Far-right extremists blamed after Syrians beaten in Germany

NBC News reports: Violence against refugees in Germany reached new heights over the weekend as armed groups attacked Syrians in several towns.

The incidents included a group of at least 20 dark-clothed people — including some armed with baseball bats — targeting a group of asylum seekers early Sunday in Magdeburg, police said. Three Syrian men had to be treated in hospital for bruises and injuries to their faces. One of the attackers was arrested near the scene.

In Wismar, two Syrian men had to be treated in hospital after they were assaulted outside a building which is used as a shelter for refugees. Police said masked attackers armed with baseball bats and other weapons threatened and then beat the pair.

A 26-year-old asylum seeker was injured in Freital, Saxony, after an explosive device detonated in front of his bedroom window. A police spokesperson told NBC News they suspect that the act was motivated by right-wing extremism. [Continue reading…]


Germany’s growing hate problem

Der Spiegel reports: Germany has a hate problem — one that is growing.

“You’re as big of an asshole as that idiot Ralf Stegner,” a certain Birgit M. recently wrote in a letter to Thomas Kutschaty, justice minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It was a referrence to the deputy party leader of state chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who recently said the organizers of the weekly Pegida marches in Dresden and elsewhere should be investigated by intelligence services. “You should all be put in a sack and have a hammer taken to you,” Birgit M. wrote in her tirade.

Then there was the man who called Dorothea Moesch, a local SPD politician in Dortmund, late in the evening on June 30. “We’re going to get you,” he threatened. “We’re at your door.”

Another local SPD politician in Hesse, district administrator Erich Pipa, has been similarly threatened. “We can have you taken out at any time,” he was informed in a letter.

And in Bernau in the eastern state of Brandenburg, graffiti scrawled on the wall of a warehouse namechecking the local mayor reads, “First Henriette Reker (the mayoral candidate stabbed in Cologne last weekend), next André Stahl.”

These are but a few examples — four politicians who have taken a stand, and, if the threats are to be taken seriously, may now need to fear for their lives. Kutschaty fell into the crosshairs for saying, “Pegida is not about protecting the Western world, it’s about its demise.” Moesch, for her part, attracted ire because she organized a protest against right-wing extremism. Pipa became the target of hatred because he was recently awarded a Federal Cross of Merit, Germany’s highest civilian honor, for his longtime lobbying work on behalf of refugees. Finally, Stahl was the subject of denigration because of his public declaration that he wants refugees to feel welcome in his city. [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump: I would send Syrian refugees home

BBC News reports: Donald Trump has said he would send home all Syrian refugees the US accepts, if he becomes president.

The billionaire, who is the current frontrunner in the Republican race for the White House, told a New Hampshire rally: “If I win, they’re going back.”

It marks a reversal in policy – earlier this month he told Fox News the US should take in more refugees.

A migrant crisis has gripped parts of Europe and the US has pledged to take 10,000 refugees from Syria next year.

Half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in 2015, with the largest number from Syria, where 250,000 people have been killed in a civil war.

On Wednesday night, Mr Trump told an audience at Keene High School: “I hear we want to take in 200,000 Syrians. And they could be – listen, they could be Isis [Islamic State].”

Describing them as a “200,000-man army”, he later added: “I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, if I win, they’re going back.” [Continue reading…]


On the refugee issue, French politicians are paralyzed by fear

Sylvie Kauffmann writes: When the body of a Syrian toddler was washed up on a Turkish beach, most European newspapers put the excruciating picture on their front page. In France, the only major national paper to do so was Le Monde. Have we become numb?

Polls actually reveal some uncomfortable truths. The number of people in France opposed to taking in refugees from Syria, for example, has decreased since July, down from 64 percent to 56 percent, but they are still a majority. There is a strong partisan divide: 91 percent of National Front voters and 67 percent of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s supporters are against taking in more migrants, while 68 percent of Socialist voters and 73 percent of Green supporters are in favor.

There is also a generational and social divide; older and well-off people are more likely to accept migrants. The reason is simple: Older people have left the competition for jobs, and well-off people don’t live in neighborhoods with high immigrant populations. The age category most hostile to new immigrants is people 35 to 49; not surprisingly, it is also the one where the far-right National Front enjoys more support.

Marine Le Pen, the National Front leader, has not been very vocal on the migrant crisis — she doesn’t need to. Her party is the elephant in the room. Its 20 to 25 percent share of the votes over the past year partly explains why French politicians, with the belated exception of the Greens, are so silent about the refugee issue: They are paralyzed by fear, the fear of feeding the xenophobic National Front. [Continue reading…]


Europe’s fear of Muslim refugees echoes rhetoric of 1930s anti-Semitism

Ishaan Tharoor writes: Some governments in Eastern Europe have even specifically indicated they don’t want to accommodate non-Christian refugees, out of supposed fear over the ability of Muslims to integrate into Western society.

“Refugees are fleeing fear,” urged a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency last week. “Refugees are not to be feared.”

It’s important to recognize that this is hardly the first time the West has warily eyed masses of refugees. And while some characterize Muslim arrivals as a supposedly unique threat, the xenophobia of the present carries direct echoes of a very different moment: The years before World War II, when tens of thousands of German Jews were compelled to flee Nazi Germany.

Consider this 1938 article in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid still known for its bouts of right-wing populism. Its headline warned of “German Jews Pouring Into This Country.” And it began as follows:

“The way stateless Jews and Germans are pouring in from every port of this country is becoming an outrage. I intend to enforce the law to the fullest.”

In these words, Mr Herbert Metcalde, the Old Street Magistrate yesterday referred to the number of aliens entering this country through the ‘back door’ — a problem to which The Daily Mail has repeatedly pointed.

The number of aliens entering this country can be seen by the number of prosecutions in recent months. It is very difficult for the alien to escape the increasing vigilance of the police and port authorities.

Even if aliens manage to break through the defences, it is not long before they are caught and deported.

No matter the alarming rhetoric of Hitler’s fascist state — and the growing acts of violence against Jews and others — popular sentiment in Western Europe and the United States was largely indifferent to the plight of German Jews.

“Of all the groups in the 20th century,” write the authors of the 1999 book, “Refugees in the Age of Genocide,” “refugees from Nazism are now widely and popularly perceived as ‘genuine’, but at the time German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews were treated with ambivalence and outright hostility as well as sympathy.”

Part of that hostility was fueled, as some of the European grievances are now, by stereotypes of the refugees as harbingers of a dangerous ideology, in this instance communism and anarchist violence. [Continue reading…]


Neo-Nazi arsonists: German officials concerned by growing far-right networks

Der Spiegel reports: It was April 16 when around 100 right-wing extremists marched through the small town of Nauen in the eastern German state of Brandenburg. Their message: “Nein zum Heim!” or “No to the Hostel!” They carried posters and German flags along with them. “Nauen Will Stay White!” read one. “Take Action!” read another.

One day later, employees of Mikado, a local youth center, found that the tires of the center’s minibus had been slashed. There was a note under the windshield wiper reading: “Dear asylum friends, Tröglitz is here too.” The reference was to an arson attack on a refugee shelter not two weeks before in the town of Tröglitz in the eastern state of Saxony.

Skip ahead to Monday night a week ago when a planned asylum hostel — to be established inside a high school gymnasium — was gutted by flames in Nauen, just outside Berlin. The fire occurred just a short time before the first refugees were scheduled to move in. On the Tuesday evening after the fire, a group of 300 assembled for a vigil amid the biting stench of the rubble. Local politician Roger Lewandowski, of the conservative Christian Democrats, pledged that town residents wouldn’t be cowed by the attack. “If you shrink in the face of such attacks, gymnasiums and hostels will soon be burning everywhere.”


The fire in Nauen was the 27th at a German refugee hostel since 2012 — and the fifth within a single week. [Continue reading…]


Under the strain of refugees, which Germany will prevail? The dark or the bright?

Der Spiegel reports: Anger is in the air. Angela Merkel has come to Heidenau and the locals are lined up to see her. But it is anything but a friendly welcome: It is a crowd full of hate. Some call out: “Traitor to Your People!” Others yell “We Are the Pack,” a reference to Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel’s strong condemnation of right-wing, anti-refugee demonstrators.

It is the pride of idiots. After the chancellor disappears into the former building supplies store, where 400 refugees have found shelter, the residents of the small Saxony town begin talking about the outsiders who have become their temporary neighbors.

“Did you see the young men? Full of hormones and with nothing sensible to do. They can’t help but get dumb ideas,” says one tanned pensioner wearing a bike helmet. A woman nods and says she no longer allows her granddaughter to walk past the building supplies store alone.

A policeman with foreign features is standing in front of the villagers wearing a firearm and a baton, but his face is friendly. Eventually, he joins the discussion. “I was born in Germany in 1980, but my parents are from Afghanistan,” he says. “They came to escape the war with the Russians.” His German is flawless. The emblem of the Lower Saxony police force is displayed prominently on his breast. The Saxons around him listen closely. And are amazed.

“My father was a teacher in Afghanistan and my mother worked in the technical field,” the policeman says. “But of course they could no longer practice their professions here.” The young man speaks calmly, but insistently, looking at the people behind the police barricade directly in the eyes. He declines to give his name — not out of fear, but because he doesn’t want to speak of his political viewpoints while in uniform. The man with the Afghan parents has completely internalized Germany’s civil servant principles.

The Heidenau residents say nothing; their enmity goes silent for a short moment. For the first time all day. [Continue reading…]


Is the Ugly German back? Flames of hate haunt a nation

Der Spiegel reports: It’s a Monday night in July and Samuel Osei is frightened to death. Two neo-Nazis have entered the concrete bloc apartment building where Osei is staying, on the edge of Greifswald, a city in eastern Germany. The two men are drunk and swearing. Osei, an asylum-seeker from Ghana, steps out on his balcony and tries to placate them. “I’m sorry,” he calls out. But the right-wing extremists only grow more aggressive. They begin shouting. One of the two takes off his shirt and Osei recognizes a swastika on his chest.

The men storm into the building and begin pounding on the door to Osei’s apartment. They then go down to the basement and remove the fuses, cutting off the power. Osei cowers in his room in the dark. He calls a friend who in turn alerts the police. The attackers have already left by the time officers.
Osei chokes up when he talks about that evening a week and a half ago. Traces of the attack are still visible — the door is dented and its peephole shattered. “These guys wanted to put an end to something,” he says.

Osei, who is 29, has been living in Germany for eight months. He’s taking German lessons and earns his money by helping other refugees move. Osei likes Greifswald, which is located on the Baltic coast — he especially likes the sea and the Old Town. He says most people in the city are friendly and helpful. At the same time, he’s struggling with the animosity he has experienced at the hands of racists. [Continue reading…]


In America, infamy is as easy to acquire as a gun

In post 9/11 America, terrorism has been used to justify wars, drone strikes, torture, secret detention, kidnapping, extrajudicial killing, mass surveillance, and the unfettered expansion of the national security state.

In recent days, numerous commentators, many of whom have surely previously been disturbed by the way the fear of terrorism has been used to manipulate this country’s political system and global outlook, are nevertheless now arguing that in America today the term “terrorist” is not being used broadly enough.

Since the white male Charleston killer, Dylann Roof, is unlikely to be branded a terrorist by public officials or in most of the media, Anthea Butler suggests:

the go-to explanation for his alleged actions will be mental illness. He will be humanized and called sick, a victim of mistreatment or inadequate mental health resources.

Nevertheless, Butler writes:

The Charleston shooting is a result of an ingrained culture of racism and a history of terrorism in America. It should be covered as such. On Friday, Department of Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce acknowledged that the Charleston shooting “was undoubtedly designed to strike fear and terror into this community” (though terrorism is not among the nine murder charges brought against Roof, so far). And now that Roof has admitted to killing those people to start a “race war,” we should be calling him what he is: a terrorist.

Then what?

Ship him off to Guantánamo?

Terrorist is a politically charged and legally dubious term precisely because it gets used to shut down debate and curtail analysis. It is used to justify sidestepping due process and ignoring human rights.

The terrorist is the ghoul of modern America — the term functions more as an instrument of exorcism rather than illumination.

In America and elsewhere in the West, fear of terrorism dovetails with the inclinations to treat skin color as a mark of foreignness, and the tendency to view the foreign as threatening.

Calling Dylann Roof a white American terrorist, isn’t going to diminish the levels of racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia across this country.

Calling Roof a terrorist, merely elevates his infamy, grants him the attention he obviously craves and turns attention away from the flawed legal system that allowed a worm of hatred inside his mind to be transformed into an act of deadly violence.

