Muslims test press freedom limits in Canadian case

Sun Jan 6, 2008 8:43am EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - An Islamic group's demand that a Canadian magazine publish its response to an article that said Muslims were set to swamp the West has sparked warnings of government-imposed restrictions on freedom of expression.

The Canadian Islamic Congress, one of Canada's largest Muslim groups, says Maclean's, a popular Canadian weekly news magazine, subjected Muslims to hate speech with an article in October 2006 by best-selling author Mark Steyn that said a high Muslim birthrate, combined with Muslims "hot for jihad," could conquer a West that is unwilling to stand up for its civilization.

The Islamic group has asked a government body to step in to guarantee it the right to an equal-length rebuttal to the article, which was an excerpt from Steyn's September 2006 book "America Alone."

"This article completely misrepresents Canadian Muslims' values, their community, and their religion," said Canadian Islamic Congress lawyer Faisal Joseph.

Maclean's says it has already run 27 letters from readers, many opposed to Steyn's piece, and is ready to consider a further response. But it said the CIC wanted to direct the art work for the rebuttal and to run it on the cover.

Publisher Kenneth Whyte said he would rather go bankrupt than have the CIC set the terms for what the magazine publishes.

The Canadian and British Columbia human rights commissions have agreed to investigate the complaints, and the Muslim group has the high-profile backing of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

"We need to make sure that folks are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of who it is , whether it's Maclean's or anybody," said the union federation's executive vice president, Terry Downey, formerly a human rights investigator.   Continued...