When does Islam generate Western anxiety? – The Washington Post

Interesting and relevant analysis, an interesting suggestion for further research and some likely controversial advice for Muslim groups in terms of their use of words:

In recent years, the United States and its “Western” allies have faced countless foreign policy choices involving the Islamic world, from engaging with Islamist governments in Egypt and Tunisia to negotiating with Iran to managing drone campaigns in at least three countries. While foreign policy decisions are shaped by many factors, public opinion is a major input. So how does the perceived Islamic character of actors influence foreign policy attitudes toward them?

Unfortunately, our existing understanding of these perceptions is limited. Research shows that religious differences are an important ingredient in foreign policy attitudes — recent survey experiments have shown that Western citizens were more willing to start a war against “Muslim” than “Christian” adversaries. But religious differences are often more complex.

Consider the key participants in the Syrian civil war: The Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, the “moderate” Free Syrian Army, Kurdish rebel groups, Hezbollah and the Bashar al-Assad regime are all broadly “Muslim,” but their Islamic character is portrayed — by themselves as well as by Western media — quite differently. Do these differences shape foreign policy attitudes toward them? When are Western populations really fearful and mistrustful of Islamic political actors?

Our new study in Political Research Quarterly explores these dynamics. In an original survey experiment, we randomly assigned subjects different news stories about the ongoing Syrian conflict in which we manipulated the Islamic character of a fictitious yet realistic foreign actor — the “Free Syria Movement” (FSM) — seeking U.S. military assistance. Specifically, we examined whether giving the actor common Islamic language like “Allahu akbar,” policy goals such as sharia law, and/or labels including “Islamist” affected the respondents’ social affect, political attitudes and foreign policy preferences toward the group. Conducted in May 2015 via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform, the survey was completed by 1,095 respondents, with at least 120 in each of the eight conditions.

1. Islamic cues do indeed matter.

Under normal circumstances, we found that respondents’ attitudes towards the FSM were relatively benign. Although they knew the group was Muslim, they tended to give neutral or mixed responses about its level of trustworthiness, compatibility with American values, emotional impact on them and potential role as an American regional ally. Likewise, respondents had mixed views about sending FSM the requested American military aid, although they leaned slightly against doing so overall.

In contrast, with the three cues incorporated, all of these responses shifted in a significantly negative direction. Respondents tended to see the group as untrustworthy, incompatible with their values and interests, a source of fear and a potential regional adversary. Their willingness to give it aid moved firmly toward opposition, dropping on average by more than seven percentage points. And other attitudes saw even larger negative shifts, with the average trust in the group dropping by 10 percentage points. Essentially, respondents did not inherently have hostile attitudes toward the Islamic actor, only when “cued” to do so.

2. Some cues matter more than others.

Yet we also found that some of the Islamic cues harmed attitudes toward the group far more than others. Of the three, insertion of “sharia law” as a policy goal had the most harmful impact, while use of the “Islamist” label did not yield any statistically significant negative effects on any of the outcomes. This is not wholly surprising. Although sharia can have many different meanings in the Muslim world — from inclusive welfare states to punitive morality codes — Western elites have characterized this concept solely in terms of violence and oppression. In the words of Newt Gingrich, sharia is “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the rest of the world as we know it.” In fact, anti-sharia legislation had been proposed in 23 American states by 2011. This “sharia-phobia” is not unique: other broad Islamic political goals such as the pursuit of a caliphate have been received with similar apprehension in Western political discourse.

3. The influence of these cues depends on partisanship.

Finally, we found that the impact of the cues depends on party identification. With all three cues activated, for example, we see a 22 percentage point drop in trust in the group among Republicans, a 10 percentage point drop among independents and a 5 percentage point drop among Democrats. This also is not wholly unexpected. Republican political elites often describe national security threats in more explicitly Islamic terms — with a greater willingness to label terrorist groups as “Islamic” and invoke concepts such as sharia and the caliphate to characterize their goals. We interpret this mostly as Republican identifiers taking cues from their elites. Yet, as indicated above, independents and Democrats are not immune from these reactions either.

This study suggests at least two promising areas of future research. First, we can examine the flip side of the coin: how adopting Christian language, policies and labels in the West influences foreign policy views in the Islamic world. This could help determine whether these processes mirror each other, in a Sisyphean cycle of religious politicization. Second, we could research whether and how these negative reactions to Islamic cues can be effectively countered. Does including brief translations and explanations of these cues that highlight their positive aspects, diverse meanings and/or Judeo-Christian equivalents ameliorate Western apprehension?

