Tomorrow is the worldwide 'Malala Day'. Please celebrate it by sharing
this appeal with your friends and family.
Since Oct 12 when I started this campaign, over 90,000 people have
signed the petition. Have you?
Richard Dawkins and Shashi Tharoor signed the petition "Nobel Peace
Prize for Malala " and I wanted to see if you could help by adding
Our goal is to reach 100,000 signatures tomorrow to celebrate Malala
Day and we need more support. You can read more and sign the petition
Sent from my iPhone
If you are from Pakistan, please add your signature to this petition aimed at the leaders of the PPP, MQM, ANP, PML-Q & PML-N from Farahnaz Ispahani, urging them to send a letter to the Nobel Committee nominating Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Some of you may have already signed a similar petition, but this one is aimed at the Pakistani political leadership, not Canadians.
Please click below to enhance Ms. Ispahani's campaign:
Among the dead bodies and destroyed buildings of Gaza also lies the unclaimed corpse of the Oslo Accord.
While the lifeless Palestinians and Israelis have been given their proper rites of burial and shall be mourned for years to come, no one has as yet had the courage to acknowledge that buried deep beneath the rubble is the peace process.
Born amidst great pomp and hope 20 years ago and celebrated for the promise it had offered to so many of us, it is sad that today the rotting carcass of peace in the Middle East lies unclaimed, abandoned and unmentioned.
Those of us, who imagined a future Palestinian state existing alongside the state of Israel, should now abandon that hope. Instead of the coveted ‘two-state solution,’we now have the prospect of a three-state solution: Israel with Gaza to its west and an ‘up-for-grabs’ West Bank on its eastern boundary.
While the wily Yasser Arafat seems to have schooled himself in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, running circles around the late Yitzhak Rabin, his successor Abu Mazen on the other hand, demonstrated neither strategy nor wisdom. Even if it were true that Israel was acting in bad faith in using Oslo to encroach slowly on Palestinian land by building new settlements, Abu Mazen’s tactic of boycotting the peace talks with the Israelis worked in Israel’s favour.
Had this protest elicited an outrage against Israel inside the U.S. and triggered sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, the tactic would have borne fruit. But that was an impossible task to accomplish.
Americans are suckers in sympathizing with a ‘victim,’ but such consideration is difficult to bloom when the victim says “death to America”at every given occasion.
If America is the country the Palestinians hate most next to Israel, then expecting ordinary Americans to play neutral, let alone be sympathetic to their cause, is to live in fantasy, not reality. A World Bank report says virtually all the “growth” in the West Bank was the result of foreign aid, including American.
To be hostile to the hand that feeds you is a tactic Sun Tzu would not have recommended to an army in conflict. In March, U.S. lawmakers released $88 million in development aid for the Palestinians, but instead of a ‘thank you’ note, Abu Mazen was positioned as an American stooge by Hamas.
Gaza is Palestinian territory, where the president of Palestine cannot set foot. Sure the sheiks of Qatar with billions in tow are welcome as are guerrilla tourists in the west in the flotilla adventures, but not the elected president of the territory.
Imagine a Tito not welcome in Serbia or a Ho Chi Minh denied entry in Hanoi or Nehru told he was not welcome in Mumbai after the British left.
Palestine as imagined in Oslo is dead. And it died not as result of Israel’s continued occupation or its ‘harsh’ encirclement of Gaza. Palestine died because Palestinians killed it.
If Oslo died in November 2012, Palestine died on November 12, 2007. That is the day when Hamas gunmen fired on a rally inside a Gaza stadium to commemorate the late Yasser Arafat. Many people died that day.
And that is the day Hamas executed Palestine. The rest is mere detail.
PRIME MINISTER AND ALL PARTY LEADERS NOMINATE MALALA FOR NOBEL PRIZE IN RESPONSE TO PETITION
Prime Minister Harper declares his support for the 'Nobel For Malala' petition
Canadian journalist Tarek Fatah's petition on Change.org sparks a global movement as petition clears 160,000 signatures
Canadian Senator Ataullahjan visits Malala who is doing "very, very well"
TORONTO, ON – On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Harper and his wife Laureen declared support for a petition calling on the Nobel Foundation to award 15 year old Malala Yusufzai the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous work promoting access to education for girls in the Swat valley in Pakistan, an area once controlled by the Taliban.
After tweeting his support for the petition the Prime Minister said, "Laureen and I are pleased to support Malala Yousafzai, a determined young woman who has done so much to promote education and women's rights in her native Pakistan. All Canadians salute her courage and tenacity and wish her well in her recovery."
The petition was launched on Change.org by Tarek Fatah, a well-known Muslim Canadian commentator who had been inspired by Malala's work and was outraged after the youth was shot by a Taliban gunman in October.
Tarek's petition made clear that the first step was to ensure that Malala would be nominated and called on Canada's federal leaders to make a major statement by unanimously nominating her for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. The petition has achieved this goal with all party leaders coming out in support. Four nomination letters have been sent to the Nobel Foundation and one party is currently completing their letter.
"I am absolutely delighted the Prime Minister has nominated Malala for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize," said Fatah. "The fact that all of Canada's political party leaders could join together to lend their name to this noble cause is not just a validation of Malala's enormous courage, but also the greatness of Canada where good people of all political stripes came together to support a child halfway across the world."
Also on Wednesday, Canadian Senator Salma Ataullahjan visited with Malala and her family in a UK hospital and had the opportunity to tell them about the 'Nobel For Malala' petition. The Senator was happy to report “Malala is doing very, very well and the doctors are really pleased with her progress.”
While Fatah's 'Nobel For Malala' petition was the first, it has now sparked a global phenomenon. People around the world are setting up this same petition in their own country asking for their political leaders to come together to nominate Malala for the Nobel Prize. Pages have been started in eight countries including the UK, France and Pakistan and the counter on the petition reflects the cumulative efforts of all these petitions from around the world.
Fatah is asking all Canadians and people around the world to continue signing the petition to encourage other world leaders to come out in support of Malala, and ultimately, to push the Nobel Foundation to award Malala the Nobel Peace Prize.
"This major petition victory comes just as we reached one million Canadian users," said Jordy Gold, Campaigns Director for Change.org in Canada. "It is incredible to see how people are using the site to bring together not only our federal party leaders, but also people who care about the same issues from all around the world."
Journalists interested in setting up an interview should use the contact details at the top of the page.
Quotations from other Canadian federal parties and party leaders: Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae "Around the world, from country to country, we are seeing the emergence of a growing movement in support of Malala…(She) is an inspiration to us all."
Quote from the NDP's nomination letter submitted by Member of Parliament Paul Dewar "Sixty-four years ago the international community signed onto the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…Sixty-four years later, women are still not equal. Acknowledging Malala would reaffirm the world community's commitment to women's empowerment and equality for all persons."
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May "I am so inspired by her bravery and idealism. We must all re-commit to ensure the rights of all women and girls."
Bloc QuébécoisLeader Daniel Paillé "Tens of thousands of Canadians, Quebecers and people from other countries have signed this petition. Malala's courage and tenacity have inspired people around the world and awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize would take us one step closer towards a more peaceful and just society."
For more information on Change.org, please visit: http://www.change.org/about Change.org is the world's largest petition platform, empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see. There are more than 20 million users in 196 countries who use our tools to transform their communities – locally, nationally and globally.
We did it! After tens of thousands of Canadians and even more people from around the world signed my petition on Change.orgwe got every single party leader, including the Prime Minister, to get behind the campaign to unanimously nominate Malala Yusufzai for the Nobel Peace Prize.
I am absolutely delighted. When I started my petition I hoped for a few hundred signatures and maybe find one or two politicians to nominate Malala. I never imagined all of our federal parties who hardly ever agree on anything, would end up supporting the campaign for a girl half a world away.
Here is what our political leaders had to say:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
"Laureen and I are pleased to support Malala Yousafzai, a determined young woman who has done so much to promote education and women's rights in her native Pakistan. All Canadians salute her courage and tenacity and wish her well in her recovery." -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair
"Sixty-four years ago the international community signed onto the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…Sixty-four years later, women are still not equal. Acknowledging Malala would reaffirm the world community's commitment to women's empowerment and equality for all persons." -- From the NDP nomination letter by MP Paul Dewar
Liberal Leader Bob Rae
"Around the world, from country to country, we are seeing the emergence of a growing movement in support of Malala…(She) is an inspiration to us all." -- Bob Rae
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May
"I am so inspired by her bravery and idealism. We must all re-commit to ensure the rights of all women and girls." -- Elizabeth May
Bloc Québécois Leader Daniel Paillé
"Tens of thousands of Canadians, Quebecers and people from other countries have signed this petition. Malala's courage and tenacity have inspired people around the world and awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize would take us one step closer towards a more peaceful and just society." --Daniel Paillé
Guess what else we did? We started a global phenomenon. Canadians have inspired people from all around the world to start "Nobel for Malala" campaigns in their own countries. Petition pages have gone up in the UK, Pakistan, France, India, Italy, Germany, Ireland, and more are on the way. The counter on all of the pages reflects the cumulative efforts of these petitions from around the world. Over 160,000 people have signed the petition!
As it says in the petition, getting Malala nominated was only the first step. We still need to get as many signatures as possible to encourage political leaders in all of the other countries to support the campaign, and to show the Nobel Foundation how important it is for them to select Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Toronto City Council endorses the nomination of Malala Yousafzai for a Nobel Peace Prize
TORONTO - Today City Council unanimously supported Councillor Paula Fletcher's motion to endorse the
nomination of Malala Yousafzai for a Nobel Peace Prize.
On October 9, 2012 Malala
was shot by the Taliban while riding the school bus. Her courage as a tireless
advocate for girls' education in the face of threats and violence is remarkable, and
supporters around the world are calling for the Nobel Committee to award Malala the
Toronto's Council is the first governing body to formally support this effort. Council
has joined political leaders from all parties, and over 240,000 people who have signed
the petition on Change.org to stand with Malala.
"The 'Nobel For Malala' petition has sparked a global movement with pages set up in
10 countries and attracting close to half a million signatures," said Jordy Gold,
Campaigns Director at Change.org. "It is very exciting to see the City of Toronto,
where the first petition was created, now endorse this campaign that has spread
around the world."
"I moved this motion to recognize Malala's bravery and the right of every child,
regardless of gender, to go to school. I'm glad to have Council's support and
encourage everyone to join the City of Toronto and sign the petition on Change.org,"
said City Councillor Paula Fletcher. "This is a powerful and unequivocal statement in
favour of girls' access to education anywhere in the world".
“Malala stands for human dignity, tolerance and pluralism. She had drawn a line between barbarity and civilization. Hers is the voice of the people of Pakistan, and the downtrodden and deprived children of the world.”
- Ziauddin Ahmed, Malala's father
December 3, 2012
A Nobel cause:
Young Malala touches the world as symbol for peace and tolerance
Anytime all the leaders of federal political parties in Canada agree on an issue and act as one, it’s both unusual and newsworthy.
Yet that’s what Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition leader Tom Mulcair, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae and Green Party’s Elizabeth May have done when they independently signed a petition to nominate 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala is one of the symbolic individuals that periodically capture the attention of the world, and become an influence that far exceeds expectations.
Much credit goes to Tarek Fatah, who started the petition to nominate Malala for the peace prize — an idea that has spread like wildfire around the world.
By now everyone must know that she’s the young Pakistani schoolgirl who took it upon herself to argue and protest for the rights of girls to get an education in a part of the world where such lobbying can be lethal.
She was shot in the head by a masked Taliban gunman who boarded her school bus and demanded: “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up or I will shoot you all.”
He fired three shots, one hitting her in the head. Two other girls were wounded. Malala was flown to Britain and is recovering in hospital.
Even before the shooting, Malala had both fame and notoriety. As an 11-year-old she wrote a regular blog for the BBC about her life, and the life of girls like her in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled region of Swat.
In her blog she told of girls being warned not to attend school which a few, like her, did anyway. Girls were advised not to wear school uniforms which would identify them as a students, and invite Taliban reprisals.
Finally, not to wear colourful clothes because that also offended Taliban sensitivities. Through it all, she persevered, stood up for herself and other girls. All the time knowing her life was in danger.
Significantly, in Pakistan where violence against women and honour killings prevail, the attack on Malala touched a chord that roused the nation. Ordinary people are outraged, and for the first time there’s the beginning of a country-wide protest on behalf of Malala — and for the right of women to be educated.
Around the world, tens of thousands of people have signed petitions to honour her with a Nobel Peace Prize. Although the prize is often awarded for political purposes, bestowing it on Malala would be both political and humanitarian.
It would be far more supportive of “peace” within the framework of the barbaric Shariah law, than some who’ve received the award.
As a symbolic figure, a parallel that comes to mind is Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, who lived for 15 years under house arrest after her party (National League for Democracy) seemed to have won the 1990 general election. Confined, she became an international symbol. Malala too.
Aung San Suu Kyi is an honourary Canadian citizen. Her very existence was inspiring — just as is Malala’s courage and persistence inspires.
Malala’s father, Ziauddin, runs a private school. Of his daughter, he says: “Malala stands for human dignity, tolerance and pluralism. She had drawn a line between barbarity and civilization. Hers is the voice of the people of Pakistan, and the downtrodden and deprived children of the world.”
Deadline for Nobel Peace Prize nominations is February, with the Laureate announced in October. Names of nominees are usually kept secret, but Malala’s case is so unusual, that one hopes the Norwegian Nobel committee does the right thing.
The seven Liberals vying for the job to be Ontario’s premier, had barely left the starter’s block when the inevitable question of ethnicity was thrown into the race.
Unlike past Liberal Party races when “ethnic” brokers elbow each other in attempts to leverage vote bank pledges to white, mainstream leadership hopefuls, this time an “ethnic” is himself in the race — a Sikh of Indo-Canadian heritage, former minister of government services Harinder Takhar.
And the race-card bomb did not come from another leadership hopeful, or one of the backroom boys, it came from none other than the liberal Toronto Star’s Queen’s Park columnist Martin Regg Cohn.
The race had barely started and Cohn had written a column accusing Takhar of “playing the ethnic politics card.” “Harinder Takhar is the last (and least worthy) of the candidates to replace Dalton McGuinty … his penchant for bending the rules and playing the ethnic politics card — showcasing his South Asian roots and power base — makes Takhar a poster child for old style politics. He is a throwback to another era at a time when the party must throw off the yoke of opacity and opprobrium he personifies.”
