With shocking recent events in the United States, it’s easy to overlook what’s going on in Canada. Despite our condemnation of the travel ban, we aren’t much better when it comes to the treatment of Muslims, and reactions garnished by a new motion prove this.
The M103 motion, tabled by Liberal Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid, seeks to denounce racism and religious discrimination, determine why there’s been a surge of fear and hatred in Canada, and attempt to put it to an end. Despite the good intentions behind it, Canadian citizens — especially Conservatives — are reacting strongly against M103 due to its use of the term “Islamophobia” specifically.
The main reason for this dislike is that it supposedly has a very vague definition that one can interpret in multiple ways. The definition that they cite as a problematic example is “any criticism of Islam or its prophet” — criticism they believe should not be prevented, in the interest of preserving the right to free speech.
It’s understandable that the Conservatives want people to be able to criticize Islam if they desire.
Yet the more common interpretation of the term among Canadians is that Islamophobia is specifically a form of hate and prejudice, and therefore, this is the interpretation we should be keeping in mind when unpacking this motion.
Nobody’s rights will be violated if we call the attitudes we’re condemning by the name Islamophobia — Canadians are still free to exercise their free speech and criticize the religion itself. It’s simply the most effective word available to describe the negative thought processes and actions taken against Muslims around the world.
In their outcry against a banishment of free speech against Islam, Conservatives seem to have forgotten the difference between free speech and hate speech. Free speech is a right in Canada, while hate speech is illegal, and is one of the things that M103 is attempting to prevent. Protecting Canadian Muslims from becoming victims of hate speech should be encouraged rather than questioned.
M103 is necessary for the physical safety of Muslims in wake of recent events. The mosque shooting in Quebec, protests, and vandalism of mosques suggest that some Canadians possess hatred strong enough to spur them to harm the Muslim community significantly by means of violence and fear.
Further hate-motivated crimes must cease in the future for Muslims to feel safe in their own country, and the only way to make that a reality is for our government to start making a real effort toward taking a stance and understanding the root causes of this prejudice.
Khalid has received death threats and a message stating: “We will burn down your mosques.” These hateful messages that threaten violence are the very reason why an anti-Islamophobia motion is so desperately needed. These are the proofs that, for all that people preach their desire for uninfringed free speech, what they’re really seeking to protect is their ability to be cruel and callous to those they perceive as enemies.
Though Conservatives criticize the specification of Islamophobia in the motion over other kinds of religious discrimination, Islam is the religion that has been most frequently targeted by malicious acts in recent times. The travel ban in the United States is one extreme example of the prejudice and contempt surrounding Muslims today. If we don’t act to overcome this bigotry, it will only get worse.
M103 is a step toward teaching Canadians more acceptance of other religions and cultures. The anti-Islamophobia motion is necessary to make Canada a safer and more accepting place for everyone. People need to stop arguing over wording and let the motion pass.