June 27, 2008

WILTW4 – The Ottawa Terrorism Trial

Like most Muslims in Ottawa, my attention this week was largely focused on the trial of Momin Khawaja.  Momin was the first Canadian arrested under the post-9/11 Anti-Terrorism laws, back in March of 2004.  His whole family was detained by police that day, with one of his brothers picked up from home, another from our university, and his mother from a grocery store.  It was a calculated raid unlike any we had ever seen in this city, and the target was someone most of us knew personally.  After four years, during which Momin has been locked up in an Ottawa prison, his trial finally began this Monday.

It was a confusing time, those first few weeks after the arrests.  It shook the community to its core, forcing us out of our comfort zone and into a strange world of politics and conspiracy.  Many questions were raised, none answered.  We all thought it was a terrible mistake, and could not believe the accusations.  The family was a respectable one, prominent within their community and active at the local mosque.  But days after the arrests, their pictures were all over the newspapers alongside detailed diagrams of their neighbourhood showing the path that RCMP officers used to break into their home.  Days after the raid, the media had already smeared their name and proclaimed their guilt.  I can’t begin to imagine how difficult life has been for them since.

It still is a confusing time.  The trial began with the testimony of star witness Junaid Babar garnering the most attention.  Mr. Babar had already pleaded guilty to terrorism-related offences in the past, but has been testifying against others in an effort to lighten his sentence.  Five British Muslims have already been sentenced to life in prison on his testimony, being accused of plotting an attack against a London nightclub.  Momin is accused of having conspired with that group.

Reading the news has been rather surreal, seeing pictures of those parents that I had seen before at community events and mosque fundraisers, seeing our friends on television sharing their insight.  The names being thrown around as unwilling participants in the alleged plot are names I see on my MSA mailing list.  According to some of the testimony, “hockey” was used as a code-word for Paintball sessions in order to avoid suspicion; I’ve heard that corroborated by my own friends.  Even some blogs I’ve read in the past have strange connections to the testimony being published throughout the world.  It’s all very real and very local, and is equally as disturbing as it is frightening.

This is very different from the so-called “Toronto 18”, which is slowly being revealed as a complete sham of a case.  No, the Ottawa arrest and the subsequent trial is far more calculated, far more drastic, with deeper ramifications for the future of national security policy and the place of Muslims in Canadian society.

Nothing is proven, of course, and the trial has only begun; it is expected to run for several more months.  Undoubtedly, we will hear more testimony, more perspectives, and the overall picture will become clearer over time.  In the meantime, I can only hope and pray that all is resolved in a just and fair manner.

In-Line Comments and Moderation

I'm testing in-line comments in Blogger right now, which is a long overdue feature. The Captcha was really annoying with this in-line commenting, so I've gotten rid of it and enabled comment moderation instead. So don't think you're being censored, I'm just trying to make things less annoying.

June 19, 2008

What I Learned This Week – Part Three

It’s been raining all week.  Not exactly what one expects from the middle of June, but I actually enjoy the cool weather.  And of course, I learned something from it.

It always rains in England.  And I learned this week that I will not be going to England next month, as I had originally expected, due to some unfortunate bureaucracy.  I was looking forward to the trip, as a way to take a break from what has been a fairly tiresome routine for the last few months.  I suppose I had become too accustomed to the jetsetting lifestyle that took up most of my 2006-2007, and being grounded for so long has been somewhat frustrating.  All things considered, most people don’t get the enjoyment of travel nearly as much as I do, so I should consider myself thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, and not dwell on the opportunities I lost.

Back to the Future wasn’t exactly accurate.  My boss was worried about playing softball the other day due to the impending lightning storm, afraid that holding a metal bat would make him a prime target for being struck by a bolt of lightning.  That triggered a moment of inspiration for me; I remembered reading once that the CN Tower is struck by lightning nearly 50 times per year.  With a severe energy crisis, I thought to myself, can’t we harness that energy somehow? After all, it was certainly enough to generate 1.21 gigawatts to set off the Delorean back to 1985.  A very large capacitor could potentially (har har!) be charged by a lightning rod, and then trickle the current out to the local power grid.  Converting the CN Tower to a massive power station seemed brilliant, and somewhat practical.

Of course, I wasn’t the first person to think up the potential benefits of harnessing lightning.  A quick Google search lead to tonnes of material about why it isn’t really as practical as one might think.  The best article I read on the topic was this one, which concludes that even in the most ideal conditions, lightning will typically only generate enough electricity to power two households per month.  Still, it’s an interesting area of research, if one could simulate the conditions that cause lightning in the first place.  This article talks about a researcher trying to do exactly that.  I’ll keep my eyes open for any further research on the topic.

I still don’t like sand.  A colleague was suggesting I travel to Hawaii or Barbados using the remainder of my frequent flyer miles for a vacation I am planning for later this year.  But after passing by a beach volleyball court the other day, I quickly remembered how much I dislike the feeling of sand, especially wet sand.  If ever I wrote a personals ad, I would start it off with, “I hate long walks on the beach.”

June 13, 2008

What I Learned This Week – Part Two

The cryptic style of my first WILTW post wasn’t really what I was going for.  At the very least, I can be happy that it put some content on this site, but useless content is not much better than no content whatsoever.  So WILTW will instead focus on whatever lessons I managed to take out of the events of this week.

And yet, somehow, life goes on.  This could have been the punchline to one of my favourite Calvin and Hobbes strips of all time, but the panel that follows is just as memorable.

And yet, somehow, life goes on.

I was reminded of this comic a few times by a colleague who is a fantastic complainer, finding fault in every little thing, be it the weather, the cafeteria food, or the width of the hallway.  I usually find this sort of extreme pessimism somewhat amusing, but it’s actually pretty sad.  As one friend liked to often repeat, “people are dying!” and we are complaining about the most immaterial things.  I often find myself guilty of complaining about minor things as well.

It’s often hard to keep that larger perspective, to sympathize with the sufferings of the rest of the world and appreciate how truly lucky we actually are.  Sometimes, it’s just too depressing, and instead of instilling a sense of gratitude, we simply feel helpless and annoyed.  Thus, taking some time to reflect on our own happiness is a worthy endeavour once in a while.

What is the value of tradition? Apparently, it’s $2.5 million dollars.  That is the price that the CBC was unwilling to pay for continued use of the famous Hockey Night in Canada theme.  CTV was rather shrewd in picking it up right away, effectively usurping forty years of tradition and history.  It will be interesting to see how things play out next season, if that song alone can draw people away from CBC and to the rival networks.

Unfortunately, the hilarious Colbert segment on the fiasco was pulled from YouTube. 


There are some professions that just wouldn’t suit me.  I’ve learned this week that the following professions would not suit me at all:

  • Bus / Taxi Driver: I tend to take wrong turns way too often.  Plus, I don’t even like driving.
  • Collections Agent: This is ironic because my first summer job was in Collections, and I was quite good at it.  But I can’t seem to bring myself to ask for things back after lending to others.
  • Hitman: I wouldn’t even know where to begin here.
  • Chef: Cereal doesn’t count.
  • Judge / Police Man / Lawyer: I think I’d give people way too many chances if they seemed nice.


Other topics on my mind these days will hopefully come soon in the form of a more structured, better written post.  Until then, have a great weekend!

June 08, 2008

Fish story

I have a folder on my laptop in which I have a bunch of text files written when working offline. Some of them become eventual blog posts, but more often, I forget about them entirely until months later. This little piece was dated July 29th, 2007. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I wrote it, but perhaps it may resonate with someone somehow.

* * *

Pacific salmon
Swimming against the current
Don't you know?
The current won't shift
Passive, patient,
Calculating the flow
Take your time
You'll have your day.

Or another's.
Du jour, the special
Catch of the day
And a sandwich, a salad, a bed of rice.

Resist the tide.
Break the waves.
Though you may
Be eaten alive.

And challenge the fears that hold you back
And go down fighting, and not as snack.

June 05, 2008

What I Learned This Week - Part One

I have really had a hard time writing of late. I am not quite sure why, as I have had no shortage of thoughts, and an adequate amount of time. I think my problem has been that I've been writing mostly long posts of late, and have hesitated to write simple, thoughtful posts that reflected what was on my mind at the time.

I'd like to write a post at least once a week, even if it means having "filler". So I will try starting a simple series of posts about "what I learned this week". These posts might not contain much insight, but will serve as a repository for my own memories, and hopefully become a springboard for deeper insights.

So, what I learned this week, part one:
  1. A lot can happen in 35 seconds.

  2. But being one second late can be disastrous.

  3. Good character is of extreme importance to one's life and hereafter.

  4. The standard rules of respect and courtesy don't apply on crowded buses.

Update 2008.06.06: And within the last few minutes, I have learned something new. Now, lying awake, I am now wondering if it was all a case of mistaken identity.