Friday, April 25, 2014

The hypocrisy of Tony Blair's Middle East vision

Blair's simplistic formula for tackling radical Islam is leading him to support some of the most oppressive forces in the region


theguardian.com, Thursday 24 April 2014 16.24 BST


Tony Blair's speech this week at Bloomberg in London reveals a growing support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. A decade ago, Blair was justifying wars in the Middle East on the grounds that they would launch a democratic revolution and sweep away Arab despots. In his latest speech he embraced Arab despots whose regimes, he says, are necessary bulwarks against Islamism. Blair's change in emphasis reflects a wider shift in neoconservative thinking over the past decade, while the underlying analysis remains as flawed as ever.

At the heart of Blair's argument is a single formula that he uses to explain the politics not only of the Middle East, but of Muslim populations around the world. Muslims everywhere, he says, are caught in an "essential battle" between two ways of thinking about Islam.

In this "Titanic struggle", one side is modern, pluralistic, and supportive of religious freedom and open economies. On the other side are the "Islamists", who reject the separation of religion from politics and, like communists and fascists before them, want to impose their particular interpretation on the rest of society.

It is, of course, a hopelessly simplistic formula. Yes, reactionary interpretations of religion must be opposed. But the revolutionary upheavals in the Middle East are ultimately about freedom from authoritarian political structures and the economic marginalisation generated by neoliberal economics (Blair's "open economies").

Blair's formula – derived from neoconservatives such as Bernard Lewis – puts him on the wrong side of this struggle. That's because the only question for him is the potential power of anti-western Islamists, so he ends up supporting some of the most oppressive forces in the region.

Last summer's military coup in Egypt that overthrew a democratically elected government is described by Blair as "absolutely necessary". Thousands of peaceful protesters have since been imprisoned by the regime, including many prominent journalists and intellectuals. Meanwhile, officially sanctioned pop songs pay tribute to army chief Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, and his face beams from posters. Blair says he disagrees with the death sentence on 500 opponents of the regime, but asks us to show "sensitivity" in our criticisms. The Egyptian generals get his support for the simple reason that they have declared war on Islamism. To him, nothing else really matters.

While Blair's speech lays out recommendations for Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Iran, and Palestine, one country is not even mentioned by name: Saudi Arabia – surely the natural starting point for any genuine campaign against the use of religion for reactionary politics. And the ruling family's record of domestic repression is unsurpassed. Yet the Saudi regime gets a free pass from Blair.

The Saudi "Islamists", it seems, are to be embraced if they buy our weapons and keep the oil flowing. This is the return of the old foreign policy formula that neoconservatives criticised after 9/11: stability first, democracy can wait.

On Syria, Blair is right to argue for a strengthened opposition that might force President Assad to the negotiating table. But Blair seems to prefer that Assad remain in power for a period of time, rather than the opposition, with its Islamist elements, enter government. That Assad is also in an alliance with the Islamists of Hezbollah simply points to the superficiality of Blair's formula as a way of understanding specific contexts.

A decade ago, Blair joined neoconservatives in arguing that Arab despots such as Saddam Hussein needed to be removed from power because of the security threat they represented in a post-9/11 world. Saddam's ouster was supposed to launch a pro-western democratic transformation across the region. In fact, genuine democratic change in the Middle East, where it has occurred, has been brought about not by external military force but by popular insurrection. Once it became clear that democratic revolutions would not fit the mould of pro-western liberalism and free market economics, neoconservatives decided that the old-guard despots may once again be needed in order to stabilise the region.

Blair's supporters say he has discovered nuance. But the shift in his latest speech is not towards subtlety but a step back to the rhetoric of stability, and the abandonment of the post-9/11 neoconservative slogan of reordering the world. What remains is the hypocrisy of denouncing an ideology as inherently violent, and then launching a grand ideological war against it that results in far more violence.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reminder - Demonstration to Free Raif May 3 Saudi Embassy -- Ottawa

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Universalist Muslims <mpvottawa@gmail.com>

Free Arabia’s Malcolm X

Stand Up For Raif Badawi on UNESCO World Press Freedom Day – Demonstration outside the Saudi Embassy (Ottawa) on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

 For Immediate Release (Ottawa - April 22, 2014)  -- Concerned citizens and human rights organizations all over the world, to demonstrate for freedom of co-Founder of Saudi group, The Liberal Muslim Network, Raif Badawi, outside Saudi embassies on Saturday, May 3, 2014, UNESCO World Press Freedom Day.

