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US restricts visas for Chinese officials over internment of Muslim minorities

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 October, 2019 - 23:36
  • More than 1 million Uighurs and other minorities detained
  • Move is seen as victory for Pompeo and Pence over Mnuchin

The US has imposed visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist party officials accused of being involved in the mass internment of more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang province.

The restrictions, announced by the state department on Tuesday, come a day after the US commerce department imposed export restrictions on US companies preventing them from selling their products – particularly face recognition and other surveillance technology – to 28 Chinese entities, including the Public Security Bureau and firms involved in surveillance in Xinjiang.

Related: 'If you enter a camp, you never come out': inside China's war on Islam

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A new India is emerging, and it is a country ruled by fear | Amit Chaudhuri

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 October, 2019 - 06:00

Modi’s vision for the country is one that stifles dissent and difference, in defiance of its people’s history

Four months have passed since Narendra Modi and the BJP came back to power in India, and more seems to have happened there than in the last 40 years. The sense of severance that many experience today, of being divorced from the workings of the nation, exceeds even the helplessness felt during the suspension of civil liberties in the emergency of 1975 to 1977 and the political traumas that followed.

This is because – without the matter being explicitly articulated – citizen has been set against citizen: not just Muslim against Hindu or, say, Kashmiris against the rest of India, but those who subscribe to the BJP’s new conception of the nation against those who do not, leaving one without trust in the other.

Indian parties are only democrats when in opposition. But no government has been as punitive towards dissent as this

Related: Narendra Modi to face down critics by hailing Clean India scheme a success

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What was a ‘Bantustan’?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 7 October, 2019 - 18:42
A map of South Africa and Namibia showing the locations of the former Black 'homeland' statelets known as Bantustans.Map of the ‘Bantustans’ or Black ‘homelands’ in the 1980s. All these areas have been re-incorporated into South Africa and Namibia since the end of Apartheid. Source: Wikipedia.

Last week it was revealed that the Australian politician Alexander Downer, who had been foreign secretary and high commissioner to the UK, had made a speech to an audience in Europe which advocated that refugees not be allowed to settle permanently in Australia (or, presumably, any other host country) and accused those who settled in Australia of living “a kind of Bantustan-style life totally separate from the rest of the mainstream of Australia (sic)” and setting up “separate ghettoes”. The conference was hosted in Hungary and was also addressed by Victor Orban (somewhat euphemistically described as “ultra-conservative”), former Czech leader Vaclav Havel and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, i.e. a who’s who of European bigots and reactionaries who have achieved power. The use of the term ‘Bantustan’ as if it were a synonym of ‘ghetto’ shows appalling ignorance.

‘Bantustans’ were the statelets set up by the Apartheid regime in South Africa where Black people were expected to live: they were deemed to be citizens of these statelets, not of South Africa itself, and many people were forcibly relocated from their homes in other parts of South Africa to these statelets, much as many other non-whites were forcibly relocated to slums from old districts of cities like Cape Town. They were nominally independent, but were recognised by no country other than South Africa. The ostensible idea was that this was “self-government” for native people, but in fact the regimes were often dictatorships and in some cases allies of the Apartheid regime. The statelets were invariably either tiny (e.g. Ciskei, QwaQwa, KwaNdebele), discontiguous (e.g. Boputhatswana, KwaZulu) or both (e.g. KaNgwane) and very often wholly surrounded by South Africa. The closest modern parallel is the Palestinian territories which, despite having self-government, are surrounded by Israel or Israeli-occupied territory and so their economies are dependent on the whims of Israel and its military.

Even ‘ghettoes’ did not originally mean areas with a large population of one ethnic minority or other: they were enclosed areas of cities in Europe where Jews had to live; they could not live in the rest of the city and usually had to be back in them after dark. These areas were protected and had a certain amount of self-government, but were also overcrowded and could not expand and the chiefs of the ghettoes were expected to serve the kings and tsars with such things as furnishing them with young conscripts for the army. While they did allow Jews to run their own affairs to a certain extent and maintain their own customs, they were also a product of a Europe which was intolerant of difference; Jews could be Jews as long as they remained out of sight and out of mind, behind walls.

