Deeyah Khan

AND THE NOMINEES FOR THE 15th ASIAN ACHIEVERS AWARDS ARE ...Deeyah Khan (1977-) is a Norwegian- born Emmy-award winning filmmaker, musician and human rights activist based in the UK. Her documentaries seek to understand people on the political extremes and explore the issues of feminism, toxic masculinity, racism, islamaphobia and Islamist extremism.

As of May 2019 she has five films:

  • Banaz A Love Story (2012): about a British Kurdish woman, who was a victim of an ‘honour killing’ ordained by her own family.
  • Jihad: A Story of Others (2015): about Jihadi radicalisation in the UK
  • Islam’s Non-Believers (2016): about ex-Muslim atheists
  • White Right: Meeting the Enemy (2017): about white supremacists in the USA

Deeyah Khan was born in Oslo to an Afghan mother and Pakistani father. She grew up in a secular household where talks of art, politics and philosophy were common.  As a girl, her father lectured her that sport and the arts were the only fields someone like her could transcend prejudice. He consequently enrolled Deeyah in keyboard and singing lessons with a world class Pakistani musician. By seven she was performing on Norwegian TV.

As a teen pop star and ‘mascot for multicultural Norway’, Deeyah Khan was targeted by both racist Norwegians and conservative Muslims who deemed music ‘an immoral and dishonorable profession’ for women.  At 17 she fled to London after being attacked on stage. Khan released her last album in 2007 and began teaching herself filmography.

In Jihad, Khan speaks to former and current Islamist extremists in Britain. According to Abu Muntasir, the ‘godfather’ of British Jihad and a veteran of Afghanistan, Kashmir and Burma, recruiters specifically target vulnerable young men to radicalise. For young western Muslims caught between two worlds and struggling with self-confidence, loneliness and identity, the brotherhood and purpose offered by Jihad, not to mention the promise of eternity in paradise, is an alluring prospect.  ‘My gun’ a former Jihadi states, ‘is more or less just a penis extension’.

When Deeyah Khan asks Abu Muntasir if he has forgiven himself for his violent past he breaks down into tears and eventually responds, ‘how do you answer that?’

White Right covers white nationalists in the modern USA. In 2017 Deeyah Khan shadowed Jeff Schoeb, leader of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), America’s largest neo-Nazi group, and accompanied him on a nine-hour car journey from Detroit to Charlottesvile. The men Deeyah meets, a startling proportion of whom are veterans, exhibit a combination of ‘big egos and low self-esteem’ like those in Jihad.

Deeyah does not berate the hateful men she feared all her life but catches them off guard with questions about their upbringing, hopes and dreams and finds common ground on topics beyond politics. Alt-right leaders Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer, however, who are wealthier, better spoken and more remorseless than their working class counterparts, seem immune to Deeyah’s empathetic approach.

Many of the subjects admit they had never met a Muslim before Deeyah and come to consider her a friend. She still corresponds with both Jeff Schoep and Abu Muntasir.

“All the work I do is about recognising ourselves in each other… to locate the humanity in someone else … As a woman of colour, as the long laundry list of things I consider myself to be, I know it feels like to be stereotyped, I know what it’s like to be dehumanised and because of that I refuse to do that to someone else, even if that means a Nazi.”

In January 2019, Schoep passed the NSM’s leadership to James Hart Stern, a black activist who is dismantling the group.

Sources: Associated Press, the Guardian, the Gentlewomen, Making Sense with Sam Harris Episode 144, Under the Skin with Russell Brand Episode 52.

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The Christchurch Mosque Shooting

Image result for christchurch mosque shootingOn Friday 15th March a gunman opened fire on worshipers in the al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand during midday prayers.  49 were killed, including children, and 20 seriously injured. Shooter Brenton Tarrant livestreamed the massacre on Facebook using a go-pro and posted the link to 8chan before the attack. His 74 page manifesto detailed his desire to kill Muslims in western countries and restore white supremacy.

Azam Ali, a victim, told Radio New Zealand:

“We were into 10 minutes of our prayers and then we heard gun shots outside, but kept on praying. Next minute, it was inside. He was a light-coloured skin guy and he started firing and we all went for cover….. A couple of guys from inside probably ran outside and they all came out in blood. When we got up we saw people lying around us [who] were shot. They had blood coming out, some from the neck.”

There were 300 people in the al-Noor Mosque. Trapped in the mosque and at the mercy of the shooter, many worshipers smashed through glass doors and windows to escape. During the massacre the shooter swapped weapons and changed his magazine seven times. Teacher Naeem Rachid heroically charged at the gunman but was killed alongside his son Talha.

After al-Noor Tarrant drove to the Linwood Islamic Centre five kilometres away. He killed seven people before a worshiper disarmed him. Tarrant escaped the scene but police apprehended him and put the city on lockdown. Over 40 people were admitted to hospital.

Image result for christchurch mosque shooting

Christchurch is the third biggest city in New Zealand and home to 404,000 people. 0.8% of the city’s population are Muslim, out of 1.2% nationwide. The shooter chose Christchurch because the city would be defenseless and unprepared; he wanted to prove ‘nowhere in the world was safe’.

Brenton Tarrant is a 28 year old Australian former cryptocurrency investor and personal trainer. According to his manifesto he was a ‘just a regular White man from a regular family’ and a former ‘communist and anarchist’. He became radicalised while travelling Europe in 2017 and was active on alt-right and white supremacist internet forums.

