Ezra Levant and the editorial staff of the Western Standard made the decision to run the infamous Danish cartoons. The magazine is an independent enterprise, answerable to its subscribers. If subscribers have a problem with Ezra’s decision, they can cancel their subscriptions, or protest by way of letters. Occasional readers have been warned of the magazine’s intentions and can choose to pick one up at the newsstand, or not.
Last week, I said that printing the cartoons in Canada was not a free speech issue, because no one had attempted to prohibit their publishing here. An innocuous statement by the Foreign Affairs Minister praising Canadian media for not printing them, was not an order to refrain. Government had not directed media, it was simply commenting on the situation as it stood. So, in my opinion, there was no compelling reason for the media to offend a segment of our population in the name of informing the public, particularly when the cartoons are widely available to anyone who wants to see them.
Then Ezra Levant announced his intention to print the cartoons. Before the magazine had even hit the newsstands or mailboxes, The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada responded by lodging a criminal complaint. One would presume this was done in hopes of stopping the magazines from reaching customers. That action by this group -- and the simple fact that they felt free to try to take away the right of the Western Standard to exercise editorial judgement over the content of their magazine – prior to publication no less -- has changed this from an issue of ‘choosing not to offend’ to a free speech issue.
Today we read in the NP that new Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor has said that the publication of these cartoons ‘puts our troops at risk’. Three weeks ago, no Canadian media outlet had printed the cartoons and yet a Canadian diplomat was killed and Canadian soldiers criticly wounded by a murder-by-suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Terrorists decided to kill and maim, without cartoons as an 'impetus', and yet Minister O’Connor wants us to conclude that if in future, Canadian troops meet with violence, in a war zone, where radical Muslims despise and murder Westerners in the name of their god, that Ezra Levant is somehow culpable.
It all comes down to personal responsibility. If we accept that each of us is responsible for our own actions, then we have to conclude that if a maniacal psychopath murders people, he will do so regardless of what Ezra Levant prints in his magazine. Extremists can say it was the cartoons, American foreign policy, the greed and decadence of Western civilization – they can use any excuse they want, but nothing ‘causes’ someone to commit murder except the utter lack of respect for human life.
Minister O’Connor has given Islamic extremists an out. He has told them that if they commit atrocities against our citizens or against our soldiers, that instead of placing blame where it belongs – with them – Canada will look to Ezra Levant and say ‘see what you made them do.’
The ‘causes’ of murder-by-suicide bombings are a sense of entitlement, a lack of self-control and the realisation that the Western victim societies will look inward, and blame themselves, rather than force extremists to accept responsibility for their own barbarity. When radical Muslims decide to blow up people to 'make a point', they have exited the realm of civilized discourse and their sensibilities are not worthy of respecting.
And now, the European Union is going along with the insane anti-blasphemy idea put forward by the United Nations. Cultural and religious sensitivity is something that should be encouraged, not coerced. Irreverence and satire are legitimate and valuable forms of expression --they are part of the cultural inheritance of English-speaking countries. We test our institutions – cultural, political and religious – when we examine them with humour and skepticism. This kind of scrutiny enables us to grow – it helps us to separate what is essential from what is unimportant, what is holy from what is chaff. It prevents us from worshipping false idols, and gives perspective to issues and ideas that we take too seriously, or not seriously enough. Expunging these avenues of discourse from our conversational tool-box is a radical, ill-conceived plan. It will close the doors of communication rather than quell disagreements.
Drawing a co-relation between the cartoons and potential future violence perpetrated by Islamic murderers is a dangerous connection. It simplifies Islamic terror to ‘cause and effect’ – but words and cartoons don’t cause people to behave with violent frenzy.
Suggesting that printing these cartoons ‘puts our troops at risk’ is a short step from excusing or justifying future violence, as being in response to their publication by the Western Standard.
If A happens (the cartoons are published) and B happens (violent Muslims kill Canadians), it doesn’t follow that A caused B.
Did it ever occur to the Muslims who kill people in the name of their religion, that their violence and intolerance is not ‘sparked’ by cartoons, but rather, the cartoons were sparked by Muslim violence and intolerance.
If I have to order it from their website, I'll grab a copy of the Western Standard this month. And if radical Muslims kill our soldiers in the days and weeks ahead -- I'll blame the killers.