It would be an understatement to say that I was surprised when I read that author Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be appearing tonight to plug her book “Infidel” at the Bay/Bloor Indigo store in Toronto, where she is also to be interviewed on stage by so-called “Chief Booklover” Heather Reisman, Chapters/Indigo CEO.
You may remember Chapters/Indigo from such films as: “The Competition Bureau Made Me Do It” (about how Canada’s second-largest book chain was permitted to buy the largest), and, more recently, “Not on My Newsstand!” (about the furore surrounding the Western Standard’s decision to republish the Danish Muslim cartoons a year ago -- free subscription may be required).
Chapters/Indigo banned that issue of the Western Standard from all Chapters/Indhimmigo stores (book seller McNally Robinson and Air Canada also banned the issue). Later, Chapters/Indigo also banned an issue of Harper’s magazine that published some of the cartoons.
I am having a hard time running down a quote explaining the book chain’s decision to ban the Western Standard, though apparently it had to do with not wanting to offend Muslims.
However, here’s some of what Hirsi Ali said in a speech entitled “The Right to Offend,” given in Berlin on February 9th of last year:
I am of the opinion that it was correct to publish the cartoons of Muhammad in Jyllands Posten and it was right to re-publish them in other papers across Europe.
Let me reprise the history of this affair. The author of a children’s book on the prophet Muhammad could find no illustrators for his book. He claimed that illustrators were censoring themselves for fear of violence by Muslims who claimed no-one, anywhere, should be allowed to depict the prophet. Jyllands Posten decided to investigate this. They – rightly – felt that such self-censorship has far-reaching consequences for democracy.
It was their duty as journalists to solicit and publish drawings of the prophet Muhammad.
Shame on those papers and TV channels who lacked the courage to show their readers the caricatures in The Cartoon Affair. These intellectuals live off free speech but they accept censorship. They hide their mediocrity of mind behind noble-sounding terms such as ‘responsibility’ and ‘sensitivity’.
I think it is right to make critical drawings and films of Muhammad. It is necessary to write books on him in order to educate ordinary citizens on Muhammad.
I do not seek to offend religious sentiment, but I will not submit to tyranny. Demanding that people who do not accept Muhammad’s teachings should refrain from drawing him is not a request for respect but a demand for submission.
How Reisman could look this woman in the eye, much less interview her in public, is beyond me. But as Susan Sarandon’s character says in "Bull Durham," “The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self-awareness.”