Saturday, August 31, 2013

Palestinian Shuhada (Martyrs) of Occupation

This page is a tribute and memorial for the Palestinian Shuhada (Martyrs) of Occupation

See also: 

Live Blog | The Genocide on Palestinian Refugees in Syria

Military action against Syria would not be just

By Prof. Tobias Winright
31 Aug 2013

The videos and photos showing children suffering and dying in what appears to be a poison gas attack in a Damascus suburb shock the conscience and serve as just cause for taking military action.

However, other criteria of the 'just war' tradition must also be met for an intervention to be justified on those terms. Although none of the sides in this civil war appears to be respecting noncombatant immunity, the US and its allies would be expected to do so. Yet, much of the fighting is in urban areas, where avoiding civilian casualties would be extremely difficult, especially if attacks against the regime were carried out with cruise missiles and high-altitude bombers.

It also remains unclear whether a US strike against the Syrian military forces would escalate or mitigate tensions in the region, including with Iran and Russia. If just war is sometimes understood as the lesser of two evils, it is hard to fathom how so in the case of Syria. Similar questions arise concerning other just war criteria, including probability of success and last resort.

With a heavy heart for the children and other civilians who are suffering and dying in Syria, I sadly think that in the present miry situation we have an instance where just war theory responds with a “no” to military intervention. I have serious doubts about probability of success, proportionality, and discriminating force there.

Indeed, it seems very much like what H. Richard Niebuhr wrote about possible military intervention in the Sino-Japanese conflict in the early 1930s in his famous Christian Century essay, “The Grace of Doing Nothing”: "We are chafing at the bit, we are eager to do something constructive; but there is nothing constructive, it seems, that we can do.” For him, the problem was “that of a choice between various kinds of inactivity rather than of choice between action and inaction,” and in his view the way of inaction that believes that God is at work in all this, even though we humans can do nothing constructive in it, calls us to repentance.

While I agree on the need for repentance — the US and UK are not morally pure, especially when considering our history in the Middle East—I find it hard to trust that somehow God is at work in what is happening on the ground in Syria, and I am not convinced that there is nothing constructive to be done by anyone other than God. At the same time, I am not in agreement with H. Richard’s brother, Reinhold Niebuhr, who critically responded that taking action through the use of coercion, including possibly military force, is necessarily the alternative to inaction in this tragic world.

Of course, we Christians can and should pray. That is not inaction. On 25 August, after the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis called for peace in Syria, praying to Mary, Queen of Peace, to pray for us. He added, “From the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my closeness in prayer and solidarity with all the victims of this conflict, with all those who suffer, especially children….”. But I am not sure such “closeness” is enough for the suffering.

Maybe what needs to be done is seen in the example of Mother Teresa, who also invoked the Queen of Peace, in 1982 when she traveled to Beirut to rescue a group of disabled Muslim children from the fighting there after Israel had invaded Lebanon. Her presence momentarily disarmed the adversaries in a cease fire. I recall when my professor, Stanley Hauerwas, suggested during a lecture, prior to the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991, that Pope John Paul II should similarly go to Iraq.

There is also the practice of nonviolent direct action, which includes interventionist accompaniment, such as what Witness for Peace did with thousands of unarmed volunteers placed themselves in harm’s way during the Contra war in Nicaragua during the 1980s. There are serious risks obviously involved, but any harm to such accompanying human shields would further undermine the cause of either the rebels or the regime. I wish someone would try something like this before resorting to military action in Syria.


(c) Tobias L. Winright is associate professor of theological studies at St Louis University, Missouri, and coauthor of After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice (Orbis 2010).

This article also appears in The Tablet (, the international Catholic weekly, on 31 August 2013, and is reproduced with grateful acknowledgement. See also 'A Just War 'No' to bombing Syria': by the same author.

US and UK dossiers leave confusion over Syrian chemical weapons

By staff writers

31 Aug 2013

Within hours of publication, the Obama administration's documentation on Syria, which is being used to support the case for US-led direct military strikes on the country, has been criticised for its lack of verifiable detail.

The three-page white paper, which claims to prove the culpability of the Assad regime for a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus, contains no direct quotes, no photographic evidence, no named sources, and no independently supported evidence, notes analyst Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. He now heads up the Consortium for Independent Journalism (CIJ) in the United States.

"The white paper against Syria is noteworthy in that it lacks any specifics that can be assessed independently, in contrast to, say, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN Security Council which included intercepted quotes from Iraqi officials and satellite photographs of suspected Iraqi WMD locations," writes Mr Parry on

Oil is spiking. And it’s not just Syria to blame

The civil war in Syria is coming at a cost to Americans, even in the absence of cruise missiles or other overt interventionism. Here it is in a chart. This is the one-month forward contract for a barrel of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In other words, the price of oil, more or less. It’s down a bit Friday after a steep rise since the spring.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Scant foreign support for US strikes on Syria

President Barack Obama is poised to become the first U.S. leader in three decades to attack a foreign nation without broad international support or in direct defense of Americans.

Six Dead As Protests Erupt Across Egypt

Six people were killed Friday and 190 people injured in nationwide clashes, according to the Health Ministry tally, as Muslim Brotherhood supporters staged protests across the country.

Quebec seeks singular identity in a polyglot world


The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Aug. 30 2013

Is there any corner of the world that gnaws on the bone of its own identity more than Quebec?

