France, the way to Islamic reformation is to challenge institutions — not stigmatize Muslims

“Recent events underscore the need for a reformed reading of Islam. But such reformation will not be brought about by stigmatizing Islam or Muslim communities, as the French president did. What is needed is to challenge Muslim institutions to take a clear position on Islamic jurisprudence justifying violence.”

“It was a policy statement about cracking down on “radical Islamist” influence among French Muslims to prevent their transformation into a “counter-republican” community. However, Macron’s bizarre remark that Islam “is in crisis all over the world today” unsurprisingly got most of the attention in the Middle East.”

“What was meant to be a debate about combating Islamic radicals in France turned into an outcry against “Macron’s stigmatization of Islam.” Nuanced Muslim voices got lost in the noise.
The Macron fiasco didn’t overshadow the problem of violence in the name of Islam for long. The beheading of a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, on Oct. 16 for showing his students images of a caricature depicting Islam’s prophet came as a crude reminder of the problem. Calling it an isolated act, as the grand mufti of Egypt did, doesn’t cut it any longer. Nor does the lamentation over French atrocities in Algeria half a century ago. The problem of violence motivated by a certain interpretation of Islam is real.”

“Three key premises held by the Islamic Salafist tradition lie at the source of the problem. First, the idea that sovereignty lies with “God,” not the people, restricts the role of legislatures to enacting Islamic law, which is also understood in its most literalist interpretation. Rulers who don’t uphold this principle are deemed idolatrous. Second, Muslims’ “apostasy,” often defined as having a different interpretation of their faith, is punishable by death. Third, when Muslim leaders fail to enact these rules, individual Muslims have a duty, under certain conditions, to carry them out themselves.

These interpretations of Islam underpin most of the violence in its name, since the Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutb wrote his call for Jihad more than half a century ago, all the way to the Islamic State and “lone wolves” violently punishing those who “insult Islam” today. Islamic institutions such as Al-Azhar often denounce that violence and insist that its perpetrators do not represent “true Islam,” as Egypt’s mufti just did. Yet they rarely address the intellectual foundations of these belligerent interpretations of Islamic texts.

Independent-minded Islamic thinkers have long been advocating more clement readings of Islam, its laws and its relationship with non-Muslims. From Muhammad Abduh in the 19th century to Nasr Abu Zayd, Mohammed Arkoun and many others more recently, thinkers have critically reviewed Islamic jurisprudence to show its emphasis on reason, individual freedom and equality. But religious institutions and movements did not follow their lead. And political leaders, including those of the so-called secular regimes, hedged their bets and walked a fine line between reformers and Salafists. Decades of social, economic and political decay, foreign encroachment and military interventions, along with Saudi support, helped Salafi thought grow. Today, Salafi thought is no longer a fringe: It has penetrated mainstream religious institutions as well as the Islamist movements that had started off as modernist, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Those who are interested in promoting a reformist vision of Islam should challenge the foundations of Salafism within these institutions and movements — not “Islam” as a whole, as Macron did, nor the already stigmatized Muslim minorities who are struggling with racism and discrimination in Western countries.
Instead, Islamic institutions and movements should be pressed to come up with unambiguous answers to the key questions that Salafism poses: Does their interpretation of “true Islam” allow Muslims to use violence against others? Does it allow Muslims to uphold modern political institutions and their laws? Does it allow Muslims to live peacefully with people they consider apostates or infidels?

Challenging these institutions and movements will help, not undermine, the debate among Muslims over what Islam is — the debate that will shape the future of Islam.”

The “boogaloo” “movement,” explained

” Believers in boogaloo ideology — a focus on visible gun ownership, with some advocating for a violent civil war against the federal government — have shown up to protests in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and other cities, sometimes wearing Hawaiian shirts (based on a movement in-joke) and carrying large guns.”

“members of the boogaloo movement are unlikely to be the majority of those arrested at either the protests or the violence. In Minneapolis, Seattle, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, and elsewhere, the majority of those arrested during the protests and violence haven’t been outside agitators traveling the country to start fights and cause violence. Rather, they’ve been people largely from the same places where they are arrested.”

“The protesters had to deescalate the police”: Demonstrators are the ones defusing violence at protests

“At demonstration after demonstration, officers have met peaceful protesters, who are condemning the police killing of George Floyd — and police violence more broadly — with disproportionate and brutal force, often for no reason but to “disperse” a crowd. It’s an approach that’s only illustrated how quick police can be to use violent tactics, particularly against black individuals.”

