Saturday, February 28, 2015

Crimean Tatars find refuge in mainland Ukraine

In a recent post, I wrote about the sad fate of Crimean Tatars who remained in their land.

What about those who fled Russian oppression? I am copying below from Quartz' report Photos: One of Ukraine's most nationalistic cities has become a refuge for nearly 2,000 Muslims, by Misha Friedman:

People congregate after Friday prayers. There is no mosque, so they use a space rented by another Muslim diaspora, the Dagestanis.

 Alim Aliev (center), founder of Crimea SOS, a local NGO that helps new arrivals fit in, singing the national anthem on Ukrainian Unity Day.

New army recruits sing the national anthem at a ceremony on Unity Day.

Muslim naming ceremony for a two-week-old baby, born to a Tatar family in Lviv. The man, named Suleiman, is the baby's "godfather". He was a truck driver in Crimea.

Elmaz and her husband Timur Barotov, refugees from Crimea who now live in Lviv.

"Among the million-plus Ukrainians displaced by the fighting in the east are thousands of Jews and Muslims. Life is complicated for both groups. In a previous photo-essay, Misha Friedman documented the Jews of Dnipropetrovsk; in this one, he highlights the Crimean Tatars, a Muslim community who, like the Jews, have a long history of persecution in the region. Thousands have fled Crimea since Russia annexed it last year, and many have gone to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

It’s an unlikely destination. While the city has a long and cosmopolitan history, reflected in its picturesque mix of architecture, its recent past has been less friendly. When Germany invaded in 1941, the city was in Polish hands, and its ethnic Ukrainian residents—at the time outnumbered heavily by Poles and Jews—enthusiastically helped the Nazi forces round up and kill Jews, and later took part in massacres of Poles. Since then the city has been a bastion of Ukrainian nationalism.

Yet one thing unites the Muslim Crimean Tatars and the Orthodox Christian Ukrainians: their enmity towards Russia. And so, for now at least, the Tatars are welcome in Lviv. By the time Friedman visited in January, some 1,700 had made it their home, and more were arriving...

Like the displaced Jews in Dnipropetrovsk, the Tatars who have moved to Lviv have had to find new professions. “I didn’t meet anybody who does what he did back home,” Friedman says.

Lviv wears its nationalism on its sleeve. The people killed during the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv in 2014, which led to the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, are martyrs here as much as in the capital.

Unity Day, a government holiday on Jan. 22, is taken especially seriously in Lviv. It marks the unification of eastern and western Ukraine in 1919 and their brief existence as an independent country before the USSR and Poland took over and redivided the country in 1920. Members of the Crimean Tatar community join in the ceremonies.

In Dnipropetrovsk, Friedman had encountered the family of Asher Cherkassky, an Orthodox Jew who fights in one of Ukraine’s volunteer battalions against the pro-Russian separatists. In Lviv, he met Timur Barotov (link in Ukrainian), a former Ukrainian naval officer who joined a volunteer battalion to fight the Russian forces in Crimea. When Russia annexed the peninsula, some members of the Ukrainian military there switched their allegiances to Moscow. Barotov left instead, and has become a minor celebrity, playing a part in a film about Ukrainian history (link in Ukrainian). Barotov’s wife Elmaz (pictured with him at the top of this story) is Crimean Tatar; he himself is part Ukrainian, part Tajik."

While it is good that the author is reporting these events and the photos are beautiful, I am annoyed by his anti-Ukrainian bias. He says that "ethnic Ukrainian residents... enthusiastically helped the Nazi forces round up and kill Jews, and later took part in massacres of Poles." I hate such sweeping generalizations (a similar generalization - that Crimean Tatars allegedly collaborated with the Nazis - was Stalin's lame excuse for deporting them en masse, killing many thousands in the process). Some ethnic Ukrainians did help the Nazis enthusiastically, others presumably followed orders, the majority were bystanders, and a few helped and saved Jews, some paying for this with their lives. Nevertheless, all are painted with the same brush and are found guilty just because they were Ukrainians.

The author links to an outrageous article in the Independent from March 9, 2014, by Patrick Cockburn. It is titled To see what Ukraine's future may be, just look at Lviv's shameful past and tells about killings and persecution of Jews and Poles in Lviv between 1941 and 1944. The implication is that Ukrainians are hopeless genocidal blood-suckers who are best kept under the Russian boot. To understand why this text is beyond disgusting and the Independent should be ashamed of it, just imagine an analogy: a respectable British paper publishes on Sept. 12, 2001 a detailed report of the Wounded Knee Massacre as showing the true and unchanging US psyche, with a lot of crocodile tears for the victims of 1890 and not a word about those killed the previous day.

