Opinion

Is Canada’s Anti-Islamophobia Motion As Benign As It Seems?

When Motion 103, a non-binding proposal titled “Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination” was first introduced by MP Iqra Khalid, supporters claimed it was a thoroughly uncontroversial request to study religious discrimination – with a particular focus on Islamophobia – and develop a method of reducing its impact.

The motion was approved on March 23, 2017. Initially brought before the House of Commons for debate as the province of Quebec was recovering from an attack by a crazed gunman on a mosque, killing six worshippers, the motion spoke to an “increasing public climate of hate and fear.” As parliamentary motions in Canada are usually passed with a minimum of fuss and because a similar motion condemning Islamophobia had been passed by Parliament months before, there were grounds to assume that M103 would pass without complaint.

However, this time, Canadians – who already have a pretty solid reputation as the most tolerant country in the world – weren’t buying it. Polls showed the motion was vastly unpopular. Canada’s official opposition leader Rona Ambrose decried the motion as divisiveProtests against the motion sprang up in Canadian cities all throughout February and March. Opponents of M103 claim the motion benefits the growing Islamist presence within Canada’s Muslim communities.

Some Canadian journalists, such as Globe and Mail columnist Tabatha Southey, dismissed these concerns as “groundless xenophobia fuelled panic,” while National Post columnist Andrew Coyne wrote protests off as “hysteria” and “intolerance.” IPolitics correspondent Stephen Maher described the reaction as “anti-Muslim.” Canadian Muslim Forum President Samer Mazjoub claimed that an opposition motion, which offered a condemnation of all religious bigotry, not just Islamophobia, “has created waves of xenophobia” all across the country.

MP Omar Alghabra tweeted out a graphic that asked “When did condemning Islamophobia become controversial?” and compared denouncing hate to other symbols of Canada, such as maple syrup and the ubiquitous coffee and donuts fast food chain Tim Hortons.

While public condemnation of anti-Muslim bigotry may not itself be too controversial, the ideology behind the motion and the political legitimacy it now enjoys after passage is certainly cause for concern.

First there is Khalid’s admission that the Prime Minister’s Office would be answering questions about the wording of the motion and why it singles out Islamophobia, indicating that Khalid herself has influence at the highest levels.

Then there is the fact that Khalid is a former President of York University’s Muslim Students Association, a student group with documented ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Similarly, Omar Alghabra is a former director of the Canadian Arab Federation, an association that has published statements in support of terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

M103’s supporters in the Muslim community have questionable ties of their own. It has been reported that Samer Majzoub was the manager of a Montreal private school that received a $70,761 donation from the Kuwait embassy, while the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) – formerly the Canadian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations – published an open letter linking M103 to a wide-ranging campaign aimed at reducing systemic racism and Islamophobia in Canada.

The NCCM’s letter received positive coverage in the Qatari-backed Middle East Eye, which has employed individuals who have worked for “independent” media organizations that try to hide and normalize the actions of terrorist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Al-Islah. Importantly, Canadian newspapers or commentators appear not to have noticed that M103 is actually part of an Islamist agenda.

While the NCCM’s open letter does not directly call for Sharia law or the criminalization of criticism of Islam, it does advance the notion that the famously tolerant nation of Canada must set up anti-racism directorates in each province to track instances of Islamophobia, institute a mandatory course on systemic racism for Canadian high school students, and train its police officers to use bias-neutral policing.

Like M103 itself, none of these initiatives appears particularly controversial. But if there is no Islamist problem at work here in Canada, why have so many controversial individuals with links to Islamist groups supported the motion?

Josh Lieblein is a Toronto-based writer and activist who writes for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.