Gluten Free Funds Terrorism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By Nick

I’d heard of this whole “Halal Funds Terrorism” thing before but I was inspired to write this after I was surprised to see people actually falling for it on a vegan Facebook page. I wish I was more surprised though – there is actually a lot of racism amongst animal advocates. I’ll leave that topic for another time, but here I’ll just briefly explain why this “Halal Funds Terrorism” is complete bullshit.

This is made totally clear by looking at any even vaguely reputable source. I’m sure I don’t have to convince anyone reading this but thought it could be useful for anyone getting trolled by people promoting this ridiculous campaign.

What is Halal?

What does halal actually mean? It’s a religious requirement for Muslims that the food they consume is prepared in a certain way — one that is free from pork products, alcohol and non-halal meat sources.

Linking this back to veganism, this means that ALL vegan products that don’t contain alcohol are halal. Scary stuff! 😮

Beware of the Mooslims!

Halal BS

This “Halal Funds Terrorism” campaign is based on Islamophobic conspiracy theories pushed by white supremacists, such as those from the racist One Nation Party:

A basic internet search of the Beware! Halal Foods Funds Terrorists stickers found on the Nestle products shows it can be purchased from Restore Australia whose CEO is Mike Holt, the One Nation Party’s candidate for the federal seat of Fairfax.

Not only is it being pushed by racists, these racists have zero evidence to support their claims:

Smith is concerned profits from Halal could be used to fund terrorism and she points to overseas examples as evidence of the risk.

Yet when approached by New Matilda, the Australian Crime Commission had this to say in regards to its recent Eligo National Taskforce, which found some financial links in Australia to groups including Hezbollah:

“The task force has identified direct links between serious and organised, money laundering and terrorism funding. However, the Australian Crime Commission is not aware of any direct links between the legitimate Halal certification industry and money laundering or the financing of terrorist groups.”

Even Coalition backbencher George Christensen, who is pushing for all Halal certified products to be labelled, so he and other Islamophobes can avoid them, has admitted ‘it’s not terrorism’.

Blaming Muslims

Links with Anti-Semitism

This whole uproar over Halal labelling is similar to the anti-Kosher campaign white supremacists have pushed in the past – it seems as though they’ve just moved onto Islam now:

The claim of the anti-halal brigade is that their concern does not extend to kosher food, since Jews do not pose the same level of threat as Muslims. However, the scare-mongering against halal certification follows a precedent set by antisemitic scaremongering about kosher certification (or the “Jewish tax,” as white supremacists refer to it). Housewives are urged to purge their pantries of any products bearing the tiny “K,” the insignia of the rabbinical council which imposes the certification scheme – described by one notorious leaflet as the “Kosher Nostra Scam.”

As Martha Nussbaum and others have pointed out, Jews have long occupied the place of the abhorrent “hidden enemy” within Western societies, all the more foul and disgusting for their ability to conceal themselves. The campaign against halal certification is just one of the ways in which racism against Muslims has increasingly come to resemble historic patterns of racism against Jews.

So what does this Halal Label Really Mean?

This label on food is about as scary as any other. Just as someone who is gluten intolerant will benefit from the gluten free label so they can avoid these foods, the Halal label is useful for Islamic people so they can avoid foods that are haram (forbidden).

So eating foods labelled Halal is not going to fund terrorism any more than eating foods that are labelled gluten free. Eating gluten may cause Ebola though – if South Park is real life…

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When Will Moderate Whites Condemn the NAACP Bombing?

By Nick Pendergrast

Right around the time that twelve people were killed in the shooting at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the office of the NAACP, one of the oldest civil rights groups in the US, was bombed by a white man. While fortunately the NAACP bombing did not result in any injuries and deaths, justifying a greater media focus on the French shooting, this bombing was pretty much ignored in the mainstream media until African American people on Twitter managed to get #NAACPBombing trending.

