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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42-15701022Cheating is one of the most common reasons why couples break up. It is a phenomenon which is becoming more and more widespread everyday. Infidelity is so common that it makes me wonder if it’s even possible for one to be in a relationship without being either guilty or a victim of it. I’ve been thinking about why people cheat, why it is so widespread and how one is to prevent it. Following are some of my conclusions.

There is one fact that I am certain of. Everyone is capable of and has the desire and potential to cheat. It’s a part of human nature and denial of this fact is in my opinion where it all starts. Humans have been created with certain desires that can only cause harm and part of being pious and righteous is to be able to overcome these desires and to rise above them. Man is a social and sexually active animal. It’s only a matter of time before he/she finds someone with whom they are more compatible and from whom they can derive greater sexual gratification; and that is the time when the desire to cheat is ignited. Women are spiritually stronger than men and henceforth have stronger self control which explains why we hear about men committing adultery more often.

Many people think that only certain type of people can cheat. It is true that there are people with lower standards of morality that are more likely to cheat and don’t consider it to be a sin of any kind. However, the truth is that you could be the most righteous person on the planet but still cheat. It might take more for you than it would for someone else, but you are still capable of doing it. One might think that people cheat because there is something missing from their relationship. Maybe the lack of love, trust or sexual satisfaction is what propels them to cheat. While I agree that this is true and many times the main factor, I also believe and know that you could be happily married with no problems in your relationship and still cheat.

So, how is one to prevent cheating if everyone is capable of doing it? Cheating can only happen if you allow for environments in which it can happen to exist. It’s sort of like how bacteria can reproduce and grow only in the right conditions. If you want to get rid of the bacteria you don’t kill it, you just change its environment i.e. add heat to it and the bacteria dies as it cannot exist in the new environment (apologies for any scientific inconsistencies in that analogy). Many times people end up cheating because they were intoxicated at some party and just managed to hookup with someone. If you want to avoid that type of cheating, avoid going to places like that or just don’t drink.

Here’s the second fact that I am certain about. There is always someone out there with whom you will be more compatible and will have better chemistry with. There is always something missing from a relationship and things are never perfect. In other words, you can always do better. This is something that people wouldn’t be willing to recognize because it takes away the specialness of the relationship and they probably shouldn’t. But it’s something that people need to be aware of. When you commit to someone you shouldn’t be under the illusion that you are committing to them because they are the perfect person for you, rather its because you love them for what they are. There is someone out there who is ‘perfecter’ than this person but you shouldn’t want perfect, you should want THAT person.

The reason I mention that second fact is because people have this attitude where they tell themselves that since they are with the perfect person there is no way they could cheat, since there is no one else they could get along with. That, however, is not true and it’s only a matter of time before they run into someone better. In order to prevent cheating, couples need to put limits and barriers on themselves. Rules such as ‘don’t spend time alone with the opposite sex’ are important. This may sound extreme to some people but when two people spend a whole lot of time together, feelings will inevitably develop. And more often than not, people tend to act on these feelings. The Prophet Muhammad is right when he says that two people of the opposite sex are never really alone, the third person is Satan who is pushing them to give into their desires. People need to recognize these things as it is the denial of our own true nature that leads to cheating.

It’s important to find a moderate ground when coming up with limits and barriers. These rules shouldn’t be enforced by the couple on each other as this can result in a very controlling relationship. People should recognize these things and enforce it on themselves. For e.g. instead of your wife asking you to not go for drinks after work with your female co-worker, you should recognize that this ‘friendly’ gesture might lead to something and just not go yourself. One only needs to take these simple and small steps and that I think seems to be a reasonable way to prevent cheating from happening.


The problem of evil is an old theological problem that has plagued God-conscious people for centuries. It’s the anthem of the atheists and a threat to many religious people, particularly to those that follow the Judeo–Christian tradition. In this tradition one of the attributes of God is the All-Good and All-Powerful and this leads to the following problem. If God is All-Good and All Powerful then he would not allow evil to exist. But since there is evil in our world, a God does not exist. This argument is probably one of the strongest philosophical arguments against the existence of God and with atheism and secularism on the rise it continues to be debated today.

The question that arises is, ‘What is Evil’? Proponents of this argument will tell you that it is something that causes harm to human beings. A tsunami, a famine, a flood, disease, poverty, rape, murder etc; the list is never ending. Here is where the irony arises. If you look at the atheist movements of recent times, you will notice that they have risen from industrialized Western nations. What is interesting is that none of the ‘evils’ that these people talk about have actually affected them. Poverty, famines and widespread disease is not something that has, for the most part, personally affected the people that are leading atheist movements in industrialized nations. Its something they see people, in Africa for example, suffer through and hence arrive at the conclusion that there isn’t a God.

