‘Bits and Pieces: Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ by Fauzia Rafique

Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium
Sponsored by Geist magazine and Surrey Libraries
Presented by Surrey Art Gallery, SFU English, South of Fraser Inter-Arts Collective (SOFIA/c)

Most of ‘Bits and Pieces’ was presented on the second day of Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium ‘Voicing the City In/verse: Reading Surrey and the Super Suburb’. The event was organized by a team of amazing volunteers and staff, and it was beautifully convened by Phinder Dulai (SOFIA/c) and Jordan Strom (Surrey Art Gallery). The first panel ‘Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ had myself, Cecily Nicholson, Joseph A. Dandurand and Heidi Greco. The second panel ‘Kinetic City /City in Motion’ had Sadhu Binning, Taryn Hubbard, Kevin Spenst and Tom Konyves.

The second day began with the Traditional Kwantlen Welcome and Drum Song offered by Kwantlen Nation Elder Kevin Kelly with Michael Gabriel and Joseph A. Dundrand. After, M.G. Vassanji gave an insightful keynote on the marginalization of spaces, artists and art. It was great to have Vassanji and Noorjehan visit from Toronto where the two have been working for the last thirty or so years to develop literary communities through organizing, writing, editing (Toronto South Asian Review) and publishing (TSAR Publications). At the symposium, Vassanji provided us with a larger framework for the subject, and with the depth that had been created, it was easy for me to bring it right back to Surrey.

Bits and Pieces

Writing and reading Surrey is challenging because Surrey in Vancouver Lower Mainland is somewhat like Muslims in North America, we have to begin by saying what we aren’t and what it isn’t. So, yes, Surrey is not boonies, not rife with violent Punjabi gangs, not a hotbed of crime, no, it’s not in the third world. It’s right here on the south bank of Fraser River, the city of parks, of future, of the desis; the city of prosperity and abundance, of poverty and violence; it’s an edge city of exile and refuge. Sounds like any of all cities to me, and yet so unique. In the next twelve minutes, i’ll present a few bits and pieces that i have carefully collected to contribute to this discussion.

The first item is a paragraph from the fourth and the last section of my novel Skeena that takes place in Surrey where Skeena, a 37-year old Pakistani Punjabi Canadian woman, arrives after having lived the last thirty years in Toronto, Lahore, and a Punjabi village.

‘This building is sitting on a ravine on one side, and Scott Road on the other. Brenda came for a visit last year, and she asked me why I bought a condo here when better residential areas were also available in Surrey. I could not find an answer for her then. Now, as I look at the ravine, it appears to be a cluster of trees in my village, and away from my view, there also is the continuous hum of a busy Ferozepur Road in Lahore.’

Skeena, Libros Libertad 2011

Next we have excerpts from a blog post on hijab, titled ‘Purdah Manifestations’, a contemplation on different forms of purdah and how it’s implemented in different places by different social segments of Pakistani Muslims, it touches my experiences in about six different cities in Pakistan before getting to Surrey.

‘In 2004, i saw a bearded male lead a burqa-clad and hijab-thrown woman at 72nd and 124th in Surrey British Columbia. For some reason, i got transfixed on the couple, and stood watching them till they walked out of my sight. First i tried to be the man to figure out why he would want his wife to be in hijab in a country where most women were showing their faces. What does he think is unique about the face and body of his wife that they must be so hidden. Then i tried to be the woman to see why i would accept an existence where when walking i can barely see the two-and-a-half-feet long road that culminates at the heels of my husband. My imagination was injured by imagining both roles…’

‘In 2009, burqa/hijab/purdah hit the Western news stands with intensity because of the controversy generated by the legislated ‘ab-use’ of it by the French government.’

‘Most recently, and as late as this last winter, i was confronted by a black member of the Muslim brotherhood at Scott Road Station in line for a bus to Newton Exchange. In love with his own voice, the Preacher went on and on about the absolute necessity for women to observe purdah and the unforgiveability of not observing it. As an illustration of his preferences, and of an exemplary state of a Muslim woman, he pointed out to me a burqa-wearing woman who was also in the same line. The ‘discussion’ became an argument; the woman in burqa did not participate…’

‘Last month, i spotted a woman in burqa at Broadway skytrain station who later chose to sit beside me while coming to Surrey. She caught my eye because though in burqa, she was standing straight without covering her face. From the fair color of her skin, i assumed she was Iranian or Lebanese. On the skytrain, she made patronizing attempts to converse with me that made me feel suspicious of her intentions. It seemed, she was hoping to convert a chadar-wearing brown woman to stricter disciplines. And then, it came out that she was an Anglo Saxon convert to Islam. I offered her my poetry chapbook that had just come out. She skimmed through it, stopping at ‘My Shariah-Compliant Bra’ and ‘My Drone-Dead Lover’, and then she shut it close producing a sharp noise; ‘I don’t read poetry’, she thrust it back at me. This is one of the rare instances when i was happy to be rejected as a poet. I consider it a compliment to be rejected by an Anglo-Saxon-woman-convert-to-Islam who was using the burqa to gain high moral ground so that she can preach purdah to wayward and ignorant brown Muslim women.’

A blog post on purdah:
Purdah Manifestations

The next item is a song by Mariam Zohra, a founding member and the Creative Director of Surrey Muse. The song is about East Vancouver’s Tent City that came up a few years back as a protest against urban poverty and homelessness. Tent City had activists camp out in a park during the summer. This is an excerpt, and the link to the song is at the end of it.

get your ensemble
oh teacher
wanna talk about
tent city
what are people
doin in Oppenheimer Park?
what are people doing
parking tents, tents at the park,

get up get up
I don’t know you gotta find out for yourself
we can talk about
tent city

Lyrics/Vocals: Mariam Zohra D. Music: Michael Louw. Song Composition: Michael Louw & Mariam Zohra D. 
Tent-City Song

Next is a spoken word item that has become written text now, so i’ll just read it to you.

‘It was a beautiful, warm and golden summer day. I was visiting a home in East Vancouver, and while the host made tea, I stood by the window and enjoyed being part of a quite residential street lined with thick old trees. Narrower than most streets in Surrey, it had a small park on one side and prosperous and old single family homes on the other. As I took in the view, a man appeared from one end of my vision of the road, in the way he walked he seemed to be a part of the street, the trees, of leaves, and the breeze rustling through them. It was as if he was gliding, smiling for sure. Then he passed right in front of me, dancing on tiptoes, twirling something in his other hand. Just watching him was a privilege. Seeing his back, I noticed that he was wearing a white sleeveless tank top, arms full of black, blue and red tattoos, with white cotton shorts over tattooed legs. It was a tall white guy with brown hair. And just then, I heard sirens, shattering the peace on the street with shocking accuracy. A police car came out of nowhere, zoomed past me, and hit hard breaks inches from the guy. By the time, the police car stopped and a cop jumped out, two other police cars were already there blocking the road on the other side, and a couple of cops were making their way toward him from the park.
The next moment, the guy was pinned to the road, and cops were holding him down while another stood ready with a tazer aimed at him. They mauled him, searched him, and then came away. They had ‘recovered’ a long white feather.
‘Sorry, Sir, we received a call from a property owner on the street who thought you were wielding a dangerous weapon, like a long knife ‘with glittering white blade’, they said.’
And then after deliberating among each other, they returned the feather to the guy, and left while the guy stood bewildered amidst shattered shards of a peaceful sunny afternoon.
The white guy was on a rare summer vacation from Newfoundland.’

