by adam rasmi in


Jan/Feb 2016 issue. (Courtesy This Magazine)

Jan/Feb 2016 issue. (Courtesy This Magazine)

“WHY DO YOU HAVE TO WEAR THAT THING HERE?” “Why don’t you just go back to where you came from?” That these kinds of remarks are ever voiced might seem far-fetched, almost cartoonishly so, but they are actually common enough that many Muslim women in Canada who wear the hijab hear them at some point in their lives—some even routinely.

In this case, it was at a long-term care facility in Ottawa in the mid-2000s. A older man and his ailing sister followed Amira Elghawaby down the hallway, hurling xenophobic comments at her for wearing a headscarf. Elghawaby was visiting her mother, who had multiple sclerosis, something she had done for years without incident. “My mother lived at that hospital. That was like my home … I had so many happy memories in that space,” she says. “I can’t emphasize enough how hurtful it is when it is addressed to you. It really does hurt—a lot.”

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by adam rasmi in


(Courtesy Twitter)

(Courtesy Twitter)

At around 6.00 p.m on Thursday, 12 November, two bombs went off in a shopping district in southern Beirut. At least 43 people died and more than 200 were injured in the deadliest blast to hit the Lebanese capital since the end of the civil war in 1990. Isis claimed responsibility.

No monuments in Europe were lit up with the tricolour Lebanese flag; no Facebook safety check was turned on for Beirut residents; there was no one-click feature to allow Facebook users to add a Lebanese flag filter to their profile picture. Not many Western heads of state felt obliged to offer public condolences to Lebanon, a country of 4.4 million people which has taken in more than a million Syrian refugees.

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by adam rasmi in


Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves at the conclusion of a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, November 2015. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves at the conclusion of a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, November 2015. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

“Sunny ways, my friends. Sunny ways. This is what positive politics can do,” said Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian prime minister, in his victory speech in Montreal on October 19. The remarks were a direct nod to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, a former Canadian prime minister known for his pleasant manner and ability to forge compromises. Trudeau’s speech underscored how different he would be from his conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper, whom the Canadian historian Robert Bothwell recently called “the most cynical prime minister in Canadian history.”

After a 78-day campaign in which identity issues featured prominently, Trudeau’s first steps have been to emphasize diversity. His 31-member cabinet, which he unveiled as one that looks “like Canada,” is the most diverse the country has ever seen. Two indigenous Canadians were tapped to become minister of justice and attorney general; a Muslim woman of Afghan descent, Maryam Monsef, who came to Canada as a refugee in 1996, became minister of democratic institutions; four members of the Sikh community were appointed to various posts, including Harjit Sajjan, who became minister of national defense (Canada now has more Sikhs in its cabinet than India); and 50 percent of the cabinet is made up of women, another notable first.

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by adam rasmi in


An NDP supporter reacts to results from Canada's federal election. (Courtesy Matthieu Belanger/ Reuters)

An NDP supporter reacts to results from Canada's federal election. (Courtesy Matthieu Belanger/ Reuters)

"Canada: the country you think of so little … that’s it, end of sentence,” quipped John Oliver, host of the satirical HBO program “Last Week Tonight,” on the eve of Canada’s 42nd federal election. As Oliver correctly observed, Canadian politics rarely generate much outside attention. Yet all that changed the next day, when the gregarious and charismatic Justin Trudeau led the Liberal Party to a resounding parliamentary win. The Guardian hailed the victory as a “big political shift to the center-left”; The Atlantic’s David Frum opined that Trudeau “repudiated” the “neoliberal Liberals of the 1990s”; and The Nation’s Washington correspondent John Nichols even called on American Democrats to “learn something” from the Liberal Party's example.

It isn’t hard to understand why this win was seen as a victory for the left. Many Canadians had grown weary of nine years of conservative rule under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Conservatives’ muzzling of government scientists in a bid to temper criticism of Alberta’s Tar Sands, a more hawkish foreign policy, shying away from welcoming refugees, and harsher security and policing laws were but a few of the prominent examples of the country’s rightward turn.

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