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Boko Haram: Islamic State’s African Ally, Murder 150 in Nigerian Mosques.

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Nearly 150 Killed in Suspected Boko Haram Attacks in Nigeria

 

Boko Haram, Daesh Affiliate in Nigeria.

While – rightly – marking our respect for the dead in Tunisia today we should remember these victims as well.

Nearly 150 Killed in Suspected Boko Haram Attacks in Nigeria.

Maiduguri, Nigeria (Agence France-Presse) Suspected Boko Haram militants have killed nearly 150 people in northeastern Nigerian villages, mowing down men and children while they prayed in mosques and shooting women preparing food at home, witnesses said on Thursday.

Dozens of militants stormed three remote villages in the flashpoint Borno state on Wednesday evening, setting houses ablaze in the bloodiest day of attacks by the extremist group since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May.

Gunmen killed at least 97 people in Kukawa, the worst-affected village, a local who gave his name as Kolo and who said he had counted the bodies told AFP.

“They wiped out the immediate family of my uncle… They killed his children, about five of them,” Kolo said.

A fisherman who witnessed the attack corroborated the death toll.

‘Victims as Young as Four’

Babami Alhaji Kolo, another witness in Kukawa who fled to the state capital Maiduguri, said more than 50 militants had stormed the village.

“The terrorists first descended on Muslim worshippers in various mosques who were observing the Maghrib prayer shortly after breaking their fast,” he said.

“They… opened fire on the worshippers who were mostly men and young children.

“They spared nobody. In fact, while some of the terrorists waited and set most of the corpses on fire, others proceeded to houses and shot indiscriminately at women who were preparing food,” he said.

Malami Abdulkareem, an Arabic teacher in Kukawa, said some of the victims were as young as four.

“The attackers did not spare even children between four and 12 years old who went to mosques with their fathers.

“I saw at least nine kids who were killed in two mosques,” he said.

A military source in Maiduguri, who refused to be named, confirmed the attack but could not yet give a death toll.

“The military responded with aerial bombardments on terrorist positions,” he said, without giving further details.

‘Volleys of Bullets’

In two other villages near the town of Monguno, meanwhile, gunmen killed 48 people and injured 11 others, local lawmaker Mohammed Tahir and witnesses told AFP.

“They selected particular male residents from among the crowd of worshippers… and opened fire on them before setting the two villages on fire and razing them to the ground,” Tahir said.

Another resident who managed to flee said the militants arrived in vans and on motorcycles.

“Many of us managed to escape amid volleys of bullets,” said the resident who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

Kukawa is around 50 kilometres (30 miles) away from the two villages near Monguno.

All three are located near Lake Chad, which straddles Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and has been a focal point of the unrest.

Boko Haram had captured scores of towns and villages in the northeast last year, but has since been pushed back into hide-outs by a four-nation military offensive that kicked off in February.

Despite their territorial losses, the insurgents have kept up their deadly raids, explosions and suicide attacks on “soft” targets such as markets and mosques.

And the armed group has intensified its campaign of violence since Buhari came to power on May 29 vowing to crush the jihadists’ bloody uprising that has claimed at least 15,000 lives.

Since then, some 400 people have been killed in attacks blamed on the extremists, who have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to an AFP tally.

March 13th Reuters.

Islamic State leader accepts allegiance of Nigeria’s Boko Haram

The leader of the Islamic State militant group that controls tracts of Syria and Iraq has accepted a pledge of allegiance from Nigerian Islamists Boko Haram, his spokesman said, calling on supporters to fight in Africa.

Boko Haram, which has killed thousands and kidnapped hundreds during a six-year campaign to carve out an Islamist state in northern Nigeria, pledged its allegiance last week, highlighting increased coordination between jihadi movements across north Africa and the Middle East.

“Our caliph, God save him, has accepted the pledge of loyalty of our brothers of Boko Haram so we congratulate Muslims and our jihadi brothers in West Africa,” Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said in an audio message, referring to his group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

So far as we can tell the reaction of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC)  to Boko Harem centres on demands for no outside military intervention.

Last year they published this by Xavier Best:

Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls and US policymakers and the “free press” have exploded into a fit of pro-interventionist hysteria. It’s hard to escape media reports about the ruthless cruelty of Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau and his vow to sell his hostages into slavery.

…..

It is widely conceded that the popular base of Boko Haram is a response to severe economic inequality that has disproportionately impacted Nigeria’s northern region. Unlike the south, Nigeria’s north faces severe problems meeting basic human needs of education, healthcare and clean water. Unemployment among young males in northern Nigeria “is in excess of 50 percent.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 3, 2015 at 11:23 am

Are Jordan and Turkey Invading or about to Invade Syria?

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Erdogan: Neo-Ottoman Foreign Policy?

Are Jordan and Turkey Invading Syria?

Asks the Daily Beast.

Or are they just messaging to Obama that they’ve had enough with his non-policy?

Turkey announced plans to send 18,000 soldiers into Syria. That announcement was amplified by Jordan’s, which came out the next day in a Financial Times story that reported the Jordanian plan was “backed by key members of the international coalition against Isis.”

One key member of the coalition that definitely has not backed the plan is the U.S.

A State Department official, speaking the same day the story about Jordan’s planned buffer zone broke, downplayed the possibility to reporters, saying there was no “solid evidence” for it and citing “serious logistical challenges” in creating them.