Neither of these terms should be used to simply mean any area where anyone can enter or leave, and anyone can live or work, but which has a high concentration of members of a particular minority (or, as is often the case in so-called ghettoes in the UK, several) and of shops and restaurants catering to that minority. This is often accompanied by myths of “no-go areas”, circulated by liars and ignoramuses to similarly-minded followers on slanted websites. Just because people feel safe living there, and would not elsewhere because of racism, does not make it a ghetto, let alone a ‘Bantustan’. Just because people maintain their religion, don’t start drinking and will not eat meat unless it is slaughtered a certain way does not mean they expect to “change the culture” or to set up a state within a state; they just expect tolerance.

And as for his expectation that refugees will “peacefully go home” after their persecution has abated, history shows that this rarely happens. People get new lives in their new home, they get married, they have children who never knew their old home and may not even speak the language. Britain took in some Jewish refugees in the lead-up to the Second World War and many of them are still here and their ancestors never considered themselves to be the nationality their parents or grandparents had at birth, though some are now trying to claim it in response to Brexit. Much the same is true of the many Spanish people who came to the UK to escape from Franco’s repression, and the Polish who settled in the UK in the early to mid 20th century. When people move, they tend to stay moved unless whatever caused their movement is dealt with quickly.

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Romanticising the bad old days

Indigo Jo Blogs - 6 October, 2019 - 22:59
A 1950s cigarette advert featuring a white man smoking a cigarette, wearing a white coat with a dark tie, with the slogan "According to a recent nationwide survey, More Doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette".Cigarette ads of the time claimed they were healthy (this was American, but similarly misleading adverts were found here too.)

The other day I saw a meme which consisted of a list of what British food was like in the 1950s, presumably when the author was young, and it claimed that much of the food we eat now had either not been invented, had a completely different use or the word used for it meant something completely different. Pasta had not been invented, Curry was a surname, pizza was “something to do with a leaning tower”, prunes were medicinal, Indian restaurants were only found in India, sugar was thought of as “white gold” and cubes were posh, and muesli was readily available and called cattle feed. The last thing on the list is “the one thing we never had on our tables: our elbows”. This is clearly an attempt to romanticise the 50s as a time when things were simpler and people had better manners than they have today. However, these things aren’t true, and most of this list is not either.

To begin with: in the 50s, Britain was already changing and people had already started to move here from what was still mostly the Empire (the Indian part was already independent, but Britain still had its African and Caribbean colonies). We already had large Jewish, Irish and Italian populations. Pasta had, of course, been invented; it just wasn’t popular in the UK, other than, presumably, in the Italian community. Rationing, which had been imposed during the War, persisted through the Attlee years and was only abolished by the Tory government in the early 1950s, so the national diet was still somewhat restricted and the supply of things like fat was still very controlled and nobody wasted anything; my mother remembers her mother scraping every last bit of butter off the packet; sugar was only starting to become available again, hence its “white gold” reputation, and the negative effects of too much of it were not really considered (smoking was, of course, not thought harmful either, and both tobacco and alcohol were marketed as being healthy when they in fact were not). “Oil was for lubricating; fat was for cooking” the list says, as if we cook our food in the same oil we put in our car (though these days, we are starting to put cooking fat in our cars).

These days, we have a choice of ingredients and a choice of cuisines both to cook at home and to dine out on. Part of this is because we have a large population which came from the former colonies, and from Europe, and brought their cuisines with them, for their benefit rather than ours. They were not the first people to bring new foods with them, of course; such things as potatoes, peppers and tomatoes, things we could not think of living without today, were brought from the Americas by the Spanish colonists and spread throughout the world — we associate many Indian foods with hot chillis, but these vegetables are not native to India. And as wartime and post-war austerity faded from people’s memories and the country diversified and opened up, people found they liked the variety, and why wouldn’t they? People generally like variety, they like colour, they like things to be tasty and not bland. True, there’s an environmental impact to bringing exotic fruits like bananas and oranges to this country all year round, and we produce plenty of good fruit here, but this list doesn’t mention the environment; it just looks back to when “we never had any of this and we were strong” etc.

