Yasmine Mohammed speaks on freedom, minority rights at UBC
The free exchange of ideas was alive and well at UBC Thursday evening when Canadian ex-Muslim activist Yasmine Mohammed was hosted by the UBC Free Speech Club. She told her story of growing up in an Islamic fundamentalist household, being physically abused by her stepfather while in her elementary school years, and eventually leaving an abusive arranged marriage to a member of Al-Qaeda.
At the time she was a woman with little self-confidence who donned a niqab, but her story didn’t end there. She ended up obtaining three degrees from UBC, becoming a college professor, leaving Islam, and running an organization that helps ex-Muslims called Free Hearts, Free Minds.
Burns Lake has finally gotten some closure this week after former mayor Luke Strimbold has been sentenced to two years less a day for his crimes of sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.
All his crimes were committed on youth, under the age of 16.
The 29-year-old former mayor pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault in addition to once count of sexual interference and one count of invitation to sexual touching.
Many members of the community are unhappy with the verdict, feeling the sentence was light considering the original charge was 29 sex offences over a two year period against seven minors between 2014 and 2017.
The Crown had asked for four to six years in federal prison, however the judge ruled that Strimbold will instead serve his sentence in a provincial institution followed by two years probation upon his release. He will remain a registered sex offender until 2039.
The time period of the assaults overlap with Strimbold’s time as mayor 2011-2016.
Madam Justice Brenda Brown of B.C. Supreme Court factored that in as part of her ruling saying that Stimbold was in a position of authority. Brown also acknowledge Strimbold’s use of drugs and alcohol and that he had in fact sought out counselling for these issues prior to any charges being laid. She delivered her decision via video conference from Vancouver to the courtroom in Smithers, B.C.
Justice Brown said that Strimbold has shown remorse and is of low-to-moderate risk to reoffend.
Strimbold delivered a tearful apology to his victims at a sentencing hearing last week, according to CBC. He described them as friends and said, “I am deeply sorry to each of them and will forever be regretful.” He went on to apologize to the community of Burns Lake, saying, “I am sorry I let you down.”
Stanley Tessmer, Strimbold’s defence lawyer told the court that his client was the victim of abuse himself at a young age. Strimbold was unable to recognize that abuse and such is the reason he was unable to recognize the problem with his own actions when the originally occurred.
Tessmer also brought to the courts attention that Strimbold was a closeted gay man who was bullied in his youth which led to his substance abuse.
Tessmer asked the court for 18 months in a provincial jail.
Former Babine Lake First Nation Chief Wilf Adam was unhappy with the verdict, calling the sentence “unacceptable,” saying it failed Strimbold’s victims as well as the people of Burns Lake who’d put their trust in him as mayor.
“I just find that totally unacceptable. The system has failed the victims,” he said.
Adam was chief of Lake Babine at the same time that Strimbold held office and the two worked closely together on multiple occasions including dealing with the aftermath of the 2013 Babine Forest Products mill explosion in Burns Lake, according to CBC.
This is no doubt one of the reasons Adam felt so frustrated by the sentence saying that Strimbold’s actions were a “betrayal of trust, not just to me but to the people of Burns Lake, to the Lake Babine Nation, to the other First Nations in the Burns Lake area.”
Now a board member of the Northern Health Authority and the First Nation Health Council, Adam has been working to bring counselling services to anybody in the Burns Lake area who is seeking help. He feels the recent trial has likely brought up some painful memories for any members of the community who had previously experienced abuse themselves.
CBC reported Adam said that if Strimbold does want the community to heal than, “He needs to look at himself. He needs to make sure that he truly is sorry for what he has done – not to be forced in court, but to truly understand.”
“He really needs to help himself.” said Adam.
UPDATE: On December 6th, a Twitter user reported to The Post Millennial that two of Michaels’ tweets had violated the Twitter Terms of Service. Michaels then locked his account.
The Post Millennial reached out to Twitter to verify if disciplinary action had been taken against Michaels since his harassment of Andy Ngo was reported on, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
The Post Millennial has learned that a Twitter account that has been engaged in targeted harassment of TPM Editor-at-large Andy Ngo appears to belong to none other than a Twitter employee.
Max Michaels, who goes under the Twitter handle Manchild, is an Operations Infrastructure Analytics Engineer at the Twitter Command Center. According to his Linkedin, he has worked at Twitter for over 7 years.
Michaels’ abusive behaviour towards Ngo began in June of 2019 after Ngo was bloodied while reporting from an Antifa riot in Portland. Beneath a tweet calling for information which might lead to the arrest of those involved, Michaels wrote: “It’s almost like there are repercussions for being a piece of shit.”
Under another tweet by Ngo, Michaels replies “you should just get fat again and hangout on reddit acting sad. I liked fat, sad Andy better.”
