Saturday, September 21, 2013

Demand for US-born imams up in American mosques

By

Associated Press
Saturday, September 21, 2013


ANAHEIM, Calif. — Mustafa Umar, an imam in Southern California, is popular with the Muslim teenagers who attend his mosque. They pepper him with questions about sensitive topics like marijuana use, dating and pornography.

Umar, 31, is a serious Islamic scholar who has studied the Quran in the Middle East, Europe and India — but he’s also a native Californian, who is well-versed in social media and pop culture, and can connect with teens on their own terms.

That pedigree is rare — 85 percent of fulltime, paid imams in the U.S. are foreign-born — but the demand for people like him is growing as American Muslim leaders look for ways to keep the religion relevant for young people in a secular country that cherishes freedom of expression.

“That’s all you hear in every mosque around the country now: ‘We need someone who can connect with the youth.’ And everyone is waiting for that person, like he’s a superhero who can come and save the day,” said Umar, who started his job nine months ago.

With a foot in both traditional Islam and U.S. pop culture, leaders like Umar are trying to help young Muslims embrace their American experience without letting go of Islamic traditions. It’s part of a broader trend toward a more American style of congregational worship that includes everything from vibrant youth groups to health clinics to community service projects.

“The demand for American-born imams is an articulation of something much deeper,” said Timur Yuskaev, director of the Islamic chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, which educates Islamic faith leaders.

“It’s a realization that assimilation is happening and it’s going to happen. Now, how do we control it, how do we channel it?” he said. “These congregations, if they do not provide the services that the congregants expect, then they will not survive.”

For Umar, part of the strategy means confronting things like pre-marital sex, drugs and porn head-on — taboos in Islam but temptations that abound in America. Umar, a huge soccer fan, also bonds with his young charges over sports before gently steering the conversation back to faith.

“He was just like us. He played sports, he studied for school just like us,” said 17-year-old Tarek Soubra, recalling the day he met Umar. “It was, like, ‘Oh, he’s just like our friend.’ It was really cool.”

This informal approach is controversial with some Muslims, but those objections overlook the inevitable assimilation that’s rapidly taking place, said Philip Clayton, provost at Claremont Lincoln University, which recently started a program for American Islamic leaders.

Mosques that remain insular, focus on ethnic identity and don’t engage with the realities of being Muslim in America won’t survive, he said. And the more engaged imams and mosques become, the less likely confused youth are to turn to radicalized forms of Islam, the way the Boston marathon bombing suspects did.

“I would say either American imams will learn how to be spiritual leaders of these young people or Islam will not flourish in the United States,” Clayton said.

Still, young Islamic leaders in the U.S. are clear that things like the five daily prayers, modest interaction between men and women, and bans on alcohol and pre-marital sex are inseparable from being Muslim. But in America, the application of those rules can look different.

Teens go on co-ed field trips, for example, but chaperones are present. Mosques put on girls-only dances during high school prom season. And Islamic seminars for young adults take part in auditoriums divided down the middle by gender, said Nouman Ali Khan, 35, who founded Bayyinah, an Arabic institute in Dallas.

“There are some guidelines in Islam that are there and they’re not going to be compromised,” he said. “But these things are unfairly assumed to mean that we’re not social people and that we’re not going to be successful in society.”

AbdelRahman Murphy, a 25-year-old assistant imam in Knoxville, Tenn., is striking that balance with his newly founded Muslim youth group called Roots. Kids play sports, battle it out in video-game playing contests or strut in a girls’ Muslim fashion show with the tongue-in-cheek title “Cover Girl.”

Murphy, the son of an Egyptian immigrant mother and an Irish-American convert, was kicked out of a private Islamic middle school and strayed from the faith in high school — an experience he always keeps in mind.

“We can’t change what’s inside the package, but we can repackage it,” said Murphy, who tweets about college basketball and his faith.

Umar’s mosque, the Islamic Institute of Orange County, recently started monthly meetings that follow a game-show format, with two imams answering questions that teens text to an anonymous hotline. The organizers were shocked when there were questions about masturbation, drugs, porn, dating and drinking.

The sessions opened a much-needed dialogue about how to be successful as a Muslim and an American, said Samina Mohammad, who oversees the youth program.

Mohammad, 28, recently told a youth group how she secretly removed her head scarf on the way to school for two years because she loved her hair. Then, she attended a session for teens where, instead of lecturing about the importance of the head scarf, the imam compared a covered Muslim woman to a beautiful pearl hidden within an oyster.

“It really hit home for me because I didn’t understand that beauty was such a part of it,” she said. “I was trying to find my identity and I realized, ‘Oh, he makes sense. That’s what I need to do.’”

Amnesty International slams Quebec charter for limiting 'fundamental rights'

Benjamin Shingler, The Canadian Press 
Published Saturday, September 21, 2013


MONTREAL -- Amnesty International is wading into the debate over Quebec's controversial charter of values, arguing that the plan would limit "fundamental rights" and further stigmatize vulnerable women.

The Canadian branch of the human-rights organization says the Parti Quebecois proposal would violate Canadian and international law for infringing on freedom of expression and religion.

The PQ plan announced earlier this month would prohibit public employees from wearing obvious religious symbols, including the hijab.

Amnesty took particular issue with one of the stated goals of the proposed charter -- that it would promote equality between the sexes.

"For people, and particularly for women, who might be coerced into wearing a religious symbol, prohibiting them from wearing it will not solve the problem," the group said in a statement.

"The people who had coerced them will still go unpunished, while the people who have been coerced will be punished in a number of ways, such as losing their jobs and hence their right to work and risking becoming isolated and stigmatized in their communities."

The group has voiced concern over Quebec policies before.

In April 2012, Amnesty International denounced former Premier Jean Charest's government for its handling of the student protests over tuition fees. The group called for a toning down of police measures, which it deemed unnecessarily aggressive.

This time, the group said it supports the PQ's efforts promote equality between men and women, but takes issue with its proposed approach.

