Inside Syed Soharwardy's mosque
As I've written before, there's an incongruity to rough men like Mohamed Elmasry and Syed Soharwardy filing human rights complaints. Elmasry has publicly declared that any adult Jew in Israel is a legitimate target for a terrorist attack. When he's not egging on violence, though, his delicate sensibilities can be hurt by Maclean's magazine. Hey, terror advocates have feelings, too!
Syed Soharwardy, one of the complainants in my case, is a proponent of sharia law -- the legal system that governs Saudi Arabia, where rape victims get sentenced to the lash for their "immodesty". Soharwardy is made of stern stuff when he's telling Saudi -- and Canadian women -- their "proper" place. But he, too, has his soft side. In his case, our publication of some cartoons turned that stern task-master into a river of tears.
But that's how George Orwell said it would be; in his book 1984, he wrote of a war department called the Ministry of Peace, and a propaganda department called the Ministry of Truth. So why is it surprising that Alberta's "Human Rights Commission" actually tramples human rights like free speech, and that bigots like Elmasry and Soharwardy are not the subjects of its investigations, but rather the originators of them?
Well, in the case of Soharwardy, it appears that he himself is the subject of a human rights complaint -- for discrimination against women. There's a shocker. It was filed with the Edmonton and Ottawa offices of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Some women in his mosque allege that:
· Abusive language uttered towards us;
· Not permitted to ask any questions;
· Danied participation as equal members of the Muslim community;
· Physically and verbally threatened; made to sit in the back of the hall;
· Accused of disrupting and subotaging the proceedings;
· Forced to vacate the pemises;
Followed-up by obscene and threatening phone calls and letters in the mail.
I've asked a dissident member of Soharwardy's mosque for a copy of the DVD of that meeting, referred to in the complaint. I'll post some excerpts from it when I get it.
Being a sharia sexist is not the only complaint against Soharwardy; some of his same dissidents have complained to the police about his financial probity. Here's a copy of that letter of complaint. And it gets uglier and weirder.
Let me be clear: I don't wish the women of Soharwardy's mosque success in their human rights complaint against him. All of my arguments against the commission apply to their complaint as much as it applies to Soharwardy's complaint against our magazine. But there's something poetic about Soharwardy being hoist on his own human rights petard. Of course, if there are real claims of harassment or threats, those complaints belong to the police. It may be that new immigrants at Soharwardy's mosque, especially the women, are still operating under Pakistani or Saudi norms of how women expect to be treated. Again, this is the important distinction between merely offensive words vs. physical deeds such as physical abuse.
One proper response to these claims of sexism is a public discussion, including in Calgary's media, about the role of women in Islam, especially here in Canada. That's an uncomfortable topic for the liberal press, as we saw in their awkward coverage of the honour killing of Aqsa Parvez. The mainstream media holds a soft bigotry of low expectations towards people like Soharwardy -- they don't hold him to the same standards of conduct as they would if he were a WASP. If a Christian pastor was accused of sexism and financial irregularities -- complaints that, on the face of them, warrant serious inquiries -- it would be front page news in Calgary. But because of the media's politically correct deference to "the other", they'll give him a mulligan.
Soharwardy is trying to live his Canadian life like he's back in the madrassahs of Pakistan, or on the lecture circuit in Saudi Arabia. He says the Koran should be our constitution, he thinks the police should arrest dissidents like me and, if these complaints have any validity, he's running his mosque with decidedly third-world standards of corruption.