Saturday, November 9, 2013

David Miranda challenges his detention under Terrorism Act at High Court

By Robert Stevens 
9 November 2013

The High Court in London concluded a two-day hearing Thursday after David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, challenged his nine-hour detention under anti-terror legislation at Heathrow Airport on August 18 as unlawful.

The detention of Miranda and subsequent criminal investigation into him is historic (See: “The NSA spy scandal and the attack on press freedom”). His possessions were confiscated by the police, the first time journalistic materials have been seized under the pretext of the Terrorism Act. Miranda was then described as being involved in terrorist activity in papers prepared by the police, in league with the UK government and its intelligence agencies. READ MORE.....

Iraqi children face poverty, violence, exploitation

by Ali Mamouri  --- Al-Monitor

“He asks about his mother and his father and says that he wants to go to school. He still has not learned that his parents are gone, which would inevitably cause him an unhealable open wound.” This is how a grandfather described the situation of his grandson who is in the hospital after having lost his immediate family except for his younger sister in one of the blasts that rocked Baghdad in October 2013.

After more than 10 years of continuous terrorism in Iraq, it is nearly impossible to count the number of children with a similar story. A search on YouTube reveals hundreds of videos of children who have lost their loved ones, screaming in pain and crying out in bitterness as a result of the misery they are living in a country where childhood is desecrated. Terrorist groups in Iraq have not excluded children, as numerous attacks have targeted places where children are likely to be present. This was the case in the attack that targeted an elementary school in one of the villages in northwestern Iraq on Oct. 6. This attack claimed the lives of more than a dozen children, while 44 were injured by the blast caused by two car bombs.

Child victims are not restricted to those killed in bombings or those who have lost their parents; there are other types of threats facing the children of Iraq. They are the primary target of criminal gangs that kidnap children to obtain a ransom from their parents. These children are often killed when their parents are unable to provide the required amounts or due to the kidnappers’ fear of being caught by the police. This is in addition to the increased cases of child rape in Iraq, where in most cases victims are killed after enduring brutal sexual violation. What is even more disturbing is that the child victims in some cases of rape and murder are around the age of five.

In addition to this, there are an increasing number of homeless children in Iraq. According to statistics, one out of every eight Iraqi children is displaced. They are usually exploited and sent to beg in the streets or to work under harsh conditions and sometimes even used as prostitutes. They are often exposed to physical or sexual abuse, and cases have been reported where they have been exploited to carry out terrorist acts. When children involved in terrorist acts are arrested, Iraqi law does not take into consideration their special situation. They are punished with sentences similar to those passed on adults, which often entail many years of imprisonment.

On another note, high rates of child labor in Iraq have been registered and some studies have shown that there are nearly 100,000 children in the Iraqi workforce. Moreover, 83% of Iraqi children have worked for their families on a permanent basis, without receiving any wage. Children usually work under dire and harmful conditions such as in garbage collection, brick and steel factories and farming. However, Article 29.b.3 of the Iraqi Constitution specifies that “economic exploitation of children shall be completely prohibited. The state shall take the necessary measures to protect them.” Yet, state institutions are not efficiently combating this phenomenon for many reasons, including the preoccupation by the government with issues of maintaining security and fighting terrorism. The emergence of widespread child labor in Iraq is furthermore an issue of utmost difficulty to deal with. In many cases, children are the breadwinners for their younger siblings and have no one else to rely on.

The rate of Iraqi children subject to domestic violence is very high. A report issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs revealed that five out of six Iraqi children are exposed to domestic violence across the country. Moreover, the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council examined the draft law on protection from domestic violence. The examination revealed numerous loopholes and defects in Iraqi laws related to the protection of children from violence. This is in addition to the difficulty of applying existing laws under the tribal structure that prevails over the majority of Iraqi society.

In addition to the lack of legislation and the Iraqi government’s inability to protect children, attempts by some religious parties that participate in the government have added to the miserable situation of children in Iraq. In the latest developments on this issue, the Iraqi Ministry of Justice submitted a draft personal status law based on some religious opinions, by virtue of which it is legally permitted to marry 9-year-old girls and 15-year-old boys. Moreover, according to this law, parents may marry off their girls under the age of 9 and their boys under the age of 15.

Researchers believe that the rising phenomenon of violence against children in its various forms will lead to several problems within Iraqi society. These include the emergence of distorted generations unable to assume a positive role in their community, continuously increasing levels of illiteracy and ignorance and growing rates of crime, violence and extremism within the community.

In light of these circumstances, the Iraqi government, having signed the international Convention on the Rights of the Child, must take serious and comprehensive measures to combat this phenomenon in its various forms. The most important measures that should be taken are implementing the law on compulsory education to all children, limiting attempts to legislate religious laws contrary to the interests of childhood, legislating strict laws aimed at holding households, employers and other groups associated with violence against children accountable, boosting the role of civil society to help the government protect children exposed to violence, as well as performing other procedures followed in civilized countries.

On Sexual Violence and Media Portrayal in Pakistan

November 9, 2013 By Merium

Years ago, loose gravel on a trail up Margalla Hills landed me in the emergency room with a sprained ankle. All I remember at the time was the excruciating pain radiating from my ankle and worrying if it was broken and whether I’d be able catch a plane on time to return to university. My mother and I were waiting for the doctor to finally see us when we heard a commotion in the main foyer. A muffled siren could be heard just outside and medical personnel whizzed by us, yelling orders, but even they couldn’t drown out the choked wails of several women who had gathered nearby. Curious and petrified in equal amounts, we watched as a little girl was wheeled into a nearby alcove, whimpering and shuffling under a yellowing sheet that covered much of her body. Only when the crowd started to disperse did my mother ask a passing aide about the commotion. She leaned in, face weary, and whispered that ever dreadful word: rape. We were stunned.

