Anti-Islamophobia Motion Shows What Canada Stands For

Sunset in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The world is watching, Canada.

Given global circumstances, Canada has been uniquely placed to capture the world's attention and admiration. While Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States grapple with a political climate that has become more hostile to Islam, Canada has had the opportunity to affirm itself as a beacon of inclusivity and diversity. Canada has been positioned to send a symbolic message not only to its global allies, but more importantly, to the thousands of Muslim-Canadian families at home.

Canada has not been immune from the cultural fanaticism transpiring across the world and the United States. Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada have significantly increased yearly. Fourteen Muslims were shot by a Canadian while peacefully praying in a mosque in Quebec City. A group of Canadians protested outside a mosque, holding signs saying "Muslims are terrorists," while Muslims were praying inside. Just the other week, Concordia University and McGill University received a bomb threat citing specifically the presence of Muslims on campus as motivation. This is on top of the mosques that have been vandalized and individuals subjugated based on how they look or what they believe.

This is not to reduce the prevalence of many other hate crimes against Jews, Christians, Hindus and people of all faith. However, it is calling on the Canadian government to address and act as a leader on a particularly salient issue in the global political climate.

M-103, the House's recently passed motion condemning Islamophobia, was a necessary first step.

Critics have continued to argue that because the motion specifically mentions Islamophobia, it inherently preferences Islam over other religions. In fact, however, the government has passed motions like this historically: the House (indeed, under Conservative leadership) has denounced hatred against other groups, including Jews, Yazidis and Egyptian Coptic Christians in the past. Further, the motion itself explicitly "condemn[s] Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religion discrimination" (emphasis added). Therefore, it is not even exclusive to Muslims, but includes other forms of discrimination as well.

Critics have also argued that M-103 impedes on free speech because criticism of Islam or Shariah law could be construed as Islamophobia. M-103 is a non-binding motion; therefore, it does not have the force of law like a bill. Canada has a unique history of being able to balance the protection of freedom of speech while criminalizing hate speech. M-103 is completely consistent with the Canadian legal tradition.

Finally, critics have pointed to the fact that, according to a survey published by the Angus Reid Institute last week, only one in 10 (12 per cent) Canadians believe that this motion will have a tangible impact on how Canadians view the Muslim community. This argument fundamentally misses the point.

Whether or not this motion has a tangible impact on the Muslim community is not the issue; the importance of M-103 is rooted in the symbolic message attached to it. The very fact that this motion has been subject to public outcry, nationwide protests, and was opposed by 91 members of Parliament has sent a signal to Muslim communities in Canada and elsewhere that perhaps Canada is not as welcoming and inclusive as its citizens believe.

In a world where Muslims are facing heightened criticism and violence, simply based on their belief system, Canada has sent a powerful message that reverberates across all factions: Canada stands with Muslims. This is what M-103 accomplishes. And this is the kind of religious tolerance and inclusiveness that make Canada a model for diversity around the world.

These are real Canadian values.

Richad Hirani is a student at Harvard Law School who completed his undergraduate studies in Political Science at McGill University with first-class honors. At Harvard, he works as a Research Assistant and as a Senior Editor for the Harvard Business Law Review. He is interested in global affairs, public and private mergers and acquisitions, and civil rights litigation.

( Source: Huffington Post )


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