This was rich coming from a columnist whose newspaper claims to be liberal, but has made an industry out of promoting the most orthodox and conservative stereotypical images of various ethnic communities.
Cohn’s argument went something like this: White candidates are free to court the ethnic vote, but when ethnics dare to run for leadership, they should stay away from their own community.
Would Cohn judge contenders like Gerrard Kennedy with the same barometer?
Not only has Kennedy sought the support of his own ethnic community, i.e., WASPs, but has built a reputation of being the most adept at wheeling and dealing with us racial minority types.
Cohn should be reminded of Kennedy’s shenanigans at the 2006 federal Liberal leadership convention in Montreal —I was there and slammed his actions a national newspaper.
In 2006, Kennedy had cultivated the same group that Cohn says Takhar will rely on for support in 2012. Six years ago, two rookie MP allies of Kennedy, Omar Alghabra, a Muslim, and, Navdeep Bains, a Sikh (both defeated in previous elections), held the strings of as many as 400 “ethnic” delegates in the Kennedy camp.
Had Cohn also slammed Kennedy or Kathleen Wynne (who has cultivated a Muslim vote bank in Thorncliffe Park) or Charles Sousa (who courted a Pakistani vote bank recently in Mississauga), one could have given him the benefit of doubt. However, because he sought out Takhar’s jugular for the kill, he cannot say he does not have a dog in this fight. (For the record, as a Liberal, I am not supporting Takhar).
Had Cohn done his homework, he would’ve discovered Takhar is hardly the ethnocentric fella he has made him out to be. Takhar, a Sikh Indo-Canadian, has a Muslim Pakistani-Canadian chief of staff. That’s equivalent to a Jewish- Canadian hiring a Palestinian-Canadian as his confidante.
Cohn may find some solace in knowing that he is not alone. Other journalists have also succumbed to their pre-conceived ethnic view of the world. TVO’s Steve Paikin tweeted a picture of Takhar’s supporters with the caption:
“For what it’s worth, not a single non-Indian face among @HarinderTakhar’s backdrop.”
An astonishing claim, because I saw the picture and did not see a single Indian face — just Canadians.
Pakistani students stand next to a portrait of Malala Yousufzai in Lahore on Nov. 10, 2012. (Mohsin Raza /Reuters)
I recently met the parents of Malala Yousafzai in Birmingham, England. Malala, who should be learning and laughing and doing what teenaged girls do, is instead lying in a British hospital, recovering after being shot and wounded in Pakistan by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education.
Malala and I are both Yousafzai Pakhtun women, from the same town and the same clan. We are a generation and two continents apart, but the 15-year-old girl’s courage, determination and maturity has triggered hope and inspiration in me at a time when I felt that all was waning in the land of our birth, Pakistan.
When I was 15 in the historic city of Peshawar, in the province of Pakhtunkhwa, my sisters and cousins could never have imagined a day when simply going to school would jeopardize our lives. We were brimming with confidence and optimism. Girls and young women were emerging to take positions of responsibility in government, social development and politics. Our colleges and universities were centres of learning and debate. I studied at a convent run by Irish nuns, and we spoke English and wore Western-style uniforms.
Women felt safer in Pakhtunkhwa than anywhere else in Pakistan. Our people lived by the Pakhtunwali, a moral code that came into existence before Islam and that articulated the protection and honour of women and children. My family would travel to the Swat Valley, where we and many others kept summer homes to escape the heat. Swat was then a peaceful area, and women were well-respected.
The Cold War was in full swing, and across the border where our other Pakhtun cousins lived was Afghanistan. The people on both sides were one, but a colonial border had placed us in opposing camps.
Believe it or not, Afghanistan was a step ahead of us in embracing modernity and women’s rights. I remember travelling to Kabul through the Khyber Pass and seeing cafeterias and discos where American hippies and the local people would rub shoulders.
Then, in the late 1970s, three regimes changed and the world would never be the same. In Kabul, the pro-Soviet Afghan nationalists were overthrown by the Communists. In Islamabad, a U.S.-backed general overthrew the elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And in Tehran, a revolution saw Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomaini take power. By the time it was New Year’s Day 1980, my childhood optimism had come to a crashing halt. War, chaos and Islamic extremism slowly began its ascent, while women’s dignity, democracy and human rights went into a free fall.
Malala Yousafzai was not yet born. But by the time she would open her eyes, almost nothing that I, as a Yousafzai, had witnessed or hoped for would be there to welcome her.
Malala, however, could be the tipping point that will cause the pendulum to swing back to its centre. Millions around the world have risen to her call. Women and girls carry signs in the streets that claim “I am Malala.” In the words of her father, “Malala has drawn a red line between barbarism and civilization.”
I have not lost hope for Pakhtunkhwa or Pakistan. From my visits there, from seeing Malala and girls like Malala, I know the women have not lost their voice. They won’t let anyone take away what they have.
Salma Ataullahjan is a Conservative senator representing Ontario.
On Saturday, December 22, when most families across Canada will be coming together for Christmas, Justin Trudeau, aspiring leader of the Liberal party, will join thousands of Muslim young men and women in Toronto for the “Revival of the Islamic Spirit” (RIS) convention.
Organizers of the Islamic convention say it is a “celebration of our (Muslim) identity and Islamic faith.” However, a glance at its sponsors should give both Trudeau and the rest of us cause for concern.
RIS is co-sponsored by IRFAN-Canada, a group that lost its charitable status last year when the Canada Revenue Agency claimed it had sent almost $15 million of Canadian charitable donations to groups the CRA labelled as terrorist organizations.
According to the federal audit, IRFAN-Canada used “deceptive fundraising” to support Hamas. In addition, Canada Revenue Agency said the Islamic charity had produced videos that appealed to “all Arab and Muslim nations to join in the struggle against Israel and glorify martyrdom .” (IRFAN-Canada has appealed the CRA’s decision and denied the allegations.)
Another sponsor of the Toronto Islamic convention is Islamic Relief, a UK-based charity whose bank account overseas was recently blocked by UBS Bank, an action that raised eyebrows among counter-terrorism bloggers. (The charity’s director of finance says it has been caught in a wave of anti-terrorism regulations implemented since 9/11 that hinder its legitimate relief work.)
I am not sure if Trudeau is aware of these issues. Perhaps he is and is going to the convention to take the bull by the horns.
Who knows, Trudeau may very well inspire the gathering of Islamists to truly “revive the spirit of Islam”’ and shed the centuries of ossification that has left Islamdom struggling like a truck with flat tires stuck in a mudslide.
In case Trudeau does decide to speak at the event, here is a suggested speech he may wish to use for his “keynote address”. One that will no doubt leave the audience particularly “revived.”
“My fellow Canadians,
I am delighted to be among so many young Muslim men and woman who have sought my wisdom as they struggle to revive the Islamic spirit that seems to have lost its way ever since Muslim rationalists of the 10th century were wiped out by the literalists of your faith.
I welcome all the Islamists who have come from outside Canada to this city that is home to Canada’s first-ever gay marriage. I hope you, too, can, in the spirit of reviving Islam, abandon the Sharia laws that demand all homosexuals be put to death.
Toronto is home to the world’s most thriving Muslim gay community, but I don’t see those familiar faces in the crowd this evening. Perhaps next year.
Welcome to Toronto, the capital of the province that listened to many Muslim Canadians and banned Sharia law from Canada’s public domain. Remember, it was a Liberal premier who took that bold decision.
It is a delight to see young men and women sitting together, at times even holding hands, to defy gender segregation. After all this is Toronto, not Tehran. I am so glad to see no burqas and niqabs tonight. Face-masks are so yesterday! As for honour-killings, I have given it much thought and have finally concluded, the act is barbaric after all.
And while you are ‘reviving the Islamic spirit’, may I suggest you start a ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ (BDS) movement against the seven Islamic countries that hang people who are agnostic or atheist. If this convention were to launch a BDS movement against Saudi Arabia and Iran for their crimes against free speech, you will find in me one of your frontline soldiers.
Merry Christmas, my dear Muslims. As you march into the 21st century, the land that drafted the UN Universal Human Rights Declaration welcomes you in our midst.”
Justin Trudeau should stop pandering to Islamists By attending the ‘Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention’ he is validating the agenda of Jihad and Sharia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO - The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has written to the Interim Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Bob Rae and Irwin Cotler, the party's Justice and Human Rights critic, requesting them to intervene and dissuade Justin Trudeau from addressing the upcoming 'Reviving the Islamic Spirit' convention in Toronto.
The MCC has noted with disappointment the reaction of Mr. Trudeau to calls for him to skip the annual congregation in Canada of the proponents of sharia law and the doctrine of Jihad.
“At a time when liberal Muslims across the world are fighting rightwing Islamists, it is sad to see the aspiring leader of the Liberal Party of Canada throw his weight behind those who would snuff out liberalism and stifle free speech in the name of Islam. If Mr. Trudeau wishes to reach out to Muslims, he should first learn how to distinguish between ordinary Canadian Muslims as against Islamists who owe their loyalties to overseas Muslim Brotherhood influenced organizations. Mr. Trudeau will have to decide whether he is with the apologists of president Morsi in Egypt or the liberal Muslims fighting the Islamist agenda on the streets of Cairo; whether he is with Malala Yusufzai or he is with those Islamists who have contributed to the radicalism that led to her near death.
"By attending the 'Reviving the Islamic Spirit' convention, Mr. Trudeau will be endorsing groups that have links to Hamas. He will also unwittingly validate homophobia and misogyny that is practised widely by Islamists under the guise of multiculturalism. Those who advocate for the doctrine of Jihad and the imposition of Sharia should not have the backing or validation of any Canadian politician, let alone someone aspiring to lead the Liberal Party of Canada and who hopes to one day be the Prime Minister of this country.
For more information please contact:
Salma Siddiqui President: Muslim Canadian Congress Tel: (613) 864-4306 Email: Salma@Magma,ca
Chief Justice acknowledges, wearing a niqab could lead to a wrongful conviction
TORONTO - The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has welcomed the split decision by the Supreme Court on the admissibility of the niqab in Canadian courts.
In a statement the MCC said, only one justice in dissent upheld the absolute right of a Muslim woman to wear a niqab while giving testimony in a Canadian court. On the other side of the equation, two justices in their concurring decision said there was no place for the niqab in Canadian criminal courts under any circumstances. In addition, the majority of four justices concurred that "Where the liberty of the accused is at stake, the witness's evidence is central to the case and her credibility vital, the possibility of a wrongful conviction must weigh heavily in the balance, favouring removal of the niqab".
Based on our interpretation of the decision of the majority, we are confindent that in the case of NS, when the case goes back to the trial judge, she will have to remove her niqab as a result of today's decision.
The MCC is encouraged by the following points in the Supreme Court judgement today:
Chief Justice McLachlin for the plurality acknowledges that wearing a niqab could lead to a wrongful conviction: para. 2
The principles of fundamental justice include the right to a fair trial and the right to make full answer and defence: para. 15, McLachlin CJ
"The common law, supported by provisions of the Criminal Code, and judicial pronouncements, proceeds on the basis that they ability to see a witness' face is an important feature of a fair trial.": para. 21, McLachlin J.
Covering the face of a witness may impede the ability of the judge or jury to assess the credibility of a witness: para. 25, McLachlin CJ
"I conclude that there is a strong connection between the ability to see the face of a witness and a fair trial": para. 27, McLachlin CJ
"Where the liberty of the accused is at stake, the witness's evidence is central to the case and her credibility vital, the possibility of a wrongful conviction must weigh heavily in the balance, favouring removal of the niqab": para. 44, McLachlin CJ
Reasons of Lebel J. (Rothstein J. concurring):
This case goes to the basic values of the Canadian justice system and whether or not wearing the niqab is compatible with those values (para 60)
Viewing a witness’ face during cross-examination remains a fundamental right of the accused and the appellant (NS) did not show that this view was wrong (para 64)
The Canadian justice system is an adversarial one where the prosecution, defence, witnesses, judge and possible jury interact with each other. This may result in a burden being placed on witnesses which cannot be entirely lifted. (para 67)
When an issue involves the credibility of a witness, the balancing process will weigh in favour of the accused’s right to make full answer and defence since the consequences of doing otherwise would impact him greatly if it results in a determination of his guilt or innocence (68)
Because of the underlying values of the Canadian justice system and the dynamic nature of the trial process, the wearing of a niqab should not be allowed. A clear rule is needed (para 69)
The Canadian justice system has core values which allows it to welcome all members of society. While multiculturalism is an important part of Canadian society, its place is rooted in the political and legal traditions of the constitution and our democratic society (para 72)
The state and its institutions are religiously neutral which allows them to embrace all members of Canadian society regardless of their beliefs (para 73)
Wearing a niqab is not compatible with the principle of openness in Canadian courts and does not facilitate communication and interaction with all parties (para 77)
Lebel J. acknowledges the need for a clear rule that the niqab cannot be worn (para 78)
- 30 -
For more information please call: Salma Siddiqui in Ottawa at (613) 864-4306 or Saadia Bokhari in Toronto at (647) 982-0875
Saudi Liberal Arrested For Tweeting About Islam, Prophet Muhammad
Dr. Turki Al-Hamad, a liberal Saudi journalist and writer known for his criticism of extremist Islam, was arrested recently for some statements he made via Twitter on December 22, 2012. Dr. Al-Hamad wrote: "A new Nazism has arrived in the Arab world, named Islamism. However, the age of Nazism has passed and the sun will rise again"; and "Our honorable Messenger [the Prophet Muhammad] came to correct the faith of Abraham, and now we need someone to correct the faith of Muhammad."
These tweets sparked a fierce debate on Twitter, in the Saudi press, and among Saudi clerics and intellectuals. The clerics called to punish Al-Hamad for his "heresy," while liberal Saudi intellectuals came to his defense. On December 24, 2012, only two days after the tweets were posted, Saudi Interior Minister Emir Muhammad bin Naif ordered Al-Hamad's arrest.
Born in 1952, Al-Hamad was a professor of political science at King Saud University from 1985 to 1995. He began his career as a journalist in the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, and later wrote for the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsatand, more recently, for the Saudi daily Al-Watan. He has also published several books that are considered controversial in Saudi Arabia due to the author's statements and views, such as the statement: "Allah and Satan are two sides of the same coin."
Al-Hamad is also known for criticizing Saudi education. In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, he pointed out that 15 of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks had been educated in Saudi Arabia according to a religious-political ideology that breeds terrorists. Last year, he caused a stir on Twitter when he directly criticized Saudi Emir and minister 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin Fahd for being disconnected from the people and their problems.