The horrific tale of this child never made the news. Then again, it was 1998, a time when incidences of violence against women and children were only occasionally reported in print editions of national newspapers. Recently, a five-year-old girl from a low-income neighborhood in Lahore was sexually assaulted and left outside a hospital in critical condition. This time around, however, news outlets were abuzz with the story and themedia hype was overwhelming, thanks to the internet and the 24 hour news cycle. It is a definite change from years past when the only TV channel was the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV), largely considered an extension of the government pulpit.

The era of purported “enlightened moderation” under former President Musharraf, coupled with the electronic media boom in 2002, saw an emergence of a number of private TV stations that provided audiences with additional news content, thereby providing a modicum of balance and neutrality to Pakistan’s news industry. Also on the agenda of various current affairs programming were attempts to address a number of socio-economic issues including crime and incidences of violence against women and children. Unfortunately, however, prevailing trends in the media’s treatment of female survivors of rape suggest levels of bias in addition to being exploitive in nature. This is partly evident in the news coverage of the aforementioned five-year old; CCTV footage of the girl being dropped off at the hospital by her alleged attacker(s) – no one has been formally charged– was played ad nauseam on TV channels. Additionally, the young survivor’s name was revealed (in addition to her face) and those of her family members thereby violating an unwritten code of ethics in the media industry when reporting about victims of sexual crime – particularly those so young. 

Let me preface this by saying that media plays an important role in shaping mindsets of readers and viewers. Reporting on such incidences also contributes to a sense of awareness about such crimes in a country where rape and violence is heavily stigmatized. Additionally, Pakistani media is largely sympathetic to the victim’s plight and the over-the-top reporting can also be construed as a knew-jerk reaction to a horrified public’s want for justice.

The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) issued a statement recently, appealing to the media “not to overplay the issue of a five-year-old rape victim.” They also asked political parties not to politicize the issue by visiting the girl and criticized media outlets for disclosing her identity. In “Covering Crime: How Pakistan Media Reports on Rape Cases”, a key report by Uks, a media advocacy and monitoring organization based in Islamabad, “women are first victimized by their perpetrators and then again by the media in large when they report in this exploitive manner” (p.34). The Uks report uses six case studies that received considerable media coverage over the past decade to highlight the extent to which survivors of sexual violence are unnecessarily and irresponsibly scrutinized and therefore subject to a “second round” of violence. The report also addresses the failure of the media to “offer linkages,” thereby treating every case as “an individual act of aggression”. Socio-cultural norms as they relate to women’s role in society or systemic indifference of the police and courts during legal redress are not fully addressed.

It bears mention that, as vulnerable members of society (by virtue of their socio-economic standing) women and children are subject to incidences of violence, exploitation and harassment. According to 2012 report by the Aurat Foundation (AF), in the first six months of 2012, a total of 4,585 cases of violence against women (VAW) were reported in the media across Pakistan. AF defines violence against women as any act or threat of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in, physical or psychological harm or suffering to women, including coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Incidences of reported cases of violence against women reported in 2012 had increased by 7 per cent from the year before, with the majority of the cases (approximately 59 percent) of victims below 18 years of age – making young Pakistani girls the most susceptible to such violence. Thirty one per cent were 19-36 years old and the remaining 9 percent were over 36 years of age. Additionally, Madadgaar National Helpline says that from January to October 2012, as many as 5,659 cases of violence against children were recorded in Pakistan, of which 407 were cases of sexual assault. Both Aurat Foundation and Madadgar National Helpline also add that many cases of assault still go unreported.

In addition to incidences of violence against their person, women also have to contend with the possibility of being sexually harassed in public spaces. While such “bullying” seldom makes the news, it is offensive, intimidating and creates hostile work environments. It is also undeniably linked to socio-cultural norms which dictate women’s role in society and when combined with an entrenched patriarchal system, leads to unequal treatment of women. Pakistani workforce has yet to catch up with legislation that is meant to provide women with a safe working environment. Despite having made sexual harassment punishable by law – amending section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code and signing of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill in 2010 (a code of conduct to address harassment incidences at the work place) – implementation is weak and provisional data suggests that sexual harassment is still a formidable challenge, particularly for nurses and domestic workers.

I realize now that the medical aide should never have told us what happened to that little girl in the emergency room (additionally, we shouldn’t even have asked). Her professional response should have been, “I’m sorry we cannot release such information to the public.” But awareness of this code of ethics that underscores the need to protect and support survivors of such violence in a public setting requires training and informing all those who come in contact with them, and especially those in the media who have the power to influence opinion and sway judgement. So far, Uks, along with several key members of civil society has taken the all-important step to provide gender-sensitive code-of-ethics for print media in Pakistan. In the long run, the media can play an essential role in “minimizing harm” to survivors of such crimes.

Op-Ed: Uncertainty about treatment and rights increases suffering


The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled in the case of Hassan Rasouli, a Toronto man who has been on life support since 2010. Hisdoctors consider continued life support to be futile, even harmful to Rasouli. His wife, Parichehr Salasel — herself a physician — refused consent to withdrawing treatment both because of her medical assessment and her husband’s values regarding the sanctity of life.

The Supreme Court had to decide whether consent is required to withdraw life support when doctors consider it futile, or whether consent is only required for treatments that doctors are willing to provide. When doctors want to stop treating, it was unclear whether patients (or their families) could refuse consent to the withdrawal of treatment. If so, consent would effectively create an entitlement to treatment (specifically life support).

The case must have been difficult for the court: if it found for Rasouli, doctors would sometimes have to treat against their clinical judgment. Also, although resource allocation was not an issue before the court, the judges knew that finding for Rasouli would give some patients a claim to expensive treatment of little or no benefit. On the other hand, finding for the doctors might give too little weight to patient autonomy.

The Supreme Court held that consent is required for doctors to remove Rasouli’s life support. This does not necessarily mean he will be kept on life support indefinitely. Consent given by a family member for a loved one must be in the patient’s best interests. The doctors may yet argue that continued life support is not in Rasouli’s best interests. If the Ontario Consent and Capacity Board agrees, life support could legally be withdrawn.

