Articles

Canada’s 149 th Anniversary

Anicka Christine Bakos
is a University of Waterloo graduate with interests in writing, editing and helping Canadian newcomers learn English

Each year on Canada Day special citizenship ceremonies take place throughout the country.‭ ‬I like to take‭ ‬the opportunity each year to reflect upon my experience growing up in‭ ‬Canada.‭ ‬I‭’‬m sure most of us would agree that we live in one of the best places in the world.‭

It‭’‬s no surprise that earlier this year the University of Pennsylvania‭’‬s Wharton School of business and BAV Consulting ranked Canada as the second-best country in the world from among sixty nations in a survey released at the World Economic Forum in Davos,‭ ‬Switzerland.‭ ‬And I think Canada‭’‬s former Governor General the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson would wholeheartedly agree with the survey results.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear the former governor general speak at a lecture at the University of Waterloo.‭ ‬Having arrived from Hong Kong as a refugee at the age of three,‭ ‬Clarkson related some of her own experiences growing up in Canada and reflected on why multiculturalism works so well in this country.‭ ‬Like many of us,‭ ‬she reminisced about being uprooted,‭ ‬coming to a new country and having to‭ ‬“learn new things and new habits”‬.

Clarkson believes that the process of belonging to a new country is an important one.‭ ‬She explained that‭ ‬“When we talk about belonging we have to think of what we belong to,‭ ‬and we can‭’‬t belong unless there is something to belong to.‭ ‬You have to be able to belong,‭ ‬but you also have to be able to criticize,‭ ‬to disagree,‭ ‬and that is fundamental to belonging”‬.

Clarkson believes that Canada has significantly changed for the better.‭ ‬She described Canada as a‭ ‬“white,‭ ‬fairly racist country‭”‬ back in‭ ‬1942‭ ‬where‭ ‬“laws were enacted…‭ ‬to discourage any kind of immigration from China‭”‬ adding that‭ ‬“parts of Canada were intensely racist”‬.

Many of us forget that in fact overt discrimination remained a part of the official Canadian immigration policy up until the latter half of the twentieth century.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1962,‭ ‬new immigration regulations were finally introduced eliminating overt racial discrimination and establishing skills as the main criteria for determining admissibility rather than race or national origin.‭ ‬But it was not until Canada‭’‬s adoption of multiculturalism as an official policy in‭ ‬1971‭ ‬that the cultural diversity of Canadian immigrants began to be promoted as an integral part of the Canadian identity.‭ ‬Clarkson agreed that over the years Canada has become‭ ‬“very good at welcoming people,‭ ‬welcoming refugees,‭ ‬introducing people to new languages‭ [‬and at‭] ‬settlement”‬.

But according to Clarkson,‭ ‬we as a country need to strive to become even better.‭ ‬Clarkson argued that‭ ‬“We also have to feel that all human beings are equal.‭ ‬That everybody is a human being and there is no human being who is more human than any other‭”‬ adding that‭ ‬“That‭’‬s something we have to really internalize because I think it is something that underlies a lot of problems that we face today”‬.

The former governor general described Canada today as‭ ‬“a society…‭ ‬that creates a lateral trust among all equals because we are all equals as human beings,‭ ‬and it’s a key element of our democracy‭”‬ adding that‭ ‬“I think that we have a society that is like a kind of great friendship”‬. She went on to say that‭ “‬It’s very important to know that in order to belong you don’t have to agree with everything,‭ ‬and you don’t have to agree with each other or your leaders.‭ ‬When you come here and you become a citizen you have to say,‭ ‬you know,‭ ‬everything that’s happened in this country up until now I accept and I am part of it now”.

Asked how she coped in her new country in times of difficulty,‭ ‬Clarkson replied,‭ ‬“You look for mentors,‭ ‬you look for people who are going to help you,‭ ‬and that’s what makes me believe so strongly in the public education system‭”‬ adding that‭ ‬“Public education is the single most important thing that we have going for us as an immigrant nation.‭ ‬If we don’t have strong public education we can’t make our values known‭; ‬that is the most important thing”.

Clarkson concluded by reminding her audience,‭ ‬“We have to learn to live in a society of belonging with the levels of discomfort,‭ ‬the difference it brings.‭ ‬Living with that level of discomfort shows sophistication of human activity which differentiates us with what we call the bad side of tribalism.‭ ‬We have to understand that we’ve already created in this country a really remarkable thing”‬.

So as we celebrate Canada‭’‬s‭ ‬149th birthday,‭ ‬let‭’‬s all help to make this the best country in the world‭!

Happy Canada Day‭!

Genocide Denied, Genocide Repeated

Aris Babikian
Journalist and Human Rights Advocate
Aris is a journalist with Horizon Weekly and Nor Hai Horizon TV program. He appeared on numerous TV and radio talk shows (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio and TV, CFRB radio, Michael Coren radio and TV shows, CTV-TV, Rogers Cable, CFMT TV, CTS TV, etc..). A City of Toronto municipal elections candidate (councillor). International elections monitor representing the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe for the 2003 parliamentary elections in Armenia. Human Rights Activist. Participated in the National (Canadian) Umbrella Organizations’ roundtable on the “UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance”. Consulted with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to develop Canada’s international human rights policies. Participated in consultation meetings with high-level federal officials regarding changes to the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship Act. Prepared briefs and testified at House of Commons Heritage Committee hearings related to multicultural, Canadian culture and heritage issues and the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC). Chairman, Political Affairs Committee, Canadian Ethnocultural Council. Served on media, immigration, census, redress and political action committees of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council
Awards:
* Ontario Volunteer Service Award (25 years of service)
* The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal
* The Canadian Ethnocultural Council’s Citation for Outstanding Services
* Canada’s 125th Confederation Commemorative Medal
and he is fluent in English, Armenian, Greek, Arabic

Genocide Denied, Genocide Repeated
Ninety One Years after exterminating 1.5 million Armenians, Turkey still denies responsibility

Imagine a country that denies the Holocaust. Imagine that the same country insists that Jews were killed because they were disloyal to Germany and were also guilty of killing German soldiers during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Bizarre? Fiendish? Ridiculous statements which do not deserve a response? Yet something very similar has been asserted for the past 90 years by Turkey. Despite hundreds of books by genocide scholars, tons of documents in German, Austrian, British, French, American and Russian archives, eyewitness accounts, diplomatic reports and countless Western newspaper reports, the Turkish Government inexplicably denies that, in 1915, it committed a deliberate, government-organized genocide against its Armenian minority.

It should be noted that unlike Holocaust deniers, such as Ernst Zundle and Jim Keegstra, who constitute the lunatic fringe of society, historical revisionism in the case of the Armenian Genocide is being carried out by the Turkish government.

Pre-Genocide Conditions

The Armenian Genocide was the first state-sponsored and painstakingly planned Genocide of the 20th Century. The mass annihilation of the Armenians from their 3,000-year-old ancestral homeland during the First World War was the final act in a long history of repression and massacres by Ottoman Turkish Governments. In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan, after signing the Treaty of Berlin (1878), a peace treaty with the Great Powers (Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Austria-Hungary), promising to implement reforms to ensure the protection of Armenians, reneged on his promises and guarantees and the condition of Armenians in the six provinces of historical Armenia deteriorated even further. According to Article 61 of the treaty, the Sultan was obliged to implement reforms in the Eastern Provinces where most Armenians lived. However, Sultan Abdul Hamid (1876-1908), fearing the loss of further territory, delayed the implementation of the promised reforms, and instead between 1894-1896 unleashed unprecedented slaughters claiming 300,000 Armenian lives. In its Sep. 10, 1895 issue, one New York Times headline, among hundreds of reports that year on the massacre of Armenians, heralded, “Another Armenian Holocaust”, which showed that the massacres of Armenians in the earlier periods were but a precursor of what was to follow in 1915.

The July 1908 revolution by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), better known as “The Young Turks”, against the bloody rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid brought fresh hopes of civil and human rights reforms to the Greek, Armenian, Jewish, Kurdish and Assyrian minorities. However, the crushing military defeats (1909-1913) of the Ottoman Army in the Balkans and in North Africa, the migration of Balkan Turkic refugees to the Armenian provinces and the fear of the revival of the Armenian reform issue, aggravated the plight of the Armenians. In January 1913 a coup d’etat by nationalistic and extremist officers of the Young Turks sealed the fate of the Armenians. After the successful coup d’etat of the radical Young Turks, headed by the triumvirate of Ismail Enver, Jemal Pasha, and Mehmed Talaat, a new ideology of expanding the empire of Turkish-speaking people from Turkey to the Caucasus to Central Asia became the modus operandi of the new government in Constantinople (known today as Istanbul). The Turkish nationalists saw the Armenians as an obstacle to a Pan-Turkish Empire.

The Outbreak of the First World War

The outbreak of the First World War presented the perfect opportunity for the triumvirate to implement their “Final Solution” of “the Armenian problem” — to “cleanse” the region once and for all of Armenians to create the dream of a Turkish Empire.

The 1915 genocide was different from the previous Armenian massacres of 1894-1896 and 1909 in that it was carefully planned and organized. In July 1914, representatives of the Turkish Government attended the Eighth Annual Congress of the Dashnag Armenian party and attempted to persuade their leaders to instigate Russian Armenians to rise up against the tsar when the impending war broke out. The Dashnag leaders refused to involve the Russian Armenian people in such an adventure. They pledged that in case of war, they would ensure the loyalty of Ottoman Armenians, that they would enlist in the army to defend Turkey. At the time the area of historic Armenia was occupied by two empires–the Ottoman and the Russian.

The Dashnag’s kept their word. Twenty-four hours after a secret military and political treaty was signed by Turkey and Germany (August 2, 1914) and general mobilization was declared, 250.000 Ottoman Armenians, between the ages of 20 to 45 enlisted in the Turkish army. On the Russian side, Armenians were conscripted as well in the tsar’s army. In 1914, The Turkish government declared war on Russia by attacking the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. On the Eastern Front, Enver launched an attack on Russian forces and occupied Kars. In early 1915, the Russian Army, with the help of Russian Armenian volunteers, counterattacked and inflicted a crushing blow to Enver in Sarikmish. Enver’s humiliating defeat was the death knell for the Ottoman Armenians.

Genocide in Motion

After the Sarikmish disaster, using the pretext of Armenians’ treachery, sabotage and collaboration with the Russian army, the ruling triumvirate issued a decree to disarm Armenian conscripts in the Ottoman army and herd them into labour battalions. The 250,000 disarmed Armenian soldiers therefore became the first victims of the genocide, months before the deportations formally began. In April, just before the deportation of all Armenians, the Armenian civil, religious, intellectual and professional leaders began their death march. Over 600 Armenian leaders in Constantinople and 2,345 in the provinces were summoned, arrested and executed on the night of April 23-24, 1915.

After the Armenian elite was wiped out and the Armenian population left defenceless and leaderless to organise serious resistance, the third stage of the Genocide was set in motion. Armenians were ordered to leave their cities, villages and towns on the pretext of “military necessity.” They were not allowed to take essential goods or provisions of survival. Once the women, children and elderly were marched out of populated areas, the “Special Organization”,(known as the Teshkilati Mahsusa) or “death squads”, consisting of violent criminals released just for this duty, and irregular troops, even gendarmes who were supposed to protect the deportees, attacked, raped, starved and killed the defenceless caravans. Survivors were marched to the Syrian Dessert and were either drowned in the Euphrates River or burned alive in a series of underground caves— primitive gas chambers—near Deir el-Zor, in Syria. To cover their heinous crime from the very beginning, the Young Turks suspended the Ottoman parliament, instituted martial law, and issued, on May 27, 1915, the Temporary Law of Deportation. Furthermore, to confiscate the property and goods of the deported Armenians, the Young Turks, on September 27, 1915 issued the Law of Abandoned Goods.

Genocidal Intent

It is abundantly clear today, as it was even in 1915, that what happened to the Armenians was not the result of “civil strife”, “rebellion” or “military necessity” as successive Turkish governments continue to claim in shameful defence. The Armenian Genocide was a state-sponsored and state-sanctioned plan. At a 1910 conference in Salonika, Young Turk leader Talaat stated, “there can be no question of equality [for minorities] until we have concluded our task of Ottomanizing the empire.” Three months later the Young Turk leadership approved Talaat’s plan in a secret meeting. It is noteworthy that as early as January 11, 1915, months before the formal deportations and killings, the New York Times, in a bold headline on page two, published a blatant warning by Talaat, “Says Turks Advise Christians to Flee.” It is also not surprising to find that, two days later, on page three of the New York Times for January 13, 1915, we find another ominous warning by Turkey’s leader, “Talaat Declares There is Only Room for Turks in Turkey.” The full portent of this warning was yet to be fully understood. It was not until the spring and summer of 1915 that its full meaning became clear to all. If this does not express intent, what, pray tell, does?

The creation of the Special Organization on August 5, 1914 — killing units comprised of released violent criminals, brigands and Turkish refugees from the Balkans — is further proof of the Young Turks’ intent. Dissolving the Parliament at the start of the WW1 was another indication of the Young Turks intent to have a free hand to implement their plan. German, Austrian and American diplomats, missionaries and eyewitness reports, dispatches and other accounts further corroborate the premeditated intention at race extermination. In this regard German military and diplomatic sources are especially important. Germany was a military and political ally of Turkey and each unit in the Ottoman Army had a German military advisor. No one would question German documents or accuse Germany of war propaganda against Turkey, as the Turks do British, French, Russian and American documents.

The disingenuous Turkish argument that Ottoman Turkey had no intention or ability to carry a plan of exterminating the Armenians in a time of war when the Turkish Army was preoccupied with fighting on many fronts, has been refuted by impartial historians, even by some Turkish officials and scholars.

