What Islamophobic Politicians Can Learn From Mormons @NYTOpinion

Valid points regarding how previous experiences of discrimination can shape current attitudes for some groups:

Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on President Trump’s travel ban, popularly known as the “Muslim ban” because of his statements, like one in 2015 calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

But Mr. Trump is far from the only Republican willing to discriminate against Muslims. BuzzFeed News reported in April that since 2015, Republican officials in 49 states have publicly attacked Islam, some even questioning its legitimacy as a religion.

The only exception? Utah. In that state, where a majority of residents is Mormon, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, elected officials seem to have a deep understanding that an attack on the religious freedom of one group is an attack on the religious freedom of everyone. The rest of the nation should follow their example.

Utah’s politicians stand out against many of those whose statements BuzzFeed News chronicled, like an Oklahoma state representative named John Bennett, who in 2014 called Islam “a cancer,” and last year met with Muslim constituents only after they filled out questionnaires asking whether they beat their wives. A Nebraska state senator, Bill Kintner, proposed that Muslims be required to eat pork if they wished to enter the United States. A state senator in Rhode Island, Elaine Morgan, wrote that “Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape and decapitate anyone who is a non-Muslim” and recommended that Syrian refugees be housed in camps. She later said she was referring only to “fanatical/extremist” Muslims.

In January, Neal Tapio, a South Dakota state senator who is running for the United States House, questioned whether the First Amendment applies to Muslims, asking, “Does our Constitution offer protections and rights to a person who believes in the full implementation of Islamic law, as practiced by 14 Islamic countries” and millions of Muslims “who believe in the deadly political ideology that believes you should be killed for leaving Islam?”

Representative Bennett, the lawmaker who required Muslim constituents to answer questionnaires on whether they beat their wives, said in 2014, “Islam is not even a religion; it is a social, political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.”

Jody Hice, a 2014 Republican congressional candidate from Georgia, questioned the compatibility of Islam with the American Constitution and wrote in 2012 that “Islam would not qualify for First Amendment protection since it’s a geopolitical system.”

And yet, in Utah — one of the most crimson-red states in the Union — such rhetoric is conspicuously absent.

“I’d be the first to stand up for their rights,” said Utah’s senior senator, Orrin Hatch, in 2010 amid the controversy surrounding the construction of an Islamic community center close to ground zero in New York City. He called Islam “a great religion.”

Utah’s other Republican senator, Mike Lee, said he did not vote for Donald Trump in part because he saw the travel ban as a “religious test.” In explaining why many in Utah opposed the ban, Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, observed, “We had Rutherford B. Hayes in 1879 issue an envoy to Europe saying in essence, ‘Don’t send those Mormon immigrants to America anymore.’”

Pointing to this history of Mormon persecution, in 2017, a group of scholars with expertise in Mormon history filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit opposing the ban. They drew a comparison between the government’s current posture toward Muslims and the government’s 19th-century treatment of Mormons. “This court should ensure that history does not repeat itself,” they wrote.

Mormon politicians seem to understand better than many of their fellow Republicans that if another’s freedom of faith is under attack, so, too, is their own. Perhaps this has to do with the church’s 11th Article of Faith, which states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.”

Their interest in the rights of people of other faiths has also been traced to the views of the Mormon founder Joseph Smith, who put it this way: “If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a Mormon, I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a good man of any denomination.”

Mormons know too well what it means to be singled out for persecution, and to have one’s faith maligned as a threat to America. But it shouldn’t require that experience to understand that religious freedom for some is really religious freedom for none.

via Opinion | What Islamophobic Politicians Can Learn From Mormons – The New York Times

Art gallery renames Emily Carr’s ‘hurtful’ Indian Church, but critics say it’s the wrong approach

Agree. More appropriate to put in an interpretative panel, including a more neutral name, acknowledging rather than erasing history:

The painting depicts a colonial structure in an Indigenous setting, but it’s the name of the work that’s spurred a debate about how the art world should address reconciliation.

