Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lawrence Solomon – more fact-challenged than Pamela Geller?

Pamela Geller runs “Atlas Shrugs” - a website which claimed simultaneously, that Obama is the illegitimate son of Malcom X and a non-citizen born in Kenya. It’s also rabidly anti-Muslim.

On Friday, in The Globe and Mail, climate change ‘skeptic’ Lawrence Solomon published claims about Egypt that make Atlas Shrugs seem like responsible journalism. Here’s what he wrote:

“…March; that’s when a national referendum passed constitutional amendments that effectively stripped Christians of political rights while strengthening sharia laws involving amputations, stonings and crucifixions”.

Egypt’s new constitutional amendments do not deal with, mention, or “strengthen” “amputations, stonings and crucifixions”. The following BBC summary of the provisions is similar to other reports:

“Under the proposed amendments to the constitution, the future president would only be allowed to serve two four-year terms, instead of unlimited six-year periods. He or she would also be obliged to appoint a deputy....Other amendments would make it easier for individuals to qualify to run as a presidential candidate and re-instate judicial supervision for elections. It would also be more difficult for any leader to maintain the state of emergency.”

A more complete list appears on wikipedia. None of the articles make reference to, or could possibly be construed as “strengthening”, “amputations, stoning and crucifixion’.

Article 75: A candidate would be ineligible if he or she had dual nationality

Article 76: Easing the requirements for being a presidential candidate.

Article 77: Limiting the terms a president can serve to two consecutive terms.

Article 88: The juridical system is responsible for monitoring the election process.

Article 93: would give the highest appeal court the power to rule on challenges to disputed parliamentary races, whereas before only the parliament could decide.

Article 139: The president must appoint a vice-president within 60 days of the start of the term

Article 148: would impose new restrictions on the president declaring a state of emergency, including requiring the approval of a parliamentary majority, and says it cannot exceed six months unless it is extended through a referendum.

(Article 179): would be canceled. The article allows the president to use military courts for "terror" cases even for civilians.

(Article 189): Require the newly elected parliament to write a new constitution within 60 days.


Solomon appears to have gathered quotes, figures and other material from an online article by the “Assyrian International News Agency”, a Christian Syriac group. Extremist sites like JihadWatch and Atlas Shrugs had carried, or linked to, the same material. But Solomon appears to exaggerate, embroider or mis-interpret one sentence in the AINA piece, in which mention of the amendments is simply followed by a reference to what the writer believes is the “intention” of “Salafist” elements in Egypt. The piece does not say that such provisions are contained in the constitutional amendments:

“The EUHRO report noted that Coptic emigration escalated since March 19, 2011, after the constitutional amendments in Egypt and the escalation in Salafist attacks on Copts and their intention to implement Hudud laws (Sharia based punishments, which include capital punishment by sword/crucifixion, stoning, amputation and flogging).”

In this post, Atlas Shrugs presents a more balanced. factual version than the Globe:

“Nearly 93,000 Coptic Christians have left Egypt since 19 March, a report by an Egypt-based Coptic NGO has said…

…Gabriel attributed the Coptic emigration to hardline Salafi groups seeking to apply Islamic law, deny Copts senior government posts, and reduce incoming tourism. He also blamed attacks on Coptic churches and the government's failure to bring attackers to justice.”

Concerns expressed about extremist elements, who some view as wanting to eventually implement some form of sharia, are a far cry from “amputations, stonings and crucifixions” being enshrined or “strengthened” within Egypt’s recent constitutional amendments.

It’s a sad day when Atlas Shrugs looks like better journalism than the Globe and Mail.

And unless Solomon can provide the relevant text of a constitutional amendment that does what he claims it does, the Globe should offer an apology and retraction.

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