Focal Points Blog

Islamophobia in the US: a Language (Arabic) Can’t Kill

New York City has decided to acknowledge Arabic holidays, but Islamophobia in the US, as well as the UK, remains prevalent. (Photo: John Sargent / Flickr Commons)

New York City has decided to acknowledge Arabic holidays, but Islamophobia in the US, as well as the UK, remains prevalent. (Photo: John Sargent / Flickr Commons)

On March 18, a student in Pine Bush High School near New York City recited the American Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic. This was done as part of the school’s Foreign Language Week, which was conducted to celebrate the “many races, cultures and religions that make up [the US and the Pine Bush] School District.”

One would expect the multicultural and cosmopolitan American society to appreciate such gestures. However, the reactions to the recitation of the Pledge in Arabic spoke otherwise: the language in itself was described to be meant for terrorists, and associated with Islam. Such bigotry once again highlighted everything that is wrong with USA: xenophobia, racism, ignorance, violence and above all, Islamophobia.
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Putin Ensuring Authoritarian Governance With an Orderly Political Succession

Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew established a system of succession that made his signature authoritarian style sustainable. (Photo:  Bloomberg)

Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew established a system of succession that made his signature authoritarian style sustainable. (Photo: Bloomberg)

By the time Putin has accomplished what Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and China’s Deng Xiaoping did — setting up an orderly political succession system for nourishing authoritarian governance — the West has to re-calculate how they could cope with Russia and China simultaneously.

One of the seldom-mentioned masteries of Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015) [Note 1] is that after 31 years in service as the merciless founder and captain of Singapore, he had structured an intra-party succession system to make his signature steering style sustainable. Goh Chok Tong, hand-picked by Lee, took up the Prime Minister post in 1990 and did not deviate any one inch from Lee’s ideological contrivance during his 14-year tenure. For example, Goh made it crystal clear that Singapore should not be ashamed of “low rank for press freedom”. Although Singapore is a close ally of the United States, it was ranked the 150th out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2014 (Russia 148th, China 175th ), and the 152th out of 197 in Freedom House’s Global Press Freedom Rankings 2014 (Russia 176th , China 183th ) [Note 2]. 
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What if Nuclear War No Longer Resulted in Nuclear Winter?

Nuclear winter occurs when smoke from fires set by nuclear bombs rises to the upper atmosphere. (Photo: Josh Thoresen / Flickr Commons)

Nuclear winter occurs when smoke from fires set by nuclear bombs rises to the upper atmosphere. (Photo: Josh Thoresen / Flickr Commons)

Nuclear war, like a nuclear warhead, is actually multiple threats in one. Of the three greatest, the first is instantaneous — death and destruction from the blast — the second two, time-released: radiation and, later, nuclear winter.

Nuclear winter, as you may know, occurs when smoke from fires set by nuclear detonations (especially in cities, with their concentration of flammable material) rises to the upper atmosphere. The result, as American and Russian scientists learned in the early eighties, was that the atmosphere would heat up and the earth would cool. More specifically, the smoke burns nitrogen causing ozone depletion, which, even worse than causing skin cancer, interferes with photosynthesis, thus drastically lowers crop yields. Millions will starve (just another way that nuclear weapons give new meaning to the phrase “adding insult to injury”) — not to mention all those who may to a depression induced by the cold and the perpetual dirty gray clouds looming over them.
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Islamophobia in East-Central Europe

One example of Islamophobia was a demonstration in Warsaw against the construction of an Islamic cultural center that would also include a mosque. (Photo of a Warsaw mosque: John Feffer)

One example of Islamophobia was a demonstration in Warsaw against the construction of an Islamic cultural center that would also include a mosque. (Photo of a Warsaw mosque: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

It’s often said that anti-Semitism continues to exist in Poland even in the absence of a large Jewish community. The recent Polish film Aftermath , about a farmer who uncovers the terrible truth about his village’s treatment of its Jewish community during World War II, makes that point vividly and tragically.

The same can be said about Islamophobia. It too has taken root in countries in East-Central Europe where the Muslim populations are miniscule, like Poland and the Czech Republic. Anti-Islamic sentiment has also flourished in areas further south where the spread of the Ottoman Empire left sizable Muslim communities in Albania, former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Some of this Islamophobia is racism toward indigenous populations; some is xenophobia against immigrants.
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Tragedy in Tunisia, Part 2: Targeting Cultural Heritage

Bamiyan Buddhas, End of the World Gate, marabouts, The Bardo Museum, Timbuktu

Bamiyan Buddhas, End of the World Gate, marabouts, The Bardo Museum, Timbuktu

Cross-posted from View from the Left Bank.

Also read Part 1.

The Bardo – Symbol of Tunisia’s Rich Cosmopolitan Past

At least from the initial reports, that while now 23 people were killed and 47 wounded, it appears that none of the Bardo’s collection of priceless historical cultural gems were damaged in the terrorist attack, thus related the Washington Post in its March 18, edition, the day after the slaughter although the building’s exterior ground surface was broken up in places. The Post article went on to describe the Bardo’s collection as “one of the world’s greatest collections of mosaics”…“unequaled,” “outweighing those of the Metropolitan Museum…at least when it comes to Roman mosaics,” its only rival perhaps being the mosaic collection of the University of Naples which houses those preserved from Pompeii. It compares the Naples’ mosaic collection, from a particular moment in time, that of Mt. Vesuvius’ eruption, with the Bardo’s which spans more than 400 years.
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Tragedy in Tunisia, Part 1: Perfect Storm of Islamist Extremist Indoctrination and Lax Security

The Bardo Museum, site of the jihadi attack in Tunis. (Photo: Richard Mortel / Flickr)

The Bardo Museum, site of the jihadi attack in Tunis. (Photo: Richard Mortel / Flickr)

“He couldn’t hurt a bird.”

Well maybe “he” couldn’t. After all, a mother knows her son. But over what appears to be a short period of less than a year, he changed, didn’t he? And then he could, and did…and it wasn’t birds he hurt but people he killed. Thus spoke Yassine Al-Abidi’s mother shortly after her son, who had participated in the mass murder of foreign tourists, had died in a shoot-out with Tunisian security forces at the Bardo Museum in Tunis on March 18, one of the entire Mediterranean basin’s most important museums, the second only to the Egyptian Museum on the African continent. Who knows? Perhaps her characterization is on the mark, or was, until something obviously in the young man snapped. How else to account for the murderous rampage that followed resulting in the deaths of so many, Al-Abidi’s included?
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Greece’s Golden Dawn: Fascists at the Gate

Golden Dawn is tied to wealthy shipping owners, the National Intelligence Service, and municipal police departments. Pictured: far-right (excuse pun), Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos G. Michaloliakos. (Photo: JailGoldenDawn)

Golden Dawn is tied to wealthy shipping owners, the National Intelligence Service, and municipal police departments. Pictured: far-right (excuse pun), Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos G. Michaloliakos. (Photo: JailGoldenDawn)

This article is a joint publication of Foreign Policy In Focus and TheNation.com

When some 70 members of the neo-Nazi organization Golden Dawn go on trial sometime this spring, there will be more than street thugs and fascist ideologues in the docket, but a tangled web of influence that is likely to engulf Greece’s police, national security agency, wealthy oligarchs, and mainstream political parties. While Golden Dawn—with its holocaust denial, its swastikas, and Hitler salutes—makes it look like it inhabits the fringe, in fact the organization has roots deep in the heart of Greece’s political culture

Which is precisely what makes it so dangerous.
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Like Iran, South Africa Resists U.S. Nuclear Oversight

Though it ended its nuclear weapons program in 1989, South Africa still has a quarter ton of highly enriched uranium. Pictured: South African government building. (Photo: Sweggs / Flickr Common)

Though it ended its nuclear weapons program in 1989, South Africa still has a quarter ton of highly enriched uranium. Pictured: South African government building. (Photo: Sweggs / Flickr Common)

At the Center of Public Integrity on nuclear materials, Douglas Birch has written a two-part series on nuclear security in South Africa. In the first, titled “South Africa rebuffs repeated U.S. demands that it relinquish its nuclear explosives,” co-authored with R. Jeffrey Smith, they write about the quarter ton of highly enriched uranium that South Africa still retains decades after ending its nuclear-weapons program in 1989. U.S. officials fear that it could be stolen and fashioned into a terrorist bomb. 
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Republicans’ Ham-Fisted Attempt to Sabotage Nuke Deal Plays Into Iran’s Hands

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator. (Photo: Samuel Kubani / AFP / Flickr Commons)

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator. (Photo: Samuel Kubani / AFP / Flickr Commons)

As instructed by Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, Iran’s nuclear negotiators, writes Ali Vaez in a post at Reuters titled How the Senate Republicans’ letter gave Iran a boost in nuclear talks, “are trying to tie up all ambiguities in the agreement to ensure that no aspect will be open to interpretation.” Read mis-interpretation.

Moreover, just as Washington insists on a role for the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor Iran’s implementation of its commitments, Tehran insists on establishing a mechanism to monitor Washington’s performance on sanctions relief.

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Eric Schlosser of “Command and Control” Fame Honors Plowshares and Dorothy Day

Inside an ICBM silo. (Photo: Matt Blaze / Flickr Commons)

Inside an ICBM silo. (Photo: Matt Blaze / Flickr Commons)

With his book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, Eric Schlosser, who previously wrote Fast Food Nation, has arguably done more to bring nuclear weapons to the forefront of the consciousness of Americans than anyone since President Obama with his 2009 Prague speech, in which he announced his commitment (since misplaced under a White House sofa or somewhere) to a world without nuclear weapons. Still, it was an unexpected surprise to find a piece by Schlosser in the March 12 New Yorker titled Break-in at Y-12 that chronicled the history of the anti-nukes Plowshares movement, as well as profiling Dorothy Day.
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