Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why I'm withdrawing my human rights complaint against Ezra Levant

By SYED SOHARWARDY (Syed Soharwardy is founder of the Calgary-based Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, and founder of Muslims Against Terrorism)

Recognize my name? Lately, Ezra Levant of the now-defunct Western Standard has been doing his best to demonize me in interviews and blogs. Mr. Levant probably had never heard of me until I filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission against his decision to reprint the Danish cartoons that sparked a wave of violent and destructive protests across Europe and the Muslim world in 2005.

The reprinting of the cartoons wasn't about free speech. The originals are readily available on the Internet for any who wish to see them. The reprinting seem aimed more at forcing people who are deeply unhappy about the cartoons, and who would not seek them out, to be faced with them again. This is hurtful to many in the Muslim community, and can create ill-will between Muslims and non-Muslims. (Interestingly, other Canadian magazines and newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, came to the same conclusion.) I therefore filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission. I worried that pointless re-publication of the Danish cartoons could alienate the young people of my community, when in fact I would prefer to see them move into the mainstream of Canadian society.

Having no previous experience with any human rights commission, I was unaware of the ongoing debate about whether such commissions should have narrower or broader mandates, or of the doubts many Canadians have about whether such commissions are the right venue in which to argue questions about hate speech.

Subsequent discussions with several Muslim leaders, and more particularly with some of my Christian and Jewish friends, have led me to conclude that my complaint was beyond what I now believe should be the mandate of such a commission. I now am of the view that this matter should have been handled in the court of public opinion. Consequently, I am withdrawing my complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Mr. Levant's right to publish the offensive and hateful drawings. I believe his decision was irresponsible and was intended to cause strife, but I now appreciate that it may not fall outside the limits of free speech.

Perhaps our elected leaders should, indeed, legislate a narrower role for human rights commissions, but the campaign by Mr. Levant and others to have such commissions abolished is going too far. These commissions play an important role in protecting the most vulnerable in our society by countering discrimination in important areas such as housing, employment, and government services.

In his writings, Mr. Levant has characterized me as many things. Let me set the record straight. When I left Pakistan long ago, several Western countries offered to accept me and my wife as immigrants. We chose Canada as the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family, irrespective of skin colour. We still believe that. We are proud Canadians, and share Canadian values, as do our two accomplished teenagers. I hold two masters degrees in engineering, one American the other Canadian. My work has included university teaching and management of major IT projects. Outside of work, I volunteer my time trying to develop greater understanding and better relationships between Muslims and people of other faiths, particularly Christians and Jews. I enjoy excellent relationships with numerous Jewish leaders: In my mosque in Calgary we have studied Jewish festivals, and invite Jewish experts to speak to us.

So if anyone is looking for anti-Semitism, you won't find it in my mosque. The history of anti-Semitism in Alberta is non-trivial, and it didn't come from newcomers like me, who abhor it. In fact, I'm pretty mainstream and heavily into interfaith dialogue.

Which leads me to an offer to Ezra Levant: We clearly disagree about the cartoons; but I'm willing to sit down with you and discuss it. And if you really believe the central issue is that human rights commissions have over-broad mandates, then that is an issue on which we may now be able to converge.


It's a great shame that immense publicity is needed to get free speech respected in Canada

EU threat to British lives

European judges could strip the profiles of more than half a million people from the national DNA database on privacy grounds — undermining its growing value to police as an investigative tool.

As two sex killers caught by the database were jailed for life yesterday and a senior detective joined calls for a universal register, the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case that could mean 560,000 DNA samples being destroyed. Two people charged with offences but never convicted will ask the court next week to remove their records from the database. If they succeed, 13 per cent of the 4.3 million profiles collected since 1995 would have to be destroyed.

The category of DNA profiles facing destruction has yielded vital clues in criminal cases. Official figures seen by The Times indicate that the DNA of 8,500 people never previously charged or convicted has been matched with DNA taken from crime scenes. The cases have involved about 14,000 offences including 114 murders, 55 attempted murders and 116 rapes. Europe will rule on the legality of the database as demands grow for the entire British population to be sampled after its crucial role in catching Steve Wright, the Suffolk Strangler, and Mark Dixie, the killer of Sally Anne Bowman.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Cundy, who led the investigation into Miss Bowman’s murder, said that a universal database would have caught Dixie within 24 hours of the killing. Instead he remained at large for nine months until police took a DNA swab from him after a pub fight. Dixie, 35, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey only hours after Wright, 49, was given a whole-life sentence for the murders of five Ipswich prostitutes. Wright had been arrested after a DNA sample from one of his victim’s bodies matched the profile loaded on the database after his arrest for a minor theft.

Mr Cundy said: “I am all for a national DNA register, with all the appropriate safeguards. If there had been one at the time of Sally Anne’s murder we would have known who it was that day. It could have protected everybody else out there. For nine months between Sally Anne’s murder and the arrest one of our biggest fears and was that this man could attack again. A national DNA register could solve that.”