General Vehib Pasha, Commander of the Turkish Third Army, in his deposition read during the March 29, 1919 session of the Turkish Government court martial stated

“The massacre and destruction of the Armenians and the plunder and pillage of their goods were the results of decisions reached by Ittihad (the ruling Young Turks party) Central Committee . . . the atrocities were carried out under a program that was determined upon and involved a definite case of premeditation”

Senator Resit Akif Pasha, president of the post-war state council, declared in November 1918, during the Ottoman Parliament debate on the Armenian massacres:“ While humbly occupying my post of President of State Council, to my surprise, I came across a strange [combination] of official orders. One of them, was issued by the notorious Interior Ministry, the order for deportation. The other, however was an ominous secret circular issued by Ittihad’s (Young Turks) Central Committee. It directed the provincial party units to proceed with the execution of the accursed plan. Thereupon the brigands went into action and atrocious massacres were the result”

Mustafa Arif, Interior Minister of Turkey (1918-1919), in a Turkish newspaper interview in December 1918, stated:

“Unfortunately, our wartime leaders, imbued with a spirit of brigandage, carried out the law of deportation in a manner that could surpass the proclivities of the most bloodthirsty bandits. They decided to exterminate the Armenians, and they did exterminate them. This decision was taken by the Central Committee of the Young Turks and was implemented by the government”

Righteous Turks

Not all Turks were willing participants in the Genocide. Many righteous Turks and men of integrity saved their Armenian neighbours and friends from slaughter. Some Turkish officials, the governors of Marash and Aleppo for example, refused to carry out the central government’s orders to massacre the Armenians. For their disobedience, these governors and officials were dismissed from their posts and punished, others were even killed. The Armenian Genocide was not a religious conflict between Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks, even though religion was one of the tools used by the Young Turks to excite and galvanize the masses toward exterminating Armenians. The conflict, if it can be called that, was brought about because of the extremely nationalistic leaders’ ambitions of creating a new and expansionist Pan-Turkic Order.

If it were not for the Muslim Arabs in the Syrian Peninsula many Armenians would not have survived. In 1917 the Sharif of Mecca, Sharif Ali al Hussayn, issued a decree for the protection of Armenians. In his decree he stated:

“What is requested of you is to protect and to take good care of everyone from the Jacobite Armenian community living in your territories and frontiers and among your tribes; to help them in all of their affairs and defend them as you would defend yourselves, your properties and children, and provide everything they might need whether they are settled or moving from place to place, because they are the Protected People of the Muslims”

The “Malta Tribunals” and the Turkish Military Tribunal

On many occasions the Turkish government uses the so-called “Malta Tribunals”, to justify its assertion that the Allies did not find conclusive evidence to try Young Turk leaders for war crimes against the Armenians and thus released them. In fact, however, there were no “Malta Tribunals”. The British camp and affiliated residences in Malta were strictly detention centres, where the Turkish suspects were held for future prosecution on charges of crimes perpetrated against the Armenians. However, largely because of political expediency, the envisaged international trials never materialized. The victorious Allies, lapsing into dissension and mutual rivalries, chose instead to strike separate deals with the ascendant Ataturk. One such deal concerned the recovery of British subjects held hostage by Turkey who were to be released in exchange for the liberation of all Malta detainees. Commenting on this deal for the exchange, which he later deplored as “a great mistake”, British Foreign Affairs Minister Lord Curzon wrote: “The less we say about these people [the Turks detained at Malta] the better…I had to explain why we released the Turkish deportees from Malta skating over thin ice as quickly as I could. There would have been a row I think . . . the staunch belief among members [of Parliament is] that one British prisoner is worth a shipload of Turks, and so the exchange was excused.” It is, therefore, misleading to state that Turkish leaders were released because the British did not find evidence to convict them.

More importantly, and directly related to the issue of criminal intent, the Turkish Military Tribunal and courts martial (Nov 1918 – May 1919) formed by postwar Ottoman authorities to try the Ittihadist (Young Turk) leaders and cabinet ministers for war related crimes did in fact yield invaluable evidence, and enough proof, if any were needed, that led to the indictment of the Young Turk leadership. The key charge of premeditated mass murder organized by the Young Turks was fully substantiated. The tribunal cited “the massacres against the Armenians” in various parts of the Ottoman Empire. It found that these massacres were “organized and executed” by “the Ittihadist (Young Turk) leaders”, a fact which was “investigated and ascertained” by the tribunal. Among those convicted and sentenced to death were Interior Minister, later Grand Vizier, Talaat, and the two top military leaders, War Minister Enver Pasha, and Minister of the Navy and Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman Fourth army, Jemal Pasha.

In its final verdict, published in the Official Gazette of the Ottoman Empire (Takvim-i-Vekayi), May 26, 1919, the tribunal concluded that “Members and leaders of the Ittihad ve Tereakki (Young Turks) Party in Istanbul and in the provinces were deeply involved in the activities of the “Teshkilat Mahsusa” (Special Organization). They used the Special Organization to carry out massacres, for setting buildings and corpses on fire, for destruction of villages, and dishonouring and torturing woman.

“. . . as is evident from the details of its correspondence, the Committee [Young Turks] had evolved and approved secret plans and special goals and had recourse to the imposition of tyrannical measures of very kind in order to have its programs accepted without exception . . . it is evident that the Committee pre-planned and organized all the crimes which were committed. So, the Committee ruled against Ottoman subject—individuals, communities and peoples without exception, in order to attain its goals . . .”

World Reaction

At the time of the Genocide, newspapers around the world were full of reports detailing what was happening to Armenians, among them the prestigious New York Times, which published more than 200 articles on the genocide between 1915 and 1917 alone. Canadian newspapers were no different. Within two days of the start of the genocide, on April 26, 1915, the Toronto Daily Star reported: “Terrible Tales of Armenian Slaughter—Ten Villages Wiped Out in Massacres by Mohamedans—Mothers Threw Their Babes in Rivers to Save Them From Death by Hunger.” The Nov. 29, 1915 issue of the Ottawa Journal headline reads “50,000 Armenians massacred by Turks—Saturnalia of Slaughter by Refined Methods as Young Turks Set Out to Wipe Armenian Race off the World.” “Threw 10,000 People into Sea to Perish—Turks Have Practically Wiped Out the Entire People of Armenia”, the October 7, 1915 issue of the Toronto Daily Star states. The Toronto Globe in its October 23, 1915 issue declared “Million Armenians Wiped out by Turkey—Only 200,000 Armenians Inhabitants of Turkey Now Remain in Country”. In addition to newspaper reports, there were thousands of American, German, Austrian, Danish, Italian, Norwegian, French, and British eyewitnesses, and countless documented reports by diplomats, military officers and missionaries.

Perhaps even more important in setting a future precedent for international law was the May 24, 1915 joint declaration by Great Britain, France and Russia in their public warning to Turkish leaders, which was also published on page one of the New York Times on May 24, 1915, “In view of those new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the Allied governments announce publicly to the Sublime-Port that they will hold personally responsible [for] these crimes all members of the Ottoman Government and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres”. The Armenian case was later cited during the Nuremberg trials 1945-46 as the basis for the emergence of the Nuremberg Law on Crimes Against Humanity by Sir Hartley Shawcross, the British Chief Prosecutor. It was also cited in the 1948 U N War Crimes Commission Report. In its preface to the Report it stated, “. . . the warning given to the Turkish Government on this occasion by the Governments of the Triple Entente dealt precisely with one of the types of acts which the modern term ‘crimes against humanity’ is intended to cover, namely, inhumane acts committed by a government against its own subjects”

At the end of the war and as a condition of its surrender, Turkey accepted its responsibility for the Armenian Genocide when it signed the Peace Treaty with Armenia and the Allied Powers on August 10, 1920. Articles 88, 89,141, 144, were included in the Treaty of Sevres to remedy the injustice done to the Armenian people as a result of the Turkish Government’s campaign of extermination and the Turkish Government’s obligations to redress the Armenian people’s grievances.

The Great Betrayal

During the next two years two key developments in the Middle East and the Caucasus were major factors in the Allies’ betrayal of the Armenian issue and the Armenian people’s quest for justice.

The discovery of oil (the Great Came) in the Middle East and in the Caspian Sea, and the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia emboldened Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, to renegotiate the Treaty of Sevres. The disunited and squabbling Allies, who were fighting among themselves to get access to the oil fields and to stop the spread of communism, yielded to Ataturk’s demands and signed the Lausanne Treaty in July 1923. According to the treaty the Armenian issue was scrapped and the Treaty of Sevres’ commitments to the Armenian people and the creation of an Armenian homeland were excluded from the Lausanne Treaty.

Denial

Since then, for the past 85 years, successive Turkish governments have denied the genocide. The Turkish government spends millions of dollars on public relations firms, hiring top-heavy international PR firms to distort the truth about the Armenian Genocide. It also organizes junkets—in the style of the old Soviet Union—for politicians and journalists to promote its distorted version of history. Furthermore, it establishes university chairs to influence scholars to deny the Genocide. The Turkish government in its propaganda campaign uses a battery of digressions, excuses, half-truths, and obfuscations in its arsenal of denial. Let’s examine some of these claims and outline the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide by using mainly Turkish, Austrian and German sources to expose the distortions of the Turkish government. As Turkey’s allies during WWI, Austria and Germany could hardly be accused of harbouring an anti-Turkish attitude.

The cornerstone of the Turkish government’s policy of denial is that whatever happened during WWI it was inter-communal violence and the result of Armenian rebellion. It was communal infighting if an organized attack by an empire’s army on an unarmed minority can be described as such. How could an unarmed Armenian population of mainly women, children and the elderly even contemplate an armed struggle against a majority population backed by a mighty empire, an ally of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires? The consensus among German and Austrian officials who were in Turkey at the time was that there was no rebellion by the Armenian population. These documents survive and are available for all to see.

In a 72 page report to Berlin (September 18, 1916), German Ambassador Count Wolff Metternich wrote:

“There was neither a concerted general uprising nor was there a fully valid proof that such a synchronized uprising was planned or organized”

Describing the futile and spotty Armenian resistance, Dr. Max Erwin Scheubner-Richter (German vice-consul in Erzerum, in eastern Turkey), wrote in a dispatch dated December 6, 1916: “They [the Turkish leaders] were planning on fabricating, for the benefit of Allied Powers, an alleged revolution stirred up by the Dashnak [Armenian] party. They also planed to inflate the importance of isolated incidents and acts of self-defense by the Armenians and use it as an excuse to deport the targeted population which then would be massacred by escorting gendarmes and assorted gangs”

Vice-Marshall Joseph Pomiankowski, Austro-Hungary’s military plenipotentiary, who during the war was attached to Ottoman general headquarters, described the self-defense of the Armenians as follows: “The Van uprising certainly was an act of desperation. The local Armenians realized that the general butchery against the Armenians had started and that they would be the next victims”. Collapse of the Ottoman Empire (1928).

Chief among Turkish government’s distortions is the accusation that Armenians sided with the enemy–tsarist Russia. Hans Wangenheim, German Ambassador to Turkey stated: “It is obvious that the banishment of Armenians is due not solely to military considerations. Talaat Bey, the Minister of the Interior, has quite frankly said that the Turkish Government intended to make use of the World War and Deal thoroughly with its internal enemies. Turkey’s goal was to “resolve its Armenian Question by the destruction of the Armenian race”

In an Orwellian touch, Turkey calls the deportation of Armenians to the deserts of Syria as “relocation . . . for their protection, from dangerous areas.” perhaps Jews were also ‘relocated’ from Danzig to Dachau for their protection. An empire notorious for mistreating its minorities (Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Arabs, Jews, and Assyrians . . .) apparently decided to ‘protect’ Armenians and send women and children, without food and on foot, to the searing desert of Syria, to die of hunger and exposure.

If Turkish Government’s concern was to move Armenians from the war front, why were countless Armenians relocated from the hinterland, thousands of miles away from the war front?

The testimony of Ali Fuad Erden, the chief of staff of Jemal Pasha, the commander-in-chief of the Fourth Ottoman Army, debunked Turkey’s lame excuse when he wrote in his memoirs:

“There was neither preparation nor organization to shelter the hundreds of thousands of the deportees”

Wolfdieter Bihl, in his 1975 book, The Caucasus Policy of the Central Powers (Part I), unequivocally proves that the Turkish government’s relocation campaign was a ruse. He wrote: “. . . [The authorities] did not bother to deport the Armenians; rather, massacres were perpetrated on the spot. In a singular bloodlust, torture and slaughter were resorted to . . . these measures were not limited to the theatres of war but were extended to the Black Sea coast, Cilicia and Western Anatolia”

To confuse people and to muddy the issue, Turkey and its apologists say that more Turks died during WWI than Armenians. The two losses are not interrelated. Armenians had nothing to do with Turkish deaths. Turks had everything to do with Armenian deaths. The majority of Turkish losses was the direct result of armed warfare, which pitted one group of armed combatants against another. The Armenian losses were the result of a government-sponsored plan of extermination of an unarmed population. Even Turkey’s friends, such as Michael M. Gunter, rejects such comparisons: Mr. Gunter wrote:

“That even more Turks [than Armenians] also died during World War I is both true, but largely irrelevant to the argument here because most of the many Turkish deaths resulted from hostilities against the Allies, not the Armenians”

Judgment of Experts, historians et al

Hundreds of historians, scholars, Holocaust and genocide experts, and statesmen have studied the relevant facts related to the events of 1915-1917 and have concluded that the massacre of the Armenians constituted genocide. Indeed, every single independent panel of experts convened to review the facts of these events has also so concluded, including the 1985 Report on Genocide by the United Nations Sub-Commission under Benjamin Whitaker, and more recently in February 4, 2003, by the International Center for Transitional Justice in its legal analysis and finding.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel

Jurist Raphael Lemkin, who drafted the U N Convention on Genocide and coined the word “Genocide” in 1948, on many occasions cited the attempt to annihilate the Armenians as a clear case of genocide as defined by the U N Convention on Genocide. In his autobiography, Professor Lemkin wrote:

