Friday, June 02, 2006

Heither Reisman: I did it to protect my employees from Muslims

In reply to an email I sent to Indigo, protesting their decision to remove a copy of Harper's from their stores, I have received the following (presumably form) letter from Heather Reisman (
June 2, 2006

Dear Mr.___,

I deeply appreciate your having taken the time to write and I fully understand your concern. I would like to provide some perspective on our decision.

First, I would like to state that Indigo as a company, and I personally, believe passionately in free speech. Free speech and freedom to write is the irrefutable cornerstone of democracy.

As a major bookseller in this country we recognize that we are seen and appreciated as a place which supports the free flow of ideas and writing. Mindful of this, we have always looked to carry the broadest possible selection of titles in our stores, and to make available at almost every title available in print. We make exceptions only under the following conditions which we have always been clear about:

1. We will not, to the best of our knowledge, sell child pornography.

2. We will not, to the best of our knowledge, sell material which provides detailed information on how to create weapons of mass destruction.

3. We will not, to the best of our knowledge, sell books which have as their sole intent the incitement toward the annihilation of whole groups within society.

Notwithstanding our policy, we would never, under any circumstance suggest that any book or magazine should be censored or banned in this country. Only governments can make this type of decision and if asked, we would always opt for a fully free and open society.

In February of this year, cartoons of Mohamed from the Danish newspaper Jullands-Posten were first published in Canada by The Western Standard publication. Our decision to not carry this issue of The Western Standard magazine was strictly one of safety for our customers and employees. At the time, there were incendiary incidents in many places in the world because of these cartoons. As you no doubt know, many people were badly hurt, a few were killed, and a great deal of physical destruction took place.

Some might say: “We simply can’t be intimidated…we must stand up for free speech…” However, such a decision must be a personal one. We did not want to take what we felt was a serious risk on a company-wide basis. During working hours we are responsible for the safety of 7,500 people who work with us. We made what I still believe was an appropriate and correct decision.

The situation with Harper’s magazine is different in that the conditions have changed. But although a great deal of the fervour has died down, we chose to err on the side of caution and remain consistent with our initial position.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write. I hope your feel this note provides a meaningful response.

Yours sincerely,

Heather Reisman
Yes it is meaningful, Heather, and as someone who posts anonymously, I have given your reply some consideration.

I conclude, as Charles said in the comments to our previous post on this issue, that what Heather Reisman is really saying is not that she respects Islam, but on the contrary that we cannot trust at least a certain number of Muslims in Canada to act like decent Candians and to respect freedom of speech, the physical security of (non-Muslim) persons, and private property.

She may be right that it must sometimes be a personal decision when to stand up to Islamic violence, and whom to endanger when doing so; on the other hand, unless we want to become a society living under Sharia law, at some point we must take Canadians' general opposition to imperialistic Islam for granted, as a precondition of living and working in a free Canada. One copy of Harper's is nothing much to give up (especially if you have no appetite for anti-American leftist swill). But Reisman's argument becomes dubious when we extend it to larger concerns. If the Islamic imperialists demanded, for example, that we shut down the hog industry, or the academic study and criticism of Islam, do we do so to protect all the employees in those industries? Of course not; at some point "we" (it is no longer a very "personal decision") have to tell our employees that we are at war and we'd all better get used to it. Or, we can all submit. Heather's personal decision is a fruit of western, not Islamic, history.


Jane said...

There is a presentation coming up at the Vancouver Public Library by a female author and academic called, "What's wrong with Isam."

I wanted to go but I considered the fact that a Muslim radical might be tempted to throw a bomb into the room. I began to wonder if it was worth risking getting my legs blown off at the knees.

I decided not to go. The Islamic fundamentalistsn won.

Speaking of 'anti-American swill', I am being force fed plenty tonight in the Wave internet cafe by my friend Louis. I was showing him the Covenant Zone. He believes that the rounding up of alleged members of a terrorist cell in Toronto is reflective of a new Canadian paranoia and a pandering to Americans.

truepeers said...

He believes that the rounding up of alleged members of a terrorist cell in Toronto is reflective of a new Canadian paranoia and a pandering to Americans.

-i'm sad to hear this Jane. This is just proof that resentment is an inherently delusional force (which may be the best reason to oppose the anti-American resentment that is so thoughtlessly prevalent in Canada). If the police thought like this, I imagine there would soon be a lot of dead people in Toronto. But let's wait for the press conference in three hours time to learn more about what the police know.

Buddy Larsen said...

Saying that self-protection is a pander to your ally is like saying that eating is a pander to your hunger.

Buddy Larsen said...

Scratch that, change "self-protection" to "fighting" (aphorisms 101: "cut to the bone").

Charles Henry said...

Ms. Reichman: "We will not, to the best of our knowledge, sell books which have as their sole intent the incitement toward the annihilation of whole groups within society."

I wonder what the boundary line is for a policy like that... what happens, for instance, when a book has as its *partial* intent, the same goal of incitement towards annihilating whole groups within society.
What if a book shuffled the chronology of a brief moment in history so that the author's statements could be easily read out of their historical context, and used as a pretext for annihilating whole groups within society.
What if a book defended slavery, promoted polygamy, recommended the mutilation of female genitalia, provided rules for distributing female captives among soldiers, and divided the world into two groups of human beings, giving permission for one of the groups to commit crimes against the other, with moral impugnity?

If this kind of a book is as unwelcome as Mein Kampf and Harper's june magazine, then Heather would have grounds to ban the koran from her stores as well.

truepeers said...

Charles, you are such a phallogocentric westerner :) (But you have a point!)

Buddy, Jane, welcome to Covenant Zone

Charles Henry said...

Truepeers, at first I thought you were calling me a western snob, but now that I've looked up the definition of "phallogocentric", I guess I'm being called a macho western snob! ;)

Between you and Dag, my vocabulary is growing exponentially...

truepeers said...

Not a snob, Charles. When the nihilists see their conservative enemies using the full force of reason against their positions, they pull out the arguments that logic and reason are themselves hegemonic constructs in defense of arbitrary claims to power and in opposition to the victims. But these are not really arguments. They are just a glorified kind of name calling, e.g. "phallogocentric", adj.: logic-obsessed dickheadedness that opresseses the opressed . If you can't think such easy thoughts, how else can you defend the Koran against claims it is hate literature?