You Can Say What You Want, But Not On My Dime

You can say what you want, but not on my dime

By Susan Martinuk
Calgary Herald
February 20, 2009

Never bite the hand that feeds you.

It's a foundational lesson; but one that Khaled Mouammar, leader of the Canadian Arab Federation, seems to have missed and it's about to cost him . . . big time.

Mouammar used his platform at an anti-Israel rally to call federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney “a professional whore” for supporting Israel's recent military offensive in Gaza and to stick it to all politicians who refuse to condemn Israel by saying they have “lost their tongues.”Once the blaming started, it must've been hard to stop since he then denounced the media for “misinforming” Canadians with misleading coverage.

In doing so, he not only took a swipe at the man who holds the purse strings for the CAF's federal funding, but at all Canadians who provide tax dollars to help cultural groups to integrate into Canadian culture.

That's when Kenney decided it was time to hold Mouammar and other publicly-funded groups responsible for their rhetoric by saying the government would slash funding for groups that express anti-Semitic sentiments.

He told an international conference on anti-Semitism in London, England, that organizations are “free within . . . the law and . . . freedom of expression, to speak their mind,” but “we should not be rewarding those who express views that are contrary to Canada's best liberal values of tolerance and mutual respect.”He then encouraged other governments to take a similar “zero tolerance approach” to anti-Semitism.

Bravo, Kenney. Recent statistics show we have to be vigilant in this area. A 2007 B'nai B'rith audit recorded more than 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada, a rate that is up 11 per cent from 2006 and double that of 2002. Clearly, there's a trend that needs to be reversed.

The CAF currently has a two-year, $447,000 government grant to help new immigrants settle into Toronto through language training and job search workshops. Although Mouammar claims the cut will only hurt new immigrants, the bottom line is that he is their leader and he is responsible to do what he can to help them –even if that means keeping his mouth shut. Neither does it matter what the money is used for. If there is any concern about hateful perspectives being promoted through the use of public funds, it has to stop.

If the Canadian government is perceived as supporting hateful activities and ideologies, it can wrongly strike intimidation into the hearts of new immigrants who have turned to Canada to escape ethnic hatred–not to be indoctrinated in more hatred through government programs. More than that, it would have huge implications in how the rest of the world perceives Canada as a champion of tolerance.

The CAF has long undertaken anti-Semitic activities. During the 2006 Liberal leadership race, Mouammar circulated an e-mail asking people not to vote for Bob Rae because his wife was involved in the Jewish community. More recently, the CAF distributed propaganda videos on behalf of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It also sponsored an essay contest inviting schoolchildren to denounce Israel for the “ethnic cleansing of Palestine.” Those activities don't reflect Canadian values–and the essay contest alone should be sufficient to trigger an investigation under hate-crime laws.

In his speech, Kenney also referred to the anti-Semitic words of Mohamed Elmasry. Three years ago, the former president of the Canadian Islamic Congress was investigated for publicly stating that Israelis over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for suicide bombers–on live, Canadian TV.

These persistent anti-Semitic activities indicate the issue of funding cultural groups is much broader than I first suggested. Considering it solely within the context of “biting the hand that feeds you” may suggest Kenney has acted in a retaliatory or reactive way when, in fact, he has made a rational, legitimate decision that is good for Canada and was obviously long overdue.

The bottom line is–words matter. So do the tone and implications of words. Nobody knows that more than Elmasry, who was the driving force behind three high-profile hate speech complaints against Maclean's magazine and columnist Mark Steyn over alleged Islamophobia in their opinion writing. He is quick to take action against those who publicly question his words and actions, so one would think he would be just as quick to acknowledge the importance of guarding his own public rhetoric.

It has nothing to do with limiting freedom of speech; it's limiting taxpayer support for groups that don't respect Canadian values and other ethnic groups. They still have the right to say what they want in the public square–but they can do it on their own dime, not mine.

Susan Martinuk's Column Appears Every Friday.