Geert Wilders Falls Short In Election, As Wary Dutch Scatter Their Votes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Geert Wilders, a Rising Anti-Muslim Voice

This is Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician with aspirations to be the next prime minister of the Netherlands. He has compared the Quran to “Mein Kampf” and has called Moroccans “scum.”

By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date March 13, 2017.  

THE HAGUE — The far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in Dutch elections on Wednesday, gaining seats but failing to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union, according to early results and exit polls.

The results were immediately cheered by pro-European politicians who hoped that they could help stall some of the momentum of the populist, anti-European Union and anti-Muslim forces Mr. Wilders has come to symbolize, and which have threatened to fracture the bloc.

Voters, who turned out in record numbers, nonetheless rewarded right and center-right parties that had co-opted parts of his hard-line message, including that of the incumbent prime minister, Mark Rutte. Some parties that challenged the establishment from the left made significant gains.

The Dutch vote was closely watched as a harbinger of potential trends in a year of important European elections, including in France in just weeks, and later in Germany and possibly Italy. Many of the Dutch parties that prevailed favor the European Union — a rare glimmer of hope at a time when populist forces have created an existential crisis for the bloc and Britain prepares for its withdrawal, or “Brexit.”

Continue reading the main story

“Today was a celebration of democracy, we saw rows of people queuing to cast their vote, all over the Netherlands — how long has it been since we’ve seen that?” Mr. Rutte said.

Alexander Pechtold, the leader of Democrats 66, which appeared to have won the most votes of any left-leaning party, struck a similar note underscoring the vote as a victory against a populist extremist.

“During this election campaign, the whole world was watching us,” Mr. Pechtold said. “They were looking at Europe to see if this continent would follow the call of the populists, but it has now become clear that call stopped here in the Netherlands.”

GRAPHIC

How Far Is Europe Swinging to the Right?

Right-wing parties have been achieving electoral success in a growing number of nations.

OPEN GRAPHIC

According to an unofficial tally compiled by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation, the country’s public broadcaster, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was likely to capture 33 of the 150 seats in Parliament — a loss of seven seats, but still far more than any other party.

Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom was expected to finish second, with 20 seats (an increase of eight); and the right-leaning Christian Democratic Appeal and the left-leaning Democrats 66 were tied for third, with 19 each, the broadcaster reported.

In the Netherlands, the results betrayed a lingering distrust of turning over the reins of power to the far right, even as its message dominated the campaign and was likely to influence policies in the new government.

Yet there are limits to how much the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most socially liberal countries, will be a reliable predictor for Europe’s other important elections this year, including next month’s presidential elections in France.

Mark Bovens, a political scientist at Utrecht University, noted that Mr. Wilders and other right-wing parties, despite their gains, did not drastically cross traditional thresholds.

“The nationalist parties have won seats, compared to 2012 — Wilders’s party has gained seats, as has a new party, the Forum for Democracy — but their electorate is stable, it has not grown,” Mr. Bovens said.

Mr. Bovens pointed out that an earlier populist movement led by the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn had won 26 seats in 2002, and that Mr. Wilders’s won 24 seats in 2010. If Mr. Wilders’s party rises to 20 seats, as the early returns seemed to indicate, it will still be lower than the previous high-water marks.

“And some of the traditional parties have moved in a more nationalistic direction, taking a bit of wind out of his sails,” he said. “You see the same strategy in Germany.”

The German governing coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is facing a stiff election challenge of its own this year, was clearly buoyed by the Dutch result, its foreign ministry sending a warmly enthusiastic message via Twitter.

Photo

“The Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said ‘Whoa’ to the wrong kind of populism,” said Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, speaking to an enthusiastic crowd. CreditCarl Court/Getty Images

“Large majority of Dutch voters have rejected anti-European populists. That’s good news. We need you for a strong #Europe!” it read.

In the Netherlands’s extremely fractured system of proportional representation — 28 parties ran and 13 are likely to have positions in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament — the results were, not atypically, something of a dog’s breakfast.

Mr. Rutte’s party lost seats, even as it came out on top, and will need to join forces with several others in order to wield power. Virtually all parties said they would not work with Mr. Wilders in a coalition — so toxic he remains — though his positions are likely to infuse parliamentary debate.

“Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!” Mr. Wilders wrote on Twitter, and indeed his anti-immigrant message, which dominated much of the campaign, was not likely to go away.

It came into particularly sharp relief on the eve of the election, when Turkey’s foreign minister sought to enter the Netherlands to rally support among Turks in Rotterdam for a referendum to increase the power of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Dutch officials refused him landing rights.

Mr. Wilders, who has seemed to relish being called the “Dutch Donald Trump,” has been so extreme that some appear to have thought twice about supporting him.

He has called for banning the Quran because he compares it to Hitler’s work “Mein Kampf,” which the Netherlands banned, and for closing mosques and Islamic cultural centers and schools.

