The USA Could Use A Little More Little Mosque?

Posted January 22nd, 2011 in Islam by Adrian MacNair

According to CBS anchor Katie Couric, it sure does. The woman recently interviewed Mosque actor Zaib Shaikh about the show and the importance of “normalizing” the public perception of Muslims.

But is that what Little Mosque really does? Not to my mind. In fact, Little Mosque is to Muslims as Dances with Wolves is to aboriginals.

The noble savage is a romanticized notion of what the primitive culture that inhabited North America before the Europeans was really like. But it isn’t all that accurate. Most historians agree that life among native tribes here was brutish, short and rife with wars among other tribes.

The historical revisionist representation of native culture as being something between Kevin Costner’s epic and the anthropomorphic Pocahontas should be more insulting to aboriginals than anything resembling the pre-sixties westerns.

Anybody who has watched Little Mosque on television has grasped that the show is but a caricature of the religion that has come to settle in parts of Canada in growing numbers since the seventies. The so-called normalizing portrayals of Muslims in the show are, in effect, false representations of integration and harmonious blending of cultures that doesn’t ring true.

If anything, Little Mosque is just the kind of fabricated liberal vision of Muslim life in Canada that might appeal to a millionaire television anchor in the United States, insulated as she is from what exactly passes for “normal” here.

Suggesting that it’s a “Muslim version of The Cosby Show” is also inappropriate. Black Americans were never really any different from their white counterparts; that’s one of the more difficult aspects of trying to understand the racist nature of American history. But Muslim “culture”, or what can be extrapolated from it, is just about as polarized to American values as can be.

There’s also an insinuated point behind Couric’s suggestion: Americans are too ignorant about Muslims to really understand anything about their religion or cultural background. To an extent that may be true of just about any alien culture. I suspect Americans don’t know very much about Canadians either, and that seems self-evident every time I watch an American television show involving Canadian themes.

It isn’t that I’m suggesting that Muslims can’t adopt western values or integrate into our society, but that the kind of life presented in the Little Mosque television show are as far from realistic portrayals of that attempt as can be.

But perhaps that’s not the point. It could be that this caricature of a show is merely meant to get people used to the idea of Muslims having a side to them that isn’t presented in the media. That being violent, angry and easily offended. And if so, then Little Mosque is more than over-compensating.

What might be a more useful television show to watch is something like what’s being shown in Afghanistan right now, called “Behind the Mask” (niqab), where women discuss issues that have affected them from behind a disguise that will protect them from retribution.

The show discusses forced marriage, rape, violence and misogyny. Seeing that there are women in the Muslim world who go through this kind of suffering might initially be jarring, but it should also present a fairer depiction of the challenges faced by those living under sharia law. It should also give empathy and solidarity between people in western society and those who have chosen to speak out against atrocities.

The “normalizing” of Muslims will be achieved when such wanton violence and hatred is expunged from these countries. And Little Mosque on the Prairie isn’t going to accomplish that one.

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Posted January 6th, 2011 in Afghanistan, International, Islam by MarkOttawa

Three worth reading:

1) Foreign Policy’sAfPak Channel“:

Salmaan Taseer and the Punjabi Taliban

The brutal assassination of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer by a man in his security detail is being tied to a courageous stand he took opposing the nation’s antiquated blasphemy laws and supporting a Catholic woman, Aasia Bibi, accused of blasphemy.

But there is another important position Taseer has taken that should be emphasized: he was one of very few Pakistani politicians who honestly and openly recognized the existence of the “Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab,” sometimes called the “Punjabi Taliban,” comprised, through the years, of an alphabet soup of sectarian militant organizations: Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) Harkat-ul Mujahideen (HUM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), among others, inspired by an intolerant brand of Sunni Islam called Deobandism [the subcontinental counterpart of Salafism/Wahhabism--more here and here].

This past June, Dawn, a leading English language daily in Pakistan, carried this headline: “Punjabi Taliban are a reality: Taseer.” The governor of the province of Punjab was taking a brave stand because the militants of these groups were born in his state in towns with names such as Bahawalpur and Raheem Yar Khan. But, with attacks on mosques, bazaars and police stations in Punjab, they were also killing his innocent citizens. Aasia Bibi, the Catholic woman sitting in jail for blasphemy, was one of the citizens of Punjab, and the call to kill her comes out of supporters of the Punjabi Taliban.

