Two Muslim men disrupt Jewish author's presentation; Charge them?

In this article, the author notes an instance of hate speech where a Jewish author, Howard Rotberg, was giving a presentation in Waterloo (small town just outside Toronto, Ontario), when he was disrupted by two Muslim men:

He goes on to further note:

He then cites research by Philip Zimbardo, a social psychologist who has conducted research on, as the author puts it, the consequences of “getting away with malfeasance.” In it he notes Zimbardo’s research on people’s perception of the possibility of their getting caught for doing something illegal, and how illegal behaviour increases proportionally to the decrease in this perception (or at least, that’s the gist of it as near as I can tell - read the article).

So here’s the debate. The author of the article’s contention is that these men should have been charged, either with hate speech or with public disruption (mischief?) so as to discourage this sort of behaviour in the future. He contends that allowing them to get away with it will only get them to push the limits even further, with I assume the ominous threat of further anti-Semitic events taking place.

This attitude (of the author’s) scares me somewhat. While I believe the two men’s behaviour to have been deplorable, and rather juvenile, I fear living in a society where freedom of speech can be co-opted by fear of possibilities. It would have been different if they had advocated directly killing or harming Jews, but they did not seem to do that. So I’m wondering what other people think; should they have been charged, since anti-Semitism seems to be on the rise, or was pulling them out of the presentation enough?

Would two jews be charged if the situation were reversed? I don’t know. But I would charge all four. Breaking the law is breaking the law.

I suppose I can see your point, but I’m not sure that calling someone a “f*cking Jew” is against the law. I imagine being a public nuiscance is, maybe, but even then I think this situation is debatable. For the record, if it were 2 Jews at a Muslim speaker’s presentation I think I would feel the same way.

How is hate speech defined under Canadian law? “Jew” in itself is obviously not a slur. Does the intensfier “fucking” make the phrase “fucking Jews,” in toto a racial slur? How about tone of voice?

It’s obnoxious, disruptive and probably antisemitic but I’m not sure it’s hate speech, exactly. Would “fucking Christians” be hate speech? “Fucking Muslims?” “Fucking Satanists?” “Fucking Nazis?”

I wouldn’t mind seeing some official language from Canadian law on this.

It doesn’t classify as hate speech as there was no call to incite hate against a specific group. F*cking Jew is offensive but not explicitly hateful.

I think that the two should be charged with public mischief or whatever charge is appropriate for disrupting a public meeting on private property.

From the Criminal Code

Section 318 - Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Section 319 - Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace …

Note there has to be intention to spread hate. Being pissed off and an ass likely doesn’t cut it.

Grey, thanks for looking up those Criminal Code statutes, I was just about to but you saved me the trouble :slight_smile: .

This is why I have some issues with the author’s viewpoint. It doesn’t seem to me that these men were anything but a public nuiscance, so at most they could be charged with that, but I don’t see the hate speech. What I fear is that his attitude towards this issue, if it became more prevalent, would lead to thought police-style watchdogs guarding the public safety from any possible instance of hate speech “just in case it leads to further actions”. Should we ban people from buying a Ferrari because they might speed? I don’t think that’s reasonable.

Yeah. It’s a hot button issue thanks to the recent Montreal and Toronto acts of anti-Semitism. I suppose the author feels that by not arresting the window breakers, the mugger might take over.

How’s that for a mangled metaphor? :slight_smile:

I generally think hate-speech laws are stupid, but just note that the only person whose freedom of speech appears to have been co-opted was the Jewish author. “Fucking Jew” is insulting and possible threatening, definitely disruptive. The listeners should have ganged up and kicked the shit out of the two idiots.

Oh yes, let’s compound stupidity with violence.


I see your point, Rune, but if the real question is whether or not hate speech laws need to reflect the potential for future bad behaviour, what do you say to the viewpoints of the author?

When looking at that article, the first thing I saw was the stupidity of the “comparison” between these both cases.

If I leave a car on a public street like described it was left, I not only invite theft and other disruption to occur, I deliberately provoke it to occur.
Those who then were tempted by my invitation where provoked by me to do what they did.

The lecturer did nothing to provoke the interference of the two men to occur. They were obviously attending the event with clear intentions.

If I leave a car on a public street in a normal condition then what happened to the car who was left like described shall not happen to the car I place there.
= no cause, no result

On the other hand, if the lecturer does not presents his book, then what happened shall not happen.
= no cause, no result


If the two men do not attend this presentation, what happened shall not happen.
= no cause, no result.

But the reasoning of the writer of that article seems to be:
The lecturer must present his book
Those who might interrupt that should be pre-emptively locked up.
Those who might come to the idea of interrupting such an event, should be getting “a message” that they get locked up if they try.

I wonder how he sees that done in real life. Maybe he thinks that everyone who ever gets the idea of interrupting an event, checks who gets locked up and why and does this on a day by day and minute by minute base.

I also wonder where he gets the idea that he can compare the whole thing with the case represented by the car on that street.

And yes, I also wonder if he has the same ideas concering everyone who calls names to Muslims or harasses Muslim women because they wear hijab.
I think the whole thing is blew up out of proportion.
In my opinion these days every Jew who does not live on an other planet is aware of it that such unpleasant things can happen.
Just the same as every Muslim is aware of that.
Just the same as any other group of people who get congfronted with insults, discrimination, bigotry, prejudice, is aware of that.

If the author wants to lock up all people who ever say something that is insulting and/or discriminating I think he must get started now by running after them.
(He can even start on this message board.)

Salaam. A

I don’t see how calling the police was warranted unless they subsequently resisted efforts to make them leave the bookstore. If any nonviolent expression of racial/ethnic/religious hatred were a criminal offense, the overwhelming majority of people would be locked up.

No the author is saying that those that break the law should be subject to the penalties prescribed by the law. Causing a public disturbance at a local bookstore counts as such. The insulting comment is irrelevant in light of the law, but relevant in light of current anti-Semitic activities in Canada.

And yes the author would likely extend his argument to cover Muslim girls wearing head scarves to school etc. However his article focuses on Jewish issues, not the broader issue of intolerance.

Oh, and intentionally leaving your car unlocked is not inviting or promoting illegal activity. It would make a very intersting defence "oh Judge I had to steal the car, you see the victim made me do it.


I think in Belgium it is breaking the law to leave your car unlocked unattended. The reasoning behind it is that you invite people to steal = provoke criminal behaviour :slight_smile:

Salaam. A

They disrupted an event. Have the organizers kick them out. End of story.


Yes, I know… But I still think I am correctly informed on this.
Salaam. A

Maybe. But, rumours to the contrary, your post is not a good cite.

I agree.

Filing criminal charges and trying such people for essentially being jerks winds up creating “martyrs”. Of course, even ejecting them without charges can lead to false martyr status (as in a case I know of involving alt med advocates who disrupted a public presentation on health scams and quackery, were escorted out by security personnel and later served up their own highly imaginative accounts on the Internet about this grievous example of censorship).
“This is a mistake often made by democratic societies, whose credos about protecting the freedom of speech lead them to dismiss the importance of verbal, as opposed to physical, abuse. This is unfortunate – because verbal abuse often becomes the prelude to more aggressive forms of action.”

The concept of “hate speech” has been abused in attempts to silence people with unpopular/objectionable ideas. I’d err on the side of free speech.