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Otto Frank and the editing of Anne Frank’s diary

Indigo Jo Blogs - 17 December, 2017 - 11:32

A picture of a young Anne Frank sitting at an old-fashioned desk with an inkwellAn online women’s publication called “The Establishment” last year published an article attacking the editing of Anne Frank’s diary by her father, Otto Frank, for publication in the 1940s after the death of the author and several members of their family in the Nazi concentration camps. The article by one Stephanie Watson (of whom they give no biographical details) was written more than a year ago (November 2016) but the magazine has been re-publicising it on Twitter and has attracted a lot of quite justifiable criticism that it is offensive and in effect anti-Semitic. The final published work combined material from two versions Anne Frank wrote, one of them a personal diary and one of them a novelised version of the same that was intended for publication; the bits that were edited out consisted of unflattering remarks about her parents and comments on sexuality, menstruation and her own vulva. Watson considers the removal of this material ‘sexist’ and an invasion of Anne Frank’s privacy and says she turned off the audiobook version of the diary, read by Helena Bonham-Carter, before she had even heard the whole of the preface!

Watson gives a few examples of what was edited out, before complaining:

I already worried that heavy editing of Anne’s diary was disrespectful to her memory. But seeing the content of the changes, it seemed that the edits were also an act of misogyny. The redacted sections dealt with love, sex, and body changes, all topics that women were discouraged from talking about in the 1940s and are still discouraged from talking about today. If Anne had been a boy, would the publication house have deleted sections on discovering his body? On his thoughts about a girl? Would his thoughts about his parents be written off as just a “boy being a boy”?

There are many good reasons why this material was edited out of a book that was published in the 1940s with a view to children reading it. In the 1940s, published literature was heavily censored; I am not sure what the situation was in the Netherlands but in the UK writing on sexuality was particularly restricted and, for example, swearing was not allowed, nor even the impression thereof. The Netherlands was a quite conservative country then, heavily divided along religous (Catholic/Protestant) lines. It was not the aggressively liberal country we know today. As to the question of whether similar material by a boy on discovering one’s body would have been edited out, the answer would surely be ‘yes’ — boys certainly were not encouraged to openly talk about their private parts or about erections or nocturnal emissions in public in the 1980s, let alone the 1940s; it’s a ludicrous complaint.

Advertisement from ActionAid featuring a young African girl with the words 'She's lost her home, she's lost her family; will you help her keep her dignity?'And yes, some of the girls reading the book will be going through the same process as Anne Frank was at the time of writing, but should any girl need Anne Frank to tell her about periods or about the fact that she doesn’t urinate through her clitoris (a common enough misconception), or for that matter should a boy need to learn about girls’ bodies or their feelings about them from a diary written in the 1940s? Should any teenager learn these things when learning about the Nazis or Holocaust? Surely not. There are better books (fiction and non-fiction) that teach these things, although with a slightly older audience it could be appropriate, particularly given increased awareness of such things as the needs of women refugees (see advert on left and this related articlefor example). And her complaints about her parents were quite appropriately edited out as they were published at a time when some of the people featured were still living, and some were dead. Of course Otto Frank would not have wanted disparaging material about his wife, who had died only a few years earlier in Auschwitz while his two daughters (Anne and Margot) died from typhus in Bergen-Belsen, in the public domain, and one suspects that had Anne survived but her mother Edith had not, she might well have made similar decisions. The circumstances of publication were different from those of the book’s writing.

The fact that Anne Frank was only in her early teens when she wrote the diary also justifies a certain amount of adult editing. Many of us wrote diaries at that age which we would not like to see revealed to our families, much less anyone else, as adults. A lot of us wrote diaries after being inspired by Frank, or the Adrian Mole books (whose content on sex and sexuality was much less explicit than what was edited out of Anne Frank’s diary), The Color Purple or (in my case) Helen Cresswell’s book Dear Shrink (a book about a boy in care in the 1980s) but we didn’t keep them up for long and didn’t share them (or tried to avoid doing so). A lot of people write blogs, both as teens and as adults, and later delete them. Even diaries written by adults cannot always be published immediately as they contain sensitive material about people who are still alive; the novelist Margaret Forster wrote a diary which she kept secret, but her husband Hunter Davies, the journalist, has secreted them in the British Library with a 10-year embargo as mentioned in yesterday’s Guardian:

/> The precise contents are rather too interesting: her thoughts on her children, her husband, her relations, her health, her work and her experience as a Booker-prize judge contain “disobliging remarks about famous people”.

Forster’s schoolgirl diaries have been published, however.

