Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saguenay non-Muslims rally in support of local mosque

About 20 Christians and other non-Muslims gathered before Friday prayers outside the Saguenay mosque that was vandalized last weekend, to show their support for the Quebec city's small Muslim community and its place of worship.

Last weekend, someone threw what was claimed to be pig's blood on the building and left behind an angry tract, denouncing Islam and demanding followers "assimilate or go home." 
.........

Gérard said until the desecration happened, he knew of individual Muslims living in Saguenay, but he wasn't even aware of the existence of a mosque.

"Now that we know," Gérard said, he and others are planning future interfaith activities, such as inviting Christians, Buddhists and others to mark the start of Ramadan with Muslims in Saguenay or inviting Muslims to gather with Christians at the start of Lent.

As an initial step, Gérard has set up a Facebook page called "Co-exister au Saguenay" — "Living together in Saguenay."


READ MORE.....

Quebec’s charter: Canada still has work to do on multiculturalism

Experts and GTA residents say it's time for a national discussion on religious freedom as Quebec prepares to consider its “charter of values.” More.......

Canadian security agencies have been authorized to do the same things as NSA in the US

What is even more startling is that Canadian security agencies have been authorized to do the same thing here, and may be using the same approach to conduct vast data-mining of our communications.

A rather obtuse section of the Anti-Terrorism Act, adopted in a hurry in December 2001, allows the minister of defence to authorize the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) — the Canadian partner and functional equivalent of the NSA — “to intercept private communications” coming into and out of Canada “in relation to an activity or class of activities specified in the authorization” for the very broad purpose of “obtaining foreign intelligence.” While the CSE used to be restricted to spying on communications outside Canada, the new act allows it to spy on domestic communication, as long as it involves someone outside of Canada. The language of the legislation mirrors that of the NSA mandate.

Muslim women’s group gets $300,000 to target domestic violence

Status of women minister Kellie Leitch supported the national project by Canadian Council of Muslim Women to educate about femicide, genital mutilation.

Chantal Hébert in Toronto Star: PQ debate on values bringing irreconcilable differences to the surface

The PQ hopes its charter will help set the clock back to the glory days of its coalition; that it will unite that the most traditionalist segment of the Quebec electorate and the progressive francophones.

By: Chantal Hébert National Affairs, Published on Fri Sep 06 2013


MONTREAL—To grasp the root causes of the Parti Québécois’s determination to lead the province in the minefield of religion and identity politics this fall, a look at the party’s recent electoral track record is more instructive than a refresher’s course in Quebec sociology.

It suggests a future when the sovereigntist coalition has become so fragmented that the PQ is no longer a de facto contender for power, let alone majority rule.

A year ago this week premier Pauline Marois barely managed to turn popular fatigue with a decade of Liberal rule into a minority mandate. When all the votes were counted only one in three had voted for the PQ.

That result fit a decade-old pattern. In the four Quebec elections held between 2003 and 2012 the party averaged 32 per cent in the popular vote — a 12-point drop from the average of the previous two decades.

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That drop is the price the PQ has paid for staying true to its pursuit of sovereignty.

After its razor-thin 1995 referendum defeat the party could hardly have renounced the quest for Quebec independence without courting implosion but it also could not stop scores of yes supporters from moving on.

Some joined the left-leaning Québec Solidaire. A greater number veered to the right, handing the Action Démocratique (ADQ) second place over the PQ in 2007 and raising its successor party — the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) — to a close third-place finish last year.

Those conservative voters hold the balance of power in the riding-rich francophone territory that lies outside Montreal and are the key to the PQ’s future. They have become immune to the siren calls of sovereignty; the language issue does not move them in the way that it used to. The charter of so-called Quebec values that Marois is about to put forward is the brainchild of a party at wit’s end to recoup its former territory before the competition settles in for good.

Polls and a lot of anecdotal evidence show that the debate of the accommodation of religious minorities and the notion of the imposition of a secular dress code on public-service workers has the most traction in areas of Quebec where the ranks of such minorities are so sparse as to already render them invisible.

Outside Montreal, perceptions of the advent of a more plural Quebec society are more often shaped by the media than by first-hand experience. With the help of a fair amount of sensationalist reporting, the sense that Quebecers could somehow be dispossessed of their identity or that the provincial’s social order could be threatened unless that plurality is reined in is latent.

It is a perception that the PQ is unabashedly feeding with suggestions such as premier Pauline Marois’ assertion to Le Devoir this week that “In England, they get into fights and throw bombs at one another because they have multiculturalism and people get lost in that type of a society.”

With every passing day her government’s argument that the separation between church and state needs to be reinforced is giving way to less secular and more identity-driven considerations.

On that score, the decision to drop the word secularism from the charter’s title to replace it with a reference to so-called Quebec values is not a cosmetic change.

Many charter supporters would be more inclined to take to the streets to keep the crucifix on the wall of the national assembly than to go to the barricades to exact religious neutrality from their elected officials — especially if they are fellow Catholics.

The PQ hopes its charter will help set the clock back to the glory days of its coalition; that it will unite that the most traditionalist segment of the Quebec electorate and the progressive francophones who have been at the forefront of the battle for gender equality and for secularism under its banner.

But so far the debate is bringing more irreconcilable differences between those two constituencies to the surface and inspiring the opposite of a collective sense of purpose.

Don Macpherson: PQ winning some, losing some in bid for charter of values

Sept 6, 2013


MONTREAL — In Quebec politics, there is no problem that cannot be solved by passing a new law.

This is true even if the only problem to be solved is political.

Even if the Parti Québécois and its new ally, the Coalition Avenir Québec, pretend otherwise in order to justify the need for a “charter of values,” there is no crisis in Quebec over religious accommodations.

We are far from “throwing bombs at each other because it’s multiculturalism,” as Premier Pauline Marois excitedly claimed is the case in England in an interview reported in Le Devoir on Friday.

There is not even a media-fabricated crisis here, like the one that nearly brought the CAQ’s forerunner, the Action démocratique du Québec, to power in 2007.