 Raif Badawi – co-Founder of The Liberal Muslim Network, in Saudi Arabia, with partners and support in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Palestine, was arrested in Saudi Arabia, after demanding churches in Saudi Arabia for Christians, women’s rights in Saudi Arabia with the elimination of the male guardianship system, and an end to laws against apostasy in Saudi Arabia.

Raif Badawi was imprisoned in June, 2012, arrested on charges of insulting religious police and apostasy. He remains in prison in Jeddah at this time. At his latest appeal held December, 2013, the charge for apostasy was returned to the lower court for more evidence (it was not dropped). His sentence of 600 lashes and 7 years imprisonment, in effect since July, 2013, remains. He may still be convicted of apostasy. The penalty for apostasy is beheading. 

In arresting, convicting and imprisoning Raif Badawi, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has violated the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights including Articles, 2, 3, 18 and 19.

Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haider and the couple’s three school age children now live in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Ensaf Haider and a number of organizations and individuals all over the world are planning demonstrations to take place on Saturday, May 3 – UNESCO World Press Freedom Day, outside Saudi Embassies in support of Raif Badawi.  Ensaf will be in attendance at the Ottawa demonstration across from the Saudi embassy in Canada located at, 201 Sussex Drive.

Three demonstrations have already taken place and may take place again in Norway, Rome and New Zealand. Photo from demonstration in Norway below from Amnesty International.

We denounce the arrest, conviction and sentencing of Raif Badawi and demand that the Kingdom of Saudi  Arabia immediately and safely release Raif Badawi and permit him to join his wife and children in Canada and quash all charges and convictions against him.


Contact: Shahla Khan Salter


613 262 8798
-- 
Universalist Muslims is a federally incorporated Canadian not for profit organization, whose goals include spreading egalitarian understandings of Islam, Muslims and Universal human rights and connecting individuals and communities, of many schools of thought, both inside and outside Muslim communities, to spread harmony and peace.  We accept donations for Universalist Muslims.

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Unmosqued

Tuesday, April 24, 2014 -- by  Anse Tamara

Today I was privileged to view a private screening of the documentary Unmosqued. It was a powerful film, that touched me deeply. 

In my early days of Islam I was shocked and horrified by my mosque experiences. I felt humiliated, isolated, oppressed, dejected and rejected. I never spoke about these experiences, never told anyone how I felt being relegated to a little room with filthy dirty carpet and screaming babies, while the few men spread out on pristine oriental carpets. I never mentioned how it felt to have someone call me a ‘kafir’ and organize an intervention for me because I had stopped wearing one style of hijab and opted for another. I never shared the frightening comparisons happening in my head as I realized I had never, ever been treated like this in a church. I never spoke about any of it, not even to myself. 

Instead I walked away. I turned to Islamic scholarship, seeking comfort in the practices of Prophet Muhammad (s) and spent many years healing my torn soul. 

I believed myself stronger when I returned to the United States and to community two years ago. But I wasn’t. 

 I found myself in a tiny balcony with a large city ordinance warning on the wall not to have more than twenty people. I kept counting the women and children and hoping the balcony wouldn’t collapse. 

 I tried another mosque, but my smiles and salams were to no avail as I was nodded at and skirted around. I went back anyway because the women’s section had been clean and i could both see and hear the Imam. When I returned a rough and messy curtain had been placed between the women and the men. I prayed and went home. 

 At four other mosques I offered to teach (Quran, Islamic sciences, children, adults), and showed them that I spoke Arabic, have my ijaza in Quran, and am licensed to teach from the scholars I learned from. I was politely turned away. 