"Women must not be forced to wear a scarf or a veil, neither by the government nor by individuals. But it is no more acceptable for a law to prevent them from wearing such garb," said Beatrice Vaugrante, executive director of the Canadian branch's francophone wing.

The minority PQ government is expected to table the charter this fall and has suggested it might negotiate with opposition parties afterward.

For now, Premier Pauline Marois appears content to let the debate rage on.

Quebec remains bitterly divided over the issue, with duelling protests over the charter's merits planned for this weekend.

A march against the charter was planned for Saturday in Quebec City, while a pro-charter march is set for Sunday in Montreal.

Meanwhile, a coalition of community groups and prominent Quebecers, including former Supreme Court Justice Claire l'Heureux Dube, is planning to hold a news conference Tuesday in support of the proposal, according to Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper.

A new poll released Saturday found more than half of those surveyed-- 52 per cent -- were in favour of the plan. But 56 per cent felt the charter's constitutionality should be tested in court.

The Leger-Marketing survey, conducted for the Montreal Gazette, questioned 1,001 Quebecers for the web panel poll between Sept. 17 and Sept. 19. Results are considered accurate within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Let’s ‘indoctrinate’ to open-mindedness

Aruba Mahmud, Special to QMI Agency

Friday, September 20, 2013 


In recent weeks, Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values has been making headlines, and understandably so. If passed, the charter would ban public employees from wearing “conspicuous” religious clothing and symbols, including hijabs, turbans, kippas, and large crosses.

As a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, it saddens and frightens me that these events are taking place in Canada, the country where I was born and raised and a nation which I have always considered to be welcoming, diverse, and accepting of all faiths and creeds.

And so, I take issue with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois’ hypocritical definition of secularism (small crosses, the crucifix in Quebec’s legislature, the cross on Mount Royal and Christmas trees in government buildings would all be exempt from the charter), and her ridiculous comments about how multiculturalism has led England’s population to “knocking each other over the head and throwing bombs.”

But it is Marois’ repetition of the common Western belief that hijab “is a form of submission” and her baseless argument that an educator wearing hijab could lead to the indoctrination of her students that I, as a teacher, find particularly offensive.

At age 12, I knew that I wanted to become either an interior designer or a teacher. Deciding on the latter, I found myself starting my first practicum placement 11 years later, in a rural school where none of my Grade 7/8 pupils had ever met, or even seen (at least in the flesh) a Muslim woman wearing hijab. I chose, after consulting with my associate teacher, to simply let the students know on my first day that I wore it for religious reasons and to leave it at that.

It was after a week or so when some pupils began to notice my penchant for colourful hijabs, they requested I wear a certain colour the next day. Deciding to humour them, I complied. Impressed, they made a request the next day until on a daily basis they were challenging me to wear certain colours.

My associate teacher and I found it only amusing until one of the last days of my placement, when a student unexpectedly told me that before she had met me, she had only seen Muslim women on TV news, wearing all black and living in war-torn countries like Iraq. She shared that she had always had negative feelings towards Muslim women, particularly those who wear hijab, but that now she appreciated knowing me and fact that I wore “cool” colours. Touched, I thanked her and she went back to working on her science.

Marois’ may see this story as an example of how I was “indoctrinating” students. I consider it an example of how at least one student overcame the negative stereotypes and misrepresentations which the media had presented her for years, and instead saw me for what I am — a teacher passionate about helping students and contributing to society and a fellow human being who happens to practise a different faith.

If Marois’ has her way, Muslim women (along with Sikhs, Jews and others who observe religious clothing) in Quebec will be forced to leave their jobs or to compromise their religious beliefs and practice. For someone who claims to have the best interests of Muslim women in mind, Marois is envisioning a province that would only serve to marginalize and oppress them by forcing them out of the public service. Young Muslims, Sikhs, and Jews in Quebec, will no longer be able to dream, as I did, of becoming a teacher, or working in the public sector, unless they meet the charter’s discriminatory guidelines.

As for children in Quebec’s schools, day cares and other institutions, they would be “indoctrinated” not by Muslim teachers, but by individuals like Marois whose divisive politics and attitudes deem only certain faiths, beliefs, values, and heritage to be publicly acceptable.

Aruba Mahmud taught for two years and is now pursuing her PhD in education at Western University.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Forced marriages a hidden problem in Canada


Ground-breaking study finds 219 reported cases over just 3 years, cutting across lines of culture and nationality. And there may be many more flying the radar.

By: Debra Black Immigration Reporter, Published on Fri Sep 20 2013


A groundbreaking three-year study of forced marriage in Ontario has found more than 200 women who were wed against their will, a practice the report’s authors say highlights serious gaps in services.

The first-of-its-kind report, being released at a Toronto news conference Friday, was conducted by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, which questioned 30 social service agencies about the practice.

It found 219 reported cases between 2010 and 2012, with 97 per cent of the victims being women. The survey found the majority of victims, 81 per cent, were between 16 and 34 years old.

The report found that parents, siblings, extended family, grandparents and religious leaders were all involved in pushing individuals into forced marriage. The reasons were mostly cultural (66 per cent), but honour, money and immigration purposes were also behind some forced marriages.

Haya, a woman now living in Mississauga who asked that her last name not be used, was forced to flee when her father decided to marry her off to a cousin. Sixteen at the time, she and her family were deported from Canada to Pakistan four years ago. It was there, she said, that her father announced the arranged marriage.

She was held “prisoner” in her grandmother’s house. Her father confiscated her Pakistani passport. Eventually she escaped from Karachi to Islamabad, where she was able to contact Canadian officials, who gave her a temporary visa to return to Canada.

Now 20, she has applied for permanent resident status. She says she’s “grateful” to the Canadian officials who helped her. “I didn’t have any status in Canada. Technically, they didn’t have to help me. I was a Pakistani citizen.”

According to the report, however, most victims were Canadian citizens (44 percent) or permanent residents (41 per cent). Four per cent of cases involved people who did not have legal status in Canada; 7 per cent were refugee claimants, foreign residents or individuals with a visitor or temporary work visa.

The survey found that many victims forced into marriage experienced some form of violence, including threats (68 per cent), physical violence (59 per cent), sexual violence (26 per cent) and stalking (20 per cent).

