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Illustration by Anthony Jenkins (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Illustration by Anthony Jenkins (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

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Demonizing Muslims: To what end? Add to ...

Why do certain media choose to offer platforms to those who spread malicious lies and instill fear about Muslims? Do they agree with those sentiments? Is it to influence their government’s policies on multiculturalism, immigration or laws banning Muslim institutions and practices? Is it in the name of free speech for Muslim-bashers? To fill space? To improve ratings? Or merely for the hell of it?

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Take a look at the Canadian cases of Maclean's magazine and columnist Mark Steyn, and the Sun Media chain and both Geert Wilders and Ann Coulter. All three warn of the imminent Muslim threat to civilization – that’s good old us, of course – and demonize an entire religion and its adherents by effectively lumping together all the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims as one homogeneous, monolithic, looming, existential menace. Never mind that Muslims live in every country on earth and are divided by sect, nationality, class, language, religious practice, ideology and race.

For some years, Mr. Steyn had a regular column in Maclean's, where a regular theme was the way Muslims imperiled the world. Besides his column, the magazine also published a long excerpt from his book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, which a reviewer in The Globe and Mail called “quite possibly the most crass and vulgar book about the West’s relationship with the Islamic world I have ever encountered.”

When the Canadian Islamic Congress protested that the book incited anti-Muslim feelings, a Maclean's spokesperson begged to differ. “Mark Steyn is a thoughtful and experienced journalist, and the piece was a commentary on important global political issues. It was not in any sense Islamophobic.” While Mr. Steyn’s column has refreshingly disappeared from the magazine, last week it decided to give great exposure to his latest book, calling him an “acclaimed” columnist.

Just because Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, claims that Mr. Steyn was among those who influenced his thinking does not mean that Mr. Steyn influenced his thinking. But why Maclean's magazine saw fit to pay Mr. Steyn to spread his dire warning about the menace of Islam is far from clear. There must have been a reason, but what was it?

Similarly, it would be interesting to know why the Canadian Christian College and the International Free Press Society Canada (IFPSC) thought it was helpful to bring extreme right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders to Canada to spread his venom against Muslims. The CCC is headed by the radical social conservative Charles McVety, whose website associates itself with Billy Graham’s Muslim-hating son Franklin and the late Jerry Falwell, a prominent American evangelist who believed that “AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals.” The IFPSC is an offshoot of a European group by the same name which, in the name of free speech, freely spreads hatred against Muslims.

The IFPSC’s website prominently features both Geert Wilders and conservative bloviator Ezra Levant. Both the National Post and the Sun newspapers gave Mr. Wilders tons of space when he was in Canada, including the Sun’s entire front page, while Mr. Levant – a prince in the Empire of the Sun – devoted a column to him and a cringe-worthy 44-minute interview on his nightly show on Sun TV, must viewing for several Canadians.

Despite his inflammatory views, Mr. Wilders is wily and soft-spoken, and Mr. Levant could hardly have treated him with more respect and sympathy. Jose Bautista would die for lobs like those Mr. Levant threw Mr. Wilders. And while Mr. Levant scrupulously does not endorse Mr. Wilders’s Muslim-baiting in any explicit way, he notes with exquisite ambiguity that while “We [sic]might [sic]not agree with everything Geert Wilders has to say,” he raises issues that “won’t go away.” Of course extensive media coverage guarantees he won’t go away.

Noting the coverage of Mr. Wilders by the National Post and the Sun, Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui observes: “We can just imagine what the two would have done had some crazy mullah from the Middle East been allowed into Canada and said exactly the same things about Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism or any religion that Wilders said about Islam and Muslims.”

Mr. Levant was – by coincidence, perhaps? – also the main host for Ann Coulter last year when she too was invited to Canada by the free-speech-loving IFPSC where she too freely spread contempt for Muslims, as she so relishes doing. Ms. Coulter believes that Muslims, whom she calls “ragheads,” are “absolutely insane savages” with a “predilection for violence” who “react to bad news by immediately engaging in acts of violence.” When in 2009 a Muslim army psychiatrist named Nidal Hasan ran amok and murdered 12 people at Fort Hood, Texas, Ms. Coulter had no doubt that “the attack was an act of Islamic terrorism.”

Mr. Breivik is a different story, however. Even though he calls himself a Christian and considered himself a “warrior fighting for the preservation of European Christendom,” Ms. Coulter informs us that “he does not mean ‘Christian’ as most Americans understand the term. … He uses the word as a handy moniker to mean ‘European, non-Islamic’.” Ann Coulter: a real Christian.

Canada, to be fair, is only a bit player among those dedicated to inflaming hatred against Muslims. Interested readers might want to know, as Mr. Breivik very much did, about the self-styled American “counterjihadists,” a group of influential crackpots advocating a crusade against a global Islamic movement that, apparently, threatens the very foundations of what’s now called Judeo-Christian society since anti-Semitism, after 2,000-odd years, went out of fashion among mainstream Christians.

Among the remarkable inventions of the counterjihadists is the non-existent threat that Muslim sharia law poses to the United States. It appears that American Muslims, less than 1 per cent of the population, are conspiring to impose sharia law across America. The campaign to stop this menace from happening, even though it’s already not happening, has achieved remarkable support from everyone from Republican presidential candidates to local political hacks promoting anti- sharia legislation.

Such proposed legislation is the same in each instance. It’s the product of an orchestrated drive that began five years ago in Brooklyn by an otherwise obscure Hasidic Jew, zealous anti-black racist and sick Muslim-hater named David Yerushalmi. Supported by conservative public-policy institutes and former military and intelligence officials, Mr. Yerushalmi has successfully elevated a harebrained paranoid fantasy into a lethal threat to American freedom. Readers may want to check out the assessment of Mr. Yerushalmi and his associates by the mainstream American organization the Anti-Defamation League.

The goal of the Muslim-haters is surely clear enough. By lumping all Muslims together as terrorists, by equating a violence-prone Muslim lunatic fringe with all Muslims, by insulting the hundreds of millions of moderate Muslims everywhere, they alienate all Muslims and create among non-Muslims an irrational fear of and hostility to all Muslims. What purpose can this serve other than to provoke a clash, possibly a violent one, between Muslims and the rest? Anders Breivik didn’t come from nowhere, nor will the next Breivik.

But what’s the interest of certain media in enabling these haters to spread their gospel, to fan the flames of intolerance? What audience are they after? What do they expect their audiences to make of all this sympathetic exposure to rabid anti-Muslim feelings? Why are they inciting ordinary people to hate other ordinary people? Why?

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