Sears: Canadian Muslims’ anguished demand: how many more times?

Reads as overly “triumphant” given that the solutions are neither simple nor easy. But yes, the political presence of all major political leaders, the regrets of Conservatives regarding “barbaric cultural practices” are significant signals of changing social norms (even if not much evidence in right-wing media):

What a difference a year makes.

It seems unlikely that the massive nationwide reaction to the murder of a Muslim family in London, Ont. a week ago tonight would have been as deep and all-embracing before the death of George Floyd. His death, and the global revulsion to it, forced new lessons on all of us about the depths and costs of systemic racism.

This week, impressively, the majority of those demanding change were not Muslim. Also remarkable was the sight of every political leader from every level of government at the London vigil. They all underlined that there is simply no political space anymore for even dog-whistled racist tropes in our politics. Stephen Harper was the last politician to suffer for his 2015 campaign’s sleazy racist whispers. Premier Kenney, who blamed South Asians’ cultural practices for the spread of COVID in their communities, seems likely to be the next.

A European friend reminded me recently that we should be proud that we are the only nation in the developed world where there is zero traction for a racist or anti-immigrant political party. It is a feature of our politics that we should celebrate. We saw it again this week.

American politicians’ declarations of their nation’s “exceptionalism” cause many Canadians to twitch. Barack Obama’s bizarrely ignorant claim that his victory could only have taken place in one country made many of us shout “not true!” at our screens. So, it is with some trepidation I suggest that there are few places in the world where an entire nation will leap immediately to the defence of a wounded Muslim community and demand action from all their politicians.

What we cannot pat our collective back for, however, is success in fighting the visible rise in calls for violence from white supremacists. Incited from the depths of the social media swamp, we can no longer deny the cancerous growth of racial hatred. We find it in members of our military and police services, in too many hospital and LTC workers and on too many city streets. We cannot excuse our political leaders for their continuing incompetence and failure to take even the most basic steps to block racist attacks.

As one sign at the London vigil demanded, “How Many More Times?” Neither the prime minister nor Premier Ford embraced the call for an emergency national summit to create an action agenda, despite their powerful rhetorical performances that night. Nothing effective was done after the mosque murders in Quebec City. So far, the political response to the Afzaal family’s murder has been promises to write another cheque. A more severe application of criminal justice is not the answer. Harsh punishment following the next attack will do nothing for the dead victims.

The fundamentals to rolling back racism are well known. They start with frequent public acknowledgment of our reality by leaders in every institution. Delivering stories of the power of communities devoted to inclusion and diversity, beginning at the elementary school level. Heavy consequences for social media platforms that grant safe harbours to this poison on their sites. (Removing hate speech after an attack is not good enough, Facebook.) Every one of us confronting the slurs we see and hear too often. And yes, using the law to hammer the attackers.

Source: Canadian Muslims’ anguished demand: how many more times?

The attack in London did not occur in a vacuum. It is a reflection of my city – and of Canada

Money quote:

“Every Indigenous issue is our issue. Every anti-Asian hate crime, every Islamophobic attack, should be seen as a crime against all of us. Every Black life lost senselessly is interconnected. Our colonial past is still affecting us in our everyday lives, making it easier for some to live, while others continue to suffer.”

A strong reminder of the need to focus on the commonalities of prejudice, discrimination and racism, that sometimes get lost in the legitimate concerns and fears of individuals and communities:

They were killed within walking distance of where I live. A Muslim family, out for an evening stroll.

I walk the same path they took, pray at the mosque where they prayed and even attended the same high school as the daughter. These faces I have seen as I grew up in this community – gone.

Heartbroken? Yes. Shocked? No.

London is my home. But hate, racism and Islamophobia have a deep history here. The Ku Klux Klan established a presence in London in 1872, sowing their hate within the fabric of our city. Fast forward to 2017, when an anti-Islam protest was initiated in this city by the Patriots of Canada Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA); roughly 40 members and supporters attended. London has been and still is a hot spot for right-wing extremism, Islamophobia and white supremacist activity.

