Monday, March 27, 2017

Book review 'Abridged Koran' by Bill Warner

Purchase the book reviewed here at...
Besides a couple of grammatical corrections, this copy is the same as on Dr. Warner's website.
March 6, 2016
I have never read the Koran before despite having travelled extensively in Muslim countries and read on many Eastern religions.
It took me two days to read the ‘Abridged Koran’ of Dr. Warner, which as the author himself writes is more of a study guide before beginning to read the real Koran. Now I have the context of history and other Muslim scriptures in order make sense of the Koran.
The Abridged Koran is an easy read but a disturbing read. You have heard of Christian and Hindu monks having to take a bath before reading their scriptures? I had to take a shower *after* reading the Koran because I felt spiritually unclean. It was like sitting through a non-stop horror movie with no breaks. I kept waiting for the good parts, the positive sections to begin. They never did. I found a minority of moral teachings scattered here and there, and just a few poetic descriptions in a very hateful book. About 3/4 of the way through it became as if a blur of hurtfulness and arrogance. The task felt like counting the flies on a corpse, it was so grotesque. I kept wondering ‘how could any rational and kind person, any normal human being actually accept this book as scripture?’ and ‘If they do and can, do we want such people in our country?’ After I completed my read, all I could think of was: ‘We must take steps to see this religion far away from us, and if possible destroyed permanently, erased from the planet except in history. I don’t care if people become Baha'i’s, atheists, agnostics, Baptists or worship trees and dance around the Maypole naked. *Anything* but Islam will be a vast improvement’ in individual and group consciousness.
I learned why Muslims do things, why some get very upset and even violent when certain things happen. There are scriptural precedents. For example, ‘preventing’ Muslims from going to pray. Abu Jahl is criticized in the Koran for holding back a Muslim, his servant, who wants to pray. Perhaps employers at companies that do not eagerly pay for and permit pray times are likewise considered evil. Why ISIL Muslims degrade and abuse their enemies by placing a foot on the head and then turn the heads backwards after decapitating. Again Koranic precedent.
I made notes by colour-coding five tabs and writing succinct words according to my needs…
Priority 1, essential: red – fascinating fact or dangerous alert
Priority 2, very important: orange – very interesting, a warning or something unique about Islam
Priority 3, not so important: yellow – curiosity, something I didn’t know, a lead to something else, or an unanswered yet question
Priority 4, useful to know: green – Islamic trilogy facts (Koran, Hadith, Sira)
Priority 5, extra: blue – detail about the method or structure of Warner’s book
I ended up with 86 red, 129 orange, 143 yellow, 16 green and 15 blue. I find this curious because when I use a similar system reading other books, concerning the top three priorities, the ratio is usually much more bottom heavy versus top heavy. For example reading the encyclopedic Siva Purana of medieval Hinduism, or the mixed mythic and philosophical Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods, the ratio is closer to 20/120/400. Even the brutally caste-ridden Laws of Manu of Brahminism has some nobility. The war-themed Mahabharata of the epic period of Hinduism is replete with universal teachings. By comparison, Buddhist and Christian texts have much more humanistic themes than the Koran. The only thing I felt inspired to do after reading the entire Abridged Koran, was to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. So, be prepared with some drinking water and a place to take a break, otherwise you might feel sad and negative. Reading the Abridged Koran was a pivotal experience for me, unfortunately verifying my worst fears.
With The Abridged Koran, the tag ratio from my reading was skewed to the most alarming, a lot of ‘read this and weep.’ I made almost no notes of interest regarding Dr. Warner’s book itself, further reading or even the Trilogy of Islam. The content rests squarely on the malicious, envious and otherwise anti-civil society things that the Koran itself has to say.
While a considerable amount of Abridged Koran is contextual (i.e. explanation from author but more so information from other trilogy sources such as Hadith and Sira) herein I offer only Koranic verses. So, this is an assessment of the Koran itself not Dr. Warner’s study guide to it. My next step will be to read the Koran as it commonly presented, ordered according to length not chronological (real) history, and translated by a mainstream Islamic source which presumably has no anti-Islamic ‘axe to grind’. I am giving Islam the benefit of the doubt, even though it looks like an exercise in futility.
My list is not complete, it is just what I made notes on, and a conclusion based on the gist of it. For brevity, I have reduced my own tagged quotes to a fraction or what caught my attention. I suspect that the verse numbers I quote are inaccurate as I sometimes quote the entire group of verses and Dr. Warner does not itemize them but instead writes full thoughts. All of these assessments of categories I made after reading the Koran. Although I have read and heard of others repeat some of them as part of their arguments against the atrocity and obscenity of Islam these are taken directly from my reading, not from third party sources such as websites or other books. And if I made a tag on one section of verses I didn’t necessarily add other tags if another group of verses following saying similar followed. So, in other words, these are the *minimums*, there are more than I count herein.
The following list is based on my own assessment, disregarding everybody else’s read (including the author’s), whether they agree with my own assessment or not.
Top seven themes of the Koran
1. All non-Muslims are bad just by virtue of not being Muslim. And for other reasons too
2. Non-Muslims deserve to be killed, taxed and forced to submit, simply because they are non-Muslim
3. Non-Muslims are going to hell
4. Christians are bad, Jews are really bad, Idolaters are the worst
5. Good Muslims finance holy war and if possible engage in it themselves
6. Heaven is a comfy and scenic banquet hall with beautiful women and boys, tasty drinks and lots of fountains.
7. Hell is fire with torture, and it goes on forever.
The Koran spends a lot of text space criticizing other religions and in particular the *followers* of other religions, especially Jews and Christians. The Koran doesn’t observe the nicety of distinguishing between Jews and Judaism, for example. Coming from a background of Hinduism and having a fascination for the many streams of Buddhist traditions all over the world, I find the Koran bizarre and appalling. This ‘our way or the highway’ (the ditch actually) is contrary to any Indian-origin Dharmic religion or Indian-influenced religions, which generally have a compassionate and accepting attitude to other religions, accommodating them even into their own systems (for example the historical Buddha being considered as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu). The Koran is the antithesis of Indian Islam – with its the saint worship, festivals and music . I have spent considerable time upcountry and in the cities of India (as well as lived in Buddhist regions of Southeast Asia) and pure Islam, not tempered by the modifications of Java and Cambodia etc is like something from another planet. I find Koranic Islam’s stated objections to other religions so severe as to be anti-religion. They make the Catholic Church’s ‘we know best’ perspective seem downright cosmopolitan. Bishops might disagree with my critique of their Church, even vociferously. But they are not going kill me. Probably not even mock me. Maybe ignore me. Basically, Islam as presented in its primary scripture, the Koran, is completely incompatible with diversity and human rights. After reading the Abridged Koran I do not see Islam as a religion at all.
