Agam's Gecko
Monday, January 14, 2008
The Defendant and the Complainant
Ezra Levant (L) is compelled to explain himself before the Alberta "Human Rights" and Citizenship Commission, for causing offended feelings in Syed Soharwardy (R).
Photos: CTV News

OBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! But I'll bet that NOBODY expected the Canadian Inquisition either, whose three chief weapons are fear, surprise, an almost ruthless efficiency and a fanatical devotion to...

Alright, no more joking about this -- so figure out your own substitution for "the Pope."

With Mark Steyn and Maclean's magazine about to be hauled before the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission and the British Columbia HRC (as noted in the previous article here), it turns out there is a preliminary bout on the card. The former publisher of the former Western Standard weekly magazine (still an online publication), Ezra Levant has been compelled to explain himself before the Alberta HRCC ("Human Rights and Citizenship Commission"). His offence? He allegedly hurt the feelings of a local radical Islamist cleric in Calgary, Imam Syed Soharwardy.

There was no immediate word on whether any normal Canadians were offended by Imam Syed's advocacy for Islamic Shari'a law to become the law of Canada. Undoubtedly, all these Canadian HRC's would have rejected any such frivolously offended feelings and would probably instruct any such complainant to just go home, calm down, and stop being so intolerant.

In 2006, at the height of one of the major stories of the year -- Islamist rage over the Danish cartoons of doom -- only one publication offered Canadians the opportunity to see what all the fuss was over. The Mo-toons themselves were a result of a very public fuss in Europe, in which a children's book author was unable to find an artist to illustrate her newest work, an inoffensive 'life of Mohammed' for kids. Although Islam's founder had been artistically depicted by Muslims in history, it's currently a major taboo (really fundamentalist types reject any artistic depiction of any person - the basis for the Taliban's banning of television).

Some Danish cartoonists decided to challenge the silliness and made various pictographic statements about their feelings on the matter, leading to rioting, burning and killings by fanatical loons in several countries. This reaction had been delayed by 6 months or so, until after some Euro-Islamists made a trip to the Middle East bearing a few extra cartoons which hadn't been published by the Danish newspaper, including a porcine "Mohammed" (which was a mis-labelled picture of a Frenchman at a pig-squealing competition). The violence was contrived long after the actual Danish cartoons had been largely ignored.

But after the cartoon-rage killings and riots became a major international story, a very few news outlets actually showed their readers the objects of all this ridiculous anger. Only one of them was in Canada -- the Western Standard. For this effrontery, Mr. Levant is now called to the carpet by Alberta's thought commissars, where he must account for himself and his intentions. He appears before them under compulsion of law, and as he says to the commissioner, under his own protest.

Imam Syed, the offended complainant, had first approached the Calgary police to take action against Levant, but they told him "That is not what Canadian police do." So he went to the HRC thought police instead, where he had a much more profitable reception. When a complaint is accepted, the complainant need not spend another dime -- the cost of the "prosecution" is borne by the taxpayers of Alberta (taxpayers of Canada and of British Columbia, in the case of Mark Steyn's upcoming inquisition). The "defendants" will of course bear all costs of their own defence.

Lately it's become apparent to me that I have one or two friends back home whom I would no longer recognise. I understand that the past 6 or 7 years has been tough on a lot of friendships, and even families, when opinions diverge. That's life. But dude, what have you done with my country? It was still there the last time I looked! The True North Strong and Free -- what happened?

When just a short few months ago I was gripped with the deepest admiration for a people determined to get out from under a fascist boot, just a very short distance from where I'm writing this, where they defied the longest odds and their country's own historical record with the faith and hope that they could achieve even a fraction of the freedoms that Canadians take for granted -- and today Canadians will kowtow to opinion enforcement? When for many years in Canada (and the rest of the "west"), insulting Christians and their beliefs could be an acceptable hobby, proudly engaged in and earning one bragging points for "edginess" -- and today, Canadians must observe the taboos of a different ("The Other") religion? And enforced by the State, to boot? I hate quoting Michael Moore, but dude, where's my country?

We have the temerity to lecture Communist China on human rights? These tribunals could have been modeled after the Party organs responsible for correcting incorrect and unhealthy thoughts. And I don't just mean Mao's thamzing sessions of the Cultural Revolution. Such "thought correction" programs are rife in Tibet today, and in future I'll find it very difficult to hold up my country as a better example.

Ezra Levant is writing about his corrective experience here, and posting videos of the proceedings. The commission didn't want any recordings done, but his lawyer insisted on it for possible future use in a court appeal. The commission also insisted that no recordings be made public. Heh. He's got six up now, and I've put them into a playlist. When he adds more, I'll add 'em too.

I love the way he addresses this banal bureaucrat, with all the contempt her position requires. Her best line comes at the end of #6 when, following the reception of one of his uncompromised opinions, she quips "Well, you're entitled to your opinion." It's such a cliche in our modern societies, isn't it? Almost an automatic response when one hears something one disagrees with (and much better than getting all offended, eh Bruce?). But the point is, it isn't true in this setting -- and Ezra nails her with it.

I wish he'd said "Well if that were the case, I wouldn't be sitting here now, would I?"

UPDATE: Muslims Against Sharia points us to an online petition supporting the free speech rights of Canadians here.


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