Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Something about the convert experience may explain why a small minority, like the Woolwich attackers, find extremist messages attractive
'Not all extremist converts are radicalised by Islam, but by a previous lifestyle that lingers into their post-conversion life.'Leon Moosavi
Now that we know the two Woolwich attackers are converts to Islam, questions are being asked about whether converts are more likely to adopt extremist ideology. The vast majority of Muslim converts are law-abiding, decent citizens, but there is something about the convert experience that may explain why a small minority of converts find extremist messages attractive.At least five years ago, influential politicians were warning that Muslim converts pose a particular threat to British security. When official counter-terrorism policy was revised two years ago, converts were given a specific mention (on page 87 of this report) as prone to being radicalised. Notorious Muslim converts have helped sustain the impression that converts are disproportionately represented in extremist circles: there is Al-Qaida's spokesman Adam Gadahn, the shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Germaine Lindsay was one of the 7/7 suicide bombers, Nicky Reilly attempted a suicide bombing in 2009, and more recently, Richard Dart was convicted on terrorism charges.It is important to stress that from the estimated 5,000 converts to Islam every year, almost all of them embrace Islam after being inspired by its monotheistic clarity, its moral guidance and its holistic framework. Conversion to Islam is rarely political, but it is usually connected to personal self-building and spiritual awareness. My own extensive research with converts over the last five years has brought me into contact with hundreds of converts who overwhelmingly describe themselves as "bridge builders". It's commonplace for converts to see themselves as having a vital role to play as ambassadors to non-Muslims on behalf of Muslims, but just as crucially, to see themselves as ambassadors to Muslims on behalf of non-Muslims.It would therefore be plainly wrong to insinuate that most converts are likely to engage in extremism. This not only ignores the huge diversity that exists among how converts approach Islam but may also lead to an unhelpful and discriminatory profiling of converts. It is more accurate to say that those converts who subscribe to extremism may have done so because of experiences that are particular to converts.Various research, including a recent report by Cambridge University, has shown that conversion to Islam is a testing journey. Choosing to embrace a religion which is routinely considered as backward and foreign often results in the convert being shunned by non-Muslim family and friends. Many converts expect Muslim communities will compensate by welcoming them and providing a new support network as is encouraged by Islamic teachings.However, in reality, this welcome is not always forthcoming. Rather, converts can be ostracised by lifelong Muslims because they are still perceived by some as "outsiders". If a convert feels rejected by both non-Muslims and Muslims, loneliness and disappointment can manifest, and the promise of membership to a closely-knit clique offered by extremist groups may become attractive.The other consequence of not being accepted into a Muslim community may be an increased fervour to prove oneself. Muslim converts are familiar with encountering lifelong Muslims who doubt their sincerity and may even be asked to recite parts of the Qur'an to prove their authenticity. Some converts may see no better way to demonstrate how serious their commitment to Islam is than by adopting an aggressive extremism which may require them to sacrifice their liberty, and in some cases, their life.Converts to Islam often talk about grappling with trying to distinguish between authentic Islamic teachings and Muslim cultural practices. Most converts are determined to follow the teachings of Muhammad, but would rather leave South Asian culture for South Asian people. The ideology of extremist groups is based on a literalist interpretation of Islamic sources which they claim is pure and uncontaminated, or in other words, free from cultural bias. This is of course highly contestable but for some converts, the promise of an Islam that resembles its earliest form can be especially appealing.There is no one type of person who converts to Islam. The backgrounds of many converts are rather banal and as "normal" as the average person. However, there are some converts to Islam whose previous lifestyle involved criminality, gang culture and general hostility towards authority. These converts may seek redemption in Islam or a clean break from a troubled past. In some cases though, that past remains within their psyche, and it is in extremism that they find a familiar framework. Significantly then, not all extremist converts are radicalised by Islam, but by a previous lifestyle that lingers into their post-conversion life.Many converts are impressively knowledgeable about Islamic teachings and debates. It is often the case that an individual spends years reading about Islam before taking the plunge of converting. Yet, there are some converts to Islam who have not had the resources, time or aptitude to appreciate the history of Islamic scholarship and the multitude of contemporary perspectives. These naive and ignorant converts may be indoctrinated by extremist preachers with their simplistic binaries and obvious solutions if they do not encounter the mainstream, traditional and much more tolerant interpretations of Islam that is subscribed to by most of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims.It would be shortsighted to explain the Woolwich attacks solely by reference to the potential loneliness or ignorance of the attackers, however. These are just some of the factors that may explain why a small number of converts may find extremist groups attractive. To fully understand why we are vulnerable to terrorist attacks, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, we have to recognise that our foreign policy is highly problematic. It is the west's use of violence in Muslim countries – which often causes great harm to civilians – that ultimately provides the fuel that allows extremist groups to recruit both converts and lifelong Muslims.
published on May 23 2013
Dr Leon Moosavi is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Liverpool
“We have forgotten we are at war. We find it perplexing that a British soldier could be killed in our streets, near to a school, on a busy afternoon.
We have forgotten we are at war.
We are prone to suffering violence because our nation has been at war, explicitly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and covertly in numerous other nations. We are still an Imperialistic nation that believes it has a right to be at the ‘top table’, and that we are entitled to deploy our military wherever we like so that we can protect ‘British interests’.
Lives detached from war
In this modern era, our everyday lives are absolutely detached from war. We think more about television soaps and football than about the perpetual violence that is on-going in our names, on a daily basis, in faraway lands. As long as politicians deploy violence elsewhere in the world, we will always be vulnerable to counter-violence. As long as politicians enact state terrorism, we will always be vulnerable to terrorism at home.
Despite what we might like to think, foreign policy is key to understanding why terrorists attack us. We may hope they only attack us because they’re barbaric or because they ‘hate our freedoms’. But time after time the terrorists clearly state that they attack us because we attack them.
“We may hope terrorists only attack us because they’re barbaric or because they ‘hate our freedoms’. But time after time the terrorists clearly state that they attack us because we attack them”
And it’s uncomfortable to admit, but these terrorists know they are not lying in saying that our military has been involved in killing and harassing tens of thousands of civilians, whether directly through invasions, bombings and drone strikes, or whether indirectly through propping up oppressive regimes. Our aggressive and utterly selfish foreign policy will always leave us open to attack.
Here is an opportunity to re-evaluate our deployment of soldiers around the world and our alliances with oppressive governments.
But it is not only our foreign policy that is to blame. Surely the mental health of the criminals who perpetrated the act must be examined closely as this may provide answers as to why they could undertake such a brutal act. This attack also raises questions about knife crime in London more broadly, which has become normalised in relation to gang culture and a hyper-masculine conception of living a ‘thug life’.
And it is of course true that Islam is not to blame for the behaviour of these terrorists. Islam is a rich religion that has inspired a huge body of scholarly insights into spirituality, philosophy, social and political discussions over several centuries.
“Just as we would be burying our heads in the sand to say that foreign policy plays no role in causing such violence, we would be equally burying our heads in the sand to say that a twisted interpretation of Islam plays no role”
Some ignorant and misinformed people have already blamed all Muslims for the attack. This is of course a huge mistake as any sensible person knows that the vast majority – and by vast majority I mean more than 99% – of Muslims would never consider engaging in such despicable violence.
However, here is another uncomfortable admission that we must make. There is a literalist and extreme interpretation of Islam that does condone indiscriminate violence. This is a fringe interpretation that has very few adherents and is challenged enthusiastically and regularly by Muslims themselves. Just as we would be burying our heads in the sand to say that foreign policy plays no role in causing such violence, we would be equally burying our heads in the sand to say that a twisted interpretation of Islam plays no role.
Now is the time for communities to stand together, not to start blaming each other.
“Legitimate” to dissent against foreign policy
Muslim organisations have been quick to vehemently condemn the attack. Non-Muslim politicians and journalists have been quite clear that Muslims and Islam must not be blamed. Some have been reactionary in calling for an increase in surveillance and reduction of civil liberties to prevent such attacks from happening in the future. Others have said Muslims must start wearing ‘Help for Heroes’ t-shirts and pledging their allegiance to the British Army.
Neither of these responses are what we should be aiming for.
Instead, we should continue to value our multicultural society, recognise that it is entirely legitimate to dissent against our foreign policy or military activity, and ask more pertinent questions about what our foreign policy looks like, and why some Muslims are finding the literalist and violence fringe interpretation of Islam attractive.
We are after all a nation at war even if we have forgotten.”
Follow Leon on twitter @Leon_Moosavi
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Woolwich May 25th, 2013 The news cycle moves so quickly now that often we learn of an event through other people’s reaction to it. So it was when I arrived in Los Angeles to find my twitter feed contorted with posts of fear and confusion. I caught up with the sad malice in Woolwich and felt compelled to tweet in casual defense of the Muslim community who were being haphazardly condemned by a few people on my time line. Perhaps a bit glibly (but what isn’t glib in 140 characters) I put “That bloke is a nut. A nut who happens to be Muslim. Blaming Muslims for this is like blaming Hitler’s moustache for the Holocaust”. As an analogy it is imperfect but I was frightened by how negative and incendiary the mood felt and I rushed. I’m not proposing we sit around trying to summons up cute analogies when Lee Rigby has lost his life in horrific circumstances I simply feel that it is important that our reaction is measured. Something about the arbitrary brutality, the humdrum high-street setting, the cool rhetoric of the blood stained murderer evoke a powerful and inherently irrational response. When I first heard the word “beheading” I felt the atavistic grumble that we all feel. This is inhumane, taboo, not a result of passion but of malice, ritualistic. “If this is happening to guiltless men on our streets it could happen to me” I thought. Then I watched the mobile phone clip. In spite of his dispassionate intoning the subject is not rational, of course he’s not rational, he’s just murdered a stranger in the street, he says, because of a book. In my view that man is severely mentally ill and has found a convenient conduit for his insanity, in this case the Quran. In the case of another mentally ill and desperate man, Mark Chapman, it was A Catcher In The Rye. This was the nominated text for his rationalisation of the murder of John Lennon. I’ve read that book and I’ve read some of the Quran and nothing in either of them has compelled me to do violence. Perhaps this is because I lack the other necessary ingredients for extreme anti social behaviour; mental illness and isolation; either economic, social or both. After my Hitler tweet I got involved in a bit of back and forth with a few people who said stuff like “the murderer said himself he did it for Islam”. Although I wouldn’t dismiss what he’s saying entirely I think he forfeited the right to have his views received unthinkingly when he murdered a stranger in the street. Someone else regarding my tweet said “Hitler’s moustache didn’t invent an ideology that sanctions murder”. That is thankfully true but Islam when practiced by normal people is not an advocacy for violence. “People all over the world are killing in the name of Islam” someone added. This is the most tricky bit to understand. What I think is that all over our country, all over our planet there are huge numbers of people who feel alienated and sometimes victimised by the privileged and the powerful, whether that’s rich people, powerful corporations or occupying nations. They feel that their interests are not being represented and, in many cases, know that their friends and families are being murdered by foreign soldiers. I suppose people like that may look to their indigenous theology for validation and to sanctify their, to some degree understandable, feelings of rage. Comparable, I suppose to the way that homophobes feel a prejudicial pang in their tummies then look to the bible to see if there’s anything in there to justify it. There is, a piddling little bit in Leviticus. The main narrative thrust of The Bible though, like most spiritual texts, including the Quran is; be nice to each other because we’re all the same. When some football fans smash up shops and beat each other up that isn’t because of football or football clubs. It’s because loads of white, working class men have been culturally neglected and their powerful tribal instincts end up getting sloshed about in riotous lager carnivals. I love football, I love West Ham, I’ve never been involved in football violence because I don’t feel that it’s my only access to social power. Also I’m not that hard and I’m worried I’d get my head kicked in down the New Den. What the English Defence League and other angry, confused people are doing and advocating now, violence against mosques, Muslims, proliferation of hateful rhetoric is exactly what that poor, sick, murderous man, blood soaked on a peaceful street, was hoping for in his desperate, muddled mind. The extremists on both sides have a shared agenda; cause division, distrust, anger and violence. Both sides have the same intention. We cannot allow them to distort our perception. The establishment too is relatively happy when different groups of desperate people point the finger at each other because it prevents blame being correctly directed at them. Whenever we are looking for the solution to a problem we must identify who has power. By power I mean influence and money. The answer is not for us to move further from one another, crouched in opposing fortresses constructed from vindictive words. We need now to move closer to one another, to understand one another. If we can take anything heartening from this dreadful attack it is of course the actions of the three women, it’s always women, that boldly guarded Lee Rigby’s body as he lay needlessly murdered. These women looked beyond the fear and chaos and desperation and attuned instead to a higher code. One of virtue, integrity and strength. To truly demonstrate defiance in the face of this sad violence, we must be loving and compassionate to one another. Let’s look beyond our superficial and fleeting differences. The murderers want angry patriots to desecrate mosques and perpetuate violence. How futile their actions seem if we instead leave flowers at each other’s places of worship. Let’s reach out in the spirit of love and humanity and connect to one another, perhaps we will then see what is really behind this conflict, this division, this hatred and make that our focus.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Israeli police have admitted to collecting some 1,000 DNA samples from African refugees who have arrived in the country since 2012, after using a security-related clause to open criminal cases against some of the immigrants.
