Israel has the bomb. Iran wants nuclear energy for power, allegedly, though it is sitting on a sea of oil. Syria is trying to join the club. Now Jordan wants in. Just for peaceful purposes, for electricity and desalination of water, according to Khalid Touqan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, though it would be naïve to believe that Jordan is not looking over its shoulder at Iran.
On June 28, Jordan and Canada signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It already has agreements with the United States and France and is negotiating with players around the feasibility of extracting uranium from Jordanian ore. Canada’s interest is in trying to sell Jordan a CANDU reactor.
Canada does not seem to learn. It aided India in developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and we know how that turned out. And even with all the good will on everyone’s part, we need to remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Are the safeguards in a less developed country like Jordan apt to be superior to what was in place in the United States and the Soviet Union?
Polygamy in Toronto
In May, the Toronto Star reported the case of Safa Rigby, a Muslim woman who suddenly found out that her husband had taken a second wife. In fact, he had taken two others. She learned of the situation when she got a phone call from her husband’s friend, who told her that her husband was right outside with his ex-wife, whom her husband had recently married.
Safa Rigby had just returned from a year in Egypt, where she went so that her four children would have the experience of a more Muslim environment. When she heard the news, she was devastated. Yet, it took her years to get up the courage to leave her husband. By that time, she had a fifth child.
Ali Hindy, the imam who performed the polygamous marriage, claims to have performed more than 30 others. He has advised the husbands to keep these marriages secret, even from the first wives. “This is our religion and nobody can force us to do anything against our religion. If the laws of the country conflict with Islamic law, if one goes against the other, then I am going to follow Islamic law, simple as that,” he said.
By contrast, Syed Mumtaz Ali, a lawyer and president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, reacted critically. “Muslims should not enter into polygamy while they are living in Canada, because the local Canadian law prevails. It overrules the Islamic law if there is a conflict between the two.”
As well, Shahina Siddiqui, a social worker with the Islamic Social Services Association, spoke out against polygamy in Canada. “The purpose of polygamy was to protect women. The way it is being done here, it is not just. Second and third wives have no social support, no legal protection, no recourse if things go wrong.” It would be a different matter, she observed, in a society that accepts polygamy, if the partners agree to it. Of course, in the Rigby case, there was no agreement, and Hindy sees no reason for even letting the first wife know.
The question arises as to what the government should do about polygamy. By officiating at plural marriages, Hindy was engaging in criminal acts. Before this case came to public attention, it was the Fundamentalist Mormons who were in the spotlight. Slowness of legal action in the case of their colony in Bountiful, British Columbia, is due to concern that prosecution might fail because of the claim of freedom of religion. However, one aspect that is of concern is the fact that females under the age of consent are engaging in these so-called marriages and bearing children, so that there could be charges laid for having sex with minors, if it were possible to breech the wall of secrecy that surrounds life in Bountiful.
As far as Muslims are concerned, the religious argument for polygamy carries less weight because polygamy in Islam is not obligatory, unlike the case with the Fundamentalist Mormons.
NION in action
Cory Balsam, an Ottawa activist in Not In Our Name (NION), recently described his organization and its activities. A group of Toronto Jews formed NION back in 2006, to tell the world that Israel’s actions in Lebanon and Gaza were “not in our name.” “They were not,” he said, “prepared to stand by and accept whatever Israel does.”
NION supports the boycott against Israel, sanctions, and divestment. Along with Arab civil society organizations, it favors the right of return, equal rights for Arabs in Israel, and an end to the occupation.
Together with other organizations, it pickets the main Chapters bookstore in Ottawa, as the majority shareholders, Heather Reisman and her husband Gerry Schwartz, fund the Hesog Foundation. Hesog provides scholarships for single Jews who go to Israel and complete a period of service in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Khadr’s mistreatment being released to defense
Recently declassified accounts by Omar Khadr of his mistreatment during interrogations present a rather disturbing picture. While he was originally held at Bagram, Afghanistan, after having been shot in the remains of a building in which he was hunkered down, mistreatment began. He was 15 at the time.
At Bagram, sometimes his head was covered with a bag “wrapped tightly around my neck, nearly choking me and making it hard to breathe.” Another abuse was to tie his hands “above my head to the doorframe or chained them to the ceiling and made me stand like that for hours at a time.”
After a 2003 visit to Khadr at Guantanamo by Canadian officials, soldiers “took away all my things except for my mattress.” They even took his Qur’an and left him without a blanket.
On June 26, Judge Richard Mosley of the Canadian Federal Court, ordered the government to turn over to Khadr’s lawyers videotapes of their agents’ interrogation of Khadr at Guantanamo, along with other documents. He asserted that “The information is relevant to the applicant’s complaints to mistreatment while in detention.”
Mosley also said that it appeared that Canadian agents conducting the questioning were violating international laws against torture when they questioned him because they conducted the interrogation based on information that American authorities provided, information obtained through Khadr’s torture.
Judge Mosley brushed aside government concerns that release of the tapes could compromise Canada’s relationship with the United States. Perhaps, he responded, but such problems should be minimal because “the use of such interrogation techniques by the U.S. military at Guanatanamo is now a matter of public record and debate.”
No-fly being documented
A coalition of 38 Canadian organizations, led by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, is gathering stories about experiences that travelers have had with the no-fly list. According to Karl Fletcher, the National Director of the Human Rights Department of the Canadian Labour Congress, “No-fly lists, watch lists, the sharing of vast amounts of personal data, and questionable security assessments are practices that demand more public debate.”
The coalition has already gathered some interesting information. For example, although the Canadian no-fly list was introduced a year ago, airlines are still using the American list, even on purely domestic flights. They also report that many people who are detained at the border are members of racial minorities or have been active in peace or labor activities.
Canadian Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the National Security and Defense Committee, has two sons who have been caught in the no-fly web. One is a government prosecutor in Toronto. He has had problems with the lists for five years.
During the first year of Canada’s list, which is said to have somewhere between 500 and 3,000 names, there have been around 100 cases incorrectly identified. In the U.S., the coalition reports, one airline says that it incorrectly identifies 9,000 travelers every day. The American Civil Liberties Union predicts that by July the American list will contain a million names. Truly, it can be said of Senator Edward Kennedy that he is one in a million!
Among the members of the coalition, along with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, are the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, Polaris Institute, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, and the Ligue des droits et libertés.
CSIS can’t destroy evidence
The Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision on June 26 holding that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) may not destroy operational notes when conducting investigations. That was their finding in a case brought by Adil Charkaoui, one of five Muslim men under security certificates while fighting efforts to deport them. Charkaoui is required to wear a tracking device and his movements are severely restricted. The government alleges that he is a sleeper al-Qaeda agent, a contention that he denies.
CSIS has had the practice of producing summaries but destroying the operational notes on which they are based. The court held that this practice deprives Charkaoui of his right to disclosure and that CSIS is in violation of the law in destroying such information.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court did not at this time rule on whether the security certificate against Charkaoui should be revoked. It chose to leave that matter to adjudication at a lower court for the time being, though it will certainly be back before them at a later date.