Kenan Malik

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Córdoba’s mosque-cathedral, an ‘architectural expression of the complex, intricate history of Europe’. Photograph: SALAS/EPA

Córdoba’s mosque-cathedral is one of the most glorious buildings in Europe. I was last there 30 years ago, but the memory is still vividly etched in my mind. I remember walking through the Courtyard of the Orange Trees. Then, almost if they had magically changed form, the rows of orange trees give way to a forest of columns of red-and-white arches that mark the mosque.

The transition is stunning, as is the mosque, the beauty of which, spacious and peaceful, is almost impossible to convey in words rather than in the experience. And then, as you walk through, there comes another transition – to a Renaissance cathedral that squats like a familiar stranger within.…  Seguir leyendo »

A worker sits in a looted shop in Soweto, Johannesburg. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

‘It feels qualitatively different this time.” There are few people I know in South Africa who don’t think this about the carnage now engulfing the nation. Violence was institutionalised during the years of apartheid. In the post-apartheid years, it has rarely been far from the surface – police violence, gangster violence, the violence of protest. What is being exposed now, however, is just how far the social contract that has held the nation together since the end of apartheid has eroded.

Many aspects of the disorder are peculiar to South Africa. There are also themes with wider resonance. Events in the country demonstrate in a particularly acute fashion a phenomenon we are witnessing in different ways and in degrees of severity across the globe: the old order breaking down, with little to fill the void but sectarian movements or identity politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Farmers protest against new legislation in Delhi, December 2020. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images

In Argentina, huge crowds take to the streets to celebrate the legalisation of abortion. In India, hundreds of thousands of farmers protest against new legislation, while millions take action in support. 2020 might have been a terrible, virus-ravaged year, but it ended with glimmers of new possibilities.

Argentina has become only the third South American nation, after Uruguay and Guyana, to permit elective abortion, a victory founded on decades of activism by women. In 2005, a number of groups came together to create the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion. A decade later came mass mobilisation against violence against women, a campaign that expanded to demand abortion rights, too.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protest against the constitutional court ruling on abortion in Warsaw last week. Photograph: Tomasz Jastrzębowski/Reporter/Rex/Shutterstock

Last month, Poland’s top court ruled it unconstitutional to have an abortion on the grounds of a foetal defect. In a country in which abortion was already highly restricted, this all but banned the procedure – 98% of all abortions in Poland are because of foetal abnormalities.

In 2016, when the governing rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) attempted to push similar anti-abortion legislation through parliament, it was forced to back down in the face of mass protests and a national women’s strike. So this time, the PiS government chose the judicial route, having already packed the constitutional court with conservative judges.…  Seguir leyendo »

French president Emmanuel Macron: accused a Financial Times writer of misquoting him. Photograph: Reuters

Letters complaining about newspaper articles are unexceptional. Not so letters from the Élysée Palace. Last week, the Financial Times published, after the killing of teacher Samuel Paty in Paris and of churchgoers in Nice, an article by its Europe correspondent, Mehreen Khan, critical of French president Emmanuel Macron’s policies towards Islam. Macron’s desire to “use the state to prescribe a ‘correct’ religion”, she wrote, has “more in common with authoritarian Muslim leaders than enlightenment values of separating church and state”.

Macron responded with a letter-cum-article defending himself and his policies and accusing Khan of “misquoting” him – he insisted he had never talked of “Islamic separatism”, as Khan suggested, only of “Islamist separatism”.…  Seguir leyendo »

The destruction of the Moria camp has forced people to sleep on roadsides. Photograph: Miloš Bičanski/Getty Images

A fire rips through a refugee camp. Migrants are blamed for starting it. Outraged locals vent their fury and demand that the migrants be removed.

That’s what happened last week at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. It is also what happened almost a year ago. Then, tragically, a woman died. This time, there have, thankfully, been no deaths, but the camp has been completely destroyed. The claims last year that migrants had attacked firemen were false – it was, in fact, migrants who first tackled the blaze. This time, there is confusion as to how the fires began – some blame migrants angry at being quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19, others point the finger at hostile outsiders.…  Seguir leyendo »

Students celebrating as a statue of Cecil Rhodes is removed from its plinth at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, April 9, 2015. Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images

“We stand today at the national center to perform something like a national act—an act which is to go into history.”

