Why American Sikhs Think They Need A Publicity Campaign : NPR

Given Canada’s large Canadian Sikh population, likely more awareness, but polling shows fewer Canadians view Sikhism positively compared to other religions, save Muslims and Mormons:

Nearly 60 percent of Americans admit knowing nothing at all about Sikhs. That lack of knowledge comes at a deadly cost. In the wake of recent incidents from the 2012 Oak Creek Massacre to a shooting of a Sikh man in Washington this March, the Sikh community is taking a more vocal stand against hate.

This month, the National Sikh Campaign, an advocacy group led by former political strategists, launched a $1.3 million awareness campaign, “We are Sikhs.” Funded entirely by grass-roots donations, the campaign’s ads will air nationally on CNN and Fox News as well as on TV channels in central California — home to nearly 50 percent of the Sikh American population — and online.

Some young Sikhs like Sabrina Rangi, a medical student at Michigan State, are optimistic about the potential impact of the campaign. “I think after years of struggling to find the right words, this campaign is getting it right,” says Rangi. “This initiative embodies everything that Sikhism represents, especially its emphasis on shared values and equality. I see this practiced in the gurdwara, where all of the participants sit together on the floor, beneath our holy book, to symbolize that regardless of gender, race or social standing, we are all one.”

Founded over 500 years ago, Sikhism is a monotheistic religion centered on the teachings of 10 spiritual gurus. Guru Nanak, the founder of the faith, rejected India’s caste system and declared all human beings equal. During Guru Nanak’s time, Indian women were considered property with little social standing. Nanak denounced the sexism of the day by proclaiming women equal and encouraging them to participate in all aspects of the gurdwara, or Sikh temple.

The 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, also promoted the principle of equality. During his time, family names signified social status and caste. To break this tradition, Guru Gobind Singh gave all men the last name “Singh,” meaning lion, and women the name “Kaur,” meaning princess. Sikh turbans, the most visible symbol of the faith, are also a rejection of hierarchy of the caste system. Worn historically by South Asian royalty, the Sikh Gurus adopted the practice of wearing the turban to demonstrate a public commitment to maintaining the values and ethics of the tradition, including service, compassion and honesty.

But the turban’s symbolism is lost on most Americans. According to Ahuja, “Our turbans, which are often perceived as symbols of extremism, are actually representations of equality.” Following Sept. 11, images of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida associates wearing turbans circulated frequently in the media. Heightened national fear in combination with poor awareness of America’s Sikh community has often made Sikhs the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Valarie Kaur, a Sikh civil rights activist and lawyer, warns that violence against Sikhs is not only cases of mistaken identity. Attacks against Sikhs in the United States pre-date the Sept. 11 attacks. In 1907, a group of Sikh immigrants were driven out of town by xenophobic mobs during the height of the American nativist moment. Whether 1907 or today, according to Kaur, “it appears to matter little to perpetrators of hate crimes whether the person they are attacking is Sikh and not Muslim. They see turbans, beards and brown skin and it is enough for them to see us as foreign, suspect and potentially terrorist. It’s time to retire the term ‘mistaken identity.’ It’s a dangerous term, because it implies that there is a correct target for hate.”

Source: Why American Sikhs Think They Need A Publicity Campaign : Code Switch : NPR

Religion Could Be More Durable Than We Thought : NPR

Part of the uniqueness of America:

Here is a proposition that may seem self-evident to many people: As societies become more modern, religion loses its grip. Superstition inevitably gives way to rationality. A belief in magic is replaced by a belief in science.

Sociologists call it the “secularization thesis.” In 1822, Thomas Jefferson suggested an early version of it, predicting that Unitarianism “will, ere long, be the religion of the majority from north to south.”

Some data from modern countries support the thesis. Fifty years ago, about four of ten children in England attended Sunday school. Today, it’s only about ten percent. In the United States, just five percent of the population in 1972 reported no religious affiliation. By 2016, one out of four said they were unaffiliated.

