Noor Cultural Centre truly lives up to the ideals of Islam

I would like to tell you about one shining example of Muslims who are quietly making a difference in the midst of hostility and discrimination. There are others, but this family has made a vital difference in the lives of many of us, wrote Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, in the Kingston Whig-Standard Sept. 19.

There are hundreds of Islamic centres and mosques in Canada now, especially in the Greater Toronto Area. Among the large number of mosques and centres, one stands out for me as a place of inclusiveness and tolerance.

Hassanali and Noor Lakhani had a passionate dream to establish an institution that reflected their philosophy of life and beliefs as Muslims. In 2003, the family bought the old, vacant Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. They remained true to the design of the Canadian architect, Raymond Moriyama, while changing some internal space for prayers.

The Noor Cultural Centre provides scholarly, cultural and religious activities with lecture series, musical events, children’s classes, celebration of religious events and Friday prayers. As part of their community work, the Lakhanis have established a Noor Chair in Islamic Studies at York University.

Why is this centre a shining example of the true values of Islam? The Lakhanis have put into practice the creed of equality of all humans; the celebration of diversity and the openness to those of other faiths. They make no judgment on others and you will find all are made welcome at the Noor Centre.

Police seek victims of York attacks

Investigators have spoken to one victim but are looking for a second young woman, and possibly others, after arresting a 21-year-old man in connection with two recent sex attacks in the York University Scott Library, wrote The Toronto Sun Sept. 21.

The first woman, 23, was in the library last Tuesday evening when a man followed her down a “secluded” aisle of books and sexually assaulted her, Toronto police said.

She reported the incident to campus security and 31 Division officers responded, but no arrests were made at that time.

An eerily similar attack occurred again Saturday, and this time security managed to nab a suspect.

Police alleged an anonymous caller reported to security that she had been assaulted, but left the library before being interviewed. “We’d really like to talk to her,” Det. Andrew Kis said yesterday of the unknown woman.

He said the same man is believed to be responsible for both attacks. “And we’re concerned there may have been others,” Kis said.

Aaron Zukewich, a student at York, was charged with one count of sexual assault in relation to the Sept. 15 incident.

The second incident is still being probed, Kis said, adding a photo of the accused has not been released for fear of hampering the investigation.

It’s not the first time young women have been targeted at the Keele Street and Steeles Avenue West campus. In March and May of 2008, two women were attacked on separate occasions as they waited for TTC buses. A 45-year-old man was eventually arrested and charged in connection with those incidents after a police sting operation in June of 2008.

  • Toronto police have charged a York University student with sexual assault after a female student was allegedly molested in a secluded area of the campus library, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 21.

A 23-year-old told police a man followed her into the library and assaulted her Sept. 15. On Sept. 18 another woman also reported being molested in the library.

Aaron Zukewich, 21, is charged in the Sept. 15 incident.

  • CP24-TV also reported the arrest in its broadcasts of Sept. 20.

Embattled Vaughan eyes reforms to elections

In a city plagued by low voter turnouts and plenty of reasons for cynicism – given the raft of election-finance charges laid this year against sitting and former politicians – promoting engagement in politics [in Vaughan] is an uphill task, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 21 in a story about 19 recommendations by the Task Force on Democratic Participation and Renewal, a city-appointed group that has spent two years trying to figure out how to perk up citizen interest in municipal government.

Support for [some of] their ideas came from Professor Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, an expert in municipal voting practices.

MacDermid believes most of the funding for elections should come from ordinary citizens. He said the task force’s ideas would be significant in engaging voters and help repair Vaughan’s reputation, which has been damaged by infighting, the results of various audits into council’s use of taxpayer money and the charges facing Mayor Linda Jackson, former mayor Michael Di Biase and Councillor Bernie DiVona.

“All of these things can be done by the city alone and don’t require provincial approval,” MacDermid said.

One idea MacDermid dislikes is the proposal to allow people to vote from home via the Internet using a secure password, arguing it is too open to fraud.

Peruvian terrorist pens memoirs from prison

Abimael Guzman, now 74, has once again managed to muscle his way to the centre of the Peruvian political stage, and he has done so from a prison cell that measures little more than 4 square metres in floor size and in whose inhospitable confines he has been held for most of the past 17 years, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 20 in a story about a new book published clandestinely.

Known to his followers as Presidente Gonzalo, Guzman was, and evidently remains, an ideological purist, condemning most other communist leaders around the world as sellouts. He presented himself as the fourth pillar of global revolution, after Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong.

He had few, if any, scruples about shedding blood. “The assassinations they carried out were absolutely ruthless,” said Professor Emerita Liisa North, an expert on Peru in York’s Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean. “It was so extremist – absolutely, totally doctrinaire and absolutely, totally ruthless in pursuit of its aims.”

One in six first-year university students will not make the grade

Students and professors argue high schools don’t adequately prepare teens for one of the most stressful transition periods they will face – their first year of university. And about one in six students never complete their studies, wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 21 in a story about how universities are combating the problem.

