Thoughts on Syrian Refugees and Terrorist Attacks

It makes me so angry to hear so many people talk about refusing Syrian refugees because of their race or religion. Are we truly so calloused that we would let people suffer and die so we never have to face any risks or deal with inconveniences? Are we so selfish that we aren’t willing to share the freedom and safety we take for granted because those who need it are a little different than we are?

Not long ago, the US turned away Holocaust victims over similar concerns. This makes me sick to my stomach; I’ve seen the documentaries, I’ve heard the stories of the survivors, and what they faced is far beyond what most of us can imagine. People were sent back to suffer and die because of “security concerns”. Entire groups of refugees were denied rescue because of the small chance that someone bad might try to sneak in. But terrorists can and do find other ways to get in; banning refugees will not stop terrorism. It never has, there are far easier ways to get into the country. 9/11 was not carried out by refugees. It’s debatable whether Paris was either.

Banning refugees is exactly what Daesh (another name for ISIS that they hate) wants. If no one will rescue their victims, then nobody will dare to leave their regime. How many militants and supporters secretly wish they could leave, but know that there’s nowhere for them to go? By giving into fear, the rest of the world is strengthening the very terrorist group they’re trying to get rid of.

The thought of so many people suffering and dying when we could be helping them makes my blood boil. There isn’t much that fills me with rage, I’m not prone to anger and can take a lot of personal hurt before I get truly angry at someone, but this… This makes me wish I could force these naysayers to spend a few hours in a refugee camp to see the desperate plight of the people that they’re refusing to help. I wish I could stop everything I’m doing right now and go help there myself. I wish I could go to the border and embrace someone who’s running from terror and war, and offer to share my home with them until they can build a new life of their own. I want to sit with them, cry with them, to show them that not all people in the world want to hurt them, that there is love and compassion still in the human race. I want to give them hope.

Sometimes all the hurt in the world is a bit overwhelming. I’m a very empathetic person, so I feel others’ pain deeply and the thought of others suffering brutal atrocities like this disturbs me so much. I don’t always know what to do about it; sometimes there’s not much I can do except spread awareness of ways we can help. But even though it can be overwhelming now and then, I wouldn’t change any of it. If we can’t empathize with others, we’ll never be moved to help them or to stop our own actions when they cause harm.

Call me an idealist, or a dreamer… I don’t care. I want a world that knows peace. I want an end to war and unnecessary suffering and injustice. And we’ll never get there if we don’t fucking help each other.

If you’re able to donate to help the refugees, here’s one place to do so. If you know of any other donation sites, or of any other ways we can help Syrian refugees as well as victims of the Paris attacks and all the other attacks that have been going on in the world lately, please comment with the information. If I can’t go and help them myself, at least I can try to spread awareness for what we can do from over here. [https://donate.unhcr.ca/index_custom.php?page_id=sy…

This song has been running through my head all day. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y96WY5Do_bs]

Harper’s Racist Comments Regarding Refugees in Niqabs

The following was seen on Facebook:

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After receiving this in the mail yesterday, I felt moved to write this open letter to Mr. Harper. Please SHARE MY LETTER (below) if you feel that it is a Canadian value to stop judging people by their clothing, colour and religion.
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Dear Mr. Harper

After receiving your flyer in the mail today that was addressed to my family, and states that “It is offensive that someone would want to hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family”, I felt the need to write this open letter to you. I would like to take a minute to talk about family, and about community.

I write to you as a white female from the middle upper class neighbourhood of Tsawwassen BC. I want you to know that I served our great country in Afghanistan in 2009, and I believe that national security is important. I meet the typical demographics of someone that one might think would disagree with the niqab, except I that don’t. Like most Canadians I don’t actually know anyone who wears a niqab, but I would not mind having them as my neighbours, and here is why.

I believe that good citizenship is grounded in upholding the rule of law. Showing ones face at the Canadian citizenship ceremony is not a law in our country. Before the ceremony, the person is visually identified many times in the process of the application. They have already had pictures taken, and formal face to face contact with government officials. After a fully informed process of public discourse, if all Canadians agree to make a law that people have to show their face during the ceremony, fine, but make it a law and then respect the religion by adapting the ceremony in a culturally sensitive way. Right now there is no law, people are not doing anything wrong by not uncovering themselves. A policy that forces these women to uncover their faces at the citizenship ceremony will only serve to exclude them from the possibility of becoming Canadian citizens and reaching their dreams of a better life. Is that what you want Mr. Harper? To exclude vulnerable and marginalized women and children from becoming part of our Canadian family because we are not willing look beyond some clothing? Also, religious tolerance is built into the Canadian citizenship ceremony in that it is legal to bring one’s own holy book of choice to use for the Citizenship oath. If religious tolerance is a Canadian cornerstone built into our Citizenship ceremony and oath procedures, why this cognitive dissonance with the niqab?

