Chinese conglomerate acquires French brand Jeanne Lanvin SAS as it expands presence in global fashion and products sector   Chinese conglomerate Fosun International announced on Thursday that it has acquired French fashion brand Jeanne Lanvin SAS and become its controlling shareholder, without disclosing further financial details, reported. Fosun, which also owns the French leisure company Club Med, is the latest Chinese firm to expand into fashion. The company is actively seeking brands that meet its investment criteria in the global fashion and consumer products sector, and it has recently established the Fosun Fashion Group. Founded in 1889, Jeanne Lanvin SAS is France’s oldest fashion house, operating in more than 50 countries around the world. Cheng Yun, deputy CFO of Fosun International and CEO of Fosun Fashion, said China is becoming a major influence in the global luxury market. They believe Fosun will empower Lanvin with greater integration capacity and expertise, and maintain the brand’s core competitiveness in France and Italy at the same time.

By Mary Hanbury and Áine Cain   Putin could be worth as much as $200 billion. Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo / AP Images   • Vladimir Putin — who is expected to win his fourth presidential term in Russia's upcoming spring election— may be the wealthiest man in the world. • Forbes won't even estimate his net worth, because it can't verify his financial assets, Newsweek reported. • The Russian president does indulge in some displays of immense wealth, however. • Putin is reported to own luxury watches, a fleet of yachts, and multiple expensive properties, including a $1 billion palace. • American financier Bill Browder estimated that Putin had "accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains," according to the Atlantic. Vladimir Putin very well may be the richest man in the world. But it's impossible to say for sure. According to the Kremlin, the Russian president earns around $133,000 a year and lives in a small apartment. That description doesn't jive with most accounts of Putin's lifestyle. Former Russian government adviser Stanislav Belkovsky estimated his fortune is worth $70 billion. Hedge fund manager Bill Browder, a noted critic of Putin, claimed it was more like $200 billion. A fortune that enormous would propel him straight past Amazon founder and richest man in the world Jeff Bezos, who Forbes estimates has $125.6 to his name. So why can't we pin down Putin's net worth with any certainty? The 2015 Panama Papers revealed that Putin may obscure and bolster his fortune through proxies. We've put together a list of all the clues that indicate Putin is likely one of the richest people on the planet: View As: One Page Slides As President of Russia, Putin's official residence is the Moscow Kremlin. However, he spends most of his time at a suburban government residence outside of the city called Novo-Ogaryovo. Shutterstock/OlegDoroshin Source: Business Insider He reportedly has access to 20 different palaces and villas. AP Source: Up North   Official records published in 2016 by the Kremlin would have us believe that Putin has a very modest real estate portfolio. The report said he owned a small plot of land and an apartment with a garage. Reuters Source: Newsweek But over the years, Putin has been linked to other properties. The most controversial of which is the so-called "secret palace." This was reportedly built for Putin using illegal state funds. Wikicommons/Ruleaks Source: BBC   This epic mansion reportedly cost $1 billion to build. It has a private theater and landing pad with room for three helicopters. Wikicommons/Ruleaks Source: Business Insider The bedrooms are suitably grandiose. Wikicommons/Ruleaks   And the wall art is just as opulent. Wikimedia Commons Snapshots of the then-under-construction mansion leaked in 2011. Wikimedia Commons Source: Business Insider   And the following year, opposition leader and Putin critic Boris Nemtsov produced a dossier claiming that Putin owned multiple private jets, helicopters, and yachts. Nemtsov alleged that, out of the 20 state residences Putin had access to, nine were built during his tenure as president. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Source: New York Times, "The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin" The president was also accused of owning 58 different types of aircraft, including a Dassault Falcon, which seats 19. This is not Putin's plane but an example of what his plane would look like.  Wikimedia Commons Source: Daily Mail, Business Insider   One of his planes was said to have an $11 million cabin fitted out by jewelers and that toilet which cost close to $100,000. This plane has room for up to 186 passengers. Putin is accused of owning five of these. This is not Putin's plane but an example of what his plane would look like.  AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko Source: Daily Mail and Business Insider The dossier claimed Putin has a collection of four yachts, each costing thousands of dollars to maintain. Rossiya, one of his yachts, was upgraded in 2005. It reportedly cost $1.2 billion to do. "The Graceful," another of his yachts, (shown below) reportedly sleeps 14 people and has six bedrooms. YouTube/SuperYachtFan Source: Time   Then there's Olympia. He was reportedly given this 57-meter luxury yacht, worth $35 million, as a gift from Chelsea football club owner and oligarch Roman Abramovich. According to a former head of a state shipping company in Russia, Putin runs the yacht using state money. Roman Abramovich.  Clive Mason/Getty Images Source: The Telegraph Putin also likes to take pride in his appearance. The 2012 dossier claimed it Putin has 11 watches worth an estimated $687,000. Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo Source: New York Times   According to the Russian government-owned paper "Russia Beyond the Headlines," Putin owns an A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual 'Pour Le Mérite,' which costs half a million dollars. Facebook/A. Lange & Söhne Source:Russia Beyond the Headlines A $1 million Patek Phillippe going up for auction in July 2017 was also said to be owned by Putin. Accompanying documentation claimed he was the owner. The Kremlin denied these claims. Monaco Legend Auctions Source: Business Insider   In the past, Putin has even given away his watches. The president reportedly owned five Blancpain watches at one time but gave away one to a Siberian boy while on vacation and another to a factory worker who asked for a keepsake. The watches were reportedly worth $10,500 each. Blancpain Source: Blancpain, ABC News, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism Then there's his clothing. Newsweek's Ben Judah spent three years researching Putin for his book and claimed that Putin prefers bespoke suits and "dour" Valentino ties over anything else. AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky Source: Business Insider,   Russian government-owned paper “Russia Beyond the Headlines” confirmed Putin’s expensive taste for tailored suits. In 2015, it published an article claiming that the president's preferred brand of suits was Kiton and Brioni, “Such suits are made ​from start to finish by one tailor, take dozens of hours to complete, and have a starting price tag of $5500,” the article said. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines According to "Russia Beyond the Headlines", Putin also has a stylist who has been dressing him for over 10 years. “The stylist rips off all the labels from his clothes, so these do not accidentally catch the eyes of journalists." Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines   In 2015, Putin was photographed working out with Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev. Quartz reported that his Loro Piana silk and cashmere-blend sweatpants cost $1,425. Putin teamed this with a matching top, making the outfit cost a whopping $3,200 in total. Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti Kremlin/AP Source: Quartz In 2007, ex-Kremlin official Stanislav Belkovsky claimed that Putin had a $40 billion fortune hidden away in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. At the time, that would have made him the fourth wealthiest person in the world, between business magnate Carlos Slim and late IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool Photo via AP Source: TIME, Forbes   At the time, Belkovsy said Putin secretly controlled 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz and 4.5% of Gazprom, two giant Russian oil companies. He also said he controlled "at least 75%" of Swiss oil trader Gunvor, the Guardian reported, but added, "I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about." Gunvor has refuted these claims, however. "President Putin does not and never has had any ownership, beneficial or otherwise in Gunvor," a Gunvor spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. "He is not a beneficiary of Gunvor or its activities." Grigory Dukor/Reuters Source: The Guardian Estimates of Putin's net worth have only risen over time. Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, believes that Putin has access to a secret fortune of $200 billion. Browder had invested in Russia in the 1990s, but ultimately came into conflict with Putin. After Browder's lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was jailed and brutally killed while investigation corruption, Browder advocated for the passage of the "Magnitsky Act" in 2012, leading to US sanctions against Russian oligarchs. Bill Browder.  