Are All Muslims Extremists?

A commentary on “Islamic or Muslim Extremists”.

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On June 21, CBC.ca reported that a Muslim woman was attacked in a shopping mall. The article says a Muslim woman shopping with her four-month-old son was attacked in a London, Ontario supermarket and according to police the fourth reported event against visible minorities in the city in the past eight months. The day before, CBC reported A pig’s head left outside a Quebec City mosque was the latest in a string of incidents pointing to a rising tide of Islamophobia across Quebec. This is just days after the horrific attack in Orlando, Florida when a gunman massacred 49 people in a nightclub.

On June 12, the night of the attack, Donald. Trump, GOP presidential nominee tweeted: What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called rtx1gzco (1)it and asked for the ban. Must be tough. In other words, his view is to ban all Muslims from entering the USA, a position he put forth during the primaries.

On June 13 Donald Trump gave an address on terrorism, immigration and nation security. During that address he said;

The immigration laws of the United States give the President the power to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons that the President deems detrimental to the interests or security of the United States, as he deems appropriate. I will use this power to protect the American people. When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.

It’s no secret that Mr. Trump plans to ban Muslims from entering the United States. So what is happening? Is Mr. Trump, along with many other individuals, stereotyping Muslims, that is, categorizing them as potential “radical Islamists”? So I have to ask the questions: Is it fair to lump all Muslims together and label them potential “radical Islamists”? Should we fear Muslims because they might be terrorists? To answer these questions I did some research.

Globalresearch.ca is a Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). It is an independent research and media organization based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Since the CRG is a registered non-profit organization and was created to do research on global issues, I would then conclude that it is a credible source. This organization has concluded that non-Muslims carried out more than 90% of all terrorist attacks in the United States. (see Non-Muslims…) The article cites a graph that provides statistics from 1980 to 2005 from the FBI Database. According to this data, there were more Jewish acts of terrorism (7%) within the United States than Islamic (6%).  The article also says the U.S. News and World Report noted in February 2013: Of the more than 300 American deaths from political violence and mass shootings since 9/11, only 33 have come at the hands of Muslim-Americans, according to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. 

The Economist’s article, The plague of global terrorism reports:

Last year (2014) 32,700 people were killed in attacks worldwide, nearly twice as many as in 2013… Most of the deaths last year (and every year) are in the Middle East and Africa, not the West. Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan together account for three-quarters of the global total. Western countries suffered under 3% of all deaths in the past 15 years…The Paris attacks and the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt killed more than 100 people each. Such lethal attacks are rare but are increasing. Last year, there were 26 compared with a handful in 2013. Most were carried out by ISIS, and most occurred in Iraq. And terrorism is spreading. 67 countries saw at least one death last year compared with 59 the year before.

So according to the Economist, less than 3% of all deaths in the West in the past 15 years were due to terrorist attacks. According to globalresearch.ca article, The Terrorism Statistics Every American Needs to Hear, the leading cause of deaths for Americans traveling abroad is not terrorism or murder or even a crime of any sort; it’s car crashes. With the exception of the Philippines, more Americans died from road crashes in all of the 160 countries surveyed than from homicides. The article also claims, you are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack It too says you are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack.

The World Post has an article titled, Muslims Are Not Terrorists: A Factual Look at Terrorism and Islam, which makes some interesting points. One of their points is: Even if all terrorist attacks were carried out by Muslims, you still could not associate terrorism with Islam. It supports that statement with the fact that there have been 140,000 terror attacks committed worldwide since 1970. Even if Muslims carried out all of these attacks, those terrorists would represent less than 0.00009 percent of all Muslims. To put things into perspective, this means that you are more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than a Muslim is likely to commit a terrorist attack during that same time span.

This article also says that if you’re going to claim that all Muslims are terrorists, then  you must also claim all Muslims are peacemakers. The article says that the same statistical assumptions being used to falsely portray Muslims as violent people can be used more accurately to portray Muslims as peaceful people. If all Muslims are terrorists because a single digit percentage of terrorists happen to be Muslim, then all Muslims are peacemakers because 5 out of the past 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners (42%) have been Muslims.

So what are my conclusions? My take on things is that the media has perpetrated the belief that most or even all terrorism is due to “Muslim extremists”. I say this because as typical of the news media, terrorist attacks, especially those carried out by “Muslim extremists”, get sensationalized in the media.. This myth perpetrated by the media is contrary to the evidence I sited earlier. It is blatantly unethical to group all believers of Islam as potential terrorists. That is why Donald Trump’s call for the Untied States to ban all Muslims for entering the States is unmerited and is based on misconceptions. Besides, banning Muslim immigrants does not guarantee a nation’s safety from terrorism since the latest incident in Orlando, Florida was carried out by an American born, non-practicing Muslim. I do not believe all Muslims are potential terrorists. I believe that most Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding people. Mr. Trump has used the phrase “Islamic Extremists” numerous times as have others. To think there is only extremism in Islam is naïve. The Christian religion has had its share as well. One of the latest, according to Wikipedia, was in November of 2015 when Robert Lewis Dear killed three and injured nine at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Christian terrorist voiced on several occasions his support for radical Christian views and interpretations of the Bible, and praised people who attacked abortion providers, saying they were doing “God’s work.” It’s interesting to note that this incident was not talked about for numerous days afterward.

