Here at What if they were Muslim we question what would happen if a Jewish, Christian, Hindu, ______(insert religion of choice) were to commit a crime in the name of their faith. Would it be treated the same way if a Muslim committed the exact same crime? Would very little emphasis be put on the perpetrators religion? Would it be stressed that the act is an aberration, a misrepresentation of the religion? Would the religion be mentioned at all?
WITWM is not a site that opines on the “what if” scenario of your favorite Hollywood star being a Muslim. It has nothing to do with Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp, etc. It has everything to do with the double standards in both media and pop culture that perpetuate the myth that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions or the root cause of misdeeds by Muslims.
The number of conspiracy-peddling anti-government groups hit a record high last year, according to a report put out Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which also found that hate groups in general remain at near-record levels.
Between 2000 and 2012, the number of hate groups, defined the by SPLC as those that verbally attack minority groups, rose from 602 to more than 1,000. The number declined slightly last year—from 1,018 to 1,007—but the number of so-called “patriot groups,” groups that generally believe the government is conspiring to take Americans’ guns and freedoms and impose one-world rule, hit a record high of 1,360 in 2012, up from 149 in 2008.
“We are seeing the fourth straight year of really explosive growth on the part of anti-government patriot groups and militias,” Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC said on a conference call Tuesday. “That’s 913 percent in growth. We’ve never seen that kind of growth in any kind of group we cover.”
Why so much hate and paranoia? The culprits are pretty predictable: a liberal black president, the wider shift in demographics in the country, and the mainstreaming of formerly marginal conspiracies like Agenda 21, says Potok.
Although these groups aren’t necessarily involved in violence or criminality, their rise still has advocates worried. “Only a small percentage acts violently, but they should raise red flags and cause concern,” Daryl Johnson, former senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, said during the conference call. And Potok says that immigration reform, gun control legislation, and the increasing social acceptance of LGBT rights have the potential to further fuel growth of these groups.
On Tuesday, the SPLC sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging it to amp up its non-Islamic domestic terrorism monitoring. The agency has done a lot less monitoring on non-Islamic terror since 2009, when a leaked DHS report revealing a resurgence of the radical right caused an uproar amongst GOP lawmakers and right-wing talk show hosts. The controversy spurred Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano to withdraw the report and dismantle the domestic non-Islamic terrorism unit that had written it.
Johnson, whose team at DHS wrote the report, says that since then, “nothing at the Department of Homeland Security regarding this issue has changed. DHS has one or two analysts looking at right-wing extremism. Meanwhile it has dozens of analysts and resources looking at home-grown Islamic extremists.”
“We need to stand up a domestic terrorism unit and start analyzing this threat,” he says.
Settler tells Palestinian farmers he is the son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and so their land belongs to him. He also proceeded to interpret the Quran for them and tell them that their religion says they must relinquish the land to him. For good measure he lets them know they will be his slaves when the King Messiah returns–if he so wills.
Another absurd scene of the occupation play. Hit CC on the bottom right of the video for the English subtitles:
A planned Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) forum at Brooklyn College on February, 7th has brought together an angry assortment of Zionists and Islamophobes, including influential New York lawmakers who are threatening to slash the funding of Brooklyn College for hosting and co-sponsoring the event–describing it as “anti-Semitic.”
Plainly, this entire controversy has only one “principle” and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel.
Democracy Now which invited opponents to the BDS event, including the NY lawmakers (they all rejected the invitation) had a revealing report on the controversy, including interviews with one of tomorrow’s speakers, Omar Barghouti, as well as Glenn Greenwald:
In a break with the past, when such pressure would likely have led to the administration of such a college caving-in to the demands of Dershowitz and his allies, Brooklyn College has stood its ground,
The college administration has so far stood their ground. Brooklyn College spokespeople have said that the Political Science Department’s sponsorship of the event does not mean that it is endorsing the event, and that the college administration is “not going to tell members of our faculty what they can and cannot choose to support.”
“If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea,” he said in a news conference at City Hall.
This may be a turning point in the public debate over the limits of criticizing Zionism and the state of Israel. In the past reflexive accusations of “anti-Semitism” drowned nuanced discussion on Zionism, Israel and Palestinian rights, now we are witnessing a hopeful sign of more balanced public discussion.
This also bodes well for those who are truly concerned about fighting anti-Semitism since it rescues it from the clutches of those who trivialize real anti-Semitism by conflating it with criticism of Zionism and Israel.
One can only imagine the Islamophobic repercussions that would have ensued if a lobby of Muslim organizations and lawmakers attempted a parallel attack on academic freedom. Hackles of Islamization and Islamic incompatibility with freedom would be endless.
