Saturday, November 2, 2013

Right-wing campaign against Roma spreads across Europe

By John Vassilopoulos and Jordan Shilton 

2 November 2013


Two recent incidents involving children illustrate the promotion of anti-Roma prejudice across Europe.

A Roma couple in Greece was charged with abducting a six-year-old young girl, who was discovered at the couple’s house by police during a raid in search of weapons and drugs at a Roma camp in the town of Farsala in central Greece.

The girl caught the attention of the police because of her blonde hair and green eyes, which set her apart from the couple and their other children. The couple have been remanded in custody pending a trial and the girl has been taken into care by the Athens-based “The Smile of the Child” orphanage.

So far, no concrete evidence has been presented to support the child abduction charge, apart from a DNA test that has confirmed that the little girl who answers to the name Maria is not related to the Roma couple. Reports have emerged that the couple had other children in their care who were not biologically related.

The couple denied the charge of abduction.

In an interview with Star Channel’s news programme, the couple’s defence lawyer said, “There are two ways to view this case. The first is that there is a little girl missing from its parents and the reprehensible act would be if the girl was stolen from them, a fact which we deny. The other side says that maybe the girl’s mother abandoned her and another family lovingly stood by her.”

The couple said that the little girl was left with them to look after by a Bulgarian Roma woman who was too poor to care for the young girl.

Interpol has stated that it has no records regarding the disappearance of a girl who matches Maria’s description and her age. In this context, the decision to imprison the Roma couple was described by Panayiotis Dimitras of the Greek Helsinki Monitor human rights organisation as “disgusting and condemnable.”

In an interview with the British-based Independent, he said that “it is a racist presumption on behalf of the Greek authorities…to charge her family with abduction just because they are Roma and because it was proven that [she] is not their own natural child.”

The mass media, both in Greece and abroad, has been stoking centuries-old prejudices against one of the most oppressed and vulnerable ethnic groups in Europe. To reinforce the stereotype of “gypsies stealing children,” the little girl has been dubbed by the Greek media as the “blonde angel.” In the UK, the media reported the story of Maria as “giving hope” to the families of Madeleine McCann and Ben Needham, who disappeared on family holidays in Portugal in 2007 and on the Greek island of Kos in 1991, respectively.

In an article in the Greek daily To Vima entitled “The Roma camp at Farsala is on the edge of town and illegality,” police trade union representatives told the paper that police “at regular intervals carry out investigations at the three main encampments of gypsies in Larissa [the largest city nearest to Farsala]” and “our colleagues usually find something out.”

In other words, due process or reasonable suspicion of criminal behaviour does not apply in the case of the Roma, who are seen as being guilty until proven innocent. The police trade unionists went on, “We did not invent the wheel by our investigation results in the Farsala camp. We all know the crimes that gypsies are involved in such as theft, drug dealing and even buying and selling children.”

The media witch-hunt reached a high point when the second alleged abduction case came to light. A Roma couple in Ireland was accused of child abduction due to their daughter’s fair appearance not resembling theirs. On this basis, police took the girl from her family and she was placed in the care of the Health Service Executive.

DNA tests have since confirmed that the seven-year-old girl is indeed the biological daughter of the accused couple.

The demonisation of Roma communities completely ignores the chronic social exclusion they face. According to London-based Minority Rights Group International, 80 percent of Romani Greeks are illiterate. Alexis Koutrovelis, a principal of a school in the town of Aspropyrgos, whose students are primarily Roma, told I Efimerida Ton Syntakton that the majority of the children in his school live in shacks with no running water. Some have suffered from multiple burns from the stove in the middle of the shack on which they fall when they wake up at night.

Such conditions of social deprivation are common for Roma communities across the continent, particularly in eastern Europe.

The persecution of Roma communities is bound up with the shift of official politics sharply to the right and has been embraced by the ruling elite in every country. Mass protests broke out recently in France after the Hollande government deported a 15-year-old Roma schoolgirl and her family. French interior minister Manuel Valls has promoted policies traditionally associated with the far right, calling on the entire Roma population to leave France and go back to eastern Europe.

In Ireland, reports emerged only two weeks prior to the removal of the Roma girl from her family of inhumane conditions in the country's asylum system. Hundreds of asylum seekers are accommodated in facilities lacking in electricity and provision of water, with some having to cook food in their bedrooms. The report commissioned by the government found conditions in some centres that were so bad they were given only one month to rectify them or face closure.

In Greece, the police raid on the Roma camp that led to the discovery of Maria comes in the wake of a long-standing policy of arresting and detaining suspected immigrants based on their skin colour or ethnicity, and holding them in specially created deportation camps where they live in terrible conditions. In pursuing such policies, the Greek authorities have not held back from collaborating with far-right and openly fascist organisations such as Golden Dawn.

The Greek pseudo-left fully embraced the child abduction allegations. An article in SYRIZA’s Avgi (The Dawn) quoted extensively and uncritically from a number of UK and German news sources that alleged that the little girl had been abducted. It even invited readers to click onto the Daily Mail’ s “extensive reportage with a video, which shows little Maria dancing with the woman ‘appearing’ as her mother.”

The article informs us that “footage emerges of child ‘performing for camera when she was just a toddler’ ” and that an unknown woman in the footage “can be seen grabbing the little girl as she staggers about, pushing her back into the centre of a sunny courtyard to continue her dance.”

In another article posted on the same day on the Daily Mail’s web site, we are told that “Little Maria was made to dance for cash.”

The KKE’s (Greek Communist Party’s) Rizospastis declared that the unfolding events have “evolved into a witch-hunt, whose evident purpose is to provide a smokescreen for an extremely serious issue, which is the trafficking of people, especially children.”

Both Syriza and the KKE have promoted Greek nationalism as a response to the economic crisis. Their adaptation to the most reactionary and backward prejudices towards Roma communities is in keeping with their role of sowing divisions within the working class to defend the bourgeois order.

