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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A terror attack, then far right moves in


Poland refuses to accept refugees after Brussels attack

Al Jazeera reports: Poland’s prime minister says his country is no longer prepared to take the 7,000 refugees it agreed to accept in negotiations with the European Union because of the deadly Brussels attacks.

Beata Szydlo said on Wednesday that she does “not see any possibility for the refugees to come to Poland” after explosions rocked the Belgian capital a day earlier, according to Polish broadcaster Superstacja.

Poland had planned to admit an initial 400 refugees this year, and the rest would be allowed in over the next three years.

Last year, thousands of Poles took to the streets and social media to promote participation in anti-refugee marches across the country, organised by far-right nationalist movements such as the National Radical Camp.

In October, President Andrzej Duda said the government should take steps to protect its citizens from refugees bringing in “possible epidemics.” [Continue reading…]


Are we to be a nation of such barbarous temper?

The Guardian reports: The last surviving play script handwritten by William Shakespeare, in which he imagines Sir Thomas More making an impassioned plea for the humane treatment of refugees, is to be made available online by the British Library.

The manuscript is one of 300 newly digitised treasures shining a light on the wider society and culture that helped shape Shakespeare’s imagination. All will be available to view on a new website before an extensive exhibition on the playwright at the library next month.

The Book of Sir Thomas More script is particularly poignant given the current European migration crisis.

The powerful scene, featuring More challenging anti-immigration rioters in London, was written at a time when there were heightened tensions over the number of French Protestants (Huguenots) seeking asylum in the capital.

“It is a really stirring piece of rhetoric,” said the library’s curator, Zoe Wilcox. “At its heart it is really about empathy. More is calling on the crowds to empathise with the immigrants or strangers as they are called in the text. He is asking them to imagine what it would be like if they went to Europe, if they went to Spain or Portugal, they would then be strangers. He is pleading with them against what he calls their ‘mountainous inhumanity’.

“It is striking and sad just how relevant it seems to us now considering what is happening in Europe.” [Continue reading…]

You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity. [Source]


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

By Sergi Pardos-Prado, University of Oxford

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

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

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

What explains the success?

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

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

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

[Read more…]


German election: Is this really a verdict on Merkel’s open door to refugees?

By Katharina Karcher, University of Cambridge

Three German federal states have elected new parliaments in regional votes that have seen major gains made by Alternative for Germany (AfD), a right-wing populist party that wants drastically to reduce immigration to Germany.
State parliaments in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt have been reshuffled, although the AfD didn’t actually come first in any of the votes.

These elections were being framed as a verdict on Merkel’s “open-door” refugee policy. Critics of her pro-refugee stance have been eager to observe that it has isolated her in her own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and alienated many voters. Now, they say, the electorate has punished the whole party for Merkel’s single-handed attempt to help refugees.

At first glance, it seems they were right. The CDU has lost votes in all three federal states, and more than a few former CDU voters have switched to supporting the AfD.

The anti-Merkel, anti-establishment, anti-immigration rhetoric appealed particularly to voters in Saxony-Anhalt, where the AfD became the second-strongest party. It also secured good results in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, winning more than 10% of the vote.

But to suggest that Merkel’s refugee policy sent voters “flocking to the populist party” is wrong, even dangerous.

[Read more…]


Why Trump’s endorsements should scare your pants off

Matt Taibbi writes: Earlier this week, an African-American protester was sucker-punched by a 78-year-old man in a cowboy hat at a Trump rally in North Carolina. The video went viral, and reporters later tracked down John McGraw, the red-faced Trumpthusiast who’d thrown the punch. McGraw explained why he’d belted Rakeem Jones:

“Number one, we don’t know if he’s ISIS,” McGraw said.

One has to commend the Inside Edition reporter doing the interview for not bursting out laughing, or dropping to the ground in shock, at this moment. McGraw went on:

“The next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” he said. “We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”

That same night, Trump told Anderson Cooper he wasn’t backing down from his plan to bar all Muslims from entering the country. “I think Islam hates us,” he said, adding, “It’s very hard to separate because you don’t know who is who. We have to be very vigilant.”

These episodes are like a child’s game of “telephone,” only played with bone-ignorant adults. The game starts when Trump personifies “Islam” under one label, apparently not realizing that this represents an awesomely diverse collection of people who collectively represent about a quarter of the world’s population. [Continue reading…]


Germany’s Trump-like problem: Right-wing, anti-foreigner movement poised for big election win

The Los Angeles Times reports: A populist far-right German party that has fiercely attacked the government for letting in more than a million refugees in the last year is expected to be the big winner in three important state elections Sunday that will serve as a referendum on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s controversial open-door policies.

The party has aimed its appeal to German voters with a shrill anti-foreigner bent that has some similarities to Donald Trump’s bid to win the Republican nomination for U.S. president.

The Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, has campaigned hard against refugees streaming into the country, mostly from Syria and Iraq, and it has surged in public opinion polls from about 3% last summer to as high as 20% ahead of elections in three of Germany’s 16 states. That is far above the 4.7% the AfD won in the 2013 federal election just half a year after it was formed mainly to oppose Europe’s single currency, the euro, and the expensive European Union financial bailouts to Greece. [Continue reading…]


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

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

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

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


Trump’s is the ugly face of a political insurgency that spans the Atlantic


Philip Stephens writes: The terms of politics in many of the world’s advanced democracies had changed well before [Donald Trump] joined the Republican primary contest. If the party of Lincoln now risks being devoured by its own terrible creation, the European model of consensual centrism has been under threat for some time. Mr Trump’s flair, if you can call it that, has been in riding the wave.

