FATAH: Sandra Solomon’s bigotry helps the Islamists

I don’t normally post articles by Tarek Fatah given I find him overly alarmist but his critique of Sandra Solomon more than merited:

Just when the spectre of a Canadian law based on Motion 103 that would have criminalized the critique of Islam seemed to be receding, one Sandra Solomon has given Islamists a fresh lease on life. Solomon states she is an ex-Muslim convert to Christianity, saying she is a Palestinian who suffered sexual abuse in Saudi Arabia by her former husband.

Last week, Solomon visited a mosque in Mississauga where she tore up pages of the Quran and heaped abuse on worshippers, referring to the Muslim holy text as a “satanic evil book” and said she wants to see the Quran designated as “hate literature.”

Had Solomon simply stood outside the mosque with placards to criticize Islam and protest the Islamic texts that permit wife-beating and promote armed jihad, she would be in her right to do so. But that is not all what she did.

Video footage shows Solomon entered the mosque when worshipers were praying and yelled bigoted epithets. “What God do you worship? You worship Satan, that’s who Muslims worship,” she shouted as she was led out.

In a video that has since been deleted from the Internet, but captured by Global TV, Solomon speaks to the camera boasting that she has been visiting mosques for over a year. She then proceeds to rip pages out of a Quran, and places them on the windshields of cars in the parking lot.

If not hateful, at best Solomon’s behaviour was derisive, uncouth, ill-mannered, uncivil and most certainly undeserving of the cross she proudly wears as a symbol of her faith in Jesus.

On the two occasions that I have run into Solomon, she has come across as someone obsessed with herself, and seeking the attention of people around her. At an event hosted by “Muslims Against M103”, she had to be told to stop addressing the audience from the floor when she started ranting about herself.

If Solomon was protesting the alleged hatred some Muslims have for non-Muslims, then she played straight into the hands of the very people she was opposing.

Hatred cannot be fought with hate (or even love). Wisdom suggests hatred is fought only with truth backed by facts and reason. Unfortunately, Solomon has plenty of hate and totally lacks wisdom. Just a tiny bit of the latter would have made her realize that she is the agent provocateur who unwittingly serves the interests of the people she supposedly opposes.

Earlier this year my colleague Farzana Hassan wrote on these pages that the “M103 report seems to signal victory for citizens who sought to protect free speech.” Her optimism, she said, was based on the fact the wording on the M103 report “certainly appears to accede to their demand that ‘Islamophobia’ not be treated as a special case” as “twenty-nine out of the 30 recommendations in the report even avoid the nebulous and troublesome word.”

Now that Solomon has provided a fresh lease on life to ‘Islamophobia,’ Hassan’s words may well prove to be premature. Already a group The Muslim Council of Peel and some mosques say they are working with the police and “have asked for this to be investigated as a hate incident.”

As for the self-righteous Imams and Islamists who are crying “hate”, perhaps it is time for them to take stock of their own actions. At least 20 times a day, from dawn to dusk in every mosque of Canada, they should stop describing Jews as “people who are suffering the wrath of God” and Christians as people “led astray from the path of God.”

Source: FATAH: Sandra Solomon’s bigotry helps the Islamists

Barbara Kay: Getting to the heart of what M-103 was always all about

Somewhat paranoid in that 29 out of the 30 recommendations were drafted to reflect horizontal concerns regarding racism, discrimination and prejudice.

One may or may not agree with the recommendations (I certainly find that it reads too much like a laundry list with insufficient focus and have my doubts about some of them) but the overall horizontal approach is to be welcomed.

Given Budget 2018’s increased funding for the Multiculturalism Program and new funding improved data collection and research and measures to address issues faced by Black communities, it is hardly, as Kay argues, merely “obfuscatory preamble”:

On Feb. 1, the National Heritage Committee submitted the report called for by the passage of M-103 last winter.

M-103 surprised its backers when it turned out not to be the slam dunk they thought it would be, given that its founding predecessor document, Petition e-411, which called for a “whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religion, including Islamophobia,” quietly slid as if along greased wheels to acceptance.

Thus, the words “including Islamophobia” having passed under the public radar before M-103 was introduced, M-103 backers were caught off guard when the polemical sky lit up with full-throated debate around what the hell “Islamophobia” actually meant. If it was bigotry against Muslims, why wasn’t “anti-Muslim” good enough?

