Feb 162012
 

237 - Interpol 168x100On February 4th a 23 year old Saudi journalist, Hamza Kashgari posted three tweets on his Twitter account referring to Mohammad.

 “On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

Within hours there were tens of thousands of Twitter responses calling Mr. Kashgari an apostate and a blasphemer and that he should be executed.  A Facebook page was created to call for his execution with over 13,000 people joining it.

Fearing for his life, Kashgari boarded a plane for New Zealand on Sunday.  Unfortunately for him it had a stop-over in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country.  Upon landing he was arrested and repatriated back to Saudi Arabia.  Malaysian police in Kuala Lumpur said Kashgari was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

Interpol has issued a rather vague statement distancing itself from the case.

 “The assertion that Saudi Arabia used Interpol’s system in this case is wholly misleading and erroneous.

“(Interpol) has not been involved in the case involving a Saudi blogger arrested in Malaysia and   deported to Saudi Arabia. No Interpol channels, its National Central Bureaus in Kuala Lumpur and Riyadh nor its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France were involved at any time in this case.”

It is difficult to determine whether or not Interpol was involved because the statement it released does not answer the question directly.

It says that it is misleading and erroneous that Saudi Arabia used Interpol’s system. Erroneous perhaps but how is it misleading? Did any other Muslim country ask Interpol to red flag Mr. Kashgari’s flight? They don’t say.

Interpol also refers to a “Saudi blogger” which may or may not be Kargashi who is a journalist and not primarily a blogger. There is a lot of evasion and possible misdirection in Interpol’s statement.

On the other hand the Malaysian police have been pretty clear that they arrested the man due to Interpol’s involvement at the request of Saudi Arabia. If this is true then Interpol has a lot to answer for.

Here are some facts regarding Interpol:

It is not a police force. It does not make arrests. It is primarily a central hub of information between national police forces from 190 countries. It collects and relays information on individual criminals and suspects alerting police departments as to their whereabouts. It’s headquartered in Lyon, France and has several offices throughout the world. In Canada it shares offices with the RCMP in Ottawa. Canada’s annual contribution to their budget is $2 million.

According to Interpol’s website it does not involve itself in political or religious matters and follows the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights when determining when to get involved in disseminating information. Part of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights is the right to free speech which is contained in its preamble, and freedom of religion.

Clearly, if Interpol had any involvement in the arrest of this man for simply saying that he did not want to pray for Muhammad, and if Mr. Kashgari gets executed for his beliefs then Interpol should consider itself complicit in his execution. If such is the case, whoever was responsible for passing on to Malaysia the fact that Mr. Kashgari was on the flight to New Zealand must be held personally accountable.

Malaysia should not get off scot-free either. Their extradition of Mr. Kashgari, without any due process, back into the hands of the Saudis is unforgivable. They don’t even have a formal agreement on extradition with Saudi Arabia. Anyone traveling anywhere near Malaysia should take note that if at any time in their past they may have said anything about Islam which might be taken as offense they may end up being executed for it, thanks to Malaysia. Besides Saudi Arabia, a despotic, backward country of homophobes and misogynists which should be ostracized by the civilized world we can now add Malaysia to the list of pariah nations.

As for our own involvement in Interpol I think our government should demand a clearer statement from Interpol regarding this case, and if they find they were involved should seriously consider restricting the information it shares with this organization for fear that innocent Canadian be rounded up for their religious or political views.

To be sure, on the face of it an organization like Interpol which has been around since 1923 may very well play an important role in the capture of real criminals and terrorists but since many of its member nations are predominantly Muslim (including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran) then its commitment to non-involvement in political and religious crimes is suspect.

Feb 022012
 

235 - 12 Angry Men 168x100“Is it proper to compel someone to sit as a juror?”

The issue has come about due to a rather unusual event which took place here in London where 20 people were rounded up in the street and told to appear before a judge the next day as potential jurors.

Here is what happened:

On January 17th, three men were being tried for the serious offenses of assault, forcible confinement, and threats.  It had been over two years since the crimes and this was the third attempt at beginning the proceedings when the judge ran out of jurors having vetted over 130 already.  There was still one vacancy for an alternate juror called a talesman.  Not wishing to see trial delayed any further Justice Kelley Gorman ordered the Middlesex County Sheriff and the London police to round up 20 bystanders off the street and order them to appear in court the next day as potential jurors.

Here are the observations (from the London Free Press) of one of these hapless people, a mister Scott Johnston who likened his experience to bullying.

 “I was walking to my car on a darkened street corner when approached by a woman.  I was asked if I could be spoken to for a minute. I decline and politely indicate am in a hurry.  All of a sudden, out comes a sheriff’s badge pointed towards me and I am told that I “have to speak to her and that I cannot leave.

