Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The American Crisis




 "These are the times that try men's souls"- Thomas Paine

The election of Donald Trump to the Oval Office is a disaster for America. It is a huge victory for the most vulgar and reactionary political and cultural forces domestically in America. Internationally speaking it's a victory for nativism, identity politics, authoritarianism and bigotry. 

Reactionaries all around the world from Putin in Russia to Marine Le Pen in France and even Islamic Jihadists have praised the election of Trump. This is a defeat for the republic, its constitution and its cherished ideals.

Like most people I believed Hilary would win. I thought Trump was well and truly finished with the Access Hollywood revelations and even the last minute FBI probe into Clinton's emails would not be enough to save him. How wrong I was. 

The mainstream media and most political commentators and pollsters were wrong too. Few people, if they are honest, saw this coming. 

It seemed too ridiculous that at the helm of the most powerful country - and arguably empire- in the world would be that guy from The Apprentice.

Nonetheless, it is amusing to see on social media and in the political commentary people playing the blame game and blaming their pet scapegoats for the election of Trump. 

Hilary supporters will blame Berniebros, Wikileaks, James Comey, Russia and third party voters for sabotaging her campaign. Conservatives claim Barack Obama and his policies enabled Trump. People on the cultural left are blaming white people and their 'unbearable whiteness'. Those who would call themselves 'anti-regressive left' liberals blame 'the left' for driving voters to Trump because of their promulgation of political correctness, identity politics and even 'anti-white racism'. 

At this point searching for the scapegoat is pointless, especially when all that  it motivates is scoring points with adversaries on Twitter. If we wish to understand the precarious position we are currently in then we need to understand the political and economic forces that enabled the Trump phenomenon.

 There are two main narratives used to explain the election of Trump. Some think it was a revolt by the downtrodden against elites by an economically insecure working class who are victims of globalisation.

Some Liberals having none of it and feel it was a 'whitelash'; the expression of angry white people fueled by racist rage, reacting in opposition to liberal, multi-cultural, cosmopolitan America as represented by the presidency of Barack Obama.

It is true that 58% of whites voted for Trump, while 88% of African Americans backed Clinton. Trump was supported by 53% of men, Clinton by 54% of women. Similarly 55% of over-45s voted Trump, while 55% of 18-29 year-olds chose Clinton. Three-quarters of those educated to postgraduate level supported Clinton; barely a third backed Trump. 81% of white evangelicals voted Trump, and just 16% backed Clinton.

Superficially, this may support the 'whitelash' thesis since the majority of whites voted for Trump. But in reality, it is more complex than that.

The majority of white voters may have supported Trump, but he gained only 1% more white support than did Mitt Romney in 2012. On the other hand, 29% of Hispanics voted for Trump, an 8% rise from 2012.
This isn't to say racism and white nativism has nothing to do with the reasoning of those who supported Trump. Trump's isolationist rhetoric and his views on Muslims and immigration do appeal to a white nativist tradition that has a long history in America. An example being the Know Nothing party of the 19th century who rallied against Chinese and Irish Catholic immigration because they perceived it as a threat to the White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant identity that was dominant in America.

 In addition, it is known that White nationalist movements and groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the alt-right endorsed Trump and were certainly elated when he won. Moreover, there has been reports of hate crimes and racial abuse occurring against minorities. 

Some have turned out to be false, but this still a worrying development that ought to be condemned. So yes, it has something to do with race. Not nothing and not everything, but something.

On class,  53% of those earning less than $30,000 voted Clinton, while only 41% voted for Trump. This does weaken the claim that Trump’s success was rooted in working class hatred of the Washington establishment. But what the figures show is that among the poorest sections of American society, who traditionally overwhelmingly vote Democrat, there was a huge 16% swing towards Trump as compared to 2012 when they voted for Obama.

This shift reveals the most striking difference between Trump and Clinton voters. More than 75% of Trump supporters feel financially worse off today than in 2012, 72% of Clinton supporters feel better off. 

When asked about whether life for the next generation would be better, 59% of Clinton supporters thought it would better, 63% of Trump supporters thought it would be worse.

Ultimately, both narratives of white nativism and economic insecurity have some truth to them. The problem is both sides fall into the trap of mono-casual explanations. 

Different people can cast the same vote for different reasons and multiple factors can work at the same time. 

Those who have suffered the effects of de-industrialisation and 'outsourcing' who have been left behind by globalisation and are experiencing economic instability may have voted for Trump because they naively believe he will bring back American manufacturing jobs and economic security. 

Others who are more economically comfortable and possess a racist worldview may have voted for Trump because they were turned on by his anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

The two are not purely distinct and mutually exclusive. They can also interact, as people are more susceptible to fall into angry, parochial nativism when they feel increasingly economically insecure.

The fact is there is mass disillusionment and disenfranchisement among the working class and some sections of the middle class with both the mainstream political parties - Republicans and Democrats. 

Congress' approval rating is at an all time low. An exit poll from last Tuesday suggested that 72% of voters thought that "the economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful", 61% felt that "traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like [them]", 68% agree that "traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like [them]" and three-quarters believed that "America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful".

Trump is no representative of the oppressed or a 'man of the people'. 

His economic policy will invariably benefit the the rich and powerful, not the working class, as well as almost wreck the US economy. 

His authoritarianism will unfairly and/or unconstitutionally target Muslims, Hispanics and others. Trump will arguably be the most unpredictable president in American history. It will be horrible but what form the horror will take is yet to be revealed.
I fear much of the political and media elite will draw the wrong lesson from this election. During the campaign and now after the election some were wondering, explicitly, if this animal called democracy is all that it is cracked up to be, and that it may be democracy itself that is the problem.

Take for instance Andrew Sullivan's much lauded essay for New York Magazine, entitled "America has never been so ripe for tyranny". His argument is essentially that Trump is what happens when ordinary people are given too much say in the political realm or in his own words "democracies become tyrannies when they become too democratic".

 According to him the American system is supposed to 'cool and restrain temporary populist passions', but in recent years democracy has become too 'direct', meaning that people’s 'untrammeled emotions' can now shape political discourse. 

His solution to the right wing populism of Trump is for the rebuilding of the 'elitist sorting mechanism' that allowed American politics to remain kind of distant from the urges of the masses.
Elsewhere, in a new book called 'Against Democracy', Jason Brennan, a political philosopher at Georgetown University argues for an epistocracy. This is an 'aristocracy of the wise', who should bare the responsibility of deciding political matters for those of us who are of 'low information'- a cute technocratic euphemism for stupid.

The lesson I take from the election of Trump is not that there is too much democracy in America, as Sullivan and his anti-democratic cheerleaders would assert.  It is that there isn't enough democracy in America, either in its institutions or in terms of holding representatives accountable. 

Habitually voting for the lesser of the two evils like a thoughtless drone isn't all there is to democracy - it’s about substance, debate and the people having control over the future political direction of their societies.

 Over the past few decades, democracy in its very real sense has withered away and has been replaced by technocracy and the rise of expert cliques playing a significant role in shaping public life.

 This is why Hilary was a bad candidate to run against Trump since she perfectly represented the corrupt, liberal technocrat more interested in representing corporate power than the American people.
"Where do we go from here?", you may ask.

No simple answer will suffice, but I can offer a few suggestions.

Firstly, we need stop being so obsessed with Trump and his odious personality and start addressing the issues that lead many voters to support him and the political forces that enabled him. 

It is true that many of Trump's policies are immoral and repellent and many of his supporters, following the example of their 'daddy', hold obnoxious views about women and ethnic minorities. 

It is also true that hardcore white nationalists supported Trump, which is very worrying. But this should not blind us to the fact that many others voted for Trump for very different motivations – because he seems to be the only one that speaks to their grievances and expresses their frustrations and pure rage with mainstream politics and the elites.

However, engaging with the concerns of Trump voters does not equal pandering to their prejudices or embracing anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

On the contrary, the vile ideas of Trump and his acolytes have to be unapologetically refuted.

 No one is arguing for abandoning liberal principles, but mindlessly calling Trump voters racist, ignorant, white trash and nothing else is counterproductive and achieves nothing because you forbid yourself the chance of potentially changing at least some of their minds.

Secondly, we need to revitalise popular and socially progressive movements through which to resist the poisonous and corrupting effect of money in American politics, to make the system more democratically accountable and through which to link liberal ideas on individual liberty, progressive economic arguments, accepting immigrants and a belief in social solidarity that will ultimately challenge the status quo and will make America, in the words of Martin Luther King, live up to true meaning of its creed. 

In other words, an alternative has to be offered that challenges the status quo but is not the reactionary authoritarianism of Trump.

It has to be an alternative that also challenges Trumpism but is not the restrictive elitism of Sullivan and co.

It has to be rooted in radical, progressive and democratic values. It must be able to capture the imagination of the American people and show them that a better, more positive vision of American society is possible and they have the power to realise it.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Eritrea: The Forgotten Refugee Problem




If you have been following the refugee crisis in the media you will have almost certainly heard of the terrible situation of the Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees risking their lives in order to escape the vicious conflict in the Middle East. However, many people do not know much about the Eritreans also undertaking this risky journey eventhough they are the fourth largest nationality of people represented among the refugees arriving on European shores. Moreover, there are nearly 92,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Sudan and 100,000 in Ethiopia living in squalid refugee camps.

The main reason Eritreans are fleeing from their own country in such great numbers is because of their dictatorial government which is extremely oppressive. So oppressive that the country itself is commonly referred to as ‘The North Korea of Africa’. This is not a sensationalist comparison, there is truth to it.

The country, located on the horn of Africa is a one party state, ruled by the dictator Isaias Afwerki- leader of PFDJ party- ever since Eritrea got its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. There are no elections. There are severe restrictions on freedom of speech. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners being held in arbitrary detention, often subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman and immensely degrading punishments. The 2015 Freedom House report has ranked Eritrea among the twelve 'Worst of the Worst' countries in the world (along side North Korea, Syria and Saudi Arabia) in terms respect for political and civil rights.

Furthermore, it is arguably the most censored country in the world as President Isaias Afewerki succeded in his campaign to crush the independent and free press. All media in Eritrea is owned by the state which makes it the only African country to have no privately owned news media and is among the worst jailer of journalists in Africa, with at least 23 behind bars-none of whom has been tried in court or even charged with a crime. Internet freedom barely exists, as according to Freedom House: "Eritrea has one of the lowest rates of internet access—1 percent—and mobile phone use—5.6 percent—in the world due to high costs and government restrictions. The government requires all internet service providers to use state-controlled internet infrastructure, and almost all connections remain dial-up and extremely slow."

Then there is the complusory national service program cited by many of those fleeing as the reason why they left Eritrea. The Eritrean state has justified the mass mobilization with the need for national development, instill discipline and work ethic to the younger generation, to foster a common sense of national identity and prepare the nation for future conflict with Ethiopia. It is meant to last for eighteen months. In reality the duration is indefinite and conscripts are often used for forced labour. Unsurprisingly, the Eritrean government have said that these allegations are "totally unfounded" and believes there is a conspiracy to "undermine the political, economic, and social progress the country is making."

The response to this crisis by Western governments has been dreadful, because its focus is on the symptoms; not the cause. The energy and resources are so concerntrated on human traffickers, and even the refugees themselves that we are blind to the root causes of this crisis. EU policy has been to essentially bribe non-EU states, like Sudan, Ethiopia and even Eritrea, huge amounts of money to act as Europe’s immigration police; in effect, relocating Europe’s borders to beyond Europe. Since, there is no monitoring schemes or transparency these funds will likely disappear without trace into the pockets of corrupt regimes.

EU leaders want to push the problem outside of Europe and pretend that it’s not there. This is not a serious moral approach. This is a plain refusal to acknowldge the reality of a very difficult problem, once again turning to financial incentives as simple solutions.

Last year the British government announced a new policy towards Eritrean asylum-seekers, claiming  conscription is no longer automatic grounds for granting asylum because Eritrea had allegedly "ended the practice of indefinite military service." However, as Human Rights Watch has pointed out, it is wholly based on a discredited Danish Immigration Service report. It claimed that the human rights situation in Eritrea had improved and no harm would be inflicted on Eritreans who returned back home, so long as they "signed a letter of apology".

There is simply no credible evidence of the softening of the Eritrean government. This shows that the UK government is more interested in keeping out asylum seekers in order to try to meets its restrictive immigration targets and appease rising anti-immigrant sentiment within the UK. The search for the quick fix continues, while the will to confront the root cause is lacking.

If we are serious about reducing the flow of refugees from Eritrea then we need to somehow use our political, diplomatic and financial influence to bring about change in Asmara. Until the principal cause is dealt with, then people will continue to risk their lives. Pressure has to be applied to the Eritrean dictatorship to end the inhumane, indefinite national service. Only this way will the root of the problem be addressed.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Leaving the EU Will Not Address The Real Issues




So there we have it, The United Kingdom will leave the European Union. I was a little surprised when I heard the result this morning, as I really believes that although the result would be close that Remain would clinch it.
 
Eventhough it wasn't the result I wanted, I'm not submitting to shoddy scaremongering some Remainers are peddling (at least not yet). Western civilisation won't collapse as a result of the UK leaving the EU and The Third World War will not ignite. There undoubtedly will be political and economic turbulence now that David Cameron will resign as Prime Minister and the pound has hit a 30 year low. However, the UK won't be facing the apocalypse anytime soon.

Despite my disagreement with their position, I empathise with why many of my fellow citizens would wish to be rid of the European Union. Its lack of democracy and accountability, its inefficiency, its inability to provide a coherent response to crises and the broader resentment over discussions on immigration.

What disappointed me about the campaign was how these underlying issues behind the hostility towards the EU were barely addressed. The Remain campaign, recognizing that it little to say on these issues without embarrassing itself, has largely avoided these issues, focusing its energy almost entirely on economic arguments. Leave campaigners have been equally opportunistic in the way they have addressed questions of democracy and immigration by manipulating them to obscure the issues and play into nostalgic, pseudo-emancipatory, nationalist rhetoric.


Moreover, for all the economic and cultural beneftis of the European Union, whenever a the EU has faced a major crisis like the Eurozone crisis and the migrant crisis. It has handled it badly by failing to have a coherent response and the 'response' has usually made the situation worse not better. And because it lacks the democratic mandate and a proper sense of democratic legitimacy for such decisions, it can't deal with these crises properly.

With all this to consider, I understand why many people voted to leave and be rid of  the EU. Simply generalizing them as deluded little Englanders or knuckle dragging racists will get us nowhere and will not solve the issues, instead it will make the political climate more toxic than it already is.

While the EU is a fundamentally undemocratic institution, leaving the EU would not, in itself, bridge the democratic deficit. There exists today a much more profound disenchantment with mainstream political institutions, on a national, as well as at a European level, which has led to an upsurge in support for ultra-nationalist and populist parties throughout Europe.

The Brexit result may restore a greater degree of sovereignty, but it will not address the deeper anger at the political establishment and even at the idea of politics. In conflating resentment about lack of democracy with restraints on national sovereignty, Leave campaigners obscure the real problems. The dangers of such conflation can be seen most clearly in the debate about immigration. Leave campaigners argue that outside the EU, Britain would have control of its borders, and so be able to ease people’s fear about immigrantion. As Boris Johnson suggested, "You can only spike the guns of the extremists and the people who are genuinely anti-immigrant"..."if you take back control."

Boris is simply wrong. Britain has been unable to reduce the flow of immigration in areas where it has complete control. Migration to Britain from outside the EU was higher last year than EU migration. EU net migration currently stands at 184,000 compared to 188,000 from outside the EU.

The Tory government made it a promise in their 2010 election manifesto to reduce migration to the ‘tens of thousands’, and being unable to limit EU migrants, they strived particularly hard to reduce non-EU migration numbers, including adopting the ‘points-based system’ favoured by critics of high immigration. Its continued failure to reduce numbers is telling, showing that unless the government wishes to weaken the British economy, its ability to control migration is limited. Promising to limit immigration and failing to do so will, only exacerbate people's resentment and contempt including increase hostility to immigration.

While immigration may be the most potent symbol, to some, of an increasingly globalised world out of control, and of ordinary people having little say in the policies that affect their lives, it is not the reason for the grievances and hardships many people experience.

Britain has experienced a series of economic and social changes over the past few decades which have decimated working class communities such as the decline of manufacturing industry, the crumbling of the welfare state, the coming of austerity, the growth of inequality -combined with political shifts, such as the erosion of trade union power and the transformation of social democratic parties, to create a sense of rage among sections of the electorate.

Immigration and open borders has played almost no role in fostering these specific changes. However, it is the lens through which many perceive these changes and is among the top issues that concerns voters when polled, largely because of the way that immigration has been framed by politicians of all shades over the past half century.

At the same time, politicians nowadays often express a certain kind of Liberal disdain for the masses whom many regard as provincial, racist, and incapable of adopting a rational view of immigration. Former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown’s description during the 2010 election campaign of pensioner Gillian Duffy as ‘a bigoted woman’ because of her worries about European migrants from Eastern European captured the contempt of elite politicians for the little people’s immigration concerns. This toxic mix of fear and contempt has helped both to stigmatize migrants and to create popular hostility towards the liberal elite for ignoring peoples concerns on immigration policy.

Certainly, the Leave camp have promoted obnoxious arguments about immigration throughout the campaign, from Michael Gove’s warnings about marauding Turks to Nigel Farage’s absurd  ‘Breaking Point’ poster. But supporters of the EU also bare some responsibility creating an anti-immigration climate. For instance, Prime Minister David Cameron who led a campaign against ‘benefit tourists’, despite the government’s own Migration Advisory Committee insisting that there is "little evidence to support the so-called welfare magnet hypothesis as a migration driver across EU countries".

Leave supporters, have not addressed issues of democracy and immigration, but exploited them in an opportunistic, and often in reactionary fashion. In simplifying the problem of democracy to the bureaucratic structures of the EU, they have ignored the shifts in politics and the economy that have left large sections of the electorate (mainly working class people) feeling politically voiceless, and which will not be addressed simply by leaving the EU. In having this narrow, primitive and divisive notion of democracy and promoting strict border controls as the key expression of national  sovereignty, they have utterly obscured the problem. Unfortunately, for the working class people who voted for Leave they have swapped one useless and distant elite for another one who will fare no better at addressing their concerns and worries.

Now that the result is Britain will officially leave the European Union, I believe it is unlikely that the popular disaffection with mainstream political institutions, or the sense of being politically voiceless among large sections of voters, is likely to be eased anytime soon. And it will not be eased until we directly address the reasons for their anger and disaffection.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Young Turks commit a howler on Brexit debate

The Young Turks do it once again! They demonstrate their lack of cross referencing and very simple fact checking leading to an embarrassing situation for an online media outlet that has an alleged intrest in journalistic intergrity and "giving viewers the facts".







They commit a big mistake in their video title and description. They say in the title "Will Britain exit the Euro (Eurozone)". That is not the question being asked for British citizens at the referendum, the question being asked is should Britain leave the European Union not the single currency of which it it not a part of.

For those of that don't know, the European Union is a political and economic union of 28 member states that have agreed on certain things like a common market, common regulation, relaxed border controls, free trade, agriculture policy etc.

The Eurozone is a currency union (of which Britain is not a part of) of 17 European Union member states that have adopted the Euro as their common currency and sole legal tender. Monetary policy of the zone is the responsibility of the European Central Bank (ECB) which is governed by a president and a board of the heads of national central banks.

