Date: Jul 25th, 2008 - Rajab 22, 1429, Volume: 11 Issue: 72
IS PM HARPER INDIFFERENT BECAUSE OMAR KHADR IS A MUSLIM?
by Dr. Mohamed Elmasry -
In November 2000 British engineer Christopher Rodway was killed and his wife injured when a bomb destroyed their car in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. A week later, another bomb injured Britons Mark Paine and Steve Coughlan.
Then in February 2001, William Sampson, a Canadian citizen who had been working in Saudi Arabia, along with Briton Alexander Mitchell and Belgian Raf Schyvens appeared on Saudi television, after being arrested and reportedly having confessed to five car bombings during November 2000. They were all charged with murder.
Sampson claimed throughout that he had been tortured and was innocent. The Canadian government acted and began pressuring the Saudis to release Sampson. In May 2001, Crown Prince Abdullah (the current Saudi king) postponed a trip to Canada to protest the Canadian torture allegations.
The Canadian government nevertheless maintained diplomatic pressure, until in August 2003 William Sampson was finally released from prison, after being granted clemency by former Saudi King Fahd, which absolved him from the murder charges.
Shortly after his release, Sampson wrote "Confessions of an Innocent Man" in which he was very critical of the Canadian government for not acting quickly enough, or doing enough, to secure his release. Sampson described having spent 963 days in solitary confinement during which he was subjected to torture, including weeks of sleep deprivation, until he was desperate enough to "confess" to criminal acts he had not committed.
With the recent release of video excerpts of the interrogation of Omar Khadr, millions now know that Khadr -- a Canadian citizen -- was abused by his American captors at Guantanamo Bay where he’s been incarcerated for more than 2500 days without charge. Like Sampson, he was also kept in solitary and deprived of sleep for weeks at a time. The Canadian government had full knowledge of this abusive treatment as far back as 2003, yet assured citizens all that time that Khadr (then still a teenaged minor) was being "treated humanely."
The latest revelations about Khadr’s treatment while in U.S. custody should be enough to shock the Conservative government into bringing Khadr home immediately to face democratic justice, says Alex Neve of Amnesty International Canada. "The fact that [the video] revelations don’t automatically, finally, lead to the government’s agreeing to seek his repatriation frankly defies belief," he said.
Khadr is accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan when he was only 15. He faces a "military commission" in October that even the U.S. Supreme Court has found to be gravely flawed. And a Canadian Federal Court judge ruled just last month that Khadr’s treatment at the hands of the U.S. military has clearly violated international laws against torture.
The United Nations has also raised concerns about setting an international precedent by trying Khadr as an adult for alleged "war crimes" committed when he was a child.
Foreign Affairs Department reports say Canadian official Jim Gould visited Khadr in 2004 at Guantanamo. While there, Gould was briefed by the U.S. military on Khadr’s treatment. One of the reports says Khadr was purposely deprived of sleep and moved every three hours for 21 days to make him more pliable for interrogation.
Human rights advocates and opposition politicians have all urged the Canadian government to take prompt action in securing Khadr’s release, yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shown shocking indifference to rising calls by Canadians to bring Khadr home to face justice. Harper claims his government has "no real alternative" to the U.S. legal process in this case.
Khadr’s Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney calls Harper’s comments "disingenuous," while University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran maintains that the prime minister could have had Khadr released from Guantanamo Bay with a single phone call. "Without exception, every other leader of a Western country has gotten their citizens out of Guantanamo," Prof. Attaran said.
"What is being done to Omar Khadr right now rests squarely on the shoulders of Prime Minister Harper," added Navy Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler, Khadr’s U.S. military attorney. In fact, Kuebler accused the Canadian government of knowingly hiding behind false U.S. assurances regarding detainees’ treatment in allowing Khadr to be held at Guantanamo Bay in the first place.
And why is Stephen Harper so callously indifferent to Omar Khadr’s case?
(Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. He can be reached at email@example.com
FORMER PM MARTIN URGES REPATRIATION OF KHADR
by Colin Freeze - The Globe and Mail -- July 21, 2008
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin said last Sunday on a CTV Question Period interview that Canada should lobby to bring back Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr.
