Thornhill rabbi responds to cowardice with cowardice

First published at Huffington Post on May 22, 2013.

When officers from York Regional Police’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bureau paid a visit to the Chabad @ Flamingo Synagogue in Thornhill, Ontario to discourage the synagogue’s rabbi from hosting an event with Jewish author and activist Pamela Geller, all they had to do was threaten his job before he pulled the plug on the event.

After learning that his position as a volunteer chaplain for York Regional Police would be “reassessed” if the Geller event went forward, Kaplan rescinded his offer for the Jewish Defense League to use the Chabad @ Flamingo for the May 13 event.

It has been moved to the pro-Israel Toronto Zionist Centre.

As egregious as it is that a police force, in the name of “diversity, equity and inclusion,” would threaten a respected rabbi with a long history of community service, it’s even more offensive to be that Rabbi Kaplan gave in.

York Regional Police’s initial involvement in this event is not because a crime took place, nor because there was any reason to suspect one would. Rather, it was the result of a complaint by one member of the region’s Muslim community.

By York Region standards, one person’s complaint is cause enough for the police to say that Geller “runs contrary to the values of York Regional Police and the work we do in engaging our communities,” according to comments made by diversity officer Ricky Veerappan.

A statement released by York Regional Police on Thursday revealed that Kaplan “was provided with additional information regarding the proposed guest speaker by Inspector Ricky Veerappan,” before cancelling the event.

There is no way Kaplan could have accepted the initial invitation for Geller to appear without a solid grasp on what sort of controversy was likely to take form.

A speech by Ann Coulter at the University of Ottawa in 2010 was cancelled when student protests threatened Coulter’s safety.

Later that year, Mark Steyn was denied a room at the London Convention Centre in London, Ontario when the facility’s managers claimed pressure from local Islamic groups.

For Kaplan, however, one Muslim’s spastic call to the police and the potential loss of a non-paying job was reason enough to silently tiptoe away from the fallout of embracing free speech.

In doing so, not only did Kaplan give the police license to bully and strong-arm future community leaders over similar circumstances, but he did it to preserve a relationship with the officers that knocked on his door to threaten him in the first place.

I’m so proud to live in a country with such a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.