I. Anti non-Muslim X 43
Ia. Anti-Jew *and* anti-Christian – X 8
“Keep us on the straight and narrow path. The path of those You favour; not the path of those who anger you [the Jews] nor the path of those who go astray [The Christians].” 1:5
So, the fifth verse of the Koran, wasting no time, is anti-Jew and anti-Christian. Isn’t this the verse that is repeated daily in every mosque in the world? I must investigate to see whose interpretation it is of those who anger and go astray. Who do Muslim scholars say it refers to? What do the Muslim man and woman in the street say it refers to? What would happen if every day at a political meeting within the first few minutes an announcement is made: ‘And by the way, the Muslims are wrong.’
Threat – “To those of you to whom Scriptures were given: Believe in what We have sent down confirming the Scriptures you already possess before We destroy your faces and twist your heads around backwards, or curse you as we did [the Jews] who broke the Sabbath, for Allah’s commandments will be carried out.” 4:47
Ib. Anti-Jew/Judaism – X 12
“Those [Jews] who conceal any part of the Scriptures which Allah has revealed in order to gain a small profit shall ingest nothing but Fire in their stomachs. Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, and they will pay a painful price. They are the ones who buy error at the price of guidance and torture at the price of forgiveness; how intently they seek the Fire!” 2:174
“Those to whom the Torah was given and do not follow it can be compared to a donkey who is made to carry a load of books but is unable to understand them. Those who reject Allah’s revelations are a sorry example. Allah does not guide those who do wrong.” 62:5
Jews to be eternally tortured in hell – “We gave the Scriptures and wisdom to the children of Abraham, and a grand kingdom. Some of them believe in His messenger while others turn away from him. The flames of Hell are sufficient punishment for them! Those who reject Our revelations We will cast into the Fire. As soon as their skins are burnt away. We will give them new skins so that they will truly experience the torment. Truly Allah is mighty and wise!” 4:53
Ic. Anti-Christian/Christianity – X 6
“Truly this religion of yours is the only religion, and I am your Lord, so worship me. But they have broken their religion [Christianity] into sects, and yet they will all return to Us.” 21:92
The Koran is emphatically opposed to division of any religion into sects (nobody is permitted to agree to disagree, there has to be a monolithic united front). Islam rejects Jesus as divine and the concept of trinity. Jesus was either not crucified at all or didn’t die from his torture. There was no resurrection of Christ. God has no son. Islam goes to great lengths to disparage basic Christian doctrine.
I do not know of any religion that spends so much space trying to insult other belief systems. Even in the formal intellectual debates of Tibetan Buddhists or missionary public debates of some Hindu pundit-philosophers, it is done with dignity. Islam is one long belligerent insult. It is not done in a scholarly way but disrespectful name-calling. I find this completely foreign and counter-productive (who would join a religion without rational argument, persuasion and by the exemplary life of its best examples?). Islam is entirely in opposition to civilized society. Even the onslaughts of the Mongols and the brutal Vikings primarily they just wanted booty and they moved on after pillaging. But Islam is something much more dangerous – an *ideology* the followers of which expect submission and never want to adapt or leave. Normal rules of civil behaviour and even human self-interest don’t apply. It is terrifying experience letting the import of the Koran sink in. When I read Abridged Koran I am left reeling from a nightmare.
Anti-pagan/paganism – X 3
All sins are forgivable except idol worship. 4:116
“Idolatry is a greater sin than murder.” 2:216
The libertarian philosophy of ‘no victim=no crime’ comes to mind here. It might be foolish, it might be a waste of time, but what harm comes of an Orthodox, Coptic, Hare Krishna or tribal religion worshipper tinkling a bell before an image of their vision of the Divine? It boggles the mind. This is not unique to Islam, of course. Judaism and Protestantism oppose worshipping God in any form also. But despite the Ten Commandments, leaders and members of those religions don’t claim that killing a human being is surpassed on the outrageous sins scale by bowing down to a golden calf.
Anti-Muslim not following Islam precisely/apostate – X 4
Apostates go to hell – “Any of you who renounce your faith and die an unbeliever, will have your works count for nothing in this world and the world to come. These people will be prisoners of the Fire, where they will live forever.” 2:216
Anti non-Muslim – X 9
“We give them time only hoping that they will commit more serious sins.” 3:178
Unbelievers should commit suicide – “If anyone thinks that Allah will not make His Messenger victorious in this world and the world to come, let them tie a rope to the ceiling of his house and hang himself with it. Then let him see if that course of action remedies his anger. We have sent down the Koran containing clear signs. Allah guides who He please.” 22:15
“He might destroy a portion of the unbelievers, humiliate them, and keep them from their purpose. It is none of your concern whether He forgives them or punishes them for, truly, they are evil-doers.” 3:126
Anti Jew, Christian, Zorastrian and pagan – X 1
Non-Muslims go to hell – “The unbelievers among the People of the Book [Jews, Christians and Zorastrians] and the idolaters will burn in hell for eternity. Of all the created beings, they are the most despicable.” 98:6
Anti-Islam/Muslims – X 0
Hell, descriptions of – X 3
I didn’t realize that Islam was so much stick and so little carrot, much more so than the Old Testament. It is closer to the less philosophical of the Hindu and Buddhist texts, which also describe the torments of hell. Herein I am not counting verses that specify, Christians, Jews and pagans going to hell – there are some verses in the Koran that are more general, just non-Muslims.
“If only you could witness the angels carrying off the unbelievers’ souls! They slash their faces and backs saying, ‘Taste the torment of Fire!'” 8:49
Hell, warnings to avoid/cursing of others to end up in/reason people go there – X 3
“Surely, you and those who worship besides Allah are nothing but fuel for Hell. You will be sent there. ” 21:98
Paradise, descriptions of – X 4
Heaven is described in great detail. But it sounds more like a Las Vegas garden with free escorts than a spiritual state. It doesn’t sound symbolic at all. It sounds rather like Hindu and Buddhist description of the afterlife.
“A few of those who lived later [after Islam was well established] will be on decorated couches, reclining on them face to face. They will be waited on by young boys with goblets and ewers and a cup of pure wine that gives no headaches nor muddles the wine, and with fruits that are most pleasing, and with the flesh of birds that they desire. In compensation for their past good deeds, they will have houris [heavenly companions of pleasure] with big dark eyes like pearls peeking from their shells. They will not hear any vain or sinful talk, only the cry ‘Peace! Peace!’ 56:10
“Surely, the righteous will live among delights! Seated on bridal couches they will gaze around. You will see the delight on their faces. Fine wines, sealed with musk, will be given them to drink. For those who have aspirations, aspire for wine mixed with waters of Tasmin, a fountain where those close to Allah drink.” 83:22

