Category Archives: Islamophobia

How Australia ended up with a neo-fascist propounding his views on immigration on national television – Jason Wilson. 

Australia doesn’t need a Breitbart, our conservative media does the job just as well.
Australia’s ‘African gang crisis’ has been brewing for years.

How do you end up with a neo-fascist propounding his views on immigration on national television? To answer this question, you need to understand how a racially motivated moral panic has brewed in right-leaning media over months, and even years. You then need to see how such a panic is part of a political project, which includes state and federal politicians.
The panic over Sudanese immigrant gangs has reached fever pitch in this new year of 2018. Even though it’s rooted in selective distortions, both of crime rates, and the concept of a “gang”, it’s triggered a hasty policy response.

This month, it has dominated the news in Victoria to such an extent that it seems that premier, Daniel Andrews, is unable to talk about much else. After his immigration minister, Peter Dutton, inflamed the situation, the prime minister has recently chosen to weigh in on an issue which is clearly not on his constitutional patch.
But if the panic has only come into bloom in recent weeks, it has been nurtured like a delicate sapling for two years. This long-term effort has been made by the rightwing outlets that still dominate print and online media in Australia.

If you search Australia’s news archives, there are relatively few mentions of the “Apex gang”, a group which has increasingly come to stand in for the Sudanese-Australian community as a whole, before 2016. On 13 March that year, people identifying as members of the group were involved in a brawl in Melbourne’s CBD, during the Moomba Festival.

That led to an initial flurry of coverage. Some of this was in the Age, but the story was led by News Corp’s Melbourne tabloid, the Herald Sun, and the Australian edition of the Daily Mail, which presented the brawl in populist terms.
By 14 March, the Mail and the Hun had established the habit of referring to the young men in these groups as “thugs”, a term which has, in the USA, been described as a “nominally polite way of using the N-word”.

The same day, Andrew Bolt wrote in a column that “there seems almost a conspiracy to stop the public knowing that our refugee and immigration policies have become a threat, introducing new levels of violence and gun crime to our cities”.
This take was dutifully, and approvingly, reposted on several far right forums. That’s unsurprising – the idea that refugees are in themselves social poison, and that this is being covered up, is a central claim of the contemporary far right.

From this moment on, the “Apex gang” became a way for right-leaning media to establish a connection between crime, immigration, race, and even terrorism.
While Fairfax, the ABC and Guardian Australia gradually turned to other matters, rightwing outlets continued their focus on the gang over the succeeding two years.

According to Nexis searches, the Australian edition of the Daily Mail has published the largest number of articles on the “Apex gang”, with 344 in the last five years. But the Herald Sun is close on its heels with 320. Each have run more than four times the number of articles that the Age has run, with a mere 76. The Age only just beat out News Corp’s national daily, the Australian, with the quantity of its coverage.

Many of the Age’s articles came around specific incidents. But the combined News outlets and the Daily Mail kept things bubbling along even when there was little to write about.

News and MailOnline breathlessly reported run of the mill property crimes as the work of “Africans”. The Australian took the opportunity, to try to connect the Flinders Street car attack to Sudanese youth, as did Peta Credlin in News tabloids. Stories about ”African” crime persisted in the face of efforts by police to point out that the story had been blown out of proportion, and the refusal of local residents to say there was a problem.

On the other hand, the same outlets soft-soaped far right vigilantism when it emerged in 2016. When the Soldiers of Odin, a white supremacist group, announced that they would be the patrolling Melbourne’s CBD, the Daily Mail ran their comments uncritically, including the idea that they were representing “old-school Aussie values”.

In a way, Channel Seven’s uncritical interview with Blair Cottrell was just following the precedent set in moments like this, and in the fawning coverage given to Milo Yiannopoulos late last year.

Rightwing politicians picked up this ball and ran as far and fast as they could with it. Their interventions show the symbiotic relationship between racial politics, ginned up in conservative newspapers, and conservative politics. Last November, federal liberal MP Jason Wood was calling for 16 year olds who had offended to be deported to their home countries. In December, Liberals worked hard to insert a discussion of Sudanese crime into a parliamentary committee report on immigration late last year. So the ground was well prepared for Peter Dutton to threaten deportation of young offenders, too.

This is all part of the normal, repetitive functioning of Australia’s conservative media and its conservative politics. The reason Australia has never given birth to a Breitbart-style far right outlet is that there is no niche for them to occupy. The country’s print media market is dominated by outlets whose politics – on immigration, culture wars, and the “war on terror” – are indistinguishable from websites that elsewhere, dwell on the margins.

So we shouldn’t be shocked when far right ideologues, whose views on immigration don’t really differ much from the conservative consensus in Australia, get on TV. Tabloids and mainstream politicians have worked long and hard to push ideas that, as a by-product, accord legitimacy to the far right. All sides benefit from a project that leads to heightened fear, demands for a crackdown, and political problems for a Labor government.

The reason that Channel Seven felt that Blair Cottrell’s views on Sudanese crime needed to be aired – despite his history of far right street activism, and his criminal history – is that by degrees, Australia’s right-leaning media have come to frame the issue in terms of reactionary populism for some years.

This is what they do.

The Guardian 

    Empirical Facts * Comparing Islam – Hunter Stuart. * Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world – Pew Research Center. 

    A Religion of Peace? Comparing Islam – Hunter Stuart.

    Just because medieval Islamic scripture decrees certain things doesn’t mean that contemporary Muslims do them. The vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are peaceful people. Indeed, Islam itself is based on peaceful values: the word “Islam” comes from the Arabic word for peace (salaam). Muslims’ primary way of greeting each other is salaam alaykum, or “Peace be upon you.”