“Vox spoke with 10 protesters in seven different cities — and nearly all of them had either directly witnessed or been subject to police violence while participating in marches and rallies in recent weeks.”

“During a peaceful protest in Toledo, Ohio, 29-year-old attorney Matthew Ahn saw police shooting wooden bullets directly at people’s bodies, severely injuring at least two individuals.”

“In Los Angeles, Abdullah described watching a state highway patrol car plow into a crowd of protesters and knock a man out in the process.”

“Such acts of police violence have contributed to a number of injuries — rubber bullets have blinded multiple individuals, while beatings have resulted in broken bones — and one death. In Louisville, Kentucky, where officers still haven’t been charged in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, police shot and killed David McAtee near his business when he was out past curfew in early June.”

“At the marches where law enforcement has taken a more aggressive approach, the escalation by police often came with little warning, protesters say. It can be chaotic, frightening, and overwhelming.”

“There is legal recourse for protesters who have suffered injuries at the hands of police, but there have historically been some pretty big obstacles to getting accountability.
Such barriers are largely due to the protections that police have in the case of civil lawsuits because of a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity: In order to even go to trial with an allegation of police misconduct, an individual needs to show not only that it was a violation of their civil rights, but also that there’s precedent for that same action being considered unlawful in prior cases.

This shield has enabled police officers to avoid liability on many acts of misconduct in the past, including shootings, theft and property damage.

Still, experts tell Vox that protesters have plenty of grounds to pursue legal action — and already, there’s been multiple cases in the last month where the officer involved faces criminal charges.”

“Protesters have three avenues they can take, Futterman notes: They can file a civil lawsuit against a specific officer for violating their constitutional rights, they can register a complaint with the city or police station involved, or they can report the incident to a district attorney, who could then file a criminal lawsuit.”

How violent protests against police brutality in the ’60s and ’90s changed public opinion

“empirical research has come out persuasively showing that riots in the past have not generally swung public opinion toward the causes they’re rooted in.

Particularly with the 1960s riots, the evidence suggests that white voters’ negative reactions to these uprisings in black communities fueled the rise of “tough on crime” politicians whose policies perpetuated some of the problems that protesters in the ’60s stood against and that demonstrators today are now protesting.
We don’t know if this research on the 1960s uprisings can be perfectly generalized to protests today, when the circumstances, political climate, and population are different. There are other studies suggesting that, at least in limited circumstances, riots have helped some causes.

But there are concerning signs about the way today’s protests are going. With violence becoming a bigger and bigger part of the news, figures like President Donald Trump can ignore the overall message and cause of the protests and instead focus on calling for “law and order” and the deployment of the National Guard. Some, like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), have called for military deployment in cities hit by riots. Unrest at protests is producing the very attitudes and positions — from “tough on crime” to the literal militarization of policing — that protesters are standing against.”

“research from the past suggests the path to meaningful change, particularly for racial justice, is typically more successful through peaceful means.”

Clearing Out Lafayette Park for Trump’s Church Photo Op Was Wrong, Even If Cops Didn’t Use Tear Gas

“On Monday, President Trump left the White House, walked across Lafayette Park—where rioters burned a public restroom the night before—and posed in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church while holding a Bible. This photo op was made possible by U.S. Park Police, who cleared overwhelmingly peaceful protesters from the area using aggressive crowd control tactics.

People are now debating whether those tactics included the use of tear gas, which swiftly became central to the mainstream media coverage of the incident, and a focal point of criticism from former Vice President Joe Biden. Multiple on-the-ground reporters said they suffered the effects of tear-gassing—burning in the throat and eyes—but Park Police have emphatically denied this, claiming that officers fired canisters of smoke rather than tear gas. It’s hard to know for sure what happened, but it seems plausible that the protesters directly in front of Lafayette Park were, in fact, hit with smoke.

Whether the Park Police used tear gas or smoke matters because the truth always matters. If media reporting on that detail was wrong, they should correct their reporting. But whatever kind of canister was fired into the peaceful crowd, the most important point is that the entire episode was completely unacceptable. Law enforcement officers who harass peaceably assembled citizens are violating the First Amendment, whether or not they use tear gas.