The cover of a book, reading 'The Diary of Anne Frank [picture of author] The Critical Edition, prepared by the Netherlands State Institution for War DocumentationWatson says she consulted with various Jewish writers about the censorship of the original Frank diaries and one of them said that the diary is too important as a record of Jewish lives during the Nazi occupation and Holocaust to just not read. She suggests, however, that what should be taught is the Critical Edition, which consists of a “comparison” of the three editions of the diary as well as some other written material by Frank. However, this version is out of print; the original “Critical Edition” starts at £50 each on Amazon and the more recent “revised Critical Edition” starts at £190. I agree that it’s quite right that the full version was published after Otto Frank’s death, but this still does not make it appropriate to teach this version to children as the material edited out is not relevant to the reason children should read it.

As Louise Pennington (from whose Twitter feed I was alerted to this article) commented, “combatting antisemitism is more important than having tantrums about a grieving father editing his daughter’s diary” (her thread starts here and ends here and I recommend reading all of it). Books like this are important for educating young people about the dangers of racial and religious prejudice and the consequences it can have; children do not need to know intimate details about Anne Frank’s developing body to appreciate this. There was nothing misogynist about editing these things out of the original publication; the decision guarded several women’s privacy when they had not long died in the concentration camps and some of their friends and relations were still alive. It was quite appropriate in a much more conservative time than today.

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How Labour’s researchers passed up a chance to expose Tory racism

Indigo Jo Blogs - 16 December, 2017 - 17:38

A Liberal Democrat election poster that reads 'We propose putting patients first; we oppose putting targets first' above a Tory poster that reads 'Imagine 5 more years of it' above a newspaper clipping with the headline 'Council tax bills skyrocket'Yesterday Theo Bertram, a former advisor to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, posted a tweet thread (starts here, ends here) on his work as part of Labour’s research team during the 2005 general election (the one that featured Tory slogans such as “how hard is it to keep a hospital clean?” and “it’s not racist to support limits on immigration” with the strap line “are you thinking what we’re thinking?”. Labour won a Parliamentary majority albeit with a share of the vote of just 35.2% — far less than some parties have lost elections with (for example, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party gained 40% of the vote in this past election but still lost). The Tories under Michael Howard appealed to their Daily Mail-reading base, as they had in 2001 but with even more nastiness, and still lost, their anti-immigration stance being exposed when it was revealed that Michael Howard’s dad was an illegal immigrant from Romania, saved from deportation (and likely later death in the Nazi concentration camps) by the intervention of a Labour MP.

Theo Bertram’s team used to send its members into functions run by Tories and Tory-associated pressure and fringe groups to record politicians saying something potentially incriminating; they recorded Liam Fox boasting to a Tory think-tank about Tory plans to cut public services and another shadow cabinet member saying something “so explosive it caused Michael Howard to fire [them] in the middle of the election campaign”. But one tape they decided to sit on: a Tory making racist remarks which, they say, would have exposed their pretence that their anti-immigration stance was “not racist” as a sham. They called the idea of releasing that tape “the nuclear option”, and they never did because the remarks were unpresentative of “most Tories and their leadership” and would have made the whole campaign about “one thing: race”. The tape, he said, would almost certainly be gone now, and he does not name the individual, so we do no know whether they are still alive or dead, or male or female, or what.

To start with, pardon me for not being especially convinced that the racist remarks were not typical of the Tory party. If someone like this was in a senior enough position that if his remarks would have changed the course of the election if exposed, it’s likely that at least some of his colleagues knew of and didn’t especially disapprove, especially if they were made to a meeting of a think-tank. The Tories have generally been against open racism and displays of it (e.g. that of Enoch Powell) end careers, but pandering to those who resent seeing “too many” brown faces in their home town and can couch their racism in less vulgar terms than the N-word has never been beneath them. That every kind of bigotry that doesn’t involve “nasty words” is a stock in trade of most Tory mid- and low-market newspapers is no secret, and the internal racism at others (the policy of not carrying positive human interest stories about non-white people, or as they say, those “of the dusky hue”, for example) is also nowadays known about. Why must we automatically assume that when the mask slips, it must not be representative?

Labour’s fortunes were, at the time, on the wane. They were bitterly unpopular among many left-leaning and ethnic minority voters because of the Iraq war and policies hostile to civil liberties. Some people allowed themselves to imagine that “decent Tories” would be preferable to Labour on these grounds and even the Liberal Democrats proved themselves to be no friend of poor or disabled people, or public services, when in coalition with the Tories. If the team did not want to just release the tape on its own, it could have been passed to people who could have investigated the matter further and come up with a more complete picture. To just sit on it was to run the risk of a wafer-thin majority turning into a loss; to release it could have turned it into a respectable majority and perhaps also influenced the 2010 result in Labour’s favour as well. It would, at the very least, have made sure the person involved never held high office ever again.

