Egyptian minister’s laughing vow in Canada to ‘slice up’ anyone who criticizes her country alarms immigrant groups

Even if the expression was made only in jest, unacceptable:

Egyptian-Canadians are incensed over an Egyptian cabinet minister’s promise to “slice up” critics of her country, saying what might have been meant as a joke struck them as a serious threat from a repressive regime.

Those of both Coptic-Christian and Muslim backgrounds — who rarely see eye to eye otherwise — condemned Wednesday the comments made by Immigration Minister Nabila Makram on a visit to Mississauga, Ont.

They cite Cairo’s record of arbitrary detentions, violence against political opponents and other human-rights abuses since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power six years ago.

Some have complained to police, and the Peel Regional force in Mississauga says it is investigating the matter.

“No one in his or her right mind should take this — although it might be said in a joking manner — as a joke,” said Ehab Lotayef of the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy. “It really represents the mindset of the current Egyptian government and is totally unacceptable by a minister in a country that respects itself.”

Lotayef urged Global Affairs Canada to make its displeasure known for what he said was at least a diplomatic affront.

Makram was near the end of a short speech to an Egyptian heritage dinner Sunday when she said in Arabic that anyone who criticized Egypt would be “sliced up,” accompanying the remark with a slashing motion across her throat.

She said it with a smile, after talking about Egyptians’ passion for their country, and earned laughter and applause from the audience.

But Egyptian ex-patriates cite evidence that critics of the Sisi government in Canada are already under watch, and note that a visiting Egyptian-Canadian businessman has been imprisoned in Cairo without charge for months.

Canadian-based “dissidents” have been mentioned in government-aligned Egyptian media in negative terms, said Lotayef.

“We are surely being followed and monitored,” he said.

Egypt’s ambassador to Canada routinely makes the trip from Ottawa to attend major events at Mississauga’s main Coptic-Christian church, said Maher Rizkalla, president of Canadian Coptic Association.

“The Egyptian government is always involved and keeps an eye on the churches in Canada,” he said. “I would be concerned to visit Egypt. I know they’re watching us, and they know who is active and inactive outside the country.”

Sisi’s government has been widely criticized for its abuses, with Human Rights Watch writing that “his security forces have escalated a campaign of intimidation, violence, and arrests against political opponents, civil society activists and many others who have simply voiced mild criticism of the government.”

Makram is on a Canadian tour organized in part by the Egyptian embassy.

“Our country is very grand and deserves that all of us work for it and fight for it, because we just have one county – Egypt,” she told the dinner audience. “This country is always inside us, inside our hearts. We cannot accept any word about it. Anyone who says a (bad) word about our country – what will happen to him? Will be sliced up.”

Not everyone interpreted the remarks in a completely negative fashion.

One audience member, who asked not to be named for fear of landing in the midst of a political fight, said the slicing-up expression is a common and usually genial one in Egyptian Arabic, not meant literally.

“Parents say that to their kids all the time,” the person said. “Usually … people say it as an endearing gesture.”

Still, the audience member said the comment was definitely inappropriate in the circumstances.

The Egyptian embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.

In response to a complaint from Rizkalla, Peel Regional Police are investigating the matter, and liaising with the department’s “equity and inclusion bureau,” said Const. Lori Murphy, a spokeswoman.

Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

Agree, this is a test:

Donald Trump and his GOP talk and talk about their love of “religious liberty.” In May, there was Trump declaring that religious freedom is a “priority” of his administration.  And in July, Trump’s Department of Justice even announced the formation of a religious liberty task force.

Well, if Trump and the GOP truly believe that religious liberty is not just for Christians, then here’s a no-brainer for them. The Republicans in the House should unanimously support a recently proposed rule to ensure religious liberty for a soon-to-be-sworn-in Muslim member of Congress and push back against the anti-Muslim voices in their party when they attack this change—which, if history is any guide, they will!

Come January 3, 2019, Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will be the first Muslim member of Congress ever to wear a hijab (head scarf). The problem is that a House rule enacted in 1837 bans any type of headwear, which would include Omar’s headscarf.

In response, Democratic House leader and expected next speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has formally proposed to ditch this 181-year-old ban on headwear in order to “ensure religious expression.” As Pelosi explained to NBC News, “After voters elected the most diverse Congress in history, clarifying the antiquated rule banning headwear will further show the remarkable progress we have made as a nation.”