Getty Images/ AFP/ Bertrand Guay Source: Fortune, The Washington Post   Putin's inner circle is actually the reason why no one can seem to pin down Putin's exact worth with any certainty. The Guardian reported that in 2010, "US diplomatic cables suggested Putin held his wealth via proxies," including his best friend Sergei Roldugin and banker Yuri Kovalchuk. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor Source: "The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin," The Guardian Some of those connections were exposed in the 2015 Panama Papers. The massive leak didn't include any files directly pertaining to Putin, but they did reveal that "his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage," the Guardian reported. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Source: The Guardian   Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan have said that, as a result, the Panama Papers leak was "seen as an attack on personal friends of Putin, his immediate circle." But Putin and the Kremlin have denied allegations that he's used his role to enrich himself and his friends. Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images Source: The Washignton Post, ""The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries" Myers wrote that the Russian leader said, "I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world: I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth." Reuters/Alexander Zemlianichenko Source: "The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin"   The repeated rebuttals have done nothing to dispel the scrutiny on Putin's alleged riches. “In a country where 20  million people can barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a brazen and cynical challenge to society from a high-handed potentate,” Nemstov wrote in one 2012 white paper. The politician, a longtime and vocal critic of Putin, was assassinated in 2015. Boris Nemtsov.  Alex Wong / Getty Images Source: The Telegraph

  Image Image caption Jayda Fransen (left) and Paul Golding (right) had denied religiously-aggravated harassment   The leader and deputy leader of far-right group Britain First have been found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment. Paul Golding, 36, and Jayda Fransen, 32, were arrested over the distribution of leaflets and posting of online videos during a gang-rape trial. Fransen was convicted of three counts of religiously aggravated harassment. Golding was found guilty of one charge. Both were jailed at Folkestone Magistrates' Court. Fransen was handed a 36-week sentence and Golding 18 weeks. During their trial in January, the court heard they had targeted homes and people in Kent whom they believed were connected to a rape trial at Canterbury Crown Court where three Muslim men and a teenager were convicted of rape and jailed. The pair, both from Penge in south-east London, were arrested in May last year. 'Hostility' towards Muslims They denied a total of seven counts of harassment. Judge Justin Barron threw out three of the charges, while Fransen was found guilty of three and Golding of one. He told the court the pair were "well-known", "controversial" and "generate their own publicity", but his verdict was based "solely on admissible evidence heard in court". He said their words and actions "demonstrated hostility" towards Muslims and the Muslim faith. "I have no doubt it was their joint intention to use the facts of the case [in Canterbury] for their own political ends. "It was a campaign to draw attention to the race, religion and immigrant background of the defendants." Both Fransen and Golding were convicted on a joint charge of religiously aggravated harassment after an incident last May at 555 Pizza takeaway in Ramsgate, when Fransen banged on the windows and doors of the shop and screamed "paedophile" and "foreigner". However, in each case, they instead targeted innocent members of the public. They filmed the abuse and then released it on social media and through the Britain First website. They also posted offensive leaflets through the letterboxes of houses in the area where the defendants lived. Image Image caption Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen arrived at the court with Britain First supporters   Giving evidence, Fransen had denied being a racist and said she had carried out campaigns against people accused of sex offences, while Mr Golding told the court he had often acted as her cameraman. Fransen was convicted of abuse after visiting a house she wrongly believed to be the current address of Sershah Muslimyar, a defendant in the trial. She was also convicted of visiting the Kent home of another defendant, Tamin Rahmani, and shouting racist abuse through the front door while his pregnant partner Kelli Best was there. During sentencing Fransen spoke over the judge, saying: "This is a very sad day for British justice. Everything I did was for the children of this country and they are worth it." As Britain First supporters left the courtroom they hurled abuse at court staff and members of the press, shouting "no surrender".   Source: BBC News

Estelle Shirbon LONDON (Reuters) - The deputy head of Oxfam resigned on Monday over what she said was the British charity’s failure to adequately respond to past allegations of sexual misconduct by some of its staff in Haiti and Chad. One of the best-known international NGOs, with aid programs running across the globe, Oxfam was under threat of losing its British government funding over sexual misconduct allegations first reported by the Times newspaper last week. The scandal was fast escalating into a broader crisis for Britain’s aid sector by bolstering critics in the ruling Conservative Party who have argued that the government should reduce spending on aid in favor of domestic priorities. Aid minister Penny Mordaunt, who threatened on Sunday to withdraw government funding from Oxfam unless it gave the full facts about events in Haiti, summoned senior managers from the charity to a meeting on Monday. “Oxfam made a full and unqualified apology – to me, and to the people of Britain and Haiti - for the appalling behavior of some of their staff in Haiti in 2011, and for the wider failings of their organization’s response to it,” Mordaunt said after meeting Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring. “I told Oxfam they must now demonstrate the moral leadership necessary to address this scandal, rebuild the trust of the British public, their staff and the people they aim to help, and deliver progress on these assurances,” she added in a statement. The statement did not address the question of funding. There was no immediate comment from Oxfam. The Times newspaper reported on Friday that some staff who were in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there had paid for sex with prostitutes. Oxfam has neither confirmed nor denied that specific allegation but has said an internal investigation in 2011 had confirmed sexual misconduct had occurred. Reuters could not independently verify the allegation. Announcing her resignation on Monday, Deputy Chief Executive Penny Lawrence said Oxfam had become aware over the past few days that concerns were raised about the behavior of staff in Chad as well as Haiti that the organization failed to adequately act upon. “It is now clear that these allegations - involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behavior of both the country director and members of his team in Chad - were raised before he moved to Haiti,” she said. A sticker is seen in the window of a branch of Oxfam, in London, Britain February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls “As program director at the time, I am ashamed that this happened on my watch and I take full responsibility.” U.N. TARGET Oxfam has said that as a result of its internal investigation in 2011, four people were dismissed, and three others - including the Haiti country director who had previously held the same role in Chad - had resigned. Slideshow (4 Images) Reuters was unable to reach any of the Oxfam staff who worked in Haiti at the time. In its last financial year Oxfam received 32 million pounds ($44 million) from Britain’s aid ministry, about 8 percent of its overall income. Whether or not it loses that funding, private donations could be hit by the bad publicity. Founded in 1942, Oxfam is one of Britain’s best-known charities. Its 650 shops selling second hand clothes and books to raise funds are a familiar sight on the high street. For a sex scandal to hit such a high-profile brand, it risks affecting the wider British charity sector. Britain is one of only six nations to hit the U.N. target of spending 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid - about 13 billion pounds a year - but there have been increasingly vitriolic attacks on that spending in recent years. Meeting the U.N. target was a policy championed by former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron as part of his efforts to re-brand his party as more compassionate. But with Cameron gone after campaigning on the losing side in the 2016 Brexit referendum, the political climate on aid has changed. Priti Patel, an aid critic despite being Mordaunt’s predecessor as international development minister, said the Haiti incidents were just “the tip of the iceberg” and there was a “culture of denial” in the sector. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent right-wing Conservative lawmaker, delivered to May’s office on Friday a petition by readers of the Daily Express newspaper complaining that the aid budget was not well spent and should be cut.