“The results we got back show that this is an issue across a number of communities in Ontario,” says Shalini Konanur, executive director and lawyer at the South Asian Legal Clinic.

“People need to realize that victims of forced marriages are probably some of the most marginalized clients we deal with,” she said. “They have very little income, very little power and ability to remedy or intervene on their own.”

The largest number of forced marriages was within the Muslim community with 103 victims from more than 30 countries of origin, including Afghanistan, Palestine, Senegal, Swaziland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, as well as Canada. Forty-four were Hindu, 30 were Sikh and 12 Christian.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg, because so many cases go unreported,” said Sandeep Chand, an outspoken advocate for spreading awareness about forced marriage. A resident of Victoria, B.C., she was forcibly married in 2006.

“It’s prevalent everywhere,” she said. “It’s not just a South Asian issue. “It’s a global issue; it’s a human rights issue.”

Forced marriage has become a large problem in the United Kingdom. The government has a unit devoted to dealing with forced marriages, which fielded 400 cases between June and August last year, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper last month. The article cited a charity group that is advising young women at risk of being spirited abroad for forced marriage to conceal a spoon in their underwear, to set off scanners at airport security and give them a chance to safely tell authorities.

Konanur, of the South Asian clinic, defines forced marriage as “essentially where one or both of the participants are entering into the marriage without consent.”

Canada has taken a leadership role at the United Nations opposing child and forced marriage, says Konanur. But she wants the government to be as forceful domestically.

Canada has no legislation specific to forced marriage, the report states.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs is doing quite an amazing job with helping Canadians to come back to Canada, but the problem is (there is) no consistency on how they approach these cases from country to country.”

She would like to see a uniform policy to help government officials understand forced marriage and intervene abroad in the same way, regardless of the country the victim is in.

The report also calls for better training for teachers, guidance counsellors, health professionals and police, and for including forced marriage in the definition of “family violence” when an applicant seeks priority in getting subsidized housing.

It also calls for better protection for persons without legal resident status.

The authors say regulations about spousal sponsorship, which makes attaining permanent residency conditional on living with the spouse, should be changed to allow an exemption for forced marriage, alongside the existing exemption for domestic violence.

Among other findings, the survey found 64 percent of the Canadian citizens forced into marriage had been living here longer than 10 years; 22 per cent had been here between seven and 10 years.

“One day I hope that people will understand more about forced marriage and how common it is,” Chand said, “because it happens in everyone’s backyard. We just don’t recognize the signs.”

Come to Ottawa to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, Protest Supreme Court's Secret Hearings, October 10-11

Support Secret Trial Detainee Mohamed Harkat's challenge to secret trials, protest the Supreme Court's Shameful Secret Hearing, and more!


Stop Secret Trials in Canada, October 10-11, Ottawa

**Information on Events, How to Get Involved Below!**

For the third time since 2006, a challenge to Canada's secret trial "security certificates" is being heard at the Supreme Court.

But in an alarming move, the Supreme Court of Canada, after a public hearing on Thursday, October 10, will conduct a completely secret hearing in an undisclosed location, and the secret trial detainee launching the challenge, Mohamed Harkat – along with his lawyers, supporters, the media, and the general public – will be shut out from the process.

Join us in Ottawa to attend the public hearing, protest the secret hearing, and explore the many ways this Kafkaesque process reflects Kafka's The Trial!

EVENTS:

1. Attend the public portion of the Supreme Court's secret hearing on Thursday, October 10, 9 am (with pre-court vigil at 7:30 am), and hear the challenge of secret trial detainee Mohamed Harkat along with the arguments of numerous intervening organizations

2. Attend an evening presentation of Kafka's The Trial, adapted to reflect Canada's secret trial process (Thursday, October 10, St Paul's University, 7:30 pm)

3. Where's the justice (and where are the justices?) Join the Journey to find the Supreme Court judges shamefully holding a secret hearing, October 11, 9:30 am. Telescopes, magnifying glasses, flashlights, and other search aids welcome for a vigil and walk through Ottawa to find (and open up) the secret hearing. Meet at Kent and Wellington (Supreme Court building).

BACKGROUND

Secret trial detainee Mohamed Harkat, subject to a secret trial security certificate since December 10, 2002 (International Human Rights Day) once again heads to the Supreme Court to challenge the unconstitutional law that has detained him for 11 years without telling him why. This is the third challenge to secret trials (in 2007, the process was declared unconstitutional, and in 2008, additional portions of the legislation were found to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). This two-tier system of justice allows for lower standards of proof for permanent residents and refugees than it does for Canadian citizens, and is based on information not normally admissable in a court of law, including information gleaned from torture. In other words, those subject to the process are no longer in a court of law.

Secret trials not only affect five Muslim men (The Secret Trial Five), some of whom have been resisting them since well before 2001. Secrecy has become embedded in the refugee determination process, with some 100 secret hearings since 2008. Secrecy is invoked to hide Canadian complicity in torture and to cover up governmental abuses. Meanwhile, discriminatory precedents seeking to cement the idea that people forced to flee to Canada as refugees should have fewer rights than those born here continue to grow.

Mohamed Harkat is a refugee from Algeria who came to Canada seeking freedom from persecution. Rather than celebrating in style his 2-year marriage anniversary with Sophie Harkat, he was in solitary confinement in 2003, and not released from prison until 2006, and only under the most draconian bail conditions in Canadian history, effectively imprisoning him, his wife, and members of their family. Despite the 11-year process that has sought to ultimately deport Mr. Harkat to Algeria, where we would face torture, both he, his wife, their family, and a large community of friends and supporters have maintained a strong bond of resistance to secret trials in Canada. After seven years of being attached to a GPS monitoring device, Moe was finally able to snip the slave bracelet around his ankle this past summer, but still faces the related humiliations of house arrest and other bail conditions based on secret allegations he will likely never see. The Harkats hope that this appeal to the Supreme Court will end the nightmare they have endured for almost half of their adult lives.

