Unfettered hate speech fuels Chinese fear of Islam | The Japan Times

Of interest:

A flood of angry anti-Muslim rhetoric on social media was the first sign of how fiercely suburban middle-class homeowners in the central Chinese city of Hefei opposed a planned mosque in their neighborhood. It quickly escalated into something more sinister.

Soon a pig’s head was buried in the ground at the future Nangang mosque, the culmination of a rally in which dozens of residents hoisted banners and circled the planned building site.

Then the mosque’s imam received a text message carrying a death threat: “In case someone in your family dies, I have a coffin for you — and more than one, if necessary.”

“How did things get stirred up to this point?” the imam, Tao Yingsheng, said in a recent interview. “Who had even heard of the Nangang mosque before?”

On the dusty plains of the Chinese heartland, the bitter fight over the mosque exemplifies how a surge in anti-Muslim sentiment online is spreading into communities across China, exacerbating ethnic and religious tensions that have in the past erupted in bloodshed. It is also posing a dilemma for the ruling Communist Party, which has allowed Islamophobia to fester online for years as part of its campaign to justify security crackdowns in the restive region of Xinjiang.

“It has let the genie out of the bottle,” said James Leibold, a professor at La Trobe University in Australia who has tracked the growth of anti-Muslim hate speech on China’s internet.

Interviews with residents and an examination of social media show how a few disparate online complaints by local homeowners evolved into a concerted campaign to spread hate.

Key to it was an unexpected yet influential backer: a Chinese propaganda official, 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) away in Xinjiang, whose inflammatory social media posts helped draw people into the streets on New Year’s Day, resulting in a police crackdown.

First mosque in 1780s

A stone inscription outside its gate shows the original Nangang mosque was established in the 1780s by members of the Hui minority, the descendants of Silk Road traders who settled across China centuries ago. In its present form, the mosque has served the area’s 4,500 Hui for decades, its domed silhouette partially hidden by overgrown shrubs in the countryside beyond Hefei’s last paved boulevards.

Over the past 10 years urbanization has come to Hefei, with sprawling development reconfiguring the landscape and its demographic flavor, and Hui leaders had been pushing for years to relocate their mosque to a more convenient urban location.

City planners in November finally selected a site adjacent to the newly built Hangkong New City condominiums, with its $200,000 two-bedroom units, faux-Mediterranean styling and a Volvo dealership across the street.

The project’s homeowners — overwhelmingly members of China’s ethnic Han majority — began complaining on China’s popular microblog Weibo. Some complained the mosque would occupy space promised for a park. Others warned that safety in the area would be compromised.

Others were more blunt: Han residents were uncomfortable that a center for Hui community life would be less than 100 meters from their building, a homeowner who later identified himself in messages to the AP by his surname, Cheng, wrote in a petition posted in December. “And the less said about what happens on Eid al-Adha, the better,” Cheng wrote, referring to the Islamic holiday in which animals are slaughtered for a sacrificial feast. “It’s absolutely shocking.”

Source: Unfettered hate speech fuels Chinese fear of Islam | The Japan Times

After St. Petersburg bombing, a notable absence: Russian anti-Islam backlash – CSMonitor.com

Interesting take:

Russia has been at war with Islamic enemies for over 500 years. Over the centuries, it fought long battles to subdue Tatars and other Muslim tribes who are now part of Russia. It also waged wars against the Persian and Turkish empires, incorporating many of their former territories into Imperial Russia.

Today, some of Russia’s most “troublesome” minorities are traditionally Muslim people with long histories of conflict with Russia, such as Chechens and Crimean Tatars. But so are some of its most successful and prosperous regions, especially Tatarstan, which has found its own formula for quelling internal Islamist extremism and co-existing, sometimes uneasily, with Moscow.

That’s one reason why most Russians don’t see Muslims as a faceless “other,” but are able to differentiate between different groups of them, says Alexey Malashenko, an Islam specialist with the Moscow Carnegie Center.

“We’ve been living among and, yes, sometimes fighting these people for hundreds of years. We know them,” he says. “The average Russian can tell the difference between a Chechen, a Tatar, an Uzbek, and a Tajik and, believe me, there are big differences. There is a great deal of xenophobia under the surface in Russia, and sometimes it comes out,” as it has in occasional urban race riots between Russians and migrant laborers – who are especially numerous in big cities like Moscow.

