Don’t be silenced by extremists

In the aftermath of the anti-Muslim Danish cartoons, York political scientists Haideh Moghissi and Saeed Rahnema penned an op-ed piece published in the Toronto Star Feb. 28 with nine other Canadian academics and activists that began: “A curtain of fear has descended on the intelligentisia of the West, including Canada. The fear of being misunderstood as Islamophobic has sealed their lips, dried their pens and locked their keyboards.” They said, “Canadian writers, politicians and media have imposed a frightening censorship on themselves, refusing to speak their minds, thus ensuring that the only voices being heard are that of the Muslim extremists and the racist right.”

Calling on Canadians to stand up for the hardwon democratic values that the Muslim extremists oppose, the group continued: “By rejecting the agenda of the extremists, Canada’s intelligentsia would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the Muslims and secular individuals from the region who reject both Islamophobia and Islamism. Islamism is not the new revolutionary movement against global forces of oppression, as a section of the left in this country erroneously perceives. ” The writers concluded: “Our democratic values, including free speech, should not be compromised under the garb of fighting hate. To fight Islamophobia and racism, we do not need to sacrifice free speech and debate.”

Canada ‘hypocritical’ to order woman’s deportation

A failed refugee claimant from Iran who campaigned against the introduction of sharia law in Ontario could face the same gender persecution she fought in Canada if she is forced back to her native country, a Federal Court was told Monday, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 28. “This woman is the latest victim of the fact that Canada has been incredibly hypocritical,” noted York University sociologist Nandita Sharma, founder of the international refugee-advocacy campaign Open the Borders. “On the one hand saying it supports women who face gender persecution, and on the other hand refusing to grant them [refugee] status in the country. For her to go back to Iran at this time, given her vocal and public opposition to sharia law in Ontario, we are fearful for this woman’s rights upon her return to Iran.”

Canada mulls joint drug reviews with US regulator

An alliance between Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could have some benefit if it brought useful new drugs to the market sooner, says Dr. Joel Lexchin, an emergency physician and professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, reported the National Post Feb. 28. But he warned of possible pitfalls, including coming under the influence of the kind of politics that seemed to affect the FDA’s handling of the morning-after contraceptive pill. While agency scientists recommended the pill be available over the counter, the organization, which is controlled by the Bush administration, ruled women would need a prescription. The FDA is so much larger that there is also the risk that Health Canada’s influence in the process could diminish greatly, Lexchin said. “Could Canada retain an independent capacity?” he asked.

Hearing revealed judge’s personality

After watching members of Parliament publicly question Supreme Court nominee Marshall Rothstein on Monday, Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, told the Ottawa Citizen: “I think it gave us an opportunity to see a little bit about Justice Rothstein. I think it was a very successful first step in this kind of process.” In a Feb. 28 story picked up by CanWest News Service, Monahan also said he is in favour of the new public hearing system for Supreme Court nominees. Monahan also appeared on TVO’s “Studio 2” Feb. 27 to comment on the hearing.

In related news Feb. 28:

  • The Toronto Star’s James Travers wrote: “In commendably clear language, [former Osgoode Hall Law School dean] Peter Hogg warned the committee [questioning Rothstein] against straying into personal beliefs or examining historical and hypothetical cases. What Hogg said and members only occasionally failed to hear is that fitness for Supreme Court service is measured by expertise, not personal opinions. Hogg’s cautionary comments, coupled with Rothstein’s own finely-balanced views of the relationship between courts and legislatures, pretty well sucked the drama out of a highly anticipated moment.” The Record of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo picked up the column from Torstar News Service. Media across the country mentioned Hogg’s advisory role in the historic interview, including the Edmonton Journal, and The Globe and Mail. Hogg also commented on CBC TV’s “Midday News” Feb.27.

Entertainer wants Christian audience to think

The Toronto-based professional actor and dramatist Jason Hillebrand performed two shows of Blue Like Jazz/Live, based on the book by Donald Miller, this past weekend at Youth Quake, the annual gathering of about 3,000 Christians, reported The Times-Herald of Moose Jaw Feb. 27. In it, the character he portrays talks about the first time he saw a naked woman, his experiences at a liberal arts college and his struggles with money. Hildebrand said Christians need to engage in modern culture so as to know the language to speak and the questions to ask. He was born in Ontario and graduated from York in 1996 with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre.

On air

  • Thabit Abdullah, a Baghdad-born history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and author of A Short History of Iraq, said the shrine attack could push Iraq toward civil war or strengthen a resolve to reconcile sectarian differences, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” Feb. 27.
  • Pastor Valle-Garay, a Spanish-language lecturer with York’s Faculty of Arts, commented on the investigation of the murder of a Woodbridge couple in Mexico, on “Global News” Feb. 27.
  • York grad Brent Buckman (BA ’99) is competing on the new season of “The Apprentice”, reported Global TV’s “ET Canada” Feb. 27. The show interviewed Buckman’s mother Miriam and sister Brianne.