It may seem sensible to resolve such disputes on the basis of the patient’s best interests. However, the court’s decision has some troubling implications, and a great deal of uncertainty remains.

The troubling implications include requiring doctors to provide treatment they consider to be contrary to good medical practice. In an earlier case in Manitoba, three doctors quit their job rather than be forced to provide end of life care under circumstances they considered “tantamount to torture.”

Another implication relates to the best use of medical resources. I do not believe that ICUs will now fill up with people who want life support at all costs. Many of us do not want that for ourselves or for our families. Nevertheless, given the need to ration our limited health care resources, any legal entitlements to expensive treatment of little or no medical value should be debated.

In addition, there is still much uncertainly in the wake of Rasouli. First, because the court based its decision on the definition of the term “treatment” in Ontario’s Health Care Consent Act (HCCA), the case arguably has no application outside Ontario.

There is also uncertainty regarding the types of treatments that require consent. The Supreme Court held that consent is required to withdraw mechanical ventilation. It did not hold that all withdrawals of life-sustaining treatment require consent. Given the court’s reasoning, a doctor may be entitled to place a “do not resuscitate” order on a patient’s chart without consent, or perhaps to withhold artificial hydration and nutrition without consent. Or maybe not.

This uncertainty inevitably means more litigation, and more stress and suffering by patients.

The issue of who decides whether patients may have treatment that doctors do not want to provide — at the end of life and otherwise — should not be resolved on the basis of the statutory definition of “treatment” in the Health Care Consent Act. Rather, legislatures should consult with the public and other stakeholders, and should then make clear what the rules are.

Hilary Young teaches in the Faculty of Law at the University of New Brunswick.

Polio comeback threatens Europe

Health professionals fear unsuspecting refugees fleeing from Syria could spread virus


Polio, the crippling virus driven to the brink of extinction, may return to Europe as regional conflicts undermine a $10-billion US eradication campaign.

Polio's re-appearance in Syria last month after a 14-year absence raises the risk that the virus will hitch a ride on unsuspecting refugees fleeing the country and return to areas, including Europe, that have been polio-free for decades, according to a letter published in the The Lancet medical journal Friday.

"Polio is making a comeback," Martin Eichner, a professor at the University of Tuebingen who co-authored the letter to The Lancet, said. READ MORE.....

Honor Killing Plagues Yemen

By Catherine Shakdam
OnIslam Correspondent

Saturday, 09 November 2013

SANAA – In a country of contradiction and extremes, Yemen stands like two faces of a coin on the one side it aspire to transform itself into a modern civil state and the other a remote tribal country plagued by honor killing associated with cultural and tribal laws, which often contradicts with the teachings of the Qur’an.

“Honour killings are a problem in Yemen, a deeply tribal and conservative country,” Ahmed al-Qureshi, Yemen’s most prominent child advocate and Head of Seyaj organization, told READ ONLINE.....

Muslims are targeted in threatening 'FBCI' calls

By BILL SHERMAN World Staff Writer -- Nov 9, 2013

Three Oklahoma Muslims have been targeted in a phone scam, said Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The three, all immigrants who live in the Oklahoma City area, received calls Thursday or Friday from someone claiming to be with the "Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation," Soltani said, an apparent attempt to convey that they were with the FBI.

The callers said the immigrants were under investigation and needed to provide information. They were told that if they failed to so, they would face legal consequences, Soltani said.

"This was kind of a scary phone call," he said, especially for people unfamiliar with the American legal system.

A number of CAIR chapters around the nation have received similar complaints in recent weeks from their members who were contacted by someone claiming to be a federal agent. Some of the so-called agents demanded money to correct alleged problems with the person's immigration records.

Humera Jabir in Toronto Star: Quebec must respect women's right to choose the hijab

Quebec must respect women's right to choose the hijab

Hundreds of women have spoken out saying they choose the hijab voluntarily, but many in Quebec ridiculously refuse to accept it.

By: Humera Jabir Published on Sat Nov 09 2013

Women who say they wear the hijab voluntarily are lying, according to Quebec’s latest pro-charter of values feminist movement. The Janettes, named for founder Janette Bertrand, are a group of 21 prominent Quebec women in support of the Quebec values charter who see religious women as naïve at best and totally dominated at worst.

Bertrand, at 88 years old, and another member of the group Denise Filiatrault, at 82, are influential public personalities viewed as pioneers of Quebec feminism. An open letter published by the group in mid-October called on Quebecers to defend against the resurgence of religion as a threat to gender equality. The group sees allowing public servants to wear religious symbols as turning back the clock on gender progress and threatening the province’s return to the control of men and the church. They have galvanized fresh support for the charter with thousands attending a Janettes rally in Montreal last Saturday, and collecting over 39,000 signatures for a petition in favour of the charter online.

Of all the ostentatious religious symbols however, it is the hijab that raises the most ire among Janettes. Though hundreds of women have now taken to the streets and spoken out saying they choose the hijab voluntarily, as an act of faith and part of their identities, the Janettes refuse to acknowledge this view altogether saying they simply don’t believe them. Contrary to feminist movements that seek to empower women’s voices, the Janettes have made every effort to silence the women at the centre of their so-called emancipation project.

Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab are also objects of derision. Filiatrault, on air earlier this month, called Muslim women who say the hijab is their choice crazy and clowns, insisting they have no choice and are forced into wearing the hijab by their families (though she later apologized for some of her comments). Bertrand compares women choosing to wear the hijab with herself as a young girl, attending church because she was indoctrinated and too simple to know any better.

Oddly enough, the Janettes forget their own origins. The group takes its name from the Yvettes — a historic political mobilization of Quebec women during the 1980 Quebec referendum. The Yvette movement marked an important moment in Quebec women’s history, with thousands of women taking part in political life. It was sparked however by a single derisive comment from the then Parti Québécois Status of Women Minister Lise Payette who stated that Quebec women supporting the federalist side were like Yvette, a submissive young girl featured in old school books, simply following their husbands’ politics and unable to make decisions for themselves.

