Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Elements" in Pakistan

Mumbai is seething with anger, resentment and unappeasable grief. Their government has much to answer for. In its muted response over the years to continual assaults from Islamist terror groups. For not taking sufficient steps to ensure their population is protected. Yes, it's difficult to counter the stealth onslaughts of deadly-minded fanatics, but more must be done to ensure the safety and security of India's people.

By ignoring the breadth of the problem, by taking it on the chin, perhaps hoping the phenomenon will fizzle out, die a natural death of gradual disinterest, that the dedicated jihadis will begin to drift away, becoming sick and tired of their own gruesome bloodletting, India is only setting itself up for a dreadful backlash. Where infuriated Hindus will increasingly target their Muslim-counterpart citizens.

As though the country hasn't enough to keep it concerned about the well-being of its disparate ethnic and religious groups. Where Hindus target Christians, and Sikhs battle with Hindus, and Muslims and Hindus seek one another out to wreak revenge for wrongs real or imagined, past and future. In the process, allowing the terrorist groups to achieve the real victory they're looking for.

To set the vast majority Hindu population against its huge but minority Muslim population. Where the groups were accustomed to living in peace with one another, after the horrible paroxysms of mass killing after partition, they are once again eyeing one another with dire enmity, and succumbing to fears and animosities ending in bloodshed.

That's the true triumph of the dreadful assaults on Mumbai. Where the country looked on in horror as its security forces, its military, its police, proved inept at forecasting the danger that was ahead through an intelligence network, and apprehending it. And where once launched, the combined forces were incapable of swiftly removing the threat.

Granted, terrorists infiltrating themselves into places crowded with people are difficult to isolate and to disarm, but a mere handful of well-armed young jihadis were successful in murdering hundreds of people, wounding far more, and destroying valued historical properties, unsettling an entire population in one of the most populous cities of the world.

Where the police response has come under scrutiny by an angry public, the heroes of the murderous onslaught appeared to be those who have no training in public protection, people such as those employed by the two hotels under attack. From kitchen workers to maintenance staff, they stepped forward calmly, doing their utmost to save people, and succeeding admirably.

Staff of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel were responsible for saving hundreds of guests by their clear thinking, taking them to places of relative safety, and in some instances becoming victims of the attackers because of their efforts for others. While an unprepared military and police are being faulted for lack of intelligence, inadequate response and dilatory action.

A mere handful of fanatics were able to stave off thousands of security, police and military personnel for three long days of holding innocent people hostage to their murderous intent to destroy the confidence and the lives of the people of India. Incredible, and intolerable.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Justifying Mass Homicide

There he is, on the stand, testifying in his defense that he doesn't hate Jews. He merely despises them. And in so doing despicably characterized them - and continues to do so - as deserving of the fate meted out to them en masse by Fascist Germany under their charismatic, Social Democratic leader, Adolph Hitler. An admirable figure of history to some, an odious mass murderer to most.

David Ahenakew happens to be in the former category, finding much to admire in the Nazi ideology and the fascist determination to rid the world of its chronic problem exemplified by that stubborn race of biblical-era people, determined to keep their faith and honour their traditions. During the third of his hate-crime trials Mr. Ahenakew had no hesitation in repeating that Adolf Hitler "had his reasons".

Indeed he is purported to have. And the world is still attempting to understand why and how. "I would say I understand Hitler had his reasons, but I still don't support them", claimed Mr. Ahenakew in his testimony to the court. One can only draw the conclusion, given Mr. Ahenakew's past statements, that his conversion to non-support is fairly recent, in an attempt to stave off earned accusations of hate-mongering.

The presiding judge spurned the infamous Jew-defaming defence lawyer Doug Christie's contention that Mr. Ahenakew's apology in the wake of his hate-spumed diatribe be entered into evidence. On the basis that this was not a heartfelt, spontaneous admission of regret, since he was merely reading what had been written for him by the staff of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, vetted by a lawyer.

In an obvious attempt to stave off further accusations and divert media attention from the enormity of Mr. Ahenakew's vicious diatribe expressing his vibrant antipathy to a people beleaguered throughout history; somewhat analogous to the disturbing history of North American aboriginal populations. Absent the grand scale of the Holocaust.

After all, the man was simply misunderstood. Just because he stated that Hitler was "trying to clean up the world" by "frying" six million Jews, doesn't prove that Mr. Ahenakew approved. Merely stating the facts as he saw them, that's all. While serving with the Canadian armed forces in Germany, Mr. Ahenakew was informed that the Jews were responsible for starting the war, and he agreed.

This man was part of his country's military, at war against a murderously totalitarian government intent, as a side issue to its brutal and bloody conquest of Europe, to eradicate, extinguish, methodically cleanse the world of an entire ethnic and religious group of ancient lineage.

Mr. Ahenakew preferred to empathize, consort with and support the beliefs and actions of an culture of fanatic Jew-haters rather than recognize the enormity of the moral degradation that mass-slaughter fascism represented. A comfortable fit for him, representing as a narrative and a belief that satisfied his personal requirement to hate another traditionally vulnerable segment of society.

It was the reporter James Parker, working for the Saskatoon StarPheonix who provoked his response, he claims. Yet Mr. Parker, covering the aboriginal health conference that Mr. Ahenakew addressed, heard him address the gathering on aboriginal health issues, then divert to advising them that the Jews caused World War Two. The interview recorded by Mr. Parker audibly demonstrated the extent of Mr. Ahenakew's hate-mongering.

Which Mr. Ahenakew claimed had been forthcoming because he had been "irritated" by Mr. Parker's "arrogant attitude". Which consisted of forthrightly asking the interviewee what exactly he meant by stating that Jews started the Second World War. A reasonable enough enquiry, given the statements made in a public arena for public consumption; a statement that no one present other than the reporter had challenged.

Mr. Ahenakew's defence claims he was merely stating his personal opinion. And he was angry, and yes he does hate Jews, but had no intent to promote that hatred, to result in violent action against Jews. What else, then?

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

God Is Watching

The Divine Spirit sees everything, is everywhere, controls everything, and to Him does the world and all within owe its existence. To believe otherwise is in and of itself blasphemy deserving of death. To act in the name of Allah is to advance oneself closer to divine recognition. What other than the fervent confidence of fanatic believers in the divine wrath of Allah whose blessed martyrs they are, might convince young men to offer themselves, for they are mujahedeen, God's divine warriors.

They came on silent padding feet once they disembarked from the boats that brought them to their target over the dark seas. The why of it is known, the how of it remains a puzzle. It is not, after all, as though India has never suffered from such attacks in the past. Since partition led to the separation of India and Pakistan the two countries have fought several wars. Pakistan's hatred of its neighbour burns fiercely, without abatement over time.

Pakistan's military, obeying and in concert with its government, supported Islamist militants in the Indian state of Kashmir, encouraging local uprisings. And with them bloodshed and suffering. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's government encouraged "the students" foreseeing the Taliban becoming the pacifying administrative force within Afghanistan enabling Pakistan to slowly bring that country into the Pakistani fold.

The Taliban training camps in concert with Pakistani intelligence officers, along with the many Saudi-funded religious schools in the country churned out eager recruits to the irresistible banner of jihad, becoming a welcoming beacon of opportunity to disaffected and restless young Muslim men from around the world. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) offering support in the holy war against the infidel.

And other binding ties, with senior Taliban leaders, friends and associates of Osama bin Laden, finding common cause in a world of diminishing Muslim prestige and economic advancement, held back by the surging tide of Western science, productivity, trade and greed for Muslim-owned energy resources. This violently energetic holy war is fought on many fronts.

Pakistan will not surrender its ambitions, nor its burning enmity for India. A series of violent terrorist attacks against various parts of India, killing countless Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims, injuring far more, encouraged and organized by the ISI, to take back from India that which Pakistan claims for its own. Starting with Kashmir, and reaching into the Punjab.

The burning question, in the wake of the coordinated series of attacks in Mumbai by a crew, a veritable handful of young jihadis armed with grenades and machine guns, seeking out the presence of foreigners as they assaulted two palatial hotels, the city's major railway station, a movie theatre, a famous cafe, a hospital and a Jewish education centre and synagogue, is, where was Indian intelligence?

The stealth advance in the dark of night on Wednesday from the sea to land without detection, enabling the band of determined young jihadis to mount their attacks without interference from law enforcement agencies is, in and of itself, wildly absurd, improbable. How could these sites be so easily breached? Where was the attention of the police, the military, private policing agencies?

Huge hotel complexes taken by no more than four of God's warriors each, throwing the entire security system - if it existed at all - into chaos, taking high-value hostages, engaging in very successful shoot-outs with police, when they eventually entered the scene of carnage, as buildings were being blown up, people shattered into blood and sinew, so many injured that hospitals are unable to cope.

No security measures in place to fend off such attacks? To detect their potential before they became a crucible of death? Security officials simply not as motivated as the jihadists? Official India, despite countless bloody attacks, not yet fully awakened to the ongoing threat against its peace and security, disturbing its advance toward social inclusiveness and stability, and financial success?

Were the countless attacks by mujahedeen merely to be shrugged off as nuisances? With the thought that they would eventually tire of their end-sum game that gained them not so very much? How is it that India could see to dispatch its naval power against Somalian pirates, exerting its influence and military proficiency in the Arabian Gulf, but reacting with a tired torpor of disinterest in apprehending attacks at home?