Michaels also replied to journalist Peter Hasson, who was reporting on Ngo’s brain bleed as a result of his beating at the riot, calling the hemorrhage a “lifelong, pre-existing condition from garbage Andy.”
Michaels was featured in a 2016 Vice article describing the important functions of the Command Center. In the piece, Michaels is quoted as saying he and his team are responsible for “keeping the lights on at Twitter.”
A recent job posting for the Twitter Command Center suggests staff have a great deal of insight and control over the intricate details of Twitter’s technical infrastructure, calling into question what impact potential biases in the staff might have over users’ personal information and security on the platform.
Ngo was recently suspended from Twitter for tweeting a truthful claim that “The U.S. is one of the safest countries for trans people. The murder rate of trans victims is actually lower than that for cis population. Also, who is behind the murders? Mostly black men.” Ngo was forced to delete the verifiably truthful claim in order to regain access to his account.
The Post Millennial reached out to Michaels for comment but has not heard back by the time of publication. He did, however, confirm on Twitter that he still works in Operations for Twitter.
Targeted harassment is explicitly against Twitter’s Terms of Service. A Twitter spokesperson said, “Abuse and harassment have no place on Twitter. We take enforcement action against any content that is violative of our rules, regardless of the account involved.”
Daniel Koren is the director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, an organization that empowers student leaders to fight against anti-Israel and antisemitic discrimination on campus.
In an opinion piece titled “Free Speech, but not for Palestine” published in the Toronto Sun on Nov. 28, two anti-Israel activists (one of whom is known for his anti-Israel activism at York University) suggest there is nothing wrong with calling for an intifada on campus.
As the director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, which empowers student leaders to fight against anti-Israel and antisemitic discrimination on campus, I strongly disagree.
In their op-ed, Hammam Farah, a York alumnus and founder of the university’s Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) club, and Mona Dennaoui, a former member of SAIA, suggest they were bullied by members of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) and other Jewish counter-protestors at the now infamous York rally on Nov. 20.
This, despite the fact that, according to most accounts, Jewish protestors were outnumbered by anti-Israel demonstrators by at least six to one.
Astonishingly, referring to members of the JDL (known for their hawkish position on the Arab-Israeli conflict) as “snowflakes” isn’t the most ludicrous comment in Farrah and Dennaoui’s op-ed.
No, what’s most absurd is that they suggest there is no free speech for Palestine at a campus known for its hostility towards Jews and pro-Israel students, a campus notorious for a vulgar and violent mural that Jews have for years demanded be removed, a campus where even uttering the words “Israel” or “Zionism” can result in harassment and discrimination.
Farrah and Dennaoui are right about at least one thing, though: the importance of freedom of speech on Canadian college and university campuses. What they fail to articulate is that chanting “Viva, viva intifada!” is not free speech. In my view, it’s hate speech.
But please, don’t take my word for it.
Take the word of Adele Banita-Bennett, whose 22-year-old husband Aharon was stabbed to death in the name of intifada as Adele, their two-year-old daughter, and infant baby watched in horror.
Or, to illustrate why the Palestinian Roots mural promotes violence against Jews, take the word of Yosefa or Maya Levlovich, who were in the car with their father Alexander when Palestinians hurled rocks at their car, forcing it to crash. Alexander, now known as the first victim of the “Stabbing Intifada” of 2015-16, died in hospital the next day.
Or take the word of any of the relatives of the victims of the October, 2015 Jerusalem bus attack, where three Israelis were killed and 16 others were wounded in the name of intifada.
I can go on and on. This is the real face of intifada, and not just to the Jewish- and Arab-Israelis who have been mercilessly attacked in cold blood, but to anyone who has been paying attention.
When a small number of Jews are subject to chants of “Viva, Viva Intifada!” from a much larger group, that’s not just some innocuous saying to us. It’s a call for a violent uprising of knife stabbings, car rammings, and suicide attacks, not “peaceful resistance,” as many anti-Israel activists have suggested. It’s a horrific promotion of murder and genocide.
Palestinians, like all people, deserve the right to protest and freedom of speech. Palestinians, like all people, should not be held collectively responsible when their leaders promote bloodshed by calling for an intifada.
But to imply that this term can mean anything else but violence and murder is to assume it is subject to interpretation when it is not. These examples are indisputable facts concerning hundreds of innocent Israelis, Jewish and Muslim alike, murdered in the name of intifada.
It is the height of hypocrisy that Hammam Farah, who has personally attempted to silence oh so many Jewish- and Israeli-Canadians, claims to be interested in preserving freedom of speech. If he were, then that freedom would have to be awarded to all people, even those he disagrees with.
Following the rally at York, some of the IDF soldiers who spoke said it was unfortunate not a single anti-Israel protestor would give them the chance to start a dialogue that could lead to interfaith building. Instead, they were just trying to shut them down. As the founder of SAIA York, who organized the rally, this is Hammam Farah’s legacy.
Sadly, if anyone is guilty of denying freedom of speech and expression, it is the anti-Israel activists at York, U of T, McGill and other campuses around the world where Jews are being told what they can and cannot do or say. Or am I just being a snowflake?
A popular parody account has been suspended from Twitter following outrage by one of the largest media outlets in the world. The man behind Shaniqua O’Tool, an account that had over 15,000 followers at the time of suspension, says The Guardian forced Twitter to censor comedy.
He spoke to The Post Millennial to reveal details on the campaign waged by The Guardian against his satirical tweets. While his identity is known to The Post Millennial, it is being withheld for reasons of privacy.
Starting as a Godfrey Elfwick-styled account, the account owner says the Shaniqua O’Tool character was meant to “poke fun at both the far-left and the far-right.” He says the name was inspired by the 2003 single “Shaniqua don’t live here no more” by Little T and One Track Mike.
The account’s owner points out the existence of a Twitter account dedicated to compiling the Guardian’s most meme-able headlines, including one where Guardian columnist Abi Wilkinson suggests the “tears of joy emoji” mocks human suffering.
“Some of [The Guardian’s] headlines bordered on insanity, so I felt it was worthy of satire.” He says. In 2017, he began posting edited Guardian headlines with Shaniqua’s face photoshopped in as the columnist.
Some of Shaniqua’s antics were so indiscernible from authentic Guardian headlines that they attracted the attention of outraged media outlets. Gateway Pundit wrote an article decrying Shaniqua as an “ISIS sympathizer” for her headline on police needing to learn the importance of spotting a “fake suicide vest” before shooting. The Gateway Pundit article, which claimed to have read the non-existent Shaniqua column, was quickly deleted.
“I mocked [Gateway Pundit] for it,” the account owner says, “and when my headlines caught conservative commentator Katie Hopkins off guard, I mocked her for it too.” He says, asserting that his satire was bipartisan. However, he notes that there was a difference in how people of different political orientations handled being the target of his comedy.
“It is a consistent and recurring pattern over the last few years that if you poke fun at conservative or right-leaning people, they tend to just go with the joke or ignore you. If you poke fun at left-wing people, my experience is very different. They report you, verbally attack you, mobilize their followers to report and block, and ensure your name is added as a ‘Nazi’ to block lists.”
On November 29th, 2019, the account received a copyright strike notice from Twitter. The claim was apparently filed by Guardian editor Tom Stevens, who wrote that Shaniqua’s infringement was “pretending to be a Guardian writer. The tweets are fake and offensive.”
The claims were made through Twitter’s copyright system, which is intended to protect the rightful owners of intellectual property. Prior to completing a claim within this system, a complainant must acknowledge that they considered “Fair Use” laws, and accept responsibility for damages in the event they misrepresented fair use material as infringement.
Fair Use is a provision which states that copyrighted work can be utilized if the use is sufficiently transformative. According to the University of Minnesota, transformative content uses original work in a “completely new or unexpected way,” and lists parody as being the clearest example of “transformative content.”
In the case of Shaniqua, the account was not utilizing anything more than the template of Guardian headlines. The headlines themselves, lede, and photo were original.
In 2017, Buzzfeed called Twitter’s copyright system “hair-trigger,” and stated that “a copyright violation from a major media company is the surest way to lose access to one’s account.”
The Guardian filed two subsequent copyright claims on December 2nd, and the account was suspended the same day. In the claim, Guardian editor Tom Stevens writes “Becoming a serious problem now. Please take appropriate action.”
After the news of the Guardian‘s apparent campaign against Shaniqua surfaced, Twitter users began posting their own parodies of Guardian headlines using the hashtag #trollingtheguardian
Prior to getting suspended, the man behind Shaniqua attempted to open dialogue with Guardian media editor Jim Waterson, but his direct messages were not returned.
“He never replied, presumably, because he knew my days on Twitter were numbered.”
While appeals on copyright strikes are possible, the account owner says he was discouraged from doing so as it would mean providing consent for Twitter to share his personal information with The Guardian. Fearing harassment or a lawsuit, he did not appeal.
“It’s clear they don’t like being mocked,” he says, “I was followed en mass by Guardian journalists [the day of my suspension]. Being followed suddenly like that was deeply unnerving. It felt like they were letting me know they were watching me.”
The account owner has filed an appeal with Twitter over the account’s suspension but has not heard back as of publication.
The Post Millennial reached out to The Guardian but has not heard back by the time of publication.