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Friday Magazine

Date: May 25th, 2001 - 2 Raby` Al-awal 1422       Volume: 4     Issue: 31

The Rt. Hon. Beverley Mclachlin on Good Justice

  by - Special to the Friday Bulletin

(Toronto, April 5, 2001)-- With so much going on in the world, from China's detention of a U.S. spy plane and crew, to the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, and the new trial just granted former Pakistan President Benazir Bhutto, interest and anticipation over the speech from Right Honourable Madame Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin ran high. Perhaps too high.

Titled "Good Justice -- A Global Commodity," McLachlin's talk seemed to limit itself to how highly regarded Canada's justice system is viewed in the world and how, ultimately, justice is good for business.

The Chief Justice has met with her peers from a variety of countries, including China, and said that delegation after delegation has been showing up in our courts to learn about us.

She pointed to China in particular as a country struggling to catch up: the Communist takeover threw out the laws that had been in place and the next thirty years were spent in creating new ones. The new laws in turn were torn down during the Cultural Revolution. Of 180,000 Justices currently working in China, only 10% have a legal education, createing a huge challenge to bring them up to a basic level. Today, as contract and trust laws are being developed, China is looking for good legal models.

Without a trace of irony, McLachlin also suggested that those countries "fortunate enough to have been part of the British Empire" inherited a bank of laws to draw upon. It's only in the last decade, she noted, that we've begun to understand that the rule of law and an effective, independent justice system are essential to human, social and economic development. Even the World Bank now stresses an independent legal system as a condition of receiving aid.

There are two essential building blocks for economic development to flourish: laws and good procedures. These must reflect freedom of contract, and equality before the law. Chief Justice McLachlin said that while the concept of an independent Judiciary is intellectually understood by developing countries, the reality of deciding against the ruling party is almost inconceivable.

CIC Annual Conference on Education and Marriage a Success

  by Jennifer Adams - Special to The Friday Bulletin

The fourth annual Canadian Islamic Congress conference, held this year at the University of Waterloo on April 28, attracted Canadian Muslims from near and far. More than 100 participants included local Kitchener-Waterloo residents, families, and individuals from Toronto and London, as well as guest speakers -- some hailing from as far away as Newfoundland and Maryland. All joined together to share and discuss two vital concerns of Muslim Canadians: Education and Marriage.

Registration and personal greetings began at 8:30 a.m., setting a note of good cheer and great expectation of what would be discussed and learned that day from the scheduled Keynote Address and two panel discussions.

Registration volunteers, Sara Hamid, 18, and Zeena Hamid, 15, welcomed people as they arrived, handing out event packages filled with valuable information on Canadian Muslim issues.

Hamid was looking forward to the day, and said she hoped the panel discussions on Education and Marriage might offer a lot of useful basics, present the truth, share some insights and provide helpful general information.

Firas Al-Dhaher, 21, and Mohamed Hamou, 18, drove from London for the conference. They were looking for more information on key issues close to their hearts. Both are UWO students who feel they are of an age where issues of Education and Marriage are becoming very important.

"I want to take something back with me; there's only so much you can learn on your own," Hamou said. "It is our duty to seek knowledge."

Al-Dhaher added; "Knowledge and education are very important. It's something that's compulsory for both the male and female sides of the family, community and society. To gain an appreciation of knowledge, the vision of knowledge, to strive for knowledge in all forms. Learning more about yourself, about society, about your trade, general life forms....I hope we learn from this conference how to gain an appreciation and respect for that kind of knowledge, what kind to select, which kind is most important for me and my family, and what to
take back and give to the community."

The young men, both single, hoped especially to gain some insight on marriage and they look forward in future to forming famililes of their own. They feel it's very important now to have some light shed on the best choices and steps to take in family issues.

And that is why this year's CIC conference theme was so relevant to so many. Discussing and sharing in the knowledge and understanding of good education and marriage touch everyone.

The day officially opened with a Qur'an Recitation by Adnan Siraj. This was followed by a short talk from event organizer, Ayoub Hamid, who explained the schedule for the day.

CIC presidnt Dr. Mohamed Elmasry's official welcoming address and award presentations came next. He spoke briefly about being a Canadian Muslim, stressing, "that as Canadian Muslims, Canada is our home, and we are a part of this county." Being a good Muslim and being a good Canadian go hand in hand, he emphasized. He appealed especially for help and participation in the challenges of reforming Bills C16 and C11.

Elmasry congratulated the CIC on its growth and success over the past four years, saying that the organization is still "under construction... We are nowhere near other organizations, like the Canadian Jewish Congress, but we need an association to serve Canadian Muslims. We are not responsible for 100 per cent success, but we are being held responsible for 100 per cent effort."

Dr. Elmasry then moved on to the first annual awards ceremony. This year, CIC honoured two people for excellence in community service and two for excellence in community media.

Sikandar Khan of Vancouver, B.C. and Khadija Haffajee of Ottawa, Ontario, were honoured for excellence in serving the community. Asma Warsi and Zafar Bangash, both of Toronto, were honoured for excellence in their work for community newspapers. (Please see additional article on the award winners.)

Dr. Munir El-Kassem presented a very informative keynote address on the common elements of marriage and education.

"For excellent education we need a good first teacher and to get a good first teacher we have to understand a good marriage," said Dr. El-Kassem in his opening remarks. He addressed several key issues and ended his talk by stressing the importance of early education and a proper focus on marriage.

Dr. El-Kassem's talk was followed by a short break where, already, positive comments were circulating among participants on the quality of presentations to be gained from a CIC conference.

Maintaining High Moral Values in Canadian Education was the focus of the first panel discussion. It was moderated by Fareed Khan, who allowed each speaker 15 minutes to shed some light on their intellectual interpretation of education. Sheikh Faisal Abu-Jehad, Dr. Munir El-Kassem, Dr. Mahmoud Haddara, Mr. David Oates and Ms. Joice Palubiski all volunteered some very valid points, raising several key questions from the audience.

A delicious box lunch followed with the Al-Shahba' group from Toronto providing entertainment.

The afternoon panel discussion focused on Muslim Youth Marriage: Challenges and Hopes, moderated by Ayoub Hamid. Each speaker was initially given 20 minutes (with following rebuttals) to express their views. Mrs. Wahida Valiante, Dr. Kaukab Siddique and Ibrahim Downey offered valuable insights on problems facing the second generation in finding and nurturing a good marriage. The theme and discussion sparked a great deal of audience response -- so much so that finally, Moderator Hamid had to step in and reluctantly end the session.

This concluded the fourth annual CIC conference and, as many were quick to point out, it was an insightful, informative and successful day.

CIC Honours Community Leaders

  by Jennifer Adams - Special to The Friday Bulletin

The Canadian Islamic Congress honoured two women and two men for excellence in community service and community media during their fourth annual conference, held in Waterloo on April 28.

This is the third year that CIC has awarded such honours and as national president, Dr. Mohamed Elmasry pointed out before announcing the recipients, an annual conference is a great opportunity to recognize talent and goodness in Muslim communities across our country.

"We do what we do because of our faith, not expecting any sort of recognition. But we want to show our second generation and the community as a whole what our Muslim community has achieved....We must learn to start catching Muslims doing good. We will never be perfect because we are humans, but we must acknowledge good acts," said Dr. Elmasry.

Sikandar Khan of Vancouver, B.C. and Khadija Haffajee of Ottawa, Ontario, were honoured for excellence in serving their community, while Asma Warsi and Zafar Bangash, both of Toronto, were honoured for excellence in
community newspapers. All but Mr. Khan were able to attend the awards ceremony held at the beginning of the conference.

For more than 25 years, Sikander Khan has been serving the Muslim community of British Columbia. He has been head of the B.C. Muslim Sports Association, the B.C. Muslim Association, and the Muslim Canadian Federation. He has also served as chairman of his local Board of Education from 1985/86 to 1992/93. Since immigrating to Canada in 1972 from the Fiji Islands, Khan, 51, has embraced Canada's business circles. He
is married with three children.

Mrs. Haffajee, originally from South Africa, has been a resident of Ottawa for more than 30 years. She is an educator and community activist in the Ottawa Region and also has served on Majlis-Ash-Shura of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); in fact, she was the first female to be elected to this position. She was a member of the Ottawa Mayor's Advisory Council on Religious Affairs and has given numerous lectures on Islam in many schools, churches, hospitals and universities both nationally and internationally.

Before receiving her award, Mrs. Haffajee took a moment to reflect on its meaning to her. "It's an honour when people recognize you, but I am embarrassed. It's true, I have been involved in all levels of the community for more than 30 years. This is part of who I am. It is very much a part of our faith as Muslims, to give our time, to get involved and help in social services... but not for the recognition." She described herself as pround to be a part of the CIC, and feels that despite its short time of existence, it has achieved a lot.

Asma Warsi is the editor of the The Ambition, a Toronto Muslim community newspaper. What began in 1987 as a children's magazine -- for which she did everything from writing to distributing and financing, with the help of her family -- has turned into a bi-monthly newspaper with a readership of 5,000. Mrs. Warsi, married with four children, is also an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher for the Toronto District School Board. She was born in Pakistan and came to Canada 30 years ago.

Before receiving her award, Mrs. Warsi commented that this was a great honour and made her feel wonderful, but she thought "this honour should go to all the paper's workers and not me alone. Without the help of my committee I couldn't have done this. We are all volunteers and the committee is very dedicated."

When asked if CIC has made a difference in her newspaper enterprise, she said yes, she can see the differences that CIC has made possible within all Canadian media, noting as an example the Friday Bulletin, that reaches more than 250,000 people electronically.

