A Defeat for White Identity What the midterms tell us about racial backlash and economic populism.

Ross Douthat’s take:

Running for president in 2016, Donald Trump sold two kinds of populism. One appealed to white tribalism and xenophobia — starkly in his early embrace of birtherism, recurrently in his exaggerations about immigrant crime, Muslim terrorism and urban voter fraud.

The other was an economic appeal, aimed at working-class voters hit hard by de-industrialization who found the existing Republican agenda too libertarian. Trump promised to protect entitlements and replace Obamacare with something more generous; his anti-immigration arguments were about jobs as well as crime; he promised lavish infrastructure spending and trade deals that would bring back factory jobs; he pledged to make the G.O.P. a “worker’s party.”

When this combination of appeals delivered victory, it set off an interminable debate about whether to look at Trumpian populism primarily through the lens of race or economics. Interminable, but crucial, because the answer would say a lot about whether a less tribal political alignment is possible — with Democrats winning back blue-collar whites or Republicans building a pan-ethnic nationalism — or whether we’re doomed to a permanent racial polarization of the parties.

The strongest argument for privileging economics is a simple one: Trump won millions of working-class white voters in the Midwest, the constituency and the region hit hardest by globalization, who had previously voted for Barack Obama. If you voted twice for the first black president, this argument goes, your main political motivation probably isn’t racism, and the fact that Trump ran as an economic populist seems like a more important explanatory fact.

The rebuttal, the case for privileging race, relies on a raft of studies, the most recent one summarized by Vox’s Zack Beauchamp just weeks before the midterms, which show that those Trump-Obama switchers were more likely to express racially conservative attitudes and hard-line anti-immigration views than they were to have suffered recent economic setbacks.

The hypothesis floated by these studies’ interpreters is that the combination of Obama’s presidency and Trump’s deliberate race-baiting had an activating effect on white anxiety. Racial backlash against the first black president was more limited in 2012 because Romney didn’t play to racial fears, but the backlash escalated, and flipped more white voters, once the next Republican nominee did.

I’ve taken swipes at these studies, but I’m more frustrated by the way they’re used by pundits than by the work itself, which does tell us two important facts — that Trump probably won getting-by-O.K., working-class Americans rather than the truly desperate, and that Obama-to-Trump switchers had to have a certain indifference to minority concerns (which is what many social-science measures of “racial conservatism” pick up) to tolerate his more bigoted appeals.

At the same time these kind of studies often treat immigration as a strictly-racial issue when it’s understood by many voters as an economic one (which is why African-American and native-born Hispanics can be immigration hard-liners). They elide the fact that you can base your vote on economic issues without being maximally economically anxious. (Given the G.O.P.’s historic brand as the party of business, you might expect a successful Republican economic-populist pitch to pick off the less anxious working class voters first.) And they encourage a slippage in liberal analysis where a voting bloc’s susceptibility to identity politics get described starkly as a “white nationalism” that implicitly places those voters beyond the reach of reason — even when they voted for Barack Hussein Obama four short years before.

Which brings me to the recent midterms, which offered a natural experiment in the race-versus-economics question — because, as president, Trump has been more plutocratic than populist on many issues, even as he has kept up the tribalist provocations and, just before the midterms, used the migrant caravan as an excuse for race-baiting.

If the Obama-Trump voters were primarily motivated by racial anxiety, you would expect his approach to consolidate them for the G.O.P. — especially with a strong economy, with the Democrats putting up lots of minority candidates, and so on.

But white identity politics failed to hold Trump’s gains. Some of the biggest swings against the G.O.P. were among middle and lower-income Americans, not just among affluent suburbanites. The Upper Midwest swung back toward Democrats. And among whites without college degrees, Democrats improved on Hillary Clinton’s showing by eight percentage points — identical to their gains among college-educated whites.

This doesn’t mean that the racial fears Trump stoked didn’t bring some Republican voters to the polls. But it proves that white-identity politics isn’t simply destiny, that Democrats can reach wavering white-working class voters instead of writing them off, and that if Republicans want to hold them, then actual economic populism — with its potential pan-ethnic rather than racially polarizing appeal — is a better bet than what we’ve gotten too often from his White House.

In what is not the most optimistic time for race relations in America, I call that good news.

Source: A Defeat for White Identity

Elghawaby: Those who serve our country should not face discrimination of any kind


The Canadian Forces, like the RCMP, struggle with diversity:

Almost every public institution in our country claims it wants to better reflect the populations it serves. The same is true of our military. Parliament’s defence committee has even begun a study to determine which groups need better representation.

As the nation marks Remembrance Day, it’s important to reflect not only on those who have sacrificed their lives and well-being serving our nation, but those who have had to face racism and harassment in doing so. If such barriers continue to exist, efforts to recruit people of colour and people of various faiths and backgrounds will ultimately fail.

One needs only look to the very top to understand the challenge at hand.

Canada’s defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, has acknowledged facing significant racism throughout his long career in the Canadian Armed Forces. This has been his reality since joining the Forces in 1989 and even more recently. The first Sikh-Canadian to command a Canadian Army regiment has faced racist and vulgar comments on his personal Facebook page, as well as on the Forces’ official page. “I still can’t take this guy seriously as head of the armed forces!” posted one person. “Man, it’s not us! Sikh?”

Consider the case of Bashir Abdi, a Canadian of Somali descent who served for 10 years in the Forces. In 2013, Abdi says he obtained permission to attend Eid celebrations for the day. Yet, when he returned, he was fined and eventually convicted at a military summary trial for being “Absent Without Leave.” He was fired from his post and took his case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. “As Canadian society and workplaces continue to grow and diversify,” reads his GoFundMe page, “it is imperative that we bring more attention to the issue of fair religious accommodation so that no one else has to experience Bashir’s humiliation.”

Canada’s defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, has acknowledged facing significant racism throughout his long career in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Or take the disturbing episode this past spring, when a group of officer cadets were expelled from the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, Que., after video emerged of them desecrating a Qur’an with bacon and semen during a cottage party.

The head of Canada’s military, Gen. Jonathan Vance, has admitted that the Forces are struggling to identify those within the ranks who not only hold racist views, but who are actively engaged in white supremacist and right-wing activities. “Clearly it’s in here,” Vance said earlier this fall in an interview.

None of this makes joining the military a particularly endearing proposition, nor will it help improve the numbers. As of 2018, 15.4 per cent of the military were female, 2.7 per cent were Indigenous, and 8.1 per cent were visible minorities. The Department of National Defence has said that by 2026, it wants the military to comprise 25 per cent women, 3.5 per cent Indigenous peoples, and 11.8 per cent visible minorities.

“I used to wonder how Indigenous soldiers who went to residential school felt about serving for a country whose government discriminated against their people,” wrote Indigenous journalist Wawmeesh Hamilton in a recent online post.

At the very least, their contributions must be acknowledged, and existing challenges addressed. That begins with education as well as clear consequences for racist and anti-immigrant behaviours and attitudes.

Success looks like Capt. Barbara Helms, who joined the Forces as its first Muslim female chaplain this past April. And we can look as far back as 1996, when the late Wafa Dabbagh became the first Canadian Muslim woman to wear the headscarf in the Forces. In a 2008 media interview, Lt.-Commander Dabbagh described her experience as“95-per-cent positive.”

As defence committee chair Stephen Fuhr put it recently, “having a diverse, healthy, happy military personnel will have a direct impact on combat effectiveness. So we need to determine that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Among those we memorialize are those who defeated the very worst fascist and white supremacist forces of our time. Lest we forget.

Source: Elghawaby: Those who serve our country should not face discrimination …

An ancient community in Pakistan fades as conversions to Islam rise

Sad report regarding the fate of a small minority community:

For centuries, a small community of fair-skinned, blue-eyed people known as the Kalasha have inhabited a remote valley in northwest Pakistan, farming and raising animals.

Legend has it that their roots go back to Alexander the Great, whose forces passed through the mountainous region in the 3rd century B.C. But scientific studies describe them as a having “enigmatic” and “complex” origins, possibly being the first migrant group to reach the Indian subcontinent from Asia.

The Kalasha people, who speak a unique dialect, have no written religion or places of worship. Instead, they hold ritual celebrations of seasonal change every spring and fall, with colorful costumes and dancing that have long attracted visitors to their alpine home.

In recent years, however, a new outside influence — Sunni Islam — has started seeping into the valley, changing its way of life and dramatically reducing the number of non-Muslims. In the past three years, according to local surveys, 300 Kalashas have converted, reducing the number of non-converts from about 4,100 to 3,800. Local leaders fear their culture may be swallowed up and vanish.

The pace of conversions has accelerated, especially among young people, with Kalasha girls marrying Muslims and Muslim teachers urging students to convert. There also has been a boom in the construction of mosques, with at least 18 now in the valley.

“After hundreds of years, we have been turned into a minority on our own land,” said Shah Feroz, 27, a volunteer teacher in this hillside town of wooden chalets and steep lanes, located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The religious inroads have become entwined with land disputes, especially over large tracts of forest that Kalasha communities own jointly as a matter of tradition. Last month, one court case over land rights reached the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which instructed the provincial courts to review the issue and report back in one month.

Last summer, the Kalasha gained their first-ever voice in government. Wazirzada Khan, 34, a political activist from the valley, was named to the provincial assembly under the law reserving seats for minorities. His nominator was Imran Khan, then a political leader in the province and now Pakistan’s prime minister.

“The Kalasha are the indigenous owners of the land, forests and mountains. We need laws to preserve our community,” Wazirzada Khan said. Kalashas who convert to Islam “do so willingly,” he added, but the community “should be declared a national heritage with special status.”

Other Kalasha activists said they were historically disdained by Muslims as “infidels,” along with a separate group of Kalashas in Afghanistan’s Nurestan province across the border.

Akram Hussain, 34, a social worker, described himself as “the sole Kalasha survivor in my family” after his mother died and his father married a Muslim woman.

“When a Muslim teacher warns you that you’re an infidel and will be burned in hell, a kid can’t evade this threatening influence,” he said. “I was told by my Muslim teachers to read [Islamic verses] that say it is compulsory to become a Muslim. But we don’t pressure our youths about our Kalasha beliefs.”

Feroz noted that all students in mixed schools are taught Islamic studies. On a recent morning, in the sixth-grade girls’ class at one local school, all Kalasha and Muslim students were reciting Koranic sayings. Feroz said community leaders want a substitute subject, such as ethics, to be taught.

“If you start reading Islamic subjects as compulsory from beginning through university level, then you will be influenced by Islamic teachings,” he said.

In recent years, the Kalasha have attracted European researchers and support, resulting in community benefits including a school that teaches the Kalasha dialect. But some visiting foreigners have also been victims of criminal and insurgent attacks.

According to local leaders, in 2002, a Spanish researcher living in the valley, Jordi Magraner, was found dead with his throat slit, along with two local residents. In 2009, a Greek scholar who helped build the Kalasha school, Athanasion Larounis, was kidnapped by Afghan Taliban forces but eventually freed and returned to Greece.