“He rewarded their patience with Paradise and silk robes. reclining on couches, none will suffer from extreme heat or cold. Trees will shade them, and fruit will dangle nearby. Silver cups and crystal goblets will pass among them: silver cups, transparent as glass, their size reflecting the measure of one’s deeds. They will be given ginger-flavoured wine from Salsabil. They will be waited on by eternally young boys. When you look at them you would think they were scattered pearls. When you see it, you will see a vast kingdom of delights. They will wear richly brocaded green silk robes with silver bracelets on their arms, and they will quench their thirst with a pure drink given to them by their Lord. ” 76:11
“They will have virgins of their own age, who glance modestly.” 38:49
Day of Judgement -?
I don’t claim to be a neutral reader. I frankly skipped most of this because, as a secularist with a background in non-Abrahamic religions, I am not interested.
Bible stories – ?
See comment in Day of Judgement above
Aggression, Physical X 33+
Destruction of property – I didn’t count
Theft of property (including division of spoils of war) – I didn’t count, but it is there.
Threats of violence – X 1+
“I will send terror into the unbeliever’s hearts, cut off their heads and even the tips of their fingers!” This was because they opposed Allah and his messenger.” 8:12
Jihad (warfare) is mostly in the Medina Koran. However other acts of violence are throughout the Koran as a whole.
Jihad, enjoining to participate – X 17
“March forth both the lightly and the heavily armed.”, and strive hard in Allah’s cause.” 9:40
“We will strike terror into the hearts of the unbelievers because they worship others besides Allah, which He gave no permission to do.” 3:149
“When they ask you about fighting in the holy month, say: Fighting at this time is a serious offence, but it is worse in Allah’s eyes to deny others the path to him.” 2:216
“Fight them until you are no longer persecuted and the religion of Allah reigns absolute.” 2:191
“Gather against them all of your armed forces and cavalry so that you may strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them who do not know but whom Allah knows.” 8:59
“If they do not keep away from you or offer you peace or withdraw their hostilities, then seize them and kill them wherever they are. We give you complete authority over them.” 4:91
“Truly Allah loves those who fight for His cause and stand together in battle array like a solid wall.” 61:4
Jihad, description of rewards/enjoining support/describing profit from/donors expendable – X 13
“Those who give their wealth for Allah’s cause are like the grain of corn that grows seven ears each having one hundred kernels.” 2:261
“Whoever of you acts miserly does so only at the expense of his own soul. Truly, Allah has no use for you, but you have need for them. If you turn your backs on Him, he will simply replace you with others who will not act like you!” 47:38
Early investors get more profit! – Those of you who gave to the cause before the victory and fought will receive a greater reward than those who gave and fought after it… Who will loan generously to Allah? He will pay back double what he is owed, and he will receive a noble reward.” 57:10
Jihad, criticism of those not participating/supporting – X1
“Believers who stay at home in safety, other than those who are disabled, are not equal to those who fight with their wealth and their lives for Allah’s cause. Allah has ranked those who fight earnestly with their wealth and lives, above those who stay at home. Allah has promised good things to all, but those who fight for Him will receive a far greater reward than those who have not.” 4:95
Jihad, description of attacks – X1
“Say to the unbelievers, ‘Soon you will be defeated and thrown into Hell, a wretched home! Truly, there has been a sign for you in the two armies which met in battle.” 3:12
I would like to read a study comparing violence by the founders of world religions and their most important persons. For example: How many people did Jesus of Nazareth, the Apostles and medieval saints and Popes kill or advocate killing of? How many people did Krishna, Vallabha, Ramanuja and Lord Caitanya do of same? Likewise, Moses, King David and 15th century rabbis? Gautama Siddhartha, the Arhants, and its missionaries? Guru Nanak, Govinda Singh etc. Let the actions of the best examples of religions (as defined by the religions themselves) speak for themselves. Also estimated body counts of political and military leaders claiming allegiance to specific religions. Crunch the numbers and then readers can decide who has been the greatest and least threats to peace, currently and historically. Dr. Warren and others have done so with Islam. I want to see a comparative chart.
Predestination – X 27
I was surprised to see that Islam, which is presented by apologists as so humanistic, is actually fatalistic. There is no free will in Islam.
“We have placed veils over their hearts so they do not understand, and deafness over their ears.” 18:54
“No soul will ever die unless it is Allah’s will. The length of each life is predetermined according to the scriptures.” 3:145
“For whomever Allah would mislead, you will be no help for him against Allah. Those whose hearts Allah does not desire to cleanse will suffer disgrace in this world and a grievous punishment in the next.” 5:41
Moral teachings – X 29
There *are* ethical teachings in the Koran, just not a great percentage of verses and number of words dedicated to them. Charity, generosity, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, righteousness, non-ignorance, humility, not taking God’s name in vain, kindness to parents (just don’t obey them if they ask you to worship other gods), speaking sweetly, etc. are praised. It is as if the Koran has been written or compiled by a schizophrenic.
Remorse – “When death overtakes one of the wicked, he says, “Lord, send me back again so that I may do the good things that I have left undone.” But, no, they are nothing but empty words. ” 23:99
infanticide and adultery – “Do not kill your children because you fear poverty. We will provide for them as well as for you. Surely, killing them is a terrible sin. Have nothing to do with adultery, It is a shameful act and an evil path that leads to other evils.” 17:31-32
Guardianship, keeping word, not gossiping, honesty in commerce – “Do not use the property of an orphan, except to improve it, until he reaches maturity. Fulfill your promise because every promise will be investigated. Give full measure when you measure, and weigh with an honest scale. This is fair and much better in the end. Do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Every act of hearing, seeing, or feeling will be investigated on the Day of Reckoning.” 17:35
“Do not walk arrogantly upon the earth because you cannot split the earth in two, and you cannot become as tall as mountains.” 17:37
However, a lot of Koranic moral teachings mention exceptions that to most people will seem ludicrous, messages that are a mix of coercion and ethics
“The successful ones will be the believers, who are humble in their prayers, who avoid vain conversation, who contribute to the needy, and who abstain from sex (except with their wives or slaves [slaves are bought or taken in battle], in which they are free from blame, but those who exceed these limits are sinners). Those who honour their promises and contracts and who pay strict attention to their prayers will inherit Paradise. They will dwell there forever.” 23:1
“Do not kill anyone whom Allah has forbidden to be slain [a Muslim] unless it is for a just cause [apostasy, retribution for a killing]. Whoever is unjustly slain, We have given their heirs to authority to either forgive or demand retribution, but do not allow him to exceed limits in slaying because he will not be helped by the law.” 17:33
“When you travel abroad to kill in Allah’s cause be discerning.” 4:91
“The spoils of war taken from the people in the cities and given by Allah to His Messenger belong to Allah, to His Messenger and to His family, to the orphans, to the poor, and to the wayfaring traveller.” 59:7
Poetry – X 3+
“In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.” 1:1
In Islam’s defence, I must say that I find the very first verse of the Koran magnificent.
“Wait patiently for your Lord’s judgement, because you are in Our eye. Sing Allah’s praises when you rise up, and give him praise at night and when the stars are setting.” 52:48
“Damn him! How he planned. Again, Damn him! How he planned… We will certainly throw him into Hell.” 74:19/26
Curiously, I found almost no description of Allah other than in the sense of His qualities. This is the complete opposite of Hinduism, where gods and goddesses have very detailed physical descriptions.
Ten curious facts as part of Dr. Warner’s commentary, associated texts, or the Koran itself…
01. During Mohammed’s time there were at least six other Kaabas
02. The trinity in Christianity during Mohammed’s time was Christ, Mary and the Father
03. At the beginning of numerous Koran verses are short series of letters that are yet to be understood as to their meaning [they look esoteric/occult to me. I expect that Sufis make a big thing of these].
04. Numerous times in Koran, Arabs are told by God how lucky they are to have the Koran in their own language so they can easily understand it. So, what is the logical argument that Muslims in non-Arabic lands to not have the Koran in their local languages so that *they* can easily understand it too? Yet according to mainstream Islamic scholars the Koran can only be fully understood in Arabic. That would limit the ‘universal’ religion of Islam to Arabs only or highly educated foreigners. This is not logical. Otherwise Islam is really a tribal religion.
05. Alexander the Great is mentioned in the Koran (18:83)
06. Opponents of Mohammed have guardian devils! (43:46)
07. In Garden of Eternity, virgins will be age-appropriate. (38:49) In other places young boys are mentioned. I found no mention of adolescent or child female virgins, and certainly no specific number of any of them, as is claimed by some critics of Islam.
08. Fear in the death cult – “Believers! Fear Allah as He deserves to be feared! When death finds you, die as true Muslims.” 3:101
09. It is unIslamic to stand near the grave of anyone who is not Muslim 9:84
10. Islam cons non-Muslims out of Paradise 64:9
Further actions…
Now I must read at least two Hadiths (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim), Ibn Ishaq’s ‘Sirat Rasul Allah’, ‘History of Al Tabari’ and Muir’s ‘Life of Mohammed’. I am told that the Koran is the most high-minded part of Islam. I can’t wait to buy some more soap. And take walks and meditate in between reading marathons because Islamic scripture is so depressing.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Contact author