Having studied health sciences at university, I know that immigrant women of colour, that belong to a minority religion, top the list of our most marginalized and vulnerable people. Often these women are fleeing home countries due to volatile political conditions, natural disasters, or gender inequality. They overcome the many barriers to Canadian immigration, a system that favours economic immigrants over refugees. We let very few refugees into our country compared to people from wealthy nations. These women make up a group of the most disadvantaged people on the planet, why would we refuse them an opportunity for a better life? Many of these women have children. Protecting children from the horrors of their home countries is a virtuous decision, one that Canadians like me stand behind.

Many of these women have overcome physical dangers, emotional trauma, family separation, stigmatization, the unfamiliarity of a new home and a new culture. Against all odds, they arrive un-noticed by most Canadians. In fact, they are so good at joining the ‘Canadian family’, that many reading this now were not even aware of them until you brought them up.

Have you ever see the movie Rudy, Mr. Harper? It is one of my favourites. If you have not seen it, Rudy is an inspiring true story about an underdog who stops at nothing to accomplish his dreams of playing football at Notre Dame. Like that story, everyone has told these women it is impossible to accomplish their dreams. Everyone has told them they will never have a better life. But these women have heart, and dedication. These women fight for a chance to be part of our great country and a chance for their families to have what we have, freedom and democracy. This is the epitome of courage, of what it means to have heart. The fact that they have overcome so much to arrive at the moment of their Citizenship oath affirms that these women are tenacious and resilient. Those are qualities I welcome into our Canadian family. Our great Nation was built by people who exemplified these qualities. These women are the ‘Rudy’ of our time.

Mr. Harper, your cognitive dissonance brings up a few questions for me.

Where were you on the appearance debate that occurred this summer in BC? A heated discourse on the legality of female toplessness was going on, where a police officer asked a young women to put her top back on at a public beach in Kelowna. What is the message that the CPC wants to send by picking this Niqab debate to address ‘Canadian values on appearance’? That conservative dress is forbidden, but public displays of nudity are encouraged under human rights? That does not appear to be very conservative, Mr. Harper. If the women who exercise their right to be topless don’t offend you, but those who prefer a more covered lifestyle do, what kind of message does that send? Do you have something against modesty, Mr. Harper? Are female rights only encouraged when it means we will be wearing less clothing, not more?

Every Canadian in this country has been told as a child to, “never judge a book by its cover.” Isn’t that just the opposite to what you are telling us, Mr. Harper? Do you want us to judge a book by its cover? Are you saying that this basic phrase of kindness, passed down from generations of wise parents and grandparents, is no longer a Canadian value? Do you want us to judge our neighbours character by what they wear and what colour they are? I think that people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi would be ashamed of this digression in the fabric of Canadian culture and morality. Not judging other people by their appearance is a virtue we instill when we read to our children, when we shape the moral character of our developing young minds. As adults, should we not be leading by example on this? Encouraging people to judge their neighbours by appearance is divisive to our communities. Our communities have to stop perceiving visibility as progress towards ending discrimination. Multicultural representation will always be selectively available to us, and we need to acknowledge and extend solidarity to those who it excludes. That is what builds the foundation of a strong community.

Through generations of music, art, and literature, Canadians have expressed the idea of the eyes being the window to our souls. We have all had moments in our life where we have met someone’s eyes and learned a lot about them. These are shared quiet moments together that carry great depth and meaning. Through communication with our eyes, we have fallen in love, expressed sorrow, and excitement. We have been able to express every human emotion in our repertoire through a glance with another human being. We have all felt that. We know the power of our eyes. To me, the eyes are the most important things to see on a human being. This Canadian ideology is written in poetry, in greeting cards, in famous love stories. It creates memorable parts of iconic films. I believe in this Canadian cultural truism. This is important because it addresses a dichotomy in our Canadian beliefs in this debate. For me, the eyes are the most important part of the face. If I can see one’s eyes, I can also see their heart. This is part of why I feel the niqab still upholds a very important belief in our Canadian cultural tradition.