Misha Friedman also implies that honoring the people killed during the Euromaidan protests as martyrs proves that "Lviv wears its nationalism on its sleeve." This is true only if you use "nationalism" as a synonym of "patriotism". The Euromaidan protesters are chauvinists and neo-Nazis only in the distorted Neverland of Putin's propaganda and in the minds of those gullible enough to believe it. In reality, as Luke Harding wrote in the Guardian on March 13, 2014 quoting Kiev's protesters: Ukraine uprising was no neo-Nazi power grab.

Let me borrow from this article: "On 20 February, as revolution engulfed the centre of Kiev, Joseph Schilling, a 61-year-old builder from western Ukraine, went to the frontline to join the protests against President Viktor Yanukovych's government... The place where Schilling died is now festooned with flowers... Here too are images of other members of the "Heavenly Hundred" – the name given to the 102 protesters who have perished near the Maidan, Kiev's central Independence Square. The Kremlin describes last month's uprising in next-door Ukraine as an illegitimate fascist coup. It says dark rightwing forces have taken over the government, forcing Moscow to "protect" Ukraine's ethnic Russian minority... Schilling, however, was an unlikely fascist... He and his wife Anna had lived in Italy... Moreover, he was Jewish...According to those who took part in it, the uprising was a broad-based grassroots movement, launched by people fed up with Yanukovych and involving all sections of society. Some demonstrators were indeed nationalists. Others were liberals, socialists and libertarians... Its victims were a diverse bunch. The first was an ethnic Armenian; another Russian. The man who began this revolution is Mustafa Nayem, a well-known Ukrainian journalist... investigative reporter born in Afghanistan."

Mustafa Nayem, spelled also Nayyem, has a page in Wikipedia.

So my suggestion is: Let's stick to humanism, nationalistic or otherwise, and when we see a poor European nation under attack, let's not dig for sins of the first half of the 20th century in order to justify today's brutal and unprovoked aggression. Or, if someone really wishes to write about what happened in the first half of the 20th century, I'd advise him to mention the Holodomor as well. Let's ask why Russia got away with starving to death millions of Ukrainians in 1932-33, and is now being allowed to kill Ukrainians again.

Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov assassinated

Photo: Boris Nemtsov's body in the shadow of St. Basil Cathidral (AP/Pavel Golovkin, copied from Quartz).

Last night, Boris Nemtsov (55), opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, was gunned down with 4 bullets in his back as he was walking near Kremlin, in the heart of Moscow. The gunmen had got out of a car and then escaped with it.

Mr. Nemtsov was a fearless opponent of Putin, a supporter of democracy and a friend of Ukraine. He opposed the annexation of Crimea and the current aggressive war. He was to lead a peace rally tomorrow. At the same time, he anticipated his death. On Feb. 10, he wrote that he was afraid Putin would kill him.

The BBC lists previous violent death of Putin's opponents:

"April 2003 - Liberal politician Sergey Yushenkov assassinated near his Moscow home.

July 2003 - Investigative journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin died after 16-day mysterious illness.

July 2004 - Forbes magazine Russian editor Paul Klebnikov shot from moving car on Moscow street, died later in hospital.

October 2006 - Investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya shot dead outside her Moscow apartment.

November 2006 - Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died nearly three weeks after drinking tea laced with polonium in London hotel.

March 2013 -Boris Berezovsky, former Kremlin power broker turned Putin critic, found dead in his UK home."

Do you understand now why Putin's approval rating is so high? Because people see what happens to those who disapprove him.

I hesitated whether to include in this post a photo of the crime scene. This matter is controversial, you think of the victim's family members... Finally, as a compromise, I added a diminished version of the image, just because it is so powerful: the violent death in front view, and in the background - the iconic old center of Moscow.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Russia mistreats indigenous Crimeans, as expected

Quoting from today's article Crimean Tatars living in fear in homeland ruled by Russia (by Maria Antonova, AFP):

"Bakhchysaray (AFP) - The day after her husband was arrested, Elvira Ablyalimova woke up to find her home in Crimea surrounded by snipers while a squad of men combed through her belongings for 10 hours, letting nobody in or out.

Russia's takeover of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine a year ago was hailed by many ethnic-Russian locals, but for Ablyalimova and others from the indigenous Crimean Tatar minority, the new rulers have brought little but fear.

Ablyalimova's husband Akhtem Chiygoz is a deputy head of the Tatars' traditional decision-making assembly, the Mejlis.