Is maritime trade that more valuable than the lives of countless Indians? Merchandise trumps innocent lives in the business of taking care of one's own? One initiative smacks of hegemonic reach for dominance, the other of mild disinterest in protecting territorial integrity, sovereignty, safety and security of citizens. Of course this is quite entirely wrong, an erroneous impression, not at all indicative of how India truly feels.

But this latest assault on Indian soil, for the purpose of freeing Indian-held mujahedeen, brothers-in-arms battling the profane of the world for the greater glory of Islam, is breath-taking in the insolence of its arrogant presumption. That a handful of young men barely into functioning adulthood are able to mount an attack of this width and breadth, killing people left and right - oh yes, including the chief of the police anti-terrorist squad in Mumbai.

Does that not speak eloquently of a gross failure of a state to protect itself and its own? It certainly speaks volumes of the corrosive hate of which militant Islam is capable, of the searingly soul-destroying savagery that can be visited upon innocents in the name of God.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Blaspheme and Perish

Surely it is inevitable that the resolve of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to steadily chip away at the underpinnings of free liberal democracies, to bring Western values to its knees will prevail through sheer inertia. The kind of inertia that makes the voices of reason weaker and fainter in time as the onslaught of Islamic fury simply overtakes the courage of truth and justice, finally resulting in submission.

The West simply fails to understand the needs of extreme Islam, to exercise complete control over Muslims in every facet of the lives of the faithful, and to exorcise those among them unwilling to surrender any vestige of human independence to the greater good of acclaiming the will of Allah, and they subservient to it as interpreted by the mullahs, the ayatollahs and all the sundry clerics representing God's steely grip on humankind.

Search out the apostates, the dissenters, the dissemblers, the lax worshippers and isolate them, expose them to the full contempt of the faithful of Islam, make of them social outcasts and finally submit them to the laws of Sharia which, in one Islamic country after another, including those upon whom the West confers the modest appellation of "moderate" pronounces the penalty of death as just dessert.

All part and parcel of the ten-year plan of the Islamic Conference whose 57 member-states are agreed that it is past time for a renaissance of the glory of Islam, an Islam renascent as the world's imperial theological and temporal power before whom all others must grovel; at the very least observe the taxes levied upon them should they have the ill fortune to live within the confines of a Muslim state.

Modern-day Islam simply does not appear to wish to recall that it was the genius of Islam during its days of glory to represent as a collectivity of forward-looking leaders who celebrated the arts and sciences, nurturing and perfecting their versions of the humanities through the brilliance of creativity.

That long-ago Islam was permissive of the presence of other religions in their midst, it encouraged a high level of interaction, revelling in an atmosphere of lively and inventive collaborative resourcefulness, of mercantile trade, goods production, agriculture, architecture, philosophical exchanges, while never quite losing sight of its primacy over subordinate peoples.

This current Islam is perplexed at its loss of prestige in the world of today, its waywardness, backwardness, lack of industriousness, of creativity that has hampered its progress. It is funded primarily by the accident of geographically-located mineral and energy resources, not through the industriousness of cerebral function. Resentful of the scientific, material, philosophical and political advances of Western nations, it encourages a mindset of furious jihad.

Which translated in the minds of aggrieved fanatics into bloodlusting jihad set about for the purpose of instructing the Christians, the Jews and the Hindus and Buddhists, the Baha'i of their inferior position in the world. Demonstrating just how vulnerable these conventional societies - of degraded values who divided politics from religion for the greater good of their populations - were to the determined onslaught of fundamentalist firmness.

Islam has since reeled in apprehension of the reaction of the West, doing its utmost to meet the challenges foisted upon it by fanatic jihadists, claiming to have become the victims of Islamophobia; the aggressors clinging to victimhood. The Islamic states seek other means of validating their claims to Islamic justice. Denying that their closed and tyrannical governments are associated with terrorism and human rights violations, they turn to international diplomacy to achieve their ends.

The United Nation's Human Rights council is informed of the mission of the Organization of the Islamic conference, to produce a "new instrument or convention" on the issue of formally establishing a codicil in support of anti-blasphemy measures. The "Combating Defamation of Religions" feature passed handily in a 85-50 vote in the initial UN committee hearing, to be given the official stamp of UN approval as an internationally-recognized item by the plenary session eventually.

The purpose of the draft measure, claims its sponsors, is to prevent violence against religious worshippers representing any of the world's religions. In other words there will be no patience, no acceptance, no tolerance of dissenting opinions, of any manner of criticism of any of the tenets or customary practices of religion. The sinister potential of this manipulative move is obvious to human rights groups and to countries whose free speech guarantees will be threatened by its passage.

There are countless people in prisons worldwide accused of blasphemy, people whose fates will be determined by a Sharia-led judicial process accustomed to curing the unfortunate disease of unbelievers by death sentences. Blasphemy can be charged to those critical of a theocratic government whose repressions are unbearable. Charged against thinking individuals who cannot understand why women in cloistered societies become disposable items of property.

Ensuring that this matter enters the international record through a final and successful vote will impact deleteriously on freedoms in all societies, while providing international complicity toward, and an implied acceptance of, prison and death sentences for blasphemers and apostates. Forcing countries who uphold the rights of individuals to speak and act freely, to embrace or to reject religions, or ideologies, or to criticize them at will; to accept the thesis that group rights trump those of individuals.

"Canada rejects the basic premise that religions have rights; human rights belong to human beings" explained a spokesperson for Canada's Foreign Affairs Department. "The focus (here) should not be on protecting religions, but rather on protecting the rights of the adherents of religions, including of people belonging to religious minorities, or people who may choose to change their religion, or not to practise religion at all."

Whereas what Muslim countries strive to achieve is an overarching legalization of their "right" to be immune from any type of criticism relating to their religion. And since Islam is not only a religion, but a political and n all-encompassing social movement that constrains and contains the lives and lifestyles, values and aspirations of its adherents, its needs are far removed from those of Western-value nations.

It is in the West that people are able to exercise free choice, free expression, while in Muslim countries the existential plight and lack of legal protections of minority groups, and those of other religious remain imperilled by a religious dictate that refuses to grant equality and protection to "others". With the passage of this resolution, the already dim futures of these groups will become ever more difficult within Muslim countries.

For there will be no instrument left to the West through which they will be able to bring pressure on Muslim countries to observe the human rights of minorities and other religious adherents within their borders, once the resolution becomes enshrined as a universal tenet. And the parliament of Iran, for one, will be encouraged to proceed with its penal code amendment enabling it to impose capital punishment for apostasy.

As is done in other Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia...

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An Awakening

It has been said that all things shall come to pass in the fullness of time. Even, we dare hope, the political and social maturity of the African Continent. There have been abortive starts now and again, throughout that vast continent, where one country after another has sought to shed its primitive status quo as a tribal-based society focused on the advancement of the ascendant tribe, ignoring the needs of those other, lesser tribes within their geographies.

What's more, behaving generally, once ensconced in power, as though the avails of whatever natural resources, trading commodities and production become the personal banking system of the coterie in power. Ignoring the general plight of the population needful of sufficient food, adequate shelter, safe drinking water, life-sustaining medicines - because it's too much of an effort to enact laws guaranteeing same, and supporting the infrastructure providing them.

A waste of attention, of energy, of the national treasury. Put to much better use installing a guaranteed lifestyle of privilege for family, friends, cronies and supporters of the administration in power. Administrations that tend to look with a jaundiced eye at what neighbouring states' administrations have been able to accomplish for themselves. Still, a collective conscience does stir in there, waiting to be released by authentically humane and responsible leaders.

Who do, from time to time, busy themselves to some degree, attempting to bring their nations into the newer world order that demands attention to the needs of the greater populace. To tend to their direst and most direct human needs in the provision of the wherewithal to become gainfully employed so they might to partake of the goods of the earth and the countries' emerging economic promises. Secure from time-honoured traditions that gave assent to bitter tribal enmities resulting in violence.

It appears now that the extent of the horrible failure of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe has finally penetrated the consciousness and the consciences of his neighbours, too long trepidatious about treading on his authority and his reputation as a colonialist-era-basher, championing the need for Africa to rule itself. Independent Africa has tried to do just that, and in the process has succeeded to a degree, while receding from time to time to the inadequacies inherent in tribal culture.

However tardy, though, it would appear that absent Thabo Mbeki - Robert Mugabe's staunchest ally and supporter - South Africa is finally awakening to the necessity of action, and bringing along with it, as an elder-state-nation, other African countries to finally demand that Zimbabweans be rescued from the dire depredations of its president. Other impoverished and struggling nations can ill afford to take in more refugees fleeing that country.

And the dire conditions of starvation and rampant disease inevitably spreading; both untreated for lack of currency and governmental action, are threatening to cross borders inflicting other states with the scourge of the cholera epidemic now raging across Zimbabwe. The plight of Zimbabwe and its people is so stark that the 'elder statesmen' represented by Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and Graca Machel attempted intervention to no avail.

Millions of Zimbabweans are on the cusp of starvation and death; fully one-half of the population is imperilled, while also facing the very real prospect of rampaging disease overtaking starvation in a race toward death. The situation, dire as it is, can only become steadily worse if nothing is done. The United Nations food agencies give a figure of 5.1-million Zimbabweans facing starvation.

