[crossposted to another blog of mine] Today is the final day of the hearing in my province, BC, at which Macleans magazine has been charged with fomenting hatred against Muslims. I feel very strongly that this is a dangerous imposition of the government on a fundamental Canadian right: the right to speak and write freely. Because I feel strongly about this, I have given a background post here.
By way of background: this case occurred because some Muslims were offended by an excerpt Macleans ran of one of the #1 bestseller in Canada, America Alone, written by Mark Steyn.
Some important points:
Some Muslims have been offended.
This is true. On the other hand, atheists and Christians have been busy offending each other for decades, yet neither group tries to actively censor the other’s legal right to free speech. To take a prominent example (albeit from America), consider the reaction to the famous artwork “Piss Christ.” Essentially, Christians wrote letters; they did not demand that an artist could not produce art in his own private studio. The reaction of the plaintiffs in this case is completely at odds with the values of our society here in North America.
While some Muslim activists are trying to silence criticism of Islam through this Tribunal, others, such as the Muslim Congress of Canada, are very much opposed to this effort at censorship.
The truly-moderate Muslim Congress of Canada has been ignored by the human rights industry in Canada, and the sign on the courtroom mentions the complaint as being filed “on behalf of the Muslims of British Columbia.”
The plaintiffs adduced many statements from the excerpt that they found objectionable, including one to the effect that Muslims were breading “like flies.”
In fact, many of the most “objectionable” comments were quotations of Muslim clerics, including the “breeding” comment. These passages were taken out of context entirely.
Macleans was accused of favoring only one side (i.e. Steyn’s)
In fact, Macleans published more letters to the editor opposed to the piece than it ever had done in its history. Being a private publication, Macleans is not legally obligated to present viewpoints equally anyway.
The plaintiffs have previously said that they only desired equal space in rebutting Steyn’s article.
In fact, the plaintiffs demanded both money, and a full-length article and cover art produced by them, with little to no editorial control allowed by the magazine. This would have essentially allowed them to hijack the magazine, an inferior option to their simply starting their own publication and including their rebuttals there.
The main plaintiff before the BC Human Rights tribunal is Mohammed El-Masri, the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress.
El-Masri is a notorious anti-Semite. In his role as leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress, he has argued that all Israelis are legitimate military targets of terrorism. Also, El-Masri is not a resident of BC, nor is he testifying before the Tribunal.
The BC Human Rights Tribunal judges refused to allow the defendants to quiz the CIC’s representatives in the trial over the CIC’s anti-Semitic record.
On the other hand, it allowed posts from ordinary bloggers inside and outside of Canada to “show” that the Macleans article produced hatred towards Muslims. In so doing it made the Macleans magazine responsible for a great deal more than should have been the case.
The principal actors in this drama are not from BC.
Macleans is published in Ontario, the primary plaintiff is from Ontario, and almost all of the lawyers are from Ontario.
Macleans planned to call no witnesses.
Oddly, one of the scholars of religion called to witness by the plaintiffs admitted that he liked Steyn’s writing, and thought highly of it(!).
Normal courtroom rules pertaining to admissibility of evidence, libel, procedure, and the like do not apply to the BC Human Rights tribunal.
This has hurt the defense, while the Tribunal appears to be exerting extraterritoriality outside of BC.
In sum, this case should have been laughed out of the coutroom. The BC Human Rights Tribunal judges presiding over this case are out of their depth and appear incompetent. It has been shown that the plaintiffs have lied, and that they are interested only in censoring texts and writers whom they find offensive. Rather than growing up and maturing, they have sought to use the legal apparatus of BC to silence criticism of their religion. It is the efforts of these out-of-touch activists, much more than the original article, that are giving their religion a bad name in some quarters.
In my country, Canada, people have a legal right to express their opinions, even opinions highly critical of religion. This case represents a travesty of justice at every level, from the big picture issues of free speech to the nuts and bolts of courtroom rules and jurisdiction.