Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

India: Mob lynches Muslim man accused of cow smuggling

July 21, 2018

Police say a man suspected of smuggling cows has been killed by a mob in northwestern India. Attacks by so-called “cow vigilantes” targeting minorities have become a growing problem in the Hindu-majority country.

    
A cow in Rajasthan

Villagers in the northwestern state of Rajasthan beat a Muslim man to death after accusing him of smuggling cows destined for slaughter, police said Saturday.

Senior officer Anil Beniwal said the mob ambushed the 28-year-old and another man who were transporting cows through a forested area in the Alwar district and then began beating them with sticks.

“The police reached the scene to find the victim, Akbar Khan, lying in the mud, severely wounded,” he said.

The man died on the way to hospital, but his companion managed to flee. Police said it wasn’t clear whether the men were actually smuggling cows.

Authorities have identified five suspects behind the attack and “will arrest them soon,” Beniwal said.

Read moreSocial media fuels vigilantism and mob attacks in India

The rise of ‘cow vigilantes’

Rajasthan’s chief minister Vasundhara Raje condemned the incident on Twitter, saying that the “strictest possible action shall be taken against the perpetrators.”

Vasundhara Raje

@VasundharaBJP

The incident of alleged lynching of a person transporting bovines in Alwar district is condemnable. Strictest possible action shall be taken against the perpetrators.

There has been a recent wave of vigilante killings in India, with hardline Hindu groups often targeting individuals accused of eating beef or slaughtering cattle. At least 20 people, most of them Muslims or low-caste Dalits, have been killed in mob attacks over the past few weeks.

The rise in violence prompted the country’s highest court this week to urge the government to enact new laws against mob killings.

Read moreIndian government plans to issue ID cards to cows

The Supreme Court said that “horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be allowed to become a new norm. It proposed a string of measures, including specific punishments for cow vigilante lynchings, the creation of fast-track courts to hear cases of mob violence, and a compensation schemes for victims.

Cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India and slaughtering the animals is illegal in several states, including Rajasthan.

nm/rc (AP, dpa)

https://www.dw.com/en/india-mob-lynches-muslim-man-accused-of-cow-smuggling/a-44771278

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China’s Xinjiang Surveillance Expands to Non-Uyghur Muslims

July 18, 2018

Over the last year, there have been an increasing number of reports detailing the proliferation of re-education camps and the rise of a totalitarian police state in the  region. The concept of re-education has existed since the advent of the People’s Republic of China. However, ever since former Tibet Party Secretary Chen Quanguo was installed in Xinjiang to replicate his perceived successes, Xinjiang’s re-education system alone grew to overshadow China’s officially-abolished re-education through labor system.

Image result for China’s ethnic Kazakhs, photos

Although the Chinese government denies the re-education camps’ existence, estimates peg (and likely underestimate) the number of Uyghurs interred at 120,000. Individuals can land in the camps for reasons such as contacting friends or relatives abroad, worshipping at mosques, or possessing Quranic verses on their phones; camps are designed to replace inmates’ Islamic beliefs with loyalty to the Party. Throughout such detention, individuals are wholly deprived of due process. The rise of cutting-edge facial recognition technology, most recently through Hikvision winning a Chinese government tender to install facial recognition cameras on 967 mosques, makes it all the easier to be placed in a re-education camp.

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While observers have expressed alarm that Xinjiang may be functioning as a pilot region for surveillance, of increasing concern is the expansion of the Xinjiang model to non-Uyghur Muslims such as the Hui and ethnic Kazakhs. The Hui minority group, traditionally treated with more acceptance by the Chinese government due to their higher levels of cultural and linguistic assimilation with the Han majority, have found themselves subject to increasingly greater levels of scrutiny. In Linxia, a hub for Hui Muslims in Western China, the CCP had already removed call-to-prayer loudspeakers from 355 mosques last fall, citing noise pollution, and has now banned minors under 16 from studying the Koran or participating in religious activity. AFP’s Becky Davis reports that Hui individuals now live in a constant state of fear and despair:

“The winds have shifted” in the past year, explained a senior imam who requested anonymity, adding: “Frankly, I’m very afraid they’re going to implement the Xinjiang model here.”

[…] “They want to secularise Muslims, to cut off  at the roots,” the imam said, shaking with barely restrained emotion. “These days, children are not allowed to believe in religion: only in Communism and the party.”

[…] “We’re scared, very scared. If it goes on like this, after a generation or two, our traditions will be gone,” said Ma Lan, a 45-year-old caretaker, tears dripping quietly into her uneaten bowl of beef noodle soup.

Inspectors checked her local mosque every few days during the last school holiday to ensure none of the 70 or so village boys were present. Their imam initially tried holding lessons in secret before sunrise but soon gave up, fearing repercussions.

Instead of studying five hours a day at the mosque, her 10-year-old son stayed home watching television. He dreams of being an imam, but his schoolteachers have encouraged him to make money and become a Communist cadre, she said. [Source]

Another group that has now been subject to increased scrutiny are China’s ethnic Kazakhs, who number over one million in Xinjiang, and may now be considered “potential confederates” of the Uyghurs. A Kazakh source with close ties to the Urumqi police claimed that the authorities had to detain a quota of 3,000 Kazakhs or Uyghurs per week.

Currently, an ongoing Kazakh court case is attracting attention as defendant Sayragul Sauytbay–an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national who illegally entered Kazakhstan to reunite with her family–claimed that as a state employee in an re-education camp, she knew that it held 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs. For more on the situation, see a report from Christopher Rickleton and Ben Dooley at the AFP.

