Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women’s Day (IWD) and Human Rights 2014

By Veronica Strong-Boag

Author’s note: This post was commissioned as an IWD blog by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It was initially approved and posted by the Museum on 4 March 2014. It was, however, almost immediately withdrawn as ‘Communications’ at the Museum deemed the one line comment on the current federal Conservative government unacceptable as written. The offer of a substantive footnote and illustrative example from the author brought no reply. has reposted this time-sensitive contribution here, to which examples of anti-women policies and a footnote have been added.
International Women’s Day on 8th March should be a key date in the human rights calendar. Its place is hard-won. When Charlotte Bunch, a leading figure in the creation of UN Women (2010), insisted in 1990 that women’s rights are human rights in the Human Rights Quarterly and Edward Broadbent, from the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, served in 1993 as a judge in the Vienna Tribunal on Women’s Human Rights, one half of humanity’s entitlement to fair dealing remained globally contested. That struggle continues.
Although recognition that women’s rights are human rights pre-dates even writings of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) in the western tradition, IWD emerged in 1908 with a mass women suffrage meeting organized by American socialists.  By 1911 the idea had reached Europe, where again it persisted as a special interest of the left. Unlike ‘Mother’s Day,’ also first observed in 1908, which celebrated women as maternal and peace-loving, IWD initially concentrated on waged and industrial labour. Early champions such as the German socialist Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) intended to highlight tragedies such as the 1911 New York Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and economic oppression generally. When IWD became an official holiday in Russia after 1917 and in the new People’s Republic of China in 1949, even as both countries failed to offer equality, liberal democracies, not to mention dictatorships, shied away.
Champions of equality, however, persisted. 20th century wars and genocides prompted international action. The United Nations, like the earlier League of Nations, proved influential, producing Conventions on the Political Rights of Women (1952), on the Nationality of Married Women (1957), and on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (1962). By the 1960s, the second great feminist wave took up the unfinished agenda of fundamental human rights. Its message infused International Women’s Year (1975), the International Decade of Women (1976-85), and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW; 1979).
IWD was another beneficiary. In 1977 the UN encouraged members to proclaim 8th March ‘the UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.’ The linkage of women and peace (remember Mother’s Day) was familiar. Far newer was recognition of violence against women in both war and peace as a major human rights violation. This was not the only shift. By the close of the 20th century, the IWD feminist grassroots in Canada as elsewhere emphasized the role of class, race, sexuality, and (dis)ability in further jeopardizing particular groups. Although Canadians grew increasingly sensitive to human rights, state approval included the threat of cooptation. In 2014 Canada’s Conservative government left its anti-woman record unmentioned (which included withdrawal of plans for a national child care program and major cuts to Status of Women Canada [2006], the prohibition of civil servants taking pay equity complaints to the Human Rights Commission [2009], the denial of international funding for abortion [2010], and major cuts to public services that employ and serve significant numbers of women)[1] as it dedicated IWD week to the ‘valuable contribution of women entrepreneurs.’
For the moment, despite herculean efforts by loyalists, the IWD spirit often resides elsewhere than in official commitments. In 1991, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside inaugurated 14th February as a Day of Remembrance for murdered and missing women. As losses mounted across the country and around the world, that tragic record drew increasing censure.  The UN appointed a special rapporteur on violence against women while the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action provided on-going proof of abuse for the UN CEDAW Committee. In 2014, nation-wide Valentine’s Day protests once again illuminated the plight of particularly disadvantaged women. The Canadian human rights calendar now properly includes the day previously evocative solely of romance.
The 8th of March should not, however, be abandoned. The IWD’s vision of ‘bread and roses’ does not rely on UN approval, for all its value.  Like much feminist accomplishment, it has been hard forged on picket lines, in women’s shelters, in political life, and in private homes.  With its rich history of resistance and celebration, IWD remains a key marker of how far we have come and how much remains to be done when it comes to women’s human rights in Canada and around the globe. On 8 March 2014, like many others, I will be renewing my commitment to a more just future.