Join us for two days of activities sponsored by the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada and Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee. These activities all embrace the nonviolent philosophy that pledges to do no violence – whether verbal, physical, or psychological – and honours the dignity of all human beings, including our opponents. We ask that anyone joining us respect such guidelines.

GET INVOLVED!

1. If you are coming to Ottawa and need a place to stay, let us know as soon as possible at r-j.heynen@bell.net or call (613) 828-8468

2. If you cannot make it to Ottawa, consider organizing an October 11 "Vigil of Shame" at a local courthouse or federal government building to protest the Supreme Court's secret hearing. Let us know if you plan to do this and details will be included in a national press release.

3. Contribute to the costs of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, which initiated a campaign against secret trial security certificates in August, 2001 and has continued ever since to seek their abolition. Cheques can be made out to Homes not Bombs and mailed to PO Box 2020, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0

More information: (613) 267-3998,
tasc@web.ca

Coalition Justice pour Adil Charkaoui


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Canada: Cross-country protests against Conservatives’ attack on science


By Carl Bronski 
20 September 2013

Hundreds of scientists gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa earlier this week to protest against the federal Conservative government’s attack on scientific freedom and its ongoing implementation of steep cuts in funding for scientific research. They were joined in a “Stand Up for Science” mobilization by hundreds of other scientists, researchers and their supporters in sixteen other cities across Canada.

The protesters aired grievances against Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in three specific areas of government scientific policy—changes to the mandate of the National Research Council; the muzzling of scientists employed by the federal government; and cuts to, and in many cases the outright closure of, government science-related programs, particularly in the area of environmental protection. READ MORE....

Warning from Catholic Church to PQ: Be careful what you wish for

Canadian Press - Sept 20, 2013

MONTREAL - There's a warning from the Catholic Church to the Parti Québécois government: the push for a more secular state could backfire.

Msgr. Pierre-Andre Fournier, the head of the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops, suggests the proposed charter could have unintended consequences.

Instead of a more secular Quebec, he foresees more resistance: more protests in the street, and more women isolated at home in what he calls cultural "ghettos."

"The more you try to have an identity by pushing back others, the more you create ghettos," Fournier told a news conference Thursday in Trois-Rivières.

"Women will stay at home and will not integrate — and neither will their children."

He suggested the PQ plan would be particularly unfair to Muslim women, pushing some to the margins while religious Muslim men could continue wearing beards while working for the state. READ MORE....

Syria war, refugees to cost Lebanon $7.5 billion: World Bank

By Dominic Evans -- BEIRUT | September 19, 2013 

(Reuters) - Syria's conflict will cost Lebanon $7.5 billion in cumulative economic losses by the end of next year, the World Bank has said in a report prepared for an aid meeting at the United Nations. READ MORE.....

New University of Regina bathroom facilities help Muslim students prepare for prayer


The University of Regina is going to great lengths to help its Muslim students avoid doing the same when washing for on-campus prayer sessions.

The university has installed “foot-baths” in a public washroom at its Riddell Centre, in order to allow Muslim students — many of whom pray numerous times a day, and wash themselves beforehand — to clean their feet in a way that isn’t awkward and difficult through a use of regular sinks. READ FULL STORY....

Guiding principles for dealing with global conflicts

By Imam Sikander Hashmi


(September 17, 2013) – At any given moment, it seems that there are acts of aggression and injustice going on around the world. In many cases, they happen to be against our brothers and sisters in faith.
When these acts are committed by those who we consider to be outside forces (such as other countries or people of other faiths), we find that the Muslims are usually united against the aggression and injustice. Efforts to support victims normally receive broad support.

However, when the source of conflicts is from within, we find that our communities become easily polarized, either along ethnic, political or sectarian lines. Not only do these cause major divisions in the arena of conflict, they also spread around the world and even affect communities such as ours.

With the ease of communication found today, especially through social media, many of us find ourselves in the midst of debates, discussions and protests. Sometimes in the midst of all the anger and frustration, it appears that the fact that the “others” are also human beings – let alone fellow believers – is lost. This leads to the approval and even the promotion of violence against innocent people. This is totally unacceptable.
There are a few principles that should guide us, as human beings and as Muslims, regardless of what type of conflict we find ourselves in.

Firstly, the killing or injuring of innocent people – especially those who are not causing physical harm to others or their property – cannot be condoned or accepted, regardless of who it is committed by and regardless of the faith, ethnicity or political affiliation of the victims. Whether they are peaceful protesters or police officers who are simply doing their jobs (such as directing traffic, protecting property and so on), the innocent must always be protected and those who harm them must be denounced.

Showing carelessness towards the life and well-being of innocent people is a very serious matter, which we have been warned about in the Qur’an and in the teachings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Even disregard for the property of others is unacceptable, especially places of worship such as mosques and churches.

Al l of this can be counted as aggression and oppression, and the Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) has given us a stern warning regarding oppression:

“Beware of oppression, for verily oppression will be darkness on the Day of Resurrection.” [Reported by Muslim]

Sometimes, our affiliations (ethnic, political, sectarian or other) lead us to become oblivious towards the mistakes committed by our own “side” and we start downplaying and supporting actions or oppression and aggressing that are clearly unjust.

Allah instructs us in the Qur’an:

“And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.” [Qur’an – 5:2]

Allah also tells us clearly:

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah , witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is acquainted with what you do.” [Qur’an – 5:8]

Even our opposition or dislike towards a group of people should not lead us to diverge from being just. If the side we are supporting commits acts of aggression, we must not pass it off as something acceptable.
Everyone makes mistakes and there all types of people on practically every side. Rogue elements, the ignorant, troublemakers and those who cannot contain their emotions are present almost everywhere. We must be realistic and must not expect perfection from everyone on the side we are supporting, nor project our side as being perfect.

Also, in the Qur’an, Allah gives us an important principle regarding any news that we receive: Verify it, especially if it leads you to pass judgement and take action against others. Just because something is reported on the news or is recounted to us by someone on the ground doesn’t necessarily mean it is exactly as reported, especially when it involves putting blame on others. In complex conflicts, there can be many elements involved with differing interests.

