Headlines 25 June, 2010
FRANCE'S NATIONAL FRONT: WILL MARINE LE PEN TAKE THE REINS?
Founder Jean-Marie Le Pen is silent on who will next lead the National Front party: Marine Le Pen, his populist daughter, or Bruno Gollnisch, his 'purist' right-hand man.
25/6/2010- Jean-Marie Le Pen, who heads France's National Front party, has long peppered politics with right-wing bons mots. (Nazi occupation was "not especially inhumane," he once said.) Now his daughter, Marine Le Pen, is showing that she, too, can make headlines. She called on President Nicolas Sarkozy to step down if implicated in a bribery case dating to 1995. She recently knocked France's racially diverse World Cup soccer team: "I don't see myself represented by this France team." And after police on June 15 banned a provocative "pork sausage and booze" party that was to be held in a heavily Arab-Muslim quarter of Paris, Ms. Le Pen said, "the French state has capitulated once again."
Succession campaign in full swing
Her higher visibility comes as a National Front succession campaign is in full swing. The senior Le Pen is set to retire as champion of a proud France that, he's long said, is being invaded and cheated by foreign hordes, Brussels bureaucrats, and globalization. He also decries what he calls excessive Jewish influence in the media. An often-vicious party fight is under way between Ms. Le Pen and Bruno Gollnisch, Mr. Le Pen's stalwart right-hand man. The battle is over the face and direction of the far right, whose influence here has always outweighed its numbers. Ms. Le Pen, tall, blond, and articulate, wants to move the Front away from the splendid isolation of its 5 to 12 percent vote and appeal to a mainstream that has also moved right. She has rebuffed her dad's anti-Semitism and speaks inclusively of gays and feminists – while nourishing an anti-immigrant, antiburqa, anti-Islam line that plays to a silent majority. Mr. Gollnisch, serious, gray-haired, a professor and ultranationalist who speaks Japanese and Malay and is deeply loyal to Mr. Le Pen, wants the party to remain a haven for fellow travelers. His anti-Semitism is intact; a 2004 speech saying Holocaust facts are a "dispute of history" landed him in court. Most French think the daughter, with her populist touch, will win. But in party ranks, Gollnisch is seen as a standard-bearer who put in time and hard work. He told Le Figaro newspaper: "I want … to defend the French identity, which appears more threatened than ever."
"She's a pure product of her father, and she's got the leader's name. That has weight," says Arun Kapil of the American University in Paris. "But to the card-carrying party member, Gollnisch has legitimacy. He goes way back to the '70s." He adds, "If Marine wins, the Front national has a chance to break out … if Gollnisch wins, they retreat to 2 percent." Gollnisch insists that he has the moxie to move the party out. He casts himself as a "little guy from the provinces." But so far he isn't even talking to the main center-right party of Mr. Sarkozy, where the voters are. His hatred for political correctness is reputedly visceral. "He prefers to fish in silent, dark waters," a Paris political analyst says. His outreach is to figures like Philippe de Villiers, a denizen of the extremes who opposes the European Union, the euro, Islam, and Turkey in Europe; who wants riot police to use live ammunition; and who this month tried to ban a heavy-metal concert as "Satanist." Ms. Le Pen, meanwhile, is taking on figures like Sarkozy and getting quoted almost daily. On the socialist left, she is compared to Sarah Palin, especially after claiming a feminist mantle. And the return home this week of France's World Cup team, disgraced by its poor performance on and off the field, has only given Ms. Le Pen's earlier statements added weight. Much of the national reaction to the team's behavior was racially loaded, prompting urban affairs minister Fadela Amara to warn against "building a highway for the National Front."
Party witch hunt
Gollnischians snarl that Ms. Le Pen, a tool of Zionists, is conducting party witch hunts to out his supporters. "She is an empty shell … compatible with anything," says former Front vice president Jean-Claude Martinez. Gollnisch is "faithful to the fundamentals of the Front, whose program he wrote," says analyst Philippe Cohen. "When Marine is 'divisive,' Gollnisch says he is ready to rally the scattered forces of the extreme right." Mr. Le Pen is silent on the internal struggle. He has long been the face of the European far right, and a powerful influence as the mainstream scrambled to match his ability to capture popular discontent. In 2002, he shocked Paris by facing Jacques Chirac in the national runoff. In 2007, his party did poorly. But Sarkozy's victory was partly based on adopting Le Pen positions and siphoning votes. Whether the daughter can move the party into power politics is unclear. In The New York Times recently, she described the trials of being a Le Pen, but affirmed core party views: "There has been a withdrawal into non-French identities because we sapped French nationality of its content.… So how can someone be proud? We spend all our lives saying, 'We are ... colonizers, slavery promoters.' " The Le Pens, in any event, seem here to stay. Mr. Le Pen's granddaughter, Marion Marechal Le Pen, ran in the March local elections. She's 19.
© The Christian Science Monitor
FRANCE'S SOCCER EMPIRE IN RUINS? (opinion)
By Laurent Dubois, the Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University. He recently published "Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France," and is founding editor of the Soccer Politics Blog.
