Saturday, September 14, 2013

CAIR Report to Reveal Total Funding of U.S. 'Islamophobia Network'

By Council on American-Islamic Relations

Published: Friday, Sep. 13, 2013 


WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Tuesday, September 17, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a press conference to release a groundbreaking report, "Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States 2011-2012."

WHAT: CAIR to Release Report on U.S. Islamophobia Network and Its Impact on the United States

WHEN: Tuesday, September 17, 10:30 a.m. (Eastern)

WHERE: CAIR's National Headquarters, 453 New Jersey, SE, Washington, DC 20003

CONTACT: CAIR Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857, E-Mail csaylor@cair.com

The 158-page report by CAIR, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, includes the following:

* A listing of the organizations involved in the U.S. Islamophobia network, separated into an "inner core" that focuses exclusively on promoting anti-Islam prejudice and an "outer core" that has other elements to its work. 

* An examination of the total revenue available to inner core Islamophobic groups during 2008-2011.

* A rating of the state of Islamophobia in America based on a survey conducted with subject matter experts.

* A review of the pervasiveness of anti-Islam legislation in state legislatures.

* A listing of known anti-Muslim law enforcement and military trainers derived from a number of critical exposés.

* The addition of names to CAIR's lists of the "best," those who are working against Islamophobia and the "worst," those who promoted anti-Islam bias in 2011-2012.

The report's cover is currently available here: http://www.cair.com/legislatingfear2013.html

This is CAIR's second report on Islamophobia in the United States. The first report, "Same Hate, New Target," was published in 2010 and argued that anti-Islam sentiment is a manifestation of problems minorities have faced in the U.S. throughout its history.


CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

CONTACT: CAIR Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857, E-Mail csaylor@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair.com; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: arubin@cair.com 

SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations

Bishop: Quebec charter may foster racism

Posted on: September 13, 2013

[Anglican Journal by Harvey Shepherd] 


The Quebec government’s proposals for a Charter of Quebec Values appear “on first reflection” to contradict the existing the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, says the Anglican bishop of Montreal.

In a message prepared for the October issue of the diocesan newspaper The Montreal Anglican, Bishop Barry Clarke says, “I would hope that the government of Quebec would seriously consider the implications of this Charter that potentially would foster prejudice and racism.”

Proposals for a Charter of Quebec Values that, among other things, would prohibit public employees from wearing “overt and conspicuous” religious symbols at work were made public by the Quebec government on Tuesday, Sept. 11. The cabinet minister piloting the issue, Bernard Drainville, said in the Quebec national assembly that if the charter were adopted by the legislature, the wearing of skullcaps, turbans, hijabs and "large" crosses would be prohibited for civil servants while they are on the job. On-the-job proselytizing would also be barred.

Bishop Clarke cites passages from the Quebec, Canadian and United Nations charters of rights, along with passages from Old Testament prophets, the gospels and Anglican liturgy, in setting out his objections to the government bill.

He notes that Bernard Drainville, the Quebec minister responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship, has stated: “The state must be neutral because it must show the same respect for all religions, regardless of their beliefs.”

But, the bishop says, “I am not convinced that this Charter is neutral when people’s rights and freedoms of expression are being denied. As a Christian, my convictions are stirred up as a disciple of Jesus…”

The bishop says that “religion, faith and symbols are ways in which we express our beliefs” and are necessary for people to learn to live in a just and free society, described by Drainville himself as ”increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-religious.”

In his message, Clarke adds: “Ponder, pray and let us, as the People of God, live our faith with generosity, compassion and justice to the question: Who is my neighbour?’…I would hope that the government of Quebec would seriously consider the implications of this Charter that potentially would foster prejudice and racism.”

Harvey Shepherd is editor of The Montreal Anglican, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Montreal.

Intolerance Is Quietly Sweeping Our Country

There's a lot at stake for Canadians if the proposed Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms actually gets passed this fall, writes Shenaz Kermalli.

COLUMN: Charter of Quebec Values would create a society of divisions

By Japreet Lehal - Surrey North Delta Leader
Published: September 13, 2013


On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Parti Quebecois (PQ) government officially announced the highly controversial Charter of Quebec Values, which would prevent public sector employees – such as prosecutors, judges, police officers, health care workers, and educators – from wearing their religious symbols at work.

Banned symbols would include kippahs, large crosses, turbans, hijabs and burkas.

The charter is expected to be introduced in Quebec’s legislature this fall. As the Parti Quebecois is leading a minority government, it will need the support of either the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) or Quebec Liberals to pass the Charter of Quebec Values.

It is claimed that such a charter would help maintain secularity, religious neutrality, and the separation of religion and government in the province. However, secularism is not defined by policies which promote active discrimination, which in fact, oppose the underlying ideals of secularism.

What is perplexing and paradoxical is the idea that the PQ’s Bernard Drainville, Quebec’s minister responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship, is saying that such actions will help promote “social peace, harmony and cohesion.”

Implementing draconian measures which infringe on Canadians’ religious freedoms would not be able to advance such causes. The very charter which aims to establish equality and fairness is itself the product of government intervention in the affairs of the people and an example of blatant discrimination.

PQ leader Pauline Marois has stated that the Charter of Quebec Values would unite Quebecers. In a statement, Ms. Marois said that “far from dividing us, when the rules are clear, it allows us to better live together.”

Such a statement is absolutely misguided. No charter which discriminates against people can lead to unity or harmony, and history is full of examples where policies of segregation and discrimination have indeed had the opposite effect.