But he is now under arrest for allegedly organising riots, inciting violence and committing involuntary manslaughter...

A Muslim community that comprises about 13 percent of the province's population, the Crimean Tatars were opposed to Moscow's takeover from Ukraine...

Native to the peninsula, the Crimean Tatars were brutally deported to Central Asia in 1944 by Joseph Stalin for alleged collaboration with the invading Nazis during World War II.

The return of Russian rule has triggered anxiety.

"After the Russian authorities came to Crimea, things that had never happened in Crimea before started to happen," said Mejlis member Ilmi Umerov...

Umerov said four young men remain missing after suspected kidnappings and that four others who disappeared were later found dead...

Crimean Tatar survivors of Stalinist repression were not allowed to return and settle on the peninsula until the 1990s, when they began building fragile cooperation with the post-Soviet Ukrainian authorities.

But now, their homeland doesn't feel much like home anymore. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Tatars have opted to leave, heading to mainland Ukraine, Umerov said.

"In every Crimean Tatar family there is a feeling of fear and lack of security while living in our own homeland," Ablyalimova said, listing "disappearances, sadistic murders... attacks on media, and arrests on trumped-up charges."

The probe against Chiygoz stems from a rally the Mejlis called on February 26 last year near the Crimean parliament, just hours before heavily armed soldiers in unmarked uniforms occupied the building, raised the Russian flag and forced the lawmakers to vote for installing a new pro-Russian government.

Clashes broke out when pro-Russian activists turned up at the same location. Footage shows two groups facing off, ignoring calls for order, yelling "Referendum!" or "Crimea is not Russia!" In the ensuing disorder, two people died.

However, the probe only targets Crimean Tatars and applies Russian law to events that preceded Russia's jurisdiction...

"Most of us are shocked by what happened in Crimea. Those who could not get over the shock have left," said Liliya Budzhurova, deputy director of the Crimean Tatar television channel ATR and also a reporter for AFP.

Those who stayed "made a difficult choice", she said, to live in what is essentially a hostile environment in which the channel must employ self-censorship if it wants to survive...

The channel was openly pro-Ukrainian before, but recent Russian anti-extremism and separatism legislation has forced it to cut potentially compromising terminology from coverage, she said. They even avoid mentioning that Crimea was until a year ago part of Ukraine.

She described the process as having "scissors inside our heads".

"For half a century we didn't have the right to speak, listen and read in our national language and to rob us of that right would be a repeat tragedy," she said, vowing to stay and work in Crimea no matter what.

"I cannot breathe here, but I will not leave, because it is my homeland," she said. "I will not leave, even if they blow up a nuclear bomb.""

I am very sorry for the Crimean Tatars. They do not deserve such a fate.

What should they do now?

To my opinion, they must stay quiet and low. Open resistance of any sort is no good against an enemy as strong and barbaric as Putin's Russia.

Instead, Crimean Tatars must keep their culture and gradually develop it in a direction to the West.

And, above all, they must prevent their numbers from shrinking. Russia can outlaw public rallies and censor local media, but it cannot impose laws banning childbirth.

Make love, not war! In the long run, it always works.

The same is valid for the Chechens, the Ingushs and other oppressed nations in Russia.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hero cult of the Copenhagen Islamist murderer

Below, I am copying Jerry Coyne's Feb. 21 post:

"Hundreds attend funeral of Copenhagen’s murdering terrorist

Okay, maybe Omar El-Hussein, the guy who killed a filmmaker at a cafe and a security guard at a synagogue in Copenhagen, might have had a lot of friends and relatives in Denmark, but I doubt that had he died a natural death, more than 500 people would have turned up for his funeral.
But According to Denmark’s The Local website, and the video below, the funeral was really crowded.  I suspect that many of these people were there not there purely out of grief, but to express solidarity with El-Hussein’s heinous and brutal crime. That’s supported by the description of the funeral:
Friday’s funeral was open to the public but according to a report from wire service Ritzau was mostly attended by young men, who were described as “wearing large black coats with many of them having covered their faces”.
 Copenhagen Police sent out a press release prior to the service urging anyone attending to “show appropriate respect” while Kasem Said Ahmad, who conducted the burial ceremony, told Jyllands-Posten that he would require everyone to “remain silent”.
 Ahmad rejected media suggestions that a large turnout at the funeral would be a sign of support for the alleged killer.
“It is support for the family, not for him,” he said. “I do not think that anyone is coming to pay homage to him.”
Seriously? 500 people turn up for a 22-year-old murderer, most of the “mourners” men, and some with faces covered? Who is Ahmad fooling? I feel no guilt about suggesting that what happened here was a covert show of support for El-Hussein’s terrorism. Although most European Muslims don’t commit violence, I suspect—based on Islamic behavior in the rest of the world, including Australia—that many secretly applaud the kind of murders that El-Hussein committed. Since it’s unseemly in Denmark to celebrate by firing guns, shouting in glee, and handing out sweets (as the Palestinians do when their terrorists kill Israeli citizens), El-Hussein’s supporters “celebrate” by attending his funeral.