This precise characterization of women as submissive — rejected by the Yvette movement of the 1980s — is used by the Janettes today to undermine Muslim women who make the choice to wear the veil. Hijab-wearing women are painted as Yvettes; docile, manipulated by their husbands, and too brainwashed to recognize their oppression. Their ability to choose the hijab without the influence of their husband or families is questioned. And if they do in fact make this choice, it is not one to be respected. The Janette position is underpinned by blatant paternalism: since Muslim women are unable to choose freedom for themselves, government must legislate it for them through the charter.

Bertrand anecdotally says she knows of many Muslim women forced into wearing the hijab who would take it off if the charter passes. This may indeed be the case for some women. However, excluding women who are forced to wear the hijab from employment opportunities in the public sector will do nothing to advance their social or economic independence. Moreover, the signal such discrimination sends to private sector employers would only continue to marginalize vulnerable women, further exacerbating their situation. The Janettes concern for women forced to wear the hijab begins and ends with public outcry, imposing new barriers and offering no substantive solutions.

But even paternalism has its limits. The ultimatum that underscores the Janettes’ argument speaks volumes: either you accept our vision of your liberty, or you leave your employment. Better yet, you leave Quebec. Though choice is denied to Muslim women in the fundamental matter of religious practice, it is fully restored when it comes to the consequences. If the charter passes, women who continue wearing the hijab will simply be choosing to leave their jobs. And there is no compulsion in that.

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

Wallin decried lack of law in Senate, but has she met Omar Khadr?

Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Nov. 08 2013

“It’s an extremely sad day for democracy,” quoth Pamela Wallin after her suspension from the Senate. “If we can’t expect the rule of law in Canada, where can we expect it?”

Good question. Too bad she asked it only for herself, and never for the Canadians and long-time residents of Canada who have endured serious injustice for years at the hands of their government and its intelligence agencies. These are men who have been deprived of the rule of law, due process, or at least the fundamental fairness that most of us take for granted as the Canadian way. For many, their plight remains.

Yet except for Maher Arar and Omar Khadr, how many Canadians have even heard of Mohamed Mahjoub, Adel Benhmuda, Mohamed Harkat, Abousfian Abdelrazik, Adil Charkaoui, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, or Muayyed Nureddin?

All these men have much in common, beginning, not accidently, with their distinctive names. Beyond that, each has been, and many still are, the victim of years of injustice at the hands first of the Liberal government, then the Harper government. Each has suffered physical and/or psychological torture. Each has been plunged into a world that is more Kafka than Canada – at least the gentle Canada of myth and wishful thinking.

Extremely long stories short:

Among the best-known victims of KafCanada is Maher Arar, a Canadian who was kidnapped by American officials and “rendered” to Syria for torture on the basis of wholly fabricated information provided by our own Canadian Security Intelligence Service. As both Canada and Syria eventually agreed, he was guilty of nothing –except having the wrong name and birthplace. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was obligated to issue a formal apology.

The most controversial of these men by far is Omar Khadr, a Canadian accused of having murdered an American soldier in a firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15 year old. Many believe that Mr. Khadr was innocent of the charge and point out that he was a child soldier and that soldiers killing soldiers in a war is not a crime. Neither the Canadian government nor CSIS could care less. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a CSIS interrogation of Mr. Khadr in Guatanamo had violated his rights. Even today our government treats him as if he were one of the 9/11 terrorists.

Some will know about Abousfian Abdelrazik, another Muslim Canadian whose life was ruined by his own Canadian government. While visiting Sudan, his birthplace, Mr. Abdelrazik was detained at the request of CSIS, endured physical and psychological torture, and was repeatedly betrayed by the Harper government, which refused to let him return home to Montreal. His forced exile lasted six years. He’s been convicted of nothing and there’s no evidence to link him to terrorists. The Federal Court has ruled that CSIS was complicit in Mr. Abdelrazik’s detention and just last week the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which monitors CSIS, agreed that the spy agency had inappropriately disclosed classified information about Mr. Abdelrazik to Sudan.

Certain of these cases involved what to the layperson seems perplexing decisions by the courts. This can be seen, for example, in the case of Mohamed Mahjoub, an Egyptian living in Canada for many years. The Federal Court has just ruled that his branding as a terrorist threat to Canada, based on secret evidence, is reasonable even though the government had violated his constitutional rights and he has never been charged with a crime. Yet for the past 13 years Mr. Mahjoub’s freedom has been severely restricted by a notorious “national security certificate” that allows for indefinite detention without charge or trial. The court ruling upholds that certificate even though this judge also found that Mr. Mahjoub’s “right to a fair trial pursuant to…the Charter and right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure have been violated.”

Back in 2009, a majority of Parliament’s public safety committee urged the Prime Minister to issue an apology and compensation to three of these Canadians – Mr. Almalki, Mr. El Maati and Mr. Nureddin – all of whom had been jailed and tortured in Syria. They also demanded that the government cease providing information, often speculative, to regimes that use torture. The Conservatives on the committee dissented. The men, none ever charged, wait still.

All these men have their advocates and support groups, none of them warmly appreciated by the Harper government. Yet they remain determined to fight for fundamental human rights and basic fairness.

Now that she has more spare time, perhaps Ms. Wallin and her supporters would like to join their often lonely, rarely publicized crusades.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Don't make fun!

Just Your Average Teenage Muslim (Shapeshifter) Girl From Jersey

November 6, 2013 


It’s official: Muslims are cool. The latest Muslim superhero in town, Kamala Khan, promises to get people talking about Islam—and not in a bad way.