For now, we know that politicized Islamic cues such as sharia spark deeply negative Western perceptions and preferences toward their users. In the foreseeable future, Muslim actors seeking Western assistance or support would be wise to use them with great care.

Source: When does Islam generate Western anxiety? – The Washington Post

TDSB’s plan to tackle racial disparity

John Malloy, director of education for the TDSB, on what they are doing to improve outcomes for all groups. Always like to see data and evidence-driven approaches.

Look forward to any comments from readers in Toronto:

The Toronto District School Board has heard the critiques and acknowledges there are racial disparities in our school system, which we must continue to work on.

It is correct to point out white students in the TDSB are more likely to be found in high-income neighbourhoods, while black students are more likely to be found in low-income neighbourhoods. And while we do face issues of poverty, our job is to provide schools in every neighbourhood that create conditions for all children to succeed.

In particular, Sachin Maharaj’s recent opinion piece in the Star on black students in Toronto schools makes some valid points and defines the challenges many school boards face. It’s important, however, to recognize that the TDSB has taken, and will continue to take, steps to ensure that all students are able to succeed.

The TDSB’s Model Schools for Inner Cities Program, launched in Toronto’s most needy neighbourhoods 10 years ago, has shown that schools can be essential equalizers. With extra resources, such as additional staff, iPads for students, after-school programs, unique field trips and Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, the program has given a great number of students the tools and encouragement they need to succeed.

TDSB research on the impact of Model Schools over time shows evidence of improved academic achievement and student well-being. We have also seen higher credit accumulation by the end of Grade 10 than before the program was in place (from 50 per cent to 64 per cent of students in priority neighbourhoods attaining the expected number of credits). Many of these factors help explain the TDSB’s rising graduation rate from 78 per cent in 2005 to 85 per cent in 2015 — our highest ever.

Having said that, we do recognize achievement levels among some black students are lower than their peers. Our data shows this and we have been open about it. In fact, we collect more data than most school boards across the country and for good reason. We want to know where the gaps are and where extra supports are needed.

Over the past number of years, we have been using this data to boost improvement. This work has been overseen by board-wide and community-driven Equity and Inner-City advisory committees, which bring a collaborative, school-community focus to addressing opportunity, participation and achievement gaps. This work needs to continue and we must also take a more deliberate approach to responding to this data.

In the past, our research has shown opportunity, participation and achievement gaps for historically marginalized student populations and we have acted in direct response with, for example, pre-kindergarten readiness, after school programs and in-school health clinics for students. More of these intervention strategies must be done and they need to have a more direct impact on classroom teaching and learning.

More recently, trustees voted to establish a Black Student Achievement Advisory Committee to examine and make recommendations on strategies to create more equitable outcomes for black students.

We have also put in place a new Learning Centre model across the city that will improve the speed with which we identify and respond to learning gaps. The Learning Centres strategy will place resources closer to schools, decentralize decision-making and reduce bureaucracy so we can get the support students need in the hands of principals and teachers and impact the classroom sooner.

This fall, the TDSB will prepare an Integrated Equity Plan that will spark tough and challenging conversations system-wide and in each and every school. It will engage principals and ultimately classroom teachers to respond more directly to key questions, such as:

  • What barriers exist in the school that might be keeping students from achieving?
  • What bias might persons in the school possess about what certain groups of students are able to achieve?
  • What needs to change in terms of the instruction, the environment in the school and the relationships in the school?

Under the plan, senior management and central departments will oversee the implementation. Their mandate will be to ensure principals and vice principals are engaging staff, students, and parents/guardians to work together to build action plans for schools that promote a sense of belonging, support and well-being and help eliminate barriers to success. As with many TDSB initiatives, we will closely monitor and evaluate this new model’s effectiveness to ensure it’s having the impact we intended.

We recognize that patterns of systemic racism and discrimination exist within our society and this has to stop. For our part, the TDSB is committed to working within our schools, and with our parents, communities, the city and province to reduce and eliminate racism and discrimination in all forms.

Source: TDSB’s plan to tackle racial disparity | Toronto Star

Australia: Study shows dearth of multiculturalism at the top 

Canadian numbers of corporate boards largely comparable – see Don Cayo: Time for corporate boards to take diversity seriously, but Canadian public service and political representation stronger (see my “Because it’s 2015 …” Implementing Diversity and Inclusion):

A study released by the Race Discrimination Commissioner shows senior leaders in Australia remain overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic or European in heritage.

It found, out of 201 chief executives at ASX 200 companies, only 10 were of non-Anglo-Celtic, non-European heritage.

None had an Indigenous background.