I rarely pick up email at this stage.

Look forward to similar reports of political Islam in other cities of the Greater Vancouver Regional District and beyond. I am less interested in echoing national news, or editorializing on political and social trends than simply reporting in-depth in one geographic and subject area.

Is this Shariah-compliant swimming or just a co-incidence?

TEXT OF TOWN HALL MEETING, October 13, 2017, Coquitlam City, BC, Canada
About 22 minutes worth of discussion on regularly scheduled 'women only swims' at the downtown Coquitlam public pool 
Bolded text is my emphasis, and red is super emphasis, also mine. After listening through this at least three times carefully, I am confident that these words are +-98% accurate. I have corrected my mispronouncing of City Staff Recreation Director Mr. Allueva's name (in the video I mispronounce it as 'Allanueva'). Otherwise it is word for word according to my abilities.
The time is written here as Hour:Minutes:Seconds

(counter on video file reads 37:06)

Mayor: [other preliminaries] I open the floor and ask that anyone wishing to address Council members proceed to the microphone at the podium. It doesn't look like a microphone [CJ approaches], it looks like a brown bar, but it's actually a..

C: Ah...

Mayor: ...quite a receptive microphone. Yes, Sir!

C: Hello, uhm, firstly I want to say what a great city to live in, the library and pool are, are fantastic. Uhm, I'd like with permission of Council I'd like to give a three to four minute presentation on my research regarding the 'women only swim', women, yes women only swim...

Mayor: And, your name and add..

C: My name is Chris [deleted here]. I live at [deleted here] in Coquitlam.

Uh, as everyone is probably aware the downtown uh, swimming pool has something called 'women only swim' on public holidays, from I think it's 8 to 10 a.m. Because I have only five minutes I'll get to the meat of the point – uh, according to my casual poll conducted by asking 67 attendees of public swims, the reaction to these male-prohibited, males prohibited entry events pretty much is split three ways—for, against and indifferent. However, when full details are explained, that is: all windows are covered, zero males are present and all males over five years-of-age in the lobby are told to leave, that ratio changes to about half each way, that is supporting and opposed. 

Uh, the only group overwhelmingly for the women only events according to my research are recently arrived Muslim men from Western Asia, uh, for example Afghanistan. Middle Eastern women generally support it according to my pollings but are less absolute in regarding how good it must be for them. At the opposite end of the opinion spectrum are ethnic Russians, men and women. Some got livid when they heard about it. However, women 16 to 23 years-of-age tended to be for women only swims. Even many of them said, 'so when's the men only swim?' This was a question I got from many respondents. 

Almost everyone, except about 3/4 of Muslims and plus some Hindus and Sikhs, thought that the windows blocked out and zero males anywhere was extreme. Ethnic Chinese and Koreans, both Buddhists and Christians, were generally indifferent, with a slight leaning towards 'well, that's kind of silly', expressions such as that. The Persian community, uh one or two members of which first requested this event in 2011 according to my Freedom of Information documents, were also mixed in their responses. Several middle-aged men, Persian men, got upset hearing the news, saying things like 'this is why I left Iran, all this religious b.s.' He used stronger language but I am editing that. 

The strongest negative reaction I got was from a Jewish Russian man, who stormed out of the sauna because I wouldn't tell him my opinion (I was trying to be neutral). The only belligerent response I got was in the hot tub from a group of apparently Persian men in their twenties, who not only supported the event but insisted I tell them my opinion, which I would not.

What struck me as remarkable was that about 80% of respondents over 35 years-of-age immediately interpreted the event as a Muslim swim. I never mentioned 'Muslim', or 'Islamic' or 'Islam'. I just described the event's rules. They volunteered their opinion whether Muslim values should be accommodated or not, in the property tax-funded facility. So respondents saw it as a religious issue. The wording of my questions did not.

