Canadians should oppose the anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103

Canadians, regardless of their political affiliation, should stand firmly against M-103, the motion by liberal MP Iqra Khalid that urges among other things the government to “develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” M-103 is not a bill, but its natural evolution could be a law criminalizing any speech, opinion or action that promotes so-called Islamophobia.

When she tabled her motion, Khalid cited her childhood experience. “ When I moved to Canada in the 1990s, a young girl trying to make this nation my home, some kids in school would yell as they pushed me, ‘Go home, you Muslim’ — but I was home. I am among thousands of Muslims who have been victimized because of hate and fear,” she said.

I sympathize. Living in Saudi Arabia as a young Christian boy, I was called an infidel by Saudi children, and made to feel inferior. We were not allowed to exercise our faith. In my native Egypt, millions of Christians live under systematic discrimination and widespread intolerance. Christianity, not Islam, is the most persecuted religion in the world today. My wife recently lost two second cousins, beautiful young women, the only children of their parents, in the recent bombing at the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. I understand the pain of ignorance, hatred, prejudice, discrimination and intolerance. But I don’t call it Christianophobia, because it isn’t. It is ignorance, hatred, prejudice, discrimination and intolerance. In fact, here in Montreal, I experience denigration of my Christian faith daily by Quebecers who use the holiest religious terms routinely as expletives.

Ignorance and insensitivity are not phobia, however. Phobia is a medical term, denoting a pathological and irrational fear. The proper definition of Islamophobia is not irrational hatred of Muslims, but irrational fear of Islam. Hatred of Muslim Canadians, or any other group, is always wrong. Incitement to discrimination or violence against any group is illegal and always should be.

But let us not confuse the issues. On the same day Khalid tabled her motion, an e-petition with nearly 70,000 signatures was tabled that called on the House of Commons to recognize that “extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam,” and to condemn all forms of Islamophobia.

Extremist individuals? We are living in an age where depraved terrorist armies, who cite a unifying explanation for their actions in Islamic texts and doctrine, occupy large swaths of entire nations. Even if we dismiss these hundreds of thousands of extremists, and instead examine mainstream Islamic societies, what do we find? We find nation after nation where apostasy is a crime punishable by death, indigenous minorities are robbed of equal citizenship and religious dissent is considered treason. A charge of Islamophobia is used to silence, marginalize and imprison the few liberal Muslim thinkers who are attempting to reform Islam from within, and the weapon to subjugate and humiliate minorities. Who, then, represents Islam?

Fear of these existing realities and open discussion of their roots and implications is not irrational. If Canada joins this Islamophobia witch hunt, it will be complicit in the crimes committed in the name of preventing Islamophobia.

The demagoguery of Islamophobia is already manifest in the Liberals’ apparent quest to brand all opposed to M-103 as extremists, racists and bigots. All three opposition parties supported an alternative motion that urged the House to condemn “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities.” No Liberal MP supported the motion; it seems they did not have the guts to defy their prime minister and be — well — liberal.

The boundary of political correctness has to be the point where it becomes official policy, something that could open the way for the enactment of enforcement measures in future. We have reached that boundary at M-103. Canadians should reject it, and reject it loudly.

Sherif Emil is a Montreal physician.

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