So said the great nineteenth-century former slave and staunch abolitionist Frederick Douglass at the unveiling of the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C., in 1876. “That we are here in peace today,” Douglass told a crowd of almost 25,000, many of them African-American, “is a compliment and a credit to American civilization, and a prophecy of still greater national enlightenment and progress in the future.”

The idea for the memorial had come originally from former slave Charlotte Scott, of Virginia, who wanted a monument in honor of Abraham Lincoln.…  Seguir leyendo »

Some sporting moments achieve mythical status because of their sheer audacity. Muhammad Ali’s “rumble in the jungle” defeat of George Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974 to regain his world heavyweight title comes to mind.

Others astound with a seemingly impossible perfection such as Nadia Comăneci’s perfect 10 in gymnastics at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.

And then there are those that astonish by redefining one’s perception of what it’s possible for a human being to achieve.

Eliud Kipchoge’s completion of a marathon in under two hours was one of those moments. Not so long ago, just the possibility of breaking the two-hour mark seemed beyond imagination.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan security forces investigate a suicide bomb attack on a crowd of religious scholars marking the birthday of the prophet Muhammad in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters

The war on terror. A phrase forever in the media and on our lips. Its very ubiquity helps obscure the reality of that war.

America, according to a new study from Brown University, is running counter-terror operations in 76 countries – 39% of all the nations in the world. Since 2001, at least half-a-million people have been killed in wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq alone. The real figure is likely to be far higher. A New York Times investigation last year suggested that the civilian toll in Iraq from coalition airstrikes could be 31 times greater than officially admitted.

Include the conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen and the toll would be significantly higher still.…  Seguir leyendo »

Public intellectual Osman Kavala was arrested a year ago by Turkish authorities and has still to be charged with an offence. Photograph: AP

Five months ago, I wrote of Osman Kavala, a Turkish public intellectual arrested by the Turkish authorities. He has now spent a year behind bars and has still to be charged with an offence.

Kavala is, in the eyes of the Turkish government, a troublemaker because he has played a prominent role both in defending the rights and liberties of all people in Turkey and in bringing together people of different political viewpoints to discuss their beliefs in civil debate. In Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey, nurturing open dialogue is regarded as a threat.

There has been much attention on Turkey over the past two weeks because of the gruesome fate of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.…  Seguir leyendo »

Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery)/Bridgeman Images George William Joy: General Gordon’s Last Stand, circa 1893

The sun may have long ago set on the British Empire (or on all but a few tattered shreds of it), but it never seems to set on the debate about the merits of empire. The latest controversy began when the Third World Quarterly, an academic journal known for its radical stance, published a paper by Bruce Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University in Oregon, called “The Case for Colonialism.” Fifteen of the thirty-four members on the journal’s editorial board resigned in protest, while a petition, with more than 10,000 signatories, called for the paper to be retracted.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, has come to symbolize the struggle for Indigenous rights and the meaning of Australian identity. Credit Greg Wood/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Nothing prepares you for your first sight of Uluru. Amid the vastness of Australia’s arid red center, there is something wondrous about this monumental slab of sandstone rising dramatically out of a flattened landscape. It is not difficult to see why Indigenous Australians saw it as a sacred place.

Uluru is not just a place of wonder and reverence. It has become, too, a political and historical battleground, a place through which Australia has tried to grapple with its relationship with Indigenous Australians.

It was the Anangu, the original inhabitants of the region, who gave Uluru its name. For more than a century, though, it was known to Australians of European descent as Ayers Rock, named after a 19th-century Anglo-Australian colonial administrator.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday outside 10 Downing Street in London. Credit Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

This, as we keep discovering, is an era of unexpected electoral results. Tuesday’s decision by Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, to call a general election for June 8 was certainly unexpected. In an age in which few secrets remain secret, no journalist or politician seemed to have had an inkling about the announcement until it was made. But even in the era of the unexpected, it is difficult to see any result other than a solid Conservative Party victory, returning Mrs. May to Downing Street confirmed as prime minister.

The real question the June election will raise is not which party will form the next British government, but which party takes on the mantle of opposition?…  Seguir leyendo »

Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders portrayed himself to Dutch voters as a champion of liberty after his conviction for hate speech Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP

Welcome to 2017. It will be just like 2016. Only more so. This will be the year in which Donald Trump formally enters the White House, and Theresa May (probably) begins Brexit negotiations. It will be the year in which elections in Germany, the Netherlands and France, and possibly Italy, are likely to see rightwing populists gain ground, even triumph.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigration Party for Freedom(PVV) leads the polls and may help form the government in March. In France, in May, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National should reach at least the second-round run-off in the presidential election and may even win.…  Seguir leyendo »

Few people could have predicted the first policy on which Britain’s new prime minister would take a stand. It is none of the issues that have dominated British politics in recent months: Brexit, immigration, terrorism. Rather, Theresa May has decided it is to be grammar schools.

