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Heritage Committee - November 8 Meeting

The 85th meeting of the Heritage Committee on systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada was held on 08 November, 2017. The testimony of Yasmine Mohammed, the former wife of a jihadi and tortured daughter of honour-bound Islamic parents, was startling and silenced the Liberal and NDP representatives. In addition, Statistics Canada representatives confirmed that the number of hate crimes in Canada was too small and insignificant to support an assertion that a rising "climate of hate and fear" existed in the country. A summary of all testimony follows here.  


Aurangzeb Qureshi, Vice-President, Public Policy and Communications, Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, stated that his organization began in 2014 on the heels of several hate crimes against Muslims in the province of Alberta. As an organization, they consult on behalf of Alberta Muslims with government agencies, work on an "Andalusia" curriculum for provincial educational agencies that highlights eras of cooperation between Muslim and non-Muslim communities and operate a help "hotline" to report incidents of Islamophobia and hate crimes to authorities. The hotline has received over 400 calls over the past year with most incidents being related to the wearing of the hijab. He went on to state that current laws make it very difficult to prosecute hate crimes as the threshold for proving same is too high. He wanted these thresholds to be lowered to make convictions an easier prospect. He felt that Islamophobia was a systemic issue and therefore needed to be addressed through federally funded educational programs. By way of example, he pointed to AMPAC's "Andalusia" program that taught how Muslims, Christians and Jews had lived together in harmony in the past. He did not point out, however, that this era was bound up by an Islamic doctrine, manifested in the form of Sharia Law, that forced Jews and Christians, as non-Muslim "people of the book", to pay humiliation taxes (Jizya) and forego the outward practice of their religions. He went on to state that AMPAC had excellent relations with police agencies as they almost always took their side against opposing groups. He still felt, however, that RCMP and CSIS personnel required sensitivity training regards dealing with minority groups. Lastly, he recommended the introduction of mental health programs to better accommodate the needs of refugees arriving in Canada from war torn areas of the world. Under questioning by MP Virani, he affirmed that there are media outlets, like the Rebel as MP Virani suggested, that try to exploit situations and place Muslims in a bad light.       


Faisal Khan Suri, President, Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, under questioning from MP Virani, stated there was much room for interfaith initiatives, such as the AMPAC's "Adalusia" program, and funding to build and empower the capacities of communities to participate in such dialogues. He also agreed that "hotlines" were a great way to contribute to the database of complaints that could inform government agencies on the size and scope of racism and discrimination in Canada. On response to questioning from MP Jenny Kwan, he agreed that NGOs such as his should link up with a National Action Plan or strategy to help provide data on hate-based crimes against his own community.  


Karim Achab, Professor of linguistics, University of Ottawa, as an individual, addressed the word Islamophobia by stressing the need to understand where to draw the line between "rational" and "irrational" hatred. Furthermore, the term phobia implies, by definition, a psychosis or disorder deserving of medical help rather than a law to combat it. Additionally, it is necessary for this disorder to exist in opposition to the reality of the situation. Given these understandings, he felt the term Islamophobia was completely inappropriate for use in a parliamentary setting where laws are reviewed, amended and manufactured. He then posed the question of whether or not it was fair to accuse those who believed the term Islamophobia was inappropriate as being racist, white supremacists or simply conservatives hiding under the skirt of free speech. He believed such characterizations were unfair as there were, indeed, rational reasons to fear Islam given the violent exhortations of the Koran. Under questioning from MP Reid, he affirmed that the ideology of Islam is tightly wound up with the religion and that there needed to be an understanding of where one began and the other left off. He used the example of Islam's admonishment for followers to emigrate and spread the religion en mass in concert with the activities of jihadists whose job it was to follow through with more violent tactics if need be.       


Yasmine Mohammed, author, as an individual, was born and raised in Canada and wore a hijab from the age of nine. She wore the niqab after being forced into marriage to a jihadi. In all that time, she experienced no discrimination or racism due to her appearance. She considers herself to be privileged to be a Canadian. In the matter of M-103, she felt the motion will do the exact opposite of what is intended. She believes the motion will feed, rather than quell, the fire as the term Islamophobia is about protecting the religion of Islam rather than those who practise it. She also believed that Canadians are right to fear the ideology that comes with Islam as it is an ideology that terrorizes and kills every day. Muslims, she noted, are blase on the killings as they are used to the Islamists, in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the jihadis, in the form of al Qaeda and ISIS, that promote and action it. She knew this as she had been married to a member of al Qaeda and had his baby. This was not so for Canadians, however, as it was all new to them. They had a right to be concerned and want to talk about the ideas that they are now confronting and to do so through civil discourse. The term Islamophobia is quashing that natural and healthy desire to understand what is going on in the world around them. You must not ask why thirteen Islamic nations execute homosexuals or why it is that the overwhelming majority of girls in Egypt or Sudan suffer Female Genital Mutilation. "Islamophobia" was not around when she was a child but it was the reason that a judge returned her to her family at the age of thirteen knowing that she had been hung upside down in her family's garage and had the bottoms of her feet whipped. The judge sent her back because he explained that different cultures have different ways of disciplining children. It was then she wished she had been born white as her culture had treated her so cruelly. She explained that that judge was, in truth, extremely bigoted as he chose to treat her differently than any other Canadian kid - unacceptable. And so it is with M-103, a good intention rife with terrible, unintended consequences. She explained that we needed to be careful and that "we cannot be so open minded that we let our brains fall out.". The term Islamophobia will only serve to counter the good intentions behind M-103 even as it curtails the right to criticize and even ridicule religions and ideologies. She thought the term needed to go or be amended to "anti-Muslim bigotry". Under questioning from MP Reid, she noted that the West is trying to re-invent the wheel without understanding the difference between Muslims, Islamists and jihadis. She suggested we look to Muslim countries to see how they have approached and dealt with these factions - all of which were Muslim but some of which posed very real and dangerous security consequences if left unrecognized.     


Yvan Clermont, Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada, presented the most recent data on hate crime statistics in Canada. The latest are from 2015 and the next release of 2016 data will occur towards the end of November, 2017. He stated that Canada is becoming a very diverse nation and that by 2036 three in ten Canadians will be foreign born with a mother tongue of neither French nor English. His presentation was very technical in nature with a raft of numbers and percentages being unloaded. It was interesting to note that the numbers involved were generally in the order of "hundreds" occurring within a population of some 36 million. The increase in hate crimes against Muslims over the period 2013 to 2014, for example, went from 99 to 159 - a percentage increase of some 61% but within a Canadian Muslim population of some 1 million persons. He noted that the offenders accused of committing hate crimes on a religious basis were over represented by youths - the vast majority of which were male. He provided no further background information on these young males and it was later noted that there was a gap in information when it came to offenders and what their motivations were.  


Rebecca Kong, Chief, Policing Services Program, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada, under questioning, agreed that the number of hate crimes was small and that a small number of increases or decreases either way could largely impact the percentages involved. Under questioning from MP Sweet as to whether the numbers indicated a "rising climate of hate and fear", she agreed that the numbers were rather small and incapable of supporting such an assertion but that some of the groups involved were experiencing differing rates of increase.

The audio transcript of these proceedings can be heard here:

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