How Muslim Women Are Waging a Jihad for Peace

Muslim women are too often portrayed as downtrodden victims or supporters of extremism—but they are at the very heart of the push for moderation and peace in places like Egypt and Afghanistan. READ MORE....

Antigua & Barbuda becomes latest Caribbean country to sell citizenship to international investors

By David McFadden, The Associated Press

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The struggling country of Antigua & Barbuda has joined other tiny Eastern Caribbean islands in selling citizenship to wealthy international investors to drum up revenue, officials said Monday.

The twin-island nation of some 90,000 inhabitants started accepting applications last week for its citizenship-by-investment program, which is closely modeled on the one offered by nearby St. Kitts & Nevis. The government hopes to generate roughly $550 million over the next three years by attracting some 1,800 new citizens, who have to spend at least 35 days on the islands during the five-year span an initial passport is valid for. READ MORE....

Toward a WMD-Free Middle East: The Israel Hurdle

Saturday, 02 November 2013 

By L Michael Hager, Truthout | Op-Ed

Since first proposed by Egypt in 1990, the vision of a WMD-free Middle East has attracted various proponents, including most recently Finland, which had offered to host a conference on the subject in 2012. That initiative, like the ones before it, failed - largely because of Israel's refusal (backed by the United States) to participate. 

Why is the elimination of nuclear (and chemical and biological) weapons important, and what can be done to secure Israel's participation in a conference to create a WMD-free zone for the Middle East? FULL ARTICLE.....

British Accuse David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's Partner, of "Terrorism"

Nov 1, 2013 (Reuters)  


British authorities claimed the domestic partner of reporter Glenn Greenwald was involved in "terrorism" when he tried to carry documents from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden through a London airport in August, according to police and intelligence documents.

Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, was detained and questioned for nine hours by British authorities at Heathrow on Aug. 18, when he landed there from Berlin to change planes for a flight to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

After his release and return to Rio, Miranda filed a legal action against the British government, seeking the return of materials seized from him by British authorities and a judicial review of the legality of his detention.

At a London court hearing this week for Miranda's lawsuit, a document called a "Ports Circulation Sheet" was read into the record. It was prepared by Scotland Yard - in consultation with the MI5 counterintelligence agency - and circulated to British border posts before Miranda's arrival. The precise date of the document is unclear.

"Intelligence indicates that Miranda is likely to be involved in espionage activity which has the potential to act against the interests of UK national security," according to the document.

"We assess that Miranda is knowingly carrying material the release of which would endanger people's lives," the document continued. "Additionally the disclosure, or threat of disclosure, is designed to influence a government and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism..."

Miranda was not charged with any offense, although British authorities said in August they had opened a criminal investigation after initially examining materials they seized from him. They did not spell out the probe's objectives.

A key hearing on Miranda's legal challenge is scheduled for next week. The new details of how and why British authorities decided to act against him, including extracts from police and MI5 documents, were made public during a preparatory hearing earlier this week.

British authorities have said in court that items seized from Miranda included electronic media containing 58,000 documents from the U.S. National Security Agency and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Greenwald, who previously worked for Britain's Guardian newspaper, has acknowledged that Miranda was carrying material supplied by Snowden when he was detained.

In an email to Reuters, Greenwald condemned the British government for labeling his partner's actions "terrorism."

"For all the lecturing it doles out to the world about press freedoms, the UK offers virtually none...They are absolutely and explicitly equating terrorism with journalism," he said.

Separately on Friday, media disclosed details of an open letter Snowden issued to Germany from his place of exile in Russia, in which he says his revelations have helped to "address formerly concealed abuses of the public trust" and added that "speaking the truth is not a crime."

Snowden said he was counting on international support to stop Washington's "persecution" of him for revealing the scale of its worldwide phone and Internet surveillance.

Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists, said that given the nature of the material that Miranda was carrying, a harsh response by British authorities was not unexpected.

"It seems that UK authorities were attempting to seize or recover official documents, to which they arguably have a claim," Aftergood said. "The authorities' action was harsh, but not incomprehensible or obviously contrary to law."

In a separate document read into the court record, MI5, also known as the Security Service, indicated British authorities' interest in Miranda was spurred by his apparent role as a courier ferrying material from Laura Poitras, a Berlin-based filmmaker, to Greenwald, who lives with Miranda in Brazil.

"We strongly assess that Miranda is carrying items which will assist in Greenwald releasing more of the NSA and GCHQ material we judge to be in Greenwald's possession," said the document, described as a "National Security Justification" prepared for police.

"Our main objectives against David Miranda are to understand the nature of any material he is carrying, mitigate the risks to national security that this material poses," the document added.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington had no comment on the court proceedings or documents.

I don’t care what Céline Dion thinks of the Quebec values charter

November 2, 2013 -- Brendan Kelly


I just penned a feature on Céline Dion. It’s online now and in the old-school newsprint thing.

As soon as I mentioned that I was doing this piece, folks immediately began talking about the Quebec values charter and Céliiiiine’s controversial comments that appear to be an endorsement of the Parti Québécois project. If you want to find out what Dion thinks of the charter, read Don Macpherson’s much-read blog on the subject.

Don’t expect me to summarize her views here. The first reason is that her “argument” is just too goofy for words. Surprise, surprise, she doesn’t understand the first thing about the charter. There’s nothing in there about banning Christmas trees Céline.

But the real reason I won’t be discussing Dion’s thoughts on it is because I couldn’t care less what singers and musicians think about political issues. I’d rather hear a streeter with some uninformed guy on the corner of Peel and Ste. Catherine. Why should we go to rock stars for guidance on politics? Why should their words carry more weight than the thoughts of some guy shopping at Fairview?

