Malaise autour de la création d’une «Journée nationale contre l’islamophobie»

Valid debate between a commemoration versus a national day.

I prefer the existing day, International Day Against Racial Discrimination, March 21st, rather than the “boutique” approach for each community, as a means to foster understanding of the common experience many groups have faced or face (agree with Conservatives on this one even if their motives are somewhat suspect given their approach to M-103):

Le débat sur une possible « Journée nationale contre l’islamophobie » prend une tournure sémantique. Plusieurs partis politiques, tant à Québec qu’à Ottawa, jugent le mot « islamophobie » trop fort et « trop chargé » pour que le 29 janvier 2017, jour où un tireur fou a tué six musulmans, porte ce combat.

« Oui, le mot “islamophobie” est chargé. Et je trouve qu’on a assez débattu de divisions autour de la présence de la religion au Québec », a déclaré au Devoir Agnès Maltais, députée péquiste et porte-parole de l’opposition officielle en matière de laïcité. Elle souligne au passage qu’il existe un Collectif canadien anti-islamophobie dont le porte-parole est Adil Charkaoui, une personnalité controversée.

La semaine dernière, le Conseil national des musulmans canadiens (CNMC) a demandé au gouvernement Trudeau de faire du 29 janvier plus qu’une simple journée de commémoration de la tuerie à la mosquée de Québec et de lui donner le titre de « Journée nationale d’action contre l’islamophobie », un peu comme le 6 décembre, jour de la tuerie de Polytechnique, est devenu une « Journée nationale d’action contre la violence faite aux femmes ».

Le bureau de la ministre du Patrimoine, Mélanie Joly, a simplement indiqué mardi qu’il « prenait acte » de la proposition.

Québec solidaire est le seul parti qui appuie la création d’une telle journée. Mais le gouvernement libéral de Philippe Couillard ne ferme pas la porte. Quant à la Coalition avenir Québec, elle rejette l’idée d’une journée nationale d’action et estime suffisant que la tragédie soit commémorée.

« Il s’agit du geste intolérable d’une seule personne et non pas celui d’une société entière. Les Québécois sont ouverts et accueillants, ils ne sont pas islamophobes. »

Oui à une commémoration

En entrevue à Radio-Canada, Boufeldja Benabdallah, vice-président du Centre culturel islamique, s’est dit déçu des positions de la CAQ et du PQ.

« Jamais nous n’avons dit que les Québécois étaient islamophobes, jamais. C’est une mince partie et c’est sur cette mince partie qu’il faut travailler, qui fait beaucoup de bruit, beaucoup de mal, et qui a tué six personnes dans leur prière. »

Tous les partis sont toutefois d’accord pour que le 29 janvier soit réservé chaque année à la commémoration de l’attentat meurtrier de la mosquée de Québec.

« Soyons honnêtes, le meilleur outil qui va aller chercher l’appui de tous, c’est la commémoration », a affirmé Mme Maltais, du PQ. Elle souligne également que le gouvernement fédéral a attendu deux ans après la tuerie du 6 décembre 1989, soit en 1991, pour en faire une Journée nationale d’action contre la violence faite aux femmes.

L’historien de l’Université Laval Patrice Groulx soutient qu’il vaut mieux d’abord passer par l’étape de la commémoration, soit du deuil, en soulignant la mémoire d’un événement. « Il y a une forme de précipitation là-dedans qui pourrait être désagréable pour certains, a-t-il indiqué. Certains groupes veulent soulever la chose pour profiter d’un certain “momentum”, et c’est tout à fait légitime. Mais il y a la manière, les mots. Il faut être prudent. »

Une commémoration d’un événement meurtrier tragique ne se traduit pas toujours en « journée nationale d’action » — l’explosion du train à Lac-Mégantic par exemple —, mais M. Groulx reconnaît que la tuerie de la mosquée a le potentiel d’en devenir une, comme ce fut le cas pour Polytechnique sous la pression populaire.

« Avec le temps, on donne un contenu, une signification différente à un événement. C’est le dépassement social. »

Même malaise au fédéral

Demeurés silencieux jusqu’ici, les partis politiques au fédéral, sauf le Nouveau Parti démocratique, se sont finalement prononcés. Encore une fois, le mot « islamophobie » semble créer un malaise.

« Ce terme-là est loin de faire consensus », a indiqué Gérard Deltell, en refusant obstinément de prononcer ce mot tout au long de l’entrevue avec Le Devoir. Le Parti conservateur préfère parler d’une commémoration, « plus rassembleuse » et « plus inclusive », lui qui avait déposé une motion à la mi-décembre proposant de faire du 29 janvier la « Journée nationale de la solidarité avec les victimes d’actes d’intolérance et de violence antireligieuse ».

La même querelle sémantique avait divisé les partis fédéraux lorsque, dans la foulée des attentats de la mosquée de Québec, la libérale Iqra Khalid a voulu faire adopter l’an dernier une motion qui condamnait l’« islamophobie ». Les conservateurs refusaient là encore d’utiliser ce terme et voulaient plus largement que soient condamnées « toutes formes de racisme systémique », pas seulement celle à l’endroit des musulmans.

Le Bloc québécois rejette aussi l’idée d’une commémoration qui cible une religion précise. Après tout, l’État doit être laïque, a fait valoir la députée Marilène Gill.

Source: Malaise autour de la création d’une «Journée nationale contre l’islamophobie»

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The Politics of the Ostrich: On Pascal Bruckner’s “Un racisme imaginaire: La querelle de l’islamophobie et culpabilité” – Los Angeles Review of Books

Good long review and discussion of Islamophobia by Reza Zia-Ebrahimi, King’s College London, one of the more comprehensive ones I have seen.

Highly recommended for members of the Canadian Heritage committee studying Islamophobia, among others:

OVER THE PAST DECADE, the prominent French intellectual Pascal Bruckner has emerged as one of the figureheads of a sustained assault on any public discussion of Islamophobia and the consequences it may have on its victims. He has published op-eds with titles such as “L’invention de l’islamophobie” (the invention of Islamophobia) and “L’islamophobie n’existe pas!” (Islamophobia does not exist!), where he has outlined many of the ideas that the reader will find in Un racisme imaginaire. Thus, those familiar with the man’s writing will find little novelty in this book. To add perplexity to disappointment, the book also lacks focus: indeed, in addition to declaring Islamophobia imaginary, Bruckner devotes significant sections of his book to shadow-box and disparage all the usual scarecrows of the French neoconservative movement: the 1968 generation, multiculturalism, the left under all its manifestations, “political correctness,” sociologists, anthropologists, occasionally the anglo-saxons, and rather consistently — “Islam.” It would take me far more than the space I have been here granted to address all the issues he raises, and will focus on what is the central theme of Un racisme imaginaire: the existence or inexistence of Islamophobia.

