The Campaign to Cancel Wokeness: How the right is trying to censor critical race theory.

Worth reading:

It’s something of a truism, particularly on the right, that conservatives have claimed the mantle of free speech from an intolerant left that is afraid to engage with uncomfortable ideas. Every embarrassing example of woke overreach — each ill-considered school board decision or high-profile campus meltdown— fuels this perception.

Yet when it comes to outright government censorship, it is the right that’s on the offense. Critical race theory, the intellectual tradition undergirding concepts like white privilege and microaggressions, is often blamed for fomenting what critics call cancel culture. And so, around America and even overseas, people who don’t like cancel culture are on an ironic quest to cancel the promotion of critical race theory in public forums.

In September, Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget ordered federal agencies to “begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’” which it described as “un-American propaganda.”

A month later, the conservative government in Britain declared some uses of critical race theory in education illegal. “We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt,” said the Tory equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch. “Any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

Some in France took up the fight as well. “French politicians, high-profile intellectuals and journalists are warning that progressive American ideas — specifically on race, gender, post-colonialism — are undermining their society,” Norimitsu Onishi reported in The New York Times. (This is quite a reversal from the days when American conservatives warned darkly about subversive French theory.)

Once Joe Biden became president, he undid Trump’s critical race theory ban, but lawmakers in several states have proposed their own prohibitions. An Arkansas legislator introduced a pair of bills, one banning the teaching of The Times’s 1619 Project curriculum, and the other nixing classes, events and activities that encourage “division between, resentment of, or social justice for” specific groups of people. “What is not appropriate is being able to theorize, use, specifically, critical race theory,” the bills’ sponsor told The Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Republicans in West Virginia and Oklahoma have introduced bills banning schools and, in West Virginia’s case, state contractors from promoting “divisive concepts,” including claims that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.” A New Hampshire Republican also proposed a “divisive concepts” ban, saying in a hearing, “This bill addresses something called critical race theory.”

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a pioneering legal scholar who teaches at both U.C.L.A. and Columbia, has watched with alarm the attempts to suppress an entire intellectual movement. It was Crenshaw who came up with the name “critical race theory” when organizing a workshop in 1989. (She also coined the term “intersectionality.”) “The commitment to free speech seems to dissipate when the people who are being gagged are folks who are demanding racial justice,” she told me.

Many of the intellectual currents that would become critical race theory emerged in the 1970s out of disappointment with the incomplete work of the civil rights movement, and cohered among radical law professors in the 1980s.

The movement was ahead of its time; one of its central insights, that racism is structural rather than just a matter of interpersonal bigotry, is now conventional wisdom, at least on the left. It had concrete practical applications, leading, for example, to legal arguments that housing laws or employment criteria could be racist in practice even if they weren’t racist in intent.

Parts of the critical race theory tradition are in tension with liberalism, particularly when it comes to issues like free speech. Richard Delgado, a key figure in the movement, has argued that people should be able to sue those who utter racist slurs. Others have played a large role in crafting campus speech codes.

There’s plenty here for people committed to broad free speech protections to dispute. I’m persuaded by the essay Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in the 1990s challenging the movement’s stance on the first amendment. “To remove the very formation of our identities from the messy realm of contestation and debate is an elemental, not incidental, truncation of the ideal of public discourse,” he wrote.

Disagreeing with certain ideas, however, is very different from anathematizing the collective work of a host of paradigm-shifting thinkers. Gates’s article was effective because he took the scholarly work he engaged with seriously. “The critical race theorists must be credited with helping to reinvigorate the debate about freedom of expression; even if not ultimately persuaded to join them, the civil libertarian will be much further along for having listened to their arguments and examples,” he wrote.

But the right, for all its chest-beating about the value of entertaining dangerous notions, is rarely interested in debating the tenets of critical race theory. It wants to eradicate them from public institutions.

“Critical race theory is a grave threat to the American way of life,” Christopher Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank once known for pushing an updated form of creationism in public schools, wrote in January.

Rufo’s been leading the conservative charge against critical race theory. Last year, during an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, he called on Trump to issue an executive order abolishing “critical race theory trainings from the federal government.” The next day, he told me, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, called him and asked for his help putting an order together.

Last month, Rufo announced a “new coalition of legal foundations and private attorneys that will wage relentless legal warfare against race theory in America’s institutions.” A number of House and Senate offices, he told me, are working on their own anti-critical race theory bills, though none are likely to go anywhere as long as Biden is president.

As Rufo sees it, critical race theory is a revolutionary program that replaces the Marxist categories of the bourgeois and the proletariat with racial groups, justifying discrimination against those deemed racial oppressors. His goal, ultimately, is to get the Supreme Court to rule that school and workplace trainings based on the doctrines of critical race theory violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This inversion, casting anti-racist activists as the real racists, is familiar to Ian Haney López, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in critical race theory. “There’s a rhetoric of reaction which seeks to claim that it’s defending these higher values, which, perversely, often are the very values it’s traducing,” he said. “Whether that’s ‘In the name of free speech we’re going to persecute, we’re going to launch investigations into particular forms of speech’ or — and I think this is equally perverse — ‘In the name of fighting racism, we’re going to launch investigations into those scholars who are most serious about studying the complex forms that racism takes.’”

Rufo insists there are no free speech implications to what he’s trying to do. “You have the freedom of speech as an individual, of course, but you don’t have the kind of entitlement to perpetuate that speech through public agencies,” he said.