Growing up in northwest London, my family was one of the few visible Muslims in our neighbourhood. Our home and car were targeted and vandalized monthly. Each time we would just wash off the yolk and clear away the shells, but the stench and fear remained. My parents were always putting on a brave face for their children, playing it down by telling us that it must just be some mischievous kids on the block. After reporting this to the police a few times we gave up, as nothing came of it. But I knew it worried them. They never wanted me to travel alone, especially at night. We had conversations about how the way I looked made me a target, how I needed to be more careful than other kids.

Years before Yumna Afzaal walked the halls of Oakridge Secondary School, my friends and I faced severe opposition from parents – and even some staff – who didn’t want us to create a safe space for Muslim students to practise their faith. This is my London, my Canada.

If we deny that we have a problem, then we will never address the root cause. This is not a lone attack or an incident that occurred in a vacuum. It is a reflection of our city and our country as a whole. Nor are Islamophobia, Indigenous rights, anti-Black racism and antisemitism separate problems. They are all a part of structures created from a colonial past. One that has benefitted from divide-and-conquer policies and depended on “othering” those who are different.

If Canada calls itself a mosaic, then that mosaic is under attack by those who want to destroy it with our blood.

Yet, there is always hope. Thousands attended the vigil at the London Muslim Mosque on Tuesday. People from all walks of life came out to show solidarity to the Muslim community – strangers assuring us, “we are with you, you are loved.”

Just as it took the support of one teacher to stand up as an ally and support the Muslim students at Oakridge Secondary School when I attended all those years ago, what this community needs right now is you. Every Londoner, every Canadian, needs to be an ally. Stand up against the overt aggression but also, perhaps more importantly, against the microaggressions and other forms of racism you have ignored for far too long in your daily lives. Do you speak or act differently when the person looks different than you? Do you politely ignore the racist, Islamophobic, antisemitic, anti-Asian or anti-Indigenous comments you hear from your colleagues, your extended family, your political party? Letting those seemingly big and little things go has brought us here, to this.

I have to commend Jeff Bennett, a former Progressive Conservative Party candidate for London West, for calling it out as it is. “We must take stock of the part we play,” he wrote in a widely shared Facebook post. “No more saying, ‘Oh grandpa is not really racist. He was just raised differently.’ Well that ‘differently’ is not okay. Canada has a racist, unacceptable history. It’s time we call it out, own it and take action.”

Every Indigenous issue is our issue. Every anti-Asian hate crime, every Islamophobic attack, should be seen as a crime against all of us. Every Black life lost senselessly is interconnected. Our colonial past is still affecting us in our everyday lives, making it easier for some to live, while others continue to suffer.

I hope my neighbours in London choose to stand up in solidarity and take action. I hope you all do.


Khan: The London attack reaffirms why Muslims often feel unsafe in their own country

Good commentary:

Every few years, I feel very vulnerable and unsafe. This is one of those times.

On Sunday, five members – three generations – of a Muslim family went out for a walk on a summer’s evening in London, Ont., an opportunity relished by many Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. For this family, it was a regular activity before returning home to offer the sunset prayer, according to a neighbour.

Yet this simple act of enjoying nature with one’s family is no more because of an act of pure, unadulterated hatred.

While waiting at a stoplight, Madiha Salman, her husband Salman Afzaal, 15-year-old daughter Yumna, nine-year-old son Fayez, and 74-year-old mother-in-law were allegedly rammed by a 20-year-old driver who, according to police and witnesses, deliberately accelerated his pickup toward the family, targeting them because they were Muslim.

Initially, police said the extended family requested to keep the victims’ names private, but the family identified them in a statement Monday. Only Fayez survived. Now an orphan, he is recuperating in hospital.

What kind of world are we living in?

For Muslims, it is unfortunately one where the slow drumbeat of hate-filled violence has become louder. The 2017 Quebec City massacre, in which worshippers were gunned down at a mosque – a place of spiritual refuge – shook all of us to the core.

As a nation, we vowed to fight the scourge of Islamophobia. Muslims wondered if a visit to their local mosque might be their last. Such was, and is, the fear. Enhanced safety features – including screened entries and guards – became the uneasy norm.