Bruckner opens his book by declaring point-blank that his objective is to “delegitimize the term Islamophobia, instil doubt about it, flank it with permanent inverted commas.” He does not therefore even pretend that he is going to engage with objective data, or carry out empirical research. His first round of attack uses etymology to delegitimize the term Islamophobia, and in doing so Bruckner essentially paraphrases the French journalist Caroline Fourest, who claimed in 2003 that Islamophobia as a term was the brainchild of the Iranian 1979 Revolution. [1]According to this theory, the Iranian “mullahs” coined the term to suppress women who refused to wear the Islamic veil. The argument is put forth without a shred of evidence, and as a historian of modern Iran who is familiar with the 1979 Revolution and the discourse of its founders and ideologues, I can confidently assert here that the claim is simply a fabrication and widely acknowledged as such (even by Fourest herself who, embarrassed, edited the online version of her 2003 article accordingly). Undeterred, Bruckner continues to promote the now discredited theory, and another one, also initially made by Fourest, according to which Islamophobia re-emerged during the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses and the fatwa against his life. As with the previous claim, no evidence is to be found, no quotation is reproduced, no source is referenced. And for good reason: the claim is fallacious. It took me about 10 seconds and a simple Google search to find a 2015 article where Rushdie declares, “Today, I would be accused of Islamophobia.” Which means that back in 1989 he was not.

Although the term Islamophobia occurs in French texts as early as the 1920s (something recognized by Bruckner), its present-day use cannot be traced to the machinations of Islamists as the Islamophobia negationists would have us believe, but is rooted in a conceptual need to name forms of hostility and discrimination experienced by Muslims. The origins of the term’s present-day incarnation is thus to be found in a 1997 report called Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, by a UK-based think tank dedicated to the study of racism, the Runnymede Trust. This fact is widely acknowledged by the literature on Islamophobia, that Bruckner sadly ignores throughout his book, thus seriously weakening its core argument. The purpose of Bruckner’s genealogy is simply to suggest that the term Islamophobia is tainted by some original sin, its origins invariably leading to some mad, bearded fanatic. The Iranian mullah story also presents the added advantage of pitting Islamophobia against the struggle of women against the Islamic veil. Two conceptual birds are hit with the same rhetorical stone, but it remains that it is this genealogy, rather than Islamophobia itself, that is imaginary.

The second negationist argument put forth by Bruckner relates to the instrumentalization of Islamophobia, which then becomes — in his words — “a weapon of mass destruction of the intellectual debate.” Islamophobia, he claims, was maliciously coined by “fundamentalists and their Marxist allies” (or “Islamo-gauchisme” as he calls the alliance) to write off as racist anyone attempting to criticize or reform Islam. Of course, it is perfectly conceivable that if you criticize “Islam,” someone might label you an Islamophobe. Bruckner has not reinvented the wheel: Islamophobia, just like any other concept, designation, or idea, can be instrumentalized. Disappointingly, Bruckner does not come up with many examples to illustrate what he believes is a new form of blasphemy law: first, he refers to a few cases in which French Catholic groups sued film directors for blasphemy. That his first example is one from the world of catholic militancy is telling enough. His second example refers to the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s attempt — supported by many non-Muslims states — to ban the defamation of religions in international law. An attempt that — it is worth stressing — has so far miserably foundered, making one wonder why it is a relevant example in the first place. Indeed, no “legitimate criticism of Islam” has ever been “silenced” as a result of that effort. Bruckner mentions a few other cases of clashes in the polemics of Islam in Europe, but none in my view where the accusation of Islamophobia was either central to the controversy, or — indeed — succeeded in forcing anyone into silence. He is right in pointing out that the terrorists who opened fire on the staff of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 silenced, for good, individuals that they considered to have blasphemed against Islam. Nobody disputes that murdering individuals in cold blood is criminal and shocking. But then again, why should our ability to discuss Islamophobia be undermined by the actions of murderous jihadists? Would we not let them win by doing so? By refusing to discuss Islamophobia, we make it impossible to challenge the jihadist view that Europe is fundamentally Islamophobic and that Muslims have no place there, a view that according to most serious scholarship is one of their top recruitment pitches.

I can think of a perhaps more convincing example, not of the charge of Islamophobia as a tool for censorship, but as a tool for political expediency. When Austrian authorities banned rallies in Austria in favor of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s constitutional referendum in January 2017, the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson called them racist and Islamophobic. No doubt, this is a case of political instrumentalization of the labels racism and Islamophobia, although I should rush to stress that the Turkish declaration had no effect whatsoever on the Austrian government, which seems to indicate that the accusation of Islamophobia is far from carrying the magical effects that Bruckner associates with it.

Provisional conclusion: Despite the paucity of Bruckner’s examples, instrumentalization is possible. That being said, Bruckner’s argument remains illogical. Ask yourself: Does the instrumentalization of a concept mean that the concept itself is inherently bankrupt? Does the phenomenon it refers to henceforth cease its tangible, objective, existence? The claim runs in the face of the most basic form of common sense. Let me illustrate my point. Many on the farther corners of the left liberally use the term “fascist” to discredit ideas or individuals that they find to be too far to the right of the political spectrum. For instance, many hard-left sympathizers in France routinely call the supporters of Marine Le Pen’s Front National party “fascists.” This is an instrumentalization of the concept of fascism designed to discredit one’s political adversaries. However, does this polemical usage mean that the concept of fascism is intrinsically flawed? Does it in itself negate the facts of history? Does it mean that Benito Mussolini was never born, and that the National Fascist Party never took power? Of course not, such flawed reasoning challenges basic rationality.

Another perhaps closer example: Few would deny that some instrumentalize anti-Semitism to silence any criticism of the state of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu calls the BDS movement anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calls Jimmy Carter (the US president who oversaw the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt) an anti-Semite because he criticizes Israeli policies. The ADL joined forces with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to push through a bill that would criminalize criticism of Israel in the United States as anti-Semitic (the legislation failed on the Congress’s floor). In all these cases, anti-Semitism is instrumentalized to pursue a political agenda: silence criticism of Israel. Yet, does this instrumentalization automatically invalidate the legitimacy of anti-Semitism as a concept, an analytical category, an objective historical phenomenon, and a lived experience for many Jews around the world? Are we to suddenly believe that Jews were never subjected to slander, hostility, discrimination, segregation, and an attempt at genocide? Of course not. But it is exactly such profoundly flawed arguments that Bruckner and his like-minded negationists put forth to have us believe that Islamophobia is imaginary. A word or a concept cannot be held hostage by those who use or abuse it.

