Donald Trump’s candidacy has redefined how presidential candidates should act and speak, running a campaign that has shocked many Americans. Trump’s huge base of support can be put into context by comparing him to another charismatic leader: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Listen to how the two polarizing figures share common ideals and strategies, understand how each has gained popular support, and consider the repercussions of each of their respective movements.
In a rare show of bipartisanship on September 28 this year, the United States Congress overwhelmingly overrode President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Congress ignored the president’s repeated warning that the bill would set a “dangerous precedent” for individuals and nations across the globe to sue the American government and its employees for overseas actions. US courts will now permit civil claims against foreign nations or officials for acts of terrorism on American soil, consequently dismissing foreign nations’ claims to sovereign immunity. Since fifteen of the nineteen terrorists involved in 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, JASTA allows families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government for playing an alleged role in the attacks. The claim contains no grounds as the US 9/11 commision found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” JASTA reveals the longstanding American hypocrisy concerning sovereign immunity. In addition, it will have grave domestic and worldwide implications, such as potential reciprocal action from other nations, damaging a long-standing US-Saudi relation which has cooled significantly since the Iran Nuclear Deal. Ultimately, JASTA will also likely hinder urgent cooperative efforts against battling ISIS and resolving regional conflicts in the Middle East.
The US has long opposed international courts capable of holding the American military and citizens to a global standard of justice, primarily the International Criminal Court (ICC). In 2002, the Bush Administration passed the American Servicemembers Protection (ASP). This law, commonly labeled as the ‘Hague Invasion Act’ permits the use of military force to liberate American citizens held up by the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands. In addition, ASP threatens the withdrawal of US military forces from any country seeking to ratify the ICC’s treaty, the Roman Statute. The law also prohibits US contribution to UN peacekeeping missions unless the US is granted immunity from any form of prosecution. As other nations seek to “strengthen the rule of law,” the US has long protected itself from international prosecution, strong-arming and sculpting uniform global jurisdictive systems to its own liking. JASTA is just the latest legislation that sheds light on such hypocrisy and the double standard on international criminality the US upholds.
Furthermore, JASTA leaves the US more susceptible to reciprocal action from foreign nations and risks damaging US relations with the world. Repeated use of US drone-strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, and Afghanistan could now result in these nations to consider these American acts of terrorism, subjecting the US to potential liability in foreign courts which often operate under different legal standards. Furthermore, with the enactment of JASTA, the US risks losing billions of dollars in investment from Saudi Arabia, one of its top trading partners. Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir threatened to sell up to $750 billion in Saudi treasury securities and other assets. Taking into account the fact that the US has been involved, be it militarily, economically, or politically in numerous countries, such a move by Saudi Arabia would likely diminish overall cooperation and confidence in the US around the globe. Countries may become wary of furthering ties with the US, as JASTA waives their claims to sovereign immunity. Abdullatif al-Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), condemned JASTA, labelling it “contrary to the foundations and principles of relations between states and the principle of sovereign immunity enjoyed by states.” Even Russia and the European Union (EU) strongly condemned the legislation, with the Russian foreign ministry stating, “The United States, where many politicians have come to believe in their own ‘uniqueness,’ insistently continues along the line of extending its jurisdiction to the entire world, disregarding the notions of state sovereignty and common sense.” A spokesperson of the EU said, “We do not believe the approach set out in the JASTA is in the interest of either the EU and US.” JASTA will most likely set off a reciprocal jurisdiction warfare against the US, putting its employees abroad in positions of vulnerability and damaging its foreign ties, as seen from the swift international denunciation of the legislation.
While JASTA may result in mostly domestic repercussions, it will also have implications for its specifically targeted nations, such as Saudi Arabia. Tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia have remained high since the signing of the Iran Nuclear Deal, which the Saudis see as an American pivot to its longtime regional nemesis. The enactment of JASTA is very ill-timed for Saudi Arabia, which is currently pursuing its Vision 2030 – an economic blueprint for the nation aimed at decreasing its dependency on oil by increasing non-oil revenue. Vision 2030 has already attracted significant American interest from large corporations, economists, and financiers. Talks earlier this year in June between the American government’s economic team and the Saudi Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources addressed the importance of oil and energy, two resources serving as major cornerstones of bilateral economic relations.
Saudi Arabia currently does not need any hiccups in improving bilateral relations with the US, especially while initiating its national transformation plan that depends significantly on foreign investors. Therefore, with the enactment of JASTA and the Saudi threat to sell billions of dollars in assets in the US, the Arab nation is put in a highly complicated situation. Saudi Arabia is now faced with the choice of continuing its pursuit of open ties with the US, a nation that has waived its sovereign immunity rights through JASTA, and consequently risk domestic and international audience costs, or carrying forth with its threat and risk the loss of major American investors in this critical time. Of course, while Saudi Arabia has numerous business partners in Asia and Europe, the United States still remains one of its top major trading partners. Hence, the passage of JASTA significantly complicates the longstanding question on the table — whether the US needs Saudi Arabia more or the contrary.
Yet, beyond these legal and economic repercussions, the more urgent reality that could be gravely damaged by JASTA is the necessity for Saudi cooperation with the US in resolving regional issues. The US needs Saudi Arabia and its counterterrorism intelligence in combatting the Islamic State, resolving the Syrian and Yemen wars, and bringing about some form of “cold peace” to the region with Saudi Arabia’s regional enemy, Iran. Without Saudi Arabia, the US would face greater challenges from countries with highly differing foreign policies, such as Turkey and Russia, when attempting to resolve these issues on international platforms. JASTA may possibly deliver a major blow to the long-standing US-Saudi alliance, however strained it may already be, thus hindering the two major nations’ overall efforts in seeking solutions to the multitude of issues in the Middle East. Furthermore, as JASTA potentially fuels existing anti-American sentiment in the Arab world, the US must take into account that Saudi Arabia still remains the home of the fundamentalist branch of Islam, Wahhabism, which has cultivated numerous extremists the US desperately tries to defeat. Needless to say, it does not take an expert to comprehend the dangers this may result in.