by Sherisse Pham   One of the BBC's most senior international journalists has resigned her post as China editor, slamming the news organization's "secretive and illegal pay structure."   The BBC "is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure," Carrie Gracie wrote in an open letter addressed to BBC viewers on Sunday. She said she would return to her former position in the BBC's TV newsroom "where I expect to be paid equally." Gracie's protest is part of a bigger dispute about pay at the BBC. About 200 women journalists have complained that they're being treated unfairly. A report published by the British public broadcaster last July exposed a major gender pay gap, revealing that just under a third of its top paid executives, managers and media stars are women. The BBC said in a statement that it previously carried out an "independent judge led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed 'no systemic discrimination against women.'" "A separate report for on air staff will be published in the not too distant future," it said.   Carrie Gracie has covered China for nearly three decades and speaks fluent Mandarin.   Male and female journalists within the BBC and from other news organizations -- including CNN -- applauded Gracie's decision, many using the hashtag #IStandWithCarrie on Twitter. Speaking on BBC Radio on Monday, Gracie called the solidarity "very moving." "The support that I've had in the last few hours, I think it does speak to the depth, to the hunger for an equal and fair and transparent pay system," she said.   Sarah Montague✔@Sarah_Montague Statement from #bbcwomen in support of @BBCCarrie#EqualPay #IStandWithCarrie 11:21 PM - Jan 7, 2018   Last year's report on the BBC's pay gap led Gracie to uncover that the network's four international editors were paid unequally -- two male editors "earned at least 50% more" than their female counterparts, she said. The 2017 report noted the salaries of all employees who earn more than £150,000 ($200,000) a year. On the list were North America editor Jonathan Sopel, identified as earning £200,000-£249,999 ($270,000-$340,000), and Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, who earns £150,000-£199,999 ($200,000-$270,000). Gracie, and Europe editor Katya Adler, were not listed, meaning they earn less than £150,000. Gracie was guest presenter of the BBC's flagship radio program on Monday, sitting alongside John Humphrys, who is paid between £600,000 and £649,999 a year. After the pay report was published last July, Gracie said she told her bosses "the only acceptable resolution would be for all international editors to be paid the same amount," she writes. She cited the U.K. Equality Act 2010, which states men and women doing equal work should receive equal pay. Gracie said she wasn't seeking a pay raise, just equal pay. The BBC responded by offering her a big raise that still "remained far short of equality," she said. Gracie, a fluent Mandarin speaker who has covered China for nearly three decades, said that after she turned down the raise, she was "subjected to a dismayingly incompetent and undermining grievance process." "Enough is enough," she added. "Fairness in pay is vital," the BBC statement said. "A significant number of organizations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many." The BBC is funded through fees paid by its viewers, who are required to shell out £147 ($199) a year. For years, it resisted political pressure to reveal its salary data. But the government required the BBC to publish its pay data as part of an effort to improve transparency. The threshold for disclosure was set at £150,000 because that's roughly what the prime minister earns.   Source: CNN

The pillars of Europe's security are damaged beyond repair and Europe's leaders are in denial. Expect very heavy turbulence starting next year. Jan Zielonka, Oxford   The peaceful post-1989 order on the old continent rested on three key pillars: NATO, the EU, and the ruling mosaic of centre-left-and-right parties. NATO provided the hardware, the EU delivered the soft-ware, and the ruling parties offered legitimacy. All these three pillars are now damaged beyond repair.  Donald Trump’s victory has buried NATO. Collective defence and deterrence can only work if they are not subject to speculation. Trump has made it clear that he wants to keep his options open. The everything-goes policy is a recipe for anarchy, not security. I am not even talking about Trump’s links with Vladimir Putin. The Brexit referendum has buried the EU. In the next few years the EU will be absorbed by the nasty divorce proceedings, leaving it with no time and energy to project its soft power abroad. This means that the neighbourhood will be ever more unstable, generating refugee flows and hampering trade in commodity and goods. Many people have criticized the EU enlargement policy, but Turkey and Ukraine could well resemble Romania or Poland, had enlargement policy not been put on ice. (Of course, this is not to say that Poland and Romania are champions of stability and good governance). The spectacular rise of anti-establishment parties has buried the liberal consensus on which Europe’s security was so dependent over the past three decades. This consensus envisaged open borders, development aid, multilateral diplomacy, and promotion of human rights and democracy. All these ideals are now being openly questioned by the new kids on the block and the electorate seems not to care any longer.  Trump, Brexit, and the counter-revolutionary insurgence against liberal values are not an accident of history. Liberals from centre-left-and-right parties have time and again betrayed their ideals: they invaded other countries on dubious grounds and even tortured prisoners. No wonder the electorate became cynical and started to back alternative parties and politicians. Brexit resulted from the EU’s inability to reform itself and find some ways to empower ordinary citizens and not just bureaucrats and lobbyists. Trump is a child of the US democratic pathologies responsible for rampant inequalities, governmental paralysis, and imperial over-stretch.  Today no one knows how to sort out all the mess and make Europeans feel safe. It is not even clear who is going to do the diplomatic cleaning up operation. Germany has just designated a new foreign minister whose abrasive style in the European Parliament has antagonised most European leaders. Italy has just appointed a new foreign minister with no real party behind him and zero diplomatic experience. The United Kingdom’s new foreign secretary is famous for making silly jokes, but not for strategic visions. Poland’s foreign minister seems more interested in combatting cyclists, vegetarians, and environmentalists than striking meaningful international deals. With top diplomats like this Europe is not likely to pass safely through the expected period of turbulence. The experience of the past few years suggests that most problems will arrive on Mrs Merkel’s desk. Given the upcoming German elections, she will not be pleased. But whom can she ask for help? Mrs May, Szydło, or Le Pen?  I am not sure that gender solidarity will do the trick.  Security is not necessarily about building an adequate military hard-ware against the perceived enemy. It is more about creating an environment conducive to peace through common rules of engagement, mutual trust, and normative convergence. This is why institutions such as NATO and the EU were crucial in maintaining peace together with the liberal consensus about legitimate and illegitimate behaviour. Without these pillars of European order, a small, unexpected conflict can go out of hand producing mutual insults and suspicion leading to the break-down of communication, conspiracy theories, irrational behaviour, and aggression. Hardly anyone expected that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo in 1914 will lead to a war killing millions of people. We do not know what kind of surprises await us a century later, but as we enter a new period of confusion and turbulence it is important to fasten our seat belts and stop arguing with each other.

