As promised, on the first day of his presidency, Joe Biden signed an executive order rescinding the Muslim ban and overturning one of Trump administration’s signature anti-Muslim policies. The country was “built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance,” declared the Biden administration’s proclamation, callin the ban “a stain on our national conscience” and “inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”
The expected move was welcomed by civil liberties and American Muslim organizations. The Council on American Islamic Relations commended President Biden on “an important first step toward undoing the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies of the previous administration.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the Biden Administration’s executive orders “welcome first steps after four brutal years of attacks on Black and Brown people.”
Much of the subsequent discussion has revolved around the steps needed to undo the significant harms caused by the Muslim Ban. The ACLU, for example, called on the Biden administration to “provide justice by restoring lost diversity visas, waiving fees for those who were denied, and expediting processing, among other necessities.”
Continue reading “The War on Terror Created the Muslim Ban” →
The rage palpable on the streets after the police murder of George Floyd has coalesced into a demand for abolishing the police and there is once again an increased focus on how US law enforcement has become militarized in the past three decades.
“For the past week,” writes Stuart Schrader, “our social media and television screens have been dominated by images of police officers in head-to-toe body armor wielding batons, pepper-ball guns, riot shields, and teargas against mostly peaceful protesters.” These images may be shocking but the spectacle is hardly new. It was on full display during the police response to protests in Ferguson following the murder of Michael Brown in 2014 and during the first public iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of Travyon Martin a year before. Continue reading “Abolition and the War on Terror” →
A few points on the recent controversy around PEN’s award to Charlie Hebdo:
Jeet Heer wants to know how everyone has suddenly become an expert on French visual satire. It’s a peculiar argument, based on the premise that in order to judge Charlie Hebdo cartoons one has to be an expert on a long and rancid tradition of French satire. It has always struck me as odd, as if the only obvious conclusion to be drawn from the argument simply doesn’t occur to those making it. If one has to be an expert on a distinctly French tradition of satire because what others may consider vile and bigoted is common within that tradition and the broader national culture then perhaps it is logical to assume that French society is more racist than others. It’s certainly a more logical conclusion than whinging in perpetuity about how no one understands the French.
Continue reading “Charlie Hebdo, Again” →
At some 8,000 words Mary Anne Weaver’s recent article in the New York Times Magazine, “Her Majesty’s Jihadists”, is the most detailed attempt yet to “understand the pull of jihad” for Muslims in the UK. The subtitle boldly states that more British Muslims have joined Islamist militant groups than serve in the British military. Why this is so is worth asking, I suppose, though one could alternately ask why so few British Muslims are willing to serve in a military that has, quite literally, been at war in one place or another for more than a century. As Guardian reported last year, “Next year may be the first since at least 1914 that British soldiers, sailors and air crews will not be engaged in fighting somewhere – the first time Britain is totally at peace with the rest of the world.” That belated peace was not to be as the British Parliament “voted overwhelmingly” to authorize air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. In our political culture we are not supposed to ask why individuals would willingly risk their lives for geopolitical or corporate aims. Their heroism has to be mindlessly celebrated.
In any case, Weaver’s article does not address that question. It wants to “understand the pull of jihad” for British Muslims. Her article is perhaps less interesting for what it says than for what it leaves out. There are interviews with scholars belonging to the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), a man whose three son left to fight in Syria, and Moazzam Begg–an activist and a former prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. Weaver begins her investigation by asking Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at ICSR, if he could draw a “typical jihadist profile” for her. Maher explains that the “average British fighter is male, in his early 20s and of South Asian ethnic origin” with “some university education and some association with activist groups.” Some go for humanitarian reasons and others are adventure seekers, “students of martyrdom,” and the “die-hard radicals.”
Continue reading “British Jihadis” →
I have an article in Jacobin on the recent Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) summit held at the White House. It briefly traces the history of the Pakistani Taliban to look at some of the underlying causes of terrorism. An excerpt:
The problem is not that the Obama administration lacks the information to formulate an effective counter-extremism strategy that doesn’t scapegoat Muslims. The problem instead is that the most effective way to reduce the threat of terrorism is to retreat from empire.
