Category Archives: Canada Across the Map

The Rise of the Non-Stereotypical Politician.

Proud, repugnant, cocky, ‘sleezy’. These are a couple of the words that have been used to describe the presumptive candidate of the Grand Old Party(Republican Party) in the upcoming United-States election. However, looking at the manner in which he swept multiple states in the primaries there must have been something he was doing right. We are going to explore the rhetoric, strategy and appeal of Donald Trump and his rise from just controversial to also critically crucial in the November 8th election.

statue-of-liberty-1442160So what makes him so appealing to over 8.7 million people currently(according to a article dated 25th April, 2016) across the United States you may ask. In my view, it is not so much his lack of ‘appropriate’ statements or somewhat-bigoted comments that draws in his audience but more of the direct approach he takes. In a world where politicians are the 2nd most distrusted people( According to the Readers Digest), one who consistently gets straight to the point and avoids ‘wishy-washy’ political tendencies can seem rather attractive. Regardless of his content, his supporters appear to value his resolve which is crucial to all aspects of decision making, especially for a president.

us-capitol-1233848The Donald, as he is popularly called, has shaken the era of political correctness. Raw, uncensored and almost  gnarly, he has continuously broken the laurels of ‘the model politician’, making him somewhat dissociated from the tainted image of everyday politicians. I will give him props for how far he’s come from people joking about his run for presidency to becoming the most likely Republican candidate.

“He is the first media-made candidate. It all comes down to money”
– Gabo Zavala

However, all the credit doesn’t necessarily go to him, with the media giving him hours and hours of unpaid airtime(the New York Times estimates that he has received over $1.8 billion worth of free media) coupled with current occurrences across the states which have aided his rhetoric. The wave of terror attacks  has also paid its due, leading to mass insecurity, racism and islamophobia. Many share in my personal sentiment that Mr. Trump is the true voice of a large section of Americans, that have been silenced by an increasingly politically correct society in recent times. Waves of anti-immigration fanatics and a fight to ‘protect the Second Amendment’ have been at the centre of Trump’s campaign. Thus he appeals to this ‘silent majority’ and given the process that democracy follows, he has a strong chance of becoming the leader of the free world.

In retrospect the fear of  an unconventional candidate may be what our society has needed for some time.  A shock to our social way of life, where people’s views are not particularly aired but masked under a guise of non-controversial half truths. Given the events that have gone on including Panama papers, the Paris Terror Attacks & the Orlando shooting, it is about time we as a global community take action.  A time to have discussion and conflict resolution devoid of violent and hate-speech, where we can find peaceful focal points for progressive solutions. The general elections are taking place on the 8th of November and we can only hope that the true representative of the American people assumes office.




Ramadan: The Islamic Holy Month of Fasting

Guest post by Elisa Gallaccio.
BA Political Science minor in Economics.

Ramadan Mubarak

ramaRamadan is the ninth-and holiest-month of the Islamic lunar calendar and the month of fasting for Muslims. Ramadan is considered the holiest month because it was in Ramadan that the Qur’an was first revealed.
mobile_images/images/ramadan.jpg )

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with confession of faith, five daily prayers, zakah (almsgiving) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah).Ramadan starts upon sighting of the moon. This year, it began on the 7th of June.


The purpose of fasting during Ramadan is to help Muslims grow closer to Allah. Fasting is recognized for its health, spiritual and psychological benefits, and is considered by Muslims as a means to improve their moral character and provides an opportunity for spiritual renewal.


A typical day during Ramadan


Muslims will wake up before the sun rises and eat and drink to prepare for their day. Once the sun is up, there is no eating, drinking, smoking, or intimate encounters until sundown, otherwise known as iftar. Iftar then begins by consuming dates and drink, before beginning their post-iftar prayers. Once the prayers are performed, dinner is typically after 9 pm, until the next day, when the fast begins again. Muslims fast for 14-18 hours per day during Ramadan.


Fasting is significant to Islam in many ways. It is not meant to starve Muslims of substance, but rather serves as a lesson on how to control and discipline human desires. When fasting, one learns to say no to things that are otherwise permissible and good. And when one can say no to things that are normally permissible, then one would be able to easily control and avoid that which is forbidden. In essence, it allows one to understand better with those who have very little-the poor and the destitute-and as such, teaches empathy, sympathy, and takes away some of our human selfishness and self-centeredness. Fasting is seen as an opportunity to exercise self-control, cleans the mind, body and spirit, and build a greater connection with Allah through prayers, which ultimately promotes peace. Ramadan is also a time of charitable services, where Muslims can give back to their community and connect with one another.