There seems to be a bit more dissembling in the further description of the funeral:
22-year-old Omar El-Hussein — identified by police as the shooter behind two fatal shootings last weekend —  was buried at a Muslim cemetery in the Copenhagen suburb of Brøndby despite objections from the Islamic group that owns it.
The group said it had considered denying a request by El-Hussein’s parents of to have him buried in the group’s Muslim cemetery, but that its rules did not allow for it.
“My concern is over extremist attitudes and actions on both sides,” Ahmet Deniz, head of the Islamic Burial Fund’s support group told Jyllands-Posten. “Both from his friends and from young Danish people who perhaps could also riot later.”
Well, I have no objections myself to them burying the murderer anywhere they want, but really, to express concern over “extremist attitudes and actions on both sides”? I haven’t seen Danish citizens murdering Muslims, or even rioting. What I have seen are sad and silent vigils by Danes and other Europeans. Deniz is trying to downplay the murders by equating the potential “extremism” of Danes with the actual extremism of celebrating this crime.
h/t: Jelger"

Friday, February 20, 2015

Abortions in Nigeria banned because women don't want them

As we all know, bad things are happening in Nigeria. The situation wasn't very nice to begin with, but it became disastrous after the Islamist group Boko Haram (the name means "Western education is forbidden") started its reign of terror in 2009, plunging, kidnapping, raping, killing and taking parts of the country under its control.

I hadn't written about this, first, because I don't want and cannot cover every atrocity happening on this unfortunate planet and, second, because I have little sympathy to people who don't even try to stand their ground. It is clear that Nigerians must defend their country, life and freedom while it is still possible, but we don't see any serious efforts in this direction. Instead, we see protests of Nigerian army wives against sending their husbands to fight Boko Haram.

One could ask, don't Nigerians realize that Boko Haram must be confronted and crushed? Of course they do, but too many of them seem to think it is America's job. They apparently feel entitled to US military help. And because this help isn't coming, Nigerians entertain themselves with conspiracy theories. They think that America is always happy to be involved in yet another war and would gladly send its soldiers to die for Nigeria... but Pres. Obama's administration first wants Nigeria to allow abortions and to warm toward homosexuals. As Nigerian bishop Emmanuel Badejo said in an interview: "Recently I was alarmed when I heard Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, say that the United States government was committed to anything that would push the population control agenda. The United States actually said it would help Nigeria with Boko Haram only if we modify our laws concerning homosexuality, family planning, and birth control. It’s very clear that a cultural imperialism exists. In fact, I think that Africa is suffering greatly from a cultural imperialism that threatens to erode our cultural values. And I think, to say the least, it is criminal. Because if the West boasts of being committed to human freedom, mean it. If there are values that the West cherishes, they must not impose those values on Africa. It is part of human freedom. And at least Africa can stand up and say: “These are the values we cherish and these are the values we want to keep.” If the West cherishes freedom for gays and homosexual unions and abortion and contraception, suppose Africans are not wired that way. For the African, life is sacred. And that the world can watch hundreds of people dying in Nigeria every day and look away: it shows that even what we call Western civilization today is sick. What we say about human dignity and human rights is mere hypocrisy. There is a diminishing sense of the respect for the sanctity of life. And all of this is to be imposed on Africa, at whatever cost."

As you see, the good bishop has views very similar to Boko Haram's ideology: the terrorists are against the West and so is he. The quote is typical for the mindset of many millions of people in poor countries - a mindset that is both a product of the Third World misery and the main factor for its perpetuation. However, there are Westerners suffering of white guilt who will take this delusional paranoid rant at face value. See how one of them, Jen Kuznicki, superimposes her own bright thoughts on those of Bishop Badejo:

"With all the crazy pro-aborts screaming for women’s reproductive rights, no one is calling on us to look at the fact that African women want and accept children..."