The Conservatives tried to have the motion amended with that substitution, but M-103’s supporters — notably among them the unelected Muslim advocacy group, National Council of Canadian Muslims, formerly CAIR.Can, and MP Iqra Khalid — with the full support of the Liberals, dug in their heels on “Islamophobia,” without ever clearly denying that it could also mean “criticism of Islam.”

And so, although the motion passed in March 2017, it passed amidst controversy and alarm amongst a great number of Canadians who worried we were being hoodwinked into a plan to curtail freedom of speech where one specific religion was concerned.

From this organic constituency there arose a group called Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights and Freedoms, coalescing around the clear and coherent analysis of M-103 by Royal Canadian Air Force Major (ret’d) Russ Cooper, a decorated CF-18 combat pilot, who amongst other achievements, took on national responsibilities in the field of post-9/11 civil aviation security. The focused and task-oriented Cooper followed the M-103 hearings in meticulously documented detail, publishing regular reportage of witness testimony.

Now Cooper has written a detailed and compelling analysis of the Heritage Committee report. Most of the report’s 30 recommendations, Cooper concludes, should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny by politicians, for many, if implemented, contain the seeds for further public dissension and potential freedom-of-speech curtailments warned against in the first go-around.

One of M-103’s objectives was, in its words, to counter a “climate of fear and hate.” But the report’s own statistics do not bear out the existence of any pervasive “climate” of broad-based hate and fear. In 2015, 1.9 million crimes were reported. Of them, 1,300 were deemed hate crimes, or one-tenth of one per cent of all crimes. A “dissenting report” by the Committee’s Conservative members noted that from 2009 to 2016 — with a Canadian population rise of three million people in that period — hate crimes actually decreased “nearly 13 per cent on a per capita basis.”

The report notes a 61-per-cent increase of hate crimes against Muslims from 2014 to 2015. The actual numbers went from 99 to 159. All hate crimes must be taken seriously, but statistically, given Canada’s Muslim population of over one million, these statistics are not culturally significant. Rebecca Kong, chief of the Policing Services Program at the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, stated the number of hate crimes was so small they did not support the assertion in Petition e-411 that there was a “notable rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada.” (By the numbers, anti-Semitism ranks as Canada’s most common form of hate crime, and it is rising in frequency, yet even it is not so statistically significant to warrant a “whole-of government” approach to combat).

In fact, no hard evidence was adduced in the report to prove that anti-Muslim bias is systemic in Canada. The Quebec mosque massacre was mentioned as evidence of “white supremacism and radicalism in Canada,” although the mosque killer has not yet been linked to any organized political movement nor charged with an act of terrorism.

Indeed, among those testifying at the hearings, the only witnesses who brought actual evidence to bear on the assertion that religious bias was “systemic” throughout Canadian institutions were Christians. Representatives from Trinity Western University, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada all offered concrete examples of the state forcing, or attempting to force, counter-conscience beliefs and behaviours, most notably the practice of euthanasia. I am not being facetious when I suggest that Christians have a more evidence-based right than Muslims to feel they are victims of systemic institutional bias.

Which is why I view with extreme concern the still-undefined term Islamophobia popping up in the report’s 30th recommendation for a National Day of Action to combat it. Clearly that is the glittering prize for M-103’s backers; the rest is obfuscatory preamble. If an official Day of Action against Islamophobia is granted, even fair-minded and objectively warranted criticism of parts of the Islamic faith, and perhaps even Islamism itself, would be increasingly legally fraught. I believe that is the point of the exercise.

Source: Barbara Kay: Getting to the heart of what M-103 was always all about

Budget 2018 invests millions in multiculturalism – iPolitics

Further to yesterday’s entry, Canadian Press article:

With one eye on ultra-nationalist movements appearing around the world, the Liberal government boosted funding in this week’s federal budget to address issues of anti-immigrant sentiment and racism bubbling up at home.

Funds for multiculturalism programs, initiatives for the Black Canadian community and a new centre to better analyze and collect data on diversity and inclusion were all included in Tuesday’s budget, a clear acknowledgment on the part of the Trudeau government that the current global climate is putting the prime minister’s “diversity is our strength” mantra to the test.

“Recent domestic and international events, like the rise of ultra-nationalist movements and protests against immigration, visible minorities and religious minorities, remind us that standing up for diversity and building communities where everyone feels included are as important today as they ever were,” the budget said in laying out the overarching goals of the funding.

