The Rights to Speech

by The Nommz on February 23, 2015 - 11:27pm

             Our country has long had a reputation for being culturally tolerant and fair, for decades people from all over the world have flocked to our nation because of this simple fact. Canada as a result has become a hub of multiculturalism, however how far are we willing to let certain individuals go with freedom of expression? Imam Hamza Chaoui a spoke person for the Ashebeb community centre in Hoshalega and Maissoneuve , and supporter for certain elements of Sharia law has spurred this debate. According to the Montreal Gazette’s article from February 1st 2015 “City takes pre-emptive strikes to block Muslim community centre” Hamza Chaoui is a known critic of democracy. The reason for this is that “democracy and Islam are parallel lines which never intersect, because democracy may allow for a leader to be homosexual or an atheist who deny the existence of Allah”. Comments such as this have made certain officials question the motivations of Hamza, even going so far as to call him an “agent of radicalization”. Montreal mayor Denis Coderre is one of such people, denying that Hamza is within his rights to freedom of religious expression. Coderre and the Mayor of Mercier-Hoshalaga-Maisonneuve Real Menard have taken steps to prevent the completion of the new community centre by imposing a new bylaw which limits the use of occupation permits in the zone. Hamza Chaoui has defended himself over social networking denying that any of his preaching’s were incites to violence. The shear scope of the topic of Islam makes it impossible to answer questions such as whether it is possible to fully integrate the religion, and its beliefs into our culture. Islam cannot be generalized as it has so many different sects and practices which preach a different set of ideologies. It is for that reason that this article will focus entirely on Hamza, and whether or not his views are morally acceptable within the society which he is currently residing.                                                                                                                                 Even though Hamza’s preaching’s could be deemed as morally deprived he still within his rights as according to our laws, entitled to his opinions. Furthermore Hamza is allowed to express these opinions openly, simply due to the nature in which our society is set. That does not of course mean that his opinions should not attract any form of ridicule, and in the event that his opinions influence violence, he as an individual should be held accountable. Of course the Mayors of the Boroughs and the city of Montreal have the right to be fearful. This isn’t the first time that controversial Imams have created tensions in well populated regions. According to the BBC Profile of the 9th of January 2015 of Abul Hamza a former Imam at Finnsbury Park another large Islamic community centre in the heart of London England, who Once praised the 19 hijackers of the flights of September 11th 2001. Abul Hamza once held complete control over what sermons were to be performed at the religious centre until his arrest in 2004 under suspected terrorism charges. He used his position to openly criticize the west and its allies in the Middle East and actively encouraged violent action against those who did not follow his view of Islam. Furthermore his power was eventually noticed by Al-Qaeda, which attempted to contact him and set up a training camp within Finnsbury park. Following his arrest, the Finnsburry Park Mosque has struggled to remove the label of being a breeding ground for extremist. According to Charlotte Philby’s article published by the Independent “emerging from the shadow of Abul Hamza” the unremarkable mosque now turns its attention to disabilities and the environment, under new leadership of Mohammed Kozbar. After the removal of Abul as head Imam the community became hostile to the mosque, the police presence escalated and the mosque became a target for attacks from right wing extremist. Now after 10 years the mosque is finally bieng re-established as a place of worship, since 2004 more people than ever attend prayer sessions and the community works well with the youth to ensure that they themselves do not become radicalized.

                              Finnsbury Mosque should serve as a good example for what should be done in the case of extremists taking hold within communities. One should not ban the practice of religious expression simply because of an individual who preaches radical ideals. The community centre should be allowed to continue to develop here in Maisoneuve, and Hamza Chaoui’s opinions should not be the driving factor of a whole community’s success. It is up to the people in charge of our system of government to understand that, and realize that in the attempt to silence one person with supposed radical views. They will alienate the entire Muslim community which seeks nothing more than to practice their religion peacefully. We cannot let recent events such as the death of Nathan Cirillo tragic as they are, change the way we deal with conflicting ideals.









I think this is an important topic you have chosen, and your arguments that state Hamza should be held accountable for his actions is very important to focus on. I agree with you that even though according to our laws, he is allowed to speak his mind and express what he thinks openly there should be some kind of repercussions if this is affecting a group of people negatively. Legally speaking, there is no law that prevents people from speaking their mind’s of any opinions even those that are further alienating minorities. However, I would argue that is it very important to enforce social mores that impact opinionated people to realize that this is causing the best for anyone. Furthermore, I would argue freedom of speech shouldn’t outweigh respect towards other and when looking for the greatest good for the greatest number, alienating groups doesn’t provide the greatest good for the community. In a country that prides themselves on integrating all different cultures and religions, it is important for those who make this goal more difficult to be help accountable for their actions.

I would first like to commend you for writing such a thought provoking article, on an issue that is currently plaguing Canadian ethics. Furthermore, I completely respect your opinion on the fact that unless an individual is actually causing harm, they should be allowed to say what they want, when they want. And according to our current legal system, this is allowed. However, I have a problem with this ethically. Although people are entitled to their own opinions, expression of said opinions from a position of authority, such as the religious leaders you mentioned, is unmoral. From a utilitarian ethical perspective, an action is deemed ethical if it fulfills the greatest good for humanity. In this case, preaching beliefs which lack respect for other Canadians does not achieve the greatest good. It is firstly disrespectful to other religious, ethnic, or varying demographic groups and it can additionally evoke negative sentiments among the people it is being preached too. Although what they are doing is not illegal, I think that these religious leaders should look at what the message they are spreading from this ethical framework. Our countries reputation as tolerant and fair will only continue if ALL of the individuals presiding in it are willing to work together in a way that will foster respect.

I think that you are all right, everyone can speak or be defended equally. It is not because a tragedy happened around a specific religion that all religions should be consider differently. Our system has always been based on equality. However, I do agree with the fact that their possible illegal actions are not respectful and can send a message who is questionable. In fact, our country is supposed to be open and should be able to listen to everyone's justification.

About the author