Got it? African women are good, they want and accept children, unlike us decadent Western bitches who don't want and accept children and get pregnant just to enjoy an abortion. So we know now why abortions are banned in Nigeria: because women would not want them anyway. I bet that even a 15-yr-old girl raped and impregnated by Boko Haram men wouldn't want an abortion. After all, what more impressive proof of the "respect for the sanctity of life" than carrying to term this particular pregnancy?

Oh how much I "love" religious fundamentalists. And not only Islamic ones.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New murderous attack against free speech and Jews in Europe

Barely a month after the massacre in Paris, we have again Islamist terrorists attacking free speech and the few remaining Jews of Europe.

The shooting, as in France, had two rounds, the first one against people criticizing Islam and the second against a Jewish institution.

Yesterday (Feb. 14), a public seminar called Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression was organized in Copenhagen to honor victims of the attack in January against the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. A gunman shot, killing a 55-yr-old man whose identity I don't know yet. The intended target is believed to have been Swedish artist Lars Vilks who drew Prophet Muhammad as a dog back in 2007.

Then, shortly after midnight, a Jewish guard was shot death in front of a synagogue. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has already urged European Jews to move to Israel, saying: "Extremist Islamic terrorism has struck Europe again... Jews have been murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews".

Danish police say they have shot dead the suspect.

European citizenship

I was very skeptical of the European Union before Bulgaria joined it in 2007.

I have softened since, though I still criticize the EU on many occasions. We Bulgarians benefited much from the free European market, the right to travel and work in other EU countries, the imperative to harmonize our legislature with European laws and the subsidies given by the EU budget (though of course much of the funds are wasted or stolen by crooks, as always happens with unearned money).

To be honest, the EU, like many other fortresses, looks far better from inside than from outside. And we need it in the foreseeable future to counter-weight the power of Russia. Though I am very unhappy to see the reluctance of European politicians to do more against Russian aggression, I shiver when I think what would happen to Bulgaria if we hadn't been admitted to the EU. Using his numerous and high-ranking supporters in our country, Putin would effectively take control of it without a shot.

Anyway, even Euro-skeptic hardliners, once their country is in the EU, should do what is best in the situation and find the best possible use of European institutions. So in the elections for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), I have always cast my vote.

There were such elections on May 25, 2014. I remember how, about a month before the date, I talked with my mother. We always discussed politics and had almost complete agreement. This time, however, there was a difference. My mother had decided to vote for the Reformist Block. My sympathies also belonged there, but at the parliamentary elections the previous year the Reformist people had failed to pass the 4% barrier and so my vote had been lost. So this time I felt inclined to vote for the bigger GERB party. (Who would think of it, after I had written so critically about the GERB leader? Years pass and things change!)

My mother said that voting for GERB was also fine and that the people occupying top positions in the GERB ticket looked nice. I said that I disliked the leader of the Reformists' ticket, Meglena Kuneva. My mother said that she had the same opinion of Ms. Kuneva and she would vote with preference for the runner-up in the ticket, Svetoslav Malinov.

Several days after this conversation, my mother suddenly died.

I tried not to disconnect from the world. As the elections approached, I wrote a post appealing to any European voter who would read it to vote as would be best for Ukraine. And I stopped hesitating about my vote. I decided to vote for the Reformist Block with preference for Mr. Malinov, as my mother would, even if I were to "waste" my vote for a second time. My mother had always valued political freedom and civil rights, yet the Communist dictatorship had deprived her of this for 4 decades, coinciding with the most active years of her life. So I wished to honor her by allowing her to vote once more, a wish that not many people would understand.

A last-minute change of mind of many right-wing voters gave the Reformists one seat in the European Parliament; and it was for Mr. Malinov, because most voters had, like me, indicated preference for No. 2. Both he and the GERB-elected representatives joined the group of the European People's Party (EPP).

Several months later, in October 2014, my father was invited to a discussion titled Communism and the Unbending Human Spirit which was to take place in Brussels, in the building of the European Parliament. It was organized by Andrey Kovatchev, a member of the European Parliament (EPP) from the GERB party of Bulgaria, with the crucial help of Daniela Gortcheva, a Bulgarian-Dutch journalist. The organizers invited me to accompany my father at their expense, because of his advanced age and disabilities. So I traveled to Brussels, saw the European Parliament from inside and attended the discussion.

I had not written about this here, only in my Bulgarian blog. I am posting below two photos from Oct. 13, 2014:

Here, in this hall, the sessions of the European Parliament take place (of course, not exactly at the moment when we were allowed to see the it).

The discussion is about to start in one of the smaller rooms of the European Parliament. Left to right: pro-freedom rock musician Vasil Georgiev better known as "Vasko the Patch"; journalist and former dissident Edvin Sugarev; Michael Gahler, member of the European Parliament (EPP - Germany); Andrey Kovatchev; Daniela Gortcheva; my father Dyanko Markov; and photo reporter and journalist Evgeniy Mihaylov.

Mr. Gahler made a wonderful impression to me by coming to the discussion and delivering an address. Otherwise, although the event was under the auspice of EPP, it was attended mostly by Bulgarians - coming from Bulgaria for the occasion like me or expatriates. My father talked about his experience as a political prisoner in the late 1940s. By the way, his speech and the reports of it apparently got on the nerves of some Communists, because after we returned to Bulgaria, they and their friends started a smear campaign against my father with phony accusations; but let me not waste more bytes on this.

In the audience, there was a young man who then came to greet me. He had been among the first my students, and was now an experienced doctor and successful emigrant in Belgium. It is good to see one's students succeeding, though at the same time it's sad when this happens more often abroad than in their homeland.

Last week, someone brought Brussels to my attention again by informing me that the European Parliament would discuss a resolution in support of Raif Badawi on Thursday, Feb. 15. (Badawi's case, unfortunately, had not made it to the agenda of the previous, Jan. 15 session.) The activist who sent me the e-mail suggested that we European voters write messages to our representatives in the European Parliament to support the resolution. However, I did not even consider contacting Mr. Malinov or any other MEP. I expected the cause of Raif Badawi to be automatically supported by European legislators left, right and center. It seemed to me even offensive to urge them to take the correct action in such a case; what would we explain to them next, that cannibalism is a bad thing? Because they can't figure it out themselves?

So imagine my dismay and indignation when I learned that the EPP had opposed the resolution! Quoting the BBC report: "The resolution calling for blogger Raif Badawi to be released is passed by 460 to 153, with 29 abstentions. The joint text was agreed between six groups - agreement could not be found with the centre-right EPP on the exact wording of the text". What had happened to the EPP group? Had their brains suddenly evaporated?

I found a Web page where one could check the vote of every MEP, and I used it to track the Bulgarian representatives. Most had been loyal to their respective "party lines". However, I was very glad to see that Andrey Kovatchev, the host of the 2014 discussion on communism, had supported the resolution despite the official position of the EPP. At least one Bulgarian EPP member had done the right thing!

Then I checked Michael Gahler who had attended and addressed the October discussion. To my delight, he had also rebelled against the party line and supported the Raif Badawi resolution. Apparently, Mr. Gahler finds human beings important, even if they are obscure almost-white folks having backward cultures and speaking strange languages like Bulgarian or Arabic. The Germans who have voted for Mr. Gahler can be proud of him. He stands for the values that have made Europe great.

I wrote congratulating messages to Mr. Kovatchev and Mr. Gahler. Then I sent messages expressing disappointment to "my" representative Mr. Malinov and to Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP group. By the way, Mr. Weber was absent from the Thursday vote. Maybe he realized that his group's obstinacy had pushed it to a disgraceful and embarrassing act, but it was already too late to step back.

I have no idea how many voter e-mails ever reach the MEPs they are addressed to, but sending my opinion was what seemed appropriate. Because I am now a European citizen, and though it is hard to comprehend, people like me are ultimately responsible for the continent.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reactions to the death of Ahmed Merabet

(Photo copied from the Guardian, original source Twitter.)

Ahmed Merabet (42) was a French policeman killed in the Jan. 7 Islamist attack in Paris against the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo. He was patrolling the area and confronted the terrorists as they were leaving the crime scene. He tried to prevent their escape, but was outnumbered and outgunned. As he was lying on the ground, injured and no longer a danger to them, they taunted him and then finished him in cold blood.

Two other police officers were among the victims: Franck Brinsolaro (49), who was assigned to guard Charlie Hebdo after earlier threats and a firebombing, and Clarissa Jean-Philippe (27), a new recruit only 2 weeks into the job who was directing traffic. (I have not found any explanation why the young policewoman was shot; I guess, the terrorists were happy to shoot any police officer on the way, or she had seen something that they didn't want to be seen.) However, Ahmed Merabet attracted far more attention than his two colleagues, because his final moment were caught in a chilling video that became known to the whole world.

