A coalition of liberal politicians and Muslim activists who ginned-up an accusation of “Islamophobia” to end the career of a well-regarded lawyer in Canada in mid-2022 could find themselves in the same category as the people responsible for the Salem Witch Trials that cost 19 people their lives in Massachusetts in the early 1690s. When the dust settled, those accused of “witchcraft” in Massachusetts were regarded as victims and the people who made and affirmed the accusations — and carried out the executions — were regarded as villains, dupes and cowards. Only one accuser, Ann Putnam, apologized for her role in the tragedy.
Fortunately, no one died in Canada’s modern-day reenactment of the events that took place in Salem more than 300 years ago, but a similar reversal could be in the offing for the members of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) who coalesced around a campaign to drive Alberta lawyer Collin May from his position as director of the Alberta Human Rights Commission and Tribunal (AHRC) last July.
If the reversal happens, it will be precipitated by a financial settlement May hopes to achieve with provincial officials in Alberta in the next few months. If May is able to get a settlement with the Conservative-led government, which abandoned him to his tormentors only a few months after announcing his appointment to the post at the AHRC in May 2022, it’s likely that he will sue the people involved in the campaign to oust him. And he’s got a pretty good case.
In a movie adaptation of May’s story, the role of false accuser Ann Putnam would likely fall to a leftist blogger Duncan Kinney who, on July 7, 2022, posted an article about a 13-year-old book review May had written of Islamic Imperialism: A History by Efraim Karsh (former editor of the Middle East Quarterly, published by the Middle East Forum, which publishes FWI). May’s review of the well-regarded text published by Yale University Press in 2006 did not arouse much — if any — response from readers when it was first published in 2009 but served as the basis of a lethal charge of “Islamophobia” in the hands of May’s enemies 13 years later.
In his article, Kinney attacked May for affirming Karsh’s thesis, declaring, “Throughout his review, May emphasizes his agreement with Karsh that Islam is ‘an imperialistic religion seeking universal dominion over the whole earth’ and that this Muslim lust for world domination ‘tends to be the prominent driving force in politics and one accompanied by a great degree of wilful [sic] violence.” Instead of addressing the facts and logic that Karsh used to arrive at his conclusion, Kinney smeared the new appointee as an “Islamophobe.”
To bolster his allegations, Kinney quoted Sadique Pathan, an imam in Edmonton, Alberta, who argued in his review that May had promoted a “very negative and stereotypical view of an entire community based on an understanding of Islam that is not correct.” Kinney also quoted Faisal Bhabba, an associate professor of law at York University, who declared that it was impossible to think that May “could be effective at combating Islamophobia or even understanding Islamophobia.”
Soon after the article was published, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) — where Bhabba has served as legal counsel — weighed in with a statement that was appended to the piece. It declared that the revelation of May’s article came “at a time when Muslims in Alberta, especially black Muslim women, have been under threat and facing unprecedented violence.”
With these spectral accusations that can neither be proved nor disproved, NCCM activists tried to draw a straight line between the publication of May’s book review in 2009 with violence against black Muslim women thirteen years later. It was also hoping to stifle honest and factual discussion about Islamic conquests between the 7th and 17th centuries by invoking the threat that such discussions would have on black Muslim women living in 21st century Canada.
One could just as easily argue that talking about Christian expansionism in Africa and the Americas is also out of bounds because such discussions incite violence against modern-day Christians. It just doesn’t make any sense. By this logic, one can argue that it’s time to stop talking about slavery in the United States — or even the Salem Witch Trials — because to do so incites violence against the descendants of the people involved in these tragedies.
Despite the illogic of NCCM’s complaint against May, the story that he was an “Islamophobe” unfit to wield public authority gained traction and effectively destroyed May’s career as a public servant in Canada. In response, May filed suit against the provincial government in Alberta. In his complaint, May alleged that he was ousted not because he was an “Islamophobe” but because he was investigating an abusive work environment at the commission allegedly tolerated by his predecessor, NDP-appointed Michael Gottheil, who as it turns out, has been accused of doing the same thing at his current job as director of accessibility at the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Ottawa.
The story hasn’t gotten much coverage in the Canadian press, but the recent allegations against Gottheil lend credence to May’s legal brief in which he asserts that he was ousted from his job in Alberta to prevent him from investigating the misdeeds of his predecessor at the AHRC.
In his suit, May claims there was a problem of “pervasive sexual harassment and bullying” at the AHRC under Gottheil’s leadership – and within the Alberta’s NDP party itself, which was then led by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. May also alleges that NDP insiders reported that “much of this sexual harassment had gone either unreported or unpunished, and survivors left without help or support.”
Several months later, Canadians are confronted with similar claims that Gottheil “had a ‘toxic impact’ on the workplace” and presided over a “psychologically unsafe and difficult work environment” at the CHRC. The upshot of the allegations against Gottheil in Ottawa is that they give Canadians every reason to look more closely at the allegations used to drive May from his post in Alberta last year.
This helps explain why May’s critics in the NDP were so aggressive in their campaign to oust him. It’s not as if he was unqualified or not committed to the job. For three years before his appointment as AHRC chief in 2022, May had served as a part-time commissioner, writing more than 40 decisions for the tribunal. He had also presided over more than 50 mediations for the commission. Before that, Collin did stints at the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, where he worked on projects benefiting Muslim communities.
May has started to speak publicly about the controversy, revealing in an interview with the Middle East Forum that he was given no official explanation as to why he was fired by provincial officials last year. This is a pretty strong indication that the people doing the firing knew that the charge of “Islamophobia” was akin to the allegations of “witchcraft” leveled at innocents in Salem in the 1690s. They had no substance, but real consequences.
There are signs that the hysteria generated by the NDP and NCCM about May has receded and that people are coming to their senses. May has just been appointed Adjunct Lecturer in Community Health Sciences with the Cumming Medical School at the University of Calgary. May would not have been invited to serve in such a capacity in the weeks after Duncan Kinney published his article, but it appears that a few people at the University of Calgary recognized the attack on May for what it was — an attack on free speech and open discourse about a matter of crucial importance to the public.
One historian described the Salem Witch Trials as “the rock on which the theocracy [in the Massachusetts Bay colony] shattered.” If Canadians are lucky, the unholy alliance between Islamists and their enablers on the left could be shattered by the fallout from the witch trial targeting Collin May sometime in the next few months.
That’s the hope at least.
Dexter Van Zile is managing editor of Focus on Western Islamism.