This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Much Ado About "Islamophobia" 

"This fake Islamic hijab is nothing but a political prop, a weapon of visual terrorism. It is the symbol of a totalitarian ideology inspired more by Nazism and Communism than by Islam. It is as symbolic of Islam as the Mao uniform was of Chinese civilization."
"[The hijab] is a sign of support for extremists who wish to impose their creed, first on Muslims, and then on the world through psychological pressure, violence, terror, and, ultimately, war."
Amir Taheri, author, activist, Islamic issues, Toronto

Khawlah Noman, 11,  accompanied by her brother Mohammad Zakarijja and their mother Saima Samad as she recalls a man slicing her hijab as she and her sibling walked to Pauline Johnson Public School in Scarborough on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018.   Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
"I turned around and I saw him with his scissors. I screamed."
"This is terrible and I do not like it. I felt confused, scared, terrified."
"What you're doing [the attacker] is really wrong, you should not act like this, and especially, I'm a kid."
Khawlah Noman, 11, 6th Grade student, Pauline Johnson Public School, Scarborough
This young girl concocted a story that she was beset by a young Asian wielding a knife that he used to slash her hijab. She informed police that she had been walking to school with her younger brother when the attack occurred, leading her when the man withdrew after she screamed, to cross the street to walk within a stream of other students approaching the school. And even so, she said, the man made yet another attempt to slash her hijab once more. When she arrived at school she informed her teacher.

Did no one, the teacher, the school principal, the police who responded, ask for collaboration by witnesses of what the girl had described? Had her brother seen anything amiss; what did he do when he heard his sister scream? As for the other children among whom she had inserted herself only to be attacked for a second time, what did they see and hear? The girl's statement as quoted above appears rehearsed, as in 'especially I'm a kid'.

Any whiff in the public sphere of an incident described as "Islamophobia" gets instant media attention. Bearing in mind that the very presence of purported "Islamophobia" is the Muslim response to the general non-Muslim's perception that Islam is a rather dubious religion of peace when its adherents run about as committed jihadists prepared to martyr themselves taking with them for presentation in Paradise proof they have killed those deserving to die.

What would inspire an 11-year-old girl to portray herself as a social martyr to the threats that boil all around her in Toronto by "Islamophobists" searching out opportunities to prey on innocent little Muslim girls? There is much made of the prevalence of anti-Muslim slurs and actions in society, but are they as serious and as numerous as Muslim communities attest them to be? Was this girl coached in her actions to elicit public sympathy for the plight of Muslims, beleaguered and detested?

According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada hate crimes committed against Muslims have decreased, and on the other hand hate crimes against Jews have risen. This episode of a young girl purportedly being assaulted in Toronto was highlighted in news media across the world. The BBC was right up there, yet a story about a Jewish schoolgirl in Paris having had her face slashed made news only in Jewish publications and the occasional mainstream media brief.

In the United States, according to A. Z. Mohamed, writing in online Gatestone: "Since 1992... anti-Semitic incidents have been higher than those perpetrated against other groups... To this day, the greatest number of reported religion-based hate crimes have been directed at Jews, and the second greatest against Muslims... in 2015... there was a sharp rise in religion-based hate crimes, particularly against Islam and Muslims. Yet even then, Jews were 2.38 times more likely than Muslims to become victims of a hate crime."

As for the United Kingdom, anti-Semitic hate crimes registered at the highest recorded level ever in 2016 with 1,078 offenses, in comparison to 938 events in 2015. According to the Guardian, the Metropolitan Police (MET) recorded "1,260 incidents of Islamophobic hate crime in the 12 months to March 2017" in London alone. And it is interesting to note that the MET's definition of "Islamophobia" is exceedingly all-embracing. To the point where Islamophobia is present when:
  1. Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
  2. Islam is seen as separate and 'other'. It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
  3. Islam is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist.
  4. Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a 'clash of civilisations'.
  5. Islam is seen as a political ideology and is used for political or military advantage.
  6. Criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand.
  7. Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society
  8. Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal.
Nowhere does it mention that most of the attacks committed against Jews are incited by Muslims, a situation which has made life untenable for Jews in France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Austria and anywhere else that Jews have lived for hundreds of years as integrated members of their adoptive society, as a result of a later influx of Muslims to those countries as immigrants, refugees and economic migrants.
In Canada, police reported 20 fewer reported hate crimes than in 2015 against Muslims in 2016 for a total of 139. The decrease in police-reported hate crimes against Muslims was the result of fewer reported incidents in Quebec (-16), Alberta (-8) and Ontario (-6). In contrast, hate crimes against the Jewish population grew from 178 to 221 incidents. Increases were seen in Ontario (+31), Quebec (+11) and Manitoba (+7). Figures supplied by Statistics Canada.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Long, Steep Road to Democracy