Park Police have claimed they didn’t know of Trump’s plans to walk to the church, and that they began clearing the area prior to the curfew going into effect because protesters were throwing water bottles at them. Reports on the ground suggest some throwing of objects, but also tons of protesters instructing the throwers to stop it immediately. Multiple things could be true here, of course: The police might not have known precisely why they were instructed to push the protesters back, but if Trump had his heart set on walking to St. John’s, the cops were going to have to move the protesters to accommodate him. That the scene on ground was more complicated than it may have appeared is not an excuse for voiding the right to protest. ”

“It was morally wrong to disperse protesters at 6:30 p.m., and it would have been wrong to disperse them at 7:05 p.m.—curfew or not. Public officials at every level of government are making arbitrary decisions about whether such-and-such activity should stop being practiced in such-and-such manner and at such-and-such time. These excuses for violating civil liberties are just not compelling.”

“By all means, let’s pursue the truth of exactly what happened outside Lafayette Park. But let’s not get lost in the weeds along the way. The government’s rough handling of protesters—not rioters and looters, but citizens engaged in constitutionally protected demonstrations against police violence—is unlawful. It’s immoral. And it’s making things worse.”

It Wasn’t Tear Gas. It Was a Gaseous Substance That Causes Tears.

“No, President Donald Trump didn’t have police shoot tear gas at innocent people so he could pose for a pic with an upside-down Bible. Both the president and his lackeys at certain media outlets want to make sure we’re clear on that. You see, the truth is that Trump had police bombard a law-abiding crowd with a gaseous substance that produces tears.

You see the difference? Not really? It doesn’t matter. We’re talking about this right now, and that’s what Trump boosters and predator-cop stans want. The more time people spend debating the difference between tear gas and “smoke canisters and pepper balls,” the less focus on the fact that the Trump administration had peaceful citizens attacked so he could pretend on camera to be brave and religious.

This is the same tactic we’ve seen again and again from the Trump administration: deny, shift stories, and quibble over inane particulars.

It doesn’t matter if most media or even most Americans don’t really buy the administration’s deflections and lies. The point is to shift the public conversation, give Trump supporters an easy retort to critics, and to present enough reasonable doubt that folks not especially attuned to politics tune out. Getting people to see this as just another far-removed partisan squabble is essential to covering up the heinous and extreme nature of the stunt the administration pulled in Lafayette Square.”

“Trump folks want to pretend that masses of individual protesters and members of the press were lying, in coordination, to trick people into thinking the administration behaved worse than it did. But the fact of the matter is that being tear-gassed and being bombarded with a pepper-spray bomb produce the same effects, and people were reporting on what they had experienced and witnessed directly.

Accuracy in media matters, of course, and Reason has often been the first to point out when most press is getting a story wrong. But reporting accurately and truthfully means doing the absolute best you can with the facts that are available to you, admitting what you don’t know, and updating your narrative when new information arrives. And it certainly doesn’t mean describing things in exactly the terms that government officials or other powerful people prefer you to use.

The Trump administration might not want to call the substance law enforcement agents deployed “tear gas.” But under the common understanding of tear gas—”an umbrella term for about a half-dozen so-called ‘riot-control agents’ or ‘less lethal’ chemical weapons” per Mother Jones—and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition, it was.”

Trump’s push for “law and order” only led to more chaos in DC Monday night

““Just before [Trump] spoke, federal police violently broke up a peaceful protest just outside the White House, tear-gassing a group of about 1,000 demonstrators and then firing rubber bullets at them so Trump could have an uninterrupted photo op at a nearby church damaged in the weekend’s upheaval.””

“Mariann Edgar Budde, the bishop of that church — St. John’s — told CNN she was “outraged” by Trump having the protesters cleared simply so he could pose with a Bible in front of a boarded-up church, calling the message he sent “antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.””

“The move outraged the district’s local policing partners as well. Arlington County, a suburban area abutting the city in Virginia, has a mutual aid agreement in place with Washington, DC, that allows police resources to be shared between the two. Some members of the Arlington County Police Department were among the force ordered to clear the area between the White House and St. John’s, and officials withdrew their police from the city, angered about the officers being used to suppress a protest.”

“DC is one city, but Tuesday night offered a preview of the president’s vision for policing these protests.”