    The Koran also contradicts itself about the whole accepting-people-of-other-religions thing. Though some verses advocate killing infidels, others say the opposite. “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith,” says the 2nd sura, for example. The Koran also encourages its followers time and again to be kind, generous and loving to each other. “Compete with each other in doing good,” says one verse. “Allah is with those who are of service to others,” says another.

    The Koran says that those who “wage war against Allah” should be punished with execution, crucifixion, or the “cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides,” which sounds particularly unpleasant. Again, “waging war against Allah” is vague. That very vagueness is exactly what terror groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda exploit to increase their own power.

    The Koran was written in the 7th century in the Arabian Peninsula during a time of war. The prophet Muhammad and his early followers had to fight constantly for survival in a brutal desert environment where various tribes were competing for resources. In other words, the first Muslims were a scrappy, persecuted crew in a dog-eat-dog world and this experience almost definitely influenced the way they wrote the holy texts that later became Islamic scripture.

    Knowing the historical context of the birth of Islam helps us understand why parts of the Koran and other Islamic texts are so brutal. There are over 100 verses that appear to condone violence in one way or another in the Koran alone — and that’s not even getting into the hadiths, or sayings, of the prophet Muhammad, which include some pretty gruesome stuff, too.

    Some Koranic verses are explicitly violent. “Kill [nonbelievers] wherever you find them,” says a line in the 2nd sura, or chapter. “Strike off their heads and strike from them every fingertip,” says another, also referring to what Muslims should do when they encounter someone of another faith.

    Other verses in the Koran do not explicitly condone violence but could be interpreted that way. One widely quoted (and sometimes misquoted — even by Obama) verse occurs in the holy book’s 5th sura. It states that murder is bad unless someone has “spread mischief in the land.” Obviously “spreading mischief” or “villainy” (as it’s sometimes translated) in “the land” can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, which has proved problematic for Islam over the years.

    In Islamic scripture, it’s not just infidels who deserve to die. The hadiths (which are the second-most important piece of Islamic scripture after the Koran) contain stories of gay people and adulterers being put to death for their abominable crimes — and some people have taken this to mean that Islam allows for homosexuality and adultery to be punished by execution.

    It’s also important to remember that Islam is a younger religion than Christianity or Judaism and therefore may just be going through a kind of rebellious adolescent phase. Christianity was the age that Islam is now about 1300 years ago. Remember what Christianity was doing 1300 years ago? Gearing up to savage the Western world with the systematic rape-pillage-and-murder campaign known as The Crusades — that’s what.

    But don’t think Christianity has since grown up and stopped mass murdering people since then. The Holocaust, after all, happened in Europe — one of the most Christian and supposedly enlightened places in the world — a mere 70 years ago. Radical Christians have committed contemptible crimes more recently, too. Look at the dozens of Christians who have murdered abortion doctors or bombed abortion clinics, for example. Most of those killers believed they were following Christian doctrine the same way a suicide bomber from Libya or Pakistan believes he’s acting in accordance with Islam.

    What’s more, many of the white American men who’ve committed horrifying mass shootings in the US in recent years — from Dylann Roof to Adam Lanza to Jared Lee Loughner — came from Christian backgrounds, but the media rarely scrutinizes their religious heritage when searching for a motive. Instead, news outlets choose to employ the very morally problematic double standard of suggesting that black and brown killers are terrorists while white people are “mentally ill” or merely “lone wolves.”

    The Bible, like the Koran, contains plenty of violent stuff. The book of Deuteronomy is clear about what Christians should do if they encounter someone who believes in another god: “Take the man or woman who has done this evil deed … and stone that person to death.” The Pentateuch in the Old Testament notoriously suggests that gay people should be executed. “If a man lies with a man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” Sheesh!

    Judaism has plenty of violence in it, too. Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism also suggests that homosexuals should be punished with death for their “detestable” acts. Jewish law also prescribes violent punishment for women who cheat on their husbands (controversially, it doesn’t consider a married man cheating on his wife to technically be adultery).

    Headlines are dominated by stories of Muslim terrorism; stories about Jewish terrorism are few and far between. That’s partly explained by there being far fewer Jews in the world than there are Muslims (16 million Jews compared to 1.6 billion Muslims). So to some extent, you not hearing about Jewish terrorism is just statistical: Since terrorists come from all religions and all cultures, it follows that the larger ones will have more terrorists, numerically speaking.

    But Jewish terrorism still happens. In fact, the Jews were masters of guerrilla warfare thousands of years before Al Qaeda was even born. More recently, in the 1930s and 40s, Jewish militant groups in pre-state Israel, like the Irgun and the Stern Gang, carried out insurgent attacks on the British military and government workers who were in charge of Palestine at that time. Some of the leaders of these underground Jewish militias went on to occupy top roles in the government of Israel when the country was created in 1948.

    Jewish terrorism still happens in Israel today. In Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank, a secretive ultra-Zionist group called The Hilltop Youth carries out assaults on Muslim and Christian Palestinians and their property. They also attack the IDF, which they view as illegitimate. The gang has perpetrated hundreds of attacks in recent years. In July 2015, for example, suspected Hilltop Youth members firebombed the home of the Dawabshes, a family of Palestinian Muslims, and spray-painted Jewish stars on the side of the house before fleeing the scene. The attack destroyed the home and killed both the Dawabshe parents and their 18-month-old baby.

    So are we right to be wary of Islam? Yes, but no more so than all of the Abrahamic faiths, all of which are rooted in scripture that at times condones violence. Islam is no exception. But are Muslims innately more violent than anyone else? No. And singling them out that way is misguided and dangerous.