This sounds, ironically, a lot like the arguments people on the left make about de-platforming right-wingers. To Crenshaw, attempts to ban critical race theory vindicate some of the movement’s skepticism about free speech orthodoxy, showing that there were never transcendent principles at play.

When people defend offensive speech, she said, they’re often really defending “the substance of what the speech is — because if it was really about free speech, then this censorship, people would be howling to the high heavens.” If it was really about free speech, they should be.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/26/opinion/speech-racism-academia.html

The Extremist Campaign to Blame Immigrants for US Environmental Problems

Of interest. Haven’t seen too much of that here in Canada but may have missed:

With growing frequency over the past four years, right-wing pundits, policymakers, and political operatives have fiercely and furiously blamed immigrants for the degradation and decline of nature in the United States. William Perry Pendley, who temporarily ran the U.S. Bureau of Land Management under former President Donald Trump, saw “immigration as one of the biggest threats to public lands,” according to an agency spokesperson.1 A handful of right-wing anti-immigration zealots, including Joe Guzzardi, have repeatedly misused data published by the Center for American Progress on nature loss to make xenophobic arguments for anti-immigration policies.2 This so-called “greening of hate”—a term explored by Guardian reporter Susie Cagle—is a common refrain in a wide range of conservative and white supremacist arguments, including those of Ann Coulter, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, and the manifestos of more than one mass shooter.3

The claim that immigration is to blame for America’s environmental problems is so absurd, racist, and out of the mainstream that it is easily debunked and tempting to ignore. The scientific community, and the little research that has been conducted in this area, resoundingly refutes the premise. Consider, for example, the environmental damage caused by weak and inadequate regulation of polluting industries; the destruction of wildlife habitat to accommodate wealthy exurbs and second homes; the design and propagation of policies that concentrate toxic poisons and environmental destruction near communities of color and low-income communities; the continued subsidization of fossil fuel extraction and trampling of Indigenous rights to accommodate drilling and mining projects; and the propagation of a throw-away culture by industrial powerhouses. All of these factors and others cause exponentially more severe environmental harm than a family that is fleeing violence, poverty, or suffering to seek a new life in the United States.

The extremist effort to blame immigrants for the nation’s environmental problems deserves scrutiny—and not merely for the purpose of disproving its xenophobic and outlandish claims. The contours, origins, funding sources, and goals of this right-wing effort must be understood in order to effectively combat it and ensure that the extremists pushing it have no place in the conservation movement. The individuals and organizations that are most fervently propagating this argument come largely from well-funded hate groups that are abusing discredited ideologies that were prevalent in the 19th-century American conservation movement in an attempt to make their racist rhetoric more palatable to a public concerned about the health of their environment.

While leaders of the contemporary, mainstream environmental movement in the United States have disavowed this strain of thought and are working to confront the legacies of colonialism and racism in environmental organizations and policies, a small set of right-wing political operatives are trying to magnify overtly xenophobic and false environmental arguments to achieve specific political objectives. In particular, these right-wing political operatives and their deep-pocketed funders are seeking to broaden the appeal of their anti-immigration zealotry by greenwashing their movement and supplying their right-wing base with alternative explanations for environmental decline that sidestep the culpability of the conservative anti-regulatory agenda. In their refusal to confront the true reasons for environmental decline, they are hurting the people—immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and people of color—who bear a disproportionate burden of environmental consequences and are increasingly the base of the climate justice and conservation movements.

Contextualizing anti-immigrant thought in environmentalism

Today’s right-wing activists who are blaming immigrants for the destruction of nature are, unfortunately, drawing from and building on a long and troubling history of racism, colonialism, and xenophobia in the U.S. environmental movement that harks back to the violent dispossession of lands from Indigenous tribal nations. To understand the power and dangers of this extremist movement—and where it diverges from the current mainstream environmental movement—it is important to trace the origin of population control, eugenics, and anti-immigration ideologies within the U.S. environmental movement.

The discredited roots of environmental racism

Some of the earliest and most active proponents of land conservation in the United States also espoused anti-immigration, white supremacist, and racist views. For example, Madison Grant—a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and influential voice in species conservation, including playing a role in protecting the American bison and California redwood—served as director of the American Eugenics Society and vice president of the Immigration Restriction League.4 Grant played a key role in the passage of a 1924 law restricting immigration by Asians and Arabs.5 John Muir, known as the father of national parks, expressed racism toward Black and Native Americans and promoted ideas of restricting immigration by nonwhites.6

The notion that immigration was to blame for environmental destruction resurged in the 1970s, just as Europe’s population was plateauing and that of the Global South began to grow. During this period, many deemed overpopulation-driven resource depletion one of the largest challenges facing the planet. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, The Population Bomb, which argued that overpopulation would fuel famine and global upheaval, proved very influential in the environmental movement at the time.7 This idea—which ignored the enormous difference in consumption patterns between countries—reinforced the idea already floating among U.S. nativists, which falsely associated global population growth and immigration growth.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, these xenophobic ideas existed within some environmental nonprofits, including Earth First! and the Rewilding Institute, both of which were started by extremist activist Dave Foreman.8 The environmental argument for anti-immigrant policies also tracks closely with the Sierra Club’s history, and its association with one person—John Tanton—has had perhaps the most lasting impact.9 Tanton, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calls “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement” and who died in 2019, was a Sierra Club official in the 1980s and went on to form many prominent anti-immigration groups, including many that dabble in environmental messaging.10

