August 25, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

Of Swimsuits and Terror

Want to prevent terrorism? Ban the burkini swimsuit.

Or so goes the prevailing wisdom in France these days, a country still reeling from three major terror attacks since January 2015.

In fact, no other European country has been so rattled by terror in recent years. But a slow murmur in the country questioning the official response is now becoming a loud growl.

Take the perpetual state of emergency, for example, implemented after the Paris attacks in November. Set to expire in July, it was extended a third time after a man driving a truck mowed down 85 people celebrating Bastille Day on Nice’s illustrious Promenade des Anglais.

Many, though, are questioning its efficacy. Thousands of house raids and many warrantless arrests have been carried out across the country with little to show for it, critics say.

Clemence Bectarte, a lawyer at the International Federation for Human Rights in Paris, told NBC News that the Nice attack was “the perfect proof that the state of emergency is not an effective tool.”

Instead, critics add, the French government is flailing – and lashing out wherever it can to show it is doing something to prevent more attacks – thus the criminalizing of swimwear.

Earlier this summer, the mayor of Cannes and other cities on the French Riviera banned burkinis – the all-covering swimsuits for conservative Muslim women – from being worn on the resort city’s beaches on the grounds that ostentatiously religious beachwear could “provoke disruptions of public order.”

On Twitter this week, thousands reacted to images of armed French police on ‘burkini beach patrol’ in Nice. An incident Tuesday in which a woman was forced to take off the garment surrounded by multiple officers went viral.

The burkini ban enforcement follows other efforts to take a hard line against radical Islam: In recent months, French officials have implemented a crackdown on mosques in the country

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that around 20 mosques and prayer halls have been shut down for preaching radical Islam since December – with more to come, he promised.

And Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently stated that he wanted to ban foreign financing for the construction of mosques and require French imams to be trained in France.

While Valls said that Islam had a place in French society, he maintained that France needs “to invent a new relationship with Islam,” and called on all members of society to get involved in the fight against terrorism.

Many argue that the French government’s efforts are misdirected, pointing out that there is no connection between foreign funding for mosques and the recent attacks, and that radicalization actually takes place elsewhere – on the internet. Others wondered about the connection with burkinis.

“Humiliating burkini-wearers is no solution to security concerns,” according to the Guardian.

Sara Silvestri, a professor at City University London who specializes in religion and politics, told CNN these actions effectively play right into the hands of extremists.

“Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State thrive every time Western countries give them ammunition to say that the West is discriminating or stigmatizing Muslims,” she said. “The effect of these laws is that Muslims feel marginalized and in turn, the feeling of being unwelcome impacts their ability and willingness to integrate into society, can cause withdrawal and lead to engagement with radical groups.”

Case in point: As Valls continues to stress that the swimsuits “are not compatible” with French values, sales of the garment are skyrocketing.

WANT TO KNOW

The Kurdish Factor

Turkish and American forces launched a coordinated campaign across the border in northwestern Syria Wednesday in an attempt to sever one of Islamic State’s last remaining supply routes into Syria.

Turkish forces attempted to push the extremists out of the strategic town of Jarablus, located on a route used by Islamic State (IS) to transport supplies into its de facto capital of Raqqa, said Turkish officials.

Syrian rebels allied with Turkish forces said they had seized control of the village, with IS in retreat, only hours after the launch of the attack, called “Euphrates Shield.”

Turkey’s actions are partly fueled by a desire to show that its military hasn’t been weakened by purges that resulted from last month’s failed coup.

And both the US and Turkey were concerned that US-backed Kurdish fighters in the region were preparing to seize Jarablus in defiance of US guidelines, said the Wall Street Journal.

While the US considers the Kurds to be its most effective force in fighting IS, Turkey views the fighters as an extension of Kurdish militants in Turkey.

Lock and Load

North Korea launched a missile from a submarine Wednesday that flew more than 300 miles toward Japan – yet another violation of UN sanctions that demonstrates the isolated country’s growing technological capabilities.

The missile reached Japan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), the term for the air space countries use to maintain air security, in what is a first for the Hermit Kingdom, said Japanese officials, according to Reuters.

The missile was fired at a high angle, indicating that its full range at an ordinary trajectory would be roughly 620 miles.

The launch shows that North Korea is making progress in its efforts to develop a submarine-launched missile system, which could eventually enable the country to evade a planned anti-missile system for South Korea, said security experts.

The launch comes two days after North Korea threatened South Korea and the US with retaliation after the commencement of their annual joint military exercises, which it claims are preparation for invasion.

Homegrown Terror

Six members of banned Islamic groups accused of being behind a series of deadly attacks in Bangladesh were arrested in raids outside of the capital city of Dhaka, said Bangladeshi police.

Included among the six detainees is Moinul Islam Shamim, the main suspect in the fatal hacking of secular publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan last year.

Dhaka police said Shamim admitted during an interrogation that he was involved in the murder of Dipan, a well-known publisher of books by secular and atheist writers in Bangladesh.

Shamim is suspected by police of being a member of Ansarullah Bangla Team, a homegrown extremist group that has sworn allegiance to a local branch of al-Qaeda in Bangladesh and claimed responsibility for the murders of a dozen other secular activists.

Police also arrested five suspected members of the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the group blamed for the attack on an upscale Dhaka café in July that killed 20 hostages – including 18 foreigners – and two police. One of JMB’s leaders who studied in Canada for a time was among the arrested, police added.

DISCOVERIES

His Majesty’s King Penguin

They say the British are fond of collecting titles – and apparently that zeal for honor also extends to the UK’s zoo animals.

Sir Nils Olav, the resident king penguin of the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, has likely been the most famous king penguin in the world since he was awarded a knighthood by King Harald V of Norway in 2008.

Adopted by the Edinburgh Zoo from Norway in 1972, the regal bird has been climbing his way up the ranks since he became the Mascot of His Majesty the King of Norway’s Guard at his adoption, and then Corporal in 1982.

But Sir Nils picked up an additional honor, and scored another promotion, on Monday when His Majesty the King of Norway’s Guard paid a special visit to the zoo to bestow him with the new title of “Brigadier Sir Nils Olav.”

Sir Nils was awarded with this unique honor during a special ceremony attended by over 50 uniformed Norwegian soldiers.

And the perks of Nils’ gig? They include inspecting the soldiers of the guard while they are in the Scottish capital at the zoo’s aptly named Penguin Walk.

Watch the hilarious spectacle here.