By the way, people who had immigrated recently from Europe were resigned. Uhm, the conclusion I brought from talking to, uh, I, from talking to so many people was that biggest factors in support or not or indifference, were: 1) where a person grew up—I said to age twelve, I asked them; 2) how long had they lived in Canada—did they arrive three months ago or, or lived here twenty years ; 3) and religion (although I did make it clear that by religion I didn't mean if they were religious). The City of Coquitlam did its own poll, but only the attend... my understanding was that it was only of attendees of the women only swim, not the general swimming population.

In conclusion, this is, for me anyway, a political not a religious issue, because it concerns public space and public money.

Thank you
end 0:41:16 [total duration thus far -- approximately four minutes]

Mayor: Thank you. Appreciate it. Are there any other, uh... there has gotta be someone else. Who's next?
[several other speakers]

Second presentation on this topic begins
[about two hours later]

[C approaches podium]

Mayor: Sir!

C: Hello again. Uhm, first I would like to thank Mayor Stewart. I am a secular person so I am going to have to address you as Mayor Stewart, thank you.

Mayor: Oh, please, I, I don't like the other one either. I prefer 'Your Highness' or 'Your Majesty'.

C: Right, okay.

Mayor: (laughs, illegible words spoken by him)

C: And I am asking that Counsellor Dennis Marsden and Mr. Allueva pay special attention because I am gonna ask for your response to this. Uhm..

Mayor: Sorry, this is uh Chris [deleted here].

C: [deleted here] from Pipeline, that's correct

Mayor: For the public record.

C: Yep

Mayor: Yep

C: I am going to try to keep this within the five minutes. It's the excerpts from three documents. I'd also like to thank Mary Morrison-Clark who was very co-operative. I met her for a interview discussing this issue. She was very helpful and I put in a Freedom of Information request [holding documents, showing them to Council] about the Women's Only Swim history, which took a little longer than expected but I did get it. Uh, if anyone wants to follow along they can read the original documents, if you want Mr. Allueva or Dennis Marsden, Counselman Marsden. But, I am reading from my book because the paper is a little bulky, it's a little cumbersome.

Here's the three excerpts from the 201 pages. The Freedom of Information request that was honoured by the City of Coquitlam, uh, is a three... It's 201 pages. And it's uh, plus a 3-page cover letter. There's a few bits blocked out, but mostly that's uh, consultations with the city's lawyer, and for privacy reasons.

OK, here's the three examples I'd like to read to you. The very first page, that's page one of two hundred and one pages, reads [flips through notebook] “In July”, such and such a person, and I am not sure if this is one or two, and it's undated unfortunately. Uh, such and such a person “came to talk to the Mayor Richard Stewart and Mary Morrison-Clark regarding the opportunity for a women's only swim time for Muslim women. Due to religious dogma, Muslim women are not allowed to swim with men.” Excuse me, that page 107, let me go back.

Page one, this is from Carol James, I believe. 'X' and 'Y' I'll call them, these individuals... “met you at a recent Persian event and would like to discuss with you how one of the Coquitlam pools might accommodate a regular swim time for Muslim women, parentheses, i.e. a women only swim time”, unquote. These are not my quotes. These are the quotes from the document.

Second document is undated, page 107. “In July”, such and such a person “came to talk to the Mayor Richard Stewart and Mary Morrison-Clark regarding the opportunity for a women's only swim time, for Muslim women. Due to religious dogma Muslim women are not allowed to swim with men. In 2014, 4.3% of the Coquitlam population identifies as Muslim. Staff researched eleven municipalities in the Lower Mainland and found that four”, Burnaby etc, provide quote “women's only”, unquote, swim opportunities to accommodate the high Muslim population. Again, this is not my quote. This is [makes quotation marks in air] 'women only', quote, according to the document of the City. Cost attributed to women's only swim time for curtaining the facility CCAC (which I presume is City Center Aquatic Center or Coquitlam City Aquatic Center) $1940.

Last document is from page 114. Business plan template. Undated. “Project.” This is all quotes. Plan and deliver a women's only swim for the Muslim community of Coquitlam”.

So, I would like to hear... Oh, my comment on that before I ask, uh, is that... Vancouver Jewish community built their own pool to accommodate their religion. I am vegetarian. This is something very important to me as my personal code of ethics. But, I do not expect the City of Coquitlam to prohibit flesh food at the swimming pool snackbar. Why? Public property, public money is not for sectarian causes—politics or religion. So, I invite Mr. Allueva to respond to that and uhm...

[Directed at Counselman Marsden] Thank you by the way for returning my telephone message, I just prefer to see you face to face.

Marsden: Yes

C: ...and I was so busy. But uh, you... I understand from the documents that you were a slight skeptic. So, I would like to hear about why. And Mr. Allueva's response.

Mayor: Ah, uhm, you did refer to some meetings, uh uh, that in, were in my office. Or at least one meeting was in my office. I've had a couple of people over my term uhm that have asked specifically related to uh, Muslim uh women and the women's only swimming opportunities. We, we had presented the possibility that they could, uh rent a facility from a strata corporation that might have a facility that was rentable. Uhm, and that sort of thing. Uh, it was... and I also explained that when I as a lifeguard actually in the 80s, ah Ladies Keep Fit was the most popular (laughs) program at Chimo Pool, uh and it was, it was, curtains on the windows, and it was only, it was primarily, well it was because um there were, ah, there was the market if you will for a uh exercise program that was specific for women. And uh, and didn't have men.. at it. Uhm, ah, so, uh, I explained that, that there were precedents within Coquitlam. I don't know when that one, that one actually ended. 

Ah, but that that was the gist of the verbal side of a, the.. you get the paper record. I'll give you a little bit of the gist of the actual conversation we had, uh uh, in my office. There were other uhm, ah comments from other people related to this and I understand that it's not just Muslim women that go to the, uh uh women's only swim. Ah, Mr. Allueuva... [gestures for Mr. Allueva to respond]

Mr. Allueva: Yes, ah thank Your Worship. Uhm, yes the City of Coquitlam does have a Women's Only swim time, and that was developed uhm, actually that was, that was developed as new time, so we didn't take away any time from public times that were already scheduled. Uhm, it was added to the program on earlier, it was an early time, and the speaker was correct—it's on holidays only. So, it's limited offering. But, uh the feeling was that there was enough demand by um women who wanted to participate in swimming that uh for whatever reason are unable to participate And we had excellent feedback. Yes, there is a Muslim population that is involved in that. 

There's a variety of women in all ages and cultures, and ethnicities that um, that partake in this. We've tried to also to provide some fitness, which is part of that program. We're quite proud of program actually. The city does have a gender equity policy. And we're quite aware that our programming has to, has to try and reach as many people as possible. That's the business that we're in. Uhm, we have many other programs uh, Get Active, Get Connected, that reach people in the community that may not be able to afford uh fitness and recreation. And, and our department is well aware that um physical education, recreational programs engagement with others, and social and, and recreational benefits of everything that we do which is very very wide ranging, uh contributes to the health of our community. So, from our perspective it's a very successful program. Uh, we do get very very positive feedback on it. It is not about uh, uh catering to any single cultural group. It's about developing programs that reach our entire community and we do that for all our citizens. And this is just one example of that, and it uh was developed on that basis.

Mayor: Thank you... Counsellor Marsden

Counsellor Marsden: Thank you. And I thank Mr. [deleted here] for the, for the phone tag they we, we endured trying to have a discussion about this, and your your question to me is related to an email exchange uhm, that we received, all of Council received and it was regards to the first of these swims and ah, and my response was 'wow', as an initial skeptic I'm surprised by the turnout, and that it's, there was almost seventy women showed up for the very first session. And I was thrilled, blown away to see that, because I didn't really expect that we'd see that many people show up the very first time out on a stat holiday with, there wasn't a lot of notice here, there wasn't a lot of advance led time for this, so ah, I was skeptical with regards to the response, uhm, but I was very happy to see the response.

Uhm, specifically, there was one lady, and there was as survey done that Mr. Allueuva alluded to, and there was one lady that spoke to uhm her joy with it, because she felt like she c/would be able to get out, and swim as an [illegible] regular swim, uhm, in her words “the awakening was indescribable, to see women giddy to be there for cultural reasons, even before they got in the building, to be free from legitimate body image reasons.“ So, there was a number of things. And I think back to situations that I've experienced with family members, uhm, young teenage girls, sitting by the pool wearing black hoodies, because they don't feel comfortable. And so, to have an opportunity for them to get out and swim, and where they felt comfortable, I was, I was absolutely thrilled to see this lady's response because I really felt that given some of these... a lot of people might take this and say, this is a religious issue. This is because of a specific uh Shariah law, or as a Muslim issue. And it's NOT. And so I was really happy to see so early on that we received a response from a participant, that said 'you know what, I recognize it, and I was happy be there, and so you know what, when, when you said I was a skeptic at the outset, I was a skeptic to how quickly there would be the uptake, would there be the demand for it? And, and this set me on the path right off the top, this was a great decision, I think by recommendation by staff, and I, I think it uh moved us down a path, it enabled people to get out that typically wouldn't feel comfortable. And so, that was, that was the tone of my response. And ah, hopefully that clarifies your question.

Mayor: Thank you. Counsellor Zarillo.

Councilwoman Zarillo: I just want to take this opportunity to just uhm, leapfrog off what Counsellor Marsden said about body image. I had the opportunity this summer to go shopping with two twelve-year-old girls. And one of those children was crying, about her bathing suit choices. They didn't want a two-piece bathing suit and it was no one-piece bathing suits, and they did not want their tummy to show. And I ask any parent to have a look around the pool this summer, er, the next summer, and just see how many of those girls are wearing a T-shirt to the pool, like ten, eleven and twelve years-old. It's heart-breaking. So, uhm, I think this is uh, an important step forward for girls to understand that they have spaces they can go and exercise and unfortunately the participation rates [C approaches podium] in sports and rec for uh women decline as they age and I think girls, uh, I mean I think Mr. Allueva probably knows, but I think it's probably age 13 or 14 [C withdraws from podium] just totally drops off. So, thank you for the comments about body image and I can say that when you see a twelve-year-old crying about the look of her body, it's devastating.

