Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Same Sex Life of Style"

"Ontario Parents Alert! Check your Imams and Leaders," warns Jawed Anwar on his Seerah School website. The link leads to an article entitled "How the Accepting (Biased) School Act Will Affect You and Your Children." The tone is alarmist and conspiratorial -- like much of Mr Anwar's prose on the site. 
BILL 13 is an act (law) now; Accepting School Act. It is a biased act promoting homosexuality and seven-gender sex in public funded school. It is not an anti-bullying act as told by some politicians. It is promoting gender fluidity by denying the gender of birth. It is a culture-shift mandate to embrace the homosexual agenda. It is an act to corrupt the minds and souls of young children.
The "Bill 13" he refers to is Ontario's Accepting Schools Act, 2012. The Act, as I blogged before, updates the The Education Act of Ontario, expanding the definition of bullying; enabling administrators to issue greater consequences to students who bully; and, finally, empowering students themselves to address homophobic bullying through the formation of Gay-Straight Alliances

In my previous entry, I talked about an ill-fated community meeting held by the Parent Action Committee of Thorncliffe - Toronto. A scan of their flier announcing the meeting -- thanks to some activists -- had made the rounds on facebook. A colleague and I decided to attend the event, which was cancelled at the last minute, to try and gain some insight into what was fuelling this visceral homophobia. 

This curious passage from the flier has become stuck in my head:

But your kids will now be forced to learn the 'Same sex life of style' without informing their parents. This new educational policy [sic] completely against our social, moral and religious faith. Throughout the Curriculum, you will notice shocking changes which will change not only the behaviour of our kids but also the behaviour of  our whole society.

The alarmist tone and the threat that the worst is yet to come put one to mind of the rhetoric employed by right-wing Christian extremists south of the border.  In researching The Parent Action Committee of Thorncliffe - Toronto, which has no website, the name Jawed Anwar kept coming up. Mr Anwar's name also appears on the masthead of GTA Muslims, Seerah West, and Seerah School -- the latter two sites list Thorncliffe Park addresses on their contact pages. As well, Mr Anwar lists himself as the former school council chair of Thorncliffe Park Public School and "the organiser of Ontario Parents in Action."

Mr Anwar publishes prolifically on the Seerah School website about the LGBTQI community, Bill 13, and the threat he feels they pose to children and communities. He describes the mission of Seerah School at some length:

The idea developed, after a deep thinking and analysis of world’s situation that there is something going wrong in the personality of human beings, particularly those who claim that they are most “educated.” Evil has erupted over the land and the sea because of their deeds.The world is plagued with corruption, destruction, atrocities, lies, deceptions, injustices, innocent killings, and deviant behaviors due to these so called most “educated” and “smart” people of the world. I came to the conclusion that the “personality making machine”; i.e., “the education system”; is wrong. Every child is born innocent. We plant them in the machine as a raw material, and the school (man-making factory) provides the finished product. These finished products (personalities) have serious faults in their making. Therefore, unless we change the machine (the existing machine is too old and rusted to be fixed), the situation will get bad to worse, generation after generations.
His site publishes the Muslim version of the Family Traditional Values Letter, also available on Phil Lees' P.E.A.C.E. Hamilton website.

Much of Mr Anwar's writing on education is preoccupied with Bill Thirteen. His essay on the resignation of the Premier of Ontario -- Dalton McGuinty Left A Filthy Legacy -- lays bare his contempt for the LGBT community and for the outgoing Premier:
Human history never created a filthy civilization like Ontario’s Liberals under the command of Dalton McGuinty. Liberal of Ontario (Christian, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs) could give any name to this “garbage values” and could praise McGuinty and his government in whatever way they like. But the fact is that history of human civilization will remember McGuinty’s government by a bad name. He put tons of filthy garbage on our society.
In another of many such articles, Anwar denounces moderate Muslim imams
Our so-called Muslim intellectuals treat it is a “minor” or “non-issue.” Voting to his/their “favourite” politicians (with liberal values) is a “ticket to paradise.” (I am not kidding; I am referring to a published Urdu article in a serious Urdu magazine from a well-known member of an “Islamic organisation.”)
Muslim Liberal Party gatekeepers of Masajid, Islamic Centers, and Islamic/Muslim organizations keep a silence. They devise a policy not to inform Muslims what is happening around them and do not respond to questions. They want to keep Muslims ignorant so that political and voting power of the liberal party can be kept intact. 
Translation: The moderate or progressive among the faithful are not truly people of faith -- in Jawed Anwar's eyes, they have been co-opted.

No doubt, Mr Anwar would not think highly of Dr Junaid Jahangir's thoughtful article, Let's Talk About Sex, Muslims. Dr Jahangir sees the values letters distributed through Seerah School site as generally inconsistent with the Muslim faith: 

The letter seems to be largely based on a fundamentalist Christian template as it mentions topics like wizardry, transgender issues and evolution. Many such issues have traditionally been irrelevant for Muslims.
A great majority of Muslims proudly assert that Darwin's theory of evolution was preceded by past Muslim thinkers. Several Muslim scholars have argued that the Qur'an is not a book of science. Some clearly confine the role of science to the physical world and that of religion to the meaning of life.
Additionally, Dr Jahangir connects homophobia to other forms of bigotry, such as discrimination based upon religion. "Like Islamophobia," he writes, "bullying of queer youth is an unfortunate reality in many schools. A devout Saudi father has written how teachers at his sons' Islamic school have allowed homophobic bullying to go unchecked and unchallenged."

Other writings of Mr Anwar's parallel arguments made by Phil Lees. Mr Anwar, like Mr Lees, sees Bill 13 as a conspiracy of gays in the Liberal government: Bill 13: Ontario Gay Politicians Bully Parents. Anwar names former Ontario Education Minister and MPP Kathleen Wynne and former Ontario MPP George Smitherman as the architects of Bill Thirteen. 
After the legislation of same-sex marriage and after appointed as the education minister of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne has vision to see the children of all colors and communities to adapt the life style which she and her son chose.  To promote any life style, it is important to inculcate it into the education curriculum and school culture. Hence, within three years the Ontario education ministry prepared new sex curriculum. To avoid the possible outbursts from the parents, the “clever” minister changed her ministry and moved to the Ministry of Transportation on January 18, 2010.  In April, 2010 the new sex education curriculum was introduced in all Ontario boards/public schools.
 But the conspiracy does not end there. Both Mr Lees and Mr Anwar maintain that a document published by the Toronto District School Board is, in reality, a stealth curriculum document from the Ontario Ministry of Education: Challenging Homophobia and Hetersexism: A K-12 Curriculum Guide (2012)


As with most conspiracy theories, there's some backstory. In April of 2010, the Ontario government released a update to the 1998 Health and Physical Education curriculum. Included in the document was revised information on healthy sexuality. For instance, in grade three, students were to be taught about "invisible differences" as an age-appropriate way introduce gender identity and sexual orientation.

This sparked some controversy of among religionists, not just for the content of the curriculum, but for the manner in which it was released. There was no press release or announcement. The Ministry of Education simply uploaded file to its website. By the afternoon of that day, talk radio and the blogosphere were abuzz with callers who had not read curriculum but had an opinion anyway.

This created a perfect storm for Dr Charles McVety of Canada Christian College. His response: “This is part of a militant homosexual agenda to normalize homosexuality in everyone’s mind and thereby promote homosexuality,” he told the National Post last April. “If we teach our children these things … guess what? That’s what they’ll practise.”

Within two days, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the province would withhold the document, which was later re-released -- minus the LGBT-positive content -- saying it needed a "re-think." Bereft of moral highground for not having gotten in front of the Ministry's policy, the Premier -- to be blunt -- caved like a cheap suitcase in the rain.

An excellent summary of the imbroglio can be found in a National Post newspaper article by Kathryn Blaze Carson entitled, Flash points in the sex-ed curricula across Canada

Dr McVety and others dined out on the victory. In an online election campaign advertisement, Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak would go to represent the 2011 TDSB guide as curriculum document of the reigning Liberal Party government. Not only was the TDSB document misrepresented as coming from the Province.  Mr Lees and Mr Anwar have kept this belief alive. It is referenced on both their sites.

In parting, I'd like to characterize what I believe to be the depth of Mr Anwar's hatred of the LGBT community, in his own words. In an post on the GTAMuslims site, Mr Anwar carefully parses comments by the controversial Jamaican-Canadian Imam Bilal Philips on Qur'anic law and the killing of homosexuals:
Here Mr. Bilal Philips is suggesting a law for the future Islamic governments who will decide to implement Islamic law in their countries. Although, there is no clear-cut verse in Qur’an that categorically suggests killing of homosexuals, sayings of Prophet Muhammad suggests three types of sentences, and among that one is death.  Bilal Philips is suggesting, based on his opinion on the Qur’anic/Prophetic principles of society. He is not advising the Islamic judiciary to kill any gay person they found, but what he is “suggesting” is judicial punishment of death sentence for those who confess or are seen “performing homosexual acts” by “four reliable witnesses without any doubt.”
The essence of Islamic laws is to protect the life of human beings. And it happens that sometimes killing of a person can save thousands and sometimes millions of lives. The Islamic judiciary can punish a person with death sentence to save others’ lives.
In other words, Bilal Philips is saying that an Islamic society will not tolerate homo-sexual acts in public (where minimum four witnesses see the sexual performance) to save future generations. That means from Bilal Philips’s viewpoint (as it was quoted in Toronto Star): 1. There is no danger of life of any homosexual from public in anywhere of the world 2. There is no danger of life of any homosexual by the judiciary of those Muslim States not governed by Islamic law. 3. In future, when Islamic laws will be implemented in any country, all those homosexuals who will perform homosexual acts in private will be saved. 4. Only those homosexuals living in Islamic law-governing society will be punished who will perform homosexual act in public (four witnesses required for proof).
In conclusion, Bilal Philips’s viewpoint is not endangering any homosexual life in near future. However, the promoters and propagators of gay culture and gay agenda are endangering the life of whole human race, particularly white species (due to large acceptance of gay lifestyle in whites).
Mr Anwar distances himself and Bilal Philips from directly calling for the killing of gays. The fact that he can rationalize such an act, even on a theoretical or theological level, is terrifying. The coy reference to "four reliable witnesses" can -- at best -- be interpreted admonition to LGBT people to return the closet. It certainly would imply that a queer Muslim ought to watch his or her back carefully. Undeniably, however, it speaks to a degree of hatred that Mr Anwar clearly feels.

This is the source of the Family Spiritual Values Letters.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Into the Belly of the Beast -- sort of

One Friday evening in late October, I found a scan of a flier on a friend's Facebook wall. The flier, I later learned, had been handed out to residents of the Thorncliffe Park neigbourhood in Toronto's east end. Its purpose: To caution parents about implementation of Ontario's "Accepting School's Act," also known as Bill 13, which passed its final reading on June 15th, 2012 and is scheduled to be fully implemented by February 2013.

But your kids will now be forced to learn the 'Same sex life of style' without informing their parents. This new educational policy [sic] completely against our social, moral and religious faith. Throughout the Curriculum," you will notice shocking changes which will change not only the behaviour of our kids but also the behaviour of  our whole society.

In other words, according to the authors of the flier: The great queering of Ontario's school children has begun.

Let me backtrack: The Accepting Schools Act amends The Education Act of Ontario. Essentially, the Act itself governs all public and Catholic public schools serving students from Kindergarten thru grade 12. It is the guiding document of educators and administrators and even overrides the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Education Ministry document, LEGISLATIVE REQUIREMENTS FROM BILL 13... Accepting Schools Act as follows:
  • New definition of bullying
  • Changes to Section 310(1) of the Education Act (which set out the circumstances in which a pupil must be suspended and considered for possible expulsion) which now includes certain circumstances related to bullying and to activities that are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate.
  • Amending board multi-year plans to include the goals set out in Bill 13 around positive school climate and bullying prevention.
Not everyone in the province agrees on Bill 13, which brings me back to this flier.

I immediately opened up my email to share the document with union colleagues on the ETT's (Elementary Teachers of Toronto) LGBTQI Committee. A member of the local's executive had beat me to it and was passing it around. A handful of us messaged back and forth, and finally decided that two of us would attend the meeting as observers, with a view to taking to the microphone if we thought it was safe to share dissenting views.

My colleague and I met at the foodcourt of the East York Town Centre an hour before the Sunday meeting was to start. Safety was a concern. Would we be seen as interlopers? We decided to press on, attend the meeting, keep a low profile, take notes, and speak only if we felt safe to do so.

Having grown up in Thorncliffe Park, I knew the exact location of the meeting -- it was in a community centre attached to the public library. We hopped into our cars and headed around the block to the meeting.

We were in for a surprise. The community centre and library were locked tight and dark.

As we were reading the cancellation notice, two uniformed police officers also appeared on the scene. After checking the doors, one of them made a call on his cell phone. I asked the other officer if he knew anything about the meeting or the cancellation. He said that he and his partner had no idea that it was cancelled.

"I guess you know what the meeting was about?" I ventured. "Does that have anything to do with why you're here?"

"Oh no, we work in the community," he said. "We always stop by when there's a large event going on."

A friend of mine is looking into what prompted the cancellation of the meeting. As for the police presence, this is a hot topic right now -- I've seen tempers flare.

As I posted previously, the passage of Bill 13 triggered the dissemination of family "spiritual values letters," which parents have been submitting to schools, requesting that they be advised in advance of certain topics they deem inappropriate for their children. Further parents have asked that this letter be placed in the child's OSR (Ontario Student Record), essentially a permanent file in which all relevant information about a student is kept. I wrote about Dr Steve Tourloukis, who is suing the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board over the refusal of his children's school to advise him in advance of lessons on topics contrary to his faith.

The "family spiritual values" story and this recent event in Thorncliffe Park piqued my curiosity. Where are all these letters coming from? Who are the players? What are they playing at?

Two names kept coming up: Phil Lees and Jawed Anwar. Lees, along with Shaukat Malik, was scheduled to speak at the Thorncliffe Park event. Anwar's name came up when I searched the web for information on "Parent Action Committee Thorncliffe Toronto."

Let's start with Phil Lees. Lees is the founder of P.E.A.C.E. Hamilton (Public Education Advocates for Christian Equality), which disseminates the "spiritual values letters." Since my last visit to the site, Lees has added letters for Catholic, Muslim, Protestant and non-religious parents.

Lees is also a former president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council, which has campaigned against abortion counselling for teens and seems to take a rather dim view sexual health curriculum in the region. Lees is also the leader of Family Coalition Party (Ontario).

According to Lees, In Ontario, particularly with the passage of same-sex marriage and, most recently, Bill 13, it's been like a tidal wave of change to curriculum in the last, um, most recently. And we've got people of all different faiths who are expressing concern about what their students, their children, are being exposed to. In grade three, as part of instruction, teachers are asking their eight-year-olds who they'd like to marry. Then they bring in a minister that, uh, that believes in same-sex marriage who performs a mock same-sex wedding ceremony. And then they celebrate with cake and ice cream.

In a YouTube video produced by the Minnesota Catholic Conference and Minnesota for Marriage, Lees cautions Minnesotans on the perils of same-sex, engaging in a bizarre diatribe on Ontario's Bill 13, "The Accepting Schools Act." A state ballot was to be placed before the electorate on November 6, 2012, reversing the legislature's legalization of same-sex marriage. Voters upheld the legislature, and Minnesota takes its place among nine States to have some form of same-sex marriage or civil union.

This reference to mock wedding ceremonies pops up here and there on Lees' talks and websites -- completely without attribution. A quick scan of the TDSB's Challenging Homophobia Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism: A K-12 Curriculum Resource Guide (2001) shows nothing like the above example. Lees and others assert that the TDSB guide is, in fact, a stealth Ministry of Education document, soon to be disseminated throughout the province. Google searches about this anecdote lead right back to Lees' sites. For an instructional strategy that is, as Lees would have us believe, so widespread, one would expect it to pop op in a blog, a newspaper story, or even on facebook.

He goes on: "The Ministry of Education requires every school to institute a queer hero strategy, which means successful people who are homosexual -- their sexual orientation when they are being studied in school -- needs to be acknowledged to the students." And again, I searched and searched. Again, I was lead back to Lees.

Another Lees anecdote is a textbook example of a carpenter building a roof and applying the Pythagorean theorum. The carpenter, says Lees, is a cross-dresser. Different permutations of the cross dress and carpenter yielded only links to racy personal ads, so I bailed on further investigation of Lees conspiracy theories about the queering of Ontario schoolchildren.

His last comment, though, bears careful consideration.
People in this state [of Minnesota] have an opportunity to stop same-sex marriage. In Ontario, we did not -- we were not given that privilege. I'm encouraging you to take advantage of this [impeding state ballot]. Stand up for your religious freedoms and defend your right to raise your children in a way that you believe to be appropriate. 
In the world according to Lees, it is desirable for the majority to vote on the human rights of the minority. An Ontario Human Rights Code does not exist in Lees' world. The fact that that code ensconces protection -- not for gays and lesbians -- but from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for the past twenty-five years is irrelevant.

In my next blog, I'll examine some of Jawed Anwar's works, his apparent ties to Lees, and various conspiracy theories floating around about Bill Thirteen.