Is our world less safe than it once was because of extremism? Yes it is. But should we be fearful of Muslims and Islamic terrorists? No. If we become a culture of fear then terrorists groups, such as ISIS, have succeeded in their mission which is to instill terror. Besides you’re more likely to be killed in a vehicle accident than in a terror attack.

Many Islamic leaders have condemned attacks carried out by “Muslim extremists”. I believe they will continue to do so and I have heard of many Muslims working to change the image people have of their religion. An ad campaign was launched in the United Kingdom to improve the image of Muslims. (see U.K. ad campaign). To quote the late Muhammad Ali, Terrorists are not following Islam. Killing people and blowing up people and dropping bombs in places and all this is not the way to spread the word of Islam. So people realize now that all Muslims are not terrorists. I say it is time to stop the senseless attacks on Muslims. Not all Muslims are a threat!actions do

Orlando: Hate or Terrorism?

A commentary regarding the massacre that occurred in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, June 12.

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USA Today headlines June 13, 2016

I was horrified to learn that on Sunday, June 12, 2016, a gunman pledging allegiance to the Islamic State opened fire inside a crowded gay bar and dance club in Orlando, Florida, leaving 49 people dead and 53 injured. This sickening event is being called the deadliest mass shooting in the history of United States.

President Obama, once again commenting on a mass shooting, said it was “an act of terror and an act of hate.” So that begs the question: Was the Orlando massacre an act of terrorism or was it a hate crime? Dictionary.com defines a hate crime as a crime, usually violent, motivated by prejudice or intolerance toward an individual’s national origin, ethnicity, colour, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Vocabulary.com defines an act of terrorism as the calculated use of violence against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature. Now if we consider the two definitions, the answer to the question would be it is both an act of terror and a hate crime. Violence in the form of gun shooting was carried out against civilians, specifically the LGBT community, and was motivated or at least inspired by the terrorist group known as ISIS so it is an act of terror. Even more, it was a hate crime. It was a hate crime clearly directed towards the LGBT community. Omar Mateen, a man previously investigated by the FBI, was allegedly motivated when he witnessed two men kissing. Seeing the two men together apparently angered him enough to commit this horrendous act.

To me, this is much more a hate crime as opposed to an act of terrorism. There is no evidence that ISIS or any other terrorist organization directed Mateen to act. I was moved by the words of Tom Walters from Canada’s CTV news station. On the night of the shooting, Tom Walters closed the newscast with these words. I wish I could say these are my words because Mr. Walters captures the essence of the problem so brilliantly.

“In simple terms, the motive for the Orlando massacre is not mystery, it was hate. And finding out what kind will explain little because every reason to hate a stranger is just as senseless. Colour, religion, sexual orientation, these are mere fragments of a human being, not the summation of who a person is or the basis to judge what a person is worth. Consigning people to categories denies them their individuality and robs them of their humanity. This is what makes hate possible…only a handful [of individuals] could do this. Now in the aftermath, some would still put individuals into categories and ask us to fear and reject whole groups. Society will never be perfectly safe from the deranged few, but when they are fed the rhetoric of hate and have access to the tools of murder, common sense would say we are less safe. Now facing the monstrous evil of terrorism, a future with less hate may seem distant…and if hate itself is the poison, that future is out of reach until people everywhere reject the ideas that diminish the individual and enable hate. That could include any doctrine that says I belong here more than you or that my love for someone is more valid than yours or I am among the chosen and you are not…but in a world of individuals we can each make a choice to reject those ideas that would add another drop of poison to the common cup.”

As Tom Walters says, “consigning people to categories denies them their individuality…and makes hate possible”. The Orlando mass shooting is clearly an act of hate directed towards the LGBT community; a community who just want to be treated as equals and live their lives happily.

The mass shooting in Orlando is but a familiar story in the United States. It was the third mass shooting in 2016 that left at least three victims dead, following shootings in Hesston, Kansas. and Kalamazoo, Michigan in February. Six months earlier 14 people were killed in a rage in San Bernardino, California. Time magazine has complied a list of mass shooting since 1984. (see 34 years of mass shootings). Wikipedia lists the United States’ firearm-related death rate as 10.44 per 100,000 people per year. Canada’s firearm-related death rate is 1.97 per 100,000 people per year. That is a significant difference. The article Gun violence by the numbers by Global News lists the USA as having 90 firearms per 100 people whereas Canada’s rate is 30 firearms per 100 people. The American Medical Association called gun violence a “public health crisis” on June 14th and urged Congress to fund research into the problem.The association pleaded that a long-standing ban on federal government research into gun violence must be lifted to better understand and tackle the problem. It astounds me that researching the gun problem is forbidden. Does that make sense?

