Kiff: Disproportionate funding goes to media linked to Falun Gong | Ottawa Citize

Interesting analysis and valid questions. Given that Kiff is a principle of a lobbying firm (Solstice), this may not be a completely altruistic commentary which does not detract from the evidence presented:

While most of Canada’s conventional media have endured shrinking audiences and revenues in recent years, segments of the ethnic media have seen significant growth thanks to a constant influx of immigrants from all over the world.

In the Greater Toronto Area alone, there are about 120 ethnic media channels targeting various audiences. The number of Chinese daily newspapers has grown from about five in the 1990s to more than 50 in 2015.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2011, 13 ethnic communities had populations of more than one million, and others had sizeable and growing populations. Demographic projections indicate that by 2031, nearly half (46 per cent) of Canadians aged 15 and older could be foreign-born, or could have at least one foreign-born parent, up from 39 per cent in 2006.

With those numbers, the ethnic media sector in Canada is bound to keep on expanding.

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) helps to support this growth. It was created by the Department of Canadian Heritage back in 2010 with a mandate to foster, promote and finance the production of Canadian content and relevant applications for all audiovisual media platforms. Various CMF programs support productions reflecting Canadian diversity.

A closer look at the projects backed by the Canada Media Fund reveals some surprising funding patterns going back to 2010. Several production companies affiliated with New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV) have received close to $18 million in funding over six years compared to the combined total of about $13 million for other ethnic media outlets.

Studios with ties to NTDTV have received 43 per cent of the funding allocated through the Diverse Languages Program and have produced the near totality of funded projects in the Mandarin and Cantonese languages.

According to Wikipedia, NTDTV is a television broadcaster based in New York City with correspondents in more than 70 cities worldwide. The station was founded in 2001 as a Chinese-language broadcaster by practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice banned by the Chinese Communist Party.

NTDTV’s Canadian operation, with offices in North York, officially launched on March 28, 2012 on Shaw Cable. It is also available on Novus Entertainment in Vancouver and on Bell Fibe TV and Rogers Cable in Eastern Canada. It is unclear how many viewers NTDTV reaches in Canada.

So why does this relatively unknown broadcaster outside of the Chinese community, and its affiliated production companies, get what seems to be a disproportionate amount of funding compared to other ethnic broadcasters? Why are almost all funded Chinese-language projects produced for this broadcaster?

And what is known about the content of the material produced for a broadcaster with clear ties to a religious sect? Why, for example, are at least three funded projects linked to Shen Yun, the huge performing arts arm of Falun Gong that tours extensively throughout the world? Many critics have noted that this production’s overtly political content and proselytizing supersede its artistic merit.

When I spoke to the Canada Media Fund to confirm these figures, they pointed out that CMF is an independent non-partisan body and that CMF does not intervene in the subject-matter of funded projects, recognizing each production’s creative value and freedom of speech.

That is fine, as far as it goes. But, in this case an unexpected result is occurring.

Canada takes pride in its pluralistic and nonsectarian society. In spite of the CMF’s explanations, it seems odd and most un-Canadian that so much public funding is being allocated to a fringe religious group.

It is time for a bit more sunshine on what is occurring here.

Source: Kiff: Disproportionate funding goes to media linked to Falun Gong | Ottawa Citizen

Why Islam doesn’t need a reformation | Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan on the intellectual laziness of those who call for an Islamic reformation and the uncomfortable facts behind Luther’s reformation:

The truth is that Islam has already had its own reformation of sorts, in the sense of a stripping of cultural accretions and a process of supposed “purification”. And it didn’t produce a tolerant, pluralistic, multifaith utopia, a Scandinavia-on-the-Euphrates. Instead, it produced … the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Wasn’t reform exactly what was offered to the masses of the Hijaz by Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, the mid-18th century itinerant preacher who allied with the House of Saud? He offered an austere Islam cleansed of what he believed to be innovations, which eschewed centuries of mainstream scholarship and commentary, and rejected the authority of the traditional ulema, or religious authorities.

Some might argue that if anyone deserves the title of a Muslim Luther, it is Ibn Abdul Wahhab who, in the eyes of his critics, combined Luther’s puritanism with the German monk’s antipathy towards the Jews. Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s controversial stance on Muslim theology, writes his biographer Michael Crawford, “made him condemn much of the Islam of his own time” and led to him being dismissed as a heretic by his own family.

Don’t get me wrong. Reforms are of course needed across the crisis-ridden Muslim-majority world: political, socio-economic and, yes, religious too. Muslims need to rediscover their own heritage of pluralism, tolerance and mutual respect – embodied in, say, the Prophet’s letter to the monks of St Catherine’s monastery, or the “convivencia” (or co-existence) of medieval Muslim Spain.

If we are to fight extremism we must bring people together, not silence and ban them

What they don’t need are lazy calls for an Islamic reformation from non-Muslims and ex-Muslims, the repetition of which merely illustrates how shallow and simplistic, how ahistorical and even anti-historical, some of the west’s leading commentators are on this issue. It is much easier for them, it seems, to reduce the complex debate over violent extremism to a series of cliches, slogans and soundbites, rather than examining root causes or historical trends; easier still to champion the most extreme and bigoted critics of Islam while ignoring the voices of mainstream Muslim scholars, academics and activists.

Hirsi Ali, for instance, was treated to a series of encomiums and softball questions in her blizzard of US media interviews, from the New York Times to Fox News. (“A hero of our time,” read one gushing headline on Politico.) Frustratingly, only comedian Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, was willing to point out to Hirsi Ali that her reformist hero wanted a “purer form of Christianity” and helped create “a hundred years of violence and mayhem”.

With apologies to Luther, if anyone wants to do the same to the religion of Islam today, it is Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who claims to rape and pillage in the name of a “purer form” of Islam – and who isn’t, incidentally, a fan of the Jews either. Those who cry so simplistically, and not a little inanely, for an Islamic reformation, should be careful what they wish for.

Why Islam doesn’t need a reformation | Mehdi Hasan | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Liam Lacey’s TIFF diary: Jon Stewart rises above Gaza tensions in directorial debut

Nice discussion between Jon Stewart and Maziar Bahari at TIFF on their upcoming film, Rosewater, on Bahari’s imprisonment in Iran following his coverage of the Green Revolution and on the importance of storytelling:

Stewart is Jewish, and his occasionally critical views on Israel have earned him admiration among youth in the Arab world. Bahari was born in Tehran and educated in Montreal. His first documentary, The Voyage of St. Louis, is considered the first film by a Muslim about the Holocaust. On Sunday morning, as church bells were ringing outside, I asked them to talk about cultural bridge-building. They laughed.

“That’s where we met – right in the middle!” said Bahari with a laugh.

“In the middle of the Venn diagram where no one likes you,” Stewart added.

“It was never like: ‘Oh, I want to build cultural bridges. I want to change the world,’” Bahari reflected. “That was the beauty of working with Jon. He wasn’t some activist filmmaker. He has a sense of humour [and] saw it as a good story about family and family love. And then you had this important, political, historical, journalistic background.”

“I think that a good story, well-told, accomplishes those things without that being the goal of it,” Stewart said. “One of the biggest problems with activist work is that it values the activism above the art, and it can get in the way … You can’t create work with a goal in mind in regard to peoples’ reaction. The goal is to tell this really compelling story as best we can.”

Liam Lacey’s TIFF diary: Jon Stewart rises above Gaza tensions in directorial debut – The Globe and Mail.

From my no longer active lymphoma blog, my mini-review of Bahari’s book:

I read And Then They Came for Me, Maziar Bahari’s recounting, as a Newsweek journalist, of Iran’s Green Revolution and his subsequent imprisonment.  Not as sophisticated as Haleh Esfandiari’s My Prison My Home, but lots of common insights into Iran, the interrogation process, courage and ways to keep one’s sanity, and the importance to international pressure to get them released. And with some wonderful asides on Leonard Cohen (his strongest Canadian connection), both his cynical side (Everybody Knows as Bahari realizes the election results will be fixed) and on the romantic or hopeful side (Sisters of Mercy which comes to him while in prison). Another strong, powerful and depressing account of today’s Iran.