Liveblogging the Maclean's Trial IV: Habib and Habib Not

We’re back, and the first item for business is Joseph demanding an apology for yesterday’s “scaredy-pants” outburst, which he says is causing his client “stress.”

It seems he is going to call Habib, but first wants to introduce yet another piece of last-minute evidence, from yet another blog post — this one from the California-based “Free Republic” site — which is yet again operated from somewhere in that vast section of the universe that is outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal. McConchie is raising objections, probably futilely.

10:21 AM As indeed they prove.

Naiyer Habib (one of the complainants) now on the stand. From India, came to Canada in 1973. Lived in Saskatchewan until 2004, then moved to Abbotsford, B.C. (A British Columbia Muslim, at last!) He’s a medical doctor, professor of cardiology. How old? “I don’t want to say that,” he says coyly. Eventually they drag it out of him: 67.

President of Islamic Association of Saskatchewan for many years. Co-founder of Muslims for Peace and Justice, formed after 2001 to counter Islamophobia. On the national board of the Canadian Islamic Congress (hence the Elmasry connection).

Joseph is now asking him about the Free Republic blog. How did he come across it. Well, shorttly after reading the Steyn article in October 2006, which he found “concerning,” he went on the internet to “look for any impact,” ie he Googled it. He found what he was looking for on the Free Republic: the Steyn article, with comments from readers underneath, to the effect that Muslims should be “eradicated,” that they should not be here, etc.

We’re working off a printout of a Google search performed today. Porter is up, pointing out that Google searches produce different results at different times. Can’t say with certainty that what he saw in October 2006 is the same as it is now. Seems a stretch, and it is: overruled.

Argh. I’m out of power. Bear with me, until I can arrange to get near a power outlet. (SORRY – can’t be helped. There’s one power outlet in the whole room, and if you’re not sitting next to it…)

We’re on a break, so let me try to catch up…

Jospeph’s got Habib reading through the comments on the Free Republic site… They’re foul. To Steyn’s unfortunate reference to Mulsims “breeding like mosquitoes,” a commenter replies: “Great analogy! Let’s get out the DDT…” Another: “Oh, those Muzzies. They’ll get you with or without your help.” Another: “If you can’t kill the enemy at least you can piss on their God.” Another: “I will die before I have that filthy fraud of a religion forced on me.”

It occurs to me: I hope the BC Human Rights code makes exception for reports of their own proceedings. Otherwise I’m in trouble, since the code makes no allowance for reporting on a matter of public interest…

Back to the foulness. “I have this feeling that I will not live to die of natural causes, and Islam will be a factor.” Of Muslims in Gaza: “Four good nukes will solve the problem.”

Anyway. Habib says he found all this “humiliating… dishonouring… questioning our morality.” Of the original article itself, he said he found the cover shot of women in burkhas “demonizing of Islam,” that it would “make people feel that this what will happen to you if you do not wake up.” The text, he said, was “discriminating, racial, full of hate.” He objects, inter alia, to its use of a quotation from Libyan dictator Muammar Khadahfy, who “has no credibility.” We’ll come back to that.

The article, he says, makes things “dangerous for us.” His wife, who wears the hijab, has been “taunted, told to go back home.” The article “puts fuel on the fire” of a volatile situation, post Sept. 11, although he concedes he knows of no physical attacks resulting from it.

Then more reading from the Brussels Journal blog, to not much effect. The quotes strike me as less an attack on Islam than an aggressive assertion of secularism.

Then a long discussion of how he came to file the complaint. Why was it filed in BC? Why not just in Ontario? Well, he kept hearing from members of the BC Muslim community, asking him ‘what was happening?’ Felt he wanted to do something from here.

And at last Porter gets to do his cross-examination. He points out that neither of them know anything about “Fjordman,” the author of the Brussels Journal post. However, we do know who Col. Khadafy is. And now he’s about to ask him, “would it bother you to know about Dr. Munir al Kasem (another member of the Canadian Islamic Congress), who in Feb. 2000 –”

And Joseph is on his feet objecting. “I can’t believe that my friend is going to ask this witness where Kasem has gone in the world, including Libya…” (Libya!) It has no relevance, he says. It’s not the CIC that’s on trial, he says. The issue here is Mark Steyn’s article.

Porter replies. If Kasem went to a congress in Libya and sang Khadafy’s praises, that’s surely relevant. Habib is here offering his views “in his capacity as a director of the CIC” — says so in the complainants’ summary of evidence. He has testified that Steyn’s reference to Khadafy was objectionable, since he “has no credibility.” Surely, Porter says, “I can put to this witness that members of his own organization have recognized Khadafy and called upon his name.”

And that’s where things stood at the break, as the panel retired to consider Joseph’s objection.

12:04 PM We’re back, and by some miracle — actually, by a fairly gross instance of queue-jumping — I have got myself a seat near the power outlet. The tribunal is entering the room.

The chair rules: The nature of the CIC as an organization is not an issue in the complaint. Dr. Habib filed the complaint in his own right, not on behalf of the CIC. Respondents have not established the relevance of the conduct of the CIC.

It’s quite a blow. Porter can’t ask Habib about any of Elmasry’s outrageous comments.

So now he’s asking about the Brussels Journal. He says we can’t know who these people are, or what motivates them. He points out to Habib that one of the comments read out in court to which he took umbrage was not in fact prompted by Steyn’s piece but to another book altogether. Reluctantly, he agrees.

Porter puts to him that Maclean’s doesn’t have any control over Belgium or the blogs. There’s a lot of crazy people in the world. Answer: If you publish it here, I’m sure people all over the world are looking at it.

Question: Are you taking the position that a publisher becomes responsible for every blog in the world?

Answer: The publisher is responsible for the content of the magazine. I can’t say whether these people are crazy people.

Habib says that Bin Laden was not jihad. Bin Laden was a problem for Muslims, he maligned us.

Porter: Shouldn’t North America have the right to be saying my God, what might happen next? Aren’t you worried that there might be another attack?

Habib: I’m worried, but the answer is to join with moderate Muslims in coming up with measures to prevent it. It is unfortunate that the government of Canada and US kept Muslims kept Muslims at arms’ length. That created bad feelings, he says, among Muslim youth, that we are not part of this nation. His voice is rising. At a meeting with RCMP a year ago, he says, he asked police, do you want to do this alone?

Porter: Has the CIC ever condemned “the lesser jihad.” (I take it this means the violent kind.) The question is ruled out of order.

Porter: What preventive measures are you doing that’s going to curtail Bin Laden? Joseph objects. “It’s these types of questions, assumptions, suppositions, that is exactly going to the complaint — that there’s some sort of collective consciousness among Muslims, that somehow it’s Dr. Habib’s job to stop Bin Laden.”

Porter: I’m trying to say that how we deal with Bin Laden is a huge issue, that writers must deal with it, and that they may make mistakes. Again, he’s making the point (implicitly) that Steyn’s motive was legitimate.

Joseph’s objection is sustained, and Porter sits down.

1:24 PM Joseph to redirect. Just one question. He goes back to the Brussels Journal. Points out that the post, entitled “Why the future may not belong to Islam,” has a prominently displayed link to Steyn’s book, America Alone.

And he’s done.

1:33 PM Maclean’s lawyers filing various documents. We’re about to adjourn for the day. Final arguments tomorrow.

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