Defining Islamophobia And Its Socio-Political Applications In The Light Of The Charlie Hebdo Attacks In Paris

Ills.: UK Human Rights Blog

Abstract
This study concentrates on the definition of Islamophobia based on an etymological overview of the term and application of it in political discourse in Europe, following the 2015 Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris (encompassing the attacks on the magazine’s office, Jewish supermarket and police officers). Firstly, emphasizing the influential Runnymede Report on Islamophobia (1997), an extensive research on the application and definition of the term are presented. Secondly, a political discourse analyses (PDA) method is applied to official responses to the Charlie Hebdo attacks by leading politicians from twelve European countries. Results of this analytical framework are discussed in light of contemporary definitions of Islamophobia with particular attention given to the definition by Runnymede Trust. The study culminates with an elaborated discussion and presumptive solutions to the growing ambiguity and dispute concerning the phenomenon of Islamophobia and its definition.

Key words: Islamophobia, Runnymede Report, Charlie Hebdo attacks, European Union, populism

Historical perspective
The phenomenon of Islamophobia, considered as fear, dislike or prejudice against Islam and its followers, is arguably as long as Islam itself. In the contemporary world, a pivotal moment in the study of Islamophobia as a phenomenon and its definition was the publication of a report titled: Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All (Runnymede Trust, 1997, hereafter: The RT Report) by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, established by the Runnymede Trust. In a pioneering study the independent race, ethnic and religious equality think-tank attempted at the identification of causes and reasons for the phenomenon of Islamophobia as well as defining it. According to the Runnymede Trust, Islamophobia is: ‘… a shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims’ (The RT Report, 1). And further: ‘the term Islamophobia refers to unfounded hostility towards Islam. It refers also to the practical consequences of such hostility in unfair discrimination against Muslim individuals and communities, and to the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political and social affairs (ibid.; 4).’ The report reached much further than a mere identification of the terminology and consequently the definition along with its characteristics (outlined below) remain the most quoted and influential study on Islamophobia as a phenomenon and from an etymological perspective. In an attempt at breaking down the causes and reasons for the ‘hatred’, ‘hostility’ and ‘discrimination’ towards Islam the authors made an essential distinction between ‘legitimate criticism’ and ‘unfounded prejudice and hostility’ towards Muslims (The RT Report; 4). Consequently, the commission proposed closed and open views towards Islam and its believers, illustrating two essentialised approaches a non-Muslim can have towards the Islamic religion and its worshippers. ‘Phobic dread of Islam is the recurring characteristic of closed views. [While] legitimate disagreement and criticism, as also appreciation and respect, are aspects of open views’ (The RT Report; 4). Identification of the two contrastive views was based on acknowledging eight main features of each of them. The eight features of the closed/open views were recognized as: monolithic/diverse; separate/interacting; inferior/different; enemy/partner; manipulative/sincere; criticism of West rejected/considered; discrimination defended/criticized; Islamophobia seen as natural/problematic (The RT Report, p. 5). Read more

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The Growing Wealth Gap Marks The Return Of Oligarchy

Professor Thomas Weisskopf

One of the most striking features of our era is the widening gap between rich and poor. In fact, wealth inequality may be higher today than any other era, although we lack the data to draw meaningful comparisons with the distant past. Moreover, the gap between the haves and the have-nots seems to be growing, as the annual reports from the development charity Oxfam clearly indicate. What are the key reasons for the growing divide between rich and poor, especially when governments claim that there is a recovery underway since the 2008 global financial crisis? And what can be done to reorganize society so wealth is no longer concentrated into so few hands while millions of people live in extreme poverty or are barely subsisting? In the interview below, Thomas Weisskopf, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Michigan and a long-time member of the Democratic Socialists of America, offers his insights on the state of economic injustice.

C.J. Polychroniou: Professor Weisskopf, according to the 2019 Oxfam report, a handful of billionaires own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. In fact, 2018 was a year in which the rich got richer again and the poor, poorer. Do we know the primary culprits behind the ever-growing gap in economic well-being between rich and poor?

Thomas Weisskopf: There are both economic and political reasons for the growing wealth gap between the very rich and the poor. The natural tendency of capitalism is to generate both overall economic growth and ever-increasing inequality in both wealth and income. Most people do not have the opportunity to acquire much wealth, but those who have inherited or accumulated a certain amount of wealth have many opportunities to increase it, and the more wealth you have, the easier it is to do so. Wealth is everywhere much more unequally distributed than income, because those who have wealth can use it to generate even more. The distribution of wealth has a huge impact on the distribution of income, because wealth is an important source of income — especially for the very rich. The underlying unequalizing tendency of capitalism can be interrupted by catastrophic developments — such as wars or major economic crises, which can shrink the wealth of an entire capitalist class, or natural disasters which can destroy the wealth of individuals whose wealth is vulnerable to such events. World Wars I and II, as well as the Great Depression of the 1930s, had the effect of reducing the degree of wealth and income inequality around the world. The natural unequalizing tendency of capitalism can also be limited, and sometimes even reversed, by political intervention. From the end of World War II to the 1970s the capitalist world achieved rapid economic growth without much increase in wealth and income inequality, because most governments took responsibility for assuring that the gains from growth would be widely shared. They did this through a variety of means, including relatively high (by current standards) taxes on wealth and income, which funded government spending on public programs that had the effect of redistributing income and opportunities from richer to poorer segments of the populations, well as policies that curbed the power of large corporations and protected workers from exploitation by employers. Beginning in the late 1970s, government policies in many capitalist countries — most markedly in the U.K. and the U.S. — shifted toward less redistributive tax and spending policies, less regulation of large corporations, and less protection for workers. Read more