Rock stars are not generally smarter than normal civilians. Often they’re quite a bit dumber, a state of affairs not helped by their propensity for over-indulging in recreational drugs. (Let’s be clear that I’m not talking about Céline here. She comes by her uninformed political views without any help from illegal substances.)

Some rock stars – let’s call him Bono for the purposes of this argument – like to use their rock-star pulpit to preach politics to the unwashed masses and I find that even more objectionable. You can like U2 or Sting’s music but that doesn’t give them carte blanche to break the rhythm of their Bell Centre show to lecture you about the inflated price of perscription drugs in Africa. (How much did that U2 ticket cost Bono?)

It’s all part of this absurd celebrity-obsessed culture we live in. Singers, actors, reality-show contestants are routinely polled re their thoughts on political issues, elections, social problems. It’s absurd. Why would we look to Honey Boo Boo, Angelina Jolie, or Céline Dion for guidance on how to vote.

I remember years ago meeting Brendan Fraser, in town promoting the film Extraordinary Measures. It’s a long-forgotten film based on the true story of a dad who creates a bio-technology company to create drugs to try to help his children who have a life-threatening disease. It was around the time that there was a huge debate raging in the U.S. about Obama’s health-care project and – yes breaking my own rule – I asked Fraser about the debate.

And I loved his answer.

“I don’t know. You’re talking to an actor, dude, not a politician.”

Words to live by. Are you listening Céline? Bono?

In praise of the white poppy


By Jill Segger
Nov 2 2013


The season of remembrance is upon us once more . Last year, I wrote of the red poppy as a 'compromised symbol' (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/15709) and this November, it seems appropriate to consider the growing appeal of the white poppy in a time of change.

It was in the years following World War I that support for a different way of memorialising began to emerge. Women took a lead in this movement towards change. Those who had lost sons, husbands, fathers, brothers and lovers to the slaughter or who lived with men maimed in body or mind – some of whose suffering was a result of imprisonment for their refusal to fight – were influential in the 'No More War' movement.

In 1926, the movement asked the British Legion to put the words 'no more war' in the centre of the red poppy instead of 'The Haig Fund'. The idea was not accepted but it did not wither away. And with the support of the Cooperative Women's Guild, the first white poppies appeared in 1933.

The carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan has brought the destruction of war centre-stage for those of us who were born after 1945 (and it is worth remembering that since that date, there has only been one year in which British forces were not involved in armed conflict somewhere in the world). It is almost a century since the rituals of remembrance began and during most of those years, the ceremonies took place in a lower key and were largely without wider political significance. But recent years have brought a change. The British Legion organises the events and its slogan this year is 'Shoulder to Shoulder with all who serve.' This is not about the horror and pity of war; it does not invite reflection on the dead of other countries, either civilian or military, or on the desolation and ruin of environments – of what the First World War poet Edmund Blunden described as “ a green country, useful to the race, knocked silly with, guns and mines, its villages vanished.” Nor does it challenge us to address the cumulative effect of generations of greed, abuse of power, fear, self-interest and lack of vision which is the seed bed of war.

There appears to be a growing feeling – despite the admiration for the Armed Forces into which we are increasingly being encouraged – that we need to be more critical of the narrative presented to us by a militarily-oriented interpretation of what it means to remember. There is, without doubt, both disquiet at, and resistance to, David Cameron's stated desire for a "truly national commemoration" of the first world war that will "capture our national spirit ... like the diamond jubilee".

The Ministry of Defence seeks to differentiate between support for war and support for the men and women who suffer death or maiming in its cause. But if we accept this stance without interrogation or analysis, the status of military personnel as unquestioned agents for good becomes embedded. It has become all but impossible to question this assumption or to express any disquiet as to the moral worth of projecting force as a solution to conflict. Cases of mistreatment of Iraqi and Afghan people are framed so as to discourage critical enquiry. It is doubtless true that these crimes are carried out by a minority of armed combatants, but they are a reminder that war tends to undermine the moral sense and self-control of those whom we contract to carry it out. The brutalising experiences of combat lead many to harm themselves and others when they return to civilian life. These people deserve our compassion and support. But it is neither unpatriotic nor ungrateful to decline to see them as an embodiment of a 'national spirit' or as heroes whom we must hold in unqualified admiration. They are victims of the huge and tragic failure that is war and that asks of us repentance rather than 'celebration' or hero-worship.

As we approach the centenary of the 'war to end all wars', it would seem the right time to acknowledge that changing perceptions may be better served by less rigidity about symbols. The white poppy opens up a space in which remembering all the victims of war goes hand in hand with considering those things which make for peace.

------

© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Save the Date-Call for Nov. 29 - Juma Khutba on Disability

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: CAM-D <camd@camd.ca>
Date: Fri, Nov 1, 2013 
Subject: Save the Date-Call for Nov. 29 - Juma Khutba on Disability

Please circulate and post on facebook...

Assalam-u-alaikum Imams and Khatibs,

The Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities asks you to please save the date!

Dedicate your khutba to disability rights in Islam on Friday November 29, 2013. Stay tuned for more information...

Regards,
Rabia

Rabia Khedr, MA
Executive director
CAM-D – Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities
Twitter: @RabiaKhedr

Discredited definition of anti-Semitism no longer in use, says BBC

Electronic Intifada 10/30/2013

by Ben White 

http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ben-white/discredited-definition-anti-semitism-no-longer-use-says-bbc

The reputation of a discredited definition of anti-Semitism has suffered a further blow with the news that the BBC’s governing body amended a ruling to reflect the abandonment of the text by a European Union body. 

A 2005 “discussion paper” definition of anti-Semitism was drafted on the initiative of the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (which has subsequently been renamed the Fundamental Rights Agency — FRA).

It claimed that describing Israel’s establishment as a “racist endeavor” is an example of “anti-Semitism.”

The definition has been pushed by Israel advocates since its publication, and used in efforts to undermine Palestine solidarity work (see The Electronic Intifada report “Israel lobby uses discredited anti-Semitism definition to muzzle debate”).