“I identified myself more and more with the suffering of the victim, whose numbers grew, as I continued my study of history. I understand that the function of memory is not only to register past events, but to stimulate human conscience. Soon contemporary examples of genocide followed, such as the slaughter of the Armenians in 1915”

Elsewhere in the book he says: “. . . A bold plan was formulated in my mind. This consisted [of] obtaining the ratification by Turkey [of the proposed UN Convention on Genocide. Ed] among the first twenty founding nations. This would be an atonement for [the] genocide of the Armenians”

Non-Armenian and non-partisan historians have verified the reality of the Armenian Genocide. The International Association of Genocide Scholars, an eminent body of scholars who study Genocide, at its 1997 convention, adopted a resolution unanimously reaffirming that, “The mass murder of over a million Armenians in Turkey in 1915 is a case of genocide which conforms to the statutes of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It further condemns the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government and its official and unofficial agents and supporters”

On April 23, 1999, more than 150 distinguished scholars and writers (among them Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney, Wloe Soyinka and Derek Walcott, in addition to Deborah E. Lipstadt, Norman Mailer, Helen Fine, Robert Melson, Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Harold Pinter, Roger Smith, Daniel Goldhagen, Susan Sontag, William Styron, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates, Alfred Kazin, Grace Paley, D. M Thomas,) published a declaration in the Washington Post stating: “ We denounce as morally and intellectually corrupt the Turkish Government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.” They went on to ask governments around the world “to refer to the 1915 annihilation of the Armenians as genocide”

On June 9, 2000, 126 Holocaust scholars (among them Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Professor Yehuda Bauer, Professor Israel Charny, Professor Irving L. Horowitz, Professor Steven Jacobs, Professor Steven Katz, Dr. Elizabeth Maxwell, Professor Saul Mendlowitz, Professor Jack Needle, Professor Samuel Totten) published a statement in The New York Times: “. . . affirming that the World War I Armenian Genocide is an incontestable historical fact and accordingly urge the governments of Western democracies to likewise recognize as such”

Conclusion

The Turkish government’s policy of denial reminds one of Orson Welles’ hall of mirrors in “Lady From Shanghai”, where a single image is reflected ad infinitum, without adding anything new. No credible historian gives credence to the Turkish government’s propaganda and insistence on the same revisionist views. The historical reality of the Armenian Genocide is well documented. It is not what the “Armenians say” but what international historians, statesmen of repute, and genocide experts have said repeatedly. The Canadian Senate (June 2002), the House of Commons (April 2004), and the two largest provinces in Canada (Ontario and Quebec) have already recognized the Armenian Genocide.

The Canadian Armenian community does not bear any animosity towards the Canadian Turkish community. On the contrary, we sympathize with the Turkish people. They have been misled for too many years by their own government. We are confident that once the Turkish government halts its campaign of falsification of history and focuses on the genocide issue without hysteria and paranoia, the Turkish people will be able to acknowledge the misdeeds of their predecessors and extend a hand of friendship to the Armenian people.

In recent years many righteous Turks—particularly scholars and journalists—have spoken against their government’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide.

In an interview with France’s L’Express (November 11, 2000), Halil Berktay, Professor of history at the University of Sabanci in Istanbul, said, “I believe that we must rid ourselves of the taboos that surround the events of 1915 . . . for decades we have been putting Turkish opinion to sleep with the same lullabies. Meanwhile, there are a ton of documents proving the sad reality: diplomatic reports and their personal notes, testimonies that went West from intermediaries from Christian schools established in the Ottoman Empire, photos . . . I even cried upon discovering certain clichés”. In a response to a question if the taboo of the Armenian question will fall in Turkey, Professor Berktay stated, “We will get there when we live in a free society. It is only under these conditions that we would be able to face the reality of the horrors of 1915”

Significantly, over 12,000 Turks, members of the German-Turkish Association Opposed to Genocide, signed a petition (December 2000) stating: “what we have learned at school [in Turkey] is a forgery of history”. They asked the Turkish Government to repent for the crime of Genocide which “we feel morally obliged to end their [Armenians] disillusions and agony”. Furthermore, the association asked for “international condemnation of the crimes committed against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian-Greeks”

The intention of reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide is to address the injustice that took place 90 years ago and to play a positive role in the healing process for survivors and their descendants. The reaffirmation by Turkey and its people is about joining the international community and sending a message to despotic regimes that the civilized world will not tolerate crimes against humanity, no matter when or where they happened. The reaffirmation is about condemning any attempt to rewrite history, and finally, it’s about learning from the mistakes of the past to prevent future genocides. The reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide is a moral and ethical imperative. We owe it not only to the victims and survivors of the Genocide but to all mankind.

Because of the Turkish Government’s refusal to face its dark past, the process of healing— so essential to international peace and harmony—has not even begun for Armenians. As genocide scholars have shown, the last act of genocide is denial of the crime, for it seeks “to rehabilitate the perpetrators and demonize the victims”

The denial of the Armenian Genocide is also an encouragement for the repetition of genocide, as it eventually did happen in the Ukraine, Germany, Cambodia and Rwanda. Yesterday Armenians, who tomorrow?

We should not allow Hitler’s contemptuous remark, “who remembers nowadays the Armenians?” to haunt us forever. What people of good will choose to forget, tyrants seldom do

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Andrew Telegdi photo by Jean-Marc Carisse 2005 056

HON Andrew Telegdi MP

Regarding The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Vol 15 # 1 2006

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms both defines and reflects the Canadian social, political and judicial reality and as such is what distinguishes us from the other nations in the world. It was formed as recognition of past injustices and serves as a guiding light for a better future. Finally, it provides a moral and legal basis to guide our democratic and legislative processes.

To quote from Prime Minister Chretien:

“There is one thing key in the life of a nation, it is to make sure the rights of the citizen are protected by the court in our land and not subject to the capricious elected”. KW Record May 18, 2000

Paul Martin echoed this sentiment when he said:

“I fundamentally believe that governments cannot discriminate on a question of rights”. Globe & Mail April 29, 2003

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the Queen signed The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as part of the Constitution Act on April 17, 1982. It is ironic that twenty years after that historic event, as indicated in a Leger Marketing Poll, less than half of Canadians could mention even one of the human right and civil liberties that the Charter protects. This situation needs to be redressed.

I believe that at this time, we must put in place national institutions that will ensure that Canadians are educated regarding how the Charter protects their human rights and civil liberties, that ensure that the word and spirit of the Charter is a central guiding principle in drafting future legislation and that celebrate our rights and freedoms while we commemorate and atone for past injustices to specific ethnic or cultural groups that may want restitution. To these ends I propose:

The establishment of April 17th as a National Day of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to acknowledge and commemorate the acts of unjust discrimination perpetrated upon various Canadian ethnics, cultural and religious minorities, throughout our history by the enactment and enforcement of unjust citizenship, immigration and other policies

and

The establishment of a Hall of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with a view to : defining why the Charter was put in place, promoting an understanding among Canadians as to how the Charter operates to ensure that all members of our society have equal status and equal rights before the law and underlining the importance of the Charter in securing the civil liberties of all Canadians

Historical Backgrounder

The Aboriginal peoples were the first to populate Canada and thousands of years later Europeans from France and later the British Isles arrived.

Since Confederation, Canada has adapted its immigration policies to meet the changing needs of the nation. Canada’s early immigration policies reflected the concepts of racist stereotyping and racial superiority present in Canadian society at that time. Laws were enacted in order to maintain the Caucasian and Christian demographic of the country.

Prime examples of these discriminatory immigration policies -restricted through legislation – of certain ethnic groups, based on race, ethnic origin, religion etc are the Asian Exclusion Act – the infamous Chinese head tax of 1885 and the continuous-journey prohibition of 1906, meant to keep Indian nationals from entering the country. This dark period in our immigration history was marked by some shameful events. One occurred in 1914 when 376 East Indian immigrants were forcefully confined for two months aboard the liner the Komagata Maru as it lay off Vancouver harbour. The BC Supreme Court eventually upheld a federal exclusion order and the boat, escorted by a Canadian war ship, and was forced to sail back to Calcutta where arrival 29 passengers were shot and 20 eventually died.

Another event occurred during the Second World War when Canada actively restricted the entry of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and the informal, unspoken Canadian policy was “. . . none is too many”. In 1939, 907 Jewish refugees aboard the Liner St. Louis were denied entry. The boat was forced to return to Europe, where at least 240 of the passengers died in Nazi concentration camps.

The internment of thousands of innocent and loyal ethnic Japanese, German, Italian, Austro-Hungarians and Ukrainian Canadians during the World Wars, the forceful repatriation of thousands of Canadians of Japanese ancestry, half of them Canadian born, to a war devastated Japan were other significant manifestations of racism and discrimination by our government

The government directed immigration department resources to recruiting people from the countries of western and northern Europe and the USA.

Canadian immigration regulations were liberalized in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Canada accepted tens of thousands of Italians, Czechs, Hungarians, and other previously non-preferred European nationalities and people from Indo-China and immigrants and refugees from Third World countries. At that time the Immigration Act was amended cease discrimination on the basis of race or religion.

The increase in the ethnic mix of our nation and the growth of communication technology in the electronic news and entertainment media meant Canadians were more exposed to people of different racial, religious and cultural origins. This contact and the education it provided contributed to Canadian society entering a new era of inclusiveness. The government responded to these changes in social attitudes with the passing of a new Immigration Act in 1968. For the first time in our history a totally non-discriminatory, non-racist immigration policy with special concerns for family re-unification and refugees was enshrined in Canadian law.

Since 1990 Canada has, on a per capita basis, accepted more refugees than any country in the world. We have the highest acceptance rate of claimants as well, with 20,000 to 25,000 refugees receiving landed status each year. We are also one of only three nations that operate major resettlement programs. We also accept twice as many immigrants annually as any other country and offer financial support to thousands of immigrants to assist in their establishment in our society.

Our immigration policy will continue to strike a balance between our belief in justice and helping those in need, and our desire to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to maintain our way of life. The Canadian public supports a controlled, limited and voluntary immigration. We are concerned that those upon whom we bestow citizenship will be productive contributors to our nation. Canadians are a people of great racial, religious and ethnic diversity. We have come from all parts of the world. The cultural mosaic that has become our nation is and will continue to be our greatest strength. While the world continues to be a place filled with expressions of racial hatred and international conflict, we in Canada have learned to live in peace and harmony with each other and our neighbours. This may well be our proudest accomplishment. The establishment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 reflects both reflect our values of fairness and tolerance and supports the tolerance that distinguished our society by ensuring that the law and the government treated every Canadian equally. The new Millennium offers us the opportunity to continue as a world leader, promoting and supporting humanitarian and democratic causes. It also presents Canadians with the challenge to finally rid our society of the last vestiges of racism. The establishment of both a National Day and a Hall of the Canadian Charter Rights and Freedoms would serve this purpose well

Rationale

National Day of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter Day)

Citizenship and immigration policy in Canada, both before and after Confederation, is replete with acts of discrimination that have resulted at various times in the unjust disenfranchisement, incarceration, deportation, internment, crippling, lifelong psychological injury or loss of life of members of virtually every ethnic, racial and religious group in Canada.

To our credit, various provincial and federal governments in the past two or three decades have made an effort to redress the hardships these acts have inflicted on members of some of these groups.

The federal government has made redress to the Japanese Canadian community for the internments and loss of assets.

However, amends have not been made for the past injustices experienced by the members of many other groups. At this time both the Ukrainians and Chinese Canadians and their descendants who experienced injustice are demanding that they received special recognition and in some cases restitution, and this presents several problems for present government.

It brings up the thorny question: How do we acknowledge and make amends for past mistakes that have taken many forms, lasted for different durations, impacted on varying numbers of individuals in any particular group or were of greater or lesser severity in terms of personal or cultural suffering?

Another equally difficult question arises: To what extent are present day Canadians responsible, financially or otherwise, for acts such as the expulsion of the Acadians or the impact of the Durham Report that recommended the assimilation of French Canadians, which took place under jurisdictions that no longer exist or were perpetrated by Parliaments of Canada at a time that preceded the arrival of the ancestors of most present day Canadians?

In coming to a resolution to these questions, we must agree to base our actions on the following premises:

1. Recent governments did not pass the laws that caused this suffering

2. It is time that we, as a people, let go of our collective sense of guilt regarding acts for which very few – if any – of us living today are responsible

3. At the same time, we must never forget the injustices of the past, and therefore must ensure that it does not occur again

To this end we must be mindful to enact laws and establish institutions that serve to remind us of the dangers to democracy and to each and every one of us inherent in acts of prejudice and discrimination against those who are different.

We have an obligation as a just, fair-minded nation to acknowledge the impact of these acts on those affected and express our deepest, sincere regrets.

Those who forget the lessons of history are destined to repeat their mistakes

A National Day of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be a time to heal old wounds, to remember and understand our errors of the past, to recognize the dangers inherent in fearing rather than celebrating our differences and perhaps most importantly it would be a day to bolster our sense of unity as a people.

It would be a day when Canadians from different cultures could share their stories, recount the hardships they experienced in the old country and the battles they have fought to make Canada their home, thereby creating mutual understanding among us in order to dispel the myths and the lies that breed discrimination. This is particularly true since 9/11 and the fears it has instilled.

As members of a fair and just society, one that prides itself as a beacon of liberty and freedom in a world, it is incumbent upon us to remember the unjust, discriminatory laws that inflicted untold suffering and hardships on loyal, innocent Canadians.

We must pay particular attention to the injustices and racist policies perpetrated upon the Aboriginal Peoples – the First Nations, a situation that sadly continues to this day, not forgetting the abuses to native children in the Residential Schools.

On Remembrance Day, we commemorate the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers in wartime to preserve our freedom. We do so, in part, to understand who we are as a people, remember those who gave so much so we could have what we do today and this bolsters the value of Canadian citizenship.

On Canada Day, we celebrate who we are today.

A National Day for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – on April 17th -coinciding with the date of the establishment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – would be a special day that celebrates our history and where we came from, while remembering the sacrifices and injustices experienced by our ancestor in creating this great country.