Now this information raises a second question: Why haven’t Americans realized that there is a connection between mass shootings and the amount of guns. Canada has always had tighter controls on guns. I am convinced that is why Canada’s firearm-related death rate is much lower than USA’s. The Global News article sited earlier says you’re more likely to be shot to death in the United States than you are to die in a car accident in Canada. It seems obvious to me that the more guns a society has the more gun related deaths there will be. Americans always cite the second amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted on December 15, 1791, as a defence to owning guns. This amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  An amendment is a change or addition to a legal or statutory document so if Americans wanted to change their relationship with guns they could change (amend) their Constitution.

Donald Trump, GOP presidential nominee tweeted on the night of the shooting, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” He later tweeted, “What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough.” In other words, his view is that radical Islamic terrorists are to blame and so his answer is to ban all Muslims from entering the USA. Now that leads to a third question: Should we fear all Muslims because they might be terrorists? My answer to that is a resounding NO. To use the words of Tom Walters, what Mr. Trump is doing is putting “individuals into categories and ask[ing] us to fear and reject” Muslims.

Slate, an online magazine, has an article called, The Truth About Islam. The article says Muslim societies are among the least violent in the world. It goes on to say,

The reality is that Islam—like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and other major world religions—is neither inherently violent nor inherently peaceful. Like every other great religion, the history of Islam is darkened by periods of violent bloodletting. And the holy texts of all religions can be mined for quotes to legitimize terrorism—or indeed principled nonviolence.

The Christian and Jewish religions have had their share of “darkened periods of violent bloodletting”. In 1095 the Christian crusades began. This was when armies responded to Pope Urban II’s plea to go to war against Muslim forces in the Holy Land. The inquisition was the Catholic churches attempt to remove heresy. Both were filled with bloodletting. Judaism has a history of radical Zionism, a movement for the re-establishment of a Jewish nation. Zionism promoted aggressive war justified with biblical texts.

To categorize all Muslims as terrorists is stereotyping and that makes it wrong. There are many peaceful Muslims just as there are Christians and Jews. The Islamic Society of Wichita condemned the attack, as did many Islamic leaders. The group issued the following statement Sunday.

“Along with our fellow Americans, the Islamic Society of Wichita condemns the hateful act of violence in Orlando, Florida. In this holy month of Ramadan, we will be offering special prayers for the victims and their families. As people of faith, we stand unified against acts of terrorism and violence and will continue our work to defend all people against hatred and brutality. We urge local Muslims…to donate blood for the victims of this heinous act.” 

I would like to reiterate Tom Walters’ words to reject “any doctrine that says I belong here more than you or that my love for someone is more valid than yours or I am among the chosen and you are not.” Mr. Trump is saying that Muslims do not belong in America because they are potential terrorists. Trump is stereotyping. That is why he is calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. “Consigning people to categories” such as all Muslims are potential terrorists, “is what makes hate possible”. It is time to stop the labelling of groups because it “makes hate possible”. Not all Muslims are radical Islamic terrorists! The lifestyle of the LGBT community is not sinful!  Is a heterosexual’s love for another more valid than homosexual’s love? Who are we to judge? Guns kill when they fall into the hands of people who stereotype and hate. America, it’s time to decrease gun availability so they don’t fall into the hands of those who hate. After all, authorities tell us that the Orlando killer purchased guns a few days before he went on his rampage. So long as a person doesn’t have a criminal record or has no history of mental illness they can purchase a gun. Guns were created for one purpose only and that is to kill. Guns are just too plentiful and much too easy to obtain in the USA.

“Trump This”

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, Political Bullying, I have always had an interest in politics. I taught social studies in high school for many years and I would passionately discuss politics with my students and give projects to them when election campaigns were on. It is because of this keen interest in politics that I watch the election campaign in the United States whereby the Republican and Democrat Parties select their presidential nominees. What I find both “mind blowing” and perplexing is the fact that Republicans have selected Donald Trump as their nominee. Granted it makes for good entertainment for us Canadians, I  just can’t wrap my head around the psyche of the people who think he is a good choice. Trump has been referred to as a modern-day Hitler and according to the article, 9 times Donald Trump has been compared to Hitler, in the Jerusalem Post he has been compared to Hitler on nine different occasions.

Now one might ask, why should we Canadians care about what is happening politically in the United States? The reality is that because the Americans are our largest trading partners and our closest neighbour, everything they do influences us. Former prime minster and father of our present prime minister, Pierre Trudeau once said,

“Living next to you [the United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

In September Donald Trump spoke these words about Carly Fiorina, then a 09-donald-trump-bully.w536.h357.2xpresidential candidate. “Look at that face. Would anybody vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? ! I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious? ” Now Dictionary.com defines sexism as, The belief that one gender is superior to the other, especially that men are superior to women. Trump’s words, “she’a a woman” sounds to me that he thinks women are lesser than men. That sounds like  sexism to me. In fact, the Telegraph has a Donald Trump sexism tracker listing many of the sexist remarks he has made and trust me, there are many.