There have been other episodes of violence attributed to cross-border Taliban intruders. One farmer said two goat keepers had been brutally killed and thousands of goats stolen. “When we ask, we are told that the militants came from Nurestan,” he said.

Yet the larger clash here is the competition between a long-dominant culture with relaxed, secular values and an aggressively expanding faith with strict rules and conservative moral views.

The Kalasha grow grapes and offer free wine to visitors at festivals, where men and women dance together.

They also mourn their dead by dancing and leave them inside coffins above the ground, weighted down by stones with their valuables, though lately they have started burying them because of robbers.

One Kalasha farmer complained of hate speech broadcast through local mosque loudspeakers.

“We don’t make wine to sell, and we don’t force people to drink,” said Shahi Gul, 50, a mother of six. “We are blamed by the local clerics as using wine to tempt Muslim youth, which is not true. We do this as it is allowed in our religion and culture.”

Gul, whose sisters and niece converted to Islam, said she worries about the conversion of so many young Kalashas, especially through marriage. She said girls are “easily converted” by Muslim visitors who woo and marry them.

“We don’t force our children over marriage,” Gul said. “When a Kalasha girl wants to marry a Muslim, she accepts Islam and shifts to a Muslim family.”

Jamroz Khan, a Muslim cleric in the valley whose grandfather converted to Islam 70 years ago, considers Kalasha customs to be wicked, but he said no one in the valley has been converted by force.

“We do our preaching and convince them they should come to the right path,” he said. “We teach them that they are practicing infidelity by mixed gatherings, dancing and using alcohol. We ask them to stop these infidel practices.”

Khan noted with pride that several decades ago, “there was not a single Muslim family here, but now half of the village has accepted Islam,” he said. “All praise to Allah, we are preaching to convert all.”

To Lali Gul, a Kalasha woman who sells traditional costumes and caps, the spread of Islam across the valley will be hard to stop. Muslim tourists, she said, bring money as well as take brides. When her daughter met a Muslim visitor and converted to marry him, she did not try to dissuade her.

“We are free and open-minded people. We don’t interfere in our children’s decisions to be a Kalasha or Muslim,” Gul said. “But our community is shrinking. I fear that very soon, there will be no Kalasha left in this valley.”

Source: An ancient community in Pakistan fades as conversions to Islam rise

‘Farming While Black’: A Guide To Finding Power And Dignity Through Food

Interesting:

Leah Penniman was told she wasn’t welcome, from her first day in a conservative, almost all-white kindergarten.

“I remember this one girl teasing me and saying brownies aren’t allowed in this school … and that really continued, that type of teasing,” she recalls. “Every time I walked into an honors classroom, they would ask me if I was in the right room,” she says.

She enjoyed learning and did well, but she also found solace in the natural world.

“No one taught me what African traditional religion was when I was little, but my sister and I intuited it and so we would spend a lot of time in the forest giving reverence to mother nature as we called to her in the trees.”

Penniman later got a summer job farming in Boston, and she was hooked. She learned about sustainable agriculture and the African roots of those practices, but she also moved to Albany, N.Y., to a neighborhood classified as a food desert. To get fresh groceries from a farm share, she walked more than two miles with a newborn baby in a backpack and a toddler in the stroller, then walked back with the groceries resting on top of and around the sleeping toddler.

She made it her goal to start a farm for her neighbors, and to provide fresh food to refugees, immigrants and people affected by mass incarceration. She calls the lack of access to fresh food “food apartheid” because it’s a human-created system of segregation.

Penniman and her staff at Soul Fire Farm, located about 25 miles northeast of Albany, train black and Latinx farmers in growing techniques and management practices from the African diaspora, so they can play a part in addressing food access, health disparities, and other social issues. Penniman’s new book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land, details her experiences as a farmer and activist, how she found “real power and dignity” through food, and how people with zero experience in gardening and farming can do the same.

Back when Penniman was a beginner at various farms in the Northeast, she realized she was in a field where almost all people were white, and that the sustainable and organic farmers were using African techniques, without knowing where those came from.

For example, farmers grow marigolds and other beneficial flowers next to crops because those attract insects like ladybugs to do natural pest control. That’s called polyculture now, but it’s a practice that came from Nigerian and Ghanaian farmers, and Penniman’s book traces techniques like that back to their historic roots.

Farming While Black“A lot of the folks in the sustainable farming world get a lot of information through these conferences and sort of assume that … it’s either ahistorical or originated in a European community, which is an injustice and a tragedy,” Penniman says.

There are other instances of African contributions to farming technology that are not widely known.

Edda Fields-Black, an associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University, studies the history of West African rice farmers. She says the rice industry in South Carolina and Georgia would not have been possible without West African techniques of irrigation so that the rice fields have a good balance of salt water and fresh water to stop weeds from growing and keep the rice alive.

“We don’t always understand enough about all of the things that enslaved people built in the U.S. It’s not just brute labor, it’s not just brawn. This is technology, this is ingenuity, this is engineering, this is hydraulics. It’s all rooted in west Africa,” says Fields-Black.

She cites a 2018 report from the Southern Poverty Law Centerdetailing the “dismal” results of how little high school seniors know about the history of slavery, and says her work is about celebrating African technology, and “recovering the humanity of the enslaved.” That’s something she and Penniman have in common, she adds.

Penniman also writes that she would like her experience to help African-Americans heal from the trauma associated with farming. She details how black visitors to her farm almost all say they associate farming with slavery and plantations. One black farmer I interviewed in the past said that when he decided to quit a job in the tech industry to start a farm, part of his family thought he had lost his mind and was “going back to the plantation.”

