Saturday, November 16, 2013

Egypt's women refuse to be intimidated

A new report says they are treated the worst in the Arab world, but many are hopeful their campaign for a voice will prevail

The Guardian, Friday 15 November 2013 

Egyptian women were at the heart of the revolution that toppled president Hosni Mubarak. Their contribution ranged from work in the labour movement to a female journalist breaking taboos by suing the government for harassment. They walked shoulder to shoulder with men as the Egyptian population demanded the fall of the regime, as did the people of Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. Yet nearly three years later, a poll from the Thomson Reuters Foundation has declared Egypt the worst country for women in the Arab world. So, did the Arab spring lead to a regression of women's rights in the region – and particularly in Egypt, as the report suggests?

Egyptian women have certainly been politically marginalised in this post-revolutionary period. The male-dominated military in charge of the transitional phase eradicated the quota for women's representation in parliament, which reduced female members from 64 to nine, and it did not include any women in the constitutional review committee. The police also targeted female political demonstrators, going as far as stripping them naked in the street and urging molestation by thugs. They introduced virginity tests for women arrested during political demonstrations. The message was clear: women should go home and leave politics to the men.

Women's rights had been used as a velvet glove during Mubarak's regime (as with other administrations of the time, such as Ben Ali in Tunisia and Gaddafi in Libya), which passed laws to protect women while suppressing all other political rights. The elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, rescinded some of these rights: restrictions on polygamy were lifted; a reduction of the marriage age was proposed; women's right to seek divorce was limited. This reflected the Brotherhood's patriarchal attitude to gender roles and family structures, and had little to do with the reality of the Egyptian economy, where women make up a large proportion of the labour force and are found in all sectors of public life.

So first the military and then the Muslim Brotherhood undermined women post-revolution. This triggered a wave of anger. Many of the issues the Reuters poll refers to, such as female genital mutilation and sexual harassment, are not new. But Egyptian women – as with women in other Arab countries after the Arab spring – are more determined than ever to confront these challenges. If they stayed silent about sexual harassment in the past, today they are writing testimonials on Facebook or creating public campaigns to confront it.

Furthermore, women today are no longer willing to see themselves as simply women's rights activists; they are going beyond gender or class to demand citizenship rights. This is part of a progressive discussion that was triggered in post-revolutionary Egypt and is strengthened by young people, who make up about 60% of the Arab population. The impact of impassioned, youthful voices has been seen in Saudi Arabia, too – which is ranked third worst among Arab nations. (The comparison between Egypt and Saudi Arabia is unfair, however, as the two cultures are very different, making it difficult to evaluate both countries on similar standards.)

The Arab spring turned women's issues into a battle in the war of ideology between Islamists and so-called modernists. Both see women through a traditional lens and have deprived them of full participation in the political process. But women are not silent in this historical moment. They are speaking up, organising, and amassing support, not only for their rights but also for all who believe in freedom, democracy, and stability of the region at large. It is vital we hear their voices because they represent the most solid hope for the region. It is too early to be fatalistic about what is happening now. I know I still hold out hope.

The rise of far right parties across Europe is a chilling echo of the 1930s

Having played down their fascist sympathies they're re-emerging now after a PR facelift. Time is running out to counter them, writes John Palmer. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Jeremy Hammond Sentenced to 10 Years In Prison While Corruption He Exposed Goes Unpunished

by Rania Khalek on November 15, 2013

Chicago activist Jeremy Hammond, 28, was sentenced earlier today to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to participating in the hacking of the private intelligence firm Stratfor.

Prior to his sentencing, Hammond read a prepared statement explaining what motivated his actions. “I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice—and to bring the truth to light,” he told the courtroom, adding that he was inspired by whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

Thanks to Hammond’s courageous work, for which he will spend the next decade of his life behind bars, we now know that Stratfor was being paid by multinational corporations to spy on activists around the globe. As Natasha Lennard, one of the few journalists who’s consistently covered Hammond’s case, put it:
It is indeed in the public interest to know that Dow Chemicals paid a private security firm to follow and low-level harass individuals fighting for recognition and restitution for the Bhopal disaster; it is of public interest too that the Coca Cola company employed Stratfor to spy on PETA activists, that the Department of Homeland Security used the firm to spy on Occupy activities. These details all came out of the Stratfor hack. Our context is such that the intelligence firm’s activity is supported and upheld by the law, Hammond’s work to reveal it is punished with a ten year sentence. READ MORE.....

Consequences of Anti-Social Offensive: Food Bank Use In Canda Reaches Near Record Levels

by Serge Lachapelle  Nov 15, 2013 (first published in Marxist-Leninist Daily)

Food bank use in Canada (click to enlarge).

According to the Hunger Count report published in 2013 by Food Banks Canada, the use of food banks has reached near record levels and this, years after the end of the recession. In fact, it is 23 per cent higher than in 2008, before the start of the recession. In March 2013, 833,098 people used a food bank in Canada, more than a third of them were children.

People who turn to food banks, the report said, come from diverse and often surprising backgrounds.

- 12 per cent of households helped are currently employed, and another 5 per cent were recently employed;

- Half are families with children, and nearly half of these families are two-parent families;

- Half of the households helped by food banks report social assistance as their primary source of income;

- 16 per cent of households assisted are living primarily on disability-related income;

- 7 per cent of individuals who receive food from a food bank live primarily on pension income (rising to nearly 10 per cent in small towns and rural areas).

- 7 per cent of households helped are homeowners (increasing to 15 per cent in small towns and rural areas).

According to Food Banks Canada, food banks are dealing with a problem that has never been as serious and long-lasting as now. The number of people helped by food banks has not dropped below 700,000 people per month for the better part of the past 15 years. Four million people in Canada, including more than a million children, have inadequate or insecure access to food because they cannot afford to buy enough to meet their needs.

The causes of low income are well known, says Food Bank Canada. Canada has lost hundreds of thousands of well-paid blue collar jobs over the past 30 years, as manufacturing has relocated to parts of the world where things can be made more cheaply. The jobs that have replaced them are more likely to be low-paid, part-time and temporary. For people who do not have the skills to attain the jobs that pay well, access to education and training can be beyond reach. For those unable to work, Employment Insurance and social assistance have become more difficult to access, and the meagre incomes supplied by these programs make it very difficult for families to afford adequate, nutritious food.

According to the organization the problems are highly complex and they will not be solved by tinkering with social policy. In fact, these problems require a real investment and a new way of thinking.

The report gives the example of the tragedy at Elliot Lake, Ontario. "When the mall collapsed, many people lost part-time jobs and full-time too. Their Employment Insurance ran out rather quickly or the amounts they received were small. We have seen a 50 per cent increase in people with using the food bank -- 150 more people each month.