The rise and fall of US hegemony. Or Donald Trump and the sunset of American hegemony  Adam Tooze   Donald Trump, the next president of the USA © Jonathan Ernst/Reuters   The American Century is over. We can tell, not only because the Americans have elected a ludicrous President, but because, for all his nationalist braggadocio, Trump’s ambitions are so modest. He aspires, after all, only to make America great again. Not only does this acknowledge America’s fallen state. It puts Trump’s Presidency on the level with the likes of Erdogan and Putin. But greatness is for everyone. The American century in its pomp was lit not by greatness, but by supremacy, the certainty of being called by destiny, divine or secular, to play a role that was not just unique, but above all others. This is the literal meaning of a message that echoed down the century from Woodrow Wilson, to FDR, Kennedy, Reagan, Bush junior and Obama. The theological strain always sounded strange in foreign ears. But, will we miss it when it is gone? Trump will not be the end of America as a global power. If Trump raises Pentagon spending, American military dominance may even increase. The technological prowess of Silicon Valley is unrivalled and is ever more seamlessly integrated with the network of global social media and information exchange. Wall Street remains the hub of global finance. The Fed is pivotal to global economic policy. American lawyers, management consultants, PR firms and lobbyists make up a global network of soft power. However uncomfortable it may be to deal with Trump’s administration, the America state anchors NATO and the alliance system in East Asia. Whatever happens to NAFTA, for Canada and Mexico, America will remain as an overbearing and inescapable neighbor. America has not extinguished itself. But what it has extinguished is its claim to global political authority. That authority had been on the wane anyway. Under George W. Bush the nimbus that surrounded the end of the Cold War, curdled into bitterly contested hubris. Appreciating the damage that Bush had wrought, Obama dialed down the rhetoric. But for domestic consumption he too offered a powerful message of America’s singular role, a claim heightened by his very person. In electing a black man as President, not only the United States but Europe too, saw the sins of colonialism and slavery atoned. The promise of 2016 was that with Hillary Clinton the "woman question" too would find a belated answer. As Secretary of State Clinton had shown that she was a true inheritor of the 1990s mantle of American global leadership – far more so than Obama. Hence, the profound hostility she faced on the part of much of the US left and from the Russians. Clinton’s defeat at the hands of Trump thus marks a double break with the promise that "the arc of history bends towards hope", as Obama liked to put it, and any claim by America to lead the way. Insofar as Trump is even aware of the significance of his retreat, he hails it as liberation. Now America can act like the others, he promises, they will fear us all the more. The sense that not being "like the others" was the whole point seems lost on him. This is the sense in which the American Century has ended. And this is what the world now has to deal with: a dominant superpower, still by far the most dominant that history has ever recorded, but shorn of aspiration to moral leadership. For some, the ending of the century of American exceptionalism, will come as no great shock. In Central America, the Yankees came early, in force and without much respect for local sensitivities. They preferred, as they say, to put "boots on the ground". In Asia too America’s presence contained as much menace as it did promise. Disappointing the hopes of Chinese revolutionaries like Sun Yat-Sen, Washington’s backing for political progress after the revolution of 1911 was luke warm to say the least. Eventually, America emerged as a strong promoter of democracy in Japan. But in Taiwan and South Korea it took its time, not to mention in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. And then there was the quagmire of Vietnam and the secret and lawless extension of that conflict to Cambodia and Laos. And this is before we get into the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, Saudi, and Israel. If there is anywhere in the world that actually has a deep stake in the normative image of the American century, it is Europe. Indeed, one might say that America’s century formed a whitewashed extension of Europe’s own remarkable period of global hegemony that lasted, for sake of argument, from 1757 and the victory of British forces over the Mughal army at Plassey on the banks of the Ganges, to the outbreak of World War I. But it is only in retrospect from a very high vantage point that this continuity seems real. November 1916 was the first American Presidential election that European’s followed with bated breath, as if our fate depended on the outcome. As far as the Entente were concerned, then too, the wrong man won, Woodrow Wilson the anti-war candidate. Five months later Wilson was forced into Europe’s war, not of his own free will, but by Germany’s aggression -  unleashing the U Boats, inviting Mexico to join in an attack on Texas. America’s entry decided the war and made Wilson the dominant figure at Versailles. But facing opposition both from the European powers and Japan, and fierce partisan resistance at home, Wilson’s lost his grip. Within weeks of leaving the peace conference, in the autumn of 1919 the first American president to pretend to world leadership was humiliated by an oppositional Republican majority in Congress that vetoed ratification and disowned American membership in Wilson’s own creation, the League of Nations. It then went on to refuse to negotiate a reduction in war debts, impose a ban on immigration, shut out European trade. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve, hiked interest rates, sucking gold back into the US, at a time when Europe was gasping for credit. A new narrative of the dark European continent This was the first spectacular failure of American leadership that marked the 20th century. It was out of the ensuing chaos, by the 1930s that emerged the aggressive coalition featuring Imperial Japan, Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini. And yet in February 1941 when the owner of Time magazine, Henry Luce sat down to write his famous article announcing the promise of an American century, his country was still on the sidelines. Luce was appealing desperately for action, not describing a reality. American industry was growing fat on war deliveries to Britain. Washington stood ready to inherit global power. America’s people hoped for the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. But they were not in the war and preferred not to join, if they could avoid it. It took Pearl Harbor to stir them to action. Like 911 it hit a nerve that would turn America’s war into a righteous battle of self-defense and allow its ideological stakes to be rapidly expanded and to go on expanding until they reached the global reach of Cold War containment. It was out of such moments of high contingency, of internal and external conflict, of deep political and moral ambiguity that the American century was fashioned. Out of a world of grey, what emerged was black and white: a new narrative of the dark European continent, for the second time in barely more than a generation, in need of American salvation. It was a powerful historical narrative around which to organize trans-Atlantic relations after 1945. It underpinned NATO, still the most potent and historically successful military alliance in history. But those that America eventually came to help in 1941, the British, the French, the Russians, the Chinese have written deep in their historical consciousness, the ambiguity and contingency of that moment. Making the American century even for its most favored allies, involved sacrifices and profound disappointments. It involved buying into myths, indeed helping to make them. There was no greater exponent of this art of Making History than Winston Churchill with this narrative of the historic triumph of the English-speaking peoples. It was not for nothing that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. This joint fashioning of the American century, was part of what made Europe different. And it was no small thing. It helped to add normative meaning to America’s evident preponderance of power in military, technological and financial terms, transforming preponderance into hegemony. How the world will react to a power deliberately stripped of even the pretense of legitimation is the question posed by Trump. It will be difficult for everyone. But if there is any polity for which this will be particularly so, it is the Federal Republic. The rhetorical justification for the American century was fashioned first by painting the Kaiser and then Hitler as a historic evil. Conversely, it was the "good American hegemon" that made and remade Germany, three times over: First the Weimar Republic and then the Federal Republic, not once but twice. There is no state for which the "good America" is more foundational than modern Germany. Stresemann, Adenauer and Merkel’s Germanies are its products. It is not a question of identity, of course. At home the two societies are profoundly different. But what America has hitherto solved for Germany, is the problem of international relations, of power, of Germany’s relationship to the world. The Cold War, NATO, American-sponsored European integration, the United Nations, these were the frame. It is not for nothing that the most neuralgic moments of tension between Germany and the US flared on the "periphery", over Iran and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, over Israel in the 1980s and 1990s, and Iraq in 2003. What we face today, however, is more fundamental. In 2003 German Foreign minister Joschka Fischer demanded answers from Donald Rumsfeld. Where was the evidence that would justify the war against Saddam? He thus presupposed that the war had to be justified and he did so, spontaneously, in English, to demonstrate his commitment to the shared values of western democracy. Rumsfeld never answered, but the point was made. Can one even imagine a similar confrontation with Trump? The election of Trump suggests that America’s relationship not just to the world, but to a supposedly common reality has undergone a change. Empowered by the elections a minority of Americans wishes to throw off America’s anchoring role in the discursive community of the West. From this emerges a fundamental challenge: After America abandons its Sonderweg, what is Germany’s place in a world?  

