The Canadian government has put its weight behind a parliamentary motion condemning Islamophobia, in spite of attacks from right-wing politicians and activists who say it infringes on freedom of speech.
Motion 103 calls on the federal government to “recognise the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear,” and condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious-based discrimination.
“This is a motion that seeks to continue the important conversation about how we can strengthen our Canadian fabric by studying systemic racism and discrimination, including Islamophobia,” said Iqra Khalid, the Liberal party MP who proposed the motion last December.
“The first step towards engaging in these conversations of inclusion is to recognise that we have a problem,” Khalid said on Wednesday during the debate.
The non-binding motion does not rise to the level of a bill or law, but it calls for a parliamentary committee to look into ways to reduce systemic racism in Canada, including Islamophobia, and to collect data on reported hate crimes.
The motion comes after an online petition, E-411, was posted last year calling on the government to condemn all forms of Islamophobia and recognise that extremists do not represent Islam. That petition garnered almost 70,000 signatures.
It also comes after an attack on a mosque in Quebec City in late January that killed six Muslim worshippers as they prayed.
Since the deadly shooting, Muslim community groups across the country have called on Canada to condemn all forms of racism, including Islamophobia, and work to stem hate speech and hate crimes.
“It’s not about one race over another. It’s not about one religion over another. Hate does not discriminate,” Khalid said.
But earlier this week, a growing chorus of Conservative Party politicians, many of whom are vying for the party leadership, voiced opposition to the motion.
Some said the lack of a clear definition of Islamophobia in the motion leaves it open to interpretation and may outlaw any criticisms of the religion.