Saturday, September 28, 2013

Retired Supreme Court justice wrong to endorse Quebec values charter

Retired Supreme Court Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé should look to her past opinions to see why her support of Quebec’s proposed values charter is misguided.

By: Amna Qureshi Published on Sat Sep 28 2013

The following is an open letter from recent law school graduate Amna Qureshi to retired Supreme Court Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé.

My name is Amna Qureshi and I am a recent graduate of the University of Ottawa law school. I learned last week that you plan to support the Parti Québécois’ proposed Charter of Values and that you defended similar ideas in a broadcast interview earlier this year. I write to you disappointed and confused because your views appear to contradict opinions you wrote while a Supreme Court Justice — opinions that have inspired me as a student of law, as a hijab-wearing Muslim woman and as an advocate for social justice.

I had the honour of meeting you last September during the 10th anniversary of your retirement from the Supreme Court of Canada. As part of my past role at U of O as Diversity Coordinating Co-Chair of the Women’s Legal Mentorship Program, I was humbled to help plan this event.

During your reception we talked, posed for photos, laughed and hugged — bonding over our experiences of living in small towns. The following day, in front of hundreds of peers, I was privileged to present you with a gift on behalf of the organizing committee as a token of appreciation for the work you have done for women and in the name of equality.

Standing beside you, I felt a great sense of connection and shared passion for the law, equality and justice. I remember this meeting so clearly and often look back on it as a pivotal moment in my life — a symbol of how far I have come. You see, having been born and raised in rural Alberta with parents who had emigrated from Pakistan to give us a better life, I faced tough odds to get to where I am today. I have fought against oppression for much of my life and feel that I thrive in spite of it even today.

Given all this, I was confused and shocked to read that you consider the complete face covering for Muslim women a sign of “oppression” and believe that explicit rules, entrenched in legislation, on what is unacceptable in the name of secularism will ensure that immigrants “become like us.”

As a law graduate concerned with social justice, I could not help but juxtapose your recent comments with your resounding opinions in R. v. Seaboyer, and R. v. Ewanchuk. In these cases you boldly laid out the many myths surrounding sexual assault complainants, acknowledging that complainants are so often — and so wrongly — judged based on what they are wearing and how they behave. I also remembered your statements in R. v. Levogiannis, where you agreed with the notion that face-to-face confrontation in court was not a right but a “culturally biased vision of human characteristics and, as a result, should not be viewed as part of our fundamental principles of justice.”

I hope you understand my confusion. I had taken your words in these important cases to mean you believed that what women wear and whether they cover their face should not be used to discredit them or deny them access to justice.

While I do not live in Quebec and do not wear the niqab, the proposed Charter and your support of it has a huge impact on me. This is not just because I am a Canadian Muslim and fear increased discrimination, but also because I am an advocate for social justice and believe that this Charter is an impediment.

You see, I know a number of exceedingly intelligent, integrated, social, proudly Canadian women who wear the niqab as a personal choice. And I have advocated for women’s right to wear the hijab or niqab on soccer pitches, in prisons, in the courtroom and elsewhere — all the while using you and your Supreme Court opinions as inspiration and support.

I fear that the kind of oppression I experience is not the same kind of oppression that you believe the Charter of Values will help relieve. The oppression I have fought against is not from the religion I choose to follow or the garments I choose to wear, but from those who say women who dress provocatively are asking to be raped, who use a woman’s demeanour to assess her credibility, and who dictate what women should or should not wear.

I sincerely ask: Are these not the same oppressions that you, too, fought so valiantly against in your powerful Supreme Court opinions?

Amna Qureshi holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Ottawa and is currently articling in Calgary. holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Ottawa and is currently articling in Calgary.

Government defends security certificates

By Jim BronskillThe Canadian PressSept 26, 2013

OTTAWA – The federal government says suspected terrorists and spies detained under national security certificates do not have a right to full disclosure of information in the case against them.

The federal arguments, filed in advance of a high court hearing next month, are a staunch defence of the controversial security certificate process — a rarely used immigration tactic that critics say is tantamount to a secret trial.

The Supreme Court proceeding will decide just how open the process should be when the government wants to deport a non-citizen who is branded a threat to national security.

The high court agreed last year to hear a challenge of the security certificate system from Algerian refugee Mohamed Harkat.

It will also review key issues related to evidence in the case of Harkat, taken into custody under a certificate in December 2002 on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent. Harkat, 45, denies any involvement in terrorist activities.

He resides in Ottawa with wife Sophie and was recently allowed to remove an electronic tracking bracelet from his ankle. However, Harkat must check in with authorities regularly.

Two other men — Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Mahjoub, both originally from Egypt — face removal from Canada in long-running certificate cases.

The person named in a security certificate receives only a summary of the case against them, stripped of supporting details to protect sensitive security sources and methods.

In a submission to the Supreme Court, Harkat’s lawyers argue the process is unconstitutional because it does not provide enough information about the allegations he faces.

More than a decade after his arrest, the former gas station attendant and pizza delivery man “is still unaware of the substance of these very serious allegations,” says the filing.