Hall of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into being on April 17, 1982, as part of the Constitution Act of Canada. This year we are proud to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this monumental achievement of our democracy.

The Charter was motivated by Canada’s desire to protect its citizenry from the possibility of a future government creating unjust laws, laws that discriminated against citizens because of their ethnicity, race or religion. It enshrined in law the rights of Canadians, rights that protect each and every one of us from being the subject of racism and discrimination. It gave every Canadian equal status and equal rights in our legal system. The Charter acts to protect us from re-experiencing the suffering and hardships inflicted on Canadians who were different.

It is extremely important that we understand our history. Many people immigrated to Canada from countries where neither their society nor government offered them protection, legal or otherwise, from the will of despotic rulers. They need to know that this is not how things work in Canada and that it is the Charter that makes this essential and important difference in their lives as Canadians.

Canadians believe that the Supreme Court and not Parliament should have the final say when the Court declares a law unconstitutional on the grounds that it conflicts with the Charter. This power of the Supreme Court, as enshrined in law, is an essential safeguard of our civil liberties. It is imperative that all Canadians understand how the Charter works to accomplish this goal. A recent poll that found that more than half of Canadians are unable to name any of the rights they are guaranteed under the Charter underlines the need for a venue to promote and educate Canadians about their rights and freedoms.

A Hall of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would serve to inform and educate new and old Canadians as to how the Charter works in securing our freedom and way of life. It would serve to reinforce our national identity as a people of great diversity, a nation made up of representing all races, religions and ethnicity, which live together in peace and harmony. As a counterpart to Charter Day, it would tell Canadians and visitors from around the world that Canada is not a nation that was founded on the principles of tolerance and fairness, but is a country that has learned the hard lessons of its history and evolved into such a nation

What the Tragedy of September 11, 2001 Taught Me

hesham-2004-jpeg

Hesham Sabry holds a BSc Engineering (1972), and a joint Honours Psychology-Anthropology, University of Waterloo

Vol 10 # 1, 2004

What the tragedy of September 11, 2001 taught me

PART I

EVIDENCE OF HISTORY

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Abstract:
It’s been three years since the horrifying events of September 11, 2001. The whole world is still experiencing its aftershocks with no end in sight. But on a more individual basis, soon after that fateful day many people began forming considerably different views of the world they live in than they had before. Personally, as a non-religious, secular Canadian of Egyptian-Muslim background, I changed my own perspectives on several fronts. In particular, my normally disinterested understanding of the relation between a religion’s teachings and the conduct of its followers turned into great curiosity.

For the first time ever I began to look at how certain aspects of a religion, any religion, influence its followers, either positively or negatively.

My main focus of interest was how a religion affected the way its followers treated the followers of other religions. After all, I never heard a preacher of any of the so-called great religions preach that all religions are equal, compared to how easily they usually preach that all races are equal, for example. The number of times I’ve heard certain televangelists insult Islam explicitly or implicitly, and extol the virtues of Christianity, putting it above all other faiths!

Whilst living in Egypt for nearly four decades, I never heard a Muslim preacher insult Christianity in any manner explicit or implicit. It would be totally condemnable and unacceptable, and we shall see why in Part Three of this series. But they also never, ever preached that all religions are equal. To them Islam was and is the final revelation of the God of Abraham, and therefore the religion all humanity ought to follow.

Since no amount of “tolerance” or compromise can bring a traditional clergy-man around to declare all religions equal, this obstacle still poisons global understanding to a great extent. Even from the days of ancient Egypt, Pharaohs chiselled temple walls to erase the images of gods of previous Pharaohs. They often even destroyed whole temples and all other signs of the previous gods whom they replaced with their own.

So when it comes to which god to worship, how, and through whom, each person’s religion is the one and only. In religion and gods we are not all equal, “we” are the best, whoever “we” is. Since that is the case with religion, then one of the most reliable ways to judge what any religion is truly like toward other human beings, is through its most difficult aspect, how it influences the way its followers treat those from other religions under diverse situations and circumstances.

But how do we assess a religion on that criterion, do we look at its teachings on that matter, do we look at what its holy books advise on it, do we look at the example of its prophets and their attitudes towards non-believers, or what? I guess the reader will already have formulated the obvious answer: we can realistically assess a religion on that matter only through the facts on the ground, the actual behaviour of the followers of a religion toward others.

In other words, no single issue – holy books, holy verses, life style of prophets – can be indicative of how a religion affects the conduct of its followers. It is the holistic effect of a religion as demonstrated by how its followers actually treat others that gives us a true picture of its workings. And one robust way to investigate that is through its history.

History provides an exhaustive, concrete written record of how diverse religious traditions treated others across the ages under various circumstances and situations, and across regions of the world. Such a record can give us a true picture of what a religion is all about in that respect. It would certainly tell us much more about the holistic nature of that religion than any amount of analysis of its teachings and holy books.

Once we establish how well or badly it performed on that point – how it treated those of other religions – then perhaps we could start searching its holy books, teachings, or whatever, for the possible reasons behind it. That would undoubtedly be the harder task.

The first part is basically reading the history of a religion across time and space. That is fairly straightforward and could be easily applied to any religion that has a written history. So the question then is how did Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other followers of religions of humanity fare in their treatment of followers of other faiths over the ages?

Focus on Islam

In looking for an answer to 9/11 in Islam, the focus of the western media was specifically on The Qur’an (aka The Koran) – the Islamic holy book – and particular “verses” in it, something I found trivial from the start. For one thing, I knew the answer lay in politics rather than religion. Second, I read the Old Testament in its entirety years ago and was horrified by what I read. But like most ancient books it did not surprise me, and it had no relation in my mind to what I expected of Jews, or how I viewed the Jews I knew or did not know. I had read little of the New Testament back then, but still there was enough in what I had read that was very unflattering. So religious texts were not where I believed the answer lay, if indeed we expected to find an answer in religion at all.

The debates I watched on American television, and analyses I read in the media after 9/11, rather than reasoned argument, were often full of hate and venom hurled at Islam. Every argument the haters made was easily refutable and served to open my eyes further as to how wrong they were. In fact, their arguments could be easily turned against them, and often applied to them alone rather than to Islam at all. Initially, just after 9/11, my interest – like everyone else’s – focussed on Islam. But watching such haters ply their hatemongering trade inevitably forced me into making comparisons with Christianity (and to a lesser extent, Judaism).

The revelations my search led me to regarding the three monotheistic religions – were staggering and sobering. However, in this analysis, I will focus mainly on Islam, with comparisons only where they are unavoidable. The data that eventually interested me the most and were the most revealing dealt with Islam and Muslims post the 9/11 tragedy up to this day. But that begs first investigating the history of Islam across the some 1300 years that came before those last three years.

Centuries of Evidence

One can simply begin by stating that across 1300 years of various Islamic empires, which at times stretched from one end of the Old World to the other, Christians and Jews lived under conditions that were rarely, if ever, enjoyed by minorities under the rule of others. Even the Ottoman Turks, known for their ruthlessness in war, did not try to eliminate Christianity in the Balkan nations they ruled for several centuries. The inhabitants of the region emerged from that extended period of Muslim rule as Christian as ever, their holy places, monasteries, churches and shrines intact and secure.

The Balkans

In that example, we see Christian peoples under four hundred years of absolute Islamic rule, when no NATO, no America, no power could have stopped Muslims from doing as they wished with their conquered subjects, and yet they never forced those Christian populations -which were totally at their mercy- to convert to Islam. Neither did they exterminate them nor ethnically cleanse them or even place them in concentration camps or relegate them to reservations. Any of those options they could have easily carried out with impunity back then, yet they never did any of that. That reality is not only in written records, but in the real live evidence of millions of thriving Balkan Christians.

If Islam truly commands its followers to kill all “infidel”, as Islam haters would have us believe, those lands would have all long been European Islamic nations today. Serbs would not be worrying at this time about their sacred monasteries being damaged during the Kosovo war, they would have long been razed to the ground, and they, the Serbs, long either exterminated or converted to Islam.

None of the Ottoman Islamic rulers, who came and went over the four hundred year period did that. That’s why Greeks, Macedonians, Serbs, Bulgarians and others remained Christian, alive and well after centuries living under absolute Islamic rule.

In four entire centuries, not just four decades, no Nazi-minded Islamic ruler happened along and butchered them all, forced them to leave, or even forced them to convert to Islam. Mind you, one cannot overemphasize the fact that this was all long before human rights declarations, Geneva conventions, United Nations organizations, NATO, American military might, or any of that. Some may argue that perhaps such admirable Islamic rule was just a fluke or only confined to that region, even for four hundred years, hard as that may be to imagine, while in other regions or other times, other Muslim rulers were massacring Christians and Jews, forcing them to convert, expelling them, etc., so let us explore further . . .

EGYPT

A quick look across the regions and ages where Islam ruled in the world will produce the exact same results. In Egypt, which was the seat of several Islamic empires during some 13 centuries of Islamic rule, there are now a reported eight to ten million Christians living there, the original descendants of the great ancient Egyptians. For well over one thousand years they were not exterminated, ethnically cleansed, or forced to convert to Islam by the many Islamic rulers that came and went there. They still thrive in Egypt today, where they now, quite rightly, demand a greater share in running the affairs of the country.

But had Islam, or The Qur’an, truly commanded Muslims to kill non-Muslims there wouldn’t have been one Christian or Jew left in Egypt by the 8th century, let alone millions of them in the 20thcentury. Christians in Egypt continued to live under Islamic rule across the centuries, century in century out, keeping their own churches and monasteries across the land,and worshipping in peace. They even maintained their own Egyptian Christian (Coptic) Pope.

There were some limited restrictions on them, as well as some conflicts of interest, where Christians had to follow certain Islamic rules, much like Muslims have to follow Canadian law, even if it conflicts with their own belief system.

And every once in a while a deviant ruler would come along and commit some wrongs against them, but never anything like extermination, ethnic cleansing or concentration camps such as some peoples have committed against others.

Not only that, but such aberrant rulers often practised their idiosyncrasies against all their subjects, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

So there we have the Balkans where some 400 years of Islamic rule left Christians in their millions thriving as Christians. And then we have Egypt where Islamic rule continued for over 1300 years, and yet the Christians there too emerged as Christians in their millions.

The same in Iraq, where Christians – the descendants of the Assyrians – and Jews lived under several great Islamic empires. Ditto, Lebanon and Syria whose Christian and Jewish populations are and were, respectively, sizable.

The Holy Land

But let’s look at a very significant region of the Islamic world which also remained under Islamic rule for centuries, and which had large numbers of Christians and Jews living all side by side with Muslims under Muslim rule in peace and harmony. The Holy Land.

In the Holy Land, despite the massacre of Muslims and Jews, and the desecration of mosques and synagogues by the Christian Crusaders when they took Jerusalem, when Muslims retook it, Christians and their holy sites were protected and revered, and continue that way to this day. Those holy sites and churches that so many Christian pilgrims from around the world visit nowadays are there, not thanks to NATO, America, or Israel, but thanks to the humanitarian, kind, merciful nature of Islam and its followers.

Think of it, for hundreds of years the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were under absolute Muslim rule. Those Muslims whom we are told are ordered to kill all “infidel”, those Muslims whom we so facilely call haters of infidels, protected those churches and many other Christian holy sites and let Christians (and Jews) in the Holy Land live in peace and security under their rule.

How many people know that to this day the key to the Church of the Nativity is held by a Muslim family, appointed by the many Christian denominations there because they could not agree on which one of them would hold that honour! Every morning the Muslim key-keeper opens the church doors for Christians to enter.

Christian and Jewish places of worship would have long been razed to the ground if indeed Islam commanded any such thing.

So Muslims are ordered to kill the infidel, are they really? Only a total racist, or a total ignoramus could take such ludicrous accusations seriously.

Hateful, bigoted individuals in the west, look at some bomb that exploded yesterday and explain it, not in terms of the complex recent political conflicts that led a few persons or groups to commit such violence, but in terms of the religion of those who committed the violence. How lowly is that? If anything, it reveals more about the accusers than about the religion they are trying to bash.

Spain’s Al Andalus
(Andalusia)

But for yet more evidence one can travel to the extreme western borders of Islamic empire, Spain. There, during the 400 to 800 years of Islamic rule in what is now Spain and Portugal, called back then by the Arabs, Al Andalus, not only did Jews and Christians live alongside Muslims in total harmony and prosperity, but Christians from the rest of Europe actually chose to flee their lands and go live under Islamic rule where they found they could enjoy more humane and just governance, and much greater enlightenment than under their own Christian-European rulers.

When Al Andalus finally fell to the Christian armies after 800 years – with few exceptions – prosperous, overwhelmingly unprejudiced Islamic rule, Muslims and Jews were persecuted and eventually forced to either convert to Christianity or leave (many were murdered even after they converted).

The same took place in what was then the formative stages of Portugal. Numerous Jews who fled The Inquisition took refuge in Muslim lands, right up to the seat of the Caliph, the supreme Muslim ruler of the Ottoman empire, in Constantinople (Istanbul).

There, along with Christian Armenians and other non-Muslim minorities, they often held high positions in the Islamic government.

The Islamic rulers could have simply done the compassionate, charitable thing and let them live there in peace and security under their protection, where they could worship as they please. But to go beyond that and actually appoint them to high positions in the Muslim ruler’s court, while they were still Christians and Jews, says a lot about Islam’s nature. And that was not in some aspiring multicultural society in modern times, where the rules of “democracy” or “affirmative action” demand or dictate that minorities be represented, that was at a time when minorities were being “Inquisitioned” in other lands.

The Indian Subcontinent

At the other end of the Islamic world we’ll find even more remarkable evidence. In the Indian subcontinent and surrounding region rose a good number of Islamic dynasties for hundreds of years, almost all of which were an example of tolerance and acceptance. Hindus who came under Islamic rule were generally not forced to convert, and indeed in some instances Islamic rulers actually adopted Hindu traditions and incorporated them within their own Islamic traditions.