Philippe Couillard, unlike his adversaries, does not even pretend there is a crisis in Quebec society over accommodation of minority religious practices.

“Many examples show that citizens settle almost all cases among themselves in a satisfactory way, by completely reasonable arrangements or accommodations,” the Quebec Liberal Party leader said this week.

He made the comment as he was presenting his party’s solution to a problem he admits does not exist: a new law to limit accommodations.

Naturally, it would be accompanied by the creation of a new bureaucracy, and the now-requisite further weakening of protection for minority rightsin the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

So now all three major parties in the National Assembly agree on the need for legislation, while disagreeing on what should be in it.

That Couillard backed into the blatantly contradictory position he announced this week, after the CAQ endorsed most of what is expected to be in the Marois government’s “charter of values,” shows how politically effective the charter has already been for the PQ.

And this is even before the actual proposal to forbid public employees from wearing religious symbols, among other objectives, is — pardon the pun — unveiled.

This issue has already shown that it has “legs,” as we say in the news business.

There have been columns and opinion articles on it in the French-language Quebec press every day in the nearly three weeks since the first leak of details of the proposal.

Most of the commentary has been critical, and much of the French-speaking intelligentsia that long favoured the PQ has broken with the party over the charter.

Even in sovereignist-sympathetic Le Devoir, there have been comparisons of Marois’s PQ to Maurice Duplessis’s repressive and xenophobic Union Nationale party before 1960, and warnings that the charter will hurt the sovereignist cause.

“Shame on the PQ,” wrote Michel Seymour, former chair of a group of intellectuals for sovereignty, while praising the left-wing sovereignist Québec solidaire party for opposing the charter,

And Raymond Gravel, a former member of Parliament for the sovereignist Bloc Québécois as well as a Catholic priest, wrote that the PQ proposal is “an abuse of power worthy of a dictatorship or a totalitarian government.”

But if the PQ has lost most of the so-called opinion “leaders,” it appears to have gained the support of public opinion.

The recent attention to the charter is probably the main reason for a 15-point lead in popularity for the PQ among French-speaking voters found in results of a Léger poll reported in Le Devoir this week.

Focus on the charter has changed the subject of political conversation from the economy, a PQ weakness, to identity, the PQ’s strength.

The charter will probably dominate the fall sitting of the Assembly, which begins Sept. 17.

And as we’ve seen, its popularity has given the government the initiative, and put the main opposition parties on the defensive.

Montreal Gazette Editorial: Withholding details of values charter is cowardly

And that's on top of the intolerance, hypocrisy and blarney the PQ has shown with its proposals

THE GAZETTE SEPTEMBER 6, 2013


MONTREAL — Judging by Premier Pauline Marois’s most recent statements, the Parti Québécois government will not unveil its Charter of Quebec Values on Monday as previously announced, but reveal it by way of an extended striptease.

It now seems that rather than coming clean with the full details of what it proposes to impose, the government will release only the broad outlines of its planned legislation. The legalities and finer details involved would be held back until after a consultation period that could extend for the rest of the National Assembly’s fall session.

This means that critics and opposition parties will be unable to mount a comprehensive challenge to the measure, while the government will be able to bob and weave in the debate without having to stand by a firm set of proposals. In taking this tack, the PQ is adding cowardice to the intolerance, hypocrisy and blarney it has shown thus far in the debate over values.

According to what has been leaked of the plan so far, the charter would decree a ban on the wearing of all religious symbols in the public sector, from civil servants to teachers, and from hospital personnel to even daycare workers.

The premier and the minister responsible for pushing the legislation along, Bernard Drainville, maintain that the measures are necessary to enshrine the secular nature of the Quebec state, even though they would retain the crucifix that prominently hangs over the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly chamber.

They insist a charter would promote greater unity among Quebecers, yet what it has done so far is unleash a virulent and divisive controversy. And while Marois and Drainville say it would reinforce the principle of equality for women, the charter would disqualify some women from some occupations solely on the grounds of what they choose to wear on their heads.

This contrasts sharply with the Quebec Liberal Party’s positionannounced this week, which denounces what is known so far of the PQ project and elaborates a set of values altogether befitting of today’s modern and diverse Quebec society.

The values the Liberals would enshrine include equality between men and women, neutrality of the Quebec state in terms of religion, and respect for individual rights “in an inclusive, tolerant society, open to the world.”

The Liberals would draw a line at niqab face coverings by those offering and receiving government services. This is an eminently acceptable requirement, for reasons of reliable identification and communication, consistent not only with Quebec values, but also entrenched Canadian custom with which immigrants can reasonably be expected to comply.

There is talk of late that the PQ plans to call a snap election in early December, hoping to profit from a recent resurgence in the polls. This would be entirely opportunistic, and break the PQ promise to hold elections on fixed dates, unless the government is defeated on a confidence vote in the Assembly.

On the other hand, the opportunity to unburden ourselves of this wretched administration sooner than later would not be entirely unwelcome.

91 Quebec intellectuals denounce values charter in 1000 word manifesto

CTV Montreal Sept 7, 2013


A group of 91 Quebec thinkers – mostly francophone academics – have signed a letter denouncing the PQ's charter of values that is expected to be debated at the National Assembly as soon as next week.

Although the exact details of the soon-to-be proposed legislation remain unknown, the group is clear in its rejection of the project, as evidence in its 1,000 word manifesto entitled “Our values exclude exclusion."

The letter begins emphatically: “We are against any proposed charter Quebec values. We share values such as equality between men and women and the secular nature of the state and public institutions."

The signatories include McGill academics Abby Lippman and Ethel Groffier, writer Norman Nawrocki and activist Will Prosper.

The letter defends what it calls "the rejection of racism," and calls the bill a "repressive and divisive project."



Friday, September 6, 2013

Map: All the Countries John McCain Has Wanted to Attack

Syria, Iraq, Russia, North Korea, and nine other nations the Arizona senator has been eager to bomb, invade, or destabilize.