In all seriousness, if they made this atrocious mistake at a professional media outlet they would be suspended and not even be considered serious by anybody. This is something a very simple google search would rectify. It is stuff like this that demonstrates why The Young Turks should not be taken seriously as a media outlet especially by younger generations who are their target audience because this can easily lead to misinformation, confusion and even ignorance of the politics of foreign nation.

The irony of this is in their video they implicitly condemn ignorant Americans who don't care to know or care about European politics, yet in a way they are reflecting this carelessness and ignorance through their mistake which they still have not corrected a day after the video was released.

This is not the first time something like this has happened, nor will it be the last.




I don't think they're aware Sam. LOL.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Hypocrisy of Robert Fisk



Robert Fisk, a once renowned and respected journalist (long before I was born), now a rambling conspiracy theorist penning apologias for the likes of Hezbollah, the Assad regime and the Putin regime in Russia all for the sake of his anti-Western ideological bias.

In his latest disingenous piece, he launched an attack on well renowned and respected Iraq/Syria terrorism expert Charles Lister. He essentially accuses Lister of being an Al-Qaeda apologist, he bases this view on Charles' recent article on Al Qaeda's Syrian afilliate Jabhat Al-Nusra in Foreign Policy. However, judging from the content of the article one wonders whether Fisk actually read it. Lister in his article clearly warns about the danger of Nusra creating an emirate in Northern Syria, whether or not you agree with Lister's policy recommendations no one who has actually read the article can say this is a puff piece on Nusra. How Fisk can claim after reading the article that Lister is trying to falsely portray Nusra as 'moderate' is pretty remarkable. More importantly, how the editors at The Independent didn't seem to fact check this dreadful article is even more worrying.

Not only is Fisks claim incorrect, offensive, libellous and actually laughable on its face, it also comes from a man who in the past few years has explicitly apologised for the Hizbollah and the Fascist Assad regime by for instance repeating the falsehood that "no moderate opposition exists" in Syria. Even popes get removed for insanity yet this pro-Fascist hack and conspiracy theorist Robert Fisk still has a job at The Independent.

These series of tweets by Lister showing his record from his work where he writes about Nusra as a threat thoroughly refutes the absurd accusations penned by Fisk that Lister is portraying Nusra as a moderate organisation.

The irony of this is Fisk once wrote a fawning piece giving a sympathetic portrayal of none other than Osama Bin Laden in 1993. The piece is so bad it is almost has to be satire.



It is not only this that makes Fisk a hypocrite. Fisk warns us to be careful of the word terrorist believing that it is a pretext used by Western governments to legitimise state sponsored violence, violate civil liberties and supress dissent domestically and oppress Middle Eastern societies. Yet, he has no qualms in falsely accusing people of being Al-Qaeda apologists when it suits his ideological thrills and his obsessive anti-Western agenda. Likewise, he doesn't have the moral authority to condemn 'Al-Qaeda supporters' when he has essentially become a mouthpiece for the Assad regime and Hizbollah who in conjuction with each other have killed nearly 300,000 Syrians in their brutal suppression of the Syrian revolution to help a totalitarian regime survive. In addition, he uncritically repeating their narrative of the Syrian civil war (this is what happens when you rely on corrupt government sources for your information). This is what makes him hypocrite.







































 


Monday, 15 February 2016

The Independent UK is wrong on Cologne Sex Attacks

You may have encountered this article in The Independent claiming only three of the people under investigation for the Cologne sex attacks on New Years Eve were recent refugees from The Middle East and North Africa.

However, The Associated Press reported Cologne prosecutor Ulrich Bremer telling them that the the majority of suspects are asylum seekers, describing recent reports of only three of the suspects as refugees as "total nonsense."  However, Bremer did tell The Local that he couldn't give specific figures as to how many were refugees and how many were illegal immigrants. Only revealing that the majority of suspects arrived in Germany in last year and they come from countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Iraq. The Independents error was that they misintepreted comments given by Bremer in an article by German newspaper Die Welt which at no point does he give numbers on the asylum status of individual suspects.

It was very interesting to observe media sites like Huffington Post, Metro and Russia Today run with this story since it supports their predisposition to idealize the refugees and ignore any faults or imperfections that may be among them.

With this in mind, I will address this article in the same site by a serial merchant in dishonesty, Nabila Ramdani. She seems to suggest that concern about the problem of sex crimes among recent migrants into Europe, most of whom are of Middle Eastern and North African stock, therefore means you are playing into the agenda of Neo-Nazis.

In all fairness to Nabila, she calls out far-right propaganda that do otherise and generalize all refugees as rapists or foreign, Muslim, sexual creatures thirsty for native European women. Moreover, their selective outrage in being champions of women's rights; They'll fly the flag of feminism if European women are attacked by Muslims, but say nothing if the same crime is perpetrated by non Muslims . That's good. And yes she is absolutely correct in saying "Brown men are not inherently more misogynistic or brutal than white men, and Muslims are just as likely to be family-orientated, peaceful citizens as their counterparts from other religious and cultural heritages." The problem is she mixes this up with deflection and denialism.

Firstly, she makes a small, yet critical error. She claims Pegida are a "Neo Nazi" organisation. Whatever your opinion of Pegida, (and I am not a fan by any means) a reasonable person has to admit this claim is false. Pegida's ideology is not Neo-Nazism, they don't have Nazi imagery or portraits of Hitler at their rallies. In fact they actively try to keep out Nazis from their rallies because they know it will hurt their image therefore it is disingenous to say they are Neo-Nazis. Amongst other things this is just lazy journalism.

Let me be clear, this is not to say Pegida are not a problematic group, they are. Neither to say they don't evoke bigotry, they do. My point is in order to defeat one's enemies you have to know them,  understand them and be truthful about what they believe. Hurling slurs like 'Neo-Nazi' when it is inaccurate only serves to debase the term of any meaning.

Secondly, she is using false information to support her argument. She claims Ulrich Bremer told her that, "of the 59 suspects pinpointed so far, just four are from war-torn countries (Syria and Iraq)."this is false, because as I have demonstrated previously, the majority of suspects fall under the general category of refugee.

When Raheem Kassam of Brietbart (Yes, I know its Brietbart) tried to confront Nabila on Twitter on the false information she used. She quickly rebutted by throwing ad hominems at him, thus avoiding his point which is correct, as I have demonstrated earlier with Ulrich Bremers remarks. Will Nabila call him a Neo-Nazi?


Thirdly, She underestimates the problem of sex crimes committed by migrants/refugees of a muslim background or sex crimes amongst the Muslim communities in Western socities. She completely focuses on Cologne, yet ignores there were other similar incidents in other European countries like: Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland and other cities in Germany, all done by migrants. Ignoring this; implying concern about this trend is "racism" is unwise . On a side note, I dont think this is a religious issue, it is more cultural in my opinion, or at the very least there is a cultural element.

I understand the discussion around migrants and refugees in Europe is awkward, complicated and sadly, increasingly more toxic. Moreover, I understand the far-right and the anti-immigrant brigade will use the increasing suspicion in addition to mistrust of refugees as a platform to lauch their anti-immigrant propaganda. Of course, I oppose those cultural jerks. Their idea that any amount of people of a Muslim background - no matter their individual beliefs- will all of a sudden destroy European Christian identity, therby making Europe into Eurabia. Nevertheless, you have to be factual, distorting facts is not the answer even if it is uncomfortable. We cannot deal with the problem if we don't know the truth.

I do hope the media sites that did run the original story would correct their mistakes.

If you wish, here is my piece on how to address the Cologne attacks, plus the wider phenomenom of sex crimes committed by migrants without falling into Denialism or Bigotry.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Is The Special One right for Old Trafford?


The Special One to Old Trafford. I honestly never thought this could actually become a possibility, since all previous links throughout the years were mere crazed tabloid speculation. This time the speculation seems legitimate, with the BBC first reporting a week ago that Mourinho was 'in talks' with United over replacing Louis Van Gaal. However, Sky sources understand Manchester United are happy with Van Gaal as the manager and plan on allowing him to complete his three year contract that he signed in 2014.

For the purpose of this article, I am working under the assumption Louis Van Gaal will leave in the summer and Mourinho will be brought in as his replacement. This is not confirmed by any means but the current press speculation is so heavy especially with The Independent reporting that a deal has been agreed 'in principle'. In addition, there was reports of a 'dossier' authored by Mourinho sent to Manchester United outlining his plans for the club. It is fair to assume there has to be some truth to it.

His appointment would be a show stopper, a good response to Manchester City landing Pep Guardiola as thier new manager. But, it could also reveal the United board are a little desperate as they really want United to be back challenging for trophies once again, not scraping for 4th place. Secondly, they do not want to fall behind rivals City. Thirdly, it shows that the last three years with two new managers, all the money on transfers has been wasted.

Van Gaal's appointement in 2014 made it abundantly clear that United's medium to long term future was being considered. Presumably, the plan was Van Gaal would stabalise the club after the disatarous 2013-14 season under David Moyes, then his successor will be there for the long term whether Giggs or someone else. Nevertheless, this plan has not worked out, United have barely improved under Louis Van Gaal despite the fact he has spent over £200 million on players. They are nowhere near challenging for the title, instead they are struggling for 4th place which for Manchester United standards is nowhere good enough.

The problem I have with the potential Mourinho appointment now is, it vindicates what the critics of United claimed and what United fans feared would happen in the Post-Ferguson era. United will be like any other club, stuck in a conveyor belt of manager after manager, each one failing to meet expectations. Instead of being the club that did things differently; giving managers a chance, looking long term and putting its identity, tradition and history over the money, greed and corporatism that currently corrupts Football.

There would be positives to Mourinho taking the helm at Old Trafford. I have no doubt that United will get immidiate, short term success under Mourinho, he has a proven track record that is undeniable. He previously won silverware, domestically and in Europe, for FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, his CV is impeccable which is why he is one of the most successful managers of his generation. Also, his presence will will lift the club and the fans into some much needed positivity, after a poor season where United are likely to miss out on a Champions league spot.

Nevetheless, we better be ready for the baggage and drama that comes with him. His recent spell at Chelsea with the sheer volume and variety of drama is going to be a cautionary tale for the United board. From the Eva Carneiro saga to Diego Costa and his angry bib removal, there has barely been a week of this season in which Mourinho did not prominently and negatively feature in the media. Old Trafford will be turned into a circus, a very intense one, given the forensic level of coverage paid by the media. We have to ask ourselves, will it be worth it?

Likewise, his preferred style of play is not suited for United's ideals; using homegrown talent and playing lightening quick, attractive, attacking football. Mourinho is notorious, particularly during his first tenure at Chelsea and Inter Milan for grinding out 1-0 results, playing a more cautious game or 'parking the bus' as its popularly referred to as.

However, in recent years Mourinho has proven he can be a little adpatable and play a more attacked minded game. His Real Madrid side with superstars like Ronaldo could easily beat any team 4-0. Moreover, for the first half of last season, Chelsea played some nice football, with Hazard and Fabregas at their skillful, silky best. So maybe, just maybe, Mourinho will adapt slightly for the fans exepectations for how Manchester United should play.

Overall, despite his faults and the criticism he endures, I really like Mourinho. Not so much his preferred style of football but his mystique, the charisma, the unorthodox personality, his memorable quotes and so forth. A little like Sir Alex. In spite of this, we must acknowledge that after the train wreck of Moyes and the inconsistency of Van Gaal, this has to be right. Manchester United is at a turning point in its long, eventful history. We are three seasons where we have have mounted a serious challenge for the title, nowhere close as a matter of fact. United have to start gaining ground soon or else it will fall behind its rivals, if we don't then we could experience a silverware drought that Liverpool experienced during their decline after their last title win in 1990. Or to use an example closer to home United could see a repeat of history where it could go into a coma post-Ferguson in a similar manner to how it went dormant post-Busby. Mourinho would be our last chance to resusetate ourselves from this coma we currently find ourselves sinking into.

Whether the special one would be right for this special club is yet to be seen. If he did come, two things would be certain. Firstly, things would get way more interesting at Old Trafford. Secondly, his appointment would bring more questions than answers.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

An Assessment of the PEGIDA UK rally

On a rainy Saturday 6th February, Pegida UK launched its inaugural demonstration in Birmingham, with similar rallies happening across Europe. An estimated 200 protesters attended the demonstration, which took place on a barren industrial estate miles from the city centre.

The march was peaceful and went smoothly without incident. No thugs, no fights, no Nazis, no inflammatory speeches. However, the rallies in other European countries did see some trouble with a fight in Dublin and some arrests in Calais.

The new Pegida UK was keen to dispel allegations of racism or of being the EDL 2.0 but without the booze.  They placed warnings on pre-protest information, saying Neo Nazis would not be accepted at the demonstration. Likewise, Tommy Robinson in his speech talked about meeting a man with swastika tattoo on his finger on Friday night, and then said (in an obviously frustrated voice): “six years on and I’m still having to tell you: if you’re a Nazi, if you’re a racist, and you’re watching this – you’re not welcome on the streets in the UK with us."

Moreover, the people who attended the demonstration were not a singular, unitary, monolithic bloc.  One protester NOTA Network interviewed said he came because he was worried about English identity and culture being threatened by Islam. Another one said he was not against "all immigration" but wanted "limited immigration". And another protester said he was here to "defend free speech". It would be slightly unwise to arrogantly dismiss them all as racists and xenophobes, though that doesn't mean they were liberal democrats either.
There was not anything that struck me as worryingly racist in the interviews we did or at the rally generally. I say this as a black man who was with my friend Sam Sholli, who is of Iranian stock. We did not feel like we were in danger or anyone was racist towards us. They just seem to be people that are fed up with a status quo that is not working for them and their communities.

Their claim to being a multi-racial movement is questionable, because aside from me and Sam Sholli (my NOTA Network colleague) there was only one other non-white person at the rally. So they do still have that obstacle to overcome where ethnic minorities would feel comfortable associating themselves with Pegida UK. I doubt this this will change anytime soon.

Yes, there was no racism (at least in its common understanding). BUT.....

That doesn't quite get them off the hook. There were still illiberal sentiments present at the rally. For example, many protesters held placards featuring Donald Trump's image saying 'Trump is right'. This possibly is an implicit endorsement of the hopeful presidential nominee's call to halt all Muslim immigration into the United States. If this is the case then this is simplistic and objectively bigoted, because it views Muslims as a monolithic bloc who all think in the same way. There were other sorts of unsophisticated propaganda, like other placards saying 'Rape culture is being imported' and 'Islamism = Nazism'.

Beforehand, NOTA Network interviewed the Pegida UK leadership; Tommy Robinson, Anne Marie Waters and Paul Weston. Tommy surprisingly was open to the idea of creating a buffer zone in Syria in order to keep Syrian refugees safe. But he was not in favour of military intervention in Syria against the Assad regime. He also said he wanted British embassies in the Middle East to give women and children fleeing a chance to leave. However, he would not extend this to young men because he feels "they should be fighting".
Weston was asked whether he would stand by previous comments where he suggests Muslims should be banned from public office. He defended his comments. When he was asked if this would even apply to liberal Muslims like Maajid Nawaz, he stood by his comments again even as he admitted it was "discriminatory", because he felt it would be for the "greater good". This is clearly an illiberal, bigoted, anti-democratic belief contradicting the very values Pegida UK is claiming to defend.

Anne Marie Waters was asked for her opinion on Weston's views on Muslims not being allowed to hold public office, something which is not believed to be Tommy's position. Her slippery, cowardly reply was "that's Paul's opinion....I don't agree with it, but I don't passionately disagree with it...I don't have an opinion, I never thought about it, I will now."  The fact she couldn't give a clear answer to what was a very fair question is telling.

The above picture shows a speaker who has been ignored by mainstream media outlets, like The Guardian, Telegraph and Huffington Post. This is telling given that he asked the media not to "edit me out" and to "report this fairly". His name is Mohammed Fiaz, an ex Muslim, Christian. He was very keen to defend Tommy Robinson and Pegida UK from accusations of racism, though he weirdly claimed that if you call Tommy or Pegida far-right you are playing into the hands of "the Muslims". He even asked the rain-soaked crowd to raise their hands if they were far-right or anti-Asian. As expected, no one raised their hands. Mohammed then told the tragic story of a friend, a fellow apostate who was hated, had his knee smashed and his kids spat at by a neighboring Muslim family when they found out he was an apostate.
Tommy Robinson claimed that a "seed has been planted" with the inaugural protest that could grow into a worldwide, popular protest movement, mobilising against the 'Islamisation' of Western civilisation. Likewise, Paul Weston felt they would be able to muster "100,000 people" for a future protest. Not going to happen. Despite the tense atmosphere currently engulfing Europe and even if a 9/11 style terrorist attack were to happen again, I really doubt Pegida UK would be able to get 100,000 people to attend a rally of theirs. 10,000 is possible but nowhere near 100,000.

Above all, while Pegida UK are clearly not Neo-Nazis and it's a good thing that  they try a peaceful methodology and don't have that hooligan aura that the EDL had. However, the fact that the three leaders cannot agree on something as simple as whether a Muslim can run for public office does weaken their claim to be defending liberal democracy, as Weston's suggestion is plainly anti-democratic and bigoted. 
Likewise, the endorsement of Donald Trump's illiberal views and defending of 'Christian culture' also is not going to win them many friends in the mainstream. They don't have an ideology or a positive alternative worldview to present to oppose the status quo. They are just an unguided, incoherent, reaction to the very real problem of Islamism and a residue of Cologne. Despite the fact Tommy Robinson wants to start anew, I believe the already tainted brand of Pegida will be a detriment, not a help to him.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

No Need to Fetishize The Kurds in order to bash Arabs


If you follow current events in Syria and Iraq, you may have come across the phenomenom of the Klashnikov-clad ‘jihadi bride. Who flocking from a city near you are seeking to repopulate and help build a dystopic, totalitarian, imperialist, super state "The Islamic State" that in their view will be the vanguard of the Muslim world to 'libertate' them from Western domination.

In complete contrast, we encounter their polar opposite, the female fighters of the Kurdish resistance who exemplify a far better display of female strength than the nihilistic, pin up stars of ISIS. They have rightly been glorified as heroines. Of course, there has been some sensationalism, where you always get the pin up star who is alleged to have killed a innumerable amount of ISIS fighters. Nontheless, it isn't that hard to feel a certain amount of satisfaction (dare I say pleasure) in seeing these fighters liberate areas controlled by ISIS.

However, some have pointed out that these Kurdish women have been fetishized by some people in the West into orientalist tropes for their own cynical reasons, not out of any geniuine solidarity with the Kurdish people and their struggle.

This Kurdi-fetishism knows no bounds. We encounter two types of this phenomenom, one is the more misguided leftist tendancy, which sometimes fethishizes revolutionaries that are not white and will ignore their failings. Yes, even the PYD has its flaws. The other is right wing, which uses the Kurdish struggle as a pretext to express their hatred towards Arabs and Muslims. Interestingly, there are occasions when the two do intersect.

However, for the purpose of this post I will focus mostly on the right wing (more like extreme right wing judging by the meme below), anti-Arab fetishization.




Notice the Black Sun symbol with an odal rune (used by the Waffen SS) in the middle of it. These are well known Neo-Nazi symbols. This ridiculous propaganda is being used by Nazis now to attack Syrian and Iraqi refugees, some of whom are Kurdish, by the way. Unfortunately, there are even documented cases of Kurdish refugees drowning in the Aegean Sea on their way to reach safety in Greece. These same Kurdish refugees are the same people which these Fascist scum despise with a passion and portray as "Muslim invaders" threatening White, European, Christian identity.

If people wonder why the majority of refugees from the Middle East come from Syria, it's because the Assad regime, backed by Iran and Russia are using their aerial capabilities to ethnically cleanse areas of Syria, liberated from the Assad regime's control, as a matter of policy. In the last few months, during Russia's attacks on Aleppo, 40,000 people fled. Moreover, Russia's recent attack on Daraa province, according to rebel media has displaced as many as 150,000 Syrians.

Some of those fleeing are Syrian Kurds, of course, some of them live in the same neighbourhoods as Syrian Arabs. In the Kurdish-majority areas of Northeastern Syria, they've never faced aerial bombardment from any force, while their Arab Muslim brethren have faced bombs daily in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Idlib etc. Likwise, when ISIS attacked Kobane in 2014, the entire civilian population rightfully fled to Turkey.

Make no mistake about it - the intent of this meme is to spread anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry. Aside from the extremely creepy fetishization of Kurdish women, it has entered into the popular consciousness that Kurds are somehow all these ultra-secular, counter-Islamic, super human, noble savages.

They're not noble savages. The majority of them are Sunni Muslims, some of whom are quite religious, others barely religious and many in between. They're just people. Many members of secular Kurdish groups such as the PKK and PYD are practicing Muslims; who pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan, read the Qu'ran, go to the mosque etc. Likewise, many women in the YPJ wear the hijab, not just the traditional Kurdish headscarf, while at the same time supporting the radical, progressive, socialist, ultra feminist values the PYD embodies. The irony is, their ideology is the total antithesis of the anti Muslim's backward, orientalist, worldview of the Neo Nazi producers of the meme.

As for the cheap shot about Syrian/Iraqi Arab men being cowards. It goes to show their ignorance, because there are many men who do stay in Syria and fight in order to overthrow the Assad regime, but it also shows the lack of empathy they have. The men who are fleeing are sensible. Most have essentially three choices other than escape: join a murderous dictator's army; join ISIS' death squads; or die, most likely in an excrutiating manner. I know which option I'd take if I was in their shoes.

These Nazi scum will never know what it's like to be a Syrian or Iraqi, whether rebel or refugee, and will never understand the horrors visited upon these poor people. The fact that this obscene propaganda is reproduced fairly regularly on social media rather telling of how worrying this rising anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment disguising itself as "pro-Kurd" or "anti-ISIS" has become.

For all anecdotes are worth, I have spoken to the few Kurdish comrades (male and female) that I do know, they tell me that they don't like this weird fetishization of Kurdish female fighters which they regard as an insult. They do not see it as flattery.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with supporting the Kurds, just because you support the Kurdish struggle doesn't automatically make you an anti-Arab racist or an anti-Muslim bigot, obviosly. I have always supported them and always will. However, acknowledge the Kurds for who they are, their history, struggle and appreciate the various contradictions and antagonisms in Kurdish society and culture.

Please guard against the impulse to mystify Kurdish women who happen to be adept with an AK-47, so that you can use them as a vehicle to promote an anti Arab or anti Muslim agenda. It shows indifference to the suffering of Syrians and their revolution against the murderous Assad regime and is disrespectful to the Kurdish people, who also have had to sacrifice alot to fight for their rights. This is not solidarity, it is exploitation.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Critics of Islam should call out Anti Muslim Bigotry



 "No idea is above scrutiny 
and no people are beneath dignity" - Maajid Nawaz

We live in turbulent and scary times.

The forces of Jihadism are running riot all around the world, spreading murder and mayhem in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Indonesia, Nigeria and France. This coinciding with the recent, but worrying trend of endemic sexual violence all across Europe commited by migrants/refugees coming into Europe mostly from the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

This has made tragedy of the refugee crisis and dealing with the issues that come with unprecedented levels of international migration even more diffcult, because if you don't engage in denialism, you are apparently a "Proto-Fascist" or an "Orientalist". While, if you don't buy into the hysterical, bigoted narratives of the anti-immigrant right then you are labelled a "regressive", "far left", "Islamophile" etc. As I've argued previously, Denialism and Bigotry are not the only choices.

The response of the political class has been abysmal, the left engages in apologia and withdrawal, refusing to accept facts that shatters the ideological windshield. Far-right nationalists cynically capitalise on this by playing on people's understandable fears and worries to dictate the general terms of the debate.

With this in mind, we should all be disturbed by the recent rise in anti Muslim bigotry, specifically it's increasing intrusion into mainstream discourse. A growing number of 'pundits' (In reality, they are disingenous disinformants) willfully a blurring the line between Islamism and Islam and the line between Islam and Muslims. The result of this could, if we are not careful, have devastating consequences, particularly in Europe. 

According to TellMama UK, an organisation which measures anti Muslim abuse, both vebal and physical, attacks against British Muslims jumped by 275 percent in the period after the Paris attacks- with the majority perpetrated against women since they are more "visibly muslim" with their hijabs. Likewise such attacks have also increased in France, the United States, Canada  and in Stockholm where masked, Fascist thugs physically assaulted refugees at the railway station with brass knuckledusters.

I realise many critics of Islam are a little sensitive when it comes to "Islamophobia", for good reason too. In many cases Regressives and Islamist apologists have hurled the label "Islamophobe", "bigot", "racist" and other such terms in a very cynical and calculated manner at anyone who makes a criticism of the religion of Islam that they disapprove of. From this, critics of Islam may be a little apprehensive about people who do talk about anti Muslim bigotry. Thinking there could be some shadiness to this, since its been abused so many times before, are they just bringing this up to deflect from the problem and smear people unneccessarily?

So allow me to do some introductory throat clearing to eliminate any confusion and make my stance absolutely clear.

As an Atheist, and an Anti-theist, I have absolutely no sympathy for Islam, or any religion for that matter. Not only do I believe it to be false but also pernicious for fossilising and giving the divine seal of approval to various regressive, and rather cruel social customs of 7th century Arabia which are clearly invalid for the 21st century. I also believe we should be relentless and merciless in our critique of it, just like we do with any idea. Ultimately, if the Qu'ran is meant to be the literal, perfect word of Allah, then I think Allah must have forgotten to take his pills. You can sense this just by reading the Qu'ran for yourself.

Additionally, "Islamophobia" is a vapid propaganda term as it is very broad and often conflates legitimate criticism of Islam with bigotry towards Muslims, especially since Islamophobia is often defined by its promoters as "hatred towards Islam and Muslims". As Christopher Hitchens once put it, "Islamophobia — has been put into circulation to try and suggest that a foul prejudice lurks behind any misgivings about Islam’s infallible ‘message.’"

When it comes to criticizing ideas, nothing should be off limits and no idea should get a free pass from critique because it might ‘offend’ someone. ‘Islamophobe!’ is too often trotted out as a tactic to silence people you disagree with. In a increasingly diverse and interconnected world, where different and often opposing beliefs are held with deep conviction, conflict is unavoidable, this is neccessary, in fact, desirable for the modern world because with conflict comes progress.

Clearly, being criticial of Islam or Muslims does not automatically make you a bigot.

So,when does criticism of Islam become anti-muslim bigotry? It is when criticism morphs into bigotry or prejudice against muslims or those percieved to be muslims; or when critics advocate policies that would deny muslims equal rights under the law, or demand muslims be arbitraly discriminated against simply because they have a Muslim background. To put it simply. Anti Muslim bigots are those who arbitrarily despise, distrust, hate and/or fear Muslims in general.

It is for this reason I feel it is an ethical duty of people who label themselves Liberals or Leftists that they should oppose discrimination against Muslims in the public sphere: from discriminatory policing and immigration laws that specifically target Muslims for no good reason, to planning regulations that make it more difficult to build mosques than other similar buildings or restrictions on the ability of Muslims to worship merely because they happen to be Muslims.

Absolutely, I have nothing but antipathy to regressive jerks and Islamist propagandists who overexaggerate the extent of anti-muslim bigotry, who use it as a political weapon to shut down honest discussion on Islamism, who use it as a false diagnosis for why Western Muslims join Jihadist organisations. Writing hysterical, borderline conspiratorial pieces on an 'Islamophobia industry' created and maintained by the neocon/Zionist establishment in order to oppress Muslims.

Nontheless, we must understand that anti-muslim bigotry is a problem that must be fought. To deny or downplay this is to put an intellectual blindfold on yourself, thereby deny reality. It is not uncommon, for example, to hear women in hijabs say they feel a little anxious about walking in public, as they are the most visible representation of Islam in public. This not only affects Muslims as sadly, Sikhs have also suffered hate crimes for being mistaken for Muslims. Standing up to this injustice doesn't mean you are a ‘regressive’ or an apologist for fundamentalism.

We are now at a stage where we have the prominent U.S presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for Muslim citizens of the United States to have their information put into special databases and a complete ban on Muslim immigrants entering the United States. This is not merely flirting with Fascism, this is Fascism. Moreover, similar sentiments have been expressed by the ultra-nationalist, anti immigrant right who are currently gaining ground in Europe in the aftermath of the Cologne sex attacks. This can no longer be dismissed as the ramblings of fringe nutcases. It is now serious, because these troubling attitudes have now entered the mainstream in a way it wouldn't have ten years ago.This is best shown by the fact that 25 percent of Americans support Trump's ludicrous idea to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Albeit it is a minority (thankfully) but it is still worrying that a quater of Americans support it.

Above all, it seems wise to the rational person that we should care about anti muslim bigotry; not just out of principle, but also because it disarms the apologists of their claim that they are the only ones who care about bigotry while the critics are apathetic.

I advise fellow critics of Islam, if you are believers in secular humanism and you oppose Islam for that reason, then you should once in a while address anti-Muslim bigotry and criticise those who espouse it. To not do this is cowardice. Something as simple as just tweeting (or retweeting, even easier) an article about it on Twitter, or criticising the entrepeneurs of panic can go a long way.

This is not about deflecting or ignoring the problem, nor is this about imposing a sort of of quota on your public expressions, where for every criticism of Islam you have to have something on anti-Muslim bigotry. This is about defending secular, enlightenment values. The far-right with their proposed 'solutions' to Islamism, in addition to their general politics are also a threat to the west and its values especially if they ever hold political power.

Image Source: International Business Times

Monday, 25 January 2016

Stop Bringing Cultural Appropriation into Israel/Palestine

"You can take our land, you can take our women 
but you'lll never take our hummus, falafel and Sahlab!"


Cultural appropriation as a concept should viewed with skepticism and suspicion especially in todays internet rage culture. Occasionally it can be valid but often times it misses the point and is taken way too far.

This will make me unpopular and bring me many haters but I dislike it when the Palestinian cause and the Israel/Palestine conflict in general is reduced to "cultural appropriation". Israelis often get alot of flak from leftists and pro-Palestine activists for unfairly staking claims to foods that are really the cultural property of Palestinian Arabs.
 
A popular argument you often hear among pro-Palestine activists is, part of the Zionist colonial project in Palestine is not just stealing land from Palestinians and evicting them, but also a deliberate, systematic, effort to culturally colonise Palestine. According to them, Israelis appropriate "indigenous" culture and cuisine. So, they will take foods like falafel, Shakshuka, olives, Shawamma, hummus (of course). Even fashion apparently.

In my view, food and culture are not the ownership of one specific ethnic or racial group. Cultures are fluid. It mixes, evolves and changes over time. Palestinian cuisine is no different. Over centuries it has had Persian and Turkish influences just like the broader Levantine cuisine in the Middle East of which Palestinian and Israeli foods derive from. Technically, these specific foods I mentioned are Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian. What is also often ignored is the fact that Israel has a significant population of Jews who are of Arab descent who will share similar a cuisine to their Palestinian Arab counterparts. Is anyone going to accuse them of "cultural appropriating" their own culture?

I worry the current debates on cultural appropriation will have the effect of poisioning issues with purile identity politics. In all honesty, there is a creepy, yet subtle  totalitarianism to these "cultural appropriation crazes". It effectively tells people according to their race or ethnicity what they can eat, what they wear, what hairstyle they can sport, what music you can listen to. This is a want to control and police an individual's behavior, when it is clearly not harming anyone. It is dissappointing when I hear this reactionary, provincialist nonsense mostly coming from people who would label themselves leftists, internationalists and progressives.

This isn't to say culture isn't important for the Palestinian people and their cause. Of course it is. Culture is important for any cause or movement especially the arts and cinema. But if cultural appropriation is the dominant kind of political rhetoric of which the Palestinian solidarity movement has to offer, then it just shows how tepid it has now become and how little credibility they will have.

These pointless, hysterical debates on "cultural appropriation" gives people a "safe option", it helps them ignore the difficult problems and the real struggle since you're soothing your conscience by buying politically correct olive oil. They are also a distraction from the real problems in regards to Israel/Palestine like settlements, the occupation, harsh Israeli policy, the authoritarianism of Hamas and The Palestinian authority and the detiriorating humanitarian condition of the Gaza strip. Instead of addressing these problems, you scream about a Jew enjoying some hummus since allegedly that is cultural imperialism.

No one cares where hummus comes from or whom it "belongs" to. All that matters is that it tastes good! In my ever so humble opinion anyone should eat whatever the fuck they want, but hey that's just me.