“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing”
Certain quarters on the Left, probably under a lot of $$$$ influences, are suggesting that I’m anti-Muslim. These organizations are not even Muslim themselves so how dare they question my faith, my relations with fellow Muslims who are my family and friends and my right to critique those Muslims who are tarnishing my faith. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Do they suggest I am anti all of them? That would take a lot of ‘anti’ and BTW being anti-anything is not my beat – I leave this to anti – fa and regressive left types!
Although these organizations pride themselves on their literary and speculative work, they would be wise to look up the definitions of anti and critique.
Anti = opposed to a particular policy activity or idea
Critique = detailed analysis and assessment of something literary, philosophical or political theory
• Am I anti-Muslim if I call for separation of Mosque and State?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I call for a halt to honour based violence against women which includes female genital mutilation (rampant in the West), forced and underage marriages and honour killings?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I say that sharia governance is incompatible with the Universal Charter of Human Rights and is obsolete?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I call for Raif Badawi to be freed (a Saudi blogger jailed in Saudi Arabia and slated to receive 1000 lashes)?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I support the lives of Yazidi women being persecuted by ISIS?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I lobby for safety and rights for minorities living in Muslim lands?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I critique some Muslim States for their abhorrent human rights violations against their own citizens?
• Am I anti-Muslim when I point out the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khomeni-ism and Wahabbism on Muslims?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I partner with organizations that are against the spread of a radical Islamist ideology?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I expose the dangers of radicalization for Muslim youth?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I speak out against armed Jihad as a 7th C concept not to be used to create terrorism today?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I worry about the safety and security of the land I call home?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I teach my children and grandchildren the spiritual aspects of Islam and negate politicizing the faith?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I counsel concerned and troubled youth?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I provide young Muslim men and women a safe space between the Mall and Mosque?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I work towards peace between faiths and invite hard questions to the table?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I encourage reform and negate dogma?
• Am I anti-Muslim if I speak about the difference between Islam and Islamism at events or to groups that are not the choir but have different views on Islam
• Am I anti-Muslim if academic institutions and government bodies call upon me to explain the positive aspects of my faith?
All the above is to make Muslim communities stronger and better. If this is being anti-Muslim then I’m proud of it because it makes me a better human being and NOBODY has the right to question my faith.
YES I critique Islamo-fascism and Islamist supremacy. For the record I’ve never spoken out against Islam. Nor for that matter against Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism or any other faith and those who don’t subscribe to any religion.
And what’s wrong with critiquing a segment of my own community that is being radicalized to commit violence.
Now let me tell you what it means to be anti-Muslim. These are people leading Muslims down a path of victim ideology and hiding them under the pseudo flag of Islamophobia.
So before you point fingers at the behest of your paymasters while sitting in the West and enjoying the freedoms on the basis of which these countries led the world, please teach yourself the true meaning of liberty, free speech and respect.

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Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
42nd. Parliament, Wednesday Sept 27, 2017 – M 103
Raheel Raza, President Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Madame Chairman, members of the Committee, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to address this Committee.
My name is Raheel Raza and I am President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. My family and I will have been in Canada for 30 years next year. Like most immigrants we came here to embrace democracy, gender equality and freedom of speech.
I can say with conviction that Canada is the best country in the world with a role to play in terms of leadership and I thank God for being a Canadian citizen to share in its values.
Today we are here to discuss Motion -103.
Let me make it abundantly clear that Bigotry, hate and racism have to be condemned in the strongest terms. Sadly they have always been an integral part of human civilization. But human dignity depends upon our unequivocal condemnation of these ugly values and we MUST speak out against them.
Having said this, we are entrapped by use of the term Islamophobia which is not clearly defined. As I read the text of Motion 103, I can agree with the overall intent but without use of this term, because Islamophobia can and has been used to confuse the masses and stifle free speech.
I’ve just returned from attending the 36th session of UNHRC in Geneva and have seen how the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has for years been working towards stemming any critique of religion. Critique of religion BTW is not critique of people. If there are aspects of any faith that are veering towards human rights infractions, they must be discussed and debated. Religion is an idea and ideas don’t have rights – people do.
Canada should therefore be concerned about the rights of all its peoples and not allow itself to fall into the traps laid out by vested agendas.
Right now the world is screaming for an Islamic Reform to welcome Muslims into the 21C by a fresh wave of ideas through the lens of modernity and free thinking keeping human rights in the forefront.
This is not entirely a new phenomenon.
Because in the 9th C there was a large community of Muslims known as free thinkers who would debate and discuss all aspects of faith to come to a logical conclusion. The ruling elite found this to be a threat and over a period of time one by one they were eliminated. This silencing of all debate and discussion in Islam has put us Muslims in a ridiculous position. It also puts a target on the backs of those who want change.
Reform has taken place in other faiths as well. Christians will celebrate 500 years of their reform this year. How does Reform happen?
It takes place through reflection using reason and logic and YES – a healthy critique. Without constructive criticism, no faith can grow and develop.
As an observant Muslim, I don’t believe I have to be the care-taker or defender of my faith.
However the word most synonymous with Muslim these days is terrorism. Do I want to leave this as legacy for my children and grandchildren? Absolutely NOT! As such Muslim communities have to do most of the heavy lifting in shunning or abandoning negative practices that have crept into our faith and culture. Such as FGM, forced and underage marriage, slavery, polygamy, armed violence against civilians disguised as Jihad, forceful imposition of sharia laws, and preaching of hate and intolerance towards minorities.
It’s through this reform that major changes have taken place in Muslim communities. E.g.
• In India the Supreme Court has banned a centuries old Islamic tradition of a man saying I divorce you thrice and it was automatically granted.
• Women in Morocco helped change the polygamy laws
• In Tunisia a landmark decision was made allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, which according to sharia laws is not acceptable
• Bangladesh has altered its constitution from Islamic to secular.
• The House of Lords in the UK is debating and challenging certain practices of sharia courts.
My point is that Canada with its thriving Muslim population should be a leading voice in encouraging such reforms rather than encouraging them to hide behind a motion to curtail free speech.
As well in a secular country (which we thrive for) the State should have no business in religious matters.
M-103 as it stands, with usage of the term Islamophobia has divided Canadians into Us and Them. By singling one faith community in this motion, it seems that Islam and Muslims are exclusive and demand special attention. When in actual fact, statistics show us that hate crimes against the Jews, Blacks and LGBTQ communities are the highest. Polls show that more than 70% of Canadians don’t agree with Motion 103.
As for Muslims, lets see how badly they are really treated? There are approximately over 100 Mosques and 50 Islamic Organizations just in the greater Toronto area. There are 11 Muslim MP’s in our government and Muslim prayers are taking place in some public schools. This doesn’t look like systemic racism to me!
However there are cases of bigotry and racism so I encourage this committee to strengthen the laws to curb hatred and discrimination against ALL Canadians – not just one section.
Thank you

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Free Raif Badawi: Plea at UN Human Rights Council

President Donald Trump in his address to the UN General assembly in New York last week critiqued some of those countries holding positions in the human rights council that offer no human rights for their own citizens.

I tend to agree with him as I have seen during my trips to the UNHRC in the past five years the rise of the influence of the OIC and the plight of certain communities under authoritarian regimes.

There is a consensus that the United Nations is a body that is impotent and has no influence on world events. In a way that is correct. However, it is the only international body we have, and sooner or later, we do make a difference since everything is tabled and recorded.

At the very least, the member states who attend are forced to listen.

This was the case as I headed out to Geneva for the 36th session of UNHRC. I am accredited with The Center for Inquiry in Washington and was accompanied by Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of CFI. We agreed to be there during the middle week of the session when most people are there.

Apart from the formal sessions and the plenary, the council is a place that is always buzzing. There are more people schmoozing in the Serpentine bar than in the main hall where the statements are made. There is a buzz of different languages, costumes and cultures which holds the attention.

Added to this are the peacocks roaming the gardens of the council. The place is beautiful.

The highlight of my UN visit this time was meeting Ensaf Haider, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years in a Saudi prison for urging religious freedom.

Ensaf who has been out of Saudi Arabia since 2012, now has political asylum in Canada and lives in Quebec with her three children. Her only aim in life is to free her husband from Saudi jail and lashes.

Raheel Raza with Ensaf Haider, wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi at the UNHRC in Geneva (
Raheel Raza with Ensaf Haider, wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi at the UNHRC in Geneva (Photo: courtesy)
Ensaf addressed the council and spoke directly to the Saudi Ambassador saying, “My husband did not commit any crime. He only aspired for a better future for his country.”

I was fortunate to be able to spend some quality time with Ensaf who is a beautiful human being both inside and out. She is brave and committed to getting her husband out of jail and said she needs the world to help.

She said, “When Raif was going to be lashed, the whole world rallied for his cause. But I’m afraid they will forget, and I want to ensure that the world never forgets. I’m doing this not as a personal mission but for universal human rights and I will continue till he is released and my children see their father.”