Populists in Europe fume against the same supposed conspiracy of the elites that Mr Trump claims is doing down America’s middle classes. The binding threads of the shared populism are angry nationalism and state intervention. Europeans used to call it national socialism. Mr Trump wants to expel Mexicans and bar Muslims. In France, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen is bidding for the presidency on a platform of Islamophobia and state capitalism. Both are unabashed admirers of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The other day a proudly neo-Nazi party — complete with sinister black uniforms and lightning flashes — won seats in the Slovakian parliament. In neighbouring Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orban presides over an authoritarian regime that is hostile to Muslims, permissive of anti-Semitism and blames foreign capital for the country’s economic ills. Poland’s politics have swung towards the xenophobic right. Nationalists are on the march in Scandinavia and Italy. And while populists on the far right rail against migrants, their cousins on the extreme left join them in blaming globalisation for economic ills.

Germany, hitherto a linchpin of the continent’s political stability, faces the beginnings of its own insurgency in the rise of the Eurosceptic and anti-migrant Alternative für Deutschland party. In Britain, the movement to take Britain out of the EU has its own populist hue. Mr Trump promises to make America great again by throwing up the barricades. Boris Johnson, the ambitious mayor of London, pledges that Brexit would see Britons “take back control” of the nation’s borders. [Continue reading…]


Third Republic: Germany enters a dangerous new political era

Dirk Kurbjuweit writes: Seven or eight months ago, Germany was a different country than it is today. There were no controversial political issues demanding immediate action and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership was uncontested. It was quiet and comfortable. But then the refugees began streaming into Europe and the country’s sleepy tranquility came to a sudden end. Since then, disgusting eruptions of xenophobia have come in quick succession, a right-wing populist party is on its way to holding seats in several state parliaments, Merkel has gained approval from the center-left Social Democrats and from the Greens, some conservatives want to throw her out and the state is overwhelmed. Does anyone know what is happening? What is wrong with this country?

For Germany, this is the second democratic republic, if one leaves out East Germany, since it was only a faux democracy. First came the Weimar Republic, from 1918 to 1933, and then, since 1949, the Federal Republic, which simply continued following the momentous events of 1989. But now, it looks as though the refugee crisis has brought a significant rupture. To be sure, the German constitution and the country’s institutions won’t be called into question any time soon. But the conventions governing Germany’s political interactions are changing with incredible speed.

A crisis of representation is necessarily accompanied by jolts to the political party system. Some of those jolts have been a long time in the making, but they are now becoming apparent as the refugee crisis takes hold. It could be that our country is currently experiencing lasting change. The contours of a Third Republic are becoming apparent. [Continue reading…]


From Trump to Merkel: How the world is divided between fear and openness


Ulrich Speck writes: Two major concepts define the political struggle in the west today. One can be termed “globalism”, which is currently most prominently represented by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. The other is “territorialism”, a view that the very likely Republican candidate for the US elections in November, Donald Trump, represents.

At the core of the debate is the meaning of borders: should they be porous or tightly controlled? Are they mainly an obstacle to the free and productive flow of ideas, people, goods and information and should therefore be largely dismantled? Or are massive borders welcome and indispensable as a protection against all kinds of real or perceived threats such as competition and terrorism?

For globalists such as Merkel, interconnectedness is a good thing because it is what drives progress towards more prosperity and freedom everywhere. For territorialists such as Trump, interconnectedness is mainly a threat. What is good and healthy is attributed to the natives and what is dangerous comes from outside: unfair Chinese competition, dangerous Mexican immigrants and Middle Eastern terrorists. [Continue reading…]


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

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

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

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

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


Umberto Eco’s definitions of modern fascism seem ever more prescient


Christopher Dickey writes: Here in Europe, people know a thing or two about fascism.

It is not, as it was when Bernie Sanders was young, a term tossed around by left-wing activists to describe anyone opposed to progressive ideas, whether presidents or parents.

No, here in Europe, by various names — as Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism — it was the living, vibrant, vicious force that led directly to the most horrific global war in history. More recently, it took root and lingered as an active ideology in Latin America, providing a crude foundation for the repressive revolutions and dirty wars that raged from the ’60s through the ’80s.

Indeed, the fundamentals of fascism are with us today, in the killing fields of ISIS-land, in the madness of North Korea, and also, sadly, in battered democracies from newly militaristic Japan to xenophobic, isolationist parties in Europe. And, yes, in somewhat more subtle forms fascism can be found on the campaign trail in the U.S. of A.

When I saw last week that the great Italian intellectual Umberto Eco had died, I was reminded of a long essay he wrote for the New York Review of Books more than two decades ago. And, re-reading it now, it strikes me as an important guide to our thinking about this powerful, almost primal political force, its seductive strength and its inherent, enormous dangers. [Continue reading…]


Donald Trump’s grandfather was an illegal migrant and ‘Trojan horse’

By Stefan Manz, Aston University

During New Year celebrations in Cologne, there were more than 500 reported attacks against women, including robbery and sexual assault. Most of the suspects are of North African origin, and some are thought to have entered the country illegally or as asylum seekers.

The news was welcome campaign fodder for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Referring to German chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy on refugees from Syria, he commented in his usual rhetoric: “I don’t know what the hell she is thinking”.

Trump went on to say that he did not want to have “people coming in from migration from Syria (sic)” as these were aggressive young men who “look like they should be on the wrestling team”. More dangerously still, Trump believed such people could act as terrorist “Trojan horses”.

[Read more…]