Recent research, however, has suggested that religion is more durable than was previously thought. While church attendance has declined sharply in western Europe, secularization has been less evident in the United States. The number of Americans who list their church affiliation as “none” has certainly increased, but more than 70 percent still identify generally as Christian.

A study released this week by the Pew Research Center on the relation in the United States between religiosity and educational attainment (one component of modernization, along with technological change and others) at first glance appears to support the secularization thesis: The more education people have, the less religious they are.

“College graduates are less likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty,” noted the lead Pew researcher, Gregory Smith. “They are less likely to say that religion is very important in their lives. They are less likely to say they pray regularly, and college graduates are more likely than others to identify themselves as atheists and agnostics.”

A closer look at the data, however, offers a more nuanced picture. While highly educated Jews tend to be less observant than less educated Jews, the relation between education and religiosity is weaker among those Americans with a strong Christian identity.

“Highly educated [Christian] adherents are just as religious, in some cases more religious, than their fellow members who have might have less education,” Smith said. Among mainline Protestants, for example, college graduates were actually found to be more likely than non-college graduates to report weekly church attendance. Regardless of their educational attainment, these Christians find meaning in their church experience.

The sharp rise in the number of Americans who report no religious affiliation may also have an explanation that is unrelated to secularization. Research by Philip Schwadel at the University of Nebraska suggests it may simply be that it was less acceptable 50 years ago to identify as religiously unaffiliated than it is today.

Schwadel and others also argue there are significant differences between the United States and Europe when it comes to the process of secularization. In Europe, organized religion has generally been associated with governments to a far greater degree than in the United States. As a result, anti-government sentiment may have been more likely in Europe to produce antagonism toward the church. Government support for religion in many western European countries may also have weakened the vitality of those church communities.

“When a state creates a relationship with a religion, religious leaders no longer have the same impetus to go out and get people excited,” said Schwadel. “They get money from the state through taxes, so they don’t have to collect money from their congregants.”

In the United States, by contrast, religious leaders have to “hustle” more, Schwadel said. “They need to get more congregants if their church is going to survive.” Perhaps as a result, Americans are more committed than Europeans to their church congregations.

The notion that religious belief and practice have evolved with modernization does remain broadly accepted. As literacy has increased and scientific knowledge has advanced, supernatural explanations for developments in the natural world have become less important. Religion has nevertheless survived, Schwadel argues, because it plays a variety of roles.

“Religion provides people with a lot more than just explanations for the natural world,” Schwadel said. “It provides community. It provides them with friends. It provides them with psychological support and economic support. It provides a lot more than simply an understanding of where they are in the world in relation to the afterlife.”

A 2016 Pew study found that more Americans reported growing feelings of “spirituality” even while saying they were less attached to organized religion. To the extent that churches respond to that need, they will presumably have better prospects for survival.

The question facing religious leaders and sociologists of religion is whether modernization will eventually lead to secularization in the United States and other countries, just as it has in western Europe. Some argue that a diminished emphasis on traditional doctrine about the meaning of salvation, for example, or the existence of heaven and hell, is merely an early sign of growing secularism.

Source: Religion Could Be More Durable Than We Thought : NPR

Shepard Fairey and Ai Weiwei On Using Art To Fight President Trump

Always find Ai Weisei’s art and activism of interest, and the role art can play in debate:

Among the colorful poster art from the Women’s March protests, you may have seen the red-white-and-blue face of a Muslim-American woman wearing an American flag hijab–one of a series of inauguration-inspired “We the People” images by graphic artist Shepard Fairey, he of the Obama “Hope” poster fame.

Commissioned by the non-profit Amplifier Foundation, Fairey’s “We the People” posters were alluring visual representations of the resistance movement: a group of diverse people pushing back against the Trump administration’s fearmongering and racism.

