Trump’s big tent for bigotry

Jonathan Weisman writes: A Jewish 17-year-old, inflamed by the Black Lives Matter movement and the cause of L.G.B.T. rights, told me recently there is no anti-Semitism, certainly nothing compared with the prejudices that afflict other minorities. I surprised myself when I recoiled from her words and argued passionately that Jews must never think anti-Semitism has been eradicated. I sounded like my mother.

Just weeks later, I found myself staring down a social-media timeline filled with the raw hate and anti-Semitic tropes that for centuries fueled expulsion, persecution, pogroms and finally genocide.

“I found the Menorah you were looking for,” one correspondent offered with a Trump-triumphant backdrop on his Twitter profile; it was a candelabrum made of the number six million. Old Grand Dad cheerfully offered up a patriotic image of Donald Trump in colonial garb holding up the Liberty Bell and fighting “against the foreign hordes,” with caricatures of the Jew, the American Indian, the Mexican, the Chinese and the Irish cowering at his feet.

I am not the first Jewish journalist to experience the onslaught. Julia Ioffe was served up on social media in concentration camp garb and worse after Trump supporters took umbrage with her profile of Melania Trump in GQ magazine. The would-be first lady later told an interviewer that Ms. Ioffe had provoked it. The anti-Semitic hate hurled at the conservative commentator Bethany Mandel prompted her to buy a gun.

Beyond journalism, stories of Muslims assaulted by Trump supporters are piling up. Hispanic immigrants are lining up for citizenship, eager to vote. Groups that have been maligned over centuries at different times in different regions now share a common tormentor, the alt-right, a militant agglomeration of white nationalists, racists, anti-Semites and America Firsters that have been waging war on the Republican establishment for some time. Their goals: Close the borders, deport illegal immigrants, pull out of international entanglements and pull up the drawbridge. [Continue reading…]

The middle way here requires neither minimizing anti-Semitism nor granting it special status among the array of bigotries that are being fomented by Trump.

The struggle now is between the politics of inclusion and those of exclusion.

There’s never been a time of greater need for a show of solidarity between Jews, Muslims, blacks, immigrants and all Americans who recognize that shared human values matter more than the identities we use to set ourselves apart.


Deeyah Khan: Terrorists want us to become like them — intolerant, hateful, and cruel


‘Take it off! This is America!’: Man who yanked hijab pleads guilty to religious obstruction

The Washington Post reports: Near the end of his Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque in December, Gill Parker Payne decided he had to take action.

Seated a few rows in front of him was a woman he had never met before. She was wearing a religious headscarf, known as a hijab, which Payne recognized as a Muslim practice. He stood up, walked down the aisle and stopped next to her seat. Looking down at the woman, Payne instructed her to remove the covering.

“Take it off! This is America!” Payne, 37, later recalled saying. When she didn’t do it herself, Payne did: He grabbed the hijab from the back and pulled it all off. Violated, the woman, identified by the Justice Department only as K.A., quickly pulled the hijab back over her head.

On Friday, as part of a plea deal with the federal government, Payne pleaded guilty to obstructing the woman’s exercise of her religious beliefs. “Because I forcibly removed K.A.’s hijab, I admit that the United States can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I intentionally obstructed K.A.’s free exercise of her religious beliefs,” he said in a written statement in the plea agreement.

Payne awaits sentencing. He faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

“No matter one’s faith, all Americans are entitled to peacefully exercise their religious beliefs free from discrimination and violence,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement. “Using or threatening force against individuals because of their religion is an affront to the fundamental values of this nation.” [Continue reading…]


Racism is a system of oppression, not a series of gaffes

Gary Younge writes: On the weekend in 2001 when Oldham went up in flames during a series of racially charged disturbances, I was at a garden party at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival – when I, along with many others, heard Germaine Greer using the term “nigger in a woodpile”. I walked away, not particularly interested in her justification for using that offensive word. By the time the weekend was through I’d had several calls from newspaper diarists asking me to comment on the incident.

I refused. Irritated as I had been, I saw no need to dignify the moment with more importance than it was due. On the weekend when working-class youth in one of Britain’s poorest cities took to the streets in protest, the fact that I had found a comment at a cocktail party from a fellow columnist racially offensive defied any decent sense of priority or proportion.

Make no mistake, I was offended and had every right to be. Words have consequences, and micro-aggressions matter. Often they are emblematic of broader issues; often they have an exclusory effect. This is a word that I’m not comfortable being around, even when black people use it. (Its use by the comedian Larry Wilmore to refer to Barack Obama at this weekend’s White House correspondents’ dinner set tongues wagging.) But being offended is not a political position. Not every display of ignorance is necessarily a slight; not every slight is worth escalating into an incident; not every provocation need be indulged. [Continue reading…]


Sadiq Khan: British dream now a reality for London’s first Muslim mayor

By Parveen Akhtar, University of Bradford

In Pakistan, the chances that the son of a bus or rickshaw driver could secure a high-ranking political position in the country’s capital city are minuscule. But now, the people of London have elected Sadiq Khan – the son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver – to be their first Muslim mayor.

