The Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad, India, convicted 24 individuals on June 2 of murder and other charges related to the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat in which hundreds of Muslims were killed. The riots, which occurred when current Prime Minister Narendra Modi served as the Chief Minister of the state, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 individuals, most of whom were Muslims, making this India's worst outbreak of religious violence since the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. The Gujarat riots came a day after 60 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a train blaze. A court convicted 31 people years later of arson in connection with that incident. According to SM Vohra, a lawyer representing some three dozen victims, 11 of the 24 were convicted of murder while the rest were convicted of lesser charges, which will not be made public until sentencing. The court acquitted 36 other defendants who had been on trial since 2009, while four of the accused died during the trial.
The Supreme Court of Russia-annexed Crimea on April 26 officially designated the Tatar Majlis an "extremist entity" and banned its activities—effectively ending the last vestige of autonomy for the Crimean Tatar people. The move to ban the Majlis—the representative body of Crimean Tatars—was brought by Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya in February, and the body was ordered closed by judicial authoriities two weeks ago, before the regional high court had even ruled. Poklonskaya hailed the decision as "aimed at maintaining stability, peace and order in the Russian Federation." The body's powers had already been eroded since Moscow's annexation of the peninsula two years ago. The current and former leaders of the Majlis—Refat Chubarov and Mustafa Jemilev—have been forced to flee, and currently reside in Kiev. The Crimean prosecutor's office has accused them of involvement in Tatar road blockades launched to protest Russian annexation last year. (RBTH, April 26; HRW, April 15)
Among the luminaries at the Bernie Sanders rally in Brooklyn's Prospect Park this Sunday, April 17, is to be Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who has emerged as one of the populist candidate's foremost partisans. Gabbard made headlines in February when she stepped down from the Democratic National Committee to endorse Sanders. Her resignation statement (video online at Facebook) railed against "interventionist wars of regime change," winning easy applause from the peaceniks. "As a veteran of two Middle East deployments, I know firsthand the cost of war.," she promisingly opened. But scratch the surface of her rhetoric just a little and it quickly becomes apparent that Gabbard's politics are downright sinister...
The terror attacks on the airport and a subway station near the European Union headquarters in Brussels have left at least 34 dead, and some 170 injured. Amaq News Agency, an ISIS propaganda organ, issued a claim of responsibility. (Long War Journal) This was of course good news for the Republican presidential contenders in the US, helping to shift the debate from domestic economic suffering to the international jihadist threat. Ted Cruz wasted no time, saying in a statement: "We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized." This was of course a call for bringing back the NYPD surveillance program that targeted Muslims before it was shut down in the wake of outcry and litigation. It was all the more galling that Cruz made his comment on a visit to New York City, where he was quickly blasted by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. "If he's that short-sighted, I can understand why the American public would repudiate his efforts to run this great country," said Bratton. (Daily News)
"Hillary Clinton gets to Donald Trump's right on Israel." That's the dead, dangerously wrong headline in a March 21 Washington Post op-ed by Paul Waldman. The fodder for this falsehood is Clinton's address before AIPAC, where she dissed Trump's recent statement that he would be "neutral" between the Israelis and Palestinians. In utterly predictable verbiage, she said: "Yes, we need steady hands, not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything's negotiable." Responds Wladman: "In Trump's defense (yes, I just wrote those words), when this subject comes up he’ll say as loudly as anyone else how 'pro-Israel' he is, but when he used that term he was talking about being an arbiter in negotiations."
The Independent on Feb. 3 reports on a very encouraging project organized by a group calling itself I Am Your Protector—"a community of people who speak up and stand up for each other across religion, race, gender and beliefs"—to highlight the often forgotten stories of Muslims who helped Jews during the Holocaust. With interfaith ceremonies in several European and American cities on Holocaust Memorial Day, Jan. 27, IAYP celebrated the lives of such figures as Abdol Hossein Sardari, the "Iranian Schindler" who as a diplomat helped Persian Jews escape from wartime France by issuing passports and letters of transit. He was able to convince Nazi and Vichy authorities that Jugutis (Persian Muslims descended from Jews) should not be considered "racial" Jews—and was then able to secure travel documents for actual Jews under cover of being Jugutis. A similar personage is Selahattin Ulkumen, a Turkish diplomat in Nazi-occupied Greece, who interceded with the Germans to allow Jews of Turkish origin escape to neutral Turkey.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) came to a settlement agreement on Jan. 7 in two civil rights lawsuits accusing the NYPD of wrongfully monitoring Muslims after the 9-11 attacks. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in October revived the civil rights lawsuit filed by a coalition of Muslim groups that accused the NYPD of conducting unjustified surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. The police department has agreed to reinstate a civilian attorney to a panel that will ensure that no first amendment rights are violated during all surveillance. The appointee will be an outside observer with no connection to the police department and appointed by the mayor. The department has also agreed to place a time limit on investigations and to uphold the existing NYPD policy that it is illegal to profile based upon religious activity. The NYPD has not acknowledged improper monitoring of Muslims and has made no admission of guilt within the settlement. The department states that the changes enforce already guiding principles in use.
On the evening of Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, activists gathered at New York City's Columbus Circle, overlooked by the Trump International Hotel, for a rally in solidarity with Iraqi and Syrian refugees—under the slogan "Human Rights TRUMP Oppression." Favored chants included "Say it loud, say it clear; Refugees are welcome here!" and "Dump Trump!"—an exhortation aimed at the GOP over the candidate's call for banning all Muslims from entering the US, but the latest in his relentless barrage of xenophobic bluster. Featured speakers included representatives of the Arab American Association of New York, MENA Solidarity Network, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Black Lives Matter—and a group of Syrian Americans, accompanied by a refugee recently arrived from war-torn Homs, whose comments in Arabic were translated. This group spoke against a backdrop of Syria's rebel flag and led chants of "Assad, ISIS, they're the same; Only difference is the name!"