June 2010



After hearing about the crazy protests in Toronto this Saturday, I decided to take a stroll downtown on Sunday to take a look at the damage that was done and to see if I could get a glimpse of the action myself. Things of that magnitude never happen in Canada so it was a once in a life time opportunity. I’ve never really been to a protest or witnessed vandalism of that sort so curiosity dragged me to the core of Toronto where the G20 was happening.

My bag was thoroughly searched as soon as I got out of Union station; apparently the police was given full permission to go through everyone’s stuff. I started walking around to see if any protests were going on. The downtown area was pretty much empty around 4:30pm, with the exception of a small group of people protesting by King and Bay. They were just sitting in a circle peacefully surrounded by police; there wasn’t much action there. I then starting walking North. The vandalism from yesterday was still quite apparent; windows of nearly every other store were smashed up till Dundas Street. The Eaton Center was almost empty; nothing like what you’d normally see on a Sunday. I made my way up to Queens Park and it was deserted too. ‘I missed all the action’ I thought to myself. After surveying most of the downtown core, I started walking back to Union station to head home.

I saw a girl handcuffed and being questioned by a few cops on University Avenue as I was heading back. I decided to stand and watch what was going on. All of sudden this officer turns around and yells at me, ‘What the hell you doing standing behind my back you creep!! Get back!! Do you know this girl??!! This is none of your business! Get Back you Creep!!’. I was infuriated at the unnecessary rudeness demonstrated by this officer but there wasn’t much I could do. ‘Try being a little nicer’ I whispered. Two cops came up to me and started searching my backpack (this was the third time now) and questioning me. I protested when the officer pulled out my journal and started skimming through my notes, ‘So you guys are just gonna violate our basic right today’ I said. He bluntly responded, ‘Right now, you have no rights’. I was about to experience that statement in full force a few minutes later.

I was ready to go back home after this quick confrontation with the police. However, walking back I saw a large group of protestors rallying westward on Queen Street. I got a little excited and quickly joined them. There must have been over a thousand odd people, it was a pretty large group. After walking with the group for a few blocks I started to realize that most of the people weren’t really protesting anything significant. I heard them chant random things such as ‘Whose Streets? Our Streets!’ every once in while; only a few people actually had banners and signs. Majority of the crowd comprised of curious young adults and teenagers walking along peacefully and taking pictures; trying to be a part of the G20 experience. I’d say may be about 50-100 people were actually a part of the protest, the rest were random folks like myself who just wanted to check out what was happening.

The ‘protestors’ were finally stopped by a wall of police officers and their bikes at Queen and Spadina. We couldn’t go forward or turn southward on Spadina. I don’t really know what the police wanted us to do. The protestors started chanting, ‘Let us through! Let us through!’ but the police wouldn’t budge. People settled down in the middle of the intersection and starting protesting in various ways. One guy started throwing out monopoly money in the crowd while dancing with a boom box on his shoulders, thus symbolizing the money wasted on this summit. Another guy was holding a sign that read ‘Everything is OK!’. He would go up to the police ocassionaly and say things like, ‘Are you guys a fan of oppression?!’ and ‘You guys need to quit your jobs and start doing something more meaningful with your lives!’. Others just sat around in circles and sang songs like ‘We shall over come…’ and ‘Oh Canada’. There were journalists taking video footage and reporting live from the scene. With the exception of the southbound traffic being blocked on Spadina, everything was very peaceful. It was quite the party actually.

After about fifteen minutes our so we started noticing riot police arrive in their vans in the distance; it was about 6 pm at this point. They parked on the south side of Spadina. People started booing and expressed disappointment, ‘Oh Right, cuz we are just that scary’ one protester exclaimed. After about 10 minutes they quickly marched up and instantaneously replaced the regular police officers and their bikes. Their sheer presence was intimidating and I got a little frightened. I decided I was going to head back. Some protestors continued and chanted, ‘You’re sexy! You’re cute! Take off your riot suit!’ Only a few minutes later another group of riot police marched up from behind the first group in their usual robotic swagger and quickly blocked off the eastern end of Queen Street. They pushed and knocked over innocent bystanders as they did so. We were blocked from three sides now. I was only thinking about heading northwards when I saw another group block the North end of the intersection. Th intersection at Queen and Spadina was blocked off from all four corners now.

Panic was in the air at this time as most of the people were just innocent bystanders and curious onlookers checking out the protest. It wasn’t fun and games any more. Police in riot gear are scary as hell and to top that they were screaming and yelling at us, telling us to move back while banging on their shields with the batons and marching forward. Amongst those corralled were journalists, seniors, young teenagers and dogs. Most people just wanted to get out of there but there were no options. Tensions were running high. I heard some people started to cry out of fear and anxiety. The officer in command went around telling the police, ‘If they cross the line, they are under arrest’.

We asked the riot police how we could get out. Many of them were just as clueless as we were and some told us to just calm down and they’ll soon give us a way out. I thought this was their way of breaking up the crowd and clearing the intersection; it worked fairly well as we were pushed to the sides and the intersection was cleared up in just a few minutes. I figured they’d let us go soon. All of a sudden I saw a group of 4 or 5 officers violently jump one guy from the crowd and took him in. He was pinned against the floor and handcuffed. I figured he might be one of the violent protesters they were searching for from yesterday. A few minutes later another guy was taken in, not as violently this time. This procedure was repeated several times. So much so that at one point it seemed that they were doing it completely randomly; if you were close enough they’d grab you. I decided to stand as far as I could from the frontline where they were snatching people.

After about an hour or so, rumors started spreading around in the crowd that we were all under arrest. I was horrified when I heard the news. Will I have a criminal record now? That’s gonna ruin my future I thought. How am I going to tell my folks at home where I am? My mum would freak if I told her I got arrested. How am I gonna explain my absence from work? What will my manager think? All these thoughts were running wild in my head as I stood there helplessly waiting. I was beginning to regret my decision to come downtown. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, it started raining cats and dogs. I don’t think it has ever rained as hard. It continued to pour and pour. Some people had umbrellas and others didn’t. Luckily I had mine and a group of people flocked under it as soon as I held it up.

There were several media personnel from stations such as CP24, CTV and 680 News. This gave me some hope as I thought they’d get us out of here; however after sometime most of these people had disappeared. Either they too were arrested or were allowed to leave because of their special name tags, I don’t quite know. I started asking the riot police for updates and they confirmed the rumors about all of us being arrested. They told us that they only quick way to get out of the rain was to voluntarily get arrested; they’ll eventually come get all of us anyways. About two hours later several people lined up and voluntarily turned themselves in out of desperation. I too thought about doing the same but later decided against it, ‘they’ll have to come get me if they want me’ I told myself.

The crowd was slowly shrinking. People were hungry, cold and wet; many feared they’d contract hypothermia. The rain wouldn’t stop and the cops weren’t making things easy. No official instructions were given to us and we weren’t told what they were going to do with us. All the information received was either rumors or information individuals received after inquiring with some officers which was later spread around. Many officers wouldn’t even answer questions. At one point they stopped arresting volunteers. We were told that there wasn’t any room to put us and they were waiting for buses to come that would take us to the detention centre. I saw buses arrive at around 8:45 pm. Some were TTC streetcars and others were large Greyhound style buses.

At one point even the riot police put their guards down. They started chatting and joking around with those that were corralled; even they recognized that something wasn’t right. By this time people had made new friends within the crowd. I met this poor woman who was on a lunch break from work and got stuck here. People continued complaining about how their rights were violated and how they’d sue the city as soon as they got out. Many compared the treatment to that of the Nazi’s. I soon realized that this experience was a slight preview into the lives of those that are oppressed around the world. The Palestinians go through oppression far worse than this on a daily basis. This feeling of complete helplessness and subjugation is something I’ve never experienced. I thank God for the freedoms he’s blessed us with in this land.

At about 9:40 pm, over 3 hours after this episode began an officer came out and made an inaudible announcement. Shortly after, the riot police magically dispersed and those remaining in the crowd were allowed to go free. There were still around 100 odd people left. The crowd dispersed immediately and people started running home as soon as they were released. Bystanders clapped and cheered us on as we made our way out; we felt like heroes. There were reporters standing outside filming us and taking interviews, I even managed to make my way onto live television. It was quite the moment.

I came looking for an adventure and I got more than what I asked for. In the five hours that I spent in Toronto, I’ve learned lessons worth a lifetime. Its hard to believe that things of this nature could happen in a free democratic state like Canada; I’ve learned to not take our freedom for granted. As frustrastring as the situation was, I must say that the experience was certianly unforgettable. I returned home, tired yet thankful, only to hear the ‘I told you so’ lecture conveniently prepared by my mother.

More on this :
The National Post
The Star
Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Report – see page 4
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Agnosticism is starting to become quite popular these days; everyone seems to be seeking refuge in it. Its perceived to be the safest route for the secular man. For those unfamiliar with it, agnosticism is basically the belief that there is no way to know whether or not there is a God. The agnostic therefore neither believes nor disbelieves in God, since both the theist and the atheist fail to conclusively prove the existence of one. There are different forms of agnosticism with varying definitions (e.g. ignosticism); but at the end it boils to the agnostic being someone who refrains from taking a stand and defends his ignorance.

