The Canadian government recently unveiled a new anti-racism strategy that dedicates $45 million to fight systemic discrimination through community programs, public education campaigns and combating online hate.
While it’s good to combat racism and bigotry at every level, this particular anti-racism strategy is based on key recommendations that came from the anti-Islamophobia motion M103.
When Motion M103 was first introduced in Canada by MP Iqra Khalid, we were among the individuals and organizations that expressed concern about use of the term “Islamophobia.”
I was invited to give testimony at the capital in Ottawa about my concerns, which I expressed along with a number of members of parliament.
I explained that the term Islamophobia was created in the 1990s, when groups affiliated to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood decided to play victim for the purpose of beating down critics. It is also in sync with a constant push by the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) to turn any criticism of Islam or Muslims into racism and bigotry.
The Heritage Committee which promoted M103 recommended the government update its national action plan against racism and create a directorate to implement the plan — recommendations Ottawa has now fulfilled.
While M103 did not define Islamophobia, this plan does. Specifically, it defines Islamophobia as “Includ(ing) racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial proﬁling, Islamophobia can lead to viewing and treating Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic and societal level.”
This definition has been taken upon recommendation from a Muslim group that say they represent all Canadian Muslims when, in actuality, they don’t.
Despite the fact that Islamophobia is one of the key components of this new anti-racism strategy, some Muslims are still not happy with the newly unveiled anti-racism document because it’s not more specific in use of the term Islamophobia.
Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology and Muslim studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, and someone who has been front and center about the so-called racism and bigotry against Muslims in Canada, said she’s disappointed the document “barely acknowledges” Islamophobia, noting it only once references the 2017 shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that left six dead.
“The lack of political will to address or even acknowledge Islamophobia is an affront to those who were murdered in the QC massacre in an act of terror inspired by white nationalism as well as to all Canadian Muslims,” Zine wrote in an email.
Our concerns still remain:
- Who will receive this funding to fight racism? There are a number of Islamist organizations which have given recommendations, written umpteen letters to support M013 and are waiting on the sidelines to get the funding.
- As it should be in a secular country (which we strive for), the state should have no business getting involved in religious matters. Racism, discrimination and bigotry need to be addressed head on through dialogue, engagement and honest debate. This can only happen when there is freedom of expression.
- By using the term “Islamophobia” in the document, the state is singling out one faith community, as though Islam and Muslims are exclusive and need special attention. In fact, statistics show that hate crimes against the Aboriginal peoples, Jews, Blacks and LGBTQ communities are the highest.
As for Muslims, just how badly they are really treated? There are approximately over 100 Mosques and 50 Islamic organizations just in the greater Toronto area (and growing). There are 11 Muslim MP’s in our government and Muslim prayers are taking place in some public schools. This doesn’t look like systemic racism to me!
By the way, anti-racism programs like this are not just happening in Canada. Pakistan has just proposed a six-point plan at the United Nations to address faith-based hatred and Islamophobia.
The plan was proposed by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi at an event titled “Countering Terrorism and Other Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.” The event was organized by Pakistan with Turkey, the Holy See and the UN.
Cheeky coming from two countries where minorities are routinely discriminated against and oppressed.