Shooting the Messenger

Till Death Do Us Part

Only in Canada!

I would greet her most mornings with a kiss and a cup of coffee before checking my emails. This Canada Day morning was to be like most mornings, except that we would again have something to be thankful for in living in a country that could be so much more. Eye surgery, necessary due to Sjogren syndrome, had actually improved her vision. No muss, no fuss, no cost; thank you, Tommy Douglas. If only that was enough.

The kiss and coffee were often followed by the same one-word question: “Anything?” This morning’s “anything” was regarding an article I had sent to the local papers about the national security implications and cost to the taxpayer of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, who has never been forthright with Canadians about his lifestyle choices, partying with friends over the Christmas holidays at the Canadian High Commission in London.

“No,” I replied.

“Maybe you should just give up,” she said. “You will never get their attention; it’s pointless.”

“If I don’t get their attention then I have failed. In everything I have tried to do, I have failed.”

I expected the usual encouraging words, “No, you have not. You should be proud of what you have accomplished,” and so on and so forth, but not this morning. She paused for a few seconds.

“Only in Canada,” she said, “could someone uncover a bunch of thieves and the thieves get to keep the millions they stole, and their jobs, and you lose yours.”

“In any other country,” she said, “when you fought, on your own, because we could not afford a lawyer to try to get your job back, and the Supreme Court granted you a hearing, someone would have noticed."

“In any other country,” she said, “anyone who spent ten years of his life writing what may be one of the best, if not the best book on the Koran, the [mainstream] media would have at least mentioned it.”

The people who demanded an end to my career, and the diplomats who had signed off on my firing—including Ambassador Chrétien who reluctantly set the process in motion after meeting with his boss, Deputy Minister and future Liberal Minister, Marcel Massé—were not your run-of-the-mill petty thieves.

As to the media not believing that a layperson could write a definitive book on the Koran, I too would have found that hard to believe. I agree with her, however, that the media had a responsibility to at least investigate the possibility, considering the importance of the Book.

Oxford University Press did go as far as promising to submit it to a “jury” until they found I did not have a PhD. In a subsequent email they apologized, but, lo and behold, they had just discovered that an Oxford scholar was completing a manuscript along the same lines as my Layman’s Guide, therefore Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice was no longer in the running. Another publisher actually sent me a contract to sign, but there was a catch:

Reads well, but shops would be very reluctant to stock something on this subject that isn't by a scholar or authority of some kind or other. If you could get some endorsements.

I assumed he meant endorsement from a Muslim authority. That proved impossible. As Tarek Fatah, one of the founders in 2001 of the Muslim Canadian Congress warned me, for a Muslim to endorse a book on the Koran, of all books, by a layperson and a non-believer was “a death sentence.”