November 2014

  November 2014 Bulletin 
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In this issue:

In Memoriam: John Asfour

"He recalls the absence of sound, the impossible silence,the disappearance of light."  

A poem from the book Blindfold by John Mikhail Asfour

Featuring a Performer in CAI's Upcoming Sultans and Divas Concert

AnchorThe Eight Modes of Meeting
OktoEcho, under the artistic direction of Katia Makdissi-Warren

Katia Makdissi-Warren’s compositions and ensemble, OktoEcho, have been described as a meeting place between two worlds, a marriage, beautifully consummated. One that offers the spectators new eyes, or ears.

Listening to Fairuz and Um Khulthoum while growing up in Quebec City left Katia’s ear tuned to both eastern and western melodies. So when she started forming her own ensemble in 2001, Katia naturally wanted to mix the two.
OktoEcho would be the given name, one which resonates with ochtoechos, the 8 modes found in Byzantine music, Byzantium being the meeting point between the East and the West.
And on December 4th, Katia and her ensemble will be turning Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory into a Byzantium of sorts, where Toronto will hear their beautiful music.
There, they’ll be playing some well-known medleys from Lebanon, mixing the set rhythms of Western classical music with the feel of the beats found east of the Atlantic.
OktoEcho will also be joining the Sultans of Strings, Julie Nesrallah, and Miriam Khalil for a warm evening of inspiration and good company.
Perhaps they’ll even all team up and concoct some tunes together.
Who knows.
But do get your ticket today and find out, si vous voulez.
It will be a sight to behold

Purchase your ticket online TODAY! Or enjoy this event VIP STYLE!

CAI's Canadian Arab to Watch

Our Canadian Arab to Watch initiative is going strong, launched in December 2013 to highlight the wealth of leadership, innovation and contributions within our community. For more details about the program, past honourees and for nominations forms, please go here.

Lou Mouaket 2012.jpgLoutfi Mouaket: for his ambitious pursuits
Trading, Boxing, and Playing for Collective and Personal Wellbeing

Following a stream of news, analysing it, and making instantaneous decisions based on that knowledge and your raw intuition might not be too common of a dream job, but to Loutfi Mouaket, it’s just what he loves doing.
To him, the excitement of being a trader doesn’t only come from its fast-paced environment, but also from its being a meritocracy. That is, your background doesn’t factor in as much as your performance – your ability to learn dynamically and apply your knowledge to the job matters as much, if not more than your educational or professional background.
And yes, while that does mean the constant attachment to news and screens, to Loutfi, the upside is the reward you receive the next day, when you find out your analysis of the market was accurate.
The rewards don’t all come to Loutfi from trading, however. Charity is another field he finds very rewarding. So much so that he fights for it. In the literal sense, that is.
Ever since 2009, Loutfi has been involved in a charity event called Fight for Independence, where an annual boxing event is held to raise funds for Sick Kids hospital and the Nazareth House, a transitional, supportive, and stable home for women of all walks and circumstances of life who need help turning their lives around.
He enjoys the event for what it is as much as its aftermath (yes, despite all those injuries). For as the Nazareth House is not eligible for government funding, and as it needs as much financial support as possible, Loutfi’s wish to keep it and its vision sustained, as both a board member and a boxer, remains sustained as well.
And when he’s not trading, boxing, or meeting with clients, Loutfi’s energy and enthusiasm are redirected to the arts. In his free time, if it so happens to present itself, he enjoys photography, travelling, and playing the piano. Classical pieces, mostly. And when he’s not playing Chopin, he deejays, reading the dance floor, and hoping his choice of the next track is as accurate as possible.

Pursuing a New Arab Order

Rami Khouri, on the turbulent road to democracy in the Middle East

There is no such thing as ‘the Arabs’ or ‘the Arab World’ says Rami Khouri, the director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs of the American University of Beirut (AUB). Instead, there are 360 million Arab people, and 22 Arab countries, he explains, each with different “leadership systems, levels of wealth, patterns of development, and levels of autocratic control.” Surely enough, he quickly catches himself referring to the Arab region as the Arab World again.
The one thing Arab countries do have in common, he states, is that not a single one of them is a democratic country. “In not a single Arab country do ordinary citizens have the right to participate, and bring life to the principle of the consent of the governed,” said Khouri.  “There has never been a negotiated, credible, social contract in any Arab country that was truly a contract between citizens and state, between the people and the government.” 
In a lecture titled “Beyond Sunnis and Shiites: Understanding the Turbulent Reconfiguration of Arab States and Citizens”, Khouri detailed the history of the failed relationship between citizen and state in the Arab region, and highlighted the developments that led to the eruption of a series of uprisings, under the hopeful banner of the ‘Arab Spring’, in December of 2010.