Survey results from the students who left school suggest that they were already struggling with meeting deadlines, academic performance and study behaviour in their first year. York University is offering a fall reading week for the first time. And Trent and Laurentian already have fall breaks for students.

The show must go on, say new owners of Théâtre Ste. Catherine

Can Théâtre Ste. Catherine be successfully reborn as Le Nouveau Théâtre Ste. Catherine? asked the Montreal Gazette Sept. 19 in a story about a York grad trying to overcome controversy generated by a previous owner.

The Ste. Catherine Street East venue’s new artistic director, former York student Alain Mercieca, and new general manager, Mark Louch, sincerely hope so.

Mercieca and Louch had their own underground theatre-in-a-loft on Pine Avenue (Theatre 314), when former owner/artistic director/manager Eric Amber approached them with his offer. That enterprise was about to end, thanks to a neighbour (dubbed “the dream-killer”) who complained to the cops. So the timing was right for a move to a more legit locale.

Mercieca, who was born in Halifax, calls himself “mostly a writer.” One of his creations was Theatre 314’s Café Café, a show made up of vignettes about Montreal theatre life. “But I’m an actor, as well,” he said. He had started out by studying film in New York and dropped out after three years working on his BFA at York University – “I sort of rebelled” – before settling in Montreal.

An Osgoode grad with a culinary spirit makes room for his stove

In remodelling his home, York grad Denzil Minnan-Wong (BA Hons. ’86, LLB ’91) has crafted a living space that reflects his passions for food and flora. “My home mirrors who I am, inside and out,” says the Toronto councillor for Don Valley East (Ward 34), wrote the National Post Sept. 19.

A Parkwoods resident for more than 30 years, a community typified by two-storey dwellings, ranch bungalows and architectures spanning Tudor styles to Georgian Revival, Minnan-Wong grew up three blocks away from his current home. An alumnus of Senator O’Connor College Catholic Secondary School, and graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, he has blazed his own political path, chairing such high-profile committees as Economic Development, Parks & Recreation & Culture, as well as the North York Community Council. He insists he’s never felt a need to live anywhere else.

York prof is in demand as capitalism attracts new critiques

Leftist filmmaker Michael Moore this week unveiled his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, in which he calls the system “evil”, demanding a revolution uproot it, wrote the National Post Sept. 19 in a story about renewed interest in critiques of capitalism.

After the Toronto Star last week gave over its opinion page to his essay – “Marx and his ideas rise from the dustbin of history” – York University’s political scientist and paleo-Marxist Professor Leo Panitch, of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, suddenly finds himself fielding calls from intrigued interviewers.

Firm expands its clean-energy practice with Osgoode/Schulich grad

Imperial Capital Group Ltd. announced that Robert Banack (LLB ’98, MBA ’98) has joined the firm as a managing director, investment banking in the Clean Energy Group, based out of Imperial’s New York office, wrote Marketwire Sept. 21. Banack has over 10 years of experience in investment banking, institutional sales and trading, and the clean energy sector. He will team with Eric Moxham, managing director, investment banking, to expand Imperial Capital’s presence in the clean energy sector. Imperial Capital continues to grow strategically in all three of its divisions: investment banking, institutional sales, and trading and institutional research. Imperial has over 160 employees in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Banack has significant experience in advising and financing clean energy companies across a variety of sectors, including geothermal, wind, solar, wave power technology and waste to energy companies. Banack has an MBA from Schulich School of Business at York University and an LLB from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Three men, a car and a cause

Three young Mississauga men are putting all their trust in a beat-up old car as they embark on a trip through 16 African countries, this Christmas holiday for a cause, wrote The Mississauga News Sept. 19.

Faisal Khan, Wasib Mohammad and Rubendra Sidhu, who have dubbed themselves Idiots Without Borders, are hoping to raise money for local charities in Africa.

The Africa Rally is organized by The Adventurists, a UK-based organization that proclaims that it is “hell bent on saving the world as well as making it less boring.”

The trio is the only Canadian contingent participating in the 30-team 2009 Africa Rally, set to begin Dec. 13. “Everyone told us we were out of our minds to go into so many countries with political turmoil and drive through 5,000 miles and two continents,” said Mohammad, noting they’ll be wholly responsible for their own safety. “But for us it’s about charity and learning about all the cultures and the adventure.”

Khan is studying for his MBA at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

‘Züming’ around Brampton made easier

Brampton’s new bus rapid transit service got an official “send-off” this afternoon at an outdoor groundbreaking ceremony featuring Canada’s finance minister Jim Flaherty, wrote the Brampton Guardian Sept. 18.

Today marks the one-year countdown to the launch of rapid transit service – dubbed Züm – along Queen Street in Brampton.

Züm will be delivered in two phases. The first phase will kick off next year providing service along Queen Street from downtown Brampton to York University.