Saturday, October 5, 2013

Counter-summit to Conservative policy convention planned - Nov 1, 2013 Calgary, Alberta

October 4, 2013
Media Advisory

Calgary, AB — A counter-summit to the Conservative policy convention in Calgary, entitledPros & Cons: Policies for People and the Planet, is being planned by Common Causes, an assembly of social movements dedicated to defending democracy, the environment and human rights.

WHAT: Pros & Cons: Policies for People and the Planet, a teach-in to learn about the potential impacts of proposed Conservative policies and present an alternative vision. Tickets are $10.00 and available at (a limited number of complimentary tickets are available for those who cannot afford the ticket price).

WHO: Featured speakers include David Suzuki (scientist and environmentalist), Maude Barlow (National Chairperson, the Council of Canadians), Chief Theresa Spence(Attawapiskat First Nation), Crystal Lameman (Beaver Lake Cree Nation), Paul Moist(National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees), Jean Lortie (Secretary-General, Confédération des syndicats nationaux), Andrew Nikiforuk (author and journalist), Jim Stanford (economist, UNIFOR), Michael Harris (writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker), and Brigette DePape (“Rogue Page”, writer and activist). Moderated by Bill Phipps (author and activist).

WHEN: Friday, November 1, 2013, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

WHERE: Castell Library, 616 Macleod Trail SE, Calgary, Alberta

WHY: From October 31-November 2, the Conservative Party of Canada will descend on downtown Calgary for the party’s first national policy convention since 2011. In the wake of the court decision that found widespread voter suppression during the 2011 federal election, the deepening Senate scandal, the widespread impacts of the omnibus budget bills, along with ongoing environmental devastation from policies based on extraction and export, this convention will set the Conservative agenda heading into the next election.

At the Pros and Cons teach-in, a range of provincial and national speakers will discuss these issues and put forward a different vision for Canada, one that focuses on progressive policies for people and the planet.


For more information:

Bill Phipps, 403-228-1791

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685, | Twitter: @Common_Causes / @CausesCommunes

Mecca Live

Anguish ongoing for jailed Al Jazeera staff

Abdullah al-Shami, one of Al Jazeera Arabic's correspondents in Egypt, spent his first marriage anniversary in an Egyptian prison. The wife of Mohammed Badr, a cameraman for Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, had the couple's first child while her husband was in jail.

The two reporters have been detained by Egyptian authorities for weeks without formal charges. The arrests are part of what Reporters Without Borders has called "growing hostility" towards journalists in Egypt. READ MORE...

Prof. J.L. Esposito: Political Islam not dead

Oct 6, 2013

After the Egyptian military coup ousted the democratically elected president and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi in early July, many observers commented that the coup marked the death of political Islam. However, Esposito reminds these observers of Mark Twain’s saying “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Indeed, this is not the first time that the Muslim Brotherhood had faced repression, and despite their odd snags, they always seem to come back stronger. He mentioned that the death of political Islam was also declared many times before, especially after Ayatollah Khomeini declared the end to the Iraq-Iran war. Instead of the death of political Islam, the world saw ‘‘the reemergence of the MB in Egypt, the return of Ennahda and Rashid Ghannoushi to Tunisia and their victory in elections, the end of Erbakan’s Welfare Party but years later the emergence of the AKP under Erdogan and Gul’s leadership, not to mention examples from Morocco and elsewhere,’’ he said.

He claimed that as new challenges are presented, political Islam will learn from its mistakes and adapt, displaying itself in many forms, whether organized or unorganized. ‘‘The new era may not be an era of the old-style Political Islam, but it is not possible for any movement or group or interest group to ignore Islam,’’ he said.

In saying this, he criticized the Egyptian military for its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam in the country. Pointing out their two-faced interpretation of democracy, he said ‘‘if the military-led government wants to marginalize and weaken the MB, believing that it has been rejected by the majority of Egyptians (which may be the case), then why didn’t they and don’t they now simply call for elections? What are they afraid of?’’

He compared the situation in Egypt to that of Algeria before their civil war, after a democratic election result was cancelled out because an Islamist party had come to power. The following crackdown on the Islamists forced peaceful supporters to take up arms against military repression in a case of violence begetting violence.

Ennahda recently announced their resignation to make way for new negotiations and elections, after protests mimicking those of Egypt called for the government to step down. Although the AK Party of Turkey is slightly more comfortable than their Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts, it finds itself having to make adjustments to its behavior as opposition groups draw closer together in their mutual disapproval of the government.

Professor John L. Esposito of the International Affairs Department at Georgetown University spoke to Islamist Gate about the future of political Islam.

UK: Blean Church course run by The Rev Dr Stephen Laird will study Islam, the Koran and Sharia law

Published — Sunday 6 October 2013

by Gerry Warren

A village vicar will be delivering a distinctly non-Christian message in his church next week – on Islam, the Koran and Sharia law.

The Rev Dr Stephen Laird has organised a four-week course at Blean Church to address anxieties about the country’s fast-growing religion.

He is honorary lecturer in religious studies at the University of Kent, where he is also Anglican chaplain, and says he has long been interested in Islam.

He said: “I increasingly realised that people in church were asking about other faiths but particularly Islam, for obvious reasons in that it often makes the headlines.

“Our society clearly has anxieties about Islam but it is important to think about the anxieties which exist within the Muslim community itself too and see society from its perspective.

“There are actually similarities in the Anglican and Islamic faiths with both suggesting that people should live lives that fit God’s plan for humanity and both have a strong sense of what’s right and wrong.