The government contends the process is consistent with the guarantee of fundamental justice under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The security certificate scheme provides a substantial substitute for full disclosure and allows the named person to know and respond to the Ministers’ case,” says the federal submission.

“Mr. Harkat is not entitled to any particular process, only one that satisfies the principles of fundamental justice.”

The government maintains that a 2007 retooling of the security certificate regime remedied flaws that led the Supreme Court to strike down an earlier incarnation of the process.

In particular, the government introduced special advocates — lawyers with access to secret material who serve as watchdogs and test federal evidence against the person singled out in the certificate.

“As a result of the efforts of Mr. Harkat’s special advocates, he was provided with further disclosure,” says the federal brief.

Harkat’s counsel say the special advocates do not make up for shortcomings in the certificate process, noting the advocates are greatly restricted in what they can say about the case and cannot initiate their own investigations.

In April last year, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the security certificate system, but ruled that summaries of some 1990s conversations be excluded from evidence against Harkat because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service destroyed the original recordings.

The ruling left both sides dissatisfied and each asked for a hearing in the Supreme Court.

Malaysia PM makes impassioned appeal for moderate Islam

September 29, 2013 — Agence France-Presse

UNITED NATIONS - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak pleaded Saturday for Muslims to unite against extremism, warning that sectarian violence risked tearing the Islamic world apart.

"I believe the greatest threat to Muslims today comes not from the outside world, but from within," he told the UN General Assembly.

Najib voiced outrage at violence between the Sunni and Shiite sects in Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, noting that nearly 5,000 Muslims died in conflict in the three countries in the holy month of Ramadan.

"It is time to end the killing and concentrate instead on building a common agenda for peace and prosperity," he said.

"I believe that peace-loving Muslims -- the overwhelming majority of Muslims -- should unite against the extremists who use our religion as an excuse to commit violence."

"Our task is to reclaim our faith by articulating clearly the true nature of Islam -- the religion of peace, of moderation, of tolerance," he added.

Najib said he was committed to "mutual respect and inclusivity" in Malaysia, which is more than 60 percent Muslim ethnic Malay with sizable Chinese and Indian minorities.

Malaysia is generally known for its moderate form of Islam, although conservatives have occasionally banned concerts by Western artists and tensions have risen over custody of children whose religion is disputed.

Najib's choice of subject at the world body marks a shift in tone from former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was known for his strident denunciations of the West during his 1981-2003 tenure.

US President Barack Obama, who has been seeking greater ties with Southeast Asia, will travel to Malaysia next month on the first visit by a US leader to the country since 1966.

John Greyson and Tarek Loubani: Egypt seeks to charge detained Canadians

See also statement from John and Tarek

And Huffington Post coverage here:

John Greyson and Tarek Loubani: Egypt seeks to charge detained Canadians

‘Solid basis’ to accuse pair held in Cairo jail since mid-August, Foreign Ministry says, citing evidence found in search of men’s possessions.

By: Olivia Ward Foreign Affairs Reporter, Published on Sat Sep 28 2013

One day after hopes were raised for the release of two Canadians detained in a Cairo jail, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that charges were being pursued against them in a continuing investigation that could prolong their stay behind bars.

Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and emergency doctor Tarek Loubani were arrested in mid-August during a turbulent week of clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi that left hundreds dead.

They have not yet been charged with any crime, and their detention has been extended over three 15-day periods in Cairo’s overcrowded Tora prison. The current period expires at the end of the month, and lawyers were hoping for a speedy release. The men are drinking only water and juice to protest their detention.

But in an interview from New York on Friday, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told the Star “there is a solid basis, according to the attorney general’s office, to charge them in the near future.”

He added that the office, which conducts prosecutions, “will continue the investigation, and the extension of (the men’s) arrest every two weeks will continue until they finish.”

The detention, he said, was not under a widely criticized emergency law, but under the penal code which is normally in force in Egypt.

The alleged evidence was handed over to Canada’s ambassador to Egypt on Thursday by the attorney general’s office. But, Abdelatty added, it is unclear what the charges against the two men would be if they are not released.

“They are accused of participating in a demonstration and resisting security forces. They were arrested with other Egyptians accused of resisting the security forces by using force,” he said.

Lawyers for the Canadians say that the men were “absolutely innocent but were caught up in bloody events, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In a hearing Thursday in Tora prison, lawyer Khaled El Shalakany said, “We presented all the evidence proving their innocence of any wrong doing or illegal act.” He said he was hopeful the pair would be released in the next few days.

The prolonged detention of the two men has caused outrage in Canada and other western countries, and celebrities and politicians — including Mayor Rob Ford — have joined a campaign to free them. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding their release.

“Canada continues to press at all levels for a timely and positive resolution to this situation and, in the absence of confirmation of the charges, continues to call for the release of Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson,” said Adria Minsky, spokeswoman for Consular Affairs Minister Lynne Yelich.

Political pressure on Egypt is mounting. But Abdelatty said the case is now “in the hands of the judiciary,” which makes “totally independent” decisions based on the investigations.

He said the attorney general’s office will use camera equipment and a memory stick found in a search of the men’s possessions to allege that they were inside a mosque in central Cairo that was at the centre of violence in mid-August, when security forces exchanged fire with Morsi supporters and dozens were killed.

