At The Weekly Standard, Lee Harris takes one of the most balanced looks yet at Canada's human rights commissions, which are currently investigating complaints against high-profile conservative writers Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn. Both have been the subject of complaints from Muslims.
There has been remarkably little interest shown in these cases by the American media, usually so alert to perceived violations of the right to free speech, and it is perhaps too easy to speculate why the editorial boards of our leading newspapers and magazines have not gotten up in arms over these attacks on their Canadian colleagues. Could it be that they are not as keen on defending our right to speak ill of Islam as they are to defend our right to speak ill of virtually everything else?
From there, however, the piece seems to go downhill. In an example of the soft bigotry of low expectations, Harris credits Levant's complainant for not rioting in the streets.
Fortunately, in the case of the Western Standard, there were no riots or deaths. It is true that Levant appears to have offended at least one Muslim, namely, the man who has filed the complaints against him. But Soharwardy did not stab Levant to death, or blow him up--and, to quote Gilbert and Sullivan, this is "greatly to his credit." Soharwardy may not be an Englishman, like the able seaman of the Pinafore, but at least he is behaving like one, vigorously availing himself of the law and its loopholes in order to get his way, and thereby avoiding the violence that so often accompanies expression of Muslim anger in other parts of the world. Canadian law has made the mere expression of hatred a crime, unlike American law, which must consider whether hateful speech is likely to lead to the actual physical harm of the person who is its object; and who can really fault Soharwardy for thus taking advantage of opportunities placed in his way? Levant may well object to Canadian law on this matter, and he may even be right to argue that the Alberta Human Rights Commission has exceeded its mandate by taking his case under consideration. But that is not Soharwardy's fault.
Harris then provides a totally misguided theory about the purposes of human rights commissions in Canada.
Let offended Muslims file complaints to their heart's content. Make outraged imams fill out tedious forms. Require self-appointed mullahs, representing imaginary counsels and committees, to provide documentation of their grievances. Encourage them to vent through the intrinsically stifling bureaucratic channels provided by panels like the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Show them, nanny-like, that you care about their injured feelings. Patiently and silently listen to their indignant complaints, and let them, ideally, get it all out of their systems. Humoring, let us remember, is not appeasement, but often a clever way to coax troublesome children of all ages into behaving like civilized human beings. Every good nanny knows as much. So perhaps there is something that the rest of the world can learn from the Canadian nanny's book of tricks. If it is a book of tricks. . .
Yes, "if it is."
Harris totally ignores the fact that these commmissions were set up prior to the worldwide jihad and were not created as a way to prevent rioting in the streets. Also, they have a 100 per cent conviction rate for hate speech.
He concludes with this scary thought.
If enough Muslims continue to react with violence to criticism of their religion and culture, all the other nations of the West will eventually be forced to make a tragic choice between two of our highest values. Either we must clamp down on critics of Islam, mandating a uniform code of political correctness, or else we must let the critics say what they wish, regardless of the consequences, and in full knowledge that these consequences may include the death of innocents. This is not a choice that the West has had to face since the end of our own furor theologicus several centuries ago, but, like it or not, it is the choice that we are facing again today.