Racism and paranoia are threatening to engulf stable societies. It’s time to fight back

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, writes: The murder of British MP Jo Cox last week has forced the world to look at itself anew. This week, social movements will hold events to remember Jo’s life in many cities, including Ottawa. Members of parliaments in Canada and everywhere have been asked to “stand together to stem the poisonous rising tide of fear and hate that breeds division and extremism.”

We all need to hold ourselves to this same challenge. It feels like the world is entering a frightening new phase. No one is immune, anywhere.

Jo Cox dedicated her life to the struggle against injustice and intolerance. I did not know Jo myself, but so many across Oxfam did and were touched by her. So many people were inspired by her compassion, commitment and energy for change. She was clearly an incredible woman.

Jo was a passionate feminist, a woman after my own heart. While working in Oxfam she got involved in a discussion about how women can best become genuinely empowered. “Education,” said one person. No, said Jo, the answer is politics. Support women as they seek political power — the rest will follow. Everything I have ever experienced, working with women in Africa and across the world, tells me she was right. [Continue reading…]

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1,500 MPs around the world sign pledge to uphold legacy of Jo Cox

The Guardian reports: Almost 1,500 parliamentarians have signed a pledge to uphold the legacy of love and tolerance left by Jo Cox, the Labour MP killed last week.

MPs from 40 countries from Australia to Zimbabwe put their names to a statement on what would have been the eve of Cox’s 42nd birthday.

From the UK, the signatories include Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, and his successor, Sadiq Khan. [Continue reading…]

The joint statement of parliamentarians and democratic representatives says:

Last week, the life of UK MP Jo Cox was brutally and senselessly snatched away. As many have been, we are shocked to the core at a violent attack on democracy and our values.

As human beings, we are devastated at the loss of an indefatigable and compassionate campaigner, mother and colleague. And as parliamentarians, we commit to ensuring her legacy is upheld.

In her first speech to parliament, just one year ago, Jo said: “While we celebrate our diversity … we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Every elected representative should reflect on those words this week. Let this be a turning point for us all.

Beyond politics and parties, we must as societies stand together to stem the poisonous rising tide of fear and hate that breeds division and extremism. We must follow Jo’s example to open our arms with love to our communities, our neighbours and those less fortunate than ourselves, and to celebrate our tolerance and diversity.

Jo was a lifelong campaigner against injustice. She entered parliament because she wanted to be in the engine room of change, to steer a course toward a better future. Today we say: we will keep our hands on the wheel. We will do whatever it takes to renew our bonds and fight for those at the margins of our society, our continent and the world.

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Jo Cox, Brexit and the politics of hate

Daniel Trilling writes: The main threat of far-right attacks in recent years has come from men acting alone or in small groups. They may sympathize with fascist ideology, or they may have passed through the ranks of a far-right party at some point, but they are not acting on orders.

An attack like this, or a plot for one, is uncovered every few years — rare, but more common than many Britons would like to admit. In June 2015, a member of the neo-Nazi group National Action was convicted of the attempted murder of a South Asian man at a supermarket in Wales. In 2007, a former B.N.P. candidate was jailed for stockpiling explosives in anticipation of a coming “civil war” caused by immigration. In 1999, David Copeland, a neo-Nazi lone wolf, set off three nail bombs in London, targeting the black, gay and South Asian communities, killing three people and injuring more than 100.

These people may act independently, but their behavior and ideas are not shaped in a void. Far more people move through the periphery of far-right politics than formally join a party or organization. The details that have emerged about Mr. Mair’s life place him in this periphery: The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that he was a longtime customer of Vanguard Books, the publishing arm of the National Alliance, an American neo-Nazi group. The police have reportedly found Nazi regalia and far-right literature at his house.

Social media has extended the far right’s reach. Sources tell me that Britain First has only a few hundred members. But its Facebook page has more than 1.4 million likes and churns out nationalist, Islamophobic and anti-immigration memes. “Saying UK borders are secure, open to 500 million people,” declares one meme, which displays a photo of the European Union’s flag, “is like saying my home is more secure with the doors and windows left open.” Another shows Muslims praying in the street in London and asks: “Is this what our war heroes died for?” Many of these are widely shared — and they often echo the coverage of immigration and ethnic minorities found in much of the British press.

This points to an uncomfortable truth: Far-right politics cannot be as easily cordoned off from the mainstream as people would like to believe. Fascists attach themselves to popular causes and drag the debate in their direction. Populists and parties of the center take note and then try to appeal to voters susceptible to the far right’s messages by taking xenophobic positions of their own. [Continue reading…]

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Possible link to Jo Cox killing puts U.S. neo-Nazi group back into focus

The Guardian reports: Roaring up the gravel track on a Yamaha Grizzly ATV, Dave Pringle is wearing a long beard, ponytail, a camouflage hunting cap and shorts. His dark blue T-shirt says “Hillary for prison 2016”. His right arm has a tattoo with the words, “molon labe” – the ancient Greek battle cry, “Come and take them”.

Pringle, a gunsmith, is chief of staff at the National Alliance (NA), a fascist group that apparently sold books to Thomas Mair, the man charged with the murder of British MP Jo Cox. On Saturday, speaking to the Guardian over a padlocked gate at the organisation’s 364-acre “campus” in the Appalachian mountains, he denied all knowledge of Mair.

“If he bought the books from Amazon.com, could he be linked to [its founder] Jeff Bezos?” he demanded. “Lots of people buy books. I’ve been buying from New Vanguard [the NA’s propaganda arm] since 1989 and guess how many crimes I’ve committed? Zero.”

Pringle, 47, married with two teenage children, said of Cox’s death: “It’s a terrible thing. She was white, an Englishwoman with two children. What else can I say? Do I agree with her politics? Of course not. Do I think you guys need more Syrians in Britain? No.”

Once the most feared neo-Nazi group in the world, the NA is now something of a spent force. It never recovered from the death in 2002 of its founder, William Pierce, a leading white supremacist who advocated racial apartheid in America and was banned from the UK. His 1978 novel The Turner Diaries, about a survivalist who blows up the FBI and triggers a purge of Jewish and black people to create an Aryan fantasy world, inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and British “nail bomber” David Copeland. It was described by the FBI as “the bible of the racist right”. [Continue reading…]

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Mainstream politicians ‘clueless on migration debate,’ says Jo Cox’s husband

The Guardian reports: The husband of Jo Cox plans to continue with a project that aims to build an international alliance to combat “the dangerous breeding ground” of economic insecurity on which the populist right has fed across European politics.

Brendan Cox has let it be known that he is determined to continue with the work in memory of his wife, who was killed on Thursday, but believes this will only succeed if lessons can be learned from why the right has so far taken the initiative on the migration issue.

In a paper he has circulated – and asked the Guardian to quote from – Cox argues that one of the problems is that those hostile to refugees are better organised, more focused on galvanising public opinion, and better at tapping into human emotions, including over wider economic insecurities.

Mainstream politicians, he writes, “in most cases are clueless on how to deal with the public debate. Petrified by the rise of the populists they try to neuter them by taking their ground and aping their rhetoric. Far from closing down the debates, these steps legitimise their views, reinforce their frames and pull the debate further to the extremes (Sarkozy and the continuing rise of Front National is a case in point).” [Continue reading…]

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A day of infamy

Following the murder of Jo Cox, in a nation that has become inflamed by anti-immigrant rhetoric, Alex Massie writes: When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’

When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.

Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

We can’t control the weather but, in politics, we can control the climate in which the weather happens. That’s on us, all of us, whatever side of any given argument we happen to be. Today, it feels like we’ve done something terrible to that climate.

Sad doesn’t begin to cover it. This is worse, much worse, than just sad. This is a day of infamy, a day in which we should all feel angry and ashamed. Because if you don’t feel a little ashamed – if you don’t feel sick, right now, wherever you are reading this – then something’s gone wrong with you somewhere. [Continue reading…]

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The murder of Jo Cox cannot be viewed in isolation

Polly Toynbee writes: When politicians from a mainstream party use immigration as their main weapon in a hotly fought campaign, they unleash something dark and hateful that always lurks in all countries not far beneath the surface.

Did we delude ourselves we were a tolerant country – or can we still save our better selves? Over recent years, struggling to identify “Britishness”, to connect with a natural patriotic love of country that citizens have every right to feel, politicians floundering for a British identity reach for the reassuring idea that this cradle of democracy is blessed with some special civility.

But if the vote is out [of the EU], then out goes that impression of what kind of country we are. Around the world we will be seen as the island that cut itself off out of anti-foreigner feeling: that will identify us globally more than any other attribute. Our image, our reality, will change overnight.

Contempt for politics is dangerous and contagious, yet it has become a widespread default sneer. There was Jo Cox, a dedicated MP, going about her business doing what good MPs do, making herself available to any constituents with any problems to drop in to her surgery. Just why she became the victim of such a vicious attack, we may learn eventually. But in the aftermath of her death, there are truths of which we should remind ourselves right now.

Democracy is precious and precarious. It relies on a degree of respect for the opinions of others, soliciting support for political ideas without stirring up undue savagery and hatred against opponents. [Continue reading…]

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British MP Jo Cox, a passionate campaigner for the people of Syria, murdered in Yorkshire

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s Labour party has issued this tribute to Jo Cox:

The whole of the Labour party and Labour family – and indeed the whole country – will be in shock at the horrific murder of Jo Cox today.

Jo had a lifelong record of public service and a deep commitment to humanity. She worked both for Oxfam and the anti-slavery charity, the Freedom Fund, before she was elected last year as MP for Batley and Spen – where she was born and grew up.

Jo was dedicated to getting us to live up to our promises to support the developing world and strengthen human rights – and she brought those values and principles with her when she became an MP.

Jo died doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy, listening to and representing the people she was elected to serve. It is a profoundly important cause for us all.

Jo was universally liked at Westminster, not just by her Labour colleagues, but across Parliament.

In the coming days, there will be questions to answer about how and why she died. But for now all our thoughts are with Jo’s husband Brendan and their two young children. They will grow up without their mum, but can be immensely proud of what she did, what she achieved and what she stood for.

We send them our deepest condolences. We have lost a much loved colleague, a real talent and a dedicated campaigner for social justice and peace. But they have lost a wife and a mother, and our hearts go out to them.

The Guardian reported earlier: The Labour MP Jo Cox is in a critical condition after being shot and stabbed multiple times after a constituency meeting. [“Dee Collins, the chief constable of West Yorkshire police, announces that Jo Cox has died.” The Guardian.]

Armed officers responded to the attack near a library in Birstall, West Yorkshire, on Thursday afternoon. A 52-year-old man was arrested in the area, police confirmed. The suspect was named locally as Tommy Mair.

Police added that Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, had suffered “serious injuries and is in a critical condition”. She has been taken by helicopter to Leeds General Infirmary.

Police also confirmed a man in his late 40s to early 50s nearby suffered slight injuries in the incident. They are also investigating reports that the suspect shouted “Britain first”, a possible reference to the far-right political party of that name, as he launched the attack. [Continue reading…]

BuzzFeed reports: In parliament Cox has proved herself a committed campaigner on the Syrian crisis. Last October she joined forces with Tory former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell to write an article in The Observer calling for more UK action to help desperate families in the region.

She also launched the all-party Parliamentary Friends of Syria group, which she now chairs. Cox abstained in the House of Commons vote on UK airstrikes in Syria, saying she was not against them in principle but “cannot actively support them unless they are part of a plan”.

Cox has described herself as a “huge President Obama fan” – indeed she worked on his first campaign in 2008 – but she has criticised both him and David Cameron for putting Syria on the “too difficult” pile. She warned last month this had led to the biggest refugee crisis in Europe in a generation and the emergence of ISIS. [Continue reading…]

Here is Cox speaking recently on the need to help Syrians.

 

Here she was giving her maiden speech last year, describing the diverse West Yorkshire constituency she represented:

 

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Nigel Farage attacked for UK Independence Party poster showing queue of refugees

The Guardian reports: Nigel Farage has been accused of engaging in the “politics of the gutter” after launching a campaign poster depicting a long queue of refugees, with the slogan “Breaking point”.

The advert, which has also appeared in the local press, shows a crowd of refugees and migrants walking along a road.

Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP for Pontefract and Castleford, who has campaigned on behalf of refugees, said: “Just when you thought leave campaigners couldn’t stoop any lower, they are now exploiting the misery of the Syrian refugee crisis in the most dishonest and immoral way.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump ally: Clinton aide could be ‘terrorist agent’

Politico reports: In the wake of Sunday’s deadly terrorist shooting in Orlando, Donald Trump’s longtime friend and informal adviser wants the presumptive Republican nominee to hit Hillary Clinton even harder, suggesting the former secretary of state’s top aide Huma Abedin could be a “Saudi spy” or a “terrorist agent.”

Only Trump, Roger Stone said on Sirius XM’s “Breitbart News Daily,” will be able to draw the necessary amount of attention to the theories, which have drawn significant blowback from Democrats and Republicans alike.

“I also think that now that Islamic terrorism is going to be front and center, there’s going to be a new focus on whether this administration, the administration of Hillary Clinton at State was permeated at the highest levels by Saudi intelligence and others who are not loyal Americans,” Stone said. “I speak specifically of Huma Abedin, the right-hand woman, now vice-chairman or co-chairman of vice—of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” [Continue reading…]

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Vigilantes patrol parts of Europe where few migrants set foot

The New York Times reports: The People’s Party-Our Slovakia, after months of stirring up fears about foreigners and Muslim migrants, decided to take action: This spring, the group’s leader proudly stood in front of the main railway station in Zvolen, Slovakia, and announced that a new group of volunteers would begin patrolling passenger trains to keep the “decent citizens” of Slovakia safe from criminals and minorities.

Never mind that vanishingly few of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have reached Europe over the last year ever set foot in the Central European nation, or that only 10 people last year became crime victims on a Slovakian train system patrolled by 600 railway police officers.

The xenophobic Slovakian group has been one of a wave of such extremist organizations across Central and Eastern Europe that have seized on last year’s influx of migrants through Europe to advance their agenda and build popular support. In some cases, the vigilante groups have taken to patrolling borders, streets and other public places to defend against what they portray as a menacing incursion of asylum seekers, many of them Muslims from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other poor, war-torn nations. [Continue reading…]

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In a traumatised Netherlands, faith in the EU is plummeting

Joris Luyendijk writes: Once a beacon of progressive politics, the Netherlands today is a traumatised, angry and deeply confused nation. Support for immigration and the European project are at all-time lows. Synagogues and Jewish schools need police protection from homegrown jihadists, and freedom of expression is under serious pressure. Leading pundits and comedians incite hatred against Muslims in much the same way that antisemites rage against “the Jews”.

It seems a long time since “Dutch” was synonymous with tolerance. A founding member of the European Union, the Netherlands developed from the 1970s onwards into a laboratory for social and cultural change, boldly pioneering the legalisation of prostitution, soft drugs, euthanasia and gay marriage.

Those were the days when Dutch politicians and opinion-makers would refer to the Netherlands, without any apparent irony, as a “gidsland”, or “guide country”: a small nation leading by example. Its proudest moment probably came in June 1988 when an ethnically mixed team of Dutch footballers won the European Championships, beating the all-white teams of arch-rival Germany and then Russia. It felt like the ultimate vindication of multiculturalism.

Fast-forward 28 years, and heading the polls today is Geert Wilders’ PVV or Freedom party. Elected “politician of the year 2015”, Wilders is the sole member of the party he founded, ruling over it as undemocratically as the Arab dictators he so despises. He wants the Netherlands to drop the euro and leave the EU. Like Donald Trump he demands an end to all immigration from Islamic countries. A typical Wilders tweet: “As long as we have ‘leaders’ such as [Dutch prime minister] Rutte, Merkel, Obama and Cameron denying Islam and terror are one and the same, there will be more terrorist attacks.”

Of course there was racism and intolerance in the Netherlands during the 70s, 80s and 90s, too, and the country of old has not entirely disappeared. A slim majority continues to vote for pro-EU parties that abhor discrimination against Muslims. The popular mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, is openly and proudly Muslim. The speaker of parliament, Khadija Arib, is of Moroccan descent; and in 2007 Dutch readers voted the book The House of the Mosque by Iranian-born Kader Abdolah to be the second “best Dutch book ever”.

Yet the influence of the PVV is widely felt, particularly because the steadily growing far-left Socialist party shares many of its views on the EU. And with every new terrorist attack, wave of refugees or expensive euro bailout, the forces of regression grow stronger, both on the far right and the far left. [Continue reading…]

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Dalai Lama distances himself from Brexit poster

The Guardian reports: The Dalai Lama has distanced himself from a poster circulated by Brexit campaigners that suggested the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader was in favour of the UK leaving the EU.

Leave.EU, the unofficial Brexit campaign run by the Ukip donor Arron Banks, tweeted an image of a quote attributed to the Dalai Lama stating: “The goal should be that migrants return and help rebuild their countries. You have to be practical … It’s impossible for everyone to come.”

Underneath, the tweet written by Leave.EU said: “The Dalai Lama favours a more balanced approach to migration. Let’s reclaim democratic control on June 23rd!”

A representative for the Dalai Lama, who is a refugee from Tibet, said no permission was given to use his words as part of an anti-EU campaign.

“We are not aware of any campaign using His Holiness’ image in regard to the issue of the UK leaving the European Union and would certainly not have given permission,” said Tenzin Taklha, secretary to the Dalai Lama.

Though the Dalai Lama has not taken any official position on the EU, Thubten Samdup, his former representative in northern Europe, said he thought it highly unlikely that he would support Brexit.

“In fact he has always mentioned highly of how EU has come together for the benefit of the people of Europe,” he said. “He felt it made lot of sense and encouraged others to do the same in this rapidly changing and inter-connected world.” [Continue reading…]

The Dalai Lama, having lived in exile from the country of his birth, Tibet, since 1959, understands the plight of refugees.

Those who see refugees as a threat and who are more broadly opposed to immigration — treating non-natives as intruders — overlook the sense of loss incurred in every form of exile. The immigrant is viewed in terms of the things to which he might lay claim rather than that which he left behind.

Irrespective of the national identities we immigrants might lose or adopt, the loss of ones homeland is mostly experienced on a more granular level.

Home is made up from so many tightly woven threads of familiarity — relatives and friends, food and music, abodes and terrain. Plants, birdsong, weather patterns, sounds, and smells — each contribute to a sense of place once known in intimate detail as a sensory world and now confined to memory.

This is what gets left behind and the sense of loss must be so much more acute when it’s clear that what has been lost has been destroyed forever.

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The contest between an open and a closed society

Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden, writes: With the old political landscape fading, we see the rise of parties in more or less fundamental opposition to the ideas and principles that have governed the West until now. The politics of ideology has faded, and the politics of identity has been gaining ground.

The rise of the nationalist right has been faster in Austria than in most other countries. It is obvious that it has been boosted significantly by legitimate revulsion against the old-fashioned system of Proporz. Change has been in high demand.

With faith in the future also waning in view of economic difficulties and rapidly changing societies, it has been easy for these forces to trumpet nationalist myths and gain adherents for their calls for closed borders and old values. The Muslim hordes are at the gates, they say; Brussels is just bureaucracy, trade is treason, and the United States is aggressive and alien. These have been the messages resonating in the valleys and on the plains of rural Austria.

While the politics in the past was about different ideas about a better future, this is about bringing protection against change and a future that many fear will be even more different. Previously you won elections by saying that tomorrow will be better than yesterday. These forces are promising to bring back a yesterday that they portray as better than the tomorrow they see coming.

Immigration is clearly one part of the story that Austria has had difficulties handling. But that voters in more diverse Vienna strongly rejected the siren songs of closed borders is a good sign in the darkness.

It was Karl Popper, born in Imperial Vienna, who not only conceived the ideas of open society but also warned of the “strain of civilization” that can occur when change is seen as too rapid, and the lure of a return to the tribe makes itself felt. [Continue reading…]

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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.

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