Like most of his work, the posters were sold on his “Obey Giant” company website for $100 (some $900,000 proceeds were donated to the ACLU), though many of the artist’s original works have fetched upwards of $70,000 at auction.

Today, Fairey has launched a series of limited-edition skateboards in response to Trump’s first 100 days as president. Collaborating with the Skateroom, a San Francisco-based contemporary art brand, Fairey has turned his “No Future” artwork into a kind of skateboard triptych.

The Skateroom has also released three skate decks by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, showing Ai flashing his middle finger at the White House. The black-and-white “fuck you” to the Trump administration is part of a series of images of Ai flipping off various buildings and landmarks around the world.

Ai Weiwei, who was not available for an interview, said in a statement about the collaboration: “My favorite word is ‘act’. I am partnering with the Skateroom for that very reason.”

Proceeds from Ai’s collaboration will go to Bridging Peoples, a non-profit charity in Turkey dedicated to combatting all forms of discrimination, and B’Tselem, an organization supporting human rights in Israeli-occupied territories.

“During the filming of Human Flow, my documentary on the global refugee condition, I had the opportunity to speak with individuals from both B’Tselem and the Bridging Peoples Association in Turkey,” Ai said. “What these two organizations do is very valuable to society, both in fighting against injustice and in helping those that are unfortunate.”

In a conversation over email, Fairey spoke with the Daily Beast about the meaning of “No Future,” the urgency to create art in the Trump era, and the artists calling for censorship of Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket” painting at this year’s Whitney Biennial.

DB: When did you first conceive “No Future” and what is the message you are trying to convey with this work? Is it an extension of your drive to “question everything”?

SF: The piece does fall within my philosophy of questioning everything, but there are more specific reasons for the image and text. I’m a big fan of wordplay and language in general, so a few of the ideas in the piece began percolating early in Trump’s bid for the presidency.

Inspired by lyrics from the Sex Pistols (“No Future”) and the hubris of the early European inhabitants of what would become the United States that led to their belief that it was God’s will for them to conquer ocean to ocean, I think that what led largely to Trump’s election was the manifestation of the too-common mindset that facts don’t matter; in other words, “manifest destiny”—the truth will not penetrate the barriers of our ideology if the truth doesn’t sit well with our predispositions.

I come from punk rock so the Sex Pistols and their song “God Save the Queen” with the refrain “No Future” was a big protest anthem for me growing up. However, unlike the nihilism of “God Save the Queen” my use of “No Future” employs more of a bait and switch tactic. A lot of people felt defeated and hopeless by Trump’s election, but I feel his election should energize people to resist apathy, ignorance, sexism, xenophobia, and racism.

Source: Shepard Fairey and Ai Weiwei On Using Art To Fight President Trump

Asylum seekers fleeing U.S. may find cold comfort in Canada’s courts

Useful article on how the system works:

Migrants who applied for asylum in the United States but then fled north, fearing they would be swept up in President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, may have miscalculated in viewing Canada as a safe haven.

That is because their time in the United States could count against them when they apply for asylum in Canada, according to a Reuters review of Canadian federal court rulings on asylum seekers and interviews with refugee lawyers.

In 2016, 160 asylum cases came to the federal courts after being rejected by refugee tribunals. Of those, 33 had been rejected in part because the applicants had spent time in the United States, the Reuters review found.

Lawyers said there could be many more such cases among the thousands of applicants who were rejected by the tribunals in the same period but did not appeal to the federal courts.

The 2016 court rulings underscore the potentially precarious legal situation now facing many of the nearly 2,000 people who have crossed illegally into Canada since January.

Most of those border crossers had been living legally in the United States, including people awaiting the outcome of U.S. asylum applications, according to Canadian and U.S. government officials and Reuters interviews with dozens of migrants.

Trump’s tough talk on illegal immigration, however, spurred them northward to Canada, whose government they viewed as more welcoming to migrants. There, they have begun applying for asylum, citing continued fears of persecution or violence in their homelands, including Somalia and Eritrea.

