When Parliament passed M-103, the motion that condemned Islamophobia without defining it, its proponents assured Canadians it would not change Canadian law, or in any way lead to restrictions on freedom of speech.
Opponents of the motion remain unconvinced, and on Sept. 10, they will convene a nationwide conference to voice their concerns and prepare the groundwork for a political push against what they believe is legislation that will at some point restrict Canadians’ freedoms and perhaps lay the groundwork for the introduction of Islamic Shariah law in Canada.
The conference, titled, “M-103: Islamophobia Cure or Shariah Trap?” will take place in Toronto on Sept. 10, from 1-5 p.m. and will be simulcast online to a variety of venues across the country. Organizers are not publicly revealing its location. Anti-fascist activists, known as antifa, have already threatened to disrupt the event and intimidate participants, said David Nitkin, a spokesperson for Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights & Freedoms (C3RF), one of the co-sponsors of the conference.
Joining C3RF in promoting the conference are a variety of advocacy groups, including ACT! For Canada, Canadians for the Rule of Law, Hasbara Fellowships Canada, Israel Activist Alliance, Mozuud Freedom Foundation, Muslim-Jewish Dialogue, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Stop Sponsoring Hatred and Tazpit Press Service.
Nitkin said antifa has used voice mail messages and emails to threaten to go to locations where the conference is being held and “smash” the venues, in order to prevent the conference from proceeding.
Conference organizers believe that the House of Commons heritage committee, which was mandated by M-103 to address “systemic racism” and the issue of Islamophobia, will propose changes to Canadian law that will criminalize criticism of Islam and pave the way for greater application of Shariah law in Canada. C3RF is worried that Canada could follow the lead of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which defines “Islamophobia” as “an excessive fear against Islam and anything associable with Islam.” On its website, C3RF says that this definition is worrisome because “anything associable with Islam” would include Shariah slander laws, which stand in opposition to Canadian values.
When criticism of Islam is treated as blasphemy, any parliamentary move to address Islamophobia will necessarily lead to the suppression of free speech, Nitkin said.
Rights belong to individuals, not ideologies, Nitkin said. Furthermore, there is no evidence of widespread crimes directed at Muslims. Three times more hate crimes are directed at Jews than at Muslims, even though there are nine times as many Muslims in Canada, he said.
Ben Dichter, one of the expected speakers at the conference, said he believes M-103 could lead “to Canada’s first blasphemy law.”
Dichter – who’s co-founder of the group LGBTory, a conservative LGBT organization – said his friends in the Muslim community who escaped the theocratic government in Iran “fear this is going to lead to the denial of freedom of speech and special privileges for a specific ideology.”
Canada already has laws protecting individual Muslims from hate and doesn’t need any new laws against Islamophobia, he said.
“My Muslim friends say, ‘I came to Canada to escape Shariah law and Shariah law is following me. Canadians need to wake up’,” he said.
Raheel Raza, president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and author of Their Jihad – Not My Jihad, is also slated to address the conference in Toronto.
“I am Muslim, but I believe we don’t have rampant Islamophobia in Canada and to focus on one community is divisive,” she said.
“Islam is an ideology and should be open to criticism like any other ideology,” she added.
Raza has spoken out against M-103, arguing in one article that “the term Islamophobia was created in the 1990s, when groups affiliated to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood decided to play victim for the purpose of beating down critics.”
Raza believes parliamentary hearings on Islamophobia will lead to a bill that will restrict free speech and will “make people afraid to criticize ideas.”