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World Press On Love Jihad Conspiracy, Indian Muslims And Faulty Definition Of Antisemitism: New Age Islam's Selection, 3 December 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Desk

3 December 2020

• The Hateful Love ‘Jihad’ Conspiracy In India Is Going Mainstream

By Rana Ayyub

• Indian Muslims Want A Secular India – Here’s Why

By Nitin Saxena

• The Government Should Not Impose A Faulty Definition Of Antisemitism On Universities

By David Feldman

• A Turkish-German Couple May Save Us From The Virus. So Why Is Germany Uneasy?

By Anna Sauerbrey

• Let’s Call U.S. Religious Freedom What It Is: Privileging Of Superstition

By Rick Snedeker

• A Responsible Withdrawal From Afghanistan

New York Times Editorial Board

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The Hateful Love ‘Jihad’ Conspiracy In India Is Going Mainstream

By Rana Ayyub

November 29, 2020

 

 

In the year preceding the national elections in India in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi rose to power, India witnessed a brutal episode of communal carnage in the state of Uttar Pradesh. More than 60 people were killed, women were gang-raped, and more than 50,000 people were displaced, a majority of them Muslims. The violence was triggered by false rumors of a “love jihad” — what Hindu nationalists say is an alleged plot by Muslim youths to woo and convert Hindu girls — and of Muslims consuming beef. These events, rather than hurting Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, were followed by his massive electoral victory.

That explains why India is now trying to institutionalize this kind of bigotry, violence and resentment.

On Nov. 24, Uttar Pradesh approved a “love jihad” order criminalizing religious conversions by marriage with jail terms of up to 10 years. The order would also nullify unions in which a woman changes her religion to marry. The state’s chief minister is the radical Hindu monk Yogi Adityanath. Last month, at a rally, he lashed out against “love jihad” and said men who “conceal their names and play with the honor of daughters and sisters” should prepare for death. Another BJP-ruled state, Madhya Pradesh, has included a five-year jail term for priests who sanction interfaith marriages between couples.

In recent weeks and days, the Indian right has been waging a campaign against any depictions of interfaith relations, including attacking Netflix for showing a kissing scene between a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl. These attacks keep feeding the dangerous “love jihad” conspiracy theory, the proponents of which seek to ultimately constrain and restrict the freedom of Hindu women and further demonize Muslims in India.

Videos of Hindu vigilantes beating up Muslim boys for allegedly falling in love with Hindu girls once generated universal condemnation. Now these attacks are gaining legitimacy.

In a country whose guiding principle was love and respect for a plurality of views, faiths and cultures, the ruling party’s attacks on interfaith love to consolidate the support of Hindu nationalists are part of Modi’s broader assault on our once-vibrant democracy. We live in a country where a famous Muslim actor such as Saif Ali Khan has to make a statement with obvious but necessary proclamations such as, “We come with our mix. To deny this is to cheat us of our inheritance. ... Intermarriage is not jihad. Intermarriage is India.”

The syncretic inheritance that Khan talks about has become an eyesore for Hindu nationalists who like to stoke fears of Muslim dominance over Hindus. But their attacks are not just against Islam.

A high-level functionary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological fountainhead of Modi’s party, told me that Christian evangelists like Mother Teresa and Graham Staines, who helped lower-caste people in India with their charity organizations, were actually part of a campaign to spread Christianity in India under the guise of helping its poor. Staines and his two young children were burned alive in 1999 by a group of Hindu nationalists in the state of Orissa for allegedly spreading their faith among gullible, unsuspecting natives.

This hatred is now taking new shape on social media, television and family WhatsApp groups. Recently, after a wave of online hate, an ad by the jewelry brand Tanishq had to be withdrawn for showing a Muslim family celebrating Hindu customs and traditions to make a pregnant Hindu daughter-in-law feel loved. India under Modi is regressing dangerously to an era when women were deprived of their agency and their right to fall in love with someone of their choice. It is regressing to a country where values promoting communal amity are seen as a stumbling block on the road to establishing a Hindu nation.

This fundamental objection to love stems from a regime that has used hate as its guiding force to stay in power. It is in the interest of the world’s largest democracy that we love each other. We must reclaim our glorious nation from fundamentalists who are polluting India with this air of toxicity that has overwhelmed the country.

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Rana Ayyub is an Indian journalist and author of “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/11/28/hateful-love-jihad-conspiracy-india-is-going-mainstream/

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Indian Muslims Want A Secular India – Here’s Why

By Nitin Saxena

01 December 2020


TTT-New Delhi:  It is time that Islam be ‘re-understood’ and its philosophical delicacies be brought under the spotlight according to Indian Muslims.

Though this modern crusade started two decades ago in the Western world with intellectuals penning books on the subject, their work has largely been limited to the upper echelons of educated society and researchers in India, until now.

In India of late, the book ‘The Scientific Muslim’ is a best seller and is already creating murmurs among the people, particularly among Indian Muslims, by suggesting to them a new way in understanding the Quran.

Written by former Vice Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Dr. Parvaiz Aslam, the book marks the mature assimilation of the interpretative perspectives of imaging a Muslim.

‘The Scientific Muslim’ is a lucid narrative correcting the outlandish beliefs of staunch religious preachers, who, in their bankruptcy of righteous observations and truthful understanding of God’s communicative signs, have stood silently witnessing the communal trenches dug all around, making societal harmony a pit for inter-faith ‘animosity’ among mankind.

The time is ripe to spread worldwide the accurate meaning of the Quran which highlights nature’s friendliness to man.

The word ‘Muslim’ has to be ripped apart from the mistaken image that appears in the minds of people of other faiths, says author Dr. Mohammed Aslam Parvaiz, who in the first few pages of his book clarifies that ‘anything and everything, including human beings, who follow divine laws and orders set for, and sent to them, is a Muslim.

The book stresses the pursuit of divine guidance that itself can purge people and society which is applicable to all religions. On the other hand it gives a logical insight into Muslims’ ‘backwardness‘ in India. 

One former broadcast journalist from New Zealand, now working as an academic in India, Albeena Abaas, is a crusader of secularism and against the fanaticism of any religion.

Talking to The Taiwan Times, she said that it was very unfortunate that only 10-15 percent of the young Muslims falling between the ages of 18 and 25 knew what the Quran is all about.

This may go for other religions as well with regards to their respective holy books.

Albeena pointed out that the use of the bindi (the red dot on the forehead above the eye-brows) or wearing colours other than white is not ‘desired’ by brides according to religion, but it happens anyway.

“Many Muslim brides wear red bridal attire. In New Zealand, sarees (a five metre cloth draped around the body by Hindu women) were worn by a large percentage of the Muslim female population.  Apt time to forestall association of dresses with religion,” she said.

Renowned Indian journalist Seema Mustafa, on the other hand, in her memoir ‘Azadi’s (freedom’s) Daughter’ laments on the erosion of a tolerant ethos that has been replaced by demonic inter-religion animosity. 

Lensman Mohammed Jaan expressed grief over the rift which, he said, was the handiwork of empty minds nestling in a wrongly-founded belief which sparked riotous conditions in India between Hindus and Muslims.

“The sufferers are generally the people who don’t advocate this sort of divide,” he added.

Author of several books, Ashwin Sanghi, states in his article in a newspaper, Swarajya, that the current Muslim leadership is identified with the firebrand oratory of political leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi (a political leader in India known for his fiery speeches against the government) and Tablighis (a group of people following an Islamic missionary movement).

Echoing somewhat similar sentiments, a tailor, Wasi Ahmed, said that people don’t talk about the great Muslim monuments in India which have been revenue spinners. “Why pick up only the bad points among my community,” he said.

Another book, Why I am not a Muslim, written by Ibn Waaraq claims that ‘every Muslim will have to face the challenge of the scientific developments of the last hundred and fifty years.’

Waaraq, quoting L’Islam en Questions (Grasset, 1986) makes it clear that ‘majority of Arab intellectuals fervently advocate a secular state’.

And today, around the nation, Indian Muslims can vouch for a secular India which, they say, it has long been.

But as the  black sheep in the faith community, things have turned sour.

https://thetaiwantimes.com/indian-muslims-want-a-secular-india-heres-why/7638

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The Government Should Not Impose A Faulty Definition Of Antisemitism On Universities

By David Feldman

2 Dec 2020

We all know how the path to hell is paved. But it is a warning worth repeating for Gavin Williamson. The secretary of state for education intends to rid universities in England of antisemitism, but his intervention not only threatens to provoke strife and confusion – it also places academic freedom and free speech on campus at risk.

In October, Williamson wrote to all university vice-chancellors “requesting” they adopt a particular definition of antisemitism: the “working definition” promulgated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Williamson is not the first minister to write to universities on this matter, but he has been more forceful than his predecessors. His letter demands action by Christmas, and threatens swingeing measures against refusenik institutions that later suffer antisemitic incidents. He threatens to remove funding and the power to award degrees from universities that do not share his faith in the efficacy of the IHRA working definition.

This is misguided, for a number of reasons. First, it misconceives the task universities face. As shown in a report released last week by Universities UK – Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education – structural racism in universities is profound, and racial harassment on campus is widespread. These are problems that universities must address. The imposed adoption of the IHRA working definition will not meet this challenge. It will, however, privilege one group over others by giving them additional protections, and in doing so will divide minorities against each other. For this reason alone, Williamson should pause and consider how best to protect students and university staff from racism broadly as well as from antisemitism.

Williamson’s strategically ill-considered letter to vice-chancellors is based on two mistaken assumptions about the fight against antisemitism. First, it asserts the IHRA working definition provides a “straightforward” way for universities to show that they do not tolerate antisemitism. Second, it claims that universities that fail to adopt the definition reveal they are willing to tolerate antisemitism. Neither of these claims is true. The IHRA working definition is anything but straightforward, and universities already have some tools to deal with antisemitism.

Universities operate under the Equality Act; they also have internal policies and procedures designed to address discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The damning verdict of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s recent report on the Labour party provided a clear demonstration that the universalist principles gathered in the Equality Act can be used to hold powerful institutions to account. But instead of demanding that universities review and improve their toolkit to address racism in all its dimensions, the secretary of state insists they use a niche widget for antisemitism alone: one that even its friends concede is not a precision instrument.

It is a puzzling choice, but one that becomes comprehensible once we see that the IHRA working definition acquired symbolic importance in the struggle over antisemitism in the Labour party. Labour’s initial rejection of the definition has led many to regard the working definition as a symbol – a litmus test of whether or not an individual or an organisation really opposes antisemitism or just plays lip service to the goal. Symbols are important, but they are no substitute for carefully constructed measures to combat antisemitism and other racisms.

In fact, the IHRA working definition “was never intended to be a campus hate-speech code”, as one of its original authors has explained. It was drafted as a tool for data collectors, although it has rarely been used in this way. But it is one thing for monitoring agencies to adopt the working definition as a rule of thumb; imposing it on universities, which have a duty under law to uphold academic freedom and free speech within the law, is something altogether different.

The working definition chiefly consists of a woolly core statement – “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred of Jews” – and a list of examples that “could, taking into account the overall context”, be instances of antisemitism. The examples cover a range of topics, but six of the 11 deal with discourse on Israel. And it is the emphasis on Israel that is the focus of criticism from the definition’s critics and enthusiasm from its advocates.

The pros and cons of the working definition have been debated on many occasions. For some it provides helpful guidelines; for others it inhibits legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies and practices. But in the light of the secretary of state’s letter, the key point is that it is impossible to know which of these interpretations is correct. And in this context, uncertainty brings danger.

According to the working definition, one example of behaviour that “could” be antisemitic is “applying double standards” to Israel. Some prominent advocacy organisations and political figures accuse those who support a boycott against Israel of doing just this. This is consequential for universities because a portion of students and staff support the boycott movement. So, taking this as a case in point, are boycotts of Israel inherently antisemitic, according to the IHRA working definition?

Unfortunately, the working definition itself doesn’t provide us with a definite answer – and if we turn to the leading public bodies for guidance we find confusing and contradictory advice. The Antisemitism Policy Trust is one such organisation. Esteemed internationally and in the UK, among other functions it provides a special adviser to John Mann, the government’s antisemitism tsar. Earlier this year the trust issued a policy briefing in which it declared, “boycotts are not covered by IHRA”. Some will have been reassured by this, others alarmed.

But in its guide to the IHRA working definition, also published in 2020, the trust leans heavily in the opposite direction. Here, in cloudy prose, it suggests that either boycotts against Israel are antisemitic unless they also condemn all other states that commit similar misdeeds, or that boycott movements are under an obligation to “prove” they are not antisemitic – or both.

If the Antisemitism Policy Trust is in a muddle over the IHRA working definition, how can anyone else be certain what it means? Universities, like everyone else, are sorely in need of good and clear guidance on when speech on Israel or Zionism becomes antisemitic. Sadly, this is not what the working definition provides. In these circumstances, its imposition by the secretary of state appears reckless and brings real dangers.

The working definition’s indeterminacy will provide a standing invitation to individuals and organisations to bring allegations of antisemitism against students and lecturers. Not least because some individuals and advocacy groups genuinely and passionately believe that the movement to boycott Israel is inherently antisemitic.

In the absence of further aggravating factors, the individuals who are the subject of these complaints may not run afoul of university policies and procedures. But the chilling impact on students, on academic and professional staff and on institutions dedicated to debate and robust discussion, will be corrosive and long lasting.

Antisemitism does arise in Britain’s universities. On occasion driven by ideology, this largely reflects a reservoir of images and narratives accumulated over centuries and deeply embedded in our culture. Antisemitism on campus comprises one part of a mosaic of harms and harassment suffered by racial and religious minorities. Jewish students and staff deserve protection, but imposing the working definition will add nothing useful to secure it. The secretary of state’s intervention divides Jews from other minorities. In doing so, he helps neither but instead risks splitting the struggle against antisemitism from the liberal values that have provided its most secure home. Let us hope he will think again.

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David Feldman is director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/02/the-government-should-not-impose-a-faulty-definition-of-antisemitism-on-universities

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Let’s Call U.S. Religious Freedom What It Is: Privileging Of Superstition

By Rick Snedeker

NOVEMBER 28, 2020

The need is becoming increasingly evident, especially considering a new U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision that specifically allows churches to ignore government public-health edicts during the Covid-19 pandemic — along with other recent SCOTUS rulings privileging religion over public secular imperatives.

Here’s the First Amendment’s full text (the relevant passage is boldfaced):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The meaning of “religious freedom” in America during the happily-now-ending Trump presidency has become the freedom not for all citizens to privately believe and express whatever spiritual imaginings they choose without government interference but for religion to operate above the law that others must generally follow. And to require others to accept that discrimination.

Because? Well, because the implication by the high court majority is that religion is so overarchingly special it requires extra-special protection even over other possibly more fundamental American and human rights, like equal protection.

I must again point out that this means superstition — that’s what religion in essence is, after all — is at the highest government levels granted official primacy over reason.

Yes, religious freedom is, as they say, “enshrined” in the U.S. Constitution, but also for a time was the “Three-fifths Compromise,” for instance, a deal reached among delegates to the 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention in which it was agreed that three out of every five slaves would be counted as people. This gave slave states “a third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored, but fewer than if slaves and free people had been counted equally,” according to The Writings of James Madison, page 143.

After all, the niggling problem was that — as most Americans at the time (at least subliminally) agreed — the phrase “All men are created equal” meant all white men (pointedly not black men or women).

This dubious and ignoble compromise wasn’t repealed until 1868, after the Civil War, when it was superceded by the Fourteenth Amendment.

So, it is clear that however “enshrined” things are in the Constitution, they are not sacred in a mystical sense or even sacrosanct, or untouchable, in practice. As the ejection of the Three-fifths Compromise language illustrates, America’s founding document is a living, breathing, evolving blueprint for the nation’s governance and civic life. It’s not an inert, absolutist document, as fundamentalist Christians view the Bible (which isn’t “sacred” either, let’s be honest).

Lest it be doomed to become as dead as Latin, the Constitution must adapt meaningfully and significantly (if carefully, thoughtfully and responsibly) as American society is certain to transform in fundamental ways over time.

Which brings me back to the Supreme Court’s arguably discriminatory new rulings spurred by its recently increased conservative — and religiously conservative — majority via very questionable GOP presidential and congressional court-packing tactics. All current justices are devout Catholics, effectively Catholic (Neil Gorsuch) or fervent Jews.

“The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority late [on Nov. 25] sided with religious organizations in New York that said they were illegally targeted by pandemic-related restrictions imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat spiking coronavirus cases,” the Washington Post reported.

The majority in the 5-4 decision asserted that the quasi sacred edicts of the Constitution (as a proxy for God, apparently) must override those of common sense and public health.

“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” the unsigned opinion stated in granting a stay of the state’s pandemic orders. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

In effect, the august majority justices are saying that the right of Americans to worship their gods is more fundamentally important than the right of their governments to issue rational rules to help keep everyone — believers and nonbelievers — safe from natural catastrophes, like pandemics.

Again, this gives our worst superstitious impulses primacy over the better angels of real-world actualities (i.e., science).

SCOTUS Justice conservative Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. is in alignment on this issue with his fellow court conservatives, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation to the court was recently rushed by the GOP-led Senate to precede the Nov. 3 election.

Speaking earlier this month to the conservative Federalist Society, which hand-picked a slate of uber-conservative potential SCOTUS and federal court nominees for the president, Justice Alito expressed his worry and resentment that respect for faith appears to be eroding in American society. He lamented that the pandemic “has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty,” such as local-government edicts sharply limiting worship crowd size and requiring face masks.

“This is especially evident with respect to religious liberty. It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right,” Alito added.

Reasonably, religious rights ought to be “disfavored” in relation to rights associated with real-world imperatives, like highly infectious and lethal viral pandemics (e.g., the coronavirus). Religion is favored only because its ostensible importance is vastly overexaggerated in majority-Christian America.

Justice Gorsuch, a new arch-conservative on the court, is of the same mind but even more aggressive about it than Alito. He archly disagrees with Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote in a similar earlier case in California that the court should be very wary of “second-guessing” public health officials and overruling their pandemic rules based on expert knowledge that justices do not have.

Gorsuch wrote in the newest case that lower courts should not follow Roberts’ cautious counsel in cases regarding pandemic-related restrictions:

“Courts must resume applying the Free Exercise Clause. Today, a majority of the Court makes this plain.”

He added that the new ruling should dispel “misconceptions about the role of the Constitution in times of crisis, which have already been permitted to persist for too long.”

In other words, he’s saying God should be viewed as supreme, in crisis or in calm.

Gorsuch and Alito are not talking about the religious freedom to believe what you want and express those beliefs; they’re saying that everyone else should adjust to — and accept the attendant risk from — the beliefs of faithful people whose religious rituals are inconvenienced by the pandemic and who refuse to temporarily suspend them even under law, even if it would save lives.

Ironically, the New York’s tough pandemic restrictions were implemented in neighborhoods, predominantly traditional Jewish and Catholic, that had so flagrantly held mass worship services that new Covid-19 cases in their areas shot through the roof.

Oh, absolutely, let them continue doing what they’re doing.

I’m sure the Founding Fathers would agree that protecting faith is so important that it would reasonably sometimes require sacrificing thousands of innocent American pandemic victims at the altar of religious freedom.

Mostly, the Founders were worried religion would try to corrupt government, which is exactly what SCOTUS conservatives are doing — they are insisting faith is the supreme value in our republic and that the rest of us must accept that.

Because, you know, religious freedom is mentioned in an official document.

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/godzooks/2020/11/religious-bigotry-superstition-freedom-government-supreme-court-atheism/?utm

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A Turkish-German Couple May Save Us From the Virus. So Why Is Germany Uneasy?

By Anna Sauerbrey

Dec. 2, 2020

When the German company BioNTech and Pfizer announced last month that they had very promising results for a vaccine against the coronavirus, my Twitter feed went wild.

Alongside the flood of congratulations and expressions of joy, there was cause for special jubilation: Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci, the couple who founded and run BioNTech, are Germans of Turkish descent. Their story promised to challenge the resentment against immigrants that over the past decade has become pervasive in German public life. If anything could unseat anti-migrant sentiment, surely a Turkish-German couple saving the world from a deadly virus would do it.

But nothing is so simple. In heralding the pair as an exceptional “migrant success story,” many unwittingly repeated the central tenets of anti-migrant thinking — that migrants are fundamentally apart from the rest of German society, that a special few may earn their place but the rest should be rejected. The dissonance was jarring, but perhaps not surprising. When it comes to immigration, Germany is uneasy even with its most spectacular successes.

Even so, the invention of a vaccine by a couple with Turkish names seemed to come at the right time. Ten years ago, in a book titled “Germany Abolishes Itself,” a formerly high-ranking Social Democrat, Thilo Sarrazin, claimed that the educational gap between immigrants from Muslim-majority countries and Germans was rooted in genetic differences (“intellectual deficits,” he called them). Immigration, Mr. Sarrazin warned, was threatening Germany’s economy by decreasing overall education standards. The book became a best seller and still sits on many middle-class bookshelves.

Alternative for Germany, the far-right party formed in 2013 that has exploited and intensified anti-migrant feeling, picked up on the narrative, stigmatizing immigrants as a dangerous drain on the nation’s resources. The party never stops pounding the drum. In 2018, for example, Alice Weidel, a co-leader of the party, called immigrants “Kopftuchmädchen” and “Messermänner” — head scarf girls and knife men — from the floor of Parliament. Political debate, in no small measure because of the party’s success, often focuses on the problems supposedly linked to immigration: religious zealotry, crime, poverty.

Against this backdrop, Mr. Sahin’s and Ms. Türeci’s success felt like a welcome opportunity to celebrate the benefits of immigration, to recognize how migrants enrich and deepen our society. Their stories — Mr. Sahin, the son of a Turkish laborer, came to Germany as a child while Ms. Türeci, the daughter of a Turkish doctor who moved from Istanbul, was born in Germany — brought to light the often hidden history of postwar immigration to Germany.

Starting in the 1950s, to fuel its postwar industrial boom, Germany recruited laborers mostly from Italy and Turkey. Called “Gastarbeiter” — “guest workers” — they were not meant to stay. But many did, and today their children and grandchildren are an integral part of the country’s society. Yet they are often overlooked. Championing in particular the success of Dr. Sahin, the son of a Ford factory worker, felt like a necessary corrective to such condescension.

But singling out works both ways: It can offer much-needed recognition, but it can also make immigrant success look like an exception and mark migrants out as “not one of us,” as a colleague of mine pointed out. When I called a few Germans of Turkish descent, many expressed a similar ambivalence.

“Finally, here was something we have missed for a long time: appreciation,” Hatice Akyün, a friend and a columnist for the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel (where I work), told me. As a fellow child of “guest workers,” she felt a connection to the couple — “a biographical pride, if you will.” But she was also uncomfortable with the focus on their biographies. “I’ve played the role of a poster child for successful integration myself for a long time,” she said. “But it can be tiring and frustrating to be seen through that lens all the time.”

Naika Foroutan, a professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, seemed to share this feeling. “I think it is right and important and gratifying that their descent is stressed,” she wrote in an email. But she, too, has had enough of the focus on role models. “This type of framing reproduces the idea of exceptionality — that it’s always an exception when migrants rise in society and achieve something big,” she wrote.

Not only does that overlook the essential role migrants play in society generally; it’s also far from the truth: Studies show that migrants tend across time to move up the social strata. But migrants remain underrepresented in the top echelons of society and their opportunities for advancement, generally, are limited.

For Cem Özdemir, a member of the Green Party who in 1994 was the first child of a Turkish “guest worker” to be elected to Germany’s Parliament, that’s what makes it important to highlight stories like those of Dr. Sahin and Dr. Türeci. “In Germany, where you come from still plays a major role in determining where you’re going to go,” Mr. Özdemir told me. So it’s especially important to elevate inspiring examples, as an encouragement for those navigating the difficulties of German society. “I know from my own experiences that with a Turkish name,” he said, “you will always have to do better, be watched closer.”

It’s a sad truth. More than a half century after the parents of Mr. Özdemir, Ms. Akyün and Dr. Sahin came to Germany, the country is ill at ease with its immigration history — and far from providing everybody with the same chances. That’s why, for now, Dr. Sahin and Dr. Türeci’s story is essential. It shows that Germany’s successes are inseparable from the migrants who — in 1960 or 2020 — come to call the country home.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/02/opinion/biontech-vaccine-germany-immigration.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

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A Responsible Withdrawal From Afghanistan

New York Times Editorial Board

Nov. 30, 2020

For years, the stalemate in Afghanistan has left American officials torn between two bad options: Prop up a corrupt, hopelessly divided Afghan government indefinitely or admit defeat and go home, leaving the country to its fate. At 19 years and counting, the U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan is already the longest war in American history. A consensus has been forming that it is time for U.S. troops to come home. But the speed of the withdrawal and whether any residual force will be left behind to carry out counterterrorism operations remain open questions.

The Trump administration has taken laudable steps toward a U.S. exit. In February, it struck a deal with the Taliban to withdraw American forces from the country within 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to cut ties with Al Qaeda, prevent terrorists from using Afghanistan as a base for international attacks, help reduce violence and participate in talks with Afghanistan’s political leadership to try to end the conflict.

American diplomats have been pressing the Taliban to live up to their end of the bargain. Qaeda fighters are still believed to be embedded with the Taliban, although Al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, may now be dead, according to Pakistani media. Intra-Afghan peace talks began in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in September but have stalled over a fresh wave of attacks and uncertainty over whether the Biden administration will honor the deal with the Taliban. Over the weekend, the Taliban announced on social media that both sides had agreed to a set of guiding principles for the talks, but President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has reportedly pushed back on that claim, denying that an agreement has been reached.

The two sides have yet to begin confronting a host of seemingly irreconcilable differences, including whether to be a theocracy or a republic, and the status of women and followers of the Shiite sect of Islam. The Taliban claim that they now accept Shiites as fellow Muslims. But previously Taliban leaders have justified persecuting them as infidels. In 1998, Taliban commanders massacred thousands of Hazaras, an ethnic minority that predominantly follows Shiite Islam, when they took power in their region. Today, two commanders of that bloody operation are among the Taliban negotiators in Doha. Some Hazaras fear the Taliban are simply going through the motions of peace talks until U.S. forces leave.

Efforts to hold the Taliban accountable for their commitments have been undercut by the Trump administration’s abrupt announcement that it will pull all but 2,500 American troops out of the country by Jan. 15, regardless of whether the conditions the Taliban agreed to have been met. President Trump, who spent Thanksgiving 2019 with U.S. soldiers at Bagram Airfield, wants to keep a promise to bring American soldiers home before he leaves office. But NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, expressed alarm at Mr. Trump’s announcement and said the alliance would continue to train Afghan security forces even with the planned U.S. reductions. NATO has 12,000 personnel in the country, about half of whom are often American troops, and relies heavily on the U.S. military for transportation and logistics.

President-elect Joe Biden is unlikely to depart radically from the Trump administration’s exit plan. Mr. Biden opposed the Obama-era surge in Afghanistan and wrote in the spring in Foreign Affairs magazine that “it is past time to end the forever wars.”

But an American withdrawal does not have to mean ending financial support for the Afghan people or leaving the region in chaos. The United States has a moral obligation to work with regional partners to try to clean up the mess we are leaving behind.

Americans have the geopolitical luxury of flying away from a war they plunged into in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Afghanistan’s neighbors do not. Six countries share a border with Afghanistan. Not one wants a failed state on its doorstep. Afghanistan has been at war almost continuously since 1978, partly because its powerful neighbors have all tried to manage the chaos inside it by funding proxies. A debilitating free-for-all might be prevented if Afghanistan’s neighbors work together to support a peace process.

This is a rare instance where Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan and the United States all share a common interest: the orderly departure of American troops and preventing Afghanistan from imploding.

Mr. Trump, who has a well-known allergy to multilateral cooperation and a zero-sum mentality toward Iran and China, has been unable to fully engage Afghanistan’s neighbors in the effort to stabilize the country. In March 2019, American diplomats threatened to veto the U.N. Security Council resolution renewing the mandate of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan because it referred to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. And the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran scared off international investors in Chabahar, an Iranian port considered essential for increasing trade in landlocked Afghanistan.

Barnett Rubin, a former State Department official who is now the director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Regional Project at New York University, argues that the United States would benefit from having a strategic vision for the region that was bigger than “no Al Qaeda.”

“Stop looking at Afghanistan as either ‘war on terror’ or nothing and broaden the aperture to see that it is a country in a region with China, Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan — four nuclear powers,” he said. “They all have a very strong interest in trying to stabilize Afghanistan. Even though they want our troops out, they are worried we are doing it too quickly.”

The Biden administration is better positioned to test the limits of regional diplomacy. While it is far from clear that Afghan talks can negotiate a political settlement that will end the war between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a coordinated regional approach is more likely to produce success than a rapid unilateral American withdrawal. American soldiers should not be held hostage to a peace agreement that might never come. But with U.S. troops down to 2,500 soldiers, some portion of which is needed as a security umbrella for the embassy, the costs of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan have fallen sharply. The Biden administration has time to craft a more responsible withdrawal.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/30/opinion/afghanistan-withdrawal-biden.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

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