For example, if there are reports that innocent people were killed due to a bombing, the act itself should be condemned, regardless of who carried it out. One should be cautious about laying blame though, especially if those being accused are denying responsibility. After all, making false accusations, without any evidence, is also a very serious crime.

Propaganda and deception are a big part of most conflicts, so most news should be taken with a grain of salt. It could be as reported or there could be more to it, so be careful and don’t just accept everything you hear, read and see.

Finally, let us remember the advice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say [something] good, or he should keep silent.” [Reported by Bukhari, Muslim and others]

Thus, before we speak in any exchange, we should ensure that we are offering words of goodness that are likely to be meaningful and beneficial. Otherwise, we are better off remaining silent.

Political differences regarding the best way forward for a community and nation are nothing new. In Islamic history, such differences can be traced back to soon after the passing of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

But as civilized human beings and especially as Muslims, we must always be guided by the principles of justice, goodness, righteousness and must not be blinded in either support or opposition.

May Allah unite the hearts of the believers in goodness. May Allah shower His mercy and forgiveness upon all our innocent brothers and sisters who have lost their lives. May He grant peace and security for the innocent everywhere and protect their homes, properties and places of worship. May Allah bring true peace, justice and stability all over the world, particularly in Muslim countries – ameen!

##
Sikander Hashmi is the Imam of the Islamic Society of Kingston (Ontario) and a writer, teacher and marketer. This article was originally published in the August 2013 issue of the Islamic Society of Kingston’s newsletter, The Bond.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ontario stirs charter debate with motion on religious expression


The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Sep. 19 2013

Ontario has poked Quebec in the eye with a legislative resolution that implicitly condemns the Parti Québécois’ proposed secular charter.

The motion, presented by Liberal MPP Monte Kwinter Thursday, promises that Ontario will never restrict people from publicly expressing their religious beliefs. The resolution passed the legislative assembly by a unanimous vote of 82 to 0, with support from all three parties.

It is a reaction to the Quebec values charter, which would prohibits people from wearing religious symbols such as turbans, kippas, hijabs or large crosses in public institutions. READ MORE.......

Colorado's Biblical Floods Linked To Climate Change

Two Years After Occupy Wall Street, a Network of Offshoots Continue Activism for the 99%

Taking Exception to Exceptionalism

by Bernard Weisberger


In the speech last week that put on hold his request to Congress to authorize the bombing of Syria’s chemical weapons sites, President Obama — no mean orator himself — faced a familiar orator’s problem. How would he end on a strong and upbeat note while announcing what was in fact a sensible retreat from his “red line” pledge dictated by clear and overwhelming evidence that both Congress and the public at large had no appetite for any more Middle Eastern interventions? How could he still defend America’s assertion of its role as the enforcer of the “civilized world’s” conscience even as he stepped back from the brink?

Other nations, of course, believe much the same thing, but not with the broad sweep of the claim of America, where we do things on a grander scale.

The words he chose nodded in both directions. “America is not the world’s policeman,” he acknowledged. “[I]t is beyond our means to right every wrong.” Then he added: “But when with modest effort and risk ” (something entirely impossible to guarantee) we can stop children from being gassed to death. . . I believe we should act.” But why us alone? That cued the final trumpet flourish. “That’s what makes America different,” said the president. “That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.” Pleased as I was with the outcome and its sequel so far, I couldn’t help thinking of George M. Cohan’s remark that “many a bum show is saved by the American flag.”

For there it was, the magic word, the popular core belief that we are the recipients of God’s special favor. Other nations, of course, believe much the same thing, but not with the broad sweep of the claim of America, where we do things on a grander scale. It is an essential truth, we say, that we are unique in history because prior to the modern age we had no history.

Our national origin myth is that the United States was born in a state of immaculate innocence. Voiced best in the nineteenth century by the popular historian (and loyal Jacksonian Democrat) George Bancroft it ran like this: The discovery of a “New World,” the Renaissance, the Reformation and the “Enlightenment” of the eighteenth century were all overtures to the grand curtain raising on the birth of the United States. One of our christening gifts was a “virgin” continent sheltered by two oceans, ours to possess without obstruction except for the inconvenient presence of heathen savages without the power to resist modern weapons. The other, even more important, was a blank slate, scrubbed clean of the crimes, errors and follies, the wars and oppressions of the past. We could create, unhindered, whatever government we desired. We could invent a national character for ourselves in whatever form we wished.

What might that be? For the Puritan founder of Massachusetts, John Eliot, we were destined to be a “city on a hill,” the eyes of all mankind turned on us as, in his words, “a model of Christian charity.” In the sweeping imagination of Tom Paine, victory in the American Revolution, would give us the freedom to “begin the world anew.” Fourscore and seven years later, Lincoln announced that the Union’s survival in the Civil War was vital to the entire world, because it was an experiment in democracy whose failure would cause the very idea of popular government to perish from the earth.

In those forms, exceptionalism had a positive face. It inspired the signers of the Declaration of Independence to risk their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. It nerved nineteenth century reformers like abolitionists or women’s rights advocates to fight on to victory in the face of contempt, hostile laws and physical assaults. It gave trade unionists the courage to defy the bullets and billy clubs of repression in their struggle for the equal rights to which America’s founding documents entitled them. To progressives it furnished the patience to persist for years in legal and political battles to make real the Preamble to the Constitution’s oft-forgotten promise to “promote the general welfare.” And it shone again in the peaceful struggle of the modern civil rights movement to hold America to its promises.

But exceptionalism has another uglier mask. Its hidden core of arrogance has often turned it into a kind of nationalism-on-steroids that carries with it imperial swagger, the itch to crush dissent at home, and a defiant statement to the world that we’re free to ignore what Jefferson called “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Re-branded as “Manifest Destiny” it was used to justify unnecessary invasions of Canada and Mexico, the eventual establishment of colonies in the Pacific and a period as the de facto suzerain over the weak governments of the Latin American nations of this hemisphere.

Curiously, both the benign and the sinister interpretations — the Jekyll and Hyde versions, we might say — have something in common, too long and too commonly neglected by our mythmaking historians. Neither of them is true. We have never been as “original” as they claim.

