Barbara Kay: Actually, one needn’t be a hysterical bigot to have concerns with M-103
National Post - Tuesday February 21st, 2017
I have serious concerns about M-103, a private member’s motion currently before Parliament that would condemn Islamophobia. But I want to reassure my colleague Andrew Coyne that I’m not nearly as unhinged as he seems to think we critics are.
Here is what Andrew wrote of the critics in his recent column on M-103: they’re a “most extreme voice” on “a most extreme position,” flaunting “a kind of moral exhibitionism” and “populist virtue-signaling,” with the purpose of “say(ing) and do(ing) the most intolerant or ill-considered thing that comes to mind.” Further, they’re “whip(ping)” up a “hysteria campaign.”
The case against M-103 is actually much simpler, and one need not be hysterical to make it. M-103 is troubling for its lack of definition and in particular to its deference to language in petition E-411, which M-103 cites as its raison d’étre, to wit: “Recently an infinitesimally small number of extremist individuals have conducted terrorist activities while claiming to speak for the religion of Islam… 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.”
Conservatism used to have some claim to being a coherent political philosophy. Of late it has become a series of dares. The most extreme voice will lay down the most extreme position, then challenge others to endorse it.
As often as not this has nothing to do with conservatism. It is rather a kind of moral exhibitionism, populist virtue-signalling, in which the object is to say and do the most intolerant or ill-considered thing that comes to mind — anything that might attract the condemnation of bien-pensants in the media and elsewhere, whose opposition becomes proof in itself of its merits.
The willingness to court such controversy in turn becomes the test of political purity. To demur, conversely, can only be a sign of cowardice, or worse, liberalism, a heresy that that would seem to have overcome much of the conservative movement, to judge by the ever-lengthening list of the excommunicated.
So we come to the latest of these blooding exercises, the “debate” over Motion 103, a private member’s motion introduced by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid.
I’m gratified the petition writer — Liberal MP Iqra Khalid? An Islamic advocacy group? The PMO? — rejects jihadism as un-Islamic, but phrases like “do not reflect in any way” and “misrepresent the religion” are an opinion, not the immutable fact implied by the language and tone. These words are clearly meant as a directive to Canadians concerning the “correct” opinions we are to adopt. The unspoken but very real message is that it would be Islamophobic to think otherwise. One needn’t be a conspiracy theorist to see the thin end of an elephant-sized speech-chilling wedge here. Because the thin edge has morphed into a fat edge elsewhere in the West.
In December, for example, Georges Bensoussan, a Morocco-born scholar on Jewish communities in Arab countries, was prosecuted in France, because a complaint was filed against him for incitement to racial hatred by the “Collective Against Islamophobia.” His crime? Two quotations were cited in the charge, taken from an interview last year on a French cultural radio show. Bensoussan said, “Today, we are witnessing a different people in the midst of the French nation, who are effecting a return on a certain number of democratic values to which we adhere,” and “This visceral anti-Semitism proven by the Fondapol survey by Dominique Reynié last year cannot remain under a cover of silence.” (Here he was referring to a 2014 survey finding Muslims in France were nearly three times more likely to be anti-Jewish than French people as a whole.)
If these are not fair comments by Andrew Coyne’s standards, then I do not know what is. But Bensoussan is in the dock for them. His story frightens me — with reason.
Ironically, I happened to come across this story at the same time as it was revealed that in at least two sermons distributed on Youtube, imam Sayyid al-Ghitaoui of Montreal’s Al-Andalus Islamic Centre called for Allah to “destroy the accursed Jews,” to “kill them one by one” and to “make their children orphans and their women widows.” (Has he been fired yet? I ask because only Jewish media considered it a story worth covering.) It’s not as if this imam is unique here either. Imams all over the world say the same and much worse about Jews, citing sacred Islamic texts. ISIL members too tell journalists they are following the prophet Mohammed “in the strictest way.” They feel their Islam is as “real” as those who wrote E-411.
So I say to the petitioners of E-411 that I have received their opinion loud and clear. And now I would like to make up my own mind about Islam, as I do with all contentious issues: that is, according to primary sources, credible commentators, legitimate opinion surveys and so forth.
I do not wish to be told by a petition or by the recommendations of a study based on that petition what I must think — or say in a considered and thoughtful way — about any ideology or belief system in deference to the sensibilities of a specific group in order to earn a seal of non-Islamophobic approval from agenda-driven advocacy groups and their political allies.
I greatly admire Andrew Coyne for his exegetical brilliance in the hermeneutics of electoral reform, but on the subject of creeping Shariah-based blasphemy laws across the Western world, it grieves me to say that he has revealed himself as an authority of rather lesser stature.
Note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story mischaracterized the legislative authority of M-103.