Friday Magazine – Volume 10, Issue 111

Friday Magazine – Volume 10, Issue 111 26/10/07

Date: Oct 26, 2007 – Shawwal 13, 1428, Volume: 10 Issue:111

POLLING AFGHANISTAN: QUESTIONS AND SERIOUS CONTRADICTIONS

Sid Lacombe – Canadian Peace Alliance – October 22, 2007
The Environics poll, conducted by D3 Systems in Afghanistan is being touted as “groundbreaking” research into the views of the Afghan people about the NATO occupation. The reality is that there are as many questions as answers arising from its results.

This new poll is not the first of its kind to be done in Afghanistan, but the results are striking because they contradict dozens of comprehensive studies conducted by other agencies. For example, a remarkable 73 per cent of respondents in the D3 Systems study said that women’s rights were improving in Afghanistan. This contradicts the NGO Womenkind Worldwide which found that attacks against women have actually been on the rise since 2001 and that there had been no improvement in the lives of Afghan women as a whole.

Likewise, a whopping 76 per cent of people said that they have “a lot” or “some” confidence in the Afghan National Army and 60 per cent have faith in the Afghan National Police (ANP). This contradicts countless documents from groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who have consistently found that a majority of Afghans cite the Army and ANP as a chief source of violence. In fact, poll results from December 2006 found 78 per cent of Afghan people believed that the ANP was corrupt and one in four Afghans had to pay bribes to local police for protection. So therefore, the numbers from D3 Systems either represent an astounding turnaround in public opinion, or there was some type of flaw in the research.

These strange results aren’t surprising given the history of the D3 Systems polling firm. The group — whose former clients include NATO and the RAND Corporation (a virtual who’s who of the military industrial complex) — is notorious for providing the results that are needed in order to advance a political agenda.

Tellingly, D3 Systems is the only polling form in the world that was able to consistently show that a majority of Iraqis felt their lives had improved since the invasion of 2003. In 2004 and 2005, D3 conducted polls for media outlets based in the U.S. and found more than 50 per cent of Iraqis were excited about their future. As late as 2006 D3 found a miraculous 64 per cent of Iraqis who felt that their lives were improving.

There are still many other unanswered questions about this survey. For example, did security or military contingents escort the survey teams around the country? If so the results will be terribly skewed, as these types of escorts would have destroyed the impartiality of the surveyors. Also, if 75 per cent of respondents called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban (a number that has been omitted from most media reports on the survey) how do we reconcile that with the 64 per cent who want the U.S. and its allies to continue to fight the Taliban? Furthermore, if only 2 per cent of respondents knew that Canada was fighting the Taliban, how did 64 per cent think that we were doing a good job?

This survey has come out at a particularly fortuitous time for the Conservative government, days after a throne speech advocating and extension of Canada’s war in Afghanistan and a week before a pan-Canadian day of action against the war. But as with most of what we hear from the Conservatives, the numbers just don’t add up.

(Sid Lacombe is Coordinator of the Canadian Peace Alliance; he can be reached at cpa@web.ca. This article was edited for the CIC Friday magazine.)


PM’S HOLIDAY CARDS MISS THE MARK WITH CANADIAN MUSLIMS

Bruce Cheadle – Canadian Press – October 21, 2007
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s religious holiday outreach to Jewish households apparently does not extend to Canadian Muslims, say half- a-dozen national Islamic organizations.

Six different Muslim groups, including some of the largest in the country, all say they are not aware of any Muslim households receiving holiday greetings from Harper for ‘Eid al Fitr, which was celebrated last Saturday (Oct. 20) to mark the end of Ramadan.

“They dropped the ball on this one. Maybe next year,” said Sameer Zuberi, director of communications and human rights at CAIR-CAN, the Council for American-Islamic Relations Canada.

The apparent oversight – for which the Prime Minister’s Office declined to offer any comment — seems to belie Conservative assertions voiced repeatedly in the House of Commons by MP Jason Kenney, that the government believes in “celebrating all of our cultural communities’ holidays and important dates.”‘

The issue is a sensitive one for the Conservative government.

The Globe and Mail reported last week that internal Tory documents show the party is heavily wooing certain ethnic communities but believes 21 per cent of visible minorities groups are not “accessible.”‘

At the same time, a number of households complained when Rosh Hashanah greetings from Harper arrived in their mail last month during the Jewish New Year. Some of the complainants said they didn’t appreciate being put on a mailing list based on their religious affiliation; others said they weren’t Jewish. All wanted to know where the prime minister got his information.

But the Conservatives are unapologetic. The say their mailing lists come from publicly available information, although they’ve offered no explanation as to why some non-Jewish households with Jewish-sounding names received the greeting.