 In essence the unmosqueing of my youth became the demosqueing of my adulthood. 

 Again I walked away and turned (like so many others) to the creation of a second space, a safe space, an online space for now, as I plan a ‘brick and mortar’ space. 

 The viewing of Unmosqued brought all of these experiences and feelings to the fore. I felt bruised and spent after watching it. I couldn’t stop crying all the way through, and for a good time afterwards. 

 I would very much like to #bemosqued (the term coined by Shaikh Faraz Rabbani), but for now I am thankful that we can talk about being #unmosqued, #demosqued, and #nothankyoumosqued. 

 It is time to start talking about this. It is time to raise respectful voices. It is time for women to find a welcome mat at the door of any mosque they happen to visit. It is time.

 Anse Tamara
 Rabata.org

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pauline Marois is gone. Is Stephen Harper next, given the similarities?

Siddiqui Parallels between former Quebec premier Pauline Marois and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are inescapable.
One shouldn’t push parallels too far. But some between Stephen Harper and Pauline Marois are inescapable.

  • In calling the Quebec election for April 7, Marois broke her own fixed election date legislation. In calling the 2008 election, Harper ignored his own 2007 law setting fixed election dates every four years.

  • Both use phony wedge issues to consolidate their base and polarize the public. Neither cares for the long-term consequences of deeply dividing society. Her charter of Quebec values dealt with a crisis that did not exist. He spent billions on “tough-on-crime” initiatives when crime has been going down.

  • Both exploit prejudices against minorities. Marois was crude in going after Muslims, Jews and Sikhs in the name of secularism. He is clever in isolating Canada’s one million Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism. Both use the same tactics of hand-picking totally unrepresentative Muslims to attack the community.

  • Both copy the Republican Party’s dirty tactics of suppressing the votes of groups that are likely to vote for the opposition. For years, the GOP has been making it nearly impossible for blacks, Latinos and the young to vote. The PQ government made it difficult for Anglos, especially students, in Montreal to vote. The Harper government ischanging election laws to try to disenfranchise about 500,000 people who are not likely to vote Conservative.

  • Both use Orwellian terminology to peddle their wares. She called her signature issue the charter of secular values when, in fact, it violated the most fundamental secular value, the right to religion. He calls his plan to make elections unfair “the Fair Elections Act.”

  • Both control information and pack institutions with their own appointees in order to squelch dissent. When the Quebec Council for the Status of Women was deeply divided over the charter, Marois repacked it with four new pro-charter appointees. Harper has demonstrated the same instinct with ever more partisan appointments, from the Senate and the courts to tribunals and other federal institutions.

  • Both ignore expert advice.
  • She pushed for the charter against the advice of the provincial justice ministry, the human rights commission and business groups. He killed the gun registry against the advice of police chiefs across the nation, pushed his crime agenda against the advice of criminologists, and axed the mandatory long-form census against the advice of his own finance minister (Jim Flaherty) and virtually every expert, including the chief statistician at Statistics Canada who quit in protest.
    Harper and his ministers also launch vicious personal attacks on experts. The latest example is Pierre Poilievre’s tirade against Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer, that he is opposing the changes to the elections act merely to amass more power, a bigger budget and escape accountability.

  • Both Marois and Harper spend government money on advertising campaigns promoting programs that advance their partisan purposes — she in pushing the charter, he in spending at least $200 million on his Economic Action Plan and other initiatives central to the fortunes of the Conservative party.

  • Both treat the opposition not as adversaries but enemies. Anyone who does not agree with her is not a true Quebecer; anyone who does not agree with Harper is not a Canadian patriot.

