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Spies, Lies and the Caring Professions: Countering Violent Extremism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/06/2020 - 7:29pm in

During a February 2016 episode of ABC TV’s Q&A program, then minister for justice and counterterrorism Michael Keenan said that teachers were being trained to spot extremists because ‘ISIL is targeting people younger and younger… They will exhibit certain behaviours if they have made contact with someone in the Middle East’. On the same panel, Labor’s shadow minister for foreign affairs Tanya Plibersek said, ‘our best ally in keeping Australians safe is making sure we’ve got good relationships with the Muslim community’. These portrayals from the major political parties illustrate the notion of young Muslims’ susceptibility to terrorism and the idea of exploiting the participation of professionals to stem this. These dual forces underlie the premise of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), a government-funded strategy predicated on a shift from crime detection and prosecution to prevention. 

We are social work academics concerned about the intrusion of sections of our profession, other ‘caring’ vocations and researchers into the domain of ‘Countering Violent Extremism’. Entities that purport to be ethical have not only disengaged from political critique but become active collaborators in dominant ideologies through working as Islamophobic partners-in-practice with government in normalising the oppression of Australian Muslims. We call out government-sponsored CVE programs that are masked in the half-truths and deception that produce Islamophobia, and we show how official propaganda and financial incentives have led to the embracing of programs that contravene professional values. In the process, professionals are bound to national-security canons constructed on lies, while academic participation in security-focused research further tightens the grip of CVE and its assumptions, and guides professional programs.  

CVE policies and practices are an innovation for responding to terrorism globally through a radicalisation/de-radicalisation lens. They operate to identify and prevent radicalisation through ‘soft’ activities outside the legal-prosecution sphere. The primary concern in this article is with the professions—particularly our own, social work—entering contested moral spaces, legitimised by the backing of government-funded research. 

Various arms of Australia’s national-security apparatus operationalise anti-Muslim sentiment, at both federal and state levels (though the federal government is the prime culprit). Tactics include political anti-Muslim statements, laws, policies and practices. Not only is this apparatus an enforcer of external borders but also it embraces border thinking within the nation state, pitting Muslim Australians against the predominantly Anglo-centric society, despite pronouncing religious and cultural pluralism. As government retreats from direct participation in program delivery, civil-society actors bridge the gap at the bidding of government, and in this context professional organisations and research bodies profit handsomely from institutionalising the surveillance of Muslims in Australia. How did we reach this state of affairs and why has it been so minimally challenged? To understand this phenomenon, we need look no further than the rise of Islamophobic beliefs and identify those most influential in manipulating anti-Muslim sentiment.  

The many guises of Islamophobia 

Popular ideas about Islamophobia are deficient and mistaken. At their heart lies the belief that Islam is incapable of peaceful coexistence with secular political systems, no matter how often Muslims proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace. Islamophobia creep, which began after the 9/11 attacks on New York, is now thoroughly normalised, striking fear into Muslims. Surveys reveal that a significant number of Australians have concerns about Muslims. Other surveys reveal that a substantial number of Muslims experience racism and discrimination. The topic of racism is never far from controversy, but in today’s world historically racist tropes related to ethnicity and religion focus specifically on Islam and Muslims, who are typically viewed as ‘evil, irrational, barbaric and lecherous’, as Tahir Abbas has noted. The 2019 slayings at a Christchurch mosque, though shocking, were not surprising given how widespread anti-Muslim sentiment has become. 

In Australia, institutional and other forms of Islamophobia are enabled not only by those on the political margins such as Pauline Hanson and Fraser Anning but within mainstream political parties, and animated by the media, particularly the Murdoch outlets. Murdoch star Andrew Bolt wrote after the Nice terrorist attack in which at least thirty of the eighty-four people murdered were Muslims aged between four and seventy: ‘If our politicians will not…protect us from Islam,watch out for a civil war. Afrightened public will not put up with this for much longer and will defend themselves… God knows how soon non-Muslim vigilantes will themselves take up arms. Who could blame them…’. 

Government and media positions are amplified by research that perhaps unintentionally serves to normalise narratives about Muslim extremism, which in turn provides justification for the notion of ‘countering violent extremism’. With academic research, elected parliamentary representatives and mainstream media articulating a problem, there is little opportunity for effectively challenging dangerous discourses and actions. Fear arises in society at times of perceived threat, and this assuages the racist hostility that is being meted out to vulnerable groups. 

After 9/11 the prototype of the War on Terror shrieked at us across the media. For many commentators, this day in 2001 is the most significant marker of the rise of Islam as generalised enemy. The US-led ‘war’ became globalised via the West’s disproportionate military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which included an eager coalition that was joined by Australia. Lost lives, crippling casualties and decimated communities spawned the growth of ‘enemies of the West’ and the subsequent formation of Islamic State, with its global reach. As a response to ‘Islamist’ dangers in Australia and elsewhere, counter-terrorism legislation was passed with barely a murmur, and in the almost two decades since 9/11 excessive legislation that targets Muslims continues apace, with Australia’s anti-terrorism laws far outstripping those of the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. As recently as May 2020, a Bill was introduced in Australia’s federal parliament to give security officials the power to question fourteen-year-old children, interfere with the right to legal advice and enable tracking of individuals without a warrant. In the post-9/11 years the global and local hold of state-centric Islamophobic laws and practices can be observed, despite the fact that Australia has not experienced anything parallel to the 2004 Madrid bombings, the 2005 London bombings or the coordinated Paris attacks of 2015. 

Ideologies from the political and public-policy spheres are the key driving force behind acceptance of CVE. In a November 2016 address to parliament, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull stated, ‘We need to better support our frontline professionals, including health professionals, to respond to Australians who may be at risk of radicalising towards violent extremism…[M]y Government…is at the forefront of regional efforts to combat terrorism and counter the destructive narratives of violent Islamist extremism’. 

Weak attempts were made to pretend that the CVE agenda was not focused overwhelmingly on Muslims. Minister Keenan explained on a February 2016 episode of Q&A that the inclusion of environmental activist ‘Karen’ in a government publication on violent extremism distributed to teachers was ‘an effort to…use other examples besides someone who might be undergoing a process of radicalisation. Well, Islamic radicalisation essentially’. 

The Department of Home Affairs website material on CVE describes ‘community leaders’ as well placed to identify those ‘radicalising or thinking about travelling to participate in a foreign conflict’. From 2014 until five months after a right-wing Australian terrorist massacred fifty-one Muslims in New Zealand, the home page of the government’s Living Safe Together website featured prominent pictures of women in hijabs, and tabs asking ‘What can you do?’ and ‘What can your community do?’ It declared that ‘leaders from diverse backgrounds have a strong interest and responsibility in addressing violent extremism’ and linked to a statement from Australia’s Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, in Arabic and English. The Living Safe Together home page has now removed the questions about what ‘your community’ can do and replaced the hijab pictures with an image of cut-out paper dolls holding hands, declaring itself to be an ‘initiative to protect our communities against all forms of violent extremism’. 

Australian national-security agencies are clear that they see Muslims as the major threat. In 2015, when foreign minister Julie Bishop refused to condemn government MP George Christensen for speaking at a right-wing Reclaim Australia rally, she said, ‘I don’t know anything about the organisation. I certainly haven’t been briefed on it. I’ve been briefed intensively and extensively on Islamic extremism and other threats to national security, but I can certainly say that the security forces in Australia are keeping a very close eye on any form of extremism’. Of 400 extremists being watched by authorities, she said, none were anti-Islam right-wingers. In 2016–17, ASIO’s annual report assessed far-right threats as minimal; they were not even mentioned in its 2017–18 report.  

After the 2018 murder of Sisto Malaspino in the Bourke Street Mall by a Muslim, Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed anger that some Muslim leaders refused to meet with him because he had declared that ‘Muslim religious communities’ ‘stick their head in the sand’ over terror. He told the media, 

we need to focus on what happened here, that is a man grew up in this country, and was radicalised with these hateful views and beliefs, and he didn’t get it from the postman. He didn’t get it from the police. He got it from the community he was living in and the people he was speaking to.  

But after Christchurch, no meeting was called of right-wing ‘community leaders’, and certainly not those politicians of Morrison’s own political persuasion, or representatives of the Murdoch media, who have engaged with and encouraged anti-Muslim, right-wing thinking. This is despite the Christchurch murderer’s connection with Australia—including the United Patriots Front, led by right-wing extremist Blair Cottrell, a man who suggested that Adolf Hitler’s picture should be displayed in classrooms. 

Although the nomenclature of the War on Terror has largely been displaced, insidious vestiges remain. Western governments introduced CVE crime-prevention programs between 2003 (United Kingdom) and 2010 (Australia). In Australia grants afforded to community-based groups were to empower, educate and divert youth deemed by authorities to be ‘at risk’, although ‘a risk’ is arguably more accurate. While many of these programs were worthwhile in and of themselves, many Muslim groups refused to be involved because they were being delivered only or predominantly to Muslims and were based on the assumption that the beneficiaries were potential terrorists. 

The training of caring professionals in contact with young people is stealthy. It includes social workers, teachers, doctors, nurses and psychologists—in short, just about anyone young people should be able to trust and turn to when they face difficulty—in order to detect and report signs of radicalisation in ‘community members’, a term we argue is code for Muslims. Despite the origins of CVE programs, many now deny that they focus on Muslims and say that they are equally concerned with all forms of extremism. But this is a falsehood that necessitates close inspection.  

Operationalising the lie: who benefits? 

The reach of CVE into civil society is of serious magnitude and causes injury to Muslim communities. It is legitimised by reputable professional associations and by those conducting research on CVE, which, like these associations, receives funding from government to justify expansion of the state’s ability to monitor Muslims. The participation of universities assists in community and professional uptake of programs, as academic research is seen as credible and ‘evidence based’.  

