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Middle East Press ( 30 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Middle East Press on Attacking Muslims' Values, Nice Killings And Europe's Test With Macron: New Age Islam's Selection, 30 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

30 October 2020

• Nice: Not In Our Name

By Faisal J. Abbas

• Attacking Muslims' Values: Free Speech Or Hate Speech?

By Merve Şebnem Oruç

• Turkey Joins Chorus Of Condemnation Of Nice Murders

By Amberin Zaman

• Europe's Test With Macron

By Burhanettin Duran


Nice: Not in Our Name

By Faisal J. Abbas

October 29, 2020


Three people died in a knife attack at the Notre-Dame basilica in Nice. (AFP)


There are no words too harsh to condemn the horrific attack in the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, and the stabbing at the French consulate in Jeddah. Yes, mockery of the Prophet Muhammad, indeed of any religious symbol, is unacceptable. But so is violence against innocent people — and it certainly must not be carried out in our name as Muslims.

There is blood on the hands of those who claim to be defending Islam, but who in reality seek only political gain. Thanks to the malevolent tentacles of Turkey and Qatar, the latest campaign against France has gone beyond politics, and is now costing lives.

The misuse of religion to score points has always been a favored tactic of malign regimes. Iran is a master player; its so-called Quds Force should be renamed the “Anywhere BUT Al-Quds” force, since Iran seems more keen on occupying Arab capitals — Sanaa, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus — than liberating Jerusalem. When Saddam Hussein was cornered, the Iraqi dictator also pretended to turn to religion and added the words “Allahu Akbar” to the national flag (which was ironic, since the Ba’ath regime was known for its atheism).

Thus, spearheading the campaign to boycott France fits Recep Tayyip Erdogan like a glove. The Turkish president is on the rack as a result of his aggressive meddling in Libya, Armenia, Greece and Cyprus, leading to issues with Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the EU and the US. The grassroots campaign in several countries to boycott Turkish goods is therefore understandable, while the campaign to boycott French products is not. Neither President Emmanuel Macron nor anyone in his government is responsible for the ill-conceived caricatures that have caused so much offense, but Erdogan and his government are directly responsible for bloodshed in the countries where Turkey has interfered.

As an analysis in Arab News this week made clear, Turkey under Erdogan has gone from a policy of having zero problems with its neighbors to having nearly zero friends. Zero, that is, apart from Qatar — which financially supports Turkey, funds terrorism, and offers prime-time air space on Al Jazeera Arabic for the Doha-based extremist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to spew his murderous venom against Christians and Jews. “Oh God, take the treacherous Jewish aggressors … Oh God, count their numbers, slay them one by one and spare none,” he has said.

What is particularly idiotic about the current anti-French rhetoric propagated by Turkey and Qatar is that not only does it make every French citizen a target, it also puts French Muslims — and their businesses — at risk of personal and financial harm.

Those who use religion for political gain, who whip up hatred and incite revenge, would do well to learn a little about the faith they claim to profess. The Muslim Hadith on Mercy recounts that when the Prophet Muhammad tried to bring Islam to the people of Taif, they responded by hurling stones at him until he bled. The angel Gabriel and the “angel of the mountains” offered to make the mountains fall and crush those who had hurt him, but the prophet declined and chose instead to forgive.

Such forbearance is at the heart of Christianity, too. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explicitly rejected the notion of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” He told his followers: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 

We live in grave and perilous times. If ever these lessons in tolerance were needed, it is now.


Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News


Attacking Muslims' Values: Free Speech Or Hate Speech?

By Merve Şebnem Oruç

OCT 30, 2020



Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled the deployment of a series of hard-line measures to defend France’s secular values against what he termed as Islamic "radicalism.” Saying, “Islam is in crisis all over the world,” he prompted backlash from Muslims worldwide.

Two weeks later, a middle-school teacher named Samuel Paty in the town of Conflans Sainte-Honorine in France, was decapitated by an 18-year-old Chechen teenager, who was later shot dead by French security forces. The gruesome murder came after Paty had shown insulting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed in class. The portrayal of Prophet Muhammed is strictly barred for Muslims.

Defending the right to publish religious caricatures, Macron has chosen to show his teeth to French Muslims, the population of which is at least 5 million in the country, failing to strike a balance between the fight against terrorism and the collective punishment of Muslim citizens in his country, and invoked the ire of Muslims all around the world. The offensive cartoons were projected onto government buildings in France. He has been warned that an aggressive, indiscriminate approach would only play into the hands of radicals, but he ignores all the alarm bells.

While his hostile political rhetoric against Islam has increased polarization in France, two Muslim women wearing headscarves were repeatedly stabbed in a park under the Eiffel Tower. The attackers were shouting racist slurs such as “dirty Arabs," while sticking their knives in the victims’ bodies. The French police did not record the attack as a hate crime. Macron did not even talk about it. More than 1,000 Islamophobic incidents took place in France only in 2019, including 70 physical attacks; however, the French government continued to overlook these crimes.

Now it is like 2015 again. We find ourselves again in a hot debate on the fight against terrorism, the rise of fear and hatred, Islamophobia, xenophobia and the definition of freedom of expression. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quick to criticize Macron’s way of handling the issue, but the French government could not tolerate being contradicted and recalled the ambassador to Turkey over Erdoğan’s comments.

Meanwhile, Macron’s anti-Islam remarks have led to calls for boycotting French brands among Muslims. But, ironically, France urged Middle Eastern states to stop these boycotts. The Foreign Ministry of France said in a statement, “These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority.” France could not even stand being protested.

This week, I came across a video of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech to the Bundestag, German’s national parliament, during a budget debate in 2019. In an emotional speech, Merkel talked of free speech in a way that should be heard by all European leaders. She said, “We have freedom of expression in our country. For all those who claim they can no longer express their opinion, I say this to them: If you express a pronounced opinion, you must live with the fact that you will be contradicted. Expressing an opinion does not come at zero cost. But freedom of expression has its limits. Those limits begin when hatred is spread. They begin when the dignity of other people is violated. This house will and must oppose extreme speech. Otherwise, our society will no longer be the free society that it was.”

If only the French president listened to these words, I said to myself. A commitment to free speech, is, of course, a fundamental principle of all democracies. However, almost all Western countries have laws limiting certain kinds of speech, especially hate speech or extreme speech, except in the U.S. In the U.S., even the most extreme expressions of racist ideology are protected by the Supreme Court. However, the Americans also contradict themselves as the content of freedom of religious speech has frequently been criminalized under the cover of anti-terrorism, revealing the double standards of the leading country of the free world.

On the other hand, European countries restrict racism and some other types of extreme speech. In France, for instance, one can be sentenced to prison for denying the Holocaust. Furthermore, homophobic hate speech is increasingly prohibited, and even anti-abortion speech is frequently ruled out. But, oddly enough, anti-Islam speech has become almost the core of free speech in Europe. Although Western democracies advocate that minorities have to be protected from extreme speech, it is not only far-right groups that set the tone of extreme or hate speech toward Muslims. Anti-Muslim racism, hatred and discrimination toward Muslims in Europe have been increasing among the leftist and centrist circles, which justifies their tendency with the claim of protecting Western values and defending secularism. In that way, they think that they won’t leave their fingerprints and they can hide their Islamophobic bias.

Blasphemy was abolished in many European countries, where their ancestors suffered from the harsh punishments of the majesty of the church for ages. It is understandable why they don’t like the word itself. Still, it has to be seen that Prophet Muhammed is not only sacred but very precious to all Muslims. Many Muslims embrace secularism unlike the extremists, and yet the prophet is valuable to them. They are just asking for their values to be tolerated just like they are expected to tolerate Western values.

Insulting Muslims, offending their religious feelings and vilifying Islam is not just words; they also trigger emotions of extreme dislike, detestation, abhorrence and hatred, which eventually lead to hate crimes. As Merkel said, “freedom of expression has its limits. Those limits begin where hatred is spread.” If only European leaders listened to themselves...


Turkey Joins Chorus Of Condemnation Of Nice Murders

By Amberin Zaman

Oct 29, 2020

Turkey swiftly joined the wave of condemnations over the brutal murders of three people by a suspected Islamist extremist in France’s coastal city of Nice today, in the midst of an escalating row between Ankara and Paris over a broad range of issues spanning the Eastern Mediterranean and the role of Islam.

The assailant is said to have charged at the victims with a knife in the Notre-Dame Basilica in the heart of city on the French Riviera, shouting "Allahu Akhbar." Two of the victims were female, one a 70-year old who was “virtually beheaded” as she was praying, the BBC reported. The suspect, who has not yet been identified, was shot and detained soon after.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who traveled to the scene of the carnage in Nice, called it an “Islamist terrorist attack.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “It is clear that those who commit such a violent act in a holy place have no respect for any humanitarian, religious or moral values.”

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said, “Terror has no religion, language or color. We will fight with determination and solidarity against all forms of terrorism and extremism.”

Two other attacks took place Thursday, one near the French city of Avignon in which the perpetrator was shot dead and another outside the French Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in which a security guard was wounded. 

Turkey’s rapid response to the killings, which French authorities are treating as a case of terrorism, stood in stark contrast to its equivocation over the Oct. 16 murder of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty. Paty was beheaded by an 18-year old ethnic Chechen man after showing his pupils controversial cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammed published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Turkish prosecutors launched a legal probe into the magazine Wednesday after it published a provocative cover deriding Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying the depiction constituted libel and did not fall under free speech.

The famously thin-skinned Erdogan has been raging against the West in recent weeks over the treatment of Muslims in Europe, likening it to the horrors inflicted upon the Jews by the Nazis. Western countries mocking Islam, he said Wednesday, wanted to “relaunch the Crusades.”

But the bulk of his invective has been reserved for Macron. Erdogan said his French counterpart was in need of a “mental exam” because of his views on Islam, prompting the Quai D’Orsay to recall its ambassador to Paris for consultations.

Macron drew the ire of Muslims worldwide in an Oct. 2 speech in which he called Islam a “religion in crisis.” Turkey has led the chorus of protest and calls to boycott French goods.

But the Nice attack may have caught Ankara off balance. There is a growing tendency within Europe in particular to associate Turkey, long hailed as a Muslim country that was uniquely Western-leaning and determinedly secular, with Islamic fanaticism. Some have gone as far as to accuse Turkey of inciting the Nice attacks by calling on European Muslims to resist “Islamo-fascism.”

Nicholas Danforth, a Yale-trained historian and specialist on Turkey, suggested that Turkey may be getting a taste of its own medicine. “If the Turkish government thinks it’s unfair that they are getting blamed for this attack just because they expressed some of the same views as the attacker, they might consider why their country’s terrorism laws allow people to be jailed on the same unfair logic,” said Danforth. He was alluding to the thousands of people, many of them Kurds, jailed for airing views that would in most democracies be treated as free speech but are deemed threatening to Turkey’s national security.

Turkey’s image as a mentor of Islamic fanatics was spawned in the early days of the Syrian conflict, when it looked the other way as thousands of foreign fighters poured across its borders to join the Islamic state and other extremist groups. Erdogan’s increasingly overt embrace of political Islam, such as the conversion of the world-famous Hagia Sophia to a full-service mosque in July, has delighted Muslim conservatives the world over but is steadily eroding Turkey’s secular identity.

The first Islamic  prayers were due to be held Friday in the former monastery of Christ the Saviour in Chora, another Byzantine era church in Istanbul that was formally converted to a mosque from a museum this year. The Kariye, as its known in Turkish, houses some of the most exquisite frescoes of its time many of which have now been obscured by a white panel. In a surprise announcement, however, the Religious Affairs Directorate announced today that the inauguration had been postponed until further notice because work on the conversion was still underway. There is speculation that the delay was likely connected to the Nice attacks or the COVID-19 pandemic rather than any change of heart over its status.

It hasn’t helped that Turkish migrants have recently been targeting Armenians inside France as tensions between the two communities rise over Turkey’s military support for Azerbaijan’s ongoing campaign to wrest back the Armenian-majority enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Footage this week from the city of Lyon showing a group of men said to be Turks running amok in the streets shouting “Allahu Akbar,” “Where are the Armenians” and “Where are you, sons of bitches” has widely circulated on social media, as reported by the local online publication Lyon.mag.

