A new perspective on immigrants’ economic outcomes in Canada

My latest in Policy Options on the economic outcomes of visible minorities aged 25-34, broken down by gender, generation and geography, showing the overall relative success of Canada’s immigration and related programs, most notably for the second generation.

Data-rich from Census 2016

Source:  A new perspective on immigrants’ economic outcomes in Canada 

Trump visit to Pittsburgh after deadly synagogue shooting met with anger, protests

Appropriate reaction – can’t stoke the fires of hate and then deny moral responsibility:

President Donald Trump visited a grief-stricken Pittsburgh on Tuesday in a trip meant to unify after tragedy, but his arrival provoked protests from residents and consternation from local officials in the aftermath of the synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead.

The hastily planned day trip – which the city’s mayor urged Trump not to make – was executed with no advance public itinerary and without congressional and local politicians. Some had declined to accompany the president, and others were not invited.

Trump did not speak publicly during his brief trip, instead quietly paying tribute at Tree of Life synagogue by laying flowers for the 11 victims and visiting a hospital to see officers who were wounded in Saturday’s shooting. But Trump’s trip to the area so soon after the attack tore open political tensions in the largely Democratic city, as residents angered by Trump’s arrival protested even as the first couple tried to keep a low profile during the solemn, afternoon visit.

“The sense in the community is that they didn’t think this was a time for a political photo shoot,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D, whose congressional district covers the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where the synagogue is located. “There are strong feelings in the community about him and the divisive nature of his rhetoric.”

Trump has faced charges in recent days that his harsh political tone and effort to stoke public fears about immigrants has fomented a rising right-wing extremism embraced by the man charged in the synagogue shooting and by the suspect arrested last week after a series of bombs were mailed to prominent critics of the president. Trump has pushed back, saying the media is responsible for the growing tensions across the country.

As the president touched down in southwestern Pennsylvania on Tuesday, almost 2,000 demonstrators assembled not far from where some of the shooting’s victims had been buried that day. The relatives of at least one victim declined to meet with Trump, pointing to his “inappropriate” remarks immediately after the shooting, when the president suggested the shooting could have been avoided if the synagogue had had an armed guard.

City officials said they were concerned about protests, which occurred on the same day as funerals for some of the victims, and were not involved in planning the visit – learning about it only when White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced it Monday.

The White House also declined to invite two Democratic officials who represent the area – Doyle and Sen. Robert Casey Jr.

“We received no call or any kind of correspondence,” Doyle said.

A spokesman for the city’s Democratic mayor, Bill Peduto, said he was invited to appear with the president but declined. Peduto had urged Trump not to visit Pittsburgh until after the funerals for the victims, saying, “all attention should be on the victims.”

The family of one of those victims – Daniel Stein, 71 – declined a visit with Trump in part because of Trump’s comments about having armed guards.

“Everybody feels that they were inappropriate,” said Stephen Halle, Stein’s nephew. “He was blaming the community.”

The White House said Trump spent about an hour Tuesday with the widow of Richard Gottfried, one of the 11 victims.

“She said that she wanted to meet the president to let him know that people wanted him there,” Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One. Gottfried, 65, and his wife, Peg Durachko, had just celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary and were planning to retire soon.

Some residents said they welcomed the president even if it did anger some of their neighbors.


The White House had asked the top four congressional leaders – House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., – to accompany Trump to Pittsburgh, but all declined, according to three officials familiar with the invitations.

Trump’s remarks and incendiary rhetoric in office contributed to the pushback his visit received before Air Force One touched down. Tens of thousands of people signed an open letter from a progressive Jewish group based in Pittsburgh saying he would not be welcome “until you fully denounce white nationalism” and “cease your assault on immigrants and refugees.”

About an hour before Trump arrived, more than 100 protesters jammed onto a street corner in Squirrel Hill, the predominantly Jewish neighborhood where the synagogue is located and many victims lived.

“This didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Ardon Shorr said. “There is a growing trend of white nationalism. And that has been enabled by Trump, who traffics in the kind of conspiracy theories that we know were foremost in the mind of the shooter last Saturday.”

“He refused to cancel his rally when it would have been the decent thing to cancel the rally,” said Jonathan Sarney, 72, referring to Trump’s campaign stop in Murphysboro, Illinois, held the same day the shooting occurred. “And now he’s coming to intrude on the funerals when it’s an indecent thing to do.”

Meanwhile, Barbara Kay remains largely in denial about the impact of Trump’s words and rhetoric in providing social license for others to express hate and the moral responsibility, if not direct responsibility, for such hate crimes: Barbara Kay: Trump’s rhetoric didn’t cause this massacre

Muslims Are Having A Hollywood Moment

Of note:

On the last day of taping for a new 10-part Web series called East of La Brea, the cameras are set up at a local mosque for a scene about a 20-something black Muslim woman who’s praying. Suddenly her phone rings and the quiet space fills with raucous and racy lyrics from a pop song. Around her, older women shoot her shady stares.

This show is one example of what appears to be a shift in Hollywood. On TV and on online streaming services, Hollywood watchers say more Muslim characters than ever before are showing up in sitcoms and dramas. The characters they portray are more nuanced and more complicated than usual. In part, that’s because many Muslims themselves are writing these shows and characters.

East of La Brea is a show about being in your 20s and figuring out life against the gentrifying backdrop of Los Angeles, told through two main characters, roommates who are Muslim. But that’s not the entirety of the women’s storylines, says Sameer Gardezi, a Pakistani-American screenwriter and the creator of the show.

“I really feel like when people watch this it’s going to feel like [it is] an LA story,” Gardezi says. “Being Muslim is part of them, we don’t ignore that, but at the same time their problems aren’t necessarily faith based; they are based on other aspects that I feel are more relevant to what it means to lead an American life.”

