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‘Charlie Hebdo’ attack: In conversation with Ezra Levant

The media personality and former magazine publisher on being among the few publications—which included Charlie Hebdo—to print the Muhammad cartoons


 
Ezra Levant. (Pawel Dwulit/CP)

Ezra Levant. (Pawel Dwulit/CP)

In 2006, as publisher of Western Standard magazine, Ezra Levant published cartoons from Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, which depicted and lampooned Islam and the prophet Muhammad. The magazine was one of the few publications outside Denmark to do so—Charlie Hebdo was another—and Levant garnered praise, scorn and death threats for doing so. The Western Standard has since gone under, yet Levant remains a fierce critic of radical Islam, and says its effect on modern society is all the more caustic nine years later.

Q: One of my favourite cartoons that you published was the Arne Sorensen one of a cartoonist sitting at his drafting table, nervously drawing Muhammad while looking over his shoulder. The idea that pencil marks can be a death sentence was borne out in Paris yesterday. What does that tell you?

A: First of all, it tells me that the threat of radical Islam is real. When these people hold up signs reading, “Behead those who insult Islam,” or when they issue fatwas saying kill Salman Rushdie or the cartoonists, it’s not just for show. They actually mean it and, in this case, they’ll do it almost nine years after Charlie Hebdo published the Danish cartoons. The second thing is, why did they do it? What is the strategic impact of killing 12 cartoonists? You didn’t take out any tanks, planes or drones. You’ve actually done something much more powerful. 9/11 killed 3,000 people. It was an atrocity and a tragedy, but it didn’t reduce liberty in the West, other than at airports and some surveillance. Compare that to the effect of these 12 murders. Which do you think will cause thousands of Western journalists, editors and producers to consciously or subconsciously say, “I’m not going to do that radical Islam this week, I’ll talk about hockey or weather.” Which do you think has done more damage to our culture of liberty and has terrified the media, the pundits, the human rights commissions, the judges, the cops, the lawyers?

Q: Yet there’s an irony in that, because, since the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I’ve never seen so many caricatures of Muhammad in my life.

A: That’s because you’re seeking these things out. I spoke at a journalists’ conference, and most people hadn’t seen the Danish cartoons. They were journalists, but were so incurious, they wouldn’t even Google them. What about mere readers who rely on journalists to get that information?

Q: So you’re saying that this will make journalists who are chickens–t even more chickens–t?

A: Absolutely, and for good reason. The word Islamophobia has two meanings. There’s the politically correct wing of not liking Muslims. But there’s the literal meaning of Islamophobia, which is you are afraid of Islam. You are afraid of an ideology that has embedded in it doctrines of war and murder. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Koran. It is a terrifying document.

Q: So is the Old Testament.

A: Yeah. Now the good thing is, the Old Testament has not been an operational manual for about 2,000 years.

Q: This touches on another thing. History is filled with religious types killing whomever in the name of whatever deity they pray to, for whatever reason. Why is it today that it seems it’s only strains of Islam that do this sort of thing—the victims of which are overwhelmingly Muslim?

A: The reason is they have not had a reformation or a modernization of their faith in centuries. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made a remarkable speech on New Year’s Day. He asked: Why is Islam at war with the whole world? Why is the whole world afraid of us? It’s because we don’t have a debate or discussion about things. He said this in front of his ministry in charge of all the mosques. He said that we, meaning Muslims, need a revolution in our faith. El-Sisi is trying, and I hope he isn’t assassinated like Anwar Sadat. But other than that, tell me who a Muslim reformer is. Tell me who their Martin Luther is. Tell me who wants to change some of the medieval thinking. Two thousand years ago, I’m sure there were cases of Jews stoning gays to death. Five hundred years ago, I’m sure there were conquistadors killing Mayans in the name of Christ. But we’re in the 21st century and, as you point out, the only religion that is unsafe to mock is Islam.

Q: Killing someone because they mock your religion seems to me to be a show of profound insecurity.

A: Of course it is. But it appeals to some people. I’ve argued that the rape culture of Islamic State is not some incidental aspect; it’s central to Islamic State’s appeal to young Muslim men who are sexually repressed and frustrated. They get paid in rape slaves, and it’s all approved by imams.

Q: To be fair, most wars involve rape, whether Islam or not.

A: Right. And it’s an atrocity, like the rape of Nanking or Russia’s rape of Germany. But I’ve never seen in history a formal legal fatwa that Islamic State issued last month religiously endorsing raping women. It’s a recruiting tool. There is a great sickness, and you’re right to point out that the greatest victims of radical Islam are the Muslims who want to live a life reconciled with modernity.

Q: In your view, what should the French government do in the wake of these killings?

A: The fact that they called it terrorism is one basic step forward. What they ought to do, what Canada ought to do, is weed out violent mosques and weed out violent imams as if they were Hells Angels motorcycle gangs. If someone is preaching the murder of infidels and of those who insult Muhammad . . . If someone is preaching that, how is that not incitement to murder, when we see murder happening? Weed them out, deport the foreigners, and prosecute.

Q: In 2006, you had the courage to publish what no one else would publish. I don’t want to belittle that, but you’re still alive and kicking. I’m wondering if the context is different here than it is elsewhere.

A: The Charlie Hebdo guys were alive until yesterday. I’m not saying I feel in jeopardy. We don’t have 10 million Muslims in Canada, many of whom are radicalized, and over 1,000 fighting with Islamic State. We don’t have banlieues that are essentially police no-go zones. We don’t have the same culture of jihad here. And I think that’s in part because, over the last eight years, this government has tried to separate the radicals from the moderates and CSIS and the RCMP have done a good job, thank God, of breaking up terrorist plots. I hope that luck keeps up. It kept up in Sydney, Australia, until two weeks ago.

Q: You criticized journalists and media organizations six years ago for not printing the cartoons. Has the culture changed at all, in your opinion?

A: Oh my God, it’s absolutely worse! Do you think the Globe and Mail is going to show a Danish cartoon of Muhammad tomorrow? Do you think the CBC will? The Daily Telegraph is already pixelating pictures from Charlie Hebdo. Do you really think we are less cowardly today than nine years ago? All these people putting “Je Suis Charlie” on their Twitter avatar; you cowards! That’s not defying anybody. Put the picture of the cartoon in your avatar. That’s courage. Not a lot of courage, but baby steps. “Je Suis Charlie”? No you’re not, actually, because Charlie Hebdo published the cartoons, and Charlie Hebdo got killed.


 

‘Charlie Hebdo’ attack: In conversation with Ezra Levant

  1. Jesus, Marty, why do you even waste your time talking to this idiot?

    • An idiot who has turned out to be precisely right? Would that all “idiots” were so prescient.

    • Your offensive language is beyond ironic. Luckily I support your right to speak that way. It is a shame you don’t afford freedom of speech to others, such as Ezra Levant.

    • Because this “idiot” has been the strongest and most effective proponent for freedom of speech that Canada has ever had. He doesn’t just pay it lip service….he practices it.

      and believe it or not….he would defend your right to criticize him. That is the difference between a true believer in freedom……and a pretender such as yourself.

      you are an idiot Phaedrus. And I feel completely free to point that out.

  2. When something serious happens, the best person to talk to is a stunt-addicted rodeo clown without a shred of credibility among humans with a bumpy EEG readout? Come on, Maclean’s. You can do better.

  3. Idiot, clown are typical words of derision typical of progressive appeasers. Mr. Levant is undoubtly a loudmouth but he has a right to his opinion. To stifle the only one of 2 voices in Canada who had the guts to publish the cartoons of the prophet. Even the CBC doesn’t have the courage to stand in solidarity with democracy or their murdered colleagues at Charlie-Hebdo. In Canada, the radical Islamists have already won, as the journalists cower under the guise of community cohesion and not offending. We will have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and sometime. This barbarity must stop, or freedom of expression from the Canadian press will. Just listen to Neil Macdonald embarassing himself at the end of the CBC news with his commentary.

  4. People should not be shot for being stupid and offensive. It would be nice if they
    would just stop being stupid and offensive. Not likely to happen. So decent and
    reasonable people should ignore and shun them. Hi Ezra.

    • I’m offended when I see growing numbers of people devoting their lives to a taxpayer-subsidized lie, people who may very well support the murder of innocents in defence of that lie. I’m offended these people and their lie remain uncriticized by my taxpayer-funded CBC. And I’m deeply offended that anyone who dares challenge this group will very likely have their lives and livelihoods destroyed, if they are lucky enough not to be murdered for opening their mouths.

  5. What a lively, engrossing, well-rounded interview with Ezra Levant. I read and watch him along with a wide variety of other commentators from both ends of the political spectrum. Unfortunately we have educators in our society who teach the young to close their ears to anything but the Toronto Star. The Star is exalted as an example of perfect journalism while the Sun and Fox media are held up as examples of bias. The Star does good work but they too are biased – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Most importantly, there are other voices we need to pay attention to in Canada and around the world, including perspectives that are as wildly right-wing as Fox News or as unabashedly biased as Ezra Levant. Sometimes the “village idiot” is correct in his assessments, and in the case of radical islam attempting to take a foothold in Canada, there are many, many “idiots” attempting to be heard. Ezra Levant is just the bravest among them. I wish some of you would open your ears and minds to opposing opinions to your own, whether your professor approves or not.

    • Mr. Levant is a brave man and he has constantly supported the free expression of ideas and opinions.

  6. The MSM is embarrassed that they ridiculed Ezra Levant so much, because now it turns out he was right and acted accordingly. Thank you Maclean’s for at least recognizing that. And to all who despise Levant, get over it. You may thank him one day.

  7. Dear Phaedrus
    You call Mr Levant an idiot? Is that the best you can do? Perhaps you could counter some of his ideas with your smarter ones?

  8. On the topic of cenorship itself, I find myself largely agreeing with Ezra Levant, except when talking about Islam, he’s kind of missed a fundamental point.
    Christians stopped burning people at the stake committing other atrocities once the churches lost their power over the governments of Europe. Notice that church attendance dropped steadily since church attendance stopped being mandatory, originally by law but later by social convention as religious institutions wrapped themselves around every day to day aspect of people’s lives.
    I remember reading part of a speech by John Paul 2 in Poland, complaining that in a country that was 90% Catholic, over half the adult women were using birth control. It’s also noticeable that most Catholics don’t go to church except holidays, weddings and funerals, the churches are usually empty on Sunday, because ‘Catholic’ is something people call themselves because it’s what their parents said they were, and most Catholics have no regard whatsoever for Catholic doctrines, because the church is just kind of a community hub, like it’s been for centuries, a place for weddings, funerals and holidays.
    But even after the church lost it’s power, governments in Europe still went on to commit other atrocities without using religion as an excuse. Today, the US and it’s allies use ‘defending freedom’ as their excuse for holding the world at gun point and forcing countries into poverty to make it cheaper for companies to get resources and labor while pretending they’re being charitable.
    Ultimately, it’s not the western religion of Christianity that’s gone to war with the middle east, it’s the self-serving psychopathy of western governments and the corporations that control them that has continually interfered and provoked and murdered innocent people for the benefit of western financial elites.
    Also, there would be no ISIS, Taliban or Al-Queda if the US hadn’t have created them for it’s own economic agenda.
    Even if the US hadn’t have created, armed and trained those organizations, western economic powers and their parasitic economic system are what is driving people towards the ideology of religious fundamentalists.

    • Daniel

      It was not the Americans that created Muslim extremists. The Americans pissed them off…but they didn’t create the crazies.

      The crazies were “created” by the Quran. No American policy can prevent Islam from warping people’s minds.

      If you want to get rid of Muslim extremism….you have to start by getting rid of the Muslim extremists. If the Islamic community won’t work to that end….then we should do it our way.

      • “RE: The crazies were “created” by the Quran.”

        Christianity, Judaism and Islam are related to one another as Abrahamic religions. Their religious scriptures are not as independent of one another as you seem to think.

        The perversion of Islam that we are witnessing should not be mistaken for the Islamic faith any more than someone like Timothy McVeigh should be accepted as representing the Christian faith.

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