As someone who has always been on the forefront of struggling against violent Islamic extremism in Canada and elsewhere, I have been warning against the use of the term Islamophobia to silence objective critics of violent interpretation of Islam and attempts towards bloodshed in the name of Islam.
Islamophobia, a loaded term against such criticism, is now being pushed to be adopted in the lexicon of Canadian parliament through Motion 103 presented by MP Iqra Khalid.
Some well-meaning Canadian journalists and opinion makers are suggesting that it is a benign term that may not do any harm, and that the opponents of its inclusion are being paranoid. They also suggest that it is a loosely defined term. It is far from true.
The term Islamophobia came under discussion in the Runnymede Trust Report in early 90s, and defined it as "unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims." Later, the Center for Race and Gender at University of California, Berkley, defined it as"
"[A] contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure. It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve "civilizational rehab" of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise). Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended."
Since then the term has been used by the Islamic extremists, and well known Muslim organizations, to encompass any criticism of Islam, and such criticism is also deemed as Islamophobia. Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), has published a list of those it terms as Islamophobic individuals and it includes several Muslim opinion makers.
If these opinion makers or critics of various extremists tendencies and strains are Islamophobic, then unfortunately various major Muslim intellectuals, scientists, and scholars, could also be deemed as even worse offenders.
World renowned Muslim poet of love and humanism, Jalaluddin Rumi wrote, "Without demolishing religious schools (madrasas) and minarets (mosques) and without abandoning the beliefs and ideas of the medieval age, restriction on thoughts and pains in conscience will not end. Without understanding that unbelief is a kind of religion, and that conservative religious belief a kind of disbelief, and without showing tolerance to opposite ideas, one cannot succeed. Those who look for the truth will accomplish the mission."
Zakariya Razi (Rhazes), the Persian scientist and scholar of the ninth and 10th centuries
said, "If the people of this religion are asked about the proof for the soundness of their religion, they flare up, get angry and spill the blood of whomever confronts them with this question. They forbid rational speculation, and strive to kill their adversaries. This is why truth became thoroughly silenced and concealed."
Eleventh century blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer, Al-Ma'arri, dared to say, "Do not suppose the statements of the prophets to be true; they are all fabrications. Men lived comfortably till they came and spoiled life. The sacred books are only such a set of idle tales as any age could have and indeed did actually produce. They recite their sacred books, although the fact informs me that these are fiction from first to last. O Reason, thou (alone) speakest the truth. Then perish the fools who forged the religious traditions or interpreted them!"
Pakistani columnist and writer, Irfan Husain wrote this opinion a few years ago:
"The Muslim heroes who figure larger than life in our history books committed many dreadful crimes. Mahmud of Ghazni, Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, Balban, Mohammed bin Qasim, and Sultan Mohammad Tughlak, all have blood-stained hands that the passage of years has not cleansed. Indeed, the presence of Muslim historians on their various campaigns has ensured that the memory of their deeds will live long after they were buried.....Seen through Hindu eyes, the Muslim invasion of their homeland was an unmitigated disaster."
It is the opinions like above that the term Islamophobia also tries to control, and this is the reason why the proponents of free speech are demanding that it must not be sanctified by including it in Canadian parliamentary language.
Motion 103, does not mention or refer to any data that suggest that there has been rampant systemic bigotry against the Muslims in Canada over the last several years, except that the timing of the motion has coincided with the recent unfortunate murders of several Muslims in Quebec.
The proponents of the motion have deliberately ignored the fact that Canadians have accepted Muslims with open arms under the secular principles and religious freedom enshrined under Canadian Charter of Rights. Canada has also received over 25,000 Syrian refugees with open arms and citizens around the country are trying to make them comfortable.
This leads many to believe that while the term Islamophobia is non ambiguous, the intentions of presenters of motion 103 are ambiguous and ill defined.
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