As for the exiled Uyghur community, despite their living abroad, Beijing has attempted to exert control on some members. BuzzFeed News’ Megha Rajagopalan described how some exiled  are being  induced into spying for the government, lest their China-based family members be sent to re-education camps without due process:

Every person interviewed for this article said state security operatives told them their families could be sent to, or would remain in, internment camps for “reeducation” if they did not comply with their demands. It was a campaign, they said, that aimed not only to gather details about Uyghurs’ activities abroad, but also to sow discord within exile communities in the West and intimidate people in hopes of preventing them from speaking out against the Chinese state.

“China’s now got the capacity and willingness to reach out across sovereign borders to influence the behavior of others,” said James Leibold, an associate professor at La Trobe University in Australia. “With Chinese citizens of Chinese heritage, they may want to win them over, but with Uyghurs they want to squash them. Their willingness to do this is not only in a covert way, but now increasingly in an overt way.”

[…] State security operatives approaching Uyghurs abroad for information on their communities has become so common that it has sowed a deep mistrust in these overseas communities and a pervasive feeling of being watched, those interviewed for this article said.

[…] The lack of trust has impeded efforts toward activism abroad, even as many Uyghur groups are seeking to pressure Western governments to push back on China’s use of mass  and reeducation camps through large political demonstrations.

“The catalyst for the mistrust is China’s deploying a wide network of spies amongst the Uyghur community,” said one exile in Sydney. “This mistrust plays out as a hurdle to cooperation between different individuals and groups in political activism.” [Source]

For more CDT coverage on Xinjiang, click here.

Chinese ‘reeducation camps’ in spotlight at Kazakh trial

July 17, 2018

Secretive “re-education camps” allegedly holding hundreds of thousands of people in a Muslim-majority region in western China are the focus of an explosive court case in Kazakhstan, testing the country’s ties with Beijing.

On trial is Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese national who is accused of illegally crossing the border to join her husband and two children in Kazakhstan.

But it is the 41-year-old’s testimony about her forced work in the camp system in the Xinjiang region that has drawn the most attention.

© AFP/File | The 41-year-old said she had been tricked into working in one of the camps

Beijing has stepped up a crackdown in Xinjiang against what it calls separatist elements.

At a public hearing, Sauytbay said she was granted access to classified documents that shed light on the sprawling network of re-education centres.

Image result for Kazakhstan, China, Xinjiang, map

China’s predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups are believed to make up the majority of the camps’ populations.

Chinese authorities have denied the existence of such facilities despite mounting evidence from both official documents and testimonies from those who have escaped them.

Asked under oath about a so-called “camp” where she worked as an employee of the Chinese state, court spectators gasped when Sauytbay replied it held some 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs.

“In China they call it a political camp but really it was a prison in the mountains,” she said.

Sauytbay said authorities had told her she would never be allowed to enter Kazakhstan, where her family had obtained citizenship.

“That I am discussing this camp in an open court means I am already revealing state secrets,” said Sauytbay, who asked Kazakhstan not to send her back to China.

– ‘This person will disappear’ –

Sauytbay is one of many ethnic Kazakhs separated from relatives over the border after a crackdown in Xinjiang, where authorities cite separatist and extremist threats as justification for repressive policies.

There are about 1.5 million ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang.

They had however avoided extreme state repression suffered by Uighurs, another mostly Muslim Turkic group that forms a demographic majority in many parts of the region.

Unlike Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs had long moved freely between China and their historic homeland.

About 200,000 of them became Kazakh citizens since the Central Asian country’s independence in 1991.

That freedom disappeared however after a Chinese official known for his aggressive surveillance and population control measures in Tibet took charge of the nominally autonomous region in 2016, overseeing mass detentions and programmes of re-education for Muslims.

In late 2016 authorities took the unprecedented step of calling in Muslim minorities’ passports, forcing anyone needing to leave the country to file official requests.

Sauytbay’s husband Wali Islam testified that for several months the family lost contact with her after she was reassigned to a re-education centre from a state kindergarten.

Sauytbay told the court she had been tricked into working at the camps by authorities.

The family was reunited only after she crossed the border this April. Kazakh security services arrested her on May 21.

Sauytbay’s lawyer Abzal Kuspanov said the testimony of his client — who briefly consoled her 13-year-old daughter as she was ushered into the dock by police — was a sufficient indicator as to what will await her if she returns to China.

“We are not saying that she has not committed a crime by violating state borders using false documents. We have admitted that to the court and we are prepared to accept punishment,” Kuspanov told AFP Friday.

“What we are saying is — don’t give her back to China. If we do send her back, this person will simply disappear,” said Kuspanov.

– Diplomatic tensions –

The situation of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang is embarrassing for Kazakhstan, which is China’s leading economic partner in Central Asia.

While the government is hesitant to confront Beijing, it is under growing pressure to speak out against the repression.

China has enlisted oil-rich Kazakhstan as a key partner in its trillion dollar Belt and Road initiative aimed at improving overland trade routes between Europe and Asia.

So far Beijing has kept silent on the allegations: two Chinese diplomats present at the hearing refused to answer questions from activists and journalists.

Under public pressure, Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry has called for “an objective and fair review” of detentions of Kazakh citizens in the region.

But Kazakhstan, which is seeking massive investments from China, is in a poor position to lobby for the rights of Chinese citizens like Sauytbay.

Her trial is a test “of the maturity of Kazakhstan-China relations”, said Serikzhan Mambetalin, a Kazakh political activist.

But if Kazakhstan hands a member of the diaspora back to China, “people will say the government cannot protect its own people,” he said.

AFP

Related:

China Cozies Up to EU as Trade Spat With U.S. Escalates

July 16, 2018

Chinese premier and EU officials pledge support for global trading system

European Council President Donald Tusk, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attend a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday.
European Council President Donald Tusk, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attend a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. PHOTO: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS

BEIJING—China courted the European Union as an ally in its trade conflict with the U.S., offering to improve access for foreign companies and work with the EU on reforming the World Trade Organization.

