A member of the all-female Syrian Islamist rebels group, the Ahbab Al Mustafa Battalian (Photo: © Reuters)
Just when you thought amateur hour had run its full course at the U.S. State Department, events in Somalia and Syria — two war zones where al-Qaida is a major player — show American ineptness has a lot more to offer.
First, came news the man hand-picked by Secretary of State John Kerry to act as the sole conduit for aid to Syria’s rebels, Gen. Salim Idriss, has been dismissed by the very Supreme Military Council of the Syrian “moderate” opposition he was supposedly heading.
Now, with no leverage on the ground, it appears the U.S. has given a walkover to whoever wins the Iran vs. Saudi Arabia proxy war in Syria.
With an insurgency that’s dominated by Islamist factions, including groups with connections to al-Qaida, even the best outcome will leave Syria in the hands of hostiles.
Further south in Somalia, the government that is supposedly an ally of the West has been accused of smuggling Western-supplied arms meant for the Somali army straight into the hands of the pro al-Qaida army of al-Shabab .
The “UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group” last week issued a confidential report accusing the Somalia government of allowing the diversion of weapons meant for its own army into the hands of a leader of the al-Qaida linked Islamist militant group, al-Shabab.
In its 14-page report to the Security Council’s sanctions committee, UN monitors said they had identified at least two centres for arms procurement within the Somali government that were distributing arms to militias not part of the Somali security forces.
The report, obtained by Reuters, pointed fingers at ministers inside Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s government as being involved in the arms smuggling.
“A key adviser to the president … has been involved in planning weapons deliveries to al-Shabab leader Sheikh Yusuf Isse,” the report said.
It also referred to the role played by another Somali government minister in relation to arms purchases from a “foreign government in the Gulf”.
The UN Security Council had imposed an arms embargo on Somalia after the country was plunged into civil war.
However, in February, 2013, at the insistence of the U.S. and despite opposition from Britain, France and the Monitor Group, the Security Council voted to partially lift the arms embargo against Somalia, ostensibly to help Mogadishu in its war against al-Shabab.
At the time, those opposed to lifting the arms embargo warned of the relationship between the al-Shabab and Islamists within the Somali government, but it appears no one paid attention at the U.S. State Department.
Toronto lawyer Ahmed Hussen of the Somali Canadian Congress told me, “Many of us had vehemently opposed the lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia, a country already awash with weapons. We were afraid sophisticated weapons would fall into the hands of clan militias and the al-Shabab. This UN report has confirmed our worst fears.”
Hussen says the less reported but more dangerous issue is how the west is training and arming Somali National Army recruits, only for them to then sell their weapons and uniforms on the open market or, worse, to the al-Shabab. “In essence, we are indirectly arming the very forces that we are fighting against in Somalia,” he said.
Message to U.S. President Barack Obama: Please stop saying, “Al-Qaida is defeated.” It’s not. It’s very much alive, and your policies are helping it stay that way.
Tarek Fatah, is a Canadian writer, broadcaster and anti-Islamist Muslim activist. He is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.
The New York Times building in Manhattan
The New York Times has finally found a victim of Islamic aggression in Nigeria worth reporting on: homosexuals. In a big spread complete with pictures appearing last week, the NYT’s Adam Nossiter wrote “Wielding Whip and a Hard New Law, Nigeria Tries to ‘Sanitize’ Itself of Gays.”
While it’s all well and good to expose the persecution of any group, why does the NYT remain silent about the much more endemic and savage jihad to “sanitize” Nigeria of Christians—a jihad that has seen countless Christians butchered and countless churches destroyed?
A 2012 meeting of Nigerian church heads concluded that “the pattern of these killings [of Christians] does suggest to us a systematic ethnic and religious cleansing.”
Among other things in the group’s bid to cleanse the Muslim-majority north of all Christian presence, it has threatened to poison the food eaten by Christians and “to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women.” The group frequently storms areas where Christians and Muslims are intermingled—from villages to colleges—and singles the Christians out before slitting their throats.
In 2011 hundreds of Christians were killed and 430 churches destroyed or damaged. In 2012, 900 Christians were slaughtered. Indeed, of all Christians killed around the world in 2012, 70% were killed in the west African nation. In 2013, 612 Christians were killed and some 300 churches destroyed.
The year 2014 promises to be the same. Just the other day, over 50 Christians were slaughtered by “Allahu Akbar” screaming jihadis.
Thus, from a purely demographic point of view, we may deduce that for every one man who gets exposed as a homosexual in the privacy of his own home and killed for it, thousands of Christians expose themselves as infidels whenever they openly congregate and worship inside churches, as they do every Sunday, and get killed for it.
Based on numbers alone, then—assuming the NYT can agree that all human lives are equal, that the life of the Christian is equal in value to the life of the homosexual—the dramatically much bigger story has long been the relentless and genocidal jihad on Nigeria’s millions of Christians.