25/6/2010- The world watched with awe and derision this past week as the French national soccer team, boasting a roster of star players, imploded on and off the field at the World Cup. In case you missed it, here's the play-by-play. At half-time during the France-Mexico game, striker Nicolas Anelka insulted French coach Raymond Domenech in the locker room. Such words, of course, are heard frequently in the half-time locker rooms of losing teams the world over -- though not so often spoken to a coach's face. They don't, however, usually decorate the covers of newspapers. But there was a leak, and in a gesture that was extremely profitable (if of questionable journalistic integrity,) the French sports newspaper L'Equipe published Anelka's insults as their headline. Anelka refused to apologize for the outburst, and the player was sent home. It might have ended there, except that the French players did what all self-respecting French workers would do in the situation: Led by team captain Patrice Evra, they went on strike, refusing to practice last Sunday. Their action incited a wave of anger in France. President Nicolas Sarkozy rapidly criticized the players, and right-wing politicians did so even more harshly. Both Anelka and Evra are black, and there was racist vitriol hurled at them online. The intellectual Alain Finkielkraut -- already well known for having derided the French team as being "black-black-black" in 2006 -- lambasted them on primetime television. The players, his argument went, were "hooligans," raised in the banlieues (French projects,) with no sense of dignity and no patriotism, and lacking proper respect for authority.
For years, many in France had stridently complained about the French coach, Raymond Domenech and the French Football Federation that kept him in his post through one failure after another. Suddenly, though, a surprising number of people seemed ready to scapegoat the "spoiled" and ungovernable players, particularly Anelka and Evra, for the failures of the French team. The passion surrounding this debate, of course, makes little sense unless you understand that people are actually talking about something else. Since the 1990s, debates about the national soccer team have channeled and crystallized larger debates about race and immigration in France. The team's fortunes have constantly served as a parable, illuminating the hopes and impasses of the Republic. Throughout the 20th century, long before other European countries did so, French national soccer teams fielded players of African, North Africa and Caribbean descent. A black player named Raoul Diagne began playing for France in 1931 and played in the World Cup in 1938, while the first black player on the England team appeared in 1978. The presence of such players on the team, however, was rarely a political issue until the 1990s. In 1996, far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose party sees immigration as a threat to France, complained about the "foreign players" on the French team.
There are, in fact, no foreigners on the French team; you have to be a citizen to play. There have been a few immigrants on the team in the past decades, but those mostly arrived in France as children. Patrice Evra, for instance, is the son of a Guinean diplomat, born in Senegal, and moved to Brussels when he was one and France when he was five. Many of the black players on the team, including Thierry Henry, and Nicolas Anelka, were born in and around Paris to parents from the French departments in the Caribbean, whose residents are French citizens. Other players, including the legendary Zinedine Zidane, were born in France to immigrant parents from North or West Africa, and therefore according to French law became citizens at birth. So what was Le Pen really talking about? The players he targeted carry onto the field a history that weighs uncomfortably on contemporary France: The history of slavery, empire, and the violence of decolonization. When they walk onto the global stage of soccer as representatives of France, their presence raises questions about what France has been, and what it will become. When Le Pen attacked the team in the 1990s, he sought to turn it into a symbol of all that was wrong with France. But he did so at precisely the wrong moment. Thanks to Zidane and the Caribbean-born Lilian Thuram, France won the World Cup in 1998. As the country erupted into several days of massive celebration, many French heralded the victory of a multi-racial team as the perfect refutation of the arguments of the far-right. Since then, the team has served as a weapon against Le Pen, a powerful symbol -- perhaps the most powerful symbol -- of a France in which diversity is a source of strength rather than a danger.
French soccer stars like Zidane are some of the most beloved people in the country, far more popular than any politician. Thuram has become an outspoken critic not just of Le Pen but of President Sarkozy, speaking on behalf of marginalized youth in French society. One kind of symbol when it is winning, of course, the team becomes something else when it is losing. Already in 2006, one far-right newspaper responded to Zidane's famous head-butt by announcing: "Bye-bye, hoodlum!" This year, the poor performance of the team, Anelka's outburst and the players' strike, provided another opportunity. At a moment when anxiety about immigration, Islam, and the future of France is extremely high, interpretations that demonized the players went over all too well. The debate, of course, has been far from unified. While critics have painted the players as spoiled and individualistic, arguing they really don't care about the team, or France, others have defended them. Organizing a collective response against the expulsion of Anelka, his teammates showed solidarity and protested an action they considered both unfair and one that would weaken the team. Many seem to believe that athletes have no right to speak out or protest, that they should just shut up and play. The French players disagreed, feeling it was their right to speak out. That they did so, rather than keeping quiet, actually demonstrates how much they do care about what happens to a team they clearly felt has been badly mismanaged. In soccer as in politics, it's easy to find scapegoats, and harder to identify the institutional failings that have brought a crisis on. But what has happened in French football, as in French society, is the result of those in charge of its institutions, not those doing their best to make their way within them.
Whatever happens next, the French team will continue to serve as a cipher for France's fears and hopes. And while this seems far off now, we can imagine that someday the French team will once again inspire, even unify France -- at least for a moment. After all, if we're drawn to sport it's in part because no matter how bad things get, there's always another round.
RACIAL VIOLENCE: THE BURIED ISSUE (uk)
Research published by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) today, reveals dangerously high levels of racial violence in the UK - a violence which is spreading into new areas.
25/6/2010- As mainstream parties compete as to which can reduce immigration fastest - ostensibly to defuse community fears - no one asks who actually bears the immediate fall-out of such tensions - Black and Minority Ethnic, asylum-seeker/refugee and migrant communities. As far as the authorities are concerned the Macpherson inquiry (set up in the wake of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993) has dealt with racial violence. It no longer exists, it is no longer a problem issue. But the IRR's report, Racial violence: the buried issue, reveals that, on average, five people a year in the UK have lost their lives to racial violence since Stephen's death - a total of eight-nine victims in seventeen years.
