muslims, politics, Uncategorized

Rich immigrants shouldn’t kid themselves: a rant

Dislaimer: the following rant is meant to sound preachy, though the employment of the second person “you” can easily be substituted with a more sobering “I.” Feel free to do so when reading!

Immigrants, rich or poor, coloured or not, are settlers.

Much like the Europeans who invaded and settled in North America centuries ago, people continue to leave or escape their home countries. Most do so in search of a better life. The direction, I would guess, generally flows from south to north, and from east to west. It’s an era of transitory places. Whatever you may think of the term “globalization,” technology has made travel a lot easier, thus making the world more homogenous.

The irony is that while “global homogeneity” takes place, human beings—individual persons—are more likely to live through a more varied set of circumstances. This results in a more eclectic string of experiences that  should ultimately reflect back a single self.

If you’re any sort of an immigrant, chances are that dislocation and outsider-ness characterize (at least in part) your sense of self. The feelings of not belonging to any place, and of being rootless, make up the framework through which you look at the world. Hopefully by applying this lens to your surroundings in both space and time, a unique sense of where you are eventually emerges. Maybe it’ll give you an accurate, perhaps, even original understanding of the land you’ve claimed, a piece of real estate that shouldn’t really belong to you.

Still, the increasingly post-modern era is in some ways an age of ignorance and heedlessness. This affects everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation. All you need to be an ignoramus is a central nervous system, some limbs, and a crappy attitude. True, because they got here earlier, white people, by occupying strategic places of political, social, and economic power, generally exercise more clout. They’re more likely to be well-off.

But the number of rich and educated coloured folk is increasing. The immigrant class is becoming indispensible for modern, secular countries with relatively low birth rates. You can live a pretty decent and comfortable life now, even as an immigrant (though countless still face systematic discrimination and economic subjugation), especially if your parents did all the hard work, and all that’s left for you to do is kick back and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Wealth means comfort, and comfort can lead to complacency, both physical and intellectual.

It’s important then to remember that, no matter how tough you think your life is, no matter how boxed in you feel by circumstance, no matter how much you cry about the cards that God dealt you—if you live in this part of the world, if you’ve got a family with a steady income to put food on the table and a roof over your head—then, my friend, it’s no use in denying that you’re a resident of this world’s Elysium.

And yeah, like I said, you’re enjoying all this off of the corpses of countless Native Americans, and as the lucky recipients of the “White Man’s” tainted gifts of human “progress.” Your hands may not be white, but they sure as hell aren’t clean.

So, you owe it to yourself, to your family, to those dead Indians, and to everybody else you share this land with to have some understanding of how the world works, of how history informs the present, and of how the circumstances of your life affect the way you see yourself. Still, of course, not all take this seriously.

It’s way easier to be lazy and complacent. It’s feels nicer to dabble in something and have it taste good for a few minutes, instead of actually dedicating yourself to that thing over time to reach a level of serious/true understanding.

To make it more vague: it’s easier to think you’re smart and informed by experimenting occasionally with knowledge. All the while you’ve made no real impact on the world, and have not neutralized your privilege with the kind of risk necessary to make the planet a more just place. Going through the everyday motions is too seductive, while striking out with will and vision means risking what so far has made your life much more comfortable than the lives of the 99% (of the world, really).

New immigrants are just as susceptible to this trap as those who feel more connected with this country. If your colour indicates third-world origins, then all the more reason to identify and change the unjust aspects of privileged societies—societies that have rolled over (and buried) indigenous populations in the same overall spirit that they, at one point in time anyway, colonized their way to become imperial powers.

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Uncategorized

The (Mis)adventures of the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA)

The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) has been busy these past few months. The summer of 2009 saw it team up with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Canada to import the Dead Sea Scrolls, found between 1947 and 1956 in West Bank of Palestine. This collaboration was complicit in breaking the following international agreements and national guidelines:

UNESCO First and Second Protocols of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954)

Convention on the Means of prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970)

Canada’s Cultural Property Export and Import Act

Canadian Museums Association Ethics Guidelines

Obtained from East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War, the international community has long established that the scrolls were illegally obtained through war—full stop. The ROM did not seem to have a problem with this travesty, but received a firestorm of complaint and protest from Canadian citizen groups, including Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), which sent a delegation that met with the CEO of the museum. Shamefully, a number of Islamic, faith-based groups have advertised this exhibition, ignorant (deliberate?) of its multiple flagrancies.