But of course, it’s not surprising that the NYT in general and reporter Adam Nossiter in particular, are biased concerning whose plight to highlight. The NYT and Nossiter are the very ones who, on December 25, 2011—the day after Boko Haram bombed several churches during Christmas Eve services, leaving some 40 dead—published a spread equivocating the truth concerning the Muslim persecution of Christians in the African nation. On that day, the NYT’s Nossiter declared:
The sect, known as Boko Haram, until now mostly targeted the police, government and military in its insurgency effort, but the bombings on Sunday represented a new, religion-tinged front, a tactic that threatens to exploit the already frayed relations between Nigeria’s nearly evenly split populations of Christians and Muslims…(emphasis added).
“Until now?” The fact is that Boko Haram had been terrorizing and killing Nigerian Christians and destroying their churches several years before the 2011 Christmas church bombings. Indeed, Christmas Eve 2010—one year to the day before the 2011 Christmas Eve church attacks—Boko Haram bombed several churches, killing 38 Christian worshippers.
Thus Nossiter’s characterization of the 2011 attacks as “represent[ing] a new, religion-tinged front” is not only inaccurate but unconscionable.
Moreover, whereas the NYT’s Nossiter asserted that there are “already frayed relations” between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, he talks of no “frayed relations” between Muslims and homosexuals: He correctly knows that the “fraying” comes from one direction.
And it’s the same concerning Nigeria’s Muslims and Christians—the “fraying” comes from one direction. Yet, due to Nossiter’s prevarications, the reader is left with the impression that Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims are equally motivated by religious hostility—even as one seeks in vain for Christian terror organizations that bomb mosques in Nigeria every Friday to screams of “Christ is Great!”
When talking about Boko Haram’s jihad on Christians, the NYT’s Nossiter managed to insert another mainstream media favorite: the “poverty-causes-terrorism” meme. He writes, “The sect’s attacks [on Christian churches] have been further bolstered by festering economic resentment in the impoverished and relatively neglected north, which has an exploding birthrate, low levels of literacy and mass unemployment.”
Needless to say, when writing about the persecution of homosexuals, “festering economic resentment in the impoverished and relatively neglected north”—precisely where homosexuals are most persecuted—is never cited as a contributing factor.
Such are the ways that “reality” is created or evaded by the mainstream media and, from there, to the unsuspecting masses of the West. The script must always prevail—reality be damned.
Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum. Mr. Ibrahim's dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Egyptian parents —has provided him with unique advantages to understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets.
A woman reads to police as part of a protest against Turkey's Islamist government.
Be careful what you say or publish in Turkey. Even if you are a journalist from another country, you could be arrested or expelled. Islamists in Turkey are trying to control free speech, protesters, the media, the legal system, and even the police. This week, new restrictions over the internet came into effect. The Turkish government will be able to block objectionable websites within hours.
One Turkish man told me, "Many internet sites are now blocked, especially foreign news sites. When there is a protest against Erdogan's restrictive policies, internet sites that cover it are blocked, and the local T.V. and newspapers are even more controlled. Hardly anyone knew about the protests in Istanbul yesterday."
In fact, the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul issued a warning to Americans living in Turkey to avoid yesterday's protest in Taksim Square, site of last spring's Gezi Park protests. I received this email from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul:
U.S. Consulate General Istanbul informs U.S. citizens of news reports that a protest against recent legislation expanding the government's power to regulate Internet content is scheduled to take place at Taksim Square starting at 19:00 on Saturday, February 8. Large crowds and police presence are expected on surrounding streets as well, including Istiklal Street, and may begin to gather well before the scheduled start time of the protest ...The Department of State strongly advises avoiding the area during the protest.
However, when I looked at the U.S. Consulate's website, I could not find the warning under "Messages to U.S. Citizens." Did they remove it because Erdogan insisted that they cover up the protest?
When I was living in Turkey for two and a half years, I attended the Kocaeli Book Fair. Thousands of books were highlighted in huge conventional halls, many on the topic of Islam. But the book fair, controlled by the Islamist AKP party, allowed not one Bible. When I asked if I could find a Bible or any Christian book, the book fair director called security and labeled me a "Christian provocateur."
I left before I could be arrested, but the Muslim woman who came to the book fair with me later denounced our friendship. Although she had attended my wedding and freely posed for photos not only at the wedding, but on outings we had taken together and even outside the Kocaeli Book Fair, she complained to an AKP party prosecutor about a photo I published with her in it.
Ironically, Islamists demand rights they deny others. If someone exposes their restrictive policies, they immediately cry out, "Hate speech!" Recently, Digital Journal, the website where I often publish, was accused of "hate speech" against Islam and of shoddy journalism by citizen journalists.
The real enemies of free speech are Islamists who do not tolerate other religions, religious books, ways of dressing, smoking, drinking alcohol, and many other "haram" (forbidden) things. Sadly, Islamists kill more fellow Muslims (from minority sects like the Alevi and Shiite) than they kill Christians, Buddhists or other religious minorities among them. Just look at what has been happening in Iraq.
Recently, a French documentary about Syria interviewed Syrians who have been opposing Assad for years. These residents of Aleppo objected to the hijacking of their freedom revolution by Islamists who want to create an Islamic State in Syria, under sharia law.
