Think the [US] Supreme Court Isn’t Inching Us Toward Trump’s Muslim Ban? Think Again – Dean Obeidallah

Tend to agree in terms of messaging:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday reinstating a portion of President Trump’s Muslim ban is an alarming step to legitimizing anti-Muslim bigotry and possibly even one day legalizing discrimination against American Muslims. If you have any doubt, just check out Twitter, as self-professed Trump supporters cheered what they saw as being a first stepon the way to Trump’s declared goal of a “total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States.”

But why wouldn’t they rejoice, considering 65 percent of GOP primary voters support Trump’s call for a total Muslim ban? Yet we are told time and time again that Trump voters were motivated by “economic anxiety” not bigotry. It’s hard to even write that line without laughing

Yes, I understand that the Supreme Court’s decision is limited in scope and that even the liberal justices apparently agreed to it until the case is fully briefed and argued in the fall, but that doesn’t in any way reduce the concern that the message sent is that Muslims don’t belong in America. A message that Trump despicably made many times on the campaign trail and even after being sworn in as president.

For example, in addition to Trump’s call for a Muslim ban, he declared irresponsibly that “Islam hates us” and lied that “thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey on 9/11. And as president, Trump has made it clear with his actions that American Muslims—as opposed to foreign Muslims who give him gold necklaces or help him make money—are not a part of his view of America.

As I pointed out last week, after the recent terror attack in London by a white anti-Muslim bigot who has since been charged with terrorism, Trump offered zero sympathy on Twitter for the Muslim victims. But after the London bridge terror attack just three weeks earlier that had been perpetrated by Muslims, Trump quickly took to Twitter to not just express condolences but to gin up fears of more terrorism.

And Trump recently amplified the message that he doesn’t view Muslims as fellow Americans as Ramadan came to a close on Sunday. You see, every president since 1996 has held a dinner during Ramadan in the White House to commemorate this holiday. George W. Bush even held one the Ramadan after 9/11 to send a message to Americans that Muslims are part of the fabric of our nation. But not Trump. The man—who, when he implemented his original Muslim ban, made an exception for Christian refugees while leaving Muslim refugees to die on the killing fields of places like Syria—would not be seen sitting with American Muslims in the White House.

The Supreme Court’s ruling distressingly confirms Trump’s message that Muslims are inherently dangerous and are not like the rest of us. And just so it’s clear, this is a Muslim ban. True, it’s not a total ban on every Muslims but it’s one grounded in anti-Muslim animus. And that’s not just my opinion, but also the view of the various federal judges who have examined it.

Source: Think the Supreme Court Isn’t Inching Us Toward Trump’s Muslim Ban? Think Again

Islam in Germany: Berlin Mosque Where Burqas Are Banned and LGBT Muslims Welcome Defies Fatwa

Says something about the Turkish and Egyptian religious authorities:

The woman who opened a mosque in Berlin where men and women pray together and face-covering headscarves are banned has vowed to defy a fatwa from Egypt’s highest Islamic authority and criticism from the Turkish government.

German-Turkish women’s rights activist Seyran Ates, 54, pioneered the opening of the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque in the Moabit neighborhood of Berlin on June 16. Ates said that the mosque was open to all, including LGBT Muslims, and would seek to provide a liberal counterpoint to extremist interpretations of Islam espoused by groups like the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

But the mosque has not been received well by traditional Islamic authorities in Egypt and Turkey, where Ates was born. Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which is widely regarded as the world’s highest authority on Sunni Islamic theology and sharia law, issued a religious judgement (or fatwa) criticizing liberal mosques in general, according to The Guardian.

Egypt’s state-run Islamic institution, Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah, issued a statement on June 19 heavily criticizing the Berlin mosque, saying that men and women praying side by side was a violation of Islam and stating that such liberalization of Islamic values was not the way to combat extremism.

