CDU party congress shifts to the right on immigration, burqa, and dual citizenship

Pacifying internal critics

On December 6 and 7, 2016, Germany’s centre-right CDU congregated in Essen for its party convention to endorse Angela Merkel for another term as CDU chairwoman as well as for a fourth run for Chancellor in the September 2017 federal elections.

Merkel had announced her decision to stand again for both offices shortly before the convention. Manifestly, shee deemed the moment to be an opportune one: her popularity ratings had steadily improved over the past weeks as she shifted to a more restrictive position on immigration that sought to reassure a fearful electorate and – after a series of defeats at the polls – to pacify her internal detractors.(( http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/17/regional-elections-germany-deliver-gains-afd-weakening-merkel/ ))

At the party convention, Merkel continued her attempts to win over her critics on the right by asserting that the open-door approach to immigration that she had taken in summer 2015 “cannot, should not, and must not repeat itself.” She defined a harsher line on immigration as “our and my declared political goal.” ((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/cdu-parteitag-zwischen-merkel-und-morgen.724.de.html?dram:article_id=373394 ))

A set of restrictive measures on immigration and identity

The party convention endorsed the creation of “transit zones” for newly arriving migrants at German borders. These are to function as centres for reception, shelter, and detention where immigrants’ demands for asylum are processed on the spot. Moreover, the CDU aims to quicken the deportation of asylum-seekers who have had their demands rejected. (( https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article160057151/CDU-Innenexperten-setzen-auf-noch-rigidere-Asylpolitik.html ))

Islam and immigration loomed large behind some of the other proposals adopted at the convention, too. Merkel herself demanded that the burqa be banned “wherever this is legally possible.” As a piece of clothing making face-to-face communication in a democratic society impossible, Merkel defined the burqa as alien to German culture and values.(( http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/cdu-parteitag-zwischen-merkel-und-morgen.724.de.html?dram:article_id=373394 ))

Moreover, the convention demanded that marriages involving an underage bride or groom concluded abroad be no longer legally recognised and valid in Germany. On this issue, the run-up to the convention had witnessed repeated public polemics.(( http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/kinderehen-in-deutschland-integrationsbeauftragte-aydan-oezoguz-gegen-pauschales-verbot-a-1119480.html )) Finally, in another measure of identity politics, German is to be inscribed in the constitution as the country’s official language.(( https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article160076321/CDU-verschaerft-innenpolitischen-Kurs.html ))

Conservative revolt on dual citizenship

However, these concessions did not satisfy the CDU’s conservative wing. While Merkel was re-elected to the chairmanship, she only received 89.5 per cent of the votes – a weak showing given the traditionally consensus-based and largely ceremonial nature of personnel choices at CDU party conventions. It represented Merkel’s second-worst result in her sixteen years at the head of the party.

Moreover, the CDU’s youth wing pushed through a resolution proposing a tightening of citizenship laws. Since late 2014, children of non-EU immigrants (above all from Turkey) who have been born and raised in Germany are allowed to retain both the German nationality and the nationality of their parents. The convention adopted a motion that seeks to scrap this option for dual citizenship and to force children to choose between a German passport and the passport of their parents’ country of origin by the age of 23.

This proposition targets over half a million children and young adults born between 1990 and 2012. Conservative politicians such as Jens Spahn, young CDU hopeful and self-stylised ‘burqaphobe’((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/08/26/muslim-womens-dress-takes-centre-stage-german-debate/ )) have long lambasted rules allowing dual citizenship as diluting immigrants’ loyalty to Germany.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2016-12/doppelte-staatsbuergerschaft-cdu-optionspflicht-faq ))

The CDU’s strategic choices

Merkel and the CDU leadership subsequently stated that they would not consider themselves bound by the convention’s decision on dual citizenship. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière asserted that while he remained sceptical of dual citizenship per se, retracting the more liberal regulations would needlessly hurt and antagonise the young people targeted. In any case, none of the CDU’s potential coalition partners for a post-2017 government is willing to accept a crackdown on dual nationality.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2016-12/staatsbuergerschaft-cdu-parteitag-integration ))

Thus, while the arduous discussions on citizenship provisions will remain largely inconsequential for the foreseeable future, they nevertheless show the dissatisfaction of the conservative base: the CDU party convention – occasionally ridiculed by political opponents as a powerless body rubberstamping the leadership’s decisions (Kanzlerwahlverein) – rose up in open revolt against a party elite deemed too liberal and out of touch with a disgruntled population.