In fact, the closeness of Muslim rulers in India to their Hindu subjects is demonstrated through one of the rare exceptions of a deviant Muslim ruler, the infamous Tamerlane (Timur Lank), who came from a Mongol tribe in Central Asia that had newly adopted Islam.

Tamerlane waged war on the Muslim rulers of India because he viewed them as being too integrated with Hindus. And as mentioned earlier, such aberrant Muslim leaders often carried out their wrongs against both non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Tamerlane actually slaughtered tens of thousands, perhaps some two hundred thousand Muslims from India to Turkey over the years of his rampages in the region, in an expression of his own deranged mind.

When he went to punish the moderate progressive Muslim rulers of India (the bright and shining counterparts of Islamic rule in Spain and the Middle East), he destroyed their empires and razed their cities to the ground, including the city of Delhi, killing Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist alike. Naturally, there is no way one can attribute his conduct to Islam at all. He was a barbarian who sought any excuse to slaughter and massacre anyone and everyone, irrespective of religion!

Travelling the Muslim World

Still another significant reality. For centuries Christian explorers, travellers, and visitors have plied the Arab and Muslim lands in safety and security, finding assistance and hospitality from the people they met. Their stories fill the literature. At worst some may have been accosted by common bandits and thieves who exist in every land.

Many such visitors chose to live in Muslim lands for extended periods of time, doing archaeological work or exploring without coming to harm.

Western tourists have visited ancient archaeological ruins in the region for ages. We hardly ever heard or read that they were made to feel unwelcome or hated, nor that they were attacked by the populace or rejected in any manner. The historical record of foreigners in Muslim lands is a bright and shining one to this moment.

So there we have it. Jews, Christians and Hindus under absolute Islamic rule for hundreds of years and not exterminated anywhere, and Europeans welcomed in Muslim lands over the centuries.

That is compelling evidence that Islam never told Muslims to kill non-Muslims, no matter how hard we try to misinterpret or creatively interpret it. It is a lie and the proof is in 1300 years of pudding.

And once more, a reminder that what makes the above Islamic record all the more remarkable is that it took place long before human rights conventions, United Nations resolutions, international law, NATO, or what have you.

The kind of belief system Muslims follow was evidently way ahead of its times in human rights, compassion and mercy toward others, which is what brought about such spectacularly kind Islamic nations and peoples across the ages.

Exceptions Prove the Rule

Unquestionably, as mentioned earlier there were the exceptions here and there across the centuries, when wrongs were committed by deviant Islamic rulers somewhere or the other against Christians, Jews, or others.

In modern times, while Iran officially recognizes Christianity, Judaism, and even Zoroastrianism as official religions in the Islamic state, it does not extend that acceptance to yet another religion – Baha’ism – because it is a recent religion which its followers believe was inspired by God in an Iranian-Muslim, and as such implies apostasy. Based on that, Iran, and other Muslim nations, severely persecute Baha’is and often deny them human rights, something totally unacceptable.

But we have to look at the overall trend across variables such as time, geographical regions, Islamic leaders, different Islamic empires etc. as a whole, not generalise from the particular deeds of some deviant character here or there, or some very specific events that led to specific atrocities somewhere, sometime in 1300 years.

In 13 centuries, across such a large swath of the globe and so many empires and rulers, cultures, lands and peoples, the rarity of those exceptions, if anything, proves the rule.

Indeed, the only balanced method to assess how a religion treats those who are different is by looking at it longitudinally across time and space. We cannot look at one or two years, one or two rulers, one or two wars, or one or two regions selectively and in isolation, and then draw conclusions. We have to look at all the available evidence and data if we are to reach intellectually and academically acceptable general conclusions.

For Islam and Muslims – across time, Islamic rulers, empires, situations, geographical regions and cultures – the evidence of history unequivocally points to a compassionate, humane, gentle, charitable religion beyond what human rights conventions prescribed centuries later, a religion accepting of non-Muslims far beyond the simple tolerance much touted in our western societies nowadays.

We shall investigate how and what in Islam instills such values and attitudes in Muslims in Part Three. But next time we will look at the evidence of the past three years, post 9/11.

PART II

RECONCILING PAST WITH PRESENT

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In Part I of this series we took a brief look at Islam and Muslims in history where we saw quite clearly that Islam does not in any way instruct Muslims to kill non-Muslims. We saw through indisputable, well-documented, overwhelming evidence the extent of the fallacy of that accusation. With a few very specific, well defined exceptions, non-Muslims across history have fared extremely well under Muslim rule. That reality is even more significant when it is viewed within the context of what was happening in other regions of the world.

So the question we’re left with then is ‘How do we reconcile such a remarkably praiseworthy history with the violence we now see committed by “Muslims”, often, it’s claimed, spurred on by their religion, Islam’?

The Muslims I knew

Before 9/11, most of what I really knew of Islam and Muslims was from my life in Egypt. My siblings and I weren’t given much of a religious upbringing at home, so I never really practised Islam beyond following some rituals at an early age. Aside from Muslims, the actual community I lived in had large numbers of Jews and Christians, many of whom were close, very close, or best friends. They all profoundly and positively (I hope) influenced my own character and played a major role in my outlook on life. But the society at large in Egypt was, of course, predominantly Muslim. My interactions at stores, schools, sports, and, later, at work and business were mostly with Muslims.

From what I experienced in my daily life, those Muslims were exceptionally kind, compassionate, decent people, whom I honestly couldn’t even aspire to emulate. As a young man, I was wildly independent, practically a hippie who cared nothing for tradition or religion, even though the society I lived in was very conservative. But that didn’t mean I was blind to the surrounding culture and its dynamics.

As I grew older I went from merely admiring Muslim society to puzzling over its exceptional qualities. It eventually dawned upon me that what made those people what they are had to be their faith. Though it was an eye-opening conclusion, my interest in Islam remained limited to respect for it and its followers.

So naturally, once I came to Canada as a landed business immigrant, the affairs of Islam and Muslims were the last thing on my mind. Very soon, however, Islam and the affairs of Muslims became more prominent in my life than they had ever been before in my 38 years of life in an Islamic nation!

Canada: Hate I had never experienced before

That transformation came as a result of the numerous occasions on which Muslims or Islam were bashed and derided for no justifiable reason by some media outlet or other. Such attacks happened as a matter of course, part of the regular routine of some media. It confused me at first as I tried to figure out what was going on. Then the confusion increasingly turned into pain as I saw that it was a gratuitous hate campaign deliberately intended to vilify Muslims and Islam as well as Arabs. That was in the 1980s, long before September 11, 2001. And then I learned it had been going on for almost two decades already.

For the first time in my life I was experiencing the pain of indiscriminate racist hate as someone of Muslim-Arab descent — the community wantonly targeted by what appeared to be bigoted media.

But the greater the hate and prejudice Muslims were subjected to in North America, the more came to mind their true decent, good nature, which in the past I had taken for granted as a fact of life in Egypt, and later, of Canadian-Muslims as well.

Beyond 13 centuries of history: Three more years of evidence across the globe

Then came September 11th, 2001, or 9/11 as it became known, the attack on the United States of America by members of al Qaeda, the organization — led by Osama bin Laden — that came into being as a result of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Though it was very clear that the 9/11 attack was political, it was immediately portrayed as a factor of the Islamic religion. The emphasis was on the perpetrators as Muslim men, and Islam as the source of their violent act. And so it seemed fit that one should take a deeper look into the people and the religion one had taken for granted for so long.

Like most everyone else, following the attack I had the same feelings of outrage and sadness for the hundreds of innocent victims. But on top of that, I dreaded what might happen next. Not to me as an Arab-Canadian of Muslim background, though that too was on my mind, but as to how Muslims worldwide would respond to bin Laden’s call to kill Americans everywhere.

Where Egypt was concerned I really didn’t expect any grass roots response of the kind bin Laden hoped to arouse, for I knew its people very well. The idea of getting up and randomly killing an innocent person in the street because of his race, nationality or faith on the urging of some guy pretending to speak for Muslims was unthinkable. Egyptians in general — Muslim and Christian –loved westerners, and for many generations have welcomed them with great warmth and hospitality, except, as would be expected, when they came as invaders.

I had great hopes that Muslims in other Muslim nations would generally be the same as in Egypt. After all, I had never heard anything that would make me believe otherwise. Quite to the contrary, from what I had read they were as welcoming and friendly towards westerners as Egyptians were. Still, I really didn’t know enough about the people of some 55 diverse Muslim nations, spread across a wide geographical swath of the globe, let alone the Muslim diaspora, to even make an educated guess on that question.

An experiment of global proportions

At that early time, after the attack and bin Laden’s call, one didn’t realise quite clearly yet that the world was embarking on the ultimate empirical research setup, carried out under realistic conditions — as unfortunate as they were — of truly global proportions and ramifications.

It was the largest ever random experimental test of hundreds of millions of subjects. On a global scale, it cut across variables such as peoples, nationalities, languages, cultures, customs, races, and ethnic groups under the most intense circumstances imaginable. Indeed, the only constant among them was “religion”, Islam.

How many millions out of the 1200 million Muslims worldwide would answer bin Laden’s call? Or how many hundreds of thousands? How many average Muslim ‘Joes’ would misguidedly feel it their duty to attack the first American they met on the street in answer to bin Laden? How many of them didn’t know enough of the teachings of their religion to believe the false claims of that man?

I feared it was only logical to expect that of 1.2 billion Muslims there would certainly be more than enough individuals who would ignorantly believe bin Laden’s twisted interpretation of Islam and rush to answer his call. After all, they may feel that God was on bin Laden’s side, given He had allowed him to deal the greatest power on Earth such a severe blow!

If my fears were warranted and statistical probability applicable, thousands of Americans working or travelling all over Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and the Arab World would be attacked, assaulted and perhaps even killed. I desperately hoped against hope that it wouldn’t happen.

Time is my witness

Incredibly, against all odds and defying statistical probability, the days passed by and there wasn’t one spontaneous attack on any American anywhere. Not one, let alone the millions or even the thousands I feared! That was quite astounding, so astounding it doesn’t fail to deeply impress me to this day.

Ordinary Muslims did not pick up guns, clubs, knives or axes and shoot or hack the first American they came across. And we would have certainly heard if thousands, hundreds or even only tens of Americans and other westerners were being hacked to death across the globe. There was none of that at all. Muslims had absolutely rejected bin Laden.

Still, in disbelief, I thought it may be the calm before the storm. But the weeks passed, and then the months, and more calls by bin Laden came and went, and still not one ordinary Muslim soul, let alone millions, thousands, or hundreds, spontaneously attacked Americans anywhere.

After the invasion of Afghanistan there were organized attacks directly related to that invasion, such as those in Pakistan, where most Taliban and Al Qaeda had fled. Or by organizations associated with al Qaeda in response to the presence of American forces in the Gulf region, escalating Palestinian suffering, and later the invasion of Iraq, all clearly identifiable circumstances, and practically all committed by politically motivated radical groups.

(Since it’s off topic, on another occasion we’ll have a look at the roots of terrorism, a number of examples involving “Muslims”, as well as a brief comparative analysis of international terror by non-Muslims. We’ll also address the claim that Al Qaeda does what it does in the name of Islam)

Sharing ’causes’ not ‘means’: Osama bin Laden and George Bush

What such astounding results told me was that Muslims may share bin Laden’s anger over injustices suffered by Muslims in the world, but, as they have proved with great clarity and certainty, they do not agree with his violent methods. It’s somewhat like President George W. Bush sharing the views and the cause of anti-abortionists, but not the terrorism in which some of them engage. Or as another example, most Americans sharing Mr. Bush’s concerns over America’s security, but only a minority the warring ways he uses to provide it.

Bin Laden snubbed

Muslims everywhere have repeatedly ignored bin Laden. In fact, out of humiliation and rather than embarrass himself further, he has lately given up calling upon Muslims to attack Americans and Jews. His calls are now personal pleas to the American people, or threats to the Saudi monarchy, and the such. He no longer appeals to Muslims anywhere to rise and kill anyone; he has been unambiguously rejected and snubbed enough times.

A mere few months after the 9/11 attack, during the 2002 annual “haj” — the pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca — I watched Muslim pilgrims interviewed in Arabia by western media about how much weight bin Laden’s calls had with them. They invariably brushed him aside, saying they did what Islam teaches, or what their conscience as Muslims dictates, not what bin Laden tells them to do. The emphatic disdain with which they referred to bin Laden as a Muslim of no credibility was most refreshing to witness.

Muslims feel ashamed

Far from answering bin Laden’s calls, Muslims have felt ashamed of what bin Laden did. And though they themselves had not committed any crime to feel guilty about, they still felt shame and guilt that someone calling himself a Muslim had done it. Rather than get up and kill Americans, as bin Laden hoped they would, they were deeply embarrassed by the association of Islam with the killing of innocent people. Their almost universal response, as seen by their actions, was to reject bin Laden’s calls for more violence.

No matter how much the average Muslim may be angry at America (just as many non-Muslims, including Europeans and Canadians also are) for its support of injustice against the Palestinians and other similar issues, Muslims do not condone random violence. The hundreds of millions of average Muslims of the world did not act out that anger by killing Americans, Jews, or anyone else.

On the contrary, they — the average, law-abiding, peace-loving Muslims — innocent of such crimes, became themselves the targets of vicious persecution, discrimination and hate crimes, which they still bear in silent pain.

As for the very few who did rejoice about 9/11, they are themselves victims of unjust American foreign policy, which for some of them makes almost everyday a 9/11.

Saudi Arabia and Americans

To this moment, tens of thousands of Americans, Canadians, Britons and other westerners live and work in Saudi Arabia, where for decades they have enjoyed traditional Arab hospitality. And that’s Saudi Arabia, the bastion of so-called Islamic fundamentalism, where we are told the hate for America is supposedly strongest. Or in other words, the worst case scenario. Yet neither before nor after bin Laden’s call were any of them attacked by Saudis.

There have been attacks, but on American military personnel and barracks. And since the Iraq invasion, on nonmilitary targets, but only because of America’s invasion of a neighbouring Arab country, Iraq. Conditions of military conflict create a whole new set of factors which replace everything in the original equation. Yet, even now, after the recent hostilities, Americans and other westerners who live there are reluctant to leave, describing the Saudis as very friendly and warm toward them.

I should add, sadly, that the deeply flawed American foreign policy is increasingly seeing to it that all that good-will evaporate. If attacks on Americans ever reach the grass-roots level in the Muslim world, it won’t be due to bin Laden — who has given up rallying the Muslim peoples’ support for his violence, but thanks to the imbalanced way America has handled its foreign policy.

Violence is triggered by problems

What demonstrates that violence develops where precipitating conditions exist, and not simply because two groups — religions, races etc. — are differently labelled, is that much of the violence in the world has been and still is between groups that sometimes share not only religion, but also race and even nationality. The American civil war, for example, was Christian on Christian, white on white, and American on American! And it was atrocities galore as well.

But we don’t need history to find examples, they abound in the world today even as I write. We see Christian kill Christian, Hindu kill Hindu; Buddhist, Buddhist; Jew, Jew; Muslim, Muslim; and Sikh, Sikh, just as we see those same groups attack one another if there are causes for armed conflict between them.

It’s also as telling that where the conditions that bring about conflict don’t exist, people of different religions, races, nationalities, live in peace and harmony, regardless of how different their religious practices, their skin colours, their languages, and so on.

So it’s fundamentally wrong to reduce complex issues into simplistic “that race or that religion is all bad”, or “the other one all good”, or that this or that conflict exists because one group is Muslim and the other Jewish, or what have you.

Terror and violence in Canada

Though we will deal with the whole Canadian scene in more detail on another occasion, we should note that in Canada we have had various instances of mass violence and terror. We’ve had the very serious Quebec separatist terrorism, the just as serious Sikh terrorism (the Air India bombing; the assassination of prominent Canadian-Sikhs), eco- and environmental terrorism (a range of cases), anti-abortion terrorism, and others. That’s aside from a long list of mass murders against fellow university students — such as in Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, university faculty colleagues, school class mates, co-workers, competing drug gangs, and on and on. Interestingly, or more to the point, very significantly, none of the above terrorism or mass murder cases was committed by any of the 600,000 Muslim-Canadians. NONE!

The Muslim man of the street

Throughout the globe, Muslims, like any other people in the world, have shown that unless it is a case of revolt against oppression, injustice, occupation or the such, they do not engage in randomly attacking or killing anyone, not if bin Laden shouted himself hoarse.

So once a few weeks had passed after bin Laden’s call for attacks on Americans and Jews, one would have been hard-pressed attributing any attack that did take place to bin Laden’s call. In any case, such attacks didn’t happen.

Organized terrorist attacks are one thing and a popular uprising by the man in the street attacking any American he comes across is another thing altogether. This, Muslim man of the street, was the target of bin Laden’s appeals, but this too is the person who after all knows his God and the core teachings of his religion well. He is not a killer.

And yet how easy to kill

In America legal and illegal guns are very easy to get a hold of if anyone is intent on committing mass murder. Now there you have some six million Muslims in America, and yet where are all those American-Muslims committing such mass murders in answer to bin Laden? Could it be they’re afraid of the FBI, the CIA, or the “sheriff” ? We know very well suicide killers are prepared to die along with their victims. In fact, even the Columbine School killers, among many other American mass murderers, took their own lives; it isn’t a new concept to America. So why didn’t tens of American-Muslims carry out waves of such easy and unstoppable crimes in all the years since 9/11 no matter how many times bin Laden called upon them to do so? Even those blinded by their own racism and hate of Muslims should begin to see the light here.

Incidentally, the 19 attackers of 9/11 were all foreigners, holders of temporary visas. Not one of them was an American-Muslim, or have a wife or children in America! These were brain-washed individuals sent to carry out a specific mission. To paint all Muslims with the same brush as some obvious criminals is flagrantly prejudiced.

Exposing the haters, bigots and racists

We will address in a coming issue of Cross Cultures events and questions concerning American-Muslims specifically. But it is tedious to the extreme to have to waste so much time and space explaining and analyzing every single elementary issue just to counter the effect of biased politicians, writers, academics, and media who are out to deliberately smear Islam and Muslims. But it can’t be helped; tedious or not, they need to be challenged if we are to avoid the clash of civilizations they are out to manufacture.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and others live in real peace and harmony in their masses wherever there is no political or other strife. Why instill hate where it doesn’t exist? I do not hold any ill-feelings toward anyone. I enjoy interacting with people from all cultures, races and religions, and my perception is that the feeling is mutual. One constantly finds a sincere desire out there by ordinary people of every race and faith to live and let live, to coexist, and to enjoy each others’ cultures, wouldn’t you agree?

Indeed, one finds there is wonderful peace and harmony wherever the haters haven’t managed yet to drive their wedges between communities. Why destroy that beautiful state of affairs with deliberate efforts to alienate, marginalize, divide, vilify?

So to ignore the haters is to lend credence to their hate, which means allowing it to spread and ultimately destroy the peace and harmony we enjoy.

I’d rather be mountain-biking or skiing

I am fully secularized, verging on atheism, and I have no interest in organized religion at all.

But when the religion of the good people from whom one originated is hammered day in day out, all unfairly and often maliciously, and the general peace and harmony of society are threatened, one finally says enough is enough. It’s not that I enjoy sitting here exposing and challenging hate. But at least if one challenges such hate, the good Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other good people who are willing to learn and act upon the facts would be given the chance to know what the facts are.

Indeed, if it wasn’t for the gratuitous hate – concentrated mostly in the media – that I experienced from the day I landed in Canada, I wouldn’t be sitting here today between four walls writing this. I’d be out enjoying this beautiful, wonderful country, and any of its outdoor activities I love so much. But the haters have imposed their will on us all, and risk to ruin the stability and peace of this gentle nation.

A competition of religions

Interestingly, some of those with anti-Islamic agendas view religions only as competing parties in some global contest to win over converts or to boast greater numbers of adherents. Any effort by people such as myself to educate others about the true nature of Islam and Muslims is taken by them as a challenge in their trivial competition. It isn’t important to them that we learn about each other so that we can all get along, what’s important to them is to put and keep Islam and Muslims down.

It is fine to proselytize and evangelise, but it isn’t fine to promote hate against one’s perceived competitors. When they read anything positive about the peaceful nature of Muslims their only concern is to twist and manipulate it in order to maintain the prevailing negative view of Islam. Rather than promote peace and love, which the good Bible preaches and good Christians follow, they warn whomever will listen to them to beware of people who write or say positive things about Islam!

Achieving the goals of peace and harmony through better understanding is of no concern to them. The focus of their life is vilifying Islam and marginalizing anyone who does otherwise.

A recent case in point is that of a visiting academic who spoke in such hateful terms at a university college in the city of Waterloo, Ontario, under the guise of searching for solutions to multi-ethnic religious problems. His type are reluctant to give up the kind of hate propaganda that is used precisely to promote one religion at the expense of another. So although such hateful academics pretend to be scholars, they stand accused of hate and bigotry themselves. It’s very sad indeed.

A great past and turbulent present reconciled

So the answer to our initial question — how does one reconcile the present perception of a violent Islam with its wonderful past — is simple. It’s just that, a perception. A perception created primarily by a media focussed on sensationalising and amplifying the negative image of a few Muslims, while practically ignoring the overwhelming positive of their multitudes. The media rarely, if ever, show Americans, Britons, Canadians living peacefully among their Muslim hosts. Yet there are tens of thousands of them in the Muslim world this instant working, living, visiting with Muslims and enjoying their hospitality and friendship.

It does prove that whether it’s Muslims in America or Canada, or Americans and Canadians in Muslim nations, good people of all faiths can and do get along and even enjoy life among each other when they’re given the chance and no one drives wedges between them.

The hateful media revisited

So, in essence, due to seriously biased media and others, some of us are unable to discern the “truth” about Muslims and Islam. Yet the ‘truth’ of the present events is as easy to verify as the written history we briefly reviewed in Part I. It’s not something I’m fabricating or forcing upon anyone. It’s an open book of recorded events out there for anyone to inspect and verify.

All we need to do is look for what is conspicuous by its absence in the media, not at what is made conspicuous by the media’s sensationalism. What is absent in the media is precisely what we have briefly reviewed above. The media focus on the negative few hundred and practically ignore the positive hundreds of millions.

But it does appear that many Europeans and Americans strive to search for the truth, elusive as it is, given the mostly biased sources of information available to them. Many others also appear to prefer to err on the side of caution than to wrong people based on information they are not one hundred percent confident of. That is truly refreshing and heart warming.

In Canada, such fair and considerate thinking is even more prevalent. Canada is undoubtedly undergoing the growing pains that come with the introduction of a large number of new cultures and faiths into it. But it’s doing it very graciously despite the incessant attempts at sabotaging that process by ill-willed, and in some cases, almost treasonous media and special interest organizations (we’ll look at that in more detail another time).

The future of Canada’s peace and harmony rests very much on the shoulders of the media. Hate and bigotry are propagated primarily through the media, as are love, peace and understanding. So, which will it be — love or hate — that those who are still hateful in the media will promote in the coming years?

What is the Muslims’ secret?

In conclusion, there we have Muslims in their hundreds of millions, across geographical divides from Morocco to Indonesia, from Britain to China, across languages, cultures, races and ethnicities, rejecting the violence that their religion forbids.

What a relief. But also how intriguing. Statistically speaking alone, it is mind-boggling. In the midst of severely adverse conditions of injustice and suffering we find such a universal rejection of random violence by over one billion Muslim people.

That stunning reality brings us to the moment of truth. What do those 1200 million Muslims, who live all over the globe, have in common that prevented them, as if in concert, from doing any such wrong? They are Asian, Arab, Chinese, African, English, Canadian, Australian, French, Swedish, American, so diverse yet so united in their rejection of bin Laden.

The obvious answer is their faith, Islam. The only thing shared by those otherwise vastly diverse peoples is in fact the very religion that was being investigated as violent, Islam. What an absolutely fascinating revelation. If anything, considering the widespread injustices they are suffering at the hands of non-Muslims, it appears that Islam actually has a moderating and tempering effect on Muslims rather than the reverse.

What was being looked upon as the common evil they shared was gradually revealing itself to be the common good they shared. What’s more, it fits handsomely with the history of Islam, which we briefly reviewed in Part One. Muslims never answered bin Laden’s call because it fully contradicts Islamic teachings, the same reason they did not kill Christians, Jews or others in the past. Bin Laden wasn’t representing Islam, he was misrepresenting Islam and exploiting it to brain wash recruits into committing his abominable crimes. The only thing he had going for him was political: Standing up to America, a nation viewed — rightly or wrongly — as supporting and exporting injustice.

That is not to say that Islam doesn’t suffer from some real problems. In a coming issue we will have a look at the most, if not the only, truly serious problem that ails Islam. It’s the major reason Muslim nations fail to modernize, democratize and move ahead, and it will continue to hinder their progress for ever if it isn’t seriously addressed.

I will leave naming that problem to the time we discuss it. But for now, suffice it to say it has nothing to do with the nonsensical accusation of terrorism made by the west. Islam clearly condemns terrorism as the evidence of history and the actual conduct of 1.2 billion Muslims has shown.

Next time, however, we will take a look at what made Muslims the good people they are toward non-Muslims and overwhelmingly accepting of other faiths throughout their history. The answer lies in one of the very foundations of Islam, one that gave it properties unique to it among the three ancient monotheistic religions.

From Part 3:
“Lately, Rev. Richard Cizik, vice-president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals in America spoke out against other evangelists, saying conservative Protestants should tone down their hate attacks against Islam, and the demonization of Muslims, which they’ve been engaged in for the past while. When asked if he believed that Muslims worshipped the same God as Christians and Jews, he replied that he did not. Well he said a mouthful”

Remembering the Past

Barbara Pressman has been an individual couple and family therapist in private practice, and for many years the president of the Waterloo Region Holocaust Education Committee

Remembering the Past
Vol 9 2000

Since 1989, the Waterloo County Holocaust Education Committee has organized a yearly spring seminar for high school students. At this seminar, keynote speakers have included Holocaust survivors; a soldier who had helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp; actors, depicting through drama, the suffering generated by discrimination; and an internet expert exposing the racist hatred disseminated by this media. The thrust of these programs through the experience of the Holocaust is always to foster awareness of the enormous pain and destruction caused by discrimination and prejudice. Holocaust is the chosen series of events because it is the best documented example of the pernicious outcomes of socially and culturally endorsed racism.

There are some who question the insistence on keeping alive the memory of events of a most hideous and perverse nature. The answer is quite simple: we must study the most troublesome and ignoble events of the past not to bring shame or dishonour on those who carried out these events and supported them, but in order that we learn from the mistakes of the past and not repeat them in the future. Therefore, we must study not only the events of the Holocaust but also our own history. Every student must learn of the apartheid of Black Canadians practiced in our own country. In addition to the racism practiced in housing and employment, Black Canadians were frequently denied full use of provincial educational facilities, restaurants and movie houses. Segregated instruction was legalized in Canada in1849 by a statute that authorized municipal councils to establish separate schools for black Canadians.

Throughout the years of segregated schooling, the separate education afforded black students was inferior to that provided to white students. Though black schools began to disappear after 1910, not until 1965 did the last black school in Ontario actually close.

No one should be allowed to leave school without learning about the attempt to destroy First Nation people in this country: their culture, religion, language and way of life occurred through forced removal of native children to residential schools where the curriculum disregarded First Nation culture, values, history, religion and customs. To ensure parental cooperation in sending beloved children to schools very far from native lands, parents were threatened with imprisonment. In the residential schools, children were beaten for speaking their native languages, depersonalized by uniforms, and forbidden to see their parents except under strict regulation.

