Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hate speech is hate speech

Are all haters treated equally in this fair land?

Here are two cases, one of which, I admit, has been bothering me for some time. This was a complaint brought to the Canadian Human Rights Commission by conservative blogger Marc Lebuis. His site is so over-the-top Islamophobic that I confess I didn't read his complaint at first with any thoroughness. But here it all is, and I think he had a point.

The complaint was rejected out of hand. Admittedly, we shouldn't mix apples and oranges: Stephen Boissoin, against whom a complaint of homophobia was upheld, was before the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, not the CHRC. But I was surprised, nonetheless, given the sheer ferocity of Imam Abou Hammaad Sulaiman Dameus Al-Hayiti's written comments, that the matter didn't proceed to a hearing.

Now we have this charming fellow, one Salman Hossain, who has just escaped prosecution under Canada's hate legislation. Again, comparisons may be unhelpful: this was under consideration as a criminal matter, not a complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which might have fared better. And yet we recall the relentless prosecution of aging David Ahenakew for uttering one burst of hatred to a reporter, because of which he lost his reputation and his membership in the Order of Canada, and was before the courts for years.

What Hossain and Al-Hayiti have put on the public record is foul, undisguised, unmitigated hatred. Did they merely manage to dance miraculously through the judicial raindrops without getting wet--or do the Usual Suspects have, for once, a valid point?

Needless to say, the latter are trying to make a case that fails to convince--i.e., that Islamists get a pass from our judicial system, the disparate parts of which are somehow in cahoots, but that anyway, Hossain and Al-Hayiti should be entirely free to say whatever they want.

I disagree. I will concede that there seems to be a yawning disparity here. But, unlike the Speech Warriors™, I think it should be resolved with the appropriate complaints and charges. Comments?

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