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06 June 2008

Maclean's counsel not allowed to question conduct of Islamic congress

VANCOUVER — Attempts by Maclean's counsel Julian Porter to question the B.C. director of the Canadian Islamic Congress about the organization's conduct were deemed inappropriate by tribunal judges on Thursday, undercutting the lawyer's line of questioning.

B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal is meeting this week because of a complaint filed by the province's CIC director, Naiyer Habib, as well as the organization's national president, Mohamed Elmasry. The complaint came in response to an article written by Mark Steyn that appeared in Maclean's in October, 2006. Titled The Future Belongs to Islam, the piece has been blasted by Muslim critics for spreading “Islamophobia.”

On the stand Thursday, Dr. Habib detailed how his role as a CIC leader made him want “to do something” in response to Mr. Steyn's article, which alleges the religion will soon take over the Western world.

But when Mr. Porter began his cross-examination and attempted to question Dr. Habib about a fellow CIC member's trip to Libya, he was rebuffed by the tribunal. After a recess, Mr. Porter was told the “conduct of the CIC is not an issue in this complaint” because “Dr. Habib filed the complaint himself,” not on behalf of the organization. A frustrated Mr. Porter muttered that the decision would shorten his cross-examination considerably.

Mr. Porter then referenced Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks, suggesting a prevailing terrorist threat requires that “writers must write about it,” although they are capable of making mistakes.

In one heated exchange, Mr. Porter asked Dr. Habib what his organization and he personally were doing to “curtail bin Laden.”

Faisal Joseph, a lawyer for the complainants, objected, saying these types of questions speak to the original complaint that launched the hearings.

Although he steered clear of the line-by-line analysis of Mr. Steyn's work that marked the previous day's hearing, Dr. Habib claimed the piece “demonized Islam” and was “full of hate.” And he read aloud a series of postings from an American website – which has no affiliation to Maclean's or Mr. Steyn – that favourably commented on Mr. Steyn's article and negatively commented on the Muslim community.

posted by /  /www.theglobeandmail.com

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