    *
    Hunter Stuart, Dose.com

    I’m a 34-year-old writer in Chicago, working as a senior editor at Dose, a digital media agency. 
    I have nine years of experience as an editor, journalist and video producer. I recently spent 1.5 years working as a reporter in Jerusalem, where I covered conflict, culture and technology for Vice, Al Jazeera English, The Jerusalem Post and others.
    From 2010-2015, I was a staff editor at HuffPost in New York City, where I worked in a number of different roles, including as a business reporter, a video producer and a social media editor.

    ***

    Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world

    By Michael Lipka, Pew Research Center.

    Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world. The growth and regional migration of Muslims, combined with the ongoing impact of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and other extremist groups that commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, have brought Muslims and the Islamic faith to the forefront of the political debate in many countries. Yet many facts about Muslims are not well known in some of these places, and most Americans – who live in a country with a relatively small Muslim population – have said they know little or nothing about Islam.
    Here are answers to some key questions about Muslims, compiled from several Pew Research Center reports published in recent years:

    How many Muslims are there? Where do they live?

    There were 1.8 billion Muslims in the world as of 2015 – roughly 24% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate. But while Islam is currently the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity), it is the fastest-growing major religion. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century.

    Although many countries in the Middle East-North Africa region, where the religion originated in the seventh century, are heavily Muslim, the region is home to only about 20% of the world’s Muslims. A majority of the Muslims globally (62%) live in the Asia-Pacific region, including large populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

    Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, but Pew Research Center projects that India will have that distinction by the year 2050 (while remaining a majority-Hindu country), with more than 300 million Muslims.
    The Muslim population in Europe also is growing; we project 10% of all Europeans will be Muslims by 2050.

    How many Muslims are there in the United States?

    According to our estimate, there are about 3.45 million Muslims of all ages in the U.S., or about 1.1% of the U.S. population. This is based on an analysis of census statistics and data from a 2017 survey of U.S. 
    Muslims, which was conducted in English as well as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. Based on the same analysis, Pew Research Center also estimates that there are 2.15 million Muslim adults in the country, and that a majority of them (58%) are immigrants.

    Our demographic projections estimate that Muslims will make up 2.1% of the U.S. population by the year 2050, surpassing people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion as the second-largest faith group in the country (not including people who say they have no religion).

    A 2013 Pew Research Center report estimated that the Muslim share of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) increased from about 5% in 1992 to roughly 10% in 2012, representing about 100,000 immigrants in that year.


    Why is the global Muslim population growing?

    There are two major factors behind the rapid projected growth of Islam, and both involve simple demographics. For one, Muslims have more children than members of other religious groups. 
    Around the world, each Muslim woman has an average of 2.9 children, compared with 2.2 for all other groups combined.

    Muslims are also the youngest (median age of 24 years old in 2015) of all major religious groups, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims. As a result, a larger share of Muslims already are, or will soon be, at the point in their lives when they begin having children. This, combined with high fertility rates, will fuel Muslim population growth.
    While it does not change the global population, migration is helping to increase the Muslim population in some regions, including North America and Europe.


    How do Americans view Muslims and Islam?

    A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2017 asked Americans to rate members of nine religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating. Overall, Americans gave Muslims an average rating of 48 degrees, similar to atheists (50).

    Americans view more warmly the seven other religious groups mentioned in the survey (Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons). But views toward Muslims (as well as several of the other groups) are now warmer than they were a few years ago; in 2014, U.S. adults gave Muslims an average rating of 40 degrees in a similar survey.

    Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party gave Muslims an average rating of 39, considerably cooler than Democrats’ rating toward Muslims (56).

    This partisan gap extends to several other questions about Muslims and Islam. Indeed, Republicans and Republican leaners also are more likely than Democrats and those who lean Democratic to say they are very concerned about extremism in the name of Islam, both around the world (67% vs. 40%) and in the U.S. (64% vs. 30%). In addition, a December 2016 survey found that more Republicans than Democrats say Islam is likelier than other religions to encourage violence among its believers (63% vs. 26% of Democrats). And while most Americans (69%) believe there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the U.S. today, views are again split by party: 85% of Democrats and those who lean Democratic and 49% of Republicans and GOP leaners hold this view.

    Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is not part of mainstream American society (68% vs. 37%) and that there is a natural conflict between Islam and democracy (65% vs. 30%).

    About half of Americans (49%) think at least “some” U.S. Muslims are anti-American, greater than the share who say “just a few” or “none” are anti-American, according to a January 2016 survey. Views on this question have become much more partisan in the last 14 years (see graphic). 
    But most Americans do not see widespread support for extremism among Muslims living in the U.S., according to a February 2017 survey. Overall, 40% say there is not much support for extremism among U.S. Muslims, while an additional 15% say there is none at all. About a quarter say there is a fair amount of support (24%) for extremism among U.S. Muslims; 11% say there is a great deal of support.


    How do Europeans view Muslims?

    In spring 2016, we asked residents of 10 European counties for their impression of how many Muslims in their country support extremist groups, such as ISIS. In most cases, the prevailing view is that “just some” or “very few” Muslims support ISIS, but in Italy, 46% say “many” or “most” do.
    The same survey asked Europeans whether they viewed Muslims favorably or unfavorably. Perceptions varied across European nations: Majorities in Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece say they view Muslims unfavorably, while negative attitudes toward Muslims are much less common in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Northern and Western Europe. People who place themselves on the right side of the ideological scale are much more likely than those on the left to see Muslims negatively.

    What characteristics do people in the Muslim world and people in the West associate with each other?

    A 2011 survey asked about characteristics Westerners and Muslims may associate with one another. Across the seven Muslim-majority countries and territories surveyed, a median of 68% of Muslims said they view Westerners as selfish. 
    Considerable shares also called Westerners other negative adjectives, including violent (median of 66%), greedy (64%) and immoral (61%), while fewer attributed positive characteristics like “respectful of women” (44%), honest (33%) and tolerant (31%) to Westerners.

