Thank you very much for receiving us. My name is Samer Majzoub. I am president of the Canadian Muslim Forum. Mr. Mohammed-Nur Alsaieq is a board member. It's a pleasure to be with you today.
First, I would like to announce our condemnation for the terror attack yesterday that happened in Edmonton and today in Vegas. This is only to prove that terror has no religion and no race.
We will go back to our subject and start with the Canadian Muslim Forum. The Canadian Muslim Forum is an organization that was established in 1994. We mainly focus on advocacy and civic engagement. We try to get the community together on common interest issues that face our community in Quebec and in Canada. Today our subject is about Islamophobia. The Canadian Muslim Forum and I have taken this subject very seriously since day one. As you all know, we have initiated petition e-411 to fight Islamophobia, with Mr. Frank Baylis.
We all know that Islamophobia has been an issue, and I think we are at the point that Islamophobia or discrimination against Muslims is not disputable anymore. It is there in the statistics. It is there on a daily basis. We had it in Quebec City against the mosque, and generally in 2017. It is an issue to recognize because it is proven to be there.
On October 1, 2015, the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously denounced Islamophobia. In the House of Commons on October 26, 2016, Islamophobia was also denounced unanimously and, on March 2017, motion M-103 was adopted about Islamophobia at the same time.
What is positive about this commission in particular is the fact that Muslims are suffering discrimination, hatred, and violence, but it is not contested anymore, as mentioned. What is contested, especially in the media, and lately by some politicians, since March, is whether the word “Islamophobia” is to be used. As an issue, the subject itself has been agreed upon.
Islamophobia was originally developed as a concept in the late 1990s by political activists, to draw attention to discrimination against citizens of the Muslim faith. This has not been limited to Canada and Quebec, but it is worldwide. We have seen it in many places, and even in the United States. In the United Nations, in Geneva, they have created a special committee to fight Islamophobia worldwide.
The word itself is not something new. It is not something we have created. It has existed for a long time. The issue that comes into concern is what Islamophobia means. This is one of the things that was taken on, and the media and some political parties also took this on. There are many definitions for this particular terminology. I have many of them, but I will mention just one or two to shed more light on it.
It is “a widespread mindset and fear-laden discourse in which people make blanket judgments of Islam as the enemy as the 'other' as a dangerous and unchanged, monolithic bloc that is the natural subject of well-deserved hostility from Westerners”. This is a definition by Zuquete. Another definition that is very popular is that Islamophobia is “a rejection of Islam, Muslim groups, and Muslim individuals on the basis of prejudice and stereotypes. It may have emotional, cognitive, evaluative as well as action-oriented elements like discrimination and violence”.
Islamophobia has many terminologies and explanations that have been given to this particular word by many scholars.
As for us, we have opted for the following definition. It is a criticizing or scathing negative opinion that might directly or indirectly cause humiliation or damage to the reputation and or incite to hatred and to violence against a person or a group of persons for the only reason that they are of Muslim faith.
Regardless of any definition, the House of Commons has the right to provide their own definition.
We come to the wording itself, Islamophobia, when it is targeting Muslims and individuals and properties like mosques and community centres. If we would like to give clear comparisons here, we have the anti-Semitism and we have racial profiling. Anti-Semitism is well known to be whenever there is hate targeted against the citizens of Jewish background. It is called anti-Semitism and there is no dispute that this exists.
The question that comes up is that we know that Arabs are Semite, but still when an Arab is being attacked, we never say that this is anti-Semitism. Why? The definition now is that they are related by impression and by political concept to the Jewish community and there is no objection to this.
It is the same thing when it comes to racial profiling. Whenever we speak about racial profiling, what comes to our mind is that, when citizens of African descent, or black Canadians, for example, are being targeted, right away we say it's racial profiling. There might be other races that have been targeted, but it is rarely we use the words “racial profiling”.
The third example is bashing. When we speak about bashing of races, most of the time, whites are the target or the bashing of many races could be any other race.
There are terminologies that are used, so that at one time, the definition is associated with this group or the other.
I will conclude by saying that one of the concerns that was raised is that when we use the word “Islamophobia” we are limiting freedom of expression. This is not the objective and we do not accept this. We do not want any excuse to limit the freedom of expression. We support it. It is something very important for our democratic societies.
We are not suggesting in any way or for any reason to limit the freedom of expression.
I will stop here and leave it to my colleagues. When it comes to the questions, I am ready to clarify any point.
Thank you so much.