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Updated: 5 hours 8 min ago

Australia: Dangerous Rising Islamophobia Since Tony Abbott’s Terrorism Speech

11 hours 24 min ago

Bennett-Springs-graffiti

By Emperor

PM Tony Abbott’s August speech on expanding anti-terrorism laws was made in an atmosphere that was already volatile. A choreographed police operation involving 800 officers was headline news across Australian media though you might have missed the small print noting that it resulted in only one arrest.

Organized anti-Muslim organizations such as Q Society, SIOA and others have a growing presence and impact in Australia. This is on top of the already existing racial tensions and hostility, the roots of which stretch back years but came to an explosive head in riots like those witnessed in 2005 in Cronulla.

Since Abbott’s speech there have been a wave of hate crimes and an increased atmosphere of intimidation that is making the Muslim community in Australia feel insecure, to the extent that leaders in the Muslim community are fearful that there is increasing potential for another Cronulla-style riot.

Some of the more high profile attacks and incidences since Abbott’s speech include: another hysterical anti-Mosque campaign in Currumbin, including rape and death threats. Vandalization of a mosque in South Brisbane that included messages such as “die” and “Muslims are evil and have no respect for our ways.” An armed intruder who invaded an Islamic school in Western Sydney and threatened teachers and students with a knife. A Muslim woman thrown off a moving train in Melbourne by a woman who assaulted her and hurled racial abuse. A man who assaulted a mother and daughter who wore the hijab. A Newcastle city Muslim business owner whose pizza shop and car were targeted by arsonists. A man who stormed a mosque, hurled cement bags and threatened a woman in southwest Sydney. The vandalization of two Perth mosques and an Islamic school.

Such attacks are not over. On October 29th, a New Zealand couple in Brisbane attacked a Muslim teenager:

Islamophobiawatch

A Kiwi couple who told a father and son to “go back to your f****** Muslim country” have been charged with assault in Australia.

Bronson Tamarama, 24, and Jayne Rikkiti, 25, allegedly punched a 15-year-old boy in the face during an fight at a local produce market in Brisbane in September. According to News Corporation, a father and his son were allegedly told by Tamarama to “go back to your own country…I will call my boys.”

Police said the victims were yelled at and sworn at by a carload of men. A punch was allegedly thrown at the father but missed and he fell back into a counter. Those who witnessed the attack and tried to intervene were also attacked.

Also on the 29th, racists in Perth mistook a Sikh Gurdwara for a mosque:

A Sikh temple in Perth’s north-east has been spray-painted by vandals with anti-Muslim graffiti.

Sikh Gurdawara Perth treasurer Amandeep Singh said CCTV captured two vandals spray-painting the Bennett Springs temple, which is under construction and due to be finished in February, about 1.30am on Wednesday. He said he believed it was a case of mistaken identity. “I think they have confused us with Arabs or Muslims,” he said.

“They have spray-painted abuse at Muslims and Arabs, and they have sprayed ‘Aussie Pride’ and other rubbish like that, lots of bad language. They’ve covered a big area and we will probably have to do a lot of re-painting, and they’ve sprayed it on granite and marble and that could be really expensive to replace.”

Mr Singh said the vandals had to realise that spray-painting their temple not only hurt the Sikh community, but also the nation as a whole. “I would like to tell these people, they need to realise that Australia is a multi-cultural society and they need to respect the beliefs of others, we all need to respect each other,” he said.

In an atmosphere charged by fears of Islam and Muslims, Abbott’s provocative speech and laws have done nothing more than to make Islamophobia an ever more, dangerous reality.

UC Berkeley student group votes to disinvite Bill Maher; college overturns it

30 October, 2014 - 22:35

University-of-California-Berkeley

via. IslamophobiaWatch

The controversy over having TV host Bill Maher speak at the University of California Berkeley has taken another turn. Well, make that two.

If you remember, the outspoken comedian was selected as the school’s 2014 fall commencement speaker, until students incensed by his anti-religious comments – particularly his views on Islam – started a petition to have him removed.

On Tuesday night, the student group that’s tasked with selecting commencement speakers met and voted to withdraw Maher’s invitation.

That would have been the end of the matter except the very next day, the college said it won’t honor the vote. “This university has not in the past and will not in the future shy away from hosting speakers who some deem provocative,” the school said.

The student group is called The Californians. It’s a committee of undergrads whose role is to come up with graduation speakers. In August, the Californians selected Maher. On Tuesday, it decided to unselect him.

But the college says the Tuesday night meeting was held without administration participation. “The UC Berkeley administration cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech,” the school said in a statement.

It added that the school’s decision shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of Maher’s views. “Indeed, the administration’s position on Mr. Maher’s opinions and perspectives is irrelevant in this context.” As so, it said, the invitation stands; Maher will speak at the December event.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations expressed disappointment at the college’s ruling, saying it disrespected students “by casting aside the long-standing process for selecting commencement speakers and instead imposing its own will.

“While Mr. Maher has the right to speak whenever and wherever he likes, he does not have the right to have his hate-filled views honored and tacitly endorsed by a prestigious university,” said Zahra Billoo, of the group’s San Francisco chapter.

For his part, Maher’s keeping mum. “Every news outlet asking me 4 comment on this Berkeley thing but then i remembered: I’VE got a show!And thats where I’ll address it,Fri nite,” he tweeted.

CNN, 30 October 2014

See also “Bill Maher’s UC Berkeley speaking invitation rescinded by student group, but school won’t allow it”, CBS San Francisco, 29 October 2014

Israeli MP proposes banning Islamic prayer call

29 October, 2014 - 19:14

Minaret-israel_3088709b

On top of the daily violence perpetrated by settlers and the state of Israel against Palestinians there are also efforts to wipe Islam out.

via. Telegraph

Israeli Right-wingers have revived highly contentious plans that could effectively silence the Muslim call to prayer, known as the adhan.

In a move that risks stoking already simmering tensions in Jerusalem between Jews and Arabs, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is tabling legislation that could put strict limits on Islamic prayer calls from mosques in the city and across Israel.

Robert Ilatov, a parliamentarian with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, is sponsoring the bill with the support of Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister who is also the party’s leader.

While the legislation is being justified on the grounds that prayer calls often produce “intolerable noise” that disturbs many citizens’ sleep, it is bound to prompt accusations of religious intolerance and prejudice against Israel’s Muslim minority.

A similar proposal – also put forward by Yisrael Beiteinu – was shelved in 2011 despite having the explicit support of Mr Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, after several cabinet members criticised it as likely to cause division.

The proposal comes against the backdrop of a clampdown by security forces in Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem which have witnessed almost nightly scenes of unrest in recent months following the murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian by Jewish vigilantes seeking revenge for the killing of three Israelis in the West Bank.

Read the entire article

Muslim funeral home in Orléans defaced with Islamophobic graffiti

29 October, 2014 - 19:07

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Arab News

Saphir News reports that last Friday night racist vandals broke into the office of the Muslim Assistance funeral home in Orléans and defaced the walls with Islamophobic graffiti.

