Rash Of Mosque Burnings Stuns American Muslims, Civil Rights Advocates

With four mosques burned in the last seven weeks and 385 anti-Muslim acts recorded just last year, the rise of Islamophobia can no longer be ignored.

Police tape marks off the burned front lobby of the Islamic Center of Palm Springs in Coachella, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Flames were reported just after noon on Friday. The fire was contained to the small building's front lobby, and no one was injured. (AP Photo/David Martin)

Police tape marks off the burned front lobby of the Islamic Center of Palm Springs in Coachella, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Flames were reported just after noon on Friday. The fire was contained to the small building’s front lobby, and no one was injured

While Sept. 11 is most often remembered as a day that drastically changed U.S. foreign and domestic policy, particularly due to the advent of the never-ending “War on Terror,” many American Muslims look back on the event as a major turning point in the national perception of their religion. Islamophobia, although undeniably existent prior to the attacks, began to surge throughout the United States, later spreading to other countries throughout the Western world.

Now, nearly 16 years later, Islamophobia is more prevalent than ever, thanks to years of propaganda justifying the bombing of Muslim-majority nations and the Muslim migrant crisis in the European Union, among other factors.

Indeed, 2017 – after just two months – has already become a year of high-profile Islamophobic incidents, some of which turned deadly. The most recent of these took place last week, when a man in Kansas shot two Indian men, one of whom was killed. The attacker, upon confessing to the crime, stated that he believed his victims were not Indian, but Iranian. A month prior, a Canadian man opened fire in a mosque, killing six people and wounding 19 others.

Mosque burnings have also been surprisingly common in 2017, with four mosques destroyed just in the last seven weeks. The first took place on Jan. 7, when the uncompleted Islamic Center of Lake Travis in Austin, TXcaught fire and “burned to the ground.” A week later, an Islamic Center in Bellevue, WA was badly damaged by a fire confirmed to be the work of an arsonist.

The FBI, ATF and other agencies sift through the burned remains of the Victoria Islamic Center a mosque in Victoria on Jan. 29 2017. Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

The FBI, ATF and other agencies sift through the burned remains of the Victoria Islamic Center a mosque in Victoria, Texas on Jan. 29 2017

On Jan. 27, another Texas mosque was destroyed by fire, this time an Islamic Center in Victoria, TX. More recently, on Feb. 24, a fire broke out in front of the Islamic Society of New Tampa. This fire was also attributed to arson.

This has not been terribly surprising in light of the fact that 2016 was one of the worst years on record for Islamophobic acts. Last September, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stated that 2016 was set “to be one of the worst years ever for anti-mosque incidents.” A CAIR survey conducted around the same time found that 85 percent of Muslim voters believed that Islamophobia and general anti-Muslim sentiment had increased within the past year.

The Huffington Post’s Islamophobia tracker registered a total of 385 anti-Muslim acts over the course of last year, while the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 112 anti-Muslim incidents just between Nov. 9 and Dec. 12 last year.

Despite the fact that 2017’s anti-Muslim violence has been part of an existing trend, American Muslims and their advocates have been stunned nonetheless by the uptick. “In normal times, I will see one to two mosque incidents of any type per month, and rarely is it arson,” Corey Saylor, director of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, told Buzzfeed.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, echoed Saylor’s words, stating that “We’ve never seen four mosques burned within seven weeks of each other. It’s part of a whole series of dramatic attacks on Muslims. […] The short answer is we haven’t seen anything like this in the past.”

(Source / 04.03.2017)

Young White Men Are Being Radicalized. It’s Time To Talk About It

As Trump pitches fight against ‘Islamic terrorists’, where is the alarm over disenfranchised men being lured into white supremacist movements?

Richard Spencer, the founder of the so-called “alt-right” movement, an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism. (AP Photo)

Richard Spencer, the founder of the so-called “alt-right” movement, an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism

White supremacy swept to power the day Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. His most ardent supporters championed him across the world. For them, Trump signaled the resurgence of white male dominance and they weren’t ashamed to celebrate it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center documented 1,094 hate related incidences in the US since the first month of Trump’s election victory

Their influence is growing. Following Trump’s executive order to ban citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US – a decree overturned by federal courts – white nationalists took to Reddit to express their joy. Trump, it seemed, was the real deal.

One user even said that he was so proud of Trump that he couldn’t possibly “raise his right arm any higher” – a reference to the Nazi salute.

These posts aren’t anecdotal. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented 1,094 hate-related incidences in the US since the first month of Trump’s election victory. In 37 percent of all cases, there was a direct reference to Trump or something he said.