In Turkey, the criticism has been widespread and virulent. Turkey’s main religious authority, Diyanet, said that the Berlin mosque’s practices “do not align with Islam’s fundamental resources, principles of worship, methodology or experience of more than 14 centuries” and described them as “experiments aimed at nothing more than depraving and ruining religion.”

Turkish media outlets have also accused Ates of ties to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed Gulen for the failed coup in July 2016, which has led to a massive crackdown on freedom of speech and political opposition in Turkish society.

But Ates told The Guardian that she took heart from the criticism. “The pushback I am getting makes me feel that I am doing the right thing,” she said. “God is loving and merciful—otherwise he wouldn’t have turned me into the person I am.”

The mosque is housed in part of an old Lutheran church and is open to Muslims of all traditions, including Sunni and Shiite, as well as people of other religions or no faith. Ates, who is in training as an imam, has led prayers at the mosque; the position of imam is traditionally reserved for men in mainstream Islam.

She also banned the wearing of burqas and niqabs—the former covers the whole face except the eyes; the latter covers the entire face, with a mesh for the wearer to see through—at the mosque as she considered such practices to be “political statements,” Ates said in an interview with German magazine Spiegel.

Ates told The Guardian that the congregation has dwindled since the mosque opened as would-be worshippers stayed away due to the controversy. She said that the mosque had nothing to do with Gulen or his followers, and added that she has been the subject of abuse and death threats herself.

Preaching at the mosque on Friday, Ates called upon her critics to be “brave enough to show their true face” and voice their concerns publicly. “Allah knows their true face anyway. And it is Allah to whom they are accountable, not us,” she said.

On its website, the mosque says that it seeks to promote a “secular liberal Islam that separates secular and religious power” and “strives for a contemporary and gender-oriented interpretation of the Qu’ran and ‘hadith.” The hadith is a collection of sayings about the life and practice of the Prophet Muhammad, which mainstream Sunni Muslims interpret as a normative guide for religious belief and practice.

Ates’ project has defenders as well as critics. Following the statement from Turkey’s Diyanet, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, Martin Schaefer, said that he “rejected all comments that clearly intend to deprive people in Germany of their right to freely exercise their religion and to limit the right to free expression of opinion,” Reuters reported.

A Malaysian female imam based in the U.S., Ani Zonneveld, hit back at criticism received in her home country after she led the call to prayer at the Berlin mosque, while Mona Eltahawy, a prominent Egyptian Muslim feminist and author, expressed her solidarity with Ates.

Source: Islam in Germany: Berlin Mosque Where Burqas Are Banned and LGBT Muslims Welcome Defies Fatwa

Canada’s Secret to Resisting the West’s Populist Wave – The New York Times

Although I find Taub’s analysis superficial (and her understanding of multiculturalism’s history as being driven the Quebec narrative rather than the pressures by other groups such as Ukrainian Canadians that did not see themselves in a bicultural narrative), nevertheless she notes correctly that all political parties have to engage and court new Canadian voters:

As right-wing populism has roiled elections and upended politics across the West, there is one country where populists have largely failed to break through: Canada.

The raw ingredients are present. A white ethnic majority that is losing its demographic dominance. A sharp rise in immigration that is changing culture and communities. News media and political personalities who bet big on white backlash.

Yet Canada’s politics remain stable. Its centrist liberal establishment is popular. Not only have the politics of white backlash failed, but immigration and racial diversity are sources of national pride. And when anti-establishment outsiders have run the populist playbook, they have found defeat.

Outsiders might assume this is because Canada is simply more liberal, but they would be wrong. Rather, Canada has resisted the populist wave through a set of strategic decisions, powerful institutional incentives, strong minority coalitions and idiosyncratic circumstances.

While there is no magic answer to populism, Canada’s experience offers unexpected lessons for other nations.

A Different Kind of Identity

In other Western countries, right-wing populism has emerged as a politics of us-versus-them. It pits members of white majorities against immigrants and minorities, driven by a sense that cohesive national identities are under threat. In France, for instance, it is common to hear that immigration dilutes French identity, and that allowing minority groups to keep their own cultures erodes vital elements of Frenchness.

Identity works differently in Canada. Both whites and nonwhites see Canadian identity as something that not only can accommodate outsiders, but is enhanced by the inclusion of many different kinds of people.

Canada is a mosaic rather than a melting pot, several people told me — a place that celebrates different backgrounds rather than demanding assimilation.

“Lots of immigrants, they come with their culture, and Canadians like that,” said Ilya Bolotine, an information technology worker from Russia, whom I met at a large park on the Lake Ontario waterfront. “They like variety. They like diversity.”

Identity rarely works this way. Around the world, people tend to identify with their race, religion or at least language. Even in the United States, an immigrant nation, politics have long clustered around demographic in-groups.

Canada’s multicultural identity is largely the result of political maneuvering.

In 1971, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau faced a crisis amid the rise of French Canadian separatism in Quebec. His party was losing support, and his country seemed at risk of splitting in two.

Mr. Trudeau’s solution was a policy of official multiculturalism and widespread immigration. This would resolve the conflict over whether Canadian identity was more Anglophone or Francophone — it would be neither, with a range of diversity wide enough to trivialize the old divisions.

It would also provide a base of immigrant voters to shore up Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

Then, in the early 2000s, another politician’s shrewd calculation changed the dynamics of ethnic politics, cementing multiculturalism across all parties.

Jason Kenney, then a Conservative member of Parliament, convinced Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the party should court immigrants, who — thanks to Mr. Trudeau’s efforts — had long backed the Liberal Party.

“I said the only way we’d ever build a governing coalition was with the support of new Canadians, given changing demography,” Mr. Kenney said.

He succeeded. In the 2011 and 2015 elections, the Conservatives won a higher share of the vote among immigrants than it did among native-born citizens.

The result is a broad political consensus around immigrants’ place in Canada’s national identity.

That creates a virtuous cycle. All parties rely on and compete for minority voters, so none has an incentive to cater to anti-immigrant backlash. That, in turn, keeps anti-immigrant sentiment from becoming a point of political conflict, which makes it less important to voters.

In Britain, among white voters who say they want less immigration, about 40 percent also say that limiting immigration is the most important issue to them. In the United States, that figure is about 20 percent. In Canada, according to a 2011 study, it was only 0.34 percent.

The Liberals are talking about gender, and that will change Ottawa

Good reporting and analysis by Campbell Clark:

In fact, it’s not easy for the Liberals to show their gender policies will change the day-to-day lives of women here, let alone around the world. And political opponents dismiss a lot of it as branding.

But there’s no doubt that this government’s focus on women will have a lasting impact on Canadian politics and government. Even the symbols: It’s hard to imagine a future prime minister appointing a cabinet where two-thirds of the ministers are men.

Some of the symbols around gender issues that delight Liberals seem to particularly irritate their opponents, such as Mr. Trudeau’s repeated assertions that he’s a feminist. “Pinkwashing,” one New Democrat called it – accusing the Liberals of mounting a marketing exercise when they won’t back substantive policies to address, for example, the gender gap for low-income women. Some Conservatives argue the Liberals spend money on bureaucracy to signal their good intentions, but their plans won’t have concrete effects.

But opponents who dismiss it as political marketing tend to admit it probably works. “Oh, they’re kicking our ass,” said one Conservative. When in power, Conservatives were often reluctant to talk about the representation of women in positions of power; on the left, touting a feminist foreign-aid policy, for example, can help the Liberals compete with the NDP for progressive voters.

And it’s clearly not motivated by just electoral politics. There are true believers, cabinet appointees such as Labour Minister Patty Hajdu and influential senior aides such as Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford. The government, under Ms. Telford’s eye, has applied gender-equity tools on matters so boringly inside the machinery of government, such as gender analysis in every department and on all initiatives before cabinet, that it can’t possibly be aimed at voters. It’s hard to say if that will really have an impact, but in theory, the government will know if infrastructure funds for hockey arenas or daycares are going to create jobs for men or women, or benefit one gender more.

When an investigation by The Globe and Mail’s Robyn Doolittle found that one in five sexual-assault complaints was dismissed as unfounded, and that the rate of this finding varied dramatically from place to place, it sparked an immediate e-mail chain between Ms. Telford, Ms. Monsef, and Ms. Hajdu. A month later, the budget set aside $100-million for a gender-based violence strategy.

The thing is, gender-based violence is a big, complex problem. Ms. Monsef called it the “greatest barrier to gender equity in this country.” The centrepiece of the government’s new strategy is collecting data, and there have been questions about whether that’s really an adequate response.

Ms. Monsef noted that figures haven’t been collected since 1993 – “We have cyberviolence. That didn’t happen in 1993,” she said. Data will help design effective prevention programs. But a key reason she offers is that they will honour the stories of survivors by collecting “evidence” for policies. Another Liberal government insider suggested that with solid numbers, it’s harder to argue about the scale of the issue.

It’s unclear what impact the strategy will have. But the Liberals have done a key thing to the politics: They’ve raised demand, and expectations.

Source: The Liberals are talking about gender, and that will change Ottawa – The Globe and Mail

With wider search for soldiers, Canada’s military broadens horizons [in hiring]

The The numbers are abysmal as shown above in the dated chart but it does appear that the military is taking more serious steps to address the gaps.

It would also be nice if their annual employment equity report would be posted publicly rather than having to request it from the Library of Parliament:

First, though, comes a significant and persistent challenge: getting more Canadians to join.

The Forces have struggled for years to hit recruiting numbers, resulting in thousands of unfilled positions such as pilots and technicians.

That’s why fixing the recruiting system is a top priority, said Lt.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, the chief of military personnel, whose role is to oversee all aspects of human resources in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Central to that goal is making the military more inclusive, diverse and attractive to all Canadians, regardless of their backgrounds.

“Our population doesn’t look like all white guys,” Lamarre said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“If you want to get the very best people – the very smartest, most capable, most committed and most ingenious – then you need to look broadly and not exclude groups that would be very useful to you.”

There is more to the push towards increased diversity and inclusiveness than simply recruiting, though that part of the equation is vitally important.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, recently released a diversity strategy in which he noted that Canada was becoming more diverse – and the military needed to follow suit.

Doing so would be necessary to attract and retain people, Vance wrote, as well as to ensure the military continued to reflect the society it is sworn to protect, and to increase its effectiveness on missions abroad.

That’s why the Forces appear to be turning a page: leaders are recognizing the real importance of diversity, said Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

“This idea that people with different views, different experiences, different skill sets are going to make the military stronger has been kind of coalescing and coming together for about a year and a half,” Okros said.

“This isn’t a luxury, this isn’t social engineering, this isn’t political manoeuvring or political correctness. This is now an operational requirement.”

Vance has since taken the unprecedented step of ordering the military to grow the percentage of female personnel to 25 per cent in the next decade, up from 15 per cent.

Recruiters are now launching targeted advertising campaigns and reaching out to women who previously expressed an interest in a military career but didn’t join.

Senior commanders, meanwhile, are reviewing everything from uniforms and ceremonies to food and religious accommodations to see whether they meet the requirements of a more diverse force.

Lamarre plans to speak Monday at a citizenship ceremony in Ottawa in hopes of explaining to new Canadians what he describes as “a tangible way in which they can serve their nation.”

And he hopes to sit down with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and other indigenous leaders to talk about ways to reach out and attract people from those communities.

Others within the military are getting in on the action too, with the head of the navy, Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, issuing a directive last week encouraging his sailors to attend Pride parades in uniform.

Vance is expected to issue a similar directive to the rest of the military in the coming days.

Not everyone agrees with what the military is doing, Lloyd acknowledged, including some of those who are already in uniform. But changing the face of the Forces isn’t just some feel-good exercise, he said.

“In order to be successful in the future, we need to be able to recruit from the entire population.”

There are other challenges to overcome besides convincing some current personnel of the importance of diversity.

The military is still trying to overcome years of bad headlines about the treatment of women and members of the LGBT community by adopting a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

There has also been a historic lack of interest in the Forces by many ethnic communities, particularly those that trace their origins to countries where the military has a bad reputation.

And then there are the problems identified by auditor general Michael Ferguson last year, namely that the recruiting system is struggling with red tape and the effects of Conservative budget cuts.

Source: With wider search for soldiers, Canada’s military broadens horizons – The Globe and Mail

Trump win produces only tiny bump in numbers of Americans applying for Canadian #citizenship

Not surprising:

The number of Americans applying for Canadian citizenship jumped slightly after Donald Trump’s election, but numbers are still only half what they were five years ago.

New statistics from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada obtained by the National Post show an average of 400 U.S. citizens put in their applications in each the first four months of this year, compared to an average of 264 per month in 2016 — including a spike in applications in November, the month Trump was elected.

But overall — despite reports of the immigration website crashing on election night, and earnest tourism campaigns sprouting in Cape Breton, N.S. — the trend line has gone down in the past couple of years.

In the decade since 2007, applications peaked in 2011, with an average of 564 Americans per month applying to become Canadians.

A batch of data to the end of 2016 was obtained through the access-to-information system and newer numbers were provided by Immigration spokesman Rémi Larivière. The numbers do not include Americans who may have moved to Canada recently to become permanent residents, or who already live here — just those who are applying for citizenship to seal the deal.

The website for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada crashed Nov. 8 while Americans were voting in their presidential election.

In the lead-up to the election, the idea of moving to Canada became a popular tongue-in-cheek reaction to the prospect of either electoral outcome — with Americans deeply divided between supporting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and many apparently voting against one or the other rather than for them. It appeared some were taking it more seriously when the immigration website crashed.

All of the traffic was not necessarily election-related, however. The first day of a new system requiring visa-free travellers to apply for Electronic Travel Authorizations was Nov. 10, and had visitors heading to the site to fill out forms and pay $7 fees.

Source: Trump win produces only tiny bump in numbers of Americans applying for Canadian citizenship | National Post

A Battle Over Prayer in Schools Tests Canada’s Multiculturalism – The New York Times

One of the better and more in-depth articles (the Times is certainly increasing the breadth and depth of its coverage of Canada):

The turmoil is one reflection of how Canada’s growing diversity is encountering powerful headwinds, especially in places with significant Muslim populations.

“Although we have a policy of multiculturalism, for most Canadians there is an expectation that immigrants will conform to the mainstream,” said Jeffrey Reitz, the director of the Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies program at the University of Toronto. “Religious accommodations have been made to various groups, and you’re going to get a backlash once in a while.”

The problems in the Peel schools are a particular kind of conflict in a diverse society, social scientists say — involving immigrants and minorities who challenge aspects of Canada’s cherished multiculturalism.

In 2015, socially conservative residents in Ontario school districts, some of them Muslim, objected to an updated sex education curriculumbecause it teaches the names of sex organs and broaches the topic of same-sex relationships.

Since 2013, some Muslim parents in metropolitan Toronto have asked schools to exempt their children from mandatory provincial music classes, citing their belief that Islam forbids listening to or playing musical instruments.

Like its neighbor to the south, Canada is a country of immigrants, helping to fuel a national ethos that celebrates diversity. More than 20 percent of the Canadian population in 2011 was foreign born, a figure that is expected to reach nearly 30 percent by 2031, according to government estimates. In cities like Toronto and Vancouver, the proportion of ethnic minorities could top 60 percent.

The demographic changes have been especially pronounced in metropolitan Toronto, a patchwork of cities and suburban towns bustling with an array of languages and faiths.

School boards like the one in the Peel district are at the forefront of the battles over multiculturalism. The district is among the country’s most diverse, with nearly 60 percent of all residents described as “visible minority,” or nonwhite, according to the 2011 census.

It includes large numbers of Chinese, Filipinos and blacks, but nearly half are categorized as South Asian, a group that includes Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. The Peel district is home to about 12 percent of Canada’s Muslim population.

In allowing prayer in its schools, the Peel district relied on a provision in the Ontario Human Rights Code that the Ontario Human Rights Commission has interpreted as requiring government-funded schools — both public and Catholic — to “accommodate” students in observing their personal faiths.

Other provinces in Canada have similar policies.

For Farina Siddiqui, 43, a Muslim activist whose children attend public and Catholic schools in the Peel district, allowing students to worship once a week in school is a matter of religious freedom.

“We’re not asking for schools to provide a prayer hall for everyone to practice a religion,” she said. “We just ask for the right to have a space to pray.” She supported permitting the children to write their own sermons.

Tarun Arora, 40, who works for an outsourcing call center company and immigrated to Canada from India in 2003, said school boards should not be endorsing sermons or allowing prayer in his children’s public schools at all. He wants the schools to be completely secular.

“I’m sending my kids to school for education, but the schools are being treated as religious places, and this is not right,” Mr. Arora said.

He is a member of Keep Religion Out of Our Public Schools, also known as Kroops, a group that formed in January when the board decided to allow the children to write their own sermons. The group has protested outside recent school board meetings and says it plans to bring a lawsuit challenging the policy of allowing prayer in the Peel schools, arguing that the law does not explicitly permit it.

Another group with a similar name, Religion Out of Public Schools, began an online petition to eliminate religious congregation and faith clubs in Canadian schools. It has garnered over 6,500 signatures from people across Canada and the United States.

Many of the petition comments specifically criticize Islam. But in interviews, three members of the group, all of them Indian-Canadian, said they opposed the practice of any religion in public schools, not just Islam.

Renu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, which is charged with interpreting the Ontario code, said schools had a duty to accommodate religious belief.

“Accommodation doesn’t equal endorsing or otherwise becoming entangled in religious practice,” Ms. Mandhane said. “Whether that requires prayer space in school, we’ve never said. What’s required is we need to reasonably accommodate a person’s beliefs.”

In an interview, she disputed the argument made by many protesters that the policy benefits only Muslims. She noted that Jews and Christians were already accommodated because their most important days of worship fall on the weekend, when schools are closed.

“In many ways, what we’re seeing in Peel is the edge where human rights and hyperdiversity connect,” Ms. Mandhane continued. “What Peel shows is that even in places with huge racial diversity, you can have people who identify with different communities but disagree about human rights issues.”

To the Peel school board and many Muslims in the district, the strife over religious accommodation is little more than Islamophobia.

At board meetings, protesters have screamed anti-Muslim epithets, while attacks against Muslims who speak out publicly have spread on social media, leading to the stationing of police officers at the meetings and outside schools. The imam who received the death threat also got an online message calling for his mosque to be burned.

During one fraught school board meeting, a man tore up pages of the Quran, stunning a community that had long prized its tradition of tolerance.

“These are people trying to fuel the fire and brew our ignorances,” said Rabia Khedr, executive director of the Muslim Council of Peel, which lobbied the school board in support of the students’ right to pray. “Religious accommodation is not at the exclusion of everybody. It’s at the inclusion of everybody.”

Anver Saloojee, a political-science professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, has another explanation. He noted that many of those speaking out against the religious accommodation policy were members of the Indian diaspora, including some vocal Hindu nationalists, suggesting that in some ways the battle in Canada mirrors South Asia’s historical Hindu-Muslim conflict.

But the groups opposing accommodation, which include people from a variety of races and religions, deny that. Indian-Canadian members of the groups say their concern has nothing to do with a country they left years and in some cases decades ago.

“My religion is Canadian; that’s what gives me the strength to stand up and fight now,” said Ram Subrahmanian, a founder of Keep Religion Out of Our Public Schools.

Shaila Kibria-Carter, 42, a finance manager of Bangladeshi descent, was born and raised in Canada and lives in the nearby town of Brampton. She said that as a Peel district high school student in the 1990s, she prayed in school on Fridays. So did her college-age son. There were never any class disruptions or complaints, she said.

“What these folks are doing is preaching hate,” she said. “We’ve lived in harmony with Sikhs and Hindus and white people all our lives, and now all of a sudden someone is in meetings ripping up a Quran.”

Inside French Prisons, A Struggle To Combat Radicalization : NPR

Good long-read on the challenges of radicalization and French prisons:

Yannis Warrach, a Muslim cleric who works in his spare time at a top-security prison in Normandy, says prison is so brutal, inmates can only survive if they’re part of a gang. He has seen how the radicals recruit newcomers.

“The ones who preach and proselytize will at first be nice to a detainee. They see his desperation,” he says. “They’ll befriend him, give him what he needs. Then they’ll say it’s destiny. They’ll say that God has a mission for him. And little by little, they brainwash him, telling him French society has rejected him, he can’t get a job because of his Arab last name, and he was always put in the worst classes at school.

“The problem is,” says Warrach, “it’s often true.”

Warrach says these young men must have hope for a different future to break out of the spiral of failure. He says French leaders have failed to change the socioeconomic factors that keep many French people of Muslim descent on the bottom rungs of the ladder.

Another big problem, he says, is the prevalence of hard-line, Salafist reading material in jails — often French translations of Saudi, Wahhabist tracts that advocate literal, strict interpretation of religious doctrine.

“I work to debunk this stuff,” says Warrach. “I give inmates under pressure a historical context of the faith and another narrative of Islam.”

He says that because of the pressure from radicals, who consider him an agent of the French government, he has to meet secretly with inmates who desperately want his help. Instead of meeting in rooms designated for religious worship, which are open, they meet in special prison visiting rooms for inmates’ lawyers, where no one can observe them.

Because of its strict separation of religion and state, Warrach says France is the only country in Europe where being a prison cleric is not considered a profession. He says he only receives a small stipend, but that he can’t build a life around it — there are no retirement plans or other benefits. Because of this, there can’t be an imam at the prison every day, which creates a huge void, he says. And it leaves plenty of room for uninformed, extremist interpretations of Islam in French prisons.

Source: Inside French Prisons, A Struggle To Combat Radicalization : Parallels : NPR

Russell Smith: Feverish reaction to Wonder Woman is art criticism leaving the art behind

Good commentary by Smith:

There is only one consensus: Wonder Woman is a political manifesto. This manifesto is either good or bad, and its value is determined solely by what side of righteousness it falls on.

The interpretation of this entertainment has gone in waves. First, it was wildly praised by feminists for its strong female character. “Wonder Womanis a masterpiece of subversive feminism,” a Guardian headline read. This is the “role model” school of art criticism.

Role models are indeed great for children, but generally, criticism of grown-up art does not revolve around this criterion for evaluation (otherwise, most of Nadine Gordimer and Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf and Margaret Atwood would by now have been dismissed).

Then came the intersectionalist backlash: This strong female character cannot be feminist because she perpetuates racism, because she is unself-consciously white and beautiful in a conventional way. In a particularly blistering essay on the site The Unpublishables, Canadian novelist Doretta Lau excoriated the movie as “white feminism.” The protagonist is a “self-righteous hubristic do-gooder,” she wrote. Particularly galling is a joke the Amazon princess makes about feminine work being “slavery” – an offensive joke because, of course, it’s nothing like real slavery.

Then came the anti-Israel response. The film’s star, Gal Gadot, is Israeli and was once in the army and once, in 2014, tweeted her support for colleagues in the military forces. Lebanon and Tunisia have declared a ban on the film, and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement supporters are urging a boycott. This creates a tricky situation for the politically conscious art consumer.

