“Islamophobia” label silencing valid criticism

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

“Anybody should be allowed to criticize another religion,” says Haroon Khan, trustee of Vancouver’s Jamia Masjid, which bills itself as “the little mosque in the city.”

After the murder of six Muslims in Quebec City, many Canadians have gone into high alert, with the federal Liberals pushing through a bill to outlaw “Islamophobia.”

While politicians, pundits and religious leaders are going out of their way to pronounce they despise hatred, however, some moderate Muslims are feeling boxed in.

Vancouver-born Khan believes a fringe of extremists exist on all sides. Most are “mentally ill.” Some, like Quebec suspect Alexandre Bissonnette appear to be obsessed about Muslims. But militant Muslims also exist and should be confronted.

How can Canadians respond to the atmosphere of hyper-vigilance following Quebec’s mass murder and the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump, who is restricting immigration from several Muslim countries?

Each day, the North American media covers offences against Muslims and Jews ranging from assaults and arsons to insults, bomb hoaxes, gravestone desecrations and offensive graffiti.

While the crackdown on contempt for religious people is understandable, the unintended consequence was recently explained by prominent Quebec Muslims.

A Muslim group, mostly professionals, alerted the public to the downside of exaggerating Islamophobia, a concept they said lacks definition.

The 24 Muslims sent a public letter to Le Devoir that starts by criticizing those who describe all Muslims as extremists, but then goes beyond the obvious.

The Muslim letter writers simultaneously disagreed with ultra-conservative Muslims who exploit the ambiguities of “Islamophobia” to shut down criticism of radical Islamism.

“We reject attempts to manipulate the concept of Islamophobia in order to muzzle opposition to Islamist currents. These attempts are, to a large extent, responsible for the climate of hostility toward Muslims,” the Muslims said, in the French-language letter.

“This hostility is founded on the confusion between sectarian Islam and the majority of Muslim beliefs. This climate of hostility is used to validate the language of victimization expressed by Islamists.”

The misuse of ‘Islamophobia’

In other words, in the name of protecting Muslims from victimization, activists who want to censor criticism of Muslims have fallen prey to extremists, say the moderates. Liberal Muslims can now be condemned as hateful simply for speaking against injustice.

Does this explain why a relative few denounced the Montreal imam who was recently caught on video preaching Jews should be “killed one by one?”

Is it why some judge it anti-Islamic to question the Quebec developer who tried to build an apartment building solely for Muslims? Why most won’t openly disagree with Ontario Muslim parents who ridiculed anti-homophobia programs in public schools?

Is it now Islamophobic to want to know more about the case of the Syrian refugee charged this year with sexually assaulting six teenagers at an Edmonton swimming pool, or the Saudi Arabian student who attacked a UBC woman?

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