While unable to influence the nation’s foreign or economic policy, Khan will have responsibility for key areas in London, such as transport, housing, policing and the environment. And being directly elected gives the London mayor a personal mandate which no other parliamentarian in Westminster – including those in the cabinet – enjoy.

Khan’s father was one of hundreds of Pakistani men who migrated to Britain in the 1950’s and 1960’s, seeking the UK’s version of the American dream: stable employment, social mobility and opportunities for a better future for themselves and their families. One of eight children, Khan grew up on a council estate in the capital. He went to university to study law and practised as a solicitor in human rights cases before becoming a member of parliament.

Now, at the age of 45, he is mayor of London: the economic and cultural heart of the UK, the largest city in western Europe and one of the most important cities in the world. He is the immigrant success story – for him, the British dream has become a reality.

[Read more…]


Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight

Catherine Rampell writes: On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse.

Or so dozens of unsuspecting passengers thought.

The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he’d brought aboard. His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over. He was wearing navy Diesel jeans and a red Lacoste sweater – a look he would later describe as “simple elegance” – but something about him didn’t seem right to her.

She decided to try out some small talk.

Is Syracuse home? She asked.

No, he replied curtly.

He similarly deflected further questions. He appeared laser-focused — perhaps too laser-focused — on the task at hand, those strange scribblings.

Rebuffed, the woman began reading her book. Or pretending to read, anyway. Shortly after boarding had finished, she flagged down a flight attendant and handed that crew-member a note of her own. [Continue reading…]


Racism by any other name

Vann R. Newkirk II writes: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Barack Obama’s election as the first black president was supposed to usher in a golden “post-racial” age but instead was met with racial conflict, a battle Obama failed, in his role as conciliator-in-chief, to either predict or control. The conflict has blossomed into a war, producing Donald Trump’s racial-angst-fueled campaign and the anger of Black Lives Matter protesters. At the heart of this racial conflict is Obama’s divisive presidency.

If that storyline sounds familiar, it’s the tack that many analyses have taken as they try to tease apart the interconnected issues of race and politics. It’s an exercise––an important one––that writers attempt every few months. Two years ago, commentators chronicled “unrest over race” in Obama’s legacy, and even before that speculated at racial tensions or unrest that might ensue should he ever lose an election. One recent column by Peniel Joseph in the Washington Post chronicles Obama’s failure to stop the “open warfare” of racial conflict during his term in office.

One reason these attempts to grapple with race and Obama’s presidency recur so often is that they usually can’t quite pull together a unified theory. Perhaps the moving pieces are just too complicated to analyze while they are still moving; perhaps they appear deceptively simple. But maybe some of the difficulty in talking about race today is attributable to the unhelpful euphemisms of “racial conflict,” “racial tension,” and other phrases that suggest an equal amount of instigation across racial groups, if not a perfectly balanced battle. But not all “racial conflicts” or “racially fraught” sentiments are the same. Equating them even via casual euphemism dilutes the potency of a truth that has undergirded every aspect of American society for as long as American society has existed.

It is tempting to try to conceptualize American culture as a theater of war, with battles fought between well-equipped factions over the future of the dominant identity. This conceptualization of political conflict animates arguments about everything from political correctness on college campuses to the tensions at the heart of Bernie Sanders’s political revolution. And at some level, especially when discussing differing factions of white men, it works. But the idea of political conflict as a pitched battle proves inadequate when it fails to take into account the power gradients that have been woven into the fabric of the country. That is especially true of race. [Continue reading…]


Electing Sadiq Khan as mayor of London would be the terrorists’ worst nightmare


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writes: The whole universe may be found in a grain of London life,” wrote Peter Ackroyd. Sadiq Khan knows the grainy, multifarious life of the capital intimately. He is a real Londoner, and that is why he is the best choice for mayor. It matters more than his race, religion or class. Khan’s Pakistan-born father was a bus driver, his mother a seamstress. They had eight children, seven of them boys. The parents saved up to buy a home, and sent all their children to university. Khan has lived in public housing, used public transport, known deprivation, and epitomises urban aspiration.

Zac Goldsmith was born in London yet he could never acquire the same sensibility, or even pretend to know what it means. Goldsmith has never had to strive, and his privilege shows in his lack of passion, his lack of the kind of energy that drives most true Londoners.

