A practicing Muslim woman, who dresses much like the woman in the photo (the photographer is not the subject in this photo) took the photo below and decided to publish it in a photo exhibition in order to portray the “other” side of Muslim women who appear in public like this. Islamically, there is nothing prohibited in this photo, as far as I can tell, but someone who saw it decided something was wrong with it and removed it. You can read about the story here. Once it became politicized it took on a life of its own, deals were made, foreign governments were contacted and it became a sordid tale of censorship in Canada. To this observer it’s another example of suppressing the right of women to determine their own voice but in this case that objectification comes from the right. For that reason, I want Sooraya Graham’s voice to be heard here on Miscellany101.
How NOT to conduct an interview
Too many in journalism, and especially electronic journalism, think being rude, offensive, is synonymous with ‘hard hitting’. However, sometimes such behavior on the part of the interviewer might backfire. Take this interview between CBC’s Kevin O’Leary and Chris Hedges. O’Leary crossed the line of journalist and tried to become a bully, a la Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly or some of the kind you find on the likes of Fox News, but Hedges was having none of it. He not only replied directly to O’Leary’s crude and crass insults but he then went on to give an eloquent description of the financial crisis happening in America, contrasted that with what is going on in Canada, referred to a Canadian writer that the hosts of the CBC should have been familiar with but probably weren’t and then concluded with how he won’t appear on that program again. That would be Canada’s loss if he were not to appear again, and so reacting to not only Hedges’ outrage but that of its viewers, CBC’s ombudsman issued a quick apology for O’Leary’s boorish behavior, saying in part
This Office and CBC News received hundreds of comments, many of them demanding an apology and some demanding that O’Leary be fired for suggesting Hedges was a ‘left-wing nutbar…..There is room at the inn for a range of views, but there is no room for name-calling a guest……O’Leary might have been genuinely curious about Hedges’s views, but his opening salvo only fed contempt, which breached policy.
It’s comforting to see that there are some in the news business that not only have standards but hold their staffs to them; something sorely lacking in most major American media outlets. O’Leary was clearly outclassed and picked a fight with the wrong person. Hedges and the Canadian viewing public are owed an apology.
A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS
We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.
We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.
We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.
We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.
As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.
The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).
Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.
We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.
We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.
After the above declaration there are over 80 signatories affixed with an update link to other names constantly being added. Muslim Americans it appears have as good an understanding of the US Constitution as some of their antagonists.
Quebec’s witch hunt against niqabi minority
(Our neighbors to the North have been struck with Islamophobia too)
Governments intervene against the religious wishes of Jehovah’s Witness families to give blood transfusions to save the lives of their kin. The Quebec government wants to intervene to deny health care to women whose religious wish is to wear the niqab.
In Saudi Arabia, Iran and parts of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, police or vigilante militias crack down on women not wearing the niqab or the burqa. In Quebec, authorities want to crack down on women who do.
Quebec officials have already chased down one niqab-wearing woman to oust her from a second French language class after she had been hounded out of her first. The bureaucrats are emulating the gendarmes of autocrats Kemal Ataturk of Turkey in the 1920s and the first Shah of Iran in the 1930s who persecuted women wearing either the niqab or the hijab.
It is scary when a state feels compelled to keep women either covered or uncovered.
It is scarier when majorities in democracies feel threatened by a minority – in this case, a tiny minority within the Muslim minority. Or feel the need to crush an isolated religious or cultural practice. Had such attitudes prevailed in an earlier era, we may not have been blessed today with Hutterites, Orthodox Jews, Sikhs and others in the rich religious tapestry of Canada.
Across Europe and now sadly in Quebec, populations and governments are in a tizzy over a few dozen niqabi women. Sadder still, Quebec is not only out of step with the rest of Canada but has taken a bigoted leap ahead of Europe, the historic home of Islamophobia.
In France – where out of 5 million Muslims, 367 wear the niqab (as counted by the domestic intelligence service, no less) – a parliamentary panel has pondered the issue for a year and suggested a ban from schools and hospitals but nowhere else.
In Denmark – where out of 100,000 Muslims, there are less than 200 niqabis (as estimated by the ministry of social affairs), the government is still mulling a ban.
