M-103 is not a “blasphemy law” as some on the right have characterized it, it is only a motion. However, it seems to pave the way for more heavy-handed sanctions of expression that may happen to offend certain religious sensibilities. If you believe in free speech, M-103 and its implications need to be understood because it is extremely flawed and opens the door to ugly and divisive identity politics that do not belong in an institution like the Parliament.
The text of the Motion (M-103: Systemic racism and religious discrimination) reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should:
(a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear;
(b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and
(c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could
(i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making,
(ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Systemic racism and religious discrimination”
First of all, the title “Systemic racism and religious discrimination” takes for granted that there is systemic racial/religious discrimination. In order for that to be true, Canadian law would have to allow this systemic discrimination to exist. To the contrary, the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race or religion. Therefore, there is no “Systemic racism and religious discrimination”.
If systemic discrimination exists somewhere in the systems of government, then the governing Liberal party is fully empowered to do something about it, and so they should. However, in the mindset of identity politics: systemic discrimination is everywhere!
“climate of hate and fear”
The motion asserts that there is an “increasing public climate of hate and fear”. There is no evidence of “increasing public climate of hate and fear” being offered. That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Nonetheless, this fake news was previously debunked here on this blog.
Ironically Ms. Khalid later invokes the phrase “evidence-based policy-making” without citing any evidence for the incendiary and hyperbolic characterizations she takes for granted in her motion.
Let’s be honest, there is no significant “climate of hate and fear” in Canada. Or at least no more so than anywhere else in the world. The statement says more about the mindset of regressive Liberals like Ms. Khalid than it does about most Canadians. Most of all, Canadians are concerned about economics. That is where politicians need to focus rather than on these fractious race baiting debates.
“the need to quell”
The very first action being recommended by this motion is “the need to quell” the fictional “increasing public climate of hate and fear”. In the context of our Parliament, the word quell is disturbing. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it means:
Quell: Put an end to (a rebellion or other disorder), typically by the use of force.
“Quell” is what was done to Louis Riel in 1885.
Either the use of the word “quell” is yet more grandiose hyperbole, or it is a threat of violence. At best, it is a divisive and irresponsible word to use. Moreover, it is a threat against free speech meant to intimidate those who have legitimate concerns about how certain religious/political ideologies are influencing Canada and the world.
The tone of M-103 with the use of words like “quell” makes it clear that Ms. Khalid, and the Liberal Party, don’t believe in pushing back against bigotry by challenging bad ideas through honest dialog. No, that would call for some intellectual rigor. Perhaps they realize the futility of this approach because the facts are not on their side. Because, M-103 has nothing to do with facts!
“Islamophobia” is a made-up word with no agreed upon definition. The word would seem to suggest an irrational fear of Islam. Nowhere in the motion is the word defined. For example, is it possible to criticize Islam, as a set of ideas, without being labelled an “Islamophobe”? Progressive Muslims, who speak out against political Islam, are often accused of being “Islamophobic” by fundamentalist Muslims. Does Ms. Khalid seek to silence progressive Muslims who offend their Islamist counterparts? Who gets to decide?
Furthermore, there is significant bigotry within the Muslim community such as that directed towards Ahmadi Muslims by Sunni Muslims. Is Ms. Khalid going to recognize this form of “Islamophobia”?
Islam is a set of ideas (religious, legal, and political). No idea is above scrutiny. The freedom of Canadians to criticize, mock, or satirize a set of ideas is a paramount right (or at least it ought to be).
Fundamentalist adherents of Islam believe that Islam is not only a religion but also a way of organizing society as a political system. It is for this reason that many Islamic nations don’t recognize the United Nations declaration of Human Rights and have created their own sharia law based Cairo Declaration which systematically discriminates against women and non-Muslims. Aside from a minority of Muslim reformers, the concept of church/state separation is anathema to Islam.
What political system, besides Islam, is it considered wrong or hateful to criticize? If Muslims were only peacefully worshiping in the privacy of their homes and mosques without demanding special accommodations (Islamic prayers in public schools, segregated swimming, etc. (not to mention violent acts of jihad) then no one would be concerned about Islam.
Why We Should Care
M-103 is a poorly worded, nonbinding motion for the purpose of virtue signaling and furthering the career of Ms. Khalid. Why should we care?
First of all, the motion is a call to action whereby a committee will make recommendations. By formally accepting the motion, our parliament is opening a can of worms that will only deepen divisions and shut down legitimate debate. The mainstream political tone in all government institutions is already overwhelmingly multicultural and inclusive. In addition to heavy social prohibitions on discriminatory rhetoric, Canada has strong laws against racism and discrimination. The implication by Ms. Khalid that this isn’t enough begs the question about how far she would go to curtail free speech. A chilling thought.
Furthermore, peddling of the “Islamophobia” canard by political demagogues like Ms. Khalid infantilizes Canadian Muslim’s. It hurts progressive Muslims who want to be able to challenge the Islamist demagogues. We need to protect their right to free speech rather than the desire of some fundamentalist Muslims not to be offended.
By singling out “Islamophobia” while ignoring the statistically much larger problem of anti-Semitism, Ms. Khalid, as an MP in the ruling government, is engaging in religious discrimination. Should M-103 be passed by a vote of Parliament, then the machinery of government will have been co-opted into what is arguably a “systemic” act of discrimination.
Canadians across the political and religious spectrum need to reject M-103 and any activity by government officials to socially engineer Canadian attitudes and speech. If the identity politics being practiced by Ms. Khalid isn’t soundly denounced, the authoritarian impulse to control free speech will be irresistible. That is not the Canadian way.