College student is removed from Southwest Airlines flight because he spoke Arabic

The New York Times reports: A college student who came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in California earlier this month after another passenger became alarmed when she heard him speaking Arabic.

The student, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, was taken off a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Oakland on April 6 after he called an uncle in Baghdad to tell him about an event he attended that included a speech by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“I was very excited about the event so I called my uncle to tell him about it,” he said.

He told his uncle about the chicken dinner they were served and the moment when he got to stand up and ask the secretary general a question about the Islamic State, he said. But the conversation seemed troubling to a nearby passenger, who told the crew she overheard him making “potentially threatening comments,” the airline said in a statement.

Mr. Makhzoomi, 26, knew something was wrong as soon as he finished his phone call and saw that a woman sitting in front of him had turned around in her seat to stare at him, he said. She headed for the airplane door soon after he told his uncle that he would call again when he landed, and qualified it with a common phrase in Arabic, “inshallah,” meaning “god willing.”

“That is when I thought, ‘Oh, I hope she is not reporting me,’ because it was so weird,” Mr. Makhzoomi said.

That is exactly what happened. An Arabic-speaking Southwest Airlines employee of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent came to his seat and escorted him off the plane a few minutes after his call ended, he said. The man introduced himself in Arabic and then switched to English to ask, “Why were you speaking Arabic in the plane?” [Continue reading…]

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White Europeans have a problem with otherness

Zia Haider Rahman writes: Twenty years ago, when New Yorkers asked me where I was from, all I’d say is that I grew up in Britain. Mentioning that I was born in Bangladesh drew only more questions, and New Yorkers simply wanted confirmation of what was to them the distinctive cultural marker: my British accent.

That accent was learned from imitating BBC News announcers on a cassette recorder. As a boy, I read about the destruction of millions of Jews and was gripped by fear: If white Europeans could do that to people who looked like them, imagine what they could do to me.

So I adapted, hoping to make myself less alien to these people so ill at ease with difference. I grew up not so long ago in a Britain that spat at nonwhites, beat us and daubed swastikas on walls.

Britain frightens its natives with the specter of a fifth column, and exhorts immigrants to integrate better and adopt British values. Do it and you’ll earn your stripes. But the promise is hollow, for Britain has no intention of keeping its side of the bargain. [Continue reading…]

Zia Haider Rahman read a longer version of this piece last month in Amsterdam.

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In Belgium, racism and discrimination is a larger problem than radicalization

The New York Times reports: Yves Goldstein makes no excuses for Belgium’s failure to find Salah Abdeslam and the other Islamic State recruits who attacked Paris and then bombed Brussels Airport and a subway station.

The problem is not Islam, he insists, but the negligence of government officials like himself in allowing self-contained ethnic ghettos to grow unchallenged, breeding anger, crime and radicalism among youth — a soup of grievances that suits Islamist recruiters.

“Our cities are facing a huge problem, maybe the largest since World War II,” Mr. Goldstein said. “How is it that people who were born here in Brussels, in Paris, can call heroes the people who commit violence and terror? That is the real question we’re facing.”

Friends who teach the equivalent of high school seniors in the predominantly Muslim districts of Molenbeek and Schaerbeek told him that “90 percent of their students, 17, 18 years old, called them heroes,” he said.

Mr. Goldstein, 38, grew up in Schaerbeek, the child of Jewish refugees from Nazism. Now a councilman from Schaerbeek, he is also chief of staff for the minister-president of the Brussels Capital Region. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: To feel apart, even isolated, is not uncommon for a Muslim from Schaerbeek, the third-poorest commune in Belgium and one with a long history of racism.

More than Molenbeek, where many of the Paris and Brussels attackers lived, Schaerbeek is a mixed community with a sizable number of native Caucasian Belgians as well as Muslims from Turkey and Morocco.

Yet despite its heterogeneity, the groups still live in somewhat segregated communities.

Mustapha Chairi, a Schaerbeek native and now the head of the Collective Against Islamophobia in Belgium, remembers how when he was a boy, the mayor, Roger Nols, made no bones about his loathing for immigrants from North Africa.

In at least one election year, 1986, he donned ethnic Moroccan clothes, mounted a camel and rode to the central square to declare, “In 20 years all of Schaerbeek will look like this unless you vote for me,” Mr. Chairi recalled.

He stayed in office for 19 years. [Continue reading…]

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A terror attack, then far right moves in

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Most Israelis see their society becoming more racist

Yael Marom writes: Over half of Israelis believe that Israel has become a more racist society over the past two years, according to a new poll published on Sunday by the Coalition Against Racism in Israel.

The poll, conducted with Israeli pollster Rafi Smith and surveyed 400 Jewish Israelis and 100 Arab citizens, was published to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is held annually on March 21. According to the findings, 79 percent of respondents believe that there is racism against Arabs; 77 percent claimed that there is racism against asylum seekers; 75 percent believe there is racism against Ethiopian-Israelis; 41 percent say Mizrahim (Jews with origins in Arab or Muslim countries) suffer from racism; 39 percent believe that immigrants from the former Soviet Union face discrimination; and 20 percent responded that there is racism against Ashkenazim (Jews of Eastern European ancestry).

According to the survey, 25 percent said they had personally faced racist behavior in the past year. Twenty-four percent of Israeli Jews said they personally experienced racism, as opposed to 28 percent of Arabs. Among Russian-speaking citizens, 37 percent said they experienced racism in the past year. [Continue reading…]

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How did the far right gain so much ground in Germany?

By Sergi Pardos-Prado, University of Oxford

Some of the oldest and most established party systems in the world seem to be imploding. Unprecedented levels of electoral volatility, the collapse of the historical mainstream, and the emergence of new populist alternatives are part of a vertiginous process that is not always easy to comprehend.

A new wave of radical right parties is now proving capable of reshaping democracies that once seemed immune to them. The recent success of Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the regional elections is just the latest example of the establishment being shaken at the ballot box.

In the March 13 elections, AfD, a party that was only founded in 2013, won seats in eight German state parliaments. It came second, winning up to 24% of the popular vote, in states such as Saxony-Anhalt in East Germany.

What explains the success?

Research on radical right politics has focused on the socio-demographic profile of anti-immigrant voters, and on national characteristics such as the state of the economy. While illuminating, both approaches have proved insufficient.

There is a high degree of certainty about the sociological profile of the anti-immigrant voter. They tend to be working class, low educated, unemployed, male, nationalistic, and somewhat authoritarian.

But all established European democracies have significant portions of the electorate sharing these characteristics. So this approach can’t explain why radical parties have emerged in France and the Netherlands, for instance, but not in Spain or Portugal.

[Read more…]

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White voters hope Trump will restore the racial hierarchy upended by Barack Obama

Jamelle Bouie writes: In a nation shaped and defined by a rigid racial hierarchy, [Barack Obama’] election was very much a radical event, in which a man from one of the nation’s lowest castes ascended to the summit of its political landscape. And he did so with heavy support from minorities: Asian Americans and Latinos were an important part of Obama’s coalition, and black Americans turned out at their highest numbers ever in 2008.

For liberal observers, this heralded a new, rising electorate, and — in theory — a durable majority. “The future in American politics belongs to the party that can win a more racially diverse, better educated, more metropolitan electorate,” wrote Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post after the 2008 election. “It belongs to Barack Obama’s Democrats.”

For millions of white Americans who weren’t attuned to growing diversity and cosmopolitanism, however, Obama was a shock, a figure who appeared out of nowhere to dominate the country’s political life. And with talk of an “emerging Democratic majority,” he presaged a time when their votes—which had elected George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan—would no longer matter. More than simply “change,” Obama’s election felt like an inversion. When coupled with the broad decline in incomes and living standards caused by the Great Recession, it seemed to signal the end of a hierarchy that had always placed white Americans at the top, delivering status even when it couldn’t give material benefits.

In a 2011 paper, Robin DiAngelo — a professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University — described a phenomenon she called “white fragility.” “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves,” she writes. “These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”

DiAngelo was describing private behavior in the context of workplace diversity training, but her diagnosis holds insight for politics. You can read the rise of Obama and the projected future of a majority nonwhite America as a racial stress that produced a reaction from a number of white Americans — and forced them into a defensive crouch. You can see the maneuvering DiAngelo describes in the persistent belief that Obama is a Muslim — as recently as last fall, 29 percent of Americans held this view, against all evidence. It is a way to mark Obama as “other” in a society where explicit anti-black prejudice is publicly unacceptable. Consistent with this racialized fear and anxiety is the degree to which white Americans now see “reverse discrimination” as a serious problem in national life. For its American Values Survey, the Public Religion Research Institute asks respondents whether “discrimination against whites is a significant problem.” In last year’s survey, 43 percent of Americans — including 60 percent of working-class whites — said discrimination against whites had become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.

The anxieties DiAngelo describes, and the fears cataloged by the American Values Survey, have real political impact. In a 2014 study, political scientists Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson tried to measure “perceived status threat” from a shift in racial demographics, surveying how people responded when informed that California is now home to more blacks, Hispanics, and Asians than non-Hispanic whites. In other words, how do white Americans react to unrelated political questions when exposed to news of a “majority-minority” future? The results were clear. “Making the majority-minority shift in California salient led politically unaffiliated white Americans to lean more toward the Republican Party,” wrote Craig and Richeson. Likewise, “making the changing national racial demographics salient led white Americans (regardless of political party affiliation) to endorse both race-related and relatively race-neutral conservative policy positions more strongly.”

The Obama era didn’t herald a post-racial America as much as it did a racialized one, where millions of whites were hyperaware of and newly anxious about their racial status. [Continue reading…]

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It’s not just Trump. Authoritarian populism is rising across the West. Here’s why.

Pippa Norris writes: Many American commentators have had trouble understanding the rise of Donald Trump. How could such a figure surge to become the most likely standard-bearer for the GOP – much less have any chance of entering the White House?

But Trump is far from unique. As many commentators have noted, he fits the wave of authoritarian populists whose support has swelled in many Western democracies.

The graph below from ParlGov data illustrates the surge in the share of the vote for populist authoritarian parliamentary parties (defined as rated 8.0 or above by experts on left-right scales) across 34 OECD countries. [Continue reading…]

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The white supremacists fully emboldened and energized by Trump

Shaun King reports: On Monday, 30 black students attending a Donald Trump rally at Valdosta State University in rural Georgia were forcefully ejected — simply for being black.

On Tuesday, in Louisville, Kentucky, what happened to young black protestors at another Trump rally wasn’t just racist — it appears to be outright criminal.

While we have already widely reported that white supremacists are openly proclaiming that they are fully emboldened and energized by Trump, the natural progression of their romance with Trump is now on full display.

A man wearing a make America great again hat — thought to be Matthew Heimbach, a leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party — can be seen next to a protestor at the Trump rally in Louisville.
While Trump was giving his typical campaign speech about making America great again, several different predominantly black groups of protestors, who were simply there to hold up signs, began having those signs snatched and getting cursed by the white Trump supporters surrounding them.

We now know that those Trump supporters are open bigots, Neo-Nazi’s, and white supremacists belonging to many different groups including the Traditionalist Worker Party — a well-documented hate group. Their social media profiles are full of Nazi photos, KKK and white supremacist references, and some of the most insulting, despicable hate speech you’ll ever see. [Continue reading…]

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The face of American power remains white

The New York Times reports: We reviewed 503 of the most powerful people in American culture, government, education and business, and found that just 44 are minorities. Any list of the powerful is subjective, but the people here have an outsize influence on the nation’s rules and culture. [Continue reading…]

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Jean-Marie Le Pen endorses Trump days after ex-KKK leader urges support

The Guardian reports: Donald Trump received a vote of confidence on Saturday from Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former leader of France’s Front National who in the past has said the Nazi occupation was not “particularly inhumane” and suggested Ebola could solve Europe’s “immigration problem”.

“If I were American, I would vote Donald Trump,” Le Pen tweeted on Saturday about the Republican frontrunner for president. “But may God protect him!”

Trump’s ascendance in American politics began with his promises to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the US-Mexican border, derogatory comments about Mexicans, and a promise to deport 11 million undocumented people.

Le Pen founded Front National, a far-right party that campaigns mostly on anti-immigration policies. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump declines to disavow David Duke

The New York Times reports: Donald J. Trump declined on Sunday to disavow the support of David Duke, the white nationalist and ex-Ku Klux Klansman, who has called Mr. Trump “by far the best candidate.”

Mr. Duke, a former member of Congress who once ran for president, is famous for his white supremacist views and is generally considered a pariah in politics. In an interview with CNN, Mr. Trump pleaded ignorance about him.

“Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke,” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.” [Continue reading…]

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Aviva Chomsky: A newspaper’s crisis reveals unreported worlds

Is there a category of human beings who, in election 2016, have been the focus of more negative attention, fear-mongering, or worse press than immigrants, especially undocumented ones coming from or through Mexico (those infamous “rapists”)?  I doubt it.  Thought of in another way, such immigrants seem to be the only “lobbying group” capable of convincing Republican politicians that our crumbling infrastructure needs to be shored up — hence those monster walls to come along the Mexican border.  Immigrants, it’s now well known, are a shiftless bunch of criminals, or as Donald Trump put it, “If you look at the statistics of people coming, you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country it’s mind-boggling!” And don’t forget the terrorist types supposedly worming their way in among refugees — another category of immigrants — fleeing the chaos the U.S. had such a hand in creating in Syria and Iraq.  Those lost souls looking for asylum here have been a particular target of Republican candidates and office holders eager to ban them from coming anywhere near this country or at least their states.  Put it all together and you have a witch’s brew when it comes to the land of the free and home of the… well, whatever.

So imagine the national shock (had anyone been paying attention) that “The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States,” a study by researchers Walter A. Ewing, Daniel E. Martínez, and Rubén G. Rumbaut released last July through the American Immigration Council, should have caused here.  The three scholars offered truly shocking news.  They crunched the latest numbers and confirmed decades of other studies showing that immigration does anything but increase U.S. crime rates.  Immigrants, legal and otherwise, are charged with far fewer “serious crimes” and are jailed far less often than the native born.  To be specific, their study found that “1.6% of immigrant males age 18-39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3% of the native-born. This disparity in incarceration rates has existed for decades, as evidenced by data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 decennial censuses. In each of those years, the incarceration rates of the native-born were anywhere from two to five times higher than that of immigrants.”  The same, by the way, holds true for incarceration rates “among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population.”

How in the world do such definitive hard numbers fit with the overwrought sense of fear and alarm, the myth-making about immigrants alive in the country today?  In her second TomDispatch post, Aviva Chomsky offers an interesting answer: it’s not that hard to create a nightmare vision of immigrants when they are almost never seen by the Americans you are scaring the hell out of.  Their invisibility in our world ensures that just about any picture can be painted of them without fear of contradiction because there’s nothing in most of our lives to which to compare it.  So consider today just one recent case in which, however briefly, that cloak of invisibility began to be lifted from the remarkably lawful, remarkably hardworking immigrants who are the target of so much calumny this election season. Tom Engelhardt

All the news that’s fit to print
How the media hide undocumented workers
By Aviva Chomsky

In our post-modern (or post-post-modern?) age, we are supposedly transcending the material certainties of the past. The virtual world of the Internet is replacing the “real,” material world, as theory asks us to question the very notion of reality.  Yet that virtual world turns out to rely heavily on some distinctly old systems and realities, including the physical labor of those who produce, care for, and provide the goods and services for the post-industrial information economy. 

As it happens, this increasingly invisible, underground economy of muscles and sweat, blood and effort intersects in the most intimate ways with those who enjoy the benefits of the virtual world. Of course, our connection to that virtual world comes through physical devices, and each of them follows a commodity chain that begins with the mining of rare earth elements and ends at a toxic disposal or recycling site, usually somewhere in the Third World.

Closer to home, too, the incontrovertible realities of our physical lives depend on labor — often that of undocumented immigrants — invisible but far from virtual, that makes apparently endless mundane daily routines possible.

[Read more…]

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Fear and paranoia lead Finns to form vigilante groups that ‘protect women’ from asylum seekers

The Washington Post reports: On a frigid night in this industrial city, three local men pulled up to a curb in a beat-up van sporting the stars and bars of the American Confederacy (because, they said, they just liked the look of it). Soon, they joined a dozen other beefy vigilantes gathering on a sidewalk for their first patrol to keep “our women” safe.

These are the Soldiers of Odin, a new far-right citizens group sprouting chapters across Finland. Its members are multiplying as this northern nation becomes a case study in the fear and suspicion gripping Europe after multiple sexual assaults allegedly committed by asylum seekers and others on New Year’s Eve.

Those incidents, in cities across central and northern Europe, included hundreds of complaints of sexual harassment in Cologne, Germany, as well as 15 alleged sex-related crimes in the Finnish capital, Helsinki. They have quickly altered the debate over a record wave of asylum seekers arriving in Europe from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Fresh barriers to new migrants are going up from Sweden to Greece. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump and the ‘rivers of blood’

Sarfraz Manzoor writes: Until recently, Donald J. Trump was best known in Britain for “The Apprentice” television series, the Miss Universe contest and a controversial golf course development in Scotland. And most Britons would probably have viewed his decision to enter the presidential race with no more than mild envy: Why can’t British elections be as much fun as American ones?

Thanks, however, to his incendiary comments about immigrants and Muslims, Mr. Trump has moved from being a buffoonish figure on the margins of British consciousness to the center of political debate. After Mr. Trump said that he, if president, would stop Muslims entering the United States, more than half a million people signed a parliamentary petition, thus requiring a debate in Parliament on whether to bar him entry to Britain. (The debate, which was held this past week in a committee, generated plenty of indignation but had no issue because the power to refuse Mr. Trump admittance is held not by Parliament but by the home secretary.)

Mr. Trump also drew condemnation from leading British politicians, newspapers, the Metropolitan Police and the mayor of London. Even the leader of the UK Independence Party, which campaigns on a strong anti-immigration platform, said Mr. Trump had “gone too far.”

When Mr. Trump speaks of barring Muslims from entering the United States, I hear an echo of a British politician from another age, one who is largely forgotten here but whose views on race and immigration were as polarizing in their time as Mr. Trump’s are now. Enoch Powell was a politician whose career spanned most of the postwar period, first as a Conservative and later as an Ulster Unionist. He had grave reservations about mass immigration and frequently spoke in apocalyptic language about its consequences. [Continue reading…]

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