Coulter speech cancelled over fears of violence
Published Tuesday, March 23, 2010 9:03PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:15AM EDT
The University of Ottawa cancelled a speech by U.S. firebrand conservative Ann Coulter late Tuesday, just moments before its scheduled start, because organizers feared protesters would turn violent.
As people were still making their way into the venue, the building had to be evacuated when a fire alarm was triggered.
The incident followed a Monday night lecture at the University of Western Ontario, where Coulter told a Muslim student to "take a camel" as an alternative to flying.
Coulter made the comment as she responded to a question from student Fatima Al-Dhaher, who asked about previous comments in which Coulter said Muslims shouldn't be allowed on airplanes and should take "flying carpets" instead. Al-Dhaher noted she did not own a flying carpet and asked what she should take as an alternative transportation.
Coulter did not deny making the flying carpet comment and replied to the university student, "What mode of transportation? Take a camel," to jeers and cheers. It was a decidedly pro-Coulter audience. One man, who identified himself as a U.S. citizen, described U.S. President Barack Obama as a "Marxist."
Some students, including Al-Dhaher, walked out after the camel comment.
Coulter said Tuesday that her comment about taking flying carpets was a joke that was made during an interview with The Guardian newspaper about racial profiling, and had been taken out of context.
"I can say it a lot quicker with a joke, and by the way, they wouldn't be bringing me in here for a speech if I never told a joke, if I never used satire," Coulter told CTV's Power Play Tuesday. "It's not so much a joke, it's satire because there's a political point behind my saying that they can take flying carpets."
Coulter did not elaborate on what her political point actually was.
She is well-known for her vehement views against Muslims. In a post-September 11 column, she wrote that the U.S. should invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
Al-Dhaher said she attended the lecture "with an open mind" and had not planned to ask a question. However, when Coulter began making remarks about homosexuals, African-Americans and Muslims, she felt the need to speak up, she said.
"I just thought that it was despicable and I thought that I should speak up against it," Al-Dhaher told CTV News Channel Tuesday afternoon. "So, I wrote on my phone because I was afraid I'd get nervous up there and forget my question."
Al-Dhaher said Coulter is entitled to her opinions but said the university could have chosen a right-wing speaker who is less inflammatory.
"I think that if the intention of the university is to bring two different speakers from two different political spectrums, I think that there are better choices from that camp that they could have chosen rather than Ann Coulter, because she is a bit vocal and she is a bit outrageous in some of the things that she says."
Coulter spoke in front of a packed audience of about 800 at the university.
Coulter to file human rights complaint
The cancellation of Coulter's lecture at the University of Ottawa came after she received an email about the limits of free speech in Canada from the school's provost.
The private email, which was leaked to conservative news organizations, noted that Canada's Charter of Rights meant that "promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges."
Francois Houle, vice-president academic and University of Ottawa provost, invited Coulter to educate herself on Canadian free speech laws.
"We, of course, are always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus," wrote Houle.
The letter only added fuel to the fire of Coulter's speaking tour, which is titled, "Political Correctness, Media Bias and Freedom of Speech."
Coulter told Power Play that because she is from an identifiable group ("I'm a Christian, I'm a conservative, I'm a female"), she is the victim of a hate crime and will file a complaint with Canada's Human Rights Commission.
Wrong approach by U of Ottawa: MPs
Coulter, who often comments on Fox News, once said Canada is "lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent" after the Canadian government did not join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Her tour was organized by International Free Press Society, a group whose website sets up Islam as the preeminent threat to democracy in the Western world.
"This jihad, like all jihads before it, will continue until a sharia-based caliphate rules the world, or until it is defeated," the society's policy statement says.
The group also sells one of the infamous Danish Mohammad cartoons, signed by cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, for $250. They are currently sold out.
Among the group's board of advisers are Canadian conservative bloggers Ezra Levant and Kathy Shaidle, author Mark Steyn and far-right Dutch political leader Geert Wilders.
Coulter reportedly commands a $10,000 speaking fee. Her fee is being covered in part by the Claire Boothe Luce Policy Institute, an American group that calls itself the "home of conservative women leaders."
Some critics say trying to quiet Coulter is the wrong approach to discrediting her views.
"In terms of putting limits on what she ... should say or shouldn't say, I'm not sure that helps," New Democrat MP Paul Dewar, told The Canadian Press. "It might add fuel to the fire that she will be probably starting tomorrow."
Liberal MP Scott Brison made a similar comment.
"If you don't agree with what she has to say, then ignore her," he said.
Coulter's Canadian tour wraps up at the University of Calgary on Thursday.