1. For an introduction to this see Sylvia Bashevkin, “Regress trumps progress: women, feminism and the Harper government,” Perspective/FES Washington (July 2012),

Veronica Strong-Boag, the author and editor of many scholarly books and articles, received the Tyrrell Medal for excellence in Canadian history from the Royal Society of Canada in 2012 and is a former president of the Canadian Historical Association. She is a Professor Emerita at UBC and at the moment the Ashley Visiting Professor at Trent.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Confused logic approves NYPD surveillance of Muslims

Court’s dismissal of Hassan v. City of New York disregards similarity to stop and frisk

by Rozina Ali @rozina_ali March 5, 2014

On Feb. 20, a U.S. district judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department’s widespread surveillance of Muslim Americans in New Jersey. But just six months earlier, a Manhattan federal court issued a historic ruling against the same department’s stop-and-frisk program, declaring the city’s targeting of black and Hispanic communities unconstitutional. How can the same police department be guilty of bias in one case but not the other?  

The word “counterterrorism” has long been known to make room for certain allowances in our legal landscape. However, Judge William J. Martini’s ruling in Hassan v. City of New York, brought by theCenter for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates on June 6, 2012, sets a particularly dangerous precedent for cases involving counterterrorism institutions that violate individual rights. It suggests that under the national security rubric, the government is absolved of the responsibility to protect the rights of all citizens equally.

The 11 plaintiffs — among them a decorated Iraq War veteran, former and current Rutgers University students and the proprietors of a Muslim school for girls — argued that once the NYPD’s surveillance practices became known, their businesses and careers took hits. Customers stopped going to stores where they would be spied on by police, colleagues’ distrust of the plaintiffs hampered their career progress, and members of the Muslim community limited their interactions with one another in public spaces. Martini not only ruled that the NYPD was not directly responsible for these damages but also found that it was not discriminatory in its practices, saying:

Plaintiffs in this case have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion. The most likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies … While this surveillance program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after The Associated Press published its articles, the motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.

According to this logic, the intent of the NYPD was not to discriminate but to find terrorists in the most likely place: in the Muslim community. But former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly offered a similar justification for the stop-and-frisk program: Gun violence occurs disproportionately in particular minority communities, hence the NYPD conducts searches and seizures in those communities in order to lower crime. But U.S District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin, who ruled on stop and frisk in Floyd v. City of New York, found that whatever the intent, the effect of the program had been discriminatory targeting of minority groups. It amounted, she wrote, to a “policy of indirect racial profiling.”

Martini does not deny that the NYPD engages in discriminatory policies through its spying program, but he finds them to be neither unconstitutional nor grounds to reprimand the department. In fact, he finds surveillance of the Muslim community to be necessary to meet the NYPD’s objectives.

Underlying Martini’s ruling is a baseless assumption that the department’s surveillance is effective — that it is necessary because it yields results. Kelly argued a similar case for the stop-and-frisk program, claiming that crime was lower in New York because of the practice. That myth has long been dispelled. “Nearly 90 percent of the people stopped are released without the officer finding any basis for a summons or arrest,” Scheindlin wrote in her decision.

Martini offers no skepticism of the efficacy of the NYPD’s spying program on the Muslim community, despite research indicating otherwise. In 2012, ProPublica investigated the NYPD’s claim that its counterterrorism tactics were effective and found that the department grossly overstated its success in thwarting attacks. The same year, NYPD Assistant Chief Thomas Galati testified that conversations from the department’s spying program had not led to successful cases. Rather, it has been cooperation between the Muslim community and the FBI and police that has yielded results. Since 9/11, Muslim Americans have alerted law enforcement to potential terrorist threats in almosthalf the cases.

The Hassan ruling is based on assumptions perpetuated by the war on terrorism — that Muslim communities are havens for terrorists and that any counterterrorism policy, no matter how invasive, is necessary for security. And it sends a fractious message about the police department’s discriminatory policies. Whereas the Floyd ruling required the NYPD to institute lasting reforms, the dismissal of Hassan disregards the need for reform in how the police targets the Muslim community. These divergent rulings pose a frustrating conundrum: How can a department be expected to train officers not to engage in discriminatory practices against one minority while its counterterrorism training reinforces targeting another minority as acceptable?

However, one judge’s decision does not have to be the definitive voice in these matters; there are other avenues of reform available. Despite attempts to overturn Scheindlin’s decision, New York’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio and returning Police Commissioner William Bratton have shown they are willing to reform stop and frisk. But if they want long-lasting improvement in the NYPD’s ranks, the city’s leadership will have to show that they are committed to stopping all discriminatory practices. 