“Both Christians and Muslims share concerns about the excesses of British society, including the misuse of drugs and alcohol, for example.

“The fact is that there are millions of honest Muslim people living their lives and making a contribution to society which you don’t hear about.

“At Blean church we will usually do an autumn course and normally it is something to do with the Bible or church history.

“We have a mosque not far from the church and I and its leader Raschid Sohawon have together on several occasions spoken to groups.“But this time together we decided it would be quite a good idea to have a more detailed look at Islam. The Blean congregation is broadminded and curious and many of them want to learn about other faiths.

"And just a stone’s throw from the church is a university with a very international community and hundreds of practising Muslims.”

Dr Laird hopes there will be up to 30 people attending the course, which is in four 90-minute sessions on Tuesday evenings starting next week, culminating in a final more open debate about Islam today in British society.

The course is also open to non-members of the congregation and anyone interested in attending should call the church office on 01227 763373.

Friday, October 4, 2013

ICC urged to investigate 'commission of crimes' in Palestinian territories

Two Palestinian human rights groups are calling on the international criminal court to launch an investigation into the commission of crimes under international law in the occupied territories.

Any such move by the ICC would be fiercely opposed by Israel and the US, and would be likely to scupper the recently revived peace process.

Al-Haq and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights have presented a legal opinion to the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, at The Hague, arguing that the court can take action without Palestine formally signing up to the body. The two rights groups are calling for the court to begin an investigation based on "the mass of evidence and documentation attesting to the widespread commission of crimes in Palestine, and the environment of total impunity for the perpetrators". READ MORE.....

Muslim Scholar Shot Dead In Kenya

In the first anti-Muslim backlash after Westgate mall attack, a gunman in Kenya has shot dead four people including a popular Muslim scholar, raising tensions in the port city of Mombasa. READ MORE

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Three-day symposium on charter begins at McGill


What is a secular society and how does religious freedom fit in?

These are some of the hot-button issues provoked by the controversial Charter of Quebec Values, proposed by Premier Pauline Marois — and McGill University will tackle them head-on.

Starting Thursday night, McGill hosts a three-day symposium pitting a dozen constitutional law, family, philosophy, education and relious experts in a series of debates on charter issues — or as organizers say, “on some of the larger philosophical and ethical questions involved.”

The first faceoff is between McGill University philosophy professor Charles Taylor and Université de Montréal law professor Daniel Turp. Both have already made their positions known.

Taylor, who served with Gérard Bouchard on the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Reasonable Accommodation with regard to cultural differences, attended last Sunday’s anti-charter protest.

“I really believe this is a fundamental feature of our society — equal rights for everyone,” Taylor told reporters at the protest. “If we let that go, we have nothing to give our children and our grandchildren, and it’s for them that we’re all here.”

Former Bloc Québécois MP and Parti Québécois MNA Daniel Turp supports the charter and has argued in a newspaper story that the proposal is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

“In the end, who should decide who can and cannot wear a religious symbol, who should decide on the principle of secularism? Who has the last word on that kind of collective decision?” Turp asked during an interview with The Gazette prior to the debate.

Turp said bans on religious signs should apply to those in authority, judges and police. And the cross in the National Assembly should go down, he added.

McGill’s symposium echoes the debate that is occupying centre stage in Quebec homes and streets these days. Polls indicate the charter has deeply divided Quebecers.

The proposed charter would ban the wearing of “conspicuous” religious signs by all public employees in Quebec, from provincial and municipal civil servants to doctors, nurses, teachers and daycare workers.

Some Muslim women who wear the hijab have reported verbal abuse, threats and violent behaviour toward them since the charter was floated.

Called Religious Freedom in Education, the symposium is being held Oct. 3-5, with discussions taking place at McGill campus and Loyola High School in Montreal. 

France’s ‘beautiful notion’ of secularism is not a model for Quebec


Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Oct. 03 2013

For a romantic getaway you can’t beat France. It’s a great place to visit, but as a member of a religious minority it doesn’t appear these days to be the best place to live.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois recently pointed to France as a model for Quebec (and presumably for all of Canada) in its approach to diversity. The French national doctrine of secularism seems to be a source of inspiration for the Premier’s proposed Charter of Values.

While cautiously acknowledging imperfection in the French system, Ms. Marois prefers it to the British approach to diversity which she recently characterized as a source of severe social unrest and violence. While presumably not wanting to comment on the Quebec debate during a visit to the province last week, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici described French secularism as a “beautiful notion” that creates unity – not division. The terms he used resemble those being employed by the Quebec government to describe its Values Charter. The Quebec government conveniently chooses to ignore the deep inter-ethnic divisions around the Charter debate as reflected in public opinion surveys. READ MORE.....

Imam Mohamad Jebara of Ottawa: There is no single Islamic culture


Most people remember the notorious Jim Jones, who has become a symbol of deviant religious cults and subjugation in the name of religion in the western world. Now, if anyone were to state that Jim Jones and his cult are the perfect example of Christianity and that they represent the beliefs and practices of every single Christian denomination and sect in the world, people would assume such a person was devoid of mental and intellectual faculties. I do not recall the Christians of the world rising to apologize for what Jim Jones did.

Similarly, I refuse to apologize for what other sects do in the name of Islam. Quite simply, I neither believe what they believe, nor do I appreciate being included in a general categorization, grouping all sects together. READ MORE......

