On October 26, Canada's parliament unanimously passed an anti-Islamophobia motion, which was the result of a petition initiated by Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum. The petition garnered almost 70,000 signatures.
According to the text of the petition,
"Recently an infinitesimally small number of extremist individuals have conducted terrorist activities while claiming to speak for the religion of Islam. Their actions have been used as a pretext for a notable rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in Canada; and these violent individuals do not reflect in any way the values or the teachings of the religion of Islam. In fact, they misrepresent the religion. We categorically reject all their activities. They in no way represent the religion, the beliefs and the desire of Muslims to co-exist in peace with all peoples of the world. We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia".
The Parliament of Canada, in Ottawa. (Image source: Saffron Blaze/Wikimedia Commons)
While a motion will have no legal effect unless it is passed as a bill, the symbolic effect of the Canadian parliament unanimously condemning "all forms of Islamophobia," without making the slightest attempt at defining what is meant by "Islamophobia," can only be described, at best, as alarming.
What exactly are they condemning? Criticism of Islam? Criticism of Muslims? Debating Mohammed? Depicting Mohammed? Discussing whether ISIS is a true manifestation of Islam? Is any Canadian who now writes critically of Islam or disagrees with the petitioners that ISIS "does not reflect in any way the values or the teachings of the religion of Islam" now to be considered an "Islamophobe"?
No one knows, and it is doubtful whether the members of the Canadian parliament know what it means themselves. It would seem, however, that the initiator of the petition, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Samer Majzoub, knows. This is what he had to say in an interview with the Canadian Muslim Forum after the motion passed:
"Now that Islamophobia has been condemned, this is not the end, but rather the beginning ... We need to continue working politically and socially and with the press. They used to doubt the existence of Islamophobia, but now we do not have to worry about that; all blocs and political figures, represented by Canada's supreme legislative authority, have spoken of that existence. In the offing, we need to get policy makers to do something, especially when it comes to the Liberals, who have shown distinct openness regarding Muslims and all ethnicities... All of us must work hard to maintain our peaceful, social and humanitarian struggle so that condemnation is followed by comprehensive policies."
Whereas the Canadian parliamentarians seem entirely unaware of what Muslim organizations have in store for them in terms of "comprehensive policies", it is clear that to the parliamentarians, the motion constitutes "virtue-signaling" at its worst. Whereas the parliamentarians might now feel good about themselves, does their vote mean that those Canadians who dare to criticize Islam and disagree vehemently with the premises of the motion are likely to be considered (even more) beyond the pale of civilized society? Does it mean that only one view is correct and that any view that differs from it will now be, by default, incorrect -- if not criminal?
It will almost certainly deter people from speaking up, for fear that they will be labeled "racists" or "Islamophobes" by arbitrarily creating a threatening atmosphere of political correctness, where those who do not adhere to the groupthink are shamed and ostracized. Such strangulation of opinion also cannot be beneficial to any country's national security. How can anyone warn the authorities about virtually anything if they have to worry first that their warning might be considered "Islamophobic"?
There were, of course, no parallel motions in Canada's parliament to condemn "Christianophobia" or "Judeophobia," the latter being much more prevalent than "Islamophobia." In fact, according to statistics, Jewish Canadians are more than 10 times as likely to be the victim of a hate crime than Muslim Canadians.
It was exactly this kind of toxic, politically correct atmosphere in the United States that enabled Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, to gun down 13 people and to wound 29 others in the Fort Hood massacre in 2009. His former classmate, Lt. Col. Val Finnell, told Fox news at the time that, despite Hasan's suspicious behavior, such as giving a presentation justifying suicide bombings, nothing was done about Hasan to see if he might be a security risk. Instead, he was treated with kid gloves. "The issue here is that there's a political correctness climate in the military. They don't want to say anything because it would be considered questioning somebody's religious belief, or they're afraid of an equal opportunity lawsuit", said Lt. Col. Finnell.
In December 2015, a man who had been working in the area where the San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook lived told CBS Los Angeles that,
"he noticed a half-dozen Middle Eastern men in the area in recent weeks, but decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people. "We sat around lunch thinking, 'What were they doing around the neighborhood?'" he said.
The fear of being labeled an "Islamophobe" is real and has had lethal consequences. It is this fear that the Canadian parliament has now elevated into a parliamentary motion, signaling that this sentiment is shared by the highest echelons in the country, those who make the laws.
A democratic parliament presumably should not be cowing its citizens into silence. The term "bullying" comes to mind. Parliamentary bullying and reckless disregard of the freedom of speech should have no place in a society that cares about the values of freedom and national security. Canada has already seen, to its disgrace, attacks on free speech against Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, among others. Is this the country Canada wishes to become?
The motion is reminiscent of the US House Resolution 569, "Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States," which was introduced in the House of Representatives on December 17, 2015. This Resolution is more detailed than the short condemnation of Islamophobia from the Canadian parliament, but the essence of both appears to be the same: Criticism of Islam or of Muslims is wrong and should be condemned, if not outright criminalized.
In condemning "all forms of Islamophobia", Canada's parliament has in effect done everything the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) -- consisting of 56 Muslim states plus "Palestine" -- could wish for. Fighting "Islamophobia" is at the very top of the agenda of this organization, which is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The OIC is aggressively promoting the so-called Istanbul Process, which aims to forbid all criticism of Islam and make this ban a part of international law.
Ironically, the Saudi Arabian flag flew on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on November 2, as Canadian public officials met with a so-called "human rights" commission from Saudi Arabia. This commission publicly supported Saudi Arabia's mass executions in January 2016, in which 47 people were executed by the authorities, saying that they "enforce justice, fulfill ... legitimate and legal requirements, and protect the society and its security and stability". That, apparently, is not problematic in the eyes of Canadian parliamentarians.
As recently as October 24, the General Secretariat of the OIC held a meeting "to review the media strategy for countering Islamophobia". The meeting was scheduled to:
"discuss the OIC media strategy and ways to counter Islamophobia in light of the recent developments and hate campaigns in different parts of the world, especially with the increasing number of Muslim refugees in Western countries and the mounting hate discourse in a manner that causes serious concern. The meeting aims to come up with clear and practical mechanisms for a counter-Islamophobia media campaign that highlights the true noble image of Islamic and contributes to halting the ongoing deliberate defamatory campaigns waged in different Western fora".
The question, naturally, is whether Canada's motion will be replicated in other parliaments in the West. The OIC is particularly active in Europe, having opened a Permanent Observer Mission to the European Union in 2013. The OIC also recently formed the so-called Contact Group for Muslims in Europe, whose formation was announced at the OIC Istanbul Summit in April 2016, and includes Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Somalia, Malaysia and Jordan.
The establishment of the OIC Contact Group for Muslims in Europe
"aims at ensuring the effective cooperation between the relevant parties, in order to lay out strategies to eliminate hate speech, physical assault, practices of intolerance, prejudice, racial discrimination and Islamophobia, and to support intercultural dialogue and social inclusion. Further, the Group can be a platform through which Muslims from various nationalities can exchange experiences, define best practices, with a view to increase Muslim participation in the political and social life in Europe". [emphasis added]
The EU apparently sees the OIC as a friendly and benevolent organization with shared values. According to the EU's European External Action service (its diplomatic service, which assists the EU's foreign affairs chief):
"The OIC has undergone important changes during the last decade: it made advances in support of freedom of speech and freedom of religion/belief. It enlarged its cooperation to economic, cultural, development and humanitarian fields."
Seriously? In what parallel universe can the efforts of the OIC to stifle free speech possibly be considered advancement of freedom of speech and religion?
As the OIC steps up its media campaign and its efforts in Europe, European parliaments are likely to experience initiatives like the petition in Canada. The European Union, for one, looks as if it would be happy to facilitate such a motion.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.