In his pieceÂ Islamists who have a problem with free speech should leave, Tarek Fatah enlightened theÂ Post’s readers with the name-calling he directs at anyone he disagrees with, which Muslims across Canada have grown accustomed to. This time around the target was our colleague and fellow sock-puppet (as we have come to be known) in our human rights complainants againstÂ Maclean’s, Khurrum Awan.Â
According to Fatah, by filing a human rights complaint and calling upon Muslims to demand a representative voice in media, this law student qualifies as an “Islamist” allied with Osama bin Laden.
Fatah’s muddled rant reminds us of a December 3rd press release about our complaints issued by Fatah’s Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC), an organization consisting of five individuals and a coffee table: “Mark Steyn’s piece was definitely alarmist, but the answer to his challenge is to write a counter-piece and demand that Maclean’s publish it.” Of course, we had already askedÂ Maclean’s for a counter-piece nine months earlier and been refused. But verifying facts is not a quality that Fatah’s crew is known for.
But Fatah wasn’t done. Following the Ontario Human Rights Commission statement condemningÂ Maclean’s for its Islamophobic content, Fatah told theÂ Post that the statement was the work ofÂ “hardline Islamic supporters of Islamic extremism” employed by the Commission. The same day, Fatah’s MCC issued yet another press release informing Canadians that the Commission’s statement was “cause for celebration in Osama bin Laden’s cave and among the soldiers of the world Jihadi movement.”
Apart from the evident ridiculousness of these assertions, it is interesting that Fatah has such insight into the activities underway in Osama’s cave. Perhaps a lengthy interview with CSIS is in order.
On a more serious note, Fatah’s name-calling detracts from the real issue, which is the exclusion of Muslim voices from our national media in a context where Islam and Muslims are a regular subject of discussion. One would think that if Muslims were a topic of interest, our national media would provide some coverage to their perspectives.
In fact, the only Muslim columnists providing some informed perspective on Muslim-related issues are Haroon Siddiqui of theÂ Toronto Star and Sheema Khan of theÂ Globe and Mail. Ms. Khan’s column is only published monthly, and both columnists are frequently subjected to abuse from the likes of Fatah. On the other side of the equation, newspapers across Canada employ multiple commentators providing regular, right-wing analysis on Muslims and Islam.
And that is our point; anti-Muslim prejudice is growing because of pieces like the one thatÂ Maclean’s published, and that led to our human rights complaints, in a context where there is an absence of Muslim (or other) voices to challenge the material in question. The limitless free speech model â€” that the solution to harmful and hateful speech is more and better speech â€” does not work for minority communities, and our complaints illustrate that:Â Maclean’s still refuses to publish a response to just one of over twenty articles that even the Ontario Human Rights Commission condemned as Islamophobic.
And that is why free speech is not limitless in our democracy. Section 1 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that all rights in our democracy are subject to reasonable limits. The Supreme Court of Canada (not a bunch of Islamists) properly recognized that free speech is not limitless in upholding our criminal and human rights laws regulating hate speech. In imposing these limits, the Supreme Court noted that hate speech undermines the equality rights and multicultural heritage guaranteed in our Charter.
If however our media would like speech to be limitless, it has an obligation to cover the views of the community it is talking about.