Abdelatty said that the attorney general’s office also raised questions about whether the Canadians had misused their transit visa. At the time of their arrest, the two were on a stopover en route to neighbouring Gaza, where Loubani was to offer medical aid which Greyson planned to film.

John Greyson, Tarek Loubani Statement Describes Egypt Arrest

The Huffington Post Canada | Posted: 09/28/2013

In a statement, John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, two Canadians detained in Egypt, have described the events leading up to their arrest and demanded their release.

Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker, and Loubani, a London, Ont.-based doctor, were arrested in Cairo on Aug. 16, during a period of violent unrest in Egypt. They have been held in Tora prison for six weeks, although charges have not been laid. Both were travelling to Gaza, where Loubani planned to volunteer at a hospital and Greyson would consider filming a documentary, according to the Canadian Press.

“We have held onto this statement out of fear that the Egyptian authorities would harm Tarek and John if we released it,” a message on the site reads. "But given the announcement of impending charges in the Toronto Star today, we think that their own words can explain what the 'evidence' the Egyptian authorities claim to have is."

The statement says the pair got stuck in Cairo and decided to check out a protest in Ramses Square, near their hotel. Upon seeing an injured young man, the statement said, Loubani “snapped into doctor mode” to help, while Greyson shot footage of “the carnage that was unfolding.”

"The wounded and dying never stopped coming. Between us, we saw over fifty Egyptians die: students, workers, professionals, professors, all shapes, all ages, unarmed. We later learned the body count for the day was 102," the statement reads.

Later, they asked for help at a checkpoint when they couldn’t pass a police cordon.

“That's when we were: arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a 'Syrian terrorist,’ slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries.... They screamed 'Canadian' as they kicked and hit us. John had a precisely etched bootprint bruise on his back for a week,” the statement said.

They describe sharing a 3.5mx5.5m cell with six others, “sleeping on concrete with the cockroaches” and sharing “a single tap of Nile water.”

The statement ends with a demand for their release.

Canadian officials have said Greyson and Loubani were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told the Toronto Star “there is a solid basis, according to the attorney general’s office, to charge them in the near future.”

Greyson and Loubani have been on a hunger strike since Sept. 16. to protest the "arbitrary nature of their detention," an earlier release stated.

Turkey's Chief Justice: If that is Islam, I'm no Muslim

DALLAS September 29, 2013 – In a lecture entitled “Human Dignity and the Constitution” at Alparslan University, Turkish Chief Justice Haşim Kılıç touched on the violence being perpetrated in Muslim countries and said, “If this is what is means to be a Muslim, then I am no Muslim.” The Chief Justice was attending a ceremony for the opening of the 2013-2014 academic year.

Only rarely does the West get to eavesdrop in on the self-criticism of Middle Eastern countries. In fact, a common complaint here in the West is that Muslim countries are not sufficiently critical of their own shortcomings. However, this perception is, like many perceptions, a skewed view of the truth.

Chief Justice Kılıç made this very clear yesterday. He said, “If we were to just analyze Muslim countries in particular, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, or India, and even closer to home, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, they are all on fire. They are burning up. It is impossible to speak of human dignity in these places.

We see it every day on television. One day it is a suicide bomber; the next it is a bombing. What kind of culture is this? What kind of faith is this? How can you explain the violence in countries which teach and believe that ‘killing one person is like killing all of humanity while saving one life is like saving all of humanity’.

If this is what it means to be a Muslim, then I am no Muslim. This is impossible.”

This kind of honesty and introspection by Muslims is rarely heard in the West, and it is not often voiced publicly in the Middle East either, which is why Chief Justice Kılıç’s comments made headlines.

However, this question, this conversation, this self-doubt is actually rampant in the Muslim world.

There is a Turkish proverb that says, “Stick yourself with the needle before you stick someone else.”

That doesn’t make it easy though. Objective self-evaluation of one’s own culture is always difficult, more so when the application of faith and religion are being criticized. In fact, it can be downright dangerous as hundreds, even thousands, of people have paid with their lives for criticizing the status quo in this part of the world.

Without a conversation of this kind, however, real progress is impossible.

Referring to the recent bombing in Pakistan, Kılıç also criticized violence against non-Muslims. “Where does religion permit one to enter a church, blow it up and kill 80-100 people? How can you explain such violence, such inhumane action with Islam and being a Muslim? There is something wrong here. I am drawing attention to it so that everyone will examine this error more closely. I do not think it is possible that this belief system gives people the right to do such things. This is impossible, but when you look at these violations of (human) rights, you see them in Muslim countries, but not so much in other countries.”

Courageous words in the Middle East. Hopefully, they will not make him the target of radical Islamist groups in his own country.


During the question and answer session following the lecture, the Chief Justice was asked what he regretted most in his career. The answer was telling. “I have been a member of the Supreme Court for 20 years. I have signed verdicts for the closure of 19 political parties. 

My signature has approved the closure of political parties who hadn’t really done much. Later, I really repented of this. Since 1995, I have not signed any decision to ban parties that simply express their opinions without resorting to terrorism.”

Confession is good for the soul.

Dissent has been muzzled in Turkey for decades. The banning of opposition parties was part of the court’s job description.

After the government’s brutal crackdown on protestors this summer, Prime Minister Erdoğan is set to unveil his “democracy package” on Monday. There has been a lot of speculation both regarding the contents and the motivation behind it. Maybe the remorse expressed by Chief Justice Kılıç is catching. Let us hope so, for democracy and freedom is one bug Turkey desperately needs.

Luke Montgomery, author of A Deceit To Die For, lived in the Middle East for over a decade. He holds an MA in Linguistics, speaks fluent Turkish and writes on foreign policy, religion and culture. You can follow his work at, or find him on Twitter at @LookingFor_Luke and on Facebook.

IHRC: Muslims are main victims of racism in UK

Muslims in Britain have been the main victims of racism since the West’s so-called war on terror began in 2001, according to Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

IHRC referred to a recent study by race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust, according to which racial discrimination is still widespread in the workplace for those who come from minority backgrounds. 

“For a long time now we have been saying that Islamophobia is used as a veneer for racism and xenophobia, and this report confirms it,” said Chair of IHRC.Massoud Shadjareh. 

“Britain is still a racist country and the level of fear amongst ethnic minorities of being attacked or harassed are reflective of the harsh realities they face in their everyday lives,” he added. 

Shadjareh also said the discrimination drips down from politicians and media and that the culture of discrimination is unacceptable and needs to be changed. 

According to Runnymede Trust study, 3 out of 5 people from ethnic minorities are worried that their ethnic origin and their skin color could jeopardize their education, training, and employment opportunities in the UK.

Growth of inequality in Canada cannot be denied

Statistics Canada's National Household Survey confirms the gap between rich and poor in Canada has become enormous.

By: Jordan Brennan Jim Stanford Published on Thu Sep 26 2013

In a famous 2011 article in Vanity Fair, Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, first warned that our economic policies were increasingly dominated by the richest 1 per cent. Then the Occupy Wall Street movement electrified the concept with political urgency.

Now Statistics Canada has turned its attention to the problem, too. The agency’s National Household Survey has documented the stark differences in personal income between the richest 1 per cent and the rest of us. The data are less precise than would have been attained from the former long-form census (which was cancelled by the data-phobic Conservative government). But despite its flaws, the report confirms that the gap between rich and poor in Canada has become enormous.

Incomes for the bottom 90 per cent of Canadians averaged just $28,000, according to the report. In contrast, the top 10 per cent took home an average of $135,000. And the top 1 per cent pocketed $381,000.

Despite data like these, some still argue that income inequality in Canada isn’t an issue because it isn’t increasing. Others admit that the level of inequality is high, but we should graciously accept it because it encourages people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Neither argument carries much weight.

The accompanying figure starkly describes the historical trend. The thick gray line indicates the share of national income going to the richest 0.1 per cent of the population (the richest of the rich, if you like). The thin red line shows the Gini coefficient: a broader measure of income inequality, which ranges from a low of zero (perfect equality) to a high of one (total inequality).

By either measure, income inequality has reached a historic extreme. Inequality was high during the 1920s and 1930s (the “gilded age”), but fell sharply during the Second World War (as Canadians got back to work and taxes were raised to pay for the war effort). The three decades after the Second World War — a “golden age” of controlled capitalism — saw further decline in inequality. The economy was booming and powerful institutions (like progressive taxation and surging unionization) ensured the wealth was broadly shared.

Since 1980, however, we’ve entered another “gilded age.” Business-friendly economic and social policies replaced the former Keynesian welfare regime. In recent years, inequality has reached levels higher than at any time since the 1930s. And it is clearly staying that way, regardless of small year-to-year fluctuations.

Does income inequality matter? There’s a growing consensus among scientists from many disciplines that it does: in complex, surprising and economically important ways. Numerous studies document a powerful relationship between income inequality and varied dimensions of social pathology.

Indicators as diverse as happiness, mental illness, infant mortality, children’s educational performance, teenage pregnancy, homicide, imprisonment, social trust and social mobility all get worse as the income gaps within society deepen.

The reigning economic orthodoxy assumes the distribution of income reflects “market forces” and “productivity,” but history confirms distribution is actually shaped by the power institutions of society. In Canada, three core institutions have been especially important: corporate power redistributes income upward, while labour unions and governments redistribute income downward.

Previous research by one of us revealed the historical relationship between corporate power and the distribution of personal income. It turns out that relative size of the largest firms in Canada strongly affects the distribution of personal income: the inexorable corporate concentration in recent decades has clearly produced greater inequality.

This study, “A Shrinking Universe,” also documented the downward redistribution of income resulting from organized labour. Union density grew steadily from 16 per cent in 1940 to 37 per cent by 1975, but has declined steadily since then. As union density increased, income inequality decreased — and vice versa during the new gilded age.