Merkel herself has warned that the 2017 electoral campaign will be difficult and marked by increasingly loud assaults from the rising populist right. It remains to be seen whether her own party will prove immune to the temptations of populist slogans.

Salafist mosque contests its closure before France’s State Council

The Yvelines prefecture has accused the Ecquevilly Mosque of calling for “discrimination and hate and violence.” The association in charge of running the mosque responded by denouncing amalgamations between salafism and jihadism. On November 2, the prefecture had called for its closing under the State of Emergency. There are no known ties to foreign networks, but the prefecture opposed the discourse of its imam, Yassine B.

On Monday, the Ecquevilly Mosque contested its closure before the State Council. The prefecture had accused the mosque of being “an influential place of worship in the salafist movement…calling for discrimination and hate and violence against women, Jews, and Christians,” adding that the imam “legitimated in a sermon,” the 2015 Paris attacks. The prefecture justified its closure by stating that “younger and younger individuals have begun to frequent salafist mosques,” which pose a security risk.

The mosque’s lawyers spoke before the State Council, stating: “We don’t see how the fight against terrorism would attempt to silence all forms of Islam in France for the sole reason that they don’t adhere to all the pillars of a Republican Islam.”

The imam denounced what he saw as a “State trap,” and contested any accusations that he had encouraged terrorism. The administrative court confirmed the mosque’s closing, as well as the prefecture’s accusations against the imam, whose statements regarding Islam and women were said to, “incite hate, discrimination, and disrespect for the laws of the Republic.”

The discourse “has already had negative effects on social cohesion in Ecquevilly for reasons of religious pressure, notably felt by women, who are ‘insufficiently’ veiled or not veiled at all. [This pressure] is in turn absorbed by children,” the magistrate stated.

The Interior Ministry representative described an “insidious message, which instilled idea in the community that, in the end, the [Paris] attacks were tolerable.”

In its retort, the association stated that the mosque adheres to quietist and apolitical salafism, rather than “revolutionary salafism,” which constitutes the “jihadist movement.” The association said it has “always condemned” terrorism and violence. It insisted that “none” of its worshipers, to its knowledge, were on the terror watch list or under house arrest.

Teen migrants head to UK as French court upholds ‘Jungle’ closure

France transferred another dozen mostly Afghan teenagers to Britain on Tuesday as efforts to rehouse the most vulnerable migrants of the “Jungle” camp in northern France accelerated ahead of its demolition.

The departures, which still amount to a small portion of an estimated 1,000 youngsters unaccompanied by adult family members, came as a court rejected a request by 11 charities that the closure of the Jungle be postponed.

A first busload of children arrived in Britain on Monday from the “Jungle” camp near the French port of Calais as the British government started to act on its commitment to take in unaccompanied migrant children before the camp is destroyed.

The court in Lille rejected the plea by local charities for more time to organize rehousing of the thousands who live there.

“It’s now just a matter of days,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told parliament after the closure ruling was announced. “We are now nearing the moment when the operation will begin.”

A 16-year-old Afghan named Azizullah was delighted to be leaving the camp that has come to symbolize the plight of war refugees.

“My dream came true because I want to see my brother, I miss him,” he said as he readied to leave. He planned to join his 36-year-old brother, who works in a pizza restaurant on the other side of the Channel.

President Francois Hollande, facing an election in April, has promised to shut down the camp under local pressure. His government has already started rehousing thousands of Jungle inhabitants in dozens of towns and villages across France.

Regarding the specific issue of unaccompanied children and teenagers who have fled war zones such as Afghanistan, Syria and Sudan, the transfers to Britain are taking place under EU family reunification rules known as the Dublin regulations.

Charities have accused Britain of dragging its heels on such transfers, prompting a Franco-British meeting last week which has been followed by transfers of a dozen migrants like Azizullah in the past two days.