In a desperate attempt to force Robert Mugabe to succumb to the necessity of power sharing with Morgan Tsvangerai and instilling some level of confidence in moving the country toward relief and potential investment from abroad, South Africa's parliament voted to withhold US$23.3-million in emergency agricultural aid. A hard choice to make, one that will ensure further suffering for the unemployed and desperate masses.

Kenya, which not so long ago fought an internecine war of tribal aggression when its president, Mwai Kibaki, refused to acknowledge the slim margin of victory of his opponent Raila Odinga - and who was complicit in his followers launching a brutal retaliation against Mr. Odinga's supporters, finally settling things by agreeing to shared administration - is calling vociferously on the African Union to send a peacekeeping force into Zimbabwe "to bring President Robert Mugabe back into line."

All attempts by southern African leaders up until now to negotiate an end to the deadlock between Robert Mugabe and his election-winning opposition, have failed. Thabo Mbeko, as the main negotiator, trod delicately, unwilling to step on his recalcitrant friend's toes, but managed, time and again, to wrest a grudging acquiescence to agree to power sharing.

But when it came to actually allocating key government posts to Morgan Tsvangirai and others of his party, Robert Mugabe simply reverted to form, and stood fast, refusing to allocate any meaningful ministries and with them, political power, to his adversaries. The end result being further chaos and down-spiralling in the economy of a country long before having suffered a mortal wound as a result of its president's ill-considered and internationally illegal moves.

Some hope can finally be found in the determination of South Africa's ruling African National Congress leading the way for the condemnation of Zimbabwe's president, in the hopes he can be unseated - by force if necessary. For it is necessary that he be taken away from his position of command, before his country collapses in a final agony of wide-spread depredation and death.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Oops, Russia Getting Carried Away....

George W. Bush was quite taken with Vladimir Putin the first time they met. Nice fella, he said, he could see the humanity in his soulful eyes. They could do business together, make the world a more stable, safer place. After all, wasn't the United States investing cold hard cash in helping Russia rid itself of its masses of nuclear waste? Just being a concerned and helpful neighbour; after all, the world is getting more integrated, interdependent and cozier as time goes by.

What a sea change since then. George W. Bush took a page out of Ronald Reagan's presidency and adopted a Star Wars agenda, and Vladimir Putin was definitely unimpressed. Star wars, that's like up there in the vastness of the universe, the sky above, and aren't the two countries sharing a massive effort in equipping, enlarging, modernizing the International Space Station, sharing funding and expertise and good fellowship, and scientific knowledge?

Oops, no, we're speaking of the installation of anti-ballistic missiles, here. On Russia's doorstep, so to speak. Aiming not at Russia, needless to say, but elsewhere, where the world's current threat emanates from the Middle East. Mind, Russia isn't entirely thrilled with the steady erosion of her hegemonic persuasion in her backyard, with Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia former comrades all, joining the European Union and NATO.

And Russia's growling is now menacing Ukraine and Georgia, lest they too flee the communist coop. Which they are determined to do. And which determination infuriates Moscow no end. And while the European Union, particularly France and Germany, seek to appease Moscow - mindful of their dependence on Russia's friendliness in supplying them with oil and gas, particularly throughout the long, hard winter months - the general consensus appears to be anti-irridentist.

No surprise there, a country's sovereignty is sacrosanct. If one country's borders and internal geographic possessions can be breached, then what's to stop the viral disease from spreading? Like, after all, with Serbia and Kosovo, and, as a result, Georgia and South Ossetia. Can't we all be friends? urges Germany's foreign minister in addressing his country's relationship with the United States, responding to Moscow's snarling.

And now look, what's this? A convoy carrying the Georgian and Polish presidents close to the Russian-protected 'border' of South Ossetia fired upon? How very positively uncivil. And who knows who might have been responsible? After all, both Russia and South Ossetia deny involvement. "Frankly I didn't expect Russians to open fire. I thought they clearly saw that this was an official cortege, this was a high delegation", complained Georgian President Mikheil Saskashvili.

To which Russia's foreign minister peevishly responded, "When the president invites people to some kind of celebration in Tbilisi and then takes a car and takes him to another state, is it not a provocation? Of course it was," Sergei Lavrov said conclusively. What an outrage, that Polish President Lech Kaczynski - he of the "Rose Revolution", hauling Ukraine further from Russian dominance - had the unmitigated gall to show his face alongside that of President Saakashvili.

Russia is simply not about to countenance such spiteful arrogance.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hatred's Venomous Spite

There he is, the champion of Canadian Muslims, hard done by through exposure to life in a free liberal democracy, claiming to represent the vital interests of over 70% of fearful and beleaguered Canadian Muslims, living in a country whose citizens have unaccountably turned against their neighbours.

The verification of which is questionable, given the number of Canadian Muslims who chafe under the apprehension that he speaks for them, and who do make it a point to counter his claim. These are Muslims who feel fully integrated into Canadian society, comfortable with their place there, no different than any other Canadian, whatever their origin.

And the origins are ample, since the country does represent as a great melting pot of humanity replete with ethnic, religious and social groups with their cultures and traditions from across the Globe. Whereas Canada was once a white-faced, European derivation population where racial discrimination was practised loud and clear, it has changed immeasurably, unerringly for the better.

To become what it now most emphatically is, a multicultural, decent and law-abiding society offering equality of opportunity to everyone under the law irrespective of religion, ethnicity, gender and orientation.

No society can ever claim to be free of all vestiges of discrimination; class, religious, political, ideological or social. But few societies have expended the amount of introspection - sometimes painful, given past history - to fully understand the ills done to others through lack of respect and acceptance, that Canada has.

And the results show as an intermingling of colours, features, cultures, languages and traditions accommodating themselves to one another with kind regard. All respectful of the prevailing social mores, the basis upon which Canadian societal values are expressed and practised.

Yet here is Mohamed Elmasry, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, casting aspersions on Canada and its community of communities by insisting Muslims require especial protection from isolated instances of presumed protestations of hatred.

Mr. Elmasry is well schooled in suspicion, grievance and hate demonstrated by his morbid paranoia. He taints Canadian society by suggestion; that we are rabidly "Islamophobic".

He is intent on re-fashioning Canadian laws and the manner in which the news media may be permitted to function. He sees the venom of racism abroad on the land, but denies that he has any hand in fomenting hatred toward others, claiming to have been misquoted, or that his unfortunate comments were taken out of context, when clearly they were not, but needful of sincere retraction.

Criticism, he says in an interview, is not unknown in Islam. That being so, how is it possible that cartoons published in Denmark might be the catalyst for the unleashing of a violent storm of protest, resulting in deaths, in property destruction, in attempts to violate a country's integrity? He draws a fine distinction between the permissibility of criticism, and the defence against mockery.

Defamation of that which is held most dear in Islam, its symbols and its Prophet may not be countenanced. To do so is to defile the most holy, the most sacred of symbols, an unforgivable crime. On the other hand, to exhort the faithful to violence, to murder and mayhem is permissible in defence of that which is held most dear. Constituting in and of itself a mockery of human values.

Mr. Elmasry cannot be unaware, living in the West, that nothing is held to be that sacred as to be above artful, acerbic or comedic comment or even blasphemously gritty display; distasteful yes, forbidden, no. Yet Mr. Elmasry has no hesitation in claiming that Canadian law lacks authority because it does not uphold the concept of 'group defamation' through critical commentary.

His goal, he claims, is to promote 'hate-free' free speech. Yet he had the unmitigated gall to opine hatefully in a very public interview that in certain countries it is acceptable to view civilians as enemy combatants. He struggles, he claims, to have Canadian law altered to protect the Muslim community from incidents of public incivility, media-presented criticisms, both of which he presents as clues to Islamophobia.

His very well-publicized launching of a human rights complaint against Maclean's magazine and Ezra Levant for articles published that he claims were inimical to the good reputation of Islam, was costly he says, despite that no costs are borne by the complainants to Human Rights Commissions, as opposed to heavy costs borne by those who must defend themselves.

In a sense it was a costly exercise in that it gained the Canadian Islamic Congress and Mr. Elmasry's puppets public criticism and a loss of respect. His purpose, he claims, was to ensure that a potential genocide of Canadian Muslims be averted. "It happened to the Jews in Europe. It happened to the natives here in Canada. We don't want it to happen to us", he asserted.

Imputing to Canadian society motivation toward genocide betrays his lack of understanding of Canada, an inability to grasp its values and the peaceful intent of most people to live in harmony. The frailty of his commitment to Canadian values which are, by their very definition, humanistic as opposed to the raw suspicion and blame he brandishes so freely in his accusations of racism, speaks volumes.

This man speaks of Keith Martin, a better human being than Mr. Elmasry could ever aspire to be, as Islamophobic because the member of Parliament sought to pass a bill to scrap the hate speech provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act, rather than see it continually abused. He compares the purported influence of the Jewish community in Canada to that of the Islamic community, coming very close to resurrecting some of the signal tenets of the infamous Protocols of Zion.

He claims that the Canadian Jewish community is given far more credence and protection against hate crimes than the Islamic community. "Politicians ignore Islamophobia, while in the Jewish community, if there is any indication of anti-Semitism, the politicians are up front, saying this is not acceptable. This is the right way to do it."

Yet after the occurrence of the 9-11 attacks, Canadians from every walk of life went out of their way to reassure their Muslim neighbours; newspaper editorials sought to do the same. Religious leaders in Canada forged alliances with their Muslim counterparts in a concerted effort to stave off any possibility of a backlash against Muslims. Politicians made their way to mosques to state their unequivocal support.