"Every week they come [Kabul police] asking for 100,000 Afghanis ($1,500)."
"But this month we finally started rejecting the bribes and this is why they are retaliating."
Malik Ahmad Shah, head, Hotak shura, Banayee, Kabul, Afghanistan

"They came to our home, spewed bullets everywhere, shot my brother in his neck, and dragged him out while he was bleeding to death. He was innocent! Unarmed!"
"They shot him in the neck without even a warning shot for him to surrender."
"Does anything like this ever happen in your country?"
Nawid Hotak, brother of Engineer Hotak, shot to death by Kabul police

"This was unexpected [last week's suicide bombing in Kabul]. We must now investigate whether the bomber came from among them [the Hotak clan] -- that this was revenge."
"Their so-called demonstration on the road was just a typical obstruction technique aimed at preventing us from entering farther into their village. That is perhaps what stopped us from finding the explosive vests that we suspect they possess and sell."
Major General Mohammed Salem Ehsas, Kabul police chief
A suicide attacker blew himself up near a crowd of police and protesters in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 25 others, in the latest deadly violence to bring carnage to the Afghan capital.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant regional affiliate in Afghanistan has certainly been actively involved in suicide bombs in the country's capital. And when a dozen police officers were killed last week in yet another such bombing it was expected that they had been responsible; either ISIL or the Taliban, but ISIL took credit. Maj.Gen. Ehsas failed to be convinced. He felt that the blast that took place where residents of a Kabul suburb had established a roadblock to stop police from entering their main street, was mounted by the villagers themselves.

Previous to that blast a drug bust took place with city police raiding the home of the Hotak family, members of a a Pashtun clan known for selling black market liquor, narcotics and weapons. During the raid, the youngest of three brothers of the Hotak family known as 'Engineer' Hotak was killed. And it was that killing and the confiscation of a cache of illicit goods that Maj.Gen.Ehsas was convinced was behind the bomb blast as police were assembled and stopped from proceeding into the village.

Confiscated items, ranging from heroin to homemade liquor in water bottles, are displayed at Kabul police headquarters after the raid. (Kabul Police)

He felt that the suicide blast occurred too quickly during the impasse between militant villagers and the police, to have been carried out by Islamic State. The spontaneity with which it occurred belied the obvious need for planning, communication, arrival and execution, leaving the only reasonable suspect, in his opinion, to have been a local from the Banayee neighbourhood of Kabul. It was the Hotak clan that clogged the major highway stopping the police from proceeding, and his conclusion seemed logical to him.

Police claim to have discovered two kilograms of heroin, three of opium, over 500 ecstasy tablets, and hundreds of litres of homemade alcohol stored in buckets and water bottles, along with guns and grenade at the home. The police took possession of all of that contraband, and left behind a living room carpet deeply soaked in blood, a metal door kicked in, living room walls pocked from bullets ricocheting about the interior of the Hotak home. The blood was that of Engineer Hotak, smeared down the staircase to the front door.

The Hotaks consign the police display of confiscated goods to an elaborate setup to hide the corruption of Kabul's police. As for the suicide bombing, obviously a militant group took swift advantage of the presence of police. The head of the Hotak shura described how police have been extorting shopkeepers in Banayee since 2014. They had supported Ashraf Ghani who had won the presidency, while the police had given their support to Ghani's rival, Abdullah Abdullah. While at one time Banayee was known with reason to sell drugs and alcohol that is no longer the case.
Nawid and Ziarmal Hotak hold pictures of their brother, Engineer Hotak, 22, who was killed in a police raid in the Banayee neighborhood of Kabul on Thursday. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)

It was the refusal by shopkeepers, said Malik Ahmad Shah, to continue to pay the bribes to the police that led to the raid, the killing of Engineer Hotak, and the display of planted weapons and drugs, 'confiscated' from the home by police. It is generally acknowledged that Kabul's police are corrupt, with bribery and extortion widespread. Maj.Gen.Ehsas went so far as to admit that to be the case. Still, he told a Washington Post reporter, the police raid demonstrates just how seriously the police force takes its Islamic duty to eradicate "mafias" like the Hotaks.

Seems like Afghanistan qualifies as a "shithole" nation, despite its pledges of reform and aspirations to democracy, albeit Islamist-style.

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Another Shithole African Nation

"The program didn't work and my wife and many other people died, either during or after it. Those of us who survived wanted to speak out at the time, but we were too frightened."
"My doctors had told me that herbal cures didn't work. But I thought if I didn't go myself, I might get into trouble."
Nobody ever explained what we were taking, but the medicine gave me constant diarrhea and ... I started getting very sick."
"Whether it was lack of ARVs that killed her [his wife] or the herbal medicine itself, I don't know. But when Mr. Jammeh held a ceremony to celebrate the program's first year of running, I stayed away."
Lamin Ceesay, Banjul, Gambia

"As an educated person, I knew it was all rubbish. But I couldn't say anything against it, even though people were dying, I was attending funerals all the time [2017]."
"[I had] 100 percent confidence in the cure [he claimed in 2007]. It feels as if the president took the pain out of my body."
Ousman Sowe, 64, HIV patient
In this 2007 photograph Gambia's then President Yahya Jammeh, prays while administering his alleged herbal HIV cure to a patient at the State House in Banjul, Gambia, that involves a herbal body rub and bananas. His victims are now seeking preparing a legal case against the now-exiled president. Credit: AP
Mr. Sowe was recruited by Gambia's then-President Yahya Jammeh, to add a tone of scientific respectability to his God-sourced "secret recipe" to cure HIV/AIDS. He had set up his own personal clinic to which he invited HIV/AIDS sufferers so he could miraculously cure them. Mr. Sowe held a degree in public health from the University of Leeds. His British university qualifications conferred respectability on Jammeh's claims, so he was appointed spokesman for the president's clinic and duly praised its miraculous healing power to the media.

As for Mr. Ceesay, he was among the estimated 9,000 HIV-positive Gambians invited to take a place in the HIV "clinic" operated by Gambia's witchcraft-practising dictator who had declared in 2007 he was in possession of a secret recipe revealed to him by the Almighty enabling him to invent his very own miracle cure for HIV. The sole qualifier for those invited to his clinic was that they must surrender their use of conventional medication, and stop taking the antiretrovirals that were prescribed, instead the sole prescription they would ever need was the yellow herbal concoction of President Jammeh.

Professionals in the field of medicine derided and condemned the Gambian President's claims as sheer quackery but that didn't stop him from promoting it. He was a dictator, after all, and who among his population would dare defy him? So when Mr. Ceesay was invited along with other Gambians who were similarly conscripted into the treatment program they complied. Now, the survivors are taking legal action against the man who is no longer president.

He is now in exile in Equatorial Guineau where he has been for the past year. The regional Economic  Commmunity of West Africa States threatened they would remove him by force, urging him to step down from the presidency peacefully. Evidence of widespread abuses that took place during his 22 years in office is being collected by human rights groups. That evidence is inclusive of torture, killings and bizarre "exorcisms" where people were force-fed hallucinogenic potions to make them confess to practising witchcraft against Jammeh.

It was, however,  his shamanic HIV cure that has attracted the most virulent accusations. The secret herbal recipe given to him by God that instead made people more ill and ended up killing them is what has been attracting the most attention. He had gone to the Santa Yalla Society, a Gambian HIV support group where Ceesay worked, asking for volunteers to engage in a six-month course of treatment at his hands.

Ceesay and the cohort with him were to avoid smoking, caffeine, soft drinks or sex and were twice a day given bitter-tasting greenish-yellow liquids while the president massaged a green paste on their bodies, all the while uttering prayers. Bodyguards prevented anyone from leaving until the course was completed. In time Ceesay became critically ill, was taken to a hospital and a doctor who had previously known him commented he was barely recognizable, a mere skeleton of his former self.

Once discharged from the clinic his regular doctors got him back on ARVs, but his wife, also on the president's sham program, had died. AIDS-Free World, an advocacy group based in the United States, has plans to bring criminal and civil cases against the former president. With the knowledge that rulings may be unenforceable in Equatorial Guinea, Paula Donovan, the group's co-director believes legal action will encourage other patients to come forward, and that ultimately Jammeh will be put on trial.

There are African countries which stand out for their horrible dysfunction, countries such as Sudan with its Darfur atrocities, countries like Rwanda where the Hutu massacred the Tutsi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo where mass rape used as an especial instrument of war, represent the most visible horror stories, atop the failures of Somalia, Nigeria with al Shabaab and Boko Haram, and south Sudan to name but a few where sectarian, tribal, clan and ethnic violence is so commonplace.

