Did you know? Athena Provides Legal Info About Forced Marriage, Conjugal Violence, etc.

Did you know that the web site Athena Legal Info provides important information about marriage and civil union, forced marriage, conjugal violence, honour-based violence, etc., in Quebec. For example:

FORCED MARRIAGE

Forced marriage is not tolerated in Canada, and the law grants you certain rights and places obligations on others to ensure that when you enter a marriage, it is because YOU want to be married to that person. While family and community approval can be a very important factor when deciding whether to get married, ultimately it is your independent choice. Marriage is a life-long commitment, and you want to ensure you and your spouse are compatible.

WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LAW AND FORCED MARRIAGE?

Knowledge of your rights can allow you to lead a safe and happy life with a partner that you choose.

RESSOURCES

There are various centers, shelters, information clinics, and helplines available to you during this difficult time. This section is meant to provide an overview of forced marriage, and act as a guide for the resources available to you.

Reference :
Athena Legal Info Athena Legal Info


In the News: Top European Court Upholds Headscarf Ban

Top European court upholds France’s headscarf ban, Deutsche Welle, 2015-11-26

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favor of a hospital in France, which had enforced a ban on headscarves at work. The court said the ban did not affect religious freedom.

The Strasbourg-based international court’s ruling upholds a ban on employees in the public sector wearing headscarves and other religious symbols. In 2000, [when] Muslim social worker Christiane Ebrahimian, who worked in the psychiatric department of a hospital in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre […] learned that her contract would not be renewed because she refused to take off her headscarf despite complaints from patients and colleagues, she decided to sue the hospital, taking her case all the way to the European Court of Justice.

The Strasbourg judges argued that the ban did not violate freedom of religion in a country where secularism and strict religious neutrality is enshrined in the constitution. Religious freedom, they stressed, did not mean a right to express their religious views in the workplace.

In 2004, France decided to ban “conspicuous” religious symbols, including the wearing of a headscarf. It led to a rift with France’s Muslim community, the largest in Europe. In 2014, the Strasbourg court also rejected a challenge to France’s general ban on the burqa – a full-face veil for women – in public places. The ban came into force in 2010. Belgium also banned the burqa in 2011.

If only Canada would enshrine “secularism and strict religious neutrality” in its constitution!

In the News: Senegal Bans Burqa

Senegal to ban the burqa, Ed Adamczyk, United Press International, 2015-11-18

Senegal announced plans this week to ban women from wearing the burqa to stop Islamic terrorists from using the full-face veil as a disguise.

The heavily Muslim country follows Chad, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon in ordering the ban on the face covering that leaves only the eyes exposed. All, including Senegal, are former French colonies in western and central Africa.

Interior Minister Abdoulaye Daouda referred to the proposed ban as an anti-terrorist, and not anti-Islamic, action. Senegal practices a relatively tolerant form of Islam; and few women wear the burqa, but fears that Islamic extremists may soon target the country surfaced after five people suspected of ties to Boko Haram, including at least two religious leaders, were arrested in a nationwide crackdown.

But not in Canada. Not even at swearing-in ceremonies! We are much too self-righteous, too multicultural. We are tolerant to the point of tolerating intolerance and the intolerable. No security problems in Canada, Minister Goodale assures us. But does that really reassure us?

In the News: Call for Canadian government to support secularists in Bangladesh

A wide variety of organizations and individuals has issued a joint statement calling on the Canadian government to provide humanitarian assistance to embattled secularists in Bangladesh. The effort was initiated by CFI Canada and joined by various atheist, secularist, humanist and human rights supporters, including this organization Libres penseurs athées—Atheist Freethinkers. The statement is in the form of a letter addressed to The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. Here is that letter:

Joint Statement Calling on the Canadian government to provide humanitarian assistance to secularists in Bangladesh, 2015-11-13

We, the undersigned organizations and concerned supporters, urgently call on the Canadian government to act on behalf of one of its citizens, Monika Mistry, to help her Bangladeshi husband recover in safety from a brutal attack he suffered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

On October 31, 2015, Tareq Rahim, an intellectual, poet and blogger, was attacked with two of his colleagues by a group of suspected Islamists wielding machetes and cleavers. Just hours later a secular publisher, Faisal Arefin Dipan, was hacked to death in his Dhaka office; he is the fifth secularist to be killed in Bangladesh this year. Ansar al-Islam (Ansarullah Bangla Team), a local affiliate of al-Qaeda, has taken credit for the attacks.