Held on October 29th at the George Ignatieff Theatre, the event was organized by the Canadian Arab Institute, the Toronto AUB Almuni Association, and the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History. It is part of the lecture series “Perspectives on a Changing Middle East”, which aims at informing the Canadian public of the ongoing developments in the Middle East.
A banner behind him read “Welcome to a New Conversation”, as Khouri urged that it is neither accurate, nor intellectually or morally correct to look at the difficulties facing the Arab region as being caused by “Sunni-Shiite”, “Arab-Israeli”, or “Religious-Secular” tensions. The complete failure of the state and the absence of any form of new order to replace it are what led to the open chaos and political violence that gripped the region, more recently manifesting in the creation of ISIS, or the Islamic State in -parts of- Iraq and Syria.
For the past four decades or so, Khouri explained, Arab governments began internally retreating from their traditional roles, sometimes withdrawing from physical spaces, and others from entire sectors such as clean water provision, electricity, or transportation. This is when other groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the private sector, and all kinds of Non Governmental Institutions, started stepping in to fill the gap.

“It wasn’t just services, but it was identity and sovereignty that was not shared between the central government and all of these other forces in society,” stated Khouri. He sited examples such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, or the Kurds in Iraq – all of whom play some role of governance while also functioning like independent sovereignties.

If one were to look at the broader picture of the Middle East, Arab countries still don’t play any significant role in maintaining the stability of the region. Arab states increasingly invest in expanding security apparatus, which they most exclusively use to control their own populations, and often with foreign financial and political backing.  “The security architecture of the Arab world is defined by a balance of power between Israel, Turkey, Iran, and the United States. There isn’t an Arab power in sight. The Arabs had totally taken themselves out of their responsibility of protecting their own countries and regions,” said Khouri. That the United States took the initiative to form an international coalition to fight ISIS, is yet another testament to the failure of the modern Arab state in its current form, on every level imaginable.
These are the reasons that have led to the need for a reconfiguration in the relationship between Arab states and their citizens, as Arab people began asserting themselves as citizens, and asking for more political rights. This reconfiguration has been violent, dramatic, and non-sequential to say the least. 

“Within the last four years, they [Arab people] have compressed into one messy process what Western countries did in almost two centuries. That’s why it’s such a mess. What we are trying to do in some Arab countries is completely, ridiculously ambitious, but we don’t have a choice.”  

For Khouri, despite the chaos and the violence, there is a glimmer of hope. Tunisia is transitioning towards democracy as it just ratified a new, progressive constitution and its second peaceful handover of power. The Yemenis are still trying to pursue a national dialogue that will create a government. The Libyans are tying to negotiate a ceasefire and get back to the constitutional writing process. The Iraqis are trying to go through the process of creating a more inclusive government, despite the threat of ISIS. Finally, in every other Arab country, in Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan, citizens are still speaking out and challenging their governments, he said.   

“Finally, we’re at the moment were things are starting to be sorted out. Where governments are being challenged. Where some people are writing new constitutions, and other people are fighting it out on the ground. This phase is going to last for some time, but it’s the phase where the failures of the past are being exposed as failures and are on their way out, and new better systems will come in, but it’s going to take some time.

Did you miss this event? Watch the full lecture ONLINE!


In Memory of John Asfour (1945-2014)asfour.jpg

The Canadian Arab community mourns the loss of its revered son,              Dr. John Mikhail Asfour. 
Born in Lebanon in 1945 in the tiny west-Bekaa village of Aitaneat, John Asfour lost his sight at the age of 13 due to a grenade explosion during Lebanon’s 1958 civil war.  He immigrated to Canada in 1968 without any English skills and went on to obtain a doctorate in English literature from McGill University and become a professor of literature and a prominent Canadian poet.
John Asfour is the author of five volumes of poetry in English, three of which were translated into Arabic and one to French. In his most recent volume, Blindfold (2011), he investigated the ways in which disability influences our lives and is magnified in our minds.  The volume was followed by two more books: Vancouver V6A: an anthology of Writings from the Downtown Eastside, and Metamorphosis of Ishtar by Nadine Ltaif, (translated from the French).  He is the editor and translator of the landmark anthology, When the Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry. 
Nominated for multiple awards, John Asfour’s third book of poetry, One Fish from the Rooftop was the recipient of the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize. His fourth book, Fields of My Blood, received the Canada Council for the Arts Joseph Staufford award
In addition to his academic and literary accomplishments, John Asfour was a community leader, a human rights advocate and a humanist.  He was national president of the Canadian Arab Federation from 1996-2002, during which time he engaged in extensive consensus building among the Arab community’s many diversities. He was also a highly effective spokesman with the media and government officials for a community that often felt marginalized, at times victimized. 
John Asfour embraced Canadian values of diversity, respect and understanding; as an activist for fairness, justice and equality he found his rightful place in Canadian society. Through his poetry he brought to Canadians the sights, sounds, and flavours of his native Lebanese culture and Arab heritage. And to the Arab World he conveyed the Canadian values he vigorously promoted and defended.
He was a consummate Canadian, the ideal Arab Canadian, and a true man of the people. 
He lived in Montreal and passed away from illness on Sunday Nov 2nd, 2014, leaving behind son Jonathan and daughter Michaela. 
May his memory be eternal.
"One Of Canada's Most Gifted Poets." - Montreal Gazette.

CAI Events

december 4.jpgCAI's Gala Concert, Sultans and Divas, Koerner Hall, Toronto.  CAI's first-ever cultural event featuring a tapestry of Canadian Arab performing artists and showcasing their talent and vibrant contributions to this country.  Buy your tickets TODAY! 

See all upcoming events HERE

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