India's 'Rent-a-Womb' Industry Draws Criticism

News of a controversial surrogacy center’s expansion in India — where impoverished women have been hired out to birth more than 500 babies for Westerners — has reignited a debate on the ethics of what some have called a "rent-a-womb" practice. But the clinic’s director, Dr. Nayana Patel, is defending what’s become a $1 billion-a-year industry in the country. READ MORE....

Qatar under growing pressure over workers' deaths as Fifa is urged to act

International pressure on Qatar to prevent exploitation of migrant workers in the buildup to the 2022 football World Cup escalated on Wednesday as victims' groups and the United Nations urged the game's governing body to act to halt a death toll that is already in the hundreds. READ MORE.....

Amputation case paints Islam in bad light, but Jews can relate

by Lee Chottiner, Executive Editor -- Oct 3, 2013

<i>Lee Chottiner</i>
Lee Chottiner
The Amnesty International report jumped out at me:

“The Yemeni authorities must immediately commute a sentence of amputation imposed on a man convicted of theft and assault, said Amnesty International.

“The defendant received the ‘cross-amputation’ sentence at Sana’a’s Specialized Criminal Court on Sunday 15 September. The sentence, which he can appeal, requires his right hand and left foot to be amputated.”

Amputation is one type of corporal punishment proscribed in Islamic law.

As a Jew, and as a humanitarian, the barbarity of the sentence struck me on a visceral level. After all, it’s not the first recent case of cross-amputation being used as a criminal punishment. READ MORE.....

NCCM comments on new public opinion poll about Islam

- For immediate release - 

(Ottawa - October 3, 2013) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) says that an opinion survey released today by Angus-Reid examining public sentiment towards Islam indicates more needs to be done to overcome misinformation about a faith followed by over a million Canadians.

The study's results closely mirror those from an earlier 2009 poll with one notable exception showing an 8% increase, from 46% to 54%, in unfavourable opinion about Islam across Canada and outside of Quebec - wherein Islam also remains the only faith viewed unfavourably by a majority of Canadians.

"It must be remembered that this poll only represents a snapshot in time and does not detail the reasons why people hold such negative views about Islam or whether they view Muslims in a similar light," says Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM Executive Director.

"Today's Angus-Reid poll results, while interesting from an academic perspective and to a degree somewhat concerning, must be interpreted and understood through the lens of current circumstances," Gardee added.

"Clearly, more needs to be done to address negative perceptions about Islam in general and to challenge the myths that exist and which are often recycled by anti-Muslim commentators whose agenda-driven polemics serve to demonize and marginalize particular communities. However, just as the challenge exists on multiple levels, so too is there no single, easy solution."

"We call on all Canadians - Muslims and their fellow citizens - to reflect upon this poll's results and use it as a catalyst to spur and renew their own education and outreach efforts to help build bridges and develop relationships based on mutual understanding. Political leaders from across the spectrum, community leaders and educators play an especially important role in leveraging this as a teachable moment."

October is Islamic History Month Canada (IHMC) which provides a number of resources people can use and reference in these efforts. NCCM also produces Guides to Islamic Religious Practices for Employers, Educators, Health Care Providers and Journalists and provides Islamic Awareness seminars for the public and private sectors.

NCCM is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan grassroots advocacy organization. It is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights. 

CONTACT: Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, 613.254.9704;613.853.4111

- 30 - 

Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) releases two new reports

Reports: Violence against Women: Health and Justice for Canadian Muslim Women & Women in Niqab Speak: A Study of Women Who Wear the Niqab

TORONTO, October 3, 2013 – CCMW tackles controversial topics in its latest reports: 1) violence against women and girls, particularly femicide or honour based violence, forced marriages, violence in the family, and female genital cutting/mutilation and 2) the niqab or the Muslim face-veil

Around the world and in all communities across Canada, violence against women and girls continues to be one of the most persistent and devastating assaults on human dignity. CCMW addresses this reality in its publication entitled Violence against Women: Health and Justice for Canadian Muslim Women. Author Pamela Cross, JD/LLB, provides an overview and analysis of the four specific practices in the international and Canadian contexts and provides recommendations for policy and action in Canada. A foreword by renowned Islamic scholar, ProfessorAsma Barlas, challenges violence against women and girls from an Islamic perspective. Funded by Status of Women Canada, the publication is part of a larger project to create awareness of these issues and identify resources and solutions for women and girls in communities across Canada.

Women in Niqab Speak: A Study of the Niqab in Canada, the first Canadian study of its kind, gives voice to Muslim women who wear the niqab. The study, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, was conducted by Dr. Lynda Clarke, Associate Professor of Religion and Islam at Concordia University. Results are based on 129 responses to a survey, focus groups and personal interviews with women who wear the niqab. Participants were from across Ontario and included women in Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, and from Quebec (Montreal). Study findings include:

The majority of respondents are willing to show their faces for the purposes of security and identification (in person or photo I.D). 

The women have positive experiences in gaining access to services such as social services, legal services and medical care in Ontario. 

The women’s experiences and rationales for wearing the niqab are diverse. The majority of the women come from families where the niqab is not worn and cited spiritual/religious growth, expression of Muslim identity and individual freedom and liberation as reasons they choose to wear it.

“I think CCMW approaches these difficult issues in a respectful, nuanced, and sensitive manner,“ said Dr. Barlas. “This is in stark contrast to the racism and stereotyping of Muslims prevalent in the media and public discourse which doesn't benefit anyone in the end."

Authors of the two reports will present their findings at the Council’s annual Women Who Inspire Awards, on Sunday, October 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Novotel Hotel, 3 Park Home Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M2N 6L3. Further details and tickets to the event available at: 

For further information, please contact Sahar Zaidi at 416-875-7796

Quebec is wrong to treat the hijab as a political tool

The hijab is a fundamental part of faith, not an object of political expediency.

By: Humera Jabir Published on Wed Oct 02 2013

My mother is the reason I began to wear the hijab. For her the hijab is a fundamental part of faith, a way to carry out the Quran’s requirement of modesty and to live in accordance with the prophetic example. I too began wearing it with the sincere belief that the hijab was an act of worship and a daily reminder of my faith.

But it didn’t stay that way long. Growing up in the years following Sept. 11, the sudden demonization of the faith I cherish changed everything. As the war on terror unfolded before me — accompanied by the vandalism of mosques, Quran burnings and hijab bans — I became political. The only veiled girl in many contexts, I found myself required to answer for my faith, my community and my choice to wear the hijab. I positioned myself on defence and the hijab was my banner.

I politicized the hijab and that is why 10 years after I first began wearing it I decided to stop. The hijab is not my tool; it is not a banner to be flown in the face of Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia. I used the hijab as a loudspeaker to say here I am, a strong Muslim woman in your midst, but I began to feel hollow wearing it. I wore it only to challenge others neglecting it as a part of my faith. More importantly, I felt insincere. How could I, who lost all understanding of the hijab as an act of worship fundamental to many women’s belief, seek to represent Islam on their behalf?

Just as the hijab is not my tool, it is also not a tool for the use of the Saudi, Afghan, or Iranian orthodoxy looking to gain legitimacy through the display of religion. My mother’s example and that of other hijab-wearing women established the hijab for me as a matter of individual choice and sincere personal conviction. Its imposition denies women this essential choice, using them as the standard bearers of a fictitious community morality. The hijab is not a dress code; it cannot be used as a pass in the litmus test of state religiosity.

And now as Quebecers grapple with the Charter of Values, the hijab is again used as a political tool, this time by the Parti Québécois to shore up political support. Those who would argue that the charter is not a populist measure must account for the fact that it is not rooted in any incident. No public servant has been reported for unprofessionalism, no child indoctrinated by a schoolteacher.

And just as some Muslim-majority regimes seek to build their credentials by washing the state in religion, the PQ is attempting something very similar. The charter is an effort to wash society in secularism, a different kind of official doctrine, but no less heavy-handed. The message is clear: the hijab, along with other religious symbols, is an object to be outlawed, stigmatized and removed from sight. Those who wear the hijab challenge yet another fictitious community morality: Quebec as a place without religion.

The hijab has also become a tool in the hands of certain feminists who have turned its prohibition into a cause célèbre for gender equity. Equality is an excellent ideal to strive for but politicizing the hijab in this way does not create a more equal society, just a more equal-looking one in the eyes of charter supporters. Those seeking to truly empower women should do everything possible to open the doors to education and employment rather than create new barriers to their independence.

PQ member Louise Beaudoin and other outspoken “feminist” supporters of the charter argue that it poses no barrier to Muslim women’s employment; they will simply take the hijab off on their way to work and carry on. But to turn the hijab into an object comparable to a hat that can be left at the door in the morning denies the fundamental, non-political, reality of what the hijab is: an act of worship that has great meaning in people’s lives. Ask someone who has taken it off: it is not easy. I went back and forth for two years before I came to my decision, all the while fearing I was losing something essential to who I am. Have no doubt: the charter’s requirement to unveil is no small demand.

I found myself the day of the charter’s announcement wishing I still wore the hijab. While returning to it is a tempting reaction, it’s the wrong one. If I go back it will be because I have found firm spiritual grounding for my decision, not the momentary need to fight back against political attack. The hijab is not an object of political expediency; I don’t get to use it that way and neither should anyone else.

Humera Jabir is a law student at McGill University in Montreal. A longer version of this piece previously appeared in Maisonneuve. (see here:

The fight to defend Al-Aqsa

In the midst of Palestine and Israel peace talks, orchestrated by US Secretary of State John Kerry, in the hope of bringing an end to the decades of conflict, Jewish claims to Al-Aqsa are increasing. MORE....

Edward Snowden's testimony at the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee in Brussels

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's words were entered as testimony at the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee in Brussels on Monday. 

Jesselyn Radack of the US Government Accountability Project (GAP) and a former whistleblower and ethics adviser to the US Department of Justice, read Snowden's statement into the record. 

Ms. Radack came to prominence after she revealed that the FBI had committed what she said was a breach of ethics in its interrogation of John Walker Lindh, who was captured during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and dubbed the “American Taliban.” MORE.....

What Does it Mean to be Jewish?

What does it mean to be Jewish? Pew Research Center's latest study asks just that, and offers in turn a wealth of information about Jewish identity in America today. Perhaps the most interesting is the study's finding that more than one-in-five American Jews say they have no religion but identify themselves as being Jewish. To read more about how the survey's results compare with PRRI's own Jewish Values Survey, be sure to check out this blog post!

Canadian anti-Muslim sentiment is rising, disturbing new poll reveals

Across Canada, Muslims have reason to feel concerned about how they are perceived when other Canadians identify them by their religion. A poll conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion early last month, the results of which were made available exclusively to Maclean’s, found that attitudes toward Islam have deteriorated markedly across the country over the past four years. “It’s disturbing to see this growing level of mistrust,” said Andrew Grenville, Angus Reid’s chief research officer. The way Canadians see the other major religions—Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism—didn’t change much in the same four-year period. MORE.....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

UK: Willie Frazer's stereotype is an insult to Muslims


Loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer's arrival at court last Friday dressed as Abu Hamza was an insult to all Muslims.