Judith Miller & Omar Barghouti–BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights. Thursday, February 7, 2013, 6:30 EST. Brooklyn College E 27th St and Campus Road Brooklyn, NY 11210 Student Center Building PENTHOUSE
Hikind gained his earliest experience in the early 1970s in local New York politics as an acolyte of Meir Kahane, the fanatical rabbi-turned-Israeli Member of Knesset who called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and establishment of a theocratic state of “Judea” in the West Bank. “I’m proud of every single moment, let me make that very clear. Rabbi Kahane had a great influence on me,” Hikind declared in 2008. Under Kahane’s guidance, Hikind became active in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a nationwide extremist network that attacked Arab-American and Soviet targets while rallying vigilante squads to “protect” working-class Jews living in African-American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods.
For Euro-Western supremacists and their Islamophobic allies negative attitudes to Islam and Muslims is in no way related to xenophobia against immigrants or age old hostilities to Islam and Muslims–it’s all the Mooslims fault, don’t ya know, “the Mooslims they’re here!!”
In the face of globalization, economic crises and anxiety over immigration, many in Western Europe are returning to redefining their identities in opposition to the “East,” to Islam and Muslims.
In France, practicing Islam apparently means that one is not French. According to a recent survey, 74% of the French believe “Islam is incompatible with French society.” Obviously, the question is: what does being French mean? Clearly, to be French you have to be White with a name like “Jacques” and not a “Mohammed” from amongst those who immigrated from France’s former colonies in the past 50-60 years.
PARIS – A new survey has found that French are growing concerned with immigrants, politicians, globalization and media, with 74 percent believe Islam is not compatible with French society, The Inquisitr reported.
“The French, or at least the vast majority of them, seem to be afraid of everything,” French historian Michel Wincock told Le Monde this week.
The survey, carried out by polling institute Ipsos and the Jean-Jaures Foundation, reflected a growing distrust of Islam and belief there are too many foreigners in France.
It found that only 29 percent of French people believe the “vast majority of immigrants who have settled in France are well-integrated”.
Forty-six percent of respondents believe that unemployment levels can only be cut by reducing immigration.
The poll, which included 1,000 people, showed that 62 percent of respondents say they no longer feel at home in France.
There was also worrying news for President François Hollande, with 87 percent of respondents agreeing with the notion that “France needs a true leader to restore order”.
The survey also revealed that the media is not held in high regard in France, with 73 percent of the belief it is not independent and a similar figure (72 percent) of the view that journalists are “not doing their job”.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six millions, Europe’s largest.
In October, a poll by Ifop’s opinion department found that almost half of French see Muslims as a threat to their national identity.
The poll also found that most French see Islam is playing too influential role in their society.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France has also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public.
French Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.
In the UK the question of “Britishness” is also an issue. What makes someone British? According to data presented by Baroness Warsi, it seems for some the unenlightened opinions haven’t changed much from the days when Anglican clergymen described Islam as the “most nauseaous of all abominations, Mohammedanism.” (In an 1877 letter from Stuart Poole to Henry Liddon)
Fewer than one in four people now believe that following Islam is compatible with a British way of life, Britain’s most senior Muslim minister will warn today.
Highlighting unpublished research showing that a majority of the country now believes that Islam is a threat to Western civilisation Baroness Sayeeda Warsi will say that “underlying, unfounded mistrust” of Muslims is in itself fuelling extremism.
And she will cite new figures from the Association of Chief Police Officers showing that between 50 to 60 per cent of all religious hate crimes reported to police in Britain are now perpetrated against Muslims.
“My fear is that seeing one community as the ‘other’ is a slippery slope that will enable extremists to advance their twisted interests unchecked,” she will say.
“I don’t have to remind anyone what happens when an unfounded suspicion of one people can escalate into unspeakable horror.”
She will cite new research by academics that shows that just 23 per cent of a representative sample questioned said that Islam was not a threat to Western civilisation.
Just 24 per cent thought Muslims were compatible with the British way of life – with nearly half of people disagreeing that Muslims were compatible.
This compares with research among Muslims that showed 83 per were proud to be British, compared to 79 per cent of Britons overall.
German attitudes towards Islam and Muslims don’t fare much better, 66% of Western Germans and 74% of Eastern Germans have “negative attitudes towards Muslims.”
[A] new study has revealed that Islamophobia has become culturally acceptable in the country and that the society is shifting its attention from xenophobia to religious bias against Muslims, The Local newspaper reported.
“It’s no longer ‘the Turks’ but ‘the Muslims’,” Wilhelm Heitmeyer, head of the institute for research of interdisciplinary conflict and violence at Bielefeld University, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, The Local reported.
A research by the Bielefeld University found that Islamophobia has become culturally acceptable in Germany.
Heitmeyer said that the general hostility against foreigners had given way to a growing rejection of Islam in Germany.
This bigotry, moving from the confines of ethnicity towards religious bias against Muslims, does not exist only in the far-right, he said.
Heitmeyer noted that anti-Muslim sentiments were also present in more left-leaning and centrist circles, appearing throughout the country from the highest echelons of society to the lowest.
The findings of are not new.
An earlier study from Munster University in 2010 found that 66 percent of western Germans and 74 percent of eastern Germans had a negative attitude towards Muslims.