Turkey and Jordan, on Syria’s northern and southern border respectively, have a common interest in erecting buffers zone. Both countries have absorbed large refugee populations fleeing the war and both are threatened by the growing presence of hostile actors on their doorsteps, be they jihadists are Kurdish nationalists. A buffer zone is an area controlled by military forces, either national armies or those of allied rebels inside Syria that would allow the Turks and Jordanians to exert more influence inside Syria and prevent people and materiel from passing over the border. But those are old concerns that have been expressed by Turkey and Jordan before. The resurgence of plans for intervention suggests that new developments—namely the Assad regime’s deterioration and the success of Kurdish forces fighting ISIS— may be changing the calculus in Ankara and Amman.

Turkey, which first announced plans for a buffer zone, is threatened by the growing power of Kurdish groups who have had a series of recent victories against ISIS forces in Syria.

“I am saying this to the whole world,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech last Friday, “We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria.” He was referring to the increasing autonomy exhibited by the Democratic Union of Kurdistan (PYD), an armed and U.S.-backed Kurdish affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey (and the U.S.) consider a terrorist organization. The PYD has made no mystery of its intention to establish “Rojava,” an independent statelet of Syrian Kurdistan tantamount to what the Kurds of northern Iraq have maintained for decades. Impressive military gains in Syria by the PYD’s paramilitary force, the YPG, have rattled Ankara more than ISIS has.

This follows the following report (28th June) in the pro-Kurdish site, Kurdish Question.

KQ News Desk

Turkish newspapers especially those allied with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have for the past few days been headlining discussions that have allegedly taken place between Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, former government and current majority party AKP and the Turkish Armed Forces on a possible military operation into Rojava (West Kurdistan-North Syria).

The headlines began coming thick and fast after the President declared ‘I am talking to the whole world, regardless of the price we might have to pay we will not allow a Kurdish state in North Syria, to the south of Turkey.’ This declaration was made on 26th June, a day after ISIS gangs, crossing over from Turkey (North Kurdistan), massacred over 200 civilians in Kobanê.

It is also being speculated that there is no consensus between Erdogan, his de-facto party and the Armed Forces and that the latter are wary of any military operation due to the unknown results it may trigger. The Armed Forces are asking the President and AKP to get support and the go-ahead from the USA, Russia and Assad, commentators are claiming.

The Turkish state for a long time were calling for a no-fly and buffer zone in Rojava on the pretext of bolstering the fight against the Syrian regime and protecting refugees. This was rejected by the international community and only the training and arming of FSA elements was supported. With Erdogan’s latest speech it has become clear that his main concern is the autonomous cantons of Rojava.

 

An important article by Selahattin Demirtaş,   the leader of the Turkish, democratic socialist, feminist and pluralist  Party HDP which won 13% of the vote in the recent elections and now has 80 MPs,  which touches on the Kurdish issue appeared in le Monde yesterday: Le rêve d’une Nouvelle Turquie est possible.

One of the reasons for the HDP’s success, he notes, is that the Turkish government alienated the Kurdish electorate by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his “neo-Ottoman” foreign policy. At the centre of this has been a claim that his government was the “self-proclaimed protector of all the peoples of the Middle East” (“autoproclamé protecteur de tous les peuples du Moyen-Orient.”)

He notes,

Pendant la résistance kurde à Kobané, ce discours s’est durci en des termes inacceptables pour les Kurdes. Alors que l’immense majorité du monde démocratique soutenait l’héroïque résistance des combattantes kurdes face aux assassins du Daech, ainsi que l’abnégation des femmes et des hommes venus de partout – qui, poussés par une conscience internationaliste, ont défendu Kobané, où a été perpétré l’un des crimes contre l’humanité du XXIe siècle – et qu’on pouvait entrevoir dans ces résistances l’espoir d’une paix au Moyen-Orient, « la chute de Kobané ne tient qu’à un fil », ne cessait d’ironiser M. Erdogan.

During the resistance in Kobane, this line hardened in a way that was unacceptable to the Kurds. The vast majority of the democratic world stood with the heroic resistance of the Kurdish fighters against the murderers of Daesh. The self-sacrifice of women and men who came from everywhere – driven by an internationalist conscience – defended Kobane, where one of the Crimes Against Humanity of the 21st century was  carried out. While one could see amongst this resistance hopes for peace in the Middle East, Erdogan could only mockingly comment, “The Fall of Kobane Hangs by a Thread”.

Update:  Syrian Kurdish group PYD warns Turkey not to intervene militarily.

Syria‘s main Kurdish party warned Turkey on Wednesday that any military intervention would threaten international peace and said the country’s main Kurdish militia is ready to face any “aggression.”

The statement by the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, comes as Turkish media is abuzz with talk of a long-debated military intervention to push the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) back from the Turkish border – a move that would also outflank any Kurdish attempt to create a state along Turkey’s southern frontier.

Kurdish fighters backed by US-led airstrikes have been on the offensive against ISIL in northern Syria for months, and now control a long stretch along the Syria-Turkey border. Turkey has viewed the advance with growing concern and has warned it will not tolerate the establishment of a Kurdish state in Syria.

Two weeks ago, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is dominated by the PYD, captured the border town of Tal Abyad, denying ISIL a crucial nearby border crossing used to bring in supplies and foreign fighters.

The capture of Tal Abyad cleared the way for the Kurds to connect their stronghold in Syria’s northeast to the once badly isolated border town of Kobani – where they famously resisted a months-long ISIL siege – and possibly extend it to the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Syria’s northwest.

“Any military intervention in Rojava will have local, regional and international repercussions and will contribute to complicating the political situation in Syria and the Middle East and threaten international security and peace,” the PYD statement warned. Rojava is a term that refers to Syria’s predominantly Kurdish region.

The PYD called on NATO members to prevent Turkey from carrying out any “reckless” intervention. It added that Syria’s Kurds want good relations with their neighbors and have no intention to set up an independent state.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan chaired a National Security Council meeting Monday which covered developments in Syria. Pro-government newspapers said proposals ranged from loosening the rules of engagement to give Turkish troops a freer hand to fire into Syria, to a tanks-and-troops invasion aimed at occupying a 110-kilometer (70-mile) long, 33-kilometer (20-mile) wide buffer zone.

Turkish officials fear the creation of a vast and contiguous zone of Kurdish control could stir up separatist sentiment among its own Kurdish minority. Ankara is also concerned over reports that Kurdish rebels are chasing other ethnic groups, such as Arabs and Turkmens, out of the areas under their control.

The PYD statement said YPG fighters “are ready to repel any aggression by any party.” It called on Turkish officials to “stop their provocative and reckless acts.”

Those in direct contact with Turkish and Middle Eastern politics would no doubt be able to comment further.

Erdogan appears to be moving on the home front as well: Erdogan and Turkey move toward once-unthinkable grand coalition.

Solidarity with our Kurdish Sisters and Brothers and all Democrats Fighting the Islamic State/ISIS!

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Kurds to Come Out onto the Streets for Kobanê Once Again

Solidarity with our Sisters and Brothers Fighting the Islamist Murderers .

Latest attacks:

Tunisia.

1530 Ministry of Health confirms 28 dead and 39 injured. Nationalities involved are French, German, Russian, Belgian and British.

1513 British, German and Belgian tourists are among the dead according to agency reports

1443 Among those transferred to hospital are British and Germans

1434 Second gunman captured by police

1415 Retired General Mokhtar Ben Nasser said: “This type of terrorist attack was expected and is intended to the tourist industry. Beji Caid Essebsi and Habib Essid to visit Sousse.

1400 Six Nationalities among dead according to Ministry of Interior.

Gunmen have attacked two tourist hotels in the Tunisian town of Sousse.

Reports claim that a man entered the hotel armed with a kalashnikov rifle and opened fire on tourists shortly before lunchtime.

Meanwhile another gunman opened fire at holidaymakers in another hotel adjacent to the shoreline resort.

Ministry of Interior spokesperson Mohamed Ali Alaroui confirmed that at least 27 people have killed.

At least one gunman has been killed, according to security sources cited by the Reuters news agency.

The other gunman has since been apprehended and is being held in police custody.

Tunisia Live.

France.

France has begun a terror investigation after a decapitated body was found at the scene of a suspected Islamist attack on a US-owned gas factory near the south-eastern city of Lyon.

One arrested man suspected to have rammed a car into the factory had been investigated over possible ties to Islamist radicals, officials said.President Francois Hollande said the aim was to blow up the factory

Officials say the decapitated person was a local businessman.

His head was found on a post at the gates to the Air Products gas factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, some 40km (25 miles) from Lyon.

Mr Hollande said the decapitated body had “inscriptions” on it. The French interior minister said: “A flag with Arabic writing on it was found at the scene”.

BBC

Syri,  Kobani:

Fighters with the Islamic State, or ISIS, are holding at least 50 hostages inside a besieged hospital in the Syrian city of Kobani in the aftermath of Thursday’s attack on the Kurdish city, a Rudaw reporter inside the city has said.  Rudaw

According to the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and journalists on the ground, the death toll in Kobanê has reached 146.

The massacre carried out by ISIS gangs on Kobanê has left 146 mostly civilians, women and children, dead according to SOHR. 120 people injured in the suicide attacks in the town centre of Kobanê have died in hospital. 72 civilians were massacred in the Halnaj area of while the others were from the Maqtala neighbourhood. Of the 200 wounded some are still in critical condition and it is feared the death toll could rise.

The number of people who were executed in the village of Berx Botan located near the town of Serrin south of Kobanê has risen to 26, including children and women, while others were wounded too, some of them in critical situation.

This is the second-largest massacre perpetrated by ISIS gangs since the declaration of its alleged ‘caliphate’.

Kurdish Question.

Response:

26 June 2015

KQ News Desk

Kurds and their friends around the world are coming out onto the streets to condemn the attacks by ISIS gangs on innocent civilians in Kobanê. The multiple attacks on 25 June have already claimed the lives of 146 people, mostly women and children and wounded over 200.

There have already been demonstrations in Copenhagen, Paris and Saarbrucken. Demonstrations in other major European cities are being planned after the Democratic Kurdish Society Congress of Europe made a declaration calling people to come out onto the streets to condemn, uncover and take a stand against ISIS and the powers behind them.

Many of the demonstrations are targeted at the Turkish state for its support of the ISIS gangs. Many sources are claiming that the ISIS gangs who perpetrated the massacre crossed over from the Turkey border into Rojava (Northern Syria) and were allowed passage by the Turkish state.

Children executed in their homes by ISIS gangs in Berx Botan village

Our Sisters and Brothers Massacred by the Islamic State/ISIS.