The first piece: $23 million more over two years for multiculturalism programming that includes the formation of a new, national anti-racism plan, but that will also be spent through community organizations to assist with integration efforts in tandem with the Liberals’ decision to increase immigration levels over the next three years.

Details will be made public in the coming months, said Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.

Joly said diversity and inclusion are fundamental for the government.

“We decided to really invest.”

Concerns about integration routinely surface in research conducted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“As much as participants valued diversity, many were concerned with our society’s ability and willingness to accommodate so many diverse cultures and whether our model of accommodation is entirely successful,” read a report on focus groups held last year ahead of the release of the immigration plan.

“A few general population participants were concerned with how some parts of Canada might be ‘losing their identity’ because of the volume and concentration of immigrants. They were also concerned with racism among some locals and how Canadian society is challenged by individuals who are not open to cultural diversity or who discriminate against specific ethnicities.”

It’s not all just talk. Following white nationalist protests in the U.S. this last summer, there was a sudden surge in activity by similar groups in Canada, though never on the same scale.

The second big piece for Joly’s department is $19 million over five years to support youth at risk and for research in support of more culturally focused mental-health programs in the Black Canadian community.

The specific allocation for that community represents the results of a concerted lobbying effort by the newly formed Federation of Black Canadians, along with members of the Liberal government’s own Black caucus, who’ve mounted a full-court press to draw more attention to a suite of issues facing.

Donald McLeod, an Ontario justice who heads the steering committee helping the federation get off the ground, said in his view, the money being allocated is part of a far bigger pot.

He also counts $214 million earmarked in the budget to remove racial barriers, promote gender equality and combat homophobia and transphobia, all issues that affect the quality of life for Black Canadians.

While the budget may reference the current global climate, McLeod said he sees the funding as reflective of a domestic moment in time.

“We need help,” he said. “And so I think because we need help it’s a voice that’s been echoing in the halls, in organizations, in supermarkets, in places of business, in educational facilities, so that, no matter where you go, you’re continuously hearing the fact that we need help.”

The funds for Black Canadians are also linked to an announced by Prime Minister Trudeau earlier this month that Canada will endorse the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent, obliging the government to take strides to ensuring the full and equal participation of Black Canadians.

The third major tranche of money comes via $6.7 million over five years to give Statistics Canada the ability to better analyze and collect data on diversity and inclusion.

That, along with the anti-racism strategy that will be built by Heritage, reflect two of the recommendations from a recent House of Commons committee study on combating Islamophobia and systemic discrimination and racism.

via Budget 2018 invests millions in multiculturalism – iPolitics

WARMINGTON: Anti-racism meeting turns into The Jerry Springer show

Sharp contrast to the session organized by the Riddell Centre for Political Management about a month ago in Ottawa:

It was racism industry on full display.

In one corner you had the “anti racists” who gathered together to talk about racism in Canada and new legislation to end it. In the other you had the so-called “racists.”

Needless to say this was set up to be a powderkeg.

What was billed as an “Anti-Racism Town Hall” at the Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church on Gerrard St. at Woodbine Ave. on Thursday evening turned into part socialism lecture and part The Jerry Springer Show.

Actually it was so surreal it seemed more like a Simpson’s town hall meeting, complete with characters like Mayor Quimby, Sideshow Bob, Mr. Burns and Krusty the Clown.

And yes Toronto Police 55 Division was called in.

First things first. On the stage you had the author of the M-103 motion to protect criticism of Islam and other religions MP Iqra Khalid, Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism MPP Michael Couteau, MPP Beaches-East York MPP Arthur Potts and MP Beaches-East York Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, all of whom had a similar message about the existence of racism in Canada and Ontario and the need to fix it.

There was talk about how it costs $60 million a year to “incarcerate” youth in the Jane and Finch area and how 22% of black university graduates don’t get jobs while it’s at just 10% for white “drop outs,” how “colonial Canada” supplanted the Indigenous and how government needs to make sure “every person can reach his or her full potential” by “looking for ways to eliminate systematic racism barriers.”

Well this was not sitting well with some of the proud to be rednecks in the crowd. And it boiled over when Khalid started talking about M-103 was not anti blasphemy law but more a tool to foster stronger diversity.

“You are a fraud,” yelled one guy.

“Is this going to be Sharia law,” a woman shouted.

“This is only about protecting Islam and designed to bring more Muslims over here,” said another man.