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Solutions For An Unfair World ~ Contents & Introduction: Consternation

Contents 
Consternation
1. The world in which we live is too complex
2. We have to bring trade under democratic control
3. Curb globalisation: a dialogue between the veritable left and the simplifying right
4. Peace in our time?
5. A president with messy moral standards

Bitter tears, bon courage
About the author & Acknowledgement & Literature

Consternation

After November 8, 2016, I have occasionally thought that the governments of civilised nations should recall their ambassadors from the United States, for consultation as it is called; I’d rather say for consideration. Thus far that recall did of course not happen, but consideration is more than ever necessary. After one year it is abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s government has not left relations within the us and the rest of the world untouched.

Obviously, us citizens must set their own course, but as residents of all corners of the world we have to consider what this Trump is doing. Let me mention in this essay a few points that we have to think about. What can we still expect, what have we already seen, how did that affect us, and how can we respond appropriately?

A warning is called for, and it comes from Luigi Zingales – as his name suggests an Italian, who is a professor in the United States. Make the comparison with Berlusconi, he suggests, and deduce lessons from that. ‘Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity.’ (New York Times, 22.11.16)

The purpose of this essay is not to fall into that trap. The election of Trump forces us, more than anything else, to consider some fundamental issues. At the same time we should not be afraid to formulate ambitious solutions. It is still possible to build a civilised, human, just and ecologically sustainable world. We need radical proposals for that, which I would like to present here in five – in principle separately readable – chapters. Read more

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Migration And Its Discontents: Israelis In Berlin And Homeland Politics

Yael Almog Ills.: Joseph Sassoon Semah

Introduction
Recent history has established Germany’s reputation as a new immigration country, facilitated by its economic boom and a relatively accommodating migration policy. An attractive destination for newcomers, Germany has surpassed many lands such as England and Canada which have long been recognized as immigration countries. Berlin in particular has drawn diverse populations of immigrants, including a considerable number of authors and artists whose works negotiate this relocation to the city. The gap between Germany’s notorious historical reputation for being hostile toward minority groups—embodied in the memories of World War II—and its attractiveness for expatriates has grown increasingly wider.

It is under these conditions that the growing community of Israelis living in Berlin has drawn attention from the German, Israeli, and global media. Israeli media and the publicist polemic have been preoccupied in recent years with the role of Israel’s living costs as a motivation for migration to Europe. In recent years, public protests in Israel have opted to shift public discussion away from its longtime focus on state security and onto the country’s increasingly high cost of living: Daily life necessities have “surpassed” the outside threat of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli violence. In Israel, the perception of Germany as an attractive destination for emigrants elicits protests against the so-called opportunism of Israeli emigrants accused of “forgetting” the crimes committed by Germany during the Holocaust in favor of the satisfaction of mundane needs.[1] Former Israeli Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid, for example, has condemned the diffidence of Israelis who leave Israel because life is “easier in Berlin.”[2] According to Lapid, relocating in Berlin, the city which embodies historic insecurity for Jews, exemplifies the renouncement of national solidarity for the sake of economic comfort.

Berlin is characterized, often dismissively, as a “bubble” by Germans and foreigners alike—a desirable location for individuals belonging to minority groups or adhering to subaltern politics. My contention is that this cultural and imaginary construct functions as a microcosm allowing for the transmission of political identities to a new, foreign realm.
By examining recent literary representations which describe Berlin as a place of residence for Israelis, this essay argues that the description of Israeli migrants “escaping” their home country misses a crucial point: During their time in Berlin, Israelis do not simply abandon, but rather relocate Israeli politics to a new setting. This displacement dispels seminal expectations of Jewish diasporic life in Germany—both the Zionist discourse on European Jewish diaspora and Germany’s hegemonic memory culture. For one, the identification of the Israeli newcomers as “oriental” is at odds with an Israeli narrative of European Jews
returning to the continent after the trauma of the Holocaust. In the following readings of contemporary literary texts, I trace how sociopolitical conflicts salient to contemporary Israeli society—in particular, tensions between ethnic groups of Jewish Israelis—are negotiated through the act of travelling to Berlin or residing in the city. I follow how these conflicts are reformulated in a vocabulary pertaining to German memory culture and to German-Jewish encounters. Read more

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Being Human: Relationships And You ~ A Social Psychological Analysis – Preface & Contents

Preface
This book represents a new look at social psychology and relationships for the discerning reader and university student. The title of the book argues forcefully that the very nature of being human is defined by our relationships with others, our lovers, family, and our functional or dysfunctional interactions.