Election turnout was high, with polling places seeing a steady stream of voters from early morning until the polls closed at 9 p.m. Of the 12.9 million Dutch citizens eligible to cast ballots, more than 80 percent voted.

Some polling places ran out of ballots and called for additional ones to be delivered. There were so many candidates listed that the ballots were as voluminous as bath towels and had to be folded many times over to fit into the ballot box.

Photo

Supporters of the Green Party reacted in The Hague on Wednesday.CreditRobin Van Lonkhuijsen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The percentage of the vote that a party receives translates into the number of seats it will get in Parliament. If a party gets 10 percent of the total votes, it gets 10 percent of seats in the 150-seat Parliament, given to its first 15 candidates listed on the ballot.

The election was a success for the left-leaning Green Party, led by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, a relative political newcomer, whose leadership at least tripled the party’s seats, making it the fifth-place finisher and potentially a part of the government.

Mr. Klaver ran specifically on an anti-populist platform and worked hard to turn out first-time voters.

“In these elections there was an overwhelming attention from the foreign press, which is understandable because Brexit happened and Trump was elected, and because France, Germany and maybe Italy will be holding elections,” Mr. Klaver said. “They asked us: Will populism break through in the Netherlands?”

The crowd shouted: “No.”

“That is the answer that we have for the whole of Europe: Populism did not break through,” Mr. Klaver said.

Another striking development was the first-time election of former Labor Party members, all three of Turkish background, who formed a new party, Denk (which means “think”). It will be the only ethnic party in the Dutch Parliament and is a reminder that Turks are the largest immigrant community in the Netherlands. There are roughly 400,000 first, second, or third-generation Turkish immigrants in the nation.

The big loser was the center-left Labor Party, which was expected to drop from being the second largest party in Parliament, with 38 seats and a position as Mr. Rutte’s coalition partner. The party was expected to win only nine seats.

In past elections the impact of extremist right-leaning parties has been largely blunted by a political system that for more than a century has resulted in governance by coalition.

This year’s election may give the Netherlands its most fragmented government in history. Some political analysts believe it could take weeks or months to form a government and that the governing coalition will be fragile.

In Belgium, which has a similar political system as the Netherlands, it famously took nearly a year and a half after inconclusive elections in June 2010 to form a government.

The world’s two Islams: Not Speaking Of Sunni And Shiite But Of Hate Filled And The Peaceful

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

The World’s Two Islams

It is not possible to abolish Muslims or overlook the importance of Islam as a widespread and influential faith. There are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and 57 Muslim-majority countries.

Similar to other major religions, like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has many sects and schools of thought, and differs with other religions.

But despite all the differences, Muslims have in modern history never witnessed crises like the ones they are facing today. The worst thing that is happening is that their reputation is being tarnished.

Many believe that Muslims have become a problem at the security, political, and cultural levels. Based on the new conviction, anti-Muslim sentiment is no longer whispered but rather bluntly put into action by those who consider Muslims unwanted.

This sentiment exists among politicians and racists. If things develop as they wish for, we will witness a bigger crisis than the one we are dealing with now.

It is wrong to ignore suspicions on Muslims and Islam and the public and official backlash against them. In reality, the situation should be understood and dealt with.

Before that, we should stop denying that the problem is within the Muslim communities, and stop considering reactions against Islam and Muslims as pure racism. This doesn’t deny the role of racists and opportunists in fueling this bad image and instigating hate against Muslims.

The problem of Muslims in the world technically began with the Iranian revolution that claimed its intended to defend Islam and Muslims all over the world, using violence, mobilization, and movements.

Prior to that, Muslims were busy with their affairs and integrated peacefully with other communities. Everyone followed their creed and practiced their religion as they pleased.

But, the Tehran regime wanted to exploit Islam and Muslims. Its followers’ mantras became “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater), with their head bands having religious and political slogans like: “Labbayka Khomeini” (At your service, Khomeini).

This is an ugly front that represents the new Islam which has nothing to do with the Muslims the world has known.

The scary faces of those holding diplomats as hostages against all ethics and morals, and of course against all religions, created a new slogan for a different Islam and different Muslims.

They resorted to creating cases that would only serve their political conflicts, like turning an unknown novel published in the UK into a motive to feed Muslim hate towards Britain, even though Iran itself had printed many novels and books considered blasphemous against Muslim beliefs and other religions.

Instigating hate and placing financial rewards for killing author Salman Rushdie is Iran’s political work act. Several incidents occurred – from attacking intellectuals to persecuting caricaturists and leaders of other religions.

For years Tehran had led Muslims like a herd, pretending to defend their religion, causes, communities and cultures. Then, al-Qaeda organization was created, following the same path and tarnishing the image of Islam.

That is how the bad Islam that the world hates was created.

We have been dragged into a large crater created by extremists in Iran and elsewhere. But this is not our Islam and we should not be defending theirs.

The world has two Islams: the Islam of Iran and other extremists, and the Islam of moderates. Not all Muslims are alike. We should support anyone who wants to stand against the tarnished Islam and extremists, because we are the ones affected by this “Islam”, those “Islamic regimes” and the groups that are loyal to it.

It is time to disavow the “Islam of Iran” “al-Qaeda” “ISIS” and all organizations that politicize religion. It is also time to denounce them is for the sake of Islam, individual faith and all Muslims in different countries.

Most conflicts between countries of the world are political and have nothing to do with religion. It shouldn’t be left to governments that want to recruit Muslims intellectually to win battles against their enemies. They don’t care how damaging that can be to relations among nations, or what happens to the majority and minority of peaceful Muslims in their countries.

They just want to emerge victorious through confrontation and chaos because they know they will lose once peace and moderation prevail.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

More Posts

On 3-3-17 I Reblogged An Article With Serious Misquotes Of Bishop Angaelos Of The Coptic Orthodox Church Of The U.K.

 

Earlier today I received an email letting me know that one of the articles that I reblogged from one of my readers was filled with mistakes.  I always try to only print articles that are totally the truth and in the four plus years that I have been managing this website this is the first time that I have been informed that something that I reblogged for someone was needed to be deleted because it was filled with errors. I appreciate it very much that a lady from the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom informed me of the errors. Per her request I have permanently deleted that article from this site and I ask that anyone who may have reblogged the article to go into your files and do the same. The correct quote from Bishop Angaelos from a speech of his from this past February 28th of 2017 I am copy pasting below. The young lady from the Bishop’s office was kind enough to email it to me. If you would, please take a moment to read the correct article below.

 

Comment by His Grace Bishop Angaelos,
General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom,
on the recent spate of attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt,
including the recent attacks in Al-Arish, Sinai

28 February 2017

I have now drafted and redrafted this statement numerous times over the past weeks, wanting to say something about the deadly attacks experienced by Coptic Christians in Egypt on a daily basis, yet every time I do, there seems to be a new and often more horrifying attack that needs to be addressed. In the past three months alone forty Coptic Christians have been murdered in targeted attacks in Egypt. From the terrorist bombing on St Peter’s Coptic Church in Cairo that claimed the lives of twenty nine mainly women and children, to the murders of individuals across the country since, the one common denominator is that these innocent children, women and men have had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians.

Incitement by terrorist groups that calls for the killing of Christians in Egypt has spiralled over the past weeks to the extent that lists of churches and individuals have now been released as desirable targets.

While persecution is nothing new for the Coptic community, this escalation of attacks over the past months, culminating in the most recent murders of seven Christians in Al-Arish, has resulted in the displacement of hundreds forced to leave their generations-old homes in North Sinai.

These horrific attacks have gone largely unnoticed by the international community, but Copts continue to suffer tragic violations daily. The attacks against them are anti-Christian and religiously-motivated, demonstrated in many cases by the circulation of flyers within villages urging Christians to ‘leave or die’. Similar events have tragically occurred far too often over the past years, and there is unfortunately little deterrent to prevent them from reoccurring.

In our fast moving world that is filled with so much news of tragedy, war and death, it is all too easy for atrocities to become ‘incidents’, and for individuals suffering them to become mere statistics, very quickly pushed aside by the next item of news. In the eyes of the perpetrators they are a viable target, and in the eyes of the world they become a regrettable phenomenon; yet what is actually left behind is traumatised individuals, families and communities that have lost loved ones, living the reality of themselves being targeted.

While Coptic Christians have been particularly targeted they have always remained peaceful and opted for non-retaliation. Exceeding this already admirable stance, they have even proceeded to forgive their perpetrators. After the destruction of over 100 places of Christian ministry and worship in August of 2013, the bombing of various churches across the country in the last decade, and the targeted killing of clergy, families, women and children, purely for their Faith, the community and individuals within it remain non-violent and resilient. Despite their being condemnation of these attacks by national government and authorities, there is yet to be a consistent robust and fair implementation of these same sentiments more regionally and locally.

In communicating over the past weeks with various brothers and sisters in Egypt, what becomes immediately apparent is that this community that continues to witness its Faith with integrity and strength despite the hurdles it faces, desires to live with dignity in its indigenous homeland.

It must also be mentioned that Coptic Christians are not alone in facing these attacks, as scores of Egyptian civilians, soldiers and police officers have lost their lives as a result of this wave of terrorist activity.

We pray for those suffering terrorism and violence, for God to grant them peace and reassurance that they are not forgotten by Him or by all those who not only witness their plight but strive to advocate for them. We also pray for those in positions of authority and influence that they may be advocates for all those entrusted into their care. Finally, and not of least importance we pray for those who perpetrate these crimes, that they once again become conscious of the true value of every life that appears to be dispensable in their eyes.

Ends

 

View this comment and other statements/releases via www.CopticMediaUK.com

 

Follow HG Bishop Angaelos on Twitter @BishopAngaelos

 

The Islamic Ambush That is Awaiting The American People

via The Islamic ambush awaiting us

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRITTUS BLOG SITE)

Almost 50 years ago, a young Marine lieutenant led a combat patrol through a village in Vietnam. Having witnessed numerous patrols of this sort before, villagers continued about their daily routine.

After hearing a village elder say something to a fellow villager, the lieutenant immediately stopped his men. With new orders issued and weapons at the ready, the patrol quietly advanced, ultimately surprising an enemy force just outside the village that had been waiting to spring an ambush on the Marines.

The lieutenant never knew if the elder had intentionally tipped him off or simply did not know he spoke Vietnamese, overhearing an ambush lay ahead. Being able to speak the local language fortuitously saved American lives.

This story holds a lesson we need heed in view of a meeting President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, just held with his staff.

McMaster informed his people that linking terrorism to radical Islam – a message Trump conveyed during his presidential campaign, in his inaugural speech and ever since then – is not helpful, as such terrorists are “un-Islamic.”

An Iraq war veteran and student of history, McMaster is apparently taking a stand – similar to that espoused by former President Obama – not to suggest Islam itself is violent but that extremists have hijacked Islam, giving it a violent interpretation.

It will be interesting to see how this interpretation plays out with Trump and whether he decides to throttle back on his own assertion about Islam or has McMaster throttle back on his. In his Feb. 28 speech to Congress, Trump did not back off from linking terrorism to radical Islam. As to whom, between these two, has the better grasp on the religion, another story need be told.

To protect his identity, an Arabic translator working in a refugee center in Germany, dealing with hundreds of Muslim migrants daily, will be referred to as “X.” A secret X has kept from all who reside at the center is that he is a Christian. Revealing this at the center would be a death sentence for him.

Speaking the language, X understands exactly what refugees think about non-Muslims who have opened up their hearts to them: They seek to carve those hearts out!

X attests it is frightening to hear what is said within these centers. Having escaped death in their native lands, having been given food and shelter in a non-Muslim land, having been given access to welfare programs to help them get on their feet, these Muslim refugees are not appreciative. What Germans do for the refugees is expected of them in recognition of Islam’s religious superiority.

But, most frighteningly, while accepting Western generosity, these refugees conspire eventually to relieve their hosts of their lives and property. These refugee centers are transitioning into dens of iniquity.

A group known as “Open Doors Germany” is documenting how this mindset thrives among Muslim refugees. Refugees attend mosques where clerics deliver hate-filled sermons against all non-Muslims, including their German hosts.

This leads to the persecution of Christians at the refugee centers. Christian refugees in Rotenburg who dared attend a church service, returned to the center to find threatening graffiti on the walls of their room reading, “Cut the Christians’ heads off!”

Such threats have not lain idle. Christians find it difficult to sleep in the centers, knowing someone in the next room believes his faith mandates he kill them. Hundreds of attacks are recorded. Open Doors revealed how there have been “assaults, stabbings, life-threatening situations … (with) some refugees end(ing) up in the hospital.”

Muslims admonish Christian refugees as “unclean.” Males assert their right under Islam to rape Christian women. As Germany and many other European countries have borne witness, Muslim males believe this right extends to native Christian women as well. This is evidenced today by rape epidemics in many of these Western countries.

We are foolish not to accept the fact mosques, whether in Muslim-majority countries or not, feed Islam’s followers with hate messages for non-Muslims. So fed, some opt to radicalize and act on them; some do not. But we need understand terrorism emanates from such hate speech against non-Muslims. Because Islam’s foundation is built upon this hatred, it is not extremists who have hijacked Islam to give it a violent interpretation; it is moderates who have hijacked Islam to give it a non-violent one.

Interestingly, several Muslim countries recognize that a link does exist between Islam and terrorism and, therefore, refuse to accept Muslim refugees.

This brings us back to McMaster’s instruction to his staff not to couch terrorism in terms of radical Islam and the Marine lieutenant who led his patrol in Vietnam.

McMaster’s guidance to his staff seems to stem from concerns non-radical Muslims, offended by our linking terrorism to Islam, might become radicalized. What he dismisses by doing so, however, is that Muslims are already fully indoctrinated by their clerics and the Quran to hate non-Muslims. Such indoctrination leaves us not knowing whom among them might opt for radicalization. But the possibility Muslims so programmed with a hateful ideology might be motivated to act radically imposes a duty upon our leaders to forewarn us of the danger that an ambush may lay ahead.

If the lieutenant leading his patrol in Vietnam had not understood the language, he would have led his patrol into an ambush. Few Americans understand Arabic and, thus, what clerics teach in their mosques or Muslim refugees discuss in their centers. Efforts by Open Doors to reveal this is critical to avoid the ambush Islam plots for non-Muslims and which it hopes, through our continuing ignorance, we not know lies ahead.

We are way past the time our leaders need worry honestly about Islam’s hatred and intolerance for us might possibly radicalize Muslims to undertake acts of terrorism. That seed has already been implanted by Islam’s clerics into their followers’ collective psyche. It is time our leaders now be honest with us, educating the American people and acknowledging that Islam, indeed, promotes terrorism.

Copyright 2017 WND

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/03/the-islamic-ambush-awaiting-us/#fWvu9iPoPH60audC.99

Muslim Woman Pens Essay About Her 8 Days Working For President Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

NEWS

Muslim Woman Pens Essay About Her 8 Days Working for President Trump

Feb. 24, 2017

‘I was the only hijabi in the West Wing’

A Muslim woman who spent eight days working in President Donald Trump’s White House penned a powerful essay about the experience.

Rumana Ahmed was hired right after college to work in the White House, eventually landing on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama. “I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman — I was the only hijabi in the West Wing — and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included,” Ahmed wrote in The Atlantic. “It felt surreal — a 22-year-old American Muslim woman from Maryland who had been mocked and called names for covering my hair, working for the president of the United States.”

Though she said that Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims during the 2016 presidential election dismayed her, she decided to remain on the National Security Council so she could have a seat at the table. “Cautiously optimistic, and feeling a responsibility to try to help them continue our work and be heard, I decided that Trump’s NSC could benefit from a colored, female, hijab-wearing, American Muslim patriot,” she said.

But she ultimately came to regret that decision, saying that the diverse White House she worked for under President Obama became a “monochromatic and male bastion.” She decided to leave after President Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended the State Department’s Refugee Assistance Program and temporarily banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat,” she wrote.”

52 Years Ago Today Black Muslim Malcolm X Was Assassinated By Black Muslims

 

When Malcolm X was murdered on February 21st 1965 I was only 8 1/2 years old and I had only heard of his name a couple of times, I am guessing it was from the evening news that my Dad used to watch with Walter Cronkite. I was a poor southern white boy living in an area where I do not remember anyone but other white folks were living. People were so dirt poor around there that news from the ‘outside’ world seemed to matter very little. The first time I ever even realized that there was an ‘outside’ world was when the NSA (my personal belief) murdered President Kennedy in November of 1963, I was in second grade at that time. What little I had heard of Malcolm X was that he was a Black man who was very racist against White folks and that he preached a lot of hate and favored violence, that is about all I knew of the man. I do not recall hearing anything at all about him being a Muslim until I was in about 9th grade, quite honestly at that time I had no idea what a Muslim even was. Once I started hearing his name mentioned I remember I started reading what material I could find on him, to get a jest of who the man was.

 

Now I am no expert on the man and I do not claim to have known his mind, all I can go on is the opinions I have formed through what others have written about him. I do remember hearing about his murder on the evening news, at that time the act of murder was quite new to me. Outside of President Kennedy I don’t believe I had ever heard of anyone being murdered. I have learned from reading an article from his daughter about the evening he was shot dead in front of her how her Dad was standing at a podium when three men came into the room shooting toward her Dad and I remember still of hurting for this young girl. She said that the first shot that was fired hit her Dad and he fell straight backwards onto the floor, evidently the first shot killed him instantly. How does a child ever get such a scene out of their mind?

 

By what I have learned about the life and times of Malcolm X was that he was quite the radical spouting hate toward White folks and demanding equality for Black folks by ‘any means necessary’, including violence. His doctrine at the time was one that I am sure scared a lot of White folks and just downright angered many more. He was not a man in the mold of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr who preached peaceful resistance for obtaining equality through morality. Not long before Mr. X was killed he took a tour of the Arab Nations and when he returned to the States his message had mellowed out, he was not preaching hate anymore. To me one of the things that is sad about the whole issue is that when his message turned to peaceful resistance he was murdered because of that change in philosophy. You see the Black Muslim men who murdered him did so because he had been their poster boy for hate and violence so when he changed his ideals on how to obtain equal rights for America’s Black Folks, they murdered him.  I am glad that the evil men who pulled the trigger on him were also Black or there would have been even more innocent people killed here in this country, all because of racism. Malcolm X was killed in 1965, Dr. King in 1968, I can’t help but wonder what each man would think of the America of today.

Jakarta Indonesia: Hardline Muslims Protest There Being A Chinese Christian Governor

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Jakarta vote: Indonesia hardliners call for Muslim governor

  • 8 hours ago
  • From the section Asia
Islamic hardliners demonstrate against Basuki Tjahaja PurnamaImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Hardline Muslims have been marching against Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese Christian governor for months

Tens of thousands of Indonesians have gathered in Jakarta to urge people to vote for a Muslim candidate to be the capital city’s next governor.

The incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is an ethnic Chinese Christian currently on trial after being accused of insulting Islam.

Despite the court case, Mr Purnama is still expected to win Wednesday’s vote.

The campaign against him has been led by Muslim hardliners, stoking fears of growing religious intolerance.

Crowds gathered for mass prayers around the city’s Istiqlal Mosque on Saturday, urging people to cast their ballots for Muslim leaders.

Supporters of several Islamic groups held posters with messages such as “I’d prefer if my leader is a Muslim” and “It is forbidden to pick an infidel leader”.

Hardline protesterImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Hardliners insist that the city should be governed by a Muslim
mass prayer at Istiqlal mosqueImage copyright EPA
Image caption The event centred on the Istiqlal Mosque drew tens of thousands of people

The action follows big protests against Mr Purnama in December and a rally that turned violent in November, leaving one man dead and dozens of police and demonstrators injured.

Mr Purnama became Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor for 50 years and the first ethnic Chinese to hold the position when he took over from Joko Widodo – now the president – in 2014.

He won popularity for his no-nonsense style, as well as his stances against corruption and in favour of public transport and greater access to healthcare and education.

But some Islamists rejected him from the outset because of both his religion and ethnicity.

His position has been undermined by the court case against him, with prosecutors arguing that he insulted Islam by misusing a Koranic verse.

Mr Purnama had said that Islamic groups using a passage of the Koran to urge people not to support him were deceiving voters.

The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Purnama wept as his trial opened in December

Mr Purnama insisted his comments were aimed at politicians “incorrectly” using the verse against him, not at the verse itself.

Rights groups say the authorities have set a dangerous precedent in which a noisy hardline Islamic minority can influence the legal process.

Mr Purnama is facing two prominent Muslim challengers for the Jakarta governorship.

If none of the contenders gets more than 50%, a run-off election between the two top candidates will take place in April.

Christians represent less than 10% of the country’s 250 million people, and ethnic Chinese about 1%.

In 1998, a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment led to mobs looting and burning Chinese-owned shops and houses, leaving more than 1,000 people dead.

However, Muslims in Indonesia are largely moderate and the country’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, had advised its members not to take part in the recent anti-Ahok protests.

Democracy Lebanon Style

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-AWSAT NEWS AGENCY)

Opinion

Opinion: When Lebanese Democracy Talks

The controversy surrounding the election of Donald Trump as US president made many outside America have another look at how its electoral system works. However, controversy is surely not limited to America; it extends to Lebanon, a faraway small country that boasts being an ‘institutional democratic’ state built on consensus and entente.

Many pose questions about the logic behind the American political system which values the electoral votes of individual states more than the direct popular votes of the electorate. The fact is that the USA is a federal country, thus its political representation needs to reflect two fundamental principles without which no healthy democracy can survive:
-The first is simple direct democracy whereby the numerical majority has the advantage over the numerical minority; and this is embodied in the House of Representatives where each state is represented by a number of congressmen relative to its population.
-The second is respect for national unity in a diverse society, where an individual in a populous state must enjoy no advantage over another individual from a less populous state before the federal law which must treat all Americans equally. The principle of national unity is enshrined in the Senate where all states, regardless of population, are equally represented by two senators each.

This great vision has helped make the American political system as a whole, one of the fairest and most advanced in the world. It has sustained an ever growing and geographically expanding country since the 16th century, attracting wave after wave of immigration; and through the years each American state based on its topography, natural environment, and economic resources had specific attributes and qualities despite free and smooth inter-state movement.

Of course Lebanon is far too small compared to the USA. Its ‘democratic’ experience is also pretty modest to compare with that of America’s ‘Founding Fathers’ and the legislations and agreements they adopted, even though these legislations and agreements failed to prevent the American Civil war (1861-1865), some vestiges of which remain until today. In fact, Lebanon too had a civil war in 1860 that helped create its almost ‘independent’ status; and as in America’s case, the vestiges of the war remain, while its borders have changed.

Still, size and global influence aside, there is another major difference between the American and Lebanese examples, which is that the Americans have learnt from their experiences, respected their institutions, and stopped bluffing themselves, which is not the case with the Lebanese.

In the USA no less than five presidents trailed their opponents in the popular votes, but abiding by the Constitution, the process led them to the White House. Moreover, despite the huge diversity in a country of 320 million inhabitants, there remains a good deal of healthy co-existence. We don’t hear people calling every day for a new electoral law that enhances the share of his or her ethnicity or religious sect. Nor do we hear of people calling for foreign intervention in their favor in the light of changing international policies.

Lebanon’s case, however, is totally different. Here, even the Lebanese constitution does not deal with its people as citizens but rather as members of sectarian flocks. The constitution which recognizes 17 sects, has “permanently” allocated each sect what has been deemed as its fair share of governmental position although population changes are continuous as are political disagreements.

Another interesting fact is that any Lebanese may spend his/her lifetime within the confines of his/her sect without interacting with other sects, beginning with birth, death, inheritance and marriage registries, and ending with education, health and employment. Thus, religious sects in Lebanon are de facto quasi-independent ‘states’, that have their own leaders, political parties, schools, universities, hospitals, and even sport clubs!

Given this situation and bearing in mind the vestiges of the past, the Lebanese have two living obsessions: the first is the ‘unfairness’ lamented by the Muslims who believe they are the majority that is long prevented from enjoying what it deserved under the French Mandate (1920-1943); and the second is the ‘fear’ felt by the Christians towards the ‘sea of Muslims’ surrounding them. The latter, led at first to separating Mount Lebanon from its surrounding area in 1861 and giving it the status of an ‘autonomous district’, i.e. “Mutassarrifiyya”, under the joint rule of the Ottoman Government and the European Powers, in order to ensure the ‘protection’ of the Christians. Then in 1920, it led to the creation of the current Lebanon (Grand Liban) under a Christian president, and a 6 to 5 parliamentary representation in the Christians’ favour that lasted until the ‘Taif Agreement’ in 1989.

Now, after ending ‘the presidential vacuum’ and forming the new cabinet, all that remains is electing a new parliament to replace the current one. The latter ended its four year term in 2013, but due to ongoing disagreement the scheduled elections were cancelled and its term extended. Still, disagreements continue regarding under what electoral law the forthcoming elections should be conducted, noting that almost all political parties and blocs refuse to carry on under the current multiple seat constituency law, popularly known as ‘The 1960 Law’.

There are many alternatives being put forward by parties and blocs ranging from full ‘proportional representation’ as preferred by Hezbollah and followers – which is understandable given its virtual armed hegemony – to the ‘Greek Orthodox Law’ whereby each sect elects its own members of parliament, including different ‘mixed’ versions combining direct vote and PR.

One alternative, however, that seems to be intentionally and stubbornly dismissed is the one calling for a bi-cameral parliament comprising: A Senate or Upper House elected by each sect, whereby all religious sects are equally represented and enjoy a ‘veto’ on issues adversely affecting their interests; and a House of Deputies or Representative, elected with no sectarian quota, with Lebanon as a single constituency, thus encouraging proper issue-based political parties after ridding the country of the two obsessions, i.e. the Muslims with ‘unfairness’ and the Christians with ‘fear’!

Why the idea of a Senate looks like being rejected out of hand, is not really surprising, if one keeps in mind the Lebanese eternal gamble in external forces and changes of regional and international balance of power. This remains the case despite the fact that the Lebanese Constitution, as adopted in Taif, called clearly for ‘wide decentralization’ and a ‘senate’.

Indeed, it has become a habit of Lebanon’s factions to demand justice and fairness when they are the underdogs, but seek hegemony when they feel they are winning.

Given such a mentality, any authority devised to curtail the ambitions of the powerful and defended the rights of the weak, has no chance of being accepted; as every faction hopes one day to be powerful enough to monopolize the country, and obliterate the others. Even the one who may be weak today would rather hope for an opportune moment to gamble again, and settle old scores.

In short, this is ‘electoral democracy – Lebanese Style’!

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with the newspaper since 1978.

More Posts

Germany: After Berlin Murders Chancellor Merkel Political Career Is In Jeopardy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST/WORLD POST)

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

Europe was already reeling from major terror attacks in Brussels, Paris and Nice as well as Brexit and the defeat of the political establishment in the Italian referendum before this week. With anti-immigrant parties standing ambitiously in the wings waiting for events to further boost them into power, the worst thing that could have happened, the shoe waiting to drop, was a terror attack at Christmas time in Germany by an asylum-seeker linked to Islamist terror groups. It is just that which took place in Berlin this week.

That the inevitable has now occurred likely seals the political fate of Europe. Public opinion will surely turn decisively against the open-arms refugee policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel — the most prominent defender of the troubled European project of integration and the free movement of people. Merkel’s coalition partner (yet mainstream opponent) Horst Seehofer of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, has already laid down the challenge. “We owe it to the victims, to those affected and to the whole population to rethink our immigration and security policy and to change it.” As Nick Robins-Early reports, the Alternative for Germany party and other anti-immigrant groups are already capitalizing on the incident. One AfD leader called those killed “Merkel’s dead.”

Alex Görlach hopes that Merkel’s considerable political skills can save the day by adjusting the Europe-wide refugee policy in the wake of this week’s tragedy. That she is also the only European leader who can stand up to the next American president, Görlach notes, could be a political asset.

Yet, even if the chancellor survives, the damage has already been done. The European idea, which has been losing luster for years, looks to be the latest and most consequential casualty of a world in turmoil that stretches from the rubble of Aleppo to the World War II memorial ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, near where the Christmas market attack took place in Berlin.

Writing from Germany, Stefan Schmidt argues that his fellow citizens should resist calls to blame anyone but the perpetrator while continuing to embrace the values of an open, but inevitably vulnerable, society. In a similar vein,Sebastian Christ writes from Berlin that, “We can’t give in to those who want to force their hate-filled world view on us. … On top of everything, we must continue to hold on to freedom for ourselves. I will definitely continue going to Christmas markets in Berlin.”

Picking up on the theme in the back of everyone’s mind about Muslims at Christmas, Dean Obeidallah fondly remembers his Muslim father, born near Jesus’ birthplace of Bethlehem, hanging Christmas lights on their home in New Jersey as a child. He also surveys other American Muslims who partake in the holiday, including Aasif Mandvi.