Richard Ottaway, Miss Bowman’s local Tory MP, said: “A universal DNA database is necessary to solve these crimes.” The Home Office has published proposals for extending the existing database by taking samples from people detained for minor, or non-recordable offences, such as not wearing a seatbelt. Ministers are understood to be awaiting the outcome of the European court case before deciding whether to proceed with the expansion plans.

Human rights lawyers will argue in Strasbourg that a juvenile acquitted of attempted robbery and Michael Marper, who faced charges of harassment that were later dropped, should have their profiles removed from the database. South Yorkshire police, which arrested both, has refused to destroy their records. Peter Mahy, their solicitor, said: “This is the most important case on the human rights implication of retaining biometric data.” He said his clients were concerned about the uses to which the samples might be put and the lack of independent oversight of the national database.


Crowbarring their way into the family home

The UK government's campaign to colonise family life is nearly complete: it is now telling parents to remove video games from their children's bedrooms.

In Britain, as part of an effort to prevent children from playing games that are `unsuitable' for their age, a legally enforceable cinema-style classification system is to be introduced for video games. This will make it illegal for shops to sell classified video games to a child below the recommended age (1). The Brown government's clampdown on violent video games has ugly echoes of the `video nasties' panic unleashed by the Conservative government in the 1980s.

Back then, the authorities' belief that if children watched slasher-gore horror flicks they would turn into crazed psychopaths was routinely ridiculed by opponents of the Conservative government. That was because the notion that watching violent material somehow damages people has always been one of the flimsiest panics around. Indeed, even as New Labour tries to rehash the old monkey-see/monkey-do censorious attitude in relation to violent video games, it is forced to admit that there isn't much hard evidence to suggest that children will grow up to be more violent if they watch Driller Killer or play Manhunt 2.

Unfortunately, however, in today's ultra-suspicious climate, these old arguments about violent material turning out violent young people are more likely to get a hearing, because individual and increasingly parental autonomy is held in even lower esteem than I Spit On Your Grave.

The driving factor behind this return of the creakiest and hoariest of moral panics is not so much violent video games, but rather concern about the remaining free space between parents and children. Ostensibly, the government's proposals to restrict youthful access to violent games are targeted at retailers, who will face a fine if they sell bloody games to underage kids - yet more fundamentally, it is being used as a way for the authorities to crowbar their way into the family home. Government ministers are `advising' parents (that is, piling the pressure on them) to keep computers and games consoles out of children's bedrooms and instead allow children only to play such games in the living room. So determined is the government to colonise every aspect of parenting and family relations that it is now peering even into children's bedrooms, and tut-tutting about what it sees there.

In this sense, outlawing violent video games is a transparent cover for eventually outlawing the existence of truly free personal spaces inside the family home. Given that this government frequently shifts from `offering advice' to threatening coercive action against those who refuse to follow it, these latest moves to kick consoles out of kids' bedrooms are clearly more frightening than any computer game.

The implication of New Labour's hectoring advice on games consoles is that stupid parents do not know what is best for their children. Instead, the authorities themselves must dictate what is appropriate for young people, and even what their bedrooms should look like and contain. Indeed, New Labour has made the social control of children and teenagers a central plank of its Respect policies and its `politics of behaviour' because it recognises that this is a device for controlling and monitoring parents - that is, the adults in British society.

Last week, home secretary Jacqui Smith unveiled proposals for new `parenting contracts', which would be served on mums and dads whose underage children are caught drinking. The contracts would ban parents from allowing their children to visit certain areas or places at stipulated times, and would hold them responsible for preventing their children from consuming alcohol. If parents breach these contracts, they could find themselves before the courts and can be fined o1,000.

It is true that teenagers frequently seek out the thrills of illicit cigarettes and booze - that is a reflection of their impatience and aspiration to enter the adult world sooner rather than later. It is simply not possible or, more importantly, desirable for parents to keep a constant tab on what their teenage children get up to. Enacting `parent contracts' against people whose children drink is to punish parents for things that are, and shall always be, largely beyond their control.

Yet the message of the anti-teen drinking contracts is clear: parents are inadequate slobs who need to be instructed in parenting skills by the powers-that-be. Jacqui Smith says of parents: `The idea that you can hand your kids a six-pack of lager and tell them to disappear off for the evening - with no thought to the consequences - is frankly baffling to me.' (2) But there is no evidence that huge numbers of parents are forcing their offspring to guzzle beer every evening. Rather, Smith's comments about parents (which, notably, caused far less controversy than her comment about walking alone through London) are underpinned by New Labour's unsubstantiated and pretty vile prejudice that everyday parents are bestial and depraved and thus should not have the final say on how they bring up their children.

At school, too, children are increasingly being socialised to believe that their parents are dupes and dopes who shouldn't really be trusted. Consider the furore over the content of children's packed lunches. As part of New Labour's crusade against fatty, sugary food and fizzy drinks, some schools now rifle through children's lunchboxes, confiscate contraband items, and write letters of complaint to unthinking parents. This implicitly breaks a quite sacred bond between parent and child: a mum or dad lovingly packs their child's lunchbox, only to have it ruled unhealthy by a teacher or other school official. This sends the message to children that the authorities know better than your mother how to bring you up.

As someone at the coalface of schooling at the moment, I can see the emergence of a new generation that looks up to the authorities for constant guidance and permission on basic matters. The one group of people teenagers certainly won't be seeking approval from is their parents. Instead, parents are increasingly seen, in cultural, political and media debates, as individuals who are failing to provide the correct healthy and moral guidelines for the next generation in open-prison Britain.

There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that children who play violent video games will grow up to be violent psychopaths. Nor is there hard evidence that parents hand out six-packs of Carling and tell their kids to `get on with it'. However, these stories are themselves evidence of an increasingly demented and nasty mindset amongst government officials, who seem to view most parents as low-life scum in need of short, sharp fines or worse. It is an outrage for officials to barge their way so brazenly into the parental home and order that parents pack away their kids' computers. Who the hell do they think they are? It's time, surely, that we zapped New Labour's encroachment on parental autonomy before they take their draconian measures to the next level.


Australia: A black Leftist sees the reality of black problems

And Australia's blinkered center-Left Prime Minister thinks bigger government is the answer

THE Rudd Government must stare down the indigenous service provider industry that profits from entrenched Aboriginal disadvantage or risk dooming the federal intervention into Northern Territory communities, former Labor president Warren Mundine has warned. Mr Mundine urged his party to "have courage" in challenging the "old guard" whose political power base lay within remote Aboriginal communities and who opposed aspects of the intervention. He warned that a welfare industry had built up around Aboriginal people that could derail Kevin Rudd's pledge to "close the gap" between indigenous and non-indigenous life expectancy rates.

"What we have created in Australia is an indigenous industry that lives off people's poverty and misery," Mr Mundine said. "It's destroyed incentives. There's a whole culture that developed over a period of time of dependency." He said some Labor powerbrokers in remote Australia, such as Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon, had been key players in the land rights political movement and were pushing for the party to return to the "status quo" prior to the intervention. "There's no doubt there's a split in the party about what needs to be done," Mr Mundine said. "And we have people whoare harping back to keeping the status quo prior to the intervention."

His comments came as Reconciliation Australia director Fred Chaney labelled remote Australia a "failed state" with little electoral clout that had been abandoned by federal, state and territory governments. "Government have essentially stepped outside and left these communities to their own devices," Mr Chaney said. "This intervention has had to make it up as it goes along. There is a serious gap in governance of the governments themselves." ....

The Northern Territory Government this week introduced legislation to reform disparate local government authorities into a series of "super-shires", but the reforms that were crafted by Australia's father of reconciliation, Pat Dodson, were watered down at the last minute when the Government exempted the Top End shire, dominated by white pastoralists, from the super-shire structure. The exemption prompted the resignation of NT local government minister Elliot McAdam.

Visiting the northwest NSW town of Walgett yesterday, the Prime Minister said the Government had begun formulating a plan to attack duplication and infighting among Aboriginal service providers and government agencies by creating local boards for remote indigenous communities that would be responsible for ground-level service delivery.

Speaking on his first visit to an outback indigenous community as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd said he was considering bringing together service providers and local, state and federal government agencies to co-ordinate indigenous service delivery on a community-by-community basis. "Maybe it's time for us to look at much more of a whole-of-local-community focus whereby you have around the one table not just all the representatives of organisations and groups but the various levels of government," he said.

But Mr Mundine said the "indigenous industry" would prove difficult to reform. "There's a whole culture that's developed over a period of time of dependence," he said. "I have never seen a place in the world where they've got more governance of people. "We've got to get bureaucrats out of the way. Let's stop spending money on bureaucrats and get money on to the ground."

Mr Mundine's comments come after former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough told a dinner for Quadrant magazine in Sydney last week that political correctness hampered many of the people working within the indigenous sector who wanted to bring about change...

Mr Rudd said that governance was one of two key messages from his five-hour visit to Walgett. The other was creating a flexible approach to housing that would allow private ownership in one community and communal title in another. With a majority of indigenous residents, Walgett is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the state. Mr Rudd toured two Aboriginal reserves and was taken to task by Ann Dennis about the level of duplication and lack of communication by service providers. She said funding was not the problem. "It's the co-ordination and planning, not the money coming in," she said. [That would be right. That's typical bureaucracy]

Mr Rudd said he was committed to ending a one-size-fits-all approach. "It may be that in the 300 to 400 remote indigenous communities in Australia that we'll end up with lots of different housing models from full private ownership, through to leasehold through to community ownership," he said. He asked Ms Dennis if they wanted private ownership of homes, and she said the community did.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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