Today, the IAA has teamed up with the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli government to okay the building of a “Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance” by the Simon Wiesenthal Center based in Los Angeles, California, USA. The problem? This purported museum of “tolerance” is planned to be built over Mamilla Cemetery, the most ancient cemetery in the whole of Palestine, with burials dating back to the 12th century and the crusades. Part of the cemetery has already been desecrated, with its graves dug out in order for a parking lot to be built on top of it. Years later, hundreds more graves must be dug out for the current museum ventures, purportedly worth up to $200 million dollars.

The head archaeologist of the museum site, Gideon Suleimani, confirmed that around 4 layers of graves must be dug out, with some already relocated to an unknown area—much to the anger of families whose ancestors’ graves have been desecrated. “We’re talking about tens of thousands of skeletons under the ground there,” noted Suleimani, who has been ignored by the IAA.

A group of families brought this case to the Israeli supreme court, only to lose (the IAA successfully kept out Suleimani’s testimony on behalf of the plaintiff families). However, the Campaign to Preserve Mamilla Jerusalem Cemetery (http://www.mamillacampaign.org/etemplate.php?id=55), a campaign made up of families, has taken the case to the United Nations, and have asked the cemetery to be protected under its UNESCO heritage site status. Furthermore, the famed Frank Gehry, chief designer of the Museum of Tolerance, pulled out due to “other commitments”. The project could also not raise the $200 million mark it had hoped for, leaving it with out a designer, and no firm plan.

This desecration and displacement of peoples and corpses is only a miserable continuation of Israel’s post-1948 policies. Whether it’s the IDF or the IAA, the same sad story abounds. At a time when the international community calls for Israel to move out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and at least engage in reasonable negotiations with elected Palestinian officials (ahem, Hamas), it is deplorable to observe that in ancient Palestine, not even the dead are safe.

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Minister Jason Kenney: blind, prejudiced, and confused

On January 15th, 2009, the University of Toronto at Mississauga Student Union (UTMSU) and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) hosted a lecture by American academic Dr. Norman Finkelstein. The lecture focused on the Gaza Massacres of 2008-2009. In front of an audience of over 500, Finkelstein criticized the Harper administration for complicity. He went on to call Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff a “professional whore of war”, and a “high priced whore” for his inaction, and unwillingness to criticize Israel.

This “controversial” remark was then quoted by Khaled Mouammar, President of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), two days later at a rally in front of MP Peter Kent’s office in Thornhill. Mouammar applied these remarks with indignation at Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism).

On February 17th, 2009, Minister Jason Kenney was ready to cut federal funding to CAF. This would eliminate CAF’s eleven year-old Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, a program that taught English to new immigrants. The suspicious timing of this decision was hastily/crudely covered by Kenney’s baseless excuse that CAF’s executive committee (a volunteer committee), supported “Islamic extremism” and sympathized with “global jihadists” like HAMAS and Hizbullah. Kenney also stated that he would lift the sanction if CAF rid itself of its leadership, or adopt a more “moderate” view. In other words, agree with us, or suffer funding loss.

It is now more or less difficult to deduce whether the Minister’s decision rested upon the above allegations, or hurt feelings. Of course, Kenney sticks to the former: “When I first became Minister over 2 years ago, one of the very first things I said to my bureaucrats on the very first day in my Department of Multiculturalism was that we would not be funding groups that promote extremism, defend or apologize for terrorism or terrorist organizations and promote hatred, and as I mentioned specifically two groups: the Canadian Arab Federation and the Canadian Islamic Congress (Jason Kenney interview from AM 770 – Alberta).” Of course, the Minister’s dedication to moral stiffness and Canadian national security spanned way back, much farther than the Mouammar “insult”. CAF’s invitations vis a vis the Kenney gang was met with no response. This stalemate has led to a current judicial review by Canadian legal authourities.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are amoung the leading international human rights organization detailing and documenting Israel’s human rights atrocities during its 60+ years of existence. During Israel’s brutal assault on the Gaza Strip 2008-2009, Canada was the only country out of a whopping 40 nations in the United Nations Human Rights Council to vote against a resolution condemning Israel’s actions. The assault claimed over 1500 lives and injured 5000 or so in an area with a population that’s 55% children. Jason Kenney labeled Canada’s decision as his “proudest moment”, along with his announcement that Canada would boycott the Durban II conference.