At an annual summit on Monday, China gave EU leaders much of what they were looking for. Both sides committed to setting up a working group to look at a WTO revamp, made headway in reaching an investment treaty and pledged to cooperate on enforcing the Paris accord on climate change.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang along with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker vowed their support for the global trading system at a joint press briefing. The two sides later released a statement enumerating their points of agreement, the first time in three years they were able to do so.

China and the EU are both battling the U.S. over tariffs the Trump administration said are needed to compensate for unfair trade policies. Monday’s summit came a day after President Donald Trump, in a CBS interview, named the EU as the U.S.’s biggest foe globally because of “what they do to us on trade.”

Even so, EU leaders are mindful that the bloc shares many of Washington’s criticisms of China’s policies they see as discriminating against foreign companies. Mr. Tusk, who on Sunday fired back at Mr. Trump saying on Twitter that “America and the EU are best friends,” on Monday cited a common responsibility to improve, not tear down the world order.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

“The architecture of the world is changing before our very eyes,” Mr. Tusk said at the appearance with Mr. Li. The EU leader mentioned Monday’s meeting with Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and urged all to work together to address shortcomings in the WTO.

“I am calling on our Chinese hosts, but also on Presidents Trump and Putin to jointly start this process for a reform of the WTO,” he said.

Mr. Tusk specifically called for new WTO rules to deal with government subsidies, protection of intellectual property and forced technology transfer—all issues that the EU and the U.S. have criticized China over.

Mr. Li said that China is ready to step up. “We feel it is necessary to improve and reform the WTO,” he said. Mr. Li reiterated pledges to “significantly raise” market access for foreign companies and cut tariffs for some goods. He didn’t provide a timeline or discuss subsidies for favored industries.

Beijing has previously said it is willing to work on revising the WTO. It has turned to the body to protest U.S. tariffs, including saying Monday that it filed a new challenge to the Trump administration’s plans to clamp tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Analysts sensed little new in China’s offer to the EU. “Statements in favor of multilateralism are nothing new and a working group on reforming the WTO is no concession,” said Lance Noble, senior policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm.

EU leaders also suggested that China could show more resolve in addressing criticisms of its trade policies.

Mr. Li, in defending China’s treatment of foreign companies, pointed to German chemical giant BASF’s announcement last week that it received approval for a $10 billion wholly owned plant in China.

The BASF deal, said Mr. Juncker, “shows if China wishes to open up, it can choose to.”

China has been actively trying to woo the EU as trade tensions between Beijing and Washington have escalated. With tariffs from the U.S. looming last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested to a group of mostly European business executives that better treatment awaits companies whose countries aren’t caught in a trade fight.

In a sign of Beijing’s willingness to satisfy European priorities, China and the EU also issued a joint statement in support of the Paris climate-change accord. The two had agreed on the declaration ahead of a summit in Brussels last year following Mr. Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the global agreement. But China pulled the plug on the announcement after EU officials refused Chinese entreaties on trade, particularly regarding Beijing’s bid to be recognized by Europe as a market economy.

In Europe earlier this month, Mr. Li met with leaders of Central and Eastern European countries and held a summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in which they also renewed a commitment to a rules-based trading system.

EU leaders refrained on Monday from criticizing China on human rights, with Mr. Tusk only saying “differences persist.” Asked if he raised China’s detention of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group, in re-education camps in the country’s northwest, Mr. Tusk said he brought up individual human-rights cases during the summit and didn’t elaborate further.

Last week, China released Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, after eight years of house arrest, and allowed her to relocate to Germany. It was widely seen as a gesture of goodwill toward Germany and the EU to help win them over against the U.S.

Write to Eva Dou at eva.dou@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-cozies-up-to-eu-as-trade-spat-with-u-s-escalates-1531737461

US-Russia summit: Human Rights Groups Shed Light on Issues

July 16, 2018

Gay rights activists welcomed US President Donald Trump to his summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin by emblazoning their message across the walls of Finland’s presidential palace.

The US-based Human Rights Campaign used the Helsinki venue to draw attention to the plight of sexual minorities in Chechnya, the autonomous Russian republic run by Putin’s autocratic ally Ramzan Kadyrov.

Reporters and officials gathered in Helsinki for Monday’s summit saw the slogans above the harbour-front venue.

© AFP | Activists used a projector ro emblazon their message on the Finnish presidential palace ahead of the US-Russia summit

One of the slogan read: ‘Trump and Putin: Stop the Crimes Against Humanity in Chechnya.’

Activists say lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face discrimination in Russia, particularly in Muslim-majority Chechnya, where Kadyrov’s government is accused of jailing and torturing gay men.

The Human Rights Campaign also criticizes Trump’s US administration for allegedly having failed to speak out on LGBT rights in Russia while trying to set up the summit and mend frayed ties with the Kremlin.

“Trump has unconscionably turned a blind eye to some of the worst anti-LGBTQ atrocities in a generation, including monstrous attacks on gay and bisexual men in Chechnya,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global.

“HRC is here in Helsinki to demand Donald Trump end his deafening silence, publicly condemn these Chechen crimes against humanity, and call on Putin to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Trump and Putin were to meet one-on-one later Monday before giving a joint news conference to conclude the one-day summit.

AFP

Muslims in China’s ‘Little Mecca’ fear eradication of Islam

July 16, 2018

Green-domed mosques still dominate the skyline of China’s “Little Mecca”, but they have undergone a profound change — no longer do boys flit through their stone courtyards en route to classes and prayers.