The Charter of Quebec Values is in direct contravention to one’s freedom of religion. Fundamental freedoms and equality rights are explicitly guaranteed in Section 2 and Section 15, respectively, of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Quebec’s Charter of Values does more than just showcase the discriminatory nature of the proposal. It is clear that the divisive and controversial announcements are being used to detract Quebecers from other important issues of significance. It is easy to spark discontent in the population on the basis of topics like identity and culture. It is, however, difficult to confront issues relating to the economy, health care, and education. The old and dirty trick of inciting a controversy to hide and ignore these issues is at play.

Simply wearing an article or symbol of one’s religion does not mean that one is imposing or forcing his/her beliefs on others. Canadians across this country should continue to strongly voice their opposition to this potential charter, as was done during the Quebec Soccer Federation’s turban ban a few months ago. We must protect the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canadians can also sign the petition I have set up, calling on PQ leader Pauline Marois and Quebec minister Bernard Drainville to eliminate their discriminatory Charter of Quebec Values proposal.

In the days since details of this charter were released, there has been outcry from Canadians of all regions, races, and religions across this country. Federal politicians, across party lines, have also voiced their opposition to this charter.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stated that “Madame Marois does not speak for all Quebecers when she puts forward an idea of forcing people to choose between their work and their religion, to set out an idea of second-class Quebecers who would not qualify to work in public institutions because of their religion.” Federal Conservative minister Jason Kenney has stated that the federal government could take action if the “prospective law” infringed on constitutional rights.

Similarly, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair also opposed the PQ’s proposal.

“There's no expiry date on human rights. It's not a popularity contest, this for us is completely unacceptable and the NDP will be standing up foursquare against this project,” said Mulcair.

Clearly, Quebec’s Charter of Values would not unify but rather create a society of divisions. Furthermore, this charter is not representative of Quebec’s values. Those proposing such a charter would be wise to consider the long-term ramifications of political moves which lead to exclusionary policies and contradict a modern, free and globalized society, in which an open-minded approach is the key to economic and social success.

The children of Quebec, like all Canadians, deserve to live in a province where multiculturalism and freedom of religion thrives. The thousands of public employees in Quebec also deserve to freely practise their religion, without fear of losing employment or breaking an irrational law.

Additionally, any political party which feels that identity is lost due to exposure to other communities is mistaken. Our individual differences unite us as Canadians. Forceful assimilation or integration does not result in a harmonious society. Policies which challenge the beauty of our Canadian diversity not only create unnecessary turmoil in the country, but also reflect poorly on the international reputation that Canada has developed as being multicultural and diverse.

Policies like the Charter of Quebec Values do not have the right to curtail the fundamental freedoms that we as Canadians hold so close to our heart.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Egypt's coup: The cycle of vengeance is on


SEPTEMBER 13, 2013

"I told you so!" These were the exact words of Ayman al-Zawahiri, first-in-command of al-Qaeda, to the Egyptian people after the July military coup by General al-Sisi that dashed "Arab Awakening" hopes. His message seems to be resonating with a younger generation of Egyptians who saw their votes being taken away by the military junta.

Himself an Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri had always lectured the Arabs and those who were willing to listen to him about being careful not to fall into the trap of the "western democratic game." His tactics worked well in Afghanistan, in Chechnya, in Algeria… where many young men took up arms and went to defend their countries against western invasion and the "evil democratization" that it brings with it.

However, since the beginning of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and other countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the popularity of al-Qaeda's message faded away. Instead, during the Arab Spring, huge numbers of young Arabs went to the streets to oust their long-time dictators. They preferred peaceful demonstrations, revolutionary hip-hop songs and blogs to weapons and training camps. The message of al-Qaeda became almost obsolete among the younger Arab and Muslim generations, at least until the Egyptian coup of July 2013. READ MORE....

The organized Jewish Community will not participate in tomorrow's demonstration against the Charter

MONTREAL, Sept. 13, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - Media reports have suggested that the Jewish community will be participating in tomorrow's demonstration against the Charter of Quebec values, organized by the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia, among others. This is incorrect. In fact, the organized Jewish community will not be participating.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs - Quebec (CIJA-Quebec), the official spokesperson for the organized Jewish community in Quebec is surprised that the organizers chose to hold the demonstration on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar.

The Jewish community has always been strongly in favour of the religious neutrality of the state and of the equality of men and women, both of which are sociological facts firmly established in Quebec. This is why CIJA-Quebec, as it has previously told Minister Bernard Drainville, believes the proposed Charter of Quebec Values, and its ban on religious symbols in the entire public and para-public sector is unjustified and unjustifiable, and will unnecessarily divide Quebecers.

The Jewish community speaks for itself and will not accept to be co-opted or manipulated by the dubious objectives of some of the organizers of the demonstration, who include religious radical fundamentalists with whom the Jewish community will never make common cause.

The Jewish community will continue to participate in this serious societal debate on the basis of a firm but respectful tone, via the media and through dialogue with our elected officials.

SOURCE Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs For further information:

David Ouellette
Associate Director, Public Affairs (Québec)

Luciano G. Del Negro
Vice-President (Quebec)

Inequality for All: Robert Reich Warns Record Income Gap Is Undermining Our Democracy

Canadian Muslim leaders worried U.S. speakers will spread 'hate' about Islam

By Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press September 13, 2013


TORONTO - A Canadian Muslim organization is calling on Ottawa to spell out how it decides whether to allow controversial foreign speakers into the country ahead of a planned appearance by two conservative American bloggers.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims worries Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer will spread "hate and misinformation" about the Islamic faith when they speak at a Toronto-area hotel Tuesday evening, the group's executive director said.

Though it disagrees with their message, the group isn't seeking to have the pair turned away at the border, Ihsaan Gardee said. But it would like to know how, exactly, that decision is made.