Democracy was not invented here. Neither were capitalism or Protestantism, the distinguishing characteristics of the first British settlers in North America. Even as colonies we were part of a trans-Atlantic culture. Our books and arts, our faiths and our economic practices were imported mainly from Great Britain and Western Europe. The first simmers of revolt here rested on the colonists’ demand for “the rights of Englishmen” gained in the mother country by uprisings a century earlier that had beheaded one king and deposed another. The elite among our Patriot leaders were familiar with the works of the French philosophers who were busily undermining the intellectual foundations of their absolute monarchy. James Madison, often called “the father of the Constitution” for his heroic labors in the Convention, like many fellow members was familiar with the theories and performances of republics in ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy and the Swiss confederation and Dutch republic of their own time. Knowledge like that guided their own choices among the political and practical deals they had to make as, in your own words, the great charter was “hammered, reasoned, shaped, argued, cajoled and compromised into being.”

As for creating a government on a blank slate free of crimes and errors? No way. By 1787 it already had a century and a half of slavery and the theft of Indian land inscribed on it.

That’s not to deny the radicalism of the American Revolution, or the early existence of new and especially American habits of speech and forms of art. Voting into existence a people’s government — even with a limited electorate at first — was a daring leap into unknown seas, bordered by powerful nations still ruled by hereditary absolute monarchs and aristocrats. We were as much a novelty as the new plants and animals that our frontier exploration parties kept bringing home — a process, it’s worth remembering, also going on in other newly “discovered” parts of the world.

But 1787 was two and a quarter centuries ago. The democratic ideal, if not the practice, has long perched its banners over most of the globe. Our own democracy is no longer a lusty infant, but one of the world’s oldest, plainly suffering plutocratic and imperial dysfunctions and in need of a thorough popular overhaul to reclaim its genuineness.

The version of exceptionalism now peddled by tea party fable-makers has already done our economy noticeable harm. It convinces too many. It turns upside down our supposed hospitality to innovation by attempts to seal us off from learning anything from other, younger democracies. Improvements in health care, education, energy conservation — name your cause — are dismissed out of hand as “socialism,” bent on destruction of “the American way.” That kind of head-in-the-sand obstructionism is what we used to deplore in what we called “backward” parts of the globe. And what a useful tool it is for keeping the rich beneficiaries of our current unequal status quo in the top-dog position!

The damage that “unique” America as Dr. Hyde, fortified by a super-sized military establishment, has done is huge. Where once we independent-minded Yankees scoffed at “heel-clicking Prussian militarism,” the media and political establishments of today brag of our “superb” armed forces, while reporters covering Pentagon press conferences, as well as congressional committee members, struggle to outdo each other in deference to the beribboned generals who appear before them.

The international consequences are even worse. At a time when we need the world’s friendship and cooperation, the exceptionalist mindset licenses administrations of both mainstream parties to override the sovereignty of other nations in the interests of our own safety. Think of drones aimed at terrorists (so identified in secret by us alone) in neutral Pakistan or “allied” Afghanistan that take the lives and homes of nearby or mistakenly targeted civilians. Mere “collateral damage” to us, we ignore the scope of their tragic suffering. Think of CIA kidnappings on the streets of foreign cities under the very noses of their own police forces. Think of the symbolic impact of our refusals to sign international treaties banning the use of land mines or child soldiers, or of the special exemptions we demand from prosecution by local law authorities of crimes committed against civilians by our military personnel in the countries where we have bases established. What kind of self-portrait are we painting?

True, almost all nations commit offenses against common decency and common sense in the mindless fervor of war. Our country is not the only sinner or possibly the worst. But “We’re Number One” hyper-patriotism is simply the collective self-admiration of empty minds. It’s not what the American Revolution was fought for. Not what Tom Paine and Lincoln had in mind. The Declaration of Independence only says that we were seeking “the separate and equal station among the nations of the earth” to which the laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitled us.

That’s why I believe that it’s time to let exceptionalism become a creed outworn. It has lingered too long for whatever good it has done. But won’t that bury its positive and creative side?

Not necessarily. We don’t need that particular prop in order to believe that as a nation we should hope to realize the ideals of justice, individual dignity, decency and mercy embodied somewhere in almost all the world’s religions and secular codes of law from ancient times–if not always achieved, at least as goals to aspire to. This would not be the “isolationism” with which critics of our imperial overreach are now being charged. Rather, the effort to design a new moral compass for international relations in a world whose peoples are now more interdependent than ever. One that does not need the “leadership” of a single super-power–not even the United States.

I have no naïve dreams of armies vanishing overnight. But the unchecked violence of our times must be somehow reduced before it destroys any hopes of a decent future for humanity. If the United States would take an active role as a partner in the process, rather than an armed dictator of terms from a lofty perch of morality, it would go far towards restoring the admiration the world long felt for us when our military establishment was tiny and our practice of democracy was robust. Think what fine speeches could be woven around that essential truth.

Quebec bans symbols but all of Canada bans migrants

BY  SYED HUSSAN SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

Thousands are outraged at the Parti Quebecois charter of values -- a charter that proposes to prohibit the wearing of religious symbols by public employees. As these symbols are disproportionately worn by racialized immigrants in particular Muslims and Sikhs, critics insist that Marois isplaying the "race card." Many insist that the Charter of Values will create a "second class of citizens." Amongst this outrage, there are critics emerging from strange quarters. Stephen Harper insists that the charter will fail and if it doesn't, the federal government will launch a legal challenge. Jason Kenney has ridden into the struggle -- calling the charter a "Monty Pythonesque" absurdity. Even the much maligned Margaret Wente is up in arms -- calling Premier Pauline Marois's move the "stirring of populist resentment." NDP's Thomas Mulclair dismissed it as "base politics," while Trudeau went as far as to compare it to segregation (a comparison he later softened). Under all this pressure, it seems that Marois may be backtracking.