The third argument is perhaps the most mystifying and audacious. Bruckner, again following Fourest and her fallacious Iranian genealogy of Islamophobia, claims repeatedly that Islamophobia is used by repressive Muslim states as “a tool of domestic police against Muslim reformers and liberals.” Here again, Bruckner does not provide a single example. And again for good reason: taking the claim at face value would mean that the religious police in Iran or Saudi Arabia initially had their hands tied in the back. They were incapable of repressing what they perceived as anti-Islamic deviance, because they lacked the wordthat would allow them to do so. And then one day, hallelujah, the term Islamophobia was invented and now they could freely repress religious reformers, secularizing intellectuals, and unveiled women. The reasonably critical reader is left flabbergasted by the daftness of the argument. One keeps reading, hoping that Bruckner will attempt to strengthen his case, or cover his tracks … in vain.

Islamophobia is not defined as criticism of Islamic practices in any dictionary, encyclopedia, or scholarly work on the topic. It is generally defined as hostility toward, and discrimination against, people perceived as Muslims. As such, it stands to reason that Islamophobia is a reality. The European Union and the United Nations have programs in place that attempt to quantify Islamophobia. The hostility aspect of Islamophobia manifests itself in acts of degradation or vandalism against mosques or Islamic centers and cemeteries. Hostility also manifests itself in daily acts of aggression, anything from verbal abuse to physical attack and even murder. The number of such acts is constantly increasing in spite of Bruckner’s claim (based on one single year) that the opposite is true: in my hometown of London alone, the Metropolitan Police registered 1,300 Islamophobic hate crimes in the 12 months leading to March 2017, a whopping 370 percent increase over 2013. We have also recently witnessed an unprecedented number of murderous acts: in January of this year, a gunman known for his anti-Muslim views opened fire in a Québec City mosque, killing six and injuring 19. Individuals carrying such acts are not criticizing Islamic practices, they target individuals that they perceive as Muslims for their “Muslimness” and nothing else. When in July of this year a man drove his car into a crowd leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque in London killing one, he shouted, “I want to kill all Muslims” and “This is for London Bridge,” indicating that he considered all Muslims as collectively responsible for an earlier jihadi attack.

Islamophobia can also kill people on the left, as they are seen as the natural allies of “Islam” (what Bruckner calls islamo-gauchisme). When in 2011 Anders Behring Breivik cold-bloodedly murdered 77 innocent people, mostly young members of the Norwegian Labour Party, he believed that by killing left-wing militants he was curtailing the Islamization of Europe. Like Bruckner, Breivik believes that the left and “Islam” are in bed together in an attempt to Islamize Europe. Interestingly, a flick through Breivik’s tedious manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence shows that this latter’s criticism of the term Islamophobia is similar to Bruckner’s, thus revealing broader ideological affinities.

The second aspect of Islamophobia is the experience of discrimination. Some very serious studies show identifiable and quantifiable forms of discrimination against individuals with Muslim-sounding names in the practices of the state or of private entities. For instance, it has been shown by Patrick Simon that if you have a Muslim-sounding name you are at a disadvantage in the dispensation of public housing in France. [2] A compelling study by Adida, Laitin, and Valfort has shown that you are 2.5 times less likely to be shortlisted for a job if you bear a Muslim-sounding name than someone with identical qualifications but a non-Muslim-sounding name. [3] Again, theology has nothing to do with any of this; this type of discriminatory attitude proceeds from deep-seated prejudices against Muslims as a group, something that can reasonably be called Islamophobia so that the phenomenon has a name.

In light of these examples (that could be multiplied), the question is not whether Islamophobia exists, because it does beyond any doubt. Rather, the question is why are Bruckner and other negationists so keen to convince us that it does not. Why do they recoil in horror when they hear the term? I would like to offer an explanation. If one were to grossly divide the French opposition according to various forms of racism, one would end up with two camps. The first group includes the spiritual disciples of Hannah Arendt, who see totalitarianism as the main impetus behind the Holocaust, and are mainly concerned with anti-Semitism as the supreme form of racism. The second group includes the spiritual disciples of Frantz Fanon, who espouse one form or the other of anti-imperialism, and are more focused on colonial and postcolonial forms of racism, including Islamophobia. The two groups are obviously not as neatly separated as I make it appear: after all Hannah Arendt herself contended in the second volume of The Origins of Totalitarianismthat racism was made necessary by European imperialism, and that the two were part and parcel of the history of the totalitarian state. Be that as it may, one can consider Bruckner as a thinker clearly anchored within the first group, genuinely concerned about anti-Semitism, and consistently in favor of Israeli and American foreign policies, including this latter’s disastrous invasion of Iraq. He abhors third-worldism, which he scathingly (and indiscriminately) attacked in his 1983 book The Tears of the White Man. Bruckner is one of the most vehement critics of anything smacking of anti-racism, which he considers as racism (you have to admire the audacious inversion). Any acknowledgment of wrongdoing in colonial history is nothing more than “self-hatred.” Therefore, one could claim that Bruckner belongs to an exclusivist strand within the group concerned with totalitarianism, emphatically opposed to any discussion linking colonialism and racism, and rejecting out of hand any claim that postcolonial forms of racism matter or even exist. Beyond the sometimes wild exaggerations and hyperbolic language necessitated by such immoderate stances, the recurrent vocabulary of totalitarianism is an indication of Bruckner’s categories of analysis, perfectly valid otherwise, but here radically disconnected from the topic at hand: he repeatedly claims that Islamophobia is comparable to “totalitarian propaganda,” the censorship methods of the Soviet Union, and a world akin to Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.

In a vision of the world influenced by Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, where a neat, clearly delimited, liberal and democratic “West” is pitted against an equally neat, delimited, but repressive and hostile “Islam,” Muslims can only be represented as oppressors, or as oppressed by other Muslims. He claims that even in Myanmar, Muslims are victimized by their own kind, a lie that is frankly detestable in light of current events. In this rigid mental straitjacket, there is no possibility of envisioning a Muslim being simply a victim, especially of a Westerner’s racism, and God forbids a French person’s racism.

