Friday, 17 February 2017

Motion 103: Too Canadian to be Shari'a

Don't Worry Folks, Canadians are Still Much Too Diffident and Timid for Something as Decisive and Firm as Shari'a Law.  It's not Coming Here.

Not yet anyway.  But there's been no shortage of fear and hysteria coming from what's trying to pass itself off as the alt-right in Canada.  

"The Canadian government is preparing to silence anyone who criticizes Islam" states Faith Goldy of Rebel Media, in an article entitled, Freedom to Offend: Freedom of Speech, not Sharia.  
Their anti-Islamophobia motion (which will, in all likelihood, be voted on during this parliamentary session) resembles a kind of blasphemy law in favour of one preferred religion above all others. If this motion passes, Canadians can be persecuted for expressing any criticism of Islam, even when warranted.  This unfounded anti-Islamophobia legislation flies in the face of our Constitution and its embedded Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Sharia law and it’s related speech codes are not a reasonable limit on my freedoms.   According to our charter of rights and freedoms — we’re all equal. Every individual (not a belief system or ideology) is equal before and under the law. We all have equal protections and benefit equally from the law.  Muslims do not get special treatment or protections.
Ermahgerd!  God help us!  So long as the God we're calling on for help is not Allah.  Then I guess we really are screwed.  

But let's not arm up against the Caliphate of Canadaistan just yet.  

I really do hope we haven't sunk to the level of taking Rebel Media at all seriously.  For those of you who don't know, Rebel was established in February 2015 by a geeky little neo-con by the name of Ezra Levant, who'd been with that paragon of investigative journalism, The Sun News Network, for a few years prior to that and had been writing opinion pieces in Sun newspapers at least as far back as the 1990s.  Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes and one time Canadian Libertarian Party candidate Lauren Southern - two pundits beloved in alt-right and even some alt-left circles for reasons I'll never fully grasp (okay, the baser part of me can understand Lauren's popularity) contribute to Rebel.

Ezra Levant is not exactly Joseph Pulitzer, to put it mildly.   The list of people to whom Mr. Levant has issued retractions and apologies to, or been accused of libel by, isn't exactly short, and he has been on the receiving end of more than one Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruling.  While some of Mr. Levant's positions on free speech issues and criticisms of the vague and far reaching nature of Canadian "Human Rights Commissions"  do resonate with me, he's also an unrepentant neo-con and I've read numerous anti-social democratic editorials penned under his name.  No thanks.

Rebel has not been alone in its fearful attacks on motion M103. "For alternative breaking news global and domestic", which is totally not a fake news site, proclaims "Toronto: Sharia Police Arrest Trump supporter for speaking vs Islam."  

Sharia police?  Okay.  Sounds like totally not fake news, but whatever.

Not surprisingly, centrist and progressive outlets are claiming that the Liberal Member of Parlaiment who proposed M103 has received huge amounts of hate mail, are claiming that attendees at a rally against M103 put on by Rebel Media were giving Nazi like salutes, or are at least urging a less frantic reaction.  The notion of tackling "Islamophobia" in Canada was given further impetus by the tragic slaying of six and injuring of nineteen more when a gunman opened fire in the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City on the evening of January 29.   Also not surprisingly, a "truther movement" questioning the official narrative that the shooter was a white nationalist has emerged.

InfoWars and Rebel Media.  Like I say, not quite Joseph Pulitzer.

Don't misunderstand me.  I'm no fan of the Islamic faith - or of religion in general.  There are many genuinely barbaric aspects of Shari'a Law.  Secularism and separation of church and state are fundamental components of a free and open society.  From what I've heard of Islamic jurisprudence from places like Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State and Afghanistan under the Taliban, I think any reasonable person can be forgiven for taking a pass on it.  It has no place in the liberal west, and its incursion into western nations is rightly troubling.

But does Motion 103 before the Canadian parliament really amount to the beginnings of Shari'a in Canada?   As on old friend of mine used to say, when you're confused, look at the facts.  The text of M103, submitted by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; and (c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making, (ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
There IS plenty not to like here.  I am not defending this motion.  But it isn't the implementation of Shari'a law north of the 49th parallel.   It's as simple as that.  It just isn't.

M103 is incredibly vague and ambiguous, and alludes to a vast, sweeping and all but certainly unattainable goal; nice as it would be to be rid of "systemic racism" and "religious discrimination", I think it a safe bet that, human nature being what it is, this isn't going to happen and that a "whole of government" approach to attempting this will be, at best, an extremely expensive exercise in virtue signalling and, at worst, could possibly entail some erosion of civil liberties such as free speech.  Even in that worst case scenario - which I do not think likely - I don't see Shari'a law on the table here. 

Fears of erosion of cultural distinctiveness in the Great White North are vastly overstated.  This is, if anything, a quintessentially Canadian solution to a quintessentially Canadian problem.  The motion calls for:

  • A standing committee mandated to collect data to "contextualize" hate crime reports
  • Conduct needs assessment for impacted communities
  • Present its findings to Parliament within 240 days of the adoption of this motion.  
I would not bet money on their being a report ready for Parliament within 240 days.  I would bet money on a recommendation for more money and an extension of the mandate which, when completed, will most likely either recommend further study or contain recommendations for Parliament. Whatever these recommendations end up being, the sitting government will most likely do what Canadian parliaments usually do: simply shelve them, quietly as possible, ideally, and with no mention of how much money was spent on the whole endeavor.  The figure would no doubt embarrass the sitting government. 

Chopping off hands for theft is just so Saudi Arabia!  Stoning to death for adultery is much too Taliban for us Canucks.  But strongly worded condemnations, standing committees and needs assessments?  Watching Hockey Night in Canada in your Igloo over a beer and back-bacon, and politely apologizing for it all when you're done doesn't get any more Canadian than that, eh?

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