PULSE: Arab World – What You Didn’t Read in the Mainstream

by Mourad Haroutunian (@MHaroutunianTO) in Toronto

From the anti-terrorism bill, Charlie Hebdo and William Schabas’ resignation to Ontario’s new sex education curriculum, ethnic media covering the Arab world has had its hands full. Here’s a look at the top five headlines that have made the most waves in January and February from Arab media.

Anti-terror Bill: Be Careful

In a Feb. 11 editorial, Salah Allam (pictured to right), editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Arab News, calls for more caution and more parliamentary supervision to be included in the new anti-terror bill that Parliament is about to enact. 

Allam says that although many political analysts agree to the new bill, which aims to serve the country’s national interests and hunt international terrorists at large, his request is important. “We have to be very careful while accepting the bill in its current shape,” he writes.

Allam admits that the new legislation boosts the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP’s powers, but warns that, in the meantime, it affects civil rights protection.

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“A bird’s-eye view on the new bill shows that it will be considered an illegal act when a person incites terrorism or slams Canada’s policies, even if it is merely haphazard talk.” – Arab News[/quote]

He cites the absence of effective mechanisms for the Canadian parliament to oversee the way security agencies perform their duties in this regard.

“A bird’s-eye view on the new bill shows that it will be considered an illegal act when a person incites terrorism or slams Canada’s policies, even if it is merely haphazard talk,” he writes.

The bill will forbid “propagating for terrorism” via any audio-visual medium, website or social networking platform. It will also simplify legal procedures required to detain suspected terrorists and restrict their movement.

“Thus, it is not yet clear,” Allam continues, “how such impact on existing freedom might secure more protection for Canadian citizens.”

Charlie Hebdo: All Guilty

Only Canada survived criticism over the Charlie Hebdo incident in a Jan. 22 editorial by Jamal Alqaryouti (pictured to the left), editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Al Wattan. All are deplorable, from his perspective: the criminals, the victims, the host country and the mobs across the Muslim world, as well as the Israeli prime minister, who attended the Jan. 11 Paris march in solidarity with France.

Alqaryouti writes that the event might have repercussions in Europe, but not in Canada: “Canadian society is fortified against racism and stereotypes as evident through the common reaction to the dual crimes of Ottawa and Quebec a few months ago— and their reaction to heinous attacks on some mosques and Islamic centres.”

He says that in Europe, “the crime, even before proving Muslims are behind it, will give European right-wing [populists] a justification to act against Muslims, in particular, and immigrants in general, and will further justify the ‘Islamizing the West’ myth.”

Furthermore, he adds: “Even with Charlie Hebdo being a leftist magazine that used to ridicule religious or political figures without discrimination, I categorically reject making fun of any beliefs. I deplore reactions to the magazine’s behaviour, noting that the Prophet Mohammed helped treat patients of some people who had offended him by throwing their garbage on his house and himself.”

Schabas, Israel

Nazih Khatatba (pictured to the right), editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Meshwar, declares via a Feb. 6 editorial, “William Schabas’ resignation will not hide Israeli crimes.”

Schabas, a Canadian academic, was heading a three-member commission appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Commission to investigate all alleged violations of international humanitarian laws carried out by Israel during the Israel–Gaza conflict last summer.

Schabas resigned in February in response to Israeli accusations of bias because he had billed the Palestine Liberation Organization for $1,300 in 2012 for legal advice he gave the organization at its request. Israel said the precedent constituted evidence of a conflict of interest with his position.

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“Schabas is not the first person who has been exposed to Israeli rudeness, pressure and threats.” – Meshwar newspaper[/quote]

“Has Israel achieved a political victory by pushing Schabas to step down by posing pressures on him or even by threatening his life?” asks Khatatba.

“Schabas is not the first person who has been exposed to Israeli rudeness, pressure and threats,” says Khatatba, pointing to a former Israeli critic, Richard Goldstone.

“From the Israeli point of view, everyone who criticizes it is anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli, greedy or even manipulated by external directives.

“Schabas refused to be like many people who disregard practices being carried out by Israeli leaders and the Israeli army. He said he wanted to see Netanyahu and Liebermann in the dock, and asked, ‘Why are we going after the President of Sudan for Darfur and not the President of Israel for Gaza?’

“Schabas has to pride himself on his humanitarianism and bias to the victim and the truth, and to standing by the Palestinian people against war crimes executed by the leaders of the occupation state, which lauds itself as the only democracy in the Middle East.

“It’s the Israeli terror that imposes its will on the international community with force,” Khatatba writes.

Sex-ed Curricula: Oral, Anal

Abram Makar (pictured to the left), editor in chief of the biweekly newspaper Good News, earmarks its Feb. 14 editorial to lamenting Ontario’s new sex ed curriculum.

“The fear of sex approaching our kids has become a reality for us, the residents of the Canadian province of Ontario. This reality was imposed by the Liberal government of the province via minister of education, Liz Sandals, who resubmitted the sex education curricula project for primary school students in Ontario to be effective as of the coming fall. It’s the same project that Kathleen Wynne submitted in 2010 when she was minister of education and was aborted, thanks to opposition spearheaded by Canadian Christian advocate Charles McVety.”

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“Minister Sandals says these ages are suitable to study those topics, but the minister has failed to tell us where she obtained this information.” – Good News[/quote]

The article reports that under this new curriculum, Grade 3 students will be taught about homosexuality and same-sex marriages, Grade 6 students will study maturity and masturbation, while Grade 7 students are going to learn about anal and oral sex in the context of how to prevent the transfer of sexual diseases.

“Minister Sandals says these ages are suitable to study those topics, but the minister has failed to tell us where she obtained this information,” Makar writes. “Did she conduct research and learn that children at these ages are capable of understanding these matters?

“The project advocates claim they want to teach kids such sex-related topics lest they learn this information from unreliable sources.

“My question is: who guarantees that [teachers] who instruct such topics are reliable sources?”

The writer, at the end of his editorial, calls on all who reject teaching such topics to their children and grandchildren at these early ages to join in opposition of the new sex-ed curricula before the start of the coming school year and take part in a protest, organized by Parents as First Educators, to be held before Ontario Parliament on Feb. 24.

‘Copy-paste’ Media

The monthly newspaper Sakher Sabeel conducted an interview with Yilmaz Jawid, a Canadian–Iraqi social activist.

Jawid (pictured to the right), who immigrated to Canada in 1994, served as the president of the Iraqi Canadian Association for two terms. He also founded the Jawid Seniors Services Foundation, which offers free services for newcomers and free taxation services for low-income senior citizens.

To Jawid, culturally based media activity in Canada is swinging between for-profit activity, with some newspapers relying on advertising and publishing materials “copy-pasted” from other newspapers and online outlets, and not-for-profit political activity, with some newspapers depending on publishing controversial news stories.

“Successful cultural activity should focus on social life to solve problems that face immigrants. These should not be the job of newspapers only, but also of all organizations and associations,” he explains.

As such, Jawid says he has posted more than 270 articles on the Al Hewar Al Motamaden website, a leftist online platform.

Mourad Haroutunian is a Toronto-based journalist. Born and raised in Cairo, Haroutunian has worked in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, for Bloomberg News, CNBC Arabiya and Nile TV International. He holds an M.A. in journalism and mass communication from the American University in Cairo. Visit his Facebook page.

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