INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS OF MONTREAL
INSTITUT DES AFFAIRES PUBLIQUES DE MONTRÉAL
10th Institute Policy Conference
“Questions of Values: Ways of Response to the Islamist Challenge “
October 25th, 2006
Delta Centre-Ville Hotel
From l-r: BPW, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Brigitte Gabriel, Dr. Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, Germain Belzile
For full video of the Conference please click on the following three links:
Germain Belzile and Brigitte Gabriel
Wafa Sultan and Nazanin Afshin-Jam
Nonie Darwish and Q&A
BPW ADDRESS AT EVENING SESSION
NAZANIN AFSHIN-JAM EN DIRECT SUR RDI
CHQR'S "THE WORLD TONIGHT"
with Rob Breakenridge
The urgency of individual resolve
BPW’s reflections from the Conference
The truth, unveiled:
The niqab isn't about faith,
except in credulous liberals' dreams
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
MONTREAL - Just when the newly designed Maclean's seemed finally to have shucked all the turgid remnants of its former politically correct image, the Nov. 6 issue reverted to type on the niqab controversy. Its editorial chastises British politicians for criticizing the niqab: "Their objections only harden social divisions [and] squelch the free expression of the Muslim faith." The editorial also urges the "acceptance of diversity."
The niqab, however, isn't about "faith," except in credulous liberals' dreams. Its sudden popularity in the West coincides with the escalating muscularity of radicalized, diversity-loathing Islamism. Not only does the niqab-wearer provoke, she consciously seeks to provoke, "social divisions" for ideological reasons.
If the Maclean's writers who glibly talk the diversity talk had joined me last week at Montreal's Delta Hotel and met the impressive Arab women who have walked the Islam walk, they'd have been too embarrassed to write that editorial.
On Oct. 25, the Institute of Public Affairs of Montreal mounted its 10th policy conference, "Questions of Values: Ways of Response to the Islamist Challenge." The panel consisted of four brave women -- one Canadian, three Americans, all of Middle Eastern provenance:
- Persian Nazanin Afshin-Jam (www.nazanin.ca) was the first runner-up as Miss Canada in the 2003 Miss World pageant. A former Royal Canadian Air Cadets officer, with a double degree in political science and international relations, she uses "beauty with purpose" to advance her international activism for women's rights in Iran and the wider Muslim world. An elegant role model for Shariah-suppressed women, Nazanin is a hate target for Muslim fundamentalists.
- Egyptian-born, Gaza-raised writer and anti-Islamist activist Nonie Darwish conceived www.arabsforisrael.com. Darwish's father, Mustafa Hafez, was Nasser's nominal chief of Egyptian intelligence, but primarily commanded the marauding, civilian-killing fedayeen, and met his end in 1956 as Israel's first targeted assassination. Darwish was raised to hate Jews. Yet today she blames Islam, not Israel, for the woes of the Middle East;
- Brigitte Gabriel is a Lebanese Christian, the author of Because They Hate (and creator of the anti-terror and anti-fundamentalist Islam group/Web site www.americancongressfortruth.com). As a child, she barely subsisted in a bomb shelter for seven years, under siege by Christian-hating Palestinians. To Gabriel, Israel is a symbol of liberation and democracy. A journalist, Gabriel married an American war correspondent in Jerusalem, settled in the U.S. and now devotes herself to fighting Islamism through public lectures, campus appearances (where she is vilified for her support of Israel) and media interviews. She receives death and torture threats daily.
- Syrian-born, but since 1979 Los Angeles-resident, psychologist Wafa Sultan was already well-known in Arab-speaking circles for her outspokenness, but came to international prominence through a widely Web-circulated, subtitled Arabic debate on Al Jazeera with an Islamic cleric, in which she denounced Koranic violence, misogyny and anti-Semitism. Sultan was raised as an infidel-despising Muslim. The assassination of a beloved professor before her eyes by Islamist fanatics motivated her emigration. The 9/11 attacks galvanized her. Her family in Syria has disowned her, and she receives continual death threats, but she remains defiantly combative in her crusade to reform Islam's social and political doctrines.