Image result for christchurch shooter

Tarrant’s manifesto expressed concern with high Muslim fertility rates, Islamic terrorism and the white genocide conspiracy theory. Identifying as an ‘Eco fascist’, he employed a bizarre mix of environmentalist, anti-capitalist, white nationalist, anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

His inspirations included Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, British fascist Oswald Mosely, Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic, American conservative Candance Owens (probably ironically – he claimed her views were more extreme than his own) and the People’s Republic of China. Tarrant claimed to admire Donald Trump ‘as a symbol for white identity and common purpose’ but not ‘for his policies and as a leader’. He did not express allegiance to any specific organisation but said he supported many.

Tarrant’s goals were to make Muslims feel unsafe in the West and spark a civil war in the United States over the Second Amendment. He repeatedly referred to Muslims as ‘invaders’ and planned the massacre two years in advance.

Until yesterday New Zealand was a safe country relatively untouched by the terrorism and divisive politics which afflict the western world. Since 1945 the country’s worst mass shooting had been the 1990 Aramoana Shooting that killed 14 people. New Zealand has never before experienced a hate crime or act of terrorism of this level. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the Christchurch shooting ‘New Zealand’s darkest day’.  49 died, the same number who fell in the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, the modern USA’s second worst.

Mosque attendees in Hagley Park after shooting.

New Zealand gun laws are stricter than the United States. Firearms are legal for the purpose of hunting and users must pass interviews and background checks to gain their license. As a small island nation with few people, gun laws are comparatively easy to enforce. Once purchased, however, few firearms are registered. Tarrant used a shotgun and a semiautomatic AR-15, held a license and was a member of a local shooting club. The shooter was not known to police or intelligence agencies beforehand. Ardern has since promised to ban semiautomatic weapons.

Aside from Raeem and Talha Rachid, victims’ names are yet to be confirmed.

Sources: BBC, the Guardian, New Zealand Herald, Radio New Zealand, Reuters, Stuff, Sydney Morning Herald, Tarrant’s Manifesto 

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Update 17/03/19: 50 confirmed dead, victims’ names released

2017 Warsaw March

warsaw

On  November 11th 2017, 60,000 demonstrators celebrated Poland’s 99th Independence Day in Warsaw in a bout of flag-waving nationalist frenzy.  It was Europe’s largest public demonstration in recent years and the biggest gathering of its kind this century. Activists, some wearing balaclavas and displaying fascist insignia, marched for Catholic identity and ethnic nationalism, chanting against Jews, Muslims, gays, liberals and the EU.

At first glance, the Independence Day March seems innocent enough. Poland, its rough history considered, has a right to feel patriotic. The rhetoric surrounding this demonstration, however, was especially disturbing.

Notable chants and slogans included:

  • ‘We Want God’ (references Donald Trump’s 2017 Warsaw speech)
  • ‘Catholic Poland, not Secular”
  • “Refugees get out!”
  • “White Europe of Brotherly Nations”
  • “Clean Blood”
  • “White Poland, Pure Poland”
  • “Pure Poland, Jew Free Poland”
  • “Death to Enemies of the Homeland”
  • “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust”

The march attracted far right activists from across Europe, including Britain’s Tommy Robinson, a former EDL leader. Richard Spencer, the leading American white nationalist, was invited but denied a visa.

warsaw-far-right-march.jpg

I did an earlier post on the Charlottesville Riot and the shared ultra-conservative and xenophobic messages of both events calls for comparisons. The Warsaw March was something the American far-right could only dream of. Saturday’s marchers waved red flares, not tiki torches but their message was similar: nativism, white nationalism and bigotry. Their numbers were greater than a meagre 2,000.

Like Charlottesville, counter protesters opposed the march though they numbered only 5,000. They were organised by Antifa Warsaw. Unlike Charlottesville, the Right had the obvious upper hand: ethnic nationalism is a far stronger force in Poland than the US, and in a region feeling the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis and the rise of Russia, far more significant.

In the past police have clashed with protesters on these Independence Day Marches, but since the ascendance of the far-right Law and Justice Party in 2015, which embraces the politics of conservative nationalism, the demonstrations have largely been encouraged. Only 45 were arrested on Saturday, all of whom were leftist counter-demonstrators. No injuries or deaths occurred.

It is worth noting these elements did not represent the march as a whole. According to the BBC, a demonstrator claimed only 30% were committed neo-fascists. Nevertheless, 18,000 fascists parading is still unsettling.

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Extremist elements were condemned by possible sympathisers. President Andrzej Duda, of eurosceptic Law and Justice Party, said xenophobia, anti-Semitism and violence have ‘no place in Poland.’  Duda has accepted 0 refugees since the crisis began and previously claimed ‘the affirmation of homosexuality will be the downfall of civilization’.

Breitbart News, the self-described ‘platform for the alt-right’ described the march as ‘hijacked by white nationalists’ while downplaying its significance by stating xenophobia is commonplace across the world.

I was most surprised to find Sputnik, the mouthpiece of the Putin Administration, condemned the march, describing it as ‘the largest gathering of bigots in Europe and perhaps the world’. Russia has previously encouraged the resurgence of nationalism in Europe as a means to weaken the European Union.

After centuries of domination by foreign powers, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany, who committed their most atrocious evils on Polish soil, followed by over half a century of Soviet backed totalitarian socialism. Their common enemy shaped a cohesive national identity based on the Catholic faith and Polish identity. Religion, like race, is exploited as an identity marker to differentiate native Poles from outsiders.  As of 2017 Poland is arguably the most right-wing state in Europe.

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Sources: Al Jazeera, The Guardian, New York Times, Foreign Policy, Politico, BBC, Breitbart News, Sputnik International

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