Khan, aka ‘Ms. Marvel,’ isn't faster than a speeding bullet, but she’s got some pretty nifty powers, including shape shifting, which is something I wish I could do on almost a daily basis. Like all superheroes (and all Muslims these days), Kamala has her share of problems. But instead of a villain or two, her biggest nemesis promises to be her own family: an ultra-conservative brother who would rather she wear a burka and cook chapattis; a mother obsessed with protecting her from sex and pregnancy; a father who wants her to become a doctor – until she gets married that is. How very Muslim/Pakistani!

Kamala will be the reason I pick up my very first Marvel comic, and it may excite a new demographic of comic readers in the form of Muslim women who prefer to read more serious stuff on their way to their conferences or sit-ins. Tweets have been largely encouraging (mostly from Muslim women but there have been a sprinkling from men not afraid to empower the women in their societies):
Marvel Comics' new hero is a teenage Muslim girl of Pakistani descent called Kamala Khan. I'm sure her anti-hero is a Mullah. — Zuhayr Merchant (@ZuhayrMerchant) November 6, 2013
Marvel introduces #Muslim girl superhero Kamala Khan who destroys bad guys and stereotypes! :) THIS IS AWESOME!— Agratha Dinakaran (@Agratha) November 6, 2013
Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-origin Muslim American is the new Ms. Marvel! Abso-friggin-awesome!— Anthony Permal (@anthonypermal) November 6, 2013

Kamala Khan: Marvel's first Muslim-American female superhero. My Q is: will she use her powers to fight drones? …— Rozina Ali (@rozina_ali) November 5, 2013
Meet Kamala Khan, the New Teenage Muslim MS. MARVEL Look Ma, no headscarf! One stereotype down, 7 more to go...— omar ali (@omarali50) November 6, 2013
What makes Kamala so fascinating is her dual identity, something many American Muslims struggle with, as did the Jewish immigrants who created the classic superheroes of the 20th century. Then there’s the fact that she’s a girl (and we all know that the world sorely needs more female role models who don’t twerk).

In the real world, perhaps the most significant role model for Muslim (and even many non-Muslim) girls today is Malala Yousafzai, so it's not unreasonable to wonder whether Marvel is aiming to evoke Malala’s character and personality by naming their newest superhero Kamala, which is a very uncommon Pakistani name. More Pakistani women may have identified with her if had she been named Aisha or Salma, but then we might not visualize Malala’s brave face talking about her real-life crime fighting against the Taliban on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. So great choice Marvel, whether intentional or not.

As a Pakistani from New Jersey (though that may make her even more Paki than the rest of us) she has a unique perspective on the current love-hate relationship between the two nations. With the U.S. desperately trying to sway public opinion in its favor—what with all those pesky drones killing innocent kids and grandmothers—a Pakistani superhero may be just the thing to show that all good guys are actually American—even if they’ve arrived by way of a notoriously villain-filled region of the world. But Pakistan does have the second largest Muslim population in the world, so the probability of a new Muslim superhero being Pakistani are much higher than, say, Palestinian or Jordanian.

Like everything else remotely related to Muslims, female Muslims, or Pakistan, Kamala will no doubt have her naysayers. The negativity is already on the rise, with Pakistani Muslims in particular remaining skeptical about this latest attempt to make a hero out of one of their own—even if she is fictional. The suffocating patriarchal system in that country ensures that women who do something extraordinary are perceived as unfeminine, even un-Muslim (see, for example, recent attempts to label Malala a closet Christian, as if to say that she couldn’t be a real Muslim because Muslim women don’t behave like superheroes). 

Then there are the Muslims who are already protesting about her lack of hijab, her Hindu-sounding name, and even the fact that comics are forbidden (haram) because of their reliance on images. There are those comparing her to the Burka Avenger and finding her lacking because of her dress (although poor Burka Avenger also had her share of critics solely because of the burqa!)

But I’m not listening to those fools, because as a female American Muslim (the fact that I’m not a teenager anymore doesn’t mean I can’t relate) I refuse to bring our superheroes down; not just the fictional ones, but the real Muslim girls trying to be something, achieve some recognition for their abilities and talents, trying to fight not only crime but stereotypes, just like Kamala will probably do with great finesse. So I hope that come February the American public will all buy the new Marvel comics featuring Kamala/Malala/insert-your-own-name-here, and enjoy the journey. I certainly will.

National Muslim advocacy group calls PQ charter 'still discriminatory', urges opposition parties to reject it

- For immediate release -  

(Ottawa - November 8, 2013) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) says the newly tabled values charter revealed yesterday by the Quebec government heightens  earlier concerns that it will institutionalize discrimination and create two classes of citizenship in Quebec. 

"Instead of using established best practices when it comes to balancing rights, the proposed legislation uses an 'ends justify the means' approach to achieve its avowed objectives of state religious neutrality and equality," says Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM's Executive Director.

"This is an issue of human rights.  Religious freedom protects people's right to both practice and not practice a religion.  Without religious freedom, state religious neutrality has no real meaning," added Gardee.

"There is nothing in this bill that will help women of any group in their continued struggle for equality.  It will force women and others to choose between sincerely held religious convictions and employment. Furthermore, severely limiting some women's employment prospects or denying them public services can only serve to marginalize and stigmatize them," says Amy Awad, NCCM's Human Rights Coordinator.

The proposed legislation would exclude Muslim women who wear headscarves from employment in any public bodies as well as limiting their ability to work with private entities that provide services to the government.

"We call on all Quebecers to urge their elected representatives to vote for an inclusive Quebec, a Quebec for All, and against discrimination and xenophobia.  For many years Quebec has demonstrated a successful model for the positive cohabitation of people from a variety of religious and cultural groups.  The opposition parties should categorically reject the PQ's exclusionary proposal which has already heightened Islamophobia and undermined social cohesion," says Gardee.

NCCM is an independent, non-profit, grassroots organization that is a leading voice enriching Canadian society through Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.


Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, 
613-254-9704 or 613-853-4111 

Amy Awad, Human Rights Coordinator, 


Anne-France Goldwater: Quebec’s Charter is a frontal attack on equality for women

Anne-France Goldwater, Special to National Post 
| 08/11/13 Special to National Post

I am a feminist.

There. I said it. I’m a card-carrying, bra-burning feminist, and proud of it. I believe that our society still has a long way to go to promote the economic and political equality of women, and I live in one of the most pro-women societies on the earth: Quebec.

Quebec, you say? You mean that provincial backwater where the locals measure store signs and restaurant menu items with micrometers, on the off chance that a year-end sale or Italian pasta is offered to the public in… gasp!…some language other than French.

Yes, that Quebec.

Quebec, where women are forbidden by law to take their husband’s names. So Quebec women stopped marrying. Quebec, where women are not allowed to collect their alimony or child support all by themselves. So Quebec women are proud not to be allowed to claim alimony, and many zealously renounce to their child support. All in the name of equality, you see.

So, what new gimmick has the political party-du-jour come up with, to “promote” equality of women by inventing yet a new wave of State oppression? You guessed it: A “Charter.” And not just any charter, but a “Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests.” Yup, that charter.

Clearly, the Parti Québécois has somehow missed the citizenship lessons in elementary school where we were taught that Canada is already a constitutional democracy. Our Constitution – patriated by the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – already anchors the equality of the sexes as a foundational value of the entire country. The patriotic flag of gender equality is invariably waved whenever one of our sneakier leaders tries to pull a fast one on the population.

And so it is with the “charter.” At whom is this bill directed, you may ask. Well, it is directed at, and against, women. After all, it pertains to faces covered and uncovered, religious symbols that are modest or conspicuous. What group of people are contemplated by the face covered/uncovered paradigm? What group of people are targeted by the proscription against conspicuous religious symbols? Women; Muslim women. And all this under the watchful eye of Quebec’s first female Premier, Pauline Marois.

Quebeckers are rarely flustered by a kippa, or a keffiyeh, or a dastar, or even two pieces of wood lashed together to which a naked Jewish man is nailed. You see, these conspicuous religious symbols are displayed by men, or by large groups of Quebeckers in an élan of collective remembrance, hence no offence is given, and none received. It is the abaya, niqab, burqa, chador, dupatta and hijab that raise French ire. Because these are articles of clothing worn by women, and women have always been an easy group to oppress.

Let us consider a few sociological realities. Here, as elsewhere in North America, women are far more likely to work in the public sector. Women continue to earn less than men, a historical reality that has barely budged in the last 20 years. Women are more likely to work part-time, to have less seniority, and are somewhat less likely to be member of a union. And all of this, despite being on the average more educated than their fellow men (in Quebec, women of working age have on average two years more education than men of the same age).

Women are also very over-represented in certain professions: Childcare worker, elementary and high school teacher, college teacher (but not university professor), social service provider, and so on. Poll after poll shows that even when women become professionals (such as, let us say, lawyers), they are more likely to work in the public sector than in the private sector or as self-employed workers. This is a reality intimately tied to women’s greater responsibilities in child-rearing and home-making that make the shorter workweeks of the public sector so attractive.

The “charter” is very sensitive to this range of economic vulnerabilities of women.

Have you read about your average Quebecker expressing a visceral aversion to women childcare workers who wear a veil? Well, the PQ, ever the populist party, gives us Chapter VII, Rules Applicable to the Educational Childcare Services Sector, specifically to ensure no extraneous fabric is worn by a woman who deigns to seek a job at a daycare centre. And we all know how many men are likely to apply for such a job: zero.

Also, all religious instruction is banned in all daycare centers, if you read Section 30 closely. In fact, it will now be forbidden for any child to eat kosher or halal food. This is really a pity, because the compatibility of dietary rules between Jews and Muslims has often been a happy point of convergence between our communities, in an era when dialogue between our two groups is so important. But what if a group of parents would like their children to learn about the world’s religions and dietary habits? What if a group of religiously observant parents want their children to benefit from instruction about their religion? Since when has atheism, a belief system I hold dear, taken over as the new State religion?

Do I have to remind Quebeckers of La Grande Noirceur of the Union Nationale under Maurice Duplessis? Does anybody remember the Act to Protect the Province Against Communistic Propaganda, affectionately known as the Padlock Law? Does anybody today credit the fall of Communism to the efforts of our government to prevent right-thinking people from being “exposed” to a political belief system not approved from on high?

The “charter” goes on to affect school teachers at all levels of our educational system; again, mostly women. Health care providers and social service providers are targeted, and yes, that affects mostly women as well. Interestingly, an exception is reserved for physicians and pharmacists in Section 12, who remain free to refuse to recommend or provide professional services because of their personal convictions. Oh, my people! Providing women contraception and abortion services are precisely the kinds of medical services that certain physicians and pharmacists are likely to refuse to provide – in the name of religion! But of course, as long as the targets of such unhappy choices are women, hey, let religious freedom prevail. After all, I cannot imagine a physician or pharmacist refusing to perform an angioplasty or prescribe Lipitor to the men who need them.

Women, whose place in the workforce is generally not as well-established as men (for instance, women are more likely to be laid off in a recession than men), are the ones who will suffer directly and disproportionately by reason of the loss of their jobs, as per the “charter”. So if society is concerned that women are being oppressed by religious or customary rules dictated to them by their faith communities, naturally the best solution is to harm them economically, disenfranchise them socially, and isolate them in their homes by excluding them from the very jobs that would give them the opportunity to assimilate our supposedly universal secular values.

And the government, not to be remiss in its desire to foster a gentle image, assures us in section 14 that “dialogue” will be fostered between the State and the employee getting the boot: such “dialogue” consisting of “reminding the person of their obligations” so as to “foster their compliance.” In my elementary school, that was called “monologue.”