It is this ideological baggage that explains the recurrent attempts to delegitimize any discussion of, or research on, Islamophobia. Not because Islamophobia does not exist — it obviously does — but because it is an inconvenient truth that challenges the rather simplistic us versus them, black versus white, ideational universe described above. Bruckner pours ridicule on Muslims who experience gratuitous antagonism or discrimination, by contending that being subjected to racism is not humiliating or traumatizing, but it is a prize, a status, a cachet, that Muslims cunningly seek. Worse, it is a usurpation of the status of the realand exclusive victims of racism: Jews. He contends that by complaining of Islamophobia, Muslims try to pass for Jews, or rather — as he scornfully puts it — “substitute Jews.” He rightly contends that Jews can be “racialized,” and that as a result anti-Semitism is a form of racism. However, he denies that racialization can be applied to Muslims. In other terms, you are born a Jew but being Muslim is voluntary. This curious contradictory claim runs in the face of a significant literature that highlights that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are bothcharacterized by discursive dynamics that “racialize” the followers of a faith into a group with inherent psychological characteristics.

How can a thinker so genuinely touched by the plight of the victims of anti-Semitism be so insensitive to the plight of victims of Islamophobia? The answer is inescapable: for Bruckner, there is a hierarchy of racisms. Some are unacceptable, some are acceptable, a binary that reflects a hierarchy of humankind in Bruckner’s mind.

Anyone who opens Bruckner’s book hoping that he might be the long-awaited freethinker who will at long last transcend the above described divide between the opponents of anti-Semitism and colonial racisms, and make the overdue point that racism is always unacceptable, will be disappointed. Un racisme imaginaire is a collection of hackneyed attacks on the field of Islamophobia studies, and not a work concerned with objective facts. It is a cross between a long rant and an ideological pamphlet. Undoubtedly, there will be no shortage of readers happy to absolve its shortcomings and its ideological fanfare as the mostly positive reviews in the French media suggest. Yet, it remains that the book is addressed to a public that has already made up its mind on Islamophobia. For the rest of us, who expect claims to be backed up with a modicum of evidence or rational argumentation, the book is merely a primary source, a document that helps us gauge the state of the intellectual debate in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

via The Politics of the Ostrich: On Pascal Bruckner’s “Un racisme imaginaire: La querelle de l’islamophobie et culpabilité” – Los Angeles Review of Books

M-103 committee hears calls for better data and a definition of Islamophobia

Nice to see the Post addressing its previous lack of balance in its coverage of the M-103 hearings. And most of the recommendations mentioned below are reasonable and innocuous, unlike some of the earlier fear mongering:

Better hate crime data, more training for law enforcement and a clear definition of Islamophobia are some of the recommendations the House of Commons heritage committee has heard most frequently as part of its racism and religious discrimination study required by Motion 103.

The anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 touched off a firestorm of controversy en route to its passage in March. Put forward by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, it asked the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.” Though it is not a law, critics have claimed it will lead to the stifling of free speech by preventing people from criticizing Islam.

Many of the recommendations heard by the heritage committee this fall amount to little more than calls for better education and more support for victims of hate crimes.

Witnesses testifying before the committee have repeatedly raised the lack of data on racism and hate crimes, calling it a significant problem. In June, Statistics Canada reported that hate crimes targeting the Muslim population had increased by 61 per cent between 2014 and 2015, and that hate crimes overall had increased by five per cent. But the agency also noted that the reported data “likely undercounts the true extent of hate crime in Canada, as not all crimes are reported to police.”

Last week, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) testified that the collection of hate-crime data “varies widely by police department,” and urged the federal government to “establish uniform, national guidelines and standards.”

On Monday, Serah Gazali of Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, a community organization in Vancouver, said Canadians also need better education about their rights and their options for reporting hate crimes. “I think (victims) talk about it within themselves and perhaps it’s normalized,” she said. “So they don’t think of it as something that needs to be really addressed.”

Other witnesses have called for police officers to receive more training about how to deal with victims reporting such crimes.

Some have also argued that Canada’s existing hate-crime laws must be strengthened or better enforced.

“Federal government resources should be allocated to support the development of dedicated local police hate-crime units,” CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel included among his recommendations to the committee. “These units have been integrated into several police services across Canada, and have constituted an unmitigated success.”

The delegation from Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, which was presenting recommendations from a community round-table organized with help from NDP MP Jenny Kwan, said the government “should strengthen laws against hate speech and crimes by providing a much more clear and inclusive definition of hate crime and Islamophobia.”

Witnesses throughout the hearings have suggested that Islamophobia, the term at the heart of the motion, needs to be better defined. “The term Islamophobia has been defined in multiple ways, some effective and some problematic,” Fogel argued. “Unfortunately, it has become a lightning rod for controversy, distracting from other important issues at hand.”

On Monday, Gazali went further, suggesting that Islamophobia should explicitly be criminalized. The Criminal Code of Canada currently forbids the public incitement or promotion of hatred “against any identifiable group,” and the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on grounds including race, national or ethnic origin and religion.

Since the hearings began last month, a number of witnesses have recommended an updated national action plan against racism, similar to a plan released in March by Ontario. The federal government first released its own action plan in 2005, but Shalini Konanur, executive director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, said the old plan is “too general.” [Note: the previous action plan, CAPAR, was largely symbolic, with the one meaningful initiative being the collection of police-reported hate crimes data.]

The Ontario plan, she said, targets four pillars: Islamophobia, anti-black racism, Indigenous racism and anti-Semitism. “Within those four pillars, there are very clearly identified targets for what the government hopes to do within the next five years,” she told the committee in September.

Education and employment are other areas where action is needed, according to some witnesses. Ayse Akinturk, an executive with the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, pointed to the challenges many immigrants encounter in trying to work as professionals in Canada. “I think recognition of foreign credentials, international credentials should become a much facilitated procedure,” she said Monday. “It takes really a lot of effort and years, at the end of which people give up and try to find other solutions to make a living for themselves.”

Others have recommended mandatory anti-racism training for government employees, and that Ottawa should work with the provinces to improve childhood education on diversity and multiculturalism.

In recognition of a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that left six people dead earlier this year, Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, recommended that Jan. 29 be declared a “national day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia in Canada.”

Source: National Post

Some fears of Islam justified: Lawyer [David Matas]

Sun Media continues to cover the perspectives of those concerned without comparable coverage of those in support of M-103. Both perspectives need to be covered.

My (faint) hope is that the Canadian Heritage committee will come up with a consensus on a working definition, one that puts that particular canard behind us, and allows focus on the day-to-day practical issues:

A celebrated Canadian human rights lawyer urged MPs to be careful in their use of the term Islamophobia, saying “fear of some elements of Islam is mere prudence.”

David Matas, an Order of Canada recipient who began his career as a clerk for the Chief Justice of Canada in the 1960s, delivered testimony Wednesday before the M-103 committee hearings in his capacity as senior counsel to B’nai Brith Canada.