The Art Gallery of Ontario has renamed a painting by Canadian artist Emily Carr as part of a broader effort to eliminate culturally insensitive language from titles in its collection, a curator says.

But others in the artistic community contend that displacing a work from its historical context does far more cultural damage than a name.

In the 1929 painting, a pallid white church stands out amid the verdant forest in an Indigenous village on Vancouver Island, with dense foliage encroaching on a thin steeple from above and a scattering of cross-marked graves from below.

Carr exhibited the painting as Indian Church, and for nearly nine decades, the name stuck.

But at the Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, the work now hangs under the title Church at Yuquot Village, a reference to the Mowachaht/Muchalaht community where the missionary-built church was located.

A panel near the painting notes the name change beside an asterisk, explaining that the artist’s title was in keeping with “the language of her era.” The text goes on to say that the gallery is in the process of amending titles containing terms that are considered “discriminatory” by modern standards.

“People are wondering about this idea of: “If we change this title, does that mean that we’re changing the past?” And my argument is not at all,” said Georgiana Uhlyarik, the gallery’s curator of Canadian art.

“We’re interested in inviting people into this conversation that we’re having in order for us to move forward, so that we learn from the past and that we figure out what is constructive.”

Uhlyarik said the effort to “contextualize” Carr’s painting is of a piece with the gallery’s decision last October to appoint her and Indigenous curator Wanda Nanibush to jointly head the newly rebranded Canadian and Indigenous Art department.

As part of their “nation-to-nation” artistic approach, the co-curators are working to remove “hurtful and painful” terminology from the titles of works on a case-by-case basis, Uhlyarik said, but the Carr painting marks the first time the gallery has revised a name in such a public and “deliberate” way.

“I don’t think that it changes the meaning of the work itself at all. I think the painting of the church is incredibly powerful, and the title is simply what it’s referred to as,” she said. “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a poetic title in any way, that it was in some ways, much more descriptive.”

After consulting with the residents of Yuquot and Carr scholars, Uhlyarik said she decided to swap the word “Indian” for a geographical descriptor, hoping that the new title would prompt further examination of the history of the church, which she said burnt down and was rebuilt as a community centre due to its significance to the village.

“I think this is how we open up a conversation about colonial history,” she said.

“If there’s a way for us to still have the conversation, and still display the work and remove this immediate insult, then we’re trying to figure out what that way is.”

But for Ligwilda’xw interdisciplinary artist Sonny Assu of Campbell River, B.C., changing the name of the painting does not spark a conversation about colonial history so much as it “revises” it.

“I think (the painting) becomes more hurtful and problematic, because it does erase that history,” Assu said. “It comes off as almost revisionist in a way where it’s repainting that picture of inclusion and of tolerance that just wasn’t there.”

He said he would rather the gallery feature a panel offering Indigenous perspectives on the work.

Jan Ross, curator at Emily Carr House, said renaming a work in contradiction with the artist’s intentions is tantamount to “censorship.”

“That is sacrosanct,” she said. “It robs the artist … I think it behoves us to examine things within the context of their day.”

She said the best way for a curator to affirm their commitment to the principles of reconciliation is to place a work within its appropriate context, not impose one’s curatorial perspective.

Source: Art gallery renames Emily Carr’s ‘hurtful’ Indian Church, but critics say it’s the wrong approach

Douglas Todd: Who cares for Canada’s 71,000 minor international students?

Looks like some opportunity for a more systematic study and evaluation to guide current and future policy. Potential for abuse clearly present:

The client strode into George Lee’s office believing the veteran immigration lawyer would automatically notarize the federal government document that would confirm the client was the legal “custodian” of 10 international students who are minors.

But Lee wouldn’t approve the client’s business plan. The Burnaby immigration specialist knows the intense pressure and loneliness experienced by many young foreign students, who tend to come to Canada from the ages of 12 to 15. Since they’re vulnerable to isolation, depression and suicide, he realizes many need real care.