Ensaf has a special message for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She said that if he can give millions to Omar Khadr and speak about giving citizenship back to Canadian terrorists, he can and should give honorary citizenship to Raif Badawi (like he did for Malala Yousafzai). This would be very symbolic and send a strong message to the Saudi leaders.

I traveled back to Toronto with Ensaf and made her a promise that my organization and I will rally to her cause and that of Raif Badawi to help ensure that the world never forgets.

One perk of being at the UNHRC are the side events which are much more interesting than the plenary. I attended a few of these.

One informational side event was about defending female victims of terror. It’s not something that is talked about enough. There were actual victims of terrorist attacks present – one in a wheelchair. We learnt that women, who are equally victims of terror, face more discrimination. They are legally socially, economically and emotionally deprived of support and in many cases (those who have been raped) are ostracised from their communities.

The UN is working on a resolution to give these women greater participation in peace and security efforts and amplify their voices to be recognized as direct victims of terrorism.

One interesting fact I noticed is that the whole world is at the Human Rights Council to speak about their grievances. Everyone has a beef with their state and leaders and is eager to blame someone else for their woes. There are people supporting their state and those against the state. Luckily, they all have a voice at the council in the form of NGO’s who are invited to speak under Item 4 which is the General Debate.

In this context there was a side event about the oppression of the Baloch people (Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan). It’s controversial whether this province wanted to be part of Pakistan but was annexed by military action anyway. The Baloch people are largely tribal and they claim that the separatists have been systematically targeted by the Pakistan military.

Ironically, at another event hosted by Pakistan, the rhetoric was more on the lines that the roots of Pakistan’s violence in Balochistan is a result of colonization. One of the speakers at this event said that it’s a conspiracy by India and intervention of USA for subversive purposes. The speaker, who is a Cambridge graduate, went on to say that there is a tendency in the International community to create “rogue” states like Pakistan, Iran and Korea.

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Last week an American radio show host asked me curiously how come I chose Canada as my home. Without blinking an eyelash I said to him “I came to Canada on a visit 30 years ago and it was love at first sight. That love affair still continues and I’m proud to be Canadian.”
It also brought back memories of an article I had written many years ago in The Globe and Mail titled O Canada how do I love thee? I can still count the ways.
My memory goes back to our arrival in Canada when I first tasted the freedoms that are offered here. It was heady and inspiring. At first I couldn’t get used the idea that I, as a Muslim woman from Pakistan, could say and do as I please.
Having grown up in a culture where women were supposed to be seen and not heard, Canada became a beacon of hope and once I started on my journey of individual thinking, nothing held me back.
Ironically I have lived longer in Canada than any other country including my land of birth, Pakistan. I have seen Canada grow and change and I admit that not all the changes are positive. But this is the country where we have the freedom to express our opinions and disagree with policies that are not in sync with Canadian values.
As Canada turns 150 years, I know that there is no other country of world I would rather live in and see my children and grandchildren prosper. Prosper they have thanks to opportunities and hard work.
I travel a lot out of Canada and as soon as I re-enter Canada, I say a word of thanks for having Canada as my home. My Canadian citizenship is a privilege, not a right and for me it comes with a sense of responsibility and loyalty to this land I call home. I will battle to my last breath to keep Canada strong and free.
God Bless this land, glorious and free and those who live in it.
Happy Birthday Canada!

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It is with a heavy heart that we commemorate Eid al Fitr. This has been a tragic month of Ramazan with senseless bloodshed of innocents.
Let’s not forget that the explicit purpose of the month of fasting is to reflect, feel for the less fortunate and ask forgiveness for our errors. I pray as we move forward that the future will help us become better human beings and Muslims who embrace pluralism, tolerance, mercy, kindness, inclusiveness and respect for every other human being no matter who they are, what they believe, or choose not to , and wherever they hail from.
Then and only then can we truly wish each other Eid Mubarak
Raheel and Sohail