Charter of Quebec Values: RPCU fears for rights of health and social services network users


MONTREAL, Sept. 5, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - The health and social services network user committees group, the Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (RPCU), has a number of concerns about the Charter of Quebec Values proposed by the government of Quebec. The RPCU feels that the secular nature of the State should be evident through the neutrality of its actions, not through a prohibition on the wearing of religious symbols either by the individuals who provide services or by those who receive them. Does the wearing of religious symbols by government employees really prevent the neutrality of the State? It is not the religious symbols that pose a problem, but rather the proselytizing that we may associate with them.

Users of the health and social services network should be welcomed and respected when they come to network facilities. Will they feel at ease coming to a facility wearing their religious symbols? Will they, in turn, be asked to remove them? "Will users also be bound by rules? What happens if a woman wearing a veil arrives in an emergency room?" asked Claude Ménard, Chairman of the RPCU. "Will she be told that she has to remove her veil so she can be identified?"

The RPCU is also concerned that religious practices will be banned from residential and long-term care centres (CHSLD). A majority of the elderly in-patients are practising Catholics, and Sunday mass is anxiously awaited. The same is true for in-patients of other faiths, Jews or Muslims, for example. "Would this mean that masses and chaplains will be subject to the Charter? What about rabbis and imams?" asked RPCU Director General Pierre Blain."If we're obliged to ban all forms of religious expression and symbols, user rights to practice a religion would be trampled."

"Although there is a great deal of talk about the proposed Charter of Quebec Values, users of the health and social services network have more pressing concerns, such as abolition of the health tax and access to a family physician.We hope that the debate over the Charter of Quebec Values does not overshadow the needs of public health system users," concluded Blain.

About the RPCU

The Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (RPCU) advocates on behalf of users and is the spokesperson for the 600 user and in-patient committees in Quebec's health and social services establishments. The committees' mission is to defend users' rights and work to improve the quality of services provided to users of the health and social services network. The RPCU also advocates for the elderly.

SOURCE PROVINCIAL REGROUPMENT OF PATIENT COMMITTEES (RPCU) For further information:

Richard Rancourt, Director of Communications, cell.: 514 966-0279
Pierre Blain, Director General, 514 436-3744

The End of Internet Privacy? Glenn Greenwald on Secret NSA Program to Crack Online Encryption


See also NYT Report  & Guardian Report

'Nursery school dropouts': Poverty as a health crisis for many of America's kids

America’s pediatricians are sounding an alarm about what they call “the most important problem facing children in the U.S. today”: childhood poverty, which they say is a serious threat to children’s physical and mental health, and a barrier to their development, achievement, and future.

War Keeps Many Syrian Children From School

Lisa Schlein -- September 06, 2013

GENEVA — The United Nations Children’s Fund reports almost two million Syrian children have dropped out of school. UNICEF is appealing to the international community for funds to provide these children with facilities, teachers and supplies they need to continue their education. 

School is set to begin in Syria but some two million children displaced inside and outside of Syria are not receiving a formal education. About 40 percent of those in grades one to nine have dropped out . 

Syria important but don't ignore global poverty, CAFOD tells G20

By agency reporter --- 5 Sep 2013


Long-term, chronic crises of global unemployment, unsustainable levels of inequality, economic instability and persisting poverty must not be sidelined by the G20, says Catholic development agency CAFOD.

As world leaders arrive in St Petersburg, Russia, this year's summit is set to be dominated by debate on Syria. While concerted action to bring about peace is vital, it must not be forgotten that for millions of the world's poorest communities the global economic downturn is increasing their vulnerability.

CAFOD's lead economic analyst, Christina Chang, commented: "It is right that global leaders take the opportunity to discuss the urgent, humanitarian crisis in Syria. CAFOD is calling on the UK government and the international community to do much more to push for peace.

"We want the UK government to work to ensure an immediate ceasefire in Syria and to bring everyone involved in the conflict to a peace conference. We’re also calling on all sides in Syria to respect international humanitarian law, and to allow aid to reach all those in need.

"But it must not be ignored that longer-term crises have also cost millions their homes and livelihoods and the G20 has the power and mandate to improve that situation.

"Economic slumps in emerging economies and high levels of unemployment in rich countries demonstrate that the G20's job is a long way from being finished.

“Five years on from the economic crisis and at the end of its first action plan on development, this year is a useful time for the G20 to reflect on how well it has served the poorest people, and on the extent to which it has fulfilled its purpose to make the global economy fairer, more stable and more environmentally sustainable,” said Ms Chang.

As the World Bank warns that we need to create 600 million new jobs in the next fifteen years, the World Economic Forum cites the risks to the global economy generated by rising inequality and the world is beginning to develop new ambitious goals to tackle global poverty for 2015, the G20 must honour its critical role as the self-appointed forum to fix the global economy.

This is a watershed year for the G20 as it comes to the end of its first action plan on development. It is also five years since the G20 came together as a result of the ongoing economic crisis to address the shortcomings of the global economy.

The G20 is making progress – starting to tackle tax avoidance, looking at the flaws in the international monetary system and shifting their focus to job creation, not simply focusing on growth – all these matter for entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Without such action, small and micro businesses suffer from the economic volatility or lack of public funding for essential infrastructure and basic services that can result.

Yet the G20 has much work to do before its promise of a global economy that promotes sustainability, jobs and improving social impact is realised, say NGOs.

World leaders have three critical core tasks at this summit, says CAFOD: to develop a new, ambitious plan on development so that poor, small-scale entrepreneurs can lift themselves out of poverty and contribute to their national and global economic progress; to ensure that its core agenda of fixing global economic governance also achieves the transformation of the global economy needed to fight poverty, and finally to continue to improve how it works with developing country governments and civil society – without which it will not be able to achieve these goals.

* To read more on what the G20 can do to support the poorest people, see the CAFOD briefing paper here: http://bit.ly/17zew3Z

Ex-FBI lawyer linked to surveillance abuses poised for federal judge post

A former senior FBI official implicated in surveillance abuses is poised to become a federal judge in one of the US's most important courts for terrorism cases.

