Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
Dalai Lama
“Let yourself be empty so you can learn”. These are the wise words with which Sri Sri Ravishanker started his 3-day program called “Unveiling Infinity” at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto and which I was fortunate to attend thanks to a good friend.
I had met Sri Sri Ravishanker many years ago when we were on a panel together in Jerusalem. I reminded him about our connection and despite meeting millions of people in his travels, he remembered. I was quite intrigued by the Guru and the fact that he combines knowledge of science, medicine and other faiths in his talks. So when I was invited his sessions in Toronto, I took the opportunity to refresh the spirit. In a world beset by trauma and materialism, I knew that taking time to meditate is important and sometimes we just need reinforcement.
What I learned is worth sharing and maybe some of those who could not attend, might be able to also learn.
When Sri Sri came on stage, he just stood there with a sublime smile on his face and said nothing for a while. Then he explained that waiting is form of meditation. He then started by asking us if we still experienced ‘wonder’ at the world around us. So he helped us recreate ‘wonderment’ – that aaaah moment when we realise that the world is full of wonder.
He then took us through some exercises on breath. Being a follower of Sufism, I know that breath is life and learning to control breathing is an important part of meditation. He showed us how to breathe deep and also how to stop breath for 5 to 10 seconds a few times a day which refreshes the brain. It was ‘breath-taking’ to see thousands of people breath in and out in sync.
Sri Sri has a great sense of humour and tends to giggle at his own jokes. Dressed entirely in white, he presents a gentle soul who is at peace with himself and the world around him.
He spoke about how most people suffer from Depression-Aggression and this can be overcome with focus on mind over body and spirituality. He explained that mediation is about expansion of the consciousness.
His next exercise was to make us aware of the ‘chakras’ in our body and he helped us breath in a way that we were conscious of the chakras. He explained that breath starts 12 inches below the nose and goes up to 12 inches above our head where the final chakra ends.
Then he led us all in silent meditation for 40 minutes and all you could hear in a huge hall full of people was the sound of breath in and out. It was exhilarating.
He told us that trying to do the impossible is a form of meditation. He spoke about chanting and shared studies that show people who chant have larger brains. He focused on the importance of sound and we chanted for a while.
He spoke about relationships and said that we tend to be readily angry but should use the 15 second challenge before responding to anything and anyone. Stop for 15 seconds before a knee-jerk response and it could change the response. (he teaches this to corporations in terms of response to emails, contracts etc and has been very effective). Instead of challenging others with an angry “why did you do that?”, he suggests that we change the sentence to a gentler “I wonder why/how you could do that?”
We saw a demonstration of the work Sri Sri does with youth in teaching them intuition. This program will be offered in schools very soon.
The next meditation we did was to the sound of water. He told us that since the body is 70% water, the spirit is connected to water so listening to water, rain, are all forms of meditation. We meditated for 30 minutes to the gentle sound of running water. It was also very inspiring.
Overall it was a very inspiring event and it helped focus on the inner self which is something we forget in our daily lives. I am very grateful for this opportunity and hope others will take time to learn as well.

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.
Margaret Fuller

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On May 24, 2018 a violent mob of over 500 hate-filled extremists attacked and demolished a Mosque in the City of Sialkot in Pakistan. The Mosque belonged to the minority Ahmadi community.
Ahmadis make a tiny minority of the Muslim-majority Pakistan and are often targeted by Sunni militants who consider them heretics.
Pakistan declared Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974, and since then, the hate by the religious extremists has only grown with time. Former president General Zia-ul-Haq had made it a punishable offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims or to refer to their faith as Islam.
The community is also banned from preaching as well as from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage. They are also not allowed to publish any material propagating their faith.
This violent act of destruction took place in the month of Ramadan in which fighting and violence are forbidden. Yet the hate-filled Sunni extremists who perpetrated this horrendous act disregarded an important tenet of their own faith. Reports say that local police and Municipal authorities were present at this attack but did not take any action against the violent mob.
The attackers argued that the Ahmadis cannot have a minaret on their Mosques which is why they destroyed it. Ironically these Muslim extremists do not know their own history. A minaret is not an essential part of a Mosque and was only added to the structure by the Omayyad’s.
The founder of Pakistan Mohammad Jinnah had declared at the inception of the country, that minorities would have full rights. Today we see that minorities are at risk of their lives.
I hope that all Pakistanis will come out on the streets and strongly condemn this appalling act of hate and violence in the name of the faith they profess to follow.