A US policeman blogger wrote about Officer Merabet's death: "I am furious, because I just watched a brother die.  He was a man I’ve never met, living in a country I’ve never seen, speaking a language I have never spoken, but he was a brother none the less.  He stood on the front line, the one cloaked in blue, and gave his life in defense of others.  He was killed because he represented that which is good... He was murdered, executed really, because he represented qualities that the enemy cannot understand.  Qualities like civility, mercy, equality, and order.  He possessed a depth of character that showed bravery, courage, and selflessness.  He represented all the enemy hates about Western society.  He stood a symbol of democratic freedom, an enforcer of laws chosen by the men and women that those laws govern."

Ahmed Merabet also stands out as the only Muslim victim of the massacre. Indeed, Mustapha Ourrad, copy editor of Charlie Hebdo, was also of Algerian descent, but he was an atheist. Moreover, Ahmed Merabet was not a randomly killed bystander like Mustafa Kyosov. As his colleague said, "He was on foot, and came nose-to-nose with the terrorists. He pulled out his weapon. It was his job, it was his duty." Many French Muslims, while unwilling to assume the popular Je suis Charlie ("I am Charlie"), took for themselves Je suis Ahmed and reminded, in a language similar to Voltaire's, the need to defend other people's freedom of speech at any cost, no matter how much one dislikes this speech. Some used both expressions.

The faith of Ahmed Merabet was attested by his brother Malek, who said: "“It’s not two terrorists, two madmen who are going to represent all Muslims. We have nothing to do with that. My brother was Muslim - he was killed by false Muslims." I have only deep sympathy to him. No only has he lost a brother but this loss is rooted in his religion, and he is now trying to reconcile two allegiances that are conflicting yet both are integral for his personality. I have, however, no sympathy to those who are using Ahmed Merabet's heroic death in order to whitewash Islam, without having lost any loved ones in the carnage. The nearest example is the same MSNBC article from where I copied Malek Merabet's words. There, the terrorists are described as "a group of violent lunatics" and are juxtaposed to "roughly 1.5 billion people – about a fifth of the world’s population" (i.e. the total number of Muslims).

A popular Bulgarian blogger wrote in a post titled I am Ahmed: "We are screaming how the Kouachi brothers killed 12 Christians (actually, 11 Christians and a Muslim) but we do not care that in the same day, other Islamic terrorists killed more than 40 Muslims in Yemen. We are screaming how the Islamic State has killed dozens of Christians but we do not care that it has killed tens of thousands of Muslims... There are many other similar examples. However, for those who are able to think, this is enough to show that those who suffer most from the Islamic terrorists are not Christians, Jews or freethinkers. Those who suffer most from them are the ordinary, nice, good Muslims."

You can mention that, similarly to most apologists of Islam, the author has failed to mention the "Jews and freethinkers" among the Charlie Hebdo victims. And he apparently thinks the deaths and sufferings of Muslim victims of Islam provide a bizarre justification of this religion/ideology. A commenter exposed his faulty "logic" by a simple analogy: "Communism has also killed myriads of its own people; this does not mean that there is such a thing as "good communism"."

Another example is the left-leaning Vox with its page Ahmed Merabet's eulogy is the most important thing you'll read on Charlie Hebdo. I wonder whether the author of this text is at least vaguely aware that, in any human society valuing human life and respecting death, it is not a small thing to grade bereaved people according to how they react. The Vox actually hints that those like Malek Merabet, who doesn't blame Islam, are good folks grieving the right way, while others like Jeanette Bougrab, who does blame Islam, are presumably bad folks grieving the wrong way. But I digress. Let's copy the entire translation of Malek's speech and see what he has to tell us:

"Good morning all,

My brother was French, Algerian, and of the Muslim religion. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the French police, and to defend the values of the [French] Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity.

Through his determination, he had just received his judicial police diploma and was shortly due to leave for work in the field. His colleagues describe him as a man of action who was passionate about his job.

Ahmed, a man of commitment, had the will to take care of his mother and his relatives following the death of his father 20 years ago. A pillar of the family, his responsibilities did not prevent him from being a caring son, a teasing brother, a generous uncle, and a loving companion.

Devastated by this barbaric act, we associate ourselves with the pain of the families of the victims.

I address myself now to all the racists, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites:

One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Madness has neither color nor religion. I want to make another point: stop painting everybody with the same brush, stop burning mosques or synagogues. You are attacking people. It won't bring back our dead, and it won't appease our families.

Thank you."

 Please pay attention that Malek Merabet appealed to "Islamophobes and anti-Semites" to "stop burning mosques or synagoges". He appealed to the non-Muslim French majority not to engage in a backlash and to attack randomly innocent Muslims. At the same time, however, he appealed to the "anti-Semites" to "stop burning synagoges". To whom is this addressed? It cannot be addressed to anyone else than his own people, the French Muslims, some of whom are prone to violent anti-Semitism. So, Malek Merabet isn't such an apologist of Islam as the Western useful idiots are and as they try to present him. He just says what has to be said, much like his brother did what had to be done.

So I wish people to stop abusing the memory of Ahmed Merabet.

Chapel Hill murders: likely Islamophobic

The victims Deah Barakat, Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha. Photo copied from CNN, original source Twitter.

On Feb. 10, three Muslim American university students were shot dead in their condominium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They were Deah Barakat (23), his newlywed wife Yusor Abu-Salha (21) and her sister Razan Abu-Salha (19). The alleged murderer Craig Stephen Hicks (46) gave himself in shortly after the shooting. He was their neighbor and also a student (?!).

There has been a discussion of the motive(s) of the crime ever since.

On one hand, as the Washington Post reports, "Craig Stephen Hicks was feared by his neighbors. He obsessed over parking spaces and always appeared angry... His ex-wife, Cynthia Hurley, who divorced Hicks about 17 years ago, said his favorite film was Falling Down, in which a disgruntled and unemployed defense industry worker played by Michael Douglas goes on a shooting rampage... He thought it was hilarious... "He kind of made everyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe,” resident Samantha Maness told...“He was very angry anytime I saw him.” Maness describes Hicks as particularly fixated on parking and noise. He was known for having unfamiliar cars towed and had confronted Maness for being too loud. Last year, she said, residents convened a meeting to discuss Hicks’s behavior, but nothing came of it."

The Wall Street Journal adds information provided by a local tow truck driver: "Christopher Lafreniere said his company had a contract for towing in the Finley Forest neighborhood where the alleged shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, and two of the three victims lived. Mr. Lafreniere said the company was called “every day, or at least several times a week” for more than a year by Mr. Hicks with requests to tow cars that Mr. Hicks said weren’t parked in the proper spaces. In one incident, Mr. Hicks had a gun, Mr. Lafreniere said. “This guy towed an obscene amount of cars,” Mr. Lafreniere said. “It got to the point where we stopped answering his calls.”... Chapel Hill police have said the Tuesday shootings were prompted by a parking dispute between Mr. Hicks and the married couple, his closest neighbors... “The news is saying, ‘hate crime, hate crime,’ but then I found out it was that guy and I thought, ‘Hmm, it actually might have been a parking issue,’ ” Mr. Lafreniere said. “He was all about towing.”"

On the other hand, however, Hicks expressed "anti-theist" views on his Facebook page, condemning Islam and other religions, and his victims were Muslims. Moreover, the young women wore headscarves, a marker known to be disliked by North American and European societies. Their father is sure that the murder was driven by hate - quote from the CNN report: "When his son-in-law lived alone in the condominium complex, the family never had any problems. But once his daughter moved in, wearing a headscarf that clearly identified her as Muslim, trouble started, he said. "My daughter, Yusor, honest to God, told us on more than two occasions that this man came knocking at the door and fighting about everything with a gun on his belt, more than twice," her father said. "She told us, 'Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are and how we look.'" Learning from the police how his two daughters and son-in-law were killed has only made him more convinced."

My thoughts: First, I strongly condemn this outrageous triple murder, and I acknowledge that I share Hicks' militant atheistic and Islamophobic views.

From what I have read about the case, and also from the photos of Hicks - which I don't want to copy here, but you can find them in every news report - I think that he is a psychopath with an unfortunate mess in his head as well as in his life, and that it was only a matter of time and circumstances before he externalized his misery in a murderous attack against someone guilty of being happier than him. So Hicks was a walking bomb just waiting to be discharged.

However, this sort of people seek and concoct inside their sick minds some bizarre justifications of their crimes. In Hicks' case, I think that, besides the parking issue, the hate against Muslims is more than likely to have played a role; and if the youths had not been Muslims, or at least not so apparently, his rage would explode at some other moment and against someone else. We may never know the truth, because the needed information must be provided by the murderer himself; and if he had been motivated by hate, he would prefer not to admit it in order to avoid being charged with a hate crime (as if a triple murder isn't grave enough). However, if we claim that this was just a parking issue and the visible Muslim affiliation of the victims played no role, we are burying our heads in the sand, and this isn't good for anybody.

Five years ago, I tried to explain to a Muslim newcomer to the USA why it is better not to wear a headscarf in the West. Humans are not very nice creatures, and I knew that such attacks will happen from time to time. And, unfortunately, given the overall situation, I expect them to increase.