    Westerners’ views of Muslims were more mixed. A median of 50% across four Western European countries, the U.S. and Russia called Muslims violent and a median of 58% called them “fanatical,” but fewer used negative words like greedy, immoral or selfish. A median of just 22% of Westerners said Muslims are respectful of women, but far more said Muslims are honest (median of 51%) and generous (41%).


    What do Muslims around the world believe?

    Like any religious group, the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims vary depending on many factors, including where in the world they live. But Muslims around the world are almost universally united by a belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad, and the practice of certain religious rituals, such as fasting during Ramadan, is widespread.

    In other areas, however, there is less unity. For instance, a Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 39 countries asked Muslims whether they want sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scripture, to be the official law of the land in their country. Responses on this question vary widely. Nearly all Muslims in Afghanistan (99%) and most in Iraq (91%) and Pakistan (84%) support sharia law as official law. But in some other countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – including Turkey (12%), Kazakhstan (10%) and Azerbaijan (8%) – relatively few favor the implementation of sharia law.


    How do Muslims feel about groups like ISIS?

    Recent surveys show that most people in several countries with significant Muslim populations have an unfavorable view of ISIS, including virtually all respondents in Lebanon and 94% in Jordan. Relatively small shares say they see ISIS favorably. In some countries, considerable portions of the population do not offer an opinion about ISIS, including a majority (62%) of Pakistanis.

    Favorable views of ISIS are somewhat higher in Nigeria (14%) than most other nations. Among Nigerian Muslims, 20% say they see ISIS favorably (compared with 7% of Nigerian Christians). The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, which has been conducting a terrorist campaign in the country for years, has sworn allegiance to ISIS.

    More generally, Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified, including 92% in Indonesia and 91% in Iraq. In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say such tactics are rarely or never justified. An additional 7% say suicide bombings are sometimes justified and 1% say they are often justified.

    In a few countries, a quarter or more of Muslims say these acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 40% in the Palestinian territories, 39% in Afghanistan, 29% in Egypt and 26% in Bangladesh.

    In many cases, people in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism, and have become increasingly concerned in recent years. 
    About two-thirds of people in Nigeria (68%) and Lebanon (67%) said in 2016 that they are very concerned about Islamic extremism in their country, both up significantly since 2013.


    What do American Muslims believe?

    Our 2017 survey of U.S. Muslims finds that Muslims in the United States perceive a lot of discrimination against their religious group. Moreover, a solid majority of U.S. 
    Muslims are leery of President Donald Trump and think their fellow Americans do not see Islam as part of mainstream U.S. society. At the same time, however, Muslim Americans overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Americans, believe that hard work generally brings success in this country and are satisfied with the way things are going in their own lives.

    Half of Muslim Americans say it has become harder to be Muslim in the U.S. in recent years. And 48% say they have experienced at least one incident of discrimination in the past 12 months. But alongside these reports of discrimination, a similar – and growing – share (49%) of Muslim Americans say someone has expressed support for them because of their religion in the past year. And 55% think Americans in general are friendly toward U.S. Muslims, compared with just 14% who say they are unfriendly.

    Living in a religiously pluralistic society, Muslim Americans are more likely than Muslims in many other largely Muslim-majority nations to have a lot of non-Muslim friends. Only about a third (36%) of U.S. Muslims say all or most of their close friends are also Muslims, compared with a global median of 95% in the 39 countries we surveyed.

    Roughly two-thirds of U.S. Muslims (65%) say religion is very important in their lives. About six-in-ten (59%) report praying at least daily and 43% say they attend religious services at least weekly. By some of these traditional measures, Muslims in the U.S. are roughly as religious as U.S. Christians, although they are less religious than Muslims in many other nations.

    When it comes to political and social views, Muslims are far more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (66%) than the Republican Party (13%) and to say they prefer a bigger government providing more services (67%) over a smaller government providing fewer services (25%). And about half of U.S. Muslims (52%) now say homosexuality should be accepted by society, up considerably from 2011 (39%) and 2007 (27%).


    What is the difference between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims?

    Sunnis and Shiites are two subgroups of Muslims, just as Catholics and Protestants are two subgroups within Christianity. The Sunni-Shiite divide is nearly 1,400 years old, dating back to a dispute over the succession of leadership in the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. While the two groups agree on some core tenets of Islam, there are differences in beliefs and practices, and in some cases Sunnis do not consider Shiites to be Muslims.

    With the exception of a few countries, including Iran (which is majority Shiite) as well as Iraq and Lebanon (which are split), most nations with a large number of Muslims have more Sunnis than Shiites. In the U.S., 55% identify as Sunnis and 16% as Shiites (with the rest identifying with neither group, including some who say they are just a Muslim).

    *
    Note: This post was updated on Aug. 9, 2017. It was originally published Dec. 7, 2015.

    Correction: U.S. Muslim population estimates in this post, including the chart “Number of Muslims in the U.S. continues to grow,” were corrected on Nov. 14, 2017. For details, see Appendix B: Survey Methodology, note 37, of the report “U.S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place in Society, but Continue to Believe in the American Dream.”
    Michael Lipka is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center

    Pew Research 

    GUANTÁNAMO DIARY – Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

    Mohamedou Ould Slahi was born in a small town in Mauritania in 1970. He won a scholarship to attend college in Germany and worked there for several years as an engineer. He returned to Mauritania in 2000. The following year, at the behest of the United States, he was detained by Mauritanian authorities and rendered to a prison in Jordan; later he was rendered again, first to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, and finally, on August 5, 2002, to the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he was subjected to severe torture.
    In 2010, a federal judge ordered him immediately released, but the government appealed that decision. He was cleared and released on October 16, 2016, and repatriated to his native country of Mauritania. No charges were filed against him during or after this ordeal.
    Larry Siems
    *
    Mohamedou Ould Slahi
    Every time we had a hurricane warning in Guantánamo Bay, I had the same daydream. I imagined the prison camp wiped away and all of us, detainees and captors alike, fighting side by side to survive. In some versions I saved many lives, in others I was saved, but somehow we all managed to escape, unharmed and free.

