New moderate Muslim group aims anti-extremism message at youth

Kathryn Blaze Carlson, National Post, September 11, 2012

A Muslim Canadian activist has founded a new group that will promote moderate Islam, saying there are too few progressive Muslim voices countering extremism in Canada. Raheel Raza, the Pakistan-born author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad: A Muslim Canadian Woman Speaks Out, was once a member of the progressive Muslim Canadian Congress, but this month is formally launching Muslims Facing Tomorrow. The National Post’s Kathryn Blaze Carlson spoke with Ms. Raza to find out why.

Q: The Muslim Canadian Congress already speaks for moderate, socially progressive Muslims. Why launch Muslims Facing Tomorrow?
A: There was no fragmentation or infighting — the president of the MCC actually called this week and congratulated me. We just felt there are so many extremist voices and organizations perpetuating the whole ‘hate against others’ message. The moderate Muslim voice is very few in number and we felt that the more organizations out there doing this kind of work, the better. We have a very similar mandate to the MCC, and our goal is the same, but we at Muslims Facing Tomorrow plan to go about it in a different way.

Q: What do you mean?
A: We want to be very proactive. We want to provide an alternative for Muslim youth. It’s not just a question of slamming the extremists; it’s also about providing a different voice. We want to hold workshops and conferences — one thing that’s never been done, as far as I know, is a conference of moderate Muslims in Canada. The extremists hold a lot of conferences, so we want to host one for progressive Muslim voices. We want to be not just an organization, but more like a movement. We want to connect with like-minded people across the globe. We’ve already connected with the Center for Islamic Pluralism and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy in the U.S. We’ve made connections with people in Europe, England, Pakistan. We want to link up with individuals who are working toward defining Islam in a more modern way — working toward reform or women’s rights.

Q: You have quite the diverse advisory board — anti-terrorism expert David Harris, for example, and Reuben Bromstein, a retired judge and president of Canadians Against Suicide Bombing. What’s that about?
A: We made a very conscious effort to have an advisory board of people from different faiths, who are not just in Canada and who are experts in different fields. Our mandate is not just to work with Muslims, but to work with anyone from any faith community who is interested in the safety and security of Canada, in liberty, democracy and the equality of women. We’ve always felt that our battle is not one that we can fight alone. We have to work together because the end result of standing up against extremists is in everyone’s interests.

Q: Who is Muslims Facing Tomorrow really trying to reach?
A: The youth are our main interest because they’re the future of Canada. In fact, if you were to ask me what my personal interest in this organization is, it’s the future of my children and grandchildren. What we want to do is set up workshops, panels, conferences — that sort of thing. To the best of my knowledge, the Muslim Canadian Congress hasn’t really done this. The MCC does wonderful work, don’t get me wrong. What [congress founder] Tarek Fatah has done to set the foundation of this voice against the extremists is absolutely phenomenal, and that’s why I was among the people who helped him set it up. But there comes a time when you feel it’s important to have more voices. When people ask ‘where are the voices of the moderate Muslims?’ we want to be able to say there is more than one organization working toward the safety and well-being of Canada.

Q: Do you support the Harper government’s toughened stance on immigration and public safety?
A: Yes. Islamic radicalism in Canada is not something that happened overnight. When we don’t face a problem head on and take care of it, we end up with something like 9/11 — it’s actually ironic that we’re speaking about this on September 11. [My husband and I] left Pakistan [24 years ago] to escape radicalism, and then we came to Canada to find that same ideology being promoted here.

Q: How do you think this new “voice,” as you call it, will be heard?
A: As Muslims, we’re in a better position to speak out against Islamic extremism than [others] would be because [they’d] be called racist. The word ‘Islamaphobia’ is always hanging in the air. I feel it’s our ethical and moral responsibility to expose those people whose interests are not in favour of loyalty to Canada, for example.

Q: Do you fear Muslims Facing Tomorrow will itself be labeled anti-Islam?
A: Any time anyone criticizes Muslims or Islam, they’re always looked upon negatively. We’re expecting hostility, but that doesn’t deter us. We came into this knowing full-well that not everybody would love us. But our goal is not to be popular. It’s to tell the truth.

National Post

Turkish professor given prison sentence over headscarf ban

13 September 2012 / TODAYSZAMAN.COM,

An İzmir court has handed down a prison sentence to a Turkish professor from Ege University after he repeatedly blocked headscarved women from entering the faculty building where he worked.
The court accused the professor of infringing on citizens’ constitutional right of access to education and sentenced him to over two years in prison.