Rozina Ali is senior editor at the Cairo Review of Global Affairs. She writes on national security, counter-terrorism and Middle East politics. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MUST WATCH: Islam and Life with Tariq Ramadan: Danger of Takfiri ideology for Islam

 The rise of Takfiri movements has caused outrage all across traditionally majority Muslim regions of the world and elsewhere. Tariq Ramadan discusses this frightening phenomenon with Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims.

ACTION ITEM: Please help stop a blatant attempt to disenfranchise lower income voters

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Anderson <>

Date: Wed, Mar 5, 2014

URGENT: Click here to email MPs on the committee debating the UN-Fair Elections Act!

Federal Conservatives are trying to rush through an overhaul of the Elections Act and ban Elections Canada from promoting Democracy. This is a blatant attempt to disenfranchise lower income voters and individuals with more transient lives.

Their proposed changes will eliminate two methods of voting that have proven effective for low income communities.  One is the long-standing Canadian practice of vouching that allowed 120,000 people to vote in 2011. The other is eliminating Elections Canada's expanded use of its Voter Identification Cards (VICs) for youth attending university, seniors in residence, and Aboriginal people living on reserve.

Conservatives claim that vouching and VICs are the source of widespread fraud, but there is zero evidence to support this. (Read more)

Even though voter turnout is at a dismal 61% federally with low income voters at an even lower percentage, the bill would ban Elections Canada from launching ad campaigns encouraging Canadians to vote. 

Click here to email the MPs on the committee!

A Girl Like Me The Gwen Araujo Story

Gwen Araujo

I just finished watching the 2006 movie A Girl Like Me The Gwen Araujo Story. Gwen Araujo (February 24, 1985 – October 3, 2002), was an American teenage pre-operative trans woman who was brutally murdered in Newark, California. She was killed by four men, two of whom she had allegedly been sexually intimate with, who beat and strangled her after discovering she was transsexual. Two of the defendants were convicted of second-degree murder, but not convicted on the requested hate crime enhancements. The other two defendants pleaded guilty or no contest to voluntary manslaughter. Read more about Gwen's story here on wikipedia.  

I hope everyone will watch this movie to get a glimpse of the many struggles transgendered people have to endure on a daily basis and the real dangers they face as a result of societal bigotry.  

Each November, communities across the US and Canada hold a Transgender Day of Remembrance to memorialize the dozens of transgender people like Gwen Araujo who are murdered every year. 

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. 

April 7th -- Quebec goes to the polls

S N Smith -- May 5th, 2014

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has confirmed that Quebecers will go to the polls in a general election on April 7th, 2014. I hope there is a 100% voter turnout from the Muslim community as generally Muslims fail to be politically engaged and don't even bother voting at all, but instead just want things handed to them on a silver platter without making any real effort. It is little wonder why they are so politically disenfranchised. 

But this election, which polls say will be a close call, is a very crucial one, for it involves the important issue of religious freedom and rights which are being threatened as a result of this new proposed charter of values over which oceans of ink has been spilt in the past few months. Make no mistake about it, this charter is a direct attack on the province's Muslim community, especially Muslim women, and only secondarily an attack on other faith communities. Nevertheless, all faith communities will be adversely affected if this charter becomes law. 

So come on Quebec Muslims, mobilize and vote on April 7th.

Allah is forgiving

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A different perspective on Islamic unity and sectarianism

by  Ro Wassem

MARCH 03, 2014

One of the most used arguments used by atheists (and other like-minded people) against believers in some sort of religion is that religion has split mankind into factions resulting in much violence; therefore religion is evil and must be abolished. Valid point, but I think it’s biased. It’s not religion exclusively that divides people; rather people fight over all sorts of things. Race being an example. Should we, or rather, can we get rid of the diversity of our colours?

Things are neutral. Religion is neutral. It’s your attitude towards it that determines whether you choose to unite, or divide with others. Shifting the blame doesn’t solve anything. So, we need to identify the problem and look for solutions.  Education, as with everything else, is required to curb oppressive ideologies like racism and sectarianism, which is what the Quran aspires to do.

On unity, the Quran says:

You must hold fast, all of you together, to the Bond of God and be not divided into sects (Sura 3:103).

And do not be like the ones who became divided and differed after the clear proofs had come to them. And those will have a great punishment (Sura 3:105).

Those who break the unity of their Deen and become sects, you have nothing to do with them whatsoever. Their case will go to God and He will then tell them what they had been doing (Sura 6:159).

(And do not be) of those who have divided their Deen and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has (Sura 30:32).

Steadfastly uphold the Deen (Way of Life), and do not break up your unity therein (Sura 42:13).

What went wrong?

Despite these very clear and straight-forward commandments, the “Muslim World” is quite the hub of violent sectarianism that causes much bloodshed within those regions. We have this nasty habit of cherry-picking the verses we choose to follow. So, the verses that call for unity often get ignored and are replaced with scholarly opinions that promote sectarianism. Furthermore, fundamentalism and bigotry play a part as well.

Let me take you through the mindset of a sectarian, as I myself have been through that phase. It is the unshaken belief that my sect is the only ‘right’ version of Islam and worthy of salvation, while all others are misguided and headed for doom. Instead of compassion, there is a strong sense of fear and hate for them. Assuming infallibility for one’s self, religion becomes a tool to satisfy the ego by calling others infidels and other derogatory labels. All in all, it is either my way, or the highway.

"What if I show you the something in the Quran that absolutely shatters sectarianism? Contrary to popular opinion, there is not only one “correct” path to Islam (Peace), rather there are multiple paths."

Through this Book, God guides to paths of Islam (Peace), those who seek His Approval. He brings them out of darkness into the light of His grace, and guides them to the straight path (Sura 5:16).

As for those who sincerely strive for Us, We surely guide them onto paths that lead to Us. God is with those who do Good (Sura 29:69).

If we were to measure spiritual maturity in terms of our biological growth, then fundamentalism is the childhood. A natural phase, but something you must grow from. You may read my full piece on stages of consciousness here.

How can we unite?

Let me start by clearing a misconception. Unity does not equate to uniformity. Some people have the view that unity can only be achieved among people who have the same (or identical) set of beliefs, cultural practices, and paradigms. This is not only highly improbable, but is also flawed conceptually. See, human beings are complex creatures, having unique experiences that shape their paradigms. Forget billions of Muslims, you would not find two people who are exactly the same.

To me, unity can be achieved regardless of the beliefs of others. It is the internalization that God has created people with a free will of their own, and that they may choose whichever spiritual path that makes them the closest to God and turns them into a better human being. I am not discouraging rational debate, I must add. Indeed, debate is crucial for growth and reform. However, you stop playing God, as you realise that judgment belongs to God alone (13:40). All it takes is spiritual maturity and broad-mindedness from your side.

Dropping the labels does not solve the problem.

One of the solutions put forward to achieve unity is to identify yourself as only a Muslim instead of a Sunni Muslim, a Shia Muslim, a Quranist Muslim, or a Sufi Muslim. For a long time, I agreed with this notion. However, now I think that it’s superficial at best. Labels don’t create sects; sectarian behaviour does. The problem with identifying yourself as only a Muslim is that sectarian behaviour may still exist within. You may consider yourself a “true Muslim” and others “not so true Muslims”. I have experienced this first-hand, so I’m convinced that this is not the answer.

You simply can’t expect every Muslim to share the same interpretation of the Quran. Therefore, labels help us identify one another. And, identification is a crucial factor in dialogue. Let’s take an example. If you ask me where I am from, and I respond by saying that I am a “citizen of the world”, do you expect the conversation to evolve from there? There is a lack of information, so it might stop there and then. However, if I say I’m an American, you may share your personal stories that are relevant, and the dialogue furthers.

So, the problem doesn’t lie in the labels, it lies in sectarian behavior which is a psychological construct. The sectarian ideology is the real culprit here which needs to be addressed. The ideology is that since X and Y are different from me, they must be my enemies. Different approaches to Islam are not a threat to unity, bigotry is!

The key word in those verses, as we saw above, is to “not DIVIDE into sects”. You can be a Sunni Muslim who does not discriminate against Shias, for example. In this case, you find that Sunni Islam makes the most sense to you, but for others, it might be Shia Islam or Quranist Islam. Realizing that freedom of belief is a gift of

God, you not only unite with other Muslims, but also free yourself from the negative energy of hate.

In a nutshell, sectarianism causes division. Division causes hate. Hate causes extremism. Extremism causes bloodshed. Hence, this becomes the perfect recipe for an unstable society and precisely why sectarianism has been severely discouraged in the Quran.

Final thoughts

O Muslims! We must stop dividing over petty issues and instead unite to fight the power-mongering psychopaths that seek to cause disharmony between us.  Disunity can never bring about any good! Let us put all the barriers of race, gender, sex orientation, religion, and politics to rest and respect people for what they are, provided they are not harming another human being. I call for unity! I call for Islam (Peace)!

* Ro Waseem is a progressive thinker who blogs about Muslim Reformation at

Monday, March 3, 2014

Appeal from Nat'l Islamic Sisters' Assocation. NISA-Canada

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Nat'l Islamic Sisters' Assoc. NISA-Canada <>
Date: Mon, Mar 3, 2014 

Dear Friends and supporters,

Assalaamu alaikum wa Rahmatullah,

We have launched our campaign to raise the seed capital for our social enterprise that will build our NISA Center!

Chances are, you or someone you know has received support, practical aid or other help from NISA Canada, Inc. Help us build and grow to help our Sisters and Families even more!

Please click on the link below​ ​and donate generously.

 Please forward this appeal to your email lists.

This is an easy and effective way to establish an enduring charity (sadaqah jariah) for a loved one who has passed on. Support local  women and families!

Thank you for your Support!​​

We're here to help.

Our new postal address is : 
2- 2 Sweetbriar Circle, Ottawa, ON K2J 2K4

Petition to UOttawa to establish a graduate "Institute for Middle East and North Africa Study (IMENAS)

Dear friends and colleagues,

I've started the petition addressed to Mr. Allan Rock (President of Ottawa University) to establish a graduate "Institute for Middle East and North Africa Study (IMENAS) at Ottawa University" and need your help to get it off the ground.

Will you take 30 seconds to SIGN it right now and share it with friends?

Here's why it's important: 

Despite the strategic importance of the Middle East and North Africa to Canada, we still do not have a graduate institute that is specialized in Middle Eastern and North African Studies at any of our Ottawa-based universities. Since Ottawa is our national capital and the locus of our parliamentarians and decision-makers, it is very important to have such an institute located in Ottawa. Researchers and graduates of this institute will be able to bridge the academic-professional gap that exists concerning this region, and these Canadian professionals will be better placed to produce more-informed foreign policies concerning the Middle East. For these reasons, I have prepared a proposal to build a graduate Institute for Middle East and North Africa Study (IMENAS) at Ottawa University.

The population of young Arabs in the Ottawa-Gatineau area is growing at an average of four percent per year. Most of these young men and women are enrolled -- or about to enroll -- in a higher education institution. As you may know, I am already teaching an undergraduate class on the Middle East and Arab Politics at Ottawa University. In my own class I have fifty-five students and forty percent of them are Canadians of Arab origin. These students are very interested in deepening their knowledge about the Middle East and have indicated a desire to pursue a Masters degree in that area. Their main complaint is that, regrettably, the only options available to them at this time are to move to Montreal, to Toronto or to the United states where such institutes for Middle East studies exist.

Ottawa University is a leading institution in the Social Sciences, it is ideally located close to the Canadian Parliament and to City Hall, and it has the largest Arab student population doing graduate studies in political science. IMENAS will not only provide interested students with a place to obtain a Masters degree in Middle Eastern studies, but it will also allow them to engage in timely research, workshops, seminars and field-work through the various activities that will be available including a Canadian Journal on the Middle East, Summer travel program to the Middle East, internship placement program, and an open Canada-Middle East Forum for building networks and starting a constructive dialogue.

If you share with me the view that the time has come for this Institute to be launched in Ottawa, and if you agree that Canada needs to show more interest and to deepen the understanding of Canadians in Middle Eastern politics and culture, then please sign this petition and circulate it among your friends and colleagues. Only together we can work toward building this initiative for the future.

Rouba Al-Fattal

Thank you for your support!