Donald Trump, during his presidential announcement speech, June 16, 2015 said “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re sending people who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Dictiionary.com defines a racist as a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like racism to me. The fact that Trump has said he intends to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to keep Mexicans out of the United States, plus he wants to ban all Muslims from entering that country insinuates to me that he thinks Muslims and Mexicans are lesser races or groups. And then there is the fact that Mr. Trump claimed not to “know enough” about the KKK to distance him self from a David Duke endorsement. David Duke is an American white nationalist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, Holocaust denier and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Is Mr. Trump a white supremacist too? (see 10 Examples Of Donald Trump Being Racist)

Judge Gonzalo Curiel, is the judge presiding over the case against Trump University. A federal judge unsealed court documents in a fraud lawsuit against Donald Trump’s now defunct real estate school, known as Trump University LLC. Mr. Trump said,

“The judge should have thrown the case out on summary judgment. But because it was me and because there’s a hostility toward me by the judge, tremendous hostility, beyond belief––I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine, he’s Hispanic, which is fine, and we haven’t asked for a recusal, which we may do, but we have a judge who’s very hostile.”

rtx1gzco (1)On a CNN program, speaking with Jake Tapper, Mr. Trump specifically attacked the “Mexican heritage” of the judge. Mr. Curiel is a man who was born in Indiana, who battled Mexican drug cartels as a federal prosecutor and was appointed to the bench by a Republican. “This judge is of Mexican heritage,” Trump said in the interview. He went on to say, “I’m building a wall, OK? I’m building a wall. … He’s a member of a society where, you know, very pro-Mexico. And that’s fine. But I think he should recuse himself.” When asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if a Muslim judge would treat him unfairly because he has vowed to ban Muslims from entering America, the potential president said: “It’s possible, yes. That would be possible, absolutely.” (see Donald Trump amplifies racist attacks). Dictionary.com defines a bigot as a person who is utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s  own. Now that sounds like bigotry to me. It certainly is racism.

On May 31st, Trump called a Press Conference to bash the press. During the press conference he rambled saying, “Instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,’ or ‘Trump did a good job…you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.” Trump even called a reporter for ABC News, Tom Llamas, a “sleaze”. Essentially, Mr. Trump’s pattern is to insult people who disagrees with him. The NY Times has article, The 224 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter outlining many of those insults. According to oxforddictionaries.com, a bully uses superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something. Mr. Trump’s antics sound an awfully lot like bullying tactics to me.

In an exchange with former presidential rival Jeb Bush back in February, Trump insisted that he’d never gone bankrupt, and that claims to the contrary are a lie.  According to the National Review’s article, Trump, Lies, and Bankruptcy, Trump has gone bankrupt at least four times. Not only that, he has had numerous business failures. Time.com lists Top 10 Donald Trump Failures. Oxford Dictionary defines a lie as an intentionally false statement. It sounds to me like Trump is a liar as well.

So what should a person conclude from this information? My conclusion is that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully. I think I am pretty safe in saying that most Canadians do not want the leader of their closest neighbour to be a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully. I can’t imagine that the American people would either. I just cannot comprehend how Mr. Trump has secured the GOP nomination. I’ve heard it said that the American voters are angry. Now I understand voter unrest and anger. We’ve experienced this in Canada recently when the New Democratic Party was elected in the province of Alberta after a 40-year reign of the Progressive Conservative Party. No one in the country thought such an event could ever happen yet it did. We also saw the Federal Conservative Party lose to the Liberal Party of Canada. This can only be explained by voter dissatisfaction. But what is happening with our neighbour to the south makes no logical sense. Why would the people of the United States (I realize it isn’t all Americans) want to elect a president who is a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully? Has there has ever been a president in the past who was sexist,  racist,  bigot, a liar, and/or a bully? Probably not but to my knowledge there has never been a potential president who was so blatantly a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully.  That is a recipe for disaster; a disaster for the United States and potentially a disaster for the world. I just hope the American electorate will eventually see the Republican candidate for who he truly is; a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully.

Legalized Discrimination

I’ve always held the belief that at least in the developed world human rights were considered sacred. I wanted to believe that because we live in the 21st century we had moved beyond discriminatory practices and racism. I thought the human race was evolving for the better. It seems I’m naive and that my assumptions were wrong.

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document listing universal rights entitled to all human beings. A human right is a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person. Article 6 of UDHR states, everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Article 7 of that document states, all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

So why am I bringing up the UDHR? Well it appears that even in this modern era where we have an international declaration enshrining our human rights, that there are still people hell-bent on denying certain groups of people their rights.

On March 30 of this year, the State of Mississippi in the United States passed an Anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) Bill. Some of the law in Mississippi states, so long as individuals are motivated by “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” any of the following behaviours would be considered legal by the government:

  • Religious organizations can decline to honour any same-sex marriage or provide any services related to recognizing that marriage.
  • Religious organizations can refuse to hire, fire, and discipline employees for violating the organization’s religious beliefs, basically protecting those who carry out above mentioned actions towards the LGBT community.
  • Religious organizations can choose not to sell, rent, or otherwise provide shelter to namely the LGBT community.
  • Religious organizations that provide foster or adoptive services can decline service without risking their state subsidies.
  • Any person can choose not to provide treatment, counselling, or surgery related to gender transition or same-sex parenting.

On March 23, North Carolina passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act that states, All public schools, government agencies and public college campuses to require that multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities, such as locker rooms, be designated for use only by people based on their “biological sex” stated on their birth certificate.

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from nohatespeechmovement.org

Clearly the laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi are in violation of UDHR, namely article 6 and 7. In essence these states have legalized discrimination.  Now this is not without consequences. The Guardian says President Barack Obama has called for North Carolina and Mississippi to overturn state laws that affect gay and transgender residents. The United Kingdom Foreign Office issued to its citizens a statement warning LGBT tourists of the dangers of visiting North Carolina and Mississippi after both introduced “anti-LGBT” laws.

According to BuzzFeedNews entertainers such as Pearl Jam, Cirque du Soleil, Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams have cancelled plans to perform in those states. The Corporation PayPal cancelled its plans to open a new global operations centre in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. The German Deutsche Bank announced that it was freezing plans to create 250 new jobs in North Carolina due to the state’s anti-LGBT law. At least 13 conventions in Charlotte were cancelled over concerns over the bill. Actress Sharon Stone, scheduled to film a movie in Mississippi, decided to change the location after the passage of the controversial law.

NewNowNext reported the corporation holding the rights of the musicals West Side Story and Footloose have withdrawn permission for their musicals to be done in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi, because of the anti-LGBT laws. The Blue Man Group tour was also withdrawn.

These anti-LGBT laws were passed despite the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court of the land, ruled that same-sex marriages  were legal throughout the entire country.

Now the justification for these laws is based on religious beliefs; the beliefs of Christianity. Yes you can find passages in the Christian scriptures supporting the belief that homosexuality is sinful. Having said that you can also find numerous passages in scripture justifying slavery as well. Does that mean that we should also pass laws legalizing slavery? I think there would be a huge public outcry if we did. Slavery was a socially acceptable practice in biblical times but now it isn’t. Perhaps the beliefs about homosexuality shown in scripture are also reflecting the social norms of day. From what I’ve learned about LGBT, it is not a choice. Their sexual orientation is a part of their genetic and/or spiritual makeup. They can’t help who they are.

First Nations or aboriginal people use the umbrella term “two-spirited” to describe same-sex attraction and gender variance. The term refers to a person who has both a masculine and a feminine spirit. I first heard of this term many years ago when I was teaching a scripture course to a group of aboriginal people. From what I was told, the LGBT community is much more accepted by the First Nations people.

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from joshuanhook.com

Moreover, if Christianity is going to be used as justification for these laws, then all of scripture must be considered. Christians are called to follow and emulate Jesus. In John 8:1-11 is a story about Jesus who sat down in the temple to address a group of scribes and Pharisees who confronted Jesus. They brought up the issue of an adulteress woman, and invited Jesus to pass judgment upon her when they asked the question, should she be stoned, which is what the Law of Moses instructed. Jesus responded by stating that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone. The religious leaders then departed, leaving Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus then asked the woman if anyone had condemned her. When she answers no, Jesus said that he did not condemn her either, and told her to go and sin no more. This story clearly shows that Jesus did not judge or condemn others for their lifestyles. NOR SHOULD WE.

No one should be denied their human rights no matter what their sexual orientation is or what the colour of their skin is or for any other reason for that matter. If the makers of these laws truly proclaim their actions are rooted in Christian belief, then they should take heed to Luke 6:35 (NRSV) where it says, But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he [God] is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting in any way that the LGBT community is wicked. I am only trying to get across the point that God treats everyone with kindness, even the wicked. As far as I’m concerned, LGBT individuals are like you and me. They are merely trying to happily live their lives like everyone else. No matter what our beliefs are, we must still learn to be tolerant and understanding of all people.

Don’t throw that away!

The CBC news article, Starbucks pledges to donate 100% of unsold food, reported that Starbucks corporation on March 23, 2016 publicized plans to eliminate food waste and donate all of its unused food items from its U.S. stores to the needy within five years. Perishable items such as breakfast sandwiches, salads, and other ready-to-eat meal packages would be donated. The company said it will add up to five million meals in its first year, and more than 50 million free meals by 2021. They plan to use an agency called Food Donation Connection (FDC) to get the items to the food banks and homeless shelters. Since 2010, Starbucks has been collecting pastries at the company’s 7,600 stores after they can no longer be sold to customers, and working with FDC to get the pastries to people who need them.

Canadian Starbucks locations will not be included in the program, but a spokesperson told CBC News that Canadian Starbucks is watching closely. Food consultancy Value Chain Management International Inc. estimates that roughly $31 billion worth of food is wasted in Canada every year. According to a Starbucks spokesperson, “In Canada we currently have measures in place to donate unused food and are working to formalize the practices so that we can maximize our efforts in this market.”

I did some research and learned that there are other companies who donate unsold food. According to an article on AME Science, Tesco is a British multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer who plans to eradicate all its food waste by 2017. They’ve started several projects to achieve this goal. It has also started selling “wonky veg” boxes, to encourage consumers to buy imperfect foods. In a 14-store pilot programme the company provided the equivalent of 50,000 meals to less fortunate people.

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from theguardian.com

According to figures published by Tesco 55,400 tonnes of food were thrown away at its stores and distribution centres across the country in 2015. This would be the equivalent of over 125,000,000 meals, assuming all the food were edible. Even if half of it is edible, that still brings a huge amount of meals. Another article by Salon reports Tesco’s initial report found the biggest losses were in bagged salad, two-thirds of which was being discarded either in-store or by customers; it was also wasting 40 percent of apples, a quarter of grapes and a fifth of bananas.

I was curious as to why grocery stores throw out so much food although it is only 10% of the total food wasted, whereas about 14% of all household food is wasted according to davidsuzuki.org. The site says over 30 percent of fruits and vegetables in North America don’t even make it onto store shelves because they’re not pretty enough for picky consumers. According to Business Insider, the reasons why stores waste is:

  • Most grocery stores assume that customers are more likely to buy produce if it’s from a fully stocked display.
  • Customers expect perfect produce. Retailers stock their produce according to that expectation.
  • Customers don’t understand what expiration dates, sell-by dates, use-by dates, or best-by dates mean. They assume that food is no longer good after these days. Instead, sell-by dates are guidelines for sellers to indicate peak freshness. Most foods are good long after the sell-by date. Consequently, most grocery stores pull the items from the shelves several days before the sell-by date.
  • Sometimes, product packaging gets damaged during shipping, causing supermarkets to toss products even though the food hasn’t been compromised. The assumption is that no consumer is going to buy it if a faulty one is right next to it.

So why don’t all stores donate the unsold food to charities. From what I can determine, the reason is businesses fear they will be held liable should the product donated later cause harm to the recipient. It’s Interesting to note that in 1996 U.S. President Bill Clinton passed the Good Samaritan Act to encourage companies to donate healthy food that would otherwise go to the waste dump. This law protects businesses from liability when they donate to a non-profit organization. To my knowledge Canada has no such law. The province of Ontario, however has such a law called the Donation of Food Act which was passed in 1994.

clapping-hands-transparent-b-g-mdKudos to the Starbucks and Tesco corporations. I’m quite sure my research is not thorough. I’m sure there are other companies out there so I applaud any of the companies I’ve missed who donate unsold food to charities.

On August 7, 2015 I wrote a post about the France National Assembly who voted unanimously to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food.  According to the article, France pass new law forbidding food waste, large grocery stores must donate edible food to charities and allow inedible food to be used for animal feed or compost.

I have since learned that Italy is set to become the second European country to pass legislation that will pressure supermarkets to stop throwing out food waste, and instead give it to those in need. (See Italy’s about to pass law). The soon to be Italian law is slightly different from the French law in that Italy’s legislation rewards companies for donating by reducing their rubbish tax. The more food companies donate, the bigger savings they’ll receive in taxes.

Thumbs upThumbs up to the European countries of Italy and France who are making efforts to waste less food and support less fortunate people. Kudos to the United States and to the province of Ontario for passing laws that protect companies who choose  to donate food instead of throwing it out. It is time for other provinces or Canada as a whole to do the same.

smileyMy research also showed me that there are many food rescue (also known as food recovery or food salvage) organizations in Canada and the United States. These organizations glean edible food from places such as restaurants, grocery stores, produce markets, or dining facilities and distribute it to emergency food programs. The food would otherwise go to waste. In Canada there are organizations such as Second Harvest and Forgotten Harvest. In the US there is Feeding America, Food Forward and many more. I salute those charity organizations who do the right thing.

British novelist and author of the Chronicles of Narnia, once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” I am so grateful that there are people, organizations, companies and countries in this world that have integrity.

Fear or Love

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Banner reads ‘I am Brussels’ in French & Flemish – Reuters pic

One week ago on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, three coordinated bombings occurred in Brussels, Belgium’s capital. Two attacks occurred in the Brussels airport, and one at its metro station. During these attacks, 31 innocent victims were killed along with three suicide bombers. Even more disturbing is the 300 innocent people who were injured.

I feel great sadness when I hear of a terrorist attack especially when it occurs in Europe because just six months ago my wife and I were in Europe. In October of 2015, my wife and I visited Belgium. While Brussels was not one of the places we visited, we did visit several of the World War One sites in Flanders’ Fields. We also visited Paris, France on our trip so when the Paris attacks happened it deeply affected us both, as did the Brussels attack.

As I stated in my November 27, 2015  post about the Paris attacks, terrorism is something I cannot understand. I’ve tried to put myself into the shoes of a terrorist in order to comprehend how someone can cause harm and death to innocent people like the bloodshed that happened in Brussels. The news media repeatedly tells us that the people who carry out such acts of violence have been radicalized.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a radical as  “advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs”. So as I understand it, radicals are people who carrying out acts of murder for political gain.  This is what I can’t wrap my head around.  In my mind killing innocent people for political gain, or any reason, is wrong!

How can someone with any kind of conscience murder innocent people? As I mentioned in the November post, the only thing I can come up with is that these people have been brainwashed. It is the only explanation that makes sense.

What disturbs me the most is when a terrorist attack  happens on our planet panic sets in. Panic is a symptom of fear. The school that I taught in is taking a group of students to Germany this month. The Brussels event set off a wave of panic among the parents. These parents were fearful because their children were off to Europe, where terrorist attacks occur. Now I’m a parent, so I understand the need to protect your children. But when we cave in to fear, the terrorists succeed.

Perhaps it’s time to look at the issue of terrorism from a different perspective. According to many spiritual writers today, all behaviours and emotions can be put into two categories – love and fear. These writers tell us fear is the opposite of love. So what is fear? Fear results in a feeling of not being protected or feeling secure. So when it comes to terrorism, fear sets in because we feel insecure and vulnerable. In fact, that is what terrorism is all about, instilling fear. Terrorists want us to be fearful. They want to cause terror. In fact, ‘terror’ is the root word of ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’.

Fear limits our minds. People who live in fear will do harmful things. They lash out at those whom they perceive to be the cause of their pain. The same could be argued for animals. When do animals attack? It is when they fear for their survival.

Now most people would argue that the opposite of love is hate but when you think about it, hate is really stemming from fear. A person might “hate” someone who has abandoned or disrespected him. Abandonment makes more sense in terms of the fear. When a person feels abandoned, their emotions are stemming from fear of being alone. Disrespect is when a person feels scorned or disregarded, so it stems from the fear a person has when they are not honoured or regarded.

In a CNN report, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is quoted as saying,

“It’s going to get worse and worse. In my opinion, this is just the beginning. It will get worse and worse because we are lax and we are foolish — we can’t allow these people, at this point we cannot allow these people to come into our country. I’m sorry…”

His remarks clearly come from fear. His and others like him lack love and compassion. Banishing others does not stem from love. It stems from fear which indicates that there is no love.

Love on the other hand doesn’t hurt. If it hurts it is fear. Love is a core emotion from which many other emotions are created. Emotions such as happiness, kindness, charity, faith, empathy, fairness and compassion all come from loving intentions. This type of love is what the Greeks called agape love. This love is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. It is the highest form of love there is. With this type of love there is no exclusiveness.

Fear is the opposite of love because fear is the base emotion from which hate, prejudice, greed, stress, paranoia, and many other negative emotions are based.

1 John 4:18 of the Christian scriptures tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” It is also interesting that scripture scholars tell us the phrases “do not fear” and “do not be afraid” appears 365 times in the Christian Bible. I don’t think that is coincidence. Perhaps a basic message in the scriptures is, do not have fear because when you are fearful, you do not possess love.

The CNN report referred to above quotes Pascale Rouhier, a 38-year-old resident of Brussels, as saying, “I’m not going to change my way of living because Brussels is my city.”

The article also reports that 2,000 people gathered in front of  the Brussels stock exchange, with Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel and other leaders who laid wreaths at Maelbeek metro station.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “Our strength lies in our unity, and our free societies will prove to be stronger than terrorism.” (see article)

These are all examples of people whereby fear has not taken hold. Their reactions and comments stem from love. Love unifies while fear divides.

Perhaps former Beatle John Lennon sums it up best when he said,

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States was right when he said during his inaugural address on March 4, 1933,   “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.”  If terrorists succeed in their mission to instil fear into the world then they will create a culture of fear; a culture where there is no love; a world full of hate, prejudice, greed, stress, and paranoia. But, if we don’t allow fear to take hold then we will have a culture filled with happiness, kindness, charity,  empathy, fairness and compassion; a culture where there is love. The choice is ours.

World Water Day

WaterDayTuesday, March 22, 2016 is World Water Day. I had not heard of this day until recently when reading a news article, so I decided to do some research to find out why a day deemed World Water Day was created. What surprised me is this day has been held annually since the 22nd of March 1993, which was the first World Water Day. How could there have been twenty-three World Water Days in the past and I had not heard of it before? Do I live in a bubble? I’ve always known that fresh water was, and still is, a precious resource and that it is rapidly disappearing due to pollution and melting glaciers. In fact, I taught many lessons to my students about it over the years, but when I did some research on the topic, I was surprised by what I learned.