While most people will be well aware of all of the details of the French shooting and subsequent acts of violence in France, what has been lacking in most of the media coverage has been a discussion on the context behind the actions. In this article I will look into the recent violence in France and media coverage, free speech and Islamophobia.

Context, Context, Context

Journalist Robert Fiske recent published an article which provided an in-depth look into the French repression of Algerian people. A huge majority of France’s Muslim population are Algerian. Fiske points out that this context is often neglected in stories about violence covered by the media:

Maybe all newspaper and television reports should carry a “history corner”, a little reminder that nothing – absolutely zilch – happens without a past. Massacres, bloodletting, fury, sorrow, police hunts (“widening” or “narrowing” as sub-editors wish) take the headlines. Always it’s the “who” and the “how” – but rarely the “why”.

There are several reasons why we often don’t get the full context from the mainstream media when they report on atrocities. Part of it has to do with commercial constraints, where a simplified/shorter explanation of ‘why’ (or even no explanation of all) is more palatable to a larger audience, meaning commercial media outlets do this so they can get more papers sold, more clicks to their website, more advertising and therefore more money. After all, the primary function of commercial media, by their very nature as businesses, is to make money.

But I think people often don’t want to look into the ‘why’ because it is seen as excusing the actions. I believe it is not about excusing anything, but about understanding what is going on around the world in a deeper way. That is what I will try and do in this article.

A Free Speech Issue?

The attack on Charlie Hebdo has often been framed purely in free speech terms. For example, the organiser of a “Je Suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) rally in Melbourne, mourning and supporting the people killed in the attack, explained:

But more because it’s just not a terrorist attack against France, it’s a terrorist attack against freedom of speech and it’s something like, it’s very important all around the world. So I think when somebody attacks freedom of speech, it’s the beginning of the end.

I will not be a part of the “I am Charlie” campaign – I am NOT Charlie.* I think it is very possible to condemn the Paris shootings while also condemning the Islamophobia of Charlie Hedbo, which will be outlined below. While free speech is important, I believe we shouldn’t look at this issue purely through the lens of free speech without also without also looking into the broader context of white supremacy and Islamophobia.

Comedian Aamer Rahman does this in relation to the repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in Australia, which makes it illegal to insult people on racial grounds. This repeal was proposed by the Abbott government, on free speech grounds. The idea has since been dropped, although the Paris shootings have led some in the Abbott government to once again call for the section to be repealed.

The cartoon below is from Charlie Hedbo, making light of Muslim vs Muslim violence, in reaction to 1000 Egyptian people being killed.

koran

“But Islam isn’t a race” we often hear when the issue of Islamophobia is raised. Well, just because it isn’t racism, doesn’t mean it’s okay. Secondly, when the attacks are often made by white people against people of colour, it is certainly wrong to say there is no racial basis at all behind Islamophobia.

Richard Dawkins recently posted on Twitter:

dawkins2

I think what Dawkins leaves out of his analysis is context, power and privilege. Maybe in a different world “atheophobia” would be exactly the same as Islamophobia, but that’s not the world we live in. While atheists certainly face some discrimination, in conservative parts of the US, for example, it is certainly not to the same extent as Muslims face Islamophobia in countries like France. This Islamophobia is state-sanctioned, including the French state banning pro-Palestine rallies, headscarves in schools or the public service, and burqas and niqabs everywhere.

Predominantly Muslim countries are being bombed all around the world and where Muslims are the minority in countries like Australia, they face a lot of discrimination, such as street harassment. I think comparing the two is like saying racism against people of colour is exactly the same as “racism” against white people.

Others argue that Charlie Hedbo mocked the pope and orthodox Jews ‘in equal measure‘. First of all, this is highly debatable, in fact Maurice Sinet was fired from the magazine for making comments against Judaism, while Islamophobia is laughed at by the magazine.

Even if hypothetically this was the case, I think this is besides the point, as such mockery takes place in a completely different context. It’s like saying a magazine had some sexist stuff but they also made fun of men, it had some racist stuff but also made fun of white people – these things aren’t equal because of the context – see Aamer Rahman’s video above.

