Archive for July, 2009

A Temporary Hiatus

Hello and salaams Muslim Lookout readers,

I wanted to let you know that ML will be going on hiatus for the next two months.  With writers out of town, and editors struggling under piles of academic work, we are unfortunately unable to keep posting good articles as often as we would like.

We’re hoping to start up again in mid-September inshallah.  We will be looking for a few more writers before we get things re-started, so if you are interested in writing, please contact us at muslimlookout@gmail.com.

Thanks to everyone who has been following and commenting on our posts, and we hope you’ll join us again once we’re back.

Best wishes,

Krista (and the rest of the ML team)


Read Full Post »

An interesting Toronto Star editorial on “Our appalling ignorance of matters Muslim”:

Recent events in Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Egypt, Germany and France challenge some well-entrenched notions.

Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim nation, at 235 million, and the third largest democracy, after India and the U.S. – held a free and fair presidential election. It featured three secular-minded candidates, including a woman who does not wear the hijab. […]

Neighbouring Malaysia has begun rolling back a decades-long quota system for the majority Malays, which discriminates against Chinese, Indians and others. Prime Minister Najib Razak is pre-empting the resurgent opposition leader, former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, whose pledge to end the quotas was gaining traction.

Democracy is also working well in Turkey. The government has just proclaimed a law limiting the power of military courts. Civilian courts will try military personnel in peacetime and military courts will be barred from prosecuting civilians. […]

If you include the elected governments in Pakistan and Bangladesh (populations 176 million and 158 million, respectively) and add the Muslims of India (155 million), you realize that about 800 million Muslims enjoy varying degrees of democracy.

The Western view of Muslims living under military or monarchical despots is true mostly of the Middle East. And the worst among them (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states) are the closest allies of the U.S. – and Canada.

So the idea of America as the harbinger of democracy for Muslims is humbug. (Read more)

Uyghur Muslims in Canada are reacting to recent violence in China…

Uyghur-Canadians are banding together to protest the recent crackdown by Chinese authorities on demonstrations in their homeland, and some say last weekend’s riots have been an “awakening” for the tiny community.

“Usually when we had protests before, it was hard to get 20 or 30 people to show up,” said Mehmet Tohti, an Uyghur-Canadian living in Mississauga, Ont. “But today, everyone stopped working and came together to express their anger.”

Nearly all of the Toronto 120 Uyghurs demonstrated outside the Chinese consulate in Toronto Wednesday while another 30 of Alberta’s Uyghurs gathered at the Chinese consulate in Calgary. The Toronto group was joined by a few dozen supporters, mostly from the region’s Turkish community. The Uyghurs are a Muslim people of Turkic descent who have a long history in a part of northwestern China bordered by Mongolia and Kazakhstan in the north and India in the south. (Read more)

… and worry about family members who remain in the region:

A haunting beep-beep-beep is all that Turan Zayit has heard when she tries to phone her three sons after violent ethnic clashes erupted Sunday in northwest China.

The 59-year-old Uighur mother of four has tried calling her sons, ages 36, 38 and 40, every few minutes since riots broke out between Muslim Uighurs and the country’s dominant group, the Han Chinese, in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province.

“There’s no connection whatsoever. I’m very anxious … worried to death,” Zayit said yesterday through an interpreter. (Read more)

A prayer service is held for a Canadian woman who died in the Yemini Airbus plane crash in early July (may she rest in peace):

Mourners came from as far as Ethiopia to pray for the soul of Ensumata Abdoulghani, the Ottawa woman who died when the Yemeni Airbus she was aboard crashed into the Indian Ocean Tuesday.

Abdoulghani, married to Muslim teacher Youssouf Mahamoud, was on her way to visit her ailing mother in Comoros when the flight went down. Of the 153 people on board, only a 12-year-old girl survived.

Abdoulghani and Mahamoud have a five-year-old daughter and two sons, aged two and six months.

Her husband, who teaches at Ecole Ibn Batouta, a French Islamic school where the prayer service was held Saturday evening, is currently in Comoros, waiting for updates. On Saturday, the Yemeni transport ministry reported a large piece of debris had been found by a U.S. search crew.

Mourners at the traditional Muslim service said a prayer of absence since Abdoulghani’s body had not been found. Typically, the prayer service is held on the day of burial. (Read more)

Read Full Post »

Due to the extra busy-ness of our contributors this week we unfortunately had to miss a couple of days of posting. Insha’Allah we will be back to posting very shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Read Full Post »

Lookout Links: July 6

Nazem Kadri, a Muslim Canadian of Lebanese origin, is getting a lot of attention as one of the newest players to join the Toronto Maple Leafs:

A father’s dream of the NHL is unlikely for any Canadian kid, but even more so for Nazem Kadri. The centre will be only the second Muslim to play in the NHL when he suits up for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who selected him with the seventh pick in Friday’s draft.

Canada’s increasing diversity hasn’t been quickly reflected in the nation’s favourite sport. […]

He will play for the iconic Leafs in a multicultural city that has 250,000 Muslims. “It’s nice for my community to be recognized as a pro hockey player,” Mr. Kadri said. “There’s a lot of stereotypes about Lebanese, like they don’t set foot on ice, but here I am.

“Being a role model is an important thing for me. Hopefully, these kids can look at me and use me as a role model. A lot of Muslim kids are going to start playing hockey because they see someone like them be successful in that area.” (Read more)

Alia Hogben writes about this history of Muslim communities in the Toronto area:

Within the fast-growing Canadian Muslim population, few people seem interested in the history of Canadian Muslims. Who were the handful of Muslims in the early days who tried to create a community in Toronto?

In the 1940 and ’50s, about 100 Albanian families were the majority of Muslims, with some Yugoslav/ Bosnians and some foreign students at the universities. The Albanians had their own registered society, but in the late 1950s, decided to start the Muslim Society of Toronto.

They met in each other’s homes or in one of the restaurants owned by a member, but they had no gathering place.

In 1958, my husband Murray Hogben moved to Toronto from Ottawa and immediately set out to find some Muslims.

He met a few wonderful families of Indian and Pakistani origin as well as the Albanians and Yugoslavs/Bosnians.

When I arrived in Toronto in 1959, I was welcomed by these Muslims and we quickly became active in the community. (Read more)

A coalition of Muslim clerics and organisations is attempting to start an interfaith dialogue with Christians:

Can Muslims and Christians work together to bring peace to the world?

That’s the question raised by A Common Word Between Us and You, a project supported by almost 300 Muslim clerics, scholars and intellectuals and more than 450 Islamic organizations.

The project has issued a letter to Christians around the world, inviting them to find common ground so that the two great religions can work towards peace. […]

The initiative takes its name from a verse in the Quran, which says: “O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. (Aal ‘Imran 3:64)

It goes on to quote the Prophet Muhammad, who said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”

It also invokes the Bible, quoting the words of Jesus in the book of Mark after he was asked to name the greatest commandment. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” he says. “This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Read more)

Abousfian Abdelrazik has finally returned to Canada after being exiled in Sudan for several years:

An exhausted but joyful Abousfian Abdelrazik had just a few words for a noisy, happy welcome-home crowd in his home city just before one a.m. Sunday.

“I am very happy to come back home and to be in this lovely city,” he told more than 50 supporters who, accompanied by a brass band, gathered downtown to greet him.

His return followed six years in exile, alleged torture at the hands of Sudanese authorities, several thwarted attempts to return earlier and almost exactly 14 months stranded in exile at the Canadian embassy in Khartoum.

“It is your support that (was able to) make this happen now,” Abdelrazik declared, wearing an open-collared shirt and a broad smile. He gave credit to “fellow Canadians and Montrealers, everywhere” for the ultimate success of what sympathizers had dubbed the “Fly-home project.”

“Thank you so much,” he added, “for everything.” (Read more)

Read Full Post »

Women in a Gaza City suq

Women in a Gaza City suq

The opening paragraph of “Palestinian sheds light on who’s right in Middle East” by Naomi Lakritz of The Calgary Herald is full of promises; promises daring to oppose those who speak against the brutal treatment of Palestinians at the hands of Israel. Lakritz believes that by presenting this one Palestinian, Khalid Abu Toameh, an Israeli citizen, “reporter for the Jerusalem post” will forever open the eyes of the world to who’s really at fault in the Middle East. In her pathetic attempt to prove this “incendiary rhetoric about Israel” as a lie, she makes another stunning accusation: how this rhetoric is actually about hating the Jews rather than abuse of citizens, or on a humane level, of humans. Though her article does provide an insight on the other side of the story but is premature in even recognizing the ugly side of the story.

Lakritz employs an interesting technique: use of those who identify with the oppressed to prove the innocence of the oppressors. Lakritz finds much of the support for her statements in Toameh. The obvious declaration of Toameh as an Arab Muslim Palestinian, citizen of Israel, and a reporter for the Jerusalem Post is an indication of Israel’s all inclusive citizenship rules, although it is quite clear even by statements made by Toameh that Palestinian citizens of Israel are treated as third- class citizens, with no right to vote but an obligation to pay full taxes. Toameh states Palestinians are living a peaceful or lived a peaceful life under Israel’s rules and it’s only the international media, more specifically, Canadian media that is finding faults in a perfectly peaceful situation. According to Toameh those protesting against Israel’s actions are not “Arabs and not Palestinians” supporting the claim that Palestinians are perfectly satisfied with the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. From this perspective Toameh and Lakritz wish to defy thousands of those Palestinians who have been raped, murdered, forced out of their lands, have had their pristine lands occupied by Israeli settlers, have no access to education, to even the basic needs for survival. In this respect she either denies these treatments or finds them acceptable and humane. Under Israeli occupation and colonization Palestinians are denied even the basic right of food, education, and medicine, and are terrorized on a day- to-day basis through military occupation.

Lakrtiz also strongly believes that the “incendiary rhetoric” condemning Israel stems from the hatred towards Jews. It is the Jews who are the problem, Israel is just an excuse. In the “incendiary rhetoric” she points to, Jews are not stated as being the problem but Israel’s army and it’s government’ policies are stated as corrupted. The social taboo of blaming or hating Jews as a whole nation for any action is interesting. It is understandably unacceptable to blame the actions of Israel on Jews or Judaism, but it is entirely acceptable to blame the whole of the Muslim world and its religion for the actions of a handful of Muslim extremists. Attacks by Muslim extremists always create frenzy in Western Media but attacks by Jewish extremists or Christian extremists are ignored or vaguely mentioned. The generalization is so great that individual Muslims are easily prejudged as terrorists by the general public. I would like to make it clear that I do not blame Jews or their religion for the abuse of Palestinians, but what makes it acceptable to generalize one group of people but on the other hand generalizing the other population is considered social taboo?

Although I am against Israel’s policies and blame them, to a certain extent, for the situation of the Palestinian people. However, we as Muslims, especially those neighboring Israel and Palestine, fall no short of sharing this responsibility. In this respect I agree with Toameh and Lakritz. The Palestinian government has never been able to serve the interest of Palestine in full capacity and whatever destruction is upon Muslims is actually to a certain extent our own fault. Our inability to act against such abuse is witness to what we value. Muslim leaders speak out against these actions but have never actually taken a firm step, regarding political policies, against the Western powers in opposing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Our leaders seem to be sold to Western powers to keep their national interests as their top priority. One wonders if to them the life of luxury is more important rather than provision of basic rights for their citizens, or even other Muslims. It is about time Muslim leaders take strong political action, rather than resort to violence, against such atrocities.

Lakritz refuses to recognize the oppression of Palestinian people but she cannot deny it. According to Lakritz “a journalist has an innate obligation to tell that truth.” Maybe she should act on it herself by presenting both sides of the story.

Image by Flickr user Ahron de Leeuw, used under the Creative Commons License.

Read Full Post »

Written by guest contributor Fathima and cross posted at Run Like the Wind

On July 4, the Vancouver branch of No One is Illegal, Canada’s foremost immigrant and refugee rights group, will be holding a Movie Marathon Madness event. Films to be screened at the event include Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community, about Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood; You are on Indian Land, about the 1969 protest by Mohawk Indians against violations of the Jay Treaty by Immigration and Customs officers; and Brown Women Blonde Babies, about the thousands of Filipina women who work in Canada as domestic workers.

In its entirety, the event schedule showcases the gamut of oppressive realities that mark Canada’s history and contemporary existence. They cover topics as varied as the ongoing systemic racism targeted at working-class African-Canadians, the WWII internment of Japanese-Canadians in British Columbia, and current intersections of sexuality and immigration policies. On Canada Day, when we are asked to congratulate ourselves on how well we treat our ethnics, screenings like these expose the lived realities of marginalised peoples across Canada. These are realities that resist reduction into easy parades of colourful clothing and exotic foods. This is not a diversity of commodifiable cultures, but a diversity of class positions, gender performances, linguistic practices, and race identifications. This is a diversity of privileges and discriminations. In discussing them in public spaces, we highlight the many injustices that are enacted on a daily and systemic basis in Canada by the Canadian nation-state.

What I’m saying here is simple: for many of us, it is difficult to celebrate the creation of a state that was founded on the theft of territory from its indigenous inhabitants, a state that has continued to refuse to address in any meaningful way that inaugural violence. For many of us, constructions of Canada as a nation of polite peacemakers ring hollow, because we know too well the myriad and systemic ways by which Canada oppresses its indigenous peoples, its migrant labourers, and its racialised poor, among others.

What I’m saying is simple: it’s July here in Toronto as I write this, summer has finally broken, and I’m enjoying the day off from work, but I have no flags to wave.

Meanwhile, media darling Tarek Fatah has a post on his blog entitled “An Arab Canadian’s way of celebrating Canada Day.” The approximately 300-word long post can be split into three basic sections. Only a few sentences have anything to do at all with the titular Arab-Canadian, Omar Shaban, who Fatak singled out for attention for having a Facebook status on the morning of July 1 that read “Happy Genocide Day Canada.” The rest of the post – approximately two-thirds of it – is about comments that Fatak claims Ali Mallah, VP Ontario of the Canadian Arab Federation, made on “a Muslim cable TV show” in which Mallah said the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was valid. Fatah fails to give the name of this show or the date of this episode. Nor does he specify if Mallah was speaking in an official capacity. Needless to say, Fatah also fails to note that the election results and discussions about Western involvement are arguments currently raging across the world, including in Canada by Canadians (who aren’t Arab). Fatah adds some visual oomph to his post with screenshots of Shaban’s Facebook page, including a pixelated photograph of Shaban in a ghutrah. It’s worth noting that this photograph is not Shaban’s profile picture, which means Fatah must have clicked around to find it. The post closes with a screencap from the CAF website showing the names of its Executive Committee, of whom Shaban is VP West. In short, there is very little of any substance in Fatah’s post, primarily because he provides almost no commentary at all, but it is valuable as an instructive example of sloppy and xenophobic citizen “journalism.”

To begin with, there’s the issue of post’s title and subtitle, which are “An Arab Canadian’s way of celebrating Canada Day” and “As Canadians celebrate their country’s birthday, Canadian Arab Federation VP says, ‘F**k Canada Day,’” respectively. Were Fatah so offended on behalf of the upstanding citizens of Canada (of whom, according to Fatah, Shaban is apparently not one) that he felt compelled to devote an entire blog post to criticizing Shaban, one imagines he’d have actually done so. That is, one imagines he’d have actually written a blog post on how misguided Shaban’s politics are. But this Fatah does not do. Instead, he barrels right along without so much as a by-your-leave into a criticism of Mallah. Apparently, one Arab-Canadian can stand in for the next, the implication being that, after all, they’re all the same: not really Canadian.

I don’t know about the rest of Canada, but I’m insulted on behalf of my intelligence.

But in presenting Shaban and Mullah as interchangeable, Fatah isn’t only making a comment about Arab(-Canadian)s or CAF. He is also collapsing all critique of Canadian oppression with support for Iranian oppression. I’m not sure how one makes that leap in logic, but Fatah manages to do it without the slightest assistance or provocation.

Nor does Fatah have anything to say about the CAF as an organisation. He leaves all that to the imaginations of his readers who, with few exceptions, are only too happy to chorus “go back home.” Happy Canada Day to you, too.

But who exactly are the Canadians who, according to Fatah, are en-masse celebrating Canada Day? Certainly they aren’t the survivors of Canada’s residential schools, who have spent years trying to hold the Canadian government responsible for the mass murder and rape of indigenous children. On June 11, 2009, a group of indigenous elders released the following statement: “A year ago, ‘Prime Minister’ Steven Harper exonerated his government and these churches with a hollow ‘apology’ that released them from any responsibility for their murder of our children. Today, we declare that these institutions are not absolved from their guilt, or their liability, for their murder of our people.”
Perhaps these insufficiently grateful denizens should also be sent back home? … Oh, wait.

So, to extrapolate from Fatah’s article, to be Canadian is to refuse to acknowledge that Canada is deeply invested in oppressive policies at home and abroad. Yet there are many of us who, for a variety of reasons, claim ownership of Canada, and who, as a result, feel it is ethically incumbent on us that we recognise and resist the oppressions that Fatah totally elides in his post. In other words, it is because we are residents and/or citizens of Canadian that we are opposed to mindless displays of nationalism. Home is not for us the hollow utopia that Fatah has constructed, but a deeply contested space. Thus, at the same time that we resist oppressions that marginalise us, we resist oppressions carried out against others in our names by the Canadian government. This too is a practice of citizenship, but perhaps one more self-aware than what Fatah prefers.

Read Full Post »