News Agencies – November 23, 2011
More than a year before she and her two sisters drowned in a mysterious incident that is now the focus of a murder trial, a teenage student told her Montreal high school vice-principal that she had attempted suicide because her situation at home was intolerable, the jury was told. The 16-year-old listed an array of reasons for her despair and decision to swallow a heavy dose of sedative pills: verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her older brother Hamed; her parents’ insistence that she wear a hijab, the Muslim head scarf; isolation from other family members; pressure to quit school.
A social worker from the provincial Youth Protection Agency was therefore summoned to the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry school in the Montreal borough of St. Leonard, Ms. Fortin told the trial, as were Sahar’s parents, who showed up “very angry.”
On trial are Kabul-born Afghan-Canadian businessman Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their eldest son, Hamed, 20. Each is charged with four counts of first-degree murder. The charges were laid in July, 2009, three weeks after the bodies of Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia, aged 19, 17 and 13, respectively, were discovered in a car at the bottom of a waterway lock on the Rideau Canal, just east of Kingston. The cause of death was drowning, autopsies showed, but where and how they perished has not been established.
News Agencies – November 23, 2011
A 23 year-old man was shot in the street in the Reynerie neighborhood of Toulouse, France. Several people were arrested. There was a lot of tension in Reynerie after the death of the young man, executed with 9mm bullets in the middle of the street. Samir Chorfi, a resident of the neighborhood known to the police, was mortally wounded by several bullets and died in hospital. Large police forces were deployed to control the crowd.
Local residents are shocked and concerned about the increasing violence. “We do not want our children to die in our neighborhoods”. In order to calm the situation, a loudspeaker broadcast passages from the Qur’an.
News Agencies – November 14, 2011
In the days leading up to the July 2009 arrest of an Afghan-Canadian businessman and his wife and son, all accused of jointly murdering four family members, the man’s conscience was clear because the victims had violated every decent principle, he said in wiretapped conversations.
Mr. Shafia, 58, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their 20-year-old son, Hamed Shafia, each face four counts of first-degree murder in the drowning deaths of the couple’s three teenaged daughters – Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 – and Rona Amir Mohammad, Mr. Shafia’s 53-year-old first wife, in a clandestine polygamous marriage. Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car at the bottom of a lock on the Rideau Canal, just east of Kingston, as the 10-member family returned to their Montreal home from a short vacation in Niagara Falls.
The core of the prosecution case is that the multiple deaths were a so-called “honour killing,” inflicted in a bid to salvage the family’s “honour,” marred by the rebellious, independent-minded conduct of the three Shafia sisters, in particular the dating habits of the oldest two.
News Agencies – November 19, 2011
French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen unveiled her vision to hundreds of cheering supporters, advocating again for an exit from the euro and tighter border controls. During a speech that lasted more than an hour, Le Pen hammered home the traditional promises of her Front National party: strengthening France, preserving family values, fighting immigration and rejecting globalization. Le Pen repeated that France should leave the euro before it falls apart.
Le Pen, who inherited the leadership of the Front National from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, has said she wants to broaden appeal for her party, known for its anti-immigration, anti-Islam views.
News Agencies – November 20, 2011
A mosque in Villeneuve-sur-Lot in southwestern France was tagged with racist graffiti. Inscriptions included: “Islam out of Europe”, a swastika, and the number 88 (which stands for ‘Heil Hitler’). A possible Molotov cocktail was discovered on site.
The local prosecutor and government official visited the mosque and expressed support for the local Muslim community. The police will be asked to increase their patrols around places of worship in the department.
News Agencies – November 1, 2011
A Canadian imam who was arrested by religious police while on a pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian city of Medina thanked the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Canadian media and his supporters across the country for their efforts in ensuring his release. Edmonton-based imam Usama Al-Atar said he felt “deeply relieved” and “very grateful” to be reunited with his friends after spending 36 hours in a Medina city jail, according to a statement he issued on behalf of the IHRC, a U.K.-based organization that spearheaded an urgent appeal effort that brought international attention to his case.
He said the detainment facility he stayed in was “horrid” but didn’t elaborate on the specific conditions. He said that because he was staying in Saudi Arabia for two more weeks to complete his pilgrimage, it would not be “sensible nor wise” of him to speak to the media about his experience with Saudi authorities.
Al-Atar, a prominent Islamic scholar and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Alberta chemistry department, was leading 10 pilgrims in prayer at a religious burial site in Medina when a group of Saudi religious police began to harass the group, according to witnesses, including Hayward. The religious police first asked Al-Atar to lower his voice and then asked the group to leave the cemetery, witnesses said. The police then accused Al-Atar of being a thief before restraining him, Hayward said Sunday. Eventually one of the religious police officers pushed Al-Atar into a small kiosk area where he reportedly struggled to breathe.
News Agencies – November 8, 2011
French cabin crews have no right to tell Muslim women to remove their burqa aboard Air France flights – despite a nationwide ban on full face veils, the airline has ruled. Muslim passengers can be ordered to remove the garment while waiting in French airports to board the plane at the gate. But once on board, they are free to put their burqa back on, according to an internal memo to staff from Air France’s legal department.
The company’s lawyers said: ‘Flight crews on board planes cannot ask a person to uncover their face if they are hiding it. The law can only be enforced by police and other public officials on the ground.’ Pilots said they had ‘no issue’ with women wearing burqas during flights – as long as they had been through security checks before the flight. ‘Besides, on long-haul flights a lot of passengers hide their face with eye masks when they go to sleep.’
France’s controversial burqa ban which came into force in April makes it a criminal offence for for anyone to hide their face in public.
News Agencies – November 10, 2011
A mosque in eastern France was damaged after unknown attackers set fire to the building using a burning rubbish bin. The head of the mosque in Montbeliard, located about 170 kilometres south of Strasbourg, near the German border, discovered the fire when he arrived to open the building for morning prayers. One wall was badly damaged. The attack on the mosque is the second in a month. A group calling itself Les Echappees Belles (The Lucky Escapes) claimed responsibility for the incident in tracts left near the mosque. The group – believed to be a group of women loosely influenced by right-wing extremists – had claimed responsibility for setting fire to the mosque’s van in October. Police are investigating the incident.
News Agencies – November 2, 2011
Politicians and Muslim leaders have denounced a firebomb attack that destroyed the offices of a satirical French newspaper after it “invited” the Prophet Mohammed as its guest editor. No one was injured in the fire at Charlie Hebdo weekly in eastern Paris, hours before the current issue hit the news-stands. The front-page of the weekly, subtitled “Sharia Hebdo,” a reference to Islamic law, showed a cartoon-like man with a turban, white robe and beard smiling broadly and saying, in an accompanying bubble, “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.”
Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, said his organisation deplored “the very mocking tone of the paper toward Islam and its prophet but reaffirms with force its total opposition to all acts and all forms of violence.” Dalil Boubakeur, who heads the Great Mosque of Paris, condemned “an act which can in no way represent the principles of liberty, tolerance and peace that are (our) message.” But he regretted the “anxious European climate of Islamophobia” fed in part by stigmatising Muslims through caricatures.
News Agencies – November 3, 2011
Islamophobia is on the rise in France, according to figures released by the French Muslim umbrella group, CFCM. Attacks and insults perpetrated against Muslims went [up] 22 per cent in the first nine months of this year, the group says, and it fears that there will be more ahead of next year’s general election. Citing Interior Ministry figures, the CFCM says that 115 cases were reported to the police between the beginning of January and the end of September. But they are a gross underestimate, according to CFCM president Abdallah Zekri, because victims are often loath to go to the authorities.