His assertion that the Serious Crime Act 2007, which he was charged under, was brought in to deal with what he called "extreme creatures of hate" and "Muslim creatures" is Islamophobic.

Frazer tried to imply that the Act is exclusively for Muslims, because they are the only extremists and he had to look like a Muslim in order to be charged under the Act. Unfortunately, extremists exist in every society. Every faith, or ideology, has produced them.

It is true that preachers like Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada are extremists, but they are not the only ones.

The Buddhists who are murdering and expelling Muslims in Burma are extremists. The RSS and Abhinav Bharat are extremist Hindu organisations.

Concerned Christians and the Lord Resistance Army are Christian extremists. Kach is an extremist Zionist organisation.

Frazer's own political ally, Jim Dowson, used to raise money for the extremist British National Party.

For Muslims, the problem is that extremists like Abu Hamza have been in the limelight more than other extremists. This gives a negative image about Islam that does not reflect the reality.

The bad news is that this is more likely to continue. Muslims will continue to be the bogeyman, with implications for their integration and acceptance in Western societies.

From personal experience, society is becoming increasingly racist towards Muslims as a result of ignorance, negative publicity and violence perpetrated by a tiny minority. However, no other faith group suffers as such because of the acts of the few.

The way Willie Frazer dressed was a continuation of the demonisation of Muslims.

Many Muslims across Britain and Ireland feel the impact of such demonisation in terms of prejudice and stereotype, which affect their day-to-day lives.

Individual Muslims should be treated according to what they do – not according to what others do in their name.

Quebec Muslims facing more abuse since charter proposal, women’s groups say

MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Oct. 02 2013

Women’s groups are reporting a spike in verbal and physical assaults against veiled Muslim women in Quebec since the introduction of the province’s Charter of Values, evidence that the Parti Québécois’s bid to curb religious symbols in some workplaces is inflaming social tensions.

An umbrella group of 17 women’s centres across the province says members are voicing worries and appealing for calm after witnessing disturbing acts of anti-Muslim intolerance, from spitting to racist insults.

“It’s obvious. Since the debate over the charter, the increase in intolerance is palpable,” said Valérie Létourneau, spokeswoman for the Regroupement des centres de femmes du Québec. “It’s contributing to a climate of fear. Veiled women are finding it harder to leave their homes. It’s taken serious proportions. It’s important that this stops.”

The PQ has sold its secular charter as a force for unity in the province. But since it was tabled last month, its proposal to prohibit Muslim headscarves and other conspicuous expressions of religious faith in the public service has opened emotional and polarizing rifts in the province. It has also led to isolated reports of hostility against Muslims, including a prolongued shouting match on a Montreal bus, captured on video, showing a man yelling at a veiled woman: “We should have never opened the door to you!”

The charter has also opened cracks in the sovereigntist family. Former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau is to state his position on the charter in the Journal de Montréal on Thursday, and the paper has already posted an article on its website saying Mr. Parizeau, still considered an influential voice within the party, thinks the charter goes too far.

The women’s coalition says that during a regularly scheduled meeting last week, members spontaneously spoke up about incidents in their regions; Ms. Létourneau said they added up to dozens. In one case, in the Montreal borough of Verdun, someone witnessed a person ramming the shopping cart of a veiled woman with his shopping cart, and telling her to “go back to your country.” The woman who witnessed the event was “stunned,” said Annie Kouamy of the Verdun Women’s Centre.

“We’re feeling the impact of the charter and it isn’t even law yet,” Ms. Kouamy said. “But it’s allowed some people to give themselves the freedom to say intolerant things and to show aggressive behaviour.”

At another women’s centre in east-end Montreal, employee Fabienne Mathieu says she is disturbed by the tone of comments by Quebeckers directed toward Muslim women, qualifying the remarks as signs of “fear” and “prejudice.”

They started with the government’s introduction of its charter, Ms. Mathieu said. “They dropped a bomb and we’re dealing with the shrapnel.”

In Quebec City, Bernard Drainville, the minister responsible for the charter, called the incidents reported by the women’s groups unacceptable. Mr. Drainville, who has been hinting that his government could modify its charter before it is tabled as legislation this fall, insisted that the document would bring about fewer tensions and greater social cohesion in the long run.

The Montreal police say they have received no increase in the number of reported hate crimes since the tabling of the charter last month.

Maple Lodge Farms guilty of criminal charges after hens freeze to death

Canada's largest poultry processor was convicted of two criminal charges Friday in the deaths of more than 1,500 chickens.

By: Graham Slaughter News reporter, Published on Mon Sep 30 2013

A judge has found Maple Lodge Farms guilty of violating federal animal health regulations after more than 1,500 chickens froze to death in severe winter weather en route to the Brampton-based processing plant.

The two convictions are just a fraction of the outstanding 58 criminal charges against the company, Canada's largest independent chicken processor.

Justice N. S. Kastner delivered the verdict Friday, citing two cases where scores of chickens experienced “undue suffering” during winter trips from two Ontario farms to the Brampton facility.

Animal rights activists sat anxiously in the courtroom as the judge recounted the incidents. After a 90-minute trip from a Moorefield farm on Feb. 23, 2009, 1,181 spent hens out of 10,944 were found dead in their crates.