Unpublished item.
It was presented in readings at Surrey and New Westminster.

Now, we have Jamie Reid’s poem PRAYER that I first heard from Vancouver’s wonderful slam poet RC Weslowski at the September gathering of Surrey Muse, just after Reid moved on. Last night, Heidi Greco was kind enough to lend me the anthology with the poem in it. I’ll just present what occurs most often in the poem, the refrain. As well, not just the refrain but the whole poem is in capitals- a form of protest, shouting or both, i guess.

By Jamie Reid


Pages 74-76.
‘Revolving City’, eds. Compton & Saklikar, Anvil Press 2015

So far:
In the first item, the migrant character Skeena sees the new place as a continuity instead of a break, an important distinction. Purdah Manifestations shows how specific issues are faced by each of us in all our different social locations, ‘us’ includes everyone, colored/white migrants and indigenous peoples. The Tent City song points to poverty as integral to the cityscape, an issue that seeks resolutions. In the so-called spoken word item, the white man with a white feather brings out class as an entrenched form of othering, and Jamie Reid’s poem touches the heartache where the city destroys the land and the landscape. And this brings us to our last two items: an image and a slogan.

The image is of a new city park in Seattle.

fromthehungsrsiteFrom the Hungersite.

Seattle’s new city park reminds us of Havana where in the decade after the sanctions were placed on Cuba the average Cuban adult lost 20 lbs. But by the end of that same decade…

The average Cuban was getting ‘2600 calories and more than 68 grams of protein, an amount considered “sufficient” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. By 2006 average caloric intake was up to 3356 calories. A lot of this food was produced not in the countryside (requiring transport to the cities) but in urban gardens, where food was grown and consumed in the same neighborhood. By 2002, 35,000 acres of urban gardens produced 3.4 million tons of food. In Havana, 90% of the city’s fresh produce came from local urban farms and gardens, all organic. In 2003, more than 200,000 Cubans were employed in urban agriculture. In 2003, Cuba had reduced its use of Diesel fuel by more than 50%, synthetic fertilizers by 90%, and chemical insecticides by 83%.’

Surrey, the City of Parks and of Future, is best-placed to turn some of its manicured parkland to nutritious food forests in anticipation of a delightful urban future.

And now, the slogan. We have about three renditions of it, and i think we’ll be able to choose one easily.
The first:
A Tree For A Tree
The second:
A Tree For Every Tree
And the third:
A Tree For Every Profit-Damned Earth-Loving Brown Ass Tree

All in favor of the third one, raise hands.
On second thoughts, in the interest of brevity and simplicity, we better choose the first.

To view the context of slogans, check this poem presented the previous night at the Literary Cabaret.
‘Good news…’

Thank you, it was a great pleasure to be with you today and to participate in this 2-day event.

An Evening with Arundhati


Written by Randeep Singh

She came. She spoke. She conquered. Arundhati Roy filled the pews of St. Andrew’s Wesley Church on April 1 as part of the Indian Summer Festival 2014.

Roy began by criticizing “representative democracy” as too much representation, not enough democracy. Democracy has plenty of institutions, Roy remarked, but those institutions have turned into conduits for a short-term, extractive, economic philosophy. “Could it be that democracy is such a hit with modern humans,” she reads, “precisely because it mirrors our greatest folly – our nearsightedness?”

Capitalism controls culture too. Roy spoke of how corporations engage in “perception management,” deliberately not funding artistic projects which question the system. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy says, drew a connection between capitalism, imperialism and the Vietnam War; but American multinationals did not highlight this aspect of his legacy when they sponsored the Martin Luther King Junior Centre for Non-Violent Social Change, an organization which works with the US Department of Defence. The Indian mining group, Vedanta, Roy points out, recently sponsored the “Creating Happiness” film competition for film students to make films on sustainable development (in communities affected by the mining) with the tagline “Mining Happiness.”

Roy also questioned Gandhi as the mahatma or “great soul.” Roy recounted how the anti-imperialist, anti-racist Gandhi fought alongside Great Britain in the Boer Wars, refused to ride in the same railway carriages as Africans and wrote in prison that Indians deserved separate prisons from vile and immoral blacks and Chinese.

When asked whether she was an activist, Roy replied she was a writer telling the world’s stories. Her readings and discussion with The Tyee’s David Beers, brought to life the politics of development, resistance movements and the management of culture by corporations just as the arts have reenacted the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement or the experience of Canadian aboriginals in Residential Schools. As Roy puts it, “why wouldn’t we write about the critical issues our society is facing?”

’16 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out To Be True’ by Michael Snyder

This is the first of three posts about the role of High-hightech industry and the US Government in damaging the lives of common people and pushing this planet to its destruction. Uddari.

Are you a conspiracy theorist?  If not, perhaps you should be.  Yes, there have certainly been a lot of “conspiracy theories” over the years that have turned out not to be accurate.  However, the truth is that a large number of very prominent conspiracy theories have turned out to actually be true.  So the next time that you run into some “tin foil hat wearing lunatics”, you might want to actually listen to what they have to say.  They may actually know some things that you do not.  In fact, one recent study found that “conspiracy theorists” are actually more sane than the general population.  So the next time you are tempted to dismiss someone as a “conspiracy theorist”, just remember that the one that is crazy might actually be you.  The following are 16 popular conspiracy theories that turned out to be true…

1. “They Put Cancer Viruses Into Our Vaccines”

When I first heard about this I did not believe it.  And of course not all vaccines contain cancer viruses.  But tens of millions of Americans did receive vaccines with cancer viruses in them, and now we have learned that even the CDC has admitted that this is true…

The CDC has quickly removed a page from their website, which is now cached here, admitting that more than 98 million Americans received one or more doses of polio vaccine within an 8-year span when a proportion of the vaccine was contaminated with a cancer causing polyomavirus called SV40. It has been estimated that 10-30 million Americans could have received an SV40 contaminated dose of the vaccine.

SV40 is an abbreviation for Simian vacuolating virus 40 or Simian virus 40, a polyomavirus that is found in both monkeys and humans. Like other polyomaviruses, SV40 is a DNA virus that has been found to cause tumors and cancer.

2. “ATM Machines Will Someday Use Facial Recognition Technology”

According to the Daily Mail, a new generation of ATM machines is being developed that will use cutting edge facial recognition technology…

Cumbersome and slow cash machines with clunky buttons and tiny hard-to-see screens could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a range of next-generation ATMs.

Ohio-based security firm Diebold has created a touchscreen cash machine that works like a tablet computer, uses facial recognition and QR codes to identify and authenticate users, and has built-in safety cameras.

3. “The U.S. Government And Monsanto Are Teaming Up Against Opponents Of Genetically-Modified Food”

The establishment does not like those that are trying to stand in the way of genetically-modified food.  The following is from a recent Activist Post article

A shocking new investigative report from the largest daily newspaper in Germany alleges that Monsanto, the US Military and the US government have colluded to track and disrupt both anti-GMO activists and independent scientists who study the adverse effects of genetically modified food.

As revealed yesterday by Sustainable Pulse, on July 13th the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung detailed information on how the US Government “advances the interests of their corporations,” focusing on Monsanto as a prime example.

The report titled, “The Sinister Monsanto Group: ‘Agent Orange’ to Genetically Modified Corn,” described a ‘new fangled cyber war’ being waged against both eco-activists and independent scientists by supporters and former employees of Monsanto, who are described as “operationally powerful assistants” and who have taken up sometimes high-ranking posts in the US administration, regulatory authorities, and some of whom have connections deep within the military industrial establishment, including the CIA.

