Most Americans disagree with Trump admin’s enforcing travel ban against grandparents

Ryan Goodman writes: One of the hotly contested questions in the Travel Ban litigation is the definition of “close family relationships.” The Supreme Court told the administration that it cannot enforce the ban against any foreign national who has a “close familial relationship” with a person in the United States. The plaintiffs including the state of Hawaii have argued that the Supreme Court’s order should be understood to protect grandparents. The Justice Department told the federal court in Hawaii that the plaintiffs’ views of close family relationships “lack any universal or cohesive support.” That is the question the Hawaii federal court refused to decide on Thursday, and tried to kick the issue up to the Supreme Court. So, what to make of the competing views of family structure and where grandparents fit in?

A poll out this week suggests most Americans fundamentally disagree with the administration’s position. The Politico/Morning Consult survey asked the following question and got these results:

“Do you believe each of the following should qualify as a close family relationship for visa applicants from six predominately Muslim countries wishing to enter the United States? Grandparent”

Yes, this should qualify: 67%
No, this should not qualify: 20%

That is not only a huge margin in general. It also holds true across different groups of people who were asked the question. More specifically, the margin held strong such that at least 60% of Americans agreed that grandparents should qualify as a “close family relationship” for the purpose of receiving visas from the six predominately Muslim countries regardless of the respondent’s party identification, religion, gender, age, income, education, or region of the country. Even among people who voted for Donald Trump for president, 61% agreed that grandparents should qualify and 29% thought they should not. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s warning about ‘Western civilization’ evokes holy war

Walter Shapiro writes: A surprising omission in Donald Trump’s Warsaw foreign policy address was the president’s failure to hail the 17th century Polish king, John III Sobieski. As Steve Bannon and his fellow hard-right history buffs in the White House must know, it was Sobieski who defeated the Turks in 1683 at the gates of Vienna – and saved Central Europe from a Muslim invasion.

The Trump-Bannon worldview depicts Europe and America reeling from a second Muslim invasion. That is what Trump meant as he thundered, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive … Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

The Trump advance team is probably high-fiving each other over their collective brilliance in choosing Warsaw as the venue for the president’s apocalyptic message to Europe. The combination of a welcoming right-wing government that shares Trump’s disdain for a free press and the emotional weight of Polish history seemed irresistible. [Continue reading…]

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The racial and religious paranoia of Trump’s Warsaw speech

Peter Beinart writes: In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to “the West” and five times to “our civilization.” His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It’s important that other Americans do, too.

The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of “The West.” Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not.

The West is not an ideological or economic term either. India is the world’s largest democracy. Japan is among its most economically advanced nations. No one considers them part of the West.

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white. Where there is ambiguity about a country’s “Westernness,” it’s because there is ambiguity about, or tension between, these two characteristics. Is Latin America Western? Maybe. Most of its people are Christian, but by U.S. standards, they’re not clearly white. Are Albania and Bosnia Western? Maybe. By American standards, their people are white. But they are also mostly Muslim.

Steve Bannon, who along with Stephen Miller has shaped much of Trump’s civilizational thinking, has been explicit about this. In a 2014 speech, he celebrated “the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam” and “our forefathers” who “bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West.” [Continue reading…]

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Revived U.S. travel ban sows confusion, anger in Middle East

Reuters reports: A U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing partial implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban has stirred anger and confusion in parts of the Middle East, with would-be visitors worried about their travel plans and their futures.

The blanket 90-day ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – and a 120-day ban on all refugees was completely blocked by lower courts after Trump issued it on March 6, saying it was needed to prevent terrorism attacks.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled the bans could proceed, though only for foreigners with no “bona fide relationship” with an American entity or person, and it did not specify what that meant. The ruling left some in the Middle East wondering if they would be able to enter the United States.

“It’s a big disappointment for me,” said a 52-year-old Sudanese man in the capital Khartoum, who believed he would now be rejected for a visa to visit relatives in the United States.

The man, who declined to be identified, said he wouldn’t know the outcome until at least Sunday, when the U.S. Embassy opens again after a string of national holidays.

“I’ve traveled to America before and I don’t know why I’m prevented from traveling (now). I didn’t violate American law during my previous visits,” he told Reuters. [Continue reading…]

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Trump just ended a long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the White House

The Washington Post reports: In the early days of December 1805, a handful of prominent politicians received formal invitations to join President Thomas Jefferson for a White House dinner.

Such entreaties were not uncommon: Jefferson frequently hosted lawmakers for political working dinners at the White House, almost always commencing them about 3:30 in the afternoon, shortly after the House or Senate had adjourned for the day.

But this gathering, scheduled for Dec. 9, would be slightly different.

dinner will be on the table precisely at sun-set — ” the invitations read. “The favour of an answer is asked.”

The occasion was the presence of a Tunisian envoy to the United States, Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who had arrived in the country just the week before, in the midst of America’s ongoing conflict with what were then known as the Barbary States.

And the reason for the dinner’s later-than-usual start was Mellimelli’s observance of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims in which observers fast between dawn and dusk. Only after sunset do Muslims break their fast with a meal, referred to as an iftar.

Jefferson’s decision to change the time of the meal to accommodate Mellimelli’s observance of Ramadan has been seized on by both sides in the 21st-century debate over Islam more than 200 years later. Historians have cited the meal as the first time an iftar took place in the White House — and it has been referenced in recent White House celebrations of Ramadan as an embodiment of the Founding Father’s respect for religious freedom. Meanwhile, critics on the far right have taken issue with the characterization of Jefferson’s Dec. 9, 1805, dinner as an iftar.

Whatever Jefferson could have foreseen for the young country’s future, it appears the modern-day White House tradition of marking Ramadan with an iftar dinner or Eid celebration has come to an end. [Continue reading…]

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FBI fired Sebastian Gorka for anti-Muslim diatribes

The Daily Beast reports: The inflammatory pundit Sebastian Gorka worked for the FBI while he was a paid consultant to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, lecturing bureau employees on counterterrorism issues.

Until the FBI terminated Gorka for his over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric.

The Daily Beast has learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ended its contract with Gorka just months before he joined the White House as a senior adviser to President Trump.

Law-enforcement officials attending an August 2016 lecture from Gorka, whose academic credentials and affiliation with a pro-Nazi group have recently come under fire, were disturbed to hear a diatribe against Muslims passed off as instruction on the fundamentals of counterterrorism.

Gorka told attendees at the Joint Terrorism Operations Course, an introductory-level class for participants in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, that all Muslims adhere to Sharia law, which he said is in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and American democratic values. Officials familiar with his lecture said Gorka taught law-enforcement officials there is no such thing as mainstream Muslims—only those radicalized and those soon to be radicalized.

The following month, a senior FBI official assured outraged and embarrassed colleagues that the bureau would no longer use Gorka for any subsequent lectures or instructions, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast. [Continue reading…]

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Following latest terrorist attack in UK, Trump remains silent

The Guardian reports: A man has died and eight others have been injured after a van ploughed into a group of people near a north London mosque in an attack police are treating as terrorism.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Two people hit by the van were said to be “very seriously injured”.

The prime minister, Theresa May, who was woken to be told of the early morning attack in Finsbury Park, said in a statement from Downing Street that the “hatred and evil” of the kind seen in the attack would never succeed.

May said the attack had “once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives – this time, British Muslims as they left a mosque, having broken their fast and prayed together at this sacred time of year”.

She added: “Today we come together, as we have done before, to condemn this act and to state once again that hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed.”

May said the attack on Muslims was “every bit as insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life” as the recent string of attacks apparently motivated by Islamist extremism, adding: “We will stop at nothing to defeat it.”

It is the fourth terrorist attack to hit the UK in the past three months. [Continue reading…]

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17-year-old Muslim girl assaulted and killed after leaving Virginia mosque

The Washington Post reports: Police found remains Sunday thought to be those of a missing Virginia teenager who they say was assaulted and disappeared overnight after leaving a mosque in the Sterling area, and a 22-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the case.

The mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, and relatives identified the girl as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.

Fairfax County police identified the man charged with murder in her death as Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling.

According to accounts from police and a mosque official, a group of four or five teens were walking back from breakfast at IHOP early Sunday when they were confronted by a motorist. All but one of the teens ran to the mosque, where the group reported that the girl had been left behind, according to Deputy Aleksandra Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

“Immediately thereafter, the ADAMS’ personnel notified both Loudoun County and Fairfax County authorities who immediately began an extensive search to locate the missing girl,” the mosque said in a statement. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s tweets cited by court in ruling against travel ban

U.S. News reports: When they rejected President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking travel from several Muslim-majority countries as unconstitutional, two sets of federal appellate judges pointed to Trump’s history of public statements calling it a “Muslim ban,” including messages Trump posted on Twitter.

On the heels of press secretary Sean Spicer’s declaration that Trump’s tweets are “official statements by the President of the United States,” immigration advocates on Monday responded to a Justice Department Supreme Court appeal of the federal court ruling by asking the high court to consider Trump’s tweets, and his Twitter account, as “authority” – content like law review articles, legal cases and news reports that lawyers use to bolster their arguments.

It’s perhaps the first time the high court has been asked to consider Twitter in that way, setting up what could be legal parameters for considering Trump’s statements on that medium as official White House policy. It comes the same day that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals specifically cited the president’s communications on Twitter as part of the rationale for rejecting Trump’s travel ban. [Continue reading…]

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Anti-Muslim rallies across U.S. denounced by civil rights groups

The Guardian reports: A wave of anti-Muslim rallies planned for almost 30 cities across America on Saturday by far-right activists has drawn sharp criticism from civil rights groups and inspired counter-protests nationwide.

In cities including New York and Chicago, a few dozen “anti-sharia” demonstrators were outnumbered by counter-protesters.

Hundreds of counter-protesters marched through Seattle on Saturday to confront a few dozen people claiming sharia was incompatible with western freedoms. Local activists set up an “Ask an American Muslim” booth where attendees could meet and learn about their Muslim neighbors.

The rallies have been organized by Act for America, which claims to be protesting about human rights violations but has been deemed an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The demonstrations prompted security fears at mosques across the country and come at a time when hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise. [Continue reading…]

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Trump tanks his own case at the Supreme Court

Noah Feldman writes: Is Donald Trump trying to throw his own Supreme Court case? The president’s bid to be the Shoeless Joe Jackson of high-court litigation took a big step forward with an astonishing series of early-Monday-morning tweets. He insisted on calling his executive order restricting travel from six majority-Muslim countries a “travel ban,” denounced his own Department of Justice for watering down the original order, and — incredibly — called for strengthening the ban, presumably after the court has upheld the revised order.

All four tweets will be quoted by opponents of the travel ban. All four substantially strengthen the case for blocking the order as unconstitutional. Taken together, they amount to a nightmare scenario for the office of the solicitor general that must represent the president in court. Short of actually saying that the point of the order was to express anti-Muslim animus, there’s not much Trump could have done to weaken his case more. [Continue reading…]

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Trump doubles down on original ‘TRAVEL BAN!’

The New York Times reports: President Trump rebelled on Monday against his own advisers who “watered down” his original executive order barring visitors from select Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and who insisted on calling it something other than a travel ban.

Returning to one of the issues that animated the early days of his presidency and generated a court battle that has now gone to the Supreme Court, Mr. Trump argued that it was a mistake to revise the first order he signed and suggested that his administration should return to a “much tougher version.”

In a series of Twitter posts just two days after a terrorist attack killed at least seven people in London, Mr. Trump seemed to reject everything his own administration has done to win court approval for restrictions on entry from countries that he designated, both in terms of vocabulary and in terms of its provisions.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” he wrote. [Continue reading…]

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Trump uses London attacks to promote his Muslim ban

The Independent reports: Donald Trump has been criticised for tweeting out unconfirmed information about the London Bridge terrorist attack and using the incident to argue in favour of his so-called Muslim travel ban.

The President re-tweeted a headline about the deadly incident at London Bridge and Borough Market from the Drudge Report, a right-wing outlet.

“Fears of new terror attack after van ‘mows down 20 people’ on London Bridge…” the headline read, which he re-tweeted on his personal Twitter account.

NBC responded with its own tweet, warning its audience not to rely on the President’s social media. [Continue reading…]


The morning after the attacks, America’s troll-in-chief is back on twitter:


“Our people” — there’s the dog whistle to Trump’s racist supporters!

And it’s swiftly followed by an attack on London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan:


As a pathological liar, it’s hardly surprising that Trump would twist Khan’s words. What London’s mayor actually said was this:

Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed.

Khan made this statement today:


Donald Trump should study Sadiq Khan’s statement carefully — he might learn a thing or two about how political leaders need to respond responsibly to acts of terrorism.

Even so, the notion that Trump has the capacity to learn anything is probably fanciful.

Rather than ask how or if Trump might rise to the occasion in a time of crisis, it’s time for the GOP establishment to face reality.

Come the day that instead of turning to Twitter to find out what Trump thinks, we are instead turning on the TV to watch an unscheduled presidential statement, just imagine what will come after this:

After the horrific attacks we have witnessed, I have directed…

At which point we then get to see exactly how dangerous it was for a man this ill-prepared and uninformed, lacking in sound judgement, discernment, intelligence, and intellect, to assume the responsibilities of commander-in-chief.

How much longer America must suffer Trump’s presence in the White House is impossible to predict, but Britain can at least save itself the indignity of having him ride through London in a golden carriage. Buckingham Palace merely needs to relay the message that the Queen will remain “indisposed” for the foreseeable future.

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The murderous consequences of xenophobia

Decca Aitkenhead writes: Every night, for almost a year, Brendan Cox and his wife sat up discussing the rise of the far right. He was conducting a major study of populist extremism across the western world and, once the children were in bed, the pair would talk through its implications and analyse the threat.

The contrast between the couple and the darkly angry ideology could scarcely have been more acute. His wife was a young, smiley, idealistic new Labour MP whom he had met when they both worked for Oxfam. They loved camping and mountain climbing, lived on a houseboat on the Thames and spent weekends at their cottage on the Welsh border, without electricity or water, where they’d celebrate the summer solstice each year with a party for 100 friends. Their son, Cuillin, now six, was named after a mountain range on the Isle of Skye; their four-year-old daughter, Lejla, after friends Cox had made while volunteering for a children’s charity in Bosnia. Liberal and internationalist, they worried about xenophobic hate – but their concern was political, not personal.

Brendan Cox spent the morning of 16 June 2016 working on the research project as normal, for an international campaign organisation called Purpose, and was on his way to lunch with his colleague when his phone rang. It was his wife’s parliamentary assistant. “Jo has been attacked. Get to Leeds as fast as you can.” Racing to the station, he called her constituency office and was told she’d been shot and stabbed. He was alone on a train, hurtling north, when the call came from Jo’s sister: “I’m so sorry, Brendan. She’s not made it.”

“Do you mean Jo’s died?”

“I don’t know what to say … but yes.”

As Cox broke down in tears, a man sitting across the aisle fetched him tissues and water. “If there’s anything I can do …” he offered kindly. Cox wiped his eyes, thanked the man and thought: “Is this what you are meant to do when your wife has just been murdered?”

The horror awaiting him in Yorkshire defied all comprehension. Thomas Mair, a 52-year-old Nazi sympathiser incensed by Jo’s support for refugees, had calmly approached the MP outside her constituency surgery in the Yorkshire village of Birstall, shot her with a sawn-off shotgun, pulled her to the ground and stabbed her repeatedly with a dagger. A 77-year-old pensioner who tried to stop him was stabbed. Cox’s last words were to her two assistants were: “Get away, let him hurt me, don’t let him hurt you!” Mair’s last words, after shooting her twice more, were: “Britain first. Britain will always come first.” [Continue reading…]

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Was the Portland killer, Jeremy Christian, acting on Donald Trump’s call to ‘drive them out’?

The Associated Press reports: President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans trying to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade on a Portland, Oregon, light rail train.

“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable,” Trump said on Twitter. “The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Ricky John Best, 53, were killed as they tried to stop Jeremy Joseph Christian from harassing the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, authorities say. Another man who stepped in was seriously injured.

Christian’s social media postings indicate an affinity for Nazis and political violence. He was charged with aggravated murder, intimidation — the state equivalent of a hate crime — and being a felon in possession of a weapon and was scheduled to be in court Tuesday.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Monday that he hopes the men’s actions inspire “changes in the political dialogue in this country.”

He asked the federal government and organizers to cancel a “Trump Free Speech Rally” and other similar events set to be held in the city next weekend, saying the community is sad and angry and the rallies are inappropriate and could be dangerous.

He says his main concern is the participants are “coming to pedal a message of hatred,” saying hate speech is not protected by the Constitution.

A Facebook page for the event says there would be speakers and live music in “one of the most liberal areas on the West Coast.” It thanks Trump “for all you have done.”

Some had called for the president to respond to the attack earlier, including former CBS broadcaster Dan Rather and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon.

“I hope we rise to the memory of these two gentlemen who lost their lives,” Wheeler said, adding that he appreciated Trump’s words but stressing actions. “Let’s do them honor by standing with them and carrying on their legacy of standing up to hate and bigotry and violence.”

The mother of one of the targets of the rant said she was overwhelmed with gratitude and sadness for the strangers who died defending her daughter, 16-year-old Destinee Mangum.

Dyjuana Hudson posted a photo on her Facebook page Saturday of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, saying: “Thank you thank you thank you. … You will always be our hero. … I’m soooooo sorry this happened.” On Sunday, Hudson posted a video with her daughter saying they were traumatized.

Mangum told news station KPTV that she and her 17-year-old friend were riding the train when Christian started yelling at them. She said her friend is Muslim, but she’s not.

“He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country,” Mangum said. “He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should kill ourselves.” [Continue reading…]

During his speech at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh on Sunday, Trump called on Arab leaders to “drive them out, drive them out…,” ostensibly couching his counter-terrorism strategy in Biblical terms — as though the targets of this policy could literally be rounded up and driven into exile.

Given that Trump’s appeal has few practical implications — in the few locations where terrorists have actually taken control there are already efforts to combat and expel them — I have to wonder whether in this choice of phrase he was more interested in crafting a message that would resonate with his own followers and particularly those who are disappointed that his efforts to ban Muslims from entering the United States have run into insurmountable legal obstacles.

The Portland attacker may well be deranged and yet his hatred clearly didn’t emerge out of nowhere. Drive them out — back to Saudi Arabia?

Even if Trump hasn’t instilled in many of his supporters a murderous intent, his numerous expressions of hostility towards Muslims have, for them, legitimized Islamophobia and helped create a toxic environment where Christian will be much more vigorously condemned for his violent actions than his hateful words.

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‘Final act of bravery’: Men who were fatally stabbed trying to stop anti-Muslim rants identified

The Washington Post reports: Two men were stabbed to death and one injured Friday on a light-rail train in Portland, Ore., after they tried to intervene when another passenger began “ranting and raving” and shouting anti-Muslim hate speech at two young women, police said.

Portland police on Saturday identified the two slain victims as 53-year-old Ricky John Best and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche.

A third victim, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

On Saturday, people mourned the stabbing victims and praised them as heroes for their actions. Namkai Meche’s sister, Vajra Alaya-Maitreya, emailed a statement to The Washington Post on behalf of their family, saying her brother lived “a joyous and full life” with an enthusiasm that was infectious.

“We lost him in a senseless act that brought close to home the insidious rift of prejudice and intolerance that is too familiar, too common. He was resolute in his conduct (and) respect of all people,” she wrote. “In his final act of bravery, he held true to what he believed is the way forward. He will live in our hearts forever as the just, brave, loving, hilarious and beautiful soul he was. We ask that in honor of his memory, we use this tragedy as an opportunity for reflection and change. We choose love.” [Continue reading…]

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Federal appeals court rules Trump’s Muslim ban ‘drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination’

The New York Times reports: Describing President Trump’s revised travel ban as intolerant and discriminatory, a federal appeals court on Thursday rejected government efforts to limit travel to the United States from six predominantly Muslim nations. Attorney General Jeff Sessions quickly vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The decision was the first from a federal appeals court on the revised travel ban, which was an effort to make good on a campaign centerpiece of the president’s national security agenda. It echoed earlier skepticism by lower federal courts about the legal underpinnings for Mr. Trump’s executive order, which sought to halt travelers for up to 90 days while the government imposed stricter vetting processes.

The revised order, issued on March 6, “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination,” the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., concluded in its 205-page ruling.

The White House derided the court decision as a danger to the nation’s security. And Mr. Sessions, in pledging to appeal to the nation’s highest court, said the government “will continue to vigorously defend the power and duty of the executive branch to protect the people of this country from danger.” [Continue reading…]

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‘Dirty Irish bastards’: Irish in Manchester remember hostility after IRA bombing

TheJournal.ie reports: “Dirty Irish bastards.” It was just over two decades ago that Brian Kennedy was listening to this abuse on the other end of a phone line at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester. The threats and the slurs have stuck in his memory.

The hostile phone calls followed an IRA bombing in June 1996 that injured more than 200 people and destroyed a large chunk of the city.

Although the Irish in Manchester have come a long way since then, they feel a resonance with the Muslim community this week following the bombing at the Manchester Arena.

They know what it is like to lower their voices in public to hide an accent. They know what it is like to suddenly feel tension in a place they call home.

They know being Muslim does not automatically mean you are a terrorist, just like being Irish did not mean they supported the devastation caused by the IRA more than 20 years ago. [Continue reading…]

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‘I think Islam hates us’: A timeline of Trump’s comments about Islam and Muslims

The Washington Post reports: President Trump is in Saudi Arabia this weekend to meet with Arab leaders, visit the birthplace of Islam and give a speech about religious tolerance with the hope of resetting his reputation with the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. But it’s unclear if a two-day visit is enough to overshadow his past statements about Islam and its faithful, with his rhetoric becoming more virulent as he campaigned for president.

Here’s a look back at some of the comments that he has made: [Continue reading…]

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