This is not the first time that tweets or statements regarding Allah and the Prophet Muhammad have sparked outrage in the Saudi religious establishment or triggered arrests and other sanctions by the authorities. In February 2012, journalist Hamza Kashgari was arrested after posting tweets about the Prophet Muhammad which many in Saudi Arabia regarded as offending Muhammad and Allah. The tweets caused a significant media stir, with some demanding to punish the journalist and even execute him for heresy, and others calling to stop the media assault on him. Turki Al-Hamad, who was among those to defend Kashgari, said that his tweets were an example of "creativity that is being stifled by a society hostile to intellect."
Furthermore, in the past year, several other liberal Saudi columnists published articles on Allah and the Prophet Muhammad that were regarded by Saudi clerics as harmful, leading the latter to publish communiques warning against a spreading wave of atheism in the country.
Saudi Clerics: Al-Hamad Is An Infidel And Must Be Punished
Al-Hamad's opponents, who include pundits and academics, claimed on social networks that his statements harmed Muhammad and other sacred symbols of Islam, with some even calling to prosecute him. Saudi cleric Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Tarifi called to punish Al-Hamad; Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh Al-Luhaidan called to place him under house arrest for life, provide him with psychological treatment, and ban the publication and distribution of his books; and prominent Saudi cleric Sheikh Sa'd Al-Buraik called to prosecute him in religious court.
Dr. Muhammad Al-Barrak, a professor at Umm Al-Qura University and a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), said: "We expect the Senior Clerics Council [Saudi Arabia's top religious institution] to issue a fatwa against the infidel Turki Al-Hamad, who claimed that the religion of our Prophet Muhammad needs someone to fix it." The head of the Lawyers for the Prophet Muhammad Association, Dr. Muhammad Al-Awlaki, said that Al-Hamad's past suggested that his statements were indeed meant to harm Islam, and that the association would file legal charges against Al-Hamad.
Deputy chairman of the World Association for Acquainting People with the Prophet, Dr. Khaled Al-Shay', praised Saudi Interior Minister Emir Muhammad bin Naif's decision to arrest Al-Hamad, and said that, with this move, he had fulfilled his duty to defend Muslim law. Al-Shay' added that Al-Hamad's statements were deviant and despicable.
Support For Al-Hamad On Twitter
Others came to Al-Hamad's defense. Twitter groups defending him have been formed, including one called "We Are All Turki Al-Hamad," and another called "Turki Al-Hamad Arrested," both of which feature messages of support and objections to the Saudi regime's attempts to silence liberals in the country.
Posted by the "Turki Al-Hamad Arrested" Twitter group
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi wrote on Twitter: "The ritual of blood and hatred surrounding Turki Al-Hamad's arrest exposes the damage [caused by] our deteriorating education [system] and by the extremist culture that has filled the head[s] of an entire generation." Saudi journalist Ahmad 'Adnan wrote on Twitter: "Turki Al-Hamad's arrest is resounding proof of the truth of his own statement that 'Islamism is the new Nazism." Saudi columnist Nasser Al-Sarami tweeted: "Turki Al-Hamad has been under arrest for three days, and there is no word and no information [about him]. How can that be?"
Jamal Khashoggi's tweet
Ahmad 'Adnan's tweet
Nasser Al-Sarami's tweet
Saudi Liberals Defend Al-Hamad
Al-Hamad Did Not Attack The Prophet But Rather Religious Extremism
Several liberal Saudi columnists also mobilized in Al-Hamad's defense. In an article in the official Saudi daily Al-Sharq, columnist 'Ali Makki claimed that the attacks on Al-Hamad were unjust: "'The infidel Turki Al-Hamad' – that has been the outrageous headline on Twitter for the last two days, and [tempers] are still flaring... Worst of all are the calls to kill him, and there are also some who call to press charges against him... This goes to show how [easily] some fools can be incited... I am saddened by this evil attack, using immoral weapons [against a man who] merely expressed a different opinion and spoke his mind. [His attackers] ignore the idea [itself] and instead attack the person who mentioned it...
"Turki Al-Hamad simply called on us to abandon [religious] zealotry and demand the complete truth... He did not curse the Prophet Abraham or our beloved Muhammad as he is accused of doing. He [only] asked to remove from religion elements that do not belong in it, and longed for a tolerant and peaceful culture, and the denunciation of all forms of violence. Had [his attackers] read his tweets in full, as well as the tweets that came before and after them in the same context, they would have discovered his true meaning: that the Creator brought forth human faith, but there are those who turned it into human hatred..."
We Suffer From 'Turki Al-Hamad Phobia'
Several months ago, in August 2012, columnist Turki Al-Dakhil wrote an article in the government Saudi daily Al-Riyadh titled "The Turki Al-Hamad Phobia," in which he addressed the enraged reactions of Saudi conservatives to Al-Hamad's statements over the years. He wrote: "In the last few decades, Turki Al-Hamad's character has been attacked and distorted more than that of any other figure... Incidents were taken out of context, and stories about characters [in his books] were presented as reflecting his own views and behavior...
"He has the courage to write his bold, clear, and rebellious views under his real name... [and] his sincerity on Twitter is the best example of this... Al-Hamad has written important books... and it is [unjust] to summarize his [character] and his long [intellectual] journey with a few words taken out of context. Ask one person among the host of Al-Hamad's detractors if he has read anything Al-Hamad [has written], and he will say no.
"[The response of his critics] is emotional [rather than rational], as evident [from the following incident]: A member on a certain forum made a bold move and published one of Turki Al-Hamad's articles [under the caption] 'here is a great article by Sheikh So-and-So.' After everyone praised [the article], he wrote: 'The writer of this text is Turki Al-Hamad!!' They were amazed... Could we [perhaps] be less emotional and more rational in our criticism?"
It should be mentioned that the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) also condemned Al-Hamad's arrest.
"The most significant reaction came from the former chief minister of Balochistan, Akhtar Mengal who also heads the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and seeks a peaceful settlement. Mengal has written to Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the next U.S. Secretary of State, asking him to invoke "The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009," to immediately suspend all American aid to Islamabad. Mengal is referring to the U.S. law that carries John Kerry's name and is better known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill. It authorizes the release of $1.5-billion per year of American aid to the government of Pakistan, but with one caveat: Every six months the Secretary of State has to provide assessments of whether Pakistan's civilian government has effective control over the country's armed forces, including "oversight and approval of military budgets."
As the joy of Christmas dawned worldwide from Manila in the east to Managua in the west, and places in between, the spirit celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace bypassed Pakistan. Most of the country was distracted by the frenzy of a cricket match against rival India, while its tiny Christian population was observing one of their darkest years ever.
But the condition of Pakistan's Christians on this, their "dark Christmas," paled when compared to what was unfolding in the country's southwest region at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
In fact, on Christmas Eve, the Pakistan Army launched a military operation in Balochistan that resulted in a massacre in the city of Mashkay.
Balochistan is home to a 60-year-old, on-again, off-again armed insurrection fought by three generations of guerrillas seeking independence from Islamabad's clutches. Deccan Walsh of the Guardian describes the conflict as "Pakistan's secret dirty war."
While the world observed Christmas and Pakistanis were glued to their TV sets watching cricket, Pakistan troops in armoured personal carriers backed by helicopter gunships circled the town and claimed the FC (Frontier Corps) had "killed many BLF [Baloch Liberation Front] men." Baloch politicians, bloggers and exiles, however, claimed the army action resulted in the death of 32 civilians.
The Pakistan Military claims Mashkay had harboured guerrillas of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). The fact is, Mashkay is the hometown of the leader of the BLF guerrillas, physician Dr. Allah Nazar, who has given up his practice and has fled to the mountains from where he and his group of mostly urban nationalist youth have staged hit-and-run attacks on army checkpoints.
The Pakistan Army, frustrated by its inability to quell the rebellion that has widespread support among the civilians of Balochistan, has now resorted to tactics of the U.S. Military in Vietnam, where entire villages were destroyed if it was suspected they had given sanctuary to the Viet Minh and later the Viet Cong.
In the adjoining village of Mehi, birthplace of Dr. Nazar, the army is said to have expelled the population and set fire to several mud huts.
The most significant reaction came from the former chief minister of Balochistan, Akhtar Mengal who also heads the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and seeks a peaceful settlement.
Mengal has written to Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the next U.S. Secretary of State, asking him to invoke "The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009," to immediately suspend all American aid to Islamabad. Mengal is referring to the U.S. law that carries John Kerry's name and is better known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill.
It authorizes the release of $1.5-billion per year of American aid to the government of Pakistan, but with one caveat: Every six months the Secretary of State has to provide assessments of whether Pakistan's civilian government has effective control over the country's armed forces, including "oversight and approval of military budgets."
In the letter, former chief minister Mengal told Senator Kerry, "there is clear evidence that Pakistan's civilian government has lost 'effective control and oversight' over a military that is committing widespread atrocities and war crimes inside Balochistan."
Other exiled leaders in Toronto, London, Geneva and Dubai have expressed alarm at the Christmas Day campaign that is still underway, with no coverage in any of the national or international media.
Zaffar Baloch, President of the Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC) in Canada, condemned the Pakistan Army's operation in Mashkay, Balochistan, saying it "is part of a broader plan of action to curtail the freedom struggle of the Baloch nation... and inflict a slow-motion genocide on the Baloch people," echoing the words of scholar Selig Harrison in Le Monde.
One tweet from an exile in Dublin, Ireland summed up the frustration of the Baloch. Faiz Baloch tweeted:
"Dear America, your recent $700 million aid to Pakistan will be used for death & destruction in Balochistan. Jets bombarding from last 3 days."
Raza Academy, an orthodox Islamic organization based in Mumbai, came into prominence with a fatwa (Islamic decree) against novelist Salman Rushdie after his book Satanic Verses was published in 1988. In a statement on its website, it claims: "In 1988, the first fatwa against the ill-famed Salman Rushdie was issued by Raza Academy after obtaining it from Jaanasheene Huzoor Mufti-e-Aazam [the successor of Mustafa Raza Khan, son of the founder of Barelvi sect Ahmad Raza Khan] which was published in the Daily Hindustan on 11th November '88 and on 12th November in Inquilab and Urdu Times [both Urdu dailies]." Early in 2012, the group held protests against a planned visit to India by Salman Rushdie. In the image above, Raza Academy demanded that Salman Rushdie be hanged.
Raza Academy claims that it is an organization of Indian Muslims adhering to the Barelvi sect of Islam, named after Ahmad Raza Khan (1856-1921) of Bareilly, a northern Indian town. The Barelvis call themselves Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, or the people of the Prophet's tradition, and claim to be the legitimate form of Sunni Islam in South Asia. They are opposed to the other schools of thought like Deobandi, Wahhabi and Ahl-e-Hadith, Salafi, Ahmadiyya, whom they deem apostates.
Raza Academy was formed in 1978 with Mohammed Saeed Noori as its founding president. Saeed Noori is also described as secretary-general of the organization.
Raza Academy says that it champions the cause of Sunni Muslims. Some critics have described it as "protest dukaan" (shop), trying to organize Muslims for the Islamist political cause. Over the years, it has articulated anti-U.S., antisemitic, and anti-West viewpoints, and, since it adheres to the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, it has also opposed the Tablighi Jamaat and Ahle-Hadith stands of Islam. The group was noticed for its role in violence after an August 11, 2012 protest meeting at Azad Maidan in Mumbai that turned violent, and its members led a mob protesting against the recent killings of minority Muslims in Myanmar and the northeastern Indian state of Assam. In 2012, it offered a reward of 100,000 Indian Rupees to anyone who could throw slippers at Salman Rushdie, as he was to attend a literary meet in the Indian city of Jaipur.
Over doctrinal and other differences, it has opposed even Barelvi clerics and others who are not of Barelvi school. In a recent spat with Maulana Tahirul Qadri, it emerged that a rift exists among Barelvis, as Raza Academy filed a petition in Bombay High Court, saying that Tahirul Qadri be prevented from making public appearances in Mumbai and arguing that "his speech may create communal tension in Mumbai." In 2008, Raza Academy also filed a court case over doctrinal differences, demanding a ban on Indian Islamic televangelist Zakir Naik's events in Mumbai.
The group appeals to Indian nationalism when doing so could potentially advance its agenda. For example, Raza Academy held anti-America protests over the issue of U.S. immigration officials frisking Indian scientist and former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam when he visited the U.S. in 2006.
Origins And Ideology
Initially, Raza Academy was set up for printing and publishing books authored by Ahmed Raza Khan (1856-1921), a Sunni Islamic scholar whose writings led to the emergence of the Barelvi movement in Sunni Islam. It also publishes other Islamic scholars' works to advance the Barelvi movement. On its website, Raza Academy claims to have published over 300 books.
The website also notes: "In 1978, after the formation of Raza Academy, a madrassa [Islamic seminary] by the name of 'Raza-ul-Uloom' was started for the sole purpose of giving Islamic knowledge to children and young people as well as the elderly. In 1980, the Raza Academy published the 'Kanzul Imaan' (Urdu translation of the Holy Koran by Aala Hazrat Ahmed Raza Khan)... In 1981, the concept of Noori Mehfil [congregation of people where poems in praise of Prophet Muhammad are recited] was formed, and it was started at [the address] 47, Ghoghari Mohalla, Bombay-3, to be held every Thursday... Around 1100 mehfils [congregations] have been arranged so far. These mehfils are attended by a lot of Indians as well as foreign ulema [Islamic scholars]...."
Although Raza Academy claims to have 37 branches all over the world, including in Durban, Colombo, Johannesburg and Lahore, most of its branches are in the Western Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital. The group is influential in the region around Mumbai, where it held protests against America, Jews, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and others. Raza Academy also aims to work for educational awareness among Muslims.
Barelvis are always at loggerheads with Deobandis, Wahhabis, Salafis, Shi'ites, and Ahmadis, calling them kafir (infidel). Imam Ahmad Raza Khan, founder of the Barelvi movement, wrote to prove that non-Barelvi scholars such as Maulvi Ismail Dehlvi, Maulvi Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi, Qasim Nanautavi, Khaleel Ahmad Ambethavi and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad are apostates. During a visit to Saudi Arabia in the early 20th century, he also obtained a fatwa from about two dozen clerics of Mecca and Medina, declaring Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam, an apostate. "He also refuted Ahle-Hadith and 'Ahle-Quran'... But his main work was to receive the fatwa from the ulema of the Holy Harmain [Mecca and Medina]. They ratified ... [his] fatwa of [unbelief] and apostasy against Thanvi, Gangohi, Nanautavi, and Ambethavi and [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad] Qadiani, which he wrote in his book, Al-Moatamad-ul-Mustanad."
