Some hate appears to be acceptable

Ottawa makes no move to block Islamophobe speakers.

 By: Ihsaan Gardee | Toronto Star, September 16, 2013

Good Jews lie to advance Judaism. It’s the law.

Devout Jews should be prohibited from military service. Would Patton have recruited Nazis into his army?

Jewish loyalty supersedes nationalism, and it is impossible to tell where any given Jew’s loyalties actually lie.

These statements, read on their own, could easily be mistaken as having come from that oft-recycled anti-Semitic hoax, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Most reasonable people, if they were to hear any of these statements and questions, would recognize and rightly object strongly to what are unambiguous anti-Semitic slurs.

Yet for some reason, when Islam or Muslims are substituted for the word Jew or Judaism, people aren’t quite so offended. That’s the natural conclusion one would come to considering that the federal government has remained mum about the upcoming visit by two anti-Muslim speakers to Canada, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

That’s right. Absolute silence despite a letter signed by more than 80 prominent leaders, as well as local and national community organizations representing different faith traditions and thousands of Canadians.

Who’s hosting? The Jewish Defence League of Canada, for one. Their American counterpart was deemed as a terrorist organization by the FBI in a 2001. In Canada, they defend these speakers as simply telling the truth. And yet the public record contradicts these claims.

Geller and Spencer are the leaders of the anti-Muslim group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which has been designated a hate group by respected watchdogs such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. American experts say they “pursue a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda.”

Just last summer, they were both banned by the British government from entering the U.K. because of their public record of hate-mongering and Islamophobia.

Prior to that, Geller was here, again on the dime of JDL Canada, in Toronto. They had to change the venue when the rabbi who originally invited to host her rescinded the invitation, given his role working with multi-faith communities through the York Regional Police.

Of course, proponents of this kind of speech typically argue that preventing people like Geller and Spencer from speaking is an assault on freedom of expression. But where were those same people when Quebec’s minister responsible for the Status of Women, Agnes Maltais, wrote publicly to Ottawa asking it to block some controversial speakers at a conference in Montreal from entering the country, as she did just last month?

And last week, an Ottawa city counsellor shared concerns about an ad campaign on public buses questioning 9/11. She wondered how far freedom of expression should go if it collides with “community acceptability.”

Since 9/11, it’s been open season on Muslim communities who have been vilified, marginalized and mocked by certain segments of our societies. But if any other minority community were treated this way, there would likely be an outcry.

And while the Criminal Code criminalizes the spreading of hate against identifiable groups, critics like Ottawa-based human rights lawyer Richard Warman argue that “institutional barriers make it ‘virtually impossible’ to convince police to press charges criminal charges for hate speech on the Internet.” One is naturally left to wonder about their power to press charges when confronted by this same speech in person.

To be clear, those who have written to the federal government asking it to review the eligibility of these two latest Islamophobes to enter Canada are not trying to limit freedom of speech. What we are asking for is a clear standard to determine what is or isn’t acceptable in a society that values respect, equality, dignity and safety for all its members.

Ihsaan Gardee is the executive director at the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).