This rule, while on the books, doesn’t seem to have been enforced. As AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, explained in an email, “Under both Republican and Democratic Speakers, the House has never prohibited any kind of religious headwear.” That’s great to hear. But forgive me if I’m not quite reassured.

“In Minnesota, Republican activists this year pushed a resolution to prevent Muslims from even being a part of the GOP.”

So now, Pelosi and the Democrats want to take it one step further and go beyond ignoring a rule and instead affirmatively make it clear that they support religious freedom for all Americans. And Omar herself took to Twitter to celebrate the proposed change, writing, “No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment.”

She added, “And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.” Omar, a Somali refugee who would literally not be permitted to enter the United States today because of Trump’s current Muslim ban, clearly has her sights set on changing that Trump policy.

So why would GOP House members not support embracing religious liberty for Muslims? I suppose they still might in this case—we’ll see how they react when the next Congress starts. But the fact is that Republicans have a recent track record of being outraged over Muslims receiving equal treatment in this country. To many of them, we don’t deserve the same religious accommodations that Christians are afforded, and some don’t believe we belong in American politics—or even in America for that matter.

For example, several years ago the University of Michigan installed a number of foot-washing stations so that Muslims there could wash themselves before praying. (This washing ritual is called wudu and is intended to purify a person before prayer.)

The response by former GOP presidential candidate and Fox News staple Mike Huckabee summed up what we heard from others on the right as he vocally objected, saying, “the accommodation we’re making to one religion at the expense of others is very un-American.”

In Tennessee, GOP state legislators freaked out when they saw in their state capitol what they thought was a new sink installed to allow visiting Muslims to wash before prayers. These Bible Belt Republicans, though, were relived to find out the large sink was installed for washing mops, not Muslims.

And this year we saw two examples of Republican elected officials trying to prevent religious freedom for non-Christians. In South Dakota, a GOP state senator publicly objected to interfaith dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians who had come to the state capitol to meet with their elected official because in his view, “Interfaith dialogue is a part of a war… of taking away the Christian fabric of our nation.”

And in Oklahoma, each session of the state legislature opens with a prayer by the “chaplain of the day.” Well a conservative Christian GOP state representative recently took over administering that program and changed the rules to so that only a Christian cleric would be eligible to deliver that opening invocation.

So much for religious liberty for non-Christians. And sadly, often when we hear the phrase religious liberty uttered by a conservative Republican, it’s not just to deny it to other faiths, but worse, it’s used to demonize or discriminate against the LGBT community.

So here’s a chance for the GOP to champion religious liberty in the best of ways. Not only should every Republican in the House vote for this proposed change; they should speak out publicly in favor it and push back against the extreme voices in their party who no doubt will declare sharia law has taken over the Congress. Expect these extremists to say things like, “Next, Muslims won’t want bacon served in the congressional lunchroom!” (Putting aside religion, turkey bacon is much better for you!)

Sadly, I doubt the GOP will do the right thing. Look what we are seeing now in Texas as Republicans are trying to remove a Muslim American from a leadership position in their own party because some there allege, without a shred of proof,  that he wants to impose Islamic law.

In Minnesota, Omar’s home state, Republican activists this year pushed a resolution to prevent Muslims from even being a part of the GOP, with two Republican elected officials claiming that Muslims are trying to “infiltrate” their party. But none of this is surprising given that the leader of the GOP is Trump, the most anti-Muslim president our nation has ever seen.

But with that said, here’s an opportunity for the GOP to evolve. Will they finally embrace an America for all faiths and push back against voices of intolerance within their own ranks? We will know soon enough.

Source: Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

Canada’s First Hijab-Wearing Television News Reporter Is Using Her Difference To Break Barriers: Forbes

Interesting profile:

Canada is a country known for it’s multiculturalism, and nowhere represents that better than Toronto. As the fourth largest city in North America and the most diverse metropolitan area in the world, Toronto is home to people of all racial, religious, and cultural backgrounds. From Greektown to Little Jamaica, from food festivals to musical showcases, from the ringing bells of churches to the prayer calls of mosques, the corners of the world convene in Toronto. But despite this rich diversity, a hijab-wearing Muslim woman had never anchored a major newscast in the city, or anywhere else in the country. Not until 2015. Not until Ginella Massa.

Massa made history two years ago when she appeared on televisions across the Greater Toronto Area on CityNews Toronto’s late night news show. While Muslim women had anchored newscasts in Canada before, none had ever done so in a hijab.

The gravity of this was not lost on Massa. “When I have young girls coming up to me saying how excited they are seeing someone like me in a mainstream medium, and that it makes them feel like it’s something they too can aspire to be, that’s what keeps me encouraged and inspired to keep doing the work I’m doing,” she explained.

“My mother was the one who suggested that I might want to pursue a career in broadcasting, given my loquaciousness, my inquisitive nature, and my ability to easily connect with all different kinds of people. When I questioned whether I could be given a chance on broadcast TV, she would tell me, ‘just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean you can’t be the first,’” Massa recalls.

Massa pursued a degree in journalism and later worked as a digital content editor for the website of a small news station. But getting an anchor role is a considerable challenge for aspiring news reporters with no on-air experience. So, Massa, decided to create an opportunity for herself. Together with her friend, Maleeha Sheikh, Massa co-produced an online web-series. Though they didn’t have a huge budget or audience, the episodes were good footage for their portfolios and demo reels and proved they had essential industry skills.

It paid off. “We only ended up doing 4 episodes because a month later [Sheikh] got offered a job reporting on a morning show, and I landed my first on-air gig about 4 months later,” Massa notes.

Ginella Massa’s first newscast

Of course, the journey to that job did not come without fears and apprehensions. Though Massa never worried about her abilities or the quality of her work, before getting hired on at CityNews, her concern was that networks would hesitate to hire her for fear of controversy or backlash in response to the outward display of her faith. But a mentor encouraged Massa to embrace her difference and position it as an asset, and that’s precisely what she did.

In interviews, Massa encouraged the directors she met with to see the importance of reflecting the diversity of their audience. In a city where more than half the population is made up of visible minorities, hiring a hijab-wearing Muslim woman was not a risk, it was a willful decision to include the voices of communities that are often left unheard.

Now, with every broadcast, Massa not only reminds Muslim girls that they could one day be anchors too, she also continues to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions her colleagues and viewers might hold.

“I recognize that some of the people I work with would otherwise never have any interaction with a Muslim, and it’s opened their eyes and made them realize that Muslims have a vested interest in our society, that we’re intelligent and talented, and we care about the same issues as many Canadians,” Massa notes.

Massa hopes that her role will continue to inspire other Muslim women to go after roles in the public sector where they can help change the negative narratives around what women of her faith can achieve. She extends that same message to women and girls of all faiths, races, and cultural backgrounds who might feel that they don’t belong in the spaces they dream of occupying.

The advice she offers is universal: “Don’t let anyone else silence your dreams because of their perception of what you can or cannot achieve. You’re going to have to work hard to overcome those barriers that people will try to put in front of you. Be persistent, don’t give up, and work on being the best, so no one can ever have a reason to say no.”

via Canada’s First Hijab-Wearing Television News Reporter Is Using Her Difference To Break Barriers

Muslims in Europe, bearers of pluralism

Further to a 2008 survey by the Berlin Research Agency for Social Research indicating high levels of distrust or discomfort among European Muslims with Jews and gays, and high levels of support for religious law,  Jan Jaap de Ruiter provides some context and analysis of the survey.

A valid and justified conclusion to be drawn from the survey carried out by WZB should have been that there is indeed a lot of work to be done when it comes to fundamentalist tendencies among Muslims in Europe. An equally valid and justified conclusion, however, is that Muslims are no exception in a Europe in which many  ”native” populations are contending with dislike of Jews, hatred against gay people and all kinds of undemocratic tendencies. Furthermore, it shows that, in spite of everything, Muslims in Europe seem to be doing better when it comes to embracing diversity and democratic values ​​than Muslims in Islamic countries. In the U.S., it is Muslims that show less support for the law of God than the general American public.What all of this shows, if anything, is that Muslims can apparently be different and that they are able to change. So let that be the new frame.

Muslims in Europe, bearers of pluralism.