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Canada's spy agency settles lawsuit over alleged racist and homophobic bullying

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 December, 2017 - 17:42

Details of the settlement were kept confidential after five employees claimed ‘discriminatory behavior has become the accepted culture’ at the agency

Canada’s spy service has settled a C$35m lawsuit launched by five employees who alleged they suffered years of bullying in a workplace rife with racism, homophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment.

The allegations against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, documented in a statement of claim filed in July in Federal Court, offered a view into one of the country’s most secretive organisations.

Related: Canada spy service workers sue agency over alleged racist, sexist bullying

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Far right to gather in Prague amid fears of rising Czech populism

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 December, 2017 - 12:10

France’s Marine Le Pen among guests at conference likely to be met with protests as rightwing sentiment in country grows

European far-right leaders including Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders will gather in Prague this weekend for a controversial conference likely to be met with protests from groups fearful that xenophobic populism is on the rise in the Czech Republic.

The meeting of the rightwing Europe of Nations and Freedom group in the European parliament is being hosted by the anti-Islam Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD), which emerged as a force in Czech politics after winning nearly 11% of the vote in a parliamentary election in October.

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Religious freedom review appointee has argued for limited sharia law in Australia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 December, 2017 - 17:00

Prof Nicholas Aroney, who has said religious freedom should include right to practise sharia law within limits, appointed to Philip Ruddock-led review

The Turnbull government has appointed an academic who has argued that recognising religious freedom should include acceptance of a limited form of sharia law to the Ruddock review.

On Thursday the government released broad terms of reference for its religious freedom inquiry, headed by former attorney general Philip Ruddock, including the new appointment of University of Queensland constitutional law professor Nicholas Aroney to the five-person panel.

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Jerusalem – for Christians, Jews and Muslims – is both a city and an idea | Giles Fraser: Loose canon

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 December, 2017 - 15:49
It’s the object of overwhelming projection, a place of dreams and longing. There can be no political peace there until Jerusalem the golden is understood

Trying to organise parish pilgrimages to the Holy Land, I have often come across church people who refuse to travel to Israel, and to Jerusalem in particular, because they do not want the reality of the place to interfere with their idea of it. “Jerusalem the golden / With milk and honey blest…,” they have sung in church, “I know not, O I know not /What joys await us there, / What radiancy of glory, / What bliss beyond compare.”

No town can ever live up to that sort of billing. The reality is always going to be more prosaic. Which is why those who do make the pilgrimage can sometimes feel a little deflated by the sheer everydayness of the place – the shops, the traffic, the traffic wardens, and all the paraphernalia of a bustling tourist industry.

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Grenfell memorial service: emotions raw as families and survivors mourn dead

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 December, 2017 - 14:00

Multi-faith service at St Paul’s Cathedral attended by royals and politicians – but not council leaders – hears call for a new vision of London out of tragedy

Clutching white roses and photographs of lost loved ones, the survivors and the bereaved of the Grenfell Tower fire were joined by members of the royal family, faith leaders and the prime minister at St Paul’s Cathedral to mark six months since the catastrophe.

Related: 'We'll be living with this for a long time to come’: Grenfell, six months on

Related: 'Homeless because of a tragedy': struggle to rehouse Grenfell survivors continues

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Butlins faces legal action over dodgems hijab ban

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 December, 2017 - 08:00

Man accuses holiday resort of racial and religious discrimination after daughter was barred for health and safety reasons

A Muslim man has launched a discrimination case against the holiday company Butlins after his teenage daughter was barred from using the dodgems because she was wearing a hijab.

Moammer Nasser, 41, a family support worker from Birmingham, is bringing a claim for race and religious discrimination after the incident at Butlins in Minehead in June.

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Chinese authorities collecting DNA from all residents of Xinjiang

The Guardian World news: Islam - 13 December, 2017 - 04:53

Officials build database of iris scans and blood types of everyone aged 12 to 65 in region home to 11 million Muslim Uighurs

Chinese authorities are collecting DNA samples, fingerprints and other biometric data from every resident in a far western region, Human Rights Watch has said.

Officials are also building a database of iris scans and blood types of everyone aged between 12 and 65 in Xinjiang, adding to controls in a place some experts have called an “open-air prison”.

Related: China bans religious names for Muslim babies in Xinjiang

Related: China: Xi Jinping wants ‘Great Wall of Steel’ in violence-hit Xinjiang

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How did I handle casual racism in Los Angeles? Awkwardly | Romesh Ranganathan

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 December, 2017 - 15:04

I had only just arrived in the US when somebody asked me aggressively if I was Muslim. Perhaps I should have educated him, but why is it my problem when I just want a quiet drink with my mate?

I have been in Los Angeles for the past few months in an attempt to see if I can make a career out here. There is nothing interesting to discuss about this vanity project except for the fact that it has made me think I might be prejudiced about racism.