Governments are also downwardly redistributive. The most obvious effect is through the tax and transfer system (although the progressivity of Canada’s tax system has diminished). Government spending also redistributes income downward. This is partly because public sector pay scales are more compressed than the private sector — with a higher floor and a lower ceiling. As public sector activities form a larger proportion of GDP, inequality moderates. The retrenchment of the Canadian public sector since 1992 has thus contributed to upward redistribution.

All of this suggests some obvious conclusions regarding how to reduce inequality: strengthen the voice of organized labour and amplify the redistributive aspects of the Canadian state. Our own history proves there is nothing “natural” or “inevitable” about the level and trend of inequality. The present lopsided balance of institutional power in our economy and society (with big business increasingly calling the shots) and the resulting skewed distribution of income reflect past political and economic decisions. We need not replicate those decisions in the future.

Jordan Brennan and Jim Stanford are economists with Unifor, the new union founded on Labour Day weekend through the merger of the CAW and the CEP.

Bangladesh garment workers strike for higher wages

By Sarath Kumara 
28 September 2013

Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers in industrial zones near Dhaka went on strike this week, demanding a near-tripling of their monthly wage, to $US100. Police clashed with the striking workers, who had blocked roads and highways as part of their protest, firing rubber bullets and tear gas. In one incident on Thursday, 50 people were reported injured.

The industrial action was triggered by an offer of a 20 percent wage increase issued by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). This was taken as a provocation by the workers. They were last granted a wage rise in 2010, when the minimum wage was raised to 3,000 takas per month ($US36).

The silence libel: Do Muslims condemn?

See also: Muslims shouldn't apologize for extremists
September 26, 2013 By Aziz Poonawalla

Fellow Patheos blogger Dan Peterson has a moving and well-intentioned post in which he exhorts the Muslim American community to speak more loudly and denounce terrorism:

But you have to speak up more loudly. Others — I promise you this, from innumerable conversations and questions after lectures, over years — are not hearing your denunciations of the extremists. They aren’t aware of your efforts to distance yourselves from these terrible acts of bloodshed and oppression. Your message isn’t getting out. You need to speak louder and more clearly, until it’s heard.

I implore you, as a community, to rise up and denounce these acts. If you’ve already done it, do it again. Louder. Make your disgust at these abuses of your faith unmistakably clear, unavoidably heard. Not only by non-Muslims but by that minority of extremists within the Muslim community who have made Islam a term of horror and revulsion to far too many people worldwide. 

Reading his post in full it is clear that his heart is in the right place, but he has unwittingly recycled what I call “the silence libel”, which has 3 parts: 

* the assertion that Muslims do not sufficiently condemn the abuses of terrorism in the name of Islam,  
* the implication that Muslims have a greater responsibility for the acts of their co-religionists than do members of other religions,  
* the idea that Islam is particularly unique in history as a faith which drives people to commit acts of evil. 

All three of these are false.

I am not inclined to begin a debate on points 2 and 3 as I think that they are outside the scope of the conversation that Dan is trying to begin, though I do think that anyone invoking the silence libel needs to be aware of the context they are (willingly or unwittingly) imposing by their assertion of point 1.

As for point 1, I have addressed this before as have many other muslim bloggers, but it seems we must address it once again. The evidence is tremendous and exhaustive that muslims have indeed condemned. For example, this exhaustive list of condemnations by individuals and muslim organizations compiled by Al-Muhajabah, one of the earliest muslim female bloggers. A similarly thorough list of condemnations has been compiled by The American Muslim magazine. Numerous muslim organizations have also sprung up, including the Free Muslim Coalition and Muslims Against Terrorism.

To be blunt, these repeated calls for Muslims to make a grand showing against terroramounts to a loyalty test, with all the disquieting implications that they represent.

The truth is that Muslims do much better than condemn – we are model citizens who live our lives and contribute to our communities like everyone else. That’s not “doing nothing” as the silence libel implies:
What looks on the face of things to be doing nothing – living our lives as loyal citizens, teaching our kids the true universal values of peace and tolerance of Islam, striving to contribute in a civic sense to our communities, muslim and non-muslim alike – is actually doing Something, a great deal of something.
When a muslim American calls themselves a moderate muslim, that is doing something – its emphasizing the extremism of the jihadists’ claim to faith. When we argue against the term Islamofascism, it’s doing something – it’s objecting to giving the fascists the use f the term Islamic to cloak their actions. When we object to racial profiling and the increased curtailing of our rights and civil liberties, that is doing something – it is fighting for the very ideals of freedom that the terrorists would deny all of us.

Even more important, the Muslim American community has been an integral part of the domestic law enforcement and vigilance effort against home-grown terror. Again, there is tremendous data to support the fact that Muslims have repeatedly acted to prevent terror:
Muslim communities helped U.S. security officials to prevent nearly 2 out of every 5 Al-Qaeda plots threatening the United States since 9/11. Muslim communities helped law enforcement prevent 1 out of every 2 of all Al-Qaeda related plots threatening the U.S. since the December 2009 “underwear bomber” plot. This is an important parallel trend to the recent spike of arrests. It also highlights the importance of partnering with society through good relations and community oriented policing.

(See my original post for a detailed list of all the terror plots in which muslim communities acted to disrupt and defeat).