What an incredibly invidious intimation he reveals in his belief that Canadian society could ever succumb to violent action resulting in mass murder against a large demographic of Canadian society. His pretensions to fair regard for the good of the country under cover of one-sided justice in favour of Muslims leaves one with no alternative but to consider him a threat to the well-being of Canada.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Iran's Status as a Human Rights Violator Upheld

As tenuous a hold as the Canadian-led campaign felt it had on securing the upper hand within the General Assembly of the United Nations, strenuous and ongoing attempts to sway international delegates to the camp of those who sit in judgement of the world's worst human rights violators did meet with success. Canada may have led the move to isolate Iran for its egregiously inhumane human rights record, but it had the active backing and assistance of another forty-two countries, this year.

Canada's position was a fairly lonely one last year when the resolution passed by a mere two votes, and in previous years when Canada's persistence in labelling and shaming Iran before the United Nations resulted in a snarlingly-defensive Iran launching its own defamatory campaign against Canada for purported human rights abuses. Citing the condition of Canada's aboriginal communities, its presumed ill treatment of immigrants and of women, to support the counter-accusation.

Fortunately for Canada, its politics and social system is fairly well known throughout the world that recognizes Canada as a politically moderate, fair and reasonable country whose population is comprised of emigrants from countries everywhere who oppress their own. Canada's egalitarian values and assurances of equality and freedoms set out in our Charter represent much of the reason that migrants choose to immigrate to Canada.

And its reputation as a wealthy country that pulls its weight in offering aid to underdeveloped countries has assured that its reputation of decency is fairly widespread. Effectively reducing the scope and acceptance of Iran's derogatory attempts to defame the country. Still, there are enough countries whose own poor human rights records leave them open to the potential of being outed, isolated and shamed, to ensure that Iran would have its supporters.

Including countries who border Iran, with good reason to fear unpleasant consequences if they dared to support the Canadian-led resolution to censure Iran. As well as other countries whose poverty renders them susceptible to bribery from Iran in exchange for political support. In total, making for a suspenseful waiting game, to see out a vote which might have gone either way. To the detriment of the United Nations.

The key UN General Assembly committee convened to determine the outcome of the resolution's status, however, saw a slim margin of victory for Canada's determination to shame Iran. And in a 70-51 vote (with 60 abstentions), the committee dismissed Iran's attempted enterprise for the assemblage to refuse consideration of a shopping list of Iran's human rights abuses.

The United Nations assembly was agreed, in a majority vote that Tehran exercised its totalitarian authority to restrict free speech, to utilize torture as a method of control, and persistently engage in persecution of dissenters. As an expression of world opinion, the acceptance of the resolution stands as a uniform censure of a country - the Islamic Republic of Iran - that rules by fear and intimidation.

Amnesty International has expressed fears that an Iranian woman who stands convicted of adultery may receive the kind of punishment that fanatical Islam deems required for her sin; to be buried up to her chest and stoned to death. A repeat of a sentence that recently took place in another Islamic country. The stones, it is delicately pointed out, should be small, so as to inflict damage incrementally, maximizing suffering to reflect the severity of the crime.

Cited also are the crackdowns against journalists, parliamentarians, students, clerics and academics whose more moderate Islamic leanings render them an affront to the fundamentalist Ayatollahs and the elected politicians - as exemplified by Iran's President Ahmadinejad - whose persecution is warranted for peaceful expressions of political views other than those of the rigidly-imposing Ayatollahs'.

The closing down of news media that print state-critical views, and blocking of Internet sites further cloister the country.

The resolution itself cited such concerns as the execution of children; torture, and violently degrading punishments such as physical amputations, flogging and stoning; entrenched and systematic discrimination against females; persecution of political opponents; harsh and often deadly discrimination against minorities such as Christians, Jews, Sunni Muslims and Baha'i, generally resulting in arbitrary arrest and detention.

Iran's dependence on state executions as just punishment led to the documentation of 108 such final measures of supreme control over the populace, giving Iran the distinction of representing as the world's second most prolific executioner of its citizens, after China.

The country's belligerence toward others in the Middle East, its obvious search for hegemonic dominance, allied with its strenuous efforts to attain nuclear weaponry all confirm its status as a world-class menace.

With this latest measure of success in outlining the various ways in which Iran asserts itself through terror and state-sanctioned torture and murder, those who can differentiate between justice and injustice made the choice to stand firmly in the balance for justice.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

An Unfolding Realization

Quite the story. That of a young boy growing up in South Korea with the memory of his social activist father's long absences from the family, incarcerated for his state-embarrassing proclivity of championing democracy in a country not too appreciative of his efforts. "In my life, I've had only three meals with my dad", said Jean-Baptiste Kim in an interview. His family was blacklisted, his mother having to beg for food for her family. He grew up hating his country.

And at age 18 made his way to France. There he was discovered by a North Korean who understood how useful the intelligent, capable young man with his ability to communicate could be, recruited to assist North Korea. All the more appealing because of his hatred for South Korea. And he recruited Jean-Baptiste Kim, brought him to North Korea and taught him about all the wonderful, socially activist initiatives the regime was advancing on behalf of its people.

"He became my father. Everything he told me, I believed. Everything he asked me to do, I did." He was set up as a businessman in North Korea, where he intermingled with a social, political and business elite. His communication and language skills were useful to the North Koreans in spreading propaganda. To Mr. Kim, however, this was not propaganda. He passionately believed in the goodness of the regime.

He involved himself in political interviews where he steadfastly defended his new country. North Korea was materially poor, he asserted, but no more so than many countries elsewhere. And it was the brutal antipathy of the Western powers that continued to ensure that North Korea remained poor. The maintenance of U.S. troops in South Korea, fifty years following the Korean war, sustained an atmosphere of aggression.

He acted for over a decade as the official spokesman for Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il, trying to convince the international media of his leader's sterling qualities. He had no evident knowledge of the 1990s famine that killed a million North Koreans, because he was able to live a lavish lifestyle bestowed on all of Dear Leader's cronies, with sumptuous meals and personal servants and lavish hotel accommodation to see to his needs.

The thought occurred to him several years back that he could launch a grand, sweeping social event to capture the interest of the international community, to which musicians around the world could be invited. A rock festival to take place in Pyonyang which he would call "Rock for Peace", featuring 'capitalist' bands. Funds could be raised for charitable purposes within the country.

The regime agreed as long as no act would sing of "admirations on war, sex, violence, murder, drug, rape, non-governmental society, imperialism, colonialism, racism, anti-DPRK and anti-socialism". It is left to the imagination why any rock group might want to take part in such a festival, other than for the perceived intrigue of visiting such a closed society and having a look for themselves.

It's also amazing that rock groups might find any subjects to celebrate in song left to them given the scope of the forbidden subjects they must not touch on. Love of country, love of another, affection for animals, raising children, tough love, and miserable jobs one might love to leave might be material, possibly, for expansion. Yet hundreds of rock bands responded from around the world.

As a result of which, the pleased regime gave Mr. Kim permission to roam about the country, unaccompanied, in search of a concert venue. And in October of 2006 he did just that, visiting parts of the country he had never before encountered. "Ordinary places, with ordinary people. Small towns, small farms." And what he saw astounded him, woke him from his somnabulent complacency, and revealed the true inner face of North Korea.

Widespread malnutrition, people without decent housing, clothing; unemployed, completely indigent, with no assistance forthcoming from their government. "The life of the ordinary people is horrible. Miserable. I can't ever forget what I've seen. People were wearing clothes that hadn't been washed in a year. It was October, and kids were walking around without shoes.

"There was a small man, about my age - and he was no taller than my little daughter. He was a soldier, and he was carrying a Kalashnikov over one shoulder. The rifle was taller than him. And the reason? Because there's nothing to eat." This revelation of the true state of degraded affairs in the country he so staunchly defended to the world at large, defeated him as a spokesperson for the regime.

He lives now in a suburb of London, England, where he has placed numerous locks on his door, anticipating that he can be shot at any time by North Korean agents. He is convinced that sanctions against North Korea will never work to bring it into the world community. Nor is forcible intervention a potential for regime change, since North Korea has the world's fourth-largest standing army on permanent alert.

Possibly he overlooks the fact that the very army regulars - not the hierarchy - in North Korea's huge army - cognizant of the fact that not only are they fed starvation rations, but their families back home in the countryside are fed nothing at all - might not, if put to the test, choose to defend their heartlessly tyrannical ruler.

As for large standing armies; the population of Pakistan is half that of the United States, yet Pakistan has a standing army twice the size of that of the U.S. Much good it has done them in defending their country against the vile depredations of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Mr. Kim retains his searing hatred for South Korea, seen by the rest of the world as a beacon of enterprise, conciliatory toward North Korea. A country whose citizens, unlike that of the North, live comfortable and aspirational lives for future social and material advancement. Yet knowing what he does about the reality of life in North Korea, he retains an affection for the country.

He feels that only economic, cultural and social exchange will be able to signal some significant change for the better for that bleakly closeted country; only then will acceptance become possible, and relief for the misery of the population be accomplished. How that is remotely possible as long as the country is in bondage to its totalitarian megalomaniac is another story.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that Dear Leader has expired, or is close to so doing. And then, and only then, salvation for the country and its people may perhaps be eventually achievable.