In a BBC Trust ruling earlier this year, a complaint relating to the broadcaster’s coverage on comments about Israel by a British member of Parliament, David Ward, was partially upheld. The complaint had cited the EU agency’s “working definition.” 

However, in correspondence with blogger Mark Elf of Jews sans frontieres, the BBC Trust first investigated, then changed its ruling (available online) to note that the definition has now “been removed” from the FRA’s website.
Revealing

While the BBC Trust’s amendment of the ruling made minimal changes, the email to Mark Elf was more revealing, with the BBC Trust Unit writing:

A press officer at the FRA has explained that this was a discussion paper and was never adopted by the EU as a working definition, although it has been on the FRA website until recently when it was removed during a clear out of “non-official” documents. The link to the FRA site provided by the complainant in his appeal no longer works.

The BBC added that the “working definition … was not material to the committee’s finding that the accuracy guidelines had been breached.”

Despite it being an abandoned draft text, plenty of Israel’s defenders still refer to the definition in a way that infers official credibility.

The group Israel Academia Monitor continues to base its concept of a “distinction” between “legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Israel” on the definition, claiming it was “adopted” by the FRA. Pro-Israel media lobbying group HonestReporting recently called it “the EU’s working definition,” while a UK-based right-wing site referred this week to what it called the “EUMC working definition.”

Federal government’s out-of-court settlements up 40 per cent, total more than $700 M last year


BY LEE BERTHIAUME, POSTMEDIA NEWS NOVEMBER 1, 2013

http://www.canada.com/Federal+government+court+settlements+cent+total+more+than+last+year/9114246/story.html
 
 OTTAWA — Federal financial documents show the government paid more than $700 million in out-of-court settlements in the last fiscal year as thousands of aboriginals and hundreds of nurses received payments for past abuse and sex discrimination, respectively.

All told, the federal government paid out 40 per cent more in settlements in 2012-13 than the year before, when the total cost was $500 million.

Much of the increase is attributed to the end of an eight-year legal battle between the government and hundreds of nurses who worked for the Canada Pension Plan between 1978 and 2012.

The predominantly female nurses were responsible for screening applicants to determine if they were eligible for CPP disability benefits. They argued they performed essentially the same core functions as a male-dominated group of CPP doctors paid twice as much.

In 2007, the human rights tribunal ruled the pay differential amounted to sex discrimination. Nonetheless, a second tribunal decision in 2009 denied the nurses compensation for wage loss or pain and suffering.

The Federal Court of Canada overturned the 2009 decision, a ruling upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal, which sent the matter back to the tribunal to determine the appropriate compensation.

Subsequent negotiations between the nurses and government saw the latter agree in July 2012 to pay compensation.

Public account documents, which were tabled in the House of Commons this week and provide a detailed breakdown on the federal government’s finances over the previous fiscal year, show the government paid $128 million in payments to 705 nurses between July 2012 and the end of March.

The government has estimated the full cost of the settlement will end up being around $160 million once all eligible nurses are compensated, though some have said the bill could run as high as $200 million.

Meanwhile, the government also paid out nearly $466 million to 4,462 claimants over the past fiscal year as part of its residential school settlement agreement.

The government says 96,000 claims have been completed totalling about $3.5 billion since the settlement agreement process was launched in September 2007. It’s unclear how many more settlements are expected in the coming years.

Some of the other out-of-court settlements made by the government last year:

-        $29 million paid by Industry Canada to law firm Stikeman Elliott LLP, which held the money for the unnamed beneficiary. No other details were provided.

-        $20 million paid out by Public Works to Concord, Ont.-based St. Joseph Print Group for a breach of contract.

-        $14 million paid by National Defence to a person identified only as H. Catier for personal injuries.

-        $4 million paid out by Environment Canada to the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority for environmental damage. The federal government did reach an agreement in 2012 with two First Nations in Saskatchewan for flooding caused by an Agriculture Canada dam, but it’s unclear whether this is the same case.

-        $3 million paid by National Defence to the German government for cleanup of undisclosed environmental damages. This may be related to old Canadian military bases in Germany.

-        $2.8 million paid out by the RCMP to 19 unnamed individuals for physical injuries, mental stress and/or pain and suffering.

lberthiaume@postmedia.com

Twitter:/leeberthiaume

What happened to Canada? Harper has made us into a right-wing petro state


OCTOBER 31, 2013

Whenever I travel abroad these days, I'm button-holed by anxious foreigners asking the same question: What happened to the civil, generous and globally engaged Canada?

My answer is blunt: An old mining republic with the reputation of a Dr. Jekyll has now banked its economic future on dirty oil. In the process, gentle Canada has become a bullying Mr. Hyde.

Over the last two years the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the son of an Imperial Oil accountant, has forcefully assaulted the nation’s democratic traditions, attacked environmental organizations and clashed with Canada's one million Aboriginals. The country’s security forces even reclassified Greenpeace, a civil organization first started by Canadians and funded by three million ordinary people, as a "multi-issue extremist" threat.

At the same time Canada's Hyde-like government has muzzled climate change scientists and trashed most of the country’s environmental legislation. In short, Stephen Harper has used Canada’s oil revenues to incrementally construct a right-wing petro state with a penchant for defense spending, electoral fraud, science bashing, Senate corruption and prison building. 

The commodity responsible for the new Canadian Hyde is none other than ugly bitumen. This low-grade crude has been so badly dissembled by bacteria that it must be mined in open pits or steamed out of the ground. READ MORE....

Canadians Held 50 Days in Egyptian Prison After Documenting Massacre Speak Out Following Release


Transcript 

Outline of Imam Mohamad Jebara's Friday sermon -- Friday Nov 1, 2013


Sermon Topic: ISLAM and INTELLECTUAL MATURITY 

Date: Friday Nov 1, 2013

Speaker: Imam Mohamad Jebara

Location: Kanata Muslim Association

POINTS TO BE COVERED:

1- Islam promotes intellectual maturity and encourages one to have an open mind.