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Breaking News: Monday April 23, 2018
On this most beautiful sunny day after four months, Torontonians were out on the streets to enjoy the weather, when terror struck in the most horrific way. At Yonge and Finch Avenue which is a beautiful, peaceful and diverse area in Toronto where mothers take their kids for walks, older people stroll around and people bring their pets, a van ruthlessly ploughed down pedestrians killing 9 and injuring 16 innocent people (according to current statistics).
Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families of the victims and those injured. Our heartfelt thanks go to the first responders and the brave police officer who brought down the perpetrator without using his firearm although (according to videos) the suspect wanted the policeman to shoot him and said so. Heads up to brave Torontonians who helped when they saw trouble and those who are keeping their cool and continuing with life as usual.
Law enforcement are saying they don’t know the motive. It’s obviously difficult for them to deal with a situation which may be camouflaged in political correctness and cultural sensitivity.
Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale gave a statement to say “it’s too early in the investigation to say if the incident was a terror attack”. However intelligence sources that I know claim that the perpetrator was known to the police. I suspect the official stance will be “mental illness” or “lone wolf”, but the more important question to ask is “who recruited him?”
This attack has all the trappings of a terrorist attack.
• The van was used as a weapon. It’s not by accident that a van drives on a pavement full of pedestrians with whatever murderous intentions the driver had in mind.
• Terror was struck by killing of innocents
• The ideology that facilitates this comes from one of three sources:
o The Wahhabi/Salafi ideology
o The Muslim Brotherhood
o Khomenists
Added to this, the Canadian Governments mandate of not challenging extremism or unmasking the truth has allowed the virus to mutate within the country.
Whether or not we are ever told about the motives of the perpetrator or his ethnic/religious identity, mainstream Muslim reaction will be that they are the victims because the Canadian Government has facilitated this idea through the implementation of M 103 which allows no questioning, discussion or debate. But we must use this tragic incident as an opportunity to have honest conversations, uncomfortable as they may be, about key issues that impact our lives as Canadians.
While this horrific tragedy is unfolding, new to Toronto but seen happening in many International cities around the world, it was only a matter of time…….

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(My brother’s daughter Maliha lost her young husband many years ago. Her daughter Mariam wrote the following essay for her University admission. I found this so compelling that I want to share. )

“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah (God) Knows, while you know not.” [Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 216]

I know my father (Abba) through stories – stories of him almost missing his own wedding or the time he dropped a droplet of water on a lit bulb just to “see what would happen.” My memories of him are not mine.
People felt sorry for me when my father died: a father is an essential figure in any young girl’s life. But though Abba died, three ‘fathers’ raised me.

Baba (maternal grandfather): Voice and Joy
“For Mariam and Hana
Written and maintained by
Farooq “Baba” Hassan”
I open the large leather-bound volume. My history lines its pages, memories documented by Baba. Childhood pictures punctuate the text.
“Here is a picture of me with Mama. We are having a great time in our front garden! Abba took this picture of us.”
I did not write those words, but they’re written from my point of view (“It’s so when you’re rich and famous you can sell it as an autobiography or memoir” Baba has told me conspiratorially). A two-year-old me, held in the arms of my significantly younger-looking mother, stares up from the glossy photograph—a true Madonna and child. Our hands clasped together, flowers bloom bright and vivid behind us. If you asked me to picture joy, I would conjure this image.
I feel gratitude for all the memories Baba has kept alive— in so doing, he gave me a voice that contributed to who I am today— opinionated, friendly.

Abbu (paternal grandfather): Gratefulness and Giving
Within two years, he lost his mother, younger sister, older brother, his wife and only son. But I’ve never seen a person who so appreciates the smallest things in life. It’s mango season? He’s out the door at 6am to buy the best from the passing thela (cart). There’s a beehive in the backyard? Abbu calls me to come look at it, and takes it down for me to eat the sweet honey. Abbu gives me jewelry he designs himself to shoes he says reminded him of me. The nurturing he always gives has helped me thrive. Watching Abbu be happy in spite of everything taught me to be grateful for all I do have.