"Elliot Lake is a prime example of the consequences of a declining industrial base, the continued growth of low-paid work and the paring-down of Employment Insurance that has happened over the past fifteen years. Again and again, food banks see families who are unable to find work, whose financial resources have hit bottom, and who can't find a way out of the hole."

Click to enlarge.

Activists working in food banks are concerned that what should have been a temporary measure in 1980 still exists 30 years later.

They state that "We lose billions of dollars each year trying to address the health and social consequences of poverty after it takes its toll -- RATHER THAN PREVENTING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE."

Hunger Count 2013 presents five measures which they say can advance the situation in Canada.

1. Commit to adequate, long-term federal funding of affordable housing in Canada, so that people are not forced to choose between paying rent or buying food.

2. Increase social investment in northern Canada to address the stunning levels of food insecurity in northern regions.

3. Increase federal support from $500 million to $700 million per year for existing programs funded under Labour Market Agreements, to help the most vulnerable Canadians get training to qualify for well-paying jobs.

4. Revolutionize social assistance so that people can build self-sufficiency instead of being trapped in poverty.

5 Increase federal and provincial support to help people working in low-paying, part-time, and temporary jobs attain better-paid, long-term employment.

(Translated from original French by TML. Graphics: Hunger Count 2013.)

CSEC: The spies next door


A mammoth see-through glass building that no outsider is ever allowed to see through is rising in east Ottawa.

Six thousand construction workers, tradespeople and suppliers are erecting a futuristic $1.1-billion home for Canada’s premier intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment.

Everyone and everything on the site requires a security clearance. Even the wet cement was sifted for electronic bugs, according to a source. READ MORE.....

Canada wide opposition against pipelines, tankers and the tar sands -- Saturday Nov 16th

On Saturday, November 16, over 120 communities and cities nationwide will unite in opposition against pipelines, tankers and the tar sands -- from Enbridge to Energy East. Learn more about the Defend Our Climate Day of Action, including how you can take part, in Rabble's coverage of this mobilization.

Jailed for Life for Stealing a $159 Jacket? 3,200 Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Crimes


Yves Engler Op-Ed in Ottawa Citizen: CETA more than just a trade deal


Since announcing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) three weeks ago, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have repeatedly labelled those questioning the deal as “anti-trade.” But this Canada-European Union accord is one part trade and four parts corporate bill of rights.

While the government has promoted the part of the agreement that would eliminate 98 per cent of all tariffs, this masks the fact that these are already low (or non-existent) on most goods traded between Canada and the EU. A Royal Bank report released last week notes that mining, oil and gas products represent 45 per cent of Canada’s exports to the EU and most of these materials already enter the EU duty free.

On combined bilateral trade of $85 billion a year, EU exporters currently pay $670 million in tariffs while Canadian producers pay only $225 million in duties. To put this sum into perspective, eliminating all current Canada-EU tariff payments will barely cover the increased drug costs caused by another part of the agreement. The extension of Canadian patents under CETA is expected to drive up already high pharmaceutical drug costs in this country by between $850 million and $1.65 billion a year, according to a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study. In other words, Harper’s Conservatives are proposing to add a billion dollars or more to the cost of our health care system, in return for a cut of less than $900 million in tariffs, most of which will benefit European producers. Is this really a good deal for ordinary Canadians?

And, one might ask, what does extending patents have to do with free trade? In fact, as a type of monopoly, patents stifle competition, which is supposed to be a pillar of free trade ideology. Of course the powerful brand-name drugmakers pushing the patent extension are more interested in increasing their profits than economic theory.

Another part of CETA that has little to do with expanding free trade is the investor state dispute settlement process. Modelled after the North American Free Trade Agreement’s Chapter 11, this aspect of the accord will give corporations based in Canada and the EU the ability to bypass domestic courts and sue governments for pursuing policies that interfere with their profit making. The Conservatives pushed for an investor state dispute process in CETA even though there’s been a growing international backlash to these type of accords and under NAFTA’s investor dispute process Canada currently faces more than $2 billion in lawsuits.

A number of other CETA provisions also strengthen investors’ rights to the detriment of democracy. For example, the agreement gives multinational corporations unprecedented rights to bid on public contracts. This will weaken provincial and municipal agencies ability to buy local and pursue other environmental and socially minded policies.

Concurrently, the accord makes it more difficult to set up new publicly operated social services. For instance, a municipality unhappy with private water delivery could face a suit if they tried to remunicipalize (or de-privatize) this service.

CETA also locks in reforms to the Telecommunications Act buried in last year’s 450-page omnibus budget. The Conservatives’ changes allow foreign-controlled corporations to buy a majority stake in telecommunications companies holding up to 10 per cent of the Canadian market (and then grow without limit from there). Under the banner of “free trade,” CETA will make it extremely difficult for a future Canadian government to reverse recent reforms to the Telecommunications Act. This is just one more example of the Conservatives sneaking through their ideological agenda without proper, transparent debate in Parliament.

Recently International Trade Minister Ed Fast told the House of Commons that “the NDP remains beholden, both financially and organizationally, to the big union bosses and anti-trade activist groups.” For his part, Harper told the press that “ideological opposition to free trade in Canada is really, today, part of a very small part of the political spectrum — a very small and extreme part — and for that reason I think you will find very few Canadians who are opposed in principle to having a free-trade agreement with Europe.”

Yes, few Canadians oppose trade with Europe “in principle,” but CETA is only partly about trade. The deal mostly benefits multinational corporations and it isn’t “anti-trade” to say so.

Yves Engler’s latest book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. He’s a researcher with Unifor.

UK Fascism: Councils to be given powers to ban peaceful protests that might disturb local residents

Note: Nothing new here, just the same old state fascism and criminalization of dissent that we are witnessing worldwide, including right here on Turtle Island (aka Canada). And it is going to get a lot worse. After reading the article below, read also Chris Hedges' latest  piece,"Jeremy Hammond Exposed State's Plan to Criminalize Democratic Dissent "which gives you an idea of the price people sometimes have to pay in order to oppose fascism.  


Councils to be given powers to ban peaceful protests that might disturb local residents

Anger mounts at ‘shockingly open-ended’ Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill that could also see youngsters banned from skateboarding, forbid teenagers from using local parks and prevent demonstrators from gathering outside council offices


Friday 15 November 2013

Peaceful protests could be outlawed on the sole grounds that they might annoy nearby residents under contentious new powers being granted to councils, campaign groups warn.

The “shockingly open-ended” orders could also be used to ban youngsters from skateboarding, forbid teenagers from using local parks and prevent demonstrators from gathering outside council offices, it has been claimed.

The powers are contained within a little-noticed section of the Government’s Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.

The new public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) are intended to give town halls the authority to tackle drinking, aggressive begging, and dog-fouling, in specified areas. The Home Office said it would stop public spaces being turned into “no-go zones”.