A more recent study from the Allensbach Institute suggested that this had not changed over the past two years.
Asking German people about Islam, only 22 percent said they agreed with Germany’s former president Christian Wulff’s statement that Islam, like Christianity, was part of Germany.
Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Aiman Mazyek, Head of the Central Council for Muslims in Germany, said police and intelligence officials still refuse to rank violent attacks against Muslims independently, grouping them with the broad category of xenophobia.
“By doing this, hostility against Islam is being blurred out,” said Mazyek, calling on the government to publish a yearly report about racism.
Germany has been recently gripped by a fierce debate on immigration and integration.
In 2009, central banker Thilo Sarrazin sparked a debate on integration after accusing Muslim immigrants of undermining the society which is becoming less intelligent because of them.
Chancellor Merkel weighed in, saying that multiculturalism has failed in Germany.
But the remarks have drawn angry reactions, with German president Wulff stressing that Islam is part and parcel of German society.
German politicians have also called for recognizing Islam as an official religion in the Christian-majority country.
But Germany’s new President Joachim Gauck sparked a storm of criticism last year by contradicting his predecessor’s view that Islam is part of Germany.
Of course, if the Islamophobes are to be believed these opinions have nothing to do with Islamophobia, xenophobia, fears with regards to the economy, globalization and identity politics. In their view French, British and German Muslims are to be blamed for such attitudes.
It is a time for real soul-searching in Western Europe, enough of the blame game and scapegoating. The duties of informed citizenship don’t lie only with Muslim citizens but also with non-Muslims, primarily those who make judgements of their Muslim neighbors and fellow citizens without having ever bothered to meet, talk, break bread with or learn about the Muslims in their midst.
As RWW reported two weeks ago, organizers of the official-sounding-but-not-remotely-official Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast hoped that Rep. Michele Bachmann, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Sen. Roy Blunt, and other big names would join them, along with birther extremist Joseph Farah. After some embarrassing back-and-forth about Farah’s participation, he didn’t show up. Neither did Bachmann, Cantor, Blunt or Pat Robertson, though Robertson, Farah, and Pat Boone sent messages that were read out loud. People who did show up representing foreign embassies may have been duped by the name of event into thinking they were attending something connected to the actual inauguration.
Organizers insisted that the event had no political agenda, that it was called simply to pray for President Obama and the nation. But there was plenty of politics. Speakers included Marjorie Dannenfelser of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List. Sid Roth, a Messianic Jew and radio host, said there were three sins that cause a land to “vomit out” its people: child sacrifice (abortion), homosexuality, and the “tipping point” sin of dividing up the land of Israel. Stewart Greenleaf, a Pennsylvania state senator, said he could make an argument for Israel’s right to disputed lands based on history, but that the best argument is that “the Lord gave Israel that land.”
The interminable event – four hours and counting when I left – felt like a disorganized muddle. It started with an altar call and communion — “Let’s sing about the blood of Jesus for a moment….who has the chuppah?” — and included prayers from Native American Christians, a delegation from Newtown, repentance for anti-Semitism, and some marketing for a new American Christian flag. “We may not be as formal” as other events, said one speaker, “but I bet we love God more.”
The Chaplain of the House of Representatives, Patrick Conroy, did briefly lend an air of officialdom. Perhaps with the pre-event controversy in mind, Conroy led a prayer for President Obama and reminded attendees pointedly that Obama was reelected by a clear majority of Americans. Former Democratic Rep. Diane Watson brought a bit of bipartisanship, and while her belief that President Obama has been anointed for our time got a smattering of affirmation from Obama supporters in attendance, that was a minority view, to put it lightly.
Keynoter Jonathan Cahn decried the withdrawal of Rev. Louie Giglio from the inaugural program over anti-gay-rights comments, portraying it as evidence of anti-Christian persecution: “…it is a new America in which one can be banned from the public square simply for believing the Bible, where profanity is treated as holy, and the holy is profane. A new America where the Bible is treated as contraband and nativity scenes are seen as dangerous.”
Cahn’s overall message is that America is facing the judgment of God the way ancient Israel did when it stopped following God’s orders. Cahn heads Beth Israel Worship Center, which bills itself the largest Messianic congregation in the world. He believes that the 9-11 attacks were a “wake-up call” from God, who lifted divine protection from America as a warning. Since the country did not turn back to God, says Cahn, God slammed us with financial collapse. He warned President Obama of judgment “if you utter the words so help me God, and you should in any way take part in leading a nation farther away from God….”
Cahn’s speech was essentially a summary of the argument in his book, “The Harbinger,” which purports to connect the inauguration of George Washington, 9-11, and more through his revelations about the “ancient mysteries.”
“There exists an ancient mystery that lies beyond everything from 9-11 to the collapse of the American economy, a mystery so precise that it actually reveals the actions of American leaders before they take them, the exact words of American leaders before they speak them, a mystery so exact that it gives the actual dates even the hours of some of the most dramatic days in recent history.”
