By: Laura Steiner
Mississauga- Erin Mills Member of Parliament (MP) Iqra Khalid presented what’s being labelled as an Anti-Islamophobia motion to the House of Commons. M-103 asks the government to recognize a growing “public climate of hate and fear”, condemn Islamophobia and other forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, and asks that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage look at ways the government can approach ending or reducing systemic racism.
The freedom to speak, and the freedom to worship are both charter rights. Because it isn’t a piece of legislation The motion does not violate the charter. The argument around freedom of speech isn’t an issue.
The Conservatives presented their own motion asking the government recognize that Canada is not immune to hatred, and the government should condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious minorities. It too asks the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to study how the government could take a full-government approach to ending or reducing racism and intolerance.
The difference between the competing motions is subtle. Khalid’s motion singles out Islamophobia, which if we’re honest is a more urgent problem. The wording on the Conservative motion lends a sense of “why stop with Islam?” There is hatred, and fear towards other religions as well. People naturally fear what they do not know. A motion in Parliament can’t limit, or stop that. A full-government approach can help.
The failure to define Islamophobia weakens Khalid’s motion. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.” Real life doesn’t fit neatly into the pages of a dictionary.
If it’s not the literal definition found in the dictionary then what is it? Are Muslims who criticize elements of their own faith considered Islamophobic? What about Journalists researching articles on extremism? What about someone arguing with their Muslim friend over something, and in conversation says “I hate you,” even as a joke Is that Islamophobic?
The recognition of hatred, and fear in Canadian society is a significant step towards eliminating racism and religious intolerance. Doing so without the knowledge that comes from honest conversation about what we face renders it meaningless.