2- The Qur`an always address the intellect, never the emotions. Allowing Emotions to guide us, will lead to disaster. 

3- Bigotry, intolerance, an absence/lack of intellectual maturity are innovated, are imported concepts, foreign to traditional, main stream Islamic thought.

BODY OF THE SERMON:

As we grow, we naturally mature physically, however, not all people naturally intellectually and spiritually mature. TheQur`an utilizes various figurative phrases to allude to intellectual maturity. Among these are Ulul-Albab, Ulul-Absar, andMan Kana Lahu Qalb, which mean respectively, 'people of mature intellects', 'people of foresight' and 'one who has a vibrant intellect'. Indeed, a vibrant intellect is one, which continuously changes and evolves over time. This is a contrast to a static intellect, that refuses to grow or expand. Repeatedly, Almighty God (Most Praised and Glorified) reminds us that He can be known through the intellect, and that only the intellectually mature can truly comprehend who He is, saying:

"Indeed, in these are signs for people who are intellectually mature."

The dark ages of human civilization and advancement have always coincided with the absence of vibrant intellects and intellectual maturity. Once one completely shuns the other side of an argument they automatically limit their intellectual maturity and development. In fact, when the Qur`an comes to object to a certain ideology, it first presents it from the point of view of those who believe it, presenting their arguments, after which, the Qur`an dissects each argument pointing out its flaws. When you hear both sides of a debate, sometimes, both sides have excellent arguments and thus, it causes you to dig deeper and research more in order to uncover the truth of the matter. 


Almighty God (Most Praised and Glorified) said: 

"And dialogue with them in a most befitting manner in order that you may come to understand the truth." 

It is essential that people be able to hear other opinions and differ without such differences causing dissension and discord.

God (Most Praised and Glorified) said: 

"The most Merciful God, created humans and taught them dialogue!" 

This verse is a vibrant indication that dialogue is a mercy and a source of mercy, for God connected it with His attribute of mercy in this most sacred of Qur`anic chapters. As such, dialogue is good, and having differing opinions is a source of mercy. The great Islamic maxim states: 

"The differing of Jurists is a source of mercy!" 

The great jurist Imam Abu Hanifah (May God be pleased with him) once said: 

"This is our opinion in these matters, and we will not force our opinion on others, nor do we permit anyone to say, that our opinion must be forced upon people..." 

The great jurist Imam Ibnu Abdil-Barr narrated a dialogue that took place between his teacher Imam Ahmad Ibnu 'Abdil-Malik and himself. The issue at hand was that Imam Ahmad Ibnu 'Abdil-Malik believed that raising the hands during the prayer was the more preferred opinion in his view. So when Imam Ibnu Abdil-Barr inquired about why he does not do it, he wisely responded saying: 

"I will not contradict the narration of Imam Ibnil-Qasim, since the consensus of scholars accepts it today, and to contradict the consensus in trivial matters is not abefitting characteristic of scholars!

Indeed, these statements are true examples of intellectual maturity. That one utilizes wisdom and an open mind in scholarship. Even in matters of disagreement, these great scholars acted with intellectual maturity. Imam Ahmad IbnuHambal was once fiercely debating one of his colleagues and their voices were raised in disagreement. After the debate, they walked together in friendship and respect as if they had never disagreed. 

CONCLUSION: 
In our tradition we are taught to judge with justice & fairness, looking at every aspect of a situation with a rational, intellectual and logical manner. Anything reminiscent of emotions, we are advised to discard, for judging through raging emotions often leads to wronging others. This is the eternal struggle between the Nafs (emotions/personal desires), & the 4 needed to balance her effect; 'Aql (intellect/logic/rationalism), 'Adl (balance/justice/moderation), Ihsan (Love/Benevolence/Excellence/Perfection/Beauty) and Haqq (Truth)!

ACTION PLAN:

1. Remain open-minded and tolerant. You do not have to agree with everyone and everything, but you can nevertheless embrace the good from all, while rejecting that, which is irrational, unjust and untrue.

2. Distinguish between people and ideas. Just because you do not like a particular idea, it does not mean you cannot be friends with the person who believes it. Likewise, just because you do not like a particular person it does not mean that you should reject everything they say, even if it is good and true.

3. Accept/appreciate truth and Wisdom from all. 

FURTHER READING:

For further reading on a variety of topics, kindly visit:

AFGHANISTAN: At least 10 people injured on Friday in a bomb


Nov 1, 2013

At least 10 people were injured on Friday in a bomb attack on a wedding party in Afghanistan's Baghlan province, less than a week after a similar attack in Ghazni province killed 18 (Pajhwok). The victims included four women and three children, who were immediately transported to a local hospital; two remain in critical condition. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Taliban has been blamed for similar incidents in the past, as they believe the music and entertainment at wedding parties are unacceptable (Dawn).

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) announced on Wednesday that it will launch a campaign against the sexual abuse and slavery of young boys in Afghanistan (RFE/RL). The practice, called bacha bazi, is widespread among powerful men in Afghanistan and is showing no signs of decline. The AIHRC's campaign will try to raise awareness of the problem over the next six months and discuss how to address its causes and its effects. According to the AIHRC, male prostitution - one of the practice's effects - used to be considered shameful, but is now considered a source of pride (Pajhwok). Bonus read: "Bacha Bazi: An Afghan tragedy," Chris Mondloch (AfPak). 

Nearly 3,000 Afghan public representatives, tribal elders, subject matter experts, and government representatives will be attending this month's Loya Jirga to advise the Karzai administration on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), though the dates of the assembly are still undecided (Pajhwok). According to the Afghan government, the participants will discuss the draft security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States in 50 committees over a four- to seven-day period. Some civil society groups have criticized the decision to hold the jirga, saying it is actually an attempt to delay next year's presidential and provincial council elections - a claim government officials deny. These officials insist the jirga will be focused solely on aspects of the BSA, such as which country will have jurisdiction over U.S. troops who commit crimes in Afghanistan.