"What we would like from the government of Canada is clear and consistent direction... when it comes to the eligibility of speakers to enter Canada," he said.

"It needs to be consistent and clear because if it isn't, then it sends a message that freedom of speech and hate (are) being arbitrarily measured."

Canadian authorities have previously denied access to some polarizing figures, such as Terry Jones, the American pastor best known for burning copies of the Islamic holy text.

Geller and Spencer have sparked their share of outrage through their respective blogs, Atlas Shrugs and Jihad Watch. The pair also co-founded the group Stop the Islamization of America.

They were barred from entering the U.K. in June, a move they condemned as a blow against freedom of speech.

The Canada Border Services Agency wouldn't say whether it would consider similar action, noting admissibility is determined "on a case-by-case basis."

"Several factors are used in determining admissibility into Canada, including: involvement in criminal activity, in human rights violations, in organized crime, security, health or financial reasons," spokeswoman Vanessa Barrasa said in an email.

But recent changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act also allow the immigration minister to deny entry over "public policy considerations," a standard some experts say has been ill-defined.

Under the previous rules, "it was very clear that the offence in question had to be equivalent to a criminal offence in Canada," said Sharryn Aiken, a law professor at Queen's University in Kingston.

"The whole problem with the public policy grounds is it vests an enormous amount of discretion in the minister to define what are these exceptional circumstances that warrant the exercise of this power," she said.

A government backgrounder issued earlier this year said the minister could use his authority to bar anyone "who has a history of promoting violence against a particular religious group."

The document also said new regulations must be put in place before the minister can use this new power, but Citizenship and Immigration Canada refused to say whether that had occurred.

Aiken argues there are more effective ways to protect Canadians against hateful rhetoric while still defending free speech.

"I would much rather see the government put its money where its mouth is and enforce our hate-crime laws in this country than pre-emptively bar people at the border," she said.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims, meanwhile, said it still hopes the event will be called off.

The organization unsuccessfully petitioned the Hilton hotel to cancel the talk titled "The Dangers of Islamic Extremism and Western Complacency," which is sponsored by the Toronto-based Jewish Defence League of Canada.

The Jewish group's national director, Meir Weinstein, said any attempts to shut down the event amount to censorship — a view embraced by the bloggers themselves.

"(The NCCM) is desperate to shut down any and all honest discussion of jihad violence and Islamic supremacism, and to stigmatize all who engage in such discussion with smear charges of 'racism' and 'bigotry,' so as to intimidate people into thinking there is something wrong with resisting jihad terror," Spencer said in an email.

Geller said the controversy is "part of larger effort to silence, demonize and marginalize everyone who tells the truth about Islam and jihad."

"They can't refute me. So they resort to these thuggish tactics to try to silence me," she said in an email.

It's the second time the Jewish Defence League has hosted Geller. Last year's event was sold out, the group said.

Montreal Demonstration against Quebec Charter of Values

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Montreal, Quebec, September 12th, 2013 - The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) invites all Montrealers of conscience to join a peaceful demonstration this weekend against the Quebec Charter of Values recently unveiled by the Parti Quebecois government.

“This is the first of many actions to demonstrate our opposition to the PQ’s Charter of Values,” stated Salam Elmenyawi, president of MCM. “We call on all Montrealers to join us, as we voice our concerns against this policy of institutionalized discrimination, which contravenes not only the constitution and charter of rights and freedoms of Quebec and Canada, but also international human rights law. Together we will send a strong and clear message that we reject this tyranny and that we will protect the rights of all Quebecers and Canadians.”

The demonstration will take place on Saturday September 14th at 12:00pm, starting at Place Émilie Gamelin (Métro Berri-UQAM).

CONTACT:

Salam Elmenyawi
Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM)
Ph.: (514) 748-8427

The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) is an umbrella organization representing a number of Islamic institutions in the Montreal region. There are over 325,000 Muslims in Montreal, about 1,300,000 in Canada and 1.9 billion worldwide.

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Prof Juan Cole's refutation of Putin's NYT oped

Arguing with President Putin

Posted on 09/13/2013 by Juan Cole

http://www.juancole.com/2013/09/arguing-president-putin.html

Russian President Vladimir Putin published an opinion piece in the New York Times on Wednesday. Here is my attempt at refutation of some of the things he said.

Putin begins by emphasizing that the US in the period after 1945 acquiesced in the idea that the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council would have a veto. He then goes on to criticize President Obama’s consideration of unilateral US military action against Syria, as the sort of thing that might break the organization.

But is it equally true that Russian refusal to allow an explicit UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria for using heavy military weapons against civilian non-combatants (which is how the protests were turned into a civil war) poses dangers to the credibility of the United Nations.

Putin is correct that a US missile attack on Syria could have unpredictable effects.

He then says that there are few champions of democracy in Syria, depicting the struggle as one between the ‘government’ and al-Qaeda extremists. He does not characterize the ‘government’ but surely it should have been termed a one-party dictatorship with a brutal and vicious secret police. Given that Putin sided with Boris Yeltsin against the Communists in the early 1990s, you would think he’d be a little more sympathetic to Syrians desiring the end of their own police state. The ways in which Putin himself has cracked down on press freedom and moved away from democracy make one suspicious about his inability to see Syrian democrats. He doesn’t seem able to see Russian ones either.

Putin is wrong that there are no democrats involved in the struggle. Most Syrian oppositionists support a move of the country to free and fair parliamentary elections. It is true that Jabhat al-Nusra and a few other extremist organizations favor Muslim theocratic dictatorship, and they have had the big victories on the battlefield. But that doesn’t make them representative of the opposition. They just have more battle experience (many fought US troops in Iraq). By erasing the democratic opposition, Putin has done away with perhaps a majority of Syrians, and made it easy for his readers to side with a brutal secular government against a brutal set of al-Qaeda affiliates. It is a false choice.

It wasn’t the ‘extremists’ who moved to Mali after the fall of Gaddafi in Libya. It was Gaddafi’s Tuareg mercenaries. Gaddafi’s cultivation of armed mercenaries from northern Mali rather resembles the al-Assad regime’s deployment of ‘Ghost Brigades’ (Shabiha), Alawite paramilitaries, who could end up having to flee to Lebanon or Iraq where they might become a source of disorder.

Putin is right that Russia has urged negotiation on the parties, but elides the ways in which it has configured the negotiating process to favor the survival of the regime and of brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian President damages his credibility by continuing to retail the crackpot conspiracy theory that the rebels gassed their own supporters and relatives in Ghuta east of Damascus in a false flag attack designed to embarrass the regime.

Putin is correct that US military intervention in Iraq did not go well. But as for Afghanistan, it was the Soviet invasion and occupation of that country that destabilized it in the first place. Putin’s old organization, the KGB, was hardly blameless in such actions.

Russia’s initiative to avoid a US military action by sequestering Syria’s toxic gas stockpiles is admirable if Moscow follows through on it and ensures that the regime does not again deploy these weapons against its own citizens.

And, Putin’s rebuke of President Obama for using the language of American exceptionalism is just. But the Russian president seems too quick to forget Russia’s own episodes of exceptionalism in modern history, from the Tsarist empire in Muslim Central Asia to Stalinism and the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia to stop ‘revanchism’. Indeed, Putin’s own strong support for the vile Baath regime in Syria is itself a kind of exceptionalism, an announcement that Russia’s strategic interests trump human rights concerns and efforts at democratization. The opposite of exceptionalism is not, as he suggests, the equality of nations. It is the humility of nations, something Russia can take as many lessons on as the US.

Deconstructing American Exceptionalism

Published September 11, 2013 By Dr. James Wellman


On September 10th, the President argued: “America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

President Obama invoked our exceptionalism that we, the United States, since we are uniquely virtuous, should, if we can, be the world’s conscience, and when called upon in circumstances we must act. And so our President shames us, the American people, into acting by arguing: “And so, to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just. To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.”

The President claims that the cause is plainly just: by bombing a country that we are not at war with (and that cannot threaten us) this will surely stop them from using chemical weapons. In order to save that country we must bomb it. And for us, on the left, we should just get over our moral qualms, sometimes violence works as a deterrent. We should trust and believe our government that these bombs will surely dissuade Syria and other like-minded types to resist the temptation to use these weapons.

Well, I won’t be shamed into this bombing, and I don’t buy the argument that the U.S. is somehow exceptional in our virtue and that we, among all nations, should bear the moral conscience of the globe. Think about that, the President mentioned “humility,” how is this project a project of humility?

In fact, it’s not “us,” those on the right or left, that need to be ashamed, it’s the history of the United States that needs to be tamed and disenchanted. We, the United States of America, have used chemical weapons from World War II through the Vietnam War, over and over again, in ways that are as stark as the picture below. That little girl, Kim Phuc, survived and has had to deal with the continuing pain from her injuries from U.S. Napalm for her whole life. She is a hero, who has gone on to work for a morepeaceful future.

But it wasn’t just Kim Phuc, the United States, as Laurence O’Donnell’s reportdetailed the other night, we invented and perfected the use of Napalm and used it relentlessly on Dresden in WW II, on Korea and in Vietnam. Tons and tons of this “cheap” nerve gas was used because it “worked,” getting deep into human tissue, and generating heat of over 800 to 1200 degrees Celsius. As O’Donnell’s relates, as we watched this chemical weapon work in Vietnam, “Our moral superiority in war slipped away.”

Following Vietnam, the United Nations instituted a ban on the use of Napalm against civilian populations. This “new” red line prevented what the U.S. did from ever happening again. However, it took the U.S. 29 years to sign it, and it is still legal to use Napalm against the military targets. As O’Donnell rightly argues, “We will never make war civilized, no matter what kinds of weapons we use. War is the failure of civilization.”

So, no, I won’t be shamed and I won’t just say, “Oh yes, the U.S. is the exceptional nation, and we should then be the one to do the business of telling and showing the world what they should and should not do.” I don’t buy it and I’m not convinced that this is what we should do.

Juan Cole’s analysis of the President’s speech and proposal was crisp and to the point: “Given that a military attack on Syria is an act of war that could have unforeseen negative consequences for the US, given that a few cruise missiles are not in fact likely to be a powerful deterrent, and given that the US is on the wrong side of international law and has almost no effective allies in such an action, it seems to me unwise and even illegal. Obama’s invocation of American exceptionalism (which historians consider a flaw, not a virtue, in American history) is intended to paper over this illegality.”

Cole then argues for a non-violent approach: “The fact is that the US could inflict far more pain on the Syrian government with nonviolent means such as tightening the financial boycott on its banks, than it could with a few missile strikes. President Obama should show some backbone and buck the war party inside the Beltway, and insist on non-violent but effective punishment of Damascus for its atrocity, instead of the somewhat juvenile insistence that “action” equals violent action.”

Americans and our President, in particular, need to stop invoking our “exceptionalism.” It is not only a lie, but it is a way of selling us on the idea that violence can and will be redemptive. It has been shown that since 1963 the U.S. has bombed people on average every 40 months. How has this violence been redemptive? How can our actions be called exceptional?

It’s time for Americans to rise up and call an end to this madness. To tell the President we must become truly exceptional not by turning to violence, but by not using bombs, by not thinking we have all the answers. By using other means, non-violent ones, to encourage peace, to undercut the terrible civil wars that now kill and maim so many.

This would be exceptional: that the globe’s world power no longer claims to be exceptional; who now uses nonviolent means to resolve problems. This would make history: a humble approach and an approach that as a people who purport to be Christian, we can actually begin to live out the words and actions of the one who we supposedly claim to follow.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Snowden Documents Reveal NSA Gave Israeli Spies Raw Emails, Texts, Calls of Innocent Americans

Quebec doctors already being recruited ‘We don’t care what’s on your head,’ Ontario hospital says


Ontario hospital Lakeridge Health is trying to capitalize on the unease Quebec’s new values charter may be causing some professionals by targeting them in a recruitment campaign. 

http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Charter+Quebec+Values+care+what+your+head+Ontario/8903472/story.html

BY AARON DERFEL, THE GAZETTE SEPTEMBER 12, 2013
An Ontario hospital is already seeking to capitalize on the controversy surrounding the Charter of Quebec Values, using it to recruit Quebec doctors and nurses who wear the hijab.

In an ad posted on its Facebook page and Twitter feed, Lakeridge Health — which bills itself as a “leading hospital in the Greater Toronto Area” — shows a picture of a smiling female health professional, with a stethoscope strung around her shoulders and a pink hijab over her head.

“We don’t care what’s on your head,” reads a caption above the ad. On the bottom runs the punchline: “We care what’s in it.”

Kevin Empey, president and CEO of Lakeridge Health, acknowledged that his hospital has hit the “publicity jackpot.”

“Organizations hire doctors from different provinces all the time” he told The Gazette. “A lot of Ontario doctors have left and gone to Alberta. Are we trying to specifically take advantage of the (Quebec debate)? I’d say we’re wording it as we’re trying to create awareness that there is a really good (health) organization if you want to make a change.”

The hospital in Durham, east of Toronto, plans to run a full-page ad in the McGill Daily on Monday, aiming its marketing strategy at medical students. Since it missed the deadline to place the ad this week, Empey said the hospital decided to advertise immediately on social media.

A number of Montreal physicians have raised fears that the proposed Quebec charter — which would prohibit public-sector employees from wearing religious headgear on the job — might lead to some doctors quitting the province.

“The prospect of physicians, nurses and other health-care workers having to leave their institutions to ensure these basic freedoms is unthinkable and devastating,” said Dr. Michael Malus, chief of family medicine at the Jewish General Hospital, the first health-care institution to publicly oppose the charter.

Jack Jedwab, executive vice-president of the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration, warned that if the charter does become law, some health professionals in mid-career or graduating medical students would probably take jobs outside the province

“It could spark them doing that,” Jedwab said. “It depends on whether this (controversy) has legs or not. I think a lot of our medical professionals are very sophisticated. They try, by and large, to keep some distance from the politics of the province, but I think it will certainly have an effect on their intentions on whether to stay or not if it appears the charter has the possibility of being enacted.”

Health professionals are in short supply across the country, and hospitals compete against each other aggressively to recruit doctors and nurses.

Quebec is particularly beset by a shortage of family physicians, with one estimate putting the number of Montrealers without a general practitioner at more than 300,000. What’s more, Quebec is among the provinces that has consistently reported a net outflow of health-professional migration over the past two decades.

A study by the non-partisan Canadian Institute for Health Information found that Quebec reported a net loss of 840 health professionals to the other provinces in 1991-1996; a net loss of 1,570 professionals in 1996-2001 (the worst of any province during that period); and a net loss of 585 in 2001-2006. More recent statistics are not available.

By comparison, British Columbia and Alberta have been big winners in attracting health professionals from the rest of Canada. B.C. reported a net gain of 6,380 health professionals from 1991 to 2006, while Alberta attracted 6,015 such professionals during that period.

aderfel@montrealgazette.com

Twitter: Aaron_Derfel

Multicultural protest to be held Saturday against PQ plan for charter of values

BY THE CANADIAN PRESS SEPTEMBER 12, 2013

MONTREAL - Organizers are hoping to attract thousands of people to a multicultural protest on Saturday against the Quebec government's controversial proposal for a charter of values.

Representatives of the Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and native communities have all indicated they will join the march. MORE.....

Pauline Marois issues fatwa on Quebec secularism: Siddiqui

The Charter of Quebec Values is not in defence of secularism. Freedom of religion, and the right not to keep it hidden, is a key secular value.

By: Haroon Siddiqui Columnist, Published on Thu Sep 12 2013


The Afghan Taliban and the Iranian ayatollahs force women to wear the hijab or the niqab. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is forcing Muslim women not to.

Misogynists won’t grant women individual sovereignty. Nor does Madame Marois.

Ostensibly a lefty liberal feminist, she, too, makes the maddening assumption that Muslim women, including the Canadian-born and highly educated ones, are incapable of deciding for themselves.

Some Catholics insist on saving pregnant women from abortion. Marois is out to save Muslim women from the scarf.

Demagoguery knows no geographic or ideological bounds.

Months before the Charter of Quebec Values, a village school in Stavropol, in the Caucasus, near Chechnya and Dagestan, banned the hijab. The principal decreed that “only secular attire should be worn here – that’s it. This is not a subject for discussion.”

Her move proved popular among the majority ethnic Russians. That prompted Vladimir Putin to pipe up from Moscow: “There are no hijabs in our culture. Why should we adopt alien traditions?”

A similar sentiment animates Marois and those Quebecers, mostly francophones – particularly in isolated, monocultural rural parts of the province – who back her plan to ban the hijab, the niqab, the Sikh turban and kirpan and the Jewish kippa from government and public institutions.

In Europe, rightwing xenophobes harvest votes scapegoating immigrants, especially Muslims. In India, the politics of intolerance is played by rightwing Hindu zealots who insist that minorities adopt majority mores. Extremist Muslims in Egypt and elsewhere attack Christians. Yet when some of these groups enter government, they tend to tone down their bigotry. Quebec politicians crank up theirs.

Jean Charest, as Liberal premier, banned Muslim women wearing the niqab from receiving government services, including hospital care. Marois is reinforcing that rule.

This summer, she backed the Quebec Soccer Federation’s ban on turban-wearing Sikh kids. The diktat was reversed only after FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, shot down the trumped-up excuse of safety.

Her minister in charge of the values charter, Bernard Drainville, questioned why city workers in Montreal were not enforcing parking regulations during the Jewish holiday of Shavout. He made an issue of it even though similar courtesy has long been extended in other parts of the city during Christmas.

Drainville has also helped fix the next provincial election date for Oct. 3, 2016 – Rosh Hashanah. “There are more than 100 religious holidays,” he said. Would he hold an election on Christmas Day?

The Parti Québécois government prompted the Palais des congrès, Montreal’s largest convention centre, to cancel a Muslim youth conference slated for last weekend. Marois & Co. objected to a designated speaker from France who had made misogynistic statements. The PQ government demanded that Ottawa bar him from coming to Canada.

The Harper government is no stranger to double standards on free speech. Jason Kenney has barred foreigners whose views he did not like but has routinely let in anti-Muslim hate-mongers. He has also banned veiled women from becoming citizens. Earlier, his cabinet colleagues joined Quebec separatists in flirting with banning niqabis from casting ballots.

Little surprise, then, that the Harperites’ first instinct was to stay mum on the PQ plan to restrict free expression of religion. So it was a pleasant surprise to hear Kenney say on Tuesday that Ottawa would challenge Quebec in court.

Similarly, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair initially hesitated but has finally found his voice. “We’re categorical in rejecting this.” Firing hijabi women from daycare centres is “intolerable in our society.”

Marois invokes secularism. But freedom of religion, and the right not to keep it in a closet, is a fundamental secular value.

She is hypocritical in insisting on the religious neutrality of the state but keeping the crucifix in the National Assembly and letting public officials wear discreet crosses. Butthere’s to be no discreet hijab, no discreet turban, no discreet kippa.

Marois is particularly vexed by the hijab, viewing it as a symbol of submission and gender inequality. She does not see the irony of initiating gender discrimination in jobs against hijabi women.

Hospitals, postsecondary institutions and municipalities would be able to opt out for five years. But there would be no exemptions for daycare workers and elementary teachers – to shield children from the dangerous sight of hijabs, turbans and kippas.

Individuals, too, may seek an exemption but must pass a “test” of gender equality. So hijabis need not apply.

Marois is engaged in an ugly cultural warfare of the rightwing Republican kind. She is using religious minorities to fire up her base constituency. She figures that the more English Canada reacts strongly, the better for her. But we cannot fall into the trap of abandoning fundamental Canadian constitutional values.

Jewish General Hospital denounces Quebec values charter

BY ANDY RIGA, THE GAZETTE SEPTEMBER 12, 2013


MONTREAL - The Jewish General Hospital opened in 1934, a time when Jewish patients and doctors were shunned by other Montreal hospitals. From Day 1, it was open to all, regardless of religion, race or colour.

Today, its staff is ethnically, racially and religiously diverse, reflecting its locale - Côte-des-Neiges, one of Canada's most multicultural neighbourhoods.

On Wednesday, in a rare stance amid the institutional silence so far, the Jewish denounced a provincial proposal to ban religious symbols among public employees.

"Many of our employees are quite concerned," said Glenn Nashen, the hospital's director of public affairs. "Many wear various kinds of religious or cultural garb and they feel personally under attack and perhaps undervalued for the very important work that they do."

The hospital "felt it was important to make a statement that what counts, what's important, is the professional competency of the physician, not the choice of clothing that may reflect their religious beliefs," Nashen said.

In the statement, issued late Wednesday afternoon, the hospital said "any individual is entitled to employment in a hospital setting, regardless of whether or not his or her clothing includes an overt religious symbol."

Under a proposal put forward Tuesday by the Parti Québécois government, public employees such as hospital workers would be barred from wearing "conspicuous religious symbols" such as the Muslim hijab, Jewish kippah and Sikh turban.

Nashen said that "as long as services are offered with professional competence, courtesy and respect, the recipients' perceptions should not override the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression of hospital employees."

The government has said institutions could be granted five-year exemptions from restrictions on head coverings. But it's unclear whether they would be temporary exemptions to give hospitals time to adapt, Nashen said.

"We're not asking for time to conform. We're very resolute in the fact that the charter is just wrong."

And the exemptions would not solve the problem anyway, Nashen said.

"Many of our physicians are cross-appointed. They're teaching at McGill, they're working at the CHUM, they're working at St. Mary's," he said.

"The sheer logistics of it — one might be permitted to be covered in one place and not in another. It just creates an almost unenforceable type of situation. We want to focus on providing superiour health care rather than taking care of logistical, bureaucratic and technical issues ."

Patients arrive at the Jewish "with only one thought in mind: to receive treatment and care of the highest quality," Nashen said.

The hospital receives "no complaints about the religious or cultural apparel of its staff," he said.


Twitter: andyriga

A Plea for Caution From Russia

What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria

By VLADIMIR V. PUTIN
Published: September 11, 2013


MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I have faith in Quebec. So should you


Published Thursday, Sep. 12 2013

Earlier this week, Premier Pauline Marois unveiled her government’s much-anticipated plan to legislate values in Quebec. As I have said since her Parti Québécois first announced this plan back in the 2012 election campaign, I categorically oppose it. Like our fellow Canadians elsewhere, Quebeckers are open, positive people. We believe in defending each other’s freedoms, not restricting them.

I have great faith in the people of my home province. My message to Canadians outside Quebec is simple and important: So should you.

Resist the temptation to indulge in easy stereotypes and reactive characterizations of Quebec and Quebeckers. The PQ government’s plan is divisive, negative and emotional. It is designed to be that way. Quebeckers will reject it.

I got into public life in part because I believed that politics can be done differently – it can be less petty and more transparent. Candour is risky but necessary, especially during tense moments like this.

This summer, I met with Ms. Marois and we discussed this issue openly and frankly. I said to her what I believe to be true: Her plan does not do justice to Quebec, or Quebeckers. It would attack what we hold most dear – our right and freedom as individuals to express our beliefs within the context of universally recognized democratic laws and norms.

There is no question that our government and our institutions must be neutral and secular. Church and state must be separate. But by what logic should we restrict the freedom of some Quebeckers to express their religious beliefs? Simply because they are not shared by the majority? This is a dangerous road, not just for religious minorities within Quebec, but for all minorities, everywhere.

The PQ’s plan is to divide the people of Quebec over a problem that does not exist. It creates two classes of citizens – those who hold religious beliefs and those who do not – under the pretext of secularizing a state that is already secular.

These universal rights and freedoms were entrenched in the Constitution because we believe they are at the core of our commitment to liberal, constitutional democracy. They were enshrined in both the Canadian and Quebec charters precisely because they transcend, and sometimes need to be shielded from, the perspective of the government of the day. Quebeckers, like all Canadians, have helped to build a society that is the envy of the world because we have succeeded in making diversity an immeasurable asset.

No Quebecker should be disqualified from a job in a public institution on the pretext that they pose a threat to state secularism. A Sikh or Jewish man, a Muslim woman, or a woman who simply wants to wear a crucifix larger than the Parti Québécois stipulates should not have to choose between their religious belief and economic well-being. These symbols do not detract from our strength as a society. They do not diminish our ability to live and flourish in French. They do not prevent us from passing on to our children the extraordinary richness of our language and our culture.

Simply put, this plan does not represent who we are. As René Lévesque himself said: As Quebeckers, we will be judged according to how we treat our minorities. The PQ government’s plan, if adopted, would see history render a very harsh verdict indeed. Fortunately, I stand secure in the knowledge that Quebeckers are better than this.

Justin Trudeau is Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What do I tell my hijab-wearing daughter about Quebec’s values?

BY SAMAH MAREI, THE GAZETTE SEPTEMBER 11, 2013


The other day I nearly got into my first argument with my daughter about what she was wearing. I bit my tongue though, and said nothing knowing that, at age 9, she needed to start expressing herself independently and facing the consequences.

But as a mother, it was hard letting her go out dressed the way she was, knowing how she would be judged, knowing that now — in some parts of our country, like Quebec — she might be deemed to be less than a full citizen.

My daughter wasn’t leaving the house dressed for the MTV Video Music Awards. No, she had gone out in jeans and a plaid blouse — but with her signature hot-pink hijab on her head.

Neither my husband nor I have ever asked, or encouraged her, to wear the hijab. In fact, to my shame, I have asked her on several occasions not to wear it. She buys them with her own pocket money and wears them with a style and grace that belies the negativity that surrounds the whole issue.

How do I tell her that she is less of a person for her choice? She has grown up in home where we openly discuss issues of social justice and equality. She and her siblings are well-versed in the civil rights movements of the 1960s and can rattle off both the Declaration of Independence and the relevant parts of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How do I tell them civil rights can be revoked at any time? That because of baseless and illogical fears, and because her hijab might somehow make those under her “authority” uncomfortable, she must deny a part of who she is.

I have taught school — wearing the hijab — for the better part of two decades, at almost every level from elementary through to post-secondary. My hijab has not had the effect of encouraging religious zeal in students. In fact, many of my students wear their secularism and atheism far more prominently than I do my scarf.

I don’t think the fear relating to people in authority wearing hijabs is related to fear that these people will cast some sort of religious hold on those in their care. I think the real fear is that young people — say, children in daycare — will grow up without fear of religious symbols some want them to hate. The memory of a good doctor with a turban or a kindly civil servant wearing a yarmulke or hijab will go a long way, after all, toward eliminating prejudice against religious minorities. For a society that lays claim to secular égalité, I would think that eliminating such prejudice would be a good thing. But instead, Quebec would be raising its children to be provincial and xenophobic; unable to interact with anyone who “looks different.”

Some of what Quebec is proposing with its so-called Charter of Quebec Values would likely be struck down in any legal challenge by the Supreme Court of Canada. But the fact that it is being proposed at all, and has considerable support among Quebec’s francophone population, is a frightening reminder that society does not always progress forward, and that civil rights are as transient as political power.

I have not yet told my daughter about this proposed ban on the way she dresses (on her), I don’t know how to formulate the discussion.

I know the first thing she will ask me is, “How can we let this happen? Why aren’t we doing something about it?

This is the kind of take-charge attitude she has.

What do I tell her, Quebec? That she should study law, become the best in her field, and become a judge?

Oh, right. With this so-called charter, she wouldn’t be able to.

CSEC Handed Over Control Of Encryption Standards To NSA: Report

The Huffington Post Canada | By Daniel Tencer Posted: 09/11/2013

The Canadian agency responsible for electronic surveillance played a substantial role in the NSA's efforts to crack encrypted data on the internet, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.