Britain was not a utopia in the 1950s. True, there was full employment because of the post-war settlement and if you were middle-class or ‘solidly’ working class, you would have had quite a comfortable life by the standards of that time. But if you were a woman, you were expected to stop work after you married (hence the home-cooked food and absence of ‘convenience’ foods); if you were Black, you could be discriminated against and had no redress; if you were disabled, you might well have spent decades in an institution and at best faced a world that made no effort to accommodate you; if you were mentally ill, you could also be locked up for years and suffer experimental treatments that might leave you brain-damaged. Why would anyone romanticise this era on the basis of what the average person did not have access to, what was bad about that time? Ultimately the message seems to be that Britain was better when it was a whiter and more homogeneous country and that the variety we enjoy now is the product of immigration and of the ‘softening-up’ of the population. Before you share a meme like this, please remember that it is essentially a racist message.

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In Iraq, religious ‘pleasure marriages’ are a front for child prostitution

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 October, 2019 - 09:22
BBC investigation exposes Shia clerics in Baghdad advising men on how to abuse girls

I’m walking through the security cordon that leads into Kadhimiyah, one of Shia Islam’s holiest sites. I’m in a queue, along with dozens of pilgrims who have come from all over the world to pay their respects to the shrine of Imam Kadhim. At the gate, a female security guard pats me down and looks into my handbag, a reminder that the story I’m reporting on here isn’t going to be easy.

As I walk around the market stalls surrounding the shrine, I notice the many “marriage offices” dotted around the mosque, which are licensed to perform Sharia marriages. I’d received tips that some clerics here were performing short-term mutaa [pleasure] marriages, a practice – illegal under Iraqi law – whereby a men can pay for a temporary wife, with the officiating cleric receiving a cut.

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From ‘our girls’ to ‘brides of Isis’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 6 October, 2019 - 07:00

How were bright British Muslim girls lured into joining Isis? Azadeh Moaveni travelled to Turkey, Syria and Tunisia to find out

When the Bethnal Green schoolgirls disappeared off the streets of east London in early 2015, never showing up at home for dinner and instead boarding flights to Istanbul, their parents hadn’t the slightest inkling. The first to leave had been Sharmeena Begum. She left to join Isis, followed two months later by Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum (no relation). Just last week, Priti Patel said “no way” could Shamima return to the UK. The girls were bubbly and well-liked at school and seemed like model British Muslim girls: studious, respectful – and walking the delicate line between conservative home environments and liberal modern London.

I found myself transfixed by the girls’ defection to Isis, but even more so by the news coverage, the viciousness of it and the swift excommunication of the girls from Britishness. They quickly went from being “our girls” – 15-year-olds who had been groomed by sophisticated predators – to “brides of jihad”.

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Riots don’t start; people start them

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 October, 2019 - 23:41
Picture of Tulsi Gabbard, a woman of South Asian appearance with light brown skin and shoulder-length black hair, wearing a fitted white jacket over a black skirt or pair of trousers, standing in front of a small sign saying "Tulsi 2020" with an American flag hanging from a pole next to her.Tulsi Gabbard

There is a video going round on Twitter of the American senator Tulsi Gabbard responding to a question about the Indian prime minister’s role in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, in which hundreds or possibly thousands of people were killed in three days of violence instigated by Hindu nationalists in response to a fire on a train in which 59 people were killed. The woman observed that she had served as “one of the major rehabilitations (sic) of Modi’s perception here [in the US]”, then proceeded to say that Modi had been accused of complicity in the 2002 violence. Gabbard responded by asking “do you know what instigated those riots?”, which the woman did not appear to know the answer to. The Indian section of Yahoo News has an account of the incident illustrated by a few tweets supportive of Gabbard and Modi and in some cases insulting to the questioner.

As anyone who remembers the violence (which was 17 years ago, which means a young adult who was not there will not) will also remember, the pogrom followed the train fire which at the time was blamed on Muslim vendors at Godhra train station (an official story was that it was done under orders from Pakistan, which has been described as baseless) who had been subject to abuse and harassment from the temple pilgrims on the train (the temple in question being the one in Ayodhya, on the site of a mosque which was torn down by a Hindu mob in 1992), but more recent inquiries suggest that it was started by someone on the train by accident. However, many Hindus still seem to believe that it was started by Muslims in revenge for the destruction of the mosque, and when I mention Modi’s responsibility for the pogrom, I have had Hindus in my mentions telling me that the violence was in response to the train fire, as if this justifies it. Today, when I told one of them that the riots took place all over Gujarat rather than being targeted at the supposed train attackers, I was told that the victims of the train fire came from all over Gujarat. Now we have an American senator repeating the same line of argument when a member of the public draws attention to Modi’s record.