The graffiti featured swastikas and Celtic crosses, and a drawing of a pig’s head, accompanied by slogans such as “Islam out”, “close or die” and “dirty Arabs”. Computer equipment was stolen and a photocopier damaged.

The manager of Muslim Assistance, Abdessamad Errich, later received anonymous phone calls boasting of the attack. Last month he had been subjected to telephone threats.

The vandalism may be connected to the fact that Errich publicly opposed the recent closure of a Muslim school at La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin, which was itself the object of a graffiti attack at the end of September.

Orléans-Islamophobic-graffiti

Pig’s head left outside Ellesmere Port mosque

29 October, 2014 - 19:01

police

via.WirralGlobe

DETECTIVES are investigating how a pig’s head came to be left outside an under-construction mosque in Ellesmere Port.

Police found it shortly before midnight on Wednesday, October 22 after receiving reports of two men acting suspiciously on King Street, where an Islamic Cultural Centre is being developed.

A 41-year-old man and a 33-year-old man have been arrested and bailed in connection with the incident but detectives are keen to find out how the pig’s head was obtained.

Chief Inspector Giles Orton, who leads the Ellesmere Port and Neston Policing Team said: “We take incidents of this nature extremely seriously and will not tolerate hate crime within the community.

“As part of our ongoing investigation, our officers are conducting enquiries with local businesses to discover where the pig′s head might have come from.

“We are also appealing to anyone from the local community who may know how the pig′s head was obtained to please contact us.

“Anyone who has any information which may assist with our enquiries is urged to contact Cheshire Police on 101. Information can also be left anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.”

Town Rallies Around Vandalized Cold Lake Mosque

27 October, 2014 - 19:49

cold-lake-mosque

(h/t: BSha)

via. CBC News

When Mahmoud Elkadri arrived at the mosque in Cold Lake, Alta., early Friday morning, he was met with a disturbing sight.

The words “Go home” and “Canada” had been sprayed across the front face of the building sometime over the night. Vandals had also smashed two of the mosque’s windows.

“When you’re coming in the morning for a peaceful prayer, it is hard,” said Elkadri, who is one of the mosque’s board members.

“This is our home. My kids have been born and raised in Cold Lake. … I have been in Cold Lake since 1996.”

Only a couple hours later, it was a much different sight. Over the course of the morning, dozens of people from the town showed up to help repair the damage. Some helped paint over the damage, while others taped their own messages to the window reading “You Are Home” and “Love Your Neighbour.”

Cold Lake resident Matt Downey, who came down to the mosque with his daughter to deliver flowers to Elkadri, says he wanted to show that the vandals didn’t speak for the majority of the people in town.

“It’s sad. I mean, these guys are peaceful. I think it is important for the community to show them that we know the difference between extremists and a religion,” he said.

Elkadri said he’s received visits and messages of support from soldiers stationed at the Canadian Forces base in Cold Lake.

“We were crying together in the morning. People coming here, people expressing their feelings,” he said.

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland says the mosque is an important part of the town and that he was disappointed that someone in the community could be behind the damage.

“I just want to say that the Muslim community is at home in Cold Lake, so maybe they need to evaluate whether or not they belong in Cold Lake,” he said of the vandal.

Copeland thinks the vandalism is in response to the shooting in Ottawa that killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Wednesday. He said that people are taking out their frustration on the wrong place.

Allen West On Ottawa Attack: “Shut Down” Mosques Of Perpetrators And Deport The Imams

26 October, 2014 - 19:35

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Allen West is at it again, this is the type of incendiary rhetoric that leads to firebombing mosques.

via. MediaMatters

Fox News contributor Allen West believes the Western world should respond to the Ottawa terrorist attack by shutting down “the mosques and Islamic Centers where these individuals are attending” and deporting the imams. West added that closing these places “of so-called worship” is “the only way we send a message into the Muslim communities” that we’re “not going to tolerate these snake pits of sedition.”

West was speaking on the October 23 edition of BlogTalkRadio’s REELTalk. Here’s his reaction to the Ottawa attack:

WEST: But I think, Audrey, the real thing that we’re going to have to do is the mosques and Islamic Centers where these individuals are attending, when they commit these acts, we gotta shut ‘em down. We have to send a message. The imam that’s at that mosque or Islamic Center is deported. That place of so-called worship, which is just proselytizing, you know, hate and violence, they have to be shut down. I think that’s the only way we send a message into the Muslim communities here in Western Civilization that we’re not going to tolerate it. We’re not going to tolerate these snake pits of sedition that are, you know, popping up all over the place.

[...]

We’re not saying, you know, we start shutting down mosques and Islamic Centers. But the ones who are feeding us these violent jihadists, they need to be the ones that are shut down. Like I said, the imams, the mullahs that are there running these mosques and centers, they need to be deported. Because we have to say, this is, you know, a zero-sum game. We’re not tolerating it.

West is an Islamophobe. He believes that “Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals stand up and say that.” He attacked Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is Muslim, as representing “the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”

The former Florida congressman has similarly claimed that “Barack Hussein Obama is an Islamist” and “I don’t understand where this president’s loyalties lie, and I have to ask the question, whose side is he on?”

Despite his long history of incendiary rhetoric, Republican candidates and organizations have been using West as a regular surrogate on the campaign trail.

Molotov Cocktail Thrown At Albuquerque Mosque

26 October, 2014 - 19:26

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(h/t: Abe A.)

KOB 4

ALBUQUERQUE — FBI agents and Albuquerque police investigated a Molotov cocktail thrown at a mosque in southeast Albuquerque Friday morning.

The device hit the exterior wall of the Islamic Center of New Mexico around 3:55 a.m. Friday, scorching a wall and leaving broken glass on the ground.

Several agencies responded to the Islamic Center to conduct an investigation, including the FBI and APD bomb squad personnel.

“I’m very disappointed something like this would happen here in Albuquerque,” said Jameela Abdul Halim, the assistant administrator at the Islamic Center.

The center’s janitor, Shakir Farid Abdullah, said he found the burnt bottle about five hours later, around 9 a.m. Abdullah said he feared the perpetrator assumes the mosque is affiliated with terrorist groups overseas.

“We believe in peace, nonviolence…we don’t support terrorism,” said Abdullah. “We don’t support any acts of violence against any religious group…so someone, obviously, is ignorant to that.”

The Molotov cocktail was apparently thrown at the section of the building dedicated to women and children. Friday is also the day hundreds of Muslims from across the area come to the mosque to pray. No one was injured, but the incident is still disturbing to those who attend the mosque.

“[We're] very grateful it didn’t go through the window. There was nobody around at the time; we didn’t have a lot of people,” said mosque member Abdul Halim.

This is not the first incident at the Islamic Center. According to mosque member Andy Brooks, people threw flaming Qurans into the mosque’s yard a couple years ago, and last year, someone walked into the Iman’s office and threatened him with a gun.

Also, this past February, a man approached two children on the mosque’s playground and allegedly threatened to stab them because he hated Muslims.

Members of the mosque say they’re going to invest more money on surveillance cameras.

