The Human Rights Commission on Un-Canadian* Activities...and Thoughts
Ezra Levant is a Canadian publisher, columnist, lawyer and political activist. He is on the right-wing of Canada's conservative movement. Levant has been critical of Canadian foreign policy, anti-American sentiment in Canadian politicians, is known for his advocacy for Israel, and is a self-styled advocate for more provincial rights, especially for Western Canada.
On February 14, 2006 the Western Standard drew the attention of the Muslim community by reprinting the controversial editorial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. In October 2007 the magazine ended its print-run due to its unprofitability and became an exclusively online publication.
Who is Ezra?
Ezra is also bit of a professional shit disturber and I admire that in a person. It was Ezra who made the “It’s the stupid Charter” buttons that were distributed at the last Conservative Convention. Harper’s people were apoplectic when they started showing up on the floor. At first they thought it was a dirty Liberal trick designed to embarrass them until they saw the “Western Standard” logo at the bottom.
And why has he incurred the wrath of the Human Rights and Citizenship Commission ?
A controversial conservative commentator was unrepentant going into a Human Rights and Citizenship Commission hearing yesterday, using his Web site to republish the same cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that got him into trouble in the first place.
"Contriteness implies that you've done something wrong for which you need to apologize or atone," Ezra Levant said moments before his 90-minute meeting with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission in Calgary.
"I have not done anything wrong."
Mr. Levant's dispute with some members of Alberta's Muslim community became even more personal, as the head of a Calgary Muslim group said he now fears for the safety of his family due to "lies" Mr. Levant has been spreading about him.
The commission is investigating Mr. Levant's decision two years ago, as publisher of the Western Standard, to print a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
The same cartoons had already ignited violent protests and death threats from Muslims around the world after the images appeared in a Danish newspaper.
Syed Soharwardy, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, filed a complaint after the Western Standard published the cartoons, which included a Muslim man with a bomb-shaped turban, and the commission is now investigating.
So here is Ezra, making a statement to the Commission.
(Paraphrasing one Canadian de souche...) Tsk, tsk. Such a bully, screaming at the Commissioner like that. Such un-Canadian behaviour!
From what I see in these video clips, this committee has something in common with an Inquisition tribunal. Those religious courts were set up to find out the secrets that reside in a person's heart and mind, to make example of those suspected so as to suppress any form of heresy, and, importantly, they drew their coersive power from the secular authority. They were motivated by piety and concern for the wholsomeness of the society they were brutalizing.
Not the rather inept commissioner resembles the great Torquemada in any way. But that's just Levant's good, or bad, luck, that he is being interrogated by an investigator into rights abuse by someone who doesn't seem too convinced of her project. She is just this nice Canadian do-gooder, seeking to get Levant to apologize, nothing more, to a Canadian Muslim cleric who finds his religious icon being lampooned in the media offends and intimidates him. Is this such an unreasonable request, really?
* What, you may ask, is to be un-Canadian?
In my experience, and I have been accused of being un-Canadian, it means not voicing reflexively anti-American opinions, supporting Bush's foreign policies and War in Iraq, hoping for democracy to take hold in the Middle East, calling terrorism terrorism, being extremely sceptical of multiculturalism with its bastard child, "reasonable accommodation", criticising the UN and Louise Arbour, not finding excuses for radical Muslims' preachings, and being against the "notwithstanding" clause that permits Quebec to be in perpetual breach of Canadian Constitution. These are just a few of the attributes that mark out one as being un-Canadian.
Here is an example of a religiously- offensive artefact. Perhaps, in the tradition that seems to gain so much support for suppressing the right to free expression, they should sue the artist, the collector and the paper which reproduced a photo of this puerile artefact, bringing its story to the knowledge and awareness of thousands of unsuspecting readers. Because, as one cleric says, "for Christians, the image of Jesus is very special, and to interpret it in a sexualized way is an affront to what we hold dear."
In a bizarre denouement from the Danish cartoons to Darfur, here comes the latest shocker:
Sweden and Norway were ready to deploy 400 soldiers in Darfur to support the UN peacekeeping forces, but due to the cartoon crisis in 2006 the regime in Khartoum has refused to accept troops from Scandinavia.
”The Opposition from Sudan makes it impossible to keep the promise of a Norwegian-Swedish commitment,” the ministers of foreign affairs from the two countries said in a statement.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir stated in November that he won’t accept soldiers from Scandinavian countries, where newspapers published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.
”No one who speaks blasphemeous of the prophet will be allowed to set foot on Sudan soil,” said President al-Bashir.
The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Mohammed in September 2005, and the Norwegian newspaper Magazinet reprinted the cartoons in January 2006. None of the big Swedish newspapers published the cartoons, but in the fall of 2007 they reproduced drawings of Mohammed as a dog by Swedish artist Lars Vilks that were censored by several Swedish art institutions.
There is a nice clash of civilizations for you in its starkest barbarism: The values of Western liberalism, which give people the broadest possible range of freedom in which to act, now stands in direct opposition to the Muslim values of Sharia, which maximally constrict individual freedom. This liberalism, that seeks to preserve human life and dignity, is now being exploited by the Islamic government of Sudan as a pretext to prevent the prevention of an on-going genocide.
Mafia tactics, on a global scale: You behave as we tell you to behave, you will say what we allow you to say, you will not say what we forbid you to say. If you abide by our laws, we may cooperate with your good intentions. If you do not, more people will get massacred, more women will get raped, more children will get their arms and legs chopped off.
And why shouldn't the Sudanese act like a Soprano thug, when democracies like Canada are prostrating themselves in extra effort to appease Islamic outrage with free expression? We give in to pressure, we decide to tighten just a little the space available for our freedom, thinking, surely, this is not such a big deal. Who is getting hurt here? Nobody. And we can have civic harmony. Not a big price to pay. But the little is never enough, and we are asked to make greater space for greater demands, which we succumb to, in the spirit of multiculturalism. And before we know it, we are faced with a problem from hell, like this one.
Mark my words. You have seen nothing yet.
The Sagacious Iconoclast
Of course, some fascists who don't like Mr. Levant have said that because of that he should be censured. Nevertheless, a number of well known people who would be considered my political opponents have clearly condemned the HRC kangaroo courts, for example, here's Mr. Glenn Greenwald at Salon magazine: http://tinyurl.com/2dgcqu.
This problem is not just a matter of Mr. Levant. MacLeans magazine has been called to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on a complaint from the Canadian Islamic Council because it published an excerpt from Mr. Mark Steyn's "America Alone", a book that reached the top of the charts in the USA and Canada. Shall we burn it, then? Not yet, apparently. Mr. Whyte, editor of MacLeans, has said that he will go bankrupt before he submits to the kangaroo courts. And the Muslim Council of Canada agrees with MacLeans.
Canada's so-called "human rights commissions", and others like them in Europe and the United States of America, have become abominations. If there's a real problem, we have real courts of law, with real due process per section seven of the Charter. Other than that, we must not stand for the inhuman inquisitions of these bureaucratic hacks. The HRCs are being taken to the mat. Now is the time to kick them in the balls.
If Levant can’t publish those cartoons, or other things deemed heretical or “hateful” by Islamist ideologues, then freedom of conscience and freedom of expression are profoundly compromised. If Levant isn’t free to “insult” or “defame” Muhammad, or to disdain the religion he founded, then a precedent will have been set and all Canadians will have a new problem. And it’s unlikely that this problem will be confined to Canada. If Syed Soharwardy and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada prevail, rational debate will most likely be inhibited when similar subjects arise, as they no doubt will. As Levant makes clear, “the process has become the punishment” and the potential risk of similar, costly, experiences will affect decisions as to what may or may not be published and what facts may or may not be stated. The threat of nuisance complaints, considerable expense and state interference will influence serious public debate in areas of religious sensitivity - or at least in areas of Islamic sensitivity, which, unfortunately, covers quite a lot.
For instance, one would have great difficulty explaining in detail and with rigour why it is one isn’t a Muslim, or why the Qur’an is not the “uncreated” word of some hypothetical deity, or why one finds Islam to be an absurd contrivance. That so many people calling themselves “progressive” should hesitate to extend this basic right to someone they happen not to like is, if not offensive, then hazardous, self-preoccupied and somewhat depressing.
“Here are the noxious fruits of hate speech laws: a citizen being forced to appear before the Government in order to be interrogated by an agent of the State -- a banal, clerical bureaucrat -- about what opinions he expressed and why he expressed them, upon pain of being punished under the law… Political life in Canada has seen numerous prosecutions for political opinions under that country’s oppressive hate speech laws. Government investigations for political opinions are thus an accepted part of their political culture… The mere existence of the “investigation,” interrogation, and proceeding itself is a grotesque affront to every basic liberty. For those unable to think past the (well-deserved) animosity one has for the specific targets in question here, all one needs to do instead is imagine these proceedings directed at opinions and groups that one likes.”
Update: A commenter from Montreal dropped a few comments which are interesting to peruse, providing a different perspective.