Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Mehdi Hassan - ISIS & Sectarianism

Monday, 24 July 2017

Where does Chinese Islamophobia come from?

I am sitting with a small group of Chinese and Westerners on the dried-out grass in Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, in a prosperous part of eastern Beijing. Suddenly the conversation turns to China’s Hui Muslims, a minority of some 10 million people who live throughout the country. “Stupid cunts!” (傻屄 shǎbī) shouts Wang Zhen, a Chinese IT graduate and avid Trump supporter.
“What about the Uyghur?” somebody asks, referring to the predominantly Muslim group in Xinjiang, the far western province where the Communist Party stands accused of imposing draconian restrictions on religious freedom. “They are the biggest shabi,” says Wang, launching into a Jack Daniel’s-fueled tirade against both the Hui and the Uyghur, while his French fiancé tries to change the subject.
Wang is from Lanzhou, the capital of the north-central province of Gansu, which is home to a large Hui population. Historically, Lanzhou was an important stop on the northern Silk Road, where for centuries goods and ideas passed through Central Asia, linking East and West.
Wang is an extreme example, comparable with many individuals in America’s “alt-right.” But throughout my time in China, I have noticed an alarming prevalence of Islamophobic views at every level of society. And I was curious as to why these views, often directly imported from the West, seem to have found traction among so many Chinese people. After all, these same people were often quick to criticize Western intervention in the Middle East; they also surely had good reasons of their own to support attempts to counter Western political and cultural dominance.
Chauvinism of the “Great Han” majority
In China, as in other parts of the world, Muslims and other minority ethnicities have always faced some discrimination: A particular type of prejudice favoring the majority Han ethnicity, called Han chauvinism (大汉族主义 dà hànzú zhǔyì;literally Great Han-ism), has reared its head throughout the country’s history, and violence has erupted sporadically in places such as Yunnan, the southwestern province that is home to several substantial Hui communities.
So, is Chinese Islamophobia just a more pronounced extension of Han chauvinism? Certainly, in the arid northern regions where most Hui live, there is evidence of suspicion toward Muslims. Just south of Gansu Province lies Ningxia, a Hui autonomous region, where one week earlier my Chinese colleague had been urged to “be careful on the streets, [because the Hui] try to meet a ‘three-kill quota’ every year.” But hostility to Islam is being voiced beyond these regions.
As in North America and Europe, in China, proximity to Muslim people isn’t a prerequisite for Islamophobia. And Chinese Islamophobes don’t confine their outbursts to the Hui or Uyghur. A tour of Chinese social media turns up regular currents of hatred and suspicion, directed (in Chinese) at Islam and Muslims within and beyond China’s borders:
“Whether in China or abroad, Islam is essentially an evil cult — just take a look at some of the countries in the Middle East, then it’s clear.”
“When I look at a map of Muslim countries, I feel very scared…the threat is coming from the west, and also the south; apparently, Islamic terrorist organizations are actively trying to establish Islamic states in Malaysia, Indonesia, southern Thailand, and the southern Philippines.”

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Mob lynchings aren't about cows, but the erasure of India's Muslim identity

Trying to avoid the traffic snarls that come with the rains in the Capital, I found myself taking the metro recently, when I saw something that underlined the atmosphere prevailing in the country. As passengers flooded the metro coaches, cramming them to capacity, individuals started to blur into a sweaty mass of bodies. However, three passengers who boarded amidst all the chaos caught my attention.

These three were young boys. The oldest couldn't have been more than 12, while I pegged the youngest at around eight or nine. Clad in white kurtas with matching pyjamas, the three boys wore skull caps, their attire clearly marking them out as Muslims.ht of these young Muslim boys, unaccompanied, and therefore completely vulnerable, made me worry for their safety. That these boys, innocent and unblemished, had anything to fear would ordinarily be unthinkable. However, Junaid Khan, a 16-year-old, had been lynched scarcely a week prior. Age was of no consequence to his murderers. His Muslim identity was all it took, a fact his murderers made amply clear as they hurdled anti-Muslim abuses while assaulting him.

In the backdrop of Junaid's lynching, was it unreasonable to fear for the safety of these boys? They were, after all, only a few years younger than Junaid.
In that moment, I not only became aware of their vulnerability, but also my own. As a bearded man, partial to kurtas and slippers, it wouldn't take much imagination to peg me for Muslim. Relatives and friends, equally well-meaning and paranoid, have warned me of the same. And I'm not an outlier.

Mere months ago, my brother, who sports a goatee, was told off by his college for having a “Muslim” beard. The reprisal came not because of any issues the college had with Islam, but because the institute was situated in Mangalore, a city where Muslim youth have been targeted by hardline Hindu groups in the recent past. “We cannot take responsibility for his safety if he keeps the beard,” was the message my parents received.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Massacre of Muslims: A town still in denial

Once every year, the Mothers of Srebrenica host a ceremony to remember their fathers, sons, husbands and brothers who were hunted down and systematically murdered by Serbian forces on 11 July 1995. They were killed because they were Muslim.
This intensely moving event is held in the Potocari cemetery, where some of the 8,000 victims whose bodies have been found are buried. Many more are thought to remain undiscovered in the surrounding mountains.
The graveyard is opposite the United Nations base which was fatally abandoned by Dutch peacekeepers, a decision which gave the green light for the Srebenica genocide to take place.

Usually the mayor of Srebenica plays a major role in organising the ceremony. Not this year. Camil Durakovic, President of the Organising Committee and himself a former mayor, told us that "the mayor was not invited because he denies the genocide". 
Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica, told us that "anybody who denies genocide is not welcome in the memorial centre".
Subasic, 67, lost her son Nermin and husband Hilmo in the genocide. She said: "In a town where genocide was committed, having a genocide denier as a mayor is unacceptable."
Her organisation speaks for an estimated 6,000 women who lost loved ones on 11 July 1995.

The denial of genocide

How can it be that Srebenica has elected a genocide denier just two decades after the deliberate, cold-blooded massacre of more than 8,000 Muslims in this once sleepy Bosnian town?
It is as if Buchenwald or Belsen had elected a Holocaust denier as mayor in the aftermath of World War Two.
The answer is grim. The massacre of Bosnian Muslims (so-called “Bosniaks”) in 1995 worked only too well.
Srebrenica is located in the Bosnian Republika Srpska, hard by the border with neighbouring Serbia. The Serbs ethnically cleansed the area – today a largely autonomous Serb majority statelet within Bosnia -  during the civil war, and Bosnian Muslims who return have not been made welcome.
Most of the town's former Muslim residents are either dead or have emigrated. Srebrenica is now controlled by Bosnian Serbs, many of whom refuse to accept that a genocide took place.
Nedzad Avdic, a survivor of the genocide, told us: "Our first child is starting at the local school. They are being taught that the genocide never happened.
“You turn on the TV and it is like the war never ended."