Before I first arrived in the US, I had been bombarded with advice from my friends about the nightmarish experiences that anyone brown faces at immigration, and warned that I should steel myself for a thorough interrogation and a cavity search. This turned out not to be the case, as I was welcomed by the officer at immigration and wished well on my new journey. He then started discussing astrology with me, which I couldn’t give a shiny shit about, but obviously had to feign interest to avoid immediate deportation.

Related: TV comedy like Chinese Burn doesn’t smash stereotypes. It reinforces them | Yuan Ren

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ISIS terrorists, wannabes and “peace in Muslim societies”

Indigo Jo Blogs - 11 December, 2017 - 21:37

A picture of a South Asian man with obvious injuries lying on a stretcher, being pushed into the back of an ambulance surrounded by paramedics and policemen.So, today a man detonated a bomb in New York, at the Port Authority bus terminal. The man, a 27-year-old from Bangladesh who lives in Brooklyn and was a cab driver before his licence expired, was injured when the “low-tech” device exploded in an underpass and has been arrested. The city mayor said he acted alone but fomer NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton alleged that he ‘supposedly’ operated in the name of ISIS; the New York Post are reporting that he told investigators that he acted out of ‘revenge’ for US actions in his home country: “they’ve been bombing in my country and I wanted to do damage here”. The same report says that it is unclear whether he detonated the device at that particular time and place intentionally or whether it went off accidentally.

It is wise to be sceptical about ISIS (Daesh) involvement in this attack. Frequently there have been terrorist attacks recently whose perpetrators have claimed to be acting on behalf of ISIS or which have been claimed by ISIS yet the group cannot have had anything to do with them. Often they do not involve guns or bombs but knives and vehicles used as weapons. They do not have the hallmarks of having been planned by a disciplined terrorist organisation; they are home-grown cells, maybe consisting of people who might have tried to travel to ISIS’s territory when it still had whole cities under its control (or if they had money and passports) but were frustrated, or maybe people with mental health or substance abuse problems. The same was true of the two men who murdered the soldier Lee Rigby near his barracks in Woolwich in May 2013; they claimed to have been associated with the former al-Muhajiroun and the group praised them but even Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police said she did not believe they were aware of the two men’s plans.

In the United States, of course, terrorists have a much easier time getting the wherewithal to carry out attacks than they do here. People not linked to the criminal underworld cannot easily get hold of powerful weapons or explosives and it is illegal to research or possess instructions on how to make explosives. In the USA, a book containing instructions on how to make bombs is readily available online; in the UK, ordering or possessing it is a criminal offence. And of course there is a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and the possession of automatic weapons is currently legal in many states and once in a terrorist’s hands in one state, he only has to put it in the boot of his car and drive it to another. The upshot is that massacres are a regular occurrence, usually carried out by people with no political motive but merely a personal axe to grind, losers who want the world to ‘know them’, but when a minor terrorist incident like today’s occurs, with only minor injuries caused, it is international news.

 Global Peace and the Fear of Islam -- Roadblocks on the road to Radicalism". Next to that is an ornate wooden table with a jar with a large display of flowers in it.Earlier today I saw some Facebook posts promoting the ongoing “Global Peace” conference in Abu Dhabi, an annual event held by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Middle Eastern Societies (FPPMS), established in 2014 by the Emirates’ government “ostensibly as an Islamic scholarly body that would help promote peace in a region destabilised by violence” whose president is Shaikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, originally from Mauritania though he lives in Saudi Arabia, best known in the West for his long-standing association with Shaikh Hamza Yusuf. The post I saw was from an imam named Umar al-Qadri who studied at the Minhaj University in Lahore (run by Dr Muhammad Tahir al-Qadri) and now serves as an imam at a mosque outside Dublin. He claims:

More than 100 Islamic concepts like #Jihad & #Abode have been distorted. The Forum is launching an encyclopaedia with the correct concepts. Scholars have the responsibility to present the correct concepts to the Ummah. #ShaykhBinBayyah @BinBayyahNet #PeaceForum17 #GlobalPeace17

Some ask me why aren’t there more Muslim scholars speaking out against extremism and reaching out to non-Muslims with the message of Peace like myself. Visit #globalpeace17 to see more than 300 prominent Muslim leaders that each lead organisations with these aims. #peaceforum17

Dr Tahir al-Qadri is already well-known for issuing fatwas which are heralded as ‘historic’ by non-Muslims, such as his fatwa from 2010 outlawing suicide bombings, despite the fact that they are not at all original; many scholars had been saying that for years, including Saudi Wahhabis such as Rabi’ al-Madkhali and ‘Sufis’ from other parts of the world. It would be foolish of them to try to redefine ‘jihad’ in a way that makes it only look like personal spiritual struggle as the whole of early Muslim history and numerous Islamic legal textbooks demonstrate otherwise and both Muslims and those who are opposed to Islam know this.

A Yemeni boy lying on a bed with a drip hanging over with, attached to his arm.But really, any conference in which Islamic scholars and other religious leaders meet to talk about peace and harmony which is sponsored by governments such as the UAE’s is something of a hypocrisy. The UAE, along with its Saudi ally, has been fomenting tension with Qatar in order to intimidate it into shutting down Al-Jazeera and expelling Muslim scholars associated with the Muslim Brotherhood such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi; that feud has resulted in families being split up and some innocent people being trapped at the border as neither side will accept them. The UAE has also been involved in Saudi Arabia’s destructive war against Yemen in which many innocent Yemenis have been killed or had their houses destroyed; the war has also led to an outbreak of cholera which as of this past August had infected more than half a million people and killed 1,975. If you are the cause of this, or you work for the men who are the cause of this, you can’t talk about “peace in Muslim societies”.

So, spare us all the platitudes about how “salaam (peace) is a name of God” and about eradicating misunderstandings between Muslims and others if you are taking your wages off the Saudi or Emirati governments. The worst terrorism going on now is not by lone wolves with knives and vans inspired by ISIS or by Wahhabi extremists enraged by the oppression in Palestine or the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia since the 1990s; it’s by the Saudi air force and the victims are poor Yemenis. The rest of the world knows this — Muslims and others — and isn’t deceived by all the peace and love talk.

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Movie Review: Taxi Tehran

Inayat's Corner - 10 December, 2017 - 20:42

Taxi Tehran (2015) is Jafar Panahi’s third movie which he has somehow managed to get made and smuggled out of Iran despite being banned in 2010 by the Iranian authorities from film-making for twenty years for what it viewed as his propaganda activities against the Islamic Republic.

Taxi Tehran features Panahi donning a beret and driving around Iran’s capital picking up various passengers along the way. Panahi has fitted some dash-cams to the front of the taxi which record these encounters. These (almost certainly scripted) conversations allow Panahi to make a number of observations about life in modern Iran under the restrictions imposed by the government.

The first two passengers Panahi picks up are soon engaged in an acrimonious argument about the effectiveness of capital punishment when it comes to thievery. The first passenger (who ironically later claims to be a mugger by profession) calls for the stringent application of Shari’ah and its accompanying hadd penalties. The second passenger, a teacher, counters this by pointing out that Iran is second only to China in the number of people it executes each year and yet this seems to have little impact on criminality.

A third passenger – Iranian cabs apparently host multiple passengers to help lower the cab fare – is listening to the above conversation and when they leave gives a knowing smile and says “You are Jafar Panahi. Those two were actors, weren’t they?” This third passenger turns out to be an underground seller of illegal DVDs. Indeed, he says he used to supply Panahi with copies of movies that are not allowed to be shown in Iran including Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

The most interesting passenger turns out to be Panahi’s pre-adolescent niece, Hana. He is an hour late in picking her up and Hana makes sure he knows how she feels about it. She informs Panahi that her teacher has given the class an assignment to make a movie in one month. The rules are those that are laid down by the Government’s Ministry and include avoiding “sordid realism”, avoiding discussion of political or economic problems, and ensuring that any heroes do not wear ties (they are only for villains).

Hana is bright and feisty and is a delight to watch and listen to. One can’t help wondering if she is meant by Panahi to be viewed as a proxy for the demographically young Iranian nation and its future potential if only it was freed of the restrictions imposed by an authoritarian regime.

Taxi Tehran is currently available to be viewed on the BBC iPlayer for the next 23 days.


Anti-Muslim train attack leaves Canadians wondering: why did just one man help?

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 December, 2017 - 09:00

When a man allegedly assaulted Noor Fadel, 18, on a busy train, most passengers remained silent – raising concern over the ‘bystander effect’

After a 46-year-old man was charged with assaulting a Muslim teenager on a busy commuter train in Vancouver, Canadians are asking why just one person stepped in to help her.

Noor Fadel, 18, was speaking to a friend on the phone as she headed home from work on Monday. “All of a sudden you just hear some dude start saying these words,” Fadel told CKNW 980. “I wasn’t paying attention to him until he actually got up. He had a very aggressive look on his face.”

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Palestinian shot dead in Gaza as protesters clash with Israeli troops in West Bank

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 December, 2017 - 15:08

Clashes erupt as people across Muslim world demonstrate against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

A Palestinian was shot dead in Gaza by the Israeli army on Friday, the Palestinian health ministry said, the first person killed in clashes that began after Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Thursday.

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops across the West Bank as worshippers throughout the Muslim world took to the streets after the weekly Friday midday prayers to protest against Trump’s decision.

