Merkel’s party slumps in Berlin election, but don’t count her out for 2017

By Daniel Hough, University of Sussex

Angela Merkel’s CDU is having a tough time of late. The latest blow came via the Berlin state parliament election, where the party managed to cling on to second place but was dumped out of the city’s government.

This was the CDU’s worst ever performance in an election in the German capital. It took a meagre 18% of the vote (down from 23.3% in 2011).

The Social Democrats (SPD) also lost votes (down from 28.3% to around 22%), as did the Greens (from just over 17% to around 15.5%). The one consolation for the SPD and Greens is that they are likely to be key players in the next Berlin government – even if as part of a rather broad and unwieldy left-wing coalition alongside the Left Party.

The main winners, as had been widely predicted, were the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD was nowhere in sight in 2011, but took around 13% of the vote this time round. A heavily anti-immigration (and particularly anti-refugee) rhetoric has chimed with parts of the electorate beyond Berlin, and the party now sits in 10 of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments. It is almost certain to add Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, Northrhine-Westphalia and the federal parliament to this list in 2017.

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Hate crimes against American Muslims most since post-9/11 era

The New York Times reports: Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to data compiled by researchers, an increase apparently fueled by terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad and by divisive language on the campaign trail.

The trend has alarmed hate crime scholars and law-enforcement officials, who have documented hundreds of attacks — including arsons at mosques, assaults, shootings and threats of violence — since the beginning of 2015.

While the most current hate crime statistics from the F.B.I. are not expected until November, new data from researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes against American Muslims were up 78 percent over the course of 2015. Attacks on those perceived as Arab rose even more sharply.

Police and news media reports in recent months have indicated a continued flow of attacks, often against victims wearing traditional Muslim garb or seen as Middle Eastern.

Some scholars believe that the violent backlash against American Muslims is driven not only by the string of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States that began early last year, but also by the political vitriol from candidates like Donald J. Trump, who has called for a ban on immigration by Muslims and a national registry of Muslims in the United States. [Continue reading…]

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About the ‘basket of deplorables’

Charles Blow writes: What Clinton said [about “deplorable” Trump supporters] was impolitic, but it was not incorrect. There are things a politician cannot say. Luckily, I’m not a politician.

Donald Trump is a deplorable candidate — to put it charitably — and anyone who helps him advance his racial, religious and ethnic bigotry is part of that bigotry. Period. Anyone who elevates a sexist is part of that sexism. The same goes for xenophobia. You can’t conveniently separate yourself from the detestable part of him because you sense in him the promise of cultural or economic advantage. That hair cannot be split.

Furthermore, one doesn’t have to actively hate to contribute to a culture that allows hate to flourish.

It doesn’t matter how lovely your family, how honorable your work or service, how devout your faith — if you place ideological adherence or economic self interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.

And there is some evidence that Trump’s supporters don’t simply have a passive, tacit acceptance of an undesirable platform, but instead have an active set of beliefs that support what is deplorable in Trump.

In state after state that Trump won during the primaries, he won a majority or near majority of voters who supported a temporary ban on Muslims entering this country and who supported deporting immigrants who are in this country illegally.

In June a Reuters/Ipsos poll found: “Nearly half of Trump’s supporters described African-Americans as more ‘violent’ than whites. The same proportion described African-Americans as more ‘criminal’ than whites, while 40 percent described them as more ‘lazy’ than whites.”

A Pew poll released in February found that 65 percent of Republicans believe the next president should “speak bluntly even if critical of Islam as a whole” when talking about Islamic extremists. [Continue reading…]

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I’ve become a racist’: Migrant wave unleashes Danish tensions over identity

The New York Times reports: Johnny Christensen, a stout and silver-whiskered retired bank employee, always thought of himself as sympathetic to people fleeing war and welcoming to immigrants. But after more than 36,000 mostly Muslim asylum seekers poured into Denmark over the past two years, Mr. Christensen, 65, said, “I’ve become a racist.”

He believes these new migrants are draining Denmark’s cherished social-welfare system but failing to adapt to its customs. “Just kick them out,” he said, unleashing a mighty kick at an imaginary target on a suburban sidewalk. “These Muslims want to keep their own culture, but we have our own rules here and everyone must follow them.”

Denmark, a small and orderly nation with a progressive self-image, is built on a social covenant: In return for some of the world’s highest wages and benefits, people are expected to work hard and pay into the system. Newcomers must quickly learn Danish — and adapt to norms like keeping tidy gardens and riding bicycles.

The country had little experience with immigrants until 1967, when the first “guest workers” were invited from Turkey, Pakistan and what was then Yugoslavia. Its 5.7 million people remain overwhelmingly native born, though the percentage has dropped to 88 today from 97 in 1980.

