On Dec. 5, 2016, Canadian MP Iqra Khalid proposed Motion 103 (a motion against Islamophobia) and began her statement in parliament by saying, “Mr. Speaker, I am a young, brown, Muslim, Canadian woman …”
I find it curious that she begins by identifying herself first as brown, then Muslim and lastly as a Canadian. To my understanding, a Canadian member of parliament should identify as Canadian first. Being Canadian means showing concern for everyone, not just a select group of people. Perhaps this may be the reason why Khalid has not studied what Islamophobia really means.
The term Islamophobia was created in the 1990s, when groups affiliated to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood decided to play victim for the purpose of beating down critics. It is also in sync with a constant push by the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) to turn any criticism of Islam or Muslims into blasphemy. Is this what we want in Canada? Blasphemy laws?
As a Canadian Muslim, I am very concerned about the direction we are headed in. My family and I came to Canada 29 years ago to embrace the values of a liberal democracy, of which freedom of speech is the most vital. M-103 will threaten free speech and goes directly against Canadian values. Canadians must speak out against this attack on their democratic values. But in many cases, people who are not prejudiced against any race or religion, but have concerns about this motion, are probably already feeling intimidated and may well choose to remain silent. This is the problem with motions like M-103. They cannot help but have a chilling effect on free speech and open debate. One need not be a cynic to suspect that’s actually the point, rather than a side effect.
Unfortunately, racism, bigotry and hate exists in all societies and has existed since time immemorial. This country is not immune. As caring Canadians, we must always speak out against these acts, and that does include anti-Muslim bigotry, and as seen recently in Quebec, even violent acts. This should rightly be opposed. But our commitment to fighting racism and violence must extend equally to all communities. After all, anti-Semitic acts are on the rise across the world and also in Canada.
It’s not laws, however, that will stop the rise of hate and bigotry. I believe that a motion like M-103 will only increase the frustration of ordinary Canadian who want (and have the right) to ask uncomfortable but necessary questions. Being concerned about creeping sharia is not phobic; questioning honour-based violence and FGM in Muslim-majority societies is not phobic. Furthermore, every citizen has the right to be concerned about the safety and security of their country. If they ask questions about radicalization leading to terrorism, that is not Islamophobic, but a reasonable response to the very real threat posed by Islamist terror groups to Canada and all other Western nations.
Sadly, the tragedy in Quebec is being used for political purposes to further the implementation of M-103. If there is to be any lesson learned from the murderous attack on innocent worshippers, it is that we need more intra-faith dialogue, discussion and debate. If M-103 is passed, it will silence constructive criticism and widen the gulf between Muslim and non-Muslim Canadians. It will hurt, not help, our efforts to build a more peaceful, tolerant and equal Canada. For these reasons, it is not phobic to oppose M-103. It is, in fact, the duty of every citizen of our democracy.
Raheel Raza is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and author of Their Jihad — Not My Jihad.