“But overt anti-Muslim political appeals, such as you do see in some Western countries, are absolutely impossible in Russia. Our authorities do not need or want the instability that could result from playing that card,” he says.

Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders have been very careful to separate Islam from terrorism, and to make that a frequent public message.

Two years ago Mr. Putin presided, alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, at the inauguration of the $170 million new Moscow Cathedral Mosque, a huge downtown temple that can accommodate 10,000 worshipers. With an eye both to Russia’s millions of Muslims and Russia’s growing role in the Middle East, he used the occasion to condemn Islamist extremism.

“We see what’s happening in the Middle East where terrorists of the so-called Islamic State discredit a great world religion, discredit Islam by sowing hate, killing people, and destroying the world’s cultural heritage in a barbaric way. Their ideology is built on lies, on open perversion of Islam. They are trying to recruit followers in our country as well,” he said.

The powerful Orthodox Church has also walked a cautious line. When Russia intervened in Syria almost two years ago, church officials hailed it in potentially inflammatory terms as a “holy war.” But the church, too, has been at pains to stress that it is a fight against “terrorism,” not Islam, and has repeatedly called for an alliance between moderate Christians and Muslims to combat extremism.

Familiar suspicions

Still, a more familiar Islamophobia bubbles not far beneath the surface. While Russia’s authoritarian political culture keeps it mostly bottled up for now, any survey of the country’s freewheeling social media will turn up plenty of small but clearly active groups who express the kind of militant anti-immigration, anti-foreigner, and anti-Muslim views that are familiar in the West.

“Potentially, any foreign citizen coming here is a threat,” says Valentina Bobrova, a leader of the National Conservative Movement, a small group in the central Russian city of Podolsk. “Islam … is an aggressive religion. We feel that it is attacking, trying to seize territories, minds, and souls in Russia, just as it is in Europe.”

And the story of Ilyas Nikitin, a Russian Muslim whose photograph was mistakenly circulated as a suspect in the St. Petersburg bombing, is a cautionary signal of how quickly grassroots suspicion and ill-will can erupt. Despite being cleared by police, he was subsequently forced off an airplane when terrified passengers complained, and arrived at his home in the west Siberian city of  Nizhnevartovsk to find he’d been fired from his job.

“You can’t say there is Islamophobia in Russia,” says Rais Suleymanov, an expert with the security services-linked Institute of National Strategy. “But when some act of terrorism is committed by radical Islamists, average people are quick to project all of their underlying fears onto that [Islamic] doctrine.”

Source: After St. Petersburg bombing, a notable absence: Russian anti-Islam backlash (+video) – CSMonitor.com

German government rejects conservatives’ call for Islam law – The Washington Post

Of note:

The German government says there’s no need for new legislation to regulate Islamic organizations in the country.

Members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party have called for a ban on foreign funding of Islamic organizations, and for Muslims to get statutory rights to pastoral care from an imam in prisons and hospitals.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that such a law was “a non-issue” at the moment and noted that religious freedom is guaranteed by the German constitution.

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants in Germany in recent years has rekindled public debates about the country’s relationship with Islam.

A recent report by public broadcaster ARD found that the Islam preached in some mosques is more conservative than in many Muslim countries.

Pope to meet with UK imams in bid to promote moderate Islam – The Washington Post

More effective approach than his predecessor:

Pope Francis is scheduled to meet Wednesday with four British imams two weeks after the London extremist attack, part of his effort to encourage Muslim leaders who renounce using religion to justify violence.

The audience was scheduled long before the March 22 attack, in which a man mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three, before fatally stabbing a policeman on the grounds of Parliament.

The head of the British Muslim Forum, Muhammad Shahid Raza, said in an interview Tuesday that the pope’s support and message of solidarity after the attack “strengthened our position that we, like other communities, condemn all terrorist activities.”

Francis will try to further the cause later this month when he visits Al Azhar university in Cairo, Sunni Islam’s main center of learning.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster, is accompanying the imams to the Vatican. He said the aim of the visit was to help promote Muslim leaders who denounce violence carried out in God’s name.