4. “Someday Scientists Will Be Using Millions Of Genetically-Modified Animals In Scientific Experiments”

Did you know that literally millions of genetically-modified animals are being experimented on in labs all over the globe?…

The number of genetically modified (GM) animals used in scientific research in Britain has exceeded the number of ordinary laboratory animals for the first time, according to official statistics that show a 9 per cent overall increase in the use of experimental animals last year.

Some 4,033,310 animals were used in scientific experiments started in 2012, an increase of 322,689, or 9 per cent over the previous year. There were 1.91 million scientific “procedures” used with GM animals in 2012 compared to 1.68.m procedures on normal animals.

5. “Scientists All Over The World Are Creating Extremely Bizarre Human-Animal Hybrids”

Should scientists be creating beings that are part human and part animal?  Well, it is happening all over the planet.  Just check out some of the things that a recent Slate article says is happening in labs around the world…

Not long ago, Chinese scientists embedded genes for human milk proteins into a mouse’s genome and have since created herds of humanized-milk-producing goats. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Michigan have a method for putting a human anal sphincter into a mouse as a means of finding better treatments for fecal incontinence, and doctors are building animals with humanized immune systems to serve as subjects for new HIV vaccines.

Pretty disgusting eh?

And here are some other ways that scientists are combining humans and animals…

Rabbit Eggs with Human Cells

Pigs with Human Blood

Sheep with Human Livers

Cow Eggs with Human Cells

Cat-Human Hybrid Proteins

For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Human-Animal Hybrids: Sick And Twisted Chimeras Are Being Created In Labs All Over The Planet“.

6. “Obama Is Making Government Employees Spy On One Another”

Yes, this is actually happening.  In a previous article, I described how Obama is forcing government workers to spy on the “lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors” of their fellow employees…

Federal employees and contractors are asked to pay particular attention to the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors – like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel – of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do “harm to the United States.” Managers of special insider threat offices will have “regular, timely, and, if possible, electronic, access” to employees’ personnel, payroll, disciplinary and “personal contact” files, as well as records of their use of classified and unclassified computer networks, polygraph results, travel reports and financial disclosure forms.

7. “Pro Wrestling Is Fake”

We have all kind of known this for a long time, right?  Well, now someone is actually leaking the results of pro wrestling matches on the Internet before they happen

A fan has provoked a furor in the world of professional wrestling after leaking the outcomes of 38 WWE matches ahead of the pay-per-view bouts.

The mystery fan, who identifies himself online as Dolphins1925, claims he has obtained the information from a source at Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and is revealing the results to highlight the organisation’s failure to keep its storylines confidential.

Dolphins1925 started posting the results on Reddit’s pro-wrestling forum after another fan launched a “prediction series”, asking users for their picks ahead of the matches. He has since maintained a perfect record, even leaking the results of contests involving wrestling superstars such as John Cena and The Undertaker.

8. “Someday Texas Is Going To Run Out Of Water”

Texas will always have plenty of water, right?


According to CNBC, the water crisis in some areas of Texas is rapidly reaching a breaking point…

Three straight years of blistering drought have strained Texas’ water resources. Some cities like Midland are already steeply raising their water prices. But it’s not just residents of the Lone Star State feeling parched. Texas-based companies are scrambling to reduce their water usage and enact long-term water management plans as a critical business concern.

“As the drought continues, industry’s eyes are opening,” said Jordan Furnans, senior engineer at INTERA, a Texas-based geosciences and engineering firm. Those eyes are opening to discover that more dry years are coming, he said.

There’s a desperate need for water to fuel industrial, chemical and energy operations in some parts of Texas. “If plants shut down, they’re losing millions of dollars per day,” Furnans said.

9. “The IRS Is Specifically Targeting Conservatives”

Only a small percentage of Americans would have believed this particular “conspiracy theory” last year.  But now it is all over the news.  In fact, we have just learned that applications for tax-exempt status from Tea Party groups were ordered to be sent to the only Obama political appointee at the IRS

IRS employees were ordered by their superiors–including Lois Lerner who pleaded the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination rather than testify in Congress–to send certain Tea Party tax-exemption applications to the office of the IRS’s Chief Counsel, which was headed by William Wilkins, who at that time was the only Obama political appointee at the IRS, according to a letter released today by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“As a part of this ongoing investigation, the Committees have learned that the IRS Chief Counsel’s office in Washington, D.C. has been closely involved in some of the applications,” reads a letter released today by the House committees on Oversight and Government and Ways and Means.  “Its involvement and demands for information about political activity during the 2010 election cycle appear to have caused systematic delays in the processing of Tea Party applications.”

10. “Fluoride Is Harmful For Your Teeth”

This is a conspiracy theory that was denied for a very long time.  But now even CNN is admitting the truth…

The Department of Health and Human Services and Environmental Protection Agency are proposing the change because of an increase in fluorosis — a condition that causes spotting and streaking on children’s teeth.

11. “Using A Cell Phone Can Cause Cancer”

Can you get cancer from using a cell phone?  Well, an increasing number of studies indicate that this is actually true

At the highest exposure levels — using a mobile phone half an hour a day over a 10-year period — the study found a 40 percent increased risk of glioma brain tumors.

12. “Prescription Drugs Kill Large Numbers Of Americans”

Every single year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are killed by prescription drugs.  The following is a brief excerpt from a Vanity Fair article entitled “Deadly Medicine“…

Prescription drugs kill some 200,000 Americans every year. Will that number go up, now that most clinical trials are conducted overseas—on sick Russians, homeless Poles, and slum-dwelling Chinese—in places where regulation is virtually nonexistent, the F.D.A. doesn’t reach, and “mistakes” can end up in pauper’s graves?

13. “The Elite Want To Dramatically Reduce The Global Population”

Yes, many among the global elite really do want to substantially reduce the population of the planet.  The following quotes are from one of my previous articles

David Rockefeller: “The negative impact of population growth on all of our planetary ecosystems is becoming appallingly evident.”

CNN Founder Ted Turner: “A total world population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”

Paul Ehrlich, a former science adviser to president George W. Bush and the author of “The Population Bomb”: “To our minds, the fundamental cure, reducing the scale of the human enterprise (including the size of the population) to keep its aggregate consumption within the carrying capacity of Earth is obvious but too much neglected or denied”

-Barack Obama’s primary science adviser, John P. Holdren: “The development of a long-term sterilizing capsule that could be implanted under the skin and removed when pregnancy is desired opens additional possibilities for coercive fertility control. The capsule could be implanted at puberty and might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births.”

HBO personality Bill Maher: “I’m pro-choice, I’m for assisted suicide, I’m for regular suicide, I’m for whatever gets the freeway moving – that’s what I’m for. It’s too crowded, the planet is too crowded and we need to promote death.”

14. “Innocent People Are Murdered, Skinned And Dismembered During Satanic Rituals”

Satanists really do exist, and sometimes they do really, really awful things.  The following is one recent example

Moises Meraz-Espinoza walked into the Huntington Park Police Department two years ago to report a crime: He had killed his mother.

Officers went to the Maywood apartment that the then-18-year-old factory worker shared with his mother, Amelia Espinoza, 42, and found a gruesome scene. A trail of blood led to the bathroom, where plastic covered the walls and floor. There, they found an electrical circular saw with pieces of bone, blood and flesh stuck to the blade. Nearby, in a freezer, police found skin and muscles stored in plastic bags. The woman’s skull, with all her teeth plucked out, her eyes removed and two upside-down crosses carved into the bone, was stashed in a backpack.