A few facts about the pogrom should be stated here. One is that there is significant evidence of the violence being premeditated and well-planned: for example, businesses were attacked whose names were suggestive of Hindu ownership when the actual owners were Muslim. So, at best the planners did their research and at worst, they were assisted by people in the government who knew who owned which properties. Another is the extreme savagery and brutality of it: some 250 women and girls were gang-raped and then burned to death; in other cases, pregnant women had their babies cut out of them, families were electrocuted inside houses the attackers had flooded, children were speared and then held up. Local media have described the violence as “state terrorism”, citing politicians’ utterances (including Modi’s) which stoked tensions in the aftermath of the Godhra fire, and the fact that in many incidents, police looked on and did nothing (including where the station was next door to a site being attacked) or even joined in; the state took no action to prevent a strike called by Hindu nationalists after the fire, which was illegal and such strikes had commonly been associated with communal violence in the past.

Using this logic, we could blame almost any atrocity or any act of terrorism on something done by people with some connection to the victims and thereby justify it. Yet, we do not do this; in fact, we protest loudly when someone tries to in regard to terrorism, even when the perpetrators are oppressed people. Hindus in Gujarat were not oppressed, at least not by Muslims; yes, many live in poverty, but they are the majority and their aspirations to dominance are supported by the state, even when the Congress party are in charge, let alone when Hindu nationalists are. This was not a people spontaneously reacting to an atrocity committed against them; it was not an intifada. It was a planned atrocity by a majority population seeking to put an ‘uppity’ minority in its place, and the same movement, now in charge of the Indian federal government, permits a regime like that of the old American South in which Muslims can be lynched for imagined offences against cows. These riots did not just start; people started them. Anyone who cannot see this has no place in any respectable political party or any party which purports to stand for social justice, let alone running as a presidential candidate.

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Gaining my religion: Kanye, Dylan and the pop stars who find God

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 October, 2019 - 16:00

Kanye West has reportedly said he will only be recording gospel from now on – following a trail blazed with mixed results by Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Reverend Run

Religion has always been a popular option for celebrities in urgent need of a fresh start because God, unlike Twitter, has a reputation for forgiveness. Kanye West launched his weekly Sunday Service in January after a whirlwind few months during which he swooned over Donald Trump, suggested that slavery was a choice and released the first forgettable album of his career. West has had an inconsistent relationship with his faith. His 2004 single Jesus Walks earned him multiple nominations for Stellar awards (the gospel Grammys) but I Am a God, from the album Yeezus, did not. On the verge of releasing his long-delayed ninth album, Jesus Is King, he seems to be going all in. At a recent listening party, he reportedly declared that he was done with secular music and would be recording only gospel from now on.

In the 1960s, soul music was largely defined by charismatic young gospel stars such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin crossing over to secular music, but travelling in the opposite direction poses more of a challenge. While mainstream listeners are by no means allergic to overt expressions of faith — witness, for example, U2, Stormzy, Johnny Cash and vast swathes of reggae — the zeal of the convert is a tougher sell.

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How Mohamed Salah inspired me to become a Muslim

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 October, 2019 - 10:37
I have gone from hating Islam to becoming a Muslim – and the Liverpool forward is the principal reason for that

Mohamed Salah really and honestly inspired me. I’m a Nottingham Forest season-ticket holder, I can be myself but because I made the declaration of faith I’m a Muslim. I’m still me and that’s what I took from Mohamed Salah. I’d love to meet him, just to shake his hand and say “Cheers” or “Shukran”.

I don’t think my mates quite believe that I’m a Muslim because I’ve not really changed. I just think my heart is better. I’m really trying to change on match days. Normally it’s pub, put a bet on, then after the game back to the pub and realise you’ve lost a lot of money. It’s hard when you’re used to such a culture and it’s part of football for a lot of people.

Related: Salah, Pogba, Özil … the Muslim heroes of English football

Salah showed me that you can be normal and a Muslim, if that’s the right phrase. You can be yourself.

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