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August 7, 2012

Sun Media's Michael Coren mocks Muslims

The Canadian Charger

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The Sun Media promotion says it's brash and hard-hitting and other networks just don't have the stomach for it and, while there is probably some truth to this, it doesn't necessarily make the company's program content better or even dignified, for that matter.

Imagine the outrage if a Canadian newscaster were to don a yarmulke and proceed to mock Jewish sensibilities, on air. Yet Sun News Network commentator Michael Coren felt he had a point, or points, that needed to been seen in the light of day, when he recently donned a burka to mock Egyptian television regulations for allowing female newscasters to wear a burka.

In a gratuitous comment dripping with sarcasm, Mr. Coren introduces himself to the viewing audience. “Hi I'm Michael Coren. You can probably tell that by my hair. Well that's not fair. I'm pretty bald actually.”

He then explained why he felt it necessary to resort to such demonstrative ridicule of the customs of some people he doesn't agree with.

“The reason I’m speaking to you dressed in a humanist black tent is because this week is the start of a wonderful new television station in Egypt, for women, by women, with women, all female all the time, dealing with women's subjects.

“I think my job at the Sun News is secure; but one can never be certain, so I'm recording this audition tape for the Egyptian women's channel just in case.

“As the old Hamas proverb goes, “There's more than one way to skin a Jew,” Mr. Coren said.

Muslims the world over can only be grateful that it wasn't one of their own, making these comments about another religion, from his or her position as a prominent and highly respected member of society.

But Mr. Coren had no problem explaining his conduct and comments, which speak for themselves.

“I'd like to say a few words as to why this program is necessary. We need it to discuss, well you know, the sort of things: When it's too late to perform that little operation on the clitoris so as to make sexual pleasure impossible.  Sometimes performed, in the Islamic world at least with any kind of sharp instrument that comes to hand; how to avoid being stoned to death after you've been raped because it's never the man's fault; or what to say to your husband or hubby when you just can't get along and you've tried so hard with wife number four; or how to bring that touchy subject of your daughter not being allowed to leave the house, see a doctor, or go to school. A little like cosmopolitan for the post Arab Spring Middle East, I suppose.”

It's not necessary to dignify each and every one of Mr. Coren's attacks on Islam with a response because that would be falling into a bottomless pit of nonsense; but it's worth mentioning that none of Mr. Coren's above-mentioned nonsense appears in the Quran, in the same way that the bible doesn't advocate sexually molesting children.  But this hasn't stopped numerous Catholic priests – that we know of – from doing just that.

Commentators often point out that the Jewish Community is not homogenous and, obviously with its many denominations and aberrations, neither is the Christian community; but a lot fewer point out that the Islamic community isn't homogenous either.

Mr. Coren did invite Imam Steve Rockwell of the Deedat Centre – a mosque in downtown Toronto – to respond to some of his allegations about Islam, in a telephone interview, during the show.

Imam Rockwell noted that the burka is not really required in Islam.

“It's more tribal than Islamic,” Imam Rockwell said, adding that most people don't have a problem with the hijab.

“I mean you see the face of the person; you identify the person and nobody complains when a Nun wears a hijab. They don't call it a hijab but that's what it is.”

Mr. Coren responds that a Nun is a vocation and women choose to be a nun.

“They don't request, require and demand that other women dress in such a way.”

He seems to be implying that the demand that women wear a hijab is ubiquitous throughout the Islamic world.

Mr. Coren then asked Imam Rockwell why women are covered but not men.

After Imam Rockwell explained that that's their policy and nobody forces anyone to work there, he gives the example of Tim Horton's, where people must wear the uniform if they want to work there.

Mr. Coren responded that men and women wear the same uniform (at Tim Horton's) and then he asked why there is gender separation and gender apartheid in Islam.

Perhaps he should have asked, or should have been asked, why men and women don't wear the same clothes in everyday life in western culture and why men and women Olympic swimmers don't wear the same outfits. Could this also be gender apartheid?

Imam Rockwell proceeded to explain an Islamic custom that has been cited as an example of gender apartheid.

“We pray in separate rooms. People say that's gender apartheid ... Women pray separate from men because of the way we pray. If a shapely woman bows down in front of you, you're not thinking about God anymore.”

Mr. Coren responded: “Of course you're not. Look I may not agree with you, but I think if Muslims want separation of genders in prayer - some Orthodox Jews do as well - that's up to you.”

But he added that this (presumably allowing women to wear the burka on an Egyptian television station) is about sanctity of all women irrespective of religion.”

“In Iran; for example, a Christian woman has to cover her head. You have to be covered. You can't have a formal education,” Mr. Coren said. 

Imam Rockwell then got Mr. Coren to agree that, at least some of his purported facts are incorrect, to say the least.

“That's not true,” Imam Rockwell said. “Come on, come on, a lot of Iranian women are very highly educated.”

“Yes, some of them are,” Mr. Coren said.

One has to wonder why he felt it necessary to claim otherwise, when he so readily acknowledged that what he said isn't true.

Where is his objectivity, or journalist integrity for that matter?

As the discussion appeared to become circular, Imam Rockwell suggested he and Mr. Coren have a public debate on whether Christianity or Islam is suitable to lead the populace today.

After agreeing to a public debate, Mr. Coren asked if he could wear what he's wearing now (a burka) for the debate and Imam Rockwell responded that he could wear whatever he likes.

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M. Elmasry

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