"I think Bill Graham, who was foreign affairs minister at the time, said it the best," Martin commented, "which was, ‘If we had known then what we know now, then we would have taken strenuous steps to repatriate Mr. Khadr to Canada'."
The former prime minister conceded that it is "easy" to operate with the benefit of hindsight, but "We should have repatriated him, and I believe that we should do it now."
Mr. Martin didn't specify what, exactly, he knows now that he didn't know before, but his remarks are consistent with those made by other members of the former Liberal government, including Mr. Graham.
Anne McLellan, Irwin Cotler and current Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion all now say either that they were unaware of the extent of the abuse allegations involving Mr. Khadr, or that it is time he was tried in a Canadian court.
The issue of Omar Khadr, who is alleged by the Pentagon to have been a 16- year-old "enemy combatant" when he was captured in Afghanistan after a deadly battle in 2002, has continued through three separate federal governments. The case was seen as politically untouchable during the dying days of the Jean Chrétien era, and never did emerge as a priority for the Martin government of 2003-2006.
As always, the sitting Canadian government, regardless of political stripe, had said officially that it continues to seek assurances that Mr. Khadr is being treated well and upholds that U.S. justice must take its course before Canada intervenes. Prime Minister Stephen Harper remains unmoved in this position; his spokesman, Kory Teneycke, has accused the Liberals of "revisionism and hypocrisy" for only now adopting Khadr’s cause.
"This is the process the Liberals chose, and we're sticking with it," Mr. Teneycke said in an interview Sunday. Accusing the opposition of "playing politics," he maintained that recent public revelations about the Khadr file should have been known to the previous government. "This information was in their hands when they made these decisions," he insisted.
But Liberal Dan McTeague - a parliamentary secretary who had been given a special responsibility for Canadians detained abroad - says he regrets telling Canadians that Mr. Khadr was being treated humanely.
"I said it many times, ‘We've been given assurances by Americans.'... I said it in [media] scrum after [media] scrum, I had to take them at their word," Mr. McTeague explained in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail. But now he says he was not in the loop about sleep-deprivation tactics that U.S. military officials used against Khadr in 2004, according to a newly released Canadian briefing note. "That information was not made available to me at the time," Mr. McTeague said. "Obviously I wouldn't have made that statement had I known..."
He did say he worked behind the scenes making "countless attempts" over eight months to get the United States to concede to a Canadian visit that wouldn't involve intelligence officials. "There was opposition on almost everything I did," Mr. McTeague said. "...They eventually agreed to what they called a ‘welfare visit’."
A former top civil servant in Foreign Affairs said Sunday that while the Federal Court of Canada has since ruled that sleep deprivation is contrary to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, it may not have resonated all that strongly within the bureaucracy or been flagged to politicians.
"It's been going on since Christ was interrogated by Herod," Gar Pardy said in an interview Sunday. He retired in 2003, a year before the sleep deprivation memo concerning Mr. Khadr was written. Pardy, a former consular chief who said his early efforts to get Mr. Khadr out of "Gitmo" were resisted by many in the Canadian government, added that the Canadian news media were partly responsible for the chill concerning Mr. Khadr.
After 9/11, accounts involving the teenaged prisoner almost inevitably pointed out that Prime Minister Chrétien had intervened for the suspect's father in 1996, when Pakistan had held the elder Khadr as an al-Qaeda suspect, before ultimately letting him go. "Mention the name Khadr around Ottawa in '02-'03 and everyone ducked for cover," Pardy said.
It is anticipated that the now 21-year-old Omar Khadr will go on trial this fall in the death of an American soldier and other alleged war crimes.
"The members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban - while they may have thought they were defending themselves - they had no legal right under the laws of war to be engaging in combat," U.S. State Department lawyer, John Bellinger told The Globe last year in a briefing. "Any combat that they were engaged in was illegal."
(This article was edited for the Canadian Islamic Congress Friday Magazine.)
EXPRESSING "MUSLIM-NESS" IN A CANADIAN CONTEXT
by Imam Dr. Zijad Delic - Special to the CIC Friday Magazine
Since the middle of the 19th century when the first Muslims arrived in Canada, Canadian Muslims and their children have made significant moves toward embracing and adapting to a liberal democratic society.