The New Mexico Conference of Churches released a statement about the incident Friday afternoon:

“The New Mexico Conference of Churches is terribly distressed by the news that a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the Islamic Center of New Mexico this morning. Christians across our state reject such hate-based violence. We recognize our Muslim brothers and sisters as fellow children of God and as our neighbors whom we are called to love. We urge all people to resist hatred with compassion in order to build a new era of peace and goodwill. Our prayers are with the members of the Islamic Center and we offer any and all help at this time.”

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) also issued a statement Friday evening:

“The news that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Islamic Center of New Mexico is deeply troubling. Acts of violence have no place in our society. The members of the ‎Center and the entire Muslim community in New Mexico are in my thoughts.”

Police have yet to make an arrest. If you have any information regarding the suspect, contact police.

Central African Republic: The Blood Trail Leads to Paris

26 October, 2014 - 19:15

CAR

A man gestures in front of a burning barricade during a protest against French soldiers in Bambari, May 22, 2014. (Goran Tomasevic / Courtesy Reuters)

This is the third article in an exclusive Loonwatch series entitled, This is Africa. The previous article exposed some of the background conveniently left out of most media coverage as violence spiraled out of control in the Central African Republic. 

by Ilisha

This article delves into the historical roots of French colonial rule in the Central African Republic (CAR), and the ceaseless foreign intervention that has plagued the country ever since. This is the historical and geopolitical context that allows us to distinguish fact from fiction when confronted with misleading propaganda.

Following a familiar pattern established over decades, the latest round of violence provided cover for a cloak and dagger power grab, orchestrated by the usual suspects.

Paving the Way

The French arrived in what is now CAR in 1885, and managed to consolidate their rule by the early 1900s. Prestigious French Investigative reporter Albert Londres traveled to colonial Africa in 1928 and relayed the horrors inflicted on the indigenous people through imperial conquest:

Forcibly seized in their villages, transported by river on barges built to carry animals, a quarter of them died before reaching Brazzaville [in present-day Republic of the Congo]. They were then forced to do all of the construction work practically without any tools, such as digging tunnels bare-handed under the whip of the “capitas” (village chieftains serving as overseers) without food and exposed to disease. And when they ran out of strength, Albert Londres testified, “I saw Saras, Zindes and Bayas, who no longer had the strength to work, walk into the forest to die” ~ (Terre d’Ebène).

The extraction of African wealth by African hands for French benefit necessarily required extreme brutality. In all, between 1890 and 1940, half the population perished from a combination of microbial shock and colonial violence.

Despite French brutality and ruthlessness, the survivors resisted.

The Rebellion

With their ancestral way of life destroyed, their natural resources plundered, their labor exploited, and their population devastated, the people were further savaged by heavy taxes used to fund colonial infrastructure. This unbearable situation gave birth to the Kongo-Wara rebellion (1928-1931).

The movement urged black solidarity and called for direct action, including a boycott of European merchandise, and refusal to work for or pay taxes to colonial authorities. Rebels burned down police stations, government buildings, and private residences. They blocked roads, denying access to European colonials. Although there have been many rebellions against colonial rule in Africa, the Kongo-Wara (“War of the Hoe Handle”) spread beyond the village where it began in the Central African Republic, extending into parts of Cameroon, Chad, and Gabon. At its zenith, the movement had over 350,000 adherents, including an estimated 60,000 warriors. [1]

The rebellion was finally crushed in 1931. The last remaining pockets of resistance were extinguished in the “War of the Caves,” when French forces asphyxiated rebels with smoke. Direct colonial rule lasted another three decades until 1960, when the country achieved formal independence.

The Ruse

“The drama of Africa is that the African man has not sufficiently entered into history.” ~ Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy

More than half a century has passed since the Central African Republic was declared an independent nation. Many people seem to think five decades is long enough to have recovered from colonial exploitation, and blame the people for their apparent failure to rise up from the ruins and build a stable, prosperous democracy.

Whether or not this is a reasonable expectation under the circumstances, the fact is colonialism never really ended. As explained in the first article in this series, the French Colonial Pact was merely a clever scheme to replace crude colonialism with a more sophisticated successor, neocolonialism. The transfer of wealth has continued to this day.

According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2013, France ranked 26th among all nations with a per capita GDP of nearly $40,000. The Central African Republic ranked dead last, with a per capita GDP of about $600.

Plunder in Masquerade

In the wake of formal independence for African nations, the French wanted to achieve the same wealth transfer while avoiding the stench of old-fashioned colonial rule. Paris has consistently meddled in the governmental affairs of their “former” colonies, installing and deposing African leaders to ensure French interests always come first.

As we shall see, when puppet regimes start showing signs of independence or are no longer useful, they must be overthrown and replaced. If “regime change” cannot be achieved by rigged elections or a facilitated coup, objectives much be achieved by other means. A pretext must be found (or manufactured) to justify whatever must be done to restore “order and stability” (translation: organized theft).

A Mysterious Death

Barthélemy Boganda served as prime minister of the Central African Republic Autonomous Territory leading up to independence. A nationalist who openly opposed racism and colonialism, he had formed grassroots opposition to French colonial rule. He might have become the first president, except that Boganda was killed in a mysterious plane crash in 1959, just before the country’s first election.

Instead, David Dacko became the first president of the Central African Republic in 1960, with the active French support.

The China Threat

Dacko tread the fine line between pleasing his French masters and convincing his constituents he was not a French puppet. In an apparent effort to display his independence after his first few years in office, he made a perilous mistake by cultivating closer relations with China.

Foreshadowing events that would take place decades later, Dacko was overthrown in a French-backed coup and replaced by Jean-Bédel Bokassa.

Emperor Bokassa

Within days of seizing power, Bokassa broke off relations with Beijing and expelled Chinese advisers.

Bokassa was a distinguished veteran of the French war in Indochina with close ties to France. He enjoyed private Air France flights to dine in Paris and acquired a palatial chateau while his people starved under brutal oppression. In 1975, the French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing declared himself a “friend and family member” of Emperor Bokassa.

An admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte and an egomaniac fond of bestowing illustrious titles upon himself, Bokassa declared himself emperor of the “Central African Empire” during the last two years of his rule. Paris congratulated him and the French government helped finance a lavish coronation at an estimated cost of $30 million–in a small, impoverished country where most people did not have access to potable water.

Emperor Bokassa used the country’s diamonds to pay mercenaries and French politicians, and in exchange, the French backed a psychopathic murderer.

But the French later soured on Bokassa as his extravagance drew growing opposition from his subjects, his behavior became increasingly erratic, and his bids for greater independence in foreign affairs became more frequent.

In 1979, he gave the French the pretext they needed to depose him. His regime arrested and tortured more than 100 student protesters, many of whom were eventually murdered under Bokassa’s personal supervision. Though Paris had supported him through many of his worst atrocities, the French demonized their former ally, spreading lurid tales accusing him of engaging various crimes, including cannibalism–a widely rumored allegation that was never proven.

French paratroopers overthrew Bokassa while he was visiting Libya, and reinstalled David Dacko as president.

Kleptocrat Roulette

Dacko’s second term as president lasted only briefly. Under pressure from a virulent opposition led by Ange-Félix Patassé, he handed power over to the military, asking Paris not to intervene. Dacko had effectively consented to a bloodless coup led by André Kolingba.