“I asked the person who wanted to be custodian to 10 minor students: ‘Why do you do this for so many children? What are your responsibilities to them?’ In the end I refused to sign. I refused. I couldn’t do it. This is a burgeoning business in B.C.,” said Lee, who is concerned about the rapidly expanding cohort of early teens coming as foreign students to Canada.

The number of international students in Canada last year reached 500,000, with more than 71,000 being minors, double the total in 2009. B.C. has an out-sized proportion of those aged 17 or less — 24,000, according to the federal immigration department. That is more people than attend an average Whitecaps or Lions game at B.C. Place Stadium.

Since last year’s suicide in Richmond of 17-year-old foreign student Linhai Yu, a little more attention is being focused in B.C. on the thousands of minors trying to make a go of attending the country’s public and private elementary and high schools, while living thousands of kilometres away from their fathers and mothers.

With roughly one third of all foreign students in Canada (about 40 per cent of those in B.C.) hailing from China, the country’s consul general in Vancouver acknowledged more students are arriving before university and many have been involved in “incidents” in the past two years. An informal group led by SFU international student Jialin Guo, who himself came to Canada as a minor, has arisen to try to raise awareness of students who are struggling.

The federal government has few stipulations about who can become an official custodian of a minor foreign student, a service for which offshore parents pay roughly $2,000 to $4,000 a year. All the immigration department asks is that “a custodian is a responsible adult (a Canadian citizen or permanent resident) who takes care of and supports the child.”

There is no requirement the custodian resides with the minor, who normally ends up renting on their own or boarding with a host family. The custodian is supposed to be a kind of legal surrogate parent, meeting with school officials, paying school fees (which typically cost $10,000 to $18,000 per year), monitoring the students’ health and taking over in emergencies.

“There’s a lot of psychological issues with minor students. They have a lot of pressure. Loneliness,” said Lee, who travels frequently to China and generally wonders about the wisdom of children being separated from parents at a young age.

“They need love, devotion and attention from their parents, not to be sent away to a foreign country to reside mostly with strangers. Many foreign students from China know that, culturally, they cannot report negativity to their parents back home because they have spent a lot of money investing in them. If they report negativity, they can be scolded. Their parents generally think if other children can excel in a foreign land, why can’t you?”

Lee and Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland believe one of the latest migration trends in China and other countries is for parents to send their children to Canada, which has no cap on foreign students, to attend high school and even elementary school so they will be at a competitive advantage when later applying to immigrate.

“Since they are coming as young children,” said Lee, “their parents believe they will adapt much easier to Canadian culture and language and the workplace” and thus be ranked highly when they apply for permanent resident status. Most Chinese foreign students who are minors, Lee said, have the added pressure of knowing their parents, many of whom invest in property in Canada’s major cities, expect them to eventually sponsor them to immigrate.

Gary Liu, a scientist who tutors many minor-age foreign students in Coquitlam and Surrey, said there is a great deal of variation in how such students are faring with learning English, being largely unsupervised and adjusting to Canadian culture and people.

“The situation for each child can only be described as ‘case by case,’” Liu said. While some young students appear to get quite a bit of attention from various caregivers, he knows some adult custodians who are coordinating three or four different students, all of whom live separately.

“I’m not sure if ‘abuse’ is the right term for such situations,” Liu said, “but some of the (custodians) are definitely pushing the boundaries.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Who cares for Canada’s 71,000 minor international students?

Quebec’s immigration debate out is of whack with province’s youth

Not sure how representative this survey is of all Quebec youth given limited to three CEGEPs in Montreal but nevertheless interesting and reinforces overall pattern of youth being relatively more open and comfortable with diversity:

….Lost in the political noise last week was a study released by a team of scholars working under the backing of a radicalization research group at Cégep Édouard-Montpetit.

The group surveyed close to 1,000 students at thee mostly francophone Cégeps about their attitudes toward religion, immigration and extremism.

