Should governments oversee religious intolerance and regulate hate, or should communities regulate themselves?
Freedom to Critique Lead to Less Hate
Religious freedom and tolerance go hand in hand. However, if we are not able to critique religion (keeping in mind that religion is an idea) and are told by the government that we should not openly debate and discuss religious issues, it leads to frustration, anger and, quite possibly, hate.
The definition of hate is to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward someone or something and detest it or them. Hate is a very strong emotion and can lead to violence because it dehumanizes the “other.”
We must never tolerate hatred no matter where it’s coming from. The reality is that hatred comes in all forms and from all sides, and anyone can be targeted.
According to Canadian statistics, the highest number of hate crimes was perpetuated against the Jewish community followed by blacks, white men, the LGBTQ community and then Muslims.
All these communities, with the exception of Muslims, fight hate at a community level with education, outreach and programs.
To me, this is best way to deal with hate and intolerance. Governments should not become nannies to the community. Rather, communities have to do the leg work.
The job of the government should only be to legislate and lay the framework to deal with hate crimes (which they have done through existing laws). What the government also can do is ensure that each and every community is treated equality.
Migrant communities, including Muslims, come to Canada from oppressed environments to enjoy the freedoms of a democratic society. In whichever form they come – whether they are economic migrants, refugees or entrepreneurs – if we stifle one of the freedoms which is the cornerstone of the free world – free speech – we are not only betraying the mainstream community but immigrants as well.
M103 and Free Speech
The anti-“Islamophobia” motion M103 in Canada is a challenge because it stifles free speech. I believe you can’t mandate tolerance. Rather, we have an innate responsibility to implement respect for those who are different.
M103 speaks of rampant racism against Muslims – seriously? Muslims have more freedoms in Canada than anywhere else in the world. They come to Canada from almost 60 different parts of the world. They have their own mosques, organizations, halal meat shops and are free to worship anyway they like.
However, if some of them are involved in going directly against the U.N. Charter on human rights and promoting hate, they tarnish the entire community. How do they do this?
- By asking for unreasonable accommodations like Muslim prayers in public schools (this is at a time when “The Lord’s Prayer” has been removed from public schools)
- By hosting the Al-Quds day hate parade against Israel. Trust me, I have been there and heard the hate being spouted in public. It’s toxic
- By spouting hate from the pulpits of some mosques. In a mosque in Scarborough, Ontario where Ali Hindi is the imam, fliers were being distributed to young Muslims inciting them to fight a jihad against Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the community did not come together and take action against the imam
- Anti-Israel BDS movements in universities are upheld by Muslim students. This is nothing short of promoting hate
- Some imams label the LGBTQ community as heretics who need to be removed from society. Is this not hate and intolerance?
- Muslim conferences and conventions that invite speakers who are homophobic, misogynist and anti-Semitic is a common practice
Stop Promoting Hate
I often tell my Muslim community: Stop promoting hate against others and others will stop hating you. Yet when someone criticizes these hateful movements, Muslims yell Islamophobia and run to the government.
It’s like in a school: The student who bullies other students runs and hides behind the teacher’s skirt is bound to be beat up when found alone.
I was fortunate to be born in Pakistan in a Sunni family (the majority in Pakistan). But my husband is Shiite, and I have friends who are Ahmadiyyas. These are persecuted groups and we have to speak out for them. The main backlash against them is from other Muslims. We also see the displaced Yazidis, Coptic Christians, Bahai’s and Pakistani Christians – all religiously persecuted communities who don’t get much attention from mainstream Muslims.
There are, of course, many ways in which Muslim communities can make a difference. We must ensure that if a perpetrator is a Muslim, they should be called out by the Muslim community first, regardless of the level of crime. This lessens the frustration among ordinary Canadians who see us as getting special privileges.
Instead of asking the government to intervene, we — as responsible citizens and communities — need to have much more intra-faith dialogue to discuss these issues in detail and then move to inter-faith dialogue (which, by the way, should not be only about fluff stuff but putting hard issues on the table and having an open and honest conversation about them).
We don’t talk enough about these problems in order to solve them because the fear of Islamophobia stops us from having honest and open dialogue.
In cases of hate and intolerance, imams may not be the go-to people. In these cases, we need the expertise of broad-based, pluralistic Muslims, who are plenty and should be encouraged to come forward as many of them have escaped totalitarian regimes.
Last but not least, law enforcement and the government, as well as the private and public sector, have to stop mollycoddling the people who are part of the problem and not the solution.