Grammar schools are state-supported secondary schools that select their pupils through an exam taken at age 11 known as the 11-plus. Once a centerpiece of Britain’s education system, they have largely been phased out over recent decades.

The history of grammar schools goes back to the Middle Ages, but the modern version emerged out of the 1944 Education Act, one of a series of laws that shaped social policy in postwar Britain.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cinta policial alrededor del lugar donde ocurrió una explosión en Ansbach, Alemania, el 25 de julio de 2016. Murió un hombre, hubo 12 heridos. Aún no se conocen los motivos de la explosión. Daniel Karmann / European Pressphoto Agency.

El 14 de julio, día en que se conmemora la toma de la Bastilla, en Niza, Francia, 85 personas murieron después de ser arrolladas por un hombre que conducía un camión por el paseo marítimo. Cuatro días después, un hombre de 17 años atacó con un hacha a los pasajeros de un tren cerca de Würzburg, Alemania. Cuatro días más tarde, un hombre de 18 años mató a disparos a ocho personas en un centro comercial de Múnich.

A los dos días, un hombre de 27 años hizo explotar una bomba que llevaba consigo afuera de un festival de música en Ansbach, al sur de Alemania.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police tape outlined the scene in Ansbach, in southern Germany, where a man blew himself up last month. Daniel Karmann/European Pressphoto Agency

On July 14, Bastille Day, in Nice, France, 85 people died after being mowed down on the promenade by a man driving a truck. Four days later, a 17-year-old man attacked passengers with an ax on a train near Würzburg, Germany. Four days after that, an 18-year-old man shot dead nine people in a Munich shopping mall.

Two days later, a 27-year-old man blew himself up outside a music festival in Ansbach, in southern Germany. That same day, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee hacked a woman to death in Reutlingen, near Stuttgart, also in Germany.

Two days after that, two young men stormed a church in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray,…  Seguir leyendo »

What leads young European Muslims to blow themselves up on trains and at airports, to shoot down shoppers and concertgoers?

It is a question often asked ever since homegrown suicide bombers brought carnage to London’s transportation system in 2005. The attacks in Brussels have highlighted that it remains largely unanswered.

Those sowing terror in Europe are not foreign jihadists but European citizens, most born and brought up on the Continent, in places like the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. The apprehension spreads beyond Europe; authorities in the United States, too, are increasingly concerned about homegrown attackers.

The conventional view is that homegrown terrorists are created through a process of “radicalization,” a conveyor belt that draws vulnerable individuals through several stages from religious belief to jihadist violence.…  Seguir leyendo »

I gave a talk last month at the Galle Literary Festival in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. This festival, whose home is in the southern city of Galle, has become over the past decade one of the brightest lights in Sri Lanka’s cultural firmament. This year, it established “outreach” festivals in Kandy, in Sri Lanka’s hill country, and in Jaffna in the North.

Taking the festival to Jaffna, the northern province capital, was particularly significant. It is less than seven years since the brutal civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan Army came to an end. Much has been reconstructed in the North, but the ghosts of conflict still haunt Jaffna, from bullet-marked buildings to the thousands of civilians who were killed in the war’s bloody conclusion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Some 3,000 migrants are living a hardscrabble life in a camp on the outskirts of Calais, in northern France. Credit Philippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Soldiers putting up miles of razor wire fencing to keep out refugees. A mother and child stuck in a field of mud. A truck parked on the highway between Budapest and Vienna containing the decomposing bodies of 71 refugees.

The scenes over recent weeks from the eastern borders of Europe have generated horror and revulsion. “Have Eastern Europeans no sense of shame?” asked the Polish-American historian Jan Gross. Another historian, the German-born Jan-Werner Müller, demanded that the European Union “ostracize” Hungary, “a country no longer observing its values,” by cutting off funding and suspending its voting rights.

For many, Eastern Europeans’ lack of generosity toward refugees reflects, in the words of one Guardian columnist, a fundamental “political and cultural gap” that divides the Continent.…  Seguir leyendo »