Monday, December 6, 2010

Albania's BESA

CBC Radio's "The Current"
17 November 2010

TORONTO - In a little known fact of history, in Muslim Albania, there is no evidence of a single Jew was handed over to the Nazis during WW2 because opening your door to strangers is entrenched in an ancient Albanian code of honor, Besa. The Current's producer, Heba Aly, joined Anna Maria in studio to share this remarkable story.

Listen here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Canada arrests of citizens raise concerns of homegrown terrorism

Christian Science Monitor (US)
27 August 2010

Canada arrested three citizens this week on allegations they were conspiring to facilitate terrorist activity. Homegrown terrorism is a rising concern, but some analysts have cautioned against encouraging radicalism by overstating the problem.

TORONTO - The arrests of three Canadian citizens on terrorism charges has boosted worries over so-called "homegrown terrorism" in this country.

On Wednesday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested two residents of Ottawa. A third suspect from London, Ontario was arrested Thursday.

Police allege they were conspiring with others in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Dubai, to facilitate terrorist activity. The alleged ringleader, Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh, is accused of possessing electronic circuit boards designed to remotely detonate improvised explosive devices, being a member of and remaining in contact with a terrorist group with links to the war in Afghanistan; and financially supporting a terrorist group. Police say they are searching for three alleged co-conspirators who are outside Canada.

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Lifting the Veil of Albania, with pedals

Toronto Review of International Affairs
18 July 2010

Albania's still a bit rough around the edges, but it has long outgrown its reputation as an isolated and dangerous country. It took a ride across the country by bicycle to find that out.

AT THE MONTENEGRIN/ALBANIAN BORDER - The sun is out for the first time in days, a welcome relief from the crisp December air of the Adriatic that chills central Europe at this time of year. Snow has just begun to cover the peaks of the imposing North Albanian Alps, finally visible in the distance, free of the curtain of cloud that has veiled most of the landscape thus far. The road is newly paved, and to our surprise, perfectly smooth.

But we cycle into Albania with butterflies in our stomachs. It is, after all, Albania - home to a 40-year dictatorship that, until recently, left it as closed off from the world as North Korea is today. We had been vehemently cautioned not to visit, because, as one acquaintance put it, "the Albanians will steal the shirts off your backs." Guide books warned of a lack of medical facilities. It was the wild frontier between East and West, a dark unknown place where, we were told, we would be unimpressed, and possibly, in danger.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

G8 summit focuses on accountability, but where is it?

Christian Science Monitor (US)
26 June 2010

As the G8 countries this weekend emphasized the need for more accountability on their aid pledges, relief groups decried the fact that many pledges at previous G8 summits have gone unmet.

TORONTO - It is no small irony that Canada has focused on G8 accountability as a priority in this past weekend's summit.

Nor that it was a Canadian, the iconic internationalist Lester B. Pearson, who came up with the 0.7 percent pledge - later adopted by the United Nations General Assembly - that rich countries would give 0.7 percent of their Gross National Product in development aid to the world's poorest.

Today, Canada's percentage of GNP going to aid is less than half the standard set by Mr. Pearson, and as the Group of Eight nations wrapped up their meeting in Huntsville, Ontario yesterday, many aid advocates questioned not only the Canadian hosts' commitment to development, but the entire group's very credibility.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Risky Business

Carleton University Magazine
Spring 2010 issue

With dwindling staff budgets, freelancers are the go-to source for media content, but free agentry is rife with work hazards. One woman's story of being booted out of Sudan for asking too many questions

Untitiled Photo

KHARTOUM - It was just before 2 p.m. when I arrived at the departure hall of Khartoum International Airport, heading home to Canada to spend Christmas 2008 with my family. I dragged my worn suitcase through the front doors, barely taking two steps when I heard someone calling my name.

I turned to find a large man with an unsmiling, unfamiliar face. "We'd like to see you in the office," he said in Arabic. A sick feeling swallowed up the pit of my stomach. Having been stopped once before by national security officials in Sudan's conflict-ridden Darfur region, I knew what this meant. National security controls everything in this country, including who flies. I had no choice but to follow.

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G20: Less-developed nations still struggle to shape agenda

Christian Science Monitor (US)
25 June 2010

TORONTO - As Brazil's ambassador to the European Union once put it, "there are new kids on the block" in world politics and trade. That's evident at the G20, where Brazil and other "new kids" Russia, India and China, collectively known as the BRICs, expect to have an equal voice at the table during this weekend's summit.

"No one asks anymore: 'What are you doing here?' Because it's obvious what Brazil is doing there. It has the weight," says Ernesto Araujo, deputy head of mission at the Brazilian embassy in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.

But as their stars have risen, other less-developed countries in the G20 and worldwide have been left wayside. G20 members South Africa, Mexico, Argentina and Indonesia - along with the world's least developed countries, which aren't even at the table in Toronto - remain overshadowed.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nazia Quazi case encourages Canadian Muslims to speak out

The Christian Science Monitor (US)
7 May 2010

OTTAWA - It is Saturday morning in a downtown restaurant, and Shahla Khan Salter sits three other local Muslims. They've been brought together by a 24-year-old Indo-Canadian who has been trapped in Saudi Arabia since 2007 due to a practice that requires women to have a male guardian's permission to travel. Ms. Khan Salter has assembled the group to brainstorm ways to help the young woman, Nazia Quazi, return to Canada.

Whlie Ms. Quazi's case is unusual, what it may reflect about changes within Western Muslim communities is equally noteworthy. Historically, Western Muslims have been apathetic when it comes to civic engagement, but increasinly Islamic communities in the West, like those helping Quazi, are beginning to buck this trend.

"I definitely think that there is increased civic engagement, says Nadia Roumani, director of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, which helps Muslim leaders and non-profit organizations develop the skills to get involved in anything from politics and education to interfaith work. "It's not pervasive, but there is a critical mass."

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