Yet this was still not enough back in September, when 58-year-old Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was killed outside an Etobicoke, Ont., mosque by an apparent white supremacist. Mr. Zafis was a volunteer caretaker of the mosque he cherished. On that fateful evening, he sat outside, controlling entry to the mosque in compliance with COVID-19 protocols. The accused perpetrator slipped behind Mr. Zafis, slashed his throat and fled.

Violence is happening all over the country. This year alone, there have been multiple reported assaults in Edmonton, where strangers have threatened Muslim women. In at least five cases, women were pushed, kicked and/or punched in public.

Calgary has similarly witnessed numerous cases of assault against Muslims; three involved women physically attacked in broad daylight because of their hijab. Understandably, the women have been emotionally and physically traumatized.

And now, a family has been killed in London. Is it any wonder why Muslims – especially women – don’t feel safe?

Yet this country is far greater than the hate-filled zealots who seek to intimidate, sow fear and spread the bigotry that fuels them. The outpouring of grief and support from Canadians has been a balm to the shock felt by Muslims across the land.

Since the news came out about the attack, I have received heartfelt messages of support, including the following from my friend and colleague Myriam Davidson: “It breaks my heart,” she wrote. “The best I have is we are here standing with you. There is no place for Islamophobia in our communities – it is despicable. Whenever a synagogue gets attacked – what brings me comfort is when non-Jews speak up, call it out and reaffirm that we are an inclusive society where this is not tolerated. So I’m modelling the best I know how.”

And that is the key: reaching out the best way each of us can. Our society will be stronger for it. While Muslims will rely on their faith for spiritual succour, we will need emotional support from others to overcome our fears and to know that we are valued members of the Canadian family.

There are many ways to help. Some Muslims are fearful to go for a simple walk, so offer to accompany them. Donate to a fund for nine-year-old Fayez. Attend a vigil. Perhaps the most powerful gesture is to simply say, “I am here for you.”

Last week, I was mesmerized by the haunting, powerful rendition of O Canada by Winnipeg folk singer-songwriter Don Amero, accompanied by Elders Wally and Karen Swain, prior to a Habs-Jets playoff game. While Mr. Amero sang, I asked myself: “How does he have the fortitude to sing an anthem of a country whose government, for 150 years, committed cultural genocide against the Indigenous peoples of this land?”

I know I could not. Yet Mr. Amero taught me something that resonates today, which is that the power of love, of resilience, of dignity always conquers bitterness.

We will come together – whether it is to address deep-rooted historical prejudices against Indigenous communities, or contemporary hatred against minority communities. Let us dig deep into the well of human compassion to continuously build a more just, inclusive society.


Contrasting commentaries on the London killings

Contrasting commentaries, starting with Rupa Subramanya, who while providing perspective on racism in Canada and how it also exists between minority groups, downplays the extent of racism and Islamophobia. Noor Javed provides a useful counterpoint on her lived experiences:

There is certainly no question that hate crimes against many minority groups — including Jewish, Muslim and Asian Canadians — have been on the rise recently. Statistics Canada found that police-reported hate crimes increased in 2019 from the previous year, and reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have surged throughout the pandemic.

A 2019 Ipsos Reid poll found that 26 per cent of respondents believed that prejudice against Muslims had become “more acceptable” in the previous five years. This compares to 21 per cent for refugees, 23 per cent for immigrants as a whole and 15 per cent or less for other minority groups, including Indo-Canadians and Jewish-Canadians.

Any evidence that racism is on the rise is deplorable and every racist incident must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. However, Singh does the cause of fighting racism no favours by taking an extreme and exaggerated position that I, as an immigrant and person of colour, cannot agree with. Are there racists in Canada? Sure. Is Canada a racist country? Absolutely not.

Source: No, Jagmeet, Canada is not a racist country. It’s one of the most tolerant places on earth

Noor Javed, on her lived experiences:

In the early morning hours, the day after the most recent terror attack in Ontario, I couldn’t sleep.