All three American-Arab women ardently agree that multicultural Westerners "don't get" Islam's inherent irreconcilability with religious "diversity" and other forms of cultural pluralism. All expressed impatience with Westerners' blinkered determination to view retrograde and separatist Muslim behaviours (such as the niqab) through the benign multicultural lens exemplified in the Maclean's editorial. They are particularly astonished by educated Westerners' acceptance of pontifications on Islam by liberal, non-Arabic-speaking theorists over the politically incorrect, but intimate, experience-based insights into Islamic culture that candid Arabs provide.
Their raw courage springs from dread of Western capitulation to Islamism, trumping fears for their personal fates. "The world is at Stage 2 cancer," states Gabriel. "The weakness of the West attracts the aggression of radical Islam," Darwish warns. "Don't let your civilized ways become your worst enemy," admonishes Sultan.
These Arab Cassandras seek to rouse Western leaders and media to challenge homegrown jihadism before it is too late. Our instinct to appease radicalism in the name of tolerance saddens them. "We are discouraged because the West is scared," says Darwish.
But also in denial, she might have added. We don't admit we're scared. Instead Canadians pretend, as the Maclean's editorial misleadingly insists, that a niqab is the cultural equivalent of a Mennonite bonnet. Once we admit we're scared, maybe the will and courage to defend our values will follow.
© National Post 2006
Women take stand on fundamentalism
Say it's time to let go of fear - and the veil
DONNA NEBENZAHL, The Gazette
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Nonie Darwish, Nazanin-Afshin-Jam, Dr.Wafa Sultan
"We must speak out now, because we've got nothing to lose," said Dr. Wafa Sultan, one of four Middle Eastern women taking part in a panel discussion in Montreal yesterday to argue their position on the West's response to Islam. The four were keynote speakers at an Institute of Public Affairs of Montreal conference. They talked before the event about the place of women under the yoke of an increasingly fundamentalist Middle East.
Sultan, a psychiatrist in Syria before she moved to the U.S. in 1989, grew up in a traditional Muslim family. But as a student in the University of Aleppo, in Syria, she was traumatized when her professor was slain before her eyes by gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now a critic of Islamist social and political doctrines, Sultan argues that only when Muslim women are no longer filled with fear can they speak out and remove the veil.
"Muslim law doesn't require you to cover your face," noted Egyptian-born Nonie Darwish, a founding member of the advocacy group Arabs for Israel and a frequent commentator on CNN. "My mother never covered her head, nor did my grandmother - much less her face."It's taking back the clock to the days when women were traded as a piece of meat and all the blame fell on them." Today, she says, it's a political statement for women to be veiled, showing they identify as Muslim. "The veil is the female form of jihad," Darwish said.
Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a former Miss Canada, has been leading an international effort to publicize the plight of an 18-year-old Tehran rape victim sentenced to death under sharia law. Afshin-Jam recalled a peaceful rally held in Iran in which the protesting women were dispersed by extremist, heavily veiled women. "They feel more powerful," she said of the veiled women.
Sultan said many Muslim women are not freely choosing to wear the veil, but do so because it's in their best interest. Islam has other ways of enforcing a bias against women, Afshin-Jam said: "In Iran, 65 per cent of university students are women but the laws say women are not allowed to be judges." And under sharia law, it's very difficult for a woman's word to be taken seriously, she said.
In the West, "we cannot afford to lose our cherished freedoms to radicalism," Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian, told the conference audience later in a Delta Hotel meeting room.Wounded at age 10 in an rocket attack during the Lebanese civil war, Gabriel painted a horrific picture of the shock her family felt in democratic Lebanon when they realized their Muslim neighbours would make war on them.
