Consultations On Islamophobia Are Not An Alternative To Action

This article was originally published on March 27, 2018 on Huffington Post Canada.

This article was originally published on March 24, 2018 on Rabble Canada.

It’s hard not to feel disappointed that the government’s response to last month’s M-103 report is, ironically, more consultations.  The M-103 report itself was the result of hearings with 77 witnesses. And despite being mandated to finish within six months, the M-103 report took almost a year to complete.  For the religious communities involved, it’s fair to question whether the government really cares to concretely address the problem of Islamophobia and religious discrimination in Canada.

Lest we forget, Parliament’s recent report on religious discrimination was launched as a result of motion M-103, debated one year ago in Parliament.  M-103 itself was motivated largely by an attack on a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, 2017 which left six Muslim Canadians dead.  Motion M-103 and its resulting report were not some sort of “academic exercise” to assess a hypothetical problem.  Rather, Islamophobia and religious discrimination were real problems which clearly were resulting in death, lost job opportunities, exclusion and division in Canadian society.

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The Conservatives' Jerusalem Promise Is Scheer Madness

This article was originally published on March 05, 2018 on Huffington Post Canada.

Last week, news broke that Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital if elected in 2019. Following in United States president Donald Trump's footsteps, Scheer chose to disregard decades of international law and consensus, proclaiming, "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."

It doesn't seem to matter to Scheer that dozens of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have strongly condemned Trump's Jerusalem's decision as "reckless" and "provocative." It also doesn't seem to matter to Scheer that the majority of the world has agreed that altering the status of Jerusalem is unacceptable. Scheer's inflammatory Jerusalem promise lacks the principle and balance that we expect from experienced political representatives.

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In Case You Missed It, Parliament Issued Its M-103 Islamophobia Report

This article was originally published on March 04, 2018 on Rabble Canada.

This article was originally published on March 05, 2018 on Huffington Post Canada.

Given the brouhaha last year around Parliament’s Islamophobia motion M-103, the quasi indifference to its resulting report seems perplexing.  The motion itself repeatedly topped the news last year after initial Parliamentary debates in mid-February.  Yet when the motion’s summary report was issued last month – almost a year later – the most striking upshot was the general apathy.

The media and public ignored the fact that the report recommended that January 29th – the anniversary of the horrific 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting – be designated as a national day of remembrance and action on islamophobia.  This, just weeks after Liberal Quebec premier Philippe Couillard made headlines after siding with Quebec’s sovereigntist and conservative parties in opposing such a move.

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Is Singh’s NDP Prepared to Distinguish Itself?

This article was originally published on February 21, 2018 on Huffington Post Canada.

Coming out of its first policy convention under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh, there are mixed signals about whether the NDP has the will to distinguish itself in Canada’s political landscape.  Squeezed by Trudeau’s charm offensive from the political centre, Singh and his party will need to act decisively if they’re ever going to have the electoral impact of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn or the US’ Bernie Sanders.

As many have suggested, Corbyn and Sanders garnered massive popular support because their ideas were radical enough to inspire new hope.  Becky Bond, an adviser to Sanders in 2016, argues, “When you can actually vote for the things you really believe in, then that really changes everything.”  By comparison, voters can be left flat when politicians suggest incremental solutions to vast global or national crises. 

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When Will Canadians Get The Anti-Islamophobia Measures They Want?

This article was originally published on February 07, 2018 on Huffington Post Canada.

Since 2012, Canada has witnessed a surge in anti-Muslim attitudes and incidents, culminating in the Quebec City mosque attack on Jan. 29, 2017, that left six Muslims dead, and 19 injured. Following the attack, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to support Muslims in Canada and asserted, "We will defend you ... and we will stand up for you."

M-103, a motion introduced last February by Liberal Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid, charged the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to conduct a study on how to reduce or eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia, in Canada. On February 1, nearly two years after almost 70,000 Canadians called on the government to condemn Islamophobia in parliamentary ePetition e-411, the M-103 report and recommendations were finally released to the public.

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Bill 62: Colonialism 101

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This article was originally published on November 10, 2017 on Huffington Post.

Quebec recently passed Bill 62, a discriminatory law that restricts individuals from covering their faces when receiving government services. While many Quebeckers and Canadians across the country have expressed outrage at the blatantly Islamophobic nature of this bill, this Islamophobia is inherently connected to a much larger, disturbing phenomenon – that of colonialism. 

Bill 62 does not exist in a vacuum. Yes, polarizing “Clash of Civilizations” theories and our “War on Terror” political climate have, in recent decades, seemingly sparked an increase in Islamophobia. However, Islamophobia, the racial and religious prejudice directed toward the Muslim “Other”, has deeper roots in colonial practices and discourses that have existed for centuries. 

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Canada Must Learn From Past Arms Sales Folly

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This article was originally published on November 14, 2017 on Rabble.ca and on November 17, 2017 on Huffington Post.

With each passing day, Canada’s sale to Saudi Arabia of $15 billion of light armoured vehicles looks more and more indefensible.  A damning Globe and Mail survey in September confirmed what the media and political opponents had been saying for years: 64 percent of Canadians “opposed” or “somewhat opposed” the sale of arms to a country notorious for its human rights abuses. 

Most Canadians know intuitively the deal was wrong despite government claims that Canada’s export controls are among the most stringent in the world.  Canadians opposed this deal despite being repeatedly reminded that thousands of well-paying jobs in London Ontario would be lost if Canada reneged.  While ex-Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion couldn’t make the connection between light armoured vehicles being used by the Saudis to violently suppress minority Shia protestors, Canadians being surveyed could. 

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Israel is Being Singled Out – For Favouritism

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This article was originally published on September 15, 2017 on Rabble.ca and on September 18, 2017 on The Huffington Post.

This past June, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for “singling out Israel” for criticism.  This is not a new line: the “singling out Israel” accusation is a decades-old tactic that Israel’s proponents use almost any time that Israel is challenged on its human rights record. The rise of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement calling for economic pressure on Israel for its human rights violations has only amplified the use of this evasive tactic.

At best, critics of Israeli government policies can expect to be accused of imposing an unfair standard on Israel; at worst they can face allegations of anti-Semitism for supposedly singling out the country for criticism. For example, during Parliament’s 2016 debate over a motion to condemn BDS, about a dozen Liberal and Conservative MPs toed this fictitious line when they declared, “Israel is singled out from the rest of the world.” In addition, a few MPs actually suggested that BDS supporters are the new face of anti-Semitism because they “selectively condemn Israel.”

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Roger Waters' support For BDS strengthens his anti-war credibility

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This article was originally published on September 11, 2017 on Rabble.ca and on September 12, 2017 on Huffington Post.

Most old popstars end their careers playing arenas in front of aging fans, milking old hits for every cent they're worth.  Long past are the days when their politics were meaningful or relevant.  But Roger Waters, the former front-man for Pink Floyd, is no ordinary musician.  Waters' politics, in fact, still strike fear among some of the strongest political organizations in the world.  All because Waters supports the international boycott of Israel. 

Waters is due to give a series of concerts in Canada next month, and right on cue, Canada's pro-Israel lobby groups have mobilized aggressively to badmouth him.  The hyperbole in these campaigns is astounding.  According to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), for example, Waters "promotes vile discrimination" in a "bigoted campaign" targeting Israel.  It sounds really nasty, until you look at what Waters is actually saying.

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Israel's War Of Textbooks Comes to Canada

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This article was originally published on September 4, 2017 on Rabble.ca.

For years, Israel's apologists have made headlines accusing the Palestinians of using anti-Semitic textbooks.  Recently, the battle came to Canada when B'nai Brith attacked the government's decision to fund the UN aid organization for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), suggesting UNRWA school textbooks demonized Israel.  It is a cynical strategy which grabs headlines when announced, but fails to make the news when such allegations are debunked

When exploring the most recent incarnation of these accusations, it's important to mention a few realities conveniently omitted by Israel's champions.  First, UNRWA has never been in the business of producing textbooks.  Instead, UNRWA schools use the textbooks and curricula of the countries which host the refugees, i.e. the textbooks of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Gaza; and the textbooks of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in those countries.  This is because students who advance in their studies must inevitably sit for local exams.

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