Here’s the problem with the entire agnostic world view. It is based on one fundamentally flawed precept; and that is the assumption that the proof for God is an empirical one. It rests on the belief that if there was to be a proof for God then it would be very much like a philosophical or scientific proof which could be repeated by any one at anytime and would always yield the same result. Since nothing like that exists, the agnostic ignorantly yet confidently says, ‘There’s no way to know’.

What the agnostic fails to realize is that empirical proofs exist for things that are confined to the material world; things to which the laws of nature apply, things that are within the realm of human comprehension. God by definition is far beyond all this. How then does one expect to find an empirical proof for something that is metaphysical? How then does one apply science to the One that created science?

Furthermore, the demand for a proof for God begs the question, ‘What would qualify as a proof’? If you demand to “see God”, how would you recognize him? Were you to wake one day and see some holy figure hovering above your head, or a miraculous wonder happens before your eyes…would you take that to be ‘proof’ for God?  Of course not – you would dismiss it as a hallucination and go see a physiologist. The reality is, most people don’t know what they are asking for when they ask for a ‘proof’ for God.

The proof for God is not an empirical one but is experiential and logical. It is not like a mathematical proof that is based on fundamental axioms rather it is an experiential proof like the proof for love. How do you prove that you love your parents or your spouse? Certainly not by running scientific experiments and by debating with philosophers. We all know that love exists since it is a phenomenon that we’ve all experienced.

In addition, the proof for God is one that is logical. How does one prove that their great-great-great-great-great Grandfather existed? We don’t have any empirical evidence for that. However, we know this to be true because our existence is contingent on theirs. Similarly, anything that begins to exist has a cause and creator. The universe began to exist and it thus also has a Creator. It would be absurd to believe anything else.

As Imam Al-Ghazali once said, faith in God doesn’t come about by abstract proofs and speculative theology . Faith is something that is realized through contemplation and experience. The phenomenon of faith and the issue of finding God simply can’t be treated as a mere philosophical problem to which an abstract proof is sufficient.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say I was to give you a concrete proof for God’s existence right now. Assume that I’ve told you what it was and you see no way of arguing against it. It’s foolproof; flawless. Would you all of a sudden start believing in God just because of an argument you can’t rebut? Would you change you entire lifestyle and live in accordance with God’s will just because of one argument? Most people won’t. You believe in God when you realize that He exists, not when you are told He exists.

The issue of faith is directly related to experience. Finding faith and God is a journey that is ought to be undertaken; it requires a combination of the mind and the heart. Its not about blindly following faith or relying entirely on your brains; it’s the convergence of the two in perfect harmony.

There are numerous evidences of God all around, the greatest proof for the Creator is creation itself. Not believing in God implies the universe had no creator and came out of nothing; an illogical and unscientific belief. The only ones who will see these evidences and accept them are the ones that will sincerely seek God, those who look for the truth.

God in the Quran constantly pushes the reader to ponder over the world around him and to realize the beauty of God’s creation. He further says in a hadith qudsi, “Take one step towards Me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me and I will run towards you.” Those who ask God to guide them are the ones that will be guided. God is to be found where he claims to be, He doesn’t claim to be in books of philosophy but He does claim to be in the Quran. so I encourage you to read it.

“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth;
in the alternation of the night and the day;
in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind;
in the rain which God sends down from the skies,
and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead;
in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth;
in the change of the winds,
and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;
(in all this) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise” (Quran 2:164)


After the recent flotilla killings, the Israeli PR is in full swing trying to manipulate the news reports we see and read. Following is a series of refutations to some of the claims Israel has made in order to justify its indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians and aid workers aboard the flotilla.

Source: MuslimMatters

FACT CHECK

Weapons On Board the Flotilla

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said Monday morning that the pro-Palestinian activists on the flotilla sailing to the Gaza Strip were carrying weapons on board [Source]

RESPONSE: Nothing could be further from truth. The ships had discharged from Turkey after the government checked for weapons. Forget the Turkish claims; common sense dictates that symbolism of peaceful resistance that the flotilla mission was engaging in would not allow the presence of weapons. Finally, the video released by the IDF itself shows that those on board were using miscellaneous items to fight off the soldiers (pirates), not any arms.

“Allegations that there were weapons aboard the Turkish ship are baseless,” Fevzi Gulcan, the head of customs at the Mediterranean port city of Antalya, said on Monday.  He added that passengers had been allowed to board the Mavi Marmara ship after they were searched and scanned via X-Ray, the Anatolia news agency reported.” [Source]

Israel Acted in Self-Defense

“Israel, though, insists its forces fired in self-defense. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they had to “defend their lives, or they would have been killed.” [Source]

RESPONSE: Like all the “self-defense” claims that Israel as one of the world’s mightiest military power makes against kids with stones, this one doesn’t fly either. See the video below released by none other than the IDF. Let’s assume for argument’s sake, that the NGO participants on board the ship started the altercation. As an illustration of the hollowness of the self-defense argument, let’s assume my neighbor comes to my house and kicks and punches me. I am in full military fatigue, I have all the weapons, while my neighbor is employing his boots to the best of his ability. In return, I take him and his family out. What would the court say to my self-defense argument?

