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What would a burka ban actually look like?

People talk about ‘banning the burka’ but they may not understand the wider implications. Here are some things to consider.




Angela Merkel’s pre-Christmas vote-grabbing volte-face on Islamic face coverings has reopened debates across the world about what, if anything should be done about burkas and other Islamic garments which conceal a woman’s face.

There are several ways by which one can legally ‘ban’ the burka. Some are ethical and honest, others are not.

The first option referred to by Mrs. Merkel is the most duplicitous. The call for banning ‘face coverings’ of all varieties is an insult to people with genuine concerns about the overbearing presence of medieval Islamic dress in western societies.

Europe does not have a balaclava problem, a ski-mask problem, a face-mask problem or a fancy dress mask problem. Europe has a Muslim problem in the same way Syria, Turkey and Iraq have a Muslim problem.

The vast majority of terrorist groups around the world are those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. The greatest number of victims of such atrocities are secular Muslims living in secular Islamic countries like Syria, whose regimes have been destabilised by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Muslim women whose 20th century tale has been one of progress and liberation, are now being threatened by the imposition of Wahhabist Islam, often at gunpoint.

The knock-on effect is that Western liberals who are themselves secular cannot understand that most women in the Arab and Muslim world do not like burka style clothing any more than those who are intimidated by it in the West.

Therefore the issue is not about face-coverings. If one were to walk down the street in a Boris Johnson mask, one would be mocked, rather than feared.

One might ask, what is wrong with the burka in Europe? Those who dislike it generally posit the following views and there is some merit to each point:

–The burka is a physical imposition of an ancient way of worshipping a foreign religion in countries that were largely Christian and are now mostly secular.

–The burka poses a security concern as Islamic terrorists can use the burka to remain anonymous as they plot criminal acts.

–The burkas runs contrary to the laws of European countries, which protect the rights of women from private and public exploitation and submission.

Legally and in theory, France is one European country that has it easiest where this issue is concerned. Laïcité is a concept enshrined into French law, which guarantees that the public sphere is secular.  However while it was legally simple to ban the burka, practically it has been difficult to enforce because of France’s large Muslim population, indeed the largest in Europe, many members of which continue to harbour anti-French sentiments since the Algerian war.

Britain on the other hand is a secular society in practice, despite the Church of England of which Queen Elizabeth II is the Supreme Governor being the established Church. Few people in England want to revert to a period when all religions were subordinate in the public, and at times, private sphere to the Church of England. That would be a legally simple way of banning the burka but it would be extremely unpopular and inpractical.

One could in theory disestablish the Church of England and impose either a French style militant secularism or a US style ‘all religions are legally equal’ system, either of which would be unlikely given the current climate.

Britain therefore can do little to ban the burka without surrendering to the ‘ban all face coverings’ argument.

This is unethical as it ignores the actual problem whilst criminalising headgear that no one has complained about or fears.

The only way to ban the burka in countries which do not explicitly have a legal guarantee of public secularism is to summon the moral courage and admit the problem is with the burka and with a potent variety of anti-modern Islam that it has come to represent.

Self-effacing liberals would say ‘this is Islamophobic’ even though most moderate and secular Muslims in the Arab world and beyond also find the burka to be a regressive symbol. Indeed in the Islamic Republic of Iran face coverings are considered far too radical, the headscarf being the rule there.

The biggest problem with the burka debate is that it has been hijacked by people who either know nothing about the Middle East or modern Islam, or who are accidental apologists for a brand of radical Salafi Islam which is incoherent both with the modern Islamic world and with the wider world.

It is equally dishonest not to admit that there is a Muslim problem.

There is also a liberal problem.

Both are increasingly out of touch with popular opinion on this issue.



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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran



Via RT

Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”



Via Zerohedge

Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran



Authored by Al Masdar News:

Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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