    This is what I was imagining on October 7, 2016, when Hurricane Matthew was building in the Caribbean. The forecast was predicting a direct hit on Guantánamo, so the camp command decided to move all the detainees, about seventy of us, to Camp 6, the safest facility in GTMO. I was told that my belongings might not survive the hurricane, so I took my family pictures, my Koran, and two DVDs of the TV sitcom Two and a Half Men. The NCO in charge, a sympathetic Hispanic sergeant first class in his forties, arranged for another detainee to lend me his portable DVD player, but the machine died within minutes.

    Outside my cell, an argument broke out between one of the detainees and the guards over the temperature in the block, an argument we all knew was futile, but the detainee had started and now couldn’t stop. “You Americans, even if I treat you as human beings, you don’t respect me,” he was yelling. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” the guards were yelling back.

    I did my best to tune them out, and I spent the night listening for the sound of the heavy wind battering the cell, daydreaming another dramatic escape. The structure was so strong that I never even heard the storm.

    But in the morning the camp was buzzing with rumors about detainees who were going to leave. One rumor said that there was a comprehensive plan that I was going be resettled along with Abdul Latif Nasir, a Moroccan detainee, and Soufiane Barhoumi from Algeria. We had all heard so many rumors over the years that turned out to be just that, rumors, that we knew not to celebrate; this would prove to be another.

    For me, though, the real news came that afternoon. The bearer was our brand-new officer in charge. She had just taken over and I had not even met her yet, but now this army captain was sticking her head through my bin hole and giving me the broadest smile I’d seen in many years. “Do you know that you’re going to leave soon?” she said.

    It was the best introduction to a new OIC ever: I’m taking over, and you’re going home. I was moved to a different cellblock. I met with representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross, who officially informed me that I was to be transferred.

    The U.S. government dreads the mention of detainees being freed, so it uses its own vocabulary of “transfer” and “resettlement,” as if we were cargo or refugees. Yazan, a Jordanian representative I knew from previous ICRC delegations, asked if I would accept resettlement to my home country of Mauritania. I told him I would take any transfer I was offered, quoting the title of a Chris Cagle country song: “Anywhere but Here.”

    The next day, my attorneys Nancy Hollander and Theresa Duncan called me from the United States to confirm the news. Only then I could say to myself, Now it’s official: I’m leaving this prison after so many years of pain and humiliation.

    “You have the Gold Meeting tomorrow,” the new OIC told me when I got back to my cell after the call. Her smile still hadn’t faded. The “Gold Meeting” takes place in Gold Building, a structure that was built for interrogation. At first, the interrogations there were not so bad by Guantánamo standards. We answered all kinds of questions from FBI, CIA, and military intelligence officers, as well as investigators who came from around the world at the invitation of their American colleagues. But the building was given a face-lift in 2003 and then was used along with the so-called Brown and Yellow buildings for torture sessions. It was in this same Gold Building that I spent many sleepless and cold nights that year, shivering in my shackles, eating countless tasteless MREs, and listening to “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light” in an endless, repeating loop.

    Now the bushes around the building were growing out of control, and the old Delta Three camp next door looked like a graveyard. Romeo block, where I spent my last days before I was dragged into a boat in a fake kidnapping, existed only in bits and pieces. Everything was old and rusted and dirty. It looked like a scene after one of my hurricane daydreams.

    Inside Gold Building, though, nothing had changed. Its rooms were now assigned for FBI and Army Forensics, for phone calls to lawyers, and for meetings with the ICRC. But they were still set up the same way, with their one-way mirrors and the adjacent control rooms where a bunch of idle Joint Task Force (JTF) personnel would sit chewing on their cold cheese-burgers, watching me, and asking themselves how I’d ended up in this place. Even the smell was the same: at the first hint of it, I was hearing the sound my heavy chains made the day I was dragged down the corridor to a room where I would meet Sergeant Mary, one of the main interrogators on my so-called Special Projects team.

    One night in August 2003, I sat shackled in one of those rooms listening to a phone conversation one of my interpreters was having. She was calling her family back in the United States, and she had forgotten to close the door behind her. English seemed like her first language, but she was speaking to her family in Arabic, with a soft Lebanese or Syrian accent. To hear her casually sharing mundane stories about life in GTMO, very relaxed, completely oblivious to the man suffering next to her, was surreal, but it was just what I needed on that cold, unfriendly evening. I wished her soothing, musical conversation wouldn’t end: she was my surrogate, doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. I saw in her a physical and spiritual conduit to my own family, and I told myself that if her family was doing well, my family must be doing well, too.

    That I was mitigating my loneliness by listening to someone else’s intimate, personal conversation posed a moral dilemma for me: I needed to survive, but I also wanted to keep my dignity and respect the dignity of others. To this day I am sorry for eavesdropping, and I can only hope she would forgive my unintentional transgression.

    Now, for the “Gold Meeting,” my interpreter was a small brown Arab-American in his early thirties, with short, receding black hair. “Are you from West Africa?” he asked in Arabic as I was led into a room and shackled to the floor. My ankle chains provided a musical backdrop to our conversation, echoing throughout Gold Building.