Kolingba was another kleptocrat and brutal dictator, and like Bokassa before him, enjoyed close relations with Paris. Kolingba’s rule lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall, which signaled the end of the Cold War and brought increased pressure to hold democratic elections.

Facing mounting pressure, France assisted in organizing the elections, which brought Dacko’s arch rival, Ange-Félix Patassé, to office in 1993.

Before leaving office, Kolingba pardoned Emperor Bokassa, who had spent 7 years in jail after being sentenced to death for numerous crimes, including treason, murder, illegal use of property, assault and battery, and embezzlement. A few years later, André Kolingba would himself be sentenced to death for masterminding a failed coup attempt against Patassé. Kolingba was later pardoned, in yet another display of incestuous political corruption.

Patassé was re-elected again in 1999, though his rule was characterized by corruption, political intrigue, ethnic tensions, religious protests, and murders. Nevertheless, he enjoyed French support and managed to stave off at least a half dozen coup attempts during his 10-year rule.

Then he made a mistake that would prove perilous. He began to criticize Paris’ role in the country and to speak out against French exploitation of the country’s resources. Shortly thereafter, he was deposed in a French-backed coup by veteran military strongman François Bozizé. Despite international condemnation, the elected president was never restored to power.

From 1977 to 1979, Bozizé had served as army chief of staff under Emperor Bokassa. Bozizé described Emperor Bokassa, a brutal dictator and convicted criminal, as “a son of the nation recognized by all as a great builder.” As mentioned previously, his predecessor, André Kolingba, had pardoned Bokassa, freeing him from jail, along with numerous other political prisoners. Bozizé further watered down Bokassa’s punishment by issuing a rehabilitation decree to “erase penal condemnations, particularly fines and legal costs, and [stop] any future incapacities that result from them.”

Bozizé himself would later face charges of “crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.”

Dacko Redux

François Bozizé’s presidency lasted 10 years, during which he enjoyed warm relations with the French. Then, like so many others before him, he began showing signs of independence in foreign affairs. Like CAR’s first president David Dacko, Bozizé made the perilous mistake of cozying up to China, and like David Dacko in his first presidency, Bozizé was soon deposed.

The political intrigue that surrounded the ouster of Bozizé is the subject of the next article.

[1] Fage, J.D.; Oliver, Roland Anthony (1986). The Cambridge history of Africa. (Reprint ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 397.ISBN 0521225051.

Previous article

Rep. Peter King Claims Mosques Are ‘Incubators’ For Terrorism

24 October, 2014 - 22:24

peter-king--300x186

Interesting that Rep. Peter King is saying this after he visited a mosque in an attempt to repair his Islamophobic image.

via. HuffingtonPost

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) continued his pattern of inflammatory comments about Muslim Americans on Thursday, this time calling for greater “surveillance” of Muslim communities.

“We have to find out who the radicals are. We have to find out what’s going on in the mosques, which are often incubators of this type of terrorism,” King said on Newsmax TV’s “America’s Forum.”

The comments came after King responded to this week’s deadly shooting rampage at the Canadian Parliament. King said, “Anyone who thinks this is a coincidence is crazy. … Right now you have ISIS telling their people in Canada and the United States to carry out these attacks.”

The congressman argued that the U.S. “can have all the technology in the world. The fact is we have to find out what’s happening on the ground in these Muslim communities, and we can only do that through increased surveillance.”

This is hardly the first time King has made controversial remarks about Muslim communities. In 2011, King, who then chaired the House Homeland Security Committee, claimed that “over 80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical imams.” He began a series of investigative hearings to “examine radicalization within the Muslim-American community” in 2012. Critics deemed the controversial hearings “McCarthyism 2.0.”

Polio Vaccine Spy Program: The Crazy Conspiracy Theory that Wasn’t

24 October, 2014 - 22:18

AP In this December 18, 2013 photo, Pakistani students light candles to pay tribute to polio health workers killed by militants, in Karachi.

AP In this December 18, 2013 photo, Pakistani students light candles to pay tribute to polio health workers killed by militants, in Karachi.

 

by Ilisha

The BBC has reported a tragic polio epidemic. Despite the existence of a vaccine that has helped eradicate the disease in many parts of the world, polio is rapidly spreading in Pakistan. Last May, the BBC warned:

Pakistan is facing international travel restrictions because of an uncontrolled outbreak of polio. But unless vaccinators gain unfettered access to North Waziristan, where the Taliban are in control and have banned the vaccine, it will be hard to stem the spread of the disease, reports Kim Ghattas..

… The Pakistani Taliban insurgency there has hampered access for health workers…

…The militants say vaccinations are a cover for espionage and part of a Western conspiracy against Muslims…

Last month, the BBC reported the situation in Pakistan is growing worse:

The number of cases of polio in Pakistan has topped 200 for the first time in nearly 15 years.

Pakistan is the only country where the virus is spreading fast – showing up in sewage samples all over Karachi.

The Taliban imposed a ban on the vaccine in 2012 which has meant nearly 300,000 children have not been vaccinated for two years. Security personnel escort workers as they administer the vaccine.

And in another article, also last month, the BBC reported:

Suspicions over the programmes worsened after the US was accused of using a fake vaccination programme during its tracking of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.
Since December 2012, about 60 people, including health workers and police providing security to medical teams, have been killed by Taliban militants targeting polio teams.

The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil in Islamabad says the rise in cases is hugely embarrassing to Pakistan.

The country has failed to curb the disease despite massive investment on immunisation programmes by the international community, she adds.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization imposed travel restrictions on the country meaning all Pakistanis must now carry proof of vaccination before travelling abroad.

Pakistan is one of three countries where polio is endemic – the other two being Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Why do “militants” say the vaccine programs have been used as a cover for espionage?

Maybe it has to do with recent assertions in the New Statesmen, stating the “Muslim world” is “in thrall to conspiracy theories.” :

The “We’ve been lied to” argument goes only so far. Scepticism may be evidence of a healthy and independent mindset; but conspiracism is a virus that feeds off insecurity and bitterness. As the former Pakistani diplomat Husain Haqqani has admitted, “the contemporary Muslim fascination for conspiracy theories” is a convenient way of “explaining the powerlessness of a community that was at one time the world’s economic, scientific, political and military leader”.

Or maybe the “militants” say the vaccine program have been used as a cover for espionage because it actually has:

CIA Says It Will No Longer Use Vaccine Programs As Cover

by BILL CHAPPELL

May 20, 2014
A White House official says the CIA will no longer use vaccine programs as cover for spy operations, answering health experts’ complaints that it had hurt international efforts to fight disease.

The CIA famously used a vaccination program as a ploy to gain information about the possible whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. That effort didn’t succeed, and the doctor involved was sentenced to a prison term. But the revelation had immediate effects — particularly in the fight against polio.

As The New York Times reported in 2012, vaccination teams were banned in some areas of Pakistan.

And vaccination workers have been assassinated, the deans from Tulane, Emory, Columbia and other universities wrote in a letter to President Obama dated Jan. 6, 2013. They also compared the use of vaccine programs to the CIA’s early infiltration of the Peace Corps, saying that in both cases, the practice had to be stopped to protect volunteers and gain access where people are most vulnerable to disease.

Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco recently sent a letter responding to the deans. She wrote that in August 2013, CIA Director John Brennan issued an order forbidding the use of vaccination programs to gather intelligence or genetic evidence.

From Yahoo News, which obtained a copy of the letter:

“CIA Director John Brennan made the decision himself because he ‘took seriously the concerns raised by the public health community,’ CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz said.

“‘By publicizing this policy, our objective is to dispel one canard that militant groups have used as justification for cowardly attacks against vaccination providers,’ Ebitz said by email.”

News of the CIA’s revised policy was first reported by Yahoo and The Washington Post, which also noted the timing of the response — more than 16 months have passed since the deans wrote to Obama.

Quoting a “senior administration official,” the Post says it was told that “this was a unique case that required deliberate thought and review on our end before we made such a statement publicly.”

Update at 4:16 p.m. ET. ‘Not Going To Help':

NPR’s Jason Beaubien filed a story about this decision for tonight’s edition of All Things Considered. Here’s an interesting bit from it:

“‘The CIA is not exclusively responsible for the problems we have in getting children vaccinated but it certainly didn’t make it anything easier,’ says Anthony Robbins, the co-editor of the Journal of Public Health Policy. Robbins wrote an editorial denouncing the CIA use of fake vaccination programs back in August of 2012. Even before bin Laden was killed in 2011, the Taliban had banned polio immunization in the parts of Pakistan it controls. The Taliban claimed the polio drops sterilize Pakistani children and vaccinators were American spies.

“The head of one large anti-polio campaign in Pakistan wasn’t happy to hear the CIA’s latest declaration. ‘I don’t think this statement is going to help in anyway,’ says Aziz Memon, who heads Rotary International’s polio eradication effort in Pakistan. He says Pakistanis were starting to forget about the controversy over the fake CIA vaccination campaign and now he expects the issue to blow up in the local media all over again.”

In Pakistan, Memon worried the issue would “blow up in the local media all over again.” But what about in the US? Do most Americans know the CIA really did use the vaccination program as a cover for spy operations?

This revelation doesn’t mean the CIA is solely responsible for the epidemic in Pakistan, as noted in the NPR article, but the CIA is certainly complicit. Assuming the CIA plot was not intended to deliberately sabotage the vaccine program, it was at the very least an example of ruthless, short-sighted calculus with devastating consequences for the people of Pakistan.

We are left to wonder why this crucial fact continues to be omitted from so much of the coverage appearing in the Western media, including the articles highlighted here from the BBC.

Could it be the major media are more interested in absolving the West and demonizing the Taliban than they are in telling the people the truth?

Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater Execs Remain Free as Guards Convicted for Killing 14 Iraqis in Massacre

23 October, 2014 - 21:28

Jeremy_Scahill

via. Democracy Now

JEREMY SCAHILL: First of all, Erik Prince is a radical right-wing Christian supremacist who, from the very beginning of the so-called war on terror, viewed the role of Blackwater in the world as being neo-crusaders. And he is a radical anti-Muslim. And he hates the religion of Islam. And he—his company, basically, was allowed to operate in an atmosphere where they would kill Muslims for sport inside of Iraq.

Idaho Muslim women told ‘get out of his country, you don’t belong, terrorists’ at Walmart

23 October, 2014 - 20:56

Muslim-women-could-seek-investigation-into-harassment-case

via. LocalNews8

CHUBBUCK, Idaho –

Local leaders in the Muslim community are urging two women to pursue charges against a man who verbally assaulted them at Wal Mart on Sunday.

But, investigators are not considering this to be a hate crime, yet.

General Secretary of the Islamic Society of Eastern Idaho Daniel Hummel said the two women were sought-after by the man who apparently has a longstanding history of anger toward the Muslim community.

“He was telling them to get out of his country, ‘you don’t belong, terrorists.’ It kept coming up, and it scared them,” Hummel said, noting the women tried to get away from the man before the store managers were called to intervene.

The Chubbuck Police Department also stepped-in, but the women decided to not pursue any legal charges against the men at that time.

Chubbuck Police Dept.’s Lieutenant Bill Guiberson said, as much as hateful words can be harmful, legally this case was not considered a hate crime under Idaho law.

“As a police officer, we are sworn to protect the Constitution of the United States,” Guiberson said. “That’s one thing that is very serious to us, and in this situation, whether we agree with one or either party, they each had their protected rights.”

Guiberson said in order for this situation to be considered a hate crime, the man had to have verbally threatened the women and/or physically assaulted them.

However in this case, neither of that happened.

“He could have been charged with disturbing the peace or even disorderly conduct,” Guiberson added.

He also pointed-out, under Title 18, Chapter 79 in the Idaho Code, it defines Malicious Harassment as:

“It shall be unlawful for any person, maliciously and with the specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin, to: cause physical injury to another person; or damage, destroy, or deface any real or personal property of another person; or threaten, by word or act, to do the acts prohibited if there is reasonable cause to believe that any of the acts…will occur.”

Special FBI agent in Salt lake City Todd Palmer said in order for a crime or incident to be considered a “hate crime” it has to fall under very specific categories.

“If the individual is targeted because of their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or even perceived race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and we can prove they are being targeted because of those reasons, then that’s a hate crime,” Palmer said.

So, if someone is walking down the street and someone throws something at them, they can be charged with assault, but until one of these factors is proven, then it won’t be considered a hate crime.

Guiberson added, if the man ends up following the women to persistently harass them, then that could be considered to be a hate crime.

Hummel said he is shocked to see this nationwide problem of anger toward the Muslim community here in southeast Idaho.

He said witnesses were able to identify the man and he plans to pursue further action against him by filing for a restraining order to protect all Muslim women in the community.

Are Revere Parents Really Angry About Islam in the Curriculum?

22 October, 2014 - 23:28

giannino

By Eric Randall, Boston Magazine

A WHDH story this week reports that “Some parents in Revere were angry when they learned students were being taught about Islam and the Muslim religion.” Oh boy. Might this be a time to put head in hands and shudder? Actually, it might not be, but we’ll get there.

The story features the very colorful Revere parent Anthony Giannino, who takes issue with his son’s textbook, a section of which states, “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah.” That’s from the Islamic call to prayer. Presumably the book was not professing faith in Allah, but rather, listing the tenets of the major world religion’s central belief sys—oh never mind. You get it.

“That’s insulting to me, as a Christian who just believes in Jesus only,” Giannino says, which either shows deep understanding of the Holy Trinity theology or … doesn’t. At any rate, his son is now failing his class. The superintendent sent parents a letter stating, “I want to be very clear that no religion is taught with the purpose of converting students to that religion…”

There is cause for hope. WHDH might be using the words “classroom controversy” and “some parents” very liberally. The anchor notes that the reporter spoke to “at least one parent.” The reporter then notes, “other parents we spoke to had no issue with the assignment.” Two parents then explain the difference between learning about religion and learning to follow that religion. “But some parents certainly disagree,” the reporter says. We then cut back to Giannino. He tells the reporter he is starting a protest and a petition and has “plenty of supporters.” Nevertheless, this is a story about a “classroom controversy” that presents twice as many non-angry parents as angry ones.