This is not to say they have changed their Islamic beliefs, but rather that embracing democratic values is in fact compatible with the faith of Islam. Throughout 14 centuries of history in a variety of geographic and cultural contexts, the teachings of Islam have not obstructed Muslim societies from achieving change and reform, no matter when or where they existed. In Western societies, Muslim intellectual leaders have predominantly urged their community to embrace positive new social and political realities while remaining faithful to the Islamic lifestyle.
Author Tariq Ramadan (2004) supports this notion by saying that Islam is a civilization because it is able to express its universal and fundamental principles through time and space (history and geography), while integrating amid diversity and taking on the customs, tastes and styles belonging to various cultural contexts .
Encountering and integrating into Western culture is a significant process in Muslims’ contributions to their host and adoptive cultures. Such an approach is founded on faithfulness to the prime sources of Islamic intellectual and spiritual tradition - namely the Qur’an and the Sunnah. However, Muslims’ practices of their religion are often caught in the tension between loyalty to a new culture and their cultures of origin. The result is that they are likely to be misjudged as not embracing or being loyal to the host nation.
Ramadan (2004) explains this experience: "They tried without really being aware of it, to continue to be Pakistani Muslims in Britain and the United States; Moroccan and Algerian Muslims in France; Turkish Muslims in Germany, and so on. It is with the emergence of the second generation that problems appeared and the questions arose: parents who saw their children losing, or no longer recognizing themselves as part of, their Pakistani, Arab, or Turkish cultures seemed to think that they were losing their religious identity at the same time. However, this was far from being the case. Many young Muslims, by studying their religion, claimed total allegiance to Islam while distancing themselves from their cultures of origin."
This brings us to constructing a Canadian expression of Islam and opens up the question of how the integration of Canadian Muslims should progress. How can Muslims proactively embrace change and transition without abandoning their traditional core religious values? How can Canadian Muslims create a new, visible and self-sustaining Canadian Muslim culture that is a distinctly Canadian expression of Islam?
Being able and willing to address these issues will help Canadian Muslims reconcile their religious beliefs with the challenges of real life in a multicultural environment. To succeed, Muslims in Canada renew their focus on reading and re-reading the primary and foundational texts of Islamic tradition. As Ramadan says, their aim must be "to recover forgotten principles or discover a horizon as yet unknown."
Muslim identity is far from being a narrow-minded construct, confined to rigid and inflexible principles. Rather, it is based on a constant dialectical and dynamic movement between the foundational sources of Islam and the environment in which Muslims find themselves; its ultimate aim is to find a way of living harmoniously within the fabric of diverse global societies.
As Ramadan (2007) suggests, "Muslim identity is one that gives direction," a direction towards social and economic integration. Islam inherently contains progressive elements that support integration into a multicultural society and when communally embraced, they become manifest by openness, interest, and constant interaction with society. They help Muslims to acclimatize successfully into different cultural contexts while remaining faithful to their religious values.
Ramadan (2004) further suggests that: "A return to the scriptural sources allows us to establish a distinction between the religious principles that define the identity of Muslims and the cultural trappings that these principles necessarily take on according to the societies in which individuals live... the elements of Muslim identity that are based on religious principles allow Muslims to live in any environment."
So as long as Muslims consciously utilize and reflect upon their core religious texts and sources, they will have no problem in remaining faithful to their religious values while at the same time integrating into host societies. This has repeatedly proven true -- no matter what kind of environment or historical era they lived in, or currently live in. Islamic teachings encourage acceptance of other cultures as long as they do not harm Muslims, their communities, or their beliefs.
Again, Tariq Ramadan (2004) supports the idea of integration in all matters that are "good" (or halal) in nature, observing that: "Islam teaches us to integrate everything that is not against an established principle and to consider it as our own. This is, after all, the true universality of Islam: it consists in this principle of integrating the good, from wherever it may come, which has made it possible for Muslims to settle in, and make their own, without contradiction, almost all the cultures of the countries in which they have established themselves, from South America to Asia, through West and North Africa. It should not be otherwise in the West."
