CFRA-AM re an episode of the Lowell Green Show (the Qur’an)

Ontario regional panel
(CBSC Decision 05/06-1380)
R. Stanbury (Chair), M. Ziniak (Vice-Chair), D. Braun (ad hoc), R. Deverell (ad hoc), H. Hassan, J. Pungente

the facts 

The Lowell Green Show is an open-line radio program on which the host and callers discuss current events and news stories on CFRA-AM (Ottawa) from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon each weekday.  The March 31, 2006 episode was “Friday Open House”, to which listeners were invited to contribute by discussing any topic they wished.  Host Lowell Green did, however, offer four possible topics for discussion: gas price collusion; the media attention given to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s vest on his trip to Mexico; policing and gang violence; and a news report about a Muslim terrorist being arrested in Canada.  Lowell Green introduced that final topic with the following information (a much fuller transcript of the program can be found in Appendix A): 

Oh boy. Looks like we’ve caught another terrorist hiding out in Canada.  Just listen to this.  And you can start asking yourself a few questions.  Forty-year old Raja Mustafa was arrested in Newmarket a couple of weeks ago.  We’re only learning about it this morning.  Police say he has direct links to Osama bin Laden.  He was trained in an Afghan terrorist camp.  In fact, he apparently is a captain in Osama’s army.  When caught, he had a large amount of cash, appeared to be about ready to leave the country.  He may have been tipped off, which, among other things, raises some disturbing questions:  Who tipped him off?  Do we have a police informant someplace?  Now listen, it, it doesn’t end here.  Mustafa was living with his brother-in-law, Syed Ali, a refugee wanted in the United States for drug trafficking and fraud.  At one time, both men were living with Syed’s brother, a suspected human smuggler wanted by U.S. authorities.  Whether those two men have been caught is not clear.  Why they have been allowed to live openly in Canada all along isn’t clear either.  The Sun this morning has a picture of Syed’s wife.  They went to the home and, uh, his wife said, oh no, she hadn’t seen him in five years and yet behind her were some of Syed’s children.  I mean it’s just, meantime, another man wanted in the United States for terrorism appeared in a Toronto court yesterday.  That is Abdullah Khadr.  Yes, from the infamous Khadr family.  This is the man whose father, a notorious terrorist, good friend of Osama bin Laden, was released from a Pakistani prison following lobbying efforts on behalf of Canada‘s Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien.  The father was killed in a police shoot-out in Pakistan.  Abdullah’s younger brother is being held at Guantanamo Bay on charges of killing an American medic.  And among those lobbying on his behalf are some of the Trudeau brothers.  Khadr’s mother once told reporters she’d be happy if her children died as martyrs.  In other words, as suicide bombers.  She still lives in Canada free as a bird.  Aiye yie yie yie yie yie yie yie yie.  And then we got another one, apparently involved in trying to figure out how to attach bombs to model aircraft.  And there’re no terrorists in Canada.  Half the country, three quarters of the country doesn’t believe that terrorists would ever come to Canada.  Meantime, there’s a very disturbing letter to the editor of the National Post this morning.  It is written by H. Klatt, professor emeritus at the University of Western Ontario.  He refers to the pressure in Afghanistan to kill the man who converted from Islam to Christianity.  Professor Klatt writes, and here, I want to make this very clear before you start sending little civil libertarians after me and all the rest of it.  I want to make it clear, I am reading from a letter that is published this morning, publicly, in the National Post.  Okay?  I’m not saying I agree or disagree.  I’m reading this letter.  So before you start all of the charges and the arrest warrants and the rest of it, please remember I am reading a letter that appears in a newspaper.  Quote, this is what Professor Klatt writes, quote, “It is etal”, er, I’m sorry, “It is Allah’s eternal will and Muhammad’s decree that all apostates be killed, albeit only those who convert from Islam to other faiths and not the other way around.”  Quote, from the Qur’an, chapter four, verse 89, quote, “If they desert you, seize them and put them to death wherever you find them.  Kill him who changes his religion,” unquote.  Professor Klatt goes on to say, “The Qur’an contains the will of the All-Merciful God and has been deposited on tablets in Heaven, guarded by angels even before the creation of the universe.  A document like that is not easily overturned by some state parliament or under pressure from foreign governments.  Allah, in addition, will punish every apostate from Islam with eternal hell fire.”  He goes on to say, quote, “As long as we remain imbued with our politically correct dogmas, such as that Islam is a religion of peace and is tolerant and compatible with life in a democracy, we will be bewildered and remain without understanding.  Every Muslim is first and above all a Muslim, who accepts the dogmas of his faith before he is Algerian, a democrat, a believer in human rights or tolerant towards others.  The prospect is grim,” unquote.  Before you launch the lawsuits, I’m reading from a letter in the National Post.  Okay?  I’m simply reading what the letter says.  Professor H. Klatt at the University of Western Ontario writing in today’s National Post.  Now I have no idea if what the professor writes is correct.  If it is, it seems to me, as he says, a grim prospect indeed.  Certainly poses the question whether, if this is true, such diametrically opposed cultures can live peacefully together.  Your comments?  521-8255.  521-8255. 

Following a commercial break, Green spoke again about the letter published in the National Post

[T]his letter from Professor Klatt really disturbs me.  If in fact the Qur’an does say this, and I gather that it does, that anybody who changes from Islam to any other faith should be killed, oh.  Let me ask you, should, should Muslims, when they wish to enter this country be asked if they believe that?  And if they say that they do, should they be allowed in this country?  Can we live peacefully side by side with people who believe that anybody who switches from their faith to another should be killed?  Can we live peacefully side by side?  With that kind of a belief?  521-8255.  That really, I find that, uh, Professor Klatt says, uh, the prospect, the prospects are grim.  If that is true, he may be right. 

While a few of the initial callers addressed the suggested issues of gas prices, gang violence and the Prime Minister’s sartorial choices, others concentrated on the news story about the accused terrorists arrested in Newmarket.  Thereafter the greatest number of callers focussed on the National Post letter by Professor Klatt and issues flowing therefrom, such as Canada‘s multiculturalism and immigration policies, activities in the Middle East, and a case of apostasy in Afghanistan, which the show tied closely to various provisions of the Qur’an.  In the end, the great majority of callers in the final two hours focussed on the issue of apostasy and Islam’s response to it.  The transcript limited to just the most relevant portions of the dialogue throughout the three-hour program is too lengthy to provide here, but it can be found at the end of this decision document.  A far more complete transcript can be found in Appendix A.  The most immediately pertinent excerpts are, of course, provided in the body of the decision text. 