Under the banner of Living Safe Together, the Australian government has produced leaflets addressed to health and human-services practitioners on the topic of ‘Radicalisation to Violent Extremism’. With minor variations, these leaflets are branded for social workers, doctors, psychiatrists, nurses and psychologists. Although the targeting of Muslims is not overt, the leaflets reference the promotion of ‘religious goals’ by the potentially radicalised and ‘overseas events that harm their community, family or friends’. They suggest diverting clients from radicalisation by ‘involving respected leaders to provide guidance and solid grounding in their particular religious, political or ideological tradition’. How many would read that as inspiration to approach Peter Dutton to mentor a young Blair Cottrell rather than as a call for an imam to help a misguided Muslim youth? The attributions at the end of each leaflet are telling: ‘This fact sheet was developed by the Health Expert Advisory Group (under the auspices of the Australia–New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee—Countering Violent Extremism Sub-Committee) in partnership with [name of relevant professional association]’. Each fact sheet also provides a link to CVE training by application. 

Five professional associations—the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses, the Australian Association of Social Workers, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australian Psychological Society, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists—are members of the Mental Health Professionals Network. The network scheduled a professional-development webinar entitled, ‘Mental illness, terrorism and grievance-fuelled violence: understanding the nexus’ for three days after the Christchurch massacre. The webinar was ‘funded by the Countering Violent Extremism Sub-Committee under the auspices of the Australia–New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee’. The webinar case study is Emir, who lives with his parents, Leyla and Umit, who are originally from Turkey (the population of which is 98 per cent Muslim), and has a sister, Ayesha. Emir takes up with ‘new friends from a local church’, which he tells his GP while dressed in combat clothes, and he prays five times a day. He plans to visit Turkey and ‘some friends in neighbouring countries’ whom he has met online through his church friends. The case study, saved online under the file name HomeAffairs_case_FINALV2, says it is ‘supported by the Department of Home Affairs and produced by the Mental Health Professionals Network’. 

If Australia’s CVE efforts are overwhelmingly targeted at Muslims, why is the government saying otherwise? In our opinion, one reason is to make the role these professionals are taking on as, effectively, citizen spies, palatable to groups that have traditionally seen themselves as supportive of marginalised young people. 

In 2016 and 2017, approximately 140 Australian government-school leadership teams (school principals, psychologists and welfare workers) that were deemed to have a higher level of expertise than teachers in dealing with complex issues underwent CVE training. According to Shandon Harris-Hogan, Kate Barelle and Debra Smith, all the training was ‘based upon the same definitions, models and underpinning concepts’, and was also used for counter-terrorism police. As the school leadership teams were trained in how to train their peers, representatives from the federal departments (Education and Training, and Attorney-General’s) that funded it, ‘along with other relevant counter-terrorism practitioners who provided information related to that jurisdiction’s reporting and referral processes’, also participated. 

There is no reason to believe that health and human-services professionals and teachers are less likely than others in the Australian community to hold anti-Muslim sentiment. It is highly unlikely that most of the thousands of teacher reports of possible terrorist behaviour to the United Kingdom’s CVE program Prevent were made without the teacher first discussing it with senior school personnel. In the United States, Ahmed Mohammad, whose English teacher thought a clock he had assembled looked like a bomb, was reported to the school principal before being handcuffed, fingerprinted, photographed and taken to a juvenile detention centre. In 2015, a Muslim student who wore Islamic clothing to a free-dress day at Runcorn High, a government school in Brisbane, was asked by his teacher if he was trying to look like the 9/11 attackers and sent home by the principal for being inappropriately dressed. As Asim Qureshi  argues of the UK CVE program (discussed later in this article), through which children as young as four have been referred to by caring professionals for using common Arabic words, for adopting a headscarf and for drawing a ‘cooker bomb’ (later found to be a cucumber), applying the same standards to right-wing ideology would completely overwhelm the system: ‘Those who read The Sun or The Daily Mail’s invective against people of colour and immigrants would be flagged as a “cause for concern” for reading “extremist” material. Those who adopt the worldview of Melanie Phillips, Niall Ferguson, Michael Gove or Rod Liddle would similarly be highlighted as being “at risk”’. 

The problem for social work 

Social work’s moral compass is enshrined in a codified ethical framework that speaks to human rights and social justice. Redressing systemic and structural injustices is a key component of its mission. In professing this, we do not venerate social work, which has always been seen as inherently contradictory in its dual functions of ‘care and control’, ‘rescue and empowerment’, ‘challenge and conformity’. Social work has often been criticised for working at the behest of the state rather than for those it purports to serve. But the question for us is: when did a state-centric role come to dominate? The neoliberal turn towards the marketplace has resulted in an increasing trajectory of services delivered under state directive. The power of the dollar has silenced those who might otherwise be averse to harmful and flawed programs. 

CVE flies in the face of social-work ethics, which uphold human dignity and worth and culturally competent, safe and sensitive practice education, as enshrined in the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) Code of Ethics. Under the auspices of CVE, tenets that call on social work to mitigate the impacts of oppressive conditions on individuals’ lives are diminished. The shift to CVE, cast as prevention and safeguarding rather than intervention, was so subtle that it was barely noticed. The first indication of this conjoining of state and professional interests was when the AASW put out a call for social workers to be trained to deliver CVE programs and then for others to attend workshops across Australia. In 2018 and 2019, the AASW dispensed ‘Building Resilience and Preventing Radicalisation to Violent Extremism’ training to more than 600 social workers in Australia.  

We each attended one session, in Sydney and in Melbourne, where the trainers (social work private practitioners) worked from a manual developed for this purpose. An earlier version of the manual, developed with Queensland Police, included the statements: ‘the violent extremist ideology which presents the major threat to Australia is that perpetrated or inspired by terrorist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al Qa’ida (AQ) and other similar groups’; ‘for those involved, “life is emotionally intense, filled with the thrill of combat, the sorrow of loss, the joy of camaraderie and the elation of religious experience”’; and ‘membership of far-right groups has never been particularly high’. Despite the obvious clues as to who trainees should be concentrating on, the manual earnestly declares, ‘the information contained in this resource is ideologically neutral’. 

In the version used in our training sessions these intimations had been removed. But other more obtuse statements remained, for example, ‘A handful of Australian teenagers have been killed actively fighting in conflicts overseas, while a significant number have also travelled, or attempted to travel to conflict zones’. But even removing all the telling pointers to Muslims does not fix the problem. As we discovered in the training sessions, naive declarations of ideological neutrality (by trainers and the manual itself) or the inclusion of token examples of other forms of extremism cannot counter two decades of Western propaganda in which Muslims and terrorists have become synonymous in the minds of so many. 

When trainers asked social work participants what they thought of when they heard the words ‘violent extremism’, these were some of their answers: faith and radicalisation are intertwined; migration; different cultures; not just terror, mental health and cultural issues cross over; now the focus is on religious aspects; every religion has extremist elements; martyrdom can be a factor. 

This kind of training arguably legitimises suspicion of Muslims in the considerable number of people who already have such sentiments. Even in those who are not bigoted, the training subtly encourages people to report potential (Muslim) terrorists to authorities using contact details provided in the manual. This is presented as risk management to avoid the possibility of being blamed for inaction if an incident were to occur. A university administrator at one session commented that staff needed to raise an alert, despite universities traditionally being places for debate, because people need to be able to justify themselves if asked: What did you know? What did you do? 

So alarmed was one Muslim social worker, Lobna Yassine, about the training that she circulated a statement condemning it shortly after the Christchurch massacre. The statement was signed by forty social-work academics and practitioners in less than twenty-four hours. Expressing deep disappointment that a profession that prides itself on the inclusion of marginalised voices did not consult with those affected by the CVE package, she asked the AASW to reconsider its participation in a government program that was Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and inherently racist. Neither Lobna’s statement nor a meeting with the AASW initiated by the two authors of this article persuaded the peak social-work body of the harms caused through participation in CVE programs. Although there is an imperative to speak out against injustice, it may be somewhat risky, as the UK experience shows. There, Muslim professionals who have publicly condemned the Prevent program have fallen under suspicion themselves and been reported by colleagues. Muslim psychiatrists and psychologists have reported feeling upset, angry and unsafe.  

The AASW told us that one of the reasons it accepted funding to deliver CVE training was to diversify its income stream. Social work is not alone, as the Living Safe Together fact sheets reveal. Nonetheless, the AASW is the only professional peak body to have contracted with government to deliver CVE training to its members. Prevention of harm is core business for social work, and thinly veiled preventative programs that are part of the state’s counterterrorism apparatus should have no part in it. CVE has the potential to cause harm to Muslims, reduce trust in the professions and contribute to stigmatisation. 

A further word on research 

Scholarly work on extremism has focused overwhelmingly on Muslims. A 2016 review of the literature and programs on social cohesion, community resilience and violent extremism noted that the term radicalisation ‘was rarely used in relation to violent extremism or terrorism prior to the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington’. This echoes a 2011 review that found that academic literature ‘on violent extremism, radicalisation, terrorism, countering violent extremism and social cohesion largely focuses on Muslim communities’. 

After Christchurch, some academics working in the CVE field admitted that government had been concentrating predominantly on Islamist rather than right-wing extremism and welcomed what they expected would be a major change of focus. However, ASIO boss Duncan Lewis soon put that notion to rest, telling a Senate hearing, ‘The events of Christchurch…don’t really change the calculus…There’s no early evidence to me that there will be some dramatic reset around this’. 

Universities were accepted as potential suppliers of CVE services to the federal government, alongside myriad public-relations, advertising, training and risk-management firms. Some individuals who studied or worked at Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre, where Australia’s CVE training model was developed, have set up private businesses and won hefty amounts of government funding. 

In the United Kingdom, Narzanin Massoumi, Tom Mills and David Miller argue that academics have responsibilities both to the broader community and to ensure the integrity of research. These can be impacted by the ability of governments to ‘control and influence the production of social scientific knowledge in its interests…by funding, directing and influencing research, and by restricting access to…information’. The case of the CVE schools booklet that included ‘Karen’ the environmental activist is a case in point. Two academics who worked on the federal-government report on which the booklet was based told the Guardian that it was not meant for use in schools. Professor Peter Lentini said, ‘This was geared towards civil servants and general law enforcement… But you produce a report and the client does whatever they want with it’.  

The academic work on which Australian CVE programs training caring professionals are based is the so-called Behavioural Indicators Model, which was developed at Monash University by its Global Terrorism Research Centre in partnership with Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria, the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, and the Australian Federal Police. Its work concentrated ‘primarily on ‘jihadist terrorism’, and most of its peer-reviewed publications, media coverage and conference presentations were on Islamic terrorism. The CVE training based on this research and delivered to social workers, teachers, psychologists and other members of the caring professions contains numerous thinly disguised pointers to its intended targets. 

Caution ahead: be alert and alarmed 

Through a process of devolution away from but steered by government, the intent—targeting Muslim men and youth and seeing them as deviant and value-divergent—is whitewashed via spurious narratives that are fulfilled by allotting large sums of money to researchers and service providers. These monetary rewards reinforce the idea of Muslims as extremist and a threat both to lives within the nation and to Western values generally. National-security measures are dispensed through impenetrable doors. 

When governments redirect their attention away from the COVID-19 pandemic, we anticipate the extension of CVE programs, especially by governments adapting overseas programs, where the involvement of the human services is even more entrenched. The one to watch is the UK Prevent program, in which,  unlike in Australia, professions, including social work, are mandated to undertake training and report suspicion. 

A major component of Prevent is the training of teachers to spot terrorists, which has resulted in a focus on Muslims and a fracture in the trust relationship between teachers and students. Indeed, in 2017–18, 62 per cent of the 841 formal referrals of Muslim students aged under fifteen to the Prevent program—93 per cent of which were later deemed inappropriate—came from their teachers. This referral data is retained even if the referral was inappropriate. At a Melbourne seminar on CVE, UK professor Paul Thomas said that many more informal referrals are made. The high proportion of inappropriate formal referrals reflects prejudice, risk aversion, a lack of expertise or a combination of these factors. While a lack of expertise and risk aversion are easy to acknowledge, a wilful blindness seems to affect the consideration of prejudice in school staff (leaders or not) and other professionals. 

Although nearly all reports to Prevent were found not to warrant intervention, the program has moved ahead in leaps and bounds since its introduction in 2006. Although Australia has spent an extraordinary $53 million on CVE between 2018 and 2019, this fades into insignificance when compared to Prevent’s £186.760 million in expenditure between 2008 and 2011. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Islamic extremism has barely featured in the political, media or community domains. But some right-wing extremists and politicians globally have used the pandemic to promote the demonisation of Muslims and other minorities. Given that the high unemployment and decreased living standards caused by COVID-19 will provide fertile ground for scapegoating, it may become even harder for professionals and researchers to view CVE programs through a critical lens, particularly when their funding remains perilous. 

Image: Fiona Hall from Afraid Cascade

References 

Australian Association of Social Workers, Building Resilience and Preventing Radicalisation to Violent Extremism: A Resource for Social Workers Version 2.0., 2019. 

Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW 2010), Code of Ethics, Australian Association of Social Workers, Canberra. 

G. Barnes, ‘New ASIO Law One More Step Towards a Totalitarian State’, The Age, 13 May 2020; available at https://www.theage.com.au/national/new-asio-law-one-more-step-towards-a-...

A. Dias, ‘Only NSW Gov. Program Preventing Far-Right Extremism Had Funding Cut in 2014’, triple j HACK, 20 March 2019; available at https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/only-nsw-program-preventing...

J. Grierson, ‘Counter-terror Police Running Secret Prevent Database’, The Guardian, 7 October 2019; available at www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/oct/06/counter-terror-police-are-runnin...

M. Grossman, M. Peucker, D. Smith, and H. Dellal, Stocktake Research Project: A Systematic Literature and Selected Program Review on Social Cohesion, Community Resilience and Violent Extremism 2011–2015, 2016. 

S. Harris-Hogan, K. Barrelle and D. Smith, ‘The Role of Schools and Education in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Applying Lessons from Western Countries to Australian CVE Policy’, Oxford Review of Education, 45(6), pp 731–48; doi: 10.1080/03054985.2019.1612343. 

N. Massoumi, T. Mills and D. Miller, ‘Secrecy, Coercion and Deception in Research on “Terrorism” and “Extremism”’, Contemporary Social Science, 15(2), pp 134–52; doi: 10.1080/21582041.2019.1616107. 

T. O’Toole, N. Meer, D. N. DeHanas, S. H. Jones and T. Modood, ‘Governing through Prevent? Regulation and Contested Practice in State–Muslim Engagement’, Sociology, 50(1), pp 160–77; doi: 10.1177/0038038514564437. 

A. Qureshi, ‘Prevent’s Work on Far-right Extremism Does Not Make It Worth Saving’, Middle East Eye, 18 February 2019; available at www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/prevents-work-far-right-extremism-does-not...

 
T. Sajaad, ‘What’s in a Name? “Refugees”, “Migrants” and the Politics of Labelling’, Race and Class, 30 August 2018; available at https://doi.org/10.1177/0306396818793582 

T. Younis and S. Jadhav, ‘Keeping Our Mouths Shut: The Fear and Racialized Self-Censorship of British Healthcare Professionals in PREVENT Training’, Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 43(3), pp 404–24; doi: 10.1007/s11013-019-09629-6. 

Why So Few American Muslims Serve in the US Military

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 1:22am in

With long and seemingly endless conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa, the United States Armed Forces is constantly struggling to meet recruitment targets for its wars. One group that is greatly underrepresented in our armed forces is Muslim Americans; fewer than 10,000 troops list their faith as Islam, accounting for just 0.3 percent of personnel. This is despite large and active recruitment drives to hire Muslims – particularly Arab Americans – to serve as intelligence officers, translators and in other key roles in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Muslims are among the fastest growing minority groups in the United States, their numbers increasing from 2.35 million in 2007 to 3.45 million in 2017, around 1.1 percent of the total U.S. population. Yet, if the military genuinely wishes to recruit more Muslims, it has been slow to accommodate their needs. Very few bases have Islamic prayer services, and only five of the Army’s roughly 2,900 chaplains are imams. For decades, Muslim soldiers were forced to shave their beards and made to eat meals containing non-Halal meat and even pork, although this has begun to change.

However, there is more to the question of why so few Muslims serve in the military than simply a lack of tolerance. There has, for a long time been a strong strain of anti-war, anti-imperialist sentiment within American Islam, as Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, explained to MintPress News.

If you go back to the Nation of Islam’s days, which includes Muhammad Ali resisting the draft, many Muslims have looked at the interventions of the American military abroad as being immoral and conflicting with the teachings of peace and justice within Islam. So there is a long tradition of African-American Muslims in particular being skeptical of how America exerts its military strength abroad,” he said.

 

9/11

The majority of Americans do not know even a single Muslim, according to a survey by Pew Research. However, the events of one day – September 11, 2001 – put Islam on the national agenda like no other. Despite the fact that the vast majority of Islamic groups immediately denounced Osama Bin Laden’s attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., suspicion of America’s Muslim population – or anyone who looked passably Middle Eastern – rocketed across the country. “Post-9/11 America isn’t exactly the most welcoming place for Muslims,” Walid said. President Bush famously announced that the United States was on a new “crusade” in the Middle East, and the heightened levels of covert and overt hostility from the state led increasing numbers of American Muslims to question the military’s role in the world.

Affraz Mohammed

Affraz Mohammed, right, is pictured in his dress blues with another Marine. Photo | Courtesy | Affraz Mohammed

For Muslims already serving in the armed forces, that day seemed to change everything. “Discrimination got crazy worse after 9/11,” said Affraz Mohammed, “You served your country honourably, you had great positions in the military. And now, here it is that you are being discriminated against by your own country.” Mohammed, a native of New Jersey, joined the Marines in 1997 due to a lack of opportunities elsewhere. “In America, people say we have choices. But not many have lots of choices. In the ghetto, how much choice do you really have,” he asked MintPress. Born in Trinidad and with Indian Muslim ancestry, he served honorably for seven years, rising to the rank of sergeant.

 

On trial for my religion

Like many veterans, he suffered greatly from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But unlike others, his trauma was not from combat: it was from how he was treated at home. In 2002 another Marine pressured him into buying his AK-47 assault rifle. He had originally come to (legally) buy a handgun, but the Marine was insistent he take the Kalashnikov instead, and for an extremely low price. As soon as he accepted, he was swarmed by government agents and charged with buying an illegal, fully automatic weapon. He was stripped naked, tortured and held incommunicado.

His Marine-corps appointed lawyer told him to plead guilty, but he resisted and the case went to trial, where he was found unanimously innocent. The weapon he bought appears not to have been fully automatic anyway, while prosecutors had filed documents listing two different serial numbers for the gun, raising further suspicions about the validity of their case. While he was officially on trial for an illegal weapons charge, he maintains that his real crime, in the eyes of the establishment, was “being a brown-skinned Muslim with the last name Mohammed.”

Many of his fellow Marines were not happy with him, and rumors spread that he was a terrorist. He was harassed, woken up in the middle of the night, called “Mohammed the Taliban Marine,” and fellow Marines constantly warned that he would be the victim of a friendly fire incident. He left the service in 2004, having never been sent to the Middle East. Since then, he claims that the police, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and other agencies constantly harass and try to provoke him, informing his neighbors and relatives about his supposed danger. He also told MintPress he has been blacklisted by several agencies and is flagged as a risk when flying.

Affraz Mohammed

Affraz Mohammed, holding rifle, is pictured during a Marine Corps training exercise. Photo | Courtesy | Affraz Mohammed

“I stood up to the empire that everybody is afraid of. I stood up against the highest government agencies all by myself and came out on top. That inspires people to stand up for their rights, if they get to know about my story. So what they’re trying to do is make sure I don’t have a positive story or a positive image,” he said, when asked why he believes the government is still going after him. Despite this, he remains proud of his service and fiercely loyal to the Marines and says his training helped him through his ordeal.