The most vocal and animated was none other than Eric Brazau who has spent nine months in jail for “promoting hatred” and at one point held up a copy of the Q’uran in protest.

The crowd grew impatient with the constant interruptions and started yelling “shut up” and “racist’s out.”

The bad behaviour was mostly from those protesting M-103 but there were some outbursts from the anti-racism crowd as well — including one man pointing out white supremacist Council of Conservative Canadians founder Paul Fromm and telling him to F… off.”

Fromm did not engage but instead quietly wrote notes in the corner of the room. However, others were fully inflamed. At one point it got so heated in the room it felt like it could explode.

“The police have been called and some people will be asked to leave,” said Erskine-Smith.

The police did come but stayed outside in their car and didn’t escort anybody out.

“It was a strange night,” said Jewish Defence League National Director Meir Weinstein, who was not impressed with the yelling at the politicians.

“I did have a question about why it is politicians accept awards from Islamic terror groups that want to kill Jews and annihilate Israel but this is not part of any conversation?” said Weinstein. “Isn’t that racism?”

It was a fair question but the grandstanding behaviour of some drowned it out. Ironically the rude shouting played right into the hands of the politicians who never lost their cool, composure or even sense of humour.

But the fact there were politicians on one side suggesting Canada is systemically racist and people on the other side acting exactly like they are indeed racist is no laughing matter.

Source: WARMINGTON: Anti-racism meeting turns into The Jerry Springer show

Criticism of religious groups is good for religion – David Millard Haskell

While I disagree with some of his points regarding the term Islamophobia, his points on the benefits of religion being subject to criticism are valid:

The fruits of the Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103, that called for study and recommendation on religious discrimination in Canada, were revealed Feb. 1. The committee overseeing the issue released their report “Taking Action Against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination Including Islamophobia.”

The report has just two recommendations that specifically focus on Islamophobia. The first echoes the report title saying the government should “actively condemn systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.”

The second is more substantive suggesting that Jan 29 “be designated as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia, and other forms of religious discrimination.”

For the last year Canadian Muslim groups, led by The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), have lobbied government to make Jan 29 a Canada-wide anti-Islamophobia day. The date marks the 2017 deaths of six Muslim Canadians gunned down in their Quebec City Mosque.

While Liberal MPs and leading Muslim organizations are supporters of the initiative, a Forum Research poll conducted a few weeks ago showed only 17 per cent of Canadians approve of designating such a day. Conversely, half disapprove; the rest don’t know or are ambivalent.

For many Canadians, overly broad definitions of “Islamophobia” lead them to reject the day of action. Some definitions of the term insist any criticism of Muslim people or Islamic practices — be it political, cultural, or religious — qualifies as Islamophobia.

In their critique of the Liberals’ report, the Conservatives noted 26 definitions of the term were used by witnesses appearing before the committee and some of those, if enforced, would lead to significant erosion of free expression.

The NCCM itself has, in the past, shown it favours a definition of Islamophobia that maximally curbs criticism against their faith. In a guidebook it helped produce for the Toronto Board of Education last year, the group endorsed a definition of the term that stated, in addition to prejudice or hate directed against Muslims, “dislike” directed “toward Islamic politics or culture” also qualifies as Islamophobia.

After protests from various community groups, that definition was amended.

The NCCM’s impulse to shield Islam from criticism may be linked to a particular understanding of Muslims’ sacred texts. Certain sections of the Qur’an and Hadith specify that insulting Allah’s word or his messenger is not permitted.

Whatever is motivating members of the NCCM or others of like mind to shut down critique of Islam, such thinking is misleading and misplaced. It’s misleading because it conflates criticism and discrimination. It’s misplaced because religion is at its best when subjected to constant and fervent critique. Criticism leads to necessary correction.

Some “case studies” from the world’s largest religion, Christianity, prove this point.

In the recent past, Christianity in the West, specifically its conservative Protestant variety — evangelicalism — has been exposed to a steady stream of invective for its treatment of homosexuals.

Of course, being subjected to public and media scorn isn’t enjoyable for evangelicals. On several occasions they’ve rightly complained about unjust criticism. However, overall, the process has led to a “conversion experience.”

In its most recent national survey of religious Americans, Pew Research Center determined that between 2007 and 2017, evangelicals’ support for same-sex marriage rose from 14 per cent to 35 per cent. Among younger evangelicals, Gen Xers and Millennials, acceptance rose to 47 per cent.