Bo Lidegaard, a prominent historian, said many Danes feel strongly that “we are a multiethnic society today, and we have to realize it — but we are not and should never become a multicultural society.”

The recent influx pales next to the one million migrants absorbed into Germany or the 163,000 into Sweden last year, but the pace shocked this stable, homogeneous country. The center-right government has backed harsh measures targeting migrants, hate speech has spiked, and the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party is now the second largest in Parliament. [Continue reading…]

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German anti-immigrant party beats Merkel in her home district

The New York Times reports: Voters in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political home state delivered her a stinging rebuke on Sunday, propelling a far-right party to second place in the state legislature, ahead of her center-right bloc.

It is the first time in an election in modern Germany that a far-right party has overtaken Ms. Merkel’s bloc of Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.

Official results released early Monday showed that Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats had received 19 percent of the vote, against 21 percent for the far-right Alternative for Germany. The center-left Social Democrats, with whom Ms. Merkel governs nationally, got 31 percent in the state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and are likely to continue their coalition there with Ms. Merkel’s bloc.

The vote took place a year to the day after Ms. Merkel agreed with Austria that the two countries would admit thousands of mostly Syrian refugees then trapped in Hungary, with several hundred desperately marching on foot toward the West.

Although Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has only 1.3 million eligible voters in a country of 81 million people, Sunday’s elections were seen as an indicator of Ms. Merkel’s political strength and as the real start of the campaign for national elections, due by fall of next year. [Continue reading…]

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Muslim gathering laments a ‘normalization of bigotry’

The New York Times reports: An imam of a mosque in New York City and his associate shot dead while strolling following afternoon prayers. A presidential candidate calling for Muslims to be barred from entering the United States. Muslim women harassed and physically attacked in Chicago while walking to their car.

During the Islamic Society of North America convention that started here on Friday, official speakers said these actions had become all too commonplace in the United States.

“In this political climate, we’ve seen a normalization of bigotry,” said Altaf Husain, an associate professor at Howard University and a vice president of the society, whose convention here is the largest Muslim gathering in the United States and Canada.

But Mr. Husain, expressing what he said was the sentiment of many other American Muslims, said the Obama administration had made it a priority to bolster engagement with Muslims across the country. The latest example of the administration’s engagement came Saturday night when Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, became the first sitting cabinet member to address the Islamic Society’s convention.

Mr. Johnson said his speech was part of a sustained outreach effort that has taken him from the suburbs of Washington to Minneapolis to Los Angeles, where he has met with community leaders and visited mosques, while fielding questions about racial profiling and anti-Muslim speech on the presidential campaign trail.

In his address, Mr. Johnson told the audience that their lives were “the quintessential American story.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s political police at the gates of America

Timothy Egan writes: Give me your extreme-vetted, your ideologically certified, your elite. Send only the smartest, the best-connected, the richest to our shores. No losers, no freethinkers, and no ugly people, please.

In the hate speech that Donald Trump gave on immigration in Phoenix on Wednesday night, he all but deported the Statue of Liberty, laying out one of the darkest visions of the American experience that any major-party nominee has ever given. Despite the media misread by some who presented the speech as a pivot, it got rave reviews from neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan supporters, and prompted some of Trump’s few Latino advisers to resign in protest. “Excellent speech,” said David Duke, the former Klan leader.

In Trump’s America, those working in the shadows are not the lawn cutters, Sheetrock hangers, fruit pickers or nannies we see in every community, but the criminal dregs. Under his rules, this country would have closed its doors long ago to those who made the United States the great experiment, unique to the world. He would have shut off the flow of people whose best and perhaps only asset at the time was desire for a better life. [Continue reading…]

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Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen: One of them will shape Europe’s future

Natalie Nougayrède writes: Two very different women hold Europe’s future in their hands – and neither of them is Theresa May. The battle for Europe’s soul is being waged between Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen. This is a clash of personalities and visions: Germany’s chancellor v the leader of France’s Front National, the largest far-right party in Europe. As Britain prepares to leave the EU, the Franco-German dimension of the continent’s destiny has arguably never been so important since the end of the cold war. What is at stake is momentous: whether Europe can survive as a project, and whether fundamental principles such as the rule of law, democracy and tolerance can be salvaged. The battle will play out nationally in 2017, in key elections in France and Germany, but it concerns all Europeans.

It may seem strange to reduce Europe’s existential crises to just one personal confrontation. Merkel has been in power since 2005 and is trying to remain there, while Le Pen may dream of being in office but has never approached it (last year her party failed to take control of a single French region in local elections). Some may ask: why would a French opposition figure count more than the man currently sitting in the Elysée Palace? But François Hollande has become so weak – even more so with this week’s resignation of his economics minister, Emmanuel Macron – and terrorism has transformed French politics to such a degree that Le Pen’s prospects now stand out as a key defining factor of where France, and Europe for that matter, may be heading.

