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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It’s not this Muslim comedian’s job to open your mind

Zahra Noorbakhsh writes: In November, a few days after the election, I got a call from a television producer, inviting me to be on her popular variety show.

Her pitch: “As a feminist, Muslim, Iranian-American comedian, you could be exactly what this country needs right now.” She explained that she wanted me to come up with a set with the potential to make millions of Trump supporters laugh and think: “Wow, she’s Muslim, but she’s funny! And she’s just like us!”

I replied, “Absolutely!” After all, as Joan Rivers advised, you should never turn down a gig.

But I was deeply conflicted about the opportunity and ultimately backed out. This ambivalence has followed me as I’ve fielded similar requests during a time when the Trump administration has attempted to defend its “Muslim ban” campaign promise in the courts, Islamophobic attacks have been reported throughout the country, and fears of a “Muslim registry” still swirl throughout my community.

The idea that jokes will stop the tide of fear, hate and misunderstanding about people who practice Islam is seductive. As a comedian, though, I’m not convinced. We have tried this before. [Continue reading…]

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‘Mark Green’s naked bigotry disqualifies him for the job of Army Secretary’

The Hill reports: A prominent Muslim civil rights group is joining the growing opposition to President Trump’s Army secretary nominee, Mark Green.

Muslim Advocates on Monday issued a statement calling past rhetoric from Green, a Tennessee state senator, against Muslims and the LGBT community “deplorable.”

“You can’t lead a diverse Army while having contempt for diversity,” said Scott Simpson, the group’s public advocacy director.

“Our armed forces are filled with patriotic Americans of all faiths, races, sexual orientations and gender identities, and Mark Green’s naked bigotry disqualifies him for the job of Army Secretary.” [Continue reading…]

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Growing anti-Muslim rhetoric permeates French presidential election campaign

The Washington Post reports: For some, the French presidential election will alter the course of a troubled nation steeped in economic and social turmoil. For others, it will alter the course of a troubled continent, challenging the very existence of European integration.

But in France itself, something far less abstract and far more intimate is at stake. In a country that remains under an official “state of emergency” following an unprecedented spate of terrorist violence in the past two years, the election also has become a referendum on Muslims and their place in what is probably Europe’s most anxious multicultural society.

Before the election’s first round of voting Sunday, each of the five leading contenders — from across the ideological spectrum — has felt compelled to address an apparently pressing “Muslim question” about what to do with the country’s largest religious minority.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, has made her answer crystal clear. In February, in the same speech in which she declared her candidacy for president, she decried “Islamist globalization,” which she called an “ideology that wants to bring France to its knees.”

While Le Pen’s diverse array of opponents do not all share her extremity or conviction, each seems to agree that, when it comes to Muslims, something needs to be done. [Continue reading…]

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How Marine Le Pen relies on dividing French Jews and Muslims

Ethan B Katz writes: Marine Le Pen, the National Front party leader who is among the frontrunners in France’s upcoming presidential elections, made waves this month with her insistence that France was not responsible for the infamous “Vel d’Hiv” roundup of July 1942, in which French police chose to arrest more than 13,000 Jews and deport them to Auschwitz. Many were stunned by the comment. It not only contradicted decades of official presidential statements and consensus among historians, but also seemed to clash with Le Pen’s recent effort to court Jewish voters.

In fact, however, the only surprise here was that Jews were mentioned alone, rather than being paired with Muslims. For all Le Pen’s efforts to rebrand her party, she has reminded voters throughout this campaign season that the French far right remains wedded to a politics that has a special place for Jews and Muslims—as closely aligned racial “others.” Le Pen, like so many before her, regularly treats the two faith groups as sources of danger residing at the edges of the French nation, while also seeking to pit the one against the other.

Since becoming party head in 2011, Le Pen has gone to great lengths to give a facelift to the National Front, seeking to free it from the shadow of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the party and led it for 40 years. She has undertaken a delicate balancing act: to position the party, long associated with fascist tendencies, as within the mainstream of French republican and democratic values, while also maintaining the National Front’s longstanding far-right constituency. [Continue reading…]

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Liberté, égalité, fraternité, racisme?

Ursula Lindsey writes: France will head to the polls at the end of April to elect a new president. With the country still shaken by recent terrorist attacks, and the rise of a far-right candidate who has campaigned on fear of Muslims and immigrants, public discourse has been dominated by a concern with Islam and radicalization.

The often acrimonious discussion has widened a rift among many public intellectuals and scholars, including those you might expect to be allies. The argument: whether the more serious threat to liberal values in France is the alleged Islamization of the country or the discrimination that many Muslims there face.

Georges Bensoussan, a historian and chief editor of the Shoah History Review, is a divisive figure in the debate. In October 2015, Bensoussan said during a radio show that “today we are in the presence of another people within the French nation, who are making a certain number of our democratic values regress. … There will be no integration until we rid ourselves of this atavistic anti-Semitism that is kept quiet as a secret. A courageous Algerian sociologist, Smaïn Laacher has said … that it’s shameful to maintain this taboo, which is that in Arab families in France, one suckles anti-Semitism like mother’s milk.”

Laacher, who is French of Algerian origin, teaches at the University of Strasbourg. He has said he was misquoted. Bensoussan’s remarks triggered a lawsuit by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) and other human-rights associations for “incitement to racism.” He was acquitted in March, but the plaintiffs have filed an appeal. [Continue reading…]

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Nigel Farage: ‘Whatever Assad’s sins, he is secular’

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Trump travel ban ‘simplistic and wrongheaded’, says former CIA chief

The Guardian reports: The former CIA director John Brennan has described Donald Trump’s travel ban on visitors from Muslim countries as “simplistic and misguided”, predicting it would be counterproductive if implemented.

Brennan, who was director of central intelligence from March 2013 until the last day of the Obama administration on 20 January this year, was highly critical of a range of Trump policies and actions in an interview with the BBC Newsnight programme aired on Monday night.

He said the administration’s use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” served to legitimise terrorists in their own eyes, and warned that the president’s disparagement of US intelligence agencies would hurt morale and recruitment. [Continue reading…]

 

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Federal judge in Hawaii extends ruling halting travel ban indefinitely

CNN reports: A federal judge in Hawaii granted the state’s request for a longer-term halt of the revised travel ban executive order Wednesday.

US District Court Judge Derrick Watson blocked the core provisions of the revised executive order two weeks ago, concluding that the order likely violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by disfavoring Muslims.

But Watson’s earlier decision was only a limited freeze of the executive order through a temporary restraining order.

As a result, the plaintiffs asked the judge to convert that decision into a longer-term preliminary injunction and Watson agreed Wednesday night, meaning that the President’s 90-day ban on foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries and the 120-ban on all refugees entering the country are now blocked indefinitely unless any higher court changes Watson’s order or the state’s lawsuit is otherwise resolved. [Continue reading…]

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Bill Maher makes us dumber: How ignorance, fear and stupid clichés shape Americans’ view of the Middle East

Steven A Cook and Michael Brooks write: Last Sunday was the 14th anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq. Given the outcome of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the milestone passed almost completely without comment among the many who led the charge to Baghdad in 2003. There are soldiers of all ranks who went into battle carrying copies of Ibn Khaldun’s “The Muqaddimah,” Hans Wehr’s Arabic-English Dictionary and other works that might help explain the land and region to which they were ostensibly bringing liberty. Many of these honorable men and women are wiser and more in touch today with the history, politics and culture of the Middle East than when the invasion order came. The same cannot be said for America’s political leaders or Americans more generally.

Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and certainly before the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, Americans lived mostly in ignorance of the Middle East. All these years later they remain ignorant but in a different way. Previously, Americans had simply been uninformed about the region. What little they knew tended to be shaped by the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the fading memory of the Iranian hostage crisis and the brief Persian Gulf War of 1991 to reverse Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s annexation of Kuwait.

Today Americans remain ignorant about the Middle East not because they are unaware of the region, but because they are poorly educated about it. It was not long after the Twin Towers fell and the smoldering fire at the Pentagon was extinguished that terms like jihad, Salafi, Wahhabi, madrassa and al-Qaida became part of the American political lexicon. It seemed that anyone who had attained the rank of colonel, or could claim (legitimately or otherwise) onetime employment at the CIA, or was a columnist who had visited an Arab country once or twice was booked on television to shed light on “why they hate us.” To be fair, this reflected a surge of genuine interest in the Middle East. Suddenly, university Arabic classes were oversubscribed, and books about the region that once reached tiny audiences did very well.

As 9/11 became a distant memory and the Iraqi venture became a disaster, the laudable desire to learn more about the Middle East seemed to fall off even as the casualties returning home continued at a steady pace. Yet in ways the region continued to be an obsession — not just for policymakers and foreign policy analysts, but also for a network of groups and individuals that fostered mistrust and fear of Middle Easterners in general and Muslims in particular.

People like Frank Gaffney, Brigitte Gabriel, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer had long been fringe figures in American public discourse. But their dogged efforts to brand Islam a hostile political ideology and characterize Muslims as a fifth column in the United States paid off in a variety of ways that reinforced one another. The controversy over the “ground zero mosque” in lower Manhattan is instructive in this regard. Such people were able to inject their Islamophobic worldview into the reporting on the debate over the “mosque” — actually a community center with a prayer room — which then wended its way into political spheres where these ideas became increasingly more mainstream. While figures on the far right and the emerging alt-right may have been responsible for propagating Islamophobia, liberal punditry and pop culture also gave it wider currency. [Continue reading…]

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The alt-right populists who collaborate with terrorists

John Harris writes: As proved by Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and now Westminster, it is increasingly as much a part of the awful theatre of terrorism as the acts themselves: inside an hour or two of the news starting to break, figureheads of the so-called alt-right either reaching for their smartphones or sprinting to the nearest TV studio, and dispensing messages that chime perfectly with the intentions of the killers. They want rage, uncontrollable tension and intimations of the apocalypse to begin to embed in the societies they seek to attack. And guess what? The people who brought us Brexit, Trump and a thousand verbose radio spots and newspaper columns are only too happy to oblige.

With grinding inevitability, Nigel Farage appeared on Fox News on Wednesday night, and made his case with all the manic insistence of a Dalek, assisted by a large helping of what we now know as Alternative Facts. So, from the top: “What these politicians have done in the space of just 15 years may well affect the way we live in this country over the next 100 years … We’ve made some terrible mistakes in this country, and it really started with the election of Tony Blair back in 1997, who said he wanted to build a multicultural Britain. His government even said they sent out search parties to find immigrants from all over the world to come into Britain … The problem with multiculturalism is that it leads to divided communities. It’s quite different to multiracialism … I’m sorry to say that we have now a fifth column living inside these European countries.”

The same network also included a quickfire contribution from one Walid Phares – “Fox News national security and foreign policy expert” – who reckoned that the attack had proved that “one man can stop a city”, before Katie Hopkins went even further. “Great Britain is absolutely divided, more than at any time than in its past,” she said. “We are in fact a nation of ghettoes. I think liberals think multiculturalism means we all die together.” Not long after, the Ukip donor (or ex-donor – it is never quite clear) Arron Banks weighed in on Twitter, first associating the acts of a terrorist who would soon turn out to be British-born with “illegals”, and then carrying on regardless: “We have a huge Islamic problem courtesy of mass immigration … It’s a failed policy of mass immigration without integration that has destroyed communities … we have communities who hate our country and way of life.” [Continue reading…]

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U.S. embassies ordered to identify population groups for tougher visa screening

Reuters reports: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has directed U.S. diplomatic missions to identify “populations warranting increased scrutiny” and toughen screening for visa applicants in those groups, according to diplomatic cables seen by Reuters.

He has also ordered a “mandatory social media check” for all applicants who have ever been present in territory controlled by the Islamic State, in what two former U.S. officials said would be a broad, labor-intensive expansion of such screening. Social media screening is now done fairly rarely by consular officials, one of the former officials said.

Four cables, or memos, issued by Tillerson over the last two weeks provide insight into how the U.S. government is implementing what President Donald Trump has called “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the United States, a major campaign promise. The cables also demonstrate the administrative and logistical hurdles the White House faces in executing its vision.

The memos, which have not been previously reported, provided instructions for implementing Trump’s March 6 revised executive order temporarily barring visitors from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees, as well as a simultaneous memorandum mandating enhanced visa screening. [Continue reading…]

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