The CBSC received a complaint dated March 31 from a listener who was concerned about the comments broadcast about Muslims and the Qur’an.  Attached to that complaint was a copy of a letter the complainant had sent directly to CFRA (the full text of the correspondence can be found in Appendix B): 

Mr. Green tacitly incited hate by blatantly suggesting believers in the Qur’an are a physical threat to Canadians because of their belief in the Qur’an.  He purposely juxtaposed the Qur’an to The New Testament (NT) claiming that the NT does not ever support whimsical or religious based killing, unlike the Qur’an.  He used this to clearly separate the two faiths in an effort to incite hate towards one particular group based upon their religious beliefs.  This is not acceptable for any public broadcaster.

Here is a copy of a letter I have mailed to Mr. Green & CFRA:

Mr. Green,

Today you claimed the New Testament, unlike the Qur’an, does not contain passages which support whimsical murder.

Let’s take a look at Mark 7:1-13. Jesus accused the Pharisees of “neglecting the commandment of God” so they could “hold to the tradition of men” (7:8).  They set “aside the commandment of God in order to keep [their] tradition” (7:9).  The commandments Jesus was referring to were OT commandments:  “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death'” (7:10).  Here we see Jesus applying Exodus 21:17 and Leviticus 20:9 in a NT context.  The same account is found in Matthew 15:1-14, the same NT book where you claim there are no references to faith based killing.  Therefore, according to the New Testament, Jesus believed anyone who speaks evil of their parents should be killed … well, isn’t that nice of you Jesus.  Obviously Canada is under threat of Christians who support their God.  I suspect this passage would pose at least as much threat as any found within the Qur’an.  Just quoting the good book here, Lowell, not making this up.

Yes, the Qur’an, as an ancient text, is derived from a time far different from ours.  It does include passages which support killing non-believers and converts; however, the New Testament is certainly not without its own convictions of death.  As well, like in all of your one-sided ceterus [sic] paribus arguments, you entirely ignore context.  As the New Testament is an evolution of the beliefs put forth by God himself, as is the modern Muslim an evolution of the days in which the Qur’an was revealed.  True believers (in all religions) understand the failings of literal following.  These holy books are texts, not isolated paragraphs. 

CFRA sent the following response on April 7: 

Respectfully, if you heard the entire Lowell Green program, you will be well aware that the discussion centred very specifically and exclusively around those people who consider it acceptable to kill a person who has converted from the Muslim faith to Christianity.

That is the position taken by extremists in volatile parts of the world, the profile of which was raised most notably by the case of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan, where the Muslim-led parliament demanded that Mr. Rahman be put to death instead of being allowed to travel out of the country for refuge in Italy.  Given the constitution of Afghanistan and the very public demands of the death penalty for converting to Christianity, it is not unreasonable to conclude that such extremists do indeed pose a physical threat – particularly to converts.  This is an international story, and it is entirely appropriate to discuss this issue as a matter of public concern in Canada.

Throughout the program, Lowell made it abundantly clear he was addressing only the extremists who want to emigrate into Canada, and who support the practice of executing Muslim-Christian converts.  Not surprisingly, Muslim callers agreed that such extremists should not be allowed to import their extremist views into Canada, and that Canada has every right to pose the question.

There is no need for you to defend the Qur’an “as an ancient text, derived from a time far different from ours.”  Mr. Green did not attack the Qur’an – indeed he has often praised the Prophet Muhammad as a visionary man of true love and peace.  Mr. Green was dealing only with those who interpret passages literally, to call for putting Christian converts to death in 2006, not in “ancient times.”

Mr. Green did not suggest “all believers in the Qur’an are a physical threat to Canadians because of their belief in the Qur’an.”  It is clear throughout the program that he never said or implied any such thing.  Nor did he breach any provisions of broadcast regulations or codes.  It is regrettable that you missed his point.

To delve into your personal interpretations of biblical passages is not germane to the matter at hand.  If extremist Christians were to begin rioting in the streets demanding the execution of converts to Islam, it would be appropriate to further delve into their extremism as well.  Of course even under such circumstances, Mr. Green would make it just as clear that he is not referring to all Christians, but rather those who harbour extremist and violent views. 

The complainant replied to that letter on April 7: 

Unfortunately your explanation entirely fails to address the purpose of Mr. Green juxtaposing the Qur’an to the New Testament.  As you yourself have already stated in defence of Mr. Green, the New Testament or its interpretations are not germane to the discussion you claim was being introduced by Mr. Green.  Yet it was he who stated, matter-of-factly, that unlike the Qur’an, the New Testament does not condone faith-based killing.

Therefore it is reasonable to believe that the intention was to draw a distinction between faiths.  It is reasonable to foresee this could, whether or not intentionally so, incite hate or fear within one (majority) group towards or for another (minority) group.  This is a time of great upheaval, a time in which Canadian soldiers are dying in a Muslim country.  It is important for public broadcasters to frame public comments with a consideration for the perils of the times.  As Mr. Green, for reasons only he can explain, chose to introduce this comparison, I feel his judgment, and role as a public broadcaster requires further review by the CBSC.

I did not hear the entire broadcast of this discussion.  Like, I am sure, the vast number of those who listen to your station, I was in my car when tuned to CFRA.  If 35 minutes of a publicly broadcasted discussion does not provide sufficient context, then possibly the selection or content of your topics of discussion should be more stringently considered before being introduced into your chosen format.

[.]

Please note this clean link, as it best demonstrates the foundation for my concerns surrounding the comments of Mr. Green.  I no longer believe Mr. Green necessarily intended to incite hate.

http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/dehumanization/

excerpts from above site

“An enemy image is a negative stereotype through which the opposing group is viewed as evil, in contrast to one’s own side, which is seen as good.  Such images can stem from a desire for group identity and a need to contrast the distinctive attributes and virtues of one’s own group with the vices of the ‘outside’ group.  In some cases, evil-ruler enemy images form.  While ordinary group members are regarded as neutral, or perhaps even innocent, their leaders are viewed as hideous monsters.  Enemy images are usually black and white.  The negative actions of one’s opponent are thought to reflect their fundamental evil nature, traits, or motives.  One’s own faults, as well as the values and motivations behind the actions of one’s opponent, are usually discounted, denied, or ignored.  It becomes difficult to empathize or see where one’s opponent is coming from.  Meaningful communication is unlikely, and it becomes difficult to perceive any common ground.