Kurdish Question News Desk

According to reports from journalists in Kobane the multiple and co-ordinated attacks by ISIS gangs who crossed into the city from the Turkey border has left 42 people dead and 55 wounded.

22 civilians were massacred in the city centre and 55 were wounded while over 20 people were executed in their homes in the village of Berx Botan 30km to the south of Kobanê. There is no information about the 5 families kidnapped by the gangs to use as human shields.

The operation carried out against the attackers by by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Asayish (security) forces is ongoing. 11 gang members were killed in the Azadi square in the centre of Kobanê.

Claims that the ISIS gangs crossed over from Jarablus rather than the Turkey border have been refuted by the Kobanê Canton administration. There is no crossing from Jarablus into Kobanê because the bridge that connected the two areas was blown up by ISIS gangs recently.

A second attack was carried out later in the morning (5.15am) at Turkey’s Mursitpinar border gate to Kobane and a truck was blown up.

 

A demonstration is being held in London at 13.00 in front of the Turkish Embassy on Friday 26 June. 

French Demonstration: Massacres commis par Daesh à Kobanê, avec le soutien de la Turquie. Friday 26 June 18h, Place de la République

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Helly Luv (Helen Abdulla) – Everything for our Kurdish Sisters and Brothers!

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https://i0.wp.com/iranian.com/data/images/ddrsqsdi1pci.jpg

Helly Luv Supporting our Kurdish Sisters and Brothers.

This was on Channel Four News last night.

Kurdish singer Helen Abdulla – better known as Helly Luv – has suffered death threats from Islamic groups in Iraqi Kurdistan for her provocative, revolution-tinged music videos.

In an apparent contradiction, her calls for peace are mixed with images of weapons and war, – her first video Risk It All showed her throwing a petrol bomb and dancing with peshmerga soldiers waving AK-47 rifles.

But she was unfazed after the death threats flowed in February 2014 – largely through social media – and said she would carry on filming her videos in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The 26-year-old is a strong supporter of Kurdish independence, but has been based in the US since she turned 18, and is keen to promote her career globally. She told Channel 4 News how she witnessed both men and women leave their homes to fight against Islamic State, “without any kind of military training or any kind of plan”. “It’s not just the story of Kurdistan, it’s the story of the whole world… it’s not just Kurdistan’s enemy.” But what about the messages of peace backed up with images of war? “I need to show the truth of what is going on here,” she told Jon Snow, I don’t want to sugar-coat it – I have to show what happened here and what is still happening here.”

Wikipedia.

Her Facebook Page. Helly Luv 15 hrs ·

REVOLUTION Music Video has reached over 1 MILLION views on VEVO in 3 weeks!!!!!!! so proud and happy to know that our voice has been heard and shared around the world in such a short time. CONGRATS TO US ALL!!

ڤیدیۆ کلیپی شۆرش تەنها لە ڤیڤۆ لە ماوەی سێ هەفتەدا زیاتر لە ١٠٠٠٠٠٠ یەک ملیۆن بینەری تێپەراند

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2015 at 10:55 am

More Smears Against Charlie Hebdo.

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Eloge du blasphème

Partisans de la ligne de Charlie: mobilisez-vous!

The continuing attack on Charlie Hebdo

Patrick Murphy

Workers Liberty.

On Sunday 26 April I saw a Facebook posting which carried the pithy comment “anyone still Charlie”? The posting shared a story from “OurAfricaBlog” about an allegedly outrageous cartoon which, the blog claimed, appeared in the French satirical magazine whose leading staff members were brutally murdered by religious fascists earlier this year.

The cartoon dealt with the horrific drowning of migrants in the Mediterranean the previous week. It featured roughly-drawn black figures falling to the bottom of the ocean under the headline “Regroupement Familial En Mediterranee”. The blog translated this as “Family reunion in the Mediterranean”, described the cartoon as “Charlie Hebdo ridiculing the African migrants who drowned whilst on the way to Europe” and finished their commentary on the item as “speechless”.

This Facebook status was from an SWP member. After a bit of research it became obvious that this link was being shared widely on social media and that most people were responding with the full range of outrage, moralism and, most of all, demands that those who had shown solidarity with the French publication apologise, recant and accept the claim that CH is a racist publication.

There are two problems with this story. And they are the same problems that dogged all attempts to smear Charlie Hebdo immediately after the murders at their offices.

Problem number one: the story isn’t true.

Charlie Hebdo didn’t publish the cartoon. It was drawn by a cartoonist called Ali Dilem and published in an Algerian paper called Liberté. There is a link, in that Ali Dilem had recently been appointed to work for CH. (Note by Andrew Coates:  here is the cartoon, it is indeed by a more than well-known Algerian cartoonist).

Problem number two: the cartoon is an attack on a racist immigration policy introduced by the French government.

“Regroupement Familial” is a policy for non-EU residents in France being joined by other family members from abroad. This requires an 18 month initial stay (12 for Algerians) before they can come and be given formal status.

The point being made by the cartoonist is that this policy has contributed to the Mediterranean disaster and there is likely to be more such tragedies if the policy is not overturned. This, the satirist’s argument goes, is what “regroupement familial” really means. Whether people agree that satire and cartoons can properly deal with an issue of this gravity and misery, the purpose of this particular example was very plainly anti-racist and for more open borders.

