have to be repeated. Thus the Freedom Party — a party that was once described as a “party of former Nazis for former Nazis” — will have a second chance at the presidency in early October.

Just why has the far right done so well in Austria in particular? The country enjoys one of the highest per capita income levels in the EU, has an extensive welfare system, and has benefited enormously from the opening to Eastern Europe since 1989 (Vienna used to be shabby compared to Berlin; now it’s the other way around). Nor has Austria, until now, suffered from the devastating terror attacks that have afflicted France and Belgium. Picking up on Pope Paul VI’s praise of Austria as an isola felice, the country’s most important post-war political figure, long-time Chancellor Bruno Kreisky (in office 1970-1983), called it an “island of the blessed.” Nonetheless, the Freedom Party has been growing in Austria for more than two decades. If there were Austrian parliamentary elections today, the far right would win. [Continue reading…]


Boris Johnson rebuked for blaming Munich shooting on terrorists

The Guardian reports: The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was urged to avoid passing politically sensitive judgments on world events until he was in full possession of the facts after he prematurely blamed Islamist terrorists for the killings in Munich on Friday.

Johnson made his remarks before the identity of the killer – an 18-year-old German citizen of Iranian descent who was obsessed with mass slaughter – had been known.

Although early reports of the attack, in which Ali Sonboly shot nine people dead before killing himself, suggested a gang of three people might be on the loose in Munich in a terror attack reminiscent of the killings in Paris, no definitive information was available and the authorities had not identified a motive for the killings.

Speaking about the attack on Friday while in New York, Johnson told the press that that the “global sickness” of terrorism needed to be tackled at its source in the Middle East.

“If, as seems very likely, this is another terrorist incident, then I think it proves once again that we have a global phenomenon and a global sickness that we have to tackle both at the source – in the areas where the cancer is being incubated in the Middle East – and also of course around the world.”

He added: “We have to ask ourselves, what is going on? How is the switch being thrown in the minds of these people?”

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, told the Guardian: “Just days into his new role, Boris demonstrates again why it was a huge gamble appointing him. The off-the-cuff remark may suit Have I Got News for You, but it doesn’t the tragedy in Munich. In future, Boris needs to hold his tongue until he is in full possession of the facts. There is too much as stake.” [Continue reading…]