They found that 59 per cent either agreed, or strongly agreed, with the statement that immigrants in Quebec are well-integrated. About the same number disagreed with the idea that the province should accept fewer immigrants.

Strong majorities also indicated they wouldn’t be bothered by a teacher wearing a hijab, skullcap or cross.

Seven out of 10 said they didn’t believe banning religious symbols in public would do much to counter radicalization.

Asked what their major social and political concerns were, the Cégep students prioritized the environment, inequality and economic development over immigration.

This is not to suggest that a debate about immigration is not worth having.

But the findings from this study raise the question of whether the terms of the current immigration debate are at all relevant to the generation that will have to live with its consequences.

Quebec’s politicians are spending a lot of time worrying that newcomers are not fitting in. The province’s youth have moved on to the next question: What are we going to accomplish together?

Source: Quebec’s immigration debate out is of whack with province’s youth

Bill on citizenship to be revised on issue of Ukrainian collaborators in occupied territories – Poroshenko

Not sure that this completely resolves the issues and concerns of expatriate Ukrainians with dual citizens or those inside Ukraine (see earlier Violeta Moskalu: Bill aims to strip Ukrainians living abroad of citizenship | KyivPost):

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a meeting with Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov and Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Ilmi Umerov assured them that the draft law on citizenship will be finalized in the issue of collaborators in the occupied territories.

“There were provisions in this draft law [presidential bill (No.8297) on amending the law of Ukraine on citizenship regarding the improvement of certain provisions] that, on the one hand, protect not only the Crimean Tatars, but also Ukrainians who found themselves in the occupied territory and were forced to accept Russian citizenship under pressure. But there is a small part of the citizens who volunteered to become collaborators – started working in the police, Federal Security Service, illegal authorities,” the presidential press service reported on the results of his meeting with the leaders of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people in Kyiv on Friday.

“I heard your appeal. We have now discussed this and I decided to revoke the bill on citizenship,” he said.

According to him, the “provision on collaborators” will be deleted and the bill will be finalized jointly.

“And we will divide these two things. The first thing is the Law on Citizenship and the Protection of Ukrainian Citizenship. On the other hand, the Law on Collaborators regulates the issues concerning this, albeit small, category of citizens. They must receive an absolutely fair response from Ukrainian legislation, Ukrainian Law and state,” the president emphasized.

Chubarov thanked the president for supporting this initiative to remove the provisions that apply directly to the occupied territories. “Our goal is very clear and everyone knows it – those who violated the Laws of Ukraine and started cooperation with the occupants will be punished. And all the others who maintain dignity and remain loyal to Ukraine – we will all live together in our Crimea,” he said.

According to him, the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens who live in the occupied Crimea are waiting for Ukraine, they expect the restoration of state sovereignty and control over Crimea.

As reported, on April 19, 2018, the Ukrainian president tabled in parliament a draft law (No. 8297) introducing amendments to the law of Ukraine on citizenship.

Among other things, it foresees that the acquisition of citizenship of the Russian Federation as a result of unlawful and unfair acts in the territories temporarily occupied by the Russian administration and the self-proclaimed authorities controlled by Russia is not considered a voluntary acquisition of foreign nationality and therefore is not a reason for the loss of Ukrainian citizenship.

However, the grounds for the loss of citizenship of Ukraine will be the implementation of the electoral or other rights granted by foreign citizenship, or the performance of the obligations envisaged by foreign citizenship, which can be confirmed by the data of public registers of state authorities, local governments of foreign states and information on official websites and in official publications.

The basis for the loss of Ukrainian nationality will also be the use of a passport of another country when crossing the border of Ukraine, which is recorded by an official of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine or another state body.

At the same time, the draft law proposes clarifying the procedure for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship and abandoning foreign citizenship.

Although, according to the website of the Ukrainian parliament, the bill was withdrawn on May 16, 2018.