The Muslim community slowly is gaining the confidence to speak out and condemn Islamic extremism, Nichols said.

“That is the voice that has to be heard to counter the rather more undifferentiating, unappreciative and even hostile voices that view Islamic people in Britain as somehow alien and unwelcome,” he said.

Source: Pope to meet with UK imams in bid to promote moderate Islam – The Washington Post

Is There a Christian Double Standard on Religious Violence? – The Daily Beast

Good long and nuanced read, covering a range of theological perspectives:

Shortly after September 11, 2001, then President George W. Bush spoke directly to Muslims. “We respect your faith,” he said, calling it “good and peaceful.” Terrorists, he added, “are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

Recently, TODAY’s Matt Lauer reminded Bush of his words. “I understood right off the bat, Matt, that this was an ideological conflict—that people who murder the innocent are not religious people,” Bush explained.

Those words epitomize an important, but controversial question: is someone who acts violently in the name of a faith truly a member of that faith? According to recently highlighted data from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)—which focuses primarily on Christian responses to that yes/no question—potential answers may result in a “double standard.” Christians are more likely to say that other Christians acting violently are not true Christians, while failing to provide the same latitude for Muslims.

But how closely does this represent the reality? When I asked Christian theologians the why behind that simple survey, the answers were—perhaps surprisingly—more complicated and diverse.

According to PRRI, 50 percent of Americans in general say that violence in the name of Islam does not represent Islam—75 percent say the same of Christianity. The numbers shift, however, the more specific the demographic gets, creating the alleged “double standard.” White mainline Protestants (77 percent) and Catholics (79 percent) reject the idea that true Christians act violently, with 41 percent and 58 percent respectively being willing to say the same of Muslims.

White evangelicals stand out the most, having what PRRI calls the “larger double-standard”—87 percent disown Christians who commit violent acts, with only 44 percent willing to say the same about Muslims.

Many, however, believe that Christians who commit acts of terror are overlooked in the West—that “terrorist” is a biased word used only of non-white violent acts done in the name of Islam.

Early in February, the White House issued a report of 78 terror attacks the Trump administration says were ignored by the media. The list was widely dissected by the press and pundits, with news outlets challenging the claims (listing their own coverage as proof), taking the metaphorical red pencil to the list’s many clear spelling errors, and noting the conspicuous absence of attacks by professed white Christians. Notably, the list did not include the recent attack on a mosque in Quebec, as CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out.

Understandably, most people are unlikely to associate willfully with anyone who acts horribly in the name of a faith they love. When terrorist attacks do occur, faith representatives frequently waste little time in denouncing them (PRRI’s “double standard”) but not all are sure that these open repudiations represent the reality.

“Christians who commit terrorists acts in the name of their religion are, of course, Christian terrorists,” she says. This does not mean that “Christianity is only a violent religion,” but “it has been complicit in horrific and systemic violence across history, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the Nazis, and today’s Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.”

She believes it is important that Christians face the issue honestly. “Christians don’t get a ‘hall pass’ to go innocently through the bloody history of what has been done by Christians in the name of Christianity over time. It is absolutely critical that Christians not turn away from the Christian theological elements in such religiously inspired terrorism.”

The same goes for Islam, she says.

“When Muslims commit horrific acts in the name of their religion, I do not think they cease to be Muslims.” She recognizes that Muslims who distance themselves from ISIS might say, “That’s not Islam,” but she believes it is more complicated than that.

“I know many thoughtful Muslims who know they need to dig deeply into their own faith in order to look at the temptations to violence, such as thinking you are doing the ‘will of God’ when what you are really doing is using Islam in order to gain political power.”

Daniel Kirk, pastoral director at Newbigin House of Studies, agrees that violence does not negate one’s Christian or Muslim status.

“Each religion and every religious text holds potential for harm as well as good. Acts of violence can be, and often are, religious expressions. It is critical that we recognize the human component involved when religious communities shape behavior. If we deny the religious component we misinterpret the action and lose our opportunity to respond to it appropriately.”