But Canadian refugee tribunals are wary of “asylum-shopping” and look askance at people coming from one of the world’s richest countries to file claims, the refugee lawyers said.

“Abandoning a claim in the United States or coming to Canada after a negative decision in the United States, or failing to claim and remaining in the States for a long period of time — those are all big negatives. Big, big negatives,” said Toronto-based legal aid lawyer Anthony Navaneelan, who is representing applicants who came to Canada from the United States in recent months.

The Canadian government has not given a precise figure on how many of the border crossers were asylum seekers in the United States.

But it appears their fears may have been misplaced. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has said that anyone in the United States illegally is subject to deportation, but there is no evidence that asylum seekers with pending cases are considered illegal under the new administration.

‘Lack of seriousness’

The asylum seekers will make their cases before Canada’s refugee tribunals, which rejected 5,000 cases last year.

The tribunals’ decisions are not made public, so the reasons are not known. An Immigration and Refugee Board spokeswoman confirmed, however, that an applicant’s time in the United States can be a factor in a tribunal’s decision.

Rejected applicants can appeal to Canada’s federal courts, whose rulings are published. The federal courts upheld 19 of the 33 tribunal rejections they heard last year and recommended fresh tribunal hearings for the other 14 cases.

The judges believed those claimants had a good explanation for having been in the United States first. The outcomes of the new tribunal hearings are not known.

The federal court handles only a small portion of all applications rejected by the refugee tribunals. But overall, applicants who have spent time in the United States have a higher chance of being rejected, said multiple immigration lawyers, including two former refugee tribunal counsel, interviewed by Reuters.

Source: Asylum seekers fleeing U.S. may find cold comfort in Canada’s courts – Manitoba – CBC News

How activism has evolved for Black Canadians

Interesting article on the changing nature of Black Canadian activism.

While sympathetic and understanding of some of their concerns (indeed as the Ontario government’s recent data collection and related anti-racism strategy does), and that activism is needed for change, exaggerated rhetoric hardly helps the case with the broader public discussion and debate.

But of course, that is part of free speech and related rights:

At a time when so many Canadians were celebrating the end of the Harper era and, with it, an apparent return to “sunny days,” Khogali’s words eroded the image of Canada as a genteel, meritocratic, accepting nation, instead indicting its leader on the grounds of racism and discrimination. Khogali not only named whiteness—a bold act given the state of our national discourse on race—but specifically white supremacy. She also labelled the Prime Minister a terrorist, implicating Canada as a nation trafficking in fear and oppression. While there were certainly Black Canadians who did not endorse Khogali’s words, online discussions and think pieces written in the aftermath of Khogali’s statement suggest that her statement wasn’t as aberrant for young Black Canadians as for their white counterparts. But regardless of where one finds themselves in relation to Khogali’s words, one thing is clear: a vision of change that does not require the nation state or the sanction of white allyship—let’s call it disruption—has begun to gain credence among Black Canadians. It may make some uncomfortable—but it’s also starting to produce results.

This paradigm was on display during BLMTO’s disruption of Toronto’s Pride Parade last summer, an action that drew the ire of many white members of the LGBTQ community who believed that BLMTO was undermining its authority and the gains that it had made in society. It was on display at Tent City when BLMTO occupied the area outside of the Toronto Police Headquarters. It was on display when BLMTO showed up at Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s private residence in protest of police. These are the new tactics of disruption: disruption of parades, disruption of privacy, disruption of comfort, disruption of permission, decorum, civility, and the various ways they have been used to obscure Black plight. Disruption is inspired by a lack of visible progress promised by the Prime Minister’s own father.

Currently, BLMTO boasts 18,000 followers on Twitter including many high-profile members of the Canadian media landscape, some of whom subscribe to the same style of activism; Desmond Cole’s recent disruption of the TPS meeting in protest of carding is a compelling example. BLMTO is also actively involved in Toronto’s Black communities, holding many discussions and events and, in March, the group achieved its goal of having police banned from Toronto’s Pride parade.

