Category Archives: Global Issues

The Denial Machine

Watched the ‘Denial Machine’ – very interesting doc on the spin used to convince the public that global warming doesn’t exist.  It was the same spin used by the big tobacco companies…actually some of the same people were involved in both issues.

If you get a chance to see it do so …gives you a glimpse at how easy it is to use language to manipulate and makes you dislike politicians even more.

Watch it here:


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Hot and Steamy

Don’t have enough strength to write…..Hot. Very hot.  I thought I was going to die today.  Would it look very bad if I whipped off my hijab at the bus stop and started fanning myself with it?  I think beyond 33 degrees C. all the rules are out.  It’s every woman for herself.

Anyways someone sent me this the other day.  So instead of actually having to write something original about how the world is enveloped in a strange sort of madness, I figure I’d let someone way more eloquent say it instead…..

Questions for Canadians

Where are the in-depth interviews of moderate, peace-loving Jews, the ones who have struggled for non-violent resolutions to this conflict?    

by Rahat Kurd
July 24, 2006

What are Canadian Arabs and Muslims supposed to think? How are we supposed to feel? The message I’m getting from our government’s refusal to condemn the Israeli bombardment of civilians in Lebanon and Gaza is that we are supposed to feel like barely tolerated scum in the country of our birth.

We are supposed to clutch our passports, weeping and praying over them every night, keeping our mouths shut, and feeling cravenly grateful to be allowed to continue our fear-stunted lives. Already the letters pages of The Globe and Mail and the message boards on its web site are full of hosers snarling resentfully about the waste of tax dollars on rescuing irresponsible whiners who should know better than to holiday in a war zone.

That their own government is complicit in the creation of that war zone in a sovereign country that, until two weeks ago, was an emerging democracy whose citizens had every right to hope for growing peace and prosperity within its borders somehow escapes them completely.

That Canada refuses to demand that Israel stop dropping bombs on civilians in Lebanon so that the Canadians and everyone else who happens to be there can stay safely put is somehow not a problem.

In the past five years there has been a steadily growing clamour in this country about Muslims, suspicions about our origins, harsh questions about our lives and loyalties, increased profiling by police, relentless scrutiny about our religion and its supposed violent teachings.

Politicians and public commentators have demanded that Muslims in Canada perform continual and vigorous acts of disavowal and condemnation whenever innocent people have been deliberately targeted by their alleged co-religionists anywhere else in the world. Muslim groups and community leaders have agreed, obediently and promptly issuing clear denunciations of bombs that have been set off in the name of some pathological version of Islam.

Now Israel is deliberately targeting civilians; hundreds are already dead. I know that many members of the Jewish community abhor this violence.  I have stood with them at anti-war rallies in the past. Why do our mainstream media ignore their voices in favour of the intractable hardliners who have nothing original to say? Where are the in-depth interviews of moderate, peace-loving Jews, the ones who have struggled for non-violent resolutions to this conflict? Where are the front-page quotes of their shame and outrage at the collective punishment inflicted on Lebanon and Palestine?

Where, furthermore, are the profiles of Jewish peace activists who have faced threats and censorship and accusations of being self-hating Arab-lovers from within their own religious community? Why won’t our national newspaper support their courage and vision, publish their writings, report extensively on the genuine peace-building work they have done with Canadians of various denominations who want a just peace for all people?

How long are we to go on tolerating this culture of fear that surrounds the topic of Israel? Israel is not a god or a religion. It is a nation-state. Therefore, it is made up of fallible human beings who make stupid and awful decisions with specific, horrible and real consequences. I insist on my right to say this out loud in Canada, as rigorously as I decry the sickening human rights abuses committed by the regimes of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The case of Israel is not special. Its oppression of Palestinians and theft of their land are not complicated. Rhetorical fights about land and resources and who gets to live on them ought to happen on level ground in this country, in the open air.

Our politicians and public commentators have become very fond of reminding Canadian Muslims that secularism and freedom of expression are inviolable governing principles of this country. These same individuals are so afraid of invoking secularism and freedom of expression when they talk about Israel that, since the bombardment of Lebanon began, my anger at their hypocrisy has turned into pity.

I feel sorry for these influential men and women, enjoying privileged access to public opinion in one of the most fortunate nations on earth, who debase their own moral sovereignty suppressing their own ability to speak plainly about what is right and wrong  in order to be seen and approved among those who stand with Israel.

No woman ever submitted to the smothering burka of a tyrannical theocracy as meekly and willingly as these free and democratic Canadians censor themselves. It must be awful to be so oppressed.

Rahat Kurd is a writer in Vancouver.


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War is not nice

The killing of civillians during times of war always seems to shock the world.  It’s like we assume that when two countries decide to drop bombs on each other, they will work assiduously to avoid children, the old, the infirm etc…  The truth of the matter is that when people have reduced their humanity to the point of picking up a gun to solve their differences they are beyond caring about who they hit.

The point of war is to win.  It is to drive your enemy into the ground by any means necessary.  War means death and destruction – dealt out by the strongest of the two armies.  When has it meant anything else? 

So there is no shock for me when I see the Israelis have decided to try to win this little war by dropping bombs on the most vulnerable of populations….children. 


Indiscriminate Bombing in Lebanon a War Crime

(Beirut, July 30, 2006) – Responsibility for the Israeli airstrikes that killed at least 54 civilians sheltering in a home in the Lebanese village of Qana rests squarely with the Israeli military, Human Rights Watch said today. It is the latest product of an indiscriminate bombing campaign that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have waged in Lebanon over the past 18 days, leaving an estimated 750 people dead, the vast majority of them civilians.

“Today’s strike on Qana, killing at least 54 civilians, more than half of them children, suggests that the Israeli military is treating southern Lebanon as a free-fire zone,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. “The Israeli military seems to consider anyone left in the area a combatant who is fair game for attack.”  
This latest, appalling loss of civilian life underscores the need for the U.N. Secretary-General to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law in the context of the current conflict, Roth said. Such consistent failure to distinguish combatants and civilians is a war crime.  
A statement issued today by the IDF said that responsibility for the Qana attack “rests with the Hezbollah” because it has used the area to launch “hundreds of missiles” into Israel. It added: “Residents in this region and specifically the residents of Qana were warned several days in advance to leave the village.”  
On July 27, Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said that Israel had given civilians ample time to leave southern Lebanon, and that anyone remaining could be considered a supporter of Hezbollah. “All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah,” he said, according to the BBC.  
“Just because the Israeli military warned the civilians of Qana to leave does not give it carte blanche to blindly attack,” Roth said. “It still must make every possible effort to target only genuine combatants. Through its arguments, the Israeli military is suggesting that Palestinian militant groups might ‘warn’ all settlers to leave Israeli settlements and then be justified in targeting those who remained.”  
Even if the IDF claims of Hezbollah rocket fire from the Qana area are correct, Israel remains under a strict obligation to direct attacks at only military objectives, and to take all feasible precautions to avoid the incidental loss of civilian life. To date, Israel has not presented any evidence to show that Hezbollah was present in or around the building that was struck at the time of the attack.  
Tens of thousands of civilians remain in villages south of the Litani River, despite IDF warnings to leave. Some have chosen to stay, but the vast majority is unable to flee due to destroyed roads, a lack of gasoline, high taxi fares, sick relatives, or ongoing Israeli attacks. The sick and poor are those who mostly remain behind.  
The attack took place around 1:00 a.m. today, when Israeli warplanes fired missiles at the village of Qana. Among the homes struck was a three-story building in which 63 members of two extended families, the Shalhoub and Hashim families, had sought shelter. The civilians had taken refuge there because it was one of the larger buildings in the area and had a reinforced basement, according to the deputy mayor of the town, Dr. Issam Matuni.  
According to the Lebanese civil defense and the Lebanese Red Cross, at least 54 civilians, including 27 children, were crushed to death when the building collapsed. Rescue teams were unable to reach the village until 9:00 a.m. because of ongoing heavy IDF bombardment in the area. None of the bodies recovered so far have been militants, and rescue workers say they have found no weapons in the building that was struck.  
Qana was the site of a 1996 Israeli air strike on a U.N. compound sheltering fleeing civilians that killed more than 100 people. Human Rights Watch research established at the time that the 1996 strike was also an indiscriminate attack by the Israeli military.  
Human Rights Watch researchers have been in Lebanon since the onset of the current hostilities and have documented dozens of cases in which Israeli forces have carried out indiscriminate attacks against civilians while in their homes or traveling on roads to flee the fighting. A report of these findings and their legal consequences will be issued later this week.  
Human Rights Watch has also documented Hezbollah’s deliberate and indiscriminate firing of Katyusha rockets into civilian areas in Israel, resulting in 18 civilian deaths to date. These serious violations of international humanitarian law are also war crimes.  
“War crimes by one party to a conflict never justify war crimes by another,” Roth said.

Related MaterialHuman Rights Watch’s work on the Israel-Lebanon conflict
Special Focus

Questions and Answers on Hostilities Between Israel and Hezbollah
Background Briefing, July 28, 2006

© Copyright 2003, Human Rights Watch   

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Shades of Grey

Martijn at Closer has posted something interesting about a picture making the rounds on the Internet.  Like many others, I was shocked at the picture I saw of Israeli children decorating missiles that were destined for targets in Lebanon.  Our emotions being close to the surface as they are these days I as well as many others was quick to judge the picture as being an example of the way hatred was being bred into a new generation of children.

The article below was a reminder for me that we as Muslims should be very aware of the propensity of the media to exagerrate, and tell half truths and outright falsehoods.  How well do we know the blatant disregard for the other side of the story, the human side to the story, the truth of the story?

I’m not saying I believe whole heartedly one version of this picture story over the other.  What I’m saying is I’d rather believe that good exists on both sides of this human conflict, instead of all consuming evil. 

Read the article:

by martijn  Filed under Misc. News, Blogosphere

Lots of trouble in the blogosphere about the picture below. There’s more to it than meets the eye. A nice example of blogjournalism and how it can be done: On the Face :: Putting things in perspective


The photograpers gathered around. Twelve of them. Do you know how many that is? It’s a lot. And they were all simultaneously leaning in with their long camera lenses, clicking the shutter over and over. The parents handed the markers to the kids and they drew little Israeli flags on the shells. Photographers look for striking images, and what is more striking than pretty, innocent little girls contrasted with the ugliness of war? The camera shutters clicked away, and I guess those kids must have felt like stars, especially since the diversion came after they’d been alternately bored and terrified as they waited out the shelling in their bomb shelters.Shelly emphasized several times that none of the parents or children had expressed any hatred toward the Lebanese people. No-one expressed any satisfaction at knowing that Lebanese were dying – just as Israelis are dying. Their messages were directed at Nasrallah. None of those people was detached or wise enough to think: “Hang on, tank shell equals death of human beings.” They were thinking, tank shell equals stopping the missiles that land on my house. Tank shells will stop that man with the turban from threatening to kill us.

And besides, none of those children had seen images of dead people – either Israeli or Lebanese. Israeli television doesn’t broadcast them, nor do the newspapers print them. Even when there were suicide bombings in Israel several times a week for months, none of the Israeli media published gory photos of dead or wounded people. It’s a red line in Israel. Do not show dead, bleeding, torn up bodies because the families of the dead will suffer and children will have nightmares. And because it is just in bad taste to use suffering for propaganda purposes.

Those kids had seen news footage of destroyed buildings and infrastructure, but not of the human toll. They had heard over and over that the air force was destroying the buildings that belonged to Hezbollah, the organization responsible for shelling their town and threatening their lives. How many small children would be able to make the connection between tank shells and dead people on their own? How many human beings are able to detach from their own suffering and emotional stress and think about that of the other side? Not many, I suspect.

So, perhaps the parents were not wise when they encouraged their children to doodle on the tank shells. They were letting off a little steam after being cooped up – afraid, angry and isolated – for days. Sometimes people do silly things when they are under emotional stress. Especially when they fail to understand how their childish, empty gesture might be interpreted.

