Anti-Islam Movement Has New Rallying Cry — Let’s Delete Verses of the Quran

You think life is bad for Muslims in Trump’s America? Spare a thought for the Muslims of France.

Over the past few years, they have been collectively blamed, and punished, for a series of horrific terror attacks carried out in France by so-called “jihadists.” The latest, a knife attack in Paris by a man shouting “Allahu Akbar,” killed one person and injured four others last weekend.

While anti-Muslim bigotry has become a hallmark of the Republican right in America, in France it is a truly bipartisan affair. Islamophobia is peddled by left and right alike, with both socialists and conservatives falling over one another to defend French secularism, or laïcité, by demonizing French Muslims.

Consider: Successive French governments have criminalized the face veil and banned the headscarf in schools. French mayors have targeted Muslim women who want to cover up at the beach and Muslim schoolkids who try to have a pork-free lunch. The French president — and new liberal hearthrob — Emmanuel Macron has introduced draconian counter-terror legislation that United Nations human rights experts have warned could have a discriminatory impact on Muslims in particular.

And the latest big idea? To go after the Quran. On April 21, the Le Parisien newspaper published a manifesto “against the new anti-Semitism” signed by 300 public figures — ranging from former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls to actor Gérard Depardieu and singer Charles Aznavour. According to the Atlantic, the manifesto states that “11 Jews have been assassinated — and some tortured — by radical Islamists” in France, and demands that “the verses of the Quran calling for murder and punishment of Jews, Christians, and nonbelievers be struck to obsolescence by religious authorities,” so that “no believer can refer to a sacred text to commit a crime.”

Such rhetoric is a reflection both of Gallic bigotry and sheer stupidity; a toxic combination of ignorance and privilege.

First, where are these Muslim “religious authorities” who would be willing to do to the Quran what Thomas Jefferson did to the Bible? Establishment-friendly French imams such as Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, and Tareq Oubrou, imam of Bordeaux’s Grand Mosque, have denounced the manifesto as “unbelievable and unfair” and “nearly blasphemous.” And were such mainstream figures to even agree to edit the Quran — believed by Muslims to be the literal word of God! — does anyone really believe that the fanatics of ISIS or Al Qaeda would give a damn?

Second, violent extremism isn’t a product of scripture. Contrary to conventional wisdom, and as I have argued in the past while citing a raft of studies and experts, religious faith “isn’t a crucial factor” in terror attacks – or in the process of so-called “radicalization.” Why, then, obsess over Quranic verses? As the French journalist Didier Francois, who was held hostage by ISIS in Syria, told CNN in 2015: “There was never really discussion about texts or — it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion… Because it has nothing to do with the Quran.” Or as his fellow former French hostage, Nicolas Henin, has said, “I noticed that these jihadists have little to do with… Arab or Muslim culture – they are children of our societies… They are products of our culture, our world.”

Who do you take more seriously? Two former ISIS hostages? Or the guy from Green Card?

Third, how can the manifesto signatories be so sure that it is French Muslims who are behind the rise of this so-called “new anti-Semitism”? As a 2016 study of anti-Semitic hate crimes in France by Human Rights First noted, “Perpetrators of most anti-Semitic violence are perceived to be of ‘Muslim culture or origin’… although there is no data to substantiate this conclusion — in part because of the prohibition in France on collecting ‘ethnic’ statistics.” Yet in next-door Germany, where such statistics are collected by the police, nine out of 10 anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2017 were carried out not by radicalized Muslims but by “members of far-right or neo-Nazi groups.”

Fourth, what evidence is there that the Quran itself is anti-Semitic? Or that Islam has a particular problem with Jews? Critics often point to verses of the Muslim holy book that express hostility towards Jews, while ignoring the specific historical and theological context for such verses and also ignoring those many other Quranic verses which heap praise on the Jewish people.

As the Princeton University historian Mark Cohen, an expert on Jewish-Muslim relations, points out: “Islam contains a nucleus of pluralism that gave the Jews in Muslim lands greater security than Jews had in Christian Europe” and therefore “Jews in the Islamic orbit were spared the damaging stigma of ‘otherness’ and anti-Semitism suffered by Jews in Europe.” Modern-day Muslim and Arab anti-Semitism is a consequence of colonialism, conflicting nationalisms and the clash with Zionism, argues Cohen, and is neither “indigenous” to the Middle East, nor “inherent” in Islam.

Fifth, why single out Islamic scripture in this way? Why not Jewish or Christian scripture, too? Are we supposed to pretend that the Old Testament of the Bible doesn’t contain scores of verses that incite violence and hatred against nonbelievers? Or that those verses haven’t been used to justify heinous crimes in recent years? Against Palestinians, Iraqis, Ugandans, Norwegian kids, and American abortion clinics, among others?

To avoid the charge of hypocrisy, therefore, will the signatories to this manifesto, who include France’s chief rabbi Haim Korsia, also call for verses of the Bible to be “struck to obsolescence by religious authorities”?

Sixth, whatever happened to the “liberté” part of “liiberté, égalité, fraternité”? How is the insistence on removing verses from the Quran compatible with religious freedom (a crucial, if less-discussed, part of the French secular tradition)? How is it compatible with freedom of speech or expression? Whatever happened to the land of ‘Je Suis Charlie’? Well, guess what? The manifesto was drafted by, of all people, Phillipe Val, the former managing editor of Charlie Hebdo. Irony, it seems, may have died a quiet death in France.

“The manifesto is a farce written by imposters,” Yasser Louati, a French civil liberties campaigner, tells me. He argues that if the signatories were serious about addressing rising anti-Jewish bigotry in their country they would have also stood “against traditional French anti-Semitism.”

He has a point. France has a long and shameful history of anti-Semitism, from the Dreyfus Affair in the late 19th century to the collaborationist Vichy government’s complicity in the Nazi Holocaust. According to a recent survey of French public opinion, reported Karina Piser in the Atlantic, “35 percent of French people believe Jews ‘have a particular rapport with money;’ 40 percent think that ‘for French Jews, Israel counts more than France;’ and 22 percent think that ‘Jews have too much power.’”

Nevertheless, 300 French public figures want to only highlight the issue of “Muslim anti-Semitism” in order to only denounce the message of the Quran. Muslims, after all, make for useful scapegoats.

Top photo: A man reads the Quran at the migrant camp known as the “Jungle” in Calais, France, on December 7, 2015.

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Creating a buzz: Future wearables could tell us how we power human movement

Top Story

For athletes and weekend warriors alike, returning from a tendon injury too soon often ensures a trip right back to physical therapy. However, a new technology developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers could one day help tell whether your tendons are ready for action. A team of researchers has devised a new approach for noninvasively measuring tendon tension while a person is engaging in activities like walking or running. This advance could provide new insights into the motor control and mechanics of human movement. It also could apply to fields ranging from orthopedics, rehabilitation, ergonomics and sports. Muscles generate movement at joints by pulling on tendons, which are bands of tissue that connect muscles to the skeleton. But assessing the forces transmitted by tendons inside the body of a living person is tricky. The UW-Madison engineers’ device for measuring tendon tension is placed over a person’s Achilles tendon. This advance could provide new insights into the motor control and mechanics of human movement.

Visit Website | Image credit: Renee Meiller/University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Black Lives Movement Pioneer Has a Story to Tell

For most of us, the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2015, after the death of Michael Brown Jr. at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. But for Patrisse Khan-Cullors, one of three black women credited with launching the hashtag and leading the movement to follow, BLM’s origins go back much further.

Maybe the movement began when Khan-Cullors, raised in an impoverished suburb of Los Angeles, first saw her older brothers stopped and questioned by police. (She was 11.) Or when she was a high school freshman and her teenage brother Monte was arrested for a break-in and tortured, he claimed—starved, beaten, and placed in solitary confinement—by guards at the Los Angeles County Jail.

Her new memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, is a searing coming-of-age story that counters the narrative of Black Lives Matter as violent and dangerous, as its enemies claim, or obsolete, as some disheartened supporters have argued. Instead, Khan-Cullors offers a portrait of a resistance movement guided by love.

Mother Jones: You wrote this book while pregnant. How did that affect your thinking about this movement to protect young black people against police violence?

Patrisse Khan-Cullors: I don’t think our movement actually does a good job [supporting] black parents, black mothers in particular. I would hate for people to think that I’m just out here getting it, being able to do it all. It’s not true. The only way I’m able to participate fully is because I have people who are holding it down for my child and being his extended family.

MJ: You’ve attracted a lot of attention. What does that mean to you as a community organizer?

PKC: Visibility isn’t necessarily for your own career. You get visibility to build power for others: “Have we changed conditions for black people?” But the other side is that there’s a lot more scrutiny. Not just by the state but by people you’re close to—people assume that now you have power, you should be doing things this way or that way. So, lots of visibility, lots of scrutiny, very little protection.

MJ: What are BLM’s biggest victories, in your view?

PKC: No. 1 is having a 40-chapter network that stretches from North America to the United Kingdom. The second thing is Black Lives Matter has worked with over 100 families that have been impacted by state violence. Finally: The Black Lives Matter Global Network’s relationship to the Movement for Black Lives—a broader coalition of which we are a part—has helped us incubate and design some of our most courageous projects, like Black Spring and Black Mama’s Bail-Out.

MJ: Donald Trump has been in office a year now. What lessons do you hope the left has learned during that time?

PKC: Stop blaming black people and poor people for the election’s results! Until the left—the white left in particular—is able to contend with its own racism, its own sexism, we’re not going to be unified to fight fascism. The white left actually needs to show up differently and challenge the ways that they understand who’s a viable candidate and who we should be supporting. A big part of the next step in this movement moment is building up black political power and having white leftists make space for new black leadership and challenging their own purism around who can lead. 

Now it’s your turn to ask the questions!

What would you ask Patrisse Khan-Cullors? We’ll share your questions with Jamilah and she may ask them live at our event next month.

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Crime and Justice – Mother Jones

Britney Spears Just Joined The DREAMer Movement In A Huge Way

The 90’s pop sensation, Britney Spears, recently shared an Instagram post in an unapologetic sign of support for DREAMers. Spears, pictured with a cropped t-shirt reading, “We are all Dreamers,” told her fans, “We are all Dreamers. Tell Congress to pass the #DreamAct.”

Instagram

The image got posted on the singer’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, where she added, “Tell Congress to pass the #DreamAct http://emersoncollective.com/Dreamers.”

Following the 2017 trend of celebrities getting vocal regarding their political views and social issues, Britney Spears now officially joins others like Becky G, Daddy Yankee and Jennifer Lopez in the fight to rally support for DREAMers. In September, President Donald Trump decided to end the DACA policy created in the Obama-era.

The policy granted immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors a two-year renewable period of deferred action from deportation. It also allowed DREAMers to pursue work and education without fear of repercussions.

After Congress did not include the DreamAct in this year’s spending bill, 1,400 DACA enrollees are losing their protections daily, which translates to losing work permits, college enrollments, and financial aid. There are more than 700,000 enrollees in the United States who’s everyday life is turned upside down.

Vox

The fight is not over, and it’s up to the people to remind Congress that passing the DREAMAct is something that matters to American citizens.

This article was inspired by Billboard // Britney Spears Shows Support for Dream Act: ‘We Are All Dreamers’

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