The SPLC has also counted 892 hate groups in the US, the clear majority of which espouse white supremacist views.

Many of these movements are active on gaming networks and internet forums such as Stormfront, which has become a breeding ground for far right-wing extremists.

Now, the White House is presenting racism as an acceptable ideology, resulting in the radicalization of young white men across the world.

It’s time we talk about it.

Richard Spencer is a self-declared “white nationalist” who founded the Alt-Right – Alternative Right – movement in 2010. He has erecently kicked off a tour of college campuses to recruit new members who are disillusioned with the Republican political establishment.

In 2015, Muslims experienced a 67 percent increase in hate crimes directed towards them

At its core, the Alt-Right claims to protect white people from an unfolding “cultural genocide” perpetrated by the empowerment of feminists and people of colour. But who is supposed to protect everybody else from bigots like Spencer?

In 2015, the FBI reported that out of the 2,125 hate crime offences recorded against blacks, white people were the perpetrators 58 percent of the time. Whites, on the other hand, were victims in only 10 percent of the total of 5,850 reported incidences.

Meanwhile, Muslims experienced a 67 percent increase in hate crimes directed towards them in the same time frame. Anti-Semitic attacks remained the most frequent.

The real figures could be much higher since many states don’t report hate crimes to the FBI. That’s only part of the problem. The fact the White House is propagating hate speech is more worrying.

Lecia Pickett, the outreach director for SPLC, said that their centre has started a programme on college campuses to try and safeguard young white men from radicalisation. She also emphasised the importance of engaging with Republican groups who sponsor talks by people like Spencer.

“[Minorities] are very concerned with the increase of anti-Semitism and anti-feminism,” Lecia told MEE.

“[America] just can’t afford to backtrack on these things. [SPLC] is speaking on campuses all the time and speaking to administrators as well.”

Despite the efforts of groups like SPLC, propaganda is difficult to counter.

Last year, Breitbart News – an Alt-Right outlet that Trump promoted during his campaign – experienced a considerable spike in traffic from 13 million to 19 million visitors.

The resurgence of Nazi aspirations hasn’t compelled governments to seriously ponder how to safeguard young white men from extremism – unlike the hysteria that follows people of colour and Muslims when a crime is committed in their name

Such platforms and the leaders who endorse them are radicalising people beyond the US. That much was clear after a white French-Canadian student stepped into an Islamic Cultural Centre late last month and killed six men for no reason other than their faith.

It was later revealed that the shooter supported Trump and the far-right French politician Marine Le Pen.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the killing a terrorist attack. However, the resurgence of Nazi aspirations hasn’t compelled governments to seriously ponder how to safeguard young white men from extremism – unlike the hysteria that follows people of colour and Muslims when a crime is committed in their name.

That trend is certain to continue. Donald Trump’s administration is already pushing to remove neo-Nazis and white supremacists from the US governmment’s counter-extremism programme. Instead, they want to concentrate solely on “Islamic terrorists” and change the name of the programme from ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ to ‘Countering Radical Islamic Extremism’.

Never mind an FBI report, written more than 10 years ago, that warned about white supremacists groups infiltrating local and state law enforcement. The disturbing truth is that they won’t have to look over their shoulder as long as Trump is in charge.

If only the same can be said about young black men who continue to be profiled, harassed and killed by the police.

The banality of Trump

Many Trump supporters, while understandably fed up with the corrupt political establishment, failed to combat the bigotry of their candidate.

His campaign catered to the most extreme prejudices of white America. The nation’s racist past appeared to be an afterthought for his supporters. Not much has changed in the first weeks of his presidency.

The latest Reuters opinion poll reported that more people supported Trump’s executive order to ban Muslims than opposed it. Opinions were divided almost entirely along political party lines.

That’s not to say that everyone who agrees with Trump is radicalised. But it does suggest that people are buying into the fears being fed to them.

Trump is shoving a vision of the world – deprived of nuance and tolerance – down the throats of anyone willing to swallow it.

His tactics aren’t new. The Jewish German political theorist, Hannah Arendt, once wrote: “the sad truth is that most evil is done by those who never make up their minds to be good or evil”.

These words couldn’t be more relevant. Trump’s administration is counting on their most passive supporters to approve presidential decrees while hoping those who resist eventually normalise the unacceptable.

If that happens, white supremacy will thrive in the wake of indifference.

(Source / 18.02.2017)

New Turkey-Europe War over ‘Spying Imams’

Fethullah Gulen in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Sept. 24, 2013. Reuters

Fethullah Gulen in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Sept. 24, 2013

Ankara- Allegations on spying activities practiced by some Turks, who belong to Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and other unions and associations in Germany and Austria, have opened a new door for tension with Ankara.

DITIB is Germany’s largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet.

German officials not only issued statements about activities practiced by some Turkish people, especially imams sent by DITIB, but also started judicial investigations.

The imams have allegedly collected information across Europe on supporters of the religious movement Ankara blames for last July’s failed coup attempt.

German police on Wednesday raided the homes of four imams alleged to have spied on the opposition for the Turkish government.

The Federal Prosecutors Office (GBA) said in a statement no arrests were made in the raids in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Rhineland-Pfalz, which aimed to collect evidence into imams conducting alleged espionage against supporters of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The prosecutor’s office said the raids were carried out as a result of a September order from Diyanet, a religious body tied to the Turkish premiership, for imams to pass information to diplomatic missions on Gulen supporters.

Chief of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs Mehmet Gormez said Turkish authorities had acknowledged that six imams had “exceeded their authorities” and were called back to Turkey in order not to harm relations with Germany.

Gormez blamed “internal” political concerns for the raids, which he said were conducted despite the fact that the imams had returned to Turkey.

He rejected accusations that the clerics were engaged in spying or any other illegal activity.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized Germany on Friday saying that the country has become a safe haven for PKK members, as well as for followers of the Gulenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

Speaking to reporters at the G20 Summit of Foreign Ministers in the German city of Bonn, Cavusoglu said Ankara’s concerns over the FETÖ members in Germany have been expressed to German authorities at every opportunity.

“It is not acceptable that they have found a place for themselves in a country like Germany.”

For his part, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag condemned on Thursday the raids and accused Berlin of acting indirectly under the influence of the Gulen movement.

He said the investigation into the alleged spying showed how easily Germany “believes the allegations of terrorists.”

In a common matter, an Austrian opposition lawmaker accused Turkey of operating an informer network via its embassy in Vienna that he said targets critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, promotes his policies and receives payments from Ankara.

Peter Pilz, from the Austrian Greens, said he sent documents to the police detailing the activities of the ATIB, an umbrella organization headed by the religious attache at Turkey’s embassy that oversees dozens of mosques in Austria.

(Source / 18.02.2017)

Islamophobia is fuelling terrorism says UN chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Islamophobia in parts of the world is fuelling terrorism, the head of the United Nations said on a visit to Saudi Arabia yesterday, as anti-immigrant sentiment rises in some countries.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made the comment to reporters after talks with Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed Bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

“One of the things that fuel terrorism is the expression in some parts of the world of Islamophobic feelings and Islamophobic policies and Islamophobic hate speeches,” Guterres said at a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. Guterres said:

This is sometimes the best support that Daesh can have to make its own propaganda

Anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiments have been rising in the West. Politicians, including France’s Marine Le Pen have seen their popularity rise after an influx to Europe of migrants and refugees, many of them Muslims fleeing wars in Syria and elsewhere.

US President Donald Trump issued an order in late January that denied entry to all refugees for 120 days.

Antonio Guterres “appeals for peace” but the new UN chief faces an uphill battle to win over the Trump administration and the rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe.

(Source / 13.02.2017)

Israeli gov’t approves bill banning Muslims’ Azzan

Azzan has been raised in historic mosques in Palestine for more than 1,400 years

The Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Sunday bill banning the Muslim call to prayer in occupied Palestine and East Jerusalem.

“The goal of the Azzan Bill is to create an atmosphere of hatred and incitement towards the Arab public,” Arab-Israeli MK said

The Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Sunday bill banning the Muslim call to prayer in occupied Palestine and East Jerusalem.

It is now ready to go before the Knesset for a vote on whether it becomes law, Israeli media have reported.

The bill, which is referred to by the Israeli legislators as the “Muezzin Bill,” bans the call to prayer from being broadcast by loudspeakers to the local community in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem between 11pm and 7am.

A draft text was approved by the same committee in November last year, but the ultra-Orthodox Israeli Minister of Health, Yaakov Litzman, filed an appeal against it, fearing it could affect the use of sirens for the weekly announcement of the Jewish Sabbath.

According to the Times of Israel, the bill will be submitted to the Knesset on Wednesday and will have to go through three rounds of votes before it goes on the statute books.

Violations of the ban on loudspeakers for the call to prayer, the newspaper reported, would incur a fine of 10,000 shekels ($2,665).

The Jerusalem Post said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the bill. He has claimed in a cabinet meeting that “citizens of all religions” have complained to him countless times about noise from mosque loudspeakers.

“Israel is committed to freedom for all religions,” added Netanyahu, “but is also responsible for protecting its citizens from noise.”

Israeli Arab MK Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, was reported by the Jerusalem Post as saying that the bill is racist and populist.