“Once formed, enemy images tend to resist change, and serve to perpetuate and intensify the conflict.  Because the adversary has come to be viewed as a ‘diabolical enemy,’ the conflict is framed as a war between good and evil.  Once the parties have framed the conflict in this way, their positions become more rigid.  In some cases, zero-sum thinking develops as parties come to believe that they must either secure their own victory, or face defeat. New goals to punish or destroy the opponent arise, and in some cases more militant leadership comes into power.

“While deindividuation and the formation of enemy images are very common, they form a dangerous process that becomes especially damaging when it reaches the level of dehumanization.

“Once certain groups are stigmatized as evil, morally inferior, and not fully human, the persecution of those groups becomes more psychologically acceptable.  Restraints against aggression and violence begin to disappear.  Not surprisingly, dehumanization increases the likelihood of violence and may cause a conflict to escalate out of control.  Once a violence break over [sic] has occurred, it may seem even more acceptable for people to do things that they would have regarded as morally unthinkable before.

“Indeed, dehumanization often paves the way for human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide.  For example, in WWII, the dehumanization of the Jews ultimately led to the destruction of millions of people.[9]  Similar atrocities have occurred in Rwanda, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.”

Or the creation of Japanese Internment camps in Canada … we all know what they say about history. 

CFRA provided a second response to the complainant on April 10: 

Thank you for acknowledging that Lowell did not mean to incite hatred.  The argument then centres around whether he unintentionally incited hatred, and unequivocally, he did not.

No, it is not reasonable to conclude that Lowell‘s comments would incite hatred or fear toward all Muslims, as you posit.  I have received advice from a biblical scholar who says your examples are so far out of context and so weakly interpreted that they add no weight to your argument.  Again, however, debating the Bible and your interpretation of it is side-track which our correspondence will not resolve.

The fact remains that the issue at hand is that some extremists are interpreting the Qur’an literally and using that to justify the execution of Muslim-to-Christian converts.  Even if your argument about the Bible were to hold true […], the argument becomes moot because it is not being interpreted literally, nor is it being used by Christians to justify killing people for faith conversion.

To suggest that asking the questions about extremism somehow “dehumanizes” all Muslims is folly.  No reasonable person would fear (nor hate) all Muslims because a specific extremist group among them mis-uses the holy writings to justify killing converts.  Lowell made it clear throughout that he was referring to that very specific group of extremists, and not to all believers.

Lowell’s discussion was timely. He made it clear that he was not discussing all Muslims.  His examination of a very specific group of people (extremists) was appropriate.  And there was no breach of any codes or regulations.

I’m sorry that we disagree, but unless there are new issues to review, this will – respectfully – conclude our correspondence on this matter. 

The complainant wrote again to CFRA on April 10: 

To be perfectly clear:

1.         It is not the interpretation of the New Testament, it is the comparing of the New Testament to the Qur’an, which placed the Qur’an in a morally inferior light, to which I have taken issue.  You have in no way addressed this concern.

2.         I did not say Mr. Green did not intend to incite hate, I said I do not believe he NECESSARILY intended to incite hate.  I cannot knowingly speak to Lowell‘s intentions.  His actions are, however, suspect. 

The complainant also submitted his Ruling Request to the CBSC on April 10 with the following additional remarks: 

Unfortunately CFRA refuses to, or does not understand the point of my complaint.  My concern centres not at all on the Qur’an itself, or the New Testament itself.  My concern is the juxtaposing of one religious text to another in order to highlight a key difference in that the Qur’an, which represents a targeted minority in Canada, preaches murder, and the New Testament, which represents the entrenched majority, does not.  I am of neither religion, and could honestly care less about religion at all.  I do care that history has shown that hate is promoted by isolating the minority through differentiating them from the majority in a way which clearly demonizes the minority.  If, as CFRA claims, the discussion Mr. Green was having had nothing to do with the New Testament, but only the Qur’an, why did he compare the two?  What was the motivation of the comparison?  It is only reasonable to conclude that some may take advantage of such obviously irresponsible and erroneous comments to vilify the minority, while using their own religion as a pillar of higher morality.  A clear moral delineation among cultures.  This is how hate works; the weight of evidence to support my concerns is overwhelming.  I trust the CBSC has the breadth of experience and arms length relationship to draw a similar conclusion.  I am not seeking a ban on the topic being discussed by Mr. Green; it is a topic of legitimate concern.  His introduction of the New Testament as a clear separation of faiths is my concern.  Muslims in this country are already at risk of hate due to current geo-political circumstances; juxtaposing their faith to the majority faith in a negative way is anything but constructive or exploratory to the discussion of the topic raised.

I have made two attempts to explain my concerns to CFRA, however they are focused more upon the accuracy of my interpretation of the NT than the purpose in the comparing of the Qur’an to the New Testament.

 I feel VERY strongly about this. I have never complained to the CBSC before, and I assure you Mr. Green and I do not see eye to eye on many topics.  This is not about political differences; this is not about a grudge; this is about the tacit promotion of hate in a very sensitive environment.

 Point blank:  Why the comparison?  CFRA never addressed this central concern. 

CFRA sent another note to the complainant on April 11: 

1.         Lowell‘s comparison of the Bible and the Qur’an was based on his interpretation and he is perfectly free to do so [sic].  Whether your interpretation and his are similar is irrelevant.  The phones were open and people of all views were invited to participate.  Everyone was afforded opportunity to present their opinions and interpretations.  Very divergent views have been presented on CFRA to a reasonably consistent listener over a reasonable period of time.  (That is the requirement – verbatim – contained in the regulations.)  Lowell handled this polemic issue entirely within the bounds of regulations and codes.

2.         Thank you for clarifying your use of the qualifier “necessarily.”  As you can see from my reply that is the interpretation I afforded your original statement. 

The complainant and station engaged in further written dialogue, which focussed primarily on whether they had understood each other’s precise words in previous correspondence.  CFRA sent additional information directly to the CBSC on April 13: 

[…]

To the central issue of the complaint, then:  It is not reasonable to conclude that Lowell‘s comments would incite hatred or fear toward all Muslims, as [the complainant] argues.

