A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘diasporas

[LINK] “Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud: Hamilton youth reported killed as ISIS fighter ‘not the son they knew'”

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CBC’s Jeff Green describes the grief and confusion felt by the people who knew Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, a Somali-Canadian from Hamilton who was a student at York University before he left to become a jihadist for the Islamic State in Syria and died there in recent airstrikes. No one seems to know what set him off.

Roughly one year ago, Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, then 19 years old and a biology student at Toronto’s York University, met a group of friends at a hip-hop dance audition, and later partied and grew close with them. But he eventually cut them off — through the spring and summer of 2014.

By July, while those friends thought they lost touch with an athletic, outgoing man, who at times seemed unsure of himself and his identity, his family in Hamilton was frantically trying to warn the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and RCMP that their eldest son may have taken up arms with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants.

Earlier this week, CSIS, albeit unofficially, told the family there were reports he was killed by the anti-ISIS military campaign, apparently dying during attacks from Kurdish forces in northern Syria last week.

His extended family has gone into seclusion to deal with their loss, said Hamilton lawyer Hussein Hamdani, who tried to help the family once they realized he was “crossing over.”

What happened that led to the change remains a mystery, he said.

“That is an important question that we must look at and try to find the answer to.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 29, 2014 at 11:27 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Hasidic Townhouse Foes Seek to Dissolve Catskills Village”

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Bloomberg’s Freeman Klopott takes a look at the unpleasant conflict in the New York village of Bloomingburg between Hasidim and non-Hasidim over development in the community. Tension between fast-growing Hasidic populations looking for inexpensive places to live–cheaper places than Brooklyn–and non-Hasidic populations disliking rapid change has occurred elsewhere.

A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews in a rural New York village is pitting residents and local officials against a developer who says he’s a victim of an anti-Semitic plot.

Opposition to the project is so strong that Bloomingburg, the village in the Catskills, is considering dissolving its local government, which could allow the larger surrounding town to block the development. Voters will decide Sept. 30 whether to fold their municipal government into the Town of Mamakating, whose population is 30 times larger.

Shalom Lamm, the developer seeking to build townhouses and amenities meant to draw Hasidim, accused officials in a federal lawsuit of misusing building codes to keep Jews from moving to the area and violating the rights of the plaintiffs under the U.S. Constitution. Town officials say the issue is about preserving Bloomingburg’s rural character, not about religion.

“I want the village to be like it was eight years ago when I moved up here,” said Mayor Frank Gerardi, who signed a petition calling for the dissolution. “It was a quiet place, a nice little town. Now everything has changed. There’s hustle and bustle, a lot of housing changes.”

Bloomingburg, home to about 420 residents 78 miles (126 kilometers) northwest of Manhattan, sits in the farthest reaches of a culture war raging in New York City’s exurbs as the largest Hasidic community outside of Israel leaves gentrifying Brooklyn in search of lower-cost housing. The fight has increasingly entangled state agencies and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a 56-year-old Democrat facing re-election in November.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 26, 2014 at 7:36 pm

[LINK] “Hamilton family sought CSIS, RCMP help to block son’s entry to Syria”

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The Toronto Star‘s Bill Dunphy reports on the case of a former Hamilton man, a Somali-Canadian 20 years old, who has been reported to have been killed fighting for ISIS.

A desperate Hamilton family called in CSIS and the RCMP two months ago in a frantic bid to prevent their eldest son from crossing into Syria and taking up arms in that country’s civil war.

They failed, and earlier this week, CSIS visited them to tell them unofficially their son, Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, had likely died in fighting there. According to some media reports, he died following a fight between Kurdish forces and Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham fighters.

If true, he could be the first Canadian killed in the anti-ISIS military campaign.

Hamilton lawyer Hussein Hamdani said Wednesday he was approached by Mohamud’s family in July as soon as they realized their missing son was using his phone in Turkey.

“This was not right. He shouldn’t have been there. We need to tell the RCMP and CSIS right away,” Hamdani summarized their thinking. “So they contacted me.” Both agencies met with the family, he said, and tried to find ways to thwart Mohamud’s entry into Syria.

“But by then, his handlers had him. Once he lands — they have their own underground railway — it’s almost impossible to stop him. Unfortunately, he did cross over, and once he did, he texted his mother to say he was in Syria with his brothers.”

Hamdani said the family continued to assist security officials, even working with the RCMP to try to break into Mohamud’s email account.

Mohamud was a “very intelligent young man” who’d been attending York University and was on track for a career in medicine, Hamdani said. Just how he became criminally radicalized is not clear.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2014 at 2:23 am

[LINK] Two articles on the government of Canada not evacuating family members from Syria

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The first came from the Toronto Star‘s Peter Goodspeed.

Mike Wise sold his Toronto home two years ago to rescue his mother in war-torn Syria. He thought he had bought her freedom when she and Wise’s younger sister arrived in Cuba, just a three and a half hour flight from Toronto.

What he didn’t count on was Canada’s reluctance to offer sanctuary to Syrian war refugees.

Despite Wise’s five months of intense lobbying and appeals to senior cabinet ministers, officials refused to expedite his request to have his ailing, widowed mother, Shazia Khail Rashid, 66, and his sister, Sivin, 30, join him and three other brothers in Canada.

Instead, officials with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had to call on Sweden to rescue Wise’s family.

Now, a once close family is scattered around the world.

The second comes from the CBC’s Kathy Tomlinson.

Canadian woman and her Syrian husband are speaking out from a Damascus suburb because they’re frightened and desperate to flee the escalating danger together. They’re distraught because her government is doing nothing to help.

“All we want to do is leave here. We want to just go to Canada and have a normal life,” said Anya Sass, who was born and raised in Calgary.

“We are living in fear every day … I feel like it’s not being taken seriously. They are just saying, ‘Sorry you are in a war zone — but that’s too bad. We have a lot of paperwork to do.'”

Sass said she was travelling through the Middle East three years ago, on a break from post-secondary studies, when she met Habib Alibrahim, fell in love, and married him.

“I never made it further than Syria,” she said, with a smile. “It’s not easy living here right now — but it’s actually a lot harder to be away from him.”

Alibrahim is an engineering student who says he is secular and has absolutely no connection to terrorism. He asked Go Public not to publish which sect his family is from, because its members are targeted by both rebels and terrorists.

“I feel my life is in danger,” said Alibrahim. “Her life as well. Because we are married. She is married to me. She is married to a person from this religious minority.”

These are both recent articles. The Canadian government seems to be taking a very long time to process applications, much longer than other governments.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 22, 2014 at 8:06 pm

[NEWS] Some Sunday links

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  • Al Jazeera notes the quilombos of Brazil founded by escaped slaves and looks at the strength of the separatist vote in Scotland’s largest city of Glasgow.
  • Bloomberg notes continuing tensions between North Korea and Japan over Japanese abductees, looks at Russian state subsidies to sanctions-hit companies, suggests a softening of Polish foreign policy versus Russia, and notes how Johannesburg is flourishing as gateway to Africa despite high crime and inequality.
  • The Bloomberg View notes separatist concerns depressing yields of Catalonian and Spanish bonds, and wonders if Gujarat’s industrial economy might serve as an example for all India.
  • CBC notes that national newspapers are no longer being sold in Yellowknife, looks at the case of an Iroquois girl refusing chemotherapy, and notes that the Angelina Jolie effect boosting breast cancer screening endures.
  • Open Democracy examines Catalonian separatism, looks at India’s changing Palestinian policy, considers trends in ideology in Hungary, wonders if Jordan will be next to succumb to the Islamic state, and examines anti-Syrian sentiment in Lebanon.
  • Wired examines teletext and notes the strength of China’s Alibaba.

[LINK] “Canada’s great debt to Scotland”

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Author Ken McGoogan’s MacLean’s article about the contribution of Scottish Canadians to the creation of modern Canada is a nice brief take.

In uptown Toronto, if you look east across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum, you will see an elegant building that symbolizes what the Scots have done for Canada. It also suggests why, in light of today’s divisive referendum, Canadians should take a moment to think of their Scottish cousins. Originally, this stately, three-storey structure formed part of the University of Toronto. Today, the main tenant is Club Monaco, a clothing-store outlet geared to young professionals. If you step inside on a Saturday afternoon, you will marvel at the ethnic and linguistic diversity swirling around you.

What does that have to do with the Scots? I would argue: everything. The architect who designed this building, working with philanthropist Lillian Massey, and as part of an architectural firm owned by G.M. Miller, was my wife’s grandfather—a Scottish immigrant named William Fraser. Few people know his name. The Scottish architect has become invisible. Yet, when you look around from inside this neoclassical edifice, you realize that the architect is all around you. So it is with Canada. The Scottish architects are invisible. But if we stop and look around, we realize that they played a preeminent role in shaping our country. Nobody owes them more than we do.

Obviously, Canada is not just a land mass bordering on three oceans and a superpower. It is a cultural, political, and economic entity. It is a web of interconnected governments, businesses, institutions, organizations, and individuals—a complex interweaving of social programs, cultural networks and communications and transportation systems. That is why we can think of it as being “invented.” Canada is a multifaceted creation, one that, more than a decade ago, Richard Gwyn rightly identified as the world’s first postmodern nation.

Today, there are almost as many Canadians of Scottish heritage (4.7 million) as there are Scots in Scotland (5.3 million). Scottish Canadians constitute only 13 per cent of the Canadian population, and have never exceeded 16 per cent. Yet their shaping influence has proven wildly disproportionate. No matter how you approach the history of Canada—through exploration, politics, business, education, literature—you find Scots taking a leading role.

[. . .] I think we should highlight how Scottish Canadians fostered the pluralism that is the hallmark of postmodern Canada. Of this country’s 22 prime ministers, for starters, 13 claimed at least some Scottish heritage, or almost 60 per cent. These include Sir John A. Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King, John George Diefenbaker and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Would anybody suggest that these figures made no difference?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 19, 2014 at 2:49 am

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO shares pictures from last weekend’s Ukrainian Festival.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly started a discussion of the merits of small town life or vice versa, coming down decidedly against.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the concept of the Venus zone.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a study suggesting that the Moon’s gravity is not high enough for humans to orient themselves.
  • Eastern Approaches looks at the elections in Crimea.
  • Language Hat examines the story of the endangered language Ayapeneco, apparently misrepresented in an ad campaign.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the American left is starting to win on cultural issues.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the collapse of Scotland’s industrial sector has led to a certain deglobalization.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Emily Lakdawalla notes the discovery of a potential landing site for Rosetta.
  • Torontoist looks at a local model airplane club.
  • Towleroad notes the lead writer of Orange is the New Black has left her husband and begun dating one of her actors.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests many Westerners haven’t taken the shift in Russian politics fully into account.

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