Just to be sure that the PQ’s intentions are not misconstrued, words will be added to the preamble of the Quebec “Charter of human rights and freedoms” to the effect that men and women are equal. Of course, this is because the PQ does not believe any citizens will ever read the document as far as Section 10, which already enshrines the prohibition against gender discrimination, and this, since 1975.

I cannot conclude without poking a little fun at the pompous assurance in Article 41 where the PQ reassures its minions that they will “make allowance for the emblematic and toponymic elements of Québec’s cultural heritage that testify to its history.” Be comforted then that all our streets and towns named for random Catholic saints, all our many churches with their crosses mounted on majestic steeples, and all the holidays created with Catholic religious observance in mind (Christmas anyone?) will all remain as firmly affixed in our social tapestry as that crucifix is affixed high on the National Assembly’s wall. Well, that’s okay, I suppose, as long as the Coat of Arms remains superior, with the British lion and unicorn rampant, and the popular British slogan, “Dieu et mon droit.”

National Post

Anne-France Goldwater is a Montreal family lawyer, senior partner at Goldwater, Dubé and host of V-TV’s L’Arbitre (The Arbitrator).
Twitter: @AFGoldwater

Statement from Commissioner Cavoukian on Bill C-551: Act to Establish the National Security Committee of Parliamentarians

This is a statement issued today on behalf of Commissioner Cavoukian regarding MP Wayne Easter’s private member’s bill to bring parliamentary oversight to CSEC. See also: MP Wayne Easter Op-Ed in Ottawa Citizen: Canada’s intelligence agencies need oversight

Nov 8, 2013

I have been deeply concerned by the steady stream of revelations arising from Edward Snowden, especially around the activities of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) and its role in the so-called “Five Eyes” signals intelligence alliance. While Canadians continue to be kept in the dark about CSEC’s activities, journalist Glen Greenwald has warned there will be much more to come on Canada’s secretive surveillance activities. This begs the question, what else has CSEC been doing that Canadians should be worried about? The Canadian government must be accountable to its citizens across the country. That means stronger transparency and oversight regimes must be put in place.

This is why I am heartened by the Bill being introduced in the House of Commons yesterday by Mr. Wayne Easter, the Member of Parliament for Malpeque. The creation of a parliamentary committee to provide oversight for all agencies responsible for national security, and the requirement for the Prime Minister to table the committee’s report to Parliament are important components to providing accountability and transparency. While the bill may not give committee members sufficient authority to peer behind the veil of secrecy surrounding national security powers and programs, I see Mr. Easter’s bill as a proposal worthy of consideration, debate, and ultimately passing into law.

I also believe that we need to review how CSEC’s operations are authorized. While there has been much criticism of the overly secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, at least it provides for a degree of judicial control over many of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. While the U.S. Congress pushes ahead with improving its system of oversight, there is no equivalent in Canada whatsoever. The only gate-keeper limiting CSEC’s power to conduct intelligence gathering is the Minister of National Defence, lacking entirely in independence. Why have the courts been kept out of the equation here in Canada? After all, the courts are well situated to ensure that both necessary surveillance proceeds, and Canadians simultaneously enjoy rigorous privacy protections – not one to the exclusion of the other.

What holds us back from ensuring the proper governance of state surveillance today? This confusion flows from flawed, zero-sum (either/or) thinking. We must reverse the flawed view that we can only have security by foregoing privacy and government transparency – we do not, and must not. Quite the opposite – we must preserve our privacy, which forms the basis of our freedoms – now, and well into the future. Canadians deserve no less than their neighbors to the south.

Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D.
Information and Privacy Commissioner
Ontario, Canada

Rob McMahon, ABC ∙ Director of Communications
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario, Canada
1400 - 2 Bloor Street East, Toronto, ON M4W 1A8
T: 416 326 3902 ∙ M: 416 627 0307 ∙ F: 416 325 9195

Oppose the Harper Dictatorship's Sell-Out CETA Agreement

Public Right, Not Monopoly Right!

Nov 8, 2013 -- Marxist Leninist Daily

The Harper dictatorship announced on October 18 that agreement in principle has been reached with the European Union (EU) on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). A framework agreement was signed in Brussels by Prime Minister Harper and the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso but legal ratification of the deal will likely take two years, as it has to be signed by all countries involved and each of Canada's provinces. Harper's announcement was obviously a desperate ploy to try to elevate his sagging reputation and to deflect public attention from his continuing criminality, including prorogation of Parliament, anti-worker legislation, attacks on First Nations, sellout of our resources to foreign monopolies, muzzling of scientists, Senate scandals, and so on.

According to Harper, the CETA free trade agreement will be a great economic boon to Canadians. However, study after study shows that other free trade agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have very negatively affected the peoples of all the countries involved. For example, as a result of NAFTA, signed in 1994, Canada has been further penetrated by foreign monopolies, which exploit our workers and resources and then destroy entire communities by closing their operations. Canada is also facing nearly $2.5-billion worth of corporate lawsuits under the NAFTA chapter that protects foreign investors. U.S. workers have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs because of NAFTA and Mexican farmers have been put out of business by U.S. agri-monopolies. Other free trade agreements have had similar negative effects on the working people both in Canada and in the other countries signing the agreements.

The main reason that CETA and other free trade agreements do not work in the public interest is that they are put into effect to serve the interests of the monopolies, not the people. A declaration of support in 2008 for a Canada-EU free trade agreement was signed by over 100 top executives in Canada and Europe, including those of Barrick Gold, Bombardier, CN, Power Corporation, SNC-Lavalin, and Suncor on the Canadian side [1]. On October 16, 2013, John Manley, President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), stated: "After four years of negotiations, we are heartened by the Prime Minister's assurance that negotiations are close to complete on the Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). On both sides of the Atlantic, the CETA will create jobs, spur investment and promote economic growth." The CCCE is made up of the heads of the 150 largest monopolies in Canada, so it is crystal clear in whose interests Manley is speaking.