Just as it was being written off, the European Union is reviving. People are coming together to celebrate it; politicians are suddenly speaking positively about it; even the economy is flourishing. An investigation into a continent in transition. By Jochen Bittner, Marc Brost, Matthias Krupa, Ulrich Ladurner, Petra Pinzler, Elisabeth Raether, Jonas Schaible, Mark Schieritz und Stefan Schirmer   The happiest people live in: Europe. The cities most worth living in are in: Europe. The best health care is in: Europe. The most publicly listed companies and the most Olympic champions come from: Europe. Only one thing has been recently missing in Europe: self-confidence. Tired, old, worn out – that was the image many Europeans had of their continent. Tired, old, worn out was how most speeches about the E.U. sounded. But since Donald Trump began governing on the other side of the Atlantic and putting to question what the United States stands for – from free trade to the rule of law – something has changed in Europe as well. With nationalists and populists on this Atlantic coast threatening intrinsic European values, the counter-forces have been growing. It can be felt in Berlin, Vienna or Lisbon, where each weekend, thousands take to the streets to celebrate Europe. It can be heard in the speeches of European politicians, whose tone toward the E.U. has suddenly changed. It can be seen in the economic upturn that is currently happening on the continent. Right after having been written off, Europe is suddenly an option once again. Not as a blast from the past, but a promise for the future; an alternative to the USA and to the authoritarian rulers closer to home from Moscow to Ankara. The existential necessity of the E.U. must no longer be explained and, all at once, it has become intuitively obvious. It is like a reestablishment of Europe. It is as it was 60 years ago, when six European countries came together in Rome. Renée Haferkamp was involved in the preparations – the Belgian worked as an interpreter and is one of the last witnesses to the event. While the gray-haired woman sits at the dining table of her home in Brussels and gazes into the garden where the first trees have pink blossoms, she recalls the men who invented the E.U. and long ago entered into history: Belgian Paul-Henri Spaak, Frenchman Jean Monnet, German Walter Hallstein, who then became the first president of the commission. "They were great Europeans," says Ms. Haferkamp, referencing their shared attitude toward a firm conviction that together more progress is possible than alone. When the treaties were signed on the evening of March 25, 1957, it was raining in Rome. The spectators waiting for the politicians on the Capitoline Hill were hidden under large black umbrellas. As 6:00 p.m. approached, the first politicians arrived and hurried up the steps into the magnificent Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii. Photographers were already waiting to capture the crucial moment as earnest-faced men in dark suits would reach for thick fountain pens to sign the birth certificate of the European Union. The fact that the six founding nations of the E.U. gave up part of their sovereignty for the first time and of their own free will, that they established an economic community, an atomic association, the predecessor of the European Parliament and a court of justice was based on the shared conviction that excessive nationalism ends in disaster. But what was crucial was the enthusiasm of a handful of realistic idealists. "They believed in it," remembers Ms. Haferkamp. "They really believed they could create a United States of Europe." But when do people lose their faith in an idea? Ms. Haferkamp answers hesitantly: "That happens over time. I had my first doubts when, at the beginning of the 1960s, I accompanied the Commission president Walter Hallstein and Paul-Henri Spaak, who at that time, was Belgian foreign minister to Athens, where an association agreement was to be signed." As the commission didn’t have its own airplane, as it still doesn’t today, it used the Belgian state aircraft. Ms. Haferkamp tells how the plane landed, the red carpet was rolled out and Walter Hallstein wanted to step out first – the agenda was Europe and Athens. "But then Spaak thrust out his elbows and pushed to the front – none other than Spaak, who had fought so hard for Europe. He believed that, as the representative of a member state, he was more important than the man who represented Europe." Ms. Haferkamp continued to work in Brussels during the subsequent decades. She met all the commission presidents and even more heads of government. And she was there as the initial enthusiasm gave way to disillusionment. The Rome treaties turned into more than 85,000 pages of community law incapable of inspiring anyone anymore. Brussels became a synonym for bureaucracy. Even when the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, the derision was greater than the joy: Of all things, the E.U.! And today, 60 years after the Rome treaties were signed? "We’re a sort of reanimation machine" The Goetheplatz in Frankfurt am Main is filled with at least 3,000 people. When the 1990 Eurovision hit song Insieme ("Together") is played from the loudspeakers, the crowd undulates. Students and pensioners grab hands and dance in a circle. Others wave E.U. flags or wear the blue cloth with the golden stars as a cape. They look like fans who have pledged life-long loyalty to their team, in this case, the European Union. Until recently, many people thought it no longer had a cheering section. But a few weeks ago, the Pulse of Europe appeared in public squares for the first time. It is a pro-European, grass-roots movement that now has presence in 60 cities – above all in Germany, but also in the Netherlands, France, Portugal and even Great Britain. Its advocates – tens of thousands as of late – meet regularly on Sundays in Freiburg, Berlin and Bad Kreuznach, as well as Lyon and Lisbon. And in Frankfurt, where everything began. An hour and a half before the rally, Sabine and Daniel Röder hurry through downtown Frankfurt. The Pulse of Europe is their brainchild. It was an evening-with-wine idea, developed on the sofa at home of the two lawyers in their mid-40s. Never having organized a demonstration, they founded a political start-up that aims to bring more advocates onto the streets than the anti-E.U. voices of Pegida had in their best days. The decision to do something came after the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. The couple worried that the E.U. could break up because of the growing success of its enemies – not only Front National’s Marine Le Pen in France, but also the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The Röders formulated an appeal that they spread via Facebook. "We’re a sort of reanimation machine," says Mr. Röder. "The truth is that Europe isn’t as anemic as many thought. All we need to do is restore the emotionality." Unfortunately in the public arena, write the Röders on Facebook, "it is primarily the destructive voices that can be heard." Pulse of Europe seeks to mobilize the silent majority. At the demonstration, a trumpeter plays the European hymn Ode to Joy and the crowd sings along. Fan articles are being sold at a stand: In return for a contribution, there are balloons and armbands in E.U. blue, pennants and flags, even woolen caps with golden E.U. stars knit by an E.U. fan. A celebratory event? Yes, for sure – but that’s not all. Whoever wants can take the stage to speak to the crowd for three minutes. Today’s focus is on the success of pro-European forces in the Netherlands (rejoicing, flag-waving), the democratic movement in Romania and the need to "bring a European springtime awakening to Brussels". There are almost no banners and placards at this demonstration. Written on one of the few is simply "Yes!" This is a stark contrast to the Pegida assemblies, which are driven by anger and the denigration of others. The people who come to Pulse of Europe are decidedly in favor of something. The E.U. has long worn itself down in the search for a new narrative. The story was once clear: We have to stay together in order to protect ourselves from ourselves. We are a union of peace. But at some point, people started taking that peace for granted. The underlying trust in the correctness of the European project disappeared. The crises of recent years – from turbulence over the euro to the flood of refugees – seemed to have delivered the final blow to the union. But then came Brexit So Europe’s advocates have adopted the following argument: In a world where developing countries are becoming richer and more powerful, European states will soon be too small to survive. Only through joint European effort can outside countries be precluded from deciding the fate of Europe. Jean Monnet made the same point long ago. "Our countries have become too small for today’s world," wrote the pioneer of European integration in 1954. The argument may even be more accurate in the 21st century than in the previous, but it didn’t stick. The idea that the E.U. is a collection pot for enfeebled nation states in the era of globalization became a small-minded, defensive narrative incapable of capturing anyone’s imagination. Not E.U. skeptics – because in that sort of hostile world, they were particularly determined to depend solely on the citizens of their own countries. Not the pro-Europeans – because they bemoaned the lack of grandeur and sublimity. And finally, not the level-headed pragmatics – because shoulder-to-shoulder with America, things just couldn’t get so bad. But then came Brexit. And President Donald Trump happened. One month ago in Munich at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, several high-ranking U.S. politicians are at the security conference. They include the freshly minted Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary John Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. The world’s most important politicians for defense and foreign affairs anticipate the speeches of team Trump in suspense. And the reaction from the E.U. After NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has spoken, Federica Mogherini came to the podium. She is the E.U. Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and spends more time travelling outside of than within Europe. What she has to say comes as a surprise to most in attendance. The European Union is in a much better condition than Europeans want to believe. Ms. Mogherini speaks about human rights, adherence to the law, dependability, equal rights, the fight against climate change. In all these areas, the E.U. is admired by others. She hears this repeatedly from her conversation partners outside Europe. Proud of the E.U.? Admiration for Europe? Take only a single step beyond its borders, she says, and the perspective changes. Until recently, it looked as if the destructive, nationalistic furor that Donald Trump has ignited in the United States would inevitably make its way to Europe. The danger is far from averted, but the counter-forces have become more visible – particularly in Western Europe in the long-estabished E.U. members. And not only in the streets and squares, but also in political arenas. This is most clear in France, where the danger is greatest at the moment. If the right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen becomes president in May, that will be the end of the E.U. as we knew it. Ever since a majority of the French voted in a 2005 referendum against the planned E.U. constitution, Europe has been a taboo topic in French politics. Whenever something went wrong in France – and lots went wrong – the E.U. served as the scapegoat. Emmanuel Macron has broken this unwritten rule of French politics. In fact, he simply ignores it. The 39-year-old presidential candidate speaks quite unabashedly about Europe. Not only does he have E.U. flags cover the walls of the venues for his political rallies, but he has already visited Berlin twice during his campaign and even met with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr. Macron has no fear of close contact, although – or because – his rival Marine Le Pen never tires of warning of "Germany’s dictatorship" over Europe. The Frenchman isn’t the first campaigner to actively oppose those hostile to the E.U. In Austria, President Alexander Van der Bellen of the Green party called for openness and European cooperation to beat the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) in the election. And in the parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, two explicitly pro-European parties increased their share of the votes: the Greens as well as the liberal party D66. And in Germany, Social Democratic candidate Martin Schulz is met with increased enthusiasm when he attacks the nationalists. Grassroots support has increased again Even where it would perhaps be least expected, E.U. flags are once again being waved: in Eastern Europe. When hundreds of thousands of Romanians took to the streets to demonstrate against the government at the beginning of the year, they did so explicitly in the name of Europe. Without the E.U., the corrupt political caste in Romania would never have succumbed to pressure. The alertness of the E.U. is "fundamental" to her work, says Laura Kösevi, the head of the anti-corruption authority, though the outcome of the struggle hasn’t yet been decided. But without the E.U., the Romanians would be fighting entirely on their own against corruption and for more rule of law. The gloomier the circumstances, the more brightly the 12 golden stars of the E.U. shine – this is equally true in Warsaw and Bucharest. While the Polish government is becoming increasingly authoritarian and nationalistic, Ryszard Petru, currently the most important leader of the opposition, recently wrote an open letter to "our European friends." The chairman of the liberal Nowoczesna Party writes that Poland has become a better country thanks to the E.U. He offers assurance that a majority of Poles want to be part of a "strong, unified Europe." Mr. Petru even envisions Poland soon joining the European currency union. Until recently, advocating such a measure was surefire political suicide. For a long time, the E.U. was castigated as an elitist project. And the more widespread the discontentment with the elites, the more vociferous the attacks on the E.U. became. The populists derived their energy from this equation. Now it looks as though new energies are emerging from below in support of the E.U. In many countries, grassroots support for the E.U. has increased again. If they were allowed to vote on the membership of their country in the E.U., 70 percent of all E.U. citizens would decide in favor of the institution. This is the finding of a study recently published by the Bertelsmann Foundation. In March 2016, before the British referendum on the E.U., the figure was 65 percent. The change of heart is even more apparent in another question: 66 percent of all E.U. citizens report that friends or colleagues speak positively about the E.U. Before Brexit, it was only 47 percent. According to a statistically representative survey commissioned by the banking associations that has been obtained by DIE ZEIT, 61 percent of Germans hold the E.U. in high or extremely high regard. This is 5 percent more than three years ago and even 10 percent more than nine years ago. Furthermore, 63 percent believe that the euro currency has proven itself. But this fundamental support for the E.U. is no free ride and certainly not a return to the old doctrine of an ever closer union. This is also apparent from the Bertelsmann study. In spite of the esteem in which many hold the E.U., support for further political and economic integration has declined in most countries. Brussels is not unaware of this paradox. Even where routines can be especially rigid and laments particularly hollow, new tones can be heard. The discussion about Europe’s future is too often reduced to a choice between more or less Europe, writes Jean-Claude Juncker in a recently-published white paper. The president of the European Commission says this is "misleading and far too simple." Instead of dreaming up unrealistic blueprints for a better world, Mr. Juncker’s officials have developed five possible scenarios that range from downgrading the E.U. to a mere single market all the way to more extensive collaboration in areas such as defense policy or taxation. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also calls for a union that leaves its members space for developing at different speeds. Ms. Merkel and Mr. Juncker are seeking to use this fresh upturn of enthusiasm without falling into the old traps. "We have received inquiries from another 40 cities" Something else new and unusual: The political awakening is being accompanied by a surprising economic revival. After a long crisis, the economies of all E.U. member countries are growing again. Confidence is rising at companies, state deficits are shrinking, unemployment is decreasing. In the last four years, almost 5 million new jobs have been created – and these jobs are not only in booming Germany, but also in France, Ireland, Spain and even Greece, the perpetual problem child. The consequences of the crisis are far from having been overcome everywhere, but there is no longer truth to the story of a sclerotic Europe that can’t compete with the United States or China. Surveys by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that in recent years, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Poland were among the top countries in the world with regard to implementing economic reforms. In recent years, the economy of the euro countries grew faster than that of the United States. Europe’s supposed weakness in the face of the populist alternative is increasingly proving to be a locational advantage: More and more international investors are coming to value the European social state with its comparatively high tax rates and generous compensations for