Janice Fiamengo:Fact-Busters and the “Mosque-Buster”

Fact-Busters and the “Mosque-Buster”
February 8, 2013 By Janice Fiamengo Comments (46)

Gavin Boby is a British lawyer who established the Law and Freedom Foundation in 2011 to work with communities to resist Islamization, particularly the campaigns of harassment and dominance that mosques routinely bring in their wake. Dubbed the “mosque-buster” because of his success in defeating 16 of 17 mosque applications in British neighborhoods, Boby spoke in Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto this past week about the principles underlying his pro bono work. When I heard him make his presentation in Ottawa on Monday, February 4, his measured, soft-spoken manner and fact-based analysis contrasted suggestively with the melodramatic denunciations and biased reporting that surrounded his appearance.

Only in a nation hobbled by political correctness of the most mind-boggling sort could a speaker proposing nothing more shocking than residents’ right to defend their neighborhoods be so vociferously denounced. The self-righteous outcries at Boby’s “fearmongering” came not only from the predictable sources—in this case the Canadian arm of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), fawningly reported on by the press despite its close ties to terrorist organizations—but also from self-proclaimed free-thinkers and mainstream journalists. When everyone involved declares their commitment to free speech while seeking to suppress, distort, and censor Boby’s message, one is left staggered by the House of Mirrors confusion passing for informed debate in this country.

A week before Boby’s scheduled appearance, an editorial appeared in the Ottawa Citizen by two conservative-leaning commentators, Fred Litwin, founder of Ottawa’s Free Thinking Film Society, and Salim Mansur, author of Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism. Emphasizing the necessity of distinguishing peaceful from violent forms of Islam, the authors identified Boby as one among a number of “misguided” activists who have apparently made “all Muslims and Islam their enemies.” While not explaining how one can distinguish good from bad Islam in advance—once a mosque has been built and radicalized, it’s too late to deny its permit—Litwin and Mansur charge that Boby’s work is “counter-productive” and imply that his effort to oppose extremism is itself a factor promoting extremism. This position—that merely advocating local, case-by-case legal action to oppose mosque construction is unacceptably intolerant—became the main tenor of the attacks on Boby in the days that followed, attacks that accused him of seeking to “marginalize entire communities” and of engaging in “the most dangerous form of conflict-generation.” Concerns about the self-sequestering of Muslims and their well-documented aggression received only lip service at best from the anti-Boby pundits.

With even self-proclaimed anti-Islamists decrying the talk, it was not surprising to see CAIR-CAN labeling Boby an “anti-Muslim hate-monger” and calling for the Ottawa Public Library to cancel his appearance. Claiming that a tax-payer funded venue should not be used to legitimize Islamophobia, CAIR-CAN cited as proof of Boby’s bigotry his reputed statements that “Islam encourages pedophilia, sex abuse, and pimping.” Has Boby made such statements? And if he has, are they false? The Ottawa Citizen wouldn’t say; it also refrained from any comment on CAIR’s own highly illiberal and immoderate positions and associations. It did, however, see fit to investigate the grassroots organization responsible for bringing Boby to Ottawa: ACT! For Canada. Modeled on Brigitte Gabriel’s Act! For America, it was established by Valerie Price, who maintains its website. The Citizen was not impressed. Noting ACT’s claim to defend Canadian “national security” and “democratic values,” the article focused with disapproval on the fact that ACT’s website “is given over almost entirely to discussion of Islam and terrorism” (yes, these are the threats to security and democracy that concern the organization) and that its presentation was “highly inflammatory.” The single example of “inflammatory” material was the website’s claim that Hitler’s Mein Kampf is a bestseller in the Muslim world—which it is. But truth is no defense against the findings of the thought police: the implication of the article was that ACT! For Canada is a Muslim-hating organization bringing in a Muslim-hating speaker.

Members of ACT (and I am one of them) consoled themselves that so much negative press could lead to wide dissemination of Boby’s message and prompt a good turnout on a very cold (-20 Celsius) Ottawa evening; or perhaps it might keep controversy-averse Canadians away. On Monday night, there was a modest turnout (about 80 people) and limited protest: a small group of dissenters gave interviews in the library lobby but did not seek to disrupt the talk—nor to attend it.