Cahn’s keynote ended with a rousing call against “political correctness” and compromise, saying “the shadow of judgment is upon us” and urging, “It’s time to be strong! It’s time to be bold! It’s time to be radical!” as shouts and shofar-blowing thundered through the room.
The BBC found that boats were being intercepted by the Thai navy and police, with deals then made to sell the people on to traffickers who transport them south towards Malaysia.
The Thai government say they are taking the allegations seriously and have promised to investigate.
In November Ahmed said goodbye to his wife and eight children and left western Burma.
His fishing boat had been destroyed in clashes between Muslim Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists, and he needed to earn a living.
With 60 others he travelled for 13 days on a flimsy wooden boat across the Andaman Sea to the coast of Thailand.
When they were caught by the Thai navy not far from shore Ahmed thought his ordeal was over. In fact it had just begun.
That night the Rohingya were taken from the border town of Ranong in a police van. After two hours they were bundled out and put in the back of six smaller vehicles and hidden under nets.
“We were forced to lay down next to each other just like canned fish,” he said.
Ahmed did not know it at the time but a trade had taken place. The 61 Rohingya were now heading south towards Malaysia in the custody of people-smugglers.
When they got out of the vehicles they were prisoners in Su Ngai Kolok, a town on the Thai Malaysia border.
“They dug a hole for us to use as a toilet. We ate, slept and excreted in the same place,” he said. “The smell was horrible. I was poked with an iron and beaten with a chain.”
Ahmed’s back is scarred from the beatings he received
The traffickers had paid money for the Rohingya and were determined to get their money back. Ahmed and the other Rohingya were periodically given a phone to call friends and family to beg for help.
“The broker said that they bought us from police,” he said. “If we don’t give them money they won’t let us go. They said: ‘We don’t care if you die here’.”
The price for Ahmed’s life was set at 40,000 Thai Baht, about $1,300 (£820) – a substantial amount for an ex-fisherman. Ahmed called his wife and instructed her to sell a cow. But that only raised half the amount.
After a month as a captive, as he began to despair a fellow Rohingya in Thailand came to his rescue and loaned him the rest.
Ahmed was set free and put on a bus back north to Phuket. Despite all that happened to him, he is surprisingly calm about his treatment by Thai officials.
“I’m not angry at the navy. I don’t hold any anger or grudge with me anymore. I’m so grateful that I’m alive,” he said.
With weather conditions favourable Rohingya boats are now arriving on the Thai coast almost everyday. And Ahmed is not the only one being sold by Thai officials.
Whole families are trying to escape the communal violence in western Burma
We took a close look at the fate of one particular boat which arrived on New Year’s Day off the holiday island of Phuket.
On 2 January the 73 men, women and children were brought onshore, put in trucks and it was announced that they were being driven to the Thai/Burma border crossing at Ranong and deported.
But they did not get that far. A deal had been struck to sell the Rohingya to people smugglers.
When the trucks reached the town of Kuraburi, the Rohingya were transferred back into a boat and pushed back out to sea.
We spoke to one of the brokers involved in the deal. They said that 1.5 million baht (about $50,000, £31,500) had been transferred from Malaysia and paid to officials in Thailand. That amount was confirmed to us by other members of the Rohingya community in Thailand.
The Thai authorities told us they believe there are just a few corrupt officials. But in the border town of Ranong a Thai official closely linked with the Rohingya issue told us that working with the brokers was now regarded as the “natural” solution.
With the Rohingya denied Burmese citizenship, deportation is fraught with difficulties.
Thailand considers the Rohingya to be economic migrants
Thailand in turn does not want to encourage people that it considers to be almost almost exclusively economic migrants.
“The Rohingya want to go Malaysia and Malaysia accepts these people because they are Muslims too,” the official said. “No matter what they will try and go there, the question is how they get there.”
Malaysia has allowed the United Nations Refugee Agency to assess Rohingya claims for asylum. Thailand does not, reserving the right to determine for itself who it considers to be a refugee.
We took our information to the Thai foreign ministry. Permanent Secretary Sihasak Puangketkaew told us an investigation was underway.
“We cannot at this moment conclude who these perpetrators are but the Thai government is determined to get to the bottom of the problem,” he said.
“At the same time the Thai government is doing its best to take care of these people on the basis of humanitarian principles.
“At the same time we feel very strongly that all of us will have to work together through international co-operation to see how we can put on place a durable and systematic solution.”
There have been influxes of Rohingya before and in 2009 the Thai government was heavily criticised for its policy of towing boats back out to sea.
Those boats were almost exclusively male and the Thai government said they were economic migrants. This time it is different.
Ethnic clashes in western Burma have forced more than 100,000 Rohingya into camps and for the first time the boats crossing the Andaman Sea are a mix of men, women and children.