In what locals told AFP they fear is a deliberate move to eradicate Islam, the atheist ruling Communist Party has banned minors under 16 from religious activity or study in Linxia, a deeply Islamic region in western China that had offered a haven of comparative religious freedom for the ethnic Hui Muslims there.

Image result for Uighurs, China, Xinjiang, photos

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard as a Muslim Uighur family walks past him  in the Uighur district of the city of Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang region on July 14, 2009. (AFP Archive)

China governs Xinjiang, another majority Muslim region in its far west, with an iron fist to weed out what it calls “religious extremism” and “separatism” in the wake of deadly unrest, throwing ethnic Uighurs into shadowy re-education camps without due process for minor infractions such as owning a Koran or even growing a beard.

Now, Hui Muslims fear similar surveillance and repression.

“The winds have shifted” in the past year, explained a senior imam who requested anonymity, adding: “Frankly, I’m very afraid they’re going to implement the Xinjiang model here.”

Local authorities have severely curtailed the number of students over 16 officially allowed to study in each mosque and limited certification processes for new imams.

They have also instructed mosques to display national flags and stop sounding the call to prayer to reduce “noise pollution” — with loudspeakers removed entirely from all 355 mosques in a neighbouring county.

“They want to secularise Muslims, to cut off Islam at the roots,” the imam said, shaking with barely restrained emotion. “These days, children are not allowed to believe in religion: only in Communism and the party.”

– ‘Scared, very scared’ –

More than 1,000 boys used to attend his mid-sized mosque to study Koranic basics during summer and winter school holidays but now they are banned from even entering the premises.

His classrooms are still full of huge Arabic books from Saudi Arabia, browned with age and bound in heavy leather. But only 20 officially registered pupils over the age of 16 are now allowed to use them.

Parents were told the ban on extracurricular Koranic study was for their children’s own good, so they could rest and focus on secular coursework.

But most are utterly panicked.

“We’re scared, very scared. If it goes on like this, after a generation or two, our traditions will be gone,” said Ma Lan, a 45-year-old caretaker, tears dripping quietly into her uneaten bowl of beef noodle soup.

Inspectors checked her local mosque every few days during the last school holiday to ensure none of the 70 or so village boys were present.

Their imam initially tried holding lessons in secret before sunrise but soon gave up, fearing repercussions.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor

Police patrolling as Muslims leave the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar © AFP

Instead of studying five hours a day at the mosque, her 10-year-old son stayed home watching television. He dreams of being an imam, but his schoolteachers have encouraged him to make money and become a Communist cadre, she said.

– Fear for the future –

The Hui number nearly 10 million, half of the country’s Muslim population, according to 2012 government statistics.

In Linxia, they have historically been well integrated with the ethnic Han majority, able to openly express their devotion and centre their lives around their faith.

Women in headscarves dish out boiled lamb in mirror-panelled halal eateries while streams of white-hatted men meander into mosques for afternoon prayers, passing shops hawking rugs, incense and “eight treasure tea,” a local speciality including dates and dried chrysanthemum buds.

But in January, local officials signed a decree — obtained by AFP — pledging to ensure that no individual or organisation would “support, permit, organise or guide minors towards entering mosques for Koranic study or religious activities”, or push them towards religious beliefs.

Imams there were all asked to comply in writing, and just one refused, earning fury from officials and embarrassment from colleagues, who have since shunned him.

“I cannot act contrary to my beliefs. Islam requires education from cradle to grave. As soon as children are able to speak we should begin to teach them our truths,” he explained to AFP.

“It feels like we are slowly moving back towards the repression of the Cultural Revolution,” a nationwide purge from 1966 until 1976 when local mosques were dismantled or turned into donkey sheds, he said.

Other imams complained authorities were issuing fewer certificates required to practise or teach and now only to graduates of state-sanctioned institutions.

“For now, there are enough of us, but I fear for the future. Even if there are still students, there won’t be anyone of quality to teach them,” said one imam.

Local authorities failed to answer repeated calls from AFP seeking comment but Linxia’s youth ban comes as China rolls out its newly revised Religious Affairs Regulations.

The rules have intensified punishments for unsanctioned religious activities across all faiths and regions.

Beijing is targeting minors “as a way to ensure that faith traditions die out while also maintaining the government’s control over ideological affairs,” charged William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.

– Violent and bloodthirsty –

Another imam said the tense situation in Xinjiang was at the root of changes in Linxia.

The government believes that “religious piety fosters fanaticism, which spawns extremism, which leads to terrorist acts — so they want to secularise us,” he explained.

But many Hui are quick to distinguish themselves from Uighurs.

“They believe in Islam too, but they’re violent and bloodthirsty. We’re nothing like that,” said Muslim hairdresser Ma Jiancai, 40, drawing on common stereotypes.

Sitting under the elegant eaves of a Sufi shrine complex, a young scholar from Xinjiang explained that his family had sent him alone aged five to Linxia to study the Koran with a freedom not possible in his hometown.

“Things are very different here,” he said with knitted brows. “I hope to stay.”

AFP

See also:

Tens of thousands detained in China’s Xinjiang, US diplomat says

https://www.trtworld.com/asia/tens-of-thousands-detained-in-china-s-xinjiang-us-diplomat-says-16825

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Brave New World, Inc. — Companies are the cops and intelligence agencies in our modern-day dystopia

June 2, 2018

Minority Report

Earlier this week, Rana Foroohar wrote in the Financial Times that “Companies are the cops in our modern-day dystopia”:

The mass surveillance and technology depicted in the [2002 movie Minority Report] — location-based personalised advertising, facial recognition, newspapers that updated themselves — are ubiquitous today. The only thing director Steven Spielberg got wrong was the need for psychics. Instead, law enforcement can turn to data and technologies provided by companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and intelligence group Palantir.

The dystopian perspective on these capabilities is worth remembering at a time when the private sector is being pulled ever more deeply into the business of crime fighting and intelligence gathering. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union and several other rights groups called on Amazon to stop selling its Orwellian-sounding Rekognition image processing system to law enforcement officials, saying it was “primed for abuse in the hands of government”.

the-wire-lester

I have written a few posts already about the potential for governments and private companies to use new technologies such as cryptocurrencies, biometrics and data mining to engage in activities that we would normally associate with the fictional totalitarian regimes of George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. With regards to state actors, like China, using biometrics for crime prevention, I wrote:

But still, if we move to a system of Big Brother with ubiquitous cameras capturing our facial images 24/7 and the system is only 80% accurate, that leads to arguably an unbearably high threshold for potential abuse. Democracies are supposed to accept some criminals getting away with crime in exchange for the innocent not being locked up. It’s the authoritarian regimes who place law and order above the protection of the innocent.

Between companies, governments and new technologies, the potential for opportunities, efficiencies and abuse are endless. It is a Brave New World.

And with regards to cryptocurrencies, I wrote:

Although neither George Orwell or Aldous Huxley’s dystopian futures predicted a world governed by corporations as opposed to authoritarian governments, it may be more plausible to imagine a world where corporations control the money supply, not with coins and bills but cryptocurrencies. In fact, the fad amongst many technologists today is to encourage the disintermediation (or deregulation) of money by moving to Blockchain-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But instead of removing the middleman, we are more likely – contrary to the idealists’ ambitions — to open the door to empower big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google to tokenize their platforms, replacing one currency regulator with corporate ones.

But private companies are able to do so much more with the data that we so generously (and often naively) hand them. The possibilities for abuse seem endless. To a large degree, the new GDPR mitigates this risk by giving the consumer visibility about and control over how her data is being used, and hopefully building trust between consumers and their service providers.  As stated here before, more important than complying with strict new laws, “to be commercially viable, these technologies need to gain consumers’ confidence and trust. Otherwise consumers will not be comfortable sharing their data and will simply not use the service.”

But what happens if consumers are not given the opportunity to intelligently grant consent or agree to use a service that shares their data? The first GDPR complaints have been filed precisely on these grounds:

Across four complaints, related to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Google’s Android operating system, European consumer rights organisation Noyb argues that the companies have forced users into agreeing to new terms of service, in breach of the requirement in the law that such consent should be freely given.

FB Money

Especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, many people (including myself) have considered leaving the Facebook universe once and for all. But what if Facebook has become more than a voluntary social media platform? What if it has become a utility, comparable to a telephone line? You could live without a phone, but you would have trouble participating in the modern economy without access to the necessary communication channels. To a large extent, Facebook is now an essential tool to validate one’s identity and interact with one’s peers. While I may be able to give up my endless Facebook political debates cold turkey, how would I maintain communications with my +1000 personal and professional Facebook contacts if left? If Facebook is a monopolistic utility, then how can I meaningfully give my consent to their data policy when there is no meaningful alternative? This was raised by Belgian lawmaker, Guy Maurice Marie Louise Verhofstad, last week when Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the European Parliament:

“You cannot convince him because it is nonsense, naturally!” he scoffed. “You have given the example of Twitter, you have given the example I think also of Google as some of your competitors, but it’s like somebody who has a monopoly in making cars is saying, ‘Look, I have a monopoly making cars, but there is no problem. You can take a plane! You can take a train! You can even take your bike! So I have no monopoly.’ There is a problem there.”

Let me ask you: if you are a Facebook user, how easy is it to log-off permanently?

Now imagine you do not use Facebook. You have never signed-up or did but have since closed your account. This week you attend an offsite team building meeting with work colleagues from across the globe. Everyone takes loads of pictures, many of which include you. A couple of your colleagues post those photos on Facebook. As mentioned, you’re not a Facebook user, but Facebook uses face recognition technology to identify each person in your colleagues’ posts. You’re face has been recognized and a shadow profile for you has been created. Facebook can now pick you out in any photo. Sometimes it will get it right, but other times it will mistake you for other people and other people for you.

Besides the fact that this is just plain creepy, Facebook could arguably sell data surrounding your shadow profile to third parties. For example, with your shadow profile, Facebook can recognize you in any past or future photos that anyone posts on the site, even if you are merely an unbeknownst bystander. They can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to draw conclusions from those photos, like your gender, what you were doing, what you like (were you holding a Coke or wearing a Real Madrid jersey in the photo?), where you were doing it, and then predict future behavior based on that data. All of this information can then be sold to third parties to target you for ads (or additional security checks) without you ever having consented or opted-in or out of the service.

Does this sound like science fiction? In fact, a California judge has certified a class action suit against Facebook for gathering biometrics information about individuals without their consent. Now I don’t mean to pick on Facebook. Apple also uses biometrics technology to create profiles of anyone you take pictures of on your iPhone. Google uses all sorts of artificial intelligence tools to profile its users, track their movements and behavior and predict their future actions. What it knows about you and where you have been is astonishing. And what about Amazon Echo which may be “recording every conversation in a person’s home and transmitting it to the cloud” without your consent? Even for services that we love like the personalized Amazon recommendations — which have led me to fantastic books and music — by creating these profiles, companies also run the risk of conditioning consumers, creating societal bubbles, fomenting group think and promoting sectarianism. It is why fake news can become so viral and successful as a political weapon and public relations strategy.

As stated above, the possibilities are endless, and as these technologies improve efficiencies and help decrease operating costs, it will become harder for consumers to opt-out of services that amass large amounts of personal data. Handing over your personal data, including biometric data, will become mandatory in order to engage all sorts of activities from making purchases at the grocery store to entering into public spaces like airports or concert halls, or even opening the door to your house.

So will private corporations armed with the latest technology take over the world and control our lives? Let’s not all start freaking out just yet. Technology since the dawn of time has always provoked controversy but has proven to be a powerful force for good in the lives of mankind.

ellis-island-1907

Just to give a simple example, think about the evolution over the past century in how we communicate and travel. When my great grandparents emigrated from Europe to the United States at the beginning of the 20th Century, they left their families behind forever. And by forever, I mean they would not only never see their parents and siblings again, but they would also never ever hear the sound of their voices again either. Transatlantic passage was too expensive and communication was limited to snail mail. Today, I have done the reverse migration, living in Europe with my parents and siblings in the U.S. Yet, I am able to I interact with them constantly by video, email, chat, and social media, and I see them in person two to four times a year. With air travel, as Carole King sang, “you’re just time away” and with everything else, it’s virtually real-time.

So yeah, I am a big fan of new technologies! I blog, I tweet, and I engage with my friends and colleagues through Facebook and Linkedin. I even work for a leading global technology company that processes vast amounts of personal data. I want to see innovation that improves the lives of consumers and society. But as a lawyer, I cannot stop being a skeptic, questioning everything around me. New technologies, especially ones that amass large amounts of personal data, are powerful tools that can simplify and improve our lives. But unchecked they give private companies and governments unprecedented control over even our most basic freedoms. If we become too complacent, then science fiction can become a dystopian reality.

 

Give full credit to:

Brave New World, Inc.

Related:

Chinese police officer strikes a pose (Getty Images/AFP)

With her symmetric face, her dark uniform and her mirrored sunglasses, this young policewoman looks like an agent from the sci-fi franchise “The Matrix.”  She can see things that others cannot. Her glasses are equipped with a face scanner that can search and identify faces in the crowds at a train station in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. The glasses are linked to a giant database which enables people to be identified within seconds. It all starts with facial recognition….

 

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Muslim radicalization in Britain: Countering the extremists’ rationale

May 1, 2018

In an interview with DW, London-based scholar Farid Panjwani talks about the reasons behind the growing radicalization of South Asian Muslim youths in the UK, and what needs to be done to counter extremist threat.

England Fahrzeug rast in Gruppe Muslime - mehrere Opfer (Reuters/N. Hall)

DW: Muslim radicalization poses a serious challenge to British society, with many Muslim youths getting attracted to extremist narratives. What’s pushing Muslim youngsters of South Asian background toward Islamism?

Farid Panjwani: It is difficult to quantify the extent of Muslim youth radicalization in Britain. Also, we have to be clear about the definition of radicalization. Are we talking about people who are joining extremist organizations or those who just have extremist views? But I agree that there is definitely a general sense that things are not going well here.

There is no single factor that is driving the youth toward extremism. The issues of identity, alienation, peer pressure, search for a cause, frustration with modernity and acceptance of certain mythological aspects of the Muslim history are all contributing factors.

Read more: Despite attack, Britain downplays threat of Islamist radicalization

Britain has a large immigrant community from South Asia, particularly from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. These people have been living in the country for decades, then why do some South Asians harbor resentment against Western culture?

Dr. Farid Panjwani - Leiter des Zentrums für Forschung und Bewertung in muslimischer Bildung in London (Privat)Panjwani: ‘There is no single factor driving the youth toward extremism’

Often, the resentment is not against Western culture but against specific elements within it. There is also a growing resentment against the Western establishment and its policies, particularly foreign policies.

The reasons for this anger range from a personal sense of exclusion and a failure to come out with a systematic critique of colonial and post-colonial histories. But the resentment against the West, particularly against the US, is not restricted to Muslims; it is widely shared in many parts of the world, from Latin America to Africa, and even in Europe. Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher, writes about the malaise of modernity — about a feeling that something is not right at the core even though we seem to be making material progress. I think this feeling becomes more intense when combined with ideologies such as political Islam.

Is social exclusion a reason behind the radicalization of some South Asian youths?

If you look at the profiles of people who are involved in extremist activities, social exclusion doesn’t come across as a ubiquitous reason behind radicalization. Some of those who were involved in July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks in Britain, for example, were very well adjusted in the country. On the other hand, there are extremists who had a difficult childhood, who commit petty crimes and end up in jail, where they get radicalized. So there are many reasons behind people’s attraction to Islamist narratives.

But social exclusion is definitely an issue that needs to be looked into. Many young Muslims are legal citizens of Britain yet they don’t share a cultural bond with society. They feel the society has failed them and that they can’t live up to their potential. These people are looking for some cause in life. Extremist groups and their recruiters are always looking for such people. But such feelings are widespread and can be found in white working class people also. This shows that we need to look into economic policies and political attitudes that have led to the erosion of social and welfare structures in society.

Read more:

UK urges online firms to remove terrorist content

‘Islamic State’ claims responsibility for London attack

Combating the Islamist threat

What role can community leaders play in making sure that Muslim youths stay away from radical elements?

We must not start with the community. When you emphasize too much on community, it creates stigmatization and can make the matters worse. We need to see extremism, or extremisms, as a bigger problem. There are all kinds of extremisms in the world — a rising Hindu extremism in India, Buddhist extremism in Myanmar and elsewhere, white supremacism which promotes extremist ethno-nationalist ideologies. I see extremism as an outcome of the coming together of ideologies and socio-political conditions that make these ideologies attractive. Communities can definitely make sure how their religion is taught and can assist the state in confronting radicalism.

It is primarily the responsibility of the state to tackle the issue of extremism among its citizens. The state must see extremists as individuals, as citizens, rather than representatives of a certain community. It needs to create capacities among its population to critique ideologies. It also needs to look at the economic and political conditions that make these ideologies attractive to individuals.

Read more: UK faces ‘right-wing terrorist threat,’ says counterterrorism police chief

Britain: Muslims face increasing abuse

It’s often said that the West’s foreign policies are responsible for the rise in Islamic extremism around the world. Do you agree with this viewpoint?

Many people in capitalist societies feel they are not being heard, that democracy is not working, that corporations have too much power. They feel excluded. It is happening all over the world. In some cases people rally behind a strongman or extremist political parties or vote in favor of things like Brexit. Therefore, we have to look at the discontent among people and reflect on the democratic and citizenship models to find ways for people to have a bigger stake in society.

It would not help if we insist on seeing Muslim extremists, or other extremist people, as crazy or mad who exist outside civilization. They have their own rationality, their own reasons for acting in a certain way. We can disagree with their reasons and condemn their acts but we must seek to understand and address what is motivating them. I have seen extremist material which weaves political narratives around conflicts in Palestine, Iraq and Kashmir with religious injunctions. It’s a narrative that attempts to make young Muslims believe that they have a moral responsibility to come to the aid of their fellow members of the “ummah” (the perceived single Muslim community). To challenge this narrative, we need to take steps to resolve some longstanding political problems, reconsider certain economic policies, and come up with counter-narratives.

Farid Panjwani is director of the Center for Research and Evaluation in Muslim Education (CREME) at the University College London.

The interview was conducted by Shamil Shams in London.

http://www.dw.com/en/muslim-radicalization-in-britain-countering-the-extremists-rationale/a-43592644

‘Eradicate the tumours’: Chinese civilians drive Xinjiang crackdown — Muslims not wanted in China

April 26, 2018

Communist Party “work teams” sent into Xinjiang  to remove religious extremism

© AFP / by Ben Dooley | Police patrol a village in Hotan prefecture, in China’s western Xinjiang region, where surveillance affects every aspect of daily life

MOYU COUNTY (CHINA) (AFP) – The civilian group descended on the village under government instructions to “win the people’s hearts”, but it also had a darker mission: identifying and punishing threats to the Chinese state.Four months after the Communist Party sent the “work team” to Akeqie Kanle, a fifth of its adult population — over 100 people — had disappeared into detention and re-education centres.

The team — comprising staff from a regional university — was among more than 10,000 such groups that poured into rural Xinjiang last year as part of the government’s battle against separatism and “religious extremism” in the region, home to several Muslim ethnic minority groups.

Called “research the people’s conditions, improve the people’s lives and win the people’s hearts”, the programme recruits officials and university professors — mostly from China’s Han majority group — to spread party propaganda, eliminate rural poverty and promote “ethnic harmony.”

The work is vital to a social engineering campaign that has permeated every aspect of daily life in the fractious far western state, with the aim of politically indoctrinating the entire population.

Last year, the party tasked participants with enforcing increasingly draconian restrictions on religious and personal freedoms in a process that echoes the decades of brutal thought reform under Mao Zedong.

Teams like the one sent to Akeqie Kanle from the Bingtuan Broadcast Television University (BBTU) have helped send vast numbers of people into jails and secretive re-education centres, breaking up families and decimating villages.

When the BBTU team arrived in early 2017, it helped hang crimson lanterns across the village to celebrate Chinese New Year and push the government’s promises to provide job training, clean government and safe water.

But its focus then turned to interrogating villagers for any signs of dissent.

“The work team is resolute,” BBTU’s publicity department boasted on social media in an unusual public accounting of the dark side of a work team’s operations.

“We can completely take the lid off Akeqie Kanle, look behind the curtain, and eradicate its tumours.”

The school and Xinjiang’s government declined to respond to AFP’s questions about the programme.

But hundreds of state media reports, government documents and official social media posts clearly illustrate its methods and devastating impact.

– ‘Untrustworthy elements’ –

Akeqie Kanle is among hundreds of villages in Moyu County, part of a predominantly ethnic Uighur area of Xinjiang that has become one of the most policed places on earth.

Since riots shook the regional capital Urumqi in 2009, Uighurs have been tied to mass stabbings and bombings that left dozens dead across the country. Civil unrest and clashes with the government killed hundreds more.

The resulting crackdown has triggered international alarm, with the US State Department last week saying it is increasingly concerned over “widespread detentions and the unprecedented levels of surveillance”.

Human right groups say anger over discriminatory Chinese policies stokes the violence, but Beijing faults Muslim extremists.

In December 2016, three Uighur men stormed a Communist Party office in Moyu, killing two officials in an attack which became a rallying cry for the crackdown.

The government deployed tens of thousands of additional security personnel throughout Xinjiang, rolled out tough regulations on religious practices, and increased the use of compulsory re-education.

While surveillance cameras multiplied in public spaces, work teams served as the state’s eyes and ears in rural households.

Team members helped build infrastructure, provided job training, and encouraged people to “feel thanks for the party”, according to media reports celebrating their work.

But they were also instructed to enter every village household at least once a week to seek evidence of illegal behaviour.

They were to pay daily visits to so-called “key individuals” and “untrustworthy elements”: religious people, passport holders, all males between the ages of 16 and 45 and the illiterate, which Xinjiang’s justice department described as particularly susceptible to being brainwashed by extremists.

In Akeqie Kanle, the BBTU team wrote it had posted fliers urging villagers who had engaged in illegal religious activity to turn themselves, or others, in.

Team members compiled dossiers, put suspicious individuals on watch lists and met daily to analyse their findings.

