Two years after M103, a recap on Islamophobia
Two years ago our federal parliament passed M103, a motion condemning Islamophobia. Part of the non-binding text referred to the need to reduce or eliminate “systemic racism and religious discrimination”, with a specific reference to Islamophobia.
Conservatives offered a more general alternative, one which omitted Islamophobia but mentioned the need to protect Muslims, Christians and Jews. However, the Liberal majority prevailed.
Bill 83, a private member’s bill in the Ontario Legislature, has proposed a more Islam-specific measure: to designate Jan. 29 an annual “Day of Remembrance and Action” on Islamophobia. It is now before the Legislature’s standing committee.
The UK passed non-binding legislation in 2010. The Equality Act was more in line with what Canadian Conservatives wanted, as it sought to discourage discrimination against anyone identifying with a religious group with a clear belief system. However, specific legislation to protect Muslims is now being debated. Oddly, it claims Islamophobia is “rooted in racism”.
Murderous attacks on mosques in Quebec City in 2017 and Christchurch, New Zealand, in March of this year show that a tiny minority hate Muslims enough to want to kill them. A larger number of thugs confine themselves to snatching at headscarves or breaking mosque windows. We must not downplay the effects of these antisocial actions, and we must make sure existing laws are enforced.
However, passing legislation that unnecessarily restricts our freedom to express critical opinions is heading towards Orwell’s “thought crime”. It has for some time been illegal to incite others to violence. This should be sufficient from a legal perspective, and as for social attitudes, no laws are likely to change them anyway.
Islamophobia is seldom defined adequately. A religion is a set of beliefs with which we must be free to agree or disagree. Someone who dislikes Islam for it’s beliefs and values is not Islamophobic.
We don’t need to be experts to know enough to express an informed opinion. Many people dislike Islam – or Anglicanism or Presbyterianism – not through bias or prejudice but because they have a fair knowledge of what it stands for and find it irrational, repressive or archaic. That is their prerogative.
Tolerance is the ability to accept the right of other people even to hold beliefs one finds mistaken, and to allow them to practice associated rites and rituals; it requires no one to see all beliefs as equally valid.
Islamophobia is sometimes compared to anti-semitism, but we must be careful about this comparison. Anti-semitism is indeed rooted in racism because it discriminates against a group of people because of who they inescapably are; what is called Islamophobia is opposition to a set of beliefs which a group of people holds.
Racism is a pernicious worldview because it disparages one group’s inherent characteristics. Religious discrimination is a different matter.
Most religious people have simply accepted the belief package their parents have handed them, but others have compared rival belief systems in order to choose the one that suits. One way or another, we all discriminate among religions.
The recent murderous attacks show us anti-Muslim sentiment is real, but Islamophobia as a term must not be used as a weasel word to shut down all criticism of that set of beliefs peculiar to Islam.https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnis ... lamophobia
Trudeau is indeed using Islamophobia as a weasel word. M103 is a weasel motion.