John Goddard

Journalist and author

Happy New Year 2015

People from all over Toronto, no matter what their skill level, embrace the winter at the Harbourfront Centre Skating Rink, Canada’s largest outdoor artificial ice surface. It is a fitting place from which to send warm wishes for the new year in this 60-second video.

Toronto Star’s John Cruickshank talks nonsense about terror

Cruickshank

Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank

Sometimes it is preferable to sound ridiculous than to speak honestly about political Islam.

In the first post-Ghomeshi edition of Q last week, Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank tied himself in knots when speaking of the attacks on Canada’s military and Parliament by avowed jihadi terrorists.

Both shooters were “nuts” and nobody should take “nuttiness” seriously, Cruickshank said, and both shooters acted rationally and logically in response to Canada’s “aggressive” foreign policy. “If we go out and bomb people there is no way they can fight back, so they have to come to Canada to fight back,” he said.

Both arguments might have merit, but not when argued simultaneously.

In Canadian media circles generally, speaking openly about political Islam remains taboo, and avoiding a taboo can push a speaker into absurdity. No radio or television panel can begin: “This morning, in light of the assault on Parliament, we will examine the doctrine of Islamic jihad,” or “Today, we will look at Islam as a faith versus Islam as a political ideology.”

Cruickshank’s nonsense offers a good example of the dangers of such self-censorship.

The Star publisher was appearing as part of a regular media panel on the CBC Radio show that until that day had been hosted by the now disgraced Jian Ghomeshi. The panel also included National Post Comment editor Jonathan Kay, rabble.ca founder Judy Rebick and substitute host Piya Chattopadhya.

The panel addressed both attacks. On the Monday before, Martin Rouleau-Couture deliberately rammed two Canadian soldiers with his car in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, killing one soldier and injuring the other. Police shot and killed the attacker. On the Wednesday, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot two soldiers at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, killing one soldier and injuring the other. He then entered Parliament’s Centre Block and shot a guard in the foot before being killed in the main corridor.

The prime minister called both events “terrorist attacks.” Asked to comment, Cruikshank ridiculed the notion.

“Hit and runs are a really ineffective way of creating terror across the land, right?” he said. “It’s absurd. We have two people who have severe mental injuries of some sort or other. I mean obviously they are not in their right mind.

“They were not actually focused on terror,” he said. “They attacked soldiers. I’m not sure you can ever say that an attack on a soldier is a terrorist attack. Terror has to do with attacking civilians.”

Cruickshank elaborated.

“Let me note that in every age craziness takes on a particular complexion, right?” he said. “Just as people go to Jerusalem and they begin to think they’re Jesus Christ, and people go to Iceland and think they’re Bjork, right? I mean that’s the kind of thing that happens, and right now we’re in a period when the kind of craziness leads to people thinking that they are terrorists supporting ISIL. For us, if we take that seriously we’re simply taking the nuttiness seriously, we’re taking crazy seriously, and we’re telling people that this is on all fours with an organized attempt to create terror among the population and subvert our society. This is not what’s happening here.”

Host Chattopadhyay asked the panelists how they interpret the word “undaunted” when the prime minister said, “Canada will remain undaunted.” (In fact he said, “Canada will never be intimidated.”)

Kay said he took the statement to mean that such attacks would not affect Canadian foreign policy.

“That’s exactly what it means,” Cruickshank jumped in, “and it’s a terrible, terrible thing, because this is precisely the time to be asking whether we should be dropping food rather than bombs.”

Reacting to Canadian foreign policy through terrorism is logical and rational, he suggested.

“Our face to the world is now so aggressive,” Cruickshank said. “We are now a military face instead of a peace-maker, and now we have even more reasons to fear at home because, you know. Look, if we go out and bomb people there is no way they can fight back, so they have to come to Canada to fight back, because we are essentially playing a video game with people’s lives in the Middle East.”

Nobody pointed out Cruickshank’s contradiction. After all, he had followed Canadian Media Rule No. 1: Tie yourself in knots if you have to, but avoid talking about political Islam.

Radical Islam infiltrates Toronto’s “Word on the Street”

ICNAman

An ICNA activist at Word on the Street hands out free Islamist tracts, including one calling for holy war.

All went well at my “Word on the Street” panel last Sunday with art critic David Balzer and artist Margaux Williamson, the most charming co-panelists one could hope for. “This is a great panel — you’re so good together,” said one audience member during the Q&A. I also liked the outdoor festival’s new layout. This year the exhibits stretched around Queen’s Park from Bloor Street all the way to College Street, with food stands throughout instead of together.

It was a great day, except that the jihadis infiltrated the event. At booth #217, the Wahabi Islamists who proselytize daily at Yonge-Dundas Square gave out free Qurans and other pamphlets. At nearby booth #232, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) gave away Towards Understanding Islam, entreating all Muslims to wage armed jihad against Christians, Jews and Hindus.

Neither of these groups belong at a family book fair. Both are hardline fundamentalist organizations. ICNA explicitly preaches sharia, jihad, and death to the West. Their presence proves that in Toronto you don’t need an Internet video to be exposed to fundamentalist Islam. On Thursday, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported that Fahim Ahmad, leader of the erstwhile Toronto 18 terrorist cell, told his parole board that he started by “proselytizing with a peaceful, global Islamic outreach movement.” The paper does not name the movement. It could be ICNA, or the Yonge-Dundas Square group, or another group like them.

How nasty are they? Take a look at the booklet ICNA was handing out, Towards Understanding Islam. The author is Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the South Asia affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Jihad is part of this overall defense of Islam,” Mawdudi writes. By “jihad” he says he means holy war. “In the language of the Divine Law,” he writes, “this word is used specifically for the war that is waged solely in the name of God against those who perpetrate oppression as enemies of Islam. This supreme sacrifice is the responsibility of all Muslims.”

If you don’t wage jihad you are not Muslim, Mawdudi also says. “Jihad is as much a primary duty as are daily prayers or fasting,” he writes. “One who avoids it is a sinner. His every claim to being a Muslim is doubtful. He is plainly a hypocrite who fails in the test of sincerity and all his acts of worship are a sham, a worthless, hollow show of deception.”

Last May, Muslim fundamentalist organizations similarly infiltrated “Doors Open Toronto,” a family event celebrating the city’s built architecture. In Scarborough, I saw people at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto mosque handing out tables-full of the Mawdudi book. Downtown, the mosque known as Masjid Toronto also took part in the festival. The mosque is run by the Muslim Association of Canada, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. Here is a link to Tarek Fatah’s Toronto Sun column on the subject. http://www.torontosun.com/2014/06/01/doors-open-for–muslim-brotherhood

Ironically, last Sunday, a group of progressive Muslims called “Muslims Facing Tomorrow” held a rally during the book fair in front of the Ontario Legislature, within the festival grounds. For two hours, by themselves, speaker after speaker denounced the terrorist Islamic State and Islamist ideology, as the Wahabis and ICNA worked the book-fair crowd.

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“Towards Understanding Islam,” by jihadi cleric Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, features at ICNA booth #232.

The-Word-On-The-Street

This could be interesting. I am to appear at Word on the Street on Sunday, September 21, as part of a panel called “Curating Art Books,” a subject I know nothing about. My co-panelists are two members of Toronto’s avant-guarde art scene, critic David Balzer and artist Margaux Williamson, 1 p.m., New Narratives Tent, Queen’s Park Circle.

Inside the Museums: Q&A

John Goddard speaks to Dundurn Press about his book Inside the Museums: Toronto’s Heritage Sites and Their Most Prized Objects.

Q: What got you started?

A: I wanted to know more about some of Ontario’s more obscure museums but I didn’t have a car. Then I thought, “I can get to the Toronto ones by subway.”

MackenziePortraitQ: Why a book?

A: The stories and characters proved incredibly rich. You couldn’t dream up a wilder personality than William Lyon Mackenzie — funny-looking, witty, physically courageous, and almost unbelievably irritating to the colonial elite. He pops up in every chapter.

FortYorkQ: The museums are spread out, right?

A: Yes, but their stories overlap, and paradoxically even the differences help unify the book. The sites include a rural inn, a townhouse, a stately mansion, a country estate, a post office, a city hall, a military garrison — most of the elements of a pre-Confederation village.

JohnGeorgeHoward

Q: Who is your favourite character?

A: I would call John George Howard my top personal discovery. He was an architect, one of the city’s top early builders, and one of its most generous early philanthropists — the creator of High Park. He also led a double life, with a long-time mistress with whom he had three children.

Q: What is your favourite story from the book?

A: I like how Eliza Gibson, of Gibson House, hides her baby in a snowbank as government troops close in to burn her house down, then she goes back and rescues the family clock, because it’s so valuable. That took guts.

