There is a controversy in Montreal where Jordanian cleric Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr was invited to speak at the Dar Al-Arqam Mosque and quoted a version calling for the killing of Jews. The imam recited in Arabic the verse: “O Muslim, O servant of Allah, O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” People have called for his prosecution for hate speech, rekindling the debate over Canada’s roll back of free speech with hate speech and discrimination laws.
The address only recently surfaced even though it was given on Dec. 23, 2016. He is reciting a passage from a hadith, which interprets the words and actions by Muhammad.
B’nai Brith Canada has filed a complaint with Montreal police on the basis that his comments incite violence and radicalization.
We have seen some alarming examples of how Canada has rolled back on free speech, particularly in cases of alleged discrimination (here and here). While there have been rulings in defense of free speech in Canada, the country has plunged deeply into speech controls and criminalization.
I despise the words of this cleric who strikes me as another hate-spewing, ignorant extremist. However, there is much in religious texts of various religions that can be viewed as radicalizing or supporting violence. For example, in the Book of 1 Samuel God orders King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” Saul does not carry out the massacre and for that he loses his kingdom.
I have serious free speech concerns if we are going to see the criminalization of repeating such passages, even with support for their content. It risks the type of slippery slope that Canada is already on when it comes to the regulation of speech. I remain an old fashioned free speech advocate. I believe that the solution of bad speech is more speech. This cleric has been identified as a hateful and disgraceful figure. The mosque has been identified as a forum for hate by inviting such a person. The alternative is to have the government regulate religious speech and allow the same prosecutions that we have seen of political speech around the world. That is a dangerous prospects given the high tensions over religious differences in the world.
What do you think? Should the Canadian government start to prosecute religious speech deemed inciteful?