When asked if Muslims are welcome in the military, Mohammed was blunt, “They’re not,” he said. “Because of the current situation. If we look back at history, during the Second World War, even the Japanese-Americans serving in the armed forces were being scrutinized. So if we look at our past, it has a lot of information; any time a military is fighting against another country, those people automatically become enemies.”

 

Endless Wars

By the “current situation,” Mohammed is referring to the 19-year occupation of Afghanistan, the 17-year occupation of Iraq, and multiple conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, the large majority of which are Muslim-majority nations. Even today, the Trump administration continues to increase tensions with Iran, sparking fears of another long and bitter war.

“My brother did 20 years in the Navy, and he had it worse than me. When the Iraq War started in 2003, and his peers were saying ‘put him in jail because we are going to kill his people.’ So the racism is there and it is brutal,” Mohammed added. For so many American Muslims, the prospect of going to war with their own country of origin or that of their close friends is unpalatable, to say the least.

Walid, a member of the Michigan Muslim Community Council Imams Committee, explained that,

For those Muslims who are immigrants or children of immigrants and are underrepresented [in the military], most likely feel a sense of alienation from the American military for similar reasons. If we look at the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians that were killed during that time, and the use of drone bombings that killed high percentages of civilians and the extrajudicial assassinations via American drones; these are factors that I believe have stopped many American Muslims from joining the U.S. military.”

Inside the armed forces, Muslims are often suspected of being disloyal and often are the targets of their superiors’ prejudices. Last year, Sgt. Cesilia Valdovinos was forced by a senior non-commissioned officer to remove her hijab while at a briefing. She had previously complained of being made to cook pork and of being labeled a “terrorist” by another soldier. In 2016, Marine Corps recruit Raheel Siddiqui leapt to his death after being constantly hazed and bullied by drill instructors during training. One instructor reportedly labeled him a “terrorist” and had slapped him a number of times. He was also known to have forced other Muslim recruits into industrial clothes dryers and turned the machine on. While the official verdict was suicide, Siddiqui’s family contested the decision. Mohammed suffered similar treatment at training, with instructors punishing him more than others, attempting to sow division between him and his peers, encouraging others to fight him, calling him a “towel head,” and placing sand around his bed to “make him feel more at home.” As stated previously, Mohammed is originally from the Caribbean island of Trinidad, and of Indian extraction, but knowledge of geography is not many Americans’ strong suit.

Walid suggested that if Siddiqui had been from a different religion or race, the story would have become a “national scandal” and there would have been a senate committee hearing. But, “when it comes to Muslims, the anti-Muslim bigotry is overt and subtle,” he said.

 

The “reality of systemic racism”

When the parents of a Humayun Khan, a fallen Muslim-American soldier spoke up against Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, he mocked them, implying Khan’s mother was silent as a result of Islam’s backward practices and repressive attitude towards women. While he scandalized many in the punditry class, a majority of Americans supported the ban on entry to the United States, such is the level of demonization of the religion in media and public life. 1 in 9 Americans say they would refuse to accept a Muslim as a neighbor and 41 percent believe that Islam encourages violence more than other faiths, with nearly two-thirds of Republicans polled saying that a great deal of Muslims are anti-American, and 16 percent saying almost all are. The same survey found that Americans are far more likely to hold Islamophobic beliefs if they do not know any Muslims personally.


Khizr and Khan Ghazala speak at the 2016 DNC in Philadelphia in front of a photo of their son, Marine Corps veteran Humayun Khan. Photo | Reuters

As a result, Muslim Americans are much more likely to hold liberal economic, political and cultural views, with only 13 percent identifying with the Republican Party at all. Three-quarters say they face a lot of discrimination living in the U.S. “I don’t think it is limited to the military at all,” Walid told MintPress. “I think it goes back deeper beyond religion to an issue of systemic racism that takes place in America. Muslims are a faith group, but we are predominantly seen as people of color and non-white in the American imagination. And the reality is that non-white people in America have never been treated equally in American institutions. That is the historical reality.”

There is perhaps no better example of this than Minnesota Congressperson Ilhan Omar. As a black, African, refugee, hijab-wearing Muslim democratic socialist woman, her existence is a bingo card for bigots. A study published in November in the Social Science Research Journal found that roughly half the tweets mentioning her contained some kind of hate speech.

Omar has drawn public attention as an outspoken critic of the police’s role in the killing of George Floyd. However, less well-known is how authorities’ surveillance of Muslims contributed to his death. Since the days of the Nation of Islam, black Muslims have been targeted by law enforcement and the secret services as an enemy of the state. Minneapolis has one of the largest populations of black Muslims in the United States, due in part to its large Somali community. Under Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism program, Minneapolis was plied with cash and equipment to surveil supposedly radical extremist groups, leading to a situation where blackness became to be seen by police as a crime in itself. As Venessa Taylor argued in The Progressive, state surveillance of Muslims “paved the way for George Floyd’s murder.”

While the U.S. military does want and need to recruit soldiers from Islamic and Arab-American background, they have also been fighting decades-long campaign against Islamic groups in Muslim-majority countries, leading to a heightened level of casual and toxic Islamophobia within its ranks, alienating many Muslim Americans who might otherwise consider joining. Soldiers are trained to see brown-skinned Muslims as the enemy, meaning those who join their side are subject to abuse or mockery. Still more of a question for other American Muslims is whether any war, especially these wars are worth fighting and dying for. Considering the dearth of Muslim recruits, It appears that, for many, the answer is “no.”

 
Feature photo | A combination photo shows Affraz Mohammed during his time in the US Marine Corps. Photo | Courtesy | Affraz Mohammed

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Why So Few American Muslims Serve in the US Military appeared first on MintPress News.

Where’s Starmer? Labour Should Be Leading the Fight against Racism, Not Johnson

I just caught on the lunchtime news today the announcement that Boris Johnson is going to set up a commission to examine the knotty question of racism in the UK. He said something about how this had to be done because of the way people up and down the country had gathered in mass meetings to protest against it. While it showed that Johnson had been paying attention to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations here, America and across the world, not everyone was convinced that Johnson was entirely serious about his proposal. The Beeb’s report said that he’d been criticised already, as there were existing recommendations made in previous reports which hadn’t been acted upon. The Labour MP David Lammy also appeared to give his tuppence worth. He began by noting that Johnson had provided any specifics about this proposed commission. To me, it looks very much like another typical Tory dodge. Johnson will set up this commission to make it look like he’s really bothered about the issue and understands public concern, while making sure that it doesn’t actually do anything and hope that the matter will go away. I do know some genuinely anti-racist Tories. But the Tory party itself has consistently opposed non-White immigration and parts of it are viciously racist. Like the members of the Tory youth movements, who used to sing ‘We Don’t Want No Blacks and Asians’ to the tune of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’. The people that Jacobsmates exposed posting violently racist messages on the internet sites for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The people that formulated and backed the Tories ‘hostile environment’ policy, which saw hundreds of people illegally deported. People, who had been granted citizenship and then suddenly found it stripped from them by a racist, duplicitous government.

And you have to wonder where Starmer and Angela Rayner are in all this. So far their response has been very muted. After the protests at George Floyd’s murder broke out, Starmer and Rayner issued a statement last week declaring that they were shocked and angered at the killing. Rayner tweeted that ‘We stand in complete solidarity with those standing up against police brutality towards Black people and systemic racism and oppression across the United States, here in the United Kingdom and across the world.’ But actions speak louder than words, and no, they don’t. The suppressed report into the conspiracies by members of the Blairite faction within the party to unseat Corbyn and his supporters and actually make the party lose elections also revealed how these same plotters racially abused the Black MPs and activists Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis. It showed that there was a poisonous culture of anti-Black racism, dubbed Afriphobia, in the party that wasn’t being addressed. As a result, according to the Huffington Post, the Labour Party is haemorrhaging Black members, who say they feel politically homeless.

If Black Lives Matter to Keir Starmer, why hasn’t he acted against Labour’s racists?

Starmer’s response to the toppling of the statue of slaver Edward Colston in Bristol has also been muted. When he was asked by caller Barry Gardiner on LBC radio what his views on it were, Starmer simply replied that it shouldn’t have been done that way, and that he didn’t condone lawlessness. This cut no ice with the mighty Kerry-Ann Mendoza of The Canary, who tweeted that they’d been trying to have it removed legally for the past forty years. As for the Labour party’s attitude to ethnic minorities, she tweeted

The Labour Party is not a safe place for Black people
The Labour Party is not a safe place for Muslims
The Labour Party is not a safe place for anti-zionist Jews
The Labour Party is not a safe place for anti-zionists period
The Labour Party is not a safe place for socialists

Starmer on THAT statue: he thinks there’s a heirarchy of racism, with black people very low down it

Mike in the article above argues quite correctly, in my opinion, that Starmer believes in a hierarchy of racism. He was quick to give his full support to the Zionist Jewish establishment, but has done nothing about the racists persecuting Blacks in the party. This is almost certainly because the persecutors were Blairites like himself, and he doesn’t want to alienate his supporters. At the same time, he is also using the fast-track expulsion process that has been set up to deal with alleged anti-Semites to start throwing out members. This is a real kangaroo court, as those accused are not giving a hearing and have no opportunity to defend themselves. And those expelled naturally include socialists and followers of Jeremy Corbyn, and especially anti-Zionist Jews. Tony Greenstein has written a couple of articles about this already. In an article posted yesterday, Tony describes how Starmer was handed a list in March of the people the woefully misnamed Jewish Labour Movement wanted purged. As the Director of Public Prosecutions, Starmer refused to prosecute the coppers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes, whom they mistook for an Islamist terrorist. He was also not in the least interested in the deaths of Blacks in police custody. His expressed support for Black Lives Matter is hypocritical, as the Zionist movement in America has been doing its level best to destroy and discredit it because BLM has declared that Israel is an apartheid state, and supports the Palestinians. It considers that their condition in Israel is comparable to that of Blacks in America.

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/you-cant-be-anti-racist-if-you-are-not.html

Tony has also posted this article about the mass expulsion of anti-Zionist Jews from the Labour party, as well as other, self-respecting anti-racist members.

https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/06/starmers-war-on-jews-in-labours.html

Starmer’s reticence on anti-Black racism contrasts very strongly with the party’s direction over the previous forty years. After Thatcher’s election victory in 1979 or so, Labour strongly supported the aspirations of Britain’s Blacks and Asians for equality. The party put forward a new generation of ethnic minority MPs, who strongly articulated the desire for real change. This was extremely controversial – the Tory press blamed the 1981/2 race riots on Black racism and viciously attacked the new Black MPs, like Diane Abbott and Bernie Grant. And, in my opinion, some of them didn’t help. Brent council under Grant was particularly zealous in its determination to root out racism, to the point where it pursued a vigorous policy of censorship from its libraries. A policy that appalled others in the party, who were equally left-wing but less inflexible and intolerant. I’ve heard stories from people, who grew up in the area how extreme Grant could be in his accusations of racism. One of those he accused was the head of a local school, whose wife was Black and who was supposedly a member of the Communist party. In Bristol the five members of Labour’s ‘unofficial’ Black section went off on a trip to Ulster to support the Roman Catholics. They believed that Ulster’s Catholics were a colonised minority like Blacks. They had a point, but this allowed the Tories to paint the party as ‘loony Labour’, inhabited by embittered Communists, who hated Britain and supported the IRA. Nevertheless, it was this period that led to the vital implementation of policies, like ‘positive discrimination’ to improve conditions for Blacks and ethnic minorities. And Labour continued to include anti-racism, or at least anti-racist rhetoric, under Blair. Some Black activists did feel excluded and that Blair was less than serious about these issues. But I can remember Blair praising the example of America’s General Colin Powell, and wishing that Britain could also be a place where Blacks could rise to the highest ranks of the military.

But Starmer seems to be turning his back on all this in his determination to return Labour to the Thatcherite, neoliberal centre ground. It’s the inevitable result of Blairite triangulation. Blair studied what the Tories were doing, and then adopted it and tried to go further. He began in the 1990s by taking over scrapped recommendations for the restructuring of the civil service by Anderson Consulting. He continued the Tory policies of privatisation, including that of the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state. And some Blairite MPs even began to make the same type of racist recommendations as the Tories. It’s also dangerous, as under Cameron the Tories did try to gain ethnic minority support by embracing Black and Asian community leaders.

Black Lives Matter and the anti-racism movement shouldn’t be above criticism. But Labour should be taking the lead in the debate. Instead, Starmer seems determined to alienate some of the party’s staunchest supporters.

All in the hope of appealing to the Thatcherites and neoliberals.

Afua Hirsh Is Wrong: Racists Are of All Colours and Have Told Whites to Leave

As I’ve mentioned before, a few days ago Tory hack Nick Ferrari showed how racist he was in a spat with Afua Hirsh on Sky News’ The Pledge. They’d been talking about the anti-racist iconoclasm which began with the pulling down of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol. Hirsh had made a point about the need to reevaluate British history. Ferrari then asked the inevitable question ‘If you don’t like this country, why don’t you leave?’ Hirsh was naturally angry, and told him that it was a racist question that was only ever asked of Blacks. No-one, she said, had ever asked it of a White person.

I’ve very little sympathy with Ferrari. He’s a right-wing loudmouth whose been spouting Thatcherite bilge for years. He was a regular guest on Alan Titchmarsh’s afternoon chat show all those years ago, which is one of the reasons I stopped watching it. The other was the Tory bias of Titchmarsh himself. Other celebrity gardeners and programmes on gardening are available, like Monty Don, Gaye Search and Carol Klein on Gardener’s World on Fridays. Ferrari did a phone interview with Mike on his programme on LBC a couple of years ago about Mike’s suspension from the Labour party and the allegations in the press of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Mike is very definitely neither, and was very well able to show that he wasn’t. I think this may have disappointed Ferrari, who may well have decided to do the interview into the hopes that he could catch this leftie out and show that Mike was one of those goose-stepping with Adolf. If that was the case, he was sorely disappointed.

And the taunt ‘Go back to your own country!’ is one that has been used again and again to Black and Asian Britons, many of whom have been in this country for generations at least. The Vikings imported ‘Blamenn’ – Black men into Cumbria c. the 10th century. There were Black troopers amongst the Roman legionaries stationed on Hadrian’s Wall, and Blacks are known to have been resident in London in the 12th century. The insult hurts and has left many Blacks psychologically wounded.

For some people, though, the question’s a fair one. A few years ago one of the islamophobic channels on YouTube showed a Beeb interview with a British-Eritrean playwright and activist, Aiwati. I apologise if I’ve got that wrong, as the clip didn’t show how it was spelt. Aiwati stated very clearly that he only celebrated and promoted Eritrean culture and identity. He hated Britain, and said that it actually hurt him to be called British. And so the producer asked him why he didn’t leave. He replied with something about having a family and a life here, and there not being the same opportunities in Eritrea. He also blamed Britain for the state of that country. When the interviewer politely said that it was independent and Britain had done much for the country, he simply said that it all could have been better. Which is no doubt true – other Black activists have made the same argument for their nations. But the fact remains that Aiwati’s hatred of Britain is in conflict with his desire to remain here.

Hirsh is also wrong in that Whites have been told to leave by racists. Recent migrants from eastern Europe have also been told to go back to their own countries. This has mostly common from the gammonati, who all voted for Brexit and hail Johnson and Rees-Mogg as true British heroes. But not all. Several years ago I was told by a London friend that there was a report in one of the papers there about a group of youths, who were convicted of racially abusing a White eastern European lad on a bus. The gang included Blacks as well as Whites. And White Brits have also been assaulted and abused with the same taunt. I can’t remember where I saw it, but one of the right-wing blogs or YouTube channels had a photograph of graffiti on a wall in one of the northern or midland towns. It read ‘Whites go home’. And round about the turn of the century Whites exceeded Blacks and Asians as the victims of racist assaults. Reading the articles about it now, it seems that Blacks and Asians considered together still constituted the majority of victims, but Whites were the single largest group. There was also a racist assault on a White man in Bristol, which was reported on Points West. SARI, the organisation that helps the victims of racism, responded by stating that they were open to everyone. Many of the posts on the real islamophobic blogs – I’m not going to mention them – are stories about Muslims being bad neighbours. I remember reading one about a man, who was forced to leave his home because of deliberate noise and nuisance from someone who wanted his house for an elderly relative.

Back here in Bristol, I also overheard  a snippet from a conversation between a young couple on the bus a few years ago. The young man was Black, and the woman White, and were talking about someone they knew in one of inner city districts. The lad said ‘He’s the only White boy in _, and the shit he gets. I don’t know why he doesn’t move.’

There is also racist friction and violence between ethnic minorities. Boy George mentioned this years ago in an interview with everyone’s favourite computer-generated video jockey, Max Headroom. For which Headroom called him ‘brave’. But it’s true. There were riots in Birmingham, I believe, a few years ago between Blacks and Asians. And I’ve heard it from people, who worked in one of Bristol’s inner city school that there were more and worse gang fights between two groups of Asians than between Blacks and Whites.

Racism is not simply about Whites using their power against Blacks. But very often it is simplified as such for political reasons. I’ve known Black activist groups decry the reportage of Black violence as ‘racist’. I’ve no doubt this comes from the way such reports have been used by the racist Tory press to work up hatred and hostility against them. A year or so ago an Asian activist tried to raise the issue of violence and racism between ethnic minorities with Diane Abbott. She refused to take up the issue, arguing that it would be exploited by the White establishment to continue discrimination against all ethnic minorities. She has a point. I don’t doubt that’s how it would be used. But it also means she’s dodged an uncomfortable issue.

Racism in Britain really is more complex than simply Whites hating and keeping Blacks and Asians down. But that is really the impression gained, and it means that the other forms of racism aren’t discussed and tackled.

But if we want to make Britain and genuinely anti-racist society, that is precisely what must happen.

 

Racist and Biased Equalities and Human Rights Commission Drops Tory Islamophobia Investigation

Here’s another revolting development, as it would be described by Marvel Comics’ ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing, the idol o’ millions and butt of the Yancey Street gangs’ pranks. On Tuesday Mike reported that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission had decided not to go ahead with an investigation into islamophobia in the Tory party. It considered that this would not be ‘proportionate’ after seeing the Tories’ own plans and terms of reference for its own investigation, which included specific reference to islamophobia.

The Muslim Council of Britain declared that these terms were a ‘facade’ and that the investigation was too narrow compared to Labour’s Chakrabarti investigation into anti-Semitism. They went on to say that the investigation would hide the hundreds of incidents of bigotry in the Tory party, which they had uncovered.

Mike in his article makes the very valid point that it doesn’t matter what the EHRC says about ant-Semitism in the Labour party. It has shown it cannot treat the two parties equally. Indeed, BoJob’s own behaviour provides a prima facie case for investigation. Mike concludes

If the EHRC can’t see that, then no decision it makes about the Labour Party can have any weight at all.

I recommend that it be disbanded and replaced by an organisation staffed by people who can do the job properly.

Equalities watchdog undermines itself by refusing to examine Tory Islamophobia

Of course, Mike’s right. There’s Johnson’s wretched book 72 Virgins, a wish-fulfillment fantasy if ever there was one, about a bike-riding Prime Minister foiling an evil Islamist plot to bomb parliament. This also included racist comments about other ethnic groups as well, including a Black character, who is described as a stupid coon, and a shady Jewish businessman who makes his money by exploiting migrant workers. This nasty anti-Semitic stereotype was accompanied by the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about the Jews controlling the media. And then, of course, there’s Johnson’s vile newspaper column in which he compared women in burqas to bin bags and letter boxes. Despite all the bluster about how he was merely being un-PC and it was an act of free speech, nothing more, Johnson’s rhetoric did lead to a spike in islamophobic assaults, especially against women clad in that way.

Zelo Street and other left-wing bloggers have also put up articles about the numerous supporters of BoJob and Rees-Mogg revealed by the internet activist Jacobsmates, who posted viciously islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter. Like the various Conservative politicos Mike and Zelo Street also reported were suspended by the Tories for their islamophobic conduct. In their posts they had declared that Sadiq Khan and other Muslim and ethnic minority politicos, like Diane Abbott, should be killed, ranted about how Muslims were plotting to destroy the country and were responsible for rape and terrorism and supported the old anti-Semitic conspiracy libel that Muslims and non-White immigrants were being imported into Europe and the West by the Jews with the intention of destroying the White race.

And the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is grossly disproportionate itself in the importance it gives to the allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour on the one hand and islamophobia in the Tories in another.

The reality is that there was far less anti-Semitism in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn than in wider British society, and that the vast majority of it comes from the right, and especially the far right. What those screaming about Labour anti-Semitism really objected to was anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians. This is why Corbyn was viciously denounced as an anti-Semite for attending a speech by a Holocaust survivor, who compared Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of himself and other Jews, while the same witch-hunters had nothing to say about Tweezer and Rachel Reeve singing the praises of Nancy Astor, a real anti-Semite and supporter of Hitler. Part of the motivation for the anti-Semitism smears against Labour was pure partisanship. It was a convenient stick for the Tory establishment, including the Thatcherites within the Labour party, to beat Corbyn and try to oust him or prevent the party from ever coming to power. It didn’t matter whether they were true or not. And western geopolitical interests were involved. Israel is one of the pillars of British Middle Eastern policy, along with Saudi Arabia. Tony Greenstein among other bloggers and activists has put up a number of quotes from British officials showing that it always was regarded as a centre of western influence in the region from the days of the British Mandate in Palestine, comparable to Ulster in Ireland.

The anti-Semitism smears had nothing to do with real anti-Jewish hatred. It was purely about defending Israel and preventing a genuine the formation of a socialist, genuinely Labour government.

The EHRC’s decision not to investigate Tory islamophobia may also be connected to the anti-Muslim prejudices of its leader, Trevor Philips. He is, or was, a member of the Labour party, but was suspended a little while ago by General Secretary Jennie Formby for islamophobia. He had accused Muslims of forming a ‘nation within a nation’ and stated that the members of the Asian grooming gangs, who abused White girls, committed their horrendous crimes because ‘Muslims see the world differently’. He seems to regard Muslims as fundamentally different and Other to the rest of British society, stating that they ‘are not like us’. He also chaired a Tory conference on ‘Challenging Islamophobia’, in which he and several of the others attending even blamed Muslims themselves for the terrorist attacks on the mosques in New Zealand and Finsbury Park. They were, Phillips and the others declared, a natural response to Muslim terrorism. In 2006 Ken Livingstone, then mayor of the London Assembly, accused Phillips, who was chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, as the EHRC then was, of pandering to the right and turning it into a huge press department while at the same time winding down its legal work. Six of the EHRC’s commissioners also resigned in protest at Phillips’ leadership. Phillips has also presented programmes for Channel 4 which accused Blacks of being far more inclined towards criminality than Whites, and that a significant number of British Muslims had terrorist sympathies among other accusations. Both of these were misleading. In fact, the number of British Muslims, who had terrorist sympathies was s1-3 per cent, rather than the nearly quarter that has been claimed.

Tony Greenstein has put up a long piece including several other articles, which extensively discusses Phillips’ islamophobia  and shabby career and critiques and demolishes the two programmes he presented. Greenstein states that when he was active in student politics in the 1970s, he came across Phillips politically. It struck him then that Phillips really had nothing to say about racism, and was only using the fact of his colour for political advancement.

See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/03/even-tommy-robinson-supports-trevor.html

And its very noticeable that, as Greenstein describes in the above article, Phillips has received glowing support from a series of notorious racists and islamophobes like Tommy Robinson. Phillips is also another Labour rightist, who has weaponised the anti-Semitism smears for his own benefit. When he was suspended for islamophobia, he claimed that it was really because he had spoken out about Labour anti-Semitism. Which is purest twaddle.

With someone creditably accused of islamophobia himself in charge of the EHRC, it’s not surprising that it has decided not to pursue anti-Muslim prejudice in the Tories.

And this sorry episode also illustrates another point Quentin Letts has made about race relations in this country. In his book, Bog-Standard Britain, the Tory journo argued that there was a racial hierarchy of power and influence amongst ethnic and other minorities. Jews were at, or near the top. Blacks and Muslims were much lower down. I think Muslims may well have been at the bottom.

There’s much truth in this, as Sayeeda Warsi herself has complained that people are able to say things about Muslims with impunity, for which they would be immediately attacked if they said them about Jews.

Tony’s article also reports that Richard Littlejohn, another scummy right-wing hack, has even claimed that Phillips only agreed to chair the EHRC in order to close it down.

Perhaps this would now be the right action to take. Mike’s right in that at present it seems utterly unfit for purpose.

Anti-Semitism Witch-Hunters Targeting Prospective Labour Politico for Something She Hasn’t Yet Done

As Asa Winstanley, another anti-racism activist falsely expelled from the Labour Party for anti-Semitism remarks, this is beyond thoughtcrime. It’s pre-crime. Mike in his article about Keir Starmer reprimanding the respected Black women MPs Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy also mentions that the witch-hunters are demanding he censure their next target, Salma Yaqoob. Yaqoob is a prospective Labour candidate for mayor of the West Midlands, and a patron of the Stop the War Coalition. She is also due to appear in an online discussion from the Coalition about the new Labour leadership’s position on anti-war issues and Palestine on the 8th of this month, May 2020, alongside Paul Kelemen, the author of The British Left and Zionism: A History of a Divorce, and Tony Greenstein, ‘Jewish socialist and anti-war campaigner’. And it is his appearance on the panel that has sent the witch-hunters into a fearful bate, as Molesworth would sa. 

Greenstein is very definitely a Jewish socialist and anti-war campaigner. He a fierce, bitter opponent of Fascism and racism. This means that he also criticises Zionism for Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and the movement’s own crimes against Jews. He has pointed out again and again that throughout their history Zionists and the Israeli state have supported Fascists against Jews and other ethnic minorities when it has served their purpose. Israel sought out an alliance with another White Supremacist state, apartheid South Africa. In the 1970s and ’80 they also allied with Fascist regimes in South and Central America, including Guatemala during its dictatorship’s genocidal civil war with the Mayan Indians, and the neo-Nazi regime in Argentina, which targeted Jews for torture, massacre and murder. At the same time, the Board of Deputies of British Jews attacked the Anti-Nazi League in this country, forbidding Jews from joining it or allowing it to hold meetings in synagogues, because the founder was an anti-Zionist. Some left-wing Jews, who defied the ban and joined it nonetheless, like David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group, say that there were rumours that the Board opposed it for different, racist reasons: they didn’t want Jews joining the Black and Asian fight against racism.

Yaqoob’s appearance was picked up by Ian Austin, the former Labour MP complaining of anti-Semitism while the real reason was that Jeremy Corbyn had returned it to its socialist ideals. He has complained to Starmer and demanded Yaqoob’s suspension. Hence Asa Winstanley tweeted

This racist fanatic wants a prominent Muslim woman expelled from Labour for a future event with the “wrong” kind of Jewish person.

This is beyond Thought Crime, it’s Pre-Crime.

Jackie Walker, another Jewish anti-racism activist smeared as an anti-Semite and expelled from the Party, also commented: It’s open season on black women.

Kerry-Ann Mendoza, the mighty head of The Canary said

Corbyn’s Labour:

For the many, not the few.

Starmer’s Labour:

For us, not you.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/02/keir-starmer-has-turned-labour-into-the-party-of-hypocrisy-and-racism/

During the smear campaign a few years ago, the Board, Campaign for Anti-Semitism, Jewish Leadership Council and the other pro-Israel groups and their supporters waved placards at their protests bearing the slogan ‘Labour Party – For the many, not the Jew’. It was a play on Corbyn’s slogan ‘Labour – for the many, not the few’. According to Tony Greenstein, it was made up by British literary author, Howard Jacobson, when he was living in New York. It was supposed to show how anti-Semitic the Labour Party is. But the witch-hunters themselves have particularly targeted Jewish critics of Israel and pro-Palestinian activists. These entirely decent, self-respecting men and women have been viciously smeared as ‘self-hating’. The Board and the other pro-Israel organisations have also misrepresented themselves as standing for Britain’s Jewish community as a whole. They don’t. Board doesn’t represent Orthodox, Haredi nor secular Jews. It really only represents the United Synagogue. I find it very significant that when the I ran an article from a Jewish journalist denouncing Labour as anti-Semitic apart from their own columnist, Simon Kelner, that journo was always described as a member of the United Synagogue. As a Zionist organisation, the Board also doesn’t represent anti-Zionist Jews. The Board and the other organisations attacking Labour and Corbyn were also incensed when the Labour leader attended a Passover Seder with Jewdas, a left-wing Jewish group. This was another anti-Semitic affront to the Jewish community. They were the wrong kind of Jew! Which is itself a noxious, anti-Semitic gesture.

In fact the Board and the other witch-hunters targeting of Jews means that you could reasonably invert their slogan so it reads ‘Board of Deputies – For Israel, not the Jew’. 

It was Tony Blair’s administration that launched the invasion of Iraq, against which the Stop the War Coalition protested, and the Blairites shared the same goals as the Neocons. After George Dubya left office, and was replaced as President by Barack Obama, it was Blair and Sarkozy in France who really wanted an attack on Libya and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy. The result has been the destruction of one of Africa’s most prosperous states, which had a strong welfare system and was relatively secular. It has now been replaced in some areas by a hard-line Islamist theocracy, which has returned to slavery with Black migrants now being openly sold in markets. Before the appearance of Coronavirus plunged the world into lockdown, the American right seemed also to be preparing and agitating for a war with Iran. The Neocons also want that country’s regime overthrown because of its militant opposition to Israel, accompanied by frankly genocidal rhetoric, and its defiance of American hegemony in the Middle East. They and their Saudi allies also covet its oil reserves, which they also wish to seize, just like they did Iraq’s.

And there’s also a streak of islamophobia in the witch-hunters a mile wide. People have turned up at pro-Israel and anti-Palestine protests wearing Kach T-shirts. This is a far-right organisation banned in Israel for terrorism. They also wear T-shirts and wave placards for its successor, the Jewish Defence League, which is also banned. One of the witch-hunters turned up next to one anti-Palestinian demo two years or so ago next to Paul Besser, the intelligence officer of the infamous islamophobic group, Britain First. These pro-Israel demonstrators also include open supporters of Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League and Pegida UK. One of the Board’s members even appeared with him in a video for Rebel Media, a far-right Canadian internet broadcaster.

It therefore very much seems to me that Austin and the other witch-hunters, by making this complaint against Yaqoob, are desperately trying to keep debate and criticism in the Labour party of Israel and its genocide of the Palestinians very firmly closed. They are also seeking to keep Blair’s Neocon agenda alive in Labour. And they are terrified of Muslims and Muslim influence in the Labour Party. There have been polls showing that 85 per cent of British Muslims support Labour. Muslims are one of the largest ethnic minorities in contemporary Britain. The Radio Times a few years ago covered a radio programme about Jewish comedy and literary festivals that were being held up and down the country. These festivals were open to the wider British population. According to the Radio Times, they were partly being held in order to encourage the broader population to support the Jewish community at a time when that community felt its respect was slipping away and being replaced by concern for other ethnic groups.

Now I’ve got absolutely no objection to such festivals, whether by Jews or any other religious or ethnic group. And with the Far Right on the rise in Europe, Jews do need the support and solidarity of non-Jewish anti-racism activists. But Austin’s complaint about Yaqoob, a Muslim patron of the Stop the War Coalition, suggests that the general insecurity felt by part of the Jewish population is shared by the Israel lobby. And they’re scared of competition from Britain’s Muslims for our sympathies.

The witch-hunter’s targeting of Salma Yaqoob is therefore about preserving the Neocon project and protecting Israel from criticism by silencing genuine anti-racism activists, particularly Jews and Muslims. It’s yet another example of the racism of the Blairite Right.

Paul Joseph Watson Butthurt Berserk ‘Cos Piers Morgan Won’t Debate Him

More hilarity now, though it’s unintentional and comes courtesy of Alex Jones’ British pal, Paul Joseph Watson. Jones is the bonkers American conspiracy theorist responsible for Infowars. This was the internet show that told its audience that the globalists were going to take over the world, stripping us of our freedoms and even our humanity. Obama was going to declare a state of emergency and force Americans in FEMA camps, commencing the mass cleansing of the population. The Democrats were all secretly Satanists and paedophiles. They and big business were in league with aliens/ and or demons to take over the world and create the one-world Satanic superstate of fundamentalist Christian end times theology. Barack Obama was declared to be the Antichrist because he smelt and had flies buzzing round him. Hillary was a lesbian cyborg, who practised witchcraft. NASA was running child slave labour camps on Mars. Feminists and gay rights activists are transhumanists, who want to turn everybody into gender neutral cyborgs. They’re coming to take away Americans’ guns. And the government is putting things in the water that ARE TURNING THE FRICKIN’ FROGS GAY.

It’s a fair question whether Jones actually believes any of this rubbish, or is just exploiting it for the sake of viewers. He was one of the major purveyors of the batshit insane conspiracy theories that are a genuine threat to decent political life. Thanks to Jones’, the bereaved parents of children murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre have been subject to abuse because Jones declared that the massacre didn’t happen and they were just ‘crisis actors’. A Boston pizza parlour has also been subject to abuse and even an intrusion from an armed man after Jones declared that it was at the centre of a Democrat paedophile ring and that the abuse children were kept in a dungeon in the basement. It isn’t, and there is no basement and no children. The gunman had been taken in by Jones’ bilge, and  had come to free the kids he genuinely believed were imprisoned there. After being shown he was wrong, he gave himself up peacefully. It’s a mercy that no-one was killed.

Thanks to antic like the above, Jones has been thrown off a series of internet platforms so that his public profile, and his income, have taken a massive hit. And Paul Joseph Watson, after hanging out with him, has returned to Blighty. He was one of the three, who managed to destroy UKIP under Gerard Batten. When he and another two internet personalities from the far right, Mark ‘Count Dankula’ Meechan and Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin joined UKIP, prompting those of more moderate views to walk out. The party was already losing members to Farage’s latest vehicle for his colossal political ego, the Brexit Party, and the entry of Watson, Benjamin and Meechan just about finished it off.

Coarse jokes have been made about the precise nature of the relationship between Jones and Watson. One theory is that Watson split from Jones because of the latter’s views about Britain’s NHS. One commenter to a video about Jones and Watson jokingly suggested that Watson was over here because he was tired of being the object of the sexual attentions of Jones and one of the others at Infowars. But whatever the reason, Watson is over here, he’s looking for attention, and he’s angry. And to everyone else, it’s hilarious.

Zelo Street has posted up a rip-roaring piece about Watson going berserk at Piers Morgan on Twitter. Watson wants to debate him, but Morgan’s got better things to do like torment the government in interviews, and has simply blocked him. This has sent the man dubbed ‘Twatson’ by his detractors into what Molesworth used to describe as ‘a fearful bate’. And so he’s poured forth a stream of abuse directed at Morgan on Twitter, beginning with this delightful message.

“Cowardly little bitch. Afraid of the fact that I’m more popular and definitely more attractive than you. Mercenary twat. Debate me, you yellow belly crusty boomer sellout fraud cuck wanker dickhead”.

And there’s more, much more. He rants that Morgan is afraid to debate him because he’s more intelligent, youthful and handsome. And his spirit animal is some kind of bird of prey. He’s not a misogynist, because when he was at school his mother and grandmother would beat up any kid who picked on him. Nor is he an INCEL. He has no trouble picking up girls, especially Muslims. That still doesn’t alter the fact that he is anti-feminist, and has very islamophobic views.

One of the staples of comedy is a character massively losing their temper, like Donald Duck in some of the Disney cartoons. There’s a similar comedic value in watching Watson explode at Piers Morgan’s refusal to get drawn into debating him. Although perhaps we shouldn’t laugh. As Frankie Howerd used to say, ‘Oh, don’t mock. Doooon’t mock! It’s rude to mock the afflicted.’  But faced with such a massive tantrum, it’s very had to follow Howerd’s command of ‘titter ye not’.

Zelo Street concludes their article about this with ‘Piers Morgan is, for all his faults, successful and well-off. And Paul Watson … isn’t.’ And it’s sending Watson up the wall to the immense amusement of everyone else.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/prison-planet-manhood-meltdown.html

 

 

Despite Leaked Report’s Assumptions of Anti-Semitism, It Recognised Plotters Were Fabricating Accusations

As I’ve said in my last article, Mike, Martin Odoni and Tony Greenstein have published pieces explaining that the leaked report into the factionalism and deliberate sabotage by the Blairites still accepts uncritically that anti-Semitism was rife in the Labour Party.

Mike and Martin have already published detailed critiques of this dangerous assumption. Tony’s is forthcoming. Yet studies have actually shown that real anti-Semitism in the Party is minute. True Labour party members and activists like Mike recognise that anti-Semitism is unacceptable, but that it’s actually much lower in Labour than on the parties further to the right. And the vast majority of anti-Semitism comes from the parties and organisations of the Far Right, real Nazis and Fascists, as you’d expect. Jewish party members have actually said that, while they know anti-Semitism must exist in the party, they have never personally encountered it.

This is in stark contrast to the Tories, where, for example, Michael Howard was rejected by a string of constituency parties before he found one that would accept him as their parliamentary candidate. The squalid individuals, whose emails have been uncovered by the blogger Jacobsmates, who ranted about Muslims trying to take over Britain and who fantasied about killing them, also included genuine anti-Semites. These horrors believed in the old Nazi myth of the ‘great replacement’ – that They were deliberately importing Muslims and other coloured immigrants in order to destroy the White race. And the They responsible for this were the Jews. These vicious bigots were members of the Tory party, and specifically supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. I think they’ve since been suspended, but they’re probably symptomatic of a deeper problem within the Tory party. But as the Tories by and large support Israel, the media and the Israel lobby have said hardly a word about Tory anti-Semitism.

The vast majority of the anti-Semitism accusations were politically motivated smears, intended by the Blairites in the party bureaucracy to topple Corbyn and purge the party of his supporters, by the Tories and their complicit media simply to discredit Labour, and by the British Jewish establishment to defend Israel. Oh, and they also shared the aims of the Tories and Blairites about stopping a genuinely socialist government, because these organisations themselves are Conservative. The present Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, even publicly welcomed Theresa May’s installment at No. 10.

But while the media still refuses to publish anything that runs counter to their assumption that everyone accused of anti-Semitism is automatically guilty, the report itself recognises that some of these accusations, at least, were fabricated. In his analysis of the leaked report’s assumptions of anti-Semitism, Mike quotes the report, which states

“Staff applied the same factional approach to disciplinary processes. One staff member referred to Emilie Oldknow expecting staff to ‘fabricate a case’ against people ‘she doesn’t like/her friends don’t like’ because of their political views.”

This part of the report has been overshadowed by the report’s revelation of the plotters’ deliberate deceit against Corbyn and their campaigns against the party from within. Nevertheless, it is immensely important and deserves to be taken up, promoted and discussed to the point that it becomes an issue that cannot be ignored. Genuine anti-racists, including self-respecting Jews like Martin, Tony and Jackie Walker, have been viciously smeared as anti-Semites and subjected to horrific abuse, purely for political reasons. Mike is attempting to get some justice by taking the Labour party to court for breach of contract in passing on details of his case to the press, who smeared him as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. If Mike wins, this will be a significant blow against the witch-hunters and the smear merchants.

