Fair Comment on Canadian Muslims? — Never from Christie Blatchford!

Christie Blatchford is a Canadian journalist who has made a name for herself in the Globe and Mail by writing about Islam and Muslims in a manner that consistently lacks accuracy, fairness and balance.

A classic example is her column of Monday June 5 (2006) on the arrest of 17 youth and adult Muslim males in Toronto on terrorism-related charges. The column was given front-page prominence under the headline "Ignoring the biggest elephant in the room," [1] and was placed just under a 20 x 30-cm photo of one of the accused being arrested.

It was clear that Blatchford was very upset by the way this event has been treated and here’s why.

Since 9/11, nearly every time Muslims have committed terrorist crimes, or been accused of doing so, most top-level politicians and law enforcement agencies have tried very hard not to make a bad situation worse by assuring the public and the Muslim community alike that a crime is a crime, that no one should be found guilty-by-association or prejudged without due course of law.

President Bush visited a mosque and met with American Muslims very soon after September 11, 2001. Tony Blair did the same in London, England, after the transit system bombings of July 7, 2005.

But just two days after the widely publicized Toronto arrests, Blatchford nevertheless chose to find all of the accused Muslim men and boys –” as well as their families, even the Canadian Muslim community — guilty, and guilty-by-association.

Now it is no secret to those who monitor her periodic outbursts that Christie Blatchford has a big problem hiding her hatred for those who are Others, not like Us. She doesn’t come right out and say things like; Canada should detain, deport, or otherwise limit its entire Muslim population (or at least all those she most hates), but she comes so close that the intention behind her words is only too clear.

She begins her article on a typically colorful note of ugly cynicism: "I drove back from yesterday’s news conference at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto in the northeastern part of the city, but honestly, I could have just as easily floated home in the sea of horse manure emanating from the building."

And then she digs into the meat of her perceived problem with the whole process.

"So frequent were the bald reassurances that faith and religion had nothing — nothing, you understand — to do with the alleged homegrown terrorist plot recently busted open by Canadian police and security forces, that for a few minutes afterward, I wondered if perhaps it was a vile lie of the mainstream press or a fiction of my own demented brain that the 17 accused young men are all, well, Muslims."

Having established her position as judge and jury, Blatchford sarcastically went on to suggest that Toronto police need not waste their time and resources trying to protect Muslim institutions:

"As Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who came to the building to offer his assurances that Muslims and Muslim institutions will be protected, said at one point: ‘Hatred in any form and certainly in its expression in violence and damage to property will not be tolerated.’ Thank God: windows everywhere in Canada’s largest city are safe, especially windows in mosques. The war on windows will be won, whatever the cost."

But Blatchford is also obsessed with what seems to be her own personal war on appearances — i.e. if the Others don’t look like Us, there must be something wrong with them:

"The accused men are mostly young and mostly bearded in the Taliban fashion. They have first names like Mohamed, middle names like Mohamed and last names like Mohamed. Some of their female relatives at the Brampton courthouse who were there in their support wore black head-to-toe burkas (now there’s a sight to gladden the Canadian female heart: homegrown burka-wearers darting about just as they do in Afghanistan), which is not a getup I have ever seen on anyone but Muslim women."

Having both judged and marginalized all Canadian Muslims within a few sentences, Blatchford proceeds to the heart of her distorted argument. First she offers an over-dramatized blanket accusation that Toronto police are involved in a conspiracy of silence — or, at least, omission:

"Such is the state of ignoring the biggest, fattest elephant in the room in this country that at one point [Police] Chief Blair actually bragged — this in answer to a question from the floor — ‘I would remind you that there was not one single reference made by law enforcement to Muslim or Muslim community’ at the big post-arrest news conference on Saturday."

And now for the all-too-predictable Blatchford conclusion:

"But what came clear at that meeting yesterday [is that Muslims] are far more concerned about a possible anti-Muslim backlash to the arrests than they are about the allegations that a whole whack of their young people were bent on blowing something up in the city; that they are generally worked up about Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and the Americans in Iraq, and that even as they talk about Islam being a religion of peace, they do not sound or appear particularly peaceable."

So much for professional journalism’s commitment to "fair comment."


[1]. "Ignoring the biggest elephant in the room"
by Christie Blatchford – The Globe and Mail – June 05, 2006