Furthermore, there are strict guidelines on the response by military and police in law enforcement situations. Under San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994, Section II (Armed conflicts and the law of of self-defence). Note the condition of proportionality mentioned twice for emphasis:

3. The exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations is subject to the conditions and limitations laid down in the Charter, and arising from general international law, including in particular the principles of necessity and proportionality.

4. The principles of necessity and proportionality apply equally to armed conflict at sea and require that the conduct of hostilities by a State should not exceed the degree and kind of force, not otherwise prohibited by the law of armed conflict, required to repel an armed attack against it and to restore its security.

Israel’s “Proof” of Self-Defense — the Proverbial Foot in its own Mouth:

Israel’s Interception of Flotilla was in Accordance with International Laws

Israel maintains that it has the right to defend its territorial integrity, in accordance with international laws.

RESPONSE: The attack took place in international waters, so in fact, Israel was in full breach of international laws. For instance, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has already come out in asserting that Israel’s attack on aid flotilla violated international law.

Robin Churchill, a professor of international law at the University of Dundee in Scotland, said the Israeli commandos boarded the ship outside of Israel’s territorial waters. “As far as I can see, there is no legal basis for boarding these ships,” Churchill said. Also, a group of lawyers in Israel have petitioned the High Court, charging that Israel had violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea by capturing the boats in international waters.

Under the same San Remo manual, Part II, Section I, hostile actions are forbidden on neutral waters, and clearly the Israeli action took place in international waters by all accounts:

14. Neutral waters consist of the internal waters, territorial sea, and, where applicable, the archipelagic waters, of neutral States. Neutral airspace consists of the airspace over neutral waters and the land territory of neutral States.

15. Within and over neutral waters, including neutral waters comprising an international strait and waters in which the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage may be exercised, hostile actions by belligerent forces are forbidden. A neutral State must take such measures as are consistent with Section II of this Part, including the exercise of surveillance, as the means at its disposal allow, to prevent the violation of its neutrality by belligerent forces.

Furthermore under Section V, Line 67, Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked. Clearly the flotilla flying the flags of Greece and Turkey fall under this category. The exceptions to this default state include “reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade… engage in belligerent acts on behalf of the enemy” and a bunch of other categories where there is clearly an “enemy” involved. While Israel may state that the ships were breaching a blockade, this argument is patently false, since the blockade itself is illegal and not approved by the international community.

But there is even further qualification, by exemptions for certain type of vessels, under Section IV,

136. The following vessels are exempt from capture:

(ii) vessels engaged in humanitarian missions, including vessels carrying supplies indispensable o the survival of the civilian population, and vessels engaged in relief actions and rescue operations;

Flotilla Organizers Have Ties to Al Qaeda

“Before the flotilla entered Israeli waters, rumor had it that the organizers [of the aid initiative] had links with the al Qaeda terrorist network,” Arthur Avnon was quoted as saying on the website of public broadcaster DR. [Source]

RESPONSE: “Rumor has it”… Rumor? Are we now going to depend on rumors? Desperation? Here Israel is using, once again, the Islam vs. the West “clash of civilization” fear-mongering approach. Increasing Islamophobia has been a strategic goal of the Israel Lobby. As long as Westerners are afraid of Muslims (=Palestinians), Israel will always be justified in all its ruthless actions to subdue the uncivilized Muslim populace. Ever since 9/11, Israel has made great pains in equating the terrorists with Palestinians fighting occupation. The great differences between the two situations conveniently escapes Israel, but it has still been effective at making this case. No surprise when many Americans still think Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.

The response is actually quite simple. Al-Qaeda is a caustic entity, besides being a terrorist outfit. No cause would want connections to this organization as it will instantly digress from any positive message. Thus, not only is it unreasonable, but it would be foolish to include Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, since when did Al-Qaeda tactics shift from terrorism to unarmed humanitarian efforts?  Let’s review the list of notable personalities on board. Would they even remotely risk being tied to Al-Qaeda? The list includes newspaper journalists, members and former members of EU states governments, a member of the Israeli Knesset (!), Swedish historians and artists, actors,  a survivor of the USS Liberty, former United States Ambassador and more. See the entire “Al-Qaeda’s Who’s Who List” on Wikipedia:

No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

On a related note, since this flotilla was after all meant to highlight the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister reminded reporters recently  “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza” [Source].

RESPONSE: This is a lie (=disinformation) in so many ways that it boggles the mind that someone can even make this claim:

Sophisticated Approach to Media by the Israeli Lobby: