Den canadiske forfatteren av bestselgeren «America Alone. The End of the World as We Know It», Mark Steyn, anklages av den canadiske sammenslutning av muslimske organisasjoner for forhånelse og krenkelse av muslimer og islam. 2 menneskerettighetskommisjoner har så langt sagt ja til å etterforske saken.
I desember ble Steyn innklaget etter at det canadiske magasinet Macleans trykket tre kapitler fra Steyns bok. Artikkelen bar overskriften «Fremtiden tilhører islam». 4 jus-studenter sendte klager til 3 av Canadas mange menneskerettighetskommisjoner, der de på vegne av Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) krever Steyn og tidsskriftet straffet for å spre «hat og forakt mot muslimer». Klagene innholder ingen påstander om at den aktuelle artikkelen er feilaktig eller injurierende i juridisk forstand, men er hovedsakelig basert på klagernes subjektive følelser i det artikkelens innhold skal ha fornærmet og krenket dem.
Mark Steyn anklages også for å utvise forakt mot islam ved indirekte å hevde at islamsk kultur er uforenlig med vestlig sivilisasjon. Saken skal foreløpig høres av menneskerettighetskommisjonene Canadian Human Rights Commission og British Columbia Human Rights Commission.
Imidlertid anerkjenner verken Steyn eller tidsskriftet Macleans menneskerettighetskommisjonenes autoritet og disses forsøk på tilegne seg jurisdiksjon over redaksjonelle bestemmelser. I stedet reiser de alvorlige spørsmål om kommisjonenes virksomhet.
These students are not cited in the offending article. Canadian Muslims are not the subject of the piece. Indeed, Canada is not mentioned at all, except en passant. Yet Canada’s «human rights» commissions have accepted the premise of the Canadian Islamic Congress – that the article potentially breaches these students’ «human rights.»
Since the CIC launched its complaint, I’ve been asked by various correspondents what my defence is. My defence is I shouldn’t have to have a defence. The «plaintiffs» are not complaining that the article is false, or libellous, or seditious, for all of which there would be appropriate legal remedy. Their complaint is essentially emotional: it «offended» them. And as offensiveness is in the eye of the of¬¬fended, there’s not a lot I can do about that.
Men gitt at den mest fundamentale menneskerettigheten i dagens Canada tilsynelatende er retten til å ikke bli fornærmet, så undres Steyn på om han har tillatelse til å si hva han opplever som fornærmende:
I’m offended by the federal and British Columbia human rights commissions’ presumption that the editing decisions of Maclean’s fall within their jurisdiction. Or to put it another way, I don’t accept that free-born Canadian citizens require the permission of the Canadian state to read my columns. The eminent Q.C. who heads the Canadian Human Rights Commission may well be a shrewd and insightful person but I don’t believe her view of Maclean’s cover stories should carry any more weight than that of Mrs. Mabel Scroggins of 47 Strathcona Gardens. And it is slightly unnerving to me that large numbers of Canadians apparently think there’s nothing wrong in subjecting the contents of political magazines to «judicial review.»
Let’s take it as read that I am, as claimed, «offensive.» That’s the point. It’s offensive speech that requires legal protection. As a general rule, Barney the Dinosaur singing «Sharing is Caring» can rub along just fine. Take, for example, two prominent figures from Scandinavia. Extremely prominent, as it happens. In his Christmas address to the Swedish people, King Carl Gustaf hailed the dawn of «one new Sweden. Young people with roots in other cultures put Sweden on the map in musical styles, in the field of sports, with business ideas that were not there when I was younger…To welcome changes and to let the mix of cultures and experiences enrich our lives and our society is the only road ahead.» Blah blah blah. Usual multiculti bromides. Could have been our own Queen’s Christmas message or her vicereine on Canada Day. Stick it in the Globe and Mail and no one would bat an eyelid.
By contrast, here’s another Scandinavian head of state. Two years ago, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, musing on Islamic radicalism in her own country, said that people need occasionally to «show their opposition to Islam… It is a challenge we have to take seriously. We have let this issue float about for too long because we are tolerant and very lazy. And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction.»
Can you still print the Queen of Denmark’s remarks in a Canadian publication? To be honest, I’m not sure. If you examine Dr. Mohamed Elmasry’s formal complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission about my article, Grievance #16 objects to the following assertion:
«The number of Muslims in Europe is expanding like ‘mosquitoes.’ «
That claim certainly appears in my piece. But they’re the words not of a notorious right-wing Islamophobic columnist but of a big¬¬shot Scandinavian Muslim:
» ‘We’re the ones who will change you,’ the Norwegian imam Mullah Krekar told the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet in 2006. ‘Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.’ »
Given that the «mosquitoes» line is part of the basis on which the HRC accepted Dr. Elmasry’s complaint of «Islamophobia,» I’m interested to know what precisely is the offence? Are Mullah Krekar’s words themselves Islamophobic? Or do they only become so when I quote them? The complainants want a world in which a Norwegian imam can make statements in a Norwegian newspaper but if a Canadian columnist reprints them in a Canadian publication it’s a «hate crime.» It’s striking to examine the Canadian Islamic Congress’s complaints and see how many of their objections are to facts, statistics, quotations – not to their accuracy but merely to the quoting thereof. But, of course, they’ve picked the correct forum: before the human rights commissions, truth is no defence.
Det er fullstendig kostnadsfritt for enhver borger å kreve en høring ved de canadiske menneskerettighetskommisjonene; hele prosessen og eventuell juridisk representasjon for anklageren finansieres av det offentlige, mens den innklagede må bære samtlige av sine juridiske kostnader selv.
Skjevheten i det etablerte systemet får flere til å hevde at straff fra menneskerettighetskommisjonene ikke skjer ved en eventuell dom – det er prosessen som sådan som er straffen. Selv ved en frikjennelse går anklageren fri for alle omkostninger, mens den anklagede uforskyldt har måttet bruke tid og penger på å forsvare seg mot grunnløse påstander.
Det er ikke bare Mark Steyn og Macleans som ser med bekymring på det aktive misbruket av Canadas menneskerettighetskommisjoner. Bekymringen deles av Alan Borovoy, en ledende canadisk advokat kjent for sitt store engasjement for sivile fri- og rettigheter. Borovoy hadde en sentral rolle i arbeidet med å forme og nedsette de samme menneskerettighetskommisjonene i 60 og 70 årene, og er i dag sjefsrådgiver for Canadian Civil Liberties Association. I 2006 ble magasinet «Western Standard» klaget inn for Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) etter å ha publisert Muhammed-karikaturene. At kommisjonen i det hele tatt tok klagen til følge fikk Borovoy til å skrive at han og hans kollegaer aldri hadde forestilt seg at kommisjonene ville bli benyttet til å innskrenke ytringsfriheten:
One of the leaders in Canadian human rights law, Alan Borovoy, was so disturbed by Soharwardy’s abuse of the human rights commission that he wrote a public letter about it in the Calgary Herald on March 16th.
«During the years when my colleagues and I were labouring to create such commissions, we never imagined that they might ultimately be used against freedom of speech,» wrote Borovoy, who is general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Censorship was «hardly the role we had envisioned for human rights commissions. There should be no question of the right to publish the impugned cartoons,» he wrote.
Borovoy went even further – he said that the human rights laws should be changed to avoid this sort of abuse in the future. «It would be best, therefore, to change the provisions of the Human Rights Act to remove any such ambiguities of interpretation,» he wrote.
Canadiske medier rapporterer at de føderale menneskerettighetskommisjonene i løpet av sin 30-årige virksomhet ikke har felt en eneste dom til fordel for den anklagede. Samtidig med kommisjonenes interesse for Steyn pågår høringen av Ezra Levant, tidligere ansvarlig for publiseringen av Muhammed-karikaturene i «Western Standard», i AHRC. Levant har forøvrig inntatt samme offensive standpunkt som Mark Steyn, som skriver:
Just for the record, my book is not about Islam, not really. Rather, it posits Islam as an opportunist beneficiary of Western self-enfeeblement. The most important quotation in the entire text is nothing to do with Muslims or mosquitoes but a bald statement by the late historian Arnold Toynbee: «Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.»
One manifestation of that suicidal urge is the human rights commission. It is an illiberal notion harnessed in the cause, supposedly, of liberalism: gays don’t like uptight Christians flaunting the more robust passages of Leviticus? Don’t worry about it. We’ll set up a body that’ll hunt down Bible-quoting losers in basements and ensure they’ll trouble you no further. Just a few recalcitrant knuckle-draggers who decline to get with the beat. Don’t give ’em a thought. Nothing to see here, folks.
The Canadian Islamic Congress is now using this pseudo-judicial shortcut to circumscribe debate on one of the great central questions of the age: the demographic transformation of much of the Western world. The Islamification of Europe is a fact. It’s happening. It’s under way right now. Are Canadian magazines allowed to acknowledge that? And, if they do, are they allowed to posit various scenarios as to how it might all shake out? The CIC objects to articles that suggest all Muslims are jihadists and radicals. Very well. Are we permitted to try and calibrate what proportion is radical? For example, a recent poll found that 36 per cent of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 believe that those who convert to another religion should be punished by death. That’s not 36 per cent of young Muslims in Waziristan or Yemen or Sudan, but 36 per cent in the United Kingdom. Forty per cent of British Muslims would like to live under sharia, in Britain. Twenty per cent have sympathy for the July 7 Tube bombers. And, given that Islam is the principal source of population growth in every city down the spine of England from Manchester to Sheffield to Birmingham to London, these statistics are not without significance for Britain’s future. Can we talk about it?
Ikke hvis Canadian Islamic Congress og deres hjelpere i menneskerettighetskommisjonene får viljen sin, mener Steyn:
Nonetheless, even in this craven environment, Canada’s «human rights commissions» are uniquely inimical to the marketplace of ideas. In its 30 years of existence, no complaint brought to the federal HRC under Section XIII has been settled in favour of the defendant. A court where the rulings only go one way is the very definition of a show trial. These institutions should be a source of shame to Canadians.
So I’m not interested in the verdict – except insofar as an acquittal would be more likely to legitimize the human rights commissions’ attempt to regulate political speech, and thus contribute to the shrivelling of liberty in Canada.
I’m interested only in getting the HRCs out of this business entirely.
When it comes to free speech on one of the critical issues of the age, to reprise Sir Edward Grey on the eve of the Great War, the lamps are going out all over the world – one distributor, one publisher, one novelist, one cartoonist, one TV host at a time.