Might we just tell ourselves that Giannino is mostly alone on this? Might this restore our faith in parenting and humanity? Sure. Just don’t read the WHDH comments section.

Alderman Wery quizzes Muslim woman on terrorism

22 October, 2014 - 22:48

zwery

There are calls for Wery to resign which seems sensible considering that he views part of his constituency with a high degree of suspicion and believes they must be interrogated before receiving a response to municipal and constitutional concerns.

via. Green Bay Press

A Green Bay alderman has apologized to a Muslim resident for responding to her inquiry about public bus service with questions about her political beliefs and whether she condemns Islamic terrorism.

Alderman Chris Wery directed his questions to Heba Mohammad after the recent University of Wisconsin-Green Bay graduate asked the alderman in an email why city bus service is not free on Election Day.

Wery agreed to check into the bus service question, but then he asked Mohammad about her involvement in starting a Muslim Student Association group at UW-Green Bay.

“I just want to be assured that your group in no way promotes or defends militant Islamic ideology,” Wery wrote, asking if Mohammad and the association condemn “terrorist groups such as Hamas.”

Mohammad refused to answer Wery’s questions and then posted the exchange on Facebook, prompting many users of the social media site to accuse the alderman of bigotry and profiling.

Mohammad, 22, who graduated from UW-Green Bay earlier this year, said she was surprised to hear an elected official engage in what she considered profiling based on her religious background. She believes he developed an “instant suspicion” because of her name.

“That’s kind of hurtful, to be honest,” she told Press-Gazette Media.

Wery, a veteran City Council member who once ran for mayor, said he recognized that his remarks were inappropriate and poorly timed. He said he should not have raised his questions while helping a resident get information about public bus service.

“I phrased it wrong. It was the wrong setting,” he told Press-Gazette Media. “And I apologized for that.”

Mohammad said she accepted the alderman’s apology and was glad he understood why his actions were inappropriate.

David Coury, a UW-Green Bay faculty adviser to the Muslim Student Association, also responded to Wery, writing in an email that he would gladly meet with Wery to “allay any fears or concerns you might have.”

Coury, a professor of Humanistic Studies, assured Wery that the Muslim student group is not political and that the group condemns all forms of terrorism against innocent people. To which Wery responded, “That is really all I wanted to know and probably was much too blunt in my questions to Heba.”

The exchange began Monday when Mohammad emailed Wery that free bus service on Election Day would help boost turnout by assuring that people without transportation are able to reach a polling place. She wrote that she was reaching out “as a concerned citizen of our wonderful city.”

Green Bay Metro’s city-run transit system has provided free bus rides on Saturdays and certain special events, but not on Election Day.

When Wery responded by questioning whether Mohammad supports Islamic terrorism, she wrote back, “I am offended that our conversation has taken this direction.”

In an interview, Wery said he attended UWGB and he recognized Mohammad’s name as founder of the Muslim Student Association from a campus publication that he receives. He said Muslim college groups elsewhere in the United States have espoused anti-American sentiments, and he added that he took the opportunity to ask Mohammad about the UW-Green Bay group.

Saying he was questioning the group as a concerned citizen rather than an aldermen, he said, “It’s something that had been rattling around in the back of my head.”

— swilliams@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @pgscottwilliams

Ali Mazrui: Famous African Muslim Scholar Who Once Divided US Audiences

22 October, 2014 - 22:09

Ali_Mazrui

By Douglas Martin, The New York Times

Ali Mazrui, a scholar and prolific author who set off a tsunami of criticism in 1986 by writing and hosting “The Africans: A Triple Heritage,” a public television series that culminated in what seemed to be an endorsement of African nations’ acquiring nuclear weapons, died on Oct. 12 at his home in Vestal, N.Y. He was 81.

His family announced the death without specifying a cause.

Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, where Professor Mazrui was born, said at the time of his death that he was “a towering academician whose intellectual contributions played a major role in shaping African scholarship.”

His books and his hundreds of scholarly articles explored topics like African politics, international political culture, political Islam and globalization. He was for many years a professor at the University of Michigan, and since 1989 had held the Albert Schweitzer chair at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Reflecting his habit of provocation, Professor Mazrui wrote an article in 2012, posted on Facebook, accusing Dr. Schweitzer, the revered medical missionary in pre-independence Gabon, of being “a benevolent racist.” He wrote that Dr. Schweitzer had called Africans “primitives” and “savages,” and had treated Africans in a hospital unit that was separate from, and less comfortable than, one for whites.

Professor Mazrui’s courage transcended ideas. When he was a political-science professor in Uganda in the early 1970s, the country’s brutal dictator, Idi Amin, invited him to be his chief adviser on international affairs — “his Kissinger,” Professor Mazrui told The New York Times in 1986. Instead, he publicly criticized Amin and fled Uganda.

“The Africans,” a nine-part series that was originally broadcast by the BBC and later shown on PBS, portrayed Africa as having been defined by the interplay of indigenous, Islamic and Western influences. Professor Mazrui had acquired the perspective by growing up speaking Swahili, practicing Islam and attending an English-speaking school in Mombasa, Kenya.

“My three worlds overlapped,” he said in the interview with The Times.

The series glorified the Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, saying he inspired Africans to have a sense of destiny and become actors on the world stage — a stance that set off storms of criticism. In the last episode, Professor Mazrui predicted a “final racial conflict” in South Africa that would end with whites’ shrinking from using nuclear weapons for fear of killing themselves and then being defeated in an armed struggle, ending apartheid. Victorious blacks, he said, would then inherit “the most advanced nuclear infrastructure on the continent,” and nuclear weapons would become a bargaining chip in a worldwide black-white struggle.

He told The Los Angeles Times that he was “uneasy” that the United States and the Soviet Union could start a nuclear war, without Africa having the same capability. “I want black Africa to have the bomb to frighten the system as a whole,” he said.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, which had contributed $600,000 toward the making of the series, was so upset with Professor Mazuri’s message that it removed its name from the credits. Lynne Cheney, the chairwoman of the endowment, called the series “worse than unbalanced,” noting that it included no interviews giving divergent views.

Professor Mazrui’s answer to Mrs. Cheney was that he had intended from the beginning to represent the views of one African — “a view from the inside,” he called it. “There are many parts that are anti-imperialist,” he told The New York Times. “Africa is concerned with past domination and afraid of redomination.”

Reviewing the series for The Times, John Corry called its scholarship “empty” and said it was “a vehicle solely for Mr. Mazrui’s feelings.”

But Clifford Terry, writing in The Chicago Tribune, suggested that this personal perspective was in fact a strength: “It is obvious, through it all, that here is a man who deeply cares about what he likes to call a ‘remarkable continent.’ ”

Tom Shales of The Washington Post applauded the shows’ abrasiveness. “The alternative,” he wrote, “would be an innocuous, safely ‘balanced’ documentary on Africa that made no ripples, provoked no discourse.”

Ali Al’Amin Mazrui was born on Feb. 24, 1933, in Mombasa. His father was an eminent Muslim scholar and the chief Islamic judge of Kenya.