Ramadan is set to end on or near July 6th 2016, depending on the sighting of the new moon. Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations begin for three days after the end of Ramadan. It is during this celebration that practicing Muslims come together to be with their families, prepare feasts, exchange gifts, continue to be charitable, and forgive any harm done to one another. It is a time of love, of prayer and blessings, and connectedness with Allah.


To all those participating in Ramadan this year, stop by the International Programs and Services office(UNC 227) on July 6th and 7th for treats and celebration! Eid Mubarak!



The Journey of a Syrian Family: Part 4

As some hot tea and sweets were served by Mrs.Alsahoud, I asked Mohammad how life is now. He says with a relief how everything here is better than Jordan. There is no threat to him or his family’s lives and all of his children are enrolled in school. He is currently working in Toyota, washing cars. But one day, he wishes to go back to school and study math. That is when we both shared our fascination of the subject. I asked the kids how were they finding their new school. All five of them agreed on how it was good to be back to studying and explained they are enjoying their time in school. Mohammad interrupted me to say he has 6 more children. I asked where are they. He explained with sadness how they were scattered between Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and two of them were waiting at the Syrian border at the time because the Jordanian government was not accepting them. To lighten the mood, I asked him how he found Kelowna’s summer. The kids said how they found summer to be really beautiful, but some days it was as hot as it was in Syria. It turns out that we all shared an image of Canada as the ‘great white North’, and clearly we have been proven wrong by Kelowna! We ended the interview and as I was walking out, Mrs. Alsahoud hugged me.

What has truly inspired me is the optimism of the Alsahouds, the hospitality with which they treated me and how homely it felt. They didn’t let the war change who they are or darken their future. They didn’t let a war define their lives. They SURVIVED the war and decided to start a new chapter, make a new home. Sitting down with the Alsahoud family helped me understand the struggles of the war and know things that I would not have read in any news article. As a person who is an avid reader of current affairs, I have been following the Syrian War since the first protest. To be able to sit down with the people who have experienced the war, lived through it and survived, was truly a privilege. It made me appreciate my life more and increased the respect I had for refugees tenfold.

Refugees not just from Syria, but from other war-torn nations are fleeing to Europe. What can be seen is that very few nations are as welcoming to refugees as Canada and Germany has been. A lot of blame is being exchanged to avoid accepting refugees, many parties are on the defensive saying that they have done enough. Walls are being built, camps are like jails. Sometimes such behavior by nations makes me think that are they even treating these refugees as humans or as animals? After World War II, thousands of people from the Axis power nations fled elsewhere. The EU is one of the leading advocates for human rights. Now when the time has come to test them on the very same principles they advocate for, most EU nations have not stood up to it. However, it is not only Europe that needs to be looked at. Many Arab countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia have defended themselves by saying they have given shelter to millions of refugees. I salute them for this because they stepped up when many others didn’t. Still, they need to take the next step and ensure the integration of the refugees into their societies. The responsibility of the governments do not end by just sheltering the refugees and giving them food (sometimes it feels like a jail to them). The governments need to helps the refugees get jobs and their families settled. This also benefits the host nations because successful integration of the refugees into the society would mean that there will be a significant increase in the nation’s manpower and productive workforce. Refugees will then be able to contribute significantly to the host nation’s economy.

No one wants to flee their homes, turn their entire world upside down and feel that their life is at threat. No one wants to cross the Mediterranean with their children, knowing that they might die. No one wants to live in refugee camps and see their lives go by, helpless as they are unable to earn and improve the lives of their families and children. But sometimes all of these things do happen, and as much as it is unfortunate, they happen at the same time. These refugees are not criminals. They are law abiding citizens of their country where they either were a university student or professor, businessman, economist, engineer, scientist. They have the right, like every human being on this planet, to safety, security and happiness. They do not deserve to be treated as if they are unwanted, stopped by fences, be forced to walk hundreds of kilometers or live in refugee camps forever. They deserve to LIVE.


As I walked out, I asked Mohammad do you miss home?

He replied, “There is no home anymore.”




UBC Okanagan Students Union has taken a great initiative in helping out this family! Check it out:

The Journey of a Syrian Family: Part 3

Mohammad explained how refugee camps were not as great as one might think. Refugees were not able to get out of the camp without a sponsor or work permit (both of which were really expensive!). As Mohammad put it, ‘life in camps is a lot like prison’. When I asked why, he explained.