The fact remains that there has been extensive news coverage of some extremists who interpret the Qur’an literally and use that to justify the execution of Muslim-to-Christian converts.  Even if [the complainant]’s argument about the Bible were to hold true (which it does not), the argument becomes moot because it is not being interpreted literally, nor is it being used by Christians to justify killing people for faith conversion.  The government of Afghanistan wanted to put a convert to death, and Lowell asked callers whether it was appropriate to ask newcomers to Canada whether they support the idea of putting a person to death for converting from Islam to any other faith.  Even his Muslim callers this day and others agreed that it is a fair question, and that Canada has a right to pose it to immigration applicants.

[…]

Lowell’s discussion was timely. This was a legitimate matter in newspapers, on TV and radio newscasts.  He made it clear that he was not discussing all Muslims.  His examination of a very specific group of people (extremists) was appropriate.  And there was no breach of any codes or regulations. 

CFRA sent another letter to the CBSC on May 9.  That letter reiterated much of the material of their April 13 letter, but added the following points: 

In the Letters section of the Ottawa Citizen May 9, 2006, Muslim writer M. Husain Sadar writes (“Canadian Muslims must stop hijacking of their Faith”:)

… there is sinful silence adopted by other Muslims, including most of us in North America.  Unfortunately this leaves the field wide open for some fly-by-night kind of Organizations, especially the Canadian Islamic Congress, to issue outrageous statements to get self-publicity ….

 … terrorists, especially al-qaeda and its supporters too often use the “Islamic umbrella” to justify killing innocent people …

 … Muslims need to ask themselves:  how can we claim that Islam stands for peace when some of its followers are engaged in death and destruction on an hourly basis?”

Clearly, most Muslims are reasonable and moderate, and have no problem rooting out extremist views to improve understanding and relations with other Canadians.  This is illustrated by many letters to the editor such as Mr. Sadar’s, and by numerous Muslim participants in CFRA open-line programs.  No reasonable person would argue that such opinions are racist or discriminatory, or that people should be prohibited from expressing them.

Even if Mr. Green’s personal opinion of the Bible and Qur’an comparisons were faulty, he is entitled to them, and callers are always welcome to call and challenge those opinions.  Lowell was asking the public whether it would be reasonable to ask immigrants whether they felt it was acceptable to kill Christian converts.  The very fact that Muslim Canadians have supported these and other steps to root out extremism in their midst is concrete proof that such a discussion is in no way abusively discriminatory. 

 

the decision 

The Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics

Clause 2 – Human Rights 

Recognizing that every person has the right to full and equal recognition and to enjoy certain fundamental rights and freedoms, broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability. 

Clause 6 – Full, Fair and Proper Presentation 

It is recognized that the full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, comment and editorial is the prime and fundamental responsibility of each broadcaster.  This principle shall apply to all radio and television programming, whether it relates to news, public affairs, magazine, talk, call-in, interview or other broadcasting formats in which news, opinion, comment or editorial may be expressed by broadcaster employees, their invited guests or callers. 

The Ontario Regional Panel Adjudicators listened to a recording of the challenged program and reviewed all of the correspondence.  The Panel concludes that the broadcast was not in breach of Clause 2 but that it did breach Clause 6 of the foregoing Code provisions. 

 

The Issues 

In the detailed and thoughtful correspondence between the complainant and the broadcaster, there are several distinct issues raised.  Since the parties were often at cross-purposes, the Panel considers it useful to identify these issues from their total e-mail correspondence before proceeding with its analysis of those issues. 

 

The Complainant’s Concerns 

The complainant raised two issues, which were for him indelibly intertwined.  His first and most consistent concern was the host’s comparison of Christianity and Islam, which he saw as operating to the clear detriment of the latter religion.  It resulted from the use of that rhetorical technique that the host had, as the complainant initially put the matter, “tacitly” incited hatred, and then as a device employed in the broadcaster’s “effort to incite hate towards one particular group based upon their religious beliefs.”  In a later e-mail, responding to intervening points raised by the broadcaster’s News Director, he noted that it was Lowell Green “who stated, matter-of-factly, that unlike the Qur’an, the New Testament does not condone faith-based killing” and, on that basis, the complainant again concluded that it was “reasonable to believe that the intention [of the host] was to draw a distinction between faiths.”  This would, he asserted in slightly different terms, be likely to “incite hate or fear within one (majority) group towards or for another (minority) group.”  In support of his position, he also cited several passages from the New Testament that did appear to advocate violence.  In a final bit of correspondence with the broadcaster, he did clarify his position on the host’s incitement to hatred by concluding that, since he (the complainant) had no way of assessing the host’s intentions, he was unable to conclude that the host “NECESSARILY intended to incite hate [emphasis original]” although, the complainant argued, the host’s statements had the effect of doing so. 

The complainant also communicated a couple of important thoughts which are related to the above-described concerns.  While they do not have the effect of adding any new issues, they are nonetheless worth isolating here.  One point that is generally of concern to the CBSC in such matters is the prospect of desensitization.  Adopting words from a website to which he had referred in his second e-mail, the complainant said, “Once certain groups are stigmatized as evil, morally inferior, and not fully human, the persecution of those groups becomes more psychologically acceptable.”  He also wrote, in his final e-mail to the CBSC, “I do care that history has shown that hate is promoted by isolating the minority through differentiating them from the majority in a way which clearly demonizes the minority.”  On that point, he had also quoted from the website mentioned above, “While deindividuation and the formation of enemy images are very common, they form a dangerous process that becomes especially damaging when it reaches the level of dehumanization.”  His concern was that the point of the religious comparison was that “erroneous comments [may be used by some] to vilify the minority, while [the persons profiting from the comparison may] us[e] their own religion as a pillar of higher morality.” 

 

The Broadcaster’s Issues 

The broadcaster’s News Director observed that the principal burden of the challenged program was related to the issue and consequences of apostasy, focussed specifically on “those people who consider it acceptable to kill a person who has converted from the Muslim faith to Christianity.”  He identified the story of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan citizen condemned to death in March 2006 for his conversion from Islam to Christianity, as an international one and appropriate for discussion as a matter of public concern in Canada as well.  In a sense, the News Director took the position that the importance of that issue justified all aspects of the host’s treatment of it.  Nonetheless, the News Director explained that the host had neither “attack[ed] the Qur’an” nor argued that “all believers in the Qur’an are a physical threat to Canadians because of their belief in the Qur’an.”  He also asserted that the complainant’s examples of excerpts from the Bible were “so far out of context and so weakly interpreted that they add no weight to your argument.”  In a later communiqué, the News Director added that “Lowell‘s comparison of the Bible and the Qur’an was based on his interpretation and he is perfectly free to do so [sic].”  He stated that the difference in the interpretations of the host and complainant was “irrelevant” and that the callers were all “afforded opportunity to present their opinions and interpretations.”  He returned to the point in later communications, affirming that the discussion of apostasy was “a fair question” and a “timely” one.  At various points in the correspondence, he also came back to the issue of extremists and the distinction made between them and other believers. 

The News Director also did acknowledge that there was an issue related to “whether he [the host] unintentionally incited hatred,” but the CFRA representative claimed that “unequivocally, he did not.”  In a later e-mail in which he did deal peripherally with the complainant’s comparative religion point, characterizing it as a “side-track[ing]” of the issue, he concluded that “It is not reasonable to conclude that Lowell‘s comments would incite hatred or fear toward all Muslims.” 

 

Some Preliminary Points 

There is not the slightest disagreement relating to the importance of the discussion of the controversy itself.  The Abdul Rahman story reverberated around the world.  A matter of immense public interest, raising issues of great importance, there was no question but that current affairs talk shows would feature it.  The complainant described it as “a topic of legitimate concern” and CFRA’s News Director went to some pains to justify raising the subject on the program, although there had been no challenge to its on-air discussion.  It goes without saying that the CBSC would strongly affirm the relevance and value of debating the controversy on the airwaves. 

The question for the CBSC relates not to the subject but to the treatment of the subject.  Just as there can be no doubt about the legitimacy of the broadcast of a show on the consequences of Abdul Rahman’s apostasy, there can be no doubt that broadcasters are not free to launch discussions on that issue that may also have the effect of violating any other standards established in the CAB Code of Ethics (such as, but not limited to, the Human Rights clause). 

Consequently, the inquiry of the Ontario Regional Panel in the matter at hand will be limited to whether the on-air discussion constituted abusive or unduly discriminatory comment directed at an identifiable group on the basis of religion, on the one hand, or the presentation of unfair or improper opinion, editorial or comment, on the other. 

It should also be noted that there were many sensitive subjects raised in relation to the central theme of apostasy that have not resulted in regulatory problems.  This Ontario Regional Panel decision not only finds no fault with the discussion of that subject (other than aspects of how it was conducted), it finds no fault with the discussion of the following substantive issues by the host and callers (references to all of these subjects can be found in the program transcript reproduced in Appendix A): the screening of terrorists by immigration authorities; immigration from Muslim countries; the publication of the controversial Danish Islam-related cartoons in the Western Standard; the treatment of Muslim women when in the North American context; the hypocrisy of Christian groups going to the Middle East to protest Western military actions there while benefiting from the Western military efforts on their behalf; a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission and others to Human Rights Commissions generally; the acceptance of some non-Christian cultural practices (such as the Sikh carrying of the kirpan) and the corresponding non-acceptance of certain Christian practices (such as the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer); the relative violence of Islam and Christianity; suicide bombers; conflicts between Muslims and Jews; the modern application of the teachings of the Qur’an; and so on. 

 

Abusive or Unduly Discriminatory Comment 

The CBSC has consistently stated that it is not the mere mention of an identifiable group that will constitute a violation of the CAB Code of Ethics.  The comments must be abusive or unduly discriminatory, or, in other terms, extremely negative or insulting towards a group, or constituting negative generalizations about the group as a whole.  The complainant considers that the comparison of the two religions by the host was invidious and had the effect of inciting hatred toward Islam, to use his term.  While, as will be seen in the following section, the Ontario Panel finds fault with the host’s treatment of the issue, it is not because of the abusive or unduly discriminatory nature of his comments. 

In the first place, it should be noted that it is not a breach of any codified standard to be critical of a religious policy.  In W Network re My Feminism (CBSC Decision 01/02-1120, February 28, 2003), for example, where the National Specialty Services Panel was called upon to deal with a documentary film in which women of five separate religious backgrounds commented on their religions’ treatment of feminism, the Panel said that it was 

duty-bound to point out that there is no obligation for a filmmaker or his or her broadcaster to be uncritical of the subject treated.  Criticism is not alone the equivalent of unduly discriminatory comment.  It is unjustified, unsupportable criticism that fails the test.  It is casual, gratuitous, foundation-less criticism that cannot stand the bright light of the private broadcasters’ codified standards.  There is none of that here.  It is not the critical but thoughtful view of the single Irish Catholic speaker, which can fairly be considered in isolation, but the presentation of the entire documentary which must be assessed collectively.  As to the religious issue, it is reasonably balanced, fair and credible.  [Emphasis added.] 

And in CHWO-AM re an episode of Durant’s World (CBSC Decision 04/05-0447, May 24, 2005), the radio host’s opinion piece was critical of the Catholic Church’s view of same-sex marriage.  The Ontario Panel concluded 

that Bob Durant’s comment was one on an issue of policy, one on which many religions have positions, it is true.  His comments were, however, limited to the religion with which he and his wife were acutely familiar and from whose position they had personally suffered repercussions related to the very issue on which he (and many other Canadian commentators, in print and on the air) were expressing a perspective.  The Panel considers that his comments were not at all discriminatory, much less unduly discriminatory. 

In the present matter, the Panel does find that the host was critical of aspects of Islam but it is far from a blanket condemnation or denigration of the religion.  His preoccupations relate to the justification of violence.  While his evident lack of familiarity with the religion led him to conclusions that were, in some cases, unjustified, the Panel does not find that the host’s comments, even in the comparison of the religions, amounted to abusive or unduly discriminatory comment.  The foregoing being said, the Panel finds that certain of the host’s critical comparisons were on the edge of acceptability.  In part, these result from his willingness to adopt a double standard.  At a point, for example, he asserted, “I’m quite familiar with the Christian Bible and the, the New Testament. [.] and I’m gonna tell you that the New Testament, nowhere there does it say that anybody should be killed for switching religions.  In fact, the message of the New Testament, of Jesus Christ, is one of forgiveness.”  In a later dialogue with one of the Muslim callers, Maser, the host repeated this point: 

In fact, the message of the, the Christian Bible, I’m not saying one’s better than the other, but I’m telling you, that the message of Jesus Christ, which is founder of the Christian faith, is one of forgiveness.  You know, if a man asks, if, if a man strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the left. 