Read the rest…

 

Perth mosques, Islamic school vandalised in weekend attacks

22 October, 2014 - 00:43

Ban-Islam-graffiti

via. IslamophobiaWatch

Two Perth mosques and an Islamic education centre have been vandalised in weekend attacks. Slogans including “ban Islam” and using profanities were spray painted on the walls of an Islamic school and mosque, and beer bottles were thrown at another mosque.

Muslim sheikh Burhaan Mehtar said these sorts of religious attacks were becoming more common. “Perhaps it’s better to ignore this minority group that are terrorising Australian Muslims, but there is a limit to what people can actually digest and they do become fearful at what happened,” he said.

“These type of things breed fear in the hearts of the innocent ladies and children, especially who want to perhaps ride around the worship centre or come by bike to the mosque. You do feel a bit stressed, anything can happen.”

He said the wider Australian Muslim community was very tolerant, but many were becoming sad and fearful over the perceived rise in anti-Islamic sentiment.

Police said they were investigating the graffiti attacks, but there had been no recent increase in racially-motivated crime. “Western Australia is a tolerant and inclusive state, and people should respect the diversity in our community,” a spokeswoman said.

The graffiti came days after a peaceful anti-Islamophobia rally in the Perth CBD was interrupted by a group of anti-Muslim protestors. Many of the counter-protestors were issued move on notices by police for inciting violence.

Mr Mehtar encouraged the wider public to attend a national mosque open day this Saturday, to help answer any questions they may have about the religion. The Southern River Islamic mosque will be open to the public, with activities including a BBQ, guided tours, question and answer sessions and scarf dying.

“It is a time to come and have a barbecue with us, have a tour and ask us any questions you wish to ask. If there is something troubling you or on your mind and you feel that Muslims are such and such, come and ask, come and meet us. We hope that it’s going to be one of the ways of creating harmony and a balance in society.”

ABC News, 20 October 2014

Westbrook man arrested for allegedly threatening cab driver

22 October, 2014 - 00:22

Keith_OBrien

via. Press Herald

Westbrook police have arrested a 30-year-old man who allegedly smashed a cab driver’s windshield and then shot at him Sunday night, according to the cab driver.

Keith O’Brien of Westbrook was charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, aggravated reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and falsifying physical evidence, police said Monday.

The cab driver told police that he was driving a man and a woman through Westbrook “when the man threatened him and made disparaging comments about his ethnicity before exiting the cab and smashing its windshield,” according to a press release from Westbrook police Captain Michael Nugent.

The driver said he then called 911 and proceeded to follow the man and woman on foot to a home on Carlson Street. The driver said the man then came outside and fired a gun at him.

Police executed a search warrant on the home, then arrested O’Brien, who was taken to Cumberland County Jail.

Paris Opera Expels Veiled Woman During Performance

20 October, 2014 - 20:45

France_Opera

(h/t: Seyma)

via. Al-Arabiya

France’s government is drawing up a new set of rules for theatres after Paris Opera ejected woman for wearing a veil during a performance, the institution’s deputy director said Sunday.

The incident took place when a veiled woman was spotted on the front row of a performance of La Traviata at the Opera Bastille, Jean-Philippe Thiellay told AFP, confirming a media report.

France brought in a law in 2011 banning anyone from wearing clothing that conceals the face in a public space, or face a 150 euro ($190) fine.

The woman was sitting just behind the conductor, visible to monitors, wearing a scarf covering her hair and a veil over her mouth and nose during the performance on October 3.

“I was alerted in the second act,” said Thiellay, adding that “some performers said they did not want to sing” if something was not done.

France’s ministry of culture said a bill was currently being drafted to remind theatres, museums and other public institutions under its supervision of the rules regarding veils.

The spectator and her companion — tourists from the Gulf, according to MetroNews — were asked to leave by an inspector during the interval.

“He told her that in France there is a ban of this nature, asked her to either uncover her face or leave the room. The man asked the woman to get up, they left,” Thiellay said.

“It’s never nice to ask someone to leave… But there was a misunderstanding of the law and the lady either had to respect it or leave,” he said.

Central African Republic: What Really Happened and Why Does it Matter?

20 October, 2014 - 20:37

CAR Militia

People hide from gunfire near a church during a Feb. 18 firefight between African peacekeepers and fighters from the anti-balaka militia in Bangui, Central African Republic. CNS photo

This is the second article in a Loonwatch exclusive series entitled, This is Africa. The first article set the stage for understanding the scramble for Africa’s abundant resources, and is recommended as a prerequisite: Bleeding Africa: A Half Century of the Françafrique

by Ilisha

The Central African Republic (CAR) has fallen from the headlines, but what is happening there must not be forgotten. Beyond sensationalism, sound bites, and reflexive, self-serving narratives, what really happened and why does it matter?

It matters because the people have suffered and because they continue to suffer. It matters because the same macabre scenarios keep playing out, again and again. In CAR, Nigeria, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and beyond. Each conflict has a particular context, distinct from the others, but we are often led to believe they all intersect with Islam.

As violence raged across CAR, most of the major media focused myopically on the religious angle. We were told rebels known as the Seleka, comprised exclusively of Muslims, launched a blood-soaked campaign in March of last year and deposed the country’s Christian president, viciously attacking innocent Christian civilians in the process. After months of violence and unprovoked attacks, we were told, Christian militias formed to defend themselves against further attacks by Muslims. Violence subsequently spiraled out of control, leading to gruesome scenes of innocent people, including children, being slaughtered in the streets.

Violence reached unprecedented levels in December of last year. By March of this year, the UN reported most Muslims had been “cleansed” from the Western part of the country. The Muslims, according to this narrative, essentially brought about their own demise. Sure, it was the extremists who started it all, but isn’t it always the Muslims, striking out “in the name of Islam”?

What does it mean when people claim violence is done “in the name of Islam”? This accusation relies on assumptions that are rarely challenged. It seems we’re so conditioned to simply accept that religion in general, and Islam in particular, are the root cause of violence all over the world, most people have stopped asking critical questions.

Religion causes violence, and especially the religion of Islam. Everyone “knows” that. But is it true?

The real story behind the headlines is far more complex, and includes parties barely mentioned in the dominant narrative. Foreign countries, most notably France, played a significant role in the conflict as well, and not just as a peacekeeping force. The missing pieces shape the narrative with the contours of nuance, and prompt the questions that are rarely asked, even by the journalists.

Why did the Muslims of CAR suddenly launch a civil war in the Central African Republic? What did they stand to gain? Why is it so easy for so many people to believe that Muslims, Africans, and especially African Muslims, spontaneously indulge in bloodletting for no apparent reason? We are told the Muslim minority started kicking up dust and perhaps lopping off heads, just as we’ve come to expect.

For many, this curious narrative seems to spark no curiosity. We can simply assume the much-vaunted “free media” will tell us the unvarnished truth. Except that they often don’t, as well shall see.

False Religious Binary

We know there are Christians and Muslims in CAR because, collectively, these groups are the stars of the show. The protagonist and the antagonist, in the drama that unfolded, reaching a tragic climax with the blood of the innocent.

