Free Speech = A Right to Print? A Dangerous Mix

There’s a strong storm up north blowing from British Columbia (that’s in the west) to Newfoundland. The mixed precipitation of legal briefs and op-eds are a result of low temperatures brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress and humidity from Macleans, a right-of-center weekly journal. Macleans published a cover story entitled “The Future belongs to Islam” by regular columnist Mark Steyn. The article was an excerpt of Steyn’s recent book America Alone.

Steyn is keen on depicting the weakness of the liberal, multicultural West to uphold its values against threats, especially when in the context of demographic trends. Will feminists and the LGBT community exist in 50 years or will there be Sharia on the streets of Toronto, he asks, suggesting multicultural activists naively and to their own detriment embrace accommodation to Islam abroad and domestically. Some of us may find this a typical right-wing position. However, I encourage you to read a column or two of Steyn’s and acknowledge the arguments he puts forth. He’s also rather witty, which should make no difference to his arguments, but of course it does, making him a darling of conservatives and a threat to those not predisposed to his positions.

The CIC sent a 70 page brief to several human rights councils across the country citing Macleans for promoting Islamophobia by printing Steyn’s piece and other such articles over a 3 year period. There’s going to be tons written about this story in the coming year and I will share more from a Girardian perspective (scapegoating, breakdown of sacrificial victims, prestige of sacrifice).

I hope this case is quickly dismissed. On the merits, some issues are just silly, such as the CIC’s including in the charges against Macleans and Steyn a phrase that “Muslims are spreading like mosquitoes ” in Europe. In the text Steyn cited the sources of these statements, European Muslim Mullah Krekar. But not so fast. It has been explained (in a cautious analysis) that Canada values multiculturalism over free speech, both culturally and also legally. Canada possesses no cherished part of the Constitution like our 1st Amendment.

The CIC’s claim, as I understand, does not charge the magazine with inciting violence, actionable under Canadian law, but with denying their “free speech” to respond. Respond? Here’s what is meant…

Update: A liberal Muslim wants to mock Steyn, debate Steyn, and the CIC to drop the suit already! and offers to help publish their response to Steyn in other notable venues in exchange for dropping the suit

From Steyn’s blog:

Muneeza Sheikh, Naseem Mithoowani, Khurrum Awan, Daniel Simard and Ali Ahmed, the law students who claim their “human rights” have been breached by Maclean’s have a letter in today’s Globe & Mail:

Margaret Wente says law students like us should be concerned about free speech (So Who’s Fuelling The Prejudice? – Dec. 6). She’s right! Which is why when Maclean’s published the Mark Steyn article The Future Belongs to Islam last year, we met its editors and asked that they publish a response to its Islamophobic content from a mutually acceptable author, from inside or outside the Muslim community. The intention was to engage Mr. Steyn about his views on Muslims.

Maclean’s said it would rather go bankrupt than publish any response – hence, our human-rights complaints. The issue is whether minority communities have the right to be part of the free speech that directly relates to them and not to be excluded. Our research indicates Maclean’s published 18 articles with similar Islamophobic content between January of 2005 and July of 2007. How many articles have been published in response by mainstream Muslim organizations? None.

The irony is, if we had responded to the Steyn article by throwing rocks at the offices of Maclean’s, we would have heard: If only Muslims would use the avenues available in a free and democratic society to engage in civilized debate. When we do, Canada’s largest newsmagazine says it would rather go bankrupt and right-wing journalists wail about law students asserting their rights as citizens of a free and democratic society.

The publisher and editor-in-chief of Maclean’s is Ken Whyte. His version of events is a little different:

The student lawyers in question came to us five months after the story ran. They asked for an opportunity to respond. We said that we had already run many responses to the article in our letters section, but that we would consider a reasonable request. They wanted a five-page article, written by an author of their choice, to run without any editing by us, except for spelling and grammar. They also wanted to place their response on the cover and to art direct it themselves.We told them we didn’t consider that a reasonable request for response. When they insisted, I told them I would rather go bankrupt than let somebody from outside of our operations dictate the content of the magazine. I still feel that way.

Why did the “victims” wait five months before demanding a right of reply? By that time, Maclean’s had already published 27 responses to the story – more than on any other Maclean’s cover story.

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10 Responses to “Free Speech = A Right to Print? A Dangerous Mix”

  1. jonolan Says:

    Sounds like those Muslims have been talking with CAIR in the US. They (CAIR) use the courts system to prosecute jihad. Frankly it’s the common Muslim tactic in open and democratic nations – make unreasonable demands, then sue or threaten to sue if and when those demands aren’t met.

  2. Scott Says:

    If what you claim is a common tactic, then what response should reasonable folks take? How outraged or does outrage only play into the dynamic?

  3. jonolan Says:

    That would depend on your involve in the situation and your power level. I normally laugh at them. If I were a judge, I’d just refuse to hear the case – take it to a Imam, Abdul! LOL

    Every time these people behave like this I disregard their complaints a little more. Just spread the word as you have been doing; the people will find a solution to the Muslim Question eventually.

  4. Athos Says:

    There’s going to be tons written about this story in the coming year and I will share more from a Girardian perspective (scapegoating, breakdown of sacrificial victims, prestige of sacrifice).

    It truly is the unique prism to see clearly the situation, Scott. As Gil Bailie quotes Jon Katz: “If cultural anthropologists could write, a lot of journalists would have to find other work. And if journalists were given the time, education, and training anthropologists receive, we might better grasp some of the complicated problems we face.”

    What it points out is an anthropological bond between the post-modern nihilists and Islamofascism; namely, both are products of our human primitive Sacred origins. The former because it has abandoned its way out of the primitive Sacred via the biblical spirit that moves away from default bloodthirsty conventional religion. The latter because it never was under this influence of the biblical spirit. It is this bipartite attack that pinches Mark Steyn and Macleans via the CIC, don’t you think?

  5. Miss Lapointe Says:

    Hmm, yet againt another group of obtuse bloggers who obfuscate the reality of the law students’ demands.
    The article is clearly offensive and is arguably hate speech based on the definitions of the SCC and case law. It is obvious that the demand was a choice between promoting free speech through the open exchange of debate and taking legitimate action through legal mechanisms. In good faith they chose the former and were snubbed outright when trying to discuss a resolution. Now they seek to rectify the problem through their most promising alternative.
    Yes, lets continue to support biggotry and discrimination while ridiculing people using legal avenues to combat serious wrongs.

  6. jonolan Says:

    Reasonable demands for balanced reporting should be encouraged. Unreasonable demands should not be. The Muslims’ demand were as usual unreasonable.

    Aside from the lack of blown apart children, the ultimatum of print this or we sue is the same tactics used by every other Muslim terrorist.

  7. mike savant Says:

    I think many people do not understand why a complaint was filed against Macleans Magazine. The following YouTube link provides an interview from Khurrum Awan *himself* on the Mike Duffy Live Show explaining the facts.

  8. Scott Says:

    Thanks for the link, Mike. I think my original reading stands. The suit requests the “free speech” to publish whom they want at a length of their choosing in Macleans. The law student was well spoken enough but unless Canadian law is very different than US law, the suit DISTORTS the meaning of free speech into a right to interfere in a private magazine’s editorial policy.

    Use YouTube more, Mr Awan. Boycott Macleans. Start an anti-Mcleans website. I’d like to hear more of what you have to say, but stay outta the courts on this.

  9. Scott Says:

    Oh, and to put it on record, jonolan is way off base with the accusations of jihad by other means IMO.

    This is a case of emerging assimilation using the laws at hand to gain leverage and defend their dignity. I have my own concerns of the way my Jewish community sometimes “goes after” voices we feel are beyond the pale, esp re: Israel. But on the whole I think the early/mid 20th century immersion of national Jewish groups in communal politics might be different if our community came of age, so to speak, in the multicultural legal atmosphere of the 80s and 90s.

  10. jonolan Says:

    I disagree, Scott. I believe this is a case of using the courts system and tort law to “gain leverage” and further a Muslim agenda. It is NOT about assimilation, at least not about Muslims assimilating into the cultures of the nations willing to host them.

    It’s still the tactic of “do what we say or we will destroy you!”

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