As with all such free trade agreements, the Harper dictatorship has conducted all negotiations with the EU behind the backs of the Canadian people and kept details of the draft agreement secret. Instead of full disclosure, the Harperites have officially released their own 26-page Technical Summary of Final Negotiated Outcomes, which is misleadingly subtitled, "Opening New Markets in Europe: Creating Jobs and Opportunities for Canadians." The technical summary is self-serving to the nth degree, talking in glowing terms of how advantageous the agreement is to Canada and totally obscuring that in reality the entire agreement has been pursued and concluded to serve the interests of certain monopolies. Harper's technical summary is divided into seven areas of agreement, each of which is presented through a series of points as being of great benefit to Canadians: non-agricultural goods; agricultural goods; services and investment; government procurement; intellectual property; dispute settlement, institutional and horizontal provisions; and sustainable development, environment, and labour.

One of the Harper dictatorship's most ridiculous claims is that CETA will magically create 80,000 Canadian jobs. Inventing big job numbers out of thin air is a common neo-liberal ploy. It takes advantage of the fact of existing unemployment, currently officially stated as about 7 per cent but actually much higher, to try to sway public opinion by imbuing workers with false hopes that future employment will be brought about by implementing reactionary government policies. No scientific basis is ever given for such arbitrary claims but the fabricated numbers are simply repeated over and over, à la Goebbels, or even changed at the whim of the ruling circles to whatever serves their interests at the time.

That such job claims are false is validated again and again. For example, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that during the first 13 years under the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) and NAFTA, Canada created less than half as many full-time jobs as during the previous 13 years [2]. To give another example, when the "80,000 jobs" number attributed to CETA was debunked by a guest economist during the October 16, 2013, episode of CBC's business-friendly program, the Lang-O'Leary Exchange, neither of the two Conservative business pundits even attempted to defend it.

While the Harper dictatorship continues to keep specific details of the CETA draft agreement secret, a number of facts have already emerged demonstrating that CETA does not serve the interests of the Canadian people. These include the following:

- CETA will disrupt the Canadian labour market by allowing European firms to bypass Canadian workers by bringing in their own labour force when doing business in Canada. In light of the government's dismal track record with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, it is clear that Harper is not to be trusted when it comes to the interests of working people.

- CETA rules will ban "buy local" and other similar policies that support local jobs and development through public spending. "Buy local" means buying food and goods that are grown, raised and produced close to home whenever possible.

- CETA will give EU monopolies unobstructed access to public procurement contracts involving public municipalities, utilities and other provincial agencies. This will include contracts related to drinking water, sanitation and other water-related municipal services, which will encourage foreign privatization of water services.

- CETA will grant more patent protection to brand name drug monopolies such as GlaxoSmithKline as opposed to smaller generic drug companies. According to a 2012 federal assessment, which the Harper government tried to suppress, these patent changes could cost Canadians up to $2 billion annually.

- CETA will open up Canada's telecommunications sector to major ownership by foreign monopolies, with implications not only for further takeovers of the Canadian economy but also for increased foreign surveillance of domestic communications.

- CETA will have a major negative effect on agriculture, for example, in regard to the dairy industry, CETA will allow increased European cheese exports to Canada of 32 per cent. Such measures further erode Canada's supply management system of marketing agricultural products, which has a long and commendable record of maintaining stable and consistent prices for producers, processors and consumers, ensuring a constant and certain supply of quality products, and eliminating reliance on subsidies.

- CETA, like NAFTA, will give monopolies on either side the right to demand compensation from any government action that "interferes" with private profit, for example, due to labour or environment-related reasons. In this regard, it is interesting to note that under NAFTA, the U.S. has won a number of such judgments while Canada has failed to win a single one.

Overall, CETA will increase Canada's already existing trade deficit with Europe. According to Statistics Canada, in the first eight months of this year, Canada ran a $14 billion trade deficit with Europe. A recent analysis by the EU suggests that European exporters will save about three times the amount of duty payments that their Canadian counterparts will save, adding to the deficit.

CETA will be another free trade disaster for the Canadian people because trade and the economy are in no way "free." In fact, every sector of the world economy, except the odd niche, is dominated by global monopolies. Free markets under the control of the global monopolies represent monopoly right and freedom to further dominate, control and wreck existing economic sectors and even entire economies. Contrary to the dogma of "free markets," these global monopolies manipulate prices and supply to suit their narrow interests, of which destroying or taking over smaller competitors and seizing their markets through so-called free trade agreements is a major aspect. For example, European monopolies such as Nestlé want to use CETA to wipe out the rare niche of Canada's supply management systems in dairy production and smash Canada's smaller dairy producers. Monopolies such as Suez want to use CETA so they can get their private hands on Canada's water.


1. On the European Union side, many monopolies that declared support for a Canada-Europe agreement at the 2008 meeting had profited hugely from supporting the Hitlerite Nazis, e.g., BASF, Bayer, Bertelsmann, Deutsche Bank, Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, and Volkswagen.

2. Lessons from NAFTA: The High Cost of Free Trade. CCPA (June, 2003).

Lesbian, gay, Muslim and proud

After a call for more gay Muslim visibility in the UK, LGBTI group Imaan responds with an introduction to their organization. 

08 November 2013 | By Tawseef Khan

Last month Omar Kuddus wrote an article for the Gay Star News titled ‘It’s time to come out as gay, Muslim and proud’. As the chair of Imaan, the largest LGBTQI Muslim organization in the UK, Europe and probably even the world, I was definitely interested in what Kuddus had to say.

He wrote of personal struggles in accepting his sexuality and negotiating relationships with his family, followed by a short examination of the movements that were taking place internationally, where LGBT Muslims were carving out a space for themselves in the mainstream.

He concluded the article by calling for similar voices in the UK to represent the struggle of LGBT Muslims living here.

So I want to share a little of the history of British LGBT Muslim activism, particularly in relation to Imaan. READ MORE.....