With its exposure of flagrant American hypocrisy surrounding sovereign immunity, the possibility of putting Americans at home and abroad at risk, and the potential disruptions and tensions in the international community it may cause, JASTA is simply just not the best way at all to stand in solidarity with 9/11 families.
In 2012, pictures emerged of US soldiers in the Helmand province guarding poppy fields. These fields are the sources of opium, which is used to make heroin. Afghanistan is currently the supplier for 90% of the world’s heroin. The United States should invest in destroying the poppy fields in Afghanistan for three reasons: to stop the rampant addiction in the region, to stop the illegal drug trade, and to help the Afghani government gain more control of the Taliban. In order to do this, the US should negotiate with the Afghani government to have the Drug Enforcement Agency Kabul Country Office take a greater lead on drug operations in Taliban controlled regions, address the the ways that heroin is leaving the country, and offer alternative occupation for those who currently work in poppy fields.
As of 2014, the US spent $8 billion in Afghanistan for counter narcotics. There is about 824 square miles (224,000 hectares) of land used for poppy cultivation in 2014. While clearly rampant throughout the country, growing poppies is illegal under Afghan law. This drug trade accounts for over a third of the Taliban’s income. The terrorist group profits from taxing poppy farmers and merchants, getting money from the truckers and opium labs, and selling to international narcotics cartels. The largest cultivation province is the Helmand province. Coincidentally, there are US troops still stationed in the Helmand province. The US may be avoiding eradication of the poppy fields in fear of potential consequences for local farmers under Taliban rule. However, allowing the illegal production to continue is not the answer to employment issues in the country.
By getting rid of the poppy fields, Afghanistan can better address the growing problem with drug addiction. The number of drug addicts in Afghanistan has gone from 1.6 million in 2012 to 3 million in 2015, accounting for 10% of the population. Furthermore, the drug that once was transported into the country is now supplied domestically, building upon the existing child addiction problem. Without the money to feed their children, parents have resorted to using puffs of heroin to help stave off hunger. This quick solution has terribly detrimental long-term effects on children. Repeated use of heroin changes the physical structure as well as the physiology of the brain. This creates an imbalance within the brain that is very difficult to fix. Long term use affects decision-making abilities, ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stressful situations. While there is no quick fix for opium addicts, decreasing the amount of heroin available is a start. Furthermore, addressing addiction will help ensure a stable Afghani government in the future.
From another angle, eliminating the Taliban’s drug source can effectively slow down the drug trade. The number heroin addicts in the US has been rising exponentially in the last decade. Decreasing the amount available generates a feedback effect that also lowers the number of addicts. With fewer addicts, less money will need to go into drug treatment–in turn helping the US government save money on future aid expenses. Similar trends would be seen in other countries considering that Afghanistan sources 90% of the drug.
Furthermore, removing heroin would cause the Taliban to lose a third of its budget and affect its capabilities to fight. While the US government has been working with the Afghani government to gain power back from the Taliban, the fundamentalist movement still maintains a strong grip in Afghanistan. Although a smaller budget may not destroy the group, it would slow down their ability to attack. With fewer attacks and the Taliban searching for other avenues of income, the Afghani government can have a better chance at dismantling the terrorist organization.
However, there are people that reside within the Taliban controlled regions. Although this accounts for only 6.4% of the population, many of these people that are working in the poppy fields rely on the drug trade. While this is already part of the strategy used by the United States, more funds should be dedicated to finding other avenues of income for local people.
Furthermore, eradicating the poppy seeds should only be one part of the solution. The US should negotiate with the Afghani government to have the DEA Kabul Country Office take a greater lead on drug operations in Taliban controlled regions. Within any unstable and weak government, corruption runs rampant; there has been much evidence indicating corruption in Afghanistan. Therefore, if the US is able to take greater control of the drug reduction operations, there may be better oversight to prevent corruption. Part of the DEA’s approach should involve addressing the different ways that heroin is leaving the country. This may require stricter airport security or border control. If the Taliban has less funds, less resources, and less ways of selling the heroin, it will be substantially weakened, which may ultimately allow the central government to reclaim control more easily.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the most revolutionary, comprehensive international agreement that any country has ever signed. Since the end of the Second World War, the U.S. has pursued a general policy of trade liberalization, and President Reagan began to more aggressively do so in the 1980s. This kicked off a new era of globalization largely defined by increasingly interconnected nations, cultures, and markets that continues to this day, and has come to define the world community. Unfortunately, this manner of embracing globalization through trade does not account for many of the most important societal developments and issues today. Instead, it favors an almost purely “economy-first” approach. In an age of rapid globalization-driven policy reforms, the TPP provides promising insights into potential future changes and new directions the expanding process of international interdependency could take.
The TPP is a proposed agreement between twelve Pacific Rim nations that account for nearly forty percent of global GDP, with a value of intra-group trade at $2.08 trillion in 2014. The 5,500 page agreement contains thirty chapters on topics ranging from E-commerce to Investment to Intellectual Property. Although the reduction in barriers to trade is highly impactful and affects roughly 18,000 tariffs, the TPP goes beyond just trade liberalization. The TPP represents a historic move towards a more modernized and globalized society, and indicates a shift away from solely economic-based policy towards a more responsible global framework.
