Censoring Muhammad pics hurt freedom, Levant says
TORONTO — Ezra Levant contends that an almost unanimous decision by North American media not to publish controversial Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2006 “did more to harm our culture and liberty than 9/11 itself.”
The author and Sun Media newspaper columnist and TV host was speaking Dec. 4 at City Playhouse Theatre in Thornhill, at an event sponsored by Canadian Hadassah-WIZO’s Hatikvah chapter. His topic for the evening was “Political Correctness and the Rise of Islamism.”
Levant recalled his decision as publisher of the now-defunct Western Standard, a bi-weekly publication, to publish the cartoons. “They’re news, and I’m a newspaper,” he said.
Although he said he got a lot of support from Muslims and Arabs for his decision, he was the subject of an investigation by the Alberta Human Rights Commission, one of 14 such commissions in Canada.
“Of course I was guilty,” Levant said. “I did something to cause someone else to feel some way.”
More recently, Levant’s Sept. 5 on-air rant on Sun News against Canada’s Roma community prompted the Toronto Roma Community Centre to launch a hate speech complaint with Toronto police that is currently under investigation.
He likened the reaction to his publication of the Muhammad cartoons to the movie Minority Report, which featured a department of “pre-crime.” Hatred and contempt are feelings, he said. “You are not normal if in your life you do not feel feelings… That’s part of being a grown-up, to take those feelings and transform them into something positive.
“It’s no longer acceptable to criticize Islam,” he said. “We must tolerate offensive ideas.”
Levant said that, rather, “the No. 1 way to fight back against radical Islam is by speaking the truth about it, by criticizing it.
“I want to know who the antisemites are – don’t you?” he asked. “That way, you know who to like, who to vote for, and who to oppose.”
He believes that Holocaust denial, too, provides “what the left would call a teachable moment.
“A hateful comment shouldn’t be something to fear… It’s a lot easier to call in the hate crime cops than to mobilize the truth about Israel, than to build a coalition with other students – Christian and Arab students. At the end of the day, not only will the country be stronger, but you will, too.”
The right not to be offended is not a real right. It’s a counterfeit right. It’s another way of saying ‘the power to shut someone else up.’ And that is my deepest grievance with these so-called human right commissions. They undermine our real human rights,” he said, emphasizing the word “real.”
Levant said that “liberal human rights” can be traced to post-Holocaust Jews who pushed for “censorship” laws to prosecute John Ross Taylor, a pro-Hitler “eccentric” who “made it his life’s hobby to try to convince Canadians to be fascists.”
Levant noted that Canada’s Jewish population, numbering less than 400,000, is now outnumbered by a Muslim population of just under one million.
“You cannot pass a law just for your team,” Levant said. “I think it was a disaster that we eroded freedom of speech as much as we did, but it was harmless then.”