'Go home,' says anti-immigrant graffiti in LaSalle

The members of a LaSalle church are feeling anger and frustration this week after vandals sprayed “Go home Greek” and “PQ” on the building’s front door.

The incident happened overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week on 75th Avenue. READ MORE.....

CAIR report reveals total funding of US Islamophobia network

New report detailed groups focused on promoting anti-Islam prejudice. According to research, the inner core of America’s Islamophobia network enjoyed access to at least $119,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011. 


World Bulletin / News Desk -- Sept 19, 2013

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a groundbreaking report, "Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States 2011-2012."

The 158-page report’s key findings are the following:

Finding 1: Subject matter experts perceive a small, but highly welcome, decline in Islamophobia in America during the period covered by this report. In 2012, CAIR rates Islamophobia as a 5.9 on a scale of one to 10, with one representing an America free of Islamophobia and 10 being the worst possible situation for Muslims. In 2010, CAIR rated the state of Islamophobia in America as a 6.4.

Finding 2: The U.S.-based Islamophobia network’s inner core is currently comprised of at least 37 groups whose primary purpose is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. An additional 32 groups whose primary purpose does not appear to include promoting prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims but whose work regularly demonstrates or supports Islamophobic themes make up the network’s outer core.

Finding 3: The inner core of the U.S.-based Islamophobia network enjoyed access to at least $119,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011. Groups in the inner core are often tightly linked. Key players in the network benefitted from large salaries as they encouraged the American public to fear Islam.

Finding 4: In 2011 and 2012, 78 bills or amendments designed to vilify Islamic religious practices were introduced in the legislatures of 29 states and the U.S. Congress. Sixty-two of these bills contained language that was extracted from David Yerushalmi’s American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) model legislation. While the bias behind the bills is clear, the presence of an actual problem that needed solved was not, even to the legislators introducing the measures. In at least 11 states, mainstream Republican leaders introduced or supported anti-Muslim legislation.

Finding 5: Anti-Muslim trainers serving law enforcement and military personnel were dealt a significant blow in late 2011. The tone and content of these training sessions reflected the trainers’ personal biases more than any subject matter expertise. Multiple Federal government outlets agreed to review their training on Islam and remove biased or inaccurate materials. The continued use of such trainers by state and local entities deserves further investigation.

Finding 6: There were 51 recorded anti-mosque acts during the period covered by this report, 29 in 2012 and 22 in 2011. Two notable spikes in anti-mosque acts occurred in 2011-2012: May 2011 (7 acts), likely related to the killing of Osama bin Laden and August 2012 (10 acts), probably all in reaction to the massacre of six Sikh worshippers by a white supremacist in Oak Creek, Wis.

Finding 7: Islamophobic rhetoric remains socially acceptable. Research released in 2011 found, “citizens are quite comfortable not only opposing [extending citizenship to legal Muslim immigrants], but also being public about that fact.” A number of mainstream candidates for the Republican presidential nomination used Islamophobic rhetoric. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) held a series of five anti-Muslim congressional hearings, which were subjected to broad spectrum push back but also enjoyed significant support. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) partnered with inner core leader Frank Gaffney to launch a campaign accusing Muslims in public service of infiltrating the government on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. This last episode ended up being a very welcome example of public officials supporting Americans of the Islamic faith in a bipartisan manner.

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.

PQ deserves stiff pushback on values charter: Toronto Star Editorial

The backlash against the Parti Québécois government’s benighted drive to suppress religious symbols has been swift and is growing.

Published on Wed Sep 18 2013

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2013/09/18/pq_deserves_stiff_pushback_on_values_charter_editorial.html

If you play with fire, you risk getting burned. It’s one of the oldest saws in the book. And Quebec Premier Pauline Marois might have wanted to keep it in mind before launching her incendiary campaign for a “Charter of Quebec Values” that devalues religious minorities and offends basic notions of decency.

To the credit of Quebecers, the backlash against the Parti Québécois government’s benighted drive to suppress religious symbols has been swift and it is growing. As the Star’s Chantal Hébert and Allan Woods have reported, the charter has proved impossibly divisive. It has split Quebecers down the middle, and support for it is eroding.

Montreal-area mayors representing nearly 2 million people have rejected it. So have opinion leaders such as Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor, who co-authored Quebec’s report on “reasonable accommodation” of minorities five years ago. So have Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Quebec’s two most prominent MPs, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, and provincial Liberal opposition leader Philippe Couillard.

Constitutional experts say the charter would not survive a Supreme Court challenge. While framed as an affirmation of “state neutrality” in matters of religion, the charter in practice targets some religions more than others. The crucifix will remain firmly fixed in the National Assembly, atop Montreal’s mountain and around the necks of more than a few state employees.

Already there has been a spate of ugly incidents, including one in Quebec City where a Muslim woman was told to remove her veil in a shopping mall and her son was spat on, and another in Saguenay where a mosque was sprayed with pig’s blood.

Even Quebec’s pro-independence movement has split on the issue. Long-time sovereigntist activists have decried it as a shabby comedown from the cosmopolitanism of René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard. Few can imagine any of these PQ icons forbidding doctors, civil servants, police or teachers from wearing visible religious symbols including conspicuous crosses, hijabs, turbans and skullcaps. Much less suggesting that the private sector, too, should take its cue from such a ban.

The pushback has been so stiff that the PQ’s minister for Montreal, Jean-François Lisée, has been spinning like a top. On Tuesday he hinted that the minority PQ government might be backtracking, saying “we’re looking at ways to improve the proposal.” By Wednesday he insisted that any changes would be “fine-tuning,” nothing more. That speaks to a certain jitteriness in PQ circles.

Marois was no doubt hoping to fire up her PQ base and attract enough francophone votes to squeeze out a majority in the next election. But she is turning off principled nationalists in the process. The opposition in the National Assembly has already served notice that the charter, as written, is dead on arrival. The best she can hope to carry into the election is a humiliatingly watered-down version, after exhausting the province with a poisonous debate. That won’t be much of a weapon against the Liberals, who have been rising in the polls. They now lead the PQ and are within striking distance of a majority.

Do Quebecers need this grief? No. And most of them don’t want it.