That’s the universal experience … of being black in this country,” says Chris Bolden-Newsome, a farmer and educator at Sankofa Community Farm in Philadelphia, whom Penniman interviewed for her book.

Therefore, learning about Penniman’s book was “like a breath of fresh air,” Bolden-Newsome says. “High time that something like this be written to lift up the stories, the lived experiences and lived stories of black farmers and their descendants who are the powerhouse in America.”

Penniman and her coworkers at her farm also try to address social issues more directly. For example, she has a sliding scale of prices, where a third of her customers make more money and pay more, and that subsidizes prices for another third of her customers, who struggle to make ends meet. She has written a manual for how to develop such a system, and says that she knows of at least two farms in New York state with similar programs for low-income customers.

She says that just as her African ancestors braided seeds into their hair before boarding transatlantic slave ships, she hopes her book will inspire more people toward “picking up those seeds and carrying on that legacy about not forgetting where we come from and who we are.”

Her farm also started a youth justice program in 2013, which let young people from Albany County courts work on the farm for 50 hours in exchange for prison time.

“What was really powerful about it was these young folks said things like, ‘I’ve never been welcomed into someone’s home before, or this is the first time I’ve seen folks who look like me running their own businesses and following their dreams and owning their land,'” says Penniman.

“There’s a lot of crying that happens on our farm,” she adds.

Source: ‘Farming While Black’: A Guide To Finding Power And Dignity Through Food

Black on the battlefield: Canada’s forgotten First World War battalion

Good Remembrance Day article and history lesson:

The year was 1914 and while the war was escalating in Europe, a different struggle took root in Canada.

Young black men determined to serve their country – men who had left jobs and uprooted families in pursuit of a military unit that might accept them – were being rejected by recruiters from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. One commanding officer in New Brunswick turned away 20 healthy black recruits at once because he believed his white soldiers should not “have to mingle with Negroes,” according to a letter he wrote to his superiors in Halifax.

This war, black Canadians were told, had no use for people of their colour.

That unofficial policy kept most black Canadians from enlisting for the better part of two years, although some did manage to convince sympathetic commanding officers to allow them into mostly white units. Black leaders and their white supporters were unwilling to accept being shut out en masse, though. After two years of lobbying – fighting to fight – a compromise was cautiously forged. Black Canadians were told they could enlist if they could muster enough men to form their own, segregated battalion, which would be based out of the way in tiny Pictou, a community on Nova Scotia’s North Shore that had no black residents.

Still, the plan was to recruit more than 1,000 men from across the country from Canada and, ultimately, the United States and the British West Indies.

But there was a catch: The battalion’s soldiers would not be given guns. Instead, they would be outfitted with shovels and forestry tools. Instead of fighting alongside Allied forces on the front lines, the Black Battalion – officially the No. 2 Construction Battalion, CEF, and the only segregated battalion formed – would ship out as a non-combat force trained to dig trenches, carry the dead, build prisons and fell trees in France’s Joux forest.

“In France, in the firing line, there is no place for a black battalion,” wrote Major-General W.G. Gwatkin, Chief of the General Staff in Ottawa, who derided black recruits in the same announcement he made to enable their service. Having black soldiers on the front line “would be eyed askance,” he wrote. “It would crowd out a white battalion; and it would be difficult to reinforce.”

Their second-class status was one of many difficult challenges faced by the Black Battalion, whose soldiers suffered some of the most oppressive conditions during the war but received little recognition for their sacrifice and service. They were not honoured as heroes when they returned to Halifax in 1919 nor when the battalion was officially disbanded in 1920. Their story went largely unacknowledged until 1986, when Senator Calvin Ruck published his book, The Black Battalion: Canada’s Best Kept Military Secret. The thin volume was the culmination of years of painstaking research. Even Mr. Ruck, who was born in Sydney, N.S., had never heard tell of the No. 2 Construction Battalion.

Formed in July, 1916, the unit recruited just more than 600 men, including about 300 from Nova Scotia, 350 from Ontario and a collection of Western Canadian, American and international recruits. Their first assignment was to dig up rail lines across New Brunswick. They eventually left from Halifax in March, 1917, on the troopship Southland. They landed in England and dug trenches for troops training there and repaired roads; within months, they were attached to the Canadian Forestry Corps and sent to France for logging and milling work, to carry out road repairs and to haul supplies.

“They were viewed as being mentally and physically inferior. They joined in obscurity. They trained in obscurity. They fought and served in obscurity,” said Douglas Ruck, a Halifax-based lawyer and Senator Ruck’s son. He recalls the family dining table being blanketed for years with the archival records his father had collected to piece together the Black Battalion’s story.

It is as much about their absence from most Canadian history books as it is about their role in the war. Although her father, Joseph Parris, served in the No. 2, Sylvia Parris grew up with no knowledge of the battalion. She learned much of the story after Mr. Ruck published his book and says it has helped her understand why her father and the rest of the battalion rarely told their stories, which were neither heroic nor prideful.

“They went to the war in the face of systemic and individual racism. They went because their country, however they came to it, was their country, too. They had families to protect,” she said, adding: “They came back to those same systemic issues. And they kept to themselves as a means of survival.”

Russell Grosse, executive director of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, said few stayed in touch after the war despite the fact many lived near each other. In 1982, when Mr. Ruck and the BBC held a ceremony in Halifax to honour nine remaining veterans of the battalion, the men were practically strangers. But the recognition they received that night, Mr. Grosse said, showed the veterans and their families that they deserved a legacy.

“They were so abused and misused along the way. Every day was a struggle for them just to be a part of the organization,” said George Borden, a historian who grew up with several Black Battalion veterans in his Nova Scotia community. “They were the last to get supplied. They were the last to get paid. These were young men, but they were men,” he said. “It completely destroyed their self-pride.”