Related: What does US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital mean?

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Anti-Semitism and the ‘woke’ Muslim

Indigo Jo Blogs - 6 December, 2017 - 22:07

A group of young white men holding Tiki torches aloft, standing in front of an American state house.Last weekend I had a brief exchange with three women on Twitter, two Muslim and one Jewish, after one of the two Muslims retweeted a conversation about Jews versus Blacks and why the first group does not “act oppressed” the way Black people supposedly do. I responded that Jews had long since lost any right to be called an oppressed or marginalised group in many western countries and certainly the UK and to a large extent the USA as well. In response to this and my post from a couple of weeks back about Julie Burchill’s racist diatribe (in which she said Judaism attracted high-quality converts while Islam only attracts the ‘dregs’ of society), I’ve had people accuse me of anti-Semitism or “bad faith” for making such generalisations as that Jews are no longer a persecuted minority and that they are generally wealthy. It ties in with the repeated accusations of anti-Semitism against people connected to Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of Britain’s Labour Party, often for things that appear to have had no racial component at all (some of the other accusations of racism in the Labour Party, for example against Jess Phillips for abusive but not racist language against Dianne Abbot, are in my opinion equally spurious).

To be clear, I don’t deny that there is some lingering prejudice against Jews in this country. I went to a boarding school where there were three Jewish boys at different times and racial name-calling was common, and I saw staff use such language as well. I don’t dispute that anti-Semitic violence also happens, and that in other parts of Europe the Far Right is as anti-Semitic as it ever was and has gained in power. But the UK is not Poland, Hungary or even the USA and when I talk about race relations, religious community relations or, for that matter, gender relations, I am principally talking about my own country of 60 million people. Anti-Semitism is not the prejudice of the moment and it hasn’t been for decades in this country; I would dispute that it is that anywhere, even in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, I believe that harping on anti-Semitism has the effect of muting concerns about other prejudices about groups in society that are vastly more marginalised than Jews have been any time since the War here. It is, in my opinion, a way for the majority White population to muzzle expressions of impatience from minorities and particularly Muslims.

People often say that men do not realise how widespread sexism is — sexual harassment, for example — because they rarely if ever see it happen, and the same is true of anti-Semitism; that if one is not Jewish and for that matter does not live anywhere there is a large Jewish population, one will not see it. As I said earlier, I have seen it, though rarely in person as an adult; I have heard Jewish callers to London talk shows say that they have encountered displays of prejudice (e.g. people throwing coins at them) while wearing identifiably Jewish clothing such as the kippah (skullcap). However, hostility to Muslims is not something that people who live in this country for any length of time can fail to notice. Consider the Daily Mail cutting with the headline “German Jews pouring into this country” that gets circulated on social media from time to time. It’s from 1938, the same year as Kristallnacht and the refugees it refers to had very good grounds to flee their home country even before the Holocaust had begun in earnest. If anyone could find an anti-Semitic Daily Mail headline from any time since, we would be seeing it on social media all the time — but we do not.

Sayeeda Warsi famously said that Islamophobia had passed the “dinner table test”, that is, it is a sentiment that could be expressed in polite company or in public without sanction. But it’s gone further than that. National newspapers proclaiming on the front page that Muslims were demanding this or that, TV documentaries claiming we were saying this or that about non-Muslims behind their backs, radio phone-ins about Muslims demanding or getting sex-segregated or modest swimming sessions (or blacked-out windows, which turned out to be untrue) have become routine since 2001 and especially since 2005. We have seen public campaigns succeed in getting privately booked “Muslim days” at ‘public’ venues (such as swimming pools) or private ones (like theme parks) cancelled. We have seen various Labour Party functionaries lose their jobs or be expelled for statements deemed anti-Semitic (e.g. suggesting that Israel was behind ISIS) or deemed to have invoked “anti-Semitic tropes” but the Spectator printed numerous articles containing outright and demonstrable lies about Muslims under Boris Johnson’s editorship, complete with inflammatory front pages, and Boris Johnson went on to be mayor of London and now, despite causing the government (and the country) endless embarrassment, is Foreign Secretary. The mildest of perceived anti-Semitism costs people jobs; hatred of Muslims often costs nothing, and when someone does get demoted for smears against Muslims (e.g. Sarah Champion), there will be a chorus of sympathy.

Pretty much every definition of oppression or marginalisation as applied to minorities in western countries considers systemic as well as personal factors — the access a group has to political power and the media, as well as experience of prejudice. It’s generally accepted that white people cannot be said to be victims of racism as such because white people in general have a greater degree of power in terms of who makes the laws, who runs major companies (and decides who else has a job), whose voices dominate public debate, who enforces the law and so on. Without getting into any conspiracy theories about Jewish ‘control’ of major media companies (not true as far as ownership of major UK media companies is concerned), Jewish voices are heard in the mainstream media all the time and some very extreme ones (e.g. Melanie Phillips) are retained for years after expressing extreme views about other minorities, particularly Muslims, and allowed to continue pontificating on that issue as well as anything else for years (Phillips, despite having lost her weekly column in the Daily Mail, remains a regular on the Radio 4 panel show The Moral Maze). There are Jewish MPs and peers in all the major political parties and these have included Cabinet ministers in both Labour and Tory governments.

Someone mentioned to me the other day that “60,000 Nazis” had marched in Poland and this had been approved of by the government. It’s true that the Far Right have maintained an anti-Semitic position for decades and have made obviously anti-Semitic statements, that thugs linked to the Far Right have vandalised Jewish graves and synagogues and attacked Jewish people. It’s also true that when the Far Right have won brief electoral success, it has been through exploiting fears about immigration or demonising other minorities, and that when Nick Griffin was leader of the BNP, despite being an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, he moved the party away from focussing on anti-Semitism to attacking other minorities and immigrants and expelled John Tyndall, his mentor from the National Front days who clung to the “old” anti-Semitic platform. What has mobilised the Far Right in eastern Europe is the influx of refugees from Syria and the refusal of governments in the “Visegrad group” to accept them, promoting the idea of those countries as a bulwark of “white, Christian Europe” against multiculturalism and Islam. But even that’s there and this is here. Anti-Semitism isn’t a vote winner here, and even the Far Right know it. In the USA, if the Trump presidency brings an upsurge of racial violence, the targets are not likely to be Jews but African-Americans and Muslims, as the public has been softened up for that through decades of propaganda from both the pulpits and the newspapers and radio which does not demonise Jews.

Someone asked me not to make it a competition as to “who was the most oppressed”. I do not know of any measure by which Jews, in modern western society, could be called oppressed. Speaking as a white, middle-class Muslim who does not really distinguish myself from other middle-class white people in this bit of white middle-class suburbia, I don’t feel oppressed as I go about my business — I do not feel endangered although I am sure my African and especially South Asian fellow Muslims, and women even more so if they wear the hijab, have an entirely different experience on a day-to-day basis. That’s the way it is for a white person with a religion other than Christianity in Britain today. I still have white privilege even though my religion is a focus of hostility and suspicion, and the same is true for Jews (and most British Jews are white). If someone is not wearing noticeably Jewish clothing, it is impossible to tell if they are Jewish by looking at them, and if they do not have a stereotypically Jewish name, you will not know it unless they tell you. As you do not have to register your religious affiliation (even on the census, stating your religion is optional), and we do not have mandatory ID cards that state such details, finding out the Jewish origin of a non-observant Jew is not as simple a matter as finding out that a non-practising South Asian or African Muslim is, at the very least, not white.

It’s simply ludicrous to call Jews an oppressed minority, and it’s depressing to see Muslims of colour who think they’re ‘woke’ trot out the dogmas of the race relations industry. We play into the hands of the people who oppress our brothers and sisters in Palestine in so many ways by indulging the snowflakery and cry-bullying of their cousins and friends in the West, and I wonder if they are not partly influenced by anti-Arab sentiment inspired by the anti-Black racism that is known of in Muslim communities in the USA and the recent incidents of slaving in Libya. It’s racism 101 to know that being part of an economically and politically privileged group does not mean you are individually wealthy or powerful, and your hurt feelings when it’s pointed out do not change that. We know that some Jews (and many more people of partly Jewish origin) are opposed to Israel and some do things like help refugees, and we also know that we have some common ground like the need for religiously slaughtered meat, we cannot pull punches when talking about the oppression in Palestine and the role of western Jews in supporting that regime. We betray our own brothers and sisters by bending over backwards to accommodate the feelings of members of the same ethnic group and religion here, and nobody sincere about wanting to achieve justice for Palestinians can expect us to.

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Free Syrian Police are courageous and selfless people | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 December, 2017 - 19:22
Panorama’s programme ‘Jihadis You Pay For’ was hugely misleading, writes Dr Henry Smith

Panorama’s programme Jihadis You Pay For (Report, 5 December) was hugely misleading. As the person who led the international team that designed the Ajacs programme attacked by Jane Corbin, I would like to make the following points. Firstly, like their counterparts, the White Helmets, the vast majority of the Free Syrian Police are and have been the most courageous and selfless people any of us could meet. They are often all that’s left behind when the regime and its backers have destroyed neighbourhoods, bombing and gassing residents without mercy. I have known many FSP who have fallen in the line of duty protecting their people. I am therefore deeply saddened that, while identifying single instances of failings, no recognition was given to this bravery.