When shooters (or potential shooters) like Dylan RoofBenjamin McDowellRobert Doggart, and Robert Dear, identify themselves as Christians, many might hope to rescind their membership or say it was never valid, but others, like Kirk, believe that approach is problematic.

“Unless a person is being intentionally deceitful, someone who claims to be acting on the basis of religious fervor should be treated as an adherent to that religion. I do not get to judge whether or not a person is ‘really’ of their faith. As a Christian I can only try to persuade other Christians as to why certain behaviors are incompatible with the Christian faith.”

Others believe that the difference between Christians and Muslims is more distinct—that the religion of Jesus rejects violence, but that Islam does not.

“The alleged double-standard claimed by the PRRI survey essentially dissolves when we consider the example and teachings of the respective founders, Jesus and Muhammad,” says evangelical professor Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. “Jesus repudiated violence—that is, the unjust use of force—done in his name.”

“By contrast, Muhammad himself engaged in violent, ruthless actions during his career,” he adds. “He taught such ruthlessness as normative in the Quran.”

While agreeing with the larger results of the survey, Copan says the discussion has layers, noting particularly the role of Christians in the military who—assuming they have a just cause—may have to kill. They are in a different situation. It is also possible, he says, for “misguided” Christians to act violently (and therefore, “unjustly”), even if it is contrary to the faith.

When it comes to Islam, he adds that he’s known “plenty of gracious, hospitable Muslims” who “repudiate violence done in the name of Islam” by “screening off any violent texts of the Quran,” though he can’t say that violence in the name of Islam is inconsistent with the faith.

Evangelical J. Robert Douglass, associate professor of theological studies at Winebrenner Theological Seminary, takes a cautious approach to the question, recognizing that both faiths have sacred texts that could be understood violently.

“My understanding of the Christian faith does not permit violence in the name of Christ,” he says. “However, I am not prepared to say that a person who acts in a way contradictory to the teachings of Christ is excluded from being a Christian.” He recognizes that there are complications behind violence, like ignorance, manipulation, and mental illness.

“If behaving in opposition to the teachings of Christ kept one from being a Christian, I could not consider myself one.”

He admits that due to competing factions in Islam with varying interpretations vying for “authentic representation”—some advocating violence and others peace—the question is more difficult to answer “definitively.”

“Both the Bible and the Quran have passages that advocate violence, at least within particular historical contexts,” says Douglass. He says he doesn’t find “a sizable faction within Christianity that is still explicitly advocating the legitimacy of violence in a manner that we presently see in Islam,” but “since Christianity had a historical head start, perhaps in 500 or 600 years this will no longer be true for Islam either.”

Other theologians readily reject the face value of a faith label attached to an act of violence, agreeing with Christians or Muslims who say, “That’s not my faith.”

Greg Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and an outspoken pacifist, finds himself taking a very different stance, saying that anyone—Christian or Muslim—who acts out in violence is not truly a part of those faiths.

“Jesus made one’s commitment to refrain from violence, and to instead love and bless one’s enemies, the precondition for being considered ‘a child of your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:39-45). Though followers of Jesus are never allowed to judge another person’s heart or ‘salvation,’ Jesus’ teaching rules out killing another human for any reason, let alone doing so as an act of terror in his name!”

“While the Quran allows Muslims to take the lives of others under certain conditions,” he adds, “these conditions rule out murdering innocent people to install terror in others (6:151). I therefore side with the majority of Muslims who do not consider Islamic terrorists to be true Muslims.”

The briefest dive into this conversation about religious identity quickly reveals an undeniable mosaic of views. And—perhaps to the surprise of some—it should be noted that the flipside of this conversation among Muslims may result in conclusions similar to these Christian perspectives.

“If someone claiming to be Christian commits an act of violence in the name of Christianity,” says Harris Zafar, National Spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, “it certainly cannot be my place as a Muslim to decide whether or not that person is a true Christian.” He sees that as “the burden” of his “Christian friends,” though he does believe violence contradicts the “teachings of Christianity.”

“And to be honest,” he adds, “the same holds true with regards to a Muslim. As a Muslim, if I were to look at those Muslims who commit horrible acts of violence and terrorism and say they are not real Muslims, I’m committing the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy.”

The goal of Islam is not to judge others, he says, noting that the Prophet Muhammad saw such actions as a “sin.”