  • Both dislike multiculturalism.
  • Marois reflects the long-standing Quebec opposition to it and preference for “interculturalism,” with its implicit supremacy of not only the French language but also French culture.
    Harper, on the other hand, is the first prime minister to disrespect the federal law of the land — Section 27 of the Charter and the Multiculturalism Act. Either he does not believe in that policy or thinks of it as a Liberal achievement that should be ignored, as he has tried to do with the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights.
    He and his ministers prefer the term pluralism to multiculturalism. Harper said so, slyly, on Feb. 28 when welcoming the Aga Khan in Toronto.
    “His Highness is likewise dedicated to pluralism, a foundational principle of Canadian governance. I am not speaking here of the food and festival multiculturalism of recent decades. Rather I refer to a much older consensus born on the frontier, in which your character mattered more to your neighbours than your lineage.”
    This is triply dishonest.
    The “multiculturalism of recent decades” is decidedly not about food and festivals but rather constitutional equality for everyone, precisely what many in his Conservative base cannot quite stomach — like many in Marois’ constituency. “The older consensus” that he’s nostalgic about placed minorities at the mercy of the majority, just as Marois and Co. still want. As for “character,” he is implying that multiculturalism dilutes it.
    Even Quebecers have just rejected such outdated ideas. In the rest of Canada, people see multiculturalism as central to our identity, second only to medicare but ahead of hockey.
    Marois has been sent packing. We wait to see what Canadians have in store for Harper.
    Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday.hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the dangerous anti-Islamic logic of the war on terror

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali lost an honorary degree from Brandeis for articulating the same twisted thinking as Dick Cheney


    ERIC LEVITZ  -- Apri 20, 2014






    Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dick Cheney (Credit: AP/Serge Ligtenberg/Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

    It’s been over a week since students at Brandeis compelled their university to refuse Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, and the blogosphere is still roiling with grievance. Kirsten Powers laments Islam’s preferential treatment in USA Today. Mark Steyn notes the incident, as part of a eulogy to free speech in this weekend’s Spectator. Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat have all registered their disgust at this assault on a free and open discourse. Zev Chaffets at Fox News.com describes the incident as an “honor killing.”

    For those new to this story, let me first assure you that upon withdrawing his offer of an honorary degree, Brandeis president Frederick M. Lawrence did not attempt to stone Ali to death. Rather, he invited her to come speak on campus to engage the student body “in a dialogue about these important issues.”

    I’d like to further that dialogue here by interrogating what’s really at issue in the Ali controversy, but first a quick review: Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia — where, at age 5, she suffered the torture of female genital mutilation at the hands of her own family. She sought asylum in the Netherlands from the Somali civil war, despite the fact that she’d been residing in Kenya at the time, a discrepancy that would later cost her a seat in the Dutch Parliament.

    She wrote the screenplay to Theo van Gogh’s 2004 film “Submission,” which juxtaposed passages from the Quran with images of an Islamic woman being abused. The film got van Gogh assassinated by a Muslim extremist, and sent Ali into hiding. She now runs a foundation with the unassailable goal of protecting women from “forms of oppression … justified by religion or culture.”

    The Change.org petition that cost Ali her honorary degree acknowledges the legitimacy of her grievances with Islam, but condemns the “hate speech” through which she expresses them. The petition quotes her as saying:

    Violence is inherent in Islam – it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder … the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realize that it’s not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself …

    Ali told Reason magazine in 2007, “There are Muslims who are passive, who don’t all follow the rules of Islam, but there’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.”

    Curiously, not one of the pieces protesting Brandeis’ decision actually quotes Ali’s past rhetoric. Instead, they refer obliquely to her “stinging attacks on non-Western religions,” “provocative ideas” or, most opaquely, her “life and thought.” The simplest explanation for this chronic omission is that to actually engage with Ali’s rhetoric would be to expose the absurdity of the Judeo-Christian persecution complex that informs so much of the genre.

    One of the most popular lines of argument in the Ali apologias is that Brandeis is guilty of applying an outrageous double standard, one that allows for the hateful criticism of Judaism, but not a fair critique of Islam. Bill Kristol complains that while the university refuses to honor Ali, they saw fit to bestow a degree on playwright Tony Kushner in 2006, despite the fact that Kushner had “called the creation of Israel as a Jewish state ‘a mistake’ and attacked Israel for ethnic cleansing.”