“The perception of Turkey in France is extremely negative,” said Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Ankara and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe. “Because every time Turkey pops up, it’s about Turkey creating a new problem,” he told Al-Monitor in an interview this week. “Even the Muslims of France are growing tired of Erdogan.”


Europe's Test With Macron

By Burhanettin Duran

OCT 30, 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron is in a dangerous tailspin. His government not only turned a blind eye to offensive depictions of Prophet Muhammad, an insult against Muslims’ sacred values but projected them on public buildings in the name of free speech.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was understandably enraged by Macron’s Islamophobic attitude and attacks on Islam’s prophet. Objecting to the French president’s alienation of his country’s Muslim community, he questioned Macron’s mental health.

Erdoğan also warned European leaders against the looming danger: “Europe’s prudent, moral and conscientious leaders must tear down the walls of fear and start talking about Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment. Without further delay, European politicians must stop the hate campaign led by Macron.”

The current war of words is part of a broader confrontation between Erdoğan and Macron. After Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, the question of Islam fueled tensions between the two leaders.

The French president, who knows that Turkey’s leader is opposed to some Arab rulers would respond vocally to an attack on Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, engages in an act of provocation. Instead of combatting systemic Islamophobia, he promotes French secularism and attempts to impose a so-called reform agenda on Islam.

Macron intends to pass new laws to further repress the Muslim way of life. His government prepares to take fresh steps regarding the Islamic headscarf, the training of imams and Arabic-language schools.

This is not just a drift away from French secularism. The new policy also threatens to turn France’s Muslim community into a “parallel society” and to empower advocates of violence. The French media, too, endorsed Macron’s Islamophobic agenda and leftist groups defending Muslims’ rights, not just terrorists, are regularly targeted by media networks.

In the name of combatting Islamic "separatism,” Macron is creating an imaginary monster to be exploited on the campaign trail. Confident in the popularity of anti-Erdoğanism in France and the rest of Europe, he seeks to equate Islam with Turkey and its president.

There is no doubt that Macron would like to make up excuses in order to get European leaders to sanction Turkey in December. The French president desperately seeks to avenge his losses to Turkey’s leader in North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria and the Caucasus.

What is difficult to understand, however, is that the French president seems to disregard the risks of insulting the sacred values of some 2 billion Muslims and imposing his "reform" agenda on them. Why does Macron downplay the problems that his country stands to experience as a result of alienating 30 million European Muslims – including over 5 million Muslims in France?

Judging by the initial reactions, Europe won’t heed Erdoğan’s warning against “a lynching campaign against Muslims akin to what the Jewry had to endure before World War II.” Marine Le Pen, who chairs the far-right National Rally (RN), has already asked for a blanket ban on the Islamic headscarf in public places.

Let’s not downplay the impact on far-right movements in European politics either as centrist parties are increasingly vulnerable to racism and Islamophobia.

In Austria, Sebastian Kurz, who dismissed a proposed ban on the Islamic headscarf as populism in 2010, has since become a poster boy for that campaign and should serve as a warning against the future course of European politics.

It seems that this new generation of politicians did not serve Europe well. Racism and Islamophobia are on the rise, as Austria and Germany join France in attempting to “domesticate” Islam. In the name of integration, European governments put in place mechanisms to forcibly transform, control and discipline the Islamic faith and Muslims.

For the record, efforts to create a French, German or Austrian Islam through state policy could only backfire and would not only result in the arbitrary limitation of the Muslim community’s religious freedoms but also make Europe surrender to a wave of authoritarianism. It doesn’t matter whether one draws parallels between the current developments and Europe in the 1930s or the Middle Ages. It is a recipe for disaster.

Macron, whose stated purpose is to build an Islamic Enlightenment, sends Europe down a dangerous path. Endorsements from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates (UAE) won’t change the fact that Prophet Muhammad is being insulted or cover up Macron’s arrogant project of “Islamic engineering.” Nor will they silence Erdoğan’s righteous protest.

Let us not forget that the Turkish president has warned Europe against a danger that Macron seems desperate to create.



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