The TPP attempts to address modern challenges at the forefront of recent international debates. A prominent example of how the TPP is the most advanced, modern international agreement is the twentieth chapter, “Environment.” Many of the United States’ FTAs have included environmental provisions; however, these provisions have been rather toothless. The US-Australia FTA, for example, essentially contains an agreement to comply with the existing environmental transparency laws and excludes those laws from the agreement’s dispute settlement provisions. Japan, one of the most environmentally responsible countries in the world, has signed 24 FTAs (sometimes called Economic Partnership Agreements) and not a single one contains an environmental chapter or even a side agreement on environmentally responsible policy. Requirements within the TPP Environment chapter, like the ban on subsidizing fishing of overfished stocks, are subject to the agreement’s dispute settlement mechanisms. This means states will punish others for non-compliance. This new, more mandatory approach is indicative of a new set of policy initiatives aimed at pursuing a more conscientious form of globalization.
There are countless other sections in the Trans Pacific Partnership that represent unprecedented advances in achieving transnational regulatory harmonization. Nevertheless, there are plenty of counter-arguments cited as rationale for not signing the TPP. Liberal Democrats worry the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions will undermine the environment chapter, though even if they did that’s hardly an effective argument for tossing the agreement altogether. It’s better to have environmental protections that very occasionally are difficult to enforce than to have absolutely none at all. Moreover, some members of the U.S. Congress from both parties tend to argue (rather loudly and simplistically) that TPP will destroy jobs, even though anyone with even a basic understanding of economics knows that the effects of free trade on employment are far more complex and nuanced. Yes, liberalization of trade destroys jobs in certain industries. This is through a process known as “job churn,” by which liberalizing trade disrupts employment to the detriment of some industries and the benefit others. Critically, though, the number of jobs lost is outweighed by the number of jobs created by liberalizing trade. Perhaps that’s why most experts say that although some jobs, mainly manufacturing ones, will be lost due to the TPP, a higher amount of jobs will be created, and in higher-paying industries. These are just some of the many hotly contested issues that abound discussions on the TPP.
One can find countless responses to the vast majority of arguments in favor of ratifying the TPP. However, there is one main argument in favor of TPP that its opponents have yet to devise a viable counter-argument to: Failing to sign the TPP cedes the strategic and economic high ground to China, and potentially destroys any opportunity for spreading progressive regulation to some of the key economic powers in the world.
A common mistake made when analyzing the TPP is assuming a failure to ratify is tantamount to preservation of the status quo. It is very much not. As the US Congress quibbles over whether or not to ratify TPP, China is vehemently pushing an economic agenda of its own in East and Southeast Asia. For years, China has been racing to complete the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). RCEP includes all the TPP nations outside the Americas, in addition to India, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Taken in terms of population, RCEP nations account for nearly half of the world’s population. Crucially, RCEP includes virtually none of the countless progressive, modern regulatory advancements provided for in the TPP, like environmental protections, and would allow China to dictate the terms of economic activity for 50% of the world, leaving the United States to play by someone else’s far less comprehensive rules in Asia and elsewhere. In short, RCEP represents the sort of economy-first approach to international cooperation that has, for decades, failed to address some of the most pressing issues facing the global population.
Failing to ratify TPP and allowing RCEP to become to law of land in the world’s fastest-growing region would be nothing short of a catastrophe. Liberal Democrats would never see the improvements in human rights, labor, and environmental standards that they so-love to complain the TPP lacks. Conservative Republicans would have actively participated in the act of ceding greater economic authority to China, which they and their presidential candidate erroneously attribute much of America’s problems to; and the world would remain on its current course of globalizing trade that has failed to solve so many paramount issues.
This article says little of the highly complex economic implications of the agreement that both proponents and opponents often oversimplify to advance their positions. The TPP’s ratification, unfortunately, is far from guaranteed and if ratified, it will be some time before the public can get beyond mere projections and truly begin observing tangible impacts. This article is simply a recognition that in the era of rapid and seemingly uncontrollable globalization and ever-changing centers of economic growth, the TPP provides the global citizenry with a glimpse into one potential future of international cooperation. The TPP transcends the economic metrics and market-based approaches that have dominated international cooperation for decades, and endeavors to fundamentally improve the manner in which governments around the world embrace the phenomenon of globalization.
The outcome of the European Union (EU) referendum in the United Kingdom (UK) has ushered in a period of geopolitical and economic uncertainty. As the UK grapples with the transition, the Obama administration has vowed to uphold the “special relationship” between the two countries. Maintaining strong ties with the UK is imperative to preserving a stable international system, and it is only appropriate for the United States (US) to respect the democratic processes that led to the Brexit victory. However, the implications of its success must not be ignored. Brexit serves as definitive proof that fears and frustrations resulting from new trends in globalization are a powerful force. Propelled by those same forces, Donald Trump’s campaign has a real shot at securing him a spot in the oval office.
UK involvement in the EU is a multi-faceted issue deserving of debate, however the anti-immigration misinformation spread by Leave campaigners undermined efforts to engage in informed dialogue. The core of the campaign was an appeal to xenophobic sentiment and the belief that EU immigration is harmful to the economic prospects of UK nationals. However, studies indicate there is no correlation at either the national or local level between immigration and unemployment or lower wages. Furthermore, there is no guarantee leaving the EU will curb immigration. The UK will likely maintain relatively unrestricted immigration policies within the EU in order to negotiate favorable trade deals, much like Norway and Switzerland. By shifting the focus of the campaign to an argument with a shaky factual basis, the success of the referendum hinged on cultivating a climate of fear in which facts were eclipsed by impassioned rhetoric. The anger which fueled Brexit has not dissipated after the vote, and as time goes on, the Leave leaders’ inability to deliver on their promises will only exacerbate social and political tensions.