    Andrew Sullivan echoes this complaint, writing in the Dish:

    Kushner was challenging his own ethnic group just as powerfully as Hirsi Ali is challenging her own. But here is the question: why is he lionized and Hirsi Ali disinvited? Why are provocative ideas on the “right” less legitimate than provocative ideas on the left?

    The irony of this argument is that by equating Kushner’s anti-Zionism with Ali’s condemnation of Islam as a “nihilistic death cult,” Kristol and Sullivan exemplify a double standard exactly opposite to the one they allege.

    Whatever one’s opinion on the necessity of a Jewish state, it is a fact that a portion of the Jewish community has been opposed to state Zionism for centuries. Whatever one’s feelings on Israel, it is a fact — confirmed even in the work of Zionist historians like Benny Morris – that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from their homes by Israeli soldiers in 1948. Thus Kushner’s statements align him with a minority position in the Jewish community, and assert a historical fact. Ali’s statements assert that no form of Islam deserves our tolerance, because inherent to the religion is a violent fascism that must be defeated. Kushner asks Jews to question the violence required to establish and maintain a majority Jewish state, in a region densely populated by Palestinians. Ali asks the U.S. government to declare war on the Muslim faith. Her “provocative” ideas aren’t less legitimate because they come from the right. They’re less legitimate because they assert that every “true” follower of Islam subscribes to an ideology of terror.

    As Isaac Chotiner of the New Republic has pointed out, one need only imagine an alternate universe, in which Ali grew up a Palestinian victim of Israeli violence, then publicly decried Judaism as a nihilistic death cult, to understand that Ali’s defenders aren’t arguing for fairness, or open discourse. This is not a content-neutral debate about free speech. No one believes that a university’s coercive power in giving or withholding honorary degrees is a threat to the First Amendment.

    What’s at stake in the Ali controversy is whether we should grant legitimacy to critiques of Islam that would be labeled hate speech if applied to the other Western religions. The only rationale for doing this would be if her statements, for all their off-putting ferocity, articulated an inconvenient truth. This is the argument her defenders imply, but are evidently too intimated by “liberal fascists” to forthrightly make.

    The backlash the students of Brandeis have incurred for asserting that Islamaphobia is in fact bigotry, reflects precisely what makes Ali’s rhetoric so dangerous. Far from being a fringe position in our discourse, the idea that Islam is a uniquely malevolent ideology is the necessary fiction behind the war on terror.

    To be clear: Fundamentalist religion is a scourge. And without question, fundamentalist Islam enjoys more political salience in many countries across the Middle East, than fundamentalist Christianity does in American politics (though the influence of the latter is considerable). What is fictitious in Ali’s rhetoric, and in the logic of our public policy, is the notion that Islam is uniquely susceptible to violent interpretation, and therefore all Muslims are inherently suspect.

    If you believe Islam is forever and always more hostile to secular democracy than any other faith, look to the Bosnian war. There an insurgent Christian sect battled a Muslim-led government that favored pluralism. A 1995 CIA report estimated that 90 percent of the war’s atrocities were committed by Serbian Christians, their attempts at ethnic cleansing blessed not by imams, but by priests.

    Chris Hedges, who covered the Bosnian war on the ground for the New York Times, wrote in his 2009 book “I Don’t Believe in Atheists“:

    "The danger is not Islam or Christianity or any other religion. It is the human heart—the capacity we all have for evil. All human institutions with a lust for power give their utopian visions divine sanction." 

    The idea of Islam’s inherent toxicity was used to sanctify the war on terror from its very beginning. To frame the conflict as the kind of struggle between good and evil that appeals to all audiences, we could not allow the possibility that Islamic extremists are formed in part by external factors such as poverty, the tyranny of secular autocrats, or least of all Western intervention. We needed to explain the hijackers with the idea of an innately violent Islam, for the same reason we need a “culture of poverty” to explain our urban poor: If the enemy is an abstraction, we are absolved of responsibility. So the hijackers didn’t hate that we starved Iraqi children with our sanctions, they hated our freedom. So extremists weren’t empowered because we systematically crushed nationalist movements, leaving them the best-organized opposition to puppet governments, they were empowered because the arc of Islam bends toward terrorism. Similarly, we must question the existence of moderate Muslims, because the tools of the military and the security state are ill-equipped to accommodate such nuance.

    That Ali’s defenders are afraid to explicitly endorse her rhetoric reflects the impotent victory of American liberalism, which has forced bigotry to retreat into subtext, where it still informs policy. To see what I mean, look no further than the recently disbanded “Demographics” unit of the NYPD. Launched with the help of the CIA, the unit lingered around New York City’s mosques and halal stands for the past decade, making the Muslim population of the city feel like criminals, while generating exactly zero terrorism leads.

    Hedges’ book warns that in positing religion as the one true source of human atrocity, new atheists like Sam Harris “externalize evil.” And once evil is no longer understood as a tendency inside all of us, which must be stifled through scrupulous self-reflection, it becomes a quality peculiar to them, whom we must destroy by any means. This externalization of evil is what allowed Harris to defend torture as a tool for the protection of human rights, and Hitchens to defend the illegal invasion of Iraq as a way of protecting a liberal world order. It’s what allows Ali to argue for the elimination of the world’s most popular faith, in the name of women’s rights and secular tolerance.

    Ali argues that because some of the Quran’s rhetoric legitimates violence, everything associated with the book is poisoned. It seems only fair then, that the students of Brandeis applied the same logic to Ali herself. Because when neoconservatives and Iraq War cheerleaders rise to defend her, they aren’t defending freedom of expression, or the prerogative to call a violent ideology what it is. They are defending the sanctity of their own jihad.

    Follow Eric Levitz on Twitter @EricLevitz.

    Make the Fair Elections Act Actually Fair

    Send your own letter to the federal leaders by clicking here.

    Dear federal party leaders:

    The federal government has proposed a new “Fair Elections Act” (Bill C-23). The problem is the bill will make federal elections more unfair in 5 key ways, and the bill also fails to correct 5 key unfair flaws in our current federal elections system.

    The “Fair Elections Act” will make federal elections more unfair by:

    Requiring more ID to vote, which will make it more difficult for hundreds of thousands of voters to vote – instead the current ID rules should be kept with the voter registration card added to the list of valid ID, and Elections Canada should be empowered and given the resources to hire election workers earlier and train them better, and to make the voter registration list even more accurate.

    Allowing wealthy people and banks to give more money to parties and politicians (and to give some candidates unlimited donations in secret), which is a recipe for corruption -- instead, gifts, donations and loans should all be limited to amounts most people can afford, and should all be fully disclosed.

    Allowing political parties to hide millions of dollars of election campaign spending that secretly violates spending limits, and to audit their own spending, both of which are also recipes for corruption -- instead, all spending should be disclosed and limited, and Elections Canada should do the audits.

    Allowing the ruling party to choose who runs voting stations on election day, which is dangerously undemocratic and unethical – instead Elections Canada should appoint these people.

    Requiring secrecy by election watchdogs – Bill C-23 requires the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to keep their rulings on complaints about election law violations secret, which will make it impossible to ensure the CCE and the DPP always make fair rulings.

    And the so-called “Fair Elections Act” fails to make the following key changes needed to correct unfair flaws in our current federal elections system:

    Prohibit parties and candidates from baiting voters with false election promises or advertising, and from breaking election promises (unless truly unforeseen circumstances require them to be broken).

    Democratize the federal election voting system to ensure that the number of politicians each political party elects is based upon the voter support each party receives, to allow voters to vote “none of the above,” and also to actually fix election dates for late fall every four years (unless an actual vote on non-confidence occurs earlier);.

    Regulate nomination races to ensure party leaders can’t appoint candidates or stop candidates from running (other than for “good character” reasons such as no criminal convictions), and give Elections Canada the power to run nomination races and enforce the rules.