Charlie Hedbo’s cartoons mocking Muslims, such as the one pictured above, helped to play a role in maintaining the position of French Muslims as “second-class citizens”. As Asghar Bukari wrote:

White people don’t like to admit it, but those cartoons upheld their prejudice, their racism, their political supremacy, and cut it how you will — images like that upheld a political order built on discrimination.

This doesn’t make for good satire. As comedian Aamer Rahman has tweeted:

This is obviously not to say that satire that “punches down rather than up” should receive violence but we also should not celebrate Charlie Hebdo on free speech grounds without also looking into the broader context of white supremacy and Islamophobia.

Racism, Islamophobia and the Media

Speaking of racism and Islamophobia, the mainstream media often perpetuates both of these in the coverage of terrorism. As the NAACP bombing mentioned at the start of the article showed, terrorism by white people who aren’t Muslim often gets far less media coverage than violence carried out by Muslim people. Not only that, but the coverage is very different, as is shown in the coverage of the NAACP bombing compared to the Paris shooting:

Perhaps this media narrative of who is and isn’t responsible for terrorism explains why the media has virtually ignored the fact that one of the twelve people killed in the French shootings was a Muslim police officer. This media coverage is also likely to play a role in the predictable call for moderate Muslims to condemn terrorism whenever violence by Muslim people is in the news.

This struck me the morning I woke up after the Sydney Siege, where hostages were taken in a Lindt chocolate shop and two people were killed – one by the gunman and it has been recently revealed that one of the victims was killed by the police. Muslims in Australia, like everyone else, would have felt saddened, upset and scared by the Sydney Siege but then on top of that would have to worry about the backlash they could face. This is an additional burden that non-Muslims don’t have to worry about when such violence takes place.

Soon after the Sydney Siege, Sociologist Randa Abdel-Fattah highlighted this pressure that is unjustly placed on Muslims to “distance themselves” from actions that have nothing at all to do with them:

There is another issue though, too. And that is whether Australian Muslims will be entitled to grieve the deaths of the two hostages and the trauma suffered by the survivors in a way that does not make their empathy and grief contingent on condemning, apologizing and distancing themselves from the gunman.

As Muslim leaders condemn the violence in Paris, others point to the Qu’ran being inherently violent and hateful. I am an atheist who has not read the Qu’ran so, unlike Richard Dawkins, I won’t have a say over who is being a “true Muslim” and who isn’t, as I have no idea.

What I hope most people can agree with me on though is that we need to stop blaming a whole group for the actions of individuals, as well as challenging this pressure placed on Muslims to condemn acts of violence by other Muslims – particularly as this pressure is not placed on other groups.

 

*An earlier version of this article contained Charlie Hedbo cartoons depicting a French politician as a monkey and Boko Haram’s sex slaves as “welfare queens”, as examples of racism from the magazine. These cartoons (and many others from Charlie Hedbo) were certainly racist in that they relied on and perpetuated racist tropes, although I originally pictured the cartoons without the context. The cartoon of the French politician was actually lampooning a far-right’s group depiction of this politician and the Boko Haram one was actually criticising the right-wing’s opposition to welfare for immigrants. While this was done in a problematic and racist way, as this context was not included originally, I have decided to delete the cartoons from the article and focus on the Islamophobia of Charlie Hedbo.

Image

A Response To Sam Harris Blaming Muslims for the “Careful” and “Compassionate” Killing of Palestinian Civilians

By Nick Pendergrast

cartoon

Recently Katie posted some critical comments on the Facebook page for our podcast about the above cartoon, which was published in the right-wing newspaper The Australian. This cartoon blames Palestinians for the civilian deaths they have suffered at the hands of the Israeli state. Someone commented that the picture was actually an accurate depiction and after a lengthy discussion, they recommended I listen a podcast episode by atheist writer Sam Harris on the topic of Israel/Palestine, in order to better understand their views. I thought that Harris’ views expressed on this episode were representative of a lot of what I see to be common misperceptions about the situation. So in this very first blog post on our site, I thought I would provide some of my responses to these claims, in order to hopefully provide a better understanding of what is going on in that region.

Attack is Israel’s Best Option for Defence

I think Harris is way too apologetic about the killing of civilians by the Israeli state. He argues that they have had to this, that they were made brutal by their enemies and they are defending themselves against aggressors in a defensive war. He asks whether they should be blamed for protecting their civilians.

I don’t see how killing Palestinian civilians is protecting Israeli civilians. I don’t hear anyone criticising them for protecting civilians with methods such as shelters, intercepting rockets – I do hear criticism against their killing of civilians. He argues that they receive public scrutiny out of proportion to what they have actually done – but I don’t see how this reaction is out of proportion to the deaths of over thousand people.

He also congratulates Israel for not targeting civilians, taking “great pains” to avoid civilian casualties and for being “deterred” by human shields. Just because the Israeli government keeps making this claim that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields”, doesn’t make it true. Amnesty International have not found evidence to support this claim, although it keeps getting repeated (I guess it’s a good cover to try and excuse the continued bombing of civilians – that United Nations school was being used by Hamas, that hospital was being used by Hamas…):

‘Israeli air strikes have targeted civilian homes in Gaza on the basis that they are the family homes of “Hamas operatives”, according to statements by the Israeli military, destroying the homes after warning the families to leave. However, in several such cases no evidence has emerged to indicate that the alleged “Hamas operatives” were inside the homes at the time of the attack, that the homes were being used to store munitions, or otherwise were being used for military purposes.

“Unless the Israeli authorities can provide specific information to show how a home is being used to make an effective contribution to military actions, deliberately attacking civilian homes constitutes a war crime and also amounts to collective punishment against the families,” said Philip Luther [Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International].’

Sara Saleh (Amnesty International Australia’s spokesperson) does a great job at disputing this claim that Hamas are to blame for the civilian deaths in Palestine (as well as other Israeli government “one liners” which they keep repeating, regardless of how far from reality they are). She argues that:

‘Hamas is a symptom, not cause, of Israel’s ongoing illegal occupation…So let’s not get distracted by the symptoms in this case – Hamas – and look at the cause – Israel (which, incidentally, has also been accused of state terrorism on many occasions)…Israel has repeatedly broken truces in the lead up to each of the past attacks on Gaza, before rockets came into the picture.’

Harris is too quick to take the Israeli government’s rhetoric of avoiding civilian casualties at face value. Andrew Exum, a former US army officer and defence department special adviser on the Middle East, who has studied Israel’s military operations, has labelled the weapons used by Israel against Palestine as “pretty indiscriminate”. The Israeli state specifically chooses weapons that are not precise. As journalist Jonathan Cook, who lives in Israel, explains, these weapons have:

‘a margin of error of up to 300 metres, plus a lethal radius of up to 150 metres and an injury radius of 300 metres. So that’s a killing and injury zone of close to half a kilometre from the intended “precise” site of impact. In a territory that is only a few kilometres wide. In short, the main shell Israel is using in Gaza is entirely imprecise.’

I also disagree with Harris that we should congratulate Israel for “only” killing over a thousand civilians when they physically could have killed tens of thousands – that is setting the bar very low. As DSWright argues:

‘If the current bloodbath is a result of unprecedented attempts to avoid civilian casualties what would less restrained warfare be – a nuclear strike?’

Muslims are Inherently Violent – That’s the Problem!

Harris is a well-known atheist and it is no surprise that his analysis focuses on religion. I’m also an atheist and no fan of religion, however, I disagree that the major problem is religious. Harris argues that even on its worst day, Israel shows more ‘care, compassion and self-criticism’ than any Muslim combatant anywhere, including Hamas. When you look at the death toll, quite the opposite is true. The Palestine death toll is over 1700 and the United Nations estimate that up to 80% of those killed are civilians. On the Israeli side, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians (two Israeli civilians and one Thai worker) have been killed.

So despite what either the Israeli state or Hamas might say, I think their actions are the most important. Based on the figures above, the Israel state have killed approximately 1360 civilians (up to 80% of casualties), whereas Hamas have killed 3 civilians (4.5% of the casualties). So while “both sides” have killed civilians, to put them on equal footing (or to argue that is Hamas that is the worst) totally goes against the evidence. I don’t see the care and compassion in killing over 1000 civilians and from the Israeli government officials I’ve heard interviewed, such as the BBC interview with the economic minister that we played and discussed on our 63rd episode, I’ve heard zero self-criticism.

Harris argues that lots of Palestinians support violence and cites suicide bombings etc but doesn’t mention that there was over 30 years of Occupation before this started to be used as a tactic of desperation after non-violent methods of protest were brutally crushed. So I think it is wrong to portray Palestinians/Muslims as somehow inherently inclined towards violence. Even after decades of Occupation, huge numbers of Palestinians oppose violent resistance:

‘The poll found that a large majority of Palestinians favored the tactic of “popular resistance” – such as demonstrations and strikes – over violence to achieve their goals, Globes reported Sunday…On the question of tactics, again, the trend was toward moderation, with 70 percent of Gazans and 56 percent of West Bankers saying Hamas should observe a cease-fire with Israel. Asked if Hamas should go along with Abbas’ demand that the unity government publicly renounce violence, 57 percent of Gazans agreed, while West Bankers were split evenly.’

Can’t We All Just Get Along?!

Harris argues that we have to side with Israel because if it could accomplish its aims, it would live peacefully with its neighbours, if its neighbours would live in peace with them. I know there are Israelis who want to live in peace with Palestinians and this is obviously a positive thing. Naama Blatman-Thomas, who we’ve had on the podcast the last two episodes (episodes 62 and 63), is an Israeli Jew who has worked with Palestinian groups. However, the difference is, these groups are working together to end the Occupation of Palestine. You can find a long list of Australian Jewish groups and individuals working to end the Occupation of Palestine here and it’s also well-worth looking into the US-based group Jewish Voice for Peace which shares this goal.

Jews against the occupation

Harris mentions the Occupation I think once, but when he’s talking about Israel accomplishing its aims and living peacefully, he does not mention the Occupation at all. Everyone in that region could get along great and sing ‘Kum Ba Yah’ together, but that wouldn’t change the facts of Palestinian loss of land (have you seen the maps?), living under Occupation including random restrictions on essential products, and Palestinians as “second-class citizens” – they would still be living under apartheid.

As Jewish Voices for Peace explain, there are different laws in Israel, depending on people’s ethnicity:

  • ‘Israel still applies 20 laws that privilege Jews over Arabs.’

  • ‘The 1950 Law of Return grants automatic citizenship rights to Jews from anywhere in the world upon request, while denying that same right to Palestinians.’

  • ‘The Basic Law of Human Dignity and Freedom ensures that Israel is the state of the “Jewish people,” not its citizens.’

  • ‘Israel’s flag and other national symbols are Jewish religious symbols, not neutral or national ones that represent all the citizens of the state.’

Many who have suffered from apartheid in South Africa have made comparisons with Israel. For example:

“The ANC chairperson, Baleka Mbete, strongly responded, saying that she has been to Palestine herself and that the Israeli regime is not only comparable but ‘far worse than apartheid South Africa’.”

In apartheid South Africa, should there have been calls to just let the white South Africans live in peace, as long as the South African government can accomplish its aims of an apartheid state? While we can obviously discuss the tactics used to oppose apartheid in South Africa, the central injustice was the apartheid itself, I think the same is true here. Harris is right to condemn Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Semitism but what is lacking from his analysis is that his interpretation of Israelis living “peacefully” still involves Occupation and apartheid.

There’s no meaningful peace without justice and there is no justice while Israel continues to Occupy Palestine.