Written in easy to follow logical progression the volume covers all major topical areas of social psychology, with results of empirical research of the most recent years included. A common project between American and European social psychologists the book seeks to build a bridge between research findings in both regions of the world. In doing so the interpretations of the research takes a critical stand toward dysfunction in modern societies, and in particular the consequences of endless war and repression.

Including topics as varied as an overview of the theoretical domains of social psychology and recent research on morality, justice and the law, the book promises a stimulating introduction to contemporary views of what it means to be human.
A major emphasis of the book is the effect of culture in all major topical areas of social psychology including conceptions of the self, attraction, relationships and love, social cognition, attitude formation and behavior, influences of group membership, social influence, persuasion, hostile images, aggression and altruism, and moral behavior.

Table of contents

Introduction
1. The Theoretical Domain and Methods of Social Psychology
2. Cultural and Social Dimensions of the Self
3. Attraction and Relationships: The Journey from Initial Attachments to Romantic Love
4. Social Cognition: How We Think about the Social World
5. Attitude Formation and Behavior
6. The Influences of Group Membership
7. Processes of Social Influence: Conformity, Compliance and Obedience
8. Persuasion
9. Hostile Inter-group Behavior: Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination
10. Aggression: The Common Thread of Humanity
11. Altruism and Prosocial Behavior
12. Morality: Competition, Justice and Cooperation
References

ISBN 978 90 5170 994 0 – NUR 770 – Rozenberg Publishers – 2008

“Therefore this reading has a rare and valuable feature, that of making a link between American and European social psychology: “Being human: Relationships and you” is an excellent example of how the two lines of thought are actually articulated…it is clearly written, using a professional yet assessable language and therefore easy to read by even the non-specialist public…always pointing to the fact that social psychology is not “just a science” but it deals with issues that constitute the substance of our existence as humans”.

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Towards A Progressive Political Economy In The Aftermath Of Neoliberalism’s “Creative Destruction”

CJ Polychroniou

Abstract
The article argues that, after 45 years of ‘neoliberal destruction’, the time is ripe for moving forward with the adoption of a new set of progressive economic policies (beyond those usually associated with classical Keynesianism) that will reshape advanced societies and the global economy on the whole by bringing back the social state, doing away with the predatory and parasitic practices of financial capital, and charting a course of sustainable development through a regulatory regime for the protection of the environment while promoting full employment, workers’ participation in the production process, and non-market values across a wide range of human services, including health and education.

Policy recommendations
• Capitalism is an inherently unstable socioeconomic system with a natural tendency toward crises, and thus must be regulated; especially the financial sector, which constitutes the most dynamic and potentially destructive aspect of capital accumulation.
• Banks, as critical entities of the financial sector of the economy, are in essence social institutions and their main role or function should be to accept deposits by the public and issue loans. When banks and other financial institutions fail, they should be nationalized without any hesitation and all attempts to socialize losses should be immediately seen for what they are: unethical and undemocratic undertakings brought about by tight-knit linkages between governments and private interests. In periods of crisis, the recapitalization of banks with public funds must be accompanied by the state’s participation in banks’ equity capital.
• Markets are socially designed institutions, and as such, the idea of the “free market” represents one of the most pervasive and dangerous myths of contemporary capitalism. From antiquity to the present, trade was based on contracts and agreement between government authorities and was spread through the direct intervention of the state. Human societies without markets cannot thrive. However, markets often function inefficiently (they create oligopolies, give rise to undesirable incentives and cause externalities), and they cannot produce public goods in sufficiently large quantities to satisfy societal needs. Therefore, state intervention into markets is both a social need and a necessary moral obligation.
• The economic sphere does not represent an opposite pole from the social sphere. The aim of the economy is to improve the human condition, a principle that mandates that the process of wealth creation in any given society should not be purely for private gain but, first and foremost, for the support and enhancement of economic infrastructure and social institutions for further economic and social development; with the ultimate goal being the attainment of a decent standard of living for all citizens. Free education and health care should be accessible to everyone, along with the right to a job. Indeed, full employment (See Pollin, 2012) must become a key pillar of a progressive economic policy in the 21st century.
• Workplaces with a human-centered design must replace the current authoritarian trends embodied in most capitalist enterprises, and participatory economics (social ownership, self-managing workers, etc.,) should be highly encouraged and supported.
• The improvement of the quality of the environment (with key priorities being the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas and the protection of forests and natural wealth, in combination with policies seeking to address the phenomenon of climate change) ought to be a strategic aim of a progressive economic policy, realizing that the urgency of environmental issues concerns, in the final analysis, the very survival of our own species. Read more

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