It has been two weeks since my failed attempt to hold a Draw Muhammed Day event on Canada’s Parliament Hill.
To read what had transpired then, please see my posts on the topic.
In the aftermath, everybody wanted to know what was I going to do next?
To be honest, my failure had taught me just how naive I was when it came to this issue. Yes, I knew I had to DO something – but I didn’t want another failure. So, the first thing to do was to learn.
In the last two weeks, I spoke and corresponded with many peoples: some passionate, some intelligent, some knowledgeable – and most a combination of the above. I got a lot of suggestions and a lot of advice.
One neighbour of mine asked me why I would bother with this – when I could be gardening or doing something else fun. I pointed out I had kids and could not leave the country in a worse shape for them than it was when I came here. He just shook his head and drove away.
Another neighbour, whom I had considered a friend, ‘jokingly’ suggested that perhaps I should move, so that her house does not get shot up by accident when ‘they’ come for me…
But most people were actively supportive and gave me some constructive criticism and good advice.
One suggestion I got from a large number of people went something along the following lines:
- freedom of speech is guaranteed as our Constitutional right
- so is freedom of assembly
- Parliament Hill is a public area – perhaps THE public area and as such, it belongs to all of us Canadians
- therefore, don’t get any permits and just show up with a group of people and do your thing
While I agree with this in principle, there is more to it that just the principle…
You see, there is an organization that is in charge of the activities on Parliament Hill. It’s some kind of a committee – of course…how else can the bureaucrats avoid individual responsibility – but, it exists for several very practical reasons.
It is necessary to co-ordinate the various events, for simple logistics reasons.
And it is also their responsibility to, through the RCMP, provide security on The Hill (or, in their shorthand, PH).
So while I reject any suggestion that they have the right to judge the substance of the protests in PH (and their multi-page guide to the use of PH indeed does reserve this right – down to who will speak and what they will say and to limit this to what will ‘fit their image’), I do understand the practical necessity of crowd control and event co-ordination.
In addition, it seems that if I am deemed to trespass on PH, this organization has the right to get me arrested. And while I think freedom of speech is a worthy issue – worthy enough to go to jail for – I am not certain if getting arrested for ‘trespassing’ has the same impact. (Which, of course, why this loophole is there…)
So, this is not the course of action I plan to take right now.
Others have urged me to go the Texas route: to rent a private venue and private security to hold the event.
And while the Garland, Texas, event was a success story (yes, a couple if ISIS goons showed up, but security dispatched them quickly and nobody besides the terrorists got killed – so, despite the media negative spin, this WAS a success story), it feels too much like trying to hold a free speech event in an unmarked basement room with nobody really knowing about it. And a sign on the door saying ‘beware of the leopard’…
Yes, I am exaggerating – but with my highly limited media reach (I’m no Pamela Geller), I’m not exaggerating anywhere as much as I’d like to.
So, for now, that is also not a preferred course of action.
Then there were those who said that any form of blasphemy is ‘not nice’ and that it is an abuse of the freedom of speech to use it for the purpose of blasphemy. (These are the same people who say “I am for freedom of speech, BUT…”)
To you, I say that without the freedom to blaspheme, there would be no freedom of religion!
If I were not permitted to blaspheme most Christian’s belief that Jesus Christ was/is the son of God, born of a human woman, who was crucified as a human sacrifice of his corporeal self to his divine self to atone for the sins of humanity – then I would not be free to worship as a Muslim.
If I were not permitted to blaspheme the Muslim belief that Jesus was fathered by a human and did not die on the cross, I would not be free to worship as a Roman Catholic and many Protestant sects.
If I were not permitted to blaspheme the Hindu belief in many deities, then I would not be free to worship as a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew or any other forms of monolatrism/monotheism.
And that is barely scratching the surface!
It is no coincidence that religious books/teachings are exempt from hate-speech laws, because they all hate-speech each other!!! Which, of course, leaves atheists and ignostics (I do consider myself an ignostic more than anything else) at a bit of a disadvantage: if everyone else is free to blaspheme and even hate-speech each other’s religion, why are we not allowed to even civil-ly criticize any of them?
NO – blasphemy is not only good, it is absolutely necessary for freedom of religion – and freedom from religion – to exist!!!
Which still leaves me with the question…
What to do? What to do?!?!?
First thing on my list was a bit of self-education.
If the reason my original event was cancelled was due to ‘security concerns’, then I had better educate myself on this topic in particular.
OK, perhaps picking the International Draw Muhammed Day was not the best for security’s sake. Perhaps I should pick a less inflammatory date, like, say September 11th – but I jest!
The next item on my list was to learn a little bit about security, public spaces and events and both the theory and how to in that. I was in luck!
As it so happened, yesterday, 3rd of June, 2015 (exactly 2 weeks to the day when I had intended to hold my failed event), the International Security Conference & Exposition was held in Ottawa – just across the street from the big RCMP building!!! What luck!!!
Of course, I could not miss an educational opportunity like this!
In my usual bumbling manner, I asked for directions at a hotel nearby the convention centre – and got very exact ones from a nice lady at the front desk. I followed them to the letter and soon found a room. Seeing people within, I boldly entered….only to find out that this was ‘the speaker’s lounge’!
Eventually, I found the registration desk, got my badge – and soon found the room with the seminar I knew I could not miss: ‘Securing Public Spaces’.
It was awesome,
A moderator from The Hill Times (a sponsor) had three most esteemed panelists: David Harris, Director, International and Terrorist Intelligence Program INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc., some Commie prof from Carleton U who kept insisting that policing causes income disparity (and boasted of helping Greece organize their policing…really, I’m not making this up) and a lady from the City of Ottawa who is in charge of emergency stuff.
The moderator and two thirds of the panel were most excellent!
Joking aside, I really learned a lot about both the theoretical as well as practical aspects of policing public areas.
So, I feel that with my newly acquired knowledge, I might be better able to co-operate (I will NOT ‘collaborate’ – where I come from, collaborators are lined up against the wall and shot – and I am most definitely against violence of any sort) with the powers that control PH.
Perhaps with a different date – one that will work for them and not be so provocative – we can still succeed in having this equal-opportunity blasphemy event on PH.
So, my next step will be to re-contact the power that be and see what hoops I need to jump through to get this event happening!