workers. This prevents a situation found in the United States where "a huge gap is emerging between the elites and the rest of the population," says Philipp Hildebrand deputy director of Blackrock. The world’s largest asset management company handles more than $5 trillion and holds stakes in countless large companies. This is a remarkable change of heart, considering that in recent decades, financial capital has worked to establish, also on this side of the Atlantic, a wild-west capitalism in the American style. From crisis region to model for the future – this turn of events is so surprising that it can easily distort the view with regard to unresolved problems. The economy is growing again, but the upturn is still fragile. Companies are creating new jobs, but youth unemployment in particular continues to be far too high. The European Union has a new existential purpose, but when specific issues are addressed, long-term conflicts reemerge in areas such as refugees or currency policy. And in Poland, the deconstruction of the constitutional state continues. But when and where is there not controversy in politics? Perhaps the point of the enthusiasm for Europe is that solving the problems becomes easier when all participant seek success. In Paris and Berlin, scenarios for reforming the currency union in order to prevent future crises are already being secretly examined. They envision France submitting its budgetary policies to stricter monitoring by Brussels institutions while Germany provides more money for pan-European initiatives. Why wouldn’t it be possible to mimic this model in order to achieve progress in policies regarding domestic security or foreign affairs? In any case, the founders of Pulse of Europe still face a host of challenges. On the one hand, they are exhilarated that their movement has been steadily growing ever since 200 people came to the premiere at the Goetheplatz eight weeks ago. On the other hand, for this very reason, they are getting little sleep. "We have received inquiries from another 40 cities," says Mr. Röder. A few days ago, Pulse of Europe opened a small business office in Frankfurt. It has become a coordination hub for many local groups, researching things like who called for flash mobs in the name of Pulse of Europe in Rome or Genoa. Despite expectations, Sabine and Daniel Röder were not previously E.U. aficionados. They were neither Erasmus students nor members of the European Law Students’ Association. They have little in common with the E.U. elite that casually uses city names as a code for decisions about European policy: Maastricht, Schengen, Bologna, Nice, Lisbon. "We grew up with the basic concept of Europe," says Daniel Röder. "It was self-evident for us." As long as it’s not merely a deception, Europe is currently experiencing a new dawn. Translated by David Andersen   Source: Zeit Online

It is up to moderate people to have an open debate about religion and society. Otherwise, extremists will have it for us.   Aaron McKenna IT HAS LONG since passed into memory, but Christian fundamentalist violence used to be par for the course in Europe. Christians would march off to foreign lands to conquer and convert on pain of death, and many of the bloody wars that embroiled the continent had a religious undertone. Christianity held a place in the national life intertwined with the God-given mandate of monarchs. Then, to give you a very truncated version, we had the Enlightenment, the Reformation, the French Revolution and the separation of church and state. Europe has evolved into a largely secularist land of liberal democracies that reflect western values on topics ranging from freedom of speech to women’s liberation, education to family. Christianity is the official religion of the vast majority of Europeans, but it is also excluded from much democratic decision-making; churches come in for regular and robust scrutiny, to say the least. Though we cannot say we are holier than anyone else, for there are pockets of resistance and there remain people alive who suffered at the hands of extreme persecution here, Europe is a tolerant place by and large. Even Ireland, with its Catholic-tinted constitution, is a safe place to practise your religion, express your political views and associate with whom you want, however you want. People of all creeds are welcome in Europe. As we are seeing, however, from movements across the continent, there is a push back on the notion that people are welcome to challenge the core values of Europe as a secular, liberal land. An attack on one of the key institutions of the free world There exists the perception of a great friction between western values and the values held dear by those of the Islamic faith, the vast majority of whom are anything but violent. This is leading to the rise of more extreme anti-Islamic movements in Europe, from Pegida in Germany to support garnered by the Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen’s of this world. Controversies about burkas, Islamic education, cartoons and the application of Sharia Law in western countries (to name but some) have created points of contention between Islamic values and traditional European ones. A series of studies of attitudes in Europe cited in The Economist this week shows that half or more of the population of many European countries believe that Islam is incompatible with the west. The vile terrorist attack in Paris this week has shocked us in a way that perhaps other terrorist attacks of recent time have not. Every death to extremism is a senseless tragedy, but the attack on Charlie Hebdo was also an attack on one of the key institutions and concepts of the free world: the press and the ability to express oneself without fear or favour. Terrorists walked into a newspaper office and said to the free world, “You will only print what we deem acceptable or we will kill you.” It has shocked us to our core, because we can recognise that this kind of a threat may well lead to self-censorship and a fundamental win by terrorists against the freedoms we enjoy. These extremists do not represent the majority of Muslims any more than the IRA represented the majority of Irish people who, by association, suffered a hard time living in Britain during the Troubles. Terrorist extremists who murder in cold blood are rarely representative of the way most normal people would conduct themselves. Impressionable youngsters who feel frozen out in society and who are egged on by fundamentalist mentors (who rarely strap bombs to themselves) go on to become radicalised and seek to take violent action. Many Isis and Al-Qaeda fighters have originated in Europe and both French and US sources have indicated that the two men suspected of the Paris attack were born in France and were actively involved in Islamic militantism overseas. The notion of young Muslims going off to fight in places like Syria and then return to the west to perpetrate atrocities is no longer theoretical. An extreme expression of  wider problems  Terrorism is not unique to Islam, but in this age it is the source of much of the terrorist bloodshed on our streets. The shootings on Parliament Hill in Ottowa, the Sydney Café hostage shootings and the Jewish Museum of Belgium shooting last year. The beheading of Lee Rigby in London the year before. The Toulouse and Montauban shootings in 2012 and the Frankfurt Airport shooting the year before. The Stockholm bombing in 2010. All were “home grown” in one fashion or another. More attacks are promised, with Andrew Parker, Director of MI5 in the UK, indicating that Islamic terrorists are planning imminent mass casualty attacks in the west. It’s also worth remembering that the 9/11 attacks were largely planned in Europe. These radicalised elements are mostly an extreme expression of the wider problems that Islam is having in settling into what, for lack of a better moniker, we might call the western free world. The terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo did so because of cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad, which offended many moderate Muslims also. In this country the Trinity lecturer and spokesperson for the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Dr Ali Selim, has said that he would take legal action against media publishing depictions of Muhammad. Outside of the Muslim community, some commentators have questioned the publishing of such depictions both now and in the past, such as around the time of the Danish cartoon controversies. All of this friction is creating a backlash, exacerbated by the terrorist acts that shock many; 18,000 people have marched in the German city of Dresden in protest of the perceived Islamicisation of Europe, and in France and elsewhere we have already seen far right groups making hay from the “threat” of Islam. In the Netherlands the prominent right wing politician Geert Wilders wants to ban the Qur’an. One of his predecessors in the Dutch right was murdered in the street for his views on Islam. A controversial right wing Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, was killed in a near decapitation by an Islamic terrorist two years later. This is fertile ground for a counter-radical movement against all Muslims, which would be entirely wrong as a response to these acts. Bridging the divide between secular European society and devout Islamic thinking The issue at the heart of the matter is that western society has put religion in a box, living parallel but separately to the life of our nations as a whole. We have developed republics that largely separate church and state, and even in our constitutional monarchies such as the UK, where the Queen is also the Defender of the Faith, there has been an effective castration of the influence of religion over state affairs. Muslim communities tend to come from a less secularised state background; combined with the immigrant experience this can lead to disenfranchisement and, eventually, radicalisation. We must square this circle between the expectations of secular European society and devout Islamic thinking if we are to bridge the chasm that separates us and leads to atrocities like that in Paris. Islam is welcome in Europe. What we must be firm in saying, however, from the moderate centre rather than fascist fringes, is that Islam will be treated like any other religion in Europe. It is separate to our conception of the state and wider civil life. The universal creed that Europe imposes on people of all religions and outlooks is that of a secular society that therefore creates room for all to coexist. We are a tolerant society. Mosques can spring up and Muslim life flourish in places like Christian Ireland without much protest. We are also a polite society, and so sometimes it might feel like an imposition to say, quite firmly, that there is a space for religion and a separate space for society and the state. It is up to moderate people, Muslim and otherwise, to conduct this debate. Otherwise, extremists will have it for us. Aaron McKenna is a businessman and a columnist for

By Rick Noack   © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post Polish nationalists light flares as they take part in the March of Independence 2017 under the slogan “We want God” as part of Polish Independence Day celebrations in Warsaw Nov. 11…   BERLIN — There are few countries that suffered as much under the Nazis as Poland did during World War II. And yet, more than 70 years later, it has become a center on the continent for the far right — and the government isn’t doing anything about it, maintain liberal critics. In fact, the Polish far right feels increasingly emboldened by what it perceives as governmental recognition. On Saturday, an estimated 60,000 protesters marched alongside ultranationalists and Nazis to mark the 99th anniversary of Polish independence. As my colleague Avi Selk summarized, the protesters carried banners and held up signs which had a clear far-right extremist message: “Clean Blood,” as seen by Politico. “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust,” per CNN. The march was distinct from other European far-right events European Nazis and members of the far right have co-opted other landmark memorial days or celebrations around Europe in the past as well. In the eastern German city of Dresden, for example, Nazis march every February to mark the destruction of the city by Allied forces during World War II. Those kinds of marches are usually condemned by officials as a misguided and dangerous form of nationalism that crosses the line to white supremacy and Nazi ideology. In Germany, leading politicians frequently join rallies in protest of the marches which have taken place for decades. That was not the case for last weekend’s protests in Warsaw, which witnessed little government condemnation. The origins of Poland’s “independence march” are fairly recent and date back to 2009. Within the next eight years, the annual event has attracted an increasing number of supporters and is now considered one of the world’s biggest. It not only draws visitors from other Eastern European countries — where ultranationalist tendencies have become particularly pronounced since the 2015 refugee crisis — but also from Western Europe and the United States. Liberals allege government support for ultranationalists Saturday’s march was not organized or officially promoted by the governing right-wing Law and Justice party. Yet despite the extremist slogans and posters, officials refrained from condemning the march, and even voiced public support: In a statement on Monday, Poland’s Foreign Ministry defended the march as a largely patriotic event and “a great celebration of Poles,” although the ministry condemned racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic remarks. The country’s interior minister had previously called the rally “a beautiful sight.” Even if he may have been unaware at the time of some of the posters held up at the rally, he likely must have known about who has been behind this annual large-scale protest. Organizers involved in the mass demonstration include anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim radical groups such as the All Polish Youth and the National-Radical Camp, among others, according to AP. Members of the All Polish Youth movement have had strong ties to the ruling Law and Justice in the past. In 2006, the former chairman of the movement was even named as the country’s vice prime minister. On social media, critics of the government accused the Law and Justice party of trying to silence people opposed to ultranationalism, pointing to the arrests of counterprotesters on Saturday and the possible prosecution of a journalist who read out some of the slogans on live TV. Of the 45 people arrested on Saturday, none were far right extremists. Only anti-fascist protesters were detained. “The apparent tolerance shown for these purveyors of hate — and, let’s be clear, that’s exactly what they are — by some Polish government officials is particularly troubling,” Agnieszka Markiewicz, the director of the American Jewish Committee's Warsaw office, told AP. The rally is only the most public indication of Poland’s turn to the right The lack of government response fits into a broader pattern that has emerged in Poland over the last two year as it has abruptly shifted to the right. Still considered a post-communism success story and “robust” democracy in 2015, the right-wing and anti-E.U. Law and Justice party swept into power that year after taking a decidedly anti-immigration stance and glorifying the country’s history and ignoring its darker aspects. To many observers, the far-right surge remains a mystery, given that Poland was doing well economically compared to other post-communist nations and was increasingly being considered a key member of the E.U. and of NATO. Law and Justice may have won on a mandate to stop mass migration — but the refugee influx had affected Poland only marginally and put a much bigger burden on neighboring Germany or Sweden.   © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post (Agencja Gazeta/Adam Stepien via Reuters)   Once in office, the Law and Justice party moved swiftly to weaken the opposition and other democratic institutions, like public television stations or the justice apparatus. Not all of those efforts have succeeded and the biggest blow to the party came this summer when the Polish president, who is independent of the party, refused to sign a law that would have retired all Supreme Court justices. The party has still managed to consolidate its power. More than a hundred public TV employees resigned after the channel TVP Info was essentially turned into a government mouthpiece, and the country’s ranking in the Press Freedom Index subsequently dropped to “partly free” this year.” The ruling party and the far right share some goals in Poland Law and Justice has long expressed skepticism or outright hatred of the European Union as an organization that acts hierarchically above nation states. Like other European right-wing parties, it has criticized E.U. ambitions to take more powers from national parliaments. Unlike most other critics, however, the Law and Justice party has managed to find an E.U. scapegoat well-known enough at home to be used as a target: former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, who is now the president of the European Council. State media outlets are now linking Tusk with the death seven years ago of the brother of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. There is no evidence to support such claims and critics have accused the government of a smear campaign. Separately, Muslim and Jewish organizations have recently voiced concerns over discrimination and xenophobia by far-right supporters in Poland. The European Jewish Congress worried about the “normalization” of such acts, and an insufficient government response. In Poland, it appears that Saturday’s exceptional march may in fact be the new normal.   Source: Washington Post

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