When I think of the characteristics of a strong community or family, I think of qualities like graciousness, engagement, generosity, and respect. I think of having neighbours that follow the rule of law, that work together on community projects, and that care about their fellow neighbours wellbeing. I have not met Ms. Zunera Ishaq, but have read about her. From what I have read in national newspapers I believe that she encompasses all of those things. She has overcome difficulties beyond what I can comprehend. Since coming to Canada a few years ago, she has since upheld all of the values that I as a Canadian born citizen view as important and virtuous.

I would be honoured to live in a community of people like Ms. Zunera Ishaq. Not only that, but I welcome any and all courageous women whose bravery and perseverance to live in a free and democratic country has brought them here. They have proven to be hard workers, good parents, supportive friends and when given the opportunity, community leaders. These are all attributes that I think could really benefit our communities and our economy here in Canada.

If someone is willing to fight that hard for freedom and democracy, I want them as my neighbour and part of our Canadian family.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Bridget Sangster

Harper does NOT represent Canadian values. I’m not even sure how he got elected in the first place. Respecting people’s personal adherence to their religious beliefs is very important and has always been a central part of Canadian law and culture. Wearing a niqab isn’t hurting anyone else, it’s not taking away someone else’s rights nor is it forcing someone else to adhere to their religion. It’s just how they personally believe they ought to dress, like how some Christians believe in not showing cleavage, some Jews wear certain clothing items to show their devotion to God, etc. They verify the woman’s identity privately before the citizenship ceremony (I believe a female official does it) so there’s no security risk either. And it does not cause significant upheaval or delay in the citizenship process; refugees coming from dramatically different cultures often have special needs such as interpreters and immigration is used to dealing with that. Plus, this isn’t exactly a time consuming or difficult request compared to some that immigration deals with.

His comments are uncalled for, racist, and he’s degrading vulnerable women refugees trying to escape bad situations in their home countries. How can we force them to choose between their religion and safety in a new country? Fortunately, the law has never stopped them or anyone else from covering themselves according to their beliefs regarding modesty. He’s just a horrible person using his political influence to verbally degrade others and incite fear of those who are different from us. But if he stays in office, he may be able to cause more damage to our immigration process than he’s already done.

For those who think that refugees and immigrants ought to give up their beliefs and culture when they enter a new country- with the exception of Native Americans/First Nations people, we’re all descended from immigrants who didn’t assimilate with the established Native cultures here. Did we ask the Irish and French and Italian immigrants to give up their cultures when they immigrated? Of course not. So why these particular people? Because people are racist and fearful of cultures they don’t understand or relate to. But that’s a shitty reason to berate and bully people.

Make sure you vote on Oct 19!!

Charleston Shootings: It Indicates a Huge Problem that We’re Not Addressing.

WittyFacebookStatusMindPictures-12125The attack in Charleston was racist fueled terrorism. It was a terrorist attack, carried out by a white person who believed that black people were ruining his country. We can’t make excuses for this. Our nation is not post-racial, it’s still divided by hate and unfounded fear of people who are different, and tragically innocent people like these churchgoers are paying the price for the hatred and stigma of others. 
And it’s not just people of color who suffer from this national divide and ingrained hatred of those who are different… other groups face similar violence daily in the U.S. by people with the same kind of attitude.
 
You know what really stopped me in my tracks when reading about this incident? The shooter blamed black people for the problems in this nation. He basically said black people were destroying America. In his words: “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country — and you have to go.”
 
After I became an atheist, I had strikingly similar sentiments directed towards me. “Atheists are ruining our country! Atheists should leave America! Atheists are evil and immoral and will ruin everything!” Over and over and over and over again, like a broken record that I can’t shut off. Even from people I care about, this stigma of “atheists ruining our nation” was and is continually perpetuated and thrown in my face. This hateful and erroneous belief is even taught in churches. Atheists are the enemy, “we must convert them or fight their evil influence and take back our nation!” and so on. And an even worse attitude is levied against the LGBTQA community, which I am a part of too, so now I get a double serving of the “you’re ruining our nation!” stigma.
So what happens when they teach these ideas to someone who’s prone to violence?  
 
WHEN YOU TEACH AND PROMOTE LIES ABOUT ENTIRE GROUPS OF PEOPLE, WHEN YOU ENCOURAGE HATE AND FEAR, VIOLENCE AGAINST THE STIGMATIZED GROUP IS USUALLY THE RESULT.
 
Yeah, I’m text-yelling. I’m yelling because your words have power, and when you say untrue and horrible things about black people or LGBTQA people or atheists or any other stigmatized groups, then YOU are contributing to a culture that is divided against itself, that fosters domestic terrorism against its own citizens on a regular basis. Yeah, you have freedom of speech, you can say what you want. But your freedom may be literally costing people their lives because not everyone has the restraint against violence that you do. They hear your rants about certain people ruining your country, and they jump to the next logical conclusion: The people ruining their country have to be destroyed to restore order and balance.
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So stop it. Stop perpetuating racism and hatred and misunderstanding of LGBTQA people, atheists, Muslim Americans, and anyone else who dares to not be a white heterosexual cisgender Christian. STOP. If you don’t, then start blaming yourself for these acts of violence committed against them because you’re partly responsible for it.
NO ONE deserves to be attacked or marginalized for who they are or what they believe. No one deserves to live in a nation where other citizens regularly put them down and enact violence against them just because they’re different. I am opposed to terrorism in all its forms- at home and abroad. It just makes me mad to see so many Americans talk about ISIS and then ignore or explain away terrorist acts right in their own backyard. Terrorism isn’t terrorism because someone with a turban does it… terrorism takes many forms, and it happens here among us, by us.

Is Religious Freedom an Excuse to Discriminate?

Is discrimination really “religious freedom”? Bills have been introduced in at least 14 states that would allow people to discriminate against gay people under the guise of “religious freedom”. Is this a valid excuse?

What is Religious Freedom?

First we need to determine what religious freedom really is- and what it is not. Religious freedom means that you have the freedom to believe what you want, and to practice that belief within the constrains of the law. It means that no one can put you in jail or discriminate against you based on your religious beliefs. You have the right to meet with other members of your faith, you have the right to speak about it openly, and no one can punish you for your personal beliefs and thoughts. This is a right that many countries still do not have.

Religious freedom does NOT mean you can infringe on the rights of others. When your religious beliefs start directly affecting others in a negative way, then there’s a problem with that part of your beliefs.

For example: If I believe in a god that requires me to make human sacrifices, obviously certain parts of my religion could not be legally practiced- and rightly so. Why? Because now my religion is affecting the rights of someone else. I could follow the other, more legal, aspects of that religion, but I would have to draw the line when it came to the “hurting other people” stuff.

Another example: If me and a group of people believed that Jews were evil and were “Christ killers”, I could say that my beliefs prevented me from serving them in my business. Would this be acceptable? No! Why? Because now my beliefs are causing direct harm to someone else. What if I was a radical Muslim and I said my beliefs required me to take over America and force everyone to submit to Allah’s laws? Would you allow me to “practice my religion” that freely, if I had enough people say they believed the same way? Of course not- because we all know that there is a line between religious freedom and religion being used to oppress others.

Let’s go back in time a few years. Not that long ago, racism was allowed legally via Jim Crow racism laws. People had many reasons for why they didn’t want to serve people of color- but in the end, we as a people realized that those reasons just were not good enough. Some of these people cited their religion, just as people are doing today. Racial segregation was partly allowed because of religious beliefs. Let that sink in. Religion and bigotry was also used to discriminate against women- women were not allowed to vote and do many things that were considered “men only”. So why is suddenly acceptable to use these tactics if the person is gay?

This so-called “religious freedom protection” is also extremely hypocritical. Why do your beliefs prevent you from serving homosexuals but not fornicators or liars? Why can you serve divorcees, gluttons, and atheists, but not a person that you suspect might be gay? If your beliefs prevent you from serving sinners, you’d better get away from the public in general, because the Bible clearly tells us that we’re all sinners. Choosing one sin over another is hypocritical and not remotely Biblical.

But this isn’t about “sin”- this is about intolerance and discrimination. You can believe something is sinful without asking your country to make segregation laws legal so you don’t have to associate with people you don’t like. If you own a public business, that means you have to serve the public- not just the people you like.

I am glad to see the uproar that Christians are making over these laws. I know that most Christians do not support this atrocious segregation, and that makes me happy. It is frightening, however, to see the organization and power that these few hurtful Christians have, and the influence they have gathered. Please raise your voice and show these people that we will not allow their bigotry to be made legal in the name of religious freedom!