SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Defending Islam, With Violence: Trial Of Salafist Man Rivets Germany

Murat K.'s trial in Bonn
Murat K.'s trial in Bonn
Annette Ramelsberger

BONN - "You have to use violence to defend Islamic values?" asks the judge.

"Yes, of course," Murat K. replies. Five months after he attacked police officers with a knife, the 26-year-old Salafist came clean in the courtroom: it was his duty, he said, to wound the police officers.

The officers in question are veterans, used to dealing with hooligans and rioting demonstrators, also very aggressive ones. They are not prone to being easily riled. That they should be the ones involved makes Murat K.’s case all the more unusual.

The wiry 49-year-old commander has been with the police’s operational readiness squad since 1998. Murat K. went for him with a knife, but missed.

The policeman whose job it was to get into the thick of the action with a camera and document what happened had 12 years of police experience. He received a knife wound.

Then there was the group leader: a self-possessed woman of 30 with a clear and precise way of speaking. She had been through May 1 demonstrations in Berlin several times. She describes what happened this way: "This was different from everything else. Here, it was a matter of life or death." She also received multiple stab wounds.

Her camera-wielding colleague says: "Imagine being attacked by a swarm of birds. That’s how the stones were coming at us." And the commander adds: "In all my years in the force, I have never experienced violence this extreme."

The violence exploded in front of the King Fahd Academy in Bonn on May 5, 2012, when several hundred Muslims were demonstrating against the far-right populist Pro NRW splinter party’s use of some caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The police were trying to keep the populists and the Muslims separated, but a riot ensued, with militants throwing stones and bottles, even a manhole cover, at the police.

No fear

A young man with a long beard, wearing a light-colored caftan and carrying a knife, suddenly appeared among the officers. He went after the commander with the knife, but missed. He then went for the officer with the video camera, plunging the knife full force into his thigh. And then he turned on the female officer who had come to the help of her colleague. At this point he was overpowered. The entire thing can be seen on the police videos shown to those in the tribunal this past Wednesday at the Bonn District Courthouse.

Murat K., the man who began by throwing stones and then perpetrated the knife attacks, is a Turkish citizen born in the town of Eschwege in the northeastern part of the state of Hesse. His family, which is not particularly religious, has been living in Germany for decades. The charges against him in Bonn are: serious breach of the peace, grievous bodily harm and resisting law enforcement officers. Murat K. told the court he would have no compunctions about doing again what he did on May 5.

The judge is making a big effort. He speaks to the defendant calmly; he’s even friendly in his effort to understand. He has given Murat K. permission to wear the black head covering he has wound around his head pirate-style. He does not slap him with a fine when he refuses to stand before the court, like many other Muslims who do not recognize its jurisdiction. "Standing, not standing, one way or the other the Court’s dignity will not be affected," said Judge Klaus Reinhoff.

His approach gets Murat K. talking. The judge asks him to "imagine you are a policeman and it’s your job to ensure order. In your eyes, would you be a justified target?"

"Yes," says Murat K., continuing: "The German state allows caricatures of Muhammad to be shown, so the police are automatically involved."

But what if a Court said it was okay for the caricatures to be shown, the judge asked. "Your values make it possible to insult the Prophet. Islam prohibits that. The price for doing that in Islam is the death sentence. You have your freedom of opinion, but as a Muslim, a believer, Islam must be my opinion."

It was at this point that Judge Reinhoff asked: "You have to use violence to defend Islamic values?" and Murat K. replied: "Yes, of course."

The policewoman now has a 10-centimeter (4 inch) scar on one leg; the cameraman’s scar is 16 cm, or over 6 inches, long. He is still in therapy and can only work four hours a day. The commander who wasn’t able to keep his squad members protected suffered from sleep disturbances after the riot, which all told led to 35 officers of the law being wounded. "It makes you think," he says.

Johannes Pausch, Murat K.’s lawyer, had suggested to his client that he could apologize to the wounded officers. Murat K. did not apologize. He believes that right is on his side. Pausch stated that his client was a Salafist, a fundamentalist.

Murak K. stated: "I’m not afraid of punishment. I’m not afraid of deportation. I want that to be very clear." The verdict is expected next week.

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Society

The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation

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Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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