February 3, 2009

Pt 1: Niqab in Court - On one side of the equation, is a woman's religious freedom. On the other, is the right of an accused to face those testifying against him. And in between them, is the Niqab. A Niqab is a head covering that obscures most of a woman's face ... all but her eyes. Some Muslim women wear it as an important part of their religious tradition.

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Pt 2: Punk Rock Cuba - Last month, Cubans marked the 50th anniversary of their country's revolution ... The day Fidel Castro and his rebel forces rolled down Havana's "Avenida de los Presidentes" -- or "Presidential Avenue" -- waving their black and red flags in victory.

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Pt 3: Taliban/School - It's winter break for school children in Pakistan's Swat Valley. It's a time of year the students usually look forward to. But this year, it's a time of anxious anticipation and fear for the future. The Swat Valley is in Northwest Pakistan about 160 kilometres north of the capital, Islamabad.

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It's Tuesday, February 3rd.

A protester threw a shoe at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a speech at Cambridge University.

Currently, Mr. Wen said that even though he does represent China ... any shoddily made footwear should still be returned to the point of purchase.

This is The Current.


Part 1: Niqab in Court - Lawyer

On one side of the equation, is a woman's religious freedom. On the other, is the right of an accused to face those testifying against him. And in between them, is the Niqab. A Niqab is a head covering that obscures most of a woman's face ... all but her eyes. Some Muslim women wear it as an important part of their religious tradition.

Last fall, one woman expressed a desire to wear a Niqab while she testified in court. She cannot be identified because she is a complaintant in a sexual assault trial that is covered by a publication ban.

The Judge overseeing the trial ruled that she could not wear the Niqab while testifying because the accused's right to a fair trial outweighed her reasons. She has asked for a review of that ruling. David Butt will be representing her on this issue next month in Ontario Superior Court. He was in our Toronto studio.

David Butt is a former prosecutor. He's now a criminal lawyer practising in Toronto.


Niqab in Court - Muslim

Not everyone believes that women should be allowed to wear the Niqab while testifying in court. Alia Hogben is the Executive Director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and she was in Kingston, Ontario.


Niqab in Court - Background

The idea that an accused should be able to see face-to-face the people testifying against him or her has a long history. Richard Friedman teaches law at the University of Michigan. He's spent much of his career studying that history and he was in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

Punk Rock Cuba

Last month, Cubans marked the 50th anniversary of their country's revolution ... The day Fidel Castro and his rebel forces rolled down Havana's "Avenida de los Presidentes" -- or "Presidential Avenue" -- waving their black and red flags in victory.

These days, that street is where counter-culture Cuban youth gather on weekends ... to sing, dance and talk a little punk rock. They are painters, photographers and musicians. And many of them enjoy official government support ... one of the reasons that Cuba's arts scene is so vibrant.

But not all Cuban musicians have embraced the life of a state-sponsored artist. Today, we shared a story about one of Cuba's most famous -- and infamous -- underground punk bands ... a group that has been banned from even practicing and one whose leader has been jailed.

The CBC's Richard Goddard was in Cuba a few months ago. He met up with the band and its singer, Gorki Aguila. And Richard Goddard joined Anna Maria in our Toronto studio.

 

Taliban/School - Journalist

It's winter break for school children in Pakistan's Swat Valley. It's a time of year the students usually look forward to. But this year, it's a time of anxious anticipation and fear for the future. The Swat Valley is in Northwest Pakistan about 160 kilometres north of the capital, Islamabad.

The people who live there say the valley has fallen almost entirely under the control of the Taliban. And the Taliban have issued a ban on the education of girls ... a ban they say will take effect when schools are scheduled to re-open next month.
To underscore their seriousness, militants have blown up or attacked close to 200 schools in the last six months. And they've threatened to kill teachers and students if they refuse to stay home.

And so, everyone involved -- children, parents and teachers -- are having to decide how much they're prepared to risk to take a principled stand for education. The BBC has been posting diary entries written by a girl in grade seven who lives in the Swat Valley. We aired some of her thoughts.

And for a broader picture of what's happening in the area, we reached Graham Usher. He's a freelance journalist and he was in Islamabad, Pakistan.


Taliban/School - NGO

The Pakistani Government has vowed to keep the schools in the Swat Valley open. But many Pakistanis -- even those who have dedicated their lives to the education of girls -- don't believe the government can actually keep the students and teachers safe.

Maryam Bibi is a Pakistani human right activist. She's also the founder of Khwendo Kor which means "Sister's Home" in Pashtu. The organization works to establish schools for girls in the lower part of the Swat district. And Maryam Bibi was in Peshawar, Pakistan this morning.


Taliban/School - Analysis

The attacks on the schools in the Swat Valley are just another sign of the Taliban's increasing power in the region. For his thoughts on the implications of that, we were joined by John Thompson. He's the President of the MacKenzie Institute, a Toronto-based think-tank focusing on terrorism, political extremism and warfare.


Last Word - Cuba Punk Song

This morning we heard about "Porno Para Ricardo," a Cuban punk band that's been banned by its government. And since the group can't seem to get any airplay in Cuba, we gave it the last word today. We played their song "Tan Loco" which means "So Crazy." It's about the band "going crazy" because of the restrictions on political expression in Cuba and the band's philosophical battle with Fidel Castro.

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