Politics blog: Anti-Islamophobia motion divides the country even more

M-103, a motion asking members of the House of Commons to condemn “islamophobia” and “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” was passed on March 23, with 201 MPs voting in favour of the motion and 91 voting against. But what has the anti-islamophobia motion actually done for Canadians?

Since it is a motion, it hasn’t really done anything concrete. Motions aren’t bills; I’ve seen a lot of remarks from people who think Islamophobia is now illegal. This is not the case. However, the message the motion sent out to Canadians was that we shouldn’t be Islamophobic. The motion is well-intended as no one deserves to be subject to discrimination. But I believe working with “antis” instead of trying to find ways to bring people together will have the opposite effect desired.

No one wants to be told they can’t think a certain way. Here, we have a government saying we can’t be Islamophobic. But what is Islamophobia? The word itself is already too vague to properly define. It is a neologism, not a word that we can fully consider accepted into mainstream language. If we break down the word, it becomes even more nonsensical. A phobia is a medical term, and it characterizes very intense, irrational fears that affect someone’s ability to live their everyday life. Therefore, to call negative feelings towards Islam a “phobia” is misleading. If we can’t go to the root of the word to understand it’s meaning, it is then largely left to interpretation. It is therefore too vague and shouldn’t be used lightly by our government.

That being said, Islamophobia is used mostly to describe negative feelings towards Islam. Now, can we really tell people how they are and aren’t allowed to feel towards the religion? Is it really so irrational to have some concerns towards the ideology behind most terrorist attacks in our time?

Of course, as a society, we should not ever consider it okay to use such concerns as means to justify bigotry and hate towards the peaceful, hard-working and valuable Muslim Canadian population. But passing a motion against “Islamophobia” is probably the worst way to encourage inclusiveness. A motion like that makes every single person with some concerns towards Islam feel targeted, like they should feel ashamed and be condemned. As a reaction, people will likely start to dislike Muslims even more. To them, a questionable ideology appears to be getting preferential treatment from our government, which creates more division, and more hate.

We also need to note what such things mean for free speech. We live in a world today where opinions, and even facts, are censored out of fear of offending someone. Just look at the University of Toronto professor, Jordan B. Peterson, who is faced with countless protests simply for exercising his right to academic free speech. And the McGill professor Andrew Potter, who had to resign because he dared express his views. The silencing of academics for the sake of a political agenda should be taken very seriously. Where are we headed if we live in a world where people can’t voice their views in case someone gets offended? And worse, where are we headed if that trend is backed by our government?

Liberals should instead have passed a motion on inclusiveness and acceptance. No one is going to feel attacked by a motion like that. But an “anti-Islamophobia” motion is the wrong approach. It is adversarial, not unifying.

– Photo by Justin Samanski-Langille