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The Host Country

Here is Canada, having been alerted of the presence of another undesirable on our shores, holding that person, as requested, by the French policing authorities. Who have re-opened a 28-year-old case of terrorism, procured new information and evidence to strengthen a case which had originally not been investigated with the thoroughness it deserved, and identified a Canadian of Lebanese origin as the major malefactor in the bombing of a Paris synagogue.

There had been a prior warning that French authorities were building a case against this man. A year ago Canada was contacted by the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance in France that it was in possession of "clear information" that clarified Hassan Naim Diab's role in the bombing that killed three Frenchmen and an Israeli woman, injured many others, and destroyed part of the synagogue on rue Copernicus.

The world, at that time, was yet innocent of that kind of violence directed against Jews in the diaspora; clear warning that terror groups from the Middle East were reaching out to target Jews elsewhere in the world, in their ongoing grievance with Israel's position in a geography that was claimed wholly by Arabs and Muslims solely for Muslims, in honour of Islam; where land once consecrated to Allah must never be defiled through occupation of a Jewish State.

Mr. Diab, who has worked for many years in various places throughout the world, and more latterly in Canada, as a part-time university lecturer, has been aware for the past year that his activities have been closely monitored, that he has been followed by some mysterious agents that he took to be French police, but who were in reality members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, working with the French.

The cold case whose files were left to moulder, was re-opened during this new regime under Nicolas Sarkozy, and police began the deliberate and tedious process of re-interviewing witnesses, procuring and interpreting new evidence. A police drawing of the terror suspect had linked Mr. Diab to the event originally, when a fellow member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had attested to a remarkable resemblance.

Handwriting experts had confirmed that the person who had signed for the purchase of a Suzuki motorcycle whose saddlebags had been stuffed with explosives used to blow up the synagogue, appeared to match the later handwriting of Mr. Diab. His passport has been identified as having been used for entry into France around the same time as the occurrence of the synagogue bombing in 1980.

Moreover, it's an additional fairly firm suspicion that Mr. Diab was also implicated in the bombing of another synagogue, a year later, in Antwerp, Belgium. There are countless interwoven connections and leads to other members of the PFLP's special forces, active elsewhere in the world and throughout the Middle East, that further identify Mr. Diab as being fully implicated.

As a member of a terrorist group, as a serial bomber, who later sought a 'normal' life for himself, outside the Middle East this man echoes the actions of many who attempt to escape their past. His chequered career included interludes in Italy and Spain and elsewhere in the world, where he would teach in various universities for periods of time. His travels took him throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North America.

Now, at age 55, after living quietly in Ottawa for many years, and picking up teaching contracts at both University of Ottawa and Carleton University for a semester or two throughout the university year, he stands accused of terrorism, and of murder. This part-time professor of - what else? - sociology is being held by Canadian authorities for extradition to France.

He claims, as does his lawyer, that he is a victim of error, wrongly identified as being involved in events he had nothing to do with. That he was never a member of the PFLP, that he is completely innocent of the charges being assembled against him. He speaks aggrievedly of the intimidation to which he has been submitted over the course of the last year.

Who better, one might think, to teach sociology than someone with the diversified and fascinating background exemplified by Mr. Diab's life story? His insight into peoples' characters, their choices in life, the actions they choose to undertake in defence of an emotion-laden cause that squeezes caution, compassion, justice and lawfulness out of mind, might present as an interesting case study.

He might just put his mind to it, post-trial, if found guilty and sentenced to a long stay-over in prison. Certainly, the people with whom he worked most latterly and who had found him to be a modest, interesting, knowledgeable man of integrity, would constitute a fascinated reading audience.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

United Nations and Human Rights Observations

There it goes again, the annual tugfest between the government of Canada and that of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Canada, determined to label and have Iran officially recognized as a world-class human rights abusing nation, facing off against an equally determined Iran, well prepared to influence its way out of its yearly dilemma of having its dirty linen hung out to dry for all to view with the implicit censure it deserves.

Canada the good, the country that practises what it preaches, in a balanced and free society whose constitution and laws protect the vulnerable, and encourage the country to value the homogeneity of community derived from an immigrant population emanating from the four corners of the Globe. As opposed to Iran whose rigidly fundamentalist theocracy recognizes only its freedom to tyrannize and threaten those among its population who foment dissent.

Canada's own very personal run-in with Iran's violently repressive regime through the incarceration, torture, rape and murder of a Canadian-Iranian woman accused of being a spy, has hardened its resolve to isolate Iran as an belligerently violent human rights abuser. In presenting this year's draft resolution to label Iran what its practises prove it to be, Canada also cites the arrest and detention of those who practise the Baha'i faith.

Whom the Islamic Republic treats with rigid antipathy, labelling them apostates of Islam, thus deserving of punishment. Much as Iranian alternate-gendered are treated, along with Iranians covertly attempting to overthrow the Islamist regime. The strict separation of the sexes, the demand for proper all-encompassing attire for women, the strictures against anything deemed to be Western influenced; other evidence of abusive governmental actions against its population.

Canada's representative to the United Nations, along with its Foreign Affairs Minister and its Minister of State, have been strenuously lobbying for support among the 192 member delegates of the UN General Assembly. But Iran's lobbying efforts may yet result in defying Canada's intent, beyond the slim margin of last year's two-vote success in passing its censure on Iran.

Iran's aim is to pervert Canada's campaign, by convincing enough third-world delegates to support a "no action" motion. Focusing on countries whose own human rights records are fragile enough that they fear they too may be singled out for censure. Offering technical assistance to emerging economies is one way Iran may prevail; another is to commiserate with countries nursing a grievance against the West, like Serbia.

And then there are countries like Afghanistan which, though dependent on Canada's troop support, monetary and diplomatic and administrative support along with infrastructure-building support, will give its support to Iran, fearful of its neighbour's capacity to sow unrest in its border provinces. Countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, which receive Canadian aid funding will nonetheless give their allegiance to Iran in exchange for investment offers.

This, while the International Atomic Energy Agency has announced Iran is planning to begin installation of another 3,000 centrifuges in several months' time, to augment its already-installed 3,800, busily processing enriched uranium. Its agenda leading to producing sufficient enriched uranium for use in nuclear weaponry is well understood and universally decried.

For such an unabashedly aggressive and threatening regime - which proves its neighbourliness by publicly and repeatedly promising to annihilate the State of Israel - to prevail in forestalling Canada's resolution, speaks once again of the failure of the United Nations as a peace-keeping, moderating voice in the world community.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vast Expectations

First the miracle of sufficient numbers of American voters casting their ballots for an urbane, principled, calmly responsible and intelligently responsive candidate for President of the United States. Fulfilling the dreams of a very large, previously unentitled demographic.

Enthusing, in the process, the hopes and aspirations of people of good will anxious to transform their country into one more representative of their Constitution's goals. And offering to reciprocate trust and hope for the future in all he inspired.
He must now reach beyond the tenuous promises he emoted that so enraptured his audiences.

Now, to fulfill his destiny. Will he be capable of delivering even a modest proportion of the hopes entrusted in this man? He does, after all, inherit an troubled country of vast differences in entitlements, opportunities and worldly acquisitions.

He responded to the emotional plight of a country reeling in disbelief at the cost in lives and treasury support of waging two foreign wars, only to find that their national financial security and with it, their own future security, has imploded.

He has graciously, as becoming the chief executive officer of his country, informed the entire population that it his intention to represent all their best interests. But those who supported the audacity of his candidacy and his vision of a better tomorrow, feel entitled to closer, kinder, more attentive representation.

And all those special interest groups who chose to champion this leader feel especially entitled.

He did caution everyone, his supporters and those who did not support him that it would not do to anticipate too much, too soon. His agenda, and theirs, might take quite a long time to see fulfillment. Certainly not in his first year in office, and perhaps not even in his first four-year term.

Not fully imbibed in the euphoria of his reception, following his sombre speech of gratitude and acceptance of the heavy load he's been given.

For many of those who anticipate he will lead them immediately out of their travail into a land of comfort with a solution to all the problems that afflict their society, the near future will appear with a thump of disappointment. Their goals are unrealistic, but yet goaded into expectation by a mantra of promissory 'yes we cans'.

And certainly they can hope, but not to hold one's breath for too prolonged a period.
He is only human, despite his imperial stature and messianic appeal.

He has set about steadily and carefully assembling a supportive and reliable team of actors who will in time reveal just how successful he may be in reaching his goals, with their considerable assistance. His overtures have been placatory, politically impartial, and hopeful.

Unions, immigrants, Latinos, environmentalists, anti-war groups, will simply have to exercise patience.

President-elect Obama is ambitiously determined, but he will require the stars to align in the bowl of the sky overlooking this Globe and his country, to enable him to accomplish a generous fraction of his aspirations for his country.

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Protector of the Innocent

Depending on what's meant by innocent. Innocent of the letter of the law as it pertains to the national interest. Splitting hairs, when innocence is anything but reality. In the case of a man living in Ottawa, a judge made the ruling that he did not 'technically' possess pornographic child images. In reality his computer which had been seized as he entered Canada from the United States, did contain a huge amount of pornographic images.

In fact, the detection of those images on David McDermid's computer hard drive represented at that time in April 2006 the largest amount of child pornography ever having been sized by the Ottawa police. The man had been working in Boise, Idaho as a computer programmer, and while there he availed himself of the opportunity to download an immense raft of these images. Not his fault, he said, he downloaded indiscriminately, not intending to procure child pornography, merely pornography.