The events in the UK may seem inconsequential to the US electorate, but the parallels between the rise of Donald Trump and the success of Brexit are important to consider as the presidential election approaches. Trump’s movement shares a reliance on nostalgia and intense nationalism, as well as the tendency to blame outsiders—both foreign powers and immigrants—for the troubles of the nation. His no-nonsense stance on immigration has become one of his strongest selling points, but poses the same problems as Brexit by oversimplifying and manipulating facts. Trump claims that immigrants usurp US jobs. However, this idea relies on the assumption that there is a finite supply of jobs in the country. In reality, the economy is more complex than that. A growing immigrant population not only creates a larger labor force, it also creates a larger consumer base, which stimulates economic growth. Studies show that immigrants do not displace native workers, rather they allow for labor specialization. Unskilled immigrants fill less desirable manual-labor jobs and create opportunities for native-born workers to take up more managerial level positions where strong English skills are required. Furthermore, some sectors of the economy are heavily dependent on immigrant labor, such as agriculture where nearly half of those employed are undocumented immigrants. Trump’s proposed deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants would result in the loss of many jobs for US citizens whose industries are reliant on immigrant labor and lead to a private-sector decline amounting to billions of dollars.
Trump’s movement is rooted in the same conditions that propelled the success of Brexit: an environment where fear and anger cloud judgement. He exploited fear during the Republican National Convention, in which the night’s theme was “make America safe again.” The nation’s insecurity was blamed in part on undocumented immigrants with criminal histories who “roam free to threaten peaceful citizens”. Trump failed to mention that the national crime rate has been dropping steadily over the years and that undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes than native born citizens. The lack of context offered by his claims fuels hostility towards all undocumented immigrants, including the vast majority who hold no criminal record. By demonizing immigrants, Trump is promoting divisive rhetoric and intensifying cultural and ethnic schisms at a time when the US is already polarized. The consequences of this campaign tactic are evident in the UK, which has experienced an uptick in hate crimes towards immigrants since the referendum. Similarly, the prevalence of violence at Trump’s rallies will likely escalate as the election continues. His failure to adequately address the hostility surrounding his campaign and his active encouragement of violence should be a red flag; he is a candidate that thrives on chaos.
Of course, challenging the visions of Trump and the Leave campaigners should not be confused with an attempt to dismiss the concerns of their supporters. We must acknowledge that the anger they have stirred up is legitimate, but misdirected. The troubles of the working class should not be blamed on one specific country or group of people, but rather on the ubiquitous force of globalization. While virtually all economists would agree that an increasingly integrated global economy is beneficial overall, it inevitably creates distinct winners and losers. In wealthy and technology-rich countries like the US and UK, the winners are skilled workers employed in the service and tech sectors, while the losers are the blue-collar manufacturing workers. As a result, many in the working class want to turn back the clock to a time when manufacturing was strong by implementing strict immigration reform and protectionist trade policies. Unfortunately, the costs of an attempt to halt globalization and free trade would outweigh any benefits. It would slow economic growth, raise the price of consumer goods, and likely cause other countries to retaliate by putting tariffs on our exports. Therefore, we should be approaching the concerns of the working class in other ways; perhaps by expanding social welfare programs or promoting subsidized job training programs, like Trade Adjustment Assistance, that aim to get trade-affected workers back on their feet in a more prosperous industry.
Overall, the phenomenon of different classes of people pitted against each other is not a new one. However, globalization has heightened class tensions to a point where demagogues like Trump and Boris Johnson are able to gain influence by capitalizing on these frustrations. The reality is, while Trump’s movement has given a voice to people who need it, his angry vows to “make America great again” are hollow. Devoid of an acceptance of reality, his proposed policies would do more harm than good. We must tread carefully in the upcoming election. No matter what the outcome is, the divisions in US society that Trump has exploited will not go away and should be approached with pragmatism and empathy.
A few months ago, I read the heartbreaking story of Mariya Karimjee, an American girl of South Asian origin who underwent a female genital mutilation (FGM) procedure when she was four years of age. She had very faint memories of being pinned down with her legs apart while a group of ladies hovered around her. She remembered the pain, and the special treatment she received for a while, as if it made up for this heinous crime. Only years later, upon reaching sexual maturity, did she actually understand the magnitude of the events of that day, and the fact that her body and life had been irreversibly damaged.
FGM is defined by the United Nations Population Fund as the “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. Its inception is rooted in gender inequality, as it marks an attempt to curb a woman’s sexual desire and ensure she remains pure, modest, faithful and loyal. A cut woman’s genitalia is also seen as aesthetically pleasing by the men in the communities where cutting is the norm. Modifications to the female genitalia are often carried out by midwives–women with some medical experience who have taken on the role of cutter–or male barbers who lack medical expertise entirely. Their tools are varied and range from knives, razors, scissors, sharpened rocks, and glass to fingernails. These tools are often reused on multiple girls, tremendously increasing the chances of disease transmittance. If the hole left behind is too large according to the girl’s family, the procedure might have to be repeated. Usually, the hole is just big enough to allow the passage of urine or menstrual blood. Sometimes general anesthesia is used, sometimes local, sometimes none at all.
FGM causes permanent damage to the female sex organ. Apart from excruciating pain during intercourse, childbirth, and menstruation, it can be responsible for chronic complications to women’s sexual and reproductive health. Also, it is important to note that the whole purpose of FGM is based on the status of women as second class citizens. It revolves around their subjugation, ensuring that pleasure is removed from a woman’s sexual activity, thus keeping her desires ‘in control’. Female chastity is the goal, while the negative physical and mental outcomes are overlooked. For the purpose of sexual intercourse after marriage, typically a midwife cuts the opening with a knife, or the work is left to the husband. To be able to fully make the opening through the latter process may take up to days, the hole opening up little at a time, causing tremendous pain to the woman throughout. There are no known health benefits of FGM.
The number of women who are at risk of undergoing FGM procedures in the United States has doubled in the last ten years. Part of this could be attributed to increased immigration from countries where FGM is widely practiced. It is estimated that over 300,000 women and girls in the US have undergone the procedure or are at risk. Some parents take their daughters out of the country for “vacation cutting” to complete the procedure in their home countries before coming back to the US. Vacation cutting is illegal in the US at the federal level, but many states do not have any laws that criminalize it. There have been attempts by politicians trying to push for stricter regulations, and adopt some policies commonly used in other countries. One example of such a country is the United Kingdom, where law enforcement agencies at airports are constantly on the lookout for parents trying to send or take their daughters abroad for cutting. Travellers to certain countries are given passport inserts informing them that cutting British citizens, even if they are abroad, is illegal. In the US, things are quite different. For instance, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website has a page detailing what FGM is, and advises anyone at risk to call a hotline number listed there. However, this hotline number is that of the Office of Women’s Health, within the Department of Health and Human Services. It is not a line dedicated to FGM. This is important because a girl will typically call this number when she is tremendously fearful of what might be coming, and is in imminent danger. Also, if the victim happens to be abroad at the time of the incident, the US State Department can help in transporting her back to the US, but would have to seek help from local law enforcement.
It is clear that having laws is not enough to stop FGM. An enormous amount of change in thoughts and ideologies is required. Victims are almost always shamed into silence. The thought of going to the police against your own parents’ wishes can loom heavy on a child. Also, it is difficult to charge the perpetrator in the absence of a witness, as it is possible that the crime may have been committed by relatives and against the wishes of the parents. Also, many teachers, healthcare providers and social workers do not always understand the enormity of the crime, especially because it is coupled with foreign cultural beliefs. Besides, parents, the perpetrators in this case, are otherwise extremely caring, in all other aspects just like how parents should be. These are usually the only exceptions to their behaviour, steeped in their inability to break through the shackles of blind traditions forced upon them.
While legislative action is welcome, countries showing the fastest progress have seen tremendous initiative from community leaders and organizations, such as in Burkina Faso and Senegal. In Tanzania, traditional cutters stopped practicing this trade after being educated in the dangers of FGM and the impact it has on women. To ensure they had another source of income, they were trained in other vocations, for example, batik making. Social grassroot movements have had the strongest impact on cultural beliefs and traditions, primarily because activists are most aware of how these communities think and which arguments are most effective. Sensitivity towards local cultures and traditions is important. Emphasis should be on educating people about the harm caused by FGM, as opposed to attacking it as a cultural malpractice. Bringing in powerful figures well known in the community to advocate against these practices will be helpful. Since there is often a belief that not getting circumcised is haram (religiously immoral), community outreach and advocacy by religious leaders and community elders would be especially beneficial.
Dahabo Musa, a Somalian poet, beautifully articulates the emotional trauma of FGM in a poem called Feminine Pains, part of which is presented below:
As the birth bursts, I cry for help, when the battered flesh tears.
No mercy, push! They say.
It is only feminine pain!
And now I appeal:
I appeal for love lost, for dreams broken,
For the right to live as a whole human being.
If anything, this poignant piece of writing should be reason enough to stop this practice.
The first part of this article addresses integration policies in France and may be read in full here.
Sweden: A multicultural model
Sweden has struggled with sub-replacement fertility since millions of Swedes fled poverty and religious persecution during the great emigration, a wave of migration which endured between 1850 and 1939. The process of accepting and integrating refugee and immigrant populations in Sweden has therefore been a mutually-beneficial one. In exchange for asylum, refugees augment Sweden’s dwindling population of young laborers. As highlighted in a 2015 article about a hospital in Gävleborg where around 10% of doctors are refugees, their contribution has been significant.
Sweden is developing a reputation abroad for being particularly hospitable to immigrants and received over 160,000 individuals in 2015 alone. In many ways, Sweden’s response to the refugee crisis has been exemplary. The country has instituted a number of integration programs aimed at easing immigrants’ transitions into Swedish society by teaching them about Swedish culture and instructing them in the language. The government extends a multitude of benefits to refugees including welfare and housing. Progressive legislation demonstrates Sweden’s commitment to “diversity, multiculturalism, and international cooperation” and communicates to immigrant populations that their cultural traditions are welcome and valued by the Swedish population.
Despite these victories, Sweden too has experienced social turmoil as a result of immigration. According to an annual survey conducted by Gothenburg University this year, 53% of Swedes identify immigration and integration as the most pressing social issue facing their country, marking a nearly twofold increase from last year’s result of 27%. This rising concern is likely correlated to the dramatic increase in the volume of immigrants entering the country, many of whom Sweden is struggling to acommodate.
Like France, Sweden is home to a number of densely populated, urban, and largely immigrant-inhabited cities riddled with poverty and violence. For example, Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city—where 32% of the population is foreign-born (the national average hovers around 14%)—made international headlines last year for its sudden spike in violent crime, and the community remains unstable. Sverigedemokraterna, Sweden’s right-wing conservative party, is responding in full force with xenophobic rhetoric and anti-immigration policy.
However, contrary to what critics of immigration in Sweden are suggesting, the rise of violence in major metropolitan areas like Malmö is not evidence of the failure of multicultural integration programs. The fact that violence and crime perpetrated by immigrants occurs almost exclusively in isolated urban communities instead speaks to the success of integration programs operating in small villages. The meaningful, one-on-one interactions taking place in rural communities are simply less feasible in rapid-pace city environments where etiquette demands less from people to begin with.
Sweden would do well to implement the sort of one-on-one, community-led mentorship efforts which have been successful in smaller towns and cities in urban areas. In order to prevent the formation of socially isolated immigrant communities, genuine channels of communication between native and immigrant populations must be open from the start, and they must remain so throughout the integration process.