Pitting Christians and Muslims against one another makes good headlines in the current climate. Blaming religion for all the world’s problems is popular among the elites and broad swaths among the masses as well, and within that context, Muslims have taken center stage. The Muslims are allegedly always picking on Jews and Christians, and even Hindus, Yazidis and atheists. All non-Muslims are supposedly fair game. But for the West, it is the Christian victims who tug hardest at the heart strings. Christianity may be barely relevant in the West, but the hollowed out tradition still resonates when “jihad” is on the march.

The problem with the this Christian-Muslim binary is that it’s false.

The religious composition of CAR is more complex than a Christian majority and a Muslim minority. According to the CIA World Fact book, the religious breakdown in CAR is 35% indigenous beliefs, 60% Christian (25% Protestant, 35% Catholic), and 15% Muslim. An annotation explains “animistic beliefs and practices strongly influence the Christian majority.” At best, Christians comprise a small majority, heavily influenced by animist beliefs, while more than a third are animists outright.

Animists? You can be forgiven for not having the slightest notion what an animist is, even if you were absorbed daily in the news of CAR. Animists complicate the narrative. Animists don’t tug at heart strings. Animists are not part of the agenda, and so they mostly disappeared. Human rights matter mostly as props that distract us from the major plot, and for that role, animists don’t make the cut when the local Christians will do nicely.

Outrage peddlers have a far better chance of stoking the emotions of Western audiences with a narrative that pits “savage” Muslims against innocent, peace-loving Christians. Despite the glaring omission of animists from the lurid tales of bloodshed, there are some obvious clues suggesting the influence of their beliefs.

Cannibalism is not a Christian practice, yet we have seen several gruesome examples of “Christians” killing and eating their Muslim victims, a phenomenon also seen in Nigeria. Ouandja Magloire stands out in a crowd for his stunning barbarism. A mob of angry Christians murdered a Muslim passerby and desecrated his corpse. Among the perpetrators was “Mad Dog” Magloire, who ate the victim’s leg, and then saved a portion of the flesh for later, as if parts of the corpse were restaurant leftovers.

Magloire reported he put the leftover flesh of his victim between two halves of a baguette and ate it, with a side of okra. Mad Dog Magloire would have been a public relations bonanza for the hate brigades, if only  he had been a Muslim. Months ago, when a Syrian rebel bit into the heart of his victim, we saw headlines like this: Syrian Jihadist Eats Human Flesh In The Name Of Allah.

In the name of Allah? Where are the headlines accusing Mad Dog Magloire of feasting on a leg sandwich “in the name of Jesus”? In fact, neither Christianity nor Islam sanction cannibalism.

Ritual cannibalism is found in some streams of animism, where eating a part of a defeated enemy’s body is thought to pass the dead person’s spirit to the conqueror. This peculiar detail is largely ignored by the Western media, which does not bother to delve into why these nominal animist-influenced “Christians” have indulged in this horrifying spectacle on more than one occasion.

“The Muslims”

One thing the major media are clear on is who started the conflict in CAR. “The Muslims” are to blame, and any violence that has come in response is their own fault. Sure, we concede, some of the Muslim victims are not personally responsible, but collectively, the implication is the Muslims had it coming.

But who are “the Muslims” in this scenario?

The Seleka rebels are not a homogeneous group of local Muslims who have suddenly erupted into random violence “in the name of Islam.” We are led to believe “the Muslims,” presumably locals, led a blood-soaked campaign to oust the country’s Christian president, terrorizing, slaughtering, and looting Christian civilians in the process.

In fact, foreign mercenaries under the Seleka umbrella, largely from neighboring Chad and Sudan, have flooded the country, joining dissident factions of rebel groups that have banded together as Seleka. An estimated 1000-2000 armed mercenaries streamed into CAR. According to some reports, the ranks of the Seleka rebels swelled to as many as 25,000.  To put the relative strength of that force in perspective, consider the country’s entire army is comprised of only about 3,500 soldiers.

The Seleka do include some locals, not all of whom are Muslims. Some are non-religious rebels, thugs, and opportunists who have joined widespread looting and vandalism during the latest round of unrest. While there have been atrocities that appear to be religiously motivated, some of the rebels are clearly driven by non-religious motives, and have on occasion attacked Muslim communities as well. Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) troops that operated outside Bangui confirmed to Human Rights Watch that Seleka fighters in their zones were majority Chadian or Sudanese.

The Backdrop

Despite being almost the size of France, CAR is a sparsely populated country of only 4.5 million people. Porous borders and weak state authority leave the country vulnerable to infiltrators from neighboring countries, including Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan. Marauding foreign intruders often raid local villages, poach wildlife, and sometimes join local bandits known as “zaraguinas” for concerted crime sprees.

We are expected to believe criminal thugs and paid mercenaries are not motivated by self interest, but rather by religion. Paid mercenaries, we are to assume, are working “in the name of Islam” rather than following the orders of their paymasters in Chad, the Sudan, and elsewhere. In other words, we are being asked to set common sense aside and reflexively blame the local Muslims in particular and Islam in general for all of the unrest we see in the news.

Yet both Muslims and Christians in CAR have acknowledged historical co-existence between religious communities, and pointed to political factors as the driving force behind the conflict:

“The religious leaders warned against this risk. Political leaders have not paid attention to these warnings. They wanted to antagonize the Central African Republic along religious lines in order to remain in power.” ~ Catholic Bishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa, Central African Republic

In the country’s capital city of Bangui, local Muslims expressed similar sentiments regarding the relatively peaceful relations between Muslims and Christians prior to descent into civil war:

“It’s not a conflict between Muslims and Christians. We are one nation,” said Ahmet Adam, son of the local imam.

“Here, we [in Bangui] have a mixture of populations that do not exist in other areas,” said Bash, a 28-year-old Muslim resident. “This diversity has prevented us from sinking into violence. We grew up together, people have intermarried. Here, you can find a child with a Muslim name in a Christian home because the father is Muslim.”

Serving briefly as interim prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye also confirmed CAR’s history of peaceful co-existence:

“Religious communities that have always lived together in perfect harmony are now massacring each other. The situation must be stopped as soon as possible.” ~ CAR Interim Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye

If religious communities in CAR have always “lived together in perfect harmony,” what has changed? What is the catalyst for this apparent spontaneous eruption of “religiously-motivated” violence? In a rare departure from the dominant narrative of a Muslim-led holy war, the Christian Science monitor concluded:

“This is neither jihad nor crusade. Fighting in the CAR is over political power, with the capitol city Bangui as the prize.” ~ Chaos in Central African Republic is about power, Christian Science Monitor

If the fighting is really about political power, then why is it so often portrayed as a holy war? Who is jockeying for political power in the Central African Republic and why? Political power is merely vehicle to the real prize: Africa’s abundant natural resources. As we discussed in the first article in this series, competition is emerging at a time when the Western imperial powers are poised to to sink their teeth deeper into the fat of African riches.

The next article in this series explores the economic dimension of the conflict in CAR, in the context of a broader scramble for treasure. In other words, we will assert that what is supposedly being done “in the name of Islam” obscures what is really being done “in the name of greed.”

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