Prosecutors say that Meraz-Espinoza strangled his mother and then skinned, filleted and dismembered her body as part of a satanic ritual.

15. “The NSA Is Spying On Our Phone Calls, Internet Searches And Financial Transactions”

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we have learned much more about how the NSA spies on all of us.  And just this week it has come out that the NSA has no problem snooping on you if you are a friend of a friend of a friend of someone that might be a potential terrorist…

Chris Inglis, the agency’s deputy director, was one of several government representatives—including from the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence—testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning. Most of the testimony largely echoed previous testimony by the agencies on the topic of the government’s surveillance, including a retread of the same offered examples for how the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had stopped terror events.

But Inglis’ statement was new. Analysts look “two or three hops” from terror suspects when evaluating terror activity, Inglis revealed. Previously, the limit of how surveillance was extended had been described as two hops. This meant that if the NSA were following a phone metadata or web trail from a terror suspect, it could also look at the calls from the people that suspect has spoken with—one hop. And then, the calls that second person had also spoken with—two hops. Terror suspect to person two to person three. Two hops. And now: A third hop.

16. “The Federal Reserve Is A Perpetual Debt Machine That Is Designed To Create Inflation”

he Federal Reserve is a private banking cartel that was created by the bankers and that serves the interest of the bankers.  It was designed to perpetually increase the U.S. national debt and to perpetually create inflation.  Unfortunately, it has done a great job on both counts.  Since the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913, the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger, and the value of the U.S. dollar has fallen by more than 96 percent.

Are there any other “conspiracy theories” that you would add to this list?  Please feel free to join the discussion by posting a comment below…

Read more at http://www.realfarmacy.com/16-conspiracy-theories-that-turned-out-to-be-true/#oqLr6LoQGuqlwOal.99


Read more at http://www.realfarmacy.com/16-conspiracy-theories-that-turned-out-to-be-true/#oqLr6LoQGuqlwOal.99

“As long as the grass shall grow and the rivers flow…” by Aaron Paquette

Uddari joyfully supports
Idle No More
‘We are all Treaty’.


“As long as the grass shall grow and the rivers flow…”

The poetry of this phrase of Treaty always struck me as uncommonly beautiful.

As does the truth of this statement:

We Are All Treaty.

For those who don’t know, Treaties were made between Canadian First Nations groups and The Crown, which is to say, the authority from which each successive Canadian Government derives their authority to rule.

They were intended as a peaceful resolution to a problematic conundrum: how to form a country in a land peopled by Aboriginal groups who could not be defeated on the field of battle?

For the Indigenous population, it was an opportunity to return to a more stable way of life, unmolested by the European invaders who they once protected as friends but now fought with for the right to live.

As we saw with the Residential School horror, that peace was not to last.

For the past century and more, Indigenous groups have witnessed the encroaching of their lands, the theft of their resources, and the reneging by the government of monies agreed on in return for peaceful use of the land.

There used to be a fund set aside. Corporations could extract resources from Treaty lands. They would keep 60% of the value and the landlords, the First Nations, would get 40%.

(almost done the history, bear with me!)

Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, wanted to build a railroad…but how to pay for it?

You guessed it. That fund was dissolved. And lo! the railway was born!

And the taxpayer was given the responsibility of taking care of the corporation’s debt to the Treaties. And even then, it was a pittance compared to what was actually due.

If we add up the money that is owed, there is a Trillion Dollar Debt to the children of Canada’s treaties, many of whom have no clean drinking water, no warm shelter for the cold winter months, and no access to decent education and healthcare (all part of the original Treaty Agreements, by the way).

And in the meantime, the government has been trying to rid itself of the “Native Problem” through attempted Genocide, assimilation, and reduction of funds to “starve them out”.

No one in the general public really complains because at the same time, there has been a public continuation of some popular memes, propaganda if you will:

The natives are lazy.
The leaders are corrupt.
The problem with the natives is the natives themselves.
Everyone suffers, why should they be special?
It’s in the past, forget about it.

As long as people believe these obvious untruths, the government has free reign to continue their work of dehumanizing their enemy and chipping away at the treaty lands for corporate use.

Why is this important?

Because those lands have been instrumental in keeping Canada a natural paradise. This is why we are all Treaty. We all share that responsibility.

This isn’t just a Native thing, this is an Everyone thing. We are all in this together.

The beauty of our unspoiled places, that they have been kept pristine and clean for this long is a miracle.

And we want to keep it that way.

All our children deserve it.

The Treaties make this possible, and its what the government wants to be rid of so that those lands can be developed.

And the waters are now unprotected.

It’s easy to do the math.

All you have to do is see who profits.

I’m not anti-corporation at all. But I am all for a responsible stewardship of the land we all share. The water we all drink, and the air we all breathe.

As long as the grass shall grow and the rivers flow…

First Nations in Canada have been good allies for the rest of Canada.

In every instance they have come to the table in peace. In every instance they have operated in good faith.

There is a misconception that they are always asking for more. They are only asking for the Government of Canada to live up it’s share of these Peace Treaties.

There is a misconception that all the Chiefs are corrupt and the meagre sums provided have been mishandled. The office of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has to approve every cent of expenditures. Myth destroyed.

Canada’s Indigenous people have been very patient. They have been purposely kept in a state of poverty and emotional wreckage in order to control them.

But the new generation is rising. They have been freed from the cycle of abuse and they are educated. They are supported by the wisdom of their Elders. And they are tired of this long, long, fruitless fight. They want peace and fairness.

And so should you.

You should be proud that you live in this time when the broken pieces of the past are being gathered, put back together.

You live in a time when an abused people are reclaiming their dignity and strength. And they don’t carry blame, they don’t carry guilt, they carry an olive branch.

And the settler’s legal books, which they have read and mastered.

Canada is sadly a deeply racist society and that is now being uncovered.

Be happy and overjoyed! The light will cast out the darkness.

You are witnessing a Civil Rights Movement that is lighting the world up with inspiration.

And you are invited to join it. You are invited to be part of what will be the remaking of Canada’s present and providing a better future not only for one of the largest landmasses in the world, but for the world itself. This is only the beginning and it’s time is due.

The time is now.

And you are here.

It can’t happen without you.

You’re here for a purpose. To be a part of something wonderful.

You can feel it.

And you can feel the fear of the establishment. They don’t want change. But change is coming. Peacefully.

It’s time to put this broken world back together again.

hiy hiy

If you missed my piece on Residential School, here it is:

And for more on Treaties:

People say, “Put the past behind you.”

I say, put it in front of you. A vast wide vista of your life, the lives of your parents, and that whole amazing assortment of those who came before. Learn from them. Learn perseverance, learn love, learn compassion. Learn perspective.

And learn their stories.

Behind you is the future. And you walk blindly into it because no one can see it, we can only catch glimpses.

Allow those who came before you to be your guide. And they will guide you. Their time is done and they can see where you are going, they’ve been down similar paths.

Gain wisdom from your ancestors and prepare yourself to pass wisdom on to those who come after.

The past is gone, and it’s a feast for the curious, a balm for the lonely, and a hope for those who despair. All who came before you are cheering you on.

“You can do it!”

They should know. They left you with the best parts of them.