See also:

Did you know? The Sergeant-at-Arms’ Mace Has a Cross at the Top

In an article entitled “A Man Loyal to Canada and to His Faith” written by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, de Souza highlights the fact that there is a cross at the top of the Canadian Sergeant-at-Arms’ Mace.

De Souza quotes from a page on the Parliament of Canada website, “The Mace: A Ceremonial Object Rich in History and Tradition”:

“The head of the mace is in the shape of a crown, with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom appearing on it in relief. Roses, shamrocks, thistles, fleurs-de-lys and maple leaves are carved on the staff.”

Completely ignoring the fact that the crown represents the crown worn by British monarchs and all of the crowns worn by British monarchs have a cross at the top, de Souza says that the webpage “neglects to mention that the most notable item, at the very top of the Mace, above the crown, is not a maple leaf or a thistle, but the cross (emphasis added).” He goes on to say that the mace is “not only the heraldry of our history, but a symbol of faith.” And comes to the conclusion that the present Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, “a servant of Canada and disciple of Christ, has lived a life made possible by the grandness of our history and the broad horizons of our faith.”

Will no one rescue us from these meddlesome priests and monarchs?

Reference:

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In the News: Jacques Fremont Propagates the Myth of Islamophobia

Survey reveals troubling data on religious tolerance in Quebec, Catherine Solyom, 2015-10-29

An as-yet-unpublished survey conducted by the Quebec Human Rights Commission paints an alarming picture of attitudes toward religious diversity in the province — especially toward Muslims:
•43 per cent of respondents said you should be suspicious of anyone who openly expresses their religion.
•45 per cent said they had a negative view of religion.
•48.9 per cent — roughly one out of two — said it bothered them to be attended to by a woman wearing a hijab.

[…]

These are some of the results presented Friday at an international symposium on Islamophobia by the president of the Commission, Jacques Frémont.

[…] there have not been many complaints for discrimination filed at the Human Rights Commission, Frémont said. An average of 1,500 complaints are filed every year. Since 2013 there have only been 64 complaints filed for discrimination based on religion, however, 65 per cent of which were filed by Muslims.

[…]

Still, the Commission has not been inundated with complaints. “We expected an increase in incidents around the debate over the Charter of Values. I told my team, hang on to your hats! But we didn’t hear a single complaint. The victims chose not to file complaints and that’s very worrisome … Victims prefer to close in on themselves.”

The Gazette article quoted above is spectacularly bad, totally prejudiced in favour of Jacques Frémont’s highly tendencious opinions.

Frémont and his ilk would have us believe that to be anti-religious is a bad thing. However, religions are dangerous, even odious, ideologies. If an anti-religious person is well informed and expresses his or her antipathy towards religion in a coherent and reasoned manner, then it is a virtue. In particular, the myth of “islamophobia” is that to fear Islam is irrational and repréhensible. On the contrary, to fear Islam, especially its more radical variants such as Islamism, is quite simply prudent and rational.

According to Frémont, the fact that complaints to the HRC from Muslims have not increased in number is proof that “islamophobia” is on the rise in Quebec. This is a classic example of a non-falsifiable hypothesis. If the number of complaints were stable or on the rise, he would probably say the same: that “islamophobia” is a big problem. So no matter what the data say, nothing can invalidate his specious theory.

In the News: Secular publisher murdered in Bangladesh

Secular publisher hacked to death in latest Bangladesh attacks, Associated Press, 2015-10-31

A publisher of secular books has been hacked to death in the Bangladeshi capital, police have said. In a separate attack in Dhaka, police said two other writers and a publisher were stabbed and shot at a publishing house. Fears of Islamist violence have been growing in Bangladesh after at least four atheist bloggers were murdered in the country this year. The attacks have been linked by police to domestic Islamist extremists, while Islamic State has claimed responsibility for three other attacks.

