Western Standard causes uproar

CALGARY (CP) - A small chain of independent bookstores will not sell the current issue of Western Standard magazine, which includes caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that have caused riots overseas.


"We felt it was deemed offensive by Muslims and that it doesn't serve freedom of expression to flout Muslim sensibilities," said Colleen Boschmann, manager of the McNally Robinson store in Calgary. McNally Robinson also has two stores in Winnipeg and one in Saskatoon. None will carry the controversial Western Standard issue.

Boschmann says the Danish cartoons are readily available on the Internet for anyone who wants to look at them.

"We didn't think we would be expressing anything except perhaps the symbolic . . . offensive right to express whatever we want," she said, adding that the store sells fewer than a dozen copies of the magazine each month.

"Basically our policy (is) freedom of expression, yes. But freedom of gratuitous provocation? No."

Ezra Levant, publisher of the Calgary-based magazine, says he expects that some outlets will decide against selling the issue, which was published Monday but will not be readily across the country for up to 10 days.

"With something this spicy, it may be that some newsstands decline to take it for their own reasons," said Levant, noting that half of the magazine's 40,000 circulation goes directly to subscribers.

Levant says Canada's mainstream newspapers and civil liberties organizations are hypocritical by self-censoring the cartoons, which he describes as innocuous.

"We think these cartoons are the central artifacts of the largest news story of the month," said Levant, whose magazine is published 24 times a year.

"The question is not why would a news magazine run a newsworthy picture, but rather why would 100 other news magazines and newspapers not?"

But journalism professor Stephen Ward says there are lots of things that newspapers are against printing every day and that Levant should consider the ethical consequences of publishing the images.

"This is a very deep, difficult issue and I don't think we're doing any good by saying, 'I'm going to be politically incorrect and I'm going to show you my freedom of the press badge'," said Ward, who teaches media ethics at the University of British Columbia.

"It would be much better if that magazine and other newspapers open up its editorial pages to discussing how we're going to deal with freedom of expression and religious sensitivities in the new global world."

Levant has never shied away from controversy. He was communications adviser to Stockwell Day during Day's brief, tumultuous period as leader of the Canadian Alliance and was viewed by some as abrasive.

He also knocked heads with Stephen Harper, initially refusing to step aside as the Alliance candidate in Calgary Southwest after Harper won the party leadership in 2002, wanting to run in the riding that was home to Reform founder Preston Manning.

Levant dismisses suggestions from some editors that they don't like to offend religious groups. He points to the current cover of Rolling Stone, with rapper Kanye West portrayed as Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns.

"The difference is when they offend Christianity, Christians write a letter to the editor or maybe invite them out for lunch and try to appeal to them," said Levant, who is Jewish. "What the Muslim world has demonstrated over the last month is that they will get violent."

Mohamed Elmasry, national leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress, says he would like the Western Standard charged with distributing hate literature.

"They already know this is hurtful to Muslims," said Elmasry. "For Western Standard to go out of their way and re-publish them, the only explanation is provocation."

Elmasry says there is a limit to free speech. If no charges are laid against Levant, the Islamic group plans to lobby federal politicians to toughen up the hate laws.

Police received several complaints after the Calgary-based Jewish Free Press published some of the cartoons over the weekend under the headline: "They came for the cartoonists first." No charges have been laid.

No other Canadian publication has chosen to reprint the Danish cartoons. Montreal's Le Devoir published its own editorial cartoon on the uproar which ran alongside an article entitled Cartoon crisis spreads.

news.yahoo.com/s/cpress/20060...NlYwN5bmNhdA-- (external - login to view)

The only reason why the guy is doing this is to sell copies. And I hope more newsstands pull the issue.
Yes, we get it!

You can publish whatever you want (to a degree).

But that does not mean that you necessarily should, or have to!

This is being done exclusively to offend people, in hopes of increasing sales due to such controversy. I don't understand how we could see this as a favourable practice.
Jo Canadian
I'm really suprised, and a bit disappointed by the lack of creativity by those papers actually publishing the cartoons. If you are going to write an article on the Topic of Free speech and where to draw the line, none of these papers have thought to publish other cartoons that would be equally offensive to help deliver the effect of the article on the readers.

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