The inclusion of the word “Islamophobia” in Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s bid to address racism and racial discrimination has caused a maelstrom in Ottawa, with a number of Conservative MPs – including several leadership hopefuls – saying the motion is an attack on freedom of speech.
But on Oct. 26, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair put forward a motion asking MPs to support “condemning all forms of Islamaphobia” – without any definition or elaboration on the word – and received unanimous consent in the House of Commons.
Khalid’s motion calls on the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear” and condemn Islamophobia, as well as all other kinds of “systemic racism and religious discrimination.”
The fact the word “Islamophobia” is included – yet not explicitly defined – could suppress freedom of expression, some Conservatives have argued; without a clear definition of the term, could the criticism of any element of Islam or Muslim culture become forbidden, they’ve asked.
“Some apply the term only to serious acts of hostility, while others apply it to every critique and every act against Islam,” Conservative MP David Anderson said during last night’s debate on Khalid’s motion.
Conservative MP Scott Reid also rose in opposition to the motion, saying its focus “is on the undefined term Islamophobia rather than on protecting Muslims as individuals.
“This implies that what Canada needs is state protection for faiths rather than for the safety of the faithful.”
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Other critics have said the specific mention of Islam gives that religion special status above others.
The Conservatives did not respond to emailed questions asking why the reaction to the term “Islamophobia” in the October motion appears different from the reaction to its use in the current one with which they take issue.
Moments after Mulcair’s motion received unanimous consent, Conservative MP Candice Bergen presented a motion asking the House to “[condemn] all forms of persecution against all religious groups including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Muslims.”
Her motion also received unanimous consent.
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The votes took place after question period, when there are fewer MPs in the chamber, though all parties were represented. Because the vote was taken by voice (members voiced approval when the House Speaker asked whether they supported the motion) there is no record of exactly which MPs were present when the vote occurred – and whether any are rallying against the current motion.
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Following through on opposition to Khalid’s motion – and her refusal to amend or add to it – the Anderson introduced his own, which is being debated all day Thursday.
The Conservative motion, presented by Saskatchewan MP David Anderson, is broader in scope than the Liberal’s; it asks the House to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.”
In the event Khalid’s motion passes, as is expected with the Liberals’ stated support issues yesterday, the matter will be referred to a Commons committee for study. Motions presented in the House, however, have no legal implications or requirement for the prime minister or his cabinet to take any action on the matter.