It is no surprise that imperial wars and longstanding alliances with authoritarian states responsible for funding right-wing Islamist movements do not reduce the threat of terrorism. This holds true not just for “homegrown” terrorism but also for terrorist groups abroad. Unwilling to abandon policies that continually produce recruits for militant Islamism, the US falls back on blaming an ideology and the community which supposedly harbors it. Hence the focus on Muslims and the battle for “hearts and minds.”
Read the full article at Jacobin.
For those of us who have ever felt a serious lack of hackneyed and discredited ideas in our political culture, James K. Glassman has done us all a service by writing this article in Politico. Glassman was a former chairman of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors in the George W. Bush administration and is currently a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. With his recent article, he follows an illustrious pedigree on the right that has expressed effusive praise for Obama’s war efforts against The Terrorists.
Specifically, Glassman congratulates Obama for finally appreciating the importance of “ideas” in the War on Terror (as demonstrated by the recent Counter Violent Extremism Summit) and volunteers his own expertise to help the Obama administration formulate a strategy. After all, a “war of ideas” is not like other wars, you see. It relies less on blunt force and more on delicate diplomatic manoeuvring. Fortunately, Glassman is willing to guide us through it.
Continue reading “A War of Ideas: Terrorism and Ideology” →
Violence against Muslims is not an exceptional event in this country. It is the norm. The triple homicide in Chapel Hill is no outlier. It is only the most recent and brutal manifestation of the pervasive Islamophobia in this country. Michelle Golberg, writing for The Nation blog, captures some of this:
According to the latest FBI statistics, there were more than 160 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2013. Mosques and Islamic centers have been firebombed and vandalized; seven mosques were attacked during Ramadan alone in 2012. Several Muslims, or people thought to be Muslim, have been murdered or viciously attacked. In 2010, a white college student and self-described patriot tried to slash the throat of Bangladeshi cab driver Ahmed Sharif. The white supremacist who slaughtered six people in a Sikh temple in 2012 may have thought he was targeting Muslims. So, apparently, did Erika Menendez, the homeless New Yorker who pushed a man named Sunando Sen in front of a subway train that same year.
Continue reading “The Chapel Hill Murders” →
Since the attack on Charlie Hebdo a few writers have offered to explain the uniquely French context of the magazine. Voltaire and Diderot are invoked, as is the spirit of May ’68. Those who think the cartoons are racist simply do not understand the French political context, the argument goes. Charlie Hebdo follows a distinctly French tradition of anti-clericalism and laïcité, as is evident by its far-left and anti-authoritarian history. While they may appear racist to those outside of France the cartoons in fact lampoon racism. I have explained my own misgivings with Charlie Hebdo in a previous post (also worth reading is this 2013 letter from a former Charlie Hebdo staffer). Here I merely want to see if the enviable history volunteered by those explicating Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons has any bearing on its obvious racism.
Continue reading “Racist or French? The Charlie Hebdo Quiz” →
Reading commentaries on the massacre in Charlie Hebdo‘s office I have learned that there is a correct way to respond to the tragedy. One is supposed to immediately condemn the attack, defend the right to blaspheme (some, like Jonathan Chait, would ask us to defend blasphemy itself), and angrily denounce any conversations about the cartoons regularly published by Charlie Hebdo. There are additional comments the inspired and politically astute among us can make: assert the universality of our freedoms, claim that they are under attack by fundamentalists, and applaud the distinctively French tradition of irreverence and “anticlerical spirit that goes far back in French history.”
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s statements following the attack are fine, eloquent examples of this required response. According to Kerry, “No country knows better than France that freedom has a price, because France gave birth to democracy itself.” The terrorists, continues the Secretary of State, “may wield weapons, but we in France and in the United States share a commitment to those who wield something that is far more powerful. Not just a pen, but a pen that represents an instrument of freedom, not fear.”
These sentiments were echoed by President Obama: “France is America’s oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world. Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended. France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers.”
Continue reading “On the Charlie Hebdo Attack” →