And analysis of 660 racial attacks in 2009 reveals that certain groups of people are particularly at risk: 'dispersed' asylum seekers, newly-arrived migrant workers, those who look Muslim and/or work in isolating trades such as taxi-cabbing, food take-aways, small shops and eateries. The map of violence has changed quite dramatically since studies were first done a generation ago, when primarily areas like Southall, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham witnessed the most racial attacks and racist murders. Such areas are now, in part through struggles against racism, more 'at ease' with their diversity. Today racial violence is on the rise in towns, cities and villages which are only now beginning to change demographically - with the arrival of asylum seekers, migrant workers, overseas students, and the natural movement of settled BME families from the larger conurbations.
According to the report's authors: 'The governments' line that community tension is based solely on new immigration to the UK is partial and opportunistic. The UK is now witnessing an ever-expanding mosaic of different racisms based on different local conditions. And politicians themselves are responsible, through their neglect of poor disadvantaged areas, policies including the demonisation of certain groups and rhetoric around the war on terror, for creating, particularly in areas where competition over scarce resources is keenest, a climate in which racial violence will flourish. The drastic economic cuts of the new government can only make things worse.'
* 89 people have lost their lives in attacks with a racial element since the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
* Victims of attacks are overwhelmingly Asian (45%); Black (18%); Migrant workers (10%). Men are usually the victims of attacks (80%).
* Attacks take place on the street (37.6%); in the home (12%), taxi/taxi offices (10%), takeaways, restaurants, pubs and bars (8.6%); shops (8%); religious institutions and/or people in their vicinity (4.3%).
* 34% of attacks took place at the weekend when perpetrators are often under the influence of drink and drugs.
Download the IRR's Briefing Paper: Racial violence: the buried issue here (pdf file, 300kb).
Read the IRR's Factfile on the Racially Motivated Murders (Known or Suspected) 2000 onwards
© The Institute of Race Relations
GOVERNMENT RECONSIDERING PLANS TO IMPOSE IMMIGRATION CAP (uk)
Businesses to be consulted over proposals amid fears they could prove damaging to City
25/6/2010- The coalition government is rethinking plans to introduce an immigration cap – a flagship Conservative policy during the election campaign – amid fears that it could damage the economy, it was reported today. The home secretary, Theresa May, will begin consultation with businesses on the policy next week. Business leaders have warned that an immigration cap could make businesses less competitive and are hoping for a change of mind. The Financial Times reported that the education secretary, Michael Gove, and the universities secretary, David Willetts, are among cabinet members who have warned that a rigid cap could prove harmful to the City. A Home Office spokesman said: "It's not news that we will have a consultation before an annual limit is set. The home secretary will announce details shortly. "We want to attract the brightest and the best to the UK but the government is listening to the concerns of the general public who would like to see levels of immigration reduced."
Proposals for an immigration cap proved to be one of the most popular Conservative pledges during the campaign, with the party repeatedly accusing Labour of having lost control of immigration. The immigration minister, Damian Green, this week reiterated the Tory promise to get immigration down to "tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands", promising a wide range of measures "including a limit on work permits". But tensions emerged in a meeting chaired by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, last week, during which Gove and Willets warned that the imposition of a cap could hurt the City and deter overseas business leaders, the FT said. Despite previous opposition to a cap, the policy was accepted by the Lib Dems in the agreement with the Tories that formed the basis for the coalition government. The concerns expressed within the Conservative party, coupled with the Lib Dems' ideological opposition, have raised the prospect that a rigid cap could be replaced by a more flexible system that might end up resembling the existing points-based system introduced by Labour. Net migration to the UK was 142,000 in the year to September 2009, down from 160,000 in the previous 12 months. Labour claimed the fall was due to its tough immigration policies, but the Tories said it was a result of the economic downturn.
© The Guardian
CONVICTIONS POINT TO RISE OF FAR RIGHT EXTREMISM (uk)
Today's convictions of a 42-year-old food packer and a 59-year-old builder on inciting racial hatred brings to 16 the number of convictions connected to far right extremism in the past two years, as Home Affairs Correspondent Simon Israel investigates.
24/6/2010- Trevor Hannington, from South Wales, and Michael Heaton, from Lancashire, ran their own far right organisation which promised street action to help rid the country of minority communities. Their Aryan Strike Force boasted 350 members. Its website had tens of thousands of postings, all messages of hate like urging the destruction of Jews, describing them as treacherous scum. There were references to "chopping n****** legs off" and "kill the jew, burn down a synagogue today". Heaton was found guilty on four charges charges, while Hannington admitted to four terrorism charges including distributing instructions on how to turn a water pistol into a flamethrower. Both were both found not guilty of soliciting to murder. Dr Matthew Feldman, who runs the UK's only research unit on new media and domestic extremism at Northampton University, was the prosecution's key witness in this case. He says "These are neo-Nazis, pure and simple, and consider themselves really the most extreme versions of this ideological neo-Nazism that is new. "We have had some evidence, I believe, of activists from the ASF appearing on videos at the English Defence League marches and so forth."