By ANDREW LAWLER (nytimes.com)
WHEN the Taliban blasted the famous Bamiyan Buddhas with artillery and dynamite in March 2001, leaders of many faiths and countries denounced the destruction as an act of cultural terrorism. But today, with the encouragement of the American government, Chinese engineers are preparing a similar act of desecration in Afghanistan: the demolition of a vast complex of richly decorated ancient Buddhist monasteries.
The offense of this Afghan monument is not idolatry. Its sin is to sit atop one of the world’s largest copper deposits.
The copper at the Mes Aynak mine, just an hour’s drive south of Kabul, is to be extracted under a roughly $3 billion deal signed in 2007 between Afghanistan and China’s Metallurgical Group Corporation. The Afghan finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal, recently said the project could pump $300 million a year into government coffers by 2016. But the project has been plagued by rumors of corruption; there was widespread talk of a $30 million kickback involving the former minister of mines, who resigned.
In 2009, archaeologists were given a three-year deadline to salvage what they could at Mes Aynak, but raising money, securing equipment and finding experienced excavators took up more than half of that time. So the focus now is solely on rescuing objects. An international team of archaeologists is scrambling to save what it can before the end of this month, when it must vacate the central mining zone, at the heart of the Buddhist complex.
The task is herculean: more than 1,000 statues have been identified, along with innumerable wall paintings, fragile texts and rare wooden ornamentation. And the excavators can only guess at what may lie in older layers. There is no time to dig deeper.
From about the third century until the ninth century, Afghanistan served as a bridge between India and China and played a key role in shaping the Buddhism that swept across Central Asia. At Mes Aynak, monks and artisans built an astonishing array of temples, courtyards and stupas, as well as whole towns of workshops and homes for miners. (Even then, Mes Aynak was exploited for its copper.)
Afghanistan was home to an extraordinary mix of Nestorian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and, eventually, Muslims. New scholarship based on finds at ancient sites like Mes Aynak suggests that Islam arrived here not with sudden fire and sword, but as a slowly rising tide. This was an Afghanistan of cosmopolitan wealth and industry, and of religious innovation, devotion and tolerance, at a time when Europe was mired in the Dark Ages.
Many statues and paintings will be saved for museum exhibitions, but the potential for understanding a key piece of Afghan history — and for drawing future tourists — will soon be lost. Deborah Klimburg-Salter, a scholar of art and archaeology who recently visited the site, told me that Mes Aynak “would be of great historical value not only for the history of Afghanistan but the whole region — if they could slow down, excavate and document properly.”
It’s ironic: a company based in China, which received Buddhism via Afghanistan, will destroy a key locus of that transmission. Washington, which condemned the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, is standing by as Kabul sacrifices its cultural heritage for short-term revenue.
The destruction is not just a cultural travesty. It may not even result in the advertised economic benefits for some time to come. World Bank experts told me that large-scale mining is not likely to take place at Mes Aynak for years. For one thing, there is no smelter to process the ore and no railroad to carry the material to China. An August rocket attack by Taliban militants on the mining camp prompted the Chinese workers to evacuate the heavily guarded site. The tenacious archaeologists, mostly Afghans, stayed behind.
There is still hope that the Afghan government might allow archaeologists to remain at the central complex past Dec. 31. “We’re hoping we get more time,” Philippe Marquis, the director of the French archaeological mission in Afghanistan and a lead scientist on the project, told me. There is no reason archaeology and mining operations can’t coexist at the site. But archaeologists fear the government wants to close the site to researchers and reporters to avoid embarrassing images of dynamited monasteries.
The looming deadline is not Mr. Marquis’s only worry. New Taliban attacks might prompt the Chinese to abandon the site and stop paying for the security forces that protect the area. That could invite looting by desperately poor Afghans. An ancient Buddhist statue can sell for tens of thousands of dollars in the dark, unregulated corners of the international art market.
Last month, Buddhist protesters marched in Bangkok, denouncing the planned demolition of Mes Aynak. An American filmmaker has raised $35,200 on Kickstarter to document the controversy. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan recently said it was “the duty of all” Afghans to preserve what remains of the country’s Buddhist heritage.
But there are few scholars with the political pull to bring the matter into the international spotlight, and the United Nations has all but ignored the matter. A Unesco official told me he hoped that “some accommodation could be made for the parallel activities of archaeology and mining,” but the organization hasn’t held the government and company accountable.
The looming devastation at Mes Aynak is but the latest example of threats to cultural treasures. Recently, the Egyptian Islamist leader Murgan Salem al-Gohary caused an international stir when he mused that the Sphinx and the pyramids at Giza should be flattened. And this summer, Islamist rebels smashed Sufi tombs in Timbuktu, Mali, an act some have called a war crime.
Whether for economic gain or ideological purity, destroying humanity’s common heritage limits our understanding of one another, as well as of our past — something we can ill afford in today’s fractious world. “We are only breaking stones,” the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar said dismissively in 2001, when he heard the international outcry over the statues’ destruction. Even given Afghanistan’s dire financial plight, it’s not a position to accept, much less emulate.
