2017-02-15

A letter in response to a call for petition around Canadian House Motion M-103

For the text of the motion in question (words matter!) click here.

Hello Ron...

I'm still feeling bruised from the electoral reform reversal but while I'll hold that against your leader, I can't really hold it against you, nor will it prevent me speaking up in a slightly more nuanced way than I was urged to do this morning by a friend, with regard to House Motion M-103.

This friend urged signing a petition here:

which when I read it struck me as fear-mongering of a vile sort. Still, there was one point it raised that I think needs to be hammered out before this motion is adopted by the House of Commons.

In any event, I expect the Supreme Court of Canada to rule, ultimately, in favour of free speech over the more egregious possible outcomes of the motion that the petition promoters are predicting, but I still think it is a dangerous motion to allow to pass as is, for the simple reason that "Islamophobia" is not well-defined. The only widely accepted definition of Islamophobia is promulgated by a declaration which appeals and is willing to limit its impact to a body of religious law. That detail should dictate at least a little caution in adopting statements that use the term in a blanket way without further clarification as this motion does.

Those who suggest that it is the camel's nose of injecting further, Shari`a based intrusions on Canadian society are doing so based on ideas of hijra and so forth, whose ultimate success, if indeed it is in play here, I doubt very highly on other grounds. I count these warnings as those of cranks and xenophobes. Yet, as long as "Islamophobia" is well-defined only in a very religious context, and so long as it can potentially be extended to cover sensible criticism of acts past and present done by identifiable members of the larger Islamic community, this motion has the potential of going too far and some measure of the alarm being raised isn't entirely inappropriate -- and this is something that has been said by more than just cranks.

Consider, for a moment what the societal backlash would be (and ought to be! I say it though I myself identify as Christian) if various Christian leaders asked for protections that could be construed as preventing honest criticism of the acts of any groups of Christians? That would clearly be unconstitutional.

​Can I ask and urge that the motion be amended, at the very least to point out that any definition of "Islamophobia" is, a priori, limited by what would be protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? I don't believe that the honourable member who raised the motion could reasonably object to that, and it SHOULD serve to satisfy at least those with reasonable doubts that this isn't what its shrillest critics claim it to be. As for those with unreasonable doubts, what can one say? Only a long record of something other than expectation has the potential (but unfortunately, that's all it has) of convincing these that there's no "there" there; yet working out that long proof is the pith of any national project, including this Canadian experiment.

​Can we agree that such a rider of reference to the Charter​ must be added to make the motion better, a true Canadian response to some deeply fearful circumstances? Clearly, some such response is required: to the mosque shooting in Qu├ębec, to the silly braying of our nearest neighbour's new leader, to the up-tick in racist and sexist violence that has occurred even in Canada since his election, is in order. But let's do it thoughtfully, sensibly, in a typically Canadian way, shall we? It may ultimately be possible, otherwise, to draw a bright line between the passing of this motion as is and the [inflaming of even worse kinds of fear and panic, leading to a reversal of any of the good this resolution is rightly intending to accomplish].

Thanks for your time, both of you. Much wisdom to you in being part of our country's governing body.

Sincerely,


Arthur N. Klassen

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