Like other Muslim sects, the Barelvis believe in the Koran and Sunnah and consider the Prophet Muhammad the last prophet of God. However, they also believe in Sufism and its various silsilas(orders), such as Qadri, Chishti, Naqshbandi, and Suhrawardi. They differ from other Sunnis because of their beliefs regarding the Prophet Muhammad, considering him noori basher (a human made from God's light) who is hazir (present in many places at the same time) and nazir(witnessing all that goes on in the world). The Barelvis also think that Muhammad was imbued withilm-e-ghaib (knowledge of the unseen) and is mukhtaar-e-kul, i.e. one who has the authority to do whatever he desires as granted to him by Allah.
Ahmed Raza Khan, the founding Barelvi leader, was reportedly opposed to such practices astaziah (marking the day of martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson Hazrat Imam Hussain by enacting and recreating the scene of the Battle of Karbala, as practiced by Shi'ite Muslims),qawwali (a form of singing in praise of Allah, the Prophet, and Islamic mystics such as Sufis), tawaf(circling of a holy site or tomb), sajda (prostrating before a tomb) and women visiting mazars(shrines), calling these activities bid'ah (forbidden innovations in Islam). However, Barelvis in general practice all of these will great enthusiasm.
The Barelvi Muslims observe public celebration of the Mawlud (Muhammad's birthday). They askaulia (deceased Sufi mystics) for intercession with God on behalf of the living, which is why devout Muslims flock to Sufi shrines in India and elsewhere. Some popular Sufi shrines of India are at Ajmer, of the 12th century mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti; at Delhi, of the 13th century mystic Hazrat Nizamuddin; at Gulbarga, of 14th century Sufi Khwaja Banda Nawaz Gesu Daraz; and at Bareilly, of Ahmed Raza Khan, the founder of the Barelvi movement. Numerous such shrines in India are visited by Barelvi Muslims.
Sunni Dawat-e-Islami, another Barelvi group, works closely with Raza Academy. It introduces itself: "Some prominent intellectuals of... Mumbai had this feeling that a movement should be initiated in the field of Dawat-o-Tabligh [calling towards and propagation of Islam] to carry forward the mission of the Prophet and which could be ever-ready to crush the heads of every fitna[mischief] that comes in the way of Islam and the thought of Aala Hazrat [Ahmed Raza Khan]; and to achieve this goal with the lovely name of Sunni Dawat-e-Islami, a movement was founded on September 5, 1992. Hafiz and Qari Maulana Mohammad Shakir Noori was unanimously accepted as the leader and emir of this movement by the ulema."
Mohammad Saeed Noori controls the helm of affairs at Raza Academy. People call him Maulana, a titled used for Islamic scholars, though he has not received any formal higher degree from a madrassa. He is known as an activist, especially for organizing protests and for facilitating the work of Islamic scholars of the Barelvi school. An Indian media report notes: "Noori has never received a formal Islamic education though uninformed reporters happily call him Maulana (scholar). While working in the sewing thread business, he aspired to use Raza Academy to champion Sunni Islam which, unlike the Wahhabis, accepts Sufism and sanctions visiting the mausoleums of saints [e.g. Sufi mystics]... Noori, a self-styled follower of the sect, has turned Raza Academy into a protest machine."
He has been charged with rioting by police for violence during the August 2012 protest at Azad Maidan in Mumbai. A media report noted that Saeed Noori, along with another Islamic scholar Maulana Athar, was involved in rioting. "The charges slapped against some of the accused include criminal conspiracy and murder, besides damaging public property, unlawful assembly, and indulging in violence... The attackers, who went berserk, attacked police personnel, molested some policewomen, [and] pounced on media persons covering the procession and damaged their vehicles."
Other than Mohammad Saeed Noori, very few names associated with the Raza Academy come to light. Two mentionable names are: Suhail Rokadia, who as a spokesperson of Raza Academy was a member of a delegation which called on the U.S. consul-general in Mumbai in May 2005; and Mohammad Arif Razvi, whose name appears in the press releases of Raza Academy. But the organization's control remains in Saeed Noori's hands.
Saeed Noori has been seeking to spread the work of Raza Academy and ideologically associated groups. He notes: "Over the years, the Academy set up 32 centers across India, and became a voice of the country's Sunni community." The spiritual leadership of the Barelvi movement, from its base in the northern town of Bareilly, supports Noori. All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB), a top body of Barelvi clerics and mystics in India, the Sunni Dawat-e-Islami and the Muslim Students Organization (MSO) are some of the groups associated with Raza Academy. The AIUMB represents numerous Sufi shrines and mosque leaders. The MSO, founded in 1977 at the Aligarh Muslim University, works closely with Raza Academy as it is evident from their joint protests in 2009 and adherence to the same school of thought.
Islamic scholars, madrassa controllers, and mosque leaders closely associated with Raza Academy include: Maulana Ashraf Raza of Darul Uloom Hanafia Rizvia, Mumbai; Maulana Yaseen Akhtar, president of Darul Taleem; Maulana Musannah Miyan, chairman of Tanzeem Aimmae Masajid; Maulana Mansoor Ali Khan, secretary-general of All India Sunni Jamiatul Ulema; Maulana Saiyad Siraj Azhar, president of All India Sunni Tablighi Jamaat; Maulana Waris Jamal Qadri, president of All India Tablighi Seerat; Maulana Khalilur Rehman Noori, general secretary of Tanzeem Aimmae Masajid; Maulana Abdus Sattar, secretary of Sunni Tehreek-e-Aimmae Masajid; Maulana Mehmood Aalam Rashidi, secretary of Anjuman Barkat-e-Raza; Maulana Abdul Qader Habibi, secretary of Anjuman Gulshan-e-Madina; Muslim Council of India convenor Ebrahim Tai, and Abdul Razaque Maniyar, president of the Public Complaint Centre.
These figures and organizations are active in propagating the Barelvi movement in Sunni Islam through a chain of madrassas, mosques, khanqahs (monastery) and social organizations. With the growing impact of the puritan Tableeghi Jamaat, which is opposed to what Barelvis do in practice, the Barelvis have also formed similar-sounding groups such as All India Sunni Tableeghi Jamaat and All India Tableegh-e-Seerat (propagation of the life and deeds of Prophet Muhammad). They want to get control over mosques, leading to conflicts in lots of mosques throughout the country on big and small issues such as who should be prayer leaders.
In 2006, leading nuclear scientist and former Indian president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was reportedly frisked, in violation of diplomatic norms, by U.S. immigration officials when he visited the country. The revelation that Dr. Kalam had been frisked came sometime in 2011, leading to Indian groups criticizing the U.S. The Raza Academy leadership too saw an opportunity for an anti-U.S. protest. A Barelvi website carried this report on November 16, 2011:
"A prominent organization of Indian Muslims, Raza Academy, today protested against the United States of America on insulting of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam at John F. Kennedy Airport, New York. The activists of Raza Academy, which had also held a mass rally at Azad Maidan, Mumbai in 2006 against the arrival of then-President George Bush to India, sent an old pair of shoes to Mr. Barack Obama, President of the U.S through the U.S. Consulate.
"Mohammad Saeed Noori, general secretary of Raza Academy, told [journalists] that America is the greatest terrorist. It has been murdering innocent civilians in the name of bringing peace, since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki... Now, after leading unjustified attacks on Libya, it is preparing for a war with Iran. The war on terror has nothing to do with democracy or peace but it is a propaganda war to destabilize the growing economies... The recent insult to former Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam at JFK International Airport in the name of [security] checking shows how much respect it has for our highest-level leaders and politicians. India must not act like slave countries and must lodge its strong protest by summoning the Counsel of the U.S....
In January 2012, noted author Salman Rushdie was scheduled at speak at a literary festival in the Indian city of Jaipur. However, the leaders of Raza Academy issued a call for a protest, and the local police, at the behest of the ruling Congress party which was eyeing Muslim votes in the impending state elections, forced Rushdie's trip to be cancelled.
A Barelvi website noted: "Controversial author Salman Rushdie, who has caused a lot of pain and anger in Muslim world by his evil writings, is once again coming to India to attend a literary festival in Jaipur Rajasthan. The literary festival will be held at Jaipur from 21st Jan 2012. Muslim organizations are agitated and have demanded cancellation of his visa. All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board, Raza Academy, MSO of India have threatened to protest if his visa is not cancelled. MSO ... [held] a protest meeting in Jaipur yesterday on 9th January 2012 under the patronage of Chief Mufti of Jaipur Muhammad Abduls Sattar Razwi..."
http://www.razaacademy.com (India), accessed July 15, 2012. The original English of all reports used in this dispatch has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.
The Times of India (India), September 22, 2012.
'The Left has become a cog in the wheel of the Islamist movement'
Kiran Nazish: You say that the Pakistani government has double crossed the US, and the US does not have the guts to stand up to it. What are those deceptions in your opinion? Why do you think the US does not stand up? What is their weakness or restraint?
Tarek Fatah:Any country that harbored and protected Osama Bin Laden for ten years while taking billions in US aid to supposedly locate the world's most wanted jihadi terrorist, would qualify as a country that double-crossed the USA. Pakistan's military and civilian establishment that runs the country is guilty on that count. In fact on July 19, when the US House of Representatives voted to cut US aid to Pakistan by $650 million, congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas), put it rather succinctly when he said, "Pakistan seems to be the Benedict Arnold nation in the list of countries that we call allies, they have proven to be deceptive and deceitful and a danger to the United States."
The United States gets blackmailed time and again by Pakistani Foreign Office's argument that any sanctions imposed on Pakistan will make things worse with Islamabad's nuclear assets falling into the hands of radical generals committed to a worldwide jihad.
Washington has been playing a Chamberlainesque diplomacy of appeasement and it seems the US State Department is at conflict with the Department of Defence, but has the upper hand in setting US-Pakistani relations.
The influence of pro-Muslim Brotherhood officials in the US State Department and the White House may also be a reason America has not come down hard on Pakistan and is focused on Iran as its enemy.
KN: What is your definition of a fascist? Especially given that you are a Punjabi Muslim yourself, and in that, how do you deal with the fact the Punjabis are often accused of fascism in Pakistan?
TF:My definition of an Islamofascist in the 21st century is a political group that seeks its own armed militia; its own uniforms, separate social service network and a top-down hierarchal command structure political party that does not entertain any dissent. Like the Nazis and Mussolini's men, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Jamaat-e-Islami, the various other jihadi groups of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council and the Taliban all fall into this definition to varying degrees. The one tell-tale sign of a fascist setup is its operation of state within a state with private social service networks and armed non-state armies.
My heritage as a Punjabi has been effectively destroyed in Pakistan. It's a community ashamed of their own mother-tongue, shoe chattering middle classes are by and large ignorant of who they are and thus end up acting as if they are of Arab or Persian descent, thus making them empty vessels that become easily filled with false identities and hatred of the other.
This is a direct result of the 1947 Partition when non-Punjabi Muslims instigated Muslim Punjabis to slaughter their own neighbors and rip apart a 1,000-year-old society where Punjabi Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs flourished together. The same happened in Bengal too, but Muslim Bengalis woke up and realized their mistake. While Bengal's Muslims walked away from the two-nation theory in 1971-72, Punjabi Muslims hang on to it and have in effect vandalized their own past and future.
KN: You talk about Muslims and Marxists who have betrayed the cause of social justice. Could you give a few specific examples of such cases?
TF:In the post 1990 world when the collapse of the USSR ended the Cold War, the Left in most of the West and communists in the developing world were left with the reality that the entire communist-socialist experiment in the Soviet Union was a farce and that Chinese Communists had overnight become the hallmark of vulgar capitalism.
The only force that emerged as anti-American were the Islamists and Jihadis who turned on to their own paymasters. A worldwide jihad against the US was launched by Muslim Brotherhood and the remnants of the Arab Afghans coalesced as Al Qaeda under the protection of the Taliban.
This fury of new anti-Americanism has met with nodding approval by what is left of the Left in the West. From Chomsky to Ken Livingstone and George Galloway, one can sense their admiration of the Islamist hostility to all things Western.
They all overlook the reactionary nature of the Islamist agenda; their misogyny, the homophobia, the racism and medieval notion of honor and tribe, and chosen to support Hamas, Hezbollah and respect the Muslim Brotherhood and even get entertained by them.
In doing so they have betrayed every aspect of their supposed vision of a future free of exploitation of man by man. The Left should have been leading the fight against medievalism. Instead it has become a mere cog in the wheel of the Islamist movement.
KN: What is your stance on the Taliban and the Pakistani state after the Malala issue, considering the Pakistani government (and civil society) took a stand.
TF: The Taliban are the same Islamofacsist purveyors of hatred and lovers of medievalism that is ingrained in their ideology. Malala on the other hand shows them for who they are and provides us with a sharp contrast that few opponents of the Taliban have been able to do.
As of today close to half a million people from around the world; from the PM of Canada to Shashi Tharoor of India; Richard Dawkins of UK to Nobel Laureate Dario Fo of Italy, people have risen to back this child. Unfortunately, not many among Pakistan's chattering classes have risen to the occasion. Najam Sethi, Farhanaz Ispahani, Ayesha Siddiqa and Bushra Gohar aside, I see a wave of pettiness that is camouflaged as conspiracies among the elite.
KN: When you say the military establishment and civilian government are both responsible for OBL, what is your say on the Memogate inquiry? Don't you think there are now clear differences between the two institutions? Considering Pakistan's foreign policy is mainly the domain of the country's military?
TF: Today there seems to be a free-for-all among both the military establishment as well as the civilian backroom operators. The carcass is too tempting to not be picked on by the vultures.
KN: Also consider that this government survived the post-OBL crisis. At another time this would have brought the government down, but it is the first time that an elected government has survived this long. Many feel that it shows that the military establishment's hold is weakening. Do you consider that a step forward for Pakistan?
TF:Not at all. The military knows what side of the bread is buttered. The Kerry-Lugar Bill signed into law by Obama ensures the brigade remains on permanent stand-by in Islamabad.
KN: Also, if OBL was being protected by Pakistan, shouldn't he have been captured alive to find out if it was a fact? What do you think?
