Canada’s M-103 debacle is a trial balloon for something much bigger
Liberal MP Iqra Khalid. (Handout/Postmedia Network)
“There will be no Shariah law in Ontario,” Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty said in 2005.
He was announcing that religious arbitration decisions would no longer be backed up by Ontario courts.
“There will be one law for all Ontarians.”
We made the right choice then. But a lot has changed in the years since. Would we do the same now?
This is the undercurrent of the fight now playing out over Canada’s so-called anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103. The motion itself is fairly benign, its only actionable item being the call for a committee study.
The bigger problem is this whole exercise is about getting a Western liberal democracy to grant recognition to weaponized language used around the world by Islamists to shore up their intolerant political agenda.
While to ill-informed social justice warriors, rejecting Islamophobia just means the common sense courtesy of not ripping off a woman’s hijab in the grocery store, that’s not what it means for many millions of people across the Muslim world.
A quarter of the countries in the world have some form of anti-blasphemy and apostasy laws, many of which are fuelled by a broad definition of Islamophobia. For too many of their citizens, opposing Islamophobia means locking up contrarian bloggers or cartoonists who draw the prophet. This is what we’re at risk of normalizing.
The motion was previously slated for second reading in April but is now set to appear in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The scheduling change means the fallout from M-103 will be drowned out by the federal budget, which will be tabled on Wednesday.
Clearly, the Liberals are no longer so keen on giving this the limelight. No wonder. They thought they’d set a trap for the Conservatives but instead fell into it themselves.
Motion sponsor Liberal MP Iqra Khalid has shied away from most media requests. When Conservative MPs such as Erin O’Toole proposed modest amendments to get consensus, Khalid declined and revealed the prime minister’s office was calling the shots.
Then Canadians saw right through her exercise of reading the thousands of mean messages she’d been sent. They know full well that hateful threats are wrong but also know two wrongs don't make a right.
While those of us in the press criticizing the motion were, at first, few, more have come on board. CBC journalists Terry Milewski and Neil Macdonald have recently asked smart questions about it.
Meanwhile, multi-faith and ethnically diverse protests have cropped up across the country. And on Monday, a new group called Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights and Freedoms gave a press conference against the motion on Parliament Hill.
The strongest moment was when a gay Muslim man who gave his name as Yusuf took to the microphone to explain “we would like to open our religion to criticism – to find our weaknesses and strengths.”
Yusuf’s referring to the Islamic reformation, a process people both in and out of the faith argue is needed to drag this growing monotheism into modernity. Will the Liberals help or hinder making progress on one of the defining issues of our time?
This matters. The time to get it right is now.
An Environics poll from last year revealed Canadian Muslims are becoming more observant and more likely to embrace patriarchy and homophobia. A Macdonald-Laurier Institute survey from 2011 found 62% of Canadian Muslims backed some form of Shariah law. And Statistics Canada found the Muslim population recently doubled over 10 years, crossing 1 million persons in 2011.
We may not see it now, but this motion is a trial balloon for the main event - likely a future debate that will resemble what Ontario had in 2005. But this one will be much bigger.