Ongoing sociological research in Canada suggests these same trends are reflected among our evangelicals.

While exposure to criticism can make religion better, sheltering it from critique makes it worse. Again, we can look to Christianity for our example.

Last year when speaking before the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors about the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals, Pope Francis blamed a religious culture hostile to challenge for the tragedies that occurred. “The old practice… of not facing the problem,” he said, “kept our consciousness asleep.”

In the West, unchecked abuse is not isolated to the Catholic Church. We now have examples of Muslims committing similar, long-standing transgressions in the absence of critique. Most dramatic is the sex trafficking ring of Rotherham, England.

From the late 1980s until the 2010s an organized group of Muslim men abused over 1,000 young girls. Official investigations concluded school, social service, and government personal were aware of a problem but didn’t speak out fearing their comments would be viewed as Islamophobic.

While fear of seeming bigoted may drive some non-Muslims to keep quiet, most Canadians — Muslim and non-Muslims alike — who want to restrict criticism of Islam are more nobly motivated. They believe that such action fosters unity in society.

But censorship is an acid, not a glue, when it comes to progress and social cohesion.

Source: Opinion: Criticism of religious groups is good for religion

M-103 report makes few recommendations about Islamophobia

One of the relatively few articles to date on the committee report (L’islamophobie divise encore le Parlement canadien being another). Have only glanced at the report but this article provides a reasonable summary.

Amused that the Committee advocated restoration of Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism. Apart from funding the collection of police-reported hate crimes data by StatsCan, most of the other initiatives were of limited utility (during the evaluation of CAPAR, I stated that it was too small in scope and impact and it would be no great loss if it was not renewed – save for hate crimes).

The policy and program capacity of the multiculturalism program has been greatly reduced so it will be interesting to see whether the government response is serious or, as previously with CAPAR, largely symbolic:

The report arising from the Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103, was made public on Thursday, and calls for a national action plan on racism and religious discrimination, better data collection on hate crimes and cultural sensitivity training for law enforcement.

But the report, titled “Taking Action Against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination Including Islamophobia,” makes almost no recommendations that specifically target Islamophobia, despite months of controversy over the use of the term in the motion tabled by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid in December 2016.

The report does recommend that Jan. 29 “be designated as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia, and other forms of religious discrimination,” in response to requests from Muslim groups after six Muslim worshippers were killed in a Quebec City mosque shooting on Jan. 29, 2017. On the one-year anniversary of the attack, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement about the shooting and the importance of fighting Islamophobia, but did not declare the day a national day of action. Last week, the heritage department told the Post the government “has received and noted the proposal” from the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Of the 30 recommendations, only one other specifically mentions Islamophobia, and only to say that the government should “actively condemn systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.”

The report does not recommend the creation of any new laws. M-103 itself is a motion, not a law.

The original motion, which called on the government to conduct a study and come up with an approach to eliminate racism and religious discrimination “including Islamophobia,” generated a firestorm of controversy last year. Conservatives claimed the motion would restrict free speech because, they felt, the term Islamophobia is poorly defined. During committee hearings, several witnesses expressed concern that the motion would effectively stifle criticism of Islam.

But the recommendations outlined in the M-103 report target racism and religious discrimination in much broader terms. The report suggests the government should update the Canadian Action Plan Against Racism, published in 2005, and broaden it to include religious discrimination. Other recommendations call for the government to establish uniform guidelines and a national database for the collection of hate-crime data.

The report also recommends that federal, provincial and territorial governments take a closer look at the comparability of education and credentials obtained outside Canada, to combat employment barriers. Other recommendations call for more funding for research and for law enforcement to investigate Internet hate speech.

The report notes that the committee heard “differing views on the use of the term Islamophobia,” but does not offer an accepted definition of the term.

In a dissenting report, the Conservatives cast doubt on the premise of the whole exercise, calling into question whether Canadians are actually living in an “increasing public climate of hate and fear,” as the motion states. Their report suggests the per capita rate of hate crimes has declined since 2009.

The Conservatives also listed 26 different definitions of the term Islamophobia provided by different witnesses who appeared before the committee. “The concerns raised, regarding the dangers of an over-broad definition, or of attempting to condemn ‘Islamophobia’ without defining which thoughts and actions are thereby also being condemned, were widespread,” reads the Conservative report.