Perhaps such places exist. But if so, they would be few in number.

Former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Benoît Pelletier once observed that in Quebec, all politics is identity politics. That might be a stretch, but not by much, because the issues that stir Quebeckers’ soul revolve around whom they believe themselves to be, and by whom and/or what that self-perception is threatened.

Quebeckers are certainly world-beaters in finding new vocabulary to define themselves and their political relations: distinct society, two nations, sovereigntists, indépendentistes, federalists, asymmetrical federalists, special-status federalists, maîtres chez nous, to name but a few of the concoctions that testify to this ceaseless search for self-definition.

For more than four centuries – under the French, the British and as part of the Canadian Confederation – French speakers in the part of North America we call Quebec have existed, multiplied, survived, thrived and created what is, in many ways, an admirable society.

And yet, despite these achievements, there seems a nagging, existential, collective doubt that somehow the whole place might crumble, culturally, without a constant reaffirmation of who Quebeckers are. It is the reflex of a linguistic minority that has never been fully at ease with diversity, because that diversity is seen as somehow threatening, unless carefully defined and circumscribed.

The Parti Québécois government best reflects this existential nervousness, which it uses for its own political purposes – witness the proposed Charter of Quebec Values.

If ever a false solution existed for a non-problem, this charter is it. Quebec already has a package of protections: a provincial charter of rights, various rights-upholding statutes, French-language legislation backed by an investigative bureau and laws against infringements.

Premier Pauline Marois, however, has a political problem. More than Quebec’s other parties, hers depends on this bone-gnawing existentialism. Her party’s ultimate ambition is to have Quebec secede from Canada and so become, in due course, an independent country.

Alas (for her), Quebeckers are less interested in that option than at any time in recent memory. So she must find something, anything, to keep the existential debate going, to play on that nervousness of identity dilution and to keep the party militants mollified.

Her government has therefore hit upon this charter of values, the mostimportant of which seems to be full secularization of everything and everybody who represents the Quebec state. Out, therefore, for all state employees are turbans, head scarves, yarmulkes and, presumably, crosses.

With this charter, Quebec will have moved from being almost completely Catholic in its public face to being militantly anti-religious. Quebec’s new religion will be no religion. All in an attempt, organized from on high, to define Quebec’s “values.”

There is something deeply French, in the widest sense of the term, in this proposed charter. The approach springs from civil law, Catholic and even Cartesian inspirations: that there are abstract values and universalistic rules to which the complexity of the human experience must be adapted – in contrast to the common-law approach, whereby the law emerges from real-life situations and evolves over time.

Fitting reality to concept, rather than the other way around, has contributed over the past 50 years to the existential debates over Quebec’s identity – debates that have also played out in federal politics with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and vocabulary such as “distinct society” pushed by Quebec politicians.

Beyond its obvious partisan purposes, this proposed Charter is supposed to assuage whatever cultural nervousness exists in Quebec, presumably of the kind that popped up in the obscure town ofHérouxville. There, municipal councillors passed resolutions againstsharia law or any other manifestations of Muslim culture in a town without Muslims.

Instead of Quebec’s values being rooted in the tolerance of difference publicly displayed, Quebec’s values are apparently those of publicly displayed uniformity. The respect for difference is apparently best protected by removing certain symbols of that difference.

This is a curious, backhanded way of organizing matters in an increasingly polyglot world. Unless, of course, being polyglot is considered a threat – which, four centuries of existence notwithstanding, would seem still to be the case in Quebec.

On Syria, Intelligence and Evidence

One would hope that the lessons of Iraq might inform more of the coverage of Syria. But that's not always the case. Over the course of the past week, the White House and various officials have been adamant that they have evidence that shows the Syrian government was responsible for the horrific attack last week that likely killed hundreds, and very well could have been a chemical or gas attack of some sort.

But too many journalists were treating what the government said it knew as if it was already actual evidence, writes Peter Hart.

Building Bridges:Telling the American Muslim Story

by Hind Makki 

Orland Park is a well-to-do suburb of Chicago that is coming to terms with its diversity. The local library boasts manicured lawns, high-tech facilities and a robust community engagement credo. There have books and resources in Spanish, Polish and Arabic and capitalize on “history” months as teaching moment for their diverse patrons. Diversity was not always embraced; in 2004 there was an effort to block the building of a mosque by outraged citizens, scared that the it would become a breeding ground for terrorists.

Today, you can’t miss the mosque – the gold dome twinkles a few streets past CostCo – or it’s members, who are locally active in interfaith efforts. They plan volunteer events to benefit Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and the Chicago Food Depository. They host free tours of the mosque for local churches, schools and interested visitors. Golf outings double as mosque fundraisers, and youth activities often take place in the local bowling club. Years after the brouhaha over their building permits, Orland Park’s Muslim community is quietly weaving themselves into the tapestry of their corner of Suburbia, USA.

The folks at the National Endowment for the Humanities likely did not anticipate that their program, the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf, would lead to hateful screaming matches in Suburbia, USA when they started their Muslim Journeys initiative. Last Thursday, the Orland Park Public Library, which is a recipient of the grant that distributed books and other resources on Islam and Muslims to public libraries across the country, hosted a panel discussion by Muslim academics about Islam, as part of their month-long Muslim Journeys series. To say the panel got heated is an understatement.

