If You Can't Shut Them Up

the Old-Fashioned Way, Sue Them

Day 1 - September 28, 2016

Trial begins for critic of Muslim schools

Djemila BenhabibDjemila Benhabib is being sued by a private Muslim school after she likened its teaching to the instruction received in terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Benhabib, who was born in Ukraine but spent much of her childhood in Algeria, was invited on to a Montreal radio show in 2012 after writing a blog post about the Muslim School of Montreal.

Benhabib told 98.5 FM host Benoît Dutrizac that she was shocked by what she found on the school’s website.

Koranic verses being taught to children were “extremely violent” and “misogynistic,” she told Dutrizac in a recording played in the court.

She said the school offers students “an indoctrination worthy of a military camp in Afghanistan or Pakistan.”

Ottawa Citizen, Sept 28, 2016

The heart of the matter:

"There is not much difference, in my opinion, between the indoctrination done in Montreal's [Islamic] schools and those in Pakistan or Afghanistan," said Ms Benhabib, according to the complaint filed by the Muslim School of Montreal.

Journal de Montreal, Sept 27, 2016 (my translation)

For expressing that opinion, which, according to the Muslim School of Montreal, tarnished its reputation and that of other madrassas, made the children cry and led to a drop in enrolment, the school wants reasonable damages, if you can afford it, of $ 95,000.

A madrassa's primary function, whether it be here in Canada, Europe or Afghanistan is to indoctrinate students of all ages in "a book of incredible violence", to quote philosophy teacher Robert Redeker writing in Le Figaro, and to teach them Arabic, the lingua franca of international terrorism.

Courts in Canada, and the provincial public school systems, that of Quebec in particular, have bent over backwards to accommodate believers' traditions, myths and phobias, so I expect Ms. Benhabib to be found guilty.

Day 2 - September 29, 2016

The significance of the trial – which French reporters have crossed the Atlantic to report on, but which the highbrow English media, e.g., Canada's newspaper of record, the Globe and Mail, can't be bothered to cross the street to cover – was put into context by Réjean Parent the former head of a large Québec public service union (my translation).

It is unfortunate that our congested courts, which have to set free harden criminals because of undue delays, now have to hear lawsuits reminiscent of prosecutions in Islamic republics of people accused of offering a contrarian opinion.

Of course, in Québec, we will not throw Djemila Benhabib in prison, but they want to silence her by imposing economic sanctions that will make her think twice about making her views known in the future.

Muslim schools had only to express their opinions and take part in a public debate to counter her arguments. That would have been better, in my view, for the health of our democracy.

It's a safe bet that if the respondent is ordered to pay damages to Muslim schools, these community schools based on ethnicity or religion will use the courts to silence any criticism.

Le Journal de Montreal, Sept 28, 2016

And any excuse will do. For the Chairman of the Board of Montreal's Muslim Schools it is all about protecting the children:

We sue when you attack our children. You touch our children we sue.

Ahmed Khebir, Le Journal de Montreal, Sept 27

Protecting the children is also what I believe Ms. Benhabib was trying to do and this is evident in testimony on Wednesday.

During her testimony Ms Benhabib said verses of the Koran reduced women to that of a sexual rewards for men. "It's misogynous and boys and girls should not be exposed to such literature."

Le Journal de Montreal, Sept 28, 2016

Prior to her testimony, school personnel and two former students took the stand to praise the school. When one of them was accused of threatening Ms. Benhabib, as had to be expected, she denied the claim, saying her Facebook account had been hijacked.

Day 3 - September 30, 2016

To a packed courtroom, Marc-André Nadon, the lawyer for Ms. Benhabib quoted Julius Grey, representing Muslim Schools of Montréal, who, in 2008 wrote, "we have the right to vigorously oppose religion."

Nadon again reminded the Court that this lawsuit is all about shutting up a critic of what is being taught in taxpayer subsidized madrassas in Montréal and that "freedom of expression is a fundamental right."

Julius Grey, in seeking to justify the lawsuit brought by Muslim School of Montreal accused Ms. Benhabib of "not showing any remorse for what she had done, destroying the reputation of the school."

If "she did not appreciate the impact [of her words] on a closely watched community trying to fit in" as he later claimed, then the first accusation makes no sense. This last allegation, in particular, struck me as hollow. A genuine effort "to fit in" would have been attending a public school.

The lawyers are expected to wrap up their closing arguments today.

Day 4 - December 13, 2016

Djemila Benhabib not guilty of slander, Quebec Superior Court finds

A feminist, secular author did not slander a Montreal private Muslim school when she likened it to military training camps, a Quebec Superior court has found.

In her decision, Justice Carole Hallée noted Benhabib did not say "terrorist" when talking about the military camps, and wrote she did nothing wrong by accepting to do a radio interview on a subject she's passionate about.

CBC Dec 13, 2016

By her decision the judge acknowledges, perhaps blindly, that madrassas are breeding grounds for holy warriors, just don't call them terrorists. It's a victory of sorts, I guess.

Bernard Payeur