TF:Only the solitary Japanese soldier still fighting the Americans of World War 2 in an Okinawa cave is not aware of the fact that OBL was protected in Pakistan by the ISI.
KN: You say there are flaws in Pakistan's foreign policy. What are they?
TF: There is no such thing as "Pakistani Foreign Policy." It is determined by the needs of its military establishment and their requirements. The only countries with which Pakistan's people have common cultures - India and Afghanistan - are considered as enemies while those who treat Pakistanis like trash - Iran and Saudi Arabia - are its allies. China has massacred its Muslim population, but is Pakistan's ally and they love China. The US where Muslims have more rights than any other country on earth, is hated by Pakistan.
KN: Do you find any hope in the people of Pakistan then, considering they have been raised by dictators yet many find the state's democratic process generally equally deceiving? In your view, are there any good leaders in Pakistan at the moment?
TF:I am sorry, but I see little hope. As long as Pakistanis thrive on a diet of lies, they have a bleak future. Imagine, it is hard to find a single Punjabi politician (and its only Punjabis who matter in Pakistan) who is willing to acknowledge the fact that Pakistan invaded an independent State of Kalat in 1948 and that we have been occupying that land for over 65 years.
KN: How do you align Jinnah's politics with Iqbal's views or Sir Syed's movement?
TF: While I have deep admiration for Sir Syed, I do not share the same feelings about Iqbal who managed in one lifetime to be all things to all people.
Both secularists and Islamist Muslims can pick and choose from his works to justify their points of view. He was a Punjabi but never wrote a single line in Punjabi language.
KN: Some people in Pakistan, including some activist groups, talk about the cause of freedom, democracy, and justice. Are these achievable in your view?
TF:Without a decentralization of power from Punjab to the provinces, Pakistan cannot give justice to its people. Without a separation of Islam and the state, Pakistan cannot afford equal citizenship to its inhabitants. Without acknowledging the truth about Balochistan, there can be no honest dialogue among the federating units.
KN: The Pakistanis who inherited freedom and did not struggle for it, it is said; are at ease to unintentionally destroy it simply out of ingratitude and convenience. What do you think can be done?
TF:The only Pakistanis who seem to have freedom belong to the upper class and their urban variety that imitates the West, yet hates it.
The urban working class and the teeming millions who live as an underclass in Karachi, Lahore and other major cities, work in near slave conditions or low wages and no hope of breaking out of their condition while the non-working upper classes have amassed fortunes beyond belief.
Sooner or later this class tension will erupt. So far the ethnic divisions among the working poor have prevented class-consciousness. Freedom for the chattering classes is not freedom for the underclass of Pakistan.
KN: Some of your detractors are critical of the fact that you were born and raised in Pakistan and you call yourself an Indian Muslim. What are your thoughts?
TF:Indian civilization is 5,000 years old and its origins are the Indus Valley. It is disgraceful for anyone born on the Indus or its tributaries to deny their Indianness. It's as if a Frenchman says he is not European.
Even as a child and a teenager in Pakistan, I was conscious of the fact that I was a child of Asoka as much as I was a descendent of Bullay Shah and Baba Farid.
KN: Is there anything at all that you find good about Pakistan?
TF:Just the rural people of Punjab, Balochistan, Pukhtunkhwa and Sindh. Get rid of the urban lice and we will have the land of Bullay Shah and Baba Farid breathe again with chimes of Gul Khan Nasir, Ghani Khan and of course Bhittai in the background.
KN: How did you feel about recovering from cancer? What do you want to do with this new life that you did not think of before?
TF: Discovering that one has cancer is an earth-shaking event and leaves the family in a state of shock and grief. For me and my family, the shock and grief lasted no more than 5 minutes and broke into laughter when I told my wife I had a handsome life insurance policy so hire a rock band for my funeral.
In fact, we did have a musical concert in both the hospital where I was treated and at the physiotherapy center where I learnt how to walk again. What is very strange is that not once did I feel like praying for myself. I found the act a bit selfish.
While an Islamist website asked people to pray for my death, which I found sad, but funny, a Pakistani Church held a prayer for my health every Sunday. A friend who is an Imam, a convert from Barbados, would top in every week, but just to chat helped me retain my senses, but above all my wife and daughters ensured my spirits were up. Not a tear, even when the docs gave me about three months to live. When the call comes, I will go.It's been a good innings.
It was early afternoon just before Christmas in India's capital, and a young woman spoke to her friend on the phone, eager to get together.
"Wake up, wake up," she told him. "It's already very late—1 o'clock."
The two agreed to meet. And so began an innocent outing that set in motion a killing that would horrify the world.
Mail Today/Zuma Press
A memorial for the victim in New Delhi on Sunday.
The two met at Select Citywalk, a trendy mall where New Delhi's 20-somethings gather to spend pocket change and enjoy a small taste of the glamour promised by India's economic rise. The young woman—her family's nickname for her was "Bitiya," which means daughter—admired a long coat in a shop window, her friend said in an interview. He thought he would like to buy it for her later. Then, they took in a movie, "Life of Pi," sitting in the same seats where, on an earlier visit, they had watched "Gulliver's Travels" together.
A few hours later, the pair were dumped, naked and bleeding, from a private bus along a highway. Both had been viciously attacked with an iron rod, according to police, and the young woman so violently raped that she died two weeks later, on Dec. 29.
Her death has spawned a moment of national introspection over the threats women face here, whether on the streets of the capital city or in the lanes of a distant village, despite the advances of India's liberalizing society and invigorated economy. Her life embodied the modern Indian dream, the one-generation upward transformation that millions here are pursuing.
The Wall Street Journal reconstructed the details of her life from interviews with family and friends, including the young man, a 28-year-old software engineer, who was with her when she was beaten. He was treated and released but still requires medical attention. The Journal is refraining from publishing the woman's name in keeping with Indian laws governing the identification of rape victims.
The young woman, the child of an airport laborer who earns 7,000 rupees a month (about $130), was determined, her friends and family said, to become the first from her family, which hails from a caste of agricultural workers, to have a professional career. She was on the cusp of achieving it. She had enrolled in a yearslong physiotherapy course in a city in the foothills of the Himalayas. To afford it, she worked nights at an outsourcing firm, helping Canadians with their mortgage issues, family members and her friend said.
As she amassed some money of her own, she enjoyed figuring out how to spend it. Lately, she had her eye on a Samsung smartphone. One day she hoped to buy an Audi. "I want to build a big house, buy a car, go abroad and will work there," her friend, the software engineer, recalled her saying.
On Monday, five men who allegedly raped and killed her appeared before a New Delhi court for the first time, their faces covered in gray woolen caps. All five face charges of kidnapping, rape and murder, among other crimes. They face the death sentence if found guilty. A sixth alleged assailant, a juvenile, faces proceedings before a juvenile court.
A lawyer for the accused couldn't be reached.
Tracking Sexual Assaults
A look at statistics on reported rapes and conviction rates of rape cases in India in 2011.
The family originally hails from Ballia in rural Uttar Pradesh state. They moved to the capital city, Delhi, about 30 years ago to seek "a better life," her father said. He worked for 13 years as a mechanic at an appliance factory. Then he struggled for a decade in his own business, assembling voltage meters. He worked as a hospital security guard.
About three years ago, he became a loader at the airport. He sold half of a small parcel of land to pay for the education of his daughter and her two younger brothers, who are now 17 and 15 years old.
The family lives in Mahavir Enclave on a 6-foot-wide lane off a decrepit street lined with shoe shops, dispensaries and jewelry stores. It is a neighborhood of migrants who work as construction laborers, building apartment houses for Delhi's blossoming middle class.
Her brothers recalled pillow-fights with their elder sister, who was only 5-foot-3 and weighed about 90 pounds. But she stood out as a high achiever in school. She earned pocket money tutoring other children. "She was the brightest student in the classroom," said a school friend who identified herself only as Nisha.
At first, Bitiya had wanted to be a doctor. But her father couldn't afford her tuition or find a suitable guarantor for a loan that a bank would require.
The Sai Institute of Paramedical and Allied Sciences, in the city of Dehradun in the Himalayan foothills, offered an alternative: a 4˝-year physiotherapy course that was more affordable. She enrolled in November 2008. A graduate from the school is expected to earn a monthly salary of nearly 30,000 rupees, more than four times what her father earns.
She attended classes from noon to 5 p.m., staff and her friends said. To pay the fees, she worked at a call center on the 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift, handling questions from Canadians about their mortgages and supervising a team of employees, friends and family said. The company couldn't be located.
When she first arrived at school in Dehradun, she was an "introverted and submissive" young woman who wore simple, traditional dresses, said Bhawna Ghai, a professor and head of the physiotherapy department.
But as the course progressed, she opened up. She left the dorm and moved into an apartment with two friends. She began choreographing and emceeing college dance recitals.
A good English speaker, she became an avid reader, particularly Sidney Sheldon novels, her college friends said. She was a fan, too, of "One Night @ the Call Center," a best-selling novel by Indian author Chetan Bhagat about six call-center workers.
Money remained an issue. Combining her studies and the call-center job was exhausting, friends said. "She slept for only two hours" a night, said Sheen Kaur, one of her roommates, in an interview. In all, she paid about $3,300 in tuition fees.
Along the way, she developed an eye for fashion. If she spotted an outfit she couldn't afford at the mall, her brother said, she would find ways to replicate it in the bazaars. She amassed a shoe collection, preferably high heels.
This past October, she returned to Delhi to look for a volunteer internship, a requirement to complete her physiotherapy studies.
On Dec. 16, the day of the attack, her family gathered at their home. The young woman and her mother cooked lunch—fritters in yogurt, beans, and puffy bread calledpuri. The siblings teased each other about who would steal a bite of their father's food.
After lunch, their father went to work on the 2 p.m. shift at the airport, one of her brothers recalled. And his sister went to see her friend at the mall, the meeting the two had earlier arranged on the phone. The two weren't dating, both he and the family said, but had been friends for years.
At the mall, her friend recalled noticing that she had put streaks in her hair—white, gold and red. She asked him what he thought. He says he wasn't really a fan of the look, but answered "It's OK," so as not to hurt her feelings. He also remarked that she seemed too thin.
Passersby near the spot where the two victims were dumped, naked and bleeding, by the side of the road.
"A lot of people struggle to get this physique," she responded.
After "Life of Pi" ended—she loved the movie, her friend said—they took a motorized rickshaw, an inexpensive, three-wheeled taxi, to Munirka on Delhi's main southern highway, a convenient point to board a bus toward her home.
The same evening, about five miles away in a slum of about 300 dwellings known as Ravi Dass camp, two brothers, Ram and Mukesh Singh, were throwing a small party with chicken and alcohol, according to police. Ram was the driver of a private bus.
They were joined that evening by Vinay Sharma, a young man who earned $40 a month as a helper at a local gym, police said. Earlier he had been watching television at home, according to his mother, Champa Devi, when a friend and local fruit-seller, Pawan Gupta, stopped by. Eventually, according to police, the two men joined the Singh brothers, who lived down a narrow lane nearby.
The group, which included one other man and a juvenile, decided to take what police have described as a "joy ride" on the bus that Ram Singh drove.
Around 9:15 p.m., police said, the bus pulled into the stop where the young woman and her friend were looking for a ride. The men aboard the bus offered them a lift to Dwarka, near the young woman's home, according to police.
Four of the alleged assailants acted like regular passengers, according to the young man who boarded. One of them collected 20 cents for each ticket and the other drove.
The accused began taunting the woman with lewd comments, according to her friend, which led to a brawl. The young woman's friend said that some of the men knocked him unconscious with an iron bar.
At the back of the bus, police said, the young woman was raped as the vehicle was driven around, passing Vasant Vihar, an upscale neighborhood which is home to embassies and expatriates. After about 40 minutes, according to police, the bus stopped near a strip of budget neon-lit hotels with names like Star, Venus and Highway Crown, that cater to travelers near the airport.
There, the men on the bus dumped the two friends, naked, by the side of the road in a dusty strip of dried grass, according to police and the young man. As the woman lay barely conscious, her friend, who was bleeding from a cut to the head but could now stand, waved his arms and shouted for help at passing cars. For more than 20 minutes, he said, no one stopped.
Several people who work in the area said that two employees of DSC Ltd., the company that built the highway and now runs it, were the first to attend to the two victims, around 10 p.m. The company declined to comment. One of the DSC employees put in a call to the police, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Moments later, a manager from one of the nearby hotels, a burly 28-year-old, got on his motorbike to head home. He passed the scene without stopping—but then turned back, struck by the image of blood streaming down the man's face.
He offered to get a sheet and a bottle of water from his hotel to cover them as they waited for the police, he said in an interview. One of the DSC employees gave a sweater to the young woman and a shirt to her friend. About 45 minutes after the two were dumped, the police arrived.
Around the same time as the young woman was being taken by police to Safdarjung Hospital, about eight miles away, her family was starting to grow concerned. Usually, her brother said, Bitiya returned home by 8:30 p.m. "We were really worried, but didn't have any other option than waiting," he said. He dialed the pair's mobile phones without success.
Around 11:15 p.m., the police phoned and said the young woman had been in an accident. Her father rushed to the hospital with a neighbor on a motorbike. "It was a sinking feeling," her brother said. "We feared for the worst."
—Preetika Rana, Amol Sharma and Aditi Malhotra in New Delhi contributed to this article.
In the 1857 Great Indian Mutiny, the name of one man, Mangal Pandey, rallied an entire nation. It is said he was the “sepoy” who fired the shot that triggered an armed uprising against the British.
Across India, the rallying cry of the mutineers was “Mangal Pandey ko yaad karo”—“remember Mangal Pandey’s sacrifice.”
Today, 156 years later, another “Pandey”is the source of a rallying cry — this time it’s a woman by the name of Jyoti Singh Pandey. She is the 23-year-old medical student who was gang raped and murdered in New Delhi.
Like Mangal Pandey of 1857, Jyoti Pandey has become forever immortalized, etched in our memories for eternity, despite efforts by many who wanted to let her die in anonymity. Fortunately her father, Badri Singh, has been brave enough to ensure his daughter’s name is known.
While her rape and death are a stain on India, the reaction of millions of Indians who poured into the streets, symbolizes its resilience as a flourishing democracy.
Across the border in Pakistan, the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey was met with shock and dismay, but also plenty of gloating. Some laughed and mocked at India, giving themselves a chance to hide their own shame at the ill-treatment of girls and women in Islamic societies.
Just when Jyoti was gang raped, Muslim men with some political clout had allegedly raped two Hindu girls in Pakistan, aged six and 14. Jyoti’s rape triggered an uprising, the two in Pakistan barely caused a ripple.
According to the International Tribune Express, a member of parliament belonging to the ruling Pakistan’s Peoples Party was accused of the rape of the 14-year old girl, but no arrests were made. The Tribune reported: “The victim, her father and the rest of her family staged a sit-in outside (the MP’s) house ... threatened to set themselves on fire.”
Not only were the police unmoved, the urban elites of the country merely shrugged their shoulders.
In the case of the six-year-old Hindu girl, it was reported by NDTV “she was playing near her home” in Pakistan’s Sind province, when “the owner of a gambling den allegedly kidnapped and raped her on December 3. Some unconfirmed reports said the girl was gang raped.”
This was not the first time a Hindu female in Pakistan has been raped without any consequences. In May last year a Hindu woman, Rinkle Kumari, was allegedly raped, kidnapped, and then forcibly converted to Islam. Unlike in India, most Pakistanis seemed to be quite happy with the outcome — one more Muslim.
Sick form of patriotism
A few brave Pakistani feminists and NGOs have expressed outrage, but they are seen largely as pro-West. As women get raped in Pakistan, a sick form of patriotism prevents the ordinary Pakistani from speaking out like his Indian counterparts.
It is believed that as many as 20 to 25 girls from the Hindu community are abducted every month, converted forcibly to Islam and then “married” off to older Muslim men.
If in India, Sonia Gandhi and the ruling Congress party had tried to clumsily downplay the tragedy of Jyoti Pandey, one only has to remember how Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf reacted to the gang-rape of Mukhtaran Mai in 2002.
Instead of honouring her, Musharraf placed restrictions on her movement and then told the Washington Post (comments he denied making), rape was becoming a “money-making concern” in Pakistan.
While Jyoti Pandey has all of India to rely on, the Hindu girls of Pakistan have no one. Jyoti will live forever; Rinkle Kumari is among the living dead.
"The Sunni Islamic terrorists of theLeJ, who proudly claimed responsibility for the Thursday night massacre, are a product of the Pakistan Army in its strategy to use non-state actors to create mayhem in India and Afghanistan. No one will be surprised if it turns out the latest slaughter of Shias was merely one act in the larger theatrical play to bring democracy into disrepute and making it palpable to endure another phase of military authoritarianism in Pakistan. No matter how this play unfolds, the Pakistan created by a Shia Muslim, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, today lies in ruins, being torn apart as vultures gnaw at its carcass. It was near Quetta, Balochistan that MA Jinnah came to die and it is perhaps Balochistan where the country he created will finally unravel into dust."
An unprecedented protest is unfolding in the Balochistan city of Quetta in Pakistan. Thousands of people have staged a sit-in, and are using coffins to block a road to protest the slaughter of Shia Muslims by Sunni Muslim terrorists allied with the Taliban.
On Thursday night, January 10, twin bombings targetingPakistan's tiniest ethnic minority, the Hazaras -- descendants of Central Asians and who are distinguished easily by their unique facial features -- killed over 100 young men at a snooker club.
The attack was the latest in a slow-motion genocide of minority Shia Muslims in Pakistan by Sunni-Muslim extremists who consider the Shia as infidels, thus worthy of death. Many attacks against Shia Muslims are carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a militant Islamic group allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban. This time too the LeJ promptly claimed responsibility for the slaughter
So far the Hazaras have endured every killing and attack with silent suffering, hoping their lack of response would be rewarded by a cessation of targeted attacks. But not this time.
The sight of 100 mangled bodies, including that of Pakistan's leading Shia youth activist for human rights, Khudi Ali seems to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
For over 24 hours now the Hazara Shias of Quetta have braved sub-zero temperatures that dropped to -10C, and are refusing to vacate the blocked road or to bury the dead. So far there has been total inaction by all levels of government. Frightened by the Islamic terrorists, it seems the country's president, prime minister and the provincial chief minister, have all cowered down in their respective shelters, not knowing if it would be safe, exposing themselves among the ordinary mourning Hazaras.
Although the Baloch nationalists seeking separation from Pakistan are sympathetic to the plight of the Hazara Shia and make common cause against the Taliban, they view the demand for military intervention with justified suspicion and cynicism. One Baloch activist summed it best when he tweeted:
If Pakistan's men in uniform wished to help, they could easily cut off all ties to the jihadi terrorists and liquidate them. Instead, they perform a strip-tease for America and the Pakistani population, acting as if they are fighting the jihadis while giving the Taliban leadership of Mulla Omar shelter in Quetta.
Destabilizing Pakistan before an election
The fresh slaughter of the Shia in Pakistan comes in the wake of other events unfolding in Pakistan that seem to suggest its part of an attempt to destabilize the country and thwart parliamentary elections due in a few months.
The Sunni Islamic terrorists of the LeJ, who proudly claimed responsibility for the Thursday night massacre, are a product of the Pakistan Army in its strategy to use non-state actors to create mayhem in India and Afghanistan. No one will be surprised if it turns out the latest slaughter of Shias was merely one act in the larger theatrical play to bring democracy into disrepute and making it palpable to endure another phase of military authoritarianism in Pakistan.
No matter how this play unfolds, the Pakistan created by a Shia Muslim, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, today lies in ruins, being torn apart as vultures gnaw at its carcass. It was near Quetta, Balochistan that MA Jinnah came to die and it is perhaps Balochistan where the country he created will finally unravel into dust.
Had it not been a nuclear power with 200 missiles pointed at India and unknown western interests in the region, we could have shrugged off the failed experiment. But Pakistan today needs to be watched as the single largest source of anti-Western terrorism and the nurturing ground for the ideology of global jihad.
The Shia and Ahmadi Muslims that are being killed, together with Pakistan's beleaguered Hindu minority as well as traumatized Christian community, should be seen as canaries in the mine. In their demise is a warning to the rest of us. A nuclear power is about to collapse.
--- This blog was first published in the on-line magazine, The Baloch Hal
"Whosoever insults Prophet Muhammad and commits blasphemy, whether he is Muslim or 'Kaafir' (infidel non-Muslim), man or woman, he or she should be murdered and kicked like a dog into hellfire, even if they repent ...”
January 16, 2013
Pakistan’s army lurks behind Canadian cleric
We should be worried about the potential destabilization of a country with 200 nuclear-tipped missiles
A Canadian cleric, who has twice played a part in backing military juntas in nuclear-armed Pakistan, is back in that country. And once more, he appears to be facilitating a military takeover in Islamabad.
Tahir-ul-Qadri is better known for his role in the creation of the infamous “Anti-Blasphemy Law” of Pakistan, that has brought untold misery to religious minorities and agnostics.
In the 1980s, Qadri backed the military junta of the Islamist General Zia who had overthrown former prime minister Z.A. Bhutto. In 1999, he backed the administration of General Pervez Musharraf, which had staged a coup against former prime minister Nawaz Shariff.
By the time democracy was restored in Pakistan, Qadri had emigrated to Canada, where he went into political hibernation until he became eligible for a Canadian passport.
With that in hand, Qadri left Canada to manage his worldwide network of devotees, who believe the Prophet Muhammad has appeared in Qadri’s dreams and gives him instructions.
In September, Qadri landed in hot water in Denmark, where Integration Minister Karen Haekkerup pulled out of a conference when she discovered Qadri was one of the speakers, saying he had helped fashion Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law.
A Muslim member of the Danish parliament, Naser Khedar, wrote: “… thanks to Tahir-ul-Qadri the horrible blasphemy laws were adopted and are still in force — laws that have resulted in the death of many Christians — and Muslims.”
Qadri denied he had anything to do with Pakistan’s blasphemy law. He told an audience it “is not applicable on Jews or Christians and minorities. It is just to deal with Muslims.”
He also denied the allegations by Haekkerup and Khedar, claiming, “The way he (Gen Zia) was formulating the blasphemy law, I was totally against it.” However, within days, a new video emerged showing Qadri saying the exact opposite. He was shown boasting in Urdu before an audience that he alone was responsible for crafting the blasphemy law.
On the tape, he says in Urdu:
“Let me put it on the record, it was me and only me who is responsible for that law … No one else has made any contribution in making this law.”
As for his claim made in English on Danish TV that the blasphemy law is inapplicable to non-Muslims, the leaked video showed him making this claim in Urdu:
“Whosoever insults Prophet Muhammad and commits blasphemy, whether he is Muslim or Kaafir (infidel non-Muslim), man or woman, he or she should be murdered and kicked like a dog into hellfire, even if they repent ...”
Now Qadri, travelling as a Canadian, has come back to haunt Pakistan by besieging the parliament in Islamabad with about 50,000 of his devotees.
He told AFP, “We will stay in Islamabad until this government is finished, all the assemblies are dissolved, all corrupt people are totally ousted, a just constitution is imposed, rule of law is enforced, and true and real democracy is enforced.”
However, many observers believe the real powers behind Qadri are his former mates in the Pakistan Army and their allies in the judiciary, who are using him as a front man in order to cling to power, while Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the arrest of the prime minister. (Qadri has denied these allegations.)
In the meantime, the rest of us should be worried about the potential destabilization of a country with 200 nuclear-tipped missiles and the role played by Qadri in that.
“A decade of war is now ending,” declared President Barack Obama in his Monday inaugural address. He then looked to his right and paused. For a fleeting moment, I braced for some profound words of wisdom, but alas, was disappointed.
Instead of elaborating on why he thought the war had ended, when the enemy that attacked western civilization on 9/11 was stronger than ever and had killed three Americans just a week ago in Algeria, Obama veered off to boast, “An economic recovery has begun.”
The fact is, a decade of war may be ending for Obama, but his policies have ensured a century of conflict lies ahead for the rest of us.
He proclaimed, “We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.”
I’m sorry, Mr. President, but you seem to be mistaking the tyranny of the majority for democracy. The “democracy” you fostered in Egypt, for example, has led to the loss of freedom, not the flourishing of liberty.
The toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya resulted not just in the death of Americans in Tripoli, but the flourishing and growth of al-Qaida in Mali and Algeria. While your predecessor’s gamble in Iraq handed over the country to America’s archenemy Iran, you sir have given away Africa to the rogues.
What was once a cabal, trapped in the caves near Kabul, is today a worldwide movement spread from the southern shores of the Philippines lapping the Pacific to the African coastline of the Atlantic.
I was expecting Obama to outline his grand scheme to confront the spreading cancer of ideological Islamofascism before it devours us, but instead he bragged: “… we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.”
Pray tell me, Mr. President, which sworn enemy in the last decade did you turn into the “surest of friends”? And if you are referring to Japan and Germany, if I recall, they surrendered before the war ended.
In the case of Islamism’s war on the West, none of our contemporary enemies have surrendered, let alone acknowledged the futility of their actions.
In fact, America’s most devious and dangerous enemy, the Pakistan Army, is the recipient of billions of dollars of U.S. aid, part of which is diverted to foster hate, and if possible, kill Americans.
The country’s leading nuclear scientist, MIT-educated Pervez Hoodbhoy, who serves as Advisor to the UN Secretary General on matters of Nuclear Disarmament, writes in his book Confronting the Bomb:
“Pakistani army insiders in collusion with an external Islamic group could be plotting to appropriate nuclear assets, unknown to authorities entrusted with protecting these.”
Describing the American-funded Pakistani army as “a heavily Islamicised rank-and-file brimming with seditious thoughts,” Hoodbhoy says, “It is difficult to find another example where the defence apparatus of a modern state has been rendered so vulnerable by the threat posed by military insiders.”
The Obama administration’s response to this danger is not just more dollars, but a hilarious mechanism that I suppose they employ at home as well. The U.S. made the Pakistanis implement a program that carries out checks on employees to distinguish between radical jihadis and those who are simply pious jihadis.
Hoodbhoy ridicules this program, writing that even the non-fundamentalist staff at Pakistan’s nuclear facilities are “soft Islamists”.
In Obama’s zeal to fight “jihadi Islamists” by deploying “soft Islamists,” what he does not realize is that no matter who wins, only an Islamist will emerge victorious.
"Now that she [Kathleen Wynne] is the premier and has promised to “reach out” even more, what are the chances of conservative, Sharia-backing Muslims having even more access to the premier’s office? Will Valley Park Middle School, that Wynne boasts of as one of her proud accomplishments, become a model for all Ontario public schools? Will the Friday ritual prayer asking Allah to bring victory to Muslims and defeat the “Kufaar” (Jews and Christians) ring out from all of them?"
January 29, 2013
Now that Kathleen Wynne is premier, will Valley Park Middle School, with its Friday Muslim prayers, become a model for all Ontario public schools?
As Ontario Liberals converged on Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens to elect their new leader, Kathleen Wynne’s team sent out a mass e-mail to delegates seeking their support. Nothing extraordinary, except this message was filtered so it would not reach all delegates, only the roughly 100 Muslims among them.
Here is part of that message:
“Dear Muslim Delegates, Assalamu Alaikum:
“We appeal to you all to join us in supporting Kathleen Wynne to become the leader of OLP and thus next premier of Ontario … She had openly defended Muslims’ religious rights for Friday prayers in Valley Park Middle School in her riding.”
The bulk e-mail was followed by a direct letter from Wynne to Muslim delegates touting her credentials, specifically noting her support for “the Muslim prayer issue at Valley Park Middle School.”
The fact many Liberal Muslims had vociferously opposed the mosque-in-school initiative was lost on Wynne. This was actually a case of a Liberal candidate choosing to abandon Liberal Muslims in a bid for Muslim support.
The e-mail touting Wynne as a good-for-Muslims-candidate was signed, among others, by Abdulhuq Ingar, the man behind the establishment of the Mosque in Valley Park Middle School.
Salma Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Canadian Congress and a lifelong Liberal, was indignant.
“The hypocrisy of these Islamists is appalling. They (dislike) Irshad Manji because she is a lesbian, but endorse Wynne?” she asked. “How can Ingar, a supporter of Sharia law, which among other things considers gays as worthy of outright contempt ... become a spokesman for Wynne?” asked Siddiqui.
Wynne and Ingar were not always that close. In fact, in December, 1999 they found themselves on the opposite sides of a raging debate on same-sex education, when the Toronto District School Board passed its Anti-Homophobia and Sexual Orientation Policy.
Ingar was part of a “multi-faith coalition to endorse 11 candidates” for the 2,000 school trustee elections, with the intention of overturning the TDSB policy on homosexuality.
The GTA mosque establishment threw its weight behind the movement supported by Ingar, but all of its candidates lost in 2000, while Wynne came back as a school trustee.
In 2003, Wynne was elected as MPP and Ingar apparently saw more to gain by supporting her than opposing her.
In 2007, as president of the local mosque, he campaigned for Wynne to be re-elected to the Ontario legislature in Don Valley West.
He did so even though Wynne’s opponent, then Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, was advocating public funding of Islamic and other religious schools.
Soon after Wynne’s victory, Ingar landed a political appointment with the Liberal Party Caucus, an arm of the Premier’s Office.
With Wynne’s blessing as education minister, Ingar and the mosque instituted Muslim Friday prayers in the cafeteria of Valley Park Middle School.
Now that she is soon to be the premier and has promised to “reach out” even more, what are the chances of conservative, Sharia-backing Muslims having even more access to the premier’s office?
Will Valley Park Middle School, that Wynne boasts of as one of her proud accomplishments, become a model for all Ontario public schools?
Will the Friday ritual prayer asking Allah to bring victory to Muslims and defeat the “Kufaar” (Jews and Christians) ring out from all of them?
"When the principal at Valley Park Middle School allowed 400 Muslim students to pray in the lunchroom, he thought he was being progressive. What he got was a scandalâ€”over the preaching of conservative Islam and the separation of boys from girlsâ€”and a test for the TDSBâ€™s policy of religious accommodation."
Menstruating girls, sit at the back of the mosque as other girls prostrate during Friday prayers, behind cafeteria tables to ensure separation from boys who pray in the front.
Allah in the Cafeteria |
Inside the school prayer scandal at Valley Park Middle School
ďżĽValley Park Middle School, at Don Mills and Overlea, is much like any other TDSB facility in the inner suburbsâ€”an unremarkable rectangle of grey, concrete blocks, plus 11 portables in the backfield. Itâ€™s also one of Canadaâ€™s largest and most ethnically diverse middle schools, with approximately 1,200 students in grades 6 to 8, whose native languages include Urdu, Pashto, Dari, Bengali and Punjabi. The neighbouring streets consist mostly of strip malls and huge apartment complexes that accommodate many of the Muslim immigrants from South Asia who arrived in Toronto in large numbers in the 1990s.
A kilometre and a half away, amid the fast-food chains and electronics repair shops, is the neighbourhoodâ€™s mosqueâ€”the Darus Salaam. If you were walking by it in a hurry, you might not even realize itâ€™s a mosque. Thereâ€™s no minaret, nothing distinctive about the building; itâ€™s just another nondescript box that disappears into the industrial landscape. The mosque is orthodox Sunni and adheres to a strict, conservative interpretation of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. It is also a madrassaâ€”a religious place of learningâ€”for many of the children who attend Valley Park.
The majority of the students at Valley Parkâ€”more than 800 kidsâ€” are Muslims. Until 2008, several hundred of the students would leave school every Friday to attend midday prayers at the mosque. The prayer itself took only 15 to 20 minutes, but the kids wouldnâ€™t return to school for two or three hours, if they bothered to at all. Some simply headed to a shopping mall or home to play video games. The schoolâ€™s administration needed a solution.
According to TDSB policy, schools are expected to accommodate students and families who make special requests for their religion, which includes allowing time away from class and providing an appropriate location in the school for prayer. Just how exactly to achieve that accommodation is left open to a great deal of interpretation. In the case of Valley Park, one couple, Ali and Shamiza Baig, took control of the situation.
The Baigs were married in Hyderabad, India, in 1986. They moved to Canada a year later and eventually had three childrenâ€” two sons and a daughter. Ali is 52 years old and owns an electrical business, and Shamiza, who is 50, runs a home daycare. They are both highly devout Muslims and attend prayer at Darus Salaam. They are also devoted parents and extremely proud of their children. One son has graduated from U of T, the second is study-ing there now, and their daughter is headed there, too.
Eleven years ago, when Shamizaâ€™s eldest son was still a student at Valley Park, she began to organize a series of prayers at the school during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset. With the schoolâ€™s consent, a few hundred students participated in the congregational prayers once a week. In 2008, the Baigs realized they could expand the congregational prayer program and perhaps solve the Friday exodus problem. They approached Nickolas Stefanoff, the schoolâ€™s principal, and requested that a prayer session be held every Friday in the cafeteria from November to Marchâ€”the months in the Islamic calendar when prayer coincides with class time.
All the school had to do was provide the space and ask the parents of participating students to sign a consent form. The Baigs, the mosque and the Muslim community would take care of the rest. The school agreed. A group of parent volunteers, all women, come to the school after lunch, clear out the cafeteria and roll carpets out on the floor, and three to four hundred students shuffle in.
The prayers are conducted entirely in Arabic, which is the custom in just about every mosque in every corner of the world. Once the prayers are completed, the students return to class, missing only a fraction of the class time that they would have if they went to the mosque. The prayer sessions occurred without scrutiny until last July, when the Toronto Sun ran a series of stories about Valley Park. The newspaper was especially exercised about the fact that an imam from Darus Salaam was leading the prayers in the schoolâ€™s cafeteria, and that the girls were being made to sit behind the boys.
All wore a hijab except for one tiny girl in a purple long-sleeved T-shirt and black jeans with bedazzled back pockets. There was a bit of panic among the parent volunteers because her curly black hair was exposed. They scrambled to find her an extra scarf. The girl herself had a laissez-faire attitude to the whole thing, and when she wandered over to the front area where the boys pray, two parent volunteers ordered her to go to the back of the room with the other girls. Finally a scarf was given to her, and she found her place with the other girls.
Political blogs picked up the Sun story and gave it momentum on Twitter, dubbing the service the â€śmosqueteria.â€ť The controversy grew more intense when the Toronto Star printed a photo of the prayer session and the Star columnist Heather Mallick criticized the school for allowing girls to be treated as inferior.
Most of the journalists emphasized one detail that secular Canadians found particularly objectionable: any girl who was menstruating couldnâ€™t participate in the prayers, but could only observe from the back row. Orthodox Muslims, like members of a number of other faiths, consider menstruating females impure for religious functions.
A few moderate Muslim activists such as Farzana Hassan, the former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, began to ask why a public institution was hosting a religious prayer service in the first place. Other MCC members asked why the school wasnâ€™t supervising what the imam was preaching to the students. Hassan claimed that the Sunni interpretation of Islam alienates the children of other Muslim sects.
Gender segregation may happen in mosques in this country, but the idea that it was happeningâ€”and going unchallengedâ€”in a place of education appeared to be a violation of the Education Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The furor over the cafeteria prayers was all the louder because it was perceived as a slippery slope, part of a pattern of controversial accommodations of Muslim culture and religion in this country.
At Valley Park, the schoolâ€™s administration had entered into a simple deal with Muslim parents and students. It never anticipated an explosive reaction.
I grew up in a progressive, moderate, Muslim home. I was born in Karachi but spent most of my childhood in Saudi Arabia where the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam was enforced. My father is Sunni and my mother a Shia, and they brought my sister and me up with an appreciation for our religious identity as well as a respect for secular principles. We moved to Canada in 1987, and over the past 10 years I have watched with mounting concern the rise of religious fundamentalism in the country that is now my home. The congregational prayer sessions at Valley Park seemed to be another expression of that con- servative faith.
When I phoned Nickolas Stefanoff and asked him how he was dealing with the complaints about the prayer service, he responded defensively. He instructed me to learn something about Islam before I start asking questions. When I told him that I was a Muslim, he backed down, but remained resolute that the school was doing nothing wrong. I asked if I could attend one of the prayer services, and he said yes.
On the mild December Friday that I drove up to the school, there were mothers in niqabs walking with their children. Outside Stefanoffâ€™s office were posters announcing the upcoming holiday season concert. The schoolâ€™s Christmas tree was decorated with snowmen and snowflakesâ€”nothing overtly religious. Stefanoff is 61 years old. Heâ€™s a tall man with an expressive face. His own family is Eastern Orthodox, and he recalls how, when he was a boy, women had to sit apart from the men during church services and cover their heads. They are no longer required to do so, and he offers this as an example of how religious traditions can evolve. He predicts the Muslim community at Don Mills and Overlea will evolve one day, too.
Nickolas Stefanoff, the principal of Valley Park, provides the schoolâ€™s cafeteria to Muslim students who want to pray, but takes no responsibility for how parents run the sessions
Just after the lunch hour, Stefanoff escorted me to the schoolâ€™s cafeteria to see the prayer service. Valley Parkâ€™s custodians were moving the tables and benches to make room for the students to pray on the floor. One by one, six female parent volunteers came in. The one woman who wasnâ€™t already wearing a hijab quickly pulled a scarf out of her purse and wrapped her head as she got closer to the stage. I sat down beside a volunteer with a pleasant smile and an open face. Her name was Sumaira Tariq, and she has a son in Grade 6 at Valley Park. Her other son graduated last year and now attends Marc Garneau, the neighbouring high school. She told me that she believes Friday prayer is not a matter of choice, but a duty. She said that the first question God will ask Muslims when they die is whether or not they prayed, and the most important day of the week is Friday, which is why it is so important for her sons to fulfill their responsibility to Him. Tariq also has a daughter who is a student at Marc Gar-neau, and she is insistent that, in Islam, boys and girls must not be permitted to stand together during prayers. â€śThis is the teaching of Islamâ€”and it must not be questioned,â€ť she said.
The girl without the Hijab
Shamiza Baig, the woman who helped start the prayer sessions at Valley Park, entered the room with a burst of energy and excitement. Sheâ€™s short, plump and boisterous, with glasses tightly fastened by the hijab wrapped around her head. She arrived just when the students began to enter the cafeteria. Boys and girls entered through separate doorsâ€”boys from the front, near the stage, girls through the back. Several of the girls were in long black robes. But many wore jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts. All wore a hijab except for one tiny girl in a purple long-sleeved T-shirt and black jeans with bedazzled back pockets. There was a bit of panic among the parent volunteers because her curly black hair was exposed. They scrambled to find her an extra scarf. The girl herself had a laissez-faire attitude to the whole thing, and when she wandered over to the front area where the boys pray, two parent volunteers ordered her to go to the back of the room with the other girls. Finally a scarf was given to her, and she found her place with the other girls.
The children removed their shoes and kneeled on the carpets in neat rows. Students at the school wear ID tags around their necks but tuck them into their shirts during prayer. Baig ran the prayer like a tight military operation, issuing orders for students to get organized and finish their sunnahsâ€”a specific series of prayers to be recited before the formal sermon begins. She asked a group of girls who were sitting on benches to immediately get on the floor and join the other girls.
The sermon commenced and the parent volunteers stood at strategic spots around the room to catch any misbehaviour. They recited the same prayer Iâ€™ve heard thousands of times over my lifetime. There is only one God, and Muhammad is his prophet. I watched as the students bowed and kneeled and looked side to sideâ€”the ritual movements of Muslim prayers performed all over the world.
After the prayers ended, the cafeteria erupted into chaos. Girls gossiped and screamed, boys rough-housed, and no one seemed in a hurry to get back to class. It was a little like Lord of the Flies. I remembered something Stefanoff told me: â€śThey are kids before they are Muslims.â€ť
Stefanoff was dumbfounded by the controversy over the prayers when it erupted last summer. He assured me that the school isnâ€™t teaching religion and no students are pressured to attend. The school is simply providing the space, and the administration doesnâ€™t have anything to do with the prayer itself. He blames the con-troversy on a little-known organization called Canadian Hindu Advocacy, and the groupâ€™s director, Ron Banerjee.
Canadian Hindu Advocacy
Banerjee is a lanky 43-year-old with a pronounced lisp and a nervous energy. He has been the full-time director of the organization for its three-year existence and claims to have 930 paying members. He describes himself as a religious moderate but a political conservative. He backed Stephen Harper and Rob Ford during their campaigns, and frequently issues statements condemning government policies, in Canada and India, that supposedly show favouritism toward Muslims.
Banerjee claims he started to receive emails in early 2011 from half a dozen parents of Hindu students at Valley Park who had complaints about the school prayers. (He said he couldnâ€™t show me the emailsâ€”theyâ€™d been deleted.) The parents said they didnâ€™t like the special accommodations the school was making for the Muslim students, in part because it was disruptive to the whole school.
They said their own kidsâ€™ education was being compromised every Friday. The hundreds of students returning late to classes meant that teachers spent too much class time repeating lessons. One parent claimed that many children couldnâ€™t settle down once they returned to class, and it was difficult to carry out the lessons. Friday afternoons were basically a write-off for every studentâ€”Muslim or non-Muslim.
Banerjee claims the TDSB bends over backwards to accommo-date Muslims above all other groups, and he has been criticized as an Islamophobe for saying so. When I asked him if he considers himself an Islamophobe, he became annoyed but didnâ€™t deny it. (Thereâ€™s enough evidence of his contempt for Muslims in a video posted in 2010 on the CHA website. â€śIn itâ€™s entire history,â€ť he says, â€śthe Islamic civilization has invented and contributed less to human advancement than a pack of donkeys.â€ť)
Banerjee encouraged the parents to ask Stefanoff to stop the prayers, but he doesnâ€™t know if any of them followed through. After the Sun story appeared, he sent an email to the TDSB expressing his concerns about the prayers. A month later, he received a reply from the TDSB stating that the prayers were not inappropriate and reiterating the boardâ€™s policy of religious accomodation. Banerjee organized a coalition that included members of the Jewish Defense League and the Christian Heritage Party, and scheduled three protests at the TDSB head office at Yonge and Sheppard. Several hundred people participated in the demonstra-ions and counter-demonstrations. Banerjee arranged for a series of people to deliver speeches opposing the boardâ€™s accommodation policy at the protests. (The only Muslim to speak was the journalist and womenâ€™s rights activist Raheel Raza. She was heckled by a group of young Muslim men and women, who criticized her for betraying her own religion.)
Jim Spyropoulos, the superintendent of the TDSBâ€™s Equitable and Inclusive Schools, kept a wary eye on the protests. Spyropoulos is a former high school principal, and he took the equity job in 2010, when it was created. He told me that the school was faced with a difficult decision about using the cafeteria for prayers. He says most of the time, when requests for prayer services arise at other schools, solutions are found for individual students. According to Spyropoulos, these types of prayersâ€”congregational and individualâ€”are being accommodated at hundreds of schools within the TDSB, though usually in small, multi-faith prayer rooms. The boardâ€™s policy does not distinguish between individual requests and group requestsâ€”and in the case of Valley Park it was the responsibility of the school to accommodate a large group. The cafeteria was the only practical solution.