No one should be allowed to leave school without having learned that during World War II, not only were Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and political dissidents persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime in Germany, but also here, in Canada, the Canadian government persecuted Japanese-Canadians.

Although at war with Italy, Germany and Japan, only the Japanese-Canadians, a non-white people, were forced from their homes and placed in internment prison camps. While the white German and Italian Canadians were spared this racist discrimination and degradation.

We must study such horrific events, not to shame the people who enacted the laws and those who supported these policies. It is to learn how democratic societies can and do enact unjust, unethical or patently racist laws on the basis of the completely erroneous belief that minorities, people of colour, and those “different” from the mainstream are inferior; and therefore, it is permissible to treat them as less than real humans.

Not only do the Holocaust Education seminars focus on the monstrous outcomes of racism, but also on how each individual has the responsibility and the power to challenge and ultimately put an end to racism. When the majority acts unjustly to others because those others have a different colour skin or different religion or different sexual orientation, it is facile and self-serving to ask “What could I do? To oppose would mean I too would be in danger”, it is also self-serving to avoid responsibility to one’s brother and sister human beings by declaring, “I was forced”

When faced with the immoral actions of the majority, each one of us is being asked to make this moral choice:

“Do I hurt others because everyone else is doing it?

This was the choice of the father of the Holocaust Seminar speaker of May 2000. Faced with the choice of standing by while thousands of Jews were destined for brutalization and murder or jeopardizing his own safety, his own life, and the lives of his wife and children, Japanese consul to Lithuania during the Nazi era, Chiune Sugihara made the moral choice not to participate in the suffering of others by standing by and doing nothing.

Mr Kiroki Sugihara (son of Japanese consul to Lithuania in 1940, Mr Chiune Sugihara) during his visit to Waterloo in 2000
Mr Kiroki Sugihara (son of Japanese consul to Lithuania in 1940, Mr Chiune Sugihara) during his visit to Waterloo in 2000

In 1940, Jews living in Lithuania were to be deported to concentration camps. Although a Japanese-German alliance was being forged, Chiune Sugihara sought permission from his government in Japan to issue visas to Jews for destination to Japan or Japanese controlled lands. This permission was never granted. Despite the enormous danger to himself and to his family, in defying government decisions and disobeying his government’s policies and the Nazi regime, Mr. Sugihara issued thousands of exit visas to Jews and consequently saved them from certain death.

Upon returning to Japan, he lost his consular position and suffered profound hardship before again finding work that would sustain his family. His son, Hiroki, was witness to his father’s feverish efforts and relayed the events of this period in a compelling, moving presentation of selfless humanity.

Despite the hardships Chiune Sugihara suffered in consequence of his act of compassion, his belief in the rightness of his decision was never shaken. Throughout his life, he never regretted his actions to support and protect the Jews.

Professor Oscar Cole-Arnal and Mrs Barbara Pressman in the forefront, among the audience who were captivated by Mr Hiroki Sugihara's presentation after showing the movie recently produced of his father's war-time efforts in Lithuania
Professor Oscar Cole-Arnal and Mrs Barbara Pressman in the forefront, among the audience who were captivated by Mr Hiroki Sugihara’s presentation after showing the movie recently produced of his father’s war-time efforts in Lithuania

In the Nazi era when humanity seemed suspended, an individual like Chiune Sugihara is a monument to the human courage and regard for others which transcends one’s own fears and need for safety. His memory is a model for future generations

Famous 5 Women in Canadian History

Lee Bryant has resided in Waterloo for 21 years. She is author of three books, Counsellor, Therapist and Teacher

famous 5

Famous 5 Women in Canadian History
Vol 9 2000

In the fall of 1999, a monument honouring the “Famous Five” was erected on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Who are the Famous Five?

When I mention that I devised and taught a course on Women in Canadian History, women’s attention is perked.

“Yeah, wasn’t Emily Carr the famous artist who painted forests and totem poles?” or, “Yes, I’d like to find out more about when women became persons .. and who were the Famous Five?”

Let me tell you the story of Emily Murphy, one of the five, whose life and circumstances prompted the famous “persons” case.

Emily Ferguson was born in 1868 in the village of Cookstown, Ontario. Her father, Isaac, was a wealthy landowner and businessman and a Conservative, or Tory. The family entertained many of the prominent men in the Canada of their day. Among their guests was Sir John A Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister. It is likely that Emily learned a lot about politics around the dinner table. One of her four Irish grandparents was a Member of Parliament for 27 years. A cousin on her mother’s side became a Supreme Court Judge who later became a Senator and was knighted. On her father’s side there was a Member of Parliament for Simcoe and Cardwell, another was a Justice of Ontario’s Supreme Court. Her three brothers were lawyers. Emily was completely unlike her genteel mother who, like many women of her social position in that day, was brought up to look ornamental and attract a husband. Emily’s father paid a tutor to journey the 25 kilometers from Barrie every Saturday morning to teach the five children penmanship. The concept behind this training was to teach them to hold their pens properly so they would have the ability to write for hours without getting cramped fingers.

The local Anglican rector prepared them for private school in Toronto. Emily went to Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, an exclusive grammar school for daughters of wealthy families; it was patterned on the British school system for the children of the elite. Life there was very different from the country school in Cookstown.

Here, the boisterous Emily was given a classical education; she studied Latin and religious knowledge, with heavy emphasis on memorization.

Emily developed a remarkable memory which, years later, caused Nellie McClug, who became her friend when they were pioneers and writers in the then exciting frontier city of Edmonton, to say that Emily’s mind was encyclopedic. Emily was fifteen years old and a student at Bishop Strachan when she met Arthur Murphy, a blond and handsome man of 26 who was studying for the Anglican ministry at Wycliffe College. She married him when she was nineteen, and led a typical life of an Anglican minister’s wife in the parishes of southern Ontario in the 1880s, except that she was younger than most of the women she taught in Bible classes. She arranged and co-ordinated fund-raising events and researched stories for Arthur’s sermons.

For ten years the Murphys moved from small cities and towns, and they had three daughters. Arthur was valued for his community work and business ability.

Emily was very happy in one parish particularly, Chatham. But she was not content to be a mother only. With household help, a maid and a house-maid, she had time for her reading, oil painting and community work.

Arthur so excelled in running a parish that the church would be on its feet financially, so the Bishop of Huron asked him to become a missionary in Western Ontario. For a year the Murphys moved every two weeks. In strange hotel rooms at night, Emily began writing her impressions of people and events.

The Mission Society was so impressed with Arthur’s dedication and success that they asked him to go to England to preach and teach for two years. The Murphys were delighted – to cultivated Canadians of that period, England, their homeland, seemed the epitome of culture and civilization.

In 1898 they set sail for England. While Arthur was preaching and the children were in school, Emily explored on her own. First she visited the places she had read about in history books: the Tower of London, the British Museum, Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. Then she began noticing the people on the streets; men in rags begging for money; rotting tenements, and the stinking garbage in the alleys of the big industrial cities.

Emily had an encounter that launched her career as a crusader for women’s rights. She set out for a trip on a pleasure steamer down the River Thames. She was stopped short by a girl whose horribly disfigured face caused people to walk around her. Emily, in her forthright manner, began to question the girl about her deformity.

The girl explained that she had been working in a match factory. She was constantly in air that was filled with phosphorous fumes that eventually caused a disease known as “matchmaker’s leprosy”. The teeth ache and then fall out, and later the loathsome leprosy eats its way into the roof of the mouth and inside the nose and then eats away at the jaw. Girls frequently lost their sight before death.

Emily seethed. Who cared? Who took responsibility? Her world view changed. She could not witness injustice and then forget about it. Emily Murphy no longer visited cathedrals and art galleries, but deliberately entered the world of Charles Dickens and journeyed into the back alleys and tenement sections of London. Her social conscience was raised, never to diminish

Who are the Albanians ?

Dr Mahmoud Sadek

Dr Mahmoud Sadek is a retired professor of Archeology and Art History, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He received his B A from the University of Alexandria, Egypt, his M A from the University of Toronto, and his PhD from Columbia University, New York, USA. He founded and chaired the Classical Archeology Program at Guelph from 1973-79. He has directed Archeological excavations in Egypt, France and Spain, and specializes in Egyptian, Greek and Roman Archeology on which he has published many books and articles

Who are the Albanians
Vol 9 2000

“Land of Albania !
Let me bend mine eyes on thee . . . “

This article will attempt to trace the history of a people who are little known or understood.

It was the geographer and astronomer of Alexandria, Egypt, Claudius Ptolemy (90-160 A.D.) who first referred to the “Albana” people, an Illyrian tribe. Their capital city was Albanopolis near the coastal port of Durres, and not far from Tirana, the capital of modern day Albania.

The early history of the area occupied by present day Albania begins in the middle of the third century B.C. The Illyrians founded a kingdom on parts of the coast and in the region surrounding the modern city of Shkodra.

The Illyrians were probably an Indo-European people who had settled in the Balkan peninsula in pre-historic times.

The land of Illyria included not only the Albania of today but also the Roman provinces of Dalmatra (Yugoslavia before the partition) and Epirus (today in North-west Greece). The Roman occupation of Illyria began when the last Illyrian king surrendered the capital to Rome in 168 B.C. By the end of the 1st century B.C., the Romans had conquered all of Illyria.

In the 4th century A.D. the Roman prefecture Illyrium was organized to include a large part of the region north of the Adriatic Sea and much of the Balkan peninsula. Under Roman rule, Illyria enjoyed great prosperity and many roads and towns were built. During the time of the Roman emperor Constantine the people were gradually Christianized into a form of Catholicism with weak ties to the Pope in Rome.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D. a barbarian horde from the north, The Ostogoths, moved in. They were converts to the Arian Doctrine, a form of early Christianity which believed neither in the divinity of Christ nor the crucifixion.

The Ostogoths remained in the country until 535 when emperor Justinian re-conquered it for the Byzantine Empire.

map who are the albanians

The land was later invaded by barbarian people from the north-east of Europe, the Slavs, and from the east by the Bulgars. By 640, the Byzantine emperor Heraclius finding no one to help him drive the Slavs out, settled them in the south-western part of the Balkans, thereby dispossessing the Illyrians and moving them southward.

The Slavs gradually formed the Slavic states of Serbia, Croatia, Dalmatia and Istria, and became Christianized.

Foreign rule never became fully entrenched in the rugged mountain region of south western Illyria and some of the fierce mountain tribes continued to live in virtual independence. However, from 1014 to 1204, the southern most areas were again under Byzantine rule.

According to scholars in linguistics, the Albanians of today are the only people in Europe and, particularly in the Balkan peninsula, whose language is that of the ancient Illyrians. Albanians are the indigenous continuants of the Illyrian population who were neither ‘Romanized’ nor assimilated by later invaders.

By the mid 7th century, the land of the Illyrians, now referred to as Albania, was reduced by the onslaught of the Slavs to roughly the area between Shkodra in the north to Akarnania in the south and from the coastal area of Durres to include the regions of Kosovo and Monastir in the east and Yanina in the south. The kings of Sicily (Hohenstraufen) invaded and ruled Central Albania from 1271 to 1378 during which time the Serbs also made inroads from the north.

Under the Serbian Stephen Dushan (1331-1355) a large part of Albania was subdued by 1344. The atrocities of the Serbs in Albania led a great number of people to flee to southern Italy.

The refugees in Italy referred to their homeland as “Arbana” and to themselves as “Arbaneshe”. This lends support to the writing of Anna Comnena (1083-1146), daughter of the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I, who recorded in her famous history that the population located behind Durres called themselves “Arbanez”. Perhaps the geographer Ptolemy confused the letters “R” and “L” and wrote “Albana” rather than “Arbana” in his book.

The same conditions that led some groups to flee to Italy, led others to move south to Greece where they formed Albanian communities especially in Macedonia and Thrace.

According to Greek records of the 15th century, these people called themselves “Arvaniti”. As Greeks to the present day always pronounce the letter “B” as “V” this would account for this version of the name.

One of the early Albanian writers of the16th century, Gjon Buzuku, referred to his country as “Arben”. He was also the first to call its language “shqip”. Today Albanians call their country “Shqiperia”-the land of the eagle, and themselves “Shqiptare” – the sons of the eagle.

In 1389 the Ottoman Sultan, Murad I defeated an anti-Ottoman coalition of Hungarians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, Serbs and Albanians at the battle of Kosovo.

Although the Sultan was assassinated by an Albanian named Milosh Kopiliq this bloody defeat opened the way for yet deeper penetration of Albanian territory under Sultan Bayazet – nicknamed “Thunderbolt”. He overran Albania from 1394 to 1396 and occupied it from Gjirokastra in the south to Shkodra in the north, and from its eastern border to Durres on the coast. Albania was to become a Sanjak (flag) of the Ottoman Empire – Sanjaki Arvanid, later Sanjaki Arnaud.

In their literature of the 15th century, the Ottomans refer to Albania as “Arnautluk” – the land of the Arna’uts, and to the Albanians as Arna’ut or Arna’uti.

It seems obvious that these terms are a corruption of the Greek word Arvaniti.

The Arna’uts, as the Ottoman called them, rose against Ottoman rule led by the great national hero Scanderbeg. Although a Muslim, he was first a patriot and so resisted the rule of the Ottoman Turks. Only after his death in 1468 did the Ottomans gain the upper hand – yet their rule was never completely effective.

During the period of Ottoman dominance the majority of Arna’uts converted to the Sunni sect of Islam.

Many distinguished themselves in the services of their Turkish rulers. Arna’uti courage and loyalty led to the Turkish Sultans preferring them to the Janissaries as their royal body guard – in the same way that the roman emperors before them had appointed Illyrians as their praetorian guards.

Like the praetorian guards, the Arna’uts could make or break the ruler. One instance was the re-instating of Sultan Selim III (1789-1807) when the Janissary had removed him to appoint Mustafa IV (1807-1808). Shortly after Selim was murdered by the Janissaries, the Arna’uts succeeded in making his brother a Sultan- Mahmoud II (1809-1839).

The Arna’uts became synonymous with the wild and fearsome mountaineers of the rugged land of Albania. They became the cream of the Ottoman forces and several rose to the level of grand vizir such as Kara Mustafa who conquered the Balkans and laid siege to Vienna in 1683.

They were the descendants of the Illyrians who had excelled in the past as people of the highest integrity, steadfast in their principles. Among them came two great Roman emperors:

Diocletian

Diocletian (296-305)
who divided the empire into four parts to prevent its further disintegration;

 

 

and Constantine the Great

Constantine the Great (311-337)
who declared Christianity
as the official religion of the Roman empire,

 

also the great Byzantine emperorByzantine emporor Justinian

Justinian (527-565)
who compiled and reformed
Roman Law that became the
basis of the laws of the western world

 

 

Albanians never became part of the Ottoman melting pot, although there were large cities in the Ottoman Empire that were heavily populated by Muslim Albanians, such as Salonika, Kavalla and the region of Thasallia, all in northern Greece of today.

Ali Pasha of Yanina

During the 18th &19th centuries, independent native princes ruled Albania for brief periods. One of the foremost was Ali Pasha of Yanina (1741-1822) who rebelled and fought against the Turks, successfully carving for himself a sizeable area of the Ottoman Empire which he ruled independently of the Turks. He had his capital at Yanina (now in north -west Greece).

His land extended from Durres to the south to include all of the Peloponnese except Attica and east to encompass Thessaly and part of Macedonia.

The English poet Byron visited Albania during this period, and he met and was entertained by Ali Pasha. He wrote that

the Arna’uts, or Albanese, struck me forcibly by their resemblance to the Highlander of Scotland, in dress, figure and manner of living;[they] have a fine cast of countenance; and the most beautiful women I ever beheld, in stature and in features

Lord Byron

So impressed was he with the country and its inhabitants that he sometimes wore an Albanian costume and his poet friend Shelley nicknamed him “Albi

As part of his strategy to weaken the Ottoman Empire, Ali Pasha encouraged and subsidized the Greek War of Independence causing Victor Hugo to consider him as “the only man of the age fit to be compared to Napoleon”. It is ironic to note that another Arna’ut -Mohamed Ali of Egypt, was ultimately responsible for suppressing the Greek revolt.

He had been asked by Sultan Mahmoud II (1809-1839) to help defeat the Greek rebels. At first Mohamed Ali was hesitant to take up arms against the Arna’uts and their Greek allies. Then news came that the Greeks had turned on the Arna’uts, who had been living for centuries in various Greek centres, and massacred thousands, burning villages and destroying mosques. In addition, Sultan Mahmoud promised to make Mohamed Ali ruler of Morea (southern Greece of today) in the event of a successful campaign. So Mohamed Ali sent his son Ibrahim, who, like his father, had been born in Kavalla, in northern Greece, to lead his Nizam Jadid (the new order) highly trained Egyptian soldiers, much admired by Ottomans and Europeans alike. Ibrahim quickly succeeded in quelling the rebellion.

Although Ibrahim’s birthplace, Kavalla, was once heavily populated by Arna’uts and had several mosques – nothing remains today except for an equestrian statue of Ibrahim, symbolically placing his sword in its scabbard. In 1846, shortly before Mohamed Ali Pasha died, he visited Kavalla donating money for a school which still stands to this day.

When the Sultan reneged on his promise to Mohamed Ali, a feud broke out between them leading the Pasha to declare total independence from the Ottoman Empire. With his son Ibrahim continuing to lead the army, Mohamed Ali carved out an extensive empire that included : Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Palestine and eastern Anatolia.

The entire Ottoman Imperial army was defeated at the battle of Nazib on June 24, 1839 and the way was open to Istanbul. At this point, the European powers intervened and persuaded Mohamed Ali to make his son withdraw in return for making Egypt an independent country to be ruled by him and his descendants.

Mohamed Ali receiving dignitaries

And so it was until 1952 when the last of Egypt’s Albanian monarchs-King Farouk-abdicated, ending the dynasty founded by Mohamed Ali in 1805.

There are some interesting comments on the Arna’uts made by Lady Montagu (1689-1762), the wife of the British ambassador to Istanbul. She travelled through Europe to Turkey in 1716 and described her trip through the land of the Arna’ut with the following note on religious practices:

“But of all the religions I have seen, the Arna’ut seem to me the most particular .. these people living between Christians and Mohammedans.. they very prudently follow both and go to the mosque on Fridays, and to the church on Sundays”

Most likely Lady Montagu had been observing the habits of the Bektashi Muslim sect which was introduced to Albania by Bektashi dervishes when they rode with the Ottomans into the Balkans. The founder of this sect, Hadji Bektash, was born in Persia, in 1249, moved to Turkey in 1284 and died there in 1344 at age 90. He revered Christ as equal to Mohamed and both as the true messengers of God. The orthodox Sunni Muslims attacked the Bektashi sect and described it as being “half Muslim, half Christian” but naturally such a religious half-way house held a special appeal for Christian Albanians otherwise reluctant to be converted to Islam.

During his sojourn in Albania, Byron had also noted that:

“the Greeks hardly regard them as Christians,
or the Turks as Muslims;
and in fact they are a mixture of both, and sometimes neither”

Unfortunately, the hatred of Bektashism by the Sunni Turks increased, leading to the decline of the sect to some 200,000 adherents by the end of the 19th century.

Albania persisted in its attempts to regain independence from the Ottomans throughout the last half of the 19th century.

With the help of European powers, Greece, by the 1830s, had already become independent. However, it was in vain that Albania pleaded for support, as none of the European countries even paid lip service to this cause.

Albania unilaterally declared its independence on 28th of November 1912, and the Great Powers of Europe finally recognized Albanian independence from Turkey in principle at the Conference of Ambassadors in London, on the 11th of December 1912. Albania declared its neutrality in all future conflicts in the Balkans at this time.

The following year the conference met again and decided that for this recognition Albania must be deprived of half her territory and population including the regions of Kosovo, Monastir and Yanina.

Subsequently the secret “Treaty of London” in 1915, between England, France, Italy and Russia agreed to the complete dismemberment and partition of Albania to Italy, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro so as not to have an Islamic state in Europe.

Greece and Italy invaded Albania; the former occupied southern Albania, the latter held part of the southern coastal area on the Adriatic.

Encouraged by the Greek and Italian success, the Serbs and Montenegrins invaded northern Albania in 1915.

Reports had been made to the Great Powers the previous year about the atrocities of Serbian troops killing men, women and children in northern Albania especially in the ‘vilayet’ of Kosovo; and it was emphasized that they had been committed in cold blood.

The plan to partition Albania was brought to the Peace Conference of Versailles at the end of World War I.

Debate continued on whether to recognize a tiny autonomous Albanian state. The Albanians had to fight as never before for their very existence as a nation.

Prior to the Peace Conference of Versailles the American President, Woodrow Wilson had convened a Congress of Oppressed Nations in July 1918 in Washington, D.C. and Albania was among the countries represented at the conference that culminated in President Wilson’s issuing his famous “14 Points” on nationhood and self-determination.

At Versailles, Wilson opposed the partition of Albania and threatened that he would not sign the treaty. The final compromise enabled Albania to remain independent but with the borders outlined in the treaty of 1913.

Turkey also suffered tremendously by the loss of all her territory in the Middle East and Europe, except Istanbul; and the notion of the partition of Turkey itself was discussed.

Subsequently, Greek forces landed in Anatolia to establish their territory there.

It would take another Albanian, Mustapha Kemal, born in Macedonia of Albanian parentage, to repel the invader and maintain the integrity of the Turkish border as defined at Versailles. Mustapha Kemal is considered to be the founder of modern Turkey and the people bestowed upon him the title of Ataturk – the father of Turkey

Tibet worth saving for humanity

Dolma Tulotsang

TIBET worth saving for humanity
vol 9   2000

In 1949, the People’s Republic of China sent troops to invade the country of Tibet. After ten years of trying tp reach a peaceful resolution with China, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual and temporal leader, was forced to flee his homeland and seek political asylum in neighboring India.

Nearly 100,000 Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama into exile and thousands, including children, continue to make that treacherous journey over the Himalayas each year in search of refuge. However, for the remaining 5 million Tibetans still in Tibet, there is no escaping China’s deliberate policy of ruthless oppression of the Tibetans.

During the over 40 years of China’s occupation of Tibet:

* 1.2 million Tibetans (one fifth of the country’s population) are dead and many more languished in prisons and labor camps,

* Gross human rights violations – starvation, execution and torture continue to this day and Tibetans are routinely imprisoned for just expressing their views,

* Freedom of religion is severely curtailed,

* Nuns have been brutally raped in Chinese prisons,

* Nearly all of Tibet’s monastries (6,000 of them) and other cultural and historic buildings have been destroyed and their contents pillaged,

* China is encouraging the large-scale settlement of Chinese into Tibet which is overwhelming the Tibetan population in many areas

Tibet

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile have worked tirelessly to bring the suffering of the Tibetan people under Chinese occupation to the world’s attention.

The Dalai Lama’s efforts as a champion of world peace have been recognized with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

The Dalai Lama was equally clear in his statement,

“.. there is an attempt to destroy the integral core of the Tibetan civilization and identity. New measures of restrictions in the fields of culture, religion and education, coupled with the unabated influx of Chinese migrants to Tibet amount to a policy of cultural genocide”

Historically, Tibet lies at the centre of Asia, with an area of 2.5 million square kilometers. It is the homeland of six million Tibetans, and it is a separate nation with a distinct culture, religion, language, laws and customs and has maintained its own government.

Tibetan Buddhism is practiced by 99% of the population.

The international community reacted with shock at the events in Tibet.

The issue was discussed on numerous occasions by the UN General Assembly between 1959 and 1965. Three resolutions were passed condemning China’s violations of human rights in Tibet and calling upon China to respect those rights, including Tibet’s right to self-determination.

The Tibetan people’s determination to preserver their heritage and regain their freedom is as strong as ever, even though the situation has led to confrontation in Tibet and to large scale Chinese international propaganda efforts.

In 1987 further deterioration led to open demonstrations against Chinese rule in Lhasa and other major towns.

The Chinese military and civilian build up is also of great concern to India’s direct security.

Tibet had acted for for centuries as a buffer between China and India and the increasing presence of China in the Himalayas will now be affecting many Asian nations as well.

In recent years, and especially since the Nobel Peace Prize award to the Dalai Lama, the concern shown by governments in Europe and America has grown considerably. However, China’s pressure tactics have thwarted efforts to make substantive headway to resolve the issue, and Tibet has continued to pay a terrible price for the world community’s failure to seriously challenge China on its behavior there.

The situation is increasingly tense as thousands of Tibetans continue to be imprisoned merely for their political or religious activities, detainees are being tortured regularly; and Tibetans are rarely permitted to leave the country-and access to Tibet by exiled Tibetans is also limited.

Is there still hope to save Tibet?

Mike Kanellis is a Canadian Dream

Mike Kanellis is a Canadian Dream
vol 9 2000

by the editor

The first time I was introduced to Mike was at another friend’s restaurant – I had only been in Canada a short while myself, so, little did I know that he was the owner of a most prestigious restaurant and the proud and successful realizer of a Canadian dream. He was extremely courteous, very modest and helpful, and did not hesitate at all to support my-at the time-budding Cross Cultures.

Emmanuel ( Mike ) Kanellis came to Canada in 1964, from a southern peninsula of Greece called Peloponnesos. He grew up in a village where his father did mixed farming. He has three sisters and four brothers. Already two of his brothers and a sister had come to Canada when he, just out of military service, was job searching. Realizing the difficulties Mike was having finding work, his brother suggested “why don’t you come over, I’ll take you to a restaurant .. you can get a job washing dishes”

So, the young man came with little more than his hopes, dreams, and willingness to work hard.

Sure enough, he started his first job only four days after arriving . . . washing dishes! Any other job, at a factory or store required a minimum knowledge of English.

He worked twelve hours a day, six days a week and was paid fifty cents an hour, for ten months. Then he moved to another restaurant where he got the opportunity to start cooking and learning to be a chef, he was also teaching himself English.

But most importantly, with his pioneer spirit, he set the plan to realizing a dream.

Mike came with an open mind, to learn and to work hard “the people are polite and eager to help you even if you don’t speak English, they go to every effort to try to understand”.

At first he had to memorize the menu, and watch the Chef very closely, “learning a lot, from A to Z”.  Meanwhile he was economizing, in every possible way he knew how to, in order to put money aside.

He had earlier realized that Canada was full of opportunities, and he planned to work hard to move up from the sink to brighter horizons.

As Mike moved from full-time Chef, to managing the entire operation, observing every detail, and formulating his own way of handling matters and viewing prospects of growing and improving the business, he soon was ready to be an owner, and the opportunity presented itself from one of his previous employers, who approached him offering to sell him his restaurant.

Mike was now 27 years old, and had only been in Canada for four years, but he was ready to take the new challenge .. and although he ran that place for nine years, he constantly faced a problem with parking space, so it was natural that when he found an advertisement for his current location (14,000 sq.ft), he overlooked the concerns of some skeptics regarding its history. Offering top quality service and food at excellent prices has kept people coming back for more!

Mike now shares his pride, as well as most details of his Golf’s Steak House and Seafood with three sons, Tom, George and Gus, who work with him.

Tom George Mike & Tom
Tom George Mike & Tom

Mike still works a double shift almost every week, he checks on everything, all the time, and you will only find him in his office early in the morning or late at night, otherwise he is attending to his customers, and making sure everyone is satisfied.

To work so hard one must also rest hard. Mike enjoys travelling .. “I’d like to visit all those places I learnt about in school”, and of course he does return to Greece often