Spent hens are nearly featherless after a lifetime of laying eggs, making them especially vulnerable to the cold.

The hens waited in temperatures between -9 and -16C as the driver loaded them into the truck.

“The driver … was instructed to load the birds, and notwithstanding the weather, he did so, regardless of the condition of the hens,” the judge said.

A similar case occurred the previous winter: 711 chickens out of 9,576 were classified as “dead on arrival” when they reached the plant “on or about" Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, 2008, court documents show.

Icy crates filled with dead, wet chickens were pulled from the truck, which let in cold gusts as it sped down the highway en route to Brampton.

“Wet birds, whether actually frozen or not, are unable to sustain their body temperatures for the reasons given by the veterinary evidence,” the judge wrote in the ruling.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which has inspection agents at the Brampton facility, laid the charges in 2008 and 2009.

But the legal wrangling is far from over. The two cases were chosen as examples to help the judge guide the outstanding 58 charges against the company.

It has yet to be decided whether the 58 charges will be tried case by case or if the company will reach a separate settlement.

The judge offered time for both the Crown and the company to make submissions regarding a penalty for the two convictions.

Friday’s ruling has shone a spotlight through the ethical holes in the poultry industry, said Liz White, director of Animal Alliance Canada.

“I don’t think I could have written it better myself,” said White, a vegetarian who was in court every day of the case.

“I was very, very pleased by the fact that she paid so much attention to the very real problems that exist in the industry.”

White described chicken production as a “just-in-time” model that rushes to get from the farm to the deli, often cutting corners on animal wellbeing.

“What’s interesting is that most people don’t give these animals a lot of consideration,” she said.

Maple Lodge Farms is Canada’s largest independent poultry company and sells sandwich meat, chicken bacon, hot dogs and halal meats.

Greenpeace crew, activists charged with piracy in Russia

Greenpeace activists have been charged with piracy for their protest on a Gazprom oil rig. But what are they protesting about and what is the justification for their claims? With your help, Karl Mathiesen investigates.

PQ does not have the monopoly on Quebec Values

Lionel Perez October 2nd, 2013 (The Suburban)

When the news story broke last month about the PQ government's intended Charter of Secularism or Quebec Values a slew of condemnations immediately followed. As someone who has been in the eye of that media storm, meeting with Minister Bernard Drainville the morning the story broke, having penned an op-ed in le Devoir challenging the PQ's view of secularism, and tabling a motion at Montreal City Hall calling for an inclusive secularism (which passed unanimously), I have a rather interesting perspective. By the way, as an elected official who wears a Jewish kippa head covering, I could have been directly affected by the upcoming legislation. Let me share my thoughts.

Minister Bernard Drainville introduced his guiding principles stating that there was a crisis and a 'malaise' and that is why his government acted. My first question was where are the studies and the facts supporting the conclusion of this supposed crisis? There are none and he is simply wrong about this supposed 'crisis'. The Fleury Report on religion in schools, the Bouchard-Taylor Report and Quebec Human Rights Tribunal reports are unanimous that there is no crisis and that accommodations are minimal in relation to the number of requests and people involved. The fact that the PQ government did not ask the opinion of the Religious Office in the Ministry of Education says volumes about refusing to know the facts. 

So why introduce this legislation? This proposed legislation is a poor attempt at identity politics playing on the fears of reasonable accommodation. Some Quebecers are fearful of the new demographic face of Quebec with an increased immigrant population making-up for our low birth rate. It is challenging their notion of who is a 'Quebecer' despite the PQ's own mantra that all those that live in Quebec are Quebecers. It is clearly divisive and a clear distraction to the truly important issues facing our society. The polls clearly indicate that Montrealers are of a different mind than the PQ government on this proposed legislation as it will marginalize the very people that are most vulnerable and need it most to fully integrate in Quebec society. I find it ironic that the support is strongest where there is little use of this legislation, i.e. outside Montreal where it is predominately a French catholic society.

I know Quebec and Montreal to be a truly open and tolerant society. As an elected official I continually discover the cultural diversity that is enriching to our society. Instead of feeling threatened by it we should celebrate it and see it as an asset for our dear city and province. As Mayor of Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce, one of the most multi-cultural and multi-ethnic areas of Montreal, we have been able to find the balance for our residents for a harmonious co-habitation where there is mutual respect between all and offering municipal services that meets the needs of our residents. Our residents will not be used as fodder as part of the 'us vs. them debate' - that time has come and gone.

The PQ principles are a divisive force that will institutionalize discrimination based on appearances that are undoubtedly a violation of our charter's fundamental rights and freedoms. Moreover, they are simply unnecessary. We already have state neutrality as a fundamental principle of our democracy, and charter rights guaranteeing gender equality. This separation of church and state is necessary to ensure that the state does not impose its religious views on its citizens and does not favour any one religion treating all citizens in an equal fashion. We already have criteria, set out by our courts, for determining which accommodations are reasonable or not. As for the ban on religious symbols, let us judge people on their actions and words and not the way they look as a lack of religious symbols is no guarantee of impartiality. No one has been able to explain to me how my kippa has negatively affected my ability to perform my duties or accomplish my functions. 

I remain vehemently opposed to the PQ principles as formulated, and I will continue to advocate for an open and inclusive secularism. I was among the first to stand-up and protest this Charter since the story broke last month (I also came out against it during the 2012 provincial election campaign), I will continue to vigorously advocate and speak against any form of discrimination that may lead to intolerance.

Lionel Perez is interim Mayor of Cote des Neiges/NDG borough.

Feds slapped with ‘No Fly List’ mole suit

By Rich Calder

October 1, 2013 

A Queens man slapped the feds Tuesday with a lawsuit alleging the FBI is abusing its power by forcing American Muslims to serve as informants in their own communities.

Muhammad Tanvir claims in the Manhattan federal court suit that he was placed on a “No Fly List” after being approached by FBI agents to become a mole for them in his predominantly Muslim community.

He says that after he refused, he was banned from flying.

After he contacted the feds for an explanation, “FBI agents offered to help him get off the No Fly List – but only in exchange for relaying information about his community,” the suit says. He again refused.

The suit describes Tanvir as living in the US since 2002 and being law abiding, saying he was “never convicted of any crime nor does he pose any threat to aviation security.”

The FBI could not immediately be reached for comment.

Moose Jaw Islamic Association to have place of worship

Moose Jaw will soon be home to a mosque.

At Monday’s council meeting, councillors approved the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan Moose Jaw branch’s request for a discretionary use application for a place of worship at 73 Lancaster Rd. It was as recommended by the municipal planning commission and all expenses will be borne by the applicant. MORE.....

When prodigal jihadis come home: Brender

Canada needs constructive policy ideas for dealing with returning militants.

By: Natalie Brender Published on Mon Sep 30 2013 -- Toronto Star

It’s getting to be a familiar theme that Canadians’ global origins and global mobility can intersect frighteningly with currents in Islamist terrorism. Two Canadians were killed in this month’s Al Shabab attack on a Nairobi shopping centre, and a Canadian teenager maimed in the attack is recovering in a Toronto hospital. Early rumours that some of the Kenyan militants were Canadian now appear to be unfounded. However, it is known that some Canadians (perhaps up to 100) have travelled to Syria to join rebel forces fighting against the Assad government – and one of the former “Toronto 18” terrorist plotters has apparently died fighting there.

What happens when some of these prodigal militants return home? Canadian security forces, Muslim communities and indeed all Canadians have reason to be worried about that eventuality. The potential for such returnees to conduct attacks inside Canada, and to recruit others to their cause, is very real.

That said, it is worth bearing in mind the possibility that some Islamist militants might return home thoroughly disillusioned by the disparity between the religious ideology they embraced and the brutal reality they saw. An article published earlier this year in Foreign Affairs recounts the experience of six Muslim Kenyan men who were recruited into Al Shabab, sent off to fight in Somalia and fled back to Kenya as deserters from the cause. “Many other Kenyans who are still with Al Shabab in Somalia,” the article reports, “are disillusioned with the group.”

Of course, not all Kenyan Al Shabab recruits leaving the Somalian battlefield come back as deserters; some are “bringing with them their guns, grenades and ideas,” likely intent on committing attacks within Kenya. As the disillusioned returnees point out, however, the Kenyan government is losing opportunities by aiming to kill all former Al Shabab fighters rather than taking steps to identify and rehabilitate those who want to renounce violence.

No one could think that would be easy to do. Figuring out who are true deserters from the jihadist cause, and giving them the resources to integrate back into society, would likely take more intelligence and financial resources than the beleaguered Kenyan government has to spare at the moment.

That said, Canada could do well to remember that some Canadians returning home from fighting with Islamist forces abroad might also be ready to lay down arms and renounce the ideology that sent them to fight. If it is possible to identify with confidence who these ex-militants are, they could do more than just reintegrate into their former lives: they could become valuable resources for countering the indoctrination of other Canadian youths.

Such a potential is suggested by a recent brief from the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations, which urges the U.S. to support existing efforts by Muslim organizations abroad to counter violent extremism through education and social action. Noting that al Qaeda and other Islamist groups “feed off of ideas that have proliferated in Muslim communities over decades,” the brief points out that “[u]nless such ideas are challenged and discredited, extremist groups will continue to regenerate no matter how many terrorists are killed.”

One means of creating “counter-narratives” about Islam and militant politics is by drawing on the credibility of those who once embraced those ideas and now renounce them. To this end, the brief urges, efforts at countering violent extremism should include “[e]ducating Muslim thought leaders in mosques and on university campuses through workshops and testimonies from former radicals about why Islamist hardliners threaten Muslim communities.”

Such efforts must originate within Muslim communities; they will not succeed if viewed as propaganda by Western governments. But Western governments can help by providing resources to enable Muslim-led counter-extremism activities to succeed. For that reason, Canada’s government, and Canadians, should keep an open mind to the possibility that some fighters returning to this country might now be ex-jihadists ready to support the anti-extremist cause.

Inevitably, security concerns will come first, and the reasons for alarm will likely be much greater than reasons for hope when returning fighters are identified. Most of us will never be in a position to know how many of these cases there are or who they involve. That said, however, it is worth expressing public support for the idea that Canadian security authorities could work together with Canada’s Muslim communities to identify potential ex-jihadists who might be valuable allies in the cause of moderation.

Global flows of ideas and people are not going to stop any time soon; nor are threats of citizenship revocation much use in stemming the circulation of Canadian would-be terrorists out of and back into the country. Bringing to the fore constructive policy ideas for dealing with returning militants could, if only marginally, be a step in the right direction.

Natalie Brender is a freelance journalist. Her column appears on every Monday.

