Ezra Levant fought the good fight and it seems he has won. But Ezra sees this more as a hudna than a surrender and he plans on counter suing. And this does not end the controversy over hate speech laws in Canada.
CALGARY -- Calgary Muslim leader Syed Soharwardy says he is withdrawing his Alberta Human Rights Commission complaint against former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant.
The complaint was launched in February 2006, after the Western Standard and the Jewish Free Press reprinted cartoons from a Danish newspaper that many in the Muslim world felt insulted the prophet Muhammad. The cartoons sparked violent protests in a number of countries.
"Over the two years that we have gone through the process, I understand that most Canadians see this as an issue of freedom of speech, that that principle is sacred and holy in our society," said Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.
"I believe Canadian society is mature enough not to absorb the messages that the cartoons sent. Only a very small fraction of Canadian media decided to publish those cartoons."
Mr. Levant said he isn't buying Mr. Soharwardy's promise, calling it a "temporary, tactical truce."
"I don't believe him. He thought this would be easy to do, just sic the human rights commission on me and it would be done. But I decided to fight back," said Mr. Levant.
"He's hurting right now. . . . What he's now saying he is going to do is not a true reflection of his feelings."
Mr. Levant said he plans to launch a civil lawsuit against Mr. Soharwardy to recover the tens of thousands of dollars he said he has spent battling the complaint.
"I put in at least 100 hours fighting this guy. He may want to run away from this issue, but I'm not going to. His values are out of sync with Canadian society."
Mr. Soharwardy said he had received a number of "hateful" e-mails after the cartoons were published locally.
He said he knows some of his supporters will see his decision as backing away from a fight.
"But I hope people see this as a positive action, that it will create better feelings between Muslims and all Canadians," Mr. Soharwardy said.
"I'm not giving up working in the front lines. But I feel at this time withdrawing the complaint is the right thing to do."
After the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada filed the complaints against the two publications in 2006, Mr. Soharwardy and Jewish Free Press publisher Richard Bronstein met with a human rights commission mediator in March 2007. They settled their dispute with a handshake and Mr. Soharwardy withdrew his complaint. Mr. Bronstein later spoke to Muslims at a meeting at the mosque where Mr. Soharwardy serves as imam.
"I think Syed got something out of this process, too," said Mr. Bronstein. "I think this kind of complaint harmed his interests more than it helped.
"There's a widespread belief in the public that people don't want to hear offensive speech all the time. But to some degree, we have to permit it in our society if we're going to have freedom of speech."