Islamophobia? M-103 and Canadians
by Jack Taylor
During the Canadian election campaign in 2015 our courts decided that it was a matter of religious freedom for a Pakistani woman to wear a face veil (niqab) when she took her oath of citizenship. Muslims in Canada are nudging toward 3.5 per cent of our population and they are increasingly becoming part of the conversation at legislative levels in the 150 years since our country’s founding.
On Thursday, March 23, 2017 by a vote of 201-91, Canada’s 42nd parliament approved M-103, a non-binding motion calling on the government to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” The morning of the vote, the Angus Reid Institute revealed that 42 per cent of 1,511 Canadians surveyed opposed the motion while 29 per cent supported it. The balance chose to abstain or claim they didn’t know which option they preferred. Of those polled, 55 per cent of people considered the issue to be “overblown” by politicians and media outlets.
Immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges said in a Global News interview on March 4, that a “motion is nothing more than a proposal which is put forward by a member of parliament for the House of Commons to express an opinion or sentiment about something, or to do an action like, for example, commissioning a study… it does not have the force of law…”
Anthony Furey (Postmedia network March 24) noted that M-103 was neither a toothless motion nor an endorsement of ‘Sharia Law’ (Islamic religious principles). He notes the motion “does call for a heritage committee study to look at the issue and then report back with… recommendations that could be used to create legislation within 240 days.”
Some of the work of that committee will be to help Canadians understand what is meant by the term “Islamophobia.” The bill asks the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.” Motion proponent, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid defined Islamophobia as “the irrational hate of Muslims that leads to discrimination.” She claimed to have received over 50,000 emails – many of them hate-filled.
Meanwhile, there are indications the term “Islamaphobia” disturbs wary Christians who are concerned about their freedom of speech to point out the harder side of Islam. Conservative MP David Anderson tabled an alternative motion in February asking the House of Commons to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities.” That motion was defeated 165-126 with all opposition parties supporting.
The Canadian parliament has previously passed motions denouncing hatred against Jews in February 2016, Yazidis (Oct. 2016) and Coptic Christians (Oct. 2011). A motion against Islamophobia, presented by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, was adopted unanimously last Oct. 26. For Khalid, the killing of six Muslims during January in a Quebec City mosque, along with a 70,000-signature petition, disavowing terrorists as representative of Islam, were used as support for the focus on Islamophobia in the M-103 motion.
In an article (March 22) in the Montreal Gazette, Canadian Dr. Sherif Emil, formerly of Egypt, reminds Canadians: “Christianity, not Islam, is the most persecuted religion in the world today.” He is familiar with taunts of ‘infidel’ from Saudi children as he grew up. He recently lost two young relatives in the bombing of a Coptic Church in Cairo. He writes: “I understand the pain of ignorance, hatred, prejudice, discrimination and intolerance. But I don’t call it Christianophobia, because it isn’t. It is ignorance, hatred, prejudice, discrimination and intolerance. In fact, here in Montreal, I experience denigration of my Christian faith daily by Quebecers who use the holiest religious terms routinely as expletives.”
Conservative MP Maxine Bernier published his thoughts regarding M-103 on February 12. He noted that if the reference against Islamophobia meant simply to prevent hate speech and racism, that laws were already in place for that. He notes that he fears ‘Islamophobia’ could be used eventually to mean what the bloc of 56 nations making up the Organization of Islamic Cooperation claims it to mean in the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights. “The Cairo Declaration asserts the superiority of Islam and defines freedom of speech according to Shariah Law, which considers any criticism of Muhammad blasphemy.”
Haroon Khan, moderate mosque trustee of the Jamia Masjid in Vancouver, says, “Anyone should be allowed to criticize another religion.” He walks a narrow path on many views held strongly by worldwide conservative Islam and more lenient Canadian values (see March 18 Vancouver Sun, by Douglas Todd). A rising tide of Sunni Islam on the world stage, called Salafism, claims that the writings of Mohammed should be read literally – even the parts that speak of death to infidels, hypocrites and apostates.
Farzana Hassan, of the Toronto Sun, posted on February 16, 2017 that he is a liberal Muslim and he rejects the motion. He states, “Any well-intentioned and constructive discussion on a religious practice or ideology is a fundamental right of every Canadian… There is no phobia of Islam in Canada. There is genuine resentment toward orthodox Islam. But it has little to do with the usual public discourse… Some practices, whether we discuss them in public or not, are commonly known to be associated with orthodox Islam, such as polygamy, wife battery and ostracism of religious minorities… It is up to moderate Muslims to distance themselves from these outrages as much as possible. So far no robust public challenge to such practices has emerged from moderate segments of the community.”
There are now over 1,000 Sunni and Shia mosques in Canada. Followers of Jesus must continue to love God with their heart, soul, mind and strength. They must continue also to love all their neighbours as themselves. Now, the challenge is to discern what that love looks like in this country.