Up until the 1990s, population control was part of the Sierra Club’s core platform. For decades, a faction within the organization—including Tanton—worked to use the Sierra Club’s influence to promote policies to block immigration and undermine immigrant rights. In 1998, Tanton and others pushed a vote about whether or not the Sierra Club would take a strong public stance against immigration. The proposal was narrowly defeated by the Sierra Club’s members, leading to a full separation from this ideology in the early 2000s.11 But Tanton’s groups continue to try to influence environmental progressives.12

Today, as major environmental groups grapple with their own systems of exclusion and injustice and reevaluate heroes and founders such as Muir and Roosevelt, the mainstream conservation movement no longer considers anti-immigrant arguments legitimate or accurate.13

The ‘greening of hate’

While the history of this anti-immigrant argument has roots in environmentalism, today, this line of thinking is primarily propagated by extremists who are cloaking themselves as conservationists to make their arguments more palatable. Researchers refer to this phenomena as the “greening of hate.”14 The individuals making these arguments are backed by many of the most prominent anti-immigration groups and funders, several of which the SPLC have flagged as white supremacist hate groups.

Greenwashed hate groups and their funders

Nearly every formal argument claiming immigrants as the source of environmental degradation can be traced back to a handful of anti-immigration groups funded and founded by extremists far outside of the mainstream environmental movement.

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Founded by John Tanton, FAIR was deemed a hate group by the SPLC because of its ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists.15

Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Also founded by Tanton, CIS was deemed a hate group by the SPLC because it repeatedly publishes and promotes white supremacist and anti-Semitic writers and makes false claims about the criminality of immigrants.16

Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). PFIR, also tied to Tanton, is perhaps the most central organization in the anti-immigrant greenwashing universe.17 The group has been flagged by the SPLC for hosting a “cynical greenwashing campaign to recruit environmentalists to the anti-immigrant cause by blaming them for urban sprawl, overconsumption and a host of other environmental problems.”18

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). CAPS was founded by Garrett Hardin, a University of California, Santa Barbara professor and FAIR board member, who famously wrote the essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” which he used to support his ideology of preventing the “wrong” people—specifically nonwhite people—from reproducing.19 Like many others on this list, the group has ties to Tanton and was found to have hired white supremacists.20

NumbersUSA. Also founded by Tanton, the group is considered a nativist organization along the lines of FAIR and CIS.21 Don Weeden, of the Weeden Foundation, formerly served as the group’s treasurer and on the board of directors and until recently was one of the group’s independent directors.22

The Rewilding Institute. Compared with other groups on this list—which are largely focused on immigration but use environmentalism as a conduit—this one does focus on environmental issues but has frequently pushed similar lines of thought on immigration as those listed above, often through population-growth dog whistles.23 The group was founded by Dave Foreman—who was kicked out of Earth First!, another group he co-founded—in the 1980s for his extreme anti-immigrant beliefs.24 Foreman is still actively associated with Rewilding and frequently associates with organizations such as CAPS and publishes anti-immigration op-eds.25

Colcom Foundation. Based in Pittsburgh, Colcom was founded by Mellon Bank heiress Cordelia Scaife May, who believed that her life’s purpose was curbing the threat of overpopulation by limiting immigration to the United States.26 According to public tax filings, Colcom is the single-largest funder of anti-immigrant groups in the United States, giving around $150 million since 2005.27 The foundation provides the bulk of funding to Tanton’s anti-immigration groups, including PFIR, NumbersUSA, FAIR, and CIS, along with nominal money for environmental causes. In February 2020, activists protested Colcom, describing it as “not an environmental organization that dabbles in white supremacy, [but] a white supremacist group that dabbles in environmentalism.” Several environmental organizations have subsequently severed ties to the foundation.28 Colcom Vice President John Rohe, who decades ago published a book about Tanton, denied activists’ claims about the organization, saying, “To be concerned about the level of immigrants due to overpopulation is not anti-immigrant.”29

Weeden Foundation. Led by Don Weeden, the foundation has provided funding to CAPS, the Rewilding Institute, NumbersUSA, PFIR, FAIR, and CIS, along with biodiversity and wilderness conservation organizations and projects.30 Several of its officers have also been very active in leadership and boards within the anti-immigration groups that they fund.31

Foundation for the Carolinas. Despite generally being well liked for their work to improve economic opportunity in Charlotte and around North Carolina, the group manages a donor-advised fund that has funneled money to FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. Between 2006 and 2018, the foundation gave nearly $21 million in donor-advised gifts to at least nine anti-immigrant organizations, 85 percent of which went to Tanton-linked organizations.32

Anti-immigrant groups cloaking themselves in environmentalism to push a xenophobic agenda is not new.33 While their scientifically meritless arguments are no longer welcome within the mainstream environmental movement, they continue to fuel the vitriol—and bad policy decisions, including draconian cuts to immigration levels, the evisceration of the U.S. refugee asylum systems, and the separation of families at the border—that hurt legitimate, effective solutions to the conservation and climate crisis.34