In Quebec, less than 25 women are said to wear the niqab – of whom only 10 turned up last year at the Montreal office of the provincial health board out of 118,000 visitors.
Yet the obsession with the niqab continues. On the day Jean Charest tabled his anti-niqab bill, Hydro Quebec’s $3.2 billion deal to take over NB Power and gain access to the lucrative U.S. market collapsed – with nary a public concern.
His bill calls not only for showing the face for the legitimate purposes of a photo ID and security. It also bans niqabis from working for, or even receiving services from, government and the broader public sector. These taxpayers may be denied all schooling, including French language instruction, and all non-emergency health care, including regular checkups.
Charest rationalized it on the basis of gender equity, the secular nature of the state, the need to integrate immigrants, and the importance of personal interaction. Except that:
The giant crucifix in the National Assembly will stay.
Property and other tax breaks given the churches will remain, including for the Catholic Church, where women must remain in the pews and not ascend to the pulpit.
Niqabi women will be driven out of the public sphere, end up with less personal interaction with others and be ghettoized. It is a strange way to advance gender equity.
It is argued, as by Nicolas Sarkozy in France, that banning the niqab is not anti-Islamic, since it may not be a religious requirement, as opined by a senior Egyptian cleric last year. We elect politicians not to propound fatwas but to implement secular, democratic laws in an equitable manner for one and all. As for those enamoured of the authoritarian ways of Egypt, they are free to move there.
We are witnessing collective hysteria, prompting even liberal governments to cave in. It was not a pretty sight to see Charest, a Liberal, competing for headlines with Ann Coulter, the Muslim-baiting neo-con from America.
That’s democracy in action, it can be said. But we have seen many ugly manifestations of the popular will before. Targeting the niqabis may not be in the same league as past Canadian sins against some minorities but history should provide us with the perspective to pause.
The Global Peace Index
The Global Peace Index offers some interesting insight into what is considered a peaceful country and what isn’t. The top ten peaceful countries are in order, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Finland, Slovenia. Denmark and Norway have been the scene of some pretty violent opposition to Muslim immigration to their countries, but evidently the citizens have managed to coexist peacefully with one another. The Netherlands another country that has seen stiff opposition to immigrants is the 22nd most peaceful country and France is ranked number 30. America is ranked 83 which surprised me considering we invaded three countries and are the only country at war with other countries, or forces in other countries. The ten most violent countries in the world are Zimbabwe, Russia, Pakistan, Chad, The Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Israel, Somalia, Afghanistan and finally Iraq, the most violent country of the 144 countries considered. With the exception of Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, all of the other worst offenders are fighting their own populations and not foreigners invading their territory. (Guess who that invader is in two of the cases.) Only one of the 10 worst countries is an ally of America, while the others have cold to almost no relations with the United States and face some sort of condemnation from America as a result of their human rights violations against their own. Israel meanwhile continues to enjoy copious amounts of US aid, materiel and support for its apartheid like policies towards its Arab citizens and neighbors. Noteworthy too is the fact that Israel has been in the bottom 5 consistently for the last three years. It is definitely time for CHANGE.
The Rising Tide of Fascism in North America
We should all be used to the notion that differences of opinion, no matter how sanely and legally expressed and/or carried out are becoming less and less acceptable. We should be used to or accustomed to that because of the previous eight years where political differences were couched in terms that produced an either for us or against us culture. The extension of that was the “us” in the flippant and casually tossed dismissal of dissent used their power to silence expressions different from the mainstream. I must admit there are plenty of voices of dissent and many avenues available for them to express themselves; I must also admit there is the distinct possibility those venues most likely are being searched for to be shut down at a later date. For now, the squashing of dissent has a very distinct flavor of fascism about it that fits the political definition of fascism to the letter.
Canada led the way in the lead up to the fascist abyss with its announcement it would not allow George Galloway to visit that country because it claimed he gave “material support” to Hamas when he led a supply to that besieged strip of land after the Israeli invasion earlier this year.
