Muslim Students File Rights Complaints Over Maclean's Article

January 2008

But Muslim Canadian Congress defends Maclean's freedom of expression

Four students at Toronto's Osgoode HallLaw Schoolare accusing Maclean's magazine of violating theirhuman rights over an article titled, The Future Belongs to Islam.

They've filed complaints with the federal, Ontario and British Columbia human rights commissions over the October 2006 article.

The articlediscusses the high birth rate among Muslims and speculates that Islamic people could become the majority population in Europe. It also says some Muslims are violent radicals.

Naseem Mithoowani,one of the Osgoode Hall law students bringing forward the complaint,said the article was one of a series of articles offensive to Muslims."This isn't just one article in a context of fair and balanced media.This really was the straw that broke the camel's back because it's one in a string of articles that are anti-Islam and anti-Muslim," she told CBC News.

Khurrum Awan, another of the students,said the group will argue before the commissions thatsuch articles tend to subject Muslims to hatred or contempt.

"To say that we share the same basic goals as terrorists … if you look at the theme of the article in the context, it is putting that label on all of us and I felt personally victimized," he said.

Maclean's said it stands behind the writer of the article, Mark Steyn, and it is confident thehumanrights commissions will find no merit in the complaint.

Faisal Joseph, a lawyer from the Canadian Islamic Congress who is representing the four students, argued thatjournalists can't write just anything.

"You have to be responsible.There are limits on freedom of expression, people seem to forget that," he said. But Sohail Raza, a representative of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said Maclean's had the right to publish the article.

"This is Canada, not Sudan, Egypt or Pakistan, where the press is stifled," he said."There is absolute freedom of expression and people have an opportunity to voice their opinion."

Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the organizationis concerned about the human rights complaints process. It's too easy to claim an article may subject a group to hate or contempt under commission rules, Borovoy said.

"Even truthful articles describing some of the awful situations in this world could run afoul of this law, it is so broad and such a potential threat to freedom of speech," he said.