Racist rhetoric undermines the conservation movement

This small but organized and well-funded fringe of anti-immigration activists has produced arguments that range from openly bigoted and racist stereotypes to the more insidious and purportedly science-based claims about population that resonate with Eurocentric environmentalism of the 20th century. It bears repeating: These claims do not have the support of the scientific community, and the little research that has been conducted in this area resoundingly refutes them.35 In fact, the vast majority of behavioral studies demonstrate that immigrants live more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than native-born Americans, so much so that immigrant density is associated with lower carbon emissions.36

Population-based arguments against immigration, meanwhile, are built on a series of flawed assumptions. The first is that the environmental health of the United States exists in isolation from the rest of the world, which has never been more untrue than in 2020, as the country grapples with climate change, the collapse of transnational migratory species, and a coronavirus pandemic born out of nature destruction and overexploitation of wildlife in another continent.37 The second is that it allows the interests driving the real problem—overconsumption and unregulated development—off the hook.38 For example, corporate interests such as the oil and gas industry have undue influence on U.S. policy.39 Per capita, the United States has a greater rate of climate emissions, air pollution, and nature destruction than most other countries and is an outlier even among countries with similar standards of living.40 Policies aimed at limiting corporate capture and protecting public health—not curtailing immigration—are the solutions to these problems.

Polls show that communities of color—to which most immigrants and second-generation Americans belong—are the most concerned about this destruction and the likeliest to support policies that would protect the environment.41 For example, polls show high Latino support for conserving water, reducing air pollution, and protecting wildlife.42 This comes as no surprise given that communities of color—especially those that are also low-income—are more likely to suffer the consequences of unplanned urban sprawl, oil and gas drilling, deforestation, and pollution.43 Studies show that white people contribute disproportionately to the problem of air pollution, while Black and Latino people are the likeliest to bear the burden of air pollution where they live.44 Immigrants, who contribute less to pollution on average than native-born Americans, are still disproportionately likely to suffer the consequences of toxic pollution from industrial polluters.45 In this context, genuine environmentalism cannot exclude or antagonize immigrants and second-generation Americans, who form a core constituency of the conservation movement.

Instead, this vitriol could actively harm the conservation movement by alienating and erasing both potential and existing allies, members, and leaders who are from immigrant backgrounds.46 For example, immigrant leaders were central to the labor-driven movement to ban the use of toxic DDT pesticides in the 20th century.47 More recently, Asian immigrants in the fishing industry faced the worst consequences of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and participated heavily in cleanup efforts.48 At the local level, immigrants are at the forefront of a range of environmental justice and conservation efforts, even as they remain underrepresented at the tables of national organizations and government agencies.49 Moreover, the racist rhetoric that runs throughout the anti-immigration fringe could undermine the United States’ ability to cooperate across borders with countries that will be key allies in fighting climate change, conserving biodiversity, and, ultimately, fighting the ecological degradation and disasters that often force people to flee their home countries to begin with.50

One of the most dramatic examples of how greenwashed nativism can harm the planet is the Trump administration’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. Its construction was not only regarded as ineffective and wasteful but has also caused immense damage to the environment, including by blasting mountains, destroying ancient cactus, desecrating sacred sites of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and disrupting the migration routes and survival of nearly 100 already imperiled species ranging from jaguars to monarch butterflies.51 Notably, the Trump administration’s extensive use of waivers to circumvent environmental standards and regulations allowed the federal government to destroy these lands with impunity in the name of immigration control.52

Focusing, instead, on the root causes of human displacement and migration—including those rooted in nature destruction and climate change—and increasing well-designed legal channels for people to seek entry to the United States would help U.S. immigration policy become more humane, more effective, and more environmentally sustainable.53 Moreover, the Biden administration has an opportunity to focus on repairing the cruel and counterproductive mistakes of the Trump era to establish a working legal immigration system, asylum process, and pathway to citizenship—all of which will benefit the U.S. environmental movement.54

Conclusion 

Anti-immigrant sentiments were a staple of mainstream Eurocentric conservation in the 19th and 20th centuries—but so were eugenics, unscientific species exterminations, and the purposeful usurpation of land from Indigenous tribes who often stewarded natural resources more effectively than the managers who followed. As an examination of funding sources and policy positions have found, the extremist groups now hawking misleading and easily debunked green-hate arguments are not acting in good faith.

Twenty-first century environmentalism is, by necessity, a multiracial, multigenerational, international, and anti-elitist movement whose diversity only makes it stronger. It is built of, by, and for all people—and immigrant-dense communities are its base.55 If the evidence of bad actors funding green hate, the mounting scientific data, and 650 miles of border wall devastation are not evidence enough, this fact alone should make clear that these arguments do not belong in the modern environmental movement.

Jenny Rowland-Shea is a senior policy analyst for Public Lands at the Center for American Progress. Sahir Doshi is research assistant for Public Lands at the Center.

Source: The Extremist Campaign to Blame Immigrants for US Environmental Problems

‘Institutionally racist’: NZ security agencies were Islamophobic and ignored right-wing threat – Muslim group

Of note. Valid and necessary of course to await the inquiry’s final report:

New Zealand’s security agencies were “institutionally racist and Islamophobic” and ignored the rising threat of right-wing extremism because it was instead focused on Muslim terrorism, a Kiwi Islamic organisation says.

The Federation of the Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) yesterday publicly released its submission to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 terror attacks.