A European model for integration
When the EU begins—as it must—to design European guidelines for integration, it should consider the strengths and weaknesses of existing models. Like Sweden, it should encourage mentorship programs that allow native and non-native individuals to get to know one another. However, it also should improve the efficacy and reach of these programs by ensuring that they are successfully implemented in urban environments as well as villages. In the French vein, the EU must ensure that its legal systems are prepared to serve individuals of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds equally. However, it must also be wary of assimilationist policy and prepared to accept that the process of integration will involve reciprocal cultural exchange. If Europe fails to take these steps, poorly-integrated immigrant communities will continue to grow in size and scope and social isolation will increase accordingly.
Europe’s plan to redistribute refugees and asylum seekers proportionally across Europe is a good one. As the success of small-scale programs in Sweden has demonstrated, integration is most successful where the ratio of immigrants to native population is low enough to allow for meaningful interaction between the two groups. However, if, like in France, enough is not done to facilitate this sort of cross-cultural exchange in the first place, the EU’s redistribution plan will do little to resolve the social turmoil unleashed by the inundation of refugees into Europe and will further deteriorate inter-cultural relations moving forward.
The urgency of the refugee crisis demands an immediate response from Europe. However, it also presents an excellent opportunity for countries like France and Sweden to reconsider their models of integration, identify their weaknesses, and construct the foundation for societies richer in empathy and culture.
In 2015, over 1.3 million people displaced by war and conflict sought asylum in Europe. Of this number, only 292,540 were refugees—individuals approved for asylum and guaranteed protection by the European Union (EU)—and one million were migrants—individuals who have not completed the legal process of claiming asylum. This massive wave of forced migration has proved a challenge for the EU, whose member states have responded with varying commitments to accepting displaced people. Thus far, Greece and Italy have borne the burden of processing applications for asylum, and the vast majority of refugees have settled in Germany, Hungary, and Sweden.
When David O’Sullivan, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States, spoke at UCLA earlier this month, he emphasized the need for a unified European response to the refugee crisis. According to O’Sullivan, the solution to what many Europeans perceive as an insurmountable problem is the proportionate redistribution of refugees and asylum seekers between the European member states. This perspective is the driving force behind recent EU legislation outlining redistribution procedures and controlling the safe and legal arrival of refugees by land and sea.
However, the EU has failed to address a third, equally necessary response to the refugee crisis: integration. Europe does not currently have an integration plan for the millions of people resettling across the continent, a fact which is made more disconcerting by Europe’s long history of unsuccessful immigrant integration.
Over the course of the past few decades, isolated and predominantly immigrant communities have become an increasingly common feature of European suburbs. One such community, Molenbeek St. Jean—the so-called “jihadi capital of Europe” in western Brussels—has been under scrutiny in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. Five individuals involved in November’s Paris attacks were tied to the community, and it was implicated again during the investigation of the Brussels attacks in March. Molenbeek St. Jean and its association with a violent and poorly-integrated immigrant population represents a larger European problem: the social segregation of native and non-native populations.
While the refugee crisis differs from Europe’s tradition of immigration in many respects, the process of refugee integration will face many of the same challenges. Namely, in order for successful integration to take place, native and non-native communities must overcome the profound socio-cultural divides which separate them. There is no apparent answer for how to address this problem. However, there are lessons to be learned from legislation and policies already implemented by European nations.
Two particularly interesting targets for comparison are France and Sweden, which have adopted opposing methodologies with respect to immigration. France, commanding a clearly-defined and longstanding national identity, expects immigrants and refugees to assimilate to French culture and traditions. Meanwhile, the Swedish government has adopted a multicultural approach, incorporating the customs of refugees and immigrants into a broader Swedish identity. Neither strategy has been wholly successful in producing social harmony, and closer study reveals why: both models fail to produce organic social interaction between native and immigrant populations. Without this crucial ingredient, Europe will not arrive at a sustainable solution for the refugee crisis.
France: An assimilationist model
Any discussion about immigration in France must begin with the French tradition of laïcité. The term, which was coined during the French Revolution and ultimately formalized in a 1905 law, can be loosely summarized as an equivalent to the United States’ separation of church and state. However, its definition relies on a different set of principles which, in practice, render its implementation problematic on a social scale.
While the American tenet of separation of church and state seeks to protect freedom of religion and individual liberty, laïcité’s end goal is to achieve social equality by preventing religiously-motivated discrimination. It draws a sharp distinction between private and public life and decrees that while individuals are free to practice whichever religion they choose in their private life, religion shall in no capacity infringe on the public sphere. Unlike the separation of church and state in the United States—which seeks to grant equal religious liberty to all US citizens—laïcité promotes equality by preventing anyone from practicing their religion in the public sphere. The strategy here is to achieve equality by removing religion from the social equation. Laïcité privileges French identity over other cultural and religious identities so as to ensure that all French citizens are viewed as French first and foremost and that their status in the eyes of the law is protected from religious bias.
Laïcité achieved international controversy following a March 2004 law banning students from wearing symbols or clothing denoting religious affiliation in schools. Other laws apply this precedent to all public institutions, ranging from government offices to post offices. This legislation has proved particularly problematic for French Muslim women who wish to wear headscarves in accordance with their religious values, making laïcité’s incompatibility with current societal truths clear.
Laïcité is a system designed for a mono-cultural, Catholic—or Christian at best—French society. It was not conceived during a time in which multiculturalism was prevalent, nor has it evolved to match the needs of France’s diversifying population. Instead, it is reinforcing a narrow definition of French national identity which does not include the multi-faceted racial, cultural, and ethnic dimensions of modern France.
