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Toronto Sun: M-103 could morph into something unrecognizable

Ever since I (and, of course, many others) began warning about the threat to free speech posed by Mississauga Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s M-103, I have received counterarguments from a hundred or more supporters of the motion that calls on the federal government to root out Islamophobia wherever it is found.

On Tuesday, for instance, I was a guest on the CBC Radio morning show, The Current, hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti.

Taking Khalid’s side was Faisal Kutty, a Canadian-trained law professor from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

Several points were made with which I disagreed, but one in particular was illustrative of the one-sided thinking of the pro-M-103 side.

After arguing it was wrong to tar all Muslims – extremists and moderates – with the same brush, Prof. Kutty then added I was way off base for linking the treatment of suburban Montrealer Antonio Padula with the effects M-103 may have.

Padula is just some guy from the Montreal-area community of Kirkland. One evening shortly after the horrific murders at a Quebec City mosque, Padula saw three police cars pull up outside his home. He was arrested, taken away in cuffs and put in jail for the night, all because police misinterpreted some tweets he posted as promoting hatred toward Muslims.

Kutty said Padula’s treatment had nothing to do with the intent of M-103, that he was being charged under hate crimes and other laws, not under a Parliamentary motion offering support for Muslims.

But that’s how these things start. Too often they begin with well-meaning intentions. Yet once they get into the hands of politically correct bureaucrats, Parliamentary committees and human rights commissioners, they morph into something unrecognizable.

Tremont asked me whether, perhaps, Padula’s treatment was justified given that his indelicate tweets came just days after the bloody shooting. But isn’t that just promoting a climate of fear – fear that everyone who posts politically incorrect tweets is a potential murderer who deserves to be arrested and throw in a cell, and possibly face months of expensive legal defence to clear his name?

The supporters of M-103 insist there is an increasing public climate of hatred and fear against Muslims. But wasn’t the treatment of Padula just as much an overreaction based on fear?

If Muslims shouldn’t be condemned for the actions of a few extremists in their faith, shouldn’t it also hold that Antonio Padula shouldn’t be arrested just because officials are suddenly acting out of fear that everyone who tweets unkind ideas is a potential killer?

Prof. Kutty also said it was wrong to focus on the word Islamophobia because he had a good definition of it. And, I’ll admit, his wasn’t bad. But that’s the problem – everybody has his or her own definition. Give that much leeway to the human rights police and the broadest possible definition will be upheld. There will be more, not fewer, Antonio Padula’s rousted from their beds in the middle of the night for the “crime” of being politically incorrect, or even just ironic.

Another objection to my criticism of M-103 that I have received from several emailers is that whether the motion calls it Islamophobia or “anti-Muslim bigotry,” the word doesn’t matter. That is just semantics.

Well, if words don’t matter, why then are we making such a big deal about the words Muslims find offensive? The truth is, words matter – both ways. So if Islamophobia is ill-defined, we should worry this motion could eventually lead to a real limiting of free speech.

That’s not just semantics.

Our fundamental right to free expression – for Muslims and non-Muslims, alike – is too precious to risk on some ill-defined, feel-good, politically correct motion in the Commons.

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