In federal parliament and the public service and among university chancellors, cultural diversity was also found to be dramatically under-represented.

The report’s author, University of Sydney Business School dean Greg Whitwell, says bias and discrimination on selection committees remains a barrier to equal opportunity.

“The tendency is to have a bias towards choosing people whom you think are ‘just like us,’ who have a similar background, a similar attitude, just a similar sense of humour, a similar sense of looking at the world.”

Professor Whitwell says the prevailing belief that leaders should be dominant and aggressive is another roadblock.

“In a sense, you can’t win. If you’re the stereotypical quiet, respectful Asian, then you’re damned, because you’re too quiet, you’re too respectful. But if you’re too aggressive, speaking loudly, you’re forthright, then you’re violating the stereotype, which, in turn, leads the selection committee to think negatively towards you.”

Australia Post and Optus are among the few Top 200 companies in Australia to have appointed culturally diverse leaders.

DAWN, an organisation that advocates for diverse leadership, says there is a pool of diverse talent ready to utilise.

Chief executive officer Dai Le says organisations need to look into how to harness it.

“I think we need to look at quality. I think we need to look at capability. Because we just cannot have just one group of people on boards, because there’s no diversity of thought, no diversity of perspective.”

The study calls for senior leaders to make it their personal mission to advance cultural diversity and for organisations to set diversity targets and gather data to track their progress.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane says Australia needs to be honest with itself and recognise it still has work to do to be truly inclusive.

Source: Study shows dearth of multiculturalism at the top | SBS News

Those who focus on police reform are asking the wrong questions: Amanda Alexander

Agree, police reform is only part of the solutions and approaches:

….Reformers are asking the wrong questions. They have turned to increased police training and altered use-of-force protocols to end this nightmare. Fortunately, some among us demand another way. Young black activists are not just asking, “How do we make cops stop shooting us?” but instead, “What do our communities need to thrive? How do we get free?” They’re not begging for scraps; they’re demanding the world they deserve. If there’s a future for any of us, it’s in asking these questions, demanding fundamental shifts in resources and organizing like hell.

So far reform has brought little outside of multimillion-dollar investments in police departments for body cameras. It remains to be seen whether they will be effective in reducing brutality and deaths. But one thing is clear: We’ve decided that doubling down on investment in the police, rather than the communities they patrol, is the best solution to ending the slaughter of black people.

Ultimately, the real beneficiaries of these reforms are not the residents of Oakland, Chicago and Ferguson, Mo., but San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile, cash-strapped cities continue to raise revenue from policing and fining the poor. And because of insufficient social service investment, Americans rely on police to be first responders to crises of mental health, addiction and homelessness. The results are tragic: Half of those killed by police have a disability.

It’s no wonder that mainstream discussions of police reform seem to miss the mark. Yet black movement activists remain bold. Organizers with Black Youth Project (BYP 100) and the Movement for Black Lives held more than 80 actions last week under the banner of #FreedomNow. BYP 100 renewed its demand to “fund black futures,” calling on Americans to divest from the police state and invest in communities to promote economic sustainability.

This call to fund black futures is not a call for reform. Instead, it understands the futility of our current path. It’s ultimately a call to a future where policing will never take us.

And they’re organizing to make it so. In Chicago, Fearless Leading by the Youth demanded – and won – a state-of-the-art trauma centre to serve their community. In Cleveland and Chicago, organizers removed prosecutors who failed to act on police shootings. Advocates are testing alternatives to police –gun-free zones, 911 alternatives, restorative justice – and also fighting for health care and education.

These young people are fighting to do more than breathe, more than reform. From grief and pain, they’re offering a dream of something more.

Source: Those who focus on police reform are asking the wrong questions – The Globe and Mail

Swiss to revoke citizenship of dual-national jihadists – SWI swissinfo.ch

The criteria range from relatively specific to extremely broad. The one about “insulting” another state is particularly egregious as well as the lack of due process:

The issue has been debated for a long time. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is in theory already able to denaturalise dual nationals, based on the 1952 law on the acquisition and loss of Swiss citizenship.

This law is vague, however, stating that the SEM can revoke – with consent of the canton of origin – the citizenship of a person holding dual nationality if his or her conduct is “seriously detrimental to the interests or the reputation of Switzerland”. This has never occurred.

On June 17, the cabinet agreed the regulation, which will enter into force in January 2018. Among other things, it listed offences that could result in someone being stripped of their Swiss citizenship.

These include a serious crime being committed in connection with terrorist activities, violent extremism or organised crime. Also mentioned are genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, violations of the Geneva Convention and other crimes that could apply to Islamic State fighters and jihadists.