    What do other people think about us being shackled? I always wondered in these situations. Do they find it normal to interact with a restrained human being? Do they feel bad for us? Do they feel safer?

    “Yes, Mauritania,” I answered in Arabic, smiling. “Do you understand when I speak?” The room was packed with people I didn’t know, mostly high-ranking military officers, and he seemed eager to show how essential he was to the proceedings. My escort team pushed the desk close enough that I could lean on it and hide my shackled feet underneath, giving the impression of a relaxed, free man. A recent picture of me adorned the door.

    We waited. Like everywhere on earth, the big boss did not need to show up on time. Finally the voice of a service member, shouting as if an assault was under way, roused the room to its feet. “Colonel Gabavics, JDG Commander, on site.” The door opened and there he stood, in the flesh. It was the first and last time this man would speak to me. “You will be transferred to your country in one week. Do you have any questions?”

    Because I could hardly imagine life outside Guantánamo after so many years of incarceration, I had no idea what questions to ask. I made a request instead. I told the colonel that I wished to bring my manuscripts with me—I wrote four in addition to Guantánamo Diary during my imprisonment—and some other writing and paintings I had made in classes I took in GTMO. I said I would also like to take several chessboards, books, and other presents I had received from his predecessors and from some of my guards and interrogators, gifts that had great sentimental value. I named those who had given me these presents, hoping he would honor my request for the sake of his friends. “I’ll talk to the people in charge,” he said. “If it’s okay, we will send them with you.”

    I thanked him, smiling, wanting the meeting to end on that good note and not to screw things up by saying things I wasn’t supposed to say. The colonel disappeared as quickly as he came. The escort team took me to the room across the hall, where I found two women in uniform. A skinny brunette Army sergeant sat in front of an old Dell desktop that was running Windows 7. She kept smiling, even though her computer was a classic recipe for frustration; she typed everything at least twice, and the PC kept passing out on her.

    On her right sat a woman who seemed to be her boss, at least by rank, a short blond Navy lieutenant with a neat ponytail. She was friendly, too, and even asked my escort team to remove all my shackles. There followed a photo shoot that had me posing five different ways: face the camera, face right, face left, and forty-five degrees to both sides. I had to give my fingerprints in about a dozen ways on an electronic pad. They recorded my voice as I read a page written in English: “My name is fill in the blank. I’m from fill in the blank. I love my country,” and the like. That was as literary as it got. I must have been nervous, because I passed this voice recognition test only on the second try.

    Through it all, the sergeant struggled to save my biometric data into the old computer. My escorts restrained me again and took me to another room, this one with an FBI team. “If you promise to behave, I’ll let them take off your restraints,” a Turkish-American agent said with an honest smile. The FBI team fingerprinted me, using the old method of sticking my fingers in ink and pressing them on a paper. It was a long, tedious process, which gave me time to try out my Turkish with the agent. As we talked, his finger slipped and made its own print on the paper. He freaked out, grabbed a fresh paper, and we started again. “I hope this will be the last time you ever have to do this,” he said, laughing and handing me some sandy soap to clean my fingers.

    There were four other standard-issue FBI agents in the room, two middle-aged women and two other men. The whole team was having a good time with me. “You don’t need to hope,” I assured him. “You can bet your last penny.” I was taken to my new home, the transfer camp. I had seen this camp a million times: it was right next to the Camp Echo isolation hut, where I lived for twelve years. If I believed in conspiracy theories, I would have said that the government purposely put the transfer camp right next to my cell for all those years to make me suffer even more. So many detainees were transferred out during those years, and I would be the last one to bid them farewell. We would speak to each other through the fence that separates the two camps. It was comforting to see innocent men finally being freed, and I was happy for every detainee who passed through the transfer camp, but it stung to watch them leave.

    Now that detainee was me, and I couldn’t help but feel guilty. It hurt to think of leaving other innocent detainees behind, their fates in the hand of a system that has failed so badly in matters of justice. “We missed you, 760,” one of my old regular Camp Echo guards greeted me as I was unstrapped from the seat of the transport van.

    As we walked through the camp, a small, blond female sergeant with a southern accent went over the new rules. “You can go anywhere you like in the camp, but you’re not supposed to cross that red line. Honestly, I don’t care if you do, but don’t hang out long, because if they see you on the camera, we could get in trouble,” she told me as she led me to my new home. “We push the food cart all the way to the white line,” she went on, going over procedures I would be hearing for the last time. In one of the strange tricks of Guantánamo, the sergeant and I walked and conversed like old friends, completely overlooking the fact that I was shackled.

    Because of the hurricane, many of the mesh sniper screens on the windows had been removed from the Camp Echo huts, and the contractors—mostly so-called Third Country Nationals, who make very low wages and struggle to maintain the facilities—had not finished putting them back up. From my cell, I saw a whole world that had been surrounding me for many years, so close but so elusive: the maze of interrogation rooms; Camp Legal, where detainees meet their lawyers; the hut where the translators and teachers watched TV, waiting for their next encounter with detainees; and the two buildings where detainees come to call and Skype with their families. In a parking lot nearby, people parked their big American vans and climbed out of them, looking bored and sick of their tedious jobs.

    Through the fence that separates my old Camp Echo Special hut from the transfer camp, I could see that my garden was gone, except for the untended grass and the few trees whose resilience is matched by those of us detainees who had managed to remain in one piece.

    For the next several days, JTF staff kept pouring in to brief me about what was happening with my transfer. The news was coming thick and fast, from guards, from the OIC, the NCO in charge, from an officer from the Behavior Health Unit, and from the senior medical officer.