“Specifically, we have information that indicates you organized a convoy worth over £1 million in aid and vehicles to Hamas, and personally donated vehicles and financing to (former) Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. Your material support for this organization makes you inadmissible to Canada,”
The intended outcome of this decision is to stifle any expression of support materially or politically for the Palestinian people, not Hamas. The Israelis have been able to tie all support for Palestinians with support for Hamas and therefore because of its undeserved terrorism designation, ostracize those who support the people of Gaza and inevitably Palestinians as a whole. The Israelis set up Hamas as a political straw dog on which many people rest their fate for the next so many years, while Israeli theft of Palestinian land continues until the next straw dog is set up to oppose Hamas and so on and so on. This is not only foolhardy but dangerous, but it allows the Israeli government time to establish some very definite “facts” on the ground while it tries to change the demographics of the region for future considerations. Galloway’s problem is one of being too high profile a dissenter, one who might be able to influence many fence-sitters, politically as a member of British government or personally through the types of lectures he was scheduled to give in Canada. Therefore his exposure to the world community must be limited.
The Canadians have taken a page from the US playbook where Tariq Ramadan is still being refused entry into the US because of a similar accusation. The administration of “change”, Obama, has gone on record to argue Ramadan should not be allowed to visit America. This after Obama himself claimed he wanted to reach out to Muslims all over the world. The Obama administration’s support of Bush’s denial of entry goes to show there’s not much difference between the two governments as it relates to foreign policy.
The visa ban — apparently based on Ramadan’s donations to a group linked to the Palestinian militants Hamas labeled a terrorist organization by Washington — was instituted under former president George W. Bush’s administration….the visa denial (was) pinned to Ramadan having donated 1,300 dollars to a Swiss charity, Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP).
The charity allegedly funded Hamas, the ruling Palestinian group in Gaza, which Washington designates as a terrorist organization.
What’s troubling about this accusation beyond it being “alleged” and not proven is that Ramadan made known to everyone he had donated to the group at a time before Hamas was designated as a terrorism group by the US government. When that label was attached to Hamas, Ramadan ceased giving to the group. In effect he is being held accountable for doing something when at the time he did it it wasn’t illegal. But that’s not his only sin, besides those of his father and his grandfather. Ramadan’s is a passionate voice for moderation and coexistence between a feared Islam and a reluctant West and nothing gets in the way of “fascism” like peace, so like Galloway, Ramadan’s exposure to the West must be confined to a much smaller universe like the halls of Oxford University.
It’s interesting to see the turf war going on between those who are for and against the intermingling of intellectual and political thought all over the world. Obviously North America is still considered home for those who believe in perpetual conflict, have an aggressive warrior mentality and believe in conquering, dominating, and eventually eliminating people deemed undesirable or unwanted. It fit the previous administration like a hand in glove and seems to be the destiny of the Obama administration as well. It also fits the definition of fascism.
The wars on drugs and terror converge
In an earlier post I mused,
I wonder whether Ecstasy is included in the “Western” drugs given to Afghans and whether trade between such traditional drugs from the west are bartered for the cash crop of Afghanistan, opium?
The more Americans go to Afghanistan to fight, the more we back on the “homeland” will have to deal with a drug problem both with those soldiers who are users as well as those who are dealers. Perhaps the US government will attempt to profit from the Afghan misadventure and try to recoup some of the money lost on this losing effort by institutionalizing the harvesting, transporting and dispensing of drugs on the “homeland”. Our neighbors to the north, Canada, already has to face an increasing “problem” with their forces and Afghan drugs.
There’s a “high probability” some Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan – one of the world’s biggest sources of illegal drugs – will get involved in the drug trade, a military police report warns.
“Access to illicit drugs in Afghanistan is routine,” reads the report obtained by the Star.
The present generation of America’s leaders are Vietnam era aged politicians and soldiers who should be able to remember the problems US forces had with drug use and trafficking during that war. As that war progressed and soldiers on the ground began to see and sense its futility, drugs were a means of escape as well as profit for some who served in the military. In many ways, this war offers the same parallels. An elusive enemy, mission creep, the inability of the government to define what is winning and when military personnel can return stateside, an even more hostile environment and forgetfulness by a nation tired of remote wars and the accompanying diminishing of enthusiasm for this latest one. Unfortunately, Obama perhaps too young to remember these problems tends to be headed in the direction of catastrophe with his pronouncement that he will have a surge of US forces in Afghanistan. The more things change, the more they remain the same.