Syrians fled their country because it was either that or getting killed.  However, once crossing the border, the Jordanian government puts great hurdles (financially) in obtaining a work permit. Mohammad describes how he saw fellow Syrian brothers and sisters feeling trapped in the camps where there was no scope to work, there were no schools for the children and no one could go out of the camp. With hundreds of thousands of individuals sleeping and living in a small area and feeling trapped, this increases social problems. Mohammad elaborated that for the individuals who were able to obtain a work permit, getting jobs was harder as he found that the Jordanian society was not welcoming. Thus with no job, it was hard for these refugees to sustain their lives. For those working illegally in Jordan, it felt like a sword was hanging over their heads because if caught, then they would be deported back to Syria which to them was equivalent to dying.

Then I asked Mohammad that how did he come to Canada. He explained how the UN has a refugee database, as refugees have to apply to get the refugee status. The UN selected the Alsahoud family from its database, informing them that they had been accepted to be transferred to Canada. They were asked whether they agree and they said yes. Afterwards the Canadian embassy called them, asking various questions in an interview such as what Mohammad did in Syria, his background. This entire process took seven months. Finally, in May 2015, the Alsahoud family boarded the plane to Canada.

At this point in the interview, Mrs. Alsahoud comes in asking us to join for lunch. I looked at the watch and couldn’t believe that almost 2 hours had gone by. I saw halfway through the interview how Mrs. Alsahoud got up and went to the kitchen. But I didn’t realize that she was making a feast! It was my first time having Syrian cuisine and it was a delight! I had a Syrian version of hummus and it was quite delicious. Being an international student myself, it had been a long time since I sat with a family and ate a meal. Sitting with the Alsahouds, having food cooked by a mother’s hand, it kind of made me homesick and miss my mum .

Over lunch, we talked about life under the Assad regime and Mohammad explained how nepotism was pervasive. Bashar Al-Assad belonged to the Baath Party, a political party in Syria. He belonged to the Alawite minority . Thus these two groups got more preference. Mohammad had been in the army for 5 years. When he applied for a position in the army for which he was trained, he didn’t get it despite being one of the top candidates. The position was given to an individual from the Alawite sect. Things such as this was quite common. Merit and talent was not always valued; rather what was valued is whether you were from the Baath Party or the Alawite sect. Mohammad explained how Assad didn’t feel he was accountable to his people. During the 80s, in the middle of the night, some people came to his house and took his brother with them. The next morning, he went to the army office and asked about this. They asked him how did he know it was the army. Mohammad replied how he was in the army and knew that it was their car. The only reply the office gave was, ‘yes we took him but you don’t need to know why’. Since then, Mohammad hasn’t seen his brother.


The Journey of a Syrian Family: Part 2

Mohammad had been one of the first few Syrians to enter Jordan as a refugee. Refugees in Jordan require a sponsor to get out of the refugee camps and legally stay and work in Jordan. Mohammad was diligent in clarifying to me that a Jordanian sponsor was not the same as a Canadian sponsor. In Canada, when Mohammad arrived with his family, a local church and the Kelowna government together took the responsibility of supporting them in beginning their lives in this new place. This includes financial support for a year, providing support in getting a job for Mohammad, enrolling his children in school and settling his family in a house. In contrast, in Jordan a sponsor is only on paper, one whose signature is needed to allow refugees to legally stay in Jordan. Unfortunately, providing that signature is the only help sponsors will provide.

Mohammad had worked in Jordan between 1992-1993, during which time he made few friends. When he fled to Jordan in 2012, these friends in Jordan helped him get a sponsor. Furthermore, Mohammad was able to do some work by helping his friends in buying and selling things. But life was nowhere near what it had been in Syria. He was earning enough just to survive. The meager work that Mohammad did while in Jordan was not approved by the government via a work permit. One might wonder why didn’t Mohammad pursue the legal avenue?

Mohammad was one of the first fifty thousand Syrians to arrive in Jordan so he was fortunate, as back then sponsors didn’t demand money for providing their signatures. When a huge influx of refugees started coming in, Jordanian sponsors started charging a large fee for providing their signatures. On the other hand, the government of Jordan also charged for the work permit for these refugees. The work permit would allow them to live and work outside the refugee camps. Both options would enable the Syrian refugees to live in the Jordanian society, work and contribute to the economy. However, the integration of refugees was hindered by the financial cost, one which often was not feasible for those people who fled war and persecution from their country with very few belongings. Sponsors charging money was not legal, but like many other individuals such as human smugglers in the Mediterranean, everyone took an advantage of those in a dire situation.

The Journey of a Syrian Family: Part 1

On a Saturday morning in December, I visited the Alsahoud family. It had been eight months since they arrived in Canada, from a refugee camp in Jordan. I sat down with them to talk about their experiences, to hear first hand all that I read in the news and to see the war from their eyes.