It was still dark when I got out of bed and did the only thing that would comfort my heart: I prayed for the Afzaal family — Salman Afzaal, Madiha Salman, 15 year-old Yumna, her grandmother, Talat, and nine-year-old survivor Fayez. The family were intentionally run down by a truck in their hometown of London, Ont., on Sunday as they took an evening stroll in their neighbourhood.

They were the victims of what police are calling an anti-Muslim hate attack.

I cannot help thinking about my own experiences with Islamophobia as a visible Muslim journalist in the so-called “most diverse city in the world.”

Nothing I experienced compares to the trauma faced by the family and friends of the Afzaal family — including Fayez, who will live with this horrific incident and the loss of his family forever. Or the family of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, who was murdered last year by a neo-Nazi in Etobicoke as he sat outside the International Muslim Organization mosque. Or the children who buried their fathers in Quebec City after the mosque shooting in 2017 — and the many survivors who are still struggling to cope in its aftermath.

But the many incidents of Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim hate as I prefer to name it, that I have faced have weighed down on me over the years. They have affected the career choices I have made. They have impacted my mental health. They have deeply hurt me — and still do.

When I tried to list all the incidents of hate that I have experienced since I became a journalist — both in my job and on a day-to-day basis — I hit 30 before I stopped. I could have gone on.

There is an unspoken code that journalists of colour quickly learn when they start in the profession: if you want to survive in this industry, you must have thick skin.

When I got my first barrage of hate mail as an intern at the Star 15 years ago, and turned to a colleague for support, he looked at my hijab and said: if you want to survive, you will need to have Teflon-like skin. Let the hate bounce off you. Don’t let it stick.

But the truth is, even when you tell yourself it doesn’t impact you, it still does.

Every email in your inbox with someone telling you they hate you because of your hijab.

Every letter calling you a “dirty raghead.”

Every tweet telling you to go back to where you came from.

Every person who walks by and whispers “You’re disgusting.”

Every smear campaign calling you a terrorist.

Every time someone doubts your news judgment because you are a “lying Muslim.”

Every time someone asks if you were a token hire.

Every time you go to the public editor, nearly in tears, when the hate gets too much to bear.

Every time you realize that your colleagues enjoy the luxury of white privilege, their names and skin colour affording them a protection that you have never had — and never will.

I will stop there.

You look for ways to cope. But the hate slowly chips away at you and at the idea that we have been so conditioned to believe: How can this be happening here in Canada, the most accepting country in the world?

Let me tell you: It’s been happening for years. The hate is not new. And neither is the violence.

But the haters have gotten more brazen. More hateful. More organized. More dangerous.

So when the Afzaal family was killed for just being Muslim this week, it broke me.

Years of online hate, of politicians benefiting from anti-Muslim policies, of pundits spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric, of trolls questioning if our pain was even real, has done exactly what it was meant to. It turned people against us. It has led them to hate us so much that they want us dead.

This week, I had a conversation that I never imagined I would have with my children, ages seven and 10. I had feared telling them about the incident, but they saw the cover of the newspaper and asked me what happened in London on Sunday night.

I sat them down, and told them about a beautiful family, who looked very much like our own, who went for a walk, but didn’t make it home.

They looked at my tears, and my hijab, and shared their thoughts: “That’s so scary.” “I don’t ever want to cross a street again.”

And then came the hard questions:

“Who will take care of the little boy?”

“Why would that man do that to them? Could it happen to us?”

“Are you scared, mama?”

I’m not scared, little ones. I’m tired.

Source: ‘Are you scared mama?’: Years of anti-Muslim hate chip away at you. The killing of the Afzaal family in London broke me

Boessenkool: Crossing the line

Good self- and broader reflections:

As I reflect on vile attack on five members of the beautiful Azfaal family — Salman, Madiha, Yumna, Talat and Fayez — I was initially deeply angered by how quick some were to use this vile, hate-motivated act of terrorism to confirm their political priors. 

And yet. 

The fact that the alleged attacker, Nathaniel Veltman, is a young Dutch blond boy who could well have come from my own religious community hit close to the heart. 

Now let me be clear. I apportion no blame for this act on Conservatives, religion, or even the Dutch privilege in which I assume Veltman, like me, grew up in. If guilty of this crime, Veltman is a hate-motivated terrorist who committed multiple murders. That would be on him. May the justice system rain down. 

And yet. 

My reflection called to mind times when, as a religious social conservative, I should have felt more uncomfortable with some of the things my fellow conservatives have said in recent years about terrorism, culture and religion. Times when we too easily crossed lines that conservatives — and religious conservatives in particular — should not have crossed.  

The line got crossed when some seemed to weigh their critique of a terrorist act based entirely on the motivation for that terrorist act. To put it another way, they became more interested in combatting terrorism motivated by some beliefs than terrorism motivated by other beliefs. Compare, for example, the disgustingly light-hearted condemnation of the far-right, neo-Nazi terrorist act in Charlottesville by the same populist U.S. president that proposed banning all Muslim immigration as part of an effort to prevent domestic terrorism. Or those who called for a “values test” to root out radical Islam one day — and then stood with a street preacher who flagrantly breaks the law the next. 

The line got crossed when we got more concerned with the actions of individuals within the institutions of our liberal capitalist democracy than the ideas underpinning those institutions. As a religious social conservative I hold freedom of religion extremely dear. In my world of competing rights, religious freedom comes out near the top. But that means holding expressions of other religions — like a turban, kirpan, hijab or burka — as dear as holding symbols of one’s own religion. Banning or restricting any of these things should make me deeply uncomfortable. Religious freedom should be religion blind. 

The same goes for religious practices. If something is a criminal act, call it a criminal act and treat it as such. If something is a part of one’s religious practice or tradition, leave it at that and leave it alone. Blurring the lines by referring to “barbaric cultural practices” crosses the line. The use of the word “cultural” kind of gives it away. 

The line got crossed when some tried to use the power of the state to impose their own religious views. Now let me be clear. I attend a Christian church — honestly, I need it more than most — and I hold my religious views as truth. I’d not be much of a religious person if I didn’t. I don’t go to a mosque, a synagogue, a temple, or a Richard Dawkins book club to practice my religion. Yet I want my public square to have room for all of these, and many more.  

The investigation into the horrible attack in London continues. If the early information is confirmed, it appears that Veltman alone is responsible for the hate-inspired terrorism of which he is accused.

But an act this vile, particularly when its perpetrated by a member of your own community also warrants deep reflection.  

I spent the afternoon writing down the lines I have crossed. I pray others do the same. 


UK: I served in the Met. The lack of progress on diversity is disgusting

Canadian police forces also struggle with recruitment of visible minorities:

The question that needs to be asked is not “are the Metropolitan police institutionally racist?”, or “why does black and minority ethnic recruitment for the police still lag so far behind the diversity of London as a whole?” It should simply be: “Why do young black and minority ethnic people reject the Metropolitan police as a career choice?”

This week, marking 20 years since the landmark Macpherson report on institutional racism in the police, the Met said it would take 100 years for the force to mirror the wider diversity of London and will remain disproportionately white. Why?

The answer can be found in the experiences of black and minority ethnic communities of the police, which continues far too often to be marked by incivility, suspicion and distrust. The continued disproportionate use of stop and search and the vanishingly low numbers of stops that result in a substantive charge, never mind conviction, cements in young black consciousness an underlying enmity – a feeling that the police are “other”.

From those new recruits who manage to overcome this feeling of alienation, I’ve heard how the recruitment process can often make BAME individuals feel unwelcome.

Those who make it to become serving officers also experience a continued canteen culture which, while muted in its vocal expressions of racism compared with 35 years ago when I joined, nevertheless still has subtle ways of excluding BAME staff as well as LGBT officers. There has been significant progress both in terms of the initial recruitment and promotion of female officers, but this has not been mirrored for BAME staff. Promotion for black, Asian and minority ethnic officers continues to take longer, and come up against more obstacles than for white colleagues. As recently as 2008, I set up a mentoring and coaching programme to raise promotion rates for BAME officers, which had some early successes. Unfortunately, when I tried to extend the programme, the initiative was rubbished by senior officers.

Access to further and specialist training, and hence jobs with special squads, is holding BAME officers back: selection continues to be based on who you know rather than what you can do. That means the police service is missing out on talented individuals who could contribute to specialist teams, and help reduce the impression, for example, that responders are less careful about the safety of BAME suspects.

This depressing picture reflects a failure to fully engage with the Macpherson message that “processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping disadvantages minority ethnic people”.

This week Cressida Dick, the force’s head, claimed the Met is not institutionally racist: “I don’t feel it is now a useful way to describe the service and I don’t believe we are,” she said. “I simply don’t see it as a helpful or accurate description.”

But in saying this, the commissioner is effectively rejecting the reality of the unconscious bias that certainly exists. She is also fostering the unhelpful idea that naming the problem amounts to a slur on individuals. This failure to recognise discrimination where it exists has stymied the progress that the Met could and should have made, both in its attitude to the general public and to BAME recruits and officers. It has sabotaged attempts to bring the Met into the 21st century, and will continue to do so.

Only when discrimination – whether implicit or explicit, wilful or unwitting – is recognised can it start to be addressed. And only when it is addressed will the daily experience of black and minority ethnic Londoners encourage them to join the police to create a virtuous upward spiral of respect, acceptance and diversity.

Source: I served in the Met. The lack of progress on diversity is disgusting

UK: Shaun Bailey’s views on multiculturalism are toxic to Londoners and his response is worse

Sigh …

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for the London mayoralty, is under fire after the Guardian obtained an old Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet in which Bailey said that allowing Hindu and Muslim families time off to celebrate their religious festivals would rob Britain of its community and turn the country into a “crime-ridden cesspool”.

The policy is toxic. No, having days off to accommodate religious festivals doesn’t divide communities and in fact the reverse situation (keeping schools open but having religious absences or parents opting out of mainstream education as a result) does. Added to that, for Bailey, the politics are more toxic still.

There is no plausible path for any Conservative candidate to 50 per cent of the vote plus one – necessary under London’s supplementary vote system – that doesn’t run through London’s affluent Hindu communities in west and north-west London. How is he going to get their votes if he is on the record saying their religious holidays risk turning the country into a “cesspool”?

His campaign’s response is a revealing insight into why Sadiq Khan’s aides believe that Bailey will be an error-prone and vulnerable candidate. Here’s their response to the Guardian in full:

“As a descendant of the Windrush generation, and someone who has worked with diverse communities for over 20 years, Shaun knows full well the challenges faced by BAME communities. Shaun has made it his life’s work to help those from migrant and disadvantaged communities, and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous. As someone who has received racist abuse from the Labour party, who let’s not forget branded the community worker a ‘token ghetto boy’, this is a little rich.”

There are a lot of bad political choices to unpack in a single paragraph, but let’s start with the last sentence. Put yourselves in the shoes of one of Harrow’s Hindu swing voters. You backed Sadiq Khan in 2016 but re-elected Bob Blackman, a Conservative, in 2017. You’ve heard that Bailey thinks that teaching people about Diwali in schools will rob Britain of its community and turn the country into a “cesspool”. Why do you give a flying one about Emma Dent Coad saying something racist about Shaun Bailey? Why is that relevant to your life? That’s not an apology.

But it’s not the only bad decision being made here.

Let’s imagine you are instead an older white voter in Bow. You voted for Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith. You were suspicious about Sadiq Khan and you still aren’t wholly sold on him. Why do you care about Bailey being “a descendant of the Windrush generation”? Why’s he focussing on helping migrants? What about your grandkids? Who even is this guy who hasn’t even made it to Westminster who thinks he can become your mayor?

Or perhaps you’re a graduate in, say, Richmond. You backed Boris Johnson but you now have complicated feelings about him thanks to the referendum. You voted Liberal Democrat in Westminster and gave Sadiq Khan your second preference in London as you disliked Zac Goldsmith’s campaign. You think Khan is a decent guy but you aren’t sure what he’s actually done. You aren’t entirely sure what Diwali is about but you like living in a city where different things go on.

I just named three groups without which a Conservative candidate cannot win the London mayoralty and Bailey is appealing to none of them. And among liberal graduates and affluent Hindus he has probably suffered a wound that Khan will seek to widen and deepen over the next two years.

Source: Shaun Bailey’s views on multiculturalism are toxic to Londoners and his response is worse

Newly arrived Yazidis who escaped sex slavery of ISIS eager to build better future in Canada

Another article on Yazidis in Canada, focussed on London:

It’s here in London — where about 300 Yazidis have formed a small but tight-knit community since the early 1980s when they fled the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein — that Bhasa and other recently arrived Yazidis hope to start building a new life for their families and try to move beyond the horrors they suffered in captivity.

Dalal Abdallah, a Yazidi human rights activist who lives in London, says members of her community have been donating clothing, hygiene products and toys for the families who have arrived and look forward to absorbing more into their community.

“For many, many years, we have been struggling [to grow] as a community because no Yazidis were coming through,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to build our community, and the more people, the merrier.”

She said London has already accepted and integrated Syrian refugees and that there’s enough support for Yazidis, including a program at Victoria Hospital to help refugees deal with trauma.

Other support comes from London’s Cross Cultural Learner Centre, where Yazidis can learn some basic tools for integrating in Canada: how to get housing, set up bank accounts, apply for health cards.

“We are here to support them, welcome them, make them feel comfortable, that they are not alone here,” said Omar Khoudeida, a Yazidi interpreter who works at the centre and who himself came to London nearly 20 years ago as a refugee.

“There’s a community behind them and supporting them.”

But even with that support, Bhasa must still cope with the emotional fallout of a family torn apart by genocide.

She fears being identified. Although she doesn’t know the fate of family members in Iraq, she’s worried that going public could put them in danger. She hasn’t seen her husband and other male relatives since ISIS invaded her home in August 2014.

Daughter still missing

She also fears for her daughter, who was nine years old when she was snatched by the Islamist militant group.

“They took her. She doesn’t know anything about her,”  Khoudeida said.

While ISIS targets all communities, it has particular antipathy for Yazidis, whom it considers to be infidels.

Iraq Cda Yazidis 20170222

ISIS survivors Suham Haji, from left, Samira Hasan and Saud Khalid sit in the Dohuk Girls and Women Treatment and Support Centre in Dohuk, Iraq. The three women are among 900 being treated at the centre after escaping ISIS captivity. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Last June, a UN commission declared in a report that ISIS was committing genocide against the religious group of about 400,000. ISIS, it said, was subjecting “every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of atrocities.”

Source: Newly arrived Yazidis who escaped sex slavery of ISIS eager to build better future in Canada – Canada – CBC News

How a spat over PC culture in philosophy betrayed philosophy itself

Good and thoughtful commentary by Adrian Lee over the controversy University of London Student Union’s demand that the School of Oriental and African Studies remove philosophers like Plato, Rene Descartes and Immanuel Kant “because they are white” in a mandate that sought to “decolonize” SOAS:

The whole thing is a missed opportunity: A missed opportunity for academics to give the story little credence and prove that philosophy was above the fray of the overly personal bickering that has infected the political climate. A missed opportunity from reporters to find out from the angriest of these academics why they think that teaching more diverse voices means teaching Western European voices less. (In fact, that’s the kind of defensive mentality—that addition must mean subtraction—that’s awful familiar from the most blinkered responses to the Black Lives Matter movement, or to any urge for equality that touches a frayed nerve.) Hell, it was even an opportunity to simply acknowledge that philosophers owe a lot to non-white thinkers. It would be hard, for instance, to imagine a legacy for Aristotle without the efforts of the Islamic scholar Averroes, whose work then inspired Thomas Aquinas. Plato’s legacy was continued and refined by Plotinus, who was born in Egypt. St. Augustine, best known for his Confessions, was an Algerian; Voltaire’s political writings were influenced by what he saw on visits to China.

And even if we were to take the story on its face value—that indeed, philosophy students from the University of London, rather than a specialized school like SOAS, wanted to learn more about philosophers outside of the Western canon and sought a critical take on hoary canonical icons. How is that so wrong? How could students taking an active and expansive interest in what they’re being taught scare teachers, when sparking thoughtful considerations like that is the very goal of education? Wanting to learn more about historical contexts and seeking to think critically and contextually about what they’re studying aren’t signs of a dismissible “snowflake” student. It’s actually the sign of a good one.

But mostly, the whole philosophy fracas is a depressing vision. How sad that academics—the high-minded thinkers who think they have themselves escaped the cave—thought defending philosophy meant parroting easy outrage and succumbing to overly simplistic falsehoods. How tragic that teachers appeared to so quickly abandon their students for the most bargain-bin of straw men. And that may be the saddest thing of all: if falsehoods and polarized politics and manufactured outrage and the leaping to simple fallacies can infect philosophy’s lofty rafters, then what hope do the rest of us have?

After all, if those philosophers had indeed re-read Plato, they would have known better. The characters in the imagined conversations in The Republic are more than mere fools built up to be knocked down. They challenge Socrates’ proofs, urge him on, and make them better. They wield ideas, not personal attacks. They are rhetorical dance partners, not useful idiots. Socrates, the book’s Platonic mouthpiece, even acknowledges that he is willing to be convinced otherwise on various points. Philosophy of the sort in The Republic is, in short, not a project of balkanization, where ideas are heroic or villainous. It’s a dialogue, the kind we need more of, from all of us—but especiallyour philosophers.

Source: How a spat over PC culture in philosophy betrayed philosophy itself –

Security agencies face ‘real challenge’ fighting terrorism: London police head

Worth noting:

Identifying and tracking people who could turn into terrorists remains a challenge. At least 800 people from Britain went to Syria in recent years, with many joining the Islamic State and others in the fight against the Syrian government. Roughly 400 have returned to Britain and the police now have to assess their potential threat. They are ranked on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the most dangerous.

Many of those who returned from Syria were legitimate aid workers or IS fighters who became frightened of the conflict, he said. “You could, therefore, regard them as a lower-risk group. But we can’t absolutely guarantee that,” he added. “They remain a continuing concern.”

He had praise for controversial programs such as Prevent, which obliges teachers and others in Britain to report people engaging in radical behaviour. Critics have said Prevent stigmatizes those who have been reported and unfairly targets Muslims. Sir Bernard said that while it isn’t perfect, the program can offer help to vulnerable people and families.

Putting guns in the hands of police officers isn’t a solution, he added, because that only increases barriers between cops and communities. The Metropolitan force remains one of the few in the world where the vast majority of officers do not carry guns. Of the city’s more than 32,000 officers, only 2,100 are armed. However, that number is slated to increase by 600 because of the attacks in Paris last November that killed 130 people.

“Just arming all police is not always the answer,” he said. “And our way is to have well-trained specialist officers, well equipped, well led, who we’d be deploying in large numbers to deal with that type of attack.”

One of the most effective tools to combat terrorism, and most other crimes, is the city’s vast network of CCTV cameras. After rioting in 2011, which spread across several parts of London, police gathered 250,000 hours of camera footage to seek out the culprits. About 800 officers spent a year combing through the material, leading to 5,000 arrests. Of those charged with a crime, 90 per cent “pleaded guilty because [the video footage] was such powerful evidence,” he said.

Britons have become so accustomed to the proliferation of cameras in the subway, on buses, across public places and in some taxis that the country has not had a major debate about privacy issues.

Sir Bernard said that is because the cameras were introduced at the local level. “It wasn’t the government saying you’re all going to have CCTV cameras. This was local authorities saying we want it in a public space, in shopping centres, and buses wanted it,” he said, adding that for police work, the cameras are “incredibly powerful.”

Source: Security agencies face ‘real challenge’ fighting terrorism: London police head – The Globe and Mail