In his next intervention, Green stated that “the Qur’an says just the opposite.”  The point is that the host was so unfamiliar with the Qur’an that the basic characteristic of forgiveness of the Prophet Muhammad appeared to be unknown to him.  Even when given that specific example by caller Alex, he glossed over this description of the forgiving Prophet (and forgiveness in Islam itself).  And caller Jessie referred to both respectfulness and the equivalent of Christian morals in Islam.  The host did not acknowledge either of these positive observations about Islam, preferring in both cases to revert to his non-contextual literal references to the Qur’an.  It is as though he has wielded the moral club of the religion familiar to him against the one less known to him.  While the Panel agrees with the complainant that Green did so to be critical of aspects of Islam, it does not consider that he was attempting to utter abusive or unduly discriminatory comment against Muslims generally.  Consequently, the Panel does not consider that that comparison constituted comment prohibited by Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics

 

Unfair or Improper Comment: The Issue 

Although the point has been made above, the Panel wishes to repeat that it considers that the question of apostasy, particularly in the circumstances in which it arose in Afghanistan in March 2006, was, and remains, a subject of undoubted public interest, and one worthy of detailed scrutiny in the media.  The Panel is equally aware that the issue was likely to provoke strong sentiments in listeners.  That does not, in and of itself, create any problem.  It does, however, generate the need for skilled navigational techniques on the part of the host to ensure “full, fair and proper” treatment of the subject.  In more basic terms, the problem is not so much “what” as “how”.  Not what was the subject of the program but how did the host deal with it.  And it is here that the Panel finds the broadcaster wanting in terms of the Code requirements. 

 

Unfair or Improper Comment: The Qur’an Misrepresented 

In the first place, as has already been made perfectly clear, the host chose to base much of his discussion on a letter published that morning in the National Post.  Its author was Professor (emeritus) Heinz Klatt of the University of Western Ontario.  Although the radio host quoted much, albeit not all, of the letter, for Lowell Green, the central component of the letter was the quotation from sura 4 ayah 89 of the Qur’an.  Green cited it as follows: 

Quote, from the Qur’an, chapter four, verse 89, quote, “If they desert you, seize them and put them to death wherever you find them.  Kill him who changes his religion,” unquote. 

Perhaps in anticipation of the charged nature of the issue, he preceded that quotation with his own self-exculpatory statement. 

Professor Klatt writes, and here, I want to make this very clear before you start sending little civil libertarians after me and all the rest of it.  I want to make it clear, I am reading from a letter that is published this morning, publicly, in the National Post.  Okay?  I’m not saying I agree or disagree.  I’m reading this letter.  So before you start all of the charges and the arrest warrants and the rest of it, please remember I am reading a letter that appears in a newspaper. 

What the Panel finds curious is that the issue is not whether the host agrees or disagrees with the letter-writer.  As the CBSC Panels have said numerous times, and with respect to this very host, the Council supports talk show hosts’ entitlement to hold and express an opinion.  No problem there.  The issue for the Panel is that a part, the non-opinion part, of the content required accuracy and, on this point, the host, Lowell Green, declared firmly and unequivocally that he was quoting from the Qur’an.  Moreover, he gave the point additional weight by saying that he was quoting that text from the letter to the editor of a professor who was quoting the Qur’anic text.  In fact, though, the final problematic sentence on which Green’s argument of the day is based – “Kill him who changes his religion” – is not to be found in the Qur’an at all.  Nor did the letter-writer, Professor Klatt, attribute it to the Qur’an. 

What is of great importance to the Panel is that Green was very precise when he built his argument on the verse “Kill him who changes his religion”.  He started with that assertion (in the terms cited just above) and then repeated the provision in numerous circumstances during the course of that morning’s show.  For example, in his dialogue with caller Jerry, he said: 

[T]his letter from Professor Klatt really disturbs me because he is quoting directly from the Qur’an.  He says, quote, “The Qur’an says if they desert you, seize them and put them to death wherever you find them.  Kill him who changes his religion.” 

Then, in discussing the issue with caller Madeleine, he repeated the point. 

The, the thing that really disturbs me.  And I keep coming back to this letter, if, if what Professor Klatt says is true, that, that in fact the Qur’an says that you are to kill those who convert from Islam to Christianity – 

Following the next caller and the subsequent commercial break, the host repeated his version of the extract from the Klatt letter: 

Because according to Professor Klatt, University of Western Ontario, he says the Qur’an very clearly states, and here he quotes, he says the Qur’an, uh, this would be, uh, chapter four, verse 89 says, quote, “If they desert you, seize them and put them to death wherever you find them.  Kill him who changes his religion.”  He quotes the Qur’an.

 

The following caller was Danny and the host once again relied on the “quotation”. 

This says, according to this letter-writer and he quotes the Qur’an, that, uh, that anybody who changes their religion from Islam to anything else should be killed.

 Then, in a call with Omar, one of the first of the Muslim callers to that day’s program, the host again relied on the “quotation” from the Qur’an: 

Now, did you, do you agree that the Qur’an says, uh, “If they desert you, seize them and put them to death wherever you find them.  Kill him who changes his religion.” 

There are other examples of the host’s reliance on that “quotation”.  The significance of the host’s literal reliance on the Klatt quotation in the first place, and then on the text of the Qur’an itself when he apparently obtained a copy of that holy book later in the show, is emphasized in the exchanges with callers Alex and Jessie.  They both demonstrate the literal approach of the host.  When, for example, Alex explained the forgiving nature of the Prophet Muhammad (as mentioned above), the host replied: 

Well, I’m, I’m reading directly. I mean, in this case, it’s very clear.  I mean, there’s no equivocation here.  Uh, that if, if someone leaves the faith, quote, “If they turn back from Islam, take hold of them and kill them wherever you find them.”  I, I don’t see how you could misinterpret what he said there. 

Alex continued to challenge the host’s view, but Green persisted, saying several times in succession, “Well, I, I’m just quoting from the Qur’an.”  Alex and other callers gave Lowell Green the opportunity to extricate himself from this mistaken reliance on the text but he consistently refused to do so.  Jessie even said, rather presciently, “I don’t know.  I, I don’t know enough about this professor.”  No retreat by the host ensued, despite that invitation. 

