Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, March 2017
Muslim Ban 3 Does Not Allow Laptops, Tablets banned on Middle East-US Flights
The United States has banned laptops, e-readers, cameras, tablets, printers, electronic games and portable DVD players on flights from eight Muslim countries. The passengers on flights originating in eight Muslim countries from carrying any electronic device bigger than a mobile phone, the Department of Homeland Security said.
The move comes days after President Donald Trump's second bid to curb travel from a group of Muslim-majority nations was blocked by the courts .
The New York Times quoted officials as saying that the new directive was not based on information pointing to a credible, specific threat of an imminent attack. Instead, it reflected a new consensus among American intelligence agencies that terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and the Al Qaeda franchise in Yemen are increasingly trying to find ways to smuggle explosive devices hidden in electronic devices, like laptops.
The DHS said the ban was necessary as "terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.
"Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administration Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia have determined it is necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last point of departure airports to the United States," the statement said.
The ban will apply to nonstop flights to the US from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt; Amman in Jordan; Kuwait City in Kuwait; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul in Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, until the threat changes.
The procedures will affect nine airlines: Royal Jordanian Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways.
In all, an estimated 50 flights each day into the United States would be affected, according to the New York Times. One of the world’s busiest airports, in Abu Dhabi, already requires American bound passengers to undergo strict screening by United States customs officials before boarding flights. Abu Dhabi is one of 15 airports in the world to employ the Homeland Security preclearance techniques.
The new procedures, which came into effect on March 21, will remain in place until the threat changes, according to the DHS officials.
Electronic devices will continue to be allowed on all flights originating in the US, whether domestic or international, according to the statement. Approved medical devices may be brought into the cabin after additional screening.
Britain followed the United States in banning carry-on electronic goods from passanger cabins on inbound flights from Middle Eastern and North African nations. Prime Minster Theresa May's office announced on Tuesday (March 21) that laptops and other larger electronic devices would be banned on direct inbound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.
Security Experts doubt
Erroll Southers, director of the Homegrown Violent Extremism Studies Program at the University of Southern California, told the New York Times, the new guidance would do little to enhance security. “This does little to minimize the threat of a remote controlled I.E.D.,” he said, referring to improvised explosive devices hidden in checked baggage.
Brian Jenkins, an aviation-security expert at the Rand Corp, was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying that there was concern about inadequate passenger screening or even conspiracies involving insiders - airport or airline employees in some countries.
Trevor Jensen, an aviation consultant and former airline captain, told Al Jazeera that keeping a large number of computers with lithium batteries in the hold also presented safety issues. "I hope that we are not just knee-jerking here and that this is a credible threat - that the safety issues have also been very carefully thought through."
Jensen questioned why, from a security standpoint, only some airports had been included in the measures. "If this was a credible threat, I think they would be looking at other airports. Because, why couldn't you fly from Doha, for example, into Zurich, and from Zurich across [to the US] ... there are ways to get around it," he said.
"Looking at some of these legs, the passengers flying on board are business people who do want to work in-flight. Security is first, but it's got to be credible. And we're not getting any more information to support that at the moment," Jensen added.
Muslim Ban 2 Is Blocked by a Federal Judge in Hawaii
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
In a stunning blow for the Trump administration, a federal judge in Hawaii Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order to block President Trump’s revised executive order on travel and refugees from taking effect Thursday, March 16.
Today’s ruling was the second frustrating defeat for Trump’s Muslim travel ban, after a federal court in Seattle halted an earlier version of the executive order last month.
Decisions were expected soon from federal courts in Washington state and Maryland. The ruling means a nationwide freeze on enforcement of section two of the order, banning entry by nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.
In his 43-page written order, Judge Watson called the administration’s arguments illogical and flawed.
Citing prior comments Trump made as a candidate about his desire to curb immigration of foreign nationals who are Muslim, Judge Watson said “significant and un-rebutted evidence of religious animus” was behind both the original and revised versions of the executive order.
“These plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose,” Judge Watson said.
Judge Watson wrote that the plaintiffs in the case, the Hawaii attorney general and resident Ismail Elshikh have “shown a strong likelihood of succeeding on their claim that the Executive Order violates First Amendment rights under the Constitution.”
In the Hawaii case, nearly five dozen technology companies, including Airbnb, Dropbox, Lyft and TripAdvisor, joined in a brief objecting to the travel ban.
Justice Department lawyers argued that the president was well within his authority to impose the ban, and that those challenging it had raised only speculative harms.
“They bear the burden of showing irreparable harm ... and there is no harm at all,” said Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who argued on behalf of the government in Greenbelt, Md. in the morning and by phone in Hawaii in the afternoon.
The arguments were similar at the hearing in Maryland, where a federal judge peppered both sides with pointed questions about whether the revised executive order would harm Muslims, refugees and the organizations that serve them, according to Washington Post.
“I think we’ve been going for quite a while,” U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang said after the nearly two-hour hearing. “I appreciate everyone’s advocacy. . . . I’ll try to issue a written ruling — hopefully today, but not necessarily.”
The ACLU and lawyers for refugee aid organizations asked Chuang to halt the entire order, arguing that it is a pretext to discriminate against Muslims, who make up the majority of refugees admitted to the United States.
“If you were trying to ban Muslims,” ACLU lawyer Omar C. Jadwat told the Chuang in court, “banning refugees would be one compelling way to do it.”
Justin Cox, a lawyer for the National Immigration Law Center who also argued in court, said refugees and immigrants feel that Trump’s order essentially targets Islam. “All of these individuals express that they feel that their religion has been condemned by the executive order,” he said.
Bob Ferguson, the Washington attorney general, was quoted as saying that in an extended legal fight, his office could seek depositions from administration officials and request documents that would expose the full process by which Trump aides crafted the ban.
Multiple lawsuits challenging the travel ban have extensively cited Mr. Trump’s comments during the presidential campaign. He first proposed to bar all Muslims from entering the United States, and then offered an alternative plan to ban travel from a number of Muslim countries, which he described as a politically acceptable way of achieving the same goal.
The lawsuits also cited Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who advises Mr. Trump, who said he had been asked to help craft a Muslim ban that would pass legal muster.
And they highlighted comments by Stephen Miller, an adviser to the president, who cast the changes to Mr. Trump’s first travel ban as mere technical adjustments aimed at ushering the same policy past the review of a court.
President Trump has reacted with fury to unfavorable court rulings in the past, savaging the judiciary after the court in Seattle blocked major parts of his first travel order and singling out the judge for derision on Twitter. The president’s comments were so biting that even his nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, told senators that attacks on the judiciary were “demoralizing.”
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcoming the Hawaii Judge order said moving forward the right thing for President Trump to do is rescind this order. “Additionally, Trump must stop implementing discriminatory policies, which target individuals based on their national origin and religion. In fact, the court order made it clear – the intent of the administration is to implement a Muslim ban, just as Trump promised on the campaign trail. The Trump administration should recognize that no amount of edits or tweaks to the original executive order will undo the discriminatory intent behind this policy.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, tonight welcomed the order issued by a federal judge in Hawaii blocking President Trump's new "Muslim Ban 2.0" executive order.
"We welcome this order as confirmation of the strength of our nation's system of checks and balances that prevents one branch of government from violating the Constitution or the rights of any vulnerable group," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "We urge the Trump administration to scrap this Muslim ban entirely because it disrespects both the Constitution and America's longstanding tradition of religious freedom and inclusion."
Seattle judge delays decision on immigrants’ challenge to travel ban
A Seattle federal judge who ruled against President Trump’s first immigrant travel ban has taken a challenge to the president’s revised order under advisement, the Seattle Times reported.
U.S. District Judge James Robart remained skeptical of the government’s continued claims that the president can bar people from immigrating because of their nationality.
Robart heard nearly 90 minutes of arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the travel order filed by several legal immigrants who are separated from their families and who fear the new order will prolong that separation. Their family members all are in various stages of attempting to obtain visas to enter the U.S.
The lawsuit is separate from those filed by several states, including Washington, challenging the travel ban.
Robart in February halted enforcement nationwide of the immigration ban in a lawsuit brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota.
EU-Turkey rift escalates as Germany says Gulen was not behind anti-Erdogan abortive coup
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
The rift between the European Union and Turkey is escalating as President Erdogan has accused the EU countries of persecuting Muslims like Jews were during World War II while the spirit of fascism was running wild on the streets of Europe.
The EU-Turkey rift was sparked on March 11when Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was barred from landing in the Netherlands to attend a rally of Turkish immigrants. About 400,000 people with ties to Turkey live in the Netherlands.
Not surprisingly, Dutch far-right anti-Muslim leader Geert Wilders waded into the debate. “We are in Holland here, not in Turkey, and a Turkish minister has no room here to lobby for somebody like Erdogan, who is a mere dictator," Wilders said.
Addressing a political rally in Istanbul on March 18, President Erdogan launched a scathing attack on European leaders. He was quoted by media as saying: “If they weren’t ashamed, they would revive the gas chambers.”
About Germany, Erdogan said: "When we call them Nazis they [European politicians] get uncomfortable. They rally together in solidarity. Especially Merkel." “Merkel. She backs [the Netherlands] too. You too are practicing Nazi practices. To whom? To my Turkish brothers and sisters in Germany,” the Turkish leader said.
He has also quoted as saying: “They [European states] do not have the urge to hide their intentions and cannot hide the discomfort they feel from Turkey, which is growing stronger."
Earlier President Erdogan has hit out at the Netherlands, by holding them responsible for Europe's worst mass killing since World War II.
Referring to a Dutch battalion of United Nations peacekeepers who failed to halt the slaughter by Bosnian Serb forces of thousands of Muslim men and boys in eastern Bosnia in 1995, Erdogan said: "We know the Netherlands and the Dutch from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how rotten their character is from their massacre of 8,000 Bosnians there.”
Turkey orders sanctions against Netherlands
On March 13, Turkey announced a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands over its refusal to allow two Turkish ministers to campaign there. The sanctions include halting high-level political discussions between the two countries and closing Turkish air space to Dutch diplomats.
Deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said the sanctions would apply until the Netherlands takes steps "to redress" the actions Ankara sees as a grave insult. "There is a crisis and a very deep one. We didn't create this crisis or bring it to this stage," he said.
Other sanctions bar the Dutch ambassador entry back into Turkey and advise parliament to withdraw from a Dutch-Turkish friendship group. The announcement came hours after Turkey's foreign ministry formally protested over the treatment of the minister who was not allowed to land in the Netherland.
France and Germany have supported the Netherlands in its dispute with Turkey. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Erdogan's statements about Nazism and fascism "unacceptable" and called on Turkey to abide to the European Conventions on Human Rights.
German Chanc Merkel pledged her "full support and solidarity" to the Dutch, saying the Nazi gibes were "completely unacceptable".
President Erdogan responded angrily. "Shame on you!" he exclaimed during an interview with A Haber television. He renewed accusations that Germany supported "terrorists" battling Turkey and that it backed the "no" campaign in the Turkish referendum, arguing that Berlin did not want to see a strong Turkey.
"Some of the European Union countries - let's not put all of them in the same sack - unfortunately cannot stomach Turkey's rise," he said. "Sadly, Germany tops the list. Germany supports terror in a cruel way."He advised Turks living in Europe not to vote for parties that he described as "enemies of Turkey".
Germany not 'convinced' Gulen behind failed Turkey coup
Tellingly, a German intelligence report has added fuel to the fire. On March 18, Germany's intelligence chief said that US-based Fethullah Gulen was not the mastermind behind a failed July 15 coup aimed at ousting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish authorities have blamed the attempted putsch that left 248 people dead on a rogue military group led by Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999. Turkish authorities have arrested more than 41,000 pro-Gulen people, and fired or suspended 100,000, since the attempted coup. Last month, authorities ordered the dismissal of nearly 4,500 civil servants, including 2,585 employees of the education ministry, 893 members of the gendarmerie and 88 workers at the public television channel TRT.
The EU –Turkey feud stems from efforts by Erdoğan’s government to build support among Turks living abroad for the package of constitutional changes through referendum scheduled for April 16. In Germany alone, there are 1.5 million people with Turkish citizenship.
In early March, Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag pulled out of a scheduled visit to Germany, after a small town in German south-western region of Baden-Wurttemberg denied him the chance to address his countrymen. The city of Cologne canceled a similar event, where Turkish economy minister Nihat Zeybekci was due to speak.
Pro-referendum rallies were also canceled in Austria and Switzerland.
Refugee deal at risk
Turkey has threatened to cancel the refugee deal struck between Turkey and the European Union one year ago, which has helped in keeping the number of migrants arriving in Germany and elsewhere in Europe at bay.
Erdogan warned on March 16, that a key refugee deal with Europe could be at risk. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 15,000 refugees a month should be sent to Europe as a shock therapy.
Analyst Kamran Matin of the University of Sussex was quoted by the Voice of America as saying:
“The refugee deal they have with the EU, and especially with respect to Germany, is crucial leverage they have over Germany," he said. "And the flow of refugees would have immediate impact in German domestic politics. Turkey is such a geopolitically important state and actor for not only European countries, but the entire Western bloc, especially facing the resurgence of Russia.”
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