"I knew since I was 10 years old that I would be killed because I'm me," she said. She lived in a bomb shelter, and recalls the night when she dressed "in burial clothes because we heard we were going to be slaughtered. I was 13." As an adult, she became a news anchor for Middle East television, then relocated to the U.S. She is founder of the American Congress for Truth and is author of the book Because They Hate. "We need to come together to fight and defeat religious bigotry, hatred and intolerance," Gabriel said.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006
TUESDAY, 24 OCTOBER, 2006 – 7.00 pm
SPECIAL EDITION OF “THE LAST ANGRY MAN” WITH THE CONFERENCE SPEAKERS
10th Institute Policy Conference
“Questions of Values: Ways of Response to the Islamist Challenge “
BRIGITTE GABRIEL, WAFA SULTAN, NONIE DARWISH, NAZANIN AFSHIN-JAM
October 25th, 2006, 1.30 – 4.30 PM
Delta Centre-Ville Hotel
The voices of these speakers carry unparalleled eloquence, authenticity, and legitimacy. Brigitte Gabriel (l.) overcame a childhood of victimization from Islamist violence in Lebanon becoming a journalist of international renown and founding the American Congress for Truth as well as writing the best-selling book “Because They Hate”; Syrian-born American psychologist Dr. Wafa Sultan (c.) has boldly debated the most extreme of Islam’s clerics and Jihadists whenever and wherever they agreed to including on al-Jazeera, the Arab world’s leading news network; frequent CNN commentator Nonie Darwish (r.), a founding member of Arabs for Israel, suffered personal family tragedy stemming from the extremist expressions of Islamist influence in her native Egypt, rebuilt a new life in America and remained resolute and unrelenting in guarding her post at the barricades of reason; and Iranian-born former Miss World Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam (below) put aside personal ambition to lead an international effort focusing on the abuse of women in Iran, and throughout the radical Muslim world, dedicating herself to unstinting work to save the life of an 18-year old Tehran rape victim sentenced to death under Sharia law. In a world of instant gratification and instant destruction these women are truly profiles in courage.
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Fight extremist Islam: activists
By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban
Extreme forms of the Muslim religion and its laws are a danger and must be strongly countered, four activists told a public conference last week.
|Afshin-Jam: much discrimination under sharia law. |
|Photo by Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban |
|Sultan: Dialogue with Islam must be based on truth and honesty. |
$">Brigitte Gabriel, journalist and author of Because They Hate, psychologist Wafa Sultan, activist and former Miss Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam, and writer Nonie Darwish spoke last Wednesday at the Delta Centre-Ville Hotel at an event organized by the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal.
$">They said extreme followers of Islam seek to dominate others and spread their influence globally, and react in extreme ways to criticisms of their religion.
$">Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist of Syrian Muslim origin, began calling for a reform of her religion after her university professor was killed in 1979 by the Muslim Brotherhood.
$">“The world has communicated with Islam indirectly and fearfully,” she said.
$">“All the techniques used in dialogue with Islam has been based on protecting the feelings of the Muslim fanatics. Dialogue must be based on truth and honesty for it to succeed. It is obvious that Islam needs a major transformation and it needs fearless Islamic leaders to do so.”
$">Afshin-Jam, of Iranian origin, has taken up the cause of Nazanin, an 18-year-old Iranian girl sentenced to death for stabbing one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece.
$">“She and others are symbols for a far greater problem that exists in Iran and the Middle East, regarding the plight of women,” she said.
$">“Under sharia law, there is a lot of embedded discrimination. Women are not allowed to become judges or run for the presidency. They can’t travel or obtain passports unless they get permission from their husbands or fathers. They’re not allowed into sports stadiums. Unlike their male counterparts, they’re not allowed polygamous marriages.
$">“What are the means of response? Getting involved, speak out and enquiring of your local MPs.”
$">Darwish, a founding member of Arabs for Israel, came to the realization that although her Egyptian muhajadeen (fighter) father was killed by a targeted Israeli assassination in 1956, his death was the result of a culture of jihad (religious holy war) and anti-Semitism. Darwish said she decided to speak publicly after 9/11.
$">“My culture is in desperate need of reformation,” she said. “After 9/11, I heard a new definition of jihad. To the West, it was redefined as an inner struggle or self-analysis. I like that interpretation. But as a person who lived for 30 years in the Middle East, I never heard that interpretation there.”
$">Gabriel, of Lebanese Christian origin, said her family and other Christians were victimized by Muslim forces in Lebanon, and that she was wounded in an Islamic Jihad rocket attack on her home in 1975. She founded American Congress for Truth in light of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to prompt action against the threat of terrorism.
$">“There are those, even after 9/11 around the world, who say we must engage our terrorist enemies, we must address their grievances,” she said. “Their grievance is our freedom of religion and our democratic process.
$">“The biggest disservice the Western media did to the Western public was not to show the beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and the other hostages,” Gabriel added.
$">“We, as a society, need to see the barbarism that is headed our way. Do not be shocked when you have 17 Canadians, born and bred in Canada, wanting to destroy its infrastructure. We refused to believe it in Lebanon. It is your duty as civilized democratic Canadians to take a stand against evil.”
Muslim women speak out against Islam
By DAVID LAZARUS
November 2, 2006
MONTREAL - For Lebanese-born Christian Brigitte Gabriel, the epiphany came in 1982 at an Israeli hospital, where her wounded mother was ministered to with mercy and compassion. Syrian-born Dr. Wafa Sultan first recognized it when she saw a favourite teacher murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood. It began more gradually for Egyptian-born Nonie Darwish, but her real soul-searching started after 9/11. Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam knew she had to do something when a raped woman in her native land who stabbed her assailant was sentenced to death.
“We were always told Israel was the devil,” Gabriel told a hushed and attentive audience almost filling the sanctuary at the Beth Israel Beth Aaron (BIBA) Synagogue. But at the hospital, “an Israeli nurse put her arm around me and told me everything would be fine. It was the first time in my life I experienced such compassion.”
Each woman received a heartfelt standing ovation when they related the moment that they realized that Jews and Israel were not the devil, but the very opposite: part of a nation and religion that cherished ethics, compassion, democracy, and other Western social ideals.
It was a far cry from what most of them had been indoctrinated with from birth -- the idea that Jews were infidels of Islam and devils incarnate and that Israel must be destroyed. They all live now in the United States and Canada and live westernized, secular lives.
The group of women delivered their same message – and got a similar reception – earlier in the day at a policy conference organized by the Institute for Public Affairs at a downtown hotel.
They stated that few other women –- or anyone – in the Arab world dared to speak out against the hate-filled, misogynist Islamic fundamentalist culture and in favour of pluralism, equality, tolerance and democracy. “For 32 years, my life was stolen by Islam,” said Sultan, whose famous debate with a Muslim cleric on al-Jazeera television has been seen by millions.
Sultan, however, characterized all of Islam – and not just Islamic radicals – as intrinsically unaccepting of any other religion. She said the Koran views any non-Muslims as infidels who must be converted or killed. “Terrorists and [Osama] Bin Laden are just following their prophet [Mohammed],” she said. “In the last 1,500 years, Islam has not changed because its leaders don’t want it to change.”
That view was not shared by Afshin-Jam, a former Miss Canada who successfully launched an international effort to have the execution of 18-year-old Nazanin Fatehi commuted in Iran. The campaign succeeded, but Fatehi continues to languish in an Iranian prison. While Afshin-Jam agreed that Iranian women are horribly abused and treated like chattel, she saw all religions as “fundamentally good.” It is only when the religion is perverted for “political” ends that it becomes corrupt, she suggested.
Darwish, a founding member of Arabs for Israel, recalled how her father, a founding member of the Fedayeen violent resistance movement in Egypt, was Israel’s first “targeted assassination” in 1956 when she was a child. A friend asked her and her siblings: “Which one of you kids will avenge your father’s death by killing Jews?”
“We were just speechless,” she said. “Everything, everything was blamed on Israel. When you fill the hearts of children with hatred, hatred comes very easily.” In 1978, Darwish met her Jewish person. “He was nice,” and Darwish came to discover, “that I had been lied to all my life.” Her brother was also treated for a stroke with complete compassion and care at Hadassah Hospital and she realized that, “I lived for 30 years blindfolded about a whole people. “After 9/11,” she said, “I realized that I must speak for Israel,” leading her to found Arabs for Israel.
Gabriel, a one-time news anchor who founded the American Congress for Peace and wrote the book, Because They Hate, spoke vehemently against the “hatred, bigotry and intolerance” against the Jews and Israel that consumes the Muslim world.
During question period, all four women said they regularly receive threatening e-mails, including death threats, as well as rejection from some family members. Sultan said she has not conversed with her mother in two years. Still, the group held out hope that the situation could one day change, inch by inch.
Beryl Wajsman, founder of the Institute for Public Affairs, urged the audience to “come out of here angry and committed to doing more” to support the people such as these women who were “risking their lives to promote common universalities.” The four women, similarly, all urged the audience to rally behind them in a struggle that they seemed to acknowledge has no end in sight.
“What you’ve been hearing today has been heard throughout Quebec,” BIBA’s Rabbi Reuben Poupko assured the women and the audience. “If I can save one woman’s life, I will have achieved my goal,” Sultan said.