A year ago today, a boat carrying about 145 people, almost all of them Somalis with official refugee documents, was on its way to Sudan from Yemen. It was passing through the narrow Bab el-Mandeb strait when it came under fire. The shots, a confidential report to the UN Security Council confirmed four months later, were ‘almost certainly’ fired from a machine-gun mounted on a helicopter. Only ‘the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces,’ it added, ‘have the capability to operate armed utility helicopters in the area.’ (They are Apache helicopters, made in the United States.)
Muhammad Rabbani, the director of the advocacy organisation Cage, was charged on Wednesday at Bethnal Green police station with 'wilfully obstructing or seeking to frustrate a search examination' under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Detained at Heathrow Airport in November 2016 on his way back from the Middle East – where, he says, he ‘had secured instructions from a client of ours to take legal action in a case involving torture’ – Rabbani refused to provide border guards with the passwords to his electronic devices. He faces three months in prison and a £2500 fine.
With an executive order signed on Friday, President Trump began implementing the ‘extreme vetting’ of Muslims he promised during his campaign. All refugees are now barred from entering the US for 120 days. Syrian refugees face an indefinite ban. For 90 days, all entry has been suspended for citizens of seven Muslim majority countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Yesterday, it was confirmed that the ban on entry includes people with green cards who happened to be out of the US when the order was signed. They cannot return home.
Four armed police officers approached a Muslim woman on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice yesterday and demanded she remove some of her clothes. According to some news reports she was wearing a ‘burkini’, but she was in fact dressed in leggings, a tunic and a headscarf. As newspapers published photographs of the incident, L’Obs ran an interview with another woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Siam. She was asked to remove her headscarf on the beach at Cannes last week. She refused. Some fellow beachgoers took her side, but others shouted ‘go home’. She is a former flight attendant from Toulouse, whose family has been in France for three generations. She said that she had felt humiliated in front of her daughter and family, and described the incident as 'racism, pure and simple’.
Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for families, children and women’s rights, was asked on Wednesday by the radio station RMC for her views on the recent trend among Western fashion houses to produce clothes, such as the ‘burkini’, aimed at observant Muslim women. She said she thought it was an ‘irresponsible’ decision that encouraged ‘the imprisonment of women’s bodies’. But didn’t some women choose to dress that way? Yes, and ‘there were also American nègres who supported slavery,’ she said.