It is impossible to view the actions of the Minister without disgust. With some of CAF’s executive committee joining in with the rest of the world’s criticism for Israel, Jason Kenney refuses to even acknowledge the most heinous of Israel’s crimes. Let’s be clear: white phosphorous, and aerial assault on the world’s most dense geographical area does not equate “precision bombing”, a most reprehensible oxymoron. Instead, in a country that receives more immigrants per capita than any other country in order to sustain itself socially and economically, Kenney has decided to eliminate CAF’s language instruction program. Think about it: a Conservative government always yapping about how Canada needs to be a melting pot and more assimilated/integrated/united is doing something directly opposite of its own stated inclinations. It’s a sure-fire way of indicating that this decision is aimed to bully, and blackmail CAF via collective punishment of those who depend on CAF the most. I’m not even mentioning the loss of jobs.

Considering the fact that the Conservative government makes no real efforts question Israel, to engage CAF in meaningful discussions, or to issue any statements regarding Israeli human rights abuses, it is safe to say that Jason Kenney’s decision is an attempt to silence those who differ politically from him. It’s a spoilt child’s way of getting what he wants, and a pathetic imitation of 1984-ish totalitarianism.

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Uncategorized

Calling out smear campaigns: Tarek Fatah on CAF

The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) has within the past year or so come under attack from several angles. It has been a target of smears and unsubstantiated claims from individuals who claim that they speak for the rest of Canada while protecting Canadians from CAF’s anti-Canadian philosophies. The ludicrous nature of these claims did not deter efforts leading to a cut in federal funding for CAF. Furthermore, CAF is still a constant punching bag for polemicists and blowhards who will find any way possible to discredit CAF for political and/or personal reasons. Tarek Fatah proves himself to be among the most prolific of these smear machines. Omar Shaban, a CAF board member and a member of the executive committee recently took a personal position on his Facebook profile. He made it clear that he did not want to celebrate Canada Day like the rest of the country. He expressed this by writing “F**k Canada Day” as his status (ignorance or malice has led some to shorten it to just “F**k Canada”). His unwillingness to celebrate Canada Day stemmed from his belief that one should remember the elimination of First Peoples cultures upon the founding of Canada. This was Shaban’s personal statement on a private profile available only to his online friends. This did not stop Tarek Fatah from seizing the opportunity to further smear the Canadian Arab Federation. Apparently, Shaban’s unwillingness to celebrate the national holiday (and using the opportunity to remind Canadians of Canada’s neglected First Nations population) poses as undeniable proof of anti-Canadian hatred. It also somehow serves to provide accurate reflection on the Canadian Arab Federation (the organization sent out Happy Canada Day greetings over its list serve). Fatah simply displays Shaban’s Facebook screen shots (http://www.averroespress.com/AverroesPress/Main/Entries/2009/7/1_As_Canadians_celebrate_National_Holiday%2C_Canadian_Arab_Federation_VP_says%2C_%E2%80%9CF__k_Canada_Day%E2%80%9D.html) and leaves it all up to interpretation. But any sane mind can decipher the lewd connections he wants everyone to make. Again, CAF is the evil anti-Canadian organization always firing off unpatriotic comments. Nothing is mentioned about the context of Shaban’s statement, his indignation of the treatment of Canadian First Peoples, and the actual work that CAF does: language classes, job search workshops, etc. This is an opportunist trying to throw defecation onto a wall and hoping that something sticks. The ridiculousness stinks to high heaven.

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Going “Political”

Straight up, people are afraid to be called “political” nowadays. The word conjures up images of elections, kiss-ass interns, and hierarchical corporations. Politics is too dirty and too controversial. Most people call themselves “apolitical” and stay away from it all. The same people should stop watching The West Wing.

“Politics” does not start and finish with winning or losing elections. Those who consider themselves chaste and “apolitical” should rethink their philosophy. The truth is, if a person cares about, say, access to clean drinking water, affordable housing, and healthcare, then such as person is already entrenched in so-called “politics”. Living in civilization itself makes mandatory certain civil obligations. These obligations are not mandatory because someone upstairs made them so. They are mandatory because people don’t want to live in a shit pile devoid of the things we take for granted nowadays as Westerners.

Even humanitarian organizations such as Islamic Relief and the IDRF (International Development and Relief Foundation) are afraid to be labeled “political”. This is understandable, since being political and taking a stance will lead to the revocation of their funding. But why create this fear? Is it even honest? They say that “taking sides” places bias on an organization. But when someone commits murder, for example, is it appropriate to be “unbiased”? Sometimes, it is only right to take a stance. Not to be able to do so buries the mistakes of the guilty, and paves the way to future atrocities. Take the Gaza Massacre of 2008-09 where 1300+ Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli bombing and blockade. Relief agencies were so scared to be labeled “political” it was almost comical. They were forced to treat the massacre as a sort of natural disaster of sorts, like it was an earthquake or a tsunami. Were Gazans killed by volcanoes or by white phosphorous?

