Merkel’s party slumps in Berlin election, but don’t count her out for 2017

By Daniel Hough, University of Sussex

Angela Merkel’s CDU is having a tough time of late. The latest blow came via the Berlin state parliament election, where the party managed to cling on to second place but was dumped out of the city’s government.

This was the CDU’s worst ever performance in an election in the German capital. It took a meagre 18% of the vote (down from 23.3% in 2011).

The Social Democrats (SPD) also lost votes (down from 28.3% to around 22%), as did the Greens (from just over 17% to around 15.5%). The one consolation for the SPD and Greens is that they are likely to be key players in the next Berlin government – even if as part of a rather broad and unwieldy left-wing coalition alongside the Left Party.

The main winners, as had been widely predicted, were the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD was nowhere in sight in 2011, but took around 13% of the vote this time round. A heavily anti-immigration (and particularly anti-refugee) rhetoric has chimed with parts of the electorate beyond Berlin, and the party now sits in 10 of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments. It is almost certain to add Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, Northrhine-Westphalia and the federal parliament to this list in 2017.

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Hate crimes against American Muslims most since post-9/11 era

The New York Times reports: Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to data compiled by researchers, an increase apparently fueled by terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad and by divisive language on the campaign trail.

The trend has alarmed hate crime scholars and law-enforcement officials, who have documented hundreds of attacks — including arsons at mosques, assaults, shootings and threats of violence — since the beginning of 2015.

While the most current hate crime statistics from the F.B.I. are not expected until November, new data from researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes against American Muslims were up 78 percent over the course of 2015. Attacks on those perceived as Arab rose even more sharply.

Police and news media reports in recent months have indicated a continued flow of attacks, often against victims wearing traditional Muslim garb or seen as Middle Eastern.

Some scholars believe that the violent backlash against American Muslims is driven not only by the string of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States that began early last year, but also by the political vitriol from candidates like Donald J. Trump, who has called for a ban on immigration by Muslims and a national registry of Muslims in the United States. [Continue reading…]

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Marine drill instructor accused of running a clothes dryer with a Muslim recruit inside

The Washington Post reports: A Muslim Marine said he was called a terrorist and ordered into an industrial clothes dryer multiple times by a drill instructor who then turned it on, burning him, according to investigative documents that provide new details about the alleged abuse of recruits at the service’s training center at Parris Island, S.C.

“You’re going to kill us all the first chance you get aren’t you, terrorist?” the drill instructor thundered at the recruit, the new Marine later alleged, according to the documents that have not been released publicly but were reviewed by The Washington Post. “What are your plans? Aren’t you a terrorist?”

The issue of hazing and abuse at Parris Island surfaced March 18, when a 20-year-old recruit with Pakistani roots — Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Mich. — died after leaping from a stairwell landing that was nearly 40 feet high while running away from the same drill instructor who used the dryer. The instructor had just slapped Siddiqui before he jumped. Siddiqui’s death drew public scrutiny to a culture of harsh punishments at Parris Island — one that Marine officials were already examining, the documents show.

Last week, service officials announced that 20 members of Parris Island’s staff could face criminal charges or administrative discipline following the conclusion of three investigations into various abuse allegations. But the documents raise questions about whether more Parris Island Marines could be implicated in the scandal. [Continue reading…]

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About the ‘basket of deplorables’

Charles Blow writes: What Clinton said [about “deplorable” Trump supporters] was impolitic, but it was not incorrect. There are things a politician cannot say. Luckily, I’m not a politician.

Donald Trump is a deplorable candidate — to put it charitably — and anyone who helps him advance his racial, religious and ethnic bigotry is part of that bigotry. Period. Anyone who elevates a sexist is part of that sexism. The same goes for xenophobia. You can’t conveniently separate yourself from the detestable part of him because you sense in him the promise of cultural or economic advantage. That hair cannot be split.

Furthermore, one doesn’t have to actively hate to contribute to a culture that allows hate to flourish.

It doesn’t matter how lovely your family, how honorable your work or service, how devout your faith — if you place ideological adherence or economic self interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.

And there is some evidence that Trump’s supporters don’t simply have a passive, tacit acceptance of an undesirable platform, but instead have an active set of beliefs that support what is deplorable in Trump.

In state after state that Trump won during the primaries, he won a majority or near majority of voters who supported a temporary ban on Muslims entering this country and who supported deporting immigrants who are in this country illegally.

In June a Reuters/Ipsos poll found: “Nearly half of Trump’s supporters described African-Americans as more ‘violent’ than whites. The same proportion described African-Americans as more ‘criminal’ than whites, while 40 percent described them as more ‘lazy’ than whites.”

A Pew poll released in February found that 65 percent of Republicans believe the next president should “speak bluntly even if critical of Islam as a whole” when talking about Islamic extremists. [Continue reading…]

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I’ve become a racist’: Migrant wave unleashes Danish tensions over identity

The New York Times reports: Johnny Christensen, a stout and silver-whiskered retired bank employee, always thought of himself as sympathetic to people fleeing war and welcoming to immigrants. But after more than 36,000 mostly Muslim asylum seekers poured into Denmark over the past two years, Mr. Christensen, 65, said, “I’ve become a racist.”

He believes these new migrants are draining Denmark’s cherished social-welfare system but failing to adapt to its customs. “Just kick them out,” he said, unleashing a mighty kick at an imaginary target on a suburban sidewalk. “These Muslims want to keep their own culture, but we have our own rules here and everyone must follow them.”

Denmark, a small and orderly nation with a progressive self-image, is built on a social covenant: In return for some of the world’s highest wages and benefits, people are expected to work hard and pay into the system. Newcomers must quickly learn Danish — and adapt to norms like keeping tidy gardens and riding bicycles.

The country had little experience with immigrants until 1967, when the first “guest workers” were invited from Turkey, Pakistan and what was then Yugoslavia. Its 5.7 million people remain overwhelmingly native born, though the percentage has dropped to 88 today from 97 in 1980.

Bo Lidegaard, a prominent historian, said many Danes feel strongly that “we are a multiethnic society today, and we have to realize it — but we are not and should never become a multicultural society.”

The recent influx pales next to the one million migrants absorbed into Germany or the 163,000 into Sweden last year, but the pace shocked this stable, homogeneous country. The center-right government has backed harsh measures targeting migrants, hate speech has spiked, and the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party is now the second largest in Parliament. [Continue reading…]

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‘The way people look at us has changed’: Muslim women on life in Europe

The New York Times reports: The storm over bans on burkinis in more than 30 French beach towns has all but drowned out the voices of Muslim women, for whom the full-body swimsuits were designed. The New York Times solicited their perspective, and the responses — more than 1,000 comments from France, Belgium and beyond — went much deeper than the question of swimwear.

What emerged was a portrait of life as a Muslim woman, veiled or not, in parts of Europe where terrorism has put people on edge. One French term was used dozens of times: “un combat,” or “a struggle,” to live day to day. Many who were born and raised in France described confusion at being told to go home.

Courts have struck down some of the bans on burkinis — the one in Nice, the site of a horrific terror attack on Bastille Day, was overturned on Thursday — but the debate is far from over.

“For years, we have had to put up with dirty looks and threatening remarks,” wrote Taslima Amar, 30, a teacher in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. “I’ve been asked to go back home (even though I am home).” Now, Ms. Amar said, she and her husband were looking to leave France.

Laurie Abouzeir, 32, said she was considering starting a business caring for children in her home in Toulouse, southern France, because that would allow her to wear a head scarf, frowned upon and even banned in some workplaces.

Many women wrote that anti-Muslim bias had intensified after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015, and in Brussels, Paris and Nice more recently. Halima Djalab Bouguerra, a 21-year-old student in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, dated the change further back, to the killings by Mohammed Merah in the southwest of the country in 2012.

“The way people look at us has changed,” Ms. Bouguerra wrote. “Tongues have loosened. No one is afraid of telling a Muslim to ‘go back home’ anymore.” [Continue reading…]

The French prime minister didn’t like this article: Je tenais à répondre à l’article “Regards changés et langues déliées”, paru dans les colonnes du New York Times le 2 septembre, et qui donne une image insupportable, car fausse, de la France, pays des Lumières et pays des libertés. [Continue reading…]

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Muslim gathering laments a ‘normalization of bigotry’

The New York Times reports: An imam of a mosque in New York City and his associate shot dead while strolling following afternoon prayers. A presidential candidate calling for Muslims to be barred from entering the United States. Muslim women harassed and physically attacked in Chicago while walking to their car.

During the Islamic Society of North America convention that started here on Friday, official speakers said these actions had become all too commonplace in the United States.

“In this political climate, we’ve seen a normalization of bigotry,” said Altaf Husain, an associate professor at Howard University and a vice president of the society, whose convention here is the largest Muslim gathering in the United States and Canada.

But Mr. Husain, expressing what he said was the sentiment of many other American Muslims, said the Obama administration had made it a priority to bolster engagement with Muslims across the country. The latest example of the administration’s engagement came Saturday night when Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, became the first sitting cabinet member to address the Islamic Society’s convention.

Mr. Johnson said his speech was part of a sustained outreach effort that has taken him from the suburbs of Washington to Minneapolis to Los Angeles, where he has met with community leaders and visited mosques, while fielding questions about racial profiling and anti-Muslim speech on the presidential campaign trail.

In his address, Mr. Johnson told the audience that their lives were “the quintessential American story.” [Continue reading…]

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Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen: One of them will shape Europe’s future

Natalie Nougayrède writes: Two very different women hold Europe’s future in their hands – and neither of them is Theresa May. The battle for Europe’s soul is being waged between Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen. This is a clash of personalities and visions: Germany’s chancellor v the leader of France’s Front National, the largest far-right party in Europe. As Britain prepares to leave the EU, the Franco-German dimension of the continent’s destiny has arguably never been so important since the end of the cold war. What is at stake is momentous: whether Europe can survive as a project, and whether fundamental principles such as the rule of law, democracy and tolerance can be salvaged. The battle will play out nationally in 2017, in key elections in France and Germany, but it concerns all Europeans.

It may seem strange to reduce Europe’s existential crises to just one personal confrontation. Merkel has been in power since 2005 and is trying to remain there, while Le Pen may dream of being in office but has never approached it (last year her party failed to take control of a single French region in local elections). Some may ask: why would a French opposition figure count more than the man currently sitting in the Elysée Palace? But François Hollande has become so weak – even more so with this week’s resignation of his economics minister, Emmanuel Macron – and terrorism has transformed French politics to such a degree that Le Pen’s prospects now stand out as a key defining factor of where France, and Europe for that matter, may be heading.

It is only partly reassuring to say that Le Pen has little chance of becoming president next year (the French electoral system makes that difficult). The trouble is, in recent months, her brand of anti-Muslim, xenophobic and nationalistic politics has spread across the French mainstream right like wildfire. Le Pen is fast capitalising on this summer’s burkini episode and on the national trauma left by jihadi terrorism. It’s hard to see which French politician or movement can find the authority and strength to push back against her ideas, or counter their appeal among the French suburban middle classes as well as in rural areas. Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to win primaries in November, but his whole strategy hinges on imitating rather than disputing Le Pen’s line of thinking. [Continue reading…]

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High court suspends ‘burkini’ ban in French town while Sarkozy calls for nationwide ban

The New York Times reports: France’s highest administrative court on Friday suspended a ban by a Mediterranean town on bathing at its beaches in so-called burkinis, the full-body swimwear used by some Muslim women that has become the focus of intense debates over women’s rights, assimilation and secularism in France.

The Council of State, the highest court in the French administrative justice system, ruled that the ban, enacted by the town of Villeneuve-Loubet on Aug. 5, violated civil liberties.

At least 20 other municipalities, most of which are on the French Riviera, have imposed similar bans, and although the decision on Friday does not apply directly to them, it can be seen as a warning that their bans are likely to be similarly struck down if challenged in court. The largest such community is the city of Nice.

Critics of the bans have said they unfairly targeted Muslims and stirred up fear in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe.

The bans recently provoked a backlash in France and abroad, after photographs spread online showing armed police officers enforcing them. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports: Nicolas Sarkozy says he will impose a nationwide ban on burkinis if re-elected to the presidency in 2017, positioning himself as a strong defender of French values and tough on immigration.

Hundreds of supporters waving French flags chanted “Nicolas! Nicolas!” and applauded as Sarkozy, a conservative president from 2007 to 2012 before losing an election to Socialist François Hollande, promised to protect the French people in his first rally for the 2017 election.

“I will be the president that re-establishes the authority of the state,” Sarkozy told a crowd of more than 2,000 in a sports hall in Châteaurenard in Provence, a town where his Les Républicains beat the far-right Front National (FN) in regional elections last year. [Continue reading…]

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All hail the burkini’s blend of Islamic values and western lifestyle

Rachel Woodlock writes: Men forcing women to remove their clothes is never going to look like freedom, equality, and encouraging “good morals”, no matter the justification. There are now 15 French towns that have targeted beach-loving Muslim women in the wake of July’s terrorism-linked murders in Nice and Normandy. When the inevitable pictures of French police enforcing the burkini ban emerged this week, we saw not an effective counter-terrorism measure, but a clumsy attempt to push back against Islam’s visibility in France.

Keen to win over anti-immigration supporters from the right in his forthcoming bid for the French presidency, the former head of state Nicolas Sarkozy jumped in to the debate yesterday evening, claiming that burkinis are a sartorial prison and a “provocation” that supports radicalised Islam.

It’s a theme being repeated all over Europe, where the palpable fear of Islamic religiosity conflates its most extreme, violent and – as Charles Kurzman argues in his book The Missing Martyrs – rare form with the peaceable faith of ordinary Muslims. Yet we know from researching the lives of Muslims in western countries that most do not want to hide away in isolated ghettos, or abandon their cultural heritage and assimilate into invisibility. They want to find a happy balance between the two: adapting and integrating into western societies, and being acknowledged as fully contributing and worthy citizens in the nation states they call home. [Continue reading…]

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France’s burkini ban could not come at a worse time

By Fraser McQueen, University of Stirling

Images of armed police confronting a woman in Nice, apparently forcing her to remove some of her clothing, have added fuel to the already combustible debate over the prohibition against women wearing burkinis on many beaches around France.

Since mayor of Cannes David Lisnard banned the full-body burkini from his town’s beaches, as many as 15 French resorts have followed suit.

Arguments defending the bans fall into three main categories. First, it is about defending the French state’s secularism (laïcité). Second, that the costume represents a misogynistic doctrine that sees female bodies as shameful. And finally, that the burkini is cited as a threat to public order.

None of these arguments satisfactorily refute the claims of civil rights activists that the bans are fundamentally Islamophobic.

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Sarkozy calls burkinis a ‘provocation’ that supports radical Islam

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The Guardian reports: The former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has branded the full-body burkini swimsuits worn by some Muslim women a “provocation” that supports radicalised Islam.

After efforts by a series of French coastal towns to ban women from wearing burkinis set off a heated debate in the country, Sarkozy said in a TV interview on Wednesday night that “we don’t imprison women behind fabric”.

His outburst earned a sharp rebuke from the woman who created the burkini, the Australian designer Aheda Zanetti.

“I truly, truly believe that the French have misunderstood and that they don’t know what a burkini looks like and what it represents,” said Zanetti. [Continue reading…]

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