Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Great moments in multiculturalism and free speech

Marc Lebuis
filed a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) for "hate propaganda" against Montreal salafi imam Hammaad Abu Sulaiman Al-Dameus Hayiti who officiates at the Association Musulmane de Montréal Est mosque. The complaint relates to his book L'Islam ou l'Intégrisme ? À la lumière du Qor'an et de la Sounnah downloadable from the Internet, and his extremist teachings that are also broadcast on the Internet.

The teachings of imam Al-Hayiti are suprematists, misogynistic and hateful. According to the imam, his fellow non-Muslims are "koufars" (unbelievers, infidels, impious), Québec women are perverse, and the population is "stupid and ignorant." The imam also calls for the destruction of the "idols" of the West: democracy, human rights, secularism, freedom and modernity. By disseminating his teachings on the Internet, the imam tries to win adherents to his extreme views.

The CHRC has launched an investigation against Maclean's and writer Mark Steyn for "hate propaganda" in relation to the publication by Maclean's of an article entitled "The Future belongs to Islam" (excerpts from Steyn's bestselling book "America Alone"). The investigation follows a complaint filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress and four Toronto Muslim law students. This initiative is an attempt at censorship and an attack on freedom of the press, for which the CHRC acts as an enabler.

If the CHRC refuse to investigate my complaint, the public will be free to conclude that an institution meant to promote human rights is practicing a form of one-way absurd censorship. As a result, legitimate criticism of Islam is discouraged, while those who advocate the destruction of democracy and freedoms are protected. If the CHRC agrees to open an investigation, the writings of the imam will be exposed and scrutinized and, hopefully, discredited by the media. In the future, the media and the public will feel free to denounce subversive and hateful preachers without having to resort to the CHRC.

He continues to try to have it both ways in this follow-up press release:

1. If the CHRC refuses to consider my complaint (while currently investigating Maclean’s and Mark Steyn), we will be free to conclude that the CHRC defines its mandate as one of censorship of what any Muslim subjectively deems offensive or blasphemous, while protecting the spread of the Salafi ideology which advocates the destruction of democracy and the abolition of our freedoms. The CHRC will come out as an institution betraying its mandate and as being itself a threat to freedom and democracy.

2. If the Commission agrees to open an investigation (and regardless of the outcome), I will have directed the spotlights on the discourse of the imam and the Salafi ideology. The media and the public will be able to freely assess the dangerousness of this ideology and discredit it.[...]

Whatever the outcome of my complaint, I will have proved something. My sole purpose is to stimulate a public debate and strengthen freedom of expression.

If the Commission agrees to open an investigation, then core rights of religious liberty and freedom of expression will be chilled, and if the Commission fines Hayiti the latter's rights will have been violated. This is not a legal weapon to invoke in order to make a point about the weapon itself.

But one gets the strong sense that Lebuis wouldn't at all mind seeing Hayiti punished for his speech and writings. One can argue (correctly) that the Steyn prosecution is illegitimate and violates freedom of speech; or one can grind an axe against disfavored Islamic speech. Can't credibly do both, and the latter urge undercuts the former principle.