Two years ago Maclean's, the oldest newsweekly in Canada, published an excerpt of Mark Steyn's book America Alone, which sharply critiques the ascendancy of Islam in a Western world suffering from "civilizational exhaustion." Activists led by Canadian Islamic Congress president Mohamed Elmasry filed complaints against both Steyn and Maclean's in multiple human rights courts last December, charging that the magazine "subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt."
From June 2 to 6, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal heard arguments in the case. National Post correspondent Brian Hutchinson compiled daily summaries (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) of what he called a "bizarre and frightening spectacle." Kathy Shaidle has offered a more succinct overview.
Perhaps the Tribunal's most disturbing aspect is the plaintiff-friendly landscape that has allowed such courts to become instruments for silencing critics of Islamism. "Strict rules of evidence do not apply," the chairwoman noted at the outset. According to Hutchinson, "the complainants were under no obligation to prove harm, or malicious intent; all that is required … is a reasonable determination that the excerpt did express hatred and contempt toward Muslims, and likely caused it to spread. That's the test."
Entered into evidence were reams of internet posts "inspired" by Steyn's excerpt. Then Faiza Hirji, a university lecturer whose thin CV highlights deconstructionist research on rapper Queen Latifah and television's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was permitted to testify as "an expert in analyzing stereotypes in the media." She proceeded to dissect Steyn's article, claiming evidence of negative stereotypes in paragraph after paragraph.
Co-complainant Naiyer Habib described how the aforementioned internet posts had caused him pain. "It's humiliating, dishonoring, questioning our morals in Western society where we live," he said. Habib insisted that Maclean's is partly to blame, as the posts "were influenced by the article." Finally, Habib's lawyer asked that the Tribunal order Maclean's to publish a "counterview article … [or] a summary of at least the Tribunal's judgments and findings and a declaration [that the excerpt] was hatred and contemptuous."
Steyn, who expects to be found guilty, was characteristically defiant:
We want to lose so we can take it to a real court and if necessary up to the Supreme Court of Canada and we can get the ancient liberties of freeborn Canadian citizens that have been taken away from them by tribunals like this.
Yes, Canadians may be freeborn. But faced with a coordinated assault from Islamists and multicultural do-gooders pushing censorship, how long will they remain that way?