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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Cockroach Talk

Erik Woodley and Geraldine Malone
Published Thursday November 26, 07:03 pm
Our Best Comedian is an Islam-basher? WTF

Here we go again: a terrorist attack has caused Facebook to be flooded with bigoted statements. But this time there’s a twist — there’s a Planet S connection.

On Nov. 13 the world watched in horror as multiple attacks killed over 120 people in Paris. These attacks followed similar tragedies in Beirut, Baghdad, Cameroon, and Sinai, all of which took many innocent lives (although none of them sparked anywhere near the same outcry in the Western world).

But while heartbreak and investigations of the sickening slaughter played out in France, some Saskatchewanians — enraged at an act of violence that left piles of Caucasian bodies — said some powerfully shitty things online.

Dez Reed was recently voted the top comedian in Saskatoon by Planet S readers in this paper’s annual Best Of Saskatoon poll. He had some interesting things to say about Paris on Facebook: “I am sick of you liberals and politically correct bleeding hearts defending Muslims — it is YOUR fault that this is happening in Western Countries,” Reed posted only hours after the news broke.

“You bleeding hearts with your threat assessment module set to zero are to blame for importing this disease from the Middle East,” he added.

And later, he posted this: “In Syria — Muslims are killing Muslims... if there is a downside... I am not picking up on it.”

The posts received backlash and Reed eventually deleted some of them.

Reed wasn’t the only person blowing a rage gasket after Paris. CKOM pundit John Gormley tweeted “Me: Next guy in a Western democracy who chants “Allah Ahkbar” we shoot. Wife: Don’t be this way. #Angry”

There are two petitions calling for his resignation. He has since issued apologies.

Even Premier Brad Wall took some flack after he tweeted out a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking for the Syrian refugee program to be delayed because if even one person was radicalized the results could be devastating.

This is despite the fact that all of the identified assailants in the Paris attacks are citizens of European Union countries. This attack was homegrown radicalism, not refugees running amok.

Unfortunately, overheated rhetoric and misinformation can have consequences. A mosque in Peterborough, Ontario was set on fire in what authorities are calling a hate crime. In Toronto, a Muslim woman was attacked by two white men while picking up her children from school. In Montreal, a man was arrested after releasing a video on social media, holding a gun and wearing a Joker mask, vowing to kill “one Arab a week”.

In Canada, as elsewhere, Muslims are far more likely to be victims than violent.

“Like A Cockroach”

Dez Reed argues that he’s read the Quran — the central religious text of Islam — and has a right to his opinion.

“Why do I post on Facebook? It’s because I lack willpower. I want to get my thoughts out there,” Reed said. “I feel like I should be able to express myself freely without fear of being labeled a racist, a homophobe, or whatever the hell else people want to throw at me.”

Unfortunately, that’s not how words on social media work. A public figure posting on a public forum opens themselves to criticism. Freedom of speech in Canada is also not absolute — especially around hate speech — and there are actual penalties for damage to religious property in connection to hate speech.

Reed admitted to having some of his posts taken down by Facebook, even regretting what he posted in a “rage”. Regardless, he says he posts to get a response.

“I lure people in, for sure. I lure them in to try to fix them,” he said.

It would appear that those needing “fixing” both include the “bleeding heart lefties”, and Muslims themselves, who, Reed believes, are inherently violent if they follow the teachings of Muhammad. He knows these statements will cause a backlash, but refuses to stop.

“I’m like a cockroach. I’m hard to kill anyways. I’ll keep coming back,” Reed said.

During our conversation, Reed went on a tirade that went from Islam to Hitler to child rape before ending on whether any Muslim is a good candidate to live in a free society.

“I know that 95 per cent of Muslims are good people. They won’t stone anyone. But that five per cent are pretty bad,” he said. “So, I want to make sure out of the 25,000 [refugees], we don’t get one of the five per cent. Not one.”

Real-World Consequences

We shared Reed’s comments with Fachrizal Halim, an Islamic Studies prof at the University of Saskatchewan. “I am really speechless,” he said. To compare Mohammed with Hitler is beyond my comprehension.”

Halim described the comparison as hate speech that perpetuates stereotypes about a supposed inherent relationship between Islam and violence.

“Let’s put it this way. ISIS is not Islamic because the majority of Muslims are against their views of Islam,” he said. “The question [is], what is religion to blame in the violence of the terrorist attacks? [Blaming religion] doesn’t bring us anywhere except to hate-speak.”

New data from the Pew Research Center — a nonpartisan American think tank based in Washington — shows that people from countries with significant Muslim populations overwhelmingly express negative views of ISIS. In Lebanon, 99 per cent of people surveyed had a very unfavourable opinion and the majority of other countries produced similar numbers.

It’s pretty clear that a dislike of ISIS is something Saskatchewanians and Muslims have in common.

But when racism and bigotry triumph over finding common ground, the consequences for the over four million Syrian refugees are very real.

“These are people who have already suffered in their country and then suffer this response from the host that’s supposed to accept them,” says Halim. “The question we need to ask is, what does that tell us about our humanity if we refuse to accept refugees?”

As for Reed? Planet S kinda thinks you need a new favourite comedian, Saskatoon.

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