Last week, when my teenage daughter came back from school, she proudly showed me her newly bought t-shirt. This t-shirt had an intriguing slogan: "The invisible children."
After asking her few questions and to my incredulous look, she told me the following: "An organisation from the U.S. came to our school and spoke to us about child soldiers in Congo and other African countries. This organisation is on a school tour in North America. It sells crafts and other items in order to help raise money that will be used to award these kids scholarships... Isn't that great?" She was very enthusiastic.
The recent arrest of four young men in Ottawa has been portrayed by the media and by some security analysts as a brand new threat: the radicalization of youth. The typical terrorist is no longer a sombre looking foreigner or an immigrant with a heavy accent immersed in martial arts -- instead he is a middle-class family man, funny, "well integrated," and well educated that you can never detect or almost never...
Growing up in Tunisia during the '80s and early '90s, I sometimes gleaned information from adults around me who whispered that the opponents of the regime -- first the Communists and then the Islamists -- were tortured in secret chambers where the services of a doctor were used, sadly, in an evil way.
People at that time said that the role of the doctor was to make sure that during the torture session, the prisoners are harmed severely but not enough to be killed. In a nutshell, the doctors were there to make sure that the torturers didn't send the prisoners to the "other world." Ignoring all the details around these stories, I felt horrified.
Recently, I watched an interview on French TV involving the controversial Muslim thinker Tariq Ramadan. The French journalist intentionally refused to use the word Islamophobia. She wrongly equated Islamophobia to one's right to criticize Islam, or its values, insinuating that Muslims have thin skins and can never accept freedom of speech (remember the controversies around the Danish cartoons or the Innocence of Muslims movie).
Personally, I never liked the word "Islamophobia" per se. It reminded me of a strange condition or a syndrome like claustrophobia or arachnophobia. The term is heavy, difficult to pronounce, and is totally ignored by the mainstream media for good or bad reasons.
"I told you so!" These were the exact words of Ayman al-Zawahiri, first-in-command of al-Qaeda, to the Egyptian people after the July military coup by General al-Sisi that dashed "Arab Awakening" hopes. His message seems to be resonating with a younger generation of Egyptians who saw their votes being taken away by the military junta.
Himself an Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri had always lectured the Arabs and those who were willing to listen to him about being careful not to fall into the trap of the "western democratic game." His tactics worked well in Afghanistan, in Chechnya, in Algeria… where many young men took up arms and went to defend their countries against western invasion and the "evil democratization" that it brings with it.
In the U.S., the "M" word has been on the lips of politicians from the left to the right of the political spectrum, albeit for different reasons. President Obama is not an exception. Indeed, he made the mention of the middle-class part of his electoral rhetoric immediately after the 2008 financial crisis and after hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their houses, their American dream.
On July 8, 2013, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced his resignation from Stephen Harper's government, as well as his departure from politics altogether. He mentioned personal reasons for this move. We still don't know if his torture legacy came back to haunt him, or if the recently publicized American spying program PRISM quietly affected his political career.
Two diseases seem to be gradually worsening in Canadian society: bullying and corruption.
Both can be interrelated and seem to afflict our children in schools and our politicians in the public arena, respectively.
Sometimes one disease is a simple continuation of the other, sometimes they are totally separate, but both diseases are nevertheless extremely dangerous.
About a week ago, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews overruled a decision made by the warden of Millhaven Institution, also known as Guantanamo North, and refused an interview request by the Canadian Press to speak with Omar Khadr over the phone.
This refusal was justified by the Minister's office because of security concerns.
I am still trying to figure out how speaking on the phone from a maximum security prison can pose a threat to Canadians. Does it insinuate that Khadr will speak in encrypted messages to the journalist and to some shadowy accomplices? Or does it mean the interview poses a threat to the intelligence of people?