Rise in extremism
Dr Feldman believes this recent string of convictions of "lone wolf" cases and the creation of the English Defence League point to a resurgence of far right extremism. He said: "In terms of what we might call small cell or lone wolf terrorists cases since 2008, but also other events in 2008 such as the successful election of two British National Party MEPs in the Yorkshire, Humber area, and in 2009 the creation of the English Defence League on the back of those protests by some radical Islamism groups against the return of Anglican soldiers. So I think there is a confluence of factors that do point to a resurgence in the far right." The two convicted today actually turned up at several of the EDL rallies and used their website to praise the EDL's actions. Yet the EDL denies any links to these extremists organisation. We asked for an interview with its organisers so we could put all our evidence to them. They declined. Does that mean EDL is infiltrated with those with a much more extreme agenda intent on more than just glorified football style violence? Police who monitor these events say no.
Assistant Chief Constable Anton Setchell, national coordinator for domestic extremism, told Channel 4 News that "we have seen some individuals from the far right on the margins of EDL organised events but these are only one or two individuals. We have found no strong links between extreme groups like the Aryan Strike Force and the EDL." Yet today's guilty verdicts bring to 16 the total number of far right extremists who have been convicted over the past two years. Among them were father and son Ian and Nicky Davison who were sent to prison last month for possessing the poison Ricin and for making and detonating pipe bombs. They were also co-founders of the Aryan Strike Force. Dr Feldman says: "in groups like the ASF successor organisations we are seeing a group numbering in the few hundreds probably at the maximum. "That's a few hundred too many because these are not people who are far right activists for the BNP and knocking doors. These are people who may very well be considering a future as we saw in the Davison case undertaking terrorists. In fact Heaton stated publically that as part of a "rites of passage" to join, potential recruits had to carry out a serious op, meaning a violent racist attack.
Report on racism
The Institute for Race Relations is about to publish a report, which Channel 4 News has had exclusive access to, mapping out 600 serious racist attacks in the UK last year. Many have taken place in towns which have had influxes of a migrant workforce or asylum seekers. But it also hints at a correlation between attacks and pockets of extremism. We found that of the 16 extremist convictions since 2008, two thirds come from towns which form a corridor across the north of England: Penwortham, south of Preston, to Leigh, west of Manchester, to Batley, to Selby, to Goole, to Grimsby, then further north to Elsdon and Durham. Privately, police sources have confirmed to us that their intelligence suggests the same. They admit there are some dangerous individuals, but overall the threat from right wing extremists has hardly changed since the days of the nail bomber David Copeland, who killed three and seriously injured 79 people in three attacks, the worst at Soho's Admiral Duncan Pub in 1999. It was the last time white supremacists were said to behind a bomb attack in the UK. Those monitoring far right extremists attribute the recent string of convictions to a combination of "good police work", community relations and luck, rather than an increased threat. But they say what has changed is their profile boosted by a combination of the numerous convictions and the tenor of EDL marches.
© Channel 4 News
ARE WOMEN'S RIGHTS REALLY THE ISSUE? (Europe)
On Wednesday, Spain became the latest European country to advance legislation to ban burqas and other such face veils. Many of those in favor of such laws cite women's rights, but does criminalizing their clothing help?
24/6/2010- When it comes to burqas, everyone, it would seem, is a feminist. In 2006, Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders argued that the burqa -- the full-body robes with just a mesh screen to look through -- is "a medieval symbol, a symbol against women." Last year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called it "a sign of subservience." And on Wednesday, the Spanish Senate gave its approval to an anti-burqa motion supporting the outlawing of "any usage, custom or discriminatory practice that limits the freedom of women." Spain, in fact, became the latest to join the European movement to ban the burqa and the niqab -- similar to a burqa but with a slit for the eyes instead of mesh. It joins France, Italy and Belgium with Holland, Austria and Switzerland also considering laws to get rid of the garment. But can the rush to uncover Europe's most pious Muslims be explained solely by a newfound desire to protect the rights of women? The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which advises the council on human rights questions, certainly doesn't think so. On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Assembly, known as PACE, passed a resolution urging European Union member states not to issue a ban on burqas "or other religious or special clothing." Rather, the resolution read, EU countries should focus their energies on protecting women's "free choice to wear religious or special clothing." In other words, PACE seemed to be saying, religious freedoms and human rights are at the crux of the burqa debate. And preventing them from wearing what they want is anti-feminist.
'Don't Have the Right to Be Human'
It is not an uncontroversial claim. Leading German feminist Alice Schwarzer said late last year that she thinks a burqa ban is "self evident." Women's rights activist Necla Kelek, likewise of Germany, says that burqas "have nothing to do with religion and religious freedoms." She says that the garment comes out of an ideology whereby "women in public don't have the right to be human." As the debate has moved mainstream, it has become easier to ignore the fact that much of the momentum for bans of the burqa and the niqab come from right-wing populist parties. Wilders has been followed by the Belgian far-right party Vlaams Belang and the anti-Muslim German party Pro-NRW in calling for a ban. All of those groups would also like to see minarets disappear from European cityscapes and have attracted attention primarily due to their radically anti-Muslim rhetoric. In its Wednesday resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe made that connection as well. It preceded its recommendations by emphasizing the priority of "working towards ensuring freedom of thought, conscience and religion while combating religious intolerance and discrimination." The document then went on to urge Switzerland to revoke its ban on minarets, passed in a nationwide referendum last November.
As more and more countries in Europe begin exploring a burqa ban, however, the idea is becoming disassociated from right-wing rhetoric. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, from the center-left Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, would like to see a ban. In France, Communist parliamentarian André Gerin has been leading the charge. In Britain, then cabinet minister Jack Straw, of the Labour Party, outed himself as being opposed to the wearing of the full veil in 2006. And in Germany, politicians from across the political spectrum have voiced their support for a burqa ban. Lost in the debate, perhaps predictably, are the women who wear burqas and niqabs. According to a recent article in the New Statesmen, there aren't many. In France, security services estimate that just one-tenth of 1 percent of Muslim women in the country wear the burqa -- a number that seems to make a mockery of the effort to pass what has been called "emergency legislation" against the garment prior to parliament's summer recess. Sarkozy's cabinet approved a draft law last month. The number of women who wear the full veils in Belgium could be as low as 30. On a continent where the integration of its ever-increasing Muslim population has caused politicians fits for years, though, it is perhaps not surprising that the burqa debate has grown steadily this year. Europeans are concerned about radical Islam and many associate a burqa ban with combatting extremism.
'Criminalizing Women to Free Them'
The opposite may be true. Last summer, the North African wing of al-Qaida threatened to "take revenge" on France as a result of the swelling debate there over banning the burqa. "We will not tolerate such provocations and injustices, and we will take our revenge from France," said the group's statement. Human rights workers, for their part, worry that burqa bans may send the wrong message to Muslim women. "Treating pious Muslim women like criminals won't help integrate them," said Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch in April. Speaking of the Belgium ban, British writer Myriam Francois-Cerrah, a Muslim, said simply: "The Belgians have a funny idea of liberation, criminalizing women in order to free them." For all the burqa ban's current popularity in Europe, it seems unlikely that German politicians will be forced to confront such legislation any time soon. According to an analysis carried out by the German parliament last month, a ban on the burqa would very likely find itself in violation of the German constitution. And Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (of the center-right Christian Democrats) has voiced his opposition to such legislation in Germany. A burqa debate in Germany, he said, "is unnecessary."
© The Spiegel
COUNCIL OF EUROPE URGES END TO MINARET BAN (Switzerland)
23/6/2010- Council of Europe parliamentarians have called for the Swiss ban on building minarets to be repealed on the basis that it discriminates against Muslims in Switzerland. The recommendation was made by the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly on Wednesday during a debate on Islam and Islamophobia in Europe. It urges Switzerland to adopt a moratorium on the ban and reverse it as soon as possible. “The construction of minarets should be possible, under the same status as is given to church towers, in accordance with public safety and town planning regulations,” said the recommendation. Swiss voters approved a ban on future minaret construction in the country in November. The initiative was brought to a referendum by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. Subsequent complaints of discrimination were lodged with the European Court of Human Rights, which has yet to decide on the issue.
SPAIN'S SENATE VOTES TO BAN BURQA
23/6/2010- In a significant escalation of Spain’s debate over how to handle radical Islam, the Senate on Wednesday narrowly and unexpectedly approved a motion to ban Muslim women from wearing in public the burqa or other garments that cover the whole body. The vote, 131 to 129, was another setback for the Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which had favored more-limited restrictions on Islamic clothing and has instead been pushing to curtail religious fundamentalism through better education. The Spanish vote comes amid several national initiatives across Europe to restrict the spread of radical Islam and defend liberal values. In Belgium, the lower house of Parliament has already approved a measure that, if unamended by the upper house, would make it a crime to wear in public “clothing that hides the face.” France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, has also been inching toward such a ban on the burqa. The measure has the backing of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently condemned the garment as “a sign of subservience” rather than one of religion. In Switzerland last year, a referendum banned the construction of minarets. While national politicians may be urging a clampdown on the burqa, such moves are still expected to run into legal obstacles. In March, France’s top administrative body, the Council of State, warned the government that a full ban would be unconstitutional. A commission of the Council of Europe, the European institution dealing with human rights issues, also recently warned governments against imposing a complete ban that would violate women’s individual rights.
Before the Spanish Senate’s vote, some of the country’s local authorities had already moved to introduce restrictions on the burqa. The issue was especially heated in the region of Catalonia, where the debate over Islam and immigration has become entangled in early campaigning ahead of regional elections later this year. The pending elections may have proved crucial in the Wednesday vote, as senators from the CiU, a Catalan party, surprisingly switched their earlier stance to vote in favor of a burqa ban. The motion adopted by the senators calls on Spain to outlaw “any usage, custom or discriminatory practice that limits the freedom of women.” It was drafted and led by politicians from the main center-right opposition People's Party. Justifying the vote, one of the senators from the CiU, Montserrat Candini, said that “we cannot tolerate that nobody understands that we are not in favor of banning the burqa.” The Senate’s position also came as a surprise because although Spain has become a major European entry point for Muslim migrants from North Africa, few of those immigrants wear either the burqa or the niqab, which does not cover the eyes. A similar argument has also been made by opponents of a burqa ban in countries like France, where only an estimated 100,000 women wear the burqa out of a Muslim population of about 5 million. France, however, already passed a law in 2004 to ban head scarves or any other “conspicuous” religious symbol from state schools in order to preserve their secularism. The Spanish government is supposed to follow the Senate’s motion. However, given that Socialist senators opposed the ban, the governing party is likely to seek ways to circumvent the vote. Anna Terrón, the secretary of state for immigration, said the Senate vote had “more to do with the election campaign in which the CiU is involved than with a real discussion” on the burqa.
© The New York Times
IS UNREGISTERED RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY EXTREMISM, SEPARATISM OR TERRORISM? (Kazakhstan)
Muslims and Baptists are known to have been targeted in 2010 by at least three of Kazakhstan's regional police Departments for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism in Kazakhstan, Forum 18 News Service has learned. "We get involved in questions on this line," police Major Dauren Gumarov commented on raids on three Taraz mosques and one nearby madrassa (religious college). Major Gumarov is head of Jambyl region's anti-terrorism police, and asked what he meant by "line" he replied: "Unregistered religious associations." Insisting – despite contradictory statements in Kazakh law and international human rights standards – that state registration is compulsory, Major Gumarov refused to explain why his Department targeted peaceful religious communities which did not pose an extremist, separatist or terrorist threat. Council of Churches Baptists – who refuse on principle to seek state registration – have also been targeted by anti-terrorism police. Pastor Nikolai Levin told Forum 18 that he "asked [a police officer] why people cannot believe as they choose without his Department needing to know about it, but he refused to explain".
23/6/2010- At least three different regional police Departments for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism in Kazakhstan have raided religious communities in 2010, solely because they engage in unregistered religious activity, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Known targets have been congregations of the Council of Churches Baptists – who refuse on principle to seek state registration from the authorities – in both Akmola Region (around the capital Astana) and North Kazakhstan Region, as well as unregistered mosques in Taraz in the southern Jambyl [Zhambyl] Region. "We get involved in questions on this line," police Major Dauren Gumarov commented on raids on three Taraz mosques and one nearby madrassa (religious college), and check-ups on their registration status. Major Gumarov is head of Jambyl police's regional Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism. Asked what he meant by "line", he responded: "Unregistered religious associations." Asked why anti-terrorism police were involved merely because a religious community is functioning without registration, Major Gumarov insisted: "Registration is required. We didn't close them down – we went with the Prosecutor's Office and they warned them to get registration." He refused to explain why his Department was involved with religious communities which did not pose an extremist, separatist or terrorist threat. Current Kazakh law contradicts itself on whether or not the registration of religious organisations is compulsory (see F18News 4 August 2005).
Regional police Departments for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism, which have raided or questioned Baptists in Akmola and North Kazakhstan Regions in June, refused to discuss their activity with Forum 18. An officer of the western Mangistau Region's police Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism was involved in raiding the New Life Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in the Caspian Sea port town of Aktau [Aqtau] in 2009. He was also involved in questioning and threatening church members, and trying to recruit one as a spy, church members told Forum 18, and attended the trial of a church member which ordered her deportation (see F18News 10 July 2009).
Ordinary police and other officials also raid
Accompanying the Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism police in Taraz were Prosecutor's Office officials. Raids on unregistered religious communities are often conducted by the ordinary police and officials of Internal Policy Departments of local Akimats (administrations). In one recent case, police in the northern Pavlodar Region raided the ordination service of a Council of Churches Baptist pastor on 19 April. Like many of their leaders across Kazakhstan, he was subsequently given a heavy fine (see F18News 24 June 2010).
"Why can't people believe as they choose"?
Akmola Region's police Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism refused to discuss why they questioned a local Council of Churches Baptist pastor. Pastor Nikolai Levin, who leads the congregation in Balkashino, told Forum 18 that twice in June he has been summoned to the Sandyktau District Police in Balkashino, where he has been questioned by an officer of the Department. "He demanded that I register the church, which we won't agree to do," Pastor Levin told Forum 18 on 22 June. "He demanded that I hand over a list of church members. I refused saying that we don't have such lists." He said the officer refused to explain why the Department needed such lists and warned him that they would come during a service and write down the names of all those present. "I asked him why people cannot believe as they choose without his Department needing to know about it, but he refused to explain."
An officer at Sandyktau District Police – who would not give his name - told Forum 18 on 22 June that Levin was questioned because his community is not registered. "Our law says he must register." But he insisted that an officer from the police Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism had come from the regional capital Kokshetau to question him, and that the local police was not involved. Officials at the regional Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism in Kokshetau refused to discuss why they had questioned Pastor Levin, as well as demanding a list of church members. "Our people weren't there in Balkashino," one officer – who would not give his name – claimed to Forum 18 on 22 June. Another told Forum 18 shortly afterwards that "we are not able to answer your questions at the moment".
Internal Policy Department also visit
Pastor Levin said so far the Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism have not visited the church during a service as threatened. However, he said an official of Sandyktau District Akimat (administration) Internal Policy Department came to his home on 28 May – before he was summoned by the Department - and once again asked why he would not register the church. "We've explained to them so many times," he told Forum 18. Saule Zhailganova, head of the district Internal Policy Department, admitted that she had visited Pastor Levin. "We just went to conduct explanatory work that he must register his congregation," she told Forum 18 on 22 June. "We have no complaints about them apart from this." Told that the Baptists refuse to register – citing their religious freedom rights under Kazakhstan's Constitution and the country's international human rights obligations – and asked what officials would do when they continue to worship, Zhailganova did not state any specific measure. Aida Sydzhanova of Sandyktau District Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 the same day that their officials have not visited Levin and "are not demanding anything of him". However, she too insisted he must register his congregation. In January 2009, the Balkashino Baptist congregation was subjected to a raid in which the National Security Committee (KNB) secret police took part. Levin was fined the following month for leading his unregistered congregation, but refused to pay the fine. The judge also banned the congregation permanently, a ban the Baptists have ignored (see F18News 12 February 2009).
Raid on worship service
Another Council of Churches Baptist congregation was raided by anti-terrorism police in North Kazakhstan Region. Pastor Aleksandr Kerker told Forum 18 on 22 June that seven officers of the regional Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism raided his congregation's evening worship service on 16 June in his home in Tayinsha. He said they tried to film the service but he told them to stop. "They wanted to halt the service and summon those present out to the street, but I refused. They then waited until the service was over." Pastor Kerker said one of the officers sat through the rest of the service. "He had a bag with him and I don't know if he had a concealed recorder or not." After the service the police allowed children to leave, but stopped the adults on the street and filmed them. Pastor Kerker said officers again demanded that he register the congregation, but he explained yet again that his congregation does not need state registration. The police told him a case is being prepared against him, for leading an unregistered religious community. Pastor Kerker was fined for this in 2008 and 2009 and officials intended to confiscate property from him when he refused to pay (see F18News 9 January 2009). However, he told Forum 18 that so far none of his property has been seized to pay for these fines.
Anti-terrorism police move against unregistered mosques
Three mosques in Taraz in the southern Jambyl Region have been raided by the Regional Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism since October 2009, the Regional Police reported on their website. First to be raided was the town's Abubekr Mosque in October 2009 in a joint raid with officials of the town Prosecutor's Office. Then on 14 January 2010 the Saly-molda Mosque was raided, followed about two weeks later by the Aisula-Ana Mosque. In all three cases, the website noted that cases were prepared against the imams for leading unregistered religious communities under Article 375 Part 1 of the Code of Administrative Offences ("refusal by leaders of religious associations to register them with state bodies, carrying out of activity by religious associations not in accordance with their statute, participating in the activity of or financing political parties, violating the rules governing holding of religious events outside the location of a religious association, organising of special children's or youth meetings not related to worship, and forcing individuals to carry out religious rituals"). The government's current re-draft of the Administrative Code continues existing punishments for exercising freedom of religion or belief, including leaving much of Article 375 intact (see F18News 24 June 2010). The Regional Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism also raided an unregistered madrassa attached to the mosque in the village of Masanchi not far from Taraz in February 2010. While the head of the Regional Department for the Fight against Extremism, Separatism and Terrorism defended the raids to Forum 18, no-one at the Taraz Prosecutor's Office was available on 21 or 22 June to discuss them and the administrative cases prepared against the imams.
"There is no extremism in our region now"
However, Abdykarim Abdymominov, religious affairs official at Taraz Akimat, denied to Forum 18 that any of the three raided mosques in the town had been closed or that the imams had been brought to trial. "You have false information – no mosque was raided or checked up on by the anti-terrorism police," he told Forum 18 on 21 June. "We've had no complaints." Told that the Regional Police had published the information on its website, he repeated that no mosque had faced check-ups. "If they had, I'd have known." Abdymominov insisted all religious communities have to be registered. "It's an elementary issue – the law requires it," he told Forum 18. "This is not so as to interfere in their activity – but we're close to the border with Uzbekistan, where there are Wahhabis [a frequently used term for fundamentalist Muslims] and terrorists." Asked whether any terrorist plans had been detected in Taraz's mosques, he responded "Yes". On closer questioning he indicated that this had been a problem 15 years ago. "There is no extremism in our region now." Abdymominov said Aisula-Ana mosque is now registered, but if Saly-molda Mosque fails to get registration it will be closed down. "This is not a question of religious motives – they need to make sure they have adequate fire safety measures, for example. You can't just use a small house for prayer. If something happened, who would be responsible?"
Kanat Kuanishbekov, imam of Aisula-Ana mosque, confirmed to Forum 18 on 22 June that in the wake of the raid the community had applied for state registration. He said that the community had to wait for the Muftiate in Almaty to send the statute that all mosques use and registration was not given until 3 March. He said the administrative case against him had been halted when the mosque applied for registration. An official of Jambyl Regional Justice Department who would not give his name told Forum 18 on 22 June that of the four raided Muslim communities, only the Aisula-Ana Mosque has since gained registration. "The other three haven't lodged applications," he added. The Regional Police also noted on their website that 13 local religious leaders were each fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage in 2009 for leading unregistered religious communities. It did not identify them.
© Forum 18 News
CULTURE AND CONFLICT: DEFAMING WHAT NEIGHBORS HOLD HOLY (Hungary)
23/6/2010- The new arguments against ideological Isms in Hungary are troublesome, and translate to far more than a “play on words” or recasting a textual reality. They have started to eek blood. People here express rage, without expressing it directly. The danger has long been expressed that this will turn from veiled aggression to actual violence. In terms of actual economic disadvantage felt newly by the masses as existential hardship, the daily struggle to survive is frought with anxiety for which they blame minorities –Jews, Gypsies, Gays, foreigners, and foreign interests. To focus on how one hurts oneself and others, understanding social boundaries are important. But many people here are simply blind to this. If one steals, one has hurt another person’s trust –stolen bike be gone, one has stayed to experience “the little dying”. If one becomes homeless, this is another loss of a boundary. In this case, the „boundary“ is shelter from the elements – but the homeless have stayed to experience “the little dying.” If an addict punctures his body with a needle –for the first time having risked a critically dangerous step –he has overstepped a boundary, his own skin. He may never return alive from “the little dying.”