The best way for Pakistan to honor Taseer is to admit its homegrown militancy and destroy it. America and the West must also recognize that the problem of militancy in South Asia isn’t restricted to Afghanistan or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan. It’s also in the very heartland of Pakistan…

A Facebook page went up hours after the assassination with messages of support for Qadri. One message: “nation hero u win a hearts of All muslim umaah……..Saluteeeee You……..!!!!” (“Umaah” is a reference to “ummah,” or “community.”) It’s not clear if the assassin was directly linked to any militant groups, but his sympathies most certainly would have been with them…

2) Wall St. Journal:

The End of Jinnah’s Pakistan
Governor Salmaan Taseer’s murder raises questions about the future of Pakistan’s Western-educated elites.

Every time you think things can’t possibly get worse in Pakistan, along comes something to prove you wrong. On Tuesday, in possibly the country’s most consequential political shock since the 2007 murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, the 65-year-old governor of Punjab province, was gunned down in an upscale Islamabad market by one of his police bodyguards. The reason: the governor’s plain-spoken defense of Asia Bibi, an illiterate Christian woman sentenced to death under Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws. According to press reports, Taseer’s killer pumped nine bullets into him for daring to call the blasphemy provision a “black law.”

Needless to say, Taseer was right. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws belong more in a chronicle of medieval horrors than in a modern society, let alone one that receives billions of dollars in Western largesse. Since the mid-1980s, blasphemy—including criticizing the prophet Mohammed—has carried a mandatory death sentence. Amnesty International calls the laws “vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced” and “typically employed to harass and persecute religious minorities.” Over the past quarter century, at least 30 people have been lynched by mobs after being accused of blasphemy. Many others have been forced to flee the country. Though Christians make up less than 2% of Pakistan’s population, they account for about half the country’s blasphemy cases.

In a larger sense, however, the significance of Taseer’s murder lies in what it says about the future of nuclear-armed Pakistan [see below]. Carved out of the Muslim-majority provinces of British India in 1947, the country has long struggled to reconcile two competing visions of its reason for being. Is Pakistan, as imagined by its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah—a London-trained barrister with a fondness for pork sandwiches and two-toned spats—merely a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims? Or was it created to echo the far more ambitious formulation of Abul Ala Maududi, the radical Islamist ideologue born roughly a generation after Jinnah: for the enforcement of Islamic Shariah law upon every aspect of society and the state?

Taseer broadly belonged to Jinnah’s Pakistan…

The murder highlights anew the way in which Pakistan’s English-speaking classes resemble a small island of urbanity surrounded by a rising tide of fundamentalist zeal. They have only themselves to blame for their predicament. From independence onward, successive governments—military and civilian alike—have ridden the tiger of fundamentalism out of political expediency, misplaced piety or geopolitical ambition. A statistic from Zahid Hussain’s “Frontline Pakistan” is telling: When Pakistan gained independence in 1947 it housed 137 madrassas. That number has since swelled to about 13,000, between 10% and 15% of which are linked to sectarian militancy (Sunni versus Shia) or terrorism…

3) The Economist:

Pakistan’s increasing radicalisation
Staring into the abyss
Salman Taseer’s murder deals a huge blow to liberal Pakistan

THERE is a small space in which a liberal vision of Pakistan hangs on. It shrank a lot further with the murder on January 4th of a notable progressive politician and critic of religious extremism, Salman Taseer. Even before the assassination, the leading liberal-minded political party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which heads the government in Islamabad and counted Mr Taseer as an activist since the 1970s, was in deep trouble. On January 2nd the PPP lost its majority in parliament when the second-biggest party in the government coalition, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), walked out…

Mr Taseer was the governor of Punjab, a largely ceremonial position in Pakistan’s most populous province, but a high-profile one for all that. He had run a lonely but fearless campaign against Pakistan’s pernicious blasphemy law and was gunned down in broad daylight in Islamabad by one of his own police guards. The smirking killer later said he acted because Mr Taseer’s call for the blasphemy law to be repealed made Mr Taseer himself a “blasphemer”…

Mr Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, may have acted alone—an investigation may get to the root of it. Yet his cause has support in Pakistan. Lawyers outside the court showered him with rose petals. The murder follows a campaign of vilification by the clergy and sections of the press. A broad alliance of the clergy rushed out a statement lionising the assassin. “No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salman Taseer,” said Jamaate Ahle Sunnat Pakistan, which represents the large and moderate Barelvi sect of Islam.

Religious parties do not attract much support at election time—they polled less than 5% of votes in the last ballot, in 2008. However, Ijaz Gilani, head of Gallup Pakistan, argues that it would be a “very serious miscalculation” to judge society’s religiosity by the showing of Islamist parties at election time. Pakistan has a first-past-the-post system, so people vote for one of the mainstream parties that have the best chance of coming to power. It means that both the PPP and, especially, the other main party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N), led by Nawaz Sharif, have a bank of religious-minded voters whom they must be careful not to offend.