“Not every fear of Islam is Islamophobia,” Matas said to the House of Commons Heritage Committee, noting that anyone who is not afraid of the various radical Islamic terrorist outfits in the world is “foolhardy”.

“Islamophobia does not appear in a vacuum,” Matas told MPs. “It grows out of a fear of incitement and acts of hatred and terrorism coming from elements of the Islamic community.”

The Winnipeg-based lawyer, who ran for office years ago as a Liberal, recommended the committee take a “dual focus” approach on both those victimized by Islamophobia and those within the Islamic community inciting hatred and terrorism.

Following Matas’ testimony, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, urged the committee to aim towards a more precise definition of Islamophobia.

M-103 was nominally designed to denounce, and study, all forms of racism and discrimination, but has faced extensive controversy for singling out Islam.

Fogel pointed to a Toronto District School Board booklet’s definition of Islamophobia that included mere dislike of political Islam as worthy of censure.

“This incident exposes significant problems with relying on ad hoc, inadequate definitions of Islamophobia,” said Fogel.

On Monday, Muslim author and Sun columnist Farzana Hassan told the committee her concerns about how the term is used in other countries to suppress criticism from within the faith.

Source: Some fears of Islam justified: Lawyer | St. Thomas Times-Journal

By discouraging criticism of Islam, M103 could make it harder to combat anti-Semitism

Striking looking at the list of witnesses before the Canadian Heritage committee studying M-103 of just how polarized the positions are, almost to the extent of parallel universes, with relatively few who bridge the gap.

B’nai Brith plays a useful role in flagging issues, as they did in flagging the issue regarding the TDSB Islamophobia guidebook.

One of the useful contributions of the Conservative government to multiculturalism was its recognition that broad anti-racism program did not address how racism played out differently for different groups. As a result, they focussed on antisemitism with a number of major initiatives, including the long overdue joining of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the hosting of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism and the holding of unofficial parliamentary hearings on antisemitism.

Similarly, the same logic, that general messaging may not be enough to address – and debate – the concerns of Canadian Muslims, also applies to M-103.

And just as the working definition of antisemitism tried to provide some clarity on when criticism of Israeli policies crossed over to antisemitism, the same would be useful with respect to criticism regarding Muslims that crosses the line between legitimate concerns and anti-Muslim speech.

But unclear to date whether the hearings will get us there:

Recently, B’nai Brith drew attention to an official guidebook published by Ontario’s largest school board that condemned Islamophobia and defined the term to include “dislike directed… towards Islamic politics or culture.”

While the Toronto District School Board quickly realized its error and pledged to replace this absurdly broad definition, it must be noted that the guidebook was prepared with the support of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a group that has campaigned strongly in favour of M-103. One would assume that the NCCM is an authority on the proper definition of Islamophobia.

To be clear, banning or even discouraging any “dislike” of “Islamic politics” would make it nearly impossible to combat the virulent Jew-hatred that we have seen emanating from some Muslim institutions in Canada.

Canada cannot become a haven for anti-Muslim bigotry. But, by the same token, we cannot allow a misguided reluctance to criticize anything dubbed Islamic to stymie the protection of Canada’s most targeted religious minority — Canadian Jews.

Source: By discouraging criticism of Islam, M103 could make it harder to combat anti-Semitism | National Post

Systemic racism encourages half of Canadians to fear Islam and Muslims | Ayesha Chaudhry

Chaudhry, Canada Research Chair of religion, law and social justice at UBC on the M-103 hearings.

I tend to agree with her that the focus on the word Islamophobia appears largely  a smokescreen to avoid discussing the on-the-ground issues:

Recently I appeared before the standing committee on Canadian heritage, which is holding hearings in response to the passing of M-103 earlier this year. The hearings are ostensibly about systemic racism and religious discrimination, but some on the committee seem unaware of this.

What should be an investigation into systemic hate in Canada often feels like a referendum on one word mentioned in M-103: Islamophobia.

From the start of the hearings, witnesses have weighed in, with the active support of some committee members, about whether Islamophobia exists, where the term came from, and whether it is an appropriate term of art. Perhaps, some have offered, we should instead use the term “anti-Muslim”; perhaps we should differentiate between hate that is directed at Islam and hate directed at Muslims; perhaps we should be focusing less on Islamophobia and more on Muslim extremism and radicalization.

Each of these theoretical forays into the technicalities of a single term represents a theft from the task of combating systemic hate, which is the mandate of the committee.

Systemic hate is not bound by technicalities, and it is not restricted to any group of individuals. Rather, it is a form of hate that has come to be enshrined in the institutions of a society, silently shaping the attitudes and behaviours of vast members of the population.

People do not realize they are being shaped by systemic hate, whether that takes the form of misogyny, racism, religious discrimination, or something else. We may not think of ourselves as sexist, yet we somehow manage to regularly pay women less. We may not think of ourselves as racist, yet Indigenous people and Black-Canadians are overrepresented in our prisons, and under-represented in positions of power.

The same goes for Islamophobia. Most people do not consider themselves Islamophobic, and believe that they can differentiate between the religion, Islam, and its adherents, Muslims. But when hate is systemic, it does not accommodate our self-image or make neat boundaries between Islam and Muslims; hate is not that sophisticated.

Consider that according to a 2017 poll, 46 per cent of Canadians have an unfavourable opinion of Islam, and that a 2016 poll found that more than half of Ontarians — 55 per cent — believe that mainstream Islamic doctrines promote violence.

These numbers are deeply worrying because they describe a pervasive climate of fear and loathing that does not stop where a religion ends and its adherents begin. Indeed, in recent polls 43 per cent of Canadians say that they hold a negative opinion of Muslims, more than half — 52 per cent — believe that Muslims can’t be trusted, and 42 per cent believe that discrimination against Muslims is “mainly their fault.” It is not an accident that these are almost the same percentages as those who hold negative opinions of Islam.

In light of these pervasive attitudes about Islam and Muslims, it is unsurprising that between 2012 and 2015, hate crimes against Muslims increased a staggering 253 per cent.

That is not because of lone individuals, but because systemic racism has encouraged about half of the Canadian public to fear Islam and Muslims, without needing to differentiate between the two. Systemic Islamophobia helps us understand why people with Muslim names have a harder time getting jobs, why they are policed at a higher rate, and why one-third of Canadians believe it is “unacceptable” for their children to marry Muslims.

It is ugly, it is shameful, and it is systemic when close to half the population of one of the most peaceful nations on earth hates the second largest religion on earth and its adherents. That hate consumes all of us, the hated and the haters. And such hate results in discrimination that harms our citizens and weakens our democratic institutions.

It has been deeply painful to watch the committee’s hearings about systemic racism and religious discrimination devolve into debates about technical terms, and to watch discussions about Muslim Canadians, even when we are the victims of violence, revolve around Islamic extremism and radicalization. 

For the sake of our citizens and the future of our democracy, I hope that the remaining committee hearings will focus on interrogating the ways in which systemic racism structures our society, privileging some while and disenfranchising others.

Only by recognizing how we are all complicit in systemic racism and religious discrimination, by looking at our systemic problems square in the eye, can we begin to think about addressing and eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination.

If we look away, if we squander this opportunity, then we know for sure; the problem it not the term “Islamophobia”, the problem is us. 

Source: Systemic racism encourages half of Canadians to fear Islam and Muslims | Vancouver Sun

Why we need a parliamentary motion to fight Islamophobia: Farber and Sucharov

Very good column by Bernie Farber and Mira Sucharov:

There are times when one community within the Canadian mosaic experiences particular trauma such that succor is in order. Today, that community is Canadian Muslims. MP Iqra Khalid knew this when she proposed M-103, a private member’s motion designed to fight Islamophobia. Now, the parliamentary hearings flowing from M-103’s recommendations provide all Canadians with an opportunity to stand up to Islamophobia.

No one understands this situation better than Canadian Jews. There was a time in this country where Jews were unwelcome, seen as swarthy crooks and objects of suspicion. Attitudes softened somewhat after it became clear that such bigotry — through shameful episodes like the banning of the M.S. St. Louis — had led Canada to be complicit in the Nazi genocide of six million Jewish men, women and children.

But discrimination against Jews in Canada continued. Until the Canadian Jewish Congress challenged it in court in the early 1950s, Jews were often barred from purchasing land. Employers discriminated against applicants with Jewish-sounding names. Some resorts and country clubs kept their doors closed to Jews, and Jewish doctors were banned from practicing in some hospitals. And into the 1960s, there were strict quotas placed on the number of Jews allowed into universities.

While anti-semitism remains a scourge worldwide, in Canada it now hovers along the edges of society. Not so Islamophobia which is, unfortunately, front and centre.

With the horrific mosque attack in Quebec City last January, Canadian Muslims now have the tragic distinction of being the only people in the country’s history to have been gunned down in their house of worship. Incredibly, in the weeks following, anti-Islam protests took place across downtown Toronto. And two months after the massacre, a protestor ripped up and stomped on a Koran at a Peel District school board meeting.

And then there are the quiet prejudicial attitudes. A 2017 poll revealed that only 4 per cent of Canadians would find it “unacceptable” for their son or daughter to marry a Christian. That number jumps to 32 per cent when the hypothetical betrothed is Muslim.

M-103 follows in the tradition of supporting particular targeted groups as needed. But that support has sometimes come decades too late. In fact, it wasn’t until 2015 that a parliamentary motion was passed unanimously decrying anti-semitism. What’s more, unlike the anti-semitism motion, the text of M-103 is fully inclusive. Not only does it condemn Islamophobia, it points to the need to oppose “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

Yet critics of the motion continue to air doubts that opposing Islamophobia is worthy of Canada’s attention. In a briefing note to the parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing the motion’s recommendations, retired Canadian Forces major Russ Cooper has expressed concern that the motion will trample free speech.

Similarly, Jay Cameron of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms warns that if “M-103 is legislatively codified, the unconstitutional infringement of freedom of thought, belief, expression and religion is inevitable.”

And Father Raymond De Sousa told the hearing that “to focus on one religion alone, as M-103 suggests, would be unwise.”

All these arguments are red herrings. M-103 does nothing to change the Criminal Code. Canada’s strong speech protections remain in place. And neither does M-103 restrict anti-bigotry to one religion. Its language, as we’ve stressed above, is fully inclusive.

As Canadian Jews we understand the need for memory. With the legacy of Jewish suffering, it has become an article of faith to commemorate persecution. What we’re seeing here, sadly, is that when it comes to oppression of Canadian Muslims, there are too many attempts by too many Canadians to forget. M-103 is an attempt to resist this collective amnesia.

When it comes to Islamophobia, we fear that too many of the testimonies at the hearings to date, coupled with the many Canadians who said they would have voted against the motion, reveal the scope of the very problem the critics are claiming does not exist.

Source: Why we need a parliamentary motion to fight Islamophobia | Toronto Star

Sheema Khan’s on the limitations of the Runnymede Trust definition and the strengths of its framework:

For the past few weeks, the House of Commons Heritage Committee has been holding public consultations regarding Motion M-103.

Appearing before the Committee at the outset, M-103 sponsor Liberal MP Iqra Khalid emphasized the need for a comprehensive study of Canadians affected by racism and religious discrimination. She spoke eloquently about the painful experiences of individuals affected by prejudice and hatred, and the need for a systematic analysis of data (as required by M-103) to combat forces that are corroding our social fabric.

These are laudable goals that should be supported by all Canadians.

However, an uproar ensued when M-103 was initially tabled, because of the inclusion of the term “Islamophobia” in the motion. There were concerns about the imposition of Sharia Law, a chill on free speech, and special protection granted to Islam. Ms. Khalid received a torrent of hate mail, including death threats. Some argued that the reaction itself was proof of widespread Islamophobia.

And yet, as the Committee has heard, no one really has a handle on the term. Many definitions exist, with widely differing breadths and scopes. Ms. Khalid’s definition: “the irrational fear of Islam and/or Muslims that leads to discrimination” is the most succinct. However, this needs to be balanced by the right to criticize and question.

The term gained currency following the 1997 report on British Muslims, entitled “Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All” issued by the Runnymede Trust, a respected British think-tank. In it, Islamophobia was defined as “unfounded hostility towards Islam, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.”

The report, however, went further, by equating Islamophobia with “closed views” on Islam in eight different categories. These include Islam seen as monolithic; the “other” with no commonality with Western culture; inferior (i.e. barbaric, irrational and sexist); an enemy; and a deceitful ideology bent on political/military domination. Such closed views reject any criticism of the West by Islam, defend discrimination of Muslims, and see Islamophobia as natural. For good measure, “open views” include seeing Islam as diverse with internal debates; having shared values with other faiths; a faith worthy of respect; and a partner in the solution of shared problems.

Such a binary categorization of opinions of Islam is problematic, and was recently recognized as such by the editor of the report. However, since the term is here to stay, the Heritage Committee should devise a precise definition.

Questions and criticism about Islam are not Islamophobia. In fact, Muslims themselves engage in robust debates about modernity and Islamic practice. The cruel irony is that such debates are banned in countries that need it most.