Source: Bill on citizenship to be revised on issue of Ukrainian collaborators in occupied territories – Poroshenko

Australia’s Immigration Solution: Small-Town Living

Similar to strategies to encourage rural immigration in Canada (e.g., Atlantic Canada, Francophone communities outside Quebec):

PYRAMID HILL, Australia — A lanky Filipina girl with long black hair stood at the wickets behind St. Patrick’s School, waiting for a bowl from a burly dad with a reddish beard.

The cricket ball came in slow. Her swing was quick as a bee’s wing, sending the ball skyward as a gaggle of kids — mostly Filipino, some white — cheered and elbowed to bat next.

The game, played on a recent afternoon, was a typical mixed gathering for Pyramid Hill, a one-pub town of around 500 people in central Victoria that has become a model of rural revival and multicultural integration.

“I’m still surprised they’re as open to us as they are,” said Abigail Umali, 39, a veterinarian from Manila who works at a local pig farm, and whose daughter, Maria, was the girl at bat.

“This school wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” said Kelvin Matthews, 36, the bowler, as he watched the children interact.

Towns of a few hundred people are fading like puddles in the sun

Filipinos now make up nearly a quarter of Pyramid Hill’s growing population. New homes are going up here for the first time in a generation — and both the newcomers and lifelong residents say they have found the answer to rising concerns about immigrants straining resources in Australian cities.

It’s called small-town living.

“People in the country mix, and need to mix,” said Tom Smith, a pig farmer who inadvertently started the town’s revival in 2008 when he sponsored visas for four workers from the Philippines. “It’s just different out here; it’s the only way to survive.”

Rural collapse is a familiar tale, seen across the American Midwest and in many areas of Europe, where small communities have been squeezed by globalization. It’s no different in Australia: an urbanizing country, as physically large as the United States, where towns of a few hundred people are fading like puddles in the sun.

But the success of Pyramid Hill — and many other small Australian towns — suggests that there are opportunities being missed and lessons to be learned. At a time when politicians in Australia, and around the world, are calling for restrictions on immigration, small towns in Australia are asking for more immigrants.

“There’s a real network of people who know how to make this work, who make it work in their community and can share it with others,” said Jack Archer, the chief executive of the Regional Australia Institute, a government research organization. “This is something we should really be thinking about scaling up.”

Landmarks of Despair

Pyramid Hill is a quiet drive of about 240 kilometers, or 150 miles, from Melbourne, finishing with a stretch of land that is mostly empty except for golden wheat fields and lint-gray sheep.

The community took its name in 1836 from a granite outcrop on the town’s edge. From its peak, I had little trouble seeing newer landmarks, which rose above the countryside and hinted at local despair: grain silos that are no longer used; a pet food factory that shut down in 2008.

Residents still talk about the era before the Filipinos came as one of quiet desperation. Streets without children. Homes decaying. The town’s population bottomed out at 419 in 2011, down from 699 in the 1960s.

“We were in dire straits,” said Cheryl McKinnon, the mayor of Loddon Shire, the municipality that includes Pyramid Hill. “We needed our population to grow.”

Economists often discuss immigration in terms of a multiplier effect. Newcomers don’t just fill jobs, they also create them, by bringing demand for new products and services.

This is especially true in Australia, where the minimum wage is 18.29 Australian dollars an hour ($13.70) and most migrants are skilled workers or students.

“Australia’s focus on skilled migration has demonstrated positive effects for economic growth,” a recently published government report on population growth found, “because our migrants on average lift potential G.D.P. and G.D.P. per capita.”

In many cities and suburbs, though, population growth has brought frustration. Melbourne added 125,000 people during the last fiscal year, its largest recorded increase, and Sydney added 102,000. In both cities, immigration was the primary cause, prompting complaints about housing, crowded schools and traffic.

The areas reviving most quickly tend to offer new arrivals not just jobs but a sense of community

The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has responded to such concerns by restricting immigration: maintaining harsh offshore detention centers for asylum seekers and limiting the number of skilled-worker visas.

Places like Pyramid Hill offer an alternative.

“There just has got to be some employment opportunity,” said Mr. Archer of the Regional Australia Institute. “There’s more of that than people think.”

Statistics from the institute suggest that many rural communities suffer not from a lack of employment, but a lack of employees.

Labor market participation in regional Australia — the areas outside major cities — is well above the national average. And since rural populations tend to be older, that means many people continue to work well after they might have wanted to retire.

Research from the Regional Australia Institute shows that the areas reviving most quickly tend to offer new arrivals not just well-paying jobs but a sense of community.

In the Shire of Dalwallinu, a town in Western Australia’s Wheat Belt that is coming back to life thanks to migrants from the Philippines and elsewhere, residents helped workers move their families from abroad.

In the small town of Nhill, in northwestern Victoria, locals have managed the arrival of ethnic Karen refugees from Myanmar since 2010, helping them find housing, learn English and engage in social activities.

Pyramid Hill’s evolution has been just as personal. Neighbors regularly meet to share food and learn about each other’s cultures.

“Every month there’s one Australian speaker and a Filipino speaker, and we cook for each other,” said Helen Garchitorena, 47, a leader of the exchange. “We explain the importance of the food, and we talk.”

Compared with those in many cities and suburbs, people in Pyramid Hill seem to have more time and interest in building bonds across ethnic boundaries. An annual Filipino “fiesta” was added to the town’s events calendar in 2015, and every week seems to include an opportunity to socialize.

USA: Suicide rates for black children twice that of white children, new data show

Significant study and yet another example of racial disparities:

African-American children are taking their lives at roughly twice the rate of their white counterparts, according to a new study that shows a widening gap between the two groups.

The 2001-2015 data, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, confirm a pattern first identified several years ago when researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio found that the rate of suicides for black children ages 5 to 12 exceeded that of young whites. The results were seen in both boys and girls.

Although suicide is rare among young children, the latest findings reinforce the need for better research into the racial disparities, lead author Jeffrey Bridge said Monday. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for older children and adolescents in the United States.

“We can’t assume any longer that suicide rates are uniformly higher in white individuals than black,” said Bridge, an epidemiologist who directs the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Columbus hospital. “There is this age-related disparity, and now we have to understand the underlying reasons. . . . Most of the previous research has largely concerned white suicide. So we don’t even know if the same risk and protective factors apply to black youth.”

Historically, suicide rates in the United States have been higher for whites than blacks across all age groups. That remains the case for adolescents, ages 13 to 17, according to the new study. White teens continue to have a 50 percent higher rate of suicide than black teens.

Overall between 1999 and 2015, more than 1,300 children ages 5 to 12 took their own lives in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those numbers translate into an average of one child 12 or younger dying by suicide every five days. The pace has actually accelerated in recent years, CDC statistics indicate.

The researchers based their latest analysis on the CDC’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, which does not include geographical or socioeconomic data.

Although the study was unable to provide a cultural context for the racial difference in suicide rates, psychiatrist Samoon Ahmad thinks a number of reasons could account for the disparity.

“To me, the 5-12 range is more related to developmental issues and the possible lack of a family network, social network and cultural activities,” said Ahamad, a clinical associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine who was not involved in the research. “And with the introduction of social media, there is more isolation with children, not as much neighborhood play. Kids are more socially in their own vacuum.”

Ahmad described this age group as “probably the most vulnerable.” Yet adults tend to think the children are somehow too young to experience such depths of despair, he noted.

“No one talks about that with them. We tend to put them in silos, and don’t discuss these things because we think it’s too traumatic,” he said. “Instead, there must be a slow and steady flow of communication.”

Previous studies have looked at some of the characteristics and circumstances surrounding children’s suicides.

In 2017, research by Bridge and colleagues found that among children, ages 5 to 11, and young adolescents, ages 12 to 14, those who took their own lives were more likely to be male, African American and dealing with stressful relationships at home or with friends. Children who had a mental health problem at the time of death were more likely than young adolescents to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Young adolescents who killed themselves were more likely to have had relationship problems with a boyfriend or girlfriend. They also had higher rates of depression, according to last year’s study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics.

That 2017 report found more than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved black children compared to just 11.6 percent of early adolescent suicides.

Bridge said his motivation for delving into this issue was a suicide in a town not far from Columbus. The child was not yet 10.

“We went into the original study because suicide rates were increasing among adolescents in the United States,” Bridge said. The local death “made us think if there was a change in the suicide rate of children, and that’s what made us look into it.”

Source: Suicide rates for black children twice that of white children, new data show

Many jihadis from Germany have German citizenship: Report | DW

More on German debates and the question of citizenship revocation. As noted, more symbolic than more effective approaches:

The German government knows of more than 1,000 Islamists who have left Germany for Syria or Iraq to support terrorist organizations there, media reported on Sunday.

The figure comes from an answer given by the government to a question from the parliamentary representatives of the Left Party, according to newspapers of the Funke media group.

The government also cited security authorities as saying that more than half of those who had left Germany for such conflict zones had German passports, the newspapers said in their report.

The figure given by the government shows a further increase in the number of those traveling abroad as jihadis, but indicates that the rate of departures has slowed considerably in comparison with two years ago.

According to the report, 243 supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) have also travelled abroad to support the coalition fighting the extremist group “Islamic State” (IS). Germany classes the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Unconstitutional proposal?

Although dozens of German Islamists are in prison in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, many others, including women and children, have since returned to Germany.

The report said that during coalition negotiations between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), it was agreed that returning fighters with double citizenship should have their German nationality canceled if there is evidence of their having fought for a terrorist militia.

This plan was criticized by the Left Party’s expert for domestic affairs, Ulla Jelpke, who called it “unconstitutional.” She also told the Funke group newspapers that such a move would punish Germans who had fought alongside the Kurds against IS.

Turning back jihadis

Her counterpart from the SPD, Uli Grötsch, also slammed the proposal, even though his party agreed to it in the coalition deal.

“It is more symbolic than politically useful,” he said, saying that prosecution and deradicalization were what was needed instead.

However, the domestic affairs expert of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Armin Schuster, defended the measure, saying that a jihadi who was no longer German could be sent back at the border.

via Many jihadis from Germany have German citizenship: Report | News | DW | 20.05.2018

EU Agency Rolls Out Survey of European Jewish Reactions to Antisemitism in 13 Countries

Will be interesting to see the results. Would be also nice to have an equivalent survey with respect to Muslim citizens and residents and their experiences with racism and discrimination (FRA may have already done this):

Jewish citizens and residents of 13 European Union member states are being urged to fill out on an online survey detailing their personal experiences with antisemitism, as part of a new EU initiative to combat hatred and prejudice toward Jews.

The survey, launched earlier this month, has been organized by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) in association with two UK-based institutions — the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), a think tank located in London, and the polling organization Ipsos.

A statement from the FRA said that the goal of the survey was to compile “comparable data on the experiences, perceptions and views of discrimination and hate crime victimization of persons who self-identify as Jewish on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or any other reason.”

The survey is being conducted in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. As well as completing the survey in their national languages, respondents also have the option to submit their answers in Hebrew — a reflection, perhaps, of the growing presence of Israeli émigré communities in cities like Berlin and Paris.

Judith Russell — development director of the JPR — told the French Jewish newspaper Actualité Juive that her institute had carried out a similar survey in 9 European countries in 2012, with positive results.

“The results of the 2012 study prompted the European Commission to appoint a coordinator in the fight against antisemitism, and to agree on the definition of the word ‘antisemitism’ on a European level,” Russell remarked.  “This new survey can still drive new solutions at European level.”

The survey asks respondents for their opinions about general trends in antisemitism — for example, whether they feel that there has been an increase in antisemitic statements by elected politicians — as well personal experiences of antisemitism at work or at school, or in public places. Initial results are scheduled for release in November.