French Muslim intellectuals critique current organization of Islam in France

“Following the killings of cartoonists, after the murders of young people listening to music, after the assassination of a police couple, after the murders of children, women, and men assisting at the celebration of the fete nationale, and today the murder of a priest conducting mass…There is horror, still more horror and a clear commitment to pit Frenchmen against one another. To destroy the national harmony which still stands. We Muslims were silent because we learned that in France religion is a private affair. We must now speak out because Islam has become a public affair and the current situation can no longer be tolerated.

As Muslims, of faith or culture, we are concerned by the powerlessness of the current Muslim organization of France, which has no control over events. Despite the efforts of those engaged, French Islam is badly managed by the representatives of countries where many French Muslims originate. This organization likely made sense when Muslims were immigrants. Today, the Muslims of France are 75% French. The majority is young, very young. Many among them are the prey not only of ideologues of radical Islam but also of political Islam. The traditional representatives no longer understand simply because they no longer know them.

So, it is necessary to change generations, with a clearly organized project: provide sustainable sources of financing and ensure transparent and open mosques, train and employ imams, engage in historical, anthropological, and theological endeavors which allow and will allow more people to be French and Muslim in the secular Republic. And finally, to lead the cultural battle against radical Islamism which concerns younger and younger youths, with the most modern means and techniques drawing on the most effective ideas and information. We must act as Muslims.

But also as Frenchmen. We must respond to French society’s questions, which ask us: ‘But who are you? What are you doing?’

Certainly this question is paradoxical: we have learned to make religion a private affair. Then why speak as Muslims? Because the risk of fracture becomes more pressing every day. So, before it is too late, before violence pits one against the other—this is Daech’s objective—we must act and assume responsibility. And we must move beyond the paradox: ‘Rid yourselves of difference; condemn because you are different.’ Through hard work and self-denial but also because the Republic has done its work, we have, as other citizens have as well, taken our place in French society. And today, this generation is ready to assume its responsibilities, notably the organization of French Islam.

A Foundation for French Islam was created more than ten years ago. It never functioned. It is time to reactivate it, to give it the ability to collect resources. The French of Muslim faith are ready to re-launch it, to give it life, to contribute to its financing. This foundation, at the national level as well as the regional level, could be the institution that will allow for the organization of French Islam. Beyond that, it is a pursuit of perspective, of social and cultural action, which we are ready to harness.

As Frenchmen, as well as Muslims. Because France needs it.”

The signatories: Kaci Ait Yala, chef d’entreprise ; Najoua El Atfani, cadre entreprise BTP, administratice club XXIe siècle ; Rahmene Azzouzi, chef du service urologie, CHU d’Angers ; Linda Belaidi, dirigeante EASI (European Agency for Strategic Intelligence) ; Tayeb Belmihoub, auteur, comédien ; Sadek Beloucif, chef du service anesthésie réanimation, hôpital Avicenne, ex-membre du Comité national d’éthique ; Amine Benyamina, professeur de psychiatrie et d’addictologie ; Nadia Bey, journaliste ; Abdennour Bidar, philosophe, inspecteur général de l’éducation nationale ; Antar Boudiaf ; Hamou Bouakkaz, conseiller d’arrondissement, ancien adjoint au maire de Paris ; Marc Chebsun, auteur, éditorialiste ; Abdelnor Chehlaoui, banquier d’affaires ; Fatiha Gas, directrice d’un établissement d’enseignement supérieur ; Mohamed Ghannem, chef du service cardiologie, Fondation Léopold-Bellan ; M’jid El Guerrab, ancien conseiller du président du Sénat ; Kamel Haddar, entrepreneur (éducation et média) ; Abderrahim Hafidi, universitaire, islamologue ; Sofiène Haj Taieb, DG Finances, fonds d’investissement ; Khalid Hamdani, chef d’entreprise, membre du Cese ; Majid Si Hocine, médecin ; Mehdi Houas, président Talan (conseil informatique), ancien ministre ; Elyès Jouini, professeur d’université, vice-président d’université, ancien ministre ; Hakim El Karoui, ancien conseiller du Premier ministre, chef d’entreprise ; Bariza Khiari, sénatrice de Paris ; Saadallah Khiari, cinéaste, auteur ; Shiraz Latiri, cadre, société d’assurance ; Kamel Maouche, avocat au barreau de Paris ; Kaouthar Mehrez, ingénieur ; Malika Menner, directeur des Relations externes d’un grand groupe télécom ; Louisa Mezreb, PDG Facem management ; Naima M’Faddel, adjointe au maire de Dreux, chargée de l’action sociale ; Pap’Amadou Ngom, PDG Des systèmes et des hommes ; Bouchra Rejani, directrice générale d’une société de production audiovisuelle ; Mahamadou Lamine Sagna, sociologue, chercheur à Paris-VII ; Nadir Saïfi, juriste ; Yasmine Seghirate, responsable de la communication pour une organisation internationale ; Mohsen Souissi, ingénieur ; François-Aïssa Touazi, fondateur CAPmena, ancien conseiller du ministère des Affaires étrangères ; Farid Yaker, président forum France Algérie ; Faiez Zannad, professeur de thérapeutique-­cardiologie, CHU Nancy, université de Lorraine.