Kenney, Harper’s secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, threw the issue back at the Liberals in the Commons last week. He accused the Liberals of gross hypocrisy for complaining when they often mail out their own greetings. In fact, he brandished Rosh Hashanah greetings that Toronto-area Liberal MP Susan Kaddis sent to a constituent last month.

Several Muslim organizations said they did receive ‘Eid greetings from Harper, but none knew of any individual households that got similar greetings. Others said they knew of ‘Eid greetings sent to Muslim households by some individual Liberal MPs.

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, said his organization received a message from the prime minister and he felt that was sufficient.

Elmasry said he sees no need for individual household mailings. “I think it’s really silly and does not really do much. A general greeting does the job, and saves the taxpayer money.”

But Syed Soharwardi, of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, said individual outreach is welcome and should be extended to all religious communities.

“If the prime minister sends greetings to our Jewish cousins, which I think is a wonderful thing, then he should be sending greetings to Muslims. There should not be segregation based on which religion you belong to.”

The Muslim Canadian Congress, the Islamic Society of North America-Canada and the Muslim Association of Canada also said they were unaware of any ‘Eid greetings sent to Muslim householders by the prime minister.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond directly to repeated written inquiries about whether any ‘Eid greetings went out to individuals. Nor did it respond to an inquiry about whether the prime minister would be mailing greetings for Diwali to Hindu households next month.

Instead, Sandra Buckler, Harper’s communications director, responded by e- mail:

“The prime minister will continue to send out Christmas cards, Chinese New Years cards and yes Rosh Hashanah cards. We make no apology for reaching out to all Canadians.”

Her e-mail did not mention ‘Eid al Fitr cards.

(This article was edited and slightly abridged for the CIC Friday magazine.)


CIC V-P SPEAKS TO ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF CHIEFS OF POLICE

Wahida Valiante, MSW – Special to the CIC Friday Magazine – October 17, 2007
Presentation to the Constable Selection System Conference, 2007

Canadian Muslims:

North American Muslims are not homogenous or monolithic, but are composed of very diverse racial, cultural, linguistic, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The evolutionary history and life experiences of Muslims who have migrated to the West from distant parts of the world are very different from those of North American-born Muslims. Many immigrant Muslims bring with them the conditioning of their former country’s colonial culture, which disconnected them from their history and instead left them with a static and patriarchal tradition of rigidity and inflexibility.

Unfortunately, over the past century, Muslims have experienced unparalleled turmoil throughout the Islamic world, from India to the Middle East and from the Caucasus to the Balkans. Since the end of the Second World War — a period in which Europe and North America enjoyed unprecedented peace and growth — the Muslim world has seen nothing but genocides, partitions, ethnic cleansings and the wholesale destruction of normal family life. Many Muslim families who have settled in North America over the last decade came as refugees from these war-torn countries.

Muslims are now a sizeable minority in North America. There are six million of them who call America their home, and by the year 2012, there will be two million Muslims living throughout Canada. While Muslims are a small minority here (under 3 per cent of the total population), they are still the largest non-Christian minority in the country, comprising a wide variety of immigrants from some 40 different national, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds. And over 50 per cent of Canada’s 750,000 Muslims (2007 figures) are Canadian-born. The median age of Canadian Muslims in 2001 was 28.1 and the national median age was 37.3, so Muslims constitute a young population with years to mature into Canadian professionals, workers, and leaders.

Community Issues:

There are underestimated deeply ingrained prejudices and mistrust – Islamophobia — underlying Islam and its practice: can Muslims be trusted? This creates barriers to Muslims being hired into positions because recruiter biases and stereotypical views of religious adherence, such as prayers, cause them to be confused with terrorist activities.

This view then dictates the outcome of community outreach in which the question of what type of Muslims we should reach out to becomes paramount.

Perhaps the most compelling issue is lack of familiarity with Islamic religious practices. For example, Islam is portrayed as a violent philosophy and, in the social and political discourse, Muslims are not accepted as “like us” but are instead construed as “others” who are not “like us.” This labeling of “others” as a threat to the normative way of life of the majority, consequently poses a serious challenge to those who seek to recruit and structurally integrate Muslim police officers into the Canadian police force.

Policy Issues:

Then there is also the issue of rigid rules that do not allow beards for men or hijabs for women, which creates additional barriers for Muslims wanting to join the police force.

Similarly, police uniform styles provide no variation or flexibility to accommodate religious practices.

In Summary:

1. The police recruitment system is not immune from a pervasive and deep- seated bias and prejudice that exists regarding Muslims and Islam. Subtle prejudices enter into many areas of the process, including various assessment tools.

2. Recruitment in Muslim communities is marred by the lack of trust that exists between the police and Muslim communities.

3. Recruitment is also marred by lack of police role models that embrace wide religious diversity. Those role models currently presented do not clearly indicate an openness to religious symbols such as the hijab and male beards. This is a major barrier to many Muslims who may consider policing as a career option.