So don’t live in the past, but never forget it. Bring the lessons with you into the exciting and unknown road ahead.

hiy hiy

From Aaron Paquette

Idle No More Rally at Vancouver City Hall, 12PM, Friday January 11, 2013


‘Yaka and the Agenda of the Greenwashing Hoods’ by Yak Handa

Hijacking the ‘Environmental Movement’

Elaine Dewar’s book Cloak of Green digs into a star-studded Toronto fundraiser to ‘Save the Rainforest’, soon untangling roots linking the world’s worst polluters (oilman Rockefeller, carman Ford) to major environmental groups (World Wildlife Fund, IUCN, Friends of the Earth, etc.).

Dewar details how capitalists hijacked the ‘Environmental Movement’, how iNGOs germinated, how corporate priorities were fast-tracked within various struggles to ‘save the world.’ Undercutting increased unity among most countries in the 1960s-70s – sabotaging such anti-colonial initiatives as the New International Economic and Information Orders, which only feebly challenged the hegemony of multinational corporations and their Big-Four News-Agencies: Reuters, AP, DPA, AFP – iNGOs are linked to restoring white power at the UN.

To dismiss industrialization in our countries, long-industrialized-rich iNGOs, using high-tech media, hypocritically proclaim: industrialization is bad for the Earth. They merrily ignore that mercantile capitalism forces disemployed people to survive by falling back on exploiting forests, land and sea.

But then Dewar inadvertently stumbles on ‘The Agenda’ – that’s not about hugging trees, and guaranteeing icebergs stay pure-white and whole! “The Agenda” seeks to institute not just ‘regime change’ around the world, but lever power up to corporate-controlled regional bodies, by using NGOs and ‘ethnic conflict’ to undermine nation-states.

She encounters this Agenda when interviewing a director with Cultural Survival, a ‘Human Rights Group’ working with “tribal and ethnic minorities in the Third World,” “Indigenous-led” yet based in Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. Set up in 1972 (year of that Stockholm environmental conference), CS’s proportion of USAID-funds expanded rapidly under Reaganomics. CS soon claimed a network of 1000s of ‘native informants’ – experts and activists around the world.

‘Ethnic’ Cardiology

After WW11, imperialist governments and corporations strengthened specific interests in former colonies to control trade; Cultural Survival tells Dewar: ‘Two-thirds of the world’s almost 200 states were thus created, caging over 5,000 ‘real nations’, each with a base, culture and history of self-government. Nigeria alone caged 450 ‘nations’, Brazil 190, USSR (minus Siberia) 130,’ etc.

Advocates of ‘decentralization’ elsewhere, avoid explaining why Europe and the US (usual funders of iNGOs and government-bonds) meanwhile expand and strengthen their borders and armies, bolstering their multinationals. Nonetheless, they insist our countries must not strengthen unity, within and without, to oppose the might of their behemoths. No! The Agenda believes we must be split further to bolster multinational corporate penetration.

Multinational corporations favor the rise of ‘ethnic nationalism’ as opposed to developing the nation-state. To subsume these nation-states under institutions of local and global governance, NGOs would promote binaries of local “ethnic” legitimacy versus “corrupt” multicultural national illegitimacy.

Yet in imperialist countries, there’s really only one party: The Capitalist Party, with brightly differentiated wings. And when it comes to attacking us, they’re always one! This North Atlantic (NATO) gang unleashes horror on Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chagos, Korea, yet the CS-staffer can insist: ‘National state elites, right or left, represent at most one or two ethnic groups, who appropriate resources, igniting wars. One-party power structures are sustained by weaponry. 75% of shooting wars occur within nation-states, whose armies only shoot their own citizens. The Himalayan debt-loads of these countries are largely weapons purchases.’

CS (headquartered on stolen Whampanoag land) even claims, “There was more genocide in the 20th than any other century.” This is the quintessential white-gaze blurring world history. Like the International Court of the Hague, ‘war crimes’ are not committed by their hosts, the Dutch, English, French, Portuguese, or their lost Yankee cousins: What they did, and still do in our world through their economic, military and cultural panzer-divisions is not up for jurisprudence or reparations.

Corporate Teflon

The Agenda views the nation-state as ‘an artificial construct to serve colonial masters and local elites’ – “corrupt thieves of the common good!” But not corporations! ‘Central government powers must be reduced, and decision-making reconfigured on diverse regional lines. It’s illegitimate for sovereign nations to make rules to protect local elites, etc.’ Such ideas soon permeated numerous multinational-friendly Free Trade Agreements.

In Lanka, English amnesia abounds about 1818 and 1948, let alone hundreds of wars fought over 500 years in different parts of the country; let alone 1971, 1989, and the two decades hence of so-called ethnic conflict. Silence abounds of the ‘regional’ mercenaries, merchants, usurers, who with collaborating landowners, remora of our stolen patrimony, underdevelop the country.

When the English first invaded Lanka, the East India Company sought to rule the country from Madras. The first Lankika rebellion against the English in 1797 quashed that plan. Yet now, Anglo-Dutch Unilever, like their ancestor, the East India Company, controls Sri Lanka through India, while its present CEO, in Colombo this week, was also a top executive at Unilevers’ supposed rivals, Procter&Gamble and Nestles! Such diversity! Such incest!

Yaka insists: The state should discuss devolving the major multinationals that underdevelop our economy!


From The Nation, Sri Lanka

Snap Crackle Hum: Electromagnetism Sound and Audio Art – Surrey Art Gallery Oct 21/12

Quietly encircling our planet and indispensible to our various electronic devices, electromagnetic waves are everywhere around us. Unperceivable to the human ear, they carry a big bang – sound! Electromagnetism, its power, potential and problems, intrigue artists working with the medium of sound. This subject is the focus of:
Snap, Crackle, Hum: Electromagnetism, Sound and Audio Art
Surrey Art Gallery’s
4th Annual Sound Thinking symposium
on Sunday, October 21
13750 – 88 Avenue, 1 block east of King George Blvd, in Bear Creek Park
Admission is free
Donations are gratefully received.
Seating is limited

This one-day event will bring together leading practitioners and professionals in the field of sound art and the study of sound to present art and research on sound and contemporary culture.

Keynote speaker: Douglas Kahn
Author of the forthcoming book Arts of the Spectrum: In the Nature of Electromagnetism, and Professor of Media and Innovation at the National Institute for Experimental Arts at the University of New South Wales, Australia
Presentations: Carrie Bodle, Alejandra Bronfman, Peter Courtemanche, Gordan Djurdjevic, Jay Bundy Johnson, Elemental Harmonics (Celia King and Joel Snowden)
Performance: Kristen Roos
Conveners: Ross Birdwise and Jordan Strom

Artists working in sound offer a critical and creative perspective on the history of man-made electricity. They also explore and contribute to the development of new technologies of communication, the study of geophysical electromagnetism, and reconsider the nature and structure of sound. Snap, Crackle, Hum: Electromagnetism, Sound and Audio Art features presentations by scholars and artists. An artist will also present a performance designed to address the complex relationships between electromagnetism, technology, science, the paranormal, and contemporary art. The aesthetics, poetics and history of electromagnetic sound will be examined, as well as how electromagnetic technologies are reshaping human subjectivity and the social world.

Sound Thinking is part of the Surrey Art Gallery’s Open Sound program. Open Sound 2012: On Air, Underground: Making The Inaudible Audible is a series of sound art installations situated in the Surrey Art Centre’s public spaces. The artists in this year’s Open Sound exhibition are Kristen Roos, Alex Grünenfelder, and Debashis Sinha. Open Sound 2012 is curated by Ross Birdwise.

Founded in 2008, the Surrey Art Gallery’s Sound Thinking symposium is an annual one day event which brings together practitioners and professionals in the field of sound art. The symposium features leading sound artists, scholars and researchers in the field sound studies, along with visual artists who use sound as key components of their practice, and musicians who experiment with the limits of music and sound. Past symposia have addressed subjects as diverse as radiophonic space, voice in contemporary installation art, new approaches to ethnographic sound, and acoustic ecology.

Surrey Art Gallery
604-501-5566 | www.surrey.ca/arts
13750 – 88 Avenue, 1 block east of King George Blvd, in Bear Creek Park

Uddari Weblog

Seeing ‘Islamic Terror’ in Norway

Media Advisory
Seeing ‘Islamic Terror’ in Norway
Learning no lessons from Oklahoma City mistakes


Right-wing terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik reportedly killed 76 people in Norway on Friday, by all accounts driven by far-right anti-immigrant politics and fervent Islamophobia. But many early media accounts assumed that the perpetrator of the attacks was Muslim.

On news of the first round of attacks–the bombs in Oslo–CNN’s Tom Lister (7/22/11) didn’t know who did it, but knew they were Muslims: “It could be a whole range of groups. But the point is that Al-Qaeda is not so much an organization now. It’s more a spirit for these people. It’s a mobilizing factor.” And he speculated confidently about their motives:

You’ve only got to look at the target–prime minister’s office, the headquarters of the major newspaper group next door. Why would that be relevant? Because the Norwegian newspapers republished the cartoons of Prophet Mohammad that caused such offense in the Muslim world…. That is an issue that still rankles amongst Islamist militants the world over.

CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank (7/22/11) took to the airwaves to declare that “Norway has been in Al-Qaeda’s crosshairs for quite some time.” He added that the bombing “bears all the hallmarks of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization at the moment,” before adding, almost as an afterthought, that “we don’t know at this point who was responsible.”

On Fox News Channel’s O’Reilly Factor (7/22/11), guest host Laura Ingraham declared, “Deadly terror attacks in Norway, in what appears to be the work, once again, of Muslim extremists.” Even after Norwegian authorities arrested Breivik, former Bush administration U.N. Ambassador John Bolton was in disbelief. “There is a kind of political correctness that comes up when these tragic events occur,” he explained on Fox’s On the Record (7/22/11). “This kind of behavior is very un-Norwegian. The speculation that it is part of right-wing extremism, I think that has less of a foundation at this point than the concern that there’s a broader political threat here.”

Earlier in the day on Fox (7/22/11), Bolton had explained that “the odds of it coming from someone other than a native Norwegian are extremely high.” While he admitted there was no evidence, Bolton concluded that “it sure looks like Islamic terrorism,” adding that “there is a substantial immigrant population from the Middle East in particular in Norway.”

An early Wall Street Journal editorial (7/22/11) dwelled on the “explanations furnished by jihadist groups to justify their periodic slaughters,” before concluding that because of Norway’s commitment to tolerance and freedom, “Norwegians have now been made to pay a terrible price.”

Once the alleged perpetrator’s identity did not conform to the Journal’s prejudice, the editorial was modified, but it continued to argue that Al-Qaeda was an inspiration: “Coordinated terrorist attacks are an Al-Qaeda signature. But copycats with different agendas are surely capable of duplicating its methods.”

Many pundits and outlets had to scramble to justify their ideological presumptions in the wake of the unexpected suspect. Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin (7/22/11) had called the Norwegian violence “a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists,” citing Thomas Joscelyn of the Weekly Standard’s assertion that “in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra.” In a follow-up post (7/23/11), Rubin insisted that even though she was wrong, she was right, because “there are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (7/25/11) likewise argued that we should respond to the horror in Norway by paying more attention to the alleged perpetrator’s point of view:

On the big picture, Europe’s cultural conservatives are right: Mass immigration really has left the Continent more divided than enriched, Islam and liberal democracy have not yet proven natural bedfellows and the dream of a postnational, postpatriotic European Union governed by a benevolent ruling elite looks more like a folly every day…. Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have an obligation to acknowledge that Anders Behring Breivik is a distinctively right-wing kind of monster. But they also have an obligation to the realities that this monster’s terrible atrocity threatens to obscure.

The New York Times’ July 23 report explained that while early speculation about Muslim terrorists was incorrect, there was ample reason for concern that terrorists might be responsible. In 2004 and again in 2008, the No. 2 leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, who took over after the death of Osama bin Laden, threatened Norway because of its support of the American-led NATO military operation in Afghanistan.

Of course, anyone who kills scores of civilians for political motives is a “terrorist”; the language of the Times, though, suggested that a “terrorist” would have to be Islamic.

The Times went on:

Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out Islamic terrorism as the cause of Friday’s assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking Al-Qaeda’s brutality and multiple attacks.

“If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from Al-Qaeda,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington.

It is unclear why any of Breivik’s actions would be considered connected in any way to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, which certainly did not invent the idea of brutal mass murder. But the Times was able to turn up another expert the following day who saw an Islamist inspiration for Islamophobic terrorism (7/24/11):

Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism specialist at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, said the manifesto bears an eerie resemblance to those of Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders, though from a Christian rather than a Muslim point of view. Like Mr. Breivik’s manuscript, the major Qaeda declarations have detailed accounts of the Crusades, a pronounced sense of historical grievance and calls for apocalyptic warfare to defeat the religious and cultural enemy.

“It seems to be an attempt to mirror Al-Qaeda, exactly in reverse,” Mr. Hegghammer said.

To the paper’s credit, the Times’ Scott Shane wrote a strong second-day piece (7/25/11) documenting the influence of Islamophobic bloggers on Breivik’s manifesto:

His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch website, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture…. Mr. Breivik frequently cited another blog, Atlas Shrugs, and recommended the Gates of Vienna among websites.

(Spencer was one of the anti-Muslim pundits profiled in FAIR’s 2008 report, “Meet the Smearcasters: Islamophobia’s Dirty Dozen.”)

Shane’s piece noted that the document, rather than being an Al-Qaeda “mirror,” actually copied large sections of Ted Kaczynski’s 1995 Unabomber manifesto, “in which the Norwegian substituted ‘multiculturalists’ or ‘cultural Marxists’ for Mr. Kaczynski’s ‘leftists’ and made other small wording changes.”

It is not new for media to jump to the conclusion that Muslims are responsible for any given terrorist attack; the same thing was widespread after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings (Extra!, 7-8/95). “It has every single earmark of the Islamic car-bombers of the Middle East,” syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer (Chicago Tribune, 4/21/95) asserted. “Whatever we are doing to destroy Mideast terrorism, the chief terrorist threat against Americans, has not been working,” wrote New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal (4/21/95). “Knowing that the car bomb indicates Middle Eastern terrorists at work, it’s safe to assume that their goal is to promote free-floating fear,” editorialized the New York Post (4/20/95). It is unfortunate that so many outlets have failed to learn any practical lessons from such mistakes–or question the beliefs that drive them.


Information pointed to by Zahid Macdoom

A Holocaust for First Nations: the Number of Missing Children

Published On Thursday Jun 16 2011
Number of missing children shocks reconciliation chair, June 11

Hundreds of First Nations children who disappeared after being taken from their homes to attend residential schools from 1870 to the mid-1900s is a “big surprise for me,” said Murray Sinclair, the Manitoba judge who is chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“That such large numbers of children died at the schools. That the information of their deaths was not communicated back to their families.”

Manitoba has a very large population of indigenous people. Isn’t it odd that Manitoba’s first aboriginal judge, appointed to Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench in January 2001, would have no idea of the death toll, and didn’t or couldn’t make the leap to a correlation between violent, hate-based crimes on such a huge scale and death? For 30 years, Judge Sinclair’s main legal interests were civil, criminal and aboriginal law.

Your article says that the number of deaths is in the hundreds, when estimates have been as high as 60 per cent of the 150,000 children who were kidnapped and savaged. In 1909, Dr. Peter Bryce, general medical superintendent for Indian Affairs reported to the ministry that between 1894-1908, the mortality rate in western Canadian residential schools was between 35 per cent and 60 per cent.

The statistic, which became public in 1922, means that between 52,500 and 90,000 children are unaccounted for. Do we all really naively believe they died of natural causes? Mass graves have already been discovered. It is our holocaust. We want to bring the bones of our ancestors home.

The good judge had a breakfast meeting with power brokers from universities, the media, business and banking at the National Club. He said it’s important for the story of the schools to spread from our educational system to the corridors of corporate power.

You think we haven’t tried and tried? Who really wants to hear that our country and churches are responsible for so many innocent deaths? Good luck with that, Judge Sinclair.

Perhaps what might have been more compelling was to have some residential school survivors tell their story of humiliation, physical trauma and starvation over eggs benedict at the National Club. However, it probably would have required a set of squirm-proof chairs.

Shannon Thunderbird
First Nations Elder, Educator


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‘No Reprieve’ by Farieha Aziz

While Pakistan has been living under an increasingly murky sky for years, it has grown darker and more ominous since Aasiya Bibi’s conviction for alleged blasphemy in December 2010. Following that, close on the heels came the murders of Punjab Governor, Salmaan Taseer, and Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti. And it didn’t end there. The dark cloud of fear and intimidation has not receded. Since the two high-profile murders, there has been an alarming rise in the number of people accused of blasphemy as well as in the number of cases filed, and several other people – minorities and targets of sectarian wars among them – have fallen prey to vigilante justice and cold-blooded murder.

Not surprising then, that when the news of convicted blasphemer David Qamar Masih’s passing away while serving a jail term was received, it sounded alarm bells. Did he really die of a heart attack at age 52, as the jail authorities claimed, or was it yet another case of the law-enforcers playing judge, jury and executioner? Who can blame people for speculating, given the numerous instances where jail wardens or other prisoners have killed inmates in jail on charges of blasphemy. And if it is not in jail, it has been outside of it. On March 4, Mohammed Imran, who was acquitted of blasphemy charges a year ago, was shot dead on the outskirts of Rawalpindi.

In the most recent case that was reported on March 26, a man by the name of Yaqoob was accused of using abusive language against the Prophet (PBUH) in Gilgit. Announcements from mosques galvanised people from nearby houses, who took to the streets and dispersed only when the police arrested and booked the accused. This was preceded by a similar incident in Lahore’s Badami Bagh area, where a mob collected to burn down the Full Gospel Assembly (FGA) Church after clerics announced from their pulpits that the parishioners had burnt pages of the Holy Quran. While the police reached in time to prevent the mob’s attack, it did not arrest anyone – neither those attempting to commit arson, nor the clerics who were instigating murder. But that was not unprecedented. For example, the imam of the Mohabbat Khan mosque in Peshawar, who vociferously announced head money for Aasiya Bibi in the event of the court acquitting her, remains free.

The increasingly intolerant and dangerous prevailing climate can be gauged just by a glance at daily reports. In late January, a dispute between two sisters-in-law led to one, Amina, a Muslim, accusing the other, Zahira, a Christian, of blasphemy. Following the allegation, Zahira’s house was broken into and she and her mother were beaten. In early February, sectarian differences led to an attack on a religious procession, resulting in the death of two people. In mid-February, in Multan, a teacher who was accused of blasphemy by a student was not only suspended, but savagely beaten up by residents, instigated by mosque announcements and text messages, due to which he sustained life-threatening injuries.

Several cases have been reported in these three months where arrests have been made and people booked under 295-B (defiling the Quran) and 295-C (using derogatory language against the Prophet (PBUH)), and there have been convictions where courts have handed down life imprisonment and death sentences. In Multan, a prayer leader and his 20-year-old son were sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged blasphemy; in Bahawalpur, a sessions court put a man charged under 295-C and 298-A (use of derogatory language against holy personages) on death row, and another man was awarded a life sentence after he was found guilty of defiling the Quran by a sessions court.

Numerous other cases have been reported, many of them undoubtedly motivated more by personal rivalries and sectarian or religious differences than any real offence. As a leading religious scholar put it, “who would be foolhardy enough to risk his life by blaspheming in this climate – unless he/she is on a suicide mission.” Thus, when in February Muslim residents in Faisalabad charged Agnes Bibi, a Christian woman with blasphemy, and it later transpired this was in order to acquire a piece of land she held, it came as no surprise. In fact, today just about anything – from wearing a wooden pendant around one’s neck allegedly bearing “blasphemous” inscriptions against the Sahaba, removing a poster from outside of one’s shop, tying a shoe to a flag post with a holy symbol on it and even an exchange of SMSes – can be construed as blasphemy, and all these have actually been grounds for FIRs.

The question that begs to be asked then is, what kind of evidence is considered as proof or otherwise of the crime of blasphemy in a court of law? Are SMSes, sim cards, accounts by warring neighbours and the like enough proof of awarding people life imprisonment and death sentences? And what in the instance that an accused is not of sound mind, as in Karachi, where medical reports of a man accused of burning pages of the Holy Quran clearly indicated he was a psychiatric patient. Or for that matter, what of a minor, such as the 17-year-old who was charged with blasphemy for answers he wrote in an exam paper?

Since the introduction of the Blasphemy Law to Pakistan’s Penal Code – which it must be emphasised happened during the Zia era – to date, whenever any government has announced the intent to amend the Blasphemy Law to curb its abuse, religious groups have taken to the streets, vehemently denouncing the government’s proposition. Each time they have been successful in building pressure and forcing the government to back down from its intent. So, not surprisingly, this time too the religious lobby succeeded in making the PPP retreat from its avowed attempt to consider amending the law. So much so, that contrary to the facts, PPP members claimed no committee was ever constituted to even consider touching the law. Even more telling was how the party did not issue a forthright condemnation of the assassination of their governor and minister, till long after the events. In fact, it was not until late March, when President Zardari addressed parliament, that there was an official condemnation of the murders of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

But what next? Should this be interpreted as a sign that the government is finally ready to apprehend and try the killers, and put a stop to the abuse of the Blasphemy Law? Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s recent statement while speaking to Reuters in London would indicate so. He said “[the Blasphemy Law’s] misuse is being … taken into account and party leaders … will meet to try to reach a consensus on the law.” However, when he qualified this by stating this would happen “as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman,” it left less room for optimism. While the Maulana stated earlier last month, “If a law is being misused against minorities, we are ready to discuss this (matter),” this came after blaming Governor Taseer for the fate he met because of what he said about the law, refusing to condemn slain minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder, and issuing warnings against amendments to the Blasphemy Law.

The question is, what form of abuse and what number of casualties will force state institutions to take cognisance of the criminal acts being aimed at its citizens? Hate-mongering, the creation of an atmosphere of threat and intimidation and the stymying of open discourse on the issue has led to the loss of several lives, government functionaries and common citizens alike.

While the government has miles to go in this regard, the onus is also on the judiciary. With powers to take suo moto action, why hasn’t it acted against those inciting violence or conversely, instructed the government to take action? Why does it confine itself to issuing notices only on issues like the NRO and the hiring and firing of government functionaries? How is it that the rule of law is not a concern?

Rights groups, activists and members of civil society have gone hoarse shouting about the abuse of the Blasphemy Law. When the words blasphemy and Taseer became taboo, they continued uttering them in the public sphere, condemning murder as it should be condemned, rather than inventing excuses for it in the name of religion. Breaking the silence on the issue of blasphemy and religious extremism, reaching out to fellow citizens and initiating a dialogue on this issue, and reclaiming public spaces increasingly being taken over by the religious right has been a burgeoning concern.

Citizens for Democracy (CFD), an umbrella group of citizens, labour unions and rights organisations, formed in December 2010 to lobby against the misuse of religion in politics, launched a letter campaign in March, seeking to do exactly that. The letter was addressed to the heads of state institutions and those in power, to demand that they uphold the rule of law, take action against murders and those who incite hate and murder, and ensure the protection of all citizens, especially against acts of vigilantism justified in the name of religion. While thousands of signatories from all walks of life responded to the call, the right-wing brigade has, by using the pulpit and the streets, managed to muster ever-growing and infinitely more numbers to demonstrate its strength.

So while civil society must continue to lobby, ultimately, change will have to be effected at many levels, not least among these the policy level, and time is already running out.

Farieha Aziz is currently an assistant editor at Newsline and has been with the organisation since 2007. She has a masters in English from the University of Karachi. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008.


Funding Cuts by Harper Government: Election Update

Federal Election Canada 2011

List of Women’s Organizations whose funding has been cut or ended by the Harper Government

1.    Aboriginal Healing Foundation
(cuts affected several healing centres that focused on providing support to abused women, such as the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal)
2.    Action travail des femmes
3.    Alberta Network of Immigrant Women
4.    Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)
5.    Canadian Child Care Federation
6.    Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)
7.    Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition féminine
8.    Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
9.    Child Care Resource and Research Unit, SpeciaLink
10.  Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)
11.  Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women Toronto
(funding cut by CIC in December 2010)
12.  Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia
13.  First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
14.  International Planned Parenthood Federation
15.  Marie Stopes International
(a maternal health agency, has received only a promise of “conditional” funding IF it avoids any & all connection with abortion)
16.  MATCH International
17.  National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
18.  Native Women’s Association of Canada
19.  New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
20.  Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
21.  Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
22.  Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
23.  Riverdale Immigrant Women’s Centre, Toronto
24.  Sisters in Spirit
25.  South Asian Women’s Centre
26.  Status of Women Canada
(mandate also changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying)
27.  Tri-Country Women’s Centre Society
28.  Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)
29.  Women for Community Economic Development in Southwest Nova Scotia (WCEDSN)
30.  Women’s Innovative Justice Initiative – Nova Scotia
31.  Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program
32. Older Women’s Network
33. Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre (KWRC)
34. Réseau action femmes
For a PDF of this list , please click here.

To add another name to this list, please email the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights.

The Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights

Women journalists lack basic facilities in media outlets, PFUJ

ISLAMABAD, March 8:- The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has regretted that female journalists in Pakistan still lack basic facilities and opportunity to serve in the media houses in a conducive environment, and complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination in getting assignments are rampant.

On the eve of the International Women day, the PFUJ said the media owners of Pakistan claim themselves to be champions of the rule of law, equity, fairplay, humanity, and that they are highlighting the injustice in society but fact remains that media houses have turned into chambers of torture, cruelty, lawlessness and worst places for female journalists.

“As women in Pakistan’s mushrooming electronic media break new barriers, reports of sexual harassment and unfair pay are and profile is becoming a matter of grave concern,” the PFUJ asserted.

The PFUJ pointed out that no gender policy exists in any media outlet, besides there is absence of policy on human resources, gender, maternity leave in Pakistani media houses and women are scarcely involved in decision-making process and journalists’ associations hardly come to any help to women journalists in case of profession-related problems.

Women journalists face discrimination in getting assignments because of being considered less competent, are sexually harassed, and often drop out from the profession for lack of proper media policy.

Although women population in Pakistan is said to be over 51 per cent in the print media, the participation of the females is insignificant while in electronic media ratio of female is hardly one per cent and the same is the case in online and news agencies. In case of print media which is more dominating and in a big number in Pakistan especially in Urdu, the participation of females is almost non-existent in numerical percentage, The PFUJ added.

The PFUJ conceded that although there is no bar on female journalists to get membership of the Union of Journalists, yet females were shy in activily participating in union activities and to play their real role at par with their male colleagues, and there is an urgent need to attract them in the fold of the Unions.

The PFUJ demanded of the federal as well as all the provincial governments to ensure conducive working environment in media houses, formulation of the gender policy with clear cut provisions of washrooms, maternity leave, and participation of women in administrative posts, decision making and equal opportunity on promotion, wages, as well as assignments.

The PFUJ also demanded that all those who make an attempt or are involved in sexual harassment be brought to justice instead of the harassment and blackmail of victim females.

Shamsul Islam Naz
Secretary General
Cellular +92(0)300 8665523, +92(0)321 8665523

An Urgent Uddari Wish: That the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) consider using ‘women’ for ‘females’ and ‘woman’ for ‘female’ in their statements and press releases.

Art on Punjab Partition, Moonsoon Fashion Event, and the ‘Streets of Karachi’

Art work created by Punjabi artists on 1947 Punjab Partition is on display at Uddari Art Exhibition in Partition: The Punjab 1947. View paintings and drawings by Satish Gujral, Pran Nath Mago, SL Prasher; and, sculptures by Dhan Raj Bhagat.

Find information at Earthpoems about a Red Earth Moonsoon Fashion show on the theme of ‘green’, set to begin tomorrow in New Delhi as part of a month-long festival.

The USA premiere of a new docu-drama titled ‘Streets of Karachi’ (Urdu with English subtitles) is due August 16 in Palo Alto, California. Presented by Precept Productions, the film produced and directed by Shoieb Yunus while the cast includes Adil Murad, Nadia Hussain, Munawar Saeed, Umair Leghari, and others. View the trailer and more information at Cultural Events Page.

Books About Karachi

Help Surrey BC Become the Coolest City in Canada

Spectacular Surrey.
Photo from tourismsurrey.com

Volunteers are needed to help make Surrey the ‘Coolest’ city in Canada by asking the Mayor and other city officials to make a commitment to climate protection policies and agreements.


Update: A Best Seller On Our Hands: Skeena!
Surrey BC is featured in a novel launched on April 9/2011 at the Newton Branch of Surrey Public Library. The novel titled ‘Skeena’ is written by Surrey-based author Fauzia Rafique, and was launched here in both English and Punjabi (Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi).
More information about the book launch in surrey

The story of Skeena begins in a village in the Pakistani Punjab in 1971, moves to the city of Lahore in 1981, continues onto Toronto ON in 1991, and finishes in Surrey BC in 2001. The novel is divided in four sections, and the fourth section takes place in Surrey.

The English and Gurumukhi editions of Skeena are published by Surrey-based publishers Libros Libertad and Uddari Books in 2011. The Shahmukhi Punjabi edition was published by Sanjh Publications from Lahore in 2007 where the novel was launched in nine cities in Punjab and Sindh.
More information on Skeena

Buy English edition of ‘Skeena’ Online