“Declaring the film an empowering message for women while ignoring Gadot’s support of the Israeli policies that leave Palestinian women disempowered is a bitter pill to swallow,” a critic wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Toronto Star published a lengthy piece ostensibly about the movie that was mostly about Israeli atrocities in Gaza. The movie is apparently in support of these. “The reaction to Wonder Woman highlights the perversity and partiality of a feminism that celebrates the cinematic representation of a fictional, purportedly anti-war female superhero, but ignores the non-fictional women (and men) who experience the real brutalities of war and occupation,” Azeezah Kanji wrote. The movie does not mention contemporary Israel even indirectly.

A journal called Middle East Eye agonized over the pressing question of whether or not to like this movie, explaining, “[Gadot] is Israeli, with little appreciation for the fact that, as an Ashkenazi Jew, she belongs in the upper crust of Israeli society, with no experiential understanding of what it means to be a person of colour.” After a long analysis of the movie’s feminist virtues and errors, writer Nada Elia concluded that it should not be watched: “One does not wish to view Wonder Woman because the central character, a hero out to save the world, is played by a woman who cheers on genocide.”

Here is the simplest form of art criticism: one that need not address art. It makes no effort to discuss a movie. What’s in the movie is irrelevant. All participants in the spectacle, even if they are not the writers of it, must be screened for ideological purity before the entertainment is to be evaluated.

Whether Wonder Woman will be recorded as an important piece of art 50 years from now is impossible to foresee, but I would be willing to bet $100 on “no.” But the movie has long been left behind in these non-reviews anyway – we are just arguing about Israel and Palestine again.

At any rate, this set of criteria certainly makes art criticism easier. Critics need to spend a lot less time on structure or cinematography. All they need do is consult their ideological guidelines, determine whether it exemplifies the correct moral tendencies and issue a simple yes/no verdict. They could start to use codes: CR for “correct representations”; NR for “needs re-education.”

The left and the right support this approach with equal enthusiasm. The fury over Shakespeare in the United States since the Donald Trump-like representation of Julius Caesar in New York is an exemplar. “Liberal hate kills,” shrieked protesters disrupting the play. In the past week, the anger at one company’s interpretation of the play has spread to the whole country, with repertory theatre companies in Massachusetts and Texas reporting angry protests and even threats from Trump supporters, just because they have performed any Shakespeare play. It has been suggested that the denunciations are the result of careless googling (“Shakespeare in the park” will return quite a few cities). But it is also possible that Shakespeare himself, since he has been seen to be a tool of liberal violence, has now been deemed ideologically opposed to conservative American values. It’s over for Shakespeare in the heartland: He’s liberal.

Again, the play itself is left in the dust. We are just arguing about affiliations, about badges. Amusingly, the play itself makes reference to this human propensity: the character Cicero says, “Men may construe things after their fashion, Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.”

Source: Russell Smith: Feverish reaction to Wonder Woman is art criticism leaving the art behind – The Globe and Mail

A tale of two Canadas: Where you grow up affects your income in adulthood – Corak


Good in-depth coverage of Miles Corak’s work on intergenerational mobility. Paras on immigration of note:

Many parts of Canada’s income-mobility map are shaped by immigration: People who’ve arrived in Canada in the past 10 to 15 years tend to have lower incomes and higher poverty rates than average Canadians. But what this map shows – and other studies verify – is that their children are rising from the lowest to the highest fifth of the income scale at very high rates.

“It is well established that it is the first generation in Canada – those born abroad – that takes the hit and has the hardest time in establishing themselves in the labour force,” says Don Kerr, a sociologist at King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario. “But clearly we see that their children are eventually doing much better than they did, armed with a Canadian education and Canadian credentials.” This is especially true in southern Ontario, which receive the largest share of Canada’s immigration, and whose very high mobility levels, Dr. Kerr says, can be attributed in good part to the fast rise of newcomers: “Here we are seeing the success of the second generation in Canada.”

Source: A tale of two Canadas: Where you grow up affects your income in adulthood – The Globe and Mail