I am white, and my ethnicity is European. But that’s far too simplistic.
My father’s father was of Italian origin and Catholic, my father’s mother was of Hungarian origin and Jewish, my mother’s father was of English origin and Protestant, and my mother’s mother was of Lithuanian origin and Jewish.
Italians speak Italian in Southern Europe.
Hungarians speak Hungarian in Eastern Europe.
Brits speak English in Western Europe.
Lithuanians speak Lithuanian in Northern Europe.
The point is that my race (or ethnicity or heritage or national origin) is not me. My beliefs and my culture are me. The fact that I believe in free speech as an absolute and that I treat my elders with respect are completely independent of my genetics and ancestral history. Though I may be influenced by my heritage, I can and have rejected and accepted wisdom and practices passed down from it. However, I cannot liberate myself from my DNA or family tree.
I tell you that to tell you this.
The Canadian Parliament recently passed Motion 103. This measure, while not an enforceable law, aims to encourage the government to seek ways to cull Islamophobia and racism in Canada. Islamaphobia is the only form of discrimination specifically mentioned.
Precisely what this motion will accomplish is hard to say. Since it is more of a statement than a law, there may be no direct effects. It appears to be a stepping stone towards more legally backed measures, but that is just a hunch at this point.
The problem with Motion 103 is that it couples Islamophobia and racism while defining neither.
Merriam-Webster defines Islamophobia as irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam. Unfortunately, this complicates things even further.
By associating fear and avoidance of a set of beliefs with discrimination against a person who holds said set of beliefs, the term Islamophobia is rendered meaningless and susceptible to broad and dangerous interpretations. According to the prior definition, these are the six ways Islamophobia can be understood with a brief analysis for each:
- Irrational fear of Islam
- This seems to suggest that there are both rational and irrational reasons one can fear Islam. Perhaps one who observes the prevalence of terrorism in nations that are heavily influenced by Islam and fears Islam as a result is not Islamophobic because he has a good reason to be fearful. One who fears Islam because he associates it with great white shark attacks might be irrational in his fear. The problem, particularly when the term Islamophobia is used by legislators, is that it does not provide a description of what qualifies as irrational. Who gets to decide this?
- Aversion to Islam
- Aversion can simply mean a strong dislike, but is generally used to mean a strong dislike that results in avoidance. Is it wrong to dislike or to avoid a religion? If so, why aren’t there measures aimed at finding ways to persuade Christians and Atheists to like and embrace each other’s beliefs? There should be no such measures because we all have the right to dislike and avoid any religions we’d like.
- Discrimination against Islam
- If discrimination against Islam means laws that protect religious liberty excluding protections for Islam, it would reference a legitimate human rights violation. If it refers to private individuals choosing to entertain various religions while intentionally approaching Islam with caution, there is no violation. No one is obligated to approach different religions the same way.
- Irrational fear of people who practice Islam
- Again, the term irrational is problematic. Who gets to determine this? And does this mean that there are rational fears one can have about people who practice Islam? If someone has Islamic beliefs, but clearly shows no potential to do anyone harm, it seems like fearing them would be irrational. Does this mean that if someone has White Supremacist beliefs, but clearly shows no potential to do anyone harm, that fearing them would be irrational? Should measures to protect peaceful White Supremacists from the fear of others be entertained by the Canadian parliament?
- Aversion to people who practice Islam
- In similar regards, does avoiding or disliking members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Satanists, or Communists constitute problematic behavior? If not, there Is blatant inconsistency in calling the avoidance of those who practice Islam problematic.
- Discrimination against people who practice Islam
- This seems to be the true violation of human rights that so-called Islamaphobia could lead to. If laws that treat individuals differently strictly because of the thoughts in their minds and feelings in their hearts are put in place, we would have a major problem. This suggests that Motion 103 should refer to discrimination against people who practice Islam instead of Islamophobia.
The other facet of Motion 103 that needs to be addressed is the association of race with religion. As established previously, Islamophobia may be thought of as fear of Islam or a fear of Muslims. Neither has anything to do with race.
First off, Islam is practiced by members of every race and ethnicity. Somalia, Indonesia, Iraq, and Kosovo are all Muslim majority nations. But Somalians are Black, Indonesians are Asian, Iraqis are Arabs, and Kosovars are White. In the same way that my ancestors’ cultures and beliefs are independent of mine, regardless of our shared ethnicity, Islam is completely independent of race. This is further evidenced by the fact that anyone can convert to Islam or from Islam to another religion at any time. No one can change their DNA.
The other problem is that while discrimination against Muslims is wrong, it is not racist. As I’ve just explained, Islam is not a race and, therefore, has nothing to do with racism. Two things can be wrong without being the same thing.
What the Canadian parliament has just opened the door to should strike fear in the hearts of all people who desire freedom. It is a step in the direction of Orwellian thought criminalization, and goes to show that freedom of conscious and expression in Western societies constantly hangs in the balance.
It is now the duty of all free people to become more and more open in their criticisms of Islam and other ideas that authorities try to protect. Whether mild or harsh, your tongue must become unafraid to utter your grievances. The world must know that residents of free societies are steadfast in their retention of absolute free speech.