Freedom of speech as a dangerous pun
In a literal sense –the borders of nations are also “boundaries.” Many High School students of business will learn that regulating Trans National trade requires much more than border guards, or guards around the “boundary” of countries. Before 1989 the Iron Curtain was a boundary that cut off many countries and most citizens from open freedom to travel, trade, or cross borders. At the exhibit opened July 26, 2009, at the Terror House Museum (Terror Háza), called “Átvágva,” the program focuses on Hungarians taking a leading role in 1989, twenty years ago, in cutting the wires that made up the Iron Curtain. This allowed East Germans to stream across Austria to loved ones in West Germany. The word, “Átvágva,” as the exhibit is called, refers to the barbed wires having been cut. Of present continuous tense, it is like the word “walking,” as in the phrase “keep on walking.” But in reference to this rupture in history, the term generally used is Átvágott, meaning that it had already taken place, namely over 20 years ago, June 27, 1989. The Hungarian reader whom the placard addresses in Hungarian understands at once that the exhibit reflects an ongoing process of cutting „even now.“ So many ask, “What is continuing to be cut?” For some Hungarians, the question raised by the Terror Háza placard, What is ongoing? may clarify when one understands that „Átvágva” also means, literally, “scam.”
As hard as it is to imagine for many westerners, the disappointments in self-determined choice undermined the paternalism of Communism. In fact, many felt themselves all the more enslaved to uncertain forces beyond their control. Few, including the new business specialists calling themselves accountants could explain the APEH system of taxes. A new type of consultant called political scientist could not explain constitutional law. The masses felt “cheated” by the changes. Security undermined, so was trust, and eventually belief in human goodness. Security, trust, love –develop in that order, according to psychologist Maslow. To allow for an informal voice, “átvágva” for many Hungarians literally also meant, “We got screwed, and (being of continuous present tense) are continuing to ‘get it.’” The man shown cutting the wire on the placard is reputedly a former KGB (Stalinist) collaborator, allegedly involved in torturing during the Revolution of 1956, but also became Prime Minister in 1994. That he is also heralded as Jewish reveals the ugly, undigested historically-based pains mixing religion and politics. That he undertook one of the most rapid privatizations –from which many gains are by now squandered by political corruption, requiring new, painful sacrifices –leaves the information of the placard all the more open to personalized “interpretation” (for Hungarian readers of a ’nationalist’ leaning) as a mixed blessing and of the “olden days” as a viable option.
Gyula Horn is seen cutting the Iron Curtain between Hungary and Austria in 1989. A western official is pictured holding the wire as a souvenier. One piece like that is in the White House, guilded in gold. The Berlin Wall was also a „boundary.“ Parts of the Berlin Wall were cut up for expensive „keep-sake,“ as garden decorations. But why were many people who suffered under Communism troubled by „sourveniers“ from what made others suffer? Is it inevitable for pent up aggression to be loosed by the conquering forces? Such a „catharsis model“ of change, or lack of change, is used by extremists to argue that „unworked“ trauma in some post-Auschwitz Hungarian Jewish leadership allowed „unworked“ Stalinist aggressions and post-Communist corruption.
Mutual defilement of memorial: Three Important Memorials
When all the world is a stage, and Hungarian extremism is aspiring
1. Not kosher. The well-known Danube Embankment Shoah Memorial. It recalls the sacrificing of the Budapest Jewry in 1944 by lining them up, having them undress, and shooting countless men, women, and children into the Danube. Soa in Hungarian is a homonym for the Hungarian word „soha.“ Soa means „to destroy completely,“ but „soha“ means “never.” Several Right Wing newspapers wrote this year, „When will we remember Shoa, „soha.“ ie. That is, „We will never remember.“ Wiesnethal, Zuroff rolling over (hardly from jest), this is the very opposite of the knell from decades of Holocaust Education, „We will never forget.“ This Shoah Memorial is important for many Jews world-wide, especially Hugarian Jews, and of those, the immediate, elderly Survivors.
2. Even eagles get to lay eggs. The Turul, or Eagle, is part of Hungarian national history. It is part of the mythology of how the wandering Magyar tribe discovered their nation in the Carpathian Basin over 1000 years ago. Also, the word „turul” is part of ancient Hungarian language that was forgotten due to assimilation and revived only 150 years ago by poets of the Romantic and patriotic period. It is part of national identity, and as a word, part of „linguistic identity.” Often shown with a sword, or some weapon, the Eagle is a symbol of strength for many nations. One always sees the Turul with a weapon. But the bird is also represented with St. Steven’s crown.
3. Another clown „when all the world is a stage,“ was cast of St. Steven (St. István), no lesser figure than the Father or Founder of Hungary. His crown was considered so Holy that all during Communism, after 1948, it was taken to Washington, D.C.. and protected by the government of the United States of America for safety. It was given back only during President Carter’s tenure, after he felt assured it would not be destroyed.
How does one act of defilement lead to another?
1. On the left wing: Just days prior to the Memorial Ceremony by the Danube, 2009, when the names of Survivors are read, the a controversial, major Turul Statue –a national symbol – in the center of Buda Hill was defiled. A young „artist“ placed a „mock, plastic“ figure of St. István’s forehand into its mouth.
2. Right wing. Then, as a reaction to this „defilement,“ the next day the Memorial Ceremony at the Danube was defiled. A number of the shoes were filled with pigs feet, by extremists.
Cabaret? Until they actually geared up in the EU Parliament. Disbanded by court-ruling, this past June 2009, the Garda reformed in several days. The political party, Job-bik, the extreme Right, won 15% of the votes to gain 3 seats in the EU Parliament. It has scrambled since to lift its name beyond Cabbaret. Its EU representive, Morvai Krisztina, in her first major speech before the EU Human Rights Commission reiterated police brutality from 2006, but ignored Roma “race-killings” from just days prior. Extremist, nationalist militias, much like those pictured above, are now on the rise across Europe.
© The Budapest Report