Zafar Bangash has edited the Crescent International for the past 20 years. He turned a small community paper into a respected newsmagazine of the Islamic world, with printings in Canada, South Africa and Pakistan. It also has offices in England and Malaysia and distribution facilities in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Australia. Bangash, born in Pakistan, has been the Director of The Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT), Toronto, since 1998.

Upon receiving his award, he expressed his profound gratitude. "This is a very humbling experience. I am elated that I was given this honour and I hope I can live up to it. If our own organizations encourage others to come forward, we will help put Canada on the map."

Dr. Elmasry expressed his congratulations to this year's award winners and stressed the importance of acknowledging such excellence. He encouraged the Muslim community to continue reaching out to find more talented and dedicated people worthy of honours.

Does Peace Have a Future with Sharon and Bush at the Helm? -- Maybe

  by Prof. Mohamed Elmasry -

With the election of Ariel Sharon as prime minister, Israel seems determined to legitimize its lost confidence in the peace process and to give notice that a military "solution" to its conflict with the Palestinians could be a very real possibility, if all else fails.

Sharon, apparently believing that Israel's military clout is superior to that of all the surrounding Arab states combined, must surely know that a strength-based military response would inevitably entail a high death count on both sides, but especially among Palestinians.

Whatever his government's public stance, however, it is doubtful many Israelis really believe that the recent change in leadership will bring security. War? possibly. Or, at best, an edgy state of prolonged "non-belligerency" -- but not security.

So why did they vote for him in the first place? After seven months of the current Palestinian Intifada and the death of more than 70 Israeli Jews, the answer appears to have been the oldest political reflex of all -- revenge.

Ehud Barak had tried using brutal force to stop the Sept. 29/00 Intifada, but only succeeded in prolonging it. The killing of more Palestinians by the Israeli army led to more funerals, followed by an even greater determination of Palestinians to achieve freedom. Now, so many families have lost loved ones to what they believe is a legitimate war for independence, that a fatal corner might have been turned.

Yet Sharon cannot afford to avoid the peace process. The world saw ex-U.S. president Clinton's relations with Benjamin Netanyahu deteriorate because of the latter's refusal to cooperate in peace initiatives,
even though it would have been highly favourable for Israel to do so. Sharon should beware of letting the same happen in his relationship with the George W. Bush administration.

Just what are the chances, then, that two new participants, carrying some of the same old baggage, can succeed in renewing hopes for the peace process? Or could a state of total chaos engulf the region despite their best efforts?

One real danger is that Bush will be tempted to respond on the same wavelength as Sharon. Although the Jewish lobby in America is very close to the Democratic Party, the Christian far right (which is very close to the Republicans) is also strongly pro-Israeli.

So both Bush and Sharon have been employing a policy of "effective distraction" in the region. Bush is escalating the confrontation with Iraq and tightening the decade-old economic boycott against it even further. And Sharon in turn would reoccupy Southern Lebanon, as well as more Palestinian centres within the West Bank and Gaza.

But do they realize how different the climate is now, as compared to ten years ago? Today, more Palestinans than ever firmly believe that -- as in any struggle for independence -- they must be willing to lose many loved ones in the struggle to end Israeli occupation. That belief is their only strength.

And in the surrounding Arab states, government and civilian populations alike now know how the U.S. has exploited Iraq to dominate all their lives. The effect of a popular campaign to boycott American goods is beginning to be felt; and while this alone may not trigger an American recession, it could accelerate one already looming over the horizon.

The tragic irony in all this is that both Palestinians and Israelis desperately want peace, lasting peace. But their two visions of what "peace" means are very different.

Hardline Israelis still think that, with overwhelming military power and almost unconditional U.S. support, their state can unilaterally dictate terms to the militarily and economically weaker Palestinians. They do not mind if Palestinians manage their own internal affairs, or even administer Christian and Islamic holy sites in occupied Arab East Jerusalem, but they will not bend one iota on accepting Palestinian sovereignty anywhere in "their" land, sea, or air.

Israel also wants most armed Jewish settlements to stay right where they are, expensively protected by the Israeli army, while rejecting any rights-of-return to Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948.

Palestinians want peace in their own independent state, with full sovereignty over the land, sea and air occupied by Israel in 1967, including Arab East Jerusalem. They want a guaranteed right-of-return to refugees and expatriates, similar to the demands of displaced people from East Timor, Kosovo and Bosnia.

They want armed Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza to be disbanded, but are willing to accept Jews as citizens of a new Palestinian state, just as there are now Palestinian Muslims and Christians living in the state of Israel. They feel this is a generous compromise, since they have already given up close to 80 per cent of historical Palestine to the state of Israel and deserve to live free in the 20 per cent that remains.

Can a mutually acceptable peace ever be possible between two such determined and historically antagonistic points of view? Despite all that has happened, and continues to happen, there is still cause for optimism.

After all, Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush -- two "new kids" on a tired and battered block -- may just surprise us all and, with the veteran Arafat, find an inspired alternate formula for achieving just peace in the region. I, for one, can still believe in miracles.

[Prof. Mohamed Elmasry, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Waterloo, is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.]