02/21/2017 01:03 EST | Updated 02/21/2017 05:34 EST

M-103 Can Ban Islamophobia, But Only Honest Dialogue Will End It

Recently MP Iqra Khalid received death threats for presenting motion M-103. The motion calls for condemning Islamophobia in the wake of the Quebec mosque shooting. The reaction to her motion and the blockage of a Toronto mosque only corroborate the virulent hatred against Muslims that exists among some segments in Canada.

The motion echoes the concerns of the Muslim community that feels increasingly marginalized. The Cold Lake mosque graffiti, the assault of a Muslim woman in Flemingdon Park, the threats to Muslim women on an Edmonton LRT station, the Peterborough mosque fire are only a snapshot of recent hateful events.

What instigates this hatred and can this motion quell it?

The motion also evoked strong concerns from Conservative Party MPs. Concerns were expressed that the word "Islamophobia" could be replaced by the word "anti-Muslim bigotry," that it gives Islam preferential treatment over other religions, that a broadly worded motion could be adopted and that it would hinder work on empowering Muslim women.

The Conservative MP arguments are reminiscent of the arguments that have been used before. The concern on semantics, threats to free speech and the argument on the sufficiency of existing protections have all been witnessed in the context of issues related to the LGBTQ community.

The "preferential" treatment of Islam reminds one of the "special" rights afforded the LGBTQ community. The move to broaden the scope to include all religions is reminiscent of downplaying specific concerns through the "All Lives Matter" slogan. Moreover, there exist precedents that have afforded protections highlighting specific religious communities.

Hateful voices ignore the good work that is being done by grass-roots Muslim organizations and Muslim individuals.

Finally, as the Canadian Council of Muslim Women has expressed solidarity with MP Iqra Khalid and motion M-103, the argument that the motion would hinder work on empowering Muslim women is moot.

Two concerns have also been highlighted by conservative bloggers. These include the alleged introduction of sharia laws and the ban on free speech. The concern on introduction of sharia laws is moot, as more than a decade ago the Canadian Council of Muslim Women was at the forefront of the battle against such policies in Ontario.

Those in positions of immense privilege, who do not have to bear the consequences of ill-chosen words, often peddle the concerns of free speech. However, on the vicious murder of Matthew Shepherd, Bishop John Shelby Spong aptly stated that words shape consciousness, and therefore words have consequences.

MP Iqra Khalid has clearly stated that she "would be the first person to oppose anything that infringes on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms." Furthermore, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly defined Islamophobia as "discrimination of Muslim people and people who are of Muslim faith." This means criticism of abstract ideas and religious doctrines remains unfettered.

This brings us back to the question of what instigates hatred of Muslims amongst some online segments in Canada. Such hatred is directed towards all Muslims. This includes progressive, religiously plural, feminist and LGBTQ-affirming Muslims.

Hateful voices ignore the good work that is being done by grass-roots Muslim organizations and Muslim individuals.

anti islam rally toronto

Anti-Islam protests outside Masjid Toronto. (Photo: Uzair Khan/Facebook)

Why are these voices conspicuously absent when it comes to signing petitions to free Muslim human rights activists like Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair?

Why do they not join Muslim individuals when they protest outside Saudi embassies against human rights violations?

Why do they always obsess with what women wear instead of helping Muslim women rights groups?

Why do they spend their time complaining about the treatment of LGBTQ Muslims instead of helping them establish safe spaces?

Why do they not stand by Muslim activists who challenge Muslim supremacist speakers that peddle sharia laws and Caliphates?

The answer is clear. All of that requires hard work and it is easy to revel in hatred.

We cannot afford to lose more lives to radicalization and supremacism.

This brings us to the next question of whether a simple motion can quell such hatred. Motions cannot quell Islamophobia just as Muslim condemnations do not thwart terrorism. Both, however, allow us to take the first step towards acknowledging the problem we have in our midst.

Beyond motions, we need merciless introspection, critical thinking and honest dialogue on part of both conservative and Muslim Canadians that would draw the two communities together and isolate hateful people.

This dialogue has to rest on listening to the other and on rejecting analysis based on selective parsing of news media that highlights the negative and ignores anything positive.

Both Muslim and white Canadian youth have to be given venues to vent their concerns in an appropriate manner. We cannot afford to lose more lives to radicalization and supremacism.

This means upholding and nurturing the values of humility, patience and compassion. Any activism must rest on these values; otherwise, by putting others down and humiliating them, we push them towards hate.

In conclusion, love comes to our rescue where even the most stringent of policies meet their limits.

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