    Everyone brought good news. I was told that my items were packed and had been sent to the transport people and that they would be loaded onto the plane with me. An Air Force captain from the BHU said that she had been planning to see me the following Monday, but she now doubted I would still be here. The senior medical officer, a Navy captain, came in person to hand me malaria medication, a sure sign that my departure was imminent.

    In between these visits, I spent most of my time talking with the guards about what kinds of electronic gadgets I would need to acquire when I got out, and the best ways to watch all the movies I had been forbidden to watch in GTMO. They taught me about streaming sites like Netflix and Putlocker, and even about illegal downloading.

    And then the day came: Sunday, October 16, 2016. All day, people in uniform kept coming and going, most saying little, if anything at all. It was surreal—as if the whole base now had only one detainee to worry about. My new favorite OIC showed up again and again with her broad smile. My night shift didn’t show up at all. “Where’s the other shift?” I asked one of the guards, a guy who had been tutoring me on how to deal with the new technologies that were waiting to overwhelm me.

    “I would love it if they let me be the one leading you out of here, and the last one to say goodbye to you,” he said. The specialist’s prayer was answered; he would put the shackles on me for the last time. He grew less talkative as the afternoon wore on. Everyone seemed solemn, and a complete and utter silence descended when the smiling captain came to me and said, “You have two hours left. We’re going to lock you down.”

    “Now it’s for real,” I told myself. I went inside the cell and heard one of my guards trying to lock the door manually, a very familiar sound. Whenever civilians like teachers or contractors would come from outside the camp, we would be locked like this inside our cells. I took a shower and shaved. I dressed in the new detainee uniform I had been given. My old clothes, like all my belongings in the cell, had to be left behind.

    I tried to watch TV, then read a book, but I could do neither. I just kept pacing inside my room, praying and singing quietly. It was the longest two hours of my entire life. “Are you ready?” the captain finally said as she looked through my bin hole. “Yes.” “Can you stick your hands outside the bin hole?” one of the guards asked. I offered my hands, and the guards put the shackles on my wrists, gently yet firmly, asking whether the cuffs were too tight. I shook my head. After my hands were restrained, the guards opened the door to finish my upper body and my legs.

    I was shocked to see how many people could fit in that small place. I saw people in uniform everywhere I looked, including the overeager translator from my meeting with the colonel. But this time he watched and said nothing. The only place I’d ever seen such solemnity was when I attended funerals. I hardly spoke, just nodding when someone asked a question. The female captain was guiding the guards, telling them what to do next. “Take him to the red line.” The red line was about sixty steps away from my door. I felt as though I could hear people’s hearts beating as clearly as the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow.”

    My escort team seemed nervous, and they went too far. The captain had to shout at them, “Do not cross the red line. Step back. Step back.” The guards obeyed, leading me backward and stopping just in front of the line. A huge gate opened, and a new escort team emerged. They quietly took control of me from my guards. They did not do the usual inspection of my restraints; they did not say anything as they led me outside the gate.

    Another group was gathered there, including the senior medical officer and a very tall white man in uniform who was wearing a backpack and whose rank I couldn’t see. It was dark outside, but I could see that he was holding a printout with a recent picture of me. He placed the picture beside my face, looked back and forth, and shouted, “Identity confirmed.” The whole team looked as if they’d just arrived from a long trip. They all seemed sleepy, even the small black woman who’d been pointing her video camera at me from the moment I left my cell. A skinny blondish specialist would join her in the bus that transported us to the airport, and they would take turns on the camera all the way to Nouakchott.

    “Do you have any complaints?” the senior medical officer asked. I shook my head. “No.” A slight smile broke across his face, and he almost shouted,

    “760, I declare you fit to fly.”

    We passed through two more gates. We boarded a bus that drove onto a ferry, and the bus danced like a dervish in a trance as the ferry crossed the bay. We pulled out onto the airstrip and up to the back door of a cargo plane big enough to drive a truck inside. The engines were roaring, and everyone had to shout to convey the simplest message. I was led up a long cargo ramp. As soon as we stepped inside the plane I was earmuffed and blindfolded, just as I had been when I was taken from Bagram Air Base to Guantánamo Bay. This time, though, there was no beating, harassment, or degradation.

    I was strapped into a hard seat that was set nearly at a right angle and that did not recline. I didn’t dare to complain for fear someone would change his mind and take me back to the camp. I lost track of time during the flight, fighting against the pain that began in my back, spread to my ears and head, and soon overwhelmed me from all directions.

    The plane landed with a heavy thump, and I felt someone peeling off my blindfold and my earmuffs. The first thing I saw was a digital clock on the wall of the plane in front of me—a little past 14:00, it read—and a bunch of half-asleep recruits who looked like they had not had their best night. I felt gentle hands playing with my shackles, starting from the middle and working up and down. “Did we arrive? I asked tentatively, barely in a whisper. “Yes,” a guard beside me said. “Is this the local time?” “Yes.”

    There was no mistaking the Mauritanian weather. It was a good day, not too hot—just the right, warm welcome I needed. I was escorted, unshackled, down the ramp and onto the tarmac, where several Mauritanian government officials and an American official waited. We exchanged casual greetings, and my U.S. service member escorts went directly to stand in formation near their countryman.

    After a few pleasantries, the American started toward his car. “Who’s that?” I asked one of the Mauritanians. “The U.S. ambassador,” he said. “Can I say hello to him?” I asked.

    He dispatched a man standing near him. The ambassador came back to me and we shook hands. “Welcome home,” he said.

    *

    from GUANTÁNAMO DIARY

    by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

    get it at Amazon.com

    .

    Over 30,000 Muslims in the UK Marched Against ISIS, Of Course You Didn’t Hear About It – Sarah A. Harvard. 

