An interfaith group is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to defeat a private member’s motion that condemns Islamophobia and calls on Parliament to develop a strategy to eliminate it.
David Nitkin and Tariq Khan, co-chairs of Muslim Jewish Dialogue of Toronto, wrote letters to Trudeau Feb. 7 saying motion M-103, which has not passed Parliament, and Petition E-411, which has, “are antithetical to the Canadian values we cherish.”
“Like all religious groups, Muslims are already protected under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and criminal law. They do not need a separate law which is supported by groups that have close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and in essence are trying to put in place a form of sharia blasphemy law,” they state.
At the same time, Media Action Group circulated a petition urging its supporters to write their MPs to protest “two motions before Parliament which threaten our basic right to freedom of speech” and could lead to sharia blasphemy laws.
Motion M-103 was introduced by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid and is scheduled to come to a vote Feb. 16.
It features several clauses urging the government “to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear, condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism,” and calls on the standing committee on Canadian heritage to study ways the government could eliminate racism and Islamophobia, and report to the House of Commons within 240 days.
The motion also calls on the House to “take note” of Petition E-411. That online petition was initiated by Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, and was presented to Parliament in June 2016. Its sponsor was MP Frank Baylis.
It asserts that anti-Muslim sentiment has risen in the West after terror attacks by “an infinitesimally small number of extremist individuals” who “misrepresent the religion.”
The key section of the petition calls on the House to recognize that fact and condemn all forms of Islamophobia. It passed unanimously.
Neither Petition E-411 nor Motion M-103 define Islamophobia, nor do they provide data to support the assertion that anti-Muslim sentiment is rising. The petition was presented to Parliament six months before the Quebec City mosque attack in which six worshippers were gunned down. The motion was presented Dec. 1, also before the mosque attack.
Nitkin says the term “Islamophobia” is problematic. While neither the motion nor the petition define it, a working definition has been adopted by a collection of Arab states. “They determined that any criticism of Islam should be called Islamophobia and should be haram [forbidden] and punished by death,” he said.
Muslims he meets as part of Muslim Jewish Dialogue are concerned that passing the motion will strengthen the hands of radical imams in Canada. “They feel we in the west mollycoddle them and infantilize them. They are mature and feel as threatened as we do by overt Muslim Brotherhood ideology here in Canada,” Nitkin said.
There are already three Muslim religious leaders in Toronto who perform marriages in which men are permitted temporary wives, and multiple marriages, contrary to Canadian law, Nitkin said.
One of those leaders was photographed with Trudeau, leading some Muslims to question whether the government supports radicals in their community, he added.
In Ottawa, meanwhile, Shimon Fogel CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said, “We have engaged with the MP sponsoring the motion to explore possible amendments, specifically with regard to defining Islamophobia and to ensure that the motion fulfills its intended purpose of unifying parliament in condemning anti-Muslim hate in Canada.”
While it is important to show solidarity with the Muslim community, “it is vital that such statements serve this intended purpose and are not hijacked by those with an alternate agenda to stifle honest and legitimate civil discourse,” he said.
“The Jewish community wants to demonstrate its support and solidarity with a Muslim community that feels under siege, but this cannot come at the cost of a constructive conversation about those elements or manifestations of Islam that are not only antithetical to Canadian values, but have been the basis of hatred toward and attacks on Jewish communities around the world,” Fogel said.
Khan, a former Pakistani journalist who founded Weekly Press Pakistan, said “some imams are trying to enforce sharia law in Canada and that is not accepted by Muslims.
“Muslims in Canada are very happy. There is no discrimination that we have ever faced… There is no problem of Islamophobia for Muslims,” he said.
Khan said existing Canadian laws protect Muslims, just as they do other Canadians. “Why should it be particularly about Muslims?… We have no problems, generally.”
Data compiled by Statistics Canada from police reports don’t support the contention Muslims are being particularly targeted for hate crimes. Police-reported hate crimes, such as assault, mischief and harassment, for 2014, the most recent year for which there are statistics, showed blacks were the most targeted group, with 238 incidents, followed by Jews (213), victims based on sexual orientation(155), and Muslims (99).
In 2013, Blacks again held the dubious distinction of being the most targeted group, with 255 incidents, followed by sexual orientation at 186, Jews at 181 and Muslims at 65.
In 2012, Blacks led the way with 295 reported criminal incidents targeting them, followed by Jews at 242, sexual orientation at 185 and Muslims at 45.
While Statistics Canada won’t release its national data for 2015 until June, Toronto Police Service’s hate crimes unit reported that in 2015, Jews were the single most victimized group, with 31 occurrences reported, followed by members of the LGBTQ community with 29, Muslims with 26 and Blacks with 20.
In 2014, Jews were targeted with 44 occurrences, compared to 27 by the LGBT community, Blacks with 20 and Muslims with 16.