While the BBTU team did not detail its criteria, other local governments warned officials to watch for 25 illegal religious activities and 75 signs of extremism, including seemingly innocuous activities as quitting smoking or buying a tent.

A local government website said even minor transgressions would be punished with one to three months in an “educational transformation” facility.

Detainees can be held in such centres indefinitely without due process and are subjected to various kinds of thought reform, including military-style drills and compulsory classes on Marxism and Chinese language.

By June, the BBTU team wrote it had gathered almost 100 “leads” with the help of informants.

The group requested help from authorities, who detained suspects and “exposed a gang that has been engaged in long-running illegal religious activities”.

– ‘Sympathy visits’ ?

A re-education centre — surrounded by razor wire-topped walls — is a short drive from Akeqie Kanle. On a recent weekday families milled around the heavily guarded entrance.

The detentions have become so widespread that schools offer support programmes for children with missing parents, and work teams help those left behind with heavy farm chores.

“All that’s left in the homes are the elderly, weak women and children,” Xinjiang’s agriculture department said of some homes.

Officials have reached out to thousands of households with missing members, according to state-run media.

Work teams should “make (households) understand who it was who brought these consequences down on them, who they should seek out for revenge and who they should give thanks to for loving kindness,” one wrote on an official social media account.

But local authorities are bracing for blowback, with internal memos warning that resentment surrounding the programme has created a risky environment.

The agriculture department’s website has a list of precautions for work teams, including preparing an emergency plan in case of ambush and never travelling outside of their residential compound alone.

But the BBTU work team was confident it would win Akeqie Kanle’s hearts and minds.

Some 50 villagers had joined the Communist Party, it crowed last July. Another 117 were taken away. Soon, it said, that number “will be even greater.”

by Ben Dooley

Relatives held over Pakistani-origin Italian woman’s ‘honour’ killing — Deceased to be exhumed…

April 25, 2018

Court allows police to exhume the body of an Italian-Pakistani woman, Sana Cheema, who was allegedly killed by her father, brother for honour on April 18

By Updated April 25, 2018

Dawn (Pakistan)

SANA Cheema, whose sudden death was highlighted by Italian media.
SANA Cheema, whose sudden death was highlighted by Italian media.

GUJRAT: A magistrate on Tuesday ordered that the body of an Italian woman of Pakistani origin, who was allegedly murdered for ‘honour’ in the neighbourhood of Mangowal in the city of Gujrat in Punjab on April 18, be exhumed on Wednesday (today) for further investigation.

According to the victim’s family, 26-year-old Sana Cheema had died of natural causes a week ago within the jurisdiction of the Kunjah police station and was buried without an autopsy being conducted.

However, Asad Gujjar, a spokesperson for the Gujrat police, told Dawn that the district police officer had taken notice of news reports in the Italian media, which suggested that she had been murdered for honour, and a social media campaign by her close friends who demanded an investigation into her sudden death.

News of Ms Cheema’s death was reported in a local Italian newspaper, Giornale di Brescia, and members of the Pakistani community in Brescia, Italy, had held a demonstration over the weekend, demanding to know the truth about her death.

Body of 26-year-old Pakistani-origin woman to be exhumed in Gujrat today

They claimed that Ms Cheema had wanted to marry someone in Italy, against her family’s wishes. The reports further alleged that Ms Cheema’s parents had been forcing her to marry someone in the family in the days leading up to her murder.

According to Italian media, Ms Cheema had wanted to marry a man from Brescia who, like her, was a second-generation immigrant with Italian citizenship.

Mr Gujjar said that the Kunjah police visited Mangowal town, where Ms Cheema had been staying with her family, and collected some information about her death which strengthened their suspicions about the version offered by the woman’s family.

After an initial inquiry, the police lodged a murder case against Sana’s father, Ghulam Mustafa Cheema, her brother Adnan Cheema, and her uncle Mazhar Iqbal Cheema, on a complaint filed by Kunjah SHO Waqar Gujjar.

The police have taken most of the suspects into custody but they are still looking for her brother, who appears to be on the run.

The police submitted an application to a district and sessions judge who referred the matter to a magistrate. The magistrate decided the application the same day and ordered that the body be exhumed without delay. He also directed the medical superintendent of Aziz Bhatti Shaheed Teaching Hospital to appoint a doctor and staff to conduct an autopsy of the body.

Police have refused to comment on the possible cause of death, saying that would be determined by the autopsy report.

The Italian Foreign Ministry has said that it is following the case through its embassy in Islamabad, which is gathering information to define the circumstances surrounding Ms Cheema’s death.

Earlier in 2016, a British woman of Pakistani origin, Samia Shahid from Jhelum, was allegedly killed by her father and former husband for contracting a second marriage without obtaining divorce from her first husband. The case is still in trial, but her father died in jail of cardiac arrest in 2017 while her former husband is still in jail.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2018

https://www.dawn.com/news/1403733

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Body of Sana Cheema to be exhumed today

 

LAHORE: Police on Tuesday got  permission from a sessions judge to exhume the body of an Italian-Pakistani woman, Sana Cheema, who was allegedly killed by her father, brother for honour on April 18 in Gujrat.

As per details, Sana, 26, wanted to marry an Italian man and had turned down multiple proposals from within her family. Her family reportedly tricked her to visit Pakistan after Knowing of her will regarding the marriage, when she returned they allegedly killed her a day prior to her return to Italy where she had been living since 2002.

Her death was initially termed as ‘accidental’ and the body was silently buried. However, district police officer (DPO) Gujrat registered a case against the accused and launched an investigation after social media reports suggested that the she had been murdered.

The victim was a driving instructor in Italy, to ascertain the cause of death her body would excavated for autopsy.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/308911-body-of-italian-pakistani-woman-killed-for-honour-to-be-exhumed