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The recent horrific and murderous terrorist attack at Manchester Arena hits close to the heart as I am a mother and grandmother. Twelve children under the age of 16 were among the 59 casualties taken to hospital after the attack, according to David Ratcliffe, medical director of North West Ambulance Service in UK.
There is no way we can sleep at night knowing our children are now the targets of barbaric terrorists. Such horrendous attacks seem to have become a way of life in the West and while we are not surprised, the horror waves this particular attack sends through the world are unprecedented.
Obviously the families affected by this immense tragedy and ordinary citizens must be angry and frustrated with questions on their mind.
My question is: what is the Standard operating Procedure (SOP) for grieving?
The single most effective weapon the enemy uses is Islamophobia so if we ask tough questions, it’s not acceptable. If we want to know the reasons why Jihadists are killing our children, they call it Islamophobia. So essentially dialogue and discussion around the ideology surrounding a global jihadist insurgency are not welcome because we now live in a world where political correctness is the norm and word police are out to get you if you go over the prescribed limit on words usage.
Is this an effective way of dealing with an enemy who has declared war on our world and our values? Of course not!
In a statement our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was shocked. I fail to see what is shocking about this. One is shocked when something you are not expecting happens. Terrorist attacks are horrifying and barbaric but not shocking if you already know the subversive agenda of the enemy.
At an interfaith event this past weekend in Montreal, all speakers agreed that we must identify the evil in our midst (even if it happens to be within our own communities) and then try to eliminate it. Like a virus, it must be identified, isolated and then removed. We also agreed that it’s not enough to say we are for peace; we must identify and remove the barriers to peace.
It is now time to show Muslims some tough love. Every Muslim individual, Mosque and Islamic organization should be asked to condemn (not just ISIS because that’s easy):
1. Condemn the notion of armed Jihad as obsolete in our times
2. Condemn the ideologies that emanate from The Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis and Khomenists
3. To uphold the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
If they fail to do so, you know where they stand.
Today let’s pray for Manchester. Tomorrow let’s pray for our leaders to have enough courage to name and shame this ideology so together we can fight the radical Islamist agenda that has a mandate to destroy our freedoms.

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As a writer I was member of The Writers Union of Canada for some years and used to regularly receive their magazine Write. In my early years as a journalist it was a handy tool to help with the “Canadian experience”.
So it was with shock that I read the controversy surrounding Hal Niedzviecki, Write’s former editor, who said “I don’t believe in cultural appropriation… In my opinion, anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities.” He has since resigned.
The shock is not with what Niedzviecki wrote, but the knee jerk reaction of TWUC officials who are begging forgiveness for the opinions advanced by Niedzviecki who also suggested (much to my delight) an “Appropriation Prize for best book by an author who writes about people who aren’t even remotely like her or him.”
I believe I could be nominated for this “appropriation prize”.
In my years as a journalist, I’ve written about communities and cultures totally different from mine. I covered the centennial of the Sikhs in Canada and received amazing feedback from that community. I wrote about Zoroastrians because there was no one covering stories about this minority community and I knew a lot about them. I’ve also been guilty of writing about Indigenous and Aboriginal cultures because I’m fascinated by their spirituality. Of course I did my research and ensured that I’m doing justice to another culture.
Similarly as a South Asian, I’ve written about faiths other than mine. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Muslims largely comprise the South Asian community and I’ve taken pleasure in covering events and stories about these faith communities. One reason that Canada prides itself on its diversity is that fact we as immigrants interact on a daily basis with a variety of cultures and traditions.
So it’s no secret that my dream novels characters are from diverse faiths and cultures. Does this make me guilty of “cultural appropriation”? In some eyes perhaps but I have the freedom to imagine these cultural interactions because this in reality is what’s happening on the ground. Romances across faith and culture are happening all the time. But who would be competent to write about them under cultural appropriation rules? The universe of qualified writers who fit the same demographic would be exceedingly small.
The idea that I, as a South Asian should only write about my own culture, is abhorrent and unacceptable in a country that prides itself on free speech.
Or does it? Last I checked Canada was a democracy and not a police state. My progress as a writer happened only because of the freedoms I embrace in North America and I will fight tooth and nail to preserve these values.
So to read scandals about the rise of word and thought police, not just in case of TWUC but in other instances as well (i.e. Professor Jordan Peterson of University of Toronto) is very concerning. I note that in academia is where word police works best. I was informed that in some Universities, there are lists given out about words that can’t be used and strict rules governing student’s rights to question some issues related to specific cultures. There are also events cancelled when the speaker is controversial. What does this say about Universities being the bastion of free speech allowing students to think critically?
I noticed this most when I travelled across dozens of College and University campuses screening the film “Honor Diaries” which deals with Honor Based Violence. This is when the terms “cultural appropriation” and “cultural relativism” were first thrown my way, not by students but by academics. Ironically the critics could not slam me for being a Muslim woman speaking about violence in Muslim majority societies, so they attacked the director, producer, and funders of the film. Good way to deflect from the real issues!
It’s great to see that other writers have weighed in on the debate. Those concerned about free speech have expressed their own disgust at the actions of TWUC.
Jonathan Kay writes in The National Post about “political correctness, hypersensitivity and tokenism”, all of which I too believe are undermining our efforts to be creative, artistic and critical thinkers.

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