The ideology which shaped laïcité is a deeply-ingrained component of the French identity. Although its ramifications on the reception of immigrants in France are complex and far-reaching, they may be condensed broadly into two categories:
Firstly, the restrictive cultural norms imposed by laïcité make little room for immigrants’ diverse religions and cultures. While studying in France, I asked a French person I knew well to explain to me what one had to do to “be French” in modern France. His answer was simple: “you just have to obey our laws.” That’s precisely the problem. French laws, as they stand, are not feasible for segments of the population that don’t resemble the sort of French people they were designed for. This is especially true for France’s growing Muslim population, which continues to challenge France’s cultural norms. Most recently, a Muslim student in Northwestern France was sent home for wearing a long skirt—a choice which her school’s administration interpreted as a religious statement. There has also been controversy surrounding French schools’ refusal to serve Halal food in cafeterias. These incidents stand in sharp contrast to the norm of institutionalized Catholicism in France, where many schools hold mass daily and nearly all Roman Catholic holidays are observed by the French state.
However, those aspiring to earn the social status of citizen in France have no choice but to assimilate to French cultural and religious norms. This is made difficult by the popular disdain of many native French for immigrant communities, perpetuating a vicious circle of social isolation. The French are inclined to distrust and disapprove of growing immigrant neighborhoods like those in Seine-Saint-Denis and Marseilles because they perceive their failure to integrate as an affront to French tradition and hospitality rooted in immigrants’ lack of interest in integrating. This attitude contributes to the stigma which makes it difficult for immigrants and refugees to integrate in the first place, widening the social gap between these populations and attesting to the inefficacy of laïcité as a strategy for integration.
Secondly, because religion—and, by extension, religious and cultural differences—are taboo in France, relations between the ethnically French and the multicultural “new French” are plagued by a fundamental lack of mutual understanding. Lines of communication between these increasingly isolated populations are cut in part because their social spheres do not overlap, but also because dialogue about the issues which separate them is made uncomfortable by prevailing cultural norms.
France’s policies, built around the notion of laïcité, reinforce the ideological divide between native and non-native populations before they have an opportunity to interact. The sociocultural repercussions of this method have already posed a problem in ethnically-divided France, and the addition of hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers is likely to escalate existing tensions within France if efforts are not made to bridge these polarized communities.
The second part of this article details Swedish integration policy and proposes a model of integration for Europe. Visit The Generation website later this week to read more.
The Generation is, first and foremost, a foreign affairs magazine. After the painful events that occurred on campus yesterday, however, I realized that it is a magazine built on educating others through the written word, especially UCLA students and faculty. Normally the golden rule of articles published to The Generation is that the topic must cross at least one border, making the subject of each article international in scope. In this instance, I would argue that feelings of grief and sadness do more than cross borders; they are an integral part of the human condition. Rather than including comments regarding shootings, violence or death in other parts of the world, I believe it is our duty at The Generation to post this statement as it is. If the writing here helps even one person from the UCLA community move through this tragedy, or supports others who have dealt with similar violence, we will have done our job as journalists.
Yesterday morning, UCLA and the surrounding community was struck by news of danger and death. Many, including myself, felt a deep sense of insecurity that manifested itself in adrenaline and fear. After the active situation on campus had ended, I was overcome with sadness and empathy for the two who lost their lives in the Engineering IV building. My mind also jumped to the near future: news headlines connecting the words UCLA, murder, suicide, shooter, and death; articles written about the motives and how it could have been prevented. The events may be politicized and linked to national conversations concerning gun violence, security and mental health. They may also be compared to similar tragedies at schools across the country and the globe, though all those connected to violence here and elsewhere will recognize that fear cannot always be broken down into levels or degrees.
But for the students, faculty and alumni of UCLA these conversations will feel disaffected and cold. Yesterday two humans lost their lives in terrible circumstances. Two people who were like us in more ways than we can imagine. To speak about gun control issues or national politics now would be to ignore the tragedy that forced those at UCLA to recognize how alike we all are, and dilute the importance of telling those around us that we care and are grateful for their presence.
Yesterday was not about whether or not the gun used was purchased legally and with a background check. I am a staunch advocate of gun control and a national gun registry, yet yesterday morning I spent frantic moments texting with a close friend who believes in the opposite, making sure she was safe and alive. I spent hours reaching out to family members, telling everyone I was alright, and responding to calls from friends or extended family whose phone numbers I did not recognize. I texted with an ex-girlfriend I had not spoken to in over a year, who had reached out to make sure I was in a secure place. Students across campus did the same, returning calls and messages through the afternoon. We revitalized connections that had meaning to us, implicitly recognizing our feelings for those around us.
Those of us at UCLA, and others reading news headlines or twitter feeds, must see this as an opportunity to reach out to others we care deeply about. Reach out to those who we have not spoken to in weeks or months or years. Reach out to those around us everyday who we sit next to and share classrooms with, those that we connect with on campus but do not always have the chance to speak with, or get to know. The idea that the UCLA community will be brought closer together through this tragedy is not something that occurs naturally. It materializes through individuals who are willing to reach out to one another and recognize the importance of others we take for granted everyday.
Today we can be thankful of our opportunity to live and connect. I believe the following quote from Viktor Frankl is extremely relevant: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Many may choose to respond to yesterday’s events by advocating for new gun laws that further restrict ownership. Others will spend energy pushing back against those laws, or praying with their congregations, or being thankful that their family members are safe. But all of us should empathize with the two who lost their lives, their families and their communities.
It is up to those who work or study at UCLA, and our extended family, to remember yesterday’s events and think about those who are grieving for a lost loved one. It is up to us to reach to the person next to us, grab their hand, and say that we love and appreciate them. It is up to us to support one another however possible. Most importantly, it is up to us to reach out to those we disagree with, or who have different perspectives, and find common ground. Often each of us feels as though we are alone, either at UCLA or in our journeys through the world. Now is the time to connect and lean on one another. Bruins must reach out to Bruins, and to Hokies and Gauchos, and to the communities of Garissa University College in Nigeria, the Army Public School in Pakistan, and the Beslan school in Russia, and anyone else with similar experiences. It is up to individuals to show each other and themselves what it means to be a part of a caring community such as UCLA. It is up to each and every person who hears about yesterday’s tragic events to show what it means to be human by empathizing with the victims and with one another.