A message to my gay Muslim brothers and sisters

Assaalamu'alikum (peace be upon you)


I sent this message to a local Ottawa Muslim list and want to share it with you:



I have no idea who is on this list or who reads the many messages I send out on a daily basis. I do get some occasional feedback from people who are not on this list that they receive my postings from list members, so I thank those anonymous people for their forwards.


As you know, I don't shy away from talking about controversial or sensitive issues because I feel that anything that has to do with the human condition is worthy of discussion. 

I do not believe in taboos. 

We all approach Islam, and life in general, in different ways based upon our lived experiences and biographies. Many of you have a rich and full social life while others, like myself, live a life of almost complete solitude. Some of you don't have any or only minor health issues while others, again like myself, struggle through life experiencing a lot of discomfort and pain. Some of you are quite financially secure while others struggle to make ends meet from cheque to cheque. Some of you have successful careers while others have poorly paid and dead-end jobs with little or no hope for advancement or even recognition for what they do. We all, however, have our own personal struggles, regardless of our station in life, some of them very difficult indeed. 

The range of people reading this message, no doubt, is quite wide. 

Just prior to me writing this message I was reading about gay Muslims and their many struggles to gain acceptance in the Muslim community and how they are looked down upon and ostracized, and I felt a profound sadness in my heart for these people. Their rejection and marginalization is a sign that compassion is lacking in our hearts and has been replaced with a judgmental attitude, which is antithetical to the teachings of Islam, at least as I understand it. 

I want you to know -- and I swear by Allah -- that if you, sitting there in front of your screen reading this message, have become aware you are gay or are struggling with your sexuality I will accept you as an equal and fellow Muslim like I would any other Muslim. I will not judge you. I will not look down upon you. I will not see you as a lesser or more sinful person. I will accept you as Allah has made you and will never turn against you based upon your sexuality. I know what it is like to be perceived of as being "different" and how it hurts not to feel part of the group. This has been my path most of my life, even before I became Muslim.

You do not need to be alone. Other people -- fellow Muslims -- share my views and, to the best of our abilities, will support you and lend you a sympathetic ear and will not betray your confidence. It is not a question of either being gay or Muslim. You are what you are by the grace of Allah, and Allah loves you regardless. Do you understand? Allah loves you regardless of your sexuality. You do not have to leave Islam, your home is right here within the ever loving embrace of your Creator and your supportive brothers and sisters, including myself.

Things will get better, don't despair. If you need to talk, know that someone is there who will not judge you or try to change you in any way. 

Shawn

Is the Muslim Brotherhood Using Puppies as Bombs? (Spoiler: No.)

Posted By David Kenner Nov 1, 2013


Here's a story fit for Halloween from CBS's New York affiliate (hat tip to journalist Patrick Galey): According to reporter Amy Dardashtian, Muslim Brotherhood members marching on Tahrir Square were caught "using puppies as gas bombs -- dipping them in gasoline and lighting them on fire."

This tale was from a pet rescuer in New Jersey, who received a Facebook message from an Egyptian activist claiming that two pups had been rescued just before being turned into flammable weapons by Islamist protesters. The claim was the latest in a line of sometimes outlandish claims about the Muslim Brotherhood -- including reports that the group has infiltrated the Obama administration, or that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is tied to the group. 

Happily for Cairo's canine population, there is virtually no chance this is true. Not only would weaponizing puppies be wildly impractical, there is no documented evidence of this occurring -- nor has the Brotherhood been able to stage protests in Tahrir Square since Morsy was toppled this summer. The rescue worker who relayed the story, when contacted by Galey, said that she did nothing to verify the allegation.

CBS removed the claim without explanation from the latest version of its story, but it still lives on in the Examiner and Israel National News.

Turkish PM praises 'end of discrimination' with removal of ban on headscarves in Parliament

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency -- Nov 1, 2013


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has praised the entry of lawmakers wearing headscarves into the Parliament in his pre-recorded monthly address to the nation aired on Oct. 31, saying that the government had put an end to a “discriminatory practice.”

“The new democratization package aims to strengthen our economy, stability, peace and security. With this package we are doing away with meaningless bans and outdated practices that have lost their purpose or importance, as well as impositions that restrict freedoms and that create unease among varying segments across society,” Erdoğan said.

“Those who don’t wear headscarves are as much this country’s citizens as those who wear headscarves. Both have the same rights and freedoms. Displaying favoritism to one against the other is not in line with the principles of equality and justice. Seeing one as an accepted citizen while disdaining the other is against the public conscience and human values,” he added. 

The prime minister also rejected attempts to label headscarves as a "political symbol." “Terming the headscarf as a political symbol [is something] that can only be as a result of ignorance. People in this country who have abided by their religious beliefs have been deprived of certain opportunities and have had to bear living with greatly unjust conditions,” Erdoğan said, adding that the lifting of the ban would allow normalization" to occur across the nation.

“We are only ensuring Turkey’s normalization, instituting equal opportunities and putting an end to discrimination which was aimed to polarize our citizens ... We never had the intention of altering the balance for one side, while correcting it for the other side,” he added.

Four female lawmakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) entered a General Assembly meeting in Parliament on Oct. 31, 14 years after the then Welfare Party (RP) lawmaker Merve Kavakçı was expelled from the parliamentary sitting.

Main opposition leader ‘happy’

For his part, main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also expressed his satisfaction. “I am very happy today,” the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader told reporters without elaborating on his comments concerning the presence of deputies with headscarves at the parliamentary session. “I thank all our deputies who made speeches at Parliament,” he added.

Government spying? Fear for yourself

TIMOTHY GARTON ASH

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Nov. 01 2013


Big Brother has never had it so good. Why? Technology. The amount of private information you share on your smartphone, and the ease with which spies can now access it, make the Stasi look like a medieval relic. Unfortunately, it’s not just spies who are tracking your every move. It is also phone-hacking British journalists and data-devouring, for-profit U.S. Internet companies.

The essential good that’s under threat from all these technology-empowered agents can also be spelled out in one word: privacy. “Privacy is dead. Get over it,” a Silicon Valley boss once reportedly remarked. Some of us don’t accept that. We believe that preserving individual privacy is essential not just to human dignity but to freedom and security.

The difficulty is that privacy is at once essential to and in tension with both freedom and security. A cabinet minister who keeps his mistress in satin sheets at the taxpayer’s expense cannot justly object when the press exposes him. The citizen’s freedom to scrutinize public figures trumps the minister’s claim to privacy. But where and how do we draw the line between genuine public interest and what merely interests the public? Equally, if we are to be protected from terrorists on our daily commute to work, some potentially dangerous people must have their phones bugged and e-mails read. But who, how many and with what controls?

The essence of what the reporting of Edward Snowden’s leaks has revealed is that those checks and balances were not working properly in the United States and Britain. The U.S. National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters were simply hoovering up too much data on too many private individuals in too many countries, using the leeway provided by outdated, overbroad laws and inadequate parliamentary or congressional oversight. The fact that President Barack Obama’s administration and the U.S. Congress reportedly now intend to tighten things up, and Britain is edging in that direction, demonstrates that something was wrong. Would they be springing into action if not for the whistleblower and a free press?

Recently, the debate has gone off at a tangent about supposedly friendly governments spying on each other. That’s a different question. If I am the government of country X, of course I want my own secrets to be entirely secure while I can covertly access those of all other governments. In practice, everyone tries it on. There is a case to be made that if the world’s defence ministries were to all spy the Kevlar underpants off each other, the world might actually be a safer place.

But that is not what this debate should be about. The vital issue here is the privacy of innocent individual citizens. A free press has struck a blow for our privacy when legal and parliamentary controls had fallen short. But spies are not the only people to use contemporary communications technology to violate the privacy of individuals without good cause. The British satirical magazine Private Eye captures this brilliantly. Under the headline Merkel Fury At Obama Phone Hacking, it shows a photo of the German chancellor grimly clasping her cellphone. Her superimposed speech bubble says: “Who do you think you are? Rupert Murdoch?”

Even as British Prime Minister David Cameron and columnists in Murdoch-owned British papers denounce the Guardian for endangering national security, former Murdoch tabloid editor Rebekah Brooks goes on trial. The charges originate in journalists hacking into the phones of private individuals. This was done in the interests not of national security but of national titillation – commercial gain.

So if a free press is needed to check the surveillance excesses of the state, most of the British public also wants to see curbs on the surveillance excesses of a free press. But they don’t want those powers in the hands of politicians – with good reason, witness a recent attempt by the chairman of Britain’s Conservative Party to whip the British Broadcasting Corp. into line.

Yet on Wednesday, we saw a cumbersome and antiquated attempt to underpin enhanced self-regulation of the British press through a Royal Charter passed in Privy Council. The Privy Council is, in practice, a few senior ministers from the governing parties, standing (not sitting) in the presence of Her Majesty, who simply says, “Approved.” And that’s it.

Still, all it does is to establish a mechanism for officially recognizing a press self-regulation body that many leading newspapers (including the Murdoch group) are saying they won’t submit for recognition. What’s more, the very idea of regulating “the press” in a national framework is fast becoming anachronistic. Where does “the press” end, and Twitter or Facebook begin?

Meanwhile, data is spilling not just across all platforms but also across national frontiers. So the EU aims to enforce stronger protection for the privacy of Europeans, against U.S. giants, through a new directive. But brings the danger of fragmenting the Internet into sovereign patches, which authoritarian regimes would welcome. Privacy for some could then be enhanced at the cost of freedom of expression for all.

What’s the answer? There is no easy one, but let’s at least keep our eyes on the right target, which is not states spying on states. It’s this massive erosion of privacy – your privacy.

Timothy Garton Ash is professor of European studies at Oxford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Immigration is changing, but "no crisis" for allophones in schools, researcher says

BY CATHERINE SOLYOM, GAZETTE EDUCATION REPORTER OCTOBER 31, 2013

http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Immigration+changing+crisis+allophones+schools+researcher+says/9109372/story.html

MONTREAL — In a whole year of surveying more than 400 parents, teachers and students about the challenges of integrating children from different cultures into the Quebec school system, the spectre of the hijab was not raised once.

But research conducted for the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys during the first year of its ambitious two-year project known as Vivre ensemble en français, did raise a lot of other issues not covered by the proposed Charter of Values — like the role of teachers, but also parents, and the community at large, in transmitting Quebec culture to these new Quebecers.

“There is no crisis in interculturalism, integration, immigrants, or the French language,” said Michel Venne, executive director of the Institut du Nouveau Monde, which conducted the meetings on behalf of the CSMB.

“But the reality of the school board has evolved over the last few years. The nature of immigration is changing, it’s more diverse and immigrants don’t come from the same countries they did years ago. So all of that changes the reality and poses new challenges to which we have to adapt.”

In a school board where 62 per cent of students and 10 per cent of teachers are now allophones, how best to get the children speaking French — and quickly — is more than a passing concern.

At Amis-du-Monde school in Côte-St-Luc for example, where the report on the Vivre Ensemble project was made public Thursday, 80 per cent of the students are non-francophones from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.

In one kindergarten classe d’accueil — or reception class — children dressed as princesses and brides, superheroes and ghouls were asked to identify pictograms of a female police officer, then a hairdresser and a chef.