A recent poll for L’Actualité magazine found that people ranked the charter second to last in a long string of priorities that included controlling government spending, cutting taxes, fighting corruption and creating jobs. Only independence ranked lower. Like the PQ’s obsession with independence, the charter debate is largely irrelevant to everyday concerns. Marois’ cynical charter antics discredit her party and hurt her province’s image.

Bird interpretive centre in Israel to be named after Stephen Harper

The Jewish community of Toronto plans to honour Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his staunch support by building a migratory bird interpretive centre in his name, in Israel.

By: Tonda MacCharles Ottawa Bureau reporter, Published on Tue Sep 17 2013


OTTAWA—When it comes to Israel, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is considered a hawk, not a dove.

And while it may seem an unusual legacy project, the Jewish community of Toronto plans to honour Harper for his staunch support by building a migratory bird interpretive centre in his name, in Israel.

The Jewish National Fund’s arm in Canada is raising money to build the “Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre” in a nature park in a northern valley bordered by the Golan Heights to the east and the Naphtali Range of mountains to the west.

Harper has never been to Israel. He often proclaims his love for cats, but has never displayed — publicly anyway — an interest in birds (although his government did announce Tuesday it intends to protect the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse in Alberta and Saskatchewan.)

Nevertheless, Harper agreed to lend his name to the Israel project after he was approached about the plan, said Josh Cooper, chief executive officer of the JNF Canada.

“The prime minister has a strong love of animals: cats, dogs, pandas,” he said. “It plays off his whole love of animals.”

“The prime minister obviously has final say on anything he’d be a part of,” said Cooper, but he declined to say whose idea it was in the first place, and who pitched it to the PM.

The PMO refused comment altogether whether when contacted by the Star.

Harper’s bird centre will be a “world-class scientific and educational facility,” said Cooper, to commemorate the Canadian prime minister’s friendship with Israel.

“The Jewish community is extremely proud and honoured, and the JNF is proud and honoured, to have a chance to honour our prime minister whose unwavering support of Israel” stands out, he added.

Since coming to power, Harper has backed the Jewish state in its conflicts with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the anti-Israeli regimes in Syria and Iran in domestic debates and on the international scene.

On its website, the Jewish National Fund’s branch in Canada calls Harper “an extraordinary world leader” who took Canada through the global recession, rebuilt its military, and “staunchly defended victims of crime and restored Canada’s strong voice on the world stage.”

“Under the direction of Prime Minister Harper, Canada is now a leader in the international fight against anti-Semitism and raising awareness of the heinous crimes of the Holocaust. At the UN, Canada stands tall as a nation of principle by defending the freedom and dignity of all people,” says the JNF Canada website.

It is promoting a Dec. 1 dinner in Toronto as a tribute to Harper which will “benefit” the construction project, which Cooper said the prime minister will attend.

He added the “kickoff” to the fundraising campaign actually began Monday night, when more than 3,000 people gathered at the Beth Tzedec Synagogue to hear Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli soldier who spent five years in Hamas captivity, speak.

But the showcase fundraiser is the December tribute to Harper, which Cooper said is being organized by individuals of “all political stripes” and will offer a chance to big donors to rub shoulders with the prime minister.

Tickets are $200 apiece, and the JNF is soliciting corporate and individual donations of up to $100,000, eligible for a charitable tax receipt. Major donors of $100,000 or more will be invited into a “leadership circle” reception; $50,000 and up gets a donor into a VIP reception, and donors of $6,000 and more will be recognized “in perpetuity” at the centre, says the website.

Cooper declined to say what the fundraising target is, suggesting numbers on fundraising and ticket sales would be available closer to the event, which he said would be open to the media.

Proceeds will go to building a 4,000-square-metre facility where only makeshift structures now stand, said Cooper. Architectural drawings for the Stephen J. Harper migratory bird centre have been drafted. Cooper said shovels are ready to go into the ground, but the whole project could take up to two years to complete.

The December dinner has not sold-out but Cooper said he is aiming for a big crowd at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre.

The Hula valley, once drained of its natural lake, is being restored as a wetland rehabilitation project by the quasi-governmental agency that has charitable status, and has helped the Jewish state acquire land, extend settlement, and rehabilitate the environment. The Israeli government promotes the Hula Valley region as the site of large bird migrations and an attractive tourist destination. It says more than 400 species migrate in the skies over Hula Lake.

Several high-profile Conservatives on Harper’s team are among the organizers, including: Sen. Linda Frum, Sen. Irving Gerstein (who chairs the Conservative Fund — the party’s main fundraising arm), Manitoba Sen. Don Plett (past party president) and the dinner’s advisory committee made up of Conservative MPs Mark Adler, Peter Kent, John Carmichael, and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

Among the top donors listed in the leadership circle are RioCan, RBC, the Gerald Swartz and Heather Reisman Foundation. Other major corporate donors listed for the dinner include CIBC, Scotiabank, BMO Financial, Cineplex Entertainment, First Capital Realty/Gazit-Globe (Canada’s largest developer and operator of supermarket and drugstore-anchored shopping centres), the audit firm Deloitte (which has done audit work for the Conservative party as well as for the Senate on the expenses scandal); investment and wealth management firms like Gluskin Scheff and Associates and RP Investment Advisors, and the Conservatives’ political marketing company in the 2011 election campaign, RMG Responsive Marketing Group Inc.

Many other large donors are private individuals or family foundations. Also listed among them is the Manitoba Police Association.

Harper’s support for Israel has been more vocal but the Liberals contend it is not strikingly different from that of the previous Liberal government. Harper, however, loudly rejected what he called the Liberals’ “moral relativism” when it comes to the Middle East.

He brushed aside critics of Israel’s 2006 offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon calling it “measured;” voted against Palestinian statehood at the UN; refused to join global condemnation of Israel’s expanded Israeli settlement in the occupied territories or its actions in violently attacking a protest flotilla bound for Gaza. This spring, Harper’s foreign affairs minister John Baird met his Israeli counterpart in her East Jerusalem office in apparent disregard of Arab claims to the eastern side of the city.