    More than 30,000 Muslims from around the world congregated at a farm in the United Kingdom for a three-day event protesting ISIS and religious extremism.

    The protest was part of the 50th annual Jalsa Salana, an annual convention and gathering for Ahmadiyya Muslims.

    The Ahmadiyya sect was founded in India in 1889 and faced persecution and violence from religious extremists in countries abroad. Despite their plight, the religious movement’s official motto is “Love for all, hatred for none” and their philosophy is rooted in tolerance over extremism.

    Mic

    Why do some young people become jihadis? Psychiatry offers answers – Kamran Ahmed. 

    There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, the overwhelming majority of whom abhor Isis and the evil it represents. So what is driving a handful of extremists to commit horrific acts of mass murder in the name of Islam?

    One contributing factor might be a concept drawn from the world of cultural psychiatry: acculturation – the process of balancing two competing cultural influences.

    There can be a number of possible outcomes to this process:

    Deculturation, when a migrant loses all touch with their culture of origin.

    Assimilation, when they retain some loose association with it but fully adopt the culture of the host nation.

    Integration, when they retain strong ties with their culture of origin but are fully functioning members of society.

    Rejection, when they reject the host-nation culture completely in favour of their culture of origin.

    Trying to meet the cultural expectations of parents while trying to fit in with peers; dealing with experiences of racism; balancing religious and western values, it poses a challenge for many Muslim youths living in western countries today.

    For those who find themselves at odds with the culture of their parents, and yet are met with hostility from the culture of the society they live in, exiting the acculturation paradigm to embrace a third culture that provides them with a sense of belonging may be an appealing option. In this case their minds become fertile ground for radicalisation.

    This is akin to the pathway into gang culture for young people around the world – a sense of alienation from family and society at large delivers them into the hands of older gang leaders. The counterculture for young Muslim men at odds with society nowadays is not gang culture but radical extremist factions that offer self-esteem and identity in exchange for allegiance to a violent and morally bankrupt manifesto. Once they are members of the subversive peer group, alarming ideas and behaviours can become normalised very quickly indeed.

    Perhaps the low self-esteem brought on by marginalisation is the mediator here, traded readily by some disaffected Muslim youths for the perceived sense of purpose and status associated with being a jihadi.

    Those most likely to make the transition from radical to terrorist are the exceedingly vulnerable, who are highly susceptible to jihadi rhetoric, and narcissistic psychopaths, who might revel in the notoriety of being a terrorist.

    Collective community action has been a prominent feature in anti-gang strategies around the world, and may prove effective in opposing this new type of thuggery, starting with closer ties and cooperation between Muslim and non-Muslim communities and a concerted effort to open a dialogue with at-risk individuals.

    The media must present a counter-narrative to Isis propaganda, showing young Muslims they are accepted in the west and can find their sense of belonging here.

    Muslim parents should be flexible in their demands that their children follow their cultural values and traditions where these are unlikely to lead to a favourable acculturation outcome for them.

    Nothing can be worse for a Muslim immigrant parent who builds a new home in the west, with hopes and dreams for their family, than to see their child become a murderous suicide bomber.

    We must take action to address the factors that underlie this problem if we are to prevent further suffering.

    Terrorists seek to divide us; the only way we can defeat this evil is by working together.

    ***

    Kamran Ahmed, psychiatrist and filmmaker

    The Guardian

    New Zealand can stand up against racism – Dame Susan Devoy, NZ Race Relations Commissioner. 

    New Zealand can stand up against racism.

    Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy has called on New Zealanders to stand up against racist taunts and attacks, drawing an apparent contrast with President Donald Trump’s America.

    “The world is at a crossroads when it comes to race relations. The way we treat each other will decide what path New Zealand goes down,” she said, marking Race Relations Day today.

    She said people from ethnic minorities reported an increase in the number of personal racist attacks in recent times, “in step with events taking place overseas”.

    “What we do now matters and that’s why we want people to be prepared to stand up for what they believe in. Whether we let our country become a place where abusing someone because of their race is normal or not, that part is up to us, all of us,” she said.

    “We want people to record attacks, to support people who are being attacked and to ensure attacks are reported.

    “When we see yet another racist attack on the news we need to ask ourselves: is this us? Is this the kind of country we want to be? If the answer is no, then we need to do something.

    “What we do today is our insurance policy for the future of our nation.

    “This year we are focused on encouraging New Zealanders to answer these two questions: what do you stand for? What do you stand against?”

    Race Relations Day marks the Sharpeville Massacre when 69 black South Africans, including 10 children, were shot to death by police for protesting against apartheid laws on March 21, 1960.

    A series of events in provincial and urban communities to celebrate Race Relations Day are being held throughout this month.

    The Human Rights Commission has produced a short video highlighting what people can do if they experience or witness a racist attack.

    Simon Collins, NZ Herald

    Donald Trump’s executive order means he is now officially gunning for Muslims –  Moustafa Bayoumi. 

    Donald Trump is now officially gunning for the Muslims. On Friday, he signed an executive order titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States. The order is nothing short of a Muslim ban by another name. It is cruel and callous, espouses positions contrary to the professed values of the United States, and will certainly produce more problems than it purports to solve. In other words, it’s exactly like Donald Trump.

    I cannot tell you how livid these scant pages of bureaucratic language make me. In them, Trump is returning the country to the dark days of excluding masses of people on the basis of our national prejudices. It’s as if we’ve reverted to the late 19th century when laws were passed to bar Chinese entry to the United States, but this time the action is by executive fiat and trained on Muslims. Not incidentally, the case law for Chinese Exclusion also established the legal authority for the National Security Entry-Exist Registration System (Nseers), the US government’s previous incarnation of a Muslim registry.

    We’re never far away from our demons.

    The Guardian