The Heritage Committee must be careful to define Islamophobia, lest it chill the free exchange of opinions. For example, a recent online survey found that 88 per cent of Canadians believe Muslims should be treated no differently than their fellow Canadians, while 72 per cent are worried that hatred and fear of Canadian Muslims is on the rise.

Yet 56 per cent believe that “Islam suppresses women’s rights.” Are they Islamophobic? Of course not. They are entitled to their opinion. Such a critical view is understandable, given discriminatory gender practices in some Muslim cultures. Furthermore, subordination of women is often justified by theology. We need to be able to have frank discussions without the fear of being branded an “Islamophobe.”

A balance must be found between protection of free speech and protection from bigotry and hatred.

In spite of its clumsy definition of Islamophobia, The Runnymede report provides an excellent framework for identifying its deleterious effects in four areas: exclusion (from politics, employment, management); violence; discrimination (in employment and provision of services); and prejudice (in media and conversation).

In fact, this framework can be applied to comprehensive data collection and analysis for all types of racism and discrimination – which just happens to be the stated goal of the Committee.

Source: We must define Islamophobia by what it truly is – The Globe and Mail

Barbara Kay: Liberals left reeling by clear, rational criticisms of M-103

It would be far more interesting if Kay, rather than writing about the witnesses she agrees with (and which the National Post seems to be featuring more in its news coverage) would write about the one’s she disagrees with and why (similarly, those in favour of M-103 should write about the critics’ positions and the reasons for their disagreements).

Otherwise, these commentaries only reinforce the respective bubbles:

With Parliament’s passage in late March of Motion 103, which condemned “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” the Canadian Heritage Committee was tasked with a study to determine “what Canadians have to say” on the motion. Now underway, formal hearings are revealing what polls have already made clear: many Canadians find M-103 disturbing.

They dislike it because it singles out one religion for special consideration and because they don’t believe Canada is a systemically hateful nation. But they particularly fear its implications, as the principals behind M-103 — proposer MP Iqra Khalid, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, and Muslim community spokespeople — keep balking when called on to define “Islamophobia.”

(Feeding that fear: until B’nai Brith expressed public concern Monday, the newly-released Toronto District School Board’s Islamic Heritage Month Guidebook — citing input from some of the same actors engaged in promoting M-103 — defined Islamophobia as “fear, prejudice, hatred or dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture.” “Islam”? “Islamic politics or culture”? According to a TDSB representative, this ghastly mile-wide definition was chosen “in error.” Please, TDSB, a little respect for Canadians’ intelligence.)

Hearings began in June. Anti-M-103 activists, noting that the Liberals were allowed to call 36 witnesses, the NDP 12 and the Conservative Party 24, wondered if the fix was in for M-103 opposers. 

They were not heartened by Heritage Committee chairperson Hedy Fry’s on-record comment: “There is no guarantee that radical voices won’t speak at M-103 hearings.” So far, pro-M-103 voices predictably toe the Liberal party line that racism and Islamophobia are serious problems in Canada. What Fry might call “radical voices” have raised sensible, compelling challenges to this assumption, and have expressed concerns this kind of motion could eventually lead to politicians creating laws that further limit free speech.

On Sept 20, Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah (himself a victim of oppressive speech codes in his native Pakistan) testified that discouraging or limiting criticism of Islam would, in effect, most harm those secular or free-thinking Muslims who came to Canada precisely for the freedom to speak their mind to Islamic authority figures as they could not do in their countries of origin. In any case, “You cannot define (Islamophobia),” he charged, “because the word is a fraud.” According to Fatah, these bold challenges earned him such frosty treatment from “the phalanx of Liberal MPs” and “haranguing” from Fry that one MP contacted him later to apologize for the “intimidation and bullying” he had experienced.

On Sept. 27, all four individuals who testified opposed M-103.

Father Raymond J. de Souza (speaking for himself, not the Catholic Church) said it was unwise to single out any one religion, and that government should encourage theological exchange rather than impede it.

Peter Bhatti, Chair of International Christian Voice, noted that his brother was murdered in Pakistan for daring to protect Christian lives from that country’s suffocating blasphemy laws. Bhatti said anxiety over the vagueness of the term “Islamophobia” was creating distress amongst Canada’s Pakistani Christians, who see M-103 as being tantamount to a repressive blasphemy law.

Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, denounced M-103’s linkage of the word “quell” to “climate of hate and fear,” as “quell” is a word normally reserved for policing riots, not words (excellent point). “Racism is something you can’t legislate against, per se, because it begins in the mind,” he pointed out.

Raheel Raza, president of the reform-oriented Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, asked, “Why are only Muslims mentioned by name?” and, “It’s not the government’s responsibility to babysit just one community.” She suggested that instead of the government deflecting attention from retrograde Islamic behaviours like honour killings and polygamy, Canada should take a leadership role in encouraging a return to a “free thinking” model of Islam, once a widespread norm.

The Liberals were back-footed by these forcefully argued dissents. Various Liberal MPs tried to “explain” the motion, muddying the “Islamophobia” waters further and monopolizing so much time that Conservative MP David Anderson accused them of “filibustering their time.”

One witness who earned the right to testify was shunted to “standby” status as a replacement in the unlikely event of a dropout. Major (Ret’d) Russ Cooper is a highly decorated combat veteran of the first Gulf War, recognized by the Air Force for courage and leadership in his role. The M-103 pushback campaign was kicked off by Cooper’s national anti-M-103 petition drive, which garnered 27,000 signatures and was then leveraged by other outlets to gain 200,000 signatures. Cooper’s prepared testimony to the hearings, which may never be heard formally, is a model of reason, clarity and high intelligence. You can read it in an online Canadian Heritage Committee briefing note. And the pith of his argument can be viewed on this concise YouTube video.

Stay tuned. Far from the slam-dunk feel-goody gesture it was meant to be, M-103 is looking more and more like a pivotal political and cultural moment in Canadian history.

Source: Barbara Kay: Liberals left reeling by clear, rational criticisms of M-103 | National Post

Robert Fulford: A history of ‘Islamophobia,’ a word of dubious value

I always find it surprising that some people can can devote column space to the word Islamophobia without any discussion of the real world issues of discrimination and prejudice that many Canadian and other Western Muslims have experienced. This is essentially a more sophisticated version of the earlier commentary by Candice Malcolm (M-103 weaponizes what a ‘phobia’ is).

