10
May

In a Europe struggling with a rise in Islamophobia, riven by debates about the flood of Syrian migrants and on edge over religious, ethnic and cultural disputes, London has elected its first Muslim mayor.

Sadiq Khan — a Labour Party leader, a former human rights lawyer and a son of a bus driver from Pakistan — was declared the winner after a protracted count that extended into Saturday. He will be the first Muslim to lead Britain’s capital.

The victory also makes him one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the West.

London is hardly representative of Britain: About a quarter of its residents are foreign-born, and one-eighth are Muslim. And Mr. Khan is not the first Muslim to hold prominent office in Europe: Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, has had a Muslim mayor since 2009, and Sajid Javid is the British secretary of state for business.

Nonetheless, Mr. Khan, 45, won a striking victory after a campaign dominated by anxieties over religion and ethnicity. Britain has not sustained a large-scale terrorist attack since 2005, and its Muslim population, in contrast to France, is considered well integrated. But an estimated 800 people have left Britain to fight for or support the Islamic State. Dozens of assaults on British Muslims were reported after the Paris terrorist attacks in November.

The Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, attacked Mr. Khan’s past advocacy for criminal defendants, including his opposition to the extradition of a man who was later convicted in the United States of supporting terrorism. Mr. Goldsmith said Mr. Khan had given “oxygen and cover” to extremists. When the Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, repeated those assertions in Parliament, he was accused of racism. Read more…

; MAY 6, 2016

5
May

Should We Be Turning Japanese?

Written on May 5, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Culture & Society, Political Economy

Walking among the open air cafés in Tokyo during an unseasonably warm November last year—just after the Paris terror attacks—I realized that something was different. Japanese almost never think twice about going into public places. Their streets are not filled with combat troops on wary patrol. Parents don’t fear when their children congregate at a concert or in the park. Japanese are the first to highlight their country’s problems, but when I talk with a group of young men and women at a tiny, crowded bar, their greatest fear for the future is growing old alone, not that they might not grow old at all.

Japan does face a demographic crisis—its population is actually shrinking—but there is another big positive dimension to life in modern Japan. The Japanese are not arguing (all that much, anyway) about social and economic inequality. Nor are the shops dark and the restaurants empty, at least not in Tokyo and other major cities. There is no Japanese Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders drawing on and stoking the anger of a disenfranchised middle class.

Japan has found a separate reality—a separate peace if you will—from the globalization paradigm that has dominated the West since World War II. The country’s experience over the past quarter-century raises the question: How open does a modern nation need to be in order to be “successful”? That should prompt us to ask, in turn, whether we in the West have been overstating the benefits of openness and globalization, and underestimating the virtues of social cohesion and stability.

All this warrants a fresh look at the long-tainted “Japan model.” At least as viewed by the West, Japan has spent the past quarter-century under a cloud. After the Japanese asset price bubble popped in 1989, the once-and-future “Pacific Superpower” (recall all those headlines from the 1980s, declaring things like “Your Next Boss May be Japanese”) no longer interested investors, pundits and the media. “Japanese” traits such as lifetime employment, so recently lauded, were quickly reinterpreted as rigidity, risk averseness, and a general inability to deal with a new era of innovation that valued the individual over the group. In particular, it became an article of faith in the West to decry Japan’s insularity, whether economic or socio-cultural. Japanese society, ethnically monolithic and anti-immigration, was derided as fatally parochial in the new, modern borderless world.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/globalization-japan-terror-insularity-213807#ixzz47naq4l7U 

 

April 12, 2016; Michael Auslin

29
Apr

If, in 2011, the West’s view of the Arab world was grounded in optimism and exhilaration, it’s an entirely different story in 2016. Five years ago, there was still the sense that something was afoot, that the region could change into something better. There was the promise of a region based more on respect for fundamental rights, better governance and freedom – rather than one where these elements were constantly sacrificed to nepotism, autocracy and the cynical exploitation of concerns around security.

Five years on, the situation looks very different.

Now it is far more about security than ever before. It used to be that different Arab leaders would privately and publicly argue that they were better than the alternative of Islamism and that would be enough to get any concerns around fundamental rights of the table for discussion. Today, the equation is the same but different: many simply argue that the alternative to their rule is chaos. And, of course, no one wants chaos – and so the cycle continues.

But the region is not simply a place where one makes short-term exchanges between security concerns and everything else. It is a catastrophic mistake to look at the region in those terms alone.

The region is in a state of flux and the outside world needs to be more, not less, engaged with it, as it goes through an incredibly critical part of its modern history. Read more…

 

Published on April 28, 2016  in the national.ae

28
Apr

A banner of Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer is covered with snow in Gnadenwald, Austria, April 27, 2016.

A ripple of concern shivered across Europe this week in establishment circles after a right-wing populist candidate stormed to pole position in the first round of Austria’s presidential election.

“Triumph for the extreme right,” proclaimed Spain’s El Pais newspaper. Britain’s Guardian warned of “turmoil” ahead. Italy’s Corriere della Sera bemoaned a victory for the “anti-immigrant far right” while Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called on traditional political parties to “listen to this wake-up call!”

“In Austria, European governments see a mirror of their own future. Social tensions are rising,” noted another editorial predicting the rise of Europe’s far right.

But this writer wasn’t talking about Sunday’s vote.

Trotskyist journalist Peter Schwarz penned his thoughts 16 years ago, back in February 2000, when the Freedom Party (FPOe) first joined an Austrian government.

At the time, the party’s charismatic and controversial leader, Joerg Haider, had provoked condemnation at home and abroad with his praise for Hitler’s Waffen SS, with his strong anti-immigrant stance and Eurosceptic views. Read more…

Published on April 28 by Katya Adler in http://www.bbc.com

27
Apr

The world’s two greatest powers are competing for military dominance of the western Pacific Ocean and the contest is about to intensify. The US and China are each jockeying for advantage as they anticipate a quickening in a struggle that “has the potential to escalate into one of the deadliest conflicts of our time, if not history”, according to Malaysia’s Defence Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein.

An important ruling from the International Court of Justice in the Hague is expected in the weeks ahead. It will rule on a claim by a US ally, the Philippines, to sovereignty over reefs that are also claimed by China. Most experts expect the ruling, due by the end of June, will favour the Philippines. Beijing has warned it will not recognise the court’s jurisdiction.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that, if the court ruled against it, Beijing would accelerate plans to build an artificial island around one of the reefs at the heart of the dispute, Scarborough Shoal. The shoal is 230kilometres from the Philippines coast and 1020kilometres from China’s.

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