Santa Claus in Bilin, 2011.
(Photo: Popular Committee Against the Wall and settlement of Bil’in via europalestine.com)
Israel’s large Palestinian minority is often spoken of in terms of the threat it poses to the Jewish majority. Palestinian citizens’ reproductive rate constitutes a “demographic timebomb”, while their main political program – Israel’s reform into “a state of all its citizens” – is proof for most Israeli Jews that their compatriots are really a “fifth column”.
But who would imagine that Israeli Jews could be so intimidated by the innocuous Christmas tree?
This issue first came to public attention two years ago when it was revealed that Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, had banned Christmas trees from all public buildings in his northern Israeli city.
“Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.”
The decision reflected in part his concern that Upper Nazareth, built in the 1950s as the centrepiece of the Israeli government’s “Judaisation of the Galilee” programme, was failing dismally in its mission.
Far from “swallowing up” the historic Palestinian city of Nazareth next door, as officials had intended, Upper Nazareth became over time a magnet for wealthier Nazarenes who could no longer find a place to build a home in their own city. That was because almost all Nazareth’s available green space had been confiscated for the benefit of Upper Nazareth.
Instead Nazarenes, many of them Palestinian Christians, have been buying homes in Upper Nazareth from Jews – often immigrants from the former Soviet Union – desperate to leave the Arab-dominated Galilee and head to the country’s centre, to be nearer Tel Aviv.
The exodus of Jews and influx of Palestinians have led the government to secretly designate Upper Nazareth as a “mixed city”, much to the embarrassment of Gapso. The mayor is a stalwart ally of far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman and regularly expresses virulently anti-Arab views, including recently calling Nazarenes “Israel-hating residents whose place is in Gaza” and their city “a nest of terror in the heart of the Galilee”.
Although neither Gapso nor the government has published census figures to clarify the city’s current demographic balance, most estimates suggest that at least a fifth of Upper Nazareth’s residents are Palestinian. The city’s council chamber also now includes Palestinian representatives.
But Gapso is not alone in his trenchant opposition to making even the most cursory nod towards multiculturalism. The city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, has refused to countenance a single Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, arguing that it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes”.
That view, it seems, reflects the official position of the country’s rabbinate. In so far as they are able, the rabbis have sought to ban Christmas celebrations in public buildings, including in the hundreds of hotels across the country.
A recent report in the Haaretz newspaper, on an Israeli Jew who grows Christmas trees commercially, noted in passing: “hotels – under threat of losing kashrut certificates – are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby.”
In other words, the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.
Few mayors or rabbis find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to go public with their views on the dangers of Christmas decorations. In Israel, segregation between Jews and Palestinians is almost complete. Even most of the handful of mixed cities are really Jewish cities with slum-like ghettoes of Palestinians living on the periphery.
Apart from Upper Nazareth, the only other “mixed” place where Palestinian Christians are to be found in significant numbers is Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. Haifa is often referred to as Israel’s most multicultural and tolerant city, a title for which it faces very little competition.
But the image hides a dirtier reality. A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut licences if they did so.
“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.
After the letter was publicised on Facebook, Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, moved into damage limitation mode, overruling the city’s rabbinical council on Sunday and insisting that parties would be allowed to go ahead. Whether Yahav has the power to enforce his decision on the notoriously independent-minded rabbinical authorities is still uncertain.
But what is clear is that there is plenty of religious intolerance verging on hatred being quietly exercised against non-Jews, mostly behind the scenes so as not to disturb Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” image or outrage the millions of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.
(Note from Emperor: In other news, Netanyahu pledges to support Christians in Israel!)
Tariq Aziz (centre, second row) attending a meeting about drones strikes in Waziristan, held in Islamabad, Pakistan oin 28 October 2011. Three days later, the 16 year old was reported killed by a drone-launched missile. Photograph: Pratap Chatterjee/BIJ
Numerous commentators have rightly lamented the difference in how these childrens’ deaths are perceived. What explains it?
By Glenn Greenwald (guardian.co.uk)
Over the last several days, numerous commentators have lamented the vastly different reactions in the US to the heinous shooting of children in Newtown, Connecticut as compared to the continuous killing of (far more) children and innocent adults by the US government in Pakistan and Yemen, among other places. The blogger Atrios this week succinctly observed:
“I do wish more people who manage to fully comprehend the broad trauma a mass shooting can have on our country would consider the consequences of a decade of war.”
“Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are ‘militants’. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.
“‘Are we,’ Obama asked on Sunday, ‘prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.”