Boby himself did not disappoint. He spoke in lucid and quietly impassioned terms of his advocacy, asserting that it is based not in hatred for Muslims but in love for the British tradition of decency, restraint, and public order that he wished to preserve for future generations. He used reliable studies and poll results to show why mosques are different in kind from churches, synagogues, or other places of worship, being not centers of religious contemplation only but command centers of jihadist recruitment where believers are indoctrinated to support and commit violence against non-believers. A 2011 study by Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi found that 81% of 100 American mosques randomly surveyed contained materials promoting “moderate” (30%) or “severe” (51%) violence, while only 19% of the mosques contained no material promoting violence. (As Boby pondered, what would constitute “moderate violence?”) Perhaps even more significantly, Muslims attending the pro-violence mosques vastly outnumbered those attending the non-violent mosques. The researchers found that non-violent mosques had a mean attendance of only 15 worshipers; on the other hand, violence-promoting mosques, whether falling in the “severe” or “moderate” category, had a mean attendance of 178 worshipers. It is Muslims themselves, Boby concluded from such statistics, who have defined what form of Islam they find authentic.

Boby spoke of the stages of intimidation and neighborhood control that typically follow the establishment of a mosque. At the beginning, there is the relatively non-serious headache of parking problems, the so-called “parking jihad”: residents find their driveways blocked and every space on the street taken up by mosque attenders’ cars. The problems become more severe with time, including verbal harassment (“You can’t dress like that; this is a Muslim area”); attacks on dog owners; the grooming of teenage girls for sexual exploitation; vandalism of non-Muslim homes; and vaguely-threatening visits by Muslim men to non-Muslim home-owners to encourage them to sell up. The most extreme result—seen in some British areas as well as throughout European cities—is the establishment of Islamic-controlled no-go areas where the national law has ceased to operate—complaints to police at any of the stages tend to be worse than useless—and where Sharia compliance is forced on all. The consequences are particularly harsh for Jews, homosexuals, and women who refuse the veil.

Mosques tend to be built in poor neighborhoods where residents—often pensioners, widows, and blue-collar workers—lack the financial resources or cultural confidence to protest. They are rightfully suspicious that their concerns will be dismissed by local councilors as racist. They don’t know how planning applications work and they have been made to feel that any criticism of Muslim ideology or behavior is unacceptable, possibly even criminal. Boby points out that he is merely helping them to use the legal channels created precisely to foster citizen involvement in town planning. Contrary to so many reports on his work, he does not wish nor does he have the power to stop all mosques or to prohibit Muslims from worshipping.

If there are errors in Boby’s evidence or reasoning, none of his detractors could find them, resorting instead to tactics of emotional accusation and misrepresentation. Dissenters at his Ottawa talk asked why he targeted Muslims when there were bad apples in every religion, ignoring his thorough explanation of the special case presented by mosques. Others wondered whether he was appropriately supportive of the “moderates” attempting to renew Islam, ignoring his evidence that mosque-attending Muslims favor the firebrand variety. No matter how patiently Boby set out his proofs—often in the form of devout Muslims’ own horrifying statements of belief—the politically correct charged him with extremism.

Lazy and ideologically slanted representation also dominated press coverage after the event, the exception being the conservative-oriented SUN News Network, which gave fair coverage. An article by the notoriously left-wing Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) referred repeatedly to Boby’s position that “mosques should not be built in non-Muslim areas,” never mentioning why residents might legitimately fear mosques and leaving readers to construe that Boby’s stance (always presented as a lunatic lone crusade) was based on racism. The Ottawa Citizen’s report was just slightly more informative, referring to Boby’s resistance to “what he sees as Islam’s anti-democratic direction.” No evidence for “what he sees” was included, making it seem like a far-out personal opinion. A pious editorial in the Ottawa Citizen following Boby’s talk downplayed his representation of the British situation and asserted that even if some problems do exist, “there are laws” to deal with them.

The overall message of such reporters was clear: there was nothing to learn from Boby, nothing to fear from Islam. As the Ottawa Citizen reporter put it in the first line of his account, “Despite the advance controversy … the city greeted the speech with a collective shrug.” The real shrug, of course, was the reporter’s own when he decided to rely on his politically correct talking points rather than report the substance of Boby’s sober and informative presentation. Many such journalists are determined not to hear what they don’t like—and to prevent others from hearing it as well. They are protected from the outside world by the hard shell of politically correct ignorance: no noise annoys an oyster.

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