But they were in his possession and obviously suited to his temperament, values and orientation, else why have them? Oh yes, he had asked a friend to delete the images before shipping them to Ottawa from Idaho. His friend had somehow overlooked his instructions, and when Mr. McDermid showed up at the bonded Canada Customs Warehouse to pick up his belongings, he was charged.

The judge, however, ruled "I have a reasonable doubt as to whether the accused ever intended to be in possession of pornography in Canada in view of his efforts to have the images deleted before his belongings were shipped to Canada", indicating that the Crown hadn't been successful in proving that this morally degraded individual's actions broke Canadian law.

He was therefore found not guilty of the importation charge. Canadian law forbids prosecution for possession of child pornography in another country. This sad specimen who enjoys the delectation of pornography and child pornography, despite his attestations to the contrary, was therefore handed a free pass on this occasion.

Despite the unsavoury stench of this man's savagely vulgar predilection for child predation, his lawyer had the effrontery to claim that his client's acquittal demonstrated that the justice system works, even for a totally unsympathetic accused. One can only wonder how that success works in favour of the children being exploited and victimized.

With the further encouragement to people like his client to continue their miserably afflicted lifestyles of attraction to sexual acts imposed on vulnerable and helpless children.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

All The News

Journalists are a special breed. Those who report from war fronts, who visit refugee camps, who write of the inhumane conditions, the atrocities committed by human beings against one another in the ongoing theatres of war, around the world. All the while knowing full well the danger in which they place themselves; determined nonetheless to expose the public to the veracity of their reportage.

It takes courage, conviction, dedication to their craft. They are compelled to be a voice in the wilderness, a witness to history. To ensure that the world at large is fully cognizant of the misery visited upon civilians, of the wretchedness of waging war. The very futility of combat, the ferocity and searing heat of hatred unleashed.

And then there are journalists reporting from within their countries of origin, detailing government corruption; internal misdeeds and external misadventures. Naming names and creating situations of great embarrassment. Harassment has occurred in places that are the bastions of freedom, including freedom of the press; the United States.

And elsewhere; say, for example, in China, where in that vast country so much can go wrong, and often does. Yet here is a traditionally repressive government determining that it is far better to allow the news to be aired, for people to have an outlet for their frustration, rather than to continually repress the news and risk an unfortunate public backlash.

Not quite as it occurs in countries like Russia, which has been ranked as the third deadliest country for journalist longevity in the world, following Iraq and Algeria. In Russia 49 journalists have met a morbidly final fate in the last 17 years. Reportage is a deadly enterprise in Russia. Is this an rigidly autocratic or a still-functioning dictatorship that demands full control of the news?

And when blatantly obvious murders take place, as in the case of the cold-blooded, full-daylight assassination of Anna Politkovskaya whose published works pointed a finger of blame at Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin cronies, international attention and anger ensured there would be a trial.

Unfortunately, that trial seeks to indict not her murderer, or those who ordered her murder, but tertiary figures accused of 'following' her, and of 'providing her home address'. The identity of the person or group who initiated her murder will never be revealed and that of the perpetrator is not officially acknowledged.

Even a Russian editor of a local newspaper who insisted in publishing scandal-laden corruption relating to local government bureaucrats is beaten so viciously he may not survive. Effectively warning, yet again, other journalists dedicated to ensuring that the country is well aware of the activities of their officials, that to do so may be very inimical to their well-being.

And in a country like Afghanistan where since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, the media has grown monumentally to include 600 print publications, 100 radio stations and 16 television stations. Hundreds of Afghan women now work in journalism and communications, with Afghanistan's 2004 constitution setting out their right as equal citizens to pursue those careers.

Yet the country's journalists remain embattled to the point of a dozen having been murdered over the past four years, including two female journalists. Others have been attacked and fiercely beaten, many forced by circumstances they can no longer control, to leave the country to save their lives and those of their families.

And the country's constitution which supports the free and independent work of its journalists still, unfortunately reflects a rigidly theological attitude more attune to that of the resurgent Taliban determined to exert itself back into control, than that of a growing democracy. With a young journalist facing 20 years imprisonment for writing about women's rights.

From repressive regimes in the Middle East where bloggers in Egypt are sentenced to prison for provoking criticism against the regime, to journalists facing violence in Turkey and Pakistan, the profession is in continual danger. A liberal democracy like Canada, where freedom of expression is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and where a free and independent press thrives, can also experience problems.

Where, ten years ago, the Sikh publisher of the "Indo-Canadian Times", Tara Singh Hayer, was murdered by an assassin because he wrote critically of the importation into Canada of a violently divisive blood feud for Sikh separation from India. This, after he had originally been shot, and as a paraplegic continued writing and publishing.

Writing of the activities of local Sikh fanatics who, in the name of a dream of an independent Khalistan formed a terror group and planned and executed the Air India disaster of 1985 resulting in the explosion aboard Flight 182 and the death of all aboard the flight - 329 people. Canada's first, and, we hope, last terror attack.

A time-honoured profession dedicated to presenting clear truths to a reading public that has a right to know everything about its society, its government, its justice system, forever in danger.

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Merrytime Enterprise

The Pirates of Penzance may have enjoyed a long theatrical tradition to the great acclaim of Gilbert and Sullivan's appreciative audiences, but it's taken the pirates of Somalia to make the entire shipping world sit up and take notice. And groan, and rattle the depth of their pockets for the loose change these enterprising maritime pests exact as 'taxes'; justifiable as any claimed by any recognized country, because they too have to make a living.

No fewer than 92 piratical instances of independent enterprise off the coast of a country that hasn't seen much other than ongoing wars and weary social turmoil in the last 17 years. A country whose pathetically struggling government has indicated it is now largely in the hands of violently insurgent Islamists, an effective part of the Islamic scourge that has been possessing Africa of late.

Granted, a mere 36 of those attempts has seen success; but what a monumental level of success, claiming millions in 'fees' before the release of cargo, crew and ship. Not all have yet been settled; the feisty pirates, some of them well armed and heartily invested youths, still hold fourteen ships to ransom.

In some instances, international warships have been close enough to the scene of attacks to fend off the pirates, but others, not so fortunate.

Of which the latest two appear to be the real prizes; the Ukrainian vessel MV Faina, loaded with military hardware, awaiting an $8-million ransom, and the most recently detained Sirius Star brimming with two million barrels of Saudi oil; for which, Somali sources claim, $25-million will set crew and ship and cargo free to continue their journey.

At the present time, pirates are patiently holding some 268 unfortunate crew members representing the as-yet-unpaid levy imposed for their freedom.

The government of Somalia, incapable of instilling any semblance of law and order in the tiny portion of the country still under their control, can do nothing about its new industry, so troubling to the rest of the world.

And the pirates, initially funded by kindly overseers in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf, to enable them to procure adequate weaponry and boats to persuade unarmed merchant ships to glide along with them to port, gave good interest accountings to their benefactors. With more than enough left over for the pirates to personally enrich themselves.

After paying for new state-of-the-art weapons and faster speedboats, purchasing grand houses, expensive vehicles, and - oh dear - additional wives. In fact, a thriving local economy has grown up around these activities, where the port town of Eyl in the Puntland region of Somalia has developed as a base with local industries to cater to this growing trade.

Who ever said that Africans lacked a spirit of enterprise - very free enterprise - ingenuity, entrepreneurship, joie de vivre?! "We enjoy life with the money we get as a ransom. this is just like any business for us. We care about it, just like anyone would care about their jobs." How's that for a business spirit, dedication to a thriving enterprise?

While maritime security experts hem and haw and speak in outraged tones of the unprecedented lawlessness, and a dreadful widening of pirate activity into an immense oceanic area impossible to patrol, the pirates complacently view their business as an indication of their acumen in identifying a hitherto-unexplored and very lucrative business enterprise.

"All we do is ask ransoms from the ships we hijack because we believe a ransom represents a legal tax that a government may have taken." And the local economy is booming.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Clasp Thine Enemy To Thy Bosom

And then be it a viper, prepare to meet thy Maker.

And for what purpose? To bring peace to a troubled land? To halt his strictured society's destruction? To ensure that one clan does not obliterate the other? Above all, to do honour to the countless women and children whom the enemy has successfully targeted and from whom life has been taken.

For theirs is the true and the only way to God. And, truth is, the enemy despises the weakness of resolve that leads to its beseeching invitation to join the government of Hamid Karzai. To rule as brothers, in moderation and good faith, for the good of the people of Afghanistan. The country's president is torn with the uncertainty of how he may proceed.

He mourns the violence that has befallen Afghanistan. The unspeakable atrocities. And then, when, throughout its history has Afghanistan not known violence?

Truly it must be time that the Afghan people had its rest from bloodletting and early death, from the unceasing violence of human rights stripped from their experience. And will a Mullah Omar, embracing the universality of Islam among his peers be prepared to set aside his stern fanaticism for a kinder version of Islam?

Twice has the president of Afghanistan invited 'his brothers', his beloved countrymen, to put down their arms and join him in governing a reconstructed country looking toward the future. And twice has Mullah Omar spat in his face.

"If I hear from him that he is willing to come to Afghanistan or to negotiate for peace ... I, as the president of Afghanistan, will go to any length providing protection. If I say I want protection for Mullah Omar, the International community has two choices - remove me or leave if they disagree."