Mayor: And I will add a, a number of times that I have seen as, working at a pool, uhm, you got to, you got to understand a little bit more some of the dynamics of uh swimming pools and swimming generally, and granted that was forty years ago, but it was uh, the same kinds of issues, perhaps even even worse, a lot of T-shirts, on boys as well. There's no question that body image and the way in which we, as a society um, revere fitness and uhm, worse than that, or rather more importantly than that, we decry those, or object to, very unrealistic standards uhm, particularly women's bodies. And I, will always support in any way that we can break down those barriers and try to find ways that more of our residents can get out and participate in, in active programs like uh swimming. If the barrier is um, body image, let's find a solution and I appreciate staff's uh solution, staff came up with back then. 

Uhm, occasionally maybe you'd end up with a shift that included Ladies Keep Fit, uhm but you wouldn't be in, you wouldn't typically be on the, as a lifeguard you wouldn't typically be on the deck during that shift, just out of respect for the fact that, these were women who had chosen a program that uhm, and you could tell that these uhm, many of these women would NOT, wouldn't go to the beach, and wouldn't be on a cruise ship in the pool. This program was their way [C approaches podium] getting through uh the way in which society views or the way in which society treats differently the genders. So, uh if there was an issue with bald men with hair on their backs let's set that program up too. [He laughs]

C: May I respond to that? May I resp...

Mayor: Yeah, absolutely.

C: Uhm, but then why is the documentation show it presented as a 'Muslim women swim'? I have the documents.

Mayor: That was...

C: Just ...

Mayor: Well, no question, that the woman who came to me was a Muslim woman and she wanted to discuss having this. I am not going to say 'sorry, you're a Muslim woman and you're not allowed to meet...'

C: [interupting] I understand. But there's at least three documents where it is presented by the City as a Muslim only, excuse me a Muslim Women Swim. My concern is..

Mayor [interupting]: I will, I'll answer the question. It probably came out of the fact that we had a meeting that included a Muslim woman saying 'Is there a solution to this challenge, where we can't go swimming?' and ah, so a staff memo was generated .That's the best guess I can have. Then maybe I'll ask Mr. Allueva for that.

Mr. Allueva: Well, invariably the question of Women's Only does, does have a component that is cultural and so it's always a discussion around that component. Uhm, the real, the real win for this program is it cuts across cultural lines, it has really nothing to do with specifically about one culture. It's about uhm, you know, encouraging women's participation in recreation. But invariably the question of culture ends up coming up, and to my knowledge, and I've seen the numbers, there are some Muslim women that have partake in this, but there's many other people that partake in this, many other women, and uhm, but, but clearly there is discussion around culture in this matter. But that's not the driving force behind this program. It's about a program that women can participate in that deals with both cultural norms, personal body norms, personal body image and uh, all all from teenage and all the way up. And so, that's that's the, that's the basis for that.

C: I don't... I'm sure what you're saying is correct. I just think that there's another element to it, and my concern is, uh whether there's coercion. For example, a husband or a father or brother says to his little sister, his daughter, 'you know, I don't want you swimming with the boys.' Does the city of Coquitlam want to encourage that sort of attitude? That's the point. I'm not...

Mayor: Yeah. No, no, I appreciate the comment. Uhm. We have a cafeteria at the, at the pool, the CCAC. Uhm, if it were to decide that there were some of their customers that wanted halal, uhm...

C: [interupting] Which I expect next.

Mayor: [continuing] ... and they offered a, a halal choice, I would say, 'that's great, wonderful'

C: [interupting] Not exclusively, but as an option, why not?

Mayor: No. And there's nothing exclusive about this. This was taken a period of time when the pool was closed, and saying well, is there a group that wants to use... I mean if there was a group that wanted to use it from midnight til two, uhm, there the pool is closed then and I, we're not excluding anyone from a, a pool that's already open. That's a period of time on a stat holiday when the pool is already closed. So, uhm.. I, I get where you're coming from, and I, but I, I, and I don't have any objection to the idea that we'd actually uhm, develop a program that's specific to persons that observe a religious uh, uhm thing, for example. But I, I, in this case that wasn't my, all, my guiding principle.

C: Ah... I understand what you are saying... I've lived and worked in, ah, countries with large Muslim populations and Islamic governments. I have lived and worked there. So, my perspective is a little different .

Mayor: uh huh

C: I enjoy the freedoms we have in Canada, including Coquitlam. Uh, what I am worried about, besides the issue of secularism, is that uhm, a parent could say to their daughter (I think I remember repeating myself to you, but you know) 'You're a bad girl if you go to the public swim.' So, does the City of Coquitlam want to encourage this, that's my point. Uhm

Mayor: Yep, and I suspect that us offering a, a swimming opportunity doesn't make it so that the parent won't say that anymore. And it doesn't make it that the parent, it doesn't change the parent's behaviour. Ah, I.. It just allows them the option now to actually go swimming. If the parent is excluding their child from public swim, then I want the child swimming, I want the child in a pool. I want the child to learn how to swim.

C: But, would you do the same if they said they wouldn't send their child to a public school? 'Cause they don't want them intermixing with... ?

Mayor: OK, now we're into philosophical decisions, ah and there are independent schools in our community and we allow them.

C: Right.... Thank you

Mayor: Thank you... [next speaker follows]

ENDS 2:45:++
[part two approximately 18 minutes. Thus total on this subject is over 22 minutes]