Official recognition of their service came in 1993, when Pictou’s Market Wharf, the site of the battalion’s first headquarters, was declared a national historic site.

Now, the job for the dwindling number of people who know the battalion’s story is to get it into history books and ensure their legacy does not disappear.

“I just want to respect them as having wanted to do the same job as everyone else wanted to do,” Mr. Borden said. “If anyone can be remembered, they should be remembered likewise.”

Source: Black on the battlefield: Canada’s forgotten First World War battalion

What happened when I wrote about Islam in Britain: Andy Ngo

The nuance and overall context comes later in the article. And some elements described have parallels among other traditional or fundamentalist religions. But the issues are real:

‘I was segregated from non-Muslims from the beginning, not just physically, but also in terms of the core beliefs I had instilled in me,’ Sohail Ahmed tells me. He’s a soft-spoken 26-year-old student from East London who grew up in a fundamentalist Muslim community. In 2014, Sohail’s parents sent him to an Islamic exorcist in Newham because they believed his homosexuality was caused by a jinn, or spirit. The exorcisms didn’t work and his parents eventually kicked him out of the home. Sohail contemplated a suicide attack in Canary Wharf to redeem himself.

I met Sohail while researching an article about Islam in Britain. This was eventually published in the Wall Street Journal on August 29. It was called ‘A Visit to Islamic England.’ The article briefly became a Twitter sensation, for the wrong reasons. I made a mistake, which was widely picked on. I described the existence of ‘alcohol restricted’ signs in Whitechapel, East London, and implied it was because of the heavy Muslim presence in the area. Such signs actually exist in various areas across the UK and have nothing to do with religious sensibilities.

Perhaps I was a little tone deaf to the realities of modern Britain. Perhaps I allowed my surprise at how fundamentally Islamified parts of the country have become to color my writing. Certainly, I failed to appreciate just what a sensitive subject I was writing about.

I began receiving hundreds (and then thousands) of messages and comments calling me a racist and ‘Islamophobe.’ ‘Someone airdrop @MrAndyNgo into a KKK rally,’ tweeted Rabia Chaudry, a New York Times bestselling Muslim-American writer. Mike Stuchbery, a British leftist social media commentator encouraged his 52,000 Twitter followers to ‘direct [their] ire’ at me. They obliged.

I had touched a nerve. Britain’s organized Islamist lobby also responded fiercely. This included the Muslim Council of Britain, an organization with links to the Jamaat-e-Islami, a radical Islamist party in Pakistan committed to the implementation of Shari’a. Members of the party recently protested across Pakistan over the acquittal of Asia Bibi, who was on death row for eight years over an accusation of blasphemy. CAGE, a British Muslim advocacy group that called Islamic State terrorist Mohammed Emwazi (aka ‘Jihadi John’) a ‘beautiful man’, dug through my social media history to pile on the outrage. American Muslim reformer, Asra Nomani calls this loose network of writers, politicians and activists, the ‘honor brigade.’ Motivated by a shame-based religious outlook, they cast vicious aspersions on anyone who criticizes Islamism.

Next came columns in a variety of publications. Alex Lockie, a news editor at Business Insider UK, denounced my writing as ‘cowardly’ and ‘race-baiting.’ The New Arab, a Qatari-owned media outlet published three op-eds mocking and condemning my writing.

These vitriolic attacks all seized on my mistake over the sign as evidence of my prejudice against Muslims. In fact, I was just trying and perhaps sometimes failing to describe what I saw. I admit to having been surprised by quite how segregated some parts of Britain have become. I try not to make judgments about that, but what I believe to be true is that Britain’s multicultural policies have produced what the Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen calls, ‘plural monoculturalism.’ That is, different communities, or monocultures, existing side-by-side with little to no interaction with one another.

This is the reality I witnessed and described in parts of Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, and Luton. Media commentators can refute it all they like, but I’ve spoken with many Britons and British Muslims from those areas who agree with my portrayals.

Plus, the data suggests it is a larger phenomenon across the UK. According to a 2016 survey by ICM Research for Channel 4, more than 50 percent of British Muslims live in areas that are at least 20 percent Muslim. Of that, around a fifth had not even entered the home of a non-Muslim in the past year.

I don’t fault the residents of these areas, many of whom are immigrants like my parents, for choosing to live in communities that are culturally familiar to them. I do fault the British state’s multicultural policies for unintentionally creating barriers to integration, and for leaving the most vulnerable (e.g. women, sexual, and religious minorities) trapped in structures of oppression. People like Sohail, for example.

‘My old Muslim friends said they fully supported my parents disowning me and cutting off familial ties,’ he says. Sohail has since become an atheist but still lives with the consequences of his former extremism. In 2016, he was denied entry into the US based on security concerns.

Sohail believes the segregated nature of the area his Pakistani family settled in the mid-Nineties made them vulnerable to indoctrination. One memory he has ingrained from childhood is community members rejoicing when 9/11 happened. And although dress is not a reliable measurement of extremism, Sohail recalls his mother going through a gradual sartorial transformation. She first adopted a hijab, then a jilbab (a full-length garment), and finally a niqab (face veil) and gloves. ‘If I didn’t live in a closed community,’ he says, ‘I would have felt more comfortable mentioning [the abuse] to mental health professionals, counselors, teachers, and social workers.’

Halima echoes some of Sohail’s experiences. She is an art student who hails from an Indian Muslim community in Blackburn, a heavily segregated town north of Manchester. ‘I had a good childhood until my period started,’ she says bluntly.