So said the desperately peace-loving and patriotic ruler of his torn country. But it is not to be, despite the secret - or not-so-secret - negotiations between the Taliban leadership representatives and Afghanistan's government representatives, so concernedly set up by Saudi Arabia.

Ah, Saudi Arabia, whose funding installed the Wahhabist madrasses which have turned suggestible youth into warriors for Islam. All those martyr-anxious complexes, eager to sacrifice for God and country. Theirs is the duty to die, and they take up the challenge with determined fanaticism.

The Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the clans and tribal leaders in the North West Frontier Province who enrich themselves supplying the international underworld with heroin - selflessly, to further the work of Allah - have no interest in moderating their aspirations toward the establishment of a renascent caliphate.

For them, those zealots of God, the world stood still in the medieval era, and nothing worth the effort of straining toward modernity exists in the corrupt world of the West. Afghanistan and Pakistan now struggle with the ideologically twisted Pashtun world of the Talib philosophy of purity in the sacred writings of the Koran.

The young girls who have defiantly returned to school, determined to continue their education after having acid deform their beautiful faces think otherwise. While their burqa-clad mothers, twist their hands with sorrow and worry for the tenuous future of their vulnerable daughters, the daughters march toward the future.

If Hamid Karzai thinks so little of the prodigious efforts in sacrificed lives of foreign countries' soldiers striving to bring peace and security to his beleaguered country, does he think it a trifle that the fanatics of Islamism butcher women and children to ensure they remain pure to the Islamic ideal of submission?

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Honour In Murder

There is an indelible truth that some societies traditionally force females to live in utter subjugation to male traditions. That any woman, or girl, who somehow finds the internal resolve to break from that tradition risks physical harm resulting in death. It does not even necessarily equate with a woman struggling to free herself from stifling tradition.

Should any woman give even the barest hint of rejection of male authority, or bringing shame upon society's traditions, or her family, she is in direct and immediate danger of obliteration. A young Muslim girl who refuses to cover her head in the traditional way angers a controlling father. A young woman originally from the Indian subcontinent finds herself in love with a non-Indian and risks the wrath of her family.

A young woman sufficiently indiscreet to hold hands in public with someone her parents don't know, and wouldn't approve of. A young woman who has been raped, bringing dishonour to her family who, instead of comforting her, consider her to be unclean and detest her for bringing dishonour to the family, murder her. A young woman who runs away with a man not from her community is hunted down by her brother, her uncle, her father.

It is only in relieving a woman, or a young girl, of her life, that family honour is restored. That is brutal, fatalistic, existential reality in some societies. Rigid theocracies that incline toward a deeply fundamental misogyny. Where women are considered the property of their fathers, their brothers, uncles, husbands. Where dissent is not countenanced, and innocent liaisons can be interpreted as a uncompromising disorder earning the reward of death.

Violence toward women exists in every society. The simple fact is that women are vulnerable, they haven't the physical strength of a male, and there is no contest when a male authority figure, be it a father or a husband, batters his wife or his daughters for perceived insubordination. Most societies in which familial brutality is commonplace prefer to keep things under wraps. In free and democratic societies, however, attempts are made publicly to protect women from violence.

These attempts are by no means always successful. The incidence of wife battering, of a man murdering his wife, and occasionally his children as well, as a kind of revenge of rejection, are only too well known. But the social culture does not support this, and the law is there for the purpose of protecting women and children. And there is no received tradition of imprisoning women in a culture of enforced modesty and arranged marriages.

Throughout the Muslim world, victimization of women is common, and it is ingrained and it is often socially acceptable as part of tradition, and in some countries the laws of the land and of society enforce it. Only it isn't seen as victimizing women, it is considered to be a way to keep women in their place. Which is to be neither seen nor heard. To know their place as a backdrop to male society.

This type of violence against women who bring shame through perceived culturally inappropriate behaviour occurs in other societies as well, among Indian Sikhs, for example, but it is in Muslim countries in particular that women's lives become forfeit if they flout their countries' and their societies' social mores and flaunt their femininity, or their desires as independent women.

Left-leaning groups in Canada, anxious to appear politically correct, and who accept the concept of moral relativism in societal relations, refuse to equate the physical abuse and murder of women through Muslim societies with "honour killing", claiming that the very phrase is racist in character, and unworthy.

While Muslims who recognize the reality of the phenomenon and reject it as a human tragedy and a humiliation and human rights travesty of their religion, denounce those who would whitewash the violence against women.

"For all these lefties who have formed alliances with Islamists, I accuse them of racism of lower expectations", fumed Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Coalition.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Haunting Grief

When is the love of parents for their only child unrequited? When the child is abducted, taken from their home, valued for the riches their warm living bodies as adoptable children represent. The child will inevitably forget, forge a new identity by necessity. And in China, where the one-child-per-family directive obtains, what could conceivably be more disastrous for parents than the loss of their only child?

A personal emotional disaster of monumental proportions. As monumental as the destructive force of the earthquake that hit Sichuan province in northern China, killing 69,000 people and injuring 375,000 more, leaving 4.8 million homeless. The Chinese government was quick to respond with emergency aid, then reeled in horror as parents of thousands of children mourned their deaths, their only children.

Deaths caused by slovenly architecture, by sub-grade materials, by corrupt government officials issuing building contracts to uncaring, corrupt construction companies. And there are also the incidents of abductions of impoverished youth, taken into slavery to work in the most hellish of manufacturing sites, as prisoners, their whereabouts unknown by their frantic families.

Add to that sad and sorry list of misery, the 200,000 missing Chinese children, aged from infancy to ten, taken from the safety and comfort of their loving families by abductors whose sole purpose is to sell the children to intermediaries who themselves sell them to wholesale purveyors of children for grand profit to barren couples desperate for children of their own.

Boy children are high on the list of desirables, the younger the better, to enable them to readily adjust to their new homes. Girl children - in a country that cherishes its boys and begrudges its girls - are less desirable, but homes can be found for them too, on presentation of adequate payment. If not within China, then internationally.

Infant girls will bring their immediate abductors an average of $175 profit, and a grander $1,000 for boys. That profit increases as they go up the chain to the next link, where girls are sold for $400 and boys for $2000. Their last exchange in the criminal abduction chain brings a value of $1500 for girls and $4000 for boys.

Parents must ensure they take greater care for the security of their children? How about a trusted employee of a shop offering to take the shop-owner's little boy to the bathroom, then absconding with him, never to be seen again? How about an abductor walking to the open door of another shop where a child plays in sight of its parents and is swooped up and taken.

How about a young boy left in the care of his grandfather, watching as the child flies his kite high, high in the sky, then disappears forever from the lives of his parents, his grandparent. A U.S. State Department report in 2007 claimed that 20,000 women and children are "trafficked" in the country on an annual basis.

This is an instance of under-reportage, since there are many abductions not recorded, and the official statistics are therefore radically underplaying this massive underworld phenomenon. Police, faced with so many reports of child abductions routinely react by claiming there is insufficient evidence.

Complaints at every level of government appear futile. The problem is so pervasive, so massive, it would appear to arrest the attempts of government agencies to proceed. And then, of course, there is the very real possibility that some government agents are quite simply complicit, paid for their quiescence.

One distraught and determined father, attempting to track down the presence of his son in a geographic area whose residents are known to "adopt" abducted children as their own, by posing as a buyer, was successful in rescuing two kidnapped children, but not his own missing child.

The problem is endemic, accepted in some areas, as a panacea for locals whose childlessness renders them a low opinion in the society they inhabit. Whose social mores find it acceptable enough to adopt kidnapped children with little thought to their provenance and the grief and misery their absence occasions to others.

In the face of such a monumental and massively difficult problem, police develop an unfortunate attitude of defeat, surrendering to the inevitable; a child abducted is a child that never existed. In the words of one father: "Police told me not to search anymore. They said, 'You just take it as if you never had this child before'.

"I was almost paralyzed hearing that. I asked: 'At Chinese New Year when I miss my son, will you be able to lend your son to me for several days?'"

From: Stolen Children, Canwest News Service, Aileen McCabe

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The Spontaneity of Goodwill

What could be more natural than an adult noticing a child languishing in neglect and offering a helping hand? Or, translated to a theatre of war, offering a child something to brighten that child's day. To create a momentary atmosphere of hope and good feeling. To banish that child's fearful thoughts of a uniformed foreigner offering threat.

To demonstrate in the most elemental of human interactions, that there should be no chasm of indifference between people.

How often have we read of wartime incidents when fighting forces passed through a town, liberating it, and offering sweet treats to the children there, alleviating momentarily the gloom of their suffering.

And where is there a more needy atmosphere for humanity to shine forth than in an impoverished country made more miserable by the occasion of one conflict after another destroying any likelihood of normalcy for the residents; above all the children?

One might say it's a time-honoured custom for occupying forces or liberating armies to demonstrate at the level of adults surveying the world of youthful diminished opportunities, compassion for the children they encounter. Handing out chocolate, candies, special treats the children would have no other way of obtaining than by the passing kindness of a stranger.

It's all too true that far too often children are abused by those passing strangers in other theatres of war. Subjecting children to the vagaries of a war-time atmosphere where life is fleeting is bad enough, weighting their minds with the trauma of incandescent fear and the trauma of losing parents is a nightmare.

