Raheel Raza's Testimony to the Heritage Committee
This is a transcript of the testimony of Raheel Raza, President of Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, to the Heritage Committee Meeting on September 27th, 2017. Video of her presentation is available at the bottom of this page.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to address this Committee.
My name is Raheel Raza and I am President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. My family and I will have been in Canada for 30 years next year. Like most immigrants we came here to embrace democracy, gender equality and freedom of speech.
I can say with conviction that Canada is the best country in the world with a role to play in terms of leadership and I thank God for being a Canadian citizen to share in its values.
Today we are here to discuss Motion-103.
Let me make it abundantly clear that Bigotry, hate and racism have to be condemned in the strongest terms. Sadly they have always been an integral part of human civilization. But human dignity depends upon our unequivocal condemnation of these ugly values and we MUST speak out against them.
Having said this, we are entrapped by use of the term Islamophobia which is not clearly defined. As I read the text of Motion 103, I can agree with the overall intent but without use of this term, because Islamophobia can and has been used to confuse the masses and stifle free speech.
I’ve just returned from attending the 36th session of UNHRC in Geneva and have seen how the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has for years been working towards stemming any critique of religion. Critique of religion BTW is not critique of people. If there are aspects of any faith that are veering towards human rights infractions, they must be discussed and debated. Religion is an idea and ideas don’t have rights – people do.
Canada should therefore be concerned about the rights of all its peoples and not allow itself to fall into the traps laid out by vested agendas.
Right now the world is screaming for an Islamic Reform to welcome Muslims into the 21C by a fresh wave of ideas through the lens of modernity and free thinking keeping human rights in the forefront.
This is not entirely a new phenomenon.
Because in the 9th C there was a large community of Muslims known as free thinkers who would debate and discuss all aspects of faith to come to a logical conclusion. The ruling elite found this to be a threat and over a period of time one by one they were eliminated. This silencing of all debate and discussion in Islam has put us Muslims in a ridiculous position. It also puts a target on the backs of those who want change.
Reform has taken place in other faiths as well. Christians will celebrate 500 years of their reform this year. How does Reform happen?
It takes place through reflection using reason and logic and YES - a healthy critique. Without constructive criticism, no faith can grow and develop.
As an observant Muslim, I don’t believe I have to be the care-taker or defender of my faith.
However the word most synonymous with Muslim these days is terrorism. Do I want to leave this as legacy for my children and grandchildren? Absolutely NOT! As such Muslim communities have to do most of the heavy lifting in shunning or abandoning negative practices that have crept into our faith and culture. Such as FGM, forced and underage marriage, slavery, polygamy, armed violence against civilians disguised as Jihad, forceful imposition of sharia laws, and preaching of hate and intolerance towards minorities.
It’s through this reform that major changes have taken place in Muslim communities. E.g.
In India the Supreme Court has banned a centuries old Islamic tradition of a man saying I divorce you thrice and it was automatically granted.
Women in Morocco helped change the polygamy laws
In Tunisia a landmark decision was made allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, which according to sharia laws is not acceptable
Bangladesh has altered its constitution from Islamic to secular.
The House of Lords in the UK is debating and challenging certain practices of sharia courts.
My point is that Canada with its thriving Muslim population should be a leading voice in encouraging such reforms rather than encouraging them to hide behind a motion to curtail free speech.
As well, in a secular country (which we thrive for), the State should have no business in religious matters.
M-103 as it stands, with usage of the term Islamophobia has divided Canadians into Us and Them. By singling one faith community in this motion, it seems that Islam and Muslims are exclusive and demand special attention. When in actual fact, statistics show us that hate crimes against the Jews, Blacks and LGBTQ communities are the highest. Polls show that more than 70% of Canadians don’t agree with Motion 103.
As for Muslims, let's see how badly they are really treated? There are approximately over 100 Mosques and 50 Islamic Organizations just in the greater Toronto area. 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!
However there are cases of bigotry and racism so I encourage this committee to strengthen the laws to curb hatred and discrimination against ALL Canadians – not just one section.