HASSAN: London tragedy exposes need to examine violence against Muslims

Of note on the need for precision when using terms such as Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hate, antisemitism:

The horrific deaths of a Muslim family in London on June 6 have sparked conversations about loosely, sometimes interchangeably, used terms like Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate. It would be worthwhile to examine these in detail. The ramifications for each term are different regarding freedom of speech issues, especially in the context of M-103, tabled by MP Iqra Khalid in 2018.

Islamophobia is a loaded word that can mean one of several things. It can mean fear of Islam, its practices, Islamic culture and fear of Muslims as its adherents. The last of these can sometimes translate into attacks on Muslims. When the term is used loosely, it can simply mean fear and hatred of Muslims. These have ramifications for Muslims in Canada when it comes to safety and security.

Anti-Muslim hate is specifically hatred toward the Muslim people, whether rooted in a dislike of Islam or not. This, too, can lead to violence against Muslims. In essence, both phenomena can lead to unfortunate results as we have seen a second time in Canada. The meanings tend to overlap.

Can these terms be compared to anti-Semitism? The latter term would correspond better to anti-Muslim hate, although the notion that criticism of the state of Israel is also anti-Semitism has wider ramifications. In the latter sense, we can also compare the term to the all-encompassing “Islamophobia.”

Anti-Muslim hate is utterly reprehensible and has no place in Canada. No community should be despised to the point of being denied the right to life, liberty, and property. Holding a negative opinion of Muslim practices or tenets of the Islamic faith should not automatically mean that Muslims should be wiped out or denied the same rights others take for granted.

But does this mean one has no right to criticize a world religion like Islam? After all, there is complete freedom to criticize other world faiths, including Christianity, followed by most Canadians. Most liberal democracies realize it is the fundamental right of citizens to question their own faith, to have the freedom to speak their minds on matters of faith, values, and ideologies and to scrutinize not only political philosophies but also religious dicta, especially when these have harmed society in general and women and marginalized groups in particular. Public discourse on Islam generally does not castigate an entire community. Often, an effort is made to separate a particular practice or belief from the larger body of believers in public discourse. Castigating an entire community would most certainly violate the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Thus, since the meanings above overlap, it is crucial to examine how we can address violence against Muslims and still uphold freedom of speech as an inalienable right.

The overlap in meaning between Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate makes it that much harder to tread the fine line of criticism of Islam in public discourse and spare Muslims fallout. While public discourse is careful not to cross the boundaries of free speech, it is perhaps just as important for people in private gatherings not to paint all Muslims with the same brush.

Are these boundaries being crossed more often in private rather than public gatherings? Would they continue to generate the type of inordinate hate that translates into heinous crimes like the one we witnessed in London?

Source: HASSAN: London tragedy exposes need to examine violence against Muslims

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

2 Responses to HASSAN: London tragedy exposes need to examine violence against Muslims

  1. Robert Addington says:

    Despite this horrendous crime and earlier acts of violence against Canadian Muslims (including the massacre at the mosque in Quebec City), Islam is not a persecuted religion in Canada. In fact, the status of Muslims in Canada compares very favourably with the status of religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries and regions of the world. Pakistan and northern Nigeria are two obvious examples.

  2. Andrew says:

    Agree. But I wouldn’t use Muslim-majority countries as the benchmark!

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