Yusuf Islam: Some will associate Orlando with Islam – that’s criminal

I am here to talk to Yusuf Islam, the Muslim singer and humanitarian formerly

known as Sixties icon Cat Stevens, about his charity concert for child refugees at

Westminster’s Central Hall tonight.

But the mass shooting at Florida gay club Pulse by an alleged Islamic State

terrorist has overtaken us. “This guy is demented, a distortion, and it is

detestable and horrendous, but it does not reflect Islam,” says Yusuf, 67, who

looks like a benign if nattily dressed cleric.

“Yes, some people will try and associate this incident with Islam as a whole —

Donald Trump, probably — and that’s criminal.

You wouldn’t blame the whole of Britain for those football hooligans who have

gone to Marseille.”

He sounds slightly exasperated, once again compelled to defend the faith he

embraced in 1977 after almost drowing off Malibu.

But with Orlando gunman Omar Mateen’s father stating that homosexuals should

be “punished by God”, and fears of an attack at London’s own Pride celebrations,

I wonder if Yusuf will express solidarity with the gay community when he gets

on stage tonight.

“I don’t think I need to,” he says. “That’s the problem with tagging these things

with ‘Islam’. The most important thing Islam preserves is the privacy of one’s

sexual activity.

It’s up to you how you behave behind closed doors or in the privacy of your own

bedroom. We are here for a humanitarian cause and we don’t want to dis-focus

from the issue, which is the lone refugee.”

Of the estimated five million people displaced by the murder spree of IS, the war

in Syria and unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan, one million have sought refuge in

Europe, and 95,000 of those are children travelling alone.

It is these children, who may have experienced nothing but conflict, and who

may never know a stable home or school life, that Yusuf wants to help.

So through his charity Small Kindness he has hooked up with Save the Children

and Penny Appeal to highlight their plight. He has recorded a new song, He Was

Alone, created the campaign hashtag #YouAreNotAlone, and arranged the gig.

The disparate likes of Ricky Gervais, Steve McQueen, Naomi Campbell, Emma

Thompson, several Kardashians, New Order, Queen and Miley Cyrus’s Happy

Hippie Foundation have all pledged support.

The idea “came out of just watching the news on a daily basis: seeing the tragedy

unfolding, refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean, trying to get to safer

lands”, says Yusuf (I’ll call him that to avoid confusion).
http://www.standard.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-news/yusuf- islam-some- will-

associate-orlando- with-islam- thats-criminal- a3271121.html

“I reported Omar Mateen to the FBI. Trump is wrong that Muslims don’t do our part.”

Non-Muslim members of the community watch a special prayer at the American Muslim Community Center Monday, June 13, 2016, in Longwood, Fla., after the mass-shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub.

Donald Trump believes American Muslims are hiding something.

“They know what’s going on. They know that [Omar Mateen] was bad,” he said after the Orlando massacre. “They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. … But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction.”