Pakistan’s public culture is riddled with hardline views, from the school curriculum to the nightly political talk shows. Meanwhile, as Mr Taseer himself never failed to point out, the state gives succour to violent, extremist organisations…


Great Gaming: Pak paranoia and a WikiHoax

How a nuclear war may begin

Predate: Do you think this sort of, er, context from ace Globeite Graeme Smith (of Taliban reporting renown) is worth reading?

Some analysts expressed hope that the death might ease the in-fighting among political elites, forcing them to confront the broader division between Pakistan’s wealthy urbanites [and the feudal landowners like the Bhuttos] and the poorer, conservative masses. The spot where Mr. Taseer lay bleeding to death could not have been more symbolic of that divide, a row of expensive shops and restaurants known as Kohsar Market. Not far from the presidential palace, it’s one of the rare places in Islamabad that overflows with Christmas decorations during the holiday season [how terribly provocative, eh?], and where stylish cafés rival their European counterparts.

Such places stand a world apart from the village outside Islamabad where Mr. Taseer’s bodyguard reportedly grew up…

Guess he deserved it. But it is true that those few who have effectively ruled the country since 1947 have done a dreadfully dismal job for their people whilst mesmerizing them with the Indian menace.  And one consequence of emphasizing that menace?  A naturally increasing focus on Islam the religion itself (no big deal for Jinnah for whom it simply defined a distinct society) as the essence of Pakistani identity–and hence of what should shape Pakistani reality.  The elites have much to answer for.


The real martyrs? Christians

Posted December 22nd, 2010 in Canada, International, Islam by MarkOttawa


Christian cleansing in the Middle East

Now closer to home for those already effectively cleansed:

Canadians targeted on radical Islamic website
[It's interesting that the word "Christian" is not in the Ottawa Citizen's headline. The National Post, for a fuller version of the same story, omits "Islamic": "Website targets Coptic Christians". A curious example of fair and balanced.]

The RCMP is aware of an al-Qaeda linked website that has posted the names of Coptic Christian Canadians it accuses of trying to “tarnish the image of Islam.”

The names are among hundreds listed on the Shumukh-al-Islam site which is known to support Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization.

In many cases, the citations include photos and telephone numbers, which security experts fear could be used by radical Muslims to inflict harm.

The three web pages of names target Coptic Christians, typically of Arab-Egyptian origin, all over the world.

The RCMP wouldn’t say whether an investigation is underway, but Sgt. Julie Gagnon noted the force would “not hesitate to take action if there is evidence that criminal activity is being committed.”

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service also refused to discuss specific cases, but noted it’s “aware” of certain web-sites that “support or incite terrorist violence” and that it is mandated to “investigate such threats.”

Among those targeted was Canadian Coptic Association media spokesman Samuel Tawadrous.

“They are accusing me and other people of false things,” said Tawadrous who added he is “not afraid.”

“Copt” and “Egypt” have the same Greek root. The Copts in Egypt were recently persecuted as a side-effect of swine flu:

A wave of anti-Coptic feeling prompted the recent mass slaughter of pigs in Egypt, officially sanctioned to stop the spread of swine flu. Many Copts work as rubbish collectors in the big cities, and pigs are used to feed on discarded food and remains. The move appeared to be directed at the Copts while reinforcing the Muslim view of pigs as unclean.

Copts are the oldest and largest Christian community in the Middle East. Representing between 10 and 20 per cent of Egypt’s population of 80 million, they claim descent from the church brought to Alexandria by St Mark during the reign of the emperor Claudius, and call themselves the Church of St Mark. For centuries Copts formed the majority in Egypt, until the advent of Islam in 641…

Where are our progressives decrying Christophobia?


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“Something missing in this picture”

Posted December 17th, 2010 in Canada, Islam by MarkOttawa

A letter sent to the Globe and Mail and (surprisingly?) not published:

Michael Valpy (Young increasingly shunning religious institutions, Dec. 15) writes of an increasing lack of interest in formal religion on the part of Canadian youth.  It is striking that, while he refers to “churches, synagogues and temples”, the words “mosques” and “Muslims” do not appear in the story.


The Grand Mufti and the Nazis–and the NY Times

Posted December 12th, 2010 in International, Islam, united states by MarkOttawa

The Gray Lady has interesting priorities.  Here’s the headline:

Declassified Papers Show U.S. Recruited Ex-Nazis

Then there’s this, starting at the fourth para and not considered worthy of a headline mention:

In chilling detail, the report also elaborates on the close working relationship between Nazi leaders and the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini [see the photos here, plus "The Mufti and the Holocaust"], who later claimed that he sought refuge in wartime Germany only to avoid arrest by the British.