Valerie Caproni, the FBI's top lawyer from 2003 to 2011, is scheduled to receive a vote on Monday in the Senate for a seat on the southern district court of New York. READ MORE......

ICRC concerned about potential US Syria strikes

Globaltimes.cn | 2013-9-6
By Yang Jingjie in Damascus

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)'s local branch in Syria says it is very concerned about the potential escalation of violence in the face of strikes mulled by the US.

"Although the strikes have not even started, and they are just being debated right now, there are actually thousands of people who have crossed to Lebanon over the past couple of days," Rima Kamal, spokeswomen for the ICRC in Syria, told the Global Times. "Last week, for example, when people were expecting things to happen, we have 10,000 people who crossed to Lebanon in one day. And this is double the usual daily number," 

The ICRC said it is trying to prepare in all cases to remain operational, including increasing stocks of food and medications, although it is very difficult to predict what will happen if a US strike takes place. READ MORE.....

A MUST READ: Robert Spencer Attacks Muslim Scholar for Standing for Freedom of Faith: In Defense of Prof. M. Cherif Bassiouni

by Sheila Musaji -- Sept 5, 2013

Source url: 
http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/in-defense-of-prof.-m.-cherif-bassiouni/0020030

On 4/2 2006 M. Cherif Bassiouni [a distinguished Law professor at DePaul University and President of the International Human Rights Law Institute], wrote that “a Muslim’s conversion to Christianity is not a crime punishable by death under Islamic law.” Prof. Bassiouni submitted his testimony to a court in Afghanistan where an individual named Abdul Rahman was on trial for the “crime” of apostasy, and he published the following article in the Chicago Tribune Leaving Islam is not a capital crime:

A Muslim’s conversion to Christianity is not a crime punishable by death under Islamic law, contrary to the claims in the case of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan.

While there is long-established doctrine that apostasy is punishable by death, that has also long been questioned by Islamic criminal justice scholars, including this writer.

There are 1.4 billion Muslims who live in more than 140 countries. They constitute the great majority in 53 countries that declare themselves to be Muslim states. Most of these states have constitutions that guarantee freedom of religion, as does the Afghani constitution. Most of these states have criminal codes that do not include apostasy as a crime. Among them are: Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

Other Muslim countries, however, criminalize apostasy on the basis of doctrinal constructs established in the 7th and 8th Centuries, which have been mildly questioned over the years or simply sidestepped. States that recognize it as a crime punishable by death include Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. However, there are no known cases in recent times in which someone charged with apostasy in these countries has been put to death.

The principal category of crimes in Islam is called hudud. These crimes are referred to in the Koran and thus require prosecution. They are: adultery, theft, transgression (physical aggression), highway robbery, slander and alcohol consumption. Apostasy is included in this list by most scholars, but not by a few others. The Koran refers to it as follows: “And whoever of you turns [away] from his religion [Islam] and dies disbelieving, their works have failed in this world and the next [world]. Those are the inhabitants of fire: therein they shall dwell forever.” Surat (chapter) al-Ma’eda, verse 35. This verse does not criminalize the turning away from Islam, nor does it establish a penalty.

Turning away from Islam, which is translated as apostasy, would not have been considered a crime, except the Prophet Muhammad (praise be upon him) in the 7th Century applied the death penalty to a Muslim who turned away from Islam. Historians of the Sunnah, the tradition established by the Prophet and deemed binding upon all Muslims, failed to note a significant fact about that case—that person not only had a change of faith, but decided to join the enemies of Islam at a time of war, thus making it a crime of high treason. Such a crime exists in all legal systems, many with the death penalty.

The Prophet’s application of the death penalty was used by Muslim scholars in combination with the verse cited above as a legal basis for making apostasy, namely, change in religious belief, a crime punishable by death. These scholars have overlooked the passage to the enemy at a time of war, which was the most important element in the Prophet’s decision in that case. They have also overlooked two important factors.

The first relates to the Koran, the highest binding source of Islamic law, which contains a fundamental principle stated in unequivocal terms: “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 256. Surely this overarching principle cannot be transgressed by forcing a person under penalty of death to espouse Islam even after such a person professes to have renounced it.

The second overlooked factor relates to the Prophet’s Sunnah, which is the second source of law. In another case, the Prophet reached a different outcome. In this case, which shows the considerate and gentler face of Islam, a man was brought to the Prophet and accused of turning away from Islam. He was seen throwing his spear into the sky and screaming, “I want to kill you God!” The Prophet inquired of the man if that was true, and then asked for his reasons. The man said that God had killed his beloved one that he was soon to marry, and that he wanted to kill God for that. The Prophet, addressing the accusers, said, “Is it not enough for you that he believes in God enough that he wants to kill him?” And he let the man go.

Interestingly, all these scholars qualified the application of the death penalty with a time-lag to allow the apostate to change his/her mind. This period varied from one to 10 days. If all scholars agree to a period of time, and there can be no compulsion in religion, then why is it not valid to say that the person’s natural life is the appropriate period of time? After all, the applicable Koranic verse refers to those who “die as disbelievers.” By shortening their natural life, such condemned persons are deprived of the opportunity to make the choice of returning to Islam. If they do not, then their punishment is in the hereafter, and not in this world.


It would seem that a Muslim scholar giving an opinion against any punishment for apostasy, and in fact providing that opinion in defense of an individual on trial in Afghanistan would be considered something very positive. However, this opinion by a Muslim scholar provoked numerous attacks by Robert Spencer.

Spencer wrote Academic Lies About Killing Apostates and From the Chicago Tribune, yet another misleading analysis in which he actually attacks Prof. Bassiouni’s arguments to the Afghan court on behalf of Abdul Rahman. According to Spencer, since he can quote opinions by other Muslim scholars who hold a different point of view — they are correct, and Prof. Bassiouni is not only wrong, but lying. This is truly reprehensible behavior on Spencer’s part. An American Muslim Islamic scholar is presenting evidence in a court of law to support freedom of faith, and defend an individuals right to change their faith, and Spencer objects.

UPDATE September 2009 — Spencer is still objecting to the opinions of Muslim scholars who are challenging any punishment for apostasy and upholding freedom of faith. As Loonwatch noted:

... Spencer proclaims that it was “false” for Bassiouni to write that “a Muslim’s conversion to Christianity is not a crime punishable by death under Islamic law.” Even when Bassiouni pointed out that the document was his (and a large number of other scholars’) opinion and that it was submitted to a court in Kabul dealing with a case in which the death penalty was being considered for apostasy he didn’t backtrack but continued to attempt to castigate the professor. Not a smart move it seems.

When he couldn’t get the professor on any of the facts he resorted to the tactic of guilt by association. In this case it was one of the most pathetic guilt by association arguments ever made in the annals of pathetic guilt by association arguments on Jihad Watch. Essentially, some random emailer to JihadWatch emailed Spencer threatening him and then that emailer “defended” Professor Bassiouni which led to Spencer blogging a post titled M. Cherif Bassiouni Gets an Ally. At least this is the story that Spencer wants us to believe, but let us take Spencer’s word for it and say that it happened the way he said it did. What does any of this have to do with Bassiouni? Is Spencer insinuating somehow that in some weird conspiratorial way Bassiouni put the emailer up to it? That somehow Bassiouni who his whole life has worked for nothing but peace, and in his correspondence with Spencer has been nothing but civil is now inciting violence? Is he insinuating that the emailer and Bassiouni are linked in anyway?

The answer to all these questions from the perspective of Spencer seem to unfortunately be yes, and it is sad because it just further proves that Spencer has fallen further down the rabbit hole then previously thought. Of course, Spencer can expect to be lauded, and proclaimed victorious in this encounter with Bassiouni — by members of his own website. The verbose Hugh Fitzgerald after the first exchange of emails was exultant, gesticulating in his wild praise of his bosom buddy Robert Spencer. It almost made you teary with disgust at reading the hyperbole bandied about by Fitzgerald in defense of his man. He proclaimed that Spencer is like the “Robber Baron of the Mauve Decade who proudly explained, ‘I sees my opportunities, and I took ‘em.’” Exaggeration anyone?

Fitzgerald went on to state, still in a state of intoxicated amazement and bedazzled wonderment by his hero, “Spencer’s reply to him is unanswerable. He has no answer. He must now remain silent. And if he still has some of his wits about him, he must at this point be truly mortified. For what can he say?” Well it seems there is more that Bassiouni can say and if anything, it seems now it remains for Spencer to be silent — or at least just let Fitzgerald do the talking. ...

And, here is how a genuine scholar responds to such nonsense:

Dear Mr. Spencer,

Thank you for your email of 8/13/09 in response to mine. You had asked for permission to print my letter, but you went ahead and did it without my permission so, obviously, you are no longer seeking my permission.

After looking at your website, I was quite surprised to see how much hate, venom and misunderstanding you are fostering. Through my 45-year career in International Criminal Law and Human Rights I have regrettably, all too often, seen the harmful consequences of what you manage to engender. Goebbels and others in Nazi Germany brought about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, the war in the former Yugoslavia (1991-95) had many religious undertones between Serb-Orthodox and Catholic-Croats, whose religious animosity producing violence goes back to 1915, and then, we have Christian-Catholic Hutus killing between 500,000 and 800,000 of their co-religionist Tutsis in Rwanda. It all started the same way, and all too few people spoke up against it. Having investigated war crimes in the former Yugoslavia for the United Nations, monitored human rights in Afghanistan also for the U.N., and done work in Iraq, funded by the U.S. government, I can tell you in all three arenas of conflict how pernicious religious hatred and misunderstanding is. That is why I speak up against your hate-mongering.

I don’t know if this communication will have any moderating effects on your anti-Islam and Anti-Muslim stances. Usually persons who have extremist views are beyond the reach of reason, good sense, and good faith. They are too imbued with their own self-righteous views and are all too often blinded by their hatred or animosity towards others to act in ways that most people consider reasonable and decent.

Mr. Spencer, I am not a polemicist. If you find out about me through public sources, you will discover that I have spent my life fighting for what is right, even at the risk of my own life in many situations. Hate-mongering, incitation to hate, various forms of religious, ethnic, national intolerances have, in my experience, only produced violence and harmful results. I don’t know what you are up to, why you are doing it, and for whose benefit, but everything I read tells me there is something wrong in conducting such an extremist campaign against Islam and Muslims. What is that intended to accomplish other than radicalization and polarization? Is that in the best interests of relations between Americans who have different faith-belief systems? Is that intended to arouse anti-Islamicism in America for certain political purposes? If any of these are the case then whatever I or anyone else may have to say to you will not have much effect. By the grace of God, I continue to believe in the best in human beings, and I hope that the best in you, and those who follow you, will prevail over the worst that is reflected in the work that you are doing.

I firmly believe that there is one God who has created one humankind and that we are all members of the same human family. This God, who is the beginning and end of everything, the One described in the First Commandment contained in the Hebrew bible and the Old Testament is, in my opinion, the same God described in the Qur’ān. All three Abrahamic faiths, as well as other belief systems, conceive of a single humankind, making us all brothers and sisters in this humanity. There is no superior or inferior human being and certainly it is against any belief in God and moral/ethical values to dehumanize a person or demonize a person for his/her beliefs or otherwise. History has always demonstrated that when that occurs, it is the beginning of the rationalization for genocide and crimes against humanity.

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of any organization having a campaign similar to yours aimed at discrediting a major religion and its followers. Consequently there is something unique in what you are doing and in your mission, which not only sets it apart from established inter-religious practices, but which also calls into question the motives, purposes and goals of such an undertaking. Fortunately there is only you and your group in the world doing such a thing and, hopefully, you will not be able to do much harm to your fellow human beings, whether in this country or elsewhere.

