Once again evil has struck New York City. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and those injured.
Facts are quite straight forward:
• Its cowardly
• It will happen again
• This is part of the “war on the West” declared by the Jihadists
• There are no ‘lone wolves’
• This was done in the name of Jihad
• Politicians will deflect
• My co-religionists will go on the defensive
• The victim-hood ideology will swing into action
• Is there a solution? Yes there is but is anyone listening. No!
• There is a systemic problem which is not being addressed head on.
• What action is being taken against ISIS fighters coming home to Western countries?
• What action is being taken to go to the root of radicalization based on teaching hate?
• When there are converts involved, who is converting them?
• When there is radicalization going on, are we peeping into the pulpit?
It’s time to end the terror!

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Islamic history is something we do not debate or discuss. We accept it as handed down to us. So we have villains who have been made into heroes and heroes who remain unidentified.
Case in point, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was a ruthless and merciless ruler who had no qualms about assassinating his brothers or imprisoning his father. He is celebrated as a hero.
On the other hand Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shikoh had a pluralistic vision but was put to death by Aurangzeb and his good works are hidden in history.
When today’s world becomes history, I wonder how George W. Bush will be remembered. Muslims have pre-conceived notions about him orchestrated by the Iraq war and incursion into Afghanistan.
I too have been guilty of such thoughts.
However I had the pleasure of meeting ex-President George Bush (yes Dubya or GW as he is fondly called) at a luncheon where he was given an award by a local Foundation. I realised that when a politician stops being a politician, he or she becomes human. This is what I saw in George Bush – an entirely different person who is warm, compassionate and full of humour.
President Bush was interviewed by Canadian Senator Linda Frum for one hour in which she asked him very pertinent questions. I was so impressed that I had to make notes. Although much of what he said was “quote worthy” I noted a few points that touched me.
He said “I will not use the platform of my previous position to criticize my predecessors”. Asked about the current situation in USA, he said that more important than the President is the institution and that there is a need for USA to reject isolationism and tribalism.
He spent time speaking about his wife Laura and his daughters saying that he could not have done his job as a “war-time President” without Laura’s support. He said that his time as President was a great challenge and he had to make some very quick and important decisions which he felt were best for his country. “When you’re leading a country you have to have a vision, a strategy and a focused effort to achieve your goal”. However he added that “the further we get away from 9/11, the further people are getting away from the lessons learned from 9/11”
He called Iran “the most destabilizing force on the earth” and said he did not agree with the sanctions being lifted. “Nothing changes in Iran unless the regime changes so we have to continue to put pressure on them”. He added that the decision-makers in Iran have not changed.
Asked about Russia he said he knew Putin way back when he was a different man. “Putins changed due to oil and power and although he is strategically very smart, he has a chip on his shoulder”.
On Israel he said that anti-Semitism is dangerous and it’s the role of the US to reject anti-Semitism at home and abroad. He said “the Middle East must know that US is solid in their support of Israel and they will forge their foreign policies accordingly”.
Bush mentioned NAFTA and said USA has to tweak the treaty and fix it because USA, Canada and Mexico can learn to work together. He rejects the notion that NAFTA is bad for USA.
President Bush went on to speak about how much he enjoys spending time at his ranch where he drives mountain bikes with Vets who he admires and supports. He also plays golf with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
His biggest regret? Going for social security reform instead of immigration reform. He said “what’s going on is un-American because immigrants renew our spirits and hopes”.
Today at The George W. Bush Institute he dedicates his work to the betterment of humanity.
He quoted Darwin “It Is Not the Strongest of the Species that Survives But the Most Adaptable”

At various times he laughed at himself and how people said he couldn’t speak properly or write and laughed “well then they should read my book!”.
While the man has changed, the only thing that hasn’t changed is that he still says “nuc-you-lear”

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“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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