The news was comfirmed by Commander Eran Kamin of the Investigations Division, who reported on the issue to a Knesset committee on Tuesday.
The issue was first revealed in an article in Haaretz, which said that police officials had earlier had their request for collecting refugees DNA samples rejected by Knesset Committees. To bypass this rejection, the police opened criminal cases against the African migrants they had technically entered the country illegally, which the police then classified as a security-related crime.
"We are aware that those entering Israel have had unpleasant experiences, to say the least, but still, we're aware of the fact that they broke the law. The law defines them as infiltrators," Kamin said, according to Haaretz.
In 2012, Israeli police collected more than 600 samples. However, they have not solved any reported crimes as a result of this DNA collection practice, Haaretz said.
Police officials claim they are not creating a refugee database, and that the personal data they receive from migrants are placed in a general pool. African immigrants are nevertheless reportedly angered by the procedure, which they have slammed as discriminatory.
Human rights activists in Israel strongly oppose the practice: The criminal process is meant to reach the truth and punish offenders who have been legally convicted. But in terms of asylum-seekers, police are making a different use entirely of the criminal proceeding, said attorney Asaf Weitzen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers. He added that police were creating a new law and suiting it to a regime in which there is no longer a need for courts, legislators or public opinion.
Alva Kolan of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said this is "a cynical use of the Prevention of Infiltration Law, and squarely contradicts the International Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which explicitly states that infiltration, in itself, cannot be considered a criminal offense.
The DNA collection is another facet of the Israeli governments crackdown on immigrants coming from such African nations as Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. After being dubbed infiltrators and a threat to state security, they are encouraged to return to their native countries. Many of those unwilling to return home face indefinite jail terms.
Israel has regularly been accused of deporting Sudanese migrants back to their homeland, where visiting or living in Israel is a crime. In February, Israel reportedly forced at least 1,000 Sudanese to return home.
Israel described the deportations as voluntary leave, which the UN Refugee agency dismissed as unlikely. "Deporting Sudanese to Sudan would be the gravest violation possible of the refugee convention that Israel has signed a crime never before committed," the UN representative to Israel Michael Bavli said.
In August 2012, a report by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that Israel deported Sudanese asylum seekers by issuing documents with intentionally incorrect nationalities. Having no repatriation agreement with Sudan, Israel gave more than 100 Sudanese nationals passports or birth certificates labeling them citizens of South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011, the report stated.
The controversial bill dubbed as a snoopers charter, which would allow the government to track everyones email, Internet and cell phone texts usage, might have new life, todays Queenss speech revealed.
Proposals published as a part of the Queen's speech, which kicks off the start of the new parliamentary year in the UK, confirmed that the government has been in contact with Internet providers and is still considering passing new legislation which bears similarity to the draft Communications Data Bill (CDB) published last year.
"The Government is committed to ensuring that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to protect the public and ensure national security, Downing Street stated in a briefing note published alongside the speech.
"Communications data helps to keep the public safe: it is used by the police to investigate crimes, bring offenders to justice and save lives."
The speech noted that the problem of matching Internet Protocol (IP) addresses to people would be met with government proposals which would both enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.
"The government is looking at ways of addressing this issue with computer service providers. It may involve legislation, the proposals state.
The issue at hand refers to collating any given IP address with a specific individual using it, or in the case of Internet service providers who use the same IP address for more than one customer, identifying the correct user, Ben Woods from ZDNet reports.