This is a common idea in the United States. It’s also a lie. First, Muslims like me can’t see into the hearts of other worshipers. (Do you know the hidden depths of everyone in yourcommunity?) Second, he’s also wrong that we don’t speak up when we’re able.

I know this firsthand: I was the one who told the FBI about Omar Mateen.

I met Omar for the first time in 2006 at an iftar meal at my brother-in-law’s house. As the women, including his mother and sisters, chatted in the living room, I sat with the men on the patio and got to know him and his father. Omar broke his Ramadan fast with a protein shake. He was quiet — then and always — and let his dad do the talking.

[Rep. Jim Himes: Why I walked out of the House’s moment of silence for Orlando.]

I’d seen them before at the oldest mosque in the area, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce. We have a lot of immigrants in our community. They grew up in other countries, often with different sensibilities. A few don’t understand American culture, and they struggle to connect with their American-born or American-raised kids.

I came here from Pakistan in 1979 when I was 6 years old, grew up in Queens (like Omar) and Fort Lauderdale, went through the American education system, and assimilated well. So I was able to make better inroads with young people in our community, including that introverted teenager I met at the iftar. I tried to stay in touch with the younger generation, acting as a mentor when I could.

I saw Omar from time to time over the next decade, and we developed a relationship because most of the other Muslim kids in his age group went elsewhere for college, and he stayed behind. We mostly spoke over the phone or texted with one another a half-dozen times per year. We talked about the lack of social programs at the mosque, especially for teens and young adults like him. I often played pranks on him. Once, around 2009, I attached LED lights to the tires of his car, so when he drove the wheels glowed neon. He laughed when he figured it out a few days later.

Soon after Omar married and moved to his own home, he began to come to the mosque more often. Then he went on a religious trip to Saudi Arabia. There was nothing to indicate that he had a dark side, even when he and his first wife divorced.

But as news reports this week have made clear, Omar did have a dark outlook on life. Partly, he was upset at what he saw as racism in the United States – against Muslims and others. When he worked as a security guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, he told me visitors often made nasty or bigoted remarks to him about Islam. He overheard people saying ugly things about African Americans, too. Since Sept. 11, I’ve thought the only way to answer Islamophobia was to be polite and kind; the best way to counter all the negativity people were seeing on TV about Islam was by showing them the opposite. I urged Omar to volunteer and help people in need – Muslim or otherwise (charity is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always very worked up about this injustice.

[Trump’s new favorite slogan was invented for Nazi sympathizers.]

Then, during the summer of 2014, something traumatic happened for our community. A boy from our local mosque, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, was 22 when he became the first American-born suicide bomber, driving a truck full of explosives into a government office in Syria. He’d traveled there and joined a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the previous year. We had all known Moner; he was jovial and easygoing, the opposite of Omar. According to a posthumous video released that summer, he had clearly self-radicalized – and had also done so by listening to the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic Yemen-based imam who helped radicalize several Muslims, including the Fort Hood shooter. Everyone in the area was shocked and upset. We hate violence and were horrified that one of our number could have killed so many. (After an earlier training mission to Syria, he’d tried to recruit a few Florida friends to the cause. They told the FBI about him.)

Immediately after Moner’s attack, news reports said that American officials didn’t know anything about him; I read that they were looking for people to give them some background. So I called the FBI and offered to tell investigators a bit about the young man. It wasn’t much – we hadn’t been close – but I’m an American Muslim, and I wanted to do my part. I didn’t want another act like that to happen. I didn’t want more innocent people to die. Agents asked me if there were any other local kids who might resort to violence in the name of Islam. No names sprang to mind.

After my talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, abut Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.

After speaking with Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let them know that Omar had been watching Awlaki’s tapes. He hadn’t committed any acts of violence and wasn’t planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn’t, because he didn’t fit the profile: He already had a second wife and a son. But it was something agents should keep their eyes on. I never heard from them about Omar again, but apparently they did their job: They looked into him and, finding nothing to go on, they closed the file.

[Glenn Greenwald: The FBI was right not to arrest Omar Mateen before the shooting.]

Omar and I continued to have infrequent conversations over the next few years. I last saw him at a dinner at his father’s house in January. We talked about the presidential election and debated our views of the candidates that were running – he liked Hillary Clinton and I liked Bernie Sanders. This banter continued through texts and phone calls for several months. My last conversation with Omar was by phone in mid-May. He called me while he was at the beach with his son to tell me about a vacation he’d taken with his father to Orlando the previous weekend. He’d been impressed by the local mosque.

What happened next is well-known. We’re still in shock. We’re totally against what he did, and we feel the deepest sadness for the victims and their families. If you don’t agree with someone, you don’t have the right to kill them. We are taught to be kind to all of God’s creation. Islam is very strict about killing: Even in war – to say nothing of peace – you cannot harm women, children, the elderly, the sick, clergymen, or even plants. You can’t mutilate dead bodies. You can’t destroy buildings, especially churches or temples. You can’t force anyone to accept Islam. “If anyone slew one person, it would be as if he killed the whole of humanity,” says the Koran.

I had told the FBI about Omar because my community, and Muslims generally, have nothing to hide. I love this country, like most Muslims that I know. I don’t agree with every government policy (I think there’s too much money in politics, for instance), but I’m proud to be an American. I vote. I volunteer. I teach my children to treat all people kindly. Our families came here because it is full of opportunity – a place where getting a job is about what you know, not who you know. It’s a better country to raise children than someplace where the electricity is out for 18 hours a day, where politicians are totally corrupt, or where the leader is a dictator.

But there’s so much suspicion of Islam here. The local paper published an unsigned editorial called “Leave our peaceful Muslim neighbors alone,” and the comments were full of hateful lies – that the Boston bombers had visited the area, that the Sept. 11 bombers came from here, that we were a hotbed of violent ideology. None of this is true. Donald Trump didn’t create these attitudes, but he plays on them and amplifies them.

I am not the first American Muslim to report on someone; people who do that simply don’t like to announce themselves in to the media. For my part, I’m not looking for personal accolades. I’m just tired of negative rhetoric and ignorant comments about my faith. Trump’s assertions about our community – that we have the ability to help our country but have simply declined to do so – are tragic, ugly and wrong.

[Editor’s note: A federal law enforcement official confirmed the author’s cooperation to The Washington Post.]

Muslim family kicked off flight demands apology from United Airlines

A Muslim family of five from Libertyville wants an apology from United Airlines after the family was removed last month from a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The removal came after the parents requested an additional strap for their youngest daughter’s booster seat, according to Ahmed Rehab, executive director of Chicago’s Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Rehab said the family was ordered to exit the plane for security reasons. When the mother and father repeatedly asked the flight crew why they were being removed, they were told to exit “peacefully,” return to the gate and await further instructions, Rehab said.

United Airlines said in a statement that the family was asked to leave a SkyWest flight, operating as United Express from Chicago, “because of concerns about their child’s safety seat, which did not comply with federal safety regulations.”

But according to Rehab, when the parents tried to check the seat inside the airport, a United attendant said the computer system was down and instructed them to bring the seat onboard.

As the family settled into seats near the back of the plane, the parents made sure their son and older daughter were buckled in and attempted to secure their younger daughter in her booster seat, Rehab said.

According to Rehab, when the father asked a flight attendant if there was an extra strap for the booster seat, as advertised on the airline’s website, the flight attendant said she didn’t know what he was talking about and walked away.

Moments later another attendant came by and told the parents they couldn’t have the booster seat. They removed the seat and eventually the pilot asked the family to leave the plane. Before disembarking, the mother, who wears an Islamic headscarf, asked the pilot if the family’s removal was a “discriminatory decision.” The parents then left the flight with their children so as to not further frighten their children or inconvenience the other passengers, Rehab said. He said they felt singled out and humiliated.

The mother posted a video of the interaction with the plane’s crew on Facebook, where it has been viewed over 2 million times and shared more than 38,000 times.

“Shame on you #unitedAirlines for profiling my family and me for no reason other than how we look and kicking us off the plane for ‘safety flight issues’ on our flight to DC for the kids spring break,” she posted. “My three kids are too young to have experienced this.”

Rehab said other passengers around the family joined the disruption and said, “They did nothing wrong.”

The couple and their children completed their journey on a later flight and booked their return to Chicago on a different airline. Rehab said the family has asked for a formal apology, corrective action for the employees involved and reimbursement for that return flight and accommodations they had to book to adjust their travel plans.

This is not the first time United has been accused of mistreating Muslim customers. Last May, Northwestern University chaplain Tahera Ahmad was flying from Chicago to Washington, D.C., on a United flight operated by Shuttle America when a flight attendant refused to bring her an unopened can of soda. When Ahmad pointed out that another passenger had received one, the flight attendant abruptly opened the soda and told Ahmad it was so she would not use it as a weapon.

Adopting the hashtag #UnitedforTahera, thousands tweeted messages of support and calls for a boycott after Ahmad detailed the confrontation on Facebook. The controversy ended nearly a week later with an apology from United and the company’s promise that the attendant would not work on United express flights until she had undergone more training.

The airline also said employees would continue to receive annual cultural awareness training and that it would reach out to its express partners, including SkyWest, to make sure their staff also receives regular sensitivity training.

The Islam debate: The dual consciousness of Muslims

Muslims today can no longer think, or ultimately exist, outside the widespread lore about Islam, which links them to discussions about terror, violence and the separation of religion and society. They can never be free of the neverending stream of projections about Islam. An essay by Farid Hafez

Has anything changed for Muslims, since the latest in a long line of so-called jihadist terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 130 people on 13 November 2015? As in the aftermath of any terrorist act, there have been debates on Islam as a religion and on ″its″ role in the attacks. Europe has responded not only with tighter security measures, including calling a state of emergency in France, but also by declaring war.

The attack in Paris was probably not the last: European societies must now face the kind of day-to-day life that has long since become normal elsewhere, complete with attacks and dead civilians. In future, European societies in general and their Muslims in particular will have to deal with issues such as trade-offs between security and freedom. Muslims will continue to discuss what reaction is the most sensible and expedient. Distancing themselves from the attacks? Or condemning them? Do we need the umpteenth fatwa against terrorism in general and Daesh in particular? And if so, who actually needs it?

The European citizens who ascribe to Islam a fundamental affinity for violence? Or the young Muslims who are seeking religious orientation in the face of racial exclusion and the piecemeal return to their Islam? Presumably we will be revisiting these questions again and again in the near future.

What’s the impact on Muslims?

In this article, though, I would like to touch on something else that is in reality ubiquitous but scarcely ever addressed explicitly. Namely: what impact does such debate have on Muslims? What traces does it leave behind, what scars are inflicted on the Muslim self-image as a result of this discussion about Islam and terrorism? To illustrate, let′s start with a Facebook post. Recently, a well-educated, politically active adult Muslim woman posted on the occasion of the birth of her child:

“I gave birth to a boy in the Christian hospital XY, with nuns as nurses and a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf at the reception desk; I named him for the most beautiful person and prophet XY, with the most beautiful character and an exemplary life story. Above my bed hung a cross and a picture of the Virgin Mary and her son, the prophet Jesus. Religious symbols? For me, it was the perfect accompaniment for a wonderful new life!”

Farid Hafez accepts the Bruno Kreisky Recognition Prize 2010 (photo: cc-by/Fatih Ozturk)

Farid Hafez is a doctor of political science and currently does research at the University of Salzburg. He is the editor of the Yearbook for Islamophobia Research and of the European Islamophobia Report, which will be published for the first time in 2016

The post was probably prompted by the announcement by the editor-in-chief of an Austrian newspaper just a few days before that he was considering reviving the headscarf ban debate, at the suggestion of a representative of the Christian Democratic Party.

The post raises many questions: what causes a woman who is giving birth to new life for the first time and is likely to feel emotions of indescribable happiness to cast this unique experience in a political context? What is happening in the mind of this person? The answer to this question may lead us to one of the biggest challenges faced by Muslims today all over the world and especially in the West: Muslims are trapped in the discursive spider web of a pervasive discourse on Islam.