So this whole business of not being political in order to remain impartial is pure bull. It not only allows for apathy, but it provides opportunity for idiots who want to “get involved” without ever knowing the facts. If one knew the facts/history of a crisis/conflict, one would not have the luxury of being “apolitical”. Human conscience will not allow it. So for all those who profile and pose to pretend to care for the world, give it up. Take a stance and quit whining that some people decide to know the facts and act accordingly.

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muslims, obama, politics, Uncategorized, war on terror

Disgrace: Muslim complacency regarding Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s administration openly announced that the phrase “War on Terror” will not be used anymore. Barack Obama went on a trip throughout the Middle East and openly announced in Turkey that “America is not at war with Islam, and will never be at war with Islam”. Barack Obama was elected on a platform that offered change and hope for American citizens on a host of issues—especially those concerning American and Middle Eastern Muslims. Barack Obama has not worked to fulfill these promises, which is to be expected.
The phrase “America is not at war with Islam” is a lie. The residue of the Bush administration has spilled over to the era of Barack Obama. It was only through massive protest and civil activism that Obama decided to promise a closure to Guantanamo Bay. The process will take a lengthy 365 days, with approximately 18,000 detainees still languishing in CIA prisons all over the world. Many of these prisoners suffered extraordinary rendition (illegal under anything you can find) and were taken from their families without habeas corpus and due process. For example, Maher Arar. Obama has not ruled out this illegal method. Domestically, things cannot be more transparent. Elected through a frenzy of fear and confusion, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rove Quartet struck a chord with Conservative Amerikkka and passed the Patriot Act, an act that has entrapped many American Muslims, like Sami Al-Arian of Florida. Terrorism, or Muslim rage, as a result of Islam’s “hatred of American freedom” supposedly justified a witch hunt analogous to the Red Scare. America was at war with Islam at home and abroad. America continues to be at war with Islam as long as Obama overlooks the Arars and Al-Arians, and America will continue to be at War with Islam unless the President seeks to undo the horrors of the past 6 American administrations.
This begs the question, why should North American Muslims be satisfied? After all, it could be anybody that falls into entrapment, illegal detention, and torture: all you have to do is fit the bill. Take a look at the boys of the Toronto-18, and it is quite clear that the difference between them and the “typical” Muslim youth is not visible. With such systemic and institutional prejudice still strangling America, and with countless Muslims still unaccounted for, I find it utterly startling and disgraceful that many Muslims have seen Obama’s policies (so far) as yielding significant change. It’s as if the fact that he lived in Indonesia when he was a kid with a middle name of Hussein excuses his inaction on righting the wrongs for American Muslims. In fact, since he declared the closure of Guantanamo Bay, conditions in the prison has turned worse (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/5156015/Guantanamo-Bay-detainee-calls-al-Jazeera-from-prison.html).
The actions that President Obama has taken so far to restore America’s image throughout the world may be enough to satisfy the fanatical and the naïve, but it cannot escape the scrutiny of actively thinking citizens, and those who still suffer from previous injustices. Closing Guantanamo is a band-aid solution. The operation does not claim high priority, and the CIA complex of torturers/prisons will not go on trial. Obama is not addressing the roots of the problem. There is no systematic addressing of America’s political prisoners, nor compensations and apologies for those who have been wrongfully accused. In other words, Muslims should distinguish real change from the imagery of change.
Take the recent appointment of Dalia Mogahed on Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for example. People rejoiced at the sense of accomplishment that such an appointment brought, cheered Mogahed’s example for young Muslimahs, and saw it as generally a step in the right direction. Other than the fact that Mogahed is indeed talented, worthy of praise, and a fine example, any Muslim who views this move as a result of the brilliance of Barack Obama ought to be ashamed of themselves. It is, in fact, a useless gesture; a crumb off the table if you will, something the President has used to cover his ass. Relentless protest by active American citizens has evidently sparked something in the Whitehouse, and the sad conclusion is that instead of addressing the structural and material problems (those mentioned above), Obama has settled for another band-aid solution by decorating his pathetically useless “faith council” with a Muslim woman. Are Muslims supposed to be satisfied with this gesture? For those who claim that “change is slow and gradual” in order to justify their lame and stupid compromises, consider the fact that none of Obama’s policies regarding ending the War on Terror are unique and original. They are for the most part urged by the voices from the outside, from citizens who refuse to give into the silence that make criminal behaviour possible (the rest are lazy, half-assed gestures also made possible by the same activists). And for those who claim that Obama should be applauded for responding to these calls (unlike Bush), consider not spending your time searching for openings leading to unconditional praise, but rather realize that if you do not initiate action, President Obama will not bother to respond.

