Human rights groups vow to challenge burkini ban on Cannes beaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s missing from the Trump vs Khan debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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French politicians are using terrorism to score points ahead of election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Austria: The lesson of the far right

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

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

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Boris Johnson rebuked for blaming Munich shooting on terrorists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are ‘New Atheists’ undermining the atheist cause?

 

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How should we live in a diverse society?

Kenan Malik writes: Debates about immigration are… rarely about numbers as such. They are much more about who the migrants are, and about underlying anxieties of nation, community, identity and values. ‘We should not forget’, claimed Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, as Hungary put up new border fences, and introduced draconian new anti-immigration laws, ‘that the people who are coming here grew up in a different religion and represent a completely different culture. Most are not Christian, but Muslim.’ ‘Is it not worrying’, he asked, ‘that Europe’s Christian culture is already barely able to maintain its own set of Christian values?’

Many thinkers, Christian and non-Christian, religious and non-religious, echo this fear of Muslim immigration undermining the cultural and moral foundation of Western civilization. The late Oriana Fallaci, the Italian writer who perhaps more than most promoted the notion of Eurabia – the belief that Europe is being Islamicised – described herself as a ‘Christian atheist’, insisting that only Christianity provided Europe with a cultural and intellectual bulwark against Islam. The British historian Niall Ferguson calls himself ‘an incurable atheist’ and yet is alarmed by the decline of Christianity which undermines ‘any religious resistance’ to radical Islam. Melanie Phillips, a non-believing Jew, argues in her book The World Turned Upside Down that ‘Christianity is under direct and unremitting cultural assault from those who want to destroy the bedrock values of Western civilization.’

To look upon migration in this fashion is, I want to suggest, a misunderstanding of both Europe’s past and Europe’s present. To understand why, I want first to explore two fundamental questions, the answers to which must frame any discussion on inclusion and morality. What we mean by a diverse society? And why should we value it, or indeed, fear it?

When we think about diversity today in Europe, the picture we see is that of societies that in the past were homogenous, but have now become plural because of immigration. But in what way were European societies homogenous in the past? And in what ways are they diverse today?

Certainly, if you had asked a Frenchman or an Englishman or a Spaniard in the nineteenth or the fifteenth or the twelfth centuries, they would certainly not have described their societies as homogenous. And were they to be transported to contemporary Europe, it is likely that they would see it as far less diverse than we do.

Our view of the Europe of the past is distorted by historical amnesia; and our view of the Europe of the present is distorted by a highly restricted notion of diversity. When we talk of European societies as historically homogenous, what we mean is that they used to be ethnically, or perhaps culturally, homogenous. But the world is diverse in many ways. Societies are cut through by differences, not only of ethnicity, but also of class, gender, faith, politics, and much else. [Continue reading…]

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A lesson for Newt Gingrich: What Shariah is (and isn’t)

Noah Feldman writes: Fortunately, no one is going to follow Newt Gingrich’s unconstitutional and un-American plan for an inquisition to “test every person here who is of a Muslim background” and deport the ones who “believe in Shariah.” Even Mr. Gingrich himself, a day after suggesting this policy in the wake of the terrorist attack in Nice, France, conceded that such a plan was impossible. But his proposal is a reminder of a persistent and inexcusable misunderstanding of what Shariah is, both in theory and in practice.

Put simply, for believing Muslims, Shariah is the ideal realization of divine justice — a higher law reflecting God’s will.

Muslims have a wide range of different beliefs about what Shariah requires in practice. And all agree that humans are imperfect interpreters of God’s will. But to ask a faithful Muslim if he or she “believes in” Shariah is essentially to ask if he or she accepts God’s word. In effect, Mr. Gingrich was proposing to deport all Muslims who consider themselves religious believers.

Start with a crucial distinction. Shariah doesn’t simply or exactly mean Islamic law. Properly speaking, Shariah refers to God’s blueprint for human life. It is divine and unchanging, reflecting God’s unity and perfection. It can be found in God’s revealed word in the Quran and in the divinely guided actions of the Prophet Muhammad.

In contrast, another Arabic word, “fiqh,” refers to the interpretation and application of Shariah in the real world. Fiqh is Islamic law as practiced by people. Because it’s a product of human reasoning used to understand God’s word, Islamic law is subject to debate and imperfection. [Continue reading…]

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Measuring the backlash against the Muslim backlash

Shibley Telhami writes: Something remarkable has happened in the middle of an American presidential campaign noted for its inflammatory rhetoric about Islam and Muslims, and marred by horrific mass violence perpetrated on American soil in the name of Islam: American public attitudes toward the Muslim people and the Muslim religion have not worsened — in fact they have become progressively more favorable, even after the Orlando shooting. That’s what two new polls show, one taken two weeks before Orlando, the other two weeks after, to be released at the Brookings Institution on Monday.

Comparing the results of three University of Maryland national polls — all fielded by Neilson Scarborough — taken in November 2015, in May 2016 and in June 2016 (after the June 12th Orlando shooting), the trends are surprising. Asked about their views of the Muslim people, respondents who expressed favorable views went from 53 percent in November 2015, to 58 percent in May 2016, to 62 percent in June 2016. At the same time, favorable views of Islam went from 37 percent, to 42 percent, to 44 percent over the same period — still under half, but with marked improvement over a period of seven months. [Continue reading…]

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