In their own list of recommendations, the Conservatives called on the government to “cease using the term ‘Islamophobia,’” and reiterate its support for freedom of speech and religion.

In an interview, Conservative MP David Anderson said communities and faith groups want to tackle issues of discrimination themselves, without government interference. “We don’t need the government to be overseeing every part of Canadian life,” he said. But he said the Conservatives agree with some of the report’s recommendations, including the need for better data collection. “No one is denying that (discrimination) exists.”

In a supplementary report, the New Democrats accused both Liberals and Conservatives of “political posturing” that diminished the committee’s work to tackle racism and religious discrimination. The report argues the government should have been more open to changing the language of the motion to include “an agreed-upon definition” of Islamophobia, but that “partisan politicking” got in the way.

“People wanted to know, in the context of the motion, what the term Islamophobia meant and what was the intent behind it,” NDP MP Jenny Kwan told the Post. “We could have all worked together to dampen the fear and the misinformation.”

Kwan said it made sense to include the term Islamophobia in the motion, because of the documented rise in hate crimes against Muslims. She believes the parties could have come up with a definition of the term that would have let all parliamentarians agree unanimously to the motion. But in an attempt from Liberals and Conservatives to appear to be on opposite sides of the issue, she said, that didn’t happen.

M-103 was passed by the Liberal majority last March, in the wake of the Quebec City mosque shooting. Throughout the hearings last fall, Liberal committee members frequently expressed frustration at the focus of some witnesses on the wording of the motion, and tried to steer the focus away from Islamophobia and onto racism and religious discrimination more broadly.

Anderson said the Liberals “misunderstood” how strongly Canadians would feel about the issue.

Source: M-103 report makes few recommendations about Islamophobia

Link to report: Committee Report No. 10 – CHPC (42-1) – House of Commons of Canada

Islamophobia won’t be the central focus of parliamentary committee’s M-103 report, sources say

The parliamentary committee tasked with preparing a report on racism and religious discrimination as required by M-103, the Liberal government’s controversial anti-Islamophobia motion, is about to make its recommendations public. But after months of debate over the definition of Islamophobia and the use of the term in a motion intended to address all forms of racism, sources say Islamophobia won’t be a central focus of the M-103 report.

The report’s recommendations largely don’t single out Islamophobia, say some sources with knowledge of the heritage committee’s discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the report. “It’s certainly not the focus of the report,” one said, adding that Islamophobia is referenced, “but not at great length.”

Another source said that while the report does mention the debate over the definition of the term, it doesn’t “go on and on and on about it.”

M-103 was a motion tabled in December 2016 by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, but only gained steam after the shooting in a Quebec City mosque last January that left six Muslim worshippers dead. The motion called for the government to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” and for the heritage committee to conduct a study on how the government could eliminate discrimination “including Islamophobia.”

Though a motion and not a piece of legislation — and though M-103 did not call for the creation of new legislation to address Islamophobia — it quickly became a political lightning rod, with many Conservatives arguing it would stifle free speech, as, they said, the term Islamophobia is poorly defined. A Conservative counter-motion calling for a general study of religious discrimination without singling out Islamophobia was defeated by the Liberals before M-103 was passed in March.

When the heritage committee began its work in September, some members said they’d been contacted repeatedly about the motion by constituents, some of whom expressed fears about Sharia law.

Debate continued over the wording of the motion throughout the committee’s public hearings, leaving Liberal members at times clearly frustrated and at pains to explain that the motion wasn’t just about Islam. “I personally feel we spent a lot of time on this issue of the terminology as opposed to addressing the root cause of the problem,” Liberal MP Arif Virani said during an October hearing.

There have been other signs that the Liberals have wanted to take the focus off Islamophobia, despite the motion’s connection to an attack on Muslim worshippers. “We’re not following the motion word for word,” Liberal committee chair Hedy Fry told witnesses in September. “We’re not having to slavishly follow anything in this motion.”

During the same hearing, NDP MP Jenny Kwan conceded that the language of the motion was “perhaps not the best.”

The heritage committee blew past its 240-day deadline for tabling its recommendations back in November. Sources say debate over the word Islamophobia continued into the committee’s roughly 10 hours of private meetings in December as the report was being prepared.

On Dec. 11, for instance, Conservative MP Scott Reid said on social media that he planned to move a motion to include a suggestion in the report that M-103 should use “anti-Muslim bigotry” instead of “Islamophobia.”

“The Conservatives were focused on the word, and after a while it became bordering on ridiculous,” one source said. Another said the in camera meetings were “complete madness.”

Still, another source said it was important to debate the term. “And I think that just based on the variety of evidence that we had before the committee, that goes to show you that it was a discussion people felt it was important to have.”

Ultimately, sources suggested, the report acknowledges disagreement about the word Islamophobia, but the recommendations don’t focus on anti-Muslim hate over any other type of discrimination.

That would be in line with many of the recommendations put forward by witnesses last fall, which included better collection of hate-crime data, better education, more training for police officers, and an updated national action plan against racism. Few of those recommendations singled out any ethnic or religious group.

The committee is expected to release its report shortly after the House of Commons returns next week.

Source: Islamophobia won’t be the central focus of parliamentary committee’s M-103 report, sources say

M-103 committee hears calls for better data and a definition of Islamophobia

Nice to see the Post addressing its previous lack of balance in its coverage of the M-103 hearings. And most of the recommendations mentioned below are reasonable and innocuous, unlike some of the earlier fear mongering:

Better hate crime data, more training for law enforcement and a clear definition of Islamophobia are some of the recommendations the House of Commons heritage committee has heard most frequently as part of its racism and religious discrimination study required by Motion 103.

The anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 touched off a firestorm of controversy en route to its passage in March. Put forward by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, it asked the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.” Though it is not a law, critics have claimed it will lead to the stifling of free speech by preventing people from criticizing Islam.

Many of the recommendations heard by the heritage committee this fall amount to little more than calls for better education and more support for victims of hate crimes.

Witnesses testifying before the committee have repeatedly raised the lack of data on racism and hate crimes, calling it a significant problem. In June, Statistics Canada reported that hate crimes targeting the Muslim population had increased by 61 per cent between 2014 and 2015, and that hate crimes overall had increased by five per cent. But the agency also noted that the reported data “likely undercounts the true extent of hate crime in Canada, as not all crimes are reported to police.”

Last week, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) testified that the collection of hate-crime data “varies widely by police department,” and urged the federal government to “establish uniform, national guidelines and standards.”

On Monday, Serah Gazali of Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, a community organization in Vancouver, said Canadians also need better education about their rights and their options for reporting hate crimes. “I think (victims) talk about it within themselves and perhaps it’s normalized,” she said. “So they don’t think of it as something that needs to be really addressed.”

Other witnesses have called for police officers to receive more training about how to deal with victims reporting such crimes.

Some have also argued that Canada’s existing hate-crime laws must be strengthened or better enforced.

“Federal government resources should be allocated to support the development of dedicated local police hate-crime units,” CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel included among his recommendations to the committee. “These units have been integrated into several police services across Canada, and have constituted an unmitigated success.”

The delegation from Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, which was presenting recommendations from a community round-table organized with help from NDP MP Jenny Kwan, said the government “should strengthen laws against hate speech and crimes by providing a much more clear and inclusive definition of hate crime and Islamophobia.”

Witnesses throughout the hearings have suggested that Islamophobia, the term at the heart of the motion, needs to be better defined. “The term Islamophobia has been defined in multiple ways, some effective and some problematic,” Fogel argued. “Unfortunately, it has become a lightning rod for controversy, distracting from other important issues at hand.”

On Monday, Gazali went further, suggesting that Islamophobia should explicitly be criminalized. The Criminal Code of Canada currently forbids the public incitement or promotion of hatred “against any identifiable group,” and the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on grounds including race, national or ethnic origin and religion.

Since the hearings began last month, a number of witnesses have recommended an updated national action plan against racism, similar to a plan released in March by Ontario. The federal government first released its own action plan in 2005, but Shalini Konanur, executive director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, said the old plan is “too general.” [Note: the previous action plan, CAPAR, was largely symbolic, with the one meaningful initiative being the collection of police-reported hate crimes data.]

The Ontario plan, she said, targets four pillars: Islamophobia, anti-black racism, Indigenous racism and anti-Semitism. “Within those four pillars, there are very clearly identified targets for what the government hopes to do within the next five years,” she told the committee in September.

Education and employment are other areas where action is needed, according to some witnesses. Ayse Akinturk, an executive with the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, pointed to the challenges many immigrants encounter in trying to work as professionals in Canada. “I think recognition of foreign credentials, international credentials should become a much facilitated procedure,” she said Monday. “It takes really a lot of effort and years, at the end of which people give up and try to find other solutions to make a living for themselves.”