The body of Faisal Abedin Deepan, of the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house, was found inside his office, said senior police officer Shibly Noman. The publisher had filed a complaint with police afterdeath threats on Facebook, friends said. Earlier in the day, publisher Ahmed Rahim Tutul was attacked in the office of the Shudhdhoswar publishing house and seriously wounded. Two writers were also wounded in that attack. All three of the victims were hospitalised, and Tutul was in critical condition, police said. Both Deepan and Tutal had published books by Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death in February. He was one of the four secular bloggers killed in Bangladesh this year. A local Islamist group, Ansarullah Bangla Team, had claimed responsibility for the killings and recently threatened to kill more bloggers. […]

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In the News: Erdogan Tightens His Grip on Turkey

Turkey election: President Erdogan tightens his grip on power in surprise landslide victory, Patrick Cockburn Independent, 2015-11-02

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a decisive victory in the Turkish parliamentary election, with his Justice and Development Party (AKP) winning a majority of seats and defeating the other three opposition parties. […]

In the wake of the AKP’s spectacular victory, it will be in a strong position to take control of all remaining levers of power: army, security services and media. Ever since it first formed a government in 2002, the AKP has been progressively eliminating all opponents in positions of authority in the secular Turkish state founded by Kemal Ataturk. Almost all the state and private media has already come under AKP control, which is one factor explaining its gain in votes. State television has given blanket coverage to Mr Erdogan and the AKP, while largely ignoring its opponents. […]

[…]Turkey’s growing ethnic, sectarian and religious divisions are not going to disappear. Among Kurds, the poor results of the HDP will strengthen those who argue that armed struggle is the only way forward. There will also be many who will argue that Mr Erdogan and the AKP won because they frightened voters by fomenting a crisis and an atmosphere of fear which they then pledged to end.

The final weeks of the campaign took place with no rallies, except those held by the AKP, because of the bombing of a demonstration in Ankara on 10 October that left 102 dead. Many voters in Istanbul said they feared that the violence was going to get worse. Many secular voters did not conceal their revulsion against the AKP-run state imposing more Islamic norms on Turkey. Aynur Olanlar, whose husband worked in a bank in Istanbul, said “I don’t want these people with head scarves any more.” […]

Bad news indeed, given Erdogan’s desire to concentrate a maximum of power in his presidency and the Islamo-fundamentalist tendencies of his party.

In the News: Disturbing Church Presence at Montreal School

Church presence at Montreal high school raises questions, CBC News, 2015-10-28

A religious group is offering a little extra help to a Montreal public school, but one expert says the volunteer work raises questions about religious neutrality. The église du Plateau Mont-Royal is relying on its worshippers to volunteer at Jeanne-Mance High School. Volunteers offer support for homework, extend library hours and help find musical instruments for students. Since the end of September, the church has also been renting out space from the secondary school that belongs to the Commission scolaire de Montréal. Solange Lefebvre, the chair of the religious studies department at the Université de Montréal, warns that clear rules must be in place for when individuals from a religious group interact with minors in an education setting. The evangelical baptist organization is counting on its 70 worshippers to give a helping hand. Approximately 20 volunteers are being trained to work at the school’s library.

[…]

Julie White, a spokeswoman for Quebec Education Minister François Blais, said that proselytism is not allowed in schools and that volunteers must work in the name of the school. However, that is entirely up to schools and individual school boards to oversee.

The religious are often very willing to “help” provided that the situation allows them access to persons who are easily influenced, such as children, the poor, the sick, etc. The Quebec government’s austerity policy tends to impoverish public schools, thus making them more dependent on volunteers such as those provided by the church.

In the News: Egypt ahead of Canada?

Reading Past the Headlines

When the Middle East Monitor announced (2015-10-08) that Egypt plans to prevent niqab-wearing women from voting in Egypt’s parliamentary election scheduled to be held in two phases Oct. 18-19 Nov. 22-23, Canadian secularists cheered. The inevitable contrast between Canada’s attitude toward wearing the niqab in citizenship ceremonies and Egypt’s attitude toward the niqab during voting began:

It seems that Egypt is ahead of Canada

This contrast was further strengthened when the Middle East Monitor revealed that Cairo University has “barred lecturers from wearing the niqab.” Egypt appeared to be more progressive and more secular than Canada, where it is possible to vote “wearing a mask.”