Bevan (step-father): Patience and Hard Work
My project is due tomorrow and my brain is fried. I can’t think of any ideas.
There’s a knock on my door. A gruff, Caribbean voice calls, “Can I come in?”
Bevan comes in and sits beside me. He heard from Mama I was struggling, and came to help. And he did. It was the middle of his workday, his phone ringing every few minutes, but he stayed, endlessly patient.
Bevan’s gentle heart taught me getting frustrated never helps any situation. He taught me by example patience is a virtue.

Mama (mother): Sacrifice and Strength
Mama is the strongest person I know.
When Abba died, Mama took my sister and me abroad, leaving everything she knew, so we’d have a better life, a better education and live in a safer city. I learnt from her to be strong and persevere even when the ground seems to be taken out from under my feet.
My village of father figures wove a wonderful tapestry to support and raise me. And Mama was always at the center helping define the person I am today.

I will never know why I lost Abba. What I do know is that losing him has played a huge role in defining me: it has made me a combination of the people who helped fill the hole he left, making me joyful, giving, hardworking and strong.

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The buzz word; stuff that op-eds are made of; twitter chatter ad-nauseam; a depressing amount of balderdash and on and on. Have we nothing better to focus on?
Now I have to invoke my brown, Muslim woman, South Asian heritage privilege to say “give me a break”!
This generalizing of white people as though they are the scourge of the earth and responsible for most of society’s ills, doesn’t jibe with me.
Granted that racism, bigotry, inequality, gender bias and all of these societal ills do exist and have been there since time immemorial. But they have a context. It’s not always the white person who is the perpetrator. I can tell you about many black and brown people who are also guilty of the very same infractions. But we never hear of brown or black privilege.
Most people regardless of their color, caste, nationality, ethnicity or gender have at various times in their life used “privilege” for their own benefit. So where does this become a ‘white’ thing?
What this new backlash is doing is creating an atmosphere in which white people need to shut up, sit down and take the crap. It’s bad enough that we are being choked by political correctness, but now the term ‘white privilege’ is being used to stifle even more speech and its not acceptable in a country where freedom of expression should be the first mantra.
I believe we, as adults, are capable of fighting our own battles and dealing with people on our own turf without being told that there is a monster out there called “white privilege”!

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On this International Women’s Day I wish to salute the following:
• Yazidi women who truly know the meaning of struggle against the injustices of the world
• The women of Syria who are struggling to survive against all odds
• The brave women of Iran who by throwing off their head covers in protest are showing the world the true meaning of throwing off the fetters of theocratic oppression
• Ensaf Haider for not only lobbying for Raif Badawi’s release from a Saudi prison but showing what courage really means
• Krishna Kumari Kohli, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), for becoming the first ever Hindu Dalit woman to become a Senator
• (In absentia) Asma Jehangir for having paved the way for women’s rights in the Muslim world and standing up for minorities in a patriarchal and sectarian society
• All the Western women who have the wisdom to turn away from the likes of Linda Sarsour and her theatrics and have the sense to know what “real” feminism is about
In solidarity with women worldwide who undergo injustices and the tyranny of FGM, forced and underage marriage, sexual abuse and honor based violence.

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On January 23, I went on the trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota to meet with some State Representatives and activists.

Between 2008 and 2013, about 40 young men left Minneapolis to join al-Shabaab, the militant, radical Islamist insurgent group at war in Somalia, between approximately 2008 and 2013. Since then, 11 people from the Twin Cities have been charged with planning to leave for Syria to join Isis. Authorities believe Isis is focusing its US recruitment efforts on Somali Muslims in Minnesota because of the state’s history, and a potential pre-existing recruitment infrastructure.

My first meeting was with Omar Jamal, Somali activist and advocate. Omar is an outspoken critic of radicalization as well as the Government and its policies in dealing with the issue. Whenever there has been an issue of terrorism, he has spoken to media. He said that the government has at times used force and alienated the Somali community which is dealing with the issue of their youth being radicalized. At the same time he said he works with FBI and other security personnel. He says the best way to deal with terrorism is to have an open policy “You can’t accuse someone is you are doing the same to others. US Government has lost the war on terror”. Omar is big on dialogue and discussion both within the community and with people from the outside.
We talked about putting our resources together. He says he is interested in travelling across the country and speaking to youth (specifically Somali) but others as well. He liked the optics of our doing such a tour together. He would like to create a network of likeminded people. He also mentioned a desire to do a series of Youtube videos speaking on these issues.