Both Spyropoulos and Stefanoff insist that not one parent or student at Valley Park has come to them to complain. By making the cafeteria available for prayer, the school is in compliance with the board policy, which is based on the human rights codes for Ontario and Canada. â€śTo me there is no issue here,â€ť Stefanoff says.
The TDSB made one concession to the protesters, when it agreed that it was inappropriate for an imam from Darus Salaam to lead the prayer in the school. The school asked that the prayer session be led instead by senior students from Marc Garneau. The volunteer Muslim parents vet the students for religious training. Stefanoff feels better about this, he says, because he knows these are â€śgood kidsâ€ť and they are former Valley Park students.
Some of the prayer sessionâ€™s critics, including Farzana Hassan and Raheel Raza, claim they have no problem with Islam. Rather, theyâ€™re concerned that the school is allowing students to be indoctrinated with a conservative Sunni ideology. Stefanoff also waves off that concern and says he trusts his community and the volunteers and doesnâ€™t believe anything inappropriate is happening.
To Banerjee, it isnâ€™t good enough for the principal to say that all they do is provide the space and that they arenâ€™t teaching religionâ€” the school cannot take a hands-on, hands-off approach. If the school is allowing gender segregation during the prayer sessions, itâ€™s a tacit endorsement of that practice. For Banerjee and for many others, itâ€™s an endorsement of conservative Islam.
On New Yearâ€™s Day, I met Ali and Shamiza Baig at a Tim Hortons in one of the many strip malls in their neighbourhood. Ali did most of the talking. He told me that he has friends at every mosque in the city, and that they are working together to support the school prayer sessions. He said that Canadaâ€™s education system is very Christian, and nobody challenges it. Ali, like Stefanoff, blames the debate over the prayer sessions on a small group of hateful people. He wonders if the controversy erupted when it did because of the then-ongoing provincial electionâ€”was someone trying to embarrass the Liberals? Shazima laughed and said that itâ€™s only Islamophobes who have a problem with the prayers.
Why Muslim girls must sit behind the boys
When I asked the Baigs why the Valley Park girls must sit behind the boys, Ali said that it isnâ€™t something they actively enforce at the school: the students are merely following what they learn from the mosque. I asked what would happen if one of the female students demanded to sit in the front, and Shazima replied that none has. I pushed the point: what if, one day, one girl wants to sit in the front? She said she would explain to the girl that thatâ€™s not the way itâ€™s done in Islam. The boys must be in the front, and girls belong in the back.
Ali said the girls choose to sit in the back because theyâ€™re concerned about a â€śbiological scenario.â€ť When I asked for clarification, he explained that a girl praying in the front might â€śdisrupt the prayersâ€ť because the boys would be distracted. (Even the Baigsâ€™ own daughter once told the school at a community meeting that she preferred to sit in the back of prayer sessions because she didnâ€™t want the boys looking at her.)
"...itâ€™s best to let the men be in charge."
I noted that boys and girls sit next to each other in class, but Ali insisted that classes and prayers are different. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he said, they have the right to practise their religion as they see fit. During a lull in the conversation, I asked why Shazima had been so silent. What happened to the military general from the prayers? She told me she wants her husband to take the lead. She said itâ€™s best to let the men be in charge. Ali interrupted and said that itâ€™s just an act, and sheâ€™s really the one who runs the show. â€śIâ€™m just a backbencher,â€ť he said.
After we finished our coffee, the Baigs were heading to the Darus Salaam, and I decided to tag along. The mosque was less than a five-minute walk from the Tim Hortons, and on the way, the Baigs ran into half a dozen acquaintances who were heading to the same place. When we got there, Ali went up the front steps, and Shazima and I walked to the side of the building, toward the so-called sistersâ€™ entrance. Not only were we not permitted to enter through the front doors, we were also segregated from the men. The sisters-only room is about 20 feet by 10 feet. Itâ€™s carpeted, with one broken shelf containing books on Islam. Shazima pointed out that the students use some of these same books to recite prayers at the school on Fridays. There were a couple of posters on the wall with prayers in Arabic, and a clock at the front. The women are supposed to be able to hear the prayers in the main space through speakers, but there was no sound coming through. Instead, I could hear men on the other side of the wall laughing, joking and talking loudly. It was difficult to tell what was happening. Shazima kneeled down and started to pray. I sat there, frustrated that I couldnâ€™t find out what was happening on the other side.
When the prayer ended, I said goodbye to Shazima and left the mosque. The Baigs, I decided, are likable and seem well-meaning, but I donâ€™t share their unconditional acceptance of Islamic customs. What theyâ€™re doing at Valley Park sets a dangerous precedent, and legitimizes sexism. The school may be following a policy of accomodating special requests, but thereâ€™s a striking difference between designating a room for a handful of students and converting the largest room in the building for group prayer. The school becomes, in effect, a mosque.
In accordance with the Muslim calendar, Valley Parkâ€™s weekly Friday prayer sessions ended for the year on March 9. Later this year, on November 9, theyâ€™ll be back in the cafeteria.
I am flattered. Pakistan’s infamous military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has taken exception to my columns in this newspaper and ordered the blocking of the Toronto Sun website in Pakistan.
In a recent column, I had written about reports that the Pakistan army was behind a Canadian cleric who threatened to storm the parliament building in Islamabad to pave the way for yet another military takeover.
The next day, all access to torontosun.com was shut down across Pakistan.
What is the Pakistan Military and the ISI afraid of? I asked a number of prominent Pakistani journalists, parliamentarians and senior officials in Islamabad. Every one of them was scared of the ISI and begged not to be quoted. On condition of anonymity, one gave a blunt reason:
“Your criticism and exposure of the Fauji-Jihadi shenanigans. Decision (to shut down Toronto Sun came) from Aabpara.” (Fauji is the Urdu word for Army while Aabpara is the Islamabad neighbourhood housing the ISI headquarters.)
What most Canadians don’t know is Canada is home to many “retired” Pakistan military generals, brigadiers and colonels with close ties to the ISI.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has now raised concerns of the links between the Pakistan Army and international Islamic terrorists. HRW has asked Islamabad to “actively investigate allegations of collusion” between Islamic terrorists and the Pakistan military intelligence.
These terror groups include the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
The LeT operates not just in India, Myanmar, Thailand and Bangladesh, but right here in Canada. We learned of LeT’s Canadian presence during the trial in Chicago of Pakistani-American David Headley and Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana for their role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack as well as the plot to blow up the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten.
Interestingly, Rana turned out to be a former Pakistan military officer.
Pakistan's 200 nukes
Then there is the question of my column about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Some of Pakistan’s 200 nukes may be directed at India, but that is not who the Islamists wish to target. Rather, it is the West and our allies in NATO who Pakistan’s jihadi generals see as “Islam’s enemies.”
Pakistan’s leading nuclear physicist, MIT-educated Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy has this to say on the subject in his new book Confronting the Bomb:
“The fear of loose (nuclear) weapons comes from the fact that Pakistan’s armed forces harbour a hidden enemy within their ranks. Those wearing the cloak of religion freely walk in and out of top security nuclear installations every day.”
Hoodbhoy describes the Pakistani army as “a heavily Islamicised rank-and-file brimming with seditious thoughts … It is difficult to find another example where the defence apparatus of a modern state has been rendered so vulnerable by the threat posed by military insiders.”
But loose nukes aside, it seems the unpardonable sin I committed in the eyes of the ISI is my column on the taboo subject of Pakistan Army’s atrocities in Balochistan, where thousands of young men have simply disappeared from the face of the earth.
HRW has accused Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies of “continued enforced disappearances and killings” of Baloch opposition activists who want an end to Pakistani occupation.
In 2012 at least eight journalists were killed in Pakistan. HRW talks of “a climate of fear” that impedes media coverage of the state security forces so journalists rarely report on human rights abuses by the military.
And the Pakistani government can block the Toronto Sun all they want, it is not going to deter me from exposing them.
"Bhashani laughed at the suggestion. He told me the seminar was an event organized by the Pakistani Consulate in Toronto and had nothing to do with Kashmiri-Canadians. He also wondered if it was 'an attempt by the Pakistan Consulate ... to whip up anti-India, anti-Hindu hysteria among young Pakistani-Canadian Muslims'."
February 13, 2013
Embassies of influence: Canada should send a strong message to Islamabad to stop stirring hatred in Canada.
Richard Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), created a firestorm in 2010 when he disclosed that the embassies of several countries were involved in trying to influence Canadian politicians and public servants.
Most of the media and politicians focused on China, not the other countries to which Fadden had referred. This despite the fact that in the same television interview, Fadden spoke of Pakistan and his concerns with regard to terrorist plots targeting Canada and the West.
He told the CBC:
"You know, to be honest, a lot of them came out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. People over there, you know, generated plots and they directed them towards the west."
Most contacts between Canadian politicians and foreign diplomats take place at multicultural events, where diplomats representing the countries of origin of their Canadian hosts get a chance to engage with our MPs.
Last week, such an event was organized in Mississauga by a group called the "Friends of Kashmir", where Toronto's Pakistani Consul General spoke as the chief guest.
A handful of Members of Parliament were billed as guest speakers, but when questions arose about the Pakistani consulate's involvement in the event, all of the invited politicians became no-shows, leaving it for local MP Brad Butt to offer a brief speech before he, too, took his leave.
Perhaps Fadden's warning has finally started to sink in.
However, outside the event, another Canadian politician with his sights on the leadership of the Liberal Party had set up tent. Supporters of Justin Trudeau were signing up the participants of the "seminar".
Brampton Lawyer Hamid Bhashani is a Kashmiri-Canadian and author of the book The National Question of Kashmir. I asked him if he or other Kashmiris had been invited to the event.
Bhashani laughed at the suggestion. He told me the seminar was an event organized by the Pakistani Consulate in Toronto and had nothing to do with Kashmiri-Canadians. He also wondered if it was "an attempt by the Pakistan Consulate ... to whip up anti-India, anti-Hindu hysteria among young Pakistani-Canadian Muslims," he said.
"They are trying to capitalize on the problems inside Kashmir and inculcate a culture of victimhood among young Muslim men who were born in Canada," he added.
What was ominous about the event was the presence of pro-Hezbollah Arab Canadians milling around with Pakistani militants.
One of the speakers was a former head of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA),better known for their association with the Al-Rahman Centre, where six of the Toronto-18 accused were nabbed in 2006.
Then there was Pakistan-born Zafar Bangash, a radical follower of Ayatollah Khomeni, who moderated the proceedings, while mocking Prime Minister Stephen Harper for bringing Canada closer to India (according to some attendees).
Bangash is better known as the former editor of a magazine that referred to Osama Bin Laden as a "famed Arabian" who "stands up to the West in the name of Islam". His magazine described the West as "murderous, racist and virulent" while Canada was called a "fully paid-up member of the Anglo-Saxon mafia, which is responsible for most of the recorded genocides in the world".
CSIS was back in the news this month when a secret study came out suggesting radical Muslim Canadian extremists are more likely to be born in Canada, relatively young and well-integrated members of society.
Canada should send a strong message to Islamabad to stop stirring hatred in Canada.
"Back in the 1970s when ratings was not all that mattered to the super stars of the time, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar played for our conscience at the memorable ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ in Madison Square Garden. And then there was Joan Baez who let out a wail in the midst of a genocide. Her song rallied millions:
When the sun sinks in the west
Die a million people of the Bangladesh
Today too, the sun sinks in the west,, but no one is singing for Bangladesh anymore."
In a tiny country on the other side of the globe, far away from the glare of celebrity TV anchors and big-shot correspondents in jungle khaki, a revolution is unfolding, but not if you watch CNN, BBC or CBC.
For two weeks now, hundreds of thousands people from young men and women, aging former guerrilla fighters and grandmothers who still carry the scars of violence, have occupied the Shahbag Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The collective anger of a nation, simmering for over 40 years below the surface, finally erupted this month.
The roots of this resentment lay in the genocide of the Bengali people that started in March 1971 by the Pakistan Army and its accuses jihadi collaborators, the mullahs of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The military-sanctioned massacres did not stop until nine months later in December that year when the Indian Army intervened and the Pakistan military promptly surrendered.
From the ashes of a war and three million dead people choking its rivers, the new country of Bangladesh emerged, but without its founding father, Sheikh Mujib.
He was being held as prisoner and hostage by the Pakistan military. To secure his release, international agreements were brokered, which in exchange allowed for most of the collaborating jihadis to not face war crime trials.
It was not until 2008 when Sheikh Mujib’s daughter, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina campaigned on the promise to set up tribunals to try the 1971 collaborators for war crimes. On that promise, she was swept to power with an overwhelming majority in parliament and in 2010 the war crimes trials finally got off to a start.
Among the first to be convicted was a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Quader Mollah. But instead of the death sentence, Mollah was given life imprisonment with possibility of future pardon. Hearing that his life had been saved, Mollah turned to the news cameras and with a huge grin on face, waved a victory sign to the crowd.
While the bearded Mollah was ecstatic, liberal and secular Bangladeshis were enraged. How could a man pronounced guilty of war crimes, accused of raping and shooting 344 civilians to death during the 1971 war, not receive the maximum punishment, the death sentence?
Within hours of the judgement, which was handed down of February 5, ordinary students and bloggers used Facebook and Twitter to rally their contacts. Soon an impromptu gathering of hundreds, then thousands and soon hundreds of thousands collected at Dhaka’s Shahbag square.
For 15 days, they have been there and despite the gruesome murder of one of the leaders, they have kept their movement peaceful. The protesters want the government to appeal the decision of the tribunal and ask the courts to deliver a death sentence. In addition, they want a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami as a collaborator that took active part of the genocide.
For the first time ever in the Muslim world, there has been a popular uprising against the fascism of Islamist parties. One would have expected the western intelligentsia to be thrilled at this development and for the media to report from the square, but the Walter Cronkites of the world are no more.
Back in the 1970s when ratings was not all that mattered to the super stars of the time, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar played for our conscience at the memorable ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ in Madison Square Garden. And then there was Joan Baez who let out a wail in the midst of a genocide. Her song rallied millions:
When the sun sinks in the west
Die a million people of the Bangladesh
Today too, the sun sinks in the west,, but no one is singing for Bangladesh anymore.