We should stand in solidarity with Muslim-Canadians

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

When I jointly seconded my colleague MP Iqra Khalid’s Motion 103, I thought it was a no-brainer.

In the immediate wake of the Quebec attack, and in the wake of a doubling of hate crimes against Muslim-Canadians over the last three years (while hate crimes overall have decreased), M-103 calls on our government to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, and calls for our Heritage Committee to study how we can reduce or eliminate all systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia.

Strangely, M-103 has become a divisive issue in our House of Commons, despite the fact that a similar motion recently passed unanimously in Ontario’s provincial legislature.

Conservative MP Kellie Leitch and company led the charge against the motion, claiming that it is an assault on free speech. But as the ardent defender of free speech, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association put it: “Not only does M-103 not restrict or censor speech, it is not a bill and is not a law. There is no rational argument that M-103…restricts or constrains section 2(b)” of our Charter.

Other federal Conservatives, in a related attack, claimed that Islamophobia is undefined and that we should not condemn legitimate criticism of radical Islam.

I agree that we should not condemn rational criticism of any religion, or of any other ideology or movement for that matter. I do not agree that M-103 asks us to do that.

We can criticize the treatment of women in Islam and Christianity, without being Islamophobic or Christophobic. We can criticize the organizers of Pride for excluding police officers without being homophobic. We can criticize a policy of open borders without being xenophobic.

More, we can dispute whether certain examples fall within any one of these definitions, and at the same time agree that each of these discriminatory ideas should be condemned.

Still, other federal Conservatives complained that M-103 lacked inclusivity by focusing on Islamophobia.

These same MPs forget that our House unanimously condemned global anti-Semitism in February 2015. Calling attention to particular kinds of discrimination does not preclude our caring to end others.

In any event, M-103 condemns all religious discrimination and racism. It singles out Islamophobia only as an example, and it does so for good reason.

After all, we live in a world in which anti-Muslim prejudices have increased ever since 9/11, and in a country that saw six men shot recently at a mosque in Quebec City by an apparent alt-right extremist. The current President of the Unites States has said “I think Islam hates us,” and called for a Muslim ban during the election. My colleague Iqra received a number of shocking and explicitly hateful messages in response to introducing M-103. And at a recent and depressing protest outside of a downtown Toronto mosque, signs read “Ban Islam” and “Muslims are terrorists.”

Islamophobia is a real phenomenon in our society. In the wake of the Quebec attack, we should stand in solidarity with Muslim-Canadians. And while M-103 is largely symbolic, symbols matter.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the Liberal MP for Beaches-East York.

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7 comments

Nathaniel obviously doesn’t get it when he says that we can criticize the treatment of women in Islam….without being Islamophobic.” Oh really, Nathaniel? Perhaps you’d like to give us some examples of what is considered “acceptable” criticism of Islam? Because every single time there is ANY criticism of Islam in any form whatsoever, the first reaction from the press, as well as your government and its sympathizers, is to condemn the participants as “Islamophobic”. Is it a question of accuracy, Nathaniel? Would the signs at that protest been more acceptable to you and your government if they’d read, “Ban Radical Islam” or “Some Muslims are Terrorists”? What degree of Free Speech that involves criticism of Islam is considered acceptable to you, Nathaniel?

Michael Provost I am compelled to take exception to your characterization of behaviours and attitudes if some people as whilly representative of all others of the same faith.
Not all women if the Islamic faith are subjugated and opressed by all men if the Islamic faith.
It is quite simply ill informed and inapprooriate ti call fir banning entry to Canad, deporting from Canada all people who follow the Muslim faith because of the attitudes and behaviours of a small minority of the various subdivisions of the nearly 2 billion muslims in the world.

Nice straw man, Stephen. Opposing M103 is not equivalent to “…ti call fir banning entry to Canad, deporting from Canada all people who follow the Muslim faith…” (sic). Can we have an adult conversation here?

We’ll reasoned, well written and balanced editorial on a bill that should have been a no-brainer, as Erskine Smith states. All minorities in Canada deserve to be respected and understood, but it is important to give extra support to a group that is currently being targeted here and across the world. The Bill states what our values are and should be.

Thank you for writing this and supporting this motion. I find this debate and the rise in Islamaphobia since the American election very depressing. As for Michael Provost, I think the questions you posed to our Member of Parliament would be better directed to one of your Muslim neighbours. I think you may learn something through face to face interaction.

I think racism and discrimination and hate are everyone’s fear and responsibility to fight but to not blame the speech of some imams and the actions of some muslim is being blind to the overwhelming pressure puts on being the victim and being the only truth . Islam like every else should partake in the responsibility of making a peaceful canada and world. Most muslims probably Don t want this for themselves or their children. M103 is like keeping people in a perpetual state of having a mom or dad analyzing everything you say. Lack of freedom to vent or criticize leads to more hatred and insanity. To perpetually venge school bullying is not going forward, it s staying in the pain. Solutions need to be found against bullying and against discrimination of all sorts but to control free speech, I Don t think is the solution. Heal the pain! To hate or shut people up does not heal the pain.

Very well spoken Nathaniel. I think you’ve encapsulated rational thought on this issue and I fully support what you are saying. We need to be outspoken on our refusal to accept racism (religionism?) in all its forms. That, of course, does not mean we cannot criticize religion or debate it – but we must refuse to hate others because of it. Thank you Nathaniel.

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