Friday, July 03, 2009

So, what about Omar Shaban?

Wow.  Rarely have I seen such universal and widespread vitriol condemnation than what I have seen expressed online towards the former vice-president of the Canadian Arab Federation who celebrated Canada Day by posting "F---Canada Day" on his personal Facebook page and calling Canada a "genocidal state” because of its treatment of its aboriginal people. 

Of course, I find these comments offensive and, I would suggest, misleading.  Omar Shaban’s real issues have to do with Canada’s close relationship with Israel and our banning of Hezbollah and Hamas, listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Hiding behind aboriginal concerns is a common and convenient place for Islamists like him to hide.  And so condemnation, ridicule, taking him to task and holding him accountable for making and standing by these comments are perfectly appropriate in a free society.  The Canadian Arab Foundation was well within its rights to ask for his resignation and Canadians are well within their rights to express their outrage at these comments, whether they are true or not. 

And that is just the point.  Omar Shaban had the right to say stupid, tasteless, even false things.  And Canadians have the right to make him pay the consequences for his stupid, tasteless comments by responding to his comments with criticism and condemnation.  He should, however, not be silenced through state-imposed censorship. Neither should anyone who ridicules, condemns, criticizes and scorns him be subject to such. Omar Shaban has the right to say these things.  And the rest of the country has the right to criticize him for saying them. Freedom of expression goes both ways and always has consequences. Sometimes we have to hear people say dumb, brutish things.  And these people will have to expect to be treated like a pariah for saying them. Freedom of expression is not for the thin-skinned.

I strongly support freedom of expression; the right to express oneself without state retaliation. However, freedom of expression does not mean that one is to be free from social retaliation, consequences imposed by other people. Above all, freedom of expression does not protect you from being criticized for your ideas.

Omar Shaban should be grateful that he lives in a country that still allows him to flip the finger at his nation without being arrested for it.  I hope it stays that way.

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