The bottom line is that instead of recycling the silence libel and putting the onus on Muslims to condemn, non-Muslims would be better served by helping to publicize the many ways in which Muslim Americans combat terror, by condemnation as well as by cooperation with authorities and just living their lives as law-abiding citizens and members of our civic communities.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Op-Ed: Do you know where your data have been?


So you go home, turn to your computer loaded with anti-virus, anti-spying and anti-malware programs, to talk to your brother in Boston via the secured Internet connection in your house. Bingo! Everything you just did is now part of the U.S. National Security Agency’s massive database and all that data can be mined with the same easy steps you used to find the online recipe for last night’s eggplant parmigiana.

But what if you were just sending some messages to your friends in other parts of Canada or even in your own province? Surely that’s not a problem — unless it is.

Most of us know that Air Canada sometimes flies through U.S. airspace to move passengers from one Canadian location to another. By the same token, you should be concerned about where your data has been en route to its destination. According to researchers with the University of Toronto IXmaps project, which has been studying Internet routing practices, one in four messages travel through U.S. data space on their way to and fro across the country. They call it “boomerang routing.”

Keeping communications and transport traffic in Canada is an old battle. In The National Dream, Pierre Berton described the planning of the Canadian Pacific Railway, complete with the highly imaginative, sometimes illegal and often scandalous activities of politicians, scoundrels, fortune-seekers and middlemen attempting to influence the railway’s route. But Sir John A. Macdonald’s determination to keep that route entirely in Canada eventually prevailed. The routing of Internet traffic has, so far, escaped such scrutiny. But, thanks to the Snowden revelations of NSA dragnet style data capture, Canadians are starting to realize that this also requires our attention and for the same reasons — national sovereignty and security.

According to information on the site, Canadian Internet traffic is often routed through the U.S. “due to current technical, economic and policy choices made principally by private corporations.” So, depending on the carrier, a message originating in Toronto can go to New York and then to Montreal on its way to Health Canada in Ottawa. Another message, originating in Abbotsford B.C., will end up at Lakehead University only after passing through San Jose, San Francisco, Kansas City and Chicago. In this transparent transaction space, is easy to forget that Internet traffic, just like highway traffic, falls under U.S. law when it passes through U.S. territory. That leads us to the problem of surveillance — problematic enough when conducted your own government, let alone a foreign, albeit allied, power.

One project underway to redress this situation involves expanding the number of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Canada. These switching stations, usually shared among a consortia of providers, act like large data intersections. Canada currently has four such stations: in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and, just recently, Montreal. This is three to 30 times fewer than other similarly developed nations, according to an independent research report on Canadian Internet traffic exchange commissioned by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).

In contrast, there are 85 IXPs in the U.S., 11 in Australia and five in New Zealand. Canada, says the report, is in the “laggard” category with respect to the provision of domestic IXPs. The report also notes that more domestic routing would increase efficiency and help reduce prices, an item high on the wish list of Canadians. CIRA, the organization that manages the .ca domain names on behalf of Canadians, is currently facilitating the development of more exchanges, particularly in Manitoba and Alberta.

But the existence of more exchange points, while essential, will not change the practices of service providers who do not always cooperate in such projects. Despite the recent full page newspaper ads by large Canadian providers posing as nationalists fighting a possible invasion by U.S. telecom giant Verizon, it is not unusual for them to send Canadian traffic south of the border even if its final destination is actually across the street. Bell Canada, says the CIRA report, does not participate in current Canadian IXP sites, “preferring to force its Canadian counterparts to meet it in Seattle, New York, or San Jose.” It will clearly take pressure on providers to change some current routing practices. Canadian routing for domestic traffic is a small, but important part of a national digital strategy — something this government has been promising for years and seems no closer to delivering.

The Internet is a part of the infrastructure of modern life. In its design, it needs to respect the rights of citizens including the right not to be spied upon by foreign countries while engaging in communications inside our borders. Sir John A. Macdonald must be looking on in dismay.

Marita Moll is the co-editor of The Internet Tree; The State of Telecom Policy in Canada 3.0 (2011) and Connecting Canadians; Investigations in Community Infomatics (2012). She is an active member of CIRA and has a website on telecom issues at

"Rape is a women's fault"

Every sexual assault case in India inspires a string of stupid and hateful remarks against women. This is our response to those remarks.

Postscript: PQ manufacturing crisis for 8 complaints per year

By Barry Wilson, Executive Producer, OPINION, CTV Montreal 

Published Friday, September 27, 2013 

I got a flyer in mail this week and I'm sure you did too. It's the PQ's pitch for its silly Charter of Values.

Madame Marois is spending $1.9 million of our money on a project that is not a piece of legislation, has not been debated in the legislature, and would not pass even if there was to be a vote on it.

This is nothing but political propaganda.

The Parti Quebecois has set up a government website to receive comments on the charter and so far about 16,000 have come in, but only the government gets to read them.

The PQ won't tell us how many people would be impacted by its ban on certain religious symbols.

So we asked the Quebec Human Rights Commission about this so-called threat to the Quebec way.

Do you know how many complaints the Commission received last year about reasonable accommodation based on religion?

Eight. Approximately.