In fact, the report says, the Muslim leader was paid “an absolute fortune” of 50,000 marks a month (when a German field marshal was making 25,000 marks a year). It also said he energetically recruited Muslims for the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military command, and was promised that he would be installed as the leader of Palestine after German troops drove out the British and exterminated more than 350,000 Jews there.

On Nov. 28, 1941, the authors say, Hitler told Mr. Husseini that the Afrika Corps and German troops deployed from the Caucasus region would liberate Arabs in the Middle East and that “Germany’s only objective there would be the destruction of the Jews.”

The report details how Mr. Husseini himself was allowed to flee after the war to Syria — he was in the custody of the French, who did not want to alienate Middle East regimes — and how high-ranking Nazis escaped from Germany to become advisers to anti-Israeli Arab leaders and “were able to carry on and transmit to others Nazi racial-ideological anti-Semitism.”

“You have an actual contract between officials of the Nazi Foreign Ministry with Arab leaders, including Husseini, extending after the war because they saw a cause they believed in,” [co-author of the report] Dr. Breitman said. “And after the war, you have real Nazi war criminals — Wilhelm Beisner, Franz Rademacher and Alois Brunner — who were quite influential in Arab countries.”..

The report, “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence and the Cold War,” grew out of an interagency group created by Congress to identify, declassify and release federal records on Nazi war crimes and on Allied efforts to hold war criminals accountable. It is drawn from a sampling of 1,100 C.I.A files and 1.2 million Army counterintelligence files that were not declassified until after the group issued its final report in 2007…

One photo:

Update: A version of this post is in the National Post’s “Full Comment”:


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Off with their hands and feet! (Anything else? One wonders)

Posted November 24th, 2010 in International, Islam by MarkOttawa

One also wonders what may be being taught in Canada.  From Jonathon Narvey at The Propagandist, good on the BBC, watch the video at the preceding link:

Saudi Style Extremism Taught In UK Schools

Over 40 Saudi-run schools in the UK are going to a back-to-basics approach to academic achievement. Students are taught to chop off the hands and feet of thieves, believe that Jews are descended from apes and pigs and that the British society where they live is at war with Islam…


Headline of the day

Posted November 19th, 2010 in Canada, International, Islam by MarkOttawa

Travel advisory:

IRI warns against Canada travel

IRI’s [Islamic Republic of Iran] Foreign Ministry has warned Iranian nationals against traveling to Canada as the new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping across the North American country.

The ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning Iranian citizens who plan to visit Canada to take precautionary steps.

The statement warns that the wave of Islamophobia in the Western countries has expanded its reach and is claiming new victims as a number of Muslims, especially Iranian nationals, have been deported under different pretexts, while Ottawa actively hinders Iranian nationals who want to seek justice through the Canadian courts, IRIB reported.

Many Muslims, particularly Iranians, are deprived of their social and political rights…

Via Brian Lilley at the Toronto SunAnother headline, from 2007–have things really gone downhill here that fast for Iranians?

Iranians seek refuge in Canada

Predate: Michael Petrou, at his Maclean’s blog, also links to the original story.

Update: What our government says about travelling to Iran:

OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Iran.

Canadians face some risks in Iran. Iranian authorities are suspicious of foreigners, including Canadians, and any behaviour, such as the use of cameras and cellular phones in public places, is misinterpreted. Canadian travellers can be questioned, arrested, and detained for a long period without apparent reason. Canadians travelling alone or beyond conventional tourist sites are particularly vulnerable to such treatment by Iranian authorities.

The ability of the Embassy of Canada in Tehran to provide consular assistance to Canadians who are arrested or detained is very limited. In some cases, Iranian authorities have not permitted the embassy to have consular access to detainees. Canadian travellers should therefore register with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Dual Nationals

The Government of Iran does not recognize the Canadian citizenship of Canadian-Iranian dual nationals. As a result, Iran does not allow the Embassy of Canada in Tehran to provide consular assistance to an Iranian-Canadian in difficulty.

Numerous cases have been reported of a Canadian or dual-national woman being stranded in Iran or mistreated by her Iranian husband or a male member of her family. Women in difficulty should know that the Embassy of Canada in Tehran cannot intervene in family matters.

See Section 8 of this Travel Report for more information on dual nationality…


A non-PC former politician, or, keeping some faith, baby…

Posted November 15th, 2010 in Canada, International, Islam by MarkOttawa

…in Western values and the need to change some others.  Evan Solomon, on CBC News Channel’s Power & Politics, seems a bit flummoxed by Tony Blair–especially on the, er, challenges facing Islam.  Canadian, and American, politicians just do not speak like this.  Video here and here.

As not-too-distant (one might just think) background, a story about how Prime Minister Mackenzie King put it in 1939:

Canadian Soldiers Defend Faith Prime Minister Says

Present Conflict for Freedom of Mind and Soul As Well As Nation


Autres temps, autres…And heck, I’m just an atheist child of the enlightenment. That of which that other religion just might need a bit. One of Mr Blair’s points.

Whilst today:

What certain Muslims want: “self-imposed isolation”

Not much enlightenment there. Almost mediæval one might almost say.



What certain Muslims want: “self-imposed isolation”

Posted November 15th, 2010 in Canada, International, Islam by MarkOttawa

Remember this stems (other than the photo) from our government, not raging “Islamaphobes”:

Islamist groups seek ‘parallel society’ in Canada: report

A newly released intelligence report says hardline Islamist groups want to build a “parallel society” in Canada, which could undermine the country’s social cohesion and foster violence.

The de-classified Intelligence Assessment obtained by the National Post says extremists have been encouraging Muslims in the West to reject Western society and to live in “self-imposed isolation.” The report focuses on groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which do not advocate terrorist violence but promote an ideology at odds with core Western values [their official sites in English here and here respectively, what do they say in Arabic?].

“Even if the use of violence is not outwardly expressed, the creation of isolated communities can spawn groups that are exclusivist and potentially open to messages in which violence is advocated,” it says. “At a minimum, the existence of such mini-societies undermines resilience and the fostering of a cohesive Canadian nation.”

The report was written by the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, which monitors threats to Canada’s national security and is composed of representatives of CSIS, the RCMP, Foreign Affairs, National Defence and other agencies.

It was circulated internally last year after Hizb-ut-Tahrir invited Muslims to a conference in Mississauga, Ont., to discuss the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. A copy of the document was recently released under the Access to Information Act…

An article, their “most read”, from Hizb ut-Tahrir; note the use of the “J” word instead of the “Z” one and draw your own inferences:

The Jewish war machine


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Will the real Mickey I. please stand up? And divers other things, mainly relating to Muslims

Posted November 11th, 2010 in Canada, International, Islam by MarkOttawa

Why, for pity’s sake, did the Mickster ever become a Canadian politician?  From a review in the Times Literary Supplement of a book of Bruce Chatwin’s letters:

…Perhaps the single most wonderful letter in the volume is not by Chatwin at all, but by Michael Ignatieff. After visiting Chatwin near the end when his hypomania was at its peak, Ignatieff wrote a loving farewell note about a visit which left him, he said,

“full of dark and strange thoughts. You seemed in a realm of exultation – extreme physical dilapidation seems to have sent you shooting up into the sky with the angels . . . Over it all hung an unmistakable air of Nunc Dimittis . . . It is quite possible that you experience this apparent frenzy from inside some deep calm . . . But those who love you – and see only the outside – see someone haunted and in breathless pursuit. I’m not sure it is among the offices of friendship to convey my sense of foreboding and disquiet at how I saw you. I may just be expressing a friend’s regret at losing you to a great wave of conviction, to some gust of certainty, that leaves me here, rooted to the spot and you carried far away. In which case, I can only wave you onto your journey.”..

Today the Mickster we see appears little more than a sock-puppet spouting some puerile backroom boy’s sound bytes. A pity indeed. Have I seen a good mind of my generation effectively destroyed? And how can he stand the company he must now keep beats the Patagonia out of me.

More here about William Dalrymple, author of the review. This book of his, From the Holy Mountain describing the increasing decline of Christianity in much of the Levant, is superb. It is telling that Christians in Syria, under a secular Ba’athist regime, do best (more on Christianity and Islam in the Middle East here and here).  Another book of his, The Last Mughal, about the final end of the great Muslim empire in India through the Mutiny, is also well worth the read.

How Christianity is faring elsewhere in the Middle East these days:

“Iraqi Forces Storm a Church With Hostages in a Day of Bloodshed”


Iraqi Christians living in fear as 11 bombs explode in Baghdad, killing five

In a statement the Islamic State of Iraq justified the massacre in the cathedral by claiming that the Coptic Church in Egypt was holding two women who have converted to Islam. It said: “The Ministry of War in the Islamic State of Iraq announces that all Christian institutions, organisations, centres, leaders and followers are legitimate targets for the Mujahedin [holy warriors] wherever they can find them.”..

One awaits the denunciations from imams in Canadian mosques, or from Canadian Muslim organizations.  At least the Globe and Mail has now taken serious notice.

Post just grew.


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