Instead he “would focus on highlighting all of the teachings of Islam that this person is violating. And Muslims who commit acts of terror can certainly call themselves Muslims if they would like, but I can easily illustrate the fundamental teachings of Islam that they are starkly violating.”

Islam, says Zafar, calls its adherents to “stop that injustice” and “unite people together through a bond of humanity and mutual respect—not to divide people with injustice or violence.”

Undeniably, this is a conversation and debate with years of life left in it. The diversity of opinion belies the reality: there is no such thing as a single or simple Christian perspective on how to understand violence and religiosity.

It was former president and self-professed Christian, Barack Obama, for example, who once offered a similar sentiment to that of Bush. When asked in a CNN town hall why he wouldn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorist,” he said didn’t want to lump “these murderers” with the world’s billions of peaceful Muslims.

“There is no doubt that these folks think and claim that they are speaking for Islam,” he said, “but I don’t want to validate what they do. If you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said, ‘We’re on the vanguard of Christianity.’ As a Christian, I’m not going to let them claim my religion and say, ‘you’re killing for Christ.’ I would say, that’s ridiculous.”

Source: Is There a Christian Double Standard on Religious Violence? – The Daily Beast

Catholicism has done more harm to Australia than Islam. Where’s the outrage? | Kristina Keneally 

Some valid points in terms of not treating all religions equally or holding them to similar standards:

Abdel-Magied was trying to make a similar point about Islam, the prophet Muhammad and subsequent patriarchal interpretations of the Koran. Maybe she was naive to think the “reality show” that Q&A has descended into was the best place to use phrases like “Islam is the most feminist of all religions” and “There is a difference between religion and culture.” Sentences like that need to be placed in context, unpacked for nuance.

Unfortunately context and nuance are not big features of conversation inside the outrage machine, but double standards are rife.

It seems that every Australian Muslim who pokes their head up in public is expected to own, explain and condemn any terrorist act carried out by any extremist Muslim anywhere in the world. The outrage machine demands it, and then that same machine judges if the words are sufficient.

Why isn’t this same outrage applied to Australian Catholics? If we are going on a body count the Catholic clergy has done more harm to more Australians than extremist Muslims. More than 4,000 reports of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic church made to the royal commission. God knows how many more are unreported. Innocent Australian children and young people are the victims. Lives have been ruined: suicides and mental illness, broken families, grotesque physical injury.

Why isn’t the outrage machine demanding the Catholic prime minister condemn this horrendous and sustained attack on Australians every time the commission hears from another victim of Catholic abuse?

Why aren’t they regularly calling for the Catholic deputy prime minister to speak out and make clear he does not condone what some Catholic clergy have done?

Why aren’t they asking the Catholic-raised leader of the opposition about whether Cardinal George Pell should face questions in Australia? Oh, wait, the leader of the opposition said in parliament two weeks ago that Cardinal Pell should be sent back to Australia to face questions. Why didn’t the outrage machine join that bandwagon?

Why aren’t they demanding the government urgently implement a national redress scheme to make reparations to the Catholic church’s victims?

Or is taking on Australian Catholics hitting just a little too close to home?

It’s easier, isn’t it, to pick on the young woman with the scarf on her head, or get upset about two little girls in a hijab, all in the name of making Australia safe.

What brave defenders of freedom, of Australia, you are.

Source: Catholicism has done more harm to Australia than Islam. Where’s the outrage? | Kristina Keneally | Opinion | The Guardian

ICYMI: Trump’s dangerous delusions about Islam | Christopher de Bellaigue | The Guardian

Good long read by Christopher de Bellaigue, taken from his latest book, The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason (conclusion excerpt):

Even accounting for the new arrivals of recent years, Muslims amount to just 6% of Europe’s population, and 1% of that of the US. But proportionality of response is not considered a virtue among the new nationalists – and even if the Muslim immigration figures were to start to fall, and all fear of submergence under a Muslim tide was demonstrated to be empirically groundless, who’s to say the populists would allow the thrill of fear to abate?

What seems more likely is that today’s proponents of harsh anti-Muslim measures will find retroactive justification in any virulent reaction they excite, leading to even more and harsher measures against Muslims – much as the European powers whose interventions helped hasten the collapse of the Islamic Enlightenment at the start of the last century felt their actions were vindicated by the violence that followed.

For those whose primary concern is the perpetuation of cultural homogeneity, the pressing question is a simple one: what is to be done with the Muslims? The clashist version of history makes their antipathy to modernity indisputable; integration and assimilation are therefore impossible. This would seem to be the position of the 60% of Germans, for example, who have been found in surveys to agree with Frauke Petry’s AfD that Islam does not belong in their country.

This is the kind of polling that converts easily into action by a decisive commander-in-chief. And it is surely legitimate to observe that Islamism of a strident and intermittently violent sort has made inroads in European societies, bringing a combative intolerance to parts of the continent where the socio-economic indicators are in any case low.

But the question for anyone concerned for the overall health of society is a more complicated one; the answer will have to address the actual threat of jihadism, calm the fears of those who believe an intangible and precious part of their culture is endangered, and revive the dimming faith in the possibility of inclusive, multi-ethnic liberal democracy.

We already know what Trump’s reaction to the next atrocity will be. “I told you so,” he will say, and give the screws a turn. Electronic tagging; deportations; orders to shoot illicit refugees (a suggestion of the AfD’s Petry) – the menu of vengeful retributions before the clash-mongers is long and mouthwatering.

For those grappling with the second of the two questions, the options are already limited. The European refugee crisis has hardened the continent’s heart, probably forever, and sectarian identity has been placed at the heart of western political debate. All of this happened before Trump entered the White House; under Obama, it was already hard enough for anyone hailing from a Muslim-majority country to gain entry to the US.

But as Trump and his allies are eager to demonstrate, there is a vast difference between the existing regimes of stringent border security – which effectively served as a moratorium on any mass Muslim migration – and the new environment of official vilification. The scapegoating of Muslim communities in Europe and America is the road to pogroms, and it is that road that we are starting down, even if we can still turn back.

Relish for the clash is in the air. Bannon is up for it. So are the jihadis; Trump is doing their work for them, proving that the west hates Islam for xenophobic reasons, which is what they said all along. The entrenchment of clashism – as an observation presented to a few academics in 1957 becomes the creed of a new ruling class – will only draw more and more people into believing its truth. 

Source: Trump’s dangerous delusions about Islam | Christopher de Bellaigue | News | The Guardian

Georgetown professor under fire by conservatives for lecture about slavery and Islam – The Washington Post

Challenge for academics in terms of how their nuances and subtleties get lost in public debate, and how the present can cloud our understanding of the past (understanding doesn’t equal acceptance):

Brown’s lecture was from the first of several papers he said he is writing on the question of Islam and slavery that are aimed at giving the Muslim community tools to bridge the gap between “elements of Islamic traditions and modern values” at a time when the Islamic State has “slammed the issue of slavery on the table in the 21st century.” In a phone interview, he said was trying to “help frame this problem by discussing the values of consent and autonomy that are prominent today, but they weren’t always.”

Brown denied that he had condoned slavery and non-consensual sex and said that his critics, some of them from the “alt-right,” are misquoting him. “I don’t know how they could say that I did,” he said. Scholars are at risk, he said, if “some de-contextualized quote of theirs is taken out and prompts a feeding frenzy that calls for them to be fired.”

A number of stories from conservative magazines and websites wrote scathing stories about the lecture, saying that he was condoning slavery and non-consensual sex. For example, the American Conservative wrote a piece with this headline: “Georgetown Prof Defends Islamic Slavery.” American Thinker had a story with this headline: “Georgetown professor defends Islamic slavery and ‘non-consensual’ sex.” The Daily Banter wrote: “Islamic Studies Professor On Whether Rape and Slavery Are Wrong: It Depends” and “An Islamic Studies professor at Georgetown has taken academic obscurantism and cultural relativism to new heights.”

Source: Georgetown professor under fire by conservatives for lecture about slavery and Islam – The Washington Post

Americans View Islam Less Negatively Than They Did A Year Ago | The Huffington Post

Not sure the extent to which this is positive (fewer negative views) or negative (greater political polarization) but ironic given the words of the Trump campaign and the words and actions of the Trump administration:

Americans’ view of Islam are, by and large, hostile. But negative opinions of the religion have dropped significantly during the past year, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds, despite ― or perhaps in response to ― the anti-Islam rhetoric often espousedby President Donald Trump and his advisers.

