CANADIAN BROADCAST STANDARDS COUNCIL

ontario regional Panel

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

(CBSC Decision 07/08-0916)

Decided October 22, 2008

M. Ziniak (Vice-Chair), M. Hamilton, H. Hassan, L. Levinson, G. Phelan (ad hoc), J. Pungente

 

THE FACTS

The Lowell Green Show is an open-line talk show that airs weekdays from 10:00 am to noon on CFRA-AM (Ottawa).  The host and callers discuss various current events.  On December 3, 2007, Green began the program with an introductory monologue commenting on the widely publicized case of Gillian Gibbons, a British elementary school teacher who had moved to Khartoum in August to take up teaching duties (with 6- and 7-year olds) at one of the British-run schools in the Sudanese capital.

As a part of a class project on bears, she invited the class to name one student’s teddy bear.  Nearly all of the class chose Muhammad, apparently the first name of the most popular student in the class; it was also, of course, the name of the Prophet.  Each child prepared a diary entry about the bear, all of which were collected in a book with a picture of the bear and the message or title, “My Name Is Muhammad” on its cover.  Late in November, this project became known outside the school.  It caused considerable public uproar in Sudan and elsewhere as some Muslims objected to conferring the name of the Prophet on a toy.  Imprisoned and threatened by some with death, Ms. Gibbons was eventually allowed to leave the country.

As a part of the scene-setting monologue, host Lowell Green expressed the view that the British government should have retaliated with its own threats.  He then continued the opening commentary as follows (the full transcript of the monologue and all the relevant exchanges with callers can be found in Appendix A):

It is not the work of just a few radicals.  If I hear one more person claiming that this is just the work of a few radicals and it’s got nothing to do with Islam or the Muslim faith, I’m going to throw up!  Let’s be brutally frank, can we?  Okay?  Come on.  Almost every act of terrorism around the world today – and there are hundreds every week – is carried out in the name of Islam.  Almost every outrage, from a Saudi woman sentenced to two hundred lashes for the crime of being in a car with a man to the teddy bear incident, the Danish cartoons, more than a hundred and twenty French police injured in widespread rioting in France, all carried out in the name of?  Islam.  Don’t tell me this is the work of a few fanatics.  Thousands marched in Khartoum demanding the British school teacher be killed.  Tens of thousands protested the Danish cartoons.  More than a hundred were killed in that.  Thousands of mostly young Muslims rioting, burning, looting in France today.  And let’s be brutally frank once again.  It’s obvious -- it’s gotta be obvious -- that the terrible oppression of women seen throughout the Muslim world has widespread support.  What is happening clearly is not just the work of a few fanatics.  In your opinion, is much of what is happening the work of a few fanatics?  Or is there something in the Muslim faith itself which promotes, which mitigates against freedom, democracy and equal rights?  [...]  Well, is it only the work of a few fanatics, the widespread oppression, the lack of democracy and freedom and equal rights and freedom of the press in almost every Muslim world or every Muslim country that you can think of?  Seems to me that, with one exception and that would be Turkey, every Muslim nation on Earth, serious oppression against women, lack of freedom, lack of democracy and, in many cases, lack of very much equality for anybody.

Green then took calls from a number of listeners.  The majority of callers were of the view that there was something in the Muslim faith that did promote violence and oppression, but a few callers disagreed.  The following is a sampling of calls; as noted above, the full transcript of the program can be found in Appendix A.

Green:  What I want, hold it, hold it.  I want to get to the root of this, okay?  I don’t pussy-foot around and I’ve made up my mind.  Five weeks on, I’m not going to pussy-foot around this issue anymore.  The issue is not, you know, Mohammed or anything.  The issue is, is this just the work of a few fanatics or is there something deep-seated in the Muslim faith?  Because, now, I, I, I can think of only one exception in the Muslim world and that would be Turkey, where there is any modicum of freedom whatsoever.  I mean, women are oppressed and oppressed badly, terribly throughout the Muslim world.  Well, is that the work of just a few fanatics?  Or is there something in the faith?  Or the way the faith is administered?

Jayme:  Yeah –

Green:  That’s my question.  Is it just a few people or is there something in the faith itself?

Jayme:  Well, why doesn’t a seven-year old know that?  I mean, a five-year old, uh, six-year old, pardon me, Roman Catholic that has to make, uh, the, uh, --

Green:  Jayme, you’re not making any, you gotta, you gotta talk about what I’m talking about, Jayme, or you’re history.

Jayme:  Okay, I’m just saying –

Green:  My question is:  In your opinion –

Jayme:  Yes?

Green:  -- when people react like that, two hundred lashes for the woman in Saudi Arabia, they were, you know, people, thousands marching in the street –

Jayme:  You can’t be any more oppressed unless they cut her hands off.

Green:  Oh, yeah.  You’re missing my point.  You gotta get to my point.  Uh, let’s talk to Audrey.  Audrey, you’re on CFRA, good morning.

            [...]

Green:  Because we know that already you can be sure the complaints are flooding in.  I don’t give a sweet damn.  I, I have to ask the question, is it just the work of a few fanatics or is this widely-held belief throughout the Muslim world?

Audrey: Well, you know, strangely enough, I think somehow or other, even when women get out into the workforce here and into the Western world, uh, generally, they still have this idea that they can be, um, subjugated, you know, by men.  It’s men’s prerogative.  Muslim men, it’s their prerogative.

Green:  No, but my question, I want to get to the root of this.  Do you think there, that there is something in the Muslim faith, er, or is it just the work of a few fanatics? Because we keep hearing “Oh well, this is not the Muslim faith.”  I’m sorry.  Throughout the Muslim world, with very rare exception, among other things, women are terribly oppressed.

Audrey: Yes, no, I think it is the, I think it is part of the faith.  Absolutely.  And I think the, the people are indoctrinated with this and little, little girls from an early age.  They’re, they’re subjugated and that’s, they’re not as important as men, period paragraph.

Green:  And you, you, you believe that this is at least partly the fault of the faith itself?

Audrey: Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.

Green:  I mean, we can go back in history and we can see many evils carried out in the name of Christianity.

Audrey: Mm hm.

Green:  And we’re not afraid to talk about that.

Audrey: But a lot of them have been rectified.

Green:  Uh, uh, hopefully.

[...]

Green:  But, you know, there’s something else.  And then, of course, we have other people who say “oh well, it’s a matter of poverty.”  I am sorry.  Saudi Arabia is one of the richest nations on earth.  And it’s in Saudi Arabia where a woman has been sentenced to two hundred lashes.  Her crime?  Being in a car with a man not a member of her family.