Another aspect of this latest attempt to whip up a scandal was the lack of any attempt to examine the context, to investigate what the magazine’s attitude to the Mediterranean tragedy was.

It wouldn’t have taken much effort. Last week’s edition of Charlie Hebdo carried a full front page cartoon of a crowded boat called Titanic sinking with a female figurehead singing Celine Dion’s song from the movie of the same name. The figurehead looks very much to me like Marine Le Pen. The headline is “Une Titanic Par Semaine” (A Titanic Every Week). The message is that the racist attitudes toward refugees promoted by the likes of Le Pen will lead to more deaths at sea.

The determination of much of the British left to smear Charlie Hebdo, months after the murderous attack on their office can seem incomprehensible at times. The persistence and desperation has all the appearance of an especially odd obsession. We should resist that conclusion though. It is nothing of the sort.

The attack by religious fascists on journalists and cartoonists who dared publish material they find offensive really was an affront to humanity and to liberty.

Political questions don’t get any easier than “how should we respond to this”? Socialists, democrats, anyone with a shred of humanitarianism owed these victims a basic duty of solidarity. That didn’t have to mean enthusiasm for everything (or indeed anything) they published or necessarily declaring that “we are all Charlie”. But it did mean understanding that were clear sides here, there was a barricade, and there was only one side we could possibly be on.

Instead a far-too-large portion of the British left at best ducked the issue and at worst took the wrong side. Attempts to change the argument and portray Charlie Hebdo as racist before the victims were even buried were shameful and indefensible but they were also widespread. These attempts failed and discredited all those who took part in them.

But the persistence of the attack on the magazine is not an odd obsession and nor is it incomprehensible. Rather it is the inevitable product of a political and moral collapse on sections of the left. Until CH can be proven to be what its enemies say it is, until the smears can be made to stick, those that failed to show it any solidarity cannot recover the ground they lost after the attacks. They don’t deserve to.

A socialist politics that equivocates on issues like free speech and fascism is worthless and can play no role in the liberation of the working class.

Meanwhile Emmanuel Todd, whose most recent political incarnation (there are too many to count) was to support François Hollande, on the basis of a “hollandisme révolutionnaire” has decided the take up arms against Charlie Hebdo.

Emmanuel Todd : “Le 11 janvier a été une imposture.

His main charge is the demonstrations in support of Charlie were a sign of “false consciousness”. That Charlie has attacked the weakest people in society (les gens les plus faibles de la société), and, apparently, many of the marchers came from the “least republican regions of France”.

While he admits that anti-Semitism is a problem in the French banlieues, Todd considered that the actions of a few mentally ill individuals should not mean that the whole Muslim population should be shunned – as the Jews were in the 1930s.

That is indeed true.

But there is no reason to sneer at Charlie.

The reasons are simple: Charlie is anti-racist, anti-discrimination and against the very people who would tread underfoot any oppressed minority whatsoever.

This morning on France-Inter the gay feminist secularist Caroline Fourest defended, against Todd (and one assumes, the notorious “dégonflé(e)s” authors who protested against PEN’s decision to honour the beloved martyers of Charlie),  the ‘right to blaspheme’.

(Hear this on the radio station: Caroline Fourest : “Défions-nous de ceux qui utilisent l’islam pour diviser et asservir”)

She pointed out simply that (1) Charlie attacked the most powerful people in France, from the President to the Front National. (2) Islamists, from Boko Haram and Daesh onwards, were not the “weakest”, but oppressors of the powerless and frail.

As the marchers: it was a magnificent display of social solidarity – something a ‘republican’ like Todd should welcome.

On the wider issue of Charlie’s right to poke fun at religion Fourest has just published this: Eloge du blasphème.

More on her views: Caroline Fourest : Le combat pour la laïcité passe aussi par le droit au blasphème

Charlie Hebdo Seminar in Queens University Belfast Cancelled Amid Fears for “Reputation” and “Security”.

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Can we Laugh About Everything? Not if Universities Have their Way.

This story broke yesterday but just how rotten the reasons given by the ‘University’ are are only just sinking in.

The decision to cancel a conference in Belfast on the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo murders in France has been labelled “a bitter irony”.

The event had been scheduled for Queen’s University, Belfast, in June.

Vice chancellor Patrick Johnston said he cancelled because of the security risk and concerns for QUB’s reputation.

But two academics who had been booked to speak said it was ironic that an event about free speech should be called off in this way.

Self censorship was one of the themes of the conference.

Professor Max Silverman from Leeds University told BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster: “It is deeply ironic that what was going on in Paris this year to do largely with freedom of speech is actually being replicated by the university itself.

“There is a bitter irony in that the ability to discuss these topics has been taken away from us by this university decision.

“If you cannot discuss these sensitive issues in a university then I don’t know where you can discuss them. I do fear for what we value most in our democracies.”

Prof Silverman said the cancelled conference was now getting much more publicity but “for all the wrong reasons”.

‘Baffled and dismayed’

“Queen’s University has a wonderful reputation. It is a very prestigious institution. I don’t think this is going to enhance that reputation at all,” he said.

Dr Brian Klug from Oxford said he was both “baffled and dismayed” by the decision to cancel.

“Organising this was an admirable initiative and I cannot understand why the university has pulled the rug out from under their feet,” he said.

“We really don’t know what the vice chancellor was worried about. We haven’t been told what that security risk consists of. I think we are all owed an explanation.”