A cop-out IMO. One could argue that an excessive focus on the word Islamophobia is in itself a reflection of Islamophobia (or if you wish, anti-Muslim attitudes):

Every era has special words that ignite resentful arguments and reveal difficult emotions. There’s no doubt that Islamophobia is our word, a painful term that’s hard to avoid.

It functions as a rhetorical weapon. Whoever uses it (and many do) is trying to convict someone else of chauvinism and a thoughtless prejudice against Muslims and Islam. It’s a protective word, a shield against Muslims being damaged by criticism and argument.

Pascal Bruckner, the French philosopher, who has spent a great deal of time working on this issue, summarizes his opinion in a few words: “There’s No Such Thing as Islamophobia. Critique of religion is a fundamental Western right, not an illness.”

A phobia is a medical term, an anxiety disorder stirred up by irrational fear of heights, or perhaps spiders or snakes and other repellent creatures. Few would confess to feeling that way about Islam. Fewer still would seek treatment of their negative reactions to Islam.

Islam is a titanic force in this era and we talk about it and write about it often. But we hardly know how to express ourselves. We stutter and stammer when it comes up and sometimes we may use words like Islamophobia to censor ourselves. From Barack Obama down we have wrestled with attempts to define Islam or interpret it. Obama actually said that the Islamic State is not Islamic, as if he would know. He said Islam is a religion of love and peace, to which the only honest reply is: Sometimes Yes, sometimes No.

Our thinking on this subject can be affected by a sense of guilt, conscious or unconscious. Many Muslims are from places conquered and then dominated by European imperialists. Bruckner has investigated this fact in his book, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism.

“Nothing is more Western than hatred of the West,” Bruckner says. “All of modern thought can be reduced to mechanical denunciations of the West, emphasizing the latter’s hypocrisy, violence, and abomination.”

The hard truth is that many non-Muslims find it difficult to speak about (or to) Muslims. Our intentions are confusing, even to us. We hope for good relations with Muslims who live among us and we assume that they are as appalled as we are by violence committed in the name of their religion. We also hope they know that Islam, though sacred to them, is also the scourge of millions when it’s interpreted literally by blindly self-righteous mass murderers.

We know they seem more sensitive, in a way, than others. They can’t easily shrug off humiliation. Le Monde in Paris pointed out that Charlie Hebdo, the satire magazine, devoted only four per cent of its covers to ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed; meanwhile, the same artists had been mocking Jesus, Moses, the Dalai Lama, and the various popes for 40 years. But Islamist killers were so offended by the four per cent that, in January 2015, they assassinated most of the staff.

Le Monde’s comparison means nothing. The killers could reason that Jesus, the popes and the rest are of little importance. The Prophet, on the other hand, is a crucial figure in their daily lives and they must protect him from humiliation.

Bruckner is of course right when he says that critique of religion is a fundamental Western right, but committed Muslims are not entirely in the West. They are in a larger place, the world they imagine, where no such right exists. Perhaps they know that Christianity and Judaism broke into pieces because their rules permitted serious, long-ranging criticism of their most basic principles.

The word Islamophobia originated in the early 20th century. An early use was in a French biography of Muhammad (“islamophobie”). Sometimes it was used internally, within Islam, to identify a fear of Islam felt by liberal Muslims and Muslim feminists, rather than a fear or dislike of Muslims by non-Muslims. It was given an official imprimatur in 2004 when Kofi Annan, then the UN Secretary-General, said the word Islamophobia had to be coined in order to “take account of increasingly widespread bigotry.” From there on it was part of language, a word of dubious value.

Source: National Post | Full Comment » Full…

M-103 weaponizes what a ‘phobia’ is: Candice Malcolm

If only the federal Conservatives and conservative media had as much sense as the Ontario Conservative leader Patrick Brown (“hate is hate”).

The definition issue is a ‘blue herring’ as there is the existing definition of the Runnymede Trust and the Canadian Heritage committee will no doubt develop a working definition (as was done for antisemitism):

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, defined by an excessive and irrational fear of an object or situation.

It’s a medical condition, and clinical psychologists study the impact of this persistent and often debilitating illness.

But what was once a scientific term of measurable phenomenon, has now been manipulated for political purposes.

First, it was used pejoratively to describe those who oppose gay marriage.

Some activists learned that calling their opponents “homophobic” was more effective than getting into the weeds of the historic definition of marriage — and why it ought to be expanded to include same-sex relationships.

The tactic was successful, and other groups began using the “phobia” card to stifle debate and paint their opponents as bigots.

Today’s “phobias” no longer describe an irrational fear or anxiety disorder, but a person with the wrong opinion about an issue.

Homophobia, for example, is now defined as “a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality … often related to religious beliefs.”

At least homophobia has a common definition.

Other new phobias, such as “Islamophobia”, have no agreed upon definition.

The term “Islamophobia” was popularized in the 1990s by a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood that promotes Sharia law.

It was introduced to promote victimhood amongst Muslims.

A former adherent of this group, Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, now rejects Islamist ideology and says this of Islamophobia: “This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliché conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.”

The ultimate purpose was to advance the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission — to impose Sharia law — by silencing critics and stifling free debate.

Islamophobia is more than just a new buzzword.

Its origins are tied to organizations that advocate for Islamist theocracy and to countries that impose barbaric blasphemy laws against those who criticize Islam.

This didn’t stop our Parliament, led by Liberal MP Irqa Khalid, from passing a motion specifically condemning “Islamophobia” earlier this year.

Conservative MPs offered an olive branch, suggesting the motion remove the term “Islamophobia” and replace it with a universal condemnation of “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination.”

The Liberals rejected this compromise.

The heritage committee is now studying ways to implement a “whole-of-government” approach to combatting this vague, politicized concept.

But Canada already has laws on the books covering a range of crimes that could be motivated by hatred and bigotry.

In fact, Canada has some of the English-speaking world’s most draconian rules prohibiting “hate speech” — another often vague and politicized concept.

Some hate speech laws are administered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which many see as Canada’s own version of a kangaroo court.

Canadians should be worried that M-103 may provide such bodies with more ammunition for their social justice crusades, and more power to stomp on our freedoms and impose penalties for “wrongthink”.

That’s the thing about M-103. At best, it’s sloppy and redundant grandstanding — a waste of time and resources.

At worst, it’s an exercise in the weaponization of words — a deliberate effort to stifle speech and carve out new immunity for Islamists trying to impose their religion on others.

Either way, most Canadians rightly reject this nonsense.

An Angus Reid poll found 42% of Canadians would have voted against M-103, with only 29% in support.

A mere 12% said it would be effective.

If only our Liberal government had as much common sense.

Source: M-103 weaponizes what a ‘phobia’ is | MALCOLM | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto S