Tuesday, 17 November 2015

EastEnders praised for 'meaning of Islam' scene after Paris attacks Character Tamwar is seen explaining what his religion means to him to girlfriend Nancy

 Jess Denham
Independent News
Copyright, All Rights Reserved
Tuesday 17th November 2015
EastEnders has been widely praised for highlighting the true meaning of Islam during Monday night’s episode.

One brief scene in the long-running soap saw Muslim character Tamwar (Himesh Patel) attempt to explain his religion to girlfriend Nancy (Maddy Hill), after she asked him what an Arabic passage he had marked in The Quran meant.

“Do good to relatives, orphans, the needy, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who’s a stranger, to the companion at your side, and to the traveller,” it read.
Tamwar said: “That to me is what Islam is about. Be kind to people, family and strangers alike, and love them.”

Many viewers were touched by the moment, which proved poignant following last week’s horrific terrorist attack at the hands of Islamic State gunmen in Paris.

Muslims have been tweeting under the #NotInMyName hashtag to distance themselves from the radical ideology of those who committed the atrocities and remind people that terrorism does not represent Islam.

I was held hostage by Isis. They fear our unity more than our airstrikes by Nicolas Hénin

Published in The Guardian
Monday 16th November 2015
Copyright, All Rights Reserved
In Syria I learned that Islamic State longs to provoke retaliation. We should not fall into the trap
As a proud Frenchman I am as distressed as anyone about the events in Paris. But I am not shocked or incredulous. I know Islamic State. I spent 10 months as an Isis hostage, and I know for sure that our pain, our grief, our hopes, our lives do not touch them. Theirs is a world apart.

Most people only know them from their propaganda material, but I have seen behind that. In my time as their captive, I met perhaps a dozen of them, including Mohammed Emwazi: Jihadi John was one of my jailers. He nicknamed me “Baldy”.

Even now I sometimes chat with them on social media, and can tell you that much of what you think of them results from their brand of marketing and public relations. They present themselves to the public as superheroes, but away from the camera are a bit pathetic in many ways: street kids drunk on ideology and power. In France we have a saying – stupid and evil. I found them more stupid than evil. That is not to understate the murderous potential of stupidity.

All of those beheaded last year were my cellmates, and my jailers would play childish games with us – mental torture – saying one day that we would be released and then two weeks later observing blithely, “Tomorrow we will kill one of you.” The first couple of times we believed them but after that we came to realise that for the most part they were bullshitters having fun with us.

They would play mock executions. Once they used chloroform with me. Another time it was a beheading scene. A bunch of French-speaking jihadis were shouting, “We’re going to cut your head off and put it on to your arse and upload it to YouTube.” They had a sword from an antique shop.
They were laughing and I played the game by screaming, but they just wanted fun. As soon as they left I turned to another of the French hostages and just laughed. It was so ridiculous.

It struck me forcefully how technologically connected they are; they follow the news obsessively, but everything they see goes through their own filter. They are totally indoctrinated, clinging to all manner of conspiracy theories, never acknowledging the contradictions.

Everything convinces them that they are on the right path and, specifically, that there is a kind of apocalyptic process under way that will lead to a confrontation between an army of Muslims from all over the world and others, the crusaders, the Romans. They see everything as moving us down that road. Consequently, everything is a blessing from Allah.

With their news and social media interest, they will be noting everything that follows their murderous assault on Paris, and my guess is that right now the chant among them will be “We are winning”. They will be heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia; they will be drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media.

Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence. The pictures from Germany of people welcoming migrants will have been particularly troubling to them. Cohesion, tolerance – it is not what they want to see.
Why France? For many reasons perhaps, but I think they identified my country as a weak link in Europe – as a place where divisions could be sown easily. That’s why, when I am asked how we should respond, I say that we must act responsibly.

And yet more bombs will be our response. I am no apologist for Isis. How could I be? But everything I know tells me this is a mistake. The bombardment will be huge, a symbol of righteous anger. Within 48 hours of the atrocity, fighter planes conducted their most spectacular munitions raid yet in Syria, dropping more than 20 bombs on Raqqa, an Isis stronghold. Revenge was perhaps inevitable, but what’s needed is deliberation. My fear is that this reaction will make a bad situation worse.

While we are trying to destroy Isis, what of the 500,000 civilians still living and trapped in Raqqa? What of their safety? What of the very real prospect that by failing to think this through, we turn many of them into extremists? The priority must be to protect these people, not to take more bombs to Syria. We need no-fly zones – zones closed to Russians, the regime, the coalition. The Syrian people need security or they themselves will turn to groups such as Isis.

Canada withdrew from the air war after the election of Justin Trudeau. I desperately want France to do the same, and rationality tells me it could happen. But pragmatism tells me it won’t. The fact is we are trapped: Isis has trapped us. They came to Paris with Kalashnikovs, claiming that they wanted to stop the bombing, but knowing all too well that the attack would force us to keep bombing or even to intensify these counterproductive attacks. That is what is happening.

Emwazi is gone now, killed in a coalition air strike, his death celebrated in parliament. I do not mourn him. But during his murder spree, he too followed this double bluff strategy. After murdering the American journalist James Foley, he pointed his knife at the camera and, turning to the next intended victim, said: “Obama, you must stop intervening in the Middle East or I will kill him.” He knew very well what the hostage’s fate would be. He knew very well what the American reaction would be – more bombing. It’s what Isis wants, but should we be giving it to them?

The group is wicked, of that there is no doubt. But after all that happened to me, I still don’t feel Isis is the priority. To my mind, Bashar al-Assad is the priority. The Syrian president is responsible for the rise of Isis in Syria, and so long as his regime is in place, Isis cannot be eradicated. Nor can we stop the attacks on our streets. When people say “Isis first, and then Assad”, I say don’t believe them. They just want to keep Assad in place.

At the moment there is no political road map and no plan to engage the Arab Sunni community. Isis will collapse, but politics will make that happen. In the meantime there is much we can achieve in the aftermath of this atrocity, and the key is strong hearts and resilience, for that is what they fear. I know them: bombing they expect. What they fear is unity.

Nicolas Henin is author of Jihad Academy, The Rise of Islamic State

The Paris Attack and My Racist Facebook 'Friends' by Craig Considine

Published in The Huffington Post
All Rights Reserved, Copyright

"Thirty-five people dead in Paris. They don't know what it is yet. Not sure if there were bombs."

That was the text message I received on Friday during my walk home from Rice University.
"Here we go again," I thought...

My first reaction: The media will instantly assume Muslims carried out the attack, regardless of whether Muslims were even involved. That is standard fare these days in the media. Violence = Islam = Terrorism. My second reaction concerned my social media feeds. I had a gut feeling that my Facebook "friends" were going to pour their hearts out for the killings in Paris.

I was right. And I was a bit annoyed by that.

"TERROR." That was the first word that I saw on CNN when I got home. Go figure. Twenty minutes after the attack, and the media made sure to let me know that this attack deserves the word "terrorism." Never mind the recent Charleston shooting, where a white man killed nine black people in a predominantly black church. That was not "terrorism." That was just violence carried out by a "crazy white dude." This "crazy white dude" is not a terrorist. Because he is white. White people do not commit terrorism. Only brown people can do that. And brown Muslims at that.

Let us have an honest discussion for once. When people die in Paris, the media calls it "horrific." When hundreds of Syrians die on any given day, the media hardly flinches. Events in Syria do not get labeled "horrific." That is because Syrians dying is considered "normal," their deaths simply pass us by. No big deal.

About an hour after the attacks were first reported, I started to wonder, "How long before these events are linked to ISIS? How long before these deaths are used to justify Western imperialism in the Middle East?" In my head, I gave it 24 hours. In reality, it was about 24 minutes.

My Facebook feed confirmed my fear. "Friends" posted things like "the terrorists shouted 'Allah Akbar.' See? It is terrorism! Fuck terrorism! Screw ISIS." Yet, when a Christian kills an Afghan to "protect and preserve American values," none of these "friends" label that "terrorism." How dare someone even suggest Americans are terrorists! Our violence is completely justified because it is our violence. We are never terrorists, only anti-terrorists. We are civilized; they are uncivilized. So the argument goes.

Hardly any of my "friends" shared their outrage when a dead Syrian baby washed up on a beach in the Mediterranean. Hardly any of them shed a tear. Did any of my "friends" even notice? That is the bigger question. And yet, what happens when Paris is attacked? When Parisians die? People are enraged.

The double standards are ridiculous.

And what about President Obama? His initial response, which came up on my Facebook feed, condemned the horrible attack that terrorized Parisian civilians. Yet Obama has indirectly killed too many civilians to count. Where are my Americans "friends" condemning the president? Is it okay when our president is responsible for the deaths of babies in Pakistan? It appears so. The silence confirms that. The silence is deafening.

Let us count the civilian death toll in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan. The number is high. Shockingly high! These deaths occur in the face of imperialism. Our imperialism. It is our terrorism, but nobody thinks of it that way. That, in itself, is racist.

Then there are my "friends" who say, "the terrorists in Paris attacked our values, our Western values. That was their intention!" Really? I doubt that. And even if that were true, that is a racist argument. It suggests that Muslims are backward, pre-modern and incapable of progress. It suggests that "our" way of life is inherently better than "theirs." That is racist too. It suggests that "the West" and "Islam" are fundamentally incompatible. That is racist. Make no mistake about it.

Again, let us be honest. There is only outrage on Facebook when "we" suffer from "terrorism." "We" meaning the so-called "civilized West." There exists a hierarchy of human life on Facebook and elsewhere. Some people are valued, while others are not. An American life is worth more than an Iraqi life. A French life is worth more than a Palestinian life. Somehow, what happened in Paris is unjustified. It is "barbaric." Yet everything the "West" has inflicted on others, the extreme state-sponsored violence, the imperialism, the destruction, is somehow justified. This deeply ingrained racism is real. Very real.

My Facebook "friends" criticize me for asking the question, "Why are some lives valued, while others are not?" They are particularly upset with the timing of this question. But let me ask you: When is the right time or wrong time to talk about racism or humanity? Should I just sit back and wait for a bright sunny day, when nobody gives a crap, to share my views, or should I cut right to the chase, during the heat of the moment, and call out racism when I see it?

Now is always the time to talk about the value of human life. If not now, when?

Islamic State wants the West to hate Muslims - this must be resisted -- IAIN MacWHIRTER / Sunday 15 November 2015 / Opinion

Copyright, All Rights Reserved

FRANCE is at war,” said Francois Hollande on the morning after the worst attack on French soil since the Second World War. But at war with what? Islamic State isn’t a country. They don’t invade with armies, but with fear.

You can’t go to war with an organisation that doesn’t stand and fight and nor can you punish people who’ve already sacrificed their lives. Hollande said the perpetrators will be pursued “without mercy”.
But you can’t sentence a suicide bomber to death. IS are terrorists whose objective is not to occupy but to polarise; to encourage repressive measures from the state against Muslims, and to force non-Muslim communities to regard followers of Islam as “enemies within”.

They know that the influx into Europe of large numbers of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East is reawakening latent xenophobia in French society. IS are doing a recruiting job for the extremist Front National of Marine Le Pen who is expected to win next month’s regional elections in northern France. The FN wants Europe to rebuild its borders and end free movement.
The Paris attacks seem to have been consciously targeted at trendy cafes and restaurants attended by urban liberals who celebrate multiculturalism and for whom religious or racial intolerance is abhorrent.
It was retaliation against the Paris that came out in force to express solidarity with the victims of Charlie Hebdo in January. “They curse our prophet,” said the IS statement. The rhetoric may be mediaeval but the tactics are 21st century. These are digital zealots, connoisseurs of popular culture, who may even posses a grim sense irony. Their main attack in Paris was at a rock concert fronted by the American band Eagles of Death Metal. But it was real death metal flying into the bodies of young people from Kalashnikovs wielded by Islamist fanatics.

The message was clear: the young people in the West play at death; IS do the real thing.
IS says it is targeting Paris in part because of the bombing in Syria, but principally because it is “the capital of adultery and vice”. The cover of the Eagles of Death Metal’s latest album Zipper Down depicts a woman in a leather jacket revealing her breasts.

The imagery will not be lost on the legions of young impressionable Muslims on the internet.
The only way to defeat IS is to withstand it. The people of Paris understand this. On BBC radio yesterday a young Parisian announced that “everybody is going to go out and eat cheese and drink wine like we always do on Saturdays”. That’s the spirit. Hurling rhetoric and more drones at IS only makes it stronger. The best way to combat this kind of threat, is to keep calm and carry on.
That’s how Britain withstood the IRA’s mainland bombing campaign which killed so many.

The one thing the terrorists want is for governments to launch another war on terror, just as America did after 9/11. So let’s hear no more of it. The weapon Islamic extremists fear most is tolerance.

To Defeat ISIS, We Must Call Both Western and Muslim Leaders to Account And that includes the Saudi kings whose funding of Wahhabi doctrine gave rise to the scourge of Islamic extremism. by Laila Lalami

Published in The Nation
November 15, 2015
All Rights Reserved, Copyright

 hat happened in Paris on November 13 has happened before, in a shopping district of Beirut on November 12, in the skies over Egypt on October 31, at a cultural center in Turkey on July 20, a beach resort in Tunisia on June 26—and nearly every day in Syria for the last four years.

The scenario is by now familiar to all of us. News of the killings will appear on television and radio. There will be cries of horror and sorrow, a few hashtags on Twitter, perhaps even a change of avatars on Facebook. Our leaders will make staunch promises to bring the terrorists to justice, while also claiming greater power of surveillance over their citizens. And then life will resume exactly as before

Except for the victims’ families. For them, time will split into a Before and After.

We owe these families, of every race, creed, and nationality, more than sorrow, more than anger. We owe them justice.

We must call to account ISIS, a nihilistic cult of death that sees the world in black and white, with no shades of gray in between.

We must call to account Bashar al-Assad, whose response to peaceful protesters in the spring of 2011 was to send water cannons and military tanks to meet them.

We must call to account the governments of the United States, France, Britain, Russia, Iran, and many others, who lent support and succor to tyrant after tyrant in the Middle East and North Africa, and whose interventions appear to create 10 terrorists for every one they kill.

We must call to account George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, whose disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent disbanding of the Iraqi army destabilized the entire region.

When I was a child in Morocco, no clerics told me what to do, what to read or not read, what to believe, what to wear. And if they did, I was free not to listen. Faith was more than its conspicuous manifestations. But things began to change in the 1980s. It was the height of the Cold War and Arab tyrants saw an opportunity: They could hold on to power indefinitely by repressing the dissidents in their midst—most of them secular leftists—and by encouraging the religious right wing, with tacit or overt approval from the United States and other Western allies. Into the void created by the decimation of the Arab world’s secular left, the Wahhabis stepped in, with almost unlimited financial resources. Wahhabi ideas spread throughout the region not because they have any merit—they don’t—but because they were and remain well funded. We cannot defeat ISIS without defeating the Wahhabi theology that birthed it. And to do so would require spending as much effort and money in defending liberal ideas.

The beheadings, the crucifixions, the destruction of cultural heritage that ISIS practices—none of these are new. They all happened, and continue to happen, in Saudi Arabia too. The government of Saudi Arabia has beheaded more people this year than ISIS. It persecutes Shias and atheists. It has slowly destroyed sites of cultural and religious significance around Mecca and Medina. To almost universal indifference, it has been bombing Yemen for seven months. Yet whenever terror strikes, it escapes notice and evades responsibility.

In this, it is aided and abetted by Western governments, who buy oil from tyrants and sell them weapons, while paying lip service to human rights.

I have no patience anymore for people who claim that Muslims do not speak out. They do, every day. Muslims are the primary victims of ISIS, and its primary resisters. It is an insult to every one of the hundreds of thousands of Muslim victims of terrorism to lump them with the lunatics who commit terror. The truth is that ISIS unleashes its nihilistic violence on anyone—Muslim, Christian or Jew; believer or unbeliever—who doesn’t subscribe to their cult.

I wish I could do something for the victims of terrorist violence. But I am a writer; words are all I have. And all I know is that I want, with all my heart, to preserve and celebrate what ISIS wishes to destroy: a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural life.

A Reminder That A Syrian Migrant's Son Gave Us The iPhone Europe's xenophobes should think twice.

Headshot of Alexander C. Kaufman
Business Editor, The Huffington Post
All Rights Reserved, Copyright 

A Hungary ruled by right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban doesn't deserve to produce the next iPhone.

The populist leader has spewed viciously xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric as migrants -- many of whom escaped violence in Syria -- amass in Hungary, a way station on the route to Germany. This, even as the world reels from the photo of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi's drowned body, cradled in the arms of a Turkish police officer. The gut-wrenching image only served to illustrate the desperate odds refugees face while trying to escape war at home.

Still, Orban is not alone.

In Greece, masked gunmen attack boats of migrants, attempting to prevent them from reaching the shores of the European Union. Even in Germany, where the government has taken in a record 800,000 refugees, a surge in neo-Nazi attacks on migrants have rocked the country.

Images of people leaving a Hungarian railway station on Friday to travel to Austria on foot demonstrate rich nations' reluctance to provide safe havens to those lucky enough to set foot in a stable country.

But, lest we forget, one of the men who most dramatically impacted human civilization in the last decade was the son of a Syrian who migrated to the U.S. in 1954.

Perhaps you've heard of him. His name was Steve Jobs.

If you wouldn't say it about a Jew, please don't say it about a Muslim

Alastair Sloan  
Monday, 16 November 2015 16:50 
Published at Middle East Monitor
All Rights Reserved, Copyright

“Jews are transforming Europe, says celebrity, in warning over dangers of mass immigration. One major entertainment figure has bravely voiced an alternative view, highlight[ing] how an influx of Jews could change the nature of the UK for ever.”

Does that headline and opening sentence make you feel uncomfortable? No? Perhaps this will.
“In some Jews’ hearts these vile gunmen are bringing forward the day of Jewish domination. Secretly they may look forward to that.”

The above quotes are taken, respectively, from articles by Sebastian Shakespeare in the Daily Mail in September, and Kelvin MacKenzie in the Sun newspaper on Monday, post-Paris terrorist attacks. I have, as you have probably already guessed, made some slight alterations to the original text. The word “Muslims” has been replaced with “Jews”. The swap is not merely to highlight the universal nature of prejudice and stereotype, but to remind us of a historic context.

Imagine my redactions as a time machine and we have gone back to 1946. The King David Hotel has just been bombed in Jerusalem, killing 91 people, mainly civilians, at Britain's headquarters in the Palestinian Mandate. The perpetrators were Jewish terrorists, who, impatient for the state of Israel to be established, had decided to kill innocent civilians.

Contrary to the myths that pervade today, large sections of the British public were hostile to Jews before, during and even after the war, goaded by contemporary polemicists of the Shakespeare and MacKenzie kind, and brainwashed by slanted news coverage in publications like the Daily Mail. Jewish immigration was restricted even in the face of pending, contemporaneous and post-genocide, mainly because Jews were considered “unassimilable”. The parallels with today's Syrian refugee crisis are uncanny.