It investigated how the New Zealand Intelligence Community [NZIC] didn’t foresee the threat of right-wing extremism despite rising attacks overseas and the Muslim community here feeling increasingly unsafe.

“We asked for help. We knew we were vulnerable to such an attack. We did not know who, when, what, where or how. But we knew,” the report said.

A team of researchers pored over a decade of media reports, speeches in Parliament, public addresses, online forums among other sources to establish how the threat had been ignored.

It concluded security organisations were institutionally racist, Islamophobic, incorrect and misled the public.

“We are not trying to generate any hate, we are just trying to give the facts as we see them. The problem is much deeper than that,” said Abdur Razzaq Khan, who chaired the federation’s submission to the Royal Commission.

The federation said Muslim communities were left “defenceless” because of “systemic failures” of diversity at the security organisations which failed to properly engage with Muslim communities.

The report pointed to numerous examples of the director-general of security Rebecca Kitteridge wrongly framed terrorism as a “Muslim issue” rather than seeing the community as potential victims.

Their submission included a speech from Kitteridge in 2016 at Victoria University where she said New Zealanders “can walk the streets free from fear” of events like Paris, Brussels, Ottawa, London and Sydney which were all perpetrated by Islamic radicals.

She did not mention the events of Oslo, Quebec, Pittsburg or Macerata which were orchestrated by right-wing extremists.

It was not until mid-2018 that agencies began assessing the threat of right-wing extremists, the report said.

But Khan said they did not blame any individual for the “failings”, or say that the NZIC was staffed by white supremacists or individuals with anti-Muslim bias.

“This is not the fault of any individual – this is the culture of Islamophobia.”

The NZSIS was extremely capable and if they had focused on finding right-wing extremism, they would have found the Christchurch terrorist.

“This rat would have easily been identified if they were looking – but they weren’t looking.

“They are very good, they searched out those Muslims who were searching out objectionable material and they prosecuted.”

The federation also found the Christchurch mosque attacks terrorist would never have been able to obtain a firearm if proper procedures were followed because two of his referees did not meet police criteria.

In order to avoid a terror attack happening again, the federation recommended criminalising hate crimes, denying right-wing extremism, establishing a Ministry of Super Diversity, improving how media portray Muslims, and better training for the police and security agencies.

The New Zealand Intelligence Community said it could not respond to specific claims until the Royal Commission’s report was released on December 8. The 800-page report has been presented to the Government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wanted the public to see the report before “launching into the discussion” on whether New Zealand’s security agencies had failed.

Source: ‘Institutionally racist’: NZ security agencies were Islamophobic and ignored right-wing threat – Muslim group

Christian journal claims government has forced the Church to worship ‘the false god of saving lives’

Meanwhile, Christian fundamentalists:

Although a great many governors have made allowances for religious ceremonies to be performed in their coronavirus lockdown orders, many churches, too, have acknowledged in these extraordinary circumstances that their congregants should not be expected to attend public gatherings just for the sake of religious ceremony. Even Pope Francis has suggested Catholics who are at risk should ask God for forgiveness directly rather than go to Confession — a remarkable departure from centuries of Catholic Church doctrine.

But not all those of faith feel this way. In an angry article published in the right-wing Christian Journal First Things, editor R. R. Reno took a different position, suggesting that Christianity does not, in fact, command the faithful to take steps to save lives from COVID-19.

“At the press conference on Friday announcing the New York shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, ‘I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do. And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy,’” wrote Reno. “This statement reflects a disastrous sentimentalism. Everything for the sake of physical life? What about justice, beauty, and honor? There are many things more precious than life. And yet we have been whipped into such a frenzy in New York that most family members will forgo visiting sick parents. Clergy won’t visit the sick or console those who mourn. The Eucharist itself is now subordinated to the false god of ‘saving lives.’”

“A number of my friends disagree with me,” wrote Reno. “They support the current measures, insisting that Christians must defend life. But the pro-life cause concerns the battle against killing, not an ill-conceived crusade against human finitude and the dolorous reality of death.”

Indeed, Reno even suggested that fearing the pandemic is a victory for Satan.

“There is a demonic side to the sentimentalism of saving lives at any cost,” wrote Reno. “Satan rules a kingdom in which the ultimate power of death is announced morning, noon, and night. But Satan cannot rule directly. God alone has the power of life and death, and thus Satan can only rule indirectly. He must rely on our fear of death.”

“Fear of death and causing death is pervasive — stoked by a materialistic view of survival at any price and unchecked by Christian leaders who in all likelihood secretly accept the materialist assumptions of our age,” concluded Reno. “As long as we allow fear to reign, it will cause nearly all believers to fail to do as Christ commands in Matthew 25. It already is.”

Source: Christian journal claims government has forced the Church to worship ‘the false god of saving lives’

The Legitimate Islamic Right — A Frank Discussion

Interesting and more nuanced take from an organization that tends towards anti-Muslim commentary:

A frank discussion needs to be had about the legitimate Islamic Right, namely religious Muslims who are politically and socially conservative but not Islamists. Too often, religious Muslims and Islamists get lumped together in the same category, but in reality, opposing Islamism is about opposing a political ideology, not just conservative views.

Extremism is about politics, not faith. The difference between an Islamist extremist and a regular Muslim religious person is whether they see their faith as a totalitarian political solution, not how religious they are.

Unless countering Islamism draws a firm line there, it will consistently exclude the reasonable Islamic right.

The Religious Islamic Right

Theological differences aside, religious people from the Abrahamic faiths share more social and political beliefs than they disagree with, namely, the values of social conservatives.

Social conservatives hold a set of views about how societies should be arranged. These views prioritize community over individualistic loneliness, conservation over consumerism, and tradition over novelty. Above all, they prioritize marriage and the home.

There is nothing unique to what is sometimes called the “Judeo-Christian” tradition about these views. They are just as prevalent in Islam among religious Muslims.

For example, according to a 2013 cross comparison of religious attitudes on abortion conducted by PEW, the Islamic position on abortion is on par with the theological views of Christianity and Judaism. Most Islamic theologians view it very negatively, although it is permissible up to four months.

Regarding dating, the views are also similar. Religious Muslim families in America have been known to use informal networks of aunts and grandmothers to secure dates that might lead to marriage for young men and women too pious to date casually.

This is very similar to the shidduch system of Orthodox Jews. It’s also something that a lot of Christian conservatives, many of whom frown on modern sexual norms, might find more appealing for their own children.

For these reasons, a lot of Muslims used to vote Right wing. A 2001 Zogby poll, quoted by The Atlantic in a piece titled “How the GOP Won and Then Lost the Muslim Vote,” indicated that 42% of American Muslims voted for Bush, as opposed to 32% for his opponent Al Gore.

If Right-wing people view expression of these sorts of views as extremist when displayed by Muslims, but as laudable when displayed by members of their own faith, that is holding Islam to a different standard.

Of course, we are not talking about the cases where such religious systems become oppressive and involve coercion, restricting personal freedoms or even violence, it is unacceptable. Culture is never an excuse for abuse. But where there is no abuse, these attitudes are simply conservative.

What About Sharia?

Islam is not like Christianity. Sharia is a total code for life which draws on the rich Islamic tradition of scholarship to guide daily conduct. Although there are many different opinions on what sharia is, most Muslims agree that it is very important.

However, the point that Islamic Right differs from the Islamists is that the Islamic Right does not agree that sharia should become the law of the land – either at this time or even in the future.

Granted, many Muslims who are deeply religious may feel in theory that a global caliphate which implements sharia would be the best system of government. There’s just the “small matter” of who would be the caliph, and how to ensure the judges and administrators are decent people devoted to truth and justice, and not power hungry lunatics.

In order for them to pledge allegiance to a particular caliph, they would have to see some pretty clear evidence that this guy was in fact acting with the authority of Allah.

Evidence such as the coming of the mahdi, an Islamic messianic figure, and direct intervention by supernatural forces would be such indications.

In the meantime, they are content to live normal lives, follow their interpretation of sharia privately and live within under a democracy and secular law.

In fact, such views do not differ from those of religious Christians and Jews who also look to a future where the world will be run according to the “kingdom of God.”

Other religious Muslims would go further still and argue that sharia should never be imposed as state law.

Politics Not Faith

It is difficult to gauge accurately how many Muslims hold these views. What can be determined is which ideologies are dangerous and abusive and which are not.

The point is that it is unreasonable to expect Islam, alone among world religions, to cut off and excise its religiously conservative component to appease anxious non-Muslims.

If social-conservatism is a vital and necessary part of the national political conversation (and it is), then Muslims have just as much right to express that through their faith as anyone else.

What is reasonable is to highlight where that conservatism goes too far. The line, as always, is where it starts aggressing on someone else’s rights.

Any political ideology which seeks to impose religious conservatism as state law is the problem. It’s one thing to prefer the hijab for personal and spiritual reasons for yourself. To try and force others to wear it is something completely different.

In the meantime, barring any coercive circumstances, the “Judeo-Christian” conservative Right should open their doors to the Islamic Right — Muslims who share the same values as they do — instead of pushing them into alliances with the Left.

Source: The Legitimate Islamic Right — A Frank Discussion

How to speak to far-right nationalists: Buruma

Buruma is always interesting to read and his general advice worth reflecting upon:

Something many right-wing populists have in common is a peculiar form of self-pity: the feeling of being victimized by the liberal media, academics, intellectuals, “experts” – in short, by the so-called elites. The liberal elites, the populists proclaim, rule the world and dominate ordinary patriotic people with an air of lofty disdain.

This is in many ways an old-fashioned view. Liberals, or leftists, do not dominate politics any more. And the influence that great left-of-centre newspapers, like The New York Times, once had has long been eclipsed by radio talk-show hosts, right-wing cable TV stations, tabloid newspapers (largely owned by Rupert Murdoch in the English-speaking world) and social media.

Influence, however, is not the same thing as prestige. The great newspapers, as with the great universities, still enjoy a higher status than the more popular press, and the same goes for higher learning. The Sun or Bild lack the esteem of the Financial Times or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and evangelical colleges in rural parts of the United States cannot compete in terms of cachet with Harvard or Yale.

Social status arouses more envy and resentment in our populist age than money or fame do. U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, is a very wealthy man, who was more famous than any of his rivals for the U.S. presidency, including Hillary Clinton. And yet he seems to be in an almost permanent rage against people who have greater intellectual or social prestige than he does. The fact that he shares this resentment with millions of people who are much less privileged goes a long way toward explaining his political success.

Until recently, figures on the extreme right had no prestige at all. Driven to the margins of most societies by collective memories of Nazi and fascist horrors, such men (there were hardly any women) had the grubby air of middle-aged patrons of backstreet porno cinemas. Stephen Bannon, still a highly influential figure in Mr. Trump’s world, seems a bit like that – a crank in a dirty raincoat.

But much has changed. Younger members of the far right, especially in Europe, are often sharply dressed in tailor-made suits, recalling the fascist dandies of pre-war France and Italy. They don’t shout at large mobs, but are slick performers in radio and TV studios, and are savvy users of social media. Some of them even have a sense of humour.

These new-model rightists are almost what Germans call salonfaehig, respectable enough to move in high circles. Overt racism is muted; their bigotry is disguised under a lot of smart patter. They crave prestige.

I had occasion to encounter a typical ideologue of this type recently at an academic conference organized by the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College in the United States. The conference was about populism, and the ideologue was Marc Jongen, a politician from the far-right Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party with a doctorate in philosophy. The son of a Dutch father and an Italian mother, born in Italy’s German-speaking South Tyrol, Mr. Jongen spoke near-perfect English.

Self-pity lay close to the surface. Mr. Jongen described Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to give shelter in Germany to large numbers of refugees from Middle Eastern wars as “an act of violence” toward the German people. He called immigrants and refugees criminals and rapists (even though crime rates among refugees in Germany are far lower than among “natives”). Islam was robbing the German Volk of its true identity. Men like Mr. Jongen were always being called Nazis. And so on.

I had been asked to furnish some counterarguments. I did not call Mr. Jongen a Nazi. But I did my best to point out why I thought his claims were both wrong and dangerous. We shook hands at the end. And that, as far as I was concerned, was that.

Then a minor academic storm broke out. More than 50 distinguished U.S. academics signed a letter protesting the Hannah Arendt Center’s decision to invite Mr. Jongen to speak. The point was not that he didn’t have the right to express his opinions, but that Bard College should not have lent its prestige to make the speaker look respectable. Inviting him to speak made his views seem legitimate.

This strikes me as wrong-headed for several reasons. First, if one is going to organize a conference on right-wing populism, it is surely useful to hear what a right-wing populist actually has to say. Listening to professors denouncing ideas without actually hearing what they are would not be instructive.

Nor is it obvious that a spokesman for a major opposition party in a democratic state should be considered out of bounds as a speaker on a college campus. Left-wing revolutionaries were once a staple of campus life, and efforts to ban them would rightly have been resisted.

The protest against inviting Mr. Jongen was not only intellectually incoherent; it was also tactically stupid, because it confirms the beliefs of the far right that liberals are the enemies of free speech and that right-wing populists are victims of liberal intolerance. I like to think that Mr. Jongen left the Bard conference politely discredited. Because of the protest, he was able to snatch victory from defeat.

via How to speak to far-right nationalists – The Globe and Mail

Anti-Islam group storms Anglican church in Australia – BBC News

More ugliness in Australia:

Right-wing protestors dressed in mock Muslim outfits and chanting anti-Islamic slogans have stormed a church service on Australia’s east coast.

The protestors interrupted a service held at Gosford Anglican Church on the Central Coast of New South Wales state.

A group of about 10 people entered the church and pretended to pray while playing Muslim prayers over a loudspeaker.

Local police are investigating what the church described as a “racist stunt”.

The Party for Freedom posted photos and video of the incident on social media, claiming it was a demonstration against the church’s support for Islamic leaders and multiculturalism.

The organisation has ties to Senator Pauline Hanson’s anti-immigration One Nation party, which has won four seats in Australia’s Senate.

“We want to share Islam with you, this is the future,” one of the protesters said in the footage.

“This is cultural diversity, mate. The rich tapestry of Islam that we’d like to share with Father Rod, and the congregation, and the social justice agenda we hear all the time.”

More than 24 hours after the altercation, One Nation released a statement saying that it did not have any official affiliation with the Party For Freedom.

‘Traumatised’

Father Rod Bower said the incident at his church terrorised the congregation.

“They were shocked,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“I worked out who it was fairly quickly. Some of the congregation was quite traumatised.”

The church is known for spreading pro-immigration messages on its billboard and in services.

The far-right nationalist group warned the congregation not to promote Islam.

“[The protest] was simply because we support the Muslim community, we try and build bridges,” Fr Bower said.

Source: Anti-Islam group storms Anglican church in Australia – BBC News

Anti-immigrant politicos in U.S. and Europe begin exploiting Brussels attacks

Predictable:

The terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Brussels that left 34 people dead are being exploited for political gain by many European politicians and parties, but especially so by right-wing, anti-immigration populists.

Belgium’s own right-wing party from Flanders, Vlaams Belang, has seen its popularity on social media soar since the attacks after its leader called for a “waterproof border policy,” according to Vocativ.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the France’s National Front, called on French authorities to carry out sweeping raids on minority neighborhoods and “empty the basements [of terrorists], the laxness has gone on for too long.”

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo from the Law and Justice party said her country could no longer take the 7,000 refugees it agreed to accept in negotiations with the European Union because of the deadly attacks, Reutersreported.

In the United Kingdom, the Independence Party, which is backing the British exit from the European Union known as Brexit, used the attacks to push their agenda.

American right-wingers chimed in, too.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump used the attacks to reiterate his stance on torture as an appropriate response as well as his plan to close U.S. borders while labeling Brussels “disaster city.”