As a Chicago Tribune article reports, the contentious tone for the evening was set while the three panelists were still being introduced. Members of the Islamophobic group Act! For America interrupted the panelists to demand that the event begin with a public recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. They continued to disrupt the discussion throughout the evening, yelling about Sharia law and jihad, clapping and cheering for one another as they took turns to insult the panelists, repeating their claims that Islam is diametrically opposed to everything America stands for. In the face of these disruptions, led by a dozen audience members, the panelists repeatedly asked the audience to keep an open mind about Islam. The members of this group became so rowdy, that library officials called the police to maintain calm.

Of the event, panelist Iman Sediqe, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University, said, “It was startling at how open some were in their hateful regard for us, though unfortunately it wasn’t very surprising. [The library] had the police escort myself and the other panelists to our cars after the event for our safety because of how vehemently angered some of the audience were. It definitely did not make me feel very safe, but I appreciated the discussion that did occur.”

Essentially, a library event – whose goal was to address people’s fears of Islam – was hijacked by organized right-wing extremists whose behavior merited police intervention to keep the calm and police protection for the three Muslim panelists. Act! For America shouts their grotesque narrative about American Muslims at anyone who lends an ear (and at those of us who don’t). I’m not sure if Orland Park’s library or mosque will hold any follow-up events to last Thursday’s anger-filled evening. What I am certain of, is that in the face of organized Islamophobic campaigns, American Muslims must be the ones to tell our own stories.

Volunteering at the local food bank, organizing blood drives, raising money for those displaced by natural disasters are all part of the American Muslim narrative. My Muslim community quietly works with interfaith partners to make our town a better place to live. Our actions might speak louder than words in a world neutral to Islam, but in a world hostile to our faith, we must shape and tell our own narrative. As the American author Peter Orner once said, “We define ourselves by the stories we tell.” So, what is the story American Muslims want to tell?

Obama administration dossier on Syria attack

Unclassified four-page dossier released by Obama administration Friday afternoon outlines case for Syria attack. 

Syrian regime dropped bomb on school playground

Last night, the BBC released a graphic video report showing the aftermath of an incendiary bomb dropped by a fighter jet on the playground of a school in the Aleppo area, killing more than 10 and leaving many more with devastating burns.

Bassam Haddad on attack on Syria

EXCERPT: The United States is not qualified to do what it claims it wants to do, as a result of its own record in violating international law for a very long time and supporting dictators and rogue regimes and the apartheid state of Israel in opposition to all manners of international law. The United States violated international law by attacking and invading a country on false premise, which is Iraq in 2003. And most importantly, the United States, in Iraq, has actually used nerve agent, mustard gas and/or white phosphorus in Fallujah and beyond, left depleted uranium all over the country in Iraq, ruined and destroyed the lives of generations as a result, and now claims that it needs to do this to protect Syrian civilians, which is exactly the opposite of what will happen in any invasion or any strike on Syria, which is not possible to happen in the surgical manner that is being discussed right now.

U.S. Prepares to Strike Syria Over Alleged Chemical Weapons as British Vote Not to Back Int’l Action

Pentagon officials say the U.S. Navy has moved five destroyers equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea to prepare for a possible strike on Syria. This comes as the British Parliament voted Thursday not to back international action against Syria following the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons last week. This comes as a team of U.N. inspectors, who spent the week traveling to rebel-controlled areas in search of proof of a poison gas attack, is set to give its preliminary findings to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday. Watch / Listen here

See also:  US set for Syria strikes after Kerry says evidence of chemical attack is 'clear' and  Syria: release of US intelligence dossier seen as prelude to military strike

Join Human Concern International at Festival of Communities -- Ottawa Sept 7th, 2013

We are hosting this Festival to primarily build network between different community members, groups, associations and organizations.  If you are interested to promote your group or fund-raise for your cause please contact 

US should re-evaluate surveillance laws, ex-NSA chief acknowledges

Bobby Ray Inman defends the NSA's bulk surveillance but says the nature of communications has changed – and that the US must revisit laws in the private sector as well.

Any Attack on Syria Would Be Illegal, Increase Sectarianism in Middle East

UNICEF Initiative for the Children of Syria

UNICEF estimates that there are 3,128,000 children impoverished and displaced within Syria, and 1,000,000 Syrian child refugees living in squalor across Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, and other countries. The organization has dedicated a website to tracking the stories of these children to help draw attention to the funding gap in adequate housing, health, and education costs necessary to address the growing humanitarian crisis.

7 Heartbreaking Scenes from Syria

Here are some scenes depicting just how dire the situation has become.

Bernard Landry blasts 'Quebec bashing' over secularism charter

Pay attention to Landry's distinction between multi-ethnic and multi-cultural 

Reminder from the Quran

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ ۖ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ ۖوَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ ۚ لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَـٰكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۖ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ ۚ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ --- "To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute." (Quran 5:48)

Iran, not Syria, is the West's real target

Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West, writes Fisk. 

US Presbyterian Church Teaches Islam

OnIslam & Newspapers
Friday, 30 August 2013 

CAIRO – Bringing both faiths closer, a Farmington Presbyterian church in the southern US state of New Mexico is planning classes on Islam to introduce a true image of the much debated faith to its congregation.