I have no doubt that Kelvin MacKenzie and Sebastian Shakespeare would have been “warning” about Jewish immigration to Britain if they had been working in the 1940s. They would have denied they were being anti-Semitic, of course, but merely pointing out facts. After all, Jews really were carrying out terrorist attacks against British subjects in London, Rome, Cairo and Palestine. Even the White House was sent letter bombs by the same group of Jewish terrorists. Yet just as we do now, the actions of a few resulted in prejudice being dished out against the many.

Bigotry is irrational and timeless; it simply attacks the weakest target at any given time, with only scantly plausible justification. First it was the Jews accused of political conspiracies or terrorism; then it was the Ugandan Asians, who were described by one British media outlet as “parasites” and greeted at the airport by Brits waving placards saying “Go home”; now it is the turn of the Muslims of the Middle East, and even those who are British citizens. Little or no effort is made to understand them, or even to talk to those who are being criticised. How many pundits who criticise Islamists and jihadists so hotly have ever even met one? How many have spent time with conservative Muslims, to test their jaundiced assumptions that they support terrorism?

I despair when know-it-all commentators puff up their chests and declare patronisingly, “Islam is not the problem, Islamism is”, as if this is some sort of extraordinary insight that demonstrates their expertise in these matters. Then you read the accompanying article and discover that they think Islamists are exemplified by Al-Qaeda, Daesh/ISIS or Nigeria’s Boko Haram instead of those groups being, by sheer lack of numbers, the radicals on the extreme fringe.

Take Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood for example, which may have well over a million members, with which the British government has, despite its best efforts, failed comprehensively to find any evidence of links to terrorist activity. Or take the “jihadi revisionists” of the late nineties, Egyptian Islamists who convinced thousands of other Islamists to lay down their arms and enter peaceful politics. Or the ordinary peaceful Islamists in Britain today, some of whom have risked a great deal to negotiate the safe release of numerous Western hostages from ISIS and other militants’ hands, only to return home to be smeared by the government and a pliant media as “non-violent extremists”.

This persistent myth that much of Britain was never actively hostile to Jews fleeing the Holocaust prevents serious introspection today about the level of Islamophobia currently gripping Britain. Until the reality of our collective prejudice at that most desperate time in European history is recognised properly, writers like Sebastian Shakespeare and Kelvin MacKenzie will continue to believe that their bigotry is rationalised through present circumstances.

This history denial was exemplified by a recent article in the Daily Express: “Outrage as UN compares not accepting more Syrian refugees to refusing Jewish people in WW2” thundered the headline. The piece was on UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, who reminded the world about, “The 1938 Evian conference, where countries including the UK, US and Australia said admitting large numbers of German and Austrian Jews would strain their economies and societies.”

In response, Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash labelled Hussein's comments “deplorable” and claimed: “Britain took in a huge number of Jews and stood against Hitler. It is not appropriate to use that kind of analogy against those who saved Europe from the kind of abominations that were being perpetrated by Germany.”

It is an absurd claim by Cash, given that before the Jewish refugee crisis, Britain had no immigration controls whatsoever and introduced its first visa system specifically to reduce the flow of refugees from Germany and Austria, who were predominantly Jews. Both Roosevelt and Churchill were keen not to give the impression that the war was being undertaken to save Jews, for fear of provoking an anti-Semitic domestic backlash.

As Leon Silver of East London Central Synagogue, which stands close to the much-defamed East London Mosque, puts it, “What was said about Jews then, they are saying about Muslims now.” The memory of the Holocaust has, certain inaccuracies excluded, produced a near impenetrable legal and moral shield against anti-Semitism for Britain's Jews. Why then, are Muslims suffering in the exact same way that the Jews once did? It's time for a new rule: if you wouldn't say it about a Jew, please don't say it about a Muslim.

You can follow the author on Twitter @AlastairSloan