Things like paying rent, feeling lost in a dead-end job and dealing with addiction in a family.

The Web series is the first project from Powderkeg, the digital media company founded by director, writer and actor Paul Feig, known for directing films like Bridesmaids and creating the show Freaks and Geeks. The company was founded to uplift underrepresented voices.

East of La Brea follows the friendship of two Muslim women of color, one black and one Bangladeshi-American. It was created with a grant from Pop Culture Collaborative, an organization whose goal is to boost authentic stories about minority communities, and in collaboration with the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative. The production is being partially funded by Lyft Entertainment and the Chicago-based Pillars Fund, a fund to bolster American Muslim voices.

It’s one of several projects by and about Muslims that are in the pipeline or have recently debuted in the entertainment industry. But Gardezi says this story is just one American Muslim story.

“There are so many different versions and my hope would be that everyone gets a shot at telling their version,” he said. “So it doesn’t feel like oh, this is the one Muslim show that needs to make it.”

Communities of color and minorities in Hollywood feel that that is often the way it happens: They get one shot to show that their characters are marketable, one shot to reflect the entirety of incredibly diverse and complicated communities. Gardezi says it’s impossible to do that with one show.

The Trump presidency inspired new Muslim content

But Muslims are embracing the moment. Right now, there’s an appetite for content including or about their communities in part it is because Muslim writers like Gardezi, who has written for Modern Family and Outsourced, are creating their own content. But a lot of the interest is because the entertainment industry itself is reacting to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment from Donald Trump.

When Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, followed months later by a call for a “complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the country, the Hollywood bureau at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, MPAC, got a lot more popular.

“The phones were ringing off the hook,” said Sue Obeidi, the Hollywood Bureau director.

She consults with studios, production companies and writers to help them create more authentic Muslim characters.

“We’re up against decades of storytelling that is inaccurate many times, that is racist often and very stereotypical,” she said.

Among the tropes, she said, are portrayals of women as chattel, who don’t have identities, or Muslims portrayed only as gas station owners, taxi drivers or violent villains.

Obeidi says it’s an uphill battle, but things are changing. She starts to list the number of characters on mainstream shows on a white board.

“A Muslim surgeon on Grey’s Anatomy; a superhero on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow; an LGBTQ hijabi Muslim (she said Hijabi which is an adjective, Hijab is the article of clothing, Hijabi is used to describe someone who wears the Hijab) on The Bold Type; a pork-loving, alcohol- drinking Muslim on Master of None.”

When writers come to her for advice, Obeidi reminds them that these Muslim characters might be the only Muslims some people ever meet. She tries to help them get the language right, for example in scripts that use the term Allahu akbar, which means God is great in Arabic, the language of the Qu’ran.

“You’ve seen many TV and film projects that have Allahu akbar being used in very violent scenes,” she said.

She negotiates to try to get writers to take it out or offset it with happy scenes like using the term Allahu akbar at a wedding or a dinner party. Because for Muslims it’s a beautiful phrase portrayed as ugly. And the impact can have profound ramifications in real life.

“So someone hears Allahu akbar when they’re dining out and all of a sudden you know they’re calling 911 because they think a family is doing something bad,” she said. “When all they’re saying is God is great.”

A lack of diversity in Hollywood and other places means the clichés and the distortions can prevail. Despite progress, Hollywood still struggles with reflecting a more and more diverse America. The Hollywood Diversity Report, released by UCLA in 2018, shows people of color still lag in all key jobs in the industry, from leading roles to creators of content.

That’s why this moment feels like a turning point for Muslims, Obeidi and others say.

Not every project is incredible material. Many positive Muslim characters fall into two camps that a lot of Muslims find frustrating: one, the Muslim hero fighting terror; the other, the confused Muslim who abandons his culture for a secular life. Both are storylines unrecognizable to a lot of Muslims.

That’s why the content in the pipeline today, being written by and about Muslims for large audiences, is so anticipated. There’s Hassan Minhaj’s weekly comedy show on Netflix that begins this month; an autobiographical sitcom for ABC being developed by Maysoon Zayid, a Palestinian-American comic with cerebral palsy; and a new sitcom called Ramy on Hulu, developed by Ramy Youssef, who is following in the path of iconic comics who came before him turning standup into a sitcom like Seinfeld.

Islam is suddenly cool

On a recent night at the Hollywood Improv, Youssef is headlining, joking about all the things that make him who he is: a millennial, a practicing Muslim trying to be good, an American, the son of Egyptian immigrants.

He also jokes about how, in LA, suddenly people think Islam is cool. “I was at a juice shop. I was talking to this woman telling her about Ramadan, she works there. She was like, ‘oh My God that’s sounds so amazing. I’m gonna do it this weekend.’ She said it like it was Coachella.”

After his standup performance he talks about how he and his friends joke about approaching religion like a menu. Ramy doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs but he does have premarital sex. That’s his arbitrary line, he says.

“We call it Allah cart. We’re kind of just picking and choosing like ‘Well, this is my deal with God,’ ” he said.

He hopes Ramy demonstrates how all kinds of people have their deal with God.

“In my standup I like to get dark, I like to get weird, I like to get uncomfortable,” he said. “I feel like when an immigrant family or when a family that is maybe a group that’s not well represented, when people try and put them on television, they go out of their way to make them look amazing and look perfect.”

His show won’t do that.

“I just was really excited about the idea of making Muslims look imperfect,” he said. “Not create something that was some P.R. thing, but create something that was, you know, really just a realistic portrayal of what we go through, how we are.”

Sameer Gardezi, the East of La Brea writer, says he doesn’t think that any one show can be the breakout moment for Muslims, when the communities are so diverse, nuanced and different from person to person, from place to place.

“That is the flexibility and the privilege that I think white communities have is that they’re allowed to fail in Hollywood and no one really bats an eye,” he said. A new project will still be funded.

“So that’s the point that we have to get to,” Gardezi said.

Source: Muslims Are Having A Hollywood Moment

Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk

Good and thoughtful analysis by former colleague Erin Tolley. One of the paradoxes is that federal and provincial visible minority representation is reasonably good, with the major gap being at the municipal level. Her work in understanding why this is so is important:

Local politics are often viewed as an entry point into political life. Municipal candidacy requires less money, gatekeeping by traditional political parties is relatively absent, and successful candidates who become councillors can fulfill their terms at home without having to uproot their families to the provincial or federal capital. As a result, we might expect to see city councils that are more diverse. However, that expectation is simply not borne out, as we saw recently in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, where only a handful of racialized councillors won seats in the October 22 municipal elections.

But less has been said in the media about Mississauga, the country’s sixth-largest city and one where the lack of racialized representation on the municipal council is perhaps especially acute. In Mississauga, 57 percent of the residents identify as members of a “visible minority” (more than in Toronto, Vancouver or Ottawa), and there is now just one racialized councillor, Dipika Damerla. Prior to that, Mississauga’s council was entirely White.

In fact, most municipalities in Canada are governed by councils that are predominantly White and mostly male. Women, racialized minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals are numerically underrepresented on most city councils. The lack of diversity means many voices are excluded from the decision-making process. This puts municipalities at risk. Large swaths of the population may feel underrepresented or ignored, and council may miss out on important views.

Damerla, a former provincial politician, ran in a Mississauga ward that was vacated after the retirement of a 30-year council veteran. The presence of long-time incumbents and the significant advantage they wield is one reason the demographic profile of municipal councils has remained so stagnant. Some have talked about the need for sitting councillors to “make way” for more diverse voices. In London, Ontario, Arielle Kayabaga, the first Black woman to serve on that city’s council, was elected. Late in the campaign, her candidacy was endorsedby Rod Morley, who dropped out of the race to put his support behind the only woman candidate in the ward. Morley has run for provincial and municipal office before but, in explaining his decision to leave the race, he told the London Free Press, “The power (balance) is wrong right now. I want to try to do something about that.”

In Mississauga, just two sitting councillors opted not to run for re-election this time around. The incumbents who did run were all re-elected, some garnering more than 90 percent of the vote. These incumbents block the road to newcomers. Limiting the number of terms that mayors and councillors could serve might help, but term limits are virtually unheard of in Canadian politics, and they remain a controversial measure.

It’s not that there is a shortage of racialized candidates in Mississauga. Of the 78 candidates who ran for council in this election cycle, 44 were racialized Canadians. That’s 56 percent of all contenders. Moreover, every ward race included two or more racialized candidates, as did the race for mayor. In the most tightly contested ward, seven of the 11 candidates were racialized, but the incumbent, Ron Starr, was ultimately victorious.

The issue is not that racialized candidates aren’t running in Mississauga. The issue is that voters aren’t choosing them.

Low voter turnout is an important factor. In Mississauga, voter turnout was just 27 percent, and there is evidence that racialized Canadians are less likely to vote than White Canadians. When we look at variations in voter turnout, socio-economic explanations are influential, but we also need to think about role model effects. If racialized minorities are looking at the political landscape, and they do not see their concerns being reflected, they are less likely to engage in the process. It is thus a vicious cycle. Strategies to increase voter turnout among racialized minorities must be a part of any effort to address the persistent Whiteness of municipal politics.

Finally, there is the question of voter preference. All else being equal, we know that voters gravitate toward candidates with whom they share an ethnic or racial background. This is the same for White voters and for racialized voters, and it is particularly apparent in municipal contests, where voters’ electoral decision-making occurs in what is often called a “low-information” context.

In cities like Mississauga, where municipal candidates run without party labels and there is limited local media coverage, voters have to rely on other cues to sift through their ballot box options. Name recognition is one such cue. But voters also use candidates’ race, gender and other sociodemographic characteristics as a shortcut to infer information about politicians’ issue positions, policy preferences and suitability for office. There is a tendency for voters to believe that candidates who are most similar to themselves will be best able to represent them. Decision-making shortcuts play a role in all electoral campaigns, but they matter especially in local politics because of the absence of other information.

In a low-information context where demographic cues play a role, turnout is low, White voters are more numerous and the field is dominated by White incumbents, the outcome — mostly White councils — is entirely predictable.

But in Mississauga, there is even more to the story.  The second-place finisher in the mayoral race is a candidate who was charged with a hate crime in a case still before the courts on election day. That candidate received more than 16,000 votes and the support of 13.5 percent of Mississauga electors. Clearly, there is a segment of the city’s population for whom racial equality is not top-of-mind. The vote is a means of registering resistance. It gives voters a tool to fill the seats of decision-making tables with representatives for whom equity and inclusion are guiding principles. When prospective voters opt out (or are left out), the risk is that those spaces will be ceded to other voices.

In the absence of more diverse representation, what can elected bodies do to ensure marginalized voices are included? One thing Mississauga has done is to create a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee to provide advice to council on “ethno-cultural relations and diversity matters.” The committee includes the mayor and two councillors as well as 20 community representatives. The committee is advisory in nature, so it is not a replacement for elected representation. However, it could give members exposure, networks and experience that might serve them well if they choose to enter electoral politics.

Diversity on council isn’t a matter of political correctness. It goes to the heart of representative democracy, which is premised on elected bodies reflecting the citizens they serve. Elected bodies are unlikely to ever be a perfect microcosm of society, but the persistent homogeneity of municipal councils is of concern. Councillors invariably draw on their own experiences and beliefs when they exercise their duties, and plenty of evidenceshows that decision-making tables are more effective when they include a broader range of perspectives. The exclusion of diverse voices from municipal councils may result in flawed policies, and that threatens the effectiveness and very legitimacy of the decisions that are taken.

Source: Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk

Director defends Nazi-era production of The Merchant of Venice after Toronto principal fired over anti-Semitic content

Thoughtful explanation, unfortunately drowned out by parental and other pressure, and the BSS board fired the head of school:

The controversial Nazi-era production of The Merchant of Venice that led a Toronto private school to fire its principal included a “game,” styled like a Baptist sermon, in which the audience shouted “Hallelujah” in response to slogans about persecuting Jews.

But contrary to complaints from parents at Toronto’s Bishop Strachan School, there was no chanting of “Burn the Jews,” according to Iqbal Khan of Box Clever Theatre, who directed the play at this and many other high schools in Britain.

Rather, the anti-Semitic slogans were explicitly presented as quotations from On the Jews and their Lies, a notorious ant-Semitic sermon by the German early Protestant reformer Martin Luther.

Early in this adapted version of Shakespeare’s morality tale, the narrator is making a point about how dangerous it can be for an audience to get riled up at the thought of someone else being “brought down a peg or two,” Khan said. He talks about the role of stereotypes and caricatures, and as an example uses the actual words of Luther’s sermon, calling them out like a Baptist preacher, inviting the gleeful Hallelujah response.

Khan said the purpose of this audience participation is just as it was in Elizabethan theatre, “to enlist an active response from the audience to what is shared, to invest them fully in the issues explored.”

“The audience join in the game, but as it becomes very clear what Luther is spouting, such as the destruction of synagogues and rabbis being forbidden to teach, they are quickly silenced,” he said in response to emailed questions. “It is very important here that the narrator turns nasty and chills the room.”

The narrator aims to make the young audience “understand viscerally” the power of this hate speech and the dehumanizing effect of “pack adrenaline.” He says this dynamic is similar to what happens in Lord of the Flies, as social morals break down, or when soccer fans chant racist slogans. The scene ends with a Jewish shopkeeper’s store being vandalized in Venice — not the late medieval ghetto of the original, but rather fascist Italy in 1942.

“The audience is not blamed,” Khan said. “But their innocent involvement in the game, set up by the narrator, gives them an understanding beyond statistics of the lived experience of these dynamics. This is what theatre can do beyond rhetoric.”

He said the emotional register of the play was developed carefully with hundreds of young people to make sure it was “measured and age appropriate.”

“We always recover and take care of audiences, but we also confront them and involve them in uncomfortable, visceral truths,” he said.

Judith Carlisle, former Head of School for The Bishop Strachan School. Carlisle said on Twitter that the production of The Merchant of Venice got a standing ovation from students.

On Monday, after receiving complaints from parents, BSS fired its head, Judith Carlisle, who joined the school from England last August. The school apologized for showing the “deliberately provocative” play without proper warning, context and debriefing, and said Carlisle was leaving because of “an inability to align on a strategy for moving forward for the future.”

Carlisle was until last year a trustee of Box Clever Theatre, a registered charity, and has hosted this same performance at her last school, in Oxford.

She also apologized for not having a good plan in place to discuss the play, its toxic themes, and the provocations of this production.

“I am committed to helping young women grow into reflective and informed members of society,” she said. “As an educator, I believe that it has never been more important for us as to equip our daughters to deal with uncomfortable social issues and learn how to participate effectively in the often contentious debates that surround them. If our shared goal is to nurture a generation of strong, independent female leaders, we must stick to these core principles even in the face of occasional controversy.”

Source: Director defends Nazi-era production of The Merchant of Venice after Toronto principal fired over anti-Semitic content

How Bigots Easily Exploit the Bible for Anti-Semitism

All religious texts, if taken out of historical and social context, have parts that can be used to justify violence:

In the wake of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, many people are struggling to understand the roots of Robert Bowers’s hatred.

Bowers, who allegedly shouted “All Jews must die” as he opened fire, has an established record of anti-Semitic rants on social media. There is some debate about whether Bowers’ alleged violence was inspired by statements by the current president or actually provoked by a sense that President Trump had “betrayed” right-wing radicals. Bowers himself, however, squarely grounds his perspective in a different source: the Bible.

On his Gab page, Bowers has written, “jews are the children of satan. (john 8:44)… the lord Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” On this single point Bowers is not wrong: The Gospel of John does in fact identify “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi, in Greek) as being “of [their] father the Devil.” Throughout the Gospel of John, in fact, “the Jews” are repeatedly identified as the opponents of Jesus. Not some group of Jews, not some fringe group, but “the Jews.” While some New Testament scholars might protest that “Ioudaioi” should actually be translated as “people from Judea” and, thus, not taken as a reference to an entire religio-ethnic group at all, that’s simply not how it is translated in English New Testaments.

While the association of Jews with Satan is most explicit in the Gospel of John, in all four of the canonical gospels a (presumably) Jewish crowd calls for the death of Jesus, and Jewish authorities spearhead efforts to arrest and convict him. In Matthew, the Roman governor Pilate asks the people whom they want to see released: Jesus or a common criminal. When they call for the criminal, Pilate washes his hands of responsibility for the death of Jesus. The crowd responds in unison, “His blood be on our hands and on the hands of our children” (Matthew 25:27). The Jews, the writings of the New Testament tell us, shoulder responsibility for the death of Jesus. This is despite the fact that, in first-century Roman Judea, only the Romans had the power to condemn a man to death.

The legacy of these stories is devastatingly clear. They laid the groundwork for and nurtured nearly two thousand years of anti-Semitism. There is no doubt that stories about the death of Jesus can provoke violence. In the medieval period, when the death of Jesus was publicly performed in passion plays at Easter time, riled-up audience members would spill out onto the streets and attack Jewish members of their communities. To be sure, as Paul B. Sturtevant has written in a brilliant piece forThe Public Medievalist, the situation was complicated. Some Christians, for example, were paid by Jews to protect them. But the legacy of this period is felt even today in unsympathetic portraits of Jesus’s Jewish contemporaries in TV adaptations of the Easter story.

Historically speaking, the demonization of Jews was a rhetorical strategy for the first followers of Jesus. Annette Yoshiko Reed, a professor in the department of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, told The Daily Beast that this was “just one of a broad continuum of different strategies by which followers of Jesus made sense of their relation to Judaism.” John 8:44 was part of “an inner-Christian debate in which there were also others who were stressing instead the Jewishness of both Jesus and authentic forms of Christianity.

All of that is lost when the Gospels are read in a world in the modern world. “The shooter’s quotation of this passage,” said Reed, “is an example of what happens when that one strategy is taken out of its original context and re-read in terms of distinctly modern notions of identity as predicated on biologically essentialized ideas of ‘race.’”

Mark Leuchter, a professor of religion and Judaism at Temple University agrees. “Once the New Testament became holy specifically to Christians, the original context for [the] debate was lost.” Statements from the New Testament “became [for some] the justification for anti-Jewish violence and hatred… and are still used to facilitate anti-Jewish bigotry in ways that many Christians don’t even realize.” As evidence of this subtle bias Leuchter cited the use of the term “Pharisee” by “well-meaning Christians” as an insult against people obsessed with law, when the historical Pharisees were actually more like ancient liberal activists. Examples like this contribute to what Leuchter calls a “cartoon version of Judaism that is presented as devoid of morality, holiness or humane values.”

Of course, while many American Christians may hold outdated views about Judaism, it is only a tiny fraction of them that resort to outright violence. Meghan Henning, a professor of Christian origins at the University of Dayton, told me that “a segment of Christians in the United States, who have been shaped by the ideals of white nationalism, still use anti-Semitism as a lens for reading their Bibles.”

It is, as Reed says, the transplanting of texts from a period when “whiteness had no meaning” to the modern context of contemporary American white supremacy that gives this passage its horrifying power.

Source: How Bigots Easily Exploit the Bible for Anti-Semitism

The Tone-Deaf Israeli Reactions to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Interesting account of the gap between Israeli and American Jews:

For Jews around the world, now is a time to mourn and come together, as the dead from the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue are buried. And yet it also reveals how far apart we are.

To be sure, most responses to the massacre were sincere and uncontroversial. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as all of Israel’s leading politicians, issued heartfelt and apolitical responses to the massacre.

But not all.

In an interview with an Israeli religious newspaper, Rabbi David Lau, Israel’s Ashkenazic chief rabbi (a governmental position), declined to call Tree of Life Synagogue a synagogue, describing it instead as “a place with a profound Jewish flavor.” Other ultra-Orthodox newspapers have followed suit, referring to it as a “Jewish center.”

To American Jews who care about Israel, that’s a painful reminder that Reform, Conservative, and other non-Orthodox Jewish denominations are not recognized by the Jewish state. The state does not recognize conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis. And plans for a non-Orthodox prayer space at the Western Wall have been floated and canceled for a generation now—most recently by Netanyahu, who flatly broke his promise to American Jewish leaders to create one last year.

Nor is the tone-deafness exclusively on the right. Israel’s opposition leader, Avi Gabbay, said the attack should inspire “the Jews of the United States to immigrate more and more to Israel, because this is their home.”

Meanwhile, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett headed to Pittsburgh to offer condolences, saying, in part, “our hearts go out to the families of those killed, and we pray for the swift recovery of the injured, as we pray this is the last such event. Jewish blood is not free.”

First, sending the ultranationalist Bennett to “comfort” mostly liberal American Jews rubs salt in the wound. Bennett, perhaps more than any other Israeli politician, has legitimized open racism against Arabs, sworn his opposition to a two-state solution with Palestinians, and moved the “Overton window” of Israeli nationalism far to the right. Thanks to his party, Jewish Home, comments that would have been too racist for polite conversation a decade ago are now routinely made on the floor of the Knesset.

Second, Bennett’s line about “Jewish blood” is both creepily blood-nationalist and a common justification for harsh military responses against terrorists, their families, their neighbors, and even their whole villages.

What revenge is Bennett planning to take against Robert Bowers, anyway? Bennett’s rhetoric is tone-deaf, alienating to most American Jews, and part of the very hypernationalist crisis that brought this tragedy into being in the first place.

These and other comments point to a vast and growing gap between Israel and the majority of American Jews.

Take the nationalist populism of President Trump. Among American Jews, Trump’s approval rating hovers around 21 percent. Mostly liberal American Jews are appalled by his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-media, and anti-science rhetoric. In Israel, however, 69 percent of Israelis express confidence in Trump’s leadership. If you assume that hardly any Israeli Arabs (21 percent of the population) share that confidence, that’s a roughly 85 percent approval rating among Israeli Jews.

There are many reasons for that widespread support. Trump has shifted the United States from being an “honest broker” for Middle East peace to being an unapologetic partisan for Israel, symbolized by the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (the status of which is still disputed under international law). Trump’s broadsides against Muslims and his anti-Obama birtherism resonate with the prejudices of many Israeli Jews, many of whom believe they are surrounded by hostile, uncivilized enemies.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” in the words of pro-Israel extremist Pamela Geller.

Most important, though, right-wing Israelis, together with the majority of Orthodox, right-wing Jews in America, have a fundamentally different understanding of Judaism than the majority of American Jews, whose experiences are colored by American liberalism and the immigrant experience.

For the former, Judaism is Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel, a source of patriotism and allegiance. For the latter, Judaism may be a culture, or a religion, or a nation, but it is defined not by blood and loyalty, but by ideals of justice, fairness, and compassion. When those ideals are transgressed, liberal Jews see Judaism betrayed. Whereas, for many on the right, you’re either for us or against us, and if you’re against us, you’re anti-Semitic and that’s that.

“Pittsburgh is why most American Jews oppose Trump. Israeli leaders seem not to understand that.”

For the former, the lesson of the Holocaust is that Jews must always be strong and defend themselves. For the latter, the lesson of the Holocaust is that baseless hatred is wrong and leads to tragedy.

For the former, Jews everywhere exist in solidarity with each other. But progressive American Jews may find more in common with other oppressed minorities than with right-wing Jews, who oppress minorities themselves.

For the former, Muslims and Arabs, often confused with each other, are the implacable enemy of the Jewish people. For the latter, violent rejectionists—be they Muslim, Jewish, or Trump-loving-Christian—are the enemy.

For the former, supporting Israel means supporting the Israeli right’s vision of a strong ethno-state triumphant over its enemies. For the latter, supporting Israel means helping calmer, more rational voices prevail so that peace and justice can be achieved for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Each side has biblical proof-texts, Jewish history, and plenty of emotional appeals they can make. We all have our friends or relatives who have died at the hands of terrorists, anti-Semites, or enemy soldiers. No one ever wins this argument. (We are Jews, after all.)

But the results are profoundly different conceptions of what it means to be a Jew.

When most American Jews hear Trump bash “media elites,” Muslims, Mexicans, Democrats, or victims of sexual assault, we see our deepest values transgressed, and we see ourselves in the crosshairs next, because we, too, are an often despised minority.

But when right-wing Israelis and American Jews hear Trump bash Israel’s enemies, they are encouraged and emboldened. They say anti-Semitism, which Trump has condemned, is totally separable from the white-nationalism, Islamophobia, transphobia, racism, and populism that he has tolerated or encouraged. They say Trump is on our side.

And yet it’s not just he said/she said. There are still facts. And the facts are that the alt-right’s most ardent members, people like Cesar Sayoc Jr. and Robert Bowers, do not separate anti-Semitism from their hatred of immigrants, Muslims, people of color, gays, liberals, and journalists. They say so quite clearly, in words and deeds.

In short, Pittsburgh is why most American Jews oppose Trump. Israeli leaders seem not to understand that.

Source: The Tone-Deaf Israeli Reactions to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Alberta Human Rights Commission seeks to appeal Muslim school prayer spat at Supreme Court

Another case to watch:

The Alberta Human Rights Commission is hoping the Supreme Court will hear its appeal in the case of two Calgary Muslim students who were not allowed to pray at a non-denominational private school.

Sarmad Amir and Naman Siddiqui, who were in Grade 9 and 10 at Webber Academy in 2011, told the human rights commission that praying is mandatory in their Sunni religion. They said the school told them their praying, which requires bowing and kneeling, was too obvious and went against the academy’s non-denominational nature.

The human rights tribunal ruled the school’s policy was too rigid and it could have accommodated the students without violating its secular status.

That decision was upheld by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. The school then took the matter to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

It overturned the commission’s original decision ordering the school to pay a $26,000 fine for discriminatory behaviour and said another hearing was required because Webber Academy raised new issues under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Webber Academy president Neil Webber said Monday the human rights commission is seeking leave to appeal the decision.

“We should know I think by Christmas whether or not they have been successful. It took them quite a while to make the decision,” said Webber.

“We doubt that they will be successful. My information from our lawyer and also from a former member of the Supreme Court is that roughly 90 per cent of applications for leave … are turned down.”

No one at the Alberta Human Rights Commission immediately responded to a request for comment.

Webber said he hopes to preserve the secular nature of the school, which has about 1,000 students. He said the school has always made it clear to incoming students and their parents there is no space in the school for praying. It has received only two requests for prayer space in its 22 years of operations and both were denied.

He said even if the Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal, the matter is far from over.

“Then the human rights commission has a choice — they can have another hearing or they could just drop the whole thing. I don’t know what the probability of dropping the whole thing could be.”

Source: Alberta Human Rights Commission seeks to appeal Muslim school prayer spat at Supreme Court

How Canada barred adoptions from Muslim countries — and used Shariah law to do it

Not as simple as presented in the article. Shariah is the basis for family law in Pakistan and government policy is to obey local laws in adoptions, although it appears to be the case that the exceptions granted by Pakistani courts were not fully factored in.

And I don’t buy the assertion by some of those quoted in the article that national security concerns (regarding babies or toddlers) were a significant consideration:

At the Pakistani orphanage where he was abandoned at birth, little Imran packed his things and said goodbye to the children who weren’t so lucky.

At four years old, Imran believed he would finally have a family.

“Say goodbye to me,” he said. “My mom is coming to take me to Canada.”

That was two years ago. He never made it — all because of a controversial policy that’s kept hopeful Canadians separated from children they had created a space for in their hearts and their homes.

But after a year-long investigation by The Fifth Estate, that may change. The federal government says it will review a decision going back to 2013 when Canada banned adoptions from Pakistan without warning.

At the time, dozens of families’ lives were put on hold — many who had already been matched with a child.

Sarah was one of those hopeful parents, ready to bring Imran home from the orphanage in northern Pakistan. But a world away in Toronto, she finds herself a mother without a son.

The Fifth Estate has agreed to conceal Imran and Sarah’s identities because she feared going public might make it impossible for them to be together.

Mother and child in the eyes of Pakistan, Sarah is too afraid to send Imran photos of herself, worried she’ll become just another person to let him down.

“What if it never happens? I’m going to be the second mother that abandons him?”

She’s not alone.

The Fifth Estate has found Canada quietly extended the same restriction to virtually all Muslim countries. The reason: According to the federal government, adoptions aren’t permissible under Shariah law— even if parents had court orders from Islamic countries explicitly authorizing them.

Documents obtained through access to information legislation reveal the extent to which Canadian officials were delving into the particulars of Shariah law and in the process, bringing adoptions from Muslim countries to a near-halt.

And while the current government may have inherited the policy from its predecessor, families whose lives were brought to a standstill as a result of the Conservative-era decision are calling on the Liberal administration to explain why it has upheld a ban based on a murky set of religious principles they say the Canadian government has no business wading into.

A chance for a new life

It was 2012 when Imran was left a newborn at the Ceena Health and Welfare Services centre in northern Pakistan. The non-profit organization provides health and education support as well as care for abandoned babies in the remote valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan — a place where pregnancy outside marriage is highly taboo and can come with extreme danger to mother and child.

In this region, it isn’t unheard of for babies deemed illegitimate to be buried alive or left in dumpsters.

Some years earlier, Sarah made up her mind that she wanted to adopt and began working to get the necessary approvals.

In Canada, provinces and territories decide whether to allow an adoption after an in-depth application and interview process called a home study and extensive background checks. When the Ontario government sent Sarah a letter approving her to go ahead with the adoption process from Pakistan, her future looked bright.

All that was left was to be matched with a child who needed a home.

Adopting from Pakistan isn’t straightforward. Like Canada, the country’s laws are based on the British system. But they also draw from Islamic tradition, which generally holds that a child’s biological ties must never be severed.

In Pakistan, one of few options for children in need is a guardianship, which can be compared to fostering. A guardianship is the legal form of what’s known in many Muslim countries as kafala: a child receives the care that comes with being part of a family but the guardians don’t replace biological parents.

Pakistan has no official adoption law. But to provide a chance at a new life for the tens of thousands of orphaned or abandoned children there, the courts can grant permission to a guardian to take a child abroad for adoption — as they did for Imran.

Each year, Pakistan’s courts allow dozens of children to be taken to countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom for adoption.

It was the same for Canadian parents until 2013, when the federal government abruptly closed the door, leaving the lives of more than 50 families on hold.

According to the federal government at the time, continuing with adoptions from Pakistan violated Canada’s commitment to the Hague Convention on international adoption. Under the convention, it argued, it could only process adoptions where a parent-child relationship was created in the child’s home country — something it argued was impossible under Shariah law.

That’s a view not shared by the United States and United Kingdom, which are also Hague Convention members. Both countries allow citizens who have been approved for adoptions to bring their child home through a Pakistan court order. Back at home, the adoption process is finalized under domestic laws.

Why the sudden change in Canadian policy? The answers aren’t immediately clear.

‘Strictly prohibited under Shariah’

Emails from 2013 show federal officials were rounding up support from the provinces and territories for the ban, with bureaucrats becoming increasingly preoccupied with the intricacies of Islamic law.

“It is reasonable to assume that … a change in the child’s parentage is strictly prohibited under Shariah law,” reads one document dated June 2013 from federal officials to the provinces and territories.

“In the Islamic view, the child does not become a true child of the ‘adoptive’ parents…. Kafala, then, neither terminates the birth parent-child relationship nor grants full parental rights to the person (guardian),” it goes on.

For Canada to be in the business of interpreting Shariah law is baffling, said Sarah.

“I have had two judges, Pakistani judges from courts over there, say ‘Take this child, go to Canada and adopt him,’ ” she said. “So the judges in Pakistan don’t understand their own faith? Their own laws? But Canada knows better?”

Emails from federal officials in 2013 show the push for the ban appeared to the originate with Canada’s High Commission in Islamabad, which said the number of adoption cases was growing exponentially. In response to the push, federal officials hurried to put the policy in place, not wanting to tip off Canadian families or adoption agencies until they did so.

And while at first some provinces seemed to resist the push coming from the High Commission, by July 2, parents were waking up to a notice posted on the government’s website telling them adoptions were no longer possible.

Exceptions were supposed to be made for families far enough into the process. But while Sarah and several others began their adoptions well ahead of the ban, many found themselves facing roadblocks when the policy came into effect.

Saskatoon-based immigration lawyer Haidah Amirzadeh, who has taken on numerous cases of Canadians separated from the children they’re the guardians of, wonders if the ban wasn’t simply part of a federal government attempt to limit immigration from Muslim countries.

I would say it was politically motivated,” Amirzadeh said.

Whether or not that was the case is difficult to say. The documents obtained by The Fifth Estate surrounding the adoption ban don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Multiple pages are redacted.

But one of them, dated June 25, 2013, is a memo marked “secret,” titled “Canadian programming to counter the terrorist threat from Pakistan.”

The memo, addressed to the then-minister of foreign affairs, was sent just days before the moratorium went into place and raises the question of what national security could have had to do with banning adoptions from Pakistan.

For Osgoode Hall law professor Faisal Bhabha, who researches the intersection of law and religion, the idea of the federal government concerning itself with religious doctrine isn’t new, but it is unnerving. He argues the Harper government in particular tended to invoke conservative beliefs in the context of national security — where he argues they used it to stereotype people.

“This is another form of profiling in a way,” he said. “I would not put any nefarious motive beyond the previous government.”

Canadian officials quietly expand ban

In the aftermath of the ban, heartbroken parents took to the media worried they’d never be united with their adopted children. At the time, the hope among some parents and advocates was that the policy might eventually be overturned.

But until now, it appears the federal government has only defended the decision. As recently as 2017, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office did exactly that.

“The legal regime in Pakistan does not allow for or recognize the concept of adoption,” read a letter from Hussen’s office to one parent still fighting the ban. Guardianship orders, it continued, don’t allow children to be adopted in a guardian’s country of residence.

There was no acknowledgement by the federal government that the Pakistani courts routinely grant explicit permission to parents living abroad to complete adoptions in their home countries.

The Fifth Estate contacted Pakistan’s High Commission in Ottawa, which said Canada’s claim that Pakistan doesn’t allow for adoptions is simply false.

“We believe that the ban from the Canadian government is unjustified,” commission press minister Nadeem Kiani said in an interview. “Citizens of Canada should be allowed to adopt children from Pakistan.”

While on paper the ban applies only to Pakistan, it appears Canadian officials extended the same reasoning to adoptions from almost any Muslim country. In 2015, CBC News obtained hundreds of pages of documents about the decision, uncovering that Canada hadn’t ruled out broadening it.

In 2017, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada confirmed Pakistan wasn’t alone.

While on paper the ban applies only to Pakistan, it appears Canadian officials extended the same reasoning to adoptions from any Muslim country. (Habiba Nosheen/CBC)

“Under federal law, the same rules would apply to a kafala/guardianship order from any foreign state,” wrote Nancy Caron.

As it turns out, Canadian officials have been restricting adoptions from various Muslim countries on an ad hoc basis for at least a decade — saying those countries don’t allow adoption and citing Shariah law.

Court documents show Canadian visa agents did just that in cases dating back to 2008 involving Iran, Sudan and Iraq. And as recently as 2017, four orphaned brothers were barred from coming to Canada from Yemen on the same grounds.

Amirzadeh says she’s seen cases from Qatar, Afghanistan and Algeria blocked for the same reason.

‘Not for the state to make decisions’ about religion

For Bhabha, Canada’s argument that adoption is prohibited in Shariah law amounts to outright discrimination.

“It imposes a burden on adoptions that pertain only to children that have a particular ethnic, national, religious identity,” he said. “It can deny them the benefit of being adopted.”

Besides, he said, “it’s not for the Canadian state to make a decision based on what is Shariah-compliant … it’s not for the state to make decisions about what the correct interpretation of a religion is.”

And while the ban originated with the previous government, Bhabha argues it’s up to the current one to explain why it has continued to implement it.

The Fifth Estate made multiple requests for an interview with Hussen. He declined, instead sending a statement through his spokesperson.

“We have asked the department to initiate a review of this policy and begin consultations with Pakistan as well as provincial and territorial governments to determine a path forward to regularize adoptions from Pakistan,” press secretary Mathieu Genest said in an email dated Oct. 5.

“Harmonizing the laws of two countries can often be challenging and rather than trying to overcome these obstacles, the Harper government imposed a moratorium on all adoptions from Pakistan.”

How long that review might take and whether Canadians in the process of adopting when the ban went into place can expect action in the meantime, the email didn’t say. Genest also didn’t say whether Canadians blocked from adopting from other Muslim countries can expect any relief from this review.

“This decision has not been revisited by this government until it was brought to our attention.”

Source: How Canada barred adoptions from Muslim countries — and used Shariah law to do it

Immigration minister’s stern warning to Australian citizenship applicants

Some echoes of the previous Canadian Conservative’s language when passing C-24, along with the sharp decline in citizenship approvals until additional funding and efforts to eliminate the backlog:

Australia’s recently appointed Immigration and Citizenship minister has issued a stern warning to citizenship applicants amid a rising application backlog and dwindling citizenship conferrals  [grants].

“Australian citizenship is a privilege and it should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia,” David Coleman, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship said in a recent statement.

“Any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values will be considered as part of the citizenship application process, including violence against women and children, involvement in gangs or organised crime, and any behaviour that threatens our national security,” he added.

Australian citizenship approvals plunge to 15-year low

While Australian citizenship approvals have fallen to the lowest level since 2002-03, the number of citizenship applications awaiting processing is at a record high with migrants waiting longer than ever before to pledge their allegiance to Australia.

The warning comes in the wake of Australian citizenship conferrals plunging to 80,652 in 2017-18 – the lowest in 15 years. The Department of Home Affairs attributed the decline in citizenship approvals to an enhanced focus on security measures. The minister says he makes no apologies for it.

“Those who choose to become Australian citizens are making a solemn commitment to our democracy, to our way of life. And that commitment, made by five million people over the past 70 years has helped secure and enrich our nation.

“We will always work to make the system as functional and effective as possible for legitimate applicants. However, we make no apologies for ensuring only those who meet our security and character requirements are given the privilege of Australian citizenship,” said Mr Coleman.

The most common reasons for Australian citizenship refusals

Over 4,000 migrants were refused Australian citizenship last year. Here are some of the most common reasons that can have your citizenship application knocked back.

Citizenship applicants are currently waiting 17-19 months to know the outcome of their applications with the backlog ballooning to nearly 245,000. According to the Department of Home Affairs, 244,765 were waiting for the processing of their applications, as of 30th June this year.

Mr Coleman said more investment and resources, including 150 additional staff, are being directed towards processing of citizenship applications.

“Applications are at a record high—we are a country that many people want to live in and be a part of… We are investing heavily to meet this demand, while also protecting the security and integrity of the system to ensure only legitimate applications are approved.”

A pair of shoes costs Indian migrant Australian citizenship
An Indian national has been refused Australian citizenship for not disclosing his court conviction over a stolen pair of shoes and possessing a credit card that was suspected to be stolen.

The minister said, as a result of boosting resources, more than 33,800 citizenship applications were processed during the first three months of the current financial year as compared to 18,700 during the same period last year.

The Department says one of the reasons behind increasing waiting times is an increase in cases requiring “complex identity assessment”.

“The Government has established a 50-person task force within the Department of Home Affairs to deal with highly complex citizenship applications and ensure they are dealt with as efficiently as possible,” Mr Coleman said.

Source: Immigration minister’s stern warning to Australian citizenship applicants