"Ever since 9/11, we who did not understand very much about the Muslim faith certainly have been exposed to it," Rev. Glenn Perica of Farmington's First Presbyterian Church told Farmington’s The Daily Times.

The 10-week course entitled "Christianity and Islam: So Much In Common, So Far Apart" aims at introducing Islam to Farmington people.

Looming Airstrikes in Syria Pose Test for Egypt’s Leaders and the Opposition

August 30, 2013


CAIRO — Egyptians on Thursday braced for the ninth weekend of protests against the military’s ouster of the country’s president as the looming possibility of Western airstrikes against Syria injected a new element of volatility onto the streets.

The degree of participation and violence at the protests expected on Friday will be a pivotal test of the effectiveness of the new government’s crackdown on the supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, especially his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Small protests in certain neighborhoods of Cairo, the capital, and larger demonstrations in other Egyptian cities have continued every night since Mr. Morsi’s ouster on July 3, despite an evening curfew, the suspension of due process and a wave of mass shootings and arrests by security forces that have decimated the Brotherhood. But the group’s decapitation as an organizing force has made the continuing protest movement harder to predict or control, potentially increasing the chances of violence.

Now the expectation of American-led airstrikes against Syria has added a new variable. The prospect of Western military action in the region is overwhelmingly unpopular here across the political spectrum, even if it is to punish President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the use of chemical weapons.

If the strikes occur, they could swell the street protests, albeit from the other side. At the moment the loudest outcry against the threat of Western strikes has not come from the Islamists but from groups that supported Mr. Morsi’s ouster.

Fearful of the Islamist-dominated Syrian rebels, the new Egyptian government installed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi has gone further to oppose the strikes than any other ostensible American ally in the region. It has broken with the pattern of reliable cooperation with Washington shown by former President Hosni Mubarak and also, for the most part, by Mr. Morsi.

After reluctantly signing onto an Arab League statement holding the Assad government responsible for the chemical weapons attack, the new government said Thursday that Egypt “strongly opposes any military strike as it has consistently opposed foreign military intervention in Syria.” Instead, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy urged the acceleration of proposed negotiations “to find a political solution to the situation.”

It was one of many signs of fraying relations with Washington. As the American ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, ends her assignment here this week, the state newspaper Al Ahram ran a front-page column accusing her of conspiring with the Brotherhood to bring militants into Egypt, then to split off the southern half of the country — now a hotbed of unrest — as an independent country with Minya as its capital.

After years of public silence about state media calumny, Ms. Patterson issued a letter to the editor calling the article “outrageous,” “thoroughly unprofessional,” “inciting misinformation” and “absolutely absurd and dangerous.”

“This article isn’t bad journalism; it isn’t journalism at all,” she wrote. “It is fiction, serving only to deliberately misinform the Egyptian public.”

The government maintained its crackdown on citizens as well. Although it has relaxed the curfew until 9 p.m. most days, the government is requiring residents to stay inside after 7 p.m. on Friday or face arrest.

The military and the police vowed to respond with deadly force to any protests that threatened the public order. State television broadcast a statement from the Interior Ministry warning that its forces “will use live ammunition according to the regulations of legitimate self-defense” in order “to stand up to the attempts to undermine the stability of public security.”

A government ministry issued a decree effectively outlawing the Egyptian affiliate of Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab television network. After the military shut down five Islamist satellite networks the night it ousted Mr. Morsi, state-run channels and private networks supportive of the takeover dominated the airwaves, and Al Jazeera’s Egyptian network provided the only extensively coverage of the protests around the country.

Al Jazeera also said Thursday that six of its journalists remained in detention, including one held for over a month, another arrested Aug. 14, and four captured on Tuesday.

Continuing the roundup of Brotherhood leaders, the police on Thursday arrested Mohamed el-Beltagy, a former Brotherhood lawmaker considered a moderate within the group and one of the last fugitive leaders.

A Brotherhood-led coalition released a statement calling for “peaceful” protests on Friday.

“The Egyptian people have refused to be enslaved once again,” it said, promising the country’s largest protests.

But Brotherhood officials who are still at large — some avoiding telephones for fear of surveillance and moving constantly to avoid capture — say that the group’s internal communication have been all but completely cut off, severely limiting its ability to organize. At least several hundred Brotherhood members or leaders have been killed by security forces in mass shootings at protests. Thousands of others have been detained or arrested, including almost all of the group’s top leaders.

The Brotherhood and its coalition have repeatedly called for nonviolence. But officials of the group, known here as Ikhwan, or the Brothers, say they can no longer control the protests.

“Seventy-five percent of the demonstrators now are not Ikhwan,” Sherief Abulmagd, a Brotherhood-affiliated officer of an engineer’s union said in an e-mail, so the Brotherhood “cannot control their reaction if the police and army forces keep shooting live bullets at them.”

Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reminded from the Quran

اللَّهُ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ وَالْمِيزَانَ ۗ وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّ السَّاعَةَ قَرِيبٌ --- "It is Allah Who has sent down the Book in Truth, and the Balance (by which to weigh conduct). And what will make you realise that perhaps the Hour is close at hand?" (Quran 42:17)

تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ لِيَكُونَ لِلْعَالَمِينَ نَذِيرًا -- "Blessed is He who sent down the criterion to His servant, that it may be an admonition to all creatures." (Quran 25:1)

US military assualts

The US military has launched a significant overseas assault every 40 months since 1963, reports Mother Jones.