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Gaza 08-09: what to say when apologists come at you with lies

Israel and Hamas entered into a ceasefire in June 2008, prior to the Gaza bombings that commenced on Dec 27 2008.

The effective conditions were:
– Hamas stop its firing of Q-rockets into Israel.
– Israel stop its bombardments as well as its blockade on Gaza.

The blockade on Gaza was implemented after Hamas won its election under the Palestinian Authourity in 2006 and pre-empted a show down with Fateh (which was armed by the US after the unfavourable electoral outcome).
[London Review of Books, Jan 2009: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n02/sieg01_.html]

During the ceasefire (which was up for renewal on Dec 2008), Hamas limited rocket firings to 3 per month. These 3 were not from Hamas Q-Rockets (claimed 0 lives), but from rogue terrorist groups such as the Islamic Jihad. Perpetrators were detained by Hamas. According to Israeli intelligence groups, Hamas did a commendable job in exercising law and order in Gaza.

In contrast, Israel never cared to even try to lift the blockade to let in desperately needed aid:
In a Times article, by Ethan Bronner, he noted that what Hamas expected in return from the Israelis never arrived:
“But the goods shipments, while up some 25 to 30 percent and including a mix of more items, never began to approach what Hamas thought it was going to get: a return to the 500 to 600 truckloads delivered daily before the closing, including appliances, construction materials and other goods essential for life beyond mere survival. Instead, the number of trucks increased to around 90 from around 70.”
[http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3667]

The ceasefire, before it was due for renewal in Dec2008, was broken by Israel on November 4th, 2008–election day in the United States.

Even CNN admites this: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=uDBiycEz12s

This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division. In an interview in Ha’aretz on 22 December, he accused Israel’s government of having made a ‘central error’ during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing ‘to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip . . . When you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,’ General Zakai said.” [http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n02/sieg01_.html]

Israel, under the false pretext of shutting down a tunnel dug by Hamas to kidnap IDF soldiers, killed 7 Hamas soldiers by intruding Gaza. Israel knew full well that Hamas will react: 100+ rockets were shot into southern Israel the next month. Israel then refused Hamas’ offer to renew the truce on conditions that aid can flow into Gaza. This was understood by Israeli intelligence, namely the head of the Shin Bet–Diskin[“Hamas Wants Better Terms for Truce,” Jerusalem Post (21 December 2008). Diskin told the Israeli cabinet that Hamas would renew the truce if Israel lifted the siege of Gaza, stopped military attacks and extended the truce to the West Bank.]

Israel knows full well that it cannot hold on to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank if the world is to know that Hamas is willing to recognize a de facto Israel under pre-June 1967 borders. This is despite Hamas having an outdated charter that calls for all of Palestine under the mandate.

How do they know this? Because of their intelligence agencies and Khalid Meshal of the Hamas Political Bureau:

Mossad:
“[T]he Hamas leadership has recognized that its ideological goal is not attainable and will not be in the foreseeable future,” a former Mossad head recently observed. “[T]hey are ready and willing to see the establishment of a Palestinian state in the temporary borders of 1967….They know that the moment a Palestinian state is established with their cooperation, they will be obligated to change the rules of the game: They will have to adopt a path that could lead them far from their original ideological goals.” [“What Hamas Wants,” Mideast Mirror (22 December 2008)]

Meshal:
“There is an opportunity to deal with this conflict in a manner different than Israel and, behind it, the U.S. is dealing with it today. There is an opportunity to achieve a Palestinian national consensus on a political program based on the 1967 borders, and this is an exceptional circumstance, in which most Palestinian forces, including Hamas, accept a state on the 1967 borders….There is also an Arab consensus on this demand, and this is a historic situation. But no one is taking advantage of this opportunity. No one is moving to cooperate with this opportunity. Even this minimum that has been accepted by the Palestinians and the Arabs has been rejected by Israel and by the U.S.”
[Mouin Rabbani, “A Hamas Perspective on the Movement’s Evolving Role: An interview with Khalid Mishal, Part II,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Summer 2008)]

Israel knows Hamas is ready to join in the peace talks. They do not like this, since the world for the past 30 yrs has agreed on a 2 state solution based on pre-June 1967 borders. The International Quartet, the Arab League and Hamas all are ready. But Israel is not: its only chance at a Zionist, Greater Israel is to exclude Hamas by labelling it as a leading terrorist organization that instigates terror by firing rockets on innocent Israelis, and preaches to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

Its all a bunch of useless, fucking crap on the part of Israel. Call them on it as much as you can.

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