From birth, Halima lived in the shadow of her father, a deeply religious man who was esteemed in the community for being a hafiz, someone who memorized the Qur’an by heart. She was expected to maintain the family’s honor and reputation through wearing a headscarf, remaining chaste, and being pious. After she reached puberty, her family’s grasp tightened on her with the help of a watchful community. During high school, Halima says her mother used one of the school’s mentors as a secret informant. Her father began to regularly beat her.

At 14, state authorities finally intervened after Halima’s boyfriend called the police. According to the 2014 court hearing, her father beat her with a tennis racket and said he would kill her ‘before the community finds out [about her non-Muslim boyfriend].’ Her father was later convicted of child cruelty and given a suspended sentence. Halima alleges that the police officer who fingerprinted her belonged to the same ethno-religious community and actually worked with her uncle in taking her to her grandfather’s home, where she was further punished.

Today, Halima is estranged from her family and is in the process of legally changing her name. ‘It is a signifier of being my father’s possession.’ She says Britain’s fear of offending the religious is causing it to turn a blind eye to abuses happening from within. ‘I feel let down by mainstream British society, especially the authorities,’ she says. ‘If I was white my dad would’ve gotten prison time. [Society is] quite oblivious to what happens in spheres other than white middle class circles.’

Of course not all British Muslims come from such extreme communities. Many, like London’s own mayor Sadiq Khan, are testament to successful integration. This success is partly reflected in the data. ICM’s survey showed that a strong majority, 86 percent, of British Muslims feel a strong belonging to the UK. However, those facts cannot obscure the evidence that certain social chasms have simultaneously developed. The few surveys conducted on British Muslims show shockingly regressive attitudes on homosexuality, gender norms, and sex. A 2009 Gallup pollfound zero percent of British Muslims believed homosexuality was ‘morally acceptable.’ ICM’s 2016 poll found that 52 percent believe homosexuality should be illegal in the country.

These beliefs have implications for other groups in a society. According to a 2018 survey by NatCen, Britain’s largest independent social research agency, Londoners are actually less tolerant of homosexuality and premarital sex than the rest of the country. How could this be so in one of the most modern, cosmopolitan and diverse cities on earth? The survey’s researchers attribute this to ‘religious differences’ — and surely London’s 12.4 percent Muslim community contributes to those, along with black Evangelicals and Eastern European Catholics.

Curiously, one of the religious tracts I received from a mosque during my visits faulted gay men for the excess of unmarried women. ‘New York alone has one million more females as compared to the number of males, and of the male population of New York one-third are gays i.e. sodomites,’ writes Zakir Naik, an Indian fundamentalist preacher. ‘The USA as a whole has more than 25 million gays.’ Naik was banned from entering the UK in 2010 but his tracts are readily available in mosques across the country.

I show Sohail the barrage of messages calling me a liar for my Wall Street Journalpiece. He is surprised. ‘I walked with you through some of those areas you mentioned. What you said conforms with my own experiences in these areas. That’s all I can say.’

Source: What happened when I wrote about Islam in Britain

The culture war has been won, so now we fight about words: Doug Saunders

Words matter. And words have different meanings for different groups. So avoiding “trigger” words and finding less polarizing language and labels should be part of any conversations:

Are you a social justice warrior? Not if you can help it, I bet. You are unlikely to find anyone who will self-identify as an “SJW,” an annoyingly popular internet putdown aimed by angry trolls at the earnest slogans of left-leaning people.

In response to such scorn, people have dropped the words “social justice.” Liberal-minded politicians now studiously avoid the phrase. This despite the fact that a large and growing majority of people believe in, well, social justice.

The idea has divorced itself from the words. Social justice, the concept – broad equality and opposition to unfair discrimination – is more popular than ever. But “social justice,” the phrase, has become hotly contested and, to many, off-putting and doctrinaire. It joins such polarizing formulations as “systemic racism” and “Islamophobia” – terms that inspire distaste among big segments of a public who otherwise support the concepts behind those phrases.

And that’s led to a misconception. The long-running fight over language – in which the words and phrases of the ideologically earnest are rejected as “politically correct” – is being mistaken for some larger and more irreconcilable battle over underlying ideas and beliefs.

Those who are truly intolerant and opposed to pluralism – those who think social justice is not just an awkward phrase but a bad idea – are a small and declining group. But that group is manipulating language conflicts to their political advantage.

That has become vividly evident as a new study of political tribalism has inspired a bewildering range of reactions from scholars and journalists. The study, titled Hidden Tribes, examines 8,000 U.S. citizens from a wide range of backgrounds in lengthy surveys and focus-group discussions. The aim of the study (and of the organization behind it, More in Common) is to show how countries have become divided into multiple tribal factions.

But the study doesn’t really end up showing that. For the most part, it shows that there are exactly two factions: a large, increasingly united majority ranging from the left to the centre-right who believe in social justice and its sister concepts, and a small group, making up 25 per cent of Americans on the devout ideological right (certainly smaller in other English-speaking countries) who oppose those ideas completely.

There is, however, another divide visible – one around language. Last month, the political scientist Yascha Mounk analyzed one of the study’s secondary findings in an essay carrying the headline “Americans strongly dislike PC culture.” Indeed, 80 per cent of Americans agree that “political correctness is a problem in our country,” and that includes almost all ages and backgrounds. Only 6 per cent support “PC culture” and that group is mostly wealthy and white.

But the “PC culture” they’re opposing is not really a culture at all; it’s just the language. And it’s a narrow gripe: An even larger majority – 82 per cent – think hate speech is an equally big problem.