As to your invitation to a debate, I have never engaged in oral debates, particularly when it clearly appears from both your website and your publications that the goal would not be to obtain a better understanding of whatever the issue may be.

Concerning the merits of the issue of apostasy, Islamic law has a long history and it is rather complex. In the course of 14 centuries there have been many differences among scholars as to almost every aspect of law, theology and religious practices. Similar differences exist in Judaism and Christianity as well as other faith-belief systems. Different cultures also see things in different ways. And, in time, many perspectives change.

My views on apostasy have been made public since 1983, in the U.S., and in the Muslim world. They include my understanding that apostasy in the days of the Prophet meant, essentially, high treason in the equivalent modern significance. There were different views on the matter between the late 7th and 12th centuries. Since then, Ijtihad, which means making the effort to think (much as the word jihad means making an effort) has been stopped by theological fiat. As a result, not much progressive thinking or corrective interpretation has been made to show that the interpretations which took place after the Prophet’s death were not the correct ones. The Qur’ān’s overarching principle enunciated in chapter 2 is that there can be “no compulsion in religion.” That doesn’t make me “deceptive” nor does it make me an “apologist.” These are two terms you have used to describe me, which are defamatory. (Whether you see fit to publish a retraction or apology will demonstrate your good faith.)

In any event, this concludes our written exchange, but I will be glad to meet with you personally whenever you are in Chicago or if our paths cross elsewhere. In order to avoid any further polemic, I will stop with this communication, though I still hope that this message may have a positive effect on you.

Sincerely,
M. Cherif Bassiouni


Spencer also raised the non-issue of Prof. Bassiouni not signing the ridiculous “Freedom Pledge”. SeeFormer Muslims United Freedom Pledge Against Punishment for Apostasy a “Red Herring” for all the details about this incident. That article includes this paragraph:

This FMU group has certainly not paid any attention to what has already taken place within the Muslim community, particularly here in the United States. TAM has an extensive resource collection of articles and information about this called Apostasy and Freedom of Faith in Islam, and we have published many articles discussing this subject. Most importantly, Muslims themselves have created such a pledge titled Apostasy and Islam: Muslims Uphold the Freedom of Faith more than two years ago. This FMU pledge is simply another attempt to create propoganda (planting the idea that American Muslims have not taken a position against punishments for apostasy) and to attempt to make it seem as if only former Muslims can stand for what is right, and frankly to attempt to increase the visibility of the FMU at the expense of the Muslim community. This is shameful behavior (although typical of members of this group who go beyond denouncing Islamic radicalism to denouncing all of Islam) and is simply another example of attempting to marginalize the Muslim community and bolster the false claim that Muslims don’t speak up against injustices, extremism, etc.

Update 9/5/2013 - Spencer now has an all purpose statement to use whenever there is a case anywhere in the world of an issue of apostasy. He only needs to change the name of the country. Here is the statement:

Muhammad said: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Yet Muslim spokesmen such as Harris Zafar, Mustafa Akyol, Salam al-Marayati, M. Cherif Bassiouni, and Ali Eteraz (among many others) have assured us that Islam doesn’t punish apostasy. I am confident that Zafar, Akyol, al-Marayati, Bassiouni, and Eteraz are making their way to Khartoum as we speak, so as to explain to Ammar Saleh, the chairman of the Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, that he is getting Islam all wrong, wrong, wrong.

He has recently used this about a case in Sudan, a case in Pakistan, a case in Somalia, a case inMorocco, etc. Muslim scholars have attempted to intervene in many cases and to raise their voices against extremism, ignorance, and terrorism, and just as in the case of Prof. Bassiouni, were then attacked by Spencer. Truly despicable behavior.

Please type apostasy into the TAM search engine for many articles and article collections by and about this particular topic, or click here.

Reconciling Muslim practices with Western principles

SHEEMA KHAN

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Sep. 06, 2013


An incredible amount of ink has been spent on the reaction to the proposed Charter of Quebec Values, considering that the document itself remains veiled to the wider public.

For those wishing to brush up on laïcité, John Bowen’s Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves provides an excellent analysis of the distinctively French view of the separation between church and state. According to Mr. Bowen, laïcité is a French tradition that began in 1905 when the Roman Catholic church was officially removed from France’s educational system and a greater part of public life.

The distinction between laïcité and secularism is partly due to the different philosophies of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. According to Rousseau, the individual gains freedom through the state, which has the right to regulate the public sphere of religion. On the other hand, Locke placed freedom of conscience as the cornerstone of individual rights, which guarantees freedom from the state. These opposing views have permeated societies with French and British roots.

After having undergone a revolution far more quiet than that of their French counterparts, Quebeckers have embarked on a long overdue debate on their own definition of laïcité. It will be shaped by cultural heritage, linguistic identity and the contemporary reality of living in a fully anglicized North American milieu shaped by Lockean roots.

The past decade witnessed a similar vigorous debate in France. “Conspicuous” religious symbols were prohibited in public schools in 2004; face coverings were banned in public spaces in 2010. Many French Muslim leaders came out in favour of discouraging the face veil, citing the incompatibility of a non-obligatory practice with the French tradition oflaïcité. It also marked a maturation of Europe’s largest Muslim minority by adapting to the historical and social realities of France – rather than importing those of the Middle East or North Africa. Such an approach provides a valuable paradigm for Muslim communities that seek to integrate into the wider Western fabric, while remaining true to overarching Islamic principles.

Often, Muslims chafe at monolithic characterizations of their faith. Yet they sometimes do the very same by insisting that Islam should be practised in a uniform manner, regardless of place and time. For example, some will insist that there is only one way to dress modestly. Yet Islamic civilization always took into account local culture and changing circumstances, resulting in cultural tones and variations that are readily apparent in diverse Muslim populations throughout the world.

Some argue that Islamic radicalization is culturally predatory since it seeks to undercut indigenous culture by imposing an exogenous practice, as evidenced in Somalia and Mali. While Muslim communities do not have such a narrow agenda, they have often failed to examine local history and culture in a meaningful way.

As a result, some have inadvertently harmed community development by importing foreign cultural practices that have little relevance to local context. Take, for example, the influx during the 1970s and ’80s of foreign preachers and imams into Canada who told Muslims not to vote, since Western governments were un-Islamic. This strategy only served to marginalize Muslims from civic engagement, and delayed the development of civic and political leadership.

Muslim communities must realize that their home is here, and that it will take great effort to develop Islamic practice that has a Canadian tone, with regional variations. This implies ceasing blind importation of overseas cultural practices, or consultation of overseas imams who have no desire to understand Western cultural context.

Institutions should reflect local best practices, where discourse, debate and inclusion of stakeholders set the tone. Currently, most Muslim institutions are replicas of their foreign counterparts, with a top-down approach in which the voices of women and youth are often absent.

We need intelligent, dispassionate discussions of how Western principles, such as gender equality, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and critical inquiry, meld with overarching Islamic principles.

Civic engagement will also be paramount for future integration, as Muslims participate in wider policy issues, such as the environment, energy security, aboriginal self-assertion and, yes, Quebec identity.

In classical Islamic thought, the overriding principle of the faith was understood to be mercy. It was manifest by the intent to do good to others, to bring benefit to the wider society and to prevent harm. It is a principle worth resurrecting as Muslims establish roots here.

N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web

By NICOLE PERLROTH, JEFF LARSON and SCOTT SHANE

Published: September 5, 2013 (NYT)

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. READ MORE.......

New Book: Islam in the Modern World

edited by: Jeffrey T. Kenney, Ebrahim Moosa
Routledge (2012)

This comprehensive introduction explores the landscape of contemporary Islam. Written by a distinguished team of scholars, it:

-- provides broad overviews of the developments, events, people and movements that have defined Islam in the three majority-Muslim regions

-- traces the connections between traditional Islamic institutions and concerns, and their modern manifestations and transformations. How are medieval ideas, policies and practices refashioned to address modern circumstances

-- investigates new themes and trends that are shaping the modern Muslim experience such as gender, fundamentalism, the media and secularisation

 -- offers case studies of Muslims and Islam in dynamic interaction with different societies.

Islam in the Modern World includes illustrations, summaries, discussion points and suggestions for further reading that will aid understanding and revision. Additional resources are provided via a companion website.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Walmart workers rally in 15 US cities, demand better pay

Protesters demand a minimum of $25,000 per year for full-time employees and want fired colleagues reinstated. 

Quebec Liberals present alternative charter of Quebec values

Couillard says he would not ban authority figures from wearing religious symbols

BY KEVIN DOUGHERTY, GAZETTE QUEBEC BUREAU CHIEF SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 


QUEBEC — Philippe Couillard, leader of the Quebec Liberals, has presented his party’s vision of Quebec values.

“A right is a right is a right,” Couillard told reporters Thursday.

The ruling Parti Québécois plans to release a position paper, possibly next week, outlining its plans for a Charter of Quebec Values that would legislate a ban on the wearing of all religious symbols in the public sector, from civil servants to teachers, hospital workers and even daycare educators.

Couillard said he is concerned by the “total silence” of PQ Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud on his government’s proposal to ban religious symbols.

“So we’re now talking about removing freedoms for a vast segment of the population, so his silence is, I would say at the least, worrisome,” Couillard said.

Kathleen Weil, Liberal MNA for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce riding, who accompanied Couillard, recalled that when she was a minister, a woman wearing a hijab would fix her computer. Weil said women from minority communities are “very proud” to work in Quebec’s public sector.

Now, Weil said she is getting a lot of calls from women who wear religious symbols who are “very, very, upset” by the PQ proposal.

“I guess they would have to be fired,” Weil said.

Couillard said this would be “an unacceptable attack on our individual freedoms and we will never tolerate it.”

“Does the fact that someone wears a cross or a kippa or a turban make that person not competent to work? It’s a very strange strategy, by the way, that in order to achieve emancipation of Muslim women, you bar them from working. Isn’t that curious? I find it extremely objectionable.”

The Coalition Avenir Québec, which holds the balance of power maintaining the PQ government in office, favours a more limited ban on religious symbols than the PQ. It would only apply to authority figures such as judges, police and prison officers and public school principals and teachers.

Couillard said his Liberals reject even such a limited ban, explaining that in Britain, judges display religious signs but their impartiality is not questioned.

Couillard said the Liberals define Quebec values as:

Equality between women and men;

Neutrality of the Quebec state in terms of religion;

Respect for individual rights “in an inclusive, tolerant society, open to the world.”

Couillard noted that the previous Liberal government, in implementing recommendations of the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor commission, included the equality of women and men in the province’s human rights charter.

A future Liberal government would amend the human rights charter again to specify the neutrality of the state.

Couillard noted that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms affirms that Canada “is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”

The Liberal amendment would clarify that Quebec “does not favour or disfavour one religion compared to another, nor the decision of some citizens not to have any religion.”

An aide to Couillard explained later that with the adoption of the Liberal neutrality amendment, the crucifix in the Quebec National Assembly would remain in place.

The PQ and CAQ would also retain the crucifix, as reflecting Quebec’s history and heritage.

But the Liberals would revive their proposal to ban the Muslim niqab face covering when offering or receiving government services, for reasons of identification, communications and safety.

That proposal was rejected by Muslim and other groups who testified at hearings on the Liberal Bill 94 that it targeted Muslim women.

Couillard said Liberals adhere to the Bouchard-Taylor proposal favouring “interculturalism” rather than the multiculturalism of the federal government.