Unfortunately, the attack in Germany wasn’t the only attack we saw this week. Another act that shocked the world took place in Ankara, where the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated. John Tures, who has studied the different motivations and effectiveness of “lone wolf” versus “wolf pack” terrorists linked to organized extremists, argues that preventing future attacks, whether of the kind in Berlin or Ankara, requires being able to distinguish between these two threats.

Details are still emerging about the attack in Ankara, but it appears to be an apparent act of revenge over the Kremlin’s key role in the brutal assault on Aleppo in recent weeks. As Alex Motyl writes, more such attacks can be expected due to Putin’s Syria policy. “Anti-Russian terrorism is the new normal,” he says. Turkish journalist Ilgin Yorulmaz ponders the timing of the assassination in Ankara, which came on the eve of a tripartite meeting of Russia, Turkey and Iran concerning Syria, and reports that some suspect a geopolitical aim. “A strong NATO member,” she writes, “Turkey may have found a new ally in Russia, and possibly even Iran, to become a game changer in the Middle East.”

This week also saw the last evacuations out of Aleppo. Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, whose organization has been working on the ground in the besieged city, offers a detailed account of the humanitarian catastrophe there, which he says is far from over after the forced relocations. “The world has failed the people of Aleppo time and time again,” he writes, “but it’s not too late to act now to help those seeking refuge somewhere else. The international community must do everything in its power to protect these most vulnerable of people. They continue to suffer while the world is standing idly by.”

Writing from Moscow before the Syrian regime claimed control over all of Aleppo,Vladimir Frolov proposes that the best course for the Kremlin now would be, “declaring victory in Aleppo, scaling down its military operations against the rebels, refocusing its air war on ISIS in a new collaborative effort with the U.S. and pressuring the Assad regime into a political settlement.”

Returning to the hot issue of Russian influence meddling in the affairs of democracies, Toomas Hendrik Ilves knows from whence he speaks. In 2007, the former president of Estonia experienced a Kremlin-led cyberattack on his government, banking and news media servers. He expects more such attacks in Europe as elections loom. “The conundrum that Europe will face in the coming year,” he writes from Tallinn, “is whether or not to use illiberal methods to safeguard the liberal state. … Because of cyberattacks and fake news, we can already imagine the problem all democratic societies will face in future elections: how to limit lies when they threaten democracy?”

In an exclusive interview, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski claims Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the effort to tip the recent American election scales in Trump’s favor. “Yes. Russian intelligence was involved, no question,” he says, “Yes. Putin plays that kind of direct role. Russian intelligence is not some independent agency. It is an agency of the state organized for specific political purposes. Putin absolutely controls the state apparatus. No doubts there.” He also warns that “stupid irritations” over Taiwan risk derailing America’s most important foreign policy relationship with Beijing. “A world in which America and China are cooperating,” Brzezinski underscores, “is a world in which American influence is maximized.”

One of the hottest issues in the U.S. presidential campaign was Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall with Mexico. Writing from Mexico City, Homero Aridjis and James Ramey offer a highly innovative proposal: Instead of Trump’s wall, they want to build a border of solar panels. “It would have a civilizing effect in a dangerous area,” they contend. “Since solar plants use security measures to keep intruders out, the solar border would serve as a de facto virtual fence, reducing porousness of the border while producing major economic, environmental and security benefits on both sides.” Such an installation, they continue, “would make trafficking drugs, arms and people all the more difficult for criminal cartels. In Mexico, the solar border would create a New Deal-like source of high-tech construction and technology jobs all along the border, which could absorb a significant number of would-be migrant workers on their way to cross into the U.S. illegally, at great physical risk.”

Rolling back globalization to stem joblessness and inequality was another prime issue in the recent presidential election campaign. Branko Milanovic takes up this challenge, arguing that reversing globalization would only reduce growth rates in both the advanced and emerging economies, to no one’s benefit. “A more promising avenue for dealing with inequality in rich countries for the 21st century,” he writes, “is to reduce inequality in human and financial capital endowments. This implies, first, reversing the currently extraordinary high concentration of capital assets by giving the middle classes fiscal and other incentives to invest and own assets and, second, equalizing access to high-quality education that is increasingly monopolized by the rich.” A special Highline investigative report we publish this week traces the corporations and criminals profiting handsomely from the refugee crisis.

France Increases Security At Christmas Markets After Berlin Truck Attack: 9 Murdered

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

France increases security at Christmas markets after Berlin truck incident

France will increase security at Christmas markets across the country after a truck plowed into people at a seasonal market in Berlin on Monday, killing at least nine people, the Interior Ministry said.

“Franco-German cooperation will continue with no respite so that democracies win the war against those who want to strike at our values and freedoms,” the ministry said in a statement.

“All security forces will keep to a maximum level of vigilance. Security at Christmas markets will be reinforced with immediate effect.”

(Reporting by John Irish, editing by G Crosse)