Tuesday, 6 January 2009

"I will not minimise my reasons so that they are palatable... I do not answer to the state"

Via Reason, my attention is drawn to the Western Standard's 'Liberty 100,' a list of Canadian activists and journalists who have resisted the encroaching growth of the state's power. Topping the list is Ezra Levant, a former newspaper editor who republished the controversial cartoons of Mohammed first featured in Jyllands Posten in September 2005. Following a complaint by two local Muslim groups, Levant was dragged in front of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, under the charge of 'publishing Islamophobic hate speech.'

The case caught the imagination of bloggers (where I first heard of it) after Levant recorded the first interrogation and uploaded it to youtube. In it, he subjects the civil servant inquisitor to a furious barrage reminiscent of a Howard Roark or John Galt monologue. From his introductory statement:
"It is my position that the government has no legal or moral authority to interrogate me or anyone else for publishing these words and pictures. That is a violation of my ancient and inalienable freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and, in this case, religious freedom, and the separation of mosque and state. It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta 'Human Rights' Commission would be the government agency violating my human rights... We have a heritage of free speech that we inherited from Great Britain that goes back to the year 1215 and the Magna Carta. We have a heritage of 800 years of British Common Law's protection of free speech, augmented by 250 years of Common Law in Canada... For a government bureaucrat to call any publisher, or anyone else, to an investigation to be quizzed about his political and religious expression is a violation of 800 years of Common Law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our Bill of Rights and our Charter of Rights... It is a system that is part-Kafka, and part-Stalin."

And, when quizzed about the intention behind publishing the cartoons:

The full set of videos are here, and supply a refreshing challenge to the widespread belief in the superiority of group rights - in particular, the right not to have a group's beliefs offended - over individual rights. Fortunately, in this case, good sense prevailed: one of the complainants withdrew, and Ezra Levant was found not guilty of the other accusation.

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