The issue is, as presaged above, that the “quotation” from the Qur’an is incorrect.  The words “Kill him who changes his religion” are simply not in the Qur’an.  The broadcaster had its own obligation to be certain, at material times, of the accuracy of the material on which it was relying.  Its failure to do so resulted in a construct of an argument or position that appeared to be more defensible than it was.  The Qur’an has an authoritative cachet, as it should, as the Bible does.  Building an argument on the apparent content of Islam’s holy book puts callers and listeners in a defensive, behind-the-8-ball position from the get-go.  The host either knew or ought to have known that his position would appear stronger in such reliance.  He or someone on the broadcaster’s staff ought to have verified such an important point before using that provision as the foundation for almost the entire episode.  Their failure to present the audience with accurate information about the content of the Qur’an was misleading and unfair.  They loaded the dice without disclosing the fact that they had done so, even if that choice was unintentional.  In the end, the broadcaster’s constant reliance on misquoted text from the Qur’an and refusal to bend when advised of the error by Muslim callers rendered the presentation neither full, fair nor proper, and consequently in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics

 

Unfair or Improper Comment: Dealing with Callers and Context 

The host, as commander of the microphone and controller of access to the airwaves, has a disproportionate power over the course of the dialogue.  While it has been the consistent view of the CBSC that this reality is acceptable, it has equally been the view of the Council that such authority must be exercised judiciously.  Thus, in CFRA-AM re The Lowell Green Show (“New World Order”) (CBSC Decision 95/96-0012, April 30, 1996), after reviewing the different styles of talk show hosts, this Panel said: 

In the Council’s view, wherever the open line program falls on the spectrum, it remains the broadcaster’s responsibility to guarantee the “full, fair and proper presentation of news, opinion, editorial and comment” as provided in [.] Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  No one style of host has more licence than another to abuse guests or callers.  No one type of host is entitled to ignore the broadcaster’s duty to ensure “full, fair and proper presentation”. 

In this very connection, in CKTB-AM re the John Michael Show (Middle East Commentary) (CBSC Decision 01/02-0651, June 7, 2002), this Panel explained: 

Disagreement and unpleasantness are not strangers to the electronic forum.  It is here that more care must be exercised by the host.  While he and his callers are entitled to express opinions, it cannot be forgotten that not all opinions are equal.  The holder of the microphone and the related electronic controls has a distinct advantage, which must not be exercised irresponsibly.  At its best, talk radio must not be arbitrary or a one-way street.  Skilled practitioners of the art must be deft [.] 

In the matter at hand, the host appears to have had the sense that it was important to hear from representatives of the Muslim community, as is evidenced by the fact that he did make several attempts to convince Muslims to call.  The Panel agrees fully that this effort to locate Muslim callers was the proper course of action.  It does, however, find serious difficulty with the way the dialogue with some of those callers played out. 

The first attempt to encourage members of the Muslim community to call was at the start of the second hour.  The host’s method was to say that Muslims often call to argue with him and that he wanted them to call now to set the record straight.  He also advised that he would give them “all of the time in the world to talk.” 

I would like to invite Muslims to call.  And now, ordinarily, um, many Muslims do call this program, usually to argue with me.  But that’s fine.  Do you, as a Muslim, believe that the Qur’an instructs Muslims to kill those who switch from Islam to other faiths?  Do you believe that?  Do you agree with that?  I think that we in this community have a right to know if those who live amongst us feel that anybody who switches from the Muslim faith to another faith should be killed.  [.]  Uh, you have no hesitancy in calling me to give me hell, how about setting us straight here.  Is, is this letter-writer, is this professor right or is he wrong on this?  And is it something that we should be concerned about in our society?  Uh, give you all of the time in the world to talk, folks. [.] 

After speaking with caller Dave, he put out another request.  He added a new commitment: “I won’t interrupt.” 

Well, it’s obvious we’re not going to get any calls from Muslims.  I find that disappointing.  I would like to know if, if in fact, you know, Muslims living amongst us really believe this.  One last, one last opportunity.  Please.  We’ll give you all of the time in the world.  [.]  Last chance for Muslims to call.  And, and just tell us how, you know, whether this is true or not.  521-8255.  We got, we’re keeping lines open for you.  521-8255.  There are thousands of you listening out there.  On other issues you have no problem calling me.  I won’t interrupt.  You just explain what the situation is here.  Last call to you. 

The technique bore fruit.  The first of the Muslim listeners, Omar, called in. He clearly disagreed with Green’s reference to ayah 4:89; he pointed out that Muslims are not authorized to kill except in self-defence.  “No, no, no, no, no. [.] Okay.  Islam never asks Muslims to kill anybody as, as long as they defend themselves.”  Then Jessie, a second Muslim caller, raised the issue of context.  “I think you can take any written text and, you know, take it out of context and make it whatever you want it to be.”  She added that she didn’t “agree with the terrorism.  That’s totally anti-Islamic.”  She said that she did not know what some Muslims believe but she protested that “I’ve never seen anything like that in the Qur’an and I’ve read it.”  It was clear that Jessie’s explanation of her religion did not jibe with where the host wished to be, so he kept repeating that he wished to “just ask the question,” by which it was clear that he wished to return the argument to the territory he favoured, namely, the acknowledgment that the interests of the country would best be served by authorities being “allowed to question Muslims who come here whether they believe that those who switch from the Muslim faith should be killed?  Should we have the right to ask them that question?”  In other words, the question of the contents of the Qur’an was not at issue.  The host’s interest in having the reaction of Muslims on that point was not pertinent.  When he could not elicit a view on that issue that corresponded to his, he changed the premise and got away from his declared interest in determining, “is this professor right or is he wrong on this?” 

Then caller Mike, who stated that, although he was not Muslim, he was thinking about converting to Islam, pointed out that what he had read in the Qur’an “is there’s nothing at all that incites violence.”  Once again, rather than pursuing that point at all, the host again said, “let me ask this question [.]”.  An apparent non-Muslim, Jonathan, had a copy of the Qur’an in front of him and read ayah 4:89 aloud; it did not include the final sentence from the Klatt quotation in the letter to the National Post.  Without any acknowledgment of the difference in the text, the host declared, “Well, that clears up that.”  In the view of the Panel, the issue was not “cleared up”.  As Green said moments later, “I’ve read the Qur’an.”  What is, however, material is that he had not, in any meaningful or in-depth way, read the Qur’an.  It is not that the host was trying to mislead anyone on this point.  It is just that his representation was, in a sense, irrelevant.  He had read one ayah from it (later supplemented by a couple of other ayat read by other callers) but could not, in any reasonable sense, be said to be familiar with the context of the quoted material. 

The next Muslim caller was Maser and he was the first to make that point forcefully and with examples.  The material part of their dialogue was as follows (the emphasis is added): 

Maser:  Okay, if, I’m just make a challenge to all Canada.  If you read it in context and if you have any objection, you, I’ll, I’ll pay whatever fine is.  So, you reading that in context –

Lowell:  Well I read it in context.