One Syrian father declared, "Foreign Islamists who came to Aleppo saw a Syrian man smoking a cigarette and ripped it from his mouth, then destroyed the whole pack. They killed a Syrian girl for wearing a skirt. We cannot let them control our war for freedom."
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been allowing foreign Islamists to cross the Turkish border into Syria and bring weapons. He publicly supports the Muslim Brotherhood. He has been making laws to hurt his own people and has fired or imprisoned thousands of people since the December, 2013 corruption scandal.
When he was mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan shouted at a rally:
“Democracy is merely a train that we ride until we reach our goal. Mosques are our military barracks, minarets are our spears, domes are our helmets, and the faithful are our army.”
Is this not the real hate speech?
There are over 80,000 mosques in Turkey, and Erdogan will not let Christians build one church in the capital city of Ankara. Ancient churches are being converted to mosques. Erdogan and his fellow Islamists ignore Turkey's long Christian history and other religious minorities while limiting free speech, freedom of the press, the ability to protest, and even the internet.
In Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by strict Islamic sharia law, a group of 15 school girls were allowed to burn to death in 2002 because they fled their school without their veils, and the morality police locked the gate so that no one would see them uncovered. Recently, a female university student died of a heart attack because a male ambulance crew was not allowed into her women-only university.
Policies like these show great hatred,and countries that call themselves democracies and bastions of freedom must speak out—or come under the control of Islamists who will not tolerate other ways of life than their own.
Reporter's Update: Reuters reported that, in an impassioned television interview late on Monday, February 10, Fatih Altayli, editor-in-chief of the mainstream Haberturk
Editors and reporters have said in the past they had received phone calls from government officials asking them to alter their coverage or dismiss journalists, but they usually only spoke out after losing their jobs.
"But I truly doubt that the pattern of media managers acting like black boxes—keeping government and company secrets to themselves—can be broken," said Baydar, a columnist for Zaman newspaper, which is close to Erdogan's rival, Fetullah Gulen.
Lonna Lisa Williams teaches English overseas and writes books about surviving cancer, travel adventures, science fiction, and fantasy. You can follow her blog or find her onFacebook, Twitter, and Youtube. She also regularly contributes news articles and photo essays to “Digital Journal” and “Yahoo.”
This article and photo appeared originally on Digital Journal and was reprinted with the permission of the author.
Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper on his visit to Israel.
As the Secretary-General of the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations, I am wondering why the fight between the Canadian Prime Minister and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), formerly known as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—Canada, is getting the attention of the media and our political parties.
The NCCM is demanding an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper over spokesman Jason MacDonald’s comment, “We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas.”
This came after the NCCM criticized Harper for taking Rabbi Daniel Korobkin with him on a recent visit to Israel. The NCCM objected to the inclusion of Rabbi Korobkin in his delegation because, in their words, “on September 17, 2013, Mr. Korobkin spoke at a Toronto event in which he introduced, defended and praised anti-Muslim campaigners Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.”
I personally went to that September 17 event because I accept their right to free expression and wanted to understand their point-of-view. Both appeared to be very strong critics of Islam, but they were not hateful. They used the same Islamic texts that most Islamic organizations, even in the West, use to teach how to live in the 21st century.
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin delivered an introductory speech where he told the stories of three of his best Muslim friends. He simply talked about peace and harmony between various communities and the need for mutual, candid dialogue. But it clearly looks like groups such as NCCM do not believe in candid dialogue.
The NCCM is threatening to sue the Prime Minister’s office because of the spokesman’s remarks. I wonder how they would try to prove the remarks are false in court.
The NCCM announced on their website that, “As of July 6, 2013, CAIR.CAN will be known as the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).”
CAIR, or the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has documented links to Hamas. In July 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis ruled that “The government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR … with Hamas.”
Back on December 16, 2003, then-Board Chair of CAIR-CAN, Ms. Sheema Khan, filed an affidavit in the Superior Court of Ontario in which she admitted that CAIR-CAN was under the direction and control of the CAIR in the U.S.
The NCCM is embarrassing Canadian Muslims by demanding an apology from the Prime Minister. Some media, civil liberty groups and even our opposition party, the New Democratic Party, are acting as if the NCCM represents all Canadian Muslims.
Andrew Cash, a NDP (opposition) member of parliament said in his statement:
“On behalf of the NDP and our leader Tom Mulcair, I would like to express serious concern regarding the comments made by the Prime Minister’s Office addressing the National Council of Canadian Muslims. Muslim Canadians have made innumerable contributions to Canada, enriching our collective cultural heritage and continuing to strengthen our society.”
Cash reacted as if Prime Minister criticized the entire Canadian Muslim community. He assumed that all Canadian Muslims are represented by the NCCM because of its name.
Actually, no Muslim organization in Canada or anywhere else in the world represents all Muslims because Muslims are very diverse with ethnicities, cultural backgrounds and sectarian beliefs. Even though the NCCM are Islamists, they don’t get along with some other Islamist organizations.
There are over 25,000 Ahmaddiya Muslims across Canada. They do not have representation in NCCM. They are not even recognized as Muslims by NCCM and are a target of hatred, even in Canada.
There are roughly over 200,000 Ismaili and Shia Muslims in Canada. There are close to a half-million Sufis. There are many Muslims who are progressive but silent. They are not represented by NCCM.
Even our Prime Minister has overlooked this reality. He should have included those Canadian Muslims who are fighting anti-Semitism in his delegation to Israel – there are plenty to choose from. There’s my group, the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations. There’s the Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, the Progressive Muslim Institute Canada, Project Ijtihad, the Canadian Muslim Council for Interfaith Harmony, the Muslim Committee Against Anti-Semitism, and more.
Each of these groups represents different pockets of the diverse Muslims within Canada. That is part of the beauty of Canada.
Tahir Aslam Gora is the Secretary-General of the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations, an author and journalist. His interview with the Clarion Project details his anti-Islamist activism.
Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III with his wife
I can't believe I'm writing these words: Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III is going on trial - again.
Twice, Hutchins' conviction by a military court martial for unpremeditated murder in Iraq has been overturned due to factors precluding a fair trial. That means that twice, following Hutchins' initial conviction in 2007, he has been released from the brig a free man.
After his conviction was overturned the first time, there were eight months of freedom in 2010. Then, on the day his wife Reyna found out she was pregnant with their second child, Hutchins, a third-generation Marine, returned to prison.
Last summer, the military's highest appeals court overturned his conviction a second time. For the past six months, Hutchins has been living with Reyna and their two children, Kylie, 8, and Aidan, 2, while teaching marksmanship at Camp Pendleton. A new baby is on the way. Now, he - and they - must prepare for a new trial, his third. Why?
This twisting story with serial breaking points goes back to the night of April 26, 2006, somewhere in the Sunni Triangle west of Baghdad. Remember the Sunni Triangle? This was the pre-"surge" center of insurgent operations against our forces, who were daily coming under attack, usually by roadside bombs, or IEDs.
They were also daily encountering the insurgents behind these IED attacks, capturing "high-value targets," and then being ordered to set them free again. Sometimes there was insufficient "evidence" to hold them. Often, there was no jail space. Remember the bad old days of "catch and release"?
Saleh Gowad was one such official "high-value target," the mastermind behind a series of IED attacks decimating U.S. ranks. According to previous court testimony, Gowad had been caught and released three times by that April night in 2006 when Hutchins' eight-man squad was on the hunt for him.
The plan to kill him, according to the Los Angeles Times' recent recap of Hutchins' case, was "developed as a warning to other Iraqis not to attack Marines with sniper shots or buried roadside bombs."
The squad, later known as the Pendleton 8, kidnapped and killed the wrong Iraqi man and then faked evidence that he had been caught digging in an IED. Nonetheless, the Times points out, in the months following the incident, "attacks on Marines in the region dropped."
Strange. Or not strange. The identity of the killed Iraqi remains contested, along with a shocking number of other clues to this "crime scene." Or maybe not shocking. This was, of course, a battlefield. And it was a battlefield gone wrong, spinning out of U.S. control due to the fundamentally flawed, ultimately failed Bush counterinsurgency strategy of "nation-building" in Iraq.
Seven of the Pendleton 8 were out of prison by 2007, with none of them serving longer than 18 months. After a botched defense, squad-leader Hutchins, however, drew a 15-year-sentence, later commuted to 11 years. Babu Kaza, Hutchins' appellate attorney, has long contended that had Hutchins received a fair trial to begin with, he would never have been convicted of unpremeditated murder, or received more than a time-served sentence.
By now, Hutchins has served more than six years behind bars. Former Marines such as author Bing West have urged the military to drop the case and let Hutchins go free.
But no. Six years is not enough for the Marine brass. In their decision to re-try Hutchins, they seem less to be seeking justice than re-enacting a version of catch-and-release; or, in this case, release-and-catch. Release Hutchins, then catch him again. I call that cruel and unusual punishment.
Why is the Marine Corps doing this? And why now? A Marine spokesman speaks of the seriousness of the charges against Hutchins but sounds unconvincing. Meanwhile, hanging over this case is the specter of undue command influence that goes back to public comments Navy Secretary Ray Mabus made about Hutchins in 2009.
The Navy Secretary, of course, oversees the Marines. For related reasons, Hutchins recently requested a defense team and military judge from outside the Marine Corps.
The majority opinion that overturned Hutchins' conviction last summer didn't address the issue of undue command influence, but one of the appellate judges ruling in Hutchins' favor highlighted Mabus' comments as "disturbing and inappropriate."
The same words might be used to describe this dogged prosecution. It has ground on, even as literally thousands of Iraqi and Afghan detainees -- men who killed many Americans -- have received clemency, many from U.S. commanders. Why not some clemency for our own -- Hutchins and the rest of the veteran-prisoners of Iraq and Afghanistan known as the Leavenworth 10?
The question goes unanswered, the silence juxtaposed this week with another round of Taliban releases from Afghanistan jails and the president's promise to close Guantanamo Bay.
There is even more to the Hutchins case than is widely known. Last year, it came out that not long after Mabus' 2009 comments, Reyna Hutchins received word from the FBI that she was on an Al Qaeda hit list. So, too, was Tom Bolinder, a founder of the Military Combat Defense Fund, which has helped defray Hutchins' legal expenses.
The list was drawn up by Paul Rockwood Jr., an American convert to Islam and follower of the late jihad-imam Anwar al-Awlaki. Rockwood would be featured in Al Qaeda's Inspire magazine. Fearful months passed before Rockwood's capture and conviction on terrorism-related charges in 2010. He's serving an eight-year sentence.
Now, the Marines have Sgt. Hutchins in their sights instead. There's something wrong with this picture.
Diana West is a journalist and columnist. Her book, The Death of the Grown Up: How America's Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization was reviewed by Steven Emerson, who said it is "a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why ... many in the West are apologetic when confronted with the excesses of radical Islam and what we need to do to win the War on terror. "
Photo: Andrei Sedoff
Although Canada's diversity is usually touted globally, a clash of rights is now playing itself out.
Even though the struggle for reasonable religious accommodation is not a new issue in Canada, this is the first time that the challenge of religious accommodation at a secular institution of higher education is being noted, and argued, by the media here.
In September 2013, at York University in Toronto, a male student whose religious affiliation has not been revealed, asked to be excused for religious reasons from group work in which women were included. Sociology Professor Paul Grayson did not agree to the student's request; he said it marginalized females (who make up a majority of students at York) and was a sexist stance. The student relented and agreed to join the class. All was quiet until Professor Grayson decided to ask the university "brass" to weigh in. To his surprise, the Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and the Director at York University's Centre for Human Rights said the student's request should be granted.
The case made headlines not only in Canada but internationally, where other Western countries with hugely diverse populations are also struggling with the challenges of competing human rights. There is already a petition supporting Professor Grayson's decision from two activist groups in London, England.
In UK, it has apparently become common practice to separate men and women at some lectures sponsored by Muslim groups. In November, the representative body of Universities [UUK] met with widespread opposition when it issued guidance endorsing gender segregation; it was forced to withdraw its guidance after intervention by Prime Minister David Cameron, who stated that gender segregation should not be enforced on audiences; he added, however, that such an opinion did not apply to worship services.
The UUK recently withdrew its guidance but left open the issue of voluntary segregation. A legal notice issued later, on behalf of a female student in the UK, stated that "gender segregation reinforces negative views specifically about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled."
A poll taken by some media outlets shows that 70% of Canadians support Professor Grayson's decision and would like York University to take back its decision to segregate the classroom -- apparently out fear that if it does not, the precedent might be set for other, possibly unreasonable, accommodation. As Professor Grayson noted in his first response, "Can I assume that a similar logic would apply if the group with which he did not want to interact was comprised of Blacks, Moslems [or] homosexuals?"
He added that segregated classrooms could eventually require York to agree to segregated seating, segregated tutorials and even gender-specific instructors.
Grayson says that decision about this particular case will affect the future of gender equality at universities. If permission for gender segregation is upheld, it will open a Pandora's box for those who will undoubtedly come forward to ask for all sorts of other concessions.
Requests for religious accommodation are, however, already common in many Canadian schools. In October last year, some schools in Ontario said students should not dress up in Hallowe'en costumes because, according to the Niagara School Board, "some families don't participate in Hallowe'en, or can't afford costumes, and are excluded."
At the Valley Park Middle School in Toronto, where the Lord's Prayer was removed from schools many years ago, the principal allowed 400 Muslim students to pray in the lunchroom, with girls made to stand at the back. Educational institutions typically allow Muslim students to have special assigned rooms for prayer, where, if there is gender segregation, it remains within a specific group of people. Some colleges have built footbaths and special places for ablution. There has been no public dissent. Canadians, however, are now starting to ask how far religious accommodation can go before it becomes an impingement on the freedom of others. Although a nuisance, at least for now, it has apparently been viewed as a harmless one. The problem, as Grayson notes, comes later with: Where does it stop?
This issue is troubling at so many levels. Not even one women's group came out to lobby for women's rights or to remind the nation that a decision to support segregation is a slap in the face of equality.
Reasonable accommodation is good when not imposed from the top down. Reasonable accommodation is the multifaith chapel at Toronto airport with a large section for Muslims; unreasonable accommodation is the Muslim airport employee who insists on a separate room allocated only for him or her.
Reasonable accommodation is including Muslim books in the library; unreasonable accommodation is the demand to eliminate the Three Little Pigs from a traditional story. Reasonable accommodation is celebrating our religious holidays with joy; unreasonable accommodation is criticizing others who wish to say Merry Christmas and celebrate their culture, too.
Many of us who come from theocratic and patriarchal countries are wholly dependent on Canada's liberal, secular values of gender equality to maintain our freedom -- which others are working so tirelessly to curtail.
York University's decision to allow gender segregation suffocates and chokes the very values that make this country, and others like it, the great liberal, secular democracy we came here to seek.
Raheel Raza is an award winning author, journalist, and filmmaker on the topics of Jihad and Sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.
This article appeared originally on GatestoneInstitute.org
Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei is a symbol of Iranian inflexibility and deception in dealing with the West. (Photo: © Reuters)
Around 2007, I gave a lecture at the Defense Department. One of the attendees presented a scenario suggesting that the "problem of Islam" was not political but a problem of verbiage.
There was a secret debate happening in the Defense Department and the CIA in which some people thought that all Muslims were a problem, some believed that only Al Qaeda was a problem, and still others thought the Muslim Brotherhood was a problem.
The main problem, however, was that all Islamism was a political threat, but it was the second position that eventually won over the Obama administration. Take note of this: Since 2009, if you wanted to build your career and win policy debates, only Al Qaeda was a problem. The Muslim Brotherhood was not a threat; after all, it did not participate in September 11. This view was well known in policy circles, but it was easy to mistake this growing hegemony as temporary.
Actually, it only got worse.
A Muslim Foreign Service officer recounted how some U.S. officials were trying to persuade the powers that be that Al Qaeda was split from the Muslim Brotherhood. Imagine how horrified he was. Still other officials told me that there was heavy pressure and there were well-financed lobbyists trying to force officials into the idea that Al Qaeda was the only problem. Some high-ranking defense department officials – for example, one on the secretary of defense's level – were pressured to fire anti-Muslim Brotherhood people. I know of at least five such incidences.
I personally was asked to participate in a contract and co-direct a project for the federal government, and my paper was to be on the idea that all Islamists posed a threat. To my surprise, I was told that my paper was rejected.
Shocked, I asked to speak to the two co-contractors on the telephone. Isn't it true, I said on the phone, that I was to have co-direction of this project? The response was, "Yes, it was." By the way, this co-director, who likely became interested in the Middle East in large part because of me, was very rude. I then told him that though the project had originally been my idea, and that I was going to walk away from it and not demand compensation.
In another incident, a high-ranking CIA official posited a paper that the Muslim Brotherhood was not a threat, only Al-Qaeda was, and U.S. policy should therefore depend on the Brotherhood.
In another case, a U.S. official made a statement at a public function that neither Hezbollah nor Hamas posed a threat to U.S. interests.
By 2013, this thinking sprouted in a few people who argued that Iran could be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. The theoretical situation to government officials was thus clear: If you wanted to make some money in Washington, you would have to toe the line that the Muslim Brotherhood was not a threat. If sanctions ended against the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamists, including Iran, this could also lead to trillions of dollars in potential trade deals.
Note that in 2009 and 2010, an attempt was made to build such a model with Syria, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people were being murdered in a civil war.
But Iran was a far more valuable state. In fact, Tehran was a far easier target because it had far more money and could possibly be bought simply by agreeing not to build a nuclear weapon.
The following is what I predicted in my 1980 book Paved With Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran:
United States-Iranian relations could not possibly have been worse in the months following November 4, 1979. From the American point of view, the central problem was obtaining the release of fifty-three American diplomats being held hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran. To the Iranians the capture of the American Embassy and its occupants marked a successful end to one revolution and the opening shots of a second. For Iran, like Russia in 1917, was to undergo both a February and a November revolution–the first a political struggle to unseat the old regime, the second a social, economic, and cultural revolution to build a new Islamic society.
In Iran's case, it was the fundamentalist mullahs and their Islamic Republican Party who were seeking to achieve what the Bolsheviks had done in Russia–monopolize power. Like Lenin, Khomeini would in time turn against moderate segments of the revolutionary coalition and purge their members from positions of authority; like the Bolsheviks, the fundamentalists, once in power, would refuse to compromise with those ethnic movements that had aided the revolution; and like the Leninists, Khomeini's supporters would try to create a totalistic structure, subsuming into their ideological framework all aspects of national life, from the courts to the schools, from the military to the conduct of commerce, and even the daily behavior of the citizenry.
Thus, the United States and Iran, two countries whose friendship had begun with such high expectations and whose relations had included fine moments of selfless cooperation as well as many shameful episodes of corruption and insensitivity, were now the bitterest of enemies.
In 2014, I am convinced that the leadership of the Iranian Islamist regime still feels the same way, just as American policy makers still don't understand that nice verbiage has not changed anything.
Note that President Ronald Reagan sending the Iranians a key-shaped cake –supposedly to symbolize the "opening" of U.S.-Iranian relations – also demonstrated little understanding of Iranian extremism.
A Gulen school in Istanbul. (Photo: © Reuters)
An Islamist cleric who runs a vast media empire and school system can challenge Turkey's Prime Minister from his secure compound near Philadelphia. Why does America harbor Fetullah Gulen, and how did he get his visa?
Many Turkish people are poor, struggling just to pay their electric bills this winter. They eat soup and bread and rarely splurge to buy tea for 1 lira at the local outdoor cafe. Often they work long hours for little money and few benefits.
If they are not a member of the ruling Islamist AKP party, they have little hope of a better job, especially in the government. Those who dare to speak out against Prime Minister Erdogan often end up in prison, including journalists, academics, writers, ex-army generals, and even musicians.
Many of these Turks, who are politically persecuted, dream of coming to America to start a new life in the "Land of Freedom and Opportunity." However, the emigration visa process is difficult and costly. A stack of papers (written only in English), that would challenge an American teacher to fill out, must be completed. At least $2000 must be paid just for the application fees, and various interviews must be held at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.
But if a Turk doesn't have a job or home in America, or at least $10,000 in the bank, he can give up hopes of being accepted. How much of this difficulty in obtaining an emigration visa is because Turks are issued I.D. cards that automatically list their religion as "Islam"?
If America is so afraid of Muslims emigrating, why does it open wide its doors to powerful Islamist clerics like Fetullah Gulen? He was accused of attempting to establish an Islamic state in Turkey in 1999 and somehow managed to flee to America where he directs his vast empire of T.V. stations, newspapers, and even private schools—from his well-guarded, compound-like estate near Philadelphia.
"Gulen has at least 30 million followers, mostly in Turkey," a Turkish man told me. "He has people in the police, judiciary, and even the secret service. No Turkish journalist would dare write anything negative about him. His followers say they are practicing 'hizmet,' or Muslim community service, but they have other agendas."
Indeed, Gulen, a sweet-looking, grandfatherly man who wears a white prayer cap, regularly broadcasts his Islamist T.V. shows (such as Samanyolu TV) into Turkey. His newspaper, Zaman, (published in Turkish and English) is heavily biased toward Islamist thinking. And Gulen is powerful enough to challenge Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan after Erdogan began closing down his private (Hizzmet) schools in Turkey. Gulen's name and comments have been in the world news lately as the corruption scandal and protests rock Erdogan's Ak Party government.
According to some Gulen investigators, "Gülen’s writings from the 1990s contain detailed discussions of how to deal with the Christian world when Muslims are weak and not yet able to vanquish their opponents. 'Make sure you disguise your real thoughts and feelings from them,' he advises his followers; 'if you let yourself known, you will only cause them to triumph.'"
BBC investigated Gulen and observed that he takes large donations from his followers and makes strict rules for teachers in his schools, such as no smoking, alcohol or divorcing. BBC also observed that in 1999 Gulen spoke these words in Turkey (not long before he left for America):
"You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centres. You must wait until such time as you have got all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institution in Turkey."
BBC also noted that "Several of Hizmet's most prominent critics have been jailed in Turkey, sparking claims that it has become a sinister controlling force in its native land. A police chief who wrote a book on Gulen's influence on the police and judiciary was jailed, as were two Turkish investigative journalists. One of the journalists, Ahmet Sik, shouted during his arrest: 'Whoever touches them [Hizmet supporters] burns!'"
However, his official website calls him a "pious peace advocate and scholar." The 72-year-old continues to rule his empire from his Pennsylvania estate, which was picketed by activists this summer.
America should rethink its emigration policy and not let visas to America be bought by power and money. Many poor, politically persecuted Turks would like a chance at the freedom Gulen enjoys. Gulen should be more closely watched in America.
Lonna Lisa Williams teaches English overseas and writes books about surviving cancer, travel adventures, science fiction, and fantasy. You can follow her blog or find her onFacebook, Twitter, and Youtube. She also regularly contributes news articles and photo essays to “Digital Journal” and “Yahoo.”
This article and photo appeared originally on Digital Journal and was reprinted with permission of the author.
Arrested women protesters in a courtroom in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood has continued daily protests agitating for the return of ousted President Morsi. Only now, those who are fighting the police and subsequently arrested are women, often students. With the Brotherhood’s men serving jail sentences or in hiding, women have largely taken over on the frontlines in Egypt.
The presence of women in street protests is a significant change in tactics from the traditional role of the “Sisterhood,” the female division of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood hopes that the police will end up using force against the girls. If women and girls are severely hurt, pictures and videos will be shared worldwide within hours, a huge PR benefit.
One good image of a battered 17-year old on the receiving end of police brutality would generate considerable sympathy worldwide.
Twenty-one women were arrested in October in Alexandria, receiving 11-year sentences each. After protests and appeals, their sentences were eventually reduced to one-year suspended sentences. One such protester was Souhidah Abdel Rahman, aged 13, who was released due to her young age, but older women, such as her mother were initially arrested and detained.
Photos of the girls wearing all white, handcuffed and holding flowers were displayed prominently on the Brotherhood’s website, never to miss a good photo opportunity. Interior Ministry spokesperson General Hani Abdel-Latif said the tactics switch showed the group was “using its last reserves.”
Interestingly, fights have broken out at Al-Azhar University between the newly formed “Al-Azhar Girls Ultras” (supporters of Morsi) and their opponents (supporters of the army), who hate the missed classes, police presence and intrusion into campus life caused by the protests.
The Brotherhood aims to keep up the pressure on the interim government. Even though men still protest (but in proportionally fewer numbers), many are lying low waiting for a change in the public mood, hoping for continued economic problems to work in their favor. Tensions still run very high and flare up into daily violence, clearly showing that the fight for Egypt is far from being over.
The Sultanahmet mosque, known as the Blue mosque, in Istanbul (Photo: © Reuters)
This Thanksgiving we took a much overdue trip to Istanbul, Turkey and I feel compelled to write about what I saw. It was interesting to try and convince my grandsons that the “Turkey” we were visiting was not the same turkey they were consuming!
We had chosen a place to stay at random, and it was a pleasant surprise that it turned out to be in the Old City walking distance from The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
Having come from Canada, it was a balm to our ears to hear the azaan (call to prayer), and we traipsed off in search of the mosque.
We had to walk through the Bazaar and it was interesting to note that not everyone rushed off to pray. Those who wished to worship, did so quietly and others stayed on the sides respectfully while those who were not in the mosque went about their business. There was no feeling of being compelled to pray, and it was a new sensation for those of us who have seen the likes of Saudi Arabia where you are beaten into submission. It also makes sense of the Quranic line “there is no compulsion in religion.”
Next day we had breakfast in the hotel which by the way, served soup, salad and cheeses that kept us going all day on one meal. We met a tourist from Sweden who liked to start and end his day with local Turkish beer. Then I noticed that the corner convenience store also sold beer and raki.
So it was – belly dance and beer exist side by side with mosques and minarets. The person who comes out of the Mosque and the person who comes out of the bar meet but do not collide in the public square. Religiosity is a buzz in the background, not in your face, with no one telling you what to do or not to do – yet.
You can’t tell by looking at anyone where they are from as heels and hijab, short skirts and shalwars (traditional pants), beards and buzz cuts mix and mingle with ease.
People were happy and friendly, especially to Pakistanis which is a pleasant surprise. I kept refreshed on fresh pomegranate juice which gave me energy for the whole day. Topped up with Turkish coffee, Turkish food, Turkish delight and Turkish tea – we were in culinary heaven.
There are beautiful public squares with benches, everyone is kid-friendly, and while it was cold for others, coming from Canada all we could say was what’s cold, eh?
There was a framed photo of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk in the hotel lobby, and the young people who ran the hotel called themselves proud “secular” Turks. The word secular came up many times during our stay.
Our young guide who took us to the Mosque of Ayub Ansari and other sites, mentioned time and again that Turkey is secular. It was also fascinating to note that none of the mosques are lit up or heavily decorated – the old architecture from the time of the Ottomans has been kept as close to the original as possible with no ostentatious additions.
There is a strong Sufi influence even though Sufism also went underground during Ataturk’s reformation towards secularism, but there are enough people who follow the Tareeqas to make it a reality. I think it’s due to the Sufi influence that there is a softness among Turkish Muslims which was inspiring.
However all is not what it seems on the surface. When the rallies started at Taksim square, people thought this was another incident like Tahrir Square in Egypt. Through conversations with Turks both within and outside Turkey, my understanding is that this was different. First of all, Turkey is economically stable and you can see this in Istanbul, so the grumblings of economically deprived masses is not the case.
Secondly, they have had years of being secular and the push back, especially by young Turks was against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s insistence on forcing Islam into the public square.
At first he made subtle moves like putting a ban on stewardesses wearing red lipstick on Turkish Airlines. The response was not so subtle. Every stewardess regardless of age wore bright red lipstick – I like that! I believe the ban was lifted.
But in September this year, two dramatic announcements by Erdogan sent shivers down the spines of many of the country’s secularists. Erdogan annulled a decades-long ban on wearing headscarves in public institutions and ended the daily reciting of the pledge of allegiance in primary schools.
These moves have the potential to alienate Turkey’s minority non-Muslim communities. Turkish researcher Halil M. Karaveli, claimed in a New York Times op-ed that far from helping Turkey’s minority, Erdogan was increasingly playing with sectarian fire. Already from 13 synagogues, there are now only three left.
“Erdogan is turning Turkey into a powder keg in an attempt to shore up his own political base,” Karaveli wrote. “He is intentionally activating the longstanding fault lines separating religious and secular Turks — and most dangerously the divide between the country’s Sunni majority and its Alevi minority. If he continues to do so, Turkish democracy itself could become a casualty of his confrontational policies.”
More recently there was a petition to turn Hagia Sophia into a Mosque, and this has many Turks in a dither.
So Turkish youth come out regularly to Taksim Square to protest what they call Erdogan’s dictatorship and intrusion into their private lives, such as restrictions on personal freedoms, the non-availability of alcohol after 10 pm, the ban on public displays of affection and the “advice” from Erdogan for Turkish women to have “at least three children.”
These young Turks want “freedom” and will continue to lobby for their right to have these freedoms in a secular Turkey.
See ClarionProject.org's interview with Raheel Raza:
Raheel Raza is the President of the Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow(MFT), a non-profit think-tank established with the purpose of bringing together the East and West. She produced a documentary titled, Whose Sharia Is It Anyway? about the debate over ShariaLaw in Ontario, Canada.