Campaign Rhetoric on Muslims Harms U.S. Security Efforts: Homeland Security Chief

WASHINGTON — Harsh rhetoric about Muslims by Republican candidates in the U.S. presidential election campaign is undermining national security efforts, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday.

Asked about comments by Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Johnson told MSNBC in an interview that singling out a specific community hampers government efforts to build the connections needed to thwart possible attacks.

“Inflammatory comments about patrolling and securing Muslim neighbors or barring Muslims from entering this country, having an immigration policy based on religion, is counterproductive to our homeland security and national security interests,” he said.

Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, called for police to patrol American Muslim neighborhoods following the Brussels bombings. Billionaire businessman Trump has continued his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The rhetoric has polarized the U.S. electorate and prompted criticism, particularly from Democrats, including President Barack Obama.

Religious scholar Reza Aslan ponders Donald Trump, the power of pop culture and faith in America

Muslim religious scholar Reza Aslan is Internet famous for keeping his cool. The Iranian American author of the 2013 bestseller “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” once confronted a relentless Fox News anchor with such unflappable poise, it made him a viral sensation.

At his Mt. Washington Home, the 43-year-old sat for a discussion that ranged from Donald Trump to the power of pop culture to faith in America.

From a sociological perspective, how do you explain the rise of Donald Trump?

The most important thing to know about Donald Trump is he is not a fringe character. Forty percent of Americans — not 40% of Republicans — think there should be a national registry of Muslims, 56% of Americans think that we should actually bar all Muslims from entering the United States. We keep asking: How is it that this man is getting such support in the elections. How? Because people agree with him.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham tells Arab world: U.S. hasn’t changed despite Trump

Residents of the Middle East should not be too alarmed at the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters in Cairo on Sunday.

“The Congress is going to be around no matter who is the president,” Graham, who is leading a Republican congressional delegation touring the Middle East, told reporters after meeting Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Graham said he and el-Sissi discussed Trump, among other issues.

“Don’t let the politics of the moment make you believe that America has fundamentally changed in terms of the way we view the world; it hasn’t,” said Graham

The German response to Brussels: challenging the consensus on data protection

Date: 04 April 2016

In response to the events of Brussels, German authorities have been investigating potential linkages between the attackers of Brussels and Germany. Since the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, sole survivor of the Paris attackers with close links to the assailants of Brussels, security services have confirmed that Abdeslam had been in the southern German town of Ulm in October 2015. According to source material obtained by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Abdeslam met with three Syrian inhabitants of a refugee shelter in the town and brought them to Belgium. One of the three men has since been arrested together with Abdeslam in Brussels. Beyond that, the aftermath of the attacks witnessed a number of arrests of terrorist suspects within Germany itself. This establishes another troublesome linkage between the issues of migration and terrorism.

Against this backdrop, the German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, has renewed his push for greater prerogatives for the security services. There is increased momentum building behind de Maizière’s demand to relax Germany’s data protection legislation. His fellow CDU/CSU Member of Parliament, Hans-Peter Uhl, asserted that it was “grotesque” that “bombs are exploding and we are worrying about data protection.” After the arrival of more than a million of undocumented and unknown refugees, it “has to be recognised that Europe must not just become a realm of freedom but primarily again a realm of security and law”, or so Uhl argued. Maintaining personal privacy and data protection has always been a core mantra of German political discourse and an important demand of the German public, especially after the revelations of Edward Snowden concerning the spying activities of the NSA. The aftermath of the Brussels attacks appears to show a growing willingness to challenge this long-standing consensus, potentially signifying an important shift in the German political landscape.

The main Muslim associations in Germany quickly condemned the Brussels attacks: Ayman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Committee of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), asserted that the wrath of God and all mankind would punish the attackers and condemn their agenda to failure. The predominantly Turkish DITIB association admonished the creation of a united front against hate, injustice, and terrorism. However, their interventions did not develop much traction in the media or in the public debate.

The German response to Brussels: challenging the consensus on data protection

04 April 2016

In response to the events of Brussels, German authorities have been investigating potential linkages between the attackers of Brussels and Germany. Since the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, sole survivor of the Paris attackers with close links to the assailants of Brussels, security services have confirmed that Abdeslam had been in the southern German town of Ulm in October 2015. According to source material obtained by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Abdeslam met with three Syrian inhabitants of a refugee shelter in the town and brought them to Belgium. One of the three men has since been arrested together with Abdeslam in Brussels. Beyond that, the aftermath of the attacks witnessed a number of arrests of terrorist suspects within Germany itself. This establishes another troublesome linkage between the issues of migration and terrorism.

Against this backdrop, the German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, has renewed his push for greater prerogatives for the security services. There is increased momentum building behind de Maizière’s demand to relax Germany’s data protection legislation. His fellow CDU/CSU Member of Parliament, Hans-Peter Uhl, asserted that it was “grotesque” that “bombs are exploding and we are worrying about data protection.” After the arrival of more than a million of undocumented and unknown refugees, it “has to be recognised that Europe must not just become a realm of freedom but primarily again a realm of security and law”, or so Uhl argued. Maintaining personal privacy and data protection has always been a core mantra of German political discourse and an important demand of the German public, especially after the revelations of Edward Snowden concerning the spying activities of the NSA. The aftermath of the Brussels attacks appears to show a growing willingness to challenge this long-standing consensus, potentially signifying an important shift in the German political landscape.

The main Muslim associations in Germany quickly condemned the Brussels attacks: Ayman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Committee of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), asserted that the wrath of God and all mankind would punish the attackers and condemn their agenda to failure. The predominantly Turkish DITIB association admonished the creation of a united front against hate, injustice, and terrorism. However, their interventions did not develop much traction in the media or in the public debate.

Links:

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/is-terrorist-als-salah-abdeslam-einmal-in-ulm-war-1.2921634

http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2016-03/bruessel-terror-datenschutz-union-eu

http://islam.de/27300

http://www.ditib.de/detail1.php?id=507&lang=de

The Netherlands will not shelter more than 500 refugees

30 March 2016

The Netherlands refuses to shelter more than five hundred recognized refugees through the United Nations, despite the urgent request of the UN-refugee organization UNHCR to increase the amounts.

The Dutch Foundation for Refugees (VluchtelingenWerk Nederland) thinks it is “scandalous” that the Netherlands will not increase the amounts, especially in the context of the refugee crisis and the call of the UNHCR. According to the UNHCR 480.000 refugees need to be relocated.

“Especially while the Netherlands is now chairman of the EU, the Netherlands is acting shamefully by retaining this stance,” Jasper Kuipers of the Dutch Foundation for Refugees said.

The relocation is an issue that is separate from the European deal to spread 160.000 Syrian refugees throughout the EU. This issue relates to people who were stranded in Greece and Italy. The Netherlands has pledged to take in several thousands of this group. At the moment approximately a hundred people stay in the Netherlands out of this group.

Dutch minister declines extra security after attacks on mosques

1 March 2016

Ard van der Steur, the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice, is not planning to take extra security measures after a sequence of severe threats and attacks on mosques. “If measures should be taken this is the responsibility of municipalities”, he said during a debate in the Dutch parliament on the matter.

Ahmed Marcouch, a parliamentary member of the Dutch Labour Party, observes that the amount of violent incidents against mosques and visitors of mosques is increasing. “In the past five years there have been two hundred incidents: raining from heads of pigs to fire bombs and molotov cocktails. […] These incidents can no longer be called occasional.”

He is furthermore concerned about the organizational character of the “resistance” against Muslims and mosques, exemplified by a pamphlet with Nazi-symbols and discriminatory language that was send to various mosques recently.

Ministers Lodewijk Asscher (integration) and Van der Steur will soon get in touch with representatives of the Dutch Muslim community to convey to them the position of the Dutch government.

Selçuk Öztürk, parliamentary member of the new Muslim political movement called DENK, reacted by saying that the Muslim community is not waiting for talking sessions. “Synagogues are rightly being provided with extra security. The cabinet has reserved extra finances for this. Why does this not happen for mosques?”, he demanded. He believes the Dutch government is using double standards and fears that there should first be casualties before the minister takes action.

Dutch anti-Islam politician Wilders does not rule out legal ban of Islam in the future

29 March 2016

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch anti-Islam party PVV (Party for Freedom), has not ruled out a possible future legal ban on Islam. “It might get that far at some point”, he said during a recent parliamentary debate on the Brussel Attacks.

According to Wilders the time has begun to become intolerant to the intolerant. As far as he is concerned this means that the borders in the Netherlands close and an effort must be put into the de-Islamization of the Netherlands in order to protect the Dutch culture.

Halbe Zijlstra, party chairman of the Dutch Liberal Party (VVD), reacted resentfully to Wilders’ proposal: “Everyone in the Netherlands enjoys the same freedoms, be they Muslim, Jew, or atheist.” According to Zijlstra Wilders cannot defend the Dutch cultural values and freedoms of equal rights as long as he differentiates on the basis of religion.

Tunahan Kuzu, parliamentary member for the new Muslim political movement called DENK, pointed out to Wilders that a ban on religion and “intolerance against the intolerant” was also at play in Nazi-Germany, right before the Second World War. “This is ver sad indeed”, he said.

The lifting of the headscarf ban one year on: German state laws and practices slow to change

22 March 2016

In a landmark ruling on the role of religious symbols in public schools in March 2015, the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) decided that a generalised prohibition of the hijab in schools was unconstitutional, as was any privileging of Christian or Jewish symbols. The Court asserted that neither the rights of third persons nor the religious neutrality of the state would be challenged if a female teacher decided to wear the hijab at her workplace. An infringement of the teachers’ freedom of religious expression by not allowing her to wear the headscarf was only legitimised by the ruling in cases where massive religious rows would undermine the school’s ability to teach.

In the German federal system, educational matters are, by and large, decided at the level of the country’s 16 states. In the mid-2000s, 8 West German states had introduced various forms of a headscarf ban in public schools, sometimes but not always accompanied by a strengthening of Christian symbolism. As the only state to conclusively amend its legal framework following the Court’s verdict, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has since issued a new law that discontinued the ban on the headscarf and has gone further in defining public schools as spaces of religious freedom and tolerance of different beliefs and expressions thereof.

By contrast, most other states have been reluctant to implement the Court’s decision. Bremen and Lower Saxony merely informed their schools via decrees that it was now permissible to employ teachers wearing the hijab while not moving to create a state law that would explicitly entrench this new policy. In Bavaria, the conservative government has retained its laws imposing the headscarf ban, as well as a privileging of ‘Christian-occidental’ symbols, in contravention of the Constitutional Court. So far, this has not been challenged in court by any teacher wearing (or wishing to wear) the hijab.

The situation is even more complicated in a number of other states. The state of Hesse has implemented an extremely onerous procedure of dubious legality in which each and every teacher wishing to wear the hijab is vetted in order to test whether her religious convictions constitute a danger for the order and the educational mission of the school. This vetting process also applies to teachers wearing the kippah. In Baden-Württemberg, the Green-led government has begun the legislative process of revoking the existing headscarf ban amidst considerable public debate; yet after the recent state elections this law is still in limbo. In the state of Berlin, the SPD-led government has so far not amended its ban of the headscarf and of the kippah in teaching employment and a range of other public-sector jobs, since it conceives of this ban as in tune with state neutrality towards religion because it extends to all religious symbols. In all of these states, hijab legislation will most likely be amended only when female Muslim teachers choose to use juridical means and sue state agencies in order to force them to comply with the Court’s ruling. Aside from the possibility to opt for the long march through the courts, female Muslim teachers desiring to wear the hijab are thus generally at the mercy of their immediate superiors and school principals and their willingness to allow the headscarf at their schools.

The Court’s original ruling can be found at: http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/DE/2015/01/rs20150127_1bvr047110.html