Maser:  No.  I, let me tell you this –

Lowell:  Well, sir, I, I have the Qur’an here in front of me.  What, what, what’s the context that I didn’t read it in?

Maser:  Okay, I am Muslim and I read it many times.

Lowell:  Uh huh.

Maser:  Let me tell you.  Let me tell you exactly what it is.

Lowell:  Mm hm.

Maser:  It’s, it’s about, there was, this is a description of a war.  If you read that, all is about war.  So it’s a description of one war in which Muslims were, uh, had an argument with, uh, they were fighting against other faiths as well.  And what usually, and [??] too, is they become Muslim and they, they create, uh, you know, um –

Lowell:  Sir, sir, sir, sir –

Maser:  – problems, uh, problems in –

Lowell:  Sir, sir, excuse me.  Okay?  Uh, I, I, I, I read directly, uh, from the Qur’an, sir.

Maser:  You read it correctly.  You read it correctly.  But –

Lowell:  Yeah.  Yeah.  And it doesn’t talk about, it doesn’t talk about anything, uh, anything specifically about a war.

Maser:  It does.

Lowell:  No, I’m sorry, sir.

Maser:  Oh yes, it does. 

In what the Panel considers an astonishing turn of phrase, the host accused the good-faith Muslim caller of trying to mislead him.  Justifying his own reasoning and interpretation by saying “I have the Qur’an in front of me here,” the host was taking the position that he knew more than a Muslim who declared that he had “read it [the Qur’an] many times.”  The Panel considers that the host’s assertion was overreaching: “I’m telling you [i.e. Maser] what Islam says.  I’m telling you, I’m reading from the Qur’an.”  These statements were in utter disregard of his promise to give Muslims all the time they wanted to call for the purpose of “setting us straight here”.  The Panel understands that his goal was to entice Muslims to call; however, his disregard for what they wished to explain about their religion was both unfair and improper. 

A later caller, Roshdie, raised another important issue, namely, the importance of having persons with expert knowledge in the Qur’an, to deal with the issue.  The larger contextual and historical issues, he effectively explained, required that.

I just wanted to tell you we, if you’re going to do this, if you’re going to open the Qur’an and start, uh, interpreting it on, on the air, the, the least you should do is to have with you someone, caller, that can really give you better understanding.  Because people who are calling you don’t have enough knowledge.   

The host retorted, taking the literal perspective, and the caller argued that one could not do so. 

Lowell:              Well, I don’t see what’s, I mean, they, the, the verses from the Qur’an, no one has attempted to interpret them.  We’ve just read them and taken them literally.

Roshdie:           No, it, it doesn’t work that way.

Lowell:              Well, I’m sorry, sir.  If you, if you read a verse, that’s what the verse says.

Roshdie:           I read it.  I read it and it doesn’t tell me that.  It doesn’t tell me that if you are a Muslim and you change your faith, you’re going to be killed.  It doesn’t tell me that.

Lowell:              Well, the Mus-, the, the Qur’an says that.

Roshdie:           No, it doesn’t say that.

Lowell:              Well, of course it does.

Roshdie:           No.  That’s, that’s why, I mean, it’s very dangerous to –

Lowell:              Well, how can you say it doesn’t, sir?

Roshdie:           – [??] when it does not.

 Roshdie made an essential point regarding the original Arabic text. 

When are you just going to keep going?  I’m reading it.  In fact, it doesn’t, it doesn’t mention the word Islam in Arabic at all.  It, it doesn’t mention the Muhammad or, or Islam or being of a different faith or any of that stuff at all. 

And Roshdie fairly concluded, as the Arabic-speaking Muslim in the dialogue, “And my understanding is the one that really counts.”  Clearly unable to win the argument on the Qur’an, and being unwilling to concede any ground on its interpretation, the host again switched the dialogue to the practice of the Afghan imams who had condemned Abdul Rahman to death. 

The Ontario Regional Panel finds the tactics used by Lowell Green in dealing with the callers and the subject of the meaning of the Qur’anic ayah on which he was relying to have been unfair and improper.  The host was entitled to make his point about apostasy and had every opportunity to do so.  It was not necessary for him to resort to that provision of the Qur’an.  He chose that route.  That was his option.  Then, having invited Muslims to call the program on the basis that they could explain their fundamental religious document to him and CFRA’s listeners, he disregarded their explanations of the very nature of the Qur’an, as well as their arguments about the context of the ayah he had quoted.  When one of the Muslims even explained that the Arabic, that is, the original and definitive, version of the Qur’an, which he had before him, did not contain the words the host relied on, Green changed the subject.  It is parenthetically interesting that the host was more accommodating with caller Mohammed, who was permitted to provide some explanations of the variety of interpretations of Islam (which did not, however, go to the central issue of apostasy).  All in all, the audience was left with a lopsided perspective on the meaning of the Qur’an.  They deserved more.  The broadcaster’s refusal to permit callers in good faith to provide the explanation of the misquoted text from the Qur’an when he had invited them to do so rendered the presentation of that text neither full, fair nor proper, and consequently in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.  

 

Broadcaster Responsiveness 

The CBSC Adjudicating Panels always assess the quality of the broadcaster’s responsiveness to complainants, which is one of the broadcaster’s obligations of membership in the Council.  Although there is often more than one communication from the complainant, the broadcaster is only obliged to respond once.  The communication in the matter at hand was nothing short of exemplary.  It continued, as each of the complainant and CFRA’s News Director parried the other’s arguments.  No matter.  There is no obligation to agree nor even to perceive the issues the same way.  What is essential is the dialogue and the broadcaster’s representative was a consistent and thoughtful participant in the process.  Nothing more could be expected from a CBSC member. 

 

announcement of the decision 

CFRA-AM is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during peak listening hours within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which the Lowell Green Show is broadcast; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by CFRA. 

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CFRA breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of the Lowell Green Show on March 31, 2006. On that episode of the program, the host repeatedly quoted portions of the Qur’an incorrectly, thereby leaving the audience with a distorted perspective of the meaning of verses from the Qur’an apparently dealing with conversion from Islam. By not permitting Muslim callers in good faith to uninterruptedly provide their explanation of the misquoted text from the Qur’an when the host had invited them to do so and by failing to take into account relevant contextual considerations suggested by them, the broadcaster rendered the presentation of that Qur’anic text neither full, fair nor proper, and consequently in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

 This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.