Private member's motion M-103, which aims to condemn Islamophobia, has raised concerns about freedom of speech. Photo courtesy of Scazon via Flickr [https://flic.kr/p/5CrhHG]

Islamophobia motion raised concerns about freedom of speech

By 
  • February 22, 2017

OTTAWA – A Liberal private member’s motion calling on the government to condemn Islamophobia has divided Parliament and raised concerns about freedom of speech.

The Catholic Civil Rights League issued a Feb. 16 statement opposing Motion M-103, even though it defends the Catholic faith against defamation in the public square.

“Faith and reason go hand in hand, and Christians are unafraid of a public skirmish on faith claims,” said the League. “Such defamations should be exposed to the ridicule they deserve in open debate.

“M-103 speaks to none of this. The motivation of the motion is suggestive of inclusion of ‘Islamophobia’ into a hate crime, when legitimate concerns over mainstream or extreme aspects of Islam should be open to debate, and not subjected to some creeping observance of sharia law, which forbids criticism of Islam.”

“The Islamophobia motion should be withdrawn,” said Peter Bhatti, chairman of International Christian Voice, an organization in Canada fighting for persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan.

“It discriminates against other religions in favour of one religion,” he said. “We are victims of this kind of law in Pakistan.”

Bhatti said the motion reminds him of the blasphemy laws that have been used to persecute Christians, other religious minorities, even Muslims in Pakistan on the grounds they have criticized Islam, Muhammed or the Koran.

His brother, Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minorities Minister in the Pakistani government, was assassinated six years ago because of his opposition to the blasphemy laws.

MP Iqra Khalid, a Muslim Canadian who represents the Mississauga-Erin Mills riding in Ontario, introduced Motion M-103 late last year. It came up for its first of two hours of debate Feb. 15.

“To suggest that my motion, the aim of which is to initiate a study of systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada, could possibly impact the freedom of speech enjoyed by Canadians demonstrates a lack of understanding of how our Charter works,” Khalid told the House. “A study of systemic racism and religious discrimination would bolster the state of freedom of speech in Canada by making certain that all voices are able to be heard on a level playing field.”

Conservative MP David Anderson drafted a similar motion, dropping the word “Islamophobia” but calling on the House of Commons to condemn “all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities” and conduct a study at the Heritage Committee and make recommendations.

Motion M-103 will have its second hour of debate and a vote when it moves up again in its order of precedence in Private Member’s Business. The Conservative supply motion crafted by Anderson was scheduled for a vote Feb. 21.

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