The report states, "if you're wondering why people all over the world view the United States as an arrogant bully, reserving for itself the right to rain down death from above on anyone it pleases whenever it pleases, well there you go. "

Be prepared for some BS

Be prepared for some BS as the Obama administration releases a "declassified intelligence report" on Syria chemical weapons attack on Friday.

Those who love peace

I would change the words of this quote from MLK to:
"Those who love Islam must learn to organize as effectively as those who hate Islam."

Syrian Father Reunites With Son He Thought Was Killed in Chemical Attack

In East Ghouta, a Syrian father's emotional reunion with his son was caught on camera. He thought the boy was killed in the chemical attack.

Obama strike plans in disarray after Britain rejects use of force in Syria

White House forced to consider unilateral strikes against Assad after British PM unexpectedly loses key motion on intervention.

Trudeau says he will defend Quebec's open society

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau didn't hold back on expressing his concerns about Quebec's proposed "charter of values" on Thursday, saying he's worried people will have to choose between their jobs and their religion. 

"My concern with the Quebec charter is that people are going to have to choose between their freedom of religion and freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and their economic well-being and their acceptance in the workplace. That for me is a real concern," said Trudeau, a Montreal MP.

Dominic LeBlanc: Quebec Religious Symbols Plan A Modern Version Of 'Separate But Equal' Policies

Posted: 08/29/2013

GEORGETOWN ROYALTY, P.E.I. — While Justin Trudeau was on the defensive Thursday insisting there is no direct parallel between the Parti Québécois's proposed Charter of Quebec Values and the former segregation policies of the United States, a key member of his team suggested the charter is a modern example of "separate but equal" policies.

New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, a childhood friend of Trudeau and the Liberals' House leader in the Commons, told HuffPost that the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech recalled a fight against injustice, racism, intolerance and segregation.

"All these doctrines that appear passé have modern versions," he said Thursday morning. "If separate but equal, and segregation, was the challenge that Dr. King was standing up against, perhaps banning religious symbols and kicking kids off soccer fields because they wear a turban would be the modern version of some of those very profound battles of half a century ago."

The Liberal MP, who was in P.E.I. for the party's summer caucus, was reacting to media stories after Trudeau told a large rally Wednesday evening that, reflecting on King's speech delivered that same day — Aug. 28 — 50 years ago, it is "unfortunate that even today, when we talk, for example, about this idea of a Charter of Quebec Values, that there are still some who believe that you have to choose between your religion and your Quebec identity, [and] that there are people who will be forced by the state to make choices that are irresponsible and inconceivable."

Trudeau said Thursday morning that the Quebec charter would force people to choose between their freedoms of religion, expression and conscience and their economic well-being and acceptance in the workplace.

"It goes to the very core values that were certainly reflected in that famous speech," Trudeau said.

But he backed away from making a direct link between the charter and the U.S. segregation policies against which King was campaigning.

"There is no parallel between segregation and the Quebec charter. The parallel is certainly between the fight for openness, respect and acceptance of everything that everyone is," Trudeau said.

LeBlanc, however, said he does see "a parallel between somebody saying, you know what, it's wrong and inappropriate and intolerant to incite this kind of reaction," as King said then and Trudeau said Wednesday.

Trudeau’s remarks at the evening barbeque were inspired by comments Montreal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler made to the federal caucus earlier Wednesday, LeBlanc said. Cotler, who on that day 50 years ago was in Washington, D.C., recounted what it was like to be on the mall listening to King speak.

Had it not been the 50th anniversary of King’s speech, LeBlanc said, he wasn't sure that Trudeau would have said what he said in St. Peter's Bay, P.E.I.

"I thought that he properly drew a context to some of the rather appalling decisions that the Quebec government is trying to impose on Quebecers today," LeBlanc said.

"Others can decide if they are racist," Leblanc added. "They are certainly not very nice; they are certainly not very friendly; they are certainly not inspired by openness and inclusiveness and tolerance and generosity."

Charter would make exclusion and division Quebec values


All nationalisms risk veering off course into intolerance. Fortunately, in Quebec, throughout the many years that we have wrestled with issues of identity and nationhood, some of the most ardent leaders of the nationalist movement have also been staunch advocates of inclusion. René Lévesque said that “a nation is judged by how it treats its minorities”; his Minister of Immigration, Gérald Godin, urged Quebecers to “form with the cultural communities a new world, a model society, better, free, open and welcoming”; and Lucien Bouchard spoke of a nationalism that “no longer seeks homogeneity but embraces diversity and pluralism.”

However, the so-called “charter of values” reportedly being contemplated by our provincial government would make a mockery of the free and open society that many of Quebec’s nationalist leaders have been promoting for decades. Indeed, banning manifestations of religious belief — both for those who work in public institutions and for those served by them — would constitute a radical break not only with our provincial and federal charters of rights and with international human rights law, but with Quebec values themselves, as articulated by icons of Quebec’s nationalist movement.

The idea of prohibiting religious symbols and attire in the public service is based on a misunderstanding of the separation of church and state. This fundamental tenet of free societies demands that public institutions and those who work for them be religiously neutral, not religiously neutered. To deny public employees the right to manifest their faith is to falsely imply that a bureaucrat or a nurse or a sanitation worker in a hijab is incapable of doing her job in a competent and professional manner. In fact, there is no contradiction between offering Quebecers impartial service from public employees, and offering those employees religious freedom.

A secular society is one in which there is no state religion, with no religious test for those aspiring to public office, and equal treatment for all. However, a society that bars individuals — including those who work for or interact with the state — from adhering publicly to their faith is not secular, it is constricted. Such a prohibition would divide Quebecers into two categories — secular and observant — and would effectively prevent members of the latter group from holding certain jobs or receiving certain services.

This would create immediate, practical problems. For instance, would an elderly Jewish man be required to discard the kippa he has worn all his life in order to receive palliative care? Would ambulance workers at the scene of a car accident have to remove the patka of the Sikh boy in the back seat before administering CPR?

But the ban would also have profound long-term consequences. It would force religious Quebecers “into the closet,” and send the message that religious adherence is something to be ashamed of. Moreover, if religious symbols are barred from the public sphere, they and those who wear them will be rendered even more foreign and separate from the majority. Far from encouraging integration, therefore, such a ban would reinforce divisions based on religious affiliation.

Religious freedom is a right guaranteed by the Quebec and Canadian charters of rights, as well as the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it has been repeatedly affirmed that the freedom to hold a belief is inseparable from the freedom to express it. Therefore, should the Quebec government go ahead with these measures, the matter would undoubtedly end up before the courts, but it would be regrettable if it ever got that far. Testing the judiciary to see how much trampling on minority rights the government can legally get away with is not a recipe for a free and open society.

Proponents of the proposed measures argue that they enjoy widespread support. If this is true, it is both unfortunate and entirely beside the point. In free societies, minority rights are not subject to majority rule.

Proponents argue as well that, without clear rules delimiting religious accommodation, we will have to keep perpetually navigating the grey areas of religious difference. Well, yes. There are complications inherent to diverse societies, but banning diversity is no solution. Indeed, the only societies with greater problems than those that embrace pluralism are those that do not.

If the Quebec government truly does proceed with its charter in this form, it will move us away from our liberal democratic traditions, and establish exclusion and division as Quebec values.

René Lévesque would turn in his grave.

Irwin Cotler is the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal and a former federal justice minister and attorney general. He is Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University.

Values charter’: Quebec Liberal leader says media are falling for PQ’s ‘crude attempt at diversion’



RIVIÈRE-DU-LOUP — Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard said Thursday the Parti Québécois government is ignoring issues that people in Quebec’s regions care about, namely jobs and the economy, by instead promoting a charter of Quebec values to ban non-Christian religious signs.

And Couillard chided the media for playing along with the PQ’s “crude attempt at diversion” by offering hints about a values charter that it has not yet presented.

“They are using you, the media, to orchestrate a series of leaks, more or less calculated to see how far they can stretch the elastic, in what direction, while we have no document, no position taken by the government,” Couillard told reporters at the start of a two-day caucus of his 49 elected MNAs.

Like the PQ caucus, which is meeting in the Gaspé town of Carleton-sur-Mer, the Liberal caucus is preparing for the fall sitting of the Quebec National Assembly, starting Sept. 17.

Couillard noted that even PQ backbenchers say no one in the regions is clamouring for a values charter.

Meanwhile, he said, unemployment in the Gaspé has risen under the PQ government.

Some media suggested Thursday that the Liberals are “evolving” toward the PQ position, based on comments on Wednesday by Liberal finance critic Pierre Paradis.

“I never said that,” a smiling Paradis said Thursday, repeating that the Liberals have evolved in the past, granting Quebec women the vote in 1940, adopting the province’s human rights charter in 1975 and presenting Bill 94 — to ban religious face coverings in dispensing and receiving government services — which was not adopted because of a PQ filibuster.

Couillard said Bill 94, which would not go as far as the PQ’s proposal for a sweeping ban on religious signs in Quebec’s public sector, including municipalities, hospitals and daycare centres, would remain the party’s position.

Couillard said Paradis’s use of the word “evolution” was “well chosen.”

“It evolves all the time,” he said, noting the Quebec Liberals have established a working group on identity and the debate would continue in the party caucus, but “our position on religious signs will not change.”

The Coalition Avenir Québec, which holds the balance of power, maintaining the minority PQ government in office, has proposed a less sweeping approach than the PQ, saying only such authority figures as judges, police and prison officers, public school principals and teachers should be prevented from displaying religious signs.

Couillard described the CAQ position as “unreasonable and exaggerated.”

Couillard, who was trained as a brain surgeon and worked for a time in Saudi Arabia, said he has no problem with his daughter’s teachers wearing a chador, an Islamic head covering, but would object to a teacher with a covered face.

“That would bother me in terms of the message regarding relations between men and women,” Couillard said.

“Equality is also part of our fundamental values.”

He recalled that in 2008, the previous Liberal government amended Quebec’s human rights charter to add the proviso that women and men are equal, but questioned how the PQ could establish a hierarchy of rights, placing this right above all others.

Jurisprudence, confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, is that all rights are equal and in cases of conflict between rights, accommodations must be found, on a case-by-case basis.

Indications are that the PQ values charter would set rules to overturn this jurisprudence.

Couillard called on Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud to explain how this could be done, suggesting the proposed values charter would be unconstitutional.

“I don’t like the idea of a hierarchy of rights,” Couillard said. “The concept of a hierarchy of rights is somewhat risky, according to experts in the field.”

General Dempsey's warnings could go unheeded if Obama opts to strike

A multi-tour command veteran of the Iraq war, Dempsey has repeatedly highlighted the risks of US involvement in Syria. 

Obama strike would not weaken Assad's military strength, experts warn

The Obama administration's preferred option for a potential strike on Syria is likely to leave Bashar al-Assad's government with significant chemical weapons and military infrastructure, according to military analysts. More......

Reminder from the Quran

وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ ۚوَحَسُنَ أُولَـٰئِكَ رَفِيقًا --- "All who obey Allah and the messenger are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of Allah,- of the prophets (who teach), the sincere (lovers of Truth), the witnesses (who testify), and the Righteous (who do good): Ah! what a beautiful fellowship!" (Quran 4:69)

Saudi Arabia passes law against domestic violence

Saudi human rights groups heartened by law aimed at reducing hidden abuse against women, children and domestic workers.  

The protection from abuse law is the first of its kind in a country that has often been criticised for lacking legislation that protects women and domestic workers against abuse.

Obama administration prepares case on Syria but support for strikes wavers

Senior US intelligence officials were seeking to persuade Congress on Thursday that the Syrian government was responsible for chemical weapons attacks, as the White House resisted comparisons with intelligence failures in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Leaders of key congressional committees were due to participate in "unclassified briefing" by telephone on Thursday, amid signs that some of the support for military strikes against Syria is fading.

A separate, unclassified report on the US intelligence assessment is being prepared for release to the public before the end of the week.
The UK released an intelligence assessment on Thursday that said it was "highly likely" that the regime of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for a chemical attack that killed hundreds in a Damascus suburb last week.

However, the document contained few specifics, and failure by the US and UK to say with absolute certainty that the attacks were conducted by the Syrian government have prompted challenging questions in Congress and led to signs of growing anxiety among traditional US allies.

Western air strikes not the answer, say Syrian clerics

Posted: 28 Aug 2013

AS US forces prepared to launch strikes on their country, Syrian clergy have urged the international community not to pursue military action, warning that it would have ramifications across the globe.

The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Mgr Antoine Audo, has warned that there could be a "world war".

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister backed down from recommending that Britain take immediate military action against Syria. This came after the Labour leader Ed Miliband said that he wanted to see more evidence that the chemical attack that took place last week in Damascus was the work of President Assad's regime.

The motion to be put before the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon now states that "every effort" must be taken first to secure the backing of the UN Security Council, "to ensure the maximum legitimacy for any such action".

It attributes the chemical attack to the Assad regime, and calls for a "strong humanitarian response" that "may, if necessary, require military action". It also notes "the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action in response to the Syrian crisis". However, it welcomes the work of the UN team investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and states that its findings should be considered by the Security Council before it decides on a response. 

On Wednesday, Britain put a resolution before the UN Security Council authorising all necessary measures under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter to protect civilians from chemical weapons. This could include military action, which would be expected to take the form of using missiles to target military sites in Syria.

The resolution has secured the unanimous backing of the National Security Council, which Mr Cameron chaired on Wednesday.

The position of the Government, published on Thursday, states that the legal basis for military action would be "humanitarian intervention", to "relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons". It sets out how, even if the Security Council blocked action, the UK would still be permitted under international law to take exceptional measures on this basis. 

On Tuesday, the Syrian-born director of the Awareness Foundation in London, the Revd Nadim Nassar, said: "I can hear the drums of war deafening the people by empty words, eloquent arguments and deep political analysis - exactly like what happened when the war started against Iraq.

"Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, have been killed, and the Western governments did not move in any serious way to use diplomatic means to stop the bloodshed in Syria, and suddenly and miraculously they decided to act and attack to add fuel to the fire. . .

"We still have not learned that bringing the different parties of any political conflict to the table of negotiation is the way to find a solution to the conflict more than providing weapons to them so that they destroy each other.

"The Western governments are supporting the Syrian opposition with millions, and we all know that the one who pays sets the rules of the game. Couldn't they twist the arms of the oppposition to come to the negotiation table, and ask Russia and China to do the same with the regime, since they support it with money and weapons?"

On Tuesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury told The Daily Telegraph: "The Government and the Americans are seeing intelligence nobody else sees - I just think we have to be very careful about rushing to judgement. . . 

"The things which MPs will have to bear in mind in what is going to be a very, very difficult debate is firstly, are we sure about the facts on the ground? Secondly, is it possible to have a carefully calibrated re- sponse including armed force, if you are sure about the facts on the ground, that does not have unforeseeable ramifications across the whole Arab and Muslim world?" There was no "good answer" to the crisis, he said. 

The Archbishop is expected to speak during a debate on the use of chemical weapons in Syria in the House of Lords on Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday morning, Anjum Anwar, dialogue-development officer at Blackburn Cathedral, said:

"I believe that Assad needs to be removed, however I am not convinced that intervention should come from the US, or that we should follow suit.

"We know that his regime is crumbling, so the organic process should be allowed to happen. We have allowed Assad to carry out atrocities for years, and we have known about it. So the question that I would like to ask is: why now?"

She suggested that "We need to listen to his Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and probably less to past Prime Ministers."

"I fully endorse what the Archbishop of Canterbury has said," she said. "We need table talk. We can't be a bull in a china shop. We have seen what happened in Iraq and what happened in Afghanistan and Libya. My fear is that intervention could become a war. And that would fragment communities all over the world including the United Kingdom. Experience tells us that we need Assad at the table, and we need to talk. I think he is ready. But I am not convinced that miltary intervention is the way forward for peace."

On Wednesday night, Open Doors UK & Ireland, a charity supporting persecuted Christians, sent a letter to the Prime Minister, under the signature of Lisa Pearce, its deputy chief executive.

Ms Pearce writes of a meeting a few weeks ago with church leaders from Syria in Lebanon. One urged her to tell the British Government how dangerous it would be if the West were to become militarily involved in the crisis. He told her: "Through sending arms to our countries and through meddling in our internal affairs what is happening is that the militias and people on the ground see these countries as Christian countries. They don't know any different. They assume that they are sending arms as Christians and so we are the ones that take the brunt of it. They want to revenge themselves on these countries so they take their revenge on the Christians in the country."

The Syrian church leaders were "emphatic that the priority for the international community was to support an inclusive Syrian-led political process to find a political solution".

The letter also quotes Philip Jenkins, Emeritus Professor of Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, who has warned: "Any Western intervention in Syria would likely supply the death warrant for the ancient Christianity of the Middle East."

On Monday, Bishop Audo told Vatican Radio: "If there were a military intervention, I think this would lead to a world war."

A UN team is currently in Syria investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. The latest allegations concern the Ghouta area outside Damascus, on the morning of Wednesday of last week, where more than 300 civilians, including children, are reported to have been killed. Any use of chemical weapons would violate international law.

On Thursday this week, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said that the team would leave Syria by Saturday morning. On Wednesday, he said "The Security Council must at last find the unity to act. It must use its authority for peace."

On Tuesday, the Arab League issued a statement saying that it held the Assad regime "fully responsible for the ugly crime".

Also on Tuesday, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem, said that the allegation that the attack was the work of the regime was "categorically baseless". The regime has blamed opposition fighters for the attack, and warned that any "act of aggression" by the West would strengthen radical fighters linked to al-Qaeda.

Mr Cameron said on Tuesday: "There is never 100-per-cent certainty; there is never one piece, or several pieces of intelligence, that can give you absolute certainty. But what we know is this regime has huge stocks of chemical weapons.

"We know that they have used them on at least ten occasions prior to this last wide-scale use. We know that they have both the motive and the opportunity, whereas the opposition does not have those things, and the opposition's chance of having used chemical weapons, in our view, is vanishingly small."

He emphasised: "This is not about getting involved in a Middle Eastern war, or changing our stance in Syria, or going further into that conflict. It's nothing to do with that. It's about chemical weapons. Their use is wrong and the world shouldn't stand idly by. . . It must be right to have some rules in our world, and to try to enforce those rules."

The Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, said on Tuesday that he was still confident that the Geneva II conference to broker a political solution to the conflict would take place "at some point". His team was working to bring together the regime and the opposition.

On the same day, the UN's top political official, Jeffrey Feltman, met with Iranian officials, who said that the country was committed to facilitating a political solution. Mr Feltman emphasised that the UN rejected a military approach to the crisis.

A YouGov poll published by The Sun on Wednesday showed that half of the respondents opposed the use of British missiles against Syria, compared with 25 per cent who were in favour.

On Thursday morning, Janet Symes, Head of Middle East at Christian Aid, echoed calls for a political solution to the crisis.

She said: "An escalation in military engagement is likely to worsen an already precarious humanitarian situation; leading to more civilian casualties and further destruction of infrastructure. It has the potential to jeopardise humanitarian access without bringing an end to the conflict any closer."

The Barnabas Fund has called for a day of prayer for Egypt and Syria this Sunday. It reports that, last Saturday, about 20 Christians were killed in a shooting perpetrated by opposition fighters in the Wadi al-Nasara area of Syria.

9 Secrets of the NYPD’s Spy Unit Revealed in ‘Enemies Within’

In the wake of 9/11, the NYPD launched a huge spying program. In the new book Enemies Within, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman detail the radical counterterrorism plan that destroyed the city’s privacy.

Four of the worst arguments for invading Syria yet

Alex Kane writes about four bad media justifications for an attack on Syria.

Bloc Quebecois want to Trudeau and Mulcair to shut up

Canadian Press - August 29, 2013

MONTREAL — Two federal party leaders weighed in on Quebec’s controversial religion plan Wednesday despite an admonition by the Bloc Quebecois that they had no business in the debate.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, both of them Quebec MPs, returned to their criticism after the Bloc warned them to steer clear.

Mulcair said he won’t be silenced on the issue, after Bloc Leader Daniel Paille said federal politicians should butt out and leave the matter to Quebecers.

“I’m an elected official in Quebec,” Mulcair said in Montreal. “I am leader of the Official Opposition in the Canadian Parliament but at the same time Mr. Paille has to understand that all Quebecers are involved in this debate.”

On Tuesday, Paille accused Mulcair and Trudeau of denying the Quebec nation under the guise of federal multiculturalism policy.

“I am formally demanding that the Quebec people be left to decide themselves,” Paille said in a statement.