Currently, British security services have the power to both identify and locate who has made a telephone call or sent a text message. However, Internet communications such as emails, instant messages, and Skype are identified and stored by their IP address as opposed to individual users.
The draft CDB would have required Internet service providers to store web browsing history, details of messages sent over social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter and voice calls made over the web. The legislation stipulated that this information would be retained for a year, with police being empowered to access it without first asking permission if they are currently investigating a crime.
Downing Street was quick to assuage public fears, claiming the new proposal is not about indiscriminately accessing internet data of innocent members of the public, it is about ensuring that police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to investigate the activities of criminals that take place online as well as offline."
In April, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claimed the snoopers charter would not pass as long as his party was a part of the coalition government.
"In other words the idea that the government will pass a law which means there will be a record kept of every website you visit, who you communicate with on social media sites, that's not going to happen."
"It's certainly not going to happen with Liberal Democrats in government," Clegg vowed.
However, Clegg has already shown a willingness to accept a watered down version of the initial draft, having agreed to the language in the Downing Street briefing note published alongside the Queens speech along with Prime Minister David Cameron.
Home Secretary Theresa May for her part still hopes to revive the bill in its totality, having long insisted the measures are necessary for police to keep pace with terrorists, major criminals and paedophiles in the digital age.
While May has long insisted that CDB proposals did not amount to snooping, Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, said the law by its very definition is about tracking innocent citizens.
"It doesn't matter what they intend to use the law for. Tracking the conversations of people who are not under suspicion of a crime is itself criminal, end of story. It doesn't matter how noble your goals are," Falkvinge argues.
He believes the mass degradation of civil liberties is a matter of utility, as UK authorities would rather take a shotgun approach to surveillance rather than systematically identify and target those suspected of crimes.
We have observed the surveillance state remove the requirements for a warrant to wiretap people. Apparently, it's now too inefficient to violate people's privacy one by one, so legislators would rather violate everybody's privacy all the time instead. It's like 1984, only worse," Falkvinge continued.
Israel has given the green light to build almost 300 homes in the West Bank amid US pledges to restart peace talks with Palestine. The move comes two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to halt the settlement program.
The new homes will be constructed at the settlement of Beit El near Ramallah in the West Bank.
"The Civil Administration has given the green light for 296 housing units at Beit El, but this is only the first stage of a process before actual construction can begin," a spokesperson for the Israeli government told reporters.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat slammed the settlement plans as an attempt to sabotage fresh efforts to encourage peace talks.
The announcement comes just two days after Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to halt the settlement program and give the Obama Administration a chance to kick-start peace talks.
This initiative proves Netanyahu is deceiving the world, Hagit Ofran of Israeli watchdog Peace Now told AFP. On the one hand, he lets us believe that he is putting the brakes on settlement and on the other, he gives the go-ahead for an enormous building project.
Negotiations hit a brick wall in 2010 when the Palestinians refused to pursue talks if Israel carried on with its settlement program, which is widely perceived to be in breach of international law.
US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Washington intends to rekindle peace talks between Israel and Palestine ahead of his trip to the Middle East in two weeks.
Kerry told reporters at the US ambassadors residence in Rome that the US has "with a seriousness of purpose that has not been present in a while and we all believe that we are working with a short time span."
Israeli Justice Minister and Chief Negotiator Tzipi Liivni praised Kerry for his initiative, stating that the US approach had the potential to change realities.
Following the UN vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state last November, Israel announced plans to construct another 3,000 homes on the disputed settlement sites. After President Obama visited Israel in March, no new tenders or building plans for the settlements have been reported.
Peace Now called the Israeli policy of restraint a way of avoiding allegations that they were undermining Kerrys efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai vowed Thursday to wring concessions out of the United States in negotiations for a security pact for the country, as Washington wants to maintain nine military bases in Afghanistan after ISAF troops withdraw in 2014.
As US and other NATO troops begin to withdraw from the country by 2014, Washington is in talks with Karzais government to allow the US Military to retain a residual presence. The size of the force has not yet been determined, but could number between 2,500 and 12,000, according to US officials.
The stated aim of the plan is that soldiers would continue to train the Afghan army and police, and carry out attacks on Al-Qaeda militants.
Our conditions are that the US intensify its efforts in the peace process, strengthen Afghanistans security forces, provide concrete support for the economy power, roads, dams and provide assistance in governance, Karzai said at a ceremony at Kabul University. "When they do this, we are ready to sign [a partnership agreement].
Previously, the US said that if 6,000 troops were kept behind in Afghanistan only the bases in Kabul and Bagram airfield would be maintained.
As the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) draws down troop deployments in Afghanistan, security in the country is still in a perilous state, with the Taliban able to operate largely with impunity.
While addressing a meeting of the Russian Security Council on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the ISAF has not achieved significant improvements in security and has done nothing to eliminate heroin production in the country, which is now at record levels.
There are all grounds to believe that we may face an escalation of the situation in Afghanistan in the short term, Putin said.
The foreign military contingent, whose backbone is American forces, has not achieved a breakthrough in the fight against terrorist and radical groups as yet. On the contrary, their activity has been particularly increasing lately, Putin explained.
Putins comments come after an embarrassing revelation earlier this week that British intelligence agency MI6 regularly provided Karzais government with ghost money in order to buy influence through bribes.
The money from MI6 is a fraction of what the CIA paid to Karzais government, and although the exact figures have been withheld for reason of national security they are estimated to run in the tens of millions of dollars.
Karzais government is deeply unpopular with many Afghans, and is widely seen as corrupt. There was significant overlap between the corrupt Afghan political establishment and the countrys illegal heroin trade, including the presidents brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was assassinated in 2011.
A UN report released last month showed that Afghan poppy production was rapidly expanding, and that the country was expected to produce 90 percent of the worlds opium this year.
World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has found himself in the midst of a media-fueled misunderstanding over his recent decision to boycott an international conference hosted by Israel in protest of that countrys treatment of Palestinians.
Professor Hawkings announcement that he has declined an invitation to headline the fifth annual Presidential Conference, hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, comes on the occasion of Peress 90th birthday.
Initially the theoretical physicist and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge had accepted the invitation, but came to reconsider once campaigners for Palestinian rights, who make up a vocal segment of the Cambridge academic community, pressured Hawking to skip the event.
Cambridge University first claimed that Hawkings decision to avoid the conference was due to his ill health - he has lived with motor neuron disease for 50 years, a condition which confines him to a wheelchair and requires him to communicate with the use of a computer terminal.
On Wednesday, though, Cambridge conceded that the professors decision was based on his politics, rather than his medical condition, once it was presented by The Guardian with the text of a letter sent by Hawking to organizers of the conference in Jerusalem.
The British university issued a statement, saying: We have now received confirmation from Prof Hawkings office that a letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli presidents office regarding his decision not to attend ... based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott.
Palestinian academics such as Samia al-Botmeh of Birzeit University in the West Bank welcomed the news.
"We tried to communicate two points to him. First, that Israel is a colonial entity that involves violations of the rights of the Palestinians, including academic freedom, and then asking him to stand in solidarity with Palestinian academic colleagues who have called for solidarity from international academics in the form of boycotting Israeli academia and academic institutions," al-Botmeh told The Guardian.
Daniel Taub, Israelis Ambassador to London, unsurprisingly expressed dissapointment with Hawkings decision.
"It is a great shame that Professor Hawking has withdrawn from the president's conference Rather than caving into pressure from political extremists, active participation in such events is a far more constructive way to promote progress and peace."
This year's Presidential Conference is expected to attract 5,000 attendees from around the world, including academics, artists and former heads of state. Former US president Bill Clinton, former UK prime minister Tony Blair, former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, Prince Albert of Monaco and Barbra Streisand have accepted invitations, according to organizers.
In April the Teachers Union of Ireland became the first lecturers association in Europe to join in the boycott, following actions by several individual universities and students' associations around the world. A wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has seen general success in recent years with the academic world, actors like Bruce Willis and Jean-Claude Van Damme and touring musicians including Stevie Wonder and Roger Waters.
Hawking has visited Israel several times in the past, though he became critical of the countrys treatment of the Palestinians during the 2008-2009 Gaza Massacre, known in Israel as IDF Operation Cast Lead.
Thursday, May 02, 2013
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