But campaigners claim that the legislation is so loosely worded that the new powers could be used to stifle legitimate demonstrations and criminalise youngsters.

They raised the alarm on the 30th anniversary of the women’s peace camp being set up at Greenham Common in Berkshire, which critics claimed was the sort of protest that could be thwarted by the new powers.

Concerns about the illiberal nature of some of the Bill’s provisions centre on plans to establish PSPOs, which are replacing alcohol-control zones, dog-control orders and gating orders as well as local by-laws.

They can be used by councils, following consultation with police, to restrict any activity deemed to have a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”.

The vague wording, and the failure to define the size of the areas to be covered, has led to fears they could be deployed to impose blanket bans on lawful activities.

People falling foul of the new restrictions would then be punished with on-the-spot fines, which could be issued by private security guards working on commission for councils.

The orders, which would last for up to three years, would be directed at “all persons or only to persons in specified categories”, a stipulation that has raised fears that certain groups – such as trade unionists or rough sleepers – could be discriminated against.

They could, for instance, be used to ban young or homeless people from a park.

The scheme appears driven by the Government’s commitment to a “localism” agenda and its determination to reduce the bureaucracy facing town halls.

The Home Office’s risk assessment of the measure acknowledged it could increase pressure on police, courts and prisons, but said the impact could be mitigated by the use of on-the-spot fines.

Peers are planning an attempt next week to amend the plans as they scrutinise the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

Josie Appleton, the convener of the civil-liberties group the Manifesto Club, said: “This Bill has shockingly open-ended powers within it that could allow councils to ban everything from protests, to outdoor public meetings, to children’s skateboarding. The list is endless.

“The Home Office say they don’t think councils will use the law in this way, but this is not good enough. They should not be handing councils open-ended powers in the first place.

“While people will have the right to appeal, the processes involved are so expensive and complex that they will be beyond the reach of most protest groups.”

Isabella Sankey, the policy director for Liberty, said: “These next-generation antisocial-behaviour powers are bigger and badder than ever.

“Dangerously broad powers granted to regulate the ‘quality of life’ of the community will allow local authorities effectively to shut down activity in public places. Just like stop-and-search without suspicion, the collateral damage will be peaceful protest and other basic rights and freedoms.”

Janet Davis, the senior policy officer at the Ramblers Association, said she was worried that the orders could be applied to areas traditionally used for leisure and recreation.

“They could be used on wide-open areas, they could be used on commons, any land to which the public has access,” she said.

But Norman Baker, the minister responsible for crime prevention, said: “The Coalition Government is simplifying the complex array of antisocial powers introduced by the last government.

“This power will make it easier to stop the behaviour of those who act antisocially, turning our public spaces into no-go zones.

“It is not aimed at restricting legitimate users, such as walkers, whose activities are in fact better protected by this power than by the restrictive gating orders it replaces.

“Local authorities will consult ahead of putting an order in place and those affected will be able to appeal if they feel the order is not valid.

Protests that might never have been…

* Activists from Occupy London set up camp in October 2011 outside St Paul’s Cathedral to protest against corporate greed in the City and inequalities. Bailiffs moved in to clear the site the following February.

* The late anti-war protester Brian Haw first pitched his tent outside the Houses of Parliament in 2001 as Britain joined military action in Afghanistan. He was rapidly joined by large numbers of sympathisers, who remained for another two years after his death in 2011.

* Climate-change campaigners organised an eight-day-long protest in 2007 against airport expansion outside Heathrow. Similar demonstrations were mounted at Stansted airport, Essex.

Canada’s Conservative government targets federal workers’ basic rights

By Ed Patrick
15 November 2013

Deep within its most recent omnibus budget legislation (Bill C-4), Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has buried sweeping changes to the Public Service Labour Relations Act. These changes target the basic rights of hundreds of thousands of federal government workers and represent a major escalation in the Conservative government’s systematic assault on workers’ rights.

Bill C-4 would give the government the power to unilaterally determine which federal workers provide “essential services” and, therefore, are legally prohibited from joining a strike or any form of job action.

If passed, the legislation would give Ottawa “the exclusive right” to designate any “service, facility or activity of the government of Canada as essential because it is, or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.” In other words, the Conservative government is arrogating the power to strip tens of thousands more federal workers of the legal right to strike and with the aim of criminalizing any effective worker challenge to its plans to cut federal workers’ compensation and slash the public services that they provide. READ MORE....

What Harper's Legal Battle With Aboriginals Is Costing You

MP, Liberal Party of Canada

Last year the Conservative government spent more fighting Indigenous people in the courts than it spent going after tax frauds. The latest Public Accounts show that the $106 million that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development spent on litigation last year was more than any other department and almost double the $66 million spent by the runner up, Canada Revenue Agency.

Unfortunately, this approach is what we have come to expect from this government. They wilfully ignore Aboriginal rights, daring Indigenous people to take them to court on a range of issues; from First Nations' child welfare to resource development, the government's response has been "see you in court."

Time and time again, the courts have sided with Aboriginal people. One would assume this would serve as a wakeup call for the government that their approach is just not working. Unfortunately it has not.

The impact of their misguided strategy goes far beyond costly and unnecessary legal bills for taxpayers. The government's tactics have fuelled conflict and mistrust in every aspect of Canada's relationship with Aboriginal people. Who knew in 2011, when a government document listed Indigenous peoples as "adversaries" in terms of resource development, that this attitude would permeate every aspect of the Conservative's approach when dealing with Aboriginal people? READ MORE......

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Expats suffer injustice in land where Islam was born

Nov 14, 2013

Saudi writer/journalist @AbdullaAlami recently tweeted this: استوقف عامل نظافة بمركز الهيئة بخميس مشيط رئيس الهيئة د عبد اللطيف آل الشيخ وشكا له عدم تسلم راتبه لمدة عام كامل 
عيب ياشركات النظافة ص الشرق

Translation: "A cleaner stopped the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) Dr. Abdullateef Al-Sheikh in Khamis Mushayt and protested about not being paid for one full year by his employer."

We need to ask ourselves and the relevant authorities about our perception of virtue. Is it only about stopping women because they are wearing nail polish or chasing young men for having long hair? When will we realize that among the virtuous deeds is also paying a laborer his/her due wage before his/her sweat dries up?

I ask where is the #LaborMinistry now which seeks to implement labor market reforms? Where are the law enforcement authorities? Where are those "patriotic" Saudi writers who go to great lengths to demonize the entire expatriate community?

This case is not just one in a million. Many such cases are resolved by employers declaring unpaid employees as "huroob" (missing from work) thereby making them illegal with the stroke of a pen. 

Many such workers are the very same people who are now being apprehended by law enforcement teams and it gives me good reason to believe that the violent protest in #Manfouha #Riyadh by #Ethiopian workers and the protest via blockade at Mansour St. #Makkah by #Asian and #African workers are not about the "evil expatriates" wanting to destroy Saudi Arabia like Dr. Doom, but more about the injustice they've been suffering since time immemorial in the land where #Islam was born.

Moiz Muqri Jeddah

Shoestring Ethnic Publications Say They Need Federal Cash, Ads: Survey

By Dean Beeby, The Canadian Press | November 6, 2013

OTTAWA—Canada’s ethnic newspapers and magazines are struggling financially in the digital age and need federal cash just to survive, says a new survey. 

Many of the 22 publishers and editors polled for the Canadian Heritage Department said their budgets are so tiny that even a small amount of red ink can be “catastrophic.” 

“Many respondents indicated a passion for government involvement in the sector, identifying government finding as critical to the current and future existence of their publication,” says the report, completed in May. 

“Financial challenges were without question the No. 1 concern of virtually all publishers and editors interviewed…. Their main suggestion for alleviating financial and human resource pressure is more government support, through grants and-or advertising buys.” 

At least 400 newspapers, magazines, directories, and websites in Canada are considered “ethnocultural,” catering to burgeoning populations of newcomers whose mother tongue is neither French nor English. 

Despite a swelling potential readership, most operations barely break even in an age when the Internet carries multilingual, real-time, no-cost news from home countries. 

Newsstand and ad revenues are paltry, the report found. Most publications survive as a labour of love, drawing on volunteers with a strong sense of civic duty. Most have an online presence, partly as a way to reach younger readers. 

These publications are regarded by ethnic communities as “cultural beacons,” with a special responsibility to educate immigrant populations about how to navigate Canada’s unfamiliar society. 

A copy of the survey, commissioned from Connectus Consulting for $33,000, was obtained by Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The survey covered publications from British Columbia to Quebec, 19 of them newspapers, and most of them distributed free to readers. Eleven languages other than French or English were represented. 

The federal Canada Periodical Fund, budgeted at $75 million annually, provided some $1.8 million this year in grants to 63 so-called ethnocultural publications, or about $28,000 each. 

Program rules limit aid to those ethnic publications with at least half their editorial content devoted to Canada, and with paid circulation of at least 2,500 copies annually. 

“Government funding—the Canada Periodical Fund administered by Canadian Heritage—is seen as a linchpin by respondents that receive funding, and highly desirable by those that do not receive funding,” says the report. 

Ad revenue is limited, partly because large advertisers prefer higher-circulation publications. 

“Government advertising is also viewed as an untapped source of potential revenue,” says the report. “A number of respondents suggested that more advertising from all levels of government would provide much-needed revenue for their publications.”

Publishers in the sector have complained about the lack of federal advertising over the last five years, though the Citizenship and Immigration Department since 2010 has regularly run ad campaigns for newcomers exclusively in ethnic publications. 

Annual spending for the campaigns, however, has dropped sharply, to $1.8 million in 2012-13 from $3.2 million in 2010-2011. 

Two long-lived ethnic publications announced their demise this year: the 58-year-old Corriere Canadese in May and the 42-year-old Canadian Jewish News in April.

“The attractions of printed paper are welcome experiences only for an older generation and appear to be things of the past,” Donald Carr, president of the Canadian Jewish News, said at the time.

“Added to this (is) that much of the world believes that news and commentary should be free.”

Since the announcements, there have been revivals of both publications.

Thomas Saras, president of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, said he had not yet seen the study but endorses the call for more federal support.

Saras noted only a fraction of the Canada Periodical Fund goes to ethnic publications, while mainstream publications, such as Maclean’s magazine, receive much more.

The fund needs rebalancing to better support Canada’s linguistically and ethnically diverse press, he said in an interview from Toronto.

A spokesman for Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover said the Canada Periodical Fund has been revamped in recent years, with additional money now going to ethnocultural publications.

Mike Storeshaw also said the new rules, designed to take politics and subjectivity out of grant decisions, also give special access to these newspapers and magazines compared with other publications.

Saras said despite financial pressures on multicultural publications, Canada’s ethnic groups will ensure their survival.

“I believe that a proud community will never allow one of their best… publications to disappear in this way.”

TPP Exposed: WikiLeaks Publishes Secret Trade Text to Rewrite Copyright Laws, Limit Internet Freedom


Kenyan Muslims Worried by Tough Policing Methods

Expert warn that excessive force to uproot extremism could be counter-productive.

14 Nov 2013

Community leaders among Kenya’s Muslim minority are warning that a police crackdown on Islamists could undermine their own efforts to combat radicalisation in their midst.

Since the Kenyan army began fighting al-Shabab rebels in Somalia in October 2011, the country has suffered a number of attacks, mainly in the capital Nairobi, in the western port of Mombasa, along the north-eastern border with Somalia.

The state’s counter-terrorism strategy was thrown into question by the September attack by al-Shabab militants on a Nairobi shopping centre in which at least 67 people were killed.

But even before the Westgate mall attack, concerns were being raised that the tactics employed by the security services were alienating moderate Muslims and further fuelling extremism. (For more, see Kenyan Police Challenged Over Shootings.)

Two weeks after the Westgate attack, a Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Omar, was shot dead after leaving the Masjid Musa, a mosque in Mombasa.

The circumstances of his death appeared similar to that of his mentor, Sheikh Aboud Rogo, a preacher at the same mosque who was shot dead in August last year, and whose death sparked days of violent protests by followers who claimed the police were responsible.

Early in 2012, two other individuals – in this case allegedly linked to al-Shabab – disappeared following reports that they had been arrested by police. The body of one of them was later found in a game reserve 180 kilometres from Mombasa.

The police emphatically deny carrying out extrajudicial killings or using excessive force. But many Kenyan Muslims just do not believe them. In some cases, the resentment has been taken out on clerics seen as too moderate.

On October 25, moderate cleric Hassan Suleiman Mohammed was attacked by a group of young men who accused him of giving the police information that led to Omar’s death.

Suleiman said the real reason for the attack was to punish him for speaking out against sermons by other preachers that he says bordered on extremism and “misinterpreted the teachings of the Koran”.

“It is not about me setting up anybody to the police,” he told IWPR. “It is about my being firm and advising the youth who I speak to and mentor to watch out for people who want to mislead them and lead them into danger in the name of religion. Islam does not advocate for shedding of innocent blood. Islam advocates for peace and coexistence, and this is what my brothers don’t want me to say, although they know it is the truth.”

George Kegoro, executive director of the International Commission of Jurists in Kenya, told IWPR that if the authorities were serious about reducing terrorism, they would need to address concerns about the unexplained deaths of prominent Muslim figures.

“We need to see investigations conducted into the recent executions and disappearances of Muslim clerics in Mombasa, and where possible see people arraigned in court,” Kegoro said, adding that repeated denials of involvement were not enough to counter the widespread fears of a crackdown.

Unless the perpetrators are held to account, it could become easy to build on mistrust and resentment and turn some young Muslims towards extremist views.

“Therefore [the authorities] should come out and erase these doubts by bringing those responsible to book,” Kegoro said. “Then the anger and resentment amongst Muslim youth which pushes them towards extremism will begin to melt away.”

According to Kegoro, it is also crucial to improve living standards in Coast province and its main city Mombasa, where most of Kenyan’s Muslims live. Residents of the region have long complained that they have less access to land and jobs than people in wealthier areas around Nairobi. Some experts argue that disadvantaged young people are more susceptible to radicalisation.

“The government needs to solve the bigger problem of unemployment, so that youth can find a better purpose in life than resort to extremism,” Kegoro said.

Within the Muslim community, there is an internal debate going on about how best to fight extremism and terrorism, but the issue is highly sensitive.

Sheikh Khalfan Khamis, chairman of the Council of Muslim Scholars in Kenya, said it was important to take action against extremist elements within the community. This was especially urgent, he said, because of the danger that a “perverted version of Islam” would be passed on to future generations.

“We know there are youth who support these kinds of preachers and teachings, but we will not allow such people to propagate their hate sermons on our mosques, whether they threaten or even kill us, because they are merely bitter people who don’t stand for the Islam we know,” he said.

On October 25, police used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse two groups of young Muslims who clashed during prayers at the Musa mosque in Mombasa. One of the groups had questioned the use of the mosque by individuals whom they accused of being extremist clerics.

Joash Mwilu, a retired major working as a security consultant in Mombasa, welcomed the fact that a debate was taking place.

“Such conflicts within the Muslims themselves are healthy – they show that they are sobering up and have awoken to the reality that all may not be well,” Mwilu said. “This will make work even easier for the security agents fighting extremism. First, it is easy to gather intelligence and, second, security agents go in when the Muslims have sorted themselves out already. It is called self-regulation.”

Despite these efforts, Muslim leaders are concerned that threats to anyone who openly denounces extremism are real and growing.

Sheikh Juma Ngao, chairman of the Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council, told IWPR that several moderate clerics had told his organisation of cases of intimidation.

“We have encouraged them to report to the police and continue with the good job, because it is time we stood up and defended the true religion of Islam,” Ngao said.

The police say they are working to support people at risk.

“We are aware of such complaints, and have taken appropriate measures to ensure the said clerics are safe,” Robert Kitur, Mombasa’s county police chief, told IWPR. “We encourage them to speak to their youth and tell them to be careful about preachers who want to lure them into extremism and terrorism. It has helped a lot, because youth are becoming quickly informed and aware.”

Kitur said police had their own resources for counter-terrorism, and did not rely on moderate clerics for intelligence.

“We have our own informers in all these mosques,” Kitur said. “We get to know and hear everything that happens there in recorded audio and video. We are using our own people, not clerics, so they should stop victimising them, and instead preach the right things.”

Human rights groups say the police need to ensure their actions are transparent and accountable.

“Terrorism is a global issue, but even in dealing with it, a government has to be keen to respect and uphold basic human rights especially life,” said Otsieno Namwaya, a researcher with the New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Such killings of Muslim preachers, whether by government or otherwise, erode the good faith and blur the bigger picture of fighting terrorism. The killings don’t deter terrorism, they help create more terrorists.”

Joseph Akwiri is a freelance reporter in Mombasa.

This article was produced as part of a media development programme implemented by IWPR and Wayamo Communication Foundation.

Muslims and Jews Vow To Stand Up For Each Other During Upcoming 6th Annual Weekend of Twinning

At a time of increased Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, Muslims and Jews will be coming together in cities across America and around the world during the upcoming 6th Annual International Weekend of Twinning, November 15-17, to pledge to be there for each other if either community is victimized by hate crimes or incitement. READ MORE.....

Québec Solidaire lends legitimacy to PQ’s chauvinist Charter

By Richard Dufour 
14 November 2013

The ostensibly left-wing Québec Solidaire (QS) is lending legitimacy and support to the chauvinist campaign being mounted by Quebec’s Parti Québécois (PQ) provincial government with its Charter of Quebec Values. Last month, the QS tabled in the Quebec legislature or National Assembly its own proposal for a Charte de la laïcité (Secular Charter), while stressing its support for much of the contents of the PQ’s proposed Charter.

Under the pretext of promoting the separation of Church and State and protecting the equality of women, the PQ’s Charter of Quebec Values targets the social and democratic rights of religious minorities, including the right to employment, in order to divert attention from the PQ government’s big business austerity measures.

At the press conference called to present their Secular Charter, QS co-leader Françoise David and fellow National Assembly Member Amir Khadir declared their support for many of the specifics of the PQ bill and criticized some others. But all the while, they voiced their confidence in the government’s good faith and presented the Charter as a legitimate response to a real and vexatious problem. READ MORE....

North Carolina man charged with seeking to join US-backed Syrian opposition

By Joseph Kishore 
14 November 2013

A man from the US state of North Carolina faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for allegedly seeking to join the Al Nusra Front (Janhat al-Nusra), an Al Qaeda-linked organization that has been promoted by the US and its allies throughout the Syrian civil war.

According to an indictment filed by a grand jury in North Carolina, Basit Javed Sheikh, who lived in the city of Carey and is originally from Pakistan, contacted an individual who turned out to be an agent of the FBI to seek assistance in traveling to Syria.

The involvement of FBI informants is a feature of nearly every terrorism-related prosecution filed by US officials. In this case, Sheikh allegedly made contact with the informant through an Islamist Facebook page in August, expressing an interest in traveling to Syria to support the forces fighting against the government of Bashar al-Assad. READ MORE.....

New Israeli film profiles the soldiers who carried out the Nakba

Frank Barat on November 13, 2013 

Activist Frank Barat recently interviewed Israeli filmmaker Lia Tarachanskyabout her new film on Le Mur a des Oreilles (LMaDO), a Brussels-based radio show about Palestine. Tarachansky’s movie, “On the Side of the Road,” tells the story of the fighters who sought to erase Palestine by perpetrating the Nakba. Here’s a transcript of Barat’s and Tarachansky’s conversation.

LMaDO: Your film “On the side of the road” will premiere in Tel Aviv on the 28thof Nov during a festival called “International film festival on Nakba and Return.” Can you tell us about this festival, and the subject of your film?

Lia Tarachansky: This will be the first film festival in the world that focuses entirely on the return of the refugees that were expelled and fled in 1948 and the Nakba itself. It will be held in Israel which is revolutionary on its own. My film opens the festival. It’s a film that has never been done here, in Israel, before. It includes my story, someone that grew up in a settlement, deep inside of the colonial mentality and colonial project of Israel and wakes up to the Palestinians and the Nakba. It profiles the soldiers who perpetrated the Nakba who expelled and massacred the palestinians. They talk about what they’ve done and return with me to the places that they have destroyed. The film focuses on the concept of return not from the perspective of the refugees, but from the view of the perpetrators. In that way the film connects 1948 and 1967 to today, as one continuous project of dispossession.