I moved to London, from Oxford, in 1978 with my mum, ex-husband and a six-month-old baby. Exiles from Uganda, we had little money then, and lived in a one-bedroom flat near Shepherd’s Bush. It had rats, damp, a bath in the kitchen and broken furniture. My boy was starting to crawl, and one day picked up some rat droppings. I sobbed. But on the common, in the evening, surrounded by lights and sounds, we felt we had arrived. Eating a Wimpy burger from a box was the biggest treat. Upstairs lived Noreen, a young woman from Kent who had escaped from a violent husband. Next door was Elsa, a sweet Jamaican granny who made excellent gingerbread in an oven with a broken door. The building belonged to a shady man who had several such properties. He got rich and fat, and died of a heart attack. Noreen found a new man, a Yorkshireman who was training to be a bespoke tailor. Elsa started selling her gingerbread to neighbours, and moved to a better place. My ex-husband and I found good jobs and bought our first flat, where I still live.

This is what London ever was, and still is: big, busy, mysterious. By turns miserly and bountiful, chaotic and serene, shockingly unequal yet welcoming: a tough place that is always changing but where a future is always possible. This is where the British dream can come true. London belongs to no one, and so everyone can at least hope to claim a place in it. It is a hub, a fabulously diverse ecosystem that draws in people from other parts of the kingdom and the globe. [Continue reading…]


Italy’s most racist politician comes to Philly to help Donald Trump

The Daily Beast reports: Matteo Salvini, Italy’s most openly racist politician and leader of the far-right Northern League party, loves Donald Trump. And The Donald apparently loves him back.

Salvini, who has called German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy to accept Syrian refugees a disaster, and who has been pictured with a bulldozer on the edge of Roma camps, tweeted a selection of pictures of himself at a Trump rally in Philadelphia. In one, he poses with the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in what appears to be a somewhat awkward “thumbs up” moment with the caption, “Go, Donald, Go!”

Salvini, who is in the United States to promote Italian culture (as opposed to any other culture), then met with Trump for around 20 minutes after the rally, which was held on April 25—the day Italy celebrates its liberation from fascism and a holiday Salvini does not celebrate. “Matteo, I hope you will soon become the prime minister of Italy,” Trump said, according to ANSA news service. Salvini then returned the sentiment, saying he hoped the Republican hopeful would be elected to the White House on November 8.

The Italian politician is widely known in Italy and throughout Europe for his radical right-wing rallies, during which it is common for him to slip on a black shirt to pay homage to the Fascist era. His rallies have often included people waving photos of Benito Mussolini, who he has praised for his “efficiency” and “dedication” to the country. [Continue reading…]


How to spot a terrorist on your flight

Arwa Mahdawi writes: The skies are no longer a very friendly place to fly if you’re brown or “maybe-Muslim”. A few days ago, an Iraq-born researcher at UC Berkeley was removed from a Southwest Airlines plane for speaking Arabic. A passenger heard the guy end a phone call with “inshallah” and decided it must mean “this plane full of infidels is going down”. In reality inshallah (which translates as “God willing”) is a versatile Arabic phrase that can be used to mean everything from “hopefully” to “never going to happen” to “I’ve stopped listening now, kthanxbye.”

This isn’t the first time someone has raised suspicions simply by speaking Arabic – the world’s fifth most-spoken language – on a plane. Fearmongering around terrorism has ignited a vicious vigilantism in air travel. The 17th century had the Salem witch trials; the 1950s had McCarthyism; today we’ve got Mile High Hysteria.

Last November, for example, two Palestinian-Americans were blocked from boarding a Southwest flight after another passenger heard them speaking Arabic and felt “uncomfortable”. Shortly after that incident, Spirit Airlines kicked four passengers of Middle Eastern descent off a flight because one of them was making calls in another language.

You don’t even need to be speaking Arabic to raise suspicions among “concerned citizens”, you simply need to be doing something a little “terroristy”. Like not being white. Last month, Laolu Opebiyi, a (Christian) Brit of Nigerian descent was removed from an easyJet plane after another passenger saw the word “prayer” in his Whatsapp messages. [Continue reading…]


Obama counsels Black Lives Matter activists: ‘You can’t just keep on yelling’

The Washington Post reports: President Obama, speaking to young activists and leaders at a town hall meeting here Saturday, offered some unsolicited guidance to those pressing for change back home and had some tough words for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The president was asked about the social movements that made him change his mind about issues in the White House. He credited the campaign for marriage equality for gay Americans for leading him to reverse his position, and then he pivoted to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The young black activists have been “really effective in bringing attention to problems” of the criminal justice system and police violence, Obama said.

But he cautioned that the group’s leaders had been too dismissive of elected officials. “Once you’ve highlighted an issue and brought it to people’s attention … then you can’t just keep on yelling at them. And you can’t refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position,” Obama said. [Continue reading…]


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…]


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.


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…]


A terror attack, then far right moves in