Secondly, the support for the FSP was directly in line with the UK policy for Syria, which was to support the moderate opposition and to help maintain basic services for those abandoned and attacked by their government. This is not some clandestine project funding armed groups to wage war. The fact that there appear to have been a small number of cases of support being diverted is deeply regrettable. But the question is to what extent it is possible to provide services to vulnerable populations in a war of an intensity unlike anything we have seen for decades, without there being attendant risks that some of that support might go astray. I am biased perhaps, but I found the Panorama programme one dimensional and deeply damaging to the essential services that these brave people continue to try to deliver in what surely must be the hardest neighbourhood in the world.
Dr Henry Smith
Woodborough, Wiltshire

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Trump travel ban: supreme court allows enforcement as appeals proceed

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 December, 2017 - 09:51

Justices say the ban on residents of countries traveling to the US can take full effect even as legal challenges against it make their way through the courts

The US supreme court ruled on Monday that a ban ordered by Donald Trump on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and two other countries could be immediately imposed while multiple court cases challenging the ban are resolved.

The ultimate disposition of the ban was expected to take months to resolve. But the 7-2 ruling by the high court was a blow to anti-discrimination advocates, who vowed to protest against the decision.

Related: Trump travel ban: US appeals court allows partial implementation

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The Muslim director who filmed neo-Nazis: ‘I thought – I’m not going to make it out’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 December, 2017 - 17:32

Deeyah Khan had a simple question for her new documentary: ‘Is it possible for me to sit with my enemy and for them to sit with theirs’? She got an answer – but not without a few tricky moments …

Last summer, the documentary film-maker Deeyah Khan started to receive the sort of threats – of being raped, tortured, gassed and killed – that vocal women from minority groups often get with hateful frequency. In a BBC interview, Khan had made the apparently contentious point that Britain was never going to be all-white and that we should build a future where we all belong. She was used to racial abuse – as a child growing up in Norway (her mother is from Afghanistan; her father from Pakistan), she knew of neo-Nazi marches, and her brother was once chased by racists and had to hide under a car. But the abuse she received last year was particularly vile and relentless, and Khan decided she didn’t want to be afraid of this generation of newly emboldened white supremacists any longer. Instead, she thought, she would try to find out what made them think and say the things they did.

The result is her film White Right: Meeting the Enemy. It focuses on the rise of nationalism in Donald Trump’s America, from the “alt-right” to all-out neo-Nazis. She spent time with various leaders in the movement, going to their meetings, including the August rally in Charlottesville where Heather Heyer, an anti-racist campaigner, was killed. She hung out with the followers of the movement, going out at night in the car with one as he leafleted a Jewish area with hate-filled flyers. She also met former neo-Nazis. “I’m a woman of colour,” she says at the beginning of the film as she sits down to interview Jared Taylor, a well-known white supremacist. “I am the daughter of immigrants. I am a Muslim. I am a feminist. I am a lefty liberal. And what I want to ask you is: am I your enemy?”

Related: Are media giving neo-Nazis the oxygen of publicity or exposing ugly truth?

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Minister tells principals to throw One Nation senator's anti-Islam letters in the bin

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 December, 2017 - 04:05

NSW education minister Rob Stokes condemns senator Brian Burston’s letter warning children risk becoming terrorists as ‘hate mail’

The New South Wales education minister, Rob Stokes, has urged school principals to throw anti-Islamic letters from One Nation in the nearest recycling bin, saying “perhaps then some good may still come from it”.

Stokes is the latest to denounce One Nation senator Brian Burston for letters he sent to NSW schools last week, warning principals their children risked becoming “terror-endorsing Islamists” whose religion required the killing of westerners.

Related: One Nation senator condemned for warning schoolchildren may become Islamist terrorists

Related: Deradicalisation makes headlines, but Muslim initiatives win young minds

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Donald Trump’s racist retweets are offensive to all of us | Letters

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 December, 2017 - 18:53
Britain should withdraw its state visit invitation to Donald Trump in the wake of his sharing of Britain First videos, say 38 political and religious figures. Plus, a warning not to underestimate the far-right group

We wish to express our profound shock and condemnation of the actions of President Donald Trump in retweeting video messages produced by the extremist far right group, Britain First (Report, 29 November).

The videos are gratuitously offensive to all sections of our communities. They have been produced with the clear intention of sowing hatred and division. Had President Trump tweeted this material in error, he has had ample opportunity to retract it and to apologise. Instead, he has reacted to measured criticism of his actions by the prime minister, Theresa May, and the British government, by attacking them and deepening the offence caused. The president’s actions are also extraordinary and unfathomable, not least because the United States and the United Kingdom have had such long, strong and deeply cordial ties. His actions have been described as unorthodox in some quarters. Most right-thinking people think they are plain offensive.

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