Late yesterday I stumbled across an article about a “human rights complaint” filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) against Maclean’s, Canada’s most widely-read news magazine, for running a “flagrantly Islamophobic” excerpt from Mark Steyn’s book, America Alone. At least two Canadian Human Rights Commissions have agreed to hear these complaints. Only then did I find Steyn’s too-easily-missed late-night post from Wednesday on the controversy.
This is a big deal. The blogosphere has so far largely missed it, but this attack on Mark Steyn is very much our business. There may be an impulse to dismiss this assault on Steyn, on the assumption that it will fail, that Steyn is a big boy and can take care of himself, and that in any case this is crazy Canada, where political correctness rules, rather than the land of the free. That would be a mistake. The Canadian Islamic Congress’s war on Mark Steyn and Maclean’s is an attack on all of us. I’ll say more in a moment about how a Canadian case can reach into America, but let’s first take a look at the goings on up north.
The complaints against Maclean’s for publishing an excerpt from America Alone have been filed by several Canadian law students and by Faisal Joseph, a former crown attorney. Maclean’s published a total of 27 letters over two issues in response to Steyn’s piece–more responses than any Maclean’s cover story received over the past year. Yet when the law students demanded a longer response, Maclean’s was willing to consider it. The students then insisted that Maclean’s run a five-page article, written by an author of their choice, with no editing by the magazine. They also demanded that the reply to Steyn be a cover story, with art controlled by them, rather than the magazine. At this point, Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Whyte showed them the door, saying he would rather let Maclean’s go bankrupt than permit someone outside of operations dictate the magazine’s content.
The tiff over the excerpt from America Alone is only the tip of the iceberg. The Canadian Islamic Congress has actually accused several Canadian news outlets of Islamophobia. CIC issued a report entitled “Maclean’s Magazine: A Case Study of Media-Propogated Islamophobia,” in which at least 18 articles were said to show anti-Muslim bias. Canada’s National Post has been similarly attacked. Here, journalist Andrew Coyne explains how he was accused of endangering Muslims merely for having penned the phrase: “…the massive backlash against innocent Muslims that failed to materialize…”
Although the more liberal Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has criticized CIC and defended Maclean’s, it’s worth noting that CIC has managed to successfully intimidate MCC in the past. Coyne notes that a spokesman for MCC resigned his post last year when the president of the CIC accused him of “smearing Islam.” The charge of de facto apostasy left the MCC spokesman fearing for his safety.
What about the article in question–the actual excerpt from America Alone published in Maclean’s? Read it and you’ll see that Steyn is an equal opportunity savager. Enervated Europeans come in for every bit as much criticism as jihadi terrorists–more, really. The closer to home, the tougher Steyn gets. Of all Europeans, Steyn is hardest on culturally “dead” Belgians, the country where Steyn’s mother and grandparents came from. The only really vicious insult in the piece is hurled at Steyn himself.
This piece by Ali Eteraz in the Guardian commendably repudiates CIC’s attack on free speech. Even so, none of Eteraz’s points against the actual substance of Steyn’s piece hold water. Steyn does not say that “all” Muslims are radicals. If anything, Steyn goes out of his way to say that matters are not so simple. For example, he notes that the radicalization of South Asian Muslims is recent, and explains that it’s the watery weakness of Europe’s own multicultural ideology that forces Muslims back onto radicalism for a sense of cultural coherence. If anything, the anti-free-speech attacks on Steyn and Maclean’s, by Western-trained lawyers, no less, show that Steyn’s concerns about poorly assimilated Western values are more than justified.
Ugly as this affair may be, can we assume that Steyn and Maclean’s will ultimately emerge unscathed–and that America, at least, is safe from this sort of crazy Canadian multiculturalism? No we cannot. However they’re resolved, these high profile cases take a toll on all concerned. More important, they send a chill over smaller fish.
Americans need to recognize the pattern here, and we also need to realize that it has already invaded the United States. American readers depend on international outlets. We often read our Steyn in Canadian publications. So an attack on Steyn in Canada is an attack on America. And recall the ongoing battle over “libel tourism,” which resulted in attempts to use British law to pull Alms for Jihad from American library shelves. (Here’s the latest update on the libel tourism battle, and how it threatens free speech in America.) And take a look at this list of Muslim libel cases in America. (Be sure to read the end of that account for an understanding of how enervating and intimidating these cases can be–especially for targets less well-placed than Steyn or Maclean’s.)
Then consider my post from yesterday on the spread of “bias reporting systems” to American college campuses. As in Canada, these systems may begin in response to alleged “homophobia,” (see the link to the article on Georgetown in my post), but they also open up opportunities for accusations of “Islamophobia.” (The term itself shows the echo effect.) Making use of “bias reporting” to attack Georgetown’s Catholic culture will surely play into the hands of Georgetown’s Saudi-funded programs to promote “Muslim-Christian understanding.” These programs are positive connoisseurs of “Islamophobia.” Give them a bias reporting system–especially an anonymous one–and they could easily go to town. And for more on the influence of Saudi money on American education, sure to open the field to CIC-like attacks on “Islamophobia,” see “Saudi in the Classroom.”
Connect the dots and you will see that the attack on Mark Steyn in Canada is part and parcel of a world-wide assault on free speech that has already reached well into America. This is our battle. It is essential that there be widespread public condemnation of the attack on Mark Steyn. Not only does this “human rights” complaint have to fail, it has to fail miserably and with embarrassment. Otherwise, whatever the formal result, the chilling effect will be one more victory for the forces trying to destroy our rights.