The Charter of Quebec Values is a smokescreen designed to anger, inflame the public, and give Marois a majority.

It's the economy, Pauline

The business organization the Conseil du Patronat gave a sobering assessment of the real issues facing Quebec this week.

It compared Quebec's economy to those in the three other large provinces.

Average salaries in Quebec are 16% lower
Productivity in Quebec is 17% lower
Private investment is 5.4% lower
Public debt is 30% higher
The overall grade is an anemic C

The house is on fire and no one in this government is reaching for a hose.

A recession is knocking at our door.

If anyone should be covering their faces in Quebec it should be the PQ government out of shame.

Bixi is a bust

What should we expect from city hall? Safe streets, public security, clean water, public transit.

Basic services. That's it.

Montreal has no business being in the bicycle business.

Our Bixi program is $42 million in debt, and has an operating deficit of $6.5 million.

Its supporters say it's just a cash flow problem. You think?

Someone once had the brilliant idea that Montreal could export its Bixi business around the world to make some money and enhance our international reputation but it didn't quite work out that way.

It's time we did some serious backpedalling and got out of this municipal mess.

Bixi is not viable. If it's such a great idea let a private company take it over.

Lord only knows Montreal has enough problems to worry about.

Finally this week, when do smart phones become dumb phones?

When they get into the hands of language radicals and purists who make sport out of taunting English-speaking Quebecers.

The fire-breathing Anglo-baiting Societé St. Jean Baptiste is sending its vigilantes out with a mobile app to report on the level and quality of French at stores and restaurants.

The information will no doubt be used to launch more complaints.

I don't know about you but "Bonjour, Hi "works fine for me.

Those who complain about language of service really have too much time on their hands.

It's not a huge problem.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

SUNDAY OCTOBER 6TH-- ALL WELCOME: “The Islamic History of HAJra (Hagar) and Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon them)

“And give to the needy who are suffering in the cause of God and cannot emigrate and to those who are unable to go about the earth in search for livelihood. One, who is unaware of their condition, might think they are free from want, because they abstain from begging, but you can recognize them by certain signs though they do not beg insistently. Whatever good thing you spend on them, God is Aware of it.” The Holy Quran 2:272

Can a story about a mother and a child, left by God’s will, in the desert alone to give root to a vast nation, inspire us all towards charity, love, peace and harmony for all? Yes.
The First Unitarian Congregational Church presents:

The Islamic History of HAJra (Hagar) and Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon them)
– Inspiration for Charity, Love, Peace and Harmony.

Date: Sunday, October 6th, 2013
Time: 10:00 am (service start 10:30 am)
Place: First Unitarian Congregational Church,
30 Cleary Avenue, Ottawa

The Reflection shall be shared by Shahla Khan Salter, Director of Universalist Muslims and chair of Muslims for Progressive Values MPV Ummah Canada.

This Reflection is part of a series on Brave Ancient New World Part III on Housing and the Story of Abraham, being presented every Sunday for the month of September and October, by a variety of leaders from different faiths in conjunction with the work of The Multi-Faith Housing Initiative of Ottawa and The First Unitarian Congregational Church.
All are welcome.
If you are bringing children, they are welcome to remain with parents or attend the children’s program in the lower level.  Please notify Susan McEwen, Director of Religious Exploration at First Unitarian at  if you wish for your children to attend the children’s program.

For more information please contact John Marsh at:

For more information on the First Unitarian Congregational Church check out their website here:

For more information on The MultiFaith Housing Initiative in Ottawa check out their website here:

For more information on Muslims for Progressive Values MPVUmmah Canada check out their website here:

Revealed: Qatar's World Cup 'slaves'

Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022

Pete Pattisson in Kathmandu and Doha
The Guardian, Wednesday 25 September 2013 

Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have died in Qatar in recent weeks and thousands more are enduring appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar's preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.

This summer, Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day in Qatar, many of them young men who had sudden heart attacks. The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.

According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.

The investigation also reveals:

• Evidence of forced labour on a huge World Cup infrastructure project.

• Some Nepalese men have alleged that they have not been paid for months and have had their salaries retained to stop them running away.

• Some workers on other sites say employers routinely confiscate passports and refuse to issue ID cards, in effect reducing them to the status of illegal aliens.

• Some labourers say they have been denied access to free drinking water in the desert heat.

• About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment.

The allegations suggest a chain of exploitation leading from poor Nepalese villages to Qatari leaders. The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world's most popular sporting tournament.

"We'd like to leave, but the company won't let us," said one Nepalese migrant employed at Lusail City development, a $45bn (£28bn) city being built from scratch which will include the 90,000-seater stadium that will host the World Cup final. "I'm angry about how this company is treating us, but we're helpless. I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we've had no luck."

The body tasked with organising the World Cup, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told the Guardian that work had yet to begin on projects directly related to the World Cup. However, it said it was "deeply concerned with the allegations that have been made against certain contractors/sub-contractors working on Lusail City's construction site and considers this issue to be of the utmost seriousness". It added: "We have been informed that the relevant government authorities are conducting an investigation into the allegations."