The professor, Esat Rennan Pekünlü, from the university’s department of astronomy and space sciences, was caught on camera in May taking photographs of headscarved students and preventing them from entering the building.

The Higher Education Board (YÖK) lifted a ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf on university campuses in 2010. However, some universities continue to impose the notorious ban. Opponents of the ban, including conservatives and many liberal intellectuals, think that such a ban contravenes fundamental rights as it deprives some citizens of their right to education.

Pekünlü was captured by cameramen of the Cihan news agency while he was standing at the door of his faculty building and taking photos of headscarved students. Cameramen had arrived at the faculty after some students tipped them off that the professor was violating the rights of women wearing headscarves at their university.

Pekünlü repeatedly blocked those students from entering the building when they tried to attend their classes. He would, however, pay no attention to male students or female students who were not wearing headscarves.

The Ege University administration had earlier announced that an investigation had been launched into the professor’s actions. In October 2010, YÖK sent a circular to university administrations, asking them not to send students away from class or campus for wearing the headscarf.

The İzmir 4th Criminal Court of First Instance charged the professor with violating the privacy of the Fatma Nur Gidal — one of the women he prevented from entering the building and the plaintiff in the case — as well as violating her right to access to education.

Gidal’s lawyer demanded the maximum prison sentence for the professor and asked the court not to postpone the punishment, as he had previously been charged with similar crimes.

Pekünlü’s lawyer cited a 2008 decision by Turkey’s Constitutional Court upholding headscarf bans in universities, as well as a 2004 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that said such bans do not violate freedom of religion.

Speaking following the decision, Gidal said she was not able to enter the building, let alone the classrooms. She said she had no choice but to file the complaint against her professor.

Syrian catastrophe on the verge of imploding the Middle East while U.S. has no discernible strategy

Save Syria Now!




Syrian catastrophe on the verge of imploding the Middle East while U.S. has no discernible strategy

Iran spreads violence across region as Syria records 5,000 deaths in August under an intransigent Assad


PHOENIX (September 5, 2012) – Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and the co-founder of the Save Syria Now! issued the following statement regarding the latest developments in Syria:


“August has been recorded as the bloodiest month in the year and a half campaign for the revolution to remove the tyrant Bashar Assad and his military apparatus from power in Syria. With over 5,000 dead at the barbaric hands of the Syrian military and the UN recording over 100,000 refugees last month alone, there is no indication that Assad’s military tyranny is abating.


Despite this, we still see no discernible strategy from the Obama Administration on how to secure a free Syria. Secretary Clinton has failed yet again this week in negotiations with the Chinese to find a path forward. These negotiations fail primarily because the Chinese know that the President does not have the resolve or inclination to act in this region.


This administration has clearly determined that action of any sort is not in its best interest heading into November’s presidential election. That inaction has essentially given the Assad regime free reign to decimate the Syrian people and opened the door to the jackals of the region in the form of Iran, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah.


As the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday the Iranians have resumed airlifts through Iraqi airspace of arms and personnel to support Assad’s regime.  Iran’s Quds force has become the de facto training battalion of Assad’s ruthless Baathist Alawite militia.  Even more disturbing, many experts believe that Iran is perfectly content to allow Syria to disintegrate into another Afghanistan if it means keeping the prospects of a Western influenced free Syria from emerging from its current hell.


That would be a disastrous outcome for the entire region.  We are already seeing violence spill over into Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.  How long will it be before we see this violence knocking on Israel’s door?


Yet Clinton’s State Department cannot even articulate a clear position against the Iraqi government allowing the use of its airspace by the Iranians.


Further recent reports indicate that Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are ratcheting up their involvement in the country. In fact it appears that these organizations are turning the situation into an opportunity for sectarian violence against each other. While watching these two purveyors of American and Muslim tragedy destroy each other may sound enticing, ceding them the prize of Syria is simply outrageous.  Doing so at the cost of Syrian lives is inhumane and criminal.


Syria deserves better from the West and the international community.  It needs real leadership.  It needs a focus on freedom for its people.”


About Save Syria Now!

Save Syria Now! is a group of Americans of Syrian descent organizing to put pressure on the United States to call for immediate action to be taken against the regime of Bashar Assad of Syria and to bring true liberty to the people of Syria.  We stand with the Syrians protesting in the streets to end the tyranny of the Assad family.  For more information please visit our website at


MEDIA CONTACTS:        Gregg Edgar

Gordon C. James Public Relations