“And what’s this called?” the teacher asked. “A haunted house.”

Even Halloween is a learning experience, although the teacher admitted that some children whose families don’t celebrate it may have “called in sick.”

“Some parents are not very open at first to these classes,” said Renée Guimont. “They are not happy about their kids going to French school. I understand. But it’s such a gift. I tell them your 5-year-old is learning a fourth language. I’m 52 and I speak 1¼ languages.”

Diane-Lamarche Venne, president of the CSMB said some schools are now 100 per cent allophone.

“So we wanted to know whether our ways of teaching were still relevant. ... One of the answers we got is that teachers want help. It’s a real challenge to find cultural references for them to use and provide them innovative tools.”

Another concern that was raised was how to instill a sense of belonging in Quebec society to children from all corners of the world.

Aida Kamar, president of Vision Diversité, another partner in the project, said her group conducted activities at 32 schools to see how to promote Quebec culture, enriched by the contributions of immigrant communities, through tours of the city, video projects, and the Festival de NOUS, for example, which stands for Nos Origines, Une Société, (Our origins, one society) — not “Jacques Parizeau’s nous,” Kamar said.

A third aspect of the project involved the creation of a special research centre, made up of professors from the Université de Montréal and also researchers from the health and social services department, the Quebec immigration department and community groups. Over the second year of the project, research topics will range from Roma students in LaSalle to how post-traumatic stress disorder before, during or after immigration can affect the learning process in Montreal schools.

csolyom@montrealgazette.com

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Canadian government defends Iran’s ‘diplomatic assets’ against lawsuits by terror victims

Stewart Bell | 31/10/13 

TORONTO — A year after suspending relations with Iran and designating the regime a state sponsor of terrorism, the Canadian government was in court on Thursday to defend Tehran’s diplomatic assets from lawsuits by terror victims.

The awkward scene unfolded in a Toronto courtroom where victims of Iranian-backed terrorist organizations are trying to collect damages from the Islamic republic under the newly enacted Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

While Iran has ignored the lawsuits, the Canadian government has stepped in to argue that the Iranian embassy, official residence, staff quarters and two bank accounts are “diplomatic assets” of Tehran and cannot be awarded to victims of terrorism.

“The concern of the Attorney-General of Canada is interference with diplomatic property,” Jacqueline Dais-Visca, a Department of Justice lawyer, told the court. “This is about Canada exercising its obligations under international law.” READ MORE.....

CSIS exaggerated case on Montreal man in Sudan jail, watchdog says

CSIS reported inaccurate and exaggerated information to partner agencies about Abousfian Abdelrazik’s case, a watchdog says.

By: Jim Bronskill The Canadian Press, Published on Thu Oct 31 2013


OTTAWA—Canada’s spy agency inappropriately disclosed personal and classified information about a Montreal man while he was imprisoned in Sudan, says a federal watchdog.

In its annual report tabled Thursday, the body that reviews the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service also says CSIS reported inaccurate and exaggerated information to partner agencies about Abousfian Abdelrazik’s case.

Abdelrazik, 51, was arrested but not charged during a 2003 visit to see his ailing mother in Sudan.

While in Sudanese custody, he was interrogated by CSIS about suspected extremist links.

In its report, the Security Intelligence Review Committee found no indication that CSIS had asked Sudanese authorities to arrest or detain Abdelrazik.

However, in the months prior to his arrest abroad, CSIS did keep its foreign intelligence allies up to date on any fresh information gleaned from the investigation of Abdelrazik, who denies any involvement with terrorism.

The review committee also found that Sudanese authorities remained under the mistaken impression that Canada, including CSIS, had supported the original decision to arrest and detain Abdelrazik.

This confusion might be explained by the fact the case was perceived as “an intelligence issue” — and it remained so in the minds of the Sudanese, the review committee’s report says.

Further complicating matters was the fact CSIS and Foreign Affairs — the two Canadian agencies most heavily involved in the case — were sometimes “at odds” with each other in carrying out their consular and intelligence work.

Upon learning of Abdelrazik’s detention in Sudan, CSIS “should have been more forthcoming” with Foreign Affairs in regard to what it knew “so as to ensure a more informed and co-ordinated Canadian response to his case,” the committee report adds.

Abdelrazik claims he was tortured by Sudanese intelligence officials during two periods of detention, but Canada says it knew nothing of the alleged abuse.

The review committee says the long-simmering case “did raise a number of concerns.”

First, while CSIS followed proper authorities in seeking approval to interview Abdelrazik following his initial imprisonment, the committee found “CSIS inappropriately, and in contravention of CSIS policy, disclosed personal and classified information.”

Second, in mid-2004, in preparation for Abdelrazik’s possible release, CSIS updated government partners on information it possessed — assessments the review committee says “contained exaggerated and inaccurately conveyed information.”

Finally, CSIS kept “a significant amount of information” in its operational databases about individuals who were not investigative targets in the probe.

Days after Abdelrazik’s second release from prison in July 2006, his name appeared on a United Nations Security Council blacklist that prevented him from flying back to Canada.

He was granted haven in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum, but Canada refused to issue him a travel document to fly home. It subsequently said Abdelrazik must have a valid plane ticket before a passport could be provided.

Even though a group of concerned Canadians bought him a ticket, no passport was forthcoming.

Abdelrazik, who has four children, finally returned to Montreal in June 2009. That same month, the Federal Court of Canada concluded CSIS was complicit in his 2003 detention.

Abdelrazik is suing both the federal government and former foreign affairs ministerLawrence Cannon.

The review committee says no recommendations flow from its study because there have already been substantial changes over the last decade in the way CSIS operates.

Still, it says valuable lessons can be drawn from the affair.

In addition, new information is still likely to emerge from documents held by other federal agencies, as well as from legal proceedings, the committee adds.

“As it stands, Abousfian Abdelrazik’s story has yet to be fully written.”