But now, battling a resurgent Taliban advance, Canadian soldiers in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan have had to suspend this practise. For the kindness offered to children in making school supplies, candies and toys available to them, has been recognized for its potential of danger. Taking a lesson from a 2006 incident where a Taliban suicide bomber took the opportunity to kill four Canadian soldiers.

The possibility, a very real one, that the excitement engendered in a village by children assembling for a brief ceremony of gifting, followed by their parents, attracting the attention of embedded insurgents is not a remote one. Gatherings present an opportunity to kill large numbers of people, both civilian and foreign forces, through an insurgent assault.

As an alternative, goodwill missions "where the area in question is well planned out, security is well in place, and there's a controlled entrance point", will enable Canadian troops to present villagers with gifts. This presents some emotional difficulties for soldiers confronted with the reality of poverty and being unable to respond immediately with practical assistance.

And yet another way was found to be more practical, whereby the transfer of much needed materials from the Canadian contingent to the village children could be accomplished. Indirectly, by tasking the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police with handing out those school bags, pens and pencils to the children who will benefit from them.

"It breaks your heart, almost, because you want to" in the words of an Ontario Provincial Police officer serving with the Canadian Panjwaii unit. It must break their hearts for other reasons as well, given that the region was originally taken by a Canadian-led operation from the Taliban two years earlier, only to be overrun by the Taliban again a year later, upon Canadian troop withdrawal.

The Taliban, it should be remembered - lest any require recollection, take it upon themselves to destroy schools, to murder teachers who dare teach Afghan girls. And the students too are never immune from violence. There can be no spontaneity in the desperate mayhem of a murder-voracious conflict, where the aggressors seem incapable of recognizing the sanctity of life.

Particularly that of children whose childhoods are taken from them.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Canadian Abducted

What is this, an epidemic? No sooner has CBC reporter Melissa Fung been rescued from her month-long ordeal of captivity in Afghanistan, quietly, modestly and feelingly telling the country of her brave decision not to succumb to the fear of death throughout her incarceration, than we learn of another woman, abducted in northwestern Pakistan.

Melissa Fung travelled to Afghanistan to interview refugees, to tell their story, to inform Canadians and the world at large of their plight. She had a very good appreciation of the danger to which she submitted herself, but she had resolved to do justice to her calling as a news reporter. And then she became the news.

In this latest instance, a Vancouver woman who converted to Islam post 9-11 had travelled to the northwest area of Pakistan for reasons far different than Ms. Fung's. For Khadija Abdul Qahaar, formerly Beverly Giesbrecht, travelled to the area known as a refuge for both the Taliban and al-Qaeda for reasons of propaganda.

For material for her Web site, And where better to obtain the material she sought than to travel to Pakistan's Frontier Region? Strange thing that, the way that disaffected Westerners and anti-Semites in particular, take so readily to ideologies and religions that target Jews as the fount of the world's problems.

Ms. Qahaar has taken it upon herself to support fanatical Islamists, their mission being misunderstood, she feels, by the world at large. Theirs is a just struggle against the oppressors who belittle Islam and bring misery to vulnerable Muslim populations. And while there is some element of truth in some of that, there is also vile infamy in her characterizations.

She takes great pleasure in apportioning blame solely to the United States for the current situation of Islamist jihadists terrorizing Muslim populations, Muslim countries, and extending their attentions to the world of Western democracies.

The World Trade attacks were just desserts "provoked by the American government under the guise of its foreign policy with less than pious motives, that served the interests of the Zionists and the privileged". The hateful spewing of a warped mind, blaming the Jews and the Crusaders.

The solution to all of life's wrongs lies in the piety of observant Islam, according to this woman. Who appears to have cooked up the potential for a scam where she has pleaded with visitors to her Web site to send money through PayPal or Western Union to effect her release, pre-capture.

Sad social reject that she is, having suffered the misery of a nasty childhood and an equally nasty young womanhood, finally finding salvation in the god of Islam. Nice, if that were the end of the story.

Troubling however, because of the searingly murderous hate she shares with the raving lunatics that inhabit Islamic jihad.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Despicable Beyond Contempt

Rabid Islamist fundamentalists outdo themselves in every conceivable atrocity they visit upon Muslims whom they insist on controlling, whose lives are forfeit when they behave in a manner seen by the Taliban as not conforming to the strict regime demanded by Islam. The cruelty the Taliban imposes upon their countrymen is without parallel. Their humanity has been consumed by the deadly fire of their bitter Islamism.

They made a living prison out of Afghanistan during the years of their absolute control of the country. Their strident Islamist misogynistic control of women, beating those whose burqas did not sufficiently cover them, refusing to permit widows to earn a fragile living in public, adamant that girls not be given the opportunity to attend school, forcing men to wear facial hair, denying music, poetry, dancing, kept Afghans in a living purgatory.

The new Afghanistan under its president, Hamid Karzai, with the help of foreign diplomats, aid and development agencies, along with UN and NATO forces, have built needed civic infrastructures, as well as medical clinics and schools so that all of the country's children can attend school, and so that women can achieve an education, and aspire to professions.

And wherever feasible, the Taliban attack, destroying school buildings, killing teachers, and murdering students. Their dedication to hatred and slaughter has led them to the murder of the country's police, its soldiers, and its parliamentarians. These Islamists are utterly dedicated to the overthrow of anything resembling a democracy.

Freedom is anathema to them, anything resembling Western mores an abomination; a presumption of equality between the genders, a corruption of the roles that Islam has assigned to men and to women. The country remains in dire straits as the Taliban are resurgent, and capable of ever more violent attacks.

And how vile can they possibly aspire to? How about the unspeakably cruel act of dousing six school girls on their way to school with acid, blinding two in the process, in Kandahar City. "Her sin was that she was going to school", lamented the mother of one of the blinded girls.

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Building Consensus

It's a hard lesson to learn, that with the best of intentions, hard work, scarce funding, devotion to altering perceptions, traditions simply will not budge. It is difficult beyond imagining to turn around ancient traditions in a culture that is so deeply ingrained that even when the need to change is carefully explained and demonstrated by the social advances that ensue, reluctance lies deep in the psyches of those who find comfort in the familiar.

And tradition, almost universally, is that when dire circumstances are present in a situation of ongoing poverty, the most vulnerable in a society are the very ones whose best interests are simply not recognized. They remain at the bottom of the priority list for most emerging societies. And it is always women who suffer. They suffer doubly in that women will accept that their role is to follow the dictates of men.

When conditions are miserable and food scarce a woman will attempt to feed her children, and will deliberately, and of necessity, look to her own needs last, providing the largest portion for the man of the house whose work it was traditionally to provide for the family and whose need of sustenance was always greater, it was held, than the woman's.

In our modern era, where women are seen in the developed world as equal to men, given equal opportunities and have the expectations of equality, there is still a struggle to conform to expectations. Life is simply more complicated and more difficult for women than it is for men, anywhere in the world. They raise society's young and nurture them, and although they may work out of the house, they work within the household as well, doubly tasked.

Their difficulties not quite to be compared with those of women in under-developed countries who remain wholly culturally subservient to men. Women remain tasked with the everyday concerns of allocating food to the family, finding potable water, giving a care to the ill and the elderly. Not all that different than in Western society, but of a different dimension, when resources are scarce.

Western-based aid and social development agencies felt that women might stand a better chance at equality of opportunities in making their voices heard by taking authority away from centralized government agencies and investing an authority for change and development in decentralized administrations.

That is, to transfer responsibilities for basic services in a village, for example, to women who by the very nature of their biology and culture-inherited tasks have a far finer understanding of needs than their male counterparts. And that would translate into giving them political positions of authority in local governing councils.

But the political representation of women in towns and villages of under-developed countries, those struggling to advance themselves, hasn't quite worked out as anticipated. Throughout South Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa women's place remains well defined as being secondary to that of men.

In countries like India, Pakistan, South Africa, Honduras and El Salvador women are simply not welcomed in local budget or financial committees, and in fact, women know their place and they defer to men, demurring to speak their minds because experience has informed them they would be seen to be out of place in doing so.

It hasn't been all that very long since women in Western societies, established in the general workforce, might aspire no higher than teaching or nursing, most other professions being effectively closed to them. And women working as administrative assistants or secretaries in offices were always dispatched to prepare coffee; nothing was beneath the dignity of their position.

Women elected locally to positions of influence in their community end up doing on a larger scale in their communities, the social work that women have always been tasked with, but on an enlarged scale. Their traditional caregiver roles simply enlarged and expanded, distributing resources within the community as a whole.

Gender politics in impoverished countries mandate that women become involved in practical-needs projects; where once they looked to the welfare of their families, they now take care of the fundamentally practical needs of their communities. They do not take part in local governmental decision-making. They may sit in on the meetings, but silently.

Development agencies looking in from the outside, perplexed by the perception of failure of their attempts to encourage equality between the genders, shake their heads and feel that perhaps "gender analysis training" might help to turn things around. As though things would be that simple.

It has taken a lot of time and effort for women in developed, wealthy and socially advanced societies to be enfranchised, longer still for women to feel secure enough and sufficiently respected to stand for public office. And when they do, there is still residual antagonisms to be contended with, along with the struggle to balance family needs against public political life.

Why would the Western world, struggling to meet the empowering needs of women in countries only now advancing into entry positions in a 20th Century environment, while they're in the 21st Century, think it would be any easier for women to advance in the midst of men struggling to find their places, when women have always been last in line?

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