LMaDO: Only two former israelis soldiers are testifying in the film even though you got in touch with many more. So how difficult is it to talk about the Nakba in Israel?

LT: It’s incredibly difficult. As soon as you start talking about the conflict whether it is with Israelis or Palestinians, you inevitably end up at 1948 within five minutes. 1948 is not just something that happened, it’s an entire ideology, a mentality. The Israeli fear is based on the fact that what we did to the Palestinians in 1948 will be done to us. When I contacted other veterans, most of them did not want to talk about it in a critical light. They wanted to talk about it as this miraculous victory in a war where all odds were against us. Now that historians have started digging up the facts of the war, we’re starting to discover that what we believed about the State of Israel is pure mythology. The first turning point in that journey of uncovering the mythology started in 1967 with the book by Simha Flapan “The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities”. When you talk to Israelis, if you start talking about the Nakba, it brings up this intense fear. In fact veterans tend to be a lot more honest, because they did those things, but for their children or their grandchildren for whom 1948 is just a concept, it’s brings this deeply embedded fear. The strongest element of Israeli DNA is knowing what questions you cannot ask. Once you start touching these questions with 1948 and its core, everything else starts to unravel. It’s an incredibly violent and terrifying process.

LMaDO: The film shows a scary side of Israeli society, racist and violent. Is it really that bad?

LT: I am not sure how to answer this question. Israelis and Palestinians are incredibly politicised. The conflict is an everyday thing. Violence is a daily reality here and its mostly experienced by Palestinians and mostly perpetrated by the colonial project. The State, soldiers, the settlers and everyone else. The film itself shows violence against an idea. The film profiles the Nakba as a very violent process of ethnic cleansing and destruction, where hundreds of villages were wiped of the map and refugees forbidden to return. The film focuses specifically on the psychological violence against the idea of questioning. It starts and ends with Israeli independence day, one year apart. The whole film fits into what happened within one year, when the Israeli parliament tried to pass a law that forbids mourning what happened in 1948. It tried to silence history, silence people feelings about history, something that on its surface is an incredibly fascist move. The film starts and ends with this one day when we celebrate this big mythological bubble. On that day when we are supposed to be celebrating our miraculous victory, our State, everything, activists from the organisation Zochrot tried to question what this mythology is based on. The response from not only the State and the Police but also from people is incredibly violent. They try to violently shut up these activists because you cannot talk about 1948 in Israel and certainly not on independence day. That’s why this festival is so important.

LMaDO: The film touches upon your own story. When did you, a girl that was raised in a Zionist family and that moved to one of the biggest settlement in Palestine, Ariel, realise that what you thought was the truth was not?

LT: I’m still realising it. Unlearning and decolonising your understanding is a life long process. The first time that I started to question things was at University in Canada. There was an Israel week organised by the Jewish student organisation along with the Israeli affairs committee on my campus. These two zionist groups organised what they thought was a celebration of Israel. For a whole week we had israeli flags everywhere, displays showing that Israel is a democratic country, a queer friendly country….You know, I am a Russian jew that grew up in Israel. I know what it is like for a jewish immigrant to live here, in Israel because I was born in the Soviet Union. Unless you are a member of the white elite, of the ashkenazi elite, you were always trying to fit into something. The democracy somehow does not touch you. I therefore remember thinking that it was crazy for them to organise such an event on campus and say such things. I then realised none of them had ever lived in Israel. They only visited on birthright trips. The same week I met a Palestinian for the first time and had a conversation with him. I think he asked me for directions or something and somehow I found out he was a palestinian. The first thing that came to my mind was:”Oh my god, he knows I am a Jew and he is not trying to kill me”. The only thing I knew about them at the time is that they are trying to kill israelis and jews, that’s all they care about. This person, on the other hand, was just friendly. That unravelled an entire violent process where all what I thought was true came under question.

LMaDO: There is a very powerful scene in the film when you go back to Ariel settlement and talk about the fact that this is where you grew up, where you learned about love and your love for this place. The settlements are always presented as this obstacle to peace so what about if Ariel had to be emptied to ensure the viability of a 2 States solution?

LT: First of all I disagree with the assumption. The settlements are not an obstacle to peace. Colonialism is an obstacle to peace. The actual space on which the settlements are built is 1% of the West Bank. If we had one country from the river to the sea where everyone had equal rights, the settlements will not be an impediment to peace. It’s the idea that we must be in control, we as Jews, must have superior rights. We must control and oppress the palestinians that is an obstacle to peace. If you want to understand the situation here, it’s not in the black or white. You have to look into the deep grey. It’s like that for everyone. Just today, I was looking for an apartment in Jaffa. Me and my room mate got together with the estate agent who was Jewish. She is renting out a home that is obviously built on a piece of land where palestinian homes stood. The actual landlord, is a palestinian. What she called an Israeli-Arab. She tried to convince me that it was ok to have a palestinian landlord. She told me that he was the nicest Arab I had ever met. He is a good Arab, not the Arab you think. This is just one tiny example in a daily negotiation that goes on and is part of living here.

LMaDO: So what do you want to achieve with this film? Do you want to change people’s views? Have your parents seen the film? What did they make of it?

LT: My parents refused to watch it, for different reasons. My whole family treats my journalism (for the Real News Network) as this thing that Lia does and that we do not talk about. My journalism and my filmmaking is something that we don’t talk about because every time they try to talk about it, it turns into me asking them uncomfortable questions and it is not a conversation you can have on a daily basis. We had a very deep conversation with my mum about the film and what is in the film and what is not. She believes it is a very dangerous film because it gives ammunition to the people who are resisting Israel.

As for the process of the film, it started as a very journalistic movie. It was going to profile the 7 myths that we believe about the founding of the state of Israel through the stories of the historians and the journalists that have covered that history. As I evolved with the film, into someone who started to understand that you can not fit this place into black and white, you can not fit this place into any other kind of political conflict, it is a different place in some ways. The film evolved with me. I realised that the facts do not convince, the facts weren’t what changed my mind. It was that person that I met that changed my mind. Even when you bring every facts in the world into a conversation with Israelis they will bring you 400 other kind of facts and you will never be actually talking about the essence of the thing. I wanted to touch on the essence of the thing and the only way to do that would be to talk to the persons, the individual people and the only way to do that honestly it’s to also doing that within myself which is why the film includes my personal story.

LMaDO: I remember when we talked about the film about 2 or 3 years ago, you did not really want to have your personal story in the film.

LT: I did not! And in fact, it was only recently when I was filming for the Real News Network and doing other kind of things that I ended up being on camera a few times. That scene in Ariel is actually a scene that was supposed to be for a Real News piece and I just ended up breaking down in the middle of it! I just had this scene in my hard drive, just sitting there and bothering me in the back of my mind as I was trying so hard to do this film about these people, them, what they did. Having taken 4 and half years to make this film, I really had the luxury of reflecting and re reflecting on it. And again, and again and again the people in my life kept questioning the honesty of it if it did not include my story and so it sort of forced me to say “well you know what? Here is my story” and I think that the film is stronger as a result.

LMaDO: Yes, I agree actually. I think the film is great, I was not to be convinced but inshallah it will have an impact on people.

Final question, to make such a film that criticises and opens the debate and demystifies 48 and the creation of Israel, how did you manage to raise the money?

LT: Well, I have a sugar daddy! I’m joking! No, the entire film is funded by individuals. We did a crowd funding, there were 2 associate producers who donated quite big sums to the film and also regular people who care about this issue, who know me and the film and heard about the Indie Go Go campaign we did, people who heard about me from my journalism work…It is just individuals and in fact the vast majority of the people who donated to the film are struggling themselves financially. It is an enormous honour to see that people see the power in such a story that they are willing to put their wallets where their mouth is.

LMaDO: Thanks a lot Lia. Do you have anything else to add?

LT: Well, I would like to invite anyone who is in Israel/Palestine on the 28th of November at 6.00pm to Cinemateque Tel Aviv which is one of the most prestigious theatre that we have here in the country, it is a huge thing that the festival is being held there, to come. Not only to my film but to the whole festival. So come! And you can also find out more about the film at

LMaDO: Thanks again Lia and I do also want to say that this is a great film and that everyone should see it. Good luck with everything.

LT: Thanks so much.

About Frank Barat

Frank Barat is a Human Rights activist based in London. He is one of the coordinators of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a popular tribunal created in 2009 to expose and examine Israel's impunity in regards to its treatment of the Palestinian People. He has edited two books; 'Gaza in Crisis' with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, and 'Corporate Complicity in Israel's Occupation' with Asa Winstanley. He has also participated in the book 'Is there a court for Gaza?' with Daniel Machover.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Canada's carbon emissions skyrocket as climate costs mount

NOVEMBER 13, 2013

If global carbon emissions continue to rise at their current rate, humanity will eventually be left with no other option than a costly, world war-like mobilization, scientists warned this week.

"It's blindingly obvious that our economic system is failing us," said economist Tim Jackson, a professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey in the U.K.

Climate change, pollution, damaged ecosystems, record species extinctions, and unsustainable resource use are all clear symptoms of a dysfunctional economic system, Jackson, author of the report and book Prosperity Without Growth, told IPS.

"It is a travesty of what economy should be. It has absolutely failed to create social well-being and has hurt people and communities around the world," he said. READ MORE.....

IMPORTANT: Quebec Charter Consultations Send in your thoughts before Dec 20th

Charter consultations called

The public is invited to submit written briefs on the Parti Quebecois' secularism charter bill, that will go to public hearings in the new year.

People have until December 20th to submit their brief either by email or mail to the institutions committee at:

Édifice Pamphile-Le May
1035, rue des Parlementaires
3e étage, Bureau 3.15
Québec (Québec) G1A 1A3
Téléphone : 418 643-2722
Télécopieur : 418 643-0248

MNAs on the committee will then decide which groups and individuals will speak at the hearings on the bill.

Those hearings should start January 14th.

Thousands sentenced to life without parole for nonviolent offenses

ACLU report finds 3,728 will die in prison for nonviolent offenses, costing US nearly $2 billion

November 13, 2013 

At least 3,728 prisoners in the United States will spend the rest of their lives in prison for non-violent offenses according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study published on Wednesday.

The study found that 79 percent of these prisoners were convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes and 20 percent of nonviolent property crimes like shoplifting. Most of these cases were sentenced under mandatory minimum guidelines, for which judges had no choice but to dole out a life without parole sentence.

“Fairness has departed from the system,” said one judge as he sentenced a nonviolent offender to life in prison without parole.

In response to increasing criticism, Attorney General Eric Holder announced in August that the Justice Department would attempt to ease America’s overcrowded federal prisons by reducing mandatory drug sentences – a move that was cheered by liberals and conservatives, who favor a reduction in federal prison spending.

The study, “A Living Death,” also found a stark racial disparity: 65 percent of those sentenced to life without parole for nonviolent offenses are black and only 18 percent white. These findings coincide with previous studies showing that harsh sentencing laws unfairly target racial minorities.

Blacks, for example, make up 13 percent of the U.S. population but comprise roughly 45 percent of the state and federal prison population, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The report features a few particularly shocking cases of disproportionate sentencing, including that of Stephanie Yvette George, who was convicted for unknowingly storing crack cocaine in her attic.

The drugs belonged to the father of one of George’s children who was hiding them in a lockbox at George’s house. Because George had previously been convicted of minor drug offenses – never serving time in jail – Judge Roger Vinson had no choice but to sentence her to life without parole.

“Your role has basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder,” Judge Vinson said at the sentencing hearing. “So certainly, in my judgment, it doesn’t warrant a life sentence. If there was some way I could give you something less than life I sure would do it, but I can’t,” he added.

Human rights groups say prison sentences have grown disproportionate as part of the U.S. war on drugs, hence the high percentage of those sentenced to life without parole for drug charges.

"The punishments these people received are grotesquely out of proportion to the crimes they committed," said Jennifer Turner, an ACLU human rights researcher and author of the report. "In a humane society, we can hold people accountable for drug and property crimes without throwing away the key."

The United States has the largest incarceration rate in the world – nearly 25 percent of the global inmate population – despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population. In 2011 alone, there were 1.5 million drug arrests in the U.S., according to FBI statistics. More than 80 percent of those arrests were for drug possession.

Harsh sentencing guidelines are also proving costly to American taxpayers: the ACLU estimates the costs of keeping these prisoners in jail until they die – instead of more appropriate terms – at about $1.8 billion.

Al Jazeera

American cities installing ominous surveillance tech despite NSA scandal

Nov 13, 2013

Mass surveillance isn’t something only being conducted by the likes of the National Security Agency anymore. Despite growing concerns brought on by the Summer of Snowden, cities around America are adopting high tech spy tools.

Never mind the negative press the NSA has received in recent weeks after Edward Snowden began leaking top-secret documents to the media pertaining to the United States’ spy group’s broadly scoped surveillance programs. Law enforcement agencies and local leaders in major American cities are nevertheless signing on to install new systems that are affording officials the power to snoop on just about anyone within range.

Seattle, Washington and Las Vegas, Nevada are among the latest locales in the US to acquire surveillance tools, the likes of which were both discussed in regional media reports over the weekend that are making their rounds across the Web and causing privacy advocates around the world to raise their voice. READ MORE.....

Why Muslims Need Philosophy Literacy? In the light of Henry Corbin's History of Islamic Philosophy


Today I read a great book on history of Islamic philosophy by Corbin on the particular question of legitimacy and need of philosophy for Muslims – especially dawah workers, Ulama, Madrassas or Darul Ulooms and modern educated Muslims. I ask a simple question – rather a series of questions. Why don’t our Darul Ulooms teach Muslim Philosophy? Do they think that cannon law alone is the exhaustive expression of Islam? What constitutes Islamic intellectual tradition if Muslim philosophers, philosopher-sages, theologian-philosophers and mystics and mystic-philosophers are excluded from it? They teach logic but shrink from teaching its applications in the history of Muslim thought. They should teach it if their mandate includes preparing Muftis or jurists who may be asked questions regarding intellectual basis of theological-juris because Imams they prepare are often required for dawah work or speak on Fridays and other occasions. Modern educated audience requires philosophical method or idiom to be convinced. I don’t want to talk of masses who don’t require or understand philosophy. I talk about those who address audiences which has sizeable number of modern educated people. And the language of logic and philosophy has universal currency that dawah workers have to exploit. Our Imams are also dawah workers. How can dawah workers put their points if the very idiom that modern man or modern educated Muslim understands is not known. As Corbin puts it “Without prejudging the opinions or the 'orthodoxy' that call into question the 'Muslim' quality of one or other of our philosophers, we will be speaking of 'Islamic philosophy' as of a philosophy whose development, and whose modalities, are essentially linked to the religious and spiritual fact of Islam: a philosophy whose existence is proof that, contrary to what has been unjustly claimed, canon law (fiqh) alone is neither an adequate nor a decisive expression of Islam.”

Regarding the Quranic foundations for seeing philosophy as essentially Islamic discipline it is sufficient to note that the function of the Prophet includes teaching hikmah. Various speculations regarding the import or meaning of the term not withstanding, Corbin is able to show, with strong arguments, that “the term hikmah is the equivalent of the Greek sophia, and the term hikmat ilahlyah is the literal equivalent of the Greek theosophia. Metaphysics is generally defined as being concerned with the ilahiyat, the Divinalia.” He notes that Muslim historians, from al-Shahrastani in the twelfth century to Qutb-al-Din Ashkivari in the seventeenth, take the view that the wisdom of the 'Greek sages' was itself also derived from the 'Cave of the lights of prophecy'.”

The Prophet’s prayer “O God! Show me the things as they are in reality” is understood by the greatest modern Muslim philosopher-mystic Iqbal as search for rational foundations in Islam or what may be called an aspect of philosophy.

Many of the greatest names in Muslim history include those who have been primarily or secondarily philosophers. Many great ulama and mystics had deep grounding in traditional philosophy. Ibn Taymiyyah, the great theologian whom our modern day opponents of philosophy acknowledge as ideological inspiration, wrote a great book on logic and had great knowledge of philosophical tradition. Even the great Ghazalli, the author of Tahafatul Falasafa ( Destruction of Philosophers) was a philosopher of a sort and refuted certain philosophical opponents on philosophical grounds. If we want to be true heirs of great predecessors (Aslaaf) we must be equipped with knowledge of modern thought currents and Islamic intellectual traditions. If we ask our respectable religious scholars to explicate countless numerous verses in the Quran that refer to other world, to the higher world, to the cosmological and psychological realities, to aql, tadabbur, tafaqqur etc. deeper meanings of any key terms from Iman to Ihsaan to tawheed they will have to take recourse to philosophical notions.

From Hazrat Ali who can be called the greatest metaphysician amongst the Companions to Iqbal and Isa Nuruddin we find great tradition of Islamic philosophers or philosopher-sages. Important names generally held to be Mujaddids have been philosophers or used the idiom of philosophy to carry out their mandate.

No one can dispute that the Quran can’t be philosophically understood or philosophical exegesis is illegitimate. 

Philosophy is opposed on the ground that it is rationalistic and this is seen to contradict emphasis on faith and intuition of the vision of the heart that is emphasized in Islam. Now this objection is baseless and based on great ignorance. Philosophy that the Quran implicates, that great Muslim philosophers have practised is not rationalistic but intellectualistitic and there is a hell of difference between reason that post-Cartesean Western philosophy upheld and Intellect (that is intuitive intelligence, contemplative vision) that Platonic-Muslim philosophical tradition has upheld. Even so called rationalist Ibn Rushd is not to be understood in terms of Western rationalism. And in fact, even in the history of Western philosophy, we find very few crass rationalists who deny God or transcendence altogether. So why oppose philosophy? Why oppose philosophy if it is nothing but preparation for death? Why oppose philosophy if it is clarification of intellectual content of religion? I reproduce two more quotes from Corbin to state my point. “In fact, were Islam nothing but the pure legalistic religion of the shari'ah, the philosophers would have no role to play and would be irrelevant. This is something they have not failed to recognize over the centuries in the difficulties with the doctors of the Law. If, on the other hand, Islam in the full sense is not merely the legalistic, exoteric religion, but the unveiling, the penetration and the realization of a hidden, esoteric reality (batin), then the position of philosophy and of the philosopher acquires an altogether different meaning.”

Further developing the same line of argument Corbin is able to present the case for philosophy in convincing terms that no exoteric or legalistic authority can ignore or question on its own terms. “Is Islamic religion limited to its legalistic and juridical interpretation, to the religion of the law, to the exoteric aspect (zahir)? If the answer is in the affirmative, it is pointless even to speak of philosophy. Alternatively, does not this zahir or exoteric aspect, which, it is claimed, is sufficient for the regulation of one's behaviour in everyday life, envelop something which is the batin, the inner, esoteric aspect? If the answer is yes, the entire meaning of one's everyday behaviour undergoes a modification, because the letter of positive religion, the shari'ah, will then possess a meaning only within the haqiqah, the spiritual reality, which is the esoteric meaning of the divine Revelations. This esoteric meaning is not something one can construct with the support of Logic or a battery of syllogisms. Neither is it a defensive dialectic such as that found in the kalam, for one does not refute symbols and philosophical meditation were called upon to 'substantiate' each other.”

Referring to the formulation that states “philosophy is the tomb in which theology must perish in order to rise again as a theosophia, divine wisdom (hikmat ilahlyah) or gnosis ('irfan)” Corbin clarifies the issue. Philosophy deepens our understanding of religion. It may even purify it. For me philosophy helps identify and fight subtle forms of idolatry. 

So I invite all those averse to philosophy in the name of Islam to examine what do Muslim philosophers mean by philosophy, to see Schuon’s critique of Ghazali’s critique of rationalistic philosophy and then to consider possibility of penetrating into the depths of Divine Book by means of philosophical (not rationalistic) exegeses.