Source: EU Agency Rolls Out Survey of European Jewish Reactions to Antisemitism in 13 Countries

Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors – The Globe and Mail

So much for MBS’s efforts to present an image of reform:

Just weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift its ban on women driving, the kingdom’s state security said Saturday it had detained seven people who are being accused of working with “foreign entities.” Rights activists say all those detained had worked in some capacity on women’s rights issues, with five of those detained among the most prominent and outspoken women’s rights campaigners in the country.

Pro-government media outlets have splashed their photos online and in newspapers, accusing them of betrayal and of being traitors.

The women activists had persistently called for the right to drive, but stressed that this was only the first step toward full rights. For years, they also called for an end to less visible forms of discrimination, such as lifting guardianship laws that give male relatives final say on whether a woman can travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry.

Their movement was seen as part of a larger democratic and civil rights push in the kingdom, which remains an absolute monarchy where protests are illegal and where all major decision-making rests with the king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Some state-linked media outlets published the names of those detained, which include Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Najfan.

Rights activists who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussion say Madeha al-Ajroush and Aisha al-Manae are also among the seven detained. Both took part in the first women’s protest movement for the right to drive in 1990, in which 50 women were arrested for driving and lost their passports and their jobs.

All five women are well-known activists who agitated for greater women’s rights. Several of the women were professors at state-run universities and are mothers or grandmothers.

The Interior Ministry on Saturday did not name those arrested, but said the group is being investigated for communicating with “foreign entities,” working to recruit people in sensitive government positions and providing money to foreign circles with the aim of destabilizing and harming the kingdom.

The stunning arrests come just six weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift the world’s only ban on women driving next month.

When the kingdom issued its royal decree last year announcing that women would be allowed to drive in 2018, women’s rights activists were contacted by the royal court and warned against giving interviews to the media or speaking out on social media.

Following the warnings, some women left the country for a period of time and others stopped voicing their opinions on Twitter.

As activists were pressured into silence, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old heir to the throne stepped forth, positioning himself as the force behind the kingdom’s reforms.

Human Rights Watch says, however, the crown prince’s so-called reform campaign “has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment.”

“The message is clear that anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda faces time in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Last year, Prince Mohammed oversaw the arrests of dozens of writers, intellectuals and moderate clerics who were perceived as critics of his foreign policies. He also led an unprecedented shakedown of top princes and businessmen, forcing them to hand over significant portions of their wealth in exchange for their freedom as part of a purported anti-corruption campaign.

In an interview with CBS in March, he said that he was “absolutely” sending a message through these arrests that there was a new sheriff in town.

Activists say writer Mohammed al-Rabea and lawyer Ibrahim al-Mudaimigh, two men who worked to support women’s rights campaigners, are also among the seven detained. Al-Mudaimigh defended al-Hathloul in court when she was arrested in late 2014 for more than 70 days for her online criticism of the government and for attempting to bring attention to the driving ban by driving from neighbouring United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia.

Those familiar with the arrests say al-Hathloul was forcibly taken by security forces earlier this year from the UAE, where she was residing, and forced back to the kingdom.

In recent weeks, activists say several women’s rights campaigners were also banned from travelling abroad.

Immediately after news of the arrests broke, pro-government Twitter accounts were branding the group as treasonous under an Arabic hashtag describing them as traitors for foreign embassies.

The pro-government SaudiNews50 Twitter account, with its 11.5 million followers, splashed images of those arrested with red stamps over their face that read “traitor” and saying that “history spits in the face of the country’s traitors.”

The state-linked Al-Jazirah newspaper published on its front-page a photo of al-Hathloul and al-Yousef under a headline describing them as citizens who betrayed the nation.

Activists told the AP that some in the group were arrested on Tuesday and at least one person was arrested Thursday. They say the detainees were transferred from the capital, Riyadh, to the city of Jiddah for interrogations where the royal court has relocated for the month of Ramadan.

Activists say it’s not clear why the seven have been arrested now.

via Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors – The Globe and Mail