Dr Klug said that not only was it not the role of the university to stop freedom of speech, but it was “the responsibility of academia to respond to complex international conflicts in a constructive analytical way”.

The symposium: Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo, had been due to be hosted by QUB’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities.

Twelve people died when two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, fired on the journalists on 7 January at the satirical magazine’s offices in Paris.

Five others were killed over the two following days by one of their associates.

Padraig Reidy in Little Atoms provides essential background.

The Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Patrick Johnston, was today criticised after the cancellation of an academic symposium on the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo murders.

The symposium: Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo, was due to be hosted in June by QUB’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities. But delegates, including Oxford University philosopher Brian Klug were informed via email on Monday (20 April) that the event would not go ahead.

The email informed speakers: “The Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast has made the decision just this morning that he does not wish our symposium to go ahead. He is concerned about the security risk for delegates and about the reputation of the university.”

Doctor Klug said this morning he is “baffled” and “dismayed” by the decision.

“I don’t understand either of his concerns. The second – the reputation of the university – strikes me as ironic, as his action does not exactly reflect well on Queens,” he told Little Atoms via email.

More on Little Atoms.

Nick Cohen has commented on this story,

The Vice Chancellor at Queen’s – one Paul Johnston –  cancelled the discussion yesterday because he was “concerned about the security risk for delegates and about the reputation of the university.”

What to make of his cowardice?

The most obvious point is that senior academics now see suppression of debate as a means of protecting “the reputation of the university”. Freedom of thought and open argument, once the best reasons for having universities, are now threats which must be neutered.

Second, it is now not only difficult or impossible to satirise Islam because of fear of violence, it is becoming difficult or impossible in British universities to discuss the actual violence. Not only can you not show Charlie Hebdo cartoons, you cannot talk about the motives of the men who murdered the cartoonists. Third, although he cannot prove this, Walsh suspects that there was no real security risk, just the possibility that someone’s feelings would be hurt when he and others unequivocally condemned the murderers of cartoonists and Jews. The possibility that someone will or may hear an argument he or she does not like is now enough to justify censorship.

Finally, Queen’s has made the vice-chancellors and academics protesting against the Conservatives’ plans to ban Islamists look like perfect fools and utter hypocrites. If universities censor learned debates on Islamism, how can they possibly deny the state the right to censor Islamists?

The beloved martyr Charb’s book Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes has been extensively commented on in the English speaking media.

There is a very fine article today in the Independent today:

Charlie Hebdo editor’s final book: ‘Letter to the Islamophobia Frauds Who Play into the Hands of Racists’.

This is worth underlining,

Stéphane Charbonnier was a cartoonist and writer. He was a supporter of the French Communist Party. And while, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo aggressively poked fun at Catholicism and Judaism as well as radical Islam, his book – published in France last week – is a passionate rejection of the allegations that, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo was “racist” or “Islamophobic”.

In the book, Charb, as he was always known, defends his publication of cartoons mocking radical Islam and caricaturing (but never mocking) the Prophet Mohamed. He argues – from a left-wing, anti-racist, militantly secular viewpoint – that the word “Islamophobia” is a trap, set by an unholy alliance of Muslim radicals and the unthinking, liberal Western media. The real issue, he says, is racism and Charlie Hebdo was never racist…

The Indy’s article is essential reading.

And in French there’s more: EXCLUSIF. Le testament de Charb

Tué il y a trois mois, le directeur de “Charlie Hebdo” venait d’achever un livre où il répondait aux accusations d’islamophobie pesant sur son journal. “L’Obs” en publie aujourd’hui les extraits.

 https://i1.wp.com/cdn-parismatch.ladmedia.fr/var/news/storage/images/media/images/charia-hebdo/517440-1-fre-FR/charia-hebdo_inside_full_content_pm_v8.jpg

1o0 Lashes of the Whip if you don’t just Die Laughing.

Should We Ditch Multiculturalism? Response to Kenan Malik.

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Kurdish Fighters for Humanity.

Should We Ditch Multiculturalism?

The 100th Anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians was on Sunday the 5th of April. Le Monde reminded us that it “was in the name of Jihad that the Ottoman Empire entered the war against the Entente on the 1st of November 1914. It was also in the name of Holy War that the massacre of the Armenian Christians took place.” (Génocide des Arménians. Gaïdz Minassian. 4.4.15).

Few will need reminding of the echoes Minassian’s words evoke today. On Sunday Pope Francis and Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to a much larger audience than their religious constituencies when they deplored the exactions Christians faced across the world today. The carefully weighed dignity of these speeches does not need underlining. Their martyrs are humanity’s martyrs.

Another intervention was made on Sunday by Kenan Malik in the Observer (Diversity and Immigration are not the problem. Political courage is. 5.4.15). Malik is not afraid to confront the issue of Jihadism. While most Muslims are integrated and “proud to be British” (83%) there is a problem. He writes that official multiculturalism is based on the idea of constructing Britain as a “community of communities”. The resulting state strategy pushes people into boxes, “as if each were distinct homogeneous whole”. In this move, the “most conservative figures came to be accepted as the authentic voice of minority groups.” Government run multiculturalism has fostered a “parochial sense of identity”. In these conditions “a small group of Muslims”, have found an “identity and an authentic Islam in Islamism.”

The Observer article describes another form of identity politics in the rise of UKIP. Some of Farage’s supporters (not least his activists) are “hard-line racists”. But the party’s wider support comes “from people whose hostility towards immigrants or Islam is shaped less by old-fashioned racism than by a newfangled sense of fear and insecurity.” “Euroscepticism, nationalism, opposition to immigration and populism” have a strong appeal for the ‘left behind’, the “disadvantaged and economically secure” as Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin have argued (Revolt on the Right. Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain. 2014).

Malik explains this in terms of his criticism of multiculturalism, “Once class identity comes to be seen as a cultural attribute, then those regarded as culturally different have come to be viewed as threats.” The ‘Polish builder’ or the ‘Bangladeshi neighbour’ come to symbolise the menacing forces of globalisation.

Despite the appeal of this picture it is not at all clear that one can explain the attraction of Jihadism in purely British terms. Every European country has a different set of policies towards communities of immigrant origin. France has, to say the least, not adopted multiculturalism. There are nevertheless Islamists, from a spectrum that goes from ‘conservatives’ (the polite British way of saying reactionary when it comes to Islamic politics) aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, a variety of Salafist forces, to those (crossing over to) active Jihadists. Those recruited to fight for the Islamic State, Daesh, come from across the continent, and from elsewhere. This includes North Africa, including democratic Tunisia, countries whose politics and culture are criss-crossed with Europe’s.

Like Jihadism the rise of UKIP cannot be explained in purely British terms. The strong vote for the French Front National in the country’s elections has indicated a similar ‘left behind’ constituency. Identical language is used to explain the FN’s support in France: a protest at “post-industrial society” a loss of references, a wounded nationalism. (Le FN perce dans de nouveaux territories. Le Monde. 25.3.15.)

Malik has already tied these themes together. In A search for identity draws jihadis to the horrors of Isis, he argued in March,

Identity politics has, over the last three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms. A generation ago, “radicalised” Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organisations. Today, they see themselves as Muslim in an almost tribal sense, and give vent to their disaffection through a stark vision of Islam.

These developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of most social groups. Many within white working-class communities are often as disengaged as their Muslim peers, and similarly see their problems not in political terms but through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. Hence the growing hostility to immigration and diversity and, for some, the seeming attraction of far-right groups.

Racist populism and radical Islamism are both, in their different ways, expressions of social disengagement in an era of identity politics.

There are specific influences at work in Britain. In From Fatwa to Jihad. The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy (2009) Malik filled in the details about how “conservative figures” came to be seen as leaders of Muslim communities. It was protests against Salmon Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. “What it really catalysed was a transformation of Islamism in Britain. The Rushdie affair provided an opportunity to bring order to the chaos of the fissiparous Islamist landscape – and for Islamists to stake a claim for the leadership of British Muslims and to present themselves as their true representatives.”(Page 123)

If Malik asserts that today’s jihadists are ‘estranged’ from their communities, others would argued that there are overlaps between these forms of Islamist politics and the violence of Al-Queda and ISIS. Awareness of the differences between the different strands of these movements should not prevent us from noting that some groups function as ‘paserelles’ between open and clandestine Islamism. Above all the emphasis on this form of religious politics, by definition identitarian, exclusive and intolerant, indicates a constituency for the central demands of rule by the Qur’an and the Sharia alone – the core of violent jihad. The Islamist project has taken the form of areas in which the ‘Sharia’ is enforced in a limited territory, to the ambition to restore a much large ‘Caliphate’. In Europe the practice of Islamists, notably Salafists, has been to attempt to create their own ‘micro-powers’  in which their form of ‘justice’ is preached, and, if possible put into practice.

Islamism and the Left.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the publication of the Satanic Verses. But one issue has remained constant: demands for “group right.” The response of British Muslims to the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher Supermarket were in general restrained. The small number of Moslems who raised calls in the name of this right to ban offence to the image of the Prophet marched to general indifference. They had little of the impact of the Rushdie protests – not least, as the British state does not seem at present anxious to recognise their ‘leadership’. It was left to self-proclaimed liberals and socialists to make the loudest clamour about the weekly’s ‘racist’ and ‘pornographic’ cartoons.

Why is this? As Michael Walzer has remarked, (Islamism and the Left. Dissent. Winter 2015.)

I frequently come across leftists who are more concerned with avoiding accusations of Islamophobia than they are with condemning Islamist zealotry. This is an odd position with relation to the Muslim world today, but it makes some sense in Western Europe and possibly also in America, where Muslims are recent immigrants, the objects of discrimination, police surveillance, sometimes police brutality, and popular hostility. I have heard Muslims called the “new Jews.” That’s not a helpful analogy, since Muslims in today’s Western Europe have never been attacked by Christian crusaders, expelled from one country after another, forced to wear distinctive dress, barred from many professions, and slaughtered by Nazis. In fact, right now, some Muslim militants are among the chief purveyors of anti-Semitism in Europe (they get a lot of help from neo-fascists in France and Germany and other countries, too.

He continues,

All these left responses to Islamist zealots—identification, support, sympathy, apology, tolerance, and avoidance—look very strange if we consider the actual content of their ideology. Jihadi opposition to “the West” should provoke serious worry on the left before any other response. Boko Haram began with an attack on “Western-style” schools, and other Islamist groups have undertaken similar attacks, especially on schools for girls. Values that the zealots denounce as “Western” are very much in contention here: individual liberty, democracy, gender equality, and religious pluralism.

And makes this telling point,

But individual liberty, democracy, gender equality, and religious pluralism aren’t really Western values; they are universal values that first appeared in strong, modern versions in Western Europe and the Americas. These are the values that pretty much define the left, which also first appeared in its strong, modern version in Western Europe and the Americas. The left is an eighteenth-century invention, an invention of the secular Enlightenment.

Without following the argument in details an important response has to be made to Walzar’s critic, Andrew March, who notes this,

A first dimension is a consideration of the way the Islamist challenge to post-Enlightenment left principles might cause those on the liberal left to rethink their core commitments. The model here is Marx’s critique of bourgeois rights in “On the Jewish Question,” the ur-text for all subsequent leftist skepticism about formal rights, legal equality, and individual negative freedom. There are, of course, hard and soft versions of this. A hard version dismisses rights and parliamentary democracy tout court as bourgeois fictions that obstruct rather than advance emancipation. A softer version merely cautions us against seeing the achievement of rights, representative democracy, and negative freedoms as the final victory rather than as a necessary first step toward deeper forms of freedom and solidarity.

Speaking as somebody from the ‘real left’ (apparently something these academics are fond of arguing the toss about) I agree with Walzer. I have no truck with ‘post-Enlightenment’ readings of human rights. I will stop following March’s argument at this point to make this clear, Marx’s early writings, strongly influenced by the notion that ’emancipation’ was something ‘beyond’ the individualism of bourgeois society, failed to grapple with their enduring material appeal. But the issue of the value of rights was taken up by the 19th century left and embodied in the programmes of many parties, including one of the most dogmatic, the Parti Ouvrier Français (founded 1880). Marx’s later writings include sterling defences of human rights, as Robin Blackburn’s An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln (2011) indicates. They show a separation between right and power – the demands for what should be, and the actual state or government called on to deliver these declared needs. Embodied, or crystalised in substantial form, they are the backbone of the socialist and social democratic movement – as the fight over the British Welfare State demonstrates.

This applies equally to the ‘imperialist’ powers and the Islamic pro-states, to capitalism and to the (former) Stalinist regimes. Walzer emphasises Islamism for the obvious reason that it offers no possible mechanism for the translation of universal rights into power. March’s other arguments fall apart because they do not look at the importance this now holds for international politics and for the left. They are perhaps the best existing example to show that Claude Lefort’s description of a ‘totalitarian society’ as the ‘People as One’ is seriously flawed. The Islamist apparatus of power-knowledge, of surveillance, of discipline and punishment,  is the People Under the Vice-Regenency of God ( L’Invention démocratique,1981). Demands for human rights sound the trumpet of their defeat.

The flaws of the left’s position on Islam were dramatically shown in the way concern about Islamopobia has been allowed to over-ride support for democratic universal rights It is not only been the unedifying spectacle of those still trying to fish for Moslem souls for their groupuscules. The response to the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper-Casher tainted the left up its intellectual pinnacles. New Left Review has put on its website virulent attacks on French laïcité that evoke memories of the hatred of secularists – ‘laïcards’ – and Republican universalism expressed pre-Great War by Action française. Perhaps it is no coincidence that some of the Review’s authors are associated with the American Counterpunch which has seen fit to publish material questioning the innocence of Dreyfus….

Our Response.

It a different response it is important that the left responds firmly to the ‘fear and insecurity’ created by violent Islamism. This is not because of UKIP supporters’ ‘concerns’: it is to stand up for our sisters and brothers in every country where Jihadists threaten them. Few people on the left will deny that Western intervention in the Middle East has been a disaster. The UK government’s appeal to ‘British values’, apart from sounding hollow, is not an answer to a global problem. Freedom and democracy, fighting oppression and exploitation, have universal appeal. It is urgent that we stand with those fighting Islamism, and its foreign supporters, on the ground, above the heroic struggle of the Kurdish people. There is little clearer than this battle: rights and equality against genocide and slavery. These principles and objectives, which are secular and uniting, releasing us from communalist boxes, are the only ones which can confront Islamism and UKIP and the rightward – xenophobic – moving political landscape.

Malik notes the decline of the “economic and political power of the working class”. But the labour movement, in the broad sense, still has some substance in Britain. It is up to up those who are part of it to make its weight felt. Tackling austerity, bring people together for a programme of social advance may help make inroads into the constituency of the left behind. Should we then, to bolster our politics, drop all reference to multiculturalism – or more exactly the institutional policies of ‘community relations’ in the UK? Ought we instead “defend diversity and immigration”? There is little doubt that official multiculturalism is bogged down in the type of politics that has fed reactionary identity politics. But multicultural facts are not to be opposed. That in this sense it operates as  simply another word for diversity.

It’s hard to see Malik’s demands making their way to party manifestos, or onto demonstration placards. It is also far from obvious that this response that will be able to influence the wider public, left alone official policy. But there are hopeful signs for a broader change in politics that may contribute to giving them some substance.

The disgust many feel at the failure of some on the left to take a stand in favour of the anti-racist anti-fascist Charlie Hebdo, not to mention on the public murders of our Bangladeshi comrades by Islamists, the groundswell in favour of backing our Kurdish sisters and brothers, show some basis for a different approach. Diversity and the defence of immigration are part of that stand. Pro-European and world-wide internationalism another. We shall honour the martyrs by this fight. We will not let their deaths pass in silence.