    Have Elections Canada decide the date and number of election debates, and which party leaders get to participate based only on voter support for each party, and require all broadcasters to broadcast the debates.

    Give Elections Canada and the other election watchdog agencies stronger powers to get whatever documents they need from political parties, riding associations and candidates to ensure fair election rules are always followed.

    Please let me know what you will do to immediately take action to ensure the above unfair measures are changed in Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, and to ensure that the above priority new measures are added to the bill to make federal elections actually fair.

    I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive from representatives in each party. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,
    S N Smith

    A few notes on Abdullah bin Omar

    April 20, 2014 -- by S N Smith

    On Friday night I attended a  lecture here in Ottawa by Imam Yusuf Badat, the main Imam and 'Director of Religious Affairs' at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto. The topic of discussion was the famous companion Abdullah bin Omar, who was the son of Omar bin al-Khattab, the second Khalif of Islam, and how he sought to replicate the Prophet, pbuh, in every aspect of his life.  

    Imam Badat noted that Abdullah was born 3 or 4 years after the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, was called to prophethood and embraced Islam before he reached the age of 10, even before his own father. He was also very attentive in integrating into his own life what the prophet did, not only in acts of Ibadat (worship), but everyday mundane acts. Imam Badat quoted a hadeeth which says, "Aishah, may God be pleased with her, noticed this devotion of Abdullah to the Prophet and remarked: 'There was no one who followed the footsteps of the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, in the places where he alighted as did Ibn Umar.'" 

    Abdullah would observe and scrutinize closely every saying and action of the Prophet, pbuh, in various situations and he would practice what he observed closely and with total devotion. 

    Imam Badat did not go into every detail of Abdullah's life, but briefly discussed three main qualities which Abdullah possessed and which believers can implement in their own lives. The three qualities include: 

    1) His tremendous knowledge which he translated into action, which was exhibited by the thousands of ahadeeth he retained into his memory and his meticulous adherence to the prophetic sunnah. 

    2) His extreme charitableness and kindness towards others,  which was exhibited by his giving away tremendous amounts of wealth and always refusing to eat alone. 

    3) His amazing self-discipline, which was exhibited by his refusal to accept a prestigious Qadi position from Khalif Uthman and his staying up at night performing Salat, weeping and seeking God's forgiveness and reading Quran every night of his life until his death. 

    Professor Sajid Khakwani writes, "Abdullah bin Umar has an important place ever in Muslims. Even after centuries, his opinions and decisions are still authentic and to be followed as precedent. In all academic fields of research like Quran, Hadeeth, Fiqh or Islamic legislation Abdullah Bin Umar had an ample role."

    Abdullah bin Umar died in 72 Hijri, at the age of 84.  He was attacked by Umayyad forces inside the Bazaar of Medina and stabbed repeatedly until he died of his wounds.

    Of course, one can not do justice to the illustrious biography of Abdullah bin Umar in this brief article or in a short lecture. It is good to study the life of this famous and pious companion, along with all of the companions of the Prophet, pbuh, because they learned Islam directly from the Prophet, pbuh, himself. They are a source of both inspiration and knowledge of the Islamic faith. 

    As the famous Islamic scholar AbdAllah ibn al-Mubarak said: "There are two qualities which are the cause of salvation for whoever has them: truthfulness and love for the Companions of Muhammad."

    And Allah says in the Quran of the Prophet's companions, "Rather, the Prophet and those who believe with him fought with their property and their lives for these are all good things, they are the successful ones and Allah has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow to dwell therein forever and that is the great success" [9:88-89]  

    And Allah further says, "And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun and Ansar and all those who followed them exactly (in faith). Allah is well pleased with them and they are pleased with Him and Allah has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow to dwell therein forever and that is the great success." [9: 100]

    And the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said, "The best of my nation is my generation then those who follow them and then those who follow them." [Saheeh Bukharee]

    Based upon the above, we will serve ourselves well and be on right guidance if we follow their noble examples, and a good place to start is to examine closely the life of Abdullah bin Umar.

    S N Smith writes from Ottawa ON.