On January 24, I had a radio interview in the morning about my visit to Minneapolis and the reporter was interested in knowing what I, as a Canadian activist could contribute to the discussion. I explained that the issue of radicalization is across the board in North America and we need to work together.

I had a meeting with Senator Warren Limmer’s where I met six of his representatives. Senator Limmer is very interested in the issue of youth radicalization and he said “we have quiet discussions all the time”. He is interested in programs that will help youth and he is working on a bill dealing with persecuting parents who allow FGM. He asked some good questions. Eventually the women opened up when I spoke about Clarion’s new film and the project of education. I also left a copy of Honor Diaries for them.

“After meeting with human rights activist Raheel Raza, I am shocked by DFL House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman’s incendiary comments labeling her an extremist.
Ms. Raza is a practicing Canadian Muslim and an outspoken opponent of radical Jihadism. She is a fierce advocate of women’s rights and has dedicated her life to fighting against the radicalization of our youth. She was recently awarded Canada’s 150th anniversary medal for service to the country, and has been invited to speak to governments around the world, including the U.S. Congress, UK House of Lords, Canadian Parliament, Swedish government, and the United Nations.”

From there Senator Limmers assistant took me to meet Representative Roz Peterson who is head of the Education Committe. We had a short chat before security came to say that media had set up in the board room for a scrum. She told me she had heard the radio interview in the morning and is glad that something positive has come from my trip. Ms. Peterson told me that it would be good if I spoke to media and gave them my perspective. So I was escorted to the Board room and found Senator Limmer there as well. I spoke to media. Halfway through the event, Omar Jamal turned up and along with him two female Somali women. One older one and a younger women who runs Mothers Against Youth Recruitment who is on the same page as us. They all pitched in and essentially the crux was that while Muslim activists are willing to do the work, the government is too involved in partisan politics to help or intervene. Senator Limmer took copious notes especially when I offered the solutions presented by Clarion.

After the media event I met Mary Franson a State representative who spoke very clearly and later met me in her office as she is working on the FGM bill.

On January 25 I went to meet Rosalyn Park, Director, Women’s Human Rights Program at Advocate for Human Rights. At the forefront of the world’s human rights movement, The Advocates for Human Rights, creates and maintains lasting, comprehensive, and holistic change on a local, national, and global scale. Volunteers, partners, supporters, board members, and staff implement international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. Ms. Park gave me a lot of material and told me about the varied kinds of work they do. We discussed the women’s rights aspect and she told me they do monitoring of the situation in some countries and then document the report provided they have partners and resources on the ground.

Jan 26 – my last meeting was with Mohamed Ahmed who is a husband and father, a manager at a convenience store, and the creator of Average Mohamed, a website presenting counter-radicalization messaging geared towards young people (ages 8 to 16). The project uses cartoons to present Islamic messages that counter the radical ideology preached by ISIL, al Shabaab, and other terror groups, approaching youth in a media format with which they are familiar and interested. Ahmed collaborates with local religious leaders to craft the messages in a way that relays Islamic ideas while dispelling ISIL’s ideology. Ongoing for nearly a decade, the project has been entirely conceived, funded and managed by Ahmed. He said of his project:
Mohammad Ahmad is such a joy to meet and speak with. Full of energy and enthusiasm, he is studying communications full time as a Bush Foundation Fellow.
Some statements he made:
“CAIR has taken us hostage and sends their spies to check on us”
“The 900 pound gorilla in the room is extremism and I am able to reach the kids through my cartoons”
“Youth need a sense of identity and belonging so I tell them about loyalty to this Country and loyalty to God”
He showed me his latest cartoon which is not up yet. Its about driving cars into pedestrians because he says the fear of ISIS is not so much here anymore than the fear that the youth will do something locally and he wants to reach them before the extremists do.
He wants to continue to create his cartoons so he can reach millions of youth and he is confident that he can do this. He also wants to travel the world and speak to youth (something he is doing in schools here). He says he has good contacts both in his community as well as the schools who welcome him but he would like to present a specific project that is broad so it does not seem like he is targeting only Islam and Muslims.
So he wants to make a video program of his cartoons speaking about
Anti Bullying
Anti Extremism
Anti Racism
He feels if he can get support to do this, he will devote his time to spreading the word. He has major contacts in African countries.

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