RebellionBoxQ: Do you have a favourite “prized object?”

A: George Lamb’s Rebellion Box, at Mackenzie House. When the 1837 Rebels were thrown in jail, many of them passed the time making small, memento boxes as gifts to their wives and sweethearts. They made hundreds of them, all beautifully constructed with inlays, and poems, and specially constructed lids. Very few remain. The prisoners used cordwood meant for the fire, and their work was so precise that they must have used chisels, files, and coping saws, but how was that possible? It’s a mystery. Why would the guards allow prisoners to have sharp tools in jail during such a politically tense time? Or, if the guards didn’t allow it, how did the prisoners sneak the tools into the cells? Nobody knows.

Top 10 Useless Historical Facts from “Inside the Museums”

1. The Orange Order began as an Irish Protestant fraternity sometimes referred to as the Loyal Order of Lodgemen, or LOL.

017baldwin2. Robert Baldwin, of Spadina House, left instructions for a male version of a Caesarean section to be performed on his corpse in homage to his beloved wife, Eliza, who died at twenty-five in 1836 after such an operation.

Boulton3. To project a dignified image as Mayor of Toronto in 1846, William Boulton sat for his official portrait wearing black silk stockings, frilly sleeves, and white lace exploding out of his vest.

4. John George Howard’s Colbourne Lodge features Toronto’s oldest existing indoor toilet.

MackenzieSubday5. “The most cruel and intense sensation of pain” that Rebel leader William Lyon Mackenzie says he ever endured came when, trying to escape, he walked naked up to his neck in an ice-filled stream carrying his clothes above his head.

6. A meeting to debate Toronto’s first municipal tax ended in horror in 1834 when the Market Hall balcony collapsed, hurling at least seven spectators onto the butchers’ hooks below and killing them.

3-2 GibsonLiza7. With government militia closing in, rebel wife Liza Gibson hid her baby in a snowbank and returned to her house to rescue the family clock, the most technologically advanced item anybody could own in 1837.

2-1 SirWilliam8. At the age of seventy-five, in 1834, Chief Justice William Campbell subsisted on a diet of snipes hunted in the marshy harbour, and died when the birds flew south that fall.

9. As a high-school project in 1934, sixteen-year-old Sheila Wherry built one of Fort York’s standout exhibits, a scale model showing York and its defences in 1812.

Henrietta10. Postal rates and paper cost so much in the early 1800s that, after writing one page, a person would turn the paper ninety degrees and write the second page over it at right angles.

Flight MH17

You never know when what you think is a bad thing turns out to be a good thing. My friend Eddin Khoo in Kuala Lumpur (KL) had to cancel his planned World Cup trip partly due to an oozing right eye. For his return flight via Amsterdam, he was booked on the plane that was shot down over Ukraine. Here is his FB post:

“I was due to experience the World Cup in Brazil with my dear friends Shannon Teoh & Eekmal Ahmad. But several administrative screw ups, poor health and this incessant problem with my right eye meant I had to forgo the trip.

“My due flight route was KL-Amsterdam-Rio; Rio-Amsterdam-KL. The flight I had been booked on to return was MH17, departing Amsterdam 17.07.2014. The itinerary and invoice for the flight is still with me.

“I have encountered many surreal experiences in my life, but this leaves me very numb. Thoughts, prayers, empathy to the families of all those lost on MH17. There is nothing that words can convey.”

MH17

 

“The Geek’s Choice”

Attending my book launch instead of dining with powerful people was “the geek’s choice” on the part of Toronto mayoral candidate David Soknacki, says today’s National Post. Soknacki expressed no regrets. “John Goddard gave us a thumbnail sketch of each of Toronto’s 10 museums and the importance of each,” he said.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/07/11/lunch-with-the-contenders-david-soknacki-the-geek-from-scarborough-earning-one-vote-at-a-time/

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Toronto mayoral candidate David Soknacki. Photo:Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Anwar Khurshid

Sitar player Anwar Khurshid performs at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.

Sitar player Anwar Khurshid performs at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre on July 5, 2014. Copyright John Goddard

My favourite sitar player, Anwar Khurshid, wades gently into the opening phrases of a number yesterday at Harbourfront Centre’s South Asia Festival, with his fusion band Avani. Behind him sits bass guitarist Waleed Abdulhamid. 

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