Ramadan further elaborates on the significance of Muslim identity by discussing four pillars, or pivots (essential turning-points) of religion and their specific dimensions. The first and the most important element of Muslim identity is faith in God -- not just as a private, internal belief, but as an expression of religious practice. This connection between belief and practice adds a dimension of spirituality that keeps Islamic faith alive and reinforces it. The inner dimension of faith, the Muslim religious practice, and its inherent spirituality, are the combined light or lens, through which life and the world are perceived.
The second pivot of Islamic identity rests on an attitude of intellect that marries an understanding of the Texts and of the context in which those texts are practiced. Muslims cannot truly live as Muslims if they are ignorant of the marriage between their core religious texts and the environments in which they live.
The third pivot of Muslim identity is the open and active expression of their faith which makes it possible to pass down the true teachings of Islam to children and continue to pass on the message of Islam to the broader multi-generational community.
The last pivot of Muslim identity is its outward expression of faith through positive action and participation in the way one treats oneself, others, and all of creation. That is to say, Muslim identity is about being a good individual and a good citizen in equal measures. Muslim identity is about being useful to everyone around you. As the Prophet Muhammad said, "The best people are those who benefit others" (Daud). In this Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad did not qualify "people" as being only Muslims or believers, but he used the simple and inclusive term, "people," referring to everyone - Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
From the foregoing overview, it becomes apparent that to be Muslim is to act according to the teachings of Islam within one’s adopted society and not in contradiction or opposition to it. There is nothing in Islam that commands Muslims to withdraw from society, or to become ghettoized, in order to be closer to God. On the contrary, in order to be in full harmony with their religious identity, Muslims need to exercise vigorously the choice and freedom to practice Islamic teachings in a Canadian context. At the same time, they must consciously develop a Canadian image and pattern of their identity.
The true nature of Muslim identity, according to Ramadan (2004), can be achieved only as an open and dynamic spirit or attitude, in constant interaction with the environment. This identity results from internal subjective perceptions and self-reflection while being receptive to external influences. Hence, identity today (contrary to the popular perception that identity is fixed and immutable) is an evolving process of "becoming" rather than simply "being" (Dillon 1999). It changes over time and under different social situations (Haddad 1994; McMullan 2000; Nagel 1995).
By exploring core Islamic sources regarding the notion of Muslim identity and at the same time considering the vibrant evolving texture of Canadian lifestyles, we can see that there is no contradiction for Muslims in taking up full citizenship and embracing Canada fully and unconditionally as their country. This is what is meant by choosing the path of constructive integration, as opposed to the regressive options of assimilation and exclusion. Constructive or "smart" integration takes Muslims toward new horizons and gives them opportunities to re-read and re-envision their intellectual and applied religious traditions in the context of what it means to be fully Canada. This constructive path can, and will, help Muslims to express their beliefs while enjoying Canada’s social, cultural and democratic benefits.
(This article was edited for the Canadian Islamic Congress Friday Magazine.)
POST 9/11 GOVERNMENT DECEPTIONS -- TRUTH IS THE VICTIM
by Sumaira Shaikh - Special to the CIC Friday Magazine
As the eighth anniversary of 9/11 approaches and government disinformation still persists, the Skeptics’ Inquiry for Truth (SIFT) is challenging official deceptions by holding their own public events to unveil the truth surrounding the tragedy that "changed the world forever."
At a July 14 gathering of some 300 listeners in Bloor Street United Church, Toronto, SIFT hosted two powerful keynote speakers to explore some major issues surrounding 9/11.
First on the podium was Dr. Bob Bowman, an American peace activist and former U.S. Air Force Vietnam combat pilot. He was followed by Canadian colleague Dr. Michael Keefer, a professor of English at the University of Guelph. Both addressed the ongoing deceptions regarding the 9/11 attacks from the stance of their respective countries.
During his "presidential" speech, as it was called throughout the evening, Dr. Bowman showed how an American president should approach his role on the domestic and world stage -- in striking contrast to the way in which George Bush Jr. has actually handled the job.
Introducing himself as the President of the United States of America, Dr. Bowman addressed the spectators as if they were the U.S. Congress. A poster board reading "Iran, Iraq, Impeachment" was set up beneath the podium, to draw attention to the focal points of his speech.
"These three are extremely important symptoms of the disease," he said. "The three immediate goals are to prevent an attack on Iran, to end the disastrous occupation of Iraq and ... to impeach Bush and Cheney."
He also posed the fundamental question: Can Canada escape U.S. corporate domination?
In Bowman’s view, the fundamental problem is that the U.S. government has become a fascist regime, whose agenda to promote a North American union from Canada to Mexico is totally designed to maximize corporate profits and government power. "Corporate is another word for fascist government," he said. "I do not want this to happen to my country, or yours."
He went on to describe how corporations have controlled governments for decades, maneuvering domestic and foreign policy in their own favour. "We have problems because they [governments] no longer serve us; they serve corporations..."
Bowman affirmed that the real truth about 9/11 has also been controlled and withheld from the public by the same fascist government. "The truth about 9/11 is that we still don’t know the truth, and we should," he said.
He believes there is ample evidence to suggest that 9/11 was a big cover- up. The black recorder boxes of the hijacked planes were never found, and surveillance tapes in the target areas were all confiscated as well; this amounts to evidence of a story unknown to the American people.
Throughout his speech Dr. Bowman reiterated that the values and goodness of the American people are not reflected and represented by their government because it no longer serves its people. He identified several troubling issues in the U.S., such as the monopoly of media ownership, corruption in the CIA, and the corporate greed of pharmaceutical companies that has kept Americans from receiving appropriate access to adequate health care.
During his "inaugural" address as imaginary president, Bowman said he would abolish the monopolistic media, greedy conglomerates, the pharmaceuticals lobby and the CIA. The way to end the fascist regime in the U.S. he emphasized, is to return to the principles of the American Constitution and separate "big money from political power." But such a paradigm shift requires each and every American to do his or her part, for a revolution does not take place in the absence of committed people.
"We the people can win. We the people will win," he cried in conclusion as the crowd rose from their seats in applause.
After this peak moment, Dr. Michael Keefer was ushered onto the stage to similar applause as he spoke about the Canadian perspective on 9/11. Using the example of the "Toronto 18," he explained to listeners that there were several inconsistencies in the story that was reported to the media and that the case was really fabricated by the RCMP.
He called this an "instance of state terrorism," in which the 18 Muslim youths and men were framed as terrorists in order to scare the Canadian public. News of the arrests soon circled the world, but any attentive media reader could detect the anomalies abounding in the fictitious story. "It was an attempt to scare the daylights out of us," he said.
The RCMP’s agenda, according to Keefer, was to herd a large group of apparently dangerous individuals towards arrest before the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling came down on standards of evidence required in terrorism cases; in other words, it was a clear attempt to trump the judiciary system, "... an elaborate set-up that reeked of fraud."
Keefer said that CSIS and the RCMP are highly corrupt and politicized organizations that are "falsely accusing Canadians as being terrorists."
"The Toronto 18 were constructed into a narrative as these ‘homegrown terrorists’," he continued, "and yet the association with Zarqawi’s most sensational supposed crime [9/11] makes them into barbarous outsiders, with spiritual loyalties to the largely mythical Islamist terror international."
Keefer revealed the presence of two government "moles," or undercover agents. One was the infamous Mubin Shaikh, who was paid $377,000 for his services; the second was an agricultural engineer, who was given $4.1 million of Canadian tax-payers’ money.
In fact, the single gun found in the Toronto 18 raids -- reported as belonging to one of the suspects -- was actually found to be the property of Mubin Shaikh, the government-hired mole. Keefer added that Shaikh had a strong monetary motive for getting involved, given his self-admitted drug addiction.
Keefer noted that the unnamed agricultural engineer was also conveniently chosen as a spy, since he would have access to ammonium nitrate - a supposed bomb-making ingredient confiscated by the RCMP. Both moles were chosen to aid in the fabrication of a supposed "homegrown terrorist" unit.
"Any normal police force would arrest the individuals in a normal fashion, instead of hiring these moles for millions of dollars," Keefer said. "The frame-up is transparently obvious."
He added that the complete collapse of this case brings to light Canada’s participation in 9/11-related fraud, both in Afghanistan and here at home.
"We need to stand up and say that we will not permit you to do this to our sons and daughters. We will not permit you to send them to Afghanistan," Keefer urged, as he encouraged the crowd to oppose the government’s inexcusable actions.
"We will not permit you to arrest our neighbours and our fellow citizens and set them up under fraudulent charges," he concluded. "And we will not permit the further dissemination of the lies of 9/11."
(Sumaira Shaikh is a law student and freelance writer. She lives in Toronto. This article was slightly edited for the Canadian Islamic Congress Friday Magazine.)
FAITH AND MAINSTREAM COMMUNITIES MUST RESPOND TO BIGOTRY
by Peter T. Smith - Moncton Telegraph Journ - July 15th, 2008
Last week saw a disturbing outbreak of ugliness in Moncton in the form of racist graffiti targeting Muslims, Jews, and immigrants. A total of seven incidents of spray-painted swastikas, racial slurs, and other offensive messages vandalized a mosque, a synagogue, an elementary school, bus shelters, and local businesses.
Given the very important issues being discussed in New Brunswick right now, I was reluctant to dedicate more column inches to a few maladjusted racists.
Also, I didn't want to sensationalize these crimes or give the offenders the gratification of even more media attention. But the larger community does have to respond to these incidents, and so I will attempt to do so as well by outlining reasons why we should be talking about this.
First, we always respond to these kinds of incidents by saying they are not representative of the community. This is true, and we can't overstate it. Most people in Moncton, or anywhere in New Brunswick, don't believe people should be treated this way.
Sure, there are lots of people who may be uncomfortable with immigrants or hold stereotypical views about non-Christians, but that's far different than attacking someone's community; very few people, regardless of their attitudes and experiences with minorities, would condone this harassment. We don't, as a province, as a people, or as Canadians, believe these actions stand for us in any way, and we need to say it. This is not who we are.
Second, behaviour based on hatred can escalate if left unchecked.
Last summer Saint John (NB) had its own flare-up of racist malice. Chinese students at the University of New Brunswick were harassed and assaulted. A city councilor and staff at this newspaper received threats. But because the actions that often happen after vandalism are even more hurtful, we have to respond strongly to the vandalism.
Just as there is a step beyond vandalism, there is also a step before it. Very few of us, fortunately, are going to be the targets of racist attacks. But most of us will hear racist comments, opinions, and jokes. It's not always easy to denounce such attitudes in social situations, but we certainly can't support them.
Stetson Kennedy, an American civil rights activist who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s, recommended "frown power" for dealing with those situations.
You don't have to start a fight when someone makes a racist remark, but you can easily let them know their comments are neither appreciated nor accepted with a simple frown.
The third reason is the practical fact that we as a province really do need to attract immigrants, and swastikas don't help. New Brunswick is shrinking and aging, "slowly dying" as the authors of last year's Self-Sufficiency Task Force put it; and even if you reject the Premier's 2026 goal, it's clear that we need more people. Greg Byrne, the minister responsible for population growth, reports a 58 per cent increase in immigration last year.
And as immigration increases -- as St. Thomas University criminologist Michael Boudreau predicted in Saturday's Telegraph-Journal -- so will the frequency of these sorts of incidents. We need to address the problem as it presents itself, every time it presents itself, and work to prevent it from recurring as much as possible.
The response needs to be more education, rather than retribution. As Dr. Boudreau pointed out, "The sad irony is that the person or persons who actually did this may not even know the significance of a swastika."
It's true that the offenders, particularly if they are young offenders, may not even realize the seriousness of their actions.
The last reason is that it is necessary to shine light on racism.
These vandals who operate at night, stooping so low as to spray-paint someone's place of worship, have much less power in the light of day. Similarly, the attitudes and ignorance they reinforce will pale in the context of the larger community.
At the most basic level, someone has decided to challenge our values, to challenge our freedom to live where we choose, worship how we choose, and live without intimidation, and to challenge our basic concept of human rights. And so, as we believe in these things, we must respond.
This isn't simply an affront to Jews, Muslims and immigrants; it's an affront to all of us.
(Retrieved from: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/article/354481 Peter T. Smith teaches English and psychology at Kennebecasis Valley High School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
His column appears on Tuesday. This article was edited for the Canadian Islamic Congress Friday Magazine.)