Others have recommended mandatory anti-racism training for government employees, and that Ottawa should work with the provinces to improve childhood education on diversity and multiculturalism.

In recognition of a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that left six people dead earlier this year, Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, recommended that Jan. 29 be declared a “national day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia in Canada.”

Source: National Post

Some fears of Islam justified: Lawyer [David Matas]

Sun Media continues to cover the perspectives of those concerned without comparable coverage of those in support of M-103. Both perspectives need to be covered.

My (faint) hope is that the Canadian Heritage committee will come up with a consensus on a working definition, one that puts that particular canard behind us, and allows focus on the day-to-day practical issues:

A celebrated Canadian human rights lawyer urged MPs to be careful in their use of the term Islamophobia, saying “fear of some elements of Islam is mere prudence.”

David Matas, an Order of Canada recipient who began his career as a clerk for the Chief Justice of Canada in the 1960s, delivered testimony Wednesday before the M-103 committee hearings in his capacity as senior counsel to B’nai Brith Canada.

“Not every fear of Islam is Islamophobia,” Matas said to the House of Commons Heritage Committee, noting that anyone who is not afraid of the various radical Islamic terrorist outfits in the world is “foolhardy”.

“Islamophobia does not appear in a vacuum,” Matas told MPs. “It grows out of a fear of incitement and acts of hatred and terrorism coming from elements of the Islamic community.”

The Winnipeg-based lawyer, who ran for office years ago as a Liberal, recommended the committee take a “dual focus” approach on both those victimized by Islamophobia and those within the Islamic community inciting hatred and terrorism.

Following Matas’ testimony, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, urged the committee to aim towards a more precise definition of Islamophobia.

M-103 was nominally designed to denounce, and study, all forms of racism and discrimination, but has faced extensive controversy for singling out Islam.

Fogel pointed to a Toronto District School Board booklet’s definition of Islamophobia that included mere dislike of political Islam as worthy of censure.

“This incident exposes significant problems with relying on ad hoc, inadequate definitions of Islamophobia,” said Fogel.

On Monday, Muslim author and Sun columnist Farzana Hassan told the committee her concerns about how the term is used in other countries to suppress criticism from within the faith.

Source: Some fears of Islam justified: Lawyer | St. Thomas Times-Journal

By discouraging criticism of Islam, M103 could make it harder to combat anti-Semitism

Striking looking at the list of witnesses before the Canadian Heritage committee studying M-103 of just how polarized the positions are, almost to the extent of parallel universes, with relatively few who bridge the gap.

B’nai Brith plays a useful role in flagging issues, as they did in flagging the issue regarding the TDSB Islamophobia guidebook.

One of the useful contributions of the Conservative government to multiculturalism was its recognition that broad anti-racism program did not address how racism played out differently for different groups. As a result, they focussed on antisemitism with a number of major initiatives, including the long overdue joining of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the hosting of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism and the holding of unofficial parliamentary hearings on antisemitism.

Similarly, the same logic, that general messaging may not be enough to address – and debate – the concerns of Canadian Muslims, also applies to M-103.

And just as the working definition of antisemitism tried to provide some clarity on when criticism of Israeli policies crossed over to antisemitism, the same would be useful with respect to criticism regarding Muslims that crosses the line between legitimate concerns and anti-Muslim speech.

But unclear to date whether the hearings will get us there:

Recently, B’nai Brith drew attention to an official guidebook published by Ontario’s largest school board that condemned Islamophobia and defined the term to include “dislike directed… towards Islamic politics or culture.”

While the Toronto District School Board quickly realized its error and pledged to replace this absurdly broad definition, it must be noted that the guidebook was prepared with the support of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a group that has campaigned strongly in favour of M-103. One would assume that the NCCM is an authority on the proper definition of Islamophobia.

To be clear, banning or even discouraging any “dislike” of “Islamic politics” would make it nearly impossible to combat the virulent Jew-hatred that we have seen emanating from some Muslim institutions in Canada.

Canada cannot become a haven for anti-Muslim bigotry. But, by the same token, we cannot allow a misguided reluctance to criticize anything dubbed Islamic to stymie the protection of Canada’s most targeted religious minority — Canadian Jews.

Source: By discouraging criticism of Islam, M103 could make it harder to combat anti-Semitism | National Post