Not 48 hours had passed since a stroke had complicated his yearlong fight against pancreatic cancer. The cancer had begun to spread again, necessitating further chemotherapy. The stroke had dealt a further blow that threatened to finish him off.
Between the hectic helter-skelter of nurses, doctors, and well wishes from a long-cultivated community of friends and former aides, Bennett faced a quiet moment with his son Jim and his wife Joyce.
It was not a moment for self-pity.
Instead, with a slight slurring in his words, Bennett drew them close to express a dying wish: “Are there any Muslims in the hospital?” he asked.
“I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country, and apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump,” Bennett told his wife and son, both of whom relayed this story to The Daily Beast. [Continue reading…]
Mehdi Hasan writes: As the votes in London’s mayoral election were being counted on May 5, almost every British Muslim I know seemed to have only one thought: Would Sadiq Khan pull it off?
He did. Mr. Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was elected as the first Muslim mayor of a Western capital city, with more than 1.3 million votes, in what is being called the biggest mandate in the history of British politics. And the Labour candidate managed his landslide even after his opponent, the Conservative politician Zac Goldsmith, smeared him as a “radical” and shamelessly accused him of giving “oxygen” to extremists.
Islamophobes are tearing their hair out as they decry the Islamization of Britain. But for all the Muslim baiting, London’s new mayor is part of an encouraging trend. He’s just the latest in a series of observant Muslims who have captured the hearts and minds of the British public. Last October, 14.5 million Britons tuned in to watch the smiling, hijab-clad Nadiya Hussain, the daughter of a waiter from Bangladesh, as she was crowned champion of “The Great British Bake Off,” a TV show. In April, Riyad Mahrez, who was born in Paris to an Algerian father and a Moroccan mother, was awarded the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year trophy after scoring 17 goals for Leicester City, which went on to a surprise victory in the Premier League championship.
In a perfect world, the faith of a TV cooking show star, an athlete or even a major politician would be irrelevant. But in our deeply imperfect — and, yes, Islamophobic — world, it isn’t. British newspapers are filled with alarmist headlines about “Muslim sex grooming” and “the rise in Muslim birthrate.” Earlier this year, Trevor Philips, the former chairman of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, accused Britain’s Muslims of “becoming a nation within a nation.”
It’s harder to say that now. The tide is turning in the toxic debate on Islam, integration and multiculturalism. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: Near the end of his Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque in December, Gill Parker Payne decided he had to take action.
Seated a few rows in front of him was a woman he had never met before. She was wearing a religious headscarf, known as a hijab, which Payne recognized as a Muslim practice. He stood up, walked down the aisle and stopped next to her seat. Looking down at the woman, Payne instructed her to remove the covering.
“Take it off! This is America!” Payne, 37, later recalled saying. When she didn’t do it herself, Payne did: He grabbed the hijab from the back and pulled it all off. Violated, the woman, identified by the Justice Department only as K.A., quickly pulled the hijab back over her head.
On Friday, as part of a plea deal with the federal government, Payne pleaded guilty to obstructing the woman’s exercise of her religious beliefs. “Because I forcibly removed K.A.’s hijab, I admit that the United States can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I intentionally obstructed K.A.’s free exercise of her religious beliefs,” he said in a written statement in the plea agreement.
Payne awaits sentencing. He faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.
“No matter one’s faith, all Americans are entitled to peacefully exercise their religious beliefs free from discrimination and violence,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement. “Using or threatening force against individuals because of their religion is an affront to the fundamental values of this nation.” [Continue reading…]
An editorial in The Economist says: Arab states are suffering a crisis of legitimacy. In a way, they have never got over the fall of the Ottoman empire. The prominent ideologies — Arabism, Islamism and now jihadism — have all sought some greater statehood beyond the frontiers left by the colonisers. Now that states are collapsing, Arabs are reverting to ethnic and religious identities. To some the bloodletting resembles the wars of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Others find parallels with the religious strife of Europe’s Thirty Years War in the 17th century. Whatever the comparison, the crisis of the Arab world is deep and complex. Facile solutions are dangerous. Four ideas, in particular, need to be repudiated.
First, many blame the mayhem on Western powers — from Sykes-Picot to the creation of Israel, the Franco-British takeover of the Suez Canal in 1956 and repeated American interventions. Foreigners have often made things worse; America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 released its sectarian demons. But the idea that America should turn away from the region — which Barack Obama seems to embrace — can be as destabilising as intervention, as the catastrophe in Syria shows.
Lots of countries have blossomed despite traumatic histories: South Korea and Poland — not to mention Israel. As our special report (see article) sets out, the Arab world has suffered from many failures of its own making. Many leaders were despots who masked their autocracy with the rhetoric of Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine (and realised neither). Oil money and other rents allowed rulers to buy loyalty, pay for oppressive security agencies and preserve failing state-led economic models long abandoned by the rest of the world.
A second wrong-headed notion is that redrawing the borders of Arab countries will create more stable states that match the ethnic and religious contours of the population. Not so: there are no neat lines in a region where ethnic groups and sects can change from one village or one street to the next. A new Sykes-Picot risks creating as many injustices as it resolves, and may provoke more bloodshed as all try to grab land and expel rivals. Perhaps the Kurds in Iraq and Syria will go their own way: denied statehood by the colonisers and oppressed by later regimes, they have proved doughty fighters against IS. For the most part, though, decentralisation and federalism offer better answers, and might convince the Kurds to remain within the Arab system. Reducing the powers of the central government should not be seen as further dividing a land that has been unjustly divided. It should instead be seen as the means to reunite states that have already been splintered; the alternative to a looser structure is permanent break-up.
A third ill-advised idea is that Arab autocracy is the way to hold back extremism and chaos. In Egypt Mr Sisi’s rule is proving as oppressive as it is arbitrary and economically incompetent. Popular discontent is growing. In Syria Bashar al-Assad and his allies would like to portray his regime as the only force that can control disorder. The contrary is true: Mr Assad’s violence is the primary cause of the turmoil. Arab authoritarianism is no basis for stability. That much, at least, should have become clear from the uprisings of 2011.
The fourth bad argument is that the disarray is the fault of Islam. Naming the problem as Islam, as Donald Trump and some American conservatives seek to do, is akin to naming Christianity as the cause of Europe’s wars and murderous anti-Semitism: partly true, but of little practical help. Which Islam would that be? The head-chopping sort espoused by IS, the revolutionary-state variety that is decaying in Iran or the political version advocated by the besuited leaders of Ennahda in Tunisia, who now call themselves “Muslim democrats”? To demonise Islam is to strengthen the Manichean vision of IS. The world should instead recognise the variety of thought within Islam, support moderate trends and challenge extremists. Without Islam, no solution is likely to endure. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: As headlines popped up this week declaring that Donald Trump had softened his position on banning most foreign Muslims from entering the United States, some Republicans celebrated the news.
“Glad he’s walking it back,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tweeted on Thursday.
Except that Trump has not actually walked anything back. The presumptive Republican nominee still wants to ban nearly all members of the world’s fastest-growing religion from entering the United States in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. [Continue reading…]
A great many things have been said about Muslims as UK citizens, mainly by non-Muslims. The prime minister, David Cameron, believes that if more Muslim women became proficient in English, for example, it would help beat extremism and terrorism. Meanwhile, Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, says that UK Muslims “See the world differently from the rest of us”.
Phillips also presented a controversial Channel 4 programme called What British Muslims Really Think, which put across the message that Muslims are more conservative than the majority population and don’t want to integrate into wider society.
The debate is often highly intemperate – and both Muslim and non-Muslim voices alike have suggested it contributes to further stigmatisation of an already marginalised and disadvantaged Muslim population. In this highly politicised climate, the relationship between Islam and citizenship has also come under scrutiny by Citizens UK, a charitable voluntary organisation with churches, mosques and unions among its members.
In July 2015, Citizens UK launched its Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life headed by conservative MP Dominic Greave. Greave somewhat unfortunately framed the Commission’s work as aiming to “help tackle extremism”.
Roger Cohen writes: The most important political event of recent weeks was not the emergence of Donald J. Trump as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party but the election of Sadiq Khan, the Muslim son of a London bus driver, as mayor of London.
Trump has not won any kind of political office yet, but Khan, the Labour Party candidate, crushed Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative, to take charge of one of the world’s great cities, a vibrant metropolis where every tongue is heard. In his victory, a triumph over the slurs that tried to tie him to Islamist extremism, Khan stood up for openness against isolationism, integration against confrontation, opportunity for all against racism and misogyny. He was the anti-Trump.
Before the election, Khan told my colleague Stephen Castle, “I’m a Londoner, I’m a European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband.”
The world of the 21st century is going to be shaped by such elided, many-faceted identities and by the booming cities that celebrate diversity, not by some bullying, brash, bigoted, “America first” white dude who wants to build walls. [Continue reading…]
You’re the first Muslim mayor of a major western city. Do you feel an extra responsibility to tackle religious extremism?
One of the things that’s important to me as a Londoner is making sure my family, people I care about, are safe. But clearly, being someone who is a Muslim brings with it experiences that I can use in relation to dealing with extremists and those who want to blow us up. And so it’s really important that I use my experiences to defeat radicalization and extremism. What I think the election showed was that actually there is no clash of civilization between Islam and the West. I am the West, I am a Londoner, I’m British, I’m of Islamic faith, Asian origin, Pakistan heritage, so whether it’s [ISIS] or these others who want to destroy our way of life and talk about the West, they’re talking about me. What better antidote to the hatred they spew than someone like me being in this position? [Continue reading…]
The Independent reports: Sadiq Khan has criticised Donald Trump for suggesting he would exempt him from his proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the US, adding his comments play “into the hands of extremists”.
It comes after Mr Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, said he was happy to see London’s new Muslim mayor elected, saying it could be “very, very good”.
The billionaire property mogul caused international outrage when he called for the temporary ban after the November 2015 Paris attacks. David Cameron labelled the idea “stupid” and calls to ban Mr Trump from entering Britain were raised in Parliament after a petition attracted nearly 600,000 signatures.
“This isn’t just about me – it’s about my friends, my family and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world,” Mr Khan said.
“Donald Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe – it risks alienating mainstream Muslims around the world and plays into the hands of the extremists.
“Donald Trump and those around him think that western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam – London has proved him wrong.” [Continue reading…]
In an editorial, the New York Times says: The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar that has been systematically denied the most elemental rights: citizenship, freedom of worship, education, marriage and travel. Tens of thousands of the Rohingya were driven from their homes by violence in 2012; last year many tried to flee persecution and deprivation in desperate sea voyages.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — Myanmar’s leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate — does not want to call them Rohingya, the name they use, because nationalist Buddhists want to perpetuate the myth that they are “Bengalis” who don’t belong in Myanmar. She has also asked the United States ambassador not to use the term. Her advice is wrong and deeply disappointing. The Rohingya are every bit as Burmese as she is.
There are many possible reasons Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi — whose 15 years under house arrest made her one of the world’s best known and most respected political prisoners — might be reluctant to publicly embrace the Rohingya cause. It has been barely a month since she became leader of Myanmar’s first democratically elected government since 1962, with the title of state counselor, and she no doubt fears antagonizing the Buddhist nationalists who angrily demonstrated outside the United States Embassy in late April after the embassy referred to the “Rohingya community” in a letter of condolence for Rohingya victims of a boat sinking.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi may fear that publicly calling these people by their name would upset the national reconciliation process, as a Foreign Ministry official said, or worse: that it would rekindle the terrible violence that erupted in 2012 between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine State.
There is no question that Rakhine State, one of the poorest in Myanmar, is a complex tinderbox of sectarian resentments that requires the most cautious of political approaches. But these simply cannot be based on a perpetuation of the systematic persecution and marginalization of the Rohingya in Myanmar’s social and political life. They certainly cannot be based on denying the Rohingya even their name. [Continue reading…]
Pankaj Mishra writes: Donald Trump became last week the presumptive Republican nominee in the U.S. presidential elections. But those condemned to agonizing suspense and anxiety until November should note that Trumpism, or the politics of hate and fear, also suffered a major defeat last week.
I refer to the election of former human rights lawyer Sadiq Khan as London’s mayor. That the son of a Pakistani bus driver, whose campaign team included gay men and Jewish women, should become the mayor of a great European city would at any time have signaled hope for our irrevocably mixed societies. Its significance in this era of politically expedient bigotry cannot be overestimated.
For, as Khan said a day after his remarkable victory, his Conservative opponents set out “to divide London’s communities in an attempt to win votes,” using “fear and innuendo to try and turn different ethnic and religious groups against each other — something straight out of the Donald Trump playbook.” [Continue reading…]
In Pakistan, the chances that the son of a bus or rickshaw driver could secure a high-ranking political position in the country’s capital city are minuscule. But now, the people of London have elected Sadiq Khan – the son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver – to be their first Muslim mayor.
While unable to influence the nation’s foreign or economic policy, Khan will have responsibility for key areas in London, such as transport, housing, policing and the environment. And being directly elected gives the London mayor a personal mandate which no other parliamentarian in Westminster – including those in the cabinet – enjoy.
Khan’s father was one of hundreds of Pakistani men who migrated to Britain in the 1950’s and 1960’s, seeking the UK’s version of the American dream: stable employment, social mobility and opportunities for a better future for themselves and their families. One of eight children, Khan grew up on a council estate in the capital. He went to university to study law and practised as a solicitor in human rights cases before becoming a member of parliament.
Now, at the age of 45, he is mayor of London: the economic and cultural heart of the UK, the largest city in western Europe and one of the most important cities in the world. He is the immigrant success story – for him, the British dream has become a reality.
Catherine Rampell writes: On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.
Or so dozens of unsuspecting passengers thought.
The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard. His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over. He was wearing navy Diesel jeans and a red Lacoste sweater – a look he would later describe as “simple elegance” – but something about him didn’t seem right to her.
She decided to try out some small talk.
Is Syracuse home? She asked.
No, he replied curtly.
He similarly deflected further questions. He appeared laser-focused — perhaps too laser-focused — on the task at hand, those strange scribblings.
Rebuffed, the woman began reading her book. Or pretending to read, anyway. Shortly after boarding had finished, she flagged down a flight attendant and handed that crew-member a note of her own. [Continue reading…]
Muddassar Ahmed writes: the type of aggressive, populist campaign that has so far been successful for Donald Trump in the United States will not necessarily be a blueprint for success elsewhere. Although many on the right in Britain apparently believed that capitalizing on anti-Muslim sentiment is not just acceptable, but a sure ticket to victory, the strategy was found wanting. In short, there is a limit to the ability of bigotry to capture elections.
And it is not just Britain that has demonstrated that resorting to anti-Muslim language can backfire. Take the example of former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Last year, he resorted to crude anti-Muslim language as he sought re-election. In contrast, Harper’s opponent, Justin Trudeau, went out of his way to embrace Muslims (and other minorities). Harper didn’t just lose — he was trounced.
Many non-Muslim Canadians were repelled by seeing this faith-based bigotry in their secular politics. Just as importantly, the Muslim-bashing had another effect that Harper apparently did not seem to see coming — it prompted Canadian Muslims to vote in record numbers. You can bet that these new voters will continue and extend their political involvement, meaning that in a well deserved bit of irony, Harper’s Islamophobic campaign may have created a Canadian Muslim political consciousness where none existed before.
With this in mind, it is likely for good reason that in the United Kingdom, the Conservative group leader of the Greater London assembly, Andrew Boff, criticized Goldsmith’s divisive campaign for damaging his party’s relations with the Muslim community, something that could further hurt it down the road.
In fact, the same thing could happen in America. After all, not only is Donald Trump now a widely detested politician (polls suggest that more Americans disapprove of him than are worried about Muslims), but American Muslims are becoming more politically engaged. And although the American Muslim population is relatively small, it may hold the key to swing states like Virginia, Florida and Ohio. [Continue reading…]
Zac Goldsmith’s ‘smear’ campaign against Sadiq Khan could increase ‘risk of terrorism and radicalisation’, says prominent Muslim Tory
The Independent reports: An attempt by the Conservatives to “smear” Sadiq Khan during the London mayoral election campaign has increased the chance of terrrorist attacks on the UK and could radicalise more young British Muslims, one of the UK’s most prominent Tory Muslims has said.
Mohammed Amin, chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum – an organisation established to attract more Muslims to the party – wrote on the Conservative Home website that he was “disgusted” by Zac Goldsmith’s “risible” campaign, which repeatedly tried to paint Mr Khan as a security risk and even a friend of terrorist sympathisers.
One such alleged ‘sympathiser’ was Suliman Gani, an imam, who was accused by David Cameron of being a supporter of Isis, comments later reinforced by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. Mr Gani has now said he is planning to take legal action against Mr Fallon and is seeking a “public retraction” of his comments.
Speaking as he celebrated becoming the new Mayor of London, Mr Khan said he had met many people from ethnic minorities who had told him they were discouraging their children from going into politics because of the tenor of the Tory campaign.
But Mr Amin went much further.
“Zac’s attempts to smear Khan have probably increased our risks of suffering terrorism. Isis are perpetually seeking to radicalise and recruit young British Muslims to their cause,” he said.
“At the margin, I believe there is a risk that young impressionable British Muslims who witnessed Khan being smeared in this manner will thereby be made more vulnerable to radicalisation than they were before.” [Continue reading…]
Middle East Eye reports: The Labour Party’s Sadiq Khan is set to be elected as London’s mayor, according to unconfirmed results on Friday, following one of the most bitterly fought and divisive campaigns in recent British political history.
With almost 99 percent of votes counted, Khan had 44 percent of first-preference votes while his nearest opponent, Zac Goldsmith of the Conservative Party, was on 35 percent.
The result will not be announced until a count of second-preference votes have been taken into account.
But polling expert Peter Kellner said: “Sadiq has won without question. He is well ahead on the first count and that’s not going to change radically.”
Khan is the first Muslim to be the elected leader of the British capital, considered one of the country’s most influential political posts outside of central government, and replaces Boris Johnson, the outgoing Conservative mayor who had been in office since 2008.
Khan’s victory came despite repeated efforts by Goldsmith, his Conservative Party opponent, to suggest that Khan, a human rights lawyer, was soft on extremism, resulting in complaints that he had run a smear campaign based on “out and out lies”. [Continue reading…]