An Iranian man reads a copy of Iranian daily newspaper Arman with a picture of US President Donald Trump on its front page with the title in Persian that reads ‘Crazy Trump and logical JCPOA’ on display in Tehran, Iran. (Photo: EPA)
“Together, Europeans and Americans have proved that a strong and united transatlantic partnership can bring about a coalition extending to Russia and China, endorsed by the international community,” the lawmakers write. “But this coalition is now at risk, as the U.S. government moves towards abandoning the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] without any evidence of Iran not fulfilling its obligations.” Continue reading →
“Germany’s lignite mines are among the biggest coal mines in the world,” Zane Sikulu, a Climate Warrior from Tonga, said in a statement. (Photo: Code Rood/Twitter)
Demanding an end to coal and all forms of dirty energy extraction, over 4,000 activists descended on the Rhineland coalfields in Germany early Sunday in a mass demonstration just a day before COP23 climate talks are set to kick off.
“On the international stage, politicians and corporations present themselves as climate saviors, while a few miles away, the climate is literally being burned,” Janna Aljets, a spokesperson for the environmental alliance Ende Gelände, which helped organize the action, said in a statement. “We do not want to be world champions in extracting and burning lignite anymore. We want to fulfill our historic responsibility. That’s why we go to the coal mines, to protect the climate there.” Continue reading →
Later this year, the European Union will vote on whether to renew the license that allows European farmers to use Monsanto’s popular weed-killer, Roundup. (Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr/cc)
Europe’s food safety agency reportedly relied on a review that lifted language from a Monsanto report when concluding that the possible cancer-causing ingredient in the company’s popular weed-killer Roundup is safe, raising concerns that the agency failed to properly analyze the pesticide’s potential dangers.
“If regulators rely on the industry’s evaluation of the science without doing their own assessment, the decision whether pesticides are deemed safe or not is effectively in the industry’s hands,” said Greenpeace’s European Union (EU) food policy director, Franziska Achterberg, who added that this discovery “calls into question the entire EU pesticide approval process. Continue reading →
Josef Terboven, Reichskommissar for Norway during the Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1945. Photo courtesy of The National Archives of Norway / Flickr.
Donald Trump’s obvious affection for authoritarians is prompting worried comparisons of our polarized country to the polarized Germany of the 1920s and ’30s. Since I’m known to see in polarization both crisis and opportunity, my friends are asking me these days about Hitler, the worst-case scenario.
I grant the possibility of the United States going fascist, but argue that will not happen if we choose the practical steps taken by progressive Nordic social movements when they faced dangerous polarization. Consider the Norwegians, who experienced extreme polarization at the same time as the Germans did. Continue reading →
Thousands took to the streets in Germany to protest at U.S. Base in Ramstein
Demonstrators have formed a human chain near a US air base in western Germany to protest against lethal drone strikes.
The demonstration was organized by the alliance “Stop Ramstein – No Drone War“, which says the Ramstein base relays information between operators in the US and unmanned drone aircraft on missions over Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and other places.
Organizers said that 5 to 7 thousand people took part in the chain near the Ramstein Air Base, the principal US Air Force facility in Europe, on a rainy Saturday. Continue reading →
Israeli soldiers standing on a Dolphin-class submarine. Photo: Israel Defense Forces (The Chief of Staff Tours Israel’s Naval Bases) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Professor Noam Chomsky offered several alarming insights about Israel’s possible true intentions surrounding Iran — and why we all should be concerned. In an interview with AcTVism Munich’s Zain Raza, Chomsky explained what happens to submarines Germany sends to Israel:
“These dolphin class submarines that Germany is providing to Israel are instantly refitted in Israel to have nuclear weapons capacity, and that’s not aimed at defense of Israel. They are meant for attack, that’s what they are. And we know what attack they’re aimed for in the short run: an attack on Iran in the Gulf. That’s a terrible threat, not only to Iranians, but to the world.”Continue reading →
The discovery that several of the Paris attackers were European nationals has fueled concern about Muslim immigrants becoming radicalized in the West.
Some politicians have expressed views that the best way to avoid homegrown terrorists is to shut the door.
The refugee migration debate turned even more contentious after authorities found a Syrian passport at the scene of the attack. Poland is now turning back refugees, more than half of American governors have vowed to refuse Middle Easterners seeking a new beginning, and US House Speaker Ryan has asked for a “pause” on the federal Syrian refugee program.
Fearful reactions to terrorist violence are nothing new. Incidents of extremist activity are often followed by anti-Islam protests or hate crimes. Reports of ISIS luring Western Muslims abroad are followed by a tightening of homeland security policy. Just after the attacks in Paris, presidential hopeful Donald Trump said that he would be willing to close mosques in the US.
Such displays of intolerance can make Muslims feel like they don’t belong in Europe or the United States.
Our research, forthcoming in Behavioral Science and Policy, and in partnership with the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, shows that making Muslims feel this way can fuel support for radical movements. In other words, many Western policies that aim to prevent terrorism may actually be causing it.
In our research, we asked hundreds of Muslims in Germany and the US to tell us about their experiences as religious and cultural minorities, including their feelings of being excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion. We also asked how they balance their heritage identities with their American or German identities. We wanted to know if these kinds of experiences were related to their feelings toward radical groups and causes.
There are a lot of practical and ethical barriers to studying what makes someone become a terrorist.
We normally don’t know who terrorists are until after they’ve committed an attack. By then, we can only rely on after-the-fact explanations as to what motivated them. We can’t perform a controlled laboratory study to see who would participate in an act of terrorism. In surveys, we can’t ask someone straightforwardly how much they would like to join a radical movement, because most people who are becoming radicalized would not answer honestly.
Instead, we measured a couple of indicators of support for radicalism. We asked people how willing they would be to sacrifice themselves for an important cause. We also measured the extent to which participants held a radical interpretation of Islam. For example, we asked whether it’s acceptable to engage in violent jihad. Finally, we asked people to read a description of a hypothetical radical group and tell us how much they liked the group and how much they would want to support it. This hypothetical group consisted of Muslims in the US (or Germany, in the German study) who were upset about how Muslims were treated by society and would stop at nothing to protect Islam.
Overall, support for these indicators of extremism was very low, which is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims do not hold radical views.
But the responses of some people showed they felt marginalized and identified with neither the culture of their heritage nor the culture of their adopted country.
We described people as “culturally homeless” when they didn’t practice the same customs or share the same values as others in their adopted culture, but also felt different from other people of their heritage.
We found that people who said they were torn between cultures also reported feeling ashamed, meaningless and hopeless. They expressed an overall lack of significance in their lives or a feeling that they don’t really matter. The more people’s sense of self worth was threatened, the more they expressed support for radicalism.
Our findings are consistent with a theory in psychology that terrorists are looking for a way to find meaning in their lives. When people experience a loss to their sense of personal significance – for example, through being humiliated or disrespected – they seek out other outlets for creating meaning.
Extremists know and exploit these vulnerabilities, targeting Muslims whose sense of significance is low or threatened. Radical religious groups give these culturally homeless Muslims a sense of certainty, purpose and structure.
For people who already feel culturally homeless, discrimination by the adopted society can make matters worse. In our data, people who said they had been excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion experienced a threat to their self-esteem. The negative effects of discrimination were the most damaging for people who already felt culturally homeless.
Our results suggest that cultivating anti-immigrant or anti-Islamic sentiment is deeply counterproductive. Anti-immigrant discourse is likely to fuel support for extremism, rather than squelch it.
Integration the goal
To decrease the risk of homegrown radicalization, we should work to improve integration of Muslim immigrants, not further isolate them. This means welcoming Syrian refugees, not excluding them. It means redefining what it means to be American or German in a way that is inclusive and doesn’t represent only the majority culture. It means showing interest in and appreciation for other cultural and religious traditions, not fearing them.
According to our data, most Muslims in the United States and in Germany want to blend their two cultures. But it is difficult to do this if either side pressures them to choose.
We should not confuse integration with assimilation.
Integration means encouraging immigrants to call themselves American, German or French and to take pride in their own cultural and religious heritage.
Our data suggest that policies that pressure immigrants to conform to their adopted culture, like France’s ban on religious symbols in public institutions or the “burqa ban,” are likely to backfire, because such policies are disrespectful of their heritage.
In the United States, the pressure to conform comes in the implicit meaning of the “melting pot” metaphor that underlies our cultural ethos. This idea encourages newcomers to shed their cultural uniqueness in the interest of forging a homogeneous national identity. In comparison, the “mixed salad” or “cultural mosaic” metaphors often used in Canada communicate appreciation for cultural differences.
In Germany, immigrants without sufficient German language skills are required to complete an integration course, which is essentially a tutorial on how to be German. Interestingly, we found that the more German Muslim participants perceived that Germans wanted them to assimilate, the less desire they had to do so. We also see these identity struggles in Muslim communities in France, where “being French” and “being Muslim” are thought to be mutually exclusive.
Our findings point to a strategy for reducing homegrown radicalization: encouraging immigrants to participate in both of their cultures plus curbing discrimination against Muslims. This strategy is better for both immigrants’ well-being and adopted cultures’ political stability.
For an example of how this can be done successfully, look to a jihadist rehabilitation program in Aarhus, Denmark, where the police work with the Muslim community to help reintegrate foreign fighters and find ways for them to participate in Danish society without compromising their religious values.
Communities can make it harder for terrorists to recruit by helping the culturally homeless feel more at home.
The “refugee crisis” of recent months has split Europe in two. But unlike the liberal press would have us believe, the main dividing line runs not between those states (like Germany) that have taken a more humane approach to the crisis by accepting more refugees, and those (like Hungary) that have shut their borders and cracked down violently on anyone attempting to cross them.
Rather, the real schism is the one between states and institutions that jealously guard their borders, clinging on to an exclusionary territorial logic that is rapidly becoming untenable, and the ordinary people on the ground – refugees, activists and locals alike – who are self-organizing solidarity beyond borders and creating a radically different kind of Europe from below. Continue reading →
European Union flag. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons
The Brussels summit of July 11 and 12 was undoubtedly one of the darkest moments in the EU’s more recent history. The new agreement between Athens and its creditors within in the Eurozone has rightly been called ‘Europe’s insane deal with Greece’.
Everybody knows that the new agreement can’t work and including the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who said as much on television. Everybody knows that this is only one more hopeless attempt to kick the can down the road. Most experts who have ever given any thought to the matter know that for Greece to survive within the Eurozone and to regain some amount of economic stability and prosperity, it needs not only a radical haircut which reduces its national debt to a sustainable level – let us say 60-70% of GDP from about 180 % now – but also permanent financial support not in the form of so called loans but as direct financial transfers.
For the next 10 to 15 years or – more likely – indefinitely, the country would probably need at least 20 billion euros per annum to survive. Would such transfers be affordable for the rest of the Eurozone? In theory the answer is yes, in particular if one reminds oneself that the EU is spending a lot of money on fanciful projects such as paying vast subsidies to farmers so that they can ruin their competitors in Africa or South America, by selling their products below the normal market price.
Then why did the Northern countries – a group which in this case includes Belgium and Slovakia – resist a solution along such lines so fiercely? The problem is that paying permanent subsidies to Greece would only be the thin end of the wedge. At least that is what is widely assumed in The Hague, Helsinki, Bratislava and Berlin and probably in Antwerp as well where the Flemish look back on their own history of fiscal transfers to a region which does not pull its weight in economic terms. Continue reading →
Over the last couple months, there’s been a worrisome trend happening in the German city of Dresden. Every Monday night for the last nine weeks, a group named PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the West, has held a rally and a march through Dresden.
The rallies started in October in response to clashes between Kurds and Sunni Muslims over the West’s intervention in Syria. What started as a fairly small protest rally of 200 people the first week has grown over time. On Monday, 15,000 people marched through the streets carrying banners bearing slogans such as “Zero tolerance towards criminal asylum seekers”, “Protect our homeland” and “Stop the Islamization”.