Personal political ambition is dangerous. It drives nice people to accommodate themselves to flagrant injustices and often also to directly enable imperialism.
Two decades ago, current Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi and I were elected together as part of a slate to oversee the Concordia Student Union. An already charged campus, politics blew up after protesters, including Zuberi, stopped then former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a scheduled speech at the University. Our year on the CSU executive became maybe the most turbulent and widely discussed leftist student union in Canadian history (see this recent podcast or my Playing Left Wing: From Rink Rat to Student Radical for details).
After a lively year in the student union Zuberi became a prominent Muslim rights advocate. As a media representative for the predecessor of the National Council of Canadian Muslims he did important work challenging security certificates and related war on terror issues. After returning to school Zuberi worked as a Diversity and Engagement Officer at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine.
As his political ambition has grown Zuberi sought to make nice with the apartheid lobby. Prior to being elected in 2019 he participated in two “interfaith” trips to Israel and recently posted a photo of himself at an Israel booth and with B’nai B’rith Quebec head Marvin Rotrand. Going a step further, last month Zuberi responded to a teenager burning Israeli flags with slander. While staying mum about a publicly funded school in his riding indoctrinating six and seven-year-olds to worship a faraway apartheid state, Zuberi declared: “Images of a young person removing Israeli flags from Dollard’s Hebrew Foundation School, and later burning them, are shocking and abhorrent. Hate, intolerance and antisemitism have absolutely no place in our community or country. Everyone must be and feel safe in Canada. The person who did this must be held to account. I call upon police to conduct a full investigation. I stand in solidarity with the Jewish community against these heinous acts.” As I detailed here, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the right to desecrate flags and why shouldn’t a 16-year-old whose parents’ homeland (Lebanon) has repeatedly been invaded by Israel not want to burn that country’s flag? (the teenager recently plead guilty to arson and received one-year probation.)
“Shocked” by a teenager stealing flags placed provocatively on the outside of the school’s fence, Zuberi hasn’t said anything about his Liberal government’s refusal to investigate illegal recruitment for the Israeli military. Nor has he raised his voice to criticize the Liberals’ indifference to registered charities subsidizing West Bank settlements, racist organizations and the IDF in contravention of Canada Revenue Agency rules.
Zuberi has not simply accommodated himself to Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession. He’s enabled Canadian imperialism in Haiti and elsewhere.
At the start of the month the Zuberi chaired parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights co-published a report on “The Human Rights Situation in Haiti”. It ignores Canada’s substantial role in helping make criminal Michel Martelly the president in 2011 and the appointment of Ariel Henry to lead the country two years ago. The report says Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who US Marines forced onto a plane in the middle of the night with Canadian troops securing the Port-au-Prince airport — “exiled himself.” Rather than simply resign and leave the country, the elected president apparently “exiled himself from the country for the second time”, according to the parliamentary report. Incapable of noting that Aristide was overthrown by the US, France and Canada, which the then French ambassador recently confirmed to the New York Times recently — unsurprisingly the Haiti report ignores two petitions read in the House of Commons over the past two years that called on the federal government to “publish all documents relating to the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’” where the 2004 coup was discussed.
I doubt Zuberi means ill will towards the Haitians Canada he has helped subjugate. If he and I were to discuss Canada’s role in the Caribbean country Zuberi wouldn’t object to my criticism of Canadian imperialism. But the prerogatives of power require that Zuberi sign off on a report denying Canada’s role in further impoverishing Haiti’s majority.
Zuberi’s role in laying the groundwork for more conflictual relations with China has been more sustained. As a new backbench MP, Zuberi has risen to prominence — quoted repeatedly in the Globe and Mail and other national outlets — as the leading parliamentary advocate for the Uyghurs. He co-chairs the Canadian-Uyghur Parliamentary Friendship Group and three months ago Parliament unanimously endorsed Zuberi’s motion re-iterating the claim that China was committing genocide in Xinjiang and calling for Canada to accept 10,000 Uyghur refugees.
While seemingly about Muslim rights, the scope of China’s rights violations have been greatly exaggerated as part of Washington’s bid to contain that country’s rise. Prior to the Canadian Parliament voting in February 2021 to label China’s actions a genocide, Islamophobic US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled China’s treatment of Uyghurs a “genocide”.
The group driving the initiative in Canada is the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP), which is funded by the US State Department’s National Endowment Fund for Democracy (NED). Its website notes, “Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project has commenced its advocacy work on May 1, 2020, with the grant provided by the National Endowment Fund for Democracy.” URAP was set up by the NED-funded Uyghur American Association.
Zuberi works closely with URAP leader, Mehmet Tohti, and has allied with China hawks. He is a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which is an “international cross-party group of legislators” claiming “the rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as led by the Chinese Communist Party is a defining challenge for the world’s democratic states.” On its site the alliance says “IPAC is pleased to be funded by the following partners: The [George Soros controlled] Open Society Foundations. The National Endowment for Democracy. The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.”
I’ve previously communicated to Zuberi my opinion that Washington was instrumentalizing the Uyghur issue to serve its nefarious ends and also told him Tohti was funded by the US government. He doesn’t care. Zuberi sees personal opportunity in Muslim rights campaigning that aligns with the US empire. Alongside media attention, Zuberi has been applauded by a number of establishment Muslim rights groups for his Uyghur campaigning.
Like a character in a Shakespeare drama, Sameer Zuberi’s bid for power has driven him to sell his soul by assisting Canadian imperialism and the US empire.
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