One would think that this argument would be lead by people in poor developing nations where they experience ‘evil’ on a day to day basis. This, however, is not that case and in fact some of the poorest countries have the most devout believers. Also to be noted is the fact that most of the religious historical figures were generally poor as well. One would think that people deprived of the blessings of God would be the ones who turn against Him; and the blessed ones would be the ones who would be stronger in faith and would be thankful. But what I see is that the it is usually the wealthy ones that become arrogant and turn away from God while the poor bedouin is the one who turns to Him. I end with the following words from the Quran,

“Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, who say, when afflicted with calamity: “To God We belong, and to Him is our return” – they are those on whom (Descend) blessings from God, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance” (Quran 2:155-157)


zoo20snoozeWhat does it mean to be free? I was reading ‘The Life of Pi’ and Yann Martel makes an interesting point. He was talking about how people perceive animals in the zoo as being chained and imprisoned. People think that they are being denied their freedom because they are in a confined space. He argues however, that since animals are territorial, a biologically sound and spacious zoo enclosure just decreases the size of the animal’s territory. The zoo serves as the animal’s shelter, provides food and a safe place to procreate. It defends them from the diseases, predators and natural disasters. The zoo is actually a safe haven for animals. They might not have the freedom to go where ever they want to, but they automatically would not want to leave a place that fulfills all that they require.

I am not arguing about whether or not it’s moral to cage animals in a zoo. The thing I am trying to get is what it means to be free. Imprisonment is considered to be the opposite of freedom but as I showed in the earlier example, it’s not that obvious. We are told over and over again that we live in a free society. Freedom of speech, religion, education … the list goes on. While I believe that those are great values, I don’t think that having them makes us free beings.

Look at the society around you. Every one’s a victim of materialism and consumerism. Our men are slave to sex, pornography and gambling. Our women are slaves to fashion, cosmetics and weight loss. Young boy and girls are slaves to pop culture. Kids spend too much time trying to imitate their role models; Miley Cyrus and Jamie Lynn. A thirteen year old girl’s goal in life is to have a boyfriend. Young boys sit on their asses all day and play video games. Families are in debt that they probably will never recover from since they can only manage to pay the interest every month. People are so busy planning out their retirement that they can’t enjoy their present lives. They spend 45 years of their life planning out the 15 years they probably won’t get to live completely. No one can breathe without technology. Facebook and cell phones have taken over our lives. People aren’t as free as they think they are.

Our society is physically free but is intellectually and spiritually imprisoned. Every person from every walk of life is jailtied into some part of the materialistic web spun by either the media or the corporate world. You could be the guy who can’t think about anything else but getting buff or the girl who is addicted to breast implants and weight loss. It’s important for us to recognize these traps and rise above them. When your body is caged at least you can see that you are confined. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the same way when your soul is a prisoner.

First published in The Silhouette (incorrectly credited on website)


Following are 10 realizations/observations that I have made.

1.  If everyone stopped moving simultaneously, time would stop

2.  No body is smart enough to understand why negative times negative is positive

3.  Everyone thinks that every one else is a party animal. People like to believe that they are better than the ‘other’ people that party.

4.  The rate at which time passes increases as time moves on

5.  People that you think are bad and those that you look down at are people that you don’t really know

6.  Subtraction is an illusion. Its really just the addition of negative numbers

7.  You need faith to be an atheist

8.  The perfect soul mate you are looking for does not exist

9.  Due to the conservation of momentum, it is possible for you to fart your way through space.

10.  Lowering your expectations and standards is the key to happiness


Our society is plagued with numerous double standards; too many to list. The one that sticks out to me the most is the way Muslim women are perceived and treated. Muslim women who choose to wear headscarves and clothes that cover them up are always perceived as being oppressed and imprisoned. Some people pity them and feel bad for them while others suspect them being linked to some fanatical religious group.  

 

Here’s the question. Do the same thoughts come to your mind when you see a nun? Nuns dress up the same way as Muslim women do; only a little more conservatively. How come no one ever looks at them as being oppressed? When you see a nun,
you think ‘Oh… look at the pious women, devoted to her religion…’ but if it’s a Muslim girl then its like ‘Oh…poor girl…’ or ‘Oh… I should prolly stay away from her’. Why? What is the difference between the two? They both dress up modestly as outlined by their religions; so why give preference to one over the other. By no means am I trying to imply that nuns should be thought of as being subjugated as well. Ever seen a depiction of the Virgin Mary without her head covered? Probably never. But no one has ever thought about Virgin Mary like that. Hell… even Little Red Riding Hood wore a headscarf!

 


The reality that most people are ignorant about is that the covering of the head and a modest dress code has been a part of western tradition long before it was a part of the Muslim world. The only difference is that the West has secularized and has given up its moral values. The way the average woman dresses up here today would be considered inappropriate in the same society a hundred years ago.


Muslim women dress up modestly as outlined by Islamic teachings. They do it because they want to, not because some one forces them to and because they know that there is good in it for them. No one has the right to pass judgment on them and no one needs to pity them. They probably feel more liberated and confident than the average girl. People who need to form an opinion about Muslim women should go talk to them and see how they feel; rather than going with what they see on CNN or FOX. I have attached two short videos where Muslim women explain as to why they dress up the way they do.  

 


What’s moral? What’s immoral? What is right and what is wrong? I have come across several situations in which I have had to question what morality really is and what’s right and wrong. Here are some of those scenarios.

‘To Catch a Predator’ is a show hosted by Chris Hansen where his team catches ‘possible child sexual abusers’. The method they use to catch these ‘pedophiles’ is that they enter online public chat rooms posing to be thirteen year old girls. They start a sexually explicit conversation with some random guy, usually in his 30’s or 40’s. By the end of the conversation the ‘girl’ invites the guy to her place with promises of sleeping with him. When the guy gets to the girl’s house, Chris Hansen starts talking with him and presents him on national television as pervert and eventually gets him arrested.

Here’s the way I look at this whole thing. A man was looking for sex, someone offered it to him and he accepted. That happens in our society all the time. Is the thirteen year old really a victim? Its not like the man took advantage of her, she is the one who offered the man sex; so why is the old guy being represented as a pervert? Would this have been a problem if two thirteen year olds had sex? It’s relatively common in European countries for girls to loose their virginity at age thirteen. No one has a problem with the fact that they are having sex outside marriage; their ages seem to be the problem. Had the girl been three years older, it would have been considered legal. What standard are we using to determine what age is it at which it is moral for one to have sex. One would argue that at thirteen the girl is not capable of understanding the consequences of sex. Even if that is true, I still don’t think the guy should be humiliated on national television and represented as a pedophile. It’s just like arresting a guy on the charges of ‘potential rapist’ because he hooked up with a girl he met at the bar.

I was reading an anthropologists account of child prostitution in Thailand. After interviewing several child prostitutes he made an interesting discovery. The perception we have of child prostitutes is different than what they have of themselves. For us child prostitution is something immoral, it is the exploitation of young girls and is degrading to them. However, these girls don’t view themselves the way everyone else does. They consider themselves as girls who work hard in order to support their family. They don’t consider their job demeaning, wrong or immoral. Who’s to say prostitution is wrong? I was watching an interview of porn star Jenna Jameson and I heard a similar account from her. She doesn’t consider her self to be a prostitute, even though she sells her body in order to make money. She considers herself to be a business woman. So who is to say what she is doing is immoral? When a guy takes unfair advantage of a girl at club or something, he is the one who gets labeled as a jerk and what not. What about the girl who was throwing herself out there to begin with? If a girl goes to some party, is grinding with some guy and is getting drunk; then the guy will obviously take advantage of the opportunity and will try to take it a step further. Is the girl not at fault too? I am not saying what the guy does is right, but I am saying that he shouldn’t be the one getting all the bad press.

I guess what I am asking by giving all these examples is, what standard are we using to determine morality? A big chunk of what goes on in today’s society would be considered immoral a hundred years ago. So how is it that we determine our rights and wrongs? My philosophy professor suggested a method. He said that anything that is bad for a human or anything which causes a human to suffer should be wrong. If we use that criterion then we would loose many of our moral values. Rape, murder, theft and a few more would be the only things that would be wrong if were to use my Prof’s suggestion. In that case there would be nothing wrong with things such as prostitution, adultery, fornication, pornography, gambling etc; as long as they’re done in moderation that is. I don’t know, I think religion is the solution. It should be used as the standard for determining morality. One would say, well there are so many religions…which one should you go with and which one’s right? I guess that is personal decision one has to make.