Recommendations:

* Building trust * Openness to religious practices * Familiarity with religious practices * Mentoring * Role Models * Culturally and religiously appropriate outreach to the Muslim community * Comprehensive Research

(Wahida Valiante is a career family therapist, an author on issues concerning Muslims and Canadian social work services, and national vice- president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. This article was edited for the CIC Friday Magazine.)


ISLAMIC HERITAGE BELONGS TO ALL — ARCHITECTURE AND SCIENCE

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry – Array
Few places throughout the world have remained untouched by the extraordinary, multi-faceted heritage of Islam. For more than 1000 years the unique and unsurpassed achievements of Islamic culture illuminated the known world, building a civilization that in itself formed one of the greatest epics of human history.

From the 7th to the 18th centuries – more than an entire millennium — Islam permeated society with a profound cultural fabric whose influence is still being revealed even in today’s postmodern age.

Inspired in new and revolutionary ways by the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as by his Companions and later followers, Muslim artists, architects, scholars and scientists carried the intellectual and creative concepts of Islam from present-day Saudi Arabia across the lands now known as Morocco, Spain, France and Sicily, as well as eastward throughout ancient Persia (now Iran) to India and the Far East.

Over time as Islam spread, many lands and many peoples also flowed into the faith, resulting in a diverse global community where all believers became brothers and sisters in spirit, united by their faith in the one God. Thus, diversity developed within unity, expressed in an astonishing breadth and flowering of culture which had a deep and permanent effect on life, art and science throughout societies even beyond Muslim borders.

Sadly, however, this noble and living heritage, together with the importance of its worldwide influence, is too little known today among both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Islamic architecture is a prime example of how much has been forgotten or left unappreciated.

Within the early Islamic world, which included Arabia, the Maghrib (North Africa), Spain, Sicily, Egypt, Turkey, Persia, and India, the foundation of all great building enterprises was based solidly on the precepts of faith. From mosque to mausoleum, Muslim architects and builders devoted their greatest skills to creating edifices that reflected the glory of God, rather than that of humans.

Many great historic mosques demonstrate, for example, the enduring success of a major structural innovation replicated by Western builders. This was a radically new method of constructing a dome upon a cube by creating transitional supports between the two – called muqarnas or corner squinches — such as those found prominently in the Martorana and Cappella Palatine built in Palermo, Sicily, during the 11th and 12th centuries.

The minaret (tower) form of the mosque was also adopted by Western architects. In Seville, they simply added to the Giralda, which had originally been built as a minaret. The influence of the minaret may also be seen in some Medieval church towers in rural England and the campanile, or in the bell towers of Renaissance Florence and Venice, as well as somewhat later in the later free-standing church towers common to Scandinavia.

Artists and architects of the Islamic world also brought to the West their elegant and daring ways of covering the interior walls of buildings. In Spain’s famed Alhambra at Granada and in the mosques of Isfahan, a breath- taking explosion of beautiful patterns and colors took place. Before long, the techniques of Islamic faience, mosaic and tile design — virtually unequalled before or since — were absorbed into the mainstream of Western craftsmanship.

Architecture was further enhanced by advances in the fields of Islamic sciences and engineering, through the practical works of many great Muslim scientists – al-Razi, al-Biruni, Avicenna, and even the poet-scientist Omar Khayyam – which were also passed on and eagerly adopted by the West.

Fascinated by the versatility and potential of machines and mechanics, Muslim inventors developed many new ones, ranging from the ingenious water- clock to enchanting mechanical “automata” (animated figures), also run by water, and regarded as being among the most magical of all diversions.

Muslims were also innovative pioneers in another major branch of science – that of optics, or the investigation of vision and the physics of light. Al-Haytham, born in the 10th century, wrote one of the greatest medieval scientific works, the Kitab-al- Manazir, or Book of Optics. This work was the fruit of his detailed exploration of optical illusions, rainbows, and the camera obscura – the beginning of photographic instruments. He also made important discoveries about atmospheric refraction, mirages, and comets, as well as studying the phenomenon of eclipses. His work laid the foundation for later optical developments, such as the microscope and telescope. Al-Haytham’s exhaustive studies in optics and related fields influenced Western scientific thought for centuries.

Muslim scientists such as Jabir bin Hyan lived and worked during the 8th century. And as early as the 10th century, the Baghdad scientist-historian al-Masudi spoke of the process of evolution from mineral, to plant, to animal, to human being — a concept gradually inherited by Western scholars, reaching fruition nine centuries later in the works of England’s Charles Darwin.

There is much more to know about Islamic sciences at: www.islamichistorymonth.com

(Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. He can be reached at np@canadianislamiccongress.com)