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Lebanese-Canadian businessman awarded $2 million over 'Islamophobic' YouTube defamation

Fakih was accused of being an 'economic terrorist' by Johnston [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 May, 2019

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Mohamad Fakih was awarded more than 2 million Canadian dollars after a judge deemed a YouTuber's 'Islamophobic' comments a 'loathsome example of hate speech'.
A Canadian court has awarded a Lebanese businessman two million dollars in compensation after he was subjected to a racist campaign by a YouTuber.

Kevin Johnston, a YouTube personality and former mayoral candidate, was on Monday ordered to pay 2.5 Canadian dollars ($1.9 million) in damages to Mohamad Fakih and his Paramount restaurant chain, CBC reported.

Fakih, a Lebanese-Canadian businessman, owns a chain of Middle Eastern restaurants across Toronto.

Johnston had already been charged with a hate crime in 2017 after offering a 1,000 Canadian dollar ($744) award in exchange for videos of Muslim students praying in schools.

Johnston and Ron Banerjee, who has since apologised for "attack[ing] Mr. Fakih because of his religion or where he is from", made a series of videos in 2018 after one of Fakih's retaurants hosted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In the videos, it was alleged that Fakih was an "economic terrorist" who was under investigation by Canada's intelligence service.

Johnston also claimed that Fakih's Paramount chain was a "front organisation" with the purpose of facilitating "Islamic discussion".

After first being hit with a libel suit, Johnston proceeded to make further false claims about Fakih, claiming the businessman had used his restaurants to bring "illegal aliens" to Canada and fund extremist groups, among other claims.

In addition to the almost $2 million in damages, Johnston has been issued with a restraining order and has been banned from communicating with and recording or publishing material about Fakih.

The legal decision described Johnston as someone who had "profited" from the "promotion of hatred" by taking paid speaking engagements "featuring anti-Muslim statements".

His behaviour, the judge said, "reflects a contempt for Canada's judicial process, an abuse of the very freedoms this country affords them and a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion".

"This is important because when someone falsely calls you a 'terrorist' simply because you are a Muslim, that is Islamophobia," said Fakih.

"I feel vindicated. This decision is an important step towards demonstrating that those who are spewing hate online are going to have to pay."

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