Since 2001, 77 people have left Switzerland to fight in conflict areas, mostly Syria and Iraq, according to figures for July from the Federal Intelligence Service. Of these, 29 had Swiss citizenship – and of those 17 had dual nationality.


Dual citizens could also lose their Swiss passport if they “endanger in the long term Switzerland’s good relations with another state by insulting that state”.

In addition, the regulation includes the main offences that were written into the 1952 law with Nazis in mind: attacks upon Swiss independence, banned political intelligence and propaganda that could harm the country.

The regulation will apply only to dual nationals, since preventing statelessness is central to basic international law and the Swiss government regularly rejects bills that violate this.

Citizenship will also be revoked only on condition of a legal conviction. That said, this requirement can be qualified: if the state in which the offence is committed is not in the position to carry out penal proceedings, citizenship can be revoked without a conviction.

Source: Swiss to revoke citizenship of dual-national jihadists – SWI swissinfo.ch

Euphemisms are like underwear – best changed frequently | McWhorter

Another good piece on the use of words and language by John McWhorter (see The big problem with calling it ‘radical Islam’ – CNN.com):

What the cognitive psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker has artfully termed ‘the euphemism treadmill’ is not a tic or a stunt. It is an inevitable and, more to the point, healthy process, necessary in view of the eternal gulf between language and opinion. We think of euphemisms as one-time events, where one prissily coins a way of saying something that detracts from something unpleasant about it. That serves perfectly well as a definition of what euphemism is, but misses the point that euphemism tends to require regular renewal. This is because thought changes more slowly than we can change the words for it, and has a way of catching up with our new coinages. Since that is likely eternal, we must accept that we’ll change our terms just like we change our underwear, as a part of linguistic life in a civilised society.

The reason for this rolling semantic renewal is that the meanings of words are, in actual usage, messier than their dictionary definitions, cast in the tidy eternity of print, might make them seem. We store words in our brains amid webs of association, with experiences, impressions and other words. As a result, a word is always redolent of various associations, metaphorical extensions, beyond its core meaning.

For example, generous once meant noble, with no connection to sharing. It’s what William Shakespeare meant when he used the term. So when Edmund in King Lear defends himself against dismissal as low-born by insisting that

… my dimensions are as well compact,

My mind as generous, and my shape as true,

As honest madam’s issue

it can throw us a bit, making us wonder how a mind can be generous, and we find it a bit curious that someone would defend himself against a charge of bastardy by pointing out his magnanimity. However, in earlier societies, the noble person was often responsible for a degree of charity to the ordinary population, such that magnanimity was a trait associated with nobility. Over time, especially as formal nobility itself had ever less importance (think of the fate of the Crawleys in Downton Abbey), the meaning of magnanimity changed from a resonance of generous to the meaning it has today.

A word, then, is like a bell tone, with a central pitch seasoned by overtones. As the tone fades away, the overtones can hang in the air. Words are similar, with opinion, assumption and, more to the point, bias as equivalents to the overtones. Crippled began as a sympathetic term. However, a sad reality of human society is that there are negative associations and even dismissal harboured against those with disabilities. Thus crippled became accreted with those overtones, so to speak, to the point that handicapped was fashioned as a replacement term free from such baggage.

What a warm, charitable word welfare is at its core, and how much static and bile we must peel away to hear it that way again

However, because humans stayed human, it was impossible that handicappedwould not, over time, become accreted with similar gunk. Enter disabled, which is now long-lived enough that many process it, too, as harbouring shades of abuse, which conditions a replacement such as differently abled. Notably, the International Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled later changed its name again to Rehabilitation, International; today, the organisation prefers to be known simply as ‘RI’, bypassing the inconvenience of actual words altogether. The story has been similar for retarded being replaced by cognitively impaired; for welfare, which today is more often referred to as cash assistance; or by the faceless initials of programmes disbursing it, such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

Opinion can permeate a euphemism to such an extent that it becomes difficult to conceive of how it once sounded. Welfare was a replacement for what was once commonly referred to as home relief. The empathy in that term was soon blunted by associations with the people granted relief, such that older generations will recall home relief practically uttered as a negative epithet by the 1950s and ’60s. Meanwhile, reflect on what a warm, charitable word welfare is at its core, and how much static and bile we must peel away to hear it that way again. Similar is affirmative action: a term that 50 years ago resounded with a clean, stalwart clang of high-minded social justice now sounds freighted, sour, vague and tired to many on both sides of the political spectrum. Racial preferences was an attempt at a replacement – and note its similar fate.