By this, I mean that it is no longer conceivable for Muslims today to think, or ultimately to exist, outside the widespread lore about Islam, which links them to discussions about terror, violence and the separation of religion and society. Simply to exist. To be a human being. To experience a birth without having to interpret the cross, the nuns and Muslim nurses apart from their humanity. To experience and live through a birth. To be free of everything that is constantly projected onto them.

Dual consciousness

In ″The Souls of Black Folk″, the pre-eminent African-American thinker W.E.B. DuBois (1868–1963) describes a condition he dubs “double consciousness”, by which blacks are only able to see themselves through the eyes of others (whites). They can thus never regard themselves as fully fledged human beings because they are always caught up in a dichotomy, wanting to be human – i.e. normal – but being black – and thus outside the norm.

Many passed down this inferiority complex to their children, encouraging them to make life easier for themselves by becoming invisible, as Jean-Paul Sartre shows in his preface to Fanon’s ″The Wretched of the Earth″. Today there are many Muslims who try to make themselves invisible because they want to be humans, in other words, normal.

And then there are those who publicly avow Islam and thus take on all the challenges and discursive conflicts that this entails. In their effort to counter the hegemonic discourse, they overlook how trapped they are in exactly this discursive web. They have to take a stand. They cannot remain silent. Because silence could be taken as tacit consent to this or that terrorist attack.

Trend towards self-discipline

Recently, a former class representative wrote on the Facebook wall of a Muslim girl who used to be a pupil of his: “To remain silent on the terror in Paris (and elsewhere) means to accept or even to endorse it”. If Muslims avow their faith, they are then compelled to answer for it. If they make themselves invisible, they escape that pressure.

In a second stage, this discursive pressure leads to Muslims beginning to discipline themselves. Parents avoid giving their children toy guns in order not to be perceived as radical. Mothers and in particular fathers do not allow their young daughters to wear a headscarf on the way to the mosque, so as not to attract disparaging glances from those who regard this as a sign of subjugation.

Parents begin to bring up their children according to standards that attempt to counter the negative stereotypes, conspiracy theories and horrific imaginings that are part of the discourse.

Caught in the discursive web, it would seem difficult to breathe the air of freedom, to be human, to live a life apart from all the allegations, innuendo and suspicion. And yet it is this very freedom that is the first and most fundamental condition for thinking and living as a human being. In dignity.

Farid Hafez

© Qantara.de 2015

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

The submissive subject tries to evade this discursive pressure by making himself invisible. Psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon spoke in relation to Algeria of the desire of the formerly colonised subjects to be white.

Disbelief at Pontarlier mosque attended by Salhi

Naceur Benyahia was surprised to hear the name Yassin Salhi regarding the terror attack in Isère. The president of the local Islamic association in Pontarlier (Doubs) knew the man arrested by a fireman after the attack at the US owned factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier. “It’s a man that I’ve known for ten years. A calm man who played soccer,” remembers Benyahia.

At the beginning of 2000, radicalized youths attempted to take over the Philippe Grenier mosque, reported L’Est Républicain. “It was one person,” Naceur Benyahi corrects, “He tried to change the inner structure. He was done away with quickly, he was kicked out.”

Portarlier’s mayor Patrick Genre, elected in 1999, adds: “The religious association was very well run and knew how to stop a takeover of the mosque.” He added that there was no radicalization problem in the town of 20,000.

“There is no radical movement in our mosque,” Benyahi announced. “Our religion is based on a sound book and on the Prophet. If someone tries to change that, they leave the religion.”

The president noted that Salhi now lives in Besançon. “He left Pontarlier when his father died and his mother returned to live in Morocco. His brothers and sisters dispersed. I didn’t know he was married, that he had three children.”

‘Warn police with worries about a radicalized student’

According to political party VVD a teacher should immediately inform the police when a student expresses radical thoughts. Currently many teachers find it difficult to decide whether someone really has those thoughts or whether s/he is just expressing some ‘rebellious’ adolescent behavior. The police is in a better position to decide on this matter.

VVD finds the current way there is dealt with the problem of youth radicalizing too soft. Now schools are only required to warn the police when a student has real plans traveling to Syria.

VVD member Sjoerd Potters criticizes the way schools are dealing with the problem. According to them they avoid talking about the topic.

© ap
© ap