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Ezra Levant
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
ONE ON ONE WITH EZRA LEVANT: THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD TO FACE LEGAL SANCTION FOR REPRINTING DANISH CARTOONS DEPICTING MOHAMMED

“What I underwent was [essentially] the first prosecution of blasphemy laws in Canada in over eighty years” says Levant

By Rhonda J Spivak, B.A., L.L.B.

Ezra Levant, as publisher of the Western Standard Magazine, says he was  investigated in a highly ‘shocking” case by “ a secular government agency”[ the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission], for  “900” days after he “made an editorial decision” to  reprint Danish cartoons   depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed  “to illustrate a news story.”

Levant, a dynamic  fast-talking Calgarian lawyer, whose mother Leslie Meloff and father Marvin Levant grew up in Winnipeg, gave the Winnipeg Jewish Review a one and a half hour interview when he was in Winnipeg in May 2009.

Levant said a few of the cartoons were ‘bland” and others were ‘ critical of  radical Islam.’  One showed Mohammed in heaven saying “Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins- which was a critical comment about the promise of  “ 72 celestial virgins offered by radical Muslims in their terrorist recruitment efforts.”


Originally, the 12 cartoons  published in 2005 didn’t make any international  news.

“They became a big deal when a group of  Danish imams went on a world tour to drum up Muslim anger against Denmark.  The group of imams added in three additional cartoons that were made up.  These three new [fake] cartoons, which hadn’t been published anywhere before, and were the imams’ own handiwork- included one showing Mohammed having sex with a dog, and another of Mohammed with a pig face.  Syrian and Iran got involved  and used these cartoons to  whip up riots in  their  own cities and deflect attention from their own problems.  Syria was facing a UN investigation of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Harari, and Iran’s plan to develop nuclear weapons was  beginning to marginalize it diplomatically…Over 100 people were killed by cartoon violence,” said Levant.

“It was the biggest news story in the world, but one thing was missing- the pictures, “ added Levant, whose magazine became “the only media outlet in the country to print the cartoons.

 CBC and others didn’t print them out of  ‘respect” for Islam, which Levant  said was “self-censorship.

“We printed them [the cartoons] not as our opinion. We showed them as a prosecutor would show an exhibit to the jury… our readers wanted to see what all the fuss was about…We got letters of support [for this decision] from some Muslims who said they came to this country to be free…  Irshad Manji wrote in a letter of support,” said Levant, who noted that his conservative news magazine’s motto was “tell it like it is.”

After Levant published the cartoons, “a Calgary imam, Syad Soharwardy, [a Pakistani immigrant to Canada], went to the police and demanded they arrest me.  The police had to explain to him that this wasn’t Saudi Arabia or Pakistan and police in Canada don’t enforce the Koran,” Levant explained.

But then Soharwardy then filed a complaint with the Alberta  Human Rights  and Citizenship Commission [AHRCC] which was accepted by the commission the next day.

“He [Soharwardy] cited verses form the Koran in his complaint.  I was investigated for 900 days.  It was a fatwa being prosecuted by a secular human rights commission.  I was a one-man stimulus package for lawyers. My legal fees were $100,000 dollars.  They lost. I won, but not really - I’m out 100,000 dollars. I didn’t get my costs.  The Imam who went after me is a public advocate of Sha’aria law.  He managed to get what was in essence the first prosecution of blasphemy laws in this country in over 80 years.” said Levant. 

“In the middle of it all, they [the AHRCC] offered me a deal.  I had to pay 2000 dollars and give the Imam one page in my magazine to let him write his interpretation…In March 2007, Maclean’s magazine was hauled before three Human Rights commissions for its discussion of  Radical Islam [for publishing an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s book America Alone].  They demanded six pages of McLean’s [in a proposed deal]”added Levant, who said that the complaint against him ought to never have amounted to an investigation.

Levant said he raised the money to fight back against the AHRCC because “I was able to raise donations over the internet from people around the world.  My wife was pregnant…I didn’t have the money.”


‘Not even the Danish cartoonists themselves had been hauled in to answer for what they’d done, [nor any of the newspapers throughout Europe who had republished the cartoons],” said Levant, who has chronicled the investigation against him in his new book, Shake Down.

Levant, whose  blog, ezralevant.com was voted Best Canadian Blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards,  said that the  investigation  against him shows  Canadian values and  legal processes “have been hijacked by radical Islam.’ 

He said that the Koran isn’t the law of the land, neither is the Bible”  and “we can’t impose a Muslim theocracy or a Jewish theocracy, or any other kind of theocracy in Canada.

“There are two ways [for Radical Islam] to take on a magazine that’s critical of it.  The first way is to blow up the magazine and the second way is to use our Western legal system against us,” said Levant, who added that in his view the “procedures of Human Rights Commissions are “awful.”


“They allow hearsay evidence…And they don’t even need a search warrant before they search ….They took documents and my hard drive without having a search warrant..,” he said.

Levant noted that  under section 23 of  the AHRCC there are no exceptions for  information, such as “letters between me and my lawyer” , which are traditionally regarded as privileged by “real courts.”

In a 2008 submission to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, prepared by  B’nai Brith Canada’s senior legal counsel, David Matas, Matas noted that s. 22(1) of the  Alberta Human Rights legislation gave the commission the power “to dismiss at any time a complaint it considers without merit.”

After pointing out that the “Soharwardy complaint sat on the books for 2 years”, Matas wrote that “A complaint without merit should be dismissed a lot more quickly than that.”

When asked about his views of Shahina Siddiqui’s complaint against B’nai Brith Canada investigated by the Manitoba Human Rights  Commission, he said that  B’nai Brith was also put  through  an ordeal by “ a kangaroo court”, (with an anonymous complainant)  and  also unnecessarily became the target of  Radical Islam.

Levant notes  he is friends with “moderate Muslims” who also oppose the  agenda of Radical  Islam in Canada, and named Salim Mansur, Tarik Fatah (founder of the moderate Canadian Muslim  Congress) and “one of my best friends, Alykhan Velshi, (communications director for Jason Kenny,  Canada’s Minister of Immigration and Multiculturism).

“They pay a big price for being liberal minded,” said Levant.  “It’s not easy-you can be ostracized and for some it can be uncomfortable continuing to go to their Mosque.”

According to L

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.