“At that moment, a uniformed officer who was standing a bit of a distance away walked over to the side of the woman and looked at me but said nothing.  I thought to myself that I have no option but to remain because if I tried to leave there would have been a chase or worse.

“I was asked two questions: Are you a Canadian citizen? Are you over 18? I answered yes. I was then presented with a piece of paper and asked for identification in the form of a driver’s license. I produced it and the sheriff started writing down my name and address information on a clipboard. I was informed I must show up in court the very next morning at 9:30 am for jury duty.”

These 20 people were being rounded up under a little used provision of the Canadian Criminal Code called section 642(1) Summoning other jurors when panel exhausted.  It reads:

 “If a full jury and any alternate jurors considered advisable cannot be provided notwithstanding that the relevant provisions of this Part have been complied with, the court may, at the request of the prosecutor, order the sheriff or other proper officer to summon without delay as many persons, whether qualified jurors or not, as the court directs for the purpose of providing a full jury and alternate jurors.”

When I first asked the question whether or not people should be compelled to sit as jurors I am willing to bet to anyone not familiar with these events that you might find it reasonable to receive a letter in the mail asking you to report in two to three weeks’ time, plenty of time for many of us to put their affairs in order, and report to the courthouse for jury duty.  You might also have expected that you would be given the opportunity to get out of jury duty due to extenuating circumstances.  And you would be right.  This is how it is usually done.  But many of those rounded up had missed trains (as Mr. Johnston had), or work, or had to arrange for baby-sitting, or any other myriad of excuses that 20 people might have had given the order to forget about what you had planned for tomorrow because you are going to court.

This Criminal Code provision, while an obvious attempt to allow for speedy justice, is unjust in itself.  What it does is take innocent people, subject them to force and given no option but to comply regardless of circumstance.

But is jury duty under any circumstances justified?

Consider this quote from Cicero:

“We are all servants of the laws in order that we may be free.”

By this I take it that the Roman Statesman was acknowledging the fact that in order to be free in a political context there must be laws, and by implication a system of justice.  If we accept this then must we accept to have our rights infringed upon from time to time as a price to pay for the enacting of this system of justice?

On the one hand I would agree that the right to a trial by a jury is a fundamental component of a system of justice.  The alternative would be that for every serious offense you are to be prosecuted by the state and judged by an employee of the state.  To be able to plead your case to a community of peers is a fundamental component of our judicial system.

But must we compel citizens to sit in judgment of us?  I don’t believe so and for the following reason, you are compelling someone to think.

Put yourself in the shoes of those 20 people rounded up.  Section 642(1) states that while it is the judge who gave the order it was at the request of the prosecutor.  So here you are, totally inconvenienced and possibly at great expense sitting in judgment of three people the same prosecutor wants you to find guilty. Do you think that it is possible that out of resentment for the actions of the prosecutor you find in the defendants favour just to spite the prosecutor?  In other words, the compulsion to attend has tainted your ability to think through the facts of the case without bias.

I would contend that only a jury made up of volunteers, properly compensated for their time, is able to properly consider the facts of any court case without bias for or against the accused due to the manner in which they were asked to act as jurors.

There are thousands of eligible citizens in this city willing and able to perform the function of a juror if they were treated with respect, if their rights were not violated, if they were properly requested to attend, if they were given opportunity to decline, and if they were compensated for their time.

Yes, by today’s law you may be able to lead a juror to court but you cannot make him think.  And that after all, is exactly why he is there.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #235, February 2, 2012)

Feb 022012
 

235 - Shafia Family 168x100This week a jury in Kingston, Ontario convicted three people of first degree murder: Afghan immigrant Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their son Hamed Shafia. Dead are Mr. Shafia’s three daughters and his first wife.

While the facts of the case were interesting in their own right, to me the most important feature of the trial was the labeling of the murders as either “honour” killings or simply just another case of domestic violence.

After the verdict was handed down the local talk shows gave considerable air time to a prominent local feminist. During that time she correctly pointed out that “This is about violence against women. This is about power and control.” I would agree with these obvious facts as any would. She then tried to pursued the listeners that there was no comparison between these killings and other common domestic disputes involving a dominating male over a female. Her claim was that any any distinction in culture or religion was irrelevant to the case. To her the fact that a man killed females is all that is of interest to this case and all that should be focused upon.

This is a superficial simplification of what is actually a much more complex affair. Yes, honour killings are typically men murdering their wives and daughters but it is not simply the same as any other domestic violence.

The reason for the crime is what is at issue here, not simply that a man killed another women (ignoring Tooba Yahya’s involvement) or that it is inherent in the male sex to want to dominate and control the female sex, which is a patent falsehood. Many feminists see this as simply a male-female issue ignoring or misidentifying the root cause of this kind of violence, that being the culture, the religion, or the philosophy of the killer. Why does one kill his wife or daughter? That is the question that can’t simply be glossed over with the pat statement that it is a lust for control by a man over women.

The feminist’s argument runs like this: since women are being killed in Canada as well as Islamic countries and since some Christian men have also killed their wives then the issue is not one of religion or culture but one of men and women.

Of course it is true, that domestic violence occurs in Canada to non-immigrants and that Christian men have been know to murder their wives or daughters. What is also true but is being deliberately ignored is that the prevalence for non-Muslim male-female violence in Canada is lower than similar violence in Muslim countries and that the reason non-Muslim men kill their wives or daughters is substantially different than the reason Muslim men kill their wives and daughters.

Shafia Family MurderA man and women get into a fight. Who do you think will come out the survivor? The stronger of the two of course (in most cases.) The fight could be over money, jealousy, housekeeping, what to watch on TV, drunken idiocy or any number of motives. Rare is it that a non-Muslim Canadian will kill his daughter because she went out on a date or chatted with someone on Facebook or didn’t want to wear a particular piece of clothing, or gave birth to a daughter.

Although honour killings are not exclusive to Muslim societies, the fact is that predominantly Muslim societies have a long tradition of treating women as property. Men often, quite literally get away with murder in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia because their tribal cultures, rooted in Islam, has given the authority over women to men.

Canadian Muslim, Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress published an article in the Canadian edition of the Huffington Post on December 7th called “A Man’s Honour Lies Between the Legs of a Woman.” In it he quotes the particular verse in the Koran, verse 4:34, sanctioning the right of a husband to beat his wife:

“Men are in charge of women by right of what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend for maintenance from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in the husband’s absence what Allah would have them guard. But those wives from whom you fear arrogance – first advise them; then if they persist, forsake them in bed; and finally, strike them.”

If we cannot acknowledge this part of the Muslim religion as being key to the second-class status Muslim men give women then it will be impossible to move towards true liberation for women in predominantly Muslim societies and Muslim families here in Canada.

Mr. Fatah goes on to say that Sharia law sanctions the stoning of women for adultery. A practice that is continued today in many Muslim countries. He cites Professor Shahrzad Mojab of the University of Toronto, who testified at the Shafia trial that women embody the honour of the men to whom they belong – first fathers and brother, later husbands.

“A woman’s body is considered to be the repository of family honour. Honour crimes are acts of violence committed by male family members against female family members who are held to have brought dishonour onto the family. Cleansing one’s honour or shame is typically handled by the shedding of blood.”

It wasn’t until 9/11 that many Canadians even heard of “honour killings.” But since then our focus has turned, as it has been forced to, to Islam and Muslim culture. Since then our knowledge of this common practice of the ownership of women by Muslim men has increased and we can properly address the situation.

Many of us correctly identify the murders based on the motive of keeping the family’s honour. For prominent feminists to disregard motive in the murder and abuse of women is only prolonging the suffering of these people. To fix a problem you must first properly identify the root cause of it. In the case of honour killings it is the religion and the cultural practices of the men and women who commit the murders. We can’t forget that women also take part in committing these honour killings.

It is ironic that in Canada we have people refusing to call something by its real name when in Muslim countries it is identified for what it is. In Pakistan, for example honour killings are known as “karo kari.” While the Pakistani government is supposed to prosecute these killings as they would any ordinary killing the practice by the police and prosecutes is to often ignore it. In a sense there are some Canadians who are ignoring it as well. Not the crime but the cause.

If we consider the problem of honour killings even further we understand that it is not simply a matter of religion or culture but of social metaphysics. In an article for the Objectivist Newsletter of November, 1962 (vol. 1 no. 11), Nathanial Brandon defined social metaphysics as

“…the psychological syndrome that characterizes an individual who holds the consciousnesses of other men, not objective reality, as his ultimate psycho-epistemological frame-of-reference.”

He explains,

“There is an invisible killer loose in the world. It has claimed more victims than any other disease in history. Yet most of its symptoms are commonly regarded as normal. That is the secret of its deadliness.

“These symptoms may be observed all around one: in the lives of all those who are dominated by an obsessive concern with gaining the approval and avoiding the disapproval of their fellow me.; who lack a self-generated sense of personal identity and who feel themselves to be metaphysical outcasts, cut off from reality; whose first impulse, when confronted with an issue or called upon to pass a judgment, is to ask not “What is true?” but “What do others say is true?”; who have no firm, unyielding concept of existence, reality, facts, as apart from the judgments, beliefs, opinions, feelings of others.”

This defines the perpetrators of honour killings. They seek honour in the approval of others, be it their family, their friends, or their tribe. While this syndrome crosses all religious and cultural spectra it is more prevalent in those countries lacking the history of individual freedom we enjoy here in the West.

It is this syndrome which must be argued against when dealing with the warped sense of honour which would cause a parent to kill a child or a man to kill his wife because of any perceived shame they may have brought them in the eyes of others.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right #235, February 2, 2012)