In America, infamy is no harder to obtain than a gun.

I recognize that there is a common sentiment which justifiably perceives an undercurrent of racism in the way in which people get labelled terrorists — that it’s a term that sticks much more easily to non-whites and especially to Muslims — but I don’t think this indicates we lack a sufficiently expansive definition and application of the term.

On the contrary, we would be better off not using the term at all, rather than trying to make its application more racially inclusive.

Jared Keller argues:

by not calling Roof’s atrocity terrorism, we gloss over the past — and present — of white America’s war of terror against its black citizens.

To my mind, that assertion, much as it contains an element of truth, is also indicative of the cultural stranglehold with which the war-on-terrorism narrative continues to grip America, fourteen years after 9/11.

The only way in which we can sense the gravity of a mass killing is by calling it terrorism, because it goes without saying — supposedly — that nothing is more serious than terrorism.

The real problem here is not the failure to call Roof a terrorist, but rather a failure to acknowledge that America faces many issues that are actually much more serious than terrorism:

Racism, inequality, environmental degradation, an unsustainable economic system, and foundationally a societal breakdown that results from individual interests being placed above collective welfare.

In a mind-your-own-business society, the mass murderers always seemingly come out of nowhere. No one sees them coming, because no one was paying enough attention. A live-and-let-live philosophy easily shifts into a live-and-let-kill reality.

In a word, we live in a country where people do not care for each other enough.

We do not live in a country where the number of terrorists is being undercounted.

After the shooting, President Obama said: “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

But why wasn’t that point reached long ago? The signs of this ugly form of American exceptionalism has been evident for decades.

Most Americans don’t own a gun and yet gun owners are more likely to think of themselves as “a typical American” (72% vs. 62%). Indeed, gun owners are more likely to say they “often feel proud to be American” (64% vs. 51%).

The most vocal among the 24% of Americans who own a gun are using their weapons to intimidate the whole population. Through their arrogance, ignorance and selfishness, they seem to imagine they have a stronger claim on what it means to be an American than everyone else.

After the Charleston shootings, National Rifle Association board member Charles Cotton blamed the deaths on one of the dead, Clementa Pinckney, who as a state senator had voted against a law allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons without permits.

“Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead,” Cotton wrote. “Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

Gun owners like Cotton, regard guns as the protectors of freedom, and see gun control laws as threats to their own freedom. In practice, they prize their weapons more highly that the lives of the tens of thousands of Americans who get killed each year by firearms.

As Gary Younge writes:

America does not have a monopoly on racism. But what makes its racism so lethal is the ease with which people can acquire guns. While the new conversation around race will mean the political response to the fact of this attack will be different, the stale conversation around gun control means the legislative response to the nature of this attack will remain the same. Nothing will happen.

After Adam Lanza shot 20 primary school children and six adults in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, in 2012 before turning his gun on himself, nothing happened. Seven children and teens are shot dead every day in America and nothing happens.

So these nine victims will join those who perished before them – a sacrifice to the blood-soaked pedestal erected around the constitution’s second amendment that gun lobbyists say guarantees the right of individuals to bear arms.

At some point, America as a nation needs to challenge its superstitious reverence for a piece of paper, and demonstrate that it is no longer willing to see the lives of so many of its citizen’s needlessly wasted.


Is Marine Le Pen in bed with Putin?

The Daily Beast reports: On May 11, delegates from Europe’s political fringes travelled to Donetsk, the occupied ‘capital’ of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), for a forum to mark the first anniversary of the proclamation of the Russian-backed separatist entities in Ukraine. This in itself is unsurprising since far-right politicians have been used on several occasions to lend a veneer of legitimacy to Russia’s puppet statelets and sham votes since the invasion of Crimea last year.

The attendance roster for this confab included some familiar pro-Putin faces such as French far-right Member of European Parliament Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, Italian nationalist Alessandro Musolino and German neo-Nazi journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter, who moonlights as Kremlin propaganda channel RT’s German “expert” on the Middle East. But this time there was one surprising name in the bunch: Emmanuel Leroy.

Leroy was billed as representing the French charity, Urgence d’Enfants Ukraine (UEU), led by Alain Fragny, a former member of the extreme-right Bloc Identitaire. UEU is a suspicious organization that promotes pro-Russian and pro-separatist propaganda on its websites and is rather opaque with regards to its structure and operations. Leroy was also named by the official site of the DNR leadership as one of the initiators of the forum back in March this year.

But this infamously reclusive figure on France’s far-right is a far more interesting and important figure than any of the other political outliers to have participated in pro-separatist events.

Leroy is a former member of GRECE (Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne, or the Research and Study Group for European Civilization), an extreme, ethno-nationalist think tank, formed in 1968 and headed by Alain de Benoist, whose name appeared in a leaked list of potentially sympathetic contacts purportedly drafted by the Russian ultra-nationalist, Aleksandr Dugin. GRECE promotes ethnic nationalism as a bulwark against race-mixing, placing great emphasis on pre-Christian Nordic culture, which left the group at odds with the Catholic mainstream of the Front National, France’s increasingly popular far-right party, which last year won two seats in the French senate. [Continue reading…]


Risking death in the Mediterranean: the least bad option for so many migrants

Patrick Kingsley reports: Sobbing and shaking, Mohamed Abdallah tries to explain why he still wants to risk crossing the Mediterranean Sea in an inflatable boat. He sits in a migrant detention centre in Zawya, Libya, surrounded by hundreds of fellow asylum seekers who nearly died this week at sea.

They survived only after being intercepted, detained and brought back to shore by Libyan coastguards, ending a week in which they went round in circles, starving and utterly lost. But despite their horror stories, Abdallah, 21, says the journey that his fellow inmates barely withstood – and that killed more than 450 others this week – is his only option.

“I cannot go back to my country,” says Abdallah, who is from Darfur, in Sudan. He left for what is now South Sudan in 2006, after he says his village was destroyed in the Darfur war, his father died, and his sisters raped. But in South Sudan, another war later broke out. So he made his way through the Sahara, a journey that he says killed his brother and cousin, to Libya. And there last year, he was witness to his third civil war in a decade – a war that still drags on, its frontline just a few miles from the camp at Zawya.

“There is a war in my country, there’s no security, no equality, no freedom,” Abdallah says. “But if I stay here, it’s just like my country. There is no security, there is violence. When you work, they take your money.”

He worked in a soap shop, and saved up to pay local smugglers for the boat to Europe. But just as he hoped to complete the payment, he was robbed, and then arrested. The recounting of his ordeal brings out first the tears, and then a conclusion: “I need to go to Europe.” [Continue reading…]


Europe’s war on migrants — while we argue, thousands perish in the Mediterranean

By Heaven Crawley, Coventry University

The latest refugee deaths in the Mediterranean – 700 people drowned when the overcrowded fishing vessel in which they were travelling from North Africa capsized of the coast of Libya follows a similar tragedy last week in which 400 people perished.

In October 2013, more than 360 people – mostly from Eritrea – lost their lives when their boat caught fire and sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. In September 2014 more than 500 migrants were deliberately killed at sea. The attack allegedly occurred after the migrants refused to board a smaller boat in the open water and the traffickers reportedly laughed as they drowned, hacking at the hands of those who tried to cling to the wreckage. Witnesses report that as many as 100 children were on board.

In the absence of official records, or bodies to count, it’s hard to say exactly how many people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) released a report in late September 2014 putting the number at 3,072, accounting for 75% of worldwide migrant deaths. But with so many lost at sea or along the way, the real figure could be far higher.

[Read more…]


The rise and fall of PEGIDA: how the anti-Islam movement has changed German politics

Derek Scally writes: The grassroots Islam-critical movement appears to be imploding after a mass walkout of leading figures on Wednesday. But whether it goes under or not is far less interesting than the effect it has had on German politics.

In just three months it grew exponentially via Facebook, stripping away the politically-correct veneer of German public debate to reveal – and reactivate – the slumbering intolerance beneath.

For many it’s a worrying sign that populism is in, Islam is fair game and Germany’s race to the political bottom is on. A pertinent question posed by Pegida’s rise and possible fall is: who stands to benefit?

The nascent Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Saxony could offer a political home to the 25,000 people who marched through Dresden to express concern at the supposed “islamisation of the west”.

The AfD pulled in nearly 10 per cent at its first state election in Saxony last September by going beyond euro criticism to appeal to conservative voters’ worst instincts: warning of “criminal” foreigners and protesting against mosques. [Continue reading…]


Who can become a head of state?

A new Pew Research analysis finds that 30 of the world’s countries (15%) belong to a unique group of nations that call for their heads of state to have a particular religious affiliation. From monarchies to republics, candidates (including descendants of royal monarchies) in these countries must belong to a specific religious group.

This list includes Lebanon, which requires its president to be a member of the Maronite Christian Church. On Wednesday, Lebanon’s parliament will make a ninth attempt since May at filling the office.

More than half of the countries with religion-related restrictions on their heads of state (17) maintain that the office must be held by a Muslim. In Jordan, for example, the heir to the throne must be a Muslim child of Muslim parents. In Tunisia, any Muslim male or female voter born in the country may qualify as a candidate for president. Malaysia, Pakistan and Mauritania also restrict their heads of state to Muslim citizens.

Two countries, Lebanon and Andorra, require their heads of state to have a Christian affiliation. Lebanon also has a religious requirement of its prime minister, who must be a Sunni Muslim.

Two other countries require the heads of their monarchies be Buddhist: Bhutan and Thailand. And one country, Indonesia, requires the official state belief in Pancasila to be upheld by its head of state. Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country; Pancasila is a summation of “common cultural elements” of Indonesia, including belief in God.

A handful of countries do not require a particular religious affiliation for heads of state, but do limit candidates for the office to laypersons. Eight countries, including Bolivia, Mexico and El Salvador, specifically prohibit clergy from running in presidential elections. In Burma (Myanmar), the president is prohibited from being a member of a religious order.

Countries where the head of state is a ceremonial monarch.In addition to the 30 countries in this analysis, another 19 nations have religious requirements for ceremonial monarchs who serve as their heads of state. Sixteen of these, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, are members of the Commonwealth of Nations with Queen Elizabeth II – also known as the Defender of the Faith – as their head of state. The other countries in this category are Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Before Americans start feeling too smug about the secular traditions of this country, it’s worth being reminded about one of the most irony-laden clauses of the U.S. Constitution: the natural-born-citizen clause.

Only a “natural born” American can become president — a native American, one might say, so long as it was understood this didn’t actually mean a native American.

Only a nation of immigrants invested deeply in an a relentless denial of its own history could fabricate such a contrived definition of what it means to be a real American. “Natural born” is really just another name for xenophobia.


Xenophobia inside the FBI

The New York Times reports: The F.B.I. is subjecting hundreds of its employees who were born overseas or have relatives or friends there to an aggressive internal surveillance program that started after Sept. 11, 2001, to prevent foreign spies from coercing newly hired linguists but that has been greatly expanded since then.

The program has drawn criticism from F.B.I. linguists, agents and other personnel with foreign language and cultural skills, and with ties abroad. They complain they are being discriminated against by a secretive “risk-management” plan that the agency uses to guard against espionage. This limits their assignments and stalls their careers, according to several employees and their lawyers.

Employees in the program — called the Post-Adjudication Risk Management plan, or PARM — face more frequent security interviews, polygraph tests, scrutiny of personal travel, and reviews of, in particular, electronic communications and files downloaded from databases.

Some of these employees, including Middle Eastern and Asian personnel who have been hired to fill crucial intelligence and counterterrorism needs, say they are being penalized for possessing the very skills and background that got them hired. They are notified about their inclusion in the program and the extra security requirements, but are not told precisely why they have been placed in it and apparently have no appeal or way out short of severing all ties with family and friends abroad. [Continue reading…]


Islamophobic ‘pinstripe Nazis’ take to the streets in Germany

The Guardian reports: Its members have been dubbed the “pinstriped Nazis” and they refer to their demonstrations as “evening strolls” through German cities. But on Monday night, an estimated 15,000 people joined Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West, in a march through Dresden carrying banners bearing slogans such as “Zero tolerance towards criminal asylum seekers”, “Protect our homeland” and “Stop the Islamisation”.

Lutz Bachmann, the head of Pegida, a nascent anti-foreigner campaign group, led the crowds, either waving or draped in German flags, in barking chants of “Wir sind das Volk”, or “We are the people”, the slogan adopted by protesters in the historic “Monday demonstrations” against the East German government in the runup to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Associating themselves with the freedom demonstrations has given Pegida protests an air of moral respectability even though there are hundreds of rightwing extremists in their midst, as well as established groups of hooligans who are known to the police, according to Germany’s federal office for the protection of the constitution.

“The instigators are unmistakably rightwing extremists,” a federal spokesman said.

It was the ninth week in a row that Pegida had taken its protest on to the city’s streets in the eastern German state of Saxony.

Its first march, advertised on Facebook and other social media, attracted just 200 supporters. By last week the figure had risen to 10,000. By Monday night it had grown to an estimated 15,000. [Continue reading…]


Aviva Chomsky: What’s at stake in the border debate

The militarization of the police has been underway since 9/11, but only in the aftermath of the six-shot killing of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, with photos of streets in a St. Louis suburb that looked like occupied Iraq or Afghanistan, has the fact of it, the shock of it, seemed to hit home widely.  Congressional representatives are now proposing bills to stop the Pentagon from giving the latest in war equipment to local police forces.  The president even interrupted his golfing vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to return to Washington, in part for “briefings” on the ongoing crisis in Ferguson.  So militarization is finally a major story.

And that’s no small thing.  On the other hand, the news from Ferguson can’t begin to catch the full process of militarization this society has been undergoing or the way America’s distant wars are coming home. We have, at least, a fine book by Radley Balko on how the police have been militarized.  Unfortunately, on the subject of the militarization of the country, there is none.  And yet from armed soldiers in railway stations to the mass surveillance of Americans, from the endless celebration of our “warriors” to the domestic use of drones, this country has been undergoing a significant process of militarization (and, if there were such a word, national securitization).

Perhaps nowhere has this been truer than on America’s borders and on the subject of immigration.  It’s no longer “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  The U.S. is in the process of becoming a citadel nation with up-armored, locked-down borders and a Border Patrol operating in a “Constitution-free zone” deep into the country.  The news is regularly filled with discussions of the need to “bolster border security” in ways that would have been unimaginable to previous generations.  In the meantime, the Border Patrol is producing its own set of Ferguson-style killings as, like SWAT teams around the U.S., it adopts an ever more militarized mindset and the weaponry to go with it.  As James Tomsheck, the former head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, put it recently, “It has been suggested by Border Patrol leadership that they are the Marine Corps of the U.S. law enforcement community.  The Border Patrol has a self-identity of a paramilitary border security force and not that of a law enforcement organization.”

It’s in this context that the emotional flare-up over undocumented Central American children crossing the southern border by the thousands took place.  In fact, without the process of militarization, that “debate” — with its discussion of “invasions,” “surges,” “terrorists,” and “tip of the spear” solutions — makes no sense.  Its language was far more appropriate to the invasion and occupation of Iraq than the arrival in this country of desperate kids, fleeing hellish conditions, and often looking for their parents.

Aviva Chomsky is the author of a new history of just how the words “immigration” and “illegal” became wedded — it wasn’t talked about that way not so many decades ago — and how immigrants became demonized in ways that are familiar in American history.  The Los Angeles Times has hailed Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal for adding “smart, new, and provocative scholarship to the immigration debate.” As in her book, so today at TomDispatch, Chomsky puts the most recent version of the immigration “debate” into a larger context, revealing just what we prefer not to see in our increasingly up-armored nation. Tom Engelhardt

America’s continuing border crisis
The real story behind the “invasion” of the children
By Aviva Chomsky

Call it irony or call it a nightmare, but the “crisis” of Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, which lasted for months amid fervent and angry debate, is now fading from the news.  The media stories have been legion, the words expended many.  And yet, as the “crisis” leaves town, as the sound and fury die down and attention shifts elsewhere (even though the children continue to arrive), the real factors that would have made sense of what’s been happening remain essentially untouched and largely unmentioned.  It couldn’t be stranger — or sadder.

Since late June 2014, the “surge” of those thousands of desperate children entering this country has been in the news.  Sensational stories were followed by fervent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations with emotions running high.  And it’s not a debate that stayed near the southern border either.  In my home state, Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick tearfully offered to detain some of the children — and that was somehow turned into a humanitarian gesture that liberals applauded and anti-immigrant activists decried.  Meanwhile the mayor of Lynn, a city north of Boston, echoed nativists on the border, announcing that her town didn’t want any more immigrants.  The months of this sort of emotion, partisanship, and one-upmanship have, however, diverted attention from the real issues.  As so often is the case, there is so much more to the story than what we’ve been hearing in the news.

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The attack at the Jewish museum in Belgium highlights what?

Following the arrest of Mehdi Nemmouche, a French citizen who is suspected of killing four people at a Jewish museum in Belgium two weeks, the “big eye-opener … is that he had recently returned from Syria,” writes Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com.

Seemingly, the oft-repeated predictions that Western Muslims, radicalized in Syria, are destined to come home and terrorize their fellow citizens, are coming true.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

French President François Hollande confirmed that a suspect had been arrested and repeated his country’s determination to do all it could to stop radicalized youths from carrying out attacks.

French media reports said Nemmouche was also suspected of having stayed with jihadist groups last year while in Syria, where Islamist insurgents have been playing a major part in the three-year uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Muhammad Merah, the Franco- Algerian who died in a police shootout in Toulouse in March 2012 after killing three soldiers and four Jews, three of them children, also had links with Islamist insurgents. His sister, Souad, has since disappeared and is believed to be in Syria with a companion and her four children.

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said that “there must be a lot of Merahs coming back [to France] from Syria.”

According to intelligence specialists, the largest number of European jihadists is in Belgium, a country with a sizable number of North African Arab immigrants.

It’s disturbing that the perspective of some members of the antiwar movement, the Western political mainstream, and the anti-immigrant European far right have come into such close alignment.

But buried in the Jerusalem Post report is a detail that should have garnered more attention: Nemmouche’s own attorney’s explanation about the radicalization of his client.

Salifa Badaoui said that Nemmouche “was not frequenting the mosque [and] was not talking about religion at all….He became radical only in jail, after falling into minor criminality during his adolescence.” Nemmouche served time in prison in 2009 and 2012.

In other words, if we are to understand the process of radicalization that may have led to the murders in Brussels, we should be giving as much if not more attention to Nemmouche’s experiences in France rather than those in Syria.

Last year, Reuters reported:

In France, the path to radical Islam often begins with a minor offence that throws a young man into an overcrowded, violent jail and produces a hardened convert ready for jihad.

With the country on heightened security alert since January when French troops began fighting al Qaeda-linked Islamists in Mali, authorities are increasingly worried about home-grown militants emerging from France’s own jails.

But despite government efforts to tackle the problem, conditions behind bars are still turning young Muslims into easy prey for jhadist recruiters, according to guards, prison directors, ex-inmates, chaplains and crime experts interviewed over the last few months by Reuters.

“I have parents who come to me and say: ‘My son went in a dealer and came out a fundamentalist’,” said Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the mosque in Drancy, a gritty suburb north of Paris.

As petty criminals become radicalized in jail, the society to which they return is inclined to reinforce their experience of alienation and solidify their ideological conclusions.
In 2012, France 24 reported:

French Muslims have become the target of a marked increase in Islamophobic violence and actions, as well as incendiary statements by politicians, over the last two years, according to a report by a leading anti-racism observatory.

The number of racist acts against Muslims in France is increasing “alarmingly”, according to the country’s National Observatory of Islamophobia, whose president has called for overt Islamophobia to be taken as seriously as anti-Semitism, which is a criminal offence in France.

According to a report by the Observatory, which claims to fight “all forms of racism and xenophobia”, “in 2011 the number [of anti-Muslim attacks] was up 34% on the previous year … but what is happening in 2012 is alarming. Between January and the end of October there were 175 reported Islamophobic acts, a 42% increase compared with the same period in 2011.”

The report highlighted the occupation of a building site of a new mosque in Poitiers, near Paris, by 74 members of the extreme-right splinter group “Generation Identity”, who chanted hostile “warlike” slogans against Islam and Muslims.

The Observatory’s President Abdallah Zekri told FRANCE 24 that the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in France could be partly explained by “the tense socio-political atmosphere in France being driven by a resurgence of the far right”.

The huge success of Le Pen’s National Front in this May’s elections suggests that European leaders have less reason to highlight the threat posed by jihadists returning from Syria than they should fear the huge wave of xenophobia now sweeping the continent.