I realise that the media establishment does not want to publish anything that shows that the witch-hunt is a politically motivated smear campaign, but that quote from the report shows that it is. And it should be given so much publicity that the media and the Labour party bureaucracy are made to take notice, and people start becoming aware how much they’ve been misled by them.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/15/be-warned-leaked-report-on-labour-factionalism-still-makes-dangerous-assumptions-on-anti-semitism/

 

Labour and Trade Union Staffers Trying to Protect Anti-Black and Asian Racists

Here’s another scandal that’s erupted in the wake of the leak of the damning report showing how the Blairite faction in the Labour party deliberately intrigued against Corbyn and left-wing MPs and activists, even to the point of working for a thrown election. Now elements in the party and the union, GMB, are trying to protect anti-Black and Asian racists.

Mike put up a piece on Thursday reporting that the suppressed document also stated that the Black MPs, Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis, had been victims of racism and racial profiling. A video conference meeting apparently confirmed this, supporting a motion that said that the report had highlighted damning examples of casual workplace racism at the highest levels of the party, and showed how racism against Black, Asian and ethnic minority members were ignored. The meeting called for letters of solidarity to be sent to Abbott, Butler and Lewis.

This was, however, blocked by Labour Party staffers, with one staffer named in the report claiming that it didn’t happen, and to send the letters would be an admission of guilt. Gabriel Pogrund, the Sunday Times hack who libeled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, further reported that a motion was put before the Labour Branch of the union GMB demanding that General Secretary Jennie Formby should personally apologise to the members named in the report. Furthermore, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis also promised his protection to two of his senior staffers named in the report as plotting against Corbyn. They’re probably Emilie Oldknow and John Stolliday.

Mike in his article asks if these are the same people, who were happy to demand the persecution and expulsion of left-wing members, like Mike, because of false press reports. He states that if so, they are not acting in good faith and their memberships should already have been suspended. He also asks whether it’s time for vote of ‘no confidence’.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/16/responses-to-leaked-labour-report-shows-the-party-and-unions-must-kick-out-the-racists/

This squalid incident shows the double standard within the Labour party and wider society between racism towards Jews and people of colour. Tony Greenstein has pointed out in his incisive critiques of the anti-Semitism smears how racism against Jews is given a higher profile and harsher condemnation than that against Blacks and Asians. Jews are generally less subject to racist abuse and assault. They are not subject to stop and search, nor targeted for deportation. They aren’t rounded up to be put on flights to supposed countries of origin, which they may never have seen in their lives, like the Windrush migrants. At the other end of the political spectrum, Times parliamentary sketch writer Quentin Letts has made a very similar point. In his book Bog-Standard Britain, Letts argues that there is a hierarchy of respect and power of minorities. Jews are either at the top, or near to it. Blacks, Asians and Muslims lower down or at the bottom.

Some of this inequality can be explained as an entirely understandable reaction to the Holocaust. This has made anti-Jewish racism far less acceptable. It’s also perhaps due to the fact that the traditional European Jews are White and highly assimilated. The Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th century, was a reform movement within Judaism that attempted to adapt Jewish culture so that Jews could also participate in wider European society. The result of this has been that most European Jews are highly integrated. Except when wearing traditional Jewish garb, such as the kippah, most British Jews look, dress and behave exactly like their gentile compatriots. And they’re largely accepted by the great mass of British society as fellow Brits. Tony Greenstein stated that the majority of anti-Semitic abuse and violence was directed against Orthodox Jews, who obviously still retain a distinctive dress and are therefore ‘other’ in a way that Liberal and Reform Jews are not.

Class also plays a large part. Tony has also stated that 60 per cent of the British community is middle or upper middle class. They are therefore economically important and socially respectable in a way that other demographic groups are not.

This contrasts with Blacks and Asians, who are marked as different through their skin colouring. While Blacks and some Muslims have been present in Britain and western Europe from the Middle Ages, the majority are recent immigrants to these shores. Large sections of these communities have a distinctive dress and language, and are therefore more radically other than indigenous Jewish Brits. They are also more likely to be poorer and less well educated, and were used over here as cheap labour. These are generalisations, of course, and you can find exceptions to them. Chinese and Indians are like to be as affluent, educated and occupying the same ranks in the social hierarchy as Whites. Working class White boys are far less likely than the children of ethnic minority background to get good grades at school and progress to university. Blacks and Asians have also suffered their own holocausts, such as slavery and the Bengal famine of the War years, when Churchill ordered the sequestration of grain as backup supplies for British troops. The result was an estimated death toll of 2-6 million. Churchill refused to release the grain to feed the starving Indians, and blamed it on them having too many children. His attitude shocked many British officers and colonial administrators, who explicitly compared it to the Nazis.

But these atrocities are historic, and many of them took place far away from Blighty, so that the majority of Brits have never heard of them. Slavery was officially abolished in the British Empire in 1837, although the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’ in indentured Indian labourers continued into the 20th century. The result is that racism towards Blacks and Asians is far more acceptable than anti-Semitism.

Which means that the people determined to unseat Corbyn were able to exaggerate the extent of real anti-Semitism in the Labour party for a right-wing political and media establishment to present as evidence that the Labour leader was a real, existential threat to Jews when he was absolutely nothing of the sort.

And now it seems that right-wing elements in the party are demonstrating their double standards by denying that anti-Black and Asian racism exists, and seeking to defend and protect those guilty.

Whatever they do, they’re still racists. They should be held to account and expelled, not apologised to.

 

BJP Capitalizes on Coronavirus Fears to Take India’s Fascist Creep to the Next Level

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/04/2020 - 5:33am in

Last week, 22-year-old Dilshad “Mehboob” Ali was dragged into a field on the outskirts of Delhi and beaten with sticks and shoes by an enraged crowd demanding to be told, “who else is behind this conspiracy?” His attackers believed he was part of a “corona Jihad:” an evil plot by India’s Muslim minority to spread the disease and kill as many Hindus as possible. Ali was dragged to a temple and told to convert to Hinduism before they would allow him to go to the hospital. Images of the incident went viral, illustrative of a nationwide assault on the country’s nearly 200 million Muslims.

 Ali is part of the Tablighi Jamaat movement, identified by the government as the main culprits in spreading the coronavirus across India. Between March 13 and 15, the movement hosted a convention in the Nizamuddin area of Delhi, attended by around 8,000 people from all over the country and Asia. After some tested positive for COVID–19, India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government began demonizing them as the source of the outbreak that has so far killed 448 people, but is feared could rip through the country’s densely populated slums like wildfire. Senior BJP politicians immediately sparked fears of a “corona jihad.” “The central and state governments are leaving no stone unturned in the decisive fight against the COVID-19,” said Rajeev Bindal, president of the Himachal Pradesh BJP party. “But some people, including Tablighi Jamaat, members are moving like human bombs to thwart their efforts.”

Other BJP leaders claimed that Muslims were carrying out “corona terrorism” and were spitting on doctors and other healthcare workers. “It’s clear, their aim is to infect as many people as possible with coronavirus and kill them,” tweeted Delhi politician Kapil Mishra. Other BJP figures have called it a “Talibani crime.”

Even fellow Hindus have not been spared by BJP bigotry. A report from CNN highlighted how Dalits, the lowest-rung in the officially outlawed Hindu caste system, have been prevented from purchasing food and medicine. Dalits are often considered inherently dirty by higher castes, so they have been refused access to shops and entry to certain neighborhoods by others invoking coronavirus fears. 

While the government has initiated laws against spreading false information and social media has existing rules prohibiting hate speech, it becomes more difficult to enforce when senior political leaders themselves engage in it. Nevertheless, it is clear from the torrent of Islamophobic fake news circulating on Twitter that it is doing far from enough to root it out. The hashtag #CoronaJihad has trended for days, with fake news and hate speech abounding.

The upshot of the campaign has been a dramatic increase in Islamophobic attacks and anti-Muslim sentiment. Across India, Muslims are being barred from entering neighborhoods while in others Hindus face fines if caught fraternizing with them. Others have been beaten with bats and lynched.

There has also been fake news aimed at infecting the Muslim population themselves, with videos circulating on TikTok and other platforms telling users that the virus does not affect Muslims and that they should not wear masks.

The wave of anti-Muslim violence has shocked many observers, but not surprised them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to national attention while chief minister of Gujarat State during the massive wave of anti-Muslim pogroms in 2002 that saw over 2,000 killed and 200,000 Muslims driven from their homes. For a great many in India, the fact that he is widely considered its architect is a point in his favor. He won re-election in an overwhelming landslide last year.

However, he has faced stiff opposition, primarily from India’s many religious minority communities, who see his explicitly Hindu nationalist agenda as dooming them to becoming second-class citizens, or worse. The last year has seen the country in upheaval following his controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Registration Council (NRC) laws. The CAA makes it easier for people fleeing persecution from India’s Muslim-majority neighbors to gain citizenship. But the policy explicitly prevents Muslims and dalits from taking advantage of the law; something critics say breaks India’s tradition of secularism.

The NRC is arguably much more nefarious. The NRC is a new body overhauling Indian citizenship laws, requiring citizens to provide extensive documentation about themselves and their ancestors, something hundreds of millions will surely be unable to do. Without this documentation, the government is able to strip citizenship away from anyone it chooses, rendering large populations illegal overnight. The policy has already been implemented in the northeastern state of Assam, where 1.9 million people – most of them Muslims – have been declared stateless and without rights. The BJP government is currently building a network of detention centers, not unlike those on the U.S./Mexico border, to house the new population of “illegal immigrants.” In February, Giriraj Singh, a minister in Modi’s cabinet, sparked fury after he claimed that India made a big mistake not fully committing to genocide against the entire Muslim population upon the country’s founding in 1947.

“It was a big lapse by our ancestors that we’re paying the price for now. If at that time Muslim brothers had been sent there and Hindus brought here, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Singh said. The situation he was referring to was the protests and the anti-Muslim pogroms sweeping the country that killed 36 people.

If some hoped that a nationwide lockdown amid a pandemic that threatened everyone would dampen the flames of communal hatred and inspire a collective spirit that would transcend religion, that hope has been completely dashed. India is accelerating down the track of religious strife, and the government itself is driving the vehicle.

Feature photo | A civic worker sanitizes an area as policemen stand guard after a protest against the extension of the lockdown, at a slum in Mumbai, India, April 14, 2020. Rafiq Maqbool | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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