The Guardian's investigation also found men throughout the wider Qatari construction industry sleeping 12 to a room in places and getting sick through repulsive conditions in filthy hostels. Some say they have been forced to work without pay and left begging for food.

"We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours' work and then no food all night," said Ram Kumar Mahara, 27. "When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers."

Almost all migrant workers have huge debts from Nepal, accrued in order to pay recruitment agents for their jobs. The obligation to repay these debts, combined with the non-payment of wages, confiscation of documents and inability of workers to leave their place of work, constitute forced labour, a form of modern-day slavery estimated to affect up to 21 million people across the globe. So entrenched is this exploitation that the Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, recently described the emirate as an "open jail".
Record of deaths in July 2013, from all causes, held by the Nepalese embassy in Doha. Photograph: /

"The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar," said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, which was founded in 1839. "In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects. There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening."

Qatar has the highest ratio of migrant workers to domestic population in the world: more than 90% of the workforce are immigrants and the country is expected to recruit up to 1.5 million more labourers to build the stadiums, roads, ports and hotels needed for the tournament. Nepalese account for about 40% of migrant labourers in Qatar. More than 100,000 Nepalese left for the emirate last year.

The murky system of recruitment brokers in Asia and labour contractors in Qatar leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. The supreme committee has insisted that decent labour standards will be set for all World Cup contracts, but underneath it a complex web of project managers, construction firms and labour suppliers, employment contractors and recruitment agents operate.

According to some estimates, Qatar will spend $100bn on infrastructure projects to support the World Cup. As well as nine state-of-the-art stadiums, the country has committed to $20bn worth of new roads, $4bn for a causeway connecting Qatar to Bahrain, $24bn for a high-speed rail network, and 55,000 hotel rooms to accommodate visiting fans and has almost completed a new airport.

The World Cup is part of an even bigger programme of construction in Qatar designed to remake the tiny desert kingdom over the next two decades. Qatar has yet to start building stadiums for 2022, but has embarked on the big infrastructure projects likesuch as Lusail City that, according to the US project managers, Parsons, "will play a major role during the 2022 Fifa World Cup". The British engineering company Halcrow, part of the CH2M Hill group, is a lead consultant on the Lusail project responsible for "infrastructure design and construction supervision". CH2M Hill was recently appointed the official programme management consultant to the supreme committee. It says it has a "zero tolerance policy for the use of forced labour and other human trafficking practices".

Halcrow said: "Our supervision role of specific construction packages ensures adherence to site contract regulation for health, safety and environment. The terms of employment of a contractor's labour force is not under our direct purview."

Some Nepalese working at Lusail City tell desperate stories. They are saddled with huge debts they are paying back at interest rates of up to 36%, yet say they are forced to work without pay.

"The company has kept two months' salary from each of us to stop us running away," said one man who gave his name as SBD and who works at the Lusail City marina. SBD said he was employed by a subcontractor that supplies labourers for the project. Some workers say their subcontrator has confiscated their passports and refused to issue the ID cards they are entitled to under Qatari law. "Our manager always promises he'll issue [our cards] 'next week'," added a scaffolder who said he had worked in Qatar for two years without being given an ID card.

Without official documentation, migrant workers are in effect reduced to the status of illegal aliens, often unable to leave their place of work without fear of arrest and not entitled to any legal protection. Under the state-run kafalasponsorship system, workers are also unable to change jobs or leave the country without their sponsor company's permission.

A third worker, who was equally reluctant to give his name for fear of reprisal, added: "We'd like to leave, but the company won't let us. If we run away, we become illegal and that makes it hard to find another job. The police could catch us at any time and send us back home. We can't get a resident permit if we leave."

Other workers said they were forced to work long hours in temperatures of up to 50C (122F) without access to drinking water.
Dalli Kahtri and her husband, Lil Man, hold photos of their sons, both of whom died while working as migrants in Malaysia and Qatar. Their younger son (foreground photo) died in Qatar from a heart attack, aged 20. Photograph: Peter Pattison/

The Qatari labour ministry said it had strict rules governing working in the heat, the provision of labour and the prompt payment of salaries.

"The ministry enforces this law through periodic inspections to ensure that workers have in fact received their wages in time. If a company does not comply with the law, the ministry applies penalties and refers the case to the judicial authorities."

Lusail Real Estate Company said: "Lusail City will not tolerate breaches of labour or health and safety law. We continually instruct our contractors and their subcontractors of our expectations and their contractual obligations to both us and individual employees. The Guardian have highlighted potentially illegal activities employed by one subcontractor. We take these allegations very seriously and have referred the allegations to the appropriate authorities for investigation. Based on this investigation, we will take appropriate action against any individual or company who has found to have broken the law or contract with us."

The workers' plight makes a mockery of concerns for the 2022 footballers.

"Everyone is talking about the effect of Qatar's extreme heat on a few hundred footballers," said Umesh Upadhyaya, general secretary of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions. "But they are ignoring the hardships, blood and sweat of thousands of migrant workers, who will be building the World Cup stadiums in shifts that can last eight times the length of a football match."

• The Guardian's investigation into modern-day slavery is supported by Humanity United. Click here for more information