Indeed, what jumps out from the study is that the people who are against PC language are also overwhelmingly in favour of the broad ideas behind that language.

A majority of all Americans, and a really big majority who aren’t devoted conservatives, believe that “white people today don’t recognize the real advantages they have” – but most people say they dislike the popular millennial name for this thought, “white privilege.” A similarly substantial majority feel that “many people nowadays don’t take discrimination against Muslims seriously enough” – but most oppose the word “Islamophobia.” Most Americans believe “the police are often more violent toward African Americans than others,” but when you characterize this view as Black Lives Matter, suddenly six in 10 are opposed.

Six in 10 Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be legal, including majorities in most conservative camps. A similar proportion believe that “accepting transgender people is the moral thing to do.” And 69 per cent of Americans believe sexism today is “very serious or somewhat serious.”

That majority might not like the phrases used by gay- and transgender-rights activists and feminists, or even words such as “feminist,” but the underlying ideas have wide support.

However, people tend to vote based not on big ideas but on words – and the 25 per cent who ardently oppose the ideas of equality and pluralism are winning wider election victories, in the United States and elsewhere, by going after the words. The rise of Trumpism was propelled by manufactured outrage about political correctness run amok. This week saw U.S. majorities back ballot measures supporting transgender rights and black enfranchisement; they also voted for plenty of “anti-PC” candidates.

There is no “PC culture,” just words that become targets. If we want to win social justice, we might need to lose “social justice.”

Source: The culture war has been won, so now we fight about words: Doug Saunders

The anti-Semitic history that brought Canada’s MS St. Louis decision to light

Good read on how the history became known:

The telegram reached Prime Minister Mackenzie King as he was escorting the Royal Family in Washington in early June, 1939. Now was the time to show “true Christian charity,” said a group of writers, historians and business people, and let the 907 German Jews of the St. Louis come ashore.

But Mr. King said it was not Canada’s problem and left the matter to officials such as Frederick Blair, the architect of Canada’s restrictive immigration policies, known for his inflexibility. “The line must be drawn somewhere,” Mr. Blair wrote in an internal document.

Almost 80 years later, another Liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau, will apologize to Canadian Jews after Question Period on Wednesday for turning away the desperate refugees of the St. Louis, hundreds of whom would die in Nazi death camps. The purpose, he said last May, is to draw attention to this country’s failings, “as we vow never to let history repeat itself.”

The broader story – of Canada’s closed-door policy toward the Jews of Europe before, during and even after the war – is by now well-known. But that history, of which the St. Louis forms but one episode, might have slipped down a memory hole if not for a student’s discovery in public archives of that telegram entreating Mr. King to act, as well as memos revealing the chilly rejections that passed between government officials, which she copied and sent to her professor, Harold Troper, at the University of Toronto.

Intrigued, Prof. Troper sought additional expertise. A friend introduced him to Irving Abella, a labour historian. The two went to Ottawa thinking they might write an academic article on Canada’s prewar refugee policy. “We weren’t sure there was any story at all,” said Prof. Troper, still teaching full-time at the age of 76 at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, in an interview. “Once we started digging, we found ourselves with a Niagara Falls of paper.”

They spent four years in archives and conducting interviews from Canada and the United States to Switzerland, Britain and France. The title of their 1982 book, None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948, would be drawn from a remark by an anonymous government official, at a press briefing after the war, about how many Jews were now to be admitted into the country. “It was a sense of uncovering a scab,” Prof. Abella, 77, a professor emeritus of history at York University, said of the research. “We discovered how deep the commitment was to keep Jews out of Canada.”

The scholarly partnership came naturally to the two academics. Prof. Troper’s father was a garment worker, and Prof. Abella’s father ran a restaurant serving dairy meals to garment workers. Both had lost relatives in the Holocaust. (A “cascade of death,” Prof. Troper called it, in his family and that of his neighbours.) Prof. Abella had married a child of survivors, born in a refugee camp in Germany in 1946. (Rosalie Abella is now a Supreme Court justice, the first refugee to hold that post.)

“I was a Jewish kid raised in Toronto with a PhD in history,” Prof. Troper said. “It had never occurred to me … what Canada’s role in the unfolding events might be.”

In all, Canada took in fewer than 5,000 Jewish refugees between 1933 and 1945, a period in which the United States (which also turned the St. Louis away) accepted 200,000 and Britain 70,000 (plus another 125,000 into British-administered Palestine). As for the refugees on the St. Louis, they were taken in by Britain, the Netherlands, France and Belgium – but were ultimately safe only in Britain. Two hundred and fifty-four died in death camps.

Prof. Troper recalls finding appeals from European Jews to a Jewish immigrant aid agency, who understood Canada was closed to them but enclosed photographs of their children.

“I was so caught up seeing parents trying to give away their children so they would have a chance at life.” He went home early from his research that day, overwhelmed.

“You read many of the documents, there are anti-Semitic comments – as if they’re talking about the weather,” Prof. Abella said. “It was just normal conversation. And this was a time when anti-Semitism was current in Canada. There were no Jewish university professors in all of Canada in the 1930s. There were no Jewish doctors in hospitals. No judges who were Jewish.”

Prof. Troper says he will never forget an interview with Malcolm John MacDonald, who had been British High Commissioner in Ottawa. “He told us the year he spent in Ottawa he had never seen such anti-Semitism in all his life.”

“Nobody cared,” Prof. Abella said. “Jews were a marginal issue. There was never a full cabinet discussion about Jews. It was always talked about at the tail end of meetings, sotto voce.”

Quebec was an important influence on the government’s policy, he said. “Quebec was opposed to all immigration because it felt that its influence in Confederation would be undermined. And since Jews at that time were the most visible of the minorities allowed into Canada, [Quebec] led the campaign against Jewish immigration and threatened Mackenzie King with separation, with a crisis in Confederation.”

But it was Mr. King – in power for most of the 1920s and from 1935-48 – and his cabinet who were ultimately responsible for closing Canada’s doors, the authors wrote. The PM’s diary records his sympathy for the racial ideas emanating from Nazi Germany: He feared “too great an intermixture of foreign strains of blood.”

A pro-refugee petition from the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, Dec. 7, 1943.

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS

The work of the two professors had an immediate impact. At a time when Vietnamese refugees were fleeing their country in boats, Canada’s top-ranking immigration official, Jack Manion, read their academic article, published long before the book, and gave it to the immigration minister, Ron Atkey.

”This should not be you,” he told Mr. Atkey, who then spoke passionately about it to cabinet. “He drew the parallels to our attention, was moved by it himself, and we all were,” Joe Clark, who was then prime minister of a Progressive Conservative government, said in a 2015 interview with The Globe and Mail. Mr. Clark then increased Canada’s resettlement of the Vietnamese refugees to 50,000 from 12,000. And on that resettlement program, widely viewed as a success, the current government modelled its intake of 50,000-plus Syrian refugees over the past three years.

Mr. Trudeau’s apology comes 10 days after a gunman, apparently angry about Jewish efforts to help refugees from Central America, shot 11 Jews dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“For the guy who did the shooting in Pittsburgh,” Prof. Troper said, “when it comes to Jews and refugees, none continues to be too many.”

Source: The anti-Semitic history that brought Canada’s MS St. Louis decision to light

Roald Dahl Denied Commemorative British Coin Over Anti-Semitism

Notwithstanding how much we enjoyed as a family his stories, his personal history is pretty odious:

Roald Dahl, who passed away in 1990, would have turned 100 in 2016. But the Royal Mint, which has a tradition of issuing commemorative coins for notable British figures’ significant anniversaries — recent among them Jane Austen and Mary Shelley — never introduced the author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Matilda” into celebratory circulation.

As The Guardian reports, the reason behind that curious choice has now been revealed: Dahl’s anti-Semitism.

Per files disclosed to The Guardian after a request through freedom of information laws, the decision not to honor Dahl was made during a 2014 meeting about potential coins for 2016. The minutes of that meeting note that Dahl’s centenary was brought up, but he was “Associated with anti-Semitism and not regarded as an author of the highest reputation.”

Dahl admirers might quibble with the latter statement, but the author’s anti-Semitism wasn’t just something others observed — it was something he openly proclaimed.

“I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become anti-Semitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism,” Dahl told the Independent in 1990.

“It’s the same old thing: we all know about Jews and the rest of it,” he later added. “There aren’t any non-Jewish publishers anywhere, they control the media — jolly clever thing to do — that’s why the president of the United States has to sell all this stuff to Israel.”

As the Forward noted on what would have been Dahl’s 100th birthday — September 13, 2016 — Dahl’s anti-Semitic statements also included a note, in a 1983 book review for the Literary Review, that the U.S. government was “utterly dominated by the great Jewish financial institutions over there.” That same year, he told the New Statesman that “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

Notably, the Royal Mint’s decision predates the United Kingdom’s recent conflicts over anti-Semitism, which arose following the September, 2015 election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader. Rather than Dahl, the Mint selected Shakespeare and Beatrix Potter for commemoration in 2016, markedly less controversial choices. Well, maybe. After all, 2016 marked 420 years since the premiere of Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice,” and only slightly fewer years of ongoing conflict over whether that play is anti-Semitic. Whether the Mint discussed that matter is as of yet undisclosed.

Source: Roald Dahl Denied Commemorative British Coin Over Anti-Semitism

Feds tap U.K. company to ‘redirect’ Canadians away from violent extremism online

Interesting effort to leverage UK experience and expertise in prevention:

The federal government has tapped a U.K.-based company to attempt to “redirect” Canadians at risk of radicalization to violent extremism.

The Liberal government awarded Moonshot CVE a $1.5-million grant to develop a project called “Canada Redirect,” aimed at identifying extremist content online and pushing positive counter messaging at those seeking it out.

Micah Clark, Moonshot CVE’s Canada program director, said the idea is not to take down extremist propaganda, but to connect Canadians who are accessing it with alternative content.

Picture searching for white nationalist content on YouTube, only to be offered advertisements for counter radicalization and outreach resources in your “up next” playlist.

“Taking down accounts and trying to silence extremists online is a laudable goal, in one sense, but it doesn’t work with the logic of the internet … the fact that the internet grows in its own way,” Clark told the Star Tuesday.

“And so Redirect, the idea (is to) use the … logic of the internet, use the fact that people look for everything through a search engine, and try to use that to try and benefit people that may be at risk to radicalization to violence.”

According to Public Safety Canada, the redirect method has been deployed in a dozen countries since 2015. Moonshot CVE’s program would be a first for Canada.

The first challenge, Clark said, is identifying what extremist content Canadians are searching out.

Last month, Moonshot CVE provided the Star with a snapshot of the kind of right-wing extremist content Canadians are seeking out online — but that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has identified a growing white nationalist and right-wing extremist presence online in recent years. The internet is an important tool for any extremist ideology, to disseminate propaganda, build communities, and recruit adherents.

Clark said Moonshot CVE will not be focusing on any single extremist ideology, instead trying to connect counter messaging to any vulnerable Canadians at risk of radicalization.

Source: Feds tap U.K. company to ‘redirect’ Canadians away from violent extremism online