I ended up speaking out against the elder’s words at the meeting; silence felt inadequate. I told the young man that an appeal to reason could not work in a system predicated upon his dehumanization, and that to assume otherwise was dangerous. When I spoke, I found myself supported by several others in the room, including a few elders. As Foster observes of Black elders, “many of them immigrated to Canada with their heads full of dreams. They were going to do well and succeed, become an example for all those back home. Now, in the middle of the night, they find themselves scratching their heads and asking what went wrong. For they did not attain their dream, and what is even more significant, they now despair their kids will be worse off than they.”

In these dire times, when 42 per cent of Black students have been suspended at least once in the Toronto District School Board and Black Canadians constitute nearly ten per cent of federal prisoners—but only three per cent of the Canadian population—unwavering subscription to infiltration is difficult and often dangerous. Entire generations of Black Canadians have watched Black teachers in Ontario face racism in the staff rooms and barriers to promotion. We’ve seen how the establishment of the SIU, a major reform secured through the tireless efforts of the Black Action Defense Committee, did not protect Jermaine Carby or Andrew Loku. We see the hollowness of the promises made four decades ago.

For Black Canadians wedded to the idea of infiltration, it is high time to acknowledge its limitations, the many ways in which the face of the mainstream has yet to soften. It is also incumbent upon non-Black Canadians and, especially, White Canadians to examine their relationship to Canada in light of history. To label Khogali’s words violent and call for her resignation without any discussion of state-produced violence is to ignore centuries of injustice in this country. It invests in ideals of merit and civility, assuming the effectiveness of nationhood, while conveniently overlooking the violence visited upon racialized bodies and, in particular, Indigenous bodies.

As people across this country move to celebrate Canada 150, the important shifts that have occurred in Black political engagement from Trudeau to Trudeau ask all Canadians to re-evaluate the narratives that structure what it means to be “Canadian.” The politics of disruption recognizes that systemic racism may be just as Canadian as maple syrup. The barriers to full participation in Canadian society have not been removed—in fact, many have been redoubled. In contrast to the decades of Black support for Pierre Trudeau, Khogali’s indictment of Justin Trudeau reminds us that it is racialized Canadians who are often left in the shadows of these long-awaited sunny days.

Source: How activism has evolved for Black Canadians – Macleans.ca

Express Entry Year-End Report 2016

IRCC is to be congratulated on its annual reporting on Express Entry, that contains a wealth of relevant data and information. About 25 percent of economic class immigrants came through Express Entry in 2016.

Have excerpted the into below, in addition to three charts I created based on the data.

The first one shows the number of invitations and the cut-off point as a percentage of the maximum score. It should be noted that the report shows the vast majority of candidates invited have scores between 300-500:

The second shows the top countries of origin by invitations, contrasting 2015 and 2016, where India and China show the greatest increase:

The third chart contrasts the country of origin for Express Entry 2015-16 to the overall country of origin of all immigrants, 2006-15, suggesting a slightly but not dramatic overall shift in terms of visible minority versus non-visible minority immigrants:

Express Entry is Canada’s application management system for certain economic programs including the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class and a portion of the Provincial Nominee Program. Potential candidates express their interest in immigrating to Canada by first completing a profile online that is then pre-assessed to see if they meet criteria of one of the three federal immigration programs mentioned above. Candidates who meet these criteria are given a score by the system based on the information in their profile and ranked against others who also meet these same criteria. Only the candidates with top scores get an invitation to apply for permanent residence.

Express Entry was designed with three main objectives in mind: 1) flexibility in selection and application management, 2) responsiveness to labour market and regional needs and 3) speed in application processing. In its two years of operation, Express Entry has met its objectives.

In 2016, almost 34,000 invitations to apply for permanent residence were issued to Express Entry candidates representing an increase of 3,000 from 2015. Since the launch of Express Entry, a total of 43,202 individuals (applicants and their families) have been admitted to Canada as permanent residents. Key findings indicate that these applicants are highly skilled immigrants and many have studied in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The top ten occupations of these permanent residents included software and computer engineering fields.

Provinces, territories and employers have successfully used Express Entry to fill regional and labour market needs. Express Entry increases the labour market responsiveness of the immigration system by providing employers with a greater role through job offers to candidates which, if all conditions are met, increases their chances of receiving an invitation to apply.

In addition, the processing time commitment of six months for 80% of cases has been met and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will continue to monitor the performance of Express Entry and make adjustments as necessary.

To ensure a more fair and responsive immigration system that addresses emerging needs and long-term economic growth for Canada, targeted improvements were made to Express Entry on November 19, 2016. These improvements include the following:

  • Reducing the number of points awarded for job offers to 50 points to candidates with a valid job offer in a National Occupational Classification (NOC) 0, A or B occupation and 200 points to candidates with a valid job offer in a NOC 00 occupation; this change rebalances the Comprehensive Ranking System and allows for more highly skilled candidates to receive an invitation to apply;

  • Awarding points for job offer to certain candidates already in Canada on Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exempt work permits. For example, candidates who are here under the North American Free Trade Agreement, a federal provincial agreement or Mobilité Francophone no longer need to obtain a LMIA to be awarded job offer points. These candidates must meet certain criteria, such as at least one year of work experience from the same employer who is providing their job offer;

  • Changing the job offer requirement from indeterminate to one year; this allows for more highly skilled candidates working in contract-based industries to have a higher likelihood of receiving an invitation to apply for permanent residence;

  • Awarding 15 points for a one- to two-year diploma or certificate and 30 points for a degree, diploma or certificate of three years or longer, or for a Master’s, professional or doctoral degree of at least one academic year; these changes allow for more former international students, which are a key source of candidates because of their age, education, skills and experience, to be able to transition to permanent residence using Express Entry;

  • Finally, providing 90 days, instead of the previous 60 days, to candidates to complete their application for permanent residence after they receive an invitation to apply.

Source: Express Entry Year-End Report 2016

Pope Francis Gives a TED Talk—and a Warning – The Daily Beast

Another good message from Pope Francis:

He first compared himself to the many migrants and refugees of today, explaining that he was also the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina and wondering if he could have ended up like so many who are now living in the margins.

“I often find myself wondering: ‘Why them and not me?’ I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today’s ‘discarded’ people,” he said. “And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: ‘Why them and not me?’.”

He then moved on to the importance of the development of new technology. “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” he said. “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.”

Midway through his 18-minute talk, he introduced another favorite theme: hope. “To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing,” he said. “Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life.”

“A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another ‘you,’ and another ‘you,’ and it turns into an ‘us.’ And so, does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ When there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.”

Francis, who will be taking a lightening-speed trip to Egypt on Friday, considered by a many a very dangerous trip, then ended with remarks he hoped the world leaders would take to heart. He wasn’t specific, but his listeners in Vancouver—and around the globe—could make their own inferences.

“Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other,” said Pope Francis.

“There is a saying in Argentina: ‘Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.’ You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.”

“The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’ We all need each other.”

Source: Pope Francis Gives a TED Talk—and a Warning – The Daily Beast

Cultural sensitivities must never override gender equality: Khan

Another good piece by Sheema Khan:

While these attitudes have been ingrained for centuries elsewhere, one would think that migrating to a land where gender equality is emphasized would lead to a change of heart. Apparently, more needs to be done to uproot customs that have been transplanted here. Efforts must come from both within and without affected communities.

We need honest public conversations about these difficult topics. Multicultural sensitivities should never override gender equality, nor should they censor the expression of strong opinions. Let it be said: Both sets of cultural practices are, well, barbaric. They have no place here (or in fact, anywhere). Not only are they “un-Canadian,” they are inhuman.

Government policy is also a necessary tool to combat discriminatory practices.

While Canada has legislation against the practice of FGM, there are no laws that prosecute parents who send their daughters abroad to have the procedure done. In contrast, France and the United States have outlawed “FGM tourism.” It is time for Canada to follow their lead.

And while Ottawa has moved to address FGM, our governments have failed to address female feticide. They ignored the call by Dr. Rajendra Kale, in 2012, to ban disclosure of the sex of a fetus until 30 weeks (after which point an abortion is difficult). South Korea banned such disclosures in 1988, helping to reverse gender imbalance.

Finally, there can be no change unless there is opposition within communities. There will be pressure to circle the wagons in wake of negative media coverage. I still remember an Ottawa community leader telling a local congregation, following the “honour killing” of Aqsa Parvez, that the media were trying to make the Muslim community look “bad.” Outrage was not directed at family violence, but at the media for covering that violence.

Today, many courageous Bohra women who underwent khatna (i.e. FGM) in their childhood, are speaking out against the practice, directing their personal pain toward addressing social justice. They risk ostracization from their own families and excommunication from their faith community.

Who, on the other hand, will speak up for the 4,500 “missing” girls in the Indo-Canadian community, so that female feticide will cease? To the women who abort their daughters: you were not subject to sex-selective abortion – why, then, inflict it on Your daughter-to-be? There will need to be many painful conversations about the central moral issue: aborting a fetus simply because it is female.

Minority communities are in a difficult spot, especially with anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise. However, failing to address harmful cultural practices unequivocally, allows problems to fester and, ultimately, cause even more damage.

Source: Cultural sensitivities must never override gender equality – The Globe and Mail

Inclusion isn’t just a buzz word — and Canada can prove it: Opinion | Toronto Star

The UN special rapporteur needs to do her homework.

NCCM knows that Canadian public service diversity numbers are reasonably representative of the Canadian population as per the charts and analysis below (for visible minorities, the appropriate benchmark is the number who are also Canadian citizens – 15 percent of the total population). RCMP and municipal police force numbers, however, need improvement:

Federal Employment Equity

Religious Minorities in the Public Public Service

Consider the European Commission’s recent ruling that employers can now force their staff to remove their head scarves at work; it’s no small wonder that Canada sounds like “Disneyland” to minority groups there — this is a place where everyone can freely contribute to the country’s success without having to compromise their personal values or beliefs.

The federal government’s announcement last week that public service applications will be scrubbed of information revealing a person’s race and ethnicity is another noteworthy step. The hope is that such a measure will help reduce proven bias that tends to keep certain groups from accessing the same employment opportunities as everyone else, despite Canada’s Employment Equity Act.

“If you don’t have people represented in the institutions, how will they feel included? Decision making cannot be left to mono-ethnic, mono-linguistic, or mono-religious groups,” said Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, UN special rapporteur on minority issues, during her Ottawa visit. “Young people must see themselves in all state structures. If you don’t see a single policeman from your background, for example, how will you trust the institution?”

The lack of diversity in many of our key public institutions begs the need for more concrete action. Even Silicon Valley — often described as a progressive-haven — is struggling, according to an article in this month’s Atlantic. Companies there are trying all sorts of initiatives, including linking management bonuses to increasing diversity.

The need to address representation gaps are pressing, not only because it makes good business sense, as a new Canadian research study report out this week confirms, but that it reinforces the strength of our social fabric. If Canada is to be a global champion of inclusion it must both spotlight its successes and push harder to address systemic weaknesses by exploring all possible fixes and crafting made-in-Canada solutions.

Source: Inclusion isn’t just a buzz word — and Canada can prove it: Opinion | Toronto Star

Why police now attend my son’s Muslim prayer space at school: Shireen Ahmed

Good account and demystifying:

Lots of Muslim students don’t attend Jummah at my son’s school and sometimes non-Muslim friends peek in. Afterward, everyone heads to the plaza nearby to hang out at Tim Hortons or grab a shawarma.

I never thought these Friday rituals would become a trigger for self-proclaimed secularists and I certainly never expected that Jummah would become a reason to manipulate and terrorize children. I was wrong.

For the past little while, Jummah at various PDSB high schools has been targeted by protesters. They claim that Muslim practices are anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and anti-women, a prejudice they’re sure of though they don’t seem to have had a respectful exchange with a practising Muslim from the Peel district.

They began by arriving en masse at school-board meetings, screaming hateful rhetoric at the families in attendance. Next came anti-Muslim Facebook groups,YouTube videos and pamphlets. Things exploded when the school board decided to let kids write their own sermons instead of reading prewritten ones.

Months of intensifying hate came to a boiling point. A Mississauga imam received a death threat, and Islamophobic graffiti was sprayed on mailboxes near a high school. A Koran was viciously ripped apart at a PDSB meeting, and a $1,000 cash reward was offered for “video proof” of a Muslim youth delivering hateful speech.

To its credit, the PDSB acted swiftly, e-mailing parents with a pledge to take the situation very seriously. Electronic devices were prohibited at Jummah. Two police cruisers parked outside my son’s school every Friday, and officers stood at the back of the gym as more than 300 girls and boys assembled to pray.

I asked my son if the police make him feel safer. “Not really, it’s just protocol,” he said. “I might be able to tell them if something was weird.” He seems unfazed by their presence, which alarms me for a different reason: I don’t want him to think the presence of law enforcement in our racialized community is normal.

I find it both reassuring and troublesome that school-board meetings are now staffed by both plain-clothed and uniformed police, some carrying weapons. Attendees must show government-issued identification. To this, my son says evenly, “They are being careful. That’s their job.”

I asked how he felt after reading hateful messages online: he says he’s angry, yes, but not scared. He admits the amount of blatant Islamophobia in our local area is shocking to him, and I agree. We both thought our richly diverse Peel neighbourhood might be more tolerant.

When I wondered aloud if he’d consider not going to Jummah, he paused for a nanosecond before snorting at my suggestion. “Stop going to Jummah? Seriously? Nah.”

“Mama,” he said, looking me square in the eyes, “if a guy came to our Jummah and started spewing hate and being violent, he would literally have 300 brown and black kids jump at him.”

Safety in numbers, he seemed to be saying, then got up to rush off to a basketball game. I sat alone at the kitchen table, not as comforted as he might have hoped.

Giving khutbahs is a part of the community experience of being Muslim. One does not have to be an imam or a scholar to offer a 15-minute sermon. At my son’s school, the khutbahs are in English, except for very short prayers or Koran verses, and are on topics such as civic duty, patience with family, supporting vulnerable and marginalized people, handling stress and social responsibility.

The supervising teacher has to read through each sermon before it can be delivered, and my son assures me there is nothing “overly political or extreme.” To his knowledge, no one has ever gone rogue.

Preparing to deliver khutbahs teaches young people organization, public speaking and how to mobilize, all important skills for adulthood. A few months ago, a mother of another student at his school reached out to me through Facebook.

She told me her son came home and told her how moved he was by my son’s words on the day’s topic: “respecting mothers and their sacrifices.” I was pleased and a little surprised. That very morning, I was shrieking at him to wake up because he was 25 minutes late, threatening to pour cold water on his sleepy head.

The school Jummah is a crucial space of peer support, one where youth can feel as if their choices and identities are not being attacked or threatened. Youth of colour live in communities that are targets of specific forms of hate, in an age when racists regularly suggest the mass deportation of their communities.

What are young Canadian Muslims supposed to do, other than have faith? Perhaps they already know the answer: gather for Friday congregational prayers, no matter what, and then eat a dozen doughnuts.

Source: Why police now attend my son’s Muslim prayer space at school – The Globe and Mail