Political philosophy professor Falguni Sheth similarly writes that “the shooting in Newtown, CT is but part and parcel of a culture of shooting children, shooting civilians, shooting innocent adults, that has been waged by the US government since September 12, 2001.” She adds:
“And let there be no mistake: many of ‘us’ have directly felt the impact of that culture: Which ‘us’? Yemeni parents, Pakistani uncles and aunts, Afghan grandparents and cousins, Somali brothers and sisters, Filipino cousins have experienced the impact of the culture of killing children. Families of children who live in countries that are routinely droned by the US [government]. Families of children whose villages are raided nightly in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Meanwhile, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, at the peak of mourning over Newtown, simply urged: “Let’s also Remember the 178 children Killed by US Drones“. He detailed the various ways that children and other innocents have had their lives extinguished by President Obama’s policies, and then posted this powerful (and warning: graphic) one-and-a-half-minute video from a new documentary on drones by filmmaker Robert Greenwald (no relation):
Finally, the Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia posted a moving plea on Monday: “Our children’s blood is not cheaper than American blood and the pain of loosing [sic] them is just as devastating. Our children matter too, Mr. President! These tragedies ‘also’ must end and to end them ‘YOU’ must change!”
There’s just no denying that many of the same people understandably expressing such grief and horror over the children who were killed in Newtown steadfastly overlook, if not outright support, the equally violent killing of Yemeni and Pakistani children. Consider this irony: Monday was the three-year anniversary of President Obama’s cruise missile and cluster-bomb attack on al-Majala in Southern Yemen that ended the lives of 14 women and 21 children: one more child than was killed by the Newtown gunman. In the US, that mass slaughter received not even a small fraction of the attention commanded by Newtown, and prompted almost no objections (in predominantly Muslim nations, by contrast, it received ample attention and anger).
It is well worth asking what accounts for this radically different reaction to the killing of children and other innocents. Relatedly, why is the US media so devoted to covering in depth every last detail of the children killed in the Newtown attack, but so indifferent to the children killed by its own government?
To ask this question is not – repeat: is not – to equate the Newtown attack with US government attacks. There are, one should grant, obvious and important differences.
To begin with, it is a natural and probably universal human inclination to care more about violence that seems to threaten us personally than violence that does not. Every American parent sends their children to schools of the type attacked in Newtown and empathy with the victims is thus automatic. Few American parents fear having their children attacked by US drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs in remote regions in Pakistan and Yemen, and empathy with those victims is thus easier to avoid, more difficult to establish.
One should strive to see the world and prioritize injustices free of pure self-interest – caring about grave abuses that are unlikely to affect us personally is a hallmark of a civilized person – but we are all constructed to regard imminent dangers to ourselves and our loved ones with greater urgency than those that appear more remote. Ignoble though it is, that’s just part of being human – though our capacity to liberate ourselves from pure self-interest means that it does not excuse this indifference.
Then there’s the issue of perceived justification. Nobody can offer, let alone embrace, any rationale for the Newtown assault: it was random, indiscriminate, senseless and deliberate slaughter of innocents. Those who support Obama’s continuous attacks, or flamboyantly display their tortured “ambivalence” as a means of avoiding criticizing him, can at least invoke a Cheneyite slogan along with a McVeigh-taught-military-term to pretend that there’s some purpose to these killings: We Have To Kill The Terrorists, and these dead kids are just Collateral Damage. This rationale is deeply dishonest, ignorant, jingoistic, propagandistic, and sociopathic, but its existence means one cannot equate it to the Newtown killing.
But there are nonetheless two key issues highlighted by the intense grief for the Newtown victims compared to the utter indifference to the victims of Obama’s militarism. The first is that it underscores how potent and effective the last decade’s anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign has been.
Every war – particularly protracted ones like the “War on Terror” – demands sustained dehumanization campaigns against the targets of the violence. Few populations will tolerate continuous killings if they have to confront the humanity of those who are being killed. The humanity of the victims must be hidden and denied. That’s the only way this constant extinguishing of life by their government can be justified or at least ignored. That was the key point made in the extraordinarily brave speech given by then-MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield in 2003 after she returned from Iraq, before she was demoted and then fired: that US media coverage of US violence is designed to conceal the identity and fate of its victims.
The violence and rights abridgments of the Bush and Obama administrations have been applied almost exclusively to Muslims. It is, therefore, Muslims who have been systematically dehumanized. Americans virtually never hear about the Muslims killed by their government’s violence. They’re never profiled. The New York Times doesn’t put powerful graphics showing their names and ages on its front page. Their funerals are never covered. President Obama never delivers teary sermons about how these Muslim children “had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” That’s what dehumanization is: their humanity is disappeared so that we don’t have to face it.
But this dehumanization is about more than simply hiding and thus denying the personhood of Muslim victims of US violence. It is worse than that: it is based on the implicit, and sometimes overtly stated, premise that Muslims generally, even those guilty of nothing, deserve what the US does to them, or are at least presumed to carry blame.
Just a few months ago, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration has re-defined the term “militant” to mean: “all military-age males in a strike zone” – the ultimate expression of the rancid dehumanizing view that Muslims are inherently guilty of being Terrorists unless proven otherwise. When Obama’s campaign surrogate and former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the US killing by drone strike of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki two weeks after his father was killed, Gibbs unleashed one of the most repulsive statements heard in some time: that Abdulrahman should have “had a more responsible father”. Even when innocent Muslim teenagers are killed by US violence, it is their fault, and not the fault of the US and its leaders.
