The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal have begun proceedings against Mark Steyn, author of America Alone. They are responding to complaints from the Canadian Islamic Congress about an excerpt from the book that was published in the Canadian journal Maclean’s. “The article,” the CIC claims, “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt,” and was “flagrantly Islamophobic.”
To be sure, the article was pretty strong stuff. Here’s a bit of it: “There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe — without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.” Even worse, it goes on to say: “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.”
“A Muslim continent”! “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes”! No wonder the CIC was upset. And not just the CIC: writer Jim Henley, whose articles have appeared in The New Republic and The American Spectator Online, quoted the “mosquitoes” line and called Steyn a “racist.” There were just two problems: The “Muslim continent” statement is not only factual, it’s stated in words no one can characterize as inflammatory. (Also, it’s been said by Libya’s strongman Muammar Qaddafi). Second, “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes” was not Steyn’s phrase. He was quoting Mullah Krekar, a jihadist who currently resides in Norway, although officials have been trying for years to get him out of the country..
And that sums up the problem with the Canadian human rights commissions’ action against Steyn: he was simply reporting on contemporary European reality. It was not Mark Steyn, but Algerian leader Houari Boumédienne who said at the United Nations in 1974: “One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.” Those who want to silence Steyn want to suppress facts and limit free speech.
It was not Steyn who said that “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor,” and that “the conquest this time will not be by the sword but by preaching and ideology.” That was Al-Jazeera’s Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, who is widely hailed as a moderate reformer in the West. Did Steyn say that Muslims “will control the land of the Vatican; we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it”? Nope. That one comes from a Saudi Sheikh, Muhammad bin Abd Al-Rahman Al-‘Arifi, imam of the mosque of King Fahd Defense Academy.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is putting itself in the peculiar position of penalizing those non-Muslims who report on such statements, as if it is somehow an act encouraging “hatred and contempt” to reveal the unpleasant reality that comprises mainstream Islamic rhetoric today. There is no indication that the CHRC has done a thing to investigate the possibility that some Muslims in Canada might hold the views of Mullah Krekar, Qaddafi, Boumédienne, Qaradhawi and Sheikh Muhammad. When the CIC’s President Mohamed Elmasry said in 2004 that all Israelis over age eighteen were legitimate targets, the CHRC took no action. But Elmasry, you see, is part of a protected victim class.
Actions like the one against Steyn threaten the foundation of free society. Once you declare one group off-limits for critical examination, once you declare that these people — whoever they may be — must at all costs not be offended, then you have destroyed one of the essential elements of free speech and political debate. In a free society, people with differing opinions live together in harmony, agreeing not to force their neighbor to be silent if his opinions offend them. If offensive speech had been prohibited in the 1770s, there would be no United States of America, and that is one of the reasons for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Of course, Canada is a different case — but wherever offensive speech is prohibited, the tyrant’s power is solidified. That is no less so in this case, although the tyrant in question is of a different kind.