I’ve been thinking for the last two days about this photo and the storm of reaction it set off. I worry about the climate of hate that would lead people to look at it and automatically assume the absolute worst – and then use the photo to dehumanize and victimize. I wonder why so many people seem to take satisfaction in believing that little Israeli girls with felt markers in their hands – not weapons, but felt markers – are evil, or spawned by an evil society. I wonder how those people would feel if Israelis were to look at a photo of a Palestinian child wearing a mock suicide belt in a Hamas demonstration and conclude that all Palestinians – nay, all Arabs – are evil.

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Darwin’s Nightmare

I just finished watching one of the most depressing documentaries I’ve seen in a while.  Darwin’s Nightmare is a stark film, depicting the Great Lakes region in Tanzania.  A huge fish industry has started up there, exporting hundreds of tons of Nile Perch to Europe.  Many people have jobs that tie directly to the major company that processes the fish for the EU.

The Nile Perch is not indigenous to Lake Victoria though.  It was brought over by a man with a bucket, who I guess felt like seeing what would happen if you transported a foreign fish to a new environment.  Well what happend was that fish, which is huge, ate all of the native fsh in the lake – and those little fish were responsible for eating the algae etc…thereby keeping the lake clean and oxygenated.  Because those fish are gone, the lake is dying.  Now the Nile Perch are eating their own babies, effectively wiping out their own chance for survival.

The EU pays the governement tons of money to keep the industry going.  They are interested only in their exports.  The locals survive on approximately a dollar a day, fishing, gutting, packaging, guarding the fish destined for Europe.  They are too poor to actually buy any of the fish and eat it.  They get the fish carcasses, which they pack into a truck, drive to a market, and stack on wood to dry.  One of the most horrible sights was of maggots crawling all over the fish carcasses as women sorted through them.

HIV and AIDS is part and parcel of any story about almost any part of Africa now.  Street children pack the streets – leftovers from fishing famillies, where the parents died of the ‘virus’, of from a fishing accident (they dive in the lake to chase the fish into nets…there are crocodiles in the lake).  The women are forced into prostitution. The pastor won’t tell his people to use condoms because fornication is a sin and using condoms is a sin…I guess witholding lifesaving information isn’t. 

The children face sexual abuse, smoke up, sniff glue, and dream of becoming teachers.

Famine hits one region of the country and the UN asks for money to provide food for the people – funny because they could just eat the damn Perch if it wasn’t so badly ‘needed’ in Europe.

The farmers are not farming anymore, they are fishing.  What they will do when the fish are gone is unclear.  What is clear is they are not earning enough to eat the fish they are catching.

Russina planes land in the local airport carrying cargoes of ammunition and weapons destined for Angola, Sudan, Liberia, DRC, etc…  They fly out with tons of perfectly filleted fish destined for Europe.

Everyone turns a blind eye to this…the EU says “keep the fish coming…and by the way please make sure you keep European standards of hygiene”, while kids play in the garbage dump and fight over a bowl of rice.

The Tanzanian officials at a Kenyan conference get upset at a film they are shown, that depicts the tragedy that is happening to the lifeblood of the Nile, Lake Victoria.  “Show us the positives too, not just negativity! Why does everyone focus on the negatives only?  We are here to sell Tanzania!”

What can you do but cry?  This is only one town, one region, one country on a continent so big.  And everywhere you turn there are similar stories.  At the end the only thing I could wonder was ‘what would the Prophet do?  I really wonder how he would react, what would he say?  Would he be astonished at the avarice, the greed, the coldheartedness of people?  Would he cry over the small children getting high and then passing out in alleyways?  

The Sufis say this world is an illusion and I know Islam holds answers for everything, and I know it is the only thing that will free your mind and soul so that the tragedies of this life remain the illusion that they are… I know, I know

But looking at the eyes of the men and women and children tonight – I would be too scared to  repeat that to them.  I think the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, might be the only one who would be able to do that.  And he is not here.  So the world spins on its axis and we settle in and wait for it to fall off.


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Norway Dumps Walmart!

Good for them! It is so nice to see a hint of interest in humankind from a government. Imagine what the world would be like if more governments took a stand.


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