Abaya

Secularists may want to temper their enthusiasm for Egypt’s attitude toward the niqab and female attire in general.

On October 14, the Mail Online’s headline, “Egypt Bans Women from Voting If They Are Wearing ‘Revealing Attire’ … But Insists Anyone with a Niqab Veil Must Remove It So They Can Be Identified,” makes it clear that Egypt continues to control what women can wear when voting. As one secularist pointed out,

“The only tolerated costume may be the Saudi abaya.”

So before secularists decide to leave Canada because Elections Canada allows citizens to vote regardless of attire as personnel can recognize voters by their eyes, they should consider what attire the Egyptian government may require in order for its female citizens to vote.

by Veronica Abbass

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In the News: Open Letter from AQNAL to Françoise David

AQNAL (Quebec Association of North Africans for Secularism) denounces the folly of Françoise David

Nadia El-Mabrouk, for AQNAL

NOTE:
AQNAL is a participant organization of the Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL or Alliance for Secularism), as is our organization LPA.
Françoise David is an MNA and spokesperson for Québec Solidaire.

On behalf of the Association Québécoise des Nord Africains pour la Laïcité (AQNAL or Quebec Association of North Africans for Secularism) we must respond to the resolution which you proposed and the National Assembly adopted this morning. We thank you for your willingness to appeal for social cohesion. Who could disagree with this principle? We thank you as well for reminding everyone that Quebecers of the Muslim religion, and indeed of all religions, or even of no religion, are all citizens of Quebec. Indeed, during our presentation before the parliamentary commission dealing with Draft Bill 59, we insisted on being recognized as citizens of Quebec of various national origins, not on the basis of our religion.

We observe that, under the guise of protecting minorities, you make a number of generalizations which are unacceptable. In fact, if the idea of denouncing face-coverings worn during swearing-in ceremonies is given too much attention during the current federal election campaign, then why did your resolution not limit itself to discussing the niqab? What link can there possibly be with the thorny and global issue of Syrian refugees, a problem for which no simple political solution exists, neither here, nor elsewhere.

[…] what shocked us even more was that today you introduced, in the National Assembly of Quebec, the word islamophobia. We must respond to the erroneous, abusive and unjustified usage of this term. It is a source of one of the most serious political and semantic confusions of our time: that to resist fanaticism amounts to racism. It is a nebulous concept, created with the purpose of curbing any vigilance with regard to Islamism and intimidating those who would criticize that ideology.

You refer then to the increase in the number of islamophobic and racist videos and comments which proliferate on social media. Exactly which comments and videos are you talking about? On social media all sorts for hateful speech can be found. Once again, what has this to do with the niqab? However, we nevertheless recognize two key concepts which you succeeded in introducing in the National Assembly today: islamophobia and the fight against hate speech. This brings us back to Draft Bill 59 which was almost unanimously denounced, during the parliamentary hearings, as legislation contrary to the foundations of a free and democratic country. Numerous persons and groups, including ourselves, presented arguments that such a law would do more to protect Islamist radicals than it would to protect society from them. Unfortunately, you were not present, nor was any representative of your party, to hear our concerns.

But what shocked us even more was that today you introduced, in the National Assembly of Quebec, the word islamophobia. We must respond to the erroneous, abusive and unjustified usage of this term. It is a source of one of the most serious political and semantic confusions of our time: that to resist fanaticism amounts to racism. It is a nebulous concept, created with the purpose of curbing any vigilance with regard to Islamism and intimidating those who would criticize that ideology. Rather than attacking those who are afraid of Islam, we should be standing up to those who create that fear, those who manipulate democracy, who use Canadian charters to advance their program of political Islam. It is not difficult to see that women who wear the niqab belong to that category of citizens who provoke Quebec and Canadian institutions.

Here in Quebec, it is Islamists who claim to be victims of exclusion but who reject the way of life of the society which has welcomed them, meanwhile blaming all those who refuse and criticize their antiquated practices. It is they, not we—who nevertheless come from the same cultural and religious sphere as they do—who claim to be victims of islamophobia. The majority of Muslims are collateral yet direct victims of this concept of islamophobia.

Quebecers are provoked and often outraged by so-called religious practices such as the niqab. They notice that, more often than not, such practices are reactionary and backward, and that they risk compromising the societal project which they have been developing and evolving for decades, if not for centuries. We, Quebec citizens of Muslim heritage, are similarly outraged to be associated with those who play the victim while pretending to speak in our name. We are outraged that you speak on our behalf while using that word islamophobia. By treating Quebecers as racists and islamophobes, you insult them and you insult us as well, we Quebec citizens of Muslim heritage.

We will thank you Madame to stop speaking on our behalf.

Nadia El-Mabrouk
For « Association Québécoise des Nord Africains pour la Laïcité » (Quebec Association of North Africans for Secularism)

Translation: David Rand


See also

In the News: Anger that Saudi Arabia Heads UN Human Rights Panel

Anger after Saudi Arabia ‘chosen to head key UN human rights panel’, Tom Brooks-Pollock, The Independent, 2015-09-20

The United Nations is coming under fire for handing Saudi Arabia a key human rights role even though the Kingdom has “arguably the worst record in the world” on freedoms for women, minorities and dissidents.

Critics, including the wife of imprisoned pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi—sentenced to 1000 lashes for blogging about free speech—say that the appointment is “scandalous” and means that “oil trumps human rights”.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said that the appointment, made in June but unreported until now, may have been a consolation prize for the Saudis after they withdrew their bid to head the 47-nation council following international condemnation of the kingdom’s human rights record.

The Saudis’ bid emerged shortly after it posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners, to cope with what Amnesty International branded a “macabre spike” in the use of capital punishment, including beheadings, this year.

Mr Hillel described the appointment as “scandalous”. He added: “Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi. “It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles. It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia is a member of the council, but for the UN to go and name the regime as chair of a key panel only pours salt in the wounds for dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons.”

In the News: The Mouvement laïque québécois (MLQ) denounces Bill 59

Hearing, Mouvement laïque québécois (Quebec Secular Movement) (vidéo in French), represented by Lucie Jobin, Daniel Baril and Michel Lincourt, 2015-09-22, National Assembly, Quebec City

(2:00) We have serious misgivings about the raison d’être and the true scope of this draft bill.

(5:38) If the aim of the bill is not to target criticism of religions, then that should have been stated clearly from the beginning. We consider that any bill whose goal is to restrict hate speech must have a provision that specifies unambiguously that criticism of religions — even radical criticism — is not within the scope of the bill.

(6:35) The MLQ rejects part I of the bill because it violates fundamental freedoms protected by the Charter, notably freedom of conscience and freedom of expression […] because this bill sets up procedures of an inquisitorial nature. For the MLQ, the ultimate goal is secularism. But this bill goes in the opposite direction. It would institute an inquisition based on individuals informing on each other, and leading to censorship. A secular society is one which is free of censorship and other forms of control of opinion. It is theocracies and societies subjected to the control of religious dictates which infringe on freedom of conscience and freedom of expression and which implement censorship as Draft Bill 59 would do. Adoption of part I of Draft Bill 59 would lead to an unacceptable step backwards […] It is not by muzzling criticism of religions that we will succeed in fighting against indoctrination.

(8:30) We propose a series of measures — beyond any draft legislation — to counter terrorist indoctrination. Our first priority is to aim at the correct target. The current enemy is political Islam, not the citizen who fears it. The government must eliminate the ambiguity in what it says. What is the government’s goal? Does it plan to institute a theocracy? Or does it plan to institute secularism?

NOTE: Part I of Draft Bill 59 deals with « hate speech » and « speech inciting violence » while part II, whose goal is « to better protect individuals », deals with the issue of forced marriage, among other things.

In the News: The Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL) denounces Bill 59

Hearing, Rassemblement pour la laïcité (Alliance for secularism) (vidéo in French), represented by André Lamoureux and Leila Bensalem, 2015-09-22, National Assembly, Quebec City

(1:45) We dissociate ourselves from the proposal to police and punish hate speech and speech inciting violence. We have many reservations about these provisions. Instead, the RPL proposes several recommendations with the aim of countering and stemming the rise of fundamentalism in Quebec, especially Islamic fundamentalism which is itself, in our opinion, a source of hate speech.

(2:30) Concerning hate speech, we are disappointed in the government’s complete 180 degree turnaround in its attitude towards fundamentalism. In 2013, when Philippe Couillard was being sworn in as MNA for the riding of Outremont, he declared forcefully his desire to fight fundamentalists unrelentingly. But later he changed his mind and somehow the struggle against Islamism went up in smoke. The Premier explained that fundamentalism is a private affair which harms no-one. Kathleen Weil even indicated that working with a fundamentalist would not bother her. For months on end various ministers hammered home the same message: that we should instead combat islamophobia, xenophobia, racism and hate speech, as these are at the origin of the humiliation and discrimination of which Muslims are targets, and consequently they are the causes of radicalization of young people and adults seduced by Islamism and jihadism. Jacques Frémont even claimed, in a Radio-Canada interview, that there was a growing wave of intolerance in Quebec. And thus we now have Draft Bill 59 whose goal is to police hate speech.

(5:00) It is important to understand that the expression “hate speech” is a particular form of rhetoric used by the Islamist movement to deflect any criticism of its retrograde dogma. It is the trademark of Islamism. Mme Vallée, you have the wrong target. It is not hate speech or Islamophobia which causes the stigmatization or marginalization of Muslims. Rather, it is fundamentalism, and especially Islamist ideology which, with its reactionary tenets, leads to legitimate reactions of rejection from Quebec citizens.

In the News: Canadians Oppose Niqab

Canadians of all stripes oppose face coverings at citizenship ceremonies: Vote Compass, CBC News, 2015-09-22

Canadians right across the political spectrum are opposed to immigrants being allowed to wear facial coverings during the citizenship ceremony, according to the latest results from Vote Compass, CBC’s online voter engagement survey.

Asked whether immigrants should be allowed to cover their faces for religious reasons while taking the oath of citizenship, 72 per cent of Canadians say no. Only 19 per cent say they are OK with the idea.

Between Sept. 17 and 18, those taking the online survey were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “Immigrants should be allowed to cover their faces for religious reasons while swearing the oath of citizenship.” The question garnered 13,930 respondents.

Opposition is greatest (89%) in Quebec. Opposition among immigrants is almost as high as among respondants born in Canada.

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In the News: Prof refuses to wear device for religious reasons

MUN prof refuses to wear device for hearing disabled student, cites religious reasons, Todd O’Brien and Geoff Bartlett, CBC News, 2015-09-16

A Memorial University student with a hearing disability is upset that one of his professors refused to wear a sound-transmitting device last week during a lecture, and he said she told him it was because of religious reasons.

William Sears, 20, says Ranee Panjabi would not wear an FM transmitter system that he needs to hear lectures at the school in St. John’s.

CBC News reached out to Memorial University for a response to the complaint, and was told the university has worked with the student to reach “an acceptable accommodation,” but could not comment further due to privacy concerns.

Panjabi has not responded to CBC’s requests for an interview.

The professor’s “religious reasons” are unknown to us, but we wonder why the university should accommodate them.

In the News: Launch of the Raif Badawi Foundation

The Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom

Raif Badawi Foundation

MONTREAL, Sept.11, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ – Today the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom was officially launched by friends and family. The Foundation is named after the blogger, who is imprisoned since 2012. Raif Badawi was condemned to a thousand lashes in Saudi Arabia, for he was accused of apostasy and of insult to Islam. The Foundation’s objectives are to providie education on the topic of freedom of press and freedom of speech.

The announcement was made successively in Germany and in Montreal. The President, Mrs. Ensaf Haidar, Mr. Badawi’s spouse, was in Berlin to meet with dignitaries in order to gain their support regarding her husband’s liberation, atop of taking part in the press conference. “I am truly grateful for the support that has emerged across the world for the Foundation. This justifies in my opinion, its very existence and its necessity,” declared Mrs Haidar. “Its goal happens to embody Raif’s values, who would be very happy to see that his struggle is a concern for so many people around the world,” added Mrs. Haidar. It is to be noted that Mr. Badawi will be honorary president of the Foundation.

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In the News: Niqab — Ottawa Loses Appeal

Niqab ban at citizenship ceremonies unlawful, as Ottawa loses appeal, CBC News, 2015-09-15

The federal government has lost its appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down a ban on wearing niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.

Three justices on the Federal Court of Appeal, in a ruling from the bench, said they wanted to rule now so the woman at the centre of the case could take her citizenship oath and vote in the federal election on Oct. 19.

[…]

In the Federal Court ruling, Judge Keith Boswell said the government policy, introduced in 2011, violates the Citizenship Act, which states citizenship judges must allow the greatest possible religious freedom when administering the oath.

This is bad news for secularism. Another example of religious privilege being given precedence over reason. Unreasonable accommodation.

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In the News: FFRF Condemns Unrestricted Ritual Circumcision

FFRF condemns N.Y. Health Board’s decision OK’ing unrestricted ritual circumcision, 2015-09-14

The New York City Board of Health last week recklessly decided to abandon the only inadequate restriction it had over controversial ritual Jewish circumcision. The board […] voted last week to repeal its requirement of informed consent for circumcisions during which the circumciser sucks blood from the newly cut penis with his mouth.

[…] this practice can expose infants to herpes simplex virus, which can lead to fatal encephalitis and other complications. In at least two instances, this practice has resulted in the newborn’s death. Two other infants have suffered brain damage(1). Others deal with a chronic, lifelong infection that causes painful lesions.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation in February 2014 wrote the board, calling the informed consent requirement inadequate, asking the NYC Board of Health instead to prohibit this child abuse. […]

The free exercise of religion protected by our Constitution does not include the right to endanger the health and life of helpless infants. […] Religion is not an excuse to infect an infant with a possibly fatal and definitely incurable disease. Society must protect its most vulnerable citizens.

Any mutilation of a child’s body without valid medical justification must be banned. Religious beliefs are no excuse.

In the News: Fatima Houda-Pépin Denounces Draft Bill 59

Madame Fatima Houda-Pépin denounces Bill 59 which would criminalize so-called “hate speech.”

Presentation of Madame Fatima Houda-Pépin, on Draft Bill 59 (in French), at hearings of the Commission des institutions, 2015-09-14.

Madame Minister, what this draft bill does is to introduce into Quebec legislation the concept of islamophobia, […] it does so in order satisfy demands from Islamist groups, radical Islamist groups, who have for many years demanded that hatred of religions be criminalized.

[…]

In this draft bill there is confusion between freedom of expression about a religion, which is a matter of ideas — the bill would constitute a sort of idea-police — and hatred directed towards believers themselves.

[…]

We must return to the origin of the problem. Already back in 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was in preparation, the problem was evident. Saudi Arabia opposed the Declaration for two reasons: because of the principle of gender equality, and because of the principle of freedom of religion, that is, the right to choose one’s religion, and blasphemy […]

(Translation: D.R.)

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In the News: Femen Disrupts Exhibition on Muslim Women

Femen stages topless protest at Muslim women’s fair , RFI English (Radio France internationale), 2015-09-14.

Two members of the Femen feminist group staged a topless protest at a Muslim women’s fair near Paris this weekend. Earlier a petition had called for the event to be banned because of the alleged presence of fundamentalist preachers who justify rape in marriage.

The women – one of Algerian origin, the other Tunisian – leapt onto the stage and exposed their upper bodies daubed in slogans as two imams debated […]

[…]

A video posted on YouTube shows the women shouting “Nobody subdues me, nobody owns me, I am my own prophet!” in French and Arabic. Stewards bundled them off the stage and handed them over to police, who detained them briefly before releasing them overnight.

Image from the video
Image from the video

We salute the courage of these intrepid women who, by disrupting an event promoting submission, denounced the extreme misogyny of fundamentalist Islam.

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In the News: Some Peterborough Ontario Residents Get Together Before City Council Meetings to Pray for the Mayor and Councillors

Prayer before city council meetings
Click to view full size

Twenty-two weeks after the Supreme Court of Canada decision that members of municipal councils must cease reciting a prayer in the municipal council chamber, some Peterborough residents gathered in the park in front of Peterborough City Hall, before city council meetings, to pray for the mayor and councillors.

“They’re motivated by the fact that the Supreme Court has recently prohibited the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer before municipal meetings.” According to Glenn Duncan, one of the organizers, “Christians have a responsibility to pray for leaders. If city councillors cannot pray for themselves publicly, then local Christians feel they should to do it for them.”

The mayor and city councillors needed to be told twice that they “cannot pray for themselves publicly.” First by the SCC and then by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

In 2011, I began to work toward convincing Peterborough City Council to obey the law and stop reciting the Lord’s Prayer at the start of council meetings. I was successful.

On May 29, 2015, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued the following order:

“The Respondent (Corporation of the City of Peterborough) is prohibited from reciting the Lord’s Prayer or any other prayer at its council or committee meetings.”

At 6:00 PM, on September 8, there were about 50 people praying in the park across from City Hall. I wonder how many attended the council meeting to see if their prayers were effective.

Veronica Abbass

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In the News: Saudi Official Calls for Global Anti-Blasphemy Law

At a recent symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, held in Lille, France, Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, director for external relations at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, called for international efforts to criminalize vilification of religious symbols or beliefs. Such a ban on free expression would be tantamount to global anti-blasphemy legislation.

Criminalize vilification of religious symbols, says Saudi official, Saudi Gazette, 2015-08-08

Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any act vilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.

“We have made it clear that freedom of expression without limits or restrictions would lead to violation and abuse of religious and ideological rights,” said Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, … “This requires everyone to intensify efforts to criminalize insulting heavenly religions, prophets, holy books, religious symbols and places of worship,” he added. Al-Omari pointed out that such abuses bred intolerance, extremism and human rights violations and contributed to the growing phenomenon of defamation of religions.

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In the News: Atheist Niloy Neel murdered in Bangladesh

Niloy Neel – Fourth atheist activist murdered in a year in Bangladesh

Niloy Chowdhury Neel, an online activist and secularist protester, has been found dead in his home, according to early reports. He was decapitated and his hands had been cut off. …

Neel had posted on Facebook as recently as 13 May that he was followed after a public protest meeting, a protest to demand justice for previously murdered blogger Ananta Bijoy Das. After being followed, Neel became worried for his own security, as are a large number of writers and bloggers in Bangladesh who have expressed atheist or humanist views, or campaigned in opposition to fundamentalist Islamist politics.

Niloy was an organizer of a Science and Rationalist Association. He had completed a Masters in Philosophy from Dhaka University in 2013, before working for an NGO. He posted about his atheist views on Facebook and joined the wider protest movement against Islamist war criminals.

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In the News: UAE criminalizes “religious hatred”

UAE makes ‘offending God’ illegal, National Secular Society (UK), 2015-08-05

The United Arab Emirates has passed an ‘anti-hatred’ law which it has claimed will help tackle discrimination, but which outlaws ‘insulting’ religion. The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, reportedly said that the decree “guarantees the freedom of individuals from religious intolerance.” He claimed that the new law was ‘inclusive’. However Gulf News reports that the legislation makes illegal “any acts that stoke religious hatred” and “any form of expression” that insults religion.

The law, passed by decree at the end of July, “prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, His prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards.” The legislation purports to allow for an “environment of tolerance” and “broad-mindedness”, but includes potential 10 year jail terms and substantial fines for those who break the law. Provisions in the legislation include a prohibition on expressing doubt about the existence of God.

NSS president Terry Sanderson commented: “The UAE are using anti-discrimination legislation as a cover to criminalise all manner of dissent — including blasphemy. It is dispiriting, and sadly unsurprising to see yet another crackdown on religious freedom and freedom of speech in the Islamic world. As with the recent comments from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the language of human rights, freedom and tolerance are subverted in order to further an Islamist agenda, in this case under the guise of an anti-discrimination statute. In fact, this legislation insults the concept of equality by creating discrimination against non-believers.”

While the law does make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or religion, and on some other characteristics, it undermines these provisions by criminalising the expression of atheism and with its severe restrictions on free speech.

This legislation, adopted on July 20th of 2015, is another example of the Islamist agenda which threatens freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. The current Quebec government’s draft Bill 59 is not as draconian as the UAE legislation, but is inspired by a similar mentality. Notice the use of the term “inclusive” which is used by both Sheikh bin Rashid and by Quebec multiculturalists to justify censorship of criticism of religion.

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