Motion M103, proposed to the Canadian Parliament by Iqra Khalid, is a non-binding motion seeking to study reasons behind “systematic racism” and to condemn Islamophobia. Firstly, condemning a concept like Islamophobia is inherently nonsensical. Why? Because Islamophobia is such a widely misused and ill-defined concept that to condemn it is both meaningless and additionally makes it liable to being abused. Does this mean anti-Muslim bigotry or does this mean criticism of Islam? What counts as Islamophobia is not further defined by the motion, and hence it becomes subjective. Often, criticism of Islamic theology and figures of importance to the faith are included in definitions designed to silence criticism.
Secondly, should a Government be condemning individuals for criticising ideas that they dislike? Faisal Kutty argues: “Respectful criticism of Islam and even Muslim practices is done daily by many, including Muslims. Yet the Islamophobia label is not used, because it is not done with loathing and contempt.”
A poor argument: why should contempt for religious ideology be condemned by a Government? Why should loathing practices and regressive beliefs be condemned by a Government? Why should criticism of Islam be respectful of concepts and ideology that is so prejudiced? Public debate can be rough, and indeed criticism of Islam can be misinformed, but is it not better for society to call it out, rather than using Government to condemn it? Government should not be functioning to condemn criticism of religion, no matter the quality.
Even then, is fear, loathing or contempt for Islam unjustifiable? Liberal Journalist Farzana Hassan and opponents of M-103 notes: “Is this fear, like any true phobia, an irrational fear? What M-103 supporters need to ask is how often their opponents incite violent acts.” And indeed, in comparison, how often those who the motion seeks to protect do. It is important to remember that people have rights. Islam, and other religions, have no rights to be protected from criticism.
Since Islamophobia’s definition shifts so often, surely the Government should be specific in what it is condemning? How long until Muslims are using it to silence Jews with concerns about Muslims and their preachers? Or liberal Muslims become victims of their more extreme counterparts? Are they condemned for their legitimate concerns?
What about liberal Muslims who condemn Sharia? Are they Islamophobes? What about liberal Muslims who condemn Islamic attitudes to Jews? Are they to be condemned?
Muslim Conservatives and their supporters now possess a minority card to play, to silences others. No individual or group should be above criticism. If an idea promotes hatred against other minorities or women, surely we should call it out regardless of the identity or faith of the believer. Singling out Islam for “special treatment” of being condemned, without condemning other religions is questionable, at best.
Meanwhile, what is being done in Canada to rectify anti-Semitism? A Mosque in Toronto saw Imams pray for “O Allah! Give victory to Islam and raise the standing of the Muslims and humiliate the polytheism and polytheists … Infidels and the Atheists and destroy anyone who killed Muslims. Count their number; slay them one by one and spare not one of them, O Allah! Purify Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews.”
How can this hateful incitement of violence against Jews be tolerated? Where is the outcry against radical Islamists promoting hatred, even violence? Where is the special motion to condemn anti-Semitism when Montreal clerics preach death to the Jews? The preacher stated:
““O Allah, give victory to our brothers who engage in Jihad
O Allah, give them victory over their enemy
O Allah, destroy the accursed Jews
O Allah, make their children orphans and their women widows.””
Yet it is protesters outside that very same Toronto Mosque, where the Imam called for death to unbelievers, who may face hate crime trials? Is Canada applying their laws universally or fairly? Do these people not have the right to protest against Islamism? Does Islamic bigotry have a free pass?
Whilst actual acts of inciting anti-semitic violence go punishment free, why would we be seeking to condemn Islamophobia? Perhaps because these Islamic Conservatives would wish that criticising conservative Islamists promoting hate now be seen as prejudice? Surely this would only allow individuals the ability to silence others, especially their critics.
Surely, would it not be better to argue that no minority should have a special amendment protecting their rights and criminalising a nebulous concept of prejudice that has no real definition?
Why is this law necessary? In Canada, committing violence against Muslims is illegal. In Canada, inciting violence against Muslims is illegal. Both rightly so and this applies to all minorities.
So why should arguably making comments against Islam, a religion which has no rights, be condemned? Especially if hate crimes, which are already significantly misused to silence criticism, are already illegal?
This sort of move is reminiscent of a blasphemy law, in which a certain concept becomes sacred and unquestionable. This sort of move is also reminiscent of the worst of censorship, since it is both vacuous and ill-defined, designed likely to be so that those using the law to silence others can do so easily. The more loosely Islamophobia is defined, the easier it is to abuse any system for reporting.
The motive to this motion seems underhanded and suspicious, it is designed to mean that those who oppose the motion appear to oppose Islamic rights and support bigotry, and if they support it, they support gagging themselves and their legitimate criticisms.
Tarek Fatah wrote that M103 “echoes the agenda of Islamists and Islamic extremists in North America who are shamelessly taking advantage of the Quebec City tragedy to advance the international Muslim Brotherhood agenda to silence any critique of Islamism.” Conservative leader Rona Ambrose correctly pointed out that charges of Islamophobia would be used to “intimidate rather than inform.” This motion will likely lead to individuals failing to criticise Islam because they fear the consequences.
Remember, Canada has a history of censoring opposition to dangerous Islamic practices: look at the Edmonton Councillor Amarjeet Sohi, who claimed that it was wrong for anti-honour Killing adverts “targeting one particular group, and singling out one particular group.” This, however, blatantly denies reality: honour killing in Canada is largely committed by Islamic and Sikh individuals, is it wrong for an advert to seek to help women vulnerable in those communities?
Canada needs not to stifle criticism of Islam, instead, it needs a free debate on regressive views amongst Muslims and Islam’s cultural impacts, free from individuals fearing that their legitimate criticisms will invalidate their views. Otherwise, how will we ever tackle the issues if we cannot discuss them openly and honestly?