The West African country of Ghana’s deeply entrenched patriarchal culture, where the husband’s exclusive rights to his wife trump her own, condones domestic violence. Most Ghanaian women are told that to be successful in life, they must find a husband and serve him adequately by fulfilling gender roles and continuing his lineage. Wives are told to be socially smaller than their husbands, who are their superiors, breadwinners and protectors. Across all the hundreds of ethnic groups in Ghana, women are viewed as inferior to men. One of the many social dimensions arising from this gendered culture includes an acceptance of domestic violence. The few women that legally report their instances of abuse are supposed to be supported by Ghana’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU), a branch of the Ghana Police Services. However, Ghanaian women still face extreme obstacles in preventing and reporting domestic violence as well as seeking and receiving justice from the Ghanaian criminal system. Despite the normal inefficiencies that plague most of Ghana’s institutions (the DOVVSU does not even have a website), the root of the Unit’s ineffectiveness remains Ghana’s deeply entrenched gendered culture.
Traditionally, when women are born they belong to their fathers. Once married, their cultural property title moves to their husband and his family— a sister-in-law can refer to her husband’s wife as, “my wife.” If a wife is disobedient, which includes failing to fulfill her traditional obligations like cooking, cleaning, taking care of children and being sexually available whenever her husband desires, domestic violence is often socially accepted by both men and women. According to Ghana’s 2003 Demographic and Health Survey,19.8% of men and 34% of women found it socially acceptable for a husband to beat his wife if she went out without telling him. The survey also showed that 10.1% of men and 19.9% of women considered it acceptable for a husband to beat his wife for refusing to have sex with him. These statistics are unfortunately not unique to Ghana and are part of an international and regional epidemic.
Within West Africa, domestic violence is widespread and often legally allowed. Globally, 30% of women experience violence from intimate partners and 36.6% of African women experience lifetime intimate partner violence. Section 55(1)(d) of Nigeria’s Penal Code legally condones an assault by a husband on his wife for, “the purpose of correcting his wife, such husband and wife being subject to any native law or custom in which such correction is recognized as lawful.” Spousal rape is also not criminalized in Togo, Ghana’s neighbor. In Benin, 68.6% of women experience violence at the hands of men, and 69.5% of those perpetrators are spouses or partners. One in four women in Senegal are victims of domestic abuse. These high statistics are the consequence of deeply gendered cultures where domestic abuse is socially accepted and frequently legal.
These embedded cultural norms were challenged in the past four decades by a global wave of women’s rights advocacy. Several international and regional treaties, bills, covenants and conventions geared towards women’s rights were adopted, including the UN’s notable Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. One of Ghana’s responses to this push included establishing the DOVVSU in February 2007. However, women who seek the DOVVSU’s support are often discouraged to report their claims and rarely see their spouses brought to justice. The DOVVSU fails in its mission to provide victims with adequate support services because it remains shackled to Ghana’s patriarchal culture.
Many Ghanaians traditionally believe that domestic abuse should be resolved within the household rather than externally via the justice system. This mindset causes judges to trivialize domestic violence cases or pressure women to drop their claims. Often times, Ghanaian women are too embarrassed, disheartened or discouraged to even report their cases of abuse—95% of Ghanaian women who have been raped do not report the incident. Even when women do pursue criminal charges many of their claims never get sent to court, they experience societal shaming and hardly any cases lead to convictions. A statistic from 2010 found that out of 12,706 cases in the country, only 954 were sent to court and of those only 118 convictions were obtained. These numbers are unacceptable given that the DOVVSU’s intent is to provide victims with the support necessary to seek justice. In actuality, those who are entrusted with the power to help victims find justice convince and encourage women to drop their claims and return to their abusive relationships to avoid disturbing the peace of their communities.
Another traditional belief contributing to the DOVVSU’s ineffectiveness and the prevalence of domestic violence is the cultural mindset that marriage equals consent. A 2007 survey found that 20.6% of Ghanaian women have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime and 44.5% have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse from intimate partners and/or non-partners in their lifetime. These high numbers are not surprising considering until 2007, Ghanaian Criminal Code section 42 (g) explicitly allowed marital rape by stating, “the consent given by a husband or wife at marriage, for the purposes of marriage, cannot be revoked until the parties are divorced or separated by a judgment or decree of a competent Court.” After the DOVVSU was established, section 42 (g) was revised to state, “The use of violence in the domestic setting is not justified on the basis of consent.” While the changes imply husbands can be criminally prosecuted for marital rape, there is no direct prohibition of marital rape statutorily in the Ghanaian Criminal Code. In addition, the revision in the law has yet to change cultural and patriarchal mindsets that contribute to the extent of marital rape and the attitudes of law enforcement officers who trivialize domestic violence cases.
The DOVVSU’s establishment marked a significant first step in improving the Ghanaian domestic violence landscape, however its effectiveness is marred by prevailing cultural norms. How can Ghana create an effective DOVVSU when major sources of its inadequacy are beliefs that can only be changed with time? This is a difficult question to answer, but the solution must include more rigorous sensitivity training for judges, police officers and leaders of communities, national emphasis on the issue and increased marketing about the DOVVSU. Queen mothers, who are the female leaders of many Ghanaian communities and dedicated advocates for women and children, and DOVVSU representatives should organize community discussions about gender roles and domestic violence. Similar conversations should be conducted in classrooms so from a young age children can start a normally nonexistent discussion regarding domestic abuse. Queen mothers should also spearhead female support groups as forums for women to talk freely about sexism and gender roles. Female focused NGOs must also work with Queen mothers and take advantage of their unique position with women and children. These open conversations regarding gender constructs and their societal influence will work to challenge the prevailing norms and change the mindsets that leave many Ghanaian women disentitled to their own bodies.