As I’ve written before, there’s a big fracas in Canadian politics about a motion (“M-103”, which is not a law but a recommendation) against religious discrimination, one that singles out “Islamophobia” as deserving special mention. The bill was introduced last December by the Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, a Pakistani-Canadian, and is being discussed now in the House of Commons. Here it is, and I’ve bolded the contentious part:
Systemic racism and religious discrimination
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.
It’s been criticized for singling out Muslims among all religions, for the possibility that it could chill freedom of speech, and for not defining “Islamophobia,” a mistake that could, if the word were loosely construed, be used to deem criticism of Islam as “hate speech.” The Conservatives have objected to this bill on the grounds of the nebulous meaning of “Islamophobia,” and suggested that the term be removed. A liberal, Irwin Kotler (see below) agreed, saying it should be replaced by “anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Well, I agree about the term, but not that one religion should be singled out. That privileges Islam, and I understand that earlier motions have privileged Judaism. That, too, should be rejected, and the motion could simply call for freedom of religion and opposition to discrimination based on religion—much as the U.S.’s First Amendment does. (Well, it used to until the Hobby Lobby decision came along.)
I’m not sure where the term “Islamophobia” originated, but what it really means is “fear of Islam”, not, as most people use it, “bigotry against Muslims,” or “Muslimophobia”. I myself reject any bigotry or discrimination against Muslims, but I have to say that of all religions, I’m most scared of Islam, which has the potential to do incredible damage to the planet—and in fact is doing so now. If that makes me an “Islamophobe,” so be it. But during the Inquisition (and even a bit now), I’d have been a “Catholicphobe” because of the bad effects Catholicism has on the world. I’ve always thought the word “Islamophobia” should be understood by everyone to mean “fear of Islam,” while bigotry against Muslims should be called simply “bigotry against Muslims.” It’s not “racism,” either, for Muslims aren’t a race: they adhere to a religion and come from many different ethnic groups.
All of these points are made by the CBC interviewer in this discussion with Mélanie Joly, Liberal member of the House of Commons and Minister of Canadian Heritage in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. Joly has previously called the Canadian motion “cynical,” and noted that “Islamophobia is clear. It’s a discrimination against Muslims, people of Muslim faith, and it’s a term we can’t be afraid to use.” She’s clearly confused, and that shows in her interview below, where she dissembles and evades the interviewer’s very reasonable points, which include these (direct quotes):
“It’s not “Muslimophobia’. . . it’s ‘Islamophobia‘, which is a religion: Islam is not a race, it’s not a people—it’s a religion.”
“The argument is about the word ‘Islamophobia,’ which for some people means, literally, what it says: fear of Islam, which is a religion—which is subject to reasonable criticism. Someone may say that I object, strongly, to Islamic ideas like the death to apostates, death to the infidels, death to gays. They may object to those things and those are reasonable objections; and that is fear of Islam. But it’s not discrimination against Muslims. Do you agree that there is a distinction?”
“But you have the power to make that conversation much, much easier with a very simple step suggested by a very distinguished liberal, Irwin Kotler. . . who makes the proposal, ‘Why don’t you just say anti-Muslim bigotry’; then we know we are talking about people, not ideas. Why don’t we do that?”
Joly doesn’t even try to respond to these points; she’s working above her pay grade and is sworn to defend the motion without even thinking about how to respond to counterarguments.
I’d much rather have the interviewer in Parliament than the dissimulating Joly. Reader Diana MacPherson identified him for me:
I hope the rest of Trudeau’s cabinet is savvier than Joly.