I very rude parlance, they are shithole countries where their people suffer degradation, privation and lack of human rights.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Splitting Ethical and Moral Hairs

"[Was this the most egregious example of unethical behaviour by a politician she had to deal with as ethics watchdog?]"
"No. It was the most noticeable one [because it represented the first of their kind regarding a sitting prime minister.] It was an error made, a miscalculation. It was highly noticeable because he was the prime minister."
"I’m not of the view myself that more stringent penalties are required… in my view, publicity and the test of reelection make up the appropriate form of redress. The publicity is bad enough."
Mary Dawson, retired Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner

"An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women's rights by removing rights to abortion and the right for women to control their own bodies is not in line with where we are as a government, and quite frankly where we are as a society."
"Of course, you're more than allowed to have whatever beliefs you like. But when those beliefs tend to actions determined to restrict a woman's right to control her own body, that's where I, and I think we, draw the line as a country. And that's where we [the Trudeau government] stand on that."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fields a question at a town hall meeting in Lower Sackville, N.S. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.   Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press

The prime minister who celebrates himself as a 'feminist' also enjoys hob-nobbing with prestigious and wealthy elites, alternating that propensity with his attraction for dictators whose governments are able to mandate what the people will adhere to, through a social contract of their devising. The ethics commissioner was asked by the opposition parties in Parliament to look into the matter of the Trudeau family spending $100,000 of taxpayer funding to take a Christmas holiday on the private island of the Agha Khan.

The complication here is a prime minister accepting favours and gifts from those for whom decisions taken by the Government of Canada can be profitable. The Aga Khan has ongoing official business with the government in seeking funds for a number of projects. The Aga Khan Foundation itself is registered to lobby the Office of the Prime Minister; ergo the prime minister is in a position to 'help' the Aga Khan. The ethics commissioner found that gifts accepted by Justin Trudeau and his family were unethical.

The prime minister's response was to declare regret for the "mistake" made in not having "cleared" free and costly vacations he decided to take, with the ethics commissioner. He was rebuked, and faced no penalties, thanks to the generous interpretation the ethics commissioner took on the matter, that the fallout from his 'error' might convince voters that this man lacked critical judgement. She did conclude that Trudeau had violated four provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act.

She also coincidentally found that Trudeau should have chosen to recuse himself from attendance at two meetings with the Aga Khan Foundation focusing on a $15-million federal grant to benefit the endowment fund of the Aga Khan's Global Centre for Pluralism. A most inconvenient finding, but one that the prime minister appeared to have no problem with, distancing himself from the issue with the promise he would do better in future.

This is the same man who has imposed upon Canada's religious communities a pledge not to reject a woman's right to abortion should they wish to access tax funding allowing them to hire students in multifarious projects benefiting society. Orthodox religious institutions take a stance on abortions and access to abortions, regarding these procedures as offensive to god, and unsupportable by their scriptures.

A majority of Canadians, on the other hand, support a woman's right to abortion. Yet evangelical Christian groups and the Roman Catholic Church advise their members against abortion. To further complicate matters, Canada has no law either pro- or -con on abortion. It is generally accepted within society that abortion is a legal procedure where once it was seen as illegal with criminal penalties attaching to the issue. We live in a more enlightened time in society, quite obviously, but one that has no need of forcing those who are 'pro-life' and anti-abortion to accept the freedom to choose.

This is their prerogative in a liberal Democracy, with guarantees to freedom of religion under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This Liberal-led government of Justin Trudeau has taken it upon itself under his direction to make it mandatory for all groups wishing to qualify for grants to hire summer students, to agree that they support a woman's right to abortions. They have appended an 'attestation' of abortion rights to all registrations for such grants; without checking off the 'attestation' box their registration is nullified.
"In terms of church groups that are concerned that this may invalidate them from funding, in fact, my perspective is that it won't, as long as their core mandate agrees with those hard won rights and freedoms that Canadians expect us to stand up for."
"We think this is a fair process. [Faith groups should be fine checking the box if] their core mandate is actually, for example, administering the word of God, or administering spiritual guidance for people ... These are the kinds of things that, if you look at the core mandates of faith groups, that they talk about."
"We're working very closely, as I said, with faith groups to make sure that they understand that as long as their core mandate is not in violation of Canadian human rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it's not violating a woman's ultimate right to control her own body, that they should have absolutely no problem receiving grant money, provided they, you know, fill out the application properly [by checking the attestation]."
Employment Minister Patty Hadju

"[The attestation] seriously undermines the right to religious freedom since the Government of Canada is directly limiting the right of religious traditions to hold, teach and practise their principles and values in public."
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Zohra Surani, 21, left and Melinda Cuffy, 23, pour over job listings at the Summer Jobs Services Centre at 511 Richmond Street West in downtown Toronto.
Zohra Surani, 21, left and Melinda Cuffy, 23, pore over job listings at the Summer Jobs Services Centre at 511 Richmond Street West in downtown Toronto.    Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail
Catholic, evangelical and other religious groups argue that the new attestation on the Canada Summer Jobs grant application is unprecedented, unfair, and possibly illegal. That forcing applicants to attest to their views on abortion while applying runs counter to their human rights, and their rights to equality of treatment and freedom of expression and religion guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Their concern extends to the possibility of the attestation appearing on other government grants and programs as well.

The Charter protects freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and religion, and guarantees the  freedom to be treated equally under the law. Moreover, an anti-abortion group in Toronto has filed a Federal Court case to argue their Charter rights are being violated through the application of this attestation -- and though they are the first to do so, they will not be the last. This government's coercive attitude contrasts sharply with the perceived freedom of the prime minister to believe anything he does personally is beyond criticism.

Some 70,000 placements for students are funded by the summer jobs grant program on an annual basis. A grant system that has been relied heavily upon by religious groups operating summer camps, daycares, drop-in centres and other public service programs of value to society at large. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada along with the Canadian Council for Christian charities state complaints have been pouring in from groups who feel insecure in applying, or are uncertain what agreeing with the attestation will result in.

Some have resorted to their own devices by forwarding their grant applications and substituting the government attestation with one of their own devising, guaranteed to be rejected while upholding the principle of supporting a procedure they reject, as is their right.

The Canadian Press/Fred Chartrand
Thousands gather on Parliament Hill for the March for Life rally in Ottawa on Thursday, May 11, 2017.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

 Cracking Down on Pyongyang

"We will be discussing with our partners and allies the kind of steps that we can take on maritime interdiction and to be disrupting funding and disrupting resources."
"And maritime interdiction helps us to disrupt resources and then the financial side helps us to disrupt the financing of their nuclear and missile program."
"This ministerial [conference] will enhance and strengthen all of the efforts underway to achieve our policy goals."
"China has the same policy goal in terms of ensuring that North Korea does not become a nuclear-weapons state and acquire the means to deliver a nuclear warhead."
Brian Hook, director of policy, U.S. State Department

"The current situation in the Korean Peninsula is very complicated and sensitive."
"All parties should work to defuse tensions and promote dialogue, rather than blindly resort to pressure and isolation."
Lu Kang, Chinese foreign ministry

People watch a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year's speech, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 3. Ahn Young-joon / AP
Next week in Vancouver the 17 countries that deployed troops as part of the United Nations alliance between 1950 and 1953 during the Korean War will be sitting down together as invited participants to discuss North Korea's recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests. It transpires that the co-hosts of the conference, United States and Canada, failed to find it a requirement to invite two critical players; China and Russia.

At the Vancouver meeting, emphasis will be placed on finding ways of cracking down on the smuggling and money-laundering schemes Pyongyang has resorted to in its efforts to sidestep sanctions, and to enable it to afford its costly nuclear program. There can be little doubt that neither Russia nor China would be amenable to such a move, just as there is little doubt that China has acted as an enabler to North Korea in its smuggling and money-laundering, irrespective of the fact that China does have concerns over Kim Jong-un's propensity to destabilize the region.

This is a gamble for China. It looks forward to a controlled regional destabilization in the sense that all eyes have pivoted to North Korea. All of North Korea's neighbours, from South Korea to Japan, the Philippines and even Australia are riveted to the activities, actions and threats emanating from Pyongyang. In the process, that anxiety takes attention away from Beijing, with its 'distractions' in its expansionist agenda in the South and East China Seas. With bated breath being expended on North Korea, China's plans go unheeded and unimpeded.

The purpose of this meeting of allies and think-alikes is to approve of and strengthen a "maximum-pressure campaign" to deter North Korea from its intransigent determination of achieving its nuclear-ballistic coupling agenda. Russia and China have been suspected and accused of exporting oil to North Korea, representing a violation of UN sanctions, though both have denied the charges. Obviously, the maritime trade and smuggling aids North Korea's survival and weapons development.

There are those who question the kind of progress that can be achieved in the absence of the two nations representing North Korea's key neighbours, both influential in their capability to exert their own pressure on Pyongyang, and both to a degree concerned about the explosive nature of the North's program and aspirations. Both understandably curious about how this will impact on the United States, the global giant they each still marginally defer to, while witnessing its diminishing global influence.

2017/10/13: Ships by the Yalu River near the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge in Sinuiju North Korea.
2017/10/13: Ships by the Yalu River near the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge in Sinuiju North Korea.  Photo by Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket via Getty Images

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