Source: Anti-immigrant politicos in U.S. and Europe begin exploiting Brussels attacks

The angry, radical right: Martin Patriquin

Just as many pundits noted “Harper derangement syndrome” on the left, we now have “Trudeau (the younger) derangement syndrome” on the right following the election.

Ironic, given that the Conservative Party, now in opposition, has been running away from some of the policies and practices it implemented (e.g., cancellation of the Census, refusal to have an enquiry on murdered aboriginal women, the sale of LAVs to Saudi Arabia).

There will always be fringes on both sides of the political spectrum and the question is whether this will remain on the fringes or be picked up in some form by mainstream political parties (as arguably happened with the Conservatives’ use of identity politics with respect to Canadian Muslims during the election):

The RCMP, meanwhile, has seen an uptick in threats against Trudeau, according to police sources. “It’s somewhat expected, because Trudeau is anathema to right-wing extremists, and right-wing extremists tend to be the most explicit and reckless of those who make these kinds of threats,” says a former member of the RCMP’s threat-assessment group, a national security unit that safeguards domestic and visiting political leaders, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he remains a member of the RCMP.

Much of the rhetoric comes from a range of online groups whose ideologies vary as much as their popularity. Pegida Canada and Canadian Defence League, for example, are offshoots of European anti-Islamic groups. Others, including Separation of Alberta from the Liberal East, have specific Canadian political goals. Others still are Zionist in nature, including the Jewish Defence League and Christians United For Israel. With its 25,000 followers, Never Again Canada looms large.

The Never Again Canada Facebook page first appeared in mid-2014. The group, such as it is, bills itself as an “organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, propaganda, terror and Jew hatred in Canada . . . Hatred is like cancer, the more you don’t treat it and ignore it, the worse it gets.” Its page, often updated several times an hour, is almost uniquely dedicated to criticism of Justin Trudeau—sometimes referred to as “Justine”—and Islam. (“Never Again” is an apparent reference to the slogan of the Jewish Defence League, the U.S.-based militant Zionist organization, which has a chapter in Canada.)

The commentators on Never Again are a hodgepodge of Zionists, former and current military, Christian militants, the occasional white nationalist—an irony, given that the white nationalist movement isn’t typically very charitable toward Jews—and many anti-Muslim types like Witko and Larry Langenauer. A 67-year-old small business owner, Langenauer says he began posting on Never Again’s Facebook page four months ago.

On Dec. 10 Langenauer wrote that “the most convincing non-confidence statement” against Trudeau would be to shoot him. He has made similar threats about the Saudi-born Liberal MP Omar Alghabra, who was recently appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs. (In Canada, uttering threats is an offence punishable by up to five years in jail. Committing hate speech is punishable by up to two years in jail.)

“I guess anyone that feels that way is probably thinking that [Trudeau] is the man who almost single-handedly, with the people in office with him, has enabled violent immigrants,” Langenauer said in a recent telephone interview from his Montreal home. “It’s their responsibility. Why would Canada be exempt from this type of behaviour by the radical Islamic immigrants? They say they’re refugees, they’re not really refugees. People are going to resent it, and eventually they will act upon it toward the people whom they feel are responsible.”

Source: The angry, radical right – Macleans.ca

European far-Right parties ‘seeking anti-Islam coalition with Jewish groups’

Not surprising but encouraging that most European Jewish groups have rejected the overture:

Right-wing European political parties are seeking to sow religious discord in Europe by approaching Jewish organisations in a bid to form an anti-Islamic alliance.

Speaking to Newsweek on condition of anonymity, a senior figure in one of Europe’s largest Jewish organisations has revealed that their group has been approached in the past year by MEPs, including members of the Austrian Freedom Party, seeking to create a coalition to combat the rise of Islam in Europe. They emphasized that all approaches had been flatly refused.

Last week, Marine Le Pen and other far-Right politicians met with Vadim Rabinovich, the chairman of the European Jewish Parliament (EJP), prompting criticism from European Jewish leaders.

Now the source says that far-Right’s rapprochement with Jewish groups is far from new as politicians from various parties have attempted to court their group, offering to “be friends with Jews” if Jewish groups “help us in our fight against Muslims”.

… The meeting drew criticism from prominent Jewish leaders and led to one member of the EJP, French rabbi Levi Matusof, resigning after the meeting which he called “opportunistic and inappropriate”.

The European Jewish Association, which claims to be the biggest federation of Jewish organisations in Europe, said that the EJP risked “magnifying the problem” of anti-Semitism by “giving a platform to those seeking to spread messages of hate”.

Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said he was shocked that the EJP met with “fig leaf racists and anti-Semites” and added: “It goes without saying that these people [the EJP] are as unrepresentative of the vast majority of European Jews as this collective of Le Pen’s MEPs is of the vast majority of European citizens.”

In a statement on the EJP’s website, Rabinovich said he was “very surprised” by the negative reaction from other Jewish groups.

“The meeting with the [Europe of Nations and Freedom] opens the new dialogue, which, in our firm conviction is what Europe needs today – a dialogue of everybody with everyone, in order to preserve peace and tolerance and combat anti-Semitism in Europe,” said Rabinovich.

He added that a joint statement with Le Pen had condemned anti-Semitism as “the cancer of Europe”.

European far-Right parties ‘seeking anti-Islam coalition with Jewish groups’.