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Here are 26 reasons why the M-103 committee’s report should condemn anti-Muslim discrimination rathe

Scott Reid is the Member of Parliament for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston and is currently the Shadow Cabinet critic for Democratic Institutions. He served from 2008 to 2015 as the chairman of the subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

After two months of hearings into Motion M-103, every single witness who commented on the subject agreed that it is wrong to discriminate against Muslims, to engage in violence against Muslims, and to engage in speech that is intended to produce discrimination or violence against Muslims.

But there was anything other than a consensus on the utility of the word ‘Islamophobia’—or even whether the term means what I’ve just described above. Going through the testimony, I located twenty-six different definitions. Some witnesses proposed a single definition, and others proposed two or three. None of the terms defines the concept of “discrimination or violence against Muslims, or advocacy of discrimination and violence” better than just spelling it out.

Indeed, for every other religion in Canada, the author of M-103 was content to use the term, “religious discrimination.” Which raises the question: Why not just drop the word ‘Islamophobia’ from the report’s recommendation that we develop a ‘whole-of-government’ approach, and instead advocate a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to anti-Muslim discrimination?

That’s what I’ll be advocating at the in camera (that is, non-public) sessions in which the Canadian Heritage Committee will be drafting its proposals.

Over the next few days, I propose to lay out, in a series of posts, some other points that I think ought to be included in the report of the Heritage Committee.

  • Today I’m listing the twenty-six definitions we heard at the M-103 hearings, of ‘Islamophobia.’

  • Tomorrow, I’ll be citing the concerns of Muslim witnesses at the M-103 hearings that the connotations of the term ‘Islamophobia’ will be used to crush dissenting views and individual voices in their community.

  • The next day, I’ll be listing concerns expressed by non-Muslim witnesses at the M-103 hearings that a Canadian endorsement of the term ‘Islamophobia’ could be used to facilitate the oppression of Christians and violence against Jews.

None of these voices are my own. They are of the witnesses we heard at the hearings. My challenge to the Liberal MPs on the Heritage Committee is this: Will you allow these voices to be heard in our report, or will you strike them out of the majority report?

— Scott Reid, November 14, 2017




Sept. 18:

1. “Islamophobia, to me, means uttering death threats, assaulting, hatred, threats of violence towards people, and vandalism of their places of worship.

—Mr. Arif Virani, MP

2. “The definition of Islamophobia I subscribe to is an irrational fear or hatred of Muslims or Islam that leads to discrimination.

—Iqra Khalid, MP

3.expressions of fear and negative stereotypes, bias, or acts of hostility towards the religion of Islam and individual Muslims

—Definition used by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, as reported to the committee by Dan Vandal, MP.

4.stereotypes, bias or acts of hostility towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general”.

—Definition used by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as reported to the committee by Dan Vandal, MP.


Sept. 20:

5. “Intense dislike or fear of Islam, esp. as a political force; hostility or prejudice towards Muslims.”

—Definition found in the Oxford English Dictionary, as reported to the committee by Tarek Fatah, founder, Muslim Canadian Congress

6. “Then there is the definition by Andrew Cummins, who once said, in a quote that is often misattributed to Christopher Hitchens, that Islamophobia is ‘a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons’.”

—Tarek Fatah, founder, Muslim Canadian Congress


Sep. 25:

7. “I am in no way interested in promoting a definition of Islamophobia that would restrict my own speech. Legitimate critique, in my mind, is not Islamophobic. Islamophobia is irrational and hyperbolic speech about Islam and Muslims that demonizes them, that dehumanizes them. I trust the hate speech laws in Canada, which I think are robust along with the legislative system. When somebody makes an accusation of Islamophobia, and if they appear before a judge, he or she will make a decision about whether that is, indeed, Islamophobic or a legitimate critique.”

—Ayesha Chaudhry (Associate Professor and Chairholder of Canada Research Chair in Religion, Law and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia)


Oct. 2:

8.a widespread mindset and fear-laden discourse in which people make blanket judgments of Islam as the enemy as the ‘other’ as a dangerous and unchanged, monolithic bloc that is the natural subject of well-deserved hostility from Westerners.

—Definition of Islamophobia proposed in 2008 by J.P. Zuquete, as reported to the committee by Samer Majzoub (President, Canadian Muslim Forum)

9.a rejection of Islam, Muslim groups, and Muslim individuals on the basis of prejudice and stereotypes. It may have emotional, cognitive, evaluative as well as action-oriented elements like discrimination and violence.

—Definition of Islamophobia proposed in 2005 by J. Stolz, as reported to the committee by Samer Majzoub (President, Canadian Muslim Forum)

10. “As for us, we have opted for the following definition. It is a criticizing or scathing negative opinion that might directly or indirectly cause humiliation or damage to the reputation and or incite to hatred and to violence against a person or a group of persons for the only reason that they are of Muslim faith.”

—Definition of Islamophobia preferred by the Canadian Muslim Forum, as reported by its president, Samer Majzoub.

11. “Islamophobia is simply anti-Muslim discrimination or hate.”

—Prof. Faisal Bhabha (Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association)


Oct. 4:

12. “I want to offer my working definition of Islamophobia that I have developed to capture its complex dimensions. The definition I use extends from “a fear or hatred of Islam and Muslims” to acknowledge that these attitudes develop into individual, ideological, and systemic forms of oppression that shore up specific power relations. This broader definition outlines the sociology of Islamophobia as being dynamic and multi-faceted, and not simply about negative beliefs or attitudes.

—Jasmin Zine (Professor, Sociology and Muslim Studies Option, Wilfrid Laurier University)

13. “I locate anti-Muslim racism under the broader umbrella of Islamophobia as a manifestation. While violence, hatred, and discrimination are enacted against Muslim bodies, these acts rely upon the demonization of Islam to sustain and reproduce their racial logic. One does not exist without the other.”

—Jasmin Zine (Professor, Sociology and Muslim Studies Option, Wilfrid Laurier University)

14. “Islamophobia is hate, hostility, prejudice, and discrimination directed towards Muslims.”

—Ihsaan Gardee (Executive Director, National Council of Canadian Muslims)

15. “Islamophobia includes racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial profiling…Islamophobia can lead to viewing and treating Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic and societal level.”

—Definition used by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as reported to the committee by Ihsaan Gardee, who told the committee, “the NCCM subscribes to” this definition.


Oct. 16:

16. “The term “Islamophobia” is often falsely equated with the term “anti-Semitism”. MP Khalid has also alluded to an equivalence between the two, yet the two are vastly different….A common dictionary meaning of anti-Semitism is ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews’. Islamophobia, on the other hand, also includes criticism of Islam as a religion. The common dictionary meaning is ‘intense dislike or fear of Islam, esp. as a political force; hostility or prejudice towards Muslims’.”

—Farzana Hassan (Author/Columnist, Individual). The dictionary definition she cites is from the Oxford English Dictionary.

17. “ ‘Phobia’ is a medical term, implying a pathological and irrational fear. As far as I know, the only religion it has been applied to is Islam. The proper definition of Islamophobia, therefore, is not ‘irrational hatred of Muslims’ but ‘irrational fear of Islam’.

—Dr. Sherif Emil (McGill University):


Oct. 18:

18. “The term ‘Islamophobia’ has been defined in multiple ways, some effective and some problematic. Unfortunately, it has become a lightning rod for controversy, distracting from other important issues at hand. While some use the term ‘Islamophobia’ to concisely describe prejudice against Muslims, others have expanded it significantly further to include opposition to political ideologies. For example, this October’s Islamic Heritage Monthguidebook issued by the Toronto District School Board contained a definition of Islamophobia that included, ‘dislike…towards Islamic politics or culture’.

—Shimon Fogel (Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs)

Islamophobia refers to fear, prejudice, hatred or dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture. Islamophobia is similar to other types of discrimination such as: anti-semitism, homophobia and racism. Discriminating against anyone based on an identifiable characteristic is contrary to both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and universal values of human rights and dignity.”

—Toronto District School Board definition, in full, cited by Shimon Fogel

19. “As opposed to certain terms of racism—such as anti-Semitism, which may have been confusing at one point, but on which there is now an international consensus, and the Ottawa protocol process was part of that—’Islamophobia’ is a confusing term, unfortunately, at the moment. I would just like to point, as an example, to witnesses from the NCCM, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, who appeared before this committee two weeks ago. They testified that they were in favour of the definition consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code, the OHRC, yet it was this organization that vetted and put its logo on the Toronto District School Board guide my colleague from CIJA just mentioned, which had a very problematic definition of Islamophobia, including criticism of politics in Islam or culture in Islam.

—Michael Motsyn (Chief Executive Officer, B’nai Brith)

20. “We understand Islamophobia to mean anti-Muslim hate, but our focus is really on action and the problem itself. Whichever term you choose to use is really up to you. There’s a problem, and we need to deal with it.”

—Sikander Hashmi, spokesman, Canadian Council of Imams


Oct. 25:

21. “Islamophobia is a very simple term. The Greek part is “phobia”. It means fear. Islam…I think everybody gets that. Anything that is against Islam, that is anti-Islam, is Islamophobia. If anybody’s using that to justify any kind of action, whether it is against or for policies, etc., then that is what it is. I really think we have a problem when people are going to start saying one thing is Islamophobia, but another doesn’t fall under it.

—Larry Rousseau (Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress)

22. “If anyone who is a Muslim finds that an action is against them as a Muslim, that should define or at least characterize what it is. Islamophobia means anything that will hurt, denigrate, etc., just as any other group would see it if it was a different group….

—Larry Rousseau (Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress)

23. “If we were to talk about homophobia, for example, or any discrimination that we have the terms for, it’s the people who are impacted by the actions of a majority or of another group who are the ones who know what it is….

“As far as coming out with a definition for Islamophobia, I would stay away from that because it should be very wide-ranging and it shouldn’t forgive anything. Look, if you’re going to do anything that denigrates—actually oppresses or suppresses a group, namely people who are Muslim—then it is Islamophobia….

“One of the fundamental notions of harassment is this: it is not the person who is doing the harassing, but the person who has been impacted by the harassment. If someone says it’s Islamophobia and they feel they have been discriminated against, then that’s what you should use.”

—Larry Rousseau (Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress)


Oct. 30:

24. “We have noted the opposition to this motion with concern and believe that, while Islamophobia should be clearly defined, reluctance to name and condemn anti-Muslim behaviour is unacceptable. A refusal to address the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment may lead to the further marginalization and victimization of Muslims in Canada.

“We believe that the definition of Islamophobia proposed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission is valuable, and we’d encourage its adoption. It reads, ‘Racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general’.

—Balpreet Singh (Legal Counsel, World Sikh Organization of Canada)

25. “People have asked, ‘Is criticizing Islam, or criticizing some political interpretation of Islam, a part of Islamophobia?’ It has to be clear that criticizing an ideology or a faith is not part of this. It’s actual discrimination. It’s actual stereotypes about Muslims. We can all agree that any sort of discrimination against individuals following a faith is wrong…

—Balpreet Singh (Legal Counsel, World Sikh Organization of Canada)


Nov. 1:

26. “Regarding the definition of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. There are recognized international and Canadian definitions that I’ve supplied in the materials. What I start with is that each group should propose its preferred definition and label, not have the label chosen by another group as this feels disrespectful.”

—Barbara Landau (Co-Chair, Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims)


This article was originally published on Scott Reid MP's website on November 14th, and the original article can be seen on his site by clicking here.

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