It is only partly reassuring to say that Le Pen has little chance of becoming president next year (the French electoral system makes that difficult). The trouble is, in recent months, her brand of anti-Muslim, xenophobic and nationalistic politics has spread across the French mainstream right like wildfire. Le Pen is fast capitalising on this summer’s burkini episode and on the national trauma left by jihadi terrorism. It’s hard to see which French politician or movement can find the authority and strength to push back against her ideas, or counter their appeal among the French suburban middle classes as well as in rural areas. Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to win primaries in November, but his whole strategy hinges on imitating rather than disputing Le Pen’s line of thinking. [Continue reading…]

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Fatal beating of Polish man fuels bebate over xenophobia in Britain

The New York Times reports: Two Polish immigrants were eating takeout pizza against a brick wall on a muggy night in Harlow, a working-class town about 20 miles northeast of central London.

As they chatted in Polish, witnesses said, a group of young boys and girls attacked them. The group repeatedly pummeled and kicked one of the men, Arkadiusz Jozwik, 40, a meat factory worker, in the head. He died two days later from his injuries, in a killing that the police are investigating as a possible hate crime.

The second man, who was not identified by the police, was hospitalized with bruises and hand fractures.

Six boys from Harlow — five 15-year-olds and one 16-year-old — have been arrested on suspicion of murder in the attack, which occurred shortly before midnight on Saturday. All have been released on bail. The police have appealed for witnesses to come forward, and they said they were investigating reports that the attackers had hurled racist abuse at the victims.

The brutality of the killing and its apparent targeting of immigrants shocked many Britons and prompted soul-searching. It renewed alarm among Eastern European immigrants that the campaign leading to Britain’s decision in a June 23 referendum to leave the European Union, known as “Brexit,” has unleashed a wave of xenophobia. [Continue reading…]

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Why we’re wrong to blame immigrants for our sputtering economies

By Kevin Shih, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Immigrants have become a major scapegoat in recent years for sputtering Western economies.

From the U.K.’s jarring “Brexit” from the European Union to Donald Trump’s infamous wall and more recent proposal to apply “extreme vetting” to those wishing to enter the U.S., many politicians have found success by casting immigrants as a threat to the physical, social and economic welfare of natives.

In short, Americans (and our European brethren) are unhappy, and many are convinced immigration brings harm. A recent poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans think immigration, including the legal kind, “jeopardizes the United States.”

While it has become a popular notion in the West that immigrants jeopardize the job prospects of natives, over 30 years of economic research (including my own) gives strong reason to believe otherwise.

And in fact, the opposite may be more likely: There’s evidence immigrants actually promote more economic growth.

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How immigrant athletes at the Olympics keep on beating Trumpism

Ben Geman writes: On Saturday night, the British distance runner Mo Farah will try and become the first athlete to sweep the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races at consecutive Olympics since Finland’s Lasse Viren won both in 1972 and 1976. Farah has already found a heart-stopping way to pay homage to the Finn, albeit accidentally. Viren famously fell mid-race during the 10,000-meter in 1972 but managed to get up and still win. Forty-four years later, in the middle of last Saturday’s 10,000 in Rio, Farah got tangled up with the American runner Galen Rupp, his friend and sometime training partner, and went crashing onto the track. It briefly looked as though Farah’s race was over. But he sprang up, rejoined the pack, and won in the same way he’s dominated the biggest international races for a half-decade: by separating himself from runners still in the mix and entering the final lap with a blistering closing kick.

Farah is tangled up with forces off the track too. He’s an immigrant who came to England from Somalia in order to escape conflict there at the age of eight. Time and again in recent years, the 33-year-old Farah, a devout Muslim, has prayed on the track and draped himself in the British flag after crossing the line for wins on the biggest stage, including at London’s 2012 games and then biennial World Championships in Russia and China in 2013 and 2015.

Still, Farah has faced claims that he’s not truly a British athlete throughout his career. In an ugly incident last year after Farah set the European record in the half-marathon, the man he took it from, Spain’s Fabian Roncero, dismissed the feat, reportedly claiming that an athlete “born in Somalia is Somali forever.” And this year’s Olympics are unfolding at a very different and even more fraught political moment than Farah’s earlier wins, arriving just weeks after anti-immigrant sentiment helped elicit Britain’s exit from the European Union. Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump has made condemning immigrants a pillar of his campaign to capture the GOP nomination and the White House. [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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