“Its whole goal is to create an atmosphere of hatred and incitement towards the Arab public,” he explained.

“There are already noise laws that apply to mosques and it is clear that the whole purpose of the bill is to label mosques as problematic. It is obviously damaging to freedom of religion for Muslims and the continuation of the persecution led by the prime minister.”

(Source / 13.02.2017)

Trump Discusses an Alternative for Travel Ban

Trump

Iranian citizen and U.S green card holder Cyrus Khosravi (L) greets his brother, Hamidreza Khosravi (C), and niece, Dena Khosravi (R), 2, after they were detained for additional screening following their arrival to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to visit Cyrus, during a pause in U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. February 6, 2017

Washington – U.S. President Donald Trump had announced that he will be considering several options in face of the judicial block of his travel ban for seven Muslim countries.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One on his way to Florida, he said he was confident that he could win any legal battles. But he indicated he was also thinking about alternative strategies.

Trump’s original order, which he called a national security measure meant to head off attacks by extremist militants, barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days, except refugees from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.

A federal judge in Seattle suspended the order last Friday after its legality was challenged by Washington state. The court said the ban violates constitutional principles. That ruling was upheld by an appeals court in San Francisco on Thursday, raising questions about Trump’s next step.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimously decided to pause the president’s executive order.

When asked by reporters about the new order and what it may contain, Trump said that it will include new security measures.

“We have very, very strong vetting. I call it extreme vetting and we’re going very strong on security. We’re going to have people coming to our country that want to be here for good reasons,” he stressed.

The President took it to Twitter announcing that he was confident that his lawyers would win the argument before the country’s highest court. In another tweet, he said: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

Trump declared that he will continue to do his best for the safety of the country, promising that he will introduce new results as of next week.

He added: “We will continue to go through the court process, and ultimately I have no doubt that we’ll win that particular case.”

Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) teamed up with police forces and local authorities in several states on the Mexican border during a wide-ranged arrest campaign.

The Mexican government warned Friday of a “new reality” for its citizens living in the United States and advised them to “take precautions” following the deportation of an undocumented mother after a routine visit with U.S. immigration authorities.

ICE said most of the people targeted in homes and workplaces from Southern California to Atlanta and other cities were criminals.

Activists estimated the number of arrested illegal immigrants to be of 500.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, of Mesa, Arizona, was taken into custody Wednesday during a routine check-in at the central Phoenix offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Over the past four years, federal immigration authorities had given her a pass to remain in the U.S. rather than deport her back to her native Mexico. But this time, the mother of two children born in the U.S., was deported to Nogales, Sonora, on Thursday.

Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying the case illustrates a new reality for the Mexican community living in the United States, facing the most severe implementation of immigration control measures.

Mexican consulates “have intensified their work of protecting fellow nationals, foreseeing more severe immigration measures to be implemented by the authorities of this country, and possible violations to constitutional precepts during such operations and problems with due process,” the statement added.

The ministry then advised the entire Mexican community to take precautions and stay in touch with nearest consulate, to get the help needed to cope with a situation of this kind.

In a related matter, Trump said he would reduce the price of the wall he wants built on the U.S. border with Mexico.

“I am reading that the great border WALL will cost more than the government originally thought, but I have not gotten involved in the … design or negotiations yet,” Trump tweeted.

“When I do, just like with the F-35 FighterJet or the Air Force One Program, price will come WAY DOWN!”, he said in another tweet.

Trump’s response came after media reports estimated the price of a wall along the entire border would cost $21.6 billion. During his presidential campaign Trump had cited a $12 billion figure.

(Source / 12.02.2017)

Israeli authorities ban UN Muslim staff, Gazans from praying at Aqsa

un-moslim-staf

The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) have prevented UNRWA’s Muslim staff members and worshipers from the blockaded Gaza Strip from gaining access to the holy al-Aqsa Mosque for the tenth week running.

Media chief at the Civil Affairs Commission, Mohamed al-Mukadma, said the IOA banned Gazans and UNRWA staff members from performing their prayers at the holy al-Aqsa Mosque—the third holiest site in Islam.

Such bans have been frequently issued on claims that Gazans exceed the time-span allotted for them to visit Occupied Jerusalem and pray at al-Aqsa Mosque then return to the Strip on the same day.

(Source / 10.02.2017)

How Russia’s Muslims view Trump’s anti-Islam stance

President Donald Trump holds up one of the executive actions that he signed in the Oval Office on Jan. 28, 2017, in Washington, DC

US President Donald Trump has sparked fury across the world, especially among Muslims, with his recent attempt to prevent nationals of seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The countries affected are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Trump’s executive order, signed Jan. 27, has been on hold under a temporary restraining order issued Feb. 3, but three federal judges are set to hear the government’s appeal of the hold at 6 p.m. ET Feb. 7.

Most Middle Eastern, Muslim-majority countries, as well as European leaders, condemn the action and consider it an anti-Islam ban. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “regret and astonishment” over the ban. The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Iran called the order “insulting” and a “gift to extremists.”

Even the UK, a close US ally, described the ban as “divisive and wrong,” as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson tweeted. The ban recalls Trump’s anti-Islam comments made during his election campaign, and fueled speculation that he will try to take even more strict measures against Muslims and Muslim-majority countries.

There are more than 20 million Muslims living in Russia, constituting about 15% of the country’s total population. Islam is the second-largest religion there, after Orthodox Christianity. Most Russian Muslims live in the seven republics of the Russian Federation: Bashkortostan and Tatarstan in the Volga-Urals region; and Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia in the Northern Caucasus. There are also huge Muslim diasporas in big cities in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Despite Russia’s significant Muslim population, it hasn’t condemned the ban and prefers not to comment on it.

“It is not our business,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

There also haven’t been any official comments on the ban made by Muslim official representatives in Russia or the authorities of predominantly Muslim-populated regions of Russia.

Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who likes to express his views on the range of political and world issues via social media, also remained surprisingly silent — though he had been quick to congratulate Trump on his victory in the November 2016 presidential election. He also shared his views on the first telephone conversation between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying on Instagram, “The conversation opens a new page in Russian-American relations. The results of the talks are not only important for the both countries but for the whole international society as well.”

Al-Monitor contacted the administrations of some of Russia’s Muslim-populated regions and representatives of Islamic organizations for comment on the situation. The most common response was, “We have no authority to comment on that issue.”

However, a source in one of the most influential Islamic organizations in Russia agreed to express his views on condition of strict anonymity.

“Without any doubt, any anti-Muslim ban concerns us and we are closely following the situation. But no one will make official statements on that, especially if they contain condemnation,” he told Al-Monitor.

Iskander Gilyazov, a historian and Tatar social activist, told Al-Monitor, “Why hasn’t Russia condemned the ban? I think it’s part of a political game.”

Gilyazov, a professor at Kazan University, added, ”It’s a reflection of the euphoria that prevails here [in the federal government] after Trump’s victory.” According to Gilyazov, Russian Muslim authorities have taken a cautious position and prefer to wait for Trump’s next moves before reaching conclusions.

Another expert told Al-Monitor, “Russian Muslims, as well as the majority of Russians, are tired of sanctions and isolation from the world. They believe that with a new administration in the White House their lives will get better. That’s why Russian Muslims don’t rush to comment on Trump’s policy,” said Rais Suleymanov, a specialist on Islam and an expert at the Institute of National Strategy.

He said Russian Muslims also don’t feel too much sympathy for Muslim immigrants.

“It’s necessary to keep in mind that Russian Muslims are not immigrants in Russia and, more than that, they feel all the negative consequences of immigration, especially from Central Asia,” Suleymanov explained.

Vusal Kerimov, a Moscow-based political expert and a representative of Moscow’s Talysh diaspora, suggested it isn’t surprising that there has been no official reaction from Muslim representatives. “Why should there be? Any criticism would be controversial to the Kremlin’s official line. That is why Muslim social activists preferred not to touch the American election at all. Peskov said, ‘It’s not our business.’ I fully understand this position,” Kerimov told Al-Monitor.

Russian Muslims who spoke with Al-Monitor reacted negatively to Trump’s ban and anti-Islam rhetoric, but those who agreed to comment on the record about the situation don’t think it will affect them or lead to the rise of Islamophobia in Russia. Gilyazov, the professor, concurred.

“I personally condemn Trump’s anti-Muslim stance. But I understand that it is a result of prevailing Islamophobia in Western countries and an expression of the political incorrectness of the new American leader,” Gilyazov said.

Journalist Nasima Bokova also believes “the ban and anti-Islam stance won’t impact Muslims in Russia or worldwide.”

“Russia has its own story with its Muslim population, which has been a natural part of its culture and history for many centuries,” Bokova, former editor in chief of magazine Musulmanka (Muslim Woman), told Al-Monitor. She also believes there is no threat to American Muslims. “American society is tolerant enough. I used to live there and saw with my own eyes that most Americans are not Islamophobic at all.”

While there are still some concerns that Trump’s anti-Islam stance will lead to the rise of Islamophobia in the world, there is a strong possibility it might have quite a different effect.

“The recent ban and Trump’s anti-Islam rhetoric could lead to the rise of anti-Western and anti-Christian sentiments among Muslims. Some extremist elements could probably benefit from the situation — some of them could take revenge on the USA and American citizens and this wave could spread around the world. As a result, people will say that Trump was right,” Kerimov, the Moscow political expert, told Al-Monitor.

(Source / 09.02.2017)

Why GCC has been silent on Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

US President Donald Trump waits to speak by phone with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud in the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, Jan. 29, 2017

US President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order targeting seven Muslim-majority African/Arab countries received a chorus of criticism from around the world and within the Beltway. A number of Washington’s traditional allies, in addition to Iran, the United Nations and the Arab League, condemned the new American president’s decision, as did scores of US lawmakers on both sides of the partisan divide.

Save Qatar, which expressed a subtle disapproval of Trump’s executive order, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, however, have been absent from this wave of condemnation. The 45th president’s phone conversation Jan. 29 with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud did not cover the “Muslim ban.” The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) foreign minister and a Dubai police official went as far as to defend the move as within the US right as a sovereign nation, while dismissing the interpretation that the executive order is Islamophobic. Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman have, thus far, been silent. The lack of condemnation from the GCC is indicative of the Arab Gulf states’ “wait-and-see” approach to the new US administration and their vested interests in staying on Trump’s good side at a time when their economic and security challenges require close cooperation with Washington.

The GCC royals have numerous agendas that they see as best protected by pursuing better ties with Trump than they enjoyed with Barack Obama. Public criticism over the American president’s executive order could set back such interests that include securing greater US support in countering Iran’s regional conduct, safeguarding their sheikhdoms from the Islamic State (IS) and attracting foreign investment for their economic diversification programs.

A major disappointment that the Saudi leaders and other Arab state officials encountered with the Obama administration was its perceived weakness on Iran. From the GCC’s perspective, the last administration failed to take adequate action to counter Tehran’s conduct across the region, most notably in Syria and Yemen, which most in the council see as a grave security threat to the Arabian Peninsula monarchies. There have been clear signs that the Trump administration is determined to take a harder stance against Iran’s posture in the Middle East.

On Feb. 1, as the United States and three of its Western allies were conducting three-day war games in the Gulf to “ensure the free flow of commerce” through the Strait of Hormuz, national security adviser Michael Flynn warned that Washington is “officially putting Iran on notice” while engaging in a “deliberative process” to “consider a whole range of options” vis-a-vis Tehran. Flynn’s words were a response to Iran’s testing of a ballistic missile and an attack waged by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels against a Saudi naval vessel. Two days later, Flynn’s words translated into action once the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and companies affiliated with Tehran’s ballistic missile program, and others supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. Unquestionably, such actions provide Riyadh with a rather optimistic outlook on the new administration’s approach to addressing the Islamic Republic and the alleged threat it poses to the GCC.

The Obama administration’s refusal to create a “no-fly zone” in Syria for fear of drawing the United States into a bloody Middle Eastern war frustrated the Saudis and Qataris, who unsuccessfully sought to pressure Obama into stepping up the US military’s involvement in Syria against the regime. Despite Trump’s calls for severing Washington’s support for Saudi/Qatari-backed Sunni rebels in Syria, the US president’s advocating for “safe zones” in Syria and Yemen received a full endorsement from the Saudi king during his phone call with the American president.

A source of unease in the kingdom and other Arab Gulf states is that Trump will not lead a “typical Republican administration.” Rooted in a history of deeper cooperation with former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the GCC has long been more comfortable with Republican White Houses that catered to oil interests and conducted more militaristic foreign policies against common adversaries of the United States and the GCC. Trump’s rhetoric, however, about making the GCC pay more for its defense while calling for a US-Russia partnership in the Middle East unsettled Arab Gulf leaders who feared that the real estate mogul would view the oil-rich monarchies as merely “cash cows” rather than vital allies and fail to take their concerns about regional tensions seriously. Although it is too early to determine how the GCC will eventually fit into Trump’s grander Middle East foreign policy, these early moves signal that the 45th president is likely determined to work closely with the Arab Gulf states on the Iran file.

Although many were baffled as to why the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (the official title of every Saudi king since 1986) did not raise the executive order during his recent phone call with Trump, strategic interests rather than religion and socially constructed identities form the basis of state-to-state relationships. Many in the GCC found Trump’s Islamophobia repulsive and disturbing, as underscored by many Saudi elites’ highly negative reaction to the property billionaire’s December 2015 call for a “Muslim ban,” yet officials in Riyadh are careful about which battles they wish to pick with the 45th president. The election of Trump, regardless of the many objections that some in the GCC may have previously articulated about his candidacy, will not change the fact that Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states remain dependent on the United States for their security. Rather than condemning his executive order, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are instead focused on advancing mutual interests with the new White House while avoiding any public spat between the GCC and Washington.

A number of outstanding issues, chiefly the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which Trump endorsed and permits US citizens to sue the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks on Sept. 9, 2001, are sensitive matters that the United States and the GCC must eventually address. The Arab Gulf states will be in a better position to do so if they warm their ties with the new administration. As the Saudis seek to move forward with Vision 2030, an ambitious transformation plan aimed at ending the kingdom’s economic dependence on oil, investment from the United States and other wealthy countries is crucial. By supporting the “Muslim ban,” either through an outright endorsement or calculated silence, the Saudis and other Arab Gulf states are investing in a better relationship with Washington as the JASTA question remains a major problem for US-GCC relations that Trump will eventually need to address.

Not lost in the equation is the defense industry’s vested interests in a continuation of Washington’s alliances with the six GCC members. Although many in the media quickly pointed to the absence in the “Muslim ban” of countries where Trump has business interests, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE — the countries of origin for all but two of the 9/11 hijackers and thousands of IS members — another factor is that the United States is not a major arms seller to most of the seven countries listed: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. With James Mattis heading the Pentagon and Rex Tillerson serving as America’s top diplomat, these two figures have close ties to the GCC and view the Arab Gulf states as pivotal American allies in the Middle East, particularly as the White House flexes its muscles in the Gulf to send Iran a bold message.

Nonetheless, the Saudis are not entirely at ease with Trump and his “Muslim ban.” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ statement that “perhaps other countries need to be added” to the list is unsettling for the Arab Gulf states, which many of Trump’s critics have argued deserved to be placed on any such list before countries whose citizens have never waged a single deadly act of jihadi terrorism on US soil. If the administration adds any members of the GCC, it is doubtful that most Arab Gulf officials will remain silent.

(Source / 07.02.2017)

Sarsour v. Trump: Palestinian-American Activist Sues the President to Overturn Muslim Ban

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We turn now to Sarsour v. Trump—a sweeping lawsuit the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed Monday challenging Trump’s executive order temporarily banning all refugees from entering the United States and banning entry into the U.S. to all 218 million citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The lawsuit calls Trump’s ban a “Muslim Exclusion Order.” It argues the executive order is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. We speak to the lead plaintiff, Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, who was also co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Sarsour v. Trump, a sweeping lawsuit the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed Monday challenging President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning all refugees from entering the United States and banning entry into the U.S. to all 218 [million] citizens from seven Muslim majority nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The lawsuit calls Trump’s ban a “Muslim Exclusion Order.” It argues the executive order is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist, lead plaintiff in the case. She helped organize the Women’s March on Washington, as well.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Linda. We last saw you at the beginning of that march, the day after the inauguration, a march that trumped the Trump inauguration, the crowd three times, I think—

LINDA SARSOUR: Yeah, absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: —was the size. But you’re suing Donald Trump now, along with a number of other plaintiffs. Explain what’s the basis of the suit.

LINDA SARSOUR: Well, the basis, first of all, is that we believe that the Muslim ban is unconstitutional. We also believe that there is some preference of one religion over another, which also violates the Constitution. And we actually believe we have standing now, as we saw the acting attorney general fired by Donald Trump, who said that she would not defend something that she felt was indefensible and unconstitutional.

As a lead plaintiff, as you know, there’s a lot of Jane and John Does on there, which are being protected for their legal types of status that they have, but we have anywhere from Yemeni, Somali, Sudanese students. We have medical students who are here, who are actually serving the American people. We have religious leaders who are here on R1 visas, who, if travel back to their country, would not be able to come back. I mean, these are—we have American citizens who have wives who are also trying to get visas to come into the United States. We’re separating families. I mean, the stories that we are defending in this lawsuit are a lot more important than my name, but being able to put a public face as an American Muslim on this lawsuit, because we will not allow Donald Trump to get away with this.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Of course, the Trump administration is claiming that it is not a Muslim ban, that it’s a ban on specific countries. And I’m wondering your response to that.

LINDA SARSOUR: Absolutely. I mean, we saw the Muslim registry program back in 2003 under the Bush administration, that actually started with about six countries, and then it went to about 29 countries of origin. So we have seen precedent of making this list a lot larger.

And what’s really interesting is we talk about we want to keep America safe. From who? From Syrian refugees? Since when can somebody tell me a time or a case where there has been a Syrian refugee in this country who has committed an act of terror? And that’s the problem here. There is absolutely no basis or no data that supports this particular list of countries. I don’t support any list of any countries. These refugees, in particular, are leaving war, conflict. They have seen torture and massacre, and they need a safety haven. And we have heard him say, “Well, maybe the Christian refugees,” so basically saying we’ll take the Christians and not the Muslims.

And again, all of the campaign rhetoric that we heard, Juan, during the campaign, people said, “Oh, don’t worry, he’s just playing to the base. He just wants votes.” Guess what. It’s all been policy prescriptive, and we’ve watched him one executive order after another. And we’re going to stop him now. This is only the first 10 days. We don’t know what’s to come.

AMY GOODMAN: So, former New York mayor and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani appeared on Fox News and explained how Donald Trump planned to institute the executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

RUDY GIULIANI: I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So, when he first announced it, he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up. He said, “Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger! The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal. Perfectly sensible. And that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, close adviser to Donald Trump. Linda Sarsour?

LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, Rudy Giuliani is a known racist Islamophobe. And he basically—what he was trying to explain here, that it was a Muslim ban, but they were going to find another way to package it so it didn’t come off unconstitutional. And it is very clear to so many people, including the acting attorney general who has now been fired, that this is unconstitutional. We have had members of Congress, some of whom are not always good on the issue, saying this is unconstitutional. So to tell me that Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are going to know more than a woman who has served 27 years in our Department of Justice is absolutely outrageous. So, we are going to continue to challenge this executive order and many unconstitutional executive orders that are to come.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’m wondering what you think of the media coverage so far of this issue, because, clearly, the media has been somewhat more confrontational to the Trump administration. But on this issue of the Muslim ban and of Trump’s executive order on immigration, what’s your sense of that coverage?

LINDA SARSOUR: I think, generally speaking, the media has been pretty good on this issue. Why? Because there is no other way to be about it. It’s very clearly unconstitutional. And also, the uprising at airports across the country, you cannot ignore the people rising up against this administration. Since the Women’s March on Washington, we have seen continued mass mobilization in cities across America, where people are just putting a call out and people are coming out in the thousands, whether it be here in New York City, in Atlanta, in Cleveland, Ohio, in San Francisco, in Los Angeles. So, the media can’t ignore that. And I think more of that is to come.

AMY GOODMAN: And Trump is hitting the media hard. And so, a lot of it is clearly self-defense. But on this issue of who he wants to keep out of this country, I want to turn to an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, when Trump said persecuted Christians will be given priority when it comes to applying for refugee status in the United States.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They’ve been horribly treated. Do you know, if you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, very, very—at least very, very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim, you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible. And the reason that was so unfair is that the—everybody was persecuted, in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So, we are going to help them.

AMY GOODMAN: “So, we are going to help them,” referring to the Christians. Linda Sarsour?

LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, those claims are all baseless. Yes, of course, there are some Christians that are being persecuted in many countries across the world. But in—let’s take Syria, for example. They were a minority that were protected by the government for a very long time. And for him to say that Christians are seeing more than Syrian Muslims, for example, who are being displaced in the millions, as five—over 500,000 Syrians have been massacred, mostly by the Assad regime. So, to claim that one religion is more persecuted than another, I think, is, first of all, divisive, which we don’t need right now in this world, and I think it’s also untrue.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, the Times says, the U.S. “accepts tens of thousands of Christian refugees. According to the Pew Research Center, almost as many as Christian refugees (37,521) were admitted as Muslim refugees [about 38,000] in the 2016 fiscal year.” Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about the—another topic related to the recent attack in Quebec, which initially the reports were that it was a Moroccan Muslim. It turns out to have been not only a white nationalist, but someone who is basically a supporter of Donald Trump and of Marine Le Pen, the right-wing leader in France. Your reaction to this attack and how that was initially covered?

LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, it’s not the first time. It’s like the Boston bombing, when we had two young Algerian boys with bookbags, and we called them the “bag men,” without absolutely no information on these young men. Same thing is happening right now in Quebec. And what really bothers me about this is that it creates more animosity, and people never see the correction. People see whatever the media first reports. And to know that a white nationalist, a supporter of Donald Trump, walked into a mosque and killed six innocent people, the fact that people don’t feel safe to pray in a country like Canada or now in the United States—we have now security across the mosques. I’m on listservs where people are talking about what types of precautions. I mean, this is not why Muslims or any person of any faith came to the United States. We should feel safe. And the fact that you could be on your knees in this country praying to your god and to be shot is absolutely horrific. I was horrified. And I just the pictures of the victims’ fathers, you know, and people who have contributed to the society who are now not here with us today.

(Source / 04.02.2017)