Audrey: Can you imagine how barbaric that is?

Green:  “Barbaric” is the word.

Audrey: Not even –

Green:  Thank you very much, Audrey.

[...]

Green:  Well, as you might expect, and I certainly did, uh, the complaints are already pouring in that I’m picking on the Muslim faith, et cetera, et cetera.  But you know something?  I have stated repeatedly and I say so again:  I believe that denying females certain rights within the Catholic Church is blatant discrimination.  The fact that women cannot become priests, deliver the sacraments of the Catholic Church, I believe to be discrimination against women, within the Catholic Church.  So if I can criticize the Catholic Church and the Christian faith, I don’t see why I can’t criticize the Muslim faith.  Do you?  Taz, you’re on CFRA, good morning.

[...]

Taz:      Well, actually, I’m a Muslim woman and, uh, the Prophet did enc-, encourage us to think about, not just take the rules blindly, and think.  He spent, uh, forty nights, I believe, or, I can’t remember how long, but he spent –

Green:  What is, what does the Prophet have to say about the blatant, terrible, sometimes brutal discrimination against women that is widely seen throughout the Muslim world?

Taz:      Well, he absolutely, absolutely would not say it’s okay.  Like, he did not abuse women or say that they’re inferior to men at all.  I mean, his wife was a, his first wife was a huge businesswoman in their time.

Green:  Then why even within the mosques, even in this country –

Taz:      Yeah?

Green:  -- do women have to stand behind men within the mosques themselves?

Taz:      I mean, women, men and women are different, so of course there’s gonna be some differences.  Like, I, I wouldn’t be comfortable praying in front of the men actually ’cause they’ll be staring at you, you know what I mean?

Green:  You wouldn’t have the right to do so.  So even if you did feel comfortable, you wouldn’t be allowed to.

[...]

Green:  Obviously there is widespread support for oppression against women throughout the Muslim world.  I’m not saying that everybody supports it.  But there is obviously widespread support.

Taz:      Yeah, but that’s not, that’s not how Islam is.  Like, you’re asking if that’s –

Green:  Well, it must be the way it is because there’s widespread support for that.

Taz:      I’m telling you it’s not.  I mean, if you go and research it, sure you have done your research, but if you go and act, proper Muslims –

Green:  Well, let me then, let me ask you, Taz, let me ask you to name the Muslim nation where women are equal.

Taz:      Well, actually not in this, not in this day and age, but back in the, the time of –

Green:  No, no, I’m talking about today.  What, name me the Muslim nation today where women are equal.

Taz:      That’s why, that’s why our, our countries right now are in the hole.  Because they, because they have –

Green:  Name me, uh, name, name me a Muslim nation where democracy is allowed.

Taz:      No.  I’m telling you there –

Green:  What?

Taz:      There isn’t any right now.  That’s because –

Green:  I’m sorry.

Taz:      There isn’t any right now because Muslims left their religion.  They’re not following it right, right now.  They’re not following it to the rules.

Green:  But this is wide-, this is, this is widely spread throughout the Muslim world.

Taz:      Yeah, and I’m telling you that that’s because, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

Green:  No, but that is the way it is.  And, and what I am saying is, is that this just cannot be the work of a few fanatics.  It is obviously widely-held beliefs throughout the Muslim world.

Taz:      Well, you’re exaggerating a bit.  I mean, I, I lived in the Muslim world and I –

Green:  How many people, when the Danish cartoons, it wasn’t just a few fanatics.  Thousands and thousands of people in many different Muslim nations rioted.

Taz:      Yeah, rioted because they love the Prophet so much.  They didn’t want him to be depicted as, as whatever, he had horns or something?  I forgot what the cartoons were about.

Green:  But that wasn’t just a few fanatics.  It wasn’t just a few fanatics.  There were thousands of people marching in the streets –

Taz:      Let me tell you –

Green:  -- of Khartoum demanding the death for this poor woman, Miss Gibbons, for, over the teddy bear incident.

Taz:      Well, the Prophet himself, when he used to, uh, he used to be insulted in his time, he didn’t used to do anything.  He didn’t use force, he, he, the companions did want to –

Green:  What, in your opinion, Taz, what has happened, then, to the Muslim world?  What has happened to the, to the Muslim faith?

Taz:      In my opinion, they have left their religion and this is why they’re so messed up.

Green:  And it’s widespread?

Taz:      Yeah, it’s widespread, yeah.  Just like, just like –

Green:  Taz, we have to go.  Thank, listen, took a lot of courage and I appreciate it.  Thank you very much.  Let’s go to, let me see, Florence in Montreal, uh, who has a different view.  Florence.  Let’s go to, let me see, Florence in Montreal, uh, who has a different view.  Florence.

[...]

Florence:           First of all, you’re absolutely right.  It is inherent in the religion.  When you think that, that their highest, there’re two quick points I’ll make:  one is that in, in their reward for them if they follow the Prophet’s commands is that they are given 72 virgins.  Now if the highest spiritual reward is to rape 72 little girls, there’s something very wrong.  In civilized countries, people’d be thrown, and a man who raped one little girl’d be thrown in jail and even amongst ordinary criminals he would be considered a pariah and probably be beaten in the, in the jail itself.

Green:  Now, you see, I’m not even sure if in fact that is in the Coran [sic, for that part of the dialogue that has pronounced the Qur’an in an anglicized way, the spelling “Coran” is retained herein; elsewhere, the proper spelling “Qur’an”, that customarily used by the CBSC, is employed].

Florence:           Yes, it is.

Green:  I, I don’t know.

Florence:           I’ve read the Coran.  I’ve read it, I’ve read it.

[...]

Green:  Let me ask you this, Florence.  Let me, excuse me, let me ask you this:  Um, in medieval times, there is no question, and even, even after the Renaissance, there is, there’s no question that the Christian religion, particularly the Catholic faith, starting in Spain, went absolutely crazy.  The Inquisition, terrible, terrible things were done, uh, thousands, millions of people were butchered in South America.

Florence:           Mm hm.  Not millions.

Green:  Okay.  But, now, obviously at that point, the Christian faith went crazy.  All right?  It went way off the track.  Has the same thing in your opinion happened with the Muslim faith today?

Florence:           No, this is something different.

Green:  Is it?

[...]

Florence:           There is something in the faith that is inherent.  And one thing, the other, second point I wanted to make, uh, Lowell, it’s not about poverty; you’re quite right.  These are extremely wealthy, well-educated people.  It’s not about education either.  It’s about behaviour.  And when you think about the seven doctors in the U.K. and I have cousins there and they’ve spoken to me about it too.  Those seven doctors, they took their training in, in, uh, the, the civilized country of England and they worked with colleagues who were Christian, civilized people –

Green:  Which seven doctors are you talking about?  The ones –

Florence:           The seven doctors who, who, who attacked the, the, um, airport in Scotland.

Green:  Okay.

Florence:           I mean, there’s something inherently wrong.  It’s that crazed component in Islam that is so terrifying and that the West must never forget.  I mean, those people had –

Green:  Thank you, Florence.

Florence:           – behaved normally for so long and look what they did.

[...]

Ted:      [...]  That’s, it is the whole religion.  I was in London two weeks ago.  I walked into a store to buy a lottery ticket and there was a Muslim man berating his wife to the point where he looked like he was going to attack her.  And she was in a corner.  And as soon as I walked in, he stopped.  [Green sighs]  You know, and I just, just the fear on her face told me that she lives like that constantly.

Green:  I just think that we have to address the real problem.  As I, I pointed out, there’s some, I don’t know if you’re aware or not, but there’s [sic] some terrible riots in Fr-, in Paris.

Ted:      Yeah, France.  And they don’t say it’s the Muslims, they just say it’s youth.

Green:  Not one, not one, excuse me, not one French newspaper pointed out that these were Muslim youths, almost exclusively Muslim youths.  Uh, it was only two, I believe, the Baltimore, one of the Baltimore newspapers, uh, I think pointed this out and one other newspaper in the United States.  We are so afraid, we are so afraid of telling the truth when it, when it relates to religion that, uh, you know.  But if we don’t, I mean, if we don’t identify the problem, how are we ever going to solve it?

Ted:      I know.  It just, it’s, it’s, you know what it is, a whole, it is the whole Muslim world too.  It’s not just –

Green:  I’m not saying, I’m not saying, no one is suggesting that all Muslims are like that.

Ted:      No, neither am I.

Green:  We’re not suggesting that at all.  What we are saying is that obviously this is more, this goes deeper than just a few fanatics.

Ted:      Oh, definitely.

[...]

Green:  I don’t know.  I, I’m not, I, I don’t profess to be a student of the Qur’an or the Muslim faith.  All I am is an observer and what I see around the world today is almost without exception acts of terrorism and brutality being carried out almost exclusively in the name of Islam.

Mike:    Absolutely.  You know, you look at 9/11, you look at, uh, the World Trade Center bombings back in the nineties.  Uh, and the more and more.  And then you have, like, mosques where, who knows what’s going on in there?  You know, when, nobody really goes in there to see what they’re being taught.  And then there was a story, I guess there was a school even down here in, I be-, I think it was in Virginia, that, uh, where the Saudi, er, the Saudi Arabian government was funding it and, um, questions had arisen as to the, the teachings.  And it’s really scary because, you know, one day I think it’s gonna literally come down to us and them and if, I’d like it to be us if I have anything to say about it, you know.

Green:  Thank you for your call, Mike.  Thank you, sir.  Uh, let’s come here back to Ottawa.  David, you’re on CFRA.

David:   Good morning, Lowell.

Green:  Hello, David.

David:   Lowell, I guess we have to hit bottom.  So why don’t we just say that they’re all like that and maybe when we do hit bottom, maybe there’ll be some kind of a backlash within their own community –

Green:  Well, they’re not all like that.

David:   -- so we can take the control back.

Green:  Yeah, they’re not all like that.  Very obviously.

David:   I say, well, I haven’t met one yet that isn’t.

Green:  I mean, I have some Muslim friends.  I have Muslim friends who, who just deplore what’s happening here.  But I think, on the other hand, David, we have to admit that this goes much deeper than just a few fanatics.

[...]

Jacob:   Yes, congratulations for finally seeing the, the point that people like myself have been making every time this topic is brought up.  And that is, the problem is not some nameless, faceless terrorist.  It’s not Muslim extremists.  It’s actually Islam.  Now to answer your, your previous Muslim caller that this was not the way Islam was.  I’m sorry to disappoint you.  It actually was.  In point of fact, if you look back at the history of Islam, you, you should understand, these, uh, the following.  What, what I’ve heard from a, a Coptic who is fluent in Arabic and who read the Qur’an.  He said that when the Qur’an first appeared, it talked about peace and love.  And when people refused to join, um, Mohammed, um, he, he, he had the, uh, he had, uh, a modification inserted.  Apparently because he was illiterate.  Okay?

Green:  I, I don’t know, Jacob.  And I’m a little, uh, reluctant to discuss that all.  But you, you believe, looking, uh, just observing what’s happening today that this goes deeper than just a few fanatics?

Jacob:   Absolutely.

Green:  And I am sick, and I, and I, like you, am sick and tired of hearing people trying to excuse what’s going on.  There is no excuse for what’s happening in Saudi Arabia, two hundred lashes.  There’s no excuse for the teddy bear incident.  No excuse for this whatsoever.  Thank you for your call.  We’ll be back on CFRA.

[...]

Green:  No, but, what I’m, my point is that this obviously is more than just a few fanatics.  This is a widely-held belief throughout the Muslim world.  There, with, with one or two exceptions, there is not one Muslim nation that affords equal rights to women, for example.  They oppress women terribly.  This is not the work of just a few fanatics, Nicole.

Nicole:  And I bel-, I believe what you’re saying, but I also believe that a lot things happen in this world where there’s hundreds of thousands of people protest about certain things.  But if they’re not Mus-, Muslim, we don’t blame it on religion.  If that was a Catholic, uh, believing in something else, then –

Green:  But it’s not.  What we’re dealing with today is the bare fact.  And here it is:  that with very rare exception, the acts of terrorism and brutality that just plague us are being carried out almost exclusively in the name of Islam.

Nicole:  Well, that’s just a bunch of bad people blaming it on Islam.

Green:  I’m, I’m sorry.  It’s being carried out in the name of Islam.  Widespread.  When, you recall the situation with the Danish cartoons.  Tens of thousands of people protested, marched, demanded death to the cartoonist.  That’s not just a few fanatics.  There were thousands of people marching in Khartoum, demanding that Gillian Gibbons be put to death over the teddy bear incident.  That wasn’t a few fanatics.  That was thousands of people.  Thou-, and they, obviously the great, overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world support widespread terrible, brutal oppression of women.

Nicole:  Well, we also have things like abortion where thousands –

Green:  Why are you trying to excuse it?

Nicole:  Well, I’m not –

Green:  Why are you trying to excuse it?

Nicole:  I’m not trying to excuse it.  But there’s, like, thousands of people protest about abortions in the street.  But that has nothing to do with the religion.  That’s just a lot of people believing in the same thing.  And I believe that that situation is absolutely horrible and I think that the Muslims that are blaming it on ---

Green:  Nicole, Nicole, Nicole, put your mind to work here.  Is this, when thousands of people protest, et cetera, et cetera, right around the world.  When all of these acts of terrorism without excep-, almost without exception, are being carried out by Muslims, can you not conclude that there must be a problem within that faith?  That it goes beyond just a few fanatics?

Nicole:  In some ways.

Green:  Why is that so difficult for you to admit?

Nicole:  In some ways I do, but, at the same time, you cannot blame it on religion.  That’s a lot of bad people –

Green:  Well then what do we blame it on?  What do we blame it on?  If, if you have a religion that says if you slaughter an, an infidel, uh, you will get 72 virgins, uh, to have sex with.  I mean, can’t you say that, geez, maybe there’s something wrong with that?

Nicole:  But I know a lot of Muslims and I have –

Green:  No, but let me – of course, and so do I – but listen.  If the faith says that if you, if you kill somebody in jihad, you’ll get 72 virgins, is that not kind of a dangerous thing to have?

Nicole:  Ah –

Green:  In a religion?

Nicole:  Yes, it is.

Green:  Well.  You know, I mean, I just, I just think that it’s time that we address this, the, the problem.

Nicole:  I think you have a valid point, but I think also that we can’t blame it on the religion.

Green:  Then who do we blame it on?

Nicole:  A lot of people with bad views.

Green:  But they’re all Muslim.  Almost without exception.

Nicole:  But if that was a Catholic or –

Green:  But it’s not.  It’s not.

Nicole:  I know it’s not, but if it was we wouldn’t be hearing about it.

Green:  No, but it’s not.  But it’s not.  Let’s face reality.  The reality is that almost all of these acts are being carried out in the name of Islam by Muslims.  I know that this is offensive to many people, but it’s also the truth.  Is it not?  ...  Is it not?

Nicole:  Yes.

Green:  Let me tell you this.  That if there was a, um, let us say a sect of, uh, Protestant fundamentalists that were bombing, killing, carrying on acts of torture, oppressing women around the world, we would not be afraid to discuss that and point that out, that this was being done by this one particular sect.

Nicole:  Yes, but –

Green:  Why is it we are so hesitant –

Nicole:  But we don’t hear about it.  It might be happening, but we –

Green:  It’s not happening.  Don’t be silly.  You’re being silly.  I mean, there is no other group, there’s no other religious group that is carrying out the kind of terror that we see being done in the name of Islam today.

Nicole:  How do you know if we’re not talking about it?

Green:  Oh, for God’s sake.

Nicole:  I know there’s –

Green:  Oh, come on.

Nicole:  -- things going on around the world that we don’t hear about.

Green:  Nicole, Nicole, you’re being silly.  You’re being, you’re just absolutely, you’ve abandoned common sense here.  Let’s move on.  Mack in Gatineau, you’re on CFRA, good morning.  Mack, go ahead please, you’re on the air.

[...]

Green:  Is there a problem with the faith itself?

Zack:    Well, when you talk about the faith, and we, and I know you talk about Muslims in general, Islam in general.  But, you know, there’s 72 different sects.  It’s like me saying all Christians don’t let women preach.  Well, the United Church does.

Green:  You’re, you’re obvicating [sic] here.  Is there a problem with the faith?

Zack:    Well, the faith is not uniform.  It’s a mosaic of different sects –

Green:  I’m going to try it one more time.  Is there a problem with the faith?

Zack:    To a certain extent, yes.  To a certain extent, yes.

Green:  What is the problem?  What’s the problem?

Zack:    What’s the problem?  Is, you’ve got a few fanatics that have got built-up momentum and who’ve got a whole bunch of people going out in the streets and believing in a certain way.  The faith is not necessarily that way.  It’s just like saying, you know, a few abortionist doctors get shot.  Are all Christians bad?  No.  Because all of them are not.

Green:  No one’s suggesting –

Zack:    The Catholics might think that way –

Green:  No one is suggesting that all Muslims are bad.  But, but –

Zack:    Well, you keep on asking –

Green:  -- we’ve got to ask, let me, excuse me.  We have to ask the question, why is it today that, with rare exception, the acts of terrorism, murder – not, not ordinary murder, but I’m talking about terrorism bombings, et cetera – and brutality are being carried out in, in the name of Islam by Muslims?

Zack:    In the name of the faith by Muslims.

Green:  Yes, by Muslims.

Zack:    I think that’s in recent history, last ten years, twenty years, let’s say.

Green:  Why is that?  Why is that?

Zack:    Why is that?  Because each faith goes through different phases and that’s, unfortunately, that’s the phase, phase, phase we’re in.  But not all Muslims are like that.

Green:  Oh, just a minute, sir.  Just a minute.  Okay.  Let’s, do all Muslims support oppression of women?

Zack:    Not absolutely, no.  I don’t.

Green:  Then why is there, why is there so much acceptance of –

Zack:    I pray –

Green:  – oppression of women?

Zack:    I pray with my wife on my side.  I went to a Paul Anka concert.  I sat next to Jeffrey Simpson yesterday.  I’m a good Canadian –

Green:  You’re not answering my question.  You’re not answering my question.

Zack:    I’m a good Muslim.

Green:  I’m, I’m not, you’re not answering my question.

Zack:    [???] things like that.  Okay, go ahead.

Green:  Answer my question!  My question is why is there such widespread acceptance of blatant oppression of women within the Muslim world?

Zack:    Why is there so many Christian churches where women can’t preach?  Because that’s the way it is.  What do you want me to do about it?  Go to a United Church if you want your women to be equal.  Come on.  You know, you paint --

Green:  Sir, let me, all right.  Let me ask one more question.  Is there something in –

Zack:    You paint the whole, you paint the whole faith as if it was a unison thing and it isn’t!

Green:  Oh, wait a minute.  Hold it.  Just –

Zack:    There are 41 different sects in there.

Green:  I, you’re, that’s got nothing to do with –

Zack:    I belong to a sect that does not subscribe –

Green:  Zack.

Zack:    -- to the oppression of women –

Green:  Zack.

Zack:    -- in anything.

Green:  Zack, is there widespread oppression of women in the Muslim world?

Zack:    Absolutely not!

Green:  Baloney.  We’ll be back on CFRA.

[…]

Al:        What’s even worse, Lowell, --

Green:  Yeah.

Al:        -- is that it’s endemic in the whole religion the way that, um, the Muslims are taught.  I’ll give you an example.  Last year, I was at a, a talk by this woman from Saudi Arabia talking about the problems with the Muslim, uh, faith and there was, um, in the audience, I was talking with, at the end of the talk, there was this esteemed, uh, gentleman.  He looked like a, a professor, whatever.  You know, very well, uh, well-spoken and he was there with his wife.  And he was on a committee to choose an imam in one of the local mosques.  I don’t know if it was the biggest mosque in Ottawa, uh, but he was saying that they were doing a worldwide search for an imam.

Green:  Yes?  Right?

Al:        But there was no, there was no common way to decide what an imam is.  Anybody can call themselves an imam, right?  There’s, there’s no authority.  And, and so he was on this committee and, and, and, and we were talking about the Muslim faith around the world and I said “Isn’t the biggest problem,” I asked him the question, I said “Isn’t the biggest problem in the Muslim faith is that there are many imams in the world that are actually preaching hate?”  What we would define as preaching hate.

Green:  Yes.

Al:        And we have to stop that somehow.  I, you know, I don’t know how.

Green:  Right?

Al:        And he refused to, to bel-, to say, to believe that.  He said “No, they’re not.”  And I called him crazy and that ended the conversation right then and there.  And this guy was a very well-respected person in, in, in the Ottawa Muslim community.  He was on the committee to choose one, um, an imam for one of the bigger mosques.

Green:  So, he, he, he wouldn’t admit that some of them are preaching hate.

Al:        He would not admit that, no.  So, I mean, so I throw up my hands, and, yeah, there’s just no hope for the religion.  Uh, if somebody like him would not admit it, there is no hope.  And, in fact, if you read, uh, about the history of Mohammed, Mohammed himself was abandoned.  Okay?  He was a killer.  Uh, he was a thief.  Uh, you know, and Jesus Christ, or whatever the prophet, never ever would even slap a person, right?  He’d say turn the other cheek.  So, but there’s a big difference between Mohammed being the prophet and Jesus Christ as a prophet.  Uh, you know, there’s a lot of, of differences.

Green:  I have no idea if, if what you’re saying about Mohammed is true or not.

Al:        Well, read the history of Mohammed, of his life.  He, he killed people.  He beheaded people.  Would, did, did Jesus Christ ever behead anybody?

Green:  No.

Al:        Okay.

Green:  Not that, not the, not the Jesus that, uh, that, that we read about in the Bible, no.

Al:        That’s right.  Well, Mohammed himself, he, uh, like, the whole religion started, like, the Islamic faith started because of Mohammed being the, he called himself the, the, the –

Green:  But the original, I’ve read, I have read some of the, some of the Qur’an.

Al:        Yeah.

Green:  In which I can recall one, one verse, uh, I can’t recall it verbatim.  But I can recall a verse that says that you shall not harm anyone, not en-, not even the leaves of a tree shall suffer.  Words to that effect.

Al:        But there are other ones that contradict that.

Green:  But, of course, the Bible does the same.  If you read the Old Testament, you will, you will read there about a very vindictive, murderous god.  But the New Testament, of course, uh, which relates the birth of Christ and beyond, uh, is, is entirely different.

[...]

Matthew:           Uh, I just wanted to talk about, uh, actually for all those people that have been callin’ in and saying that this is just a few fanatics and whatnot.  Um, if you go to Google or, uh, Facebook and type in, uh, “Muslims celebrating 9/11” –

Green:  Yes?

Matthew:           You can see massive amounts of people.  Like, this isn’t just a few people.  These are, like, massive amounts of people marching in the streets, celebrating, uh, the fact that, uh, uh, you know –

Green:  There’s no question.

Matthew:           -- they murdered us.

Green:  They, there’s no question that, that, uh, that happened.

Matthew:           And –

Green:  There’s no question whatsoever.

Matthew:           And, and my question is, is if that’s true, if this is, is just a few bad people, then, um, where are, where, where –

Green:  Why would ordinary people –

Matthew:           Where are the, the, the supposed massive amounts of people that reject this?  Why aren’t there Muslims in the streets saying, you know, trying to change our viewpoint, saying “No, this is not what we believe”?

Green:  It’s a question that’s been asked many times.  Thank you for your call, Matthew.  We’ll be back on CFRA.

[...]

Green:  Why, why is there, does the Qur’an, did the Prophet Mohammed preach that women should be oppressed?

Tariq:    No.  For, for, the, quite the contrary.

Green:  Well, then why are women oppressed throughout the Muslim world?

Tariq:    Only few.  Like, the media focus on a few.  Like, --

Green:  Why, why are women, why are women oppressed throughout the Muslim world?

Tariq:    [???] the women, uh, on top of the world, you know?  Like, uh, --

Green:  Tariq, Tariq, Tariq.  In many Muslim countries, women are not, have no rights whatsoever.

Tariq:    Yes, yes.

Green:  They cannot vote.

Tariq:    But, but Americans don’t want to support the [??], you know?

Green:  Tariq.

Tariq:    But no, it is –

Green:  Tariq.

Tariq:    [??] support those garbage governments [??]

Green:  No.  You know what, Tariq?  The problem, the problem is not the United States.  The problem is guys like you who, who refuse to admit what stares you in the face.  You’re the problem, Tariq.  You’ve got a problem there.  And you gotta deal with it, man.  Thank you for calling.  We’ll be back, CFRA.

 

The Complaint and Other Correspondence

The CBSC received a complaint dated December 4 about the episode.  The complainant outlined his concerns in part as follows (the full text of all correspondence can be found in Appendix B):

Well, yesterday on the [...] radio talk show of Mr. Green, he was mainly focusing on attacking a religion, specifically Islam.  On December 3rd, 2007 at around 11:15 am, Mr. Green clearly stated that there are problems with the religion itself and that all terrorism is blamed on the religion (not people).  He also made it clear that it is not about Muslims, it is about Islam.  In addition, this show is providing a platform to most callers to attack a religion and spread hatred.

CFRA responded to the complaint on January 9, 2008:

Thank you for expressing your concerns about Lowell Green's recent program, and the always-delicate subject of religion.

Having now reviewed the program in question, it is clear that Mr. Green was indeed addressing a very timely, urgent matter worthy of public discussion.  The incident which sparked the latest controversy was rioting by thousands of Sudanese (many armed with clubs and knives), calling for the execution of a British school teacher who allowed her students to name a teddy bear “Muhammad.”

Lowell made the point of his show quite clear.  He was not in any way attacking believers (followers of Islam), nor was he saying they do not have a right to hold and practice their faith.

That said, however, he went on to explain that he was not treating Islam any differently than he has treated other faiths.  For example, Lowell has criticized the Catholic Church for what he sees as discrimination against women priests.  He has criticized Protestants in Northern Ireland for supporting deadly attacks against Catholics in their ongoing strife.  There are similar examples surrounding Sikhs, Falun Gong, Judaism and other faiths.  To merely discuss a matter of legitimate public concern is not an attack on any individuals or groups.

On this date at 10:26 am, Lowell made clear:

“I mean, we can go back through history and see many evils carried out in the name of Christianity, and we're not afraid to talk about that ... but it just seems to me that we've got to address this.  Is there something in the faith itself?”

As Lowell and some callers pointed out, Christianity underwent significant change during the reformation period, and some early elements of the religion are clearly unacceptable by modern Western standards.  [...]

[...]

Respectfully, [...], the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has clearly stated 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), the Council pointed out that “there is no obligation ... for a broadcaster to be uncritical of the subject treated.  Criticism is not alone the equivalent of unduly discriminatory comment.  It is casual, gratuitous, foundation-less criticism that cannot stand the bright light of ... codified standards.”  That is not the case here, as Lowell was raising some very legitimate concerns and inviting people to express all views on the matters at hand.  The points he raised were all legitimate.

The CBSC has no problem with discussion of controversial religion-based issues, such as 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; 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.

There are significant cultural differences at play here.  To discuss them openly and honestly is indeed controversial, but valuable, and hopefully, dialogue may lead to better communication and understanding.

Thank you for raising these concerns.  I will be addressing them directly with Mr. Green to underscore the delicate nature of the subject, and to underscore the importance of continuing to invite people of the Muslim faith to get on the air to have their say as well.  It's a matter worth discussing as a community.

The complainant responded to that letter from the broadcaster on January 11, indicating his desire for the CBSC to pursue the matter:

I am not going to respond to every statement you made.  However, if you choose to attack all religions and expect everyone else to accept it, it does not mean I have to accept the attack on Islam.  To my knowledge, if any attack happened on Christianity, the focus was on the church itself and its policies, not on the religion as a whole.  When someone says that there is something wrong with the Islamic religion, this means it is an attack on it and on all its followers (estimated to be more than a billion).  Obviously, the main intent of the show is not to address a specific issue on the religion or its people within the Canadian society.  It focuses on general and very broad issues worldwide with a conclusion that Islam is no good.  This happens not once or twice, but on a regular basis.  This strongly helps to spread hatred among the Canadian society and create barriers between Canadian Muslims and the rest of the Canadian society.  And this act is wrong!  I believe the CBSC does not allow such an attack and I would like to receive a statement from them indicating otherwise.

After reading your email very carefully, I concluded that you have full support of [sic] what Mr. Green does and what his show is all about.  So I do not understand your point of saying that you will address these issues with Mr. Green.  For what?  To have him to concentrate [sic] more on attacking Muslims on the air?

 

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 Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and listened to a recording of the broadcast.  The Panel concludes that the broadcast violated both of the aforementioned clauses.

 

A Very Similar Precedent

The matter at hand bears considerable similarities to a previous decision of this Panel involving the same program, namely, CFRA-AM re an episode of the Lowell Green Show (the Qur’an) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1380, May 18, 2006).  On that episode, the host discussed a news report about a Muslim terrorist being arrested in Canada, based on what he described as

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.

Almost all of the remainder of the program dealt with the issue and consequences of apostasy associated with the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan citizen condemned to death in March 2006 for his conversion from Islam to Christianity.  As is the case with the teddy bear issue in the episode under consideration, the Abdul Rahman affair attracted international attention and engendered considerable discussion in Canada and around the world.  This Panel considers that its statement in the earlier decision is fully applicable to the issue raised by the Gillian Gibbons incident.

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.

It is equally undoubted that the issues associated with the teddy bear-naming incident are as appropriate to discuss as those relating to apostasy.  To that extent, the Panel also relies on the statements it made in the earlier matter on its responsibilities in the assessment of the material.

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.

The Panel does, however, note at the start of its assessment a difference between the earlier broadcast and that under consideration here.  While the issue of apostasy and the underlying Qur’anic explanations were central to the discussion there, the arrest of Gillian Gibbons was scarcely mentioned here after the opening paragraph.  Her arrest was obviously nothing more than a “top”, that is, a contemporary incident that served as a door-opener enabling the host to deal with his view on another issue, namely, whether there is “a problem with the faith itself”, that is, Islam, that cannot be explained away as “the work of a few fanatics”.  As he pointedly said in his dialogue with caller Cathy, “I don’t want to talk about that.  What I want to talk about [...] is, is this the work of a few fanatics or is there something deep-seated within the Muslim faith?”  As he also said rhetorically in his opening monologue, “is there something in the Muslim faith itself which promotes, which mitigates against freedom, democracy and equal rights?”  The broadened nature of the on-air debate does mean, though, that extra care must be taken by the broadcaster to ensure that sweeping generalizations, which are inherently more risky than pointed, focussed discussions, do not fall afoul of either of the foregoing codified standards.

 

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 expressed his concern in language that exceeds the codified standard applied by the Panel to assess the broadcast when he asserted that he believed that “CFRA […] continues to spread hatred.”  He added that Green asserted that “there are problems with the religion itself and that all terrorism is blamed on the religion (not people).  He also made it clear that it is not about Muslims, it is about Islam.”  As noted just above, the Panel need only conclude that the challenged comments are abusive or unduly discriminatory to find a breach; they need not amount to hatred, and the Panel will make no comment or observation on that assertion.

The host has drawn his lines fairly clearly, although he occasionally threw in mitigating sentences, perhaps in an attempt to keep himself away from the edge of the discriminatory precipice.  He made his view known from the introductory monologue on.  The issue was Islam, not some potentially unrepresentative persons of the faith.  As he said,

It is not the work of just a few radicals.  If I hear one more person claiming that this is just the work of a few radicals and it’s got nothing to do with Islam or the Muslim faith, I’m going to throw up! [...]  Almost every act of terrorism around the world today – and there are hundreds every week – is carried out in the name of Islam. [...]  Don’t tell me this is the work of a few fanatics.

He asked, in his dialogue with caller Jayme, “[I]s there something deep-seated in the Muslim faith? [...] [I]s there something in the faith?  Or the way the faith is administered?”  In his dialogue with Mike, he again stated: “All I am is an observer and what I see around the world today is almost without exception acts of terrorism and brutality being carried out almost exclusively in the name of Islam.”

Then, in discussion with Taz, a declared Muslim woman, the host argued with her statement that “that’s not how Islam is.”  He retorted, “Well, it must be the way it is because there’s widespread support for that.”  Green not only refused to accept her arguments – fair enough – he did not even allow that they represented a valid point-of-view, albeit one he did not share.  And he tried to cover negative characterizations of Islam by saying to Taz:

I believe that denying females certain rights within the Catholic Church is blatant discrimination.  The fact that women cannot become priests, deliver the sacraments of the Catholic Church, I believe to be discrimination against women, within the Catholic Church.  So if I can criticize the Catholic Church and the Christian faith, I don’t see why I can’t criticize the Muslim faith.

It was as though his willingness to be critical of an aspect of Catholicism swung open the door to simply any criticism of the Islamic faith.  He may also have expected that his reference to the Inquisition in the dialogue with Florence served the same purpose.

Green also threw out some self-exculpatory language from time to time, as in his dialogue with Ted, when he said, “no-one is suggesting that all Muslims are like that.”  And in the dialogue with David, who was prepared to say that all Muslims are “like that”, Green responded “Well, they’re not all like that.”  The host added the familiar “I have some Muslim friends.  I have some Muslim friends who, who just deplore what’s happening here.”  The Panel does not find such language of meaningful assistance in assessing the nature of the host’s comments about Muslims on the basis of their religion.  All matters considered, the Panel finds that Green’s tone and wording make the “good Muslims” look like they are the exception rather than the rule.  And that is the Panel’s fundamental problem with the host’s position.

Moreover, there was a shallowness of the foundation on which he built that morning’s case.  It was illustrated, among other places, in statements made by caller Jacob, who said, “And that is, the problem is not some nameless, faceless terrorist.  It’s not Muslim extremists.  It’s actually Islam.”  His point of view relied on some unidentified individual described by the caller as a “Coptic who is fluent in Arabic and who read the Qur’an,” as though one such individual could reasonably be a reliable and uncontradicted source for such anti-Islamic opinions on the public airwaves.

Lowell Green also extended his broad critical brush to Islam on the basis of the religion’s treatment of women.  In his dialogue with caller Zack, for example, he asserted (admittedly rhetorically), “Oh, just a minute, sir.  Just a minute.  Okay.  Let’s, do all Muslims support oppression of women?”  Zack disagreed.  Undaunted, Green persisted aggressively.  “Answer my question!  My question is why is there such widespread acceptance of blatant oppression of women within the Muslim world?”  Zack objected, defensively raising a point about women being unable to preach in Christian churches.  And he then pointedly accused the host of his unjustifiably monolithic approach to Islam: “You paint the whole, you paint the whole faith as if it was a unison thing and it isn’t!”  Paralleling an earlier comment that he had made, namely, “[T]he faith is not uniform.  It’s a mosaic of different sects,” Zack then explained that there were 41 sects in the religion, noting that “I belong to a sect that does not subscribe [...] to the oppression of women [...] in anything.”  Green ignored this personal clarification by again forcefully putting a question to which he did not seek or wish to have an answer: “Zack, is there widespread oppression of women in the Muslim world?”  Zack responded unequivocally: “Absolutely not!”.  Green’s reply: “Baloney”.  He ended the discussion there.

There were many examples of anti-Islamic comments that the host was willing to accept from callers at apparent face value.  The Panel will not quote them all.  Readers may, of course, find those additional examples in Appendix A.  There is, however, one further exchange that the Panel views as a particular reflection of the host’s monolithic, broad-brush, uncompromisingly discriminatory commentary on Islam.  Caller Nicole doubted whether it has “anything to do with the religion.  I think it’s just the fanatics blaming it on the religion.”  Green argued that “this obviously is more than just a few fanatics.  This is a widely-held belief throughout the Muslim world.”  He then moved the discussion to the oppression of women by all Muslim nations.  Nicole countered that there are lots of things which are protested by “hundreds of thousands of people” but “if they’re not Muslim, we don’t blame it on religion.”  Green retorted: “What we’re dealing with today is the bare fact.  And here it is: that with very rare exception, the acts of terrorism and brutality that just plague us are being carried out almost exclusively in the name of Islam.”  Nicole said, “that’s just a bunch of bad people blaming it on Islam.”  And Green argued in his consistent negative approach to the religion on this episode, “I’m sorry.  It’s being carried out in the name of Islam.  Widespread.”  He referred to the example of the Danish cartoons.  And then the teddy bear incident.  Removing any doubt, if any there was, of his broad view of Islam, he added: “Obviously the great, overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world support widespread terrible, brutal oppression of women. [Emphasis added.]”

Nicole attempted to argue back, raising the example of abortion protests.  To this, Green became more extreme and denigrating: “Put your mind to work here,” he said, as though he had put his to work and she had not.  “When all of these acts of terrorism without excep-, almost without exception, are being carried out by Muslims, can you not conclude that there must be a problem within that faith?”  She still did not agree, as was her right.  “You cannot blame it on religion.”  He persisted, as though the caller was a child, “Why is that so difficult for you to admit?”  He then became exceptionally insulting and ended her intervention: “Nicole, Nicole, you’re being silly.  You’re being, you’re just absolutely, you’ve abandoned common sense here.  Let’s move on.  Mack in Gatineau, you’re on CFRA, good morning.”

In the view of the Panel, the host has mounted a sweeping, abusive and unduly discriminatory criticism of Islam.  It was uninformed and unfair.  It conceded none of the diversity that exists in Islam or among its adherents.  Attempting to disguise his attack on Islam in the feeble “Some of my good friends are ...” clothing or “It’s not all Muslims ...,” he consistently made it entirely clear that his issue, from the opening premise of the show (framed as a question, but clearly of a rhetorical nature) was: “Can you not conclude that there must be a problem within that faith?”, something he time and again argued during the episode was not the work of a few fanatics, but rather a reflection of the religion, problems and attitudes that he attributed to the “great, overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world.”  Moreover, he brooked no contradictory observations of persons who were admittedly Muslim, informed about the religion, or of a different viewpoint.  The Panel considers that the episode was abusive and unduly discriminatory and consequently in breach of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

 

Full, Fair and Proper Presentation

The Panel was also concerned with the issue of full, fair and proper presentation on the part of the host.  It should be noted, to begin, that open-line programs and talk shows are allowed, perhaps even expected (depending on the passion associated with the topic on any given day), to contain controversial, provocative and heated debate; however, there are codified limits to the broadcast reflection of the passion of that interactivity.  Such limitations include: “gross misstatements of fact which are calculated to distort the perspective of the listener,” as well as “accumulated misinformation, and collective unresearched and inaccurate statements” [CKTB-AM re The John Michael Show (CBSC Decision 92/93-0170, February 15, 1994); see also CHRB-AM (AM 1140) re an episode of Freedom Radio Network (CBSC Decision 05/06-1959, January 9, 2007)], cutting a caller off on “flimsy and discriminatory grounds” or on otherwise unjustifiable grounds [CFRA-AM re Lowell Green (CBSC Decision 93/94-0276, November 15, 1994)], reliance on inaccurate material to make a material argument, and the “refusal to permit callers in good faith to provide the[ir] explanation” of a matter when invited to do so by the host  [CFRA-AM re an episode of the Lowell Green Show (the Qur’an) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1380, May 18, 2006)].

In the matter at hand, Lowell Green alerted his audience to the fact that this was not a real dialogue, an interactive exchange; in one of the early exchanges with caller Jayme, he said, “I want to get to the root of this, okay?  I don’t pussy-foot around and I’ve made up my mind. [Emphasis added in this and the other quotations in this paragraph.]”  In that call, he added, “Jayme, you’re not making any, you gotta, you gotta talk about what I’m talking about, Jayme, or you’re history.”  Then, in discussion with caller Taz, a declared Muslim woman, the host argued with her statement that “that’s not how Islam is.”  He refused to accept or accord any credence to her arguments and he finished by simply cutting her off.  When another contrary-minded caller, Zack, was trying to make his argument, Green said, “Hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it.  You don’t get to lecture here; I do.”  Then, when Zack insisted that there was “Absolutely not [monolithic oppression of women in the Muslim world],” Green replied “Baloney” and ended the discussion.  After several more callers, Green had the following dialogue with Tariq:

Green:              Why, why is there, does the Qur’an, did the Prophet Mohammed preach that women should be oppressed?

Tariq:                No.  For, for, the, quite the contrary.

Green:              Well, then why are women oppressed throughout the Muslim world?

Tariq:                Only few.  Like, the media focus on a few.  Like, --

Green:              Why, why are women, why are women oppressed throughout the Muslim world?

When it was clear that he was getting nowhere with Tariq, Green insulted him and cut him off.

Green:  No.  You know what, Tariq?  The problem, the problem is not the United States.  The problem is guys like you who, who refuse to admit what stares you in the face.  You’re the problem, Tariq.  You’ve got a problem there.  And you gotta deal with it, man.  Thank you for calling.

Green did not merely disagree with opposing points of view; he mocked, ridiculed and insulted their interlocutors.  Using terms like “silly” and “baloney”, he denied to callers that which is potentially best in talk radio: fair, interactive dialogue.  Although not all broadcasters admit the appropriateness of anything other than pure objectivity on the part of hosts, the CBSC has long upheld the right of talk show hosts to espouse a point-of-view on air.  The right to express an editorial perspective is one thing; the exclusion of the opinions of those who would express a conflicting perspective is quite another.  The power of the microphone is mighty.  It behoves those who wield it on a partisan basis to be skilful, not brutal.  They owe it to their audience as much as to the contrary callers to argue deftly.

Open-line shows are at their best when the banter is thoughtful, intelligent, and inviting for the listeners wishing to make up their minds on the issues being debated.  In simpler terms, they are at their best when they are, as their name implies, open.  Disallowing, disrespecting, disparaging views without the ability to win the day with words and arguments is of marginal value to the society talk radio should be expected to enlighten.  It is one thing for a host to have his mind made up going in, but to cut off callers with an opposing perspective with such disrespect as was evidenced in the matter at hand is neither fair nor proper.  Dialogue and debate are the essential virtue of talk radio; open, not closed; the refusal to permit these is neither fair nor proper.  Disparaging opposing views with condescending, even childish, words such as those noted above is neither fair nor proper.  This is the moreso true because those he cut off seemed, on the face of the dialogue, to be those most knowledgeable about Islam and likely to present useful counterpoint.  Instead, those who evidenced any knowledge of the faith were shut down.  The Panel finds this treatment of callers to be remarkably similar to the tactics he employed in the broadcast assessed by this Panel in CFRA-AM re an episode of the Lowell Green Show (the Qur’an) (CBSC Decision 05/06-1380, May 18, 2006).

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.  […]  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.

All in all, the Panel concludes that the expression of opinion and comment was the opposite of “full, fair and proper” and, consequently, in breach of Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

 

Broadcaster Responsiveness

In every CBSC decision, the adjudicating Panel assesses the broadcaster's responsiveness to the complainant. It goes without saying that the broadcaster is not under any obligation to agree with the position taken by the complainant, but every broadcaster is obliged, by virtue of its membership in the CBSC, to respond to the complainant in a thoughtful, timely and thorough manner.  The News Director provided a careful, detailed response to the complainant, citing excerpts from the broadcast and previous CBSC decisions.  The complainant was not satisfied by the explanation, as is always the case in matters that are then referred to a CBSC Adjudicating Panel, but the broadcaster’s obligation of responsiveness was fully met.  Nothing further is required in this respect on this occasion.

 

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 this episode of the Lowell Green Show was 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-AM.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CFRA violated Clauses 2 and 6 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of the Lowell Green Show on December 4, 2007.  On that episode of the program, the host engaged in an unfair attack on the religion of Islam, by asserting that there was a monolithic “problem with that faith”, and including unsubstantiated examples, contrary to Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics which prohibits abusive or unduly discriminatory comment on the basis of religion.  The host also ridiculed and cut off callers who calmly, fairly and knowledgeably sought to express a point of view contrary to his, rendering the presentation of comment and opinion 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.