In March 2011, residents of Homs started protesting against the oppressive regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Without a care for his people, Assad ordered the law enforcement officials for a severe crackdown on these protests. This resulted in the deaths of many civilians. In March 2012, the army entered Homs. Fully prepared with its tanks and big guns, the military displayed its mighty powers and ordered that if anyone stepped out of their house they would be shot. Homs was under a siege by the very military that was supposed to protect it.

One such Homs resident was Mohammad Alsahoud. He was a cattle merchant who led a prosperous life in Syria. He has 11 children, 5 of whom were below the age of 18. He had a big house and earned well. When the Syrian army besieged Homs, Mohammad was afraid about the safety of his family because the civil war that broke out hadn’t gotten any better in the last one year. So, on March 11th he fled with the minors, to an area thirty kilometers from Homs. On April 20th, Mohammad decided to cross the border to Jordan. He didn’t know what he would do there, neither did he know how his life would be. One thing he did know was that he had to leave his motherland as it was no longer safe.

Should I apologize on behalf of my country?

In today’s society one can not ignore the fact that there is still constant generalization amongst all types of different nationalities. More often than not I witness individuals having to prove themselves innocent despite not being accused of anything. On countless occasions I have witnessed students saddened by their country and feeling a need to apologize to people. I have witnessed students feeling a need to explain themselves for actions their country proceeded in.

“There was a terrorist engagement in Turkey, and now everyone thinks Turkey is involved in terrorism”

I’m sorry for my country

“Even 70 years later, the Holocaust is still a very real ordeal for older citizens ”

I’m sorry for my country

“I was in a discussion last week, where my Nepalese classmate told the group that people from India were randomly shooting Nepali citizens at the border”

I’m sorry for my country

“Donald Trump is making a huge appearance in the media today about his racist remarks, and now again America is being looked at as a racist and belittling country.”

I’m sorry for my country

“Rape is a serious widespread issue in India still.”

I’m sorry for my country

“I took my very first indigenous studies course at UBCO and didn’t know any basic knowledge about indigenous peoples prior to the class.”

I’m sorry for my country

“Britain launched airstrikes in Syria, now everyone thinks it was the country’s decision, when indeed in was just the government’s decision.”

I’m sorry for my country

These are just very few examples  of students expressing their apologies about the nation they are from or consider home.

Do we need to apologize?

There is a difference between apologizing for your country and being aware of what they have done – and whether it was right or wrong.

When one apologizes it gives the impression of guilt – as if the person were a part of the act committed.

However, in saying that, I am not one that is down playing any apology. It’s still a step in the right direction. But words are powerful and can alter opinions and interpretations.

Initially, I was looking through a certain lens going into this post but after turning this topic into a debate it really fostered my understanding in terms of why people say the things you they do.

In talking with other students, I’ve learned that the impulse to apologize is not only an internal struggle but an external one as well.

Perhaps people are what they are through their country’s or community’s actions as well as through their own individualism, which is why people are driven to apologize – or, perhaps, to take action against injustice. That could even mean to participate in a healing or recovery process.

We are shaped by our environment, which includes where we are from, the events or people impacts us, and the societal beliefs and decisions made around us. We are in some ways tied to what happens – even if we are not directly responsible.




Terrorism and Current Events: A discussion on the implications for the World.

On Monday evening, a discussion was held in the International Programs and Services office of the University of British Columbia – Okanagan on current events happening in the world including terrorism & the refugee crisis. This session was put together and moderated by the eloquent Ms Stella Mozin, a 3rd year International Relations major, who also blogs for The Global Spectrum.

It started off with a quick introduction of the attendees, a very diverse group in terms of faculty, age and cultural background, who brought along their different positions on the issue of ISIS and suggested solutions to the refugee crisis currently.  Many people gave their stance on the media, bombings in Paris and retaliation by France, with memorable comments from Laurence Watt on the importance for mediation and calls for assistance from Canada by Stella Mozin.

The conversation got very interesting as people spoke about their respective countries and their positions on the situations. We got some insight on the Turkey situation with Russia and on the flight that was shutdown, the borders that were closed in India and the ripple effects on the Nepalese economy as well as the terrorist group Boko Haram’s insurgence in West Africa. Many spoke on Western media and their role in reporting specific events and embedding fear in people which aggravates Islamophobia and racism.

The talk ended on a good note as many people aired out their frustration with our governments and spoke about reaching out to the greater Kelowna community to reach others who may not share the same views as us on these subjects. More talks like these are to be held in the coming semester and hopefully they can happen in more central locations i.e downtown Kelowna.



Human being versus human doing

When you look at the image featured above what do you see? Despite it being a world map, does it feel off putting to you? Does it seem like you know what you see, however the feeling you receive is somewhat irregular?

Is it because Europe isn’t lined up in the center of the map?

Is it because the dimensions of Africa are for once accurate?

Is it because North America doesn’t seem as expanded or as intimidating anymore?

You need to be in charge of they way you choose to see things rather than accepting to be fed a false reality. It doesn’t just apply to this map, but to your everyday life as well.

Why does an uncomfortable feeling arise when I watch the Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner? Is it because it’s actually in mirror mode of what our potential future will look like? Moreover, that someday we are all divided into a bunch of districts of the wealthy and the poor, the skilled and the unskilled, and those with status and the status-less.

Why has the human race become organisms of doing, pacing, waiting, and rushing instead of just being? Why have the tables turned in the sense that we are not working to live anymore but rather living to work? Despite some us loving our jobs, we have a tendency to rush home just to stare at an electronic screen. It’s something you can’t feel; it’s simply robotic involvement.

Why does it seem like our natural environment has to adapt to us rather than us adapting to it? Rainforests that were once fresh and lushes are now desserts that are dry and dull. Fields that were once crisp and full of green are now landfills that resemble a spoiled child’s room, where there are too many toys and garbage lying about.

Why are likes, followers, and large friend lists an ego booster? Society needs to recognize you cannot auto-correct life. Moments, interactions and embraces should be your ego booster, because that is real. The record player that spins in your life seems to be broken, because all you keep hearing are the same lyrics over and over again: “Could have, would have and should have”. Yes life is tough, but guess what, you are stronger!

Why is it that the majority of people don’t know that 10% of the entire world population is illiterate? Second, 795 million people are undernourished around the globe. Third, women spend nearly one year of their lives deciding what to wear. Forth, only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful. Fifth, on average a person spends 4 years of its life looking down at its cellphone. This list goes on and on. Now is it because every time you turn on the news you see events taking place involving celebrities like The Kardashins? Where having “a lot” on their plate involves them going to a photo shoot or not having any cell reception.

Why is racism, labels and religious conflicts such a huge topic still? It is 2015! We weren’t born instantly knowing or caring that we are yellow, brown, white, black or speckled. No baby is born racist. We grow up in these shells called labels and overtime we unfortunately start to believe that that is what defines us. “My god is all loving, but if you have a different belief I’ll make your life a living hell”. – There is so much wrong with that sentence. Yet it is repeated again and again in on going religious arguments. Why does it seem like we are arguing to death? I have a heart, a brain and I am human. The person across you on the outside may appear in complete contrast to what you look like, but on the greater scale of things they have a heart, a brain and are human too, just like you.

In my grade 12 yearbook of my last high school year, I quoted beside my graduation picture “The biggest challenge in life is trying to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else: Be you.” Sometimes you need to stop and think if you are doing something for you, or that you are indeed being fed a false realization.


Canada, it’s time to VOTE

The ability to vote is a privilege in some countries and a government mandated right in others. However, this right does not exist in every country, such as in monarchies and dictatorships where no such things as free and fair elections and people’s right to vote exists.

The right to vote is a fundamental human right of every individual as stated in Article 21 of ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ by the United Nations.  Ensuring this right of the people is core to a functioning democracy. Being a Bangladeshi, I have witnessed elections create social unrest, protests-all because this fundamental right of the people was being infringed. And coming from a part of the world where this right is not always ensured, where sometimes politics and self-interest is above the nation’s interest, I value this right and respect the nations where citizens feel free to exercise it.

The 42nd general Canadian election will be held October 19th, 2015. This will be the day Canada decides who will be its next prime minister and which party leads the next four years. Canada is one of the nations in this world where politicians put the nation’s interest above their own. This doesn’t happen everywhere in the world. In countries like Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, people protest for free and fair election.  Clashes between protestors and security forces lead to loss of lives and injuries. People flee their villages and towns, leaving everything behind because the situation is so precarious. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth property is destroyed, the economy faces great damage- all because the people’s right to vote is violated. The right to vote is something that people have fought for hundreds of years. It is only fair that we, the citizens of this world, honour those who have given their lives for equal suffrage.

I urge every Canadian to vote on October 19th to exercise their right, to celebrate democracy, to help create change, to play a role in determining the future of your country.

Vote because YOUR vote matters.


Not sure how to vote or want to know more about the elections? The following link might help: