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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I am Islamophobic: The untold story of a Queen's University student's acute fear of religious radicals

In October, Gareth Chantler wrote an article entitled “I am Islamophobic” for the Queen’s University campus publication, Diatribe magazine.

Chantler was told by editor-in-chief Jeff Fraser that the article would be published in the November issue of the magazine.

Growing tension on campus between Muslim and non-Muslim students, however, has put the article on hold indefinitely, despite Diatribe’s editorial promise to be “provocative.”

The tension has been caused by a handful of incidences, ranging from serious to silly.

In late September, the Queen’s University Muslim Student Association (QUMSA) had their offices broken into, property stolen and posters vandalized. It was a serious incident.

In October, Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) President Jacob Mantle issued an apology for a comment he made about a photo on a friend’s Facebook wall. The comment, “I like your Taliban picture,” was made about a picture of two girls wearing headscarves. Insensitive? Sure, but the reaction to it has been described as “hysteria.”

Shortly after this Facebook incident, graffiti was found throughout the Queen’s campus that was thought to be an expression of the growing tension.

It was all too much for Diatribe editor Fraser. In an email to Chantler, he explained his decision to spike the article:

“I have no right to jeopardize the safety of the executives” [referring to the executives of Diatribe] and that “frankly, I don’t see the position you’ve taken on Islam as something worth defending at the expense of people whose necks are not mine.”

Having read Chantler's article here, I can say it is, in fact, worth defending. Chantler makes a reasonable argument against radical Islam that is, by his own admission, just as applicable to Christian fundamentalists. Chantler argues that there are parts of the Koran, like parts of the Bible, that advocate violence. And if you believe the Koran is the literal word of Allah, then you also believe in the parts of the Koran that advocate violence. If you are one of these people, then Chantler is afraid of you, hence the title of his article: “I am Islamophobic.”

Chantler is Islamophobic because he is afraid of radical religious dogma. Is this really a controversial statement? Perhaps. But bigoted? Of course not.

Fraser believes Chantler has a right to be heard and that his work is important – he’s just not willing to do the heavy lifting himself:

“I believe you have a right to be heard, and what you have to say is important, but I have put other priorities first; namely, the safety of my staff, sympathy for campus Muslims, and the dismissal of the Jacob Mantle hysteria before it permanently damages this university's reputation.”

My favourite part of Fraser’s email is his suggestion that Chantler go after Christians instead of Muslims, as they are a soft target for critics of religious fundamentalism:

"If you really do believe that attacking religious ideology is progress, make a concerted attack on Christianity. That is a well established religion, whose many followers feel safe and comfortable in the society in which they live."

Fraser also wrote that:

"If you are truly interested in opening discussion, you will make your argument in less controversial terms at a less controversial time."

The latter is a sad comment coming from the editor of a magazine Chantler describes as a “bastion of free speech and free publication on campus, publishing both right-wing and left-wing views [which] has provided a counterbalance to the newsy and politically correct views expressed in the Queen’s Journal. This is to say that articles such as mine, which may be offensive to certain people, have always found a home in Diatribe’s pages. There is now no place for the publication of my article at Queen’s University.”

There may be no place for Chantler’s article at Queen’s, but there is a place for it on the Western Standard.

Read “I am Islamophobic” on the Western Standard here. But if you’re expecting hyperbolic language and angry anti-Islamic rhetoric, you’ll be disappointed. Chantler offers a thoughtful, liberal critique of Muslim radicalism that applies equally to Christians who believe seriously that the Bible is the literal word of God.

Chantler has no fear of the vast majority of what he calls “secular Muslims” (or secular Christians for that matter) and, in fact, argues that the Osgoode Law students who sought to convict Mark Steyn of human rights violations, while wrong to try to censor Steyn and Maclean’s magazine, are people “no one needs to be especially worried about.”

I don’t know how this article will be received. It’s free of gratuitous language and reveals no bias except toward non-violence.

It wasn’t long ago that the Western Standard's publisher, Matthew Johnston, offended some readers by removing ugly comments on this blog after they were brought to his attention by Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy. The anonymous comments were repugnant and not typical of the kinds of comments that appear everyday on the Shotgun Blog. Still, some readers felt this move would invite further demands from the Muslim community and lead to self-censorship. He issued a public apology to Soharwardy for the comments and we agreed to keep an open channel for communication between us and Soharwardy, which we’ve done.

Since this incident, but not because of it, the Western Standard has added legal scholar Moin Yahya and paleo-conservative blogger Omar Abu Hatem to our editorial team -- both Muslims, both friends of liberty.

There is no room at the Western Standard for anti-Muslim bigotry, but there is room for serious discussions about the threat to peace of radical religious beliefs of every variety. I trust this distinction will be made by readers with respect to "I am Islamophobic."

UPDATE: Rob Breakenridge had Gareth Chantler on his radio program to talk about his article. Listen to the interview, it's interesting.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on December 10, 2008 in Religion | Permalink


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The article is pure nonsense. The author lifts passages out of the Quran and then provides his own interpretation of them based on his limited understanding without providing the proper context which would furnish an altogether different meaning of the verses in question. This is not a scholarly way of dealing with the issue -or any other issue - at all and any uneducated person could have written such an article. The writer needs to study the subject of Asbab - e- nazool- the context in which the verses were revealed and why. Students of the Quran know that knowledge of why a verse was revealed helps explain the meaning better, and sometimes reaching the true meaning of a verse can be completely dependent on knowing the reason of the revelation. In addition, there are at least 14 other areas of scholarship which are required before commenting on the Quran and I am happy to furnish them upon request.

Yannie Barrie, PhD

Posted by: Yannie | 2008-12-10 4:20:53 AM

Editor Fraser is confirming his belief that Muslims are sensitive and prone to violence.

If he's too scared to publish Chantler's article, he could at least publish an article discussing why it is better to submit to fear than publish something that might possibly hurt someone's delicate sensitivities, he wouldn't have to use any labels.

Closing down the publication is probably the best option for these child 'journalists' - they're as bad as the CBC.

Posted by: Philanthropist | 2008-12-10 4:49:27 AM

The largest terror groups in the world, groups that have killed the most people, groups that get funding and support from like-minded countries, all have one thing in common - Islam.

There's your 'context' buddy.

Posted by: Philanthropist | 2008-12-10 4:57:12 AM

Politically correct, linguistically supple/spineless "pink men" like editor Fraser are a pox upon the planet. Such people may carry different citizenships, but all of them reside in the State of Fear.

Fear of women and how they and men are different from one another.

Fear of history because they have been inculcated with guilt over their own history but kept ignorant of its glory.

Fear of "the other" because "the other" is "different" and NOT being afraid requires a spine and an historical cultural identity.

I could go on...

Editor Fraser and his ilk are common as dirt these days. One scrapes better from the soles of one's shoes after walking the dog in the neighbourhood park.

Posted by: Pesky Pundit | 2008-12-10 6:13:05 AM

I refuse to be made to believe I should be afraid of a particular people simply because the government and MSM say I should be. If I'm worried about anybody, its the government and MSM.
It is through this fear mongering that we are having our real securities, liberties and freedoms, replaced with government mandated securities that simply remove our liberties and freedoms. I respect everyone's right to worship as they see fit, provided they are not inducing force or fraud on others.

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-10 6:48:58 AM

Gareth Chantler has taken the verses of Qur’an out of context. This is not a problem with Qur’an only. Bible has similar problems. People take verses from Bible OR Qur’an and quote them without knowing / understanding the context of those verses. It is critical to understand the context. In most cases the context of verses is not in Qur’an. It is in the books of Hadith and history books.

I invite all those who find verses of Qur’an violent to come and discuss these verses with someone who has some knowledge of Islam at the Freedom of Speech Centre located at the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, Calgary NE. You will have complete freedom to express yourself.

I am willing to discuss these verses with Gareth and answer his questions.

Syed Soharwardy
Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre
5700 Falsbridge Dr., NE Calgary

Posted by: Syed Soharwardy | 2008-12-10 6:54:00 AM

I am trying to figure out what on Earth publishing this is supposed to accomplish. The fact that it should be legal for the kid to write whatever he wants doesn't mean that he's entitled to be published somewhere.

The Standard can oppose the CHRC without publishing everything that would provoke a CHRC complaint.

Frankly, I find the article offensive.

Posted by: Janet Neilson | 2008-12-10 6:54:15 AM

As I read this article I could not help but be distracted by the single muslim dating ads in the Google bar to the left.

One of these ads shows a happy upwardly mobile "metro muslim" couple. Are these the muslims that Chandler is espousing??

Posted by: Miff Mole | 2008-12-10 8:14:10 AM

It's really interesting how an article replete with actual quotations from a certain book, and pointing in face of this obvious evidence to its rather outrageous content, is accused of being "inflammatory." What 'inflammatory' means there seems to be that some people are all ready to act in accord with the evidently literal orders in those passages. Which brings up Yannie Barrie, to whom we should ask the following: if passages do not mean what they say, then how about the 99% of readers who assume that they DO mean what they say? Would Yannie support a suggestion that books containing apparently wildly violent passages be published ONLY if embedded in scholarly denials of those apparent meanings? Mr. Chantler points to the passages, unadorned with scholarly qualifications, because that is what readers see. If the passages do not in fact mean what they say, those who publish them as they stand are either unwitting dupes or a pack of liars - and incendiary ones at that. Is that an implication Yannie Barrie would like to accept? If not, why not?

Of course, and obviously, the more fundamental issue is this: how is it that people can think they should do something just beause somebody claims that "God" told them to go out and do it? That is a kick that all religious believers need to get off of. (Nte: substitute 'your government' for 'God' and we have pretty much the same question ...)

Posted by: Jan Narveson | 2008-12-10 8:14:10 AM

There you have it. The WS is now, officially, a muslim publication.

Hava a nice day.

Posted by: dp | 2008-12-10 8:51:28 AM


Great post.


It's great to see you comment on this thread.


I'm not trying to attack you. I'm a socially liberal kind of guy, for the most part, and non-religious. But I was wondering if you could clear something up for me:

From what I've read, most (but not all) modern Christianity accepts a distinction between religious law and secular law. Even religious religious conservatives who oppose gay marriage will put their arguments in secular terms, e.g. they'll try to explain why the legal recognition of same-sex marriage would have harmful social consequences. They recognize that, for the most part, the laws of the land have to be justified in terms that do not presuppose the truth of any religion or religious text.

In other words: even Christian conservatives seem to accept that even if Biblical law forbids act X, that isn't a reason in itself for secular law to forbid act X.

I've heard from some people that Islam, or at least the most popular forms of it, does not accept a distinction between secular and religious law. In other words, there are many Muslims who do not think it is necessary to justify laws in religiously neutral terms. This is the charge, anyway.

The people who make this charge may be wrong, but I was wondering if you could say a few things about this issue. Are their resources within Islam to recognize a firm distinction between secular and religious law? Does Islam accept that the idea that the laws of the land must be justified in religiously neutral terms?

Please forgive me if this post comes off as ignorant in important respects. I'm trying to understand, and the requirement that public policy in a liberal society must justified in a religiously neutral way figures large in my scholarly work. Thus, any light you can shed on the subject would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance,


Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-12-10 9:16:49 AM

Thanks for that invitation, Syed.

The comments on this thread are interesting.

Janet Neilson, who writes for us, is offended by the column. Jan Narveson -- an Officer of the Order of Canada, who also writes for us, is not.

dp, a regular commenter and reader thinks we are now officially a Muslim publication, while Dr. Barrie thinks we've been unfair to Islam.

That's is quite a range of opinions.

My favourite comment so far is from JC who said we should not engage in fear mongering with respect to people of any religion. I agree. But Chantler is bringing forth a challenging question:

Can you be an adherent to a religion in the modern age if that religion contains dogma that includes practices now considered illegal or immoral? Believers get around this problem by selectively ignorning scripture that doesn't fit with a modern world view. But that approach is not spiritually satisfying for some.


Matthew Johnston

Posted by: westernstandard | 2008-12-10 9:45:51 AM

I see nothing in this article that ought not to appear in a university publication. Indeed, it grieves me that one by one our universities are knuckling under to what I believe is one of the worst curses of our age: Political Carrectness. There was a time when universities prided themselves with being the fora for wide-open discussion of all types. Chantler even balances his article by mentioning passages in the bible that arent very nice. I have read the koran cover to cover and can testify to the correctness of the passages he quotes. I, like most people, don't fear all Muslims---only the types who fly planes full of innocent passengers into tall buildings while shouting Allah Akhbar!

Posted by: Don Atkinson | 2008-12-10 9:55:59 AM

But Chantler is bringing forth a challenging question:

Can you be an adherent to a religion in the modern age if that religion contains dogma that includes practices now considered illegal or immoral?

Posted by: Western Standard | 10-Dec-08 9:45:51 AM

While this question was raised in a peripheral way in the column, it was not the root of the article (or, if it was intended to be, the column was poorly written).

An article written in earnest about the above question would not be offensive. An article that goes after any religion with the emphasis this one puts on Islam is.

Posted by: Janet | 2008-12-10 10:22:38 AM

Jan Narveson,
Great to see you posting.
I finished "You and the State" recently and wanted to say, Great Book! Very informative.

Be well, JC

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-10 10:46:19 AM

Janet Neilson appears to have confused Chantler with the sock puppets who were demanding publishing from a private magazine. Campus rags are "owned" by the dues paying students and are allegedly a part of the university establishment to promote thoughtful discourse for which, Chantler's article qualifies. The jackboots of campus political correctness, in this case, cowering from real or contrived fear of Islamic violence continues. Fraser has passed the litmus test for entry to the MSM.

Actually, I found Chantler's article pandering too much to the Islamists by morally equivocating with Christianity, a reformed religion. A little too much in the way of group hugs and Kumbaya, but what do I know, I'm an athiest.

It will be interesting to see how many native (traditional) Brits in about 20 years will be willing to revert to the 7th century to enable participation in the Islam dominated Nanny state.

Demography rules.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-12-10 11:00:18 AM


"Actually, I found Chantler's article pandering too much to the Islamists by morally equivocating with Christianity, a reformed religion."

As a non-religious sort, I have to call out atheists/agnostics for this sort of equivalence all the time. Christians, by and large, do not advocate enforcing Biblical law on non-Christians (they may take up positions that _conform_ to Biblical law in certain respects, but they realize the need to make their case for those positions in secular terms.)

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-12-10 11:19:47 AM

"Christians, by and large, do not advocate enforcing Biblical law on non-Christians."

And, by and large, neither do Muslims, according to Chantler.

And Christians have in the past forced their faith on others. What's changed? They didn't edit the Bible for modern times.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-12-10 11:30:56 AM


Agreed. That's also why I like Fallaci's self description of Christian Atheist, a recognition of the Judeo-Christian inheritance evolved in Western civilization minus the mysticism.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-12-10 11:43:20 AM


True. I wasn't directly addressing Chantler's argument. Rather, I was addressing the hostile paranoia many (not all) atheists exhibit toward Christianity in particular.

I know I've come out rather strongly in favor of gay marriage, but it's because I think the secular arguments religious conservatives offer against it just aren't very good.

As for what changed, it may have something to do with the fact that Christian sects spent centuries slaughtering each other for minor differences in religious belief. At some point, all sides figured out that they could do better taking the guns off the table, and tolerating differences in opinion.

Indeed, one might suggest the United States provided a pretty good working example of how well a nation could do if it guaranteed religious liberty.

I was reading a bit about this guy recently:

The founder of Rhode Island and a very interesting fellow. EXTREMELY religious (too Puritan for the Puritans, even), but a very strong defender of religious liberty. An odd duck, but he found the resources necessary to defend religious toleration within Christianity itself.

That's why I asked Syed if Islam has similar resources. It probably does, but I'd be interested in learning more.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-12-10 11:45:20 AM

"A society of property, consent, and voluntary interaction, wherein people may associate with or exclude whomever they like is a peaceful society."

If one employs the above logic, the very foundation of liberalism in its classical sense, then this makes no sense.

"Of course, there are other types of people who are Islamophobic: they are put off by hijabs and Ramadan, because they are reactionary and xenophobic. That kind of discrimination is obviously silly and superficial."

It's actually ass-backwards. Discrimination, for whatever reason, is the foundation of freedom and thus the foundation of peace.

What we see at Queens is the direct result of the abrogation of freedom and coercion by the state.

Posted by: DJ | 2008-12-10 12:37:43 PM

His point was that "that kind" of discrimination is silly and superfiscial. He was not suggesting that people don't have the right to exclude; in fact, he argues the opposite, I think, DJ.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-12-10 12:48:13 PM


Possibly you could point out the passage where he argues for the freedom to exclude. However, classifying the freedom to discriminate as silly and superficial, parroting in effect a state indoctrinated mantra, does not show much promise.


Posted by: DJ | 2008-12-10 1:03:34 PM

Syed Soharwardy has invited all those who, like
Gareth Chantler, has taken the verses of Qur’an out of context.He says: "I invite all those who find verses of Qur’an violent to come and discuss these verses with someone who has some knowledge of Islam".
Given that most of the violence in the middle and far east is directly from the hand of Muslims whose belief in those very verses justify their murderous ways, I believe that his invitation is misdirected and should be focussed on his religious confrers. Wahabism and its toxic offshoots are the problem, not other relatively benign and tolerant forms of Islam. Most Muslims I suspect want what everybody else wants, to make a living and bring their children up in peace, (and eventually die in bed).
The danger to and from Islam is this bloodthirsty pitiless murdering that is carried out in the name of Allah, mainly Muslim on Muslim as well as Muslim on 'Other'. This is a stain that only Muslims can remove from Islam and the longer they take to getting around to addressing it the more stain they will have to deal with.

Posted by: Stan Fisher | 2008-12-10 3:07:53 PM

Well, this was not how I wanted to start my afternoon.

As a note, I should make clear that the following is in major part my reason for voting not to publish the article; it does not reflect the opinions of other members of Diatribe.

Diatribe Magazine has, in the past, claimed to be a "bastion of free speech" and "provocative". However, these were proclamations made under the previous editor in chief, Gareth Chantler, who quit mid-semester last year.

We had originally intended to publish his submission on merit of free speech; however, the decision was reversed late into the hysteria following the Arts and Science Society Presidential comments idiocy (http://queensjournal.ca/story/2008-10-28/news/racism-web/). As wonderful as it is to be called a coward for a good business decision, an eight-year-old startup "club" with very student-interest dependent funding would not have survived the fallout this article would have brought with it, and it is unfortunate that Mr. Chantler did not agree. It's easy to claim that you would have gone out in a blaze of free speech glory, Mr. Kassam; but unfortunately, I'm not interested enough in Mr. Chantler's opinion, poor defeated right-winger that he is, to make that sacrifice.

I am happy to see that Mr. Chantler has been published beyond Queen's. I am unhappy to see that it has been in a publication that quotes private MSN conversations without permission or forewarning. Thank you, Mr. Kassam, for lending national attention to childish university politics. And you call yourself an adult?

By the way, the ed board's vote was unanimous, and the "State" had no say. Democracy rules.

Posted by: Jeff Fraser | 2008-12-10 3:11:51 PM

Surely writing things that press the limits and might or might not be appropriate is the whole point of college journalism? I cannot honestly see why they did not publish this considering some of the utter and offensive tripe I have seen written in college newspapers in the English speaking world.

You don't like it write in and complain or write something that challenges it. Cutting off dialogue on political correct grounds never does anyone any good.

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say what you want it does not guarantee the freedom not to be offended or make a complete and utter arse of yourself.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge | 2008-12-10 3:42:26 PM

In 1991, I was Managing Editor of The King's Chronicle, a student publication of King's College at UWO in London, Ontario. The last editorial we wrote pissed off Student's Council so much that they shut down the paper, and we were only able to publish our final edition of the school year as an insert in another student paper at UWO.

I have always taken great pride in that editorial, and just cannot comprehend the cowering complacency of so many young people today.

Hey University Students: You're only as oppressed as you feel!

Posted by: Mike van Lammeren | 2008-12-10 4:03:02 PM

Democracy only rules at the pleasure of the state Leviathan, as Stephen Boissoin quickly discovered.

Posted by: DJ | 2008-12-10 4:23:46 PM

Freedom of speech does not give one the right to be published.

Mr. van Lammeren, I respect that you chose your battle; I hope it was worthwhile. For Diatribe, publishing "I am Islamophobic" would not have been. Forums such as this one are those in which these issues should be discussed rationally. In the climate of Queen's campus in November, it would not have opened rational dialogue, it would have sparked a riot. If you are looking for something to be disappointed about, be disappointed that events developed into such a state where rational dialogue was no longer possible. It is a far more important issue, and one that we did comment on.

I admire that you felt so strongly about your editorial that you were willing to martyr your publication for it. But Diatribe's not a secularist magazine, and we didn't feel that way about Gareth's article. It's really quite as simple as that.

Posted by: Jeff Fraser | 2008-12-10 4:55:55 PM

Interesting comments. Jeff Fraser, it has more to do with bowing to Sharia in this case rather than claiming that freedom of speech gives one the right to be published. Sad that the fear and intimidation worked once again.

Stan Fisher makes some valid comments with which I agree. One may argue till the cows come home that it is taking verses out of context or whatever, but the fact remains that the Islamists/jihadists use these same verses to justify their actions. I suggest that all Muslims not supporting these actions start educating the jihadists within Islam rather than trying to convince non Muslims.

As for the writer of the article, I think he would have done better to address the behaviour of Islamists/jihadists rather than focusing on the Koran. Personally I care not what is written in people's holy books but I do indeed care about their behaviour and actions.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-12-10 6:14:59 PM

I am the Chief Culture Editor for Diatribe Magazine and I take exception to Mr. Kassam's degradation of our publication standards in this blog entry. Mr. Kassam has no right to criticize our publication, seeing as he lacks insight into the on-campus circumstances leading to our choice not to run Gareth's article. Diatribe remains a bastion of free speech and free thought on campus, and our decision to withhold the article in question was based not on fear but on a desire to uphold decency and rational discourse on campus in a climate of uneducated pragmatism and childish uncertainty. I stand behind my EIC, Jeff Fraser, in this regard. To accuse the publication of cowardly conservatism is simply baseless and shameful, and I can see how it must be easy for Mr. Kassam and others in this discussion thread to do so when they need not fear bricks through their windows.

Posted by: Christopher Matei | 2008-12-10 6:28:09 PM

Christopher Matei,
You say that you did not act out of fear, but who would have thrown bricks through your windows?

Posted by: Craig | 2008-12-10 6:54:10 PM


Uneducated pragmatism is not very... pragmatic.

Whatever did you mean by that? Care to expand?

By the way, who the heck is throwing bricks through windows at Queens? People who get tired of listening to The Tragically Hip?

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-12-10 7:15:46 PM

Simply enough (and more metaphorical bricks perhaps), fellow students who may have misinterpreted Gareth's words! The amount of furore caused by the recent QUMSA break-ins and the Jacob Mantle incident had incited a degree of student tension which our publication did not want to upset. Provocative writing is one thing, foolishness is entirely another. We did not want to introduce elements to increase campus tension, complicated by people who might not fully appreciate Gareth's argument (which I think is well-structured and insightful for the most part)

Posted by: Christopher Matei | 2008-12-10 7:17:05 PM

Right on Craig!!

You just sliced through all Mr Matei's, uh, diatribe.

Posted by: Duder | 2008-12-10 7:17:55 PM

To Terrence Watson: that was precisely my point. An uneducated pragmatist is better known as a fool and a dangerous one at that, ready to leap into action without thinking. We wanted to keep people on campus, regardless of religious beliefs, from flying even more off the handle than they already had over the Mantle and QUMSA issues.

(Also: apologies if this post is delayed or repeated, the web server is acting up)

Posted by: Christopher Matei | 2008-12-10 7:28:12 PM

As a current Queen's student, though ultimately opposed to the censorship enforced upon Mr. Chantler, I sympathize with Diatribe Magazine's decision. I am sure that such a judgement call did not come easily. However, I feel that those who understand the context of this past semester at Queen's would be reluctant to label Diatribe as having taken a definitive stance against free speech.

The hysteria born out of the events last semester in which Muslim students at Queen's were deliberately targeted made for a unique atmosphere to which Diatribe clearly adapted. Chantler's article was merely a victim of bad timing. While he is free to express his opinion, publication of such an article in such a hostile climate with regards to the subject matter would have implicated not only the author, but an entire publication and those involved.

Admittedly, the article presents a clear and well constructed argument placing the burden of proof upon those who prescribe to religious doctrine (Muslim and Christian alike). However, the mere subject matter, if only by virtue of the title, would have undoubtedly caused an uproar to the detriment of the publication at Queen's, a sacrifice the executive committee was clearly not willing to make.

As independent as Diatribe strives to be, it still holds a strong association to Queen's University and is a Queen's publication. Thus it is no surprise that it would be directly affected by a climate of high alert with respect to anti-Islamic sentiment. While bystanders can lament the lack of a free media outlet on campus, this is a luxury they posess by virtue of their position as just that, bystanders. In this instance, Diatribe was directly linked to the university and its current state and the editor forced to evaluate the priorities of the publication.

Despite its best efforts, and let me assure every reader that Diatribe is the most provocative and free publication available on campus, its association with the university and students therein gave clear cause for an evaluation of its priorities at a time of heightened sensitivity. An evaluation which clearly led them to decide the article could not be published through Diatribe.

That being said, I applaud Mr. Chantler for pursuing publication of his article through a third party, one with no association whatsoever to the university, the student body, or the circumstances at Queen's to consider in their publication of such.

Posted by: Dan Palardy | 2008-12-10 7:44:32 PM


Ok, thank you for your straightforward response.

May I ask this? Would there have come a time at which you would have been prepared to publish Gareth's "well-structured and insightful" piece? Have you published anything comparable lately?

What would have had to have happened in order for you and Mr. Fraser to give it the green light?

I ask this because I don't think anyone would criticize you for not publishing the piece if there was a genuine danger of an imminent violent response.

But one has to wonder: from whom were you expecting this response?



Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-12-10 7:45:26 PM

Yanni Said ...
"Students of the Quran know that knowledge of why a verse was revealed helps explain the meaning better, and sometimes reaching the true meaning of a verse can be completely dependent on knowing the reason of the revelation."

Sowardy said ....
"This is not a problem with Qur’an only. Bible has similar problems. People take verses from Bible OR Qur’an and quote them without knowing / understanding the context of those verses."

It's all a big mystery eh boys? Only the enlightened and studied such as yourselves can possibly understand the complexities of these religious mythologies.

It all starts to resemble a TV game show after awhile. I am sure Alex Trebec would have fun with this crap on Jeopardy.

Most of us in the West don't give a shit about the minutia of your archaic beliefs. We are far down the road where science and economy are far more important that your superstitions and fears.

This is the 21st century and I invite you to join it. To the Muslims ... women are not cattle and hard work and honesty are good things. To the Christians ... Most of you are faking it anyway, why not just get real. And to both of you, children are not sex objects.

This whole throw back is tiresome. I wish you would all grow up and consider what kind of species we are. This is not a planet that any self respecting space alien would want to reside in.

There is almost no society left on this planet where one can be free of some sort of zeal and insanity.

I am glad I am old.

Posted by: John V | 2008-12-10 8:03:04 PM

Mr. Matei's last sentence shows that the article was rejected out of fear of Islamist violence, proving Chantler's points.

I did not find Chantler's article offensive and feel that it should provide rational discussion among rational people. In that spirit I should point out that he failed to recognize an important difference between the verses from the Koran and those he quoted from the Bible: Muslims take their violent verses seriously and consequently their extremists are violent.

Christians on the other hand, recognize that the verses Chantler quoted from the Bible were not written for them but to the nation of Israel during a particular time in their history, and for that period only. Christians are followers of Christ and do not commit acts of violence on the basis of His teachings.

Jesus Himself said: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth" but I tell you not to esist an evil person." etc. (Mt 5:38,39) thereby showing that the New Testament's teachings are different from those of the Old Testament.

Posted by: Herman | 2008-12-10 8:04:41 PM


It doesn't matter.

Posted by: John V | 2008-12-10 8:13:22 PM

Kassam, you define ignorance.

you're an idiot.

Posted by: fc | 2008-12-10 8:23:43 PM


Thanks for your questions. These are great questions.

According to Islamic law, the laws of the land always prevail. For example, in Canada, being a non-Muslim / secular country, the laws of Canada will be enforced, not the Islamic laws. However, Canadian laws allow an individual to follow his/her religious practices as long as these practices do not conflict with the Canadian laws.

You wrote, “even Christian conservatives seem to accept that even if Biblical law forbids act X, that isn't a reason in itself for secular law to forbid act X”.

Similar things are happening in almost all Muslim countries. Several laws in Muslim countries conflict with the Islamic laws but those secular laws are enforced and clergy do not oppose them. For example, modern birth control methods were considered un-Islamic by many conservative Islamic scholars but it seems that they now have accepted it. You hardly hear any opposition from them.

Modern western style elections (one person one vote) were considered un-Islamic by many scholars of Islam. But now this method of electing government is accepted by very conservative Islamic scholars too.

Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, etc.., have secular laws amalgamated with the Islamic laws. Secular laws have been implemented as an extension or a modification to an Islamic rule. Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania and several other Muslim countries are good examples of these changes.

The major source of problems in Muslim countries is not the Islamic laws; it is the corruption, dictatorship, ignorance and poverty in those countries that creates misinterpretation of Islam.

Posted by: Syed Soharwardy | 2008-12-10 8:56:53 PM

Syed gave us this quote:
Several laws in Muslim countries conflict with the Islamic laws but those secular laws are enforced and clergy do not oppose them.

This is obviously your attempt at humor, Syed.

From the U.K.:
Muslim preacher Anjem Choudary has branded Christmas "evil" in a sermon posted on the internet.

From Kenya:
A Somali Christian put in a refugee camp police cell here for defending his family against Islamic zealots has been released after Christians helped raise the 20,000 Kenya shilling fine (US$266) that a camp “court” demanded for his conversion dishonoring Islam and its prophet, Muhammad.

The list goes on and on of the peaceful islamic laws. Your claim of blaming everything but the common denominator of Islam is just a lot of crap.

Posted by: Markalta | 2008-12-10 10:54:10 PM

For those of you who think that Chantler’s work is inappropriate and takes the verses out of context, why not start an open and public dialog as to WHY his views are misguided instead of just complaining that the article is poorly researched and offensive? Simply complaining that he shouldn’t be published will do nothing to correct mistaken views, and there are certainly others out there who agree with everything he has written and so would also benefit from an open dialog. The fact that Chantler had the gusto to publish something that might make people angry, not as an anonymous editorial, but on a large forum with his name and institution attached, should be seen as a jumping off point to make positive change. He is showing that he is not afraid to be criticized, while most people who hold views like his do so quietly and thus perpetuate incorrect stereotypes.

For those of you who so very arrogantly comment that Mr. Chantler's writing style is a testament to the fact that the article should not have been published: please bear in mind that he is an undergrad and not a trained journalist. The article was meant for a small campus magazine with limited output, not the New York Times.

Posted by: Sylvia B | 2008-12-10 11:33:09 PM

I've read this article's argument a hundred times in a hundred different places. It's regurgitation, through and through.

Nothing Chantler says is worth half the concern given to it by people on this comment board and, if I had been in the Editor's position, I would have similarly declined to publish it because, like Fraser hinted at, it simply wasn't worth the ink.

Chantler just wants to start a discussion - great. But better discussion can be had, phrased in better ways, and in more productive (and original) ways.

Good decision Fraser; bad and unoriginal article Chantler.

But really, none of it matters, anyway.

Posted by: Mackenzie | 2008-12-11 12:33:23 AM

Dan Palardy and Jeff Fraser make interesting and revealing comments, being careful as they are to avoid explicitly stating the obvious: a campus newspaper is afraid of Muslim backlash if it publishes an article even as mild as this one by Gareth Chantler.

Their actions betray that they, too, are Islamophobic.

Given the outrages committed in the name of Islam as recently as last month in Mumbai (anyone remember that?), and the global carnage that is regularly carried out under the name of Islam by its most fervent adherents, and the history of Islamic violence, intolerance, and oppression that continues to this day, a frank discussion of Islam and its application is clearly necessary. How sad—but typical—that Diatribe, and media voices in general, are afraid to take part in such a discussion.

Fraser and Palardy defend cowardice as prudence. The Islamic program marches on. Violence works. So it would seem.

Syed Soharwardy trots out the familiar defense that we just don’t understand the Koran. Tell that to the thousands who commit atrocities in the name of Allah and Islamic faith. It is not Christians, Jews, or atheists who are spreading terror because of their misunderstanding of the Koran, but a large number of radicalized, fundamentalist Muslims—what Chantler correctly (in my opinion) calls “true Muslims,” those who are true to the instructions in the Koran. Soharwardy et al could perform a valuable public service by explaining to those Muslims, and any others who might be tempted to emulate them, how they are mistaken in their faith and practice. Clearly their need is more pressing than Mr. Chantler’s.

The problem is not the threat of anti-Muslim rage, at Queens or anywhere else. The problems are terrorist atrocities, honor killings, female genital mutilation, Sharia law, oppression of women, anti-Semitism, Muslim rage and intolerance. The problems flow from radical, well-financed Islamic teaching, precisely as Chantler describes. But Soharwardy and other Muslim excusers won’t acknowledge that.

Bravo, Mr. Chantler, for having a pair.

Posted by: Hank Racette | 2008-12-11 9:23:41 AM

Great Post from Chantler. As someone who lived in a Muslim society and experienced first-hand discrimination and a 'Jihad' waged on my people in South Sudan, I want to tell the likes of Yannie Barrie and Syed Soharwardy to get real. Their claim that Chantler quoted verses from the Quran out of context and therefore his ideas should not be taken seriously, is nonsense.

The same out of context verses are the ones which the violent Wahabist-oriented fanatics in Sudan used to wage war against people of their own country, albeit of a different religion. I have personally seen imams and political leaders in Sudan on television urging Muslim crowds to go and kill the 'infidels' in the South because they are 'kuffar.' I never heard an elaborate theological explanation, which gives context, on the verses they quoted to wipe up emotions.

If you think I think Islam is a violent religion, would you blame me if I grew up listening to the bigotry of Islam on TV, radio, newspapers, and on the streets. Yannie and Sayed can go to hell as far as I am concerned.

Posted by: Ana Tafengi | 2008-12-11 9:26:51 AM

Syed Shoharwardy says:

“The major source of problems in Muslim countries is not the Islamic laws; it is the corruption, dictatorship, ignorance and poverty in those countries that creates misinterpretation of Islam.”

Hardship and oppression have historically driven people to find solace in their faith. This is true of Christianity, and it’s true of Islam. Many Christians today live under corrupt and intolerant regimes—in fact, many live under the oppression of Islamic law—without launching well-orchestrated, murderous assaults on innocent third parties.

Perhaps Muslims could learn more from their Christian and, dare I say it?, Jewish brethren than they’re learning from the luminaries of their own faith.

Posted by: Hank Racette | 2008-12-11 9:44:17 AM

There you have it. The WS is now, officially, a muslim publication.
Hava a nice day.
Posted by: dp | 10-Dec-08 8:51:28 AM

I agree. Libertarians are generally speaking useful idiots for muslims. Most if not all of the WS bloggers (except Yoshida) would make Walter Duranty proud.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-12-11 11:21:23 AM

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