Last March, Americans were 42 points more likely to view the religion negatively than they were to view it positively. That gap dropped to 33 points by June, and to 20 points in the most recent survey, the lowest it’s been since HuffPost/YouGov surveys first asked the question nearly two years ago.

HUFFINGTON POST

At least one other pollster has noticed a similar shift. Shibley Telhami, the director of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll, wrote in The Washington Post earlier this year about having seen attitudes toward “Muslim people” growing progressively more favorable between November 2015 and October 2016 ― even after Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida.

He attributed some of the change to polarization, noting that the biggest driver was evolving opinions among Democrats, and, to a lesser extent, independents.

“As on almost all issues, partisan divisions intensified during a highly divisive election year,” he wrote. “The more one side emphasized the issue — as happened with Trump on Islam and Muslims — the more the other side took the opposite position. … Trump the president should have more sway. But he is starting at place where partisanship is not diminishing, and where his presidential rhetoric mirrors his words as a partisan candidate.”

Breaking down the two most recent HuffPost/YouGov surveys along party lines yields similar results, suggesting that the Trump administration’s rhetoric has actually galvanized Democrats, and some independents, into greater support of Islam.

HUFFINGTON POST

In June 2016, Democrats, Republicans and independents all held net negative views of Islam, although the gap was most pronounced among Republicans. Since then, Democrats’ opinions of the religion have improved significantly ― favorable opinions have risen by 11 points, while unfavorable opinions have fallen by 13 points.

Defusing The Lure Of Militant Islam In France, Despite Death Threats : NPR

One approach:

One of Bouzar’s methods for treating young people seduced by ISIS involves re-establishing links between radicalized individuals and their former lives. She counsels parents to try to bring them back in touch with their childhood — through old pictures and videos or food.

Celine tried this with her son and had little success at first, but she persevered.

“I made all his favorite meals that he loved as a child,” she says. “And I took him to places he liked when he was young. I did everything to reconnect him with his childhood.” Eventually, she noticed he was becoming more open to discussion. He took an interest in school again. The empty look vanished from his eyes.

Bouzar says a person can only be brought back with the help of someone close, like a parent or other family member — or by a reformed jihadist himself.

She has used allegedly reformed jihadists in counseling sessions to try to break through to some of the young people who are radicalizing. “We get them together without the young person realizing who this person is,” says Bouzar. “But then they begin to recognize their own story out of the mouth of the reformed jihadist, because he was lured for some of the same reasons. And slowly, doubt begins to set in.”

Bouzar says there is no such thing as a radicalized youth who wants to be de-radicalized. “He thinks he’s been picked by God and he sees things no one else does, because [everybody else is] indoctrinated,” she says.

Bouzar’s methods have been controversial. Some say her use of allegedly reformed jihadists is dangerous. (In some cases, it can be challenging to ascertain whether they’ve really reformed or are pretending.) Others accuse her of self-promotion. Many more say treating radicalization as purely brainwashing is to underestimate geopolitical and social factors, and the role that radical Islam plays.

Benjamin Erbibou, who works with an organization called Entr’Autres(Among Others), a group that works with radicalization issues in the southern city of Nice, thinks only a small percentage of radicalization cases are linked to brainwashing.

“Mostly,” he says, “it’s linked to a complete rupture and rejection of French society and Western values.”

But Marik Fetouh, deputy mayor of Bordeaux and head of the city’s de-radicalization center, says it’s easy to criticize efforts to deal with radicalization because it’s a poorly understood new phenomenon.

“Bouzar came forward with real ideas to fight this complex phenomenon when pretty much no one else had a clue what to do,” he says.

Although her contract with the French government is over, Bouzar’s association still counsels families affected by radicalization. Bouzar and her teams have counseled more than 1,000 young people and their parents — from Muslim, Catholic and atheist backgrounds.

Source: Defusing The Lure Of Militant Islam In France, Despite Death Threats : Parallels : NPR