As a lad decades ago, I worked briefly in the production of a magazine about family planning. Unfamiliar with the terminology, I spent months in this job before fully understanding that family planning referred to contraception, not just people musing over when they ‘planned’ to have children. Why the obliqueness? Because family planning was a replacement euphemism for birth control, coined in 1914 by the US contraception activist Margaret Sanger. Note that birth control was in itself as elliptical and abstract a terminology as family planning. Yet today, birth controlsummons the concrete image of a contraceptive pill or other device. It was inevitable that this would become the case for birth control given the controversy over its use.

This sheds light on the linguist George Lakoff’s briefly acclaimed proposal during the George W Bush administration that Democrats could regain influence by changing the terms for things reviled by Republicans. Taxes could be membership fees; trial lawyers could be public protection attorneys. As fresh as this idea seemed, it could have only worked temporarily, as the history of words such as welfaredemonstrates. The nature of language and humanity is such that, after about 20 years, those criticising taxation rates would have come to process and discuss ‘membership fees’ with the same contempt with which they once discussed ‘taxes’, just as it has got to the point that custodian now has roughly the same feel as janitor, for which it emerged as a euphemism in the 1940s. Custodian makes one think not of ‘custody’ but of a mop.

Thought will always catch up with the word. Make no mistake, the thoughts can be ones that many would consider welcome. A hundred years ago, in industry, efficiency was associated with the ‘scientific management’ theories of Frederick Taylor, the US mechanical engineer and one of the first management consultants, in search of the maximum output from factory labourers. However, as this kind of efficiency often led to the need for fewer workers, a question arose as to whom the efficiency was intended most to benefit.

Today, efficiency carries a faintly minatory air, in contrast to its first neutral, and then glamorous, feel as the 20th century got underway. Downsizing, an attempt to euphemise the dismissal of workers for the purposes of the bottom line, rapidly lost any impartial connotation it was crafted to purvey. In the mid-20th century, urban renewal was a term of art for what on the ground displaced millions of Americans, often from low-income but stable neighbourhoods deemed ‘slums’ and razed down. Today, that reality has been aired amply and publicly, such that urban renewal calls to mind a bulldozer mowing down innocent people’s homes. Notably, there seems to be no replacement term for urban renewal, partly because the policies of urban czars such as New York’s city planner Robert Moses have been so thoroughly repudiated that public officials no longer espouse any similar doctrine. Ultimately, words alone cannot do this: urban renewal itself began as a euphemism for the more direct slum clearance, but the practice only burgeoned for decades thereafter. It took thought changing to truly transform.

‘Innovation’ has been fashionable for long enough among corporate and political types that it has taken on their hucksterish associations

The euphemism treadmill, then, is neither just a form of bureaucratese, nor of identity politics. It is a symptom of the fact that, however much we would like it to be otherwise, it’s easier to change language than to change thought. Moreover, the euphemism treadmill is neither new nor does it churn faster than it once did. When you ask someone Where’s the men’s?, you are using a replacement for the restroom that can summon a vision of a certain undersanitised room in the back of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant. Yet the very idea of it being a ‘rest’ room began as an exquisite attempt to wave away miasmic associations after bathroom ceased to do the job any better than had toilet or lavatory, deflecting attention to grooming and cleansing over what else happens in the room. Historically, lavatory is first attested in 1864, restroom followed hot on its heels a few decades later, at the turn of the 20th century, and then men’s room came into fashion in the 1920s.

This means that, in a linguistically mature society, we should expect that the terms we introduce to help us kick off new ways of thinking will require periodic replacement, like tyres. In our moment, special-needs student would appear about due for a swap-out. Meanwhile, the term innovation has been fashionable for just long enough among corporate and political types that it has taken on their hucksterish associations. Invention, for their purposes, would be better, although by about 2035 we can assume that this word too will sound, from the mouths of that era’s managers and mayors, equally fulsome.

Reality persists. It’s language we have control over – at least, for a while.

Source: Euphemisms are like underwear – best changed frequently | Aeon Essays

Why applying for citizenship is an anxiety filled process – and not just for applicants

I think Anne-Marie Fortier takes the arguments too far: some degree of language fluency and knowledge of the country is required, and the question is more how best to do so in a manner that is reasonable, fair and transparent.

Like all processes, particularly significant ones, some anxiety is natural and to be expected:

As we consider what post-Brexit citizenship might look like, it is crucial to understand the pervasiveness of anxiety and its integral role in shaping policy processes. Here, Anne-Marie Fortier discusses how anxiety is attached especially to English language ability for applicants, whilst also highlighting the role it plays for those on the other side of the process: the registrars checking applications  for citizenship or settlement.

Writing for The Guardian, Pakistan-born author Kamila Shamsie described how she never felt safe when she was applying for British citizenship: ‘I wasn’t prepared for the mutable nature of immigration laws, and their ability to make migrants feel perpetually insecure’. EU nationals have been feeling similar insecurities about their future status in Britain for months now. Brexit, of course, can only heighten such worries.

These experiences of insecurity resonate with that of many applicants I met in the course of my research on ‘becoming citizen’ in the UK. But those applying for citizenship or permanent resident status (known as ‘settlement’) are not alone in experiencing uncertainty and anxiety about citizenship and nationality rules: local authority registrars also at times feel anxious about the responsibilities and roles they are expected to fulfil as part of the citizenship attribution process.

Like many countries in Western Europe since the 1990s, Britain has undertaken a radical reform of its naturalisation measures. The revised process was put in place in 2004 and subsequent amendments followed in 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2016 (proposed). Today, applicants for settlement or citizenship must provide evidence of English fluency, complete the Life in the UK test (known as the ‘citizenship test’), and attend a citizenship ceremony when granted British citizenship.

The process of acquiring or attributing settlement or citizenship is riddled with anxiety in three interrelated ways: 1) anxiety is built into the process itself; 2) anxiety affects those who are involved in the process in different ways; and 3) anxiety ties into the reproduction of hierarchies of entitlement and belonging.

Building anxiety into the citizenship process

First, at the very heart of the requirement for immigrants to prove their English fluency and knowledge of ‘Life in the UK’ is an anxiety about ‘incursions’ of foreign cultures into the national domestic space. Since the summer of civil disturbances in Northern England in 2001, several British politicians have linked disaffection and risks of radicalisation among racial minority youths with ‘growing up in an English-free home’. These politicians include former Labour MP Ann Cryer in 2001, former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2002, as well as David Cameron at the start of this year.

Language and citizenship education should be available in order to provide new arrivals with crucial tools to facilitate their integration. But when language proficiency becomes politicised and conceived of as evidence of ‘integration’ rather than a tool for integration, it becomes the site where anxieties about protecting the ‘national culture’ are projected onto immigrants, residents or citizens with poorer or different English language skills. This lays the foundation for linguistic xenophobia that many have been subjected to for the past ten years, and which rose sharply in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.

How anxiety affects different people within the application process

‘Khebat’ was a 27-year old Kurdish man from Iran when I met him in May 2013 in a private language school where he was taking a one-week intensive English language class to try to fulfil the language requirement for settlement. He had arrived as an asylum seeker in 2004 and was refused refugee status. He was living in Britain on a three-year leave to remain visa. As a ‘failed’ asylum seeker, Khebat knew he was ineligible for settlement. But he felt it unfair that a ‘friend’ who ‘don’t speak English’ passed the citizenship test and ‘got British’ (citizenship).

English fluency operates like a ‘checkpoint’ at the borders of citizenship rights, and Khebat internalised that logic. Khebat and many others (including applicants who are eligible for settlement) struggle to fit themselves into the policy. And a tension arises between how applicants read the requirements for English fluency and the way that the law reads them as perpetual outsiders regardless of their English fluency.

But it is not only applicants who are anxious about the securing of settlement or citizenship. Integral to citizenship processes is another anxiety about ‘fraudulent’ applicants, namely in the case of ‘sham marriages’ (or civil partnerships), which registrars have the statutory duty to report.

As part of the citizenship process, many local authority registrars (who deal with births, deaths and marriages) also provide optional services to settlement or citizenship applicants: the Settlement Checking Service (SCS) for applications for settlement on the basis of marriage (SET[M]), and the Nationality Checking Service (NCS) for citizenship applications. The role of registrars is to ensure that applications are complete and ready to be sent to UK Visa and Immigration, where decisions are made.

Conducting the SCS includes ensuring that couples have enough evidence of co-habitation. When I observed a training session about new SET(M) regulations in 2013, an extensive discussion arose about what counts as satisfactory evidence. Aside from the anxiety about getting it right, this discussion also revealed the limitations registrars see with the tools at their disposal to make a definitive assessment. The law operates in clear binary codes that separate the ‘genuine applicant’ from the ‘fraudulent applicant’ as if these were coherently and clearly gaugeable. But when faced with the much less coherent ways in which people organise their lives, registrars find themselves in the ambivalent position of exercising the state’s anxiety about ‘sham marriages’, while at the same time experiencing their own anxieties about the limits of the tools the state gives them to make that judgement and the fear of wrongly suspecting ‘genuine’ applicants.

Anxiety and hierarchies of belonging and entitlement

By attaching itself to linguistic competence, anxiety is projected onto individuals with perceived poorer or different English language skills who are judged according to a hierarchy of deservedness and belonging. Anxiety also attaches itself to bureaucratic processes that registrars find inadequate for distinguishing between ‘genuine’ and ‘fraudulent’ applicants.

Embedded in state practices such as citizenship attribution are anxieties about foreigners, such as those ‘not able to speak’ English and ‘not willing to integrate’ as David Cameron has stated, or foreigners who defraud the system. Such anxieties then recirculate among those who are variously involved in acquiring or attributing settlement or citizenship. However, the circulation of anxiety will have different effects on different subjects, as they are differently placed within the relations of power between the state and ‘foreigners’.

The pervasiveness of anxiety, and its integral role in shaping policy processes, is something then that needs to be studied in more depth; this is particularly the case as we consider what post-Brexit citizenship might look like.

Source: Why applying for citizenship is an anxiety filled process – and not just for applicants | British Politics and Policy at LSE

France wants to feel safe – whatever it takes. But what if it takes too much? Dominique Moisi

Another good piece on the limits of what can and should be done:

There is plenty that can and must be done to strengthen security in France and elsewhere. But the ultimatum that some French are now implicitly presenting – guarantee absolute security, or watch us cast aside the rule of law and basic principles of openness and equality – does more harm than good.

The French, like all people, deserve to feel safe whether they’re going to church, enjoying a concert or celebrating a holiday. The question is how to restore that sense of security at a time when the risk of a terrorist attack cannot be fully eliminated.

The answer lies with civil society. Citizens should become more alert to the signs of radicalization, and more educated on how to respond. People should be encouraged to report the possible radicalization of those close to them to relevant authorities, whether mental-health professionals or the police. The goal is not to have people making unsubstantiated accusations against neighbours and friends; it is to create channels through which people who recognize radical or violent leanings in someone they know can report their concerns.

This model has worked for Israel. Despite regular exposure to terrorist attacks, Israelis retain a sense of relative security, owing partly to the ability of civil society to contribute to their own safety. As a result, citizens are willing to respect what Max Weber called the state’s “monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force.”

France is not on the verge of collapsing into chaos, with vigilantes attempting to take on the terrorists. But the relentless fear-mongering of populists, together with genuinely terrifying, tragic, and infuriating experiences, is undermining people’s better judgment, causing them to fall prey to inflammatory rhetoric. With a presidential election next year, there is strong incentive for self-serving politicians to use the victims of Nice as instruments of campaign strategy.

This cannot be allowed to happen. If the French ultimately succumb to fear and elect populist bigots, the struggling Islamic State will have scored a victory. Make no mistake: the Islamic State is losing. Its territories in Syria and Iraq are dwindling, but it has a last-ditch strategy to prop itself up: rapid recruitment. And that would receive a major boost from intensification of anti-Muslim rhetoric or, worse, the election of those who would turn rhetoric into policy.

Islamic State recruiters are achieving success; from Orlando to Istanbul to Dhaka, it has found plenty of supporters who are eager to kill in its name. But as long as the West remains united and principled, IS cannot emerge victorious.

For France and others, the key is collective action, at home and abroad, which will require improved links between internal and external security agencies, together with greater risk awareness within civil society, along Israeli lines. Add that to continued strikes against IS sanctuaries, and its dream of an Islamic caliphate will soon be dead.

Regaining control over our lives and our destinies means being realistic. Instead of demanding a return to a time before terrorism, we must become more alert to the risks it poses – not only to our safety, but also to our values and commitment to the rule of law – and do our part to minimize them.

Source: France wants to feel safe – whatever it takes. But what if it takes too much? – The Globe and Mail

Security agencies face ‘real challenge’ fighting terrorism: London police head

Worth noting:

Identifying and tracking people who could turn into terrorists remains a challenge. At least 800 people from Britain went to Syria in recent years, with many joining the Islamic State and others in the fight against the Syrian government. Roughly 400 have returned to Britain and the police now have to assess their potential threat. They are ranked on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the most dangerous.

Many of those who returned from Syria were legitimate aid workers or IS fighters who became frightened of the conflict, he said. “You could, therefore, regard them as a lower-risk group. But we can’t absolutely guarantee that,” he added. “They remain a continuing concern.”

He had praise for controversial programs such as Prevent, which obliges teachers and others in Britain to report people engaging in radical behaviour. Critics have said Prevent stigmatizes those who have been reported and unfairly targets Muslims. Sir Bernard said that while it isn’t perfect, the program can offer help to vulnerable people and families.

Putting guns in the hands of police officers isn’t a solution, he added, because that only increases barriers between cops and communities. The Metropolitan force remains one of the few in the world where the vast majority of officers do not carry guns. Of the city’s more than 32,000 officers, only 2,100 are armed. However, that number is slated to increase by 600 because of the attacks in Paris last November that killed 130 people.

“Just arming all police is not always the answer,” he said. “And our way is to have well-trained specialist officers, well equipped, well led, who we’d be deploying in large numbers to deal with that type of attack.”

One of the most effective tools to combat terrorism, and most other crimes, is the city’s vast network of CCTV cameras. After rioting in 2011, which spread across several parts of London, police gathered 250,000 hours of camera footage to seek out the culprits. About 800 officers spent a year combing through the material, leading to 5,000 arrests. Of those charged with a crime, 90 per cent “pleaded guilty because [the video footage] was such powerful evidence,” he said.

Britons have become so accustomed to the proliferation of cameras in the subway, on buses, across public places and in some taxis that the country has not had a major debate about privacy issues.

Sir Bernard said that is because the cameras were introduced at the local level. “It wasn’t the government saying you’re all going to have CCTV cameras. This was local authorities saying we want it in a public space, in shopping centres, and buses wanted it,” he said, adding that for police work, the cameras are “incredibly powerful.”

Source: Security agencies face ‘real challenge’ fighting terrorism: London police head – The Globe and Mail

When a Canadian is not a Canadian: Pardy on consular services

While Pardy is correct to note that policies have not kept up with increased mobility, he downplays the need to recognize that a “Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” does not necessarily apply abroad.

To my mind, a policy framework for consular services needs to distinguish between Canadian citizens only, dual nationals travelling to countries where dual nationality is recognized, dual nationals travelling to countries where dual nationality is not recognized, and Permanent Residents.

The first two categories are where providing consular services is a given and where this will be recognized in the other country.

Where dual nationality is not recognized, while Canada can try to provide consular services, the other country will likely be unhelpful given that the person entered as a national of that country, not Canada.

And I see no reason to provide consular services to Permanent Residents, as consular services are related to citizenship.

For people in such situations, our missions abroad can make representation on international human rights ground.

So while theoretically there are no limits to what Canada can do, there are in practice.

Of course, media, family and political pressure will undoubtedly favour wider, rather than narrower interpretations, but it is important, from both a policy and operational perspective, to understand the differences:

Unlike historical migrations to Canada that involved a one-way trip and the ending of familial and other connections, people born abroad but living in Canada now have more chance to stay connected with their homelands. Other migratory countries face a similar situation. It is a common aspect of modern migration with, for many, a former life only several air-hours away, or seconds for direct communications.

Unfortunately, affected governments have had trouble adjusting, and international law even more so, to these increasingly common aspects of international travel.

Many countries are not willing to accept Canada has a legitimate interest in ensuring such Canadians (or foreign-born residents) are treated in accordance with international norms and standards. Equally troubling is that many countries are unwilling to recognize the Canadian citizenship of those who hold it.

International law is weak to non-existent in this area. While there is an international convention on the provision of consular services, its weak provisions offer very little comfort in many of these situations.

Equally, there are no specific international agreements or understanding outside of broad international human rights law of the right of Canada and other migratory-destination countries to offer protection to persons who are not citizens.

Canada does not help itself in these matters. There is a reluctance to intervene in cases when a Canadian resident encounters serious difficulty in a foreign country. Usually in response, ministers and officials state: “There are limits to what any country can do for individuals who are not citizens of that country.” But they piously iterate that “the government continues to monitor the situation closely.”

In fact, there are no limits to what a country can try to do to assist such persons. Whether the other country will accept such efforts by Canada is an entirely separate issue; but not to try is an abdication of an appropriate responsibility.

Complicating assistance in such cases is the continuing existence of the historical convention of “Crown prerogative.” It provides discretion to the government for the denial of assistance to even Canadian citizens in difficulty overseas.

There were indications earlier this year that the Trudeau government might be willing to disavow the use of this discretion, but so far nothing specific has been announced.

The continued existence of this discretion undermines the ability of the government to provide consular services generally. It is particularly ironic that the discretion continues even though Canadians specifically pay for such services to the tune of approximately $100 million annually. This is a serious anomaly since the government collects monies for a service it admits to no compulsion to provide.

Source: The Hill Times