All of this has led to rhetoric and behavior that is nothing short of deranged when it comes to discussing the Muslim children and other innocents killed by US violence. I literally have never witnessed mockery over dead children like that which is spewed from some of Obama’s hard-core progressive supporters whenever I mention the child-victims of Obama’s drone attacks. Jokes like that are automatic. In this case at least, the fish rots from the head: recall President Obama’s jovial jokes at a glamorous media dinner about his use of drones to kill teeangers (sanctioned by the very same political faction that found Bush’s jokes about his militarism – delivered at the same media banquet several years earlier – so offensive). Just as is true of Gibbs’ deranged and callous rationale, jokes like that are possible only when you have denied the humanity of those who are killed. Would Newtown jokes be tolerated by anyone?
Dehumanization of Muslims is often overt, by necessity, in US military culture. The Guardian headline to Monbiot’s column refers to the term which Rolling Stones’ Michael Hastings reported is used for drone victims: “bug splat”. And consider this passage from an amazing story this week in Der Spiegel (but not, notably, in US media) on a US drone pilot, Brandon Bryant, who had to quit because he could no longer cope with the huge amount of civilian deaths he was witnessing and helping to cause:
“Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world. . . .
“[H]e remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact. . . .
“With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.
“Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.
“Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.
“‘Did we just kill a kid?’ he asked the man sitting next to him.
“‘Yeah, I guess that was a kid,’ the pilot replied.
“‘Was that a kid?’ they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.
“Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. ‘No. That was a dog,’ the person wrote.
“They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?”
Seeing Muslim children literally as dogs: few images more perfectly express the sustained dehumanization at the heart of US militarism and aggression over the last decade.
Citizens of a militaristic empire are inexorably trained to adopt the mentality of their armies: just listen to Good Progressive Obama defenders swagger around like they’re decorated, cigar-chomping combat veterans spouting phrases like “war is hell” and “collateral damage” to justify all of this. That is the anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign rearing its toxic head.
There’s one other issue highlighted by this disparate reaction: the question of agency and culpability. It’s easy to express rage over the Newtown shooting because so few of us bear any responsibility for it and – although we can take steps to minimize the impact and make similar attacks less likely – there is ultimately little we can do to stop psychotic individuals from snapping. Fury is easy because it’s easy to tell ourselves that the perpetrator – the shooter – has so little to do with us and our actions.
Exactly the opposite is true for the violence that continuously kills children and other innocent people in the Muslim world. Many of us empowered and cheer for the person responsible for that. US citizens pay for it, enable it, and now under Obama, most at the very least acquiesce to it if not support it. It’s always much more difficult to acknowledge the deaths that we play a role in causing than it is to protest those to which we believe we have no connection. That, too, is a vital factor explaining these differing reactions.
Please spare me the objection that the Newtown shooting should not be used to make a point about the ongoing killing of Muslim children and other innocents by the US. Over the last week, long-time gun control advocates have seized on this school shooting in an attempt to generate support for their political agenda, and they’re perfectly right to do so: when an event commands widespread political attention and engages human emotion, that is exactly when one should attempt to persuade one’s fellow citizens to recognize injustices they typically ignore. That is no more true for gun control than it is the piles of corpses the Obama administration continues to pile up for no good reason – leaving in their wake, all over the Muslim world, one Newtown-like grieving ritual after the next.
As Monbiot observed: “there can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people” in Newtown. The exact opposite is true for the children and their families continuously killed in the Muslim world by the US government: huge numbers of people, particularly in the countries responsible, remain completely untouched by the grief that is caused in those places. That is by design – to ensure that opposition is muted – and it is brutally effective.
President Obama, the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, has just been bestowed by TIME Magazine with the equally prestigious and meaningful accolade of 2012 Person of the Year.
LONDON: A Labour former defence minister stunned peers by suggesting that a neutron bomb could be used to create a “cordon sanitaire” in troubled border regions such as the one between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In a Lords debate on multi-lateral nuclear disarmament, Lord Gilbert said the use of such weapons could “greatly reduce problems of protecting those borders”, adding: “These things are not talked about but they should be….”
Lord Gilbert said that what used to be called a neutron bomb, but was actually an enhanced radiation reduced blast weapon (ERRB), could have “many uses” today.
“I think you could use an ERRB warhead to create a cordon sanitaire around various borders where people are causing trouble these days.”
Meanwhile, Labour former defence secretary Lord Browne of Ladyton rounded on Lord Gilbert over his remarks, accusing him of being at his “most challenging and contrarian”.
Cabinet Office spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire said the Government did not share Lord Gilbert’s “rumbustious” views on the sensitive issue. “The UK retains a firm commitment to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” he said. “Our aim is to build an international environment in which no state feels the need to possess nuclear weapons – an environment that will allow nuclear states to disarm in a balanced and verifiable manner.”