Muslim population growth faster than global rate

Around 70 per cent of global population growth over the next 30 years will be in Muslim countries as the Muslim population of 1.6 billion is growing at twice the rate of the global population thus representing the fastest growing consumer segment in the world, said Russell Haworth, Managing Director, Middle East and North Africa, Thomson Reuters.

Hijab Ban: Quebec Charter of Wrongs

So while the Charter may fizzle out before it is passed, it has left many visible religious groups feeling vulnerable and betrayed, once again, by the province’s political leaders, writes Canadian Writer and Commentator Muneeb Nasir

Oxfam accuses Coke and Pepsi of taking land from the poor

Communities from Brazil to Cambodia are losing homes to make room for sugar crops, it is claimed

More than a million British youngsters being bullied online every day

More than a million young people are subjected to extreme online bullying every day in Britain, according to the biggest survey of internet abuse.

Most Canadians oppose firings based on Quebec’s secular charter: poll


TORONTO — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Oct. 01 2013

Nearly three out of four Canadians oppose the idea that government employees should be fired as a result of Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The CTV-Ipsos Reid poll, surveying more than 1,000 people online across the country, found that 72 per cent of Canadians disagreed that “public servants like teachers, health-care workers and others should be fired from their jobs if they insist on wearing religious symbols and clothing at work,” and 28 per cent were in agreement.

Support was highest in Quebec, where the proposed ban would be in effect, with 38 per cent agreeing workers should be fired. Still, 62 per cent disagreed.

“I think it’s a question that the [Parti Québécois] hasn’t fully laid out for anybody,” John Wright, senior vice-president at Ipsos Reid, said. “What is the consequence of a public servant defying the charter?”

He said Quebec’s governing party should clarify whether workers who breach the charter rules would be fired, fined, ticketed or charged with an offence.

“It kind of puts it in perspective that the Charter of Values has been a conceptual debate,” Mr. Wright said. “But the rubber has to hit the road at some point.”

Outside of Quebec, support for firing employees remained the same – at about 28 per cent – in all provinces except British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, where only 22 per cent and 16 per cent agreed, respectively.

Foreign-born Canadians were more likely to agree that public servants should lose their jobs for wearing religious symbols. About 35 per cent agreed, seven points higher than the national average.

A larger percentage of men also agreed that public-sector workers should be let go for defying the charter. While only 22 per cent of women agreed, the number was at 35 per cent for men.

The online survey has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points nationally. The credibility interval for Quebec is 6.0.

Mr. Wright said the poll results show that, though it may be favoured by some in theory, the Charter of Values has little support when it comes down to actual consequences.

“You don’t even really have a strong conviction among those in Quebec that this should be the case,” he said, pointing out that among supporters in Quebec, only 13 per cent were “strongly” in favour of firing. “I think that it’s a soft agreement.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Global Hunger Down, But Millions Still Chronically Hungry

842 million people undernourished in 2011-13. Developing countries make progress but more efforts needed to reach MDG target

Published on 01 October 2013

Some 842 million people, or roughly one in eight, suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-13, not getting enough food to lead active and healthy lives according to a report released by the UN food agencies.

The number is down from 868 million reported for the 2010-12 period, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World, published every year by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, while 15.7 million live in developed countries.

Continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability.

In addition, in some countries remittances from migrants are playing a role in reducing poverty, leading to better diets and progress in food security. They can also contribute towards boosting productive investments by smallholder farmers

Strong differences

Despite the progress made worldwide, marked differences in hunger reduction persist. Sub-Saharan Africa has made only modest progress in recent years and remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment with one in four Africans (24.8 per cent) estimated to be hungry.

No recent progress is observed in Western Asia, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa witnessed slow progress. More substantial reductions in both the number of hungry and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of East Asia, Southeastern Asia, and in Latin America.
Since 1990-92, the total number of undernourished in developing countries has fallen by 17 percent from 995.5 million to 826.6 million.

Hunger reduction targets

While uneven, the report stresses that developing regions as a whole have made significant progress towards reaching the target of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015. This target was agreed internationally as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If the average annual decline since 1990 continues to 2015, the prevalence of undernourishment will reach a level close to the MDG hunger target.

A more ambitious target set at the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS), to halve the number of hungry people by 2015, remains out of reach at global level, even though 22 countries had already met it by the end of 2012. 

FAO, IFAD and WFP urged countries “to make considerable and immediate additional efforts” to meet the MDG and WFS targets.

“With a final push in the next couple of years, we can still reach the MDG target,” wrote the heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP, José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo F. Nwanze and Ertharin Cousin in their foreword to the report. They called for nutrition-sensitive interventions in agriculture and food systems as a whole, as well as in public health and education, especially for women.

“Policies aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing food availability, especially when smallholders are targeted, can achieve hunger reduction even where poverty is widespread. When they are combined with social protection and other measures that increase the incomes of poor families, they can have an even more positive effect and spur rural development, by creating vibrant markets and employment opportunities, resulting in equitable economic growth,” the agency heads said.

Pro-poor policies needed

The report underlines that economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in rural areas. “In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared,” the report noted.

Tackling malnutrition, child stunting

The UN hunger report not only measures chronic hunger but presents a new suite of indicators for every country to capture the multiple dimensions of food insecurity. These indicators give a more nuanced picture of food insecurity in a country. In some countries, for example, the prevalence of hunger can be low, while at the same time undernutrition rates can be quite high, as exemplified by the proportion of children who are stunted (low height for age) or underweight, whose future health and development are put at risk. Such distinctions are important to improve the effectiveness of measures to reduce hunger and food insecurity in all its dimensions.