He explained that multiculturalism is like a forest of trees standing alone, while interculturalism, meaning acceptance of French as Quebec’s common language “in total respect of the diversity and individual freedoms of citizens,” is like a single tree.

kdougherty@montrealgazette.com

Twitter: doughertykr

Top writers give reading for justice and peace in the Middle East

For Immediate Release 

Montreal, September 5, 2013 -- Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is delighted to announce that on Sunday evening, September 22, four of Canada's top writers will give a benefit reading to support CJPME's work for justice and peace in the Middle East. The event will be held at 7 pm at the Friends' House, 60 Lowther Avenue, Toronto, M5R 1C7. CJPME is Canada's largest grassroots multiethnic secular organization working to promote justice, peace and development in the Middle East.

The writers include:
  • Wayson ChoyNot Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying; All That Matters (Trillium Book Award; finalist, Giller Prize; longlisted IMPAC-Dublin Award); Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood (Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non Fiction ; Finalist, Governor General's Award); The Jade Peony (Trillium Book Award, City of Vancouver Book Award). Member of the Order of Canada.
  • Terry FallisUp and Down; The High Road; The Best Laid Plans (2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Winner,  CBC's Canada Reads 2011 competition)
  • Kyo MaclearStray Love (A Quill and Quire Favorite, 2012; NOW Magazine Top Ten Book of 2012; National Post Canadian Favorite of 2012); Virginia Wolf (Governor General's Award for Children's Literature, 2012); Mr. Flux; Spork; The Letter Opener(Winner, Ontario Arts Council K.M. Hunter Artists Award).
  • Nino RicciThe Origin of Species (Governor General's Award);Testament (Trillium Award); Where She Has Gone; In a Glass House; Lives of the Saints (Governor General's Award). Member of the Order of Canada.
"We are proud that such renowned writers share our concern about justice and peace in the Middle East," says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. Over 100 writers co-signed the Canadian Writers' Open Letter to Israeli and Canadian leaders this summer through a campaign launched by CJPME. (See letter and full list of current signatories below). Some of the newest signatories are short-story writer Alice Munro, novelist Joseph Boyden, and playwrights Robert Lepage, George F. Walker, Arthur Milner and Hanna Moscovitch.  

The letter asked Israeli leaders to halt the evictions of Palestinians from the Southern Hebron Hills and the forced displacement of Bedouin citizens of Israel from their homes in the Negev. The writers also asked Canadian MPs to speak up against these evictions and forced displacements.
Further details about the benefit reading are available at cjpme.org .

##### 

Canadian Writers' Open Letter to Israeli and Canadian Leaders Regarding Impending Evictions of South Hebron Palestinians and Negev Bedouin


We, the undersigned, urge Israeli leaders to heed the call by David Grossman, Amos Oz, AB Yehoshua and 21 other Israeli writers to halt, immediately and permanently, the eviction of about 1000 Palestinians from their homes in various villages in South Hebron, West Bank (occupied Palestinian territory), in order to clear land for an Israeli army firing zone.  These Palestinian villagers have inhabited their homes for several centuries.   Evicting them would violate international law and cause extreme hardship.

We also urge you to reject the Begin-Prawer Plan currently before the Knesset which, if fully implemented, would result in the forced relocation of between 20,000 and 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from their homes in the Negev.  This Plan would also result in the destruction of up to 35 "unrecognized" Bedouin villages. We ask you to heed the European Parliament's call to withdraw the Plan, which violates the constitutional rights of the Bedouin to property, dignity and equality.


The actions planned are manifestly unjust, and will gravely damage Israel's international reputation.

We also respectfully ask our Canadian leaders to take diplomatic steps to encourage Israeli leaders to heed this call.  As the Israeli writers have said, "Each and every one of us bears the moral obligation to try and relieve the suffering."

Sincerely yours,


List of signatories 

(as of September 4, 2013)


Carmen Aguirre

Lillian Allen
Zainab Amadahy
Melody Anderson
Peter Anderson
Joanne Arnott
Margaret Atwood
Martha Baillie
Lilly Barnes
David Bentley
David Bergen
Michel Marc Bouchard
Stéphane Bourguignon
George Bowering
Joseph Boyden
Kate Braid
Dionne Brand
Di Brandt
Silver Donald Cameron
Sandra Campbell
David Chariandy
Wayson Choy
Susan Crean
Lorna Crozier
Charles Demers
Farzana Doctor
Kim Echlin
Gabriela Etcheverry
Terry Fallis
Robert Fantina

David Fennario
Cynthia Flood

Charles Foran
Honor Ford-Smith
Steven Galloway
Gale Zoe Garnett
Gary Geddes
Qais Ghanem
Camilla Gibb
John Gilmore
Kim Goldberg
Hiromi Goto
John Greyson
Rawi Hage
Hugh Hazelton
Allison Hedge Coke
Steven Heighton
Maggie Helwig
Sheila Heti
Lawrence Hill
Mike Hoolboom
Isabel Huggan
Maureen Hynes
Naomi Klein
Ken Klonsky
Alice Kuipers
Larissa Lai
Vincent Lam
Patrick Lane
Robert Lepage
Kyo Maclear
Pasha Malla
Alberto Manguel
Lee Maracle
Yann Martel
Gabor Maté
Monia Mazigh
Arthur Milner
Rohinton Mistry
Monique Mojica
Lisa Moore
Shani Mootoo
Donna Morrissey
Hannah Moscovitch
Alice Munro
Susan Musgrave
Michael Ondaatje
Katrina Onstad
Stan Persky
Christine Pountney
Robert Priest
Edeet Ravel
Judy Rebick
Michael Redhill
Nino Ricci
Carmen Rodriguez
Stuart Ross
Martha Roth
Kerri Sakamoto
John Ralston Saul
Maureen Harris Scott
Shyam Selvadurai
Karen Shenfeld
Sandy Shreve
Heather Spears
Sheila Stewart
Michel Tremblay
Jane Urquhart
Guy Vanderhaeghe
Guillermo Verdecchia
Fred Wah
George F. Walker
Claire Wilkshire
Deborah Williams
Rita Wong
Marcus Youssef

#####

For more information, please contact:
Patricia Jean
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Telephone: 438-380-5410
CJPME Email - CJPME Website