Political Concepts

Weekly News Summary – 15 Safar 1431

Nearly half of Americans admit to anti-Muslim bias

The level of anti-Muslim prejudice – 43 percent of Americans admitted feeling at least “a little” – is more than twice as high as Americans’ reported feelings toward Buddhists, Christians and Jews. Fifty-three percent of respondents said their view of Islam was “not too favorable” or “not favorable at all,” according to a 32-page Religious Perceptions in America report released recently. “It was interesting to note that Americans admit no more prejudice against Buddhists and Jews than they do against Christians,” said Dalia Mogahed, director of the Washington-based center. “So this isn’t just simply a problem against minority religions. There is a somewhat unique issue with Muslims in particular.”

UK: Media and politicians encourage hate crime against Muslims

A rise in the number of hate crimes against Muslims in London is being encouraged by mainstream politicians and sections of the media, a study written by a former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officer, published on Thursday, says. Attacks ranging from death threats and murder to persistent low-level assaults, such as spitting and name-calling, are in part whipped up by extremists and sections of mainstream society, the study says. The document – from the University of Exeter’s European Muslim research centre – was written by Dr Jonathan Githens-Mazer and former special branch detective Dr Robert Lambert. “The report provides prima facie and empirical evidence to demonstrate that assailants of Muslims are invariably motivated by a negative view of Muslims they have acquired from either mainstream or extremist nationalist reports or commentaries in the media,” it says. It also states that normal people are the ones responsible for violence against Muslims. “In addition, well-informed interviewees are clear that the main perpetrators of low-level anti-Muslim hate crimes are not gangs but rather simply individuals from a wide range of backgrounds who feel licensed to abuse, assault and intimidate Muslims in terms that mirror elements of mainstream media and political comment that became commonplace during the last decade.”

In France, panel recommends a burka ban in public institutions

The full-body garments are a security issue in places like banks and subways where people need to be identifiable, the parliamentary committee says. Muslim women should not be allowed to wear burkas in public institutions, including banks, post offices, schools and even on public transportation, a report by a parliamentary committee said Tuesday. Yet the report on how to stop Muslims from wearing the full-body garment in France fell short of gathering a consensus on key questions such as whether to completely ban the burka from French streets. How to “stop this practice is not the most simple thing to define,” the report says. As a result, the committee reduced its recommendation to a nonbinding resolution condemning the burka as “contrary to the values of the Republic.” It also called for educational programs to reduce fundamentalism. The report recommends denying services to anyone in a full-body veil, but it does not advocate other punishment. A limited ban on burkas could be legally justified, said public law expert Denys de Bechillon at France’s Pau University, because it would address “a problem of security . . . in places where we need to identify people.”

Western powers agree to interfere in Yemen

This week Yemen and Western powers agreed to work together to fight militants. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the international conference in London that bringing unity and stability to Yemen was an urgent national priority. Donors from Western and Gulf countries have also agreed to meet in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in February. Mrs Clinton said the US had signed a three-year agreement focused on addressing security and development issues in Yemen. “To help the people of Yemen, we – the international community – can and must do more. And so must the Yemeni government,” she said. She said military action alone would not be enough, adding that the international community would work with Yemen to promote human rights, build democratic institutions and combat corruption. She urged the Yemeni government to enact its 10-point reform programme to lessen the influence of extremist groups. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who chaired the talks, said the Yemeni government had agreed to start discussions with the IMF on economic reform. Mr Miliband also announced the launch of a Friends of Yemen process to address wider challenges such as the economy, governance, justice and law enforcement.

Taliban: Can’t beat them then bribe them

This week major powers supported Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to woo moderate Taliban fighters who disarm. An internationally backed fund believed to be worth 500 million dollars formed the main plank of Karzai’s proposals at the conference. Karzai told the forum, Afghanistan and its Western supporters must “reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers who are not part of Al-Qaeda”. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said 140 million dollars had been pledged for the first year of the fund. “What that money is for is to ensure there’s proper employment opportunity… proper infrastructure into which reintegration can take place,” he told BBC television. He said it would also provide “proper security so that if people do move from the insurgency back into their communities they are protected because obviously the Taliban will be after them.” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she thought the plan would work. “We expect a lot of the foot soldiers on the battlefield will be leaving the Taliban because many of them have wanted to leave, many of them are tired of fighting. We believe the tide has turned against them,” she said.

The NATO-led force fighting the Taliban is due to swell to 150,000 by the end of the year after a US surge, but Karzai said his country would need international help for at least another decade. “With regard to training and equipping the Afghan security forces, five to 10 years will be enough,” he told BBC radio.