Communications Security Establishment Canada — which is responsible for foreign electronic surveillance but is speculated to be spying on Canadians as well — handed over control of an international encryption standard to the NSA, allowing the agency build a “backdoor” to decrypt data, the Times reports.

The information is part of the massive trove of previously secret NSA data leaked to the press earlier this year by Edward Snowden. READ MORE.....

The Quebec Charter Will Ghettoize Muslims

Shahla Khan Salter argues that the Quebec Charter of Values will lead to the ghettoization of Muslims within Quebec society.

An Open Letter to Pauline Marois from a Hijab-wearing Muslim Québecois.

By Fariha Naqvi in Being Canadian, Thoughts/Reflections on September 11, 2013


Dear Mme. Marois,

I have a bone to pick with you. You may not know me, but I know you. I write to you as a hijab wearing Muslim Québecoise. I write to you woman to woman.

You see, I’m writing to you about MY Quebec. My Quebec in which I was born and raised. The home my parents chose for themselves some 40 odd years ago when they migrated from Germany. The only home I have known my entire life with the exception of the five or so years I lived in Ontario. The home I yearned for and missed like a good cheese curd misses warm fries.

You see, I grew up in the middle upper class, primarily anglophone community of West Island Montreal. I was one of a handful of coloured children in my high school of almost 500. I studied hard, worked part time jobs and continued my post secondary education in this beautiful province.

I played street hockey as a child, watched the local baseball games and went ice skating in the winters. Like most other kids my age, before the Internet, I’d bike to the local dep (dépanneur) and buy candy with my friends. You see growing up in MY Québec the colour of my skin or the way I dressed didn’t used to matter much. It never made headlines or the 6 o’clock news.

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In cégep in the early 2000’s I made a decision to express my individuality and embrace my faith. Much like my colleagues who chose to grow mohawks, wear ripped pants, and about nineteen different earrings, I too chose a form of self expression. After all, if it was one thing I knew for sure, growing up in MY Québec, it was that self expression is a thing to be embraced.

So against my family’s wishes at the time, I put on the hijab in the winter of 2001. Despite alienation from certain family members and members of my own Pakistani community, I put it on. With much of the support of so many of my Québecoise friends who, like me, were raised in an era where self expression is to be waived high into the air with the same pride as the fleur de lys on its beautiful blue background. I wore the hijab as a symbol of empowerment, of self expression and of pride. I fought my family, and I wore it. I embraced the many questions my colleagues in cégep had. I responded to their many queries that perhaps my father had forced me to wear it, or I had been married off over the Christmas vacation. I responded that I wore it as a symbol of my faith, my values and my self-expression. That, they understood. Similar to me, and pretty much most other teenage North American adolescents, they understood the importance of self expression.

I wore it, this hijab of mine, through the years. Through college and on to university. Through different jobs, marriage and the migration of provinces. I wore it with pride, a pride similar to that of my place of birth.

I once had an unfortunate experience when living in Ontario of a disgruntled old man who told me to go back to where I came from when I complained it was nippy out. To that I smiled and responded, “aah, right. Montreal.”

You see, Mme. Marois I now have children of my own. My husband and I are choosing to educate our children in 85% French curriculum. It is our choice. You see, we are not being forced to. I have the “eligibility certificate”. Yes, to all my non-Québec readers we are required by our province to have a certificate authenticating that our children are entitled to an English education. Despite having this, we chose to send our children to a school in which they receive the bulk of their education in French. Nous sommes fiers (We are proud)!

All these years I boasted about MY beautiful Québec. My home and native province. Despite the ludicrous nature of this proposed charter of values, I refuse to be ashamed of MY Quebec. You see, somewhere along the years it became so that it was excusable to not discuss the staggering debt of our province, the moon-like roads, engrained corruption that has permeated most levels of government or the future of our healthcare. Instead you have opted for us to focus on a piece of cloth and other religious symbols.

A few years ago the educational system in Quebec changed, it went from religious to secular. While it didn’t affect me directly, I respected it and saw little need for an uproar. We went from learning biblical stories when I was young to a secular system.

I honour and practice my religion on my own time, in my own way and contrary to what you may fear, I do not shove it down the throats of those around me. As any woman can tell you, I like to accessorize and choose my scarfs to match my outfits as you might understand. My hijab is not only a religious symbol, for me, it is a form of self expression.

I was driving and listening to the radio this afternoon, when I heard a commentary about (the proposed charter of values) “c’est pour les autres (It is for others).” I was tempted to pull the car over because I thought I was mistaken. If this law is to guard ourselves against others then please explain to me what exactly happens with the thousands like myself? The ones who are not “les autres” but “les notres (ours).” The ones who were born and raised in this beautiful province, the eaters of poutine and joueurs d’hockey who yes, by the way also drape a piece of cloth over their heads or wear a turban, kippah or a star around their necks.

Clearly you have understood the importance of the large cross atop Mont Royal or of the cross in legislature. So too, I implore you to understand we are entitled to our own forms of self expression. For my Jewish friends who choose to wear the kippah, that is their right, their freedom and their decision. My Sikh friends, the turban and for me, MY hijab is MY decision.

When will we stop pretending this proposed charter of values is anything more than a bigoted attempt to stifle self expression and freedom of attire. If the nineteen earrings and purplish blue hair of my neighbour are an allowable form of self expression than why not a piece of fabric atop my head?

It is through dialogue and freedom of expression that communities flourish. Educating our citizens helps to empower our own culture, not stomping upon the fabric of others. Enforcing the removal of one person’s article of clothing is removing their freedom of expression and creating an environment of hostility and ignorance. To do so is to take one giant leap backwards for mankind and that is not what I will accept for MY Quebec.

Signed,

A hijab clad fiercely proud Québecoise Muslim woman.