If I am truly honest with myself, I have to admit that I’ve always taken water for granted. There has never been a water shortage where I live. There has always been plenty of fresh, clean water to drink, to have a shower, to operate the clothes washer, to run the dishwasher, and to even water the lawn occasionally. I’ve always assumed, like most people I suspect, that we would always have a supply of fresh water. After doing some research, now I’m not so sure.

The Water Project is a non-profit organization providing reliable water to communities in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the website, water Scarcity is a reality on our planet! That means there is either the lack of enough water or lack of access to safe water. This site says 1 in 9 people worldwide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water. That means over a billion people on our planet lack access to safe water. The site also says that in developing countries, as much as 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.

The World Water Council is an international multi-stakeholder council that promotes awareness, builds political commitment and triggers action on critical water issues. According to the Council, 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water. The daily per capita use of water in residential areas is

  • 350 litres in North America and Japan
  • 200 litres in Europe
  • 10-20 litres in sub-Saharan Africa

That means each citizen of North America uses 350 litres every day. That’s a lot of water. It begs the question, are we wasting water?

From an agricultural perspective, the Water Councils says the quantity of water needed to produce 1 kg of wheat is 1 000 litres. Rice needs 1 400 litres and beef requires 13 000 litres of water. Perhaps it’s time to eat less steak.

Water.org is an international non-profit organization that brings water and sanitation to the developing world. Here are some interesting statistics I found on their site.

  • 663 million people – 1 in 10 – lack access to safe water.
  • 4 billion people – 1 in 3 – lack access to a toilet.
  • Twice the population of the United States lives without access to safe water.
  • More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.
  • Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease
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From ideahack.me

The Guardian’s article, How will climate change impact fresh water security? says fresh water scarcity is best understood by contemplating the distribution of fresh water on our planet. Approximately 98% of our water is in our oceans, which consists of salt water, and only 2% is fresh water. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice (namely glaciers), 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc.) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere. Climate change has had enormous effects on the amounts of fresh water available to us on the planet. The primary one is that global warming causes the polar ice caps and the world’s glaciers to melt into the sea, turning it into seawater.

Does this mean we should we alarmed? Yes it does. Does it mean we should lose hope for the future? No it doesn’t. All the various organizations I mentioned above are working towards solving the water scarcity problem. Science is also working towards solutions.

According to The Guardian’s article, 8 unbelievable solutions to future water shortages, science has come up with innovative ideas such as,

  • Waterless bathing using a lotion called DryBath which is a blend of essential oils, bioflavonoids (group of plant pigments), and an odour-eliminating chemical that is said to save four litres of water ever session.
  • Ultra efficient showers that use a screw-in device that captures water at the beginning of a shower and feeds it back into the system.
  • Using lasers to induce rain at times of drought, an idea debated by the World Meteorological Organization.
  • Folding toilets that make more efficient use of water. Its inventors claim that if installed it could save 10,000 litres per person every year.
  • Using a solar-chemical purification process that involves exposing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to ultra violet radiation from the sun to produce a photo catalytic composite that cleans water.

According to the Canada Free Press’ article, Israel holds the solution to world water crisis, Israel has many new innovative products and policies. Some of these are drip irrigation and “fertigation,” a process of injecting fertilizers, soil amendments, and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system. Israel promotes dual-flush toilets, seawater desalination, advanced wastewater treatment and reuse, free-market pricing of water, drought-resistant seeds, cutting-edge metering and leak-detection systems, conservation education and precision agriculture.

Perhaps the most alarming thing that I’ve learned was on the World Water Council website. It said,

“As the resource is becoming scarce, tensions among different users may intensify, both at the national and international level. Over 260 river basins are shared by two or more countries. In the absence of strong institutions and agreements, changes within a basin can lead to transboundary tensions. When major projects proceed without regional collaboration, they can become a point of conflicts, heightening regional instability.”

Water-Wars-Logo
Logo from touchland.com

The prospect of “water wars” has been flaunted for decades and according to the article, Global ‘water war’ threat by 2030 – US intelligence, it may become reality within a decade. The article says the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the organization that oversees US intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, was commissioned by President Barack Obama to examine the impact of water scarcity worldwide on US security. The ODNI predicts that by 2040 water demand will outstrip current supply by 40 per cent. The organization says it could lead to outright fighting, or water could be used as a tool of political leverage, similar to how gas and oil are used today. It suggests revising international water treaties and investing in superior water purification technologies that will make the increasingly scarce resource plentiful again.

The world faces many serious problems such as global warming and water scarcity. It is time for us to get our “heads out of the sand” and educate ourselves about these issues. Even more, it is time for us to get involved, even if it is something as simple as donating to an organization that brings clean water and sanitation to the developing world, taking shorter showers, or purchasing water efficient appliances. If we all do our small part, we will make a difference.